June 24, 2005

Travels to the UK - British Library

I spent June 1 - 15, 2005 working with colleague Beth Neil at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. While there, I did a bit of traveling, and one memorable stop was the British Library in London. Long a part of the British Museum, the Library now has its own new building - less than 10 years old - on Euston Road near Kings Cross / St. Pancras underground stop.

I arrived on a beautifully sunny, warm day. This is the courtyard entrance to the British Library on Euston Road. Even though it's on a very busy street, the courtyard effectively uses walls and shrubs to create a sense of intimacy out of the center of London's hub-bub.

British Library courtyard-r.jpg

This is the entry to the Library.

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The information counter....

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The stairway leading to the exhibits literally invites visitors to come on in and see what's inside.

British Library Stairway-r.jpg

Continue reading "Travels to the UK - British Library"

Posted by hgroteva at 10:47 PM | Travel

June 25, 2005

Travels to the UK - Ely Cathedral

We visited Ely, Cambridgeshire on the weekend of the observance of D-Day. A commemoration was taking place on the grounds of the cathedral.

Ely cathedral2-r.jpg

The ceremony featured a parade of WWII veterans...

Ely DDay Parade1-r.jpg

...followed by members of today's military.

Ely DDay Parade3-r.jpg

The ceremony ended with honors for the veterans and their comrades.

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Beautiful windows above the crossing...

Ely cathedral dome-r.jpg

Continue reading "Travels to the UK - Ely Cathedral"

Posted by hgroteva at 2:16 PM | Travel

June 30, 2005

Travels to the UK - Home base at the University of East Anglia

During my stay at the University of East Anglia (UEA), I was fortunate to live right on campus in guest housing. My flat is in the picture below - it's the third floor up from ground level. The window right in the center of the photo is the kitchen; to its left is the living room, and to its left is the bedroom.

UEA My flat-r.jpg

UEA was built in the 1960s on the site of a golf course. The campus looks out on to a broad grassy expanse and a lake called "The Broads." This area is a wild life refuge - home to many birds (including herons), a zillion rabbits, and all kinds of flora. Students took advantage of warm June afternoons to picnic and sunbathe near the water. Swimming is dangerous and is not allowed, but the lake is a venue for skulling competitions.

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One of those warm afternoons, I took a walk around the Broads and found a family of ducks paddling around. The little ones stayed pretty close to Mom.

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Here is the view of campus from the other side of the Broads. These buildings are student housing and academic buildings - aptly called Ziggurats - after the ancient Mesopotamian structures.

UEA Zigurrats2-r.jpg


On my last evening in Norwich (for this time), we walked through the nature preserve to a local pub for a wonderful meal. On the way, we stumbled upon this bucolic scene reminiscent of the paintings of John Constable. We had seen a BBC special about artists in Norfolk just the evening before, and some of Constable's nature scenes were represented. This photo was taken by Richard Davies (thanks, Rich!)

V Constable in Norwich - Richard-r.jpg

And just before making it to the restaurant we were almost eaten by these Triffids. (photo courtesy of Richard Davies) But we bravely escaped, made it to dinner, and enjoyed wine outside on the terrace followed by a wonderful dinner of duck inside.

V Triffids - Richard-r.jpg

I look forward to returning to UEA next July 17-21 for the second International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR).


Posted by hgroteva at 5:05 PM | Travel

July 2, 2005

Travels to the UK - Adventures on Trafalgar Square

On the afternoon of my day in London (see my entry about the British Library for the morning's activities), I went to Trafalgar Square, home to the National Gallery and St. Martin in the Fields. My first stop was to the crypt at St. Martins to buy tickets for the evening's performance of the Faure Requiem, which, by coincidence, I heard there during my 2003 visit.

First I stopped for lunch at the Texas Embassy, which I had noticed on my last trip. Its a restaurant / cantina just across the street from the National Gallery. They do a pretty good job of the Texas and Mexico in London theme, considering. I had a fajita salad, which was passable except the fajita meat was cold and a little too charred. Touristy - yeah; but so what? Theres so much I cant eat seems that everything is sandwich-like or includes questionable ingredients that could make me miserable for days.

Texas Embassy-r.jpg

The National Gallery, as always, was wonderful. I got the audio guide and it always makes the experience so much more interesting. I trooped around quite a bit, but literally ran out of steam after about 2 hours. Of course, it was good to re-visit old friends, especially the Monets and the Arnolfini wedding (van Eyck) and the Venetian doge with the corned hat and the incredible gold brocade detail on his tunic.

I still had a few hours to go before the concert, which I spent mainly hanging around Trafalgar Square. Great people watching as always. Kids chasing pigeons, families gathering, lovers smooching obliviously, etc.

Trafalgar Sq Big Ben and Lion-r.jpg

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There was kind of a rock concert going on to celebrate public architecture week, complete with teenagers in red T-shirts doing acrobatic jumping around.

Trafalgar Sq DJs-r.jpg

Trafalgar Sq DJs and acrobats-r.jpg

And in the middle of it all, in rode about 100 bicycle riders, in the buff! I later learned that they were doing this ride to protest foreign oil dependency in Britain (ride your bike! - naked?) Anyway, that livened things up a bit and certainly got everyone's attention. London is SO multicultural it seems as though I heard every language under the sun and saw people from all over the planet. And folks get along.

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The concert at St. Martin in the Fields was a real pleasure.

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Like last time, I ducked in to St. Martins in the late afternoon and heard part of their rehearsal. They (the Orpheus Singers) are about the size of the Gregorians 19 voices. They are mostly in their 20s - apparently many of them sang together at Oxford or Cambridge and wanted to keep doing so. Like the group I heard last time, they were quite good, but neither snooty nor jaded. They worked hard and were very satisfied with the outcome. The only frustration was that even though I had a fairly pricey seat, my view was partially blocked by the pulpit, which was just a few rows in front of me. But I didnt let that spoil the evening.

Faure requiem pgm-r.jpg

The church was lit by candles. They began with the Allegri Miserere. Im always nervous about whether the soprano will make that high C, but she did and it came off well. Other pieces:
**Albinoni Adagio in G minor (organ) very nicely done. The organist is the head organist at St. Martins, and he looks quite young for his position.
**Vaughn Williams Three Shakespeare Songs interesting; had not heard them before.
**JSBach Adagio in A minor; nicely done by the organist
**Purcell Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary This was really fun to hear, because we (Gregorians) performed this at the Concert Spirituel this spring.
**Faure Requiem VERY nicely done; lots of feeling. There were only 4 tenors, but they blended well with each other and produced a solid but not overbearing sound. I especially enjoyed the Offertorium a piece with a fairly exposed tenor section. Actually, its a beautiful duet between the tenors and the altos both singing in the same voice range, but men and women. When I'm singing, my primary attention is focused on my part - so it was a wonderful experience to be able to focus on the musical exchange, which was easy and quite convincing. I will listen more for this in the recordings I have and very much look forward to the next time I sing it.
**They closed with a barn-burner by Parry that I had not heard before: Blest Pair of Sirens. A good one to end on. Anyway, it was a lovely program; worth spending the day in London for.
Im very impressed by the music program at St. Martins they seem to have something almost every day, and the prices are reasonable. They also have a strong commitment to homeless outreach in central London. Underneath the church is the caf in the crypt and the brass rubbing center.

I made the 10:30 train back to Norwich, but it didnt arrive until 1:45 a.m. (engineering works) and so I was waiting in the taxi queue with a bunch of young folk who had been partying all night! At least they are careful about not driving while drunk I understand that the pressure not to drink while under the influence is very high and people take it very seriously. Fell exhausted into bed around 2:15 am; the next thing I new it was almost 8:00.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:53 PM | Choral Music | Travel

July 4, 2005

Happy Interdependence Day

One thing has stuck in my mind from the Live 8 concert Saturday. Will Smith (in Philadelphia), said that we needed a "Declaration of Interdependence." He got that right! If we want a planet to pass on to our children's children's children, we'd better figure it out. We can. In the meantime, this morning's New York Times carried a story about a 15 year old boy, Christopher Rose, who was stabbed and killed yesterday in a street fight over an iPod. When will we ever learn? Happy Interdependence Day.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:58 AM | Society

July 7, 2005

Ripple Effects

The State of Minnesota is currently in partial shutdown because the governor and legislature cannot agree on the budget. The news is featuring more and more examples of how this partial shutdown is affecting a growing number of people. Today it hit me, but what amazed me is the much larger ripple in which I was caught.

I had long ago agreed to present a workshop in August on adoptive families at a Summer Institute for Early Childhood Educators. Planning for this has gone on for over a year, and the countdown to the event was proceeding. It turns out that the contract from the State Department of Education that was to provide funding for this institute had not been signed, sealed, and delivered before July 1, and employees in the contract division of the Department of Education are considered nonessential and are therefore furloughed indefinitely until the budget is passed. So whats the big deal? Because one or more persons in that office had not signed the contract, here are just a few of the ripples...

The fiscal agent for the conference (a state university up the road) has cancelled the conference, which was to have been held at St. Johns University. So that will have an impact on the housing and food services at St. Johns. (I hope the Institute has an out clause in their contract, but of course that means that St. Johns wont have the revenue they expected from 300 visitors over 3 days.) The attendees (300 projected from all over Minnesota) will not be able to come, learn, and receive graduate credit for the Institute. How many of them had rearranged family vacations or arranged child care to allow them to attend the Institute? The presenters (like me) will not be able to provide the information that the attendees hoped to receive. The children and families who ultimately stood to benefit from this information will not do so. The planners, who spent many months and much energy working on the conference, will go home empty-handed. All for the want of one person to sign that contract!

This is just one tiny example that will never hit the 6:00 news. How many other examples might there be? We will never know. This is ridiculous! I told someone earlier today that the people of Minnesota are getting fed up with this situation (in a Minnesota-nice kind of way, of course) and are talking about making a clean sweep of those in office. But isnt that frustration how we ended up with Jesse Ventura??

Posted by hgroteva at 4:08 PM | Society

July 11, 2005

Planet Earth

planet earth.jpg

The planet is shrinking. In the past few days, we have had real-time reports of the bombings in London and the hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. We have heard from Londoners walking down the street following the explosions; reporters getting drenched as they tried to be close ... but not too close ... to the rising waves; and from UK colleagues verifying by e-mail that they and their loved ones are OK.

Consideration of our position in the universe can evoke both terror and awe. As I saw "War of the Worlds" yesterday, it struck me that we as people are so fragile. Each little person in the crowd scenes surely felt that they had important lives, important ideas, important relationships, important things to do; but from the vantage point of the aliens, we are just so many ants needing to be vaporized. And they did a pretty effective job of it.

But the awe came when a colleague from the other side of the planet told me this morning about Google Earth. Amazing!! It allows you to look at the earth from afar, but zoom in to your own house - or anyone else's! I won't spoil the fun. Go to Google, search for "Google Earth," install, and enjoy. Prepare to be absorbed, delighted, and awe-struck.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:55 PM | Technology

July 17, 2005

About Inner Geek

As a professor at the University of Minnesota, I teach, conduct research, and participate actively in the university and my professional communities. A student once asked me if I ever got bored doing research on the same topic - Never! Every day is different, bringing new opportunities for discovery and for building relationships. I am a family psychologist interested in the interplay between individual and relational development within family contexts. Favorite family drama: "Six Feet Under."

I'm also a musician, currently singing with the Waltham Abbey Singers and the Schütz Secret Singing Society. The latter is just a group of anywhere from 10 - 20 folks who gather monthly in someone's living room to sing, just for the joy and camaraderie of it. I also had the pleasure of singing for two years with The Gregorian Singers. These groups feed my love of Early Music and a capella singing in relatively small ensembles. I've also sung in the Motet Choir of the House of Hope Presbyterian Church and the Cathedral Choir of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral. Several years ago, I was on my way to a professional conference and used the flight to study the scores for an upcoming concert. I pored over the pages throughout the trip, rehearsing the music internally. At the end of the flight, the person seated next to me asked, "Are you a musician?" My instant reaction was to demur and say "no -- I just sing in a choir" --- and then I caught myself and confidently responded "Yes." An identity moment. A favorite book about musicians: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth.

I'm also a cat person - we have four wonderful Tonkinese members of our family: Pookie, Shadow, MacKenzie, and Sadie. Their personalities and interactions have been the source of many spirited conversations in our family - watch for occasional Friday cat blogging.

Technology has always been a strong interest - I use computers intensively in my research (both quantitative and qualitative), and I find technological advances stimulating and exciting - hence, recent posts about Google Earth and the VeriChip. I am co-author of a blog about Quantitative Family Research Methods. Favorite tech movie: "GATTACA."

My research concerns relationships in adoptive families. The relevant themes and topics address issues central to the human drama: the development of identity - one's own narrative - within the contexts of family and other interpersonal relationships. All of this must be considered within historical and cultural context as well as the perspectives of multiple disciplines. Favorite adoption movies: "Secrets and Lies," "First Person Plural."

Travel has enriched my life immeasurably - I've lived in very different parts of the United States: upstate New York (10 years), north central (8 years) and central Texas (17 years), northern California (2 years), and southeastern Minnesota (19 years). I will be moving to Massachusetts in 2008, so look forward to living in New England, where my sister and father now live. I've also traveled extensively in other parts of the United States and have spent various amounts of time in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, New Zealand, Finland, Germany, and Russia.... so far. So many more places to experience. A favorite movie involving exotic lands: "The English Patient."

Posted by hgroteva at 10:00 PM | About | About Inner Geek

July 19, 2005

Open Ears

Heard a great spot on Minnesota Public Radio on the way to work this morning: "Open Ears." Chris Roberts has asked local musicians to identify a favorite piece of music that is from a genre OTHER THAN the one they typically perform. An intriguing idea. I'll be borrowing this rubric now and then, but here's a link to this morning's spot.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 AM | Music - of all kinds

July 20, 2005

Identity Imprint

from the Sunday New York Times Magazine, 7.17.05

"Once implanted just under the skin, via a quick, simple and painless outpatient procedure (much like getting a shot), the VeriChip can be scanned when necessary with a proprietary VeriChip scanner. VeriChip is there when you need it. Unlike traditional forms of identification, VeriChip can't be lost, stolen, misplaced or counterfeited." - Source: VeriChip Corporation (www.adsx.com/investorrelations/pdfs/VeriBro.pdf)

Posted by hgroteva at 8:10 AM | Identity

July 29, 2005

Friday cat blogging - meet Pookie

The first time I encountered Friday Cat Blogging was courtesy of Brian Link, intrepid director of the Waltham Abbey Singers. During a "slow" stretch in our season when not too many blog posts or comments were coming in from singers, he posted pictures and comments about his cats. Being a cat person myself, I thought they were pretty great and filed the idea away for the future. Recently, when visiting UThink's "Coffee Grounds" blog, (7/15/2005) I noticed ... Friday Cat Blogging. Well --- that made me wonder whether something greater might not be afoot here. So I went to all-knowing Google, and found 48,300 hits when the full phrase was placed in quotation marks!

Of keen interest was a New York Times article from October 28, 2004: "On Fridays, Bloggers Sometimes Retract their Claws," which is linked here. So it's a venerable tradition all its own in the blogosphere.

Well, I'm as proud of my cats as anyone, so I'd like to introduce them to you one at a time. We begin today with Pookie. As my wife would say, Pookie's got "gravitas." He could be Pope, or at least a great Supreme Court Justice. He's wise, yet inscrutable; laid back, yet focused; the elder statesman of our tribe. If he were a human, he might relish a big ol' cigar along with his brandy from time to time.



Posted by hgroteva at 7:54 AM | Cats

August 3, 2005

Miss Manners - Making the World Safe for Open Adoption

I started to read Miss Manners' column (link to the Washington Post may require free registration) this morning with some trepidation. The mother of a young man who placed his baby in an open adoption was writing to see what her birth granddaughter should call her when she is old enough to talk.

Fortunately, Miss M's answer was consistent with the fact that the world of open adoption is a part of the larger scene of complex families, in which children often have membership in multiple families and have to figure out and manage complex relationships. She noted, "Your granddaughter could easily acquire an entire club of grandparents..."

Her suggestion seemed wise: figure out names that "work" for her family - perhaps combining the word Grandma or Grandpa with their first name. She also counseled, "...remember that you are dependent on the goodwill of people who are not related to you. Miss Manners strongly advises you to ascertain the consent of the adoptive parents and not preempt the choices of their parents." Sensible advice. Open adoption involves complex relationships, and "goodwill" is the lubrication that makes the system work.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:23 AM | Adoption

August 9, 2005

The Texas Minnesota Thang

This morning's Star Tribune featured an article "Grinding Axes with Texas," which began with the lead, "It really chaps our hide the way the Lone Star State takes things we'd rather claim as our own."

As a holder of dual citizenship (having lived in Texas for 25 years and in Minnesota for 19 years and counting), I have a few comments to make.

I was recently introducing myself to my new next-door neighbor and found myself talking about Texas and Minnesota - and he asked what kind of connection there was between the states, because he had observed some kind of affinity between the two.

Well, the first connection is geographic. Texas and Minnesota are the "bumpers" on Interstate-35 before you cross international boundaries into Mexico or Canada, respectively. So the connection's pretty simple. Just hop on I-35 and head either north or south, and you'll wind up in one or the other. I-35 stretches from Duluth to Laredo, passing through the Twin Cities, Dallas, and Austin along the way.

The Twin Cities and Austin (TX) also have affinities. Both are centers of high tech and lots of white collar business, both are state capitals, and each is home to one of the U.S.'s largest state universities. The rankings of UT Austin and U of M Twin Cities tend to be very close. One may be a point or two ahead of the other on one dimension, but then the direction is reversed on another dimension. (But only UT Austin has a library that is built in the shape of the state of Texas.)

I think the 2 states also share a certain type of pragmatism that comes from dealing with harsh climates, although Minnesota has the "pleasure" of dealing with BOTH extremes, as this summer's continuing heat / humidity wave is continuing to teach us. As a consequence, people in both states dress casually in accordance with the weather -- or at least they tolerate people who do. People are adaptable.

However, my extended stays in both states have shown me that there are significant differences as well.

One of them has to do with a general approach to life. Minnesotans analyze and whine -- well illustrated by this morning's article. Here's the first sentence: "Texas, you've got our dander up!" (See?)

Texans just grab and run. They could care less whether Minnesota thinks it has 10,000 lakes. If they want to claim 10,000 or 20,000 -- well brother, they will.

There'a also a real difference in attitudes about the use of power in government and in universities. Minnesota touts its populist, participatory approach to life. Which is true in many ways. But sometimes it seems that the participation and consultation go on forever and either a) no one makes a decision, or b) someone steps in and grabs power and makes a decision in spite of all the consultation. In Texas, there's no pretense of consultation or government-by-the-people. Those in power just decide. Now I realize that I am edging into political territory here that others may care to analyze in much more depth. And maybe I'll add more in a subsequent post. But I couldn't let the occasion of this article pass without SOME comment about the two states that I alternatively love and hate. As with most things in life, wouldn't it be great if we could take the best things about each state and roll them into one? But what would we call it?

Posted by hgroteva at 7:55 AM | Minnesota | Texas

August 10, 2005

Lives Cut Short

I have been totally drawn into the ABC special about Peter Jennings, news anchor and foreign correspondent extraordinaire. I was always impressed by the excellence of his work, but the show has highlighted his passion and compassion, his love of learning (despite never having finished high school), and his desire to communicate (e.g., teach) others. He was a voracious reader and loved to travel and learn from his experiences in the world. The testimonials from his friends and colleagues have been incredible. He died at the age of 67, too early. Today, I also mourn the loss of a former university colleague, Bill Ryan. Even though I never met Bill in person, I felt great affection toward him because he was one of those wonderfully helpful tech people who coached me through a number of computer crises several years ago. Bill was only 38. Lung cancer killed Peter; brain cancer killed Bill. It's important to pause and honor those whose lives have passed ... and to learn from them.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:00 PM | Life

August 12, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging - Introducing Shadow


After my first Friday Cat Blogging post 2 weeks ago about Pookie, the other members of the tribe have been yowling, "Me next!!" Shadow yowled longest and loudest, so here he is...

Whereas Pookie exudes gravitas and stateliness (see July 29 entry), Shadow communicates, "Here I am, here I am, love me, love me, pet me, feed me, aren't I great?" He's our "in your face" kittie, but oh so loveable and vulnerable. When I work in my study upstairs, he might sit in the hallway and wail -- until I reassure him, "I'm here. It's OK. Come on over." It works every time. He climbs on my shoulder for a long hug, nuzzles against my face and glasses, and purrs contentedly.

When one of his compatriots is getting attention, Shadow will surely be up and claiming HIS attention within 20 seconds. He doesn't settle down too easily, but as he gets older, he is willing to slow down a bit, especially if he's getting his tummy rubbed while watching TV in the den. But he's plenty rambunctious too - loving to chase others in the tribe all over the house. They they lay down together, groom each other, and fall asleep for hours. It's quite a show.


Posted by hgroteva at 1:32 AM | Cats

August 14, 2005

The Loaves and the Fishes

from this morning's Star Tribune

On the Train to Venice by Jim Moore

The first and least important mistake
was to take the train on Sunday, September 1st,
the last day of vacation for millions of Italians.
Though the train was packed,
we had thought to bring sandwiches.
We ate while everyone around us -- sitting, standing,
filling every possible inch of floor space --
went profoundly silent and watched
as if we were demonstrating a new technique
for brain surgery, one never tried before,
gone horribly wrong.
Not long after we finished, out of nowhere
came sandwiches, water, and fruit,
every last bit of it offered all around,
especially to those who had brought nothing with them. Such kindness
and pleasure, and gratitude, except
on the part of the two Americans
who had eaten their fill alone,
in silence, as if the world was empty
of everything but themselves.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:03 AM | Society

August 19, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging - meet Mackenzie


Pookie's our sedate one, Shadow's the noisy one, and Mackenzie (pictured above) is the quiet one. She's petite and very circumspect, never forcing herself into a situation (unlike her BIG brothers). When she settles in for a cuddle, she's more relaxed than any of her tribe-mates. She's the best nurse-cat in the family, for those days when you're feeling yucky.

She easily moves in and out of coalitions with the others, but is not quite as tightly bonded as are Pookie and Sadie. But if she has a preferred pair-mate, it's probably Shadow. Opposites attract, they say. Here she is (on the left) with Shadow (on the right).

Mackenzie and Shadow2.jpg

Mackenzie's strangest characteristic is that she EATS WOOL - and the more expensive, the better. Unfortunately, we discovered this after she had already done a substantial amount of damage to my wife's wardrobe. She doesn't nibble - she eats big holes in the middle of garments. I thought maybe this was indicative of a vitamin deficiency (or some such thing), but apparently some cats like to eat wool. We have had many cats over many years, and Mackenzie is the first wool-eater. I would be interested to hear other cat/wool stories. For some reason, she has stopped doing this - no damage in the past year, although my wife has rearranged her clothes so that they are not so easily accessible.

Mackenzie also carries things along (reminiscent of Carrie's comment about her dog-cat). She is especially fond of a wool sock (of course) and a winter glove that has fur lining. These items keep appearing all over the house. But she is a warm, wonderful cat who, like her tribe-mates, has wormed her way into our lives.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:56 AM | Cats

Six Feet Under - R.I.P.


The last episode - ever - of "Six Feet Under" airs this Sunday evening on HBO. I will have more to say in the weeks to come, but I couldn't let this event pass without comment. I'm a huge fan of the show, having taught (with Heather Haberman) a course about family dynamics using the first season of SFU as our common experiential base. On NPR this afternoon, I heard a piece on "Day to Day" about the show, its premise, and its impact. You can hear the story by clicking here. In fact, the NPR website has quite a few archived interviews with SFU actors and Alan Ball, the mind behind it all.

What drew me to the show was that it was real. I don't mean that the plots were realistic - in fact, some of them were so far-fetched that I'd certainly hope they couldn't be real (like the one about the baker who got shredded in the mixing vat). What I mean is that the characters were complex and really human. They all had rich interior lives which Alan Ball let us into, and they all struggled mightily to survive and thrive in the midst of complicated circumstances. They dealt honestly and openly with complex human emotions. Family dinnertime conversations were not idealized or romanticized occasions for togetherness - they were the coming together of individuals with complex emotions, lots of baggage, and many needs. But those gathered around the table gave it their best shot - their depth of caring and commitment was genuine.

I will surely miss this show. After watching Season 1 many times, I feel that I really know the Fishers and their extended network. I'd like to know some of them in real life -- but that will have to be the topic for a post some other day. I hope to teach my seminar again in the future. What topics could be more germane to understanding families: attachment, death, development across the life span, identity, intimacy, boundaries, emotion regulation, sibling relationships, sexuality, psychopathology, children... It's all there for the taking.

R.I.P., and thanks for making our lives richer.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:31 PM | Six Feet Under

August 28, 2005

Travels in Door County, Wisconsin

Our new academic year begins tomorrow, so what could be more appropriate than a photo essay on What I Did On My Summer Vacation? Actually, summer was hardly a vacation. But Susan and I spent last week in Door County Wisconsin NOT working, and it was just what the doctor ordered. We had never been to Door County before, but were intrigued by the raves of friends and by what we had read. (It was also within driving distance. Despite the high price of gas, it seemed less aversive to pay at the pump than to risk being bumped randomly during the first week of Northwest's mechanics' strike.)

Door County has sometimes been described as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest," which seems a bit oxymoronic -- but there's some truth to it. Like CC, DC is a peninsula. It rises north of Green Bay Wisconsin (the city) and sticks out into Lake Michigan, so that Green Bay (the bay) is to the west and Lake Michigan is to the east.

Door county map.jpg

There are a number of small towns in the county, most specializing in some combination of cherries (more on that later) and tourism. (On the down side, there were too many kitch-y shops which all ended up looking alike after a while.)

We stayed in Sturgeon Bay, which is at the southern end of the county, in a condo called Harbor's Edge - and the water was indeed 5 feet from our front door. It was soothing to hear the waves at night. (What the brochure did not reveal was that our little condo was across Sturgeon Bay from the shipyards, but that wasn't too obnoxious.) The moonlight view was beautiful.

moonlight over Sturgeon Bay-b.jpg

One of my favorite activities was eating vanilla custard into which cherries were folded. The best was from Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle in Fish Creek - yum! (We went there 3 times in 4 days!) Door County is the 3rd largest cherry producing area in the U.S. (acc to Craig Charles, in Exploring Door County.) We arrived too late for the fresh cherries (which I had gorged on at home throughout July), but Door County seems to specialize in "cherry everything." I can definitely vouch for the cherry fudge. Someone told me about cherries in burgers -- well, I don't know about that but will keep an open mind.

Hal at Malibu Moos Fish Creek-b.jpg

The state parks in D.C. are amazing. The first we visited was Whitefish Dunes, which was indeed reminiscent of the Cape. There were miles of sandy beach and dunes - the largest being dubbed "Old Baldy." In my walk along the beach, I encountered this most impressive sand sculpture.

Sand sculpture at Whitefish Dunes-b.jpg

We hiked on some of the nature trails and generally enjoyed the peaceful day. Definitely worth a return visit. (Next time, we will get the summer pass for the Wisconsin State Parks - only $30 for unlimited visits all summer to all of the parks).

We also visited Peninsula State Park, along the western coast. It's another beautiful park with varied terrain and opportunities for doing different things. A sand beach for the kids, lots of hiking and biking trails (here is the Sentinel Trail)

Sentinel Trail - Peninsula St Pk-b.jpg

... and plenty of places to camp and picnic. We hiked to the top of the Eagle's Tower, which is atop Eagle's Bluff.

Eagle Tower-b.jpg

Here is the view from the top.

View from Eagle Tower-b.jpg

In the midst of the driving, walking, touring, and eating, we were able to catch the finale of Six Feet Under (see my blog post from August 19). The last episode was indeed powerful and thought-provoking. I felt like I lost some good friends. (Seasons 3 and 4 are winging their way to me via amazon.com, and I hope season 5 will be released on DVD soon.) Some of the resolutions seemed too facile, but Alan Ball didn't skimp on the surprises or the complexity. Thanks for the great show, Alan. More anon.

On our last evening, we took a 2 hour sunset sailboat cruise on the Scupper, with Captain Tom Schroeder and 4 other folks. The cruise left from the town of Ephraim and went out into the harbor, sailing by Eagle's Bluff and the islands in the bay. But mainly we were out on the water enjoying its peace. There wasn't much wind, so Tom couldn't do many fancy sailing moves - but that was OK - it was great just as it was. I close with several shots of sunset, culminating with the view of post-sunset tranquility on the bay.







Tranquil post sunset2-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 7:26 AM | Travel

September 4, 2005

Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

Anne Rice had an eloquent, moving op-ed piece in the New York Times this morning:
"Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?"
Read it here.
...or by going to http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04rice.html

Sadness beyond belief...

Posted by hgroteva at 12:13 PM | Society

September 5, 2005

The Federal Government's 'Strange Paralysis'

Daniel Schorr had a brilliant piece on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon. Listen to it here ... (The link will take you to the NPR website, at which you can choose to hear the commentary either on Real Player or Windows Media Player.)

He began with the quote, "Government is the enemy until you need a friend" but added, "and then your friend may turn out to be dysfunctional." Among the many disgusting revelations of this affair is that the Times-Picayune ran a series of articles several years ago predicting that exactly this scenario would occur if a category 4 hurricane were to strike. And no one listened. On a website I read this morning, it mentioned that when a huge hurricane passed through Cuba in 2004. 1.5 million people were evacuated, and 20,000 homes were destroyed, but NOT ONE life was lost. It's because the government had a plan to evacuate everyone -- it didn't just tell people "You're on your own. Get the hell out!" It took responsibility. Where is our concern for the common good? Where is our responsibility?

Posted by hgroteva at 7:59 PM | Society

September 11, 2005

A Week of Tributes

Amidst the shock of the last two weeks post-Katrina and today's sadness of honoring those who died in 9/11, this week brings an opportunity for me to honor three people who have been very important in my life: my father, Floyd Grotevant; my long-time research colleague, Ruth McRoy; and my dissertation co-advisor and mentor/colleague, Richard Weinberg.

My father celebrates his 85th birthday on September 20, but family and friends are gathering this weekend in Dallas to honor him. My sister and I have had a good time planning the event, if for no other reason than it's given us the chance to be in touch more frequently; communicate with cousins, aunts, and uncles we haven't seen in years; and reminisce as we go over old pictures and receive tributes from FOD (friends of dad). Here are 4 generations of Grotevant men.

Grotevant men 4 gens 061704 b.jpg

The occasion has also given me the opportunity to reflect on the contributions my father has made to my life as an adult. Not in terms of possessions, but in terms of enduring qualities that I've seen him exemplify and that I strive to show in my life. Among them...

**optimism having a positive outlook about the future and relishing each new day for what it will bring
**integrity doing the right thing and expecting others to do so as well
**commitment unswerving dedication to loved ones and ideals
**engagement being active in the community and the world
**follow-through keeping commitments and doing what you said youd do
**pride in a job well-done

I'm ready to party!

This week also marks a career transition for my long-time colleague Ruth McRoy. Ruth is retiring from "active duty" as a full time professor at UT, but will be serving for many years to come as a Research Professor based in California but continuing to conduct research, write, mentor, and provide leadership for the field. Ruth and I have been research partners for over 25 years, reaching back to her days as a graduate student and my days as a newbie assistant professor at UT Austin. Here we are celebrating our work together at a favorite Austin site, the Oasis Cantina on Lake Travis. (Sadly, the Oasis burned down last December after being struck by lightning; I hope it will rebuild soon!)

Hal Ruth at Oasis.jpg

Together, we have written scores of grant applications, interviewed hundreds of adoptive families and birth parents, mentored countless students, celebrated many publications, and traveled all over the world to present our work. It's all been a great privilege and a great adventure to work with such a talented colleague. Ruth's academic talents combine in powerful ways with her commitment to her field (social work) and to all people ultimately served by her work. Words that come to mind include passion, energy, zeal, intelligence, savvy, and leadership.


This Thursday, Richard Weinberg will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the School Psychology Program at the University of Minnesota. I cant think of a better candidate for this recognition. By my reckoning, it was 30 years ago this fall that I was a student in Rich's School Psychology Assessment sequence. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my doctoral program. What I learned in that class about being a keen observer (among many other things) has stood me in good stead throughout my career. He has served as a significant role model from my first year as a graduate student to the present, as we are serving together as senior faculty members in our respective departments. Rich especially taught me how important it is to have faith in people (even when they aren't so confident in themselves), to provide opportunities, to give people room to grow, and to simultaneously and paradoxically be close and let go.

How lucky can I be -- to have three such amazing people in my life for so many years and to be able to honor them in the same week? (My only regret is that our geographical separation means that I will not be able to attend all three events.) The qualities that the three of them embody have been important touchstones in my adult life -- and they are qualities that I hope to pass on to the people whose lives I touch. My love, admiration, and appreciation go out to all three of you!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:22 AM | About Inner Geek | Life

September 26, 2005

Urie Bronfenbrenner, visionary

September 26, 2005, 1:53 PM EDT

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Urie Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell University professor emeritus who helped found the national Head Start program, died at his home Sunday from complications from diabetes, the school announced Monday. He was 88.

The Russian-born Bronfenbrenner _ who was credited with creating the interdisciplinary domain of human ecology _ was widely regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in developmental psychology and child-rearing.

In 1979, Bronfenbrenner developed his groundbreaking concept on the ecology of human development _ the study of human beings and how they interact with their environments. His work led to new directions in basic research and to applications in the design of programs and policies affecting the well-being of children and families both in the United States and abroad.

Earlier in his career, Bronfenbrenner _ along with developmental psychologists Mamie Clark and Edward Zigler _ helped spur the creation of Head Start, the federal child development program for low-income children and their families. Some 20 million children and families have participated in Head Start since its inception in 1965.

Before Bronfenbrenner, child psychologists studied the child, sociologists examined the family, anthropologists the society, economists the economic framework of the times and political scientists the structure. Bronfenbrenner viewed them all as part of the life course, embracing both childhood and adulthood.

Cornell colleague Stephen Ceci, a professor of human ecology who worked closely with Bronfenbrenner for nearly a quarter-century, said Bronfenbrenner's "bioecological" approach to human development shattered barriers among the social sciences and forged bridges among the disciplines.

"Urie was the quintessential person for spurring psychologists to look up and realize that interpersonal relationships, even the smallest level of the child and the parent-child relationship, did not exist in a social vacuum but were embedded in the larger social structures of community, society, economics and politics, while encouraging sociologists to look down to see what people were doing," said Melvin L. Kohn, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, who studied under Bronfenbrenner some 40 years ago.

In his later years, Bronfenbrenner warned that the process that makes human beings human was breaking down as disruptive trends in American society produced ever more chaos in the lives of America's children.

"The hectic pace of modern life poses a threat to our children second only to poverty and unemployment," he said. "The signs of this breakdown are all around us in the ever growing rates of alienation, apathy, rebellion, delinquency and violence among American youth."

Born in Moscow, Russia, in 1917, Bronfenbrenner came to the United States at age 6. He received a bachelor's degree from Cornell in 1938, completing a double major in psychology and music. He later received an M.A. at Harvard followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1942.

After graduation, he was inducted into the Army where he served as a psychologist. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1948.

He held many honorary doctoral degrees from American and European universities. The American Psychological Association annually gives an award for "lifetime contribution to developmental psychology" in Bronfenbrenner's name.

He was the author, co-author or editor of more than 300 articles and chapters and 14 books.

At his death, Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Sherman Professor Emeritus of Human Development and of Psychology at Cornell University. In 1993, Cornell renamed its Life Course Institute after Bronfenbrenner.

A memorial service organized by his family is planned for Oct. 8. A service for the Cornell community will be announced later, the school said.

He is survived by his wife, Liese; six children, including Kate, who is the director of labor education research at Cornell.

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press

Posted by hgroteva at 8:46 PM | Social Science

October 3, 2005

Information Management Systems Brings Award to University of Minnesota

I am very pleased to share the news that Information Management Systems (IMS), the University of Minnesota unit directed by Susan Grotevant (see photo below), was recently named recipient of Computerworld's "Best Practices in Business Intelligence Award" in the category of Managing and Enhancing Business Intelligence Applications and Infrastructure.

Susan3 b.jpg

Ron Milton, Executive VP of Computerworld said, "Recipients of this year's business intelligence perspectives' 'Best Practices in Business Intelligence' awards span across varied marketplaces and sectors, ranging from telecommunications to education, and wines and spirits to banking." "We honor each of these diverse organizations for their cutting edge IT departments, and their ability to prove that exceptional BI technology solutions can bring about outstanding results."

The case for the award noted that the declining state funding for higher education in Minnesota has resulted in long term structural changes in the public financing of higher education that places increasing reliance on tuition and other revenue to offset changes in state appropriations. As a result, the University of Minnesota System implemented a budgetary and management model designed to provide financial incentives to colleges and departments to enhance revenues and control costs. Implementation of this management model required the creation of an information-rich decision environment that could reach to the lowest levels in the organization where decisions affecting revenues and expenditures were made. This change, along with steadily increasing demands for accountability and productivity, improved academic and student outcomes, and the implementation of a new generation of enterprise resource planning systems drove a dramatic increase in the need to transform data into business intelligence and to improve the university's ability to translate business intelligence into strategic decisions.

What is Business Intelligence, you might ask? ...
Here's the answer from an article recently written in Campus Technology about BI and highlighting the innovative work of IMS. [Read the whole article HERE.]
"Business Intelligence (BI) software enables users to obtain enterprise-wide information more easily. These products are considered a step up from typical decision support tools because they more tightly integrate querying, reporting, OnLine Analytical Processing (OLAP), data mining, and data warehousing functions. They frequently are used in conjunction with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such as Oracle/PeopleSoft, SAP, or SCT Banner. There are a variety of products that claim BI capabilities, but the bottom line is that they should enable users to obtain all of the information they desire from their organizations databases, provided those users are allowed access to certain information. All of the information is presented in sensible easy-to-read formats, most frequently over the Internet or via e-mail. The result, of course, is a more comprehensive and targeted search of available data, and the incorporation of that information into reports to assist in decision-making of all kinds. BI software is available in a variety of flavorsor cubesdesigned to cull data from just about every area of university operations including Finance, Administrative Systems, Payroll, Grant Management, Admissions, Human Resources, Student Services, and more."

Congratulations to Susan and her unit for the excellence of their work and the honor they have brought to the university.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:33 PM | Technology

October 6, 2005

It's "just stuff"

How attached we become to our "stuff." Our basement flooded Tuesday night, when the Twin Cities received a record 5 - 6 inches of rain in a short time. As best I can tell, the ground was so saturated that the water seeped in through the floor - hence, wet carpeting in Mark's bedroom. He spent today tearing it all out; the dumpster is in the driveway.

This afternoon I started surveying the closets downstairs and found a number of wet storage boxes. One box contained tax returns from the 1980s. Good riddance, I guess. But another box contained my college yearbooks - they're toast. Another contained my baby book, complete with everything my mother wrote about my first years. I think it will dry out and not have to be thrown away.

But in the end, it's all just "stuff." I have NO right to whine, after what the people along the Gulf Coast have experienced. They lost everything - all their "stuff." I've had a number of experiences over the years without stuff, and it's reassuring to know that I have some perspective on how unimportant it really is. One such experience was when I moved to Minnesota in 1990. My wife was staying behind in Texas for 6 months while Paul finished high school, so I just moved here with my car and the relatively minimal amount of stuff it would hold. I lived in a funky room in a large house the department used to own (that's another story...) but was very content with the minimal baggage I had to deal with. Another time when I realize how little stuff I really need is when I go on retreat and stay in a very small single room -- the "stuff" of every day life doesn't really matter very much at all. And I've also had experiences when the stuff feels like a millstone around my neck -- like when moving across country and the driver of the van tells you how many tons of "stuff" you have, and by the way, here's the bill for hauling it.

When it's all said and done, we enter the world with nothing and leave the world with nothing. Having "stuff" is nice, but there's a lot more to life. Less is more. That will be my mantra as I proceed to fill the dumpster in the driveway.

But I'm still sad to lose my college yearbooks and other artifacts of childhood.
Less is more. less is more. less is more. less is more. less is more. less is more.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:48 PM | Life

October 9, 2005

This I Believe

NPR has done it again. Back in July, I blogged about an innovative new program called "Open Ears," in which musicians talk about the music they love. I recently heard a new program (for me), which actually has its roots in a 1950s radio program of Edward R. Murrow's called "This I Believe". The NPR program of the same name asks listeners to "share the beliefs that guide you in your daily life." They are collecting essays of up to 6000 words, and they present a new one each week in the author's own voice.

The NPR website has links to a number of these fascinating essays that give voice to individuals' struggles and insights. They are well worth hearing. As one who studies narrative approaches to identity, I'm very excited about this project. These are powerful transformative stories that attest to the complexity and vigor of the human spirit.

Stories are powerful things. American Public Radioworks is also collecting stories --- of those involved in international adoption. They are developing a feature called "Finding Home: Fifty Years of International Adoption." This promises to be fascinating and useful. This program was recently discussed on colleague Rich Lee's blog "FamiLee Life."

Posted by hgroteva at 8:31 AM | Identity

October 17, 2005

October Light

October has always been my favorite month - maybe because it's when I celebrate my birthday - but more likely, because of the colors and the light. This editorial from this morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune captured the essence of October for me.

"If you're outdoors this week, you'll see it. October light, on a clear afternoon, seems to illuminate the trees and lawns from within. And individually -- each leaf, each blade, each blossom on the aster glows independent of all others.

If there happens to be drizzle, the mist may seem charged with some kind of current, perhaps the same voltage that makes a clouded sky suffuse faint sunlight like backdrops in a portrait studio. Dawn and dusk tint overcast skies with tones a watercolorist could spend a lifetime imitating.

October light is not imagined -- a few moments' Googling will demonstrate its popularity as a subject for painters, poets and songwriters, and of course the late John Gardner, novelistic champion of nature and small heroism. But neither is it easily explained.

It is not an illusion generated by the turning foliage it illuminates, as many assume, nor the product of the frosts that may or may not precede it. We know a fellow who used to theorize that light grows more intense when compressed within a shorter day, but we've checked with the experts and physics doesn't work that way.

Meteorology, on the other hand, has much to do with the phenomenon. Some years ago the late Bruce Watson of Roseville, a weather-watcher born for the arcane inquiry, explained that atmospheric pressure at this latitude is especially high in mid-October, circling the globe with an unbroken belt of unusually clear air. Humidity is low and so is airborne dust, thanks to sinking masses of cold air.

That's the science, more or less, but of course the most intriguing aspect of October light is not why it happens, but rather what it does. Go ahead and look:
Across the lake, light fog is drifting out of reeds that suddenly seem extruded from brass or even gold. Downtown, sheets of blue-green window glass register shards of their surroundings so sharply you might think every building had been scrubbed and buffed last night.

Walk a familiar stretch of sidewalk, noting how each maple is redder than the last, how the yellows in the hedges seem to hum. These birches here, with the coppery bark -- how is it possible you've never seen them before? And when did chrysanthemums start to come in all these colors?

While you're at it, mark a few weekend hours for getting off your usual routes and just a little ways into the unsettled world -- the fields and woodlands where October light gathers in fullest force, and only for a week or two.

The short gray days are not far off. Too soon, we'll be struggling to remember a world of living color."

Posted by hgroteva at 8:47 PM | Life

October 21, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging - The Tonk Pile

As Minnesota slips into the autumn, our cat-tribe looks for warmth wherever they can find it. One favorite venue is any heating pad that has been vacated. But another is the company of each other. Tonkinese are known for piling up, and our guys do it regularly. Here's the "Tonk Pile."

4cats Oct2005.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:03 AM | Cats

October 22, 2005

Choral Music in the Twin Cities

Excellent choral music contributes to the artistic richness of the Twin Cities. A number of outstanding groups provide rich fare for us to enjoy through listening and participation. I do both. I love to patronize the many choral events offered here. So many concerts, so little time! But I also sing in two groups at present: The Gregorian Singers and the Waltham Abbey Singers. In January, I will be returning to the House of Hope Presbyterian Church Motet Choir. My desk is overflowing with announcements from many groups advertising their concerts for the season that has just begun. I compiled a chronological list of those I'm aware of between now and the end of December. I hope you will patronize many of them. I'm sure there are many other choral events. If you'd like me to add them to the list, just e-mail me the information ( hgroteva@umn.edu ) and I will gladly do so. If there seems to be interest, I'll compile a similar list for winter/spring 2006.

DISCLAIMER: The information in the following list was compiled from information I received in the mail and found posted on the internet. Verify dates, times, and places for yourself, as these may have changed.

Here's the list. Enjoy!
(and please especially plan to attend the Gregorian Singers Advent Procession, November 26)


27th Rose Ensemble, Common Threads: Exploring Shared Texts among Early Christians and Jews; Sundin Music Hall, Hamline Univ, 7:30 pm

28th Cantus, Home Field Advantage First Lutheran Church, Columbia Heights; 7:30 pm

29th Cantus, Home Field Advantage Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Excelsior; 7:30 pm

29th Rose Ensemble, Common Threads: Exploring Shared Texts among Early Christians and Jews; Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls; 8:00 pm

30th Cantus, Home Field Advantage St. Marys University, Winona; 7:30 pm

30th Rose Ensemble, Common Threads: Exploring Shared Texts among Early Christians and Jews; Temple Israel, Mpls; 7:00 pm


4th Cantus, Home Field Advantage Westminster Presbyterian, Mpls, 7:30 pm

5th Magnum Chorum, Faure Requiem, St. Marks Cathedral, Minneapolis, 7:30 pm

11th Cantus with the MN Orchestra, Orchestra Hall, 8:00 pm

12th Cantus with the MN Orchestra, Orchestra Hall, 8:00 pm

12th St. Marks Cathedral Choral Society, Faure Requiem & Dvorak Mass in D; St. Marks Cathedral, Mpls 7:30 pm

26th Gregorian Singers, Advent Procession, St. Pauls Church on the Hill, 1524 Summit Ave, St. Paul; 4:00 pm

26th Cantus, Away in a Manger Harriet Island Pavilion, St. Paul, 7:30

27th St. Marks Cathedral Choir, Advent Carol Service, St. Marks Cathedral, Mpls, 4:00 pm

27th VocalEssence with Garrison Keillor, We Gather Together, Orchestra Hall, 4 pm


4th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls, 4 pm

8th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, St. Andrews Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, 7:30 pm

9th Bach Society, Bach Christmas Oratorio, Parts 1-3, House of Hope Presbyterian, St. Paul, 7:30

10th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Nio: Delights from Baroque Mexico; Weber Hall, U of MN Duluth, 7:00 pm

10th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, Normandale Lutheran Church, Edina, 7:30

11th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls, 4:00 pm

11th Magnum Chorum, Welcome All Wonders, Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, University of St. Thomas, 2:30 pm

11th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Nio: Delights from Baroque Mexico; St. Pauls Church on the Hill, St. Paul, 7:00 pm

16th Cantus, Cantus and Carols with SPCO, United Church of Christ, St. Paul, 8:00 pm

17th Cantus, Cantus and Carols with SPCO, Ted Mann Concert Hall, 8:00 pm

17th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Nio: Delights from Baroque Mexico, Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls, 8:00 pm

18th St. Marks Cathedral Choir, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, St. Marks Cathedral, Mpls, 4:00 pm

18th Cantus, Cantus and Carols with SPCO, St. Johns University, Collegeville, 8:00 pm

18th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Nio: Delights from Baroque Mexico, Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater, 7:00 pm

18th Magnum Chorum, Welcome All Wonders, St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran, Plymouth, 2:30 pm

20th Cantus, Christmas with Cantus, Westminster Presbyterian, Mpls, 10:30 am

21st Cantus, Christmas with Cantus, Westminster Presbyterian, Mpls, 10:30 am

23rd St. Marks Cathedral Choir, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, St. Marks Cathedral, Minneapolis, 7:30 pm

Posted by hgroteva at 6:03 AM | Choral Music

October 26, 2005

Is Blogging a Waste of Time?

Today's Star Tribune (10-26-05) reported a story from Ad Age that "U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs. About 35 million workers spend an average of 3.5 hours a week reading them." First, it's interesting that the article asserted that the workers WASTE all that time rather than SPEND that time or USE that time. Hmmm. It did cause me to ask why I read blogs and why I blog myself.

Blogs provide a window on the world, just like other media do. But when you read a newspaper or magazine, watch TV or listen to radio, the information is always filtered by those who produce it and those who pay for it. Blogging is citizen-journalism. You don't need anyone else to produce it, and you don't have to find a sponsor who will pay for it. It allows me to say anything I want to, even if no one is listening. Sometimes it just makes me feel good to get things off my chest. Or to write down perspectives, as I would in a handwritten journal. I'd like to remember such insights and perhaps return to them later for further enlightenment.

As a reader, blogs allow me to take the pulse of the world from ground level, and I like that. I've also discovered that reading blogs of people I know makes me feel that I know the person much better. Especially in relationships that primarily revolve around work or a single activity, some of the more personal interests and viewpoints just never come up. Many bloggers (myself included) also tend to be on the introverted side and find it much easier to write about themselves that blather on about themselves in person. (Especially in Lake Woebegoneland, where blathering on about oneself is uncouth.)

Blogs also provide connections with people who have shared interests. My Friday Cat Blogging posts and my posts about travel to the UK and to Door County Wisconsin have elicited the most comments from others. Even if I never actually communicate with people who read my blog, I'm pleased that what I write might give them food for thought or enjoyment of a picture of that sailboat right at sunset (Door County) or those cute cats all in their basket. Or maybe my post about the wonderful choral offerings in the Twin Cities will inspire someone to go hear one of the groups.

There are also blogs that impart information - such as the one L. started for our family quantitative research methods class. It is an expanding treasure trove of resources for the students in the class. (Unfortunately, I think most of them have been too busy to check it out - but maybe they'll find it later.)

So is blogging a waste of time? As with most things in life, it depends.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:30 AM | Technology

November 16, 2005

Winter Arrived

Winter arrived last night. You say it's not due until December 21? Well, take my word for it, it's here. The snow, the sleet, the wind, the boots, the windshield scraping, the parka ... the whole nine yards.

Even though I've lived here over 15 years, I have never looked forward to winter. Maybe you have to grow up here, learn to ski and skate when you're just old enough to walk, learn to stand at a cold bus stop because that's all you know. But I know better, and I don't like it.

I still remember hearing Eric Friesen (then of MPR, now of the CBC) once saying that the only way to survive in Minnesota is to "embrace the winter." I just can't wrap my head around it. I had an interesting conversation with a colleague last week - she grew up in these parts and lives for winter. Her favorite kind of day is snowy and very cold. I described my favorite kind of day: 75 degrees, balmy, windows open, sunroof down on the car, wearing shorts, not having to change clothes for indoors / outdoors transitions - feeling at equilibrium with the temperature outside. Maybe I'm really adapted for San Diego. My ancestry is mixed northern European - and not awfully far north - they have a lot of 75 degree days there.

Anyway, winter is not my happy time of the year. The days are too short, the layers of clothes are too many, and I'm always having to figure out how to stay warm enough. (Consequently I eat too much and put on weight, and then feel bad about that.... but that's another story.)

The one good thing about winter is that the classical music scene in the Twin Cities is at its peak. We had a great rehearsal last night for the Advent Procession we (Gregorian Singers) are doing on Saturday, November 26. You are warmly invited: St. Paul's Church on the Hill, 1524 Summit Ave (just east of Snelling); 4:00 pm. Open to the public, free of charge (a freewill offering will be taken.) That's one of the good things about Minnesota winter.

Thus endeth my rant against winter. Now that I've got it off my chest, I can get back to work.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:11 PM | Choral Music | Life | Minnesota

November 18, 2005

Travels - National Museum of the American Indian

A recent trip took me to Washington, DC, where I had the privilege of visiting the new National Museum of the American Indian, on the National Mall across from the Museum of Fine Arts. It's a spectacular building, filled with interesting exhibits and a mellow ambience.

The entrance to the museum is reminiscent of the Anasazi cliff dwellings - there is a protective outcropping over the entry area.

NMAI exterior2-b.jpg

Going into the building is like entering the sacred kiva, the beehive shaped enclosure in which significant religious ceremonies took place. The center of the atrium is a large space with a skylight above, reminiscent of the hole where the smoke from the fire would escape. The light coming through the windows played on the walls and made beautiful rainbows.

Rainbow in kiva1-b.jpg

The inside of the museum is full of stories - about cultures, peoples, beliefs, practices, losses, pride, sorrow -- the gamut of human experiences and emotions. The diversity of Indian cultures is honored - there are many viewpoints and perspectives expressed. Here's what one person said about stories...


The curved surfaces of the building conveyed a sense of peace and harmony with nature alongside an impression of movement.

NMAI exterior 5-b.jpg

NMAI exterior 6-b.jpg

This photo reminds me of the stylized jaguar symbol used by the Aztecs of central Mexico.

NMAI exterior 7-b.jpg

Then amazing serendipities happened...

We were on our way to hear a concert at the Kennedy Center (more to come about that) when, walking down the Mall, we discovered that a simulcast of Porgy and Bess was beginning! The simulcast was a gift to the City of Washington from the Washington National Opera and Placido Domingo, its director. Even though it was early November, it felt like a late summer day (well, for Minnesota!). The Mall was full of people - one reporter estimated 7,000 - replete with folding chairs, food, drink, blankets, and a relaxed atmosphere. We stayed as long as we dared so that we wouldn't miss our concert -- but it was a great happenstance -- one of those things you could never plan and make work out. We heard a powerful, lyrical rendition of "Summertime."

Porgy Bess on mall-b.jpg

Porgy Bess on mall2-b.jpg

We made it to the Kennedy Center and climbed into our seats with (literally) less than one minute before the performance began. (phew!) We were there to hear Orff's "Carmina Burana," performed by the 200-member Washington Chorus, and its orchestra and children's choir. Although I had heard parts of it before, I had never heard the entire piece, and never live. We were sitting in the 4th row, which was perfect by me - I love to be able to see the musician's faces. We were near the percussion - many fantastic percussion parts in Carmina! The gong players were in heaven - how often do they get to show off the gong, cymbals, tympani, snare drums, etc. in one performance? Ya gotta hand it to Washington - it's quite a special place.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:28 PM | Travel

November 20, 2005

Gregorian Singers - Advent Procession

Candlelight Advent Procession
The Gregorian Singers
Saturday, November 26, 2005 4:00 p.m.
St. Pauls Church on the Hill (Episcopal)
1524 Summit Avenue in St. Paul (one block east of Snelling Avenue)

Open to the public, free of charge. A free-will offering will be taken.

The 28th annual Candlelight Advent Procession will be presented by The Gregorian Singers at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 26, at St. Pauls Church on the Hill (Episcopal), 1524 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, one block east of Snelling Avenue. Monte Mason, founding director of The Gregorian Singers, will direct.

For many years, The Gregorian Singers annual Candlelight Advent Procession has been one of the Twin Cities most popular events for people to begin their official Advent observance. The Advent Procession is an amazing visual feast of darkness and candlelight that engages the congregation in singing, prayer, and movement.

The choir enters the church in darkness and traces the sign of the cross throughout the nave while singing Advent carols and motets at a variety of stops (stations) along the way. At each station, scripture lessons are read from the Old Testament prophets, foretelling the coming of the Messiah, as well as New Testament readings that reflect the Advent season.

It is through this annual liturgy that The Gregorian Singers have received much
acclaim, especially since the recent national re-release of their popular CD recording Advent, portions of which have been heard over the years on numerous Minnesota Public Radio, American Public Media, and National Public Radio broadcasts.

Musical selections during the Advent Procession will include choral works by Francis Jackson, Arthur Maud, Peter Hallock, and Pierre de la Rue, as well as selections from Gregorian chant. Come early for a good seat. Doors open at 3:00.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:58 PM | Choral Music

November 27, 2005

Why Do I Sing?

Last night's Advent Procession was very special. As a member of the congregation for many years, I always found it an opportunity to have a place of reflection, quiet, and anticipation during an increasingly busy time of year. Last year, in my first season singing with the Gregorians, my focus was just on making it through the service without dropping a bell or setting my music on fire with my candle! (neither of which happened, thankfully). But this year was different. I thought a lot about why I sing as a member of a such a group.

When serious singers work together, the effort is totally focused on producing the most beautiful sound. And the most beautiful sound comes when each person is able to contribute his or her best effort as an individual while simultaneously coordinating that effort with, and sometimes subordinating that effort to, the ensemble as a whole. It's a huge responsibility, but the outcome is something no individual could accomplish on his or her own. It demands total focus and energy, but the reward is immediate and sometimes stunning, although the sound vanishes as quickly as it is produced.

Choral singing also feeds the idealist in me. It's so easy to be cynical about the many institutions we are bound up with: the government, the university, the institutional church, professional organizations, you name it.... But the kind of singing that feeds me isn't tied up in politics, jockeying for position, or manipulation.

That's why I'm glad to be a volunteer singer. At different times, I've thought about an alternative life as a professional musician. But I think that might take the fun and the passion out of it. As a volunteer, I don't have to worry about music as a livelihood - it can just be a way of feeding my soul.

And while it feeds my soul, I hope it feeds the souls of others as well. One never knows. It's a bit like what happens in the process of teaching - one never know the impact that any particular statement or lecture might have. Sometimes students tell me (sometimes many years later) that a particular thing I said or wrote made a difference for them. But there are many unknown impacts. Same with choral performance - the performers rarely know the full, personal impact of their offering on those who heard it. I like the mystery!

Peter Sellars, professor of world arts and culture at UCLA, had this to say about singing. (Read a fascinating interview with him from a PBS series called "The Question of God" here.)

"Vocal music is an attempt to take the whole human being and project it into space. It is the ultimate gesture of getting out of yourself. You take a part of you that is most private, most personal, most inward, and you hurl it out into space - you project is as far as you can. That gesture of opening the whole body results in an enormous spiritual release, and is felt by other people with tremendous impact."

Posted by hgroteva at 10:49 AM | About Inner Geek | Choral Music

December 3, 2005

Intimate Strangers

This morning's Star Tribune carried an article ("Intimate Strangers") about peoples' willingness to disclose private information to strangers, especially when they are in a situation (like on an airplane) when they are unlikely to see the person again. One focus of the article was about disclosure on the internet. A mom who was linked with 7 other women who were all struggling with parenting teenage boys commented, "Long before any of us were willing to trust the others enough to tell where we lived, we were willing to confess deepest secrets... Even more important were the little things that we never could have explained to a friend or husband -- irrational worries, trivial but trying spousal irritations."

This is consistent with our decision to use an interactive online chat format for interviewing young adults in the next phase of our research project. In pilot work, we found that people were willing to disclose more and use richer description over the internet than on the phone. There's not much formal research on this, but the anecdotal evidence is stacking up. (HrH and I are preparing an article on this topic.)

Unrelated blog discovery ... The December 1 issue of blog "Coffee Grounds" noted a new word, NIVAL, which means "of, growing in, or relating to, snow." Its Latin root (no pun intended) has to do with stems. Somehow NIVAL seems very relevant today - it's been snowing all day, and the white stuff is just piling up. It's nice to look at it out the window without having to slog through or drive in it. I know I'll have to shovel before dark, but for the moment I can mentally play with different uses of this newfound word.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:32 PM | Technology

December 4, 2005

Adoption and the New American Family

APA Mon Dec05thumb.jpg

The December issue of the APA Monitor, the magazine that goes to all members of the American Psychological Association, is about families, and one of the feature stories, "Adopting a New American Family," is about adoption. Here is the link to the article:
http://www.apa.org/monitor/dec05/adopting.html . The story quotes both me and Rich Lee (colleague from the Psychology Department at the U). Rich discussed his work on cultural identity issues in adoption. (See his blog entry here.) I talked about one of our MTARP findings, that among adoptive families having contact with birth family members, children from families where the contact was more collaborative tended to be rated higher on emotional adjustment during middle childhood than their peers whose family arrangements were less collaborative.

This special issue is noteworthy for several reasons: a) it talks about families (whereas the psychological lens is more typically focused on individuals); b) it addresses issues of racial and ethnic diversity, and c) it focuses on identity and how it is shaped within families. I was quoted as saying "researchers should be studying how to help children navigate their membership in multiple families and cultures." There's plenty of exciting work to be done. I'm appreciative that the author, Jamie Chamberlin, gave a plug for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR2), scheduled for July 17-21, 2006 in Norwich England. The website for the conference is www.icar2.org.uk . Abstracts for presentations are due December 19, 2005.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:08 PM | Adoption

December 8, 2005

Thursday Human Blogging

Greetings from me – Sadie. My human has fallen into that bad trap that many parents have – ignoring their youngest. He has already done great Friday Cat Blogging entries about my siblings (Pookie, Shadow, and MacKenzie), but WHAT ABOUT ME? So instead, I’m going to turn the tables and do my own post.

Mack Sadie on monitor2.jpg

First, here’s my picture (I’m the cute dark brown one on the right). But, just like an inconsiderate human, he got rid of this 90 pound, warm, computer monitor in favor of one of those new-fangled flat panel gizmos. He says it’s better for his eyes (which need all the help they can get), but I can’t sit on top of it and get warm! This is a serious problem in December here in Minnesota.

My typical view of him is his legs and feet. I kind of rub around and hum a bit to get his attention. But my favorite place is his shoulder. I don’t cuddle in the same way that Pookie does (he’s shameless!), but I like to perch on his shoulder and observe my domain. Every once in a while, I’ll spring from the floor to his shoulder to get his attention – it seems to have the desired effect. But that’s more for little kittens – I’m pretty grown up now.

Nonetheless, I still like to play “chase? all over the house. I have to admit it – I happily incite Pookie to a good chase now and then. (It’s a public service – he needs the exercise.) I especially like to knock him off the climber on the porch. Sometimes the two of us get up there at the same time, but then he does his dominance thing and bites my neck. My human always yells at him for doing that, but I don’t mind it all that much. I usually end up on top anyway! So here’s a raspberry to my human for ignoring me. However, in his defense, I know he’s very busy. His consumption of “medium decaf mocha with no whipped cream but with an extra chocolate covered expresso bean? has definitely skyrocketed this fall. Rumor has it that he got one of those Caribou debit cards and it needs refreshing. Anyway, I’m glad I’ve been able to take over the keyboard myself. Fan letters are always welcome! - Sadie

Posted by hgroteva at 5:58 AM | Cats

December 10, 2005

Ending Homelessness

Yesterday's Star Tribune ran an outstanding editorial, entitled "Daytime Services for the Homeless" (read it here). The editorial praised the City of Minneapolis for allowing some homeless shelters to remain open during the day. This has the potential to solve a number of problems, including forcing homeless people to kill time in skyways and other public spaces until they can re-enter the shelter in the evening.

There are good models for how to serve the homeless -- they all require a multi-faceted approach that involves assisting not only with a place to sleep, but also education, job skills, and sometimes mental health and/or chemical dependency services. Intensive, coordinated services can work. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, we allow homelessness to continue because we are stingy with our support of social services.

I am also keenly, personally, aware of how young people are falling between the cracks of our health insurance "system." My 20 year old son is moving to a new city soon. He will likely be working part time and going to school part time, neither of which would qualify him for health insurance benefits. He's too old to be covered by my insurance unless he is a full time student. So we are having to cobble together various approaches. Some young people just say - hey, I'm healthy - it's not worth my time to puzzle this out. All it takes is one major illness or accident to put them in debt for the rest of their lives.

Both of these examples, in my view, point to our lack of vision and caring as a society. I believe we should have universal health care (not tied to employment), accessible education, and social services that promote respect and dignity for each person served. Of course - it will cost; there's the rub. We want "no new taxes" and in fact, we want lower taxes --- but we're bothered at the sight of the homeless. We need to make the connection -- at least in part, our own selfishness is contributing to the problem. Maybe we'll "get it" someday, but I'm not holding my breath.

During this holiday season, maybe each of us can think a little more deeply about how we can be part of the solution rather than part of sustaining the problem.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:54 PM | Society

December 11, 2005

New Orleans Needs Santa - Now!

I received the following letter today from a long time friend (from college), John Pope, who is a writer for the New Orleans Times Picayune. Today's letter seemed to merit as wide a readership as possible, so I asked his permission to post it on this blog, and he graciously assented. It's an eye-opener, one that should make us all think about our connections to one another. Although not planned this way, the theme fits quite well with yesterday's post on ending homelessness. -- HG

Dear friends:

In the first scene of John Patrick Shanley's remarkable play "Doubt,"
a priest delivering a sermon has this to say about the aftermath of a
traumatic event:

"Imagine the isolation. You see the world as through a window. On the
one side of the glass: happy, untroubled people. On the other side:
you. Something has happened, you have to carry it, and it's
incommunicable. For those so afflicted, only God knows their pain.
Their secret. The secret of their alienating sorrow. And when such a
person, as they must, howl to the sky, to God: 'Help me!' What if no
answer comes?"

That, more than almost anything else I've heard in the past 3 1/2
months, summarizes the way we feel in this part of the world in the
wake of Katrina, a ghastly storm whose malign, pervasive influence
will be felt for years to come in ways we haven't begun to imagine.
When I've been in other cities this fall, watching people going about
their daily lives, I've felt like an outsider, an emissary from hell
because so much has happened to my part of the world and no one I see
has a clue about what's on my mind.

And who cares? Everyone here worries about the answer to this
question. When President Bush spoke in Jackson Square, he promised
that this part of the world would see the biggest reconstruction
program ever. Well, we're waiting for evidence of this massive
commitment, and we can't help but feel that the concern about this
ravaged region died along with the generator-powered lights that had
illuminated him, Andrew Jackson's statue and St. Louis Cathedral,
where the hands were stopped at 6:35, when the power died as Katrina
swept through. (That detail continues to fascinate me, probably
because it reminds me of watches recovered from Hiroshima and
Nagasaki that stopped when the bomb hit the ground.)

I'm hoping that we all will be proved wrong, but I'm not holding my
breath, especially when national leaders question the wisdom of
rebuilding New Orleans -- no one ever said anything like that after
the earthquakes that rocked San Francisco and Los Angeles, even
though each sits atop the San Andreas Fault -- and much of the money
that should be coming this way is being poured into Iraq.

Because the destruction was so massive, we need nothing less than a
strong national initiative -- a domestic Marshall Plan, if you will
-- and I just don't see evidence that this is going to happen, or
that anyone is going to emerge with enough charisma to get this done.

Paul Krugman wrote eloquently about our plight in yesterday's New
York Times, and a front-page editorial in The Times-Picayune a few
Sundays ago urged readers to lobby representatives and senators, even
providing phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Jim Amoss, our editor,
made a similar argument in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

If you feel like writing, calling or otherwise lobbying lawmakers and
other decision-makers, please feel free. As I've traveled around in
the past few months, I've gotten tired of being the object of pity
when I mention my hometown, but I must admit that we need all the
help we can get.

If this assistance doesn't come through, our city -- a place many
outsiders profess to love -- is going to become a ruined shell. The
French Quarter and most of Uptown, where we live, will be more or
less recognizable and inhabitable, but much of the rest will be a
dead zone because people who have fled to all corners of the country
will have no reason to come back and help the city rebuild. (If
Emeril Lagasse, who has made millions off this city, can't bother to
show his face here, what message does that send? He could do a lot of
good here, if he cared.)

Sorry about the blast of cynicism during what is supposed to be a
blessed, blissful time of year, but it's hard to be merry when one
lives in a city where vast regions are still dark and streets are
still lined with piles of Sheetrock, furniture, trashed cars and
ruined refrigerators bound shut with duct tape. Many of us have
developed scratchy throats from being in dust-filled areas; the
condition is called "Katrina cough."

There have been some improvements here and there. For instance, on
the micro level, I'm happy to report that two crews are looking this
weekend at our Eleonore Street home so they can submit bids on
replacing the roof, which has a hole over the dining room, where
Pinckley and I were married. Once that chore is done, possibly before
Christmas, we can welcome new tenants, who have vowed to help with
replacing Sheetrock that became infested with mold.

The farmers market, many of whose vendors were ruined by the storm,
has returned, with one market a week instead of four. This morning,
its annual Festivus celebration (inspired by "Seinfeld," complete
with aluminum tree and the airing of grievances) attracted a mob.
Pinckley, the market's immediate past board chair, feels especially
passionate about this enterprise because it has helped so many people
find markets for their produce, seafood and baked goods. It will do
so again, I'm sure. (Incidentally, there was an extra pole for
Katrina grievances.)

Pinckley also has become involved with helping the city's library
system, which took a major hit after the storm when virtually all the
staff was laid off. (You can expect to hear from her soon on this.)

Because there hasn't been much medical research to write about, I'm
doing more reporting on higher education these days, and I'm finding
good news: Impressive numbers of students plan to return to local
colleges and universities for the spring semester. (Unfortunately,
I've also been writing about massive layoffs at these institutions,
which have had to cope with millions of dollars in damages.)

More good news: Restaurants are reopening, and Pinckley and I, along
with hordes of other foodies, have enjoyed patronizing favorite
haunts again, not only to enjoy favorite dishes but also to greet
friends on the staff and among fellow diners. I can't help thinking
that it's a reverse version of the last scene in "The Cherry
Orchard," in which Madame Ranevskaya runs around her beloved home,
trying to absorb everything before being evicted. In New Orleans,
we're moving back in, and we're eating and greeting as we try to re-
establish contact with as much of our old lives as possible.

It's joyful, and very New Orleans. One pediatrician friend wonders
when people will start shaking hands again because the universal
social greeting here has become a great big hug.


Posted by hgroteva at 6:52 AM | Society

December 17, 2005

Road Trip ... or The First Day of the Rest of a Life

I'm writing this from Liberty, Missouri. I'm helping Mark move to Austin, and we made it almost half way before the snow and trucks made us think it was time to turn in for the night. It's been a good day, although getting everything prepared for departure was plenty challenging. The poor cats sensed that something VERY big was afoot. Shadown climbed into the suspended ceiling above Mark's bedroom and broke one of the ceiling tiles. Sadie was staying very close to my shoulder. I purposely didn't pack my suitcase until this morning, because the emergence of suitcases from the closet throws them all into a tizzie. Since Susan has a few days remaining at home, they'll get used to our departure one person at a time. And then Ian will be there to spoil them, so hey, they're doing just fine.

Mark clearly sees this as a transition - the possibilities are very exciting. What kind of job? What to study in school? Where to live? Whom to meet, and where to meet them? There's something very liberating about leaving one's childhood home, high school friends, and customer service job for a new world ahead. What will the long-term future hold? Who knows, but it's wonderful to speculate. Austin will be an exciting, yet vaguely familiar springboard for exploring new opportunities. It's a joy to be along for this part of the ride.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:29 PM | Life | Texas | Travel

December 19, 2005


At 5:05 pm yesterday, we crossed the border from Oklahoma into Texas. It's so strange how each state on the way down had its own climatological feel:
Minnesota - didn't notice; was too eager to get on the road (sorry, MN)
Iowa - sunny and bright, stingingly cold
Missouri - nasty snow and cold - snow came at us horizontally, lending to feeling of disorientation
Kansas - snow had largely stopped, but car and windshield took on 3 tons of slush - grit, sand, salt - and all the gas stations we stopped at had run out of windshield washer fluid
Oklahoma - still pretty cold, but skies clearing; nice to see the sun again
Texas - warmer (40s), clear big skies

There were plenty of noticeable cultural differences as well. The latest rage -- putting a custom painted mural on the tailgate of your pickup truck - one beauty had a herd of wild mustangs chasing across the tailgate; another featured the Virgin of Guadalupe. People here in Austin are just friendlier. They just are. I notice it every time I come back here, and it always takes me by surprise. At the grocery store, I asked someone in the bakery section where their gluten free breads were, and she personally escorted me over to the place, then we talked about various alternatives, which ones we liked, etc. It was a delightful conversation. Granted it was the Whole Foods world headquarters (a truly amazing store), but everyone, from the people behind the counters to those checking out, had kind words and smiles to offer. It is a noticeable difference. Maybe a little of that personal warmth would help Minnesota winters seem less grim. Garrison, where are you?

It's about 45 degrees at the moment; Christmas should be 65 and sunny. Fine by me.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:49 AM | Minnesota | Texas | Travel

December 20, 2005

In Memoriam, Jeremiah Fain Epstein

Even though I've lived in Minneapolis-St. Paul for over 15 years, many days can go by when I don't run into or hear about a familiar person (except of course at work or at home). But whenever I return to Austin, familiar people make themselves known immediately. On my first morning back in Austin for the holidays, I opened the newspaper to find the obituary of my favorite anthropology professor from undergraduate days, Dr. Jeremiah Fain Epstein.

I minored in anthropology and loved every minute of it. I took two exciting courses from Dr. Epstein: the Civilizations of Ancient Mexico and The Mayans. His specialty was archaeology of Mesoamerica, and he excited us with the mysteries of ancient civilizations and the research that he and others had done to try to figure out the many puzzles left behind by these enigmatic people. I still remember the paper I wrote for the Civilizations of Ancient Mexico -- it concerned the migration myths of the Aztecs. I remember spending many mornings in the Latin American collection of the library, finding source documents in Spanish that had been written by the Spanish friars of the 17th century. I recall that one focus of the paper was Huitzilopochtli, the national god of the Aztecs.


Of course, my Spanish was extremely limited, but it was exciting to experience what he called "primary research" - not just rehashing what others had already rehashed, but finding source documents and making them give up their secrets. I am sure that his love of research and encouragement of a humble undergraduate contributed to my seeking a research career. In fact, he was one of the three faculty who wrote me letters of recommendation for graduate school.

Obituaries are always fasincating for what they reveal about people we only knew in one dimension. The paper noted that in addition to his career teaching at UT for 34 years, "Jerry was a man of many passions - he embraced life to its fullest and never lost his curiosity. He was an accomplished squash player, saliboat racer and flamenco guitar player, as well as a recognized metal art sculptor."

It was a privilege to have been one of his students; I'm sorry I never had the opportunity to tell him I had passed on his excitement about research to my students. Maybe he'll be reading this...... Thanks, Dr. Epstein

Posted by hgroteva at 6:06 AM | In Memory / In Honor

December 21, 2005

Christmas Presents for New Orleans

Dear Friends - Earlier this month, I posted a note from my friend John Pope in New Orleans about the very real needs that his city is facing. I just received the note below from pope and his wife Diana Pinckley, containing some concrete suggestions for people who might want to support New Orleans. I hope you will take it to heart. - HG

New Orleans has many needs, and there are many very specific things you can do right now to help preserve our culture and our people. Here are just a few that we can wholeheartedly recommend. We’ve even included a New Orleans shopping site that you’ll love. Your investment in us will pay off – in our music, our food, our history, our architecture and all the other parts of New Orleans you have come to enjoy.

Thanks to all of you for your amazing love and support!

New Orleans Public Library Foundation
Only three of 13 libraries are open, on a severely truncated schedule. You can see damage to some of the buildings on the library’s Web site – www.nutrias.org. Floodwater and carpets of mold have ruined the collections in the eight destroyed branches, and books were seen floating down the street. More than 90 percent of the staff has been laid off , and the entire system is now operating with only 19 employees. Amazingly, most of the Louisiana Division’s irreplaceable documents and artifacts survived undamaged, despite being housed below ground. The loss of these collections would have been devastating to scholars across the nation and the world.

More than 1,000 people a week are using the library and its resources – books, Internet access and staff expertise. The New Orleans Public Library has always served a high number of reference users, but the nature of their inquiries has changed. A librarian has reported: For every patron asking for directions or the phone book, there are three more trying to locate loved ones or seeking recourse from rent-gouging landlords. …We have found that during these times, the public’s need for information about community and government relief services is great. It is gratifying to fill this vital need.

The library desperately needs money, though donations of books are also accepted. The books will likely be sold at a weekly Wednesday book sale in the portico of the closed Latter Library, with revenues going to help support staff and rebuilding needs.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana
Since Katrina made landfall, Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana has distributed more than 27 million pounds of food and supplies to people in need in the hurricane-affected areas. This distribution is already 46 percent more than the entire distribution all last year, and this figure is a few weeks old. The demand will only grow as individuals exhaust other government-sponsored resources early in the year.

Stephen Ministry
Stephen Ministry is a program that trains members of congregations, crossing denominational lines, to provide one-to-one Christian care to those in personal stress or crisis – people who are bereaved, hospitalized, terminally ill, unemployed, relocated, or facing another life challenge. In short, it has never been needed more desperately by more people than now, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. For information about New Orleans activities and how to support them, contact Leila Schumacher, leilasch@bellsouth.net

New Orleans City Park
City Park, at 1,300 acres, is the largest park in New Orleans and one of the 10 largest in the U.S. It lost 1,000 of its 14,000 trees; all but 11 of is 260 employees were laid off in budget cuts. About 90 percent of the park was under as much as 10 feet of water, often for several weeks. The salt water killed the grass on the golf courses and many of the plants in the Botanical Garden. Nevertheless, the park has mounted a brief version of Celebration in the Oaks, a tradition of lights and joy for New Orleans families. And, yes, Mr. Bingle is part of it!

Crescent City Farmers Market
We love going to the market - for wonderful Meyer lemons and the marmalade that Jeanette makes from them, for Jim Core’s fabulous produce, for Kay’s shrimp and Jeannie’s catfish and Mary’s pastries and Mrs. Chauvin’s pies. And Mr. Clarence’s plants, of course. It’s a meeting place, a mentor and a model. The farmers and fishers of the area have taken a blow, and now the market is mobilizing its community and its resources to help them. You can, too. To get involved in our new “crop circles? giving program, and to find out about how the market can help in the rebuilding of our community, contact Richard McCarthy IV, Executive Director, mccarthy@loyno.edu

Louisiana SPCA
The organization evacuated hundreds of animals safely to Texas before the storm. Its Lower Ninth Ward building was destroyed, so staff is operating from temporary quarters in Algiers. Just after the storm, staff and dedicated volunteers did an amazing job of rescuing animals and reuniting them with their owners, while taking undeserved heat for the over-the-top actions of rogue “rescuers.? The work continues. For those of you who know her, our calico cat Emma was an SPCA resident before she came to Wilow Street

Best Friends Animal Society
This group has worked diligently to reunite pets with their owners, wherever either might be across the nation. It worked with other groups on a reunion web search this weekend that – by the number of cars parked on the neutral ground outside the Garden District Hotel – attracted hundreds of pet owners.

WWOZ is the voice of New Orleans music – a listener-supported, volunteer-operated radio station that just returned from exile – first in New Jersey and then in Baton Rouge – back to studio space in the French Market. The station says it best itself: “ Playing blues, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, Latin, Brazilian, Caribbean and a whole lot more, WWOZ keeps the music and heritage of the Crescent City alive and loud.?

Tipitina’s Foundation
The legendary music club’s foundation provides the music community with the resources its members need to survive, including clothes, gigs, instruments and housing. A great many options for support are available.

Preservation Resource Center
The Center promotes the preservation and renewal of New Orleans neighborhoods through its architecture. Its staff and specialists have been especially active in offering seminars on navigating the bureaucracy, mitigating the mold, and leqrning general issues of dealing with all aspects of bringing back damaged houses, not tearing them down. They’ve also been handing out buckets and mops and clean-up kits – very handy in the circumstances.

I-10 Witness Project
The project collects oral histories of Hurricane Katrina from citizens, public officials, soldiers, health workers, shelter residents and at least one reporter that you all know well (though his interview isn’t posted on the site yet). The recorded interviews are available on the Web site and will be archived at local universities and public libraries for widespread public access.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation
The Greater New Orleans Foundation

Foundations for Recovery provides resources for immediate needs of evacuees in the Baton Rouge area, and it will contribute to the rebuilding of human services in Greater New Orleans. The Greater New Orleans Foundation offers the Rebuild New Orleans Fund focused on excellence in education, economic expansion, job training, affordable housing, neighborhood development, race and equity, and sustaining and developing nonprofit capacity.

And finally, just for fun…and for ways to get a little retail therapy for those post- (or mid-) holiday blues…


A Web link to New Orleans shopping. We can especially recommend Blue Frog Chocolates and Louisiania Music Factory, among many, many others.

Love, cheer and gratitude!

Pinckley and pope

Posted by hgroteva at 6:39 AM | Life | Society

JSB on the BBC

Thanks to "Music Notes" for the reminder this morning that BBC3 is currently broadcasting the entire works of J.S. Bach, running from December 16 through Christmas Day. The special web page for the extravaganza is here. It also includes contests, trivia, and the place to tune in. Enjoy!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:46 AM | Music - of all kinds

December 22, 2005

March of the Penguins

Rented "March of the Penguins" on DVD last night. The movie is amazing on so many levels. The stars of the show, of course, are the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica. In fact, they are the whole show (along with Morgan Freeman's perfect narrating voice and a "busy" but supportive soundtrack.) But oh, those penguins. I won't go into detail here - I'm sure there are many thorough reviews online - but if you haven't seen it, I urge you to do so. It is an awesome tribute to life, a wonderful statement about the non-incidental role that fathers play in families, and a vivid lesson in Darwinian evolution. We were spellbound; no one moved until the end of the movie. On the DVD, there's also a special feature narrated by the French guys who made the film, showing how they did it and what their lives were like for the year during which they were filming. I'm sure we'll be viewing it again during the holidays.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:09 AM | Life | Movies

December 25, 2005


Today's editorial from the New York Times, entitled December 25, says it all. Here is the link. The article is reprinted below.

You don't really have to be in the mood for the Fourth of July. No one ever talks about having that Memorial Day spirit. Even Thanksgiving can be distilled, without too much disrespect. But Christmas is something different. Feeling is the point of it, somewhere under all that shopping. To think of Scrooge is to think of his conversion, the cartwheeling of his emotions after his long night of the soul. But the more interesting part of the story is his dogged resistance to feeling the way everyone thinks he's supposed to feel - about death, about charity, about prize turkeys hanging at the poulterer's.

Most of us know how we want to feel this time of year, whatever holiday we are celebrating. We want to feel safe, loving and well loved, well fed, openhanded, and able to be moved by the powerful but very humble stories that gather in this season. We would like to feel that there is a kind of innocence, not in our hearts, since our hearts are such complicated places, but in the very gestures and rituals of late December. We would like to feel that we are returning to something unchanged, some still spot in a spinning world. Whether you believe with an absolute literalism or with a more analogic faith, whether you believe at all, whether you are Christian or Jewish or Muslim or merely human, the word we would like to feel most profoundly now is Peace.

It's easy enough to be cynical about the things we would like to feel here at the dark end of the year, to dismiss them out of hand as if they were only the battery-powered, sugar-coated, marzipan dreams of a child's holiday. Life is too tough, too embattled for such sentimentality. That is Scrooge's point exactly: no use pretending the world isn't exactly the way it is. One of the reasons we love to hear the story of an old crank like Scrooge is that he seems to embody this cracked old world, made whole in one night by regret and repentance.

One night will not do it, nor will one day. Peace does not simply appear in the sky overhead or lie embodied one morning in a manger. We come into this season knowing how we want it to make us feel, and we are usually disappointed because humans never cease to be human. But we are right to remember how we would like to feel. We are right to long for peace and good will.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:03 AM | Life


This morning's Austin American Statesman ran a section about "Quiet Generosity: These central Texans give their time and talent to make, keep our region beautiful." I was drawn to the article about Steve Bewsey, LifeWorks director of housing and homelessness. Mr. Bewsey helps street kids, many of whom have aged out of the foster care system, with their transition to adulthood - finding a place to live, a job, a person who cares. "Kids believe in him because he doesn't judge them and doesn't give up on them." It continues, "Does he get discouraged? 'Yes, but it goes away fast. I just don't have the time for it. Optimism is fun.' " Steve, thanks for the inspiration - Let's hold that thought in the year ahead!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:15 AM | Life

December 27, 2005

81 and Sunny

It hit a record high of 81 here in Austin yesterday. 83 is forecast for today, and then a "cold front" blows through, bringing the highs down into the 70s. Sigh! We head home tomorrow, back to the cold (although Mpls seems to be experiencing a "warm spell" in the past week - it's all relative, isn't it?)

Today's American Statesman included an editorial that fits with some of my recent posts on homelessness, health care, and social justice issues. Read the full editorial here. The article discussed a major effort being undertaken by Austin clergy to address social and economic disparities. It drew a useful distinction between charity and justice. "Charity is private, individual acts. Justice is public, collective actions. Charity responds to immediate need. Justice responds to long-term need. Charity provides direct services such as food, shelter and clothing. Justice promotes social change in institutions. Both charity and justice are needed." It quoted Dom Helder Camara, the late Catholic bishop of Recife, Brazil, who said: "If I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist."

This makes me think about the new Family Policy interdisciplinary doctoral minor at the university as well as some of the emerging efforts of the university's Children, Youth, and Family Consortium. I'm optimistic that some of the insights that grow from these efforts will ultimately be used to further social justice. And it seems quite fitting that one of the "themes of distinction" of the newly re-configured college that will combine the Department of Family Social Science, School of Social Work, General College, and College of Education and Human Development is "social justice and diversity." Let's make it real.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:06 AM | Society | Texas

December 28, 2005

Farewell to Austin

We're returning to the frozen north in a few short hours - Mark and I went to Zilker Park tonight (after taking Drake for a run and swim at Town Lake, playing ball with Reid in the back yard, and eating barbeque at the County Line) to see the famous Zilker Park Christmas tree - it was worth the trip. Enjoy, everyone - and wishes for peace in the new year.



Posted by hgroteva at 12:23 AM | Texas | Travel

December 30, 2005

Winter in Minnesota

Memories of the 75 degree days in Austin are quickly fading as Minnesota becomes covered in snow. We've had steady snow for over 12 hours now since about midnight, with no end in sight. By the time the snow stops (this time), we will have accumulated almost as much as we got all of last winter (which was way below average.) Since Minnesota always strives to be above average, this is pay back time. But I have to admit, when I don't have to drag out into the traffic and shovel my way out of the driveway, it can be quite beautiful and peaceful. These two shots are from a tree by our driveway and a view of our back yard.

winter3 tree-b.jpg

winter4 backyard-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 2:10 PM | Minnesota

January 1, 2006

Smooth Sailing in 2006

Best wishes to us all for smooth sailing in the new year.

Tranquil post sunset2-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 1:00 AM | Life

January 5, 2006

Holy Guacamole - Hook 'em Horns!


Now, you know I'm not a big football fan - too many other things to do. BUT, last night's Rose Bowl game, in which my alma mater UT beat USC by 41-38, was riveting. It was extra fun to watch, because I'm in Sacramento working with colleagues Ruth and Susan, and we watched (and screamed ourselves hoarse) together. Vince Young (UT number 10) was incredible, both in running and passing. It was an evening of orange pride.

We visited Whole Foods before the game and stocked up on the essentials (guacamole, tostadas, etc.) and then just let it roll. After the game when we tried to call family in Austin, the message came back, "All circuits are busy." - YES!! Congratulations to the Longhorns and to UT. The last time we won the national championship was 1970, my senior year in college there. The UT tower (above) is all orange for a few nights, with the big #1 emblazoned down all four sides. Sorry I'm not there to see it in person.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:48 AM | Texas

January 6, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging - shoulder hugging

Members of our Tonk tribe love our shoulders - I'm not quite sure what it is, but they like to snuggle up like no cats we've ever had before. But hey, I'm not complaining. Since Pookie and Sadie (oldest and youngest, male and female, lightest and darkest, biggest and smallest, respectively) like to compete for shoulder time, they've now figured out how they can both get it simultaneously. They even stayed put for 5 minutes while Susan went to get the camera and take 5 shots - this was the last one! I think they're glad we're home from the holidays.

Pookie and Sadie on HG - b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:00 AM | Cats

January 8, 2006

Hook 'em Horns - Revisited

Still enjoying the afterglow from UT's victory over USC in the Rose Bowl. Here are Ruth, Susan A-L, and I cheering the team on. Looking forward to getting an official commemorative T-shirt and photo of the tower bathed in orange with the big #1. (see Jan. 5 entry below)

Ruth Susan Hal Hook em - b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 10:35 AM | Texas

January 12, 2006

Mozart's Manuscripts Re-united at the British Library

The BBC World Service program "The World" carried a fascinating program today about two halves of a manuscript by Mozart that have recently been re-united at the British Library. After his death, Mozart's wife Constanza sold the two halves separately. The upper half has been in the British Library since 1953, but the lower half was only recently acquired. Listen to the radio program here. It contains excerpts from Mozart's piece, written when he was 17.

You can also go to the British Library site and see "Mozart's Musical Diary," a part of their innovative "Turning the Pages" collection. It provides a fascinating view of the diary - you can turn the pages or look at them with a magnifying glass. You can also hear 75 musical excerpts from Mozart's work. I wrote about some other books in this collection (such as the Lindisfarne Gospels) after my trip to the UK last summer. See my blog post from June 24, 2005. (Note: You will need to scroll down to the June 24 entry.)

Cheers to The World and the British Library for bringing us such great stuff!

Posted by hgroteva at 11:42 PM | Music - of all kinds

January 16, 2006

Viva Boomers!

The Star Tribune ran a full page article entitled "The Baby Boom Turns 60" yesterday. Although I'm not (quite) 60 yet, I am definitely a boomer, and proud of it! (not that I had anything to do with it at all...)

I especially enjoyed the sidebar that featured "greatest hits" from the 1940s, 50s, etc. Here are a comments / reflections / memories about a few of them.

Civil defense drills -- I still remember these drills from elementary school. Each fall, our parents had to fill out "bomb blast cards," indicating what we were to do and with whom we were to go in the event of a nuclear attack. We frequently practiced what to do in the event of a bombing -- going out into the hallway, kneeling on the floor, huddled against the lockers with our arms over our head and protecting our face. As if we would survive a direct hit.... We also frequently watched films about bombs, radioactivity, and associated illnesses. People built fallout shelters underground in their back yards, stocked with canned goods, blankets, and the requisite battery-operated radio. A major ethical dilemma, explored in dramas on TV, was what to do if a neighbor were to come knocking at the door of your fallout shelter. If you just have enough supplies and resources to protect your own family, are you morally obligated to share with others (who apparently didn't plan as well as you did), thereby risking everyone's death?

"Ben Hur" - I still remember this powerful movie - I saw it with the Underwood twins on a Saturday morning in downtown Dallas. We had special student-rate tickets, and it was a BIG DEAL - a movie on the BIG screen. I still remember the scenes with the lepers.

1960s - Where to begin??!!

"The Graduate" - This amazing movie came out when I was in college; I think I saw it 4 times. The first time I saw it, I was speechless for about 15 minutes - it raised so many issues that really struck a chord. Of course, it explored one of my favorite issues - identity. And it was a great up-the-establishment film for a young adult who had no intentions of going into "plastics!"

I could go on and on. I think this is all for now; I'll add to this thread as time permits. In the meantime, in my human development course we'll be discussing life course theory. As one of the exercises in the class, students will take on membership in various different generations ("greatest generation," boomers, GenX, etc.) and talk about the cultural and world events that shaped the members of their generation. Who knows, maybe it will give them a different perspective on their parents?

Posted by hgroteva at 5:44 PM | Life

January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Wolfie!


Today is Mozart's 250th birthday - Happy birthday!! To celebrate, classical MPR (99.5 KSJN) is playing "all Mozart, all the time" today. Tune in and enjoy. Here's a link to the website; you can play the broadcast from here.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:25 AM | Music - of all kinds

January 28, 2006

Basement Blues

On October 6, 2005, I wrote the following:
When it's all said and done, we enter the world with nothing and leave the world with nothing. Having "stuff" is nice, but there's a lot more to life. Less is more. That will be my mantra as I proceed to fill the dumpster in the driveway.

Here's the context.....
Back in October, our basement flooded and we have had to take everything out so that it can be renovated. It's been a long process, done in stages. Stage 1 was to get the water-logged carpet and damaged goods out and make sure we wouldn't be infested with mold. Stage 2 was to make some repairs to the outside of the house to prevent (hopefully) the problem from recurring. Stage 3 was for Mark and much of his "stuff" to move to Texas. Stage 4 - talk to tile people, contractors, etc. in order to make a plan for the renovation of the basement. Stage 5 - finished just a few hours ago - was to complete boxing up everything in preparation for the beginning of demolition - THIS COMING MONDAY!

I found this to be not only an onerous, but also a surprisingly emotional task. Of course, part of it involved going through 15+ years of "stuff" stored in the basement because there was nowhere else to put it. Treasures that were too important to throw away, but not important enough to be the stuff of our daily lives. So boxing stuff up meant going through everything from our baby books (and those of our kids), to income tax files from the 1970s and 1980s (I regret that I'm not kidding), our rather pathetic "Presto-Pine" indoor Christmas tree (which will be in the next dumpster), and all the typical stuff that lives in basements - tools, pieces of this and that, 4 filing cabinets, etc. etc. etc. It was cathartic, but I'm glad it's over. Nothing will be going BACK downstairs unless we determine that we will really use it. And we will have one bang-up garage sale this summer! It should also make it easier to move when the time comes, especially if we will be moving into smaller quarters.

Lessons learned: simplicity is good. The monks knew it, and it worked for them. At the same time, however, the memorabilia of our lives help us re-experience important events and relationships. I have a row of about 25 coffee cups on the window sill in my office. They probably look strange to visitors, but i can tell a story rich with meaning about each coffee cup, and somehow they are comforting to have nearby. The challenge is keeping the volume of such artifacts in reasonable proportion. I guess there's nothing like a periodic flood to help us travel lighter. (Maybe I'll just try to do a better job of periodic purging without being prompted by a natural disaster...)

Posted by hgroteva at 9:09 PM | Life

January 30, 2006

Of Singing and Song

Of Singing and Song; a Treatise by William Byrd, 1588

Reasons briefly set down by the author, to perswade every one to learne to sing.

First it is a Knowledge easely taught, and quickly learned where there is a good Master, and an apt scoller.
2. The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature and good to preserve the health of Mankind.
3. It doth strengthen all the parts of the brest, and doth open the pipes.
4. It is a singular good remedie for a stuttering and stammering in the speech.
5. It is the best meanes to procure a perfect pronunciation and to make a good orator.
6. It is the onely way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyce: which guift is so rare as there is not one among a thousand that hath it: and in many that excellent guift is lost, because they want Art to expresse Nature.
7. There is not any Musicke of Instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made by voyce, where the voyces are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.
8. The better the voyce is, the meter it is to honour and serve God therewith: and the voyce is chiefly to be employed to that end.
Since singing is so good a thing
I wish that all would learne to sing.

from program notes, “Early Music on a Winter’s Night?
Waltham Abbey Singers
January 29, 2006
St. Mark’s Catholic Church, St. Paul, MN

Posted by hgroteva at 11:47 AM | Choral Music

February 5, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging (on Sunday) - ray of sun

Sadie Pookie in sun-b 0206.jpg

Even though it's 10 degrees outside, Sadie and Pookie have found the best ray of sun in the universe! Although they look totally contented and serene in this photo, they are each jealous of any "alone" time the other gets with me. Hence, I often have one on each shoulder. I'm getting better at reading in that position, but it's hard to work on the computer or at the piano!

Posted by hgroteva at 2:46 PM | Cats

February 6, 2006

On Travel - From Heaven Lake

From Heaven lake cover.jpg

I just finished reading one of the earlier books of a favorite author, Vikram Seth. The book, "From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet" is a travel memoir he wrote in 1983 while journeying from Nanjing (where he was attending university) to Delhi via Tibet and Nepal. It's a fascinating, engaging account ... but the following observation about travel resonated with me, as I find travel to be one of life's real joys and satisfactions and adventures, all rolled into one:

"On a personal level, to learn about another great culture is to enrich one's life, to understand one's own country better, to feel more at home in the world, and indirectly to add to that reservoir of individual goodwill that may, generations from now, temper the cynical use of national power." (p. 178).

I told you I'm an idealist.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:26 PM | Travel

February 9, 2006

Mis-interpreting E-mail

As our college transitions into oblivion, all faculty and staff who have been on Groupwise (TM) are having to move our e-mails to the university's server (Mozilla Thunderbird - what name will they come up with next?) I'm in the midst of culling through thousands of e-mails sent and received over the past 10 years or so. This handy mode of communication is quickly becoming a burden. Even though I can go for a whole week without my phone ringing once, I probably get 100 e-mails a day. That's 36,500 per year. In addition to all the "helpful" communications from every office at the university, every professional organization to which I belong, and every listserv to which I subscribe, I get bunches from colleagues and students around the world. (You'd be surprised how many students I've never met want me to help write their papers for them.) I'm getting VERY tired of the Viagra ads, software sales, paypal warnings, and offers to help Nigerian royalty in need. But I digress...

Today's issue of the APA Monitor (Feb 2006) reported a study (Kruger & Epley, JPSP, 2005, 89, 925-936) about people's accuracy in interpreting the meaning and tone of e-mail messages. They found that "people overestimate both their ability to convey their intended tone - be it sarcastic, serious or funny - when they send an e-mail, as well as their ability to correctly interpret the tone of messages others send to them." (p. 16). The reason they cite is egocentrism, peoples' inability to see the perspective of the other person.

In one study, Kruger and Epley found that people more accurately interpreted communications in vocal messages (e.g., phone) than in text-based ones. They conducted experiments in which students read messages over the phone or delivered them by e-mail. In the case of the phone communications, both sender and recipient were 76+% accurate about the other person's tone and its meaning. But in the case of e-mail, "the partners who read the statements over e-mail, though, had only a 56 percent success rate - not much better than chance."

The moral of the story: If you want to make sure the full meaning and the emotional tone of your message are understood, best pick up the phone occasionally.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:38 AM | Life | Technology

February 12, 2006

In appreciation, Herbert Howells

Herbert Howells.jpg

Even though he looks a little forbidding, this gentleman, Herbert Howells (1892-1983), wrote some of the world's most luscious choral music - IMHO, of course.

In preparing to write this entry, I googled Howells, and found, to my amazement but not to my surprise, that there is a Herbert Howells Society. Here is a link to the "Herbert Howells Resource Page," which has information about the Herbert Howells Society branches in the UK and the US.

There is plenty of biographical information about Howells out and about, so I won't replicate that here. I will just add a few personal remembrances and reflections.

One of Howells' first major choral works I sang was his Requiem - just about ten years ago. The circumstances of this performance were quite memorable for me. I had just joined the Cathedral Choir of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, and we were preparing a concert of three Requiems: Howells, Faure, and Durufle - all of which I love. Unfortunately, our conductor became seriously ill before the scheduled performance, and we carried on under the directorship of a very competent substitute. Our director had been released from the hospital not long before the concert, and he made a surprise appearance to hear us - we were thrilled to be able to make this offering for him. I still remember the concert and the incredibly powerful emotional impact that singing three Requiems back-to-back can have. This experience opened up the world of the Requiem to me. There are so many wonderful settings - Mozart, of course; Verdi, Brahms, and many others. Some are ferocious in tone (with frightening Dies Irae sections), and others (like John Rutter's) are like lullabies.

Since the Howells Requiem performance mentioned above, I have sung a number of his other pieces. This afternoon, in Duluth, we (the Gregorian Singers) sang his Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis as part of a choral evensong at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. In the concert following, we closed with Howells' Te Deum. (These three were the Collegium Regale settings - prepared for Kings College, Cambridge.)

What transcendent music! Many moods weave in and out of these pieces - mystery, luminescence, joy, awe .... Howells uses the full range of dynamics, rhythms, tempos, and harmonies for his reverential and evocative works. It has been my privilege to sing his music a number of times now, and I hope I will be able to many times more. If anyone out there has any pull, I'd like to sing his Hymnus Paradisi some time.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:37 PM | Choral Music

February 17, 2006

Cold Enough For You?

That's a standard greeting for Minnesota days like this. Today's high was +8F --- achieved at midnight last night --- and the temperature fell from then on. Currently it is -13F (with a -34F windchill). Tonight we might break the record low of -21F. Even the typically hearty folk in Duluth cancelled "Frigid Fest" today because it was too cold! Unfortunately, this cold spell coincides with our annual "Welcome Weekend" for prospective graduate students. Let's hope the cold doesn't scare them away.

Warmth will definitely be generated on Sunday morning when one of the choirs I sing in (Motet Choir at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church) will be presenting Haydn's Harmoniemesse - at both the 9:00 and 11:00 services. We will be accompanied by a 29 piece orchestra. It's the last Mass that Haydn wrote and is substantial and complex. The Kyrie is especially beautiful - reverent, slow, prayerful. I am confident that all the singing at tomorrow's 3 1/2 hour rehearsal and Sunday's presentations will keep my mind off the cold! You are warmly invited to join us.

Here's a link to stories and video about the weather from KARE11-TV here in the Twin Cities. It also includes a windchill chart and the formula for computing windchill. I always wondered what it was.....

windchill chart.gif

Posted by hgroteva at 10:57 PM | Minnesota

February 21, 2006

Choral Music - March and April

A number of you have asked me from time to time about upcoming choral concerts in which I'm involved. The upcoming Lenten and Easter seasons are particularly full of amazingly wonderful music. Here are details about several of our upcoming offerings. You and yours are warmly invited to join us!

Meditation for the First Sunday in Lent
Gregorian Singers
Instead of giving up something for Lent, ADD this event instead. No sermon. No preaching. Just beautiful poetry and wonderful music, all wrapped up in a gentle afternoon of prayer.
Sunday, 5 March, 2006 - 4:00 PM
Location: St. Paul's Church on the Hill, 1524 Summit Avenue, St. Paul - 1 block east of the intersection of Summit and Snelling Avenues. Music by Tallis, Stanford, Mason, Gardner, arrangements of American and Irish folk melodies.
Cost: Free of charge. A free-will offering will be taken.

Lenten Vespers
Gregorian Singers
Wednesday, March 15 - 7:00 p.m.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
4100 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis

Concert Spirituel (pending confirmation)
Gregorian Singers
Sunday, April 2, 2006
St. Paul's on the HIll (see above)
4:00 pm

Fauré Requiem
Motet Choir, House of Hope Presbyterian Church
Good Friday - April 14, 2006
7:30 pm
797 Summit Avenue, St. Paul

Great Paschal Vespers
Gregorian Singers
Sunday, April 23, 2006
8:00 pm
St. Paul's on the Hill (see above)

Posted by hgroteva at 6:41 PM | Choral Music

February 27, 2006

Five Fours

4 jobs I’ve had
delivery driver for florist
warehouse worker in zipper factory
grader for calculus papers
payroll clerk for submarine USS Seawolf

4 movies I’d like to see at least one more time
Un Coeur en Hiver
The English Patient
The Graduate

4 favorite radio programs
The Splendid Table
This American Life
Science Friday

4 boring places I’ve lived
Utica New York
Dallas Texas
Vallejo California
Buffalo New York

4 favorite pieces I have sung
Fauré, Requiem
Duruflé, Requiem
Harris, Faire is the Heaven
Lauridson, O Magnum Mysterium

Posted by hgroteva at 6:14 AM | About Inner Geek | Life

March 3, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Tonkpile on heating pad 030206-b.jpg

I call it "Tonkpile on Heating Pad." When I'm reincarnated, I hope I can return as one of my cats.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:21 AM | Cats

March 11, 2006

Sad Day for Adoption

The headline in today's Star Tribune read, "Boston's Catholic Charities to Halt Adoptions." That, in itself, is sad news because there are so many American children in foster care needing permanent homes and so many adults who want to be loving parents. However, it's doubly sad because the reason that the Boston Archdiocese is discontinuing adoptions is because a Massachusetts state law permits gays and lesbians to adopt, and the Boston Archdiocese does not want to comply. They are willing to scuttle the entire Catholic Charities adoption program rather than allow adoption by same-sex couples. The Church that has traditionally been a champion of social justice has become a champion of discrimination.

The homophobia polarizing the United States is getting way out of hand. The "marriage amendments" now being considered by so many states (including Minnesota) are blatantly discriminatory. The thing that baffles me is that same-sex couples who want to marry want to do so because of ... LOVE. Can there be too much love? What is society to gain by denying couples in love the opportunity to share in the economic and social benefits that accrue to heterosexual couples?

In addition to this social justice issue, there's also the research - what do we know about children who grow up with same-sex parents? My read of this growing literature is that these children are at least as well-adjusted as children who grow up in families with opposite-sex parents. The argument that children need both male and female role models falls apart when one realizes that children don't grow up in a vacuum - they have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, neighbors - plenty of role models, both male and female. So the Archbishop can't argue from a research standpoint that children adopted by same-sex parents are harmed.

Even Massachusetts' conservative governor Mitt Romney said "This is a sad day for neglected and abandoned children." But he wants to deal with the problem by pursuing an exemption from the state's anti-discrimination law for religious organizations, allowing Catholic Charities to continue its adoption program without having to consider same-sex couples. Even the thought that a church whose social justice stance has typically been "anti-discrimination" would be granted an exemption to discriminate is so ironic, it's painful to think about. It's a sad day, indeed, for adoption - and for our society at large.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:29 PM | Adoption | Society

March 13, 2006

What Happened to Spring??

Car under snow1-b.jpg

My car is under there somewhere.....

Posted by hgroteva at 11:29 AM | Minnesota

March 16, 2006

The Gift of Shoveling

Several weeks ago, I was complaining to a colleague that since I'm teaching on the "other campus" this term, parking is a hassle and I have to walk 15 minutes each way to my car. Earlier in the conversation, I had lamented about how busy the semester had been and that I had not been able to get to the gym very often. (I'm really not a whiner!) Her immediate response was, "Well, you've been given the gift of walking."

Was this pollyanna at work, or a very thoughtful and clever reframe? I choose the latter. I've thought of it every time I've walked to and from class since then, and it's really helped.

Well, today I had another chance to put it into action. Overnight, we got ANOTHER dump of snow - the driveway and the car looked pretty much like they did in Monday's picture (below). Well, I got my reframe working and decided I had been given the gift of shoveling. I had still not been to the gym very often and was "looking forward" to spending part of the days ahead doing my income taxes, so some new thinking was needed. The gift of shoveling... It helped me get through it. Fortunately also, the snow was much less dense than Monday's snow. I am not surprised that the Eskimoes have 100 words for snow (or however many...) There truly are many types.

All of this reminded me of another great reframe, this one from Robert Frost. I found this poem serendipitously while in the base library while I was serving in the Navy and mainly wishing I was somewhere else. I close with his words. And to my colleague friend who helped me see the gifts in walking and shoveling -- you know who you are -- my thanks!

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM | Life | Minnesota

March 19, 2006

Transported by Music

Some people go to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break. Well, I stayed here and went to concerts instead -- no sunblock or plane tickets needed. I attended two wonderful concerts this weekend. Last night was the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It was particularly interesting and fresh because of the audience and the energy generated between the orchestra and the audience. The SPCO has been working hard to attract a younger audience, so that once all of us grayhaired folk pass on, there will be bodies to fill the seats. I was pretty cynical about their attempts, but last night I saw that it is working. There were families, young adults, kids, teens, and people in comfortable clothing ... but all truly loving and appreciating the music. Although there were no standing ovations, each piece brought several well-deserved curtain calls.

Last night, they were truly acting as a chamber group (not just a small orchestra). They opened with the Bach Violin Concerto #2 in E, featuring their own Dale Barltrop as soloist. He gave an energetic rendering of the concerto and reminded me a bit of Nigel Kennedy as he was doing so. The second piece was especially impressive -- just a few hours before the performance, one of the key soloists became ill, and so they had to pull something off the shelves - which worked marvelously. It was a Mozart concerto for piano, viola, and clarinet - very engaging, and full of synergy in the trio. A "new" feature is that all the strings (except the cellos) stood during their performances. I think it enhanced what they usually do - there was a lot of energy and focus. Anyway, there was good chemistry within the group and between the group and audience that left us feeling really good ... and very fortunate to live in a city where such concerts are so excellent, accessible, and affordable.

This afternoon, I heard the St. Mark's Cathedral Choir perform two pieces I especially love ... maybe in part because I've sung them, but I actually appreciate the music and find the texts deeply moving. The first was Charpentier's "Le Reniement de St. Pierre" - The Denial of St. Peter. An appropriate Lenten piece with strong solo contributions. They closed with an all-time favorite which I have written about here before - Herbert Howells' Requiem. He started the piece in 1932 and completed it in 1936 after his son Michael died of spinal meningitis. The piece was not published for 44 more years -- until the last two years of his life, Howells found the piece too painful to hear (from the program notes). It is an ethereal piece , full of spooky and transcendent harmonies. It is a Requiem of reassurance and peace, not of divine wrath. I was really moved.

There aren't many places where I could have had such wonderful musical opportunities back-to-back on the same weekend. They are to be treasured.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:29 PM | Choral Music | Music - of all kinds

March 21, 2006

Concert Spirituel - April 2

The Gregorian Singers Have Added a Concert Spirituél!
Sunday, April 2, 2006 - 7:30 p.m. (NOTE NEW TIME!)
Location: St. Paul’s Church on the Hill, 1525 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN
Cost: Free of charge. A free-will offering will be taken.

We are pleased to announce that several generous patrons of The Gregorian Singers recently made it possible for us to add a Concert Spirituél (a spiritual concert) to our 2005-2006 season.

Although we are primarily a liturgical choir that sings choral music within the context of the church ritual for which it was intended, we enjoy offering occasional sumptuous feasts of liturgical music in a ‘spiritual concert’ setting, thus Concert Spirituél.

This Concert Spirituél begins in candlelight and features medieval chants written and performed by women; the massive Stabat Mater by 15th century English composer John Browne; and other music by Maurice Greene, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Francisco Guerrero, Richard Proulx, and others.

Concerts Spirituél were a European concert format in the 17th and 18th centuries. These concerts were often sponsored by lay confraternities or guilds, and usually included motets and oratorios.

Join The Gregorian Singers for a modern update of a Concert Spirituél.
Founding Director, Monte Mason

Posted by hgroteva at 11:52 AM | Choral Music

March 28, 2006

Absent Presence

I've been traveling lately and continue to marvel at how different people are in terms of the physical and psychological space they occupy. For some reason, my mantra has always been "leave a small footprint." In places like airports, I have no interest in standing out - that's pretty adaptive, I suspect. But the guy sitting down the row from me in the departure lounge had a really different goal. He had one of those Borg earpieces on and was carrying on business conversations loud enough for everyone on our outbound flight to overhear. "Justice department ... blah blah blah ... attorneys ... blah blah blah... blah blah blah"

Then I noticed the NY Times story (Sunday 3/26) called "The disconnect of connection." "Does anyone really need anyone at parties anymore? Instead of working the room, guests are busy working phones and BlackBerrys, surrounding themselves with electronic entourages. Kenneth J. Gergen, a sociologist, calls this constant need to be in a technologically mediated world of elsewhere while in public 'absent presence.' " Thanks for the new word, Ken - it describes this situation perfectly.

I see this in my students too. They come into class plugged into iPods and cell phones. Then they open up their laptops (and I'm SURE they're paying close attention to everything I say and taking diligent notes). At the end of class, in go the iPods and up go the cell phones again. Now, I have nothing against iPods or cell phones - I have them both and use them. But we do seem to be missing what's around us. Those things that are "hidden in plain view" (as the mystics say) are never revealed to us, because we are totally absent to them.

Anyway, it's all very strange, ironic, and paradoxical - no solutions here, but lots of questions. The Time magazine cover story last week was about multi-tasking. What are we doing to our brains with all of this stuff? There's probably a price to be had, but we may not know it for many years. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my iPod and use my laptop and cellphone, but also be open to hearing the birds sing as spring arrives in Minnesota.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:43 AM | Life | Technology

April 4, 2006

Announcement of Questionable Importance

Thanks to a colleague for sharing this "questionably important" announcement...

On Wednesday of this week, at exactly two minutes and three seconds past 1 am, the time & date will be
01:02:03 04/05/06.

It will never happen again.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:01 AM | Life

April 6, 2006

Could It Be This Easy?

Massachusetts is proposing an innovative policy that requires all adults to be covered by health insurance; people not covered could be penalized (just as they are for not having car insurance). Although this may seem punitive to people with few economic resources, health insurance would be on a sliding fee scale, with those in the lowest income levels receiving free insurance.

At first glance, at least, this would solve the huge problem our country is facing with large numbers of people not having health insurance. I believe that every member of our society should have access to quality health care, and that ability to pay should not be a barrier. Currently, uninsured people are going to emergency rooms for conditions that could easily be treated in doctor's offices. But they can't get into a doctor's office without insurance or the resources to pay. Instead, they turn to the much more expensive emergency room, where (ironically) they don't have to pay. Low income people will now have access to primary and family care physicians, well-child care, and continuity of care.

I have not seen the price tag or how MA proposes to fund this, but it strikes me as both humane and sensible. When everyone is insured, everyone benefits. Could it be this easy? I'll be watching MA as a pilot test for the rest of the nation. Who knows, maybe we could solve other seemingly intractable problems while we're at it.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:36 PM | Society

April 8, 2006

Fauré Requiem - April 14

On April 14, the centerpiece of the 7:30 pm Good Friday service at House of Hope Presbyterian Church (797 Summit Avenue, St. Paul) will be the Fauré Requiem. All are warmly invited. We will be accompanied by wonderful instrumentalists, including some from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

On June 11, 2005 I last heard the Fauré Requiem performed in a concert at St. Martin in the Fields (Trafalgar Square, London) . When I was listening to the concert, I was sad that I might never have the opportunity to sing it again, since the two smaller groups I was in would not be likely to sing the Fauré. A few weeks after returning to the States, I learned from a choirmate that House of Hope would be doing the Requiem on Good Friday, 2006 - that's what made my decision to return. It's been well worth it. At our 3 hour rehearsal with orchestra today, it was such a pleasure to be surrounded by and a part of such wonderful music. The Fauré is a special favorite of tenors, since there are several extended passages in which we get to shine. One of my favorites is the duet we sing with the altos (in the Offertorium). Both sections are singing in the same register, and it's a most intimate section.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:22 PM | Choral Music

April 11, 2006

In the Blogosphere ...What Goes Around, Comes Around

I was surprised and delighted to receive an e-mail this morning from a completely unexpected source. Sherrie, the owner of Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle in Fish Creek Wisconsin, had run across my blog entry (08.28.2005) about our trip to Door County last summer and wrote me a note. She was pleased to see how much I enjoyed their ice cream (especially the vanilla with Door County cherries folded in), and said that hearing such wonderful things about her place made those 18 hour summer workdays worthwhile. I'm glad! Turns out we are also both musicians and love to travel, so we have struck up an e-mail correspondence about that too. I don't know if we'll make it to Door County this summer or not, but in fond memory, here's the picture I posted in August. Summer is just around the corner - and not a moment too soon!

Hal at Malibu Moos Fish Creek-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:13 PM | Life | Music - of all kinds | Technology | Travel

April 13, 2006

Music and the Brain Co-Evolved

NPR had a fascinating segment last Saturday (hear it by clicking here) about music and the brain. McGill University neuroscientist Daniel Levitin was planning to take physiological measurements of Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, along with 5 musicians and 50 audience members, to measure their responses to different types of music. I found myself very intrigued by Levitin's closing comments, which I have transcribed here:

"Music is a unique human quality. it is characterized by its ubiquity and its antiquity. [What a great line!] There is no culture that we know of that lacks music. For all of recorded history, music has been part of our species. The human brain apparently evolved along with music; music and the brain co-evolved. Learning about one can teach us something about the other."

It makes perfect sense that music touches something very primal in us and satisfies deep needs that, at times, seem inexplicable. I'm very intrigued and look forward to thinking and learning a lot more about Levitin's assertion that music and the brain co-evolved. I recently discovered a book on my shelf that's been patiently waiting to be read; I look forward to digging in after the semester winds down.
Jourdain, Robert (1997). Music, the brain, and ecstasy: How music captures our imagination. New York: Harper Collins.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:55 AM | Music - of all kinds

April 15, 2006

Maybe It COULD Be This Easy...

On April 6, I posed the question: "Could it be this easy?" - referring to the Massachusetts plan to provide (almost) universal health care insurance by requiring that everyone carry it, but making it available at no cost or on a sliding fee scale to people in the lowest income brackets. I've been waiting for the onslaught of naysayers to pick it apart, but was pleasantly surprised to find this morning's New York Times endorsing the plan and noting its bipartisan support. They note that the most criticism has come from libertarians, who feel that this is an unwarranted intrusion on our freedom to decide what to do about our own health care. However, even good libertarians without insurance might wind up in an emergency room where tax dollars would pay for their care anyway, so this argument means little. Kudos to Massachusetts for being so bold. Minnesota - when will we tackle this?? Texas -- when??

Posted by hgroteva at 11:14 AM | Society

April 21, 2006

Geek Prom in St. Paul

According to this morning's Star Tribune, "After four successive annual incarnations in Duluth, the only prom catering to adult [21 and older] nerds, nimrods, dorks, dweebs and other "misfits," has gone metro and arrived at its geekiest venue yet: a museum with science experiments and dinosaur bones."

"We celebrate the geekiness in all of us, and that certainly is what the Geek prom does, too," said Gail Vold Breco, the museum's director of public relations. "We needed to call our people home."

What a great concept! In the spirit of "calling my people home," especially with my blog's title, I had to take note of this important event. For more information, visit the website here. The event promises "awkward romance, cheesy music, and the dissection of a cow's eye." "For those who were too cool to properly enjoy their high school prom, it's an opportunity to finally let that inner-geek out."

Inner geek ... hmmm.... does that mean I should go? Actually, I did enjoy my high school prom. I didn't particularly enjoy high school, but I knew that the prom marked the end of something and the beginning of a big new adventure. It was 40 years ago this spring, and our country was on the cusp of a cultural sea change. The Beatles reigned, but it was still their relatively innocent stuff. (Rubber Soul was out - I think I played that record until it had a hole in it - but Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper were yet to come.)

Strange thing about my high school class. The football players married the cheerleaders, and they all stayed in the same town. (I, on the other hand, live a comfortable 1000 miles away.) One of them is now running for city council and is sponsoring our class reunion website on the home page for his election campaign! (PS: This is not from a small town.)

But I digress.... When asked to define a geek, Paul Lundgren, organizer of the first Geek Prom, said he didn't have a hard and fast definition. "I usually go with the old saying about pornography: 'I know it when I see it.' " Hmmmmmmmm... an unfortunate association.

In any case, I predict that the Geek Prom will grow in popularity. Although I can't make it this year, maybe another time. Guess I'd better check with my potential date for the evening. It might take a year to talk her into it.

To all Geeks everywhere, inner and outer, enjoy!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:40 PM | Identity

April 25, 2006

More Geekiness

HG Geek Inside shirt-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:42 AM | About Inner Geek | Identity

April 28, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging - Heat Seekers

3 cats in carrier-b.jpg

Things were really quiet one day last week, and I went looking for the tribe. Here's where I found Shadow, Pookie, and MacKenzie. They love being in enclosed spaces like their cat carrier and generating heat by creating their Tonkpile.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:46 AM | Cats

April 30, 2006

I Heart Craigslist.org

As our remodeling project nears its completion (just a FEW months overdue), we are left with some furniture and applicances that we have replaced and wish to sell. My thoughts first turned to eBay, but I certainly was not in a position to ship a used refrigerator across country to the highest bidder! I recently learned about craigslist.org as an internet-based classified ad (and more) service that is tailored for specific metropolitan areas around the country.

Our new refrigerator arrived Friday afternoon. I cleaned out the old one and took a few pictures, wrote up an ad and posted the ad and photos on craigslist around 9:00 Saturday morning. By noon, I had 4 inquiries, and a few others dribbled in during the course of the afternoon. Wow! The early bird can't pick it up until Sunday afternoon, but I have faith that the transaction will work as planned. Otherwise, I have at least 3 backup buyers. What a great service! I'm eager to get some of the other furniture and "stuff" prepared for sale and out the door. Nothing is going back in the basement without being scrutinized for its keep-a-bility.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:30 AM | Life | Technology

May 5, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging - Who's On Top??

Cats on climber-b.jpg

Cats are so fascinating! Here's the scene I encountered last week on the tribe's climber. Look who's on the top level - little Sadie! She is the youngest and smallest and was the last to enter the group, but she is definitely Ms. Alpha ... and she knows it. She has never been afraid to stand her ground with any of the other 3. On the middle level are the 2 brothers (from the same parents, but not littermates) - Pookie and Shadow. Pookie's happy to be his cigar-smoking-and-brandy-quaffing self, never going anywhere too quickly. Shadow is the over-active brother, always wound a bit tightly. And on the bottom rung is MacKenzie - the quiet, sweet, more submissive one. But she's no shrinking violet either. Now that we're empty nesters, they add variety, spice, and love to our daily lives

Posted by hgroteva at 1:51 AM | Cats

May 16, 2006

The Cycle of Life

I just finished teaching Human Development across the Lifespan in Family Contexts. It’s a whirlwind tour of the human lifespan, from conception to death – womb to tomb. It’s a very demanding course because of its sheer breadth. Out of all the possible things I could discuss in the 60 hours I have with the students, and out of all the possible things they could read – what’s most important?

The array of students in the class adds further demands. This term, I had the range from PSEO students (high school students earning college credit) to graduating college seniors – and majors ranging from family social science and child psychology to art, mechanical engineering, and architecture. Where to begin?? How to pitch such a class to satisfy such diverse students’ needs?

One reason I like the course is because it challenges me professionally to think of the interconnectedness of life across the human life course and the role that families and relationships play in development. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to learn about topics that have become more salient since I last taught developmental courses – especially about brain development and the biological bases of behavior. (The latter topic takes me back to my graduate student roots in behavioral genetics, which is very exciting.) I have also taken the opportunity to think in “case study? terms about what specific conditions can teach us about human development. This semester, we spent some quality time on 3 “A’s? – autism, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s.

Interesting factoids:
Autism may be due in part to the failure of the brain to prune (selectively destroy) the too-many synapses that are normatively generated during infancy. We are learning a lot about Alzheimer’s from The Nun Study, a research project whose participants are the women from a religious community whose health and psychological histories have been well-documented for many years and who have all agreed to donate their brains to science after they die (since Alzheimer’s cannot be definitively diagnosed except by autopsy.)

As this class ends and I have greeted a number of my students as they walked across the stage in the last commencement ceremony of the College of Human Ecology (1900 – 2006), my own “human development practicum? has awaited me. At one end of the lifespan, my second grandchild ... and first girl (!), Meredith Heller Grotevant, was born Friday, May 12. Her statistics: born at 3:20 pm; 6 lbs, 12 oz.; 19.5 pounds. Mother and baby both came through it with flying colors and father is so proud! (I haven’t heard much about little brother’s reaction yet.) At the other end of the lifespan, my father has needed some new medical interventions that necessitated my travel to his home and retirement community. They don’t call my age group the “sandwich generation? for nothing.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:02 PM | Life | Social Science | Teaching

May 17, 2006

God's Waiting Room

I have been spending several days with my father in his retirement community. He’s been in need of some new medical interventions and I wanted to be here in person to get him situated. He lives in a retirement community in a large metro area in Texas. The complex offers a very wide range of services for folks whose needs vary tremendously.

There are different levels of care. He is in the independent living section – where people live in apartments, duplexes, or luxury homes. Many of these folks are quite active – driving; playing golf; being active in their churches; shopping; spending time with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, etc. There is also an assisted living section for folks who need more attention or supervision. Residents there live in a different building and eat with folks from their own unit rather than friends they made in the independent living area. There is also a health unit (aka nursing home care) and a separate building for Alzheimer’s patients. The latter two are rarely talked about.

Dinner is taken in a community dining hall, and there is always time for socializing beforehand. Some residents maintain a rather droll sense of humor about their situation. While waiting in line for food one evening, a woman turned to me and asked, “Do you know what we call this place? … … God’s Waiting Room?. Hmmm… what do you say to that??

Teaching lifespan development has given me new perspective on this age group. The textbook I used divided late adulthood into 3 groups: the “young-old? (ages 55-70), the “old-old? (ages 70-85), and the “oldest-old? (ages 85+). Of course, any such age groupings are arbitrary and approximate, but there are some interesting points of comparison to the living situations at my father’s community. (BTW, my father would not be pleased to be told he is now in the “oldest old? category, and I have no intention of sharing that news with him!)

The majority of people who move here are in the young-old group. They have recently retired and sold their family homes, and they’re looking for relief from the demands of home ownership and upkeep while still being able to enjoy recreational and social activities. You have to pass a physical in order to get into the independent living section. (My mother, whose health was poor for many years before she died, was terribly afraid her health would prevent them from getting in -- thankfully, she was over the threshold and they got in.) Many in this group are married when they enter, but experience the death of a spouse along the way. Then the health problems begin to intrude, and so we see the canes, the walkers, the electric scooters, and other adaptive devices come out. Folks in this generation (the Great Depression and WWII-shaped “Great Generation?) are fiercely independent and proud. The thought of having to move into assisted living is anathema. This topic came up at dinner a few nights ago, when one woman commented – “Joan (not her real name) is deathly afraid she’ll have a fall and they will throw her into assisted living.? (The implication is that once you’re “thrown in,? you’ll never come out.) My sense is that the decision to go into assisted living is rarely voluntary.

A few ironies:
**Although most residents have special dietary needs of one type or another, many of the foods served on the steam table are highly processed and high in sodium – not good for folks who need to watch salt intake.
**The administration building has recently been remodeled and has wonderful facilities – including an exercise room with fitness equipment, a computer lab, and a wood shop. But I’ve never seen anyone using these facilities. They look great in the brochures, however. (In all fairness, however, I haven’t been up there at many different times of day.)
**The folks in assisted living eat separately from those in the independent living units – and so the relationships they have fostered over dinner in their community over the course of several years may be abruptly terminated… or at least made more difficult to maintain. I could go on…

Despite these ironies, many of which are now becoming more clear to me, this has been a place where my dad has made new friends and has experienced a safe living environment free of the demands of home maintenance. I cannot envision myself, or most folks in my age cohort and demographic, living in a place like this. (Maybe it’s just that I don’t like to dress up for Sunday dinner!) I can’t really envision what kind of living situation I’d like to be in when I’m “old old.? But the bookending experiences of welcoming a new granddaughter into the world and spending a week in God’s Waiting Room have given me pause.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:18 AM | Life | Texas

Happy Birthday, Mark!

Today is Mark's 21st birthday - congratulations, kiddo!!

You have embarked on an exciting new phase of your life in a new (but familiar) city. We wish you all the best and send our love and support. I look forward to celebrating with you next week.


Posted by hgroteva at 7:58 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Welcome to the World, Meredith

The blessing of a new baby! Meredith Heller Grotevant emerged into the daylight on May 12 at 3:20 pm. By all accounts, she’s doing superbly. Although I won’t be able to meet her in person until next Wednesday, I’ve seen her earliest pictures already. We are all relieved and happy that both Mom and Meredith are healthy and happy – it’s an occasion for great rejoicing. It will be wonderful … and different … to have a girl in the family, since both of my kids and our only grandchild (til last Friday) are males. Here are a few early pictures. I am smitten!

Meredith Day 1 post bath.jpg

Meredith Day 1 resting.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:25 PM | Life

May 27, 2006

I REALLY heart Craigslist.org

On April 30, I used this space to sing the praises of Craigslist.org, for helping us sell a refrigerator. Since then, I've tried to sell a few living room chairs with less success. But Craigslist redeemed itself forever for me yesterday, when it helped Mark find a job. It ran an ad addressed to "Gamers" - If you like playing video games, this is the job for you! He went for the interview in the afternoon, landed the job, and reports for orientation today. Congratulations to Mark, and undying thanks to Craigslist!

The entry process for this job was interesting. The first step was to report to one office building for a number of "tests" -- knowledge about computers, Microsoft Windows, office practices, spelling, etc. After he passed that, he was sent to another office several miles away for a group interview (2 interviewers and 5 applicants) - in which they were asked what type of computer they owned, what their favorite games were, etc. His extensive gaming and computer experience served him well. One person being interviewed didn't own a computer... and wasn't called back for step 3, back at building #1, for more paperwork. Then step 4 was a drug test - at yet another building across town.

I'm convinced that this strategy was being used to weed out those with only a casual interest in the job. If you were willing to trek to 4 sites in one afternoon and report the next day (Saturday) for a 1 hour orientation, you have shown at least a modicum of seriousness. The next steps involve several weeks of training and a 90 day probation - again, to weed out the not-so-serious folks. The 35 new folks are technically hired by a temp agency, so there is no commitment on either side until after the 90 day probation period has been satisfied. (A very clever solution for outsourcing the hassle of separating serious from not-so-serious potential employees.) By then, the hiring firm will have "tried and true" folks who have passed the 90 day probation, and the new employees will know what they are getting themselves into and will have a modicum of job security + those almighty health benefits. (Aside): It continues to amaze me how much employment and retirement decisions are driven by considerations about health benefits. The topic comes up in virtually every conversation I have with anyone about either new employment or retirement. Should this country ever move to a single-payer system (I'm sure it won't happen in my lifetime), there could be huge unanticipated shifts in employment patterns. I hope someone is studying this now.

Those who succeed on this new job will be providing telephone tech support to people who have bought gaming systems. I think one of the biggest challenges for these savvy gamers will be to not get irritated with novices who have problems that stem from things such as not plugging the machine in correctly, etc.

But now and forever, Craigslist has my gratitude! Thanks Craig, whoever you are.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:52 AM | Life | Technology

May 28, 2006


I needed a new word today, so here it is ... short for Austin serendipities. I'll be using it a lot.

As I mentioned back in December when I wrote about the obituary of my esteemed anthropology professor from UT undergraduate days, it seems that return visits to Austin always connect me in some interesting and unexpected ways with my past lives here. I guess that shouldn't be such a surprise. I've been connected with Austin since I was about 14. I attended several years of summer band camp at UT while in high school; did my undergraduate work at UT (1966-1970) during one of the most memorable 4 years of American Cultural History (I know, that's boomer-centric, but hey - it's my blog!); taught there for 13 years; and have visited at least once a year since 1970, since my wife's family and now both of our kids, spouse, and grandkids live here.

So it shouldn't surprise me that my stock of memories attached to any place is deepest and fondest for Austin. But on with the story.

In this morning's American Statesman, I encountered an essay in the Insight section written by Howard Miller, history professor at UT. (Howard and I were fellow tenors in a choir here in the 1980s.) I loved his wit and insight back then, and was pleased to see it continues to be every bit as sharp in today's piece, entitled "The newest, hottest commodity? Jesus." You can read the full piece by clicking here.

He was reflecting on having just taught a spring semester course on Jesus in American culture. I 'm sure it would have been fascinating, thought-provoking, and mind-bending, seasoned with humor and irony. The op-ed piece talks a lot about the strange relation between Jesus and consumption, including, of course, reference to this weekend's film-du-jour, The Da Vinci Code. (No, I haven't seen it yet, but I probably will some hot summer afternoon.)

Miller ends with the following:
"Pity poor Jesus. When he walked the Earth, an affronted Jesus rose in righteous indignation and cleansed the market. In contemporary America, where few of his disciples adopt their master's prophetic stance with respect to the marketplace, Jesus, alas, has become the captive."

I encourage you to read his entire piece. Thanks, Howard!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:08 AM | Life | Texas | Travel

May 29, 2006

What's In A Name?

A simple question, but one that has echoed down through the ages.

At Meredith's naming ceremony Friday evening, the Rabbi asked those of us in the congregation about our names. He reminded us that we each have 2 names: the name given to us at birth, which we had no say over; and the name we are continually creating for ourselves as we live in the world. We do have control over the latter. He asked (rhetorically), Would you rather be known as the-one-who-drives-the-gas-guzzler-and-despoils-the-environment ... or the-one-who-protects-the-environment-for-his-children's-children? You get the drift. It was a thoughtful reminder for all of us adults who were there to name a baby, that we are continually naming ourselves through our actions.

Meredith slept peacefully in our midst. Her Hebrew name, Meira, means "one who gives light." That's a tall order for such a little one, but our world certainly needs more people who will bring light. I think she'll be up to the challenge! Welcome to the world, Meredith!

Meredith3_2 wks-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:27 AM | Identity | Life

June 1, 2006

Meeting the Blanton

We enjoyed the opportunity to visit the new Blanton Museum of Art on the UT Austin campus yesterday. The Museum opened just about a month ago. We had the good fortune to visit on a Thursday, when they're open til 8 and the admission is free all day.

It's a beautiful building, spacious and full of light. Here are views of the skylights and the courtyard.

Blanton skylights1-b.jpg

Blanton courtyard-b.jpg

The main floor has their special, current exhibits; the second floor has their European galleries, The modern and contemporary galleries, and an e-lounge. The e-lounge is high tech and enticing. It's a round space with a number of computer terminals and electronic resources.

The collection is interesting and nicely curated. The audio guides for the exhibition feature not only the voices of the curators, but also various Austin personalities who might have insightful things to say about specific works - a different touch.

I wouldn't call the collection comprehensive. I suspect that it has grown over the years through the acquisition of private collections. So there's interesting depth in some narrow areas, but not a full range of art.

My favorite space was a room set up with an exhibit called "The Invisible Jump" by Daniel Joglar (2006). It's a room full of items suspended from the ceiling by invisible lines. You can walk among the items, blow on them and see them move, and take different perspectives on the "floating" objects - it's kind of like walking in the solar system.

Invisible Jump 1-b.jpg

It was fun to watch the playful mood that the exhibit put people in - adults at least as much as kids. (me too!)

Invisible Jump w HG 1-b.jpg

We followed our tour with a nostalgic walk across campus. So many memories -- along the main mall, I could recall that I had a calculus class in Benedict Hall, experimental psychology in Mezes, German in Batts, abnormal psychology in Batts Auditorium (with 500 other students), English in Parlin (where we studied "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" as poetry - a great class!, etc. etc. We passed the Academic Center (the "AC"), where we spent much of our courtship - studying together almost every night for 3 years. And of course, we walked across the main mall, which always reminds both of us of the Whitman shootings in August, 1966, just one month before we started college. We each knew people who were shot that day. It always gives me a bit of a shiver to cross that mall. But now that 40 years have passed since that day, this event has taken its place as one of the many, complex stories and locations that makes UT what it is today.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:03 PM | Art | Texas | Travel

June 4, 2006

The Power of Pictures

Blogs are typically about the power of words. But today I want to talk about the power of pictures.

On June 2, ABC 20/20 ran a segment on the "Heart Gallery." At one level, it's about photographers taking pictures of kids in foster care who are waiting for permanent adoptive homes. (There are almost 120,000 such children in the U.S. today - many are older, many are children of color, and a number of them hope to be adopted with their siblings.) But the photographers in the Heart Gallery project didn't just take typical school photos of these kids. They donated their time to work with the children to catch them at their very best - to let their personalities shine through. One active little boy was shown suspended in mid air as he jumped on his bed with a huge smile. A beautiful teenage girl is shown in a very pensive mood, portraying her depth of personality and soul. The pictures are spectacular.

When the photos have been displayed in galleries around the country, the number of calls about adopting the kids has jumped many times over. It's wonderful that attention is being drawn to these children in our midst who are dreaming about permanent homes. The photographs are powerful, so watch out! One of the photographers ended up adopting a girl whose portrait she took.

For further information, go to the 20/20 website and search on "Heart Gallery" or click here.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:38 AM | Adoption

June 6, 2006

The States I've Visited

I found this nifty map-maker on another UThink blog site and thought I'd try it for myself. It's easy and fun - give it a try! If somone had just asked me what proportion of states I had visited, I doubt I would have said 90% - but here is the evidence. (The red states are ones I've visited.) Much of this travel comes from many cross-country road trips my family made when I was a teenager. Many summers, we embarked on 2-3 week driving trips that took us in all directions. We covered lots of miles and saw some amazing things. It gave both my sister and I a real love of travel. Since those years, I've had more opportunities to travel for business and pleasure, and I've lived in the northeast, upper midwest, west, and southwestern U.S. There's still lots to see. I look forward to Montana and the Canadian Rockies before too long. But not this summer - family events are joyfully taking precedence.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:01 AM | Travel

June 7, 2006

Blogoversary Eve Reflections

It seems somehow fitting that I approach my first blogoversary with this, my 100th post. Since starting Inner Geek last June, this blog site has received almost 2500 visits. (Some of these visits are from me, of course, since Site Meter records a visit every time anyone looks at the blog site.) It's been an interesting and enjoyable ride, but it's required effort too -- effort that could have been expended on other things. So as the blogodometer prepares to turn, it's time to reflect a bit about the experience and question whether I should continue, or just say "it's been fun - on to something else."

I decided on the title "Inner Geek" last summer while on a walk around the Broad, a man-made lake on the campus of the University of East Anglia (where I'll be returning in July). I had been thinking about blogging for a while, inspired in part by Yvette, over at Six Impossible Things to do Before Breakfast. As a former (high school) journalist and editor, editor of numerous newsletters and publications over the years, and writer of technical articles that must be presented in a highly formulaic way (APA Style), I was attracted to the idea of blogging because I could say what I wanted about whatever topic I wanted to discuss. No APA style manual, no deadlines, no editor (other than myself). Citizen journalism. And hey, I am a geek of sorts - always have been interested in the latest in technology. My tech colleagues call me an "early adopter" - and that doesn't have anything to do with adoption.

I've had several amazing encounters during the year. Last December, I wrote a post in memory of my favorite undergraduate anthrolopolgy professor, whose obit I had encountered in the Austin paper while visiting there for the holidays. Five months later, I got an e-mail from his wife, thanking me for capturing his spirit. She sent my blog on to her daughters, one of whom contacted me. We had a delightful set of exchanges, and she sent me a picture of him as well as the text of the tribute read at his memorial service. None of this would have happened had I not blogged about him.

Last August, Susan and I spent a week in Door County Wisconsin. I posted a number of pictures from that trip and raved about Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle, in Fish Creek, where I had my daily dose of vanilla custard with Door County cherries folded in. Heaven in a cup! When she googled her shop's name in order to start marketing for the season ahead, the owner was led to my entry. She wrote me and we had some great exchanges. She noted that we were both musicians and sent me 3 of her CDs - she's a flute player.

Both of these experiences made the world seem a bit smaller and less isolating and alienating -- and for that, I'm grateful. In both cases, my correspondents were led to my blog by Google -- and this is consistent with Shane's comments that Google likes websites and blogs that have "edu" domain names. (So be careful what you write on UThink, because it will be captured by Google.)

Inner Geek has also allowed me to brag about others -- I wrote entries honoring my father, my mentor, my wife, my colleague, my grandchildren and a number of other folks. It's also allowed me to call attention to issues that I worry about -- homelessness, health insurance, adoption, discrimination. I've also enjoyed blogging about travel experiences and sharing reflections about my parallel universe as a musician. (Back to the citizen journalist theme.)

But it's also taken effort, and I'm never too sure whether all this writing has an audience. I've let go of audience-building as a way of justifying the time ... I do it because I want to. But if I were a "better" blogger, I'd probably post every day (or at least every other day) and do more marketing and things that would promote cross-postings on other sites. I don't have the time or inclination for that.

So as I approach my blogoversary, I'm reflecting on the blog-year past and thinking about whether I should continue. Stay tuned....

Posted by hgroteva at 6:10 AM | About | Technology

June 8, 2006

Mentos and Diet Coke - Watch Out!

Thanks to Cathy for sharing today's NPR segment about the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment. When you put them together, you get quite an explosion.

Here's the lead-in to the story:
All Things Considered, June 7, 2006 · Two months ago, we reported on the Web video phenomenon of Mentos and Diet Coke. The mint candies combine with the soda to create an explosive geyser. But a new video on the Internet transforms that rudimentary concept into a highly choreographed routine, complete with funky soundtrack. Two men in Maine, Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, took 101 bottles of Diet Coke and crafted a mesmerizing, two-minute Mentos and Diet Coke performance that they call "a spectacular, mint-powered version of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas."

Enjoy! After you listen to the radio segment, be sure to click on "see this video."

This might be an interesting urban substitute for forbidden 4th of July fireworks - Could we arrange for the geyser to stream out in red, white, and blue??

Posted by hgroteva at 6:18 AM | Life | Technology

June 9, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging - Huddling on a Cool Summer Day

Tonkpile 0606-b.jpg

It's a cool, damp summer day, and the tribe is huddling to protect against the cold. When it was so warm earlier in the week, they were happily baking in the sun on the sauna-like porch. Go figure.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:28 PM | Cats

June 11, 2006

Minneapolis Institute of Art - Grand Reopening Today

Today is the grand re-opening of the Minneapolis Institute of Art -- congratulations to all involved, especially to staff, board, and donors. I love visiting the MIA - I just wish it were a little closer to where I live. But I have always found it accessible, inviting, and full of old friends and new surprises. I can't wait to go, but I think it won't be today along with the thundering hordes.

Today's re-opening features 113,000 square feet of new space, 49,000 square feet of renovated space, 34 new and renovated galleries, and a 40% increase in exhibition space (figures courtesy of Minneapolis StarTribune, pp. F8-F9).

A few things caught my eye in the Strib's coverage.

First, you may have read my blog post a few days ago of the new Blanton Art Gallery in Austin. I noted that it was not a comprehensive gallery, but did have considerable depth in some areas. The word used to describe the new MIA is "encyclopedic" - I'm not sure whether this is a "technical term" or just newspaper-speak, but it seems to fit well.

Second, the article featured an extended quote from Peter Marzio, director of the Museum of Arts in Houston. He called the MIA "easily one of the top 10 or 12 museums in the United States in its collection's quality and range." (yay!) He also noted that "its only flaw is that it's not as well-known as it should be outside of museum circles. It's like they've almost taken pride in understatement..." (emphasis mine) Now that's the Minnesota way, isn't it? That encapsulates the Minnesota - Texas contrast that I've written about several times (see especially entry for Aug. 9, 2005). Texas would NEVER take pride in understatement. Of course understatement can have its underbelly - when there's a contest of pride to see who can be more understated. Anyway, you get the idea. but I thought the descriptive statement (offered by a Texas resident, no less) was quite apt. And having an understated but fabulous art institute is certainly fine by me.

Finally, the Strib published a rather sour review of the building's architecture, written by Linda Mack. I don't know her or her credentials, but I thought it was bad taste to publish such a sour review alongside the news of the MIA's amazing revival. (If you want to read it, you can find it yourself - I don't want to link to it.) Now she does praise the interior spaces of the MIA and talk about how well they fit the art, but she definitely was unhappy with the exterior. If I were the editor, I would have saved this critique for a later day ... even tomorrow ... but why today??

I am really looking forward to my first look at the new MIA. Remember, admission is free!

(Other items on my list to visit and blog about this summer: the new Minneapolis Public Library - just opened a few weeks ago, and the "Body Worlds" exhibit at the Science Museum.)

Posted by hgroteva at 12:09 PM | Art | Minnesota

June 13, 2006

What's Your Number?

I had a conversation with a graduate student last week during which I found myself constructing a scale of expertise in quantitative methods. I've thought about it some more and think it has some interesting ramifications for how we teach methods and statistics, how we train graduate students to be prepared for the job market, and how we select consultants for grants, all of which I do. I'm sharing it here as a work in progress and would be interested in comments and refinements.

In the quantitative spirit, I think of this type of expertise on a quasi-interval scale (more than ordinal but less than interval) from 0 - 5.

A person rated as a 5 on this scale is a methodological and/or statistical innovator. He or she thoroughly understands the math and statistics behind the computer programs and may indeed develop new methods and techniques for solving problems. He or she may also write software to make these techniques available. Here, I'm thinking of a person like Bengt Muthen from UCLA who is a statistician par excellence, develops computer software to make the statistics available and also understands the substantive needs in the field. Or Dave Kenny, who for years has pioneered in developing techniques for analyzing data at the level of the couple and the family.

A person rated as a 4 has strong statistical and methodological skills, but isn't involved in developing new methods or approaches. This person's interests may be more methodological than substantive. (I am not making a value judgment about which is better, since both are essential to progress in the field.) This person may regularly read journals like Psychological Methods or may contribute to special issues of journals that focus on methodology. This is the kind of person who can make strong methodological contributions to a research team as a stats consultant.

A person rated as a 3 has strong understanding of statistics and methods, but is more comfortable with techniques that are tried and true - he/she isn't innovating and isn't choosing to stretch by constantly learning new techniques. However, this person's knowledge is solid and he/she understands key issues and controversies in the field (e.g., data imputation, advantages of latent variable techniques vs. more traditional methods, issues involved in working with couple and/or family-level data, etc.) This person can write syntax for programs such as SPSS, SAS, and STATA and understands what the software does behind the "clicky-boxes." His/her interests are probably more about the substantive issues in the field than about the methodological ones; the methods are a means to an end.

A person rated as a 2 has some understanding of statistics, but generally feels that they are a "black box" - in other words, how they work is mostly a mystery. There is an emerging understanding of how the different statistical methods are related to each other. He/she may be comfortable using drop-down menus to generate analyses in SPSS, for example, but may not be able to generate the syntax that would correspond to the analyses. This person may be quite comfortable with a very limited range of approaches. Once out of his/her comfort zone, this person may feel quite insecure. The substantive issues in his/her field are the primary interest.

A person rated as a 1 on this scale may be able to generate an analysis but probably doesn't understand what the computer software is actually doing and is vulnerable to making mistakes in terms of assumptions, input, and data interpretation. When asked to explain basic statistical concepts, there may be some major points of confusion.

A person rated as a 0 on this scale has a layperson's understanding of statistics and methodology - no specialized training in these fields.

How might this quasi-interval scale apply to the preparation of graduate students? My assumption is that most students entering a masters program in family science have had some undergraduate preparation in methods and statistics, even though they may have learned things by rote and don't remember much. They would probably be at the 1 to 1.5 level. The goal for master's training would be approximately 2.3, where students are definitely comfortable with a range (albeit limited) of techniques. The goal of doctoral training would be to move them as close to a "3" as possible, and possibly beyond. My assumption is that entry level Assistant Professor positions in Research I institutions would be looking for about a 3.5 in terms of expertise. An ideal department would have several faculty comfortably at the 4 level, and a very fortunate department would have someone at the 5 level either in the department itself or psychologically nearby.

So what's your number?

Apart from your self-evaluation, I'd be interested in your thoughts about this scale. I will be teaching the master's level quantitative methods course again next spring and may use this in the class to give students a sense of the range of expertise in the field and help them identify their personal goals for developing quantitative expertise.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:01 PM | Social Science | Teaching

June 14, 2006

More Blog-Mediated Serendipity

Here's another serendipitous occurrence, mediated by this blog. About a week ago, my wife received an e-mail from a woman in Anchorage, Alaska who was doing genealogy on our family name. She found us (and me) because of my blog post last September, when I wrote a piece in honor of my father's 85th birthday. After finding his name, she shook the family tree a bit and wrote to find out if we might have a common ancestor -- a fellow who purportedly came to the U.S. in 1752, hired by the British as a mercenary to fight those colonial upstarts (Oh, the shame of it!). His home appears to have been Heerte, Braunschweig, Germany (rather than somewhere in the Netherlands). Anyway, after a number of rapid-fire e-mails, Family Tree Maker determined that my Anchorage correspondent and I are 5th cousins. Amazing!

We are leaving tomorrow for a family wedding in Boston, and I'll be talking to as many people as I can about our family history. The new discovery of my 5th cousin probably would not have happened had I not been writing in this blog. So, to follow up on the question I posed earlier about whether I should continue blogging, the answer for now is ... definitely yes. It's been a source of satisfaction and new discoveries and an outlet for reflections I probably wouldn't have uttered outside the space of my own brain. So stay tuned for *Inner Geek - year 2* ...

Posted by hgroteva at 9:07 PM | About Inner Geek | Life | Technology

June 30, 2006

Farewell, College of Human Ecology

Today is the last day in the 100+ year existence of the College of Human Ecology at the University of Minnesota.

CHE large banner-b.jpg

Although we have been told that we have much to look forward to in our new collegiate home (a re-configured and expanded College of Education and Human Development), this day should not pass without noting that the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Human Ecology (formerly College of Home Economics) made many significant contributions to the University, to the State of Minnesota, to the U.S., and to the world.

CHE front McNeal-b.jpg

The history of the College is recorded in Journey Home: College of Human Ecology, 1894 - 1996, written by a committee of former administrators, faculty and staff, chaired by Keith McFarland, Dean Emeritus of the college. I won't repeat the history here, except to note that the first baccalaureate program in Home Economics was launched in 1900. So the College was 106 years old at the time of its elimination. Here are photos of the visionary deans that provided leadership for the college from 1900 - 2006.

CHE deans-b.jpg

Although my undergraduate degree was in psychology and my Ph.D. was in child psychology, all my faculty positions have been within Colleges or Departments of Home Economics, whose names were later changed to Human Ecology. That's a run of almost 30 years. As a newbie Assistant Professor back in 1977, I knew little about Home Economics, but knew that Child Development and Family Relationships was one of its sub-specializations. I came to have great admiration, affection, and respect for the discipline of Human Ecology. Although some of the field's detractors don't think it is a discipline, I strongly believe that it is. In fact, its conceptual foundation provides much richer ground on which to stand than is possessed by many other colleges in the university, which are mainly units of administrative convenience (e.g., Liberal Arts, Institute of Technology, etc.)

Descriptors of the discipline of human ecology include the following: interdisciplinary, holistic, systemic, ecological. Its domains of concern are about the application of the arts and the sciences to everyday life - but I don't mean that in a trivial sense. It's about the emotional dynamics of real families in which real children grow up; it's about ways in which educational programs for new parents help reduce the incidence of child abuse; it's about understanding the connections between children's lives in their families, their day care centers, and their peer groups -- and much much much more.

It will be critically important that the human ecological approach be brought forward and integrated into the new collegiate home to which we have been assigned. Fortunately, I think our "adjacent disciplines" have been moving in this direction as well over the past 30 years, so I hope that the interdisciplinary, holistic, systemic, ecological views that we have nurtured in CHE will easily be assimilated by our new colleagues.

As a relatively small college, CHE was able to be innovative and less bureaucratic than some of our larger sibling colleges. Despite the advantages of being nimble in this way, the trend at the U is clearly toward consolidation, centralization, and standardization. The pendulum has swung in this direction quickly and violently; I suspect it will swing back in due time, but probably not for a number of years.

So farewell to the College of Human Ecology -- to its traditions, its innovations, its humanistic values, and its wonderful people.

CHE donor board-b.jpg

At this point, we know what we have lost, but we don't know yet what we will be gaining. So the feelings of sadness have been palpable up and down the hall. Wnen I drove up the hill next to McNeal after being out of town and saw that the college's banner had been taken down, the sense of loss hit me one more time.

A ray of hope is that the university has hired a dynamic and visionary dean to lead the new CEHD; she'll be arriving October 1, although she is already making her presence known. I'm eager to work with her.

Transitions are always bittersweet, and it's only fitting to honor our history, even if the future holds promise. So on the last day of this venerable unit, hats off to the College of Human Ecology, its leaders, its students, and its many loyal alumni. It's been a good ride, and it's been my privilege to have been a part of it.

CHE front McNeal2-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 1:38 AM | In Memory / In Honor

July 1, 2006

Craigslist Kind of a Day

The saga of "cleaning up" after our flooded basement from last October continues. Today I prepared 8 items for sale and posted them on Craigslist. Three of the items were offered for free, and I had at least 10 offers on each one within the first 2 hours. The sale items (furniture) have moved more slowly, but 12 hours after posting, I have either disposed of or have inquiries about 6 of the 8 items. Not bad! But more to go...

I'm really sold on the freecycling aspect of Craigslist. As the saying goes: one person's trash is another person's treasure. And recycling these gems keeps them out of landfills.

I've also been searching Craigslist for jobs in Austin for someone down there. Did you know that you can get $10 - $13 per hour for wearing an outfit and standing outside a new housing development holding a sign and trying to allure drivers-by to take a look? I keep flashing back to the poor guy who dressed up as the Statue of Liberty in February (yes, in Minnesota) to try to lure drivers into a strip mall near our house where a tax preparation service had set up shop (it was probably Liberty Taxes or something like that.) I'm glad he got $10-13 an hour!

Posted by hgroteva at 7:00 PM | Technology

July 4, 2006

America Travels

I've been meaning to write a bit about the trip we took a few weeks ago, and I got the inspiration I needed when I read the review of a new book, Are We There Yet? by Robert Sullivan (2006). (The review was in the New York Times Book Review, July 2, 2006). (The subtitle of the book is worth a mention: "Fifteen Years and Ninety Thousand Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-in-Law, Two Kids, and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant" -- sounds like many a trip I've taken!)

The reviewer (Bruce Barcott) commented: "Our south-north crossing bound our family with the emotional ties of shared adversity, and it's Sullivan's contention that road trips bind us together as a nation. America is all impatience and movement and 10 more miles to higher wages and warmer winters. "The America that I see," he writes, "is an America that tells you to keep moving, to move on to something better, to get on the road and keep going, to stop only briefly to refuel your car and yourself but then to keep pushing toward the place that is closer to where you should be or could be, if only you would keep going. America says move, move on, don't sit still.... In other words, America is the road."

On my recent visit to my niece's wedding (in rural Mass.), my sister and I reminisced about some of the trips our family took while we were growing up and shared stories of our own families' trips. Road trips are an important part of my story. On June 6, I blogged about a nifty map-maker I found -- and when I entered the states I had visited, I found that I'd at least set foot in 45 of our 50 states.

Since our family moved to Texas from New York when I was 10 (believe me, it felt like the move to tne end of the earth), we made many road trips back "home" to see family. But we also took major trips through the southwest, far west, deep south, and other parts east. I think the nadir was the trip when my father was suffering from a kidney stone but didn't want to tell any of us because he wanted to keep pushing on to the next destination. He didn't say anything until my mother noticed that he paced all night in the motel room -- fortunately, he made it to the hospital early the next morning for appropriate care. That's driven!

The "move on" factor seems to be peculiarly American. I've had interesting discussions about it with my European friends. It happens in decisions about going away to college, in taking first jobs, in following promotions, and then in finding the perfect place to retire to. The nomadic existence creates complications with family responsibilities, however. In my case, parents, kids, and grandkids have all conveniently migrated back to Texas. Hmmm.

Happy 4th of July - Time for a road trip! Woops - how much does that gas cost??
(By the way, the size rental car we reserved for our trip was not available, so they gave us an "upgrade" to a minivan. Interestingly, the headline in the NYT that same day was "When an upgrade is a downgrade" - because of the price of gas. But we got a Toyota Siena, and it got 25mpg, which isn't bad. It had a nice smooth ride. If I needed a minivan, that's how I'd go - but I don't. I'm thinking Prius.)

In a forthcoming post, I'll talk about 4 specialty museums we saw on our trip - all were memorable and worth a visit.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:03 AM | Travel

July 6, 2006

Small New England Museums Worth Seeing

Recent travels took us through Massachusetts and New Hampshire; along the way we visited several smaller specialty museums and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Here are a few comments + links to each, in case you have the chance to check one or more of them out

First, I'll mention the Sandwich Glass Museum, in Sandwich, MA, on Cape Cod. Both Susan and I enjoy glass of various kinds, and there was plenty to see at this museum. The pieces are displayed nicely in brightly lit rooms with light in back of the glassware. We saw a zillion different colors; among my favorites were amethyst and emerald -- deep, deep, deep. They had a glassblower giving demonstrations; he was quite good. He served a 5 year apprenticeship before he was able to do the work he demonstrated.

Next is the Whaling Museum on Nantucket, MA. Of course, this was a special trip because it began with a 2 hour cruise from Hyannis to Nantucket - very enjoyable. When we arrived, we were greeted by colorful planters all over the town.

Flowers-Nantucket center-b.jpg

We had seen the Whaling Museum many years before, but it's been totally re-done in the past few years. The displays are great, but the centerpiece of the museum is the skeleton of sperm whale that beached on Nantucket in 1998.

Whaling boat + skeleton-b.jpg

The story is actually rather sad, but they have a tastefully done film that tells the story. When the whale came on shore, it drew quite a lot of attention world-wide. The residents tried to coax it back into the water using various kinds of equipment and the old heave-ho. But apparently the whale was sick and had come to die. After the whale died, the residents got permission from the government to remove its skin and innards so that they could preserve and display the skeleton. They've done a nice job with it. While we were there, they also had a dramatic recounting of a whaling expedition. It was an enjoyable few hours - would have been great for kids as well as adults.

On to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. This is a smallish, but very accessible museum. One thing I particularly liked was that you could get very close to the paintings and sculptures. (My trifocals present challenges with getting good close-up views of art objects, but at the Currier I was able to get within inches of canvasses.) The museum closed the next day for about 2 years while it remodels. One of their satellite "exhibits" is the Frank Lloyd Wright - Zimmerman House, also in Manchester, NH. We hopped a van with a total of 12 passengers and were taken over to the house for a guided tour. Some of Wright's unique touches were quite innovative for the times (early 1950s). I especially liked the way he tried to make the boundary between the inside and outside vanish in the back of the house. The house was for a couple sans children, but it still felt pretty small to me. Here's the view from the back of the house.

Zimmerman house from back-b.jpg

Next stop: the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. Fascinating exhibits about the history of textiles and the history of the region. Some of my wife's ancestors came from Ireland into the states via Ellis Island to settle in Lowell, so it had special interest. There was a quilt exhibit there which showed amazing creativity in different approaches to quilting. (I knew next to nothing about this form of craft.)

From there we visited the Boott Cotton Mills Museum - in Lowell, MA. Here's where we saw the extremely difficult and dangerous work that young women did in these mills for many hours straight in deafening noise. Many of the workers were young teenagers. I was particularly drawn to the videotaped oral histories of women and men who had worked in the mills (which are all closed now). The interviews were extremely poignant. One woman who had worked in the mills for over 50 years recounted the story of a co-worker whose hair got caught in one of the machines and she was hoisted up to her death. At one of the points in the exhibit, the signs directed visitors to check the clothing tags of the people they were with. Where are clothes being made now? Well, the 4 of us looked at our tags. NONE of our clothes had been made in the US. Labor is too expensive. So the reality of the mills, the oral histories of the former workers, and the reality of today's economy and political terrain contributed to some powerful reflection. Just as closing time neared, we scooted across the street to tour the quarters where the mill worker girls lived. They slept in very close quarters, 3 or 4 to a bed, in a building with many bedrooms, no toilets, and only one door to the outside. What right do we have to complain about working conditions?

Special thanks to Debbie and Pete for taking us to the Manchester and Lowell museums - we would never have found them on our own, but thoroughly enjoyed the expeditions.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:51 AM | Travel

July 9, 2006

The latest - Google Trends

Nothing will excite Inner Geek more than learning about the latest tech gizmos, gadgets, and techniques. I had the luxury of reading the New York Times cover to cover on Wednesday, as our choir was heading to Chicago to perform Frank Ferko's Psalm Cantata at the meeting of the American Guild of Organists. (It went well, and I've really grown to love the piece. I know the music well enough now that I could let the texts work their magic on me - it's really quite beautiful. But I digress... )

The headline that caught my eye was "The Internet Knows What You'll Do Next" (NYT 7/5/2006, C1). Pretty scary, eh? The article talks about "Google Trends," one of the latest Google offerings.

(To find Google Trends, go to the Google home page (www.google.com), click on "more," and then click on "google labs" and then "google trends". Or just go here.)

The article's author argues that Google can identify what will be happening in the future on the basis of the searches that people do beforehand. Makes sense, of course. Here's a description from the article: "It allows you to check the relative popularity of any search term, to look at how it has changed over the last couple years and to see the cities where the term is most popular."

The search tool requires that you enter at least 2 terms -- and up to 5. So I searched for the use of geek vs. nerd. Would you believe that the second highest use of "geek" (in the world) is in Minneapolis? We come right after Portland, Oregon. Fancy that. Now I'm hooked.

Next, I paired adoption and foster care. Interestingly, Minneapolis is #3 in the world for mentions of adoption. (I am not surprised.) One of the nifty things that Google Trends does is to identify when spikes of searches have occurred and to link them to news headlines of those days. Here are 4 frequency spikes for "adoption."

a) Tsunami raises interest in adoption (Jan., 2005). Remember the huge rush of calls that came immediately after the tsunami, when people wanted to adopt babies that had been separated from their parents?

b) Nevada bill to make written post-adoption contracts legally enforceable. (Feb 2005) This was a story about the attempt to make written agreements about post adoption contact between birthparents and adoptive parents legally binding. I don't know if it passed. Note to self: look it up!

c) Adopt-a-Pet up for adoption. (Sept. 2005) This was a headline from Victoria, TX about an adopt-a-pet program being ousted from a shopping mall and needing a new home.

d) Adoption Institute Supports Gay Parents" (March 2006) about the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute supporting the right of gay and lesbian persons to adopt.

So it is interesting to see how headlines cause spikes in google searches, and thus how those searches might forecast something about news to come.

I'm eager to play with this a lot more! One sentence in the NYT story read, "And it's totally addictive." I agree - just like its sibling, Google Earth. Here's a picture of 4 generations of the men in my family while I was demonstrating Google Earth to my father just a few weeks ago. He was truly amazed.

Four Generations of Geeks-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:59 AM | Adoption | Technology

July 12, 2006

The Excitement Builds....


The excitement is building ... almost 20 of us from the University of Minnesota are heading to Norwich England this weekend for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research. Personally, I'm very excited, for several reasons.

The adoption research community is small and highly specialized. Adoption researchers are found in psychology, social work, family science, public health, psychiatry, pediatrics, sociology, history, and related fields ... but our total numbers are small, and so our regular disciplinary scientific meetings usually only have a handful of adoption researchers. At ICAR2, we'll all be together for a glorious week of stimulating presentations and discussions.

The first ICAR was here in Minneapolis in 1999. Manfred van Dulmen and I co-organized it, with the very dedicated assistance of students and volunteers from our research project. This year's host is Beth Neil, from the School of Social Work and Psychosocial Studies at the University of East Anglia. Beth has gone out of her way to make sure that the conference is scientifically rich and socially enjoyable. She was able to get presenters to submit their papers far enough ahead in order to burn a CD-Rom of all the conference papers, so that people can study them in advance and make plans for conversations they'd like to engage others in. This was quite a coup!

I'm very proud of the 6 graduate students from my project who will be attending and presenting. They have all worked hard and gotten feedback in advance on their papers. The conference should be a good experience for them. I e-mailed Beth today, noting that there's something special about the folks who conduct research in this field. On the whole, it's a very supportive, collaborative, interesting, engaging group. It will be a great week! New blog posts will likely be sporadic or nonexistent until early August.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:00 PM | Adoption | Social Science | Travel

July 26, 2006

Monet in Leiden - 2006

Claude Monet, French Impressionist and a favorite of mine, painted tulip fields near Leiden. As he got older and his vision deteriorated, his paintings provided evidence of the blurry way in which he must have seen the world at that time. I took this photo last night and immediately thought of Monet when I saw it. Yet another good memory of Leiden.

Leiden at night - Monet effect-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 11:12 AM | Art | Travel

July 28, 2006

Adoption Research in Leiden

ICAR2 in Norwich was a wonderful experience - there's a strong consensus to that effect! It was powerful and energizing to have so many adoption researchers in the same place at the same time. There were 10 keynote addresses that provided a broad view of the field and probably about 100 papers or posters that filled out the most current research details. There were almost 20 people from Minnesota in attendance: 6 graduate students, 3 co-investigators and an affiliated post-doc from our MTARP project + several folks from the International Adoption Clinic, several from Rich Lee's project, and more.

Following a weekend on the north Norfolk coast, we made our way to Leiden University to meet with Femmie Juffer and her colleagues. Femmie holds an endowed chair in Adoption Studies, one of the few in the world. The centre's work is of the highest caliber. Here is a link to the centre. One of the centre's services is an online searchable data base of adoption research. You can access it from the navigation bar on the left side of their home page. It is a wonderful resource, especially since the searchable data base from the Donaldson Institute is no longer being kept up.

This scene awaited us just about a block or two into town from the Leiden rail station.

windmill in Leiden-b.jpg

We had two sessions at the Adoption Centre at Leiden University with Femmie and her colleagues. On the second morning, Wendy Tieman presented her research (based on her dissertation) from Wave 3 of Frank Verhulst's longitudinal study of adoption in Rotterdam. We had a wonderfully spirited discussion, facilitated by our open time schedule and a room full of people already knowledgeable about the relevant work. Here's our happy group after lunch: Gretchen Wrobel, Femmie Juffer, Wendy Tieman, Rich Lee, and me.

Gretchen Femmie Wendy Rich Hal-b.jpg

The adoption centre is located in a new university building that is very nicely appointed. On the occasion of the department's 40th anniversary, 40 faculty were each invited to prepare a quilt square to be included on a wall hanging in the foyer. Here are some of the squares; Femmie's is in the first column, third row from the top. You may not be able to make out the detail, but it depicts international adoption between India and the Netherlands.

Leiden U quilt-b.jpg

And what trip to the Netherlands would be complete without Rembrandt? This daunting face stared down at us during an al fresco dinner at the City Hall cafe on our last night here.

Rembrandt face-b.jpg

And one more beautiful sunset canal scene to close our visit.

Leiden bridge - sunset-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:58 AM | Adoption | Social Science | Travel

July 29, 2006

The Beauty of Leiden

I hope you enjoy these scenes from Leiden - it's a charming city with a relaxed atmosphere. Definitely a place that begs return.









Leiden awnings-b.jpg

Leiden canal night-b.jpg

Leiden bridge + boat - sunset-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 11:01 AM | Travel

July 31, 2006

Hot Enough for Ya?

Despite our extreme winters, Minnesota also gets its share of extreme summers. From today's Star Tribune:
"Today will bring dangerous, almost extraordinary heat to the Twin Cities and much of the Midwest. The heat will peak probably a few degrees above 100. Factoring in dew point, Sunday felt hotter in Minneapolis and St. Paul (110) than it did in Baghdad (103). Today will be worse. No preaching, lecturing or fear-mongering. Just know that today's heat will be life-threatening."

For fun, compare this to my entry from Feb. 17, 2006.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:34 AM | Minnesota

August 18, 2006

Headlines without Stories

I've been delinquent in blogging of late - mainly because my life has been turned completely upside down in a short period of time. Although I've thought a lot about what I'd like to write, I've had neither the time nor the inclination to actually do it. But I've thought of some great titles / headlines for events of the past month or so. Here are a few. I may write about some of them later ... or I may not.

God's Waiting Room - part deux

Two Weeks in Hell (aka Dallas in August)

Toolin' Around in a Gold Cadillac

TV - Rotting American Brains One Commercial at a Time

Job's Lament

Health Care for Elders: a National Disgrace

Hidden in Plain Sight - the Power of Friends

Boomerangs - Duck and Cover!

One Day at a Time

Losses and Gains: The Known and the Unknowable

The Many Miracles of Mocha

But here is the fortune that came in my cookie Wednesday:
"A sweet surprise awaits you."
I've taped it to my cell phone.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:49 AM | Life

October 5, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

Almost three months ago, I learned that my father was seriously ill. As the situation evolved, he went into a skilled nursing facility and then we transferred him across country into an assisted living facility closer to my sister and her family. In the process, we had to close his home, make decisions about the disposition of all his possessions, deal with a million business details, and close up his life of almost 50 years in Dallas.

But what I want to reflect on tonight (my last night before returning home) is the kindness of strangers. There is no way we could have completed this process without help from many people: family, friends, acquaintances, professionals and service workers, and people we never knew until this set of crises occurred. As the mystics have said … hidden in plain sight.

Here are just a few examples:

** the salesman from carmax who bought my father’s car and then offered to drive me home (15 miles), since I wouldn’t have a car once I left it there … and then when the deal ran into a snag (odometer problem), he personally made sure that it got taken care of while I was flying to Boston and back on a marathon weekend.

** the social worker from the health unit of the retirement community who offered to drive us, oxygen, suitcases, wheelchair, and all, to the airport last Saturday morning at 8 a.m. in her van.

** the man 2 doors down from my father in the health unit, who, despite his own infirmities, stopped by my father’s room three times a day to make sure he went for meals and waited for him if he wasn’t ready.

** my colleague in the department who, when I grabbed her in the hall (as she was running to a meeting) to ask for the name of a travel agent, was able to provide a referral on the spot that helped me work out complex logistics (including oxygen) with as little stress as possible

** the flight attendant who helped my father make his way to the rest room in first class rather than making him walk all the way to the back of the plane like everyone else

** the accountant who put her own work aside several times on very short notice in order to come to my father’s hospital room to notarize documents

** the residential coordinator at my father’s community who calmed our anxities about all the logistics involved in leaving and made the process as simple as possible

** the estate sale lady who, along with her mother, lovingly wrapped many of my parents’ possessions that were not earmarked for shipping across country and prepared them for sale; she made sure that nothing went to waste – even partially used containers of cleaning solution

** the consignment store owner who, when told that I couldn’t possibly take photographs of everything and bring them to him, volunteered to come to the house and look at furniture and household goods that would not be going on the moving van

** the nurse's aide from India who called my dad "honey" and made him feel special when he was at his weakest

** my father’s friends and neighbors who urged him to get medical care (even though he didn’t) and then stopped by his hospital room periodically in order to check in and make sure he was OK

** the nurse’s aides at Dad’s new facility in NH who cheerily stop by his room at multiple, random times during the day to make sure all is well

** the neighbor who lovingly accepted my mother’s Christmas cactus – I just couldn’t put it in the trash

** my colleagues and students at the U and my sister’s colleagues at the hospital, as well as the members of our immediate families, who have doubtless covered for countless meetings and tasks we were not able to attend to during these crises

** all the friends, family, and colleagues who sent e-mails and phone calls with energy and prayers

To the many, many people who helped make it possible for this venture to succeed … you all have my most heartfelt thanks. There’s a lot of goodness out there – it’s palpable and very real. I’m sure there are many people and events I’m not even aware of who helped us along. All I can say is that I’ll try to do the same for others in the future.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:31 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life

October 22, 2006

Who's Looking for "Six Feet Under" Transcripts???

Various life events have precluded me from blogging much of late. However, I periodically check sitemeter to see whether anybody's visiting my blog. The largest number of hits on my site lately have been for people searching for "Six Feet Under" transcripts. These hits have come from all over the world; most recently from Zambia. This is not new - I have seen many such hits since my blog began over a year ago.

I have a link to a transcript site on my blog, but I believe it is now a dead end and I just haven't taken the time to remove it. Nevertheless, I continue to have a steady stream of visitors looking for the transcripts.

So I'm curious -- Who is looking for "Six Feet Under" transcripts, and why? Feel free to leave a comment.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:39 PM | Six Feet Under

December 28, 2006

In Memory of My Friend Sally


My friend Sally Criticos died on December 21; her funeral was yesterday. The world is poorer for her passing but richer for the many gifts she gave to those who knew her. Sally was one of the most courageous and life-affirming people I have ever met. She battled multiple myeloma for a number of years and did it with determination and conviction. She had a lot to do before she died, especially sharing her life with her grandchildren.

I first met Sally when I joined the St. Marks Cathedral Choir -- it must have been almost 10 years ago. I joined at a time of great ambiguity in the group. The choirmaster, Don Small, had just become seriously ill and it was not clear when he would be returning. Sally was the most welcoming member of the group. She helped me learn the ropes and encouraged me to take my place. I looked forward to talking with her every week. She genuinely cared about her friends -- she remembered everyone's life challenges and served as a one-woman referral board for everything from housing needs to educational or family crises. But most of all, I remember Sally for her warm smile and her laugh. A part of her will always be with me and her many friends. I regret that I was not able to participate in her funeral yesterday, but I am currently out of town spending time with my grandkids. I think ... I know ... Sally would want me to be right here! Sally - thanks and godspeed.

Here is her obituary from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Criticos, Sally Eve Born October 15, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. Member of the St. Mark's Cathedral choir in Minneapolis, perpetual artist, and beloved friend of many, died on December 21, 2006. Sally grew up in Brooklyn, New York with summers in Vermont. Graduate of Elmira College, she taught art to elementary school children, was community school coordinator at Kenwood Elementary School, worked at Judy Instructo, National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), and the Wedge Coop. Sally is survived by her sister, Barbara Troxell of Claremont, CA; daughters, Amy Criticos of Spain and Sarah Dahl (Jon Dahl) of Rosemount; and grandchildren, Galo, Olivia, Luke, and Megan. A service of worship in celebration of her life will be held at St. Mark's Cathedral, 519 Oak Grove Street, Minneapolis, on Wednesday, December 27th at 4:00 PM."

Posted by hgroteva at 8:37 AM | In Memory / In Honor

December 29, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging - welcoming Chloe and Dylan

The New Mexico branch of our family was missing our tribe a lot, so our family has now grown by 2 more Tonkinese: Chloe and Dylan. They made the journey from Las Cruces to Austin for the holidays and joined our festivities. Here's Susan with the 2 additions.

Chloe + Dylan + Susan2-b.jpg

They are not full siblings; they were born on the same day but to different mothers. (They may share a father, however.) But one of the mothers was not able to nurse her kittens, so both of them were nursed by the same mother. These pictures belie how mischevious they can be when they are tearing around the house.

Chloe + Dylan1-b.jpg

They can sense a "cat person" miles away. They also like to drag various items of clothing (especially socks and gloves) around the house, just like a dog would. I can spare a sock, but I can't spare my gloves since I'm going back to the land of the icebox tomorrow! Balls of Christmas wrapping paper also make for endless hours of play.

Cats on Kevin-b.jpg

The big question on everyone's mind: How in the world will 6 of them fare in the same household?

Posted by hgroteva at 5:23 AM | Cats

January 14, 2007

Waltham Abbey Singers Concert Tonight - free

The Waltham Abbey Singers, under the direction of Brian Link, are presenting a concert tonight at 7:30 at St. Paul's on the Hill Episcopal Church, on Summit Ave. just east of Snelling Ave. The program is eclectic: the Charpentier “Messe de Minuit pour Noël,? (which uses French Christmas carols for its themes, including “Joseph est bien marié?), three Bruckner motets, some organ pieces, etc.

I sang with Waltham for several years, but haven't been able to sing since July because of the unpredictability of my family situation. I look forward to the concert tonight and hope to see folks there. (It's free, and maybe that snowstorm will wait until it's over -- or at least until it starts!)

In 2003, I had the opportunity to spend a month in England working with adoption research colleagues. One day, I took the train from Norwich to London, and then a combination of underground and bus out to Waltham Abbey (the real thing), which is on the northern outskirts of London. Here are photos of the church and the choir stalls. Thomas Tallis, the inspiration for the Waltham Abbey Singers, was choirmaster there.

Waltham side2-b.jpg


Posted by hgroteva at 10:38 AM | Choral Music

January 15, 2007

More about Waltham Abbey

Despite the snow, the Waltham Abbey Singers audience tonight was robust and appreciative. I really enjoyed the program, which included the Charpentier Messe de Minuit pour Noel (Christmas midnight mass) and 3 lush motets by Bruckner. My last post had a few comments about my trip to Waltham Abbey, the actual place. Here are some entries from my travel journal of October, 2003.

I returned from London yesterday after an exciting and stimulating visit. It was interesting to observe my own reactions to things – that it was often the challenge and excitement of figuring out how to get places or do things that was the satisfying / most noteworthy part. For example, on Wednesday, 10/1, I took the train from Norwich to Liverpool St. (London), left my suitcase at the Left Luggage, took another train to Waltham Cross, then took the bus to Waltham Abbey. Each of these had its own little challenges associated with it – even making sure I got on the bus going in the right direction from Waltham Cross to Waltham Abbey. For example, I had initially thought about taking no luggage on the 3 day trip (thinking that I’d have to be schlepping it with me to Westminster Abbey), but then it occurred to me that there might be a Left Luggage at Liverpool St. – so I called the national rail line and found out there was. I found a hotel (the Hyde Hotel, 51 Westbourne Terrace, 3 star rating) on the internet for just over 50 pounds per night. My colleagues were rather horrified and very skeptical about the quality of the place, but I mainly wanted a place in a safe neighborhood, close to the tube, and clean. Well, the Hyde met those qualifications, but it was by far the smallest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in – and in the basement, to boot. I finally decided I’d pretend it was a stateroom on a luxury liner, where every square inch is at a premium. It did have a window, but the 8? TV had extremely poor reception (rabbit ears in a basement room!) It was adequate, although I doubt I’d stay there again. (It’s very good I brought changes of clothes – all the excitement combined with warmish and humid weather meant I sweated through my clothes several times! Thankfully there was a shower in the hotel room.)

The pilgrimage to Waltham Abbey was a worthwhile venture – since it is the namesake of the early music group I sing in. I didn’t realize until I got there that the Abbey was founded around 1060 by Harold, the Earl of Wessex, later King of England. Harold prayed there for success against the Norman invasion, but he and the Saxons met their fate at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After the battle, Harold’s love, Edith Swan-Neck, brought him back to the Abbey for burial. No one knows exactly where he is in the church, but he is there somewhere. Here's my namesake.


The church has a long history and is quite interesting architecturally, although of course it’s not a “grand? church on the scale of the cathedrals. But it was worth the visit. Thomas Tallis was organist there at the time of the Dissolution – 1540 - when Henry VIII dissolved all the abbeys in England. Here's Tallis.

Thomas Tallis.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:25 AM | Choral Music | Travel

January 16, 2007

To Split, or Not To Split? (or To Not Split?)

In Stephen Wilbers' "Effective Writing" column (Star Tribune, 1-15-07), he wrote about split infinitives. My eighth grade take-no-prisoners English grammar teacher, Miss Mary Buckingham, taught us NEVER to split infinitives. (NOT to never split infinitives.) Well, Wilbers takes a more moderate stance, which I follow in my own writing and appreciate. What I didn't know was the origin of the no-split-infinitives policy. He noted that the origin of this rule was with Robert Loweth, who tried to import his knowledge of Latin into the English language. "Because the infinitive is a single word in Latin, and therefore cannot be split, he reasoned (wrongly, to my mind), it should not be split in English. Before he wrote his unfortunate book, few English speakers gave it a thought." I'll never feel guilty about splitting an infinitive again - if it makes sense to do so. And I'll be a bit more tolerant of my students' usage as well. To quote Wilbers' conclusion today: "So we can say to boldly go in good consencience."

Thanks, Mr. Wilbers!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:36 AM | Writing

January 19, 2007

Lost Boys of Sudan

I encouraged my human development students to attend a screening of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" last night at the International Institute of Minnesota. It was a powerful experience. The beginning of the film tells the story of the war in the Sudan, in which many villages have been decimated and thousands of innocent people have been killed. Many children were left parent-less and found their way to resettlemt camps. Two young men, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor, were moved out of the camps and to the United States - initially to Houston, Texas. In the rest of the film, we follow them through their daily lives and overhear their reflections on their native land, on America, and on the contrast between the two. Let's just say that their transitions were not unproblematic. Some of the challenge came about because of the culture shock inherent in moving across the planet in time and space. They moved from a rural village in Sudan to an apartment in Houston - we watched as they were shown their new home and cautioned not to stick their fingers down the garbage disposal.

But the most poignant part of the documentary was in their longing for home and for the familiar, their own culture, language, and friends. It made me realize how unconscious we can be of our own culture, because it's what we "do" every day. Only when we are hit with a major contrast does what we have cease being taken for granted. I have a large number of international students in my classes this semester. This film gave me a framework for considering the many challenges (academic and non-academic) that they must face every day. I am inspired by their courage and by that of Peter and Santino.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:17 PM | Culture

January 21, 2007

American Hospitality

I couldn't help drawing connections between my last post (about "The Lost Boys of Sudan") and today's NYTimes story about American hospitality in Clarkston, Georgia. The mayor has decreed that there will be no more soccer in the town park - "There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor ... Those fields weren't made for soccer." Well, the story behind the story is that the soccer players are refugees living in Clarkston who resettled there from countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Somalia, and yes, Sudan. The kids formed a team called "The Fugees" (yes, for "refugees") and played the game they know and love, soccer. The article points out that "their presence brings out the best in some people and the worst in others." Sounds like the worst is winning so far.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:23 AM | Culture

January 29, 2007

"Race" Exhibit at the Science Museum

I like to go to movies and plays that trouble me. Sure, at times I like to go just for pure entertainment, but I also like to be challenged by what I see and hear. That’s the experience I had Friday afternoon, when I went to see the new exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota entitled, “Race: Are We So Different??

The complexity with which race is portrayed made me think back to a wonderful course I had as a college sophomore in 1967, entitled “The Concept of Race.? It was in the anthropology department, but it was very interdisciplinary. The first third was taught by a physical anthropologist (Robert Malina) and explored biological and genetic concepts; the second third was taught by a cultural anthropologist (Henry Selby) and looked at the diversity of cultures and “races? across the world. The last third was taught by an expert on the peoples of the Middle East (Robert Fernea), who talked about how race is experienced in specific cultures. They were ahead of their time. But I digress...

The Science Museum exhibit had many displays – some were interactive, others used words or pictures to make their points. The most powerful to me were the personal stories. An interracial couple talked about their experience in Minnesota – the double-takes they would get in shopping malls, the stares they would get in restaurants or with their child. A young woman adopted from Korea talked about how her adoptive parents were told by their social worker not to talk about race with their child; and they didn’t. A social scientist commented on the U.S. by saying “This is a world of racial smog. We all breathe it.? An American Indian woman said, “My name is Cindy Bloom. I’m a Cherokee Indian but I am not a [football team] mascot.? A woman whose race was “indeterminate? [her word] said that people were uncomfortable when they first met her – almost as if they needed to figure out what racial group she belonged to before they knew how to relate to her. They’d ask “What are you?? as if her racial designation summed up her existence. A middle-aged African American woman said, “Politically and culturally, race is as real as it gets.?

Several exhibits talked about “white privilege,? a concept popularized by Peggy Macintosh in her paper "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" The interviews with Doug Hartmann (U of MN Associate Professor of Sociology) noted that one aspect of white privilege is that white people claim the privilege (or option) of saying they don’t have a race, or that they are part of the human race. For people of color, race is a part of daily experience. They don’t have the “privilege? of ignoring it.

One exhibit showed 134 Brazilian terms for skin tone. Rich Lee’s blog entry for January 27 talked about links between skin tone and salary in the U.S.

Several exhibits debated the use of race in the field of medicine. Recent studies showing race-specific risks for some diseases (e.g., higher risk for hypertension among African Americans) have suggested that new drugs be targeted toward different groups. However, the exhibit effectively argued that since there is no genetic or biological validity to the concept of race, treatments targeted toward different groups rest on flawed assumptions.

One fascinating display about DNA stated that “the pattern of DNA variation across populations shows a nested subset. African populations harbor some alleles (gene variations) that are absent in non-African populations; however, all of the alleles that are common in non-African populations are also common in African populations.? In other words, the gene variations in European and Asian populations are subsets of the variations observed in African populations. There are no gene variations found among Europeans or Asians that are not also found among people of African descent. It makes sense, considering where the world’s population originated – in Africa. But it presented a new way of thinking about this.

All in all, it was a great exhibit. It “troubled? me – in that it made me think deeply – and I think it will do that for many people who pass through it. I have asked my lifespan development students to see it; I’ll be very interested to hear what they have to say. One of the background documents for the exhibit contained this quote from Robin D.G. Kelley, historian: Race “is not about how you look, it is about how people assign meaning to how you look.? I like that, because it puts responsibility for dealing with race squarely where it belongs: in our own hands.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:16 AM | Culture | Identity | Society

February 12, 2007

Give Me My Radio Back!

I'm a big NPR / MPR fan, EXCEPT during those infernal times of the year when they have their pledge drives -- like now. The latest one started last Thursday. I just can't bear to listen during it - it's so irritating and distressing. (I know they need the money, and I guess they keep being reinforced for doing the pledge drives, because people do respond. I make sure to send in my membership fee at OTHER times during the year.)

In the Twin Cities, we had a good thing going when WCAL, a classical music station not owned by MPR, conducted its pledge drive at times when MPR stations weren't. So when MPR was doing its drive, I could listen all the time to WCAL, and vice versa. Now that MPR bought out WCAL, all 3 of the MPR stations do their fund drives simultaneously. There's no escaping. To top it off, the pledge drives seem to extend longer each year.

I feel sorry for the announcers who have to go on and on begging for money. I suspect they're muttering "This is not what I signed up for!" But they seem to weather it with relatively good humor.

I've been tuning in to some "commercial" stations - but AACK! This morning, one of the stations was telling the story of Anna Nicole Smith meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates. I can't tell you how many different ways that was revolting!

Well, that's enough of a rant for this Monday morning. It felt good to get it off my chest. But give me my radio stations back!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:22 AM | Life | Minnesota | Music - of all kinds

February 14, 2007

Conspirare - A Group to be Watching

Thanks to Paul for introducing me to a wonderful new chorus - Conspirare - based in Austin, but a national / professional group. For Christmas, he and Carolyn gave me a recording of "Requiem" - a 2-CD set that begins with the Howells Requiem (one of my all-time favorites) and includes the Frank Martin Mass (another favorite) plus some new pieces that I really love --- especially Three Songs of Faith by Eric Whitacre and We Remember Them, by my friend Don Grantham. (Don directed a choir I sang in when we lived in Austin -- small world.) The CD was nominated for 2 Grammy Awards - congratulations!

I dragged out my trusty Cassell's Latin Dictionary (from 8th grade - what a packrat), and found that conspirare means "to breathe together." They're doing a lot more than breathing together. They are creating incredible sounds that echo in my mind for hours and days on end.

Here is a recent story about the group, and here is another.

Apropos Valentines Day (today), Paul also mentioned a recent PBS special called "The Mystery of Love" that used Conspirare as the focus of a section on "Community." Betty Sue Flowers (Prof. and Director of the LBJ Library) was one of the commentators in the story. Here and here are relevant stories.

I eagerly await their next CD!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:54 PM | Choral Music | Texas

February 17, 2007

I Am Ready for Summer!

Lazy punting - b.jpg


Posted by hgroteva at 10:40 PM | Life | Travel

February 21, 2007

Musical Cats

I was sent this link to an amazing You Tube clip about Nora, the musical cat - it's worth a watch. If it's possible, I'll post the actual clip here so you can just click and go. It's a fun one, I promise.


Posted by hgroteva at 8:44 PM | Cats

February 23, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging - Tonkpile

Tonkpile 021807-b.jpg

Personal space doesn't seem to be a problem with these guys. (Photo taken 021807)

Posted by hgroteva at 1:48 AM | Cats

March 1, 2007


I'm working at home today, watching the blizzard outside -- it's pretty much white-out conditions. But I was quite surprised to hear a big clap of thunder a few minutes ago. Thundersnow, they call it in these parts. I'm not going anywhere for a while. The city plows just smooshed a ton of wet gunk into the entry to my driveway. I'm enjoying my hot chocolate while I write....

Posted by hgroteva at 11:25 AM | Minnesota

March 10, 2007

A Phone That's Just a Phone

I may have lost 5 points off my Geek quotient last week, when I found myself nodding in agreement to parts of an article UNFORTUNATELY and OBNOXIOUSLY titled, "New Tech for the Old." (Star Tribune, 3-7-07)

Although the article was about technology for (aging) baby boomers, I found myself drawn to pieces about how some folks want no-frills cell phones. (BTW, Did you know that somewhere, a baby boomer is turning 60 every eight seconds?) Some people actually want cell phones that make and receive phone calls, but don't necessarily take pictures, download ringtones, show videos, grab e-mail, or otherwise contribute to overstimulation. The interesting thing about all those "features" is that they all cost extra. What you think you are going to pay monthly for your cell phone balloons out of control when you add and use all the "features." The bane of my existence are the deals in which you get 3 or 6 or 12 months free service on this or that and can cancel at any time. Well -- how many people actually cancel? And who do you contact anyway? And is it easy to cancel - NO! And do you even remember? The purveyors hope not.

End of rant - happy spring break!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:37 AM | Technology

March 13, 2007


I was introduced to a new interdisciplinary field on the news last night, Neuroeconomics. (I guess it's not all that new - when I googled it, there were 464,000 hits - but it was new to me.) The news program focused on shopping, and on how different centers in the brain become activated when different types of consumer decisions are made. The story was about how neuroscientists can predict what we will buy before we know it ourselves. It looks at how consumers weigh factors such as cost and product desirability. And of course the logical extension is that businesses can then manipulate consumers to buy their own products.

Click here to go to the website for the Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics at George Mason University.
It says: "The Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics(CSN) at George Mason University is a research center and laboratory dedicated to the experimental study of how emergent mental computations in the brain interact with the emergent computations of institutions to produce legal, political, and economic order." This definition sounds much more benign than the manipulative scenario spun out on the news.

According to the Center's website, "Neuroeconomics is the study of how the embodied brain interacts with its external environment to produce economic behavior. Research in this field will allow social scientists to better understand individual decision making and consequently to better predict economic behavior." It contains a link (click here) to a 5 page pdf from the Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. I look forward to absorbing more about this field and considering its exciting and frightening implications.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:52 AM | Society | Technology

April 6, 2007

Will "Rome" Have a Third Season??

I don't tend to be a big TV watcher, but "Six Feet Under" captured me, and now it's "Rome." Those HBO guys....

They have just aired the end of Season 2 of "Rome." When the season began, I read somewhere that it was the end. But I wonder ....

Of course, some of the main characters met their ends at the end of 2. Here, Lucius Vorenus talks with Cleopatra after she discovers the dead Mark Antony and just before she gets up close and personal with the asp.


I visited the Rome website and lo and behold, learned that fans are writing scripts for the 3rd season. Pretty cool! Let's see if HBO pays attention. A bunch of the bloggers on the HBO site say they'll cancel their HBO subscriptions if there's no Season 3! In the meantime, they're happy to write the scripts (and probably do the sets and costumes, too).

I will probably write more about "Rome," but wanted to get this much on record.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:27 PM | Rome

April 9, 2007

On Awareness

Today's Star Tribune reported the following:

""HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play. It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by," wrote Gene Weingarten for the Washington Post. Almost all of them were on the way to work. "No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made."

Here's a link to the full Washington Post story, complete with some videos.

Although the story itself is quite a jolt, it says a lot to me about how un-aware we have gotten. I've mentioned earlier that the undergraduates in my class have their iPods plugged in until the minute class starts and plug them back in the minute that class ends. When people are walking on campus, they seem totally oblivious to their surroundings - the people, the birds singing, and yes - even Joshua Bell playing that amazing violin.

I predict that 10 years from now, there will be a great epiphany about "awareness" - people will be re-discovering how important it is to be in tune with their surroundings. In the meantime, I'll be paying close attention to those magical moments -- like the time I heard the invisible (to me) chorus rehearsing in the residence hall at King's College, or the time (while on the way to another concert) we stopped on the Washington Mall for a performance of Porgy and Bess being simulcast to the crowds outside, or to the time the Minnesota Women's Chorus was performing in the lobby of the Guthrie. Music is everywhere and needs to be performed and to be heard.

But this is about a lot more than music, isn't it? In what other ways are we oblivious to the amazing things around us??

Posted by hgroteva at 8:06 AM | Life | Music - of all kinds

April 11, 2007

Compassionate Technology

A spot on the NBC Nightly News last Friday talked about caringbridge.org, a website where the families of people who are ill can post about their progress, and friends can post their encouraging words. It basically creates a free website for the family. A woman whose 3-year-old daughter had leukemia noted that while her daughter was undergoing intensive chemotherapy, it was difficult to keep all their friends and family current on the news. The website allowed them to post progress once each day for them all to see, and allowed friends to post their prayers and words of encouragement back to them. A great idea.

When my mother was so ill in 2000, e-mail to my friends was my lifeline. But I do remember that after spending a day with my mom in intensive care, it was difficult to write multiple people and respond to them individually. Caringbridge seems to be a great solution. A side benefit is that the communication is not only between the person and respondents a pair at a time, but that a virtual community is formed, linking supporters who may have never met in person with each other.

I hope I don't have to use this new compassionate technology any time soon, but when I need it, I'll be glad that it's there.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:09 AM | Technology

April 15, 2007

Still Present Pasts

Still Present Pasts.jpg

Last night was the opening of the exhibit, Still Present Pasts, a multimedia exhibit exploring the legacies of the Korean War. Congratulations to the many people and funders who made it possible, and especially to my university colleague Rich Lee, who chaired the steering committee. Rich has been building excitement about the exhibit for several weeks now on his blog - Here's a link to the posts.

There's a lot to take in - poignant displays and first-person accounts about people who lived through the war and their families who came after. I want to return when it's quieter in the gallery to soak it all in. One of the most moving speeches at last night's opening was delivered by Dr. Ji Yeon Yuh, Associate Professor of History and Director of Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. She placed the Korean War in nested, yet broadening circles of human conflict - extending to today's global hatred and bitterness. She gave a moving plea for global understanding and placed responsibility for it squarely on each of our shoulders.

The opening program also featured readings of poetry and prose, and performances by the Chang Mi Korean Dance and Drum and by Shinparam, A Korean traditional drumming troupe. I was delighted to see that two students in my research methods class participate in Shinparam.

The exhibit is particularly important for people involved in any facet of adoption because of the large number of children adopted from Korea into the U.S. following the Korean War and continuing for many years. Several adoption-related events in conjunction with the exhibit should be noted:

Birthmother Panel -- "Korean immigrant mothers share their story of giving up their children for adoption as a result of the Korean War."
April 28, 10 a.m. - noon
Korean Presbyterian Church

Made in Korea
a film by In-Soo Radstake
April 28, 7:15 pm, St. Anthony Main Theatre
April 29, 2:30 pm, St. Anthony Main Theatre

Evening with Deann Borshay Liem
Screening and discussion of her film, "First Person Plural" and discussion of her current work
May 5, 7 - 9 pm,
Nicholson Hall 155, U of Minnesota, East Bank

Here: A Visual Portrait of Korean Adoptees Living in Minnesota
Book preview and reception
June 3, 3 - 6 pm, Weisman Art Gallery
Kim Dalros and Holly Hee Won Coughlin, project curators

For further information about these and other events, visit the Still Present Pasts website.
Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved in making these events possible.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM | Art | Identity | Society

April 19, 2007


OK - I admit it. I watch Grey's Anatomy. I never thought I'd write about it, but tonight it was revealed that Izzie is a birth mother - she placed her child for adoption 11 years ago. Of course her daughter needs a bone marrow transplant and her adoptive parents found her and begged and Izzie said yes but wanted to meet her daughter who said no but she looked at her anyway and thought her daughter looked just like her and George took care of her but Callie is mad and who will he choose???

Posted by hgroteva at 9:25 PM | Adoption

Common Denominators Suggest Ideas about Prevention

The Star Trib this morning published an op-ed piece by James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, who wrote it for the L.A. Times. It starts off: "Mass murder certainly wasn't invented with the 1966 Texas Tower shootings." Well, that hit a nerve. The Whitman shootings occurred one month before I began my freshman year at UT Austin. A friend of mine from high school was shot and her unborn baby was killed. So yes, it hit a nerve.

But what intrigued me about this article was that Fox looked at the factors common to recent mass murders. He noted that "seven of the eight largest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred in the last 25 years." The common denominators he mentioned included the following:
1) The perpetrators have a long history of frustration, failure, and inability to cope.
2) They externalize blame, complaining that others haven't given them a chance.
3) They lack emotional support from friends and family.
4) They experience an event that precipitates the rampage - perhaps a major disappointment in work, school, or relationships; a racial slur; taunting.
5) They gain access to a weapon powerful enough to satisfy their need for revenge.

And a number of changes in our society provide tinder that allows the factors above to ignite.
a) Weapons are more potent than ever - we've moved from pistols to semi-automatics.
b) The U.S. is more competitive than ever, with little compassion for those who fail.
c) The decline of community (of many kinds) intensifies the isolation of potential mass murderers.
I would add the following:
d) Society is increasingly polarized along lines of race, class, ethnicity, political persuasion, sexual orientation, religion, and other categories.
e) Our understanding of mental illness remains poor; mental health services are inadequate; those seeking mental health services are stigmatized; privacy laws intended to protect people's rights infringe on the rights of others.

A close examination of these points suggests many ideas about prevention of future tragedies. Of course, we can't prevent them all. But for every person who actualizes the killing, there are likely others on the verge, suffering. We as individuals and communities can do things that might actually help. If we each looked at the items above and picked one to work on, just imagine how powerful that could be.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:43 PM | Society

April 22, 2007

Earth Day - Learning from Tragedy


Earth Day is about humility, admitting there are lots of mysteries about our planet and each other that we don't understand, but resolving to strive to understand and to do more. (And there's a bit of incentive -- our survival -- at stake.) It's hard to believe that such a beautiful spring day in Minnesota comes on the heels of such tragedy in Virginia.

E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote the following about gun control for the Washington Post today.

"In almost all other spheres, we act reaonably when faced with new problems. When Richard Reid showed that nasty things could be done with shoes on airplanes, airport security started examining shoes. When liquids were seen as potentially dangerous, we regulated the quantity of liquids we could take on flights. Long ago, we barred people from carrying weapons onto airliners. If we can act pragmatically in the skies, why can't we be equally practical here on earth? ...

"Our country is a laughingstock on the rest of the planet because of our devotion to unlimited gun rights. On Thursday, an Austrailian newspaper carried the headline: "America, the gun club." "

Let's get it, people -- respect the earth and respect each other. Get the guns off the streets.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:14 AM | Society

April 28, 2007

A Story of Tragedy, Loss, Faith, Hope

…that is how the telling of her story began this morning. As part of the Still Present Pasts exhibit, Mrs. Lee, a Korean birthmother, told her story to us speaking through an interpreter. Before the Korean War, she worked in a shirt factory. She was 18 when the Korean War started, so she couldn’t go for advanced schooling. (Girls couldn’t go when people were starving, but boys could.) She was 22 when she married -- for love, rather than by family arrangement. Her husband was a construction manager; they had 4 children - 3 boys and 1 girl. They lost their resources and their livelihood when some of his workers sued him. They had to move in 1971, and her husband died in 1972 (because of shock and stress, she said).

With children ages 14, 9, 6, and 2, she was unable to work outside the home and had no extended family to help. They had disowned her after she married for love rather than by family arrangement. The pastor of her church suggested that she place the 2 year old for adoption so that she could work and support the other 3 children. She reluctantly went to Holt (an adoption agency); within 3 months, an adoptive family in the U.S. was chosen and sent her a letter. They noticed all 4 children in a picture and offered to adopt all 4 siblings.

Mrs. Lee couldn’t think of her life without children. She postponed the baby’s departure for 6 months. The oldest son asked to go to America - the land of promise, the “dream country.? A friend told her: if you send one baby, you will lose contact forever; but if you send all 4 children, perhaps you can have contact and they will come back to you some day. So she decided to send all 4 children.

After they were gone, she saw no hope for living any longer. She tried to commit suicide 4 times and failed. Friends suggested that she remarry, but she refused. If she remarried, her name would be changed to that of her new husband and removed from her family’s registry. Therefore, if her children tried to find her, they wouldn’t be able to. She had no social life or close friends. People asked her how she could enjoy herself, when she had given up her children.

When her daughter was 19, she contacted her mother. “It was the best day in my whole life!? She was persuaded to move to Minnesota in 1992, but it didn’t work out and she moved back to Korea. “Whenever I received a letter, the whole world was mine.? She moved back to Minnesota in 1996. She had hoped to be with all her children, but her oldest son moved to California and started a business. She doesn’t know where he lives now; he doesn’t call her. The other 3 live here and have good relationships with her. She hopes that her oldest son will return some day.

She does know the family who adopted her children. She appreciates the love and support they have given her children. Even though they don’t speak each others’ language, they show their affection through hugs, smiles, and demonstrations of appreciation and affection.

She was asked, “How do your children feel now about your decision (to place them for adoption)?? She said the children tell her not to regret it - they try to comfort her; they say they have had a good life here.

She was asked whether she has become friends with other Korean women who placed babies for adoption. She said she is ashamed; she does not want to share this with other women. She said no Korean woman would place a child for adoption without being in terrible circumstances. It is unspeakable, indescribable. But she decided to tell her story today, in the context of this project about Korea and the Korean War, because she wanted to share the truth about her life.

Thank you, Mrs. Lee, for your courage in talking with us this morning. Every adoption involves compelling stories - stories that involve the strongest emotions that we humans experience. The stories of birth parents are not as frequently told as those of adoptees or adoptive parents. So it was a privilege to hear and learn from this story.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:30 PM | Adoption

May 3, 2007

Teacher Arrested at JFK Airport

NEW YORK -- A public school teacher was arrested today at John Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement.

He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzales said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values.

They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle'."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes."

White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President.

***thanks to HrH for this news flash***

Posted by hgroteva at 10:18 PM | Technology

May 11, 2007


A soft cool breeze

Delivers delicious air.

Minnesota perfection.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:51 PM | Minnesota

Geek Heaven - The Encyclopedia of Life

I heard a fascinating Science Friday episode this afternoon about a new project, "The Encyclopedia of Life," being spearheaded by Harvard's E.O. Wilson, of Sociobiology fame. The goal is to catalogue all species living on Planet Earth in an "ecosystem of web pages." There's a jaunty introduction to the project at its website: eol.org It resembles Wikipedia, in that regular people will be able to upload entries, photos, etc. Check it out! It's almost as much fun as Google Earth.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:08 PM | Life | Technology

May 18, 2007

Ending a Musical Drought

After everything fell apart last summer, I had to resign from the 3 choirs I was singing in -- practicing and making rehearsals were just impossible. It's been a long drought. Last weekend I went to the Waltham Abbey concert - it was thoroughly enjoyable, plus great to see my friends.

Dee told me about a new opportunity. A new music prof at the U is doing a summer choir - the program is the Faure Requiem (with orchestra) - one of my all-time favorites. I've mentioned it several times on this blog. I thought certainly I wouldn't be able to make the rehearsals, but believe it or not, I can! I'm traveling in May, June, and August, but not in July -- when the rehearsals and performance are -- so I have signed up! I can't wait - am already looking over my score and singing along with my CD. (My own form of karaoke, I guess!) It's directed by Matthew Mehaffey, Asst Prof of Music.

Not that that's good enough ... but next Wednesday evening, I'm going to hear Chanticleer, one of my favorite choral groups. They come to the Twin Cities about once a year and always present amazing performances.

And Thursday night, after a year of not being able to attend the monthly sings, I will be able to sing with the Schutz Singers -- a group that meets once a month to sing - just for the pure joy of it.

Life is good!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:34 PM | Choral Music

May 24, 2007

Musical Nirvana

The Chanticleer concert was great. This is probably the tenth (give or take a few) time I've seen the group perform in the past 15 years, and I'm always satisfied. (I even had the pleasure of hearing them on their home turf in San Francisco once, taking P & C, who lived there at the time.)

My favorites of the evening were "This Marriage," by Eric Whitacre and "Village Wedding," by John Tavener. I really like the music by both of them. I just bought one of Whitacre's CDs yesterday ("Cloudburst" - Hyperion LC7533), and, serendipitously, it contains "This Marriage." Three of Whitacre's pieces are also featured on the CD by Conspirare, which I went on and on about here on Feb 14, 2007.

The Chanticleer sound is so pure - spot on. (As it says in the program notes, the group was named for the "clear-singing rooster" in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.) There were a lot of new faces on stage last night; the guys seem to be younger each time I see them. But they have a rigorous travel schedule, and I suspect it's not difficult to burn out after a few years.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time singing with the Schutz Singers tonight. We are a group of about 15 folks from many different choirs who just enjoy singing together once a month. It's extremely satisfying. Folks are good sight-readers and singers, but not prima donnas. Everyone's just there for the sheer pleasure of it. There are no rehearsals and no performances. Tonight we did some Palestrina, Tallis, Weelkes, Byrd, Gibbons, and others. I've really missed singing this year. The choral music scene is one of the aspects of the Twin Cities that I will miss the most - it's quite amazing. Everyone assures me that there's great music in west-central Mass. Next summer, Tanglewood! and the Boston Early Music Festival!

Posted by hgroteva at 4:20 PM | Choral Music

June 3, 2007

Ten Things I'm Enjoying about Austin

in no particular order...

**Reading my favorite novel about emotionally tortured musicians (An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth)
**Hearing live music when I got off the plane at the airport
**Reading Maurice Sendak’s “Pierre? over and over and over and over to Reid
**Seeing Meredith’s big smiles and triumphs as she navigates her new world, walking
**Being chatted up by Nathan, the checker-dude at the Market
**Being truly away from e-mail, guilt-free
**The 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper – it seems appropriate that this would happen while I’m in Austin. The album came out just as I finished my freshman year in college, 40 years ago.
**Chicken molé enchiladas at Curra’s
**Finding new CDs by Conspirare and Chanticleer
**Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla on top of Central Market chocolate crispies

and many more.....

Posted by hgroteva at 9:12 AM | Life | Texas

June 5, 2007



It's funny how even the best movie reviews often trivialize their subjects. I've read several reviews of "Once," (all positive), but wasn't fully prepared for the deeply satisfying film I saw last night. Of course, it'a about musicians, so what's not to like? But the characters are just "real" people. They don't even have names in the film, and I didn't notice until the closing credits. I was just drawn into their lives immediately. After the final scene, no one budged until the closing credits had all run. Now that's a very good sign, indeed. And did I mention how great the music was? I'm going to get my copy today. I won't add to the drivel or even try to summarize or "review" the film, but hey - go see it. Feel free to comment once you have.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:54 AM | Movies | Music - of all kinds

June 12, 2007

Rome Reborn - Virtual Rome

(Associated Press via Star Tribune.com)

This morning's Star Tribune brought news of the exciting new website, "Rome Reborn 1.0", from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

It's quite a project - "a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320". The website includes still images, video clips, audio clips, and scholarly papers.

If you really get into it, check out another site that I have on the Inner Geek sidebar, Capitolium.org, the official website of the Roman Imperial Forum - they complement each other nicely.

And to go yet a step further, check out the website for the HBO series, "Rome." (and see my blog entry of April 6, 2007) I'm still waiting to see whether they'll do a Season 3. Now that I've got my new elliptical machine, I'm ready.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:51 PM | Travel

June 13, 2007

Once Twice


I saw "Once" for the second time tonight. What a gem of a movie. Why am I so drawn to this film? Well, it's about music and musicians. And about spontaneity. And about joy in living. And joy in making music. And about simplicity.

Once - band practice.jpg

And it's about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. And it's about people being decent to each other and doing great things together.

Marketa + Glen.jpg

And it's about passion - doing something you really care about with other people you care about. And being surprised and in a state of wonder and not jaded.

Here's a link about the movie, including the soundtrack that will play for you. I've got the CD and highly recommend it.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:29 PM | Movies | Music - of all kinds

June 18, 2007

Healing Power of Music

Baker from Fergus Falls.jpg
"Steve Baker worked on an amplifier knob at Fergus Music in Fergus Falls, Minn., on Thursday. The store serves as headquarters for Operation Happy Note" (from Startribune.com)

The Strib this morning carried an uplifting piece about Steve and Barbara Baker, from Fergus Falls, who have been sending musical instruments. especially in the guitar family, to soldiers stationed in Iraq. The article showed a picture of crew members from the USS Nashville with their instruments. Apparently, they have a list of 150 musicians waiting hopefully for instruments.

Here is some further information provided by the Star Tribune:
"Operation Happy Note is a volunteer effort to send musical instruments to our deployed service men and women throughout the world. Steve and Barb Baker from Fergus Music started Operation Happy Note after their son was deployed to Iraq. They had sent him a guitar and then a buddy wanted one. These soldiers were so pleased with having these instruments over there that Steve and Barb wanted to find a way to get more instruments to our troops, hence “Operation Happy Note?. Since March of 2005 we have sent hundreds of instruments including guitars, mandolins, banjos, violins, harmonicas, and accessories. Steve also wrote a lesson program with CD for those who don't know how to play.“ We can’t stop now!? says Barb just because her son is now back home with his family. There are just too many requests that keep coming in, these soldiers need the joy that music brings to them. "

soldier with guitar.jpg

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a plane next to a soldier on leave from Iraq. The conditions under which these folks are working are every bit as bad as we can imagine from the media. He talked of 130 degree days, walking around with a 70 pound pack, full combat gear, and wearing gloves because you can't touch anything without being burned. If a few guitars can help these folks keep it together, I'm all for it.

Contact information for Operation Happy Note:
122 E. Lincoln Ave. Fergus Falls MN 56537 | info@operationhappynote.com | 218.736.5541

Posted by hgroteva at 8:11 AM | Music - of all kinds | Society

June 20, 2007

Appealing or Appalling?

You know I like to travel.

When I'm grabbing some lunch at home, I often flip to the Travel Channel to see what's new. This afternoon, I was alternatingly excited and appalled by the show about "The World," the world's "first floating gated community." The management company is ResidenSea. The World is a luxury liner where you can "be at home and see the world passing by your window." It is a residence - people live on board full time, but circumnavigate the globe, calling at exotic ports. Units are as large as a reasonable house (c. 2000 sq ft) and are highly personalized with the most opulent furnishings. The emphasis is on PRIVACY. There are no more than 350 persons on board, although there could be 4 times that many in the same space. The spokesman said the ship was designed for penta-millionnaires. Yes, that means you need to have at least $5 million to afford this lifestyle. And you don't even own your unit. You buy the right of use for 50 years.

Click here for the details and a slideshow about the ship.

At first, I couldn't stop gawking and imagining what fun it might be to live there. Then I felt ... well ... it was just way too far over the top. I've lived in Minnesota long enough to know that it would never pass muster here. Remember, everyone's above average but no one is too much above average. It would fit the Texas life-style, but not the Austin life-style.

It made me think about a piece I heard on Morning Edition on the way to work this morning. If I recall correctly, they said that the cost of the political campaigns of the 10 most hotly contested Senate seats exceeded $250 million last election. That's a quarter of a BILLION dollars on 10 political campaigns. When you add the other Senators, all the Representatives, and the Presidential ticket -- it's absolutely staggering. Think about how much good could be done in the world with all that money.

My idea of campaign reform: let everyone have one brochure (multi-colored is OK, but it has to be copied back-to-back), one website, and one TV debate appearance. Take all the other money and end homelessness and provide health care for everyone.

I know -- it's naive and simple-minded. But hey, it's my blog! Have a nice day.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:15 PM | Life | Travel

June 29, 2007

Seduced by Sudoku

sudoku example.jpg

Blame it on American Airlines. (There are several other things to blame on AA, but that will be the subject of a later post.)

On my flight to NM last week, I didn't feel like reading and the music wasn't enough to keep me occupied, so I opened the AA magazine and found the sudoku page. I had seen these puzzles for several years but had never tried one. Well, why not? So I did, and now I'm hooked.

There's a real satisfaction to unlocking the puzzle. Every row and column must be filled by 9 unique numbers (1-9), and the nine 3x3 boxes within the larger grid also have to contain the 9 unique numbers. As in the example above, the puzzle begins with some of the squares filled in, and all you have to do is fill in the rest. Simple, right?

Well, some are indeed simple - labeled such things as "light and easy," etc. But some are incredibly difficult.

I found that even the first few I did took a fair amount of brain power, but once I got the hang of the logic and figured out several strategies, I started flying through them. It was fun (and psychologically interesting) to experience the quick learning curve.

Now - this type of puzzle requires convergent thinking -- trying to determine the unique solution to the puzzle. What is the one and only one set of numbers that will make it work? Of course, most of life's puzzles aren't solved this way. But every once in a while, it's very satisfying to figure out that unique solution that makes it all click in. Kind of like making that big SPSS syntax file run without a hitch, or making that account balance to the penny. Doing sudoku saved my sanity while surviving in Chicago O'Hare airport for 24 hours - but that's another story too. Stay tuned...

Posted by hgroteva at 10:21 PM | Life | Travel

June 30, 2007

24 Hours in O'Hare

I opened my blog entry for June 20 with “You know I like to travel.? Well, this statement became problematized when I spent 24 hours from hell in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

OHare airport.jpg

My itinerary didn’t even call for me to go through O’Hare. I was spending a week in New Mexico with Susan. But while there, my father was released from the hospital (in New Hampshire) and my sister had several non-negotiable work commitments, so I changed my travel plans to cut NM short and fly to NH before returning home.

It started out smoothly enough, taking off from El Paso. But just as we were boarding, the agent said we’d be making an unscheduled stop in Omaha for refueling. Refueling? Why?

Well, the story goes like this. (And if a physicist or aeronautical engineer can verify it, I’d appreciate it.) It was very hot in El Paso (typically lower 100s in late June), and the flight was full - in fact, oversold. They reasoned that in that heat with a full load, there would not be enough lift to get the plane off the ground with a full tank of gas as well. So they either had to bump 25 people off or not go with a full tank of gas, refueling along the way. It sounded plausible and not traumatic. We landed in Omaha just fine and started to refuel. Then came the rest of the story. There was very bad weather in Chicago, and planes were not being let in. So it wasn’t clear when we could take off. Mercifully, they let us off the plane, which was getting incredibly hot and close.

They warned us to stay near the gate and be able to leave on a moment’s notice. We all saluted. But some people snuck out for a smoke -- outside, of course. And even though they had their boarding passes, the documents didn’t say anything about Omaha. They were from El Paso to O’Hare. So the attentive TSA agents didn’t let them back through security without a lot of cross checking and some angry words and flared tempers. This delayed our departure, but we finally did leave.

By the time we got to O’Hare, I had missed my connection to Providence. (Yes, the closest I could get to NH on 2 days’ notice was Providence, a 2+ hour rental car drive away.) If we had taken off 10 minutes earlier, I would have made the connection and wouldn’t have this fascinating story to tell.

O’Hare was chaos. They said we should go immediately to the relevant gate (I did, but the plane had left), or call their 800 number on our cell phone, or stand in the re-booking line. Me and about 500 other people. I stood in one line for FOUR SOLID HOURS. They had 5 agents trying to serve about 500 people. I tried to call the 800 number while standing in line, and it first said the estimated wait time was 37 minutes - then it cut me off! Which was good, because my battery would have died. (One by one, cell phones were shutting down as batteries died.)

I really felt sorry for the families with little kids and seniors traveling in wheel chairs. Once I finally got up to the desk (after midnight), the agent booked me on a Continental flight -- but when I came to take the flight the next morning, there was no such flight. No such departure time, no such flight number. Hmmm.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. While I was standing in line, Susan was trying to find me a hotel room (online back in NM). Word was that there were NO rooms available in the city. Amtrack was also completely sold out. After trying almost 100 places, she found a room in Glendale Heights, purportedly not too far from O’Hare. I was very grateful!

So after rebooking my (bogus) flight, I confidently left the airport to get a taxi to Glendale Heights. When the Suburban taxi pulled up, I was a bit suspicious because it was a black limo with no meter. I asked what the approximate fare would be: $75 one way! WHAT!? Even under the best circumstances, I would only be at the hotel 4 or 5 hours, because I had to be back at the crack of dawn. So I told him to forget it. He said he’d take me for $60. I declined.

So I went back into the airport and thought I’d go and claim one of the cots they were setting up, if there were any more left. (I doubted there would be, but thought I’d try.)
Guess what? Security was closed until 3:30 a.m. So I had the pleasure of spending the night in the baggage claim. What happens in baggage claim over night, you might ask? Welding, floor waxing, cleaning, and oh those announcements every 3 minutes. I knew them by heart. The threat condition is orange, don’t pick up unattended luggage, and remove your electronic objects before going through the magnetometer (seriously).

I felt like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.? (great movie, by the way.)

airport chair sleep.jpg

Food?? Hmm, dinner never happened. I had a bag of trail mix, but had already ingested a zillion peanuts. The only food open in baggage claim is the 24 hr Starbucks. Coffee was NOT what I needed. Hey, they have great baked goods. But hey, I can’t eat any of them. Fortunately, they had yogurt. It helped make my throbbing headache go away.

Of course, I was still confident that I’d get out in the morning, not knowing that I had a bogus reservation (I’m glad I didn’t know at that point.) After I discovered the non-existent flight, I had to spend an hour on the phone rebooking again. The agent told me he couldn’t get me to the East coast until Sunday. Sunday! It was only Thursday! So I said - go home; this is not working. Can you get me back to MSP? No - but I can get you to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Fine - get me to La Crosse. (and where is that??) And by the way, that plane departs in 12 hours. So another 12 in O’Hare. The seats in the main terminal aren’t much better than in baggage claim -- and oh those announcements and ubiquitous TVs.

Finally got to La Crosse, and Mark drove there to pick me up. We made it home at 1 a.m. Almost 36 hours later, I still don’t have my suitcase.

American lost a customer on this one. As Susan pointed out, the U.S. transportation system works great when there are no problems (strikes, bad weather, terrorists) -- but throw one monkey wrench into the mix and the dominoes start falling - and bring everything to a standstill. That’s what happened Wed / Thursday. There were huge storms in Dallas (the main AA hub) and Chicago - and everything just domino’d one after another.

I’m glad to be home and am looking forward to re-connecting with my luggage. At least I won’t have to go to La Crosse to pick it up. In the meantime, Dad made it home and has no memory of having been in the hospital for two weeks. But that’s a topic for later.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:07 PM | Travel

July 6, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging - Dylan & Chloe update

Dylan + Chloe at computer.jpg

The New Mexico branch of our Tonkinese family is doing very well - they gravitate toward computers as much as their humans do. Here are Chloe and Dylan, enjoying their place of honor where their human works.


Chloe is a bit like our other females, MacKenzie and Sadie. She's on the smaller side and is a bit more stand-offish. She doesn't particularly like to be held or petted for very long.


Brother Dylan, on the other hand, is a bit like older brother Pookie - He's very into creature comforts and would probably share that brandy with Pookie, if he had a chance to. On the other hand, he's the one who bolts for the door when it opens and has led his human on many a chase around the parking lot. Fortunately, so far he has been willing to be caught.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:07 AM | Cats

July 15, 2007

In Memoriam, Howard Don Small


UPDATE: Constance Schey has established a memorial page for sharing reminiscences about Don Small. Go to http://www.res-miranda.com/HDS1.html

I lost one of my most important music mentors, and the world lost an incredible church musician on July 13, 2007. Howard Don Small served as Canon Musician at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, Minneapolis, from 1971 - 1998. Although many things will be said about his extensive professional accomplishments, I wanted this blog entry to be a more personal remembrance.

Although I only sang under Don’s direction for about five years (first in the Cathedral Choral Society and then in the Cathedral Choir), working with him had a profound effect on me as a musician. Let me mention a few ways.

First, his focus was always on the inextricable connection between music and worship. Choirs were not in church to perform. They were there so be an integral part of worship. That always took precedence. (Choir directors do not universally hold this view!) Singing with him exposed me to the world’s greatest choral literature - such a gift.

Don conducting.bmp

Second, he expected and received excellence from everyone - the very best we could possibly give, every time. In turn, he gave the same himself. His dedication and passion for sacred music inspired all of us to continue learning, striving, and improving. Singing under his direction gave me the encouragement to keep trying and stretching.

Third, he valued and supported community. The annual overnight choir retreats were truly bonding experiences for all, and he and Emma frequently opened their home for parties and celebrations. Through the choir, I made some very good friends and shared times of joy as well as sadness. A fellow choir member referred me to Groves Academy for our son; it was truly a godsend. I came to realize how much Don, Emma, and St. Marks were at the center of a hub of vibrant choral activity in the Twin Cities. Everyone who was anybody knew them and their work; many had studied or sung with Emma or Don.

One of my most cherished memories is participating in the recording of the CD, “Blessings Great and Small? during June 1997.

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Steve Barnett was the producer, and Preston Smith was the recording engineer. The whole experience was professional at the very highest levels. I had a number of out-of-body experiences during the marathon sessions, just as I am now, savoring the memories while listening to the CD.

Don had experienced a number of health challenges over the past decade, but memories of him are strong and very much alive. Thank you, Don. Rest in peace.


In January 1998, at Don’s retirement party, I had the privilege of “representing? those who joined the choir in the 1990s as we extended tributes during the evening. I found the notes from what I said, and they seem like a very appropriate way to close this entry. Here goes:

Sometimes things that we do as part of our everyday activities touch others’ lives in ways that we never planned, expected, or heard about. You have touched my life in several ways, and it is out of gratitude that I recount a few stories.

I moved to Minnesota in January, 1990, and Susan and our son Mark followed that summer. We first lived in an apartment near Summit and Dale in St. Paul, and we attended the church of St. John the Evangelist. By autumn, we moved to our current home in Falcon Heights; commuting to St. John’s was difficult and not sufficiently rewarding to continue.

I don’t remember how we heard about the Lessons and Carols service at St. Mark’s - perhaps from the newspaper or from a friend - but it was either that Advent or the year following that we attended for the first time. We were both quite moved. About halfway through the service, I remember that Susan and I looked at each other, and without saying a word, said, “This is the place we’ve been seeking.? Thus, your music ministry had a direct connection to our joining the parish of St. Mark’s.

I had sung in a number of choirs through the years and fantasized about how wonderful it would be to sing with the Cathedral Choir. I talked to a number of people about it, including Lee Brant, whom I met at a newcomer’s dinner. All were enthusiastic about my interest, but all spoke of the “C? word - commitment. At that time, my job was totally consuming, and I couldn’t foresee making the time commitment necessary. Not long after, however, I read the announcement in the bulletin about the Choral Society. It seemed to fit my situation perfectly, as the time commitment required was limited, but it would give me the opportunity to sing under your direction.

I distinctly remember the first season I gathered my courage to come to Choral Society. It was winter, and the first rehearsal was to be on one of those terribly cold January or February nights when schools and offices had been closed and the city was very quiet, except for the howling snow. Not knowing whether rehearsal would take place, I called the Cathedral, and surprisingly, was put directly through to you. I asked if the Choral Society rehearsal for that evening would proceed, given the bad weather. Your response was simply, “Well, I’ll be here.? The simplicity, clarity, and assuredness of your response resonated strongly to me, and I was there too! To my amazement, almost 40 people showed up that night, on time for the downbeat. This told me a lot about your professionalism, dedication, and ability to inspire the best in others.

A third small encounter with you led me even further down the path. I had already been singing with the Choral Society for about 3 years at the time of the celebration of your 25th anniversary at St. Mark’s. On the way out of the service that Sunday, I stopped to shake your hand in congratulations, and in thanking me, you said, “I hope you’ll join us for Summer Choir.? That small bit of encouragement and connection, offered simply, was all it took to move me to the next step.

My time in the Cathedral Choir has been transformative for me. My spirituality has deepened considerably. As I remarked to a friend who asked me about my experience, “How could you sing those words week after week and not be affected?? My skill as a musician has improved, thanks to your musicianship, Emma’s contributions, and lessons I have taken with Brian and Rick. I feel that my grounding has been re-shaped and re-discovered. I never think about the “C? word [commitment] - as it’s simply there. I never doubt that I’ll be able to follow through as a full participant. To the degree possible, I now plan my professional commitments around choir, rather than the reverse.


Your retirement evokes many feelings in me:
appreciation - for your qualities of professionalism, musicianship, and leadership - as a teacher myself, I have learned from you;
gratitude - for the opportunity to grow, learn, and deepen my spirituality;
sadness - that you will be leaving, but also;
happiness - that you will be able to be relieved of the extreme pressure of your role to do things at a manageable and enjoyable pace. (Will you be composing?? I hope so!)

So Don, Godspeed on your journey. Thank you for touching my life in small but very impactful ways. I am sure that my few vignettes are not unlike those that could be told by many others. And I hope that when I retire, a few students remember me with the fondness that many (such as I) remember you with.

Indeed, Godspeed on your journey.

from the Fauré Requiem
In paradisum deducant angeli; in tuo adventu sucipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem.

God’s holy angels lead you to paradise; may saints in their glory receive you at your journey’s end, guiding your footsteps into the Holy City Jerusalem. Choirs of angels sing you to your rest, and with Lazarus raised to eternal life, may you forevermore rest in peace.

Haddayr, Another choir member, posted this moving remembrance of Don.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:40 PM | Choral Music | In Memory / In Honor

July 22, 2007

Free Concert - Fauré Requiem

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You are warmly invited to attend the concert of the University of Minnesota Summer Chorus
Saturday, July 28
7:00 pm
Ted Mann Concert Hall, U of MN West Bank
*FREE* admission
Directed by Matthew Mehaffey, Associate Director of Choral Activities, U of MN

Fauré, Requiem
Fauré, Tantum Ergo
Britten, Jubilate Deo
Vaughan Williams, Down Among the Dead Men

You may know from prior blog posts that the Fauré Requiem is one of my all time favorites ... partly because it has wonderful tenor parts throughout, and partly because it is such comforting music. There are about 60 of us in the chorus - an interesting blend of people from the community and U of M music students. It's been fun to put it together.

For an informative website about the Requiem, visit http://members.macconnect.com/users/j/jimbob/classical/Faure_Requiem.html

Posted by hgroteva at 9:09 PM | Choral Music

July 25, 2007

Nate died today.


Well, not exactly.

You see, I am watching all of Six Feet Under as I work out on my elliptical machine, and today I saw episode 61, in which Nate was buried. Very very sad.

I was touched by the poem that Nate's Aunt Sarah (Ruth's sister) read at the graveside. I searched for it on the HBO website, and this is what I found.

from The Mystic Odes of Rumi via the 5th Season of Six Feet Under

Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For he who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding him, say neither bad nor good,
For he is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that he may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.

...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:01 PM | Six Feet Under

July 28, 2007


Tonight was our performance of the Fauré Requiem. It's such an amazing piece -- consider the breadth of emotions it expresses ... from fear and trembling at the thought of everlasting desolation, to the peace of being welcomed into heaven by the chorus of angels. Considering that Matthew pulled together a chorus of strangers of varying backgrounds and rehearsed us for only 3 weeks, I thought the performance was quite good. The soloists were U of M music faculty and added depth and mature voices to the piece. I found that I barely needed to look at the score; I have it basically memorized. (Which is good, because we were standing on risers and my music was jammed up against the head of the fellow in front of me.) Despite how many times I've sung it before (maybe a half dozen?), I could sing it again and again. It made me wonder what choral adventures await this coming year and the year after.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:02 PM | Choral Music

July 29, 2007

Home Is Where They Have To Take You In When No One Else Will

Six Feet Under - Fishers.jpg

I watched the last episode of Six Feet Under this morning. At their core, the Fishers are the most traditional of families, while at a glance, they may look dysfunctional and crazy. Ruth embodies the unconditional love that is at the center of their family. Although each member moves in and out and has all manner of planned and unplanned misadventures, Ruth remains in the eye of the hurricane. She keeps her door unlocked, and no one in her family is turned away, even if she knows they will break her heart again. Socialized to relate only to the most traditional model of what family should be, she moved to embracing the most unconventional and diverse in all its beauty and awkwardness.

When Claire prepared to leave for New York, Ruth said, "I pray you will be filled with hope as long as you possibly can." That sums it up. Yes - life is difficult and to think of it as all happiness and satisfaction is grossly naive. At the same time, we must continue hoping each and every day. It's what keeps us being able to put one foot in front of another.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:06 AM | Family | Six Feet Under

August 3, 2007

We Are Slow Learners

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(photo from KARE11.com)

This morning’s paper was full of the stories that have come after the disasters of late: Katrina, the Tsunami, Virginia Tech. There are stories about the randomness of it all, the faces and biographies of those who perished, and the tales of the many who selflessly and spontaneously helped. It’s all too familiar.

There are also the recriminations and the political spin about whose fault the bridge collapse really was. Was it the governor? the legislature? MNDOT? the bridge inspectors? the engineers?

We have seen the enemy, and it is ourselves.

We, the voters, have elected a string of public officials who feel they have a mandate for “no new taxes.? This isn’t something they dreamed up. It’s what the voters who elected them wanted. Now our shortsightedness is coming home to roost.

We want it all. We want excellent education, highways, health care, and social services, but we want someone else to pay for them. Huh? The headline for Myles Spicer’s op-ed piece this morning read, this is a “wake-up call for taxpayers.? Yes, we must wake up. Continuing to dream will just mean that we experience more avoidable acute disasters (like bridge and dyke collapses) as well as slow and imperceptible declines (condition of our health, education, and the common good).

The Republican National Convention will be meeting in the Twin Cities; it will be interesting to see what that talk will be like. All national politicians will be having a hey-day with this.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 AM | Minnesota | Society

August 5, 2007

Heavenly Retreat

Here's a little slice of heaven on earth. It's a B&B off the Turquoise Trail, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Here's where we ate breakfast this morning.

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And here's a view of the inside.


And now I'm going to go and enjoy it.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:16 PM | New Mexico

New Age Meets Old West

We ate dinner tonight at the Mineshaft Tavern, in Madrid, NM (with the accent on the first syllable of Madrid). The blue corn chicken enchiladas with red chiles were good, but I still like the chicken mole enchiladas at Curra's better. The place had lots of atmosphere - bikers, old hippies, locals, a very interesting mix of folks. Lots of tatoos, big beards, and a good time was being had by all. The band playing was good too - playing some stuff from Woodstock.

On the wall by the saloon-type bar, was the following sign:

Madrid's Nude Geezers
2008 Calendar
Be a Part of It!
Inquire Within

This afternoon, there were some dramatic thunderstorms. Around here, they call this the monsoon season --- but that just means they haven't been to India. Following our picture at the Mineshaft are a few of the more dramatic clouds of the day. Enjoy. I am.




Posted by hgroteva at 11:25 PM | New Mexico | Travel

August 11, 2007

Puppies = Toddlers

When I was picked up at the Albuquerque airport last Saturday, I noticed an animal cage in the back and asked something like, "We aren't taking the cats, are we?" The answer came back "no." Puzzled. Then she said, "It's not a cat cage." Putting 2 + 2 together, I'm sure I said something stupid like, "You don't have a dog, do you?"

Well, she didn't then, but she does now. Welcome to Sierra, the latest addition to the menagerie.

We picked her up on the way back to Las Cruces from Shangri-La (aka the Hacienda de Dona Andrea de Santa Fe). She's a cute, active yellow Lab. She's very loving and thirves on attention and affection. (I'm sure the Dog Whisperer would disapprove. The human - animal dominance hierarchy has not yet been fully established in this household.) So I've been helping puppy-proof the house. Just like a good toddler would, she led us right to the things that we had to modify immediately. The first was the rubber-tipped doorstop. She had that rubber tip in her mouth faster than I could turn around.

She is not fully house-trained yet. However, we are getting much better trained to know when to take her outside. It's really not the animals that get trained. They must have a huge laugh off of we humans. (For a great blog that takes the dog's point of view, I highly recommend Bosco Dog Blog - I've enjoyed it for several years.)

We just returned from Pet Smart with three gates so that we could keep her corralled in the tiled kitchen, especially while S goes to work. Each gate has a little cat door at the bottom, which Sierra immediately figured out and went through. Well - Dylan and Chloe will have to have their food put elsewhere.

It's been fun watching the dog and 2 cats accommodate. There haven't been any huge blow-ups yet. Sometimes Sierra jumps around excitedly, like she wants to play. She and Dylan have stared off enough times, that they now can co-exist. Chloe was reluctant to come out of the closet for the first few days, but is now just walking around as usual. Fairly easy.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:56 PM | Dogs | New Mexico

August 14, 2007

Sierra's Home


This holiday has turned out much differently than I expected, but for some reason, I was never quite sure how it would turn out. Each time we had a "plan," it morphed under our feet. Much of our time has focused around Sierra and getting the NM house puppy-proofed. The back yard is now secure so that she can't slip through the wrought-iron gates on the sides. Despite the intense heat, the patio is in the shade much of the day - she's comfortable there, and she has her wading pool to splash around in.

Sierra + her pool.jpg

And there are 3 pressure gates that can corral her in the kitchen (on the tile floor) until she is fully potty-trained. We haven't used potty-words so much since we had toddlers (of the human kind!) An unexpected preoccupation!

Sierra is a very sweet dog - a nice disposition, eager to play and to please. She has definitely bonded with her master, in part because of the long walks they take each morning. She has also had some inter-species encounters with Dylan and Chloe -- she wants them to help her play with her squeaky bone.

Interspecies play.jpg

To be honest, I really enjoy her ... but I am not ready to take on that level of responsibility on a daily basis. Independent cats are more my speed at this time. I asked S how long she's wanted a dog. The answer was "Years." So I'm sincerely happy for her.

In case you're wondering how Dylan and Chloe are doing, here they are - stationed next to the computer.

Dylan + Chloe.jpg

On the other hand, I can tell I'm already feeling very parental and protective. Today we stopped by to tour a local doggy day care center. S has to drive me to Albuquerque on Friday for my flight, and it's almost 250 miles each way, so we thought we'd give day care a try. Well....... the poor dogs are lined up in narrow runs. "Day care" means that they are let out into a large field, as a group, to fend for themselves. I had flashbacks of some poor day care centers we saw when we had little kids. We're thinking Sierra might make the trip to ABQ with us..... The amazing thing is that the dude ranch is already booked solid for Thanksgiving and Christmas into 2009. I think there's a market niche to be filled here...

Posted by hgroteva at 2:41 PM | Cats | Dogs | New Mexico

August 17, 2007

Friday Cat/Dog Blogging

Alas, my holiday ends today so I wanted to share a few last pix of the NM menagerie and their keeper. They're quite photogenic, don't you think?

Cats together3.jpg

Cats together5.jpg

Susan Sierra outside.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:05 AM | Cats | Dogs | New Mexico

August 26, 2007

In Memory, Wayne Caron

Wayne Caron.jpg

UPDATE 8-29-07
I am still not able to comprehend Wayne's death. The deeper it sinks in, the sadder I get. But I found the visitation and funeral service for Wayne to be very healing. The visitation was so crowded that people were spilling out into adjacent rooms. There was no shortage of amazing stories about the many ways in which Wayne touched many individuals' and families' lives. It was good for us all to laugh together. At the funeral service, three things struck me. The priest's sermon focused on the Beatitudes (from the Sermon on the Mount) and on how Wayne's life exemplified the best of them. The measure of a man's life is his love, and not any of the superficial trappings we become so concerned with. Wayne's love was as wide and deep as anyone I know. Second, the priest said in closing that there is a Spanish saying that a person dies 4 times. The first is when his heart and brain stop functioning; the second is after the funeral; the third is after the burial; and the fourth is when people stop speaking of him. We can be assured that Wayne will live on in many, many minds and hearts, and in that sense he will never die. Finally, all these experiences have led me to wonder how much we really know one another. We tend to know each other in the roles in which we interact, but it is the rare event indeed where people from our various non-overlapping social circles come together. It's been wonderful to get to know many more sides of Wayne in the past few days. I wish I had been able to do it earlier.

I lost a friend and good colleague last week. Dr. Wayne Caron died unexpectedly, way too early at the age of 51, from a pulmonary embolism. I am still in shock. I will be writing more here or elsewhere about Wayne, but there is some urgency about communicating the details of the services in his honor. The following information is quoted from a message from Pam:

"As most of you have heard, Wayne Caron passed away very unexpectedly last week from a pulmonary embolism. His son Chris Caron, all of Wayne's family, and I [Pam] are broken hearted.

Visitation will be Tuesday night, August 28, from 6:00-9:00 p.m., at Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel, with memory sharing beginning at 8:00 that night. Please come and bring your favorite stories about Wayne to share with others.

The address of Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel is 3888 W. Broadway Avenue (39th Avenue North and West Broadway), Robbinsdale, MN 55422 (763-537-4511).

On Wednesday morning, August 29, at 10:00 a.m., there will be a funeral mass said at St. Raphael’s Church, 7301 Bass Lake Road, Minneapolis, MN 55428 (763-537-8401). There will be a lunch at the church immediately following.

Please spread the word of these celebrations of Wayne’s life with his friends, co-workers, students and families with which he worked. "

If you want to hear his voice again, here is a link to a video presentation he gave about the Family Caregiving Center.

Please visit the Wayne Caron Memorial Page at

Posted by hgroteva at 10:44 PM | In Memory / In Honor

September 2, 2007

Scenes from the Renaissance Faire

Last Saturday was brilliantly sunny, and 75 degrees with a slight breeze. A perfect day.
Except that I was still reeling from the news of Wayne's untimely death. Tromping around the Faire helped distract me from my grief a little, but not much. Here are some scenes that I hope you enjoy and can escape into as needed.



Faire36-belly dance4.jpg


Faire32-tall puppets.jpg

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Posted by hgroteva at 5:42 AM | Culture | Minnesota

September 10, 2007

"Nessun Dorma" Sung by Pavarotti

The world lost an incredible tenor last week when Luciano Pavarotti died. I have never been a huge opera fan -- a close friend of mine whose family listened to the Texaco Hour every Saturday while she was growing up once commented that it is an "acquired taste" - and I have to agree. But I do love some of the famous arias. And my most favorite is "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot. It was one of Pavarotti's signature pieces.

Courtesy of YouTube, here he is singing it at the Torino Olympics in 2006. I would swear that during one of his rests towards the end where the orchestra is swelling, the audience is singing it in the background. The whole thing gives me goosebumps!! Enjoy...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:28 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Music - of all kinds

September 29, 2007

The Jazz Image - Cheers to Leigh Kamman

Leigh Kamman.jpg

I'm listening to the last broadcast of The Jazz Image on MPR -- hosted by Leigh Kamman.

Here is a link to his farewell message to those of us in the audience.

I've enjoyed the show for years. There's something both exciting and soothing about his theme music from Alice Babs -- she hits those sweet high notes just like butter. His show provided my broadest and deepest exposure to jazz, and I am thankful for it.

Jon Bream's column in the Strib this morning noted that Leigh was the "Voice of Jazz" for 6 decades. Now 85, Kamman has interviewed countless jazz musicians and played their music on his weekly show. Now that he's signing off of the show, he plans to return to writing a book he began in the 1970s. Good for him!! Congratulations and godspeed! and thanks...

Here's a site where you can contribute your memories of his program and read what others have said.

And now, back to listening....

Posted by hgroteva at 9:30 PM | Music - of all kinds

October 5, 2007

Blast from the Past

"Across the Universe" was quite a trip, on a number of levels. Of course, the Beatles songs were excellent and brought back so many memories. The scenes of the 60s demonstrations and riots catapulted me back to all the unrest about the (other) war. "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

With characters named Jude, Lucy, and Max, there are bound to be schlocky moments. But on the whole, it was a great nostalgia interlude in a serious week. Some of the psychedelic camera work was excellent. And I could feel the pain and exhilaration and ambivalence in all the leads. Go with an open mind, and let it take you where it will.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:03 PM | Movies | Music - of all kinds

October 16, 2007

The Power of Language and Quandaries of Perspective

I’ve just finished two intense days at the Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference in Washington, sponsored by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Ethica, among others. Around 300 people connected with adoption in varying ways came together to discuss ethical issues facing adoption today – and there was plenty to discuss. In this post, I’d like to reflect on the use (and power) of language and how disagreements about language often reflect quandaries of perspective.

Language has always been an important topic in the discussion of adoption. Marietta Spencer, one of the pioneers of post-adoption services, wrote years ago about the importance of respectful adoption language and the power of words to hurt those involved in adoption. Several points relating to adoption language were emphasized at the conference.

Thankfully, people have stopped referring to an adopted child’s biological parents as natural parents (as opposed to unnatural?) or real parents (as opposed to unreal?) Given the tension in the adoption community about the process of placing a child for adoption, many are now advocating that the term “birth parent? be reserved for biological parents who have already placed a child for adoption. Some prefer that “birth parent? not be used at all, arguing that “first parent? or “original parent? would be more appropriate. Prior to the child’s birth, the biological parent is an “expectant parent,? because it is not legally possible to relinquish one's parental rights until after the child is born.

This discussion reflects quandaries of perspective. Consider a case in which prospective adoptive parents have met the expectant parents of the child they hope to adopt, and the adoption appears on its way to becoming a reality. In the adopters' minds, the child is on the way to being a member of their family, and the expectant parents are that child’s birth parents. But the birth parents don’t become birth parents until they have legally placed the child for adoption. The distinction expresses respect for the adoption process to take its course and for the right of expectant parents to make their own decisions about placement in a deliberate and considered manner, without coercion, including the coercion of language.

Robin Heller, an adult adoptee with a social work background, drew the audience’s attention to the passive language by which adoptive persons are referred. Adopted persons “were placed,? they “were given up,? they “were relinquished,? and if they are searching for birth relatives, it was because they “were lost.? She advocated for consideration of the adopted person as an autonomous moral agent, not a passive object of “the system.? Some adopted adults at the conference echoed discontent with constantly referring to adoptees as children, because they do grow up, and those at the conference were adults.

Several issues of language emerged at the workshop on assisted reproductive technology (ART). It was noted that “donor conception? (conception by means of the egg or sperm of a person who will not be the social parent of the child) is really not about “donation,? which implies a free contribution. Women and men contributing donor gametes (at least in the United States) typically receive money for their service. The panel pointed out several ways in which ART shares issues with adoption, and several ways in which it does not. One panelist suggested that donor insemination be referred to as “medically assisted adoption,? since the child who will be born is not the biological child of both rearing parents.

His story provided an interesting example of a quandary of perspective. He grew up in a two-parent family with four boys. One of his brothers was adopted, and he knew that his father was not able to have biological children. Because he knew he himself was not adopted, he jumped to the conclusion that he must have been the product of an affair of his mother; it was not until he was 37 that his mother disclosed that he was conceived through donor insemination. This panel also raised the concept of “fertility tourism,? the phenomenon of people from wealthier countries traveling to poorer countries in search of less expensive fertility treatments and/or donor gametes.

Ethical practice in adoption is a moving target and always will be – adoption is inherently embedded in culture and history. Barb Holton, director of the AdoptUSKids project, said to the audience: Today we are sitting here, asking “How could they have done it that way 30 years ago?? She cautioned that 30 years from now, our successors will be asking the same thing about what we did in 2007. Remembering that will keep us humble, but also moving forward and never allowing ourselves to rest on our laurels, thinking the work is complete.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:49 PM | Adoption

October 26, 2007

Memorial Service for Wayne Caron - TODAY Oct 26

The Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, invites you to attend a memorial service in celebration of the life and service of Dr. Wayne Caron from 3:00 - 4:30 on Friday, October 26, 2007 in room 274 McNeal Hall, St. Paul campus.

We welcome you to attend this remembrance of our colleague who was such a great teacher and an inspiration, mentor, friend, and caring professional to those who experience Alzheimer's Disease within their families.

We continue to collect your reflections, stories, photos, and comments about Wayne. If you wish to post anything on his Memorial Page, please e-mail your contribution to caron@umn.edu

Posted by hgroteva at 9:16 AM | In Memory / In Honor

October 27, 2007

One Last Farewell to Wayne

Wayne's vast, diverse social network said farewell, corporately, yesterday afternoon. About 150 people jammed the Fireplace Room in McNeal Hall and the crowd overflowed into the hallway, but no one seemed to mind the cramped quarters. Now two months after his untimely and surprising death, his memory still evokes incredible affection and admiration. The stories shared were moving - lots of laughter and lots of tears. But the highlight was Dean Bayley's announcement that the university values the Family Caregiving Center so much, that it is naming it after Wayne. So henceforth it will be the Wayne Caron Family Caregiving Center. The enterprise he struggled so hard in life to sustain has new life, following his death. One of life's bittersweet paradoxes.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:34 AM | In Memory / In Honor

November 1, 2007

Past, Present, Future

I thoroughly enjoyed handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters last night. Almost 40 kids stopped by the house -- mostly young kids with their parents. One of our neighbors down the street always served hot cider for the parents -- a welcome assist on a cold night. (He was mayor of our burg at the time; I wonder if they still do it??) The costumes were fun; one boy was a robot (or perhaps the tin man from Oz), but his costume was home-made with aluminum foil, and you could tell he put a lot of his own creativity into it. I reminisced with a few of the parents about the big Halloween blizzard of '91. That was our second year in Minnesota. I was trick-or-treating with Mark in tow, and it was starting to snow. I thought to myself, "Well, this is quaint. Does it always snow on Halloween here???" Of course, the rest is history. By morning, 24 inches of snow were on the ground and the city was at a stand-still because all the plows were still being used for clearing leaves. We got another whammy at Thanksgiving, so the snow was on the ground continuously from Oct 31 until the usual spring thaw. A LONG winter indeed. Then my thoughts turned to the future. Where will I be living next October?? I know it won't be in this house, but I have no clue where it will be (specifically). Adventures await.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:48 PM | Minnesota

November 11, 2007

Waltham Abbey Singers Concert Nov 18

All are welcome to the fall concert of the Waltham Abbey Singers.
Sunday, November 18, 7:30 pm.
St. Paul's on the Hill Episcopal Church
1524 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN
on Summit, one block east of Snelling

Join us as we present Andrea Gabrieli's Magnificat, Jean-Josepoh Mondonville's Coeli enarrant gloriam Dei, plus works by John Sheppard, Guillaume Dufay, and others.

Admission: free-will offering

For more information about the Waltham Abbey Singers, visit www.wabbey.org

After a year away from this group, I've very much enjoyed singing again this fall. Brian announced that we'll be doing some of the Penetential Psalms by Lassus during the spring - they are amazing. Demanding and rewarding. Rehearsals feel like penance, but there is redemption on the other side...

Also, feel free to click on the category "Choral Music" on the right-hand column of this blog, and look at the entries for Jan 14 and 15, 2007.

Hope you can join us!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:56 PM | Choral Music

November 18, 2007

Reflections on Tonight's Concert

What a joy it was to sing with Waltham Abbey tonight. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity, and to have done it with good friends.

Here's a favorite quote from Peter Sellars, which seems particularly appropriate.

"Vocal music is an attempt to take the whole human being and project it into space. It is the ultimate gesture of getting out of yourself. You take a part of you that is most private, most personal, most inward, and you hurl it out into space - you project it as far as you can. That gesture of opening the whole body results in an enormous spiritual release, and is felt by other people with tremendous impact."

Posted by hgroteva at 11:31 PM | Choral Music

November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I always enjoy Thanksgiving morning by listening to "Turkey Confidential," -- Lynne Rosetto Caspar's special live call-in show. (Go to splendidtable.org ) People call in with all sorts of cooking emergencies: turkeys that caught fire, turkeys that didn't cook, tipped over tanks of hot oil, etc. She has a reassuring way of helping people through their challenges, while adding in a good dose of humor and goodwill. I'm glad the show is streamed online - people are calling in from all over the country. I look forward to being able to listen from wherever I will be.

This may be the only Thanksgiving that Mark and I share by ourselves. We've enjoyed planning the meal together. I'm making the turkey and gluten-free dressing, and he made a flourless chocolate cake last night. It looks quite amazing. It is extremely rich -- pretty much all chocolate, sugar, eggs, and a little coffee. We'll miss not being with the rest of the family, but we'll all be together for Christmas. It's snowing as I write this, so it definitely feels like a holiday.

2007 has been a year of many transitions. Many work transitions (occurred and anticipated), housing transitions, pet transitions, health transitions. It has made me reflect on the meaning of "stability." We tend to think of the life course as a series of stable times punctuated by transitions (developmental or unexpected). I'm beginning to think that stability may be the illusion, with change being the norm. Ever since the co-occurrence of 3 major life changes in 2006, I've found that I simply expect more change and can let go of expectations about what will be. Without the illusion, life seems more fragile -- but it also makes it more difficult to take things for granted and more important to express thanks. On NPR, Anna Quindlen read the following from her book, A Short Guide to a Happy Life: ... "Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God gave us."

Music alert -- Next Sunday, December 2, at 4:00 pm, the Gregorian Singers will do their annual Advent Procession at St. Paul's on the Hill Episcopal Church, 1524 Summit Ave (just east of Snelling). It's a beautiful service, and a wonderful way to begin preparation for Christmas. I enjoyed participating in this service during my two years singing with the Gregs -- although balancing music, bells, and candles while singing and processing in the dark did present a challenge of the highest order.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:14 AM | Choral Music | Life

November 24, 2007



I'm not quite sure how I missed Beowulf in high school -- but it would probably have been lost on a bunch of 15 year olds. However, it certainly wasn't lost on me at this ripe age. Universal themes of heroism and vulnerability, Faustian bargains, temptation, power, greed, fame --- kind of sounds like U.S. politics, doesn't it??

Mark and I saw the film on the IMAX screen at the Minnesota Zoo (largest screen in Minnesota: 90 ft wide x 60 feet tall), in 3-D. I mainly wanted to see it for the technology. I heard it reviewed on MPR this morning by the "movie maven," who declared it to be the worst movie of the year. Well - to each his/her own. She complained about not being able to identify with the characters. Well, give me a break. This is an epic poem from sometime between the 8th - 11th centuries.

The technology was quite amazing, IMO. The 3D effects really grabbed my attention. It felt like blood was coming right out of Grendel into the audience. And when Beowulf was flying along on the dragon's back, it felt like I was there too. I was afraid that with my various eye conditions, the 3D glasses wouldn't work, but the effect worked well.

On the blog, "Underexposed," Greg Foster, Imax's chairman was quoted as saying, "When you experience 3D with us, you experience the 3D at the bridge of your nose. It is an immersive, full-contact experience." No kidding.

beowulf ms image.jpg

Maybe the film will rocket the epic poem back into consciousness so that people can consider what was known centuries ago. Who was it that said that those who don't understand their history are doomed to repeat it?

I'll be taking a look. In the meantime, go see the movie, just to marvel at the technology. Put yourself in the place of one of the geeks dealing with the animation, and say "thank you."

Posted by hgroteva at 12:08 AM | Movies | Technology

November 30, 2007

Biebl Ave Maria

I got to sing the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl last night for the first time. What a joy! I have loved this piece for years and have sung along to countless CDs, but have never sung it with a group. It calls for 7 men's voices - a trio and a quartet. At the monthly gathering of the Schütz Secret Singing Society, we sing simply for the joy of it. (Repeat that sentence out loud, quickly, five times, at your own risk!) It's a group of about 15 - 20 people (some more regular attenders than others), and we have a wonderful evening sight-singing new pieces and re-experiencing old favorites. Last night we did some Christmas stuff - my first inkling that the season is approaching. But the Biebl was a huge treat and made the evening for me. I think it affected all of us the same way. The women had already departed to begin experiencing the wonderful food and wine our hosts had put out, but we men just kept singing away. The Biebl is a signature piece of both Chanticleer and Cantus, two favorite groups of mine. But there's nothing like singing it yourself. Here is a YouTube of Chanticleer performing it. Happy holidays!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:23 AM | Choral Music

December 3, 2007

U.S. to Join the Hague Adoption Convention in December

A message from the U.S. Department of State ....

"The U.S. Department of State, Office of Children's Issues, is pleased to announce that the President signed the U.S. instrument of ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention on November 16. The legal requirements for ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) have been completed, and the formal deposit of the instrument of ratification will take place on December 12, 2007! The Department will announce the official U.S. effective date—projected to be April 1, 2008—in the Federal Register. The Hague Adoption Convention protects children and their families against the risks of unregulated adoptions abroad and ensures that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of children. The Convention also serves to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children.

Once the treaty is in force, the new processing requirements for Hague adoption cases will take effect for adoptions between the United States and more than 70 Convention members. The new process protects the rights of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents while promoting transparency, accountability, and ethical practices among adoption service providers.

The progress we have made toward joining this important Convention would not have been possible without the hard work and cooperation of the whole U.S. adoption community, including families, adoption service providers, and public servants who have helped us make our laws and regulations among the best in the world. The dedication of the adoption community to the improvement of intercountry adoption practices has been invaluable and is greatly appreciated. We can all be proud this December when Assistant Secretary Maura Harty deposits the U.S. instrument of ratification at The Hague. Congratulations to all who have helped make this possible!

For more information on intercountry adoptions and the Hague Adoption Convention, please visit the Intercountry Adoption page of the Department of State website:


Posted by hgroteva at 10:48 PM | Adoption

December 5, 2007

The Gift of Shoveling --- and Petaluma Afternoon

My least favorite time is here -- shoveling season. It's probably clear that I'm not a native Minnesotan, because I have never "embraced the winter," as Eric Friesen (from MPR years ago) advised. As I was grumbling about shoveling my driveway on Sunday after the city plow had pushed a foot of hard gunk into the mouth of the drive, I thought about what my good friend Jean told me last year at this time: "You have been given the gift of shoveling." There's a lot of wisdom in that sentence. I think I commented on it last year too.

Re-framing is an important skill to have at this time of year, and I appreciate this particular one. Yes - it is a gift and a privilege to be able to shovel. The man across the street had a leg amputated last summer because of diabetes. He no longer has that gift.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, "The Dust of Snow". I discovered it when I was in the Navy, wanting desperately to be somewhere else.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

I had that experience in the car on the way to teach this morning. (It was 12 degrees BTW.) On the radio, they were singing a song about "Petaluma afternoon." It was evoking a fine summer day in northern California. One of the verses said "Breezes blowin' ... Serotonin flowin'..." I had to smile!!

So now when I am grumpy about shoveling, I have my choice of thinking about my gift -- or about a Petaluma afternoon. It's nice to have options.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 PM | Life | Minnesota

December 14, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: The Huddle

Tonkpile 121407.jpg

Winter has truly arrived, with nighttime temperatures (air, not wind chill) below 0 F. The tribe really has a hard time in the cold weather -- they are truly heat-seeking devices. We play a little game with the heating pad that Susan left behind. It's about 24 x 8 " and they can all fit on it (barely) if they line up like sausages. When only one is on it, he/she stretches to take up the whole thing. The idea is to expose as much surface area as possible to the heat. Same goes for the radiator. MacKenzie especially loves to stretch out on top of the warm radiator, exposing every square inch possible to the heat.

Anyway, the game ... The heating pad has an automatic timer that turns it off after 30 or 60 minutes (you can set it.) Often, when I'm working in my study, I'll turn the heating pad on for them in the bedroom. About 10 minutes after it turns off and cools down, MacKenzie will come padding down to my study and jump in my lap, then want to be held like a baby on my shoulder. Within 30 seconds, Shadow will be bopping in, wanting the same. And of course, they both want to occupy the same space (on me) at the same time. It's hard to do much else with 2 cats on my shoulder, so usually I carry them back to the bedroom and turn the heating pad on again.

For several years, I have used their heating pad behavior in my human development class as an example of classical conditioning. The heating pad makes a little "ding" sound when I turn it on. The cats have learned, through association, that "ding" means "the heating pad is warming up - time to jump on." And they do. But it just hit me that they have conditioned me (instrumental conditioning) to carry them back to the heating pad -- since every time both of them pile on while I'm trying to work, I carry them back and turn the heating pad on again, thus rewarding their "jumping on" behavior. They didn't want me - they just wanted me to turn the heating pad on again! (Although who knows the inscrutable ways of cats...) Another example for the next time I teach learning theory!

Tonks have no respect for personal space. Shadow is A+ in that domain. This morning, while trying to sleep at least a few minutes past 6:00 a.m., he decided to lay on my face -- I guess my face is warm and he figured it might be as good as a heating pad or a radiator. But the fascinating thing was that he positioned his purr-er right over my ear. He makes quite a racket! So I consulted Wikipedia to find out how cats purr. Here's what it said:

"A purr is a sound made by some species of felines and is a part of cat communication. It varies in detail from cat to cat (e.g., loudness, tone, etc.), and from species to species, but can be characterized as a sort of tonal buzzing. All domestic cats purr in a frequency range of 22.4 to 30.2 hertz. Some cats purr so strongly that their entire bodies vibrate; conversely, other cats may purr so quietly that the only indication is a vibration felt when touching the cat's throat. ... [Shadow's is definitely a full-body purr.]

"Despite being a universally recognized phenomenon, the exact mechanism by which the cat purrs has been frustratingly elusive for scientists. This is partly because the cat has no obvious anatomical feature unique to it that would be responsible and may also be partly because a cat placed in a laboratory for examination is unlikely to make the noise.

"One hypothesis, backed up by electromyographic studies, is that cats produce the purring noise by fast twitching of the muscles in their larynx, which rapidly dilate and constrict the glottis, thus causing vibrations in the air both during inhalation and exhalation[1]. There is also some contribution from the diaphragm. A timing mechanism in the brain sends neural messages to the muscles in the larynx, rhythmically opening and closing the air passage approximately 25 times per second.[2] Combined with the steady inhalation and exhalation of air as the cat breathes, a purring noise is produced with strong harmonics.[3]"

Fascinating! The author is certainly right that cats don't purr on demand. So maybe I can contribute my good fortune (of being a target of purring) to purring research -- I'll have to think about that. Woops - MacKenzie just walked in the door and jumped on my shoulder. Must be time to turn the heating pad on again.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:03 PM | Cats

December 18, 2007

The Gift of Music - Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium

I was just listening to MPR before dinner and heard a recording of Morton Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium" sung by the Dale Warland Singers. I cranked it up full blast and luxuriated in the sound. I have sung this a few times, first at St. Marks, and it moves me every time. Today is the anniversary of its first performance -- December 18, 1994. Not that long ago. Just a blink in the history of music.

So I set out to find a YouTube of it as a Christmas gift to my readers. And here it is. There were several to choose from, but I liked this one the best because of the sound and the group's obvious sincerity, even though it's a home-made video. Note that the singers have memorized the music and are singing with men and women interspersed. Both of these allow and require them to watch and listen with every ounce of energy available. It worked.

The YouTube site didn't provide a lot of information, but it appears to be the UST Alumni Singers, under the direction of Allan Diona Sims - performing at the Hollywood Festival 2006. Not sure what "UST" stands for. If anyone knows, let me know.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this and can take a moment to reflect on the mystery and wonder of Christmas.
[Caution: the applause at the end breaks the spell, so be prepared to exit quickly after the last chord]

Here are the words, by the way.

O magnum mysterium, et admirable sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentum in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia!

O great mystery, and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in their manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

Posted by hgroteva at 5:06 PM | Choral Music

December 26, 2007

Betrayed by Blue Bell

Blue Bell.jpg

One of the (not too) guilty pleasures of visiting Austin is Blue Bell Ice Cream. It's really the best, IMHO. My very favorite is to mix Homemade Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate together in the same bowl. Yum!

To my dismay, I learned on Christmas Eve that Dutch Chocolate contains wheat flour. As a person with gluten intolerance on a gluten-free diet, I check labels religiously. However, It never occurred to me that chocolate ice cream would offend. Chocolate chip cookie dough - yes, of course; but not plain chocolate. So I'll have to suffer with just plain Homemade Vanilla. I can hear the violins warming up in the background...

On the Blue Bell website, I noticed the new Chocolate Covered Cherries flavor (above). Hmmm .. that would go with Homemade Vanilla! I'll be checking the ingredient list as soon as I can make it to the grocery store.

Happy new year everyone!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:43 AM | Life | Texas

December 30, 2007

From Technicolor to Grey

After spending 10 days in the land of warmth, vivid colors, Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, and chicken molé enchiladas, it's back to cold and grey. The sun has not peeked out since I've been back home, and there are no immediate prospects on the horizon. And there's a huge icicle hanging on the power lines to the house; I hope it doesn't all come crashing down -- c'mon sun, do your thing!

The trip was enjoyable and much needed. It involved a lot of good food, a lot of "hanging out," a few good movies ("Atonement" - highly recommended .... and "Once" -- I got the DVD for Christmas). Reid and Meredith are at wonderful ages -- 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 - both in awe of the world in their own ways. Even though Halloween is long past, they enjoy dressing up in their costumes. Here are the bumblebee and the dragon.

M R in costume 1207.jpg

I'm counting on the colors in their costumes to add life to the bleak landscape outside.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:34 AM | Family | Life | Minnesota | Texas

January 1, 2008

Update on the Monster Icicle

In my last post, I mentioned the huge block of ice precariously hanging from the power lines going into the house. Well, I had an interesting conversation with my sister this afternoon. It went kind of like this:

sis: "the weather's really bad here (north of Boston) -- lots more snow and ice, blah blah blah"
me: "yeah, it's terrible here too. Probably won't get above zero today, blah blah blah"
me: "you wouldn't believe this huge chunk of ice hanging on my power lines."
sis: "Can you call the power company?"
me: "I'm sure they'd just tell me to hire someone to get it down with a blowtorch."
sis: "Have you tried a hair drier? That's how I defrosted my refrig when I was in college."


So I headed out to Target to get a hair drier. (I certainly don't have enough hair to warrant having one for the usual purposes!) Fortunately, the ice block was just outside the second story window in my bedroom, and I could open the window and hold the hair drier up to it, which I did. (The cats, comfortably stretched out on their heating pad, thought I was nuts.) As I was not-too-patiently holding the drier up, I thought maybe I could bang on the ice and some would fall. So I got a metal hammer and banged away, just like I saw folks hammering away at their ice dams on the news last night. Sure enough, a huge chunk of it fell down. There's still a solid chunk hanging on the power line, but it must weigh 25 pounds less than before. So three cheers for sibling collaboration!

PS: I have never forgotten how to spell "icicle," because that's the word I missed in the school-level spelling bee competition in the 6th grade --- As soon as I - C - E... came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong, but it was too late.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:23 PM | Life | Minnesota

January 5, 2008

Stories That Didn't Quite Make It

The first week of January is always a good time for some house-cleaning. I'm on a tear now, especially realizing that I'll be moving in May -- I'm in a tossing mood!

Which brought me to a foot-high stack just left of my desk - various articles I'd set aside during the year to blog about, but they never quite made the cut. Since they were runners-up to the topics that made it, I thought at least their headlines deserved 5 seconds in the sun. Most are from the Star Tribune or New York Times. So here goes....

Gutter Talk: "You can spend less than $100 or more than $3000 to keep your gutters free of leaves. Here are the pros and cons of several systems." [Deliver me from ice dams.]

A Taste of Family Life in U.S., but Adoption is in Limbo -- one of a growing number of heartbreaking stories abput difficulties in international adoption.

Bloggone! - Ennui and exhaustion are idling some online opiners. Next year may see a decline - or at least a leveling off - in the blogging boom.

The church or the trees? Redwoods, the official tree of California, threaten a historic church in Monterey. The church wants the trees gone; the city prefers a compromise.

Modern technology can really divide us (Thomas Friedman) - thoughtful piece

Southern warmth covers a lot more than the weather, darling (Garrison Keillor) - The codger didn't like it when the airline clerk said "Have a good flight, darling." sour, sour, sour

Unleash your inner nerd (or geek or dork) - I already have. Mentioned the many online tests to see if you are a geek or a dork.

Friends for Life: An emerging biology of emotional healing (Daniel Goleman, NYT) -- Cites John Cacioppo, who states that "the emotional status of our main relationships has a significant impact on our overall pattern of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activity."

When Seeing is Not Believing -- Andrew Sullivan (Time mag) on the rise of fundamentalism and why embracing spiritual doubt is the key to defusing the tension between East and West. (a keeper)

What to Keep or Toss when purging papers (a keeper -- woops)

Refugee issue comes into play as town bans soccer in park (Why can't we get along?)

Medical due diligence: A living will should spell out the specifics (Too close to home, with my father's illness)

The Racial Politics of Speaking Well ("For whites, the word "articulate" is a compliment to anyone. For blacks, it can be a toxic adjective.") - NYT

Dealing with Box elder Bug Problems without Pesticides --- (we have them, and this article helped)

The simple justice of mental health care -- Why punish Minnesotans just because they're sick?

Broken Promises: The collapse of a New Hope adoption agency has put in limbo some Minnesota families waiting for children around the world --- more heartbreak.

Pacemaker for the brain found to aid memory. (Ever since I saw Johnny Mnemonic I wondered about adding to my hard drive topside!)

Alzheimer's figures expected to soar once boomers turn 65.

And to conclude, for now --
a cartoon with a quote from Sinclair Lewis:
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Posted by hgroteva at 8:01 PM | Life

January 8, 2008

Stories That Didn't Quite Make It - Part Deux

Some more runners-up:

I-35 is road to salvation, say some Christians. (where do I start?)

Website can see if a vacation fits your 'travel personality' --actually it's pretty good. Go to www.besttripchoices.com

Upgrading to office 2007 - Request an upgrade today! (Whoever came up with this sadistic "re-design" should be __________ (fill in the blank). I hate it. I especially hate programs that try to anticipate what I will be typing or wanting to do. The first thing I do when Word is re-installed is turn off all the spell checkers, grammar checkers, shortcuts, etc. Don't get me started.

The Boys in the Band are in AARP. It's a life of married sex, cholesterol drugs and rock 'n' roll. (smiling)

Rare employee behefit: Gift of life. (an amazing story about School of Social Work colleagues Peter Dimock and Peggy Pond. Peggy donated half her liver for Peter; the story is wonderful.)

Who are You? (websites that help you figure out which Greek god or goddess you are, which movie villain you are, or which medieval vocation you are.) -- I am Hermes.

Finding Some Calm After Living with the Shakes. -- Jane Brody about "essential tremors," which several of my family members have.

Study Suggests Meditation Can Help Train Attention.

This is Your Life (and How You Tell It). (great to see an article about narrative psychology in Science Times -- I love Tuesdays.)

Last but not least: "Find Your Star Wars Twin"
Uses the Big 5 personality model to link you to Star Wars folks. I'm a cross between Chewbacca (neither nervous nor calm), a Jedi master (loyal, sensitive, and sympathetic), and the rebel admiral (known for his great powers of organization, responsibility, and administrative abilities. He is an individual who can be relied upon.)

Posted by hgroteva at 5:41 AM | Life

January 13, 2008

Adventures in Moving Part I: Countertop Hell

The beginning of the new year means that I have to get serious about selling my house. it's not that I've been not-serious about it. I just haven't done much (but worry). Now, I'll convert the worry to action. Of course, action brings other worries. So writing about my adventures will allow a bit of catharsis for that. I'd be very interested to hear of readers' perspectives or experiences that might help in my decision-making.

The first step in selling the house is deciding what to repair, re-do, remodel, fix, upgrade, etc. The first realtor who saw the house last fall said I definitely had to replace the kitchen countertops. OK - snap the fingers and voila, end up with something like this picture? Not quite.


Where does one even start? I started with Home Depot last Sunday. I made it clear that I was moving and wanted to put as little as possible into this, because I was sure I would not get the money back in the sale -- but I did want it to look good and improve the sale-ability. One thing that countertop salespersons are really good at is making you feel cheap about such perspectives and that you really NEED granite, corion, and the fanciest possible surfaces.

From my drawing of the kitchen, we estimated that I'd need 54 square feet of countertop. Seems like a lot for such a small kitchen, but.... Home Depot didn't even want to talk about the possiblity of laminate. (yucky plastic) Granite would run about $4000, but that would involve removing and replacing the sink. Quite honestly, I hadn't realized that they have to completely tear out the old countertops before installing the new ones.

I did find a company that installs over existing countertops (Granite Transformations). Their bid was $3300, which still sounded like a lot, but which is sounding better and better! What I realized, of course, is that the existing sink would not work with the new countertops --- which means a new sink and possibly modifications to plumbing. We have a great backsplash, but maybe the countertop wouldn't go with the backsplash, so we'd have to replace it too. And of course there are the edges to think about (per linear foot). So we are talking a major kitchen remodel. I've lived through that before and have no desire to do it again.

countertop colors.jpg

Another factor is time. The Home Depot solution involved a series of subcontractors (tear out and remove countertops, remove sink, put in new countertops, replace sink, etc.) and could extend over the period of a month. The Granite Transformation solution would only have the kitchen out of commission for 2 days max. (sounding better and better as I write...)

The realtor I interviewed last week said I should go for Cambria -- reasonably priced and better than granite. Well, yesterday, I went to another place that had Cambria and was immediately steered to Meganite (what focus group came up with these names???) Cambria would be $77 per square foot, and Meganite would be $64. I am now waiting for a formal bid, but by the time you add all the labor, sink, and add-ons, this will probably be a $5000 job. Ouch! (Susan has wanted new countertops for years; the thought that we'd have to install them as we move is one of life's unhappy ironies.)

Along the way, I learned about another factor that hadn't occurred to me: weight. Granite is heavy -- very heavy. One person said I might have to reinforce the floor. Yesterday's salesperson said that the countertop overhang on the peninsula (where we have slide-under chairs) would require struts for support. Of course, that's not included in the per-square-foot cost.

Boy, I've learned a lot in the past week! Not what I had planned on learning, however. Anyway, I'm sure there will be a growing number of adventures to report on. Alternative solutions welcome! I meet with another realtor this week and get the bid from the other countertop store this week -- then I'll have to decide and move on to the next job.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:37 AM | Moving

January 17, 2008

From Countertop Woes to Countertop Solutions

After a week of misery, fretting about the ridiculous cost of replacing my countertops, I had a visit today from the handyman recommended by the staging consultant. He took a look at our nice-looking decorative tile backsplashes and tile floor, and suggested a tile countertop. Tile could be laid over the existing surface, would cost a fraction of the other solutions, and could be started on Monday. CHEERS!!

Here's an example of a tile countertop from google. Susan's house in NM has tile countertops, and they are quite nice. Why didn't I think of this earlier??

tile countertop.jpg

Next challenge: getting rid of all that 80s wallpaper and making a decision about the hot tub. I hope the next owner of this house will appreciate the good deal they will be getting, and I hope that I'll be able to land a similarly plum deal on the other end of my move.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:27 PM | Moving

January 24, 2008

Angels Exist

During a stressful time when life feels pretty over the top, it's so reassuring to feel the presence of angels. Kind of the same feeling when I posted "The Kindness of Strangers" on Oct 5, 2006. This week's angels....

**volunteered to take care of my cats for 3 months while the house is on the market

**faxed proof of S's driver's license from the MN DMV to a rental car agency in Seattle --- a truly dedicated, caring public servant

**offered to provide some career counseling to M

**turned in the lost drivers license at the ABQ airport rather than started a new bank account and stole an identity

Thanks to angels, seen and unseen.
I will pass it on.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:12 PM | Life

January 29, 2008

Waiting for the Wallop

for posterity, I must quote from Paul Douglas' weather column in this morning's Strib. I can't wait...

"Minnesota is not for the timid. Most years we earn our reputation as the Super Bowl of Weather. ... Today ... an arctic front will squeeze out a few inches of snow, winds will gust over 30 mph, and visibilities will drop to near zero at times as powder blows and drifts. A slow commute this morning may degenerate into an icy, frustrating, slow-motion crawl this afternoon as snow is compacted, flattened by continuous traffic into an icy glaze, even on the freeways. I fear the PM commute may mutate into ... possibly one of the worst travel days of winter. Enough snow may fall to plow and shovel, followed by a dangerous low of -10 to -20 by daybreak Wednesday ... Can spring be far behind? You betcha!"

Posted by hgroteva at 8:57 AM | Minnesota

February 7, 2008

In Memory, Gerhard Neubeck, 1918 - 2008


I knew Gerry for 18 years, since I arrived in Minnesota. He was already retired by the time I came, but his stamp on the department was legendary. One of his favorite activities was to participate in the pot luck luncheon that welcomed the new graduate students at the beginning of the academic year. He would always have a poem ready ... witty, pithy, and a bit corny ... but endearing. Gerry, you will be missed. Here's more information about his remarkable journey...

from the Family Social Science website: fsos.cehd.umn.edu

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our dear friend, colleague, and mentor Dr. Gerhard (Gerry) Neubeck. Gerry began his professional career at University of Minnesota in 1948 after already experiencing a lifetime of fortune and tumult.

As a Jewish teenager from Dortmund, Germany, Gerry nearly qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in the 3000m run. Soon after, he realized he had to leave his home country. After immigrating to the United States with his wife Ruth in the late 1930s, Gerry became one of the nation’s foremost leaders in the fields of human sexuality and marriage and family therapy (MFT). He served terms as president both of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) and the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (AAMFT). After graduating from Columbia University, he went on to accomplish a number of ‘firsts’ in his field. In the 1960s he taught the first college course on human sexuality.

Profiled in Look magazine, this course gained Gerry scores of attention for his work. He is credited for being the first to use group sessions for marriage therapy and also was the first to pen a book on the topic of extramarital affairs. In 1972 he joined the department of Family Social Science, where for many years he ran the marriage and family therapy program. Over the course of his tenure, Gerry was pivotal in training countless MFT experts including David Olson and Jim Maddock.

After retiring in 1986, Gerry and his wife Ruth spent much of their time keeping busy with their long-time hobbies. Gerry was a prolific writer of poetry and Ruth a potter (dubbed the “Poet and the Potter). Some of Gerry’s poetry has been published and crossed over into the academic world to appear in textbooks focusing on family relations. Since his retirement, Gerry has remained a regular around the department. He read his poetry at everything from new graduate student welcoming functions to faculty retirement parties. Gerry said during a 2004 interview: “Family social science has always stood on the strength of great faculty. Not only the talent of the faculty—including multiple NCFR and AAMFT presidents—but also the intimacy. The faculty has always been very close.? Gerry will be greatly missed.

Excerpt from Gerry’s poem, Affairs of the Heart, published in 1998:

I want to find me
that I lost long, long ago
when I was a child
in a world that was all grown up.
It would be nice indeed.
To become acquainted again
With that me, the me of my youth.

Here is a link to the obituary that ran in today's Star Tribune, complete with a photo of him running in the trials for the 1936 Olympics.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:30 PM | In Memory / In Honor

February 9, 2008

Latté Express

coffee cup.jpg

1 cup of milk, heated 2:20 in the microwave on high
1 tbsp. of Taster's Choice instant coffee, dark roast

Add coffee to hot milk. Stir until frothy. Enjoy.

This is totally sacreligious for any coffee purist, but it's a) convenient - no need to leave home and use that car; b) easy - pour, stir; and c) inexpensive - probably about 50 cents a cup, instead of $3.50 at you-know-where. I was surprised at how good it tasted and think it's not too far off of the real thing. Of course, you can add as much coffee as you want to suit your taste, and you can use decaf or regular, skim or 2%, etc. etc. Gratuities may be sent c/o Inner Geek.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:11 AM | Life

February 12, 2008

Encounters with Self-Confidence

For the past 2 weeks, I've hired a young man (referred by the staging consultant who was referred by my prospective listing agent) to do some work around the house, preparing it to sell. He's a cheerful, energetic, self-confident guy -- eager to take anything on. Just about anything I asked him to do, he said -- "sure, no problem." Then as he got into doing things, it became clear that he was over his head on a few of them. He was sure he could bleach a water spot out of the hardwood floors. Not. He bid the painting of the hallway walls -- I thought that would include baseboards and door jambs, but no. (Why would you paint all the walls but not the door jambs that had paint from the same vintage?) He thought he had the tile countertops all figured out, but once he tried to work out the geometric pattern, he realized how complex it would be. I'm actually quite glad that he signalled his discomfort; I removed that from our agreement and have already found someone else to do it. He was also very confident about the timetable he was working on. However, everything ended up taking about twice as long as he projected.

SO -- a good example where unrealistic self-confidence can be an asset to the person -- sort-of. He ended up not doing the whole job, but what he finally did was good (albeit late, and with much feedback). If he had hemmed and hawed around what he could do and how quickly, I might not have hired him. In the end, he did much of what he agreed, and earned most of the money we agreed on (because of several add-ons). A good example of where self-confidence, even when it's a bit unrealistic, may be more adaptive (for him, at least) than a more realistic self-appraisal and self-presentation. Hmmm.

What did he win? He got the job, and partial pay, and worked at his own pace anyway.
What did I win? I got a job, partially done and not on schedule, for a decent price.
What did he lose? He lost my respect. I probably wouldn't hire him again or recommend him to others.
What did I lose? time and hassle

So for him, any gains may be short-term because they won't lead to future work, at least from me. But he knows I'm moving out of state, so why should he care?
I'll be talking with my social psychologist friends about this one.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:25 AM | Life

February 15, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Cat Lovers

Shadow + MadKenzie Feb08.jpg

In celebration of Valentine's Day, it seems only appropriate to check in on one of our pairs. Shadow (left) and MacKenzie are definitely a two-some. Although they look a lot like each other, they are physically very different. Shadow is lean, muscular, angular, and a bit skittish (at first). (When he settles in with that loud purr, it always feels like a real victory.) MacKenzie has extremely soft fur and is very delicate. After the lights go out, she's always the first to sidle up for a pet, but Shadow is usually no more than 10 seconds behind her. He frequently climbs all over her in order to get his own "spot" - sometimes she stands her ground, and sometimes she goes on to other things. But the two of them are inseparable, consistently. They had a good Valentine's Day together.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:41 AM | Cats

February 17, 2008


Tenderness - that's the word that comes to mind when I reflect on Gerry Neubeck's memorial service this afternoon. The atrium of McNeal Hall was packed to overflowing. There was (Minnesota - understated) joy in celebrating his rich life and his wonderful family, but of course it was a bittersweet occasion because of the loss. Music and poetry were the media for communication - wonderful music. His granddaughter played "Meditation" from "Thaïs" on the violin -- a beautiful solo... one that would make the angels weep. His grandson played a wonderful guitar solo. I loved the interplay between him and his Dad, who was standing aside and just behind him. They stole loving glances at each other throughout the piece -- more tenderness. Gerry touched many lives in a positive way ... his spirit will live on for generations. His life has made this world a better place. Rest in peace. (Although his clear instructions, in one of his last poems, was that we should dance on his grave, whoop it up, and celebrate life!) L'Chaim!

Posted by hgroteva at 6:00 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life

February 22, 2008

Before ...

Before - peninsula.jpg

Before - sink.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 9:13 PM | Moving

February 24, 2008

Heard on SNL

Heard on SNL last night (welcome back, writers!)

"Did you hear that 50% of American marriages end in divorce?"

"Well, the other half end in death."

Posted by hgroteva at 11:32 AM | Family

February 25, 2008


During 1.jpg

During 2.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:18 AM | Moving

March 2, 2008

A Tribute to My Dad

Floyd Grotevant 2006.jpg

Paul Mark Dad 0388.jpg

My father, Floyd, died yesterday, March 1, 2008 in Bedford, NH at the age of 87.

He was born on September 20, 1920 in Albany, NY. He graduated from Utica (NY) Free Academy and met his future wife (and my mother) Betty there. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1942, rising to the rank of Signalman First Class. Following the war, he and my mom settled in Utica to start their family. He began working for Campbells Sales Company in 1945, where he was employed for 40 years until his retirement. Most of his working years were spent in Dallas, TX, which he loved because of the warm weather and golf opportunities it afforded. After launching my sister and me and retiring, he and my mom moved to Presbyterian Village North community in Dallas. He was a proud veteran and provided leadership for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day observances at PVN. In 2006, he moved to New Hampshire to be closer to family.

He was an avid movie photographer of almost 60 years. He and mom traveled widely across North America and also enjoyed one trip to Switzerland and several cruises in the Caribbean and the Alaskan waterway. His enjoyment of people came through in his work as a salesman and in the many ways in which he was engaged with life. He loved tinkering in the garage with his “inventions? and editing his movies, always with his favorite Big Band music in the background. We played Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the Andrews Sisters, and others from the WWII era steadily for his last 3 days.

But his true passion was golf. He played every chance he could. He proudly walked the course and carried his own bag, often running circles around the younger salesmen he supervised. Like many of Brokaw’s Greatest Generation, he loved his country, his wife, his family, and his life. His grandchildren all called him “Pop,? and will miss his willingness to get down on the floor or in the pool and play with them. (He didn't want to be called "Grampa" or anything like that, because he wasn't "that old.") The picture above is of my two kids with their Pop, c 1988.

He died peacefully, held by my sister and me, following a bout of pneumonia. When he took his last breath, Robert Goulet was singing "Sunrise, Sunset." Services will be held in Nashua NH. At a later time, my sister and I will return with him to Dallas, where he requested to be placed next to our mom for the rest of time.

A friend sent me this beautiful poem written by John O’Donohue on the death his father. It is on the NPR / Speaking of Faith website (see below for URL to hear him read the poem).

Beannacht ("Blessing") by John O’Donohue
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you. And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.

You can listen to it by clicking here

I'm sure I'll be writing more about my dad in the future. In the meantime, it's sinking in ... very slowly.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:34 PM | In Memory / In Honor

March 7, 2008

Time Stands Still

Time has stood still for the past two days. It feels like I have been lifted out of the normal stream of time and slammed into another dimension, disconnected from the "real" world. The visitations for my Dad were yesterday, and the funeral was today. I was amazed and gratified that family and friends from all over the East and as far away as Alabama made the trip to honor their uncle / brother-in-law / pop / friend.

I reconnected with some cousins I had not seen in 50 years, and others I had only seen once or twice in that time frame. My best friend / college roommate / best man / godfather of my son traveled from New York and surprised me at the church this morning. The staff from Dad's assisted living community turned out en masse to honor the man they had grown to love. My daughter-in-law's father drove in. Flowers were beautiful, and it was a tender tender time. It was close to overwhelming.

I'm very grateful that my sister and I honored our parents several times in recent years (their 50th anniversary, and my Dad's 80th and 85th birthdays.) For his 85th, we put together a large powerpoint slide show with photos going back to the early 1920s. For his visitation hours at the funeral home, we updated the slide show, adding about 40 new pictures. It provided a powerful way for folks to connect with his life history and with each other, since many of them and their loved ones were in the photos too.

We've gotten pretty good at gathering for funerals and weddings. I hope that the years to come will provide many more gatherings for just everyday hanging out. Turns out I have a substantial number of cousins, nieces, and nephews in New England, so my move should facilitate that.

My father loved golf - he loved the physical activity, and it was one of his most beloved ways to engage life. So it was only fitting that I concluded my eulogy by reading a poem that my mother-in-law, Helen Burton-Miskell, wrote for his 85th birthday. He liked it then, and it seemed a fitting way to mark the end of his life.

"Ode to Golf"
by Helen Burton-Miskell

What better way
To start the day
Than tap the ball
Into the cup
Just as the sun
Is coming up;

Or tee it off
Into the air
And watch it fall
This side of there,
But close enough
To make me smile;

Or lift it up
With just the iron
To put it down
Upon the green,
So close it rolls
Into the hole;

Or walk upon
The healthy green
And watch it spring,
Keep springing back,
Despite the traffic
On the scene.

What joy, what joy
To take a swing
And feel that I
As well can fly,
Watching the ball
Upon the wing

Till out of sight
Beyond the woods,
Where it alights.
I search and find.
Feeling as young
As any boy,

Whose surging blood
By nature sings,
I am as near
To heaven here
As anyone
In love with life.

What better way
To start the day.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:57 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life

March 10, 2008


That's the average number of "data transmission events" per month the average web user is subjected to on Yahoo related sites alone. A data transmission event occurs each time you navigate a web site and the site collects information on you -- your IP address, page views, length of time spent on each page view, etc. Advertisers say that it is to benefit consumers -- so that only dog owners are subjected to dog food ads, they say. But it has gone much further than that. Read all about it in the NY Times article "The Web is Keeping a Close Eye on You."

Of course, all this goes on behind the scenes and unknown to the web user. Interestingly, a study of California adults found that 85% felt their movements on the web should not be tracked. (When did 85% of Americans agree on anything??) So why is there so little outcry about this??

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM | Technology

March 14, 2008


What a pleasure it was to come home to beautifully completed countertops after an exhausting two weeks dealing with illness, death, funeral, family gathering, and the aftermath. Thanks to Kevin at Rosecraft for such a wonderful job. The geometry of the design worked out well, and the tile beautifully complements the tile backsplash and floors already present. This week ("spring break" - ha!) will be for packing, cleaning, moving the cats to their temporary new home, loading a POD, and officially putting the house on the market. It probably won't all happen this week, but it will be close.





Posted by hgroteva at 9:38 PM | Moving

March 18, 2008

Countdown to April Fools: T minus 14

Well, I am now seriously serious about getting the house on the market. I signed a listing contract and have to have it ready to be photographed on April Fools Day -- 14 days from today. The agent I'm working with hires a professional photographer to take the pictures, and they post them on the web + develop a virtual tour. I saw some of her work and was quite impressed. For a sample, go HERE to the agent's website, and click on "virtual tour" for one of the properties.

I've already had the staging consultant come through once -- that led to removal of all wall paper, fresh paint upstairs, new ceramic tile countertops, and the first stage of decluttering. I'll have her come through for one last pass after the POD is filled.

The proposed listing price is a Bear-Stearns bargain basement deal ... or at least, it feels that way. It breaks my heart to price it so low, but hopefully it will sell quickly. (It's a great house, if anyone out there is interested. Once it's listed, I'll post a link here.)

So now the scheduling begins.

Today - the guy comes from 2nd Wind to disassemble the elliptical. I will miss it for the next 2 months, but I'll be getting lots of exercise toting, moving, cleaning, bending, stretching, etc. -- and then I'll want to walk or bike outside as soon as the snow melts.

Tomorrow -- I deliver the cats to their new, temporary home. They know something is up. When the real estate agent was here, they kept climbing on the table so she couldn't write, and Sadie jumped on her shoulder. (Fortunately, she was cat-friendly ... but she strongly concurred that the cats had to go while the house is being shown. She said cats can do a great job of sabotaging a sale!)

Thursday - Merry Maids comes to bid on the "deep cleaning" job.

Then sort, pack, box --- more runs to Goodwill, more ads on Craigslist...

Friday the 28th, I'll have the PODS unit delivered and will fill it - to disappear Saturday, when Merry Maids will work their magic.

Then final touch-ups and hopefully I'll be ready on 4/1. The biggest dilemma now is whether to fill the hot tub. We have a 4 season porch with a hot tub on it. The hot tub has been turned off for about 3 years (long story, but not because it doesn't work). The agent said I had to remove it (would be extremely difficult and expensive and I'm not willing to do it) or have it up and running (a hassle to get it up and running again and keep maintaining it). I can understand the logic about having it up and running, but I would have to drain it when I leave (end of May) anyway because no one would be here to maintain it. So chances are the person who ultimately buys the house would not see it running anyway. I would be happy to guarantee that it would work or make some kind of assurances, but I'm resisting the hassle of getting it going again. Opinions??

I'll post the countdown progress periodically.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:11 PM | Moving

March 20, 2008

T minus 12

Well, the guy came from 2nd wind, and the elliptical is now broken down for packing. The cats were delivered to their new quarters last night. We've framed it as "summer camp" for them. It's so fascinating how their personalities came through with the move. Once in the new home, Sadie jumped immediately out of her carrying case and started exploring -- running around, jumping on and in things, poking her nose everywhere quite autonomously. Shadow explored too, but was pretty skittish about it. Poor MacKenzie found a bed and hid under it. But when the others found her under the bed, they joined her and then they all came out together -- good siblings! And Pookie went back into his carrying case and cried a bit. But by the time I left, they were all happily being petted and seemed remarkably at home. They've got lots of familiar things - their climbing tree, heating pad, beds, etc. -- and they will be heartily loved. Thanks SO much to B, L, & KM for welcoming them into their home.

Today, Merry Maids came and bid on my deep cleaning job -- they will be coming a week from Saturday, once everything is in the POD. They will do everything except the outside of the windows, which I will have to contract separately. Tonight I took 7 bags of books to re-sell. B&N took the cream, and then Half Price Books took the rest.

Tomorrow, it's back to packing and sorting.... and getting ready for the week ahead. It's also Good Friday, and we are due for several inches of snow. It will be a good day to stay in, but I plan to go to hear the Durufle Requiem at the House of Hope in the evening. It is one of my most favorite choral pieces - I've sung it several times and loved it. Watch for another report at T minus 10. Still no decision on the hot tub.....

Posted by hgroteva at 8:16 PM | Cats | Moving

March 21, 2008

"Spring" - Good Friday 2008



Posted by hgroteva at 11:50 AM | Minnesota

T Minus 10 -- setback?

The plan continues forward with one major exception. I spent an hour with the PODS people yesterday placing my order. At the end of the conversation, we were discussing the specifics about how the PODS unit would be delivered. They found that our burg prohibits the placement of a PODS unit on the street in front of a house, so it would need to go in the driveway. And it requires at least 12 ft. width, which we don't have. We have a rather narrow one-car-width driveway, which borders the neighbor's flower garden. So it would have to go over the curb and basically on to our front lawn, which is also prohibited by our city. So I had to withdraw my order. Arrgh!

So I need to find a traditional moving company - which should not be hard to do. But I want to put stuff in storage this coming Friday. I've left a message with a local moving company (rated A on Angies List), hoping that they will be able to pick the stuff up and put it in storage. The nice thing about PODS is that you load the unit and everything stays as it was - within the unit. The stuff isn't off-loaded and then re-loaded later. So we'll see what happens Monday.

In the meantime, we had more snow overnight. It looks like the depths of winter outside, but the temp is in the high 20s rather than the minus 20s. Today: attack the attic closet and start on the basement. Will continue packing, thinning, and stacking stuff for Goodwill with vigor.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:10 PM | Moving

March 24, 2008

T minus 8 - back on track

Today I was able to find the appropriate moving company approved by my new place - they put me in touch with the local agent, and the local agent will come Friday to put my stuff in storage. Voila! The plan is back on track:
Friday - storage
Saturday - cleaning
early next week - photo shoot
April 8 - open house with lunch for 30 realtors. The snow will be gone, the birds will be singing, and the sun will shine brightly through newly cleaned windows. Who could resist this house???

Posted by hgroteva at 8:01 PM | Moving

March 28, 2008

T Minus 4 and counting

Things are happening. The moving company took 35 boxes and several pieces of furniture to put in storage today. I met with the moving company rep and he estimated 10,000 lbs from home and 2-4,000 lbs at the office. I MUST TRIM FURTHER! In the midst of it, a very sick kiddo came home for help with doctors and prescriptions, but now he is stoked up with antibiotics, antihistimines, and cough syrup. I also divested myself of a TV and 3 book cases (thanks, Craigslist!) The place is almost ready for the cleaning crew, which comes at 8:30 tomorrow. The staging consultant comes at 10:30 Sunday. With her final suggestions, it will be ready for the photo shoot and spread in Minnesota Homes (ha!) In the midst, I've been grading papers and preparing for next week.

It's ironic, but the moving company I'll be working with will work out much better than the earlier PODS strategy. Even though it was painful to have to change solutions in mid-stream, this will be a saner path to follow. The folks on both ends of the move seem very competent and customer-oriented.

It's a treat to see the sun shine and to hear the birds sing. I think spring has sprung.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:54 PM | Moving

March 29, 2008

The CD I've Just About Worn Out

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I have just about worn out my CD of "Lux Aeterna" by Morton Lauridsen. In this time of crazy-making-multi-tasking, it has provided hours of serenity. I keep playing it, and for better or for worse, to return the favor, it keeps going through my head all day. It's actually a welcome thing, because the music is so hauntingly beautiful and calming. Here is a link to a review of it on the Hyperion website. I hope I get to sing it some day.

My favorite:
O nata lux de lumine
Jesu redemptor saeculi
Dignare clemes supplicum
Laudes prescesque sumere.

Qui carne quondam contegi
Dignatur es pro perditis.
Nos membra confer effici,
Tui beati corporis.

I'm a great fan of Lauridsen's work. I still remember singing his "O Magnum Mysterium" with the St. Marks Cathedral Choir on risers at the Galleria just before Christmas over 10 years ago - Eric Friesen was still broadcasting here, and we were on his afternoon show - great fun.

Here is the official website for the music of Lauridsen.

And here are some concert notes from the San Francisco Choral Society - a nice discussion of the piece. I hadn't realized until now that he wrote it in 1997, the year of his mother's death. The author stated that the piece expressed "a human journey to reclaim intimacy with the inner life" - nicely put. Enjoy.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:04 PM | Choral Music

March 31, 2008

T Minus 1 and still counting

After a minor emergency, it looks like things will fall into place for everything to be ready for the photo shoot Wednesday. The staging consultant really liked what I had done with the house, and she called the kitchen "stunning" and "compelling." That was so nice to hear! She made a bunch of additional suggestions, most of which can be handled in a few hours -- except for re-painting the dining room. Fortunately, Andrew is available tomorrow and will come late morning and do it in one day. Then a final straightening up and it's ready to show!

Everything looks so nice after the cleaning crew came -- I don't want to sneeze or move anything. Of course, trash cans can't be within sight when a house is being shown, so I guess I have to pack out with my trash every day, like I was camping and moving on. The big job for the week ahead will be to get the hot tub going again, because it will need to be running once people are coming in. The list is never-ending. But I have been assured that my agent and this staging consultant are real pros and will get this house sold, which is the goal. The house across the street has been on the market for about 4 months; it's vacant and has seen little action. I do not want to be an absentee owner!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 PM | Moving

April 2, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Amazingly, it all came together. The photo shoot was this afternoon, and the house looked great. The photographer took some excellent shots. They will combine them into a virtual tour, set to upbeat music. The purpose, I am told, is not to document everything about the house, but rather to attract people to come look in person. Let's hope it works. I will post the link here when it's available, probably Friday or next Monday. On Friday, I complete the dreaded "disclosures", and then we visit other properties for sale in service of setting the price. I can already see how that's going to go --- the price I have in mind is probably above what people are asking for comparable or better houses -- so the price will have to be set lower. I am psychologically prepared to price it to sell. Someone will get a peach of a house at a bargain. I am also psychologically prepared to prune like crazy at my office. The official estimate came in at 6 - 7,000 lbs from the office. I do NOT need to schlep more than 3 tons of books and papers with me across country. Today, 3000 interview audiotapes went into secure destruction, and I plan to divest myself of almost all journals that are available online.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:33 PM | Moving

April 4, 2008

Ready to Debut

The hot tub service company came out today - the spa is working very well, although the heater coil had to be replaced. On the work order the service man wrote, "Spa has been inspected. All functions of spa are in perfect shape." - in case any potential buyers wonder. The realtor spent a few hours making detailed measurements inside and out. The photos and virtual tour will hit the website Monday (I will post a link), and the open house / luncheon for realtors is at 11:00 Tuesday. I rode with the realtors and looked at 4 other houses on the market today in Falcon Heights - I think our asking price is quite reasonable; in fact, I would say the house is priced to sell. Truly, the house has never looked this good! I just hope that the folks who own the house I eventually will buy are preparing it as well.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:05 PM | Moving

April 5, 2008

THE Virtual Tour is up!

The Virtual Tour of the house is now available. Here is the link; go there and click on "VHT Tour - Video" in the upper right corner

Tell your friends!

Posted by hgroteva at 7:26 PM | Moving

April 8, 2008

Buy This House!

The house is now officially on the market. Click here to see the official listing. Be sure to take the virtual tour (click on the "virtual tour" button beneath the photos.)

Over 20 realtors toured the house today and had lunch, courtesy of our agent. By all reports, people really liked the house, felt it was in excellent shape, and felt that there definitely should be one or more buyers for it. I hope they're right. Now it's just a matter of leaving it pristine every morning as I go to work. But that's fine, if it sells.

Spread the word!

Posted by hgroteva at 7:38 PM | Moving

April 12, 2008

Musical Farewells

Even though much of my time is being taken up with preparing to move, I've had two wonderful musical adventures in the past few weeks. I'll talk about the most recent one at this sitting. On Thursday night, Mark and I went to hear Anoushka Shankar at Orchestra Hall. Click here for the program notes. I first heard her on 89.3 The Current several months ago, when they played a piece from her 2007 CD "Breathing Under Water." I loved iits mixture of classical Indian sounds and contemporary western beats. I've listened to it quite a few times; the tunes stay with me.

Breathing Under Water.jpg

Ms. Shankar is 26 years old - she is the daughter of Ravi Shankar and the half-sister of Norah Jones. She has been performing publicly for half her life. Her official website is quite visually appealing - take a look.

Thursday night featured horrible weather -- we were in the midst of a spring snow / slush / ice / sleet / rain storm, accompanied by thunder and lightning (Minnesota's famous "thundersnow.") I thought Orchestra Hall would be thinly populated, but I think it was full, or almost so. The ensemble included 5 folks: Anoushka Shankar on sitar, Tanmoy Bose on tabla (incredible!), Sanjeev Shankar on tanpura, Leo Dombecki on piano, and Jesse Charnow on drums. A spectacular group.

This was her first appearance in the Twin Cities. At one point, she said "What's with this weather?" - and people understood. (She said she was heading back to San Diego -- the American city with the most perfect climate, IMHO.) The audience was what I would call "slow to warm up" - but maybe it was the weather. By the end of the evening, however, people were smiling, shouting, bravo-ing, and applauding loudly - it was a love affair.

Many of the pieces they played were ragas. According to Wikipedia:
"R?ga (Sanskrit, lit. "colour" or "mood"; or r?gam in Carnatic music) refers to melodic modes used in Indian classical music.[1] It is a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is founded. In the Indian musical tradition, ragas are held in different times of the day. Indian classical music is always set in raga. Non-classical music such as popular Indian film songs sometimes use ragas in their compositions." The entry is much longer; for further information click here.

All in all, it was a delightful evening. It was Mark's first time at Orchestra Hall (not that he hadn't been offered opportunities before), and he truly enjoyed it. He talked about coming back down for Sommerfest. I asked if he had thought about playing an instrument, and he said he'd prefer to be a sound technician - he'd be great.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:27 PM | Moving | Music - of all kinds

April 20, 2008


It took a while to come, but I am now fully able to get rid of stuff with the best of 'em. Since the house was having showings or open houses most of the weekend, I spent a lot of time at the office going through stuff. I filled another 2 recycling barrels and have several more boxes of paper in my office waiting for the barrels to be empty again. Most of my file cabinets are now pared back to the most important paper that I intend to take. I've also identified at least 50 books and shelves of journals that I will put out for graduate students to go through.

It's hard to make decisions about how much research and teaching documentation to keep. The university and APA have records retention guidelines, but in a 20 + year longitudinal study, it's really important to keep some of the source documents. Nevertheless, I've concluded that I have way too much paper. It's all interesting, but most of it will never be needed again. My goal is to move as unencumbered as possible. There's so much more to do before the moving van pulls up in 33 days.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:58 PM | Moving

April 27, 2008

Old Friends

I've been putting off this decision for a long time, and today was the day to make it. Shall I leave my LPs and turntable behind, or drag them along on this move? I've gotten pretty good at pitching stuff in the past few weeks, so I felt ready to confront the decision. When the time was right, I was rested, and the light was good, I sat down next to the cupboard where the LPs are stored.

And what did I discover? Many old friends! Many that brought a smile to my face or a memory to my mind's eye. Just as with the coffee cup collection in my office, I can tell a story about most of the LPs that remain. It wasn't a difficult decision to make - I'll be taking my friends with me. (If I had time, I'd get an LP to CD converter and digitize them, but that is simply impossible for now.)

As a nod to my need to trim, I identified about 50 LPs I can let go of. Some are ones I had purchased CDs of, and others are ones that I'm just not interested in any more. A few I have on "greatest hits" CDs, but there's something about the memory of the songs in their exact order that brings that smile. It's odd, but when I hear a greatest hit CD, I get disoriented when the songs are in a different order than on an LP I played a zillion times. (This happens rarely, and only about certain LPs I care a lot about or have very vivid memories attached to.)

Do I have eclectic tastes? Judge for yourself. Here are a few I didn't want to part with.

Phoebe Snow.jpg

Phoebe Snow, "Second Childhood" (1976). This may have been her first album. I love her unique voice.

Twin Sons.jpg

Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg "Twin Sons of Different Mothers" (1978). A wonderful collaboration (flute & guitar). Fogelberg died in December of prostate cancer at the age of 56.

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Soundtrack to Zeffirelli's "Romeo & Juliet". I loved this movie and the score - it really made Shakespeare accessible. And Olivia Hussey was a great Juliet.

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Palestrina, "Missa Papae Marcelli" - This was a Deutsche Grammophone Archiv recording - It always felt like an extravagance to buy these, but it was worth it! This sealed my love of sacred choral music.


"The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds" -- 'celestial counterpoint with words and music' The back cover says "must be played in the dark" -- Hey, I went to college in the 60s!

Howdy Doody.jpg

"Howdy Doody and Santa Claus" This is a 78 rpm set from my childhood (1953) - How could I let go of this friend?
Why does all the world look bright
On this very merry night?
All because of Santa Claus,
Hurray for Santa Claus.
From his wrinkley nose
To his twinkley toes
Hurray for Santa Claus!

Where would we be without friends??

Posted by hgroteva at 12:06 PM | Moving | Music - of all kinds

May 5, 2008

Lost in Translation??

I was doing a quick SiteMeter check to see where recent blog traffic had come from, and I noticed a visitor from Germany. I followed the link to the visit entry page and discovered, lo and behold, that Inner Geek has been translated into German! In fact, I learned that Google translates between a number of language pairs: between English and Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Frendh, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Portugese as well as between traditional and contemporary Chinese and between German and French.

"Inner Geek ... out and about" became "Ein Computer-Freak ... Ausfluege and Sehenswuerdigkeiten."
Hmmm, I think there's a bit lost in translation there, don't you? "Inner Geek" means SO much more than "Ein Computer-Freak."

I looked at the top of the Google page and found the following:

Diese Seite wurde aus Englisch automatisch übersetzt. Zurück zu den Suchergebnissen
Originale Webseite anzeigen oder bewegen Sie die Maus über den Text, um die Originalsprache anzuzeigen.

If my German is still any good, it means something like the following:
This site was translated into English automatically (by machine?) You can go back to the original website or mouse over the text if you want to see it in the original language.

How about that? Hold the mouse over the German sentence, and the original English appears. It does.

I think some of the translation is spot on. But some is a little weird, especially with collquial expressions. (Otherwise is asking a lot of a computer.) See for yourself. I copied and pasted the first paragraph from the German version of my last post ("Old Friends"), and it inserted the English sentences before the German ones. It's kind of geeky, but if you have studied German, you might enjoy this, as I did.

I've been putting off this decision for a long time, and today was the day to make it. Ich war Putting off diese Entscheidung für eine lange Zeit, und heute war der Tag zu machen. Shall I leave my LPs and turntable behind, or drag them along on this move? Soll ich meinen LPs und hinter Plattenspieler, oder ziehen Sie sie auf dieser entlang bewegen? I've gotten pretty good at pitching stuff in the past few weeks, so I felt ready to confront the decision. Ich habe mittlerweile recht gut im Pitching Zeug in den letzten Wochen, so fühlte ich mich bereit zu konfrontieren, die Entscheidung. When the time was right, I was rested, and the light was good, I sat down next to the cupboard where the LPs are stored. Wenn die Zeit richtig war, war ich ausgeruht, und das Licht gut war, ich saß neben dem Schrank, in dem die LPs gespeichert sind.

What will those Google folks come up with next? I'm going to Germany this summer and will definitely be taking my laptop.

Here is a link to the FAQ
about how the Google translator works. "FAQ" becomes Haeufig gestellte Fragen.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:33 PM | Technology

May 9, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Visiting the Tribe

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You can tell that the tribe has made a comfortable transition to their temporary home while the house is being shown for sale. They're in the same positions - just in someone else's bed! A tough life...

They clearly love their new family, especially Kai Miok, who drew this wonderful picture for me. I love the phonetic spelling (Poce = Pookie; Sate = Sadie; Mcens = Mackenzie; Shadou = Shadow). I especially love the big heart next to Sadie. As I've said many times before, when I die, I want to be reincarnated as one of my cats.

Kai Miok cats-2 copy.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:38 AM | Cats

May 14, 2008

Drowning in Paper

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For the past few weeks, I've been doing my level best to divest myself of some of the mountains of paper I have gathered around myself. When the moving company estimated that I might have as much as 6000-7000 lbs. of books and files at my office alone, that did it! I have been recycling, tossing, and shredding as fast as I can. It's really hard. Each piece of paper evokes memories -- overwhelmingly good ones -- of projects, classes, collaborations, papers, and the stuff of the academic life. But some things I brought with me from Texas 18 years ago haven't been opened since then, so they were definitely candidates for chucking. (Although today I found a letter from my dissertation advisor, written (in hand) while she was on sabbatical in California. - It did go to the shredder, but I enjoyed re-reading it.)

I am within 2 or 3 boxes of completing the packing of my office and lab. When I moved here, I brought 101 boxes of books, journals, and files from my old office to the new office. My goal is to take fewer than 101 away from here. That would mean 18 years of work and no net increase in "stuff." (Fortunately, much of it is electronic and can fit on a few CDs. Is that cheating??) With a little luck, I'll come in under 101.

Man & paper.jpg

Information retrieval continues to be one of the biggest challenges of the academic life. So many books, journals, files, CD-ROMs, reprints, e-mails, etc. Figuring out the ideal organizational system has eluded pretty much every academic I know. Although I was inspired to read an interview with one of the Google guys about the problem of information. Interestingly, his solution was to avoid systematizing stuff at all on the front end. He suggested instead to put the focus on powerful retrieval engines that can scan through stuff and pull up what you want. I will be trying that in my new life. Nothing like a new job to provide an opportunity for cleaning house and a fresh start. The moving van comes in a week.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:22 PM | Moving

May 17, 2008

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers' song comes to mind as I contemplate this Saturday. There's a light northerly breeze, temp in the high 60s / low 70s, birds are singing, I've cleaned the house for the prospective buyers coming at 12:15, and I solved the 6 star Sudoku (Saturday's is always the hardest). The next 24 hours is the calm before the storm. There is an open house tomorrow afternoon, so everything has to stay pristine until it's over at 3:30 -- but then the house-packing begins in earnest. I'm ready.

As I was sorting through more papers yesterday, I kept thinking about WHY these things should matter. Aren't we the sum total of our experiences; and after we go, isn't our totality at the time of encounter what we pass on to those whose lives we've touched? If so, why should letters from 20, 30, 40 years ago matter? Haven't they already been incorporated into who I am? The ones that have made the most impact or been the most symbolically important are surely reflected in who I am today. The ones that are tangential have not been internalized, so why should I feel that they are important now anyway? Is my narrative about all these pieces of paper? I don't think so. My narrative is just me, as I am transformed from day to day. And I'm not the sum total of my experiences, because I am transformed as each new experience is incorporated (or not) into my evolving narrative. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

I googled "the sum of our experiences" and got almost 13 million hits. I think this reflects the universality of the human experience. The blogosphere has made it possible for people to read the perspectives of others they will never meet -- perhaps folks on the other side of the world, or writing in another language -- and see their own concerns and insights reflected in those of others. That has surely been true for me. It's exciting and humbling all at once.

And happy 23rd birthday to Mark today. I'm sad to be leaving him; but he's found a direction, and that is so exciting to see.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:30 AM | Minnesota | Moving

May 25, 2008

Heading East: Falcon Heights, MN to South Bend, Indiana

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We made it to South Bend, Indiana today - about 550 miles -- home of Notre Dame University. Lots of trucks on the road today, even though it is the middle of Memorial Day weekend. And the gas prices are ridiculous ... $4.19 per gallon near Chicago. Speaking of which, the traffic in Chicago is insane -- even on the outer 290 / 294 loop on a weekend afternoon. I would hate to see it on a Monday morning.

It was very strange to leave the house, and quite remarkable that everything came off on schedule, given the many many things that could have gone wrong. The only near-meltdown was when the movers declared that they could not get several pieces of furniture down the stairs: first, the bed frame, and then 2 pieces of my office furniture, and then my office desk. But what goes up must come down, so they finally figured it out by disassembling things and taking off the door.

The driver starts heading out tomorrow. Stuff belonging to three families is on the truck: one load to Maryland, mine to Amherst, and another in between. He will let me know tomorrow whether we will be the first or the last off-loaded. Tomorrow night we plan to spend in Utica, New York, place of my birth. I haven't been there in ages. We won't have time to look people up, but I'd really like to see the house I lived in on Washington Drive in "Bon Air Estates" (I guess because it's on a breezy hill!) and my grandparents' house on Lynch Ave. Lots of very happy memories from that place.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:15 PM | Moving

May 26, 2008

Day Two: South Bend, IN to Utica NY

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We made it from South Bend to Utica -- 12 hours; 638 miles; all freeway, complete with horrible fast food and lots of tolls. But the weather was good, and we arrived safely. The only casualty so far has been Mark's iPod.

We listened to NPR for most of the trip. Since it was Memorial Day, there were many programs about the military. Two were quite poignant. The first was an interview on the Diane Rehm Show, in which she interviewed a RAND Corporation research analyst, the director of behavioral health for the U.S. Army, and the executive director and founder of "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America" about the alarming incidence of PTSD among active duty military personnel and veterans. I was rather surprised and very pleased to hear very little disagreement among these three people. They all acknowledged the problem and its degree, and they all noted that significantly greater resources needed to be directed toward military personnel and their families. Let's hope that these unlikely bedfellows can accomplish something significant on behalf of these families. You can hear the show by going here.

The second was on "Fresh Air," in which Terry Gross interviewed Marine Lt. Col. Steve Beck and journalist Jim Sheeler about their book, Final Salute. Beck's job is "casualty assistance" -- in other words, he informs families when one of their loved ones dies in service and then sticks with them physically and emotionally as they navigate the inevitable shock and grief. It was a powerful interview; hear it here.

The trip from Buffalo to Utica brought back many childhood memories. Many of my mother's relatives lived in Buffalo (including her mother for a time), so we shuttled back and forth on the NY State Thruway many, many times. The plan for tomorrow begins with a pilgrimage to my childhood home and my grandparent's home in Utica. I remember the addresses, and the town is pretty small, so is to take a round-about route to Amherst, since the moving van isn't there yet. We will be heading into the Adirondack Mountains, going through Old Forge (where we vacationed in the summers when I was a kid), and northward, crossing into Vermont via ferry at Burlington, and then stopping at Ben and Jerry's factory. Yum! Then on to Amherst. The past weeks have been so intense. It's fun to take a few days in the midst of it all and shift the schedule a bit.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:07 PM | Moving

May 27, 2008

Day 3: Utica NY to Burlington VT via the Adirondack Mountains

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The moving van won't be arriving until Thursday morning at 7:00, so we had an extra day! We spent the morning looking for and finding landmarks from my childhood in Utica. Found the house where I lived from a few months of age until the end of 3rd grade, both my grandparents' houses, the church we attended, and other more-or-less familiar landmarks. I'll post some pictures later - the internet connection at this hotel is very slow.

After tooling around Utica, we headed for the Adirondack Mountains, where we vacationed every summer while I was a young child. We found Kayuta Lake, where my father's parents had a lake house, and then Old Forge, the funky town where we stayed at "Birch Camp." The lake and the Enchanted Forest are still there, but Birch Camp seems to have vanished. We headed further north, and had lunch at Lake Placid. The Adirondacks are really beautiful, and nothing was crowded yet because school is still in session. I'm sure it really hums in July and August. I'd be happy to go back there.

The CR-V is getting over 27 mpg, which is great, given the cost of gas.

Tomorrow we head to Amherst, via Ben and Jerry's. Then the work begins anew.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:32 PM | Moving | Travel

May 28, 2008

Day Four: Burlington to Amherst

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We made it to our destination today - 1650 miles. Today's adventure was Ben and Jerry's.

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The sky was brilliantly blue, and the trees were amazingly green. Northern Vermont is spectacular. My friend Sally spent every summer in Vermont - I can see why. Anyway, we joined the tour and got to see how they make the ice cream. I asked the guide which flavors were gluten free and what precautions they took to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. They seem to be careful about it. They only make 2 flavors a week - one on M-W and the other on Th-F. Between W and Th they completely wash down all the production lines. They also seem quite concerned about peanut cross-contamination. Anyway, New York Super Fudge Chunk was on the GF list, so I happily partook - but I don't think I'd do a large cup again ... too much.

After we checked in, we stopped by the house. I think it will be just what we need. It's got some quirks, but what house doesn't? It has a beautiful patio in the back; I suspect I'll be spending a lot of time there. And the study upstairs has great windows and lots of bookcases. The moving van arrives at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so it will be a very big day. My sister is bopping over from Pepperell to help out; it will be great to be closer to her family.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 PM | Moving | Travel

May 30, 2008

Safely Landed

Just a note to let everyone know I have landed safely -- the moving van arrived yesterday with all my stuff, and delivered the boxes to home and various offices at Tobin Hall. At this point, all seems to be accounted for and in working order. The "settling in" phase looks pretty daunting, but not as daunting as the prior phases. This can be done one box at a time. My sister came over yesterday and helped unpack. Mark has been very helpful, and flies back to MN today so that he can start classes Monday. I'll likely be offline a few days until my internet connections are up and running. Thanks to everyone for the energy you have been sending my way ... I felt it, and it helped! And so the new adventure begins...

Posted by hgroteva at 7:02 AM | Moving

June 5, 2008


I've had to make a list of all my numbers: employee ID number, number on my ID card (different from the employee ID), phone number, voice mail password, long distance code, speed number (not sure what that is!), mail code, xerox code, office number, parking lot number ... and those just pertain to my work life!

There are so many things we take for granted every day -- things that you don't even think about until you don't know them: What floor is the coke machine on? How much does a Coke cost? Which end of the building are the restrooms on? Who do I ask about < fill in the blank >? and so on...

Yesterday's challenge was getting cable hooked up at the house. The technician was spectacularly unhelpful. Even after I asked questions, he gave the shortest possible answers and then left. (He emphasized that he gets paid by the job.) I'm also trying to figure out how the ceiling fans work and where all the light switches are. I made the mistake of trying to find the hallway in the dark and ended up going into a closet and bonking my head -- the stuff of a comedy movie.

All that said, however, the transition is going well. People are being very helpful. Special thanks to the folks at the Select Comfort store who gave me a "loaner" pump for the bed, since I couldn't find the box that the remote -- necessary for inflating the bed -- was hiding in. Did you know that a remote for the bed costs $150? I didn't!

The town (pronounced ammerst -- not am - herst) is an interesting mix of small town laid back (the copy shop on Pleasant St. is DIY, honor system) and East Coast (see cable guy, above.) The street names are great' I'm particularly fond of the intersection of Pleasant and Amity. But street signs only have the names of intersecting streets, not the street you are on. So if you don't know what street you are on, you can be in a bad fix. I know that you get to my street by going out East Pleasant (from the map), but I have yet to find a street sign that says East Pleasant.

It's all a big adventure! Stay tuned for further installments. In the meantime, which box is my radio in???

Posted by hgroteva at 12:27 PM | Moving

June 8, 2008

Settling In

Slowly but surely, I am settling in. I finally found a street sign that says "East Pleasant" -- up at the far north end of the road. Somehow that is reassuring. My home internet is now up and running, which is also a relief. I unpacked a lot more boxes this weekend and have re-boxed some things that can be stored for the year. I'm trying to figure out the circuitry in the house. When the air conditioner compressor turned on last night, it knocked the cable TV out. Well, I guess you can't have it all. The adventure continues -- trying to figure out the NPR stations, cable TV options, which of the alternate weeks is recycling of plastic vs. paper -- all those details.

Now that I'm settled and somewhat refreshed, I look forward to writing this week. Several writing commitments due fairly soon...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:51 PM | Moving

June 15, 2008

Comcast Giveth and Comcast Taketh Away

Even before I had my books unpacked, and way before I had furniture arranged, I was on the phone with Comcast to arrange home internet service. Our Minnesota service was with Comcast, and it was generally satisfactory (except for the bloated prices.) Comcast seemed to be the vendor of choice here, so I signed on.

The friendly fellow on the other end of the line (their sales folk are very friendly -- not quite the same as their service people) assured me that it would be easy to set up my wireless network. They would provide a do-it-yourself "kit" that a 3rd grader could configure.

Well, when I opened it up and saw that there were only 2 small pages of large-print instructions, I knew that that was a lie. (I ended up having to hire someone to come out and make all the machines talk to each other. It was well worth the price of avoiding all the haad-banging that would have ensued.) But I digress...

Several days after my service was up and running, I got a call from one of their people. He wanted to take a few minutes to show me some of their new services. I consented, and he walked me through quite a few features I wasn't familiar with, including a large menu of free downloads, videos, games, etc. -- all kinds of gadgets and gizmos to use up all that spare time of mine.

Fast forward to the article in today's NYT: "Charging by the byte to curb internet traffic." In order to deal with bandwith hogs, three of the nation's largest internet providers are taking steps to change our habits. Time Warner is now "metering" service and will be asking customers to select rate plans depending on anticipated usage (think: cell phone minutes plans); AT&T is considering charging, and Comcast is going to manage internet traffic by "slowing down the connections of the heaviest users, so-called bandwidth hogs, at peak times." They need to get their signals straight. If they want to promote use of their resources (and of course, the ad revenue that goes along with it), they don't need to give it with one hand and ration it with the other.

By the way, Happy Father's Day to all those Dads out there. Next weekend, my sister and I will be going to Dallas to hold a final memorial service for our Dad, who passed away March 1st. Rest in peace, Dad.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:33 AM | Technology

June 23, 2008

Rebooting a Life

Today was one of those watershed days, full of symbolism and meaning. Today was the day we held the final memorial service for our Dad and buried him next to our Mom in Dallas, their home. The memorial service was at the community where he and our Mom lived from approx 1992 - 2000, and he continued on after her death until 2006. Quite a few people joined us this morning, including a woman who was his secretary for 18 years (her first job; she is now retired and said he was the best boss she ever had). Many people were grateful to have the opportunity to remember him and celebrate his life, since they were not able to come to New Hampshire for his funeral back in March. His best friend, who had been housebound since November, made the special effort to attend.

My sister and I took a drive around the parts of town we haunted as teenagers. Our old neighborhood is still looking good, but down the street from our childhood home is a whole row of tacky MacMansions. If you have enough money, you can have a Tuscan villa, or a half-timbered Tudor, or a replica of Mt. Vernon --- and they can all be on the same street! You get the idea. Our old elementary school looks just like it did in the late 1950s. The church we attended looks as cold as it always felt. But we had fun going down each street and reminiscing about who lived where. It was amazing how we dredged up some names neither of us had thought about for decades.

For me, there was also a sense of closure. It's unlikely that I will ever be in Dallas again. The Texas part of my heart was long ago given to Austin; and Austin and Dallas are totally different cultures, although only 200 miles apart.

But to me it also felt a piece of a larger "reboot" my life is undergoing. New job, new part of the country, new professional responsibilities, new house, now the "senior" member of the family. (I'm not too sure how keen I feel about that - I have lots of tread left on me.) But it all definitely feels new, providing opportunities for both continuity and change. Very exciting.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:53 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life | Massachusetts | Texas

June 29, 2008

Tanglewood, Garrison Keillor, & Good Friends

The title really says it all. I spent yesterday at Tanglewood with a friend of 40 years, celebrating our friendship at the live broadcast of the Prairie Home Companion. Lots of meaning packed into that sentence; all good.

Of course, brought to you by Powermilk Biscuits, in the light blue box with the stain on the front that indicates reshness. Heavens, they're tasty!


Tanglewood has been on my MUST DO list for this summer for quite a while. It is as idyllic as its name suggests. Nestled in the Berkshires, its lush campus invites relaxation and camaraderie, even with total strangers. It's the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a venue for summer music institutes, and a place with an amazing summer music series. (Chanticleer and the Shanghai String Quartet are performing together next month -- stay tuned for that...)

Thanks to my colleague here who told me about the performance. We got 2 of the very last tickets in the Shed -- 3 rows from the back -- but who cares, it's a radio show! I just pretended I was listing on NPR, like I do almost every weekend.

Stage from inside Shed.jpg

We would have gotten Lawn tickets (great fun - people bring elaborate picnics and hang out), but the weather threatened rain, and it actually did rain for a time during the performance. I'll do that another time...

On lawn in rain.jpg

I've seen PHC live once before -- in the mid 1970s when I was in graduate school. It started broadcasting in 1974, so I must have been to one of its first shows, when it still had a small, local following. Now it goes out to millions every week. It was a great show -- excellent music, and poetry from the Poet Laureate of the U.S. (Where else would the Poet Laureate perform??) Turns out, he is from New Hampshire, not too far away from here.

Keillor clearly draws energy from the crowd. This was most evident after the broadcast was over. I expected a polite encore (the audience was very enthusiastic), but he and the rest of the cast stayed around for more than a half hour. They did some of their things, but mostly led the audience in a love-fest sing-a-long. What an unexpected pleasure! Singing can bring total strangers together.


The woman in the white blouse, second from left, was swaying to the music on her cane, along with her son in the red shirt. It was very sweet.

My feeling is that the Greatest Generation all knew a lot of songs in common, but that seems to be vanishing. Yesterday, we sang things like "Summertime," "Good Night Ladies," "Amazing Grace," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," ... you get the idea. What songs will the next generation of young people know in common? I really wonder. I could tell Garrison especially loved turning the audience loose in some a capella verses -- from stage, I'm sure it just felt like energy rolling right at him.

It's such a pleasure to live close to Chris after all these years. We were college roommates for 2 years and then went separate ways geographically. We've always stayed in touch, but visits have been infrequent. That will be changing. Tanglewood is just about half way between us -- a real bonus. (It's about 1 1/2 hrs west of here.) We talked and talked and talked, as always. Before heading home, we stopped at a funky Indian restaurant in Lee, MA. The staff seemed a bit pverwhelmed by the larger-than-usual crowd. Tha lamb I had was good, but I'm sure it was swimming in a sauce I will react to. I took as little sauce as I could. At the end, we both ordered coffee, but got tea. interesting.....

But overall, what a special day. A great way to start my life here. Maybe things like that happen when you CTRL-ALT-DEL.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:22 AM | Life | Massachusetts | Minnesota | Music - of all kinds

July 6, 2008

Maine on the Fourth

Relaxing .jpg

I spent the long 4th of July weekend at my sister's cottage in Maine. NB: In Minnesota, they are "cabins," in New York, they are "camps," and in Maine they are "cottages." We had a great time --- eating, resting, talking, reading, paddling around the lake on the paddle boat, more eating, watching fireworks, roasting marshmallows, going in to town, & repeating same. It was a good get-away. It's great to be closer to family.

We stopped at a restaurant nearby for lunch, and their menu featured home-made potato chips -- they were thin, crisp, hot, and sprinkled with bacon, onions, cheese, and a Gorgonzola cheese sauce. Totally decademt.

On the 4th, we went into the Town of Limerick and stopped at the Runaway Cowgirl's Hideout on the main drag. I was totally smitten by a large Newfoundland. He came right up to me very calmly, and I thought I had known him all my life. In fact, I could have sworn that there was someone I knew in that dog suit. It was quite remarkable - I can't recall ever having such a strong pull toward a dog. That's probably a good sign as I prepare to welcome Sierra into my life in just about a month.


Posted by hgroteva at 8:38 PM | Family | Life | Massachusetts

July 10, 2008

Objects and Feeling at Home

Coffee cups.JPG

My office is beginning to feel like my home-away-from-home now that I have unpacked my coffee cups. I have this unique collection of coffee cups that goes back to the early 1970s. Each cup tells a story and evokes memories. I thinned out the collection a bit before I left Minnesota, but I brought most of them with me. (There are several more out of view on the right of the photo.) And I was able to find a good spot for my Amado Peña tile -- I like his work very much (he has Austin roots -- used to teach art at Austin High before he got famous and moved to Taos and Santa Fe.)

Briefly, here are the stories of the cups in the front row (L to R):
Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis - a wonderful German restaurant / beer garden with an outdoor patio - I've enjoyed a number of meals and happy hours here with friends.

A cobalt blue cup with gold writing: "President Bill Clinton - A Cure for the Blues" (with him playing the sax). I picked this up at National Airport when he was running for election. With all the bad economic news that seems to worsen by the day, we sure need a cure for the blues! How about it, Bill? I have an extra one - maybe I should put it on EBay?

The Arctic Cathedral; Tromsø, Norway. I've been to Tromsø twice -- once to present at a conference and once to do some teaching about adolescent development. It's the northernmost university in the world. One visit was during May, not too long before the summer solstice. It was light almost 24 hrs / day, and people were out all night long, soaking up every bit of daylight possible. My friend Jane has an amazing hutte (summer cottage) that is glass all-round with a thatched roof.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Within a short time of arriving in the Twin Cities in 1990, I heard my first live SPCO concert and was smitten. We had season tickets most years and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful music and the intimate group that seemed to have a real personality.

Star Ship Enterprise -- I picked this up when Mark and I attended a Star Trek Convention in Minneapolis when he was a teenager. It was a very special day, even though we weren't dressed as Captain Kirk or Spock. (Many other folks were...)

Sundance -- A memory of numerous trips to Sundance, some for professional conferences and some for fun.

As I look at each of these objects placed in my new surroundings, all the wonderful memories flood back and keep me centered.

In Vol 8 (1) issue of Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research (2008), Jane Kroger has a fascinating article that fits well: "Symbolic meanings of valued personal objects in identity transitions of late adulthood." She and her colleague interviewed 20 folks age 65 - 89 who were in residential facilities in New Zealand, and they all talked with her about various personal objects they had in their living units -- some of which would have made little sense to an outsider, but made perfect sense to them. I saw how important such objects were during my father's last two years, especially when he was in assisted living. My sister lovingly gathered photo albums, CDs of his favorite big band music, and plaques and awards from his career and arranged them so they would be easily visible every day. They talked through the picture albums numerous times. Even if he couldn't remember whether he had eaten dinner, he could name all his buddies from high school and the Navy.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:21 PM | Life | Massachusetts

July 18, 2008

Over the Rainbow


I have always enjoyed the travel that is part of professional conference-going. I just returned from the ISSBD conference in Würzburg, Germany. We stayed away from the city (a good idea) and took the bus to the main bus station and then walked to the conference each day -- through the Ringpark -- a park that rings the city. Two mornings in a row, I caught this beautiful rainbow on the way to the conference. Who could have a bad day after that??

Posted by hgroteva at 11:50 AM | Travel

July 22, 2008

Views of Würzburg

A few more views of Würzburg before I move on.

Here is a view of the city and the River Main, taken from the Festung Marienberg (Marienberg Fortress).


Here's the fortress, taken from the old town side of the river. Much of the city was leveled by Allied bombers during WWII, and the fortress was seriously damaged. They have worked hard to restore it.


The museum in the fortress had artifacts, carvings, and fine art from many centuries back. Here is a carving of the "Death of Mary."

Death of Mary.jpg

And at the entrance to our hotel, we kept tabs on the mama and babies in the bird's nest each day. Nice serendipity.


Posted by hgroteva at 7:45 PM | Travel

July 28, 2008

Batman - 6 stories high

Batman wings.jpg

Last night we went to see "The Dark Knight" at the IMAX theatre - what an experience. The IMAX at the Minnesota Zoo is the largest screen in Minnesota - 6 stories high. Although the story was OK, I was most taken in by the effects. At the beginning of the movie, the audience is gliding through the sky toward a huge downtown skyscraper - and almost collides with it. I truly felt like I was there and flying. There were a number of similarly compelling scenes throughout.

Demented Joker.jpg

Heath Ledger played the demented Joker. What a talented actor, taken from us in his prime - or maybe even before his time. Although I know that movie stars' personal and professional lives are totally separate (right?), I can't help but think that playing such a role wouldn't rub off a bit. In any case, his death was tragic, and we have been robbed of seeing his rich career flourish.

Tomorrow, Mark and I set out for Amherst with the Tribe. It's about 1400 miles, and we will do it in 3 days. I've been getting all kinds of advice about kitty tranquilizers, how best to transport them, etc. If I do go with tranquilizers, they may have to share them with me! Seriously - it should all be fine. When I visited them on Saturday, Pookie kept licking my nose as if to say: "I remember you!"

Posted by hgroteva at 10:49 AM | Movies | Technology

July 30, 2008

Traveling with the Tribe

Tuesday we began the journey with the Tribe back to Amherst. They have had the incredible good fortune to stay with a very loving and attentive foster family since early April, when the house when on the market. Bibiana, Kai Miok, and Lee have our unending thanks and appreciation!

The trip actually went better than I had feared. I read a lot on the internet and talked to many people about strategies for traveling with multiple cats. My sister lent me a large dog crate that fit 3 of the cats and their oval bed.

cats in crate.jpg

Shadow went in a separate carrying bag - he would have popped out of the crate like a jack-in-the-box and incited a riot, if he could! I got kittie tranquilizers from the vet and gave a 1/4 tablet to Shadow. By 20 minutes, he was staggering like a drunken sailor. It seemed to take the edge off for him, but by the end of the day he was his usual active self.

When we got to the hotel (thanks to LaQuinta for their pet-friendly policy!) in Merrillville (or something like that) Indiana, the Tribe were all thrilled to get out and explore a bit. They were especially fascinated by the mirrors in the bathroom.

in hotel mirror.jpg

They did a lot of sniffing etc. Sadie jumped in a dresser drawer and then promptly got behind the drawer and at the bottom of the dresser. Fortunately, she popped back up, because the bottom drawer was a false one and did not open.

Once they explored to their hearts' content, they settled in. All four found a space on what was to be my pillow. Hmmm - where will I sleep??

on the pillow.jpg

They pretty much slept together through the night. Pookie found a warm corner on the floor and they all piled on, as they are wont to do. So Day One - so far, so good. We made it past Chicago. YUCK- I hate the traffic there, no matter which route. Several of the major freeways are undergoing major construction, so the remaining lanes are very narrow and the trucks are MANY.

Anyway, off to hit the road again. Round em up, move em out.

Made it to Erie PA by 6 pm. The driving was MUCH easier east of Chicago. The tribe seemed to be less anxious today - now they know the drill. Shadow didn't need medication. They love exploring the hotel room. Tomorrow night we will be home. They'll have lots new to explore there.

We made it home! The cats spent a lot of time sniffing out the new house. Unlike a one-room hotel room, here they have 2 floors and a whole bunch of rooms. But they are settling in and seem pretty happy. Phew! But the very best news of the day is that we have an offer on the house. Fingers crossed, but the buyer has verbally accepted our counter-offer. It's good we're all comfortable with technology. I was communicating with the realtor from somewhere on the New York State Thruway, and Susan was calling in from West Texas on her way east. We will be signing contracts pdf'd to us and faxing or pdf'ing them back to MN. But her favorite story is the closing she conducted when the seller was on a boat in the Suez Canal.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:10 AM | Cats | Life | Travel

August 2, 2008

Gifts for a Major Transition

Gifts from Kai Miok 0708.JPG

Dear Kai Miok,

Thank you so much for the wonderful gifts you chose for us, as we transitioned from your home to Massachusetts. We could tell that each present was lovingly wrapped and labeled by you. We were pretty distracted by the road trip and hotels, so our Herder decided that we would unwrap and enjoy the gifts after we made it to our new home. We had a very nice party - the mouse was fun to play with (although Pookie was above it all) -- we'll have to slip him some of that catnip! Anyway, thank you for being so sweet and for caring for us for the past 5 months. You have an open invitation to visit at any time.

Love, Pookie (candidate for President; D-Mass.); Shadow; MacKenzie; and Sadie (First Lady, hopefully).

P.S. On Tuesday night, we get to meet our 2 new tribe members (Dylan and Chloe) and Sierra, the barking one, for the first time. We will post pictures. It should be "interesting" for all concerned! We're glad that we have had almost a week to claim our territory in the new house and figure out where all the good hiding places are.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:22 PM | Cats

August 24, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: No Peaceable Kingdom Yet


This picture, taken last week, belies the level of serenity in the feline kingdom here. The MN tribe (pictured above; L to R: MacKenzie, Pookie, Shadow, Sadie) is as mellow as ever within its own boundaries. But the NM tribe is a bit more rambunctious, and there have been numerous border skirmishes among various, mostly female, parties. Sadie, the littlest, refuses to relinquish her status as alpha. Chloe deals with threat by appearing to be aggressive. Shadow's size can be intimidating, but he can also be scared into a corner by Chloe. And King Pookie is royally above it all -- he just lounges around and lets it all happen around him. It's pretty funny.

This is a pretty big house, so there's really room for everyone to have his/her own corner. The MN tribe have continued to hang out in the guest bedroom (see photo). Often, they are in their Tonkpile ... but once I saw them each posted at a different corner of the bed, as if to be protecting against incursions. I think they will all gradually settle down eventually.

New students start arriving this week. After 5 or 6 trips this summer (I lost count), I am glad to have my feet on the ground for a while. With a bit of luck, the sale of our MN house will close this week. I will post fireworks about that when it happens.

PS: I had intended to post this Friday...

Posted by hgroteva at 6:18 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

August 28, 2008



Just before 6:00 pm this evening, we received the call we had been waiting for ... Our realtor in Minnesota called to say that all the papers had been signed and the sale of our house was now complete. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.


The house was on the market almost 5 months, we had to lower the price three times - almost 20%, and we had to throw in almost-brand-new refrigerator, washer, and dryer. I feel that the price we were paid was insulting to the house and its condition. But I am realistic enough to know that the value of the house is a function of what someone will pay for it. I wish its new owner well. He got a bargain. (Unfortunately, since housing prices here have not slumped very much, we will not likely benefit from the nationwide housing depression.)


Although the feeling is only a few hours old, I finally feel the psychological freedom to allow myself to live fully in my new surroundings, without being encumbered by significant obligations 1200 miles away. The house was good to us. We were able to tweak it and shape it in some significant ways, and it worked for us quite well. My sincerest thanks to our realtors, who went above and beyond what was required, especially in the last weeks as the new owner was seeking FHA funding that required that additional repairs be made ... and to our handiest man, who made the repairs - and even camped out on the front porch, paint brush in hand, waiting for the inspector to return for the third time. (We recently learned that inspectors get an additional $100 each time they re-inspect a home. Doesn't take a genius to see why so many houses don't pass muster the first time.)

We had dinner with new friends tonight, and enjoyed champagne toasts to the sale of our house and to the beginnings of our new lives here. The chapter has been turned.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:04 PM | Life | Minnesota | Moving

September 8, 2008

Things New and Old


Campus View UMass.jpg

**Being able to park the car once in the morning and walk anywhere I need to on campus during the day.
**Having a computer file-sharing service (U-Drive) that permits collaboration with others who do not have university IDs.
**Hearing the marching band rehearse outside my window - go drums!
**New friends and students.
**Having a fairly flexible schedule for the first time in years. (I know it won't last.)


CHE front McNeal2-b.jpg

**The comings and goings in the mail / coffee room.
**Old friends and students.
**My hot tub.
**A convenient airport.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:14 PM | Massachusetts | Minnesota

September 13, 2008


Yesterday was faculty convocation - an opportunity to meet colleagues and to hear the new chancellor. The event began with a faculty procession all the way across the center of campus, with a carillon concert as we marched. Here we were:

led by the banners of each college

banners at convocation.jpg

The Chancellor's talk was quite good, I thought. Click here to go to the text of the talk.

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He was complimentary about many features of the university - especially the faculty, the students, and the staff. But he also enumerated areas where greater strength was needed. In his words, "Thus I come to areas in which I believe we must make progress, sometimes substantial progress, if we are going to assume our place as one of the premier public institutions of higher education in the country."

The list was familiar and made me feel right at home.
**more grants
**more interdisciplinary work
**more fundraising
**clearer communications strategy
**more attention to graduate education
**opportunities for freshmen to take small seminars
**improving the quality and state of repair of existing space
**identifying areas for national centers of excellence.

After some years of inattention from the legislature, it seems that the university is in a better position now than it has been in recent years. New faculty positions, new buildings, and better qualified freshmen are good indicators. And so it begins...

Posted by hgroteva at 5:40 PM | Massachusetts

September 18, 2008


This kind of mouse??

computer mouse 2.jpg

No, this kind of mouse....


I have never lived in a house with mice, but there's a first time for everything. Technically, the mice are in the garage, not in the house, but one got into the kitchen last night. Would you believe these sweet things are good mousers?

Cats together5.jpg

Last night, Chloe saw a mouse run under the refrigerator. She worked really hard to get it with her paw or her mouth ... no luck. When I went to bed, she stayed on the watch. This morning when I went down for breakfast, she was STILL THERE waiting for that mouse!

She apparently waited until mid-day, when the mouse finally appeared ... and she GOT IT! Three cheers for Chloe.

She and Dylan are enjoying time outside, individually and together. Tonight they were rolling around on the driveway under the car. That's one way the tribes are keeping the peace a bit -- the NM cats spend some time outside, and the MN cats are indoor beasts. I thought things were calming down a bit until last night. Chloe was curled up on my desk. When Sadie spotted her, her tail exploded to 5 times its normal size and the hissing began. She chased Chloe all over my study until I finally separated them. She kept trying to egg Chloe on, but she wouldn't take the bait.

The other day, Dylan lost a fight with Sadie. And then he went and beat up on Pookie! Kind of like the boss yells at you at work, and then you come home and kick the dog. So it goes in the animal kingdom.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:28 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

September 21, 2008


Todo, We're not in Amherst any more.

That was my first reaction when I stepped off the train at Penn Station. I'm here for a conference for a few days and have been looking forward to it. I have not been in NYC for probably 20 years or more.

I decided to walk from Penn Station to the hotel on 49th St -- about 1.5 miles. It has been a warmish, pleasant late summer afternoon, so it wasn't a bad hike, despite dragging suitcase and computer bag behind me. (The key is traveling LIGHT -- even lighter than you think is possible.)

The hotel was not allowing guests into their rooms until 3:00, and I got here around 12:30, so I left my bags and proceeded to explore. What a great day for it! 8th Avenue was closed from 42nd to 57th St. for an open air market and fair. All kinds of foods, music, trinkets, touristy things -- but a LOT of people out just having a good time. Very festive, and unexpected. On my walk, I stumbled into Schubert Alley, where the Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS flea market was underway. There were tables and tables of theater memorabilia -- old (very) Playbills, posters, autographed photos, records (as in vinyl), trinkets, and other souvenirs. I rested a few minutes and watched an auction going on -- all kinds of memorabilia. Some things went in excess of $1000. All for a good cause. Again, a very festive atmosphere with lots of good will.

For me, the most enjoyable aspects of traveling are the serendipitous happenings that you couldn't have planned in a million years. (See some of my older posts in the Travel category.) Two come to mind immediately: running into a live broadcast of Porgy and Bess on the Washington Mall while on the way to experience Carmina Burana ... and hearing a choir rehearse behind a closed door at Kings College Cambridge. Not being able to see the choirsters just reinforced the other-worldliness of it all.

BTW - this is my 250th post to this blog. I don't expect balloons or noisemakers, but it's probably worth marking the event in some understated way.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:58 PM | Travel

September 28, 2008

Taxes and Evils


Although it has gotten VERY little publicity, Massachusetts has an initiative on the November ballot to repeal the state income tax. Yes - repeal the state income tax. Many peoples' gut reaction is bound to be -- wow, wouldn't that be great? More money in my pocket and less to evil government. An article in this morning's New York Times said that passage of this initiative would eliminate 45% of the state budget. It also said that some people are planning to vote "yes" just to express their dissatisfaction with government in general.

However, this kind of reasoning suggests to me that we need a major reframing of the meaning of taxes in this country. We need to help people understand what their taxes buy. Did you drive to work on a road? Did you, by any chance, cross over a bridge? Did you receive a payment from Social Security? the VA? Medicare? Did you (or your child, or your grandchild) attend a public school? Did the fire department come when your house was burning down?

Of course, there is waste in government -- and there may be government expenditures we object to (like that $12B/month item on the other side of the world) -- but we don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Now, of course, I may be a little sensitive to this issue since I am employed by a major state university, which gets some of its money from ... you guessed it, taxes. (State universities are now wont to call themselves "state-assisted" rather than "state-supported" for good reason - but that's a topic for another post.)

Where is our sense of the common good? Well - I guess that's the whole tension in the U.S. now between the lean-government-let-the-market-reign-conservatives and the government-as-provider-of-common-goods-liberals. it fascinates me that the country is split right down the middle over this meta-issue. My European friends just shake their heads. But of course, their governments aren't perfect either. We seem to move ahead by lurching from right to left and back again. Is that progress? At the moment, it doesn't seem that way to me.

For me, when I flinch at the bottom line on that tax return, I will try to remember that I have just bought a share of that road, that bridge, that VA payment, and yes, that major state university. And I will surely be voting in that November election and urging others to do so too.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:24 AM | Massachusetts | Society

October 8, 2008

Birth Day

Birth Day.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:38 PM | Family

October 12, 2008


In the midst of the political vile spewed forth last week, not to mention the free-fall of the world economy, an interlude of beauty is needed. Here are a few pictures taken outside our house yesterday.






It's time for peacemakers to emerge, from the international scene on down to the most local of interactions. All is NOT fair in politics, especially when it comes to stirring up wars along the lines of race, class, or sexual orientation. It must stop.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:42 AM | Life | Massachusetts

October 17, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging (+ a little political commentary): Missing Shadow




Shadow has been missing for a little over 48 hours. He's 9 years old and has never shown any interest in going outdoors. But he got curious Wednesday afternoon and was lured outside, and hasn't been heard from since. We have been walking the neighborhood calling his name & talking to neighbors. We keep the house lit up like a stadium at night so he can find the way. This is a very quiet street, so we don't think he has had a mishap with a car. But there are some brushy areas and a creek nearby. Anyway, send good vibes to Shadow (and me).

Tonight, I sat in disbelief (not really) to hear Michele Bachman (R-MN) tell Chris Matthews that many (most?) liberals and leftists were un-American. Later in the program, he had on the editor of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel. who commented that she thought Bachman was "channeling Joe McCarthy." I agree. It all came about because of a robocall that is being pushed out by the McCain campaign in the states that are still in play, emphasizing the association between Obama and Bill Ayers, and using scary language to imply that Obama is dangerous and un-American. How far into the gutter must we go? It's pretty disgusting. I thought Obama was extremely presidential in all 3 debates, and I would be proud to call him my President. If the other side wins, there will be bleak times ahead.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:45 PM | Cats | Minnesota

October 20, 2008


I just went down to close up for the night, and Shadow was sitting in the front porch window! I cannot believe it - I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.

He was a bit skittish and seems a bit thinner, but he's eating (with gusto) and is loving to rub against everything. I am so, so happy!!!

He has been gone for 5 days, and at least 2 of the nights got down into the mid 20s. He doesn't seem scratched up or anything -- just seems to be a little thin and weak. I will be happy to nurse him back to health!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:21 PM | Cats

October 21, 2008

The Shadow Report (+ a little more political commentary)

Thanks to all of Shadow's fans for your supportive thoughts while he was missing and your joy upon his return. He's doing extremely well. After being a bit wobbly and thin, he has eaten his fill and is now seeming pretty much back to normal. An incredibly resilient fellow - fortunately!

On the political front, I continue to be amazed at the naivete of Rep. Bachman from MN and Gov Palin. Tonight, Chris Matthews (Hardball) interviewed Bill Maher and they discussed one clip from Bachman (need to investigate how many of those people in Congress are pro-American) and Palin (the VP can "get in there [the Senate] and make a lot of good policy changes.") Maher's comment on the duo was - "That's a real Beavis and Butthead we've got there."
Judge for yourself. (This election can't come soon enough!)

Posted by hgroteva at 6:48 PM | Cats

Colin Powell's Endorsement

Last Sunday was General Colin Powell's extraordinary endorsement of Sen. Barak Obama for President on Meet the Press. In a space of about 15 minutes, he nailed a whole variety of reasons for his decision -- it knocked my socks off. Now here is an American hero.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:41 PM | Politics

October 24, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging - Palling around in the Tonkpile

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Still liking to be close, after all these years. Shadow is on the left.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:34 AM | Cats

November 4, 2008

History in the Making - Signed Sealed & Delivered

Such an exciting evening! I wish I were in Grant Park celebrating this history-making event. After that acceptance speech, my heart is full of optimism I haven't felt in a long time.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:22 PM | Politics

November 8, 2008

"Terra Aria" by Giovanni Sollima

My thanks to Cynthia for e-mailing me about the music of Giovanni Sollima -- the Sicilian cellist -- and his piece, Terra Aria. She had read enough of my blog entries about my musical preferences to know that I would probably like his work - and she was right. Here is Terra Aria played as part of an interview with Dutch radio. I find the music hypnotic, soothing, mysterious, and energizing all at once. I'm not a huge fan of minimalist music in general - but this piece is in its own class. I look forward to learning more about his work. Be sure to listen to the entire interview with him - it's quite fascinating. Although he says he is connected to minimalist music, he sees his work much more broadly -- connected to ritual, influenced by the Spanish, the Incas -- and even the songs that the Sicilian fishermen sing all night long.

Here is a link to Sollima's official website.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:10 PM | Music - of all kinds

November 16, 2008

Greetings from Lisbon

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I just arrived in Lisbon ... What a pleasure to arrive on a sunny, temperate (60s) day - after dealing with fog and rain in MA, rain and cold at the Detroit airport, and rain and yuck in Amsterdam. Here is a view out the window of my hotel room - I like it just because of the vivid blue sky.

I found a small store to buy some water, and the clerk knew as much English as I knew Portuguese. But we connected immediately. He said, "Americano?" I said yes. He said "Obama" with a huge smile == and I returned his smile and said how happy I was. We communicated perfectly!

Posted by hgroteva at 11:33 AM | Travel

November 17, 2008

Exploring Lisbon

I took a few hours to explore Lisbon today. I always find that getting oriented in a new city outside the U.S. is an energizing mix of excitement and coping with the unknown - especially when an unfamiliar language is involved. I took the metro (subway) toward the downtown area. The metro was bright and clean, and the trains ran frequently. I went to the Alfama district, which is the old town. Buildings are centuries old, streets are extremely narrow and hilly, and it's easy to get lost in all the twisting and turning.

I started a new novel just before this trip: Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. It was originally published in German in 2004 and was just translated into English this year. It's about a midlife humanities teacher in Bern who chucks it all and goes to Lisbon in search of something ... he's not sure what ... but obviously in search of himself. I'm about halfway through and enjoying it. It's not a quick/easy read - the text almost demands that you take it slowly in order to absorb its beauty. There are highly contrasting reviews of it on amazon.com. In any case, I've found it engaging to read while I'm traveling here.

Most of the TV stations in my hotel room are in languages other than English, with the exception of CNN Europe. They have been running ads for other places which are trying to encourage investment and/or tourism. Just today, there have been spots for Dubai, Montenegro, Poland, and Al Zorah, that amazing development in the United Arab Emirates, next to Dubai. I wish US TV had more programs in other languages and featuring information about places beyond.

I'll post a few more pictures after I get home - the internet connection here in the hotel is too slow. I hope I can steal away a few hours tomorrow before the conference starts. I'd really like to hear some Fado music, but the Fado bars are in an area that Frommer's clearly says is unsafe after dark. Hmmm

Posted by hgroteva at 11:40 AM | Travel

November 18, 2008

Becoming Familiar with "The Other"

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In my brief TV watching here in Portugal, there have been advertisements or features on Bahrain, Qatar, Cypress, Turkey, Dubai, Montenegro, Al Zorah, Poland, India, Greece, and Armenia (at least!). And the TV channels are in Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, and a few languages I couldn't identify with certainty. Some of the English language channels (like MTV) are subtitled in German. I can't help but think that the daily experience of hearing about these countries and hearing other languages spoken would be good for the U.S. and reduce the country's insularity. Obama is the big news here everywhere, and people seem very receptive to what lies ahead. The world is totally interconnected, and the U.S. needs to be more in tune with that.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:36 AM | Travel

November 20, 2008

Plastic Logic e-Reader

CNN carried this story about the Plastic Logic e-Reader, an "erasable" piece of plastic that will hold things (like newspapers) that otherwise would be leading to the decimation of more forests. It looks quite intriguing. They are being manufactured at a plant in Dresden Germany. The CNN spot omits a lot of details, but it's got me intrigued. I've also been following the Amazon Kindle with great interest, but not enough to get one yet.

Here is a review which compares the two devices and sets up the competition between them. It will be exciting to follow this unfolding story. I think the Plastic Logic will be more compatible for me, but we'll see. I would anticipate downloading my own documents onto the device rather than buying novels online to read on the Kindle.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:26 PM | Technology

November 22, 2008

Scenes from Lisbon




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The night shot was taken from the Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George's Castle), after the conference dinner. The last two pictures were taken in the beautiful gardens of the Museum of the Gulbenkian Foundation, where the conference was held.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:55 PM | Travel

November 23, 2008

from "This I Believe - Singing: The Key to a Long Life"

I heard this affirming testimonial on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday this morning - in the series, "This I Believe." In this piece, Brian Eno talks about his belief that singing together has innumerable benefits, which I'll let you read / hear about yourself.

Here is a link to the program, which will have the audio after noon today.

Following is the text, taken from the NPR website - with sincere thanks!

" I believe in singing. I believe in singing together.

"A few years ago a friend and I realized that we both loved singing but didn't do much of it. So we started a weekly a capella group with just four members. After a year we started inviting other people to join. We didn't insist on musical experience — in fact some of our members had never sung before. Now the group has ballooned to around 15 or 20 people.

"I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor. A recent long-term study conducted in Scandinavia sought to discover which activities related to a healthy and happy later life. Three stood out: camping, dancing and singing.

"Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don't for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call "civilizational benefits." When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.

"Well here's what we do in an evening: We get some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics and a strict starting time. We warm up a bit first.

"The critical thing turns out to be the choice of songs. The songs that seem to work best are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music. You want songs that are word-rich, but also vowel-rich because it's on the long vowels sounds of a song such as "Bring It On Home To Me" ("You know I'll alwaaaaays be your slaaaaave"), that's where your harmonies really express themselves. And when you get a lot of people singing harmony on a long note like that, it's beautiful.

"But singing isn't only about harmonizing pitch like that. It has two other dimensions. The first one is rhythm. It's thrilling when you get the rhythm of something right and you all do a complicated rhythm together: "Oh, when them cotton balls get a-rotten, you can't pick very much cotton." So when 16 or 20 people get that dead right together at a fast tempo that's very impressive. But the other thing that you have to harmonize besides pitch and rhythm is tone. To be able to hit exactly the same vowel sound at a number of different pitches seems unsurprising in concept, but is beautiful when it happens.

"So I believe in singing to such an extent that if I were asked to redesign the British educational system, I would start by insisting that group singing become a central part of the daily routine. I believe it builds character and, more than anything else, encourages a taste for co-operation with others. This seems to be about the most important thing a school could do for you."

New Year's Resolution: Find a new choral group to join. I'm missing it a lot!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:52 AM | Choral Music

November 30, 2008

Music and Technology - NPR series

During November, NPR's Weekend Edition has had a fascinating series on music and technology. Today's program featured two kinds of software that permit at-a-distance musical collaboation: e-jamming, which allows for playing together in real time, and Indaba Music, which facilitates asynchronous collaboration among musicians across the planet. Fascinating stuff. Here is a link to the series. Enjoy!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:01 AM | Music - of all kinds | Technology

December 7, 2008

Hope in the Bleak Mid-Winter

I read in the most recent BBC Music Magazine that "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" was voted the most popular Christmas carol by a panel of famous choral directors and composers from the UK and US. As I look out my window at the gently falling snow, the song certainly fits in with the mood of the day.

But a little while ago, I watched Tom Brokaw's interview with Barack Obama on Meet the Press. Obama is so impressive. His thoughtfulness, presence of mind, breadth of knowledge, and ability to inspire have helped transform this terribly glum time (economy, unemployment, etc.) into a time when there is hope. Hope is a good thing.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:28 PM | Choral Music | Politics

December 23, 2008

Me and Teo

During the Austin holidays, I've developed a ritual of working at Teo's coffee shop in the morning before everyone else wakes up. They have free wifi, which my mother-in-law no longer has. It's a good place to work -- just the right amount of activity, music in the background, a Christmas tree, and willingness to let me nurse a large latte for a few hours. I've had fun working on the syllabus for my spring semester seminar, The Psychology of Adoption.

Every year I test my own feelings about Austin as my HOME, and every year the verdict comes back the same: YES. I have lived in the following places, in this order: Utica, NY: Buffalo, NY; Dallas, TX; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Vallejo, CA (near San Francisco); Minneapolis, MN; Austin, TX; St. Paul, MN; Amherst, MA. Of all these places, Austin feels most like home. There's something about being a UT undergraduate in the 1960s that imprinted it in my soul in some compelling way. The other places hold good memories and varying feelings of connection, but Austin stands out.

The grandkids helped us decorate the small Christmas tree yesterday evening. Magic.

Happy holiday wishes to all!
--Inner Geek

Posted by hgroteva at 11:28 AM | Texas | Travel

December 28, 2008

Holidays - Palling Around with the Grandkids

It's such fun to experience the holidays through the eyes of a 2 and 4 year old - it's really magical. We had lots of quality time together as well as many opportunities to get glimpses into who they are and might become. Take a look.

Meredith the Vet.jpg

Reid - Hook em.jpg

Meredith fire-fighter.jpg

Reid the Magician.jpg

Meredith as Dorothy.jpg

Reid and the Tiger 3.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 1:48 PM | Family | Texas | Travel

January 17, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging - Upstairs, Downstairs

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It's been a while since I've posted about the tribe(s). There are still 2 distinct tribes -- the Upstairs and the Downstairs. The Downstairs also occasionally go outside, but not during this bitter cold and snow. The females still get into it. Mackenzie and Sadie wander downstairs and make forays into the Downstairs territory now and then, and then a great chase / howl scene ensues. When I go down for breakfast in the morning the Upstairs cats follow me down, waiting for their food, which I put in a different place (hallway) than I do for the Downstairs tribe (kitchen counter.)

As you can see from this photo (taken today), the Upstairs group is as tight as ever. It never ceases to amaze me how perfectly close and snug they can get to each other. When it's below zero outside, it's pretty adaptive. I've been home sick for the past 2 days and Pookie has been an excellent nurse cat.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:12 PM | Cats

January 18, 2009

The Audacity of Hope

I've been watching the Obama specials on TV (including the NBC special called The Audacity of Hope and the HBO special of the Lincoln Memorial celebration), and I know that anything I could say at this point would be trite. Nevertheless, I must say, this is an incredible time in history and I feel privileged to be a part of it. Something amazing is stirring throughout the country. Despite all our woes, there is a sense of hope... but even more importantly, a sense of being united. What an amazing leader, and what an amazing time!

Posted by hgroteva at 7:28 PM | Politics

January 21, 2009

Parsing the Inaugural Speech

I thought Obama's inaugural speech was amazing, on many levels. Today, the Chicago Tribune posted an article, "Obama's Inauguration Speech, Annotated," which parses a number of the significant phrases in the speech and delves into the associated literary devices and significant word choices that were made.

The article was re-printed in full on The Periodic Table Too blog today. I'm linking directly to it HERE, since there are no ads or distracting sidebars. HERE is the link directly to the Chicago Tribune story. For anyone who loves words, that speech was a treasure trove.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:14 PM | Politics

January 29, 2009

My Kinda Guy

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U.S. / Politics
White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code
Published: January 29, 2009
Pictures of a jacketless President Obama at the White House last week may signal a discreet culture shift.

Today's NYT ran this story about the informality Obama has brought to the White House -- what a breath of fresh air! Imagine this ... He actually walks around the White House and visits colleagues' offices rather than summon them to appear in a suit. And staff can wear "business casual" on Saturdays. I could deal with that. I couldn't deal with wearing a suit every day, I confess. During and after college, I worked in downtown banks in Austin and Dallas. Austin was less formal, but Dallas required a suit every day. I felt like I was choking most of the time. I'm convinced that ties cut off the blood supply to the brain, and your IQ goes up 5 points just for loosening your tie.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:56 PM | Politics

Ice and Snow


icy branches.JPG

We had quite the winter storm on Wednesday. The university declared a snow day. Like Barack, I thought that was a pretty wimpy decision ... until the sleet came. After about 8 inches of snow, we had a few hours of sleet, which quickly placed a sheet of ice right over all that new snow. Truly treacherous. I went out this morning to uncover the car that won't fit in the garage. On the roof, I could get the broom handle to go underneath the layer of ice, leaving a huge, heavy ice sheet to pull off.

Today's morning sun made for some beautiful scenes. The first one above is in our back yard, and the second one is in front. The house on which we are making an offer has a LONG, sloping driveway. I'm counting on a good plow service out there.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:36 PM | Massachusetts

January 30, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging - Chloe and Dylan

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They're not always this lovey-dovey, but the NM cats Chloe and Dylan do have an amazingly photogenic way of curling up together. When one is already in the bed, the other has to be very discreet about requesting entry. Usually this involves literally tip-toeing in, and giving the other a good lick as a bonding gesture. Occasionally they get into a good tussle in the bed, and then they jump on the table, chase around, and make nasty sounds. Like most siblings.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:31 AM | Cats

February 28, 2009

Whiff of Spring

February has been over the top -- conferences, committees, teaching, writing, admissions, faculty search --- not to mention buying a house. I have gotten almost no exercise, and I feel it. But this morning I took a walk in the neighborhood. It was about 35 and a bit windy -- but there was a decided whiff of spring in the air, for which I am grateful. We are under a winter storm watch for Sunday into Monday -- snow expected -- but the good thing about spring snow is that it melts sooner rather than later.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:55 PM | Life | Massachusetts

March 12, 2009

Gains and Losses

What a treat to have one of my favorite choral groups, Cantus, performing here. I've heard them a number of times in the Twin Cities and own most of their CDs. They are a musical inspiration for me.

The concert was excellent and warmly received by the smallish but enthusiastic audience. I was thrilled to have their music wash over me, but it made me acutely aware of the music I am missing - both as a listener and a singer. I simply have not had time this year to keep singing. But I must. Summer is not all that far off, and perhaps I can connect with a voice teacher, who in turn might help me identify good singing venues for next season. There is nothing like singing. If you want to read more, click on the "choral music" category and look at my many entries.

In looking for blog material about the group, I found this link to a recent (3/5/09) performance of the group at Trinity Church Wall Street. Part of this program is what they sang here tonight. Enjoy!

I also found this YouTube of a rehearsal of the Biebl Ave Maria. The picture is poor (probably taken with a phone cam), but the music comes through fairly well. The Biebl is one of the most beautiful pieces in the choral repertoire for a male group - perhaps THE most beautiful. I had the pure joy of singing it once and would love to again.

Tonight's experience reminds me of the phenomenal opportunities I had singing in the Twin Cities, and the many friends I made in the process. Priceless.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:41 PM | Choral Music

March 15, 2009

Uncommon Knowledge

I discovered a column in the Sunday Boston Globe that gives me a good feeling as a social scientist. It's entitled "Uncommon Knowledge: Surprising Insights from the Social Sciences", by Kevin Lewis. [Click here]

One of today's clips, "The peaceful effect of boys," noted that "the gender of one's children affects one's view of foreign policy." Seems that "households with more boys were more likely to think that the United States should not intervene in other parts of the world and should use diplomacy over military force." The biggest effect seems to be on fathers of boys, who may be concerned that their sons would be drafted. It's a plausible explanation -- however, the U.S. has not had a draft in decades.

In any case, it was fun to encounter this column - it's always good to get some of those initially counterintuitive ideas out there for public exposure..

Posted by hgroteva at 1:04 PM | Family | Life | Social Science

March 17, 2009

Once, Again


In honor of St. Patrick's Day, it's time to listen once again to the soundtrack to one of my favorite movies of all time: "Once." Such a great story, and such great music. I'm listening in memory of the Irish side of my family, especially my beloved grandfather, Leo Francis Ryan. He died suddenly of a stroke when I was about 8 - I wish I had gotten to know him as an adult - my sense is that he was quite a guy. He's the second from the right.

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Here is a link to the soundtrack
- enjoy!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:58 AM | Family | Identity | Music - of all kinds

March 20, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging: Sadie the Shady Lady

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Doesn't she look innocent?
This little fuzz ball has terrorized the two NM cats to the point that that they slink around the house fearing that she will pounce on them. We have entertained the idea of finding another home for her, where she can be the ONLY queen bee. But first, we are trying kittie prozac. It hasn't kicked in yet, but it's only been a few days. She is very affectionate with the MN cats (especially Pookie), so I think it's really a dominance thang. Stay tuned.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:14 AM | Cats

March 21, 2009

Magic Wings - Magical Day





It was a perfect first day of spring to visit Magic Wings in Deerfield with one of my oldest and best friends. Magic Wings is a butterfly conservatory, featuring 4000 free-flying butterflies from all over the world. You enter their habitat and walk among them for as long as you like. Peaceful and awe-some.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:30 AM | Life | Massachusetts

March 31, 2009

Our New View - Signed, Sealed, & Delivered

View of Holyoke Range.JPG

Front porch.JPG


At our closing today, we learned about the meaning of "mortgage" from the French.
From Wikipedia: The term comes from the Old French "dead pledge," apparently meaning that the pledge ends (dies) either when the obligation is fulfilled or the property is taken through foreclosure.
"Dead pledge" sounds a bit ominous, don't you think??

Posted by hgroteva at 12:15 PM | Family | Life | Massachusetts

April 22, 2009

Feline Advice Sought

My blogging frequency has slipped lately, as we prepare to move to our new house next week. Those of you who have followed this blog know the trials and tribulations we have had integrating our two tribes of Tonkinese (let's call them the NM and the MN tribes.) Sadie continues to be aggressive, but we are hoping that the move to a new house will break up current behavior patterns and press the proverbial reset button.

We will be moving the cats on the same day as we move our furniture. The moving company estimates that the process will take all day, so we will probably take the cats to the new house early in the morning. One of us will stay at the new house, and the other will supervise the move at the old house. Do any of you faithful readers have suggestions about how to introduce them to the new house? Turn them all loose at once, close the door, and let them sort it out??! Sequester the two tribes in separate rooms? The two NM cats have already visited the new house. Interestingly, Chloe was like Dora the Explorer - she quickly scooted throughout the house and claimed it as her own. Dylan huddled in a corner. The MN group won't visit until the day of the move. Suggestions?? Maybe we should tranquilize them? Or perhaps tranquilize ourselves? Stay tuned... Please leave comments!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:43 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

May 7, 2009

Quite the Week

We moved into our new house last Friday - a week ago. Although it went as smoothly as it could have gone, it has been exhausting. The movers came at 7:30 Friday morning and had everything out of the house by about 1:00; then they took a brief lunch break and started unloading at the new place. The unloading was finished around 7:30 pm. The following day we brought the cleaning crew into the old place, and it is now clean and empty with the exception of about 200 boxes, which I have advertised for free on Craigslist (come get 'em on Saturday). At the new house, we've dealt with the garbage service, propane delivery, recycling barrel delivery people, lawn folks, mail folks, builder, cable people, and others I'm forgetting at the moment.

One of the more painful glitches was that the washer and dryer didn't fit through the door to the laundry room, even with the door taken off. So the builder had to come and remove the trim, install the machines, and then put the trim back on. But it's in place now.

The cats (individually) have adapted well to the new house, but the MN and NM tribes are still not integrating. Sadly, we have decided to find a new home for Sadie. As much as I love Sadie, she has poor Dylan cowed into slinking around and hiding above cupboards that are 10 feet tall where she can't be seen from below. We need more peace in the kingdom. The cats have enjoyed venturing outside a bit (yes, even Pookie) - but our neighbor warned us not to let them out after dark. She mentioned sightings of deer, moose, coyotes, and bear. So we round 'em up at night.

Despite all this grousing, once the dust settles, I know I'm going to love it here. The view westward is magical and changes by the minute all day. I've been taking a series of pictures from the same vantage point and will post them as soon as I can get to it (after all those papers are graded).

Thanks to all who have sent good wishes for the move. They have been much appreciated! I told my colleagues that I hope they like me, because I'm not moving again!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:26 PM | Cats | Massachusetts | Moving

May 10, 2009

Sadie's New Family

Sadie moved to a new family today. If you've been following this blog, you know that her adjustment to the other cats has been, well, not what you would call "adjustment." One of our new neighbors fell in love with Sadie and mentioned that her sister was looking for a new cat. We met her sister and husband today, and they really liked Sadie too. So she went home with them to Newport, RI. We agreed to keep in touch, and if things don't work out there, they can bring her back. Chloe must sense her absence already, because just in the space of 2 hours she is more relaxed, climbing into our laps, and purring away. I will miss Sadie - she loved to perch on my shoulder and purr - but her being in a different environment will be good all the way around. She will have a good home, I am sure.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:15 PM | Cats

May 14, 2009

Obama's ASU Commencement speech

President Obama's commencement speech at Arizona State last night had me glued to the tube. He is amazingly inspirational - whenever I hear him speak, it feels like he's talking directly to me.

ASU had the bad taste not to present him with an honorary degree. Yahoo news reported the following: "His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency," university spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said after the school's student newspaper first reported the decision.

Obama turned this lemon into lemonade by telling the graduates that their "body of work" would ALWAYS be in progress and that they should never rest on their laurels or their titles, even if the title was POTUS. Here is the first part of his speech. The 2nd and 3rd installments are available on YouTube.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:49 PM | Life | Politics

May 15, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging: Four Minus One

In Sadie's absence, Pookie had a quiet afternoon.

Pookie 051409.jpg

The MN tribe always seemed to sleep in pairs or as a foursome. Pookie always paired with Sadie, but you can see that the dynamic is now a threesome - they seem to be pretty happy, although I'm sure they miss Sadie. On the other hand, peace now reigns in the house and Chloe and Dylan can move around without slinking and fearing attack. By all reports, Sadie is doing well in her new home.

Pookie Shadow Mac 051409 - a.JPG

Pookie Shadow Mac 051409 - b.JPG

Posted by hgroteva at 1:31 AM | Cats

May 17, 2009

Many Moods

All these photos were taken off the deck of our new house within the space of the first two weeks living here. The view is of Mt. Holyoke Range State Park, due west. The moods of the terrain seem to change every 5 minutes - we have experienced dense fog, clouds, heavy rain, wild winds, and bright sun -- often all on the same day. What a privilege!











Posted by hgroteva at 8:20 PM | Life | Massachusetts

May 30, 2009

We're Number 1

Amherst has just been named the Number 1 college town in the U.S., according to the article posted here. Here we are on the map.

Amherst map.jpeg

It looks like the ranking was due to a number of factors, including 5 colleges in the immediate area (UMass, Amherst College, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and Hampshire); reasonable cost of living; access to cultural events; and good public transportation. The article forgot to mention the natural beauty of western Mass.

Amherst fall foliage.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 9:21 PM | Massachusetts

June 13, 2009

In Memory, Saige Reisler

Saige Reisler.jpg

Saige Reisler, Development Officer for our College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, died last Saturday after jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge into the Hudson River. She was 33, with a teenage daughter and a new fiance.

Her memorial service today was beautiful, uplifting, even transformative. Her family had put much energy this past week into making meaning of something that seems unfathomable. Life and death are indeed mysteries.

Saige's minister gave profoundly comforting comments, reminding everyone that her spirit is very much with those gathered together. He felt confident that the Lord, rather than turning his back on Saige, caught her spirit before her body even hit the water.

I had had some interaction with Saige and was slated for more. I looked forward to our meetings - she seemed very sincere about the people she worked with. After a recent honors event, we shared the joy of a successful scholarship nomination for a very deserving undergraduate student. Her memorial service revealed the many ways in which she cared profoundly about others. She lived a life of sacrifice and giving and modeled that for others. Her approach to life has become magnified many times over in her death. Her mother urged people to share, to give, to help others.

Saige had apparently told her sister and daughter that when she died, she wanted her favorite piece of music to be played: a reggae version of "Over the Rainbow." It was light, airy, whimsical, and provided just the right touch after a very emotional few hours. I found the version on the internet - it was by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole; go to this link and then click on "Over the Rainbow" to hear 30 seconds of this song, and think of Saige. And here's a fuller version: enjoy...

Rest in peace, Saige. You will not be forgotten. Every time we see a firefly, it will be a reminder of your too-brief life and the many ways in which you touched others.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:54 PM | In Memory / In Honor

June 22, 2009

Every Little Step

I saw a great movie yesterday, "Every Little Step." It's a documentary based on the selection of the cast for the Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line." Great stories, great music, great dancing, and lots of energy. But what got me the most? It was about excellence -- giving it your all, taking risks, pulling out all the stops -- and all the joy and elation that comes with it.

Go to this link for a trailer.


Posted by hgroteva at 8:55 AM | Life | Movies

June 24, 2009

Resistance is Futile

As the Borg said to Jean-Luc, "Resistance is futile." That's how I've come to feel about Facebook. Yes, I'm on it now. The thing that put me over the line was the birth of my nephew last week. I know that Facebook is where all his pictures will be, and I want to keep up with him, so ..... (Not to mention that quite a few of my fellow bloggers have moved from blogging to Facebook.) I signed up a few hours ago, and discovered some old high school friends I haven't communicated with since graduation.

I also discovered, to my surprise, that my division at the university has a facebook page of its own! Needless to say, I have signed on.

Facebook has double interest for me now. The grant application we are working on involves social network analysis, and of course, facebook is the ultimate social networking tool. We will be studying social networks in a different way, but the experience of being on Facebook is giving me some new ah-ha's about social networks in general. Stay tuned for more on that...

Posted by hgroteva at 9:07 PM | About | Life | Technology

July 1, 2009

Wednesday Cat Blogging: Missing Dylan

I'm very sad to report that Dylan has been gone for almost 10 days. Even in New Mexico, his nickname was "The Escape Artist." He was never content to be an indoor cat, like some other Tonks we know. He would escape at every opportunity.

Out here, he loved being able to run out in the yard and in the wild area around the house. He had been going in and out for the better part of a month, but left one day and never returned.

Although I may be over-anthropomorphizing, I think it's really changed the dynamics within the tribe(s). First of all, Chloe misses her sleeping buddy. They have been bosom buddies since birth. (That's Dylan on the left.)

Chloe and Dylan together.JPG

Chloe's seemed lonely, and since she lost some air cover, she is being increasing ganged up on by Shadow and MacKenzie. And Pookie has been missing Sadie. Tonight, for the first time, Chloe and Pookie came within 3 inches of each other and sniffed - no growls, no chasing. Maybe they will be the next soulmates ... one can hope.

Every day I go outside, I hope that Dylan will come trotting down the hill, but I'm losing hope. Then I remember that I gave up on Shadow and he showed up 9 days later. Shadow has used at least 5 of his 9 lives. I think Dylan still has at least 8 left.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:55 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

July 13, 2009

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - "Sleep"

Posted by hgroteva at 3:46 PM | Choral Music | Technology

July 30, 2009

The Sky is Falling?

Living out in the country has brought some new realizations about vulnerabilities, but this is one I had never anticipated. From the July 30 "Sentinel" for our Belchertown:
"A Westover {AFB] C-5 on a local training mission dropped two tires from the aircraft in Belchertown late last week" ... from 4,000 feet. We are an hour from the nearest commercial airport, but about once a day we see a very low and slow-flying Air Force plane heading to or from Westover. It's kind of neat to see them up close and personal, but I think I'll be watching those tires a bit more closely...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:28 AM | Massachusetts

August 9, 2009

Evocative Music Summer

I have absolutely no right to complain about missing music here. This summer has been a real treat. The special joy is that the pieces I hear evoke wonderful (usually) memories of ways I've interacted with them before.

I'll start with last night. We joined Chris at the Saratoga (NY) Performing Arts Center to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. The first piece was Valses nobles et sentimentales by Ravel -- a real treat. I'm a sucker for Ravel, Debussy, and Impressionist art - so there. The second piece was Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto played by Joshua Bell. Serendipitously, he was interviewed on NPR during our drive to Saratoga - sounds like the kind of guy you'd enjoy meeting and having a casual conversation with. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his Stradivarius and how getting his new instrument a few years ago felt like divorcing one partner and taking on a new one with more vivid colors and life. As much as he loves the new instrument, he said he might replace it if just the perfect one came along. He is an amazing violinist. I had heard him a number of times with the SPCO and have several of his CDs. After watching calm violinists playing away in their orchestra seats, it's always such a contrast to see the physicality of a soloist like Bell. (He's also close to being a pro tennis player - it shows.)

Seeing performances like that always ramp up my dedication to whatever I have going on. ("Seeing" isn't the right word. Although I'm sitting in the audience, I'm much more engaged than "seeing" or "hearing" would imply. I wonder what the right word would be?) The final piece, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (from the New World) was a special treat. It brought me back to high school. I was participating in summer band camp at UT Austin and we performed the 4th movement in symphonic band. We worked very hard and pulled it off. It was especially challenging and fun, because we clarinets had all the great parts that the violins would otherwise have gotten. Anyway, the Phila Orch played with great passion and energy. I must say, the conductor drove me crazy. His beats (such as they were) were all over the place. As a seasoned orchestra would, they mainly ignored him and followed their collective internalized conductor, and it worked just fine. In person, I suspect he is as pretentions as his program notes made him sound. They stated, "Mr. X has traveled and visited ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD." (caps mine) ... Really??!! C'mon! Give me a break. Anyway, it was a delightful evening.

Earlier visits to the Berkshire Choral Festival last weekend (for the Rachmaninoff Vespers) and Tanglewood (for Stravinsky's Rites of spring and the Brahms Violin Concerto) were equally enjoyable. Even though each of these venues is a 2-hour drive away, the countryside is beautiful and the journey makes it really feel like summer. Life is good.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:52 AM | Massachusetts | Music - of all kinds

October 1, 2009

Sidetracked by FB, but Friday Cat Blogging Anyway

Like several of my blogging buds, I've been sidetracked by FaceBook. I started in late June and now have 139 friends. I've found it to be a fascinating experience - I've connected with some folks from high school (and I hadn't really kept up any of those relationships) and I've reconnected with colleagues all over the country, some of whom I'd lost track of. I also have frequent conversations with relatives and with my MN colleagues.

I've found it to be more engaging than blogging, because there is an immediate audience, one known to me, and I can share feedback with others when I wish. With blogging, I've never fully known the extent of my readership. I have had over 11,000 hits, but that's not terribly many for 4 years. I've enjoyed posting and doing my own version of citizen journalism. My blog has also been a spot to reflect in a more extended way than is possible on FB. The two media serve different functions, but they both take precious time. I haven't decided to stop blogging, but we'll see.

In the meantime, fall has arrived in Massachusetts, and the tonks are huddling in their fleece bed. Of course, these are just the MN tonks. Shadow and MacKenzie mercilessly hassle New Mexico Chloe - we have to intervene in major screeching chases around the house several times a week. They are each sweet and wonderful in their own way, but the 2 female chemistry is not working. We thought that when we found a new home for Sadie, this would stop. But in her absence, the other two have taken up the cause. Pookie continues to be above it all. Once in a while, he and Chloe sniff and touch noses, but they're certainly not sleeping together!

Just so she doesn't feel left out, here's a recent snap of Chloe - she loves warm places too!

Chloe in drier 1.JPG

Posted by hgroteva at 10:47 PM | About Inner Geek | Cats | Technology

October 24, 2009

Musical Encounter - All Kinds of Strings

We had an unplanned musical encounter last night at a place I've been wanting to visit for other reasons - but what fun! S saw an announcement about a concert being given at the Montague Book Mill, featuring the duo of Cheyenne Brown (on celtic harp) and Seylan Baxter (on cello and vocals). Seylan is from Scotland, and Cheyenne is originally from Alaska, but met Seylan in music school in Scotland. Anyway - cello and celtic harp is quite a felicitous combination. The Book Mill is in an old mill house, complete with creaky floors and doors and lots of atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed the cello-harp concert and look forward to listening to their new CD. Here is their website.

Following their set was Jozef van Wissem on baroque lute. A pretty interesting guy, but he never let fully loose with his playing. Most of his pieces sounded similar, more like etudes than the real thing. But the real treat came at the end, with 2 early 20-something guys who look like the most improbable duo you could find. There were only 2 of them, but in the course of their one (long) set, they played bass clarinet, violin, sleigh bells, other bells, a small keyboard powered by blowing, a gadget that looks like a castle with a keyboard, a small piano played by bellows, and I'm sure I'm forgetting at least 5 other things. The piece lasted about 30 minutes and was surely improv - but they made some interesting sounds and had some nice points of contact. And oh yes, they had 3 small casette tape recorders and did looping -- recorded snips and played against their recordings, becoming ever more complex. One of the guys told me they were from Brooklyn, but I didn't catch their names. They were in their own world, totally absorbed ... Flow personified.

The encounter was largely unplanned and unexpected - a welcome respite to a month that has been very highly structured with commitments and deadlines. Montague is 45 mins north of here, but there are lots of little places like it (well, not really like it) tucked away here in western MA. I look forward to exploring many of them!

Posted by hgroteva at 2:33 PM | Massachusetts | Music - of all kinds

November 21, 2009

In Praise of Criminal Minds - the show, that is

criminal-minds Hotch Reed Morgan.jpg

I just finished watching all 106 episodes of Criminal Minds -- up-to-date now. What a trip!

The show is now in its 5th season, but somehow we hadn't really paid attention to it until this past summer. But once it grabbed hold, it didn't let go. It's fascinating on so many levels. A show hasn't latched on to me like that since "Six Feet Under," which i really miss.

Even though I am a psychologist, it is hard to believe that such twisted behavior exists out there. Of course, watching 106 episodes does tend to give one a jaundiced view of things. On the other hand, the show brilliantly depicts the human side of the principal FBI / BAU characters. They all have their strengths and their vulnerabilities. Most of the time, it's all about business -- but every once in a while a very human glimmer shows through. These are folks you'd trust your life with. I'm glad they're out there protecting us. I hope they are, anyway.

A few times, I found myself shouting at the TV - "NO! Stop! Don't give anyone ideas like that!" Especially in the episode about anthrax contamination of the Metro in DC.

My "favorite" episode (that's really the wrong word for it...) was "Riding the Lightning" - Season 1, Episode 14. The show was powerful at the most elemental level.

stay tuned...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:37 PM | Criminal Minds | Social Science | Society