Today was Johann Sebastian Bach’s 325 birthday, or would have been if he’d lasted to 325 years old. The Sandusky Ohio chapter of the American Guild of Organists held a little show in honor of the event. Several local organists provided some music in a series of churches across the town. Being a fan of Bach, pipe organs, and Bach played on pipe organs, I decided to take a listen.

Although Sandusky did boast one stop on a recent northern Ohio tour of the international Organ Historical Society (of whom I was a member, for a day), the 3 churches that me and about 100 fellow tour-mates enjoyed were not on that particular list. These were not world-class instruments, nor the organists national stars. However, they put on a good show, for the most part.

Honestly, being very  picky about Bach performances (especially on the organ), I almost didn’t make it to the second venue. At one point, I remember gazing at the well-suited old man sitting patiently a row in front of me, his wispy white hair no longer able to hide the hearing aid firmly embedded in his skull. I remember envying him in the knowledge that his ears had an off-switch. (more…)

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This is my wife’s niece, Rhea. Today, she leaves her home in the Philippines that she shares with her parents, for a job in Saudi Arabia. Many Filipino’s make this trip every year. But, this doesn’t make the trip any less dangerous. Along with her travel documents and assignment information, she’ll also be issued one other mandatory article for her job. A burka. This is real, now. And, I’m worried for her.

She’s travelling to a state where women already have fewer rights than men. Though not exactly taliban-country, it still imposes many restrictions that we in the west would find incomprehensible. On top of that, she’ll be a foreigner without rights, in a land that doesn’t speak her language, with no friends to help, and nowhere to run if something bad happens. She’s pretty, young, and totally alone. You can do the math. All this, for a few dollars more than what she currently makes as a nursing assistant.

Her mom thinks this is a bad idea.

My wife thinks this is a bad idea.

I know this is a bad idea.

I’ve seen the travel shows. I understand that Saudi Arabia isn’t as fundamentalist as other countries, and it doesn’t have a history of grinding it’s foreign workers into the ground like, say, Qatar or Dubai. But, Saudi history with foreign workers is still very grim, and reports of abuse are rampant. Also, she’s traveling to a Muslim country during the greatest wave of fundamentalist Islam in decades. And, has no way out once there.

I hope this will end as an adventure, and not a mistake. I hope she finds many new friends and her new work profitable. And most of all, I hope to see her safely back home again. Safe travels, Rhea.

Saudi Arabia photo courtesy of worldtravels.com

With so many things wrong with out government today, I was wondering what kind of reform would be needed to take care of it all at once. Impossible, I know. But with the filibuster-fun republicans were having recently,  I find I can’t help thinking about it. I’m not an economist, sociologist, teacher, or politician. Come to think of it, I’m not particularity useful at all. Still, I’ve tried to compile everything I could think of here. But, I could use your help. Please add what you know. For lack of a better name, I call it: “Bill of Responsibilities.(more…)

Here’s a note I wrote with my signature for support for Rep. Lee Fisher’s Petition to dismantle the Filibuster.

“Though a long tradition and tool for demonstrating public and meaningful discontent with the majority, representatives have now organized and corrupted this tool into something making our own government destructive of its own ends.  In a country that puts its political hopes and blames into a national  party (instead of their local representatives), we must give the party-in-power the tools to enact what they see fit, for better or worse. This will provide the people a political track record of that party, without excuses of interference by other parties. It’s a real metric for making decisions in voting day. Unfortunately, its time for the filibuster system to go.”

Killer (“Shamu”) whale kills trainer at Sea World.

Well… yea.

I loved visiting Sea World in Ohio as a child. Seeing Shamu was a wonderful moment that I’ll probably never forget. And yet, even I’ll admit I wanted to make jokes at this one. “Killer Whale” isn’t a name that elicits the warm-fuzzies in us, and it isn’t supposed to. Like a police officer or a fireman, you put yourself in harm’s way long enough, it’s going to bite you. Literally.

I think I’d feel worse if I hadn’t seen a recent documentary about ocean mammal trade in Japan, funded mostly by Sea World and the Japanese Government. It details the capture and slaughter of dolphins  and whales for food and the animal entertainment industry. Shines a very poor light on the entire amusement park animal idea. This event just makes it worse.

Akio Toyoda testified before congress today, claiming recent failures were due to floor mats and pedals again, but claims the fix includes pedal replacement, floormat replacement, and electronic reprogramming. They did not directly say that electronic failures were a cause, only a consumer concern. Nice.  Two issues come to mind… (more…)

My old Canon 4 MP ELPH finally died of CCD failure, and it was time to look for a replacement. The timing couldn’t be worse, however. With more items to sell, I need pics- and now. But, with horrible noise problems and rushed software from the recent megapixel wars, reviews of current cameras were pretty dim. What’s worse, it seems some reviewers were beginning to simply accept the diminishing capabilities of the new point-and-shoot cameras to focus-on the “good” parts. Everyone seems so enamored with the megapixel count that they forget picture quality and the ability to actually capture a photo (something amazingly missing from recent cameras). I know 10 years is a long time to ask of my old ELPH, but why couldn’t it have survived a year longer?

So, with time to waste while waiting for an oil-change, I went to play with the camera display at the end of aisle 200 in the local super-mega-happy-mart. Looking at P/S cameras having from 10-12MP and prices from $80-$120, I found many surprises. Both good and bad. (more…)