Friday, October 28, 2011

Mozart for a Penny a Tune

Amazon's MP3 daily deals can be pretty amazing. Today it is a new "99 Most Essential" classical collection, a "full works" Mozart edition for only 99 cents. The earlier X5 Mozart album was a "greatest hits" collection with 99 of his best-known individual movements. This can be nice at times, but I usually prefer to listen to classical music as the composer intended, which is typically three or more movements in sequence. X5 has been providing full versions for all of their recent composer collections, and now finally for Mozart as well.

These are 23 of Mozart's best known works (it appears to include complete versions of nearly all the works used in the soundtrack of the film "Amadeus"). If you enjoy Mozart as I do, you probably already have most of them on CD or MP3. But for 99 cents, I'm buying it just so I can have these works sitting on my Amazon Cloud Drive to listen to anywhere I have a web connection.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carnival of Space #220

I haven't been thinking or writing about space recently. Guess the moment isn't structured that way (to take the Tralfamadorian viewpoint). But other people are thinking and writing about space, and some of them are bloggers who have submitted posts for this week's Carnival of Space, hosted by we are all in the gutter (looking at the stars). Love that blog name.

There are many posts this week, on diverse space and astronomy related topics. There are also two contests, one of which is sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, a place I still remember fondly from my early childhood when we lived close to New York City and my parents would take me there to see dinosaur fossils and other wonders of the universe. A special exhibit, Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, will run there from November 19 to August 12, 2012. The contest asks for 3 minute videos showing your personal out-of-this world vision for the future of space exploration. I think I could make a cool video using the Orbiter space flight simulator, but the deadline is November 3, and the moment is still not structured that way. I am still stuck in time the way Billy Pilgrim wasn't. Isn't. Won't be.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Too Much New Music!

I seem to have a real need for the constant stimulation of new music, though this creates the problem of not having time to listen to all of it. I get most new music as MP3's, mostly from Amazon, and most often on sale (sometimes free), though I will pay full price for music I "must have now." Aside from Amazon's daily deals, I learn of new music through Paste Magazine (now called Paste mPlayer), from NPR (new music email list), on Pandora, through Facebook friends' recommendations, and sometimes even from the radio (usually 92.5 The River). Probably other ways too.

Just in the last week I bought a classical collection that was a $1.99 Daily Deal (The 99 Most Essential Autumn Classics), a new Michael Franks album that is wonderful (Time Together) and a cool Donald Fagen album I had never heard until a song from it came up on Pandora while I was doing dishes (Kamakiriad from 1993). Also a bunch of free Amazon samplers, including the very relaxing Native American Flute Lullabies.

So am I listening to all that great new music? No, actually I'm listening to a "must have now" album that I just bought, Katie Herzig's new one, The Waking Sleep. It sounds good so far! I'm actually shuffling that with some of the other recent ones as I write this blog post with two ulterior motives: to test out my new Feedburner feed and "follow by email" widget (found just to the right), and to delay starting on a bunch of "must do now" house work!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Songwriting Blog

A few weeks ago I was looking for music and songwriting apps for the iPod Touch, and I found one called "Secrets of Songwriting" by Gary Ewer. Essentially an e-book formatted as an app, it was pretty expensive for an app ($16.99), but not so bad for a music book, and as a "multimedia" app, it was able to include examples of chord progressions and melodies as sound samples. So I bought it. Although I found a few interesting ideas, it was really too basic for me, and the app format (no search, no bookmarks, etc.) was frustrating.

The good news was Gary Ewer's songwriting blog, which I discovered through this app. "The Essential Secrets of Songwriting" is frequently updated with tips and with songwriting analyses of hit songs ("Rolling in the Deep" by Adele is a great recent example). Some tips are quite specific and musical (chord inversions, visualizing melodies, modal chord progressions, "making a MIDI orchestra sound real"). Others are more motivation and workflow oriented (identifying goals, dealing with writer's block, starting vs. finishing songs, writing better lyrics). There is a lot of excellent and thought-provoking material on songwriting here, with a huge archive of past articles. I'm taking notes and trying some of these ideas as I am now working on some new songs for my next recording project.

So now I'm happy to have bought Gary's app, supporting a musician/writer who is providing valuable educational material to songwriters everywhere for free through his blog.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Europe on 140 Characters a Day

I don’t have a Twitter account, and I tend to be long-winded when I talk or write, so I haven’t especially longed to tweet (I’d rather fly). But I’m also pretty busy these days, so I’m starting to see the value of that 140 character constraint. Sort of like haiku. So I’ll give it a shot here. MS Word can count my characters and keep me fairly honest. Throw in a few pix - mostly from mediocre BlackBerry camera (see explanation below).

Last week I was in Europe for a customer visit tour with our distributor. IT, FR, FR, UK, FR. Busy schedule but not the craziest ever.

A customer visit in Florence? Yes! Worth an extra day. As lovely as they say. Duomo, Boboli Gardens, and Galileo’s mummified fingers (oy).

Drive from Florence to Nice to Cannes for next customer. Tour of giant spacecraft assembly clean rooms. Sunny drive back to Nice Airport.

Toulouse (too tight?). Nice rosy city. Good weather, good customers, good food. Great food, actually. But no wifi (recurring hotel problem).

Fly Manchester England England, drive to Wales. Shortest UK trip ever (12 hours). Long enough to lose digital camera in rental car. :(

Paris! Business first, including a visit to the Observatoire de Meudon, with great views of Paris. Small hotel in the 6th. Duck dinner.

Late flight Saturday, time to relax and hang out in Jardin du Luxembourg on a gorgeous fall day. Wish I had my real camera. Lunch, fly home.

My new travel companion: an actual Kindle (not app on iPod). New model, small, light, ultra-white display, easy to read. Great buy ($79).

Friday, October 07, 2011

Flying History

B-24 Preflight Engine
Wow, busy fall. Not much time for blogging. I didn't even blog about one of the coolest things I've done in a long time. On September 26, I took a flight in a B-24 Liberator! After seeing the Collings Foundation's B-17 fly over my house, I called their flight coordinator and booked a B-24 flight the next morning at Worcester Airport. It was amazing. After takeoff, my fellow bomber enthusiasts and I were able to wander the whole aircraft, from the tail gunner position, to the waist guns, along the narrow catwalk through the bomb bay, up to the flight deck, and to even crawl through the tunnel to the bombardier's nose position.

B-24 Bombardier Pos
We stayed low and the whole flight only lasted about 30 minutes, but it was enough to give me a feel for what it was like to fly such a beast. It's built to carry bombs and fuel with not much in the way of comforts for the crew. I have even more respect now for the WW2 aviators who flew these big noisy things on long missions, often with people trying to shoot them down.

More B-24 pictures on Flickr.