Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Canaries Rehearse

After dinner tonight, we headed back to Mama C's assisted living apartment and rehearsed "I Shall Be Released" by Bro Bob. Blowhard (the nickname comes from his angelic abilities on the harmonica) C played his guitar, while Billy C played baritone uke and I played my fluke. We each took a verse and harmonized on the chorus, With Blowhard taking melody, Billy C taking tenor, and me singing baritone. Sounded sweet. There was a moment when it looked like we might start on another song, I think "Positively 4th Street," but I asked that we rehearse "I Shall Be Released again." I wanted us to come a little closer to nailing it than we had. Billy and Blowhard had a little more practice on it than I had, so I needed to go over it a few times. So, if we appear as the Canaries again, that will be one of the songs.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

Remember the second installment of Star Wars? Not the second episode, but the second installment, The Empire Strikes Back. There was this bald guy who followed Lando Calrisian around. He never spoke and had this electronic gizmo around his head, covering his ears. No one ever explained who he was, what he did, or what the gizmo was. The only time it was ever hinted at who he was and what the gizmo was for was when Lando realized that he had to help Leah and the robots escape aboard the Millenium Falcon because all hell was about to break loose. At that moment, the bald guy and Lando shot one another a knowing look. At that point, I surmised, all of the little lights in the bald guy's head Gizmo started broadcasting instructions into the Millenium Falcon's data base and perhaps notifying all of Lando's loyal friends to get the Hell out of Dodge.

The bald guy and his gizmo were there for these types of emergencies-at least that's what I surmised. I figure now that this gizmo was an old-school futuristic rendition of a cell phone. If the film had been made in this day and age, or if George Lucas could digitally fix it, the bald guy would be wearing one of those ear-pieces that you see on the streets today.

I bring this up because today I am at the RCC Reading and Writing Center and my friend and colleague (The Lee, as I call him), has just introduced me to one of our fellow adjunct instructors. The three of us chatted for awhile and I couldn't help but be distracted by this ear-piece she was wearing. It looked like one of those things Madonna wears onstage, except it had this wire that ran down the front of her blouse and ended at this little tiny microphone that was clipped near her collar.

These devices seem to be the rage. Many people whom I respect, including Billy C, wear these things. There was even this guy at the harmonica workshop
who played a blues harpo and wore one of these things. That just seems weird to me.

I have an old-school cell phone: big, awkward to carry in your pocket, always lost. I sometimes carry it with me. But I only use it grudgingly, since fewer and fewer places seem to have reliable payphones. Few people have the number because I don't want to get interrupted when I'm busy with something else.

I've always had a slight phobia about phones, since my days working retail in the Monkey Wards' Catalog Department. So I try to control their intrusions into my life. I can't imagine why anyone would want one around all of the time.

The first time I realized how behind the times I was occured when I went to grad school at the same university where I had earned my BA 20 years earlier. Back in the day, you would see mostly people walking around talking to each other. But the first thing I noticed in grad school was the number of people walking around talking on their cell phones. As I approached graduation, I began to see people walking around seeming to talk to themselves. These people, of course, had these little wire microphone things so they wouldn't have to hold the cell phone to their heads and get brain cancer.

Now, of course, they have these little ear-piece cell phones that you can just stick in your ear and go forth in a state of constant contact.

Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase "Be Here Now."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The North and The South

I didn't say anything tonight, but during the Mt. Rub walk, my body was talking to me about two different subjects at once.

Normally, since I am diabetic, I try to eat something before I exercise. I'm having to re-train myself in this regard. My afternoon didn't go as I had planned. I ended up in a books store because I ended up with an extra hour to kill. So I went and bought a copy of Emile Zola's GERMINAL, which my teaching partner wanted me to read. I went in the back to the froo-froo coffee place and ordered a lightly sweetened froo-froo coffee beverage and sat down to read for a little while.

When I finished, I figured that the milk and beverage would carry me through the hike, since I had a late lunch.

On my way to Mt. Rub, I got trapped by the usual 6 PM train that seems to always slow to a stop when your in a hurry. So I untrapped myself and went and got a few groceries for my lunch tomorrow. I thought about a preemptive trip to the restroom before my walk, since it takes around an hour and I had just had a froo-froo coffee beverage, but I was a little worried about being too late and Do was waiting and I didn't want to leave her hanging out there alone that close to dark.

When I finally got to the mountain, I was about five minutes late.

The walk went well until we began to round the first bend on our way back down. First, I began to feel nature's call. I thought about stopping somewhere and exercising the male prerogative of urinating at will, but the mountain was busy with walkers and I thought I could hold it for awhile.

Then, I began to feel a little hungry. This gradually built up to full-out bonking (when your blood sugar drops). I keep some energy bars in my car, which was 15 minutes away, so I figured I'd be okay. But, as I got closer, the bonking grew and I began to feel a little wobbly. I didn't say anything because I still thought I would be okay.

At the same time, my bladdular needs were increasingly increasing. It was a race between bodily urges.

I probably should have said something about the bonking to Do, but I didn't. But I did wonder if I would have to linger in my car while the energy bar entered my blood stream. Then I remembered that I had a case of orange juice in my trunk that I had not yet unloaded. So, when I got the car, I chugged that, which took less time to de-bonk me than the energy bar would have.

As far as the other need, let's just say I took care of that soon after.

And, by the way Do, if I seemed like I was losing interest in what you were saying and that I was in a hurry to get away, that's why. I was having a little trouble focusing.

Well, a few minutes with Zola, and I'm out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Last Night of Class from Hell

I took a celebratory-late night walk up Mt. Rub tonight. I started pretty late, about 7:10 PM. But I had to exercise the polluted feeling I had from taking this damn class on English Language Development. God, it was horrible. And I'm not sure that anyone became a better teacher for it.

So, I'm done.

The walk did me good. It was around 8 when I wound around the mountain and started downhill, so I got to see the city at dusk and the clouds that blew in overhead as the wind swept around me and my fellow hikers.

I'm walking at a pretty brisk pace these days, when I walk alone. I might walk a little slower when walking with Do, but that's because we talk and talking slows one down. When I'm alone, I get going pretty fast. I'm going to try to walk every night this week.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

I was looking for the link to the chords and lyrics of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," and I found the lyrics with the following intro, sans chords. Anybody know what the chords would be?

They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob.
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear,
I was always there, right on the job...

They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead --
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Angry Bunnies

This post by Howlin'Hobbit
reminded me of a dream I had about one of my phobias.

I don’t have many fears. In fact, most things that people are afraid of don’t bother me at all. I don’t mind being in an elevator, even when it’s stuck between floors. Heights only bother me a little bit. But I do have one irrational fear. It goes back to when I was a little boy.

When I was three years old, I was brutally attacked by my pet hamster. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I remember its beady, crazed eyes; its razor sharp teeth; its calm, quiet demeanor before the attack. If only I had known what it had in store for me.

Fluffy had just had a litter of baby hamsters. After this miraculous event, I would spend hours staring into her cage as the pink baby hamsters nuzzled her soft white belly fur, suckling on their mother's tiny hamster bazooms. I did not know that you’re not supposed to disturb a mother hamster and her young. They become irrational. My parents had warned me to leave her alone, but I was a curious child and often had to learn for myself. I had reached into the cage to pet Fluffy one too many times. She snapped and bit me on my finger, causing a geyser of blood to gush forth. I cried and screamed. My mother grabbed me and pulled away before it was too late. Blood spurted from my wounded finger, spraying the walls and furniture of our once-pristine home.

Fluffy then turned her back to me and cannibalized her children.

Since that time, I have had a fear of rodents. I won’t run from the room screaming if you show me one, but I do not like to hold them or pet them. I fear their teeth and try to avoid them at all costs.

I even have a recurring nightmare where I am hanging in a tall, narrow room, holding onto a chandelier for dear life. I am barefoot.

On the floor are several angry bunny rabbits (yes, I know that rabbits are not actually rodents, but remember this is an irrational fear). They are huge and their eyes are red with fury. Their teeth are longer and sharper than Fluffy’s were. They are leaping, snapping at my feet. My hands are sweaty, causing my grip to loosen.

But I cannot let go, or the angry, angry bunnies will get me.

My Set List

1. I Wanna Be Like You

2. Bears

3. Brother Can You Spare a Dime

4. Times Like These

5. Wayfaring Stranger

6. Fisherman's Blues

7. Little Red Riding Hood

8. Maggie's Farm

9. Quinn the Eskimo

10. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

11. Daydream
12. Come on Up to the House

13. Wild Honey

There are probably others.

Works in Progress:

1. Over the Rainbow
2. Song to the Siren
3. Within a Mile from Home
4. Buster Keaton

Saturday, April 15, 2006

In Defense of Tofu

This was going to be a reply to a comment from Do, but it turned into another blog entry.

My theory is that, often, it's not the meat, but the stuff we put on it that makes it flavorful. So, in most soy-based meat substitutes, it depends on what you do with it. The flavor, to me, comes from the fruits and vegetables anyway. So instead of ground meat, I put the ground soy substitute in my spaghetti sauce. Infact, my tasty version of spaghetti sauce is this:

1. Saute one chopped-u onion and as many chopped-up cloves of garlic as you can stand.

2. Add one package of soy crumbles and brown.

3. Dump in 1 can of lentil soup, one jar of tomato sauce, and one can of tomato paste.

4. Stir.

5. Simmer.

6. Glob it on some spaghetti or other pasta.

6A. Add some Parmesan cheese.

7. Eat.

8. I also sometimes scramble some eggs or egg substitute or egg whites and use that instead of adding the soy.

9. Either way, I don't miss the meat.

10. In honor of my late great friend Keith R, "That's what she said."

Yes, I am aware that most of us eat much more protein than we need. That's why I surround my protein with fruits and vegetables. And carbs.

Yes, I am aware that we eat far more carbs than we need, so I cut that down too. I'm not sure that I'm ready to go cold turkey on that yet. Or that I need to. My inner jury is still out on that one.

Barry Sears, the Zone guy, says that soy protein is good because it helps regulate your blood sugar (one of my concerns these days).

He also likes cottage cheese.

Cottage Cheese tip: mix about two cups of berries with three and 3/4's cups of cottage cheese and 1/4 cup eggwhite-based protein powder. Sprinkle on some cinnamon (also good for managing blood sugar, so they say) and nuts. MMMMMMMMboy! Try Greek-style yogurt instead of cottage cheese, even better.

When I do crave meat, I go organic, or at least free range. It is better for you and tastier, as is anything organic.

As for Tofurkey, stay away. Stay very away.

Friday, April 14, 2006

What's Good and Bad about Soy Protein

Ok. Before anyone hits me with the line about wanting to enjoy life and eating what tastes good and all of that, let me just say that, health-wise, I've reached a point where my body is saying ouch and I have started listening. I'm not on a diet so much as returning to eating foods that aren't going to kill me. I have never seen "Super-Size Me," but I have been living it for the past couple of years.

And, just so you know, I actually like fruits and vegetables. I also Have always been able to dabble in non-dead-animal types of food and enjoy many of them.

The only thing that has changed is that I am partially abandoning my previous eschewment of "substitutes." That is, I used to insist that any processed food that substitutes for the real thing (i.e. Silk instead of milk, Nice Dreams instead of ice cream), really only reminds you of that which you are doing without and, therefore, most people who try these things will only go back to that which is supposedly bad for you.

So, to lower my cholesterol, I have begun to use some meat substitutes. Maybe not permanently, but for now. Here are my thoughts about the good and bad aspects of each:

The good thing about TOFU is that it is cholesterol free. The bad thing is that it tastes like tofu, so you have to dress it up.

The good thing about SOY PROTEIN POWDER is that if you throw a dash of it into a cup of cottage cheese with lots of fruit and it give it a pudding-like consistency. The bad thing is that it tastes like soy protein powder and ruins the flavor. Egg protein powder has a more neutral flavor that compliments the fruity cottage cheesey concoction.

Soy Italian Sausage tastes ok. But it has a grainy quality and doesn't plump when you cook it.

Soy ground beef substitute is fine in a marinara sauce, which I think makes it a bolognese sauce, but has a more chewy texture.

Soy nuts and endame baked endame are a good source of protein, but soy nuts are a little too crunchy and endame aren't crunchy enough.

Non-soy cooking tip: If you mix egg substitute with egg white, you can make an omelet that looks almost like a normal omelet. If you put the egg white in the pan first and let it begin to cook and then put in the egg subsitute, it really begins to look like a real omelet.

Tofurkey is dressed up tofu. Tofurkey sausage is neither turkey nor sausage.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oriole Spotting

I'm pretty sure it was an oriole. Black yellow, with a little white thrown in.

My Department Chair came in to ask me to run a meeting the next day, since he was not going to be there. So, while he rattled off stuff he wanted me to cover, my eyes drift the back window. And there, on the fence, sits this beautiful couple of birds. One has a bright yellow breast with oriole type markings. I have never seen one. I'm not sure if orioles even live out here in the Inland Desert. He was there with his girlfriend, who was less colorful-the way of most of our ornithlogical friends.

I shouted, "Look! It's an oriole!"

My DC turns around and looks.

"Yeah, nice. So discuss the new textbook adoption, and if you have time..."

"He's flying towards the window!"

My DC turns around again.

"Hm. Very nice. Then, let people know how much is in our budget...."

There isn't much that's pretty outside my window. A lake is located behind us, but you can't see it. What you do see is debris from the state park. It's an ugly view. But occasionally you see a bird or two.

Once, while lecturing, I saw a redtail hawk sitting on the fence. I've seen quite a few of these in the area, but never outside my window. So, I drop the lecture and say " hey, look, everybody!" and point at the window.

The students turn around, look, someone says "Hm, neat bird," and they turn back towards me.

They couldn't have been less impressed.

Is nature doomed?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Harmonica Workshop

Attended a beginners' harmonica workshop today at the Folk Center. The cost was $20, plus the cost of a harmonica. I couldn't find my Pocket Pal, so I sprung for a Hohner blues Harp, which cost $29.95.

I mean, what the hey.

A local blues harpist guy ran the workshop, which was pretty much a bust. The lesson here is two-fold: 1) Not all talented musicians are good teachers and 2) It is hard to teach a large group of people how to play a tiny instrument that you have to blow air into, or suck air out of, for that matter.

I had a similar experience during a pennywhistle workshop at the Folk Festival last summer. Didn't learn much there either.

At start time, the class was pretty small. The instructor stalled, or so it seemed, until the class size swelled to about 20 people. The attendees ranged from folk like me, who had barely ever attempted to play harmonica, to those who had elaborate harmonica cases, with Multiple harmonicas in different keys. Billy C brought Blowhard Canary with him, as did another father his son. A mother and daughter came. They looked like sisters.

The guy played a pretty good harp. But he spent the first 45 minutes of the two-hour workshop talking about other players, playing cuts from a couple of CD's, and talking about places where you could hear the blues or sit in and jam with the players. Gave us a few handouts that we could have gotten if we had just bought the book he copied them out of.

Most of the rest of the workshop was that way, with a few demonstrations by the teacher, interrupted by the occasional excuse for the class to blow into their own harps.

I mean, the guy could have had us in the palm of his hands if he had shown us how to play a scale. He could have followed that with a couple of progressions or techniques. I don't think people would have cared that they weren't playing any songs, as long as they learned how to move their slobbery lips back and forth a few times. It would have even given the actual players that showed up a chance to show off a bit-maybe even help the newbies out a little.

At the end, one of the players asked that the instructor teach an intermediate class where he shared some of his licks. Translation: teach us how to do something next time and we'll forgive you this time.

I asked Jerry who was teaching the uke workshop. They have never offered uke workshops before. This was for beginners, so I thought it might be a waste of time. But I was interested in taking a more advanced workshop. This workshop was cancelled because of poor turnout, but Jerry suggested that maybe I could teach one as I was farther advanced than the lady who would have taught the cancelled workshop.

I was flattered. Billy C and I talked about it a bit and thought we could co-teach. It would be fun to do it that way.

We had dinner at the Pizza and Such next door. We usually dine at Heroes, a local big food, beer, and wine establishment. By "big food," I mean that the portions are huge, as are the servings of beer and wine. But I have never had anything there that I thought was as good as it was big.

We had eaten at Pizza and Such once before and it tasted good. I had a salad (eating a lot of those these days), as did Virginia Canary. Mine was good and hers looked interesting. Tonight, I had a different salad, which was just as tasty as the other. So, it looks like Pizza and Such will be my future stop for eats on Open Mike Night.

Right now, I'm gonna get my Harmonica for Dummies book and my new blues harp and do some damage.