before, after

boss explained I could also use laptop as my personal computer. it's a generous place to work if nothing else.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

How to jump back in?

I was busier than usual this spring - I continued to read LJ, but somehow couldn't find even a few minutes to post. When I got home - usually two hours before bedtime - I spent the time cooking, reading, & watching TV.

Some catch-up:

My GWT project at work is still all-consuming. I'm still working solo on the project. It is still exciting. On most days within 30 minutes I'm zoned-in: code, imagination, and fingers locked in sync together, moving fast as possible. The application has an elegant look and functionality. I'm sure there are a few other web-apps like this but I don't know of any myself. Around the first of April, I showed the project to the boss. He was estatic. The last thing he said: "You know this will have to work on the iPad." By 5:00 that afternoon I was able to walk into his office with an iPad and say: "Now it does".

In January I decided that I was going to take the playing portion of the A.G.O. Fellowship certification this year. I stuck to my plan & took the playing exam this past Saturday in Dallas. The organ was a splendid instrument installed in 2004. In my 3 hour practice session on Friday afternoon, I was constantly interrupted. Despite this I think I did well - at least on the major parts. I don’t think I could have performed the repertoire any better. The improvisation went well too. I will find out in six weeks. If I do pass this portion, I will have 5 years in which to pass the written half of the exam.

At my second job (the organ position), a new head of staff was finally selected to replace Jeff. What I could gather from Google, he had a long record of being very conservative, and I think I had just cause to worry about my relationship with him. About the same age as [ profile] dewittar, he knows what needs to be done and how to do it, and - thus far - things have been good. So I think I will leave it at that for now.

I’m dumping all the income I can into paying off my house mortgage. At the moment the balance is 13.5K. I think I will have it paid off before the end of the year!

The only travel I did this spring was a weekend with Israel in Santa Fe, and a weekend trip to San Francisco. I was delighted to meet [ profile] notdefined and to play for a couple of hours on his Hauptwerk organ-in-progress. (In case you aren’t following, he’s building an organ in his house using the Hauptwerk program & downloads - which provides many different digitally sampled pipe organs as a sound source.)

Two handsome guys: [ profile] notdefined & Morgan:

A couple of iPad vids I shot at the end of my practice on the Dallas organ:

I kind of like my quickie piano prelude from yesterday... Dallas for a weekend break.

Today, entering a large room filled with orange balloons, I could feel a drop or two of accumulated stress drip away.

At the height of my anguish last night at 4:00 A.M., I found myself reading aloud The Giving Tree to Israel. I was surprised he didn't know it, and I searched to find it online. (I found only the text.) I explained that I didn't mean to imply that he was the boy - or that anyone was in particular - but that I certainly did relate to the tree. I guess that's what you sow when you work all week like a dog at two jobs and try to maintain demanding goals. (In truth, the boy and the tree are like many dichotomies; the more you can claim one position, the more likely you are to be able to claim its opposite.)

In reviewing the past couple of months, I can see how much I needed a break. The boss has kept me solo on my current project. I think he really likes the look of it, and doesn't want it spoiled by someone else's sense of design or lazy habits. But this makes for very intense days.

I'm afraid in the midst of stress I broke one of my cardinal rules this week: Never show contempt for another person in a business meeting. No one said anything, nor did I make any overt statement. But in review, I think I was less than collegial with someone I'm scheduled to work with soon.

Most people must contend with difficult others. It's not their report card we should worry about but our own. An incapacity to tolerate fools is a trait that most people over the age of 40 should have dropped.
1) A month ago at work, the boss called me in for a brief meeting with two other programmers. He warned of an upcoming provisioning product that will have to be written fast - pending the signed contract of a new client. He knew I had looked at web-client(ish) technologies in the fall, and he wanted me to try one out. I would write the client GUI that would link to an API exposed through Web Services, which one of the other guys was to do.

This was just a heads-up. But I had a little time, so I went ahead and wrote a prototype in GWT (I included server calls, though I didn't implement WS, I just hooked up to existing methods via JNDI.) It took about a week. I hosted the app on my mini, and sent the URL to the boss. He was amazed & very pleased. He quietly came to my office and said 'What's next?'. I said I thought I could do the same thing with our main product (it currently has a Java Swing thick client).

So off I set - solo. Wheee! Within two weeks, I had a large enough section to show again. And again, he was very happy and said to proceed. Yesterday I finished another chunk. I will clean it up & test this morning, then probably send him another URL after lunch.

This is the 5th time in my programming career that I've been given the lead in developing a product with a new technology. It's very exciting & intense. Most days my mind moves faster than my fingers can type.

2) Saturday, I picked up Scott and we drove out to a goat farm that had a small native plant nursery. They had a nice selection. I bought some things. Last night I put 1/3 of them in the ground and cleaned up part of the garden. The conversation with Scott was wonderful as always. At one point he shocked me by claiming that I was his dearest friend now. This was humbling. In his early NYC years when he was a photographer for Condé Nast, he lived with Allen Forte six or so years who he had known in H.S. in Portland OR; he also was very close to Bob Dorough, the jazz pianist and composer of the Schoolhouse Rock songs; and countless photographers - big & small. I guess we are growing closer. It's curious having a close friend who is 30 years my senior (now 85). Curious because there is really nothing different. Fortunately his amazing mind & his body are in splendid shape.
I'm slogging through a couple of books at work. One of them is merely OK as a tech book, but it has nice chapter epigraphs :-)

1The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration. Confucius
2A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. Frank Herbert
3In general, an implementation must be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior. Jon Postel
4You must unlearn what you have learned. Yoda
5When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. Buckminster Fuller
6Before software can be reusable it first has to be usable. Ralph Jackson
7I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. Richard Feynman
8A test that reveals a bug has succeeded, not failed. Boris Beizer
9The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work. John von Neumann
10A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking. Jerry Seinfield
11Everything is in a state of flux, including the status quo. Robert Byrne
This was the morning light in my office - filtered through normal wooden blinds. Not sure what was going on here.

A long week. 10 hours days. I work for a company of 12 which provides billing software for small-ish cell companies. Yes, they still exist. They compete quite well on price with major carriers. And they sometimes have much better local coverage. The Wisconsin dairy farmer needs his text messages as much as the L.A. media attorney. We did an installation for one of our larger clients (200 employees). At week's end, everything looks good.

It's nice to have a challenging job where my skills & creativity are appreciated.


This is my boss, more or less. He's beefier, no gray hair, maybe five years younger. And he's never without the ever present coffee mug. When I saw the movie, I immediatley thought Stephen Lang was channeling my boss.

I just asked him if I could get the Mac Trackpad for a mouse device. Actually I didn't even finish the sentence. As soon as he knew what I was asking, he interrupted tersely and said "Just do it!". I kind of like his style.

A gift

Nov. 3rd, 2010 05:02 pm

At the church where I play the organ, the pastor resigned a few weeks ago. He drove with his family this past Saturday to his new position in Philadelphia. I'm a little reluctant to post anything, even tangentially, related to Christianity because it can be so contentious with most people I know (or read on LJ).

But he was singularly important to me.

I don't know if it's where I live or if it's the nature of churches, but in previous positions I frequently encountered both clergy and musicians who seemed insecure in some way. They would be positive on the surface, but underneath they were not encouraging. They oddly seemed to be threatened by growth & creativity. It was so refreshing for the past ten years to work with someone who had none of this. Jeff took an interest in me and encouraged me to challenge myself.

We never discussed my orientation, but he made it crystal clear that he approved of me. A handful of people, unfortunately including his assistant, had issues in this regard, and sometimes they would make me feel uncomfortable. But Jeff kept this from me as much possible and his support was unwavering.

I'm sure he will be glad to be back in the East where he spent most of his adult life. (He was raised in Portland OR.) At the dinner following his last Sunday, I slowly became aware that he had been as important to everyone else as he had been to me. He ceaselessly gave of himself, and gently encouraged others to do the same. (This church builds two homes for homeless families in Mexico each year. During Hurricanes Katrina & Rita, I lost count of the number of crews that drove down to rebuild houses. And on and on...)

He encouraged me to occasionally play solo piano pieces in the services. When I started there, this was never done. I could not find anything published that remotely interested me other than classical music. So I began writing my own pieces and occasionally improvising. This was an enriching experience and brought me in touch with my earlier life as a musician. I was glad when I saw that his last service was simply the one we had done each week, without any special fanfare. I played one of the piano pieces that he had liked as a prelude, and wrote a new one as an offertory.

Online I found a copy of a 19th century translation of the Psalter from Hebrew into Scots (this is a Presbyterian church). When it arrived from Edinburgh, I was delighted to find it in almost perfect condition, and the beautiful red end papers and ink had faded little. I wrapped it in some old book binding paper and placed it on his desk. On his last Sunday, I was rehearsing with a small group when I first saw him. He simply came up behind me, leaned down, wordlessly put his arms around me, and held on for awhile.

I will miss him terribly.
My year of completely full days with practicing, two jobs, & trying to fit in exercise is finally starting to get up to speed. (I'm afraid I was a bit lazy this summer.) The new technology I'm learning at work is GWT - I'm starting a proof of concept (and being interrupted constantly). There was also an open, unclaimed project to write an Android app. My choice was mainly that I thought GWT would prove more useful to the company at this point, and that I'll be involved in smart phone apps before long anyway.

I took the advantage of some free hours today to catch up on some New Yorker reading. The Oct. 4th issue looked promising: Alex Ross on John Cage, a long article about the Dalai Lama, David Denby on the making of The Social Network, an article on Twitter's place in history, Paul Goldberger on Las Vegas, plus Jeffrey Toobin & Anthony Lane to boot. So I headed to Starbucks where I read half of all of this.

The Twitter article was an academic exercise. The angels/pinhead in question was the word revolution. The entire article examined why Twitter doesn't qualify for this select company. Of course I learned nothing.

The Ross article on Cage was enjoyable, if a little predictable to me at this point. I'm very fond of his enthusiasm, and I think he has used his pulpit well to discuss (and sometimes promote) music that benefits greatly by his endorsement. I remember Andrew Porter as a better critic, meaning that his writing brought me closer to the actual events. Porter's tastes were also more narrow - but it allowed him to go much deeper. I'm hoping that in time Ross's music pieces will become more like John Lahr's theatre pieces or Whitney Balliett's jazz pieces (ghrs). Currently they feel too much like drafts of chapters for his forthcoming books.

The Dalai Lama piece was pleasantly interesting, some facts I hadn't heard. One: His Holiness is NOT a vegetarian! And a quote:

The Dalai Lama's romance with the West makes him vulnerable to detractors: learned Buddhists who cringe at the sound of Scripture being boiled down to bromides; liberals who point out that although the Dalai Lama calls for full legal rights for gay men and women, he cites Buddhist doctrine, which condemns anal and oral sex, and considers it unsanctioned for Buddhists; decided atheists like Christopher Hitchens, who called the Dalai Lama's following "a Hollywood cult that almost exceeds the power of Scientology."

Since Paul Muldoon became poetry editor a couple of years ago, I can't recall one of the magazine's poetry selections I have enjoyed - quite disappointing for me, since this was one of my pleasures. (It also makes me exceedingly happy that my life is miles away from any creative writing program.)

Cub Heaven

Sep. 24th, 2010 10:26 pm
I don't know what it was about today.

Everyone departed from the office this afternoon. I thought what-the-hell and logged on to Bear411 (it had been a while.) Right off the bat the woofiest, handsomest, dreamy-eyed, guitar-playing, song-writing, Austin cub flirted with me online for the better part of an hour. And for the hour after that, my woofy & cubbish workmate, who's a family man but always super sweet to me, had an especially friendly & fun conversation with me. We usually talk about weekend plans, movies, his kids, my travel, etc. (I guess he saves the heavy gaming & metal band talk for others.) Then at the wedding rehearsal tonight, the cubbish stud of a groom came out to the parking lot to tell me thank-you in person as I was leaving.

Sometimes my 56 year old self needs a day with a few encounters like that.
I was determined to learn at least 1 new technology for work this summer. I picked XSL-FO - not the most complex but extremely useful, and I didn't have any experience with it. It is quite nice that you can create graphic files, HTML, .pdf, .rtf, postscript files, etc. with just one formatting syntax.

Next on my list (hopefully by Jan 1): BIRT, EJB3.

I played a funeral service today for a woman who was mentally challenged. She had two children. And I was told (I think 3 times) that they were in much worse shape than their mother. But somehow they mangaged to request the Adagio movement of the Pathetique Sonata. People were surprised I would take off work to play this (though they never seem to question it when the person is rich and powerful.) I guess the request touched me. I hadn't played the piece since I was probably 16 or something. I dusted off the Schanbel edition, and it sounded quite beautiful on the fine Steinway we have. I try to avoid warhorses like this -- playing, listening, whatever... But today while playing it, I was struck by Beethoven's voice leading - how balanced and perfect, yet so many shades of expression.

I could tell the bride was different when she had scrawled down for the prelude music "All Disney", with a giant exclamation point.

I went to the company's office party last night. I passed on also trying to go to my other job's staff party, held at the same time. Too bad, because the food is always excellent there - the food at the office party venue, Cafe Bella, being fairly awful. I wore Texas wear for the occasion. Gifts were chosen by each employee one by one, starting with the most recent hire. There were some elaborate and silly rules to obtain someone else's gift. The gift items ranged vastly in value from a flat screen television to a simple GPS tracking device. I first opened a Playstation, but Barry got such a hard-on for the thing, I just handed it over. The next thing I opened was a 'Wii Sports'. No one seemed too interested in this.

Contemplating what to do with it...maybe give it to a children's home.



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