Sunday, November 2, 2008

MC6 - Christmas album


My singing group, MC6, is getting ready to release our 1st CD here in a couple of weeks. We have been working on this album for the past several months, spending many long nights in the studio either recording or mixing tracks. Currently, the album is at the mastering studio, then it goes to replication. We should have CDs in hand for sale by Thanksgiving, so we're very excited!

It is an album of Christmas tunes done in a cappella style - no instruments but our voices. Some tracks are classic, traditional holiday tunes, such as Away In a Manger, Sleigh Ride, and White Christmas; while others will be new to you, such as Candlesong and He Is Born. We actually have two versions of Away In a Manger on the CD - one is the traditional version you have heard before, while the other will knock your socks off!

These will be available for sale very soon. If you'd like a copy, let me know (through email or via Blogger), and we'll be sure to rush one out to you in time for the holidays.

For more information, see MC6's web site at www.mc6music.com.

Halloween

Here are some pics of the kiddos from Halloween. The twins were hilarious as they flatly refused to wear their "ghost" costumes, which were nothing more than a sheet with a hole cut in the top for their head. Simply did not want to do it, and that was that.

We did, however, have a practice run for Halloween the night before at our ward's Trunk-or-Treat party. The boys were adamant as ever that they were not going to wear those costumes, but once I got them into them and off to beg for candy they began to warm to the idea. After about 3-4 cars, they finally caught on, and the costumes were an afterthought! Logan looked at me as if to say, "Wow, you just go up to people and ask for candy, and they give it to you and tell you how cute you are?" What a concept!

On Halloween night, they, again, did not want to play dress-up, but once we forced them into their sheets and got them to approach a couple of houses, they were fine. Slow, but fine. Collin eventually got fed up with waiting for us (the twins, really) all night, so he took off with one of his friends and her dad to hit a different street super-speed style. Kate wouldn't go up to any house that had any kind of noise-making prop, which was just about every other house, so I spent a lot of time cajoling her into sneaking past the ghouls before they could get her.

Collin & Kate with our kickin' pumpkin!


Here are Kate, Collin, and Jelena (neighbor kid):


Kate looking super-spooky in her witch costume. Without her hat, though, people thought she was a "dead girl". Still spooky.

Seth the friendly ghost.

The brood. Kate is looking pretty scary!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crackberry

In the course of my busy workday, as I slave for the supreme master who provides me (and vicariously, my wife) with the monies which I trade for various and sundry goods and services that are essential to life (such as food...and TiVo), I sometimes take a short break from my labors in order to stretch my legs and perhaps find a snack and/or use the restroom. This is not an unusual activity for me - in fact, I repeat this activity several times throughout my day. It gives me a break from the tedium of my daily tasks as well as provides me with opportunities for some stress relief of a social, culinary, or even critically biological in nature. One of the nice things about these breaks is the ability to leave my work (solitaire) behind for just a few minutes, there to await my eventual return.

Just a few minutes ago, whilst on one of my "bio" breaks (not to be confused with snack or social breaks), I encountered a most unusual, yet strangely not completely surprising phenomena. As I took my place at the bank of urinals, I could not help but notice the fellow right next to me was doing some serious multi-tasking. While with the one hand he was, shall we say, "doing his business", the other was feverishly working the buttons of his Blackberry. Needless to say, his gaze was focused entirely on said Blackberry and not on the "business" he was doing. Apparently, this bathroom is for conducting more than one (or two) kinds of business.

I tried not to stare, as is rude in most situations, even more so (not to mention somewhat awkward) in the men's restroom, but this guy was, shall I say "handily" completing both tasks at once without even the subtlest appearance of awkwardness or uncertainty. He had definitely done this before - was perhaps even a seasoned pro. Is this an Olympic sport this year? If not, it should be! Takes all kinds of ambidexterity and coordination and stuff. I'm pretty sure I couldn't pull it off, and, although certainly not of Olympic caliber, I do consider myself to be somewhat athletic and coordinated. Really, this is much more than the old "pat your head and rub circles on your tummy" routine. This goes way beyond the "chewing gum whilst walking" bit. This is even bigger than throwing left-handed. Yes indeed , these are unique skills, developed over a long period of time of intense and repeated practice. I'm pretty sure this guy doesn't just do this trick at work to show off to us lesser mortals. Nay, he must have a strict training regimen after work hours, perhaps even early in the morning before work. I'll even bet that, when he awakes in the middle of the night, he takes his Blackberry into the home bathroom for an impromptu training session. I wonder how many words/minute he can type on that thing? Didn't some teenage girl from Ohio recently win a competition for the most words/minute texting? Of course, she could use both hands - not even a contest. I wonder how many words/minute I can type on mine? Should I try now? Right here, right now? Will he think me a silly amateur and scoff at my bumbling efforts to emulate?

All of this is going through my mind as I'm trying to take care of my own "business". A thought occurs to me - "Have I done what I came in here to do?" I think so. I got more than I bargained for, really. My colleague has not noticed me staring, which is a good thing. His attention is focused elsewhere. I'm to his left, and, thankfully, he's looking to his right at the Blackberry. I realize I've been trying to read his email. Looks business related. That's a good thing - it is a company issued device, you know.

I turn away and move over to the sink to wash up. He's still furiously working that thumb. Is he still "going"?! Man, that's some bladder! Or maybe he just needs to finish this train of thought before he can step away. Either way, he's still at it as I walk out the door. Who knows how long he was there before I showed up? Maybe he does his best work this way? I don't think I know him, but have I ever received an email from him? Perhaps one typed in just this way? I may never know the answers to these questions, but I do know it's time for me to get back to my desk and to the mounds of work (solitaire) that await me.

(Found this on a site called www.someecards.com - check it out.)


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Independence Day

We had a fun July 4th this year. Rather than stick around the Phoenix area to roast and to sweat in the desert sun, we decided to head north. Now, when we finally left the house, at 12:30pm, the thermometer on the back patio read 112 degrees - in the shade, no less.

We drove 2 hours North-East, past Payson, up onto the Mogollon Rim. Thought we'd do some light hiking, soak up the cool mountain air, and then catch the fireworks in Payson before running home. When we got to the Rim, we could not believe the amazingly cool temps - probably mid-60s or so and wet. We got rained on several times off and on while we were up there. The hike didn't go so well as there was not a very good trail for the stroller, but we did find a great spot along the Rim View trail to see the sights.

After our hike, we went down to Payson, to the Layton's cabin (Melanie's Aunt & Uncle) for a BBQ, then to the fireworks show at the park in Payson. It was one of the best shows I've seen. It was set up around a small pond in the middle of the park, and the fireworks were literally exploding directly over our heads. Loud and brilliant, and loads of fun, even though it was drizzling the whole time.

Here are some pictures we took:
















































































































Monday, June 16, 2008

Fathers Day

As yesterday was Fathers Day, I thought I ought to post some of my thoughts and feelings regarding the wonderous day that is all about DAD.

I actually had a very nice day yesterday, except for the fact that I had to get up at 6am to get ready for 8am church. Now that I think about it, though, I believe Melanie allowed me to sleep in until about 6:30 - ostensibly b/c it was Fathers day - but I'm sure it just took me that long to face the eventuality of having to get up and out of bed in time to avoid her ire. However, one cool Dad's Day gift I received was that the twins decided to stay in Nursery at church for the whole time! Yep, they did not cry their way out even once, and that is a moment I will cherish forever. Me thinks they are finally catching on to the fact that a class full of fun songs, tasty snacks, crayons, toys, and generally being loud and crazy is preferable to constantly being shushed by Dad and having to sit "still" through Sunday School and Priesthood classes. They're young yet, but they're catching on.
Mel and the kids splurged and gave me a new iPod for Fathers Day. It's the 80 GB iPod Classic, and it's silver. Very cool toy. I have had a 20 GB iPod Classic for the past 3 years, but it finally zonked out on me a few weeks ago. Some folks can't understand why any one individual would possibly need 80 gigabytes of storage on an iPod, and I agree to an extent (that's why I did not request the 160 GB model), but to tell the truth, I have about 45 GB of music files in my iTunes library, and having to choose which 20 GB I was going to put on my old iPod was very frustrating. The iPod Nano's are so very small and cute, but only 8 GB of space would have driven me mad in very short order. This way I can just put it all on there and not have to worry about it. How so very convenient for me. Collin already asked me if he can have my old one.

So, after church and a nice Fathers Day lunch (brunch was it?), I lay down for a short nap. 4 hours later, I came to and immediately declared that it had been the best Fathers Day ever! Wow, I'm not sure if I even got 4 contiguous hours of sleep during any night last week, so this was a real treat. At one point during my nap, Seth, one of my 20-month-old twins, came into the room, climbed up on the bed, and lay down next to me, softly speaking to me in his cute gibberish and patting my head. Then he abruptly left and I continued in my peaceful slumber. Then, around 2pm, I awoke and thought that maybe I ought to get up and go to choir practice at 2:30, so I lay back down "for just a couple of minutes", and then did not wake up until 4:30. Life is rough sometimes, but you just have to roll with it.

We went to Mel's Aunt Mareen's house for a big family dinner last night. The whole Arizona crew was there, which amounts to about 30 people, counting kids, and there was even a cake, which I initially mistook for a Happy Fathers Day cake, but was really a birthday cake for Melanie's brother, Daniel. Since we already had a Smith family b-day party (with cake) for him last Tuesday, I went ahead and pretended that this was a Fathers Day cake and had 2 pieces.

Needless to say, Mel and the kiddos treated me to a nice, relaxing day, and it certainly did make me feel special, so thank you, guys.

Got to speak with my Dad last night. He turned 70 this year, but doesn't look a day over 60. He and my step-mom, Nan, came out here to celebrate in February, and we had a grand old time.

My brother, Scott, surprised him by showing up unannounced (only I knew he was coming) - that was fun. The last thing Dad wanted was for anyone to make a big deal out of his turning 70, and that's why he came all the way out to Arizona - to escape the certain dread of some sort of big party with black balloons, unexpected attendees, and likely a roast. We spared him the roast and the black balloons, but we still got the surprise visitor in. Mel made a cake...


Come to think of it, maybe she didn't actually make the cake, but she did cut it.


Here's Dad blowing out the candles...


video

Anyway, I freely admit that I'm a bit biased, but Fathers Day is cool, and Melanie and the kiddos helped to make it really great this year. Sure wish I could have spent it with my Dad, too. Well, here's to next year!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Recap: Music & Arts Festival

Went to the 1st annual Mesa Family Music & Arts Festival this past weekend. Had a lot of fun, even though the crowd was quite small. Mel and I decided to take our two biggest kids along, but we left the twins at home, for what I believe to be obvious reasons. We went to the afternoon concert which featured Jordan Bluth, Eclipse, and Peter Breinholt.

I had never before heard of Jordan Bluth, but he has a very nice voice, although his choice of material doesn't really suit my fancy. It was mostly show tunes, although he did impress me with a beautiful Italian operatic piece from...well, I don't remember. Overall, his voice was quite good, but he didn't really impress me until he hit that one piece, and then he proceeded to lose me again when he returned to the show tunes.

Eclipse was awesome! I have listened to their stuff a lot over the past 3-4 years as my group, MC6, has worked to emulate their sound somewhat, but this was my first time seeing them live, and they blew me away. Very energetic sound and stage presence. MC6 could really take some lessons from those guys, although I can think of for sure 2 if not 3 of our guys, right off the top of my head, that I would not want to see try some of the dancing that Eclipse was doing on stage! They have a very tight sound and really keep the audience on its toes throughout their performance. I was impressed before with their recordings, but now they've really got me.

Peter Breinholt was great as usual. He did not travel with his band, The Big Parade, this time, but instead enlisted a few members of Ryan Shupe and The Rubberband to play with him. He's such a down-to-earth guy and a fantastic performer. Melanie got to speak with him after the show, and told him all about how his 1995 De Jong show was our first date, and he was so excited b/c apparently those early Utah campus shows are what propelled his career to what it is today. He even gave us a free copy of his new CD just for being loyal fans over the years. Cool guy, that Peter Breinholt.

Unfortunately for all involved, the turnout for the festival was anemic at best. For the Eclipse/Peter Breinholt show Melanie counted about 100 people in attendance. I heard the morning and evening shows were about the same. Pretty sad, really, b/c these were good shows. The organizers simply did not promote it very well. I hope they work to bring it back next year, though. It's a great idea and realistically could be very well-attended and self-sustaining in the future, but people need to hear about it for it to be successful. I only knew about it b/c I was performing at it.

So, my group, MC6, performed as well. Mel's cousin, Kelly, has given a ringing endorsement of our show, albeit a bit slanted toward my own part in the show. (Thank you, Kelly. Really, it's very flattering!) We had about as many in attendance as the paid show we went to earlier in the day (ours was free, yes free, as we do not yet rate with the sing-for-hire crowd.) We had a lot of fun, and the audience was great. A number of people I invited actually came as well, so that was cool. We sang a couple of new songs. Peanut Butter & Jelly (thank you Inside Out) and The Lion Sleeps (thanks, N'Sync). Both came off pretty well, so we'll likely keep them in the repertoir.

All-in-all, it was a fun day. I'm sad that more people didn't come out to enjoy the sights and sounds and to rub elbows with their favorite LDS recording artists (they were all very accessible after their shows for meet and greet sessions - very cool gesture), and to support such a great family entertainment opportunity. As I said before, I hope they work to bring it back next year, not only for my own selfish reasons, as I'd like to perform there again, but also for the other performers and for the quality entertainment that it brings to the area.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mesa Family Music & Arts Festival - May 31st

My "band", MC6, will be performing at the upcoming Mesa Family Music & Arts Festival, to be held on May 31st at the Mesa Convention Center.



We will be performing on the free Local stage at 6:15pm, and we'll be singing about 8-9 songs that showcase our stylistic versatility and cool sound. From do-wop to spiritual to silly, we cover the spectrum.

There are also a number of pro to semi-pro groups that will be performing on the not-free main stage, and a couple that I would recommend are Peter Breinholt and Eclipse. They actually will be performing together in the same 3:30pm session, so you can catch them both for the price of just 1 ticket.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.musicandartsfestival.com. This should be a very fun and enjoyable event to kick off the summer, so come check us out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seattle Blues

OK, I admit that "Seattle Blues" is not nearly as catchy (nor alliterative) as "Biloxi Blues", but the fact is I haven't been to Biloxi in years, and the lovely city of Seattle is where I am currently situated, albeit only for this week. And, I didn't feel like coming up with a better title, so....

I have not written on this blog in a couple of months (OK, 3 months, but who's counting, right? OK, Anne is counting.) Seems like whenever I travel for work I tend to have some "free" time on my hands for blogging. I am nearing the end of my 3rd straight day of mind-numbing meetings, and so my now-numb mind begins to wander. And so I blog.


This is my first foray into the Pacific Northwest, and it's quite lovely, albeit much colder and wetter than I anticipated. I mean, it's the middle of May, for crying out loud! Isn't it shorts and sandals weather everywhere by now?! Not so in Seattle, my friend. Cool and rainy. It's actually not so bad, though, as I don't get this kind of weather very often in Arizona. And I'm sure my super-thin Arizona blood is a major contributor to my constant chill here. Well, it certainly doesn't help!

Two nights ago, I went out with a few of my colleagues from the conference to check out the main drag over by the University of Washington, which is just 2 blocks away from our hotel. Basically, when I say "main drag", I'm talking about where all the students go to hang out and let off steam. Just imagine the "Tennesse Waltz" in flannel. If you don't know what the Tennessee Waltz is, just ask your friendly neighborhood FSU alum.

Anyway, I was surprised to see so many pan-handlers along the sidewalks. I mean, these were students, but they were asking for spare change, as if they were indigent. One "dude" asked me, "Hey, man, got any spare change for...I don't know...somethin'?" He didn't get jack from me. I thought to myself, "Next time, that guy had better have a plan ready, or at least a workable business model and ROI calcs." He accosted me again on my way back up the street a couple of hours later, and sadly had not changed his pitch much. I'm thinking that if you're begging for change and your approach hasn't netted much over 2 hours, it might be wise to alter your delivery. Just my opinion.

Speaking of UW students, is flannel back in now, or did it never go out of style in Seattle? I mean, I remember joining in with the flannel/"grunge" (see http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Grunge-(for-Guys-and-Girls) culture in my early years of college in the early 90's (yes, I'm that old), but, gosh, that was over by the time I got home from my mission in 1995. I mean, once Kurt Cobain died, what was there left to go un-bathed for anymore? Pearl Jam? Not likely. At any rate, lots of flannel around here. And Mexican ponchos. And bikes. And purple hair. And piercings. Ah, college life! I had to hit the local Safeway grocery store my 1st day here, and the kid behind me put the following itms on the conveyor: a 6-pack of beer, a bag of frozen burritos, a jar of salsa, a 10-pack of Ramen, and a package of frozen blueberry waffles. Dorm food. Man, sometimes it's great to be a grown-up!

I'm essentially done with my portion of the conference tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 11am, but my flight home is not until Friday, so I'm going to take the afternoon tomorrow to go and see my long-lost Uncle Jim Mimms. He lives on one of the neighboring islands that make up Puget Sound, and I get to take the ferry for 1/2 the trip. Should be fun and adventurous.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cookie Monsters

The other day, Melanie got all excited about using her new Bosch mixer, and she decided to make us some chocolate chip cookies. I couldn't think of any reason why she ought NOT to make said cookies, so I went along with it. Good call, Mel!

Logan enjoyed his cookies both inside and outside of his mouth! He's got a bit of that "Austin Powers/bad English teeth" look going on here.



Seth was equally thrilled.

Sure, Mom, I'll have another! Wait, perhaps I shouldn't. Well, OK. If you insist!
Kate gets a little wild-eyed when she eats sweets. Seth is posing.

Hyper? What's that?
All-in-all, cookies were a good idea, however, we did have a hard time getting everyone to go to bed that night, and I think I only got 1 cookie out of the whole batch! I'll have to have Melanie work the camera next time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Twins

Picture of my twin boys and their twin cousins. L-R are Lane, Logan, Lucy, & Seth. It's possible I have mixed up Lucy & Lane, as they are identical and thus very hard to distinguish. The 2 sets of twins are exactly 2 months apart in age. In this pic, the boys are 15 months old, and the girls are 13 months. Lucy & Lane were visiting us from Utah for the holidays. Pretty amazing, actually, that I was able to capture them all looking in the same direction, even if it wasn't in the direction of the camera!