Friday, September 26, 2008

Erin McKeown Living in Maine

Erin McKeown, one of my current favorite artists is living in Maine. This Massachusetts native is in Parsonsfield, Maine recording in the farm house of her keyboard player. NPR had a great interview with her that aired yesterday.

This is what her website has to say about her biography.

"From elegant pop to balls-out rock,sweet electronics to witty swing, Erin McKeown has packed a ton of music into her young career. With 5 albums, 2 EPs, and numerous soundtracks and compilations to her credit, the 29-year-old songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hasn't stopped for a breather in the last 10 years. Along the way she has averaged 200 shows a year and garnered the praise of fans and critics alike. McKeown's newest release is Lafayette, a rollicking evening with her six-piece Little Big Band."

Enjoy ~SJ

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hey Yankees, Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

Since we are studying the Civil War in 8th grade social studies, my team of teachers decided to play a few games of "Town Ball" with the students for a new educational experience. Yesterday afternoon was the day, and the weather was perfect for a game of baseball. We all had a fun afternoon, and the experience got me to thinking more about the history of baseball, so I turned to Google.

Here is what Michael Aubrecht had to say on the topic:

"It is considered America's National Pastime. Far more than just a mere sporting event, baseball has become a major part of the American culture and has often been responsible for bringing people together in times of crisis. During war, following natural disaster and in the midst of economic hardship, the game has always provided an emotional escape for people from every race, religion and background who can collectively find solace at the ballpark. Therefore, it somehow seems fitting that the origins of modern baseball can be traced back to a divided America when the country was in the midst of a great Civil War. Despite the political and social grievances that resulted in the separation of the North and South, both sides shared some common interests such as playing baseball.
   Although baseball was somewhat popular in larger communities on both sides of the Mason Dixon line, it did not achieve widespread popularity until after the war had started. The mass concentration of young men in army camps and prisons eventually converted the sport formerly reserved for "gentlemen" into a recreational pastime that could be enjoyed by people from all backgrounds. For instance, both officers and enlisted men played side by side and soldiers earned their places on the team because of their athletic talents, not their military rank or social standing. Both Union and Confederate officers endorsed baseball as a much-needed morale builder that also provided physical conditioning. After long details at camp, it eased the boredom and created team spirit among the men. Often, the teamwork displayed on the baseball diamond often translated into teamwork on the battlefield. Many times, soldiers would write of these games in letters home as they were much more pleasant to recall than the hardship of battle.
    Private Alpheris B. Parker of the 10th Massachusetts wrote:
      The parade ground has been a busy place for a week or so past, ball-playing having become a mania in camp. Officer and men forget, for a time, the differences in rank and indulge in the invigorating sport with a schoolboy's ardor.
    Another Private, writing home from Virginia recalled:
      It is astonishing how indifferent a person can become to danger. The report of musketry is heard but a very little distance from us...yet over there on the other side of the road most of our company, playing bat ball and perhaps in less than half an hour, they may be called to play a Ball game of a more serious nature.
    Sometimes, games would be interrupted by the call of battle. George Putnam, a Union soldier humorously wrote of a game that was "called-early" due to the surprise attack on their camp by Confederate infantry:
      Suddenly there was a scattering of fire, which three outfielders caught the brunt; the centerfield was hit and was captured, left and right field managed to get back to our lines. The attack...was repelled without serious difficulty, but we had lost not only our centerfield, but...the only baseball in Alexandria, Texas.
   It has been disputed for decades whether Union General Abner Doubleday was in fact the "father of the modern game". Many baseball historians still reject the notion that Doubleday designed the first baseball diamond and drew up the modern rules. Nothing in his personal writings corroborates this story, which was originally put forward by an elderly Civil War veteran, Abner Graves, who served under him. Still, the City of Cooperstown, NY dedicated Doubleday Field in 1920 as the "official" birthplace of the organized baseball. Later Cooperstown became the home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
   Doubleday was an 1842 graduate of West Point (graduating with A.P. Stewart, D.H. Hill, Earl Van Dorn and James Longstreet) and served in both the Mexican and Seminole wars. In 1861, he was stationed at the garrison in Charleston Harbor. It is said that it was Doubleday, an artillery officer, who aimed the first Fort Sumter guns in response to the Confederate bombardment that initiated the war. Later he served in the Shenandoah region as a brigadier of volunteers and was assigned to a brigade of Irwin McDowell's corps during the campaign of Second Manassas. He also commanded a division of the I Corps at Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg as well at Gettysburg where he assumed the command of I Corps after the fall of Gen. John F. Reynolds, helping to repel the infamous "Pickett's Charge." Strangely, his outstanding military service has been all but forgotten yet his controversial baseball legacy still lives on. Regardless of really being (or not being) the actual "inventor" of the modern version, Doubleday did apparently organized several exhibitions between Union divisions and was an apparent student and fan of the game. Many of these contests were attended by thousands of spectators and often made front-page news equal to the war reports from the field.
   In 1861 at the start of the war, an amateur team made up of members of the 71st New York Regiment defeated the Washington Nationals baseball club by a score of 41 to 13. When the 71st New York later returned to the man the defenses of Washington in 1862, the teams played a rematch, which the Nationals won 28 to 13. Unfortunately, the victory came in part because some of the 71st's best athletes had been killed at Bull Run only weeks after their first game. One of the biggest attended sporting events of the nineteenth century occurred on Christmas in 1862 when the 165th New York Volunteer Regiment (Zouaves) played at Hilton Head, South Carolina with more than 40,000 troops looking on. The Zouaves' opponent was a team composed of men selected from other Union regiments. Interestingly, A.G. Mills, who would later become the president of the National League, participated in the game.
   After the war ended, many men from both sides returned home to share the game that they had learned near the battlefield. Eventually organized baseball grew in popularity abroad and helped bring together a country that had been torn apart for so many years. Coincidentally, another Civil War icon, General George Armstrong Custer, was killed along with two hundred and sixty-four Union Calvary troopers after engaging the Sioux tribe at Little Big Horn the same year the first National League was established. Custer had fought at the first battle of Bull Run, distinguished himself in both the Peninsular campaign as well as Gettysburg and was selected as the Union officer to receive the Confederate flag of truce at Appomattox Courthouse. It has been reported that many members of the U.S. Calvary, most of them veterans of the Civil War, also engaged in baseball games to pass the time while protecting the western territories.
   Today, over a century later, baseball is still a popular American institution and remains a testament to both "Billy Yank" AND "Johnny Reb" who laid down their muskets to pick up a ball and help establish a National Pastime.
War Games
   Although early forms of baseball had already become High Society's pastime years before the first shots of the Civil War erupted at Fort Sumter, it was the mass participation of everyday soldiers that helped spread the game's popularity across the nation.
   During the War Between the States, countless baseball games, originally known as "townball", were organized in Army Camps and prisons on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Very little documentation exists on these games and most information has been derived from letters written by both officers and enlisted men to their families on the home front. For the hundreds of pictures taken during the Civil War by photography pioneer Matthew Brady, there is only one photo in the National Archives that clearly captured a baseball game underway in the background. Several newspaper artists also depicted primitive ballgames and other forms of recreation devised to help boost troop morale and maintain physical fitness. Regardless of the lack of "media coverage", military historians have proved that baseball was a common ground in a country divided, and helped both Union and Confederate soldiers temporarily escape the horror of war.
The following table represents a few of the games that had been recorded for historical significance either by participants or observers. (For simplicity, all forms of the game including "townball" and "roundball" will be referred to as baseball.)

Trainees from 13th Massachusetts and 51st Pennsylvania vs. themselves
Games were played evenings on the drilling field in many training camps prior to deployment.

165th New York Infantry (Second Duryea’s Zouaves) vs. NY Regiment All-Star nine
Perhaps one of the most famous of all Civil War games, this one was witnessed by 40,000 troops.

The “Irish Brigade” vs. themselves
Confederate sentries stationed across the Cickahominy River watched Union games played during General McClellan’s march to Richmond.

57th New York vs. 69th New York
Incoming Confederate cannon fire ended this game abruptly.

2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Army of the Potomac vs. selected members of the “Honey Run Club” team
Members of both the brigade and the 1859 champions practiced regularly throughout the war.

24th Alabama vs. themselves
Rebels, played daily while stationed in wait of the advancing Federal Army led by General William Tecumseh Sherman.

26th Pennsylvania vs. 22nd Massachusetts vs. 13th New York and 62nd NY Volunteers
All four regiments met for games, but disputed the differences between the MA and NY rules.

13th Massachusetts and 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery vs. misc. Army
Both teams had recorded so many victories; many felt that they were capable of beating any professional team of the late 1800’s.

1st New Jersey Artillery, Battery B vs. themselves
First printed drawing published of a baseball game played before the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Union soldiers encamped in Alexandria, Texas
During this game, the camp was attacked, resulting in the loss of the center fielder and the ball.

2nd New Jersey Volunteers vs. 77th New York Volunteers All-Star nine
Billed as another big game, newspapers openly criticized the 77th after a no-show.

1st New Jersey Artillery vs. 10th Massachusetts Infantry
New York Clipper newspaper covered the game at Brandy Station. NJ lost 13 to 15.

11th Mississippi POWs at Union Prison Camp in Sandusky, OH (Confederate Club vs. Southerners)
One game recorded ended with the Confederates winning 19-11.

Union and Confederate soldiers from both the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia
Following General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, soldiers from both sides played to pass the time.

POWs detained at the Confederate Prison Camp in Salisbury, NC
Despite pleasant accounts of baseball early on, many players later died due to overcrowded conditions.

After Appomattox
   At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and some experts say the toll reached 700,000. The number that is most often quoted is 620,000. At any rate, these casualties exceed the nation's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam. The Union armies had from 2,500,000 to 2,750,000 men. The Confederate strength, known less accurately because of missing records, was from 750,000 to 1,250,000.
   Baseball played during the war was very different than the game we know today. Some rules included: The Striker (batter) gets to choose where he wants the pitch. The Pitcher must throw underhand. No leading off the bag. No base stealing. No foul lines. All balls are fair. See Complete Rules of "Townball".
   A report published in 1908 by the Spalding Commission (appointed to research the origin of baseball) credited Union General Abner Doubleday as being the "father of the modern game". It stated: "Baseball was invented in 1839 at Cooperstown, NY by Abner Doubleday-afterward General Doubleday, a hero of the battle of Gettysburg-and the foundation of this invention was an American children's game call one old cat.""
Sources: From Pastime to Passion, Baseball in Blue and Gray, Civil War Digest, Fort Ward Museum.
Here are the rules to Townball in case you are interested in playing in your backyard. 
"1. The Ball must weigh not less than two, nor more than two and three-quarters ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than six and a half, nor more than eight and a half inches in circumference, and must be covered with leather.
2. The Bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made of wood, and may be of any length to suit the Striker.
3. Four Bases or Bounds shall constitute a round; the distance from each base shall be sixty feet.
4. The bases shall be wooden stakes, projecting four feet from the ground.
5. The Striker shall stand inside of a space of four feet in diameter, at equal distance between the first and fourth Bases.
6. The Thrower shall stand thirty-five feet from and on a parallel line with the Striker.
7. The Catcher shall not enter within the space occupied by the Striker, and must remain upon his feet in all cases while catching the Ball.
8. The Ball must be thrown - not pitched or tossed - to the Bat, on the side preferred by the Striker, and within reach of his Bat.
9. The ball must be caught flying in all cases.
10. Players must take their knocks in the order in which they are numbered; and after the first inning is played, the turn will commence with the player succeeding the one who lost on the previous inning.
11. The Ball being struck at three times and missed, and caught each time by a player on the opposite side, the Striker shall be considered out. Or, if the Ball be ticked or knocked, and caught on the opposite side, the Striker shall be considered out. But if the ball is not caught after being struck at three times, it shall be considered a knock, and the Striker obliged to run.
12. Should the Striker stand at the Bat without striking at good balls thrown repeatedly at him, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or of giving advantage to players, the referees, after warning him, shall call one strike, and if he persists in such action, two and three strikes; when three strikes are called, he shall be subject to the same rules as if he struck at three fair balls.
13. A player, having possession of the first Base, when the Ball is struck by the succeeding player, must vacate the Base, even at the risk of being put out; and when two players get on one Base, either by accident or otherwise, the player who arrived last is entitled to the Base.
14. If a player, while running the Bases, be hit with the Ball thrown by one of the opposite side, before he has touched the home bound, while off a Base, he shall be considered out.
15. A player, after running the four Bases, on making the home bound, shall be entitled to one tally.
16. In playing all match games, when one is out, the side shall be considered out.
17. In playing all match games, one hundred tallies shall constitute the game, the making of which by either Club, that Club shall be judged the winner.
18. Not less than ten nor more than fourteen players from each Club, shall constitute a match in all games.
19. A person engaged on either side, shall not withdraw during the progress of the match, unless he be disabled, or by the consent of the opposite party.
20. The Referees shall be chosen as follows: One from each Club, who shall agree upon a third made from some Club belonging to this Association, if possible. Their decision shall be final, and binding upon both parties.
21. The Tallymen shall be chosen in the same manner as the Referees."

Enjoy ~SJ 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stanley and the Wii Fit?

The Music Man just informed me that Stanley is weighing in at 14 pounds. Since the Wii Fit came in the mail this week, I think it is time to modify some of the "games" for him so that he can work off some of his summer weight.

Enjoy ~SJ

A Perfect Day

Sunday is by far my favorite day of the week. I like to sleep in late, go out for brunch and then get ready for the upcoming week. It always feels as though I accomplish so much without feeling overwhlemed or rushed. Today was a perfect Sunday!

I slept in and loafed around in bed reading and napping. Then the Music Man and I went for breakfast at D.U. (The Corner Store). After a yummy breakfast, and a quick chat with a few people we know, we headed to Marden's and grocery shopping. Then it was off to the Music Man's house to stack wood.

Now I am a rookie at wood stacking - I know you are screaming how can this man girl have never stacked wood? I don't know, but I am no longer a rookie. We moved and stacked wood, and the Music Man enlightened me on the finer details of wood stacking (don't think too much about it).

After some quality wood stacking on a beautiful sunny afternoon we were off for a little motorcycle ride. Now it is time to blog and work on homework.

How much better could a day get? What kind of days are your favorite?

Enjoy ~SJ

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Flair!

Ok, as I have mentioned earlier Face Book has become my new addiction. I love surfing through all of the flair (virtual pins for all of you non-facebookers out there). Here is the latest and greatest flair that I found that I just wish I had in real life. Not only does it include my self-given nickname, but it also the Apple logo in it. How much better could it get?! Oh please makers of Flair let us buy them to hold and cherrish in real life!
Enjoy ~SJ

It's Official!

I got the official word back from Poncho's creator Paul Gilligan today. Here is what he had to say:

Sounds beautiful!  I’ll add you to the list.  And thanks for the kind words about the strip, I appreciate it!!!   Thanks for participating in this,  I’ll be in touch.

How exciting!
Enjoy ~SJ

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Local Man Creates Memoriable Music

I like little bits of trivia, and here is one that my fellow RVB's might find especially interesting. Are you familiar with the tunes "Some Day My Prince Will Come," or how about "Whistle While You Work", or "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?". I'm sure that you are all already humming them away in your head. Interestingly enough, the composure of all three of these songs, and many more, just happens to be a Rumford, Maine native. Frank Churchill, born in Rumford in 1901 went on to become one of the founding fathers of Disney music. Here is what Steve Huey had to say about Churchill on All Music 

"Composer Frank Churchill is best known for his work on many of Walt Disney's early animated classics, contributing some of the best-loved songs in the company's catalog. Churchill was born in Rumford, ME, on October 20, 1901, and attended college in California. A pianist as well as a composer, he initially made his living by performing in movie theaters and on radio, also spending some time in Mexico. He was hired by Walt Disney in the early '30s following the departure of house composer Carl Stalling, and began composing music for the company's Silly Symphonies animated shorts. In 1933, Churchill composed "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" for the Three Little PigsAnn Ronell). The song struck a chord in the midst of the Great Depression, and became the Disney company's first hit, selling loads of sheet music and inspiring numerous recordings. Churchill's success helped change the company's thinking about the way music was used in its cartoons, setting them on a road where popular songs became an important part of the overall business plan. Over the next few years, Churchill continued to compose songs and instrumental music for the short (with additional lyrics by Silly Symphonies cartoons, and although he didn't yet duplicate the success of "Who's Afraid," several tunes were at least recorded by outside orchestras. Churchill was next paired with lyricist Larry Morey to work on music for Disney's first full-length feature, 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Disney's stipulation was that, much like the Silly Symphonies, the songs were not simply to be showcased -- they had to stem naturally from the characters, or be integrated into the story. Churchill and Morey's groundbreaking work included the classics "Heigh Ho," "Whistle While You Work," "Someday My Prince Will Come," and "I'm Wishing," four of the eight songs used in the movie and the 25 written for it overall. Additionally, Churchill co-composed the instrumental score with Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith, and it earned an Oscar nomination. Churchill subsequently worked on the much-delayed Peter Pan before switching over to Dumbo, which was released in 1941. Churchill co-wrote most of the songs with lyricist Ned Washington, including the Oscar-nominated "Baby Mine" and the bizarre "Pink Elephants on Parade," and his instrumental score, co-written with Oliver Wallace, won the Oscar for Best Score. Churchill reteamed with Larry Morey for 1942's acclaimed Bambi, which featured "Little April Shower" and the Oscar-nominated "Love Is a Song," among others; plus, his score with Edward Plumb earned yet another Oscar nomination. Sadly, after completing work on Bambi, Churchill committed suicide in Castaic, CA, on May 14, 1942; he was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, near Hollywood."

Enjoy ~SJ

Hosting Poncho?

My favorite daily laugh is Pooch Cafe. The creator of Pooch and the gang, Paul Gilligan had a stuffed Poncho created to travel around the world to loyal fans. I put my name in and can only hope that I get to show Plush Poncho the sights of Maine. When/if I get him, I will post plenty of pictures. So please Mr. Gilligan, if you read this send Poncho my way, I promise the cats will be on their very best behavior!

Enjoy ~SJ

Friday, September 12, 2008


Merriam-Webster deifines a sister as "a female who has one or both parents in common with another", since I am an only child I have no sisters or brothers for that matter. I consider my dear friends sisters. This past weekend I got to spend some quality time with the Simmons Gals. A little tradition has started since we graduated, before we leave we pose on the sofa and do a group photo. Thanks ladies for another great weekend!

Enjoy ~SJ

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rated G

Yet another wonderful little internet quiz, this time it is for your blog. By simply entering your blog URL you can find out the rating of your blog. Pretty cool, huh? What's My Blog Rated

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Enjoy ~SJ


Facebook has this great application called Flair where you can send all of your friends fun pins. Since I have two very cool real life pins on my backpack (Ernie & Bert and Barbar) I am very excited about these virtual pins. Here is one that I found and wish that I could have in real life!

Enjoy ~SJ

Monday, September 8, 2008


I got together with my very dear friends from college over the weekend. I call them the "Simmons Gals", even though we live far apart we make an effort to get together every few months. On our most recent gathering Dr. Abby decided that we should play Twister.... it was an entertaining activity and might I add a great core workout!

Enjoy ~SJ

Wii Fit And EBay!

The Music Man and I expereinced Wii Fit for the first time while we were in Humarock. Since then we have been discussing and plotting how we were going to obtain the hard to find workout videogame. After a few searches of the nearby Wal-Marts and some online shopping I decided to bite the bullett and try my luck with eBay. 9 minutes and 37 long seconds later I was the lucky winner of one brand new still in the box Wii Fit. It should be arriving at the Shamrock sometime around the weekend, photos to follow.

Enjoy ~SJ

Google Reader Overload!

I really enjoy blogging, and in turn I enjoy reading and commenting on other blogs. I read a large variety of blogs, everything from people I know in real life, people I only know through their blog, as well as technology education blogs. The volume of blogs to read on a daily basis is starting to get overwhelming., to the point that it is cutting into my time to blog. Going away and playing over the weekend was great for me, but not so good for my Google Reader.

Enjoy ~SJ

Thursday, September 4, 2008


No classroom is complete without a class pet. When I first started teaching I had a 30 gallon fish tank in my classroom, but a few close calls later including a frozen Jacque and 30 gallons of water on my floor, I got rid of the fish tank. After a few years of no pet I decided last year to go out on a limb and get Sea Monkeys. They have been a wonderfully easy pet and my middle school kids love them. I only have to feed them once a week, and occasionally answer a few awkward questions about why they are always riding piggy back. Well, the Sea Monkeys enjoyed their summer at the Shamrock (maybe they were inspired by all of the aquatic wildlife around them), and I brought them back to school today. This year I decided to make up for my years of no class pet and have two class pets. Today I became a proud member of the Ant Farm Club (well in 2-6 weeks I will). For $18.95 not only am I getting all of the ants that one middle school classroom needs, but I am also getting a light for my tank, a magnifying glass, ant posters and pictures, an activity book, and a membership card. I think this is a great deal. Now I just can't wait for my new little pets to arrive!  
"A formicarium is a vivarium which is designed primarily for the study of ant colonies and how ants behave. "Ant Farms," similar to these, are popular subjects for school projects. Those who study ant behavior are known as myrmecologists.
     A formicarium is usually an ant colony enclosed by a transparent box made of glass or plastic. The first commercially-sold formicarium was introduced around 1929 and patented in 1931 by Frank Austin, an inventor and professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Austin included painted or wooden scenes of palaces, farms, and other settings above the ground level, for a whimsical look.
     The best-known formicariums are examples of "Uncle Milton's Ant Farm," for which the ants are sent to the purchaser through the mail, upon receipt of the coupon enclosed with the Ant Farm. The educational toy is made by Uncle Milton Industries in Westlake Village, California, and has sold over 20 million Ant Farms since 1956 and which owns the brand name "Ant Farm". This type of formicarium is for observing worker ants and its effectiveness in serious ant propagation is limited." (wikipedia)

Enjoy ~SJ