Follow by Email

Thursday, March 8, 2018

In Praise of Google Search

In early February I went to a recital at the brand new Notre Dame O'Neill Music building.  Jamie Jordan, Daniel Drucker, and John Liberatore presented several very contemporary pieces for soprano and percussion and glass harmonica.  The pieces were so unusual that sometimes it was only by body language that I knew that the piece was over and it was time for applause.  Jordan and Drucker are NYC performers; Liberatore teaches composition at Notre Dame.  Maybe there were 35 of us at this free recital.  There should have been many more to hear artists of this caliber.

Every Monday Jim forwards a list of ND events to me.  John Liberatore was giving a lecture entitled "You've Got to Have the Right Notes. " I thought it would be interesting to see how he put together his compositions.  Again, there were not many of us in the audience.  At first I thought I was going to be the only woman there but two others showed up.   Craig Cramer, a professor of organ and a concert organist, took a seat next to me and we shared a score to follow.  The pressure was on!  Could I follow the score and turn the page at the right spot?  For the most part, the answer was yes!  And what fun it was to see how the pieces we were hearing were notated.

Liberatore's enthusiasm was great.  His lecture was interesting but at times I felt as if it was another meta-cognitive experience at Notre Dame, when I am an outsider looking in.   At least I am getting a glimpse of someone else's work and life even if I cannot understand all that I am hearing.

So why is this in praise of Google search?  I heard a term that I don't remember ever hearing before--"hocket."  I was not embarrassed to ask Craig  who quickly explained it to me in an aside.  Today I looked it up.  Hocket is one voice taking the melody while the other rests.   I understand the concept.  It's not complicated but I did not know the term.  I accessed two You-tube videos that explained it well along with musical examples from medieval monks singing plainsong and Duke Ellington's jazz with trombones alternating single notes very rapidly. In contemporary music like Liberatore's, there is usually a variety of timbre in the alternating voices.

I had to share it with my 14 year old grandson who plays trombone in a couple of jazz ensembles.  I hope he enjoys it too!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Libraries and Books

This morning, as I do once a month,  I chose books for homebound folks at the downtown library.  Three of them wanted large print Amish romances, mysteries, and general fiction; the fourth one regular print fiction but not mysteries. I have lists of books they have already read so I try to focus on the new book shelves.  It was easy this morning.  Sometimes when someone wants 10 or more volumes and they've read almost everything by Patterson and Steele, it gets time-consuming.   I hope that someday, when I may be homebound, someone will bring me books too.

On Wednesdays I scan and induct at our local Francis Branch Library.  It's 1 1/2 hours of intake, sorting, and putting books on carts ready to  be shelved.  Sometimes, it's alphabetizing too.  It is pretty boring and yet fairly intense as I work mostly non-stop.  It is my thank-you to the librarians who fill my requests for new books or books from other branches.

Today's finds--How many will I actually read? 
If I have any hobby, it might be reading.  I spend a fair amount of time looking at book suggestions from the New York Times, from Lithub, from NPR, and from lists others (like my daughter) post.  I record "Want to Read" books on my Goodreads page and on the local library site.  I frequently order out of print books from Better World Books--often only $3.98 each.  Sometimes I find books at
Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library and
check them out with my spousal ID.

Goodreads says I have read 459 books in the last six years.  That includes 134 mysteries, 16 biographies, and 76 memoirs.  I created a category for "intrepid women" which includes 27 books.   I have abandoned far more  books than are listed in my "abandoned" category.   My guess is that I actually read about half of the books I bring home.  If I start a book and it doesn't interest me, I go no further.  If I find a book I really love and finish, it is often hard to pick up another one immediately. 

Sometimes my favorite books have been serendipitous finds at a used book store or a for sale shelf at a library.  "Insomniac City" was one such find recently at the St Pete Beach Library--a memoir by Bill Hayes which was a tribute to New York City and his lover Oliver Sacks.  I needed a real book, not another Kindle one.

Today I came home with five books from the downtown library; five more came in the mail from Better World Books.  I have already dipped into three and rejected them.   But there are seven to go!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jim's Birthday

I have been home as long as I was in St. Pete Beach--three weeks.  It has not been a great three weeks.  I have struggled with insomnia for no real reason except it builds on itself.  There have been good nights followed by good days but too many wakeful nights followed by days of shakiness and some depression.

So I haven't felt like blogging and there really has been nothing to blog about!  Jeff once said, "Mom feels a blog coming on."  Well, for the last three weeks, I haven't!

But today is Jim's 72nd birthday so I will record the way we will celebrate it.  We don't usually give each other gifts.  If we want or need something, we buy it.  Jim is marking the day by going to the BMV to get his license renewed.  It didn't seem possible to do it online this time.

So we celebrate with food!  I fixed Jim French toast for breakfast--his favorite breakfast.  Tonight we will have lasagna, one of his favorite suppers.  It is a bit labor intensive so I don't make it often.  I'll buy some bread, asparagus, (his favorite vegetable-not mine), some good red wine, and an ice cream cake.  We'll have our usual wine and cheese at 5 pm I hope.

Our days have a comfortable routine in our retirement.  I do most of my activities in the morning--volunteering at the libraries, Women's Bible Study, organ practice, or walking with a friend (except they have almost all disappeared on me!).  Jim is home in the morning and then goes to Notre Dame to his office after lunch.  Yesterday he met two students who are writing dissertations but he often has no appointments.  He likes the presence of colleagues, the change of space, and the resources.

I am thankful for Jim, for his love for me and his tolerance of me, for his work and the support he is to young colleagues and students, and for his wry humor which gives me many a needed laugh.

We are thankful for his good health in spite of a few issues.  May it continue for another year!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Week Three

Vacation days tend to merge into each other.  We have eaten well and had our share of adventures.  Grouper tacos at Silas Dent, lobster roll at Pirate Pub and Grub, chicken marsala at Palm Court Restaurant, shrimp and corn chowder at Brass Monkey--all were wonderful.  I had called Palm Court to see when the chef would be making sea food risotto again because Sue said it was her favorite and I had said it was wonderful when I had it there two weeks ago.   The chef offered to make it especially for them and he did and they loved it!

Our Thursday adventure on a cold and windy day was a trip to the Chiluly Collection in St Petersburg which was interesting but the real hit was the glass blowing demonstration across the street--a part of our admittance fee.  We watched a piece made from the beginning to the end with continual narration.

Our Friday trip was to St. John's Pass where we ate outside on the fishing pier and then did some shopping.  On Saturday the Corey Street Art Show was fine but not compelling.  We shopped at Annabelle's Boutique on the same street.  In the afternoon we went to the East West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.  We thought it would be fun to see the arena and the football players, NFL scouts and Shriners were all housed at Tradewinds right across the street from us.  We were given tickets as we walked up to buy some.  That was good because the game was very boring and we left before half time.

Sunday was the best weather of the week.  I went to mass and didn't do much else.  Sue and Esther spent a lot of time on the beach.  We ate on the balcony on the bay side after watching a sunset we rated ten from the deck.

Monday turned out much better than predicted.   It may have reached 74 degrees.  We ate lunch at The Brass Monkey on the deck.  The shrimp-corn-crab chowder was wonderful.  The weather changed abruptly around 4:15 but we followed through with our plans for drinks at the Tiki Bar on the beach at Tradewinds Resort.

Tuesday began with a thick fog which cleared later in the morning.  The forecast again was not good but it was so wrong!  The day was lovely and warm with occasional threats of rain.  Sue and Esther enjoyed sitting on the beach with their Kindles in hand.  I joined them for another mango margarita at the Tiki Bar.  Our last fling was a dinner at the Spinners, a revolving restaurant on the 12th floor of the Grand Beach Hotel.  We watched a spectacular sunset over the Gulf and got a good look at just how much water surrounded us on the bay side and then watched the lights come on over the town.

Sue and Esther were picked up by a car at 5 am for their 7 am flight.  I have a late check-out at 12:30 and then will get a Lyft car to the airport.  It's a long day for me after a very early waking up.  I hope and pray it goes smoothly and I am with Jim again by suppertime.
The Lyft driver was there in three minutes, the plane left early, and we arrived in South Bend at least 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. However, the child in the seat behind me grabbed my hair and pulled it hard and the child in the seat in front of me reached around and tried to snatch my pinot grigio!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


January 17--It's the day that Jim flies home and Sue VanEngen and her sister Esther fly in.  If all goes well, I should be able to time the drop-off and pick-up perfectly.  The weather here is great and so far the flights are scheduled to be on time.  But we know from experience that it can go quite differently.  The east coast and Texas are having terrible storms.

I woke up very early and so did Jim.  We were both restless during the night.  I am a bit apprehensive about taking over the rental car driving.  I am also sad to say good-bye to Jim.  At the same time, I am eager to share this beautiful place with friends.

Jim and I have a comfortable routine.  Sue and I have traveled together before on a memorable trip years ago to Scotland to see Lucie and George Marsden and did very well.  In spite of some uneasiness, I am happy to stay another week in this lovely place and warmer weather.  And Jim is ready to go back to his research and office and at least two job talks for replacements for him at Notre Dame.

The past three days have been quiet ones.  On Sunday we found the aquarium at Guy Harvey Resort and enjoyed watching the 131 fish and a father and two sons in with them.  Jim watched  NFL playoffs and I joined him for some sports time.

 On Monday we ventured to Tyrone Mall where I bought a cute top at Loft for 60% off the sale price--and then struggled trying to find underwear to supplement what I brought along.  I would not pay Dillard's prices, waited in a long line at Penney's to find I had misunderstood the price, and then ended up at Marshall's down the road.  I was foolishly stubborn about what I was willing to pay!  We enjoyed browsing at a 3-2-1 Bookstore but didn't buy anything.

Yesterday we took an hour long walk on the beach in warm weather.  Our sweaters came off!  We had supper in Pass a Grille at the Brass Monkey on the deck watching a long-lasting and spread out sunset.  At that point our winter jackets felt good.  When we got back to the condo, we suffered along with all Irish fans in a double overtime loss to Louisville.

This morning I have carried five bags of groceries to Unit 412.  Our suitcases and books, etc. are next.  The unit is smaller but may be even lovelier in its decor than this one.  Sunrise Resort is a winner!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

You're not in Indiana any more!

Of course, it is warmer here.  Not balmy but maybe 40 degrees warmer than South Bend.  We did wear our winter jackets again today.

The palm trees and tough grass and bright flowers and the water surrounding us--all so lovely.  It is more pleasant than slushy snow.

 The conversation in the elevators is of two themes--the weather and where are you from?  People are from Ohio, Toronto, and Cape May, New Jersey.  Everywhere there are retirees working part-time or maybe full-time--at the grocery store bagging, waiting on tables, driving for Uber or doing maintenance at the resort.

The local CVS had only a very short array of stationery supplies unlike our CVS near Notre Dame.   However, there was a long row of t-shirts and an endless supply of sunscreen.  There are dozens of restaurants and bars within a mile of us--mostly independent ones and mostly very good.  Only one disappointed us so far. 

We have done things we never or rarely do at home.  We have eaten breakfast out twice and had beer and BBQ for lunch once.  We had beach drinks while watching the sunset at a rooftop bar.  I have relished seafood risotto, stuffed grouper, and lobster.

We tried the paddleboats at Tradewinds across the street--where we have permission to use the amenities.  We were not experts.  A passer-by asked if he should call out the Coast Guard!  We watched a 5K and 10K race on Gulf Boulevard right in front of our condo.  We have enjoyed some sunsets and sunrises but also the fogged in mornings and silvery bay.

We went to a movie--The Post--with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks--and it was excellent.  We felt like rubes not being familiar with buying tickets online, getting the ticket on my iphone, and then finding the right venue among the 20 possible at AMC Sundial 20!  As it turned out, no one even checked our tickets at 11:20 am.  We could have saved $20.

We walk to Publix almost daily and carry our groceries back to the condo.  We miss sports on our large high definition TV but Jim is coping.  We get a daily Tampa Times and read the New York Times on line.

It's a good life!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

St. Pete Beach--Sunrise Resort

We have been here almost a week.  Today we rented a car from Hertz--right across the street.  Agent Nick asked us, "So you decided you needed a car?"  I had postponed our rental for four days saying that we were doing fine without a car.  We responded, "We do not need a car, but we want a car."  I'm sure Jim would have been fine without one, but I do get a bit restless.

We did not take the car however for our daily trip for groceries at the Publix about a 15 minute walk from Sunrise Resort.  We did take the car to Pass a Grille, the southernmost part of St. Pete Beach, where we walked on the beach walk with a great view of sea grass and the Gulf--not blocked by condos and resorts.  We treated ourselves to a pina colada and a marguertia at the Hurricane Rooftop Bar and watched a quiet sunset.

Otherwise the week up to this point has been one of walking, eating, reading, and watching sports on TV.  We have spent a lot of time doing our 1000 piece puzzle, a gift from Susan and Jeff that pictures the beach at Ocean Grove.  Jim said at one point, "This is addictive."  It is amazing how fast 30 minutes can go looking for just the right pieces.  It is somewhat of a mindless activity, but still so satisfying when you find the piece that fits!

Our first few days here were cool.  In fact we had the furnace running and set at 71 or 72--just to keep warm with the poor insulation and lots of windows.  The last two days however we have shed our winter coats and turned the heat off and it has been lovely.