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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

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

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

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

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

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

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