We've been adopted

One week ago, a 4-year old came into our lives: (click the link for more pictures)

Serenity Blue (or Serenity, or 'Renity) is a gray ("blue" for the cat aficionados in the audience) domestic shorthair, with a white belly and socks on her feet. We were at the San Francisco SPCA looking at another cat on her hallway[1], when we heard an insistent "MEOW" from her room. We went over, and she won our hearts in no time flat.

She's a charming addition to our household;[2] in fact, she's one of the most even-tempered and loving cats I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. We're starting to learn how to get her to play, but for a while it was mostly lots of petting and attention. She's only woken us up in the middle of the night once so far. =] I'm looking forward to some fascinating times as we get to know each other.

[1] This place has to be seen to be believed. There are 6 hallways of cats, each with ~6-8 "rooms" off of them, holding 1-3 cats or 1-5 or 6 kittens. The rooms are spacious, and the volunteers are really great.

[2] The real reason we got a cat is that I've had this blog for years, and have been quite remiss in actually doing posts. Now I can join every other blogger in the world by posting cute pictures of my cat. It's very necessary.


More Symphony links

While it's been a little while since my last post, life has gone on apace, we've moved back to the Bay Area, and have lived in San Francisco for almost a year.

So clearly, it's time for a Symphony post. On Saturday, we went to the SF Symphony for a night of modern and interesting performances. The Sibelius Symphony #4 started off the night, and was powerful, moving, and disturbing. It was amazing how well he used every part of the orchestra, and F appreciated the great viola solos.

We then moved on to the premier of the SF Symphony commission, "The B-sides", by the (11-months older than me) composer and DJ, Mason Bates.[1] It's an amazing blend of symphonic and electronica styles, without either of them dominating completely. Michael Tilson Thomas called it a "bridge" piece, and I have to agree with his assessment. The last two movements were the strongest, and luckily the last one was premiered on the YouTube Symphony, so I can share it with you all:

After that was the intermission. For the second half of the program, we heard Prokofiev's Piano Concerto #2, played by Yuja Wang, a Chinese prodigy born in 1987[2]. Frances noted that her hands look like the legs of the Warner Brother's Road Runner; all motion blur. You
can see her doing the second movement (the Scherzo, which is basically all 16th notes) here:

She was completely fabulous, and we all felt like we were in the presence of greatness. When the concerto finished, she got a triple-ovation, which induced her to do an encore. She did her own riff on a Mozart classic:

which blew us all completely away. Just astonishing.

Does anyone read this thing? What's up out there, anyway?

- jonathan

[1] It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished in life.
[2] She's even worse than Mason Bates. =]


An update?

I've done a little housekeeping, including adding more blogs, new webcomics list, and a "things I starred in Google Reader" widget. Enjoy!



And the word of the day is: myrmidon. There are two definitions: the first a particular set of participants in the Trojan war, and the second a man who executes orders without question. Since the whole Trojan Horse thing has been overdone, I thought I'd concentrate on the second.

Executing orders without question can be quite dangerous, both in terms of the actions done and the indefensible position it puts the executor in. And hey, humans aren't perfect. On the one hand, this means that orders are rarely perfect, and a healthy command structure encourages thinking and questioning; can the orders be improved? Are they really advancing our goals? On the other hand, you can spend so much time hemming and hawing that nothing much gets accomplished, which can be worse than the disease. On the gripping hand, who are these people giving the orders, anyway?


A Programmer's ABCs

A fantastic former colleague at Sun Microsystems just posted A Programmer's ABCs, which I found quite amusing.

Apologies for the long drought of no postings...


The Land of Mi... er, Ice.

After a couple of very warm days (High of 84! and 76!) Baltimore has been hit by the same winter storm which has been making life in the north-east quite entertaining. Baltimore's version is very icy; we walked out at 6pm, in light sleet and freezing rain, and by our return at 8pm, things were quite treacherous, with slushy ice everywhere! Sometimes I really miss California weather.


Maggie Visits

Last weekend, Maggie (a close friend of Frances's) and two of her friends from WashU visited. I've put together a gallery of pictures we took during their visit. I highly recommend viewing the map. (zoom out a bit and click on "play" under "timeline")
We had a great time!


Time warps

To continue the music theme[1], willowlaughter and I went to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) on Saturday, and enjoyed Brahm's Violin Concerto[2] and Pictures at an Exhibition, which were quite good. BSO's hall was clearly built in the 60s, but is pretty attractive. Comparisons to the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) were hard to avoid, and SFS mostly came in on top, unsurprisingly. On the other hand, they BSO's symphony hall is about a 8 minute drive from where we live, and we could probably walk or take the Light Rail[3] there without any issues.

In any case, there were a bunch of interesting-looking concerts on the BSO schedule, so we'll certainly return there.

[1] Okay, yes, I had intended to post with less than a 2-year gap between posts. Of course, I 'm beating that by a whole 8 days; doesn't that make you happy? Some minor changed have happened since my first post, including getting married and moving to Baltimore, Maryland...

[2] My main complaint here was that it was hard to hear the soloist over the orchestra, but willowlaughter pointed out that Brahms tends to put a lot into the orchestral side. I was much happier with the acoustics and balance for Pictures at an Exhibition.

[3] Baltimore's public transit is entirely crazed. Through dumb luck, we live in the only area with ready access to both the Baltimore Metro and Light Rail.


A Beginning, with Music

While I don't play any musical instruments[1], I enjoy music tremendously. Most of my current musical exposure is listening to music on my laptop[2] and going to concerts.

This past week was amazingly successful on the concert front, as two family friends had pairs of tickets to two different Stanford Lively Arts performances, but their counterparts (fiancé and husband, respectively) were out of the country. So I got to see Itzhak Perlman last Saturday, and the Emerson String Quartet this past Friday.

As far as I'm concerned, this is almost an embarrassment of riches -- two fantastic performances, with gorgeous classical music[3]. The choking sounds from the other end of the phone lead me to believe that willowlaughter thinks it is. <sigh> It's a hard life. =]

[1]I do sing reasonably decently.

[2]Madeleine Peyroux is playing right now, for instance.

[3]Perlman, playing with Janet Goodman Guggenheim, played Mozart's Sonata for Violin and Piano in F Major, Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major ("Kreutzer"), Dvořák's Four Romantic Pieces, and Smetana's From My Homeland. The Emerson String Quartet played Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 1, Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 3, and Beethoven's String Quartet in C-sharp Minor. Did I mention an embarrassment of riches?