Friday, February 27, 2015

My birthday

Today, I am 64 years old. When I was much younger, I figured that by the time I got to this age I'd be ready for retirement and would be having a hard time getting around. But as I've aged, my view of aging has changed (I'd like to say it's matured) into the realization that age really is just a number. In a lot of ways, I feel better now than I did 10 years ago! Of course, there are other ways that I feel and look worse than 10 years ago but you can't have everything.

I'm not ready to retire yet. In fact, I love my job and the people I work with. Just this week, we had our yearly job performance reviews and I got the highest rating I've gotten in many years. They are really happy with the work I'm doing and I'm happy to be here. It helps that my job is not a physical job because I would probably have a hard time keeping that up at this age. Although, if I did have a physically active job and was at it every day, I'd probably be in better shape than I am now. But I would also have a greater chance of hurting myself. But with my software engineering job, as long as I can think clearly and continue to enter programs for the computer and write up reports about what I'm doing, I could do this job forever.

Anyway, my hope is that everyone could be as happy with their life as I am with mine.Today's daily devotional from our church (Cape Cod Church, here's a link to the page which is updated six times a week) has a message that is appropriate and includes this encouraging verse.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 NLT

Again, I hope to get back into a rhythm of writing more posts for this blog. That brings me great joy, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Walking and writing

My blog posts have certainly dropped off again. I think the reason is that, with all the snow we have and with how cold it has been been, I have not been walking, either. I'm not sure the two things are interrelated but it certainly seems suspicious.

Anyway, I may take a short walk in the woods at lunch today to see what shape the paths are in. I'll certainly get a lot of exercise walking in the deep snow. It will be an adventure.

[Update - after lunch]

The woods are lovely, not so dark but deep
Well, the snow is still very deep out in the woods. I made it about 30 yards along the trail and gave up. The picture at the right (just click on it to see it full sized) shows the path I would have liked to take but I was exhausted just to get to this point. I was breathing hard and it was cold. Sweating in the cold is not a good thing. You can get colder mightly quickly after that.

So, I stopped long enough to get my camera out and snap these pictures. My hands were pretty cold in the short time it took me to take this picture and the next one.

My steps were deep, too
The next picture may be hard to place. It's a picture of my foot about 18 inches into the snow.The snow came up to about my knee. So, taking each step was difficult and keeping my balance was not easy either. You never know what is below the snow and it's easy to twist an ankle if you're not lucky.

So, right after taking these two pictures, packing up my camera and tucking it back into my coat and putting my gloves back on, I headed out the way I came. I hoped it would be easier as I tried to use the steps I'd already made in the snow but even that was much trickier than I'd thought. It was good to get back in the the warm, dry office.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pluto Discovery Day

Two views of Pluto and its moon Charon
Right now, a 1,000 pound spacecraft is streaking toward Pluto at about 30,000 miles per hour relative to Pluto itself. The New Horizons spacecraft was traveling as fast as 51,000 miles per hour (relative to the Sun) after it got a gravity boost by passing close to Jupiter. In July, it will make it closest approach of Pluto and our knowledge of this mysterious body will expand more in the approach and close encounter than it has in all the years before.

It was on this day in 1930 that Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto (although it wasn't called by that name until March 24 from a suggestion by 11-year old Venetia Birney of Great Britain). Mr. Tombaugh was the first American to discover a planet (at least it was considered a planet then). I wonder if that was part of the motive for the International Astronomical Union to demote Pluto from being a full-fledged planet?

There are a wide range of instruments aboard the spacecraft and you can find all sorts of other interesting facts about the spacecraft and Pluto on the New Horizons webpage here. The pictures above, although grainy and not very distinct, were taken by New Horizons when it was about 125 million miles from Pluto. So, it's understandable that they are not the best views we have of Pluto and Charon. Don't worry - the pictures will get better!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Eight years later

About eight years ago, I wrote about playing for a Valentine's Day dance. It was the last time I played at that yearly dance. But this week, I did it again. Here's the link to the write-up about that dance eight years ago. I'm no less neurotic now than I was then but they needed a keyboard player. The trouble is, I haven't been playing as much as I would have liked. I wrote about getting a new, 88-key keyboard about this time last year (here the link to that post) and I really did have high hopes that I'd be playing a lot more. Then the rest of 2014 intervened. I keep promising to write about the trials of last year but I'm not quite ready to write it all down yet.

I didn't take my new keyboard because it' not set up to plug into an amplifier and its own built-in amplifier and speakers aren't loud enough for something like this. So, I took my old, reliable Korg DS-8 synthesizer (that's not mine in the picture but it's still a picture of some one's DS-8). My amplifiers still don't work (I hope to get them fixed some day) but they other guys said I could plug into one their amps.

Anyway, it was a big step to play for the Valentine's Day dance this year. The guys I played with were better than ever and it's an honor to get to play with them. They are real musicians and performers. I learn a lot just by sitting in with them. But I am a terrible live musician and especially when there is no written music. Not even lead sheets (with the melody and chords) like you'd find in a fake book. What happens is that one of the guitarists will mention a song and start playing. If I know it, it helps but often they'd forget to say what key the song was to be performed in. So, it took me most of each song to figure out the key and then the rest of the song to figure out the chord progressions to play. For most of the songs, I just figured out what I should play by the last line of music. But it was still fun.

But the very best part is seeing the smiles on the faces and the dancing of the kids at the party. You see, they are all special needs kids. This is a big deal to them. They all look forward to this dance. To them, we make up a terrific band. Not only that but we get to make our own ice creme sundae and spend some time talking with the kids. It's usually about the things they like to do and what they did that day. And they are so excited! Why do I have any right to be neurotic? Because, as Popeye would say, "I am what I am and that's all what I am." It's doing things like playing for this dance that put the neurosis behind me for a while.