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.