We are the Music Makers …

At SAP TechEd in 2008 in Las Vegas we gave all Community Day participants a harmonica. It was as a way to connect with people. I also believe in the following They Might be Giants quote: Music self-played is happiness self-made.

SAP Mentor Chris Solomon took the following footage from me starting the general community day session as well as the group playing and the funny coincidence of the Black Crows later that week playing a mean harmonica too. Way beyond my ability.

I especially like the opening scene with  the quote from Arthur O’Shaughnessy used in the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory:
We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

I am convinced that everyone has the music maker inside, you just have to nurture it.  I once read, that scientists believe that music and singing developed in parallel to language.

People still sometimes come up to me and tell me how they liked the harmonica. One even said he used it to get TechEd sessions going, when the presenter wasn’t starting on time, he would play some riffs and that would get it done.

New Year’s Plumbing

Where did you spend your New Year’s eve? Oh well, under the sink ;-)

We came home from our trip to a clogged up sink, or we clogged it up by throwing out leftover food.

I tried chemicals first, which wasn’t easy to come by on New Year’s Eve close to midnight.

They didn’t help, so I remembered the time I helped my father working on a sink and I opened the U shaped pipe. It was clean, therefore the problem was further down the line. I fell into bed at 2am with water standing in the sink.

Next morning the water was gone, but only temporarily.

Next I consulted the internet, should have done it from the beginning. Turns out baking soda and vinegar does the job as good as the chemicals, alas two rounds of that combination didn’t help either.

Calling a plumber would have been so much easier, but by now it was personal. How dare this clogged sink being stronger than my amateur plumbing skills honed in my childhood with my father?

Back to the internet, especially help videos. They showed how to use a snake. Got a 25 feet long one at Home Depot. Put it in 20 feet, pulled it out again and still it was clogged.

O.K. I guess it is time for the professional with the 50 feet snake :-(

By that time it was 1.30 on New Year’s day, I didn’t even had real breakfast yet.

Before admitting defeat I did a last ditch attempt and snaked the snake in all the 25 feet. Put my electric drill at the end and turned it a couple of times in both directions. I took the snake out and used my last baking soda/vinegar reserves plus half a gallon of boiling water as the first liquid to come down the drain and to my surprise it didn’t back up anymore :-)

Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

Health Care Reform we need to start from scratch

Study: Over 2,200 US Veterans Died in 2008 Due to Lack of Health Insurance.

If that isn’t sad enough. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now does an excellent interview with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, professor of medicine at Harvard University and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Really frustrating facts about the health care reform bill:

  • 500 Billion hand over to the Insurance Companies
  • Public option will not be cheaper and mainly there to take the worst cases off the private insurers
  • We tried this model already 10 years ago in Massachusetts. Premiums didn’t go down.
  • Basis of the Senate bill is a document authored by Elizabeth Fowler, who’s a former vice president of Wellpoint, the nation’s largest private insurance company
  • Insurers and Pharma happy with the bill

She suggests to start from scratch and I agree.

Black Forest winter can come. New bird feeder installed at my mom’s.

I was visiting my mother in the Black Forest and helped get her garden winter ready. After two gratifying and exhausting conferences there is nothing better than spending some time in the fresh air getting dirty in the garden. Highly recommended. Cutting the lawn I can do without though.

I also installed a bird feeder and tweeted about it. Richard Hirsch asked whether I created it. I once built a bird feeder as a school project a very long time ago. Nowadays you get these at the local store for 10 bucks, although without a stand. That price point takes a bit the wind out of doing these kind of projects, which is sad.

My solution for the missing stand was to buy a big stake and ram it into the ground, secure the bird feeder with a screw and a washer. It wasn’t easy, as I didn’t have a lot of room for the screw driver, but at the end it worked and I am really happy about it.

First fall winds already came through and It is stable.

Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

Make Some Music. It Makes You Happy!

A couple of weeks back I stumbled upon this little video of Bobby McFerrin bringing the audience to sing the pentatonic scale while he is improvising on top of it.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

His last sentence is the eye opener: No matter where in the world I do that, they all get it as in they all can do it. — We all can do it. Music is the universal language of the world.

The downside of having developed devices that give us musical perfection at our fingertips is, that we know how music pieces sound when the best are playing it. The knowledge of perfection makes it endlessly hard for us to pick up an instrument or even just sing beyond the four walls of our bathroom. You have to put some effort in, before you even can play a little tune and it sounds horrible and you know it.


My favorite quote by They Might be Giants: Music self played is happiness self made. It is wonderfully true for me and as this example shows I think for everybody. You play an instrument or sing and your whole body resonates, relaxes and makes you happy. Try it.

My father learned how to play the Accordion when he was 65 without any prior music teaching. I so wish I had a recording of it. When he did I picked it up too and one of the greatest moments was, playing together with him.

Bonus link: 10 Geeky Instruments

Pet Peeves going up in flames

Balsaman was bringing Burningman back to size and smiles at Baker Beach in San Francisco yesterday.

I envision that Burningman many years ago had a similar feeling when they were still doing it in San Francisco.

Best quote of the evening by one of the organizers: Only in San Francisco so many people come together around such a stupid idea.

My friends Sophia and John aka Ray got an art grant of $2 for their Temple of Pet Peeves.

You write down your peeves and drop them in the temple to be burned later that evening. It was quite the flame and a relief of seeing them going up in flames. More pictures at Flickr.

Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

Have you encouraged and read to your child today?

Ira Glass and his This American Life team have done it again. This weeks stories about going big, brought me to tears of joy when I heard the one about the Harlem Children Zone:

Act One. Harlem Renaissance.

Paul Tough reports on the Harlem Children’s Zone, and its CEO and president, Geoffrey Canada. Among the project’s many facets is Baby College, an 8-week program where young parents and parents-to-be learn how to help their children get the education they need to be successful. Tough’s just-published book about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem’s Children Zone is called Whatever It Takes. You can see a slideshow of more photographs from the project here. (30 and 1⁄2 minutes)

It is amazing what they are able to do with these kids by catching them early. 8 weeks program with the parents to teach them to encourage their children and give them greater verbal skills by reading to them every night, with amazing results:

If you’re looking for the third-graders who are below grade level in math, you’ll have to go to another school

This past spring, 100 percent of the third-graders at HCZ Promise Academy II scored at or above grade level in the statewide math tests.  A few blocks away, 97 percent of the Promise Academy I third-graders were at or above grade level.

Many of these children have been in HCZ programs from the time their parents were in The Baby College, which highlights the effectiveness of our comprehensive model of supporting children.

Finally a way to break the poverty cycle. Obama and his administration has earmarked 10 Million dollars to expand this program to 20 other cities. Very sweet.

Bobby McFerrin Demos Connecting Power of Music

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Super beautiful demonstration of the Pentatonic Scale by Bobby McFerrin. His last comment is especially interesting, that wherever in the world he tries this, the audience is able to sing the pentatonic scale and follow his improvisations. Remindes me of Joachim Ernst Behrend’s book Nada Brahma: The World Is Sound. Music is the great connector. Let’s make more of it.


During regular days, I seldom stop and listen. The routine, all the other things to think about and still need to be done: “Nina, please go to bed. Now!”

Last night after a great meal and being on vacation even though it was way past her bedtime, we were hanging out on the balcony of our hotel in Santa Cruz looking onto the ocean with the full moon shining down on us.

It was getting cooler and over time Nina ended up rolled up in a blanket on my lap. And she started to ask questions:

Nina: Is this how the sea sleeps?
Me: (thinking: Wow, how do you answer this?) Well, you can say so, yes.

Nina: Why isn’t the sea sleeping like Mama?
Me: What do you mean?
Nina: Well, with a blanket and a pillow?
Me: (thinking: Now, how do you answer that?)
Nina: It isn’t quiet.
Me: No it isn’t.
Nina a bit louder: Stop it!

Nina laughs: The sea doesn’t listen to me.
Me laughing too: No, it doesn’t.

Nina: It’s the beach. It’s because of the beach that the sea can’t sleep like Mama.
Me: (Smiling while envisioning the ocean turning to its side while having a blanket and pillow) I guess so.

That little exchange made my day.
Need to stop and tune into Nina more often.

Picture taken last night by Mark & Marie Finnern.