Friday, December 03, 2010

They're Ready for Their Closeups

Dinah and Badger embarked on their careers as canine supermodels yesterday. (Well, they've been the subjects of fine art paintings before, and Dinah's appeared in books and on AKC Meet the Breeds materials, but this is the very first time they've worked for remuneration.) The kind folks at FetchDog contacted me a little while ago after going through their photos, looking for catalog models. I had completely forgotten that their "talent scout" had snapped some pictures of Dinah at a Meet the Breeds event a couple of years ago; she seemed particularly interested in Dory at the time, so I thought nothing of it and completely forgot about the whole encounter. The call from their production manager came as quite the surprise!

At her request, I emailed photos of all four of the Beardies, plus their vital statistics. Since Charlie and Seamus are clipped, their coats aren't as glamorous as Dinah's and Badger's -- so Dinah and Badger were selected to take part in the next photo shoot. They would be modeling a couch cover, I was told. Our friend Liz is the "dog wrangler" for the shoots, which was also welcome news. Liz understands bouncy Beardies and how to get the best out of them. After a panicked call to our saintly favorite groomer, the kids were dispatched to the doggie spa, fluffed and folded, and returned. I packed a bag with grooming supplies, brushes, hairspray, and hair elastics.

We arrived at the shooting location in Yarmouth half an hour ahead of our scheduled shooting time. The folks who own the house are both brave and generous; their beautiful house gets invaded periodically by small crowds of people bearing equipment, props, toys, collars, and various dogs on leash. The front entryway is protected by dropcloths and all the humans remove their shoes to minimize the amount of dirt and grit tracked onto the pristine hardwood floors.

All of the shoots for a given day are scheduled for particular times, by the dog's name and the products they'll be modeling. We waited a little while for the adorable German Wirehaired Pointer puppy to finish her session. She was sweet and very wiggly; I'm not sure if she settled down enough for the photographer to get what he wanted. I signed our photo release-cum-vital-statistics form and collected our copy of the current catalog with a gift certificate. Robin, the production coordinator, came in and out with collars, toys, and other props for shoots. She dropped off some, then picked up others and disappeared back into the house.

Production Central was located in the garage of the house. The kind owners had cleared out for the morning, leaving both parking spaces available for soft crates, bins of props and collars, and all of the paperwork associated with scheduling the photo sessions. Two beautiful little Aussies waited in one of the big soft crates, which doubled as a work table. Dinah and Badger were more comfortable in the car, so they waited there as we humans stamped around in the garage and sipped coffee to keep warm.

After a bit, the crew rearranged the furniture in the living room so that the couch and its cover stood in the middle, free of interference. Liz came out and helped me bring Dinah and Badger into the house. Everyone made a fuss over the pretty shaggy dogs. Dinah danced and wiggled. Badger took everything in and waited thoughtfully. We met Dennis, the photographer, and a number of other crew members.

Liz and I managed to get the two Beardies up onto the couch and positioned together. I asked, "Do you want me to get their hair out of their eyes? I brought hairspray and everything." The crew seemed to prefer having their hair down in their faces, so we left them as is. The tan couch cover they were modeling was thick, quilted, and lush, with a faux-sheepskin underside. I had to force myself to stop fondling it long enough to back away and let the photo shoot begin.

After some urging and a number of duck treats, Liz and I managed to get both dogs to lie down and stay in place -- though neither of them felt inclined to stay there for long. Dennis took a number of shots, and then I was asked to walk Badger outside while Liz stayed with Dinah. I didn't get to see how that worked out, but I'm hoping Mama's Girl wasn't too restless with both of us gone. The set designer came out and said, "We love your dogs, but..." -- so I'm not sure whether they sat still enough to provide good shots, or whether these wiggly shaggy dogs will be invited back.

Dennis then came outside and asked us to pose both dogs close together in the front yard and then the backyard. He tried several views with different lenses and light directions. One of the crew members walked back and forth behind him as I held Dinah and Badger. She squeaked a toy and talked to the dogs to get their attention.

Dennis shot several photos, changed lenses, and shot several more.  He indicated a set of stone steps on the side of the house and asked whether both dogs would sit up there. I replied that Dinah probably would. We set her up on the steps and shot several photos of her pretty face before she grew restless and descended the steps. We're still working on that sit-stay in obedience.

He asked us to wait a bit while he checked the photos indoors to see whether he had the shots he wanted. We waited in the front yard and watched a Sheltie and her owner walk past, plus a portly but adorable Nova Scotia Duck Toller who would be gracing a number of the shots. Liz came out, checked with Dennis to make sure he had what he needed, and then told me we were done for the day. We shook hands, thanked Robin for inviting us, and headed homeward.

Now, all we need to do is wait for the photos. I hope that Dennis was able to get shots that he can use, since it would be Cool As Anything to see the kids in the catalog, professionally photographed. In the meantime, I'll be cruising the FetchDog website, looking for a backseat cover for the Subaru.

It's possible that none of the shots we took will be used, but at least we can say we've had the experience -- and who knows? Maybe their next career move is just around the corner. The cover of Dogue, perhaps?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back on the Rollercoaster

I'm shocked. Shocked, I say! I knew it had been a while since I came to visit the blog and leave off some wisdom, but the time just got away from me. You probably think that we'd packed up our suitcases and left town.

Here's just a quick list of all the stuff that's been going on:

  • I started a job at Dell Computer. I was genuinely sad to leave WEX, and had always hoped they'd rush in and make a counter-offer at the last minute, just as I was packing my stuff into one of those plastic storage bins. That never really happened, so I'm now working a good job with great people, and driving a commute that just plain sucks the life out of me.
  • The commute killed my old car, so I bought a new one. I have to admit that I'm getting rather giddy from the new-car smell -- it's been 8 years since I had a new car -- but being saddled with car payments again is a real downside.
  • Greg's Sax Quartets CD has been receiving some very good reviews from online music journals. He'll be including some of the pithier excerpts on his new, revamped, Flash-based website. The new site focuses on his piano improvisations.
  • Dinah and I finished a few rally titles. I want to save that news for the Dog Show Newbie blog, which could also use some updates. I did take some time to update the news flashes on my website, anyway.
  • Dinah and Badger have been invited to model for the FetchDog catalog! They'll be going to a photo shoot in early December to model couch covers. If I find out when the catalog is coming out, I'll post an update.
  • I won a Freakin' Sweet gift bag full of goodies from the local quilt shop's Open House. It even includes a gift certificate for machine quilting! I picked up a kit for a quilt that I really want to make at the Maine Quilt Show back in July -- and the gift basket contains a roll of gorgeous Moda fabrics for yet another project. What to do, what to do...
There will be more, but pre-holiday madness is upon us (again). Since there's no opt-out option available for this year either, there are errands to run and plenty of stuff to do. I promise a real follow-up soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This Dog Climbed Mount Washington

That's Badger Blue in the photo, on the trail leading through the Alpine Garden on Mount Washington.

This adventure took place on Labor Day, when other folks are holding backyard barbecues, hitting the sales at all the stores, or leaning on their car horns while stuck in zillion-mile-long traffic on the southbound half of the Turnpike. (I would have voted for hitting the sales, myself. Our TV is showing signs of giving up, and I've been looking at bedroom furniture sets so I can get rid of that crappy old futon once and for all.) Greg had been talking about the two of us going for a hike -- and then we decided to take Badger along. Badge is Greg's hiking buddy on all of the short-haul hikes, so it only seemed right to enjoy the trek with him.

We had a great time. We drove up to the head of the Hutchinson Trail (I think) and hiked down from there into the Alpine Garden and across. This is what the Alpine Garden Trail looked like from up above...

...and from where we stopped in the Garden itself for a picnic and the view.

Badger was content to hang out...

The trip back was a little hairier than we'd intended, at least for a short distance. Climbing up is generally easier than coming down, which is why we began the climb from the top. We drifted a couple of yards to the left of the actual trail, though, and the "stairstep" rocks turned into a series of boulders and small moving rocks that Badger found hard to negotiate. I had to lead him over a few and lift him onto a few others, but conditions improved markedly for all of us when we realized our little mistake and moved back to the actual trail.

Badger was happy to see Greg's car again...

...and snoozed contentedly while we admired the views and took some more photos.

I often say that "the best kind of dog to have is a tired dog," but we were all pretty tired dogs by the time we reached home. Greg and Badge recovered quickly, but my out-of-shape quad muscles threatened to secede from the rest of my legs for the first couple of days that followed. Still, we managed to get to the mountain on one of the few perfect days we've had this summer. I guess I can always hit the sales later.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Got Lucky

Just can't get this song out of my head... I laughed like crazy when they used it in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but I've loved this song since it first came out.

Anyway, it makes a good soundtrack for all of the good news that we've had here of late.

Music News

Greg's Sax Quartet finally came out on the CD Quartet at the Crossroads by the New Hudson Sax Quartet. Here is the link to the MP3 version on Amazon, where Greg's tracks are numbers 6-9. Sadly, iTunes has misspelled the title to read "Corssroads," so no one will ever be able to find it using title search; you'll have to search on New Hudson Sax Quartet to get anywhere.

I've been blogging about this piece, and this recording, for so long that I don't know which piece to announce next. Halling has been re-orchestrated for solo cello, and will be released on CRS at some point.

Greg himself has been busy planning a few live improv concerts for the fall. There will be another performance on Meetinghouse Road, and possibly other venues as well.

Canterbury Tales

The lovely and talented Miss Dinah Moe is now... Am/Can CH Breaksea November Storm HIC CGC RL1 RN!

We almost didn't enter the rally trial where she earned the title. You see, we love doing APDT Rally so much that I focused onto entering the APDT trial the same day at All Dogs Gym. When I hesitated just a little too long and the entries filled, I decided to override my own dictum about not entering any more outdoor trials until we had trained and proofed outdoors some more. The Lakes Region Kennel Club was holding an AKC obedience/rally trial in NH with a slate of some of the nicest judges I've ever trialed under. I've stewarded for one and showed Seamus to two others. What the heck, right? Even if the Princess decided to make me Talk to the Paw, at least I'd be among friends.

Greg had always wanted to see the Canterbury Shaker Village, so he helped set up the EZ-Up and then dropped us off for the day. A few of our friends fro POC fund us and hung out under or near the EZ-Up, so we had our own little cheering section.

Since Dinah and I were entered in Novice B, we were able to watch our friend Barbara qualify with one Aussie boy in Advanced and the other in Novice B. Charlene, one of our classmates in Staci's rally class, ran in Novice A with her English Cocker and qualified. Finally, it was our turn.

We knew the judge from the BCCC Specialty in 2008, when I stewarded for him through a very long obedience/rally trial. Dinah even got to be the honor dog for that rally trial. He gave us a huge grin and said, "Let's see what that Beardie can do now." The course was a nice, clean, fairly simple design without any traps or surprises, and we managed to get through all of the stationary exercises without my being given The Paw. We were even tied for second place, but finished a few seconds after the other second-place finisher -- so we took third with a 94.

The temperature turned from Sunny and Quite Warm to Just Plain Stinkin' Hot for the afternoon as the sun moved across the sky and the shadows shrank to zero. I considered moving our base of operations to the tree line on the other side of the field, but there were too many cars parked in the little remaining shade. We huddled together under the EZ-Up and toughed it out, and Dinah snoozed on her waterbed.

Barb's Novice dog had finished his RN the day before, so both boys ran in Advanced. Charlene and Delta qualified again in Novice A, and then we took our turn in Novice B. The afternoon course, while not as simple as the morning course, contained a couple of turns in unexpected places. I worried about them while studying the map, but walking the course and talking to myself out loud usually helps engrave the movements into what little muscle memory I can acquire in ten minutes. This is where looking like a lunatic during the walk-through helps during the run -- we took third again with a score of 97 to finish Dinah's Rally Novice title.

Could it really have been that easy, after all the agony we went through for one stinkin' leg at Vacationland? Apparently it was, for Dinah. Unlike the trials at the cluster, Dinah was attentive and happy, paying attention, and moving nicely on lead. LRKC presented us with a lovely New Title medallion, which Dinah modeled all the way back to the EZ-Up. Greg picked us up eventually, and we sang Dinah's praises all the way home.

The next day, with the forecast threatening even more dire heat, we moved up to Advanced A. I was grateful to run a little bit earlier in the day, with my car right there for a getaway before the sun reached its zenith. Would Dinah tell me to Talk to the Paw in our off-lead debut? Would I end up singing opera again, as I did with Famous Seamus?

The girl managed to surprise me again! She did a good enough job -- a little sniffing here, some curious looks at the offset Figure 8 there -- but she managed to hold it together enough for us to qualify with an 83. The course was definitely an order of magnitude more challenging than the ones from the day before, and we ended up finishing in second place.

Now, we have one leg of Rally Advanced and fairly high hopes. The next trials we've entered (one APDT, one AKC) are both indoors. Maybe, with luck and a little more training, we could make a little more progress.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Music, Travels, and a Busy Summer Indeed

Compared to last summer, we've just had a frenzy of activity here on the old homestead! Here's a condensed version of the latest news:

Sound the Trumpets -- er, Saxes!

Remember Greg's Sax Quartets CD, the recording that just never seemed to have any luck getting released? I'll link to the previous stories about this later, but this was the CD that just had everything going against it: one of the composers was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the recording engineer first got sick and then was killed in a traffic accident, the label was sold to another company when the original label's owner retired... and on and on. For a while there, it looked as though this one would never get released. That would have been a sad thing, since one of Lukas Foss's last compositions (as far as I know) is one of the quartets on the recording. The New Hudsons (New Hudson Sax Quartet, that is) even set up at his home to do that recording session.

Quartet at the Crossroads will finally be released on August 31, after 4+ years in the making! Amazon has announced its availability for pre-order, and you can hear samples on the page devoted to the MP3 downloads. Greg's quartet spans Tracks 6-9.

Parma (the new record company) wastes no time, much to their credit. The tracks will probably show up on iTunes shortly.

Road Trips

The Man and I haven't taken a real road trip in years. He does get two weeks' vacation time from his job, but he rarely takes it. My primary traveling companion for all of my excursions is Dinah Moe, since almost all of my road trips involve dog shows or trials. I'll post the tale of our latest road trip to Canada to my Dog Show Newbie blog.

Because we attended so few dog events last year (largely due to our standard of living on unemployment), I've tried to make up for the lack of activity by getting out this year as often as I can. We're hoping for more good news in AKC Rally at the Lakes Region KC trials at the end of the month. In September, we'll do one day of Finish Forward's APDT trial, since we're doing CGC testing at Meet the Breeds on the other day of that weekend.

(Attention Locals: Meet the Breeds will take place on Sunday, September 19, at Tractor Supply in Scarborough. Come visit the lovely and talented Dinah Moe, Distraction Dog Extraordinaire, and members of a number of local all-breed, obedience, and rescue clubs from around our part of Maine.)

One road trip I will not be taking is the one to the National Specialty this year. I must apologize to the host club, but I'm just tired and I need a year off. My local club will be hosting the National next year, and I'll be wacky busy getting ready for that. I'm really of more use to the club by staying home and close to my broadband connection.

Yarns About Yarn and Other Adventures

As far as knitting goes, there's not that much to report. My lovely Crock-O-Dye socks (in color Grape, of course) are still in the cuff stage. Until very recently, it's just been so sticky out that the thought of holding wool in my hands just makes me sweat. I still haven't even tried on the Kureyon socks I finished ages ago. When the weather gets cooler, I'll be making up for the lack of knitting activity.

Not that there are many other adventures to report either. Pop on over to Shaggy Dog Stories to see what we've been up to there. Dinah has become an artists' model, and she doesn't even have to pose for long periods of time!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Epilogue and More Summer Plans

Dinah's certificates arrived from APDT this afternoon. I'll forgive the APDT office for giving Greg top billing on her certificate in spite of the fact that I'm the one who does the training, takes the classes, makes the entries, speed-dials the groomer, pays for the vet, and so on. He deserves a little bit of doggie limelight for driving the doggie taxi all over hell when I can't.

Anyway, we received quite a nice surprise in the envelope! We were expecting the RL1 certificate all right, but it turns out that Dinah also earned a Level 1 Award of Excellence (AOE-L1)! I had to go look this up. Apparently it's awarded when your first three scores in the A class are all above 190. Woohoo!

It will be several months yet before the trialing year is through and the national rankings are compiled, but this makes me happy. Our first Q in Level 2 will never make the world record for Highest Score Ever Recorded, but hey -- we did pretty well, considering we hadn't really even practiced Level 2 before going out there. Any double Q is a good double Q, but the very best ones are the ones that count toward the ARCH.

We're entered in the Lakes Region KC's AKC rally trials at the end of August. I swore we would never attempt another outdoor rally trial until we'd done enough proofing, but we just adore the judges and wanted the opportunity to trial under them. If we can do a not-too-shabby job on a rally course at an outdoor demo with some hundreds of people in the audience and some dozens of fellow POC members with better-trained dogs watching our performance, then we stand at least a chance to look good for judges we really like.

Of course, going to the LRKC trials means we had to give up on APDT rally at All Dogs Gym that same weekend. The choice was actually made for us when the trial filled up; I was still trying to decide what to do when the announcement came out that the waiting list was filling up. Ah, well. We snooze, we lose. Maybe in the other venue, we won't do either of those.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rally-Roo and Other Stuff Too

Since we in the Freakin' Northland have to hibernate during the winter due to a dearth of events and crappy traveling weather, each weekend in the summer is always stacked twelve deep with events, activities, and other stuff. Of course, we want to take part in all of it. It's often hard to choose just one thing to do on a given day or weekend. Maybe it's just me, but it seems that this summer we've had more to choose from than ever, and every one a difficult choice.

The lovely and talented Dinah Moe earned her first leg in AKC Rally Novice, her APDT Level 1 (RL1) Rally title, and her first double Q (qualifying in Rally Levels 2 and 1 in the same trial)...

Photo by Jerry Bergen.

Charlie and Dinah attended the Fifth Annual BCCME Beardie Bounce and BBQ. For once, the weather was sunny (if baking hot) and Dinah didn't come into season...

Charlie on the half shell
Seamus and Charlie got their summer haircuts...

"Looking Good, my man!" (actually took this last fall)
...and Badger was immortalized by a talented painter friend of mine.

"Waiting" by Jeanne McNally, Copyright Shamrock Artworks.
Dinah Moe finally finished her Canadian CH, which you can read about on my Dog Show Newbie blog if you're interested...

That's Penny Cary handling The Lovely One. Photo by Walt Norris Photography.
...and we've signed up for even more events for the remainder of the summer. I'm hoping to enter a few more AKC and APDT Rally trials, and we're entered in the BCCC National Specialty next week. Wish us luck!

Greg, Dinah, and I attended the annual POC Demo at York Days...

Look, Mom! We're almost there! Photo by Greg Hall.
...and we're looking forward to getting back to Rally classes with Staci in the fall. Until then, I'm hoping we get even one summer day when we can laze around!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Public Service Announcement: Herding Clinic

Badger loves working the sheep! Won't you join him?

SEPTEMBER 11&12, 2010 

Two Shadows Farm
16 Skivira Lane
New Braintree, MA
Site of the 2011 BCCA National Specialty Herding Trials 

Do you have a Beardie and think you might be interested in herding? Join us at Two Shadows Farm in central Mass for two days of exposure to working sheep

Our instructor is Sandy Weiss of Sellersville, PA. Sandy has been training Beardies to herd successfully for many years. Her Winston was the first Beardie to earn an AKC Advanced title. Sandy’s Chip was the first Beardie to complete an AKC Herding Championship and the BCCA Masters In Versatility. Sandy has also completed an HC on Chip’s son, Bond, and recently earned an Advanced sheep title and a Started cattle title on her English import, Marty. 

Saturday you will be introduced to herding vocabulary, learn first hand what your Beardie faces working livestock through handler exercises, and see demonstrations by herding titled dogs. Sandy will help new handlers show their Beardies the ABCs of beginning herding. All dogs will be worked at least twice. Sandy will also help more experienced teams with problem areas. Sunday your Beardie will have a chance to earn an HIC in a BCCA (and possibly AKC) sanctioned instinct test.

The cost for a working slot on Saturday will be $110; auditors (no dog; but will be allowed to participate in handler exercises), $45. Continental breakfast and lunch are included in the fee. There will be an additional fee of $40.00 for the Sunday instinct test. There are a number of pet-friendly hotels in Sturbridge, MA for those wishing to stay overnight.

For further information, contact:Joanne Williamson

Friday, July 02, 2010

Harmonious Dissonance, Time, and Other Concepts

Happy Fourth of July weekend, Happy Canada Day, and Happy everything else that has to do with sunshine, the beach, and grilling stuff. Charlie and Seamus are doing the Happy Dance...

We've had some reasons to celebrate lately. Greg's name is up in lights again, so to speak. Remember my post about "The Ugly Quintet"? Well, 5 Variations on Ongiara finally was released in two tracks on the recording "Harmonious Dissonance" on the Navona label. It's available on iTunes, Amazon, and Naxos Direct as a CD or as the individual MP3 tracks. The cover art is pretty nice, too:

Now we're just waiting for the Sax Quartets to be released, probably also on Navona.

As for me, I'm just so happy to have a week off (albeit unpaid) that I'd be cheerful even if the weather weren't gorgeous, and if I hadn't just celebrated the end of my 3 years on the Board of the national club. I did enjoy being Corresponding Secretary -- at least most of the time. I'm just happy to have shed one more volunteer job. I expect to be working half-time for a while at my next assignment, and if I need to find additional work to add to the household bottom line, I won't have space in the budget for more unpaid work. I'm also delighted beyond description to be shipping off piles of boxes containing club newsletters, rosters, brochures, forms, and so on -- and gaining back half the square footage of my office in the process.

Living with the Gang of Four has redefined luxury for me. Back in the days with a houseful of old dogs, I sometimes got to sleep in until nearly noon on weekends. Nowadays, with roosters for neighbors and the Chowhounds of the Baskervilles whining for breakfast by sunrise, it's a good day when I can sleep until 8:30. Today the height of decadence was achieved when I slept till (gasp!) 9 AM.

Sunday is the twins' birthday, which means that we run errands such as beer-buying tomorrow, and then the Long Friggin' Pilgrimage down and back on Sunday -- but I don't have to work on Monday or Tuesday. Every weekend -- long or short -- starts with the best of intentions and a to-do list long enough to reach halfway across the Atlantic. We'll see how many of those list items manage to get done -- but it's just plain nice to have time.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

New Socks!

kureyon-socks, originally uploaded by my3seadogs.

These days, I knit socks in dribs and drabs -- a couple of rounds here, a few stitches there. This latest pair has taken me months to finish using this method, but they're just so pretty! The yarn is Noro Kureyon Sock, and the pattern is the old faithful Yankee Knitter "Classic Socks" pattern. It's way too warm to even try these suckers on, but I'm really looking forward to wearing them when things cool off.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yarn and Music

I used to love having quiet Sunday mornings all to myself. I'd make a big pot of fresh coffee, and then slowly drink it while writing stuff and wearing my jammies. Not that those Sundays are gone, but they've become rare things these days. It's a rare and lovely treat these days to have a stretch of time in which I can just write.

First, the Yarn

Come to think of it, I haven't had much time in which to just knit, either. I was taking these photos for Fran's website and thought I'd share them...

Isn't it pretty? This is K1C2 Crock-o-Dye sock yarn, wool/nylon with a little silk. The colors are lovely, and the yarn has the right combination of softness and springiness that make knitting with it a pleasure. It's just a smidge softer than Happy Feet, which is in the running to become my favorite sock yarn to knit. You can buy the yarn from Fran if you'd like. (Disclaimer: I don't get a commission, but I do get paid to put up the PayPal buttons and stuff on her site. You might say that I have an economic interest, though.)

I do have another pair of socks in the works -- one sock done, one just needing a toe. These are the ones made from Kureyon Sock Yarn. The yarn comes off the skein feeling like a Brillo pad, but I've had the chance to touch a sock that was washed after knitting with the stuff -- and it feels like real wool. The yarn is lovely (as is anything with the name Noro on the label), and I'll share photos once that last toe has been added.

I knit in dribs and drabs these days -- half an hour here, 15 minutes there. The fact that these socks have taken shape at all is pretty much a testament to what you can do if you have a spare minute. The fact that they've taken me months to knit says a great deal about how many spare minutes these things take.

Next, the Music

After months or years of waiting, Greg's tracks are finally beginning to appear on Amazon and iTunes. His "Water" Suite appears on Volume 15 of Masterworks of the New Era... on Amazon, these are Tracks 9 and 10.

The latest track to appear is on the disc Harmonious Dissonance, which will be released on June 29. Track 5, "Variations on 'Ongiara'," is a string piece using the themes from Greg's "Niagara" orchestral piece (now referred to as "Ongiara"), performed by the ensemble Vit Muzik. As soon as it has been released, you should be able to hear a preview on Amazon. At the moment, you can see the CD cover and pre-order it as a disc or an MP3 album only. You can hear a 30-second preview here.

The tracks are also available on iTunes, but I'm unable to dig up the URLs for you. You can always search on the disc titles and see what comes up.

The String Quintet, the one that began life as The Ugly Horn Quintet and emerged as a beautiful piece for strings, will appear on Navona Records shortly, too -- only I don't know what exact date corresponds to "shortly" yet. The Sax Quartets CD will also be issued this year -- we hope. 4 years in the making -- or maybe 5!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google Voice: Lost in Translation

In Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, the residents of San Lorenzo build their entire lives and civilization around misheard words and concepts -- but in doing so, they manage to build a pretty decent lifestyle out of ideas they know to be glorious lies. One example of misheard words is their version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," which goes something like this: "Tsvent-kiul, tsvent-kiul let-pool store..."

You can experience some of the same exotic style of translation with Google Voice. Its voice-recognition software transcribes telephone voicemail into email and sends you an email or text if you receive a call and the caller leaves a message.

Oh, I waited eagerly for a few months for my Google Voice invite. Google Voice promised to do some of the things that I was used to being able to do with the Accessline software we used to have on our phones at Sun. You could accept calls at your assigned phone number, and then set up rules to route calls to your office, home office, fax machine, or cell numbers -- or, after hours, direct to voicemail. You could set up temporary rules, permanent rules, and different rules for days and times. How great was that?!

Google Voice also offered some mighty nifty features beyond call routing. You could listen to a caller leaving a message before answering. Messages could be transcribed to email, and you could listen to the associated sound files via the Web.

Oh, and the best part: You're more or less allowed to pick your own phone number from the available area codes and number/letter combinations. One lucky friend of mine in NH was able to pick a Bay Area area code and a phone number that was his nickname. I wasn't quite so lucky in my choices -- I chose the Maine area code that all my other phones use, but spent at least an hour trying to find any combination at all that wasn't already in use under one of the two available exchanges. I did finally go with a number, but mostly out of exhaustion. SHIT and CRAP were still available. Oh, and if you choose SHIT and decide that you'd rather have CRAP, you may change once for $10.

With the difficult part done, I set about programming my home and cell phones to ring at prescribed hours, and to set "Do Not Disturb" after 11 PM. That part went easily enough. I then waited for my life to become more orderly -- at least as far as phone calls were concerned.

Things thus far haven't worked out quite as planned, though. People calling my cell phone number -- not my Google number -- got routed into the voicemail system without my being alerted that they were calling. Even if I had thought to screen my calls, I never had the chance.

The only notification I did get came from the email transcript -- which did arrive promptly after I never heard the phone ring. The first message came from the admin at a company for which I hope to do a little freelancing. Having reached my voicemail greeting, she began, "Hi Karen, this is Tiffany." The transcript, by contrast, read "Hi Janet Company." It's a good thing that Google Voice can at least capture phone numbers accurately. If I hadn't recognized the phone number in the message, I might have mistaken it for one of those horrendous spam emails with long lines of nonsense leading up to a link to buy "herbal Viagra."

Sometime during my apologetic call back to Tiffany, Greg beeped in. I ignored his call, so it went to voicemail -- Google Voicemail. This would have been great, if he had been calling my Google number, but he wasn't. He called my AT&T number.

The email transcript arrived. "Hi Lee, Almost all those things. Bang foot I want to repair with you R N. Bye." I will admit that sometimes it's like Final Frickin' Jeopardy trying to untangle all of the vintage TV references, nicknames, and private jokes to get the real meaning of some of his messages, but this one reached a whole new level of obscurity. There wasn't even a link to herbal Viagra. I called Greg at home and read him the message. He replied that he actually had asked me a couple of questions that would help him fill out a form for something, and that his foot was just fine, thankyouverymuch.

Okay, maybe I expect a great deal more than I should get for the shiny and fabulous price of Free -- but it's evident that Google Voice isn't quite ready for prime time yet. The product has a HUGE amount of promise, but don't count on it to handle anything critical, or to not handle things you don't want it to handle.

For starters, Google Voice should only handle calls made to the Google number, and leave all other calls alone. If a call comes directly to my cell number, I would prefer that 1. the phone should ring, and 2. messages should go to the voicemail I specify, or to my cell phone's voicemail.

The call screening feature either doesn't work at all, or it works too well. If no one can reach you because your phone doesn't ring, then you need not worry too much about answering, let alone listening to someone leaving a message.

And ah, the messages. While vastly entertaining to read back to the original callers, they can't be used to deliver anything of actual import. I've removed my cell phone for the time being. If a phone call should come in announcing that I've just won the Nobel Prize, I'd rather not have to try prying some meaning out of "Hi Janet Company. Boo bottle flies."

-- Post From My iSomething

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Bring Your Child to Work Day (Please)

Back in the ancient and halcyon days of the '90s, Take Your Daughter to Work Day was invented as a way of exposing young girls to various professions out in the working world, rather than just the traditional female-dominated professions such as nursing and teaching. In 2003, the idea was expanded to include all children, on the useful and logical premise that all children should see what options there are out there, and because all kids basically need parenting time.

When Take Your Child to Work Day comes around each year, many companies organize activities with balloons and games and such. After those activities conclude, the kids are released back into the custody of their parents. While anything that keeps kids busy, happy, and engaged is arguably a Good Thing, I can't help but wonder...

Is your job interesting enough that your child will actually learn something from the experience? If so, then why are so many kids allowed to run screaming around office buildings, grabbing objects in cubes whose occupants are elsewhere, and getting jelly fingerprints over practcially every surface? Is it even possible to keep an eye on your work and on your kids at the same time? Is it possible to bring your child to work without disrupting the labors of those in the nearby offices?

Tomorrow is Take Your Child to Work Day here, and I will be working from home. As a writer, my work is mostly solitary when I'm not in meetings, and I need a certain amount of quiet in order to think. This process does not include having to watch out for other people's unwatched kids, keep their sticky hands off delicate electronics that don't belong to them, or invest in a set of noise-canceling headphones just so I can navigate from the beginning of a sentence to the end with minimal interruption. I'm happy enough to skip the commute tomorrow, but resent the fact that I must be the one to leave in order to complete the work I'm supposed to be doing at work.

Please, unless you're sure that your child will find double-entry bookkeeping or program management absolutely riveting, declare a Stay at Home With Your Child day and teach your kid something instead.

-- Post From My iSomething

Thursday, February 11, 2010