This is my LAST POST.

For a few days, anyway! I’m on vacation and I’m taking a break. See you on Monday!

Meanwhile, here’s a sleeping dog.

 

 

Share This Post

Posted in Life | Tagged | Leave a comment

We interrupt our serious content for something silly.

Someone called my attention to a quiz the other day: Can you recognize these classic TV stars with their faces covered in pie?

My results weren’t fantastic! A couple are obvious, but several were either process-of-elimination or pure guesswork. Still, it’s a fun exercise! And of course, I feel it necessary to offer up a few additions! Recognize any of these folks through pie-obscured features?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Answers in comments!

 

Share This Post

Posted in On Pies In Faces | Tagged | 2 Comments

Something for Thursday

Back, at last, to Leonard Cohen, while it’s still September. This time, we’ll look at “Take This Waltz”.

I’ve only heard “Take This Waltz” either on its own or in the context of a Cohen Greatest Hits album, so I didn’t know that it is actually based on a poem by a Spanish poet or that it first appeared on an album comprised entirely of settings of this poet.

The album was Poetas en Nueva York, and it was a collaborative project in which a number of artists, Cohen among them, paid tribute to Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). Lorca’s short life was likely a difficult one, as he grappled with (among other things) being gay in early 20th century Spain, and he was eventually murdered by the Nationalists.

One of his poems, “Little Viennese Waltz”–which Lorca wrote during a two-year stint in New York City–was translated, adapted, and set to music by none other than Leonard Cohen for the afore-mentioned album, and in this setting Lorca’s poem has achieved a kind of new immortality.

Here’s the poem:

In Vienna there are ten little girls,
a shoulder for death to cry on,
and a forest of dried pigeons.
There is a fragment of tomorrow
in the museum of winter frost.
There is a thousand-windowed dance hall.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this close-mouthed waltz.

Little waltz, little waltz, little waltz,
of itself of death, and of brandy
that dips its tail in the sea.

I love you, I love you, I love you,
with the armchair and the book of death,
down the melancholy hallway,
in the iris’s darkened garret,

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this broken-waisted waltz.

In Vienna there are four mirrors
in which your mouth and the ehcoes play.
There is a death for piano
that paints little boys blue.
There are beggars on the roof.
There are fresh garlands of tears.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this waltz that dies in my arms.

Because I love you, I love you, my love,
in the attic where the children play,
dreaming ancient lights of Hungary
through the noise, the balmy afternoon,
seeing sheep and irises of snow
through the dark silence of your forehead

Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this ” I will always love you” waltz

In Vienna I will dance with you
in a costume with
a river’s head.
See how the hyacinths line my banks!
I will leave my mouth between your legs,
my soul in a photographs and lilies,
and in the dark wake of your footsteps,
my love, my love, I will have to leave
violin and grave, the waltzing ribbons

And here is Cohen’s song. Cohen’s voice lends a kind of surreal gravity to the music and the words, as his gravely baritone seems to rise from the earth, barely conforming to the waltz rhythm at all at first. There’s a dreamy earthiness to Cohen’s setting; I wonder how Lorca might have felt about it.

Share This Post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Grab Bag Post

When one gets home from work to start a vacation, one puts on overalls and pours a Scotch. It’s just what one does.

I like Scotch. Scotchy Scotch Scotch. Here it goes down. Down into my belly.

::  Teevee show you should watch: The World According to Jeff Goldblum, on Disney Plus. It’s a series of light-hearted and fascinating mini-documentaries about mundane subjects, starring some actor named Jeff Goldblum.

::  Here’s a pretty good article about what there is to see and do in the Finger Lakes. It’s kind of a starter article, but as those go, it’s good.

::  An article about the Hardy Boys books and the ghostwriters who formed “Franklin W. Dixon”.

::  Seen locally: a large bobble-head of Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Which doesn’t look anything at all like Bills quarterback Josh Allen!

::  A recipe I might try: African sardine stew.

::  Finally, a photo I took of my street on a dark morning in early autumn, when the sky was gray and the streetlights weren’t off yet. One thing I like about the rise of LED technology is that the streetlights now cast old-school pools of light, like they used to in all the old noir films. I processed this photo through the Prisma app to get this effect.

 

 

Share This Post

Posted in Random Linkage | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tone Poem Tuesday

Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is one of the great stalwart works of all classical music.

It’s also a work that…I just don’t like very much. At all. I’ve never warmed to it. It honestly does nothing for me. For years I concluded that I didn’t like Vivaldi, because I have never managed to turn myself around on The Four Seasons. Luckily, I eventually realized that Vivaldi wrote a lot of music that’s just fine and it’s just the one piece I didn’t much care for; this happens. (See Ravel and “Bolero”, for example…and even my favorite composers have works that don’t thrill me much, such as Berlioz’s Te Deum, which is…OK, I guess, if you like that sort of thing.)

But here’s the thing about The Four Seasons: it’s a concept that surely didn’t occur only to Vivaldi in 1718, right? Surely some composer in the three hundred years since has tried to address this concept.

Enter Argentine composer Astor Piazzola (1921-1992), who was known for his skill at composing for the national dance of Argentina, the Tango. Thus his suite of seasonal-based works consists of a set of tangos, as opposed to a set of baroque concertos, a la Vivaldi. (Also, Piazzola’s suite wasn’t even composed intentionally as a suite but was rather four different works gathered together into a suite. Many works of art come from a messy creation story!)

Still, this suite makes for a fascinatingly energetic and refreshing listen as you let Piazzola guide you through his dance-version of the four seasons of his Southern Hemisphere home. Here is The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, by Astor Piazzola.

Share This Post

Posted in music | Tagged | 2 Comments

Fifty-One

I’m 51 today! Yay!

This means that I have spent one year alive for every point scored by the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game following the 1990 season. (They beat the Raiders 51-3.)

I have one year in for each point scored by both teams combined in Super Bowl XLVIII (Seattle 43, Denver 8).

My age is the uniform number of Dick Butkus, Randy Johnson, Ichiro Suzuki, Bernie Williams, and former Buffalo Bills guard Jim Ritcher, who played 16 years in the NFL and was on all four Buffalo Super Bowl teams.

I am as old as Roger Moore was when he filmed Moonraker, and Martin Sheen when JFK, for which Sheen recorded the opening narration, came out.

I’m the age of Hector Berlioz when his great oratorio L’enfance du Christ was premiered.

I’m the age of Steven Spielberg the year his The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad were released.

And I’m two years shy of the age Kathryn Joosten was when, following her divorce, she decided to chuck it all and try acting.

I have completed three sets of 17 years.

I have lived longer than the age of eight US Presidents at the time they took office. (T. Roosevelt, JFK, Clinton, Grant, Obama, Pierce, Garfield, Polk.)

I am now half as old as Ambassador Sarek is in the Original Series Star Trek episode “Journey to Babel”.

Fifty-one sounds like a lot, so why do I feel like I’m still just getting started?

Onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

 

Share This Post

Posted in Life | Tagged | 1 Comment

“Can you love someone you don’t remember?” (A book review)

How can love persist in a world without memory? That’s the question posed by author Sarina Dahlan in her debut novel, Reset.

A while back I received an advance copy of a this novel, and I’m happy to report that it’s a very good book indeed, with a premise that is haunting and intriguing.

The setting is a human future, set an indeterminate number of years from now, in which humanity has been reduced to living in just four very large cities after a cataclysmic conflict leaves most of the world a scorched wasteland. In order to keep the seeds of such a conflict from sprouting and taking root again, a devilish new process has become the norm: every four years, everyone’s memory is wiped. Children are not raised by families but rather in institutions. All this was set in place by a single figure, in an attempt to quell the natural passions that are apparently the root causes of the conflict that nearly destroyed everything.

But there are some in this world who don’t want to forget, some who simply don’t forget at all. There are some who are tortured by their dreams and by a constant sense of deja vu, and some of these people are cursed to remember who they loved the last time around.

Reset asks questions like “What point is there in love if you’re going to be made to forget it all?” These are hard questions, and it leads to a memorable and haunting read that doesn’t offer a series of pat answers at its end. The novel explores ideas of memory and its permanence; it’s hard to separate the idea of Reset‘s “tabula rasa” (the process by which all memories are erased every four years), a science-fictional concept, and the very real-world problems posed by neurological conditions that rob people of their memories in a slow and inexorable process.

Dahlan is very focused here on love and the question of how it can endure when so much of our concept of love is bound up in memory. Are we simply going to move from one partner to another the next time around? Is what we feel actually love, if it’s so easily removed like a stone is removed from one’s shoe? Dahlan keeps the focus on the love story and the small cast of characters centrally involved within it, which is probably a wise choice. Some of the standard dystopia-story tropes are here, like the secret society of people who want to defeat the dystopian regime and restore something of the earlier world; at times the novel has chase scenes that put me in mind of Logan’s Run and THX-1138. But those aren’t the focus of the book; the main focus is, in fact, on lead character Aris and her confrontation of the idea that “tabula rasa”, which she has always supported because it’s simply what she knows, might have a dark underbelly to it.

Reset walks a fine line, in spinning a dystopian story in which the people are actually not slogging through grim lives of despair in wrecked cityscapes of bleak filth. The world of Reset is actually appealing in some ways, though I am not always clear on how everything works in this world. It seems to me that an essential part of a functioning society is continuity, and even if many of the underlying mechanistic jobs of society are handled in automated or robot fashion, the erasing of all memories every four years would damage that very continuity. I found the world-building of Reset not entirely convincing, but then…that’s not really the kind of tale Dahlan is trying to tell, in the first place. Her focus is on just a few characters and how they live and confront the issues posed by the very world they inhabit. If you’re looking for the kind of dystopia story in which the heroes lead a revolution against the powerful (or The Machine), this isn’t that book. If you’re looking for a solid love story set within the framework of a cold and rather heartless dystopia, Reset may well be your cup of tea.

 

Share This Post

Posted in On Books | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Tale of Four Laptops

When I was in college I started seeing the occasional laptop computer. Big, thick, clunky things they were; heavy brick-like objects with tiny screens and gigantic pricetags.

And oh, how I wanted one!

I always figured I’d be able to write more productively on a portable machine with which I could move around; even then I knew that working in a fixed space wasn’t always for me. Even if I had a place where I did most of my work, I didn’t want to have to do all of my work there. But a laptop remained an elusive goal, past college, into my working life, through the 90s, through the first years of marriage and the arrival of The Daughter and the trials of Little Quinn and the Star Wars Prequel trilogy and the move from the Southern Tier to Buffalo and more.

But finally, in 2007, the stars aligned! I was finally in a place where I could actually afford a laptop, via payments and a discount program The Store had with Dell. And thus it came to pass that Laptop Number One arrived.

I don’t have very many pictures of this computer, apparently.

Great SCOTT, that desk and workspace was a cluttered mess! I am by no means a neat freak but I get twitchy looking at that. (And as I write this my library is a mess again…sigh, it never ends….)

That machine was a Dell Inspiron, running Windows Vista. Remember Vista? Most folks I recall ever opining on Vista hated it, for some reason. I never had a major issue with it; to me it felt like most of the WindowsXP functionality with prettier stuff grafted on top of it. I got a lot of good work done on that computer, including, if I’m timing things right, the start of work on The Song of Forgotten Stars.

After three years I noticed that that machine was starting to show its age a bit. The battery was no longer holding charge so I had to always keep it plugged in, which wasn’t a super big inconvenience but enough of one, but for the most part that computer worked fine for what I used it for: writing, web-surfing, and watching media (at that time, still mostly DVDs). What eventually forced my hand to replace it wasn’t a failure on that computer’s part but the impending arrival of Windows 8. I read about Windows 8 and learned quite a bit about it and decided that I wanted no part of it. It just looked and felt weird to me. In the meantime, Windows 7 had arrived, pushing Vista aside, and now Windows 7 was on the way out! But I acted quickly and got Laptop Number Two, another Dell Inspiron, because I did not want Windows 8.

Awww, there’s Lester! I’d had this machine at least three years when this was taken, so note the shiny wear spots on some of the keys, especially the space-bar.

I’m guessing that I’m working on AMONGST THE STARS here, as a portion of that book was hand-written.

That machine was, so far, my favorite laptop ever. I loved that machine. I got seven years out of it, when generally anything over four years is borrowed time for laptops. That machine took a beating and, yes, kept on ticking; so much so that when its battery died, I actually paid for a new one and installed it myself. (No, this was not difficult in the days of externally-accessible batteries.) I squeezed every drop of productivity out of that machine that I could…

…until, one day in early autumn 2018, its memory failed.

Ugh.

Now, the first two laptops were direct manufacturer orders. I knew I was ordering them and used the Dell website to spec out the exact machines I wanted, and I had time to wait for them to arrive, because both were planned purchases. Not so the next machine, Laptop Number Three. The sudden passing of Laptop Number Two had left me in need of a working computer pretty much immediately, so I had to buy an off-the-shelf computer from Best Buy.

I don’t know that this is why my next experience was to be so frustrating, and maybe it wasn’t; I’ve heard various testimonials that Dell’s quality control has slipped in the last five years or so and that their machines aren’t nearly as reliable as they once were. I don’t know about that, but the Dells that I also bought for The Wife and The Daughter four or five years ago still work well enough (though The Daughter’s was a gaming machine, and those go obsolete very quickly).

Still, enter Laptop Number Three in October 2018.

Can you feel the ‘meh’ tonight….

I never warmed to this machine. It was frustrating from the get-go. It felt shoddier, somehow. It ran the stuff I needed it to run, but the screen was just OK. I always felt that the pictures that I took and processed on my phone(s) looked weirdly washed-out and rough when viewed on the computer. Also, that computer for some reason simply did not get along with our Fios router at home, so my Internet connection on that machine at home was unacceptably slow. I thought this a problem with the computer itself and actually took it to the Geek Squad at one point but they really couldn’t detect a problem, and I figured out that it was simply a weird issue with the home router when we stayed in a hotel and that laptop was able to suddenly stream Netflix like a champ.

I came up with a workaround at home for this issue: I would use my phone as a WiFI hotspot for just my computer. Which worked reasonably well, but this was an annoying kludge.

Then there was the fact that less than two years in, that laptop’s hard drive failed and I had to have it replaced. I got a solid-state drive this time, which was much more reliable, but the tradeoff there was I lost half my capacity, going from 1TB to 512GB. Ugh. (Nothing major was lost, as I have been religious about backups for many, many moons.)

More recently, that computer’s hinge started acting weird, so in order to close the laptop fully I had to do the normal closing thing and then I had to squeeze the back right hinge shut all the way. Otherwise the computer wouldn’t go to sleep. (Oh, and the battery died on schedule a year ago.)

So: I have been planning for the last few months to avail myself of Samsung’s Black Friday sales. Why Samsung? My phones are Samsung and my tablets are Samsung; I’ve had excellent experiences with Samsung products, even given their odd choices like the Bixby assistant and the bloat-ware they feel it necessary to load their stuff with. I read some reviews, did some homework, and narrowed my choice down to two machines: the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy Book2 360. (Samsung’s naming can be a bit…awkward. I actually find that clunkiness a bit charming, if I’m being honest.)

The Book2 Pro is a really good laptop and a step up from the “budget” kind of computers that the Dell Inspirons have always been. The 360 is a 2-in-1 machine, a laptop that can fold all the way around and become a tablet. I figured on the Book2 Pro because I’m just not sure that I need the 2-in-1 functionality…

…but then Samsung had a Fall Sales Event! And the Book2 360 was marked down $250!

So…voila!

Fully backlit keyboard and screen with the thinnest bezels I’ve ever owned. For several years I’ve been listening to bezel-thickness cited as a factor in various tech reviews; I never really got this until now.

Such a clean and sleek exterior! I may not decorate the lid with stickers and stuff, it looks so nice.

I can’t believe how THIN computers can be now! That’s my five-year-old Kindle next to it, for comparison.

I’m back to 1TB on my hard drive (and it’s a solid-state drive!). I’m back to a battery that lasts several hours. I’m back, baby!

I’ve only had this computer for five days, and I haven’t really started to dig into what it can do yet. I haven’t even tried the tablet mode yet, though I’m excited to do so. I’m also getting used to the keyboard. Layout’s pretty much the same, but the keys are slightly bigger and the trackpad is now centered whereas my last trackpad was to the left, so in the first few days I found myself unusually typo-prone. (This is another reason why my posts here have been pretty short this week.) The only major keyboard differences I’ve noted are that the Function keys are different, so I have to re-learn turning my speakers up or down, and that the “Home-End-PgUp-PgDn” quartet is no longer its own set of keys, but have been incorporated into the directional arrow keys as Functions. The End key’s new location is especially troublesome right now, because I’m used to it being in its standard spot right above the number pad–which on this computer is where the Power button is! So if I get mentally lazy and go to hit “End” where I’m used to it being, I put the computer to sleep. I’m not in love with that, but I suspect in a few months it’ll feel normal.

Another oddity with this computer is its ports: it has one headphone jack, and three USB-C ports (one of which is a “Thunderbolt” port and I don’t know what that means so yay, new stuff!), a micro-SD slot, and…that’s it. No USB-A, at all. Hmmmm. This particular detail was one that almost had me deciding to either suck up the $250 difference for the Book2 Pro or keep on waiting, because I still use a lot of USB-A stuff: my wireless mouse, all of my external hard drives, and other items are all USB-A. Yes, there are adapters, but than that’s just another thing you have to keep track of in your laptop bag.

Spoiler: I got the adapters and will keep track of them in my laptop bag. I’ve already got a little pouch for that kind of thing.

USB-A to USB-C adapter, with the dongle for my wireless mouse inserted. BTW, I am a big fan of the Anker brand as far as accessories go.

So far I love the screen, which is way more vibrant and detailed and color-graded than the last Dell; my photos look on this machine the way I think they’re supposed to look. Some reviewers noted the 16×9 aspect ratio of the display when 16×10 is more of a standard, but I’m honestly fine with it. And I really am looking forward to doing more of the other stuff this particular computer can do, like the tablet-mode and using it in its “standing tent” configuration to watch media. (Oh, and it comes with an S-Pen! That’s Samsung’s proprietary stylus, and it’s a cool add-on that I’ve already used a bit with my current phone. The only reason I don’t use it more with my phone is that my phone case doesn’t have a spot for it, so I have to keep it someplace separate. The S-Pen for the Book2 360 is magnetized and sticks right to the laptop lid! What will they think of next!)

I already spent almost an entire day downloading the contents of my Google Drive to this machine, and I’ve installed Scrivener; later today I plan to finally get back to Forgotten Stars V. There’s still work to be done: installing LibreOffice, seeing what fonts I need to track down, figuring what I’m doing for media storage (even though I have plenty of room I’m not sure if I want all of my music on the hard drive), installing DropBox and VLC Media Player and Windscribe (my VPN). So much to do! So little time!

But first, coffee.

This is the first photo taken with this computer’s camera! Video-conferencing hasn’t been a thing in my life yet, but I don’t rule it out. Hey, podcast producers! I’m available and I’m full of things to say, some of which are interesting!

Share This Post

Posted in On Tech | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Hopefully the last of the Placeholder Posts!

I’m hoping to get back to producing actual, you know, content this weekend! Just like this site used to have! Wow, won’t that be exciting!

Meanwhile, here’s Weird Al:

 

Share This Post

Posted in Meta | Tagged | Comments Off on Hopefully the last of the Placeholder Posts!

Something for Thursday

Nope, not back to Leonard Cohen yet either. That should happen next week! Meanwhile, here’s ELO, one of my newest Favorite Bands. (I’ve always liked ELO from afar but I didn’t know their stuff very well. I’ve been catching up of late.)

 

Share This Post

Posted in music | Tagged | 2 Comments