Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate Chicken

Sometimes, despite your best efforts and good intentions, charity faileth.

I have a friend, Sandy, who is dying of uterine cancer, as her mother did before her. She's had 2/3 of her large intestine removed due to cancer and she really can't keep food in her system. The only other person at home is her husband, who is not a cook. So she has asked that we send food over, enough for one person, two times a week, to keep him away from the fast food joints and help him keep his weight down. How hard is that?

Monday it was my turn. I totally forgot, until 6pm. After we had eaten.

Luckily, we had some left over, so I quick hurried home and set up a plate of chicken and peas and cole slaw and chocolate cake with strawberries on top. It all fit into a plastic container with dividers and a lid.

Next problem: no car. Not really a problem, since she lives about 7 blocks away from me. I could walk, but that would delay dinner for him by half an hour more, and it's already 6:30. Biking would be faster. I put the plate in my "glove compartment" (on top of the gloves) and rode over there in about 2 minutes. However, my "glove compartment" is only 4 or 5 inches wide, not wide enough to hold the plate flat. So when I got to their house, all the chicken had slid into the chocolate cake (which was very moist and soft) and mixed thoroughly. He declared that chocolate chicken was his favorite green vegetable, but I bet he washed off the chicken after I left.

At least it was food, and not fast food.

I hope you get points for trying.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


First quarter mid-term grades came out at the local high school today. I was very afraid.

Daughter #3 is a freshman there this year. A freshman with a learning/social disability. And if you do anything in high school, it's learn and socialize. I was mentally trying to prepare myself for terrible grades.

I know I'm going to get the actual titles of the classes wrong, but basically here's what she got:
Math C
English B
Science B
Sewing B
Geography A
Art A
Chinese A

All her teachers were delighted with her performance in class: she participates, arrives every day and on time, turns in all her work. Seems she has a gift for languages, too. Her Chinese teacher says she is doing beautifully! When we walked up to the teacher, D#3 greeted her in Chinese, the teacher responded back and asked a question, and D#3 answered. I was very impressed!

Her Math teacher discussed ways she could bring up her grade and increase her understanding of the subject. D was embarassed that she made so many mistakes. We explained to her that everybody makes mistakes, and the only bad mistake is one you don't learn from. If you go back and say, "Oh! That's what I did wrong!" and fix it, you erased the mistake, as if it never happened! I hope she got it. I hope she acts on it.

Lesson today was one of those days when I played beautifully (despite being dead dog bone tired). The bag stayed inflated, instead of leaking air out of mysterious and invisible holes that only exist some of the time. I got all the notes right. So it was a pleasure to play. Still have to work on High Road to Linton and Donald MacLean of Lewis, my nemeses (if that's a word). High Road is actually coming along quite well. Don MacLean I'm still having trouble with the gen-den-yen that happens every line. And I don't have them memorized yet.

9/25/08 04:37 am

Some days you wonder if you'll survive to the end. Yesterday was one of those days.

For complicated logistical and employment reasons, I got up at 0230 and drove to Sandy to work from the center. I did my 10 hours, then had a 2 hour team meeting and drove home.

Made dinner.

Ate dinner.

Cleaned up after dinner.

Took Small Son to Scouts.

RS Presidency meeting--without Jean who is still in hospital, but her rash IS clearing up.

Read Eldest by Chris Paolini to Small Son.

Bed at 2030.

Eighteen hours.

The only thing that kept me going was Robin McKinley's latest book, Chalice, which I just got in the mail on Tuesday and read every spare minute. It kept me awake and focused on the future--i.e. the next time I would get a break and be able to read some more--instead of feeling sorry for how tired I was. It worked. It was a great story, but I'm going to have to read it again when I'm not so tired (and after Daughter #1 has finished it). I did not get into the character of Marisol as much as with Harimad-sol in Blue Sword, but the bees were so entertaining, and I feel like eating honey now. Maybe I just have less in common with Marisol than I did with Hari. Maybe I was just too tired.

We've given up trying to figure out a way to get the new couch into the (upstairs) family room, and are going to keep the sectional up there, much to Daughter #2's dismay. It will not fit 'round the corner at the bottom of the stairs unless we saw it in half. Plans to move it through the front window upstairs included a 20 foot ladder, a step-ladder, a sled, 600 feet of rope, and 8 people. Pulleys would have been helpful, too. We'll just move the new couch and loveseat into the living room downstairs and give the Sleeping Couch* to a needy family. I bet the Christmas tree would look cool in the middle of the room, in the center of the two. 'Course, conversation would be awkward during the Christmas season . . .I wonder if the new couch has a spell on it.

* The spell on the Sleeping Couch is that if you sit on it for 10 minutes or longer, you WILL fall asleep. This spell works on everybody, even my "let's-find-something-to-do" mother-in-law. It especially works on me.

Friday, September 19, 2008


From Rauncie Kinnaird, on tuning pipes . . .

Tuning the Chanter
Sound the low A on your chanter and note where it is tuning on the meter. Adjust the calibration buttons until your low A reads "0" on the meter. The green tuning light will come on when your meter is in tune with low A. Use the meter notes and offsets from "0" in the following table to tune the other notes of the chanter. Ensure that the meter is reading the correct "note" which will show up in the top right corner of the tuner.

Notes "C" and "F" show up as "C#" and "F#" on the tuner.

The first column is the Note. Second column is the ratio to Low A. Third column is the Meter Note. Fourth column is the Meter Offset.
Low G_________7/8 ___G____-31
Low A__________ 1____A____ 0
B_____________ 9/8___B____+4
C_____________5/4___C___ -14
D_____________4/3___D____ -2
E_____________3/2___E ____+2
High G_________7/4___G___-31
High A_________2/1___A_____0
Tenor Drone____1/2____A____0
Bass Drone_____1/4___A_____0

If the top hand is sharp compared to the bottom hand, lift the reed slightly out of the chanter to bring the pitch of the top hand down. Add some hemp to the reed if necessary. If the top hand is flat to the bottom hand sink the reed further into the chanter. This will bring up the pitch of the top hand relative to the bottom hand. To flatten individual notes, add a piece of tape to cover the top of the first open hole on the chanter. Sharpening individual notes requires modification to the chanter reed or chanter and should only be done by experienced players.

Tuning the Drones
The drones are tuned to the low A on the pipe chanter. Sound low A on your chanter and adjust the calibration button until the meter reads "0". Adjust the tuning on each of your drones until they are reading "0" on the meter also.

Thought I'd save this somewhere besides my brain, which isn't very reliable.

Robin McKinley's Chalice came out yesterday. I'm very excited to jump into it. So why am I still reading Terry Pratchett? I hate to leave a project unfinished, and I didn't finish this one, Thief of Time, once before. So I have to finish it this time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

At band practice, Pete got . . . called? appointed? assigned? . . . to be the Pipe Sargent. This means he is the second-in-command of the Grade IV/J.T.Dunnies. I'm perfectly content with this. Sean is going to be playing with the LA Scots and going to school and working and teaching, so I think his plate is full enough without band practice. Pete has always been very kind to everybody, even to me when I was a newbie and nobody else even looked at me. He's been in the band the longest.

I found out that Sean is the same age as Daughter #1. Aaaaaaagh! I could be his mother, and he's leader of the band! He started piping at age 12. Small Son was interested to know this, since he's starting at age 9.

Past history: On Sunday at Regional Conference, we happened to sit in front of Carleton Christensen (running for Utah Senate against Luz Robles) and family. He handed me a list of plants and said his brother runs a nursery and he planted too many last spring and was going to throw the excess out. However. His wife, Sister Christensen, is a member of the No More Homeless Plants group and wouldn't let him. They were giving the plants away to good homes on Monday night. I have been thinking about planting some more color on the boulevard, so I went over there and got about 15. They are now happily (I hope) ensconced and I hope they survive. I'm terrible with plants. When they die, which happens about 50% of the time, I cry over them. I can't put flowers on their graves, because those would just die, too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

I agreed to do a gig for . . . well, it was either for the US Army or the City of Sandy . . . for 9/11 at a place called the Healing Field. The other two pipers who showed up were Ian and Aaron.

About 1700 flags had been set up in a grassy median, each one tied with a yellow ribbon. It was an amazing sight. Let me see if I can get a link. www.healingfield.org/
As always when the Army is involved, it's a case of "hurry up and wait". Colonel McLean kept us entertained with amusing antedotes while we waited for things to start. Guests of honor included the Lieutenant Governor, Miss Utah, and parents and families of Utah soldiers who had died in action. One family had lost their son 6 days ago. They were obviously still struggling to deal with their loss. It was poignant to see them. I had to pointedly not look at them. It's very hard to pipe when you are crying. Major-General Peter Cook also showed up at the last minute, and wanted to address the (small) crowd, and because he was a Major-General, they had to let him. Other people talked, but mostly the speakers were pointed away from us and we couldn't hear them so we just let them talk and we discussed other things.
Finally, after 30 minutes of standing in the wind waiting, it was our turn. The vocal soloist, Kelly (Something) sang some (I think) new words to Green Hills of Tyrol, then we played through it twice at about half speed, then she sang the rest of the verses.
They had the little memorial of boots and an upturned rifle stuck into the ground with a helmet on top. This was set up at one side of . . . well, there wasn't a stage, just a designated center of attention . . . The mothers came up and put their fallen childrens' dogtags on the rifle. They did a roll call, calling off the names of some of the soldiers present, and the last name called was the soldier who had died 6 days ago, Jordan Thiebault. His name was called several times. There was no answering "present!" I was trying hard not to cry. The Thiebault family had been the last to add dogtags. They stayed up there, close together, while a soldier came forward in front of the boots-and-rifle memorial, knelt and bowed his head. That was our cue to start Amazing Grace. I did good. I was successfully able to do the slow roll strike in several times, in unison with Ian and Aaron. I didn't mess up the tunes. We had expected to be out of tune after standing in the wind for so long, but the tuning was pretty good, except for the D. My blowing was good. And I made both cut-offs.
Then I had to rush to the Celtic Center for the last half of my lesson and to pick up Small Son who was patiently waiting after his own lesson and reading his book, Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan.
Jason had a headache and was tied with a short string. Pete teased him that his forehead was bulging. It made him laugh, but I don't think it made his headache feel any better.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's fair time in all the states, but our hearts turn to Minnesota, the state of the best fair in the US. The MN State Fair Historical Society is collecting Fair stories, and I wrote one and it actually got published on their website. Here it is in its entirety (under my pen name, Meadhbgh Olcan McGillicuddy)

Fair Memories
Story By: Meadhbh O. McGillicuddy
Place: Utah
Date: 9/4/08
The Minnesota State Fair! Other state fairs are only carnivals. Garrison Keilor said it was "like Manhattan, only with more livestock". We've been to Manhattan, and it's true! Mom started looking forward to it in January. We saved up our money for months in advance, and then Dad wouldn't let us spend it until the very end, because he said he wanted us to see everything there was to buy before we made our purchase. Really, it was because he didn't want to carry those purchases around for the rest of the day!

We were always so cold walking into the Fair in the morning, so we kept all our coats and blankets, but as soon as breakfast was over, things had warmed up and Dad had to take them all back to the car again.

It's a big place, the Fair. Easy for a kid to get lost. Every year Mom drilled us: What do you do if you get lost? We chanted back: find a Fair worker, tell them you're lost, they 'll take you to the lost kid booth, and pretty soon Mom and Dad will show up to claim you. One year Tommy got lost on purpose, just to see if it would work. (It did.) One year Betsy got lost 12 times in one day.

One year we got there early on Goat day and got to milk a goat.

Parking was always . . um . . . exciting. One year Mom parked the car near the footbridge, not realizing there were two footbridges, and at the end of the day when we went to get the car, it was gone. The golf cart guy took Kathy round the whole parking lot until she recognized our car still parked near the other footbridge.

We found that if you station yourself strategically between the milk bar and the brownie booth, you can drink a lot of milk. One year Dad won the "Who Can Drink the Most Milk" family contest by drinking 26 cups of milk. It was a long time before he could drink milk again.

One year we counted how many things on sticks you could find at the Fair and got to 57 before we stopped. Even the map was on a stick!

One year we took the bus out, just to hear the Beach Boys sing "California Girls", and got there just as they were ending it. One year we flew to Chicago and drove through a tornado just to be there.

Some things happened every year: watching the draft horses get exercised up and down the street near the horse barn, trying to keep Sandy from climbing on ALL the tractors, trying to keep Dad from buying a hot tub, eating deep fried cheese curds, watching the cows get milked but watching also where you stepped, being bored to death by all the sewing and knitting that Mom had to look at, trying a different argument to get Dad to let you go on some rides, and dragging him away from the radio booths. (He was listening to them on his Walkman, anyway? Why did he have to BE there?)

The Minnesota State Fair is a rich experience.

Meadhbh O. McGillicuddy is from Salt Lake City, UT

Daughter #1 also wrote a Much Better Story under her own name. She wrote hers first, so I couldn't very well write Rose from SLC again, cuz they would think it was the same person, which is one of the reasons I used my pen name.

A Family Affair
Story By: Rose
Growing up in Minnesota, the fair was a bigger deal than Christmas. My family, which at that period included my parents, myself, my little sister Cat, and in later years an extra piece of luggage known as my sister Bethe, went every year with all due pomp and ceremony. We drove into the Cities absurdly early in the morning; my sister and I slept under our baby quilts in the backseat of our old white Isuzu Trooper. Then we stumbled blearily through the quiet gray fairgrounds to have breakfast at that place with the bendy mirrors outside -- to this day I'm not sure what it's called, but it's full of nice church volunteers. (The mirrors were the best part, though.) Then, as the fair woke up, so did we, hiking through the endless colorful sea of animals, advertisers, people, landmarks, vendors, and attractions. My parents always went on Ye Old Mill and made me watch my siblings. We always begged and pleaded to be allowed to go to the Midway, and learned from my dad the many secrets of why you can never win at carnival games. Then there was the DNR Building with its zoo of native animals and its blessedly cool theater where you could sit down for a few minutes. Those were exhausting, amazing, unforgettable summer days.

Then we moved to Utah.

Though I've been coming back to Minnesota every summer, it wasn't until 2007 that I managed to stay in my home state through to the end of August. When I informed my dad that I wasn't coming home until the end of the season, his immediate response was, "We'll come pick you up."
So up from Utah came my parents, my littlest sister (now not so little) and my baby brother, who is a Minnesotan by birth but who had been six months old at his first and only fair. We did it all the same old way: the soft silvery early morning, the loud and cheerful breakfast, the baby pigs, the racially supremacist sheep (I defy anyone to walk into that sheep barn and not have KKK flashbacks because of those hoods all the animals wear), the giant fishpond, the single-piece tree sculptures. It was all new to my little siblings. What was new to me was really opening my eyes to appreciate what the fair did for my family: how my dad got to teach all his kids about probability math at the carnival games, how my siblings got to connect with Cat and me by copying all the things we used to do, how my parents got to flirt and tease each other (I can't remember the bet, but my dad lost something and had to buy Mom a funnel cake), how we all became so close when we flopped down on the grass next to the go-cart track to rest our weary feet.

We're back out in Utah now, but we'll be back to the fair again, never fear. I don't understand how families manage to stay together without it.
I've kinda been in shock since the last entry. It seems like 3 weeks since The Breakup, but I guess it is only 2. I haven't really been practicing, just running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. I expect to fall over and die momentarily.

We have been given a list of 26 tunes that we are required to know for J.T.Dunnie. Most of them I am OK with, but there are a few that are going to cause me Big Problems and require Mega Practicing. Here's the list:

Donald Maclean
Farewell to Nigg
100 Pipers
Heights of Dargai / Battle of the Somme
Mills Set
Smith’s Set
Minstrel Boy / Wearing of the Green
Amazing Grace / Scotland the Brave
Brouges on the Cobbles
(still have to get the last part)
Salt Lake Scots / JT Dunnie
Green Hills / Battle O’er
Highland Cathedral
Bells of Dunblane / Glasgow Police
Farewell to the Tay
Correhollies / Teribus
Clumsy Lover
(last 2 measures, speed)
Timed Medley
High Road to Linton
(part 2)
Flowers of the Forest

Massed Band tunes including: Barren Rocks of Aden / Bonnie Dundee

So 4 of them are what I really have to work on, now. OK 6, with the 2 new tunes we are learning: Glasgow Police and JT Dunnie, both of which I have almost memorized, but not quite. The killers are going to be High Road and Donald McLean. Ugh!

At practice last night, I figured of all groups of people, the band would be the last people to notice I'd got my hair cut (see previous entry)(if you can). As far as the band goes, your real life doesn't exist, except to get in the way of practice or gigs. However. Pete said it looked nice, right off. Jim made a comment about Rose Bobbing Her Hair. Sande also said it looked nice, did I miss it yet? Sean was late arriving, and before he had even turned around from coming down the auditorium aisle, he mentioned my hair being cut and that it looked nice, he had never seen it down before. I was astonished! Pleasantly surprised! Small Son still hasn't noticed.

It was a practice full of laughter, despite the fact that we went over some tunes that we played really terribly and need to work really hard on, and we discussed recombination of tunes in complicated manners until my head was spinning. And despite the fact that Dave said he won't be able to come to practice until spring because of hockey. That was very sad.