Saturday, December 24, 2005

Staff Christmas Party

Kenton is "red-eye-man!"

We had a great time at the Mitchell's at our Chapel music staff Christmas party. (We missed you, Mary!) It was also a little gift exchange and a farewell to our family. I think it was Jim who suggested the menu oughta be chili and wings in honor of my favorite foods. Yikes! As I told my friends, I like both menu items, but I've never had them together!

A good time was had by all, except for possibly the hamster that got loose from his cage in a room full of little kids. Lindsey enjoyed holding it. She seems to like little creatures.

A Nice Gift

This huge picture set in a large frame was give to me from the Green WT and rhythm players at our Christmas party. This is awesome! As Jason said, it will go in my new office where I'll always be reminded of these great friends. Thanks to Lisa and Scott for hosting this party at their house! It was a lot of fun to be all together one more time. I took far more pictures than I've posted here, but since most of the ones I took have me in them, I decided not to put them on the web. The internet already has enough pollution!

I have so many great memories that include the people at this gathering. Far too many to count. As I said in a more public fashion. Whatever alleged influence or impact I may have had in the lives of these dear people, their impact on me and my life is exponentially greater! I'm only one person and there are so many of them!

To any of you WT folks who may be reading this, thank you for this picture, which I'll proudly take with me, and hang on my new office wall, and thank you for all that you are, and all that you've meant to me and my family in the 8 plus years we've been at The Chapel! We love you and we'll miss you!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Concerts

The next few posts will feature lots of pictures. You'll be linked to more pictures like these at flickr. For those of you who are the subject of these pictures, thanks for enduring the spontaneity of the sudden camera in your face and the flash going off shortly thereafter. I wanted to take pictures of as many friends as possible. I don't want to forget any of you! Click here to see a small album of concert pictures.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Things I'll Miss

After living in the NE Ohio area for the last eleven and a half years, and after being at The Chapel for the last 8 and a half, there are plenty of memories and plenty of things I'm going to miss. I know I'm going to leave people out, but here are some stream-of-consciousness, random thoughts kind of things I know I'm going to miss as well as some fond memories.

The Region

  • Snow from Dec-April (no, really)
  • Jacob's Field
  • Hartville Hardware
  • Our house
  • Our yard
  • The Summit County Library
  • The Akron Zoo
  • Bike riding and kite flying at the Hartville Marketplace parking lot
The Chapel
  • The privilege of playing on a Steinway D every week
  • A cell phone
  • The "Commander"
  • The Green Campus
  • The walking trail at the Green Campus
  • Tuesday lunch-- Not necessarily the meetings that follow
  • My E-5's
  • Macs everywhere
  • A do-do
  • Services at Blossom
  • Services at Canal Park
  • The "tape guys"
Worship Team-Green
  • Hearing the refrain of my arrangement of "Blessed Assurance"
  • Hanchey's free pre-releases
  • Leading with all their heart(s)
  • Becky's baby's birth
  • The next Hufstetler duet
  • Maureen's passionate prayers
  • The full recovery of Kimmy
  • The return of Kimmy
  • Feeling safe around Deb L
  • Hanchey's passing 7ths
  • Another movie with Jason
  • Another party with Jason
  • The generosity shown towad Paul and Dena
  • The generosity shown toward Daniel and Kim
  • A long e-mail from Lebo
  • A short e-mail from Lebo
Worship Team-Akron
  • Crashing breakfast with Carol, Nancy, Vicki, and Elisa
  • Trying to be the first to address the other as "dude" with Dave and Kirsten
  • Vicki: "I hate that Dr. Beat thing."
  • Vicki: "I Love Dr. Beat."
  • Vicki: "But that's not what they do on the recording..."
  • Vicki's teeth
  • Three words: Gospel Talent Show
  • White elephant exchanges
  • Vicki: "are your nuts frozen?"
  • My surprise 30th birthday party at Guy and Julie's
  • The generosity shown toward Jeff Yang
  • The generosity shown toward the Gibsons
Rhythm Section-Green

  • Any lick Gibson plays on any instrument
  • The faces Raybould makes when he solos
  • A ripping B-3 gliss from Keel
  • Andrea on the triangle: "My lips will praise you...[ding]"
  • Glen's empassioned drum fills
  • Rob singing away as he plays
  • Andrea's careful placement of the toys
  • Andrea's careful placement of the kick
  • Dave shouting on the platform because he has his headphones on
Rhythm Section-Akron
  • Tritone subs with Fred on bass
  • Frank's "a-one, two, three, hike...."
  • Tommy's Mexican joke in Azteca
  • Jeff Johnson singing girl notes
  • Tommy: "Mexican food is all the same, it's just folded different..."

  • Finishing Kenton's sentences and vers-visa
  • Emily's Powerpoint productions
  • Zuercher's approach to singing
  • Zuercher's approach to mixing
  • Zuercher's approach to people
  • Donna and Karan being a "button-push" away
  • Jim's association of any present-day song to an 80's song
  • Karan: "K-O"
  • The slightly offset streaming of Rush or Indian's radio between Kober's computer and mine
  • Kober's "lyrics-on-the-spot"
  • Donna's chickens
  • Jim and Kenton: Ideation--conflict ensues
  • Businessman's specials at the Jake with Kober
  • Kober: "I can't find the handles..."
Chapel People
  • Chinese with Tuck
  • Erica & Elissa and a bag of Doritos
  • The fabulous kid's staff and programming
  • Wings with Guy and Daniel
  • Wings with Paul followed by Lord of the Rings or Star Wars
  • Dennis and "Live bait"
  • Home opener with Kober, Stankiewicz, Keel, Zuercher
  • Playmates of our kids: Logan, Emma, Abbey, Ben, Olivia
  • Bible studies with Guthrie, Nime, Salmons
  • Russ Tinkham's humor
  • Russ Tinkham's tuba playing
  • Russ Tinkham's bass playing
Chapel Staff
  • Smitty's persona, especially in a staff meeting
  • Any conversation with Castelli
  • Staff Christmas lunches
  • KL's passion for the cross
  • KL's passion for the lost
  • Larry's awesome prayers
  • The master of segues, Todd McKenney
  • Barrett's way-bigger-than-he-needs office
  • KL's VM greeting: "Knute Larsonnnnn, leave a message."
  • Barb: "pastor...."
  • The intern video(s) "If I had 25 million dollars...."
  • CJ and Jen's baby's birth
The Y
  • The great home school gym programs
  • Working out with Dave, Marty, Robert, Cliff, John...
  • Walking on a treadmill next to Shari
  • Watching the kids learn to swim
  • The zero-depth pool
Area People
  • Stu Freedman--Our pianos were always so well taken care of
  • John and Darla English--Darla frantically helping me find the next chart
  • Dave Spondike-The most educated bass player I've ever known
  • Tim Coyne-learning standards and my first real jazz gigs
  • Larry Dickerhoff--Nixon conspiracy theroist and Kent State shooting stories
  • Don and Brenda Wise--our GREAT neighbors
  • Chuck M's wit
  • Carla's vocal improv
  • Tom Hamilton "a swing and a drive...."
  • Paul Braden

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A New Chapter

Many of you reading this already know of our decision to join a ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. Those of you who go to The Chapel and especially those of you who serve along side me have probably been blindsided. I understand the shock--we wanted to keep it quiet for as long as possible.

I want to say to all of you that this was by far the most difficult, heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching decision we've ever had to make. We've been at The Chapel since May of 1997 and really have loved it here. I've grown so much because of all of the staff I've worked with over the years and also because of the great volunteers who have become such dear friends. Only the Lord's leading could possibly convince us to uproot our family, sever our ties with so many, leave everything we know and everything we're comfortable with to go to a "great unknown." Just the other day Janet and I sat in our family room and asked each other "Why are we doing this again?"

I think people who work together in music have it harder. I think people who work together in church music have it harder yet. There's something transcending about putting a bunch of people in a room and making sweet music together. It's invigorating! I love it! It's been so much fun to create with my friends at The Chapel over the years, and I'm going to miss that tie. But larger than that is the worship leading aspect of what we do. This sweet community that is so strong because of the music is drawn even closer because of the unity found in Christ. When we're of one musical mind and one mind in purpose and vision--to lead in worship, the depth grows even greater--and this is what we get week after week, year after year. The layers are great-- but they're very hard to willingly divorce oneself from. A significant byproduct of all this is the rich friendship that develops. When I was in college, I remember how the music people did everything together. I think part of the reason for that were the connections that we all shared musically in all our required ensemble work. We connected on many levels, and musicians who are reading this understand exactly what I'm writing about.

That which seems so abstract as I write this is so tangible in the moment. It was so real at our concert last night when we hit some nice musical grooves. (This is our God, espeically, Rick!) It was great this morning as well as we connected with the congregation and led together. Good musicians can make music anywhere, but making music and leading with all of The Chapel volunteers is what I will miss so much.

The staff is another very important aspect of my Chapel experience. Emily and Kenton are so great to work with and we have been recently hitting our stride together as a team, each functioning well in our own roll. The whole music staff is great at The Chapel. Anyone coming in to fill my spot will be so spoiled with such great talent and competence, such great creativity and passion for what they do. Just as Derrak now knows, it is hard to replace that camaraderie. It's been such a privilege to go "into battle" with you guys! I'll miss you all so much.

I have so many great things I'll take with me. Of course, just having had the privilege to work with each of you, volunteer and staff, has left it's mark on my life. I know that the Lord used each one of you to prepare me for my "new assignment," as Rich called it. I have improved as a musician, church staff member, and person because of the impact each of you dear friends have had on my life and you are all cherished and will be sorely missed.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

TV Themes

For years the trivia question went something like this: "What is the onlyTV show with no theme song?" The answer: 60 Minutes. OK, so what about Lost? What consitutes a song? The theme for Lost is the logo, with a key pad sweep. Is that a song? Alan Silvestri might say no. John Cage might say "sure!" In fact, Cage would probably say the tick-tock of 60 minutes is a theme song. So back to Lost. Is it a "song?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The most wonderful time of the year

Christmas is coming. I can smell it. "It's the hap- happiest time of the year...." Right? It feels like it's "The bus- busiest time of the year...."

Is that ok? Is that the way it's supposed to be? This time of year consumes me and the music staff at the church. Takes us all away from the home--no matter how well we try to manage it. Is that ok? Is that healthy?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Snow White

Last week I took my kids to a little play put on by a local troupe of three actors. It was the play of Snow White. It was geared for little kids. The audience participation of the show included the kids chirping like birds to awaken Snow White, standing tall and stretching out their arms to emulate trees the trees of a forest in which Snow took shelter, and of course, six dwarfs were recruited from among the kids. (The seventh was one of the actors.)

As the story unfolded, I began to listen for something redeeming. I couldn't find much. Let me see if I can distill this story into a quasi- Movie-A-Minute format.

  • The Queen, who is really a wicked witch, deceives the king and marries him, becoming SW's stepmother
  • The Queen is full of vanity and is satisfied only when the mirror reveals the she is the fairest in the land
  • SW "comes of age" and now over takes the Queen in "fairness." (This on her 16th birthday)
  • Enraged, the queen orders her huntsman to take SW deep into the forest and have her killed. In fact, "bring her heart to me," she says. Reminds me of an Indiana Jones movie.
  • The huntsman, evidently conflicted, cannot kill her in the forest because she is so "pure, innocent, and lovely."
  • Disobeying his Queen's command, the best thing he can think of is for her to live in the forest. OK.
  • SW is eventually discovered by seven dwarfs, and decides to move in with them. (scandalous!)
  • SW continues being the maid she was in the palace, cleaning and preparing meals for her hard-working, growth-stunted roommies.
  • The Queen/Witch, when revealed that SW is still alive, comes up with a clever disguise and goes to the forest (evidently knowing just where SW lives) and tries to eliminate her by giving her a poisonous--yes, comb.
  • When SW combs her hair, she's out. What a comb.
  • Alas, once the dwarfs return, the comb falls out, and SW is back to cooking and cleaning. Good for the dwarfs.
  • Undeterred, the Queen disguises herself again and gives SW a poisonous apple.
  • The ever-gullible SW eats the apple and is down for the count. Not Dead, just in an apple-induced coma, evidently.
  • But wait! The prince comes by (out of no where, I might add) and decides that even though SW is not respondent, she must be kissed. After all, she is so fair, and so pure, and so innocent. This he can deduce by looking at her.
  • He kisses her, she is awakened, and on the basis of her beauty (even though she's only 16) he pledges his life-long devotion to her (they kiss again) and they live happily ever after.
  • The queen/witch is somehow dreadfully caught in the world of her "ugly old lady" disguise and can't for some reason shake free of that.
OK, so what have we learned? 1) the Queen is evil 2) The Queen is deceitful 3) the most important thing to the queen is her own looks 4) The huntsman is dumb 5) Snow White is naive 6) the prince only cares about getting the babe, 7) in the end everyone looks good except the evil queen who had it coming.

In all this what role does the mirror play?

So--my gripe? I cannot point to any redeeming aspect of any character. I cannot tell my kids, "this is why this story is so important, so true." or "You should be just like ______ in this story because they're so full of virtue."

Why has this story survived for the last couple centuries?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Web Fads

On a recent podcast of TWiT (This Week in Tech), one of the guys commented that blogging has polluted the net with redundant information. Several members of the panel echoed the idea that a Google search on any topic can yield an enormous amout of results, many irrelevant in part due to the rants and raves of so many people on these silly blogs discussing the same or similar subject. They complained that so many people just copy and paste content from other's sites that it becomes more and more difficult to trace to the source.

So with all that in mind, I'm going to link to a very interesting commentary I recently read regarding web fads that have come and gone. When I think of a "fad," I think of the 1970's. I think of bell bottoms, pet rocks, "un-" somethings, disco, etc. (I was born in 1972, so I can't say I actually remember any of these fads, I just heard about them in the 80's). Or maybe the 1980's with the shirt collars turned up (I'm happy to say I never did that--wasn't nearly cool enough), parachute pants, and of course, electronic drums in top 40 music (not that I ever listened to any of that).

"Fad" and "internet" are two words that don't seem to belong together to me. It doesn't seem like the internet has been around long enough to have earned the word "fad." But everything in computers and the internet moves much faster than real life, and actually in some ways makes "real life" seem faster.

I think the first time I actually used the internet (Old man voice: "when I was a kid...") was in 1992 or 1993 at Cedarville College (now Cedarville University). It involved a walk to the "computer lab" where we could send e-mail to one of the two or three people we knew that had an e-mail address. I think the first person I ever e-mailed was my buddy Brian Yates. (You still out there, Yates?) Ohio to New Jersey. How cool was that? I don't remember having the "web." I only remember connecting to a less user-friendly "gopher" system. That system didn't let you go from place to place very fluidly. You had to keep back tracking up the menu. All I remember looking up on that system was the weather.

The web has changed so much in the last ten years since it's explosion into every day life, and has evolved so quickly that I have forgotten about so many of these things listed in this article. Things such as page counters and award banners have fallen by the wayside, (thankfully) but I've hardly noticed until he pointed it out.

Happy reading.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Storm in Flanders

As I mentioned in my previous post, context interests me. I like to see how we arrived at where we are now, and I'm fascinated with the cyclical nature of history. Sometimes it seems like we are encountering the very worst of times, or the most interesting view on life and culture, only to find that it's just new to us-- that really, people have experienced similar things in centuries gone by, just in different, well, contexts. Sure we have technology and all these other "advances" that puts us in a unique time, but really, we're just more sophisticated (or so we think) in how we experience similar life events.

This book is about World War One. It was written by Winston Groom whom you may know better as the author of Forest Gump. Groom writes this book for Americans who know little about the first World War. As he says, most people's reference point to war (and indeed how the world has been shaped as a result for decades after) starts from World War Two.

Part of what I enjoyed about this book is how Groom gives us some pre-history. Setting the stage briefly in Europe from about the 1880's forward, and all the political, social, and economic factors that made Europe "ripe" for an eruption.

The main part of the book, however, is about the Belgian battlegrounds, commonly referred to as the "Western Front." (The name is understood from a German perspective since they were also fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front). The area of Flanders is a below sea level region that was a far less-than-ideal place for a battle ground. It rained there a lot, and the water table was so high that battles were more often than not fought in mud than on dry ground. Dogs, horses, mules and men died from being drowned in the water or stuck in the mud.

World War One represents a collision of old style war-fare and modern war fare. The use of the machine gun was new in this war. Airplanes were first used in this war; first for surveillance, then for firepower. Tanks were first used in this war, and in the end played an important role. Yet at the beginning of the war, American civil war style troop deployment and fighting was the default. This quickly changed as men were mowed down by machine guns and heavy artillery. It was in this environment that trench warfare was born.

If you have a moderate interest in history, or wonder how WW I relates to WW II, this is a great read and I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Strength #4: Context

It shouldn't be a surprise that this post appears before I write the next post about a book I just finished. I feel like I need to explain myself.

A while ago I wrote about a test I took online related to a book I read that helps reveal a person's strengths. I listed my strengths as revealed by this test and explained a bit about the strength that appeared first, which was learner.

This other strength, as determined by this test, is context. It is defined this way:

You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a simpler time. It was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You realize what the initial intentions were. These blueprints or intentions have since become so embellished that they are almost unrecognizable, but now this Context theme reveals them again. This understanding brings you confidence. No longer disoriented, you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you
understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven't seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.

So now that I've explained that, stay tuned for a book summary that I until now knew very little about: World War One.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Managing By Values

Thanks to Doug Clark for loaning me this book. (I guess I really oughta return it now). This book was written by Ken Blanchard and Michael O'Connor. I feel bad for O'Connor because I can never remember his name when I tell people about this book. I always end up saying something like "It's by Ken Blanchard and some other guy...poor guy!"

The book, like several other of Blanchard's book is told in a story format. He uses an interview format to help teach unfolding principals and also to set up a scenario that most people would find believable. Similar to his One Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese, we follow the story of a character who is frustrated by the progress his company is making and how he thinks he has little respect among his team. But after a fortuitous intersection with someone who gives a speech about the "Fortunate 500" companies, his curiosity piqued.

The book reveals some interesting insights related to organizational dynamics from a leadership/managerial standpoint (an area in which I spend very little time), and shows where a lot of companies can falter because not everyone shares an agreed upon set of values.

The bottom line is, the values become the "boss" of everyone. Every decision made can be held up against the values agreed upon by everyone in the company, and even the process for conflict resolution can be achieved through the values filter. Anyone who leads people should read this book. Especially if you are in the "higher up" portion of your company from a hierarchical standpoint. A summary of the book and the principles therein can be found in an article written by Ken Blanchard himself.

One more observation. It is so interesting to me how all these guys who study leadership and people "management" keep coming back to biblical principles. If you read John Maxwell or Jim Collins, or Ken Blanchard, they all come back to the same kinds of things over and over: esteem others as better than yourself, treat people fairly, the best leaders aren't in it for themselves, etc, etc.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Paul's Idea

I have my friend Paul Stankiewicz to thank for this! Our families went to Toledo for a fun over-nighter and finished off with a visit to the zoo. Most of the pictures taken over the weekend involved our kids, but the Bald Eagle exhibit seemed inviting for something silly like this...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Why the Indians have a chance

I like baseball. I've been following the Cleveland Indians for ten years, practically since I've lived in NE Ohio. This is a young and exciting team that as of this post has the lead in the AL wild card. I've been fortunate to go to several games this season, both in Cleveland and in Chicago, Seattle, and New York. It's fun to follow the team at the away games!

With three weeks left in the season, the precarious one game lead over the Yankees and one and a half game lead over the Athletics could disappear in a hurry. But here's why this scrappy team has a chance. They are only number one in one major pitching category (see below) but rank in the top six of several other important offensive and pitching categories. For example, they are number 4 in the league in runs scored, number 5 in home runs, and number 6 in batting average.

Rafael Betancourt, one of the Indian's relievers, retires the last batter of the game Sunday night.

The pitching has done really well this season as well, with the starters' ERA at 4.10, putting them at number 5 over all among AL starting pitchers. The bullpen, however, is the best in the league. A fantastic 2.87 ERA puts them at the top, anchored by Bob Wickman with a league-leading 39 saves.

The Indians swept a three game series with the Twins Sunday night, pushing them 8.5 games back in the wild card race, and practically ending their playoff hopes.

So, when you take a team with stats like the Indians, not number one in everything, not dominant in slugging percentage with big boppers like Boston, or four amazing starters like the White Sox, but very good in almost every category, it adds up to a team with a lot of wins. Right now, they are 20 games over .500, and they're giving the AL big-budget teams a run for their money!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Harmony analysis

The answer to my previous post is that the bridge is built on the Neapolitan. The Neapolitan is an altered predominant (altered ii chord), which, when in root position exists one half step higher than the tonic. Hence the half step higher in the bridge than the A sections in Db. Here's a link that explains the N6 chord pretty well. The art music approach of the common practice period usually features the Neapolitan in first inversion (hence the figured bass "6").

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Body and Soul Analysis and Question

The other day I played a jazz trio gig and we decided to play the John Green standard Body and Soul. I've played this ballad quite a few times in the past, and it's is a very tightly crafted example of the 32 bar song form. It has a great melody and great harmonies, which always make it a lot of fun to play and solo over.

Unlike most standard 32-bar tunes, this one is unusual in that the bridge appears to completely change keys. (In fact, in the real book, they actually wrote the key change in--perhaps far easier than writing in all those naturals!) It is not uncommon for 32 bar songs to do this. Most songs, however, do not actually contain a change of key written into the music. Most bridges move away from the tonality of the opening and ending key, but usually closely related to the original. Body and Soul, however, seems to move VERY far away from the original key.

The opening key signature has five flats--either Db major or Bb minor. In this case, it begins on a ii chord in Db. Look at the end of the A phrases. Clearly it finds tonic in a Db major tonality. But the bridge moves to D major, a very distant key from Db indeed.

As I got to thinking about it, I realized there is a relationship between the two tonalities that ties them together closer than a simple or arbitrary half-step relationship. It is not very difficult to justify this relationship from an analytical perspective, nor is it very difficult to justify the relationship between the two keys from an historical perspective. One can see (hear) the tonal relationship exploited in tonal European art music over a couple of centuries. The answer can be found in a town in Italy. Any ideas?

Pet Peeve #1

I guess I'm not being terribly optimistic, am I? Pet Peeve Number One. I'm sure there will be more. For some reason I gave this some thought in the shower this morning. Why the shower? Because I looked at my new shampoo bottle and saw this printed at the top of the label in large letters: 50% Free!

Now really. This was a $ 0.99 bottle of Shampoo from CVS. But half of it was free. So I'm thinking through the executive scenario in my head while I'm rubbing the stuff in my 1/4 inch long hair. The bottles are about to be manufactured. But bottles that are half the current size. Suddenly a bean counter rushes into an executive office. "Wait!" he says. "We can double the amount we're selling keep it at the same price, and STILL make a profit!"

The vice president of trying-to-be-clever-and-make-the-public-think-they're-getting-a-good-deal decides to slap the 50% free thing on the label. "This will sell a ton of shampoo," he thinks. "I'm brilliant."

Of course, none of it is actually free. One couldn't walk into the store and say "Says here half of this shampoo is free. I brought my own container so let me pour out half of it into here and I'll be on my way."


I'm done now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Now, Discover Your Strengths

Now, Discover Your Strengths has been a fairly significant book for me lately. Our staff at The Chapel has gone through it, but our music staff in particular has spent a good deal of time with it, using it to get to know ourselves better and thereby (hopefully) getting to know eachother better. To truely capitalize on it, your discovered strengths have to be shared with others on the team, otherwise, it will be hard to maximize your collective strengths.

The big idea of the book is that we all have been both born with strengths, and at a very young age have begun to develop them through a "forging pathways" of the brain. We "default" to these patterns. The strengths, by definition are always producing possitive results. Sometimes it's visionary, sometimes it's relational, sometimes it's steadfast beliefs. Whatever the case, we each have them. When we can combine our occupation with aspects of these strengths, we hit the "sweet spot," and things come naturally and easy to us.

Another big idea from this book is that we often spend too much time emphasizing our weaknesses. We emphasize them by trying to bring them up to the level of our strengths. This, the authors argue is a waste of our time and energy and do not serve to really energize us in whatever task we have before us. We shouldn't ignore the weaknesses, for sure, but they should not be our primary focus. For us, our endeavor should be to capitalize on what we know are our strengths.

So how do we "discover" our strengths? The authors of the book, in conjunction with Gallup surveys have interviewed over 2 million people and tabulated the data in order to see patterns emerge. With this data, you take a StrengthsFinder test and discover what yours are.
When you buy a book, on the inside flap is a code that you use at the StrengthsFinder's web site. You type in the code, take a 20-30 minute test and an instant analysis is determined to show you what your top five strengths are. My number one strength turned out to be Learner. Here's what the authors say about that characteristic:

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered-this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences-yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the "getting there."

More on my other strengths later. What's your top strength?


Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm not that smart

We had a brief discussion today about IQ and the validity of the online and traditional tests that are designed to test one's intelligence. Me, being the over-stimulated learner that I am stumbled upon this site which indicates that none of us are probably genius material.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

This is All Derrak's Fault

I'm setting myself up for the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. I believe I'll never be able to maintain a blog. It's cool now. It will be cool for a while, but I don't know about typing comments into a computer, sending them into the great internet abyss, not knowing if they'll ever be considered, processed, thought-provoking, inciting of a reply, etc, etc. Were it not for a recent conversation with Derrak, I don't know if I would have made this venture. Thanks a lot Derrak.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Who I work with

There aren't many jobs where a somewhat mandatory day retreat includes a little scenic train ride followed by a bicycle ride back to where we got on the train. I hate things like this because I see such little value in them (it's such an unproductive day!). BUT, I'll admit it was a great time, perfect day, and I always enjoy being with my friends! Here's a picture of our music staff at The Chapel and my biking companions for the day.

Back Row: Derrack Ostovic, Matt Kandel, Dave Craig, Jim Mitchell, Kenton Kober
Front Row: Rick Zuercher, Karan Armstrong, Emily Dickey, Donna Bower, Yours Truly

Great people, great friends. I'm including their names so that they all have the benefit of a Google hit when they do a vanity search.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Herbie Hancock - Possibilities

Thanks to Nick Francis's Podcast "Jazz and Conversation," I learned about a great new recording soon to be released from Herbie Hancock called "Possibilites." In Francis's blog, one can learn a lot about this release. which features Hancock accompanying vocalists like Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon and Christina Aguilara. If you like old mixed with new, I encourage you to take a listen!

Friday, August 26, 2005

I use Finale

Most of my job is spent using a music notation program called Finale. I currently use Finale 2004 on my Mac G5, a wonderful machine that The Chapel has provided for me to use. Until recently almost all of my work on Finale has been strickly job-related. However, I've begun to do other projects for hire which has been a lot of fun, and I've learned a lot, but I have encountered a dilemma for which I have not been able to find a clean resolution.

When I work for people, making a chart, it took me a while to come up with a clean way to charge. The fees must vary for different purposes. Am I doing an original arrangement, or am I doing a transcription?

For all you engravers out there, here's a place I've kind of settled on.

I've started with a base fee, which is tied directly to the number of staves required. Let's say I'm doing a string arrangement. There will be five staves (two violin parts). At $5 a staff, that's a $25 base fee.

From there, I add a negotiable fee of $.03-.05 per element. Using a finale plugin, I have it count all the various elements, total them, then add the sum to the base fee.

So for this string arrangement, I may have a base fee of $25 plus 324 notes, 89 rests, 98 smart shapes, 45 text expressions, etc, etc (whatever element-type I think is worthy of a charge) add those elements together and you get 556 elements times $.03 = 16.68 or times $.05 = 27.80. Add this to the base fee of $25 and you get either $41.68, or $52.80.

The reason I think this is equitable is because it helps the buyer know that he/she is not getting ripped off if your entire arrangement is a lot of whole notes. On the other hand, if you've taken the time to put in intricacies, articulations, etc, etc, you will be compensated for it appropriately.