Monthly Archives: May 2015

A WEEKEND IN NEW ORLEANS

To celebrate our birthdays, Gabriele and I decided to treat ourselves to a weekend in New Orleans.  It was a whirlwind of jazz and a great time.

Day 1 started with a kind of musical history of jazz with the Louisiana Sunspots featuring trumpeter Leroy Jones.  Then it was off to dinner at Arnaud’s with entertainment from three strolling jazz trios, who were each terrific.

Day 2 was outstanding.  We started with the brass band performance at legendary Preservation Hall, followed by a walking tour of the French Quarter and a visit to the Cabildo Museum.

We followed that with a terrific jazz brunch at the Court of Two Sisters.  That evening we bussed to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts to hear an address by Ken Burns, who did that marvelous PBS series on jazz.

Day 3 started late morning with a presentation of Living Below Sea Level with Nellie Watson, a New Orleans native and environmental architect.  It was an interesting overview of what happened in Katrina and the rebuilding.  In the afternoon we visited Tremé, the city’s oldest African American neighborhood, with stops at St. Augustine Church and the Backstreet Cultural Museum.  We were then treated to an unexpected extra performance of great musicians and dancers in a courtyard around the corner.

Later we heard an outstanding performance by Donald Harrison, The King of Nouveau Swing.  The exciting concert ended up with the entrance of three Indian Chiefs in their huge colorful costumes.  What a treat!

That night we had a great dinner on our own at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street.

Day 4 started with a visit to the U.S. Mint’s Jazz Theater and a viewing of jazz artifacts.  Then it was on to South Rampart Street and the Little Gem Saloon with lunch and Doreen’s Jazz Band.  She was terrific!

After lunch we toured the scenic Garden District, the Basin Street Station, and the St. Louis Cemetery, where we learned about the jazz funerals, an iconic tradition of New Orleans, and the function of the “second line” of informal participants at every funeral.

That night we ate on the Steamboat Natchez and were entertained by the oldest Dixieland jazz band, The Dukes of Dixieland, and Doreen again on clarinet, along with her tuba player, trumpeter and drummer.  It was great!

Day 5, at our final breakfast, we heard a delightful talk by Lolis Eric Elie, a native of Tremé and a staff writer for the outstanding PBS series of the same name.

What a great weekend and a wonderful treat.

This was a Tauck special event and well done as usual for them.

THE RULERS OF JAZZ:

  • Scott Joplin, 1868-1917, piano
  • Buddy Bolden, 1868-1931, cornet
  • C. Handy, 1873-1958, cornet
  • Jelly Roll Morton, 1885-1941, piano
  • Bessie Smith, 1894-1937, singer
  • Duke Ellington, 1899-1974, piano
  • Louis Armstrong, 1901-1971, trumpet
  • Bix Beiderbecke, 1903-1931, cornet, piano
  • Fats Waller, 1904-1943, piano
  • Count Basie, 1904-1984, piano, organ
  • Earl “Fatha” Hines, 1905-1983, piano
  • Stéphane Grappelli, 1908-1997, violin
  • Lionel Hampton, 1908-2002, vibes, drums, piano
  • Lester Young, 1909-1959, tenor sax
  • Gene Krupa, 1909-1973, drums
  • Benny Goodman, 1909-1986, clarinet
  • Django Reinhardt, 1910-1953, guitar
  • Billie Holiday, 1915-1959, singer
  • Frank Sinatra, 1915-1998, singer
  • Dizzy Gillespie, 1917-1993, trumpet
  • Ella Fitzgerald, 1918-1996, singer
  • Joe Williams, 1918-1999, singer
  • Charlie Parker, 1920-1955, alto sax
  • Thelonious Monk, 1917-1982, piano
  • Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012, piano
  • Wes Montgomery, 1923-1968, guitar
  • Sarah Vaughan, 1924-1990, singer
  • Oscar Peterson, 1925-2007, piano
  • John Coltrane, 1926-1967, tenor sax
  • Miles Davis, 1926-1991, trumpet
  • Stan Getz, 1927-1991, tenor sax
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim, 1927-1994, songwriter
  • Bill Evans, 1929-1980, piano
  • Chet Baker, 1929-1988, trumpet
  • Sonny Rollins, 1929-, tenor sax
  • Bobby McFerrin, 1950-, singer
  • Wynton Marsalis, 1961-, trumpet

And not to be left out:

  • Art Tatum, 1909-1956, piano
  • Stan Kenton, 1911-1979, big band
  • Art Blakey, 1919-1990, drummer
  • Charlie Mingus, 1922-1979, bass
  • Herbie Hancock, 1940-, piano

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HERE’S A REAL COLLEGE TRY

Came across a somewhat unique educational institution in the heart of Kentucky’s Appalachian mountains.  Hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

It was started by Alice Lloyd in 1923 and today in her honor it’s called Alice Lloyd College (ALC).  The campus is 175 acres and hosts 598 students.  In 2009, ALC grads left with a degree in one of 18 disciplines and an average of only $6,500 in loans.  That compares quite favorably with the national average of $24,500 in loans.

So that’s the beginning; here’s the rest of the story with a few unique facts.

ALC is a private, four-year, liberal arts college, located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky, in the central Appalachian mountains.  The mission of the College is to provide education of the highest quality to deserving mountain students.  This is achieved within an environment supportive of Christian values and the development of character.

Quick Facts

  • No out-of-pocket tuition costs
  • All full-time students are required to work
  • Top-ranked college by S. News & World Report
  • Character-based, leadership education
  • No direct federal, state or local funds
  • Operates in the BLACK
  • 4% of donations directly educate students
  • Quality academic experience
  • Financial assistance with advanced degrees
  • Fully accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • 70% of graduates are first-generation, 4-year college graduates
  • More than 50% of faculty hold Ph.D.s
  • The student-teacher ratio is 17:1
  • 83% of graduates remain in Appalachia to serve as leaders in their home communities
  • 501©(3) Tax Exempt Organization

From its inception, ALC has placed a supreme value on educating the whole person.  In addition to academics, their educational program provides opportunities for students to develop a strong work ethic and leadership skills.

Student Work Program

ALC is one of seven colleges in America with a required student work program.  All full-time students work 10 to 20 hours per week depending on financial need, and their wages are applied toward their cost of education.

The Student Work Program…

  • Promotes a strong work ethic
  • Encourages leadership and service
  • Teaches responsibility
  • Builds character
  • Instills self-reliance
  • Enhances self-esteem
  • Provides practical work experience…and affords each student the personal satisfaction of a job well done!

Students work throughout the College performing such tasks as:

  • Washing dishes
  • Mopping floors
  • Cutting grass
  • Painting buildings
  • Tutoring students
  • Office assistants
  • Computer technicians
  • Radio station producers

Students who perform exceptionally well in their work, and demonstrate leadership abilities, may be promoted to supervisory positions.  The concept of student labor also extends into the community, where students work with youngsters in local schools.

Sounds like a great idea to me.  Why don’t more schools adopt this model?

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DOES EVERYONE HAVE BACK PROBLEMS?

Well, probably not, but it seems to be growing dramatically, especially in our senior age group.  Someone said “back pain is the ulcers of the 21st century.”

As you all know, I’ve had back problems for some time.  It included two surgeries; one that made things worse and the one last year that was very successful.  In between, I did a fair amount of research and tried a number of alternatives to see if I could avoid surgery.

Not to be left out, super-fit wife Gabriele has now joined me with her own set of back problems.  So we’ll try to offer some advice to any of you who have become members of ABC—the Aching Back Club.

At any given time, 31 million Americans might be suffering from back pain, struggling to complete even the simplest tasks without strain and difficulty.  Back pain causes countless hours of missed work, and over $50 billion is spent each year on back-related issues.

For some, back pain means an occasional ache from the strain of overuse but others cope with it every day.  Even simple backache can negatively impact nearly every aspect of a person’s life, stealing the joy and relaxation out of favorite activities.  Until you have back pain, you don’t realize how much it can affect your life.

The lengths people go to in order to ease their simple back pain and restore a feeling of wellness is staggering, yet understandable.  This may include frequent doctor or chiropractic visits, in-home devices, and—probably most common—the use of over-the-counter pain medications, including pain relief ointments, patches, and pills.

Let’s start by saying if you have experienced any pain in any part of the back, neck, buttocks or legs, the first thing  you need to do is get a doctor to prescribe an MRI.  You can try some of what we outline here to help relieve the discomfort, but the MRI is the window any practitioner needs to see where you’re at structurally and establish a baseline.

When you get an MRI, always ask for a copy of the film and a copy of the written report.  You’re entitled to copies of all test reports and results.

Most times your MRI will show varying degrees of deterioration in the spinal column which is not unusual if you’ve lived this long.  The key to treatment is the level of discomfort even more than the MRI.

Here’s an outline of potential aids to relieve your discomfort, in no particular order; and remember, everyone and their back is different.  You have to experiment to find what works for you.

  • Aleve (2) or Advil (6 to 8)
  • Aleve and Trenadol*
  • Lidoderm Patch*
  • Voltaren Cream
  • Chiroractor
  • Accupuncture
  • Over the counter creams like Australian Dream
  • Methylprednisolone 4 mg (6-day tablets)*
  • Physical therapy*
  • Pain management MD

*need a prescription

Gabriele recounts her visit with the pain management doctor, who told her, “You have several options.”  “I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘If I was your mother, what would you do for her?’”  He answered, “I would try an injection.”

So Gabriele decided to do what he would do for his own mother.  He gave her a prescription for physical therapy, which she will consider after the injection.  When she asked why the physical therapy, he said, “To strengthen your abs.”

“I do yoga and already have pretty good abs, but it wouldn’t hurt to learn some new exercises.  My pain,” she says, “before the injection (epidural), reached a level of four to six.  I’ve always been active and I still want to hike with my daughters.”

Her MRI shows a degenerative disc problem with narrowing/stenosis of the canal.  The last part is what she needed to be treated for; pain caused by this narrowing.  There is no cure for this and it will probably get worse.  The injections attempt to relieve the inflammation that is causing the pain.  Eventually, she may need surgery to widen the canal so the nerves have room to move.  With any luck, we’re hoping the time for surgery is far off.

(The epidural injection was very successful—no more discomfort.  We’ll see how long it lasts.)

I haven’t mentioned surgery yet because you should try anything you can to avoid it.  Until the back pain significantly interferes with your life and your functions, keep avoiding.

My second surgery was fusion to separate the disc from the nerve at L4/5, which was 100% successful in alleviating my pain; however, recovery from major surgery has been difficult.

If you’ve reached a point where you have to consider surgery, plan to visit at least three orthopods.  Find out what kind of surgery they recommend—decompression, fusion, etc.—how long the surgery will take, and what is the expected recovery time.

There are several types of doctors who are spine specialists; orthopedic surgeons (orthopods), neuro surgeons, rheumatologists.

Nobody said it’ll be easy.

I tried everything I listed in the outline of alternatives with minimal or no success.  The pain management doctor gave me quite a bit of relief for several years until that stopped working as well.  When I couldn’t walk more than two or three minutes or stand still for 30 to 45 seconds, I knew I had to explore surgery.

Take heart!  Even if we all had walked on all fours, we probably would still have some kind of problems.

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THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS UNDEMOCRATIC

You know where I stand.  Now let me explain why you should feel the same way.  What follows was excerpted from a column by George Skelton in the L.A. Times.

“What I’m opposed to is the undemocratic general election winner-take-all system used by all but two states—Nebraska and Maine—of awarding electoral votes.  The Founding Fathers never set it up this way.  The Constitution doesn’t even mention the words Electoral College.

“The Founders, in fact, were skittish about direct democracy.  They didn’t trust all the people.  Women and slaves weren’t allowed to vote.  Senators originally were chosen by the state legislatures.  The constitutional framers merely decreed that the president be chosen by state `electors.’  Legislatures could appoint electors by any method they chose.

“What we have today evolved sordidly from states—especially slave states—jockeying for power leading up to the Civil War.  There’s nothing at all holy about it.  The winner-take-all system is bad for two reasons.

“First, as we’ve seen, a candidate can receive the most votes nationally and still lose in the Electoral College.  In all, four presidential candidates have won the most votes but lost the presidency.

“Second, under a winner-take-all system, the vast majority of states are shunted to the sidelines, forced to watch from afar as the candidates fight it out in a few battleground states.

“That’s because candidates won’t waste their time or money campaigning in states where they’re a cinch to win everything anyway or are sure to be shut out.  In California, since 1992, no Democratic can lose, and no Republican has a prayer.  So you can already add California’s 55 electoral votes—20% of the number needed to win the presidency-to the Democratic column in November 2016.

“Neither candidate in the 2012 presidential election held one general election campaign event in California—or in 37 other states.  Only 12 states saw any events.  And 96% of the 253 events were held in eight battleground states.  Nevada, with only six electoral votes, had 13 campaign stops and $55 million spent on it for ads.  For three-quarters of the states, it was a total snub.

“These figures come from Fair Vote, a nonpartisan group trying to reform the system so that every vote counts.  It’s a simple idea that doesn’t require a constitutional amendment.

“States form a compact that obligates each to cast all its electoral votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote.  The compact wouldn’t go into effect until signed by enough states to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes.

“People must get over the notion that states should elect a president.  Citizens should elect their national leader, as they do governors and members of Congress.

“So far, 11 states have inked the compact.  They possess 165—or 61%–of the necessary 270 electoral votes.  These states come in all sizes—small, medium and large.  California signed up in 2011.  New York was the latest last April.  The focus now is on Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware.  There’s hope of electing by popular vote in 2020.

“`Early on, legislatures didn’t want to spend time on something that seemed pie in the sky,’ says John Koza, a Silicon Valley computer wizard who came up with the idea.  `Now we’re getting closer and approaching another presidential election, and that’s generating interest.’

“When Gov. Brown signed the compact bill, he commented:  `It seems logical that the occupant of the White House should be the candidate who wins the most votes.  That is basic fair democracy.’”

No question we are long overdue for a change.  Here’s a summary of the four previous popular vote winners who didn’t get to be president.

In 2000, Governor George Bush and Vice President Al Gore squared off in one of the closest elections in our history.  Once the final count was tallied, Gore won the popular vote by 54,895.  Winning the popular vote, however, was not enough.  George Bush won the Electoral College 271-266.  At this time in history, as is still true today, the required number to win the Electoral College is 270.  Bush was declared the winner, even  though more voters went for Gore.

In 1888, President Grover Cleveland and U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison battled a long race, with the outcome of the election coming down to Cleveland’s home state of New York.  The overall popular vote was only a difference of 90,596 votes.  What is crazier is that the state of New York came down to less than 15,000 votes, roughly 1.1% of a difference.  If Cleveland could have swayed 1.1% of voting New York citizens, he would have changed the Electoral College vote from 233-168, to 204-197; thus, putting him over the 201 Electoral College votes necessary to win presidency.  Unfortunately, he would have to settle for only winning the popular vote, and re-running for president in 1892.  Cleveland went on to win in 1892, becoming the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

In 1876, Governor Rutherford B. Hayes and Governor Samuel J. Tilden competed in one of the most disputed elections in our history.  Governor Tilden received 247,448 more popular votes than did Governor Hayes.  Now we start to see an issue.  Almost 3% difference in the popular vote, and Hayes was declared the victor because he won 185-184 in the Electoral College.  This election stands as the only time in America’s history where there has been an absolute majority of the popular vote—more than 50%–go to one person, yet the votes did not get the majority winner elected president.

I saved the best for last.  Imagine having the most Electoral College votes AND the most popular votes, but not winning the election.  You are in a race with three other competitors, and you win every contest.  Unfortunately, there are some “rules” that decided that you didn’t win by enough, so you lose.

In 1824, Andrew Jackson clearly won both the popular and electoral vote; however, Jackson did not win a majority (more than 50%) of the electoral vote.  This led to the tie-breaker event laid out in the Twelfth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; a very convoluted and totally undemocratic system used to break a tie or when no candidate gets a majority of the Electoral College.  The House of Representative decides, not by a majority vote of all representatives, but by giving one vote to each state.

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