Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wishing you a joyous Christmas day!

And yes, it is a white Christmas for us here today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I haven't forgotten about you!!

The onslaught of the holidays (and a tenacious and nasty chest cold) have kept me from blogging in recent days. But I have stuff to share and to say - I just need to plow through my last few working days of the year and get to some quiet time to get it up on this blog.

Busy though I may be, it's all great stuff that is keeping my keyboard humming. Wrapping up my first nine months in our Research division at work has been an exercise in joyous exhaustion. I've been part of so many great projects - and continue to be rolling into the new year - that are actually providing tangible results and changes in perceptions and policies in society and the world.

When people ask "what does IBM do these days?" - it's sometimes hard to answer.

Well - we no longer make personal computers, but we do still provide the servers and software and the infrastructure and services that connect them and make them work smarter.

But more importantly - we're changing the world. We're solving problems and creating new insights into how complex systems work.

Check out this series of videos that are available on YouTube. I think you'll be impressed with what Big Blue is doing these days. I know I am.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An evening out...

Thanks to a recent pledge of support to our local National Public Radio station WAMC in Albany, B and I secured a pair of tickets to see the fabulous married duo of guitarist John Pizzarelli and Broadway star Jessica Molaskey at the Linda Norris Auditorium in Albany.

John and Jessica are. of course, the hosts of Radio Deluxe - a radio show dedicated to highlighting performances - new and old - of great American standards.

I love Radio Deluxe because it hearkens back to the days of radio when your imagination, as well as your ears, made the experience.

John and Jessica profess to be coming to you live from their apartment "above Lexington Avenue." when they are actually in a studio - possibly in Rockefeller Center or somewhere similar.

We headed out early because of a forecast for snow flurries and ended up getting into Albany about three hours before the performance.

What a rude awakening. I know that there must be nice parts of Albany - it's our state capital for Christ's sake - but Central Avenue, home to WAMC and "The Linda" (not to mention the cheesy Logan's Run set - also known as Empire Plaza) is a total butthole of a place on a Sunday afternoon.

So, we opted to drive over to the lovely town (and I am being generous here) of Colonie. Aside from having a stupid name, Colonie appears to consist of a mall and a freeway interchange.

And a very bad mall, at that.

Most malls have at least one GOOD anchor store. The mall at Colonie's BEST anchor store appeared to be JC Penneys. I shit you not.

They did have a P.F. Changs, which I'm sure gives the people of Colonie a total colon-blow, thinking they are ALL THAT by having a P.F. Changs.

"Hello, Colonie - this is Reason calling. P. F. Changs is the overpriced Denny's of Chinese food for white people who don't know any better. Thanks - bye!"

Thank GOD there was a Barnes and Noble store so we could at least peruse real literature and have Starbucks as we killed time making fun of the neolithic creatures prowling around the Colonie mall.

I swear - in addition to the largest collection of Jackie Stallone fashion I have ever seen gathered in one place, I saw no less than twelve mullets, five pairs of parachute pants and at least twenty glitter sweatshirts with shoulder pads.

It was like 21 Jump Street died of distemper here. Violently.

Anyway, fortified by our vente lattes and overpriced glutenous desserts, we trekked back up to Central Avenue and The Linda.

Fortunately, the performance space - and we'll come back to this concept, shortly - had its own parking lot that actually gave the appearance of being secure (and advertised on their website thus) because it had spiky wrought iron fencing around it.

This - despite the fact that a near-sighted spastic could drive a semi with dual trailers through the gates that were LEFT OPEN on three sides of the lot- was much more secure than, say, oh - parking on the street in front of the crack den across the street.

So, we parked and locked the car - after stuffing all the really good CDs and the insurance card into B's jacket pockets - and entered "The Linda."

Okay - gold stars for re-use and environmentalism and stuff. The Linda Norris Auditorium is a circa 1920s bank building with the traditional two-story atrium style that was so popular in that time period.

WAMC was able to buy it, apparently, when the neighborhood turned to liquid effluvia and renovated it - a bit, we'll come back to that - into a performance space.

The first thing you notice walking in is that renovations have been kept to an extremely bare minimum. The ticket folks are seated at a Costco folding table and chairs - with adjacent vending machines for your snacking and carbonated beverage pleasure.

The two-story windows are covered in circa-1980 hunter green draperies that were last dusted around the time Bette Midler and Danny DeVito were filming "Ruthless People."

Okay - the drapes were N-A-S-T-Y. They were dusty and moth-eaten and sun-faded - and spots of the fabric were obviously failing.

In fact, behind the high-school plywood stage, the old bank vault entrance was covered by a VINTAGE photograph of the old bank - WITH THE SAME CURTAINS!

An asthmatic would have succumbed on the spot.

Now. Let's talk about the seating.

Have you ever been to a school-sponsored event - probably held in a gymnasium - where the "fancy chairs" are pulled out?

And I mean "fancy" in that they have attempted to have some kind of cushion attached to the seat and have not been switch-bladed or vomited-on into oblivion...

The "seating" - and I do not use those quotation marks lightly - were of the church-bazaar, middle school library, strip-mall storefront revival church variety that feature INTERLOCKING legs to ensure conformity and son a godda%#^ed bull@$# &T*U)^$%I@!#^&$%&*

(gasp) - I apologize.

I will admit that my hopes were diminished by my immediate surroundings.

However, once the performance started - it was magical.

John and Jessica were charming and wonderful and funny and everything you'd expect them to be.

The highlights of the evening for me were their duets, although they are incredibly talented, each in their own right.

But together - oh - together - you get a hint of why their marriage - and their career - works. They are synchronized - they are perfect together - they complement each other - and it's a beautiful thing to behold.

Their ten year-old daughter was with them and joined the show. And she was absolutely the most delightful and well-adjusted little girl - and even evoked questions from the audience during the Q&A session at the end.

If you ever want a taste of the wonder and magic that is John and Jessica - each a star in their own right - download the With Plenty Of Money And You/ We're In The Money track from Jessica's "Pentimento" album.

Trust me - you'll love spending this 99 cents.

After all the earlier disappointment, this show was stellar.

We left, happy and satisfied - and we found that no one had burnt or broken into our car - nor was a refugee family now living it - and we started towards home.

We bid Albany a fair "Adieu" and merged onto the traffic of the Northway.

Happy. Sated. And totally digging the experience.