March, 2008:

New Girlyman Live CD

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I just wrote about an awesome show put on by Girlyman last night at Joe’s Pub. In that post, I mentioned that they have a new Live CD called Somewhere Different Now (Live). Because I have a bunch of things to say about that CD, and because I always ramble on, I decided to break out these thoughts into a separate post.

Lois and I like to support the group in any way that we can. Aside from going to see them live, and taking new guests each time, we also buy a lot of their CDs and give them as gifts. Our first order (after seeing them for the first time) was for 11 CDs.

If you go to a live show in April, you can buy the new Live CD for $15. If you order it online, through the link above, by April 5th, 2008 at midnight, you can get it for $16.50 (that includes shipping). Why April 5th? Unitl then, the band is selling the CDs directly, so all of the proceeds go directly to them. Help them out (and enjoy yourself in the process!) by ordering the CD now!

On May 1st, the CD becomes officially available through normal distribution channels, including downloads, etc. If you haven’t bought it by then, you still should, but the band will get a much smaller cut.

OK, aside from supporting the band, is there any other reason to buy the CD? Are you kidding? πŸ˜‰

There are many awesome live CDs out there. Two of my favorites are CSNY’s 4 Way Street and The Allman Brother’s Band Live At The Fillmore East. As great as both of those double live CDs are, there are a few songs on 4 Way Street that I nearly always skip, and at the risk of being stoned by uber-fans of ABB, songs like Whipping Post, while awesome, go on a bit too long to listen to too often.

Somewhere Different Now (Live) is a terrific CD, from the first second, remaining good to the last drop. πŸ˜‰

Why buy this CD?

  1. If you’ve ever seen Girlyman live, you can instantly transport back to a front row seat, and enjoy the experience all over again
  2. If you love their studio CDs (and who doesn’t? No, really, who? Tell me, and I’ll straighten them out!), but have never seen them live, you’ll get a sense (a good sense) of what you’re missing
  3. If you’ve never heard them before (live or on CD), then this is very good and broad sampler of their songs, along with some hysterical on-stage banter
  4. Three of their new songs (one each by Nate, Doris, and title cut by Ty) are only available on this CD (so far). If you want to hear how they continue to grow and stretch, or if you’ve already heard these and desperately need to own a copy, now’s your chance
  5. There are three covers (songs written by non-Girlypeople), that aren’t on any other of their CDs
  6. Some of their best banter and tuning songs are on this CD. We’ve seen them live four times now, and most of the stuff on the live CD was new to us (and completely cracked us up!)
  7. 29 Tracks, over 70 minutes of wonderful music and great laughs

Enough, go, buy it, now! Better yet, get to one of their shows this month (April that is), and enjoy a live show, followed by purchasing a signed copy of the live CD!

So, I started this by telling you how many CDs I bought the first time I saw them. Actually, that was a little bit of a lie. At the show itself, we bought two CDs. After listening to them each once (Joyful Sign and Remember Who I Am) we ordered 11 more.

Last night, we bought 15 of the new Live CDs (yes, fifteen). We also bought copies of Joyful Sign and Remember Who I Am as gifts for our guest.

There’s a story as to why we bought 15 copies of the new CD, and that will have to wait until tomorrow morning. I’m crashing, and that post is too important to just wing

Goodnight, but before you log off, buy the new CD. πŸ™‚

Update: I meant to mention that the minute I got back on Sunday night, I ripped the new CD into iTunes. I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t have been) that the CD was recognized by Gacenote and all the track names were filled in, etc. I sync’ed to the iPod and went to bed. For many reasons, I was restlessly awake at 4am. By 5am I couldn’t toss and turn any longer, so I listened to the CD, finally. Then yesterday, during the drive from NY to VA, Lois and I listened to it in the car, so I’ve been through it twice, which is what the above review is based on.

Last Update: I also meant to mention that there’s a cool surprise on the live version of Postcards From Mexico. Since the band recorded all of their live shows last fall, they could have picked a flawless version. Instead, they chose to share the reality of a live show. Bravo, it was a lot of fun! πŸ™‚

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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The wait between Girlyman concerts wasn’t quite as challenging this time around. As I reported in this post, it had been 143 days between concerts until we saw them last Wednesday at the Barns at Wolftrap. This time, we only had to amuse ourselves for four days. How we came to see them first in VA, then four days later in NYC is a long story, which I’ll tell after reviewing the concert itself.

The show was at Joe’s Pub. Aside from being our favorite place to see concerts, it also happens to be the first place we saw Girlyman, on August 19th, 2007. We were back at the same table, right up against the stage.

Girlyman took the stage at 7:03pm, so we were cheated out of three minutes of their wonder. πŸ˜‰

They opened the show with the same song that they had opened the previous two shows we saw, On the Air (from the Little Star CD). If you read my post about the Wolftrap show, then you know that I took them to task about experimenting with the song. I have no idea whether they read the entry, nor if they did, whether it had any influence on them at all. That said, they played On the Air straight down the middle (which is to say, awesomely), and it was obvious that this night was going to be pure magic.

Lois prefers for me to share my bottom line first, mostly because she says people who skim won’t know how I really feel. I think she’s just too polite to say that people will likely fall asleep trying to get through my post before they get to the bottom line. So, in honor of Lois, here’s the bottom line on last night’s concert, followed by the details:

Girlyman was/were PERFECT last night!

OK, you can safely stop reading now, and go back to your real lives.

The banter was great (as always), but it wasn’t 100% identical to last week. That’s very cool. I’ve discussed this before, where some groups have great stories, but they’re repeated identically at each show. I still like those stories, but fresh is always good.

The set list was close to Wolftrap as well, but also not identical, and that too was great. One of the marks of a creative group is that they have too much material to fit into a single show. That means that you have to leave wanting more, because inevitably, they simply can’t play everything you’d like to hear.

Putting to rest the other problem from Wolftrap, Through To Sunrise. That was the other song that they played with. Last night, perfect. Whew.

The night before (therefore not in time for the Wolftrap show), the band finally started selling their new Live CD, Somewhere Different Now (Live). The link to the CD is an earlybird special. Run (don’t walk) to your favorite browser and buy this CD now, you have five days left (if you’re reading it shortly after I’m writing this). I’ll have more to say about this CD in one (possibly two) more post(s). The point of buying it now, is that all of the money goes to the band, so show your support, and just order it, don’t think about it!

The reason I mentioned the CD above, is that they tailored the set (at least that’s what I read into it) to match some of the selections that are on the Live CD. To me, it was a very nice touch, because it meant that those who would take the CD home could instantly relate to their own personal live experience with the band.

Their singing and playing was simply spectacular. Above, I described it as perfect. If you’ve made it all the way here, I’ll tell you a secret. While playing Kittery Tide, Doris actually missed one riff on the banjo (shhhhh). Why did I call the performance perfect then? Because Doris handled it perfectly. She laughed, made a funny exasperated face, and plowed on wonderfully. I got a big kick out of it, and that’s part of the live experience. We’re not paying to see automatons.

Last comparison to Wolftrap. In that review, I took Ty to task for getting a cheap laugh at Bush’s expense. Last night, she didn’t, but during the introduction of the same song (Through To Sunrise), Nate took a similar shot, and received a similar reaction (positive, of course). OK, next time, we’ll let Doris get the cheap laugh, so that no one is ahead in the collection of cheap laughs, and then we can all take a deep breath. πŸ˜‰

Because we sat touching the stage, we could see the set list. That meant that we knew what songs they were going to play, in what order (it pays to learn to read upside down!). They got through every song on the list, except for one of their new songs. Usually, when they do their request section, I scream Through To Sunrise at the top of my lungs (that’s Lois’ favorite song, and near the top of my list). We saw that they were going to play it so I showed a drop of class (not typical for me), and I didn’t call out for anything.

The problem is that I wanted to yell out at least five different songs. They settled on Hey Rose, and did it wonderfully! It happens to be on the new Live CD as well, so I think that may have influenced them choosing it from the many songs that were yelled out at them.

OK, I could give more details, but I’d end up repeating myself saying things like “They sang great! They played great!”, etc., etc.

Instead, on to the back story leading up to the show, then the after show stuff. I’ve decided to follow this post with a separate post on the new Live CD.

The second I noticed the tickets to Girlyman at Wolftrap, I snagged four of them. We invited our friends in Richmond, knowing that if they couldn’t make it, finding other people wouldn’t be a chore. We like to introduce new people to Girlyman live (they already have copies of Joyful Sign as gifts from us) so we buy extra tickets.

We were scheduled to work at Zope that week (or rather, once we bought the tickets, we were committed to making that a work week at Zope), and we were intending to work through the next week (this week) as well. Because we knew we’d be down here already, I snagged two tickets to see Kathy Mattea (and Bill Cooley!), also at Wolftrap, tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 1st). So far, so good.

Then, a few weeks later, Girlyman adds a previously unscheduled show to their site, Joe’s Pub on March 30th! I went to Joe’s Pub site, and the show wasn’t even up yet. Hot off the presses. We discussed it, and even though we knew it was crazy (or least those that don’t understand the magic of Girlyman would think we were crazy), we decided to do it. Do it meant coming back to NYC over the weekend, then returning back to VA no later than Tuesday to see Kathy Mattea.

A few days later, Joe’s Pub listed the show, and I grabbed four tickets and a dinner reservation.

I had just connected in an interesting way with another VC in NYC, who also is a music fanatic. We’ve never met, just exchanged some emails and commented on each other’s blog. Lois thought it would be nice to invite him and his wife along as our guests. She sent him an email, and he never replied. From everything I know about him, it doesn’t seem to be his style, so we both assumed it went to a SPAM folder, never to be seen again.

I could have written (and Lois wanted me to), because he was getting my emails (and responding), but I didn’t want to, mostly because if he had seen Lois’ email, we would essentially be stalking him, which was most definitely not our intent.

Then we had a brainstorm. We’re very friendly with a family of five in Leesburg, VA. Dad, Mom, 10-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy, 2-year-old girl. We thought that we could take the two boys, picking them up on our way back to NYC, dropping them back home on Monday, since we had to return for Kathy anyway.

When we called, it turned out that the 7-year-old was attending his ceremony for attaining a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do on the day of the concert. No way he was missing that. The older boy already has his, and was getting a certificate at the same ceremony. He was willing to miss the ceremony. So, we locked in picking him up on Friday, on our way back to NYC.

That left us with one ticket. The universe likes to fill these kinds of voids, usually elegantly (at least if you pay attention to the cues). A day or two later, I received an email from someone in MN that I had only met once, through a mutual friend. We got along great during that one dinner. Of course, during that dinner, I raved about Girlyman (do I ever shut up about them? No!). He bought Joyful Sign on iTunes the next day.

In the email, he mentioned that he was in love with Joyful Sign, was ready for another dose of Girlyman, and could I recommend Remember Who I Am or Little Star as the next taste. They’re both fantastic albums, but I recommended Remember Who I Am. Even though he lives in MN, I mentioned that we had an extra ticket to the March 30th show, and he was welcome to join us. I couldn’t believe it when he replied that he already had a business trip scheduled to NYC and would be in that night! Wow, thanks universe! πŸ˜‰

So, on Friday, we drove from Fredericksburg to Leesburg and took the Mom and the three kids to lunch, then headed to NY with the 10-year-old. On Saturday we took him to the circus (and I wrote about that here).

Backing up, when we got home on Friday night, there was an email from my new friend in MN saying that he had to cancel his trip due to a nasty cold. He kindly offered to pay for his ticket, and I told him that was unnecessary. First, the show was sold out and I could have sold the ticket if I wanted to. Second, I expected the universe to bail me out again. πŸ˜‰

I quickly made a phone call to someone I know loves live music, and lives in Manhattan. He was busy and had to pass. We then sent out a number of emails, but in particular, wanted to take someone I’ve written about before in this space, Jonathan Pytell. He’s a wonderful pianist, who we’ve also previously raved to about Girlyman, and I thought he’d really appreciate them. The rest of the people were informed in their emails that if Jonathan said yes, we’d have to rescind our offer.

Again, the universe delivered. Jonathan was the first to answer, with a Yes, so I was able to send emails to everyone else before they responded.

Here’s one part of an unedited response from one of my friends who received an invitation. He happens to be as funny (to me) as any professional comedian out there, and this is but a tiny example:

I was sooooo looking forward to a mention in the inevitable blog entry on the Girlyman concert. “Last night, Lois and I took our two favorite boys, one who’s 10 and another who often acts like he is, to the Girlyman show at Joe’s Pub. What a night! The set selection included…” Perhaps you could still squeeze me in with “Although distraught that our favorite pre-teen compatible friend could not make it, we nonetheless loved Girlyman at Joe’s Pub last night…”

Here’s a photo that Lois took of the three boys in our party at Joe’s Pub:

The Boys at Joe\'s Pub

We had excellent meals (as always) at Joe’s. I had the Seared Tuna Steak, on top of Artichoke Hearts and Pine Nuts. It too was perfect. The other boys had burgers. Lois had a salad, because she’s always so good

While we were eating, we were staring at the shiny GIrlyman instruments on the stage, just tantalizing us. Nate’s electric guitar is not in this shot, as it was hiding behind another piece of equipment:

Girlyman Instruments

After the show, we lined up with tons of other fans to finally meet the group. We did, and we can prove it:

Girlyman, Lois and Hadar

It was a very exciting moment for us. Thanks Ty, Nate and Doris, we’ll never forget it! πŸ™‚

This morning, we woke up and drove our young guest back to Leesburg. After dropping him off, we headed to the office in Fredericksburg, and are now in the hotel. A very long day. I don’t know if I have the energy to bang out the post about the CD, but if not, it will arrive early tomorrow morning. Look for it! πŸ™‚

March 2008 Poker

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March saw a radical change in my online poker playing. Heretofore, I was playing in a ton of tournaments, most of them qualifiers, many of the $1 qualifiers. When I would win a seat to move on to the bigger tournament, I would play that. When I wouldn’t, I would skip the bigger tournament.

While it greatly reduced the amount I was risking, and greatly increased the amount of time played, ultimately, as I reported already, it was simply soaking up too much time (even though I loved every single second of it, even the losses!).

This month, I played in extremely few qualifiers (five or six, I have to squint too hard to be sure at the moment). Instead, on a few occasions (very few), I simply paid the full entry fee for the big tournament, when I was in the mood, and had the time. That included paying the full $215 entry fee for the big Sunday tournament, three times this month. Previously, I had only done it once, when I had the snafu with my Tournament Dollars.

I lost the first two, so I was down a healthy amount. On the third try this month, I came in 47th out of 890 entrants (top 90 got paid). That returned $700 for my $215 entry fee. Coupled with two other smaller cashes in Omaha Hi-Lo tourneys, and I ended the month…

Yes, I had to break the paragraph purely for dramatic effect…

+$1.10 (yes, more than a whole dollar, in fact, 10% more than a dollar!)

Clearly, this new strategy rocks! πŸ˜‰

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus

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We have a 10-year-old boy spending the weekend with us in NYC. I’llΒ share the details on that in tomorrow’s post about tonight’s Girlyman concert. πŸ™‚

A few weeks ago, I walked over to Madison Square Garden and picked up three tickets to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I was able to get great seats. Nothing at MSG is cheap, but it wasn’t completely outrageous either. The show was scheduled to start at 11am.

We got there pretty early (a nice walk from the apartment, but very windy and cold). We spent some time browsing around in Borders, and finally went into the Garden at 10:40am. There was mayhem on the floor, as many people purchased an All Access Pass, which included a pre-show entry to the floor, where many of the performers and animals were out and about.

I’m glad we didn’t do that, because it looked crushing, but there’s no doubt that the people/kids who were down there were having a blast (being 10 feet from an elephant, for example), and it gave us something to gawk at as well.

They cleaned up very quickly when the pre-show was over, and actually had some clowns out warming up the crowd a few minutes before 11. The show started promptly at 11am.

It’s really not necessary to give specific details on the various acts, but I’ll summarize by saying that the entire experience is tons of fun and reasonably entertaining throughout the show. I was very pleasantly surprised at the length of the show. I assumed it would be 90 minutes (with or without an intermission). It turned out to be 140 minutes including a roughly 25 minute intermission.

There were many things that seemed to thrill the adults (me included) more than many of the kids. Part of the reason/problem is that many times, there are simultaneous performers doing things in different places in the arena. I can see how deciding what to watch can be distracting (even to adults). Of course, while clowns amuse kids physically, the humor itself is often way over their heads.

They bill themselves as The Greatest Show On Earth. Obviously, that depends on your taste. That said, from a pure spectacle point of view, it’s arguably an accurate description. There are so many peformers in the show it’s a little mind-boggling. Even though our tickets weren’t cheap, it’s hard to imagine a mathematical split of our collective fees that can even feed that many people and animals, let alone have them make a nice living. I’m sure they’ve worked it out, but still…

Speaking of money, these kinds of events are meant to soak parents out of every extra cent they own. The only two things we broke down and bought were a $7 box of popcorn (which was actually quite tasty, if not value priced) and a $15 DVD of the Circus itself.

We watched the DVD last night. It’s highlights of the show. We were actually quite pleased with the ability to relive the experience, even though it was only seven hours after we left. So, that too wasn’t a bad value. πŸ™‚

On the other hand, a snow cone was $10 (but you got to keep the plastic cup). If you bought cotton candy, you got a circus hat which was like the one worn by the Cat In The Hat (but in circus colors). I think that was $12 or $15. Of course, kids screamed for every one of them, and parents often relented. It would have been trivial to spend more on the junk than on the tickets…

After the show, we walked up to the giant Toys ‘R Us in Times Square. It was so mobbed I can’t even describe it. Recession my foot! Yes, I know about the math of this supposedly dead economy, but everywhere I go (and yes, I mean everywhere), there are mobs of people, spending tons of money, on completely discretionary things, like circuses, concerts, toys, movies, Broadway, restaurants, etc.

A good time was had by all yesterday, with the adults possibly enjoying it even more than the kid. πŸ˜‰

Welcome WordPress 2.5

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My last post announced a physical move of this server. Before the server was shut down, I saw the announcement for WordPress 2.5 final. I installed it locally on my laptop, and saw that everything on my site worked, with the exception of the Popularity Contest plugin. I had the time to update the main server before it was scheduled to be shut off, but I chose to take the more conservative route, and wait until it came back up.

The server move was very successful, with one unfortunately notable exception. I had an artifact in my IPTABLES firewall rules that made the machine semi-invisible to the outside world when it came back up, even though all of the appropriate DNS updates had been performed.

I count myself as wildly lucky that one of the few things I was able to do successfully was to ssh onto the machine using a direct IP address. It took me a while to accidentally discover the one bad firewall option, but once I changed that, everything started working. Whew! Queued mail started flowing as well.

That left me free to update to WordPress 2.5. That went pretty smoothly too. Of course, just like with the laptop, Popularity Contest doesn’t work, so it’s not on now. There are three other wierdnesses, neither of which I have the time to track down at the moment, but hopefully will later this afternoon:

  1. The Sociable plugin is once again formatting the bullets in a block list, rather than inline. This can be fixed with my own css (as I’ve done in the past), but I have no idea what broke in the upgrade…
  2. TinyMCE (in WP2.5) won’t allow me to display the link editor (AJAX form). It comes up blank. I am posting this from IE until I figure that out. Not cool, but also not stuck…
  3. This ordered list is not showing the numbers in IE7, but is in Firefox. πŸ™

So, welcome WordPress 2.5 to this space. Welcome this server into the new data center. Hopefully, this will be the last move for this specific server, not that it was that much of a hassle. Thanks Dave for taking care of the move and making it so painless! πŸ™‚

Server Relocation

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Tomorrow night, probably at roughly 8pm EST, the opticality.com server (the one serving up this content to you) will be heading south, literally.

It will be moved from one data center (in Northern Virginia) to a data center in Central Virginia.

For a number of reasons, I have chosen a less than fault tolerant setup for this server. The most notable example is that there is no secondary MX server. That means that while the machine is in transit, all email sent to it will be deferred (at least I hope it will be).

Also, this blog will be down (obviously).

While the downtime is expected to be 3-4 hours, I may not be awake when the machine comes back online, and I have little doubt that I will have to update things once the machine is back, in order for it to perform its public duties in the manner it currently does. That might not happen until the morning, though I hope that email just works.

Anyway, sorry for any inconvenience, and here’s hoping it goes as smoothly as possible…

Girlyman at Wolftrap

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Last night finally came, thankfully! We’ve been waiting (not so patiently!) since November 4th, 2007 to see Girlyman live again. That’s 143 days, in a row (if you can believe that). Somehow, we survived, but I’m not sure how!

Continuing with the new tradition, I’ll cover the concert first, then circle back and share lots more stuff from the day. That will allow people who only care about their Girlyman Fix to bail out after this part.

This was our first time at the Barns at Wolftrap. It won’t be our last. Not just because the place is simply fantastic, but we just so happen to have tickets for this coming Tuesday night (April 1st, 2008) to see Kathy Mattea (and of course, accompanying her, the amazing Bill Cooley!).

We had four seats in the fifth row, left center stage. Excellent! Opening for Girlyman was a group called We’re About 9. I have quite a bit to say about them, but I’ll save it for the section immediately following Girlyman, before the rest of my shtick, since this post is really about Girlyman.

Girlyman came on stage at exactly 9pm. It’s hard to describe the joy and excitement that was evident in the entire crowd. There might have been a reasonable number of newbies in the audience, but even the vast majority of those have either heard the band before (CD, streaming, etc.) or were there with friends who are die-hard groupies.

In fact, the two people we brought were seeing Girlyman for the first time live, but each have separate copies of Joyful Sign (gifts from us) even though they are a married couple. πŸ˜‰

The band feels the love immediately, and reflects it back. These are not jaded people who take the love for granted, even though they absolutely should expect it at this point! It’s heartwarming.

They open the show with the same song that they opened the Highline Ballroom show with (that was our last time, on November 4th, 2007), On The Air (the first cut on the Little Star CD). Unfortunately, for the first time ever (OK, we’ve only seen them live twice before) πŸ˜‰ they actually take liberty with the song and do it somewhat differently than the CD version.

It was OK, but not as good. Sorry folks, I have to call it like I see it. Many might disagree (perhaps everyone except for me), but while very nice, it wasn’t as good. I was immediately nervous. If this was going to be a night of complete experimentation, I would probably be somewhat disappointed. Not the least of which is that one minute before they came on, I leaned over to my friend and said “Wait until they come out, it’s complete magic!”.

I’ve written about this before, in a different (but somewhat analogous) situation (about the lead performers in Wicked the Musical). I can understand how an artist can be bored doing the same thing every night for years on end. They want to grow, stretch, etc. In the case of Girlyman, for me (I realize this obviously isn’t true for them), it shouldn’t apply. Here’s why:

  • They actually don’t tour as much as other road bands (e.g., The Wailin’ Jennys)
  • They have more material than a single show, so they can mix it up
  • They have quite a lot of new material, so they are experimenting!
  • While they’ve been around a while (7+ years?), it’s hardly an eternity…

So, I say that their fans (a constantly expanding group, especially if I have anything to do about it!), are hardly sick of the current versions.

Whew. Onward. The fear passed quickly, as they only fooled around with one other song, more about that later.

While everything was beautiful, even from the beginning, to my ear, it took a while for their voices to warm up, get stronger, and gel together as wonderfully as we’ve come to expect. That’s not so much of a complaint as a surprising observation. They dazzled last year from the first note at both Joe’s Pub and the Highline, and the acoustics at the Barns were good.

Once they got rolling (not too long into the set), they were spectacular (you better not be surprised!). πŸ™‚

They always have an amazing stage presence, rapport with the crowd, and banter (between them, and separately aimed toward the audience). Last night took it to new heights. Seriously, they were so on, I’m not sure people would have stoned them if they didn’t play a single song! OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not as much as you might think.

When they talk to the crowd, you feel like you’re at a family reunion, sharing laughs and catching up with relatives, people who you deeply care about, and want to hear about, even though you have mostly separate lives the rest of the year!

They had a phenomenal mini-set of fun stuff. Sorry, but I don’t like to ruin these kinds of surprises for those that have tickets to see them on this tour. What’s really cool is that while the songs are fun, they still share all of the musical qualities that we’ve all come to expect from Girlyman, great musicianship, great voices, and impeccable harmonies. If you get that, and get to laugh out loud at the same time, who can complain? πŸ™‚

All three of them were on top of their game yesterday. Ty actually spent a bit more time on the guitar (she’s excellent!) than she has before. The new material is a real hit. They have a new Live CD coming out this week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready last night. Thankfully, it will be available when we see them again this coming Sunday, in NYC. Yippee!

Time to pick one last bone with the band. Their politics are reasonably obvious. No problem, we all have our own politics (of some sort or another), whether we make it obvious or not. In the case of Girlyman, its often laudable. For example, I learned more about biodiesel (the good and the bad!) from Nate and Ty’s separate blog posts than I had previously known. I admire their effort and caring to do the right thing!

That said, I’ve written before that I don’t pay for musical entertainment with the expectation to be lectured to on politics (by either side!). Having seen Girlyman twice before, I had no reason to expect that to happen (as it hadn’t happened at Joe’s or Highline). It didn’t really happen last night either (meaning, no lecture, no speech, etc.).

But, during the intro to Through To Sunrise (Lois’ favorite song of theirs!), Ty couldn’t resist saying that she partially wrote the song looking forward to the end of the Bush Presidency. The crowd ate it up, giving her a rousing ovation. That’s all she said, hardly a lecture. Also, hardly necessary.

I’m not writing this in support of Bush, or the Presidency in general. I’m writing this because it’s odd, that a group that writes so deeply and passionately about love and other subjects, should find the need to take open slaps at anyone, including someone who they obviously disagree with politically.

I’d actually go further. I found it to be pandering (to the audience!). It’s a guaranteed laugh and clap getter, in most venues. To me, it’s a cheap laugh, especially given that one way or another, he’s out in less than a year. It’s no longer wishful thinking on the part of his detractors.

Sorry to drone on, but I need to put a fine point on it. Earlier in the show, in a more light-hearted romp on the current crop of candidates, Ty made it clear that she believes in Obama (at least it was clear to me). Until Obama got dragged into the mud relatively recently, his rhetoric lectured us on being united, not divided. No one with a public megaphone needs to take cheap shots at the opposition (though they all do…).

Sorry. It’s off my chest now. Do I love Girlyman (or Ty) any less? Not a single drop. It wasn’t egregious, didn’t show me a dark side I was previously unaware of. It was just unnecessary.

The other disappointing thing about Through To Sunrise is that it was the only other song last night that they heavily experimented with. It too was fine, but not even close to the standard that Lois and I are nuts about. Oh well.

Everything else was perfect! πŸ˜‰ Including a one and a half song encore (with a fun surprise). Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes. Very nice!

We loved it, in every way, so the amount of words dedicated to the negative stuff shouldn’t be used to judge the overall effect of the evening. Our friends loved it as well!

We really wanted to hang around and finally say hello to the group, but our friends had a very early flight out of Dulles and we wanted to drop them off at their airport hotel as quickly as possible. Hopefully, we’ll rectify this on Sunday at Joe’s Pub.

OK, that’s the end of the Girlyman section, and you can safely stop reading if that’s the only reason you landed here. Next is We’re about 9.

Whenever I buy tickets to see a headliner that I’m in love with, I get a twinge when I see an opening act announced that I’ve never heard of. There are two reasons:

  1. The group might stink (which can affect the crowd too, possibly spilling into the headliner’s vibe)
  2. The headliner might simply play a short set (perhaps much shorter!) especially when the venue has hard time deadlines

When I saw that We’re About 9 was opening for Girlyman, I went to their music page and listened to the songs available there. I liked them instantly, so #1 could be scratched off the list. Just as Girlyman was complementary when opening for the Indigo Girls, We’re About 9 was going to be complementary to Girlyman.

I’ve already reported that Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes, so #2 turned out to be nothing to worry about this time either.

From their website, We’re About 9 has three members. When we were reading the program waiting for the show to start, we noticed that the full page ad showing the group, only had two people in the picture. The Bio on the next page talked about all three. We remarked that it seemed strange. They never mentioned the third person the entire night, even though only two of them performed last night (Brian Gundersdorf and Katie Graybeal).

It’s hard to describe them succinctly (of course, it’s hard for me to do anything succinctly). πŸ˜‰

They are old-style folk meisters, with very nice harmonies, and excellent musicianship. Brian is very good on the guitar, and Katie is excellent on the bass (and on the one song that she played the guitar). They both have good voices.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Bob Dylan, especially in my youth. Brian reminds me of him in some ways. There is a depth to most of their lyrics that can be insightful and instructive. His voice isn’t gravelly like Dylan, but it has an earthy quality, passion, and driving nature that is still reminiscent of Dylan.

On the other hand, some of their songs are incredibly playful (not that this wasn’t the case for Dylan as well!). But, even the playful songs are rich and complicated in their lyrics. At their heart, they are story tellers, sometimes with a deep message, sometimes a playful one, but almost always with a story.

Many of their lyrics are also sophisticated. By that, I meant that you have to listen very closely to get the meaning, as well as sometimes just to understand the actual words. Some of their songs cram so many words into a stanza of music, that you wonder not only how they can remember all the words, but how they can sing them in synchronized harmony without missing a note, breath or word. It’s extremely impressive!

I could go on, but I’ll end by simply saying that they were a hit with the four of us, and Lois went and bought two of their CDs during the intermission (signed, of course). πŸ™‚ They have more CDs, and after I listened to both today (Engine and Paperdust::Stardust), I am sure I will be buying more of their music (I think they have six CDs out, but I’m not sure).

They are not playing with Girlyman this Sunday at Joe’s, but they are playing in a number of other future dates with them. There was a cool surprise during the We’re About 9 set, but I won’t ruin it, in case they repeat it in future shows.

They were on for 38 minutes. As much as I enjoyed it, it made me a little worried that Girlyman wouldn’t be on for as long as I would want them to be, but it all worked out (as reported above).

OK, if you came just for the music, leave now. The rest is about everything yesterday leading up to the concert. πŸ™‚

We bought last night’s tickets a long time ago. We bought four tickets, in the hopes of bringing our friends from Richmond, but knowing that if they couldn’t make it, we’d have no trouble enticing other people to discover the wonders of Girlyman.

Our Richmond friends committed right away, so we were set. The original plan was that they would drive to Fredericksburg (where we often work) and we’d drive up together to Vienna, VA. A week ago, those plans changed. They needed to fly out early this morning from Dulles to CA. They got to Fredericksburg via car service, and we drove them to the show, and as reported above, dropped them afterwards at an airport hotel.

In between, we had dinner in Vienna. We would have been happy to have sandwiches at the bar at the Barns. They don’t open their doors until an hour before show time (7pm last night), but we were in the neighborhood by 6pm. So, I asked the GPS to highlight nearby restaurants. It generated a large list, but we decided to go simple, and headed for a local TGI Friday’s.

When we arrived, we didn’t see it. We asked a group of people relaxing outside in the gorgeous 75 degree weather where it was. They laughed and said it was long gone. Oh well. Right there was another choice that the GPS had shown, Hunan Lion. We went in there instead.

Fantastic food, fantastic value (prices), fantastic atmosphere, great service, zero complaints! The only thing that made me feel bad (and always does) is that the place was relatively empty. The staff still went out of their way to enhance everyone’s experience by spreading out the guests widely in what is a very large restaurant. We appreciated the comfort and privacy, but it made the place feel even emptier than it really was.

Hunan Lion in Vienna, VA is highly recommended.

When we got to the Barns, at 7:05pm, we had coffee and cookies in the bar. Yummy, and bodes well for the sandwiches, which Lois and I will likely do for dinner this coming Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, someone I worked with for many years at UBS stopped by the office to visit. When he was at UBS, he worked in our London office (he relocated from VA just for the job). His family fell in love with the UK, and when the stint at UBS ended, they moved back to VA for a few years, but really missed the UK. Roughly five years ago, they moved back, and he runs his own software company there.

I hadn’t seen him since he moved, and we had a very leisurely lunch together, and had a great time catching up. Thanks for making the drive down Chris, it was great to see you! πŸ™‚

Tomorrow, we head back to NYC. We’ll be seeing Girlyman again on Sunday night at Joe’s Pub. We head back down on Monday, and have Kathy Mattea back at the Barns on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we’re back at Joe’s Pub to see Tim O’Brien, so we have an insane travel schedule ahead of us, but all for good and fun reasons, so we promise not to complain. πŸ™‚

Professional Apologists

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Unless you live under a rock (and even then) you’ve heard/seen Hillary Clinton’s latest gaffe, regarding being shot at while in Bosnia in 1996. You can read the story from a professional news organization, on the off chance that you do live under a rock.

Nowadays, making a gaffe like that requires some sort of mea culpa, which Hillary most certainly did deliver (it’s in the above article, and you can judge for yourself whether it’s good enough). A single apology just isn’t good enough in today’s society. We need, or rather demand, constant apologies and explanations.

Since it would be unseemly for a candidate to appear to be constantly on the defensive, apologizing over and over for the same mistake, they generally have professional apologists, who run around to various news outlets, and explain (or rather defend) the gaffe and the candidate. While one can understand the reason, their stance often strains credulity.

Before I introduce the object of this specific post, let me share one of the more credible explanations of how Hillary came to mis-remember an incident like being shot at! One of her detractors was actually quite kind (and in my opinion quite sincere!) in saying the following (I’m paraphrasing heavily!):

Since 1996, Hillary has likely told this story hundreds of times, perhaps even thousands of times. Each time, it got just a little bit better, and became that much more ingrained in her psyche. By the end of these many tellings, she was getting shot at, possibly even believing it to the point where she could have easily passed a lie detector test!

Not terribly implausible, even though getting shot at isn’t something you’re all that likely to really forget. Especially, when you are reminded by a reporter that Sinbad repudiated your story, and you can’t back off even a little once your memory is jogged…

OK, back to today’s story. Last night, one of Hillary’s professional apologists was on TV, along with Retired Colonel Hunt. The apologist was Lanny Davis. Lanny is extremely intelligent, and generally extremely professional. By that I mean that he’s firm, but polite, rather than an attack dog (like some are).

Last night, he crossed two lines that he rarely crosses, which shows just how far the apologist part of their roles is supposed to go! First, he simply gave up all of his intelligence (and therefore his credibility) when he said the following:

A journalist traveling with Senator Clinton in 1996 in Bosnia wrote that there were snipers there to protect the group.

His (apparent) claim was that:

  • There were snipers there (a word Hillary might have used at one time!)
  • She was right to remember it as dangerous!

Let me back up. Colonel Hunt was there that trip as well. He was reporting directly to the commander in charge (an Admiral). He reported (before Lanny made the above comments) that there was a brigade of soldiers there. There were fighter jets patrolling the air. There were 40 tanks, and yes, there were sharp-shooters as well.

His conclusion (different than Lanny’s) was that Mrs. Clinton (she wasn’t a Senator at the time) was reasonably safe (as all of the videos clearly show), and that by dramatizing the event, she was insulting the soldiers that were there to ensure her safety (something they obviously did well).

I don’t agree that she was insulting them (in any way!), though I do agree that it could come across that way to someone who was charged with protecting her.

Lanny’s response seems to imply that because we (the American Army!) had snipers on the ground, Hillary was somehow correct in her recollection that she was under fire from snipers. Come on, this doesn’t even pass the remotest of smell tests, and it’s embarrassing to have him try to parse words to recharacterize her previous statements.

The second way that he disappointed last night was that he lost his cool (rare for him) and essentially called Colonel Hunt a liar (not exactly that straightforwardly, but in a cowardly back-handed way), for suggesting that Hillary was never fired upon. Huh? She too admits she wasn’t fired upon. Video proves she wasn’t fired upon, but somehow, Colonel Hunt is lying that she wasn’t fired upon (or that she didn’t honestly believe that she was!).

That would be bad enough, but it never ends badly enough with professional apologists! There is another tactic that is sickening (both sides do it, 100% of the time that they are apologizing for someone else). They try to use moral equivalences to soften the gaffe in question.

In other words, if he did something similar, and he’s still allowed to run, be in office, live, breathe, then why are we spending any time talking about my candidate’s problem?

It simply sickens me 100%, no matter who uses it. It’s one of the reasons that our society has fallen into such disrepair. If someone else does something wrong, that’s justification for us to do it too, no?

No!

But, when the moral equivalences simply don’t line up, it’s significantly worse. Many people correctly cited the lack of equivalence of Barack Obama comparing Reverend Wright’s statements with those of Geraldine Ferraro or his grandmother.

Lanny Davis crossed that line way worse last night. He actually had the nerve to liken McCain’s gaffe regarding Iranian training of Al Qaeda (as opposed to generic terrorists), which got corrected (by Joseph Lieberman, instantly!), with Hillary’s gaffe about getting shot at!

Wow! Mis-speaking in an impromptu interview, and being corrected (and accepting the correction immediately!) is equivalent to telling about something that supposedly happened directly to you, and then defying people when they claim that it didn’t happen (until the video comes out!) is equivalent?

No. What would be equivalent would be if it now came out that John McCain never spent any time as a prisoner of war. If, in fact, he mis-remembered the incident and now had to admit that, because definitive video just surfaced.

Shame on you Lanny Davis, and shame on all professional apologists, on both sides!

Snarky Customer Service

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As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Girlyman. I have an alert service that informs me whenever there is news about them (and The Wailin’ Jennys as wel). Today, I received an alert pointing me to a blog about Brooklyn. In this post, she writes about a Brooklyn-based group called Sweet Bitters. She lists their influences, which include Girlyman, hence my alert notification.

So, I listened to the four songs on their MySpace page (linked above), and liked their sound. They only have two upcoming live dates listed there, one being on April 5th, 2008 at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t mind seeing them, and there’s a slight chance that we could make it there that night.

Sweet Bitters’ link to the venue makes it clear that the show is free. Since there is no place to purchase tickets, Pete’s is clear enough that tickets are free as well. They have a menu link, with five sandwiches listed and some cocktails, so one assumes that they make their money that way, but there’s no mention of a cover or minimum so who knows.

Utilizing the better safe than sorry theory, I sent an email to one of the addresses listed in their contact link (I think it rotates on reloads, because I saw another name appear at a different time).

If you read this space regularly you already know that the above italics aren’t rare for me. πŸ˜‰ I will happily admit that I overdid the quote marks (to indicate the same emphasis I use italics for here). I thought I was helping highlight the underlying points. Here is my email in it’s entirety:

Hi. I’ve never been to Pete’s. I might be able to make it on 4/5 to see the 9pm show (Sweet Bitters), but I’m not sure yet.

Can you tell me how Pete’s “works”?

What time should we show up for the 9pm show to get good “seats”?

Are there tables or rows of chairs, etc.?

Obviously we’d like to give you “business”, so the above question is related to whether we show up early and order drinks and dinner, but whether we have to move afterwards or sit at the table and watch the show?

Do you “sell out” (we’d be coming from Manhattan, so it would be frustrating to show up and not get in)?

Thanks in advance, and I’m glad to have found out about your place today! πŸ™‚

P.S. I don’t know if it matters, but there would be two of us for sure, and possibly four…

OK, a little over-the-top, but reasonably clear, no? In particular, the part about my desire to want to support the venue given that the show is free?

Here is the entire unedited response, cutting out my original email from the bottom:

“all” pete’s shows are “free”. if you are worried about “it” being ” too full”, then “come early”. you do not have to “leave your seats” from one show to the next. i hope this “response” was “helpful”.

for more “info”, go to www.petescandystore.com.

“take care”

OK, let’s analyze. First and foremost, did he respond to my questions? Mostly, but not as accurately as one would hope. What does come early mean? 8pm, 7pm, 3pm? It would seem that he mistook my question about selling out to simply mean is it free. Otherwise, he might have said something like “on occasion, in particular on Saturdays, if you don’t get here by 8:45pm, there is no room left in the place”.

More importantly, is his response appropriate? I’m a potential customer. Could he be sure that I was savvy enough to take his sarcastic reply in the (hopefully amusing/entertaining) manner that he intended? Wasn’t it as likely that if I’m so clueless as to have put the quotes in to begin with, that I might be offended at being made fun of?

Let’s assume that he doesn’t care (that’s my assumption!). After all, they’re not charging for the concert. In any event, they must have some reason to open their doors, and perhaps I would never come there, not just that night. Perhaps I’d even blog about it, affecting other people. πŸ˜‰

Bottom line, I think his response was at best snarky, not necessarily out-and-out nasty, nor obviously meant simply to be humorous.

Is that the best way to get business? Who knows. I still don’t know whether I can make it or not, but I’d still like to. Whether I’m interested in giving them business is another matter, but we’ll see how that plays out as well.

I could have been indignant in my response, ignored it, or chosen something in between. Here’s the entire text of my response:

“thanks”, “cute answer” πŸ˜‰

Hope he doesn’t think I was insulting him. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I really wrote this post to promote Sweet Bitters, even though I am also indirectly promoting Pete’s Candy Store. I just couldn’t resist telling the whole story behind it, because I have written about the lack of customer service in the past, and this is but one more example…

Microsoft Madness

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Yesterday, I read the following article on PC World’s website. It mirrored my thoughts about Windows XP vs Windows Vista perfectly, including direct experience not just theory.

What I learned in that post (which I probably should have known earlier but didn’t) is that Microsoft intends to stop most sales of Windows XP as of June 30th, 2008. I’m not really sure what most means in this context, but either way, it’s boneheaded.

I just did a quick search, and apparently it means that they likely won’t be offering it to OEMs, so if you expect to get Windows pre-loaded on a new laptop after June 30th, you’ll have a choice of Vista or Vista (or Vista or Vista, given that there are four version of Vista available!).

John Heckman questions whether Microsoft won’t bow to pressure and push back the June 30th date.

The minute I read the article I knew I was going to post this. My first instinct was to title it Wake Up Microsoft. Then this morning, it came to me, this is the perfect season to aptly and correctly use the term Madness.

It’s clear that Vista is a bomb. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone without an ax to grind that would seriously defend the merits of Vista over XP. It’s not the first time Microsoft has bombed with an entire operating system. How many of you are still running Windows ME?

At least with Windows ME, it died a relatively quick and painless death. With Vista, for any number of reasons, Microsoft isn’t willing to give up. Given enough time (and money), they will likely make it decent, though it’s unlikely to ever be great (given it’s core), and it’s not even likely to get decent given that they are already working on it’s successor.

The madness isn’t in not killing Vista (I understand that the investment and marketing bets that they’ve made are too big to simply throw away). The madness is taking away the only viable choice that still puts money in Microsoft’s pocket!

Folks, there’s no doubt that XP is eating into Vista sales. That’s the only reason that Microsoft wants to stop selling XP, they want to remove the competitive choice and force new computers to be pre-loaded with Vista! Will it work? Of course, there are many people who wouldn’t consider Linux or Mac under any circumstance, and they will grudgingly (or ignorantly) accept a machine with Vista on it, if they have no other choice.

This doesn’t make it a smart strategy. The sane move would be to keep offering XP as a choice (while heavily promoting Vista). Then, whenever Vista truly rivals XP (don’t hold your breath), or Windows 7 (or whatever it will be called when it finally arrives) is available, stop selling XP.

In the best case scenario, Microsoft will sell exactly the same number of licenses in total (Vista only, instead of a mix of Vista and XP). They will get to declare a huge PR win for Vista (look how sales ramped so nicely!). They will not get any additional profit (since they will be maintaining XP for years to come anyway). They will create a slew of miserable users who will equate Microsoft with pain (or worse).

In the worst case scenario, they will push people toward alternative operating systems like Mac and Linux.

I haven’t done a scientific survey, but I honestly believe that nearly every technology professional (business people too, not just developers) that I know has switched to using a Mac as their primary computing platform (most on laptops, but I know a number of people who use iMacs as well!). When I say “nearly every” one, I believe the number is pretty close to 90%.

Examples include Zope Corporation. While 100% of our services to customers are delivered on Linux-based servers, there is only one developer in the company that hasn’t switched to a Mac. Even the SAs (System Administrators) all got Macs recently (though one of them decided after the fact that he’s more productive on his Linux laptop).

My friends (you know who you are) have been needling me for years to switch to the Mac. I have very long experience with the origins of Mac OS X (NeXT), so no one needs to convince me of the power and the beauty of the underlying software.

I haven’t switched for two reasons:

  1. There are programs (some cool, some necessary) that only run on Windows, or at the very least, run on Windows way earlier than they become available on Mac.
  2. The value proposition of generic hardware (laptops and desktops) is overwhelming vs the Mac stuff. The Mac stuff is gorgeous, and brilliantly designed. Ultimately, it’s not worth the money and locks you in. They also have enough quality problems to make me pause.

My non-technology professional friends (neighbors for example) still prefer Windows. There are a number of reasons but they are all valid (games for their kids, Windows is used at the office, I know Windows, I don’t want to have to buy new copies of software I already paid for, etc.).

In April 2004 I bought my current laptop. In fact, I just wrote about that in this post. I bought it without an operating system pre-loaded because I was committed to switching to Linux full time. The experiment lasted six weeks (not too bad), but once I started running Windows in Win4Lin, I realized that I wasn’t quite ready to cut the Windows cord full time, and I installed Windows XP Pro.

There were two reasons that I switched back:

  1. 95% of the day I was happier on Linux than on Windows. 5% of the day I required a program that was only available on Windows. That 5% started to bug me more each day until I switched back.
  2. Linux was great in 2004, but it wasn’t quite as good on cutting edge hardware as it is today, and I had some real problems on my (at the time) brand new beast. It’s possible that I would have toughed it out if Linux had worked perfectly on my laptop back then. I have no doubt it would work flawlessly today.

My one direct experience with Vista came when my next door neighbor bought a new Dell Laptop for her mother. There was no choice, Vista only. I am their tech support team and she asked me to customize the machine for her mother when it showed up. I was amazed at the hoops I had to jump through to install programs onto the machine. I couldn’t begin to imagine what someone who was less technical would have done (other than throw the machine out!).

In addition, the machine crashed on me at least 10 times in one day during the setup. Sheesh.

Since then, I have been asked for laptop recommendations at least five times. In all cases, the buyer wanted Windows. In all cases I have vehemently recommended XP, and (amazingly enough) it was now available again as an option. None of those users has had a single problem with their new laptops.

Where does that leave me? As I mentioned in my spring cleaning post, I will likely be buying two new laptops at some point (possibly this year, but definitely next year if not in 2008). I have thought about this (before knowing about the demise of XP) for much longer than I care to admit, and I decided that I was going to stick with Windows. Sorry Mac fanboys. πŸ˜‰

If Vista is my only choice, I can guarantee you that I won’t be buying it. Best case scenario (for Microsoft) is that I will buy a retail CD of XP and load it myself. Much more likely scenario is that I will install Linux on the machine, and try really hard to avoid the few Windows-only programs that I’ve come to rely on. The least likely choice is that I will break down and buy Mac laptops, but it’s not impossible (the possibility is at least on my radar for the first time ever).

So, coming full circle to my original post title: Wake Up Microsoft!