…is being in Michigan in the midst of tornado warnings. They just moved everyone here down to the ballroom of the Marriott (which is, oddly, on the second floor—a strange place to take shelter). Still waiting for the all-clear. One of my coworkers couldn’t take a flight out tonight because of the weather—all planes were grounded.

So I’m sitting in the hotel bar, working, and waiting for the all-clear. What a weird night.

Update, 10:33 PM: Well, it looks like we’ll be down here for a while. They cut into the Red Sox game on the TV a few minutes ago and are now only showing weather maps, with a big red spot right over the town where we are. Still no signs of any trouble from inside the hotel.

Update, 11:28 PM: The game came back to the TV half an hour ago. There will be more storms moving through overnight, but if someone tries to roust me from my hotel bed again they’ll be sorely disappointed. I won’t be moving for anyone.

Rainy in Michigan

I’m on the road this week, accounting for the slow posting. It’s been an interesting few days, learning how a prospect does business and getting deep into their data. I’m also feeling the pain of being a Red Sox fan on the road when we’re two down in the championship series; I had a hard time sitting in the same room with some Cleveland fans on Tuesday night. Here’s hoping we turn it around tonight.

Surprise home projects

I hadn’t planned to have any work done on the house this weekend—it’s been kind of a long week. But opportunity knocked—in the form of a paving contractor.

One of the things I haven’t liked about our house since we moved in is our road. Our neighbors are fine—it’s the actual pavement that is problematic. Like a lot of people in Arlington, we live on a private road—what this means is that the city doesn’t do anything about paving, sidewalks, or storm sewers, and we get a break on rules about things like on-street parking. It’s not a great trade-off if you have a driveway, like me. The biggest issue we have is that the last time the neighborhood association had the street paved, they left an unpaved triangular strip, about a foot wide at the widest, where our property line angles away from the street. It picks up road sand and salt, grows weeds, and generally annoys us. Add to that—the pavement that was there wasn’t level, and we generally had a big puddle in front of our house after a rainstorm. But I didn’t really figure on doing anything about it.

Until the paving contractor showed up to do our neighbor’s driveway—acting quickly, professionally, with a crew of about eight guys, they had the work well in hand before 9:30 in the morning. I knew they would be working on our next-door-neighbor’s curb, so I asked the foreman for a quote.

Before noon, the crew had laid in new asphalt right up to the curb, level from one end of the property to another, with no place for a puddle to form and no room for mud. Plus they fixed a huge crack in our sidewalk for free.

In Rainbows

I will find it hard to say anything about In Rainbows that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. It’s an album that repays close listening and repeated attention, which is nice; there hasn’t really been another album quite like that that has crossed my path for a while. There are some familiar bits on it: I recall (back in the old, lawless days) Napstering a live concert performance of a song called “Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any),” which is very clearly the Neanderthal ancestor of “Nude.” But there is a lot that is fresh and wonderful, too.

I will probably be in In Rainbows for a bunch of listens. I have a flight south today that will be a good opportunity for me to disappear into it.

Then there were four

An exciting music day, to be sure. Yes, yes, In Rainbows is out. But so is a major chunk of George Harrison’s catalog, just out yesterday on iTunes. I’m listening to All Things Must Pass right now (a bargain at $9.99 for 28 tracks plus a movie!), and man is that a wonderful album. I can’t believe it took me this long to check out more than a few tracks from it.

I’m still waiting to hear the outcome of Radiohead’s grand experiment, like everyone else, I guess. But I can’t help but hope that their new immersion into digital music leads them to open up their stuff to other retailers. It would be nice to see them on the iTunes store again.

Oh, and for anyone who is counting, I think Apple Corps has run out of Beatles-related non-Beatles music to re-release digitally. Bets on when the last shoe will drop and the full catalog goes up?

Ig Nobel 2007: Cow dung ice cream, anyone?

At the end of last week, I missed the announcement about the 2007 Ig Nobel prizes. Particular favorites for me include the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded to Glenda Browne for her study “The Definite Article: Acknowledging ‘The’ in Index Entries”; the Linguistics prize for a study showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between Japanese spoken backwards and Dutch spoken backwards; and the Chemistry prize, which went to Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan for pioneering work on the extraction of vanillin (vanilla flavoring) from cow dung.

As Dave Barry used to say, I am not making this up.

Best part: a special public tasting of a new Toscanini’s ice cream flavor, “Yum-a-moto Vanilla Twist.” Asking what the twist is is probably like asking what the “surprise” is in Whizzo’s Spring Surprise.

I can always tell when fall arrives…

…because the Black Dog starts sniffing around the door.

So far, it’s not much more than a sniff. But here I am in New York, ready to go on stage at Carnegie Hall for the first time in my life, and I’m feeling a little blah about it. Well, terrified would be more accurate—not about going on stage, but about leaving the hotel room.

The good news is that after all this time I can recognize my apparent agoraphobia for what it is—mild depression waiting until I drop my guard to spin up into a full fugue. And I think that I might be able to keep it at bay tonight, for I have a secret weapon. It’s called dinner in New York City, provided I can find some people to go with me.

Putting James Levine in his place

Last night I came home from the second of three performances of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé with the BSO (the third is tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall), and stopped on the way to pick up eggs and bread for breakfast. Since the concert went until after 10 and I live in Arlington, it was almost 11 when I pulled into the Stop’n’Shop on Mass Ave and went looking for my groceries, still wearing my tux.

The place was pretty empty—it closes at midnight—and the only people there were the stock workers and the clerks, one of whom had to put away his soda when I walked up to his line. He started ringing up my stuff with a straight face—pretty good feat, considering I was in full formal attire—and then said, with no preamble, “I’ve never worn a tux…all my friends got married fifteen years ago now and I never had to wear a tux for any of their weddings.”

I said, deciding for some reason not to disclose to this random stranger that I had been singing in the performance, “Well, you could always go to Symphony Hall.”

“Oh yeah!” he said, brightening. “Is that where you were?” I nodded, and he asked, “So who was the guest tonight?”

The guest. Ah yeah. Thanks to years of marketing, the only thing most people remember about the classical performances are the guest stars. I knew the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet had played, but rather than butcher his name, I said, “No guest tonight, just the regular symphony and chorus.”

“Cool,” he said. And then, “So what’s that Keith Lockhart like, anyhow?”

I replied with a straight face, “Amazing,” and beat it before I started cracking up.

And yes, before you say anything, I am of course part of the problem by laughing at this guy rather than informing him of the existence of James Levine. But there is a time and a place for that kind of conversation, and it’s not after 11 PM in the check-out line of a Stop’n’Shop.

Outlook tags

I am an email junkie. There, I said it. So the question is, what to do about it?

I have two problems with my work email (home is a story for a different day). First, I tend to save every message that isn’t outright spam or one-word answers—and it’s only recently that I started deleting the latter. Second, I have a file folder for everything, a habit that I started back when I first used Eudora in the mid-90s. It’s the second habit that is especially bad; it doesn’t scale worth a tinker’s when you are receiving over a hundred messages a day that are non-spam. (Yeah, I know. I threw up a little in my mouth when I wrote that.)

So what to do? First thing for me that really has helped is installing Google Desktop on my Windows machine. Much faster than the native Windows search engine, and with the double-control-key quick lookup, much easier to get into and use. But the next thing is to eliminate folders, and that is proving much harder. Because often the title line or even the content of an email doesn’t tell me which customer or software release it is in reference to, Google Desktop can’t find everything.

So I’m going to start exploring tagging. After all, it works well for me for Flickr/iPhoto. Here are some quick links about tagging hacks in Outlook:

Somewhere there is another tool that I really liked at Microsoft—it collapsed all the messages in a thread into a single mail message, deleted all the redundant text, and trashed the original messages. Now that’s efficient.

Shameless self-promotion: BSO, All-Ravel program

One of the reasons I haven’t posted much this week is that I have spent a lot of time at Symphony Hall, getting ready for the first concert of the season with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The program, an evening of compositions by Maurice Ravel, includes a complete performance of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, his brilliant ballet composed in response to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

For much of the work, the chorus has an atmospheric rather than a soloistic part; there is no text, for one thing, but rather humming and vocalizing with various vowels. But there is a section near the middle that woke me up in yesterday’s orchestra rehearsal: a fairly difficult section for chorus a cappella (mostly—there are a few punctuation points provided by the orchestra in places). In the chorus room the section was difficult and muddy. In the hall, on the other hand, with James Levine conducting and with the orchestra providing responses to our lines, it was a completely different beast, raising my hair and pricking my skin in a way that hasn’t happened musically in a very long time. If we can recreate half of what happened in yesterday’s rehearsal, the performances tomorrow and Saturday night should be quite special.

Nota bene: we’re also taking this show to Carnegie Hall on Monday night. So all of you New York-based readers (yes, Tin Man, I’m talking to you), come check us out.

Photo catch-up


I’ve been heads down at work for a bit, so posting has been slow. However, I did manage to get some photos uploaded to Flickr in the last day or so, including a few summer studies at Crane Beach and the photo to the right.

A word of explanation, perhaps, is in order. The flight from Boston to Seattle (which I took back in August) is long, almost six hours. Perhaps to make up for this, some daytime flights manage to arrange their flight paths so that they come near some of the spectacular Northwest mountains, such as Mt. Rainier. The picture to the right was taken out the left window of an airplane just as some high-altitude cloud cover broke. The photo was not zoomed and was taken with my ordinary Canon PowerShot. The view from the plane window really was that spectacular. The accompanying photoset features some other images, many of which have been tweaked a bit to remove the general blue wash that the photo took on. (I will have to figure out how to get the exposure set correctly in the first place next time.)

Other favorites in the batch of uploads: the Harvard Lampoon building looking particularly Hogwartsesque, taken on the night that Harry Potter 7 was released; a nifty little flag shot and sand texture on Crane Beach; and a mountain sunrise from my folks’ place near Asheville. (There are also some special treats waiting for friends and family; make sure you sign into Flickr to see everything.)