Sunburn and Loss

A few quick thoughts today…

  1. Contrary to popular opinion, you do sometimes need sunscreen in Seattle. I was at a beer festival Saturday and at the Fremont Fair on Sunday, and am currently the color of a boiled lobster.
  2. The radio station I listen to out here, KEXP, was playing a tribute this morning to a listener who lost a bout with cancer over the weekend. Nick Cave’s “Death is Not the End” and a cut from Lou Reed’s last really brilliant album, Magic and Loss. Makes me think: what would be your favorite way to be remembered musically? Post your answers in the discussion area.

It’s late…

…so only a quick note.

I went to see Spain tonight. More notes on the show tomorrow. The main points:

I didn’t realize I was so much of an old fogey. Another MBA intern from my company came to the show with me, and his comments were, “Please, another mellow song…” I think I was so sucked in on an emotional level to the music that I didn’t realize the main failing of Spain: if you’re in a crowded room, and Josh Haden’s vocal mic isn’t turned up enough over the mix (or is too muddy to be heard), and if a lot of people are talking in the background, then it just sounds like an extremely well-rehearsed country wedding band.

Which points out a few things:

  • I get far too deep into the music that I listen to;
  • the importance of a good sound man;
  • certain important things are best shared only with a few close friends, no matter how much fun others may be to hang out with under other circumstances.

And with that grammatical awkwardness…

Fun with Streaming

As many of you reading this page know, I’ve been a Mac user for many years, and am also a big music fan (to the tune of about 4 GB of MP3s ripped from my CDs sitting on my Powerbook’s hard drive). So when I started working at my internship this summer, I didn’t want to move all the MP3s to my work computer so I could listen to them. But I don’t have a portable MP3 player either…

I’m definitely also a big Mac OS X fan. The brainstorm I’m currently working on is setting up streaming media services on my Powerbook running OS X so that I can leave my MP3s on my personal machine and listen to them on my work machine (there was already an ethernet hub in the office when I got here, so I can bring my Powerbook in and plug it in for music). Why not just plug headphones into my Powerbook? Well, I’m not exactly in a Mac-friendly organization, so I want to be able to turn off the music from my work computer so I can tuck the Powerbook somewhere inconspicuous. Also, my middle name is “stubborn geek.”

Setting up streaming turns out to be slightly more complicated than I thought, though. There are three programs I’ve looked at so far, and each has its own issues. All the servers have a few problems in common:
(a) All the MP3s have to be the same bit rate. What a pain in the neck. I’ve encoded stuff with a bunch of different settings using multiple different encoders and I have no desire to re-encode my files…
(b) None of the servers support any client-side playlist formats. It’s pretty annoying to have to go back to foldering or some other format for listing MP3s to be played.

MP3 Streamer

This program began life as a Classic Mac OS application and has been “Carbonized” for use on Mac OS X. Its operation is theoretically simple: choose the port on which you want to stream, drop the MP3 files you want to stream into a folder, and click Run. You should then be able to connect with another computer.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a successful connection from my Windows laptop using either Quicktime or Windows Media Player–lots of errors.

Current

Like MP3 Streamer, this is a Carbonized application with one purpose in life–streaming MP3s. Unfortunately, like MP3 Streamer, it also doesn’t like providing music to Windows clients very much. Plays great on a Mac client pretty well, though. But it does have more serious problems:
(a) It blows up when you drag’n’drop files on top of its playlist pane.
(b) It only allows you to start it up 10 times before registering it. This is especially a problem when combined with (a).

So I moved on to look at

Quicktime Streaming Server

This is the mack daddy of streaming media servers for Mac OS X (and Solaris, and WinNT platforms, and Linux…). It’s pretty industrial strength. It’s also relatively headless–you administer it through a web page, so if you want to go and make changes from another machine, you don’t have to physically sit down at the server to make your configuration changes. However
(a) It only plays QuickTime formats natively. This means that you need to convert your MP3 files to hinted QuickTime movies before you can stream them. I’m pretty sure there’s a quick tool around somewhere to accomplish this, but it’s too bad it can’t handle MP3s natively without additional tweaking.
(b) The web admin interface is buggy, occasionally complaining about having insufficient privileges to execute certain configuration actions.

So it looks like I’ll be learning all about QuickTime movie production if I want to hear my music this summer, unless I find another alternative (Shoutcast server for BSD might be another option). Unfortunately, I also (since I’ll be listening behind a firewall) don’t think it’s going to be possible for anyone else to listen in. Oh, well. Sometimes being a stubborn geek isn’t the most rewarding path.

Of Good Beer and Bad

I make it a point to try beers that I’ve never had before whenever possible. It’s kind of the same principle that makes me want to eat tripe in Florence or beef tongue in London–both of which were pretty darn good, btw. The nice thing about beer is that rarely is even the worst stuff anywhere near as scary as the concept of beef tongue.

Le Mal

One exception was a fine brew made by a former housemate of mine. Those of you who have the misfortune to have a friend, relative, spouse, or close acquaintance with more beery enthusiasm than skill know what’s coming and can skip ahead.

After a day of the 1996 version of the snow “storm of the century,” and being thoroughly unable to move my car, my housemates and I decided to empty the fridge of all drinkables instead. There were a few OK beers, which were passed around for tasting in an early 1970s Polynesian-restaurant tiki glass (now in the possession of Jim Heaney). Then we started hitting the bottles with no labels.

It is indicative of the state of our minds that we took a minute to remember that our former housemate Dina, who had left us in the late summer of 1995, had experimented with making beer with her then-boyfriend, now-husband Ian. Both had pretty impeccable scientific credentials, and with much excitement they put away some beer and some hard cider. There were two bottles of each left in our fridge six months later.

We were lucky and hit the cider first. I say “lucky” because the pure alcohol left in the bottles by the yeast they had never removed prior to bottling numbed our taste buds for what was to come. Then we tried the beer. To this day, I can’t remember what it tasted like, only that it cured my desire to make beer for good.

Le Bien

Fortunately, if the brewers at New Belgium Brewing ever had this experience, they moved past it. Michael Jackson (the beer hunter, not the “king” of pop) isn’t kidding when he says that their Trippel has “a huge, earthy floweriness.” If I hadn’t bought the beer myself I wouldn’t have believed it to be an American brew. Figures I had to go to Seattle to find this Colorado gem.

More beer notes to come after the Washington Brew Fest this weekend.

Quarterly Update (i)

I had planned on updating this page more often than once every nine months, but sometimes school and work seem like a more pressing responsibility than maintaining a web log. See the FAQ for other updates.

Two quick thoughts:

1. OK, so I haven’t visited either of them more than once or twice in the past six months, but I’m still depressed that Suck and Feed are gone. Plastic isn’t really an adequate replacement (though it will be if Polly Esther can continue to write her stuff somewhere else…) See the full story many places online, including The Industry Standard.

2. Listening to Radiohead‘s Amnesiac for the third or fourth time this morning in the car on the way to work in the pouring rain with no coffee and indigestion makes me think of that famous question that the head of Atlantic Records asked of Peter Gabriel on hearing the “melting face” album: “Has Peter been hospitalized?” But bits of it are so pretty. I am more tempted than ever to try to figure out a way to translate the music into something that can be performed by a mixed a cappella group just for the sheer challenge of humanizing it.

Intermission: It’s been a while

For anybody who’s been waiting two months for me to get around to posting the next round of photos from our most recent European vacation, I apologize. Business school and a Powerbook crash (watch this space for details on both) have kept me from posting recently.

In lieu of something more personal, I post these thoughts from William Carlos Williams:

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–

if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,

I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,–

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

c. 1917

Pompeii Pt 2

The other really impressive thing about Pompeii was the sheer scale of some of the remaining buildings. One of the facilities was a big arena that included a swimming pool (now completely grassed over but still visible as a sloped depression in the earth).

The other amazing building was the amphitheatre, which is thought to be the oldest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, predating the Colosseum. The entire structure, unlike the Colosseum, is intact (though many parts are grassed over), allowing you to see the symmetric shape of the facility.

We only spent an afternoon in Pompeii, far too short a time to see everything we wanted to see. But we had to drive on to Positano.

World Travellers Part 3: See Pompeii and Die!


From Rome, we drove the Autostrade to the Amalfi Coast. Our first stop was originally to be Naples, but we decided that the hazards of taking a car into Naples outweighted our desire to see the city. We accordingly gave Naples a miss and (after some maneuvers because we missed the exit) got to Pompeii.

After Rome, which was clean and had its antiquities tucked away into well-defined corners, usually in pretty bad shape (the Forum is nothing but broken blocks and chunks of marble), our first view of Pompeii was a surprise. The city is both more and less well preserved than one might imagine. After reading National Geographic articles about the discoveries from this excavation, the initial reality of the site is a let-down. It’s extremely dusty and has been utterly stripped of ornament—all the good pieces went to museums, mostly in Naples.

However, as we started looking closer and entering some of the dwellings (some of which have intact ceilings, most of which had intact walls), we started to be blown away. Many of the dwellings had gorgeous frescoes on the walls; some had incredible mosaics.



World Travellers Part 2: Roman Holiday

After London, we embarked on a ten-day trip to Italy to celebrate Lisa’s graduation last summer from Maryland with her MBA and MS, and my admission to Sloan at MIT for the fall. The focus of the trip would be the Amalfi Coast, but we had spent some time in Rome on our honeymoon and wanted to revisit our old friend.
This view of the Piazza from its southern end captures the beauty of the buildings surrounding the Piazza.
Although the city was mostly familiar, it seemed to sparkle as a result of the preparations for the Millennial visitors. One especially noteworthy thing was the colors of the walls, which had been painted throughout most of the city with an ancient technique that used natural pigments in solution with milk to achieve a lovely wash.

We stayed near the Piazza Navona, and spent a lot of time just walking around the place, built over Diocletian’s hippodrome and said to offer the best people-watching in the city. It certainly had one of the best enotecas (wine bars) around…
This is one of the three lovely fountains in the Piazza.
The central fountain of the Piazza is by Bernini.  His figures are said to be recoiling in aesthetic horror from the church directly opposite, which was designed by one of Bernini's rivals.
The arch at the entrance to the Piazza was originally one of the main entrance gates to Rome.
The lovely facade of St Peter's, restored in time for the Millennium.
One of the small joys about our days in Rome was that much of the restoration work that had been ongoing on our previous visit was complete now. I finally got a chance to see the facade of St Peter’s, which had been under scaffolding when we visited in 1998.
The famous Spanish Steps, bedecked with flowers.

Our favorite church in Rome, this dates back to the 13th century.  Check out the golden mosaic in the pediment.
One of our favorite churches in Rome is Santa Maria de Trastevere, named for the funky district across the Tiber in which it is located. We took this shortly before going for a repeat dinner at Romolo, one of our favorite Roman osterias. It’s housed in the former villa of Raphael’s mistress, and the seating in the stone courtyard is to die for. We did not die this time, as we knew we were on our way to Paradise on the Mediterranean, Positano. Of course, we’d have to drive the Autostrade del Sol and go through Pompeii first…

World Travellers – Part 1

The dome of St Paul's Cathedral, as seen from the ground.  It's quite a climb.
This is the view from the west face of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in London. I was lucky to get this shot off between raindrops...
We’ve been promising to publish photos from our trips for so long, I can’t blame anyone for not believing that we’d do it…but I’ll try to post more photos every few days for the next few weeks to catch up.

Our travels this year started in London with one of those British Airways saver fares. It ended with meeting one of the Cheeselords and his friends at the Savoy for various beverages, some made with absinthe (which, amazingly, is still legal in London).

Two photos of St Paul here in honor of one of the weirder coincidences of the trip: as I was coming down the steps of the dome tour, having gone to the top to get the first of the photos below, I ran into Dan’s friends starting their ascent. We had been trying to get in touch with each other for three days…