Saturday, December 31, 2005


Lacey and I both got absolutely floored by the flu last night, as did a lot of the Camp Harmony crowd. So we actually just called Mom and had her come rescue us and bring us home today. It really sucks to leave camp right on New Year's Eve of all times, but if we're going to be completely incapacitated, I'd rather do it at home. Sigh. Back to resting for me, now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Lacey and I are about to take off for Camp Harmony, so we'll be gone through New Year's Day, singing and dancing and playing and being silly and things like that. Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Great Grandfather

Tom Walker Here's a better picture of great grandpa Walker, where you can actually see him. I got this one when I inherited his old banjo guitar nine years ago. Good picture. Let's not have any more "seed of Google" type posts about it this time, though. That was just weird.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Richer, Deeper, Lower, Higher

A couple weeks ago, Monee and I dug up some old records of a Russian singer named Ivan Rebroff. He sings some opera stuff and a lot of Russian (and other) folk songs, and he has the most fantastic voice. He's been called the "richest, deepest, lowest, highest bass in the world," and he really is incredible. The record jackets claim he can sing down to an A below the bass staff, but on one song he actually makes it all the way down to the F below that. (That's a full octave below the usual low F for a bass singer.) Plus, he even has a surprisingly good head voice, and can sing well all the way up into soprano range (or at least alto, I haven't really checked) when he wants to. The songs that contrast the extremes of his range are really fascinating. I also like his recordings of "If I Were a Rich Man," in both French and German. I haven't found an English version yet, but I really like the German one. And the balalaikas playing with him on a lot of the recordings of are pretty cool too.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Musical Signatures

So this is kind of cool. The iTunes Signature Maker will analyze your iTunes library and make a short sound file merging together parts of various representative songs, choosing a set number of them by play count, or rating, or other options. It actually comes out with some pretty interesting stuff. This is my favorite result from my iTunes library so far. For the options on this one, I used 40 songs, chosen by play count, five second clips, up to five overlapping at once. I thought the overlapping might be too much, but I actually kind of like the density of sound it creates. Another version has 30 songs, with four second clips, and no more than two overlapping at once. How many of the separate songs can you recognize? should totally integrate something like this with user profiles.

(Link via Lifehacker.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Great Grandparents

Mabel Reesey, 1921 Thomas Walker Mabel Reesey, 1921

I spent a lot of the day with Monee yesterday, and one of the things we did was to look through some of her old photos of her parents in the 1920s and '30s. I scanned a few of my favorites, which you can see on the Flickr photos above. The two of my great grandmother Mabel Reesey Walker Herdman in particular fascinate me. There's something a little mysterious and impish about her face that I love. You can tell that in spite off the old-fashioned formality of the pictures, she's still got some zing in her. I'm not sure why I like the picture of my great grandfather, Thomas Walker, so much, especially since you can't even see his face very well. But I like it nonetheless.

Mabel and Tom both kept diaries during the time of their (secret) courtship and subsequent elopement, and we've got transcripts of them both written out with each person's entry from each day side by side, along with Mabel's commentary on it from a taped interview with my uncle Paul years later. Fascinating stuff. It's really making me want to get more into the family history and dig up old stories and photos and things to share, like uncle Jim does on the Waldon side.

Friday, December 09, 2005 Getting Better?

I logged in to for the first time in a while last night, and they've changed up a bunch of stuff since I saw it last. I haven't done an exhaustive investigation yet, but I like what I've seen so far. In particular, several old pet peeves are now (finally) solved:
  • Links have been unjavascriptified, so you can do normal link things with them, like open them in new windows/tabs, etc.
  • It might be possible to link directly to particular books now (try it out on one of my favorites). I've been having mixed luck with it though, and I think my browser cookies are confusing the issue, so I'm not sure. Try it. It's kind of sad when something like that would be an improvement, rather than taken for granted, but oh well.
  • The ridiculous session timeout (which didn't even require you to sign in again, but just screwed up your navigation) doesn't seem to happen anymore.
  • Sound samples now open in a little flash player in a new window, rather than making me download a RealAudio file and play it in another app.
Unfortunately, downloading is still kind of messed up. They still don't give plain old links that I can right-click and save-as, which means Safari opens them in iTunes automatically, even if I just want to save them. I need to go through Firefox and get prompted for each one if I don't want my iTunes interrupted while I'm listening to something else.

Anyway, though, it looks like they're on the right path. Hopefully they'll keep going.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Steppin' Back Out

I made it back to Steppin' Out for Lindy Hop last night, after last month's hiatus. Fun to be back there again, though I'm bummed that with holiday schedules I'm only going to get two dances there this month. Oh well. I'm starting to seriously consider switching to do West Coast Swing on Monday nights, though. I've been lamenting my few and forgotten WCS skills recently, and I'd really like to get better at it, plus I know Richard Kear is teaching there now, so it should be good. The problem, though, is that I still really like the Lindy Hop and I'm learning a lot from Trevor and Megan. Of course, the problem also is that I'm reluctant to book up more than a certain percentage of my weeknights, since technically I could do stuff on both Monday and Wednesday nights. But I do need some downtime.

Oh, and speaking of learning dances, I really need to learn Balboa sometime. I suck at dancing fast swing and that would help. Plus, it just seems like a good thing to know.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Posting in Pieces

My writing energy has only been coming in small doses this week. So instead of a nice, coherent post on some subject or other, we have here a random grab bag of miscellaneous recent things. Your transitions are the blank spaces between paragraphs.

I bought an external hard drive this weekend to go along with Phileas Fogg, my laptop. So I named it Passepartout and felt extremely clever. (I know, it doesn't take much.)

Overheard in the plane to Portland:
(There's a kid in the seat ahead of me, studying a Star Wars catalog of some sort.)
Kid, very seriously: Mom, if I could just have Annakin Skywalker's lightsaber, I would really be very happy.
Mom: It's only a replica.

(Same kid, trying to tell his dad about Narnia.)
Kid: ...and Edmund has this bad... a bad... what's the word?
Dad: For what?
Kid: For like when I'm always picking my nose.
Dad: Gross?
Kid: No! A bad...
Dad: Habit?
Kid: Yes!

Lacey took me to a toy store in Portland called Big Finnegan's (Little Finnegan's is around the corner) where I got some fun stuff to pile around my cubicle at work, including Percy the Purple Dragon, and Olive, the Other Dragon. Another naming that amused me (though only one reader of this blog may actually get the full extent of the joke).

A coworker visiting from the Dublin office wanted to teach Irish dancing to some other folks here, so I went along after work last Thursday to play fiddle for them. It actually went surprisingly well, plus it was nice to play after a month without it.

James was kind enough to play Iris for me at the last FNW. So I got to dance the pivots that I finally figured out (and wrote about) last month. Yay! has some cool personalized radio things you can listen to and get good music recommendations from. I signed up a year and a half ago and then forgot about it, but in the meantime it's recorded 18,000 songs that I've listened to, so it's getting a pretty good idea of my preferences. So I've been having fun playing with it recently. I haven't tried yet, but that sounds neat, too. (Now, if they could just import my profile and then do Pandora stuff with it, that would be awesome.)

I've seen Harry Potter IV twice since it came out. It was fun, of course, but more heavily and obviously edited than any of the previous ones (understandably). Also, I was rather annoyed by both Dumbledore and the waltz choreography. Fred and George, though, just stole the show. They were great.

The End