Emerald Greens

In the final lines of our national anthem, Americans sing, “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave”.  Those labels are a little dicey today.  Are we really free?  Are we really brave?  It’s a debate best left to more intellectual bloggers. I’m simply looking for less controversial words to describe the United States.  Take Ireland, for example.  The little republic is nicknamed “The Emerald Isle”.  Of this, there can be no doubt.  Before your flight even touches down, the window seat view is nothing but endless rolling green hills.  And not just any green.

See what I did there?  Inside of a single paragraph I distanced myself from heavy topics like freedom and bravery, and now I’m focused on the color green.  Bravo, Dave! Now then, let’s continue.

“The Emerald Isle”

Emeralds have always been my favorite of the precious gems.  In the jewelry shop it’s hard to ignore diamonds (because they’re everywhere), yet somewhere in the glass cases you’ll find the more colorful stones. Blood-red rubies. Royal blue sapphires. Modest little garnets (my birthstone).  And green, green emeralds.  I’m drawn to emeralds because green is my favorite color.  On that note, do you realize your favorite color never changes?  Nobody says, “Well, I used to like purple but now my favorite color is orange”.  You can move to another country, switch up your career, or overhaul your wardrobe, but your favorite color is a constant.

I digress (sorry). I have emeralds on the brain for good reason.  My wife & I just celebrated thirty-five years of marriage (thank you very much), and she hinted emeralds might be a nice gift.  So I paid a visit to my jeweler.  I told her I was looking for something understated, maybe earrings and a necklace.  She showed me a pretty set, where I thought my only decision was the shape of the stones (Round? Square? Pear?).  But then she threw me a curve when she said, “Would you prefer natural or lab-created?” Huh? Why would I buy my wife anything other than the real thing?

“Natural”
“Lab-created”

Here’s the rub of the green.  Lab-created gems are the real thing.  They’re “chemically, physically, and optically identical to their natural counterparts.” So why choose one over the other?  Cost. Lab-created gems can be significantly less expensive, especially as the number of carats grows.  In other words, easy choice, right?  Wrong.  The lab-created gems – at least in my jewelry shop – were small enough to be the same price as the naturals.  Instead, my decision came down to color.

Was I tempted by the blue-green clarity of the lab-created?  Absolutely.  Did I choose them?  Absolutely not.  I kept coming back to the emeralds in my brain.  Call it natural green, kelly green, or Irish green, but I prefer the green on the left.  And I think my wife did too.

Liz is wearing $6.5M worth of emeralds and diamonds

I’d like to share some trivia on today’s topic but – warning – it’s a little pedestrian.  Emeralds are one of the twelve birthstones (conveniently, the month of May).  Emeralds come from the mineral Beryl (as do aquamarines).  Their rarity makes them “precious”, alongside diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.  They’re delicate, susceptible to chipping.  Finally, emeralds are considered, among other things, a symbol of rebirth.

A section of the Florida Panhandle is called the Emerald Coast for the area’s clear, green water.  The Wizard of Oz lived in the Emerald City for reasons only Oz fanatics can explain.  And little Ireland, deservedly, earns its nickname for those rolling green hills, as well as Irish jewelry, made primarily from green gems (if not all emeralds).

Florida’s Emerald Coast

I saved one more fact for last, mostly to make points with my wife.  After I bought her the earrings and necklace, I said to my jeweler, “By the way, it’s silver for the 25th anniversary and gold for the 50th, but what about the 35th?” She replied, “Emerald” (even though several Google searches suggest jade).  Whoa. I didn’t plan on that coincidence but I’ll certainly take the credit.  After all, my wife is one-quarter Irish. My daughter’s name is Kelly. And my favorite color is green. How could it be anything but emeralds?

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #17

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Today’s build demanded more of an overhead view so you can see the difference between last week and this week. Bag #17 – of 21 bags of pieces – earned me the row of seventeen black caps you see in the second photo (on top of the piano wires), as well as the wide stand for sheet music, just behind the keyboard cover.

Last week

The piano is a remarkable instrument.  When you press down on a key, you’re actually pushing a “hammer” up against the underside of a piano wire, creating a musical sound (or “note”).  When you release the key, a black “damper” (one of the seventeen I just built) drops down on the top of the wire, silencing the sound.  Add in the functions of the three pedals at the base and you should consider the piano a musical mechanical marvel.

Running Build Time: 12.5 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. Leftover pieces: 2

This week

Conductor’s Note: The Bumblebee is a brief orchestral interlude of an opera, composed well over a hundred years ago. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s furious little piece, when played on the violin, really does sound like a buzzing bee.  It’s only 84 seconds in length, but you find yourself catching your breath after you’ve heard it.  It’s even more remarkable when played on the piano, the fingers almost a blur.  Have a listen to the audio file here. I’m sure you’ll recognize the tune from some of today’s movies and cartoons.

Happy Holiday

If you subscribe to Disneyland’s claim of “the happiest place on earth”, you’re really talking about the several happiest places on earth.  Besides the original parks in California and Florida you now have more exotic locales like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Paris – a total of twelve Disney theme parks across the globe.  Now throw in Hawaii’s Aulani (Disney) Resort & Spa for a baker’s dozen.  But do a search on “the happiest place on earth” and nothing remotely close to the lands of Disney comes up.  Instead, you get the land of the Finns.

Maybe you haven’t heard of the World Happiness Report? I have. I first blogged about it five years ago in my post, Happy Days Aren’t Here Again.  Back then I wasn’t lamenting the fact the UN established a rather desperate-sounding holiday (“International Day of Happiness” – March 20th).  Rather, I was un-happy the United States ranked #14 in the holiday’s companion report.  Thirteen countries, including #1 Norway, were happier places on earth.  To make matters worse, the U.S. had been slipping in the happiness rankings since the first report in 2013.  This year?  The Americans dropped again, to #16.

The Northern Lights make me happy

An objective report on happiness sounds a little ridiculous but when one country (Finland) ranks “happiest” five years running, you sit up and wonder what you’re missing with Laplander life. Consider the variables in the happiness report calculation:

  1. Healthy life expectancy
  2. GDP (goods and services) per capita
  3. Social support in times of trouble
  4. Low corruption
  5. High social trust
  6. Generosity to the community
  7. Freedom to make key life decisions
Cold = contentment?

Maybe you assume Finland’s proximity to Ukraine (and Russia) puts it in a nonpareil position to earn high marks for say, “social support” and “generosity to the community”.  But this year’s rankings were determined before Russia’s invasion.  Finland was already socially supportive and generous (and apparently “happy”).  So, does Finland come to mind when you consider the list above?  It doesn’t for me, but I will say this. The Finns enjoy day-to-day living. On a Baltic Sea cruise a few years ago we spent several hours in the capitol city of Helsinki, where we had the chance to observe the locals.  What were they doing? Sunning themselves in the parks on an unusually warm day. Shopping in open-air markets.  Children walking home from school unattended.  Peace and quiet wherever you looked.  Happiness.

Eight of the ten “happiest” are on this map

Let’s visit some of the other happier-than-America countries.  There must be something good in Baltic Sea water because Norway, Sweden, and Denmark also make the top ten.  Iceland skates in at #3, which almost makes for a clean (and happy) sweep of the Nordic countries.  Switzerland (#4) and New Zealand (#10) are also “happiest”, and I can think of several reasons to spend time in both places.

As the song goes, “don’t worry, be happy”, but I confess I’m a little concerned about happiness here in America.  We need to step up our feel-good game from more than just Disney theme parks.  Maybe post those seven criteria on our refrigerators as regular reminders. Or, spend more time in saunas like the Finns do.  Otherwise, it may be time to pick up and move further north.  After all, happiness beckons.

Some content sourced from the CNN Travel article, “The World’s Happiest Countries for 2022, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #16

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Every piano keyboard demands a cover to keep it clean. Bag #16 – of 21 bags of pieces – was entirely dedicated to the protection of the keys.  As the photos show, the keyboard cover hinges gracefully up and down, blending seamlessly with the rest of the black piano frame.

A word about leftover pieces (another 3 this week).  I need to be more thankful they’re “leftover” and not “missing”.  I swear I was shorted an important piece this time around (and maybe I really did swear).  But as usual, there it was in plain view in my pile of pieces.  I’m grateful to the human or the machine making sure every last piece was included in my Lego Grand Piano box.

Running Build Time: 12.0 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: Peter (or Pyotr, if you prefer) Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was an interesting choice for this week’s build, because I completed the keyboard cover before 8:30am.  If you know the Overture, you know it’s fortíssimo, like an alarm clock firing on all cylinders.  It’s a blast better meant for an Independence Day fireworks celebration (and some orchestras add a real cannon for the finale). The Overture is also brisk; a mere sixteen minutes from start to finish.  I wasn’t that quick with the keyboard cover build, but I did wrap it up in less than a half-hour.

Hold (the) Music!

This morning as I brushed my teeth, I could hear soft music while my wife surfed on her iPad nearby. It was a catchy keyboard instrumental, the kind of tune to put a bounce in your step. Not twenty seconds later however, there was a bit of silence followed by the same melody all over again. By the time I flossed I’d heard this “song” five or six times through and it was getting annoy-oy-oy-ing.  Then it hit me.  My wife was on her iPad – yes – but she was also on hold.

Elevator Music. Lift Music. Piped Music. Muzak. Call it what you want, but my unofficial survey says hold music is not the satisfying little concert it was designed to be.  How many times have you heard, “Thank you for your patience… one of our representatives will be with you shortly…” followed by the same cloying music over and over and OVER again?  You pull out your teeth (I mean, your hair) because “the representative” will NEVER be with you (let alone “shortly”).  More to today’s point, the persistent music-on-hold (MOH) doesn’t lighten your mood, and, it’s an insult to technology.

MOH had the best of intentions when it debuted in 1962.  Like many products MOH was invented by accident, when the phone lines of a small factory accidentally picked up the music of the radio station next door.  MOH appealed to businesses because customers stayed on the line longer if offered music over nothing at all.  Hold music also found an audience in places where people tended to gather, like elevators, waiting rooms at doctors’ offices, and airport boarding lounges.  You should agree; music beats silence any day (in other words, something is better than nothing).  It’s just, the “something” should be a whole lot easier on the ears.

I have a personal connection with hold music.  Years ago, it was a part of my responsibilities as the switch programmer for a long-distance phone company.  If you call customer service today – any customer service – oftentimes “events” happen before you’re connected to a real person.  How many times does the phone ring before someone (or something) answers?  Are you offered a menu of choices to route your call to a specific department?  Would you prefer a callback instead of waiting on hold?  A behind-the-curtain person programs these little events and that person was me.  I also chose when to offer you hold music.

Mercifully, my long-distance company subscribed to a professional hold music product, which meant calls to our customer service were offered pleasant, non-repeating tunes.  You might have to wait fifteen or twenty minutes but at least you wouldn’t get a mindless tune, slowly eating away at your brain cells.  Unfortunately, my company was the exception.  Professional hold music isn’t cheap (thanks to copyright law) and most companies don’t care enough about their customers to pony up.  So, you get “catchy” keyboard instrumentals instead.  Even worse, you get the endless loop of tape-recorded music (a tape recording!), including the hiss and pop of too many plays.  Like I said, an insult to today’s technology.

You might disagree about the loss of brain cells. “Not ME, Dave; I don’t get hold music stuck in my head“.  Okay, but listen to the following YouTube audio and then reconsider.  This ditty may be the most famous music-on-hold specimen of them all; the so-called “Opus Number One”, composed by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel and incorporated into every single Cisco phone system.

The days of hold music are numbered (and thank heavens they are) because the days of live customer service are numbered too.  Today’s customer service has you self-diagnosing through torturous “interactive voice response” (IVR) menus or by scrolling online through endless lists of FAQ’s.  But MOH still has its place at other tables.  The sophisticated InBody body composition scale at my fitness club offers MOH while you stand there getting your vitals measured.  Our Samsung washer and dryer play the same happy [irritating] little tune after every load is done.  And elevators aren’t going anywhere (except up and down).  You’ll still hear plenty of Muzak on elevators.  At least today’s smartphones help riders escape their awkward proximity to strangers.

The next time my wife is subjected to hold music, I may have to move to another room to brush my teeth.  Then again, maybe it’s not so bad.  You can now buy toothbrushes with built-in hold music while you brush (lasting exactly two minutes). This would be detrimental to my dental hygiene. I might tear my teeth out before I even get to the flossing.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #15

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

At long last, our piano has a keyboard! Bag #15 – of 21 bags of pieces – added the final key to the right side of the board for a “grand” total of twenty-five.  Then the whole assembly slid into the piano frame smoothly, as if closing the drawer to your bedroom dresser. The piece of the black frame running the length of the board just below the keys secures everything into place.

As a part-time perfectionist, I’m a little bothered by the fact the piano keys don’t rest at a uniform height across the board.  You can see one to the far left sitting a little higher than his neighbors while one to the far right sits a little lower.  Removing the keyboard at this stage in the performance is easy, so I might see if I can level things out.  Or, I’ll just make peace with being a little “off-key”.  Maybe.

Running Build Time: 11.6 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Ives’ The Unanswered Question. Leftover pieces: 1 tiny green square.

Conductor’s Note: Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question is one of the most creative classical pieces you’ll ever hear.  It’s a “dialogue” between a trumpet and four flutes.  The trumpet asks the question, “What is the meaning of life?“, and the flutes try in vain to answer, a total of six times.  The flutes get more and more frustrated (and the music more disjointed) every time the trumpet repeats the question.  The Unanswered Question concludes with the trumpet asking its question one last time.  Now that you know the story, listen to the short piece through the following video.  It’s only six minutes.  The Unanswered Question was the perfect choice for today’s topic.  After all, how many times do you call customer service only to come away with… an unanswered question?

Blues Choose

When our daughter gets married this June, she’ll include the tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”; all items meant to bring good luck.  “Old” is a ring from her grandmother; “New” a necklace.  “Borrowed” is still to be determined while “Blue” is the garter her husband-to-be tosses at the reception.  Now, if the “blue choose” were mine to make, I’d go with a handful of juicy berries instead.

This week I learned a few things about blueberries, my favorite fruit in any orchard, grove, or patch on earth.  Just outside the tiny town of Whiting, Maine (pop. 482) you’ll find Josh Pond, a farm known for its “organic hand-raked wild” blueberries.  Josh Pond is harvesting into its fourth generation and its 150 acres include a herd of Oberhasli goats and a giant field of strawberries.  In other words, shop on the JP website and you’ll find a variety of cheeses, jams, and jellies alongside the blues.

You already know a thing or two about organic produce but perhaps you’ve never heard the term “hand-raked”.  Check out the following video (which beats any description in words).  It’s a soothing process to watch and a bountiful harvesting technique.  Josh Pond can hand-rake up to 2,000 pounds of blueberries a day.  They’re then quick-frozen, packed into 5-pound boxes, and shipped directly to you…at $100 USD a pop.  Do the math.  Josh Pond grosses $40,000/day on its blueberries alone.

$20 for a pound of blueberries is way steep for my purchasing power.  I’m reluctant to pay half as much, and even then I drop them sparingly into my yogurt/granola breakfast.  But I may be stingier than I think.  JP customer Chelsea Balboni gushes in her online review, “My wild organic blueberry subscription has changed my life.  Every month a 5-pound case is overnighted to me…”  Every month?  Who spends $1,200/year on blueberries (besides Ms. Balboni)?  For the record, I’m not knocking Josh Pond.  If you want the best blues North America has to offer, JP is your go-to.  Just be ready to pay.

Maybe I still spend more on blueberries than you do, but I find it interesting my blues choose – when it comes to food in general – is very limited.  Quick – name a blue food (besides Josh Pond blueberries).  All I could come up with was Blue Curacao, which isn’t food so much as a liqueur served as a cordial or in tropical drinks.  Blue Curacao, ironically, comes from the dried peel of bitter orange and is then dyed blue. (Why blue? No idea, but we’re getting off-topic here).

A consult of a blue food list comes up with just a few worthy entries.  Blue crab.  Blue corn (tortillas).  Blue (or bleu) cheese.  And Brilliant blue FCF, a synthetic “safe and non-toxic” dye for ice cream, cotton candy, medications, and cosmetics.  I half-expected to find Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts on the list but then I remembered: the wholly chemical toaster pastries contain no blueberries whatsoever. (Okay, maybe a dried trace of them, way-y-y-y down on the ingredients list.)

Hello, Violet!

No post on blueberries would be complete without a mention of Violet Beauregarde.  Violet who?  C’mon now, channel your inner Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Violet was the obnoxious, gum-loving rich kid who sampled a chew of Willy Wonka’s four-course dinner gum, including the blueberry pie dessert that “wasn’t quite perfected yet”.  In a wonderful scene (from the classic 1971 version), Violet turns deep blue as she chews, and inflates into a giant blueberry.  The last we see of Violet, the Oompa-Loompas are rolling her away to the juice press to be squeezed back to normal size again.

Hello, Sal!

All of this blues talk reminds me I need to read my granddaughters Blueberries For Sal, one of my favorite childhood stories.  Also, I’ll probably cave to one of the giant blueberry muffins my wife brought home from Costco the other day.  As for the tempting bounty from Josh Pond?  Ah, if only I could purchase just a handful for my daughter on her wedding day.  Instead, I’ll leave those hand-raked beauties to blues-choosers with a little more discretionary income. 

Some content sourced from the Josh Pond website, the Prepared Cooks article, “18 Foods that are Blue”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #14

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

You’ve seen this before, as we cruise past the 2/3 DOWN, 1/3 TO GO road sign.  Bag #14 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another seven keys to the board for a total of twenty-four.  There’s a lone key remaining to the far right; then the whole assembly goes into the body of the piano (and heaven help me on that maneuver).

Piano keys are getting repetitive so let’s talk about Sergei Rachmaninoff.  His name is intimidating but his music has an interesting connection with pop.  If you remember Eric Carmen, you already know a little Rachmaninoff.  All By Myself is based on Sergei’s Piano Concerto No. 2Never Gonna Fall in Love Again is based on Sergei’s Symphony No. 2.  Both Carmen songs were huge hits but they’re also depressing.  Did Eric seek comfort in classical music when his personal relationships weren’t going his way?  Maybe, but it wasn’t without expense.  The Rachmaninoff estate brought “copyright” to Carmen’s attention, and promptly helped themselves to 12% of the royalties on both songs. 

Running Build Time: 11.0 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Symphony No. 2 in E minor, and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Leftover pieces: 6.

Conductor’s Note: Forget Eric Carmen.  Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody… is one of the most moving classical compositions you’ll ever hear.  The piece starts ever so simply on the piano, then brings in the orchestra to dramatic, sweeping interpretations.  My wife isn’t a classical music fan yet she loves Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody… especially since it’s the theme of the romantic time-travel movie Somewhere in Time.  Have a listen here.

A Month of Sundaes

I seem to have an affection for the hyphen. The humble horizontal line appears regularly in my posts. The “dash” is more formal than the “dot-dot-dot” yet more relaxed than the semi-colon – perfect for blog pauses, don’t you agree? My hyphen habit may be the result of formative moments in my life, like Hanna-Barbera cartoons (hello, Yogi Bear) and Hewlett-Packard, where I worked most of my professional career. But if I had to pick just one – or should I say, thirty-one, I’d go with my favorite hyphen of them all.  Baskin-Robbins.

The next time I write a post, remind me to have something to eat before I sit down to the keyboard.  My last four entries cover graham crackers, doughnuts, waffles, and now ice cream.  Might be my anticipation of Easter Sunday (when my Lenten sweets sacrifice comes to an end).  Bring on the jellybeans, Peter Rabbit!  But today is about ice cream – and not just any.  It’s about the one you grew up with; the one you still identify with.  For me, it’ll always be Baskin-Robbins.

“B-R”, as they’re now called, has a quaint beginning worth a few sentences here.  Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins got into the ice cream business independent of each other.  Then Burt married Irv’s sister.  The now brothers-in-law decided to combine “Burton’s Ice Cream Shop” (10 flavors) with Irv’s “Snowbird Ice Cream” (21 flavors), and there you have it – the birth of “31 Flavors”.  B-R was a single shop back in 1948; today, how about 8,000 parlors in 50 countries?  Their new slogan – Seize the yay – has more to do with “celebrating small, joyous moments” than ice cream.  Even the rebranded logo removes the nostalgia of the B-R I grew up with (though the embedded “31” is clever).  But I get it – B-R needs to appeal to younger generations as well.

Dad’s favorite

Baskin-Robbins is inextricably tied to my childhood memories.  Our local B-R was one door over from my mother’s hair salon.  It was also right down the street from our church.  So ice cream for me was often the reward of patience with Mom or simply going to church with Dad, who often couldn’t resist a stop at B-R on the way home.  You could always find a container of B-R Rocky Road in Dad’s freezer, all the way up to the last day of his life.  He was fond of saying while he enjoyed a bowlful, “Nothing beats Baskin-Robbins’ Rocky Road.” (I beg to differ with B-R’s Peanut Butter ‘n’ Chocolate, but hey, we all have our favorites).

A lot of my posts mention ice cream yet I’ve only mentioned Baskin-Robbins once in all my blogging (in The Sweets Life three years ago).  Kind of a crime there because B-R deserves a post of its own, as does your favorite ice cream parlor.  Wikipedia has an article called List of Ice Cream Parlor Chains (of course they do).  Your favorite is on that list.  I may be partial to B-R but I’m familiar with several others, including Braum’s in Oklahoma and Texas, Carvel to the Northeast, Farrell’s to the West, and Lappert’s in Hawaii.

Of course, with Baskin-Robbins I’m talking “ice-cream-parlor ice cream”.  Back at home, you won’t find any B-R in our freezer because Häagen-Dazs (ice cream) and Talenti (gelato) earn the shelf space instead.  H-D goes a whole lot higher on the butterfat scale so naturally it tastes better.  H-D even has a hyphen!  And Talenti, well, it’s gelato.  Need I say more?

If you live in a bigger city than me, you have better ice cream options than Baskin-Robbins.  Big cities have wonderful local places (follow Lyssy in the City for some of the best in New York).  But do they have hyphens?  Mine does (as does this post – 48 if I counted correctly).  Yes, B-R may be updating its brand, but I’ll always insert the rainbow-sprinkle “dash” between the initials, returning me to those ice-cream parlor memories of old.

Some content sourced from the CNN Business article, “This 77-year-old ice cream chain is getting a makeover”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #13

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We passed the ten-hour mark with the build today, which amounts to a very long piano concerto. (Good thing you’re not being asked to sit and watch, eh?) Bag #13 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another five keys to the board for a total of fifteen.  Eight more next week will complete the entire set.  Maybe we’ll be installing them into the piano as well!

Here’s a stop-sign warning if you take on a project like this.  Pieces can easily be installed backwards.  For all my “practice” building keys these past few weeks, I got a few tiny pieces reversed today and had to disassemble to make things right.  Mr. Instruction Manual includes warning-like diagrams to make sure you don’t do this. In other words, the piano student must pay attention at all times!

Running Build Time: 10.2 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Strauss’s The Blue Danube waltz. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: The Blue Danube is familiar from the very first bars (especially if you saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and remember the scene with the rotating space station).  Strauss was fond of waltzes and this one is his most famous.  With its repeating theme, I thought The Blue Danube would be appropriate this time around since I’ve been building key after key after key.

Strange Bedfellows

Welcome to Masters Week, sports fans! Even if you don’t know the first thing about professional golf, you’ve probably heard of The Masters.  The tournament begins again this Thursday (for the eighty-sixth time) at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. If you have nothing better to do this weekend, you can watch a dozen mind-numbing hours of the television coverage. While you’re at it you’ll discover the Masters traditions, like the champion’s green jacket, the clubhouse top-story “Crow’s Nest” (where the amateur golfers reside), the famous pimento cheese sandwiches, and of course, Waffle House. Wait, Waffle House?

Question: When do waffles and golf belong in the same sentence?  Answer: When it’s April at The Masters. Why?  Because alongside the golf hats, shirts, and commemorative this-and-that for purchase at the souvenir shop, you can buy a limited-edition pair of Adidas golf shoes for your long walk along the course.  The shoes will set you back $200 – a little pricier than most – but hey, they’re limited-edition.  You’ll be among the select few advertising Waffle House on their heels.

Before you think waffles and golf shoes are the most random “pairing” (ha) in the history of merchandising, remember; The Masters is in Georgia.  So is Waffle House.  Their headquarters is right down the road in Atlanta and they have over 400 restaurants across the Peach State (way more than any other state).  In other words, a pair of Waffle House Adidas at The Masters may earn as many thumbs-up as strange looks.

Speaking of strange, Adidas took the breakfast look of its limited-edition shoe to an extreme.  Besides the rear-facing logo, a square-after-square print runs along the side, in a muted tone meant to represent waffles and syrup.  Adidas calls it “batter-like colorway” (a phrase you’ll never hear again, ever).  Including syrup in the design and labeling it “batter-like” might be how Adidas keeps distance (and lawsuits) from competitor Nike, which famously created its first shoe using a waffle iron. Whatever. Shoes and waffles still make strange bedfellows.  I mean, look at the marketing photos spaced throughout this post.  Clever yes, but isn’t your first thought, “Get your dirty sneakers off my dining table!

[Props to Adidas, if you have buyer’s remorse with your breakfast kicks, at least you also get a shoebox looking exactly like a teeny, tiny Waffle House.]

I’m not on my soapbox to knock Waffle House; quite the opposite.  Any restaurant keeping the doors open sixty years after the very first plate deserves my respect.  So does a restaurant where waffles are the main event because I love waffles.  If they’re on the menu, I’ll order waffles whether at Waffle House, Belgian-style, or made-to-order at the finest champagne brunch.  I’ve even been known to eat an Eggo or two.  Ideally, top your grids with strawberries and Chantilly cream, with syrup on the side for dipping.  Heaven on earth.

I’ve only been to Waffle House twice in my life.  Was it a memorable experience?  NO.  Both times I perched on a backless stool at the counter.  Both times I sat next to characters I’d never, ever choose to dine with.  Finally, the Waffle House kitchen is right there in the wide-open so you can watch your breakfast being prepared.  Wouldn’t say it was the most sanitary process I ever saw.

Waffle House does have its charms, however.  The original menu had just sixteen items; today, well over a hundred.  Each location is open all-day-all-night, which has some customers believing Waffle House doors don’t lock.  Each location also has a jukebox, including favorites from the “Waffle Records” label (Ex. They’re Cooking Up My Order by Alfreda Gerald, released in 2006).  Finally, two percent of all restaurant eggs in America are cracked at Waffle House.  Two percent is rarely a big number but in this case, it’s got a lot of zeroes.

Waffle House did make a famous mistake once.  In the 1960s, the chain was approached by one S. Truett Cathy, looking for an outlet for his proprietary chicken sandwich.  The sandwich was added to the menu for a short time, but sales were so strong Waffle House worried its waffles would lose the spotlight.  So Cathy moved on, and of course, Chick-fil-A soon became an even more popular place to eat.

Note the Waffle House shoebox

To be fair, the Adidas shoe isn’t the first time waffles and golf crossed paths. In 1996, Kevin Costner starred as a down-on-his-luck golfer in Tin Cup, which included a memorable scene at a Waffle House just before the U.S. Open.  Somehow this worked better than waffle-golf shoes.

According to its website, Waffle House has 10 locations in my home state of Colorado versus 439 locations in Georgia.  Do the math.  If a hundred Georgians order two waffles a day in each of those restaurants, Waffle House is cooking up over 600,000 Peach State waffles every week. WHOA. Now there’s my excuse to go to The Masters!

Some content sourced from the ESPN.com article, “Waffle House and Adidas team up for waffle-themed golf shoes”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #12

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We’ll be “playing” the keyboard for the next few weeks. Bag #12 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another seven keys to the five I constructed last week, which puts us not quite halfway across the board.  I’m showing the complicated mechanical action in the photo because once the keys are installed it’ll be hard to see.  Notice how pressing the piano key down makes the rounded counterweight to the left go up.  The weight strikes the piano string above it (once inside the piano), and Voila! Music.

When you work on one of these Lego projects for almost ten hours you notice things. Little things. Today I realized, for the first time ever, Lego imprints its logo on every one of the thousands of raised “bumps” on its pieces (like the beige bumps just to the left of the black piano keys here).  A perfectionist would have all of those logos facing the same direction. Nope, not gonna happen; we’re on a one-way street here.

Running Build Time: 9.6 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Handel’s Water Music. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: Water Music is a collection of short pieces for a large orchestra.  Because Handel wrote the set of suites for King George I for a concert on the River Thames, Water Music is often performed outdoors.  Next to his choral work Messiah (“HA…lle-LU-jah!”), Water Music is Handel’s best-known composition.

This is Dough-NUTS!

Earlier this week, Krispy Kreme held the grand opening of its newest store just a few miles from my house. You’d have thought the first customers through the doors won the state lottery. I’ve never seen such an amped-up bunch of doughnut-lovers, at least the ones who stepped up to the television cameras. Even the news anchors caught the fever, practically giddy with their coverage, which in turn had me thinking, “Hello? Isn’t there anything more important going on in Colorado Springs?” Welcome to America, where the opening of a fast-food restaurant makes headline news.

Full disclosure: I’ve had a Krispy Kreme doughnut and they’re positively scrumptious.  Put a box of the original glazed in front of me and I’ll polish off at least half of ’em.  But that was years ago, back when Krispy Kreme was new and novel.  Today?  I take ’em or leave ’em, and apparently I leave ’em because I can’t tell you the last time I ate any brand of doughnut.  Regardless, doughnuts aren’t really my topic today; doughnut customers are.  Specifically, the ones who would get up at oh-dark-hundred just to say they’re among the first through Krispy Kreme’s doors on opening day.

Why?

Maybe these nuts for doughnuts are the same people who purchase tickets to the opening of a feature film; the ones who wait hours in line, watch the sold-out midnight show, then fall into bed bleary-eyed at 3am.  I want to get down on my knees and plead with them, “Hey you, the movie will be shown a hundred more times and will be just as good as the first showing”.  Why give up a good night’s sleep to say you saw it first?  Krispy Kreme will sell their doughnuts for years and they’ll taste just as good next year (and the year after that) as they do on “Grand Opening Day”.  Why the rush?

Here’s something else I don’t understand.  This same fast-food frenzy applied to Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out Burger, and two weeks ago, Whataburger when they opened their first stores in town.  The local news gave us updates for months until their “big days”, then cars backed up by the dozens through the drive-thru, then all you’d hear from neighbors was, “Did you hear what just opened?” like it was the juiciest bit of gossip ever. I can think of a dozen local, family-owned restaurants opening in the past several years, and not one of them earned the same hype as these national-chain fast-food commoners.  It’s like we Americans are addicted to fast food.  Which of course, we are.

Why again?

If I’d kept the local news on all day Tuesday, I would’ve seen the same on-the-spot reporter at Krispy Kreme, giving updates every two or three hours on the progress of the grand opening.  Instead, I just pulled up the news channel website and watched her short videos, one after the other after the other.  This reporter was at Krispy Kreme the entire day (that’s 5:30am-10:00pm for those who are counting).  She managed to look as fresh and bubbly with the first interview as with the last.  Probably hyped up on doughnut sugar.

At least she was getting paid.  Those first customers chose to be there voluntarily, which leads me to this question: what does the rest of your day feel like when you’ve been up since 3:00am?  One customer thought to pack pillows and blankets into her car for her three (pajama-clad) kids, so they could sleep while her husband waited in a line so long, the camera couldn’t find the end of it.  Another customer looked and talked like he’d just received his U.S. citizenship from a very faraway land, espousing the merits of the Krispy Kreme over the lesser doughnuts of his homeland.  A third customer, several dozen-doughnut boxes stacked carefully in her hands, boasted how popular she was going to be when she showed up at work (and between you and me, she looked like she’d had plenty of Krispy Kremes already).

Here’s my favorite part of this “news story”.  This isn’t the first Krispy Kreme to open in Colorado Springs.  Years ago, when KK doughnuts were a new rage, Colorado Springs got its first store.  A few years later it closed.  After that, you could only get pre-boxed Krispy Kremes at a few convenience stores around town.  After that you couldn’t get them at all.  Then several years pass.  Now we’re doing it all over again, with the same amount of hype.  To which I conclude: What does it say about your city when headline news that doesn’t deserve to be headline news becomes headline news all over again?

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Some content sourced from the Krispy Kreme website.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #11

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Today’s build stepped away from the body of the piano (again). Bag #11 – of 21 bags of pieces – started out as a bit of a mystery.  If I’d looked closer at Mr. Instruction Manual, I’d have known what was coming.  At some point in the thirty-five-minute assembly it became obvious.  Keys, Francis Scott.  Piano keys.

I put the Bag #11 keys side-by-side with the piano in the second photo so you can get a sense of scale.  They’re kind of a “module”, which should insert comfortably into the front of the piano later.  My next several builds may be more of the same.  Remarkably, the keys are weighted just like a real piano.  Press one down and the red-tipped weight way at the other end brings it back up.  Think see-saw.  Lest this photo has you thinking “easy build”, Bag #11 contained well over 200 pieces.

Running Build Time: 8.7 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Ravel’s Boléro (twice through). Leftover pieces: 2

Conductor’s Note: Boléro is one of my favorite classical pieces and Ravel’s most famous work.  Listeners either love it or hate it.  It’s a fifteen-minute variation on two themes, with the orchestra building slowly to its crash-bang finale.  The repeating themes are so simple I could probably play them with just the few piano keys I built today.  Ravel composed Boléro as a ballet (it does sound like a dance or a march) and predicted most orchestras would refuse to play it.  He was wrong.  Boléro also gained considerable notoriety as the theme music for the 1970s movie 10, starring Bo Derek and Dudley Moore.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Sweeter Than Honey

We all have favorite name-brand products, and crackers are no exception. I grew up on Nabisco’s Wheat Thins. Years later I developed a taste for the more sophisticated shredded-wheat Triscuit. When I first met my wife, she introduced me to Kellogg’s buttery Club Crackers. Each of these products is a little different (and today we prefer healthier versions of all three). But I think most would agree, there’s nothing quite like the taste of a graham cracker.

As I put graham crackers under the spotlight today I wonder what comes to your mind first.  For me, it’s two things.  First, I’m taken back to childhood mornings at Sunday school, where the preferred snack was honey graham crackers and pineapple juice.  I can’t think of another time or place where I ever had that combination of foods.  Maybe the sugar overload was a strategy to keep us awake during the Bible stories?  Second, I endlessly debate whether a graham is a cracker or a cookie.  If you’re at all familiar with the ingredients, grahams lean towards “cookie”.  They’re called a cracker, they look like a cracker, but nine out of ten stores stock them in the cookie aisle.

Graham cracker or “graham cookie”?

It’s appropriate my first memory of graham crackers is at church.  They’re named after Sylvester Graham, a nineteenth-century preacher whose constant message was temperance.  In Graham’s time, temperance was a movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but also encouraged what may have been the first vegetarian diet.  Wheat was its cornerstone, and wheat (flour) is the primary ingredient in graham crackers.  To be clear, Sylvester didn’t invent the graham cracker (we’re not sure who did) but his preaching inspired its name.

“Blackstrap” molasses

The sweet ingredient in graham crackers used to be molasses, one of my favorite items in the pantry.  Inevitably, molasses gave way to processed sugar.  But as I discovered recently, honey is a key ingredient in today’s best-tasting grahams.

For you, maybe graham crackers taste best in s’mores (which I wrote about in Toasty of the Town), or the crust of a cheesecake, or even Moon Pies for you baby boomers.  But for me, grahams taste best all by themselves.  They play like a “cheat” to the more sugary options out there, and I can pretend I’m just snacking on a “cracker”.

I keep a stash of grahams in my office drawer to satisfy my occasional sweet tooth.  I only need a couple of the 2″x 5″s and I’m back on track.  The other day however, I pulled open the drawer to nothing but crumbs.  Horrors!  Grahams have been my go-to since the beginning of Lent because I’ve given up chocolate and “sweets”.  So I quickly added them to my store list and vowed to shop later in the day.

But as so often has been the case during the pandemic, I immediately paused and thought, “Wait a minute. Why buy graham crackers?  Maybe I can make them from scratch?

Here then, I present what is the best graham cracker recipe I’ve ever tried.  (Okay, it’s the only recipe I’ve ever tried but it doesn’t matter; I don’t need another one.)  Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking takes grahams to a way higher rung on the cookie ladder (including a helpful video if you’re baking-challenged like me).  I’ve eaten a million Honey-Maids yet it took me sixty years to realize grahams can be SO… MUCH… BETTER.  Why?  Because these contain a lot more of the good stuff and a lot less of the nasty chemical flavorings and preservatives.

You should expect these homemade grahams to taste better when you see the ingredients.  The ratio of flour to brown sugar is 2:1 (emphasis on the “1”).  Now add another 1/3 cup of honey.  That’s a lot of “sweet” for a cracker, er, cookie that looks like a thin cardboard rectangle.  But I’m talking delicious with a capital “D”.  Think chewy instead of crunchy, with a rich “graham” flavor lingering much longer than store brands.  They’re almost too good to be called a graham.

My grahams

Okay, let’s close the box on graham crackers with a quick review:

  1. They were invented as an alternative to unfavorable indulgences.
  2. They’re a cookie by definition but a cracker by name.
  3. They make you want to try Moon Pies (if you haven’t already).
  4. They satisfy a craving for sweets without being “a sweet” (disregard earlier comment about brown sugar and honey).
  5. They are unquestionably better made from scratch than store-bought.
Yum!

If I haven’t sold you on how much better the humble graham cracker can be, consider this.  They’re simple to make and you already have all of the ingredients you need.  So, what are you waiting for?  Go bake some crackers, Graham!

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #10

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We worked entirely underneath the piano today, with the instrument flipped onto its back. Bag #10 – of 21 bags of pieces – contained an intimidating pile of tiny parts. I didn’t realize what I was even building until somewhat magically, pedals, legs, and castors appeared before my eyes.  That’s right folks, this baby-baby grand now rolls.

I also took a deep breath and tackled the “loose piece” I’ve mentioned with the last two builds.  Sparing you the heart-stopping details, let’s just admit I installed a tiny piece ninety degrees wrong.  Correcting meant removing all the piano strings and working in a deep, dark corner, with the assistance of an X-Acto knife, eyeglass screwdriver, and pliers.  Like I’ve said before, don’t get any part of this performance wrong.  It’ll cost you later. Dearly.

Elevated!

Running Build Time: 8.1 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Satie’s Gymnopidies 1, 2, and 3 (a deliberate choice to soothe me while I repositioned the loose piece). Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: The tiny pedal to the right is called the “damper”. It’s used to sustain the notes you play after you take your hands off the keys.  Remarkably, the Lego Grand Piano has the same mechanical action you’d find with this pedal in a real piano.  Sit down at a keyboard some time, press the right pedal with your foot, and (with the piano lid raised) you’ll see just how many moving parts it takes to sustain notes.  You’ll find those same moving parts in the Lego Grand Piano.

In-Spired Music

Last Friday, I walked out of the downtown salon where I get my monthly haircut to the makings of a beautiful late winter afternoon. A few cars motored by on the street, yet nobody blared the horn or blasted the radio. Pedestrians kept their conversations to a low tone.  Songbirds made melody, willing the next season to an early debut.  Above all (literally), the nearby Methodist church bells rang out the hour of the day from the steeple, followed by a cheerful rendition of… “The First Noel”?

Found the culprit on Google Street View!

Last time I checked Christmas was well over two months ago.  Decorations are boxed and returned to the closet, lights are taken down, and Starbucks no longer offers my seasonal favorite Chestnut Praline Latte.  Yet here I was, a block from a downtown church in March, with happy steeple bells daring me to burst into Christmas song. 

Talk about a case of bats in the belfry.  You think I’d pause for such a strange moment.  Instead, I simply took in this carol of the bells with a smile, got behind the wheel, and went on my “merry” way.

So it is with church bells, especially the ones in steeples big enough to broadcast their melodies for miles around.  I find church bells comforting, so much so they can play anything they choose and I’ll be happy to listen.  Even a tune that sounds so three-months-ago.

The church I grew up in, on the far west side of Los Angeles, had a tall steeple with bells.  If you pulled up to the parking lot within ten minutes of the start of the service, the bells were making music.  More importantly, they were telling you (as they’ve done for centuries in older churches) it’s time to get yourself inside for worship, buddy.  I didn’t watch every episode of Little House on the Prarie but I watched enough to remember the steeple bells summoning the people of the small town to church.  Believe me, you didn’t want to be the last parishioner in Walnut Grove to pass through the sanctuary doors, earning a steely-eyed stare-down from Rev. Alden.

Here’s another memory from childhood church.  In “Sunday School” they taught us how to lace our fingers together, tips pointing down, palms face-to-face below, and thumbs side-by-side in front.

Church! Steeple! Doors! PEOPLE!

[Go ahead, I’ll wait while you make your little “church”.]

Then you’d look at your hands and say, “Here’s the church…” (now raise your two index fingers into a point), “Here’s the steeple…”, (now separate your thumbs a bit), “Open the doors…”, (now flip your hands over and wiggle your fingertips), “… and see all the people!”  That little ditty was clever enough to recollect all these years later, the moment I heard “The First Noel” from the downtown steeple.

At least in America, the appeal – ha – of steeple bells is probably because you don’t hear them all that often (unless your neighbor is a church).  Most modern churches can only afford the structure of the steeple, not the complicated mechanism of the bells within.  Just like train crossings, today’s “bells” are often an electronic equivalent, and so realistic you can’t tell the difference.  But you can with steeples.  If the church was built in the last fifty years, the steeple bells probably don’t ring true (ha again).

Charleston, South Carolina is known as the Holy City because you’ll find over four hundred churches in its rather compact downtown streets.  You can’t look in any direction in Charleston without seeing a steeple, and many of them are hundreds of years old.  That means bells; hundreds and hundreds of bells.  Take a walk in Charleston on a Sunday morning and you’ll be “treated” to the overlapping competition of steeple bells.  They’re summoning you to church, of course (but which one, exactly?)

The Sound of Music has a brief but charming steeple scene in the movie, just before or after Maria weds Captain von Trapp at Mondsee Abbey.  The camera points to the very top of a steeple, where the abbey bells are visible just below the cupola.  In the era of the story, steeple bells were rung by hand.  In this scene, the “ringer-boy” is shown holding on for dear life as he clings to a rope, the weight of the bell dragging him up and down like a pogo stick.  The moment always makes me laugh.

One of these days you’ll be walking down the streets of your own town and church bells will ring.  Stop for a second and give them a listen.  You’ll probably hear a melodic hymn.  You might even be gifted with an “unseasonal” Christmas carol.  Doesn’t really matter.  Those big, happy bells make beautiful music no matter the tune.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #9

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We are closing in the piano’s insides now, as you can see by the almost complete black frame in both photos. Bag #9 – of 21 bags of pieces – contained a good chunk of the frame curves, including the graceful “S” you can see just beyond the right side of the (future) keyboard.

Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was just about the perfect length for today’s build, with a couple of hold-your-breath moments where pieces from previous builds snapped off and skittered away. They’re back where they belong now,

Running Build Time: 7.5 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G-Minor. Leftover pieces: 2 (tiny unnecessary extras for the frame).

Conductor’s Note: We have a hinged trap door built into the frame now, for access to the battery pack and on/off switch.  When it’s closed, the frame is seamless and you’d never know the door was there.  They have clever people at Lego.

Small Fly

Whenever we travel to our favorite little town in South Carolina, we have the option of a connecting flight through Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) or Atlanta (ATL) to get there. DFW is the fourth-busiest airport in the world, with five terminals, seven runways, and 164 gates. The airport property covers twenty-seven square Texas miles, with its own zip code, police, and fire departments. Meanwhile, ATL is merely the busiest airport in the world, hosting 300,000 passengers and 60,000 workers every day. One of ATL’s runways is so long they hold an annual 5k running race on it. DFW and ATL are mega-ports and can be mega-stressful to pass through, which is why landing in little Augusta, Georgia, our final flying destination, is like a breath of small-town fresh air.

Augusta Regional Airport (“…at Bush Field”, or simply “AGS”) is the smallest airport in the world.  Okay, that’s not even close to true (especially if you consider landing strips in cornfields) but it sure feels like it.  AGS sits quietly on the banks of the Savannah River, just west of the Georgia state line.  It’s served by the smallest aircraft of Delta and American.  Its tiny terminal building is shaped like a capital “T”, with two little ticket counters at the top, followed by a quick stroll down the middle to a boarding lounge the size of an oversized living room.  If you average out the flight schedule, AGS has a single plane touching down every two hours.  They should hire the Augusta High School marching band to welcome each landing (“Go Orioles!”)

The first time I realized AGS was big-time-small was after a late landing on a weekday night.  Walking down the brief concourse the airport was noticeably dark.  The rental car counters were already shuttered for the night.  At baggage claim, the single attendant (literally, the only employee in the building) announced bags would be hand-delivered to the curb instead of circulating on the belt.  Yep, they just lined ’em all up by the waiting cars.

Watch the planes from the “front porch”

My other AGS big-time-small moment was the first time I saw the parking lot (free for 30 min, $8/day).  Half the lot was given over to rental cars.  Think about the number of rental car spaces you need for an airport where just a handful of planes land each day.  Now double the number.  That’s the size of Augusta Regional’s parking lot.

The design of AGS, boasting one-story red brick, proud white columns, and suburban landscaping, reminds me of the clubhouse of a golf course.  In fact, Augusta Regional bears the nickname “The Country Club Airport”, entirely fitting since The Masters professional golf tournament is held every April just twelve miles from its runways. 

Lounge outside (past security) before you board…

AGS reminds me of my first small airport experience back when I was a freshman in college.  Flying from Los Angeles (LAX – second-busiest in the U.S.), I deplaned in a modest midwestern town, and for the first time ever descended stairs onto the outside tarmac instead of through a jetway to the terminal.  I happened to be the first passenger off the plane, which meant leading a line of people to the glass doors of the boarding lounge.  Only I couldn’t open the glass doors.  They wouldn’t “push” despite my best efforts.  Several greeters on the other side of the glass (this was pre-9/11) gestured to “pull” instead of “push”.  Took me just a little too long to figure that out.  Believe I heard the words “city boy” as I was on my way to baggage claim.

When we landed in Augusta most recently, we were the last flight of the night.  As we sat on the park-like benches at the curb waiting for our daughter to pick us up, I watched one of the few remaining employees bring in the trash cans and turn out the lights.  She made sure we had a ride, then locked the terminal building doors.  Only one other passenger was waiting to be picked up.  It was a little strange to be among the last couple of people on the property.  I mean, most airports don’t even close.

… or play a little golf.

At Dallas/Fort Worth, you can rent private rooms at the “Minute Suites” for naps or freshening up right there in the airport terminal.  There’s even a full-service spa.  In Atlanta you’ll find a Starbucks in six of the seven airport concourses.  Augusta Regional? How about a soft pretzel at the one concession stand, or an overpriced unofficial souvenir from The Masters?  Doesn’t matter.  You can show up less than an hour before your departure, and you can take in the take-offs from a comfy rocking chair.  Yep, this little small-fly is a pretty sweet landing pad.

Some content sourced from the Augusta Regional Airport website.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #8

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Last week

Our instrument really came together this week, as you’ll see in the second photo. Bag #8 – of 21 bags of pieces – not only connected both large pieces, but also added strings!  We now have enough of the black frame in place to where our little gem is finally starting to look like a piano.

I went with Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony” today because I completed this section in the early morning hours and needed the famous jolt the orchestra gives you at the end of an otherwise piano movement. (Yes, “piano” can be an adjective).  Haydn was famous for these little “jokes”, placed randomly the middle of his compositions.

This week

Running Build Time: 6.75 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major. Leftover pieces: 4 (including a couple of piano strings).

Conductor’s Note: We’re getting very close to boxing in the complex mechanics of the instrument… and I’m nervous.  We have a couple “loose ends” in there which must somehow attach so they’ll do something productive (like make music).  Hoping next week’s Bag #9 addresses this concern.