Sunday, November 2, 2008

The finals

The Friday Night Performance

There were tears in my eyes at Ford Field as I watched the best performance I have ever seen of the Mt. Pleasant High School marching band.

The music was awesome, on-target. The marching was crisp, the flags right on.

After several highly cerebral performances by the truly excellent bands from Ferndale, Grand Rapids Northview and Stephensville Lakeshore, the Oiler band wrapped up the flight with rock and roll.

Playing rock and roll with a marching band is tricky business. It can sound really bad. The Oilers do it better than anyone.

The result: an awesome 79.35 score, the best for an Oiler band since they won the state championship in 2000.

I couldn't help but remember how, two years ago, I was so excited when the band broke 70. Two years ago, Mt. Pleasant scored a 72.35, good for sixth. Last year, it was a 73.65, good for eighth. Last year, four band broke 80; this year, three did - Ferndale in third, Northview second and Lakeshore winning it.

Mt. Pleasant proved it belongs in that stratospheric height. And the band members already are looking forward to 2009.

Kiss? The Who? The Doors? Nobody does it better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Flight III schedule

Here is the schedule of performances Saturday for the Flight III state competition at Ford Field:

1:10 p.m. Marysville
1:25 p.m. Allegan
1:40 p.m. Linden
1:55 p.m. Byron Center
2:10 p.m. Trenton
2:25 p.m. Redford Thurston
2:40 p.m. Gr Rapids Northview
2:55 p.m. Stevensville Lakeshore
3:10 p.m. Ferndale
3:25 p.m. Mt. Pleasant
3:40 p.m. Awards

Yes, the Oilers perform last. What an opportunity!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The best score in eight years

The Mt. Pleasant High School Marching Band will move into the Michigan Flight III finals in fourth place after achieving its highest score since 2000.

The Oilers scored a 74.7 at the Huron Valley Invitational in White Lake Saturday. That was good enough to finish third behind five-time defending state champion Ferndale and the very tight, highly talented Redford Thurston.

That came after Mt. Pleasant won the Plymouth-Canton Invitational earlier in the day, collecting all the caption awards.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I just had to ....

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The uniforms aren't purple!

From Sound Off on

I'm a Mt. Pleasant High School graduate and an alumni (sic) of the band. I was horrified that our new band uniforms are not blue and gold. Those are our school colors. They bought black and purple? I will not support the band anymore.

Ahem. The band uniforms are NOT purple.
The Mt. Pleasant community raised about $40,000 for new marching band uniforms, which the band has worn proudly since mid-September.
The uniforms are mostly black and very sleek-looking. One sleeve is white, and a white stripe shaped like a mountain (to honor the Mountain City) accents the chest. Above the stripe, the uniforms are an electric blue.
When performing at a Mt. Pleasant football game, the band wears triangular gold patches that read "MP." At competition, the patch is replaced by a mirrored accent that adds dramatically to the band's visual impact.
The marching band's final 2008 local show will be Friday, Oct. 24 at halftime of the Mt. Pleasant-Fruitport football game.
That will be followed by competitions Saturday, Oct. 25 at Lakeland High School in White Lake and at the Plymouth Canton Invitational - and likely the state marching band finals at Ford Field in Detroit Nov. 1.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The show went on

Dusk had fallen on downtown Mt. Pleasant as the Oiler band launched into a standstill performance of its 2008 competitive show, "The Show Must Go On," at the corner of Broadway and Franklin streets.
They'd marched in the Mardi Gras parade (yes, Mt. Pleasant's Mardi Gras is in September, and it's on a Friday - do I have to explain that every year?) and they showed off their new uniforms.
The show went on.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The best line for a Sunday

From today's Maureen Dowd column in the New York Times:

"The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Being part of the future

The fat guy on the left explains the capabilities of the new media lab to CMU Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Caponigro and CMU President Michael Rao. (CM Life)

Usually, I don't link to the "other" paper in town, even though I once worked for them and am proud of that fact. But this time, the college paper, Central Michigan Life, has the story.
Mr. Caponigro came to see his lab.
Jeff Caponigro is a department of journalism alumnus, chairman of the CMU board of trustees, and a wealthy man - obviously. He gave, out of his own pocket, most of the money to build CMU's fabulous new media lab.
He came to see it - and I got asked to be part of of demonstrating it.
I got to demonstrate the photography and graphics capabilities, while my colleague David London, on sabbatical in Cairo, chimed in from an Internet cafe, and my colleague Kent Miller showed off the capability of creating Web video.
It was all very impressive. I feel as if I'm part of the future.
And what a future it will be.
Think about this: The first graphical Internet browser, Mosaic, was released in November 1993, 15 years ago. Microsoft's Internet Explorer came along later; Netscape, Firefox, Safari and the rest came along later. Mosaic is no longer with us. But it's all happened in just 15 years - and look what's out there.

Compare this: The first automotive production line was developed by Ransom E. Olds - not Henry Ford - in 1901 to build Curved Dash Oldsmobiles. Ford and his Model T perfected it, and the world changed.
I would submit that the World Wide Web is about where the automotive industry was 15 years on, in 1916. The basics were there - gasoline-powered internal combustion engines, four rubber tires, a steering wheel, headlights, brakes, springs. All the rest has been fine-tuning and engineering.
The basics of the Web are here now - it's up to us to fine-tune them and use them the best way.
What Mr. Caponigro did was the equivalent of donating an automotive research lab to a major university - in 1916.
It's the beginning, including the Wow Factor.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jazz band in Detroit

It was the main reason we decided to go to Detroit in the first place. The Drummer is a member of the Mt. Pleasant High School Jazz Ensemble - although he plays trombone in the ensemble. When plans for a weekend in Newberry fell through, we looked at spending the weekend at Frankfort. That fell through, too.
Plan C: Go to the Big City. It turned out to be a lot of fun - and the music and the setting were spectacular.
The band did a 45-minute set at Campus Martius, public space at Woodward and Monroe. They only had to compete somewhat with the band warming up on the Main Stage a couple of hundred yards away
We weren't the only band parents there - and, as it turned out, we weren't the only band-parents-without-kids-in-the-jazz band there, either.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Waiting for Obama

They loved him. They simply loved him. Even though he spoke for only about 11 minutes and talked mainly about giving money to the Red Cross for relief from Hurricane Gustav, Detroit loved Barack Obama on Labor Day.

Obama didn't have anything to do with the original plan, which involved the jazz festival and a Tiger game. But when we heard that he might be appearing at Hart Plaza, we thought, hey, why not? Why not get in line?
The line was incredible. We got there more than two hours before the scheduled start of the speech - and the line was 15 blocks long at that point. But we stayed with it - surrounded by people of all ages, all colors.
There was no pushing and shoving, no drinking, little line-cutting - except for the 20-something in the BMW who probably felt a little threatened when he drove down a closed Shelby Street into the crowd He ended up backing out.

Hart Plaza, according to City of Detroit event planners, has a rough capacity of 50,000 people. The crowd spilled out of the plaza several blocks onto Jefferson and Woodward - I'd guess at least 70,000 people showed up. The roar from the crowd when Obama spoke was loud and long.

The rally was at the end of Detroit's big Labor Day parade - we saw marching plumbers and sheet metal workers and sprinkler workers and teachers and huge numbers of Auto Workers. But this wasn't just a labor thing. This has the sense of a Movement.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My New Classroom

At 8 a.m. tomorrow, a new era dawns for Central Michigan University's department of journalism with the opening of the Caponigro Multimedia Lab. I'll be teaching the first class in there, the opening section of Journalism 202, Introduction to Writing for the Mass Media.
I'll almost expect to hear "Beam me up, Scotty."

It looked as if the opening of the lab might be delayed - construction and fabrication problems slowed things down. But Sunday afternoon, Scott and Rennie, the technical gurus from the College of Communications and Fine Arts, along with their crew, were busily unpacking and setting up Intel Duo Core Macs, and loading them with Adobe CS3, Final Cut Pro, Microsoft Office Suite and other software.

Robert tagged along, and took at look at the wide-screen setup.

Much of the money to pay for this lab was donated by Jeff Caponigro, a journalism alumnus who made very good in public relations. He's now chairman of the CMU board of trustees. The lab features the gear and the software that all of our graduates will need to know how to use as professionals in the multimedia age.

My job: Teach them to use it, while teaching them how to find accurate information, make it relevant for the audience, tell the stories well - and spell all the names correctly.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Andrew heads off to college

Andrew organizes the last of his stuff in the hallway.

Tuesday was a bittersweet day around here. The day we've planned for and aimed for for years came: He left for college.
I'm so proud of him. He's the little boy who cuddled with me on the stairs on Haley Street, who looked so lost and alone that rough year at Sacred Heart, who found himself with the artists and musicians at Mt. Pleasant High, who loved Robert Heinlein, who became a Life Scout and senior patrol leader, earned a varsity letter in skiing, scored near-perfect on the ACT, was recruited by MIT and Michigan, then chose Michigan Tech "because it was right," and was accepted into their honors program.
Yeah, I'm proud of him.

One last e-mail check on his Mac.
I'll worry about him, and I'll probably never stop worrying about him. I worried when he was in second grade. I worried when he skied on Germany's highest mountain. It probably will be Thanksgiving before I see him again, although we'll probably be able to do regular video chats. And I'll miss him. I already miss him.

Miranda may miss him more than anyone else.
Miranda came along on the trip to deliver Andrew to his mom's - she'll actually be making the 10-hour trip up to Houghton. There's something special about those two. They changed each other - both for the better.
Andrew, buddy, as always - make me proud. Or, in this case, prouder. Go Huskies.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fourth in the North

Relaxation - on the Frantic Fourth?
A quick trip to Newberry, so Kissy Missy could see her mom, the rest of her family, and everyone else she knows.
And nice fireworks over the bay at Naubinway at dusk.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Word from Robert:

I can´t say much right now, other than that Coca-Cola Fantours are fun. I know you don´t know what those are. I might explain later, but it does involve football and beer.
That was Mörbisch.
Bayern had beer. My host family in Hirschau owns a brewery. I did have beer. It wasn´t bad. Interesting flavor.
I´m in Tauberbischofsheim right now. I went swimming earlier today. That was fun.
Right now I feel really elated, and I´m not sure why. My host family does have a fantastic view from their balconies, though.
All of our concerts are going well. Even better now that we have all of our music. We still don´t have our xylophone, though. It might be in Portugal. It´s impossible to know.
I have a concert tomorrow, on Thursday I have time with my host family and Thursday night I depart for France.
I´m still very excited.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Chippewa at night

Click here to play the video.
I seem to have spent a lot of time wetting myself recently.
My assignment this time: Take a kayak down the Chippewa River - again - only this time, in the dark.
Buckley's Mountainside Canoes has begun offering moonlight canoe trips, and a few friends of the livery - and, of course, the press - was invited along. I seem to be the river guy, so I got to do the story.
Ryan Evon shot some great stills and video, and I put them together into a nice package for The story's here.
The experience bordered on the mystical, with a hint of danger and the unknown. Very, very cool.
But I left out the part where the kayaker who came into the landing first slipped getting out of her boat, fell into the water and doused me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The fridge dancers slide show

This is an experiment - using PicassaWeb, a free service, I've added captions to the Fridge Dancers images from last and tried to turn this into a slide show.

Looks like it works!

Sweet 16.5

Katherine's birthday!
Well, sort of.
Katherine has been planning and hoping for a Sweet 16 party since, well, since she first heard of such things back when her age was reckoned in single digits.
But Katherine was born just before Christmas, and her birthday often gets buried in the other massively celebrated birthday around that time. Last year, especially, was not a great time. We were in the middle of moving - it looked at one point we might move right on the girl's birthday - so she decided to move the whole event to June, and celebrate Sweet 16.5.

She did it up right - right from the custom-made invitations (she knows this guy who teaches graphics at Central) to borrowing a friend's pool to make it a pool party.

Christiana and Jani had a great time!

Patterson, whose pool was used, offers a choice of implements to cut the ice cream cake.

Ya know, these $6 pizzas from Little Caesar's aren't too bad, especially when you're wet and hungry!

And of course, the Drummer is close by, making sure everything is just perfect.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Andrew, Dad, the canoe and the Chippewa

For a very long time, my planner has contained this To Do: "Canoe the Chippewa with Andrew." It hasn't had a date on it, but it finally happened this week.

I'd been on the Chippewa with Andrew many years ago, near Midland. We had just gotten the canoe, and he was very, very young. Somehow, a lot of years slipped by, and he and I didn't get into that canoe, on that river, again until now. We put in at the Vandecar Road bridge. The water is high and fast, thanks to the late-spring rain we've had. Approaching Meridian Park, the Chippewa is a lot wider than it usually is during canoe season.

A huge blue heron kept an eye on us. Andrew was in back, doing the paddling and steering. I was up front, taking pictures and messing things up.

We saw the heron, deer, and these geese fertilizing Riverwood Golf Course. I imagine the course owner, Mr. Figg (you just have to call him Mr.) is thrilled.

We found this guy climbing on a dead tree out over the river. He said he was looking for a way to cut it back.

The rapids at Millpond Park were running strong and tricky. We made it through the first drop, got out and scouted, then got hung up on the third drop. I had to get out and push. Yes, I wet myself. (!) We portaged the final drop - it looked just too mean. Maybe when the river's quieter.

We took the river all the way into town, to Island Park, past the rapids. We cruised proudly past the Borden Building, around the island, and beached the canoe next to the Carnie Village set up next on Island Park for the Summer Festival.
When we came back for the canoe later, a yoga class was going on next to the landing. I love this place - a public park, a carnie village, yoga people raising their arms to the sky, and a dad and his son putting a 15-foot canoe on top of a 14-foot Ford Escort.
All in a normal day.

The Bährs' Post

From Bautzen, Deutschland:
Intensive week was fun, but long, and the Southern Winds improved incredibly.
The plane ride to Paris was long, and I didn´t sleep at all, but I´ve adjusted to the time change quite well.
The flight to Berlin I spent almost entirely in sleep. I did get some pretty photographs of clouds, though.
Here in Bautzen, things have been fantastic. My host family, the Bährs, have been fantastic. They´ve found ways to work around their schedules to get us (meaning Kenyon, a flutist, and I) to rehearsals, they´ve fed us, and they have been overall fantastic. Our host mother even had two of her students, Maria and Stefanie (I hope I spelled their names right) show us around Bautzen Monday afternoon. That was fun. We didn´t do much besides wander for a bit, but it was still, and I am very grateful for them. Thank you Stefanie and Maria!!!
The Bährs deserve their own paragraph, and if I could, their own post (I would title it "The Bähr´s Post"). They are fantastic. Frau Bähr speaks English very well (she is an English teacher, after all) and Herr Bähr´s English is quite good. They are fantastic people. Frau Bähr arranged an afternoon of mini-golf with another host family today. It was fun. Mini-golf in Germany! So cool!
I´m sad to be going to Mörbisch tomorrow. I will miss these people. At least we have email.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Robert's itinerary

View Larger Map

Robert and the Blue Lake Southern Winds will be performing all over Europe.
Here's his itinerary:

Paris, France
Arrival in France, Sunday, June 15; fly to Berlin

Berlin, Germany
Arrival in Germany Sunday, June 15

Bautzen, Germany (northeast of Dresden)
June 16, 17; Two concerts

Mörbisch am See, Austria (travel through Czech Republic, Slovakia)
June 18, 19, 20, Outdoor concert June 20

Hirschau, Germany (northeast of Nuremburg)
June 21, 22, 23
June 22: Concert in Arnberg, part of Bavarian Music and Town Festival
June 23: Outdoor concert shared with local band at festival

Tauberbuschofsheim, Germany (east of Frankfurt)
June 24, 25, 26
June 25: Concert at Klosterhof or Festhalle

Foix, France (south of France)
June 27, 28, 29
Concert June 28 at Salle due Jeu du Mall en Parriers
Two concerts June 29 as part of the Festival Internationale

Figeac, France (north of Foix)
June 30, July 1-5
Blue Lake en France
Concert July 5

Gravelines, France (near English Channel)
June 6, 7, 8;
Concerts June 7 & 8 at Grand Fort Phillippe

Differdange, Luxembourg (look closely; it's small)
July 9, 10, 11
Concert July 11 at Center Sportif

Arrive June 15 Depart July 12 for De-Troit! (not on map)

Speeeeeeeeeed .....

Well, we have new neighbors. They seem like nice folks, younger people, and I noticed they are using a Wi-Fi connection for their Internet access.
I noticed this because it's open and shows up, with a very strong signal, on my Mac's Airport.
I also had noticed a truck from Charter Communication was there when the new folks moved in.
It was Sunday morning. There probably wasn't a lot of traffic on the 'Net. I logged onto the neighbor's Wi-Fi (It's open, after all) and ran a speed test.

Here are the results for Charter cable:

Then I logged back on to our WiMax-based system from SpeedNet:

I see no reason to change ISPs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Off to Europe

Robert is off to Europe with Blue Lake's Southern Winds symphonic band.
The band is to fly into Paris overnight, arriving Sunday, and has concerts scheduled in Germany, Austria, France and Luxembourg. After a week of intensive rehearsals at Blue Lake, the band left Friday for a concert in White Lake before boarding an Air France jumbo jet to cross the Atlantic.

We traveled to Blue Lake to see Robert off - and Megan came along for an early-morning goodbye.

Katherine and Robert pose for a self-portrait.

Katherine, Megan and Robert enjoy one of Blue Lake's famous breakfasts before Robert catches the bus to southeastern Michigan and points beyond.

A last-minute repair before hitting the road. Note the creative use of duct tape.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Graduation day

Andrew's high school graduation - and he gets a big smooch from Miranda.

Andrew enjoys an armful of Katie on the lawn outside Dan Rose Arena at Central Michigan University, site of the Mt. Pleasant High School graduation ceremony.

Andrew gets congratulations from his "Bullshot Crummon" co-star Celia.

Andrew and his friends Jack, Christiana and Janie get together after the ceremony.

Just a face in the sea of faces, mortarboards and gowns immediately after the ceremony.

At left, Andrew is part of the long line of blue and gold entering the huge arena at CMU.

Below, Principal Jeff Thoenes hands Andrew a diploma after Andrew hands Thoenes a marble - apparently one that Thoenes lost.

At home, it was almost a shrine in the living room to the graduate's interests and accomplishments. In a few moments, the place would be packed with people.

Andrew's varsity letter, his skis, his telescope, a photo with his grandparents, his Wendy's hat and a group of photos filled the credenza that ordinarily would carry the television.

Certificates for honoring Andrew for athletics, riflery, Scouts, craftsmanship in metal, acting, foreign language and other academic achievement filled a display board.

Off to one side, big brother Fuzzy takes in the scene.

Meanwhile, The Drummer appears to be paying more attention to the graduate's little sister than to the graduate.