Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quantum of How Much was that Ticket?

I saw Quantum of Solace, the newest installement of the James Bond series, last night. The good news, the movie was great. It was action packed and kept me on the edge of my seat. The bad news, movie tickets at the Rave are now $9.25! What in the world!? I'm lucky that I saw a good movie to make it worth what I paid. Had I seen a movie that I wasn't pleased with, I would be really angry with the price of a ticket. I look at it this way: I pay $15 a month for Netflix. This gets me as many movies as I can watch and return in a month as well as some movies streaming through my Xbox. Netflix is a much better deal even if I get a movie that I don't enjoy. $9.25!? Rediculous.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

From Bad to Worse

I knew it was optimistic and largely insane to think that Auburn had a chance in this game. I did not, however, expect such an awful performance. I knew we were bad, but not this bad. I honestly think Hoover High School could beat this year's Auburn Tiger team. It's depressing. I'm trying to be a good sport. I even said "Roll Tide" to an Alabama fan at Ben & Jerry's tonight, just for fun. I try to remind myself that it's football. It's just a game. Then again, that's what the losing team always says. Good game Bama. I think your chances are pretty slim next Saturday, but you proved yourself this Saturday. If you need an Auburn fan in the next year, try looking under a rock or in a cave somewhere. We're probably all hiding in shame and embarassment. I'm actually pleased that I get wireless internet in my cave. Good day to you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The iphone has a built in accelerometer. An accelerometer is a device that measures changes in movement. A few days ago, my phone's accelerometer started acting up. It wouldn't tilt pictures so that they appear in landscape. I thought that this was a result of my dropping it in my parents driveway on Sunday. While it sucks, it's not a game-breaker. Since I'm in Birmingham for the Holidays anyway, I thought I'd swing by Alabama's only Apple store and get the problem checked out. I went this morning and made an appointment, showing one of the Apple employees how my phone's accelerometer was still defunct. I made an appointment and headed to Tip-Top grill for some hot dogs. A couple hours later, I returned to the Summit, a mecca of holiday outdoor shopping (oh boy). I waited for my appointment time and when my name was called, I approached the bar.
"What can I help you with?" said the genius (that's what their called, Apple Genius)
"I'm having some issues with the accelerometer in my phone. When I look at my pictures and try to tilt them this way..." I noticed the genius looking at me in a "and your issue is... WHAT?" kind of way. I glanced back at my phone to find it working perfectly, doing exactly what it was made to do. I've never been so angry to have things work perfectly. Doesn't it always happen that way? The only thing worse than a pointless trip to the Summit, is TWO pointless trips to the Summit. Oh well, I'm off of work and life is good. I'm blessed and thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The New Xbox Experience

I'm a mac guy. I don't give much credit to Microsoft in the way of computers and the like, but they've done some great things with one computer particularly meant for gaming- the Xbox 360. Microsoft recently unveiled "The New Xbox Experience". It's essentially a new operating system for the Xbox. Not only did they update the "look" of the software, but they made some great improvements elsewhere. They added avatars, much like the Nintendo Wii. Players can customize their avatars to look like an animated version of themselves. You can even use your avatar as a playable character in select games through the Xbox arcade. But wait, there's more. Perhaps the best new thing to come to the Xbox 360 is a result of Microsoft's recent partnership with Netflix. I can now watch streaming movies and television shows on my TV through my Xbox! It's awesome! I've started season one of the show Heroes. I'm now getting much more for my money's worth with my Netflix subscription. Thanks, Microsoft, for doing something good.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rest and Vision

I spent the weekend nestled in the foothills of North Alabama. I went to Camp Sumatanga, the same place I go for a week in the summer for Music and Arts Week. However, during the summer, the counselors are focused on the campers and their needs. This retreat weekend is just for us. It's a chance for us to catch up, hang out, eat junk food, laugh our butts off, and talk about next summer. Sumatanga literally means "A place of Rest and Vision" and that's just what it was for me this weekend. It's so much fun to hang out with those people, and this time of year up there is simply stunning. I hiked up the mountain Saturday afternoon and enjoyed the amazing view from the top.
There is a small open air chapel at the top of the mountain as well:
It was a fantastic weekend, and the drives were full of fall colors and good music. Now, I'm back in Auburn, a town void of college students. I like it this way. I went through the drive thru at Taco Bell in under three minutes. On top of that, they put a moist towelette, a toothpick, and a peppermint in my bag! I love them, and I used to be one, but life in Auburn is so much easier without college students! Just two more days of work until I can spend some quality time with family and friends at home in Birmingham, my other "Sumatanga".

Thursday, November 20, 2008


It worked! I sat in the humidified room all night, then put the humidifier in my bedroom as I slept all night. Today, my voice is back! I can even sing. It's such a relief. It's not completely back, but well on the way. Damn you, dry air.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vocal Rest

I've always had a healthy voice. I have never randomly lost my voice or had laryngitis. Occasionally, when I'm sick or have a sinus infection, I take it easy vocally and try not to talk much or sing. When I became serious about my voice late in high school, I became much more conscious of vocal health. I avoided smoky restaurants or at least always sat in the non smoking section.
This weekend, I began to feel a slight tickle in my throat, usually indicative of an oncoming sore throat. I went out that night to Supper Club, a smoky bar here in Auburn. The next day, my voice was raspy and slightly hoarse, but I felt fine. It's now been four days and the situation hasn't improved. I thought it was a side effect of another illness, but that illness never came. For the first time since I can remember, I'm just losing my voice! I continued to teach Monday and Tuesday, thinking that the problem would right itself. I woke up today and my voice was still not 100%. For most, this may not be a big deal. For a music teacher and singer, vocal problems like this are dangerous territory and need to be handled delicately. I decided to take the day off vocally. I put in a video about Jazz music and had my students watch and answer questions. (It's actually a really great video, complete with commentary from some of the old jazz players that were young when jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker were at their best.) It helped me because I didn't have to talk and teach and continue to overuse a vocal mechanism that is already suffering.
I got to thinking about the situation. With no other illnesses, it's got to be strictly vocal. I think it's the extremely dry air that I'm breathing in all night while I sleep and all day. After work, I went to CVS to purchase a machine that I haven't used since I was a child: a humidifier. So, now I'm sitting in my living room with my humidifier running and plans to stay here all night. I'm going to sit on my couch, play xbox, watch a movie, and breath in this moisture-filled air.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Interest of Conflicts

A student approached me today and said that her softball coach told them to always put softball first. He said that if they are involved in other things, softball should take first priority. She questioned him saying, "but we have choir practices, mostly in the mornings, but sometimes after school." He replied with "Mr. Cater and I are like this (fingers crossed in the air), I can talk to him. We are fraternity brothers." Now, this is true. The middle school softball coach, who teaches at the high school, is one of my fraternity brothers. That's not what I want to discuss. It got me thinking about conflicts between extra curricular activities. It happens to every choir teacher. I want to have one after school rehearsal, and fifteen kids say they can't come because of soccer, basketball, cheerleading, wrestling, etc.
I'm still working these things out in my mind, but shouldn't there be some sort of universal rule about this? I say yes. Here's my crack at said universal rule:
A game takes precedence over a practice. If I want to have a choir practice, and a student has a soccer GAME, the student should go to the game. Likewise, if I've got a concert on a day when a student has a cheerleading PRACTICE, I get the student at my concert. The trouble comes when I need a student for a practice, and she's got another practice. Here, I defer to the frequency and importance of the practice. These two variables have an indirect relationship, meaning that the less frequent a practice occurs, the more important that practice is. If she has softball practice every day, and I only ask for one extracurricular practice every now and then, shouldn't my practice come first? Lastly, we come to a variable that carries much weight: proximity to performance. If it's just a soccer practice, but the soccer game is the next day, soccer practice wins. I ought to publish these rules. I think it's fair. I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Way It Should Be

Finally, we had a cold weather Auburn football game. As the morning wore on, the temperature steadily dropped. By halftime, it had grown pretty brisk. This is the way things should be. It reminded me of my childhood, coming to Auburn for football games in the cold weather. We would park in front of Lowder and play football on the lawn. Rooster's was right across the street. The cold weather would hurt my lungs as we played.
The game didn't go our way, which is no surprise. But the experience of watching Auburn football with my dad in the cold weather was awesome. War Eagle.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Intergalactic Planetary

It's huge news. At least to me it is, (and with the bust of the atom smasher, we need something new and exciting in the science world). Scientists have captured the first images of planets outside our solar system. We're one step closer to Star Wars and Star Trek. This kind of stuff still blows my mind. Every star we see is potentially the center of it's own solar system? Wait, is that true? Someone factcheck me on that. Regardless, we've taken pictures of three planets in the HR8799 system (love those catchy solar system names). Mom, fire up the Starship Enterprise and call Captain Picard. It's time to get our inter-solar-system travel on. I can't wait! And why, in movies, are aliens and humans always hostile toward one another? Has anyone ever considered the possibility of meeting a friendly alien race? We could share technology, share ideas, and form a Galactic Republic!

For all we think we know, we still have so much to learn. May the force be with you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Stuff of Dreams

I dreamt last night that I could levitate. It was awesome. Dreams have always fascinated me. Perhaps it's because I have so many of them, or because they are so vivid in detail and so convincingly real. Of course, I wonder what they mean, but I also realize that the quest for a dream's meaning is pointless. I've told you about the teeth dreams, those aren't so fun. However, every now and then I have a real roller coaster ride of a dream. Last night I had the ability to levitate simply by concentrating on the task. Then, I could move in any direction. It was almost Back-to-the-future-esque with the hoverboard, except there was no board. I loved it. I can't remember much that actually happened in the dream, but I do remember the feeling of levitation transportation. On a really good night, I can simply fly. Last night wasn't so much flying, I was standing upright the whole time. Flying dreams are my favorite. Absolute freedom. Is the quality of a dream, or perhaps the clarity of a dream, related to the depth of the dreamer's sleep? I ask because I slept so soundly last night. I didn't make a peep until wakey time. That's all for now. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Every Veteran's Day for the last ten years, the mayor of Auburn and many local veterans gather to honor veterans and active service personnel. This year, due to a last minute cancellation, Mayor Ham asked the Drake Choir to perform at the ceremony. Aside from the fact that it was last minute and semi-stressful, I was very honored and began scrambling my "troops". The ceremony took place this morning at 10:00 a.m. at the Veteran's memorial. The Mayor gave a few words of welcome and then we filed on in front of the memorial to sing the Star Spangled Banner. If I may brag on them for a moment, my students were very professional during the whole thing. We sang the National Anthem and filed off in a very orderly manner. The mayor said a few more things, followed by a few musical selections performed by members of the Drake Band. Then, I had the pleasure of singing with several members of the AU Concert Choir. We sang "America the Beautiful", which is traditionally performed at the conclusion of every AU Concert Choir concert. It was a great ceremony that honored our military service men and women. I was honored to have the opportunity for my choir to perform.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I went to church this morning at a church down the street from where I live. I've been told that this particular pastor "steps on toes", so of course I wanted to go. It wasn't too steppy, but still very good. After lunch, I went to the Auburn University Fall Choral concert. It's always good to take a break from my beginning singers and go hear some excellent choral music. Dr. William Powell, the head of choral activities at Auburn has made some changes to the choral program. This concert was the debut of the newly formed "Auburn University Chamber Choir". This is the "elite" choir at Auburn now. They were incredible. They lived up to the hype. I miss being on the singing end of the choral spectrum. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching kids to sing. The joy that I saw on some of their faces during and after our first concert on Thursday, I wouldn't trade for anything. However, I selfishly miss making deep, beautiful, complex music with a focused choir.

The end.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I bit the bullet today. For months I've been having issues with my Xbox 360. Lately, it's been so bad that when I turn it on, it says "To play this disc, please put it in an Xbox 360 console." Sounds like an identity crisis. With new blockbuster games coming out in the fall, I had to take action. I went to Gamestop in the mall and traded in my broken Xbox for a refurbished one. They gave me some store credit for the trade in, which reduced the overall price of the "new" Xbox. I don't like spending money, but this was a nerd emergency. A game called Gears of War 2 came out this week. I'm calling it the "game of the fall". It's a must-have. And now, I have. I always feel selfish when I make silly purchases like this. However, to make myself feel better, I took a garbage bag full of my old t-shirts to Salvation Army.

Let the gaming go on.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Come to the Music

Last night was the second annual Auburn City Schools Fall Choral Concert. This is the biggest event in which my choirs participate in the fall semester. It's a combined concert featuring the choirs of Drake, Auburn Junior High, and Auburn High School. Last year, the concert was amazing. It was incredible to be a part of something so big. This year, I feel safe saying we topped it on all levels.
Appearance: Every choir looked better. I know that looks aren't everything, but when you are a performer it is something to take into account. My kids wore embroidered polos and khaki pants (a common middle school choir uniform, yet an improvement from last year's T-shirts and jeans). The girls from the junior high and high school had new concert dresses that looked great on everyone!
Sound: Every choir sounded better. My choir this year is an actual choir, so of course they sounded better. We also were the largest choir, at eighty six singers strong! We are a force. The junior high choirs blew me away with their sound. It was vastly improved from last year. It was also great to sit in the audience and count former students. This being only my second year, it was awesome to even have former students to reconnect with. Many of them came up to me after the concert to say hello. Then there was the high school. They were incredible. The men's choir had the audience rolling with a novelty piece. The women's choir was excellent as well. The Varsity Singers (a mixed choir) sang three pieces that I had sung before in college. They sang difficult music and sang it well.
There's no doubt that big things are happening in Choral Music in Auburn City Schools. I feel blessed to be able to do what I do. I'm considering creating a youtube account so that I can upload some of these videos and my students can go watch them. What a great week this has been. We elected an awesome new president, and my kids had an incredibly successful Fall concert.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America Has Spoken

Last night, America chose Barack Obama to be its next president. I couldn't be happier, or more hopeful for the future of our nation. Sadly, the nature of the campaign in which he participated was a negative one. Rumors were started, emails were sent, accusations were made. Falsehoods came out of nowhere to try to stop the snowball of hope that was Obama's presidential bid. Perhaps more disheartening than the rumors themselves is the fact that people believe them. There are people who believe we have a Muslim entering the White House. There are people who actually believe he is "the Anti-Christ". One of my students said today, "Someone told me Obama was going to enslave all Americans, but he can't actually do that because Congress has a say." I laughed and told her it was the most rediculous thing I'd ever heard. I sincerely hope that people will step out of the campaign fog and see what a transformative figure we just elected. Brush away the falshoods that were brewed to create dissent and stop change.
In response to news coverage of the reaction of African-Americans, a friend of mine said, "Why is it suddenly all about black people?" Again, I calmly quieted the rage that began to boil within me. "This is so huge for black people in America!" I responded. Less than fifty years ago, black people in America were being treated like dirt. People actually believed (there it is again) that because someone's skin was a different color, they were somehow inferior. Last night, a black man was elected to the highest office in the world. It makes me proud. Proud of Obama, yes. Proud of black people, yes. But proud, most of all, of America. It shows that we have grown up as a nation. I wanted to hug every black person I saw last night.
I explained to my first period class this morning that, had Obama lost, I would have been dissapointed, but I would bring myself to support the newly elected leader of our nation. Some couldn't understand this. Just then, I got a text message from my father, a McCain supporter, that read, "USA!" I'm unsure of his intent, but being his son and knowing him well I can almost certainly say it was a message of pride in his country. Displaying a maturity after which I daily strive, my father moved past McCain's loss and decided to rally behind America in its next chapter. I hope all those who did not vote for Obama can do the same. "I hear your voice, and I will be your president too." said Obama last night to those who cast their vote for someone other than him.
I honestly feel like last night's election, and Obama's victory is and will be one of the most significant events in American politics in my lifetime. I'm not being hyperbolic either. We will see changes in the next four years that will have positive lasting effects. As he said last night, simply electing him is not the change we seek. As I watched his acceptance speech last night, I took special note of his dimeanor. He smiled much less than I thought he would. He seemed to project a sense of humility, and a overarching sense of duty. I felt like he already knows what lies ahead. He knows that the work begins today.
I look forward to the next four years. I'm proud to be an American.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I love my...

Here's to another "I love my... Mondays"

1. I love my choir t-shirts. The new Drake Choir t-shirts came in and they look really good.

2. I love November. November is when Fall really grabs hold of you. It toyed with our hearts in October. You just wait. By the end of this month we'll be shivering in our boots. Speaking of getting cold...

3. I love my down jacket. It is an impregnable fortress of warmth.

4. I love my dog. I'm so glad she came back. I've noticed that she's afraid of cars now. She must have really been traumatized by her 16 hour excursion into the urban wild.

5. I love the feeling of a successful performance and I can't wait for my students to experience that same feeling on Thursday evening.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Big Week Ahead

What a big week I've got ahead of me. On Tuesday, America will decide who they want as their next president. No matter the outcome, the whole process is fascinating and I can't wait to see what happens. On the same day, I'll be taking over 120 kids to Lakeview Baptist church for a dress rehearsal for our Fall Choral Concert. It's an extremely important rehearsal, and I ancipate high levels of stress. I like it though. I've found that I thrive on stress. When the going gets tough, the tough get going right? Then, on Thursday we have our Fall Choral concert. It'll include the choirs of Drake, Auburn Junior High, and Auburn High school. I'll go ahead and say it: it's a big deal. Last year, we had an estimated 800 people attend the concert (printed 1000 programs and had 200 left over after the concert). This year, each of our choirs have grown and we anticipate an even bigger crowd. If you're in Auburn, please come to the concert. Not only will it mean a lot to me, but it will mean a lot to the kids. If you teach at Drake, come to the concert. It really makes an impact on a kid when one of their teachers comes to see them do something outside of school. Even if you just go to shut me up, they'll think you came to see them!

So I'm enjoying the last few stress free moments before I lower my head and charge full speed at this really big week. Wish America luck. Wish my kids luck. I'll see you at Lakeview Baptist Church on Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m.