Feb 01 2015

Do You Remember?

Category: Boy Scouts,friendshipamuzikman @ 10:34 am

I went to visit an old friend today. As I made the long drive to his house I started counting up the years and realized I have known him for almost 50 years. To my sadness and regret I have allowed too much time to pass between visits. I think it has been somewhere around 10 years. Time has taken its toll. His thick beard is entirely gray now. He has trouble getting up from his chair. He must use a walker to get around. Sometimes he does not make it to the bathroom in time.

He has Alzheimer’s disease…

He did not recognize me when I came in. He had to ask me for my name again. He really did not know who I was. He was always a man of few words but as I sat with him there were several long silences, during which he simply looked at me. It soon became apparent he was working internally, piecing together enough memory fragments to recall that he did know me and to collect some notion of how.

Friendship can be born from many things, such as shared work space, recreation, mutual friends, mutual interests. But friendships are nourished and grow through shared experience. Our best friends are the ones with whom we share the most experiences and we relish the camaraderie that comes from remembering times spent together, both good and bad.

Like so many things in life, memory is not fully appreciated until it is gone. This man was instrumental in helping me navigate the journey from boyhood to manhood. I’d like nothing more than to sit with him and reminisce. I’d like to honor him by telling him how much those memories mean to me and how profoundly those experiences were in helping to shape me. I’d like to recall some great times and in doing so let him know that I still think of them as great times.  But the lid to that treasure chest is almost completely closed forever thanks to this disease called Alzheimers.

Imagine sitting down with one of your best friends and having a conversation in which you cannot reference anything from the past.  I found out just how difficult that is. We build upon memories while creating new ones, and when that remembered context is gone there is very little on which to build.

By the end of the day my friend had put enough pieces together to recall it had been a long time since our last visit.  I will always regret that because it wasn’t just the years in between that we missed, it turns out we lost all the preceding years as well. That was my fault….not taking the time to keep in touch as I should.  I will try to do better with the time we have left before the disease takes him completely away.

Do you have a friend with whom you have not spoken in a while?  Call them up and reconnect.  Ask them, “Hey do you remember the time we…?” And be thankful when the answer is “yes”.

Jun 16 2013

Thoughts about my dad

Category: family,God,love,marriageharmonicminer @ 10:17 am

This was written in October of 1997. My dad passed on about 6 months later.


Recently I’ve thought a great deal about my father and what he has meant to me. This isn’t the first time I’ve considered his influence in my life, and the lives of many others, but perhaps my perspective is a little better in more recent years. He’s just turned 85. I’m 45, and my wife and I are expecting our third child in several months.

My Dad is first and foremost a man of God. At the very center of every part of his life is his love for God, and his trust in God’s promises. I have never known a man of greater integrity. As a child, the man I saw in the pulpit preaching was exactly the same man who sat at the dinner table with his family. Nearly everyone else I know has a “public” persona and a “private” persona, but Dad was and is simply himself.

My Dad isn’t a flashy guy. As a minister, he didn’t “turn on the charm” like a modern, glamorous mega-churchman should. As unrealistic as it may seem to the jaded sensibilities and expectations of many who attend church today, he is pretty much without artifice. In the multiple staff, high concept modern church, some ecclesiastical policy wonk would probably say that “his gifts are pastoral”. Perhaps a better explanation would be that he is simply, gently, firmly who he believes his God wants him to be. I know that everywhere he pastored, lives were changed, and many came to understand God’s love a little better through knowing him. Many of these people have stayed in touch with him and Mom over the decades, recognizing them to be the thoroughly remarkable people that they are.

My Dad is a better man than me. No doubt some shrink would like to make much of that simple statement, but I think it’s accurate. Although I believe my self-esteem is in fine working order, I still hope someday to attain his levels of gentleness, patience, self-discipline, basic courage and faith. Of course, I harbor similar hopes for most readers of this document.

My Dad was a “promise keeper” before there were marches on Washington and big testosterone rallies in football stadiums. Before the excesses of modern feminism obliterated much of its benefits, he was doing dishes, and making sure his sons did, too. He helped with math as needed. He and Mom made it a point to go to games, concerts and other school activities where their children were involved. He did his best to help them become educated. One or the other of them drove me to and from countless rehearsals for all kinds of musical activities, sometimes far across a large city. He was and is a loving husband who cherishes his wife, and doesn’t mind showing it. Before the civil rights movement had impacted much of America, Dad and Mom made it a point to raise non-racist children, by words, deeds and attitudes, even when we lived in the south. I remember his prayers as being clearly heartfelt, not mere formalities around the dinner table. I have some memories from age 5 or so, of his gentle hand stroking my head. I can still feel it, if I concentrate. At that age, his legs seemed to me like tree trunks, and I have clear memories of hanging on to one of them as he greeted people after church.

My Dad put up a basketball backboard in our backyard, mounted on a telephone pole. He played catch with me. It was due to his efforts that I finally caught on to the essential simplicity of subscript notation for related variables in algebra (I kept trying to treat the subscripts as exponents). He taught me that good two-part harmony consists mostly of 3rds and 6ths. He grinned at me when I managed to sing a particularly tricky line as an early adolescent tenor in the church choir. He and Mom managed to keep their own counsel, not to mention their sanity, as I played the same weird jazz chord progressions on the piano over and over and over, till I’d memorized how they sounded. On those rare occasions when I played a piano offertory on Sunday night, he generously refrained from asking me what song I’d played, as I tried out every strange chord God had invented up till then. And although I don’t think he ever really liked it much, he and Mom came to jazz concerts where I played my trumpet, making moderately musical noises that were probably never heard in the rural Wisconsin of his youth. I think he even applauded, politely. I hope I’m able to display as much tolerance of the music that my kids like.

I know it’s a truism, but as I get older, I realize occasionally just how much my Dad knows about living well. I’ve lost more often than I’ve won from not taking his advice on this matter or that. I’ve seen him find ways to enjoy life, even though his last few years have been painful and difficult at times, as he’s suffered many physical maladies. Thankfully, his mind is still very sharp; he still makes subtle verbal jokes and then looks at me to see if I get it. Sometimes I do.

I haven’t always agreed with Dad’s opinions about matters theological, political, social, ecclesiological or aesthetic. We’ve had more than one mildly heated discussion about some point of disagreement, even in recent years. I suspect that the fact that we’re both certain of each other’s love is part of what makes that possible. I’m usually right, of course….. but I try not to be too obvious about it, just for the sake of discussion. After all, a son should show proper respect for his father.

It’s impossible to think of Dad without thinking of Mom in the same breath. They’ve had a most unusual union, I suspect, one that can only come about with two unusual people, doing their best to seek God’s will in their lives. It would probably have served the marriage counseling industry well to toss out the majority of texts, and come interview my folks.

I think Dad is probably held in high regard by virtually everyone who knows him at all. I’m pretty sure that isn’t due to the slick sales job he does on people. Most of us just know the genuine article when we see it. I’m sure God agrees with this assessment, and is getting a bit anxious to have Dad all to himself. In recent years, Dad has had lots of illnesses to go through, and has weathered them so far. In what are probably theologically unsound moments, I’ve sometimes wondered if God isn’t just gently trying to convince him that it’s time to come home. But Dad was always just a touch determined once he’d started a course of action, and besides, he REALLY loves my Mom. So I suppose God will have to be patient a little while longer.

Sep 17 2012

Remembering Jennifer

Category: Beauty,family,friendship,God,love,UncategorizedMrs. Miner @ 10:54 pm

This was first posted in September of 2009, shortly after the passing of Jennifer Tinker, my student.  On this anniversary of her passing, this seems a good time to remember her beautiful life.  Here’s the original post:


When I walked into Jennifer’s hospital room, I was initially surprised at the number of people present.  The pediatric intensive care unit doesn’t usually allow more than a few visitors at a time. The hospital staff was letting us say goodbye.

Peggy and I hugged.  There are no words for a mother at a time like this.  Then we both turned to Jennifer.  She was unconscious, breathing like my father had breathed during his last twenty four hours.  I noted the display of her vitals, grim confirmation of the obvious.  Family members were present that I had not yet met.  Introductions were made, and I sat down with silent prayers of support for a family in indescribable pain.

Conversations would start and stop.  Grandma softly sang hymns while stroking Jenny’s face.  Big sister Sarah leaned from her chair and partly lay across Jennifer.  (Maybe, if she could just hold tightly enough…)  Jennifer would occasionally open her eyes, look around briefly, then go back to sleep.  I was told that she had roused earlier in the day, alert enough to demand the remote control for the TV.  Hey, Tom and Jerry rocks.

Jennifer was born with a rare genetic disorder which resulted in a host of problems, including legal blindness, skeletal anomalies, learning difficulties and pulmonary hypertension, a fatal disorder of the heart and lungs.   She attended public school for a time, but became too frail to continue.  Our school district contacted me and asked if I would be interested in teaching Jennifer in her home.  After meeting with Jennifer and her mother, I gladly accepted the position.

Jennifer’s house was modest.  She had three sisters still living at home, and they all shared one bedroom.  There was no father.  Peggy, fiercely devoted to her children, seemed undaunted by her many challenges, drawing strength from extended family, church, and her Lord.  Jennifer was surrounded in love by a family that had truly learned to treasure what’s important in this life.

I quickly grew accustomed to her oxygen tank and was even able to avoid stepping on the tubing that accompanied Jennifer everywhere she went.  After a little more time, I nearly stopped seeing them altogether.  Jennifer was just … Jennifer.  Fourteen years old when I met her, she only weighed about sixty pounds, but she had a big attitude.  She was assertive, even stubborn, and her family and I would have it no other way.

Sweet Pea, one of two tiny canine family members, merely tolerated my presence, but she and Jennifer adored one another.  When Jennifer was feeling worse than usual, Sweet Pea would hop into her lap, seeming to comfort both of them.  In turn, Jennifer took excellent care of her dogs, leaping to their defense when I threatened one or both of the creatures with barbecue sauce.

Jennifer and I worked out of a small room Peggy had set up for that purpose.  This room was Jennifer’s domain, and she took great pride in her school work and in keeping her materials organized.  It never ceased to amaze and sometimes shame me that Jennifer accepted her many limitations without complaint. She was determined to find the good in all situations and never missed an opportunity to laugh.  Once, we read through The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  When I asked what the troll had in mind for the goats, Jennifer gleefully replied, “He wants to eat them!”  She licked her lips. Then she giggled.  Oh, that giggle…  It filled the room and made you laugh right along.

Jennifer was generous.  Sometimes I arrived at her home to find a brownie or some other example of her growing culinary skills waiting for me.  When my son had surgery, she sent him a homemade get-well card.  This required Jennifer to hold her face about three inches from the paper while she worked on the greeting.  She certainly wasn’t going to let a small annoyance like legal blindness stop her from encouraging another.

Jennifer’s life was worth living, and she lived it well.  I’ve heard some say she is “resting in peace,” but I see her running for the first time.  Running, running, running… into her Father’s arms.

Jennifer Monique Tinker

January 10, 1994-September 17, 2009


After Jennifer’s passing, Harmonicminer of these parts composed a choral composition in memory of her.  Here’s a link and a description.   With some luck, we’ll be able to post a recording soon.


Mar 29 2012

Living Cabbage Patch Doll

Category: family,loveharmonicminer @ 8:45 pm

OK, I know this is pure grandpa pride talking, but here is my granddaughter looking like a living Cabbage Patch Doll.

Sep 30 2011

My mother’s eulogy. Lois Leone Mumford Shackleton, 1915-2011

Category: family,loveharmonicminer @ 4:49 pm

My mom passed away on September 19, 2011.   This is the eulogy I gave at her funeral a few days ago.

Here is a photo of my folks with my first child, about 24 years ago.  That beautiful baby, Kira, has grown up, of course, and is about to give birth to my first grandchild in a couple of months.

My mom was born Lois Leone Mumford on July 4, 1915 in Clam Falls, Wisconsin, to Grace Harvey Mumford and Wellman Mumford. Rumor has it that in my mom’s earliest years, she thought the fireworks celebrations were in honor of her birthday on the 4th of July.

Lois was the second oldest of four children, with an older brother, Loyd, and two younger sisters, Elsie, and Lillian. Lillian is still living, in Wisconsin.

Lois loved music as a child, a very natural thing since her father was a violinist and her mother was a pianist. One of her favorite songs as a child was “Can A Little Child Like Me, “ which we’ll be hearing in a moment, sung by Elyse Shackleton, my mom’s youngest grandchild.

At the age of 14, Lois met her future husband, Loren Shackleton, age 17, at church.

Lois’s family lived 10 miles outside of town, and there was no school bus service in those days. In order to finish high school, Lois completed her junior and senior years by living in the home of a woman with two children who needed housework to be done, and help with her children, so that Lois could live in town and attend high school. She was obviously a very determined young lady.

Lois and Loren were married on October 26, 1934, by Pastor Paul Shrock, at the home of the Mumford family. The relationship of the Shackletons and the Shrocks lasted for decades. I recall staying in their home when I was a child.

Loren and Lois worked in ministry for many years, starting with Christian radio broadcasting in 1937 with Melvin Miller (I still have a “business card” of sorts showing the broadcasters), and then pastoring in Stanley, Wisconsin, starting in 1939. With an interruption for attending college, they pastored together until 1968, in Virginia, Indiana, Missouri and New Mexico.

My sister Mary Lou was born to them in 1940. My brother Tom arrived in 1947, and I broke into the proceedings in 1951.

For many years after moving to Arizona in my last year of high school, Lois was the organist for the Tempe Church of God.

It’s impossible, of course, to state all the ways that my mom impacted me. All I can offer for now are some snapshots.

She started my musical training with a few months of piano lessons in the 1st grade. I complained a lot about how much my upper back hurt when I had to sit at the piano bench, so she let me stop. But both parents encouraged me to start the trumpet in our school band in the fourth grade, and that decision set the, uh, tone of my life in many ways. She accompanied me in countless performances, patiently learning piano parts for all kinds of music for contests and other occasions.

I still remember a chocolate shake she bought for us in the train station in Chicago when I was a small child, just her and me, on the way to Wisconsin to see her mother. It’s amazing what memories we create for our small children, and how much they will remember little things.

When I was twelve or so, I began banging around on the piano again, just out of curiosity about how chords worked, counting the half steps between the notes that made different chords and so on. She noticed, and showed me something called a “dominant 7th chord.” I didn’t know it at the time, but she had given me an early music theory lesson, and I was off to the races learning about harmony and melody. I’ve spent nearly all my adult life teaching music theory, in one form or another, and it traces back to her. Both she and my dad were endlessly patient while I played the same chord progressions over and over, getting their sound and function into my ear.

In the Kansas City area, where we lived when I was 13 to about 16, I was an up and coming trumpet player, playing in all kinds of school groups, jazz bands drawn from the city’s high schools, and so on. In addition to continuing to accompany me, she and my dad drove me to dozens of rehearsals and performances all over town. They usually sat in the front row. I have the impression that my dad didn’t always like the music I played, but she genuinely did. Her tastes were always a bit broader than his. On more than one occasion they drove me half-way across the state, so I could play a 5 minute solo for some contest or other. She would accompany, and he would offer opinions on how well my trumpet was tuned up before the performance.

I recall one trip in particular across the Kansas City area to a performance of a jazz band I was in. My dad wasn’t along on that trip. There was a huge storm, complete with something that looked like ball-lightning on the light and power poles as we made our way through the downpour with almost no visibility. She just kept on going, determined that I would get there in time to perform.

I recall at about age 13 or 14 coming home from school one day, and finding her crying (and trying to hide it) over a letter from my brother Tom, then a soldier in Vietnam. My mom was a praying person, and I know that she and my dad always covered their children in prayer.

Because my folks pastored at relatively low wages up until my senior year in high school (when my dad got a job teaching 5th grade in Eloy, AZ), they didn’t have enough income to send me to college. Even after financial aid, there were still going to be costs, and my mom took a job as a proofreader in the local newspaper in Casa Grande, AZ. Her spelling and grammatical skills were excellent, and I’m sure she rescued countless verbally incompetent reporters from their just rhetorical desserts, while paying for me to go to college at Anderson University in Indiana.

During my dad’s last years, she did an amazing job of caring for him, finding ways to get healthful food into him, getting him to medical care, and generally supporting him. I have to say, I have rarely seen or heard of two people who seemed more made for each other. Yet they were very different people. I think that, with God’s help, they grew together in the mysterious way that couples do when both spouses are seeking God’s presence in their lives. A lot of marriage counselors might have been well served by throwing away their theories and interviewing my parents.

When my mom was about 80 or so, she decided she wanted to learn how to use a computer. For the young people here, how many of you think that at the age of 80 you’re going to learn how to use a complex technology that wasn’t yet invented when you were 50 or so? But she brought typical Lois-style determination to the task, reading thick manuals and help screens, asking questions until she knew how to do what she wanted. Until her recent decline in health, when it got to be too difficult for her to get to her computer, we generally exchanged email five or six times per week. Some of these emails were closer in length to essays than text messages, if you get my drift. We discussed a great many topics.

After her stroke at age 87, she typed one handed, and the emails got a little shorter…. Though not always! As her vision got worse, her family gave her a larger monitor, and she kept on going. Since her hearing had deteriorated as well, and making phone calls was nearly impossible, email became our main way of staying in touch.

My mom dealt with her stroke in typical Lois fashion, with courage and determination. I used to say she was the “special forces” of retired people, as I saw her doing her exercises, trying to stay as independent as possible, doing as much for herself as she could. No Navy Seal works harder or is more determined to succeed in the mission. She did her best to manage every detail of her own life, even giving my sister Mary Lou advice to give to the hospice nurse near the end of her life on earth.

Mom was a voracious reader, and her granddaughter Tammy kept her well supplied with large print books. She watched C-Span, and knew more about the political controversies of the day than a lot of people.

My mom was what might be called the genuine article. She was trustworthy to a fault. More people than you might imagine found her to be a safe person to talk to. She simply did not betray confidences. She looked for the good in other people, again nearly to a fault. She found joy in many simple things, from ice cream to reading to table games. I never saw her put on an air (though a few times she did put on the dog, for a family celebration). If you needed to talk for a bit to someone who loved you and accepted you, a good strategy was to go visit my mom.

Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” As far as I was ever able to see, that described my mom pretty well.

Jul 18 2010

A Wonderful Story

Category: friendship,God,Intelligent Designamuzikman @ 8:55 am

This is a truly remarkable story.  It has found its way into print in Guideposts magazine, in a lovely little book called “When God Winks” by SQuire Rushnell, and now on this gentleman’s blog.  It’s also a very personal story to me.

The Day Weary Willie Smiled

By Phil Bolsta

emmett-kellyEmmett Kelly as Weary Willie

I loved Emmett Kelly as a kid. He was Weary Willie, the quintessential tramp clown, an integral part of my childhood. This touching and amazing story by his daughter, Stasia Kelly, of Atlanta, Georgia, appeared in the October 2006 issue of Guideposts. What are the odds of this story ending as it did?  Probably one in a trillion. And yet . . .

I sat on the plane, my purse in my lap, waiting to take off from Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta for Florida to attend my father’s funeral. I had just spoken to Dad the day before. He’d sounded a little down, but I never guessed it would be the last time I heard his voice. “I’m tired, Stasia,” he said. I could hear that tiredness through the phone, could feel it the way so many people had felt the world-weariness in the most beloved character my father ever portrayed.

emmett-kelly-smilingEmmett Kelly learns he’s a dad

I shifted in my seat—first-class because it was the only available spot on this leg of my trip home. The airline-reservations operator had promised to get me there in time for Dad’s funeral, so she honored my bereavement ticket and gave me an upgrade. I pulled the faded newspaper photo from my purse and glanced at it. The famous picture of my dad, Emmett Kelly. Or should I say of Weary Willie, the sad clown that he had immortalized. Dad was disciplined about Willie’s public persona. Once Dad put his makeup on, Weary Willie never broke character and never smiled, except once, back in 1955. That one time he smiled—beamed, really—a young photographer snapped his photo, and around the globe it went. The only time Willie smiled in public, the world smiled with him.

The plane was almost full and the seat next to me was still vacant. Good, I’d have the row to myself and my tears. I didn’t feel like explaining to some high-powered business type why I was so sad. I folded the picture and slipped it back inside my purse just as a well-dressed, middle-aged man strode down the aisle and took his seat next to me.

“Almost missed this flight,” he said with a sigh, as we taxied from the gate.

Odd as it might sound, in the clowning business Dad was a revolutionary. Clowns were happy figures …zany, wacky, unpredictable and relentlessly upbeat. But that’s not the kind of clown Dad was. He’d created Willie on his drawing board—a rumpled, sad-sack figure, beaten down by the world, Everyman on a lifelong losing streak. In those days, circus bosses were skeptical. Did people want a depressed clown? But they let him try it.

By the 1940s, the sad clown had become a hit and Dad had made it to the big time—Ringling Bros. circus. People cared about Willie and his struggles. They saw that no matter how hard he took it on the chin, Willie never gave up. He became the world’s most famous clown, probably the most recognizable clown ever. Maybe the reason Willie was so easy for people to love was that Dad brought a bit of himself to the character. Not that Dad was a sad sack, but he understood struggle. His early life on the road was tough and often lonely. Then in middle age he fell head over heels in love with a beautiful trapeze artist who eventually became his wife and my mom. They bought a little place in sunny Sarasota, Florida, for when the circus wasn’t traveling. It had a big backyard, a porch and a vegetable garden. For the first time, Weary Willie was a happy man—and happiest of all, I’m told, that day I was born. He and Mom named me Stasia.

Now, staring out the plane window, I tried to be grateful for that happiness Dad had found, and for the life he had led making others happy. How much more blessed could a daughter be than to have Emmett Kelly as her father? Even the airline-reservations operator who managed to get me this last-minute seat said some thing. “I remember Willie! Your dad made so many people smile.” Yet yearning and grief crushed out all my other feelings. I rested my head against the seat. Dear Lord, comfort me. Show me a sign Dad is content with you the way he was with Mom and our home and the backyard where he watched us kids play.

They say the food in first class is better. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t feel much like eating. I kept my tray up and stared into my lap. I just wanted to get home to Florida. I felt the plane slow and then one wing dipped as we started to descend. I couldn’t resist pulling that old newspaper clipping out of my purse and looking again at Dad beaming that incredible smile as he held a phone and heard the news that I’d been born. Immediately, I had to wipe away a tear.

I barely heard the man next to me say, “Excuse me.” He tapped my arm gently.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Yes?”

“”That photo…”

“My dad, Emmett Kelly. He died today. But this is from the day I was born….”

“I know, Stasia. I know. I was there. I’ve never seen a man so happy. I just had to snap that picture.”

My father, Frank Beatty, was the photographer who took that now-famous picture – the only one ever taken of Weary Willie smiling.  And what an amazing moment for him to meet Kelly’s daughter that day on the plane.  My dad went on to become very good friends with Stasia Kelly, he was even the photographer at her wedding.  God does indeed often work in mysterious ways.

May 31 2010

Memorial Day

Category: freedom,friendship,God,liberty,love,military,society,virtueharmonicminer @ 8:30 am
I ran across this at Michelle Malkin’s site.
It is a tribute to a single soldier, but I think it stands for them all.

Apr 11 2010

Love Life

Category: abortion,government,justice,legislation,liberty,love,theologyharmonicminer @ 8:14 am

h/t: SuzyB

Dec 02 2009

Unlikely friends

Category: friendshipharmonicminer @ 9:53 am

You can keep the orangutan, but I’ll take the hound.

h/t: SD

Nov 29 2009

Happy Birthday to me: UPDATE

Category: family,friendship,humorsardonicwhiner @ 12:45 pm

So, today is my birthday.  I went and played keyboard for the first service at church, then got out before someone caught on and tried to sing to me.

Since my age for the entire last year was a prime number, I guess that means that I am now, uh, past my prime.


To make me feel better about it, some friends, colleagues and students sent me nice birthday greetings on facebook.  Some were of the normal “Happy Birthday, Shack!” variety.  A couple of them got insulting and called me Dr. Phil.


One even thanked me for teaching her music theory and music technology, which she now uses in her life more than she expected.  That was nice, one of the best birthday gifts a person could give me.

One former student from way back seemed to find great joy in astronomical allusion.  We eventually decided that as long as I live, the galaxy will keep spinning ’round, with all black holes kept tidily in their places.  Or maybe that’s an astronomical illusion.

My 94 yr old mother sent me email asking how long the university will allow me to continue to teach.   Nice, mom.  Real nice.

Then my cousin told me about all the family members she’s seen lately that I haven’t.

It’s always your family that knifes you in the back.

And then there were the nerds.  Lots of nerds.  For example, a fellow faculty member sent me this birthday greeting:

sol-sol-la-sol-do’-ti, sol-sol-la-sol-re’-do’, sol-sol-sol’-mi’-do’-ti-la, fa’-fa’-mi’-do’-re’-do!

I think that last do should be do’…  but I suppose I’m quibbling.

A music major from three decades back, who then worked as a DJ or something at a radio station in Alaska for a time, sent me this:


It took some time to decode that one, since it has a couple of errors in it (the 9–7 sequence should be 12 — 9, and the 2–7–5 sequence should read 2–0–7–5), and it assumes that “0” is the fifth scale degree…  but what can you expect from someone who moved to Alaska?  Hey….  I wonder if he ever met Sarah Palin?

But I digress.

Then there was the current student, a jazzer, who couldn’t resist sticking in a suspended, altered dominant voiced as a Neapolitan major 9, +11, 13 chord over the dominant root, where it would conflict with the penultimate note rather seriously, so he changed the melody down a half-step, the only remaining problem being that the root of the Neapolitan isn’t the ideal melody note against all that extended color.  He seems also to want my birthday to be over very, very quickly, though at least he wished me many happy returns.

Happy Birthday wierd

I am often accused of employing inappropriate logical tools to issues of values, theology, philosophy, etc.  That may be what was behind the next birthday greeting, which I think may be a subtle insult suggesting that I think only in black and white, with no room for shades of gray, nuance, etc.

01000111 01000111 01000001 01000111 01000011 01000010 01000111 01000111 01000001 01000111 01000100 01000011 01000111 01000111 01000111 00100111 01000101 01000011 01000010 01000001 01000110 01000110 01000101 01000011 01000100 01000011

I’m not sure what to say about that, other than that the apostrophe confused me for a moment…  I actually had to consult this table.  In retrospect, it was obvious, of course….  the apostrophe was to indicate the upper octave of “G”.

I’m reminded of a sign on my office door, graciously donated to me by a faculty friend.  It says:

There are only 10 kinds of people.  Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

As for accusing me of binary thinking, all I can say is this:  either today is my birthday, or it isn’t.

Based on the available facts and logical conclusions to be inferred from them…

I choose to believe that it is.


UPDATE:  It has been pointed out to me by a friend on facebook that, while I can do binary arithmetic, I can’t do third grade decimal arithmetic.  To wit: last year, my age was NOT a prime number.  And neither is this year.  Next year IS…  I think.  I no longer trust myself.

Perhaps the logical question is, will I be completely overwhelmed by senior moments (or senior hours) even BEFORE I have passed my prime?

I suppose time will tell.

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