Sunday, May 29, 2005

Seamus likes being picked up and carried more than the cat does... Posted by Hello

The View From Sax Mountain

Sax Mountain is the current title for Greg's saxophone quartet. After the success of the Quartet for Winds (Double Fugue in One Movement), he felt encouraged enough to start work on this idea. Greg has always wanted to write something for saxophones, and this should turn out to be a nifty little piece. I've heard measures and phrases here and there, but so far haven't heard the work-in-progress as a whole. The problem with our sharing an office is that when he's working, I'm working -- and so I usually tune him out when I'm trying to concentrate. Greg may have already played the piece through a dozen times, but I was right here and didn't hear a thing.

Through the connections he's been making on the composers' portal and blog and through his search for composers who share his ideas about harmony and counterpoint, Greg's been getting quite a bit of new traffic to his Web site. He's decided that he wants to start doing the updates and maintenance on his Web site, since he anticipates needing to make more updates more often. I am sure I'll be able to retain my current position as resident Web jockey, but he plans to learn Adobe GoLive and give it a try on his own. (I use Macromedia Dreamweaver, but used GoLive and its predecessor PageMill before Dreamweaver was available.)

As for my own musical news, I'm currently listening to a CD of my chorus's spring concert. Rutter's Magnificat came out astonishingly well; I'm quite impressed with us. (It's such a pleasure to listen to your own performance when you don't also have to be holding up your part of the concert at the same time. You get to relax and hear the piece as a whole.)

I miss singing with the chorus, but I'm happy not to be doing the Pops concert this time around. Tired, warmed-over Broadway show tunes just don't hold that much interest for me, and I've resolved not to waste the time singing stuff I dislike. I'll rejoin the group in September when we go back to doing classical music.

What's That Round Yellow Thing in the Sky?

Did I mention that yesterday and today have been bright, gorgeous, mostly-sunny, warm days? I've celebrated by bringing home two humongous, bright red potted geraniums for the cement pots on the front steps. I've also picked up a flat of marigolds (which I adore), and will be putting them into the ground this afternoon. The house painter removed the old rusty plant hook on the garage, so I'll need to find a replacement before I can add a hanging plant to the front of the house as well. The window box hardware is still intact on the side of the house, but I need to locate the window box itself.

I talk a good gardening game and I adore flowers, but I'm not really much of a gardener. I like the idea of hanging around outside and playing in the dirt, but with all the other things I have to do around here, I never really get around to doing much after the annuals go into the ground.

For the first time in months -- maybe a year -- Greg and I sat outside on the back deck and celebrated the end of the deluge with a little wine. When the bugs start to appear, they'll be too fierce and numerous for us to be able to enjoy the outdoors at dusk (even with our Mosquito Magnet running, when it does run).

Almost in Season

Even though I'm pretty much a joke as a gardener, we'll be able to enjoy home-grown veggies all summer and into the fall. One of the local farms operates on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model, in which people buy shares of the year's crop. This allows the farmers to run their farm as a sustainable business, and it allows us shareholders to enjoy huge quantities of beautiful organic vegetables from June through October.

We tried this for the first time last year, and really enjoyed it. One share of the crop turned out to be far too much food for one couple to handle, so I was bringing veggies to work and offering them to my hairdresser and the person who does my facials. We had so much extra that I nearly had to leave bags of veggies on people's doorsteps, ring the doorbell, and run away. The freezer was full, the fridge was full, and we couldn't eat them quickly enough before the next week's onslaught was ready. I hate to think of how many veggies we had to throw out because we didn't get to them in time.

We'll be smarter this year. This year, we'll be splitting our share with another couple in a nearby town. Since we live near the farm, we'll pick up the veggies and bring them here, and then the other couple can come split them with us. The beauty part of this arrangement is that if you don't care for a particular vegetable, chances are that your splitter will trade you something you like for it. I hope our splitters like kale and don't like eggplant.


I sure as heck hope I didn't cheat on my yarn diet. (Not that I've been truly devoted to the other kind either, with all the rain we've had pouring down on our heads lately.) Anyway, before I signed up to practice a little stash asceticism, I'd put in an order at my LYS for 8 skeins of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride for another felted tote bag. That yarn finally came in, so I dropped by to pick it up yesterday. No sense making the nice people at the shop suffer for my sins, is there?

The Fletcher sweater is coming along, and I'm proud to announce that I haven't screwed up the instructions in at least a day. I've finished the back and have made it about a third of the way up the left front. Donna has probably been wearing hers for weeks now!


Seamus and I start our obedience class on June 22. He's all signed up, and all I need to do now is copy his shot records before the first night of class. I've ordered a regulation dumbbell from AKC, though we won't be using it in this class. Seamus really is ready to compete in Open, but I'm starting at the beginning so we can start working together.

Greg is completely smitten with Seamus. Actually, we all are (except for Persephone, who is extending her vacation in the downstairs family room). He's such a sweet, happy puppy, and loves to be in the middle of things.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Well, It Didn't Suck Completely

We saw Revenge of the Sith a couple of nights ago, and we half hated ourselves for wanting to go. Call it sentimentality on our parts; we were both still in college when the first Star Wars came out, and we wanted to hear the rest of the story. 25 years -- geesh!

Episodes I and II were almost embarrassingly bad, but I'm happy to report that Episode III didn't suck quite as much. Not that it was very good; it wasn't. If you're so picky as to demand halfway decent acting or an actual story line, this is not your movie. The love scenes were hilariously bad, and Greg (who is deeply proud of his Danish heritage) was rather embarrassed that any Dane could put on as execrable a performance as Hayden Christensen. Samuel L. Jackson was completely wasted in the movie; you kept hoping that he'd whip out his light saber and yell, "Yes, they deserved to die! You're daaaaamn right!" and then put the rest of those losers out of our misery (except for Ewan McGregor and R2D2).

If you like to play "Spot the Quote," this definitely is your movie, even if it makes you want to scream lines of dialogue and throw things at the screen, a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Some are so obvious it hurts, such as "I've got a bad feeling about this." Some might be unintentional, such as the fight scene between the Chancellor and Yoda on the floor of the Senate. The Chancellor hurls the Senate's seats at Yoda, and it the scene reminded me of Mickey Mouse controlling the waves as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia. Oh, and I defy you not to think of Princess Di during the funeral scene.

However, the special effects were just plain cool, and I've always been a sucker for a good sword fight. When the DVD comes to the grocery store and land in the 99-cent rental bin, definitely pick it up on some Friday night along with the chips and salsa.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away, For Crissakes!

Looks like we won't have to worry about a drought this year, with all the rain we've been getting. We are in some danger of all growing mildew if this keeps up, though. Someone told me yesterday that we've had five (count 'em!) days of sunshine -- or at least, non-rain -- in the past month. No wonder everyone is so crabby. Hey, weather forecasters: Seattle called, and they want their climate back!

Living here in means that you have to get used to the Forrest-Gump's-chocolate-box climate we have here, but this is extreme even by normal standards. Last time I checked the calendar, it said that this upcoming weekend is Memorial Day weekend -- a weekend that marks the start of summer in the latitude. Usually it's 80 degrees out and 90% humidity, but it still gets into the high 30s at night these days. Unless something drastic changes in the next few days, I'm guessing that sales of suntan lotion are going to be mighty scarce in the tourist traps this coming weekend.


Greg made his plane reservations for the Composers' Symposium at the Oregon Bach Festival in June. I'm really looking forward to this festival, and I'm not even going! Not only will this give Greg a place to consort with like-minded and to network, but he'll also get to do a little hiking before he gets home. In the meantime, I'll be working long, back-breaking hours in the word mines, trying to meet my June deadlines, but as soon as he gets back, I'll be on vacation for a week! Can't hate that.

You have to like the URL for the Symposium, too: I Wage Music, dot com. Sure beats the heck out of waging war. (Those folks ought to sell T-shirts.)

Turns out that an old friend of Greg's (who is also a fan of his ) will be singing the soprano part when his suite Water for soprano voice and wind quartet gets performed at the ACA concert in NYC next month. That was a nice surprise. Apparently Nancy Ogle has wanted to sing/record this song cycle for a while, and now she gets her chance. Greg gets the satisfaction of knowing that the singer for Water both knows and likes the material. Everybody wins!

(Well, almost. The ACA site has his name listed as Gregory Hall Sunset. Yes, he did grow up in California in the '60s, but...)

Apparently there's going to be quite the contingent of Mainers at this year's concert, though Nancy's the only one who will be at the festival on the same day as we are. Beth Wiemann is having an electronic composition performed at the same festival, but on a different day. Elliott Schwartz will also have a piece performed, but on yet another further different day of the festival.

I've been updating Web sites like crazy, including Greg's. The neatest update I made today is adding an excerpt from the Wind Quartet in One Movement (Double Fugue) to the classical downloads page.

Ooh, and here's a goodie: Greg has finally discovered the wonderful world of blogging. He's joined up with a group blog called Sequenza 21. It's apparently a portion of the Sequenza 21 portal, and it's a wicked fun read. Check out the "Playing Favorites" list in today's entries. As with all those lists of "The Top 100 Rock-and-Roll Songs of All Time" that every rock radio station on earth is bound by law to release at the end of each calendar year, you'll get some fun out of this list.

(Between you and me and the Internet at large, I wouldn't have heard of more than 5 or 6 of those composers if it hadn't been for Greg, and I've tried to keep up with musical current events. That's really a shame -- all that work, and it largely passes unnoticed, even by fans of classical music.)


I updated my Web site to include a home page for Seamus.

In spite of the fact that the yard looks like a shallower, muddier version of Lake Superior, have been settling in together nicely in the past week. Charlie had started out by mostly ignoring the youngster, except when Seamus did something that required a show of alpha-dog authority. This past weekend, though, we heard the sound of feet skidding all over the kitchen linoleum, punctuated by the occasional woof. They were playing their first game of Beardie Tag! The two bounced and skidded and play-boxed around the house until both ended up panting and grinning. I'd say this new family member is going to work out just fine.

Seamus's breeder is pleased to hear how well he's been doing here. She's going to start the transfer of his Canadian registration. Once that comes through, I can register him with AKC and enter him in some dog events. We've already signed up for a beginning class that's really beneath his abilities, but going there will give us a chance to start working together as a team. At the end, he can earn his first American title: a Canine Good Citizen (CGC). The Canadian equivalent is CGN (Canine Good Neighbor); that sounds much folksier to me.


I've been making some progress on the knitting front, though I'm still a good ways from having a completed object to brag about. In the five or so minutes of free time I have in a given day, I've made some good progress on the Fletcher sweater. (Who are these people who can crank out a sweater a week? I want to meet them and discover their secrets.) I've made it almost all the way up the back. There were a few tense moments when I misread the instructions and started knitting the left front instead, but I was able to rip back to the place where I went astray with no problems.

My current "no-brainer project" is another scarf, this one made with the Lion Brand Incredible ribbon. It's a nice ribbon, wide with good texture, and it knits up pretty well. It comes in some pretty neat colorways, too. It's going to make a Wicked Fun scarf, and it's a heck of a lot easier to handle than Eros Extreme.

Progress on the yarn diet: I blame the weather. I have reached a plateau at 7 pounds lost, and I refuse to go out and exercise until I can do so without having to wear a frickin' wet suit and flippers. No matter. My five-pound prize is on the way. I selected a 1-pound cone of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky in Old Sage for another felting project, and I added a couple of the new extra-long cords for Denise needles.

Another shot of the Horseshoe Falls taken from the Konia-Minolta Tower. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh Canada! Part Deux

I'm not just saying this because most of the people who read my blog are Canadians, but: We love Canada. We always have the best adventures while driving around the country, and they almost always evolve into musical inspirations for Greg. Even Tim Horton's beats the proverbial pants off Dunkin' Donuts.

This particular adventure should have lasted longer than three days, but we had to get home in time to get Greg off to his regular Sunday gig. We drove to Niagara Falls (Ontario), spent a night there, then spent some of the day there before heading up to Tara, Ontario (not far from Owen Sound on Lake Huron). We spent a night there with Seamus's breeders, and then drove straight home with Seamus in tow. In all, we probably did about 1600 miles in three days, and I drove all but about 200 miles of that. I'm still feeling every single one of those miles (or kilometers, for the distance we covered in Canada).

I guess this part was inevitable, but: I am now officially a knitter -- or at least I now have started to think like one. There we stood in the drenching mists of Niagara Falls at night, watching raptly as the colored lights shifted on the surface of the rushing waters, and the first thought that entered my mind was this: "Oooh, that color combination looks just like the Noro Iro I've been knitting." So who says that Niagara isn't a romantic destination?!

Greg and I were both amazed by the sheer relentless ground-rumbling power of the falls and the old-Coke-bottle green of the waters -- and their hypnotic, continuous roar, which you can hear from just about anyplace in town. I took so many pictures that I filled up both memory chips (though I had to discard many of them due to water drops on the lens that resulted in blurry messes of photos). Greg was so struck by the falls that he's decided to rework his tone-poem-in-progress Penobscot into something that best fits Niagara Falls, and he's retitling it Niagara.

We did some of the usual tourist stuff, but we admit to having had a lot of fun doing it -- plus each of us now has a fetching new wardrobe of complimentary souvenir plastic rain gear. We took the Journey Behind the Falls and walked through the underground tunnels, and got wet. We rode the Maid of the Mist into the horseshoe of Horseshoe Falls, and got wet. We took many long walks along the banks of the river, and got wet. About the only place we were able to get dry was in the restaurant in the Konica-Minolta tower atop the Marriott. I took still more pictures, and we dried off over breakfast. That tower isn't sponsored by camera companies for nothing!

I suppose you have to bring the amusements to where the people go, but we can't figure out for the life of us why anyone would want to go all the way to those beautiful falls just to hang out at the slot machines in the casino or in those cheesy neon haunted-house attractions. After driving down Clifton Hill just once, we avoided the real tourist-trap strips in town. The lights in that neighborhood were so garish that it was hard to pick out the traffic lights from the rest of the display -- and those were just the lights! I have to admit to a small hankering to see the Rock Stars Wax Museum just for the sheer side-splitting cheese factor, but I didn't want to linger on the hill for even a second.

We departed for Tara in the early afternoon, with me behind the wheel and Greg making volumes of notes about the new piece. We saw both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario for the first time, since we drove through the point where the two meet. I wish we'd had time to stop in the Niagara region's wineries, but there will be a next time.

Pirate and my other blog-friends in Calgary will undoubtedly get a chuckle out of this, but the Toronto-area drivers are as crazy as the ones back in Boston. I'm unaccustomed to having to adopt my Boston driving attitude in locations other than Boston itself, but if the 'tude fits... For some reason, Toronto drivers absolutely hate it when people try to fit into their lanes in order to get onto exit ramps, or other such purposes, and they'll speed up to make sure that you don't get in front of them. I'm used to this in the States with the rude big-honkin'-SUV crazies and kamikaze soccer moms in minivans who live here, but it struck me funny to have to play Boston-style bumper-cars with Canadians who would be as nice and polite as ever once out of their vehicles.

Once we escaped from Guelph, the rest of the drive north was actually a pleasure. We drove through lots of charming rural villages on the way out to Tara, and arrived there just before dinnertime. Cathy and Merv, our hosts, welcomed us warmly and introduced us to the pack (their five girl Beardies, our Beardie-to-be, the one cat, and their 15-year-old son). They'd invited a mutual friend of ours up to join us for dinner, and it was a pleasure to see Lois as well. Lois owns Kyla, Seamus's litter sister. We had a wonderful dinner of grilled Bruce County beef, wine and veggies, and strudel from a local German bakery. After a soak in the hot tub and dozens of Beardie kisses, we crashed. We were boring company, but our hosts were understanding.

After a fabulous gourmet breakfast a la Chef Merv the next morning, we loaded Sneakers-whose-name-was-definitely-gonna-change into the crate, went over his paperwork, and headed on our way. I wish we could have visited for longer, but we were determined to get to Rome, NY at a reasonable hour so Greg could visit with a childhood friend who was in Rome on business. (We ended up missing him, but Greg and he were able to talk on the phone for a good long time.)

I've never brought a dog into the country from Canada before, so I was prepared for a massive interrogation at U.S. Customs. Cathy had made sure that I was armed with all of the necessary papers: shot records, neutering, doggie ID... The Customs agent seemed more amazed that I would bother driving all the way to Ontario for a dog rather than obtain one near home, but he passed us through without so much as glancing at either the paperwork or the doggie in the crate. It's just as well. We probably looked too road-tired to be much of a threat to national security, anyway.

We made it back home sometime around 1 or 1:30 on Sunday morning. Greg crept off to bed immediately, so he could log some sleeping hours before getting up again at 6:30 to prepare for Sunday services. I fed the dog, walked him, cleaned his ears, and put us both to bed about 2 AM.

Seamus was none too pleased at having to spend the night in a crate after riding in one all day (except for the occasional pit stop), so he whimpered and banged on the door for about ten minutes before eventually settling down with a groan of disgust. At heart, I couldn't blame him, but I was just too exhausted to supervise his first night in the house, so I apologized before crashing.

His new name occurred to me the next morning while we two were getting acquainted. I had favored Alex or MacGregor as good Scots monikers, and Greg thought that Wallace (his Scots clan) might not make such a bad dog name. We were all agreed that he was not going to continue with the name Sneakers, though. Seamus just seemed like the right name, and he responded to it right away. Now it seems as though he has always been Seamus. Seamus is Irish rather than Scots, but the new name certainly has more Celtic dignity than (ugh) Sneakers.

I'm not sure I buy the idea of animal communication, even after having gone to a seminar on the subject. Anyway, a good friend of mine is trained in Reiki techniques and does animal communication. I was going to bring Seamus up for a visit to find out what he wants to be called, but I think we all already know.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Seamus: "What are you waiting for? Get up here and play with me!" Posted by Hello

It's a Boy!

Meet (Sheiling Angelic Ties, Can. HIC)! He's 2 1/2 years old, black and white, and a sweet, kissy little guy. His previous name was Sneakers, but he didn't respond to it -- can you blame him? He appears to like his new name, and it gives him a little Celtic dignity. At least, his new name doesn't sound like a 9-year-old girl named him.

Seamus is settling in fine with the rest of the household. Charlie has had to lay down the alpha-dog law a couple of times to show Seamus his place in the pack, and Seamus has mostly accepted this. He still courts trouble occasionally by snapping at Charlie in close quarters, but he's doing well after only one full day here.

is less than impressed. She's threatened him with her famous right hook on a few occasions, and Seamus has been smart enough to back down before she hands out some free red nose-stripes. Seamus really isn't any more inquisitive about her or aggressive toward her than Charlie is, but she has taken up temporary residence under the couch and has refused to deal with having both dogs in the house. Don't feel too sorry for her, though. Give her a couple of weeks to get used to him, and she'll be running the household again as usual.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Here's just a piece of the Canadian part of Niagara Falls. It was just too big to fit all in one exposure. Photos do not do this place justice! Posted by Hello

Monday, May 09, 2005

It Practically Slices, Dices, and Cries 'Mama'

This past weekend was another weekend for us, in addition to all the other stuff that's going on. Greg has been talking about the marvelous Allen digital that was installed at the church where he works. This weekend, I had a chance to hear what he's been talking about.

Greg wanted to play the Toccata from Widor's Organ Symphony on the Allen as the postlude to Sunday's service, and asked me to come to church and turn pages for him. The Toccata is a well-known part of the organist's standard repertoire, but it's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and can really set the floorboards to rumbling once the pedal part kicks in.

Church is Greg's thing, not mine, but to prove my absolute devotion to this wonderful man, I put on a dress and some eyeliner and went down to the church just as the second service was starting. It was hard to be invisible up on the podium in front of the congregation, but I tried my best. The service included a prayer of thanks for the organ, and the organist (this was Greg's second week at his new gig), and the bulletin contained a flyer with photos and a story of how the Allen came to the church.

When the service concluded, Greg fired up the Toccata and showed the congregation just what their spiffy new instrument could do, including the floor-rumbling. I've heard him practice this piece a bazillion times, but he's never played it as well as he did yesterday. He says he missed the F pedal once, but no one noticed; once he (literally) pulled out all the stops, that organ could howl, scream, dance, sing, and do just about anything except mix a dry martini. Yowza!

Naturally, the congregation loved it. They gave him a standing ovation when he had finished, and everyone came by to compliment him profusely as they left the sanctuary. They even congratulated me, and all I did was turn pages! I think they're happy with the direction that music is takng in their church now, between the fine new instrument and the fine new organist.

Later on in the afternoon, the church held a dedicatory concert for the organ. Ray Cornils, the municipal organist for the City of Portland, came down to the church and played a varied program that demonstrated the terrific versatility of the Allen. He played Bach, Pachelbel (not the Canon), and some other novelty pieces that demonstrated the chimes and other stops.

The two performances made for quite a long day, and Greg and I didn't get home until dinnertime after leaving fairly early in the morning. It was definitely a worthwhile trip, though. There's nothing like music appreciation when it's your music.

Gadzooks! It's an FO sighting!

Alert the media! Not just one, but two FOs have actually been sighted!

Yes, it's true. After weeks, months of talking a good game, I've finally finished something that isn't a scarf. Two somethings, if you want to get technical about it.

First up is the little red felted bag, in all its glory. The adorable button came from my friend Val at Showstopper Gifts. I'm sending this little feller back to Val so she can see what I'm doing with all the crazy stuff I ask her to make for me.

Next is the blue felted tote. Pam, if you're reading this, don't look if you want to be surprised. I needlefelted the sheep on the large side pocket. This was my first attempt at , and it was wicked fun. I'd love to do more of this.

Here's the little red bag with the Beardie button closure. Posted by Hello

Here's the blue felted bag with the needlefelted sheep. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I Thought Cats Were Supposed to Be Neat

Our cat must have been someplace else when the Cat Manuals were handed out, because she doesn't seem to have read hers. Cats are supposed to be clean animals, right? If your cat is clean, could you please ask it to come over and talk to my cat?

I can't really get after her about shedding. She's a long-haired cat, and the fur gets all over everything. The kicker is that since she's a tortie, she has all different colors of hair in her coat -- and one of them is bound to show up on any article of clothing in any color or fabric (even yellow rubber rain slickers). Likewise, I don't really care for hairballs, but they happen.

This cat is such a slob, though -- she strews crumbs of cat food all across any surface where she eats. Today I picked up her food dish to feed her -- and it was crawling with ants! Since she eats in the bedroom, this will come to a screeching frickin' halt. Her dish will be relocated to the bathroom, whether she likes it or not.

And don't get me started about the kitty litter. I have never seen a cat spread kitty litter throughout the house as effectively as this animal does. It ends up in places where she doesn't even go -- like between the bedsheets. Every time I go into the bathroom, more stupid kitty liter covers all the surfaces, like some hellish feline pixie dust.

Yes, we're fond of her -- especially Greg, who tells her she's "cute, cute, cute" on the average of once every 1.5 seconds, all day and all night. She's not in any danger of going back to the shelter. All the same, if anybody has an extra Cat Manual lying around, could she please borrow it?

Monday, May 02, 2005

A lot crammed into one little week

Whew! It hardly seems as though a whole week has gone by since the last time I sat down with this blog. I've missed all of you, and have so much to catch up with.

Music Stuff

The early part of last week belonged to Greg's . He had three performances last week: the four-part choral work April on Monday, the Quartet (Double Fugue in One Movement) for Winds on Tuesday, and an orchestral reading of excerpts from his tone poem Penobscot on Wednesday. I took Tuesday and Wednesday off from work and attended the performances. We crashed at the home of one of my college classmates and her husband (and four cats), and she attended the Tuesday and Wednesday concerts with us.

The Tuesday performance went especially well, and Greg is still on a high from it. He'd told me that the student instrumentalists were quite good, but that they'd had limited time to rehearse, so the performance might not be letter-perfect. I'm happy to report that he was dead wrong on that score: not only did they deliver a dead-on flawless performance of the work, but they gave it so much color and life that I almost didn't recognize it as the same piece I've heard only in MIDI for the past several months. Someone sitting behind me gasped, "That was GORRRR-geous!" That testimonial from a complete stranger meant a lot to Greg; he expects me to say nice things and assumes my friends will also, but to have someone who doesn't know who wrote the piece praise it so highly (if simply) gave him a tremendous ego boost and reinforced the sense that what he's doing is right.

Wednesday's performance was also very good. Because Penobscot is an incomplete work and the orchestra was reading only portions of it, some folks were a little confused about the structure and flow of the piece, but loved the sounds they were hearing. This is another work that existed only in MIDI in my mind until the orchestra brought it out and gave it color. You can synthesize all you want, but the human touch is still needed to bring a work fully to life.

Friday, it was my turn to start running the musical marathon. The chorus rehearsed one last time before the concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's weather was just plain miserable, with rain that splattered rather than just poured. We probably sang to about 40 people that night, but we were ON. In spite of the empty hall, we filled the place with energy and produced a performance that was practically perfect.

Sunday's concert was a bit better attended, but it was definitely sitting room only in the hall. We probably sang to about 100 people, far fewer than the hundreds who turned out to see us at Christmas. I sure hate to say "I told you so" to the folks who wanted to change the dates and hadn't planned the program until the last minute... so I might have to clamp both hands over my mouth at the next Board meeting and say nothing, unless someone has the temerity to complain about the lack of publicity.

I have decided not to sing in the Pops concert, and apparently a lot of other people have decided to opt out as well. I'd like to be able to spend some time around the house, and I want to get acquainted with Sneakers the new dog, take Charlie the current dog out for more romps, and make my yard look presentable. I'll rejoin the chorus in the fall.


I've even made some real progress in the knitting department.

Donna has probably despaired of me, but I have redeemed myself. She's been knitting along on her Fletcher sweater, and is probably close to finished by now. Last week she had finished the back and the left front, and was working her way up the right front. I've emailed her for an update. Anyway, I am proud to announce that after many months of talking about it, I finally have the back of my own Fletcher on the needles and am making real progress.

One of the handiest tips Donna shared with me is simple, but really useful: Your pieces look neater if you try to cast on with the same color in your Noro Iro at the start of each piece. She chose one of the darker shades in the color she's using (I think it's #1, the color shown in the pattern). I opted for #16, and cast on with the emerald green shade. (Color #16 is still a lot browner in real life than I had anticipated, but no matter -- it's still a gorgeous yarn, and a real pleasure to work with.)

I have other happy knit news to report: I've felted the little red bag and the blue felted tote, and they're busy drying. All I have to do for the red one is attach the button and it's ready for its closeup. I have to add a needle-felted design to the side pocket of the tote bag, and then I can share its pretty face with you.

This time around, I started hand-felting the bags, but transferred them to the washer after I got bored with scrubbing and rubbing. Maybe I was just too flushed with success to make note of this last time, but the Lamb's Pride really shed a lot of fuzz this time around. I'm glad I used zippered pillowcase liners to hold the bags, or I'd still be picking little globs of blue and red off all our clothes (and probably, the washer's filter).

Also on the needles: I'd hoped to finish a quick peacock-colored Fun Fur scarf in time for this past weekend's concerts, but no such luck. It would have gone perfectly with the shirts we have to wear, too. The Eros Extreme is also sitting patiently in the pile. With my new-found Sunday time, I want to finish the Warm Winter Poncho that I didn't finish in time to wear this winter, and then I'll frog my poor World Series throw and re-knit it while watching something that isn't baseball.

Are We Not Men? We Have TiVo

Okay, so sue me. Here I complain that I have no time to watch TV and that there's nothing decent on anyway, and then what do I do? I just invested a piece of my tax refund in a DVR so that Greg and I can record all the stuff we complain about not having the time to watch, so that we can watch all of it in other time we don't have. Makes sense to me.

We love the thing, though: it's a masterpiece of good user-friendly design. Greg had it installed within 5 minutes, even with trying a few different connection scenarios (since we have the DVD player and VCR on the same circuit, and want to use them all with our ancient stereo receiver and its single digital input). The on-screen interface is simple, easy to use, and gives you feedback at every turn. (Greg likes to play the "no more choices" sound effect in the menu, which is a gentle "boom" from tympani.)

It started out recording "suggestions" along with stuff we actually wanted, but I figured out how to stop that from happening after the third Spanish-language program it oh-so-helpfully recorded for us. The only two words I know in Spanish are not the kind one would share in a family blog, even if I knew how to spell them. We both speak French and a few words of German, but it hasn't discovered our one French-language channel yet. (Our cable system gets TV5 from Paris, which is nice, but I miss being able to get hockey games from Quebec. Hockey is more fun to watch in French.)