As I took my car out for some exercise to keep it running on the first day of 2022, I was filled with hope. We had recently received some significant rain that we desperately needed to help lessen the severity of the two-year-old drought. The sky was blue. There was snow on the higher area mountain peaks. There was a chill in the air under the bright winter sun. As was my habit I donned my masks, which this time of year also helped keep my face warm, and I noticed as I passed others walking or riding their bikes that most were also masked. I was filled with hope that others in my area were still taking the COVID-19 threat seriously as the Omicron variant of the disease was causing case counts to spike to new highs. Continue reading
2021 started out with such promise. Vaccines to help us get past a worldwide pandemic were just starting to be deployed. As their availability widened, they promised at least a partial, if not total return to normalcy until being inoculated (the responsible thing for a person to do) was attacked and made into a political battle. Still, those doing their part by getting their shots when they became eligible were hopeful. Continue reading
There is so much going on these days. We’re just about ready to start a third year dealing with a worldwide pandemic as we face yet another new variant in the midst of a holiday period. While that’s weighing heavily on my mind, in my solitude I think about what constitutes a national holiday. Some are obvious like the 4th of July, the day marking our nation’s independence. That one makes sense. It’s a celebration commemorating the birth of our new nation, founded on the principles of democracy where we the people voice our opinions through free and fair elections determining who serves in our representative government. This one is a truly patriotic, American holiday. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are also American holidays in honor of those who have served our country to help keep it free. Presidents Day and MLK Day honor some of our national heroes which also makes sense as far as patriotic American holidays go. Continue reading
Every so often we are fortunate to cross paths with somebody with that intangible spark that makes them stand out in a really good way. They bring enthusiasm to all they do, and they inspire others to reach far beyond what seems possible. I ran into such a person some years ago, and I’ve been amazed by what this young fellow has done and continues to do.
I first worked with Val Zvinyatskovsky when he was but 10-years-old. He played the role of Jojo, one of the leads, in a youth production of Seussical that I was music directing. This particular group used live orchestras drawn from the greater musician community to give their young actors the privilege and thrill of performing in musicals in a way that would prepare them for potential careers in professional theater. Through the rehearsal process, this young actor stood out as one of the most skilled, prepared, and polished young thespians I’d seen. He not only had all of his lines and blocking down pat long before the cast needed to be off book, but his musical timing was impeccable. He never missed. Even so, it wasn’t until we got into the run of the show that I realized just how accomplished and curious this young man was. Continue reading
By Ande Jacobson
“December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy….” That happened 80 years ago today. I’m way too young to have heard that speech live the day after the attack, but my parents lived through it. I was pretty young when my father died, so I don’t know much about his personal experiences growing up, but my mother told me many stories from her childhood including her recollections of their lives during the war. Although she was pretty young, she remembers the terror it created around her. She talked about the measures that the country took to support the war effort and how everyone pulled together in a way that seemed impossible even half a century later, although even as a young child she was also painfully aware of the limits of who was considered American even then. My grandfather worked for the U.S. Postal Service and was considered a critical worker. He was also just a hair too old to join the military and worked two jobs during the war to support the many dependents of the multigenerational extended family living under their roof. It was a difficult time and success wasn’t guaranteed, but they survived. Sometime later when my mother and my aunt were a little bit older, my grandmother also started working for the post office. Continue reading
When I take my car out for a drive to keep it running, it gives me time away from my computer. These drives give me some “outside” time to think. I notice the people outside of my automotive bubble passing by on foot, on bicycles, and in other cars. Many are masked, but not all. I think about friends and family and how things have changed for all of them over the years. I think about my theater community. Before we became aware of the pandemic in early 2020, music and theater had been a primary focus in my life, much more so since I retired from my engineering career several years ago. While many in that community are now back in productions, collaborating freely and enjoying the comradery they missed for so many months, others like myself are not. There are still huge risks because of the ever looming pandemic that weren’t there before. Continue reading
The choices we make are important. We each make choices about all kinds of things every day. Some are small things such as what to eat for breakfast. Some have longer range effects such as deciding on a career path or whether to accept a particular job offer. Others are even more life changing such as choosing if or when to have a child, or more immediately, whether to carry a given pregnancy to term based on one’s own circumstances. All are personal choices, yet that last one is currently under its greatest threat since the passage of Roe v. Wade. Continue reading
Almost a quarter century ago, I made the decision to upgrade our townhouse. I ditched the old, mid-1970s windows and upgraded to double panes that were supposed to be a vast improvement. After all the contracts were signed, it took the installers about six weeks to complete the job (far too long in my opinion). Beyond the attractive aesthetic improvement, these new windows were supposed to provide insulation from unwanted sounds and help with heating and cooling. The claims were true to an extent. They muffled some of the outside sounds, and they also helped the furnace and air conditioning function more efficiently, although they didn’t obviate the need for either heating or cooling overall. The new windows were clean and felt a lot more substantial than the old single pane windows they replaced.
Over the years, two of the windows in the warmest room in the house eventually failed. These particular windows faced south and daily endured hours upon hours of sun beating down on them and heating them up. After a couple of decades the spacers between the panes along the bottom cracked, and the windows fogged up. Out of all of the windows in the house only these two failed, but I hadn’t realized the difference that foggy view made on my overall outlook. Continue reading
Growing up, we wrote letters. We also talked on the telephone, but if people lived more than just a few miles away those phone calls could quickly get expensive, much more so than the cost of a stamp. I remember when I was in eighth grade, I had a friend who was a high school junior who lived past our local calling zone, so we would write long letters back and forth. After we had been doing this for some time, I accompanied her to school one day when I had a holiday and she didn’t. Throughout the day I went to all of her classes and met a bunch of her friends, all of whom were avid Star Trek fans. She and I originally met at a Star Trek convention, so it stands to reason that many of her friends would be trekkies. After that day, her letters became a compilation of letters from all of these friends, so mine got very long in response. Even mailing these thick letters back and forth was far cheaper than it would have been to call in those days. There was no email or social media back then, at least not for the general public, but computers were beginning to be more accessible in schools and workplaces albeit in mainframe form. In fact my letter associates were all in a computer class at their school and tried to get their teacher to find a way to let me join them. He was game, but we just couldn’t work out the logistics given I was too young to drive at the time. Two of the students in that class who were part of our letter writing group had coded one of the best Star Trek games I’d ever seen, though they took it with them when they graduated. Continue reading
Earlier in this series, I talked about how my parents inspired me and encouraged my love of music. They are both long gone now, Dad for over 50 years and Mom for a decade, but every time I play anything, I think of them. In the last installment discussing whether I was still a musician or not, I came to the conclusion that even without performing for others, I am and always will be a musician. The pandemic has pushed me to enjoy my music more privately, and in doing so, return to my roots and my first instrument, the piano. Playing the piano reminds me of my mother, especially when I play some of the repertoire that she played frequently. One of her favorites was Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. Mom used to play this one with deep expression and early on told me the story her piano teacher told her about the piece. Her favorite teacher used to tell her stories about every piece she was assigned, and in doing so made the music come alive as much more than mere notes on the page. Continue reading