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Marv Albert and Reggie Miller are Gold

The pair were announcing Lakers-Jazz Game 2 last night.  Reggie Miller is a smart guy, by ball-player standards, and had occasion to use the words "plethora" and "cordial."

Marv Albert, of course, was sort of amused by the whole thing, and did his Marv-Albert-reacts thing in that great voice: "Plethora!"  "Cordial!"  It was as if he was commentating Reggie's performance as well as the game.
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Driving home


Adam was driving me back from Vancouver last night after losing in the GNT semifinals.

We had just passed by one of the Indian reservation casinos, I think Tulalip.  I was slipping in and out of consciousness when a speed limit sign passed by.  I could swear it said:

Speed
Limit
70

Indians
60
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Technology slammed together rapidly enough produces energy


Last thursday I was at a planning meeting at which a bunch of technology from different companies came through in a pinch.
We were meeting in a conference room, but were also meeting with two remote people, one from the eastern U.S. and one from out of the country.  We hadn't done much pre-arrangement, but needed to get the meeting going in a hurry.

First of all, I found out I could AIM them through Office Communicator.  I just typed in UserName@aol.com, and bam!  They asked "is this a new username?"  I never figured out what my screenname actually is when I use Communicator.
Okay, so over IM, we agreed to try Skype.  So I downloaded it... I was a bit worried about whether it would work on Windows 7 Beta build 7000, but it worked fine.
Another participant had brought a webcam, so I plugged it in via USB, and immediately Windows recognized the camera, and Skype figured out how to use its mic and video feed.  Finally, I plugged in the conference room's AV system into the audio out slot, I called both of the remote participants, and voila!

The only hitch was that Skype seems not to support video mode with a more-than-two-way connection.  Perhaps they do that out of consideration for bandwidth.
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Puzzlehaunt!


Puzzlehunt 12 was a weird mash-up of a Jeopardy-themed hunt and a Halloween/hell-based hunt.  What that meant was that it was the longest hunt ever, with a whopping 66 puzzles!

Team Liboncatipu rocked this hunt.  We came in second, finally breaking into the echelon of powerhouse teams.  There were a lot of great "ah ha" moments, and the whole team had a blast.

My favorite puzzle may have been Trouble Jeopardy.  In this puzzle, you have crossword-style clues where the letters have been transformed in some way.  You figure out that transformation to determine what the clue is, get the answer to the clue, and then transform the answer using the same method that transformed the clue.  Here's an easy example:
OrganizethCrimthwitththth.

The transformation is apparently to take the last letter of each word and make it a th.  So it becomes
Organized Crime, with "the"
Which is "Mob".  Transforming Mob gets you "Moth."

They got extremely creative with these transformations, so it was a lot of fun quadruple-teaming this puzzle.

Here's some photos from my camera.
http://cid-a1ca7f534fc0cb72.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/Puzzlehunt%2012%e2%88%9513
I've commented on each of them, but I noticed that you can't see the comments if you view it as a slideshow..
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Wintergrass

Jonobie and I went to a bluegrass festival in Tacoma called Wintergrass.  I was really impressed, so much so that it was almost worth the exhorbitant $65 price of admission.

We're not certain if there was a cheaper way to get in.  For example, we didn't do any workshops, so we're not sure if there was a cheaper non-workshop admittance.  But they certainly weren't forthcoming with said information.

The first notably cool thing about the concert was how much jamming was going on in every nook and cranny of the hotel.  Random people seemed to converge and play together, and not badly!  There was even a sign next to the bathrooms: "No Jamming Beyond This Point."

Jonobie and I seemed to form similar conclusions about who we liked, didn't like, or wanted to go see, so the whole day was pretty effortless and fun.  We saw:

Belle Monroe and her Brewglass Boys: Belle was a great vocalist, and they had good songs and vocal harmonies.  Least talented backing band, though.

Cody Bryant and the Riders of the Purple Sage: we only caught the tail end of their performance, but it was enough to be impressed by their fun loving spirit and effortless virtuosity, if not their purple-and-black getup.

Mike Marshall and Choro Famoso featuring Danilo Brito: Choro Famoso is essentially a bunch of americans geeking out over brazilian music.  Danilo Brito, however, is a stunningly good Bandolim player.  A Bandolim is like a mandolin, but with a clear, brazilian-style tone.  Brazilian music isn't my favorite, but I suspect that this will be the performance I remember in two years.

Alison Brown
: Financier turned Banjo player that used to tour with Allison Krauss.  She played a low-key, jazzy, contemporary form of bluegrass that we found pleasant but ultimately boring.

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper - This was a fantastic traditional bluegrass band headlined (but not fronted) by their fiddler, Michael Cleveland, whose fiddling skills were outstanding.  It was an instance where your assumptions are completely shattered: he was short, fat, blind, and had an excessive southern drawl.  But he was both fun and incredibly talented.  The rest of the band was also superb, although amusingly, they did each try to get their instrument miked up more than everyone else's during the soundcheck.  The cocky, hot-shot mandolinist was the worst offender, though I must admit his skills almost met his level of swagger.

Scythian - Scythian does "speed-folk."  They are essentially a rock band fronted by a good fiddler instead of a guitarist, and they do rocked-up folk of various nationalities, including Celtic, Klezmer, and Ukrainian.  Oh, and they threw in a killer rendition of They Might Be Giants' Istanbul, as well as the old classic My Son John.  They were easily the highest energy act of the day, and by the time they finished I had done a lot of awkward dancing and bouncing up and down.

I actually think the quality of the music at the event was significantly higher than that of, say, Bumbershoot, and the best thing is that nearly everyone there is so into the music, that there's a lot of energy.  I think if I go back, though, I will do more advance planning to make sure it's worth the price of admission, perhaps by attending mandolin workshops.
 
Jonobie has now informed me that I should go to the Seattle Folk festival as well.  Sounds cool.

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Music Collection - Various Artists (Part 2 of 5)


Soundtrack - Gladiator -Hans Zimmer/Lisa Gerrard – This dramatic instrumental album accompanies one of my favorite movies. It accompanies the movie perfectly, and I’ll freely admit that whether I like a movie often has as much to do with the music as it does the plot or characters. Perhaps I should say that the movie accompanies the music perfectly. Many of my favorites here are those written by Dead Can Dance member Lisa Gerrard, especially Elysium and Now We Are Free, the stirring end-credits tune. Zimmer’s The Battle has some inspired moments, but is too long as a standalone tune. Much of it is a lesser retread of Holst’s Mars: Bringer of War4 stars

Soundtrack – Gosford Park – Patrick Doyle – Gosford Park is a movie about a murder during a party at a Victorian-style English manse in the early 20th century. The soundtrack alternates between period vocal-and-piano pieces, performed by one of the partygoers; and somber, minor-key ruminations that lent to the mysterious air of the movie. The trick is that both aspects actually work for me. The latter is more my style, and is no surprise, but the former are fun and engaging as well. 4 stars

Soundtrack - The Last of the Mohicans – Trevor Jones/Randy Edelman – This album has accompanied me through the last half of my life. I can listen to it attentively, as background music, or before bed. I remember the night after I went to my first concert (Smashing Pumpkins), my ears were ringing badly. I listened to it on cassette in my Sony Walkman to try and drown out the noise… but the walkman kept randomly clicking off and reawakening me. And I still listen regularly. Strings are the lead voice for much of the soundtrack, but there’s such a grandeur, drama, and beauty to it, it easily stands among the best soundtracks. 5 stars

Soundtrack – Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – This is a very pretty album, with memorable themes pertaining to the Shire and the Fellowship, and with a sublime, moving end-credits song, Enya’s May It Be3.5 stars

Soundtrack – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – The second installment in the soundtrack series is largely inessential, as it mostly rehashes themes already introduced more expansively in the predecessor. You may remember the editing pace of the Two Towers, at least in its cinema form, was frenetic. The soundtrack is the same; we segue multiple times between different themes in each track, as different characters arrive in the scene. Also, there are too many suspense-sound-effect passages to make it a good listen. The most notable addition here is the beautiful theme of the Rohirrim, but even that isn’t given proper time to develop. 2.5 stars

Soundtrack – Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – The third installment is more of the same, but with the notable addition of Annie Lennox’s masterful performance of the credits song, Into the West3 stars

 

Next Up – Various Artists (Part 3 of 5) – pirate songs, a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, new wave, and sci-fi.

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    Elton John - Songs from the West Coast
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Ken Follett - Pillars of the Earth

This was an excellent tour de force about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England.  It follows the journey of the Kingsbridge Cathedral's start-and-stop-and-start construction over many years.  The people building it change, and there are villains, intrigues, and memorable heroes.

Framing the story is the question of successorship of the throne of England, and it's neat to see how Follett weaves the characters' fictional lives into actual history as behind-the-scenes players.

I found it a very edifying and satisfying read, as you get to learn a lot about the period, and about construction of cathedrals.  And it's an immersive read because the characters' motivations and knowledge are so deeply tied to the mindset of post-Norman England.  It's interesting to think about what master builders of that period new and didn't know about engineering a cathedral.

Ken Follett writes simply; he does not dazzle with his use of language or artistry, and the plot is engaging but methodical, kind of like a protracted Elton John melody.  He excels most due to his great characters. 
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Santonio was awesome

My Week 12 pick to win the super bowl won!  Yay!  And what a classic game.

Santonio Holmes was awesome, while Hines Ward served mostly as a decoy. 

Sure, Holmes's impossible catch in the end zone FTW was amazing, but perhaps cooler was his touchdown celebration.  He impersonated LeBron James's pregame ritual of putting powder on his hands and then throwing a cloud of it up into the air.

People who don't watch basketball probably didn't pick up on that, so I figured I'd let you know.

Very classy, as far as TD celebrations go.