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December 30, 2007

Christmas Pics are Up

If you want to see them as a set, go to Christmas 2007. Otherwise, just feast your eyes on my personal pick, in the banner for now.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

End of an Era

It is with some sadness but understanding that I have to announce that Renee is bidding adieu to flute. She'll finish out the year at school, but no more outside lessons, and no flute next year at school. She just isn't feeling a connection anymore. I wish it weren't so, but I'm not one of those parents who force a child to learn an instrument for their own good. At least she had two good years.

So enjoy this image, as it's likely the last of her playing a flute.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

New Musical Intrusions

Jean has been active on the mash-up network again. Here's her most recent net:

I'll also mention that I have two new Kristin Hersh songs:

Both are available at her new venture, CASH Music

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2007

Mingus Ah Um

Number Three at the Jazz 100 site, my self-gifted stocking stuffer for this Christmas is Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus. So far it really does sound like a number-three-of-all-time album. More as I get a chance to absorb it. Merry Christmas!

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Saturday at Tom's

I finally made it to Tom's for one of the gatherings with the gang. He usually tries to make his home available once a month so all us reprobates can get together and refresh our acquaintances. Two months ago, Lisa hosted at her home in Washington, which is just too far for me to go. Last month, I had a nasty throat infection. So since the last gathering I made was three months ago, I was quite looking forward to this one.

Alan was showing off his new coffee rig, which consisted of a precision filtered coffee 'plunger' to force hot water through fine ground coffee at a rate sufficient to prevent leaching nasty acids and bitter volatiles into his cup, and a burr grinder to get that fine grind necessary to such a setup. It turns out that he consumes around one cup of coffee a day, so this is just another example of young single engineers with disposable income.

He also has a handheld mobile PC which is his new 'cellphone', though I didn't get to see him make a call with it. It seems as if it would be awkward. Great as a portable mini-computer, but a cellphone? Dunno.

He showed off his 80GB Zune, which looked pretty cool, and his new laptop, one of the newer Thinkpads. Life must be good to him.

Tricia's daughter Heather was showing off the family's new camera, a Nikon D40. While that's a sort of entry level DSLR, if you put a 50mm lens on it, it would be a great walking around camera. Pretty neat.

Bo was showing off a bunch of videos on his PSP, including some fun goofy Japanese commercials with American celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nicholas Cage.

Chris and Valeska gave me a nice Japanese model. I'll try to find a link to a catalog image, as I think that'll give a better idea than any snapshot I take.

A handful of us did gift exchange as well. I gave away a DVD of Bender's Big Score, which probably was more appreciated than last year's gift, but which I think Tricia was only so-so toward. I ended up with some Kinokuniya gift certificates, which I plan on passing on to Renee.

I'd asked Tom recently which of a handful of They Might Be Giants albums available on eMusic he thought were decent, since he's the closest thing to a TMBG expert I know. So at the gathering he gave me a stack of CDs to listen to. I'll be working through them for at least the next month. Thanks, Tom! Oh, and he also gave me a cute little lucky cat souvenir from his recent travels abroad. Thanks again!

The Saturday gathering was just not enough for me, so when Tom mentioned that he wanted to see Sweeney Todd, I suggested that we get together to see it. So he and Alan and I met at Bridgeport Village and watched it. I liked it a lot, though I agreed with Alan that the bloodiness was more than necessary. Alan seemed to feel that the music was too repetitive as well. I enjoy Sondheim, so it was fine for me.

Anyway, just wanted to dash this off while I still remembered it. Merry Christmas, all.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2007

Darker Than Black

Darker Than Black ended like many of these intriguing anime series, with no certain resolution, and lots of unsatisfied questions. There is supposedly going to be an OVA that may answer some of them, but I suspect that it'll just prolong the agony.

I enjoyed the stylish journey, but the ending reminded me once again of The Prisoner, where the series ended in an almost nonsensical fashion, revealing that the story was mostly one long free association stream of consciousness gambol. Had fun watching, but I wish they'd put more thought into wrapping these things up.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

Go Go Santa Ranger!

I won't inline link this image (some folks find that akin to stealing), but just click on it for a cute re-imagining of Santa as a Power Ranger Santa.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2007

Winter Concert

Renee's 2007 seventh grade Winter concert was this evening. I took a few quick snapshots that I'll try to upload to Flickr over the next few days. Too beat now.

I feel, and Jean agrees with me, that Renee is one of the better musicians in the Cadet Band. Go Renee!

Update

The single minimally acceptable image from the concert is now in the banner.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2007

Win Some, Lose Some

On the flip side of gadget recovery, Renee's cellphone borked out Friday night. It would seem to turn itself off, but when you held down the power button to try turning it on again, it just buzzed angrily for as long as the button was held down.

I called Verizon Wireless (after hunting all over my bill for the number), and the guy I eventually got through to was very helpful. We have a new phone in the mail, supposedly scheduled to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. With my employee discount, it comes to ... free.

So if the phone arrives in a timely fashion, and works, and neither of our other phones goes toes up in the next month or two, I'm satisfied with the resolution of this one.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

Minimal Geek Repair

I've on my third hard drive for my ReplayTV, and my second remote control. The first one became unusable when the Select button refused to work. Think of it as the Enter key on your keyboard. I gussied up to the Internet and found a replacement, forget how much. And now the replacement has been getting wonkier and wonkier on the Select key. I could just pony up the dough for a third remote, but with the recent sale (second time around) by DM Holdings to DirecTV, I wasn't sure how much more money I want to put into this rig.

So instead, I fired up Google, which got me to this page. Two possible solutions: open the sucker up and clean the contacts, or reprogram the keys.

I grabbed my older, clearly broken remote, and busted it apart, cleaning the contacts thoroughly. Put together again, I found that the Select key now responded, if somewhat fussily. It would still be a little too annoying to use. However, now that I could get any response out of the key, I could reprogram the remote to use the Enter key instead of the Select key (can't do the reprogramming if you can't tell the remote which keys to switch around). And now I can use my old remote, albeit by reprogramming my fingers to press a new button now and then. I'm putting the newer remote in a drawer, sans batteries, against the eventual need for another rejuvenation ballet.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2007

Internet Cat Tax

It's nearing the end of the year and I have to get caught up on my Internet taxes, i.e. posting cat pictures to the Internet. More are available at my Flickr account if you so need...

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2007

Kelly Great

Okay, Kelly Great is the other Not-Jazz-100-CD album I had my eye on. It's only five songs, so it fills out my December queue nicely. And since eMusic charges by the song, I don't have to feel like I'm getting gouged for a short album.

Wynton Kelly was a jazz pianist, perhaps less well known than Thelonius Monk, but well-travelled nevertheless. So I decided to grab one or two of his albums and give him a listen. I like the first number on this album, "Wrinkles", a lot, already sure it's at least four stars. We'll see about the others.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2007

Speed Graphic

Some meat for the next (hypothetical) time I watch Speed Grapher.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

From the Not-Jazz-100-CD Files

One of the two jazz albums I promised I'd be getting, this is People I Like, by The Blueprint Project, with Han Bennink. A bit avant-garde and arrhythmic, but in a way that really tickles my novelty gland. We'll see how it holds up to multiple listens.

Tom, I only had fourteen slots left on eMusic this month, and Mink Car has seventeen tracks, so I opted to wait until January to pick it up!

Oh, and it's now exactly two weeks until Christmas Day, so I can start listening in earnest to A Charlie Brown Christmas, a Vince Guaraldi piano album I seem to have neglected to mention here. So sorry.

Update

So People I Like is generally very strange. The atonality is a bit precious, so I'll have to say that this was an experiment with a short lifespan. I'll take it out occasionally, dust it off and give it a listen, but while I rated two songs four-star, none of them got five. Not so much memorable as novel.

Funny, but I had a book in the queue at the library, and it arrived shortly after I started listening to this album. It's called The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, the New Yorker music critic. In it he explores the history of modern music, with a lot of attention given to more experimental approaches, atonality, differing scales and the road less travelled. I think of this album as sort of kicking off my browse of this book.

Oh, and I've listened to A Charlie Brown Christmas every morning since I posted about it. Definitely more conventional and regular than People I Like, and certainly less cloying most of the time than the broad swath of Christmas music out there.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2007

Gurren Lagann

Finally finished the last episode of the silly, fun series. I have to say, for a series that was built on melodrama and excess (a giant robot piloted by a smaller giant robot, piloted by a smaller, but still giant robot...), this last episode was a bit ... turgid.

Still, it fit the pattern, and it was a decent ending for the series, and hit a true note.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:26 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2007

Expoobident

Okay, it's not on the Jazz 100 list, but I liked The Sidewinder so much that I decided to grab Expoobident (apparently jazz slang for extraordinary, phenomenal, wonderful.) from eMusic tonight.

There are a couple other not-Jazz-100 albums that have caught my eye at eMusic, so I have a feeling I'm gonna rip through my quota early this month. I'll note them here if I grab them, of course.

Update

Yes, The Sidewinder is an album where everything pretty much gels, and Expoobident is not. The songs, though hard bop, seem a little too relaxed, and sometimes aimless. But even so, it's a fun album, and will continue to get a spot in the rotation.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2007

This House Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us!

That's how it seemed, anyway, for the first few days after we adopted a second cat. After some initial experimentation, we named him Quark, after a difficult to locate subatomic particle. We picked him up last Sunday, and I've been waiting, collecting impressions, before writing up this post.

He's reasonably smart, though perhaps not quite so smart as Chichi. When we got him, he had a bad case of ear mites (one of the worst our vet had seen), but with medicine and ear drops, seems to be improving rapidly. He also has roundworms, but we're treating that as well. We adopted him from another family, and all I can say is, don't they care about their pets? Come on, people!

He's shared family beds most every night, and likes to nest right next to my head, which is fine when he's quiet, but not so good when he's scratching or licking himself. He also likes to announce wake-up call around 5am, which sucks for me. Jean is usually up by then anyway, so when I really need sleep, I retire to the captain's bed in the den and close the door.

As I mentioned, Chichi is currently very jealous, though she's improved greatly from the first day, when she was growling and hissing and following Quark all over the house. Now they actually play, though Chichi plays dominance games and clearly would gut Quark if she still had her claws. She's about twice as big as the little guy, and just wrestles him to the ground. But he keeps coming back for more. I think he'll tire her out eventually. And if that doesn't work, he'll soon grow to at least her size. So the beatings should stop by then.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)

The Golden Compass

I took Renee and her friend Alexandra to see The Golden Compass this evening. I sat across the theatre from them, to give them their space. All told, as the first installment of a franchise, I think this shows a lot of promise. I hope it does well enough at the box office that they give it a second round.

Just an observation, but the folk comparing this to the launching of the Harry Potter franchise mislead a little. It's nothing like the Harry Potter books, apart from some talking non-humans.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

Wes Montgomery

Grabbed #25 of the Top 100 Jazz CDs tonight from eMusic. It's called The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. I've just started listening to it. I'll post impressions here in a couple of days.

Also, if that's too highbrow for you, I grabbed, at Jean's behest, Milkshake by Kelis, from the iTunes Music Store.

Update

Very nice album. Definitely worth owning. I've practically tranced out to several of the numbers on this album, and look forward to many more listenings.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2007

Infernal Affairs

I finally got around to watching Infernal Affairs, a movie which was quite hot in Hong Kong when it was first released, in 2002. I bought it in the Dealer's Room at the last Anime Expo I attended in 2005, but have been sitting on it for the right moment. So long, in fact, that I actually saw the Martin Scorsese remake, The Departed, in the theatre before watching the original.

Not into writing elaborate essays on the Asian movies I watch anymore, so I'll just say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It differed from The Departed mostly in cultural ways, and I suppose in ways specific to Martin Scorsese. A major plot element in Scorsese's version was not in the original, but I won't give that away here.

Two thumbs up.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)