Welcome to Glenn's Blog!

Here I will periodically post random thoughts and stories about what's going on in my life and the world around me. As if anyone cared. But seriously, you've found your way here, so hopefully you will enjoy at least some of what I have to say, even if you aren't entirely interested in it. At the least, it should be a good way to waste time.

Of course, you can visit my website for more info about me, or feel free to email me anytime.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Christmas Already?

My how time flies...it's already Christmas morning. Not sure what I'm doing up before 8:00am. Oh yeah...the cats wanted their morning soft food. This was a busy holiday season - so busy that we never even got around to getting a Christmas tree. Well, until mom delivered a miniature 12 inch tree while we were gone to Disneyland. Ho ho ho, I guess.

So we just got back from a Disneyland trip, December 20-23. It was the first time we had been there since the middle of July. And that's a long time for us! It was actually our Christmas present to each other - instead of buying a bunch of presents, wrapping them, watching the cats slowly destroy the wrapping paper, and so on, we bought each other annual passports to Disneyland. Even though the price went up to $289, we'll still get our money's worth. In fact we already have our next trip tentatively planned - for February 14-18!

Boy, was it busy in the park! I mean, I was expecting to see some crowds, but on Monday and Tuesday it was exceptionally crowded. So much so that the park tried something new at the end of the day - opening up the backstage area behind Main Street to use as an egress, or rather a short cut, for those trying to exit the park. It certainly helped - traffic was quite jammed on Main Street and along the shop fronts. And it was pretty neat, since you don't normally get to see the backside of things.

Well, today is Christmas and as such there lots to do of course. The holiday break really starts tomorrow, when we can finally sit back and be lazy. And catch up on all the things we didn't get done in the last month...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thank God That's Over

Well, the Festival of New American Music is now officially over, at least it was as of Sunday. And after a restful yet productive furlough day, I'm back at work catching up on the things that had been put on the back burner the last couple of weeks. I must say, FeNAM in itself wasn't that bad this year for me; everything went smoothly, or seemed to at least, and I only ended up doing 22.5 overtime hours.

The last two weeks were compounded though by Meet Me In St. Louis, my first venture at RSP as Musical Director. Really, my first venture anywhere as musical director. Why anyone would think to put me in that role with no experience is beyond me, but it actually has worked out pretty well. And I've certainly learned a lot. And, it's been fun, which is really the ultimate goal of anything.

Of course, doing a tech week while at the same time trying to get ready to open our busiest festival at Sac State is really not recommended. That was a tough week!

Things were compounded further by my learning on Saturday morning that one of my old friends - my closest friend during my undergrad days at Sac State - passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. This certainly made it very hard to focus at Saturday's and Sunday's musical shows.

But I'm not going to go into that here...yet.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

Well, Halloween has passed and November has begun, and we've been given an extra hour due to Daylight Savings time as well. What nice timing, for people to get extra sleep following Halloween night.

It seems that in recent years I really haven't done much of anything for Halloween. I've always been too busy doing this or that, or just otherwise have not found time to get into the spirit. I certainly did not do any decorating or dressing up.

This year was not much of an exception, but at least I got out a little bit. The afternoon began with a four hour rehearsal of Meet Me In St. Louis. This is my first time conducting a show, which is at once both exciting and daunting. I've been trying to put a lot of time into score study and listening to the CD and even watching the MGM movie twice, so I could get up to speed. It's been going okay - at least I think I'm getting better and certainly learning a lot really fast.

Anyway, after rehearsal we ordered pizza from Papa Johns and went home for a few hours to see if any trick-or-treaters would come by, and to watch some Halloween-esque movie. It was my intention to watch Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein", but as it turns out, I don't seem to have a copy at home. So we watched recorded episodes of Law and Order and CSI. It kind of fits.

No trick-or-treaters came by. Just like last year.

Then we went to go see the 9:00pm showing of Batboy at Sac State. I was fortunate enough to come across some 2-for-1 ticket coupons last week, so it was a rather cheap date. The show was pretty solid overall, certainly entertaining and humorous anyway. And lots of people there were dressed in costume. So, it was kind of like being at a Halloween party.

Okay, not really. But hey, it was a fun holiday after all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time Flies

Well it seems like only yesterday that I was writing my last blog on here about jury duty, but that was almost a month ago! My how time flies. I guess that's good that I'm keeping busy.

I've only been doing a little musical playing, most notably the Runaway State Productions Preview Show, which was an open house kind of event including performances of excerpts from last seasons and next season's shows. It was really quite a good show; I did last year's, which was a smaller scale, but this one had a 22 piece orchestra. Next season should be pretty incredible at RSP.

But will I be there?

It's a bit early to know what I will be doing in 2010 musical wise...I'm hoping they decide to put live music in Suds at the Cosmopolitan in January, so maybe I can play bass there. But no word on that.

Here's what I am doing though - last Friday night I was brought on to be musical director for Meet Me In St. Louis with RSP. It was kind of unexpected; for whatever reason their regulars and others who they asked could not do it. I was a bit leery about taking on such a huge role; after all I have never actually directed a musical before. But it should be a great experience, and I'm sure it will go fine.

Time to start doing some serious score study...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jury Duty. Some Things Don't Change

Well this week I was on standby for jury duty. It's the same sort of thing as before, where you call in on day and their recording tells you to call in other day, which you do, and are then told to call in another day, and so forth until you've made phone calls at least once every day for a week.

This time, though, I actually got called in - in the middle of the day. I had only been called in once, years and years ago. But on Tuesday I got to leave work at noon and go downtown to the courthouse.

I tell you, not much has changed. The building is the same, the setup is the same. It is nice that they have TV's mounted which play the big Disney blockbusters from 2 or 3 years ago. But other than that, it's the same deal.

I ended up waiting for two and a half hours while I read through my graduate music history notes and scores. Two separate panels were called over to different courtrooms during that time, but I was not picked in the lottery. So, at about 3:30pm, we were told we could go home and that our service was completed - for the next 18 months anyway.

So I went to the Super WalMart and did some grocery shopping, and still got home before I would have if I had been at work all day.

It almost seems like a waste of time to have someone go to all the trouble of getting off work and have them do all the paperwork that goes along with a summons and the surveys you fill out when your there, to then only be there for less than 3 hours with nothing to show for it. I almost wish I had been pulled onto a panel, then at least there would have been something interesting to do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

End of the Run

Well, Forever Plaid has come and gone, after 387 performances in Sacramento. I myself played for the last 150 or so...I lost count after awhile. The last week of the run was great, with full energetic houses and emotions running high. It was a bittersweet ending for me, on one hand nice because I'll suddenly have more free time at home, but sad that's it actually over. (And of course I'll miss the extra paychecks!)

The final scenes and Justin's final monologue hit true to home, as it speaks of not wanting to leave and not knowing what the future will hold, but yet knowing that it's time to move on. The Plaids were all fighting back tears I think, and the last monologue lasted longer than it ever has, as it was difficult to get through.

I was really touched before the show that they gave me a signed and framed 'Honorary Plaid' certificate - the same they give out each performance to the lucky volunteer who gets to play the top part of Heart and Soul. That will sit on my desk at home as a testament and reminder of the longest running professional musical theatre show in Sacramento's history. And of course I am honored to have been a part of it.

But, as they say, life moves on.

So here I am back at work after a leisurely and relaxing tour of Apple Hill on Labor Day yesterday. It's only a three day work week due to the holiday and the Friday furlough, but I don't mind that of course. On to new projects!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Friday

Well today is Thursday, of Friday given that the 'real' Friday is a furlough day. I'm planning on going to see District 9 with the old man tomorrow, since I have the day off. From the previews, it looked like a rather lame alien-versus-human type movie. But everyone I know who has gone to see it has really liked it, so we'll give it a shot.

What the rest of the day will hold, who knows. But likely, lounging at home until it's time to go to my evening job at the Cosmopolitan. Only four more days of Forever Plaid! It seems like it's been going on forever. It certainly will be bittersweet to see it go.

This has been the first week of school, and thanks to holidays and furloughs I have a four-day week followed by a four-day weekend followed by a three-day week followed by a three-day weekend. Oh, if only it could always be like that! My 700 sick time hours might suggest that it could be so, but alas, in a couple of weeks I'll most likely be back to a five-day work week.

At least until the furloughs in October come.

But for now, the week has been filled with oodles and oodles of students getting their lockers and practice room keys as they desperately try and add the already overfilled classes they need to graduate. And life goes on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of Summer

Wow, it's amazing that classes are starting next Monday, the official signal to the end of summer. Why does it always seem to go by so fast? This was quite a rollercoaster of a summer, although in retrospect it seems I really accomplished nothing. I played an average of seven music shows per week throughout this summer, took a trip to England for a wedding and some sightseeing, and went to Disneyland (though only once!), in addition to working here and there at the college and dealing with the furlough issues. Tat was the hot topic that consumed so much of our thoughts, time, and energy. But other than that, it seems the time just flew by.

And now the 'lazy' days of summer are over. Ironically, with Forever Plaid having only two weeks left until closing, the fall semester may present me with more free time than I had over the summer. Maybe I can use that time to get some writing. You would think that the summer months would present an excellent time to do some writing. But alas, not a note was written by me. Perhaps the tides will shift in the coming weeks, and I'll finally start becoming productive again.

And then again, maybe not.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning

Well it's early Monday morning, the close of a four-day weekend created by furloughing last Friday and today. It used to be that such a break would mean a trip somewhere, Disneyland or camping, or even just a drive to the ocean or the foothills. Something to get out of town. Of course, I still have Forever Plaid going on, and with 7-8 shows per week it's hard to get away.

And of course I need to keep as much revenue coming in as I can right now, since Forever Plaid is closing in three weeks! I'm going to miss that show, and certainly its income, though it will be nice to have some more evenings free.

Well, I'm sure they'll be filled up with school work since I'm currently slated to take two grad classes in the fall. So they won't be free per se, but at least they'll be spent at home.

But for today, in what will possibly be the last 'big' hoorah before the official end of summer is marked by the official start of the school year, we're going to sit at home with the shades pulled down and have a movie marathon of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So if I can't travel anywhere physically, I'll take a mental diversion to Middle Earth.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Furlough? What Furlough?

So today is the first furlough day at Sacramento State. Except I'm still here. It seems I'm always here. I should just move in a cot and sleep here; it would certainly save on rent, and since I have access to bathrooms and my own refrigerator and microwave, it could probably work.

Anyway, since we have Suzuki piano slated on the schedule for today, I'm still at work today, in this ghost town of a campus. So far I've gone around and checked to make sure things are locked up, and turned off lights which were just wasting electricity.

I'll probably spend most of today getting things ready for the start of school; making sure there's enough forms copied and Fee Cards ready, and signs for locker checkouts, and things like that. And at some point I'll go across campus to see if anything service-wise, such as the Union eateries, are running. Apparently the bookstore is slated to be open. And as there are summer classes meeting today in various parts of campus, it's not going to be completely devoid of life out there.

And come next weekend, I'll take a four day weekend holiday, to make up for missing out on today's historic furlough. Perhaps that will be a good time to do a Lord of the Rings movie marathon.

And on it goes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

High Security

So, I was at Wal Mart yesterday, after having (finally) seen the new Harry Potter movie. Just stopped by to pick up a few things before heading home. You know how they now have self-checkout counters,so that you can totally avoid any contact with a live employee? Well I was going through one of those lines, and as I was paying with my credit card, it became apparent that the little stylus pen used to work the pin-pad was not working.

Now, of course, you can use your finger to punch the buttons on the little screen, and it still works. But this becomes problematic when you have to actually sign for your purchases. I'm not sure why I didn't think of trying to use my fingernail to do this. Though, I can't for the life of me understand why my finger would still be able to push buttons and yet the stylus pen would be completely ineffective.

So there I was, at the checkout counter, abandoned by all who work there, frantically scribbling with the little pen, hoping that I could get it to make some sort of mark.

And then, Hallelujah! A single straight line, about a quarter of an inch long, appeared.

Now, of course, I can't imagine any place that would ever accept that for an "official" signature designating that you agree to pay all of the money their store saw fit to charge you for their goods. But, having run out of obvious options, I used used my finger to hit the "accept" button.

And it worked. It didn't even question it. How's that for credit card security?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Furloughs

Well, the furlough agreement for CSU staff passed, with a statewide average of over 80% in favor. Interestingly, our campus wasn't that much in favor of it. In fact, the unit I'm in, Unit 9, actually voted it down 53% to 47%. But, as in all things, the majority rules, and so come next month we all take a 10% pay cut in return for being forced to not work for 24 days over the coming academic year.

I logged onto my staff account today and noticed that we have already had our salaries effectively frozen since July 1, 2007. Not even a cost of living adjustment, to say nothing of merit par or service pay increases, for two years now. But we haven't been giving enough, apparently.

Anyway, today I signed up for the new furlough Q&A workshop that Human Resources is offering. So tomorrow I'll spend an hour and a half listening to other staff people gripe and bemoan about their personal situations, while someone in an assumed position of authority tells us that we really don't know for sure how this is all going to be implemented.

And life goes on.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Cockroach

So, I've just returned from the Happiest Place on Earth, and since I didn't have free wi-fi access there I was unable to blog whilst there. But the trip was a smashing success, which is to say I went on lots of rides and ate lots of overpriced food. We had something of an auspicious start to our trip though.

On the way down to Anaheim, we stopped at the McDonalds in Buttonwillow for a brief snack, dare I say lunch, before heading on again. We were rather surprised to find a cockroach calmly exploring the eating area inside. In fact, it was the family with three kids that first noticed him, and the kids kept remarking at rather loud volumes how there was a cockroach running around on the floor. This got the attention of several of the store employees, and for a brief while everyone stopped and watched the little critter scurry to and fro.

The show became boring after awhile, and everyone went back to their own daily routines. The cockroach, sensing that he was losing his audience, promptly made a beeline for our table, and passed underneath my feet.

Now, by this point, Whitney was getting rather traumatized by the whole thing, so she flagged down a passing worker and asked if we could use their little broom to sweep the critter outside. She promptly stepped on the unfortunate bug, and the left him there, with one leg still twitching, next to our table. Well this was too much for Whitney, so she grabbed a napkin and cleaned the cockroach up and threw him away.

I guess cockroaches must be a fairly normal thing in Buttonwillow, since the whole of the McDonalds staff seemed completely uninterested in ridding their establishment of the pest. Mental note: don't stop to eat in Buttonwillow again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disneyland...One Last Time

Well, seeing as how my Annual Passport to Disneyland expires on July 27, it makes sense that I need to take one last trip, so on Monday we depart for a two day mini-vacation. I'm usually opposed to tackling Disneyland in the summer just because of the large number of crowds that are typically there, but at least we'll be there from Monday through Wednesday, which is the slowest part of the week.

I've gotten lucky on the hotel; we normally stay at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel, which is a nice spacious property right across the street from the park. It is, usually by far, the cheapest hotel within walking distance to the park.

When I originally booked the hotel, the rate listed was $89 a night. Not too bad, especially when you consider that most properties on that block go for over $100 a night. But that rate would get even better...

I guess in these economic times, people in general are less apt to travel, because they have less money to spend. It used to be that if you were trying to book a hotel fairly last minute, say a week or so before you go, it would cost a bit more than if you booked a couple of months or more in advance. Not anymore.

On a lark, I happened to look up the hotel on the web again this week, and I saw that the room rates had dropped to $79 a night. Nice! So, of course, I re-booked and cancelled my original reservation, saving about $23 on two nights when tax is factored in. But wait, there's more...

This morning I checked again - and the rate had dropped to $69 a night! So, naturally, I rebooked. Again. And cancelled my previous reservation. Again. And saved another $23. Again.

I think I shall have to treat myself to a nice dinner in the park with all these savings. Or maybe I'll splurge on churros and double chocolate chip muffins.

I have to wonder, though, how long it will be before hotels start charging in advance and not allowing refunds for canceling, like airlines do now. And like the Travelodge hotels in England do now. I'm sure I can't be the only one who continually checks prices and re-books when they drop. I guess time will tell on that one.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Water and Sewer

So, apparently the City of Sacramento is fairly inept in keeping track of what services it should be billing for for residential properties. Perhaps there's just too many bills and fees associated with living in California, maybe that's the problem.

A couple of weeks ago we got a letter fro the City of Sacramento welcoming us to our new home (that we've lived in for over a year and half now), and informing us that they would be handling our billing for water and sewer from now on.

A couple of days later we received another letter saying, basically, "Oops, it seems we've forgotten to bill you (and everyone in your complex) for the past year and a half, so we're going to bill you for past services as well". Lovely.

Now, I was under the impression that our HOA covered these services, so it was no surpise to me that I never received a bill in the last 20 months. A cursory examination of our HOA's expense reports shows that they pay over $10,000 a year to the City for water and sewer. But, apparently, that's only for the "common" areas of the property, and not individual units. Which mean that there's something in the neighborhood of $26,000 of up-till-now-un-billed services for the units in our small community.

How in the world did the City miss that??

So, in today's mail, we received our bill for the current month and the past 20 months, and no have until the 27th of July to pay the $653.50 balance. And you wonder why California is so screwed up? Great job to the Capital City for setting such a fine example of business practices.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Have a Pint?

Well, 8 days and 391 pictures later, I am back at work following a fabulous vacation to England. Currently I'm catching up on the 260 email messages that accrued while I was away (It would have been more, but I didn't check and delete a bunch of junk while in Wolverhampton).

It occurs to me now, as I read a Facebook comment suggesting that I should have a pint on behalf of various poor souls stuck in Sacramento, that I didn't quite have enough pints of ale whilst I was there, at least not enough for British standards.

While we were at the Black Country Living Museum, just a short 20 minute bus ride from Wolverhampton to Dudley, we discovered, among other things, that the typical coal miner would ingest up to 12 pints of ale - per day! That's a lot of beer.

I think I had a total of 4 pints while I was over there, or an average of one-half pint per day. And that was mostly of Stella Artois, with a little Amstel Light thrown in for good measure. I did better at the wedding however, at least approaching a respectable British standard. I think I had a mimosa (though they don't call them that - it's something like Bucksfizz over there, at least in Welsh country), three glasses of red wine, and two glasses of champagne. Granted, this was over a period of 5-6 hours of time. But still.

Well, I guess it's back to work now, for at least a half day today, and back to playing musicals tonight. Gotta earn money anyway, not only for bills but for our next vacation - a mini two day trip to Disneyland on July 20. It's quiet at work right now, but that will change, as this is the jazz camp week after all, so it's about to get very noisy here...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back in the USA

Well I'm back in the good ol' USA, our trip to the United Kingdom done and in the books. The wedding, our excuse for taking an 8 day holiday, went off without a hitch. Well, that is, except for the hitch that was supposed to happen.

The reception went well, and featured some Welsh square dancing and even some fireworks of the variety which would be illegal here in California. And the food - well it was incredible, especially considering that it was put together in a portable kitchen.

London was a great treat, and a fabulous end to a wonderful vacation. We were able to see Billy Elliot, a play of Peter Pan, the British Museum, and the Tower of London, and I even got to shake hands with Prince William - a small brush with royalty.

Pictures should be posted soon on my website...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

Well, here we are spending the 4th of July in England, the land we gained independence from, though no one we've met seems to hold any grudges about that.

It's also the day of the big wedding of Justin and Katherine at St. Peters church in Wolverhampton. We were fortunate to get a private free tour of the church, which dates from the 1400s, from one of the priests of the church. We were simply in the right place at the right time, and he and his dog apparently had nothing better to do. The church is quite spectacular, with dozens of massive stain glass window scenes depicting the life of Jesus and various kings and saints.

The site of the church, incidentally, has been a church site since the 800s when it was occupied by monks who had been given the land by Lady Wolfrun, for whom Wolverhampton is named. There still exists one column from that time which is believed to have originally had a wooden cross atop it. But I digress.

Today's plans call for some light shopping and wedding preparations, and later we bud to Old Hope Farm for the reception, which is the home of the bride's family. I don't think we'll see any fireworks today, but that's okay. It's a welcome trade to have a nice relaxing vacation. Now I have a few hours to kill...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Technology Unlimited

As I sit in the lobby of the Brittannia Hotel in Wolverhampton, England, I can't help but be amazed at how much technology has grown since I was a kid. I'm typing on an iPod touch, specifically the one I found in a seat cushion at the Arden Fair Mall. Imagine! Being able to check email and Facebook and blog from a little device that fits in the palm of your hand. All wireless. All free. Gotta love technology. Well today it's off to explore the city, check out the art museum and city park, and maybe do some shopping. More to come...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stuck in Houston?

Well, tomorrow we leave on our trip to England. I'm certainly looking forward to leaving the 100+ degree temperatures here in Sacramento, and settling for the mid-80's-plus-a-chance-of-rain that they are having in England right now. As it turns out, however, we almost we're looking at being stranded in Houston on the return trip.

I went online this morning to do do our check-in and boarding pass printing, because the email message I received earlier convinced me that it would be a good idea to do. Not that I wouldn't have anyway, because, hey, who doesn't want to save a little time in line at the airport check-in counter? As it turns out, you can't print boarding passes, not just because we have baggage to check but because they need to visually inspect your photo ID. So, the email lied, or perhaps just played a good joke on me.

But it worked out in my favor, because as I was logging in online to not check in and not print my boarding passes, I noticed that the last leg of our return journey was conspicuously missing from our itinerary. So, I called there convenient 1-800 number to find out what the deal was.

Now, several months ago I had received a very serious looking email sporting a vivid red exclamation point, stating that our itinerary had changed, that the world as we knew it was ending, and that our entire trip was certainly doomed. As it turned out then, our initial outgoing flight time had changed from 6:05am to 6:00am. Whew! That was a close call.

This time, what had happened was, our last leg of the return flight had been changed to be 50 minutes later. This was apparently too much stress to place on their automated system, because it didn't even bother to send me a serious looking email. The system just gave up, and decided that the trip was surely doomed this time, and so it just removed us from the flight altogether. And gave our seats away to another couple.

Well, in the end, the kind people at the other end of the phone line scratched their heads for awhile, mumbled to themselves about how they have no idea why this would or could happen, and fixed the problem. Or so I hope.

I now have a new piece of paper that clearly states that I am booked on the return flight. I'll just put it right next to the other piece of paper that clearly states that I was booked on that flight the first time. And hopefully, there will be no more changes that will drive their system to further despair.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Spiral Begins

Well, the votes are in, and Sac State's staff voted 359-69 in favor of furloughs. Statewide the elections showed 82% in favor of this option, which is a pretty clear majority. Now the bargaining team will go to work with the chancellor's office to determine exactly how this will play out.

Of course, reducing all of our pay by 10% means we'll all be tightening our belts - again - just like we do every year when we find out that we're not getting even a decent cost of living adjustment, to say nothing of getting a regular raise. Maybe I should have been an administrator.

And by tightening our belts, obviously, we're going to spend less and less money in the private sector, which means more businesses will lay off workers or fold completely, which means the state will have even less and less tax revenue, which means the problem will continue to worsen. And so the downward spiral begins. Or rather, continues.

As a side note, the elections on our campus were a joke. I've seen better organization with high school prom queen voting than what took place here yesterday. It was a mass of confusion. No signs were posted indicating that folks should be in different lines depending on which unit they were in. No one was really watching to ballot box closely to make sure that those who were putting in votes had actually checked in. And as for checking in - no one even checked ID!

We did get periodically yelled at, to the effect of, "Don't just drop off your ballot without checking in! If you don't check in, your ballot won't count!". Not that the ballots had anyone's name on them. So, really, there's no way to verify if any particular ballots belonged to someone who checked in or not. Or whether they belonged to someone who checked in two or three times as someone else. Or whether they just dropped off a ballot and weren't even a union member.

Gotta love the state system. Sigh.

Monday, June 22, 2009

California is Dying

I don't usually get too worked up in politics, but since today our union is set to vote on whether to voluntarily take a 10% pay cut next year in the form of furloughs, it seems appropriate to take a good hard look at California, and to start thinking about whether it's time to move to Oregon.

The following was sent to me in an email forward, and while I don't devote much time to the dozens of such messages that come across my desk, this one caught my attention. It originally was posted on another person's blog. While I can't independently verify everything here (outside of the ones which are linked to their sources, whether or not they are reputable), if even HALF of this stuff is accurate, well, then one has to wonder how California has gotten itself into such a mess.

California has the 2nd highest state income tax in the nation. 9.55% at $48,000.

By far the highest state sales tax in the nation. 8.25% (not counting local sales taxes)

Highest state car tax in the nation - at least any other state (1.15% per year on value of vehicle).

Corporate income tax rate is the highest in the West. (8.84%)

2009 Business Tax Climate ranks 48th in the nation.

Fourth highest Capital Gains tax (9.55%)

Second highest Gasoline Tax (58.3 cents) in the nation (as of April, 2009). When gas is $3.00+/gallon, we are numero uno - because unlike many states, we charge sales tax on gasoline purchases - it's built into the price).

Fifth highest Unemployment Rate in the nation. (11.0% as of April, 2009)

California 's 2009 "Tax Freedom Day" (the day the average taxpayer stops working for government and start working for oneself) is again the fourth worst date in the nation (up from 28th worst in 1994).

To offset lower state revenues, 29 states are proposing 2009 state tax and fee increases totaling $24 billion. California , with 12% of the nation's population, is proposing 47% of that increase (from CNN 6/5/09).

1 in 5 in L.A. County are receiving public aid.

California prison guards highest paid in the nation.

California teachers easily the highest paid in the nation. (CA has the second lowest student test scores)

California now has the lowest bond ratings of any state, edging out Louisiana .

California ranks 44th worst in "2008 lawsuit climate."

In 2005 (latest figures), for every dollar Californians sent to D.C. in taxes, we got back 78 cents - 43rd worst.

America 's top CEO's rank California "the worst place in which to do business" for the fourth straight year (3/2009). But here's the interesting part - they think California is a great state to live (primarily for the great climate) - they just won't bring their businesses here because of the oppressive tax and regulatory climate. Consider this quote from the survey (a conclusion reflected in the rankings of the characteristics of the state): " California has huge advantages with its size, quality of work force, particularly in high tech, as well as the quality of life and climate advantages of the state. However, it is an absolute regulatory and tax disaster."

California still gives away college education at fire sale prices. Our community college tuition is by far the lowest in the nation. How low? Nationwide, the average community college tuition is 4.5 times higher than California CC's. This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students - resulting in a 30+% drop rate for class completion. In addition, many California CC students fill out a simple form that exempts them from ANY tuition payment at all. On top of that, California offers thousands of absolutely free adult continuing education classes - a sop to the upper middle class. In San Diego, over 1,400 classes for everything from baking pastries to ballroom dancing are offered totally at taxpayer expense.

California residential electricity costs an average of 28.7% more than the national average. For industrial use, CA electricity is 48.6% higher than the national average (11/08).

It costs 38% more to build solar panels in California than in Tennessee - which is why European corporations have invested $2.3 billion in two Tennessee manufacturing plants to build solar panels for our state.

Consider California 's net domestic migration (migration between states). From April, 2000 through June, 2008 (8 years, 2 months) California has lost a NET 1.4 million people. The departures slowed this past year only because people couldn't sell their homes.

As taxes rise and jobs disappear, we lose our tax base, continuing California 's state and local fiscal death spiral...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Furloughs? Here?

Well, the state of the California economy has finally deteriorated to the point where it's reached my desk. On Monday our university staff votes on whether to start taking two furlough days a month starting in August. And it should be clear - this will not eliminate the need for layoffs. It will only reduce the need for layoffs.

I'm reminded of our annual union meeting in the spring, which was dressed up nicely as a free lunch buffet featuring build-your-own tacos and burritos. The person who was, for lack of a better word, "emcee" of the meeting said, among other things, that we don't expect to have layoffs because our past history suggests that this would not happen. Really. That seemed a rather ignorant statement even then. California was already in a economic crisis that was best described as "unprecedented". So how can you use past history to determine what may or may not happen in an unprecedented time?

But anyway, I find it sad, if not deplorable, that the state of things has declined so much. It seems, really, that this is the culmination of years of irresponsible economic planning. At least, I hope it is a culmination, and now a first step towards worse times.

It almost seems as if we are caught in a horrible circle. The state is having major problems due to, we are told, lack of tax revenue. So we furlough and layoff people, causing them to be more frugal with their dollars, causing - you guessed it - even less tax revenue. When will it end? Time will tell.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Compositional Insight

Well, since composing music is supposed to be my main thing, or at least the thing I've spent oodles and oodles of time at in order that I can receive pretty pieces of paper which are eventually framed and put up on a wall, it only seems fitting that I ramble on a bit about it.

Writing philosophies are more common, I guess, in literary circles. One mantra suggest that you should write what you know. Another suggests that a writer writes, always. I don't know who came up with those. They don't really apply to music composition, at least not exactly.

Reflecting back on my undergrad days, it seems that I wrote what I didn't know, or at least the idea was to try and write for as many different things as possible, in order to gain experience and knowledge at writing for different instruments and instrumentations. Compositions were thus more akin to exercises than to being 'works of art'. Looking back, I don't think that many of the things I wrote as an undergrad were very good. It was common for me to struggle over this project or that project, only to have it hastily rehearsed and performed, and then promptly tossed aside. Maybe that's all they were worth. Learning experiences.

That was over ten years ago.

Nowadays, I find that I judge the quality of my work by how often it gets put in front of real live people, in front of audiences. To me, having a piece that I slaved over for months performed only once in concert is a failure. Why put so much effort into it if that is the extent of its life?

Not that all of the pieces I've written as a graduate have been played more than once. Many have; but some were still failures as such. Of course, that's okay, one needs failures in order to succeed, I guess. And all of my failures have helped to make me a better composer, just as the successes have. But what is it that really makes a piece "successful"? Obviously that's a rather subjective topic.

For me anyway, I've had the same philosophy, more or less, since my undergraduate days. Each piece I write has two fundamental goals - to be interesting for the performer and to be interesting for the listener. I find that if I'm able to reach both of those lofty goals, the piece tends to be more successful. Of course there's lots of other little tidbits that go into each of those broad goals. I'm still learning some of them. But it's a good place to start.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Drum Corps?

So this past weekend was the opening weekend of the 2009 drum corps season. Apparently. Who knew? It's funny how times change, how priorities in our lives can become so drastically changed over time.

For a lot of last decade, more or less from 2000-2007, I was eating, sleeping, and drinking drum corps. I was one of those folks spending hours in the chat rooms, every day, gossiping and checking on gossip, and generally commenting on and arguing about things which really didn't matter much. Not a day went by that I didn't check scores or schedules, or stats or picture postings or whatnot. It was an all-consuming passion that took up all of my time and most of my money. And part of my soul.

Nowadays - nothing. No passion. It's like that whole world doesn't matter to me anymore. I'm far too busy these days getting paid to play music as opposed to paying to play it (or even paying just to see it).

I haven't made any plans to attend any drum corps show anywhere this year, not even when they broadcast the quarter finals in the Regal theatre which is a 10-minute walk from my house. Granted, how could I with the performance schedule I now maintain? We use to perform at seven shows per season when I was involved with the River City Regiment - the drum corps child I created and helped keep alive for several years with time, sweat, and money.

Now I perform seven shows a week. Who has time for anything else?

Admittedly, from time to time I still check up on the Drum Corps Planet forums, just to see what's going on. Is the great debate over the latest rule change proposal over? Is every corps still begging for members to come join? Are they still all broadcasting with pride over every event their group has planned for the season? Are they still arguing the pros and cons of everybody else's show? Is someone somewhere still grumbling about how someone else referred to drum corps or marching music in general in a derogatory light?

Yes, it's still all there. Just like I never left. Some things never change. But I did, I moved on, and it's time for other adventures.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Money and Musicals

I guess I'm pretty fortunate. Amidst the current recession that's engulfing our economy, with the housing market crashing and unemployment at an all time high, and the state of California a hair's breadth away from bankruptcy, I'm actually doing better financially now than at any other time since 2000. Of course, a lot of financial problems for me personally around the turn of the century had to do with the now defunct drum corps that I had the ridiculous notion - the dream - to create. And since then, a lot of what I've been doing financially has revolved around recuperating from that disaster.

But nowadays, in addition to my full time job at the Department of Music at Sacramento State, I'm also playing full time for the California Musical Theatre production of Forever Plaid. And this is a big thing for me. It's a professional gig - one of not very many - although I've never seen myself as a 'professional' bassist. Still don't. But it's fun, it's do-able, and right now it's helping to pay chunks off of my bills.

It's funny how life can work itself out sometimes. I was never much into musicals going through high school, nor even in college. Sure, I went to a few here and there over the years, and played in one in high school once. But it just never was part of my life.

It was in 2006 - seven years after I graduated from college - that I happened to go see a production of Baby put on by Runaway Stage Productions. One of my friends was in the orchestra. Well, as it turns out, several people whom I knew were in the orchestra. After a random comment following the show to one of those old friends - who happened to be the orchestra contractor as well - to the effect of, "If you ever need a bass player let me know", I was drafted into that world and began playing again. It had been seven years since I had played anything! But there I was, part of a group, playing for fun and making just a little bit of money on the side. Good times.

You meet a lot of people in this type of endeavor, do a lot of networking, whether you realize it or not. Often this unrealized networking appears, in retrospect, to be merely 'coincidences'.

After my seven-year hiatus from playing bass, after getting drawn into musical theater, it was a lot of little random coincidences that eventually brought me to Forever Plaid, to where I am now, financially stronger. And happier.

I had met Chelsea through the drum corps. She just happened to be playing musicals for Garbeau's, another now-defunct company. She happened to meet Chris there, the pianist who also happened to work for the Theatre Department at Sacramento State where she was a student and I was on the staff. Chris happened to hire her to play a musical at Sac State, 42nd Street, and she happened to need a sub, and just happened to call me. I met Chris there, who just happened, sometime later, to get a real good gig at the 'new' Cosmopolitan Cabaret playing Forever Plaid.

Chris had phoned me about doing this gig in the fall of 2008, but with everything I had going on with work and graduate school, I just couldn't commit to it. I later regretted turning down such an awesome opportunity. But as things go, he just happened to bring Chelsea on board, and she subsequently just happened to bring me onboard as her sub. Then in the spring of 2009, for various reasons I won't go into here, Chelsea had to leave the show, and I became the full time player all of the sudden.

Where will it go from here? Who knows. Plaid will be running until September 6, and then a new show that doesn't involve live musicians will be in. So the fall is looking like a break for me, from playing anyway. I guess it will be time for me to hit the books again, and see if I can't get a few steps closer to that Master's degree.

The scuttlebutt is that the Cosmopolitan will be running 14 week shows then, as opposed to open runs. Which means that there would be three shows per year there, basically. I doubt very highly that they will stray away from having live music for too long. So you never know...I could be on stage again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've decided that I'm a fan of Double Chocolate Chip Muffins. Not so much that I would add an 'become a fan of' posting to my Facebook Page. I know people who do that, who will 'become a fan' of just about anything - cereal, TV shows, breathing. It seems you can be a fan of anything online, unlike the pre-computer-technology days where you could only be a fan of your local sports teams.

I was at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret yesterday, where I am most days since I'm playing seven shows a week of Forever Plaid, and decided that it was high time to walk across the street to Hana's deli for a snack. Really, I was just a little bored and a lot tired. But the highlight of my day was when I discovered that they were now carrying Otis Spunkmeyer muffins. For only 99 cents! How could I resist that chocolate bliss?

It certainly wasn't my first encounter with double chocolate chip muffins. But recently, I've been reading various novels by Kurt Vonnegut, whom most of you probably know as the author that forced you to read Slaughterhouse Five in high school. He as a unique gift for storytelling, actually, and of combining humor and satire about life as an American and indeed about life as a human being. One of his many philosophical quotes was something to the effect of telling us to notice when life was good. And, really, double chocolate chip muffins are good.

They remind me of Disneyland, really, for it was on one of my trips to the Happiest Place on Earth not so long ago that I decided it was high time to branch out a little and start trying more of the delectable treats that the kingdom has to offer. It used to be theme parks only offered the standard fried fare, hot dogs and hamburgers and french fries and soda, and so on. Not anymore. Now there's a plethora of edibles to suit any taste.

I started off simply, however. On the way out of the park late one evening, we stopped at the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Main Street, just to get a little midnight snack as it were, before stumbling back to our hotel. And there they were - double chocolate chip muffins! So I got one. And it was good. And ever since - it's become a tradition now - when it's time for me to say goodbye to the park each night, I get a muffin on the way out. Talk about heaven! Well, these days we have to take the pleasures we get when we can get them. We have to notice when life is good.