Category Archives: General

Church Choir

Every year on Good Friday, our church choir joins with the other church choir in the area for an evening choir program.

This year we are performing The Seven Last Words of Christ by Theodore Dubois. It’s a challenging and beautiful piece. We’ll have our combined choir, plus pipe organ and various other instruments.

Easter starts with a sunrise service, then breakfast at church. During the service, we’ll sing a number of additional songs. I think the list includes The heavens are telling by Haydn, Ave Verum (KV 618) by Mozart, Love Is Come Again arr. by Parker & Shaw, Praise the Lord by Handel, Alleluia (from Veni Sancte Spiritus, K 47) by Mozart, and Thanks Be to Thee by Handel.

It’s a lot of fun to be in the choir, and also quite a joyful time. I’m looking forward to Easter.

Christmas Is Almost Here

It seems like Christmas started on Saturday this year. We had a nice snowfall, with a not-so-nice 40MPH wind accompanying it. We got drifts, and had whiteout conditions outdoors for a little while.

Sunday morning came and I went out early to see if we’d be able to get the car down our driveway. At about 1/4 mile long, shoveling the whole thing is not a practical option. Fortunately, I got most of the way down the driveway before the car got stuck, so I only had to shovel a little bit.

Sunday was our big Christmas choir day in church. We started off with Star of the East, and old Christmas tune. Research into the church archives revealed that it was first performed by the adult choir in the 1930s — and it was sung in English. Mrs. H. F. Voth was quoted as saying “they sang from the heart and meant it sincerely.” It was fun to sing this old song.

Later on, the whole church sang Oh, beautiful star of Bethlehem, another old tune that isn’t heard so often anymore. One of the older people in church told me later that song was special to her because she remembered carolers singing it at her house years ago.

The service ended with Nun Ist Sie Erschienen (score, mp3, story), a tune sung in our community for many years. I fondly remember my grandpa playing this song on his harmonica. Maybe it’s just stuck in my head for some reason, but it seems it was one of his favorites. This particular day, the pianist — who was my band teacher when I was in school and is now retired — improvised a beautiful accompaniment to the song. We sang it four times: twice in German, and twice in English. One of the older women in the congregation, whom I normally can’t hear because she sits in front of me and down the row in choir, was singing with such strength that I could hear her clearly from my seat.

Moments like that bring home the timeless nature of Christmas to me.

American Priorities

Number of people killed on Sept. 11, 2001: 2,974
Number of suicides in 2004: 32,439
Number of people killed on American highways in 2006: 38,588
Annual deaths from obesity: 300,000
Total deaths from cancer in 2007: 559,650
Total deaths from heart disease in 2004: 871,500
Total military spending in FY2008: $1228 billion
Funding for health research & improvement (NIH): $29 billion
Total support of Amtrak (safer, cleaner than highways): $1.6 billion
National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. spending in FY2008: $0.8 billion


“You just never know when you’re dealing with rodents”

The day after Memorial Day, when I got into my car, it reeked. A strong, foul odor greeted me that morning. It had rained a lot during the long weekend, and I hadn’t driven the car. I figured it was just some water sitting somewhere. It ought to evaporate soon enough. The smell seemed to be coming from the vents, so I figured I could help it evaporate by running the fan as much as possible.

I’ve been dealing with the smell ever since then: windows open, fan on full blast, as often as possible.

This morning I noticed a chewed Kleenex with rodent droppings attached to it in the glove box. I also noticed Kleenex bits and more rodent droppings on the floor mat below the glove box.

So I have a more sinister enemy here.

I dropped by the mechanic over lunch to make an appointment. I explained the symptoms. He looked as me suspiciously.

“But how would a rodent get in there? Hmm… I forget — do you live in the country?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Oh, well that would explain it then.”

It reminded him of other rodents he’s done battle with — pack rats that have chewed up wires and hoses, including one that was still alive and in the vehicle when he started working on it.

So I asked him how expensive this was going to be.

“Well, I don’t know. It could be easy, or it could be interesting. You just never know when you’re dealing with rodents.”

He promised to call me if it looked like it might be interesting.

“FEMA doesn’t do levees”

During recent flooding, some levees in Kansas were breached. (Yes, Kansas has levees!) According to the story, there was a quote from a FEMA official saying “FEMA doesn’t do levees.”

After New Orleans, I think the entire country would agree with that sentiment.

Although after some congressmen got involved, FEMA changed their tune, and now promises to fund 75% of the repair work.

Too bad their initial answer is “no” to anyone from ordinary citizens to county officials.

This small-scale problem gives some people a small idea of what people in New Orleans are still dealing with. It must be really frustrating.

Real-World Haskell

Today, Bryan O’Sullivan, Don Stewart, and I are announcing a new book we’re working on with O’Reilly: Real-World Haskell. I’m excited about the book and about working with Bryan and Don on this project.

O’Reilly has agreed to publish this book under a Creative Commons license! We plan to post drafts of chapters incrementally at the book’s website, seeking feedback from readers and reviewers as we go.

Haskell makes a great practical parsing and scripting language, but this aspect of it has been under-documented. I look forward to helping change that!