Garrison Keillor (GK) is retiring–from hosting A Prairie Home Companion anyway–and he seems to mean it this time. He has a young, wiry (as GK says) protoge’ lined-up, and he has a “final” show or two scheduled, and a Prairie Home cruise to Alaska, and then that’s it as far as we, the fawning public, know.

Now and then GK mumbles something regarding needing to get time to work on some book or the other, so hopefully we won’t be entirely without him.

But in any case, my wife and I took this impending demise of some of our favorite entertainment (the young wiry protoge’ can play music, but can he tell stories?), as a clear sign from on high that we needed to get around to using up some of those long-stashed frequent-flyer miles and go see GK & Co. live before the tide turns here.

Wny did we have to fly you ask? Well, the San Francisco show earlier this year sold out in nanoseconds apparently. So we did what any DI2TSH (Dual Income 2 Teenage Sons) Silicon Valley couple does and turned to the online ticket resale market (the term scalper being too crude, at the time) and found tickets available for merely 400 USclams. Well, that is steep but arguably, if argued hard enough, worth it in this case. Besides, we could take public transit up to the city, and eat afterwords at a cheap dive, or even back at home (beforehands and afterwards). So she was about to click [PURCHASE] when she noticed the “Total Amount” box was displaying a price north of 1600 US-slimy-bait-and-switch-clams. Further inspection revealed the modest “service charge” of 400 additional USclams had been added per ticket. So much for not using the term scalpers–the dirty, rotten, *bleeping* thieves.

Anyway, given her Midwestern politeness and frugality, she simply laughed, declined being robbed–and noted the upcoming show in St. Louis on 18-Jun which nominally fit with our (ahem) insane life schedule. Lying in wait, she pounced on the ticket sales when they opened and we secured the still-not-cheap-but-regularly-priced-non-2nd-mortgate-required-tickets. With those, plus skilled hotel evaluation and selection (she has a future as a travel agent), and the aforementioned frequent-flyer miles, we were set and we wouldn’t have to sell a kid to pay for such unseemly extravagance.

We made it to St. Louis, got some sleep–we’d taken the redeye out–woke up, and made it to the venue, which was the Fabulous Fox Theater–an old, meticulously restored, awesomely ornate, and vast place. Once we stopped gawking, filled out our “greetings” (nope, ours wasn’t picked to be read, unfortunately, tough perhaps better that way because the kids may have found it embarrassing), and found our seats in that vast palace of entertainment, it was great for me to finally see the show live and for her to refresh her memory of seeing it in Minneapolis back in the old days. The show began at 4:45pm local time sharp and GK was in fine form. A feature of seeing the show live is that it begins 15 minutes before air time (5:00pm) and GK opens with a folk-song and hymn sing-along with the audience, to get everyone warmed up I suppose, and let the stragglers find their seats. Then the house lights go out, and a guy in black, with a headset on, wanders out on stage, signals “on air!” to the band, and we’re off.

It was fascinating to watch a live radio show unfold and adapt when, say, one of the guest artists took three attempts to be satisfied with her rendition of her first song. GK rolled with these events and she even did another tune later on; I had wondered if they would politely ask her to go walk the dog or something, but they didn’t and she did fine.

At the end of the show, the “On Air” light went out as the crowd was applauding and then GK launched straight into another tune. As the tune ended, he tried calling it a night, or at least put on airs about doing so by walking off stage, but the musicians didn’t budge and the house lights didn’t come up, and back out he came. This happened again, and on the third time the house lights came up, yet GK strolled back out and said something about “you’ll always have APHC reruns, but I won’t have a live audience!”, and did some more tunes in medley form. He walked off again, musicians stayed put, house lights stayed on, and he wanders out for the fourth time saying something about “ok, one more”. Was this the one where he had the band strike up Great Balls of Fire? I can’t remember now which encore it was they did that tune, but in any case, it was good and he got the audience into singing-along hymns and joked about “please now turn to page 149”, and then launched into another one. I don’t recall which one it was, not having memorized the hymn book when a child going to church, nor being in the choir–but my wife was in the choir (and can really sing well by golly) and she said “you know, i think that hymn is really on page 149!”.

And so after that final medley, GK put his hands together as if in prayer as he headed off stage, looked at the audience, and nodded as to politely say “I do mean it this time”. The musicians stayed put, looking off stage after him, house lights still up, and then they nodded and launched into the prairie home theme and that was it.

So, where’s the serendipity you ask? Well, upon leaving what had become a 2 3/4 hour show, we were looking for a place to obtain some sustenance, otherwise known as grub and suds. We noticed straight down Washington Ave an establishment whose neon sign proclaimed “Jazz” and so headed over in hopes that it might have more than just that. It turned out to be the bistro and lounge for Jazz St. Louis, a Jazz-education non-profit. The show was sold out, but there were a couple seats in the lounge, where one could watch the show by large-screen, and get fed, too. We sat down, anticipating some grub, but soon realized the show was going to be Joey Alexander, a 12 year-old jazz piano phenom, from Indonesia no less. Well, coolio, but let’s get some chow and suds, which we ordered during the opening introduction of the band. I lost my attention regarding ordering when the announcer introduced Eric Harland on drums, one of the top Jazz drummers playing today, but I was hungry and managed to recover and get it done. The bassist, Dan Chmielinski, whom we had not of before AFAIK, seemed of Eric Harland’s generation and knew his way around his instrument. Joey lead them through several tunes–a couple standards, somewhat twisted to his style I came to note–and some originals. Joey has a bright future and I’m going to buy his album, even tough I noticed his feet didn’t touch the floor when sitting on the piano bench and he had to reach for the sustain pedal. He did just fine.

You’ve probably figured it out by now, but I’ll tell you anyway (maybe because I’m a pedant as some say, regardless of any grammatical or punctuation errors hereabouts (I’m in recovery, see/)): the serendipity was having planned to see a talented folksy artist in his sunset years (hopefully a very gradual and productive sunset) and then afterwards accidentally stumble into a show by a ridiculously young, intense jazz artist at the beginning of his, and also seeing live for the first time a particular drummer who has piqued my interest over the last few years.

Not bad for an somewhat impromptu weekend out. We even walked the 3+ miles back to our hotel near The Arch. Icing on the cake, as they say.

A Deep Look Into FireFox 3 beta 3

I’ve been playing around with FireFox 3.0 (FF3, FFox 3) for a while now, using both pre-compiled releases and compiling my own. Besides FF3 being noticeably faster than FF2, the UI changes are subtle for the most part, so one really has to poke around in order to see where it might differ from FFox 2. Now I’ve run across this new document…

A deep look to Firefox 3 Beta 3

…by Percey Cabello that delves into the details and is quite helpful.

See also…

Firefox 3.0b3 What’s New?

=JeffH sez check it out!

OLPC XO-1’s from the “Give 1, Get 1” program arrive in Mongolia

We participated in the OLPC Foundation‘s “Give 1, Get 1” (G1G1) program while it was open this last fall (although it was over-subscribed and we have yet to receive our units), BUT! But: I just received an update from OLPC and it included a link to a page they recently put up where they provide info about, and LOTS of pictures of, the donated G1G1 units being used in Mongolia..

OLPC Mongolia/Ulaanbaatar

They indicate on this page, dated 12-Jan-2008, that..

“Mongolia is the first beneficiary of the Give One Get One program. Laptops have begun to arrive and a team from OLPC, including Carla Gomez Monroy, Jan Jungclaus, and Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin are on the ground to help with the initial deployment. …”


I Done Left Los Windows…

So as is fairly explicit in a couple of prior posts, I’ve pretty much quit using Microsoft Windows on my personal machine, and am running (K)ubuntu 6.10 “Edgy Eft” natively on it. I’ve been doing this for about 9 months now and haven’t looked back. When I mentioned to a Microsoftie colleague that I’d done this, his response was “what about all your tools?” — and we got interrupted before I could respond. Though the answer to that question is pretty easy: I am still using them for the most part. Prior to this migration, I used Firefox and Thunderbird on Windows, and I hadn’t used Microsoft Office for over three years. Rather, I’ve been using OpenOffice (for more than four years now).

Also, migrating over to an environment where all the development tools one could want is just an easy “apt-get” away has been very nice.

The only thing I use windows for these days is to sync my Palm Treo. I haven’t yet made the time to figure out and config proper synchronization for the latest Palm address book and contacts with “extended fields”, and at the time I made the migration (early spring 2007), the info I got said that the Linux-based Palm tools didn’t yet support the “extended fields”. So I’m running Windows XP as a “guest” in a virtual machine, and all I use it for is sync’g my Treo.

Oh, how come I didn’t migrate to an Apple Mac (as many of my colleagues have done)? Well, as far as I’m concerned, there’s very little difference between Microsoft and Apple — they are both into closed proprietary systems, and their leaders … well, nevermind. You get the idea I trust. Oh, and yeah, I don’t like the MacOS user interface very much (I used Macs for several years in the 90s, so I have first-hand experience, and the things I don’t like about it haven’t really changed), and if I’m just going to end up running it as bare-X-on-top-of-*nix, as folks have pointed out I can do, I might as well just do that directly — I don’t think Apple’s hardware is all it’s made out to be (and you pay a premium for it). Besides, I like Dell’s laptops, and if that changes, I can get hardware from some other x86-wielding manufacturer, and even use processors from folks other than Intel, e.g. AMD.

So, there you go. I’m gone, and I doubt I’ll be back.

Ubuntu 7.10 DVDs available at Barnes & Noble and Borders

I was browsing in the newsstand section at my local Barnes & Noble recently, and noticed a bright red & white magazine with “Ubuntu 7.10 + edubuntu, kubuntu, xubuntu” across its cover. Upon reading further I noticed it contains two bootable DVDs, one with the aforementioned four distributions in 32-bit, and the other with the same four in 64-bit. The price is $15. Wow, very cool. As I am presently running Kubuntu 6.10 “Edgy Eft” on my lapstation and thinking about upgrading, I bought it. I’ve played around with the 32-bit DVD and booted up each of the distros, and installed Kubuntu on a separate disk just to check if all works ok, and it did.

The magazine includes articles about installing and configuring, with lots of illustrations and screen shots. Well-suited for checking-out Ubuntu by newly interested parties.

Apparently, the publishing company behind this (as well as “Linux Identity Office” and “Fedora 8 – Linux Identity Kit“) is OXYpress LLC, with presences in both France and the USA.

Of course, one can always download any and all flavors of Ubuntu for free from..

..but I’ve been wanting to check out the edubuntu and xubuntu flavors, as well as 64-bit Kubuntu, so picking it up in a nice pre-done package is great. Saves the hassle of downloading and burning discs and such.

I also noted a similar “MandrakeGNU/Linux distro magazine, apparently from a different publisher (but I’m not sure, don’t quote me).

=JeffH sez check it out 😉

A Fool’s Errand? I don’t think so — Beyond War

I attended this talk entitled “Inventing Public Key Cryptography: A Fool’s Errand: Act 2” yesterday at Stanford‘s CS department. It was given by Martin Hellman, one of the inventors of public key cryptography, and also a participant in the Beyond War effort in the 1980’s, which has recently been re-launched. The 80’s Beyond War effort yielded a book, “Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking“, which is available online, and worth perusing.

The talk was quite interesting, and I certainly think that engaging with people all over the world in order to try to reduce the amount of violence is a worthy, and certainly not foolish, cause.

=JeffH sez check it out!

My new keyboard

Ohmigawds, I haven’t blogged here for almost a year. Yikes! Guess I’ve been too busy with “work” and “life“. Apologies dear readers (mebbe two of you out there?).

Anyway, I hacked up my personal and work computer environment in several ways over the last almost-year. The most obvious hack to me being the one whose results I stare at below my hands when I forget which key is where..

My newly hacked keyboard, neato, eh?

I must credit xkcd for the inspiration. Now where did I stash those “Actual Size” stickers?!@$%

Of course, see also: IN UR REALITY.


Perhaps appropriate commentary..

..given an unfortunate current event…

God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule

..the now so-called..

Virginia Tech massacre


See also..

Boing Boing on VT shootings/massacre

Review: Primus still sux :)

So they, Primus, may be supposedly tired of their fans yelling “Primus sucks!”, but the fans aren’t — well the ones at the show Tue 5-Dec-2006 at San Jose Civic Auditorium weren’t.

In fact, during several extended low-key “mumbling” jam sections, a few in the audience got way ticked off and were yelling more than “sucks” and demanding that they “play f**king primus music, you f**king pussies!!!”.

I thought the show was great, and I had a blast introducing one of my sons to the fine art of survival and entertainment in the mosh pit. I returned to the IIW2006b conference the next day with a big grin and no visible bruises. John Kemp commented that “you like to live dangerously don’t you?” in his inimitable British way.

Warning: Moshing May Occur

I really liked the opening act, Gogol Bordello — I’d not heard of them before. They put on a fairly wild show. Likely even more so if they were headlining. My comment after their set was “that was a very Primus opening act”.

JeffH sez check ’em both out ifn ya get the chance.

Eve made me do it too – five things

Ok, Eve, here u go…

  • I’m actually a really laid-back, low-key, relaxed, even lazy, kind of guy.
  • I’m so old, I had a pet dinosaur when I was a kid.
  • And I invented chocolate milk, ice cream, and television. That’s why I can say with authority: “no, you can’t have any more.”
  • I can’t stand children.
  • I hate to exercise, I can’t stand to be outdoors, detest high places, open water gives me the willies, and I prefer to go slow.

Like John, I dunno five others who haven’t already been tagged. But Cat hasn’t been tagged, neither has Leslie, nor PeterD it turns out…. 😉

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