Let’s Be Essential

If you’re struggling with being “essential” and you love teamwork and you’ve suddenly got a lot of time on your hands…join me for some lively discussion on how we can help each other through this difficult time of quarantine.

Meetings will not be held on Sundays.

Essential MeetingsEast CentralWest
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Meetings using ZOOM. Latest software client upgrade is being used. Security measures in place.

Together, we can talk about our situations. Separation is hard but we can still connect…thank God…and we can still make a difference. One good thing about this “quarantine” is that no matter how far away you are…you’re as close to me as my next door neighbor.

Additionally, if you have elementary school kids, I am reading aloud the book The Hundred and One Dalmatians. I am doing one chapter at a time on my school district YouTube Channel. Here is the first chapter. The others will appear as I get to them and read them from different locations. Subscribe to the channel and be notified of new chapters. My brother used to read this book to me when we were young. As a substitute teacher for elementary kids, I know that they enjoy being read to. I am also enjoying the process.

Reading Chapter 1 of The Hundred and One Dalmations

Please share this Story Time opportunity with anyone who you know with kids. Some of the conversations are related to the play that was going to be performed by the students in my wife’s elementary school classes. Everyone should be able to relate.

Story Time The Hundred and One Dalmatians

On april 9 and 10 of this year, the students at my wife’s elementary school were scheduled to perform an elementary junior version of the Disney musical 101 Dalmatians. During the rehearsals, I had always told the students of the subtle differences in the book version of the story. Sadly, due to the international pandemic, the students were unable to perform this show. In an effort to keep them from totally missing out on their experience, I have taken it upon myself to read the book to them through consecutive YouTube videos.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be reading one chapter a night and then having them stay on YouTube. This will hopefully encourage the kids (grades 3 to 5) to want to read more and give them some degree of continuity. I have also decided to read to them from a variety of different locations to encourage them to “bring a book” with them when they are out.

I am reading from an old Signet copy of The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. As I read, if I come upon any illustrations that can help with the story, I flash them up along side of my face. This way I don’t break the continuity. While I have targeted the students at my wife’s school, there is no reason why this can’t be made available to all kids…of any age.

My brother was a very good reader when he was in elementary school. I was not. He used to take great pleasure in reading to my brothers and sister some of the stories that he enjoyed in class. When I have been in the elementary schools, they also enjoy hearing stories. If this helps you get through this uniquely challenging family time I would be glad if you could share it.

Here is the link to the premiere.

A Seismic Change

Yesterday I was watching a special extended news program regarding the local response to the COVID-19 outbreak. During the news broadcast there was a sudden boom and shaking of my chair, violent shaking that lasted for about 5 seconds. The government put the seismic measurement at 4.9. The news had already gone to commercial but was cut back immediately to the local anchor who was knocked off his game. He was clearly shaken up and for the rest of the broadcast there was a trembling in his voice as the tremors continued.

Just two days ago I had been hiking in the mountains very close to the center of the quake. I remember thinking to myself that just one misstep could kill me or seriously injure me. I also thought about and earthquake. The ground was rock solid. There was nothing but rock. This was unthinkable. Imagine the power to move all of this rock.

There are protocols for what happens in a quake. Emergency vehicles have to exit their structures so that they are not trapped in the event of a collapse. Local law enforcement is put on high alert and now, our cell phones send out the emergency message. Everyone knows what to do but it doesn’t make it any easier. The very ground we live on, the literal foundation of our lives has become unreliable.

This is what we, as a society are facing right now. All of the things that we held dear are now unreliable. Our jobs, our schools, and certainly our government officials have become as unstable as the ground was last night. We want to have back what we have lost. At this point, we have been so shocked at the speed that it has vanished that we miss our opportunities.

We now have the opportunity to rethink a lot of things. We can re-imagine our lives. In the war against a killer virus, we have all become foot soldiers in the battle against the pandemic. We are driving our cars less and the air is beginning to clear around our urban centers. Gas prices have come down and this could contribute to lower costs of moving goods and services around. Our ability to work from our homes has made the highways less crowded. We have all had to embrace technology just to continue to survive.

On a Hike with Mike

I have seen far too many people focus on the negative aspects of this “crisis”. I choose to look at the situation with a different perspective. I choose to consider things that I never would have considered before. I refuse to take a bias against anything as we are in a new world. The ground has moved. It may knock me down but I will get up. If the path is gone, I will make a new one. I will be a better person in the end.

If you build it…

I smelled a faint burning electrical smell in my house. It was actually coming from my bedroom…specifically my computer. I know that I should have investigated this further. I didn’t. Eventually, my computer started to act funny. It started coming on and off when it was supposed to be sleeping. About a week later, it was dead. I found the power cord to the power supply was melted. The resulting damage to the motherboard forced a hard decision.

The new upgraded pc and cabinet.

This computer cabinet had seen about four different motherboards. Each one required a bump up in the processor. Also a jump in the RAM. Many of the upgrades remained with Windows XP. I was a very late mover out of XP. When I made the move to Windows 10, I left the ASUS and Intel Motherboards and moved to MSI. This is the brand of the computer game enthusiasts.

My recent interest in Day Trading has required me to add more monitors. While I have exhausted what I could put into the old cabinet without an extra video card, I could still get 3 to work. When this gets up and running, I will still have 3 working. I need to wait on the video card as this is already too expensive. I needed to replace the processor, the motherboard and the RAM already. It is over $1000.

I probably could have saved the old computer if I had reacted sooner. The old video card was pulled because the fan on it was so loud. Day traders need multiple monitor setups and I know I will have to add a video card which means more fan noise. Well, the new case that I had to buy to accommodate the new requirements of the video cards also contains 5 case fans for cooling. When I add more video cards there will be two more fans. If you include the power supply and the processor fan, this is going to be one loud pc setup. I hope that I will still be married next week.

A Whole New Me

So what about creativity??? There is no better message to convey to the world than the one where you are reminded that you create your reality everyday. It’s up to you. I learned that with my health. It goes like this. I wanted ice cream. My wife wanted a cookbook. We went to the bookstore. She went for a diet. I went for ice cream. On the aisle on the way to the ice cream shop in the mall, I ran across a display with books written by a particular doctor. I had seen a couple videos on the Internet. I was intrigued. I bought the book, read it and gave it a chance…really gave it a chance and now…I am a whole new me.

Creation takes time. I know it. So…having never given anything a chance that it should have…I finally decided to run the program. It helps that it was written by a doctor. It helps that he has a practice right here in the Coachella Valley where I live. I still haven’t seen him. I have run the program. Here is where I started.

I began in chronic pain from the knee. I had both blood clots in my leg and torn cartilage in my knees. I know that is what I have. I didn’t even need to get a diagnosis. I did go to the doctor in June of 2018 so that I could get a real doctor in my California home. He ran a bunch of baseline tests. He didn’t show extreme concern since the hospital already had me on blood thinners from the most recent DVT.

I ignored my condition for about a year and then in May of 2019, I began the program based on The Plant Paradox. It is a book by Dr. Steven Gundry. It has been 149 days. I went for a followup series of blood tests. And my eyes are opened.

Test6/5/1810/8/19
HDL4752
Chol/HDL Ratio4.993.9
VLDL CHol4112
Cholesterol234205
Triglycerides20762
Non HDL187153
LDL Calc146141
LDL/HDL Ratio32.7

So these numbers are my “so far” numbers. The other aspects include a weight loss of 30 pounds, the reduction in joint pain in my knees and shoulder. All this with no medication, in fact even a reduction in medication for my blood thinner. The cost was about $14 for a Kindle book and the ability to read and follow a plan.

In my next post, I will discuss my recent visit to a medical practice that is promoting Stem Cell therapy. It will be an eye opener.

Stewardship-A Care Full View of the World

Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

The Amazon is burning. Why should I care? People are starving. Why should we care? The Earth is warming. What is the big concern?

We live but a small time in the ongoing existence of our planet. Humans lived only a small time on this planet according to scientists. Why then do we face such a broad array of problems from the environment to politics to social woes and why are those problems so critical right now?

It is promoted by society, particularly commercial society that we should be striving for financial independence and security. Those who have this to sell believe that those that don’t have only themselves to blame. It’s a pitch made to a world that believes that it can own something. Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

In church, one of the hardest topics for preachers to preach on is finances. It’s in the Bible that God owns everything. He also requires the first fruits. It’s a hard pill for Christians to swallow so it’s delivered with so much “tact” that it has lost its meaning. The truth is that it is a universal truth. We can’t own anything here…ever. Oh yeah, we can possess it for awhile, but we can’t own it. The only thing that we can own is our mindset. It is this that will cause us to destroy the very world that we live in.

I am not an owner, but a caretaker. While I am here, I have to take care of that which gives me life…my planet. I cannot be careless because if I am careless then I am just a taker. If I am a taker without giving as so many of us are…we will keep on taking until we tip the scales. I cannot be carefree because without the care I cannot be free.

As the political season continues to drag on in the US, we need to care more and not care less. When the tipping point is reached in the environment, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in the economy, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in international politics (aka Presidential trash talk), there will be nothing we can do to recover from the devastation.

My Shit Doesn’t Stink

I have lost over 14 pounds in 30 days. This is faster than what I thought was an aggressive weight loss program with counting calories.

I know that this is usually a comment made in the second person or the third person, but for years I’ve been acutely aware of the opposite. Well, since I have begun a new eating program, I can actually say with confidence that my shit doesn’t stink. It really doesn’t and it doesn’t stick either. I have found the exercise in use of toilet paper is just that…an exercise.

On May 13, I started a program that is based on a book that I bought called The Plant Paradox. This book was written by a Cardiologist named Dr. Steven Gundry. He described his life as a heart surgeon as somewhat frustrating. He was 70 pounds overweight and telling his patients that they were unhealthy and they had to do something about their health. This prompted his own journey of discovery and now leads me to mine.

I used be able to manage my weight by simple calorie counting and exercise. This no longer worked for me and in spite of anything I tried, I couldn’t get the weight off. This program finally explained my situation by identifying my current situation and documenting symptoms that I was experiencing. I made the decision to go on the program and I committed to giving it the time necessary to make a difference. That is 6 weeks. Well, it has been a month and not 6 weeks and I can say without a doubt that there is evidence that what he says is true.

I have lost over 14 pounds in 30 days. This is faster than what I thought was an aggressive weight loss program with counting calories. I was thinking that 2 pounds a week was a little aggressive. My results are about 3 pounds a week and it is not slowing down. I haven’t really changed my exercise routine. Other changes that the doctor said would take place in my digestive tract included less bloating, easier time in the bathroom and the fact that the toilet paper would be clean. He never mentioned about the smell going away. That is part of my evidence of cleaning up my act.

I will definitely finish up the 6 weeks and then go beyond. At the 6 week time, I will make an appointment with my primary care doctor and see if I can get off my blood thinning medication. Also, I will make an appointment with Dr. Steven Gundry who is local to my new home in Palm Springs. This will confirm the good news about my new choices.

The Role of the Choral Musician

Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

I have been a choral music teacher and director for many years. Now, when I get the chance, I am a singer in a choir. I may have a unique perspective when it comes to the rest of the choir membership. The issue of cell phone use in rehearsal has come up in my choir where I am a participant. Of course, the issue comes up in social media…and then there is the back and forth…and then there is the defensiveness…and, well some philosophies come out that are somewhat confusing. Still, it seems that the choral ensemble member doesn’t know what their role is in the group.

A choral music participant must be on time with their music and a pencil and be actively engaged in the choral music rehearsal process all the time. Active engagement requires all of the senses. It means watching and learning while other parts are being played or performed. Clearly, this has been a problem before cell phones particularly in high school where the typically overachieving student will try to sneak in a little homework. It is now magnified by the presence of electronic distractions.

From the director’s perspective, it is not always easy to see who is disengaged from the rehearsal because the phone is obscured behind the folder. It is easy to see from the choir chair, from the rows and seats nearby, and yes, it is very distracting.

A common level of commitment to the group means that everyone is desiring a good rehearsal situation. Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

The following issues are completely irrelevant.

  • It’s not a professional/paid choir. This is a complete cop out for those who don’t want to be held to the musicianship standards that we should all be striving to maintain. Whether you are in a grade school, high school, college or church and community group, you are still singing choral music and the standard for rehearsal should be the same. The compliance might not be as growth should bring maturity and older, experienced, and more seasoned groups should be much better prepared.
  • It’s not your job to police the choir, it is the director’s job. This one was mentioned in the “we’re all adults here” commentary. I guess that the concern is that you shouldn’t bring this to the director’s attention. It is likened to the grade school tattletale. Well, there are only two choices here. Go to the director and say that you are distracted or go directly to the source of the problem. Either way, ignoring the problem is the wrong choice. That’s the “mind your own business” implication.

The choir can be likened to a team. We all need to know our role. We all need to do our job.

Creating Your Own Reality

Whether it’s composing, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, or any other art, the act of creativity is disciplined and on purpose.

It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to create a vision for your future. My son, Ryan had a vision for his life to be a professional drummer. He wanted to perform on Broadway. He made his Broadway debut on 9/9/2018 in Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theater. Today he is a drummer for the First National Tour of the same production. This didn’t just happen. This didn’t just drop in his lap. He created his reality through vision and hard work and yes, he worked on his creativity muscle.

That’s right. Creativity is something that gets better through exercise. The musical performance above is on someone else’s channel, but it contains an original piece of music performed by the composer. Whether it’s composing, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, or any other art, the act of creativity is disciplined and on purpose. This goes for life as well as art.

Conformity and standardization have become buzz words and they are killing the very creativity that all people will need in the very near future as jobs disappear. Today in schools, entire months are dedicated to testing to see how students measure up to standards. Then they return to their regularly scheduled learning complete with even more tests and grades.

Ken Robinson has suggested that schools do kill creativity. Maybe there should be a course in how to survive school so you can still be successful in spite of it.

Ken Robinson has suggested that schools do kill creativity. Maybe there should be a course in how to survive school so you can still be successful in spite of it.

Who’s idea was this…college thing?

Maybe there would be far less scandals about entering college if the child understood or believed in the education that they were receiving or were likely to get in college enough to make the move themselves.

In a recent article in USA Today, I was introduced to a term that I never heard before. It was Snowplow Parents. This article spoke about the parents of today clearing away obstacles from their children’s world, whether created by others or themselves even when they entered college. Which begs the question, “was it really the child’s choice to to in the first place?”

Maybe there would be far less scandals about entering college if the child understood or believed in the education that they were receiving or were likely to get in college enough to make the move themselves. They also would have to make the decision to keep up with all of the deadlines…themselves. This should happen without counselors and parents doing everything for them.

Then maybe, ust maybe, the kids who belonged in college would be the only ones there. What do you think?