It’s been fun, but I am done.

After thinking about it for quite a while, I’ve decided that this blog has run its course. Time to put ’er down. I have a lot of little reasons for this decision, but the big one is that my heart just isn’t in it anymore. Aside from my recent little piece about my almost-accident, I haven’t written anything heart-felt in a long time. And if I’m not up to doing that, I don’t see the point of continuing this project.

Which is not to say that this project hasn’t been fun or worthwhile. It’s been both. And I’ve managed to sustain this blog for nearly six years—an eternity in this ephemeral medium. And I’ve made many real friends on line, some (but not all) of whom I’ve met in person. I am grateful for those friendships, and I hope to sustain them by following and responding to my friends’ on-line stuff. But as for my own little corner in the blogosphere, well, it’s just time for me to move on.

I have been doing the Twitter thing lately. So if you feel inclined, please follow me there @minorwisdom. I promise to do that as long as I feel like it. (In Louisiana, we call that a potestative condition.)

Life is fragile. And control is an illusion.

Today I was returning to New Orleans from Lake Charles after a court appearance. I was driving east on I-10 in the right lane just outside of Lake Charles, with cruise control set at the speed limit, 70 m.p.h., when a white sedan in the left lane, parallel to my car, veered into my lane. Though the white sedan didn’t touch my car, my reflexes took over. Before I knew it, I went from the right-side shoulder across the left lane into the grassy median, where my car did a 180-degree spin before stopping.

Thankfully, my car (an SUV) did not roll over. I was able to get back onto the highway and continue my return to New Orleans. If my car had crossed the entire median into the westbound lanes, I would be dead. So perhaps from now on, I’m living on borrowed time. Lesson # 1: Life is fragile. In an instant, it can be gone.

One additional lesson: When traveling at highway speeds, control is an illusion. At 70 m.p.h., all it took was a gesture from the car next to me to throw me out of control. So pardon me if, from now on, I set my cruise control below the speed limit.

Soon to come: Thoughts on jury duty

Every Monday and Wednesday of this month, I’ve been reporting to Criminal District Court here in New Orleans for jury duty. While I haven’t been picked yet, sitting in the courtroom or the jury box for voir dire has been educational. When the whole thing is over and my comments can’t be tied to any particular case, I may post something about what the lawyers did right and did wrong—from the potential jurors’ perspective. Meanwhile, I have these two observations:

First, it appears that our still relatively new D.A., Leon Cannizzaro, is pushing more cases to jury trial. The last time I had jury duty at Criminal District Court (about 4 years ago), most days I never was called from the juror lounge to a courtroom. This time, I’ve gotten into the courtroom and into the jury box all but one day. So from this admittedly narrow perspective, it seems that more cases are going to trial under this D.A. compared to his predecessor.

Second, while lawyers should not be immune from jury duty, we really should get CLE credit for it. Whatever kind of law you practice, you get a refresher in criminal law and procedure. And perhaps more importantly, you observe the lawyers’ work from the jurors’ perspective. That education is probably far more valuable than any lecture or PowerPoint presentation you sit through.

Carcassi Etude No. 7

Here’s a piece I’ve been working on for months, and will probably work on for years: Matteo Carcassi’s Etude No. 7. I’m slow reading sheet music, so my guitar tutor, Vincent Marini, worked up a tablature, which I transcribed. Right now, I sort of stumble through it. If I play slowly enough, I can hit all the notes, but my phrasing is awful. Maybe in a few years, when I can play something listenable, I’ll make a video. Meanwhile, here’s Andrew Schiller’s version.

My first public guitar solo

It wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but it wasn’t a disaster. At church this evening, I made it through my first public solo on guitar—one verse of Sanctuary, by John Thompson and Randy Scruggs. With nervousness taking over my hands, I hit one or two wrong notes, but no one seemed to notice.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s my tablature. Nothing fancy—just playing the melody off the chords. Mostly I played two notes at a time: the melody note and whichever note in the chord was closest to the melody note.

The dog days of summer: Are you Sirius?

Dog-tiredBy my definition, the dog days of summer are here. Some define the dog days as when the dog star, Sirius, makes its appearance. Me, I define the onset of the dog days as the first day I take a shower without touching the hot-water knob. The so-called cold water is lukewarm and, in this heat, provides a comfortable shower.

I was hoping that Bonnie would be a dud but would at least bring us some breezes, cloud cover, and rain. So far, she’s been a dud but has not delivered on the other items. Outside, the sun is shining, the air is still, and the temperature is about what you’d expect in July.

(Photo credit: Culture Grrl.)

A homemade recording of “Were You There”

Were You There

Six weeks ago, I set a goal of recording a listenable version of “Oh Sacred Head Surrounded” by today, Good Friday. Unfortunately it proved too difficult for me to master by today. So I modified my goal and took on a more guitar-friendly song, “Were You There.” To hear how it turned out, click on the little player above. (PDF tablature here.) Many thanks to my guitar teacher, Vincent Marini, for helping me with the arrangement and the playing.

What I've been working on lately

I don’t blog as much as I used to. Before February of this year, blogging was my only hobby. Now I have another: guitar. So now, a good bit of time I used to spend reading and writing blogs is instead spent on learning to play guitar.

One of my guitar goals for this year was to record a passable version of “Silent Night,” to upload to this year’s installment of our Christmas newsletter. “Silent Night” was originally written for guitar, and it’s a simple enough tune to make it a reachable goal. My excellent guitar teacher, Vincent, encouraged me to work on a slide version. With Vincent’s help, I worked up a minimalist arrangement (translation: simple enough for my meager talent). The thumb hammers the bass notes, which are played mostly on open A, low E, and D strings, except for one F# thrown in near the end. The fingers and the slide handle the melody.

So here it is. This is a home-made recording using my desktop computer. The guitar plugs into the compute through a Line 6 Guitar Port. The software comprises a virtual amplifier (Gear Box version 3.70.0) and mixer (Riff Works Line 6 edition 2.2.2), which I used to add a touch of reverb. I may do a few more takes of this before uploading to the Christmas newsletter, so please consider this a work in progress.

Silent Night take 4 mp3

Amazing Grace

When I was a freshman in college seminary back in the 1970s, I got the chance one morning to sing the psalm after the first reading. Many things conspired against me that day. First, this particular psalm was written for a tenor, while I was (and am) a baritone. The first and second verse started with a high E note that I could just barely reach on a good day. Second, I had a bit of a cold, and my throat was a little raw. Third, this Mass was first thing in the morning. Fourth, I didn’t understand then that vocal chords are muscles, and like any other muscles, they need to be warmed up before peak performance. So I decided that my best strategy for hitting that high E was to do as little singing as possible immediately before.

If you know anything about vocals, you’re thinking “Oh, no!” When the moment came to hit that high E, my voice broke — while singing solo into a microphone, amplifying the break for everyone in the church. Fortunately I was among friends — my brother seminarians. I felt bad mainly because my terrible performance probably distracted them from their prayer.

Fast-forward to October 18, 2009. Since the 1970s, I’ve had some experience leading the congregation in singing. But this was a lifetime first: sing a solo while accompanying myself on an instrument (guitar) that I just started relearning eight months ago. The song was “Amazing Grace,” sung to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun” (a la Blind Boys of Alabama). The audience was not a couple dozen brother seminarians, but a couple hundred or so churchgoers, who would either love the song or hate it.

So how did it turn out? Okay. I nailed the vocals. And though my hands were sweaty and shaking, I didn’t make any major mistakes on guitar.

So, next time I’m standing at a podium talking to three appellate judges or seven Louisiana Supreme Court justices, I may be nervous, but I won’t worry. I’ll remember that I’ve done harder things than just talking to a bunch of judges.