Talk about a wild day.  It started off very still with a dense fog and now we have brilliant sunshine, a beautiful clear blue sky, and winds howling.  The temperature is warming up like crazy.   I guess that explains the bluster of the winds.   Wouldn’t surprise me if we get snow later  :)

Music of the Baroque, NASCAR crashes, and errant phone calls

Given the delay of the Daytona 500 until yesterday evening I really didn’t want to go to the concert I had been looking forward to all month.   Apparently I’ve turned into quite a racing fiend because I ended up spending 45 minutes prior to the concert sitting in my car in a parking garage in Chicago listening to the race via TuneIn Radio.  The universe smiled on me and let me get a really good signal down there.  But eventually it was time to head in to the Music of the Barqoue concert so off went the race and in I went.

I have to admit that I can’t give a good account of how the concert went because I probably had about half of my attention on it.  But here is what I do remember:

  • Corelli, Concerto grosso, Op. 6 – I’ve heard this many times as I have the recording linked above (link came from the MotB website).   The performance was pleasing but didn’t hold my attention.
  • Purcell, Pavan and Fantasia on a Ground for 3 Violins – I’ve never been a particular fan of Purcell’s music and this piece didn’t do anything to change my mind.   Chicago Classical Review said:”Purcell’s Pavan and Fantasia Upon a Groundproved startling in its inventiveness and virtuoso flourishes. Dissonances appeared and vanished at surprising moments, including one ear-stretching passage just before the final bar”I’ve never enjoyed dissonant music and my appreciation of it didn’t increase here.  Part of the melody here was pretty much borrowed from Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” but with an odd dissonant twist.
  • Telemann, Concerto for Flute and Recorder – You can’t argue with Telemann but again I’ve heard a lot of Telemann Flute/Recorder Concertos before.   The standout here was the Presto movement.  The tempo was swift (as Presto should be and faster than I’ve heard compared to other recordings of this movement), the strings were lush, and the flute and recorder precise.
  • Rameau, Suite from Dardanus – I am a huge fan of French Baroque in general and Rameau and Lully in particular.   The selections presented by Kraemer and MotB were from a much longer Rameau opera.  Rameau always feels regal and this was no different.   You can imagine yourself sitting in a French court of the 1700s listening to this music.  The strings of the Chaconne movement where unbelievably lush.  The feeling was very similar to the Chaconne of Rebel’s “Les Elements” (also performed at one point by Kraemer and MotB). Particularly fun were the “Tambourins” movements.  Again here we had swift tempos and to top it off Nicholas Kraemer was playing tambourine and gave himself a tap on the head with it to end the piece for comic effect.  The audience ate it up.
  • Telemann, Quadro in B-flat Major
  • Vivaldi, Concerto for 4 Violins and Cello in B Minor – The second Allegro movement was the standout here with the four violinists playing off of one another expertly.  It is hard to argue against Vivaldi being the greatest composer of string music of the Baroque period regardless of region of Europe.   Everyone knows “The Four Seasons”.   It is beautiful string music and this concerto was no different.

So back to the title of my post.   I, somewhat ashamed, have to admit I was spending an inordinate amount of time looking at Twitter and watching the nascar.com lap-by-lap update of the race during the concert.  I just couldn’t help myself.  I really wanted to see that race.  I can thank Juan Pablo Montoya for hitting the jet dryer truck during one of the cautions.  That led to a two hour red flag situation which not only gave me time to finish up the concert but drive 40 miles home and see the end of the race on TV.

The last interesting tidbit of the evening was a phone going off during the performance.  In between movements of one of the pieces being performed (the name of which escapes me right now) a phone started ringing.  It almost sounded like it was backstage because it was very muffled (unlike the unfortunate gentleman several months back at the New York Philharmonic performance of Mahler) but Nicholas Kraemer caught it and waited it out, at one point expressing exasperation.  The phone stopped ringing however and the performance continued.   It was a good night all around.

What’s with Markdown?

Can someone explain to me the recent explosion in support of Markdown in Mac and iOS applications (such as the Day One journaling app for Mac and iOS)? Are that many people really clamoring for a text syntax to mark up text for transformation later into a rich text format? I’m serious here. I know the 5by5.tv podcast crowd seems to adore it but they’re power users. Are normal people really looking for a way to move text among platforms like Mac apps and blogs? I’ve experimented with it before but I just don’t understand the allure as it makes regular text harder to read and takes me out of getting words on the page into worrying about markup(down).

I guess it’s not a big deal to add support for it but it seems like an odd feature to me to tout as a major feature. Most people simply aren’t going to know or care. And no offense to Markdown but Textile syntax is better ;)

Completely bummed out about the fact that the Daytona 500 was cancelled.  The first time in it’s history it’s been cancelled due to rain.  They’re running it tomorrow which doesn’t work too well for me given that I’ll be at work but I guess that’s how it goes.

Sitting down to calm my nerves with some Baroque music on Pandora and a glass of my homebrew Imperial Stout.

Speaking of Baroque music, tomorrow is my last concert of the season for Music of the Baroque.  Really looking forward to that and I don’t have to worry about it being cancelled due to rain! :)

A Refresh

I decided to retitle and retheme to get a fresh start here.  “Sine qua non” means “without which there is nothing”, a perfect phrase to describe what I want this blog to represent: what makes me…well…me.  Curious Creature, the old title, is the name of a software development endeavor I’m embarking on so I’d rather not use it here, my personal blog.   I guess this is kind of like slapping a new coat of paint on a wall ;)

Goodbye Google Reader

Update: So I’m back to using Google Reader.  The pain of not having the ability to sync between reading applications on different devices was simply too much to take.  I read a lot of RSS feeds and it wasn’t practical to keep trying to remember where I was the last time I read a particular thread.

So I’m saying goodbye to Google and researching what the options are for the many services that Google provides that I use. One service that I’ve used for years is Google Reader and I’m sad to find out for the way that I use it there simply isn’t a replacement.

I like to have my list of RSS feeds synced between the devices I use and this was easily accomplished with Google Reader.  On my Mac I just use the website.  Even with multiple application options available on the Mac the website is still my preference.  On my iOS devices (both iPhone and iPad) I use Reeder.    Like many of the options out there Reeder only syncs with Google Reader, but then that’s the case with pretty much everything.

I was depressed to find out that the only sync option out there these days is Google Reader.  If you don’t want to use Google Reader  you’re out of luck if you want feeds synced between devices.   So in order to say goodbye to Google Reader I also had to say goodbye to Reeder and RSS on my iOS devices.  On the Mac I chose NetNewsWire because it appears to be the best option out there that doesn’t require syncing with Google Reader.

Goodbye Google, It’s Been Fun

Yeah, this is a posting about why I’m finally saying goodbye to Google. As an avid user of their products from the very beginning, and as someone who is using a lot of their services, this wasn’t an easy decision nor will any transition be easy.

So the main question is why? Because their motto of “Don’t Be Evil” is no longer true and I’m really tired of the cost of their “free” offerings. The last straw for me was the latest story in the on-going saga in which Google (along with several other advertising companies) exploited a loophole in the Safari browser used on the iPhone/iPad and the Mac which allowed them to track user behavior.

The thing is I’m not even angry over the user tracking. I’d expect that from them because they make all of their money off of advertising. What really made me angry was that they tried to deny it.

“We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers,” Google’s Rachel Whetstone explained.

Really? They had no idea this would happen? I find it hard to believe that a company full of a lot of very smart software engineers would have no idea that such a thing would occur. This was another attempt to further integration of Google+ into other things ( the last example being the ridiculous placement of Google+ items in search results).

A trip to your Google Dashboard can be a real eye-opener.  If you have a Google account head over to https://www.google.com/dashboard/ and take a look at the list.  I did and it was a pretty extensive list of just how much data Google has on me.  Email (via gmail), calendar (Google Calendar of course), voice mail (via Google Voice), web search history, etc.

All of these services are free and to be quite honest they’re pretty damn good too.   I’ve really enjoyed using them over the years but I just think now that Google has become so large the cost of their free services is just too high.   I have absolutely no idea what they’re doing with my email.    I know they say they’re scanning it only for ad placement (hey it’s a free service that has to be paid for somehow right?) but I have no way of knowing.  The same thing goes for the data I have in Google Voice and Google Calendar.   I just don’t find the risks acceptable anymore just to get free services.

So the search is on for replacements.   The list of services I’m going to attempt to replace are:

I’ll do a different write-up of each of these as I search for alternatives as it might be useful to someone else.

I really wish this weren’t all necessary.   Maybe I’m being ridiculous because I know that the notion of real privacy in this world is old-fashioned.   However, I only have one way to get my point across and that is to “vote with my wallet” and stop using their services.  None of these services are so important to me that I’m willing to give up important personal data to Google simply for a freebie.  Those days are over.