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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. It’s 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? There’s so much I can’t eat – seems that everything is sandwich-like or includes questionable ingredients that could make me miserable for days.

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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.

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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.

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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 didn’t let that spoil the evening.

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The church was lit by candles. They began with the Allegri Miserere. I’m 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, it’s 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.
I’m 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 café in the crypt and the brass rubbing center.

I made the 10:30 train back to Norwich, but it didn’t 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

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

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 what’s 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. John’s University. So that will have an impact on the housing and food services at St. John’s. (I hope the Institute has an “out clause” in their contract, but of course that means that St. John’s won’t 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 isn’t that frustration how we ended up with Jesse Ventura??

Posted by hgroteva at 4:08 PM

July 11, 2005

Planet Earth

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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

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

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

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

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