No Europe, no cry

Following up on Monday’s post, I should report that I decided against joining the tour. Its obvious attractions aside, family and work come first, and I’ll be quite busy with the latter the few weeks around Labor Day.

Not to say I’m not disappointed. I haven’t been to Europe on a non-business trip in a few years. But right now this has to be the right decision.

iTunes 7.3: Consolation Prize

Those of us who won’t be getting an iPhone today have at least one good thing awaiting us from Apple: iTunes 7.3. Of course, the only new features are… iPhone compatibility, or as CNet says, “a painful reminder that you are leading an iPhoneless existence.”

I tried to update my work computer using the Check for Software Updates option within iTunes, but it crashed iTunes (probably a Vista thing). I was able to get the update by running the Apple Software Update application directly; it’s installed in c:program filesApple Software Update.

Links for June 27, 2007

I’ve been working on a review that is taking longer than expected, hence the quiet (plus of course work). But in the meantime:

  • Use an Apple //c (and, one assumes, ][e) as a terminal for Mac OS X.
  • Use a mobile phone service to find a restroom. Yes, seriously. It’s called Mizpee. Apparently a hoax, but it’s generating a lot of back and forth on TechCrunch, including allegations that this means “Web 2.0 has jumped the shark.” What’s Web 2.0 about this idea, anyway?


Until this afternoon, I had the summer figured out. Push like heck to get a software release out and the sales team solid for June; take a week in July to visit family; then get back on the treadmill, with the exception of a single Tanglewood weekend (in monastic compensation for last summer’s excesses). And that would be enough, really.

Until this afternoon. When I got a call from Symphony Hall. One of the tenors in the chorus dropped out, the woman at the other end said. Could I do the European Tour?

Could I? That’s the question. We are, after all, talking about four additional evening rehearsals, more than ten days on the road, and two additional Tanglewood residencies. Of course, we’re also talking about singing with the BSO in Europe; specifically, in Lucerne for the Lucerne Festival, Essen, Mosel, Paris, and London. Even better, in the Royal Albert Hall.

So: what to do? I am fatigued from the year and just want to spend time with my family. But I haven’t sung much lately either (though this would surely cure me of that). I’ll have to decide soon: I have until 5 pm tomorrow.

Small favors

Well, this week our favorite Washington political operative, our Vice President Dick “Go F*ck Yourself” Cheney, did what seven years of liberal activism could not: he removed himself and his office from the executive branch of government. That he did so to assert privilege to flout oversight rules related to the handling of classified documents seems especially appropriate for our most secretive of politicians.

But turnabout is fair play, and the VP uncharacteristically left himself vulnerable. A courageous Democratic member of Congress obliged with one of the finer statements of the newly bipartisan reality of Washington life that I’ve seen since, well, 2000:

Washington, D.C. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel
issued the following statement regarding his amendment to cut funding
for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the
executive branch. The legislation — the Financial Services and General
Government Appropriations bill — will be considered on the floor of
the House of Representatives next week.

“The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal
case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive
branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot
ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President
should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice
President’s funding is consistent with his legal arguments. I have
worked closely with my colleagues on this amendment and will continue
to pursue this measure in the coming days.”

Heh. At any rate, if the VP’s office is no longer part of the executive branch, we should be thanking heaven for small favors.

Black Friday?

Remind me never to fly again out of Logan on the Friday after school lets out.

I was at Logan at 5:15 this morning. The garage was open and uncrowded and I expected a sail through security. I practically walked into a wall of people, though, when I got into the terminal—security lines snaking through the ticket area; ticket lines snarled. And (my heart sank) not a business suit in sight.

No, I was trapped with a bunch of Leisure Travelers. People who decided that getting to the airport three hours early for their flight was too late—and they were right, because they and their fellow Leisure Travelers had no idea how to negotiate security quickly, no idea how to check in the night before at home, no idea how to use the check-in kiosks. No idea that the security line was actually two lines. No idea that knives are not allowable carry-on baggage. No idea that we have been fighting a War On Moisture&tm; for almost a year now.

Not that anyone was making it easier for them. Ahead of me in line, I watched as every passenger on a 22-person flight was selected for “special screening.”

I think this is the ugly secret of business travelers: we hate leisure travelers passionately. Oh, we are tolerant and indulgent—until you slow up the line, bring a bottle of water in your bag, set off the metal detector with your pocket-knife, cause my business flight to get overbooked.

But the worst, the very worst thing about this morning: they have moved the Starbucks out of the United side of Terminal C. And put a Dunkin Donuts in its place. Now, I’m as Bostonian as the next transplant from Virginia, but if I wanted to drink dishwater flavored with corn syrup and soy powder, I’d order that. Instead, when I order coffee, I want it black and strong. I guess I’ll have to wait until I land in Chicago.

Britain has talent, and so does Paul Potts

Via Mandy, a UVA friend, I found this YouTube video of Paul Potts, a broken-toothed contestant on “Britain’s Got Talent” who murmurs when asked why he’s in the competition, “To sing opera.” And then proceeds to tear the house down:

I mean, and please excuse my French, but: holy shit.

This is the dream, if you are an amateur musician; for a vocalist, this is the prototypical origin story. It’s how you decide you are going to pursue this for the rest of your life. (As I confessed a while ago.) And he does it. Makes the female presenter take heavy sighing breaths and cry, makes the audience jump to their feet, makes Simon gush like a schoolgirl.

And not only does he pull off this performance, which would have been cool enough; he goes on to win the whole shebang. And: sing for the Queen, record contract with Simon Cowell, get money to pay off his debts. Even get his teeth fixed.

Sometimes the good guys win. But apparently only in Britain. Lucky bastards.

(And, um, it’s OK to be just a little jealous of him, right?)

For a more reasoned response to the whole thing, SJ Reidhead has a good piece on Blogcritics.

Updated 9/26/2007: Had to update the YouTube link. You’d think that the rightsholder would treat this amazingly successful clip as promotion rather than yank it, but no…

iChat and broadband speed

My inlaws and I are trying to figure out why they get such poor iChat performance. We videoconference with them often through iChat, and their sound cuts out, or the picture becomes so pixilated that they can’t see what is going on.

I just ran a Speakeasy speed test and it doesn’t seem that our connection speed is a problem—our speed to their servers in New York (very close to my inlaws) is pretty darned good:

18065 down 1960 up

So that leaves a few other possibilities. One is my inlaws’ speed—I know a few other people in their neighborhood have gotten cable modems. Another is iChat version—they are still on Mac OS X 10.3 and we have made the Tiger move.

The Kendall Band no more?

Der Spatchel points out that the Kendall Band, an interactive musical sculpture in the Kendall Square T station, is not functioning because the T can’t afford to maintain it. While I can sympathize with the T—when I was at Sloan, the piece seemed to be inoperative as often as it worked—it seems a shame for the single nicest feature of any T station to go mute. Particularly since it is right outside MIT.

I had no idea that the piece was by a descendant of Henri Matisse—or that Paul Matisse had other sonic artworks throughout the city. I’m particularly tickled by this description of the musical fence: “Its immense popularity proved problematic, however, in the urban environment. Passers-by played the fence at all hours, causing its relocation to the less residential environment of the DeCordova Sculpture Park.”

Back to the Hook

I have an appointment with destiny tonight in Charlottesville, where I am heading to see Tyler Magill get married. And to congratulate Jim Heaney on his engagement. And to hang out with my sister and take some photos. And maybe have a late night Newkie Brown at the Court Square Tavern.

No, I’m not building this up too much. Why do you ask?

Wildmon on HR 1592: Taking fearmongering to new heights

Ah, Reverend Don Wildmon. Once known for picketing TV shows and comic strips, now turning his attention to hate crime legislation. The latest American Family Association newsletter hysterically claims that new anti-hate-crime legislation in front of the House (HR 1592) and Senate (S 1105) would make it illegal to preach against homosexuality.

The actual text of the bill, in fact, says that that’s not what the bill trying to do. Section 8 says that nothing in the bill “shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.” The whole bill targets violent felonies causing bodily injury that are motivated by prejudice. If the Reverend Wildmon would spend more time reading and less time picketing, he might have picked up on the distinction.

Links for June 15, 2007


I’d love to do a joke about how Microsoft is striking back at Apple’s Safari by releasing a Mac version of their weak iPhoto clone, but (a) they released it back in April and (b) Expression Media actually looks to have some pro-grade features that might be worth checking out. Maybe.

Speaking of Microsoft, the secret to good WPF applications is design, design, design; and Vertigo Labs is pretty damned good at that. Check out their new Family.Show application. I just wish they would publish their tip list and notes about WPF and Expression Blend in a web-friendly format. I can’t read XAML docs and XPS on my Mac.

On a completely different topic, an interesting article on obsolete instruments in Salon talks about some I’m familiar with (the sackbut and the shawm) and others I’m not (the Stroh violin, which is amplified with a tin horn; the Birotron, which uses 8-track loops; and others).

And when I’m done going back to Tom Waits’s Alice and Blood Money to listen for the Stroh violin, I can apply this hint to stop iTunes from nagging me to sign into the store every time I start the application. Yay!

Speaking of things that make me happy, check out these tips for living life shown subway-sign style.

And speaking of iTunes: I’m walking a line, I’m dreaming of houses in motion. Houses that used to host the Berkman Center. Houses that will block Mass Ave for three days.

And speaking of blocking things: I think that the TSA may have lost sight of the rationale behind the war on moisture.

College town

It’s strange being in someone else’s college town. You get all the facets of college life—cheap, unhealthy food; cheaper beer; the unhurried pace of college life. We checked into our hotel in a local college town today and asked about food. The clerk behind the desk said, “If you just want a quick bite, the place across the street has a gyro special today—gyro, fries, and large drink for $3.99.”

As my colleague said later, “He was definitely a college student. Now that I’m out of college—I’m on an expense account—I don’t care so much about cheap any more. I’m more interested in good.”

Touché. Still, there’s something to be said for the bargain, the “cheap and good” option. That’s where I always felt college students were really good at establishing a market.

Unfortunately, in places like Charlottesville, the positive effects of the students are counterbalanced by parents and alums, who inexplicably kept places like The Virginian alive long past its freshness date. I should note I haven’t eaten there since 1995 or so, but then it felt like it should not have existed because no students were ever there and the food wasn’t really good enough to draw the townie crowd.