Some great work on music

I know I should have been keeping this up to date, and there really is lots to report on (we now own a house in Oregon), but I’ve just seen a talk and demonstration that really inspired me. Tod Machover at the MIT Media Lab has been experimenting with new ways to play music, and closes with a demo of a man with cerebral palsy playing his own composition. His talk also features some amazing facts about how people interact with music and a clip of Yo Yo Ma playing the hyper-cello! Just watch it.

Oh, and would you believe a robot opera?

Idealism Wins One

I just saw a wonderful talk by a fellow named Dave Eggers. He’s set up projects to get successful adults working one on one with school kids. Check out the talk or his website. It’s well worth the time.

Book: Biting the Wax Tadpole

As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by languages, both natural and artificial. The book Biting The Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanatic, by Elizabeth Little, was written by a young lady with a similar interest. It’s a little full of oddities for the sake of oddities, but it does a good job of expressing the fascination and delights of languages. I recommend it to anyone. If it piques your interest, and you want to learn more, check out The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, by John McWhorter. He also did a good lecture series for The Teaching Company, Story of Human Language

One thing bothers me about these books. The love of language leads the authors to a conservationist’s view of rare languages. Odd tribal languages must be preserved at all costs, and the only way to do that is to teach them to the children and insist that they use them. To me, this is converting the tribe into a museum exhibit, and deliberately making it more difficult for them to communicate with the world at large. Elders may support this as a way to keep the children down on the farm, but I doubt that the children would agree. Given the choice, I suspect that most of the children would choose a more common and widely used language. To be fair, this attitude is not as strong in Little’s book as in McWhorter’s, and I may be making false assumptions about her attitude.

Checking out Ashland

Who would have thought that retirement would be so busy? I somehow thought that I’d have lots of time and would be looking for new projects. The trouble is; I’ve been saving up things to do and things to read, and there just always seems to be more to do. Reading in particular is taking a lot of time. With the “ripening” cataracts, reading had gotten downright painful. Now one eye is fixed, and the other isn’t really so bad, so I can read again. I’m picking up all of the books that I didn’t finish and working my way through them. And that doesn’t mention the stack of journals and papers sitting by my desk.

But back to Ashland. One thing we are doing is looking for a place to enjoy our retirement, and Silicon Valley is not it. The Valley is a great place for work, partly because it’s full of smart, active, people. Note that “full of people”. Though there’s a lot going on here, getting to where it’s happening is almost always a long and difficult journey. I don’t want to travel to Berkeley to see a play! So we’ve decided that Ashland is a good compromise, having enough smart, active people to be interesting, but not enough to cause problems. This last week we took a trip there to look for a house and check out the winter weather.
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Away From My Desk

Just a quick note.

We are in Ashland this week, checking out the weather and looking at real estate. The internet connection I have is painfully slow, so I’ll write about it when I get back.

Quick correction

In the last post there was a line “A lot of people I didn’t like”. This was the exact opposite of my intent. The “didn’t” was an edit error from the next sentence. It crept in when I was inserting the sentence in question.

My sincere apologies to anyone who read this before I fixed it.

I Quit

As of tomorrow, I have retired from Microsoft. I haven’t changed jobs, I’ve retired. For at least the next couple of months I plan to do very little. I’ve been catching up on my reading, we are planning a trip to Ashland in the next couple of weeks to see what it’s like in the winter, and I am expecting to visit Florida in February for Mama’s birthday party.
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A Sign of the Times

I’m writing this while sitting in the waiting area of the Auto dealer. They have a work area with a long desk divided into cubicles, and a fast internet connection for customers. They also schedule appointments, so that I can bring the car in and wait for it to be done. In the mean time, I can work remotely using my laptop.

These guys really know their customers!

An Ashland Fourth

The Fourth turns out to be a big deal in Ashland. If we had known just how big a deal, we’d have skipped the play for that day and just enjoyed the Fourth.

It started with a parade that lasted for about an hour and a half, then everyone moved to the park for booths and the standard Oregon eat-a-thon. That night there were two band concerts and fireworks.

If you are wondering why this took so long to get posted, it’s simple, if sad. I got a new computer with Vista, and working with web photos is a lot harder with it. The system I had set up to work with XP just didn’t work, and it took quite a while to figure out just what would work. Everything about Vista seems a littler clunkier (is that a word?) I mean, Windows XP always seems sort of clunky to me, with everything taking more effort than it should. Vista just seems to be more so. I’ve learned how to turn the worst of it off by now, but things still take a lot longer than they should.

Ashland and Drama

I haven’t put together the picture show yet, but I thought I’d talk a bit more about Ashland and the Shakespeare Festival.

Ashland is a relatively small town, in a lovely setting, with a drama festival that runs most of the year. It also has a college and is sort of an art center. In fact, it’s a lot like Sarasota in many ways. It’s only about 5 hours from the Bay Area, so it’s not difficult to visit, and this visit was pretty much on the spur of the moment.
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