Monday, November 24, 2008

I Sight a Predator

As I hiked the Roob at dusk tonight, I spied I furry little bunny who had just hopped across the road and up into the bushes ahead of me. Just after that, about five yards ahead of me, I spied what I thought might be another bunny--but, by the length of its furry tail, realized was a fox. Whether it was hunting the bunny, I know not. It wasn't much bigger than the bunny.

Anyway, it didn't seem to notice me at first. Once it had crossed the road into the bushes uphill, it stopped and looked at me as I kept walking. Once I passed it, I stopped, turned around and stared back at it. There we stood for a few minutes, staring at one another. It was a fox alright and, even though it was almost dark out, I could see it very clearly.

We were probably no more than 20 feet apart. If he had wanted to, he could have leaped from the hill and gone for my jugular. If I had wanted to, I could have thrown a rock and hit him.

I ended our showdown and walked away.

I've seen coyotes, deer, various birds of prey, raccoons--but never a fox until tonight.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Uke at Do's

We hadn't played together for awhile, so Do and I decided to to try tonight. Billy C couldn't make, seeing's how how his beaked was stuffed up due to a recent bizarre snorkeling accident.

So I go to Do's. We decided to play all of these songs with lots of chords, starting with "If I Only Had a Brain" The version she has is in a key unfriendly to both of our voices. I have a version at school in a friendlier key, but that did us no good. So we look on the internet to see if we can find that version, or a simialr one. Of course, since this is a mega-chord song, we felt it would be best if the actual chord fingerings would be there with the song.

We found one and played awhile, but Do thought some of the chord progressions from her version would work better if they could be transposed. But the chords are like D6 with an subliminal 9th and C12 with an dislocated 2nd and stuff like that. You know, the kind that take tentacles instead of fingers to make.

I find that I get frustrated trying to figure stuff like that out as a committee. I tend to want to go off and figure it out myself or just play the damn thing. I think it's a product of me not being an experienced musician and not having as much patience as I think I have. Even so, I Usually like what comes out of that process. Do has more experience with that than I do. Do, on the other hand, has a lot more experience than me working with other musicians and hammering out an arrangement. Anyway, I found myself spiraling into terminal crank mode. I think she sensed my frustration, so we moved on to "Paper Moon."

So I guess she wins the diplomacy award. I win the cranky award.

This was also a little frustrating because of one tricky chord change, but, after having played this song half-assedly for about a year, I had an epiphany as to how that chord change could be more easily accomplished. I find that, where possible, if I just bar the offensive chord, that usually leads to a solution of some sort. This solution started out with barring and ended with sliding my fingers from the barred chord to the unbarred chord. Also, I have always had trouble with the bridge on this song, but we worked that out too. Didn't exactly nail the song, but we played through it enough that we can both practice it and eventually get it down.

We also tried "I'll See You in My Dreams." Our fingers were twisting all over that fretboard.

We fizzled into "Sway" and tried working into "Perhaps. Perhaps, Perhaps," but we didn't know that song well enough. "Sway" is perfect for Do's voice and, when I first heard her sing it, I thought it would be cool to work "Perhaps into it it somehow as either a dialog between two dancers or even an inner dialog for a woman.

A lot of baby steps for me tonight. So I got a lot to practice this week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Insightful Political Commentary

I admit that I've noticed this, but I didn't think that anyone would actually WRITE about it. I'm talking about this article in Salon about Michelle Obama's ass. I mean, I've seen commentary about each first lady's fashion sense and appearance, but to actually write about something this specific? Are we supposed to be thinking about this?

I think a little less of myself for posting this.

And I do admire the Obamas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update on Things BABoR

I stopped using the CPAP for a few nights. I had just gotten over a cold and still had some congestion and couldn't breath very comfortably with it. I will probably get the optional face mask for such occasions. You just can't have too many breathing tubes. I could also get an optional humidifier attachment for if I become too dry nasalwise. I am dried out sometimes, but not uncomfortably so.

I was really tired when I finally got that thing, so my first couple of times with it, I slept pretty soundly. The last couple of nights I have awaken the usual four times, but have usually fallen right back to sleep. I wake up feeling more rested, so that's a good thing.

Mind you, I don't think the CPAP directly affects my ability to sleep. It's only purpose is to keep me breathing at night. But I think the airflow soothes me and encourages me to breath deeply.

I lost a tooth implant. It fell out of my mouth and then fell out of whichever pocket I put it in. It is an old design and sounds, by what my new dentist told me, that it will be more trouble to replace than it is worth. Yet, it needs to be replaced.

Yet, I have at least two relatives with several missing teeth, and they seem to survive.

Like everyone else, my retirement fund is taking a beating.

I'm sinking into post-election ennui. I am very happy Obama won. I read the news--mostly online, since our local paper has basically become a propaganda tool for the Republican party. I think the 24-hour-a-day news cycle that we now have makes everything a little overwhelming and at the same time gets boring, because, let's face it, how much can really change every ten minutes?

I am basically old fashioned, news-wise. I think it works best when I just get a massive dose once a day and that stop thinking about these things for awhile.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Improv in the Classroom

Friday. It started during 2nd period. We were reading a selection from a novelized version of The Ramayana.A kid was reading the battle between Rama and the demon Ravana and, as I customarily do, I interrupted him to read a passage in my melfluous baritone. I had interrupted several students, kinda on purpose for comedic effect.

So, this time he interrupts me back, trying to be more dramatic. "Aha," I says to myself, "two can play this game," and I re-interrupted him. It became a kind of jam session/competition.

So the next period, I says to my teaching partner, "Why don't we do the same thing this period with you and me trading off?"

"Sure," he says.

So I begin to read the same battle-scene passage, once again in dulcet tones. Soon, my colleague interrupts me, trying to out-drama me. We go back and forth a little.

Then, he gets up on a desk top and starts walking across the desks, reading as he goes.

I then go to my prop closet (where I keep various thingies that students have left in my room unclaimed over the years) and pull out a retractable light saber and read while swinging and thrusting about the room, stabbing the occasional unsuspecting student.

Pretty soon, are flying about the room, putting on wigs and beards, throwing stuffed animals and other soft toys at one another. At one point, my colleague reads a passage as a rap. I pull out my uke and improvise a song in response, using a simple three-chord progression.

This went on for about ten minutes longer than it should have, but the students had a good time.

I got a couple of compliments on the song and have even began working out some actual lyrics based on the book.

The chorus:

Rama, forget your trauma.
Just chant your mantra
and you'll be just fine.
Ravana, don'tcha wanna
get right with yourself?

That's kinda the theme of the book right there.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Where I Was

I'm not very good at calculating how long it takes to do things. But I try sometimes.

I teach a night class at Rio de Nada Community College, Sou Mo Campus. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I had scheduled individual conferences in place of the regular class meetings--not noticing that it would take place during election week. So, last week I asked the students if anyone would like to come in early for their conference and, of course, most of them did. So I started the meetings at 5 and finished them by around 8--giving me time (so I thought) to go somewhere and watch the election results come in.

I thought the vote-counting process would take longer.

I was tired (sleep continues to be an issue for me). But I had two stops to get to.

The first one was at a friend's house. It was on the way to the 2nd one at Back to the Grind.

As I got out of my car, a friend was leaving my 1st stop. He told me that McCain had just given his concession speech.

Dang! I would have liked to see that Live, that is.

I got into the party just in time to see Obama and his family walk out onto the stage.

What a speech. People in the room, not all of whom are strong supporters, wept. I left soon after because I was tired.

I showed both speeches to my classes the next day. I don't do this sort of thing often because I don't like to foist my politics on a captive audience. But this was historic. A barrier had been breached.

My other point for showing the speeches was to show how it's supposed to be after an election. One candidate concedes, graciously, and pledges his support to the winner--reminding his followers that we are all fellow citizens. The other humbly accepts the victory and strikes a conciliatory tone towards the other side.

Yeah, I know the fighting is about to start again, but there needs to be a cleansing in this country--kinda like right after 9/11, where people unite. Yeah, I know we actually became a more divided nation and that our president steered our attention away from who the real enemies were, but RIGHT after, we were pretty united.

I teach at an ethnically diverse school. When I played the Obama speech, some kids wept like Jesse Jackson. I know a lot of people don't like Jesse, or Al, for that matter. But Jesse Was there for much of the civil rights movement and saw a lot of people go down before their time. When you think of how many people died on the road to civil rights, you have to admit this is a pretty amazing election.

Bobby Kennedy predicted in 1961 that we might see an African American president within 40 years. He was about 7 years off. But that's a pretty good prediction.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mama Canary Votes

So I go to Mama C's assisted living place Sunday Night and get her to fill out her absentee ballot. I knew that she wouldn't do it on her own. So, I read her each item and she told me what to mark. There were a couple of votes I didn't agree with, but it's her vote.

She was glad she got to vote. Today, I dropped it off at the registrar's office.

Go Obama!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Snore No More

It's some kind of National Blog Month or something. I missed yesterday, but I am going to try to blog every day this month, no matter how short or stupid the post is.

I got a CPAP machine. I have no idea what CPAP stands for, but it's supposed to help me with my sleep apnea. I'm supposed to wear it when ever I sleep.

I always expected these things to be heavy and uncomfortable, but this isn't so bad. It's like the gizmo I wore for testing my sleep-breathing requirements a couple of weeks ago.

I strap this tube to my nose, using this head thingy that is soft a stretchable. It's not too tight. I push two buttons and the airflow starts and then increases gradually to my level of need. The nose piece is soft, pliable plastic. It blows air to my nostrils as I inhale. I can breath through my mouth if I want, but this machine kinda fights back to discourage me. So, presumably, I breath through my nose all night, thus preventing snoring and, more importantly, preventing the stoppage of my breathing.

The danger with sleep apnea, of course, is that you stop breathing in your sleep--and it's possible that you won't start again. It also prevents you from going through the entire sleep cycle and missing your most restive sleep. It can effect things like your memory, your blood sugar levels, and your heart, among other things.

Anyway, so I seem to wake up less often at night with this thing on(I used to wake up around four times a night and then have trouble getting back to sleep). When I do wake up, I tend to go back to sleep. The air flow encourages deep breathing, which relaxes me, which eases me back to sleep.

I think I still have trouble shutting off my brain at night, but this seems to be a good first step in solving my sleep problems.