Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kindle vs. Nook Update

At one month since its e-book launch, purchasers of the Kindle version of Fractured Anecdotes 1 are outpacing purchasers of the Nook version of Fractured Anecdotes 1 at the rate of 2 Kindles to every 1 Nook.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Brand New Venue for Handel's Messiah!

I have been remiss.

I should have written something about the 62nd performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Messiah Chorus of Lake County before it actually happened. I will try to make up for that right now. Have you ever attended a performance of this classic piece, here or anywhere else? If not, you are missing something fantastic. This is more than just the “Hallelujah” chorus that most people have heard at one time or another. This fabulous music was written by George Frederick Handel in a little over three weeks, was scored for four soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), four chorus voices, a variety of symphony orchestra instruments, and takes 2½ to 3 hours to perform.

Anyone who has listened to this cannot help but wonder how one man could construct such a piece of music that perfectly blends so many voices and instruments without spending years on the endeavor. One has to conclude that it was divinely inspired. There is no other explanation that makes sense.

But I digress.

I have been involved in the Messiah Chorus of Lake County for 30 years. Yesterday was my 27th performance. Things happen, such as late term pregnancy with my daughter, committing to be a confirmation sponsor on a day that conflicted with a performance…oh and then there was that one year where I had the unheard of opportunity to spend a week with friends in Hilton Head. Other than those times, I have been a faithful participant.

When I started, Cyril Chinn was the conductor. We performed the piece at Morley Music Building on the campus of Lake Erie College. I was fascinated by the place, even though it was in sore need of renovation. The acoustics were beautiful, the pipe organ was a work of art, but the building itself was inconvenient. There were two restrooms, one for men, one for women. You had to climb a monstrous number of stairs to get into the place and then had to go clear to the lowest building level to use the two restrooms. There was no handicapped accessibility and there were no elevators, except for the orchestra pit. There was woefully inadequate parking, forcing many to park across the street at Zion Lutheran Church and brave the Route 20 traffic, generally in the dark. And there was no room for the chorus to gather prior to the performance, so we all stood in a downstairs hallway to run through a few practice verses before climbing several levels of stairs to get to the stage.

One year, Cy was ill and the original choral conductor, Hilbert Collins, returned from retirement to lead the group. He insisted that we perform at the United Methodist Church on the square in downtown Painesville, the original home of the chorus. This posed several new problems. The first was that the choir itself had grown to close to 200 voices and the sanctuary of the church was nowhere near large enough to house us. There was inadequate parking in the square area. The person that played the organ for the performance that year kept hitting one of the middle registers with his arm, emitting a bleating sound at intervals throughout the piece. I came out of the performance ready to quit.

The following year, Cy was back and we were back in Morley. The pipe organ had fallen into disrepair and we began renting an organ for the event, adding to our costs. The building was divided to house offices on the basement level, so the hall where the choir had gathered to warm up was no longer available, which forced us to meet in another building and walk to Morley in all kinds of weather to get to the stage. Eventually, Cy just wasn’t up to conducting any longer. Ken Nash took over as conductor, and we continued to perform at Morley. The building was renovated, the organ was refurbished, and the price of renting the place for the performance rose.

The steering committee began seeking alternative venues. Don Densmore, the head of the steering committee and the force behind the running of the chorus for decades, decided to pass the torch. It was the perfect time to find a new venue in which to perform this masterful work. Kevin Donahue, choir director at St. Gabriel’s Church, graciously took on the position of steering committee head and offered St. Gabe’s Church as a new venue for the performance…free. This was met with some limited resistance, if for no other reason than there are some people who just dislike change. But for the majority of the choir members, the change was readily accepted when the perks of the new venue became apparent.

St. Gabriel’s had many advantages. The sanctuary is on the ground floor. There are a few stairs to climb to enter the church, but there are also handicapped ramps if you cannot manage those few stairs. There is a room in the church basement large enough to house the chorus for warm-ups prior to the performance, so the choir members don’t have to trudge through the weather to get to the hall. Those choir members who can not negotiate the stairs have use of an elevator. There are more-than-adequate restroom facilities on both floors. All the parking is on-site, eliminating the dangerous hike across Route 20. It does not have the booming pipe organ of Morley, but since St. Gabe’s offered the space for free, some of the money normally spent on the building rental was used to hire a professional string section. All told, we had strings, piano, harpsichord, organ, and trumpet.

It sounded incredible! It is amazing to hear this piece with the instruments of the day. Everyone in the audience that I polled after the concert said it was beautiful, and several mentioned that they thought it sounded better than Morley. Many commented that the venue was much more convenient. And St. Gabe’s even served punch and cookies to anyone who wanted a little something as they were leaving the concert. Kevin Donahue, Tony Noll, Father Fred, and the staff at St. Gabe’s were wonderful and gracious to open their doors to the community and went out of their way to make all who attended feel welcome.

I, for one, would like to thank them for making this a memorable event. I look forward to the 63rd performance of Handel’s Messiah, next December!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkeys and Paninis and Pies, Oh My!

It’s been a week to 10 days of activity as we hurtle toward the holidays. It started the day of the dreaded colonoscopy. After coming home and crashing for several hours, Jim woke me and I proceeded to make the stuffing for the upcoming turkey cookout. On Friday, after Jim left for scout camp, I took Mom to the Vine for soup and panini sandwiches. Wow! Good stuff on the new menu! Mom had Cheddar-Cheddar Broccoli Soup and I had Aztec Chicken Tortilla. We split a number 2, turkey-cheese-basil pesto on a croissant…excellent! Of course we topped it off with Blueberry Pinot Noir and the melodious sounds of Larry Smith.

Saturday, after the weekly trip to the beauty shop for Mom and errands for me, we paid a visit to the Craft Show and Bake Sale at St. Cyprian’s Church. We picked up my daughter on the way to the show and made it a 3-generation outing. This was followed by a six-inch chop job on Meredith’s hair…call it an evening exercise as most of the old layers are now gone. This was done so that her hair grows out nicely for the wedding in May.

Saturday evening was spent at Camp Stigwandish. The annual turkey cookout is an amazing thing. They cooked five 22-lb turkeys outside at the same time and it only took 6 ½ hours or so! They make a huge outdoor convection oven with the turkeys hanging from a pole held up by two tripods. The area is then ringed with tall chicken-wire tubes filled with charcoal. The whole thing is then wrapped in yards of aluminum foil, which acts to reflect all the heat toward the turkeys. The scouts also make mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, sweet potatoes, my stuffing of course, rolls, cranberry sauce…pretty much the whole 9 yards. All the scouts and their families are invited to share the Thanksgiving meal. This year there were 90-100 participants. A wonderful time and good food was had by all.

A major project at work kept me tied up for more than half the week. But Friday has come again, and I am relieved. Tomorrow, we’ll be attending a fund raiser for the brother of one of our friends, and Sunday is the last regular rehearsal for Messiah. Suddenly it will be Thanksgiving week and there is stuffing to make, pumpkin and apple pies to bake, and cleaning to be done. Chris will be coming home for the first time in many months. I’m looking forward to a laid back holiday, punctuated by hair appointments, dress rehearsal, and the actual Messiah concert. I will definitely need a break after that!

On another note, Kindle is outselling Nook 3 to 1! Don’t forget to download your copy of Fractured Anecdotes I and have a really good laugh!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rumors of my demise are exaggerated

I lived.

This comes as no surprise to most anyone who has endured the dreaded colonoscopy, but might be to those who have never had one. I can say with firm resolve that the actual procedure was nothing compared to the preparation involved. And also, I will say this.

Go have it done! Although this is a literal pain in the hiney, the benefit of making sure nothing is in there silently planning to end your life is preferable to not knowing there is a problem.

An ounce of prevention really is worth the pound of cure. A gallon of vile clean out solution is preferable to chemo and other treatments for something you could have avoided by just biting the bullet and getting it done!

Colorectal cancer is preventable. Don’t become a statistic. Get checked out as recommended by the medical professionals (starting at age 50, both men and women should have a colonoscopy every 10 years). Do it for yourself, and do it for those you will leave behind if you don’t.

Down to the Wire

Well, it’s coming down to the wire. In an effort to keep my mind off things, like food, I left work early and went to Sam’s Club where four incredibly expensive tires were waiting to be mounted on my car. (How can they charge so much for simple rubber?)

“It will be several hours,” he said.

“Do it anyway,” I replied.

I shopped for a while, actually picking up a set of soft wooly pajamas as a Christmas gift and some yogurt (Activia for Mom, Chobani for me). I wanted to break a few of the yogurts open and down them in one sitting, but my metal and resolve to get the testing over with tomorrow stopped me from taking such a path. I’m even thinking I might actually have a little will power hidden in here somewhere. It was 2½ hours before they finally finished mounting the tires. I burned off 240 calories, ingested in the form of a Sprite, walking the aisles.

10 p.m.: I’ve had nothing to eat for 22 hours and it will be many more before anything solid crosses these lips.

Always the optimist and attempting to put a positive spin on this, I was thinking it might make a good jump-start for my preholiday diet…you know, the one where you proactively lose weight so that when you gain it back eating turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, you (hopefully) end up where you started.

I do have another rather nefarious strategy. I call it The Reverse Diet. You bake goodies for your friends and keep them coming in a steady stream. They scarf them down, compliment your cooking, and gain weight. The more they gain, the smaller you appear!

7 a.m.: I got up with the chickens (5 a.m.) so that I could down the second half gallon of the clean-out juice. I flavored it with sugar-free Arizona Lemonade stix, so the taste wasn’t bad. But there is something about the consistency of this stuff that just makes me want to gag and heave!

I propose a Nobel Prize in science to the person who figures out a better, more convenient, and less disgusting way to accomplish this goal. At least the drinking part of this is over. I will post again this afternoon if I survive part II.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I hear the theme from "Jaws"

It is now Sunday. Knowing full well that I will not be able to eat anything for 36 to 40 hours starting at midnight tomorrow, I have to control my urge to "stock up" for the duration. I'm not hungry, mind you. I just know the depths of despair one can experience when they are not allowed to eat prior to a procedure.

This is made worse knowing that I have to ingest a full gallon of some of the most vile cleansing product known to man. As the time approaches, the theme from "Jaws" keeps playing in my head. It is silly, I know. Thousands of people undergo this procedure every day. But I don't care to spend any time under anesthetic if I can possibly avoid it, and knowing how undignified this procedure makes people feel isn't helping.

I normally cook on Sunday for the week, but since I can't eat for the better part of two days, knowing it's all sitting there makes that path not quite a wise move. And I have this bag of apples in the garage screaming to be transformed into an apple pie. It too will have to wait.

In an effort to stop thinking about food and the upcoming procedure, I have started work on Fractured Anecdotes II, the obvious sequel to
Fractured Anecdotes I. I've also started work on a book of song lyrics, all political in nature (no one will be spared, my contribution to bipartisan politics). Each one can be sung to the music of a familiar tune...perfect for your political rally! It will be available in time for the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaigns.

Hoping to be able to post an update on Postcard Rx sometime in the coming week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bread and Muffin Day

I got to work this morning to find an e-mail from the biggest instigator of food events announcing November 9th as bread and muffin day. We were all to bring in bread and muffins and have a bit of an informal competition. All the submitted entries would be available in the Report Writer's office (where I reside all day).

I picked up the phone and placed the call.

"Can we move bread and muffin day to November 11th?" I asked.

"I just sent the announcement."

"We are not having bread and muffins in my office on the 9th," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because I am having the dreaded colonoscopy on the 10th and I cannot eat anything all day on the 9th. Putting all those goodies in my office will happen over my dead body. So what do you say we do it on the 11th?"

An e-mail with the new date for bread and muffin day was issued forthwith!