Thursday, December 17, 2009

The 2009 Groton Community Christmas Concert

Having missed a year singing with my Groton Community for the holiday season, last September I decided to join the choir again because it's so satisfying to give this gift to the community — to kick off the Christmas season. An incredible community outreach… choir members come from Groton, MA and these 13 surrounding towns: Ashby, Billerica, Chelmsford, Dunstable, Littleton, Pepperell, Shirley, Townsend, Tyngsboro, and Westford (MA) and Mason and Nashua (NH).

During the 2nd weekend in December it was my pleasure and privilege to sing with 75 adults and 35 children in the 35th annual “Groton Community Christmas Concert” — created and directed by Edie Tompkins, shown in the snapshot here on the left.

As a fund raiser this year, an innovative GCCC supporter created the framed hand-written score that you see in the picture of Edie's original composition “Down The Bethlehem Road ”, and the masterpiece was awarded to the lucky person holding the winning ticket. We sing this song every year as the concert encore. Check out this YouTube video clip of Edie directing this song during the final performance this year. Hopefully she won't mind me reporting her quip when I told her I'd taken this instead of singing: “If I'd known you were doing that I might not have been dancing !”. And I really like the kiss she blows to the choir as she walks away when it's over!

Since I am on stage for all of what the adult choir sings, I wasn't able to get much video or many snapshots of the concert itself. Nevertheless you can check out this Flickr album (or SlideShow) of mostly candid shots that I took during the warm-ups just before each of the performances. If you prefer video… this YouTube search lets your chose from all the video clips that I have posted from this year's concert, or you can see all of my GCCC clips over the past several years by clicking here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Dream Machine - a DeskTop Quad-Core Processor

I finally did it… I went out and bought a new desktop machine, ostensibly because the C: drive on my XP machine bit the dust, but really it was because my machine dated back to 2004 and I was just fed up with trying to keep it up-to-date with its dwindling set of hardware resources that just weren't cutting it any more.

So I bought myself a new HP — Pavilion Desktop with AMD Athlon™ II X4 Quad-Core Processor, pictured here if you wanna see the snapshot page from BestBuy, which I grabbed because these things change all the time.

Since my laptop (running Vista) is a Dual-Core, I knew for sure that I wanted to have at least 2 CPUs because otherwise it's really not possible to run any of the modern operating systems these days. But what I found when I went looking was that for "pretty much the same price" (as a beefed-up desktop) you could get a machine like I got, which has 4 CPUs, as you can see clearly on the left. Clearly? Yea, because the "CPU Usage History" (the Windows Task Manager) shows you what each of the CPUs is doing, with time on the horizontal axis.

Man, it's just not possible to flat-line this machine — at least, I haven't found a way to even slow it down! To get the picture on left (i.e. to "burn up" as much CPU as possible), I ran my usual 80-or-so processes but added in AutoStitch, a well-known image processing application that could easily render a single-CPU machine "useless" for the many minutes that it would take to stitch together a set of snapshots. In this case the rendering that took "15 minutes" before now takes about 30 seconds and there's still lots of CPU left to do other things while that's happening. e.g. Here's a panorama of the Amphitheater in Pompeii, produced by AutoStitch from 15 snapshots that Jilli took when she was in Italy recently.

Of course, this machine has a lot more going for it than CPU; that's just the feature that's easy to "make a picture of". I'm happy with the greatest o/s ever (Windows 7), the 1.6 TB of storage (on 2 disk drives), surround sound, the 6 GB of RAM, FireWire, and more USB's and etc. than I could ever use. (Yea, right. I know it's just a matter of time until I've figured out how to use all this. But I wanted to write about it while it's still way more of a computer than I've ever dreamed of.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

My reRoofing Project

Having put off "calling a roofer" to reShingle our 30-year-old roof for "a decade" — mostly because of the $10k estimate we got for that two years back… this Fall I decided to do it myself — as you see in the picture to the right which I got my buddy to take just in case no one believed me. It was a long job — much harder work than I had imagined, and it took me a lot longer (204 hours) than I had anticipated. But the good news is that I didn't do it alone (see below), and we had a really great six-week sequence of glorious New England Fall Days during which the weather was perfect for doing good hard work outdoors. See this Flickr album (or SlideShow) for the photo documentation of the whole event — with beautiful Fall snapshots, the real reason I couldn't put off the reRoofing project any longer (rotten plywood), detailed pictures of exactly how to go about doing the many intricate steps (as I constantly called on my buddy, Rob Augart, who does this for a living in his own business Augart Construction, in Winchester MA), the aftermath of taking saunas on many of the days after all the hard work was done, how I took on reShingling the roof of Lady's dog house to match, and finally Lady helping me fold the tarps cause it was so windy.

What is not so obvious in the pictures is the real reason for me taking on the job myself — that my total cost was about $3500, including that I paid the 3 men who helped me for the 133 hours of work that they put in, mostly working with me. Very much to my surprise… relative to the $10k estimate, it was like I paid myself around $30/hour for the work that I put in. Of course, none of this would have been possible if I had a real job !
On the left is my main man, Eugene (Butch) LeDonne, who will proudly tell you that he did all of the heavy lifting even though the truth is that I did my share too. And on the right is Serge, my Roosky comrade, who was hired as a roofer ostensibly because of his outstanding height… but really it was because I did indeed have an ulterior motive — it wasn't entirely out of generosity or need.
When all was said and done, I realized that this job was a really great way for me to spend time with my men, enjoying the great outdoors, getting good exercise, and feeling the satisfaction of a job well done at the end of each day.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New England Fall - Gaye's Memorial Brick

All Fall, as I've been working so much outside (on my reRoofing project), I took a bunch of "New England Fall Foliage" pictures which I've posted here. (TBS) It seemed like Fall was really late this year, but maybe that's just because I spent so much time outside watching the colors develop, little by little.

As we get near the end of Fall, another "big event" for me is going to see Gaye's brick, in the memory garden right beside our Unitarian Church in Groton. I hadn't been there in a long time, so I took the picture on the right so that I could post it in my blog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Austin's “Wilderness ReUnion” — 30 Years Later

On this weekend in July — which just happened to be my 58th birthday — my dear friend Austin had long planned a reunion of many of our long-time friends whom we hung out with over the years when he and an assortment of "hip people" ☺ lived at the very top of the highest hill around, in Littleton, MA. We called it “The Wilderness”, shown right here on the map. From the aerial view it looks like there are lots of roads and houses around, but once you get up there you see nothing except trees and the fabulous view shown on the right… and it feels like the rest of civilization has just vanished.

See the Flickr link below for pictures; video clip highlights include Austin's dream — getting an “old farts bike” and Mark's “Fossilized Dinosaur Bone Marrow” pendant story !!

I couldn't summarize the significance of this event better than in the words of The Man of the hour...
“ Well, it certainly goes without saying that the MAGIC of The Wilderness is very very real and we can be assured that it will always be. We had more than a wonderful afternoon together and most of us are wondering when we can do it, again. (For those of you who were unable to come, we missed you but, rest assured, we talked about you!)

Thank you to Everyone for contributing to our special day. The company was the best bar none, the food was delicious and nourishing and the time shared was much too brief. The "Save The Wilderness Fund" jar was full of almost $200.00 (!!) which I will be presenting to New England Forestry Foundation (who provide stewardship of The Prouty Community Forest) along with selected pictures from the attached collection. Thanks, You Guys!

Special thanks to Kevin, Sarah and Karen for their stealthy picture-taking and Super Kudos to Kevin for gathering all the photos and putting them together [in Flickr] for all to see (How does he do it?).

Remember Folks that The Wilderness land is part of The Prouty Community Forest and, while we may not be able to go INside the house, we CAN explore the woods, take in the fabulous westward vista [panorama] and meet up for impromptu picnics ANYTIME we want! We don' need no steenkeen' permission!

                                — Wishing you Wilderness Magic each and every day, Austin Sheatsley”

Thanks for doing all this, Aus !!   I actually liked your car in the Wilderness ReUnion picture (see the original)… but did a little Digital Media Magik to take it out, above, to honor you for your commitment to “The Wilderness” being Wilderness.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Passing on an Invitation from “Oriah Mountain Dreamer ”

This entry is somewhat of a departure for me because I don't normally post things written by others… but in this case I've decided to pass on this gem that I ran across recently because it really speaks to me. My hope is that it will awaken a spirit within you, as it did for me…
The Invitation ” — by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon… I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals, or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain — mine or your own — without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy — mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself, if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure — yours or mine — and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon: “Yes! ”

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, or how you came to be here — I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments. — May 1994

To get a large-print single-page version of this reading (right?) click here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Canoeing in “The Blackstone River Challenge ”

This was my first year to take part in “The 32nd Annual Blackstone River Challenge”, on May 16th, 2009, and what a great time we had. My entire men's team division decided to take it on, this year, so I got to be part of the Big Rocks contingent as you can see in the snapshot to the right where my bud and I are paddling our leg of the 12.8 mile canoe race. We had a blast…

Some 76 kayaks and canoes officially registered for the race, which goes from South Grafton to Uxbridge, MA., and is held every year as a fundraiser to help maintain The Blackstone River. Some of the people I talked to at the start of the race have been doing this every year "for several decades", so it was obvious that this is an important community event. Check out the pictures via the embedded Flickr slideshow (on the left), or browse directly to my “Blackstone River Challenge, May 2009” photo album on Flickr.

What a great way to get out and celebrate the New England Spring / beginning of Summer. The weather was perfect and the people all welcoming and friendly. I'm already looking forward to getting out for The Blackstone River Challenge in the Spring of 2010.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Carolyn McDade's “Spirit of Life” — both verses

Almost a year and a half ago, in my Winter Solstice article, I wrote about a recording I made of me singing Carolyn McDade's “Spirit of Life”. In order to have piano accompaniment, I found the music for this well-known UUC hymn and I was surprised to discover that it has two verses. When we sing it "every Sunday" in our Unitarian Universalist Church (in Groton), there is only ever one verse. But just having seen that there are two verses… ever since then I've wanted to reRecord the song in its full form. So finally, on this fabulous New England Spring day — with the sounds of the birds chirping and the bees buzzing in the blossoms of the weeping cherry tree in our yard — I was inspired to sing the whole song.
                          “ Spirit of Life ”

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.
                                              — Carolyn McDade

Spirit of Love, come unto me.
Deep in my soul all the mystery of creation.
Teach me to care, Peace let there be.
Lead me to truth showing forth the paths of wisdom.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Love, come to me, come to me.
None of the on-line references to this song that I could find mentions that it has a 2nd Verse. Moreover, this very interesting article describes in Carolyn McDade's own words how “Spirit of Life” came to be and therein she implies that "all the other verses" were not part of “her original prayer.” That is why I did the attribution as you see above where I nevertheless posted all the words that I found in our hymnal. And I sing both verses in my rendition of the song that you can hear by clicking on the YouTube player, above, or by following this link directly.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What's Under that Stone ?

Click here for the full size image, taken with my cell phone, of the stones shown during the Childrens story today Analogous to the Easter story about "someone" rolling away the stone that had sealed off Jesus' burial tomb, Elea's sermon, and indeed the whole UUC service today, was about the surprises we find — how our lives can be changed — by looking under a stone.

Taken literally, as was the case for the Children's story, you see the surprises that had been written under the stones for the kids to experience. And they all had great fun doing so.

Taken not so literally… to me simply means looking for things (for "answers?") in unexpected places — a perfectly appropriate thing to be doing at this Easter juncture to shake away the Winter complacency that had hijacked my otherwise industrious spirit. As such, I'm sure I'm not the only person engaging in a little introspection today… a prodding to look under my own stones, inspired by this quote from today's order of service :

A Thought as the Service Begins
quoted from :
  — Victoria Stafford       

“ All of a sudden, without warning, …
Something promised us rebirth,
the resurrection of our hoping.
The rain rained down wet and clear,
not thick and white,
and without warning,
Winter washed away
and we were free.

Spirit of life and love,
moving in every living thing, and in us,
astonish us this morning.
Startle us.
Stun us…
Shake us from our sleeping.
For we are Winter-weary and disbelieving
and our eyes have forgotten what surprises look like,
and we are ready, we are more than ready,
to open them
and be amazed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nanci turns 60 — The Magik of Multimedia

A couple of months ago my niece Amber asked me to handle the multimedia part of a celebration that she & Karina were organizing for her Mom — my "big" sister Nanci Gail Pammett Phelan — to honor her on her 60th birthday. So naturally I took on the project with much enthusiasm because I knew it would mean a great deal to my sister plus it'd be a great way to hone my multimedia skills, not to mention the nostalgia of going back thru family photos for the last 6 decades.

Click here for the full size image of 'The twenty-one Faces of Nanci', a collage I created to honor Nanci on her 60th birthday As planned, the surprise party for Nanci took place on Saturday February 21st in Elmira, Ontario, Canada. She was completely surprised as you can tell from the YouTube video that I captured when Nanci first arrived at the party. The picture on the right is what I called "60 Years of Nanci". I had the collage printed professionally, framed, and then this is what I wrapped up for Nanci to open at the party. Later on I made this version for her because the blue-sky background lets the faces show up better + this background picture was taken on our trip to Canada for our brother, Johnny's, memorial service. I chose the sunset picture because it is from Pigeon Lake on the day of our Dad's funeral.

The full set of pictures are in this Flickr album — and man was it hard to sort thru them all to come up with a subset to use in the video that I played during the celebration. If I do say so myself… this was multimedia at its best: people were moved to tears reminiscing thru Nanci's life — childhood, adolescence, her University years, marriage, bringing up her children, the passing of our parents, birth of grand children… — all with a sound track that brought back memories and culminated in an animation creatively made from the "Faces" collage shown above. Due to size limitations imposed by (the free) YouTube, only a "speeded up" version of Nanci's Video on YouTube can be seen in a web-based presentation. But if you do want to download the full video to your hard drive right-click here and do "Save Target As". Be forewarned that it's 378 MB so that might take a while. Using my cable modem the download took 9 minutes. The full 12-minute video, like all multimedia products from, plays on a Mac with QuickTime and on Windows with Window Media Player.

So… Happy Birthday, Nanci !!     It was totally my joy to be a part of your well-deserved celebration.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Doris Redfield Chadwick turns 100 years old

The Pammetts were not fortunate enough to be able to get to the extended family party… but recently Jack sent me the picture shown below of Auntie Dot's 100th birthday so I've decided to post it and write this story on Groundhog Day, 2009. Every year I celebrate this day as the first significant milestone long enough into the Winter season that finally the days are starting to get significantly longer. Yeah!! Click here for the full size image of Doris Redfield Chadwick's 100th birthday party on Nov 13th, 2008
Just imagine what the world was like on Nov. 8th, 1908, when Doris Chadwick (née Redfield) was born in East Bridgewater, Mass. Wow!! And now, 100 years later, she's still happy and healthy enough to celebrate her centenial birthday with 75 of her closest friends at the Stuart Congregational Church in Stuart, FL.

The Bassetts, Chadwicks, and Redfields are my wife's side of the family, so I didn't get to meet the Chadwicks until the 1970s when they lived in Connecticut. But for most of my time knowing them, "Buster and Dot" enjoyed their golden years in Florida. In the 90s, when my kids were little, we visited them often because we lived in Alabama. On a return trip to Florida in 2002 I featured my kids' "favorite great Aunt & Uncle" in pictures on this magic cube.

Click here for the full size image of Doris Redfield Chadwick's amidst her presents on her 100th birthday party on Nov 13th, 2008Great Auntie '.' (she loved to write it like that) was always joyous and welcoming of my family whenever we came to visit. I remember well the visit when she had just finished having "The Last Twig" published, and I told her about "the web" and how "in the future everyone will be able to publish things themselves on the web". She was somewhat skeptical about that and we did talk about the possibly of making her book available… but alas I never did get in touch with her publisher. Nevertheless, I just Google'd her book title, just to see, and I was thrilled to see that this article says "Chadwick wrote several books, including The Last Twig — a story of her life and times, published in 1998." Another book (printed in 1984), "Hold High The Torch", is an amazingly detailed documentary of a most impressive family genealogy — 13 generations of Redfields that date back to the arrival of her ancestors from England in 1630.   Wow!!    My father-in-law's family — when Ian Alexander married Millicent Redfield Bassett — comes into the picture in generation XI. It is certainly my honor to be part of such a family.

So, Auntie '.'  — Happy Birthday !! and may you live to enjoy many more happy years !!