Buying Camera Gear From eBay vs Camera Shows

Busy day. Spent the morning mowing and edging the yard. We had lunch in Grapevine on the way out to a camera show sponsored by one of our clients. There was some interesting stuff to see at the camera show including non-photography items like two light sabers and an old Star Trek type one phaser. For buying and selling lenses, though, I think I’ll stick with eBay. Better prices are part of it but another part is the trust-metric-like feedback system on eBay. I’d much rather buy a lens from someone with hundreds of positive feedback certs on eBay than from a total stranger at a camera show.

From the camera show we drove by the office briefly to look for an Ovenbird that made an appearance friday. No sign of it today, of course, since I had a camera with me. Then we drove over to the Cottonwood Arts Festival in Richardson. Lots of amazing art and craft items (and a few not so amazing things). There are a dozen or so “art” festivals in the DFW area each year but most of them have very little that one could really call art. The Cottonwood Art Festival is the one to go to if you want art. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival has a few interesting things and a lot of music. Most of the others can be skipped.

After a we got tired of wandering around looking at the art, we stopped to get some barbeque and consider further plans for the evening. We had Dallas Symphony tickets but, upon closer inspection, tonights performance turned out to be another blasted piano concerto (have I mentioned that I am not fond of piano concerti?). We decided to skip the symphony this week.

Rain and Music

Yesterday afternoon there was a huge thunderstorm that brought along quite a bit of hail. I decided to hang around the office to make sure all the servers made it through the storm. We took to a couple of small power hits, neither outage lasted over 5 minutes, and the UPS’ saved the day again. (732 days uptime on our main server and counting…)

Susan left early in an attempt to get home before the storm hit but didn’t make it. Her car took a pounding from the hail but suprisingly there was no visible damage this morning. On the other hand, she inadvertently hit some pretty high water on one of the roads and this morning her car was acting like it had water in the gas tank. We dropped it off at the Acura dealer and are waiting for news. Luckily for me, my RSX was safely tucked away in the covered parking at our office the whole time. :-)

Meanwhile, I’ve been plugging away in my spare time on the mod_virgule merging project. Gary has a done a great job of getting things rolling again and I look forward to the day when my own version of the code is completely merged back in and I can run on the main codebase.

The only other event of interest that’s happened lately is that Susan and I went to see a performance of the Dallas Symphony on the 13th. The guest performers were violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and cellist Lynn Harrell. We also went to hear a couple of smaller works performed by just the two guest artists and Andrew Litton on piano on the 14th.

Music and Pneumatic Launch Vehicles

I think I’ve finally got the last of the zlib double-free fixes installed on all our Linux and Solaris boxes here. I had much more fun last night. Susan and I went to the Clandestine performance at Poor David’s Pub. They sounded great as always.

Today’s mail included another issue of .NET magazine. Yick. Why do they keep sending this Microsoft crap to me? Oh well, it went straight into the recycle bin (and I quickly washed my hands after touching the evil document)! :-)

Meanwhile, our fight against spam moves ever onward. Even though we’re rejecting over 500 spams a day, the number ending up in my mailbox continues to grow (40 per day the last few days). Processing the spam (IPs to ORDB, cc to, nastygrams to senders) sucks up about half an hour of my time each day. I’m working on filter for my mail client that will forward the remaining spams to a Perl script so I can automate this as well.

One last thing. I ran across a really cool technical report in the January issue of NASA Tech Briefs (also available online if you don’t mind the free registration). A NASA researcher looking for alternative launch technologies ran across some information on the old pneumatic subway train that was proposed for New York in 1870 by Alfred Ely Beach. After researching the concept a bit, he’s proposing building a pneumatic launch system that would consist of a 6km tube with a 9m diameter. It would take 4 hours to charge the tube to a pressure of 200 kPa after which it could accelerate a 700,000kg reusable launch vehicle to 270 m/sec (the speed needed to fire up the SCRAM engines on the launch vehicle). Similar lauch systems have been proposed before using mag-lev technology but this thing could be built for a fraction of the cost using off-the-shelf hardware. Pretty neat.

Where do they get those Dr. Evil Suits?

Susan and I attended the Symphony this weekend. Nothing really amazing to report. Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor (I loathe piano concertos…), and Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D major. Jesús López-Cobos was guest conductor. Like many conductors he dressed like a James Bond villain. Where do they get those cool Dr. Evil suits? I want one of those.

We seem to be staying busy at the office so far this month. We’ve picked up a few new hosting customers. One of our new sites was previously hosted on an IIS box so I enjoyed reporting the URL to Netcraft – that’s one less IIS site and one more Apache site on next months survey.

Philip Glass Ensemble in Austin

Susan and I have been back in town for a few days after a week in Austin to hear several live performances of the Philip Glass Ensemble. I’ve been meaning to post a summary of our adventures and here it is.

We left for Austin on the 2nd, opting to drive rather than fly. It seemed the prudent thing to do considering the war (or whatever you call it). And besides, we had some pending genealogical research at several cemeteries between Dallas and Austin. Anyway, we had a nice drive and shot photos of some long lost headstones.

The event itself, called Philip on Film, was being held at the University of Texas. Each night a different Film which included a Philip Glass score was being peformed live – the Philip Glass Ensemble played the piece in real time as the film was show. After checking into the hotel, we went to the first perormance which as a collection of short films. A couple of them, such as Anima Mundi were interesting and a couple were, um, not. The music was great on all of them, of course.

On the 3rd, we attended a lecture and Q & A session where Mr. Glass told a lot of interesting stories. His answers tended to go off on all sort of unexpected, interesting tangents, so it only took a few questions to fill up all the time available. He had stories about everyone from David Byrne to Danny Elfman. And he had some good ones: the first time his music was performed by orchestra instead of his own ensemble, the players walked out rather than play what they believed wasn’t real music; having people throw things at him during performances; and, in one case even having someone come on stage and try to physically stop him from playing. Later that evening, we attended the live performance of Powaqqatsi. After the performance we ate a late dinner at the famous Katz’s Deli.

On the 4th we attended a lecture at the UT Law School where Philip Glass and a couple of faculty members discussed legal aspects of music. Actually, there was about five minutes of legal-related discussion and the rest was Glass telling more interesting stories. Who’d have thought he listens to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream? That night we saw a performance of la Belle et la bête, an opera based on Jean Cocteau’s film by the same name. And, in fact, timed to be performed live as the film played with the action and music perfectly in sync.

The performance on the 5th was Dracula but we had seen it performed live by Philip Glass and Cronos Quartet about a year ago (and we had a limited budget anyway), so we decided to skip this version which had been rearranged for the Ensemble. As it turned out, we heard an ad on the radio saying that Clandestine was in town and playing on the UT campus that night so we heard some nice jigs and reels instead.

Finally, on the 6th, was Koyaanisqatsi, which I hadn’t seen since the original theatrical release back in 1982. The next morning we left Austin for Dallas. We stopped at couple of cemetaries on the way back including one that proved very difficult to find. After asking directions from a resident of the area, we were directed to a dirt road that led to some private property. The road was in such bad shape, there was no way I was going to take the new RSX down it, so we got out and made our way on foot. By coincidence, we ran into the property owner, who was coming up the road in his pickup truck. He knew where the cemetary was and thought we probably wouldn’t be able to make it on foot. We climbed into the back of his pickup and he gave us a ride over some very rough terrain. The cemetary was overgrown with 3 or 4 foot weeds but we did manage to find the headstones.

On the way back to car, the landowner mentioned that he had heard on the radio just before picking us up that we had started bombing the Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan. We had the same reaction that most people I’ve talked to since have had – sort of a combination of “it’s about time” and concern over whether we’d be able to stop them before they made their next attack on the US. We spent the rest of the drive back to Dallas listening to news reports on the radio.

Chickens, Kittens, and an Opossum

We spent a fairly quite weekend doing some work on the lawn. Susan did some weeding and I trimmed some dead branches from one of the trees. Saturday night we went to the Dallas Symphony. This week it was Wagner’s Overture to the Flying Dutchman, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and a work for Orchestra and Percussion by Christopher Rouse called Der gerettete Alberich. The Rouse piece featured Colin Currie as the Percussionist

Sunday night, while grilling some chickens in the back yard, we had two visitors. The first was a small kitten that wandered into the yard and spent a fair amount of time chasing moths around before wandering off again. The second visitor was a medium-size Opossum. (For those not familiar with Texas wildlife, an Opossum is a common marsupial with a prehensile tail.) It had been investigating something under our hedge and got spooked when it realized we were watching it. It ran for the nearest tree, which was a small Cherry Laurel that didn’t offer it much of an escape route. So it ended up perched on a branch about at eye level, where it just sat around watching us grill our chickens.