Monday, December 31, 2007

another year, another end-of-year post

Continuing a tradition, it's the end of 2007 and I'm listening to the Classical Countdown on and writing my last blog post for the year. It's been an unusually good year around here. I rode another 1100 miles on my bike, I played some challenging music with NYRO, I upgraded my home entertainment system, and my job stayed mostly the same. I lost a cat in January and got a new one in June. (After six months, the cats are now tolerating each other the way North and South Korea share a border: lots of talk, the occasional skirmish, but mostly coexistence.) I made some new friends on the Internet and had the usual successes and failures in my personal life. Lately there have been more successes: meeting Kate has been one of the best things to happen this year and I hope that our relationship continues to grow stronger. I didn't follow through on last year's resolution to travel more, so I'll reuse that one for 2008.

As usual for me, tonight's plans involve a party, though a much smaller one than I've gone to for the past two years. If you're going out, stay safe, and if you're staying in, what's wrong with you?

See you in 2008!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

heard last night on the subway

It was actually the uptown 4/5/6 platform at Union Square, but it was still in the subway. I was on my way home and I heard bagpipes and drums as I descended the stairs to the platform, so I thought it might be an actual Scottish bagpiper group down there. It turned out to be a lone bagpiper and another guy playing one large hand-held drum. The bagpiper was white and the drummer was not, so I'm not sure they were together. Also, the piper wasn't always playing to the beat of the drummer so musically the performance didn't mesh. Finally, the most important details was the songs the piper played. Instead of the usual "Scotland The Brave," "Amazing Grace," or other Highland tunes, he played off-key versions of "Over There" and I think a Christmas carol or two. I have to read more about it, but I think there's a reason bagpipes play certain melodies and not others, having to do with the key of the instrument and the notes it can play. In other words, this piper couldn't hit all the notes of these songs on his instrument. I wish he'd gone "Over There" to play.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I'm slightly famous

I must note that my commenter alter ego, Peter Cavan, received a mention in Dan Shanoff's yearly Christmas poem for Deadspin. This, along with my comment of the fortnight and presence at two Pants Parties, makes 2007 the Year of Deadspin, at least for me.

The next step for "Peter Cavan" is that he need his own blog. Maybe I'll work on that for 2008.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Busy busy busy...

Work has been kind of crazy for the past few weeks. We've got a couple of projects that are due early next year and so many of us are scrambling to get things done before the holidays. My vacation starts tomorrow (though I'm not going home until Sunday) so I'm trying to get all of my work done by the end of the day. The last thing I want is for someone to call me while I'm at home next week. (I should probably be working instead of blogging....)

Also, it's holiday party season and my schedule has been booked solid with gatherings of one kind or another. Monday night was the office party on Wall Street and I took it easy on my liver, my stomach, and my dancing shoes. I did have a great time enjoying the firm's largess and another year at this job. The evening reminded me that as much as I sometimes complain about work, I know some great people here and I have an extremely generous employer. As for the rest of the week, I have dinner with new friends tonight, as-yet-undetermined birthday plans tomorrow, two parties on Friday night and something else on Saturday evening. And then there's the matter of passing the time on the 7+ hour train ride back to Johnstown. Last year I watched episodes of "Heroes" that I'd downloaded, but this year I don't have any TV series to catch up on. Maybe I'll work my way through some Netflix movies and some podcasts instead.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's a twister! It's a twister! Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Schools across the NY metro area canceled class today in anticipation of a monster snowstorm bearing down and expected to drop between two and ten inches of snow by the end of the day. I slept in a little this morning, thinking that it would be raining when I got up and I wouldn't want to walk to the gym. Also, I had a couple of drinks last night and a big dinner so I felt a little lazy. Of course, there was no snow, ice, or rain this morning, just dry streets and a cold wind. I stayed home and did some pushups while watching Tuesday night's episode of Boston Legal.

ASIDE: I'm not sure why I watch that show anymore. It's become a vehicle for David Kelley's left-wing rants about Iraq via Alan Shore. I'm as liberal as the next raised-in-PA-living-in-NY Democratic Jew, but even I'm getting tired of the same shtick each week. Also, Crane, Poole, and Schmidt NEVER loses. Even the firm on The Practice lost a case once in a while. But I like William Shatner/Denny Crane, so I guess that's why I stick with the show. And with the writers' strike, there aren't that many original episodes of anything left.

Anyway, we're looking at a big storm today, and another one on Saturday night. That might give me an opportunity to stay in and do some serious cooking and movie watching/Xbox gaming. I finished Halo 3's single-player campaign last night so now I can focus on getting my ass handed to me by 12-year-olds everywhere on Xbox Live. I'm also playing Guitar Hero III, but my guitar needs a tuneup. The GHIII guitar comes in two pieces and sometimes the neck doesn't connect to the body properly, so some of the fret buttons don't work at critical times, like last night when I was trying to play "One" by Metallica. At the fast section the green button is crucial to the main riff, and it wouldn't respond so I failed the song. I'm going to try a couple of DIY fixes and see if I can improve things.

Monday, December 10, 2007

End of year meme

This is quite Myspace of me, but whatever. At least I'm posting here.

As 2007 comes to an end...

1) Where did you begin 2007?

At an overcrowded party on the Upper East Side with the woman I was dating at the time. We should have just stayed home.

2) What was your status by Valentine’s Day?

Single, cold.

3) Were you in school (anytime this year)?

I went to a Linux training class in August.

4) How did you earn your money?

Doing the same job I've had for the past seven years.

5) Did you have to go to the hospital?

Just for my other job with HealthTV, not for any actual health problems.

6) Did you have any encounters with the police?


7) Where did you travel this year?

DC, Johnstown. Wow, I haven't wandered much. That would explain the surplus of vacation time.

8) What did you purchase that was over $1,000?

My HDTV and my new sofa.

9) Did you know anybody who got married?

Some friends in the orchestra.

10) Did you know anybody who passed away?

My ex-wife's grandmother, and my cat Vladi.

11) Biggest surprise?


12) Did you move anywhere?

No, and thank God for that.

13) What concerts/shows did you go to?

The Police at MSG, Madama Butterfly at the Met, Avenue Q on Broadway

14) Are you registered to vote?

Yes, but I didn't vote this year. In my defense, it was an off-off-year election.

15) Who did you want to win Dancing with the Stars?

I don’t watch it.

16) Where do you live now?

The Upper East Side of Manhattan, in the same apartment I've had for the past four years.

17) Describe your birthday?

It's next week, but it will include taking the day off work, probably dinner, and maybe a movie. I'm easy to please.

18) What's one thing you thought you'd never do but did in 2007?

Go to a meetup of online friends and have one of the best nights of the year.

19) What has been your favorite moment?

Watching the New York Philharmonic season premiere concert in Lincoln Square with Kate.

20) What's something you learned about yourself?

I'm doing better on my own than I ever thought possible.

21) Any new additions to your family?

My cat Grady

22) What was your best month?


23) What music will you remember 2007 by?

Icky Thump by the White Stripes, Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses, Barber's Violin Concerto

24) Who has been your best drinking buddy?

My friends from work.

25) Favorite night out?

The Deadspin night at Shea is a close second to the NY Philharmonic concert in Lincoln Center with Kate.

Friday, December 07, 2007

another one of these e-mail survey things

It's been a busy week here at Five Guys Productions, and I haven't had much time to think about blogging. I got this survey on Wednesday evening and replied to it then but I'm posting it now. (I have been down this road once or twice before.) I changed one answer from the e-mail version: I remembered that the last time I cried was not when my ex-wife and I decided to break up, but was in fact this past January, when my cat Vladi passed away. I felt bad that I'd made the mistake in the e-mail, so I've rectified that here.


My father's older brother, who was killed at the age of 6 in a bombing
raid on Glasgow, Scotland, where my grandfather had sent his family to
avoid the bombings in London.


When my cat Vladi died unexpectedly in January.


No. It's deteriorated from years of typing on computer keyboards.






I'd either think I was the coolest guy ever, or a jackass, depending on the day.


All the time.








Yes, otherwise I can't get them off my feet.


I've moved heavy appliances on my own, so yes.


Mint chocolate chip.






I worry about everything.


My family.


Yes, but those of you I don't know will get a spamblocker response.


Blue khakis and brown loafers I bought at Macy's on Monday.


Tuna sandwich and tortilla chips.


Georgetown-Alabama basketball game on TV.




Coffee, simmering tomato sauce.




Yes, Jess is one of my oldest and closest friends.


Football and hockey.


Dark brown.




Yes, and I need to change them.




Happy endings. I like to think there's something to hope for.


The Mist. That was a scary movie.


Brown & white striped shirt.


Winter. I love the wind and snow.


Don't these two usually go together?


Apple pie a la mode.






I'm between books, but I want to pick up a copy of His Dark Materials
before The Golden Compass opens.


Nothing. I'm using a laptop with a touchpad.


Nothing - I had to work late.


An orchestra playing Beethoven.






I play the viola.


Johnstown, PA

Friday, November 30, 2007

a new option for buying classical music online

Deutsche Grammophon has just opened an online store. They're offering their usual excellent selection of classical albums in 320 kbps MP3 files (the highest quality you can get in MP3 compression) as well as a list of out-of-print records. Most albums are $11.99, which is $2 more than iTunes, but you're getting higher-quality DRM-free files for the extra money. DG is one of the labels that I prefer when I'm shopping for classical music. They get well-known artists and they produce high-quality recordings. I've never regretted a DG album purchase. While I still prefer to get my classical music on CD so I have the physical media, for $11.99 per album I will see what I can dig up on their site.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The worst Steelers game I've ever seen

In 1989, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Miami Dolphins in a rainstorm in Miami. The Steelers were not playing well and were taking on a Miami team with Dan Marino. My father lived in Washington, DC but was in Johnstown for the holiday weekend. He came over to my mom's house to visit with my brother and I for the afternoon. My mother was out for the day and I think my brother, who was not a football fan at the time, spent the afternoon in front of the computer upstairs. My dad and I watched the Steelers game in the back room (the den). Both teams were sliding all over the wet field, but Pittsburgh got all the breaks and won the game 34-14. I'd watched football with my dad before, but this is the first game that I remember watching with him and following the game closely. We had leftover turkey sandwiches for lunch and I remember my dad carving the rest of the meat off the bird, even though it wasn't technically "his" turkey to carve. Since my dad lived in DC and I lived in Johnstown, I didn't get to see him more than once or twice a month, so I remember that I really enjoyed having the afternoon to share the game, some food, and some conversation with him.

When I saw the rain at Heinz Field for last night's game, I remembered that game from 18 years ago and thought about how much fun it would be to see the Steelers dominate an inferior Dolphins squad again. Well, Pittsburgh won again, but it took 59 minutes and a field goal at the end of regulation to do it, with the final score of 3-0. It was absolutely the worst football game I've ever watched. If my team hadn't been playing I would have changed the channel by halftime. It was depressing, boring and nerve-wracking all at the same time. I could have used a hug when it was over.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What I did with my holiday weekend

I handled the roasting of the turkey (my friends brined it for us). I also made cornbread, and we made the gravy a team effort. Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success, even if we ate a bit later than we originally planned.

I made a large batch of homemade granola. It's great with plain yogurt.

I saw Beowulf (not that good, but the 3D was kind of fun) and The Mist (really scary, though Stephen King always does that for me).

I got to spend time with my friends, and endure the Mii-creation process on their Nintendo Wii. They made me a worried Mii.

I watched A LOT of football. Probably way too much.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

NYRO's non-holiday concert: Wagner, Haydn, Shostakovich on December 8

I'm really glad The New York Repertory Orchestra doesn't do "holiday" concerts. There's enough of that around. We're playing a great program of Classical, Romantic, and 20th century compositions in two weeks. Here's the whole scoop from our music director:

Dear Friends of the New York Repertory Orchestra,

I want to wish you the best for this Thanksgiving/Holiday season and invite you to our next concert on Saturday, December 8 @ 8pm.

As always, we continue our tradition of bringing you great music, fantastic soloists, and the exciting music-making of the New York Repertory Orchestra - New York's leading all-volunteer, community-based orchestra!

Our program on December 8 offers a rich and varied program with music by Wagner, Haydn, and Shostakovich. Our soloist (making her NYRO debut) is the world-renowned violinist Christina Castelli (see more below). We look forward to seeing you on the 8th!

Here is more information about the concert:

When: Saturday, December 8, 2007 – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Good Shepherd-Faith Church @ 152 West 66th St. (between B'way & Amsterdam)
Admission: FREE

  • Wagner: Prelude to Act I of “Parsifal”
  • Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D Major (“London”)
  • Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 – Christina Castelli, violin


Here's more about the music we’ll be playing:

The major work on the program will be the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Dimitri Shostakovich. A monumental piece, Shostakovich himself likened it to “a symphony for solo violin and orchestra,” rather than a traditional virtuoso concerto. With its great breadth of expression and brilliantly realized structure it is an epic work of haunting beauty.

Also on the program will be the Symphony No. 104 (“London”) by Franz Josef Haydn. This wonderful piece (Haydn’s final work in the genre) is a delight from beginning to end. Full of high spirits and classical elegance, the symphony was critically acclaimed at its premiere in 1795 for its ”fullness, richness, and majesty in all its parts. [It will] surpass all his other compositions.” In short, one of the masterworks of the symphonic repertoire.

The concert will begin with the Prelude to Act I from Richard Wagner’s final opera Parsifal. The magical Prelude perfectly sets the tone for this “sacred drama” - a mysterious, spiritual journey with music of the most unearthly sublimity. “The musical beauty,” according to composer Claude Debussy, “is incomparable and bewildering, splendid and strong. Parsifal is one of the loveliest monuments of sound ever raised to the serene glory of music.”

About our soloist:

Violinist Christina Castelli is one of today’s most dynamic young soloists. She has won acclaim throughout North and South America, and Europe. A Laureate of the 2001 International Violin Competition in Brussels and the Grand Prize winner of the 1997 William Primrose International Competition, Ms. Castelli has been a featured soloist with major orchestras worldwide, including those of Cleveland, Atlanta, Seattle, Colorado, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, as well as the Belgian National Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Colombia.

So...have a great Thanksgiving and we look forward to seeing you on the 8th of December.

Best regards,
David Leibowitz, Music Director
New York Repertory Orchestra


And mark your calendars for the rest of our exciting season!

February 9, 2008
Schreker: Overture to “Ekkehard”
Farberman: Concerto for Jazz Drummer – Tim Froncek, drums
Sibelius: Symphony No. 3

March 29, 2008
Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
Ellington: Suite from “The River”
Dvorak: Cello Concerto – Eric Jacobsen, cello

May 17, 2008
D’Indy: Suite from “Karadek”
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor – Anna Polonsky, piano
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)


All Concerts are performed at:
Good Shepherd-Faith Church (152 West 66th Street)
Admission: FREE - 8:00pm

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

A year ago tonight, "a couple of beers after work" turned into an eight-hour drinking binge and ended with me brining a turkey and making gravy while completely bombed. I'm still surprised the turkey was edible. This year, I have a cold that, while mild, is going to keep me from getting totally wasted. I'm going to see Beowulf at 10 PM tonight, so I have a hard cutoff for the drinking anyway. Tomorrow morning I will make cornbread, then take an assortment of pans and cooking implements to my friend Greg's place, where I am once again in charge of roasting the turkey. I look forward to an afternoon of watching football and trying to stay out of the tiny kitchen while everyone else works. The rest of my weekend plan involves more football and cooking things like homemade granola and jambalaya from a box. (Hey, don't hassle me: after all the cooking that will go on tomorrow, I will be glad to throw some andouille and rice in a pot and let it simmer.) After this weekend, it's a mad dash through December until Christmas, so this may be my last weekend to be lazy for a while. Oh, who am I kidding? I can always find time to be lazy.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lord of the Rings trilogy live-blog

I promised I'd do this when I got my HDTV, and I waited until there was a cold day with nothing else going on to actually do it. I'm watching all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies today. And I'm going to see if I can live-blog the whole thing.

10:30 AM: I just started Fellowship of the Ring. Enjoy Gollum now, we're not going to see him again for four hours. Also, I thought there was a scene in the beginning where Elrond and Isildur were at Mount Doom about to destroy the Ring, when Isildur turns away from the fire. Maybe that's later.

10:43 AM: Bilbo and Gandalf are having bread, cheese and tea, and I'm having oatmeal. Wow, this is shaping up to be a THRILLING live-blog. We'll see how long I keep this up.

10:51 AM: I just noticed that Gandalf wears one of those braided belts that all the white-hat guys wore at Georgetown back in the day. I'm not sure what that says about my favorite wizard.

11:09 AM: Frodo and Sam are off to Bree. Someone I know is trying to talk me into an adventure vacation. I'm not a hiking, getting dirty kind of guy. For some reason, Frodo and Sam walking off into the wilderness looks appealing. Too bad I know how this ends. They get into a lot of trouble.

11:16 AM: Better fight scene: Gandalf vs. Saruman or Count Dooku vs. Anakin Skywalker (the 2nd time)? I like anything involving lightsabers, but seeing two wizards square off is cool. It's always bothered me that a wizard apparently needs a staff to perform magic. Shouldn't Gandalf have some skills that don't require him to be holding his staff?

11:30 AM: It's the "second breakfast" joke, one of my favorites. I think it's time for coffee here.

11:47 AM: Can someone remind me how Liv Tyler got the part of Arwen? Have we heard anything from her since 2003?

11:55 AM: I watched The Matrix last night. I hadn't seen it in years. It's weird to go from scary, creepy Agent Smith Hugo Weaving to elf lord Elrond Hugo Weaving. Maybe tomorrow I'll watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and get really freaked out.

12:00 PM: HERE's the scene where Elrond tries to get Isildur to destroy the ring at the Cracks of Doom. Isildur tells him to piss off. Now I remember why Elrond is such a jerk in these movies.

12:12 PM: "The Ring must be cast into the fire from whence it came. One of you must do this." Don't all volunteer at once, people.

12:14 PM: Legolas: "You have my bow." Gimli: "And my axe. Well, my OTHER axe." Yes, I'm reusing jokes from the first time I saw this movie.

And that's the end of disc 1.

12:22 PM: One thing that has always bothered me about Elijah Wood in these movies is that he has a huge neck. He's not a big guy but he's got the neck of a defensive lineman.

And as they leave Rivendell, it's late October or November, but they don't close the windows or put up curtains. How temperate is that place? It must be like Miami there.

12:24 PM: We get the "Fellowship" theme for the first time. It gives me chills.

12:27 PM: Frodo slips in the snow and the Ring on its chain falls off his giant neck. If the elves can make swords that glow blue in the presence of orcs, you'd think they could give him a sturdier chain for the most powerful ring in the world.

12:35 PM: Why do the doors of Moria open to the Elvish word for "friend?" Shouldn't it be the Dwarvish word for "friend?"

This is turning into the live-blog of unanswered questions.

12:43 PM: I've got a 2 PM appointment to look at a friend's computer problems. I hope I'm done with this movie by then. I've already made it clear I've only got an hour or so to work on the computer. I don't want to be up until 3 AM with this thing.

12:48 PM: Sting is glowing blue -- orcs are nearby. Gandalf's sword should be glowing too, since he and Bilbo acquired them from the same weapons stash in The Hobbit and both are Elvish-made.

Incidental super-geeky note: my home PC's network name is Mithrandir, Gandalf's name in Elvish. My iPod is Glamdring, the name of Gandalf's sword. I've got other peripherals with Elvish LOTR names. No, I do not live in my parents' basement, and I have kissed a girl.

1:02 PM: I know Gandalf isn't really dead, but the aftermath of the battle of Moria is so good that I get a little misty anyway.

1:13 PM: In a male-centric universe, the relationship between Galadriel and Celeborn is the only one that is dominated by the female. Arwen and Eowyn, warrior-elf and shield-maiden they may be, but they end up subservient to their husbands. Galadriel wears the pants in that marriage. Cate Blanchett must be used to that, though. She did play Elizabeth I.

1:28 PM: I love Gimli. He's so shy around Galadriel. The gift scene is one of my favorites that was restored in the extended edition.

1:35 PM: It's great that a filmmaker finally found a use for those two giant statues of kings beside that river in New Zealand. It's almost as good as the U.S. electing four men as president who just happened to look like those faces on Mt. Rushmore.

1:50 PM: That's a lot of dead Uruk-Hai. I'm cutting it close, but I think I'll be done by 2.

1:57 PM: Credits. I just made it. Back in an hour or so for The Two Towers.

3:55 PM: I'm back, and The Two Towers is up. By the way, these movies look incredible on my HDTV, and this is with a progressive-scan 480p normal DVD player. I wonder how they would look with an upconverting one. I'm thinking of getting one of those for the holidays, so maybe I'll try this whole event again in February.

4:04 PM: Here's Gollum!

4:06 PM: What an eccentric performance.

4:16 PM: I think employees would take their jobs more seriously if the boss made them swear obedience and cut their hands with a dirty blade in a special ceremony on the first day. It could be part of orientation.

4:25 PM: I hate to see orcs and Uruk-Hai fighting. Can't we all just get along?

4:34 PM: I never noticed until now, but there's horror movie music when Treebeard makes his first appearance.

4:47 PM: Aragorn and Legolas switch between Elvish and English so much it's like Spanglish. Or Elvglish, I suppose.

4:53 PM: The big debate for this movie: Ent poetry vs. Vogon poetry --which is more yawn-inducing?

5:03 PM: Merry and Pippin are like lazy college guys. All they want to do is have fun, smoke weed, eat, and drink. Sure, they grow up in these movies, but is that really a gain for them? I guess everyone has to graduate and become responsible sometime.

5:16 PM: I like that the scene where Gandalf and company free Theoden from Saruman's power uses much of the original dialog from the book. In particular, Wormtongue's lines are straight from the book. "'Lathspell' I name him. Ill news is an ill guest."

5:20 PM: Theodred's funeral scene is my only complaint about the material added back for any of the extended editions. I thought the original film's sequence worked much better. In that version, Theoden visits Theodred's grave, having missed the funeral entirely due to his enslavement. I thought that was far more tragic.

Also, I could do without Eowyn's song of lament.

5:34 PM: The Smeagol/Gollum debate now reminds me of the "Formidable Opponent" segment on The Colbert Report.

5:41 PM: Faramir has found Frodo and Sam, and that's the end of disc 1. I'm officially halfway through.

5:55 PM: So it's true what they say: shield-maidens can't cook. What is in that stew, gristle? All the more reason for Aragorn to take the throne of Gondor and Arwen as his wife. Then he can have a professional chef of Gondor preparing his meals, instead of Eowyn's feeble efforts.

6:09 PM: Helm's Deep, named for Helm Hammerhand. I just noticed the statue inside the fortress's gates is holding a hammer like Thor's. Nice touch.

6:21 PM: We take a break from the action so Galadriel can bring the audience up to date on why we're watching everyone on this quest.

6:36 PM: The added scenes with Boromir, Faramir, and Denethor help to explain why the writing team changed Faramir's character to make him more loyal to the misguided policies of his father. I'm not a fan of that one, but at least it makes more sense in the long version.

6:52 PM: I'm taking a quick break before the Battle of Helm's Deep to switch over to the end of the Penn State-Michigan State game. Let's see if the armies of Joe Paterno can defeat the orcs of East Lansing.

6:55 PM: The orcs will win this day. Damn. Back to Helm's Deep.

7:05 PM: I love the pacing in this movie. Just when I'm getting into the battle scene, we cut back to the Entmoot.

7:06 PM: If Merry and Pippin are growing taller as a result of drinking Ent water, how do their clothes still fit?

7:19: This always happens when I watch this movie - I'd almost forgotten about Frodo and Sam in Faramir's custody. To tell the truth, Frodo and Sam's story is my least favorite part of the book. I enjoy the battle scenes too much.

7:21 PM: I've said this several times before, so I'll say it again -- I wish Howard Shore had stayed true to the text when the Ents march on Isengard. The book says that they march to the sound of trumpets, but his score has a choir singing with drums underneath. It just doesn't work for me.

7:33 PM: I sure do enjoy it when Theoden and Aragorn ride out together from the Keep. They must be on magical horses, because real horses won't ride over or through obstacles. Although orcs don't exist, so maybe horses would ride through them. I should stop thinking about this and just enjoy the movie.

7:40 PM: Merry and Pippin get high. And when they get the munchies, they're sitting on top of the hoard of Isengard. And they WILL get the munchies. They're hobbits, after all.

7:47 PM: Credits. Time for a break. I'm a little hungry so maybe I should eat dinner now, before starting the next one. I don't think I can watch and eat and live-blog all at the same time.

8:38 PM: Time to start The Return of the King. It's going to take me about 4 1/2 hours to watch it, and I'd like to be done by 2 AM. So I will eat, watch, and try to comment all at once.

8:42 PM: Also, the Penguins gave up two goals while I was watching, and Penn State lost while I had that on. I should stick to the movies.

8:50 PM: I'm glad I have a strong stomach. I can eat and watch Gollum tearing into raw fish.

8:59 PM: In this version, Saruman gets a good death sequence. I know they cut the Scouring of the Shire for length, but I still wish it could have made the big screen. We do get closure on the Saruman storyline, though.

9:04 PM: Before beginning the drinking contest, Gimli says the rules include "no regurgitations." Do they follow IFOCE rules, or did the IFOCE get their rules from this movie?

9:14 PM: All the men are sleeping in some kind of anteroom, but Eowyn is sleeping by herself in the great hall of Edoras. That's got to be freezing at night. Doesn't she live here? Shouldn't she have her own room?

9:27 PM: Can't someone sweep up around Rivendell? There has to be an elf gardener somewhere. And re-forge that sword already! Aragorn was supposed to take it with him from Rivendell, not get it when the trip is nearly over.

9:39 PM: Hey Gandalf -- maybe all that coughing is a sign that you should cut back on your leaf-smoking habit. It must be traveling and rooming with Pippin. That guy is a bad influence on everyone around him.

9:54 PM: I love the lighting of the beacons. It's one of the things that didn't come from the book but it works so well in the film. And it's some of Shore's best music.

10:08 PM: Time out for a phone call.

10:32 PM: We're back. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are climbing the stairs near Minas Morgul, AKA "The Emerald City." The orcs do remind me of the flying monkeys.

10:43 PM: These are some dirty hobbits. They must smell like mud and feet and ass, after months without baths.

10:54 PM: Theoden has quite a tent set up for an overnight camp. Rugs, tables, torches, and more. I think he has a satellite dish and a big-screen TV in there too. Is this a war camp or a tailgate party?

11:03 PM: I would follow Theoden into Hell itself, and he hasn't even given his best pre-battle speech yet.

11:13 PM: I forgot about the cave of the dead and how the skulls pour out like popcorn from the crumbling castle. I'm not sure what that's about, but I'm surprised our heroes can get out of the cave amid that mess.

11:21 PM: I love fightin' Gandalf.

11:22 PM: I'd love to get a "Grond!" chant going at a rock concert. What band would be appropriate for such a chant?

Time for disc 2. I'm almost done.

11:31 PM: I just remembered the fortune cookie from tonight's dinner. It was no fortune at all. The "fortune" was an ad for a Nostradamus special on The History Channel. I got one last month from a different restaurant and took that place off my list. I can't take this one off, though. It's right across the street.

Hey, my first comment! It's only taken 13 hours!

11:33 PM: It's Shelob time. Peter Jackson indulges his love of horror movies.

11:45 PM: Even if I were a soldier of Gondor, I think I'd crap my pants at what came through the gate after it was shattered by Grond.

11:57 PM: The Witch-King of Angmar shatters Gandalf's staff, but I swear he has it later in the movie. It doesn't matter. Rohan has come at last. This is my favorite moment in the entire trilogy.

12:16 AM: That is the greatest battle scene ever committed to film. I have nothing else to say.

12:21 AM: I'm glad the Houses of Healing scene made it into this edition. And we get a glimpse of the Eowyn-Faramir relationship. Bear in mind, I am a hopeless romantic.

12:32 AM: Oh, Faramir, I could get lost in your eyes forever.

12:40 AM: Even in his orc armor, Sam is still carrying his pots and pans. I guess the other orcs didn't notice they had a chef in their midst. Or they didn't think anything of it.

12:47 AM: That's some mouth you got, Mouth of Sauron.
"I guess that concludes negotiations."

12:57 AM: Pippin: "The eagles are coming!" There's a Don Henley joke in there somewhere, but it's not coming to me.

1:11 AM: Why does Gandalf take the crown of Gondor from Gimli? Did the dwarves make it? And why does this movie have like six false endings? That's always annoyed me.

1:13 AM: And now, a musical selection by the King. "Eh Nooniam." (Or something like that.)

1:21 AM: Aged Bilbo looks like Emperor Palpatine.

1:30 AM: THE END.

With breaks for food, phone calls, and tech support, that took 13 hours. I thought it would take even longer. Even so, that was a great way to spend a free Saturday. I don't know if I learned anything new about the trilogy watching it this way, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I'd do it again, but not for a while. My ass needs a break.

I think the next marathon may be all the Star Wars movies in order. That may have to wait until after football season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

my day at the ballpark

I spent most of Tuesday at a technology seminar at Yankee Stadium. One of my vendors secured invitations for myself and a colleague, so we went to the Bronx this morning to learn about data de-duplication, get a free meal, and a tour of the stadium.

When I arrived at 10:15 AM, there was no sign of anyone outside the stadium. For those of you who have been to Yankee Stadium before, the subway lets you out in a run-down looking neighborhood, and I felt a little conspicuous walking around a deserted building looking for the employees' entrance. I eventually found it and my friend, and we went up to the club level and the "Great Moments Room" for the seminar. We watched a PowerPoint presentation, learned about the company's technology, and got a bit of a sales pitch. Then they gave us lunch (hot dogs, potato salad, grilled chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, and dessert) and gave out one free gift (apparently a gift certificate for the Yankees' team store).

Finally, around 1:30 PM, they started the tour. Our tour guide Larry (who looked like he was right out of NY Central Casting) took us down to the field and showed us the home dugout. Everyone took photos of themselves sitting where Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada spend their summers, including me. (I may not be a Yankees fan, but when else will I have a chance to get that photo?) Then they showed us the clubhouse (no photos allowed!) where we learned that Thurman Munson's locker is still there, as is Cory Lidle's, but Munson's still has his name on it while Lidle's remains unmarked. Derek Jeter has two lockers, supposedly because he gets so much fan mail. And Alex Rodriguez and a few other free agents still have lockers, even though they won't be back with the team, because as long as they haven't signed elsewhere they're still technically Yankees. After the clubhouse we walked around the warning track to see the monuments in the outfield, and then we were done with the tour and on our way back to work. Hey, it was better than spending the day in the office.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I am all grown up

It has taken me nearly two years, but slowly my apartment has become a place where I feel like it's my own space. Last year I got a new dresser and some new shelves, this year I got my HDTV, and last Friday I got a real sofa to replace the love seat I'd had since I lived in the Village. The new sofa, a queen-size sleeper sofa from Macy's, fills out the living room in ways the old one never could. And it has one significant advantage over the old one: I can stretch out on it and take a nap. On Saturday night I came back from a night out with some friends, put on some music, and promptly passed out on the sofa. I see many afternoons and evenings of TV watching on this sofa.

The old love seat went to the spare room/office, where it at least fits the space it's in. I don't think I can fold it out into a bed with the desk in there, but it's another place to sit that isn't my office chair. I haven't decided how long I'm going to keep it. The old computer desk that had been in that room went out to the street on Thursday night after rehearsal, and by Friday morning it was gone, no doubt rolled away by another Upper East Side resident.

I also treated myself to a new comforter and some new bedsheets. I never thought I'd get excited about home furnishings like this, but it makes me feel good to have a home that looks like an adult lives here. And my friends appreciate it too.

Monday, November 05, 2007

an up and down weekend

I had planned to spend my Friday evening playing Guitar Hero III and Halo 3. But when I got home after shlepping the new guitar through Macy's furniture department and across Manhattan, I only got as far as entering my virtual band's name before my Xbox 360 crashed. It had crashed a few times on Thursday night but I hadn't thought anything was wrong. When I rebooted the console, I got the dread "Red Ring of Death." My game console died before I could play one note or fire one round. I filled out the form on Microsoft's support site, so now I have to wait for Microsoft to ship me a box so I can return the console to them for repair. According to my Xbox-owning friends and some forum posts, I can expect to wait 4-6 weeks to get the console back, and it has a good chance of failing again. By the time I get the whole thing sorted out, I'm sure Guitar Hero IV will be on store shelves. So instead of a night of video gaming, I watched a movie and played around on my desktop PC.

Saturday night was much better. We cooked a recipe I hadn't made in years: smothered shrimp and sausage over cheese grits. I had some help in the kitchen, and everything was delicious.

On Sunday I watched the NYC Marathon from my apartment. I cheered on a few of my friends from street level, then I watched from my fire escape and took some photos. Also, in the morning, before the marathon got underway, I ordered a new sofa from Macy's (which is why I'd been in the furniture department on Friday evening). I'm moving the old love seat into the office so it can be more of a guest bedroom, throwing out the old computer desk and 19-inch monitor to make room, and getting a new queen-size sleeper sofa for the living room. At last I will have a couch large enough for three or more people to sit on it, and long enough for me to stretch out without having to put my knees up on the armrest. I should have the new sofa on Friday, so I have to figure out what to do to make room by then. Anyone want a 19-inch CRT? It's in good shape. It's just enormous.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's been a week already?

It's November 1, and I resolve to make an effort to finish the year strong and post more often than once a week.

I've been practicing Guitar Hero in anticipation of getting Guitar Hero III this week. My copy of the game (with wireless guitar) is scheduled for delivery tomorrow, and I've already planned my Friday night around hours of virtual shredding. If it doesn't come in for some reason, I will either a) shop for a new couch or b) try to find it at a retail store in Manhattan or c) all of the above. I have also just this afternoon received a copy of Halo III from a friend, so I've got that in my future as well. I'm going to have to make up a schedule for my free time now to accommodate my gaming habit, my TV watching, and viola practice. And let's not forget my social life.

Speaking of the viola, the best thing that's happened lately is that I got a new case. The old one was falling apart on the inside and showed the signs of 16 years of use. Also, I was tired of carrying it horizontally over my shoulder while my friends in the orchestra slung their violins on their backs. During my week off from rehearsal I shopped around online for a new case and ordered two of them, one each from two different stores. The one I really wanted arrived first, and when the viola fit perfectly inside it, I kept it. Going to rehearsal last week was a pleasure. It's so much easier to carry the viola like a backpack, and this case has feet on one end and a handle on the other, called a "subway strap," so it's easy to hold the case standing up on the train. When the other case arrived on Monday, I just shipped it right back to the vendor. It's not quite as much fun as a new gadget, but it'll do for a while.

Last night I got to play around with a Macbook Pro, and now I really want one. We were watching a slide show with a soundtrack from an iTunes playlist, and it was almost creepy the way the music lined up with the photos. One song ended just as the slideshow (a travelogue) got to the climax of the trip. And this was not a playlist that was meant for use with this particular set of photos. I'm not crazy about Safari, but if I can use Firefox on the Mac then I think I can manage. I still have a few months to wait before I will think about replacing my desktop PC, but Apple will get some major consideration from me this time around.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday night is also all right for opera

Last night we went to see Puccini's Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera. I hadn't been to the Met in almost two years, though I'd seen the first act of Butterfly on TV in Times Square last fall. The production was much more impressive on stage than it had been on TV. Despite sitting at the extreme rear of the orchestra, under the balconies, we could see the entire stage and hear every note, which wasn't the case outside in Manhattan's busiest intersection. I was particularly interested in this production because they used a Japanese bunraku puppet to play the part of Butterfly's child. Three puppeteers controlled the puppet, one moving the feet and legs and the two others handling the arms and the head. The puppeteers appeared onstage with the puppet, but once they started interacting with the actors, I barely noticed their presence. While I knew and could clearly see that this was not a child, the performance was so amazing that it was hard not to think of the puppet as a real person. The entire production was beautiful and tragic, and I have to admit the room got a little dusty at the end. I didn't know this opera that well before last night, but I think I need to buy a recording of it. It was a fantastic evening.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cooking for one? Never heard of it

I'm still trying to figure out why I decided to make a huge baked ziti last night for dinner. I wasn't all that hungry but I made enough for six people anyway, and that left me with lots of leftovers. And because of the time it took to assemble and bake, I didn't eat until almost 10 PM. I guess I haven't gotten out of the habit of cooking for a group on Sundays even when the group isn't there. At least I'm all set for dinner tomorrow night before the opera and for lunch later in the week.

Monday, October 15, 2007

To be a Guitar Hero, one must act like a guitar hero

I just have to read Slash's autobiography and I'll learn everything I need to know to succeed at Guitar Hero and life. Apparently success involves inviting your contractor to do lines of coke with you at 8 AM. Steven Adler kept his coke in his refrigerator's butter tray.

I have never been to Toronto

I am not responsible for this. But I applaud this mystery tagger's devotion to one of my favorite composers.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The reviews are in...

...and last night's concert was another NYRO triumph. The dress rehearsal on Thursday night had been a little rough (as they tend to be) so I was a bit worried about the performance. But I looked over my music before the concert and I suspect most everyone else did as well. All of the pieces came off beautifully. The Hindemith in particular stood out as one of the best works I've had the pleasure of playing with NYRO. I didn't like it when we sight-read it the first night but it grew on me during rehearsals. While playing the triplet runs in the last few minutes of the piece I saw little clouds of rosin flying off my bow, which meant I was really enjoying myself (or that I'd used too much rosin). I had a few friends in the audience and they all enjoyed the performance immensely.

After the concert most of the orchestra went to O'Neal's, our usual post-concert watering hole. My friends and I were the first ones to arrive, and we went to the 65th St. side. Usually that side of the restaurant is empty, but last night there was a soprano singing a song from "Candide" to a room full of occupied tables. My father was right: the overture is the best thing about that opera. The four of us waited a few minutes, but when it was clear the show wasn't going to be over soon, we led the rest of the NYRO crowd to the other side of the restaurant on 64th St. As it happens with my friends at these concerts, it was an occasion where new friends met old friends. Everyone got along splendidly, which is always good to see.

So now I'm experiencing a bit of post-concert letdown. I have this week off from rehearsal, so I have to find something else to do with my Thursday night. I can't wait to get back next week and start on December's program. For those who want to mark their calendars now, the next concert is December 8, and will feature the music of Wagner, Shostakovich, and Haydn.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

seen on last night's commute home

I got on the 4 train at Fulton St. There was a little girl hanging onto the pole in front of me, and she was swinging around and bumping into me and a few people around me. I moved to the center of the car to get out of her way and went back to reading the TMQ column I'd printed out for the ride home. After another stop I moved further into the car, and now I was standing in front of this little girl (who was sitting down) and her (I assume) sister and grandmother. Grandma was in the middle, and the two girls were on either side of her. The first girl kept bouncing up and down and bumping the lady next to her. Then she started saying "Excuse me!" to the few people standing up in front of her, including me. It seems she wanted to tell me something important about her sister. I had my headphones on and did my best to ignore her. After another few minutes of this, she swatted her sister a couple of times, reaching across Grandma to do so. Grandma didn't seem to care. This girl was also sucking on some hard candy and coughing a lot, so I turned around and faced the other way after another stop. At 42nd St. a kid selling candy stepped into our car. The girls wanted candy, so he stopped in front of them and they spent a few minutes picking out Snickers bars and Skittles and begging Grandma for money to get more candy. Now these girls were clearly hopped up on enough sugar already, and didn't need any more, but Grandma didn't care. To her credit, she told them they could only get two candy bars each from the kid. Girl #1 broke into her bag of Skittles as soon as the transaction was completed. I got off the train at 86th St., glad that I didn't have to find out how much worse those kids would be by the time they got to their stop.

OK, so after I wrote that it's hardly the worst thing I've endured on a subway ride home. And I admit I don't have kids, so I don't know what's involved in keeping them from bothering other people. But Grandma should have known, and done something, but she was practically asleep while these kids were jumping all over the place. I see this kind of behavior all the time on the subway (and the city, for that matter). Parents let their kids run around on the trains or on the sidewalk, and I have to dodge them to keep from knocking them over. I imagine that if I ran into one of these kids by accident, the parents would blame me for not looking where I was going. And who knows what would have happened if I or one of my fellow commuters had tried to tell Grandma to get her charges under control last night.

Mostly, I just hate people. They're the worst.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

NYRO's season opening concert: Saturday, October 13

In case you don't read my e-mails (or aren't on my concert e-mail list), here are all the details on my next orchestra concert:

Dear Friends of the New York Repertory Orchestra,

Greetings! I hope you had a wonderful summer and that you are, as I am, looking forward to another great season with the New York Repertory Orchestra!

2007-2008 promises to be another wonderful year as we continue our tradition of bringing you great music, fantastic soloists, and the exciting music-making of the New York Repertory Orchestra - New York's leading all-volunteer, community-based orchestra!

Our first concert of the season will be a delightful program with music by Janáček, Mozart, Beethoven, and Hindemith. Our soloist (back on our stage by popular demand) will be soprano Bernadette Fiorella. We look forward to seeing you the 13th!

Here is more information about the concert:

When: Saturday, October 13, 2007 – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Good Shepherd-Faith Church @ 152 West 66th St. (between B'way & Amsterdam)
Admission: FREE

  • Janáček: Suite for Orchestra
  • Mozart: Exsultate, Jubilate / Beethoven: Ah! Perfido – Bernadette Fiorella, soprano
  • Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis [of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber]


Here's more about the music we’ll be playing:

The major work on the program will be the Symphonic Metamorphosis [of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber] by Paul Hindemith. Taking some obscure melodies of 19th century composer Carl Maria von Weber, Hindemith transforms them into a rousing and colorful tour de force for the orchestra – really a concerto for the entire ensemble. Full of fun and good spirits, the Symphonic Metamorphosis has been an audience favorite since its premiere in 1944.

The concert begins with the charming Suite for Orchestra by Czech composer Leoš Janáček. This delightful (and little-know and rarely-played) collection of Moravian dances and songs was written in 1891, but not performed until after the composers death in 1928. By turns rousing, introspective, vigorous, and mournful, these miniatures look back to Janáček’s connection to his folk-music roots and point forward to the mature voice of one of the great composers of the 20th century.

Also on the program:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his ever-popular Exsultate, jubilate in 1773 at the age of 17. This virtuoso piece for soprano and orchestra is a both a great example of the teenage composer’s prodigious talent and a dazzling display for the soloist.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s concert aria Ah! Perfido (a dramatic scene about the proverbial “woman scorned”) runs the gamut of musical expression from gentle pathos to murderous outrage. It’s like a full night at the opera compressed into 15 minutes!

Endowed with a pure and radiant voice, soprano Bernadette Fiorella returns to our stage this season. NYRO audience members of the last several seasons will fondly remember Ms. Fiorella’s luminous performances of Britten’s Les Illuminations, Griffes’ Three Poems of Fiona McCloud, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. Ms. Fiorella is active in opera (a member of the New York City Opera since 1991), as a concert soloist, and chamber musician. should be a wonderful concert and we hope to see you there.

Best regards,
David Leibowitz, Music Director
New York Repertory Orchestra <>


And here’s what we’ve got planned for the rest of the year!

December 8, 2007
Wagner: Prelude to “Parsifal”
Haydn: Symphony No. 104 (“London”)
Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 – Christina Castelli, violin

February 9, 2008
Schreker: Overture to “Ekkehard”
Farberman: Concerto for Jazz Drummer – Tim Froncek, drums
Sibelius: Symphony No. 3

March 29, 2008
Strauss: Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
Ellington: Suite from “The River”
Dvorak: Cello Concerto – Eric Jacobsen, cello

May 17, 2008
D’Indy: Suite from “Karadek”
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor – Anna Polonsky, piano
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)


All Concerts are performed at:
Good Shepherd-Faith Church (152 West 66th Street)
Admission: FREE - 8:00pm

Sunday, September 30, 2007

quick weekend trip home

I'm averaging a trip home to DC/Baltimore/suburban Maryland every seven weeks or so. This time I went to see one of my cousins from England (as well as the rest of my family). My brother and I spent Friday evening at the Baltimore Book Fair, where we watched a grilling demonstration by the authors of Mastering The Grill (they marinated steaks in Scotch and then grilled them right on wood coals, blowing the ash off the top with a leafblower), listened to a few local bands, and shopped for books. I picked up a dog-eared copy of Dreadnought by Robert Massie, a 900-page volume about the arms race between Britain and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century that led to the construction of the first battleships. I also found DVDs of At Last, the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set, the two British TV series that were the precursors to Monty Python's Flying Circus. All of that material should keep me busy for the next few weeks and months.

Saturday and Sunday were for relaxation, visiting with family and hanging out at my dad's house. I watched about half of Lebron James on Saturday Night Live and reminded myself why I don't watch that show anymore. And I overate at every meal, so I think it's time to double my efforts in the gym and finish the cycling season in strong fashion with a few more decent rides.

I'm ready for cold weather now, in case the weather gods are reading this. I'm sick of schvitzing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The woeful Knicks sexual harassment trial

Bill Simmons provides a guide to all the stories surrounding Anucha Browne Sanders' lawsuit against the Knicks and MSG. I enjoyed his Gold Club trial guide a few years ago, and this one is almost as good. Unfortunately, this case is the best publicity the Knicks have had in years. Like Matt Millen in Detroit, any time I read a story about the Knicks, I wonder what Isiah Thomas has to do to get fired. He's already run the team into the ground so it's not like things can get any worse. When he ultimately gets fired, whether it's this year, next year, or five years from now, I hope the first question for James Dolan at the press conference is "why now? Why not five years ago?"

Friday, September 21, 2007


GOOD: Taking the morning off work
BAD: Taking the morning off work to wait for Time Warner to fix my cable for the 3rd time since I got the HDTV in April

GOOD: Playing Madden 08 while I wait
BAD: Losing 20-7 to Kansas City while playing as the Steelers (though I did beat the 49ers 34-14 last night)

GOOD: Most of my cable channels still work
BAD: Time Warner has to come back next Friday to fix the system for the entire building

GOOD: Eating lunch at home
BAD: eating it quickly because I found out at 12:15 that I had a 1 PM meeting in the office

GOOD: learning new things as the backup to the guy who runs the Unix servers & accounting systems in our office
BAD: getting invited to 3-hour meetings about upgrades to the accounting system (I have one on Monday)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A fool and his money are soon parted...again

One of the things I did this weekend was get myself to the Apple store on 5th Avenue to check out the new iPod Classic in person. I'd seen one at a Best Buy on Thursday, but it didn't have any music on it, so it was impossible to give it a proper tryout. On Sunday afternoon I had the chance to plug in my headphones and test the newest object of my tech affections. I spent about 30 minutes with an 80 GB Classic and another 10 minutes with the 160 GB version. Aside from a few issues with the Cover Flow feature (which Apple fixed in a firmware update this past Friday that had not made it onto the test iPods on the showroom floor), I liked the sound and the menu updates. I hadn't intended to spend the money on the new model yesterday, especially when I saw the serpentine line for the register and remembered that I had other things to do that afternoon. However, there was an Apple store employee standing behind a cart with a plastic box covering an assortment of iPod Classics. He looked like a guy selling watches on the street, but he was actually selling iPods right there. I saw another customer give him his credit card and ID, and the employee ran it through a PocketPC/Newton-like card reader and sold him an iPod. Well, when faced with instant gratification like that, I was powerless. $442 later, I was the proud owner of a new black 160 GB iPod Classic. It was exactly one year ago yesterday when I got my first iPod. My justification for this kind of foolishness is that I'd always planned to upgrade that iPod within a year, assuming that I'd run out of space. When I got home last night I copied my music and photos onto the new one, and I've been using it at work today. I have to be extra-careful with it for the time being, as I don't have a proper hard case for it yet. I'm carrying it around in the black slipcover that came with my 60 GB iPod.

So far, the sound quality is equal to my old iPod, and I like the new cover animations and menu features. It's an iPod, so the differences are minor. I'd like to sort my albums by album name in the cover flow screen instead of by artist, but I think I can fix that in iTunes this evening. There is a minor problem with the photos application. I can see all my photos in the preview mode, but I can only scroll through older photos with the scroll wheel. When I try to scroll through photos I've taken with the Canon SD550 I bought in April 2006, they don't appear. I can see them if I use the slideshow feature, so I know the iPod can display them. And I didn't have a problem with those photos on my old iPod. I read a few forum posts about the problem on Apple's web site, so I'm not the only one who's encountered this issue. I figure there's a firmware update coming that will fix this, but I can live with it for now.

Someone stop me before I buy a Macbook. I'm thisclose to blowing a month's rent on one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I am not in this video

None of these things has ever happened to me, probably because I'm not a dumbass who tries to jump off a homemade ramp or ride down a flight of stairs. Set to music, these clips of idiots on bikes are cringingly hysterical.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

2007 NYC Century ride wrap-up

Despite having played the viola for five hours on Saturday and getting home at a decent hour, I somehow managed only three hours of sleep on Saturday night. When the alarm went off at 5 AM I jumped out of bed, but my initial burst of energy wasn't going to last. I got to the start at Central Park at 5:45 AM and left with a group of riders at 6:15.

As soon as I left the park my chain fell off the chainring, so I had to stop and fix that. That was not a good omen. The Manhattan portion of the ride went through Riverside Park down to 72nd Street, then down Broadway to Columbus Circle and through Times Square. I don't know who had the bright idea that we should go through Times Square, because even at 6:45 AM it was busy and confusing. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and took a different route to Prospect Park, through DUMBO and Fort Greene to Grand Army Plaza.

The next leg of the ride, to Canarsie Pier, was more difficult for me than in past years. My lack of sleep was catching up with me, and I seriously considered calling the ride organizer and telling her I was going to cut my day short and only ride 75 or even 50 miles. But as I approached the rest stop I got into a rhythm and forgot that idea. At the Mill Basin bridge, someone took the "Cyclists Walk Bikes" sign literally, and that caused a traffic jam and a 10-minute wait to cross the bridge.

The mileage between Canarsie Pier and Alley Pond Park is always the toughest part of the ride. It's usually the longest gap between rest stops, and there are some long climbs along that part of the route. In particular, the three mile approach to the rest stop at Alley Pond is psychologically the most difficult thing I face every year. I know I'm close to a rest stop, but I've got a long ride through the woods to get there. Also, the road markings on this part of the route were either non-existent or poorly placed. Some of the turns were marked after the turn, or in the middle of the intersection. Other turns were stenciled on the bike path in the same shade as the bike path stripes. And there had been some last-minute changes to the route, so a few turns were marked two or three times, with previous markings in the same color crossed out with spray-paint. I missed a few turns, though I didn't go too far out of my way on any of them. With the heat, my state of mind, and the length of the route, it took me almost three hours to get to Alley Pond.

I took a long break at Alley Pond to eat and rest my aching muscles. There was enough food for everyone, but not enough tables, so there was a long line to get something to eat. On the way back onto the route after the rest stop, I missed a turn and nearly fell off my bike trying to get back onto the path. I didn't hurt anything other than my pride, though I got a nasty red bruise on my leg where it hit the handlebars. After that point, the road markings improved and I don't think I missed any turns the rest of the way. I stopped to get more Gatorade and chatted with a disappointed bodega owner who had hoped for more business that day. I made up some of the time I'd lost on the previous section and I got to Astoria Park around 2:45 PM.

By this time I'd run into a guy I used to work with, and he and I rode the rest of the way together. Because of Farm Aid on Randall's Island, we crossed back into Manhattan before taking the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. I didn't have any difficulties in the Bronx. The organizers at the rest stop put the fear of God into us that we'd get nothing at the finish if we didn't leave immediately. It was 5:30, so we had about a half-hour to get back to Central Park. My friend said we'd "book it," and he wasn't kidding. We pushed it for most of the last eight miles, and we got back to Central Park at 6:20 PM, just over 12 hours later.

It ended up being a good day after all, but this was the first time I've done this ride where I've thought it was more like work than a fun day on the bike. I need to remember to get more sleep the night before, and ride more long training rides before the Century. Also, I'm starting to complain enough that I think I've earned "grizzled veteran" status for the Century. Eventually I'll have the gray hair and scraggly beard that goes along with that, but for now I'll have to settle for the state of mind.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Me wantee!!!

Apple announced a new lineup of iPods today, and I'm drooling over the new 160 GB iPod Classic. I don't care about a new Nano, or an iPhone without the phone (though it does look really cool). I want to be able to carry most, if not all, of my music collection with me all the time. Never mind that I can't listen to all of it at once, and that there are dozens of albums on my iPod that I haven't listened to in years. It's the principle. Plus, I use my iPod to back up my photos, so I've got that working against me as well. I've already had to take a few albums off my current 60 GB iPod to keep from running out of space. It's a good thing my entire weekend is planned out, or else I might find myself at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue buying one of these new iPods.

Friday, August 31, 2007

notes from a slow week

Oy vey, has it been quiet around here. I've been able to spend quality time with my Xbox 360 this week as well as watch all the sports I could want to see. Orchestra rehearsals resume next Thursday, so I'll have at least one night a week when I'm busy.

There's a new subway entrance at the corner of Broadway and Cortlandt Streets, on the same side of the street as my office building. One of the small ways the average subway commuter can game the system is to get in the right train car so that when you get to your destination, you're close to the station exit. When I lived in the Village I got on the front end of the E train in the morning, so I was close to the World Trade Center station exit and didn't have to walk down the platform. In the evenings, I'd get on the back of the train and get off close to the exit at West 3rd St. But that all changed when I moved to the Upper East Side. The 4/5 trains are so crowded in the mornings, and the station exits on either end no more or less convenient for me, that it didn't matter which car I used. I'd always get stuck in an uncomfortable spot and have to walk to the station exit. Now, with this new entrance on my block, I can get in the front car of the train and be only a few steps from the exit at work. I still have to cross Broadway to get on the train to go home, but I can save a little time on my morning commute. It's the small things in life, my friends.

I took a bit of a gamble last week and bought a subscription to the New York Philharmonic. They had a sale on all concerts so I picked out four that I really liked and got two tickets to each one. The catch is that I don't have any idea who will want to come to these concerts with me, but I have until January to find someone for the first concert. The real test is in June: Mahler's Ninth Symphony on June 7, and Bruckner's Eighth Symphony on June 21. Those are two gargantuan works, so whoever comes along is either in for a treat or should bring a pillow for a nap.

Monday, August 27, 2007

the quest for pizza

I got up at 6:30 AM on Sunday for a marshal training ride for the NYC Century in two weeks. I had to be at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn by 8 AM, so when I left home at 7:15 I had to race to get there on time. I arrived to find a few other cyclists waiting, and a few minutes later the ride organizer showed up. The route was the entire Brooklyn and Queens portion of the Century, leaving out the Bronx. The end of the ride was Astoria Park in Queens, so from Grand Army Plaza it should have been about 65 miles. Another ride organizer would be waiting for us in Astoria with free pizza.

We left Prospect Park around 9 AM in a light rain that thankfully stopped after 15 minutes or so. There were 14 of us, but almost immediately four riders dropped back leaving 10 for most of the ride. Two of the riders in our group appointed themselves as leaders for the first part of the ride, through Brooklyn to Canarsie Pier. I know that part of the route well, but I didn't mind letting these guys take the lead. We stopped at one point on the greenway out to the pier, and one of the "leaders" had us count off from 1 to 10, for what reason I have no idea. I was number 10. We got to Canarsie Pier without any trouble and took a break to eat and drink before starting off again.

We lost one rider right out of Canarsie. He was a long-distance cyclist and he had a bike loaded with panniers and bags, and he carried several compasses, whistles, lights, a camera, and I don't know what else. We assumed he had gadget trouble. Nine of us kept going, then we lost another rider just past Shea Stadium. We stopped near the Kissena Velodrome and waited for him, then one of the leaders went back to look for him. We waited another 10 minutes, then decided to leave when we started to cool down. Now there were 7 of us. We made a wrong turn near the velodrome and got off the cue sheet, so I got out my map and figured out a way back onto the route that didn't take us too far out of the way. Around 2:30 PM we arrived at Alley Pond Park, and I had to explain to the group that this was not the end of the ride and that the TA organizer would not be waiting at this park with the pizza.

When I ride any distance longer than 40 miles, I always bring my Camelbak filled with sandwiches, energy bars, pretzels, and fruit. I almost always end up bringing food home again. Most of the riders were getting hungry, and I started to worry about people bonking with 15 miles left to go. No one had warned them that there wouldn't be any rest stops on the ride. I gave out my Clif bars and tried to get people mentally energized for the last part of the ride.

A few other riders had caught up with us by now. Seven of us left Alley Pond and went about a mile before we figured out we'd gone the wrong way. We asked a driver for directions, but then we decided that since there were three of us who'd done the Century route many times before, we could find our way from memory and then get back onto the new route. We went a bit out of our way and rode in traffic along Northern Boulevard for a mile or two but we got back onto the route at Joe Michaels' Greenway. After that we were able to stay on the route. Around Flushing Meadows greenway the other part of the group took off, leaving me and two other slower riders behind. I took my time and waited for them for the last few miles of the route, keeping them in view behind me while I pointed out the turns.

We got to Astoria Park around 4:30 PM, about 90 minutes later than we had been expected to arrive. We did get pizza, and I got to share my opinion of the route and the nonexistent road markings with the organizers. I had been more pissed off about the lack of markings, but by the time I got to the park, I wasn't angry, just exhausted. I hung around for a few minutes, then left for home via the Queensborough Bridge.

I got home at 5:45 PM and my odometer showed 85 miles for the day. While I was more tired than I expected to be after that long a ride, I felt good knowing that I should be good to ride 100 miles in two weeks. With the proper organization and real rest stops, I shouldn't have any problems.

Friday, August 24, 2007

good things and bad things about my class

My Linux class was a "hands-on" affair, where we installed the OS on a PC and tinkered with it all week. It's the sort of thing I've been known to do on my own from time to time, so it was fun and interesting.

However, I had to work with another student. Usually that's not a problem, and sometimes it's even one of my co-workers, so we make a good team. But this time it was a guy from another company, so I had no idea what I'd be getting. He was a decent guy and seemed to know his IT business, but he was so busy answering phone calls and checking his Blackberry all week that he didn't pay much attention to the instructor. And he admitted that he was new to Linux, so he was a disaster when it came to the command line or following the labs. I tried to help him along and not get frustrated (and considering my tendencies, I think I did a good job of maintaining an even temperament). When he performed the instructions in the lab manual, I could tell he was just typing the commands, with no regard for what they did. When I did the labs, he'd make sure I followed all the steps, but he didn't care what happened. As soon as we finished the lab he'd go back to his laptop and e-mail or chat over IM with a friend.

Now, I've been known to go to IT training, get out my laptop, and spend 8 hours paying the least amount of attention possible while surfing the Web and goofing off. And I did have my laptop out all week as usual. However, I paid attention, asked questions, and got my work done. Despite the class being about 75% review for me, I think I learned a few things this week. By his own admission, my partner needs to buy a Linux book and spend some quality time installing and configuring a system on his own. I don't think he got anything out of a class that cost his company about $2000. Their loss, I suppose.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My once-a-year training class

I get to go to training (or a conference) once a year, so this week I'm in a four-day Linux class. I've been managing Linux servers at work for about four years with no formal instruction, just the bits and pieces I've picked up along the way. The class has turned out to be more of a review than new material, but that's OK. I need the practice, and it's been useful to see the best way to do things, instead of the haphazard methods I've been following for years.

One thing that the instructor said has been bothering me. He pointed out on the first day that many companies will pay for Linux software from vendors like Red Hat, Novell, etc., and buy support from those companies as well. However, since there's a rich community of Linux administrators on the Internet and many sites with Linux documentation and tips, the instructor said several times that it's a waste of money to pay for support. If you can get help for free, why pay for it?

Well, if something goes wrong with one of my production servers and I can't fix it, I don't want to tell my boss (or his boss) that I'm checking user groups and web forums and waiting for someone in Europe to get back to me with a suggestion. I'd be in a world of trouble. We buy support for all our software, regardless of how trivial or how extensive the user community is. You never know when you'll need help, and you can't rely on Joe Sysadmin in Fresno to know how to fix your systems. That's why we "waste" our money on support. Because you never know.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

update on my new friend

Two months ago I got my new cat, Grady, from the ASPCA. At first I thought they were going to get along famously, but my initial optimism was premature. About a week after Grady came home, something happened between the cats and Starlite wound up living under my bed. Later, he moved to the bathroom, where he had access to his own litter box and food, and he spent most of his time hiding behind the toilet. I tried to get him to come out, but any time Grady approached him, he'd scurry behind the toilet again. This state of affairs continued for over a month.

Last Friday, I was home early from jury duty, so I had time to call the ASPCA and see if they had any suggestions as to how I could get the cats to tolerate each other, if not live together happily. The doctor I spoke to gave me some tips and we laid out a basic strategy to get them reacquainted. Step One of the plan was to move Starlite from the bathroom to the office, where he has more room to move around and windows so he has something else to look at. I moved him in there on Friday night, and his behavior has improved since the move. He still runs and hides under a desk when Grady comes in, but when I keep the office door closed (which is most of the time) he's happy to climb onto my desk, roll around, and cry for attention. It's going to be a long process, and in the meantime I have to split my time between the living room and the office in order to keep them separated and still spend time with both cats. But there's hope for the future.

Grady continues to be one of the cutest cats ever. He's completely insane, though. He chases his tail all the time, and leaps from couch to chair to windowsill during his manic phases. I'm not sure he sleeps much. The past few mornings he's woken me up by chasing his tail on my bed. It's impossible to sleep with a cat jumping around next to you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

the two slowest days of my life

I had jury duty on Thursday and Friday in one of New York City's finest jury holding rooms. When I got the summons I thought it was for a different location than the last time I went, in 2001, but when I got to the jury room it was the same place as before. We had to arrive at 8:45 AM on Thursday morning, and it wasn't until close to 9:30 that they showed us the juror orientation video with Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer giving us a history of the court system, what happens in a courtroom, and so on. The best (or worst) part of the video was at the beginning. They show you a medieval "trial by ordeal" where they throw the defendant into a lake. The judicial theory was that if the accused floated, he or she was innocent. It looked like they filmed that part of the video somewhere in upstate New York, but for all I know they shot it in Central Park. After that, we sat around the jury room until just after noon, when they sent us out for a two-hour lunch. Yesterday I went to New Green Bo on Bayard St. to try the tong po pork (based on Alex Balk's recommendation). It was a platter of fatty pork over bok choy, smothered in some kind of tangy sauce, served with buns. It's not haunting my dreams the way it haunts Balk's, but it was tasty. After lunch I wandered around Chinatown for a while, then went back to the jury room. They let us go around 3:30 on Thursday and told us to come back at 10 AM today.

I got back to the courthouse right at 10 and waited half an hour before they did a roll call. Then it was two more hours of reading and surfing on my laptop (the courthouse has free Internet access now, albeit with some web filters -- for example, I could read blogs and post comments, but I couldn't sign into Blogger to write posts on my own blog) before they gave us another two-hour lunch break. This time I went to Au Bon Pain, then killed an hour at J&R Music. They were having a sale on EMI classical CD reissues, so I picked up some Vivaldi violin concertos, the complete Saint-Saens piano concertos, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, and some Beethoven piano trios. I should not be allowed to shop on my lunch break. I got back to the courthouse right at 2 PM, and about 20 minutes later they said we were dismissed with credit for two days of service and we wouldn't have to come back for at least four years. A few people wanted to know why they couldn't have told us we were dismissed before lunch. I didn't care. But I am a little disappointed that we were never called for any trials. I would have liked to see some courtroom action. I did get two days off work with pay, which is always a good thing. And my public service is fulfilled until well into the 2nd Clinton administration.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

working from home thanks to the MTA

I missed all the excitement on Wednesday. I woke up around 8 AM, took a shower and put on the TV around 8:30, and that's when I found out I'd slept through severe thunderstorms that flooded all the subway lines in Manhattan. I spent my morning on a conference call and watching NY1 for updates on the subway situation. By lunchtime the reports were not promising, so my boss told me and the rest of the Manhattan staff to stay home and work. I got more work done from home today than I usually get done at the office. I'm not saying I want to work from home all the time, but it was kind of fun. I had the news on for a while, watched part of a movie during lunch, and then listened to music in the afternoon while working with one of the guys in the office to get a server installed.

On Thursday I'll be downtown at 111 Centre St. for jury duty. I haven't been called for jury duty in six or seven years. The last time I went, I took a book and read the entire time. I'll bring a book tomorrow, but I think I'll bring my laptop as well. From what I understand, the courthouse has Internet access, so maybe I'll be able to keep up with my various blogs and news sites. I'm not worried about getting picked for a trial. If it happens, I'll have something else to talk about besides the annoyance of sitting in a jury waiting room all day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Superfreak was just a song I wrote..."

This video is long, but worth the investment. I hope these two gentlemen patched up their differences.