The URI! Zone - 08/2002
The URI! Domain will re-open for its Seventh Edition on Sunday, August 11. Daily updates will resume at that time.
I will be back in Tallahassee on Wednesday, August 7.
Welcome back to another year of the URI! Domain -- the last sacred bastion of witty repartée and memorable one-liners. I haven't made a lot of changes since the Sixth Edition, so mainly what you'll find is a cosmetic update, some new photos and reviews, and an updated resumé. I have no grandiose plans for this year, but I expect to update the News and Reviews pages fairly regularly. I'll also try to add to the Potpourri section and update the MP3s which are available on the Music page. If you were a dedicated reader of the Sixth Edition and have something you think I should write about, feel free to e-mail me with the mail icon in the upper right corner.
I'm back in Tallahassee now after a boring trip last Wednesday (11 and 1/2 hours in one sitting). Not too much has changed in the land of the horizontal traffic lights. The weather's just as hot and the traffic's gotten a little worse. It's nice to be back in the apartment though, with plenty of quiet space to stretch out in. I'd forgotten just how bad the modem services were down here though, and they seem to have atrophied even more over the summer. Because of this, I'll be trying out cable modem service from Comcast sometime this week, and hopefully it'll be good enough to use full-time. Comcast has a special deal going on right now to get new users started, so I'll be paying roughly the same amount after cancelling my dial-up ISP and accompanying phone extras.
Now that I've transitioned out of the computer world for awhile, I'll be taking care of establishing residency for tuition purposes, and getting on top of my thesis. I did much less composing than expected over the summer, and at this point, I'll probably just throw it all out and start over fresh. It's definitely looking like I'll be doing the thesis and exams this semester and then putting off the defense until next semester. At that time, I can either just do the defense or take some other classes as well. That will all depend on what my plans will be for future years -- to stay for a doctorate, or to be a full-time computer programmer in Virginia?
Of course, that's an essay big enough for its own news story sometime this month.
I spent today in fun pursuits such as backing up the computer and getting papers signed at school. Now that most of the grunt work is out of the way, I plan to start writing on my thesis again tomorrow. Hopefully the extended festering period will erupt in a cacophony of ingenuity.
On the side, I'm reading The Fatal Shore, a book recommended by my dad as an interesting history of Australia. Before that, I read two books by John Douglas of the Investigative Support Unit of the FBI, detailing how serial killers are caught. The books are really fascinating, but you'll want a strong stomach and a morbid sense of curiousity to get through them.
For me, the hardest part of composing is the transitions. I find it incredibly difficult to write a transition that actually belongs where it is, rather than one that eventually sounds okay after more listenings. I have to write transitions as I go, rather than writing the meaty parts and putting the tendons in later. Without variation, the first draft is always too square and blocked, while later drafts run the risk of being too short (Having a short attention span tends to foster jumping quickly between good ideas, and I have to work to make myself linger in an area I think the listener might be bored of).
There are still a few transitions in the second movement of my string quartet that are worn like second-hand pants, and I'll probably change them someday if I can come up with something better. Today I restarted work on my thesis, and got a few good ideas down on paper. I came to a 'stuck' point when trying to transition from the introductory material and the first wham-bang theme.
As I hinted on the first day of this edition, this year is going to be the decision year for my imminent future. Money aside, I'll have to decide what to do after my Master's... go on to the Doctorate or stop there and work full-time as a computer programmer at FGM. The major questions that are weighing on my mind:
- Do I have enough inspiration to compose for the span of an entire career without rehashing old material?
- Am I a good enough composer to make an artistic difference?
- Am I motivated enough to "sell" myself competitively and professionally in an already-struggling academic field?
- Will the amount of time and effort devoted to a Doctorate make me that much better at composing (quantitatively speaking)?
I'll talk about all these issues throughout the semester, and you're all welcome to send me thoughts on the subject. I've always known that this decision would eventually have to be made. I think one of the big revelations of the summer was that I have a need to be active in the computer field when I'm not. I don't get the same feeling from composing -- I enjoy it greatly and can do it competently, but when I'm not composing (like this summer, for example), I don't immediately feel compelled to do so.
People are starting to trickle back into town now, and many of the empty apartments are filling up with the typical undergrads who like to pack everything loosely into their mini-vans and trucks without boxes. Luckily, Thumpy upstairs has moved out, but there's no word yet on who will take his place. The apartment that was occupied by Running Frat Boy last year now holds an extended family consisting of at least a daughter, two parents, a grandmother, and a little cat. It seems like a rather cramped way to use a one bedroom apartment.
I took care of my Declaration of Domicile this morning at the Courthouse. In Tallahassee, you have to pay eleven dollars to "tell" everyone that you live here. Luckily I went early in the morning so there was no line. I'm one step closer to being a Florida resident now... I just have to tackle the last batch of bureaucracy at the Registrar's Office.
Man arrested for driving Fisher Price car
I'm going to be out of town for a few days, so the next update won't be until Tuesday or Wednesday.
Please do great things in my absence.
I got back from my beach trip yesterday evening, having driven up to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina to meet up with some Virginia friends at a beach house they'd rented for the week (Pictures are on the Photos page). I would've liked to stay longer, but that whole educational process was beckoning here and I had to take care of some more residency things before classes start. The drive up and down isn't so bad, because the states and the scenery change pretty regularly. South Carolina could stand to be abbreviated by about fifty miles, and we could always use an interstate from Savannah to Tallahassee, but otherwise things were pretty uneventful, allowing me to make the trip in about eleven hours. I'd never driven on Rte 64 in North Carolina before, and they keep your interest by having a different sign for every geometric permutation of intersection possible. Not content with the standard T and cross intersection signs, they mix it up with a variety of arcs, thin and fat lines, and general convolutedness. The signs actually resembled the four picture set on Mike's kitchen wall. By the way, it's also "unlawful to feed bears along the highway" on Rte 64.
Last night I set up my cable modem, which only took an hour and a half on the phone with the illiterate Comcast folk to work correctly. It's so much better than dial-up, and reminds me of my days in the dorms at Tech, which was one of the first schools nationally to wire all their dorms with Ethernet. This should be very helpful for passing around my music files, and I'll probably do more MP3s this year than last.
Bulbous Bouffant (MP3, 3.9MB). I'm not sure why, but this song is incredibly funny.
I met with Dr. Spencer this afternoon to review my teaching duties. I'll be helping with MUT1001 which is the entry-level theory course for new students who didn't do so hot on their entrance exams. It covers the first six chapters of the textbook, much like Theory for Non-majors. Besides teaching on Wednesday and Friday, I'll be helping with drilling, and improving the existing software to track student progress. It sounds ilke a really interesting assignment, and I'm looking forward to working with Dr. Spencer.
I've continued work on my thesis which is coming along slowly but surely. I still haven't gotten into the school mindset of structured composition but I'm getting there. I'll post the work-in-progress MIDI as usual soon.
There's a party at Mike's tonight, 9:30. Come on out, if you know where it is.
The concrete fetish man
Jacksonville reporter gets hit by drunk heckler (WMV)
There was a story in the Washington Post last week about the shortage of boat storage space along the Potomac River for high school crew teams . I was lucky to go to the one high school in northern Virginia that had its own boathouse and amazingly large collection of shells as well. If I recall correctly, we didn't even do much fundraising throughout the year. It's interesting that a public school could have so much money invested in a sport that many people consider to be elitist or even yuppy, but it's definitely a worthwhile sport. I can honestly say that crew is the only true team sport, where every member is equally important, and star players don't exist.
I've updated the work in progress on the Music page. There's only about a minute's worth of material right now, but it's on the right track now after several false starts. Now that I have a cable modem, I'm considering doing this in MP3 format, although that will definitely limit the number of dial-up downloads I get. If you have a strong opinion one way or the other, just let me know.
How not to get out of jury duty
The Flute Case that Fell Apart
I've added a new subsection to the URI! Domain: The artwork of Mike's Apartment. Since last fall, people have been painting and creating artwork which gets hung throughout Mike's Apartment. Now, all the projects to date have been added to the Artwork page with space for the artist to explain why it's excellent or horrible. I don't remember all of the creators or titles, so please send me an e-mail identifying any of your works so you can get credit for them.
You can also e-mail me to add some commentary to each of your masterpieces. The only catch: You can use no more and no less than seven words.
Another article on violent video games. It's telling to realize that the number one selling video game for the past few months is Grand Theft Auto 3.
I've been playing a lot of Warcraft III this weekend, helped in large part by the cable modem. It's a really well-done game, and you'd like it if you played either Warcraft II or Starcraft. It's a little bit slower paced than earlier games, but this allows things to be more strategy-based rather than who can click the fastest. Check it out if you want to waste some time and money.
Tomorrow is the first day of classes. I'm taking String Quartets on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and my class of music theory young'ns is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:15. Besides that, I'm also taking trumpet and composition lessons, for a grand total of nine credits. Perhaps once school starts, I'll write about interesting things again.
- The Portsmouth Symphonia was unique in that fully two-thirds of its members did not know how to play a musical instrument. Result: Their music (if you could call it that) was appallingly bad, but also "refreshingly original," one reviewer wrote. "Unhampered by preordained melody, the orchestra tackled the great compositions, agreeing only on when they should start and finish. The cacophony which resulted was naturally an immense hit."
Conductor Leonard Bernstein credited the Symphonia with "changing his attitude to the William Tell Overture forever." The Symphonia recorded two records, both of which "became very popular, demonstrating yet again the public's great appreciation of incompetence." - Uncle John's 12th Bathroom Reader
String quartets will be an interesting class, not because the material is demanding at all, but because the professor will make it interesting. The theory class I'm co-instructing looks like it will be fun as well. All the students seemed actually interested in being there, although we didn't get through much more than reviewing the syllabus. Now I'm hard at work with student flash cards trying to memorize names and majors and the like for Wednesday. Only twenty-four are officially registered right now but it looks like it will be around thirty students.
"Let's give it a more elegant name. Bridge is nice, yes. But bridges break; transitions don't." - professor, on sonata terminology
It's interesting not having any classes on Tuesday and Thursday, almost like I'm on permanent holiday. With so much time to use or lose, these days will either be best thing ever for my thesis, or the bane of my existence. Today, I got in some practicing, some composing, and some gaming, as well as some more memorized names and faces. I've got all the students who where on the original roster memorized now so it shouldn't be too hard a step to learn the late arrivals and majors and such. I'm looking forward to class tomorrow although we probably won't do much heavyweight work. Since the university observes Labor Day down here, most of the hardcore learning will start next Wednesday. They might as well have started school a week later.
Dungeons and Dragons (3.2MB, MP3): If you've never heard this parody, and have ever known anyone who was into tabletop roleplaying or fantasy geekdom, you've got to listen to this.
Jedi is now a religion
Cell phones have oozed into the campus society to the point where about seven in ten girls walking to or from school are talking on them at any given time. These days it's almost like people are afraid to be alone with their thoughts... and a few of them are probably afraid that if they didn't have a cell phone they'd notice that there's not much going on upstairs.
I still enjoy not being "on call" every minute of the day. E-mail and land lines are quick enough for my needs, and if it's important enough to require me immediately, it's important enough for the caller to come find me in person. The day I get a cell phone will probably signal the end of the world as we know it. I can't wait until students start getting those "tooth-phones" inserted to help them on tricky exams.
We had our first annual departmental meeting today, where all the faculty and grad students in the Theory and Composition departments sat around a table and met each other. Now that that boring bit of bureaucracy is out of the way, I have high hopes for a semester of wild women and cowboy adventures.
What not to do with lemon juice
There's no room in the trumpet studio again this semester, so I can't take trumpet lessons. I figured something like this would happen, judging from past experience. Since I really can't put them off any longer, I'm still signed up for the two credits. I worked out a deal where I keep on playing, and every month or so, I e-mail the trumpet professor to tell him what I've been working on. This would be a dream gig for an undergrad who hated playing his trumpet. I would have kept on practicing without lessons though, simply because its one more unique task to throw into the rotation when everything else is boring.
I also got offered a spot in FSU Winds as an appeasement, but it would have conflicted with my teaching, so I declined. Speaking of ensembles, I had planned to try out for Tallahassee Winds this semester, but when I finally got around to checking the audition times, I was a day too late. I'll probably try out in the Spring if there are any openings.
There's only one downside to teaching, and that's chalk dust. It gets on your hands and arms, in your hair, and on your pants. If you're short like me and look up at the blackboard, you get a fine layer on your glasses too. In high school, we used to have a calculus teacher, Lou Kokonis, who was perpetually coated in chalk dust. He was so involved in his mathematical knowledge that he never even took the time to clean his glasses, and I'm sure his view of the world was like the snowy static of an old TV with rabbit-ears.
I've updated the work in progress. I can't figure out whether a crescendoed sustained note falling into a faster tempo is too trite or not.
I recently started making MP3s of my remixed Recital CD from 2001. Here's a full-length cut of my jazz chart for brass ensemble, Vanishing Point (MP3, 4MB). This one was fun to conduct and perform, although the most challenging part was getting the non-jazzers to swing. If I had it all to do over, I'd add two more horns to the ensemble for balance's sake.
There's a home football game today so traffic stretches to Hell and back again. I haven't really kept up on what the Hokies are doing this year, but apparently they have Michael Vick's little brother red-shirting, and beat some podunk school 63 - 7 last weekend in their opening game.
With no classes on Monday, I'm taking the weekend to do a pretty hefty project for another site. There may not be a deep and meaningful update tomorrow as a result.
- "A company is trying to erase an embarrassing mistake it made on pencils bearing an anti-drug message. The pencils carry the slogan: 'Too Cool To Do Drugs'. "But a sharp-eyed fourth grader in northern New York noticed when the pencils are sharpened, the message turns into 'Cool To Do Drugs' then simply 'Do Drugs.' "We're actually a little embarrassed that we didn't notice that sooner,' spokeswoman Darlene Clair told today's Press-Reublican of Plattsburgh." - AP
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