December 17, 2012

I Know the Whole Truth There is Horrible

It's everybodies worst nightmare. And my heart and thoughts go out to the families - of the lost children, the lost teachers, and everyone impacted by these murders - students, teachers, family, first responders.

But I'm not going to blog about it, editorialize, memorialize. There is enough pain in the world. I'm just sitting with it.

December 05, 2012

Neil Young: Still Rocking

Way back in 2006, I saw Jonathon Demme's Neil Young biopic Heart of Gold. I blogged about it back then:
I thought how blessed Neil Young was to go toe to toe with mortality, to survive, and to be wise enough to throw his own goodbye party / concert and to film it. May we all be so fortunate.
Little did I know that Neil Young would survive his aneurysm survey, and keep right on rocking. And I was fortunate enough to see him as he came through Bridgeport (Webster Arena) last evening.

Now, Neil Young and I go way back. I thing I wore the grooves down on my Life Rust album (remember double albums?). I owned an erratic sampling of his works on album and cassette: his self titled first, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, American Star and Bars, Re*actor, Trans, Landing on Water, Freedom.  And when I made the jump to CD, I've picked up a bit over the years: Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Rust Never Sleeps, Decade, Life Rust, Sleeps with Angels, Mirror Ball, Ragged Glory. Not canonical by any means, but a good sampling.

And as an angry young rocker, Neil Young was an icon. Needle and the Damage Done was part of the walking D acoustic trilogy (also, Willin' by Lowell George and Friend of the Devil by the Grateful Dead). A guitar, and amp, and the right effects pedal, and one could blast out the riffs to Hey Hey, My My. Every band I've ever played in had some Neil Young in the set list - Powderfinger, Hey Hey My My, Like a Hurricane. Even today, the Guinea Pigs play Cinnamon Girl.  Neil Young's music is nothing if not messy, emotional, heartfelt.

First thought: Is that the set from Rust Never Sleeps? Indeed it was. No idea if Crazy Horse gigs have had this set all along, but dude - that album came out in 1979, the year I graduated from high school. And yet, here it still is, 30+ years later.  It was both reassuring (some things never change....they stay the way they are....) and kind of sad.

Similarly, the intro to Needle  and the Damage Done (with the lightning graphics and sound, and the Woodstock "please get off those rain" recording) was straight out of Live Rust. For someone who often obstinantly refuses to play the greatest hits (the folks behind us were kvetching about previous concerts where he did nothing old or classic), Mr Young is awfully faithful to the past.

And there were Greatest Hits - Mr. Soul, Hey Hey My My, Cinnamon Girl, Powderfinger, Needle and the Damage Done were all woven into newer material. It felt a little polarized - old FM classics or brand new material. Not a lot of middle ground, mining the many albums of material out there.

I was struck by a certain level of goofiness, bordering on surrealism, that infused the concert. The big amps and microphone, and the video monitors (trimmed out to look like 60's TV sets hung in the arena) reminded me of a bunch of kids playing in the basement - Neil and the band (with the exception of the keyboard player) hugged the center of the stage, facing inward towards each other as if avoiding eye contact with the audience. This was their fun time playing, and we got to watch and listen, if we dared.

Their set opened with the National Anthem (dude, you are Canadian, right?) complete with flag unfurled behind the band - serious or making fun? Hard to say. During one song, an old pump organ was rolled out on stage, and when the short organ instrumental rolled around (played by the keyboardist on a more modern instrument) the old pump organ was spotlit, unplayed. At one point, the roadies crumpled papers and bags in front of a fan, blowing across the stage for no real reason other than perhaps the joy of watching things blow across the stage. You get the feeling that maybe back in '75, someone decided to screw with Neil and send stuff blowing across the stage via a cooling fan, and they decided to keep the bit. There was a lot of that going on. Like some weirdly serious, weirdly comic ritual that has evolved over 40 years - nobody knows why they are doing all these things, they made sense once upon a time.

Me at 51 is a far different person than me at 18. I grew tired of the endless guitar riffing, and the prolonged (10 minutes maybe?) of messing around with feedback and sonic blasting.  I wanted a little more song and a little less riffing. But, 35 years down the road Neil Young is still rocking it out. He was up there amusing himself in 79, and he's still up there amusing himself today. We can choose to come along.

The second song in was the anthem Powderfinger - and it was like I was scratching a 35 year old itch to hear the song played live, after playing it so often in my own basement rock past. It did not disappoint.

Jonathon Demme has a follow-up film (Journeys) - part of an accidental Trilogy - and I need to see that. 2006's Heart of Gold was amazingly moving. But for now, I'll let the ears ring and the energy settle. Glad I finally got to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

November 06, 2012

Private Sector vs. Public Sector

So I got a letter a few weeks back from TaxServ Capital Services. The gist of it was that I owed some back property taxes on my cars, stemming from the time I lived in Hartford. It basically amounted to one half tax year ($240), plus minor amounts $25 for other years - although by the time interest and fees were tacked on it was $400.

I paid up, not happily, but without rancor. I owed the taxes, the bills probably got lost in the mail forwarding / moving process when I relocated to New Britain. No idea why I underpaid two years of bills $12 (perhaps late fees or interest or something). I'm happy enough to be free and clear - that sort of thing tends to catch up with you at registration time, which usually involves a trip down to City Hall (where they have odd rules like cash only and even odder business hours) to make things right. So here's my credit card number, I'm all set, right?

But it struck me that this was clearly a place where the local tax collector (looking at you, City of Hartford) had not the interest, time, aptitude, or motivation to go out and get this money. And some wizard in the private sector figured out how to make it work, collect debts that Hartford probably had tossed into the uncollectable bin, and make a few bucks on it. I not a scofflaw, the tax bills just got lost in the shuffle.

Stuff like this reminds me that not EVERYTHING the Republicans stand for is bogus. I'd love to see a political movement that is socially liberal and fiscally moderate / conservative. Northeast Republicans used to hold that ground - perhaps these days the Democratic Leadership Council (which both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both play nice with) are seeking the same ground.

October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I know the mess is still happening - and thoughts go out to those on the CT coastline, to the folks in New York City, and those who remain without power.

Sandy was a lot like last year's Irene for me - never lost power then or now, never lost cable / internet. The UPS kicked on a few times due to sags / instability but otherwise, no problems. The upside of living in / near a city.

I have to believe that this is going to help out President Obama. Even though he'll have to suspend his campaign, and turnout in the northeast states (mostly safely in Obama's pocket anyway) will be impacted, he'll have a week of lookign and acting presidential (don't blow it!)

And after an event like this, I would think that the candidate who accepts the concept of global warming and climate change, and who supports the federal role in emergency preparedness, disaster relief, and things like strong building and zoning regulations might have a bit of a leg up.

But we shall see. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!

October 26, 2012

Springsteen in Hartford

Made my occasional pilgrimage to see the high priest of Rock N' Roll, Mr. Bruce Springsteen, last night at the XL Center. I went with Robert and Kristen (my frequent Bruce companions) and Robert's daughter Devon, for her first arena show and her first Springsteen show.

Anne Haines did us the solid of recording the set list; I've been a twitter follower of hers for a while (and have been keeping up with the tour as a result) - wonderful to have the list in front of me as I recall the show.

Mostly, it felt a little like hanging out with old friends who kept pulling oldies but goodies out of theur hats and giving them a whirl. Songs I never expected to hear live again included Held Up Without a Gun (the opener), Spirits in the Night, Incident on 57th Street (a request), For You (a request, solo on piano). Lot of stuff from Wrecking Ball, a whole lot from The River, and a healthy dose of the classics - Badlands, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Born to Run. No Rosalita, no Jungleland, no Thunder Road.

I think my favorite song pairing was Point Blank and Because the Night - I go back far enough to remember when Point Blank was unrecorded and Because the Night's Patti Smith bona fides made it a real treat (although I kind of would prefer her take on it, I'm liking it a little darker)

I only cried a few times - Wrecking Ball (that whole coming to the end of the road thing), the Rising (with it's 9-11 imagery and energy), and Land of Hope and Dreams (gotta love a little come to Jesus revival moment!)

I was surprised that Bruce said not a word about the election - not even a "get out and vote" message - maybe he knew that with the aging frat boys in the house, the hall might go for Romney. He did plug Foodshare Hartford, though, so I will too!

Not much else to say. Was an awesome show, as they all are. We were in some reasonably bad seats - halfway up the second level on the side. Sometimes ludicrously bad seats (behind stage, or last row, all the way back) are more fun.Once upon a time Bruce could take an arena down int silence with just a gesture - but there were a lot of not-so-true-believers in the house (the couple next to me sat through most of the show and left after Born to Run) - so there was a lot of chit-chat through the quiet songs (come on dudes, it's Bruce and a piano playing For You - when are you ever gonna hear that?).

There was a nice tribute to Clarence (mostly) and Danny (a bit) in the middle of 10th Avenue Freeze Out that was very sweet, and Clarence's nephew Jake Clemons did an amazing job of filling his late Uncle's shoes - both technically and energetically.

Mostly though, I am thankful that my self-employed lifestyle means I could sleep in a bit today - unlike my fellow travelers (teacher, student, and corporate gig). Need to gargle a bit before I teach today - my throat is a bit raw from the singing, the yelling, the beers, and the hours.

October 12, 2012

Thanks, Obamacare

I have a high deductible, HSA based health insurance plan; it really does not pay for much. But the other day I received this letter - women's health coverage is increasing significantly. And even though I'm not going to need most of these services, getting coverage for an annual trip to the gyno is a good benefit. (Not to mention the colonoscopy that got covered 100% in the past year, also thanks to the Affordable Care Act).

But for other women, women who are in their reproductive years and considering having kids, this is great news.

Thanks, President Obama. One more reason I am voting Dem in 2012.


As a result of the Health Care Reform law (Jude notes - aka "Obamacare), the following preventive services are included in your plan. Preventive services are covered with no cost share when provided by a network provider. No cost share means that your deductible, coinsurance and/or copay do not apply to these services.
• Well-woman visits (this includes prenatal visits)
• Screening for gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
• Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing
• Counseling for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
• Counseling and screening for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
• Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence
• Breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling
• Contraceptive methods and counseling (when prescribed by a physician)

Some of these services are already benefits under your plan. These changes go into effect on January 1, 2013.

September 18, 2012


It was a "back of the envelope" estimate of the number of dead on Sept 11, 2001. I'm an engineer, so that sort of calculation comes naturally.

I was out in Chicago that week; and watched the towers fall from the floor of the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. Somewhere that morning I heard the total occupancy of the towers, and based on where the planes struck, the time the towers remained standing, and the number of first responders, media, and onlookers, that was the number I imagined I had just watched perish as the buildings collapsed.

A lot of things went right that day. The World Trade Center occupants and safety personnel had a test run back in 1993, and folks remembered and kept their heads. The terrorist attacks came early in the day before the offices filled. The towers stood long enough for many to escape. The buildings pancaked in on themselves, containing the damage to the World Trade Center footprint. When all was said and done, 3000 had perished - a horrific number, to be sure, but I never quite forgot my initial estimate. And so I walked away thinking "it could have been so much worse".

In the ten years since that tragic day, we've witnessed a lot of mass casualty events:

2010 Haitian Earthquake - 300,000
2008 Sichuan Earthquake - 68,000
2005 Kashmir Earthquake - 79,000
2004 Indonesian Tsunami - 230,000

Yet those things happened far away, the World Trade Center was right here - on the skyline, in our collective and recent experience, our friends and neighbors. And the attacks were not arbitrary acts of nature, of chance, of misfortune - they were deliberate, targeted acts.

Perhaps my initial calculation tempered the shock and grief, for me. I mourned the 3000 dead, but I also felt deep gratitude for the 47,000 I had imagined to be dead who remained alive. And in the subsequent years, I have carried that sense of proportion with me as I watched my government and country respond in terms of security, privacy, military actions, torture. I don't think it was wrong to seek retribution and justice. But I wish we had a more intelligent, more thoughtful, and more patient government at the time.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold. How much sweeter would it have been to track down and dispatch Osama Bin Laden had we not added nearly 6,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, to the pricetag. The terrorists could not have scripted out a better response to the attacks in terms of American costs - loss of life, loss of capital, loss of world reputation, loss of rights and freedoms, distraction from global and national issues.

So, on this 10th anniversary, I mourn the loss of those who suffered and died ten years ago. And I mourn the effects of the resulting 10 years on my country.

Not a very popular posting, I am sure.

I Am the 53%

Mitt Romney got caught on video a while back, at a fund-raising dinner in Tampa. Mother Jones recently released that video, and it does not reflect well on the former Massachusetts Governor.

The content itself is not all that controversial. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes, and those folks are not going to respond to Romney's sales pitch of lowering taxes. So he's going for the folks who do pay taxes. And I'm open minded enough to understand that when Romney says "[M]y job is not to worry about those people.", he's talking about getting their votes, not their lives. 

But it was the surrounding opinion - wholly not needed to make a point but probably reflecting Romney's personal feelings, that are damning. 

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

"[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Mighty big brush you are tarring a huge swatch of the American populus there, Mr. Romney. And a lot of "those people" are your base - senior citizens, military personnel,  the working poor.

It's not the politics I find objectionable - I do not agree, and feel there is amble evidence that Romney's policies and monetary philosophy are bankrupt. But on top of all that - Romney appears to be too dumb, too inept, too incompetent to be president. Who, running for president and knowing that every moment may be caught on video or audio tape, says these things? If Romney's main claim to the office is his executive experience and competence, he's demonstrating, over and over, that he's not qualified.

OK, I'll fess up. I pay income taxes. I am self employed, I'm not wealthy by any standard. But despite my best efforts to optimize expenses and deductions, my mortgage deduction, etc. I write a check every year for Federal income tax on top of my Social Security and Medicare dues. I am, therefore, part of the 53%. And I'm voting Obama.

September 17, 2012

Checked Off

I'm coming off a rather remarkable period of productivity - checking items off my "to do" list that go back months, if not years. I moved into my present digs three years ago October, and at that time I pretty much threw my office into boxes and moved it into the basement. Not much got organized below grade....ever. Until now. So here's the canonical list of my September cleaning and organizing.
  • Purchased and hung a wall rack to store speaker and mic stands
  • Consolidated and organized PA system cables, mics, accessories
  • Permanently mounted 2x track lights and associated dimmer switches. 
  • Removed most of the wire that once supported a suspended ceiling in the basement
  • Removed all remaining ceiling tiles (stuffed above walls, etc.) that carried some cigar / smoke odor
  • Cleaned and organized desk, two tables, four shelving units, and one printer station
  • Cleaned and organized the under stair crawlspace
  • Installed hangers for XC skis and got those off the floor
  • Purged several boxes full of paper, magazines, etc. (four more to go)
  • Cleaned out and organized all desk drawers
  • Installed a perf board to hang tools, and organized same
  • Installed a wooden shelf to store chemicals, paint, etc. 
  • Vacuumed office area
  • Reorganized and consolidated all electrical and mechanical household supplies
  • Purchased and installed a new label printer (the old one ate a label and died)
  • Took several boxes of old electronics and cables to Green Monster
  • Installed a pencil sharpener that has been lying around forever
And above grade, things were also pretty busy:
  • Removed bedroom A/C unit
  • Removed, cleaned, and stored bedroom and yoga room fans
  • Installed track and hangers for guitar, bouzouki, and bass in bedroom
  • Organized guitar supplies (cables, strings, tuners, switches, etc.)
  • Cleaned and vacuumed living room
  • Vacuumed stairs (two sets)
  • Cleaned top of fridge and put everything there-on away
  • Cleaned both bathrooms
  • Purchased luggage tags and laminated business cards for luggage and tool kit ID
Not 100% sure of what is behind all this productivity, but a bunch of things factor in: 
  • I love the cooler late summer / early fall weather
  • Fall is a good time to transition / make changes
  • My 11 days without a car got me cleaning to start with (nothing else to do)
  • My 11 days without a car had me cooking in more, eating healthier (higher energy)
  • Once I got the car back, hitting retail shops to pick up supplies and hardware seemed like a privilege
  • I have a bit of romance in my life. It just does a body and spirit good
I can only hope that this spurt of energy and drive to get things done continues - I really like it, and I am truly enjoying my much more livable and pleasant work and living spaces! 

Hartford Stage - Age Discrimination Fail

So Hartford Stage is marketing to the young.

Stage Pass

Introducing a $38 Unlimited Season Pass!


An unlimited season pass to Hartford Stage’s 2012/13 season. If you are
18–27 years old and love theatre, Stage Pass is definitely for you. Purchase a Stage Pass for only $38 – yup, that’s it – and get into every Mainstage production at Hartford Stage for the 2012/13 season. That’s basically what you would spend going to the movies twice, and just think how sophisticated you’ll sound when you tell your friends and family you are “going to the theatre tonight.” Speaking of friends, want to bring a friend when you use your Stage Pass? Go ahead and do it! Purchase up to 3 companion tickets for only $20 each.
 I'd slap a big old Facebook "Like" on that if I were not, well, 51, and therefore ineligible.  FWIW, I love the theater, and I'm not really able to afford Hartford Stage except on special occasion.

Apparently, offering a special to a particular age (and by default, not offering it to those outside of that age) is legal and socially acceptable (of course it is, look at all the senior discounts out there). But imagine if this special offer were limited to people of a certain race ("If you are white and like the theater....") or religion ("If you are non-christian, come on down...."

I get that they want to bring a younger crowd in the door, but jeez, there are ways to do that (how about targeting the offer via youth-heavy conduits such as QR Codes, twitter, handing out physical coupons at particular events) - instead of blatant age targeting (and flipping the coin over, de facto discrimination).

Instead, I'm vaguely resentful that Hartford Stage is not offering me this particular special. 

September 15, 2012

Car Troubles

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I lost use of my car for 11 days. Here's the blow-by-blow.

My Check Engine light has been lit for, well, months. No excuses there - I needed to get it in, but the time and money never coincided, and the car continued to run. A bit roughly, but it never conked out, never stranded me. I assumed it was a bad spark pug or something.

So when I got some money and the end of the summer rolled around, I took it in. I've been meaning to find a regular, independent mechanic and garage, but never got that sorted out. So, needing to get the brakes checked out, and having had the brakes done in the past (with a lifetime warranty) at Pep Boys, I took it there. Mistake #1.

I took the car in late in the day on Wednesday. Waited around for it - by diner time, they had gotten stuck (Cylinder #3 was not firing and had low compression) and were dialoging with a national specialist. They took me home, and I started figuring out options. Thursday morning the diagnosis came in - bad ECM (computer). Bad computer = big money ($1200) but what are you going to do. The problem was, with Saturn out of bizness, parts were not easy to come by, and the Pep Boys folks could not program (or "flash") the computer. So I'd have to wait over the Labor Day weekend. They hustled to get a computer on Friday, but when they replaced it, the new one was dead out of the box. So I waited until Tuesday.

Tuesday, the call came - the computer was replaced. The problem was still there. Upon further inspection, it turns out that here was a bent valve, it had damaged the #3 spark plug, coil, and head. They *said* that had damaged the computer (I remain dubious, think they were just throwing parts at it, and one of the parts they threw was the computer). Nevertheless - big job. To make a long story short, they ended up remachining the head,  which took until Saturday). $2900 later, my car runs great.

I'm going to write a couple of letters. Pep Boys gets a letter- both for the length of repair (11 days? really?) and the computer (which as I noted, I do not feel was bad). And Saturn / GM gets a letter, since th Pep Boys folks feel (based on the engine head damage) that the net valve may have been there from the get go (the car has 80K on it, but never really ran smoothly,  and the first tank of gas post repair got 4 MPG more than any previous tankful, and I monitor that fairly closely)

While the car was out of commission, I ended up riding my bike a bit - mostly back and froth to the studio (15 miles round trip). But I only rode up to teach (15 miles bike ride PLUS a hot / power practice would have been too much) so my own practice, as well as my social life, suffered.

On the up side, being home alone gave me the time to clean - and that has precipitated an amazing life change here, to be blogged next!

Love That Dirty Water

One of the off-shoots of Camp Camp 2012 is that I met someone.

Won't go into too much detail, other than she is my age, is a lovely amalgam of goofball, sweetie, and hottie, and lives along the Boston greenway. And so my energy is drawn back to Boston, after many years. There is a largish camp enclave in Boston, and I think I'll end up visiting this coming year.

Kind of weird - I've lived in Connecticut my entire adult life - since graduating in college in '83. Yet Massachusetts was where I came of age - learned to drive, went to ball games and concerts, took the T. I have a certain familiarity and fondness for Beantown.

So when I drove up for a visit last weekend, it was all familiar, comfortable. And although I drove through more rotaries in one car trip than I have in the past calendar year en route to West Roxbury. It was altogether familiar.

We took two laps around Jamaica Pond, which was beautiful and fun - sort of like the WH Reservoirs in energy but embedded in the city - not reserved for the suburban crowd.

I miss having a queer community. I miss having friends who might drop by and visit, or who might call up for dinner, music, a movie, or a night on the couch watching TV. And finally, with my mom getting older, and we siblings starting to face our own mortality, the prospect of moving back to the Boston area seems a lot less like an unreasonable than it might have in the recent past.

I do not move around a lot - I've been in CT nearly 30 years and have lived in just three homes over the past 25 years. So the idea of picking up and moving is a lot to wrap my mind around.

But, if one intends to turn an aircraft carrier, one starts planning for that a long time before one makes the turn. let's just say I am thinking about it....

Democratic National Convention

I must admit to having fallen in love with the Obama Administration and the DNC this past month.

I watched a bit of the RNC - know your enemy, and all - and was unimpressed by the whole thing. I actually have attended the RNC back in the GWB era, in Philadelphia (I was back-up sound engineer for that was live streaming the convention) . Anyway, RNC was kind of bland - speakers not all that energizing, message muddled, even if I disagree I can appreciate a good show. Not happening in Tampa.

The DNC, however, had me hooked. Michelle Obama was amazing, and so many of the speakers that first night were energizing, passionate, engaged and informative. Contrast to the DNC of the past, where the party was so intent on pandering to the middle that they lost the passion of the left. It was a wonderful change, IMHO, and I ended up online Tuesday night to throw in some bucks (via Trans United for Obama) and buy some swag (a campaign kit and a shirt, neither of which has shown up yet). Then Bill Clinton on Day #2. I hang on until the end, and was entranced. I'd vote for him again.....

Finally, the president himself. Older, greyer, a little less passionate and little more careful, but still my guy.

I'm feeling good about the presidential election this year. Romney is another one of those "next in line" Republicans - I remain convinced that his religion and his moderate history in MA is keeping the red meat conservatives from getting behind him. And his pandering to the right will keep the moderates and independents away.

My two cents on the economy - I am an engineer, so it's hard not to look at the problems of the past few years as being analogous to an underdamped control system. The monetary policy and the regulatory environment resulted in the gain (especially on the housing market) as being too high - so prices rose too fast and hit the rail - and the system crashed. The present economic policy - perhaps a bit cautious and conservative, is still resulting in slow and steady growth, and a gradual recovery. The last thing we need is to return to the policies of the past, set a fire under the housing market and reignite the underdamped control loop. 

Yes, unemployment is high, and that sucks. But I'll be honest - I've never been that impressed with the 9-to-5, corporate america crowd. It's my freelancer, techno-ninja history and experience perhaps (and my lean to the bone lifestyle), but it seems like a lot of the folks working in corporate america are filling out suits and holding a spot in the daily meeting. A lot of waste in the system. So not too sure those jobs are (or should) be coming back all that quickly.

Long Overdue

Rainy Saturday morning, and a long overdue blog update.

The end of summer was a busy time - I spent a week on a Hillside in New York at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival; my annual musical retreat among a family I have known for 20 years. In addition, I spent a week in Maine for my second visit to Camp Camp - a GLBT adult summer camp which, truth be told, has stolen me heart and spirit. I am sure I will be back.

In addition, I spent a few days in Missouri at a customer site, and a week in Tulsa at another customer facility. And finally, I had an 11 day car fast - took my vehicle in for a long overdue tune-up (check engine light) and it took 11 days and $2900 to set it right (bad computer, bad head, destroyed cylinder)

So it's been a bit of a crazy few months, and one very bad blogger. This morning - I'm going to post a bunch of things - catch up a bit. And then see where we go from there.

July 09, 2012

Happy is What Happens....

My friend Amy has a saying, "Top Ten Day". When the weather is perfect, the company is great, the venue or event is amazing, when the food is delightful. Amy let's us know - this is a "Top Ten Day". Of course, Amy is so generous of spirit and delightfully optimistic that she probably racks up 20 or 30 Top Ten Days per year. But that's another story.

Yesterday, driving out to the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market, I had my own moment of thankfulness and awareness. The day had not yet turned steamy, so the windows were open, and the bright sun filtered through the canopy of leaves on the windy country road. I had my musical instruments and amps in the car; a cooler of water on ice, and a large tarp to use as a sun screen. I was en route to spending three hours doing something I love - playing music - with some wonderful people and musicians, my beloved Guinea Pigs. And I was headed out to support a farmer's market where local farmer's were selling their produce, grown with sweat and love, to people who appreciate fresh, local, and healthy food.

And as I was driving along the road, enjoying those sites, sounds, and smells before me and contemplating the day ahead, the realization or awareness suddenly emerged that I was happy. For those who have done Enlightenment Intensive work, it was like a tiny little Direct Experience. My life was not blown wide open, but there was a little slice of divine awareness there, and it colored the rest of the day with thankfulness, joy, and delight.

July 06, 2012

Falcon Ridge Folk Fest - Emerging Artist Showcase

Each year, the Falcon Ridge Folk Fest hosts an Emerging Artist Showcase - 24 new (to the fest, anyway) artists who get 15 minutes on the main stage. For many fans, it's a highlight of the festival - they plant themselves out front, make copious notes and comments in their programs, and carefully submit their votes for the three artists to return in 2013 for the "Most Wanted Song Swap" - back to the main stage for a featured set! It's the sort of opportunity that can make an artist or performer - big deal!

The 2012 Most Wanted returnees: Blair Bodine, ilyAIMY, Louise Mosrie, and Pesky J Nixon (think there was a tie, so four artists) - will all be back. I'm busy updating the performer merchandise master spreadsheet (a juggernaut that makes tracking sales and checking artists in and out simple), so they all return from 2011. In addition, here are 2012's Emerging Artists, in alphabetical order:

1 - Brad Cole / Chicago IL
2 - Burning Bridget Cleary / Philadelphia PA
3 - cary cooper / Dallas TX

4 - Chris Kokesh / Portland OR
5 - Dan Charness / NYC
6 - Gathering Time / Long Island NY
7 - Heather Maloney Band / Northampton MA
8 - Honor Finnegan / NYC
9 - Jarrod Dickenson / Brooklyn NY
10 - Jim Hayes / Ringwood NJ
11 - Jon Brooks / King City Ont
12 - Julie Christensen / Ojai CA
13 - Kate Klim / Nashville TN
14 - Kevin Neidig / Etters PA

15 - Miles to Dayton / Long Island NY
16 - Poor Old Shine / Storrs CT
17 - Rebecca Pronsky / Brooklyn NY
18 - Ryan Tennis / Philadelphia PA
19 - Sarah Blacker / Cambridge MA
20 - Sorcha / Portland ME

21 - Steve Chizmadia / Peekskill NY
22 - Sweet Talk Radio / LA CA
23 - The Marrieds / London Ont
24 - The YaYas / Mohegan Lake NY

Last year, I decided to download as many of the Emerging Artist's newest albums as I could find on (a significant financial commitment, to be sure, but about 1/2 the price of iTunes). Did not do too bad this year - found 20 of the 24 artists. The artists in bold font above are now sitting on my iPad. Will listen to them throughout the next few weeks, then they will shuffle during pre-fest set-up in the merch trailer / tent. It's always nice to have a bit of an idea what the emerging artists sound like; it can make an emerging artist's day when the merch person says "hey, I like your stuff!" when they check in. Or better still, if they wander in and catch their own music in the trailer!

Bridge Street Live

Quickie post. I finally made it up to 41 Bridge Street / Bridge Street Live in Collinsville. Zippy (remember him? we're still friends though we no longer cohabitate) wanted to see the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, and since he's not great at night driving, I volunteered to tag along. He takes care of my dog, Elo, when I travel, so it's a good trade.

First off, Bridge Street Live. What a lovely space to see live music! Cabaret seating (last night, anyway, I imagine they change it up for different shows), efficient bar service with drinks and munchies, a great stage with pro sound and lights. It was everything one wants in a concert venue. And clean - even the rest rooms were spotless and new. Much has been made of the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk (and with good reason, they have great music coming through) - but this place has better seating, and is a heck of a lot closer. Although they seem to be a bit more eclectic / blues in their booking, I see faves such as John Gorka, Patty Larkin, NRBQ, Ellis Paul, and Chris Smither on the calendar. Highly recommended!

The Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars - not someone I would usually seek out, but Zippy is wonderfully eclectic in his tastes, and the group was a winner. Engaging, dancing, uplifting - the sound bounced somewhere between reggae inflected and the music that Paul Simon brought to the public eye with Graceland. I was particularly struck by the  guitarist who played his left-handed Gibson SG strung upside down (not a right handed guitar, the knobs were in the right place, although one can imagine he learned to play a right handed guitar upside down). The resulting sound was so characteristic to African music that I have to wonder if playing a guitar strung this way is common or customary in Africa.   

June 29, 2012

Laptop vs. Tablet

Once upon a time, I could pretty much run my life off my laptop. Sure, there were some apps that I never installed, some files and resources that stayed back at the office, and some packages that jut needed the full throttle performance of my desktop box. But I could get out of town, do email, update websites, write reports - you name it.

No more. It's June 2012. The last time I used this laptop for anything significant (according to my incoming emails) was Dec 2011. And Sept 2011 before that. So maybe 3-4 times a year. Just not enough to warrant the time to install all the apps, the cost to purchase the software, the maintenance of keeping files and stuff up to date on two boxes.

My cloud is not a great option yet (I am often slinging around 1 Gig files) although it might be workable for some things.

Probably not a bad plan to get a basic FTP program up and working on this box, and install some basic graphic package and HTML editors - so I can update websites at the very least. And perhaps commit to working off of this box once in a while so it stays updated.

But more evidence of how my work life is changing.....

Kansas City Blues

Stuck out in Kansas City.

I had an engineering gig in Windsor, a tiny (~3000 population) burg in the center of Missouri. As is my norm, I slot in 1-2 days for the work, and if things are quicker, change flights and sneak home sooner. Flying Southwest with a full fare ticket, so changing is usually not an issue. So I traveled on Wednesday afternoon, got into a hotel, ready to work Thursday morning. Worked Thursday, which was quick and without complications. And, having broken free early, I, checked out of the hotel, and to the airport intent on grabbing one of the afternoon flight.

Sadly, Southwest is booked to capacity. I got denied on two standby flights (through BWI and MDW) and so, with no hotel, no rental car, and no luggage, I ended up in a Days Inn near the airport. And no real shot of getting on something earlier than my 5:00 pm booked departure, so I am here all day.

Gonna hang out at the hotel as long as I can - shower, do some yoga in the room, do some work. Then head over to the airport and wait there. A pretty useless day.

Note to self: travel sucks these days. Your decisions to stay rooted at home, pick up local clients, yoga, etc. even if it limits income, is right on target.

June 14, 2012

Live Music:

Wandering out to a new (to me) space this evening, The Outer Space, in Hamden. Usually just a bit outside of my cruising zone, but a friend wants to go and I'm happy to co-pilot. 

A triple bill tonight: Jill Sobule, Chrissy Gardner, Daphne Lee Martin.

I do not get outside my comfort zone often, musically - tonight with a new (to me) venue and three new (to me) artists, it ought to be fun!

"I Can Be...." Barbie - Yoga Teacher

So scary and horrible in a hundred different ways. So of course I bought one (available at Target only)

Barbie has some physical limitations. Her waist is not articulated, so no twists, deep backbends or forward folds. That cuts out a lot of classic poses (Triangle, for instance)

It works, however, in Camel pose, where she has no problem avoiding dumping into her lower back.

Her ankles are also not articulated, and her feet are pointed the better to wear heels. So pretty much no standing poses without some support. Sad, cause I'd love me some Warrior I or Warrior II Barbie....

However, her feet pretty much fit the definition of "active", perfect for abdominals.

And with a little support, she's an asana rock start with King Dancer. Nice and open psoas muscle!

We've had fun posing her in the poses she can do, and noticing which ones her construction prohibits (kind of informative and instructive right there)

I suspect Barbie is going to get a punkish / lesbian makeover pretty soon. Cut her hair, change her outfit to something vaguely anarchic, and give her some sharpie tatts. She's way too perky right now.

June 11, 2012

What's For Yoga This Morning?

Thinking about my beloved All Levels class this morning; as I sit here at my desk clearing out the In Box and getting ready to practice, the thought pops into my head "what's for yoga this morning?" as if yoga were a meal, and I was thinking "what am I hungry for?" Just an amusing way of thinking of yoga - as if I were standing at the door of the fridge, feeling a little peckish but not sure what I want to eat.

Although I try to change things up for my students, so often my teaching is advised by what my body needs, related to the season, the weather, etc. - and hope that this resonates with my students. So far, it seems to work.

A Real Bookstore

Got up to MA a bit early yesterday (for a family birthday dinner in Westborough) so I came across, and visited, the Tatnuck Bookseller.

Since Ray Bradbury's recent passing, I vowed to pick up a compilation of short stories; he was (arguably) the first science fiction author I read ("S is for Space" and "The Illustrated Man" courtesy of Scholastic Books, sold though my catholic school) and perhaps the first adult author as well. And though the physical books I owned have been long lost, his stories resonate through my memory, and I have come to believe that some part of my moral compass is advised by Mr. Bradbury.

So I picked up a newish compilation, A Pleasure to Burn, short stories that prefigured Farenheit 451. I also found Louise Erdrich's Tracks on the bargain rack (I've read and enjoyed a few of her books, but not a rabid reader) as well as a book of related short stores, Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes by Tamar Yellin - a complete shot in the dark (I was looking for short story compilations for summer reading). It feels nice to have a couple of physical books I can tuck into a bag for a trip, an outing, or a lazy afternoon. I'd hit the library, but my reading is so sporadic and opportunistic - I rarely finish a book in a week or two that a borrowed book would require. 

It has been so long since I went book browsing. I do not shop much (for anything); the last few "I really want to read that" books went straight to my iPad, occasionally I will place an Amazon order. Tatnuck is a lovely independent (by all appearances) bookstore with a nice cafe, selection of gifts, summer reading racks, etc.

That being said, the floorspace devoted to books was a lot smaller than perhaps once upon a time, and the selection limited (perhaps a half dozen titles by Mr. Bradbury out of his dozens of published works) - one can see the allure of the "get anything you want" juggernaut amazon, or the instant gratification of the eBook.

June 06, 2012

Comcast Makes a Comeback

I've been on the verge of killing off my cable for a while now. Between over the air digital, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and ABC / NBC / PBS Apps, I've been sorely tempted.

But this week, Comcast picked up a few points. They've recently switched from analog to digital for their basic cable - and as a result, they sent out a notice to arrange to pick up a mini-converter box, free of charge. Took me two months to actually do that (which tells you how much I watch TV on the small set in my basement office) - but I finally did.

Well, bonus channels! The old "analog" 2nd set option (no converter box) gave me pretty much the over-the air channels - the local broadcast channels, TBS, weather, CSPAN. The new "digital" 2nd set option gives me pretty much up through Channel 100 on my cable program. And added features - the Comcast remote control actually works with my old Zenith set - I never could get the Zenith Universal remote I had purchased (after a dog ate the factory remote) to so MUTE which is kind of annoying in my office.

The extra channels are actually quite handy. I had (engineer / video geekily) run the video out of my TV into a modulator, and from thence into an A/B switch (I like me a good Rube Goldberg design), so I could get some of the cable channels down in the office - when I am working late I can geek out to MSNBC or Comedy Central. Now, all that has been rendered obsolete. I could have kept it to see On Demand or Netflix downstairs - but not gonna bother.

So Comcast lives for another day.

Of course, this very week I also received 3 "Comcast New Customer" letters in the mail. You'd think they could figure out I was already a customer - and (a) save the money for the bulk mailing, as well as (b) avoid pissing me off by telling me over and over that I am overpaying for my bundle. But no.....

June 04, 2012

Who I Am Waiting For

It's been a long while since I sat in the crowd at a kirtan. Years ago, I sat in the audience at West Hartford Yoga as Shankara and Friends played and I was deeply moved. It was not long after that I found myself at Shankara's side, playing guitar and bass, in that same ensemble, where I have been ever since. And although playing kirtan has its own rewards, there is a bit of loss there too, as one needs to maintain enough identity to keep the chords flowing, follow the leader, and play together as a group.

Yesterday, the grand-daddy of kirtan chanting in the west, Krishna Das (KD), was in town, for a special workshop at Temple Beth El, sponsored by West Hartford Yoga.  I was still on the inside a buit - got there early and worked the set up and crowd control (300+ people came, KD was running a little late, and a thunderstorm blew through just as the long line of people was being let in). But once KD started the workshop, I was on my cushion, in the crowd.

It was an atypical KD event - with a bit of chanting on either end, bookending some reflection on his path, and his guru, and a lot of questions from the audience. Diehard kirtan fans, just there for the music, may have felt cheated, but for me, it was perfect. Kirtan can be draining, and for whatever reason the middle period of reflection and speaking gave me just the right amount of percolating.

So when KD started his final chants, I found myself warming, and falling into the familiar trance of sound, chanting, moving. All very lovely, anticipated and welcomed. But there was a surprise waiting for me. For some reason, all that talk, all that Q&A, primed the pump, so to speak. So when the chant was over, and KD set up his last song, I found my heart splitting wide open, and I found myself sitting in a bubbling pot of tears, laughter, smiles, and embrace that I have found within Direct Experience. Yep, Jude got herself a little bit enlightened yesterday. Wholly unexpected, wholly delighted. So if I kind of looked through you yesterday, or had that kirtan stoned glazed over experience - well, know you know.

In the midst of it all, incredible laughter. I've been cleaning my life up. The 21 day detox cleanse that I have recently completed seemed to trigger a cleaning and organizing frenzy - I have a little notebook on my coffee table that I've made lists of little chores - clean the fridge, vacuum the stairs, etc. and I have been successful at knocking them out. My home has gone from a mess of dog fur, clutter, and mild chaos to peaceful organization. I'm so far down the list that the last few items I have crossed off - replace batteries in smoke detectors, clean out the little plastic cart housing dog supplies and treats, buy a new spice rack and put the spices out of site - were almost invisible in terms of benefit, but satisfying to complete anyway.

After my first enlightenment intensive (and direct experience) I came home to my old place in Hartford, looked around and clearly saw every single spec of dust, clutter, and grime, and thought "who lives here?" I spent hours cleaning that day, the mess grated on my newly opened eyes and mind. So in retrospect, it makes sense that after a solid week or so of inexplicable cleaning and preparation, I was getting ready for something big.

And just yesterday, before the kirtan, I was joking with my friends that I had two theories about the cleaning - that someone special was going to come into my life, or that I was going to die and did not want my friends and family to find me living in squalor. In reality, both theories were true. The "someone special" is, of course, ME! As I sat in my little bubble of bliss, as KD played, tears streaming down my face, I felt the love that all this cleaning and making beautiful has made visible. And, for those who have had the joy of a direct experience, it is, indeed, a small death, as the self collapses and the wall between who I thought I was, and the rest of humanity, the rest of life, and the rest of the universe comes down around my ankles.

The Zen saying goes "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water". Everything changes, nothing changes. I'm sitting in my basement office, the one space in this house that has escaped the cleansing wrath and remains a bit of a mess. It's on the list, trust me, and I'll get to it, I am sure. My big client is back in town and the short hiatus of engineering work is over as his work starts trickling in. I'm back in front of the room for my beloved 9:15 All Levels class this morning.

But, a wholly unexpected, delightful and delicious day yesterday. Summer of 2012, I'm here, ready to play, to love, to laugh, to feel. Come and get me :)

June 02, 2012

New Britain Gets It Right - Dog Registration

Let me start off by saying that I have lived in, and owned a dog, in several of Connecticut's larger cities - Waterbury, Hartford, and now New Britain. And invariably, registering my dogs has been a hassle. They only register the dogs during one month a year (typically June) and it often requires a trip to town hall. No notice, no reminders, and if you miss the registration windows there are either penalties or late fees. So I'd say my dog registration percentage was about 50% over the course of the last two decades, and never without a trip downtown.

But here in New Britain, they make it easy. You can go to the website to get the dog license application - when I filled this out last year I got the tag / license within a few days. Everything is very clear. And yesterday, June 1, I received a postcard reminding me to register my dog before June 30 - talk about prompt. It had the rabies expiration date (handy), little Elo's status (neutered male), as well as a form in case the dog has moved on, or changed status. Took me two minutes to write a check, enclose a SASE, and put it back in the mail. Done.

Nice to see government working efficiently and well. I do not feel bad at all about the $8 it costs to register the little guy.

May 31, 2012

Work Balance / Life Balance

I've had a bit of a work balance issue for a while now. As an independent consultant, I've set a personal goal of not having any one client exceed 25% of my monthly billables. My engineering rate is set so that if I bill 20 hours a week, I'm on the low end of comfortable, which gives me a target of 80 billable hours a month. So keeping any one client to about 20 hours per month means I'm not in as much risk of them rolling over (cancelling the project, going elsewhere) and squashing me. All good, so far.

One client, however, who has sent me steady work in an ongoing / sustaining project (since 2003) has slowly increased the work. I've been billing 30-40 hours per month, pretty steadily, for the past year or so. Which means this one client is around 50% of my target engineering billables. In reality, it's a bit higher than this, since my 40 hours of available time each week are also doled out to web wenching, yoga teaching. etc. I do not really want to discourage the work; it's a bit repetitive, but it can be done at my convenience, they pay 30 days on the nose, and not a lot of hand-holding or maintenance. So I've simply lived with the tension of having a lot of eggs in one basket, and when other work comes in, putting in more hours and cranking to stay on top of things.

But, running with steady income like this can cause some other issues. My website is woefully outdated and in need of a complete overhaul. Another client has a website redesign pending that I need to put some time into. And I'm not doing much, if anything, towards marketing, networking, or building the business out into new areas.

The past few weeks, however, the big client has been offline (vacation) and since he keeps a bit of a tight rein on my work, there's nothing coming in. So, May will be a very light billing month (about 50% of usual) and I suspect I will get dumped on with a big backlog come the first week in June.

In the meantime, however, I have been enjoying a bit of a work holiday. I'm still teaching yoga, of course, and other projects are coming through and getting handled. But I've had the chance to really catch up in my personal life. I've cleaned the heck out of my living space - with three room totally cleaned, the others pending, and a bunch of small and large projects (seasonal stuff, as well as things I've had on my "I'll get to that someday" list) knocked off. I've been blogging more (notice?). And I've started sitting back and thinking about my engineering consulting practice, moving forward. I suspect I'll get that website redesign moving in the next week or so, and want to refocus my work to better sync up with the other things going on in my life - more local business, more niche business, less "jump in an airplane and resolve problems" type of work.

It feels like I've been just swamped and not really taking care of stuff (for years, really) - and  these two weeks have allowed me to catch my breath, finish things up, make some long term plans, and look to the future. I've got some new energy - thinking of a long overdue "how to" book project that would work great on Kindle self publish, signed up for a SquareUp credit card account. Just seems like there is a lot more room in my work life for new growth....

The end of June might be a bit tight, but there are some largish invoices outstanding that I expect to see any day that will soften that. And many of the projects I've been able to catch up on will translate into invoices in the next few weeks.

On a Timer

A short list of items on timer at the house:

a) Dehumidifier. For some reason, it tends to cycle on/off a lot when it's near the target humidity. Annoying during the workday in the basement office. I called the manufacturer - no way to adjust the hysteresis. So I picked up a heavy duty timer to keep it off during the day, when it switches on at night (when electricity is less in demand, anyway) it runs longer but less annoying cycling.

b) Fan in yoga room. Switches off mid-morning before the day gets hot, stays off all day (preserving the cooler night air in the house) and switches back on in teh early evening.

c) Front porch - I have a programmable switch that turns the porch light on and off automatically.

One of these days I'll pick up a whole house controller, and really geek it out. But not today....

If You Can't Find Something To Do This Weekend... are not trying very hard. Here's a short list of things I am aware of, I am sure there is much more to choose from.

Blues: Friday Night, June 1 is the annual Black-eyed and Blues Fest in Bushnell Park, sponsored by Black-eyed Sally's. ABSOLUTELY FREE.  More info....

Alternative Rock: A plug for my friends at Little Ugly - they are playing the Firebox Restaurant (at Billings Forge) on Friday @ 9:00 pm

Poetry: This is the kick-off weekend for the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, at the Hillstead Museum in Farmington. Poetry and music all weekend long, starting Friday night.

Spirituality: Something new this year, the 2012 Creative Spirituality Fair, in East Haddam is going on Saturday. June 2. All sorts of yoga, healing modalities, energy work, music, arts, food and fun.

Queer Film Fest: The annual Gay and Lesbian Film Fest - Out Film CT - starts this weekend, at Cinestudio. The festival runs June 1- 9, with some big social events planned for apres cinema on the opening night, closing night, and mid fest. A lot of interesting looking films, with several premieres.

Krishna Das:  Kirtan and workshop on Sunday, June 3 in West Hartford, sponsored by West Hartford Yoga.

That's just a start, bet there are many more events happening as we kick off the first weekend of the summer season. Get out there and enjoy!

May 28, 2012

Weekend Report Card

Holiday Weekends are usually tough for me - I tend not to have a lot of invites to social events, no nearby family, so I watch the parade of happy picnic, party and travel photos on Facebook with a bit of sadness. 

That being said, the weekend was pretty reasonable. Got a lot of chores done - interior plants refreshed and renewed, exterior plants purchased and transplanted. I installed a window A/C unit in the bedroom, thoroughly cleaned multiple rooms (bedroom, yoga room, living room).

Went to a movie (MIB3) as well as a play (The Tempest) - got some chores done for a friend (some transplanting of large houseplants and a window A/C unit installed). Couple of (not so healthy) meals out - Doogies with a friend (his first time), as well as The Counter (my first time). Guinea Pigs rehearsal on Friday. Taught yoga on Friday and Monday, and did some private training work on Saturday. Met up with some friends on Saturday for an informal birthday hangout at Elizabeth Park.

Today (Monday) was really the bleah day - taught my class, and vegged for much of mid-day (heat) before cleaning the living room and  seeking some A/C at the movies. Hope to get the kitchen cleaned up this evening.

Still on the list: Kitchen cleaning. Bathroom(s) cleaning. Laundry room cleaning. Office cleaning. Changeover seasonal clothes. And a small pile of long delayed work projects I hope to bang out this week, while my big client remains off line. Once he's back in the office (next weekend or Monday) I suspect the floodgates will open and I'll have quite the work backlog moving into June.

The Tempest - Hartford Stage

So much to love!

A lazy Memorial Day weekend, without a lot on the agenda. So as a friend and I lamented our single (meaning, no families, no picnics) state on Facebook, we realized we could sneak in a visit downtown - and holiday tickets were 50% off!  We were so there!

Forst off, I've already seen The Tempest at Hartford Stage - the last time they put it on, circa 1984/85 season. Yeah, I am that old.  I must have been a way cooler 24 year old than I remembered - although a few years out of college (where I sucked up every Shakespeare course my engineering college offered), with a good (for the time) salary and a pile of credit, I was flush. Anyway, I am sure I loved that version (I made a point of seeing every Mark Lamos directed Shakespeare play that I could), but I think I loved this one more.

In no particular order, I loved:
  • Ariel played by Shirine Babb with a chorus, I loved the concept of Ariel being multiple sprites. It would have been pretty  cool (conceptually) to have the three actors portraying Ariels movement chorus shared the speaking roles, although Shirine was outstanding throughout.
  • The stage floor and costumes, many of which were woven with the text of the play)
  •  The wall of books, artfully designed to permit the Ariel chorus to climb and pose.
  • Caliban. Amazing performance by Ben Cole, and amazing choices in terms of how to play him by the director
  • The stage turntable, used sparingly but effectively, all night, but especially during...
  •  The opening scene, where a woman on stage in a long-trained dress transformed into the Figurehead of the ship that is wrecked in a storm. I just fell in love from the start.
  • Not a huge fan of Prospero's revels (ballet and aerial dancing) in general but it was a beautiful interlude and I did love the rainbow arc. 
The actors were great, the costuming was great - hard to trump the fantastical elements of the play but they supported it fully and never detracted. Even Trinculo and Stephano (Shakespeare's obligatory comic relief) were wonderful. 

Live theater, I miss you. It was really not that pricey to see a play, there are bargains to be had, I need to cultivate a few theater going friends.

May 25, 2012


I am not exactly an early acquirer, and I tend to hang on to technology long past its average life. Witness my old iPhone 2 (still working fine), my iPad (a first generation device that I bought on closeout when the iPad 2 came out, and I'm still enchanted) and, until now, my GPS. I have had one of those old fat Garmin GPS devices that looked like a miniature CRT. The batteries died years ago (only worked when plugged in), the power cable was getting a little wonky, the touchscreen would occasionally and intermittently get out of registration, and the maps and software had never been updated (last time I checked, a few years back, it was $99 or something and it seemed better to buy a new box)

It owed me nothing - not exactly sure when I purchased it, probably 2006 - it went with me (via checked luggage) all over the USA on business trips. Occasionally, I'd pull up the history and find directions to a hospital 2000 miles away, to the southwest. It was, all in all, a VERY USEFUL and  RELIABLE bit of technology.

The last few months, I have found myself relying on my iPhone maps app for directions (and more importantly, traffic) so I knew it was time to update. 

Picked up a Garmin Nuvi 40LS (hey, I'm still not an early acquirer and I'm cheap!) that came with a lifetime map / software update for $120, on sale at Staples. I'ev never liked the Tom Tom User Interface, so Garmin it is again, even 10 years later the Garmin GUI is familiar.  A real impulse buy (I went in looking for a low profile extension cord, came out with a notebook, pens, and a GPS.)

May 24, 2012

Weird Dream

I rarely dream vividly and memorably, but I did last night (perhaps driven by some rather yummy fish tacos from the nearby No Name Tortilla Grill), and perhaps advised by the rather fluid layout of the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (saw the movie yesterday)

In my dream, I was living in a second floor apartment in a big rambling house that was not designed as separate apartments. The kitchen (for instance) was huge and had multiple stoves. And there was a screen door separating my place from a common space adjacent to a group home for adults with some sort of disability (did not seem to be developmental, perhaps mental health issues).

I arrive back home to find my kitchen occupied by a handful of these group home folks, cooking my food in my kitchen. I remember one guy was frying up 6-8 eggs, someone else was making spaghetti. I kicked them all out, and closed / latched the screen door, and went down to talk to the group home staff about it. Later on, I find the screen has been cut / pushed in, the latches unlocked, they had been back in. One guy in particular seemed rather gleeful and  obsessed with the project of invading my space. I think somewhere along the line I ended up tussling with him trying to get him to leave.

It was the kind of dream that stuck around; I woke during the night, turned on the radio for a bit, and when I dozed back asleep, the dream continued.

May 23, 2012

Deus Ex Machina

Locked my keys in the car this morning, pumping gas en route to yoga. I opened the passenger side door to clear out some trash, left the keys on the passenger seat. A few seconds after I closed the door, I heard the ominous click of the car doors locking. No idea how that happened; the automatic door locks are pretty smart - I've tried to to this in the past without success. Best I can guess, the door lock button was inadvertantly pressed as the keys were sitting.

Anyway, I have OnStar - came with the car with a free year subscription and I've procrastinated killing off the subscription. Found the toll free number on the little window sticker, and borrowed the gas station phone to call. Took about 3 minutes (an extra minute because I never updated the subscription with my new address / phone number) but the satellite unlocked my car. Was not even late for yoga.

Once upon a time, pay phones would have been ubiquitous. And remarkably, there was a working pay phone in the lot, but for some reason, it did not seem to want to dial OnStar's toll free number, and I had no quarters to mess around with it.

I understand OnStar has smartphone apps that are cool and powerful; though they do not work for my vintage device (it's a 2007 car). Next vehicle, perhaps.

Had OnStar not been active, would have been a minor annoyance - I was about a mile from home, and could have walked home, gotten my hide-a-key to get into the house, and gotten my spare car key. But this worked faster!

May 21, 2012

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts

Free Movie Preview tonight for members at Real Art Ways - the film was Small, Beautifully Moving Parts.

Real Art Ways is working to reward members (hey, that's me!), and to get the word out for the quality, independent films that it brings to town regularly. So tonight, I took advantage of their kind offer, and saw a wonderful film for free!

"Small, Beautifully Moving Parts" is a charming study in relationships, family and technology. Its protagonist, Sarah, is a thoroughly modern young woman. A free spirit technology geek who might be best described as dispassionate, she's more surprised about the high quality font in the disposable pregnancy tester than she is about the word that font spells out - PREGNANT. She's got a supportive partner, does not seem to lack for money or life skills. But a cross country trip (for a baby shower thrown by her sister, a visit to her father, and a quest to find her estranged mother) gives her the opportunity to connect to the little girl she's incubating in a way that the technology in her life is unable to.

It was really interesting and refreshing to see a movie portray our complex, and not always healthy, dependence on technology. Sarah's rental comes equipped with a talking GPS which seems about as much human contact as she can handle initially. She's forever on her iPhone; Skypes with her partner. Her father is carrying on a Skype relationship with a woman from Portugal (after Sarah fixes his firewall problem). There's a short foray to Las Vegas (where Sarah connects with her partner's sister), who loves Las Vegas because it's so authentic and pre-modern (!) - yeah, that was me snorting with laughter. The theme of authenticity in the midst of modernity and technology are woven throughout the film.

As Sarah wanders further from technology in search of her mom, her GPS gives way to maps, her cell service fails and she must rely on a good old fashioned pay phone. It feels like a stripping away of layers. And when she finally finds her mother, it is interesting that, even in a community that eschews technology, human connection remains elusive.

There's a not a lot of high drama or fabricated plot in the film. One would imagine that with a solo trek through the southwest with a baby on the way and a dependence on technology, there might be many opportunities for potential tragedy - car trouble, desert heat, meeting the wrong kind of person. But the filmmaker resists the urge to go for the easy plot device here - it's all understated. Sarah's existential crisis is plot enough. There is a funny Deus ex Machina moment in the film (me laughing out loud, again), and if Sarah does not get what she wants from her mother, she gets what she needs from the journey.

I really liked this film a lot, definitely worth a trip down to Arbor Street when it's in town. It's scheduled to play at Real Art Ways starting June 1.

Buying Art

The Guinea Pigs (my folk rock band, I play bass and a little guitar) played a gig this weekend in Glastonbury, at the annual Audubon Society "Art for Nature's Sake" event. Last year, I took advantage of the event to purchase a piece of art (a painting of a downy woodpecker, which has become a little bit of a spirit guide to me). This year, I once again did a little "unreasonable" (in the sense that buying art is a little bit extravegent for me) and purchased another piece.

The artist, Lesley Braren of East Hampton, CT, has a very nice web presence. And I found my purchase online, entitled "Bird Cat" - a monotype of a red winged blackbird perched on some cat-tails, so you can see it as well!

Not sure why, but I really liked the impressionist feel of the monotype form as worked by Ms. Braren. I'm not an art scholar so never heard of this before, but Lesley describes it thus: 
"Monotypes are oils that are painted on glass and then transferred to paper. Sometimes it's only possible to make one print from the painting and other times there is a second one that's called a "ghost". Rarely a third one would be "ghost 11". Everyone is different."
It's funny, moving through the various artists tents and looking at the work. Several artists work impressed, some made me laugh or smile, and a couple I really liked. But like a suitor at a dance, there is usually one artist whose work speaks to me at that moment, an perhaps just one or two pieces that step to the fore. In this case, my continued delight and appreciation for birds, and the bright colors and textures of nature drew me in.

It's a lovely experience - finding something that speaks to the heart and spirit, and giving the artist some livelihood (in the form of money) in exchange for their vision and work. I'm a latecomer to the appreciation and collection of art, and I am sure I will never have the time, space or money to collect seriously, but it's nice to put a little bit of good karma into the art world.

Detox Cleanse: The Ongoing Saga

I'm into the second phase of my 21 day detox cleanse. We've reintroduced animal protein (hopefully from clean sources), legumes, seeds & nuts, and nightshades (which in my case has meant tomatoes). All good. I've been a little sloppy with some processed foods, but I'm trying to stay off dairy, gluten, sugar, and caffeine. And I've handed in my coffee card - my morning 4 cup pot of decaf (with milk and artificial sweetener) is no more.

Twice in the past week I've opted to have a bit of a food splurge. Last Friday, it was a roast beef sandwich (Arby's) with fries and a diet soda. Today, a relatively healthy turkey / avocado sandwich (on Rye) with sea salt kettle chips and a diet soda. Both times, I ended up crashing heavily - falling into bed for a post lunch nap that was like the dead. So a bit of gluten (bun / bread), some fried potatoes, some artificial sweetener / food coloring, etc. No dairy in either meal (no cheese, no dressings)

So I'm looking at that. Was I simply overly tired (always a possibility) and putting a big meal in my belly caused sleepiness? Or was my body telling me that something in the meal (crappy as they are) is a specific problem for me?  I'm thinking gluten might be the culprit - perhaps a test of a healthy lunch with a bread or roll might be a useful test.

I'm a little freaked out by it all. I've never noticed much sensitivity in the past, and ate any damn thing I wanted. I sort of joked that I was in such a high state of inflammation and disease that I could (and did) eat anything and never noticed any symptoms which friends would go into a two day hangover if they ate a cupcake. And part of me feels like that's not such a bad thing :) - although I do feel marginally better in my body (joints, fascia, energy) post cleanse, this being held hostage by what for all intents and purposes is a normal american meal makes me crazy. I already feel a bit freakish and isolated, and feeling unable to grab a quick bite or have a drink without paying a high price makes me cranky.

Ah well, the research continues. I feel like the detox has given me the opportunity to investigate foods (and how they effect me) in a way that I was unable to in the past. So that's a good thing. But dammit, I really do not need more excuses to withdraw from social interaction and avoid contact.

May 15, 2012


I was about to write a cranky post about the new (to the area) RAW: Natural Born Artists website / movement. Specifically, we already have a RAW here in Hartford, shorthand for Real Art Ways. I imagined some local artists or promoters, bearing real or perceived slights by the folks at Real Art Ways, coming up with RAW: Natural Born Artists as a reaction or slap at the venerable local arts organization.

But digging into the RAW website, I see that it is a national movement that has been around three years but new to Hartford, and that any similarity, confusion, or conflation is most likely incidental.

Still unfortunate. Real Art Ways (truth in advertising, I'm a long time supporter / member) has spent a lot of time developing their brand, and the new RAW can only erode that branding, however slightly. 

Ah well, more arts can not be a bad thing, can it?

Detox Cleanse Day 9

So I am on Detox Day 9, working with Pauline Weismann. Wish I could say I have been flawless on this, but I've had a couple of slips the past few days. But right back on that horse, right?

It has not been all that difficult physically to do this fairly radical and restrictive change in diet. I did not have huge detox symptoms (or a "healing crisis", as it's called) - a mild headache on the morning of Day #2, and a bit of lethargy on Days #2 and #3. I think the fact that it's fruit and smoothie heavy helps me personally - there is a morning and evening shot of sugars (even natural ones) in the form of a berry (mostly, with side trips to apples, pears, bananas, and pineapple) smoothie with some sanctioned protein and green additives (via Moss Nutrition). It neatly replaces both my morning mini-jolt (decaf coffee) as well as any nighttime desire for sweets / dessert.

The rest of my food has been a mixed bag. Quinoa, brown rice, and spaghetti squash serve as the foundation, with a variety of veggies (spinach, kale, summer squash, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflour, etc.). Protein is mostly lentils, with an occasional sweet potato providing some comfort foodishness. Fats come via extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, and cocoanut oil.

Starting Thursday (Day 11) I can fold in clean animal protein, nuts and seeds, legumes, and the deadly nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) - although I think I will stick to vegetarian choices with the exception of eggs. I'm kind of liking not eating animal protein and I think if I move in that direction it will help me resist the lure of cheap, easy food going forward.

Physically, I feel pretty good. I've been backing off my hot / power yoga practice - because of the detox (feeling a little yin and less grounded) and also due to some injury (my chronic plantar fascitis on the left foot has been joined by a broken pinky toe, and last Friday a mildly sprained right ankle by way of a 6 mile hike). My joints feel less cranky and sticky - far fewer pops and cracks in the fingers, toes, ankles and wrists. My flesh feels more fluid, less congealed if that makes sense. I have an overall sense of lightness or airiness, which is sort of strange; I'm usually pretty solid and grounded. So I feel a little off kilter. No significant weight loss (that I am aware of) but I feel marginally better and brighter.

Mostly, I miss being part of the socio-economic food commerce. My frequent visits to coffee spots for a decaf (iced or hot) were places of human interaction, as were my forays out for lunch or dinner. Being self-employed, I can easily got a full 12 hours without seeing or speaking to another human being, and running out for a meal is a break from that. On the up side, I've been carrying around the same $20 bill in my wallet all week - I use my debit card at the grocery store and I have just not eaten out. So a lot less petty cash wandering off into junk food land.

And I miss "crunch" - granola, pretzels, chips - even the healthier versions of these provide some chewing and crunching satiety that I am not getting a lot of. Totally roasting some chick peas on Day 11 for a little bit of crunchiness!

May 14, 2012

We Have a Pope

A lovely little Italian film, over at Real Art Ways. See the trailer here. being a recovering Catholic, I liked the "inside the conclave" aspects of the film. I liked the portrayal of the cardinals as imperfect and human. Not sure how the filmmakers got access / permission (or made it look so good) but it was lovely and authentic. But mostly, the study of a single soul (Cardinal Melville, the newly elected Pope) as he struggles with self-doubts, fears, weakness. I liked it, a lot. Not a tear jerker or a world changer, but a lovely film, definitely worth a look!

May 11, 2012

Ira Glass Pron II

Went to see This American Life Live, the second live telecast of my favorite public radio show. It was all that, and a bag of chips. First, the disappointment. One of the most amazing things about the first telecast (2009) was watching Ira Glass produce a radio segment, live. He has two CD players, one with voice tracks, and one with background music and effects. And to watch him mix the show live - intermixing his voiceovers, the music, the subject audio clips - well it was almost ballet. Enchanting. And there was none of that. He seemed to be running some things via a handheld iPad (and got off a little inside joke about his relationship with Apple). But no live radio show. But, other than this one small thing - it was a total win. I am sure I will miss some things, but my morning after highlights.

Item 1: Tig Notaro. Think I am in love. And her surprise guest star (no spoilers) had me laughing my ass off.

Item 2: OK Go. I'm not a huge fan in general but they were amusing and fun and their use of technology and smartphone apps to create a huge, multi-player version of Guitar Hero was clever and made me smile. If you are going to a future rebroadcast, download the app ahead of time!

Item 3: David Rakoff. Funny and brave.

Item 4: David Sedaris in somewhat questionable stage make-up. Funny story, ratcheted up to the surreal by the live presentation.

Item 5: A piece about street photographer Vivian Maier - an artist who worked alone and in obscurity. Her work was brilliant, copious, and never shown to the public, nor intended to be shown. When a storage locker containing her life work was abandoned and auctioned off, her prints became known. The work was amazing, and the musing about privacy, art, life, death as we watched her work flash by was very moving. A documentary Finding Vivian Maier is currently in production.

Item 6: Monica Bill Barnes & Company. Witty and charming. Real people with real bodies dancing. Loved.

Item 7: Getting to see Snap Judgment host Glynn Washington. I've listened to the show quite a bit over the past year or so, and my initial opinion was "an urban This American Life", and sometimes it is a little too "in your face" for me. Gained a better appreciation for the way that show is mixed and created, and will listen and appreciate with a fresh ear.

Item 8: Mike Birbiglia created a short film featuring Terry Gross of Fresh Air. I laughed. A lot.

The whole evening made me smile. If you get the chance to go to one of the rebroadcasts, take it!

May 10, 2012

21 Day Detox Cleanse

I'm in the midst of a 21 day detox cleanse, led by Pauline Weismann, and sponsored by West Hartford Yoga. I've never done a straight food detox cleanse before; did a colon cleanse fast a long time ago (involving apple juice and betamite clay) which was interesting. This is a lot different - no real limit of how much I eat but a very limited palatte from which to draw my meals. No meat or animal protein. No dairy. No gluten. No processed foods of any type. No tofu or tempeh (processed) which are staples of a vegetarian diet; no legumes or nuts (other than lentils), no nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant). So I'm pretty much limited to fruits and veggies, brown rice, lentils, sweet potatoes. Seasonings and dressings are also fairly restricted - nothing processed or pre-made; but extra virgin olive oil, bit of vinegar, spices are OK. I had a little headache, tiredness, and spaciness the first day or so - but four days into it I'm doing much better. It's been very interesting observing my body changing; so far I feel less achey in the joints, my hands and fingers feel thinner / less swollen. I've got some chronic stuff (plantar fasciitis, an old shoulder injury) that will be interesting to watch. More sobering - becoming aware of how meals and food are a central support in my life - how a typical work day is propped up by three meals which are not only sensual highlights of my day but also my opportunities to engage with society and make human contact (even if it's just the counter clerk). Eating clean means a lot less opportunity to engage in human contact, and it's shining a spotlight on my loneliness and isolation.

April 30, 2012

A Day Off

Once upon a time, I blogged quite a bit. But of late, life has been pretty busy, and blogging seems to take a back seat. So long overdue for a quick update. This past weekend, we finished up weekend 4 (of 6) of Yoga Teacher Training. I was tapped to fill in for one of the assistants back in 2010 - and I've been assisting ever since. The weekend are incredibly long and difficult for the students, and also for the staff. Friday 5 pm - 11 pm, Saturday 1 pm - 9 pm, Sunday 12 noon - 9 pm. Each day starts with a long (~2.5 hour) practice in a hot room; and although I am not on the mat, assisting a class like that is almost as draining. Today should have been a recovery day but I ended up teaching two classes, getting a power class in myself (thanks, Linda!) and doing a few work reports and small projects. So Tuesday will be my day to collapse and unwind. I was able to sneak in three loads of laundry over the weekend and do the dishes, so I'm caught up there. The house could use a good cleaning, but probably will only nibble at the edges there. Sadly, a lot of my music and arts life has fallen by the wayside as I stay busy with yoga, my engineering work, and other pursuits. Each weekend that I'm off the grid for yoga or a retreat, I see the local social scene pass me by. I'll be back soon enough... Ballooning season is fast approaching, as is the farmer's market season with a pile of Guinea Pigs gigs.

April 15, 2012

Coming Home 2012

Just returned from Coming Home: A Mindfulness Meditation weekend for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer Communities. Led by Larry Yang and Maddy Klyne, it was a very interesting, and in a lot of ways challenging, experience.

The work was primarily based on Vipassana Meditation. So although my work in the yoga community, mindfulness, and enlightenment intensives have incorporated this sort of work, I am not sure I expected a full day of sitting / walking meditation. I do not have that sort of formal meditation practice, so there was some challenge there. Specifically, so much of the weekend vibed "enlightenment intensive" that I was ready to roll up my sleeves and dig in to one of the questions, such as "Who Am I?" - and that's just not the point of Vipasanna. It's all about letting go, softening, observing, cultivating a quiet and aware mind - and specifically not about getting somewhere. Maybe there is a quiet goal of opening, of awakening - but certainly not the drive towards a "direct experience of the truth" (with the laughter, tears, joy, awe, etc. that go along with that) of the EI.

So I struggled. As I stepped out into the walking meditation, I felt the urge to dance around. The TREE. Don't you see it? The TREE! (and any other thing that caught my EI-blown awake mind, there was much to distract, the Garrison Institute grounds were beautiful, and the weekend attendees were equally amazing) as the other attendees were watching their footfalls diligently in walking meditation. Although the direct experience fades as one lives ones life, I am not sure that one ever forgets the substance. I may not feel that blown open every day, but having felt that a few times, its hard not to feel like running ahead on the path.

Does a direct experience ruin one for the diligence and patient path of vipasanna? Must ask one of my teachers for his thoughts....

It was, for all that, a lovely weekend. Held in functional silence, I did not get much chance to mix, mingle, and network, but I have no doubt I would adore most of the folks there, give 1/2 a chance. I do wish there had been more space for getting to know people. The facility was wonderful for this sort of retreat. The food - amazing - vegetarian, clean, delicious.

There seems to be some interest in doing this again, and I suspect I will be there if they do!

March 18, 2012

Back in My Life

My sickness has fallen by the wayside - a solid week of misery has been replaced with a little congestion (possibly allergies) and good energy. I'm back on the mat, back teaching, all that.

I think the combination of a week of downtime, the cleanse / detox of a colonoscopy prep, and the start of daylight savings time abetted my recovery. While I do not feel debilitated by seasonal affected disorder, I certainly do thrive with more daylight and the sunny, warm weather we have been enjoying.

This weekend, back in the studio for teacher training. Being there is a bit of a grind: long days, lot of energy drain, lot of time on my feet. But worth every second!

March 13, 2012

Sick Sick Sick

Two posts in a row. I am on a roll....

I've spent the last week in a spring detox period of illness. I last hit the mat on Monday the 5th, and Barb's strong deep practice unleashed a healing crisis of sorts - I got sick as a dog. Two days of serious laryngitis is still clearing up, and kept me from teaching all week. Not sure I've ever subbed out a week's worth of classes. I was mostly bed ridden or moping around the house. Elo got his walks, and I'd go out for meals or shopping, but I had almost no human contact all week.

I did find myself starting to clean and purge. Laundry got done and the pile of things on the "to be hung up" pile got hung up, the kitchen was cleaned, the yoga room, bedroom, living room all cleaned thoroughly. I paid bills, filed receipts and bills, put things away. Cleaned up the back deck, ready for planting and grilling. My friend came over and traded a blender for a crock pot and rice cooker. I took a pile of heavy copper wire that I've been carrying around for a decade to the metal recycling place and got $13.

Finally pulling out. A colonoscopy on Monday required a cleanse, that helped even as it was annoying. Gentle yoga last night with Achala. Power this morning with Nykki. I've got my life and my body back....

I Bought a CD Today

Springsteen's Wrecking Ball, to be exact.

I purchase real CDs occasionally - usually direct from the artist at a concert, or at my annual folk fest. Occasionally I'll put some music on a gift list and get something for a birthday or holiday. And once in a while I notice that I am a disk behind on some of my favorite artists (usually folkies) and pick up a handful at Amazon. But mostly these days, I download from eMusic or iTunes.

Of course, it was not simple. Target offered a standard version for $12.99, and a deluxe version for $15.99. The deluxe version has a couple of extra tracks (+), is larger than a regular CD (-, in terms of stacking and storing), and has a larger booklet / insert (+, in terms of aging vision). I went upscale.

Once upon a time, I would have ripped it open in the car and gave it a listen, but my NPR addiction kept me tuned to Fresh Air. Indoor plumbing with a British accent won. It'll get a listen soon enough.

I go back to the days of vinyl; I remember hitting Strawberries in Bristol CT at lunchtime to pick up Born in the USA as a record, and how it was to have a favorite album side (who ever turned the Boston album over to listen to the B side?). Now buying a CD feels kind of retro. And in some ways it feels like a way of supporting live music, live artists, even if Bruce has no need for my royalties.