Monday, June 26, 2006

First Aaron Spelling, now "Eddie," who's next?

This afternoon, Defamer alerted readers that Moose, the Jack Russell terrier who starred in the TV show "Frasier" as "Eddie," had passed on. Moose was 16 and had lived a full, star-crossed life, and he will be remembered fondly. However, that's not why I'm posting this. It was the following quote from Defamer that had me nearly crying with laughter:
As always, we are required to remind you that these celebrity death come in threes: We shall sleep less soundly until we receive word that the Hollywood Grim Reaper's bony knuckle has rapped at the final door, doggie or otherwise.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Quake is 10, and once more I feel old

Slashdot points out that ten years ago yesterday the original version of Quake appeared on download servers at I was already familiar with the FPS genre in the form of Castle Wolfenstein, DOOM, and Duke Nukem, but Quake was the game that began my habit of playing online late at night. I used to deathmatch against my friends at work and in the computer lab, and I remember downloading Quake at the office at Georgetown and playing it in the "War Room" (the closet-like workspace I shared with my boss and our student assistant) during lunch. When I bought my first home PC six months later I loaded Quake onto it and would play online into the wee hours against whoever was out there. I had to play at night so I wouldn't tie up the phone line during the day. And when I got my first 3D-capable video card, well, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I still play FPS games online occasionally, but I don't have much of a tolerance for other gamers anymore, so now when I play games it's mostly offline. Still, I can hardly believe it's been ten years. I keep a copy of the original Quake handy for the occasional road trip when I get really bored. It will actually play on the laptops I get from work, and it's still fun to frag computer-controlled monsters once in a while.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Isiah Thomas, coach of the New York Knicks

I used to be a serious Knicks fan, when I was in college and the Knicks had Patrick Ewing and John Starks and were perennial title contenders. But since 2000 the team has become the longest-running joke in the NBA, even more laughable than the Los Angeles Clippers (who actually won a playoff series this year!). Last year the Knicks hired Larry Brown to resurrect the franchise, but instead of a turnaround he helped drive the team further into the ground. While Brown didn't do himself many favors by alienating his players, he wasn't the right coach for this mess. This morning brought the news that we all knew was coming: Brown is out after one season and Isiah Thomas is the new head coach as well as GM and team president. Let's see what Isiah has done for the Knicks: he's brought in a bunch of me-first players, hired and fired several coaches, including a guaranteed Hall of Famer in Brown, and traded away valuable draft picks, including the 2007 first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls. It's an overpaid, underperforming team with terrible chemistry, and now the guy who singlehandedly destroyed a popular minor league in the CBA is now the only guy steering the ship. Deadspin had a post on this story, but instead of commenting themselves they just turned it over to their legion of commenters. My two favorites are here and here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Google Alert pays off again

For those of you who can't get enough information about my grandfather and his performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto, last weekend Google Alerts pointed me to an article from Time Magazine about the premiere of the work. The article mentions the meeting between my grandfather and the composer at the latter's apartment, where the photo in the first link was taken.

What's next, Google Alerts? I'd love to get a link to a recording of the conversation and rehearsal session between these two men. However, I think if such a thing existed, it would be in my family's possession. Maybe when I finally get that time machine built I can go back and hear what went on when these two met, half a century ago.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Fenway Park, but not baseball

Before I get into last night's conference party at Fenway Park, I have to talk about the shuttle bus situation here. Since the convention center is not close to any of the hotels, Microsoft has been running shuttle buses to and from the hotels. However, the traffic here is terrible, so the route that works one day may not work the next. The bus drivers don't know the city, so sometimes passengers on the bus have to tell the drivers where to go. Several times now I've had a shuttle bus from my hotel go the complete opposite direction from the convention center, taking a traffic-choked four-lane highway and then making a U-turn instead of the quicker route through the city. And to top things off, there's a labor dispute between the Teamsters and the shuttle bus companies, so management has been driving the buses for the past few days. At best, it's a SNAFU, and at worst a total disaster.

The way the bus problems tie into the conference party is as follows. Microsoft recommended that we not bring our bags to Fenway Park for the party, which meant that you could either check your bag overnight at the convention center or leave it at your hotel. However, they weren't running shuttles from the hotels to Fenway, just from the convention center. So if I wanted to use the "official" transportation system, I'd have to take a shuttle from the conference to the hotel, another shuttle back to the conference, then ANOTHER shuttle to Fenway. Instead, I took one shuttle to the hotel and relaxed for a while, then checked out the Public Library (across the street from my hotel) and then took the T to Fenway with a few Boston natives.

The party was more fun than I thought it would be. They gave us the run of the ballpark: access to all the concessions (and everything was free!), all the seating areas, and even the warning track from the visitors' dugout to the outfield. So while I haven't seen the Red Sox in person at Fenway, I have stood on the warning track and sat in the dugout, right where the Yankees sit. You can't really tell from TV or photos, but Fenway is TINY. I already knew that, but you have to see it to understand. It's probably the smallest baseball stadium I've ever seen. And most of the seats look like they date from the construction of the stadium. Since they gave us so much access, I walked around the park and took pictures from just about every vantage point: the Green Monster, the right field rooftop, the outfield, behind home plate, etc. Train came on around 8:30 and were better than I thought, but still mostly bland. The only excitement of the show was around 9 PM, when the band invited some women to dance on top of the Red Sox dugout (the small stage was set up on the field directly in front of the dugout). I didn't see it, but a woman fell off the edge of the dugout and they stopped the show for about 10 minutes to take care of that problem. When Train came back on, they played a few Led Zeppelin covers ("Going to California" and "Ramble On") before getting back to their own material. About 9:30 the singer asked "I guess you want to hear 'Drops of Jupiter,' right? OK." as if he wanted to know if we wanted fries with that. It was like he didn't give a damn about playing their biggest hit and the only song most people knew. When they finished that song I headed for the shuttle bus. Their performance was decent, and the crowd liked it, but there was nothing interesting about the band. They're bland, lite FM musicians, and they played like they were just picking up a paycheck.

The ride back wasn't without a little adventure. The driver went past our hotel and had to drive around the block a few times before we (the passengers) told him where to turn. I've only been here a week, and I know my way around better than some of these drivers.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wednesday night was better than Tuesday

Last night I went out to Cambridge with my uncle to sit in on my cousin's 8th grade graduation exam/presentation. Here in Boston the schools make you present some of your classwork and projects to a panel of teachers before they let you move on to high school. The weird part for me was that the family gets to sit in. I asked my uncle if my cousin knew I was going to be there, and he said yes, and it had made her a little more nervous. Just what I intended. :) So it was me, my aunt and uncle, their older daughter, and four teachers observing my cousin's exam. She was in fact a bit nervous, but she performed well and passed with honors. She was especially passionate about her work on justice and dissent, her study of Animal Farm, and a paper she wrote on my great aunt who recently passed away at 95. After the exam we went to a Mexican restaurant near their house and I enjoyed a plate of chile rellenos stuffed with cheese and pork (mmm, extra kosher!), then I had some time to see their house and visit with the family.

Today was another early morning at the conference center. I had some laptop problems last night, and because of the funky way my office has locked down the system, I had to wait until I got to the conference before I could fix things. But the PC is running smoothly now. I was supposed to go to two afternoon sessions, but I ended up skipping one to watch the England-Trinidad & Tobago World Cup match. I downloaded the slides, so I got most of the presentation anyway. I went to the show floor for the end-of-show prize drawings, but came up empty on all of them. I did get ANOTHER t-shirt, which has to put me into the double-digits for the show. I can throw out an entire drawer of old shirts now, and that's after I share some of the shirts with my co-workers.

Tonight's entertainment is the Train concert at Fenway Park, which I will attend for two reasons: free food and I don't have anything better to do. I may leave early to watch basketball if I can't stand the music. I need to pack tonight because I have to haul all my stuff with me to the conference center. Traffic in this town is terrible, and with everyone trying to get to the show with their luggage, it might take me an extra hour to get here. Also, the bathrooms at this center are plentiful, but they're all too small so there's always a line. I can't wait to go home. I wouldn't mind coming back to Boston for a vacation, but if they have another show like this here, I think I'll skip it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

We're jammin', and I hope you like jammin' too

On Tuesday, faced with another night hanging out in my hotel room, I decided to see what the "Jam Session" social event was all about. I took the shuttle bus over to Avalon, a nightclub next to Fenway Park. What I found was a performance space similar to The Bayou in Georgetown, with a small dance floor and tables in front of a large stage, with bars around the sides. On the stage were an assortment of guitarists, drummers, keyboardists, and a few people who seemed to switch instruments at random. The event lived up to its name -- it was a jam session. Apparently no one up there was a professional, except for the guy who had lyric sheets and possibly sheet music for some of the songs. I'm not sure if musical talent was a requirement to get up on the stage and perform with the group. It was like a P-Funk show, if P-Funk were a bunch of dorky white guys and instead of "Flashlight" they played "Margaritaville." The show was heavy on blues and classic rock, with songs like "Breakdown," "No Way Out," and "All Along The Watchtower" played in the time I was there. I didn't get quite drunk enough to enjoy myself (the beers were $6 apiece), but I will say that it wasn't all bad. Some of the musicians were actually quite good, and a few of the singers were excellent. But I think I'll skip the Jam Sessions next time I come to Tech Ed. I would have had more fun watching the NBA game at a bar.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Skating Citroen Transformer

Remember this guy? Well, he's back, this time on ice. Damn, that's cool.

Tuesday Tech Ed update

Ben Roethlisberger's condition has been listed as serious but stable and still a complete dumbass.

Today's swag haul: three more t-shirts (I'm up to seven or eight total) and my first useful item, a 512 MB USB key. At this point I think I have enough items that everyone I work with gets something that's cool, instead of just a pen or a toy.

I have one or two sessions to go, and then I have to find something to do to entertain myself this evening. Last night I watched the Stanley Cup finals and had dinner at Legal Sea Foods. Tonight I might check out the "jam sessions" at a local club, where Tech Ed attendees can get up on stage and perform. It sounds like karaoke, only worse, as this involves musical instruments too. Maybe I'll just watch the NBA Finals instead.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I'm NOT standing on a ledge right now

The bad thing about being on the road and away from my constant Internet connection at work is that I hear about Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident via an e-mail from my mom. I got her message in the middle of a session, and probably annoyed all the people around me by breaking out my laptop to get the full story.

I cannot believe that this kid could be so goddamn stupid as to ride without a helmet. First Jay Williams wrecks his motorcycle (still out of the NBA and trying to get back in), then Kellen Winslow, Jr. (missed the entire 2005 season), and now Big Ben. I hope he's OK, I hope he can play football again, but I'm just angry about it. Training camp starts in late July or August, so it looks like he'll miss part of camp. I guess it's the fact that he's 24 years old, just won a Super Bowl four months ago, and he feels invincible. I bet he rides with a helmet after this accident, if he ever rides a motorcycle again.

The only reason I'm not considering taking my own life right now is that Roethlisberger is just one part of the team, and there are many, many other great players that won that Super Bowl. As much as I like him, he's not like Peyton Manning or Donovan McNabb, guys whose absence from the field would seriously jeopardize their team's hopes for playoff success. Although I just remembered how badly the team played when Big Ben missed a few games last season with a bad knee. Damn: this hotel is only six stories tall.

Tech Ed: Monday morning

Last night's keynote address wasn't a complete waste of time, but if I'd skipped it I wouldn't have missed much. The highlight for most of the attendees was the presence of Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Chloe, the tech girl, on "24." But I don't watch "24," so I wasn't too excited. She had some really bad scripted interactions with Microsoft VPs and with a few guys she pulled out of the audience, and I just felt bad for her. Whatever she was getting paid wasn't enough. It was like watching a mismatched pair of presenters at an award show reading cheesy jokes to each other, except it went on and on and on. Microsoft also showed a four-park parody of "24" called "4," featuring a guy named "Jack Power" and cameos from Microsoft bigwigs (no Bill Gates, unfortunately). By 9 PM I'd had enough and I left. I ended up meeting some friends at a restaurant and missing the premiere of "Entourage," but when I got back to the hotel I noticed that the hotel's TV lineup doesn't include HBO. I guess I'll catch Entourage when I get back to NYC.

This morning I had another roundabout ride to the convention center on the shuttle bus. This time, the bus circled the entire center before pulling up to the door. On Friday morning, when everyone coming here will have their luggage with them, I'll have to leave my hotel at 7 AM just so I can get here on time.

The crowd here looks just like the people who came to Brainshare: geeks, geeks, and more geeks, of all ages and sizes. That includes me, of course. I'm wearing one of my Novell shirts today, and it didn't take long for someone to make a joke about it. I don't care. I don't mind being "That Guy" for one day.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

blogger in Boston

This week I'm in Boston for Microsoft's Tech Ed conference. My office is eliminating all of our Novell products in favor of Microsoft's, so I didn't get to go to Novell's BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City this year. Instead, the firm sent me here, to Microsoft's equivalent conference. I've only been in Boston a few hours, but already I've had a quick tour of the city, courtesy of a shuttle bus driver who apparently didn't know how to get from my hotel to the convention center. I've now seen the outside of Fenway Park twice. Anyway, the fun begins tonight with keynote addresses and then early tomorrow morning with training sessions. I'll post photos and blog entries as events and situations warrant. Or whenever I feel like it. You know, the usual routine.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What would Stephen Colbert say about this?

The photo says it all. Unfortunately, if a bear came into my apartment, Vladi would run away and Mr. Starlite would nuzzle him in an attempt to be friends.

my grandfather & Ralph Vaughan Williams

I have a Google Alert set up to e-mail me for new search results for "Philip Catelinet." Most of the time it returns links to ancient GroupWise listserv messages I posted in 1999. However, once in a while it pays off with something good. This morning I got an alert about this page where you can see a photo of my grandfather (who was also named Philip Catelinet) playing his tuba for the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1954. I have a portrait of both men from the same photo shoot hanging over my desk at home.

Most of my friends have heard this story before, but for my new readers or those who don't know, my grandfather played the tuba for several London orchestras in the 1950s. When Vaughan Williams wrote his Tuba Concerto, he asked my grandfather for some guidance on writing a solo part for the instrument. When the work was completed, my grandfather premiered it at one of the Proms concerts in June of 1954 (I hope I'm getting all these details right). Vaughan Williams put my grandfather's name in the score of the concerto, and since there are so few works for solo tuba, most tubists know the name Philip Catelinet from the tuba part for the Vaughan Williams piece. (My grandfather also taught at Carnegie Mellon University for twenty years and wrote and arranged music for band and orchestra, so the concerto wasn't his only claim to fame.) Occasionally, in certain musical settings (like picking up tickets at the New York Philharmonic box office), someone will recognize my name and ask me about my grandfather. He passed away in 1995, but his spirit lives on in the music he wrote and the lives he touched.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I almost wish I was in DC this weekend too...

The National Symphony Orchestra is performing Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony, colloquially known as the "Symphony of a Thousand." Calling this work "gargantuan" would be an understatement. It's been sold out for weeks, so if you don't have tickets yet, you'll be listening to it at home on your stereo instead. Or, if you're like me, on your MP3 player this afternoon. Here in New York, Lorin Maazel has been programming all of Mahler's symphonies throughout his tenure as music director. I don't think they've gotten to the Eighth yet, so I'll have to keep watching the schedule. I'd buy a subscription if that was the only way to guarantee I could get tickets for that spectacle. Hey, it worked last season when I wanted to see Mozart's "The Magic Flute" at the Metropolitan Opera.

Monday, June 05, 2006


I had written a really long wrapup of the entire reunion weekend, but it was so detailed that not even I would want to read it. So I'll just mention the highlights:

my first "Burger Madness" sandwich from Wisemiller's in almost a decade
watching the Spelling Bee with Jon and making fun of the contestants
seeing some of my best friends again after too long
reuniting three-fourths of the 37th & O Street Quartet (my old string quartet)
laughing with my freshman year roommate about all the times I wanted to kill him and he wanted to do the same to me
drinking at the Tombs at last call with guys from my freshman dorm
running into my junior year roommate at the Tombs
getting into a semi-private party at F. Scott's on Saturday night (only the second time in my life I've been to F. Scott's)
walking across the Key Bridge at 3 AM and leaving a voice-mail message for James in which Jon and I both yelled about all the fun we were having

Obviously I could write much more, but these are the things I'll remember most fondly. I just had more fun than I've had in a long, long time, and I was sad to see it come to an end at 3 AM Sunday morning (when F. Scott's closed and they kicked us out of the bar).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Thursday, June 01, 2006

welcome back to Georgetown

This weekend is my 10-year reunion at Georgetown. I sometimes find it hard to believe that it's been ten years since I graduated from college and had to get a real job. Inside, I still feel like I'm about 25, so it doesn't seem real to me that I've been out of school this long. But the calendar says it's been a decade, and so I'm back on campus this weekend for all the fun. So far today I've walked from one end of campus to the other, taking pictures of all the places I used to live and work, as well as a few of my old hangouts. I even found my old senior-year apartment in Village A open for year-end cleanup, so I snuck in and snapped a few pictures before anyone from maintenance could catch me. I can't be certain, but I think the furniture is the same as when I lived there. I also peeked into the bowels of New North, where I used to work as a student and later a full-time employee, and I gave myself a tour of the new theater building. Later tonight or tomorrow, after I have a chance to post the pictures, I'll post some kind of mini-travelogue for my few readers who didn't go to school with me and don't know any of these places. And also just because I feel like writing it and reminiscing.

I also had lunch with two friends from the orchestra, neither of whom I'd seen in about eight years. It's kind of sad that none of us have kept in touch with too many people from the orchestra. There used to be an alumni society for the orchestra and choir, but since I moved to New York I haven't been in contact with anyone who was trying to keep that group afloat. As far as I know, it's defunct. But it was great to see my friends again and catch up with them.