Saturday, January 27, 2018

G is Great

I'm working on the letter G for the alphabet blog challenge. The challenge is to go through the alphabet, and write a post about five favorite things that begin with each letter. It's been a work in progress for a few years now. Some people have completed the challenge in one year. I am NOT one of those people. That's because I tend to write novellas when explaining my favorite things. But not this time. Now, I aim keep it short and sweet, or at least stay on track and keep it easy and simple.

At first, I had trouble thinking of five favorite things that begin with the letter G, other than God, Gautama (Buddha), and Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). But this isn't a religious or spiritual list. So I pondered some more and made a list of G words that came to mind and classified them by category:

Favorite Foods: Guacamole, Gorditas, Gelatin, Glazes, Gelato, Green Goddess dressing.

Favorite Fruits: Guavas, Gooseberries, Grapes.

Favorite Animals: Gentoo penguins, Giraffes, Gorillas, Glow worms.

Destinations to see: Great Britain, Galicia, Granada, Germany, Galapagos, Goa, Ganges.

Other G words: Gold, Glamour, Generous, Genuine, Gentleman, Gala, Gallery, Galaxy, Gondola, and Gigantor.

Making the lists helped me figure out the top five of my favorite things that begin with the letter G:

1. Gemstones

Gemstones are amazing! They are basically just rocks or minerals that look fascinating, sparkle, and dazzle with their patterns and hues and beauty. I am astounded by the many varieties. And new ones keep popping up, created or discovered, and are presented to the world. Gemstones shows the richness and beauty of this world, and what a wondrous place we live in.

Diamonds are popular, especially the clear kind. But I like the colored varieties better. Colors make gemstones enchanting. It's why I enjoy corundum, like blue sapphires and red rubies--same gemstone but with different colors. Corundum comes in a resplendent rainbow of colors. While reds are always called rubies, the rest are called sapphires, with blue being the most popular. Spinels also come in a riveting range of colors.

Colorful varieties are also why I like quartz--clear (rock), milky, green prase and prasiolite, lemon quartz, yellow and orange citrine, purple amethyst, dark brown and dusky smoky, pink rose, and blue dumortierite are a few of the colorful quartz varieties. The mixed ametrine and rutilated and tourmalinated quartz fusions are captivating.

And the chalcedony types of quartz, such as agates, aventurine, bloodstone, carnelian, chrysoprase, holly blue, jasper, onyx, sardonyx, and tiger's eye, are spectacular with their hues and patterns. Fire agates are just gorgeous.

Pearls are also splendid. The shimmering, iridescent sheen and range of shades make pearls and paua (abalone) so resplendent!

One of the best places I've seen gemstones and amazing minerals is at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. The museum itself is so magnificent and spectacular with all its fantastic specimens and art. They even have mummies and stuffed wild creatures and dinosaur bones! The gems and minerals collection was just brilliant and stunning. Gemstones are nature's masterpieces. And man made gemstones are glorious emulations of nature's splendiferous creations.

2. Games

I like all sorts of games. Charades, billiards, and air hockey are some of my faves to play with friends. Board games, card games, checkers, and chess--I'm a novice, but I like learning how the pieces move. I like arcade games and old school carnival games. I'm competitive by nature and can get really fierce and vicious, especially when I play hard to win, sometimes at any cost. I work hard to keep that competitive urge in check at social settings. I save the killer instincts for actual sporting events. Card games, board games, and arcade games, I play for fun, for the camaraderie and companionship with friends.

Video games are a weakness. I've wasted many days and nights just playing video games. I just want to beat the game and score as high as I can. It was a compulsion I could not resist. I've missed school work and faked illnesses just so I could stay home and level up in the game! I used to play my Gameboy til the batteries died! And when I first started living on my own, I got a gaming console and wasted entire weekends trying to beat the games. I lived on Mountain Dew, hot pockets, and pizza.

When I started missing parties and stopped clubbing and bar hopping for two straight months, my friends became concerned. When I ignored party, wedding, birthday, and grand function invitations going into the third month, my friends actually held an intervention for me, concerned about the time I was wasting playing with video games. It was a wake up call for me when I finally realized how much time I lost trying to level up and beat the games.

So I gave away my gaming console and video games to avoid the temptation all together. I also threw out the gaming chair--my body had left a permanent, though very cozy, indentation in the cushions. It fit me comfortably, but felt lumpy to everyone else. It took months for the calluses on my thumbs to go away. And it felt good to be back in the real world interacting with real people once more.

I still can't have a gaming console in my place, because the temptation to waste days playing video games is just too great for me to resist. The flashing lights and thrilling sounds and fast action mesmerize me and spur me to get the high score or defeat the game by finishing all the levels and beating all the bosses. I get an adrenaline rush from crushing the opposition and laying waste to my enemies.

I also like sports. Track and field is in my blood. Luv surfing, volleyball, diving, and winter sports like skiing, speed skating, snowboarding, and biathlons. I'm a big fan of the Olympics, because it offers a huge buffet of sports. I love seeing so many sports happening at the same event: Swimming, shooting, archery, track and field, gymnastics, volleyball, rugby, and of course, the best event ever at the Olympics, synchronized swimming. I'm also a big fan of the martial arts and water sports like canoeing, sailing, and rowing.

The Olympics is one of my favorite events to watch on tv. I like watching people succeed. I like seeing people at their best forms contesting for the top spot. And I like hearing the inspirational stories behind the athletes; and I love the surprises and witnessing the sportsmanship and astounding feats of the competitors. And I love the Parade of Nations and the pageantry and festivities of the Opening and the Closing Ceremonies.

3. Giza

I've written before about the majesty and exotic wonders of the Giza plateau and the Pyramids: The enchanting and dangerous allure of the desert, that intoxicating and fatal beauty; the throngs of various people--locals and tourists, mixing, mashing, trading, and interacting; the cacophony of the crowded, ancient city contrasted with the haunting eeriness of the enveloping, vast desert; the strange and fantastic features and mystique of the ancient structures, arts, and creations left behind by civilizations long since passed and swallowed up by time and the ever encircling sands of the Sahara.

There's a magic and power that emanates throughout the region. It's where the past and present mingle. It's where memory is part of the landscape, and the sands of time are ever swirling and encompass humanity, history, and propels us forward to the future. I would like to see Giza and experience its chaos and mysteries once more.

4. Greece

I love Greece--the landscape, the islands, the sea, the people, the history, and the culture. The food is great. I luv gyros! And I am captivated by the arts and architecture of the ancients who built civilization and forged influential ideas and opinions that affect the modern world to this very day.

I would luv to spend more time exploring the more remote and hidden regions of this spread out country. I want to journey through the paths the ancient heroes, and gods, and monsters walked in times long past. It's breathtaking and enthralling to take in the incredible vistas of these ancient, venerable, and mysterious shores and sacred mountains.

I long to return to those evocative places and walk those shimmering shores; climb those sacred mountains; and revel in the beauty of the wild spaces and ancient places. I would like to get to know the people better and embrace the culture, share their joy in life, and experience the world from their perspective. I want to embrace the storied, legendary history, and live the mythical, grand mysteries that are an essential part of that life.

5. Grand Canyon

It truly is a grand canyon, a most magnificent, awesome, inspiring sight. It is a most extraordinary and stunning landscape, with gorgeous vistas and a plethora of striking shapes and vivid colors. If I could, I would love to explore every path, every hidden glen, and every forest that is a part of this majestic wonder.

I had a plan to spend a few days exploring the Grand Canyon. I wanted to hike down to the turbulent Colorado river, explore the cliffs and slot canyons, and take in the sunrise, sunset, and starry nights of this most magical, enthralling place. I wanted to revel in its rugged, wild beauty and discover some of its hidden wonders.

But at the last minute, I had to alter my great vacation plans to meet up with some friends in Las Vegas. We had a blast. We spent a night and a day at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and we were mesmerized and stunned by its wondrous beauty. And when the others left Vegas later on, I seized the opportunity to change my route and witness the unrivaled glories of the Grand Canyon from the north rim and the east side as well. It was just astounding.

It was a spectacular adventure. And I still plan on returning to the Grand Canyon. I long to hike down into that great landscape and experience the mysteries and magic of the most spellbinding, captivating, and grandest natural wonder in all the world.

And there it is. My top five favorite things that begin with the letter G. And these are just a few of the great things that make life so fantastic, terrific, and truly grand. I hope you liked some of it. And I hope you can share with me some of your favorite things that begin with the letter G. Have a Great Day!

Related Links

A list
B all that you can B
What you C is what you get, the beginning
What you C is what you get, the middle
What you C is what you get, the end
D lighted
F is for Fun
G is Great
H is Heavenly
Brought to you by the letter S
U doing that thing U do
Zing Zing Zoom

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Sound of Music: The Classics - Swan Lake

Today, I was surprised to see some birds actually swimming in the bay. They looked like geese. Usually, it's egrets, herons, and gulls that patrol the bay. Geese are rare, as they've been hunted down to extirpation (local extinction) and driven from the area by loss of habitat.

Thankfully, there is a wonderful national wildlife sanctuary less than an hour's drive north of the city. It is a much needed safe and thriving refuge area for endangered and migrant species. It would provide these geese a safe haven. I'm not sure if they're lost or if this is a stop on their journey, but I'm very grateful that the wildlife sanctuary exists for these birds; and so many other wild species, like turtles; bobcats; egrets; herons; spoonbills; ibises; gators; and javelinas (collared peccaries, piglike critters) live and thrive in the refuge, safe from being hunted or threatened by humans.

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the most important wintering grounds for the endangered whooping crane. There are approximately 600 whooping cranes left in the world. Before European arrival, an estimated 10,000 whooping cranes thrived across North America. By 1938, only 15 adults were left. Of the 600 or so current population--a result of dedicated conservation efforts--431 were counted in 2017 at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This is their most important wintering grounds.
In summer, the whooping cranes migrate to breed and nest and raise their young in only two established places: Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and the Northwest Territories in Canada--the second largest national park in the world, bigger than Switzerland! And the newly established (2001) summer nesting grounds at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, USA.

The reintroduced Wisconsin population has been raised and trained to winter in Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, USA. It is the first successful population of whooping cranes to establish themselves and fly in these eastern parts in over a century! There were over a 100 birds counted in 2010 who made the successful migration.

In honor of all those hardworking, wise, passionate, and compassionate conservationists striving to protect and restore wildlife, I present Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

When I first started the Sound of Music series, it was an attempt to better understand and learn more about Classical Music. I mostly used Classical music as a great motivation to clean the place and do household chores. Classical music puts me in the cleaning mood.

Until I sat down and actually went through the classical music I had on hand, I was very surprised at just how much classical music was in my collection. Even more astonishing, I was familiar with many of them, even though I may not have known the exact song name or artist. And most of my familiarity comes from watching cartoons, tv and radio ads, and soundtracks of tv shows and movies. A few of these classical music pieces I've actually seen and heard performed live.

I'm sure you'll be surprised to at just how familiar some of these tunes are. Tchaikovsky has continually surprised me with just how much of his works I am familiar with, even before I knew their proper name or who created them. I love the songs I have from his Sleeping Beauty, or The Nutcracker, and even Swan Lake. And just so you know, while I enjoy the music, I have never, ever seen a full production of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, nor The Nutcracker! But I plan to see them when the opportunity arises.

One caveat, though. I'm not seeing any ballet or play or production with a tragic ending. The world is depressing enough as it is. If I'm going to see a production or performance, it's because I want to be entertained, to escape, to find some joy, even for a little while.

I don't know the story of Swan Lake. I have no idea about the characters or plot. And I don't want to know until I see a performance myself. So while I don't want any spoilers, I would like to know beforehand if the production is going to be tragic; because then I can skip it in favor of something more uplifting. But until I see a full, professional production or performance, I will settle for enjoying the music. And I hope you enjoy the music as well.

As always, please let me know if the clips won't load or play so that I can fix them. You can also click on the song name to open and play the song on your own media player or download the piece to listen to whenever you want.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Swan Lake:

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act I Waltz in A Major

I've danced to the piece and heard it many times before at formal functions and special events. It's a wonderful song to dance to.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act II Swan Theme

This is a very evocative and haunting piece. I love the stirring sounds and mesmerizing beat. Ethereal. Beautiful. Empyreal.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act II Dance of the Little Swans

This piece makes me smile. Sassy! Frivolous! Fun!

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act II Second Dance of the Queen of the Swans

A fine, intriguing piece. It also makes me think of Le Cygne (The Swan) from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act III Danse Hongroise Czardas

A very upbeat and dramatic piece. I'm noticing a lot of classical pieces with Hungarian in the title seem very fast and sweeping and grand.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act III Danse Espagnole

The use of castanets and the carnival tempo of this song is similar to the Mother Ginger and Clowns Dance from The Nutcracker. It's a festive sound!

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act III Danse Napolitaine

Danse Napolitaine carries the same spirit as Danse Espagnole. I wonder if the seemingly Latin/Spanish flavor comes from the fact that Spain ruled over Naples and parts of the Italian states for a while before the establishment of a united Italy.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act III Mazurka

And we close with a vibrant, lively, and vivacious piece. There are many other songs from Swan Lake, but I hope you enjoyed the few choice selections I've presented here.

If you've seen Swan Lake, tell me your experience and whether it was worth it. What pieces do you like? And what's the best way to enjoy a Swan Lake performance? And if you have any similar musical gems to recommend, then please share them with me. I appreciate and love finding great music.

And to all you dedicated, amazing conservationists, thank you very much for your efforts. You save our wildlife and you inspire me to volunteer and take action to protect, nurture, and cherish our natural resources and unique wildlife. Our world is so much better and more beautiful because of your efforts. Thank you for saving our planet for us and for future generations.

Related Links
The Sound of Music 1: The Classics - Ephemeral
The Sound of Music 2: The Classics - Ethereal
The Sound of Music: Classics - The Nutcracker
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 1
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 2
The Sound of Music 3: The Classics - Ebullient
The Sound of Music: Classics - Requiem
The Sound of Music: Classics - Opera Part 1

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sing A Song

Like all great conflicts, it began innocently enough with a comment.

"I like this song," said Buddy. It was lunch time, and he was eating the special of the day, King Ranch Chicken. Buddy's comment was meant for the tune the cafeteria was playing. Most times, the cafeteria played elevator music--instrumental interpretations of popular songs--bland, inoffensive, just peppy enough to be pleasant, but unremarkable enough to be forgotten as soon as you left the cafeteria.

But every now then, like they do with their menu, the cafeteria would serve up a pleasant surprise, like the King Ranch Chicken special and the song they were playing, "Apache", the version by the Incredible Bongo Band.

Apache is a great song, and I agreed with Buddy. I call him Buddy, because he wears those retro, thick framed glasses reminiscent of Buddy Holly. It's a style choice. His glasses are actually a deep, dark, navy blue color. He also owns a fire engine red pair that he sports for outings and for upscale or dressy occasions.

If he wanted to, he could've just gotten corrective surgery to fix his vision. He even went as far as getting an exam and a consultation. But in the end, Buddy decided not to get the surgery. Whatever his reasons, he decided to stick to his signature glasses. Perhaps some day, he'd have the surgery. Or maybe never. But that was totally his choice, and I respected that.

I didn't know it then, but Buddy's innocuous comment on the song would launch an intense debate that would consume most of our lunch break and spill over to the rest of the day. It happens every now and then.

Most lunches, we talked about nothing--weather, sports, weekend experiences or upcoming plans. To be honest, there was also a fair amount of gossip. There's always office gossip. Every time you get a group of people together, they start to talk, and most times, they eventually end up talking about each other. That's just human nature.

Sure, we act shocked and try to appear above it all, but deep down, we all love dirt. We get a thrill out of the juicy tidbits that get traded around the water coolers and break rooms. We hunger for information and entertainment, especially when we're bored or need a distraction. And distractions often arise unexpectedly, sometimes when we least expect them.

It was Pierre who launched the first strike. I call him Pierre, for his almost daily habit of starting the workday with a croissant and a cup of French roast coffee. And like most Frenchmen, Pierre was passionate and had definite opinions that he voiced freely. In this case, he stated, "That's not a song. It's just music."

At first, we were confused by the statement. Pierre elaborated, "We're listening to music, not a song."

I needed clarification, "Isn't a song the same thing as music?"

Pierre answered, "No. A song is type of music, but not all music can be called songs. A song has to have words."

At this point, Tex joined in, "It's true. Without lyrics, it's just music." I call him Tex because of his penchant for wearing cowboy boots and for wearing a custom made cowboy hat as part of his daily wear. Tex continued, "You need lyrics to make a song. Without lyrics, it's just a melody, a tune, not a song."

I didn't agree, and if truth be told, it didn't matter much to me how each person defined music or a song. But I felt the urge to play devil's advocate, so I said, "A song doesn't need to have words. It only needs to communicate a message or feeling."

Pierre countered, "You need words to communicate."

I replied, "Not necessarily. You can communicate without words; using facial expressions or even just sighing, or groaning, or grunting expresses what we feel."

Buddy jumped in, "And whistling, humming, or even the scatting jazz singers do counts as communication, as expressions, which count as parts of the song they are singing."

"But that's just it," countered Tex, "A song needs to be sung!"

So I answered, "A song is a creation, an expression that's made from various instruments or implements. And the human voice is an instrument for communication and expression. I argue that even clapping hands or stomping feet can be considered musical instruments that create songs the way a guitar, or piano, or drum emits sounds when they are played by human hands."

Pierre interjected, "If you're going to argue that using the human body as a musical instrument means the noises we make count as songs, does that mean arm pit farting and passing gas count as music?"

"Only if they communicate a message or express thoughts or feelings!", I quickly replied.

That got us all chuckling.

Then Tex said, "If a song is meant to communicate or express a thought or feeling, then wouldn't you need words to relay that message or feeling? Therefore, you need words to make a song a song! Otherwise, if you can't say or sing it clearly, and if no one can understand what you're singing, then you're not communicating or expressing anything. You're just making noise, like a babbling brook or tin can rolling down a hill, making sound that has no meaning. No meaning means it's not a song, just noise."

Buddy said, "Just because we can't understand the expressions or interpret the sounds or message does not mean it's just noise. There are foreign songs we don't understand. There are tribes who use their noses to make flute music! Not to mention other people who use clicks and whistles to communicate, their version of singing. We may not understand them or what they're expressing, but that does not take away from the fact that they are communicating, and their songs are as valid as all other forms of songs that express feelings and thoughts and messages."

Pierre replied, "But that's just it. If it's about communication and expression, and we are to count whistles and clicks as ways to communicate. Wouldn't that mean that in terms of language, those whistles and clicks are considered words? Words are used to communicate a message or express thoughts and feelings. Therefore, I reiterate, you need words to make a song. Lyrics are the words in the song. Without lyrics, it's not a song, just music, a melody, a tune. Without words, it's not a language, it's not a message or expression."

Pierre was on a roll. He closed his argument confidently by declaring, "Words make a song a song! Otherwise, it's just a tune! You can't have a song without words! If you don't use words, then you aren't singing a song! You can't sing a song without words!"

To which I replied, "Tell that to the birds and whales!"

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Blog Tips--Add music to blog post (plus create your own website)


No, you're not going crazy. That's music auto playing in the sidebar. At least temporarily for the next few days for demonstrative purposes. Click the pause button if you don't want to hear this song play or keep looping.

Music: The Entertainer by Scott Joplin

This is a bonus update to show you how to add music in the background.

Real simple. It's a whole lot easier than this post looks. You need two things:

(1). An audio control tag (see step 3. for script below)
(2). The mp3 URL (the address/location/path of the website hosting your mp3).

You need a site to host the mp3 to make this work. Don't worry. See phase 3 of the long post below to create your website to host the mp3 and obtain the address. It's easy.

The steps to create an auto playing and looping background music:

1. Go To Blogger Dashboard >> Layout.
I go to the sidebar because it's easy for demonstration purposes.
2. Click On “Add Gadget” >> HTML/Javascript.
3. Now Copy the Below script and paste in HTML/Javascript Section.

<audio controls>
<source src="PASTE-MP3-URL-HERE.mp3"></source>

Make sure to paste in the mp3 URL (location/address/path) in between the quotation marks on the spot marked PASTE-MP3-URL-HERE.mp3

Be sure the address ends with .mp3

4. Click Save. Go to blog to see if it worked. Advice: Use smaller files that'll load and play easily. For example, The Entertainer playing in the side bar is about 2.54MB in size. The larger the mp3 file, the longer it takes to load and play.

5. Options: I included controls in the audio tag to give readers a choice to stop or play the music.

To create an auto playing and looping background music, add autoplay and loop to the tag:

<audio controls autoplay loop>
<source src="PASTE-MP3-URL-HERE.mp3"></source>

I can also place the audio autoplay tag in the sidebar to make it easy to find and control the music. The music will play so long as you stay on the blog, no matter what post you go to.

To keep the music auto playing and looping in one particular blog post, post the proper audio tag in the HTML mode of Creating a post. Stay and work in HTML mode only! If you switch to Compose, it'll ruin your audio tag! Compose mode automatically transforms your tags, rendering them useless and broken. Stay in HTML mode! Work in HTML mode, and save in HTML mode. Publish in HTML mode.

More Bonus Sidebar Updates:

I've also updated Blog Tips--formatting comments to make it easier to create Italics , Bold, or Links in blogger comments.

And I've updated Blog Tips--fun graphics so you can just copy and paste which fun design you want to show up in comments, i.e. cake

Copy and Paste this in comments:


To get this:




I've been looking for a way to load music into my blog posts. Just music, not video clips. In Blogger, there is a movie clapperboard/slate board icon in the Compose menu. It sits between the postcard/picture icon for adding fotos to the blog and the smiley face icon for special characters.

That clapperboard icon is useful for uploading video files to your blog post from your computer or other site, like YouTube. That's fine if you want to load music videos. But I don't want to load any videos, I only want to upload music clips--mp3s--to the site. This post is only about adding music (NOT YouTube or other sites' videos) to your blog posts. Just music, not videos.

While I like finding and sharing awesome videos from YouTube or other sites, it does get frustrating trying to find a quality video to share, only to have it disappear or removed from the site, therefore, leaving an ugly error space on the blog post. I'm tired of losing videos and having music disappear from the blog. It feels like censorship, and I don't like it! Now, I just want a way where I can have the music be a part of the blog without ever worrying about it being erased or removed. I want to keep the music as a part of the blog for as long as I have the blog! Music is an essential part of life, and it is fundamental in some of the blog posts I like to create and share.

Don't let the size of this post scare you. It only appears long because I'm going to walk you step by step on how to add music (mp3s) to your blog post. Once you've gone through it the first time, it'll get easy. Because you've all ready done the hard part: Setting up a website to host your mp3s. After a few tries, you'll become adept at adding music to your blog posts.

This is a sort of technical, long post. Stop here if you've no interest in adding just music clips (not videos) to your blog post. If you'd like to know how to add music and keep it on your posts for as long as you have your blog, then read on. This post is going into the sidebar under Helpful Hints for future reference and easy access.

Once upon a time, Blogger offered an embedded mp3 player option. That was very helpful and made adding music to the blog easy. But then they removed it for some reason. Naturally, that caused a lot frustration and disappointment, because now, it is a whole lot harder to add music to the blog.

But the possibility exists to add music clips to the blog in at least two ways:

1. Using an embedded mp3 player--from a third party.

2. Utilizing the unique properties inherent in blogger that allow for the addition of music clips using html tags.

I didn't want to deal with finding a compatible mp3 player. I wanted something easy and simple. So I opted to research for the right html tags I would need to add music clips to my blog posts. It wasn't easy. And there are many differing opinions and methods. Thankfully, people who are experts at this led me to discover the necessary html tag to add music clips (mp3s) to my blog post. This is the music clip audio tag:

<audio controls="controls" height="50px" width="100px"> <source src="PASTE-MP3-URL-HERE.mp3" type="audio/mpeg"></source> <embed height="50px" src="" width="100px"></embed> </audio>

See where it says "PASTE MP3 ADDRESS HERE.mp3"? That is where you'll paste in the mp3's address (location/path) from the site that is hosting the mp3. You need a hosting site for the mp3. I'll show you how to create one.

You will need to save this audio tag in a place where you can easily copy and paste it into your blog post when the time comes. The easiest thing would be to copy it from this page. I'm leaving this page up, in the sidebar under Helpful Hints, so if you need to quickly copy and paste the huge audio tag above to use in your post, you know where to find it. Or you can copy and paste it into Note and save it in your files, so you'll have access to it from your computer or if you find it more convenient than coming back to this page. Do what is easiest for you to save and access the audio tag.

I'll admit that it was very confusing and time consuming sorting through all the available information on adding music clips to a blog post. There are differing opinions and methods. Eventually, I was able to craft from various sources and through trial and error and experimentation a simple way to add music to blog posts. It requires three things:

1. The music in mp3 format
2. The audio tag to add music to your blog post
3. A site to host the mp3 file

To add a music clip to the blog post, it is necessary to work in HTML mode, NOT Compose.

This is my advice, based on experience and experimental results, on the simplest way to add music to your blog post. Here are the three phases to adding music to your blog post:

(Phase 1). Create post.

Type out your post and make a note or mark where you want to place the music clip in your post. If you're adding a music clip as part of a larger blog post, type out the blog post first. It's ok to type the post (or copy and paste it) in Blogger's COMPOSE mode at this time. In the location where you want the music clip to appear, type in the artist name and music title. Then underneath the artist name and title, type in TAG.

TAG does not mean anything. It is just a place holder. That is where you will paste in the audio tag with the mp3 info and address to add the music clip to your site. Once you've typed out your post (or copied and pasted the post) into blogger, click SAVE to save your work.

Under Post Settings, click on Options. Under Line breaks, choose Press "Enter" for line breaks. Click Done. This will make it easier to work in HTML mode.

Save post then switch from COMPOSE mode to HTML mode before adding music audio tag (phase two and three). DO NOT SWITCH BACK TO COMPOSE MODE OR YOU'LL RUIN THE AUDIO TAG, causing the music clip to fail. If you need to edit your blog text or make changes, do so in HTML mode, and save in HTML mode.

(Phase 2). Add audio tag to blog post to add music (mp3) to the post.

In HTML mode, add/paste in audio tag (that huge, scribble from above identified as the music clip audio tag) to replace the place holder TAG. Just highlight TAG, then delete/replace it by pasting the audio tag you copied. Click Save.

DO NOT CLICK BACK TO COMPOSE! The COMPOSE mode will automatically convert your audio tag, ruining it, causing the music clip to fail and NOT play on your blog. So remember. Once you click into HTML mode, DO NOT CLICK BACK ON COMPOSE MODE!!! So any further edits or changes to your post have to be done and saved in the HTML mode, and Never go back to COMPOSE or you'll ruin the audio tag. Save your work in HTML mode.

If you do accidently click back to COMPOSE mode and ruin the audio tag, click back to HTML mode and erase the mangled/ruined audio tag. You're going to have to paste in a brand new audio tag in this space. Don't forget to stay in HTML mode and click save in HTML mode. Do not close this window. Leave this window with Blogger post still in HTML mode while you open or start another new, browser window.

(Phase 3). Copy mp3 location/address/path from host site. This is how you create your own website.

Now open a new window. Go to Google home/search page. You should still be signed in from your Blogger account that you used to create your new post. Now I'll show you how and where to create a hosting site to upload your mp3. Then you'll copy the address of the mp3 to paste in the audio tag in the blog post.

In Google homepage, type in: Sites

That should lead you to; if you have a Blogger/Gmail/Google account, you have a sites account, or the access to create one. The site will only hold 100MBs, just enough for a CD's worth of music--about 12 or more, depending on the size of the mp3 files. I'm showing you how to create the simplest, easiest website to host your files. You can explore other template options later if you want a more specific or specialized website from the many template options. For now, just follow the steps outlined below to create a simple website to host your files.

Sign in if you need to. In the bottom left of the page, make sure you are in Desktop mode.

1. Click Create button in top left of page.
2. Click on Blank template.
3. Type in your site name, i.e., My Blog Name Music
4. In Theme menu, click on Iceberg.
5. Click on box I'm not a robot. Solve captcha if necessary.
6. Click Create

7. Go to your new site by clicking on it.
8. Click on blue Share button in upper right corner.
9. Choose option: Anyone who has the link can view. Save.
10. On left side of menu, click on Page Template.
11. Click on File Cabinet.
12. Click on Set as default.
13. Click on site name to go back to homepage.
14. On the top menu, click add page (icon with + sign on page)
15. Type page name, i.e. Music
16. Make sure template is set to File cabinet.
17. Make sure to select Put page on top level. Click OK.
18. Back to site homepage, click on Gear icon (top right) for drop down menu and Click on Edit site layout.
19. Click to highlight only Header and Horizontal Navigation. Click to de-highlight Sidebar. Click Close.
20. Click Gear and click Edit site layout again.
Click home tab to highlight row. Configure Navigation window should pop open. Click Add Page.
Then a window titled "Select page to add" should pop open. Under site map, highlight your newly created page and click OK.
Under Style, click on Tabs. Then Click OK.
21. Click on your newly created page's tab.
Click Add File to upload file from your computer or device.

*Your music file should be in mp3 format. If not, there are several programs to convert your CDs to music files that can be saved as mp3s on your computer or device. Most computers come loaded with such programs. Use or download a program you trust to save your songs into mp3s.

If you have a Windows computer, Windows Media Player is included by default. Go to this site here to follow easy instructions on converting your CDs into mp3s:

22. Once the music mp3 has uploaded, click on the Gear and choose Manage site from the menu.
23. Click on Attachments.
24. Click on blue Version or Revision for the chosen mp3.
25. On top of page, Right Click on blue mp3 name and copy link. This is your mp3's address/location/path.

26. Go to the other open window with your Blogger post in the HTML mode.
Find the audio tag, highlight PASTE MP3 ADDRESS HERE.mp3, staying inside the quotation marks. Then delete/replace PASTE MP3 ADDRESS HERE.mp3 by pasting the link you copied from your site. Click Save.
27. This step is optional: Creating a link to open/download the mp3. It's useful when people can't play the music clip or want to open/download the clip using their own media player.

Highlight the artist and song name. Click Create Link icon. Paste mp3 address/location/path into location box. Click OK to save. This way, if the clip does not load or play, clicking on the artist name or song title can open or download the mp3 if that's what the reader wants.

28. Click Save. Stay in HTML mode. Close post. Back on Blogger, click Preview of post to see if the post will display with the music clip as a black bar under the artist name and song title. The only way to see if the clip will load and play is to Publish the post.
29. If satisfied with Preview, Publish post. Test out the clip and link. If the clip won't load or play correctly, you may have to go back to HTML edit mode, erase the audio tag, and replace it with a new audio tag, and add the mp3 address again in the appropriate tag space. Save in HTML mode. Publish. Test clip again. It should be working if you did all the steps correctly.
30. If you're still having problems, check to make sure you copied the audio tag correctly. Make sure you have the right mp3 address from your site. Make sure your Google site setting allows anyone with a link. If you're still having problems, you may have loaded too many mp3s to the post, creating huge data the servers or mobile device users cannot support nor access. Keep it simple.

After troubleshooting, hopefully, the audio tag works properly and you now have music to enhance your blog.

From now on, if you want to add just music clips to your post, all you have to do is:
1. Create post and type TAG where you want the music clip to appear. Save post then go to HTML mode.
2. In HTML mode, replace TAG with actual audio tag.
3. Upload mp3 to your site. Then copy mp3 address/location/path from site. Paste into appropriate audio tag spot. Optional: Create open or download link using artist name or song title.
4. Save in HTML mode. Close post. Preview. If satisfied and to see if clip works, Publish post.

That's it. Much easier after the first time. And you can save yourself time by uploading to your site before hand any music you'll use in your posts. Just remember, the site only holds about 100MB of data (at least 12 songs, depending on mp3 size). So you might have to create more sites if you have more songs to play in future posts.

If I can help in any other way or if you have useful tips and advice to share, please do so. I will gladly take any good advice on other easy methods to load music clips to the blog post. One last word of advice: Don't try to load too many songs in one post. It'll take the page longer to load and makes it difficult for mobile device users to access and enjoy your new musically enhanced blog posts.

A very special thank you to all you amazing readers who shared feedback when I was experimenting with adding music to the site. Your feedback was very helpful in troubleshooting and understanding the best, simplest way to add music to the blog post. Thank you for your welcomed and highly valued participation.

I hope this information helps you add music to your blog posts. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

F is for Fun

Once again, I'm trying to finish the alphabet blog challenge, where you pick a letter and write about five favorite things that begin with that letter. It's been an ongoing endeavor. But I still plan on finishing it, because it bothers me to leave things undone.

And as previous efforts have shown, I tend to go overboard and write novellas about my favorite things. But not today. Today, I'm going to keep it short and sweet, or at least try to keep it manageable. So here it is, my five favorite things that begin with the letter F.

If you guessed that I was going to say fornicating recreating as one of my five favorite things, you are almost on target. Because it is fun to fornicate recreate with the right party. But this is a family friendly blog, or at least I try to keep it clean and friendly. So my five favorite things will be family friendly--nothing too explicit or for mature audiences only; though, I confess that those things are fun.

But this blog is not meant for those mature topics or themes. I don't have the talent to pull something like that off with the class and humor and style the other bloggers clearly demonstrate in their entertaining sites. I know my weaknesses and my strengths. I know when to step up and lead or when to step aside and follow someone else who is better qualified.

I could list flamenco, flamingoes, and fireworks as some of my favorite things that begin with the letter F. And they are fantastic and fabulous. But I feel like the list should be more substantial, or at least feel more sophisticated or more uplifting and interesting. It should also be brief, like I had planned but all ready, I seem to be getting off track. So, reeling it back in, here are my five favorite things that begin with the letter F:

1. Family and Friends.

It's kind of a cheat, but you know that I had to put that in there, at the very top. Because it's true. Family and friends are important to me. They define who we are and defend us in times of need. They're the people who love you and care for you and only want the best for you.

Granted, family is complicated. Not everyone is lucky enough to have been born into a great, supportive family. And all families have problems, including my own. There are some very deep differences between me and some of my family members. And it's caused tension and conflict over the years. We all want different things or at least have different perspectives and contrasting ideas about the world and our place in it. We might have been raised by the same parents with the same values, but we make our own decisions and hold on to our own beliefs.

It's taken me a long time to wise up and realize that I may never change some of my family members' minds and attitudes. They are who they are. And the sooner I realized that I am NOT responsible for how they behave or think or feel, the less stressful I've become in accepting that they are who they are; and it's their lives, their choices, and it's they who have to live with the consequences. And I don't need to prove anything or justify my life or my decisions to them or anyone else. My life, so I'll live it the way I want to live it. And it's made me so much happier. It's a liberating and joyful experience.

You don't get a choice into which family you are born into. So thank goodness that friends are the family that you get to pick. Friends are loyal, loving, caring, and understanding. They will support you and protect you and stand by you in times of crisis. And they will be honest with you and give you a good smack of reality and reel you in when you make an ass of yourself or start turning into a jerk. Real friends help you be the best you that you can be. They see the best parts of you along with the worst, and they've accepted that you are worth keeping, because they see something of value inside of you.

Friends and family take care of each other, look out for each other, and stand up for each other against a world that can be hostile and unforgiving at times. We all need good friends and good families, because true friends and loving families make life worth living, and they make our world and our lives so much better, happier, and more wonderful and fulfilling.

2. Feasts.

I love feasts. Any time a gathering celebrates with good food and good company is a guaranteed path to a good time. Food brings us together. And good food with good people makes for good eating and good times.

I was a very picky eater growing up. Didn't like spices or foods that were too hot or looked strange or felt different or tasted weird. I liked simple, plain food. I didn't even like pizza or meat pies! I thought they were too spicy or just tasted too different from what I liked. About the wildest thing that I would eat was fried chicken and BBQ. So it is not surprising to know that those are still some of my favorite foods to this day.

Thankfully, as I grew older, I got to experience different cultures and was exposed to different foods. Now, food is an adventure, and it's made life so much more interesting and fun to try the many varieties of food that different people and different cultures make and share. Food, what it's made of and how it's prepared and shared, tells the story of us, what we believe and what we value. It defines us and expresses our beliefs and ideas to the world.

Honestly, I don't always enjoy everything I come across. I don't know how I would feel about eating a dog, or a camel, or a monkey, or a cat. But I do enjoy gators and some insects and worms and eels and even turtles--sorry, wildlife defenders. The turtle was served to me in a soup. I thought it was pork and beef, and it did taste delicious. Plus, I didn't want to seem rude to my host who had invited me to share a meal at his home. I was raised to be courteous and polite, to be respectful.

Some foods just taste or smell terrible to me. I can never get past the stench of kimchee. It always makes my eyes water and drives me out of the room! Some food just look so awful that I just can't bring myself to eat it. Like dung beetles. For gawd's sake their name says it all: Dung beetles! They literally roll around in crap! And I do have a strong aversion to cilantro/coriander--Blah! But overall, I enjoy sampling new cuisines and tasting dishes that are totally foreign to me. It has led me to some divine delectable delights!

And some of the best places to discover and sample great food are at festivals, carnivals, and fairs. Sure, a lot of the stuff is deep fried and is best sampled in small quantities. But there are also hidden culinary gems just waiting to be discovered, like fried ice cream or crunchy BBQ or fried pork skins. And I admit that I like indulging in some of those too rich treats like Frito pies, fried candy bars, and donut bacon and cheese burgers. I think it's okay to treat yourself every now and then. Those little surprises and rewards make life much more rich and enjoyable, especially when they are shared with friends and loved ones.

3. Frolicking.

I like to have fun. That means a variety of things from hiking, going to the beach, or enjoying a day at the rollercoasters. It also means dancing, singing, and playing games with friends and others. It's about parties, outings, gatherings, and backyard BBQs or dressing up and attending planned, formal, catered social events.

It also means going solo to explore nature or checking out museums and galleries or watching a film that no one else in your circle would want to see. Sometimes, it's reading a good book that lets your imagination run wild and takes you on an adventure. Sometimes, it's exploring new places and meeting new people, and trying new things like whitewater rafting or line dancing or going to the places where the locals eat, or hang out, or even gather to play, pray, or relax at the end of the day.

It's about taking chances and being open to new experiences and opportunities. No guts, no glory. Have no regrets over lost time or missed chances. It's about seizing the moments when they come and embracing life in all its wild, untamed glory. Life is meant to be lived, and life is best experienced when it's lived fully and wholeheartedly.

4. Freedom.

I like being free. I love seeing freedom in action. I like the sensation of free falling, that sudden drop from high places you can experience at theme parks or when you're jumping off a high perch to dive into deep waters.

I don't like anyone telling me what I can or cannot do. Forbid me or tell me that I can't do something because it's out of my abilities or comfort zone, and I'm motivated to do it, just to prove that I can get it done. There's a rebel in me, and it doesn't like being pushed around or being restricted.

Sometimes, I wonder if I was born a rebel or was I reacting to being one of the youngest in the family who didn't like being bossed around by much older siblings. Maybe I'm just a brat. But I did not like being ordered around by others when I was a little kid. To get me to cooperate, ask me nicely. Being mean to me just made me hardheaded and stubborn, vowing vengeance and never giving in. Maybe I was born this way, wired to be scrappy and feisty.

But I do know that I love watching freedom in practice. I may not always agree with what people are expressing, but I do support freedom of speech and expression, so long as they don't harm anyone. And I like listening to people speak freely or sing freestyle when making a point or sending a message. But I especially love freestyle in dancing and in art.

There's a beauty and divine grace that radiates brilliantly when a dancer lets go and gives into their emotions and spirit freely, to say and express with mind, body, and soul who they are and what they stand for, what they hold dear, what they want to say and share with the world.

And artists who fearlessly express their thoughts and feelings in their creations craft magnificent masterpieces. Paintings, sculptures, photos, carvings, weavings, and across so many media, it's a wonder to behold artists display their gifts and portray their visions for all the world to see. They capture and reveal the essence of things, the truth of the matter, the core and nature of the very subject they are seeing and sharing with us through their extraordinary talents.

Yes, there should be limits or boundaries to freedom, especially when it poses a danger to others. There should be a balance between freedom of expression and taking responsibility for one's actions. It's a fine balancing act, most difficult, challenging, and ever evolving with our changing society. But that's a good thing. Change helps us grow stronger and thrive. Life is change. Freedom is being able to embrace change and live life on one's own terms. And that's a beautiful and extraordinary way of living, a wonderful way of being.

5. Farms.

I grew up on a farm. And as a small child, I loved it. But as I got older and learned that there was whole other world out there, I grew restless and couldn't wait to leave that remote, rural coast. I longed to head out to the big cities and amazing places I've read about, seen in books and magazines and on tv; and I wanted to experience the exciting things travelers to our region shared with us about their adventures in the world beyond our borders.

The farm felt smaller, and my local area just felt too small and too boring. I wanted to live life out there in the big cities and see the wonders of the larger, metropolitan and wild places in the country. So when the opportunity came, I seized it, and I left the farm far behind to start my journey into the big world.

And the big world was much more exciting than I could ever have imagined! And it was also a lot more dangerous. But I was lucky to have been blessed with good friends who looked our for me and helped me learn, and survive, and thrive in the urban jungle. And in a short time, this country, coastal, farming, beach boy would become adept at living and enjoying the splendid thrills and action of the big cities.

Eventually, I got to see and experience those vast wild spaces and revel in their majesty and wonders. I got to travel the world and see those far off exotic places that I had only dreamed and read about in travel books and magazines. Life was a fantastic adventure, and I just couldn't get enough. I was living the dream.

But lately, I find myself missing the farm. I hadn't thought of it in years. I don't know if it's because I'm older and wiser now, or if I'm realizing something important. But I miss the farm. I honestly didn't think I would ever go back to living on that rural, remote coast. But I've been nostalgic this past year for the old places, the open fields and wild forests, the towering mountains, and the rivers and beaches and shimmering waters of the sea.

More than anything, what I really miss is that sense of camaraderie and belonging that comes from growing up on a farm. We worked hard together, we looked out for each other, we enjoyed each other's company, even when we would argue over the stupidest and silliest things. I think I just miss being near my brothers, the two that I am closest to. We've all ended up in the far corners of the world. Our choices and circumstances have led our lives in very different directions and in far off places.

And while we talk on the phone often enough, somehow, I still miss their presence; and I long to be near them once more, having fun and sharing experiences like we did back on the farm, when we were small children, and life was a big adventure. Maybe I just need to see them next vacation, to reconnect and reminisce, to strengthen our ties and bonds once more.

Or maybe I just miss the simplicity of the rural life, the slow pace, being surrounded by nature and living, growing things. When I left home, I had no intention of ever settling back there in that far, remote, rural coast, still so far from the cities. But now, I think I'm okay with that. Somehow, I've rediscovered the value of living in a rural, remote place. And it doesn't really matter if I go back to the farm or end up some other place equally beautiful, wild, and remote.

For so long, I've lived and clung on to this urban identity and life that I've worked hard to create. And it's been a glorious and fantastic ride. But now, I'm okay with letting it go. I'm all right with embracing my farming, faraway beach roots. I'm content with being a village, country boy once more, with being who I guess I've always been: A beach boy and a farm boy from the remote, rural coast. And I'm perfectly fine with that.

It would seem that life still has surprises for me, and I look forward to that, with the same eagerness and excitement that has taken me around the world. I would be fine if I somehow ended up back where I started, or in a place just as beautiful and wild. I'm not sure where life will take me, but I am willing to keep an open mind and do the best I can to live life to the fullest and cherish the people and places that I call home.

And there you have it. My five favorite things that begin with the letter F. Hopefully, I'll finish a few more alphabet letters before the year is over. And I will try to be better at keeping them short or at least entertaining and interesting. It's all trial and error. But that's life. We live, we learn, we go on. And hopefully, we all come through our journey and experiences and become stronger, wiser, and happier people.

Related Links

A list
B all that you can B
What you C is what you get, the beginning
What you C is what you get, the middle
What you C is what you get, the end
D lighted
F is for Fun
G is Great
H is Heavenly
Brought to you by the letter S
U doing that thing U do
Zing Zing Zoom

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Sound of Music: 3. The Classics - Ebullient

It's the New Year, time for new beginnings and second chances. Time to set new goals and make plans for where we want to be or what we want to accomplish. Planning and setting up goals is easy. It's the execution and actual doing that is much harder. It's often more difficult to put into practice what we plan or preach. Sometimes, we need to reevaluate and make changes.

I usually don't make New Year's resolutions. It's not that I don't believe in them or think them silly or a waste of time. On the contrary, I think that having goals to aim for is a good thing. It's nice to have goals and a plan, because it gives us direction and a purpose. The reason I don't have or make any New Year's resolutions is because my resolutions have been the same for many years now. It can be summarized as follows, my life's philosophy: Live every day as if it were your last; live life fully and love freely; do the things that make you happy; cherish your friends and loved ones; be a better person; be the best me that I can be.

It's a simple yet grand plan. And there are times when I struggle to stay true to the spirit and aim of the plan. Sometimes I need help to stay focused and stay strong, some aid to overcome the unexpected challenges in my way. I need a little boost every now and then. And music has the extraordinary power to inspire and energize and empower. Good music encourages me to never give up and keep going until I complete my task, succeed in my mission, and achieve my goals and objectives.

One of the most surprising and pleasant things about Classical music is the variety. I'll admit that when I think of the Classics, I usually think of grand waltzes, magnificent symphonies, and majestic orchestra pieces. Sometimes, I feel as if I ought to be dressed up to the nines--tuxedo, top hat, patented leather shoes--when I listen to these elegant waltzes or exquisite symphonies. I confess, most classical music seems very refined or subdued; a lot may even appear unrelatable. Yet a second, closer look yields surprising discoveries. And among those finds are the wonderful classical sounds that are exciting and inspirational, often full of energy and enthusiasm.

I've put together these pieces in a collection I call Ebullient, because they are dynamic and stirring works of art. They embolden and enliven. And also, I've just recently learned of this intriguing word "ebullient", which means enthusiastic, excited, high spirited, and zippy. I like learning new words; new words get me ebullient, zesty and energetic, like the classics in this collection. These are the classic songs that I find striking and rousing.

There are times in our journey when we may find our road blocked, and we need a little help to overcome the obstacles. Whether it's trekking up a steep mountain or cleaning out the fridge, a little boost gives us that much needed push to stay strong and keep fighting, to find a way. And whatever tasks and goals we've set for ourselves for this New Year, the right motivation helps us stay focused and keep moving when times get tough. Sometimes, a little extra push is all we need to get over the hurdles in our way. And good music is a fantastic motivator to galvanize us to take action and keep going.

I'm still experimenting with loading music on the site. If the music clip won't load or play, then click on the artist name to open or download the song. I would be grateful for any feedback, whether there is a problem so I can fix it, or if the music plays fine, so I know that all is well. All that information is very helpful in helping me improve this site.

And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts on these selections, and I appreciate your own advice and opinions of other pieces that you enjoy and find invigorating. Thank you.

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30: Introduction

I know, right? The theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I didn't realize this was a very old classical piece. I thought it was a modern creation because of the unique and thrilling and dynamic sound and tempo. But it's not. It's a tone poem--a symphonic story--created by Richard Strauss in 1896. And it's a fantastic and exciting work of art that transcends history, appealing across the ages to all peoples, stirring up emotions and energy.

There are times in life when I get really competitive and play hard to win. It brings out the vicious and brutish, predatory side of me. Very useful in sporting events and competition, but not so much in social situations and diplomatic events. I usually keep my competitive nature in check. Because if I let myself go and let out my competitive beast side, I can get downright ruthless and ferocious. I become merciless and unforgiving. It's why I mostly avoid contests in social gatherings. Because when I am spurred on by action, I become super focused on winning and destroying the competition.

Even when playing friendly games, I have to control the powerful urge to hoot, holler, and thump my chest in victory, like the ape men from Space Odyssey, especially after vanquishing my enemies in a highly contested game of gin rummy, charades, or Scrabble. As much fun as it would be to act all crazy and show off every time I win, it's not very civilized nor is it a welcoming sight. Nobody likes a showoff or a braggart. No one likes to be reminded that they lost.

Competition brings out the ugly side of me, making me a terrible loser and even worse winner. One of the very few instances outside of sporting and gaming events that my competitive drive was a useful asset is when I was a part of a dance crew, and we had to battle other crews for supremacy. That competitive instinct brought out the best in me and made me take risks and bold action that won the day and made us champions and the best crew around.

Richard Wagner: Die Walkürie (The Valkyrie), Act 3: Ride of the Valkyries

Love it! If there was ever a need for a battle song, a war song to summon the armies and march down to annihilate an enemy, this is that song! And they used it quite effectively in the movie Apocalypse Now (1979) When faced with a seemingly impossible and monumental challenge, the Ride of the Valkyries calls forth the courage, the will, and the drive to fight on, to keep going, to never give up. Find that inner strength and power through! Lay waste to all those who dare oppose you and obliterate all those who stand in your way!

I've successfully tackled many difficult household chores with this tune motivating me to keep going and get the job done and done right. This song is a declaration of war upon grease stains in the oven and grime in between the tiles. When faced with the dirty and filthy opposition, I take no prisoners, show no mercy, and obliterate the filth from my presence and eliminate them from the premises.

On a related note, I first became aware of this song from the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon What's Opera, Doc? (1957). Elmer Fudd was the Viking demigod Siegfried and Bugs was the Valkyrie Brünnhilde! It was a hilariously entertaining show, and it was an awesome introduction to classical music. I was six years old, and my two brothers and I loved the music and action from the cartoon. To this day, I still think of that Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd movie short special and smile every time I hear this song. Cartoons are a splendid and powerful way to introduce children (and adults) to great ideas and amazing art.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, "Fate": Allegro con brio

What a spectacular, ominous, and thrilling opening! It is an unforgettable sound. Fate is dynamic, alarming, and grabs your attention. It fills you with urgency and keeps you on edge, focused, and sharp.

Antonio Vivaldi: Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons), Op. 8 - Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, RV 315, "L'estate" (Summer): III. Presto

Vivaldi's Summer is such a vivacious and alluringly vicious work of art! Very primeval! It brings out the hunter, the predator, the conqueror in me, and I love it!

Jeremiah Clarke: The Prince of Denmark's March

The Prince of Denmark's March is a truly grand, heralding number that is so full of exuberance and majesty. It sounds so fancy and refined and invigorating at the same time. It is very regal and assertive.

Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46: In the Hall of the Mountain King

The rousing Hall of the Mountain King starts off as gently falling rain that swiftly turns into a fierce, violent thunderstorm. I remember this song from the Smurfs cartoon. It played every time the Smurfs were in danger. Beware! Be alert! It was a perfect fit, because the song is like a warning, hinting at danger, stirring up excitement.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331: Rondo: Alla turca

Alla Turca is a surprisingly upbeat and passionate piece. It is a cool breeze, a shady cloud, a refreshing drink of cold water in the harsh, blazing desert. It replenishes and revitalizes our energies and our minds.

George Frideric Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351: III. La réjouissance

Definitely living up to its name as Music for the Royal Fireworks, this song is lively and brash and majestic. I can picture fireworks going off to this song. And everyone loves fireworks, because they're fun, fantastic, spectacular, and thrilling to look at. And this song is a celebratory and victorious work of art, a jubilant praise of the triumph.

And there it is, the collection of high spirited, bold, and rousing classical music. They are but a small example of the variety, diversity, and range of classical music. These songs are Classics because they stand the test of time, and they are timelessly engaging and spectacular works of art and creativity.

I hope you enjoy these songs and share them with friends and loved ones. I would very much like to learn from you any other classics that fill you with ebullience, enthusiasm and energy, and share with me your thoughts and opinions about the songs that I've featured here. Happy New Year and Cheers!

Related Links
The Sound of Music 1: The Classics - Ephemeral
The Sound of Music 2: The Classics - Ethereal
The Sound of Music: Classics - The Nutcracker
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 1
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 2
The Sound of Music: Classics - Swan Lake
The Sound of Music: Classics - Requiem
The Sound of Music: Classics - Opera Part 1

Thursday, January 4, 2018

This Little Piggy

This little piggy went to the market.
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef.
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went "Wee! Wee! Wee!" all the way home.

This little piggy had to work the during the Holidays. That included Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I thought it would be nice to bring a delicious dish to share with the others at work for Xmas. We usually have a potluck when we work on holidays. The last one was Thanksgiving, where I made turkey tails. They were a big hit, an unexpected, delectable, rich treat.

There are no rules or a specific list of items for a potluck. You bring whatever food you want to make and share. And our workplace potlucks are like picnics. We bring snack foods, a dish that's easily prepared and edible. Nothing fancy or time consuming or a lot of work. It is the Holiday Season after all. Everyone's busy. Ain't nobody got time to make a big fancy meal just for lunch. So we usually get chips and dip, sandwiches, hot dogs, tacos, or someone would make a quiche, a pie, or a cake if they wanted to go the extra mile. Not necessary but greatly appreciated and welcomed.

I wanted to go the extra mile. It was the Holidays after all, and the cheerful spirit of the season made me feel a bit more generous. I planned to make something special. And since it was Christmas, I thought I'd make my family's traditional Holidays treat: Donuts.

Donuts are easy enough to make. The hardest part is waiting for the dough to rise. That takes time--an hour or two at least, and it needs to rise twice: The first after mixing; the second after rolling out and cutting out the shapes. The mixing, rolling, cutting, frying, and frosting don't take very long--a few minutes at the most per donut.

To make the donuts, I had to miss my usual tradition of attending midnight mass on Xmas Eve. Mind you, I'm not Catholic, though I did attend Catholic school for a while. I'm not an overly religious person. Spiritual? Yes. Radical or fanatical? No. Live and let live is my philosophy.

I was raised with the understanding that your relationship with the Divine was your own. As Mom used to say, "We're all praying to the same God." Plus, in my area, there's a nearby Catholic service that holds an old fashioned Xmas Eve midnight mass. All are welcomed; no questions asked. And I like the pageantry and ornamentation of the Catholic services--the hymns, the chanting, the incense burning, and the holy water blessing.

Truthfully, I make an effort to attend service twice a year, for Easter and Xmas. These are the most important holy days ingrained in me from childhood, and not just from a religious view, but from a cultural and traditional way of life. These holidays occurred in the same time frame we celebrated important cultural, historical, spiritual, cosmic, and agricultural events. And try as I might, some habits are hard to break. But it doesn't matter to me if it's a Catholic or Protestant or even Buddhist service, so long the service preaches and practices peace, love, unity, kindness, and equality.

Honestly, I go to these services out of habit, not faith. It reminds me of being back home and growing up on the rural, remote coast. And as fiercely independent, carefree, and the black sheep I may be, there's something special, reassuring, and comforting about being among the flock, especially the faithful who try very hard to practice peace, love, kindness, and equality. Sometimes, it feels good, and wonderful, and life affirming to be around nice, caring, and thoughtful people. It gives me hope and grants me serenity.

But I was going to miss out on the service this year. This little piggy had to stay home. I had donuts to make, and they take time. But no worries. I was not all alone. This little piggy had roast beef. Actually, it was BBQ brisket for Xmas Eve dinner with friends. I brought a sheet cake for dessert. It was a very pleasant evening, but I called it an early night and headed home, where I mixed the dough, let it rise, then shaped the donuts. And before going to sleep early, I set the alarm to wake me up before dawn.

I got up early at five in the morning to fry the donuts. And by six a.m., I had frosted two dozen donuts--lemon, chocolate, and strawberry glazed--with a few decorated with sprinkles for pizazz! I had made 24 decadent sweets, plus a lot of delightful, glazed donut bites from the leftover dough bits. I was so proud of my efforts. My coworkers were going to be surprised at the awesome treats. It was a lot of work, but so worth it. The donuts were magnificent and so tantalizing! Such splendid, stunning sweets! And by seven a.m., just an hour later, I had eaten all the donuts--all 24 delicious treats! That's right. I ate them all!

I couldn't help myself. They were just too gorgeous and too scrumptious to resist. I only meant to eat a few. I planned on keeping one dozen for myself and taking the other dozen to work. But once I started, I just couldn't stop, even after going though the first dozen. I showered, had a cup of hot chocolate, then descended and gorged on the last dozen like a starving animal! This greedy little piggy ate all the donuts! That meant the little piggies at work got none.

Feeling a little guilty and slightly panicked, I scrambled the cupboards for something else to share at work. I could've made a sheet cake, but I'd have to frost it at work when it cooled down. That was a lot of work. And as guilty as I felt for being an avaricious glutton, I was not going through the trouble of making a cake.

I thought about taking the tasty donut bites to work, but then I realized that their presence would only raise questions at the potluck. Homemade or store bought, my coworkers would wonder what happened to the donuts that these donut bites were made from. They'd get suspicious, and I was not in the mood to be interrogated and judged, least of all on Xmas Day! Save the condemnations and crucifixion for Easter!

Luckily, I found a bag of corn chips and a bag of tortilla chips in the cupboards, along with a can of mild, spicy cheese dip and a can of sour cream and onion dip. I took these to work with a casserole dish, where I mixed the corn chips and tortilla chips, poured the microwaved, melted mild cheese dip over them, before adding dollops of the sour cream and onion dip on top. Thank goodness the coworkers liked it.

And this little piggy went "Wee! Wee! Wee!" all the way home, relieved that the "Ghetto Nachos" were a big hit at the potluck, secured in the knowledge that my dirty, little culinary transgression remained hidden, my sinful little secret remained my own.

I still felt a little guilty though, for being a selfish, greedy piggy. But now it's the New Year, time for new beginnings and second chances! Time to wipe the slate clean, start anew, and forget the sins of the past. To celebrate the New Year--and assuage my guilt for pigging out and not sharing those Holiday donuts--I decided to make Holiday cookies to share at work.

This little piggy went to the market, and got all the cookie supplies and bought some meat--pork shoulder and mini smoked sausages were on sale. I was in charge this week. And if I fed the troops, they'd be less likely to mutiny and more likely to follow me into hell and back, especially if I supplied them with good eats. An army marches on its stomach. And a well fed army is an effective, efficient force.

The first week of the year usually means slow, inattentive, unfocused coworkers--some hung over from overindulgence, others worn out from all the Holiday stress, and a few just distracted, contemplating life choices and second guessing resolutions and goals for the year. And for our project to succeed, I needed the troops to rally and be on top of their game to finish our task and complete our mission. Holiday cookies would be a great motivation/bribe to galvanize the troops. Nobody can think or work on an empty stomach. And Holiday cookies are a great reward and incentive to draw the best out of the crew.

And since I was off New Year's Day, I had time to make Holiday cookies and make the dough for sweet rolls. This little piggy stayed home and got to cooking. I made Kalua pork in the slow cooker for the New Year's Feast. There was more than enough tender, moist, flavorful meat to shred; and I planned to have some shredded pork pan grilled and sautéed in BBQ sauce to make pulled pork sandwiches later on in the week. I suppose I could've taken some Kalua pork with mac and cheese to share at work. But I decided that Holiday cookies were a more festive treat.

Holiday cookies are vanilla, almond, or lemon flavored cookies with festive, holiday specific, decorative icing. The Holidays may be over, but I still used snowflake and snowmen motifs when icing the almond flavored cookies with a lemon glaze. The rest of the cookies, I just iced with chocolate, because chocolate is welcomed and celebrated all year round.

That evening, I successfully made and frosted five dozen (that's right five dozen--60!!!) cookies as Holiday sweets. Two dozen, I delivered and shared with friends. They were grateful and impressed and delighted with the Holiday treats. One dozen, I set aside for myself. Two dozen, I made for work, so I put them in an air tight container, eager to give them out the next day.

Then this little piggy had roast beef. Actually, it was smoked sausage, and it complimented the Kalua pork I made for the New Year's Feast. The meats were delicious and went well with the apple pie, rolls, and potato salad the others had brought. After dessert, the others stayed for drinks, but I had to call it an early night for work the next day.

It was cold when I got home. I made hot chocolate to warm myself up. And since I had made the hot chocolate, I had to have some cookies to dip in the hot chocolate. It was heavenly eating those decadent delights. Soon, I made a second cup of hot chocolate. And then I ravaged the rest of the scrumptious sweets.

Once again, this little piggy couldn't resist temptation and ate all the cookies--the dozen for me plus the two dozen for work, all 36! I wish I could say that I regret what I did. But honestly, I'm not sorry. Normally, I'm not a cookie person. I prefer salty snacks like chips and save donuts for special occasions. But these convivial cookies were just too delicious to last in my place. They brought out the Cookie Monster in me. So I devoured them all. Nom! Nom! Nom!

But I was still left with the problem of what to feed the troops the next day. And I didn't have any chips and dip in the cupboards; nor did I feel like making a cake. Honestly, I was afraid that as soon as I made and frosted the cake, I'd eat it all, too!

I was on a sugar high and craving more tasty treats,
which is so unlike me, as I rarely indulge in sweets.
As a matter of convention, I hardly long for confections.
And if the evidence supports the conviction,
I was developing a sugar addiction!
And if I didn't pay close attention,
I was going to need a nutritional intervention!

Luckily for me, the sugar high had given me clarity of mind, and I was struck by inspiration when it was time to press down the dough and divide it into sweet rolls. Instead of sweet rolls, I was going to use the dough, some mild spicy cheese, and the little Smokies mini smoked sausages to make delectable pigs in a blanket. Or in this case of the mini sausages, piglets in a blanket! I made two dozen little piglets in a blanket.

But that didn't seem like enough. So I opened a canned ham, sliced it, pan grilled the slices, then cut them into three inches long by half an inch wide pieces, and made thirty, browned, caramelized ham sticks. I immediately wrapped them with cheese inside a sweet roll to make grilled ham and cheese kolaches! I made two and a half dozen of these salty, sweet, grilled, caramelized, mildly spicy, cheesy treats in a soft, tasty, yet tender inside with a crispy crust roll.

I placed the prepared piglets and kolaches on baking sheets and left them in the unheated, cool oven to continue proofing and rising. In five to six hours, they'd be the right size to bake into fluffy yet sweet, tender rolls with a crispy crust. So I set the alarm to wake me up early to bake the pork rolls before I let the sugar high crash, knocking me out for the rest of the night.

At five the next morning, I was up; and before six, I had baked two dozen piglets in a blanket and two and a half dozen grilled ham and cheese kolaches. I set aside a dozen piglets in a blanket and a dozen grilled ham and cheese kolaches in carryout containers to take to work. Another dozen kolaches and the other batch of piglets I saved for me!

I ate the left over six unclaimed ham and cheese kolaches, for quality control purposes. I had to make sure they were delicious and safe to eat. Good news! They passed inspection with flying colors! And I can honestly say they are the best ham and cheese kolaches I've ever had! And the troops at work agreed as they stuffed their faces and fought over the yummy snacks like hungry hogs at the feeding trough. And with that, I secured the troop's loyalties, and together, we finished the first big work project of the year successfully. I was very happy with the results.

And at the end of the long work day, this little piggy came home and cried, "Wee! Wee! Wee!", and turned on some music and danced exuberantly; not so much as to burn off all the empty calories, but to express joy that I still had piglets in a blanket and ham cheese kolaches to eat, along with Kalua pig/BBQ shredded pork, and some sweet rolls baking to enrich my paradise of pleasing, porky, porcine treats! I love comfort foods, especially when it's cold outside. And if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by a bevy of delectable, divine meats, you'd be dancing, too, and exclaiming, "Wee! Wee! Wee!"

Life doesn't always go according to plan. So when things go wrong or you find obstacles in your way, it's important to adapt, reevaluate and make necessary changes to overcome these obstacles that stand in your way. If you can't find a way through, then go over or go around or find another path to help you reach your destination. Never give up hope. So long as you have hope, you can survive anything.

So when things don't go your way or unexpected, bad things happen, don't give up hope. Hold on, and take a deep breath, think, and ask for help if you need it. Have faith in yourself. So long as you have hope, you'll find a way. Every day you're alive and here is a second chance, an opportunity to do the things that make you happy, to spend some time with the people you love, to live life fully and love freely, to go after your dreams, and be happy.

Know when to make changes and adapt to survive. Know what's really important and embrace those you cherish in this life. Know when to hold on and when to let go, so you can move forward and be closer to your goal, to live life as best as you can.

Remember that there are some things you can change and some things that you can't. Accept it, and move on. Don't dwell on the mistakes of the past. The past is over and done with, and there's nothing you can do to change it. Don't get hung up on the future. It hasn't happened yet. Focus on what you can do now, one step at a time, and soon you'll make great strides in the journey of life.

Yes, life isn't always fair, and sometimes, terrible things will happen. So cry when you're sad, yell when you're mad, and forgive yourself for your weaknesses and mistakes, learn from them and move on. You're only human. Every day you're alive is a second chance to get things right, to follow your heart, and live life the way you want it.

And when good things happen, embrace those moments and celebrate them with your friends and loved ones. Life is a journey and an adventure. Laugh, love, live, dance, and be merry when these good times happen, and seize the moments when they come. Life is too short, and time keeps on passing by us beyond our control. But we can make the best use of whatever time we have by making the most of every day we are alive. And definitely treat others the way you want to be treated. And be good to yourself.

So live fully, love freely, and hold on to hope. Laugh and smile and be happy when the good times come. Dance when the music moves you. And be kind to yourself and to others. And when you're good to yourself and kinder to others, you make the world a much better, brighter, and happier place. And life becomes more wonderful and more joyful.