Old Daily Shows--June 2003

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Friday June 6, 2003 Home

I think a part of me always knew that we would graduate in the rain. When I first visited Swarthmore and went on a tour, the tour guide told us that Swarthmore graduation was always held outside, come rain, snow, or blazing sun. I shuddered a bit, wondering how anyone could graduate in the rain. I mean, graduation is a ceremonious occasion, full of pomp, circumstance, and other things with songs written about them. Not to mention that it's full of paper transactions. How can you give people diplomas in the rain? I felt sure it couldn't happen to me.

Well, it did. It wasn't so bad, really. I think the rain was helpful in part, because it gave us all something to focus on rather than worrying about the actual event. So yes, rain, mud, and cold (when was the last time you could see your breath during the middle of the day in June? Honestly) were the order of the day. We sat in the rain through five excellent speeches. Our speakers all said wonderful things, though I think the rain made more than a few of us wish for slightly more concise statements. Then there was a lot of standing in lines.

My actual trip across the stage was a blur. I shook Bob Gross's hand, shook Al Bloom's, got my diploma, and saluted my family with it. Put it into a plastic baggie that Larry Schall gave me, and that was that.

I graduated in the rain, and it was okay.

Since then, I've been doing a lot of packing and unpacking. We managed to wedge the accretions of four years at Swarthmore into two cars and a van, but only one car was really full. Somehow it all fit, and I'm trying to find places for it all in my room here. I bought a copy of Sim Mania 2 in Massena the other day, which included SimTheme Park, SimCoaster, SimGolf, and SimCity 3000. I've been playing them, reading, unpacking, and cooking, while trying to let my brain take its time with realizing what's changed.

I keep wanting to just run down the hallway to say something to somebody, and then remembering that I can't. That's not new, though, and I'm sure it will get better with time. For the moment, I don't feel too bad, actually. I wish I had more time with some of the people I won't see for a while, but it'll come eventually.

One regret: I wish I had dealt better with my graduation rose. I was going to keep it, then realized that I didn't have anywhere to put it, any way to keep it safe, or any real purpose for having it. So, after honoring it, I put it into the garbage can. Rabi did what I wish I'd thought of doing, casting its petals into the sky in an end that reminds me of Jonathan Larson. Mine languishes somewhere in a rubbish heap, and I hope it understands that it is there not through a lack of love or respect, but through a temporary lapse in creativity.

I was very close to breaking down while packing to come home, this time, but I held together, unlike last year. Maybe I really am ready to be moving on.

And at home, I'm finding things to occupy my time. Preparations for the Watson year, and two concerts before it, a dance in two weeks. ML summer contact list and listserv. I'm editing a collective cookbook for ML and related people--if you're interested in participating, email me--for which I hope I'll receive some submissions soon. Reading, unpacking, and just sleeping without an alarm clock!

I had my first wok cooking experience the other night, and am thinking that a wok might be the cooking implement I get in Scotland--cheap, versatile, fairly efficient. It was fun to cook in it, too! Nifty.

While browsing Amazon today for Fauré Requiem recordings, I ran into something that that made me laugh. A lot. "A Bride's Guide to Wedding Music". It's a three-CD set of music that people might want to have at their weddings, and on it is the Fauré Requiem. Admittedly, it's just the Pie Jesu, but still, it's a mass for the dead. Missa pro defunctis. Not really wedding material. You could make the point that pie jesu domine isn't really fiery material, but it's the last line in the Sequence of the mass. You might have heard it: dies irae, dies illa, etc., which translates roughly as 'day of getting your rear whupped with fire and brimstone'. Not for my wedding, thanks. Ah well. I wonder what Gabriel would think of having his Requiem played for weddings.

Another Amazon review for a different recording of the Requiem included this comment: "Only the kindest, most benevolent soul could be buried to this music. I wish I was that kind of person." Fair enough. It's great music!

I've been listening to repertory exam music today, and have found that some of these pieces have become real friends of mine. Thank goodness! Learned a wonderful slow air from a Solas CD today, so that's good too. And now, I think I'll go do something else for a while. Peace!

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Wednesday June 25, 2003 Here and there

I'm alive! And well, even!

I'm in Potsdam now. I was in Vermont and New Hampshire last weekend, for gigs. It was fun! I am very terse when I am tired. Whee!

I love it when I figure out how to do things cleverly at my job. I figured some stuff out today, and it was cool. Yay!

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Sunday June 29, 2003 Rambling

Lancaster NH is a nice town. It's a little smaller than Potsdam, I think, but it's got the same feel to it. It's apparently the county seat of Coös county, and that's a cool name. It's got a beautiful old Masonic hall that adjoins the town offices, with a wood floor perfect for dancing and great natural acoustics. It's the first hall I've ever played where amplification of the flute was so close to unnecessary, even with the floor full of rambunctious dancers.

I really like the Tobins, and they throw a great party, full of nice people playing nicely together. A lot of dance groups suffer from aristocratic pretensions on the part of the senior dancers, many of whom seem to feel that it is beneath the station of an experienced dancer to participate in a set with those who are, for whatever reason, less skilled. You can hear them talking about it, whining to each other about having the "help my set through the dance", while they smile broadly with teeth and no eyes at the people on the floor.

They're not all like that, of course, but every dance group I've ever seen has some. Except the Lancaster group. They're unaffiliated, free, and friendly. Everybody dances, everybody has fun. Some are more proficient than others, but everyone plays.

The next morning, people gather at the Tobin home, and they sit around, eat breakfast, chat, and play tunes. It's amazing how many people play music in this group! Here, too, the skill levels vary, but it's the only session environment I've seen where people are comfortable saying "I know two tunes. Could we play them, please?" and the rest are comfortable saying "Sure!". I think the rest of the world could learn a lot from northern New Hampshire.

Just before St. Johnsbury, VT, there's an ice cream stand that we've patronized each year that I've been involved with this gig. They make phenomenal milkshakes, and this year, we each had exactly the same thing as last year. Viv--soon to be married, though that's not relevant here--got a coffee shake: coffee ice cream and milk. Susie got a coffee milkshake as well: brewed coffee, milk, and vanilla ice cream. I got a maple shake: maple syrup, milk, vanilla ice cream. Fabulous. We agreed that the brewed-coffee milkshake was better than the coffee-ice-cream milkshake, because it was slightly less sweet.

Watson preparations continue. I'm typing this under Windows XP on my new IBM ThinkPad T40. I've spent the last two days trying to install Debian. I'll get there, but I've concluded that Debian is a neat operating system with lousy support for non-standard things. I like it when it works; KNOPPIX is cool. Still, it's telling that Windows XP is a far more functional and useful operating system than Debian, even after 20+ hours of work on Debian.

Still, though, I've been having fun mucking about with it. It's fun to get a new system and start playing with it. I've been keeping lab notes on the setup, which I'll post someday, once the system actually works properly. I'm looking forward to finally getting to try Chuck's gJay, and playing with some Linux things. The laptop is small and light, and it beats the pants off my current machine in processing power.

I got a good deal on an internal frame pack at EMS on Friday when Elizabeth and I went to Lake Placid for the day. I'd been looking for a pack, since I wanted to use a backpack as my airline luggage for Scotland. It seems important to be able to carry my gear with at least a single hand free, and so a backpack is good. To be true to the song, I'm going to need to sew a flag on the back of it, and find some Australians in a pub. It's an EMS Summit 5500 internal frame pack, with 5500-6000 cubic inches of space, an unlimited lifetime warrantee, and a 20% off sale. What's not to love?

It was really great to spend a day with Elizabeth. She's been up here for the last three weeks, studying literacy instruction at SUNY Potsdam and living in a dorm there. She's come over to our house for dinner and company many evenings during that time. It's such a luxury to have enough time around people you love that you don't need to fill every moment with scheduled special activities. We cooked together a lot, and laughed, and watched movies with my parents, and generally had a great time.

Still, though, it's well worth the time to take a special day together once in a while. The mountains were beautiful for us, and I feel like I managed to explain some of the experiences that make me the person I am. I miss living in the Adirondacks, sometimes, but it's healing to be able just to drive through and see the old haunts. I took her to Donnelly's for ice cream, and we went to Tail O' The Pup for dinner.

Anyone who's spent any time in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks won't need any explanation, but for the rest of you, I'll talk a bit. Tail O' The Pup has been a Lake Placid institution since 1927, and it's great. Hickory-smoked whatever, flavorful and complex but subtle. It's really neat, and they had a campfire burning.

And Donnelly's. Um. Donnelly's is why I almost never order soft ice cream anywhere else. You see, I grew up with Donnelly's, and they do it best. People drive miles and miles to get Donnelly's ice cream. There's one flavor each day, and it's always twisted with the best vanilla you can imagine. On weekends it's chocolate; Friday's flavor was a tasty strawberry with bits of strawberry pulp in the ice cream. Worth every penny.

I'm growing hot peppers at home, with my parents' help. It's nice to have some plants that are my own to care for. We've got a serrano pepper bush, an habanero bush, and a tray of small habanero plants. The serranos are beginning to fruit, and they've figured in several of our recent meals. Yay for peppers! Also, one of my coworkers gave me an absolutely beautiful desktop bamboo plant as a graduation present. I love it. Bamboo is wonderful.

I've been working at Reachout each day. Susie was shocked when she found out--she said that after her graduation, it took her six weeks to be good for much more than getting out of bed. I think it's been helpful to me to be working, though. I've been doing good work, I think, though it's slow because there's little documentation for the things I'm doing. It's so satisfying when you figure out how to do something that's supposed to be impossible, though!

This computer is currently named Tamias, after the genus of Tamias striatus, the Eastern Chipmunk, several of whom live near our house and dine at our bird feeder. I'm not sure it should stay that way, though. Anyone have names that would fit a small, fast, sleek black laptop?

Time to go figure out dinner!

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Monday June 30, 2003 Linux and biting

I'm sure I'll eventually change my mind, but right now, I hate linux.

See, things that don't work are generally bad. And linux doesn't work, and it does it quite well. When I boot into Windows XP, everything I want to do works the first time I try it.

I've spent the last three days trying to get ethernet (finally got it) and sound (not a fucking chance) on this silly laptop, and debian's lovely installer frequently dies, despite its touted status as the most user-friendly install tool in the history of anything and everything.

Maybe user-friendly means something else in the free-software world. It shocks me that windows would be anything at all in the ease-of-use world. Now, maybe this would be more understandable if I hadn't read the references, or hadn't followed their suggestions. But neither of those is the case.

Grrr... I want to like linux, I really do. I love using it. But I can't help feeling that it's not ready for the real world if someone with a computer science degree and an ethernet connection can't figure out how to get the sound card to work after three days of trying, when the documentation says it will work.

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