Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Official: Only One More "Tour de Lance" Left

Ever since the first time I watched the Tour de France back in '93, there's been a Lance Armstrong element to it--either as the up-and-coming American wunderkind learning the ropes in the shadows of greats like Miguel Indurain; or as the cancer patient whose return to cycling was very much in doubt for a time; or as the seven-time champion, of course; or as the guy who made a pretty remarkable return from retirement last year.

Lance is getting on in years, as cyclists go, so we've all known that there wouldn't be too many repeats of last year, and now he's revealed his plans. And true to form, he's done it via his Twitter account:
And yes, this will be final Tour de France. It's been a great ride. Looking forward to 3 great weeks.
His next tweet clarified that he meant it would be his final Tour; I hope the event itself goes on forever.

I was looking forward to watching this year's Tour anyway (it's taken on a special significance since I got to visit Switzerland back in '99; looking at the countryside and architecture of Europe brings back great memories), but now it will take on a special significance as we get to cheer on the pride of Plano on cycling's biggest stage.

The Tour starts Saturday; there's no doubt that my TV will be getting a little exercise that day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's Like Being in School All Over Again

I have a fairly big two-part project that needs to be done by the end of the month. It can all be done at the computer (which is much more efficient than having to do things by hand, not to mention a lot less tiring) and submitted over email, so I won't be leaving my traditional seat here, but it does mean that blogging will be rare until the project gets done.

In a way, it feels almost exactly the same as it did when I was in school and had some huge homework assignment. And, then as now, I tended to put everything off until the last possible minute. While that's not exactly true (to me, the "last possible minute" would involve an all-nighter on Tuesday, which ain't gonna happen), the "assignment" was given quite some time ago, so procrastination is definitely in play here.

So if I can't "come out and play" in the blogosphere for a few days, you'll know where I am: Right here, doing my homework. I'll be happy when this particular "semester" is over.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago at this time, I was coming out of knee surgery. I would soon be wheeled out to my parents' car, where I would ride home awkwardly stretched out across the back seat. I would spent the next two days unable to walk at all without assistance, and I would learn exactly how bad daytime TV really is.

The rehab and recovery is well-documented within these pages (just click the tag at the bottom of this post to read about that process, as well as the accident that caused the whole thing), but suffice it to say, I'm thankful that everything has turned out about as well as it possibly could.

I still need to strengthen my quad muscles a bit more, which, ironically, is most helped by going up and down stairs--the source of all the problems in the first place. But since Casa de Kev is a one-story, I tend to only get this exercise at the college (and at church, when they open the balcony). But most of the time, it's easy to forget that I even had a knee problem in the first place.

One thing is certain: There are plenty of things I don't take for granted anymore. Being able to sit down without one leg protruding out, getting from place to place in a reasonable time without easily tiring, being able to fit in any vehicle (not to mention things like stadium bleachers), being able to sleep in other ways besides on my back--these are all things that I couldn't do for a while last year. And I never, ever complain when I see a large number of empty handicapped parking places at a time when all the other places are filled.

The healing began one year ago today. May the progress continue for the foreseeable future...

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my buddy Zack, a recurring character in this blog since day one, and the first person who ever sent me a link to that crazy new thing called a "blog" around nine years ago.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

These Ivories Will Tickle Your Fancy

While reading some stories associated with Saturday's post about New York's pianos-for-the-public art project, I ran across a couple of other items that also involved pianos in unusual places, in the same location and both with heartwarming results.

The location in question is the Mayo Clinic, and the first one that caught my attention was this adorable older couple who tag-teamed on the piano in the Mayo's waiting area:

The couple are Fran and Mario Cowan; they've been married for 62 years. (Not sure of her age, but he turned 90 a few months before this 2008 video.)

And here's 15-year-old Alex Walton-Creutz playing an original composition on the same piano:

Alex, whose caretaker great-aunt is a regular Mayo patient, has been playing at the Mayo since he was just eight years old. (More on Alex here.)

Music certainly has a special power to uplift the human spirit, and these performers, in different places in life but the same physical location, are shining examples of this power. (What a privilege it is to teach music; who knows how the sparks lit today might manifest themselves in the future?)

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Year, Pop's Day Was Also Pup's Day

I've sung the praises of Snarky Puppy, the band that originated in Denton and has since gone on to take generous swaths of the country by storm, many times in these pages, and I've been fortunate enough to see a couple of live shows from the band as well. But in the past year, I've had to miss every one of their shows for one reason or another, and as I said last week, upon hearing of a free show last night in Arlington, there was no way I would miss them this time.

Snarky Puppy has always had a rotating cast of characters, led by bassist/principal composer Michael League. While the group got its start in Denton, several of the members have relocated to Brooklyn in recent years. So while it's not unheard of to have 18 people on stage during a Snarky concert, tonight's group was a septet. Call it "stripped-down" or call it "lean and mean," but it worked; this was as enjoyable of a show as any that I'd seen when the stage was bursting at the seams with people.

The band has released three CDs, with another (a recorded-live CD/DVD set entitled "Tell Your Friends") in the can--being picked up by Ropeadope Records (home of DJ Logic, Marco Benevento and many others) means that the fourth CD will have a much wider distribution, but it also means that those of us who weren't fortunate enough to snag one of the few advance copies will have to wait until September for its release.

Last night's concert was a good mix of the older stuff ("Alma" and "Intelligent Design" from album #2, The World Is Getting Smaller, along with "Loose Screws" and "34 Klexma" [the latter featuring Clay Pritchard's tenor sax in place of the violin on the recording] from 2008's Bring Us the Bright), the rare cover (League's take on Jaco Pastorius' "Continuum," which mixed the original ballad style with funky underpinnings) and enough of a preview of the new CD that left me counting the days until September. The new tune ("Flood," "Slow Demon" and something announced as the CD's opening track: "Whitecap," one of the most infectious Snarky tunes ever) were, save for one occasional texture change (League swapping his electric bass for the keyboard variety), exactly what one might expect from the next stage of Snarky's development: the dance and rock elements turned up a few notches, but everything else--catchy tunes, strong jazz sensibilities, virtuosic soloing--fully intact.

With the smaller group, it was also easier for individuals to stand out. Keyboardist Shaun Martin practically stole the show with solos ranging from clever (the quote of an entire phrase of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" while using a harmonica patch was a nice touch) to frenetic; dueling guitarists Mark Lettieri and Chris McQueen added a variety of colors and chops; it was great to see Pritchard with the Pups again (and what was that crazy pedal he was using on "Intelligent Design" that made him sound all synth-like?), and everything was held together in fine, funky fashion by League and drummer Robert "Sput" Searight, with percussionist Nate Werth providing tasty embellishments all night.

The band is on a bit of a vacation until the CD comes out, but they said they'll be hitting the DFW area again sometime in October. You can bet I'll be there. (And until the CD comes out, a few tracks from Tell Your Friends are available for streaming at the band's MySpace page.)

You'll love it at (the) Levitt*: This concert also marked my first visit to the Levitt Pavilion, a new outdoor concert venue in the Founders Plaza area of downtown Arlington (yes, there is such a thing; it's located on Abram St. roughly between Cooper and Collins, and it's pretty well-kept, especially in comparison to the seen-better-days vibe of Division St. just a few blocks to the north). It's a very nice space with options for lawn seating, a few rows of folding chairs, and a short wall that makes a sort of "V" along the back. The Levitt, which opened last summer, is committed to sponsoring at least 50 free outdoor concerts every year.

When the pavilion official came onstage to welcome everyone, she commented that this was "the only Levitt Pavilion in the area," and I chuckled to myself a bit, because I had no idea that this was not the only one of its kind. But indeed, there is a growing family of Levitt Pavilions built by the foundation set up by the late philanthropist and outdoor music fan Mortimer Levitt, who built the first one in Connecticut in 1974; others have followed in Pasadena, L.A. and Memphis. The Arlington Levitt is indeed the first one in Texas, and from the looks of things, they're doing a wonderful job.

*No harm in borrowing the slogan of a defunct furniture chain in an effort to make a bad pun, right?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Every Medium, Dads Rule the Day

While my own dad might be out of range of a phone call, you can find plenty of things about dads on this Father's Day no matter where you look:
  • Newspapers. The Dallas Morning News' Jeffrey Weiss remembers his father:
    ow I finally understand the words of the traditional Jewish mourners' prayer: "May his memory be a blessing." Among those most blessed memories are ones about how he firmly set my moral compass. Not that he was perfect – he was messy, not particularly tactful and had a grumpy bark that was always worse than his bite. But in a world filled with bad examples, he was my single best and shining good example.

    He had been an honor student, a teenage steelworker, a young lawyer, a decorated soldier, a successful merchant. A devoted youngest son, loyal brother and loving husband. But in his final days, the role he talked about most was "father." "I tried to be a good daddy," he said.

    That he was.

  • Magazines. Harlan Coben* of Parade** remembers his dad as well:
    So here’s the uplifting part: It’s okay to feel this pain. In fact, when you’ve been as lucky as I was in the father department, it would be an outrage not to cry. You can’t have an up without a down, a right without a left, a back without a front—or a happy without a sad. This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments—and you get the tears at the end, too.

    My father, Carl Gerald Coben, is worth the tears. I hope that one day, to my children, I’ll be worth them, too. And if your father is worth them, let him know.

  • Websites. From the Power Line blog, the story of a father who used his body as a human shield to protect his daughter when tornadoes rolled through Minnesota last week, making the ultimate sacrifice in the process.
But it's not all about bittersweet remembrance, of course; many of us still have our fathers, and some of us are lucky enough to consider that a plus. As I noted above, Dad's out of earshot right now (which is hard to do with all of today's communications options); he and Mom are in Nova Scotia, so the best I could do was send an email greeting. (Why, oh why did Apple have to discontinue the iCards a few years ago? They were the only e-cards that didn't have bad animations, cheesy music, and virtually no chance of being some sort of scam.)

While Dad and I may have had our differences over the years, there's no doubt in my mind that today, he stands tall as an example of a truly good man, one whose accomplishments--not the flashy things, but in everyday life--I can only hope to approximate.

Happy Father's Day, Dad--to you and all the other dads out there.

*I had to do a bit of research to realize that Harlan Coben, author, is not the same guy as Harlan Cohen, advice columnist. I thought it was impossible that I'd been reading Cohen's name wrong all that time that he was in the local paper.

** (Obscure Family Guy reference alert) Sorry, Stewie, but I do read Parade Magazine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Music Meets Art--In the MIddle of the Sidewalk?

Via Althouse comes word of an unusual art project that involves the installation of 60 pianos in 50 different public places around New York City; anyone will be allowed to play them:
An art installation touring the world is making its first U.S. stop beginning Monday. For two weeks, players can play tunes on pianos all over New York City, at famous landmarks like the Lincoln Center, the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island ferry terminal and Central Park's bandshell.

The concept, devised by British artist Luke Jerram, has put more than 130 pianos in parks, squares and bus stations since 2008 in cities including London, Sydney and Sao Paulo. And now it's New York City's turn to play, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday.

"There's going to be a huge amount of talent here," Jerram said in an interview. "The piano's actually a blank canvas for everyone's creativity, really, so I just hope that the city enjoys it."
Althouse herself is skeptical, thinking that the sounds emanating from the pianos will not often be great art:

I just hope, if your apartment or office is within earshot of one of those pianos that you like "Chopsticks," "Für Elise," Billy Joel songs, and the way it sounds when someone drags their fingers the full length of the keyboard. Why do Jerram and Bloomberg think that saccharine everyman "creativity" will blossom?
As someone who worked at a music store (and cringed whenever parents let their three-year-olds run loose in the piano section), I can see her point. (She also links to a funny video of a skilled pianist playing things badly--often meaning that the right hand and left hand were a half-step apart from each other--on purpose. That gave me flashbacks to my music store days as well.)

The commentariat at Althouse has quite a good discussion on the subject. Quite a few folks are somewhat cynical regarding the safety of the instruments in NYC, but there are already safeguards in place:
Each of the 60 pianos to be installed throughout New York has its own attendants responsible for its care. That involves unlocking the keyboard at 9 a.m. every day and deploying a heavy tarp over the instrument if it rains.
My favorite comment comes from Donna B., who says, "I'm not impressed. REAL art would be leaving tubas in public spaces for people to play." Now that would be funny.

Luke Jerram's website has some pictures of this installation in previous cities, and it seems like it could be enjoyable. As a few people noted at Althouse, the places that have a public piano (student unions at colleges, etc.) tend to only attract skilled players (probably because of the combination of close quarters and public setting), and this would be a chance for anyone, regardless of experience, to sit down and play. And of course, you might find a real gem amongst the dreck. (But if someone really good did sit down and play, would people notice, or would it be a repeat of Joshua Bell playing in the DC subway station from a few years ago?)

So what do you think--good idea, or bad idea? Will it generate some real art, or will it likely to be "Chopsticks" and "Heart and Soul" played ad nauseam for the bulk of the time that the display is up? Chime in (heh) by hitting the commment tab.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Summer--Time to Spend Some Quality Time with the Puppy

I've written plenty of things about the band Snarky Puppy over the years. They make amazing CDs, and it's an incredible live show--one that I haven't gotten to see in nearly a year and a half now. They also have a new CD/DVD that I haven't been able to purchase yet, because it's only for sale at those shows. And as the band has increased in popularity, their performances here at home have been increasingly rare.

But the wait will soon be over. This coming Sunday, the band is playing a free show in Arlington at the cool new Levitt Pavilion. That's right--a free show.

If you're in the DFW area but haven't seen this band yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And if you have heard them...well, I'm preaching to the choir here; you've probably already RSVP'd.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

iCan't Tell Time Properly; How About You?

I've already posted this on Facebook, but I'll throw it out to the blog community as well: For the past few days, my iPhone's clock has been four minutes slow (compared to my computer, watch, the radio, etc.). Anyone else having this issue?

Some of the responders on Facebook have said that this does happen from time to time. One friend weighs in with the following:
it's a common 3G problem with AT&T, Kev. it has to do with strength of signal from "competing" towers and the phone being able to sync up properly. It will come and go from time to time (no pun intended).
Heh. Others have noted wild variations between phones in the same household (husband's phone slow, wife's not--or vice versa). It might even have something to do with time-zone changes, though I haven't been out of Central Time since last summer. (I did make a very short trip to Oklahoma on Saturday, so feel free to throw out your favorite Okie joke here if you so desire.)

The same friend who suggested the technical glitch earlier came back with this philosophical gem:
[I]s everybody's life so structured that you can't deal with a being a minute or two "wrong" in either direction? remember the good ol' days when we would say, "oh, it's about a quarter 'til", or "5:30 or so" exactness. Now we're concerned about being 1 minute off from the official Naval Observatory time.
My reply was that, well, since my entire professional life depends on people showing up for lessons in precise half-hour chunks or being at rehearsals on time, then, yes, my life is that structured.

Feel free to post your own "weird iPhone clock" stories in the comments below.

Monday, June 14, 2010

If You're Still Not Convinced We Need To Clean House (and Senate)... this.

It's not just that the congressman (I won't capitalize it in this case; he doesn't deserve it) takes the kid's camera phone away from him and grabs him around the neck (though those things are bad enough); it's not even that, as many people have already noted, the guy appears to be more than a little tipsy. The thing that stands out to me is the smarmy sense of entitlement that seems to ooze from every pore in the man's body, like he's some sort of royalty who can't possibly be bothered to field a question from a mere commoner.

There were so many better ways to handle this; simply saying "no comment" and walk away or inviting the questioner to call his office would have been the best way. But no, this guy did something that would appear to rise to the level of assault and battery, and I hope he gets brought up on charges for it (though I'm not holding my breath).

These guys need to remember something: You. Work. For. Us. A whole bunch of people need to get sent packing this November, and Etheridge is definitely among them. It's time to take our country back.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Not Drinking from the Cup As Of Yet

I have to admit that the World Cup has generated more interest among my friends than I would have imagined. Everyone's posting about it on Facebook, a lot of people are changing their avatars to either the U.S. flag or that of their ancestral homeland, and some are even getting up at ridiculously early hours to watch games that have nothing to do with either of the aforementioned places.

That last one--taking time to watch games played by countries with which they have no ties, throws me for a loop, because it flies in the face of the theory I was formulating this week. When I first saw all this World Cup buzz, my question was this: Are they truly soccer fans, or are they simply fans of the USA, who will embrace things like curling when it's on during the Olympics simply out of national pride?

Me, I've had an on again/off again relationship with soccer; I loved the indoor Sidekicks when they played here in Dallas (and even did a radio report on their triumphant return to DFW Airport after winning the league title), and I've seen a few students play high school games here and there. I went to an FC Dallas game back when they were the Dallas Burn (and, playing in the wide-open Cotton Bowl, "burn" was what happened to your skin after the game).

But my personal experience has been minimal. Youth soccer hadn't exploded when I was a kid, and I'm too far away from Austin to see my nephew play. I realize that it's "the only true international sport" and all that, but I'm not alone in not having been bitten by the bug yet.

I could trot out the stereotype: You sit there for a few hours getting all excited about a single goal being scored, or occasionally a 0-0 tie. Yet others might point out that I'm a big fan of baseball, a game which is also disparaged by many for its lack of action (at least in comparison to football and basketball). But maybe the difference is that I've actually played baseball. Oh, and baseball can't end in a 0-0 tie. (I'm just sayin'.)

So I'm sure that I'll tune in for something before long; I have more free time in the summer than during the school year, and I have a nice TV now. But I doubt you'll catch me getting up at 6 a.m. to watch Spain play Ivory Coast.

Have you watch a World Cup game yet? If not, are you planning to do so? Take your shot (heh) in the comments.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Could Realignment Mean to the Green?

The sports world is abuzz this week--especially in this part of the country--with Colorado and then Nebraska opting to leave the Big 12 Conference for what they undoubtedly hope will be greener pastures. And that raises all kinds of questions: Will the bulk of the Big 12 South bolt to the Pac-10? Or will über-rivals Texas and Texas A&M actually head for different conferences?

But my question, as a proud (if long-suffering) alumnus of UNT, is this: Can the Mean Green find a way to benefit from all this realignment?

I'm not the only one talking about this, of course. Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle's Mean Green Blog weighs in on the subject, and he sees a few possible scenarios:
  • The Big 10 raids the Big East, which raids Conference USA, which could then raid the Sen Belt to replenish itself; UNT would then move to C-USA as part of the deal.

  • The Big 12 disintegrates, several of its teams go to the Mountain West and are joined by Boise State of the WAC. The WAC decides to add a few teams in the eastern area, and UNT joins them.

  • Nothing changes; UNT stays in the Sun Belt.
Admittedly, reading things like Scenario #1 above will make your head spin after a while. But that's the nature of college athletics right now, at least until the fate of the Big 12 is determined.

Even if nothing more changes with the Big 12, I'd love to see UNT "move up" at some point in time. Sure, the Sun Belt has been more than enough competition for the Mean Green during the down cycle of the past few years, but with any luck, the new stadium will boost the level of excitement for the next several years, and hopefully, that excitement will translate into wins. And if that happens, I'd love to see UNT in a conference that's not quite so spread out. It's not always easy to get excited about seeing your alma mater play Troy or Middle Tennessee, and I still get Florida International and Florida Atlantic mixed up on a yearly basis.

What I'd really like to see is a conference with a lot of natural rivalries--say, the major Texas schools that aren't in the Big 12 (or a future Pac-16, or whatever): SMU, TCU, Rice, Houston, maybe UTEP. There would need to be a few more schools to fill out a conference, but I bet the games would be well-attended because of the short travel times and high likelihood of having friends or family who attended one of the other schools.

But none of this--besides winning more games in the future, of course--is in UNT's hands. It all depends on what happens with the Big 12, and Texas appears to be in the driver's seat there. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Once Again Laying Claim to the Day

Today is mah birfday, and I have to say that it's a lot more normal of a day than either of the past two years. In '08, I began my special day in the air, on the rather turbulent tail end of a flight back from Vermont. Last year, I was staring knee surgery in the face. The first half of today has be much more normal, and I expect that the rest of the day will follow suit.

I know some people who don't make a big deal about their birthdays, but--even though I'm not usually one to blow his own horn, except in a literal sense--I'll make an exception for today. As I wrote last year,
Some say that birthdays lose their meaning after a certain number of years, but not for me; with 365 days in a year, it's cool to be able to claim one of them as your own. (And I may not be getting "caek" today, but I've been enjoying free food all week, thanks to being on so many restaurants' email lists. Most of them send out other stuff during the year, but this week is when everything comes pouring in.)
There is one different twist to this year, as I have a gig this evening, come out to the DMA for a celebration that's not really about me at all, save for the fact that I'll be one of 15 people on stage and doing what I love to do.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Class of 2010

As of this morning, all of my students who were seniors in high school have now graduated. (It took a little bit longer this year, because not everyone was in the same district for once.) It's become an annual tradition to do a brief salute to them in this spot, and this year is no exception.

So happy graduation to Adrianne, Brent, Chase, Christian and Scott. You may be small in numbers, but you've amassed a lot of accomplishments--most notably, my first All-State Jazz Ensemble member in over a decade, and three-fourths of the best saxophone quartet I've ever had the pleasure of coaching.

Though most of you are not pursuing music as a career, I'm glad to see that most of you will continue to play (in one ensemble or another, as well as for your own enjoyment) in college and hopefully beyond. No matter what, keep music in your hearts, and put the discipline, teamwork skills and multitasking abilities you've learned from studying music to good use in other aspects of your lives.

As I've said before, I do a pretty good job of keeping up with my alumni, so I'm bound to see some of you before long.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Finally Time to Cut the Cord?

This isn't a new subject; I've been mulling this over for years, and I've even posted about it before. Today, I also posted about it on Facebook, and I'll ask it here again: Should I get rid of my land line?

Since cell phones got small enough for everyday use (I recall my first Motorola Brick from 15 years ago; it mostly stayed in the car), the land line has become less and less necessary, and now, it's reached the point where it hardly gets used at all. For one thing, I've gotten used to screening calls on my cell phone, to the point where I don't pick up for unfamiliar numbers at all, and won't return calls to them unless the owner leaves a voicemail. Since I don't have the luxury of Caller ID on my house phone (and paying for something that comes free on the cell would indeed be a "luxury"), I never answer it at all, letting the machine take calls instead. It's pretty much become the province of telemarketers and other people I wouldn't want to talk to in the first place.

So what's keeping me from going over the hump, in terms of ditching the land line? Pretty much one thing--emergencies. Meaning two scenarios: 1) Having a 911 emergency at home and not being able to have the operator locate me. I know that "E911" technology is close to being in place for cell phones, but from what I've read, it's not quite there yet. 2) It hasn't happened in years, but I'm concerned about missing the proverbial emergency call in the middle of the night. If I go cell-only, I'd have to keep the phone near the bed and turn the ringer on at night (it's on vibrate all the time because I'm teaching and rehearsing most of the day).

Still, I'm trying to cut costs, and I have to ask myself: "Self, is this type of peace-of-mind worth $33 a month?" Most of the time, the answer is no, but I still have yet to pull the trigger.

There's another angle to this, of course; I noticed it this afternoon when paying my phone bill online (and wondering how long I'd keep doing so). I could go all in with Verizon and start using FiOS for my TV and internet as well; it would be $20 cheaper than I'm paying for cable/internet now, and I'd basically get to keep the land line for no charge (thus kicking this problem down the road for two more years). I'd also be able to watch all my TV channels in HD without paying the cable company even more money than I already am.

So here's what I'd like to know from anyone with experience in this area:
  • Is there anything you can tell me that would nudge me over the top in terms of ditching the land line? Are my concerns unfounded?

  • Have you had any experience with FiOS? If so, how does it compare to regular cable TV?

  • There's a third option here: I can switch to FiOS and ditch my land line as well. Do I really need to agonize over losing the land line for two more years?
Any responses would be appreciated.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Be True to Yourself..."

" others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books — especially the Bible — build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”

R.I.P., John Wooden. You don't find coaches like him too often anymore. For that matter, you don't find people like him too often anymore. He will be missed, but the legacy he leaves is gargantuan. The teacher is gone, but the lessons continue.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Unless Someone Does It For You

I've been a fan of the Ernie and Jay program on KRLD since it started, and I listened to Ernie Brown solo for a number of years before that. (I've noted in the past that Ernie and I were Little League teammates in Houston as kids, though I didn't realize that teammate and talk-show host were one and the same until about five years ago.) Originally, Jay had a show from nine to noon, and Ernie's was from noon-3, and then they started overlapping for the noon hour; eventually, it grew into a full-blown four-hour collaboration, which gave rise to things like the "12:00 Flip-Off," a chance for people to rant about anything they wanted to, often with amusing results.

My listening is usually done in tiny chunks between schools, but I've been able to tune in a bit more since the school year started to wind down. And all week long, the guys were making these cryptic announcements about something ending after today. I was really concerned at first--surely they weren't tossing them out the way they did to Brad Barton earlier in the year and are about to do to Neil Sperry in a month! But finally, after yesterday's Flip-Off, they told us what's up: They're both staying on the air, but it's back to separate shows again.

Here's how it will work: Jay will be on from 9-noon, then an hour of news will take place at noon (evidently, some people were griping that they wanted more news in the middle of the day, even though there were always updates at the top and bottom of the hour). Ernie will be on from 1-3, after which the afternoon news will start, as it has for a while.

They said yesterday that the program didn't take off like people hoped it would, which surprised me, because there always seemed to be plenty of callers. I'll certainly listen to the guys separately, and I'm glad they both still have jobs in this economy, but it's disappointing that a team that seemed to work well didn't bring it home in the ratings area.

I've been listening to KRLD since the first Gulf War, though I actually stopped tuning in to anything except Ernie and Jay for a few weeks after they fired Brad Barton (which still seems like the most pinheaded move ever, especially since it was supposedly made not at the local level, but by a network "suit" in New York). If they had let Ernie and Jay go completely, my radio dial wouldn't have gone there except for weekend Rangers games. I'm glad that's not the case. (And the segment may have ended, but I have to say this: I'd like to flip off the KRLD management for breaking up the team.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

AT&T's New Data Plan Limits--Much Ado About Nothing?

I've been a happy iPhone user since I took the plunge right before Christmas of '08. Sure, there have been a few dropped calls here and there, and I had to learn how to keep the battery from draining too quickly (turn off location services, notifications, etc.), but otherwise, it's been nothing but positive. So I was concerned when the story came out this week that AT&T is planning to do away with unlimited data plans. But I had to know more--would this even affect me? Let's see:
AT&T will now offer a lower-end data plan, called DataPlus, for $15 per month. Users on this plan get 200MB to use for one month, and those that go over will be given an additional 200MB for another $15. According to AT&T's analysis, 65 percent of its smartphone customers use less than 200MB on average. Checking around the Orbiting HQ, all but one of us with an iPhone on AT&T fall into this category.

The new high-end plan, called DataPro, gets you 2GB of data use for $25 per month. If you go over 2GB, you'll pay $10 for each 1GB increment. For example, if you use 3.5GB, you'll pay $25 + 10 + 10, or $45 for the month. AT&T is not offering an unlimited data tier at any price. The company says that 98 percent of its customers use less than 2GB of data, so among these two plans, all but the heaviest data users should theoretically save on their monthly bill...
Hmm. I have no idea how much data i use, so I checked the settings on my phone. It said I'd used 1.5 GB. And when had I last reset my statistics? Umm...never. That means I'd used 1.5 GB since I'd bought the phone, a year and a half ago. So I'm good with the $25 plan. I later went to AT&T's website and checked my account for more specific usage; had I gone over 200MB in a month? Yup, most recently in February and December, the two months where I've done the most traveling.

So it appears that, not only will I not be affected by this new practice, but I could actually save money with it. Some recent iPad buyers who depend on the 3G network instead of wi-fi will undoubtedly be upset, as will those who are the true data hogs on the network. (UPDATE: According to another article on the subject, the people most likely to be affected by the new plans are "the 3 percent of customers who AT&T says are using 40 percent of the network assets," along with those who are using a cellphone as a modem.

So tell me, fellow iPhone users--will this affect you at all? And if you just got an iPad, are you disappointed? Fire away in the comments (you can wait until you find wi-fi if you want).

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This VIdeo Had Me at the Title

I'm going to let someone else do the talking for me today while I enjoy my first true day of summer. But this is an important topic to which I've devoted quite a bit of time on this blog over the years, and it gives a lot of facts and figures to back things up.

The title is great: "There Are Too Many Bureaucrats and They Are Paid Too Much."

Well done. Watch and share, and I'll be back in my own voice tomorrow. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Heard in the Line of (Jury) Duty

Random thoughts upon the completion of a morning of jury duty (where, it should go without saying, considering the time stamp of this post, that I didn't get picked):
  • The big flood in the basement of the Dallas County Records Building knocked out computer service to all of county government, which means we had to submit new forms by hand. Despite everything having to be done manually, it didn't really take that much longer than usual to get the jury pools assigned.

  • As always, there was a lot of waiting in the hall. We noticed that a police officer was standing in the hall at the same time, and somebody said that it must be awful to have to stand out there doing nothing for so long. Imagine our surprise when he turned out to be a member of the jury pool! (There were some lawyers in there, too; I guess the only people who you don't see on a regular basis would be doctors.)

  • Before our voir dire process began, there were many people who came in and out to submit pleas and do other non-trial business with the court, with friends and family waiting outside for them. Perhaps the most poignant moment was when a toddler started crying for his mother, who was obviously in one of the courtrooms, and he was inconsolable when the friend/relative who was watching him said that he couldn't go see Mama right now. (On the other hand, it was somewhat amusing that said toddler had a little Mohawk haircut.)

  • Call me old-school, but it was amazing (and disappointing) to me how many people showed up for non-trial appearances in what I'd consider to be overly casual attire. I know it's summer, but you'd think that people would consider a courtroom appearance important enough to leave the shorts, flip-flops, baggy pants, etc. at home.

  • I realize the importance of doing one's civic duty, but, as I've noted in the past, jury duty is always a bit scary to those of us who are sole proprietors, because, while most people will continue to be paid by their employers during their terms of service, that's impossible when employer and employee are the same and the business cannot open when the whole "company" is away. I deferred to this week for a reason--the college is out and the public schools are in exams--but it would have been bad for me if any trial I was hearing had lasted for longer than this week.
Some people have noted that it seems like I'm always being called for jury duty, and, while it does feel like that, part of the reason is because things have been postponed a few times. My federal on-call session that I served over Christmas break was delayed because of my knee surgery and the illness of a colleague at school, and this county service was also postponed because the original summons date ran concurrently with the federal service. So this is the first time in over a year that I haven't had the specter of upcoming jury service hanging over my head, and I hope that this situation will continue for a while.

So now it truly is summer for a few days; I can relax, work on the summer schedule, and get a few other things done.