Dramagoon Central Gets a New Roof

May 17, 2016
Roofing - End of Day One
Roofing – End of Day One

When we purchased our lovely home more than 18 years ago, the home inspector said that the roof looked good but would probably need to be replaced in about 5 years or so. Those five years came and went. And then, a few years ago, we called a contractor for an estimate and and while inspecting the roof he noticed that we were severely lacking in attic insulation but the roof actually still looked pretty good. So, of course, we tackled the attic insulation instead. This winter, we noticed a little discoloration on the ceiling near the chimney. So, after a great many years, the shingles are getting replaced. And with them, we are getting rid of the odd cupola/weather-vane that never worked and the rooftop antenna that we haven’t needed for over 10 years. Hurrah for home improvements.

Erin’s Trifecta – Part 3

May 5, 2016
Erin's State Solo/Ensemble Score
Erin’s State Solo/Ensemble Score

This is the third and final of three posts that discuss what we have begun to refer to as Erin’s State-Level Honors Trifecta. The first two posts can be found here and here. The final event in this trifecta was the Solo/Ensemble State Festival at UW-Milwaukee on April 30th. Erin participated in two events for Solo/Ensemble this year. She performed a Euphonium Solo, “Bride of the Waves,” and a Euphonium Duet with her band-mate Tommy. Tommy and Erin have been playing low brass together since sixth grade and have always wanted to play a duet together. It was their “Bucket List” duet.

Both pieces were Class A and if played well enough would qualify for participating in the state festival. At the district Solo/Ensemble festival at Brown Deer High School in mid-March both performances received *1 ratings, which advanced them to state. At the state festival, Tommy and Erin played the duet well enough to earn a rating of 1; the high rating available for an ensemble. Erin’s Euphonium Solo garnered a rating of 1-N. State judges have an opportunity to nominate soloists whose performance is truly exceptional for the Exemplary Soloist Award. Those soloists get a rating of 1-N and at the end of the day of the judge chooses a single nominated individual from their room to receive the award. Last year, Erin also got a 1-N score but did not get selected for the award. This year however, Erin not only got the nomination but also received the Exemplary Soloist Award for her amazing performance.

As you can see, this is quite the trifecta; fourth place at State Forensics, national finalist at State NHD, and Exemplary Soloist Award at State Solo/Ensemble. Erin’s hard work and dedication all year long has definitely paid off in the end. I am so very proud of all that this young lady has accomplished and look forward to many more amazing things in the future.

Erin’s Trifecta – Part 2

May 4, 2016
Rosie at State NHD 2016
Rosie at State NHD 2016

This is the second of three posts that will discuss what we have begun to refer to as Erin’s State-Level Honors Trifecta. The second event in this trifecta was the National History Day (NHD) in Wisconsin state event at UW-Madison. For those that have never heard of NHD, it would be best described as a science fair for history. Students compete in one of five different areas: Exhibit, Paper, Documentary, Website, or Performance. In all of areas except Paper, a student can compete either as an individual or in a group. In Erin’s case, she competes in the Individual Performance category.

Erin's Medals from NHD 2016
Erin’s Medals from NHD 2016

To provide a little background, Erin first got involved in NHD back in eighth grade when her social studies teacher had the entire class create NHD projects as an assignment. They also had to compete for the opportunity to advance to the regional competition. Erin and many of her classmates competed at regionals and she was lucky enough to be the only person from her school to qualify to compete at the state event that year. She even won the state “Women in History” award for the junior division. And that just happened to be three years ago today.

Erin at State NHD 2016
Erin at State NHD 2016

Due to the great enjoyment she got from that competition, Erin endeavored to compete in NHD when she got to high school. Unfortunately, the regional competition dates conflicted with scheduled forensics tournaments and solo/ensemble for band and she was unable to compete in both her freshman and sophomore years. Undaunted, last spring she found a way to arrange her schedule in order to compete this year. She began to research possible topics over the summer and once school started she developed her individual performance, “We Can Do It: Women’s Exploration of Work During and After WWII.” A performance that chronicles the lives of three “Rosie the Riveter” type women from the WWII era.

On March 5th, Erin competed at the regional competition at UW-Milwaukee and qualified to advance to the state event. She even won a regional “American Labor History” award as her topic discusses women workers. At the state event on April 23rd, 2016, she performed early in the morning and found out that she had done well enough to advance to the final round in the afternoon. At the awards ceremony that evening, it was announced that Erin would be one of two young women representing Wisconsin in the Senior Individual Performance category at the national competition at the University of Maryland in mid-June. Additionally, she won a state “American Labor History” award as well. Erin was the only competitor there that both qualified for nationals and won a special award. You can see her proudly wearing both medals above.

Needless to say, we are all very excited about the upcoming trip to our nation’s capitol (University of Maryland is just outside Washington, DC). And I am extremely proud of all the hard work that Erin has put into this project. It is amazing.

Erin’s Trifecta – Part 1

May 3, 2016
2016 Forensics Trophies
2016 Forensics Trophies

Erin has been having an amazing junior year in high school when it comes to extra-curricular activities. This and the next two posts will discuss what we have begun to refer to as Erin’s State-Level Honors Trifecta. The first event in this trifecta was the Wisconsin State Forensics Tournament at UW-Whitewater on April 2nd, 2016. As you will recall from my previous post, Erin and her partner Samantha have been participating in the Duo Interpretation category this season and presenting “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris. Throughout the season, they placed in the top three at four separate tournaments and Erin placed an additional two times when she double entered with her Four Minute Speaking piece on “Rosie The Riveter.” What an incredibly awesome season.

Erin and Samantha at State Forensics
Erin and Samantha at State Forensics

The way that the state forensics tournament works is that you present your piece three separate times to three separate judges. If you do well enough, you advance to semi-finals where you perform once in front of three judges. From the semi-finals, they choose six presentations to advance to the finals and perform in front of five judges. Most people involved in forensics will tell you that advancing to finals at the state competition is the ultimate goal. All six of the competitors at that point are so good that they are all truly winners.

Both Erin and Samantha had advanced to semi-finals in different categories twice each in previous appearances at the state tournament. And both had not been able to break into finals in those events. This year, however, things were different. Erin and Samantha finally made it to finals and placed fourth overall in the Duo Interpretation category. As you can see by the picture above, they were very excited.

As an interesting side note and strange coincidence, three years earlier, during his junior year, Erin’s brother, A.J., also performed “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris. He performed in the Solo Humorous category. And he also placed fourth overall in his category at the state tournament using that same piece. How peculiar.

Mid-Season Forensics Update 2016

February 29, 2016
2016 Forensic Trophies

Just about a year ago, I posted an update about Erin and how she had been performing on the Forensics team. I was bursting with pride because Erin had “placed” in her first four tournament of the Forensics season and had four trophies to prove it. With four tournaments completed again this year, I am again pleased to announce that Erin doing a fantastic job. By looking at the attached picture, you notice that there are five trophies that have been earned this year.

Having competed in the Four Minute Speaking category for two years in a row, Erin decided to try something new this season. She joined forces with Samantha Moore, a senior and captain of the Forensics team, to participate in the Duo Interpretation category. The ladies are presenting “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris and so far have placed first twice, second once, and third once. Much like Erin did last year, they have placed in every single tournament so far.

At the encouragement of her coach, Erin has also decided to double enter at those tournaments that allow doubling and has prepared a Four Minute Speaking piece on “Rosie The Riveter.” In the two tournaments that she competed in that category, she has placed third once. Thus, breaking her personal record by placing five times in four tournaments.

Words can’t express how proud I am of Erin and Samantha. They have put a lot of hard work into both of their performances and it has really paid off. And I crossing my fingers and sending them good vibes for continued success for the rest of the season.

To Kill A Mockingbird at Marquette University

November 13, 2015

On Thursday night, My Dad and I went to opening night of To Kill A Mockingbird at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. And as I have come to expect, the cast and crew did a fantastic job putting this show together. To illustrate just how well they told this iconic story, as the lights came up at intermission, my Dad mentioned to me that it had felt like the show had started just five minutes earlier when, in fact, an entire hour had passed.

The entire cast of twenty-five performers did such an amazing job that it will be difficult to single out only a couple of the truly remarkable performances. That being said, I was very impressed by the student actors that played the children: Jem, Scout, and Dill. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be nearly twenty years old and believably play a role half your age without it becoming a caricature.

I was simply awed by Madeleine Farley, the young women playing the role of Scout. The physicality and mannerisms that she brought to the part reminded me so much of my kids when they were that age. As always, I need to add a disclaimer that my son, A.J., is a sophomore in the MU theatre program. In fact, he plays the role of Jem Finch in this show and I couldn’t be prouder of his performance. And the last of the children, Dill Harris, was well-performed by Amelia Strahan. Her child role was further complicated by also having to believably play the opposite sex as well.

While I would love to go into detail about the portrayals of Atticus Finch by Micheal Cienfuegos-Baca, Heck Tate by Ben Braun, Calpurnia by Zandra Starks, and Rev. Sykes by Terry Lee Watkins, I fear that this post would get way too long. Suffice it to say that they were spot on. I will, however, mention two more truly wonderful performances. Mackenzie Possage and Annie Kefalas played Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie respectively. These two characters really act as the narrators of the story. These two could not have been better cast and I really enjoyed the way they helped to keep the audience informed about what was going on.

Finally, I hope that you can see in the attached photos just how amazing the set, costumes, lighting, and sound were. They really took this show to the next level. There are still two shows left this weekend and another five shows next week starting on Wednesday. Please go and support these fantastic student actors. You won’t be sorry that you went.

Rosie The Riveter World Record

October 27, 2015

Last Saturday, Oct. 24 2015, Erin and Kristi traveled to the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan to help set the Guinness World Record for the “largest gathering of people dressed as Rosie the Riveter.” While it hasn’t been confirmed yet by the official record keepers, the unofficial results are that they broke the record with 2,096 women and girls dressed as Rosie the Riveter. The previous record of 1,084 participants had been set in California this past August.

In case you are unsure as to why Erin and Kristi drove all the way over to the Detroit area to be a part of this momentous occasion, let me provide some background. First of all, Erin has always been interested in strong women role models; Elizabeth Blackwell, Frida Kahlo, Alice Paul, and, of course, the Rosie the Riveters that took the place of the men/soldiers in the shipyards and bomber plants during World War II. So last summer, when Kristi and Erin were planning a vacation, they decided on a trip to San Francisco in part because it would allow them to visit the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Park in Richmond, California. Not only was it an enjoyable vacation, but Erin was able to gather some research for this year’s National History Day competition.

While they were there, they discovered that the park was planning an event for August to break the record for the most Rosie The Riveters in one location. The previous record of 776 Rosies had been set by the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan in March, 2014. The timing of this event was disappointing as a second trip to California in such a short time was not in the stars. As I stated earlier, the August event at the National Park broke the original record by a little over 300.

This event was fortuitous for Erin and Kristi in that it caused the supporters of the Willow Run Plant to organize an additional event to take back their record. As Ypsilanti, Michigan is much closer to home for us, a car trip to be part of the World Record in October was easy to arrange. So, now Kristi and Erin can be proud of the fact that they are part of a Guinness World Record and they did it while supporting strong women.

AJ’s Busy Theatre Schedule

October 15, 2015

As a disclaimer, I should mention that this post will contain quite a lot of fatherly pride and may even border on being a bit braggy. Okay, who am I kidding? It is going to be very braggy. I wouldn’t blame anyone if they decided to bail right now.

Is anyone still there? Good. Let’s get started. I’m sure that I’ve mentioned it before but if you’ve forgotten, my son, AJ, is studying theatre at Marquette University and last year was his freshman year. We were very proud that he was cast in the ensemble for In The Red And Brown Water last November and was chosen to play the role of Philiste in The Liar in February. That’s him as Philiste in green in the adjacent photo.

Normally, at the end of the spring semester, Marquette holds auditions for the first show of the fall semester because rehearsals have to start before the semester does. This past spring was a little different in that they also held auditions for the final show of the season in April as it is going to be a collaboration with Renaissance Theaterworks in downtown Milwaukee. As luck would have it, AJ was cast in both shows.

You may recall from a previous post, AJ was cast as the “enjoyable awkward” Eric Richards in Loose Lips Sink Ships, a musical comedy about women shipbuilders in Sturgeon Bay during World War II. The adjacent picture is from that show. The other role that he was cast in last spring was that of the Artillery Trainee in Censored On Final Approach at RTW next spring. Getting cast in both of those shows for this season before school year even started was pretty amazing and I couldn’t have imagined a better way for his sophomore year to turn out.

On the first two days of class in the fall semester, Marquette holds auditions for the November show and the January, kid-centric, show. As both of these shows rehearse at the same time in the second half of the semester, a student can only be cast in one of them. Fortune again smiled on AJ as he was chosen to play the role of Jem Finch in the iconic To Kill A Mockingbird, the November show. And, now, as I thought things couldn’t get any better, I just got news that the results of the auditions for the final show to be cast were announced this week. AJ was cast as Silvius in the February show, Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

So if you are keeping count, that’s a total of four shows this year while also carrying a full load in college. I’m not sure when that boy actually sleeps. All I can say is that I am very proud of that young man and I’m glad that he is having so much fun.

Home Networking Project – Five Years Later

October 9, 2015

*** NERD ALERT ***

If you aren’t a geek that loves all things techie, you might want to stop reading now! You have been warned!

*** END NERD ALERT ***

Almost 5 years ago, I was planning to switch from DSL to U-verse and I had decided that to make things easier for the future, I would run network cable throughout the house and create a Network Wiring Closet in a central location in the basement. I documented that project in this post and in this one as well. It has been almost five years since U-verse was installed and although the project was a success, I have made several tweaks to the network that have made things even better.

If you compare this picture of the Network Wiring Closet above to the one in this post, you will see that several things have changed. The first thing that changed within the first year was that the original gray AT&T Residential Gateway (basically a router), was replaced by newer version (black device standing upright on the shelf next to it’s battery backup on the left). During that first year, I had no end of trouble with the wireless functionality of both of the AT&T Residential Gateways. Any Apple devices in the house had an extremely difficult time keeping their wireless connections active over time. Something didn’t seem to work right with the way that they renewed the IP leases. I had thought that the issue was with the original older model Residential Gateway but it also happened with the newer one. By the end of the first year, I gave up on the built-in AT&T wireless technology. I turned it off and added a Linksys WAP300N Wireless Access Point. From that point on, all of my wireless issues disappeared.

The next major addition to the network happened about 2 1/2 years ago when Windows on my primary computer became corrupted and I had to rebuild the hard drive from scratch. Even though I had been backing up many of our important files to a portable external hard drive, not everything was saved. I decided that I needed a more reliable solution for keeping our important things safe. I added a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with two 2TB hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration. With one kid in college and another in high school, we can have up to three separate computers on the network sometimes. The NAS device allows us to store and share all of our pictures, music, videos, office documents, and even computer backups. Additionally, the NAS backs up most of its information to Amazon Glacier cloud storage for even more redundancy. You will also notice that I added an APC uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to allow the NAS to shut down gracefully in the event of a power failure. The UPS and the NAS can “talk” to each other and the NAS can begin shut down procedures when the UPS has been in battery mode for a certain amount of time.

The final additions to the network happened this past summer. Over the past few years, I have acquired several AirPlay speakers and have them set up throughout the house. They are a poor-man’s version of a home audio system. From the iTunes on my main computer I can play music all over the house. This summer, I decided that I wanted to also play music in the backyard when we are out in the pool. Unfortunately, the wireless signal being broadcast from WAP in the Network Wiring Closet in the center of the basement could not reliably reach the exterior of the house. I decided to add a additional couple of network jacks in the sunroom and hook up a second Linksys WAP to extend my wireless reach. You can see that in this second photo.

If you recall from my previous post, I have four rooms in the house with two network jacks in each. Because one port on my 8-port switch has to connect to the Residential Gateway, I wasn’t able to keep all of the network jacks active at the same time. By adding two more jacks in the sunroom, I made the situation even worse. My solution was the final addition to the Network Wiring Closet. I replaced my Linksys 8-port switch with a Cisco 16-port switch. This has allowed me to keep all jacks active and have a couple to spare for possible future expansion.

At this point, I can’t imagine that I would need to add anything more to this system. But, of course, only time will tell.

Loose Lips Sink Ships at Marquette University

September 26, 2015

Last night, we got to see Loose Lips Sink Ships, another fantastic show at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. This is the university’s first show of a season celebrating Strong Women. This musical tells the story of the women that took jobs in the shipyards in Sturgeon Bay during World War II. It is a light and fun look at the changes in responsibilities and relationships that happened during that historic time. There were a couple of sad moments, as there are during a war, but on the whole, humor, fun songs, and dancing helped to tell this charming tale.

As a disclaimer, I must point out, as I have in the past, that my son, A.J., a sophomore in the MU theatre program, played the role of Eric Richardson in the show. So my feelings for this show are naturally biased. And I am okay with that.

The entire cast did an absolutely superb job. The three young women, Chloe Hurckes, Anna Otto, and Annie Kefalas were lovely singers and poured their souls into their performances. The vocal performance by Chloe was especially well done. The five young men also did a tremendous job. They were all well cast and suited to their roles. Daniel Callahan and Michael Nicholas really stood out in their singing numbers and Peter Sisto truly has a knack for humorous dialogue.

I am, obviously, very proud of the performance turned in but my son, A.J. Magoon. I thoroughly enjoyed his bubbly, energetic antics as the nervous, young highschooler looking forward to his first date and getting ready to join the war effort on the front lines. Physical comedy involving tripping over objects, dropping things, and double-takes can be very hard to make look natural but A.J. really made it look easy.

All in all, it was a fun night of theatre. If you see it, you’ll go home tapping your toes with a smile on your face.


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