Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Family Room and Updates


New Family Room

Here's the picture I promised our our new family room. The cream color on the wall also extends into the kitchen as it's one continuous space. We're very happy with the result. Now we just need something to go over the fireplace. The picture of the boys we had up there before has a dark frame and would be lost in the color so we're looking at artwork. We'll move the picture to one of the cream walls where it will stand out better.

Several new updates on the music front. My date in the studio last Saturday fell apart so I've rescheduled for Friday. Hopefully now that summer's done I can ramp it up and finish the project. I think the Wife is kind of looking forward to me wrapping it up. However, so am I. As I mentioned previously, I've got some lost jems I've posted on my website. They're linked on the Music Samples page and are Follow Me, Remember When, and Beg and Plead.

Also, I've colaborated once again with the fabulously talented Lois Lane to create a new song entitled Thank You Lord. The link will allow you to download the song. As always, it is copyrighted by Lois and myself, so if you wish to make any money on it, just give us a cut and we're cool. I think Lois will be pleased with the result, and I know she likes my treatment of her lyrics. As a reward for doing such a good job, she's sent me more lyrics to put to music. If we're going to continue to colaborate like this, I think Lois is going to have to move to Rochester. She can stay at my place until the Wife threatens to divorce me or until she gets settled, whichever comes first.

On the kids front, we're going to meet the boys teachers today. School starts next Wednesday. That time is upon us again. We've got an organizational meeting for Maverick's cub scout den tomorrow. Things are ramping up quickly. Maverick also starts playing sax this year, just like his old man. There was no encouragement on my part on picking an instrument, with the exception of suggesting drums. I think he'd be very good at it. Grasshopper will be starting cub scouts this year as well. I'll keep everyone posted once the year starts.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Lost Treasure

I was converting a few of the songs I did with my originals band, The Real Emetics, for the Wife today when I came across a few wave files I didn't realize I had. One was for Follow Me, a track that will be on the Voice of the Spirit CD, and the other two were for Remember When and Beg and Plead, lyrics for which I provided a while back. I was considering adding those two tracks as bonus tracks for Voice of the Spirit for an additional donation. I'm not sure since they two tracks are not "Christian" songs, merely songs I think are good ones. We shall see.

In any event, I am going to put clips of the songs on my website, www.vincefranco.com, this week. I'm off from work until Thursday and I like to use the high speed connection there to upload files instead of dial up at home. I think the clips will be worth the wait. The babysitter we had watching the boys this summer went back to school this week so the Wife and I are splitting the week on babysitting duties.

In other news, we're painting our family room and kitchen. More correctly, I'm paying someone else to paint the family room and kitchen. It's a big job and it's worth the money for someone else to have the hassle. As a good friend of mine put it, it's a small price to pay compared to the acida I would get from doing it myself. We're painting the wall with the fireplace Java (a deep brown) and the other walls cream. The trim will be white. It should have a nice look when it's done.

Also, today was Maverick's last baseball game (yeah!). It's been a long baseball season. He's had fun, however. He actually got on base today! He didn't hit, but was walked. What amazed me is that with about 20 to 25 at bats, this was his first walk of the travel baseball season. Somehow pitchers manage to strike him out. Anyway, he stole a couple of bases but didn't manage to score a run. Great final game for him, however. Next year he probably won't play travel baseball to spend more time playing golf.

I'll check in with everyone's blogs as much as possible this week, but when I'm at home I don't surf as much as at work (sad, I know). However, again, with dial up, it takes so much longer to check in with all my internet pals. So if I'm not commenting as much this week, you'll know why. This Sunday we're also having a picnic/get together at my place with my high school gang. We get together a few times a year still. We did this last year and had so much fun we want to make it an annual event. I'll give you the lowdown on the party next week.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Wife of Wonder

I would like to take an opportunity to tell everyone how cool my wife is and how much I love her. Not for any special reason, but because of the little things she does. We had time off next week scheduled for each of us to watch the boys since their babysitter is going back to school. I had Monday to Wednesday, she had Thursday and Friday. A thing came up at work that may have required my pressence on Monday. She cleared changing vacation days if I needed it so I'd be home Thursday and she'd be home Monday, no sweat. She does stuff like that all the time even though I can be self absorbed and sometimes put my stuff ahead of her and the kids (*cough*, music, *cough*).

So again, I want to publicly acknowledge the little lady, genuflect on humbled knee, and kiss her cute little toes for being so good to me in many things even though I don't deserve it.

And no, I'm not sucking up, she needs to be told how wonderful she is since I probably don't tell her enough.

Love you, babe!


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Walk FAR for NAAR

Everyone, here's the details for the Walk FAR for NAAR to support Autism Research. We have a page where you can join or sponsor our team, Team Grasshopper. If you wish to sponsor us or help out in some way, click on the previous link. Below is the email we're sending out to everyone we know:

As most of you know, our younger son, Grasshopper, has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), or PDD-NOS.

When most people think of autism, they think of a person who doesn’t speak, doesn’t make eye contact, and pretty much lives in their “own little world”, oblivious to what’s going on around them. Luckily for Grasshopper, he is not affected to this degree. He is very high-functioning, and is extremely outgoing, especially with his peers. However, making eye contact is still something he’s working on. And there are times that he does get stuck in his “own little world”, and it’s difficult to coax him back to reality.

He’s extremely intelligent and performs above grade level academically. But following the classroom routine can be a challenge for him. He attends a regular classroom, with the help of a one-to-one aide.

To most of the general public, he probably looks like a regular child who has some bratty, and some odd, behaviors. Perhaps it appears that we’re too hard on him; at other times perhaps it appears we’re too tolerant.

In any case, Grasshopper is NOT an average child. While he strives to be like his classmates, there are some things they do on a regular basis that he has yet to accomplish. Only this year, at age 6, did we think he was ready for a short vacation – a weekend away. He regularly visits the dentist, but has not yet let the hygienist clean his teeth. He is terrified of loud noises – even the possibility of a loud noise. On a recent trip to African Lion Safari in Canada, we saw the elephants taking a swim. But Grasshopper couldn’t see what graceful swimmers these huge creatures are because he was afraid they would make a trumpeting sound. If we are at Wegmans while someone is inflating a balloon, he covers his ears and refuses to move.

Even with all this, we consider our family very lucky. Many autistic children are more severely affected. They are non-verbal, many cannot handle the over-stimulation of a trip to Wegmans, balloons or not.

Sadly, we do not know what causes autism and have no way to biologically diagnose autism spectrum disorders. The diagnosis guidelines are actually found in the DSM-IV, a mental health reference tool. Autism occurs in as many as one in every 250 births. Some studies place the prevalence even higher. Autism often inhibits a person’s ability to communicate, respond to surroundings or form relationships with others. Despite these facts, autism research remains one of the lowest funded areas of medical research.

Please help us change that by supporting the Rochester Walk F.A.R for NAAR. The abbreviation F.A.R. stands for Families and Friends for Autism Research, and NAAR stands for National Alliance for Autism Research. Please join us for our walk on Sunday, September 25 at Frontier Field. If you are interested, please call me for details, or visit www.autismwalk.org. If you can’t join us at the walk, please consider sponsoring us for this worthwhile cause. Please make checks payable to NAAR, and return to us by September 23, so we can turn them in at the walk. Our family fundraising goal is $500. All contributions are tax deductible.

Thank you for considering supporting us in this cause.

Sincerely,

Ellen and Vince Franco

P.S. Please contact your senators and representatives, and ask them to support the Autism Act of 2005. For more information, please visit www.autismbill.org.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Creativity in action

We interrupt this normally scheduled post for a quick public service announcement. The Wife and I are organizing an Autism Walk for next month. For those that are not aware, Grasshopper was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified), which is a broad category for Autism spectrum disorders. He's high functioning, which means you would have trouble knowing he's autistic if you didn't know what you were looking for. We're organizing a walk to raise money and awareness. I'll be posting details soon if you wish to help out, either with our walk or to organize your own! Stay tuned.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program. I'm heading into the studio Saturday to work on Voice of the Spirit. One of the things I need to do is a lead track for Matthew 7:25. I had one all worked out that I had been practicing for the last 2 months. I was very happy with it. However, last night (at about 11pm no less) I decided to finally play it against my demo track without a lead to see how it fit.

One time through was enough for me to realize - IT WAS HORRIBLE AND DIDN'T GO AT ALL! AAAAAAAAH! So I am now coming up with something totally different. I got a few ideas last night and need to work out the kinks this week. Normally, I would be sweating. However, this project has been one where God has inspired me so many times in the studio, I'm not worried. Many of the tracks were things I hadn't planned on or thought about, but came to me as I recorded it. The Spirit is working through me on this CD and I know worst case, something brilliant will come to me on Saturday.

It did strike me as a bit amusing how the creative process can work. Some ideas sound great, until you really start to work them out and then you find out they're really bad. You then end up going in a totally different direction and end up with something totally different. I'm Coming Home is a perfect example for me. I had this big idea of this powerful song with guitar, bass, drums and all kinds of stuff. Until I tried recording the tracks and nothing seemed to fit. So now it's stripped to guitar, a very subdued bass, and keyboard tracks. Guitar solo is gone, piano fills are in. And the song has a whole new flavor that I originally intended.

How about you other artists out there? Do you get the same thing?

I'll update everyone next week on how recording went. If all goes well, I'll need 2 or 3 more sessions to finish recording tracks, then go into mix down.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Post about Lots of Things

I had a bunch of little things I wanted to say, so I thought I'd throw them all in one post as a big mish/mash of ideas. So forgive me if it seems like I'm bouncing around, because I am.

- Maverick had a double header tonight. One of his coaches spent 45 mintues alone with him before the game working on hitting. The result, 2 at bats, two strike outs, but HE WENT DOWN SWINGING! Swung at 2 out of the three strikes each time. Additionally, his fielding was awesome. He was on top of things and never let the ball get by him. By far his best game in a long time. He received many high fives and pats on the back both from myself and his coaches. Maverick is getting back to his old form.

- For those of you who's blogs I read (that is everyone on my side bar, and a couple I haven't put there yet), please forgive me if it looks like I'm not commenting on your blogs as much as I used to. I'm starting to get into blog overload (more to read that I have time for, but somehow manage to read anyway). So I'm now commenting only when I really have something to say. I basically have time to read or comment, but not both, at least not for everyone. So if I don't comment, it doesn't mean I don't love you any more, or that your blog is less important than someone elses, just that I don't have anything constructive to add to the conversation. Really, I'm not reading any other blogs on the side. I was only glancing at them. It's ok to look and not read, right? Cmon, don't be sore...

- I must geek out for a moment. Part of my job as Help Desk Supervisor is to test out new technology. We've been testing the HP TC1100 tablet PC and I absolutely LOVE IT! We set it up with a wireless internet card and it is so awesome. Combined with Microsoft OneNote, you can write on it like a notebook or flip it to use the keyboard like a laptop. Right now my team is testing it and I miss it so! I want it back so I can play with it more! Also, we're testing out a software application that will reduce the number of PC images we maintain from 24 down to 8. For those that know, images are usually hardware specific (at least specific to the chip set of the machine). This software allows you to create a hardware neutral image that you can use on any machine, regadless of type, desktop, laptop, whatever. It discovers the hardware drivers once you image it. We're talking about saving hundreds of man hours per year as well as more consistant images. It totally rocks! Ok, now ends the geek moment.

- I just recieved some new CDs and they are so cool! I'm listening to the new Stryper CD, Reborn (shut up! Stryper is totally cool. Rocking for Jesus Rules!) It's a totally awesome CD. It's for sure going into heavy rotation in my CD player. I also got Force It by UFO (oldie but goodie. Michael Schenker is the best guitarist you never heard of). Also totally rocks, but in a 70s rock way. I also got Joe Satriani's Surfing with the Alien on CD. I have it on vinyl, but just got around to getting it on CD. Greatest guitar instrumental album every written. Just buy all three CDs and be done with it! You won't be sorry!

- I downloaded some interesting software that let's you write sheet music. All the songs I've written are in the format of lyrics with chords on top. It would be nice to have it actually written out as sheet music that a piano could accompany. I downloaded 4 freeware applications I need to test. I'm looking forward to trying them out.

- I met with the other adults (there are actually only three of us) in my group for Sunday Mass (like I said, rocking for Jesus rules!). We were at a crossroads in our musical direction. We took the time to kind of work it out and figure out where we're going. Now that we're on the same page, we need to bring the teenagers in the group around. Or more specifically, reign them in. They have plenty of exuberance and engery, but need to focus it. We've also set up some basic ground rules. My favorite is no put downs. Offenders have to do "teapot". Which means they have to do the "I'm a little teapot" song, including the gestures, in front of the group. I've been told it only takes one person doing it to make everyone else in the group afraid of this punishment. I SOOOO want to be able to use that one on one of the teens. And get pictures and video.

- I have some new links on my sidebar. I'd like to welcome Renee and Morgan. It's great to have new readers and more blogs to read. However, please see the above bullet on my commenting and reading blogs. They have great sites, so check them out!

Well, that's all I got right now. It's getting near bed time and I'm pooped. Sleep tight everyone. Be good, kiss someone good night, and don't do anything I would. Yes, I mean you. You know who you are.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Post about nothing

You know, I feel like writing yet I don't feel like writing. I could post on how lately I keep thinking it's time to take a break from blogging, but I don't know what to say. I could mention something about how it's great that I seem to be getting a lot of new readers and how it's resulting in way too many cool blogs to read. I could also mention the conflicted emotions I'm going through right now with respect to my church music group, but I really not ready to talk about it.

What I really want right now is to sit out on my porch with my wife looking at the moon like we did last night. We spent about 5 minutes last night doing that so the little lady could catch her breath from running around doing chores, and it was just so relaxing and perfect.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Maverick Update

For those of you following Maverick's baseball saga, he played a double header today. First at bat, we was swinging at the ball. He struck out, but that's ok. Our goal is to be swinging. He had two more at bats and backed out against those pitchers. We're still working on it but not there yet. I made sure to encourage him and let him know he's improving.

Maverick also enjoys golf. I bought him his first set of clubs this weekend. The pro shop at the county golf course where he takes lessons is awesome. They recommended we purchase used clubs and they would cut them so that the would be a little long this year and perfect next year. The shop recommended a 3 wood, two irons, a wedge, and a putter. Cost: $8 per club. That's right, $40 for a set of clubs. And they'll try to find me an inexpensive bag. They rock. I'm thinking perhaps next summer concentrate on golf more as it's "low impact". No worries about being hit in the head with a wild shot.

I feel bad for my younger boy. He mentioned to me this weekend that I never do anything just with him. Of course, he's not quite ready for sports. However, I'll be doing cub scouts with him come the start of the school year. My wife will go to scouting events with Maverick to even things out. Hopefully we can also start the younger boy in karate. We spoke to his social worker and may be able to get reimbursed for the cost if it can be justified as beneficial with his diagnosis with PDD. We're hoping his OT will recommend it for us. If so, I believe I'll call him Grasshopper. However, no nickname as of yet.

I'll keep you posted!


Friday, August 12, 2005

Lois is so crazy!

I’ve done it! I’ve put music to Lois’ lyrics and hopefully fulfilled her vision for Crazy Opossum Lady. Here is the link to download in MP3 format. I will warn you now: it’s rough. I recorded it by draping a microphone plugged into a cassette player over my shoulder while playing guitar. I then ran it out the headphone jack into the sound card on my PC into Sound Forge to create the MP3. You can make everything out, but it’s not CD quality, folks.

As a courtesy, please check with Lois prior to distributing. I doubt either of us will get rich off the song, but on the miniscule chance someone does, she deserves the credit as writer of the song. My humble contribution was the easy part.

Enjoy everyone!


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Introducing Maverick!

I now have a suitable nickname for the Older Boy. From here forward, I will refer to him as Maverick. If you’ve seen Top Gun, then you know that Maverick was a hot shot pilot until his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) is killed in an accident. Maverick is then gun shy and doesn’t want to “engage” for fear of someone else getting hurt. His confidence is shot. He eventually gets over it and gets his cockiness back.

The older boy is going through the gun shy stage. He was a solid hitter in baseball last year, striking out only once. He was doing well this year as well, until he got hit with a pitch. He had his back turned and the pitcher didn’t hold the ball like the umpire told him and got beaned in the shoulder. Since then, he’s been stepping back from the plate as soon as the pitcher pulls his arm back to throw, thinking all the pitches are coming at him.

I’ve been working real hard to get him over it, but it’s been frustrating. I’ve been just trying to get him to not back up and swing at the ball, forget about hitting. But he won’t “engage”, hence his new nickname, Maverick. Like Maverick, I’m hoping he gets out of this funk. I got a great suggestion from one of the other dads. His kid went through the same thing. He got his kid over it by pitching rolled up socks to him. Doesn’t hurt when you get hit, and you can still throw it fast. Hopefully Maverick will again realize which pitches are actually strikes and hittable, and which really are coming for him.

Engage, Maverick, engage!


Monday, August 08, 2005

Adventure Camp

Wow, what a hectic couple of days. Let me begin by saying that Cub Scout Adventure Camp was a blast, both for me and the older boy. Pictures can be found here. We spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there and were exhausted at the end. The camp was divided up into 5 villages base primarily on age: High Seas, Frontier Fort, Medieval Castle, Native American, and Mountain Man. High Seas people got to sleep in wooden ships, Frontier Fort in a fort, Medieval Castle in a castle, Native American in teepees, and Mountain Man in tents. We were in the Native American village and slept in a teepee, which was totally cool.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and were greeted by Cory, one of our village counselors. Cory struck me as interesting right off the bat since his hair was cut in a “high and tight” style that was dyed neon green. We also met Krissy, our other counselor. They were both awesome to work with and were great with the kids. We began by taking our swim test, not that we needed to since we’d already taken it back in May, but because it was 90 degrees and too freaking hot. The dip cooled us off nicely. The first day was mostly unpacking and getting to know the place. We had a big campfire with the entire camp the first night and the staff put on skits and sang songs.

The next day was filled with arts and crafts, archery, swimming, boating, and shooting (BB guns that is). Older boy made a dream catcher he’s quite proud of. He loved archery and got pretty good at it by the end of the day. We had open time after dinner and we went back down to the range, he enjoyed it so much. We got to use a canoe during boating time and had a sponge war. The tossed a whole bunch of sponges in the lake and the object was to get everyone else as wet as you could. Great fun on a hot day. That, however, was quite tiring so the dip in the pool afterwards was very refreshing. Shooting was fun as well, though we didn’t do as well on that as archery. Parents were allowed to shoot the bows and guns, so that was a lot of fun for me as well. After dinner, we practiced our shooting/archery skills and then had a campfire in our village. I brought the smores fixings and was a hit with all the kids. Marshmallows for all! We ended the night by going to an astronomy presentation, where a staff member pointed out all kinds of constellations. Being in the county, you get to see a whole lot more stars than in the city with all the background light. Plus, we saw a bunch of shooting stars.

Saturday was the same overall schedule as Friday. During village time the boys made chokers and played Native American games, during archery we shot at balloons (I managed to pop mine!), during boating we played Moby Dick (they tossed plastic animals in the water for us to pick up, each worth points), and during shooting the boys tried to earn a patch by shooting at a target. After dinner, we ended with another big campfire with everyone and the kids put on skits and sang songs.

All in all it was a totally rocking couple of days. I’ll probably need a few more to recover from it. Sunday should have been my recovery day but with church and a double header baseball game for Older Boy, it didn’t happen. Oh well, rest is highly over rated anyway.

On a completely different note, I owe interview questions to a few of you. I promise I haven’t forgotten. I’ll get them out this week. The baseball schedule is going to change and I won’t know what it is until tonight. Thanks for the well wishes on our camping adventure everyone!



Thursday, August 04, 2005

Have a Good Weekend

The older boy and I are off to Cub Scout Adventure Camp today. We'll be back Saturday night so I'll be out of "blog" action until next week. Have a great weekend everyone! I'll post pictures next week.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Interview

Jude was kind enough to interview me, so here's my response. First, the ground rules:

I have to be willing to interview others.

I now invite you all to take part in this interview process as well, so that I may get to know you better too. If you are interested, here are the details:

1) Leave me a comment saying interview me please.

2) I will respond by asking you five questions. ( not the same as you see here.) 3) You will update your blog/site with the interview questions.

4) You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5) When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions


So here's the questions Jude asked me and my responses.

1) You have just been elected into the office of the President of the United States of America. What are your 3 top priority issues/state of affairs that you wish to bring about and/or change?

In no particular order, universal health care, aid to working families, and the war in Iraq. As a parent that’s struggled financially, having affordable health care and being financially able to support your children is very important to me. There was a time when the children were small and in full time day care that we were in the situation where expenses exceeded our income even though we had pretty good jobs and lived modestly. It used to be you could raise a family on one income. Now that income needs to be six figures or more depending on where you live. That just isn’t right. The war in Iraq speaks for itself.

2) If you could have just ONE wish granted for your children, what would it be, and please explain the emotional, physical and psychological impacts for them.

That they grow up to be happy, caring, and responsible adults. I want them to grow up to know that it isn’t the things that you have that make you happy or successful, but doing something you love and being surrounded by people that care for you.

3) Please share with us how music affects your life, and how you got started in this creative outlet.

Music is literally the soundtrack to my life. It’s always on my brain, just ask my Wife. I started playing music in 3rd grade by playing recorder and 4th grade with the sax. When I was 16 I picked up the guitar and was hooked. I’ve been into rock and metal since I was about 12 so naturally I always wanted to be a guitar hero. Music is my emotional and creative outlet. There are several words I would use to describe myself: husband, father, IT geek, and musician. It’s who I am.

4) What are your personal thoughts about Capital Punishment as it relates to both Crime Rate and to humanitarian views/your faith?

I am completely opposed to capital punishment. Forget the fact that it is not a deterrent to crime. As a Christian, I don’t believe in taking lives. I think that capital punishment is meant more as a means of revenge, than “punishment”. Jesus taught us to love our enemies. How can you love your enemies if you kill them for killing someone else? It doesn’t make sense. And don't get me started on this one.

5) Please tell us 2 things you've never experienced that you would like to accomplish someday, and explain why they are important to you.

That’s a tough question. I truthfully can’t think of an experience or accomplishment that means more to me than what I have. The two most important things to me, family and music, I already have. The things I would like to do involve one or the other, such as trips with the kids, or recording music.



Monday, August 01, 2005

Weekend Doings

Had a busy weekend. Saturday we finally had the garage sale I've been trying to set up since we moved into the new house a year ago. I managed to get rid of a lot of large items that the kids no longer play with. It was very satisfying. I probably didn't do as well as Lane 2, but from what Lois describes, I think very few people could. She's a garage sale machine.

Sunday was spent cleaning and doing all the things I normally do Saturday but couldn't due to the garage sale. I got on a roll early and managed to keep up the motivation all day to get everything done. Also a relief to get the house caught up. The only thing that remains is to re-organize the garage and basement, but those can wait for another weekend.

On a separate note, I discovered the Wife is very effective at keeping me in line. I woke up in a bit of a crabby mood on Saturday. I'm not much of a morning person as it is, and when you throw rambunctious kids in the mix, the results can be less than desired. My wife told me simply, "I'd have thought you'd be in a better mood after getting Queen tickets. That lasted all of 24 hours."

Ouch! I felt like a puppy that got smacked on the nose with a newspaper. However, as usual, the little lady was right. I think I behaved much better the rest of the weekend. I really need to work on that, but I'm a little spoiled right now. The boys have a babysitter during the summer so weekday mornings I don't have to get them ready for day care. I can get ready and eat breakfast in peace and get out of the house before anyone gets up. Much more to my liking.

Next weekend (Thursday through Saturday to be exact) the older boy and I are going to Cub Scout Adventure Camp. Should be a lot of fun. I'll take pictures and post them next week. Also, before I disappear for a few days, I'll post the answers to some interview questions that Jude gave me. They were quite thought provoking, at least for me. The last question was a stumper so I have to think about the answer a little more before posting them.

The Wife has begun planning our trip to NYC. The biggest problem we're going to have is that we need at least a week to see everything we'd like to see and we'll have about a day and a half. I'll post updates as our plans solidify.