Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating the Return of The Light

I'm surprised, this morning, to realize that it's been a couple of years since I've blogged about the Winter Solstice Celebration, but it's still an important milestone for me. Indeed, “the Return of The Light” truly is a grand reason to celebrate; I never miss the chance to recognize it. Most years at our UUC Groton Church my sweetie and I look forward to a Winter Solstice celebration, but this year we didn't get to do that; I'm not sure why.

But this year we have another celestial phenomena that coincides with Winter Solstice 2010 — a full Lunar Eclipse, captured marvelously by YouTube's "peteherron", embedded below…

Click on the "Play" Icon on the right to watch the video which shows an amazingly smooth time lapse of the eclipse, compiled from shots with a still camera on a rotating telescope mount. Wow!

Due to cloud cover, I didn't get to watch the eclipse though we had planned a "wee hours" sauna so we could be out there watching the shadow of the earth creep ever so slowly across the face of the moon…

An article from The Huffington Post today quotes a Montreal Gazette article with a NASA claim: “the last time these astronomical events took place in sync was on Dec 21st, 1638, — 456 years ago — and it won't happen again until at least 2094”. Imagine: even my grand kids (not that I have any) could be dead by then!

Another thing to note is that this was also the first morning this Fall when I woke up to an overnight snow fall — our back yard was completely white, though a lot of that has melted as you can see in this picture of our dog, Lady, on the Winter Solstice day, 2010. Not to worry… there'll be lots more from where that came from; I'm sure !

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The GCCC Men Sing “A Soalin' ”

In a previous blog article I give more details about the "2010 Groton Community Christmas Chorus"; herein my only purpose is to let you experience the men's number — “A Soalin' ” — which you can hear by clicking the "Play" icon, below …

I knew the song as soon as I saw the score when we started practicing last Fall; it's from an old Peter, Paul, and Mary album I listened to when I was in high school. If you Google the title you will even find that exact same track, which I remember distinctly because Peter starts if off with a comedy sketch that talks about the connection between Halloween and the holiday they have in England where people would go around to houses chanting the phrases that you hear in this song.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 2010 Groton Community Christmas Chorus

One of the best things about singing in the Groton Community Christmas Chorus is that for the many weeks leading up to the 2nd weekend in December, when we present our 3 performances, I have the music in my head pretty much all the time. Some of the songs I've known from previous concerts — the years when my two daughters and I would all sing in the GCCC — and some of it is brand new every year which makes it exciting to learn and master. Throughout most of the Fall we practice every Sunday night, and even that is pretty great because it's the only time of the year when I get to rekindle the fond relationships that I have built over the years with the "100 or so" choir members from a dozen or more communities around Groton, Ma.

But the best part of being in this community chorus is seeing the “old familiar faces” — friends from / visitors to our community — during the 3 performances we put on at the Union Congregational Church, right in the center of Groton. Seeing the joy on those faces and experiencing my own “joy of giving” reminds me every year what the holiday season is really all about. If you're unsure how to get there click here to get directions.

The picture on the right is from the flyer for this year's program — “A Family Christmas !”. The flyer was created by a choir member and friend who also has a web page promoting The 2010 GCCC. There you will find .mp3 links (audio only) to GCCC clips from previous years such as the choir singing How Can I Keep From Singing ? ”a cappella, with a haunting solitary flute accompaniment… and the most beautiful (mother-and-daughter, if I remember correctly) version of Pie Jesu. The Wikipedia Pie Jesu link has the words in latin with an English translation.

You might also want to check out my sampling of video clips http://bit.ly/GCCC-GrotonMA on YouTube from previous GCCC concerts. Likewise, click here to read previous articles that I've written about singing in this concert over the years — many with pictures and pointers to other memorable moments from the event.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's my birthday — Again…


I just love the message behind this terrific card which I got for my birthday, today, from my sweetie.

No more time to write, now — I'm going off to party with my friends.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Waterfire Picnic with my Sweetie

What a totally fabulous time we had last night going again this year to experience Waterfire in Providence, RI.

For the first time that I remember… this year we planned to get there WAY early — took a huge picnic with us so that we could be there long before the crowds — to just relax and watch the daylight turn into dusk, as the crowd gathers and the anticipation mounts. We munched veggies and dip, a new Vermont brie that I totally love (with baguette), and ate chicken sandwiches with guacamole, taboule, tomatoes, and cheese.    Yumm !!    I'm hungry again just thinking about it. I also took my camera and posted this album (on Flickr) of the shots I took. Or just sit back and watch the Slide Show.

Another difference, this year, is that I decided to see what I could capture in video because so much of the Waterfire Experience has to do with action, sound, and ambiance. Check out my video clip (on Flickr) of this half-naked “Fire Dancer” (they get away with this stuff — being so close to RISD), or this longer video clip I really like (except for the background noise) of the Waterfire basin with a captivating soprano voice and ethereal music — totally typical of the omnipresent Waterfire Experience.

As always, the stroll along the quay to and from the Gargoyle stand at "the other end" from the basin — called “Providence Place”, where we started — was romantic and eventful. The Mermaid lady asked for my business card so that I could eMail her my pictures for her portfolio. There were many other friendly encounters… and lots more yummy things to eat.

So now we're thinking about going back for the mid-summer (July 17th) extravaganza of Waterfire 2010. Be there !!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Privileged to be Such a Happy Father

Today, on Father's Day, I feel so happy — honored, privileged, blessed, lucky, amazed — to be the Father that I am to my two sparkling young daughters, and the loving husband to "My Beloved and my Friend", my sweet wife — now for more than 3 decades. Wow! Talk about “Count Your Blessings” !!
On the left is the card that my youngest daughter skillfully made and presented to me today. It was from a picture that she took during a Mother's Day family outing we did to a local state park (Willard Brook in Ashby) for a picnic last May. And though it looks like I'm a happy and balanced "tight rope walker"… the truth is that that skinny log was very wobbly and were it not for the 10' balance pole that I had — and used to hold me up (more like a crutch) for most of the way across the river — I would have been in the drink about 5 seconds after I started. She managed to capture me in that space of confidence and control during the only 2 seconds that I was in that space during the entire "adventure". She also did an amazing job of enhancing the color contrasts and the "lights and dark greens" in the photo, which in its original form really wasn't that great a picture. All 'n all it was a very loving gesture.

After getting that card and others, I went off to sing with my UUC Groton choir — our last "official duty" before the congregation switches to "summer mode" until the Fall, and that was very enjoyable and satisfying — as it always is.

Following that we had a terrific picnic at our local lake / beach (Sargisson Beach — Knops Pond, Lost Lake) in Groton where my sweetie and I sat on canvas chairs with our feet in the cool lake water as the heat of the day took over and left us not wanting to be anywhere else imaginable.

And then as the day cooled off we all went into Boston to meet up with our other daughter and her beau at NEU. We ended up feasting — a seafood extravaganza — at a favorite, The Barking Crab, on the Boston waterfront… followed by a gleeful promenade from there to Faneuil Hall following The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway — my first real experience of the whole project, now that it (appears to be!?) finished. Can anything associated with The Big Dig ever actually be "completed"!?

Ah... such is life for me in the family that I have been truly blessed to be part of.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The 2010 Olympics — Proudly Hosted by “My” Canada

One of the first things that caught my eye in the lead-up to The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver is the vista from the harbour that you see here on the right. And, of course, now that we've all spent 2 weeks watching the Winter Games, mostly this is not the view that we've gotten used to because most of the games were up in the mountains. But I still really like the picture (especially if you click thru for the full sized image).

I also really like these stunning pictures that highlight the last days of the Olympic Torch Relay, mostly as it passes thru various cities in Canada. And iff you have PowerPointthese action shots or these from the Opening Ceremonies (with music!) are incredible and amazing. I sure wish I had been there!

And speaking of Canada… check out my sister, Nanci Phelan's blog article, “2010 Olympic Rings”, where she writes about the stained glass memory piece she created to honor The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Click thru / see the thumbnail on the left.

Likewise Canadian… the real reason I decided to write this article was so that I could host this link to where “Tom Brokaw Explains The Relationship Between Canada and The United States” — ostensibly to Americans but I suspect a lot of this might be news to many Canadians — in a pre-recorded short film that aired on NBC prior to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. As I sat and watched the video I found myself feeling very moved — proudly in awe, in fact — because both of these countries are very near and dear to my heart. I hope you are able to see that video (see below).

So enjoy that footage while it's available. Between the time when I first decided to write this article… and now, some YouTube versions of it have been cut off — “ blocked in your country on copyright grounds ” — whatever that means and whereever that applies. So by the time you read this, you might get something similiar.

If you have anything to say about our great countries — Canada and/or the USA — feel free to “Post a Comment” on this blog using the link, below.
Taken from the video… I especially liked JFK's quote to the Canadian Parliament,
May 17th, 1961 :
“  Geography has made us neighbours,
   History has made us friends,
   Economics has made us partners,
   and Necessity has made us alleys.”


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Donate a Tent to Help Needy People in Haiti

This article is my contribution to help out a friend — concerned in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake — who has found her calling as part of the Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort… by leading the URGENT CALL FOR TENTS ” drive for which you see the flyer below. Click thru to see the full sized flyer, or read below where I'm 'duplicating' the text so that it will be picked up by search engines.
Do You Have A Tent That You Would Like
To Donate to Help The People of Haiti ?

There are over 100,000 people without homes in Haiti. Port-au-Prince is in ruins and as you have seen on the news, everywhere there are vast cities of makeshift tents built of sticks, bed sheets and bits of plastic occupying any clear space. One of the Haitian people’s most immediate needs is temporary shelter to protect them from mosquitoes, heat and rain. The rainy season in Haiti is imminent.

If you have a quality, family-style tent or light-weight sleeping bag(s) in relatively good condition that you would like to donate to the Haitian people in their time of need, a Pepperell resident is collecting them and delivering them to other volunteers connected with Partners in Health to get them to Haiti.

For MA residents, please contact Karen at 978.433.8239 (or eMail her at karenm_807@msn.com) and she will arrange for a pickup — you can just donate without having to ship anything.

Non-MA residents please check this article which describes the Massachusetts-based consolidation and shipping effort that Karen is using. Simply ship your tent(s) to Mark Richey using the contact info in that article. And contrary to what the article (currently) says… there is no deadline so please donate tents as soon as possible so we can make the most of every shipment.

This is a legitimate grass roots effort with National participation. See contact info above for more details.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day comes to Groton

Of course, it was just a matter of time. Just wait long enough after New Years, and before you know it   it'll be Groundhog Day. And no big surprise — Punxsutawney Phil today gave us the usual 'bad news' about 6 more weeks of Winter. Well, at least it's not 2 months!

So... as my debut article in the new "community blog" called The Groton Line ”, I decided to try out juxtaposing two pictures that show something like "the Pammett Groton Woods" before and after the January thaw. Imagine... just two weeks ago the "glenn" in our woods looked like the image on the left, below, and now the snow's all gone as you see on the right.

Now... if only that meant that Winter were really over and done with!!

Rest asured I've lived in New England long enough to not be holding my breath about that. But if you are so inclined, join with me in "Think Spring" — as I do every year about this time  !!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Service and Love — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2010

Yesterday when I went into the Unitarian Universalist service at our First Parish Church of Groton, the "banner" that you see below had been proudly placed front and center in the sanctuary. Produced by the dedicated hands of one of our members, the banner shows the dozens of organizations that members of the Church work with — providing service to our community.
The entire service, today, was inspired by the life and teachings of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. By his own leadership-by-example, he demonstrated unequivocally that “Love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems — even when doing so flies in the face of our other instincts, and even when it seems hopeless.

Another pervasive theme was that Service provides us all a pathway to greatness. Anyone — no matter what your life situation — anyone can be of service, not as an "isolated act" but rather as a way of being, day-to-day.
I was very inspired by the service. It left me reassessing the ways in which service is a part of my life.
After the heart-felt and very moving reading by Paul Harter, Jr — excerpts from MLK's “Presidential Address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” in August 1967 — some in the congregation stood up in affirmation and many joined us in spontaneous applause.

I was also moved by these excerpts from MLK's speech, “The Quest for Peace and Justice”, delivered on the occasion of him receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, on Dec. 11, 1964 — in the reading by Dave Hill. Likewise, Rev. Elea Kemler's sermon, “Reflections on Service, was also very inspirational.

As we all look back on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2010… let us reflect upon the values and teachings of this great man. And let us rededicate ourselves to Service as our fundamental action, and Love, as a context for living.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas 2009 — Gifts that Get Given Away Twice

This year for many of my Christmas presents I used stamps.com (in the USA, and its Canadian counterpart) to create real postage stamps — featuring my own pictures that I knew would be special to each of my loved ones. Images of the stamps are presented in the wildly flashing Intel 3D cube navigator, below. I also used the stamp images to create my sweetie's 2009 Christmas Tree Ornament — featuring the stamps glued onto a wooden cube, resting in an ornamental woven basket — shown at the bottom right, below. Hence came the whole idea of using my old 3D cube navigator for the web-based stamps presentation.

Use the 3D cube navigator (on the left) to explore the 6 stamps I created :
 • Move your mouse into the center of the green background frame (to the left) to “drive” and “look at” each of the images.
 • As you move the mouse within the moving 3D cube frame, you are in “drive mode” and the manipulation is done solely via mouse movement — without mouse clicks. For example, hold the mouse towards any corner of the frame and notice that the cube begins rotating in that direction. The rotation follows you around as you move the mouse, and is faster or slower depending on how close you are to the center of the cube.
 • Click on any cube face; it "zooms out", showing you the stamp image. A subsequent single click continues the rotation.
 • Double Click on an image face to get more detail — to see the original picture the stamp was made from. When finished, use your browser's "Back" button to return here to the cube navigator.
 • In “drive mode” the rotation stops whenever you move the mouse outside of the green background space, and resumes when you re-enter it.

Yes… this is what I do on a holiday weekend when it's snowing outside and I just feel like playing. Happy New Year 2010 !!