Monday, November 27, 2006

I like Global Warming

Went for a nice walk on Sunday, into the farming country northeast of Cologne, the weather has been unseasonably warm, almost alarmingly so.. the trees uncertain whether to let go of their leaves or not, the birds singing in a thoroughly confused manner.
My S.O. had dragged me out there, to visit a potter friend who has a little shop in the country. One of those shops that only women can love, full of unreformed hippy smells and incense, thousands of ceramic objects that are lovingly handmade and of no use to anyone at all, things you would only buy if you already have everything you need.
Men are only seen in these shops in the tow of women. And the kind of man that does venture in is invariably weak and pathetic. I wandered around happily for nearly an hour.
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Saturday, November 25, 2006

More Household Hints

If you are like me and have far too many cables of various sorts lying around, copulating like snakes, you can never find the one you need, try this:
Before you stuff that cable in the back of a drawer, first fold it in half (so the two ends are together, so you can see what kind of cable it is). Then spread your left hand and wind the (doubled) cable around it in a figure 8 pattern (not round and round). Then put a rubber band around it. The figure 8 procedure insures that not only will the wires not twist internally, but when you release the rubber band the cable will unroll without tangling!
With long cables, do the figure 8 around hand and elbow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Householt Hints from an Abominable Housekeeper

I don't know everything, but I keep trying to learn, and here are some things that I have discovered on my own, and I am even willing to share my priceless insights.
For example, if you rip the scroll and fingerboard off a violin, it makes a dandy handle for the cupboard door.
Slight word of warning though: try not to use the Stradivarius or Guarneri violin because they are probably worth more than your house.

Ever wonder how to store those pesky plastic sacks of which you have a million and a half? When you need one, you have to make a huge plastic pile on the floor to find one the right size...
Try this method: fold each bag in half and then roll it up, and fasten the bags together with a rubber band or a cut-up bike inner tube (they last longer than regular rubber bands). They take up less space, you can instantly choose one of the right size when you need it, and the bundled bags make an attractive bouquet for a loved one.

Another dandy solution to a pernicious problem: your laptop has too many keys squeezed together on a tiny bit of real estate, and you are a touch typist of adequate ability-- even so you keep hitting the cursor keys rather than the shift key, which are located ever so close together! And your pride precludes you from using the backspace key? Try this elegant solution: a bit of double stick tape on the keys, and stick on squares of rubber matting (like you put in the back of your car to keep things from jumping around)...Hey voilà! your fingers know where they are! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Minimal music

Those crazy Danish drummers-- my friend Bruce posted me this link. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bush vulnerable

At his press conference yesterday, Bush seemed to me for the first time since 9/11 to look vulnerable and uncertain. He was answering questions about the upcoming report of the Iraq Commision, and to me there seemed to appear at least a hint in his eyes of a recognition that he might possibly just maybe have made a few teeny tiny mistakes in the Middle East. He is not admitting any guilt of course ("I am looking forward very much to hearing what these people have to say") but he knows that there is a majority who are not entirely in accord with his viewpoint, and that he is now confronted with a Congress who will not rubberstamp his whims. 

I was touched, though, by Tony Blair's performance yesterday at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet. He was (I think) close to tears as he attempted to justify his postions over the past few years, his accessing to the excesses of the American interventions because he felt it was in Britain's best interests to stay in step with American policy. He made it clear that he was personally not always completely in agreement with Bush, but he felt it was better to join forces with him (and at the same time privately trying to curb the most blatant excesses) than to let the Americans do it on their own. 

Of course, I instinctively feel that Blair should have talked more to European leaders, who have more knowledge of the situation than Bush ever will, and made a position that would have perhaps represented a compromise view. But he made a considered and conscious decision to stick with America, and on this he will be judged by history. There are no unequivocal right answers, and it is Blair's right to make his own judgement. He is even now hopeful that his view of the situation is correct, but admits (I think) that at this point, no one knows what the outcome will be.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A New Record

We had a rehearsal this morning for our next concert... a new guest conductor from England, not too sure of himself in front of a big German orchestra. The first piece on the program is "Central Park in the Dark" by Charles Ives, a curiosity of a piece, a slow repeating string line ("Ives said the strings are meant to represent the... bugs in the Park", he said) and some galloping polyphony in the winds. Not particularly difficult,but he had told the orchestra manager that he would only be rehearsing this one piece for the whole of this morning's session. Anyhow I guess he either overestimated the work's difficulty or underestimated our ability-- in any case he was at the end of the piece and couldn't thing of anything else to say and said, "Well, see you all this evening!" which caused a communal gasp, because we had done barely 20 minutes rehearsing.

This definitely the shortest rehearsal I have experienced in this orchestra. 

What to do with all the extra time? SHOPPING!!! I bought myself a nice sweater. Most of my favorite sweaters were discovered in the summer by a particularly virulent swarm of moths. 

Monday, November 13, 2006

Slow Demise of the Kiosk..

One of the things I always cursed about Germany was the lack of shops open evenings and on Sundays... when I first moved here all shops shut at 5.30 pm on weekdays, were only open till noon on Saturdays, and Sundays if you needed a pint of milk, well, forget it!
The only things open were little one-room kiosks, which mostly catered to alcohaulics, it seems, but you could get juice and the odd tinned soup and  (if you were on your way to a party, or intended to have one at home) wine. There are two of these places just a few yards from my apartment, and I counted about a dozen within 200 yards of my front door.
But Germany is liberalising, up to a point-- the shops can now stay open until 8 pm, and on Saturdays too, but Sunday is still sacrosanct.
I haven't been to the kiosk in a while (mostly due to the new liberalisation) but went just now because I had been teaching and by the time I finished it was after 8-- and I realized that the kiosks are doomed. My nearest place, which has always had a lively clientele, and had always had a great selection of wines and spirits, has become dingy and empty. They had ONE kind of wine, and a few tins of unidentifiable vegetables, and some mass-market magazines, and a fridge full of beer... and that was it. The owner, who I had known as a popular and cheerful young man, has become quiet and fearful. His arch-rival, the Greek across the street, doesn't even bother to stay open in the evenings.
This means that the end is neigh, I predict that within a year there will be not 12 but 2 or 3 kiosks in my neighborhood.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Went to a Richtfest this morning, I think it is called Topping Off Ceremony in English... My colleague Petra and her husband are having a house built in one of the little country towns outside Cologne. Do they have things like this in America? When the house is at the stage where all the structural beams are in place, ready for the siding and roof tiling, the head roofer puts on a black hat and makes a speech while all the friends and neighbors stand around and drink themselves silly.
Actually, the neighbors didn't come but looked on balefully because Petra's house has completely ruined their view.
It was nice to have something to celebrate because we had a premiere last night which was loudly booed by the audience. Not a pleasant experience when you have been working for weeks on a production! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I hate the sun

I wish the sun wouldn't come out when I am trying to get things done. It makes me do really stupid things like cleaning the toaster and washing windows and feel like it really is time to put my old Otto waalkes records onto CD. And of course then I have to design covers for the CDs and catalog them. 
It is a pity because I am working on some compositions that are going quite well, but composing is very time-consuming and requires a lot of concentration. The damn sun is distacting me.  

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