city

Concert Reviews: Peter Gabriel, DJ Tiesto

So, 20 days ago, dan and I went to see Peter Gabriel play the Molson Amphitheatre near Toronto.

I haven't followed his music very closely for the last few albums, but I have listened to enough Peter Gabriel over the years that I didn't want to miss this opportunity. Thanks to my friend Justin who scored the tickets, we got excellent seats; about 10 or so rows from the stage.

He played with the "New Blood Orchestra," half made of a touring company, half local musicians. Mostly, rearranging for orchestra worked [1]. Particularly, I liked the arrangements for "San Jacinto," "Mercy Street," and "Blood of Eden." I wanted to like "Solsbury Hill" and "Boy in the Bubble" more than I did but they seemed too pared down. And "In Your Eyes" had silly Audience Choreography (as did "Biko", which was annoying because Gabriel was all Social Conscience and the audience was all Play the Damn Song Already).



My overall impression of Gabriel as performer is: consummate professional. It looked like he had done this every day of his life, which he almost has. He was also clearly suffering from a bad sore throat: he was constantly downing a gulp of tea, then a shot of honey. And you could tell where the throat problems came from: gulp of tea, shot of honey, plaintive scream in nearly every song... I had never realized how much his songs have wails in them until dan asked if every one of them did. Not quite, but.



His lights show was fairly cool: very bright LED boards behind the stage, plus a curtain the width of the stage and 20 feet tall, also LEDs, often with video.

One light trick I had never seen before that we both liked: in the second act, he picked up something reflective from the stage, and it was sitting over top of a spot-light. He then swept the light around the audience; it looked for all the world like fire from his hand.

There was a downpour during the first act. The outermost 1/5 of the seats were open to the air. Gabriel apologized; he said on one concerts that week, the moment they had mentioned the word "water" in "Washing of the Water", the skies opened up.

Neither dan nor I had been to the amphitheatre before. I would go to a big concert there again- getting out was remarkably quick, and it was late enough that the 401 was quite speedy on the way home.




And then dan was off to Italy, and while he was gone, I went to see DJ Tiesto, whose podcast I listen to. He's a Dutch DJ, and I'm perplexed why he wound up in our little town: he went from Chicago, to our town for two nights, then Quebec City, and Ottawa (for Canada Day), then Las Vegas for the 4th of July weekend. Then Ibeza for a week. :) But whatever, he came and sold out two shows of about 300 people (versus n-thousand each for Chicago and Quebec City...).

I haven't been inside a dance club in, like, forever.

They confiscated my pen at the door, because they thought I might throw it at someone. I was like, "..." and they said I could get it back at the end if I really wanted to. (and so I did (pick it up again, not throw it)).

The doors opened at 10:00, I showed up at 10:30, Tiesto started playing at 11:45, and I left around 1:30 when I realized I had heard all of the songs I would recognize. And the next day was still a work day.



It was fun, and I probably don't need to do that again for a while. :)



Hope you like the photos, in lieu of earth-shaking incisive content. I would have done better with reviews had I not waited two weeks. Oh well.

[1] Gabriel's set list, which I found somewhere on the net:
"Heroes" (David Bowie cover)
Wallflower
Apres Moi (Regina Spektor cover)
The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon cover)
My Body Is a Cage (Arcade Fire cover)
Father, Son
Darkness
Washing of the Water
Biko
# Intermission
San Jacinto
Digging in the Dirt
Signal to Noise
Downside Up
Mercy Street
The Rhythm of the Heat
Blood of Eden
Intruder
Red Rain
Solsbury Hill
# Encore:
In Your Eyes
Don't Give Up
The Nest That Sailed the Sky

[2] Bigger copies of these photos are on flickr. I couldn't be bothered to link each one individually. :)

The weekend that was

Hello world! Happy Canada Day!

Happy 4th of July, those who get tomorrow off (and those who wish they got tomorrow off. Whether or not they live in the US...)

I have three music reviews in the queue, which I expected I'd have time to do this weekend.

Instead of writing them, I:

* went away to the cottage of the_infamous_j, for an afternoon of lazing and not-sailing (which would have been fun, but watching the water from indoors was also fun, and less effort)

* spent about 5 hours playing with Google Sketchup, enough to turn our notional condo layout into a zippy 3D representation thereto.



I will not, however, spend the next six months making ever more detailed models of the condo and our current (and new) furniture. As much fun as that might be. Just watch me not do that. Uh hum.

* watched a fascinating documentary with catbear, dawn_guy, and Boy about Henry Darger, who "became famous for his posthumously discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story." (thanks wikipedia). It was utterly bizarre, and I'm glad we saw it.

* Friday I spent a night away with melted_snowball for Canada Day; at the local inn where we have gone for outrageously tasty food, plus very comfortable accommodations including roverthedog. Their Canada Day picnic dinner featured grilled trout, beer can vinegar chicken, suasage and lobster gumbo, heirloom tomato salad, pickled veggies, bbq onion rings, morel mac & cheese, and for desert: strawberry shortcake, hemp seed pie, maple crème caramel, s'mores, and something they called "caramelized sea buckthorn tart," though for some reason I have doubts that it contained real buckthorn berries. Because who has actually tasted buckthorn and could vouch for them? Hmmm? (Sorry; side-tracked).

There were fireworks, we had a super 4-km hike with roverthedog, and in the morning we had a wonderful breakfast: d. had duck confit fritata, and I had french toast, both with the "continental breakfast" which had yogurt and honey smoothie, heaping plates of berries, lox and cream cheese, pastries made with their in-house churned butter, and a really good coffee.

Oh, and the night before, we met this wonderful couple, about our age, who asserted that the honey-butter was actually made of crack, it was that good. (The only down-side to this vacation was that during dinner, back at the room Rover decided she needed to pee, despite having gone right before we left; and the right place to do that was on the feather-bed. Which they apparently discovered when they came to turn down our bed; they left us an apologetic phone-message that they wished they had another feather-bed, but they didn't and hoped we would understand. Eep. And we apologized to them, figured out that over breakfast we could leave Rover in the entry foyer (which had two doors and a comfortable mat to rest on, but not our bed)).

And that was our three-day long weekend, more or less.
city

What was I doing?

Turns out I will remember what I was doing when New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality bill.

I was skyping with my parents; we had just said our good-byes, agreed it could take a while for them to get to the vote, even if it were a sure thing (but what if two senators fell and broke their noses and had to leave the chambers...) and mom made one last check on New York Times before hanging up, and there it was. And she got to read it from our Ithaca friend Diane M's facebook page as well. 33-29 votes in a Republican Senate. The bill will become law 30 days after Gov. Cuomo signs it.

This one, US State #6 for full marriage protection, is particularly noteworthy to me because I was born in New York State, lived there for my first 25 years; and so many friends in New York will now have legal marriage protection. In fact one friend (Vonn N.) is from the district of Steve Saland, the Republican senator who made a 10pm shift from undecided (without religious protections built in) to supporting it (with religious protections).

Congratulations, New York State! ...44 states to go, plus federal.

How's that go? Slow arc? Yeah, like that.

State of the da_lj

At the moment I'm:

feeling well-exercised. It turns out to be 13km round-trip from work, up to the local BBQ place, and home again. Dinner was a totally awesome shrimp poboy.

I"m slightly worried about roverthedog - she got an abscess next to her ear, and the vet gave us a fairly substantial set of drugs to deal with everything, including an ear infection. She's been wearing her Cone of Shame for a few days, though we trimmed it down so it's slightly less awkward. The cut is doing much better now than it was on the weekend, though, so I'm only feeling slightly anxious about how she's doing. She's a trooper, and she seems in good spirits (she even enjoys being pilled. What a cooperative dog!)

Really looking forward to the weekend- melted_snowball and I are off to Ithaca on Friday! Wegmans! And Viva Taqueria! And Quakers! Oh my!

A big regret is that we can't take Rover- we had been planning to, but it makes the most sense to kennel her at the vet's. It would be a tougher decision if 1) they didn't love her as much as they do, and 2) she didn't love staying there as much as SHE does.

I'm starting to feel nervous about the Quaker workshop I'm co-leading next weekend in Toronto. I will spend a bit of prep-time between now and then, and I am sure everything will go fine, and now having done this before, I can answer the question of "why the hell did I think this was a good idea?" - because during, and afterward, it is totally rewarding. It's just the before that's a bit anxiety-inducing. :)

I'm grateful for all of the people who spoke up at the Regional Council meetings these last two days, concerning light rail. If you read this, you know who you are- you rock. And I'm also grateful for the people who've been live-tweeting the council presentations. I am cautiously optimistic, though I think the next few weeks are going to feel more nerve-wracking to me than the federal elections were...

I'm frustrated that I got half-way through a book and it got auto-returned on me. I checked it out online, via the local library; it was good for 14 days and there was a hold on it. (Though really I don't know how many holds there are- so who knows when I can check it out again.) While I did take notes on the parts I had read, I'm not sure how easily I'll be able to reconnect with it whenever I can wrest it back again. ...Ironically given my inability to finish, it is Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, about focusing one's attention on the things that matter to you. More words to come, I hope.

And speaking of Rapt, I was reading it over the unRapt long Weekend, which included celebrating Queen Vicky's birthday, my birthday, very few raptures, amarylliss visiting us from Toronto, and a few people over to watch Left Behind and Left Below.

And on that note, I think I'm Left for Bed. Night!
bit

How to: export your LJ "Watching" list to another RSS feed-reader

I've given up on using LJ for my RSS feeds. I've got 88 of them, which means I sometimes don't see real people posts for pages and pages. I'm jumping to Google Reader. Google Reader will import "OPML" data, so that's how I wanted to do the transfer. This is a how-to.

(If you are hoping to read your LJ friends list directly from an RSS reader, you might instead try this exporter, which grabs the necessary data for friends- it doesn't include feeds and is beyond the scope of this how-to.)

The short version:

1) if you're handy with Perl, grab the code at the bottom of this entry, change the user name, and run the code.
1b) if you're not handy with Perl, give me a shout and I'll run it for you on my server. :)

2) Output is a list of RSS URLs. To translate these to OPML, feed them to this page. Copy and paste them into the big text box, then hit the "Create OPML" link. Seconds later, you will have an output file, which you should save to disk (the file name doesn't matter).

3) Optionally, open the file in a text editor and change the "title" parts from the URL into a sensible title for each feed. Yeah, I was too lazy to write my own OPML and fix that.

4) in Google Reader, the left-hand lower corner, choose "Manage Subscriptions". Choose "Import/Export". Browse and upload your OPML file.

Done!

So far, I like the google reader interface, and now I can actually pay attention to the real people on my list who do still post. (I appreciate y'all! I did this for yoooou!)

---
Don't bother reading the rest unless you want technical details; mostly here for google searching. Let me know if this helped anybody!

The code:

#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;
use WWW::Mechanize;

my $base_url = "http://da-lj.livejournal.com/profile";

my $m = WWW::Mechanize->new ( autocheck => 1 );

$m->get( $base_url );

my $profile_html = $m->content;
my @feed_lines = ($profile_html =~ /watchingfeeds_body.*/g);
my @feed_urls = ($feed_lines[0] =~ /href='(.*?)'/g);

foreach my $lj_url (@feed_urls) {
    $m->get( $lj_url );
    print $m->find_link( text => 'XML' )->url() . "\n";
}


And that's it. I'm using WWW::Mechanize, which is the bee's knees if you have to do screen-scraping in Perl.

I started off with a manual grab of my "watching" page, a word-processor search-and-replace, and was about to run a batch of 'wget's to grab the lj-feed pages when I realized it would be quicker in perl.

The biggest drawback to this method is the cost of installing WWW::Mechanize in the first place. CPAN makes it easy(ish) but it has a tonne of dependencies. ...I guess it's just one step if you're on a reasonably recent Debian/Ubuntu.

Anyhow.

a pick-me-up

A capella flash mobs are awesome. A friend linked to this one ("Heathrow T5") last week, and I've kept it open in a tab since then. About 80 seconds in is my favourite part, an opera singer named George Ikediashi covering "I am a Passenger" by Iggy Pop. I found this "making of" video which feels like it captures the exuberance of it, more than the polished end-product, which is, of course, a commercial.

And now that I have posted this, I can close that tab.

Back to your regularly scheduled Thursday evening!
18 musicians

Updatey thing, with music reviews

I have been in a writing lull over the last month. I've spent a bunch of free time immersed in that game; I've been thinking about work at other free times, solving problems in my head; I've been thinking about Quaker Meeting and making plans for Quaker-related travel; and while dan was away, I had a cold for a week that made me fairly low-brain.

Then, the cold got better two Sundays ago, and I went to Quaker Meeting and felt absolutely wonderful, and spent the afternoon bouncing around, writing journal posts in my head, only to see them disappear when I sat down at the end of the evening, just as the cold symptoms came back again for the night. So, oh well.

But the last two weeks have been pretty good. I went to a Vote Mob [1], voted early in the national election, went to a birthday party, a pub dinner with programmer friends, and we had friends over for tea and cookies. I think I finally kicked the cold, despite some very rainy and windy weather. And I finished what I needed to do at work, for the start of the new term on Monday, despite a fairly impressive set of potential problems with infrastructure upgrades which have largely been ameliorated. And that is all I will say about work.

Last Wednesday was the start of Open Ears music festival, which is more low-oomph than prior years. It's held every other year, and it's how dan and I have seen Pamela Z, Negativland and Patricia O'Callighan, and DJ Spooky, among other highlights. I hope they can get their act together for 2013; Open Ears has been one of the great things about living around here.

This time the only out-of-town performers I was really excited about was the Princeton Laptop Orchestra; and their concert didn't really do it for me.

So far, the best pieces were by Penderecki String Quartet (with DJ P Love). The Quartet are always excellent, even if I don't like what they play. This time they played Different Trains by Steve Reich, and it totally blew the recording away. The mix was different; you heard less of the recorded voices, and a much more lively violin-against-steam-whistle that just sounded awesome. They also played a piece composed during the CBC Strike (of 2005?) by Nicole Lizee, called "this will not be televised", which at one point, sampled the most famous riff from the middle of Duran Duran/"Rio", and cracked dan and me up.

Last night I saw Tanya Tagaq Trio, who are made up of a percussionist, a violinist, and Tanya Taqaq, an Inuit throat singer. This is not easily described. I'm glad I went. She has toured with Bjork, and I can see the mutual attractions. Many of the sounds she made were ones I didn't know the human body could safely produce. They closed with a set of traditional Inuit throat-singing, between Tanya and a female cousin, which was amazingly intimate and sort of kind of like this, though dialed up in intensity quite a bit.

There are two remaining concerts I'm interested in: Blue Dot tonight, and Da Capo tomorrow afternoon. However, we have our friend Lee-Ellen visiting from Ithaca, and I'd rather see her than the concerts!

[1] Vote mob: if you're outside Canuckistan you've probably not heard the term. And fellow Canadians are probably sick and tired of hearing it. In short: a month ago and at a school not very far from here, students decided to Stick it to The Man via YouTube, to counter the claim that "young people don't vote," and there have now been a few dozen youtube-video-driven events along the lines of Flash Mobs, though none I've seen have had amazing music or amazing dancing or amazing anything. Just lots of energy. Being part of the local campus one was... um, sort of silly. But I got to run through mud puddles, which turned out to be fun.

Theatre/Concert review: Spin!

Friday evening, I popped down to Toronto for a cabaret/theatre/concert production of Spin by Evalyn Perry. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew it involved spoken word, singing, and music played upon a bicycle. I was nudged into going by my friend John, who came all the way from Minneapolis for this show. I know Evalyn from Quaker circles; last summer, she was one of the evening plenary presenters at the 1,000-person FGC Gathering. She does a political/musical show that's bitingly clever and often requires more than one listen to pick up all the threads...

In retrospect, I wish this production was extended for another week, so I could nudged more people into going- this afternoon was the last performance (a matinee added at the last minute because it was selling out).

The themes were, broadly, the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world at the very end of the 19th century; the joined history of bicycling and feminism; Evalyn's personal story of being a cyclist and artist; and notes on the City of Toronto's mixed appreciation for bicycles.

I *had* thought that the music-played-upon-a-physical-bicycle would be less effective than it was. Her co-performer, Brad Hart, used drum sticks, his hands, and parts of the bicycle, which was wired for amplification, and attached to a looping device. I spent maybe 5 minutes distractedly studying how it worked- they even tuned different spokes to different pitches- but then I could just let go and listen to the music he was making with Evalyn (and Anna Friz, who did on-stage mixing and singing).

Evalyn produced a CD of the songs in the concert; this morning I drove to Guelph, and I appreciated the irony of driving while listening to a CD all about bicycling.

The Globe and Mail gave it 3 out of 4 stars. And she has a cover article in the weekly Xtra paper, which is a good recap of the show, actually.

So- Thanks Evalyn! And thanks, John, for nudging me to come!
bit

Minecraft

I've been playing Minecraft. This game seems to suit me. If you've never heard of it: it's world-building/exploring, first-person, with a fairly sophisticated physics engine. And intentionally blocky graphics, as you can see in this picture with a duck [ETA: chicken].



The waterfall was created when a nasty-bad blew up right next to me, also killing me in the process. The explosion took out a roughly 6x6x6 sphere of ground. Since it was next to water, the water rushed in to fill the hole. But fluids seem to flow forever, without equalizing pressures, which leads to interesting effects.



Here's the same area from a different perspective. I'm perched atop 30 or so blocks to make this shot. There are big, fluffy, square-edged clouds just off-camera. They always drift East to West.

You can see my working inventory at the bottom of that screenshot. Much of the game mechanics involve crafting items. For example, the bow was made from string and sticks. The sticks were fashioned out of processed wood, from trees which I cut down with my bare hands. The string was acquired by killing a few giant spiders, which was possibly the most exciting experience in game so far. I was experimenting with pouring water on the heads of the spiders when I got caught in the down-flow and trapped in a cavern with a monster-generator. I am surprised I survived.

I'm sticking with the one-player mode for now, because I've heard too many people getting their creations blown up by other players in multiplayer.

Meanwhile, I'm digging up a storm- that hill is basically my home. There are three doors to it in that screen-shot, though you'd have to know what to look for to find two of them. You also can't see the reason I adopted this hill. On the other side, there's a lava flow coming out of the cliff that's really pretty at night-time.
lego

open data

Guess what? I'm too tired to make a very coherent post. Busy weekend. Very social.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to an "open data codefest"- I had a blast learning, though I didn't write any code.

What's open data? It's a philosophy that public data should be machine-readable, so people can produce software mashups such as smartphone apps or websites that repackage the available information for (different, perhaps unexpected) purposes. Think realtor websites that incorporate municipal property data and walkability scores... or lots of things Google does now, such as maps incorporating transit schedules and bike paths. Or there's this LCBO search app that has indexed all the liquour stores in Ontario, to give you inventory search results in a more clean way than the official LCBO site.

So, I wanted to work on transit data, but we don't yet have a clean data-source. The best available is "screen-scraped" (unofficial, therefore suspect for accuracy and legitimacy). So instead I learned about GTFS, the common format for transit feeds. I learned how to geo-locate via web-browser (not just mobile; it works from the desktop, thank you googly overlords).

The region is investigating what sorts of data they can open up; apparently a few region staff-members were present earlier in the day.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out!