…does NOT refer to a round bag of whiskey bottles.


So I signed up for piano lessons. In the initial discussion with Helga the Iron Maiden ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Jenny, my instructor, something caused her to ask “Oh, do you want to learn music theory as well?”

Apparently I answered wrongly. It seems I answered something like “Yes, I want to wander into a desolate intellectual land where I feel stupid, confused and hopeless.”

At my second lesson, she gave me the above paperwork.

This Circle of Fifths is a – well, I’m not even sure what you would call it. I’m sure my friend Lynn has some interesting musical term for it. But what it means – among, I’m sure, many other things – is this:

The key signature and scale of musical keys changes, and increments in accidentals by fifths.

“Lemme ‘splain. No, is too much. Lemme sum up” — Inigo Montoya

(Gentle Reader, go on about your business. I’m only writing this to find out if I understand it, and to help me remember it).

A fifth in this context means the fifth note in the scale.

If you look at the picture, above, at the top you see “C Major”. For the key of C, the scale is all of the white keys –


…with non of the black keys, and the ‘fifth’ is the G. (Yes, you count the first one. This ain’t computer science – it’s not a 0 based index πŸ˜‰

You’ll note that the treble clef (the ampersand-looking thingy on the musical staff above the “C Major”) is just that – a treble clef. There’s nothing else there. That emptiness is the key signature meaning C Major key.

You go up four – to the fifth, the G – and the next little picture in the circle is G Major.

On that staff, you see the treble clef, and beside it, you see a single pound sign – that’s the notation for “sharp”.

So if you see a treble clef beside a single sharp, that means “This song is being played in the key of G Major”.

But that single sharp also means something else – it means that when you play the scale for G Major, that you play one of the BLACK keys, as well.

A black key is called an “accidental”. No, I don’t know why, and neither does Gertrude, Mistress of Pain ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Jenny, my piano teacher. But just live with it.

So when you play the scale for G Major, you play –

G A B C D E F# G

And then, the fifth for G Major is – count five from the start – D. Voila!…the next little picture is for D Major.

And – by now you might have noticed the pattern – the treble clef for D Major has two sharps. This means that when you play the scale for D Major, you’ll hit TWO of the black keys –

D E F# A B C# D

…and so on and so forth, all around the circle.

Now, if you’re still reading this, then…then you have a higher tolerance for pain than I might expect πŸ™‚ But, even so, you might be saying, “Okay, I get that I’ll hit more and more of the black keys for each of these key signatures – but how do I know which ones?”*

Well, that’s also on the circle.

Look just to the left of C Major, and you’ll see F. And, around the circle, from there, one reads


The mnemonic for this is “Fat Charlies Gives (a) Damn About Every Body”**. And that’s how you know which black keys to hit.

For instance, the key signature for E Major has four sharps – and the first four from the mnemonic are “Fat Charlies Gives (a) Damn” – F C G D

So the scale for E Major is

E F# G# A B C# D# E

I do hope that this is not complicated enough for you. Because, well, it gets worse.

I think I’ve also learned this – that if you are reading music that has these key signatures, then the musical score WILL NOT SHOW THE SHARP OF FLAT SIGNS ON THE NOTES ON THE STAFF.

So after going to great pains to learn that the second space up on the bass clef is a C note, I’m now just supposed to understand that if I’m playing something in F Major, that C is no longer actually a C, but is actually a C#.

At this point, it’s time to take my 61 key Casio keyboard and toss it out the window into the dog’s poop-and-pee area. Because there’s no WAY that I’m going to be able to learn this at that level. I really don’t believe that it’s possible.

So currently I’m operating at the level of faith – simply believing that, since other people have learned this, that perhaps I’ll be able to do so as well. I think I have, at least, described some of it. So there’s that.

Now I have to go back to practicing my scales. I have to admit – I’m not using this in practicing those scales. I’m just using WWHWWWH, where “W” means “Whole” which means “two keys”, and “H” means “Half”, or “one key”.

Now, Ethel took piano, clarinet, and…and some other instrument, either in the band at school, or as home lessons. And she swears up and down that she ain’t never heered nothing ’bout no dang “Circle of Fifths”. So, apparently, it’s possible to play the piano without knowing this stuff. But I have always said that I wanted to learn why notes and chords were the way they were. So I have to live with having said that.

Can’t believe I signed up for lessons with Ingrid, Sadistic Hyena ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Jenny my instructor all the way until June. Reckon I’m in this for the long, painful haul


*okay, you weren’t asking yourself that. In fact, you weren’t reading any more. I wouldn’t be, if’n I weren’t writing this πŸ™‚

** actually, it’s “Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle”, but I like mine better.

I’ve told myself that I was going to get a wood sign. Now I’ve ordered it.


In “Pieces of the Night”, writer Doug Hopkins pens the lines

You wanted to be where you are,
But it looked much better from afar –
A hillside, in shadow,
Between the people, and the stars…

I started listening to the Blossoms in June of ’95 – the week of the 20th, actually. I can be that exact because that was the weekend of the DRS World Conference in San Francisco. While there, I was walking on the beach with my friend Ken Olsen.

Ken was an atheist. He was suggesting that I listen to the new Crash Test Dummies song, “God Shuffled His Feet”, but he was reluctant to do so, because he thought it might offend me, me believing in God and all πŸ™‚

So when I got home to Tucson, I gave CTD a listen, and liked ’em right off.

Now, I had had access to New Miserable Experience in ’94, I think, but the cover sort of threw me – buncha punk kids smoking cigarettes. (Ethel and I had quit smoking in March of ’91). So I didn’t give ’em much of a chance.

However, Ken’s .signature file quoted a lyric from “Lost Horizons”. So, since I’d taken Ken’s recommendation of the Crash Test Dummies, I decided to give the Blossoms another try, as well. Suffice it to say that they became my favorite musical artists, period.

Shortly after this, I changed jobs within my company, and started working with a development group based out of Salt Lake City.

The first time I went to Utah – to interview for this position – at the end of the first day, I drove up Parley’s Canyon to Park City, because – ski town!! ….and I can still remember driving over the top of the pass, at Parley’s Summit, and looking off to the south and seeing all of the houses on that snow-covered mountain, in Summit Park, and thinking – “Wow, that’s the place to live – between the big city and the ski hill”.

I flew from Tucson to SLC at least once a month. And fantasized about living in Summit Park, in one of those houses on the hill. And I was listening to the Blossoms on my DiscMan, and whenever Robin would sing

“A hillside, in shadow,
Between the people, and the stars…”

….I would think about Summit Park.

A few years after this, I left Vermont to go to work at Fidelity Investments in Salt Lake, working for the same guy that I’d been working for while living in Tucson. When Ethel and I arrived there, the first thing we did was drive up to Summit Park. Ethel saw a house for sale on “..a hillside, in shadow, between the people, and the stars”.

It was what we then considered ridiculously expensive; I resisted buying it. Our realtor says that he wound up showing us at least a hundred homes, but at the end of the day, we’d always go back up and look at that house on Parkview.

We bought it, and for the next seven years, we lived on that “hillside in shadow, between the people, and the stars”.

We left. Lots of drama ensued. We bought homes in the desert of Arizona, and on top of mountains in Colorado. We even moved back to Summit Park, although this time we weren’t on a hillside, in shadow – we were down in the basin.

We left there in ’15, and moved to Bozeman – to a subdivision in the flat ground west of town. From there to a townhome in Whitefish.

And, then, we moved here – on a bluff above town, looking down and across all the homes in the Flathead Valley east of us. “A hillside, in shadow, between the people, and the stars”.

I have this suspicion that Ethel is eventually going to get tired of this place. But I may be wrong. And I have to say that this town fits us better than any other place has, ever. And this home is absolutely Pucketty. Heck – it oughta be. We designed it.

So it looks like we’re going to be here for a good, long while.

So today I ordered a wooden sign to go on the wall next to the big picture windows. And the wooden sign says:

A hillside, in shadow,
Between the people, and the stars…
— Doug Hopkins, “Pieces of the Night”

Doug, by the way, is not one of the Blossoms pictured in the above album cover. He wrote the songs, and his guitar playing is in the recordings, but Doug was a drunk. After the album was recorded, he and the Blossoms parted ways, and he eventually killed himself while drunk.

The title “Pieces of the Night” refers to something that all of us drunks are familiar with – the fact that, no, we don’t remember what happened last night; all we have is flashes of memory, of sights and sounds –

“Gin mill rainfall
What do you remember, if at all?
…Only pieces of the night”

Doug has given me countless hours of listening pleasure, and mental tags for dreams and memories. Heck, from the same song came this beautiful line:

“What the hell did you expect to find?
Aphrodite, on a barstool, by your side?”

So, when we got the barstools set up around the new pool table, I had to get myself a small Greek goddess πŸ™‚


Every year, on Ken Olsen’s birthday, I thank him out loud for leading me to the Gin Blossoms. (I also wonder, out loud – “So, Ken, what do you think of that atheism thing now? πŸ™‚

And I shower much adoration and admiration on the Gin Blossoms. I listen to them pretty much every day.

But I never think much about Doug Hopkins – the man who co-founded the group, and who set the tone and style for the music. The man who died drunk – just like I came close to doing, so many times. The man whose words kept me thinking, and dreaming, of living in the mountains, in a ski town.

Who, in some small way, helped to give me the life that I now lead.

I’ve just started taking piano lessons. And, yesterday, while listening to the Blossoms on Pandora while doing my core workout, I heard the one version of “Pieces of the Night” that is labelled as “…with Piano Ending”.

So I’ll say it here – before I learn my “goal piece” – Fur Elise – I want to be able to play at least the chorus of “Pieces of the Night” on piano.

So now I’d better get busy. Back to practice.


Got a couple of inches of snow yesterday and overnight. The snow was heavy, and icy.

Now that I’m in a neighborhood, I have to keep my sidewalk shoveled.


This took maybe 10-15 minutes. It was really 1.5-2 inches; just not that much.

When we bought the house in Bozeman, I bought a snowblower. But that made sense – Bozeman is at 4800 feet – 1800 higher than Whitefish – and gets a good bit more snow. And that home was on a corner lot, so it had a whole lot of sidewalk to clear. Besides, I was working then. And, in addition, there we had a three car garage, so there was plenty of room for the snowblower. (While we’re listing – the three car garage meant a three car DRIVEWAY, which meant a lot more surface to clear as well).

Now, I’m retired. Whitefish gets less snow than Bozeman. The sidewalk is much shorter. It’s a two car garage, which is already full of my big truck and firewood. So I didn’t buy a snowblower.

But this morning, I was thinking maybe that I should do so.

I’m hoping to ski every day this winter – and do I really want to wake up really early, do my workout, shovel snow, and then go ski all day? That “shovel snow” part might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back*.

But then I’d have the problem of where to put the snowblower. There really isn’t any room in the garage. (…thinking….thinking…) – no, there really isn’t. And that’s pretty much a dealbreaker.

So I reckon that settles it. Ethel will have to do the shoveling πŸ™‚


*full disclosure – I’m thinking that I’m going to have to reduce my training load if I’m going to ski 100 days. Back in ’12-’13, when we skiied 100 days while living at the ski hill, I was doing 30-40 miles/week. I was seven years younger. And just running is much less time consuming than the equivalent training load of swim/bike/run. Lo, how the mighty have fallen.


Got home from a noon OA meeting today, and Ethel had started a fire. She said that if it’s going to snow, then there should be a fire in the fireplace πŸ™‚


I had seen it spitting snow on and off during my drive back to Whitefish, but here it was actually snowing – snowing steadily, but snowing softly. Since I got home, it has continued to snow – but I doubt if there’s more than an inch out there.

But any snow is better than no snow πŸ™‚

I had a moderately hard workout today – this is a 7 hour week, down from last week’s 9 – and a nap on the sofa, with the fireplace crackling, was just right πŸ™‚

We’re three weeks and three days out from the start of ski season. I am ready. I am retired πŸ™‚ I have every intention of skiing every day – which is another way of saying I have no intention of not skiing. We’ll see how that goes.

I used to sit on my back porch of my house in Decatur, AL, and there were empty fields and trees off to the West. I would sit there and wish, wish so hard, that I could get out West and live in the mountains; maybe even in a ski town.

Wishes come true πŸ™‚

Today I started my piano lessons.


I don’t do things small – I signed up for the full school year, the next eight months. They didn’t offer a shorter option, and I didn’t choose to ask for one. Since I’m so lazy and undisciplined, I figured I’d just go ahead and take a big bite.

I reckon anything worth doing is worth overdoing. And doing twice.

Feels weird – already feels like I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome, but I think I remember that from the last time I tried to take piano.

I can’t actually determine when that was – I know that it was when we were living in Anthem, which is August 2005-May 2008. My memory is that I took the lessons for a few months, and then decided that with everything else I had going on, I couldn’t give it the time and energy that it deserved. (One issue here was that during this period, I had the worst commute of my life. It was often over an hour, each way).

We’ll see how this goes. But one thing’s pretty sure – we’ll be giving it eight months to get wherever it’s going.

Stated goal – to play “FΓΌr Elise”. What started me on those lessons all those years ago was seeing Phil Connors listen to FΓΌr Elise in the cafe, and then start his lessons. I want to be able to play that piece, just the way Ludwig wrote it.

The main section is the part that everybody knows – it happens three times. There are two middle sections, however, that are dang difficult. As Wikipedia says, “They have fast scales, arpeggios and left hand demisemiquavers (32nd notes). ”

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t realize that I had taken on the task of left hand demisemiquavers. But I reckon I’ll try quavers, then semiquavers, and then tackle the demis later.

We’ll see how this goes. So much of my life, these days, is seeing how things go.

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance – Garth Brooks

Yeah, it’s a good thing I didn’t know πŸ™‚

So here’s this morning’s run, after my hour of VO2Max on the bike:


Now, let’s be clear – first off, I’m glad to be running at all; kudos to Dr Ryan at North Valley for getting me through that calf mess. So 40 minutes at 9:26 pace, while slow, is still a blessing.

But here’s the thing – I ended up this workout with a bunch of on/offs – running 45 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy. And my “on” pace was 8 MPH – also known as “7:30”, or seven and a half minutes per mile.

Well, my marathon PR is 3:08:10 – that’s 7:11 pace.

So I was able to run my fastest MARATHON – that’s 26.2 miles – at a pace 19 seconds faster than I can now run for 45 seconds.

It occurred to me, during my cooldown, that if you had told me – when I was 40 years old – that I would be this slow at age 70, then I would have quit running right then.

And here I am at at 60, running a slow enough pace that I’d’a thought was too slow for 70.

They say that we are supposed to slow down 10% per decade. Well, the month before I turned 40, I ran a 5K in 18:28 – that’s 5:57 pace. Let’s call that an even six minutes, since it was a month before my birthday – round it up, to be charitable.

Six minutes is 360 seconds. So, by decades, I should be running 5Ks at:

Age 50:Β  360*1.1 = 396 = 6:36
Age 60:Β  396*1.1 = 435 = 7:15
Age 70:Β  435*1.1 = 479 = 7:59
Age 80:Β  479*1.1 = 527 = 8:47
Age 90:Β  527*1.1 = 579 = 9:29

Wow. So, according to the age-graded formulas, based on my 40 year old race time, I ran today’s 4 miles at the pace that I should be able to run a 5K (3.1 miles) ….when I’m 90.

And according to that same formula, I should be able to run a 5K right now at 7:15. I couldn’t run a single mile at 7:15.

So, as Garth said, “I’m glad I didn’t know…” – if I’d’a known this, I would have stopped running twenty years ago. I’ve slowed down 50 years worth in 20 years. That’s a lot of slowing down – in fact, I got my physical last week. My doc says that I can plan on another twenty years – I can plan on turning 80.

But that means I will never live long enough to catch up to how much I’ve slowed down πŸ™‚

Unfortunately, now I’m way too habituated; I can’t quit, even if I want to. And I’m possibly getting some health benefit from it, so it’s probably a good thing.

To tell the truth, I sorta wish that I could be unconscious of this whole truth thing.Β  As Toby Keith said,

Β I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then…







So here’s a real estate sign I’m seeing all over town this year:


I have to admit, I’m just a little bit….confused. How, exactly, does this picture of two pretty girls posing in a field supposed to convey real estate acumen or productivity? Why do I find myself thinking that the only information being transmitted here is ‘if you call these numbers, you get to talk to a pretty girl”?

(The subject line comes from a 1980s song by the Tubes called “She’s A Beauty”).

I reckon I’m just being cynical. So I’ll stop.

(Full disclosure – our own real estate agent is also very attractive. But we picked her because she’s a friend – and, well, she also seems to be pretty much competent at everything. So there’s that).\

Speaking of which – our condo has now been for sale since mid-September. Only once have we had a home on the market for that long in the last twenty years, and that was when we put out Anthem home out on speculation during the start of the crisis in 2005/2006. I’m not in a panic; everything seems to point to the condo being perfectly positioned to sell any day.

…who, me? Today I got up, did my morning stuff, made a morning meeting, ran an errand, picked up dog poop (EIGHT BAGS full of dog poop. How those dogs stay alive is a mystery. They poop more than they eat) and put up some pics in the Bama Room. I paid some bills and did some banking, and went to the gym and got my 3000y swim in and made a noon meeting.

Now I think I should nap. But it might not happen.

I’ve decided to set a standard for November. I’m not going to miss any workouts, or cut any short. I may cut back on intensity, but not volume. I’m doing this because I want to go into ski season as fit as I can, and the aspect of my fitness that seems to fall the most under my purview is my consistency.

I’m setting that standard; I’ve checked the Wave’s schedule, and it shows them as having a full schedule on Thanksgiving, so I am planning on doing my core workout there. If not, I may have to miss that one workout; I don’t really trust that they are open on Thanksgiving.

Now I’ll go downstairs and see what to do next, today. I’m hoping it’s “nap”. But I’m not laying any wagers.