This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Week Abounding in Blog Surprises

         Things have been changing believe or not.  My clutter is being culled about as quickly as my blog has been changing.  In other words progress is so slow that it's barely noticeable.  That's not really a bad thing in my case because it means a couple of things.  For one thing, I'm being careful about what I do when I make the changes on my blog so I do it right and don't screw anything up.  And the clutter that I am talking about in my house and in my life is not a situation that calls for any kind of intervention.  In other words I'm doing detail work.  Detail takes longer than just running your car through the automatic car wash.

          Also, things are going slow because I am trying to keep up my blog posting and some commenting on your blogs while having some busy summer events coming my way.  Forgive me if I've missed some of your posts of late, but I'm trying to do my best.

               Last Saturday I was reading a lovely post by Jules at Trying To Get Over The Rainbow and I was thinking about how much what she was saying related to what I had been thinking in recent days, then lo and behold here she gives me a shout out.  This was just one of those cool things I had to mention on my blog.  Check out her blog and give her a hello.  I always enjoy reading what she has to say.

           My Tossing It Out Tuesday feature began this past week with the topic of Junk Mail.  Ellie from Ella's Edge showed how one can turn junk into Recycled Treasures-- a far better solution than merely tossing it out.   I don't know if she'll come up with a way to recycle my next topic for this coming Tuesday when I'll be talking about junk e-mail.

            This past week had several surprises for me.  One was Yvonne Lewis's tribute to my Wednesday post, My Grandmother's Air Baths.  If you missed it, check out Yvonne's hilarious poem, Air Baths.  Yvonne always amazes us how quickly she can get a topical poem onto her blog.  Next Wednesday I am going to tell you about the first public performance of one of my musical works.

            As always, I'll be having seven days of eclectic blogism to share with all of you so I hope you'll join me right here at Tossing It Out.

           Alex J Cavanaugh is holding a contest to celebrate reaching 200 followers.  By the time you get there he might already be at 300--excitement about his upcoming book CassaStar is abuzz as the chatter is all over the blogosphere.  And if you haven't seen it yet, check out his CassaStar book trailer.

            On a sad note, Blabbin' Grammy Ruby's husband (Gramps) passed away this past week.  Many of us have been keeping track of Gramps and Grammy's life and know that Gramps has been dealing with a lot of suffering of late.  If you haven't done so already, please stop by to express your condolences to Blabbin' Grammy.   We love you, Ruby, and are praying for you.

            Have a nice weekend and enjoy your summer--it's going fast!

Friday, July 30, 2010


       Recently I read a post by Stephen Tremp about The Junkyard.  Stephen was telling about how he essentially keeps a file on his computer that contains snippets and passages that he has removed from the manuscripts that he is working on in order to save them for possible later use.  This post happened to come as I have been in the midst of literally cleaning my house in tandem with my Tossing It Out Tuesday posts.

        Like some of you, I sometimes write down things on whatever piece of paper I can find and set it down to have it disappear into other papers and scraps that accumulate in my office or elsewhere.  As I was going through a box of papers I found the poem that I am presenting today.  I don't remember when or why I wrote this poem.  I must have been in an ecological frame of mind when I wrote it.  So for today's post I present this poem out of my "junkyard".


                             Flowers bending in the wind
                             Sun, and rain--
                            To all elements exposed.
                             We--you and I--
                             All different, all the same,
                             In fragile vapor enclosed.
                             Human and plant and animal
                             This same earth share,
                             Yet engaged in timeless warfare.
                             Who will win if we lose?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Need the Government Be So Generous With Pensions?

My debate topic for today:

Why should any government paid workers receive a pension over $100,000 when they retire, or more realistically speaking why should any government pension be over $50,000?

          Along with highly paid government workers, the issue of excessively high pensions paid to retired government workers has been a controversial issue in the news.  The wretched city manager, police chief, and other employees of the city of Bell, California have recently been exposed for their outrageous thievery of city tax dollars to pay obscenely high salaries to themselves and their cohorts.  The guilty parties have either been forced into resignation or could be facing a recall by referendum.  However, there is still the issue of the pension packages that were part of their contracts and may have to be honored by the state retirement system unless fraudulent activity can be uncovered and the contracts rendered invalid.

         The Bell employees may be looking at retirement pensions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year with eligibility starting at age 55.   I have heard that the estimated pension that Bell ex-city manager Robert Rizzo could potentially collect if he lives an average life span could be up to $25 million paid out of the already strained retirement funds. 

          According to recent data from 9,111 retired California government workers receive pensions in excess of $100,000 from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS).  Currently, the investigation and overhaul of the entire California government pension program is becoming a hot button issue in Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown's campaign for governor.  Many people are puzzled and angry with some of these ridiculously high pensions.

         Another blogger whom I have frequently championed and hold very dear has been upset with my debate topics "bashing" government workers and understandably so since she is a state worker.  In a reply to me she stated, "In the state of ca the average pension is just about 2000/month".   I can't say for sure if that is the case, but it sounds possible.  As I stated in my Debate Day topic last week, what I am questioning probably doesn't apply to most government-paid workers so I don't really feel like I'm bashing anybody, but I am merely questioning some of what would seem to me to be gross inequities of the system.

        Just to give an example:  The highest paid retiree in the Calpers payouts is former city manager and jack-of-all city jobs in the tiny Los Angeles County city of Vernon, Bruce Malkenhorst, who receives a reported annual pension of $509,664.60 per year, which translates to $42,472.05 per month.  Most of us probably don't make his monthly pay in a years time.  I think there is something very wrong with this picture.

        This is but one example out of many in the state of California.  Nationwide there are probably many similar examples.  Perhaps some of you can relate other examples that you have heard about.  I may not understand all of the facts, but with all of the stirring that is going on about the subject their must be a problem.  Our governments are facing financial trouble across the country and within the federal government itself.  A reassessment of the system and the way government operates must be done. 

        I certainly can't argue with the aformentioned $24,000 a year-- that is on the low side.  I also think that the retired government employees should retain good medical benefits.  But why would a government employee expect or need a pension over $50,000 if they also receive medical benefits?   Moreover, is there any ex-government employee that should ever receive in excess of $100,000?   And why should any of them be allowed to take retirement at age 55?   I'm just asking.   Do any of you have the answers?  What are your thoughts on this topic?


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Grandmother's Air Baths

         When I was a child, my mother would tell me that my grandmother used to take "air baths".   She would run around her bedroom naked.  I never had any reason to question this because, though it sounded a bit weird, it also seemed like a logical way to cool off.  This would have probably been in the 1930s or 40s.

           My grandmother was a very staid, conservative lady, a fact which makes the air bath image all the more humorous.  I used to picture her stark naked with arms outstretched running in a circle around her room while a ceiling fan turned above her.  I don't know that she had a ceiling fan, but it seemed like a logical accessory to an air bath.  The incongruity of my very proper grandmother prancing about naked as a jay bird was silly enough to delight my childish imagination.

         Recently I asked my mother about this and she said she didn't recall ever telling me this story.  She said it just didn't sound like anything her mother would do.  I then called my sister to see if she remembered hearing this story.  She said she didn't, but that didn't surprise me since there are a lot of things she doesn't seem to remember.  I know my mother told me this story because I heard it several times.  How would I make up such a thing?

         Out of curiosity I looked up "air bath" on Google.   I found several entries that talked about how Benjamin Franklin used to take air baths for his health.  There was even a blog entry about air baths.  This was enough to convince me that I didn't just make up this idea of air baths.   Actually, on some of these hot summer days an air bath doesn't sound half bad.

          Have you ever heard of air baths?    Do you ever take air baths?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tossing It Out Tuesday: Junk Mail

            If your household is like mine, I'm sure you get your fair share of junk mail.  My wife and I try to dispose of as much as we can as it comes in, but sometimes it just gets set aside if it looks like it might be something I might possibly want to check out.  I know what my regular bills look like and I recognize something personal from someone I know, so those are easy to separate and take care of immediately.  But there are those other curious pieces of mail that might be worthwhile and need further investigation.

             There is that mail that looks "official" or otherwise important that one discovers upon opening is really a sneaky attempt to extract money from their wallet.  I've gotten pretty good at spotting those, but some pieces still end up in the "to be checked later when I have time" pile.   And there are certain special offers that maybe I might be interested in but I don't have time to look right now.  They also go into the "look at later" pile. Eventually after a few days I have a small stack of mail over which decisions need to be made.  Out of this pile may evolve another "I really don't have time for this right now and I'll look again later" pile which accumulates on a kitchen counter until it is moved into my office.

             Much of this eventually turns into an "it's been so long that now I don't remember what it is, but I must have saved it for a reason and it could be important" pile that gets shifted into a box.  By the time I usually get to this mail, it is usually so outdated that if it did have any importance it is now irrelevant.  I need to learn to stop the flow before it ever gets this far.  Tossing out the unnecessary mail needs to be completed before it ever makes it to the kitchen shelf.
             In any case, I've been trying to cull through old mail in my tossing it out cleanings and break my habit of setting aside these things that I might think are important.   Actually the culling process started several years ago, not only by me, but also by the companies that send the mail.  Many of the companies now send offers electronically through e-mail, which certainly saves paper waste.  Also, I've stopped ordering as many things as I used to, entering contests, making inquiries, or using certain credit cards, which has apparently caused some of the companies to lose interest and stop sending as much junk to me.  Maybe they think I died or moved to another country or something.   Maybe a lot of those companies have gone out of business due to the bad economy.  Whatever the case may be, my junk mail has decreased tremendously over the past several years.  Each of the photos in my post represent about one average week of junk mail.  In the past, I have seen some days where there was this much mail.

             Still, there is some junk mail that remains and now my mission is to track it down and send it to the recycling bin.   Currently, as I am organizing papers in files, drawers, and boxes, I am discarding all irrelevant junk that had been previously set aside.  Since keeping the junk mail in check is something that has been ongoing for many years,  the problem is not extreme by any means.  Lest anyone has concerns there is serious hoarding going on here please be assured that the accumulation is minor.  But there is some junk that still needs to be tossed.  The clean up continues.

             How is your junk mail situation?  Have you taken any steps to control it?   Have you found any creative uses for junk mail?   What is your favorite junk mail?    What kind of junk mail do you dislike the most?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blog Boggled: Posts Per Page

          One change that has occurred on my blog page in the past couple months is the reduction of posts per page from seven to one.  When I originally set up my blog page layout I thought that it would be nice to access seven days of posts at one time.  However, when I began doing my music posts and adding playlists to each of those posts, I discovered that all playlists on that page were playing simultaneously, resulting in a cacophony of musical mish mash.  I immediately went to the one post per view format to eliminate multiple playing playlists.

          Personally, I enjoy being able to scroll down the page to look at the most recent previous posts.  On the other hand, its not that big of a deal for me to click on the "older posts" option or to click onto archived titles if they appear on the sidebar. 

            Do you prefer more than one post per page view?   Or do you like having just one post on a page?  How many posts does one see when they go to your blog?   Do you ever take the time to look at the older posts if they are not on the same page?   How frequently will you look at archived posts?

            Next week on Blog Boggled I will be looking at the topic of music playing on blogs.

After reading Dezmond's comment, as well as some of the others, I changed my posts per page back to my original preferred 7 per view.  I will probably have to back through and fix some of my earlier posts that have automatic playlists and turn those off, and in the future avoid auto playlists.  Thanks for all of the input so far.  The beauty with this blog is that I can continue to modify it if need be.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Getting Angry With God

          The prophet Jonah disobeyed God and was swallowed by a big fish when he tried to run away from the mission to which God appointed him.  After his repentant prayers, Jonah was given a second chance by God to go to the city of Nineveh to preach a message of repentance so that the city might be spared God's wrath.  Jonah's preaching was successful, the Ninevites repented, and God showed compassion and did not destroy them for their previous evil ways. 

          But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
         But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
Jonah 4:1-4 (New International Version)

          Readers of the book of Jonah may find it rather curious that we initially do not know why Jonah is resistant about being obedient to God's call for him to go to Nineveh.  The initial reaction is that he was afraid.  Nineveh was an enemy of Israel and we might assume that Jonah was afraid of personal harm or even death if he were to go there and start preaching a message from the God of Israel.  However, like most books of the Bible, Jonah needs to be read and reread in order to begin to understand what is going on.  In the fourth chapter we finally learn that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he was angry that God would show compassion to the Ninevites.

           This Book of Jonah is one of paradoxes and parallels.  On one hand we have this prophet of God, Jonah, who is in the service of God and should be obeying him and on the other we have the wicked city of Nineveh that is going to be destroyed unless they turn from their wicked ways.  God is willing to give the Ninevites a second chance if they turn to Him and the prophet who is appointed by God to deliver this message to the Ninevites tries to turn away from God in rebellion.  At this point it seems like God should just smite them all.  However, we know, as Jonah knows, that God is patient and loving toward his children.

           The Book of Jonah is all about second chances.  The sailors of the ship on which Jonah tries to flee are saved from destruction when they turn to God; from inside the big fish God hears Jonah's prayer and gives him another chance to complete his mission; and God gives the people of Nineveh a second chance when they call on Him for forgiveness and mercy.   Jonah should be rejoicing that his God is all the He said He is and is an everlasting loving God.  And yet Jonah is sullen and angry.

        We look at all the times in history that humankind deserved destruction and the times that God has actually exerted His wrath.  They were deserved times indeed.  We can look at ourselves and wonder why we have been so deserving of His mercy and blessings.   The second chances keep on coming.  If God has been able to so often show patience and understanding toward us, what right does Jonah have to be angry?  God has not only protected Jonah from harm, He has given Jonah a talent to reach others to bring them to salvation.   And after all he has been through, Jonah asks God to let him die because he is so upset.

         One might ask what kind of small, selfish, ungrateful man was Jonah?  Yet even Jesus refers to Jonah as having a reputation of greatness.  There are times when we all must want to question why God allows certain things to happen.   We may think we are living good lives, being generous and kind, giving ourselves to others, and trying to be as upstanding as we can be, and still face bad health, financial problems, and terrible life situations.  Our natural inclination is to question God, but we should accept what comes our way.  We can lament the bad, but we should rejoice and praise God for all of the good.   Anger toward God should never be in our hearts when He has done so much for us that is good. 
        Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.  And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)

             We might remember how the Israelites in flight from their captivity in Egypt were continually blessed by God even though they repeatedly complained, rebelled, and fell into sin.   After each blessing, the Israelites would later blame God for their plights.  They often lost faith and turned away from God.  They were also continually given chances to come back into God's favor.  God gives us second chances, but there are consequences to our sin that will not be exempted.   The consequences of our sin may not be seen by us, but they may be passed to subsequent generations.   Sin can be forgiven, but a price must be paid.  Getting angry about this does not help.  We must humble ourselves before God and trust in Him.  When we give ourselves over to God we will reap his compassion.

 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 103:8-10 (NIV)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Company's Coming!

          My big summer surge of activity will begin over the next couple of weeks as our daughters come in from New Jersey and Texas to visit us.  We will be doing some fun things around town, but mostly just hanging out and enjoying one another's company.  My wife and I only get to see them in person a couple times a year now and our visits are always too short.

          When our kids grow up and move away it seems like everyone's life is busy and there is often not enough money for frequent visits.  Some of you may be fortunate enough to have your grown kids and grandkids nearby, but sometimes even then schedules don't allow for visits like we might like.

         For those of you who still have children at home, savor it as much as you can.  Take pictures, go to activities, and establish close family bonds and traditions.  It seemed like I had to work a lot when my kids were younger, but we still had a lot of good times.  I tried to take them places that I hoped would enrich their lives.  I made every attempt to attend every soccer game, dance recital, award ceremony, and whatever other school or church event in which they were involved.  It all has sped by so fast--graduations, weddings, births.  Now the next round will be the grandchildren who are here now and are still to come.

        I'm scheduling my posts ahead of time for the next couple of weeks so they will post automatically.  However my blog visiting and commenting may be somewhat curtailed.  I should be able to acknowledge comments on my blog and visit the blogs of those who have commented, but beyond that I am not too sure.  But I will be here so please keep your comments coming.

         If you missed The Soundtrack of My Life this past Monday please check it out.  I started a new feature called Tossing It Out Tuesday.   This coming Tuesday I will be talking about junk mail.  My Thursday Debate Day topic will be concerning government pensions.  The other days will be topics that you will hopefully enjoy.

         My thanks to Ellie at Ella's Edge for the kind mention on Wednesday.  She was talking about "change"--I guess there are several of us thinking of that word.  I'm still making changes in my blog.  Have you noticed any yet?

          If you have children who are grown and on their own, do they live near to you or far?  How often are you able to see your grown children?  If your children are still living with you, how do you make quality time for them?  Who is visiting you this summer, or who are you visiting? 

         Still looking for some government paid employees to weigh in on this past Thursday's debate.  I still need to be convinced that I am wrong.  Or am I?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Elephant In The Blogroom

             Sometimes mysterious things just seem to appear in our house out of nowhere.  Nobody will lay claim to having brought them and we don't know how they got there.  Some of these things have been in my house for many years, and some of them even have been carried from previous abodes to the home where we have  resided for the past thirteen years.  Where do these weird things come from?

               I started thinking about this the other day when Alex J Cavanaugh requested that we post an elephant picture for Dezmond of Hollywood Spy.    I immediately thought of a strange elephant figurine that sits on my office bookshelf.  This homely elephant has been around for at least five years I guess.  I've rescued it from the garage a few times when I think my wife was trying to get rid of it.  Now it resides safely in my office.

         I don't really collect any figurines--not intentionally at least.  I have acquired a few over the years as gifts or as found objects like my elephant.  If I were a collector of any kind of animal figurines, I would probably collect elephants.  Since I was a child I have always liked elephants.  I used to like to draw them.  The first elephants I ever saw were at the circus.  I can recall once when my parents' car became stuck in the muddy circus lot, someone brought one of the elephants to pull us out.  That must have impressed me.  The old tent circuses commonly used the strength of the elephants to do heavy chores and to help raise the big top.

           The particular elephant figurine that I have in my office looks like a very amateurish attempt at some sort of craft project.  Someone has taken a very cheap plastic elephant figure and glued a multitude of tiny colored beads and mirror squares, many of which have fallen off and continue to fall off.  I try to avoid handling the figure lest any more beads and mirror squares fall off.  

           There used to be another plastic elephant that had the appearance of being made out of jade.  It was a classier looking elephant even though you could tell it was cheap plastic when you picked it up.  On the shelf it looked like jade.  That elephant is gone now.  I think my daughter Angelina may have taken it home with her.  It was probably hers to begin with.  In fact, both elephants were probably something she picked up at a yard sale or in a thrift shop.  When she was still living at home with us she used to pick up weird things to decorate her room with.  Probably several of the strange things around our home originated with one or another of our daughters.

           I don't think I can blame any of my daughters for this zebra creamer.  I'm pretty sure this one was a white elephant gift I received at a church party nearly twenty years ago.  So even though it's a zebra, it's also a "white elephant" and it is appropriate to include this photo today.  This creamer is also on my bookshelf--no way I would use it for holding cream and it just looks weird enough to keep the ugly elephant company.

           Dezmond, I hope you enjoyed my elephant pictures and stories.   Maybe you'll start collecting elephant figurines and can show them off on your blog one day.  Hopefully, they'll be nicer than the ones I have.  On the other hand, mine have histories to go with them and mysteries to ponder, which makes them kind of special.

            How about the rest of you?  Do you have any special things that you collect to keep on display around your home?  Do you have any sentimental "atrocities" like my elephant and zebra?  What are some strange things that have appeared in your home that you have no idea where they came from?   If you can, post an elephant for Dezmond.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Should we cap the pay of government-paid employees?

            Recently in the Los Angeles news, there has been an ongoing investigation of the small city of Bell, California--a city of less than 40,000, most who are in lower income families.  The city manager of Bell, one of L.A.county's poorest cities, is being paid nearly $800,000 per year--far greater that city managers in surrounding cities that are far larger than Bell.   The sheriff of Bell is paid in excess of $400,000 and city council members, who work only part-time, receive over $100,000 per year--an amount which the city council itself established for its members.  Do I smell something rotten here?

           Before I continue, I want to get a couple of points out of the way.  My topic today is not in reference to pay in the private sector.  I think there are some real ethical issues about the disparity of wages, but I don't want to address these issues today.  Likewise, let's forget the argument that government workers can make more in the private sector.  Let them go there if they can do better.  The point is:  Where does the money come from to pay government employees?  And the obvious answer to that is taxes and other government imposed fees.

           Another point I would like to clear up so as not to offend any of my beloved readers who are government employees, what I will be proposing would be unlikely to affect any of you.  If it does, or if you can help me understand where I am wrong, then I'll leave it to you to honorably defend your position and set me straight. 

           Here is my proposal in debate question format:

Should we limit the pay of all government-paid employees to $150,000?

            I would not be proposing any decrease in benefits as far as health insurance or any other allowances that seem appropriate.   Some of the perks might need to be addressed and taken away from some.  Over all though, I'm suggesting that the governments--city, county, state, and federal--continue to operate business as usual, but with some adjustments made for what I see as overpaid government workers.  I don't think anyone who reads this makes anywhere near $150,000, so would a salary cap at this figure affect you adversely?  If you do make more than this, or know someone who does, please tell us why you, or they do.

           According to some of the figures that I found, in the United States the median personal income is somewhere around $25,000.  Granted, this includes low wage teens and part-timers.  However, the median househould income--that is the combined incomes of everyone living under one roof--is around $50,000.  Anyone who is making over $100,000 is in the top 6% of workers in the U.S. says a Census Bureau report.  I'm really not sure why elected officials need to fit into this category when you consider that many of them have to be somewhat financially well off in the first place.

            Taking the extreme, the president of the United States receives $400,000 per year not to mention expense accounts and other residual benefits.   How many recent presidents have gone into office as poor men?  What is the earning potential of a president once out of office?  Then to a lesser degree you have the other government officials with high pay when compared to most of us and far more potential perks and benefits.  The American people have been paying our government good money to frequently screw us over.

           This is not a rant on our government and the job they are or are not doing, I am merely questioning pay.  Please enlighten me if I am way off base here.  Or toss out what you know to support my arguments.  I could go on at greater length with additional points and arguments, but I'm trying to shorten my posts.  So I leave it up to you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Too Cool To Fiddle

          The violin became uncool in 1964 when I was thirteen, or that is as far as I was concerned.  I wasn't looking at the bigger picture.  Who does at that age?  None of the Beatles or any of the other popular rock and rollers played a violin and no girl was going to give a moment of their attention to some sissy that did.  It was somewhere about that time that I decided to hang up the fiddle and start playing guitar.

          I'd been playing violin since the third grade when the school I was attending in San Diego, California offered beginners lessons and an opportunity to play in the school orchestra.  I took to the instrument rather easily and occupied first chair of the Riley Elementary School orchestra for the next three years.  I enjoyed playing violin in the orchestra, but lacked the ambition to practice in order to attain a high enough level of proficiency to be a really good soloist. 

          When I reached seventh grade my family moved to Northern Indiana, where the school I attended did not offer a school orchestra.  I continued to take private lessons from a dwarf who played as a strolling musician at a popular smorgasbord restaurant.  The choir teacher at the middle school discovered that I played violin and built a choral number that featured my violin playing for one of the choir programs.  Later, at a school talent show, my next door neighbor and I played a clever rendition of the song "Alley Cat", which went over quite well.   Those were the last times I played violin for many years.

           I dropped the violin lessons and continued taking guitar lessons under the tutelage of the violin playing dwarf.   My parents never forced me to do things I didn't want to keep doing, they only expected that if I were going to do something I would practice and take it seriously.  I tried for a while.  The dwarf musician taught me to play songs like the one about the dog named Bingo and other corny folk-style tunes which would have not impressed any of the girls I wanted to impress.  My guitar teacher did not look favorably upon rock and roll and had his sights for me set on classical guitar.

          Eventually music became too much of an effort to pursue on my own.  I did not know anyone else who played an instrument for several years and it was no fun playing alone.  Years later I went back to the violin and guitar to a limited degree, but missing out on years of practice meant I was not as good as I could have been. 

           Did you play an instrument when you were younger, but no longer play?  Why did you stop?   How much did you practice?  Was practice as much of a chore for you as it was for me?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Feature: Tossing It Out Tuesday

          A while back I had mentioned that some changes were going to start happening on this blog.  Some of you who follow regularly may be thinking that you haven't really seen anything changing yet.  They have in small ways.  I have been tweaking.  I've played with this or that and some things go, some come back, and some just get rearranged.  One of the changes will be an upcoming new feature.

          Tuesdays on Tossing It Out have often been a time for reviews or commentaries in which I talked about my opinions of various products, music, books, movies, or whatever else I might have wanted to expound on.  Today I am announcing what will be a new feature--Tossing It Out Tuesday

          Let me explain what that means.  My blog name was originally intended convey the imagery of juggling from the standpoint of tossing about ideas and having an exchange between me and readers.  However, "tossing it out" can also mean getting rid of things that are no longer needed or useful.  On Tossing It Out Tuesdays I will be getting rid of things in my blog or in my life and discussing them in hopes it will be somehow meaningful in your life as well.

         As I said in a previous post, it's time to clean up  so I can get rid of clutter and become better organized.  Perhaps in doing this I can get some helpful tips from you or I can in some way open your eyes to seeing what clutter in your own life needs to be gotten rid of.   Efficiency is the quest.  On each Tossing It Out Tuesday I will be attempting to deal with one thing that needs to be tossed out my life or tossed out into the open for examination.   And if this idea doesn't work, then I'll be tossing out Tossing It Out Tuesday.  We'll give it a try and see what happens.

          What are some things in your life you need to toss out?   Do you find that you have daily clutter that is keeping you from operating in your most optimal way?   Is some clutter advantageous?  Do you struggle most with the physical clutter of stuff or the intangible clutter within in your mind?   Does the clutter of others interfere with your life?  If you had more space to use for organization, would you just end up with more clutter?

            My thanks to all of you who participated with lists or comments in the Soundtrack of My Life blogfest.  The Linky list is open until tomorrow night if you'd still like to add your list.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Soundtrack of My Life (Number Two)

        I've already done one of these on my June 30th post, but due to requests I decided it would be fun to share in the experience with more of you.  If you like, you can check out my original soundtrack.  This current list might be thought of as "More Songs Inspired by My Life".    Once again I would like to give credit to Country Girl for giving me the inspiration for this post.

      As I did with my first soundtrack, this one goes chronologically from my birth until the present and beyond.   The songs represent stages of the history of the eras I was living through as well as things that were influencing my life at the various times of my life.  So here it is--

The Soundtrack of My Life (Number 2)(Click on song titles to hear them)

1.   Lady of Spain -- This is an oft recorded standard that goes back to 1931.  The song was frequently used by circus and novelty acts in the 1950s.   My father used this song in his juggling act so it was a song I heard often.  My parents had a 78 rpm record version of this that had wonderful orchestration and was sung by a male vocalist who was apparently part of a quartet.  I frequently listened to this record when I was a child and it was a big influence on my musical taste.  The version that I have presented here is not the version I grew up with--I'd really like to know who did the version of my childhood and get a copy on CD if it is available.

2.  Rock Around the Clock--I was born  at the beginning of the rock and roll era, thus this style of music is an integral part of who I am.  My parents used to take me to the movies on a regular basis.  I still remember this music by Bill Haley and the Comets as the credits began to roll for the teen rebellion film Blackboard Jungle, a radical film for its time, but mild by today's standards.

3.  I'm Looking Through You -- Rock music became an influence upon me over the following decade, but it really took hold with the Beatles Rubber Soul album.  I can still recall sitting with my parents' old stereo record player in the recreation room of my family's home in Crown Point, Indiana as I meticulously listened to this song and copied down the words.  The Beatles were a major musical influence in my life.

4. Walk On the Water-- The psychedelic era of the late 60s and early 70s was a time of listening to music and going to concerts that strongly impacted what I continued to enjoy in music even to this day. This song from Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album had a strange mysteriously dark quality that appealed to me.

5. Jessica --This Allman Brothers instrumental was part of the feel good times of the early 70s. The Allmans were everywhere and they had a strong influence over so many of the artists I was listening to at that time. In my early twenties it seemed like every day was time for a party and this was the kind of music that helped us get in that party spirit.

6. In a Persian Market-- In 1975 I became stage manager for The Ken Griffin Magic Show. This was a major turning point in my life as I became involved in a show business career on my own (without my parents). This piece of music by Albert Ketelbey has long been a popular song for circuses and magic and vaudeville shows. Ken Griffin used it for his levitation routine. Another version of this song appears on my first soundtrack.

7. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic--Disco couldn't help but touch my life in the late 70s, but I was more interested in the punk new wave scene. The Police was a favorite group of mine. This song especially captured my attention because of the reference to magic and the fact that I was involved in shows that were related to magic. The early 80s were an especially magical time for me.

8. At the Feet of the Moon--By the mid-80s I had become very enamored of the Canadian music scene and Canada in general. This song is by the Canadian group Parachute Club. The song captures an excitement that seemed to fit my road show life of that time.

9. The River Is Rising -- As the 1990s approached, my life on the road was coming to an end as I felt a requirement to settle down with my growing family. In addition to the added responsibility of raising kids, I was feeling new financial pressures and a change in the dynamics of my marital relationship. Contemporary Christian music had become a big part of what I was listening to at that time. This song by Greg X. Volz seems to reflect that transitional period I was entering.

10. Como Te Extraño Mi Amor --The 90s were tough for me. I had moved to Los Angeles--far away from family and friends. Not too long after I had gotten there, my wife of ten years left me and my daughters. After a few years I met my present wife, who is Ecuadorean, and at the same time had started developing a taste for Rock En Espanol, which is rock music in Spanish. I have always enjoyed Latino sounds. It goes all the way back to that first song, "Lady of Spain". This song by Cafe Tacuba was a popular song on the radio when I began dating the woman who is now my wife.

11. Dream Like Mine -- Bruce Cockburn has been a favorite artist since the mid 80s. One of his songs would have to be in my soundtrack. This song seems appropriate.

12. Concerto Grosso In D Minor HWV328 - Mov. 4---My life soundtrack would not be complete without a piece of classical music. Many would do. This piece by George Fredrick Handel is exuberant and seems an apt ending to my soundtrack.

This is my soundtrack. How does the movie sound? Don't forget to visit the others on the Linky list. And there's still time to add your own soundtrack if you haven't done so already. Have fun at the movies.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Repentant Leadership

       God called upon the prophet Jonah to preach repentance to the people of the great city of Nineveh.  Instead, Jonah disobeyed God and tried to run away to another land.  God showed a great sign when He sent a big fish to swallow Jonah and return him to land.  Once again Jonah was called by God to go preach in Nineveh.  This time Jonah obeyed God's call and went to the great city.  He began preaching God's message and the Ninevites listened and heeded the warning Jonah was giving them.  The people were ready for repentance and revival.

       When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.  Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:
       "By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.  Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
       When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah 3:6-10 (New International Version)

          Jonah had a big job on his hands in preaching to Nineveh.  We are told that a visit to this city required three days.  One can surmise that the three day estimate is either due to the physical size of the city or the number of people who had to be reached.  There was no mass communication and Jonah would have had to rely on direct contact with groups of people and his message being relayed by word of mouth.  To reach every one of 120,000 people would have taken a considerable amount of effort on Jonah's part. 
           His message was effective enough to convince the people to change their ways.  More importantly the message and the reaction of the people reached the seat of leadership.  When the king and the government in power took this message to heart and not only changed their ways, but also made the acts of repentance and prayer official by decree then God listened and did not bring the destruction that he said would happen if they had not done this.  The change in the people helped to bring about change in the heart of the government.

....if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

          God hears our prayers when we are repentant and humbled before him.  Our nation cannot continue on its path of shunning, rejecting, and blatantly defying God.  Any nation that pursues such a course is destined toward destruction.  World history has proven this to be true so far and indications are that this is an unwavering fact.  Today's society has been rejecting the Godly, Bible-driven beginnings of the United States of America. 
           Secularists have distorted the truths the were the foundation upon which our country was built.  The false concept of separation of church and state has inspired godless movements and foolish rulings by the nation's courts.  The founding fathers wanted to avoid a nation that was ruled by any one church like had been seen in Europe, but they never intended to remove God and the moral principles of the Bible from the rule of government.  Certain satanically inspired thinking has persuaded many to accept sin as acceptably normal behavior and not something to be rejected and despised.
            Many new age thinking churches have been partly responsible for this trend.  We as a people have become so afraid of offending others that we keep inching ever closer to an anything goes mentality.  In order to become all things to all people, many churches are becoming closer to nothing for God.  The church must strive to be pleasing to God and if in doing so it becomes offensive to many people, then so be it.  The church is not going to get you into eternal fellowship with God--this is something that can only be gained directly through the personal relationship you have with Jesus Christ.
             You and I must change.  Our families, churches, communities, and cities all must change before the government can be expected to change.   We live in a blessed nation, but can those blessings continue and even increase?   Our nation will not remain blessed if we are not on God's side.  National change to a synchronicity with the heart of God cannot occur unless Godly change in the heart of those in power comes about.  Local and state governments, the courts, the national legislative bodies, and all the way to the presidency will have to humble themselves before God if we want Him to bring healing to the land.

 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 14:34 (NIV)

          A great nation sets an example for and exerts influence over other nations.  The United States has been referred to as a shining beacon showing the way to the rest of the world.  We may be losing that reputation in the eyes of many.   On the other hand, our national sin may be what much of the rest of the world is looking for in order to pounce upon us and devour us.  What will our nation opt for-- righteousness or downfall?

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NIV)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

After a Meaty Week.....

             This has been one meat filled week on Tossing It Out.  This upcoming week I'll change the subject.
I hope more of you will join us on Monday for The Soundtrack of Your Life Blogfest.  You can read about it at the top of this page and sign up on the Linky List.  As of the moment I am writing this we have thirteen participants so we have space for you.  Tell us about you and the songs that would accompany a recap of your life.

           The rest of the week I've not planned yet, but I'm still trying for shorter posts.  I seem to have a problem keeping my word count down. I'm still working on this.  Do you ever feel that your posts are too long?

       I was so delighted to see an acknowledgment given to me by Mary at Giggles and Guns.   Mary featured a post around a comment I had made on a topic that I know is familiar to many of us--finding motivation and inspiration to keep writing.  I usually don't have that problem, but I guess that also kind of goes back to my long-winded blog posts.  It's such a pleasant surprise to visit a blog and find yourself featured in a post.  Thanks, Mary, for the ego boost.

       Then there's someone who's been getting his name in many other blogs this week after the trailer for his upcoming book was released.  Most of you probably already know Alex J. Cavanaugh's great blog and have probably already seen his book trailer, but in the event that someone out there has missed it then check it out:

       My good wishes to Alex and to his book CassaStar which will be released in October.

       Speaking of books and authors, Stephen Tremp's adventures in publishing are almost as exciting as his book Breakthrough which is soon to be rereleased.    Not a typo--- re-released!   If you missed Stephen's story check out his blog--it's an interesting story.

And now let the games begin:
          I was tagged by Jules at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow. It started a little iffy for me when I saw that she had disclosed the contents of her purse. To my relief she asked me to empty my pockets. Okay that's easy enough--not that much there.  I normally only deal with four pockets.

         Pockets have always been an important part of my clothing. I must have a pocket in my shirt and don't often wear the few pocketless shirts that I do own. My pants must have ample pocket space--never know what I might have to carry. Here's the rundown of what I usually have in my pockets when I leave the house:

        In my shirt pocket I have a rarely used cell phone just in case I need to make a phone call; a business card holder that currently holds cards with my blog address just in case someone is interested; and, of course, a pen just in case I need to write something down.  Eventually I hope I will require different business cards where the blog address is just a part of the whole, but currently that's all I'm advertising.

I use three pockets in my pants.  My back pocket contains a well worn wallet with ID's, credit cards, and other cards that I occasionally might need.  I've had this wallet for several years and will probably use it until it's about to fall apart.  In fifty years I think I've owned less than ten wallets.  I like to get maximum mileage out of them.  They're kind of like a pair of shoes that really get comfortable.  I hate to toss them out.

My left pocket contains keys for two cars, a front gate, and my house.  Car keys have gotten so much more complex than they used to be with alarms and keyless ignitions and all.  I used to carry a pocket knife in my key pocket.  Now the keys are about all my pocket will hold.

I rarely use cash, but I always like to have some just in case.  Now most places will accept credit cards no matter how much you're spending so I use them for nearly everything.  The cards I use give me points for each dollar spent and I can redeem those points for nifty gift cards, free hotel rooms, or cash rebates.  It actually seems like a better deal if you pay off the balance every month like I do.  The real problem is that in using cards the companies and the government can keep track of every dollar you spend, what you buy, and where you are when you buy it.  That seems pretty scary, but they can find out this stuff regardless.  It's all spooky, but is in line with things predicted in the Bible.  Guess that's getting off track and is a topic for a future blog post.

           And that's what's in my pockets most of the time.  Thank goodness Jules only tagged two people so I'm going to do the same.  And since they both seemed to think it was funny that I got tagged then I will tag:

Have a great weekend!  Stay cool if you're where it's hot, and if you're where it's cold then I wish I had your weather.

Friday, July 16, 2010

And Now the Truth Revealed!

             On my post of last Saturday I acknowledged the "Creative Writer (Liar)" Award giving to me by Patricia Stoltey.  In accepting this award I gave you 6 possible things about me of which only one is true.  I reposted these on Monday-- talk about getting maximum mileage out of blog topics.

              Since I didn't reveal the answer as promised on Wednesday, I'm doing it today.  First here are the lies and the truth:

1. I was once a roadie for the Marshall Tucker Band (a popular country rock band in the 70s)
2. I was the salutatorian of my graduating class in high school.
3. I have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.
4. I performed in a circus that featured Ted Cassidy and Jackie Coogan from the television show "The Addams Family".
5. While rafting down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon, the raft I was in capsized and I broke my leg, necessitating a helicopter rescue out of the canyon.
6. In the late 70s I spent one season working as a featured magic act in a carnival sideshow.

       The guesses were all over the place.  And I'm not sure whether some of the numbers guessed were that they were the truth or a lie.  In any case, here they are revealed:

1.  ... roadie for the Marshall Tucker Band  -- I saw the Marshall Tucker Band in concert once in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1975.  I talked Ken and Roberta Griffin, the magic act that I mentioned in my Wednesday post, into going with me.  Lead singer and guitarist Toy Caldwell became very sick during the concert and had to be taken away in an ambulance.  Opening act Charlie Daniels stepped in to take his place and finished out the set.  I was a fan of Marshall Tucker, but never a roadie.

2. ... salutatorian of my graduating class.--I had a pretty good grade point average in high school--but not that good.  Some of my math grades kind of messed things up.  Still, out of a graduating class of about 250, I was ranked #21.  I just missed having my picture in the school yearbook as one of the Top Twenty.

3. .... hiked entire Appalachian Trail--I did a lot of hiking and backpacking in my younger days and dreamed of doing the entire Appalachian Trail, but never did.

4. I performed in a circus that featured Ted Cassidy and Jackie Coogan from the television show "The Addams Family".  If I remember correctly this was in about February of 1966.  My family's juggling act was booked to play the Shrine Circus in Rochester, New York.  Right before intermission there was what they called the "Spectacle Parade" in which all performers, animals, and some special floats would circle the arena.  Part of this spec featured celebrities who had been advertised to draw crowds.  This was the extent of what Cassidy and Coogan did.  They rode around in some sort of novelty vehicle and waved at the crowd.  I recall after one spec, my sister and I caught the celebrities on a backstage stairway to request autographs.  They complied, but they sure were grouchy about it.  This is the true story.

5. While rafting down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon, the raft I was in capsized and I broke my leg, necessitating a helicopter rescue out of the canyon.---Definitely the most concocted of all the stories, this one is a total fabrication.

6. In the late 70s I spent one season working as a featured magic act in a carnival sideshow.--There are some truths to this story.  In the late 70s I did work on a few magic shows and did perform a few magic illusions in these shows.  For a brief stint when I was working with the Ken Griffin Magic Show we did work on a "girlie" or burlesque show at a carnival at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri.  So this is an amalgamation of truths to form a lie.

            There you have it!  A shorter post of recycled material.  Works for me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Should We Delete the Meat?

           This week I've written about pigs feet, pickled pork rinds, and beef tripe.  Overall this has been somewhat unappetizing.  Some of you who are vegetarians expressed your distaste for the topic.  After dwelling on it as much as I have this week, the thought of meat has been turning me off a bit.

           Don't get me wrong.  I'm not going to completely abandon my meat consumption and go nuts, berries, and leafy greens on you by any means.   In the future I'm still pretty sure I'll continue to eat my beef jerky, bacon and eggs, tuna and other seafood, chicken, and the occasional steak.  I'll even eat menudo and pozole sometimes.

             However, I do find myself consuming less meat as I grow older.  I used to have a pretty regular diet of hamburgers and hot dogs and now it's rare to find me eating either.  Oh, sometimes I'll get in the mood for one of those, but I usually finish with a twinge of regret.  They never seem to be as good as they sounded before I made the decision to eat one of them.   Likewise with deli sandwiches piled high with meat.  I have good memories of eating things like this in the past, but when I eat them now the experience is not quite as good as I remember.

             No, I don't plan to go vegan, but I seem to be cutting back.  I'm not anti-meat.  I've seen some of the disgusting documentaries about meat processing and read plenty about it, but it won't deter me from eating meat or make me want to take the right to eat meat away from anyone else.  I plan to remain omnivorous for the time being.

             So what do you think?   Have you cut back on meat?  Are you a PETA person?   Is it okay for your cat or dog to eat meat but not you?   Any thoughts about health and the food you eat?
Should we all become vegetarians?