Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Laugh (December blogfest)

Laugh. What was your biggest belly laugh of the year?

Too many to single out just one. As the four of us have grown together and developed our own, individual, comfortable sense of self, we've had so much joy over the last few years that it seems like one long laugh, punctuated only infrequently and stochastically with occasional sadness or sorrow, like the death of my father.

In stark contrast to my younger self and life, I am a happy person. My wife and kids are responsible for that remarkable transformation. And that makes me happy, too!

L'homme qui rit! I should have my own cheese.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stationery (December blogfest)

Stationery. When you touch the paper, your heart melts. The ink flows from the pen. What was your stationery find of the year?

Well, it's not new this year but I'm a traditionalist as well as a classicist so I've always had personalized stationery. The stationery I use now is a design I've had for a lotta years. I like it. There's something very civilized about using quality, personalized stationery. If my handwriting weren't illegible, I'd use a fountain pen as well; but, alas, even my printing is barely decipherable so I simply use a ballpoint pen for clarity's sake.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gift (December blogfest)

Gift. What's a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving?

I guess that would hafta be Marty and Wolfgang, my electric guitar and amp, respectively. Music has charms to soothe my savage breast.



Monday, December 21, 2009

Project (December blogfest)

Project. What did you start this year that you're proud of?

This is an easy one for me to answer this year: The Greybeards.

I hadn't played music in front of an audience in almost twenty years and then Jeff and Russ accreted to initiate the inescapable gravity well of The Greybeards. I was pulled in, unresisting, closely followed by some Hot Backup Chicks. Playing with The Greybeards and Hot Backup Chicks has been a fabulous experience and an onging project which I hope will continue into the indefinite future.

Our incarnation at LIFE is Good 2009 without drummer Alex:

Here's one at Good Vibrations 2009 with Alex but without the Hot Backup Chicks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shop (December blogfest)

Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

The thing that comes most directly to mind for this past year is music gear. We disposed of a great deal of income at Guitar Center, Kennelly Keys, craigslist, and even got some stuff from eBay. Overall, we bought:

Guitars: 2 acoustic-electric guitars, 1 electric guitar, and 1 electric bass.

The four facing the camera are the new ones. From left to right: MJ's acoustic-electric (Isolde), Ronnie's acoustic-electric (nameless), Chloe's bass (Cornelius), and my electric (Marty).

Amps: Fender Princeton combo amp, Fender 100B (Bassman) amp head, Peavey Centurion amp head, Fender cabinet (2X15), and another cabinet with one 12" and one 10".

The Fender Bassman head powering the Fender cabinet.

The Fender Princeton (named Wolfgang) sitting on the additional speaker cabinet.

The Peavey amp head under my synthesizer (Synthia), who is 20 years old and, therefore, not part of this year's purchasing.

Percussion: A coupla djembe drums (one seen clearly and another half-hidden by the keyboard stand above, under Synthia and the Peavey) and an assortment of other rhythm devices, many of the small ones in the orange bag seen above.

Plus an assortment of peripheral and/or miscellaneous extras like cords, stands, etc.

Word of the year (December blogfest)

A word that encapsulates your year. "2009 was _____."

My fellow dudes and dudettes, if your year can be encompassed by a single word, YOU AIN'T LIVING! Get out there and do something. Or investigate inside your own head. Just please, c'mon and show me something: think something, learn something, watch something, explore something, try something, rediscover something you'd forgotten you love, Hell!, fuck something up (I excel at that one!), but don't just sit there merely existing in a one-word state, Mr. A. Square of Flat(-affect)land. LIVE fer gawd's sake!

This past year for me was, like most years, encyclopedic. Dictionaryous? Lexiconic? Thesaurian?


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tea (December blogfest)

Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What's yours?

Mine is the unseasonal, cool-down treat lemonade-tea. This drink is sometimes called an "Arnold Palmer" but you'll never hear me say that. Apologies to my friends who like the sport, but golf? Just kill me now. I enjoyed watching golf just once - during the movie Happy Gilmore.

This is a very flexible drink which can be biased toward the lemonade or the tea, can be strong or weak, etc. I like it best when the lemonade is made from fresh-squeezed lemons sweetened with a simple syrup made from super-refined white cane sugar and the tea is a somewhat strong brew of a black tea like Irish Breakfast. My personal mix favors the lemonade side a bit. Serve it in a tall glass over ice with a slice of lemon as a garnish. Me, I don't like mint in my drinks, but if you do, feel free to add a sprig. Ahhhhh!

Feeling festive? Add some vodka. Or feel a bit more Southern by adding bourbon. Or do it Noo Awlins-style with Southern Comfort. Or go all the way down to the islands with added rum.

NOW we're drinking lemonade-tea!

Late addition: Ronnie suggested that I add my "recipe" for quick-and-dirty lemonade-tea made from powdered mix(es). Here 'tis:

3/4 of the recommended amount of powdered lemonade to make a half-gallon.
1/2 of the recommended amount of powdered instant (sweetened) iced tea to make a half-gallon.
1/2 gallon of water. [Sparkling water is an interesting variation].

Yes, you did notice that this mix is "richer" than recommended. That's how I roll. Can you dig it?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best packaging (December blogfest)

Best packaging. Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

I intended to do a rant about packaging in general - the expense, the waste, etc. But my friend Denise, a New Orleans area unschooler, just did a Facebook link to famous New Orleans cocktails. One of the offerings was an Ojen cocktail and that resulted in a discussion of the fact that Ojen was used as a substitute for Absinthe after it was outlawed. All of New Orleans wept on that day and began bootlegging and smuggling genuine Absinthe while simultaneously looking for legal substitutes for the lovely and seductive Green Fairy. If nothing else, emptied Ojen bottles served as an excellent beard for serving real Absinthe.

But we're in a brave new millennium and Absinthe is no longer (completely) illegal in the land of the free. So my favorite packaging of the past year is not a fancy bottle of tea but a happy new bottle of Absinthe, purchased from my local Washington State Liquor Store.

Try the classic preparation a la louche or be brave and sample my own concoction the Zombie Princess Cocktail.

A votre sante! Suivez la Fee Verte!

P.S. Amusing factoid. Wormwood is used to make Absinthe. The Russian word chernobyl can be translated as wormwood, if you stretch just a bit. Don't worry; I don't think Absinthe is responsible for that event. Like Neil Young said, "Don't let it bring you down; it's only castles burning."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rush (December blogfest)

Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

I had a lot of emotional "rushes" this year but I've mostly covered those already. Besides, I'm taking this prompt to mean physical, adrenaline-type rushes. I didn't do anything with a huge adrenaline component this past year. SpaceShipTwo has not quite begun flights (and I don't have a loose $200K lying around to fund my presence on one of those joyrides). No spinnaker flying. No glider time. Haven't bought that Velocity airplane yet. We were busy doing social stuff in the Summer and didn't do any rock climbing. (Falling is always good for a lovely rush. Big fun!) Etc. Some exhilirating sailing was probably my biggest rush in '09 with two lovely instances.

I spent the New Year's holiday on the beautiful catamaran of my pal Laureen and her fabulous family. We went for a zippy sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, it was pretty damned cold but it was an exquisite sail with a lovely family on a big fast cat. Delightful.

The second instance was in March when MJ and I drove to New Orleans. My friend Bob's boat, GORT, was about ready to be relaunched after some work in the yard and we went for a couple of sprightly sails on Lake Pontchartrain. I love that boat; a total rush to sail!

Me up forward.

Not on Lake Pontchartrain but a good boat shot.

Change (December blogfest)

What's the best change you made to the place you live?

No contest on this one; this is easily the best thing I did to improve the place I live: Inaugurated a new president who is neither insane, nor a traitor, nor a war criminal.

Although we may hafta wait and see about that last one. Why is the current Justice Department defending John Yoo? This man, along with Bush, Cheney, et al. is clearly as guilty of war crimes as the Germans and Japanese we tried and convicted after WWII.

Welcome, Connor Lewis!

Jerry (my sister Judy's son) and Cori say: Connor Lewis is the newest addition to our little family he is 8#11Oz 20.5 inches.

Ready to make his appearance:

He's here:

Molly says, "Hi!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Challenge (December blogfest)

Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

I'm comfortable inside my own head. I'm uncomfortable trying to share what's in there with others. It has taken me so many years, decades even, of active thinking and reading and doing to integrate my body of knowledge and experience into my personal epistemology and teleology that I feel that I would typically need a thousand pages to adequately answer people when they ask seemingly basic questions. I mean, it took Bertrand Russell approximately 400 pages in Principia Mathematica (volume 1) to say that 1+1=2 and the proof of it is not completed until a hundred pages into volume 2.

So what am I to think, much less do, when some asks me what "unschooling" means to me? That's a concept which is a bit more complex than 1+1=2, after all. To respond adequately is a Herculean challenge; but about a year ago I gave in and composed my very first unschooling-specific post here, after being prodded by Jon Gold.

Since then, I've written two other unschooling-specific posts but both of those were defensive reactions to, and criticisms of, people who were claiming the mantle of unschooling for unpleasant, and in one case, vile, behavior.

The two critical posts were not so difficult to compose. That type of writing comes to me readily. However, writing that first one, giving my take on something important to me, was terribly challenging and scary as hell. Of course, that alone was a valuable lesson for me, to accept that fear was a significant part of my resistance to writing about unschooling. And that makes it the best challenge for me because I pushed through my fear into the place beyond. And that "place beyond" is, as Ronnie once wrote, a wide-sky life.


A fella named Sam Clemens called it "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get." The dictionary gives a definition of it but culture gives it meaning. Bakers give it life in the phrase "baker's dozen." It's a little something extra thrown in for free after concluding a significant exchange of goods or services.

This post is a little lagniappe for my readers cuz I just realized that my last post about a moment of peace was my 200th post. I know that, for the prolific among you, that ain't much but I'm miserly with my writing. And slow. I'm kinda amazed that I've made so many posts. I have been many things and will be many more but I am always me.

And I sincerely hope, Dear Reader, that I will always be silly and, perhaps, entertaining, but that's for you to judge. For me, silliness is the achievement.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Moment of peace (December blogfest)

Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

I was thinking about skipping this one but then decided to give my take on it. For me, the idea espoused here equates to internal stillness. I know people who meditate. I think I understand the concept. The closest I come to that is when I'm soaking in the bathtub/shower, my mind floating among the quanta. Otherwise, my brain is always gnawing at something. Always. Except...

Interestingly, I frequently achieve a significant, mind-expanded inner stillness during animated conversations among the four of us. Chloe, MJ, Ronnie, and I will be engaged in a spirited discussion which will then mutate to the point where the three of them are embroiled in some specific concept, leaving me in a quiet conversational eddy. As I sit and watch them attempt to unscrew the inscrutable, I find myself slipping into an exceedingly peaceful state, my awareness open but unengaged, not actively gnawing at anything, my needs nonexistent, my wants nonexistent, the flow of time nonexistent. Ronnie, MJ, and Chloe are intensely engaged, their minds integrating, synthesizing, their brilliant exchanges of energetic thought almost visible in their intensity; but in those moments I feel that I am a stillness at the center of things, the shanti of the East.

Fuck yeah!

Thanks to Ronnie for twigging me to this. I hadn't seen it yet.

SpaceShipTwo rollout.

Hanging on her launch craft, WhiteKnightTwo, dubbed "Eve," the innovative SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, is getting ready for commercial spaceflight. This is a seminal day for humanity.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Conference (December blogfest)

Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

We attended two wonderful conferences this year.

First, our perennial pilgrimage to the LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference last May in Vancouver, WA. Here's what I wrote after the '08 conference. Dunno if I can really add much to that narrative. This past year's conference saw our little family playing music together for the talent show. That was a delightful addition. Can't wait for next May!

Second, the first-ever Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference last September in San Diego, CA. An unschooling conference in warm, sunny San Diego with an appearance by The Greybeards and their Hot Backup Chicks. 'nuff said!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Night out (December blogfest)

Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

I can see that there's gonna be some overlap in my answers to the prompts I choose to respond to. Dass awrite. Dat don' boddah me, no. Pas de tout!

I've said it before, music is a big part of my life. I always have a soundtrack going for my life's movie, even if it's only in my head. Some of my most fun times ever were my adventures playing rock 'n' roll in New Orleans and nearby areas in the '60s but that was decades ago. My most excellent night out with family and friends this year was playing music with The Greybeards and their callipygian Hot Backup Chicks.

I've told the background story of this group elsewhere on this blog. The specific answer to this prompt is the night of the Farewell Dance for the Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference where we were the house band, playing our hearts out for family and friends.

The energy of playing live music is unequalled when you're playing for/with an excited crowd of wonderful pepople who are dancing and grooving and enjoying the hell out of the experience. The bonus was that my wife was in the band with me, as a Hot Backup Chick, and my daughters were in the crowd having fun, except when they joined us behind the mikes for a group rendition of YMCA. Additionally, the crowd was composed of our unschooling friends of all ages and the room just glowed with fun and friendship.

Here is the YouTube channel with about a dozen of the two dozen songs we played that night.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo from Good Vibrations with a clear view of Alex, our drummer, in it. If anybody has one, please share it with me so I can use it here. Thanks!

Here's one at Good Vibrations of The Greybeards without the Hot Backup Chicks.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Book (December blogfest)

Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

I know the intent of this prompt is to obtain a recommendation for a delightful or interesting book but I'm gonna go in the other direction. This book touched me in the bad way, the way they talk to kids about in grammar school. It made my personal places shrink all up and sent icky chills up and down my spine. I'm here to warn you off before you go to the effort of taking this sanity molester home.

My opinion of (not)James Patterson's Sail is here.

Yes, I'm doing some of these the easy way by linking to stuff I already wrote this year. Color me comfortably lazy. But participating!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Restaurant moment (December blogfest)

Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

I have two from this year.

1. January. After my dad's funeral on Friday (January 23, 2009), Saturday night we went to see my old buddy Big Daddy O play music while having a family restaurant get-together in classic Noo Awlins style. There were 17 of us ranging from my 60 years of age down to nephew Paul's new baby at less than a year. We ate po-boys and other delish Noo Awlins foods, consumed delightful adult beverages, and danced and/or just listened while BDO played his heart out. We toasted Marty (my dad) and celebrated his wonderful life with stories and memories.

2. August. We have kids so we don't really get to have "dates" very often. However, this past August, the girls were away at NBTSC when we celebrated our anniversary(#19!). We took ourselves to the Bellevue (Washington) Ruth's Chris Steak House for a lovely dinner for two. RCSH has become a national chain from its pedestrian solo beginnings on Broad St. in New Orleans. They don't offer Kobe beef (Tajima, Wagyu) but they serve a quality American steak and it was tasty. Add in a coupla champagne cocktails (I'm a sucker for kir royale made with M&C White Star.) and a decent wine, then follow it with a competent bread pudding drenched in whiskey sauce and you have a nice meal. What I enjoyed more than the food itself, however, was the experience.

I love it when Ronnie and I have time alone together to reconnect as a couple. I love to eat at quality restaurants, places where they understand the proper pace for a pleasant meal. I also like to dress well. Occasionally. Yes, you'll usually see me in shorts and a T-shirt or jeans and a T-shirt and you'll never see me in yuppie corporate casual "slacks" and "dressy" collared shirts (Dear gawd, how I detest that clothing niche!); but in addition to my typical seriously-casual couture, I do enjoy the feel of a nice suit or even my tuxedo with a hand-tied bowtie. It's just so civilized, especially here in the Northwest where people even go to the ballet, opera, or symphony in jeans. Sigh!

Anyway, the total experience of our anniversary dinner date was delightful and a highlight of the year in eating out.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December blogfest, kinda

There's a December blogfest being instigated here. Not being much of a joiner, I'm not gonna officially link up and play along but I might do a few of 'em just for the hell of it.

Today's theme is: Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?

I tend to dislike comparison questions like this: best trip, best friend, best sex, etc. I find that concept as strange as the idea of dividing the world into the absolutes of good and evil. Really? I wish someone could explain that to me in a way that makes sense. Anyway, in terms of the theme, I'm gonna do a simple, easy laundry list, linking some of the trips I/we took this year and which I've blogged about previously.

Unplanned January trip to New Orleans for my father's death and funeral. "Best" in the sense of seeing my dad, which was always nice, being there for his death, which was important, and celebrating his life, which was crucial. I love you, dad.

In March, my older daughter, MJ, and I decided to take a surprise roadtrip to New Orleans for a coupla reasons. Chloe was in Atlanta visiting friends, Ronnie was interested in having the house to herself for "a coupla days," and we had a dink we weren't using while Bob in New Orleans needed a dink. Plus selling Bob the dink would pay for the trip. Perfect. We had a great visit and got in some nice sailing on Gort. I love that boat. My trip last Summer delivering Gort is detailed here.

In May, we attended the always-fabulous LIFEisGood Unschooling Conference. We put together a family band and did a song for the talent show there. That was supreme fun, playing music with my wife and daughters. As an added bonus, I fell in with a coupla other unschooling dads and we did a song, too, as The Greybeards with unschooling moms helping us out as The Hot Backup Chicks. Fantasy version of those events is here.

In June, we travelled internationally (to Canada, which is actually just a short drive for us) for some fun with friends. I don't seem to have blogged about it but Ronnie spoke of it here. It's a wide-sky life, indeed, with friends like these.

In September, we loaded up the car, and a U-haul full of music gear, and drove to San Diego for the first-ever Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference. I know it's limited and selfish of me to focus on this narrow aspect of that experience but my favorite part of the conference was playing music. After our performance at LIFEisGood, The Greybeards and Hot Backup Chicks wanted to repeat the experience. We negotiated our way into being the house band for the farewell dance on Sunday night at Good Vibrations and it was simply magnificent. I talked about that experience a bit at #3 here. Some of the two dozen songs we played that night are here.

I'm a firm believer in the motif of life as a journey. Life is movement. That's kind of an unspecified, peripheral theme of my #4 gratitude post. Keep on truckin', y'all!

Ronnie calls this shot "Yes we were cruisers!" no doubt because of all the crap festooning the deck. It was taken on Bayou Bonfouca, just a little way up the bayou from Lake Pontchartrain, on the North shore, across from New Orleans proper. It was taken after Katrina but before Rita, which we rode out at anchor in this spot. Now that was a trip!