Sunday, December 31, 2006
I knew going in that getting divorced in 2006 would be a good thing. My marriage had been over for a long time and it was just a matter of my ex-wife and I facing that fact and taking care of business. I don't bear her any ill will after everything that happened, and I hope that she and I can continue to be friends. Being single has turned out to be more fun than I thought. However, I've been seeing someone for a while now, and it's going incredibly well, and I hope that relationship continues to grow. I've got a good feeling about it.
I tried a lot of new things in 2006. I became a karaoke star (at least in my head). I tried to be more spontaneous. I worked up the courage to talk to strange women. I rode over 1000 miles on my bike between April and November. But the best decision I made all year was taking up the viola again. I keep talking about playing the viola because it's done so much for my well-being and it was the most fulfilling thing I did.
My resolution for 2006 was to be more optimistic. I think I kept it. I had my gloomy moments, but then I'd remind myself that I live in an exciting city at an exciting time in my life, and that I have many, many good things and people in my life. My resolution for 2007 is to travel more. I traveled this year, but I stayed on the East Coast the whole time. I'd like to visit friends in Pittsburgh, see my family more often, and get back to Europe. I'm already thinking about a ski trip to Vermont in January or February, so I'll start with that and work my way up to flying overseas again. The bottom line is that this blog needs to hit the road a little more often in 2007.
And that's it. I'm going to a party in a few hours where I will try not to drink to excess and ring in the new year sensibly. Tomorrow, it's 12+ hours of college football. Happy New Year!
Friday, December 29, 2006
Getting a new phone means putting the old one out to pasture, or in this case, stashing it in a drawer. I liked my old Nokia smartphone, but I never used any of the smartphone features. I took some photos with the camera over the past year or so, and to preserve them I've uploaded them to Flickr. Flickr says they were all taken today, but most of them were taken earlier this year. This photo of Magenta is one of my favorites. It was my phone background for all of 2006, a constant reminder of my late friend. I still miss the big guy.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Johnstown is a weird place to me now. There's a certain level of familiarity with the city: for example, my neighborhood looks exactly the same as it always did, and the streets all go to the same places. But the downtown area has changed significantly and I didn't recognize most of the buildings as we drove down the hill from my neighborhood to downtown. It was still Johnstown, but not a Johnstown I know.
This has also been the first trip home where I didn't feel bad that I could only stay for a few days. In years past I've left to return to New York thinking that I should have stayed longer. I had a much better time at home than I expected, but this year it felt like just long enough to be there. I'm in a hotel in Reading now and I'm ready to go back to New York tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to a long weekend in the city with no major plans. I do have some things in mind to do to occupy those three days, most of them relaxing and low-key.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
How do I know I was drunk? I talked to a bunch of people I didn't know, and I thought that when the party was over the after-party at a bar down the street sounded like a good idea. However, I wasn't that bad, I think. I remember the entire evening, the good and the not so good. I've got a hangover that's about a 7 on a scale from 1 to 10. Back in August I came to work with a 14. But I actually got to work a few minutes early this morning, thanks to one of my friends calling me at 7:45 AM to get my address for his holiday card. I think I'll feel completely human again once the little drummer boy in my head takes a break.
While I try to avoid passing out at my desk, check out the photographic record of the debauchery.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
This was my third time at New York's Tuba Christmas, so at this point I think I'm a geeky fan. I wasn't the only one: there were a few people next to me who had just come for the music (as opposed to having a family member in the ensemble), and then there was this guy. You might have seen him on Conan O'Brien a few years ago as Blackwolf the Dragonmaster, when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog made fun of the Star Wars fans outside the Ziegfield theater. When I heard his voice yesterday as he loudly extolled the virtues of Tuba Christmas both here and abroad, I remembered that I'd seen him there last year, giving the same speech. His presence reminded me that no matter how geeky I might be on any given subject, there's someone out there geekier than me. The concert was fun as always, and there's nothing quite like hearing 300-plus tubas and euphoniums blasting out Christmas carols. One thing that I have to remember for next year is that Rockefeller Center is deceptively cold. It was about 50 degrees yesterday afternoon, but with the wind blowing across the ice rink, it felt more like 40 degrees and I was freezing without the lining in my jacket. I took some videos of the concert with my digital camera, but they're too big for YouTube so I need to find some software to shrink them before I can post them.
Later that evening, I met my regular Sunday night crew for the finale of The Amazing Race, which we watched at TARCon X at Stitch, a bar near Penn Station. The crowd at the bar cheered on the racers during the show, drowning out most of the dialogue. When the racers got to New York, the bar went crazy. The party calmed down after the show ended, then got out of control as the winners and the 2nd and 3rd place finishers arrived for photos. I'm surprised that I enjoyed the show this season as much as I did and I'm already excited about the next installment in the spring. I'm not ready to start posting on the Amazing Race message boards like some of the fans last night, but I'd agree that I'm hooked.
Friday, December 08, 2006
This morning I dreamed that I was shopping in a department store and carrying my jacket around, with my iPod in its usual inside pocket. I put the jacket down to try something on, then I must have forgotten the jacket, because the next thing I remember from the dream is collecting the jacket from the store's lost and found department. I told the lost and found clerk "that's my jacket, and my keys are in the right front pocket." He handed me the jacket, and I checked the inside pocket but my iPod wasn't there. The rest of the dream was short but vivid. I was upset that my iPod was gone and that I'd have to get a new one, and cursing my stupidity at forgetting the jacket in the first place, leading to the loss of the iPod. When I woke up and realized it had all been a dream I was incredibly relieved. I still had to go straight to my computer and make sure that the iPod was there, plugged in, charged and synched, just where I'd left it the night before.
Also, we rehearsed in the new church for this concert last night. I took a few photos and uploaded them to Flickr. The church is more like a cathedral: long, with a high ceiling and massive altar. The choral and concluding movements are going to sound fantastic in there, but the others are going to echo like crazy. It's still going to be an excellent concert.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
The notes below come from NYRO's music director and conductor, David Leibowitz.
On Saturday, December 16, the New York Repertory Orchestra will perform Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 3. This titanic work, for large orchestra, mezzo-soprano soloist, women’s chorus, and children’s chorus — over 100 performers — embodies Mahler’s epic struggle to create a musical world that encompasses the entirety of the mankind’s experience – from the external natural world, to humanity’s internal world of dreams, joy, pain, self-doubt, and, finally, the redemptive power of love.
And what better way is there to triumph over a cold and dark winter’s night than with a performance of one of the world’s great musical masterpieces?
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor – Judith Engel, mezzo-soprano
When: Saturday, December 16, 2006 – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Church of St. Paul the Apostle – 9th Avenue & 60th Street
(NOTE: This is not our usual venue – we needed a much bigger space for this immense work!)
Admission: $10 — All proceeds from this special benefit concert go towards maintaining NYRO’s ongoing mission — free performances of the world’s greatest music for everyone in our community
Here's some info about the program:
Mahler’s epic Third Symphony embodies the composer’s struggle to create a musical world that encompasses the fullness of the human experience. It begins with the annual rebirth of springtime and the simple beauty of nature (complete with the flowers of the fields and animals of the forests). It moves on to a profound meditation on humanity’s place in the cosmos, a charming chorus of angels looking down from heaven, and then, finally, an overwhelming apotheosis of the beauty and power of love.
NYRO will be joined by soloist, Judith Engel, who has been recognized for her vocal mastery and superb dramatic skills. Her voluptuous mezzo-soprano has been described as “a bejeweled voice of absolute transparency and expert control.”
The emotional sweep of this monumental work is unrivalled in all of music. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear this towering masterpiece and to support NYRO at the same time!
Friday, December 01, 2006
I also used to be active on a Novell GroupWise e-mail list, back in the late '90s and 2000 when I e-mail management was my primary job function. Copies of my posts on this list are still floating around the Internet, which explains why they come up when you Google "Phil Catelinet." I have to use Lotus Notes at work, and I still miss GroupWise. It was a real e-mail system, as opposed to Notes, which is a database with an e-mail system awkwardly bolted onto it.
I forgot to mark this milestone in my life, but the end of May 2006 wasn't just the 10-year anniversary of my graduation from Georgetown. May 29, 2006 was the 10th anniversary of the start date of my first real job out of college as an IT professional. As of this year, I've been working full-time in IT for 10 years. And with my Novell background, I already feel like a graybeard talking about the "good old days" when we had to use floppy disks and program in BASIC. Maybe this year when I'm home for Christmas I'll finally break out my old Commodore 64 and see if it still works.
Monday, November 27, 2006
I prepped the turkey and started making the gravy late Wednesday night after spending most of the evening drinking with some friends. While the gravy was simmering on the stove, I was downstairs at the bar enjoying a few more beers. Maybe it was my state of inebriation, or maybe it was the fact that I used the giblets to make it, but that was the best gravy I've ever had. I could drink it straight. The brined turkey came out juicy and delicious, just as I'd hoped. Thanksgiving dinner was a complete success, and the old and new friends who dined at my apartment thoroughly enjoyed the meal. In the process, I used every single plate and bowl in my set of dishes. I've never seen that happen before.
Saturday night was a "Match Game" marathon viewing party at a friend's apartment. It was a collision of worlds as old friends from Georgetown got reacquainted and met new friends from New York and beyond. I took some of the photos from that night, but I don't remember which ones -- someone else commandeered my camera and got some great snapshots.
I also saw The Departed (finally!) and Casino Royale this weekend. They're both excellent movies, but they could each lose about 15 minutes. I spent nearly six hours in movie theaters this weekend, and I only saw two films.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
As in past years, I'm staying in the city for Thanksgiving. I was tempted to visit my family this year, but even if I'm traveling by myself it's still a serious pain in the ass to get out of New York for this weekend. I'm hosting tomorrow night's dinner for some friends at my apartment, and I'm in charge of the turkey, gravy, and cornbread. This evening, I'm brining the 13-lb turkey in a giant bucket of salt water. I've brined chickens before, but never a turkey. Brining the bird is supposed to seal in all the moisture and leave you and your guests with an extra-juicy turkey. It's worked for roast chicken, so it should work just as well on a turkey, just on a larger scale. Tomorrow morning James arrives with the roasting pan and we'll cook that bad boy for about four hours. Hopefully, when the rest of my guests arrive in the afternoon we'll have an actual meal to serve them. No matter what, the best thing about having dinner at my apartment is that when I'm ready to pass out in a food coma, I can do it on my own couch.
I'm not sure how I'm spending the rest of my weekend, but I'll probably see at least one movie and maybe finish up one of the projects I've been working on at home lately. If nothing else, it will be a much less dramatic weekend than last year.
Monday, November 20, 2006
On Saturday afternoon I went to Mo's Caribbean to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game with some friends, both partisan and non-. Mo's has a frat-boy feel to it, and just about everyone there had some stake in the game, so whenever either team scored the place erupted in cheers and drunken renditions of "Hail To The Victors" or the OSU fight song. The game was as entertaining as I'd hoped, and the rowdy atmosphere made for a fun viewing experience, definitely better than watching it at home. James couldn't see the game, so I sent him updates by text message in the 2nd half. I have to get a better deal on text messages in my next cell phone plan, because I'm too cheap to pay 10 cents a message.
After the game I ate a quick dinner at a pizza joint and hopped on the subway to Williamsburg to catch up with some friends from work who were wrapping up an all-day pub crawl. The first stop was Barcade, a bar with an assortment of 1980s-era arcade games and at least 20 microbrews on tap. After a few drinks there, the remainder of the pub crawl group moved on to The Levee to wrap up. I ended up getting home around 2 AM, thankfully not so drunk as to be hung over on Sunday.
On Sunday morning another friend from work picked me up in his SUV and we drove out to Ikea so I could pick up some new furniture. Last week I wrote about my old bookcase nearly falling over on me. I'd looked around my neighborhood at some other bookcase and dresser options, but I hadn't seen anything in my price range or that I really preferred over something from Ikea. My friend agreed to give me a ride and save me the delivery charge, and I promised we'd go early so he could have the rest of his day for his own plans. I bought a new six-drawer dresser for my bedroom, a new bookcase, a second CD tower for my living room, and a new floor lamp for the living room and a desk lamp for my office. We got back from the store at 12:30, and I spent the rest of my afternoon assembling the bookcase, lamp, and dresser. I was going to wait until my friends came over on Thursday for Thanksgiving to move the old bookcase to the trash, but when I noticed it had the same hex bolts as the Ikea furniture I took it apart and threw it out in pieces. It was in surprisingly decent shape after all, and I probably could have moved some other things around and kept it. But since it didn't match anything else in my apartment and it was so old I decided to trash it anyway. And after I'd re-shelved all my books I didn't need a second bookcase.
I took some photos of the mess I made yesterday, so check them out in this Flickr set. Note the special appearance by Vladi in one of the photos.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
The good thing is that unlike Gould, I don't hum or sing along when I'm playing the viola. I can't play and talk, sing, or hum at the same time. In fact, when I was in college I had an exam for a music theory class where I had to play one melody and sing a different tune at the same time. It was one of the most difficult musical things I've had to learn, and I doubt I could do it again now. Also, this habit is not to be confused with my other habit of "air-conducting" along with classical music. Since I live alone and sit in a cubicle by myself at work, I'm not at all worried that someone is going to see me conducting an orchestra that isn't there.
All of these weird idiosyncracies are probably signs that I should have pursued a career in music, or at least gotten back into active playing well before this fall.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
In the meantime I gave away a few books to a co-worker and started thinking about getting rid of some of my other books. Clearly, getting more books would be a bad idea given my current situation. However, on Wednesday night, James and I went to the Borders at the Time Warner Center for a discussion and signing of The Blind Side with Michael Lewis. I bought a copy of Lewis' new book for him to sign, and since the store gave all of us coupons for 30% off any sports books, I bought Friday Night Lights as well. I love the TV show, and I didn't see the movie last year because I wanted to read the book first. So I gave away two books, and I picked up two more. My grand plan to decrease the number of books in my office is off to a smashing start.
One note on the signing: James, along with a few other people in front of us, had Lewis personalize the signature in the book. But I just had him sign it for me without putting my name in it. If I'd planned to give the book as a gift, I'd have had him personalize it. Since the book is for me, I didn't feel like I needed to see "To Phil" next to the signature. James accused me of intending to re-sell the book on eBay, which made me think that's what Lewis thought I planned to do as well. Rest assured I'm not selling my copy of The Blind Side on eBay. I do remember reading somewhere that signed copies of books are worth more without a personalized inscription, and that did play into my thinking. But I just didn't need to see my own name on the inside of the book.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
This is supposed to be the last election for the old voting machines in New York. Next year we're supposed to get new electronic voting machines. I can just imagine the lines at the polls next year, with the poll workers being just as clueless as the voters as to how the machines work. I think I'll vote absentee ballot next time.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
So all's well that ends well, and so on. I realize now that I was exaggerating the effect of this "hostage crisis" on my life, but I did really want my clothes back. I could afford to replace the things in that bag, but it was a matter of principle. I shouldn't have to replace it unless the original clothes were destroyed in the fire. I do still need to go shopping for more clothes, but now I can afford to wait a few more days and go when it's convenient to my schedule, instead of changing my plans so I can buy some emergency khakis.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
Mozart: Symphonies 39, 40, 41 (Gunter Wand, NDR Symphony Orchestra)
Bruckner: F Minor Mass (a bunch of people I've never heard of before, it was $12 before the discount)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 (Eschenbach, Houston)
Stravinsky: Petrushka and Pulcinella Suite (Bernstein, NY Philharmonic)
Stravinsky: Rite of Spring and Firebird Suites (Ozawa/Chicago and Leinsdorf/Boston)
Strauss: Don Quixote and Schumann: Cello Concerto (Rostropovich on cello, Karajan and Bernstein, Berlin Orch. and Nat'l Orchestre de France)
Dvorak: Violin Concerto and Piano Quintet (Sarah Chang, Colin Davis, London Sym. Orch.)
Chopin: 2 piano concertos and some other works for piano & orchestra (Skrowaczewski, Alexis Weissenberg on piano)
Mahler: Symphony No. 7 (Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin)
They also had one copy of my grandfather's recording of Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto. Eight years ago, when EMI released the CD, I bought five copies of it at the same Lincoln Square Tower Records location on a weekend trip to New York because I couldn't find it anywhere in DC or online. At this point my father has three or four copies of it, my mother has two, and my brother and I have at least one apiece, so I left Tower's last copy on the rack.
I got nine CDs for a little over $100. The receipt said I saved $32, and I'm not sure if that's much of a bargain. At rehearsal my stand partner pointed out that I could pay $10 for CDs on iTunes or just download the same music illegally. I'm aware of both of those options, and I prefer to have physical copies of all of my music when possible. That way I have the original source material should I need to re-rip or restore my electronic copies of my collection. I've ripped all the CDs and put them on my iPod, but so far I've only listened to part of the Chopin disc. I'll get out earlier this afternoon, so I'll check out some of the others as I'm wandering the UES looking for bits and pieces of my costume for Saturday night's Halloween party. What I can find will determine what my costume turns out to be.
Still no word from the laundromat. Not only are they still closed, it doesn't look like anyone has been in there. I may be buying more clothes over the weekend to replace what's being held hostage.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I'm still resisting the temptation to get a Macbook.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
At 7:30 I went back out to the laundromat. By now FDNY was running water through some internal vent in the building, and showering the sidewalk in front with the runoff. When I looked in the laundromat, one of the firemen said "no one's in there" and I could see why: there were several inches of water on the floor and running out the door. I waited around until 8 PM but there was no sign that anyone was going to reappear to mind the store and give me my laundry. At that point I'd have accepted it in any condition, including "sopping wet." I eventually gave up and went home to call Time Warner and learned that they had a service problem over several blocks, including my own. I was able to sponge off a neighbor's DSL line for the evening (I know, God forbid I should go without Internet access!) but I didn't get to watch Monday Night Football or any of my recorded shows from the weekend. I did get some practicing done, however, so the lack of other entertainment options had at least one benefit.
This morning I left early, as I'm in a training class for VMWare the rest of the week. At 8 AM the laundromat wasn't open yet, and I was in a hurry anyway. But when I went by there at 5:30 PM, the shutters were still down and there was a sign in the window reading "closed for a few days -- cleaning store." So now they're holding my laundry hostage while they clean up the mess. It didn't even look that bad in there. Maybe tomorrow I can catch them while they're cleaning up the place. On the other hand, a few years ago one of the Chinese restaurants down the street had a fire and closed down, but left a sign on the door that said "we be open soon." That was in 2004 and I'm STILL waiting for them to reopen. I wonder if I have any legal options if the laundromat never reopens and lets me collect my laundry?
At least my cable TV and Internet were back when I got home tonight.
Friday, October 20, 2006
After rehearsal, I went to The Gaf to watch the end of Game 7 of the Mets-Cardinals NLCS. I wanted to be in a crowd if the Mets won, so I'd have some fellow fans to celebrate with. Instead, the Mets went down 3-1, and I paid for my beers and got the hell out of there. I had planned to go back there on Saturday night to watch game 1 of a Mets-Tigers World Series, but now I'm not sure I'll even watch the thing. I know the Mets are my adopted NY baseball team, and if the Pittsburgh Pirates were to ever miraculously get back into the playoffs I'd be cheering for them. So the Mets loss doesn't hurt me as much as it does the die-hard, grew-up-in-New-York-rooting-for-the-Mets fans. I acknowledge that. But it still doesn't feel good to me. I wanted to see the Mets in the World Series. I wanted a Mets championship parade through the Canyon of Heroes. Instead, I'll settle for the sour grapes of knowing that the Cardinals will probably lose 4 games to 0 or 4-1 to the Tigers in the World Series. And that there's always next year. And more importantly, there's football season, and hockey season, and EPL (Arsenal is finally showing signs of life!) and college basketball to keep my sports needs satisfied.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I had my friends take a photo of me after my concert on Saturday night to prove that I actually played in public with an orchestra for the first time in about a decade. Also, I don't have any recent photos of me all dressed up and with my viola, so here we are. The concert was a complete success. My friends enjoyed it, and we got several ovations at the end. I'm happier than I can express in words to have been a part of it.
For everyone who had something else to do tonight, the next concert is Mahler's 3rd Symphony on December 16. Mark your calendars now. I know it's the height of Christmas party season. That's why I'm getting the word out now, so you can tell people "I can't come to your party, I've got to hear my friend Phil play Mahler." It's going to be fantastic.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I was supposed to go to game 1 of the NLCS tonight at Shea Stadium. At 5:45 PM I was at Century 21 buying a light rain jacket and a Mets cap so I could stay dry and support my adopted NY baseball team. At 6 I was on the subway with a co-worker (going to the game with me) when a guy in full Mets team gear said that not only was the NLCS game cancelled, but game 2 of the ALCS was off as well because of the Lidle tragedy. We were already getting off the subway in midtown to meet my colleague's cousin, so the three of us went to a bar to get more news and see if the rain would let up. By 7 we found out the game was in fact officially postponed, so we had a few more drinks and made plans to go to the makeup game on Friday instead. Then I went home, had a late dinner, and watched yesterday's episode of "Friday Night Lights" (quite possibly my new favorite show; I'll have to write an entire post on the show sometime). Tomorrow night is dress rehearsal for Saturday's concert, so I wouldn't have been able to go to a game at all tomorrow. Friday, on the other hand, works out almost perfectly for me. If there is a game, and I can go, of course I'll have a write-up here by Saturday.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Earlier this week I received my part for Mahler's Symphony No. 3, the only piece on the December concert program. Those who know me know that I LOVE Mahler. As excited as I am for next weekend, I'm really looking forward to the next concert. I've never played a Mahler symphony before so I'm apprehensive about my ability to play the music. I've looked over the part and I know that I can play it, but it's going to require lots of practice time over the next two months. I can't wait to get started learning it.
Here are the full details for the concert next Saturday, for anyone who reads this blog but didn't receive the e-mail I sent out last week (the program notes were written by the orchestra's music director and conductor):
When: Saturday, October 14, 2006 – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Good Shepherd-Faith Church @ 152 West 66th St. (between B'way & Amsterdam)
- José Pablo Moncayo : Huapango
- Darius Milhaud: Le Carnaval d'Aix – Mitchell Vines, piano
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 "Winter Dreams"
Here's some info about the program:
Returning to the NYRO stage, pianist Mitchell Vines will join us as soloist in Darius Milhaud's light-hearted and free-spirited piano concerto, Le Carnaval d'Aix. Inspired by the commedia dell'arte tradition, it consists of 12 miniatures that portray the different characters, events, and moods of carnival time in the French village of Aix-en-Provence. Full of lively rhythms and tender melodies, Le Carnaval d'Aix is light, joyful, and a lot of fun.
The major work on the program will be the Symphony No. 1 in G minor by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Written by the youthful composer (and subtitled "Winter Dreams") the piece is by turns haunting, graceful, lighthearted, and, finally, immensely powerful. Full of the wonderful melodies, robust harmonies, and sensuous orchestral colors for which he would soon become world-famous, this first essay in the symphonic genre gives us an early look at the young genius.
Our concert begins with the rousing Huapango, by Mexican composer José Pablo Moncayo. Based on the Mexican folk dances from the popular festivals of the costal region of Veracruz, Huapango is an exhilarating mix of distinctly Latin rhythms and melodies; when these rhythms and melodies are combined, the results are wild, raucous and very exciting!
Hope to see you there,
David Leibowitz, Music Director
New York Repertory Orchestra
Thursday, October 05, 2006
I went to a monthly sports book reading event at Happy Ending on the Lower East Side. It's hosted by Dan Shanoff, who used to write the Daily Quickie column on ESPN.com and now blogs on his own. I'd been wanting to go for a while, but I've always had other plans. However, this evening I was free, so I had dinner at work and then hopped the J train to Bowery and Delancey. (Quick side note: I hardly ever take the J/M/Z trains, and when I do, I feel like I'm on a completely different subway system in some foreign city. The trains and stations look the same, but they're so unfamiliar that they seem completely alien to me. And when I get out of the subway, I'm in a neighborhood that's I've left largely unexplored, so I always expect to get lost.) The big draw for this month's reading was Will Leitch, editor of Deadspin.com, one of my favorite blogs. Before Will got up to talk, the guys who do the 0:01 photo for ESPN The Magazine each month presented a slide show of their work and talked about their new book, a collection of 0:01 photos. Then Tom Callahan, author of a new book about Johnny Unitas, talked about working with Unitas and interviewing old Baltimore Colts players and coaches. Will was the last speaker on the program, and he read two short pieces, one from his book Life as a Loser and another that I think he said hasn't been published yet (I don't remember exactly).
After the reading I stuck around, had another beer or two, and got to meet Will, his fiancee Shari (with her own book now on sale), Dan Shanoff, and some other Deadspin readers and sports fans. I ended up sticking around until the bitter end, mostly because I wasn't in any hurry to get home and I was enjoying talking sports and making fun of everyone else's teams. I'm already looking forward to the next event: a reading with Michael Lewis (of "Moneyball" fame) on November 8. Next time I think the Deadspin readers need to wear nametags with their commenter names on them. I'm not sure who I met this evening, but I'm sure some of them are regular commenters over there. I'll have to become a little more active in that regard myself. Not that it's a big secret, but over there I'm Peter Cavan, a pseudonym my grandfather used to use (to what end, I have no idea).
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
I took it easy on Saturday morning, what with my hangover and all. I didn't have much time to sleep in, as the plumber showed up around 10 AM to start working on my bathroom sink.
Last weekend, I noticed that I had some kind of (what seemed like a minor) clog in my bathroom sink. Whenever I ran the water in the bathroom, I'd hear a gurgling sound from my kitchen sink (the two rooms are adjacent and the sink pipes are connected). I didn't think much about it until last Tuesday night. I washed some dishes, then went into the bathroom and noticed that my bathroom sink had filled almost to the point of overflowing with dirty dishwater. I bailed it out, then called my super to let him know about the problem. He called me back on Wednesday afternoon to tell me that his plumber had been over there to look at the situation and that it would be fixed shortly. So imagine my surprise when I came home that night to find a huge mess in both the kitchen and the bathroom. Apparently the plumber had had to get under my kitchen sink, so all of the liquor and cleaning supplies I keep there were on the kitchen floor, along with a generous amount of filth. The bathroom was just as bad, and I didn't have a functioning bathroom sink either. At least my shower, toilet, and kitchen sink were still working. My super stopped by and said that he'd try to have the work finished on Thursday or Friday, and if nothing else, he'd get someone to clean up the kitchen. When I got home from rehearsal on Thursday night, nothing had changed. No cleanup or further repairs seem to have happened. By Friday night the work in the kitchen was done, so on Saturday morning I put all of my stuff back under the sink. The plumber worked in the bathroom on Saturday and again on Sunday, and by Sunday afternoon I had a new cabinet and sink in my bathroom, but it was still not connected. The last thing I heard was that the plumbing supply store in my neighborhood was closed on Monday, so the plumber would get the supplies on Tuesday, though he didn't say exactly when he'd finish the job.
In addition to all of that mishegoss, on Saturday night I managed to lock myself out of the apartment while I was making dinner. My super had flipped the switch on the apartment door that sets the knob to locked, and I'm not used to that. I took out the trash, and just as the door closed I realized I didn't have my keys. I did have my phone, so I called my super and he was kind enough to come right over and let me back in. Actually, as the plumber had his spare key to my apartment, the super had to jimmy the lock with a piece of metal. In the meantime, James had arrived for dinner and football, and he made many, many jokes about my ineptitude. We were able to save the chili I'd left on the stove, and Michigan beat Minnesota, so it turned out to be a good night after all.
The rant part of this is that all I had was a damn clog in the pipes, and now I'm getting a new sink?! I don't really see how a clogged pipe leads to a completely new sink, and while I'm waiting for workmen and supplies to finish the job, I'm brushing my teeth and washing my face in my kitchen. I wish I'd taken pictures of the mess; it was quite spectacular.
I watched football for a while on Sunday afternoon, then I had an early dinner and went to the Javits Center for Kol Nidre service for the start of Yom Kippur. It's supposed to be a 25-hour fast (from sundown to one hour after sundown the next day), but since I'd had to eat dinner at 4:30 on Sunday and I waited until 8 PM to eat dinner tonight, it ended up being about a 28-hour fast. Tonight's dinner was a three-egg omelet with green onions, Cheddar cheese and cilantro, hash browns with mushrooms, turkey bacon, and toast. Mmm, breakfast for dinner.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Over 500000 IBM/Lenovo laptop batteries subject to recall
I've been using an IBM/Lenovo T60 ThinkPad for the past four months, and it's on the list. I just checked my battery and it's not subject to the recall. Although this is a laptop from work, so I wouldn't have to handle the recall if it was affected, but it's good to know that my laptop isn't going to explode on me, or worse, on my cats when I'm not home. I'm willing to bet that the TSA issues a blanket ban on all laptop batteries on flights sometime soon, just because they can.
Stupid Sony with their stupid laptop battery screw-ups....
Monday, September 25, 2006
- iTunes sells the album or songs from it in the Store
- the album is tagged properly so iTunes can recognize it
The worst part? When I listen to music on my iPod, I'm not looking at it -- it's always in my bag or on my desk and out of the way. So I don't even see all this album cover art I've gone to such lengths to add to my collection. But the process of adding the artwork has become an addiction. I may need an iPod support group soon.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Or you could e-mail me instead.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Maybe my only complaint about the iPod is that Apple doesn't ship it with any kind of protective case. There's a little faux velvet sleeve in the box that keeps the iPod from getting scratched, but in the event of a drop or a fall (like when my cats inevitably knock it off my desk) the sleeve isn't going to be of much help. So on Saturday evening iPod and I went to the Apple store in midtown and I bought it a proper $30 plastic and rubber case. The Apple store itself is a weird place to hang out. It's open 24 hours, which makes me wonder who is in there at 4 AM on a Tuesday. It was crowded with people checking their e-mail and surfing on MacBooks and iMacs, some of them tourists and some locals. And there are iPods everywhere of all makes and models. As much as I like my iPod, the new nano with the curved, brushed metal exterior (like the old iPod Mini) was tempting. All the iPods have music and videos on them, so there's a veritable cacophony of sound. All they need to do is serve alcohol and it would be one of the hippest bars in Manhattan.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Tonight was my second orchestra rehearsal, and it seems that my week of practice paid off, for the most part. I still made a few mistakes, but I was far more comfortable with the music than I was last week. It looks like I'm going to be sticking around with this group, so I'll keep updating you, my faithful readers, as the first concert approaches next month. At least one of you had better come out to support me. God knows I've gone to enough plays and concerts for my friends. You all owe me, damn it!
By the way, it's the New York Repertory Orchestra.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The iRiver player is two years old, and for the past year the headphone jack has been funky. I have to wiggle and pull on it to get my music to sound right. Otherwise it "crackles" and sounds muffled. I've done some Googling and it's possible to open the player and re-solder the headphone jack. But I'm not an electronics expert and I don't own a soldering iron. I don't even own the proper tool to open the case. There's no guarantee this surgical procedure would work or that I'd be able to get the player back together again. And I'd have to do this at work, because my cats get all excited anytime I do any work on my desk at home and get in my way. So the iRiver player is probably going to end up on eBay, where I hope some music lover with expertise in repairs will pick it up.
Another reason I decided to get the iPod is that it's got 60 GB of space, instead of my current 40 GB. I'm actually running out of room on my player, and rather than delete something, I thought I'd just get a larger player. And I can hack the iPod firmware to customize it the same way I've hacked the iRiver, so I don't have to use iTunes. And I can finally be one of the "cool" kids with the iPod. Which means it'll probably get stolen on the subway in the first week. The tipping point for the iPod buy was yesterday, when Apple announced the new iPods. They slashed prices on the old 60 GB refurbs, so I can get one for 2/3 of what I paid for the iRiver when it was new. So if I turn the iPod into a paperweight in the first ten minutes with a hack, at least I won't be out the full purchase price.
In other tech news, I finally got Dell to replace the bad hard drive in my home PC. However, instead of just shipping me the replacement drive, apparently they're going to send someone to my house to install it. I wonder how long I'll have to wait for that service call?
Sunday, September 10, 2006
4:45 AM: I got about four or five hours' sleep on Saturday night, but when the alarm goes off, it's still too early. I get up right away and turn on some lights and start getting ready.
5:30 AM: I roll out onto 1st Ave, notice the two bartenders at The Gaf are still awake and sitting at the far end of the bar, and I ride over to Central Park. I check in at the marshals table, get my orange vest and supplies, and wait to be "pulsed" with the rest of the riders.
6:10 AM: I leave the Park at the tail end of a large group of riders. Like last year, we meander around upper Manhattan over to Riverside Drive, then we take Ninth Avenue to the Village, then down Broadway to the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite part of the day: riding across the Brooklyn Bridge with the sun coming up on my left.
7:30 AM: I arrive at Prospect Park for the first rest stop. So far, so good. I get some food, stretch, and roll out about 20 minutes later.
8:30 AM: I get to the Shore Parkway bike path, which has been recently paved and rehabbed. I kick the bike into high gear and start dropping riders behind me. I love moments like this one. I also notice my quads are already starting to ache, and I've just ridden 30 miles so far. It's going to be a long day.
9:30 AM: I arrive at Canarsie Pier, the second rest stop. I take a little more time to rest and eat, but I'm still on a good pace for the day. I leave the rest stop just before 10.
10:15 AM: I stop to help another rider with a flat. I get the inner tube changed, but I can't get any air into the tire with her pump. Her friend rides back to meet us and he doesn't get too far with the pump either. I tell them to look for a gas station and see if they can use a compressor to inflate the tire. It turns out there are two or three gas stations less than half a mile from where we were.
11 AM: I see another rider on a red and gold Trek 7500FX (the same bike as mine), so I slow down to chat with her. She bought hers used about 18 months back, and added a rear rack and bag. She and her husband are making their own route, starting from Prospect Park and cutting out the Bronx. That's fine with me; they paid for the ride, so they can go where they want. I leave them behind in Corona Park, but they catch up to me after I make a few wrong turns. I see them again after I take my lap around the Kissena Park velodrome, and I wonder if she's going to take her bike for a lap. It doesn't look like she will.
12 PM: I get to the rest stop in Kissena Park. I don't like the food selection here (no PB & J sandwiches) so I get out some of the food I packed. I've been carrying it long enough, I might as well eat some of it. I take another 20 minutes or so to rest up, then I hit the road again.
12:45 PM: I miss a badly-marked turn a few miles later and ride about a mile out of my way before I see another group of riders who look as confused as I do. I can't figure out where we're supposed to go on the map, so we all decide to backtrack and see if we can find our way. About a mile later, we see the missed turn and get back on the route. It would be the worst road marking I'd see all day, which is a good sign.
1:40 PM: I'm in the middle of a conversation with another rider about his musical tastes (he had his iPod strapped to his handlebars along with some speakers) when I hear someone calling for a marshal. It's another rider with a flat. Again, I manage to get the tube changed, using one of my spare tubes, but again we can't get the tire inflated with my pump or his. Another marshal stops and tries a CO2 cartridge, but we end up wasting most of it. Another pair of riders stop with a decent bike pump, but the rider whose bike we're working on doesn't seem happy with the amount of air we're able to put in the tire. After 15 minutes, I make the same suggestion to him about finding a gas station, and I leave the three of them there.
2:40 PM: I arrive at the Astoria Park rest stop, about 65 miles into the ride. With all my delays, and 35 miles remaining, I'm now wondering if I can get to the finish at Central Park by 6 PM, when they close it down. I know the marshal check-in table will be open late, but I want to get there by 6 if I can manage it. I try to cram 30 minutes of rest into 20 minutes of actual time and I leave Astoria Park around 3 PM.
3:20 PM: I finally get off the Triboro Bridge, on Ward's Island. If riding across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise is the yearly high point of the Century, riding across the Triboro Bridge in its crappy, tiny bike lane is the annual nadir. It's a necessary evil, and I appreciate that the path is there, but it just sucks. We all have to walk our bikes up the stairs, and most of us are confused by the bike ramps (little narrow-channeled metal rails that let you roll the bike up the stairs) mounted to the stairs. They're mounted on the left side of the stairs, but most people walk with their bikes on the right so they don't get chain grease on their legs. Putting the bike ramps on the left side means bikers have to walk with the bike on the wrong side. Most of the riders today carry their bikes instead.
4 PM-4:30 PM: The Bronx. I am repeatedly asked how many miles are left, and I give a different, incorrect answer each time. The truth is that my bike computer has one mileage count and the cue sheet has another, so I'm left guessing how many actual miles remain. I try to make them happy by telling them that it's only a few miles to the next rest stop.
4:53 PM: Van Cortlandt Park rest stop. 90 miles complete, and the cue sheet says it's 104 total miles this year from start to finish. I'm now in serious danger of getting back after 6. I grab some food, stretch, say hi to a rider I met on one of my training rides, and I get out of there about 5:10 PM.
5:30 PM: I'm in a group of 10-20 riders. There are no Riverdale hills this year, so we're cruising on level streets through the South Bronx to the Broadway Bridge and Manhattan. A few people in the group have never been in this part of Manhattan before, but I assure them that I've been here many times and I know the way we're going. We weave through traffic on Dyckman and get onto the Harlem River Greenway. I put the bike back into high gear, finding reserves of energy I didn't know I had, and I get the bike up to 20 MPH. A trio of riders speeds past me on my left, and I wonder what combination of lightweight bikes, age, and physical shape allows them to pass me at will that late in the ride. One of them has knobby tires on his bike, which makes me feel even worse.
5:45 PM: It's nearly the home stretch. There are about half a dozen riders ahead of me, including the ones that passed me before, and they all miss a turn. I shout "RIGHT TURN!!" at them and slow down to make the turn. They fall in well behind me. I would have slowed down for them, but since they'd all passed me on the Greenway, I'm not doing them any favors now.
5:55 PM: I ride into Central Park and find the reception committee is still hard at work. I check back in at the marshal table, collect my t-shirt and water bottle. My day is officially over. Total mileage for the century: my computer says roughly 103 miles. I was ahead of the cue sheet for most of the ride, so I'm not sure how I caught up.
6:15 PM: I decide to stick around for a while and help clean up. There is word that a truck will soon arrive onto which we can load all of the leftover shirts, bottles, and office supplies. I give the truck until 7 PM to show up, then I'm leaving. In the meantime, I help break down tables, move some boxes around, and chat with various people also hanging around the finish area.
6:45 PM: No sign of the truck. I keep stretching and walking around, trying to keep my circulation up. I know that if I sit down, I'm not getting up for a while.
6:59 PM: The truck arrives. There are about 15 people helping to load the truck.
7:10 PM: A trio of homeless women come over and get into an argument with the TA staff about getting free water bottles and the large pile of leftover fruit and bread near the park entrance. Many profanities are uttered, as far as I could tell all coming from the homeless women.
7:20 PM: The truck is moved near the pile of materials near the park entrance. Another homeless man walks over and keeps pestering us for a piece of bread. The food is all going on another truck that will take it to the Bowery Mission, so we're not supposed to give it out. Eventually, the homeless man wanders off. I feel bad, but policy is policy.
7:30 PM: The truck is now almost full. Earlier, the TA staff had asked if any of us remaining marshals wanted to come down to the TA office on 27th St. to unload the truck, offering free beer as an incentive. If I lived downtown, I might have considered it, but I'm really tired and hungry now, and the prospect of riding 60 blocks home in the dark (or taking the subway) isn't a welcome one. And I have things to do at home tonight. I say goodbye to the staff, thank them again for organizing another great ride, and head out. On the way out, I see a woman that I met on one of my training rides. She and a friend just finished the Century a few minutes ago, which reminds me of my "Century from Hell" in 2002, when I bonked in the Bronx and needed serious encouragement from James just to finish. I talk with them for a few minutes, but my stomach is rumbling and my muscles are screaming for relief, so it's time for me to go home.
7:45 PM: I wait in line at Luigi's for my reward, a stromboli filled with pepperoni, sausage, ham and cheese. I'm still wearing my bike clothes. I probably smell terrible, but I don't care.
8 PM: I've showered, I'm eating my dinner, watching TV, and resting my sore ass on the couch. I foresee an early bedtime tonight.
Friday, September 08, 2006
When I got home, I put on the Steelers-Dolphins game, and I started screaming at the TV like it was the Super Bowl all over again. I need to tone it down just a bit for the regular season, or else I'll have a heart attack for certain. But Pittsburgh pulled out the win, so everything turned out OK. From what I saw, it doesn't look like this team has lost anything from last season. After the game, I watched the pre-game show, and seeing the ceremony where they unveiled the banners for each championship team made me all kinds of happy. By the way, the John Williams theme for NBC's football coverage makes it sound like the Imperial stormtroopers are marching into the Rebel base. I keep expecting to see Darth Vader on the field. I'll have to wait for a Raiders game to see that.
And I rode 20 miles in Central Park early this morning in my final tune-up for Sunday's NYC Century. I'm at 775 miles for the year, and after this weekend I'll be close to 900. I think my goal of 1000 miles is within reach, even with me taking half the summer off from the bike. Next summer I'll have to set the bar even higher.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I contacted two other Manhattan-based community orchestras and I've got tryouts with them in the coming weeks. So I will be playing somewhere, at least for a few weeks. In the meantime I'm still practicing almost every night, probably driving my neighbors crazy with the Telemann concerto and the viola parts to various symphonies. I think I'm rounding back into the form I had when I was in high school, which, to be honest, was when I was at the peak of my talents. I hardly ever had time to practice in college, so I learned the orchestral music in rehearsals instead of on my own. I'm trying things differently this time around. We'll see how long I can keep up the regular practicing.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Speaking of pro football, the Steelers went 0-4 in the preseason, and while I'm not worried, I am trying to temper my expectations for this year. I'll be happy if they make the playoffs -- in their conference, anything more than that is gravy.
I watched Mississippi State get crushed by South Carolina last night. The score may have been just 15-0, but MSU looked awful. It should have been 35-0 given how they played. It's going to be a long season in Starkville. Penn State plays Akron tomorrow, and that should be an easy win for them. Like with Pittsburgh, I'll be happy if Penn State has a winning record and goes to a New Year's Day bowl game. They lost a lot of good players from last year's team, so I doubt they'll match last year's record, but a winning season isn't too much to ask. Otherwise, fans will be calling for Joe Paterno's head once again.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Thursday: I had lunch with two of my old college friends/former roommates at The Quarterdeck in Arlington. The three of us attacked a pile of two dozen crabs and made them disappear over the course of two hours. I would have taken pictures of the feast, but I would have gotten Old Bay seasoning on my camera. Back at home that afternoon, I took a number of photos of flowers in my father's garden. I played with the macro and color filter settings on the camera just to see what would happen. Later that night, my brother and his friend came over for dinner, and then we had a little family concert. I forgot about the weird facial expressions I make while I'm playing the viola.
Friday: my father and I took my cousin to the Air & Space Museum. I hadn't been there in about ten years, but I immediately noticed the addition of the SpaceShipOne and the glider that went around the world in the museum's main hall. My cousin went off to see the space exploration wing, so my dad and I went to see the WWI and WWII planes at the opposite end of the museum. We're aviation geeks, so we noticed changes like that they'd moved the Messerschmidt 262 from the WWII hall to the jet plane exhibit. Also, the Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise now sits in the basement gift shop, instead of in an exhibit hall. I thought it looked better hanging from the ceiling, but in its new glass case I got better close-ups. That night we watched The Blue Max, a movie about German fighter pilots in WWI, starring George Peppard and James Mason. The flying sequences were fantastic, but the accents were not. Since it was an American production, the actors spoke in clipped accents meant to signify them as foreign. However, about 20 minutes in, George Peppard, also playing a German, gave up all pretense of an accent and became Hannibal from The A-Team.
Saturday: I drove out to the Dulles Airport area of Virginia to visit a good friend who recently moved there from New York. I didn't take any photos while I was there, so that explains why there aren't any. I'm still a little disturbed by the "town center" concept of suburban planning, but I'm getting used to the idea, as it's clearly here to stay. Though if I'd moved out to the far western suburbs of DC about ten years ago to get away from civilization, I think I'd be upset that civilization has now expanded out that far. Where my friend lives now was farmland just a few years ago. Now it's townhouses, apartments, and a brand new shopping center. I wonder what kind of character these new neighborhoods will have ten years from now. Right now they're not all that inviting: there's too much space between the large houses, and not enough space between the townhouses. And the town center doesn't offer much in the way of entertainment (though there is a multiplex under construction and presumably more restaurants on the way). I guess if you're moving out that far, you're not looking for different dining options each night. In any case, my friend is ecstatic to be there and out of New York, and I was glad to see the change.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
This is as good a time as any to reveal my latest project. I am a violist, but I haven't played actively for years. I've picked up the viola about once a year and messed around with it just to make sure my fingers still knew where the notes were, but my calluses disappeared long ago and I haven't played in any sort of organized group since college. Lately I've had a strong urge to get back into performing with an ensemble, so about a month ago I started making an effort to practice regularly. I've been practicing some of my old favorite pieces, and they're beginning to sound like I think they should. I'll put it this way: I haven't actually PRACTICED since high school (by which I mean playing passages or even single measures over and over again), but I found myself doing that the other night, probably annoying my neighbors in the process. A few weeks ago I decided I was ready to take a chance at getting into a community orchestra, so I set up an audition with a local group I'd heard about during my last real performing gig (a community theater production of Company in May 2003). I won't say which orchestra it is yet; I'll wait and see if I pass the audition first. I'm surprised at how much I want to do this. I haven't had this kind of desire for a life goal in a long, long time. My audition is next Tuesday night. I'm not nervous yet, but I'm starting to think I will be by then. If I don't get into this group, there are others in NYC, so I will play somewhere with someone else this fall.
I bring all of this up because while I'm down here, my brother, my cousin who's visiting from England, and probably a few other friends and relatives are helping me with my practice sessions. My brother has been playing the violin for almost as many years as I've been playing the viola, but the difference is that he's currently taking lessons, while I'm just working on my own. On Wednesday night he brought his violin to my dad's house and we went over my audition pieces for about two hours. He gave me some much-needed feedback and insight, and I just hope I can remember all of the things he's told me and incorporate them into my performance.