Grab bag: Roald Dahl and the giant Palin

Virginia, Hail, All Hail

Ten thousand voices sing thy acclaim;
Ten thousand hearts beat high at thy name;
All unafraid and girded with good,
Mother of men a queen thou hast stood;
Children of thine a true brotherhood,
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!

Long let thy praises live and resound;
Long let thy virtues in us abound;
Let morning radiance set thee in sight;
Let noonday brilliance crown thee with light;
Let ev’ning sun sink kissing goodnight,
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!

It’s the kickoff of football season (UVA vs. USC at 3:30 pm today), so here’s a little lyric of inspiration from J. A. Morrow (class year unknown). Go Hoos!

I’m looking forward to hearing another recording of this song—I found and bought a copy of A Shadow’s on the Sundial on eBay today.

Grab bag: Capping broadband

It’s a wonder that I still know how to breathe

After months of following the Democratic primaries and cheering for Barack Obama’s victory, did I watch his acceptance speech last night? Did I scour the crowd for signs of my friends Greg Greene and Jen Sorenson, who were both in the crowd? Did I relish a speech well done, a fight well fought, and clear signs that the candidate is coming out swinging against a weak Republican nominee? Did I?

Well, actually … no. As Barack was starting his speech, I was getting 30 electrodes applied to my head and body and having a mask strapped to my face.

I’ve long struggled with snoring. My dad has legendary volume and persistence: a true Heldentenor of a snorer. In college my good friend Don Webb told me that he could hear me snoring through the 19th century brick wall that separated our beds when we were both residents on the Lawn at UVA. But recently it’s been getting worse, according to reliable observers, and to top it all off I’ve had decreased energy and an indomitable desire to nap whenever possible. So I finally manned up and scheduled a polysomnogram, better known as a sleep study, to see if I had sleep apnea. The first study was a few weeks ago, but I hadn’t gotten the results until last night, when I went back to try sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

The background: sleep apnea is a condition of repeated interruptions of breathing (apneas) during sleep. An apnea is defined as the cessation of normal breathing for 10 seconds or more, followed by a gasping resumption of breathing. The clinical threshold for an apnea diagnosis is 5 or more apneas per hour (5 on the AHI index).

My AHI score was a whole number multiple of the clinical threshold, meaning that I was experiencing oxygen starvation for an average of 2 minutes out of every hour. No wonder I’ve been grumpy and sleepy all the time (not to mention several other of the dwarves).

So last night I slept with a CPAP machine for the first time, and I feel amazing this morning: awake and alert, quick, and in a great mood. This despite the fact that I woke up three times (that I’m aware of) overnight–sleeping with the mask and all those wires isn’t easy.

Apparently I’ll be using a CPAP machine from now on, something that I’m actually looking forward to if it makes this much of a difference in my mood. Plus it apparently stops the snoring, which is a pretty significant bonus.

And yeah, while I’m looking forward to catching up with Barack’s speech, I’m kind of glad now that I skipped it in favor of this study. Both look like they’re going to have a big influence on my life going forward.

Akismet update 2.1.8 fixes “delete all” problem

A quick note to those who live and die by Akismet’s comment spam filtering: recent versions of Akismet appeared to have broken the ability to delete your spam comments, but version 2.1.8, released late yesterday, fixes the bug. Not a showstopping bug by any stretch of the imagination, since the plugin automatically flushes spam comments after 15 days anyway, but I was impressed with the responsiveness of the team when I reported the issue yesterday morning and the fix was available today.

BTW, Akismet just caught my 500th piece of comment spam (in a four month period).

Grab bag: floating bridges, early obits, and AAAAAAA!

Grab bag: There’s a convention going on

Ubiquity: it’s big, big, big. For geeks, anyway.

I installed the new Firefox extension Ubiquity yesterday and just got around to going through the Ubiquity 0.1 User Tutorial today. It’s seriously like nothing I’ve ever seen. Well, not exactly true: it’s like putting a Unix command line together with Quicksilver and Greasemonkey and Google and Wikipedia and…

So OK, it’s amazing. The ability to highlight text and type commands like map, wikipedia, and translate isn’t a game changer–Microsoft’s Smart Tags in IE6 (which appear to be making a comeback in IE8) did the same thing, putting the commands into a tag with a dropdown menu on the web page–but the ability to put the results back into the web–replace an address with a Google map, inline translation–to affect the DOM of pages you’re viewing right now is.

Which makes me wonder: what’s the security model for Ubiquity? You clearly have to opt into downloading a Ubiquity command, but what guarantees do we have that it can’t do something malicious? Like, say, cross-site request forgery?

The other question, of course, is: outside the universe of people who care about things like Quicksilver, will anyone care? It’s probably too early to say, but it’s already made me more productive–every link in the article above was looked up via a search through Ubiquity with no tab switching, no leaving the WordPress popup, nothin’. There are some things that could be done to improve the process–I’d like a command that starts with a Google search, then ends with the URL on my clipboard or even inserting the link right into my WordPress text edit window–but that’s what “teaching Ubiquity new commands” is all about, I guess.

Grab bag: BGP, OpenTape, convention, Blogcritics

The Virginia Glee Club: A Shadow’s on the Sundial (1972)

Having sung the title work, I’ve always been curious about the Glee Club’s 1972 recording A Shadow’s on the Sundial, not least because it financed their 1972 concert tour. I hadn’t been able to find any references about it other than a newspaper ad and a passing mention in Virginius Dabney’s history of the 1920s through 1970s at Virginia, but today I struck paydirt.

There are a lot of bugs in the UVA library’s onsite access to digitized back issues of the student newspaper the Cavalier Daily, but you can get to the content by searching to find the article you want, browsing to the year that it was published, opening the file containing all the content for that date, and viewing source (the content is contained in the XML). For those who might not want to go through the hassle, here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in the February 29, 1972 issue of the Cavalier Daily:

Profits from A Shadow’s on the Sundial, the Glee Club’s recent recording, will also go toward the tour. The record contains several traditional settings of English, French, and Italian madrigals, some of which will be sung in Europe. Two more serious works included are Francis Poulenc’s Lauds of St. Anthony of Padua, which the Club plans to sing in Padua, and Dietrich Buxtehude’s Cantate Domino, “Sing To God The Lord”.

“From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill” (two verses only) and “Glory, Glory To Virginia” combine in a pleasant medley, offering a sharp contrast to the above pieces. Also included among Virginiana are new arrangements by recent Glee Club directors of “The Good Old Song,”, “Virginia Yell Song,” and “Ten Thousand Voices.”

A recent addition to the collection is “Vir-ir-gin-i-a,” by Professor Emeritus of English, Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr. Setting verses to a chorus by G.F. Handel, Professor Davis dedicated his new song on April, 1968, to the Jefferson Society. He sang the first performance of it on that occasion.

Portions of two other compositions that the Glee Club has come to regard as their own have been included. One is Randall Thompson’s Testament of Freedom which was dedicated to the Glee Club in 1943, having been composed for the Two Hundredth Birthday of Mr. Jefferson.

The other composition was written by former Glee Club director David H. Davis, entitled Summer Songs. The title of the album, A Shadow’s on the Sundial, is taken from the name of the concluding Summer Song in the group.

The album represents a lot of work on the part of the Club members. It seems the incentive involved has produced what many consider to be one of the best albums ever put out by the group. The album can be purchased for $5.25 at the corner stores, Newcomb Hall Bookstore, Stacy’s Music Ship, and HiFi House or through any member of the Glee Club.

With the group preparing to record a new album honoring the legacy of Songs of the University of Virginia, I thought the discovery of this description of Shadow was interesting.

Breaking: Technorati acquires Blogcritics

I was just wondering the other day: what happened to Technorati? Apparently they’ve been reinventing themselves as an advertising and media company. The latest step: the acquisition of Blogcritics, the open cultural criticism site for which I’ve written in the past and may do again in the future. Announcement on the Technorati Blog; coverage at TechCrunch, which estimates the deal size at around $1 million.

Congrats to Eric Olsen and the rest of the Blogcritics crew. Putting the site together was a lot of work and keeping it running has been even more, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Tanglewood Beethoven weekend roundup

There’s a brief roundup of reviews, among other things, of this weekend’s Beethoven concerts below. The reviews do a good job of pointing out something that we all felt through the residency: this was no quick dash through familiar repertoire. Both conductors brought an insistence on careful preparation and respect for the material, and I think the end product showed it.

Some more thoughts on the two pieces. As choral events, they couldn’t be more different. Our conductor likes to point out that many call the Mass in C “Beethoven’s Haydn mass,” and the nature of the commission–for Prince Esterházy on Haydn’s recommendation when the older composer grew unable to write another mass for the Princess’s name day–reinforces that. So does the Mass’s structure: traditionally set, with many quiet moments throughout, it’s no Missa Solemnis. But the uncertainties of the Credo, the leaping harmonic language used to set “God from God, Light from Light,” and a host of other clues show us Beethoven wasn’t phoning this in. It may have been a commission in a traditional manner, but Beethoven’s result was anything but traditional. For me, the work is a window into a search for faith. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos did it justice by ensuring that the performance exposed the conflicts as well as the clear statements of faith and allowed the searching structure of the piece to be heard.

The Ninth Symphony, written almost twenty years later, continues that search. Twinned as it is with the Missa Solemnis, the work represents the summation of Beethoven’s faith journey. The Missa Solemnis carries the questions raised by the earlier mass to dark places, and ultimately finds, at best, unsettled comfort in traditional religion and religious forms against the drums of war and the awful finality of death. By contrast, Symphony No. 9 confronts war and death head on, tries on chaos, stern struggle and romantic religion, and ultimately finds all of them lacking, choosing instead to take a simple drinking song about the brotherhood of man and rise to the stars with it.

My instinct all weekend was to take the late eighteenth century Enlightenment questions of the role of religion in the fate of man into both the Mass and the 9th Symphony. (It helps that I was finally reading the Jefferson Bible all the way through.) But you don’t have to look very hard to find Beethoven struggling with the same questions that Jefferson seemingly effortlessly addressed through his bold redaction, namely: how much of our received religious tradition is “real” and how much of it has real value? The Ninth’s unity of humanism and religious expression in a divinely inspired joy that enables us to reach to God is of a piece with Jefferson’s insistence on the greatness of Christ’s teachings quite apart from the question of his godhead.

…And so, somewhat to my surprise, we’re at the end of another Tanglewood season, the end of another summer. I have no idea how that happened so quickly. It seems just yesterday that we were setting our clocks ahead, and now the days are getting shorter and the kids are getting ready to go back to school.

And we’ll be returning to the basement chorus room at Symphony Hall. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be in the first performance of the season, the Brahms Deutsches Requiem with James Levine back at the podium, but I sure hope so.

I collected all my photos from Tanglewood this summer, including the ones I took last weekend, into a Flickr set for posterity (also linked from the photo above). The big difference this year is that all the photos were taken with my iPhone, because my good camera has been missing somewhere since the middle of the summer (alas). I like the iPhone better as a camera than my two previous camera phones–the image quality seems better and less smeary–but it suffers the same issues as they do, namely uncertain color balance when shooting in bright light.

Grab bag: Beethoven Tanglewood reviews and more

links for 2008-08-24

Beethoven 9th rehearsal: snapping back heads

Yesterday was our “day off” between the Mass in C performance on Friday night and today’s 9th Symphony performance. Of course, the “day off” included the morning’s orchestra dress rehearsal of the 9th, which was a treat to be a part of. We had the best seat in the house to watch guest conductor Christoph von Dohnányi (with whom I previously sang Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex) rehearse the first three movements. He’s a painstaking conductor, stopping in the middle of an open dress rehearsal to synchronize presto string entrances in several places.

The fourth movement was a lot of fun to sing. It was sometime around 12:30 when we hit the big fugue in which the tenors enter on a fortissimo high A, so I was finally in voice (when the rehearsal began with warmups at 9:30, I didn’t have much above an E), and I saw quite a few heads in the crowd bounce in shock when we nailed the note. It should be fun this afternoon.