Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday, duncanroo!

Here’s hoping it’s big, green, and fun. And we’ll be seeing you in a bit!


So my fear of embarrassing myself at music was not as bad as I thought. It wasn’t as good as a hoped either.

For one thing we went over other music and I was handed the solo lead on a rather interesting part. The William Byrd Suite I’ve never played this part on. And where I was afraid of the high F# in West Side Story, this part is regularly there and higher. It goes all the way to double-A.


Generally in community groups seniority accounts for a lot. And so I was surprised when the two first suggested I sit in the front chair. Tony came by and asked the lady who has been there for more than a decade if she wanted the privilege of being “concert master.” Without missing a moment she said no, that I should be.

Concert master is the wind ensemble usually falls to the 1st clarinet. In the orchestra it is often a designation for the 1st violin player. Depending on the tradition the concert master might rehearse the orchestra at times. In general they are responsible for directing and tuning the orchestra before the conductor enters the stage. In the orchestra typically the tuning instrument is the oboe, so the concert master will direct the oboe to tune the winds and then the brass, etc. In the wind ensemble this is often rolled into the single job. Essentially the concert master will be responsible for playing the tuning notes and all the rest of the concert master tradition.

A lot of music performance is ritual. And this is a ritual honor. I verified and commented that I thought seniority should have its place. She was quite assured she wanted me to be. I am honored and humbled at folks thinking that well of me.

It’ll be the first time I’ve been a concert master or first chair in a concert. And there is a pile of solo passages. Wish me luck. I’ve got a lot of practicing to do.

So what was the lie?

A little bit ago I posted the following five statements, with one of them being a lie, for folks to guess at:

1. I’ve been on national television twice
2. I’ve been ticketed by a NJ state patrolman because I was furry
3. I’ve been blessed by Pope John Paul II
4. I’ve met with a chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and after was part of a press photo-op with him
5. I touchtype at 85 wpm on a daily basis

The lie is #5. I was afraid it would be obvious because it was the simplest of the bunch. Big points go to scs_11 for being the one to remember watching me type. Its a credit to him because he’s only seen me a hand-full of days over the course of several years.

The full, sordid details


I really do need to get a music icon or make one.

So the “new” band I tested out turns out to be a fun group and lets me work on my soprano clarinet chops.

I had initially had expected a nice lazy time at 3rd or maybe 2nd clarinet. As with many middle-of-the-road community groups I expected to be able to basically sight-read the music and get the notes for the tough stuff under my fingers at the rehearsals and not need to practice.

Most professionals practice very little for anything other than direct feature pieces. Eventually you train your ears, learn to mark your music, and learn to truly perform on cue and not get lost in the mechanics of it. Good sight reading and good musicianship.

Last week however I was offered to play first and I took it. And not only that the folks that are there said I should take first seat (“on the end”) due to my good tone and reading. It’s a great compliment, but it does change things a little.

I’m behind the ball on mechanics. The split solo Bb part for West Side story hits this note several times. And while for a professional soprano clarinet player it’s only the “lower altissimo” register, (In extreme cases there is notation up to an octave and a few notes higher.) this is the stratosphere for me.

I literally had to count ledger lines to confirm it was a high F# and then think a moment or two to recall the fingering. It looks like I’m going to need to step back and woodshed a little to have these parts down.

The annoying part is this last week was busy. So while gaffes are doubtlessly forgiven on the first night you read a part, here’s hoping my reading and skills allow me to do a decent job without the practice tonight.

In any case it’s great fun to be playing squealer parts. This will be cool. Just gotta practice.


Swiped from kuddlepup:


Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following…They MUST be real places, names, things… NOTHING made up! Try to use different answers if the person in front of you had the same 1st initial. You CAN’T use your name for the boy/girl name question.

Your Name: Bennie

Famous Artist/Band/Musician: B Bumble and the Stingers
4 letter word: Barn
Vehicle: BMW
TV Show: Barney Miller
City: Boston
Boy Name: Bill
Girl Name: Bridgette
Alcoholic drink: Blueberry Martini
Occupation: Bill Collector
Flower: Bluebell
Something you wear: Boot
Celebrity: Bob Hope
Something found in a kitchen: Blender
Reason for Being Late: Blew out a tire.
Cartoon Character: Barney Rubble
Something you shout: Bugger!

Because everyone else is doing it!

As shaterri did:

Four of these statements are true; one is a blatant lie. Which one am I lying to you about?

1. I’ve been on national television twice
2. I’ve been ticketed by a NJ state patrolman because I was furry
3. I’ve been blessed by Pope John Paul II
4. I’ve met with a chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and after was part of a press photo-op with him
5. I touchtype at 85 wpm on a daily basis

Comments screened, of course, to let folks guess freely…

Green is back, part I.

The weather out here is very much like the Mediterranean. The season holds and holds, with no rain at all during summer, and not much in the way for humidity.

And then one day the coastal roll finally breaks in and it’s cool and breezy with big puffy clouds.

After two gently cool evenings with a cool and moister air, the green has come back.

It’s stage one of the green. The grasses have yet to come back in full flush on the mountainsides where they are wild and dry most of the summer. But the trees have all responded to the moisture. And in some cases the light sprinkling of rain that happened.

It’s a startling effect. You never noticed the tree-green going away. Indeed, it’s like dust gathering on the surface of a painting or a TV. The change in moisture being that accidental brush that cleans the surface so you see the bright, vibrant colors again.

We’ll probably have a bit of a warming again as all the locals are talking about this “unseasonably cold” weather that’s down in the mid 60’s at night.

Right now though I’m really content to watch the parade of high puffy clouds crossing the valley from the far souther ridge and generally march past my office window to the west.

It’s a picturesque sky of blue and white, a groundscape full of green trees, and off in the distant respectfully lit mountains, with shafts of sunlight through the clouds as if painted there by a set designer.

I don’t know who is taking over the job of “old master painter” today, but they’re doing a heck of a job.

A common mistake.

A conversation last night left me thinking about programmers and projects I’ve worked on over the years.

I particularly ended up thking about a rather interesting essay that Joel Spolsky wrote. It’s about programming and called Things You Should Never Do. It is interesting to look at it now, through the glasses of the post-dot-bomb.

His argument, quite simply, is that the urge to rewrite a coded product from scratch is the “single worst strategic mistake any software company can make.”

The emphasis below is his. IT’s even stronger on the article. But this is how he opens his explanation:

There’s a subtle reason that programmers always want to throw away the code and start over. The reason is that they think the old code is a mess. And here is the interesting observation: they are probably wrong. The reason that they think the old code is a mess is because of a cardinal, fundamental law of programming:

It’s harder to read code than to write it.

This is why code reuse is so hard. This is why everybody on your team has a different function they like to use for splitting strings into arrays of strings. They write their own function because it’s easier and more fun than figuring out how the old function works.

He goes on to talk about how used and tested code may look warty or have odd bits in it because real-world needs put them there. And when you rebuild, you throw those away and set yourself up for the same problems and errors, as well as what you might generate.

He equates it to practically gifting any market leadership to your competitors, and considering the real-life examples he highlights, he’s right.

There is always a time and place for refactoring. Hell, that’s the fundamental basis for many development models. Be they called “SCRUM” but the Ruby folks or “Rapid Prototyping” by the C folks.

There is a time an place for complete rebuilds too. But 90% of the time I hear folks talk of it, it isn’t for a business reason. It’s for the “fun” factor. It’s for the “shiny” factor. And I’ve seen many a professional programmer argue for it by any means possible when it was just for their own pleasure.

A good admin or programmer should recognize the business side of the case. You don’t go swapping out systems that function for no reason. And if you do have to swap them out, you do so carefully and thoroughly tested. You treat your users with respect.

I just hate seeing time wasted rewriting things that work. Especially when it adds the risk of reintroducing bugs and problems. And often while other tasks are waiting to be done. It is a waste of time, a business risk, and often being done for the wrong reasons.

Speaking of cool folks in the valley…

This weekend was kinda quiet. It was a nice shift of gears after slamming AC, SDCC, and Burning Man back to back to back. We’ve had one or two of these and I’m starting to feel a bit normal again. Heck, I’m even catching up on LJ.

Sue and I had been tracking some folks moving out here along roughly the same path that we had to take. (NC to CA) They were livejournalish folks so once burning man was done, we invited folks by the house to chat and such.

dollraves if a very very cool person. Sue and her got along swimmingly and she ended up spending an evening over at the house chatting with folks. We plied her with some blueberry mead and she seemed to think this was a good thing.

So this weekend when folks down in Gilroy opted for a Sushi and kitten fest we pulled her in on it. She got to meet some of the locals and apparently we all share the same broken lines of humor. Much fun was had in Miata driving and the girls all went clothes shopping together and apparently had a blast.

It’s always fun to meet cool new folks!

This valley is scary…

The silicon valley is scary. There’s such a diverse pool of talented and smart folks out here it just doesn’t make sense.

Right before the group I’m in rehearses out in Ohlone college, the equivalent class Jazz ensemble meets.

It’s a typical jazz-ensemble setup. 4 bones, 4 trumpets, 5 saxes, piano, bass, guitar and drums.

To dabble in stereotypes for a moment they are some of the whitest folks you can imagine. At first glance I can identify one or two finance types, and more than a fair share of long-haired sandal-wearing geeks. The guy who has the most style of the group is the drummer who does the bowling-shirts and jean-shorts look.

By all rights you’d expect it to be a Lawrence Welk rinky-dink sounding group. Or maybe kinda working through medium-weight charts.

But no, they are absolutely tearing up the charts they read. And they’re reading some difficult things. The room is nearly overloaded with sound from these guys.

Remember the Austin Powers theme? You know how Quincy Jones arranged and pulled in players that had that nice, bright, wet brass sound? It’s that. And they’re rocketing along at Stan Kenton tempos.

It hurts your head a little to see the scene of these guys in casual clothing, looking like a gathering ready to organize a fur con, ripping down charts like professionals.