Random Thursday: Words, werds (,) and wurds

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

‘Cause we all wanna write right ‘n tight.



Typoison Pen


“The Tall-Tailed Hart” went through three editors before languishing in the pipeline at Playboy.



Grammar Danger

Is vocabulary comprehension and communication of meaning
more important that correct spelling?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Because that prominent vein in my forehead just burst.

(Thanks a lot, Vonnie . . . )



I know you’ve probably seen this already.

So what?  It’s Weird Al.

(Thanks, Cristina—you were right!)


Acceptable Misokkubg

Acceptable misokkubgIf somebody misses every single comma and apostrophe
in an otherwise thought-provoking comment about spelling mishaps
in a keyboard-driven society,
we snerk.

Big time.


Walken on Commas


Walken Comma

 Commas and apostrophes: the stalagmites and stalactites of the grammar cave ecosystem.

(Thanks, Cornelia!)


Use your words hook

And your bassoon.

(Thanks, Lisa!  This is awesome!)


Bassoons are Covered

The Breaking Winds are four fantastically talented young women who make me proud to have once been a bassoonist—though I can’t claim to have played anywhere near their level:

Bassoon ensemble arrangements have come a long way, though—in my day, we droned through the Peter Gunn theme by ear, split the air with the first couple bars Rite of Spring, or goofed our way through Sorceror’s Apprentice and thought we were hot stuff.* But now . . .

This Rhapsodizing group is the Butler Bulldog Bassoon Band playing at my alma mater for the 2012 International Double Reed Society Conference. Does my heart proud that there is such a thing under the sun, it does.


*Which, of course, we were.

Random Thursday: The Cute, the Chiroptera, and the Insanely Cool . . .

. . . In no particular order, as befits a Random Thursday assembled by a woman suffering from a mystery virus and buzzing from a dose of Dayquil and multiple gallons of Irish Breakfast tea.

If this is your first Random Thursday here, you’ll notice how it lives up to its name.  No rhyme or reason . . . just stuff i collected this week.



Cello Wars

When I started playing bassoon, my mother collected every bassoon-related item she could find, which couldn’t have been easy, as it’s always been the weird kid of the orchestra* and that odd tube coming out the side—it’s called a bocal, by the way, thanks very much—doesn’t make it easy for designers.

I’m having an easier time collecting cello stuff for Janie, mostly because violin, a viola, a cello, and bass viols are often indistinguishable when rendered in, say, stained glass ornaments or charm bracelets.

Besides, Mom didn’t have YouTube as a back up—or The Piano Guys:

Pure Nerdvana . . . or is that Nerdtopia?

Regardless, if you didn’t stick with this until the final credits, watch it again.  It’s worth it.


A week ago, my husband attended an instructor’s workshop on Aerial Yoga, which appears to my untrained eye to be half hatha, half sky dancing.

Practitioners use fabric loops attached to the ceiling to help them stretch and to achieve new poses without that pesky gravity getting in the way—although some of us know that gravity is just waiting for us to try it ourselves, rubbing its hands in anticipation.

This kind of yoga is just starting to hit (no pun intended) our area, and it looks like a lot of fun for—and I can’t stress this strongly enough—other people:

 Why, yes, I am a lucky woman.

 But if my husband is happy hanging upside-down with his cranium a couple feet above a hardwood floor, I’m happy.

Besides, he’s insured


Sunny the Cutebat has competition:

Picture three adults and two kids all staring at the same screen and saying, “Awwwwwwww!”  at exactly the same moment.  You’ll know the place when you see it:

Take that, baby sloth video!


Modesty forbids . . . Wait, no it doesn’t

Chris Ewan, author of the Good Thief series—which I’ve only raved about once or twice—wrote a Bouchercon article for the November/December issue of Crimespree Magazine.  

Guess who he mentioned meeting there?

But the passion went beyond just that. Sarah Wesson, a librarian and blogger (https://wessonblog.wordpress.com) from north-western Illinois, bumped into me in the foyer of the convention hotel one afternoon and asked me to sign a copy of The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam. I was happy to oblige, more so when she told me she’d had to crawl under a bookseller’s table to retrieve it. But I was completely amazed when I ran into Sarah the following day and she told me that she’d not only finished my book, but had also recommended it to a number of people and blogged about it, too. Let me tell you, as fine as they are, that’s not something that’s ever happened to me at a UK convention.**

So if you came here from there—and I assume from the traffic increase that many of you did—welcome!  My own write up of Bouchercon starts here, if you’re interested.

Thanks, Chris!


*Except for the glockenspiel, which I have to admit is a strange piece of work.  The inventors of German musical instruments are not from this planet.

**  Crimespree Magazine #44 Nov/Dec (Kindle Locations 863-868).

Playing for Janie

Tonight, after she put her cello away, Janie tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mom? Will you play for me?”

I looked up from my e-mail. “Play what?”

She held out the bassoon reed I’d bought on a whim when we’d picked up her cello at the music store.

I’ve acquired several of these whims over the years. I encounter one once in a while, aging bamboo held together with wired and coated thread, pristine in their plastic tubes. I look at it, think about it, tuck it away again.

I haven’t played, really played, the bassoon for almost fifteen years—and I don’t think I’ve opened the case for ten.  My point of pride is that I once played, a long time ago.

But see, I bought this reed  in front of Janie. Jane does not let go of things that interest her.  Music interests her.   And the idea that Mommy was a musician fascinates her.

I look at her hopeful expression.  I take the reed.  I sigh.  She bounds off to find the bassoon case in the back of my closet, buried in shoes.  While she’s gone, I stick the reed in my mouth to soften it up, unwilling to go find something to soak it in—why bother?

Oddly enough, this morning, over at Betsy Lerner’s place, I asked myself, in passing, why I’d quit music.  The answer was easy enough—I wasn’t talented, skilled, or interested enough to play professionally and there weren’t enough available opportunities—even for the player of a relatively uncommon instrument—to continue to be an active amateur.

It’s not particularly a solo instrument, not for someone at my level, or something to noodle around on without any particular purpose.  You don’t normally think of bringing a bassoon out at parties to impress your guests or at 3am to play out your existential angst,  unless  you truly hate your neighbors.

“All I see is this suitcase,” calls Janie. “It’s heavy.

“That’s it.  Bring it in here.”  She lugs it in, I set it on the couch, release the pitted catches.

The inside of the case smells a bit musty and some of the pads and one cork are off-color, but this is just to show my daughter what a bassoon really looks like, just for fun.  Just to see.

I put it together, slightly surprised I remember how.  I have two bocals—the curved metal tube that holds the reed— and when Janie holds them up, I choose one over the other without knowing why.

I hook the seat strap to the ring and perch on the end of the coffee table.  I adjust things to my liking, or what I think my liking should be, fit the reed on the end of the bocal, position my fingers, take a breath, blow.

The note—an F, I think—is louder than I remember, stronger than I thought it would be.

I try an F scale, since I’m there, and it sounds just like a scale, B-flat and all.  I try the lowest note on the instrument and it shakes the windows.  I try a high note or two, just for fun, just to see, and my fingers play the first bar and a half of The Rite of Spring, before the Centipede’s Dilemma kicks in and I lose the tune.

Janie is impressed anyway.

I send her to the piano to help me figure out what this note is, or that one, and when she starts picking out “Mary had a little lamb,” I join her, trying not to think too much about it.  She runs to get her recorder.  It’s in C, and I fumble around until I can match it, though I use the B-flat and pinch the reed because I don’t remember how to do a B-natural.

There’s clapping, and Sunny and my husband join us—they could hear us from downstairs. “That sounds good,” he says, almost as surprised as I am.  “Uh, I mean—”

“I know,” I say.  Isn’t that weird?”

“Play Twinkle Twinkle,” says Sunny.

And I do. 

My lips are buzzing now, and it’s beginning to frustrate me that I can’t figure out how to work all the keys, that I remember this much, but no more.  It’s better than I deserve, maybe, but still.  So I put it away, cleaning the pieces with cloths that should have been laundered a decade ago and belatedly recalling that bassoons accumulate as much spit as French horns—though bassoonists are usually more apologetic about it.

It should be cleaned, repadded, shined.  It doesn’t deserve to molder—literally—in a worn-out case.  This will be expensive for an instrument that most likely won’t be played as it deserves.

But instead of the closet, I set it along the wall next to my MIL’s venerable upright piano.  I toss the cleaning cloths in the laundry hamper.   And after I wash the tarnish off my hands, Janie and I search the Web for recorder and bassoon fingering charts, which I promise to print out at work tomorrow.

Just for fun.  Just to see.



“Why did you stop playing?”

I don’t remember.


Janie wanted to know what the opening to the Rite of Spring sounds like by someone who can actually play it.  On the way to a recording of that, I noticed this:

They’re called the Breaking Winds, out of the Eastman School of Music.  If you want to know what a bassoon (or four of them) can do when played by those who do have enough skill, talent and interest to be professionals and enough humor—not to mention upper arm strength—to pull off this kind of thing with utter aplomb, check out their Youtube channel.