Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Orleans - Part 1

Mid afternoon on Saturday I arrived in New Orleans on a business trip. As the hotel is in the French district I traveled down a day early to take in Bourbon Street life and to enjoy some of the jazz clubs. When I checked in I quickly grabbed the camera to take a few quick shots.

Bourbon Street is definitely an interesting place. During the late afternoon and early evening the street is closed to vehicle traffic. As the sun goes down the swarms descend upon the restaurants, the clubs and the various shops. One thing that caught my attention was that restaurants sell alcohol out a window and people walk down the street consuming their drinks. The whole street is a party atmosphere with every club blasting its music out onto the streets through large open doors and windows. The blending of Jazz, Blues, Cajun, and Rock combining with the hum of the crowd turned the street into one great cacophony.

I spent a good ninety-minutes enjoying jazz at Maison Bourbon. The five member group had a trumpet, clarinet/saxophone, bass, piano and drums. Amongst their items they played Bourbon Street, Blueberry Hill, When the Saints Go Marching In, and A Closer Walk With Thee in honor of a local jazz player who passed away in the last week. There is no cover charge but you better to be prepared to pay for $8 cokes per set. Later I enjoyed another jazz performance by Steamboat Willie, a group playing in a courtyard (behind the jazz statue pic). This group was also five members, trumpet, trombone, drums, keyboard and sax.

Oh Jen, for your information beads were tossed to people in the crowds from party goers on a balcony. Jen, FYI, it does not contain the same expectations as happens during Marti Gras. That said, I did see three gals and one guy who accepted them in the Marti Gras tradition. I received two strands of beads that I received from girls on a balcony attending a Bachelorette party, and two more from another party on the balcony of another club. I plan on presenting them to Evie (Mardi Gras tradition expected to be in force LOL).

It is a good thing that I asked for an inside room (a room overlooking the courtyard or pool) versus a room with a balcony overlooking street. The party on Bourbon Street goes until after two in the morning. As it is I was awaken at 1:10 and 1:55 by enthusiastic guests returning to their rooms.

Above is Maison Bourbon, a jazz club. Below are to street scenes.

This is where Steamboat Willie played Saturday night and where I had breakfast Sunday morning.

Above is the oldest church in the city and below is a quick shot of some early evening party goers. The crowds nearly tripled by eight Saturday night.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Inclement Weather

We awoke this morning to freezing rain and a wintry mix throughout the area. Schools throughout the area from Frederick MD to Winchester VA to Culpeper VA to Fredericksburg are closed….except for Washington DC schools. All colleges in the area are closed. All country governments in the area are under liberal leave and a two hour delayed opening except for the Washington DC government. Once again the Washington DC government and school boards march to a happlyland drummer by expecting children to walk down ice covered sidewalks and cross streets where cars are sliding.

Liberal leave is a day when you can stay home and have it credited as a sick day. One does not need to inform one’s supervisor as it is assumed that most people will not be coming to the office.

I left home early to get into the office ahead of what traffic may be on the roads mid morning. Indeed the traffic was light, so light that it was lighter than it is on Sunday morning. With being out of town a good part of this week and all but Friday next week, today will be a good day to plow through the mail and get memos/letter drafted without being interrupted.

It is interesting how this area handles inclement weather. Road departments put salt on the roads by the buckets full. From last week’s storm the roads are still covered in white with the salt so much so that yesterday traveling to and from work you could see salt dust hanging in the area as cars stirred it. Though there is already plenty of salt on the main roads, more again is being applied in great volume while the side roads and sidewalks are totally ignored.

Five to eight hours ahead of a storm you will find legions of salt trucks and plows sitting along the side of the road waiting for the storm to hit. Early Wednesday evening there was a chance we would receive some light snow. On my way back from Warrenton mid-evening I passed a group of 8 trucks and plows parked along the shoulder waiting for the light flurry, a flurry that did not materialize.

If we received three inches of snow the area would be virtually paralyzed for one to two days. If we received a third of what Watertown NY has received I fear it would be a National Disaster locally for a month or more. Outside the area, even though the Federal Goverment would be closed for weeks, I am confident that life in the nation would continue on fine without the nation's government meeting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

College Auditions Are Over!

The last of the college auditions are over! Josh was a VaTech yesterday morning. While he was doing his audition I was in a business meeting at the local Corps. At the same time Evie was wondering campus taking pictures.

In my books Tech along with Dalhousie have the best looking campuses and campus design of any college I know. Admittedly I only have visited only around fifty or so campuses.

The audition process varies widely. Some schools have you play a piece and talk with you. Others have the potential student play a piece, an etude and scales. Some include at theory test and others do not. Some took Josh on a tour of their facility, others did not do so. Some auditions included a short “lesson” to see how a student responds to instruction and how quick they learn. At some schools the process is short, warm-up and audition whereas others it spans four to five hours.

The places with the best self contained music facilities would be WVU and George Mason (we cannot speak to LSU as Josh auditioned via CD).

Now we have the waiting game to see what music schools he makes and the offers he receives. By mid March the picture should become more clear.

PS: On the return trip my car hit the straight "1"s, 111,111 miles.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Big Day For Josh

Today was a significant day for Josh. For the first time he cast a vote by voting in the Democratic primary.

One of the big issues with attending a college out of state is the out of state tuition fees. Today Josh received a letter informing him that he is being awarded a 4 year general scholarship in the amount of $45,200, leaving him with paying only $1,688 in tuition per year. This award is based upon his grades and SAT scores. Room and Board is $6,850/yr. If tuition increased, so does the scholarship so that his portion will remain at the same proportion.

We wait to see what other scholarships are offered by the other schools. WVU has already offered a $3,000 general scholarship.

The offer from LSU vertually brings the cost of attending LSU as the same as living at home and attending George Mason. If Josh is offered a nice music scholarship from LSU, then LSU is likely to be the where he goes, if he gets accepted in their music program (his audition CD has just been sent). Though LSU has been his top choice, it was a long shot until today.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Visit to WVU

Another audition for Josh has been completed. Just after 5 we headed for Morgantown WV for Josh’s Saturday audition at WVU. From the net we had booked a room at a Golf and Spa resort that overlooked Cheat Lake (just outside Morgantown) for about the price of a discount motel near campus. As the resort was booked out and our room given to another we were upgraded to a two bedroom condo that came with an equipped kitchen and a fireplace in the living room.

The audition went well. Saturday night we enjoyed a wonderful visit at a local restaurant with Tom and Doreen’s daughter Stephanie and her family. The last time I saw her was the ten days I spent at Uncle Bert’s cottage the summer before I married Evie. Needless to say I was very pleased to connect with her. She and Jeff are part of WVU’s medical school and have to lovely children, Nate and Amelia. Even if Josh does not attend WVU with them being only three hours away, it is our hope that we will have an opportunity to visit several times over the coming years.

Below are some pictures. The first is of Cheat Lake, then the condo and the view from our condo.

Above is the WVU Fine Arts Center on the second campus just north of the downtown area (connected by a variation of monorail system). They have a main auditorium as well as several smaller auditoriums. Below are the upper level housing the main auditorium are the faculty offices, classrooms, rehersal rooms and practice rooms. The brass band program has about 300 full-time students, 200 of whom are music education students. Below are other buildings on the main campus downtown.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dobson vs. McCain

Today Dr. James Dobson has weighed into the Republican primary. Today Doctor Dobson announced.

"I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.

….McCain actually considered leaving the GOP caucus in 2001, and approached John Kerry about being Kerry’s running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does NOT make the medicine go down. I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.”

"But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can't vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life. These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I am affiliated. They do reflect my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country."

Around noon today, Dr. Dobson talked to national talk-show host Dennis Prager. He made it clear he was not endorsing anyone.

"Dr. Dobson's statement speaks for itself," said Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media relations for Focus on the Family Action. "He made it as a private citizen, and it reflects his personal opinion of Sen. McCain's candidacy and record. People can read into it what they like; all I see is his own personal 'straight talk' regarding why he can't vote for one candidate."

While there are several issues that I can take with the above statement, for this blog I will note only three. The logic behind Schneeberger saying that Dobson is not endorsing anyone is laughable. If there are four candidates and you clearly state you cannot support A, B or C then you are supporting D.

Further, to claim “These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I am affiliated” are contradicted by posting the statement on the web page of the organization with which he is affiliated. To speak as a private citizen, to have it covered by the press I could respect if he did not post it on the organization’s web site. Dobson is playing the politician with a sweeping generalized statement that is designed to be dramatic and obfuscate.

The third is with regard to verbal statements that are made by religious leaders and religious conservative pundits. This afternoon statements were made on various shows questioning how can anyone who is an “evangelical Christian” vote of McCain. The implications are:
a) That American evangelical Christians are superior to other forms of Christianity,
b) That American evangelicals have greater insight into the truth than others (which is a very arrogant assumption)
c) That anyone who votes for Clinton or Obama or McCain is betraying their faith and cannot be a real evangelical Christian.

If McCain wins the November election, I suspect that he will be more gracious toward Dobson than Dobson is toward him. When Dobson and his association contacts him upon his election I would not blame a McCain White House from saying that if he openly annouced that he would not be not be participating in the voting process as an upright then why should he listen to Dobson.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl Thoughts

Congratulations to the New York Giants on their victory in the Super Bowl. The Patriots were on the verge of being proclaimed one of the best football teams of all time, if not the best team of all time. If they were 18-1 at the end of the year, and the one lost was mid season arguments could be made for them being one of the best teams, but having that one lost in the Super Bowl changes the whole picture.

This year’s Patriots will go into history as a very good team, but not one of the best teams. A team should not be considered for greatness unless the win the big game. Great teams may stumble during the season for a game or two but when the time comes winning the big games, they deliver. New England did not deliver when it was time. Hence, they will be forever viewed as the quintessential example of the team who had the talent but who stopped short of being great.

Kudos to Eli Manning to David Tyree for giving the sports world a play that will go down as one of the greatest plays in sports history. With time running out, Manning is cornered but shockingly escapes being tackled twice, after casting off a defender who was pulling at his jersey, Manning coolly looks down the field finds a receiver in the midst of two defenders. Tyree out leaps the two defenders, catches the ball between the one hand and his helmet. Tyree had enough presence of mind and skill that as he was being tackled he is able to bring his other hand up to the ball to ensure it is cradled and secured. That play moved the Giants from midfield into scoring range.

Manning escaping was impressive. Under immense pressure from the Patriots and the clock, the pass was perfect. The catch was outstanding. All this makes it an excellent play. All of it happening at a crucial time of the game with time running out, and with the driving resulting in the game winning touchdown transforms it into one of the greatest plays in sports history.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ugly Car

Several posts ago I invited "ugly car" nominations. Though the Hummer seemed to have one that vote, I am putting forward another 03 Taurus.

My Army Taurus has had a sad time of late. While I was in Kansas we had some rain and snow in the DC area. Some of material on the underside of the garage roof became wet and let go covering my car below. The car has been washed but a residue from bumper to bumper has remained. While much of it will come off with auto detailing, there are three or four stains (rust colored stains) that have penetrated into the paint and will demand painting.

The estimates for repair are all over the place, from $400 to a full paint job at $6,500. While getting estimates, one eager beaver of a driver pulled out from a side business and hit the car on the front driver’s side. That repair is going to be just over $1,050.

The adjustor is going to be looking at the car this week…it is possible, hopefully not as it runs well, the vehicle will be written off. See pics below. First is the area that let go onto the car.