pocket rachmaninov

31 08 2006

Rachmaninov-iPodToday’s call to work was in Silver Spring, Maryland. The commute is a 38 mile car ride. Unfortunately, driving the route would take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Rush hour in the greater Washington, D.C. area is simply awful. The commuter rail is a great alternative. It is clean, relatively fast (compared to driving), and allows for a fairly stressless ride to work. Today’s commute was uncommonly nice – thanks to my new iPod. From Woodbridge, VA. to Union Station (Washington), I listened to Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony. On the 2nd train ride from DC to Silver Spring, MD., I heard the Strauss Oboe Concerto. After a day of software training, I returned home while listening to Schubert’s 5th Symphony and then watched “The Aristocrats“. The commute has never been so painless, and seemingly quick. Thanks again to the family for the gift certificates – the iPod is amazing!

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open sesame

24 08 2006

tony the tigerLike Albert Einstein, Peter (my 3-year-old son) has been slow to begin speaking. Over the last year, he has been slowly adding to his vocal repertoire. Vowel sounds have been in place for quite some time, and his inflection has perfectly mimicked spoken English – just few consonants – mostly “ah”. More recently, Peter has been adding a few consonants to his vocal patterns (he’s big on the letter “M” these days). Mom is now “Mamma”. Emma is “Memma”. Cartoon character Maisy is actually “Maisy”. We are all very excited about the fact that things have their own specific words to Peter now.

albert einsteinA wonderful thing happened in the grocery store yesterday. Peter was holding a box of cereal in the shopping cart. He was picking at the top to try to open the box for a snack. Unable to do this, he looked at me, handed me the box, and said “open”. The “P” was not quite there, but his intent was clear – and for the first time, he expressed a desire calmy, clearly – vocally. As I type this blog entry, he has handed me an unopened box of cereal bars. He said “open, please”. Not all the consonants are there, but the inflection was perfectly clear, as was his intent.

Albert Einstein taught the world that “E=MC2”. All the consonants are there, the inflection is right… but I have no idea what he was trying to say!





better late than never

19 08 2006

iPod_EdisonDateline: August 21, 1959
Hawai’i becomes the 50th state.

Dateline: June 11, 1971
The Mankin family of Lakewood, New Jersey becomes {seemingly} the last household in the country to get a color television.

Dateline: August 8, 1988
Chicago’s Wrigley Field finally gets night baseball!

Dateline: May 21, 1999
Susan Lucci finally wins an Emmy for her role as Erica in All My Children.

Dateline: August 18, 2006
I am no longer the last musician on the planet without an iPod! Woo-hoo!

Thanks to the generosity of family members, my combined birthday present was enough gift certificates to pick up a 60 GB iPod – the black model! One will, I would imagine, have to search high & low to find another iPod with all the Brahms & Beethoven Symphonies, as well as home movies of a gymnastic daughter & and newly (sort-of) talking son. There’s also a collection of cartoons on-board to distract the kids when needed (and it’s needed).

Gotta run – so many CDs to rip!





oswald’s scoop

14 08 2006

oswald_scoopsI have never been very big on conspiracy theories. Lee Harvey Oswald may have simply been a crack-pot & a lucky shot (complete with self-guided magic bullet) – we’ll never know.

My new finding, however, may make the Kennedy assassination look insignificant. You see, I bought a coffee scoop at Starbucks a few years ago. It was marked as being exactly a 2 tablespoon measuring scoop. I have used this same scoop for maybe 3 years, and it has never failed me. (OK, OK… it’s not gonna suffer any mechanical breakdown for the next 3,000 years – it’s a metal spoon, for crying out loud). A few weeks ago, I wanted to give my sister-in-law a batch of my home-roasted coffee. In order for Mary to be able to enjoy the coffee fully, I knew she would need a coffee grinder to grind the beans minutes before brewing. I found a nice blade grinder & picked it up. I also reflected on how nicely my Starbucks 2-Tablespoon scoop worked, so I decided to pass on the cheap-o scoop that was offered with the grinder, and would make a side-trip to Starbucks to buy Mary her own official 2-tablespoon coffee scoop – complete with the word “STARBUCKS” stamped on the handle (along with the words “2 TABLESPOONS”).

Starbucks had a whole batch of coffee scoops – on sale too! These scoops didn’t have mererly the straight shiny metal handle – no, these handles flared to a nice, ergonomic rubberized handle-tip. I immediately came down with a severe case of “I want one of THESE“. They were reduced in price sufficiently enough for me to buy two – one for Mary & one for me.

Mary received her freshly-roasted beans, coffee grinder and 2-tablespoon scoop. She raves about my coffee, and for this I am tickled. Mary has no idea that she was unknowingly dragged into a conspiracy of monumental proportions – for God’s sake – it’s freaking COFFEE!

two scoopsI found my new coffee scoop yesterday (it was hidden under other coffee junk since the day it came into my house) and thought that this would be a rite-of-passage – the old coffee scoop will finally get some well-deserved time off, and the new kid will have to get into the game. As I plunged the new scoop into the super-fresh coffee, it hit me like a ton of bricks – THIS SCOOP IS TOO SMALL TO HOLD 2 TABLESPOONS! I measured the capacity of the new scoop – it holds only 4 teaspoons (1.5 tablespoons). The old one measured exactly 2 tablespoons.

Those crafty bastards! They want me to make weak coffee at home so I will come to their store & pay $4.00 for a “proper” cup of coffee! This will all come out to the general public once the Warren Commission reconvenes. They will not get away with this – no sir!

My apologies, Mary – I didn’t know. I swear. Wait… there’s a knock on the door… oh no – it’s the Cubans… gotta run out the back door.





mr. gaggia, mr. bodum, mr. cory – who’s ready to go to work?

12 08 2006

coffee equipmentI have a small army of coffee brewing equipment. They sit on a corner of my kitchen counter. Each one makes an excellent coffee drink for me, but no two work alike. My Aeropress is definitely a 21st century contraption that makes an exceptionally smooth coffee drink – one mug at a time. My Cory vacuum coffee pot is based on an 19th century principle. This particular model dates from the 1940s, and is made without the highly-conserved rubber gasket of the time (WW2). The beauty of the coffee it prepares is that the coffee grounds and the water never touch any material but glass – the coffee is a pure product, unaffected by bleached filter paper or contact with metal. When my brain asks for espresso, the Gaggia Classic is put into action. Heavy with brass, steel and copper, the Gaggia prepares espresso just as a barista would in a cafe in Europe (not like Starbucks – they use a super-automatic machine that only asks the operator to press the right button – no grinding, dosing, tamping and watched extraction required). My Cunill “Full Metal” grinder is required to grind the fresh coffee beans fine enough for real espresso. Oh, lets not forget the more standard methods to make nice coffee – I have those abilities too. The Bodum french press and the KitchenAid drip coffee maker get their turn to show their stuff too.

My current mood dictates which device is used. Sometimes, I really want an Americano, so the Gaggia is put to work. Company coming over? Full pot of drip works best. Coffee for blog writing? hmmmmm…





a unique oboe reed knife

10 08 2006

oboe redd-making knifeHere’s another rare and unique piece of oboe reed-making equipment that I inherited from Engelbert Brenner when he passed away in 1986. It is a reed knife that has a discarded oboe top joint as its handle. I do not know who made this for him, and in my recollection of oboe lessons gone-by, I don’t think I ever remember him using it. I do, however, clearly remember seeing this knife among the multitude of tools he used, and always thought it was cool! Click here to see a unique oboe gouging machine, and here to read about Engelbert Brenner.





water slides and the crispy kid

7 08 2006

king's dominion logoI took my daughter to the amusement park today – Paramount’s King’s Dominion near Richmond, Virginia. The park has two areas of entertainment – traditional rides and a water park. The thermometer reached 100 degrees again, so we spent the majority of the time at the water park. This is Emma’s first season in which she is tall enough to rid the big water slides. Fearlessly, she climbed slowly and descended rapidly. She was truly happy. We travelled with friends Teresa & Norman, and their young son Noah. Noah & Emma have been friends their whole lives. Their interactions were totally amusing to the grown-ups. Noah spoke enthusiastically about super heroes and monsters – Emma nodded and read her scholastic supplies catalog. Boy – Girl, side by side in the back of the van – in their own separate worlds. We slathered our kids with sunscreen, and reapplied the coating several times throughout the day. We all fared well.

red babyThe most startling event of the day occurred as we were preparing to leave. We were walking toward the park exit. A woman pushed her young child toward us in a stroller. The boy was wearing only a diaper – and the poor kid was sun-burned to a crisp! Now maybe this is a case where I am jumping to a conclusion without knowing any of the facts (the baby has a skin condition, or this is the way he looks year-round… a really don’t know the facts). As our two parties passed, and we all saw this poor child up-close, we said nothing. After a few moments passed, we all looked at each other, silently. Our faces said it all. I’m buying stock in Noxema – there’s gonna be a spike in sales tomorrow.