Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Christmas Monster Concert

More than 110 partygoers joined four pianos and four pianists for this year's holiday "monster concert." We gathered in the expansive music room of a home on top of Elliott's Hill.
In this after-dark picture, note the large windows. When the sun is shining, they offer 360-degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.

Here's a brief excerpt of "Winter Scene" from the Nutcracker Ballet, arranged by Margo Richter for 4 pianos, 8 hands.

The pounding of four pianos tends to bring out the voice in everyone.

We tried to settle things down a bit by adding a short piece with our favorite violinist.

"No dancing?" says Virginia.

Thanks for asking. "The Christmas Waltz" set the stage for our host and hostess to lean into "The Merry Christmas Polka."
Maybe next year you'll join us for the 5th Annual Christmas Monster Concert.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Arrowhead Lodge: 2013 Running Review

Opossum Run races past Arrowhead Lodge, joins Elk Creek, and rushes by Elk Cliff Farm and into the James River. My favorite view of the cabin looks up Opossum Run from the neighboring cottage.
The lodge has been drawing me lately, as a base for running, practicing piano, and writing.

"So what happened to your plan of a year ago?" asks Virginia. "The idea of cutting back on weekly mileage?"


The plan has been executed. As of yesterday, my feet have carried me about 1330 miles, or 26 miles per week. Some of those are walked miles, so I'm right on track. As for the 7:30 per mile maximum speed, I can assure you that I only violated that "rule" a few times, such as when the mugger tried to run me down in Bear Hollow. Or was it a bear? Adam gave us a GoPro for Christmas, so next time maybe we'll know for sure.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Look in A Mirror

Each month I attend a manly meeting. One member presents a "paper," the others listen and ask questions, then we visit around a table of refreshments. We leave the meeting knowing a little more than before.

At first I feel awkward, out of place (except for being male), almost hypocritical, anti-intellectual. Then I relax and see myself speaking, focused on a narrow line of inquiry, normally of little interest to anyone else. Gotta smile, so self-possessed, somewhat peculiarly dressed, sounding passionate about something arcane, listening like a ghost from a ceiling corner.

A long time ago a mentor suggested that if I don't like someone when I first meet him or her, I should try to identify what it is that bothers me. I might discover in that thing, that feature, something I don't appreciate about myself. This insight has served me well, and bad first impressions sometimes have developed into valuable relationships.

"Ah," says Virginia. "In a way, this turns on its head the accepted importance of first impressions."

I recall a conversation I watched 15 to 20 years ago. Someone began, "So you're a runner?" I nodded. Another person said, "Have you ever noticed runners are never smiling?" I said, "Well, if you ever see me running, maybe you'll notice something else."

So, this person is driving his car and sees a runner, for three seconds. The runner isn't smiling. He thinks, runners aren't happy people.

Okay, so Tom the window-peeper sees this fellow hunched over his stamp collection, not smiling. He thinks, stamp collectors aren't happy people.

"I drove past the ninth hole yesterday," says Virginia. "And the four-some was laughing. Maybe I should take up golf."

Let me just say, think about it...and a mirror might come in handy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Are you becoming more open, more accepting of different views? Many years ago, I thought people saw the world pretty much the same as I did. Then I heard the term "world view" and learned about personality types and it dawned on me that eccentricity appeals to me nearly as much as wisdom.

For years, I've enjoyed reading opinions written by Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. I often don't agree with his conclusion, but I like getting there. 

And then, several months ago, when I mentioned him, a friend pretty much said he's out there. In fact, she said, critically and not with admiration, that he's the most reversed federal appeals court judge. I don't know if that's true, but ever since, I consider his opinions with closer skepticism. I wonder if my friend has any idea how influential she is.

Today I read one of his recent decisions. He considered the meaning of this phrase in an Illinois statute: "[D]eeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and other instruments relating to or affecting the title to real estate in this state, shall be recorded in the county in which such real estate is situated." 

What do you think it means -- that if someone gives you an Illinois mortgage, you must record it, or if you want to record it and obtain the protections of the statute, you may do so? I asked my most influential friend, Karen, and she said you may. As it turns out, she and Judge Posner agree. 

Here's what he said: “[S]uppose a department store posts the following notice: ’All defective products must be returned to the fifth floor counter for refund.’ Obviously this is not a command that defective products be returned; the purchaser is free to keep a defective product, throw it out, or give it as a present to his worst friend. There’s an implicit ‘if’ in the command: If you want to return a product and get a refund, here’s where you have to return it.”  The statute similarly may mean that if you want to record your property interest you must do so in the county in which the property is located. In the context, that is the better meaning.

I had to Google "shall." One of the first hits was a law professor's blog, where he said "shall" is the most misused word in legal terminology. 

As I considered this, I thought of one of my pet peeves. I hate it when someone says, "We can't do that," as in "Would you take $50 instead of your stated $55 price?" and they answer, "Oh, no, we can't do that." Or, "How about if I send you an email authorizing that?" and they answer, "Oh no, we can't accept an email; we need a fax or a letter." I want to say, "Yes you can; you just don't want to or you aren't willing to." 

Virginia says, "We lie, we're used to lying, that's what people do."

I'd like to disagree. They're not lying when they say "can't." They're just using a different definition from my definition of the word "can't."

Although my friend has prompted me to be more critical of Posner opinions, she may have helped me like them even more. I think Oscar Wilde is credited for saying, "Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong." If Judge Posner is, in fact, the most reversed appellate court judge, then that may be all the more reason to revere him.