Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring cleaning phase I

It was cooler here today. The morning began with an overcast sky, and I wondered if it would rain.  But it didn't.

Jilda drove to work, but the regular attendees were no-shows, so she headed home. 
We decided to approach spring chores differently this year. In the past, we chose a day, worked until we were frazzled, and then crashed. Tender knees and sore shoulders have taught us to pace ourselves. So that's what we did today. 

We made a list of all that we need to do and then divided it into chunks. The first piece we worked on today.

It's actually much easier using this approach because we weren't dragging at the end of the day. In fact, I decided to do a little prep work in the yard. 

Firing up the old lawn mower, I cut the backyard. After that, I decided to till up our small garden patch by the fence.  Ol' Hook went out with me to the garden and chased butterflies.

The mower and tiller cranked as expected, so I made short work of the last two chores of the day.

Color me spring-happy. I hope your day has been productive too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy spring

I checked out a state car from the carpool today and headed west to Fayette. It's spring break at the college, but the staff still works. That's OK with me because if I don't work, I don't get paid. 

My partner is still new to the job, and he needed some coaching on how to enter data. He would have driven to my office, but it was such a lovely day, I decided to take one for the home team :)

Punching the Audible icon on my phone, I listened to the last few chapters of the Bruce Springsteen autobiography as I drove. The vehicle had all the fancy stuff. At one point, when I looked at the dash, the thermometer read 87 degrees. The first days of spring and it was warm enough to swim.

It's amazing what a little warm weather does to plants. At one point on a winding country road, I came upon a scene that caught my eye. The mirror showed no one was in sight either behind or ahead of me, so I pulled to the side of the road. Leaving the car idling, I got out and stepped over to a pasture fence and snapped a few pictures. I'm not sure what kind of grass has yellow flowers, but I plan to do research and plant that grass in my fields.

We had a few days of chilly weather this winter, but I didn't need a coat.

Happy spring.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Are there any UFOs still out there? ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Click HERE to see source for picture

I wonder what happened to UFOs? When I was younger, people around the world reported seeing them in the sky. Those living in Alabama and Mississippi trailer parks had a front row seat. Maybe the crafts used magnets for propulsion and metal structures attracted them. Or maybe it was the smell of fried chicken that enticed them to the south, but UFOs were more common here. Jilda and I lived in a trailer park for almost ten years, but we never saw any UFOs.
I worked for The Community News in the early 1970s. One evening I got a call from a reader that lived in the Red Star Hill community below Dora. “We can see UFOs down here.” Ever the newsman, Jilda and I hopped in my trusty, rusty Plymouth Valiant and headed down to Red Star Hill.
We arrived as dusk faded into the darkness of a moonless night. There were about 20 people standing around swatting mosquitoes off their arms and looking into the sky.
After greeting us, Mrs. Combs pointed to the east and said, “They would hover there for a few minutes and an instant later they’d be over there.” She pointed to the south. “They had flashing lights that changed colors, and moving faster than any airplane I’ve ever seen.” Several neighbors nodded in agreement. I had no doubt they saw something in the sky.
We stood outside with eyes glued to the sky for a long while. A photograph of an unidentified flying
object would be big news. I saw a couple shooting stars, but no UFO.
When the munching mosquitos became unbearable, Mrs. Combs invited us inside for a glass of ice tea. Jilda and I both knew Mrs. Combs for most of our lives. We sat on her sofa and talked about UFOs and the possibility of intelligent life “out there.”
Fast forward to the present. Astronomers announced in February that they’d found seven inhabitable planets. That means they could potentially support life. One scientist said, “…They are all about the same size as earth. And they’re at the right distance from their star so that they could have a kind of climate that, you know, you might enjoy in Washington D.C.” The planets are in the TRAPPIST-1 system which is 39 light years away. Since we haven’t developed a Star Trek hyper drive yet, it might be a minute before we can travel there. But who knows?
I think the work has already begun. I read recently where the billionaire businessman Elon Musk is working on a project to send a manned spacecraft to the moon in 2018. His goal is to make space travel available to regular citizens with pockets deep enough to pay for a ticket. I think I’ll wait until they work out the kinks before buying a ticket. But taking a honeymoon cruise around the moon would be exciting. It’s fun to think about. It might only be a matter of time before Wal-Mart opens a location on Lunar Avenue.
If a UFO came to our planet today, there’s a chance we’d be out of luck. Once they saw all the insane things going on, they might assume there is no intelligent life here and move on to other parts of the Universe.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Better art

There is something soul-affirming when you are surrounded by a group of kindred spirits. I'm talking about people pursuing an art or craft for the pure purpose of perfecting your that you can do something you love even better.

Our instructors for the weekend were Sally Barris and Tom Kimmel. They both have songs recorded by artists you've heard on the radio, and some of their songs were used in movies.

They gave freely of they knowledge, skills, and experience in a difficult field.  Making money writing songs has always been difficult, but the way the world now consumes music is changing. People are moving away from commercial radio and listening more to streaming services where they can make everything on their playlist a song they love.

That sounds good, but streaming services pay a fraction of what radios pay in royalties. That means less money for the creators of music. But as I've often said, "If you're getting into songwriting for the money, you're getting into the wrong business." 

Most of the people attending the workshops this weekend didn't come to learn how to earn money writing songs, but to learn how to create better art.

Stone and Iron Sculpture in the front of the chapel at Camp McDowell

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Magical Saturday

We had not WIFI at the Alabama Folk School so here is the post from last night.

Jilda and I were invited to attend a workshop at the Alabama Folk School this weekend. The events included a Songwriter workshop and a beginning Blacksmith workshop.  Rooms were included at a beautiful rustic lodge. Had it been a little cooler, we would have built a fire in the fireplace.

Today (Saturday) after a day of seminars on how to improve your song structure, the group of 11 songwriters along with two instructors, collaborated on a song. Together we wrote the chorus and one verse so that everyone would know the structure and melody. Then we all split up into groups to write individual verses.

Normally, Jilda and I co-write with others, but the instructor thought it would be a good idea for us to work with other people.  Neither of the two people in my group had ever co-written before. It's an interesting exercise that requires a few ground rules, some trust, and an open mind. It was fun, and the instructor recorded the music, and each team sang their verse. 

The end result may be a little wonky, but the exercise was a good one for teambuilding.

I'm not sure if I can send this out tonight because I can't seem to get a WiFi signal. If not, I'll send it out when I get home.

I hope your Saturday has been as interesting.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Learning new things

Jilda and I have an opportunity to attend a songwriter workshop at the Alabama Folk School. The event comes up in a few weeks and we asked ourselves if we thought a workshop would be helpful. We’ve been writing songs for over 40 years. The thing is, the more we learn, the more we realize I don’t know squat.

Our songwriter friend Andfew
I’m listening to Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography right now. I've always loved his music. Bruce takes a deep dive on the various projects he’s done through the years – what was going on in his life, what he was thinking, and why he wrote the songs the way he did. After each segment in which he discusses particular songs, I stopped the book, went to Spotify and listened to his song. Listening to music in this way is giving me a deep appreciation for his songwriting approach.

Jilda and I both hope the upcoming workshop is a good one. There is nothing more rewarding than learning things that can help you do your work better.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Morning light

The light this morning at sunrise was nothing less than remarkable. The sun painted the high-level clouds and made them look like wisps of cotton candy strewn across the sky. When I went to the kitchen to refill our coffee cups, I noticed the crowns of the trees in the garden and further down the field close to the barn were golden.

I was doubtful whether the camera in my phone could capture the color, but it did a pretty good job.

My contacts, for the last several days, have been almost unbearable. I'd ordered new ones over two weeks ago but they were delayed until today.

After work, I drove into Birmingham to fetch them. Most of the roads into the city are under construction. Normally, a trip to Hoover, which is south of Birmingham, takes a little less than an hour, but with traffic delays, it can take twice that long.

I decided to go the back way and dodge the construction. It took a little longer, but the traffic flowed.

This evening I feel as though I've been "Rode hard, spurred deep, and put up wet," as the old saying goes.

I hope today has been a good one for you.

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