Monthly Archives: March 2017

What music do you like?

We spent much of Sunday evening at the United World College, attending a student recital, which featured some excellent instrumental and vocal offerings.

We went as guests of our get-away student, Belen Sogo Mielgo, from Madrid, Spain.

Some of the entrants sang, some played the piano, and with kids in the late teens (and even of any age), there’s bound to be a slip or two — obvious to all.

So I remembered my own youth, when I was a work-study student at Highlands University’s music department. I worked under then-chairman Champ Tyrone and spent time with Ronald Wynn, the choral director. Once I asked Wynn, “You know that piano recital you asked me to tape last night at Ilfeld: Well, when the pianist hit the wrong note, why is it that everyone noticed?”

Wynn explained why even the most un-musical person on the planet — I think he was referring to me — notices keyboard errors. He spoke in terms too technical for me, and through no fault of his, I failed to take note of the tenor of his explanation.

But rather than turn this into a treatise on how lay persons take in music, let me digress to discuss our family’s experience with the first and only piano our family ever owned. Continue reading

‘For want of a nail . . .’

There’s an old rhyme that clearly illustrates the need for things working together. It reads: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost.

Dire consequences must have occurred when the above battle was being waged. But how about the big difference a simple punctuation mark can make? Can its inclusion or omission create or settle a lawsuit?

I refer to the Oxford comma, a tiny punctuation mark whose name many of us have never heard of. I don’t I recall ever hearing about the Oxford Comma in all my 12 years at Immaculate Conception School in Las Vegas.

Admittedly, that was a long time ago. True, Oxford University had been around a number of years before my classmates and I studied at the local parochial school. So the English college must have existed quite a while. How about its founding date of 872?

The Oxford comma, also known as the Harvard comma and the serial comma, is the punctuation mark between the second-to-the-last and the final item in a written list. Continue reading

Enjoy D.S.T. — It’s great!

She’s on the phone, railing to a fellow church member about the first days of Daylight Saving Time. “Oooh! I just hate it!” she tells her friend, Betty Quick, who agrees.

But really now, what can we say about the extra hour of daylight except that we’re glad it’s finally here? Each year — it seems since we married in 1966 — I’ve used the parable of the man whose blanket failed to cover his feet, leaving him shivering in bed. So he cut a foot off the top of the blanket and sewed it to the bottom. Problem solved. But maybe not. Now his head is cold. That’s how DST works.

Bonnie says she dislikes having daylight saving time clashing with standard time, but I wonder if it’s the chore of adjusting clocks twice a year that really factors into her annoyance.

Our third-born, Ben, arrived around the time a doughnut shop opened on Hot Springs Boulevard, north of Mills. Our son welcomed the new business, which for years he regarded as connected to the U.S. Energy Policy on Time.

Ben naturally associated the name of the donut shop, Daylight Donuts, with daylight saving time, and he often broached the subject that way to hint that his taste buds needed exercise in the form of a donut or a cinnamon roll. Continue reading

Less of a terrorist

Maybe my greying mustache and my already-greyed hair make me look more presentable to personnel with the Transportation Safety Administration at major U.S. and foreign airports. I say “maybe” because it seems I was hassled less than ever before on this go-round to Iceland.

There are a few perks to passing the age-75 barrier: People my age and older don’t need to remove their shoes when passing through that scanners that check for strange objects. I don’t consider that such an honor, but merely a way to show up my wife, Bonnie, who has one more shoe-removing routine to undergo, before she reaches the Big Five-Oh.

Except for Icelandic Airlines’ mistakenly shipping my bag to Seattle and not returning it until we arrived home, the trip went well. One gets used to washing out clothes each night.

After my retirement from teaching, in 1999, I’ve captured myriad incidents that I hadn’t expected. This column is not intended to serve as a travelogue, but merely as a way to highlight some of the silly and not-so-silly incidents visited on a person (me), who for quite a while asked myself, “Self, do I look like a terrorist?”

In no particular order, here are a few encounters with airport officials that have made me wonder whether I’d ever make it home again: Continue reading

A cure for ‘huevoncy’

Almost daily we read or hear about someone who’s upset over not being allowed to use a restroom of his/her choice. When I taught at Highlands, the word “gender” referred to grammatical terms such as he or she. It wasn’t used to describe sex, as in male or female. But in the past few years, an issue — which I won’t dare try to officiate — regarding which restroom one should occupy, has become big news.

In the 1990s, most of my classes at Highlands University were on the second level of Mortimer Hall, the classroom building that used to rest where the new student union lives. It began as a dorm, possibly as early as the 1950s.

Even though it was a men’s dormitory, the upstairs restroom had all the necessary equipment for men, but at ground level, the layout clearly favored women. Why would women be in a men’s dorm? Maybe there were people of the opposite sex (er—gender) who worked there.

I never gave the restroom arrangement much thought until one of my students in an evening class, who was scheduled to give a presentation, asked me to guard the door to the men’s room while she made a pit stop. Obviously in discomfort, she said she wouldn’t be able to make the trip downstairs. Continue reading