12/2001

Saturday, December 01, 2001

The game today was great despite Grant Noel, and the Hokies almost managed to topple Miami, before losing 24-26 in the final few seconds. Though nowhere near as good as they were two years ago, I think they'll definitely put up a good fight in Jacksonville at the Gator Bowl.

Looking back at my history presentation yesterday, I don't think it deserved quite the level of praise that it received from everyone. I was actually more impressed with the last presentation of the day, because it was delivered well and managed to go in-depth on a smaller number of topics. I think my presentation was characterized by a "mad scientist" approach to teaching, with fast talking, frantic diagrams, and a rush to fit everything into the allotted time. As a result, I touched briefly on lots of topics, but didn't get to explain more than the surface qualities for any given aspect. Of course, I'm not going to say that to the professor. When you get stopped later in the day with praise from the person in charge of grading, it's usually wisest to keep your mouth shut and take the praise.

I need to start my Christmas shopping soon. Thank goodness for online stores.

Seventy-four works down, fifty-six to go for the listening exam.

"We're not dealing with Philip Glass here; we're dealing with someone who can write music." - professor

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Sunday, December 02, 2001

After a late night of football games and pool, we sat around early this morning and had an interesting conversation about composers, composition, and identifiable motives. I had a great composing day yesterday and got a fair amount written that I'll probably end up keeping. It was akin to the days of high school where I had boundless energy for composition and no need for distractions. Hopefully I'll have more days like it; I feel like I've been writing much more slowly in Florida than in Virginia.

Now that my name's in the recently published phone book, I'm starting to get calls from the usual assortment of telemarketers. Unlike Virginian telemarketers, the cadre here seem to make each call personally, so you can't hear the auto-caller mechanism and hang up quickly.

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Monday, December 03, 2001

They finally announced what Ginger is yesterday. Ginger was a codename for the top secret project that's supposed to revolutionize our lives, but you can decide for yourself if it lives up to the hype .

Tonight and tomorrow night are back to back concerts of new music -- several hours of FSU composers' works played over two nights to create a cornucopia of musical fun. I really think they should spread the concerts out over the semester a little better. In my opinion, new music should be rationed so you don't get disillusioned and overwhelmed by the inevitable bad pieces that seem to find their way into programs.

Counterpoint class today was agonizingly brutal. We started class with an error-detection exercise and got to listen to people proudly shout out their supposed errors which were actually correct. Of course, the professor isn't allowed to say "No, dumbass," so he's forced to pretend he's getting worthwhile suggestions while thinking up a politic way to say "Great effort, but...".

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Tuesday, December 04, 2001

This site was inaccessible for a few hours yesterday evening because I forgot to do a double-check after uploading and missed a small JavaScript bug. Sorry if that ruined your day or emotionally scarred you for life.

I'll be going into the listening exam tomorrow afternoon with 111 of 130 works studied. Of those, I feel extremely confident on about fifty works, and can safely "recognize" another twenty-five or so. I'm not sure how well I'll do at this point, but we'll see. Luckily it's offered again at the beginning of next semester.

Today's update is brief; because I plan on getting several more hours of listening and memorizing titles in before the exam tomorrow. I've been doing random play on my exam MP3 list for the past two weeks (except for those brief Mancini jazz interludes). Once this exam is over with, I plan on listening to music of no redeeming social value until the winter break begins.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2001

For some reason I find the hypothesis on the left extremely funny. It was taken from an article at TheSpark.com

I took the listening exam this afternoon and did pretty well. I definitely had at least seventeen works correctly identified, and depending on how many of my educated guesses were right, I could ostensibly have up to twenty-three right in the end. I only needed fourteen to pass for the Masters' level, but since I'm technically in the Doctoral program anyhow, I was hoping to get twenty-one out of the way and have one less thing to worry about in the future. I think we learn the results on Friday.

The new music concerts came off fairly well. There was a large audience, mainly because time is running out for undergrads to get their recital credits. The concerts themselves were long, but there were definitely some high points.

This week, I had contact with FGM, the company I do computer programming for every summer. Hopefully I'll be able to head back north for another go-round next summer. The job itself is great, and also leaves me plenty of time to compose in the evenings (since by choice I tend to work from 5:30 AM to 1:30 PM to beat the D.C. traffic). It's nice to have a position so diametrically opposed to what I normally do that's still enjoyable.

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Thursday, December 06, 2001

My pedagogy presentation on Enharmonic Modulation went over pretty well this morning, and the professor posted some positive remarks on the class website. I've added the presentation to the Writings page under Music Research, for anyone with nothing better to do. I also updated the Work in Progress on the Music page which is moving along nicely.

It would seem that the Ear Training Crisis of '01 has been averted, as they're just juggling the extra classes among the existing teachers, rather than pulling new folks in. It looks like I won't be playing piano all break then. This leaves me more time for the plethora of other scholarly activities I do every year, such as translating eighteenth century music theory treatises from Korean to English, and teaching modal counterpoint to youths from the projects.

"Polar exploration wins Bad Sex award" This one's a keeper.

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Friday, December 07, 2001

Today was the last day of classes for the Fall semester. The only big ticket items left on my plate before I head north on the 12th are my history paper, history final, trumpet audition, and pedagogy final. Of those, the history final will be the most difficult, and the audition and pedagogy final will be easy. The history paper is just going to be long and tedious, and I'd sooner make out with a transexual hobo than finish it off. I'd also like to finish the first movement of my string quartet, but that's probably not going to happen. I'm really pleased with what I've added these past few days though, and it's getting close to the point where I'll want fresh ears to sit down with the score and tear it apart.

I wish people would go back to using ICQ instead of IM. It's so easy to get sucked into talking to people you don't want to talk to on IM. Plus, once a conversation is started, there's a social compulsion to keep talking. With ICQ, you can respond to messages at your convenience and hide from misanthropes. Unfortunately, most of my friends stopped using ICQ in '99 when they all moved off campus and lost Ethernet connectivity.

"Conductor held over 'terrorism' comment" I guess I'd better not post my devious top-secret assassination plans on this website...

Now that classes are over, there won't be any professor quotes for at least a month or so. Tragic...

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Saturday, December 08, 2001

I've written a solid six pages of my history paper, so I should be able to finish it off this evening. I've also found a little time to compose and practice so it's been a pretty productive day so far. I think I'll play an excerpt from the Arutunian concerto and a Bosquet etude for my audition on Monday.

Even though I still think the trumpet is one of the most versatile instruments out there, sometimes I wish I had picked an instrument where basic tone quality doesn't suffer after just a few days of neglect. When a pianist takes a week off, their reflexes may be a little rusty, but any particular note still sounds pretty good.

I got my latest power bill today. Seven dollar "stormwater tax", my ass.

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Sunday, December 09, 2001

I'm excited that the next book in Janny Wurts' Wars of Light and Shadow series is coming out just after New Year's in 2002. Although the series is rife with interminable descriptions, tortured prose, and uses fifteen words where three would suffice, it still ranks as my favourite fantasy series. However, most everyone else I've tried to impress the books upon has found them too slow to start and too long to finish. I didn't much like the first book when I originally read it back in high school, and it took a few persistent read-throughs before I really appreciated it. To give you an idea of the length of the series, the author has planned the story to be told in five major books from start to finish, and the first book was about seven hundred pages in paperback. The second book of the series actually had to be split into two parts (each about the size of the first book) because the binding would have fallen apart otherwise. Peril's Gate, which is the volume being released next month, is part three of four of Book Three. A new volume is released every year and a half or so, so it could be years before I get to finish the story. I just hope a tragic mishap doesn't occur, preventing the author from completing the books, because that would really piss me off.

Still no word on the results of the listening exam yet. I should probably finish off the works I didn't get to, just in case, although I can say for certain that all the ones I missed on the exam were ones I knew, but forgot.

"It jumps your musical cholesterol." - Dr. Bachelder on secondary dominants

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Monday, December 10, 2001

Today I have tons of studying for history to do, as well as a pedagogy final exam and a trumpet audition. I finished my history paper yesterday around 1 PM and uploaded it on the Writings page just for you. The things I do for my reading public...

In a few days, I'll be making the long drive back north, which I'm really not looking forward too. I've never been a fan of long drives, and this one will just be the first in a series of long drives throughout the break.

Q: "Do you know how far pregnant you are right now?"
A: "I will be three months November 8th."
Q: "Apparently then, the date of conception was August 8th?"
A: "Yes."
Q: "What were you and your husband doing at that time?"

- excerpt from a courtroom transcript

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Tuesday, December 11, 2001

It occured to me while doing some Christmas shopping yesterday how horrible driving in Tallahassee is. Besides the traffic light sequences that were evidently timed by a four-year-old, most of the natives here are just bad drivers. Now of course, there's bad drivers wherever you go, but it's different back in northern Virginia. There at least, everyone is a bad driver in the same way, and the collective badness mixes together into a well-oiled machine. Yes, you're going to get cut off there, but the guy who cuts you off is "on your side" and you can almost anticipate the moves you'll have to go through on the highway.

It was a pretty successful end of the semester, although I didn't do all the things I would have liked to do. I played the hell out of the Arutunian excerpt I chose, and was stopped halfway through my up-tempo etude, so I believe that the audition yesterday went well. The pedagogy final was nothing unexpected so there should be no surprises with that grade. I also got back the results of the listening exam, on which I managed to get enough correct to pass the doctoral level. As the crowning fillip, I've essentially finished the first movement of my string quartet, so I can spend this upcoming break just tweaking and editing. All that good news sapped any kind of motivation I had towards studying for this evening's history exam, although I finally buckled down and did some after dinner and monday night TV.

The choir teacher on Boston Public last night did another horrible job of conducting. She was leading America or something of that nature and putting downbeats on beat four. When the song ran out, she was stuck on beat two and had to do a hasty cut-off. On show that's otherwise really musical for primetime TV, you'd think they'd at least teach her how to conduct; Richard Dreyfuss did better as Mr. Holland. Speaking of time-wasting television shows, out of seven and a half seasons worth of Friends episodes, I've now seen all but three. Should I be ashamed or proud?

This will be the last regular update until December 20th or so. On the 15th and 16th, I'll be in Alexandria, and the 17th through the 19th, I'll be traveling to New Jersey and Boston as I mentioned a few days ago. After a week back in Alexandria, I'll drive all the way back here on the 28th for the Gator Bowl, and after the 2nd, I'll be in Tallahassee for good. If you need to contact me, phone me at one of my locales or e-mail me at my normal address. If you'll be in Tallahassee that week before classes start, give me a call and we'll play Clue or something.

Seeya next week, homeslice.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2001

I'm safe in Blacksburg despite the ladder on the highway outside Columbia and the 2 foot visibility fog in the mountains. I'll talk more in depths when my computer's all set up back home.

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Saturday, December 15, 2001

I know I said there wouldn't be any updates for a while, but with so many people still visiting on a daily basis, I feel compelled to say something for my loyal readership. I left Tallahassee at 5:30 on Wednesday morning and was stuck in pea-soup fog until Savannah, Georgia or so. The trip, though long, was fairly uneventful for the most part, and I made it to Blacksburg around 4 PM (about 730 miles). I did have a close call on I-77 outside of Columbia though. The fog had lifted by this point, and up ahead, I could see a 12-foot metal ladder stretched perpendicularly across a lane of traffic. I quickly changed lanes, but the dumbass driver of a semi in front of me decided to hit the ladder head on at about eighty miles an hour, causing it to explode across four lanes of traffic in a storm of shrapnel. Cars in every lane swerved madly, but luckily there were no accidents. I ran over several sizable chunks of ladder myself but survived without any flat tires or scratches.

Later, in the scenic foothills of southern Virginia, I hit a five mile stretch of fog, where visibility was literally about seven feet in front of the car. It was just me and several commercial truckers (of the standard aggressive Virginian trucker mold), and it was quite surreal to have landmarks like bridges suddenly appearing overhead without prior warning. Six hundred and eighty-miles into the trip, and just thirty miles from Blacksburg, Virginia's finest deputy sheriff awarded me a speeding ticket, which can luckily be of the pay-by-mail variety. Of course, after giving me the ticket, he made small talk about my major and college.

Life in Blacksburg is about the same as it was when I left. The bowling alleys are a little posher, the roads are a little more confused, and everyone's still taking forever to graduate. I got called out of page-turning retirement to assist in a rendition of Handel's Messiah tonight, so I'll be donning a borrowed tux and too-large dress shoes for the occasion. Tomorrow morning (bright and early as always), I'll be heading back up to Northern Virginia and giving my old roommate and cat a ride home for the holidays.

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Sunday, December 16, 2001

The Blacksburg trip was an enjoyable diversion, characterized by games, hanging out, seeing old faces, and pretending not to see other old faces (sometimes you just weigh the cost of engaging in the same old small talk with people you were glad to leave behind and decide to hide behind the nearest philodendron until they move on. And yes, the philodendron was an over-exaggeration). I got to see Nikki, Anna, Philip, and Kelley a fair amount, and spent Saturday Christmas shopping with Paige in Blacksburg's massively gigantic mall. Saturday night was spent standing on one foot in an organ pit of the First Baptist Church, turning pages for the organist. There wasn't any room to stand on two feet in the organ pit, so I had to balance on one while holding the heat-curled score open. Luckily, they only did Part One and a few later excerpts.

I got back to northern Virginia around 9:30 this morning, but got sidetracked with breakfast at the Spellerberg's and didn't get home until around noontime. It's nice to be back on familiar turf, but tomorrow I'm off again, and this time I'll definitely have no computer access until Thursday. As I've probably stated several times before (and for the benefit of people who don't read the Archive), I'll be heading up to Westminster Choir College and New England Conservatory with my friend, Nikki, who's looking at grad schools.

I have new cat pictures, but can't put them up until I'm back in Tallahassee. I'm sure you're devastated.

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Thursday, December 20, 2001

I'm back in Alexandria now, and finished up the last of my Christmas shopping early this morning. I was down in Springfield to go malling, so I got to try out some of the recent additions to the "mixing bowl" project where I-95, I-395, and I-495 all meet at the same time. Traffic is horrible during this in-between time, but it looks like things may actually run smoothly when everything is finally open in about twenty years.

A Few Days Up North: Part I of III

The trip to grad schools was a fairly successful one. I drove down to Montclair, VA early Monday morning and we finally left the area around 9:30, missing most of the commuter traffic that plagues the D.C. area. The drive to Princeton was uneventful other than tolls (we spent about $36 on tolls by the end of the trip). We got to Westminster Choir College around one in the afternoon and poked around the campus. The school itself was a tiny plot of land a couple blocks from Princeton University, and it's billed as the music college of Rider University, which was about ten miles down the road in Trenton. The campus itself seemed more like an old seminary, and definitely didn't have the bustle associated with big schools like Tech and FSU. Most of the faculty were involved with end-of-the-year juries, but we managed to snag an admissions person to answer some questions and point us around campus.

The school was so small that we had poked around every cranny by three or four o' clock, and if we hadn't had a motel reservation in New Jersey, we would have just driven straight on to Boston. Since that kept us in the area, we drove around Princeton a bit, and then checked into the fabulous Red Roof Inn in downtown Trenton. Since New Jersey is the home of those foolish U-turn / left-turn circles that are really nothing more than glorified dog exercise areas, it wasn't surprising to find that Route 1 was split down the center by miles of uninterrupted "Jersey" walls. Our motel was right in the middle of such a stretch, and on the wrong side of the highway, so we had to drive several miles in either direction in order to find a way to drive in the other direction. After dinner at Applebee's, we watched Ocean's Eleven at a gargantuan twenty-four screen theatre in town. It was huge -- bigger than me, even. The movie wasn't particularly deep, but it was funny enough and provided a couple hours of light entertainment. It's the kind of movie that you can enjoy without thinking too hard. After the movie, we headed back to the motel and turned in early so we could leave early the next day for Boston.

To be continued tomorrow...

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Friday, December 21, 2001

A Few Days Up North: Part II of III

We got back on the road around eight in the morning, but made the mistake of taking the GW Bridge through New York (being the unsophisticated Southern travelers that we were). Because of that and the damp windy conditions in southern Massachusetts, we didn't get to Boston until three in the afternoon. Drivers in Boston are even worse than Tallahassee, with enough blatant red-light running and double parking for the whole family.

The New England Conservatory was even smaller in scope than Westminster -- two academic buildings on the edge of southern Boston, and a single dormitory. The quality of musicianship was obviously very high, judging from the sounds of practicing, and it was interesting to see a school that was truly in a downtime environment (VCU doesn't really count). After exploring the buildings and talking to a few admissions officers, we drove around southern Boston and the waterfront area. Things didn't get hairy until we tried to get back to the school and found that all roads funneled into the northbound interstate. After finally turning around in a suburb north of the airport, we attempted to avoid a toll tunnel and ended up driving circles around East Boston for nearly an hour. Of course, the toll tunnel was the only way back into the city proper.

After this arduous affair, we drove south to the town of Stoughton where we spent the night at Nikki's sister's boyfriend's parents' house. Luckily, all of the people in that possessive phrase were in town that night, so it wasn't just an awkward visit with unfamiliar faces. We also consumed the entire packet of Spellerberg fudge in Boston -- the kind that tastes great and melts in your mouth.

To be continued tomorrow...

Tonight, I'm going to a potluck dinner at a Tech friends, armed with nothing but two pies (apple and peach) and my wits.

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Saturday, December 22, 2001

A Few Days Up North: Part III of III

After a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs, we got back on the road around 11:30 to head back to Virginia. Nikki had done all the highway driving the previous two days, so I offered to drive the whole way back. The weather was sunny but chilly, and there was only one major delay in Connecticut. In New York, we took the Tappan Zee Bridge back across the river (being the educated return travelers that we were) and avoided all the city traffic. New Jersey wasn't as fun since we hit the turnpike at the peak of rush hour, but it was probably better to hit that jam than a jam in New York or D.C. We finally got back to Montclair around eight in the evening, and I drove from there back to Alexandria after a quick pizza dinner. I got home to find my sister hadcome to visit with her boyfriend, two cats, and dog. Thus concludes my account, which was sadly devoid of any thrilling climactic moments.

Since then, I've been wrapping presents and reloading computers. There hasn't been any time for composing, but I don't even have a keyboard here to work with anyhow. I suppose I'll get enough time to edit my first movement in the week before school starts when I'm back in Tallahassee.

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Sunday, December 23, 2001

When you order multiple items from amazon.com, you have the option to ship each item as soon as available (at extra expense), or to wait until everyone is ready and send it all in one package. You'd think that the extra cost would be justified because your stuff arrives sooner, but in reality, amazon.com will ship items out as soon as they're available, regardless of whether you ask them to do so. I've always wondered how many people actually pay the additional charge.

Since I got home, I've been playing Return to Castle Wolftenstein, the latest first-person shooter from id software. It's a remake of the classic Wolf 3D from the days before Doom and Quake, and it's really good so far. The graphics are on par with other recent hits like Max Payne and I'm not hindered by a computer that's too far behind the current technological envelope. Speaking of games, I never did finish Planescape: Torment which I started back in September. It was an intriguing story, but eventually I just lost interest in caring about how it turned out. I left my N64 at school, but when there, I was playing the second Zelda game, Majora's Mask. I really didn't get enough time to get into it between all the schooling of last semester, but it seemed like a good game. Like all Nintendo games, the fun and interesting parts barely outweigh the design issues that just piss you off, but to a much lesser extent than its prequel.

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Monday, December 24, 2001

It would seem that the site has been inaccessible these past couple days, even though I can still do updates. I can't wait until I'm somewhere permanent and can invest in a dedicated connection to handle the site myself. The VT music server goes down on occasion, but I can't argue with the price (free) or the unlimited space allowance.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2001
Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Christmas was a good excuse to make a cheesy little banner graphic and call it an update. I hope everyone out there had a good holiday with their families and/or loved ones. In the gifts department, I got the usual array of books, scores, and CDs, and some minor extras. Other than doing some updates to the URI! Domain and internal pages, I've done very little productive so far. I've timed it so that I'll reach maximum boredom (and thus, maximum productivity) during that first week of January when I'm back in Tallahassee. I plan on doing lots of practicing and score editing before school starts.

Things still seem to be on track for the Gator Bowl. I'll be leaving Virginia and its cheap gas early Friday morning, and my old Tech brethren will be staying at my place the night of the 30th before we all head into Jacksonville together. Nikki's dad is ex-military, and was able to get an extremely inexpensive deal on a room at a military base for the lot of us.

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Thursday, December 27, 2001

My sister and I have gotten strangely addicted to the shareware arcade game, Snood . I bought a full license as a Christmas present for the little sister of my old roommate, and ended up getting hooked after testing it out to make sure it worked. It's a little like Tetris.

Weather forecasts for Jacksonville next week predict clouds with temperatures in the high 50s. Hopefully the football game will be rain-free.

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Friday, December 28, 2001

I'm back in Tallahassee for a few days of diligence before the Gator Bowl. The trip down was completely unremarkable, and it took about thirteen and a half hours to make it, with three stops. My back is killing me though -- I feel like I should take it apart and put it together piece by piece. I think I have barnacles growing on my spinal cord.

There's wings in the oven and rooms are slowly starting to heat up, so I think I'll take it easy tonight and watch an old movie or something. I've also put up new cat pictures on the Photos page (at the end of the Cat section, of course).

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Saturday, December 29, 2001

It's always interesting to listen to compositions after an extended hiatus. Parts that seemed to work before become painfully facaded and parts that were border-line acceptable organize themselves into keepers or discards. On the first listening, I have to sort through the lines that make me say, "Wow, I wrote that!", and the parts that make me say, "Wow, I wrote that??", and then hope that there are more from the former category. The string quartet's first movement seems to have weathered the vacation pretty well, and the changes I made today were additions rather than deletions. Now it's time for the surgical tweaking and creating a readable score.

I always tend to write in the same manner -- I put notes down in Finale with just enough articulations to make a passable MIDI file. Score markings of all kinds don't even get considered until after I consider the piece "essentially done", because it's easier to see how every part links together by then. The MIDI file has always been something of an aid for me personally although it can come in handy during lessons. Once though, I had a professor who didn't quite understand the limitations of the format. He'd complain if the draft score showed a drum roll but it wasn't on the recording, and then he'd turn around and complain that the other drum rolls shouldn't be notated as tons of thirty-second notes, when it was required to make the MIDI sound correct.

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Sunday, December 30, 2001

I think I'm sick. My head is pounding and it hurts just to move around. I alternate between having a fever and extreme chills, and even the roots of my hair hurt when I comb them. Whatever the source, it can't be good for business. I hope it doesn't interfere with the Bowl plans.

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