August 2001 Archives

Technology Is A Wonderful Thing

This kind of humid weather always reminds me of Southeast Asia in general and Hong Kong in particular. It's not that it's that hot out (it was actually kinda cool out this morning), but it's the quality of the air, a kind of heavy softness that I'll always associate with Hong Kong.

. . .

I was down at Battery Park this morning, peering out into the fog towards the Statue of Liberty and beyond. Actually looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean (I would have been able to see it if it'd been a clear day—C'est la vie).

Tonight I'm going to be driving up the Pacific Coast Highway towards a friend's house.

Ain't technology wonderful?

. . .

Oh yeah, and there won't be any updates until I get back to New York in a few days.

Ouch, That Hurts

I think I over-did it slightly on the bike this weekend.

Instead of my usual route up and down the Manhattan bank of the Hudson River, I did something a little different. I left my house and went up to the George Washington Bridge, as usual. But halfway back from the bridge, I diverted from the riverbank and headed up to Riverside Drive.

I should add here that going from the shore up to Riverside Drive at 125th Street (which is where I did this) involves going up a hill that appears to go straight up.

Once at the top of the hill, I found myself at Grant's Tomb (Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?) and the owner of two legs that had turned to jelly (for some reason, I'm reminded of Peter Graves and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar in Airplane!).

The good news was that it's basically downhill for a mile and a half from that point.

The bad news is that I did it again the next day.

So my quadriceps are just a bit techy today. So I go to a local Qi Gong massage place to get them worked on. And they worked on them. But here's the thing. What really needed work were my calves and lower legs. But I didn't feel it.

Well, at least I didn't feel it until they started getting worked on. And then I really started to feel it. Oh my god did I start to feel it.

Which leads me to my next question: why does massage feel so good?

Ave Verum Corpus

I saw two very interesting concerts last week at Mostly Mozart. The first, on Tuesday, was a twin bill of Emanuel Ax playing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat paired with the Mozart Requiem. On Saturday, I saw Alicia de Larrocha playing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, along with two of Mozart's more popular symphonies (the "Haffner" and the "Jupiter").

I actually saw the Ax/Requiem twice: on Tuesday night in person, perched up in the third tier of Avery Fisher Hall, and Wednesday, on television at home, sprawled out on the couch after dinner, on Live from Lincoln Center.

Watching it on TV after seeing it live the night before was quite interesting. I should hasten to point out that it really was Live From Lincoln center, and not a broadcast of the previous night's performance. The easiest way to tell the difference was that when I saw the concert at Avery Fisher Hall, the on-stage cameramen were wearing white jackets; the following night they were wearing black jackets. Easy as pie.

What was more interesting was how being in the hall, even one as (and I'm using a technical term here) acoustically sucky as Avery Fisher, made the performance, particularly with the massive chorus that had been assembled for the event, alive and dynamic (I should add right now that the trombone soloist for the Tuba Mirum was superb). That sense didn't really come through over the television. The flip side is that in person, one could hear the occasional cell phone or beeper go off in the hall, something that was mercifully mixed out during the broadcast (unfortunately, I find it hard to believe that there was no instance of an electronic ring disturbing the performance on Wednesday night [it shouldn't be that hard to jam the common beeper/cell phone frequencies inside of a concert hall—admittedly, it might be illegal, but what's an FCC regulation compared to the Mozart Requiem?]).

As the chorus soared through the Dies Irae, I found myself wishing that I could hear them in a church.

The concert ended, not with the conclusion of the Requiem, but with the motet "Ave, Verum Corpus". It's a beautiful piece, no doubt, calm and elegant in its simplicity, but something of an odd comedown after the intensity of the Requiem.

Not that you were asking, but the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra did use the standard Sussmayr edition of the score (after all, this is the festival that still hasn't presented the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A with a bassett horn, the instrument that the piece was written for).

The Saturday concert was something of a valedictory for the conductor, Gerald Schwarz, who has been with Mostly Mozart in one capacity or another since 1982. It was a program that consisted entirely of war-horses, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Alicia de Larrocha, who is in her late 70s, delivered a performance of idiomatic elegance and grace; it was the kind of performance that flashier, more technical pianists would well to emulate (as a side note, my favorite interpreter of Beethoven at the piano is Walter Gieseking, who played even the most turbid music with an eloquence that can only be described as mind-boggling in its fluidity. What's particularly interesting is that Gieseking's Debussy is completely different—stormy, abrupt, defiantly modern). The two symphonies were played with gusto and polish, if not any entirely new ideas.

Quantum Tunnelling

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Had some friends over for some poker Friday night.

A good time was indeed had by all, but something slightly strange happened.

While I was cleaning up, I counted 19 empty bottles of beer.

But I only found six or seven bottlecaps.

So I'm thinking that there's this weird quantum tunnelling effect going on.

In fact, I'm sure of it. And I'm quite convinced that those missing bottlecaps are now hanging out with those odd socks and those missing ball-point pens.


I got on a scale today for the first time in a long time. Well, let's just say that I am slowly dropping weight, but my god, I don't want to know what I started at. Still a lot of work to do. I suppose it would go better if I stopped eating crap all the time at the office.

Still, life moves on. One must prepare to move along with it.

And if men are from Mars, then are women really from Venus?

New York Moment

I'm sitting in a cab that is, in turn, sitting in the parking lot known as Ninth Avenue in the 40s this morning, staring out the window, when a guy in a bakery truck pulls up:

"Hey friend, got the time?"

I glance at my watch, tell him the correct time (running late—not only ungraciously late, but obscenely so), the light changes, and my cab speeds off (well, at least as much as one can speed off on Ninth Avenue).

. . .

I got my tax refund check in the mail yesterday. I think that it's really odd that they government would send me money when last week they sent me an envelope with instructions on how to pay estimated taxes for the rest of the year. It would make sense to me that, instead of asking me to pay estimated taxes while sending me money, that the Treasury Department should just keep the extra money and deduct it from my tab.

Quite frankly, while I can't say that the cash isn't welcome, it's not like I'm starving to death here. This is not money that I'm going to use to feed myself. Well, maybe I'll take myself out somewhere, but you get the idea.

I can't help but think that it's actually a bribe. The amount that's on the check has nothing to do with the amount of taxes that I actually pay. It's just a lump sum that's been handed out—"Here's some money, will you like me now?"

Actually, the amount of the check is just about equal to the cost of my airline ticket to LA. Interesting.

. . .

Got on my bike this morning, sore leg and all. I don't know if I'm actually getting stronger, or if it's just a psychological thing, but I'm pushing myself harder on the bike than ever before, particularly on the hills (admittedly, I ride a very flat course, so it's not like I'm riding through the seven hills of Rome). But still, progress is progress, no?

Dictionary Time

Main Entry: char•ley horse
Pronunciation: 'chär-lE-"hors
Function: noun
Etymology: from Charley, nickname for Charles
Date: 1888
1 : a muscular pain, cramping, or stiffness especially of the calf that results from a strain or bruise
2 : a really, really, really painful way to wake up this morning

Do Men Get PMS?

Moving day at the office. Fun, fun, fun. I'm really enjoying the process. Fourth cube in under three years. I can't tell how excited I am. Really.

It's true that men don't get PMS, but we still can still get really, really, really cranky. For some of us it's a way of life.

I've been really tired this week. It's either depression again or just a lack of sleep. One hopes that it's just a lack of sleep.

How To Cook For 8

Go to cheap Mexican supermarket and buy whole beef tenderloin at 2/5 the per-pound price of a conventional supermarket three days before you actually intend to cook.

Trim tenderloin. Realize that there really is a lot of fat in cows.

Put in roasting pan with extra paper towels to soak up extra "fluid". Stick in fridge.

Day of big dinner, take loin out of fridge. Throw out paper towels. Tie small end of loin around. Slice off head of loin after realizing that whole loin won't really fit in roasting pan in straight line.

Hope that what's left (which only fits in roasting pan diagonally) is enough. Attempts to visualize meat divided into eight parts fail.

Understand that it will take a lot longer to cook unless roasting pan (which has spent last three days in the refrigerator) warms up from current temperature, which is ice cold. Take loin out of pan, put on chopping board (which takes up most of the working space in your tiny New York City apartment). Put pan in oven. Turn oven on, warm to 425 Fahrenheit.

Wait (one can prepare other foodstuffs while waiting).

Once pan is warmed up, open oven (try to avoid third-degree burns on your hands), drop loin into pan. Loin will instantly sear. Wait a minute, then turn over so the other side will sear. Add salt and pepper. Forget to add olive oil. Close oven.

Wait 15 minutes. Open oven, turn roast over. Close oven.

While preparing other foods, forget that loin should only be in oven 30 minutes max. Overcook slightly for an extra 10 minutes. Roast will come out Well Done, not Medium Rare. At this point, make sure that all guests have lots of wine.

Slice. Discover that the meal's only going to be two slices per person. Load up guests' plates with extra starches and veggies in hope that no-one will notice. Apologize for the fact that dinner is being served at 9:30 in the evening. Particularly when you told people to arrive at 7:30.

Ignore the fact that even though you told everyone to be there at 7:30, the first person showed up at five to eight.

Start eating dinner. Be relieved that you didn't totally screw up the meal.

Continue to eat dinner. Realize that it actually turned out pretty well.

Drink lots more wine.

Laugh-a While You Can, MonkeyBoy!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

Click on the picture to download the whole video. This is one of the strangest, most disturbing video clips I've ever seen on the net. This is a man who is in charge of a company that had 22 billion dollars in revenue last year. Remember this, all you readers out there who own MSFT stock.

The Register suggests that this is Ballmer's screen test for Planet of the Apes.

Personally, I'm leaning towards the "chemically fueled" theory myself. Of course, the question is which chemical(s)....

Worms and Ghosts, Oh My!

I saw the movie Ghost World last night. It's the best movie I've seen this summer (though Sexy Beast is a close second, and I haven't seen Apocalypse Now Redux yet). It's about the adventures of two teenage girls, Enid and Rebecca, the summer after they graduate from high school. More or less. Actually, less.

Enid and Rebecca, have a wee bit of trouble adjusting to the banality of life in Nowheresville, USA (the movie was shot in LA, but it doesn't really take place in any specific city). They met an eccentric record collector and slowly start to drift apart. It's really an amazing film, and all the actors in it are amazing (one of the nice things about it is that they actually cast teenagers in the movie as teenagers). The look of the film is brilliantly done (lots of bright, primary colors) and it's actually well-written, too. Highly recommended.

And on another note, this Code Red worm is quite interesting. Over the past 24 hours, I've gotten 395 attempted connections to port 80 on my Mac at home. I find this amusing because 1) I'm not running a web server, so there's nothing at port 80 to connect to, and 2) I'm on a Mac, so even if I were running a web server, Code Red couldn't do anything to me. And I should point out that my computer hasn't been on for the past 24 hours either.

Eradicating this worm is going to be very difficult, and I'm not entirely sure that it's possible. There are just waaaay too many people out there running Microsoft web servers who don't know what they're doing. I wouldn't be at all surprised if most of the people who are currently infected have no idea that their computers are infected. I wouldn't be at all surprised if most of the people who are currently infected have no idea what the Code Red worm is. I've noticed that a great number of connection attempts seem to be coming from home machines. I think that one way to cut down on the number of Code Red infestations is for broadband operators (i.e., et cetera) to actually enforce their Terms Of Service, particularly with regard to web servers. If you're running a server on port 80, and your TOS doesn't allow that, pull the plug until the Code Red issue gets solved. A little draconian, perhaps, but it would work.

Folks don't seem to understand that with the power to run a web server comes the responsibility to run it in a, well, responsible manner. That means applying security patches and that means shutting your server down if you've been hacked (among other things).

Seems that there are a lot of people out there who just don't get it....

Confucius Say...

The fortune cookie that came with lunch today read "You are going to take a trip to the seaside." and followed it up with a little smiley face.

The slightly unnerving thing is that I bought a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles yesterday.

I suppose it could have been worse. A few months ago, I got a fortune cookie that read "A reunion with an old acquaintance is a disaster." That would not have been a good thing.

Rather an odd fortune, considering that fortune cookie companies accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Of course, fortune cookies aren't Chinese at all. They were invented in 1915 by a Japanese-American named Makoto Hagiwara, who lived inside the Japanese Tea pavilion in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. A few years later in Los Angeles, a Chinese-American baker named David Jung started making fortune cookies. This was apparently an independent invention, much the same way that Newton and Leibniz invented calculus separately, or how Darwin and Wallace developed the theory of natural selection independently of each other. Perhaps there was something in that California water 85 years ago...

August already?

I was gonna do so much this summer...