Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton and Molly Lews at the Moore

It was another excellent evening of the Geekery in Seattle tonight.  Jonathan Coulton came to the Moore again, and brought Paul and Storm and Molly Lewis with him.  I first saw them perform last year.

They did their classics (Opening Band, Nugget Man, Captain's Wife's Lament, It All Makes Sense in the End, Code Monkey, Ikea, Skull Crusher Mountain, RE: Your Brains, etc) but they also played other stuff.  It's great that even though last year's show was a hit, they didn't just recycle the set list.

One of my favorite moments was at the very beginning.  I made a stupid joke on Twitter about Think Geek and the T-Shirts everyone was wearing, and Paul and Storm read it and then mentioned it from the stage.  Yes, I am aware of how pathetic and sad it is that I'm taking such joy in their analog retweet, but it's still awesome to have that brush with fame.

Of course, the fans know most of the music and lyrics already.  Much of time the artist could just name that song and let the crowd sing the rest of it.  When the fans aren't singing they are talking back to the stage.  Paul and Storm work the crowd better than many groups, though at the times members of the crowd get a little too confident with the comments and catcalls.  A Paul and Storm live performance blows their CDs away.

The great thing about this show those is the audience. A passionate, positive geek crowd is like none other. It's over 1,000 people where Princess Bride, Gaming, Star Wars, video games, etc are all mainstream. It's one of those environments where I am not the geekiest person in the room, by a significant margin. But even if I was, that would not be something to feel any embarrassment over.

So get your geek on and check out these folks when they come to your town.  I've already got my tickets for w00tstock. If it's half as good the the October show was, it will be well worth it.



Book Review 51: The Traveler

In the eighteenth century the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham designed the Panopticon: a model prison where one observer could monitor hundreds of prisoners while remaining unseen. The Brethren used the Panopticon prison design as a theoretical basis for their ideas. They believed that it would be possible to control the entire world as soon as the Travelers were exterminated.

Page 92

Remember the Panopticon? The model works perfectly if all humanity lives inside the building. It doesn't work if one individual can open a door and stand outside the system.

Page 236

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks is a compelling book that I couldn't put down. I constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next. It succeeds based on powerful story telling, if not fantastic writing.

By that I mean the writing style is not the strongest. The author's style comes across as immature at times and too heavy handed with his message. At the same time, for every moment I rolled my eyes, thinking, "He did not just write that, did he?" there were 5 or more moments when I was excited to keep reading.

An impressive website also supports the book. Fans of The Traveler will who want to explore the world of the book and the issues it raises can spend time at th website and dive into the six different realms.

Characters in The Traveler fall into several groups -- Travelers, Harlequins, Pathfinders, Brethren (or Tabula), Citizens, and Drones, among others.

Travelers are people a that can let their spirit (or "Light") break free from their bodies and this world, and travel to other realms (based on Tibethian Buddhist mythology). All great prophets, or agents of change, have been Travelers. Their passion and alternate world views are inspired by their experiences in other realms.

Harlequins are an ancient order of warriors who are sworn to protect the Travelers and keep them safe from the Brethren. They are raised as fighters from the time they are small children. While they have tremendous discipline, they thrive in an atmosphere of chaos. In goal, philosophy, and tactics, they are the opposite of the Brethren.

At the bus stop, Maya was presented with more choices. She could walk to her hotel or wave down a cruising taxi. The legendary Japanese Harlequin, Sparrow, once wrote that true warriors should cultivate randomness." In a few words, he had suggested an entire philosophy. A Harlequin rejected mindless routines and comfortable habits. You lived a life of discipline, but you weren't afraid of disorder.

Page 10

"She accepts the possibility of death and it doesn't seem to frighten her. That's a big advantage for a warrior."

Page 202

When offered two options, Harlequins may often to a coin flip, or use a random number generator, to make the decisions for them.

Pathfinders teach Travelers how to travel.

The Brethren are "the man." They seek order and control of the populace above all else. They are the established order -- the vast machine we all live in. They aim to stamp out the unexpected.

It annoyed Boone that people still refused to recognize the truth. There was no need to worry about religion or philosophy; the truth was determined by whoever was in power.

Page 180

Citizens and Drones are the general populace.

"Drones are people who are so overwhelmed by the challenge of surviving that they're unaware of anything outside of their day-to-day lives."

''You mean poor people?"

"They can be poor or trapped in the Third World, but they're still capable of transforming themselves. Father used to say, 'Citizens ignore the truth. Drones are just too tired.' "

Page 9

The book is about the choices people make. Do they choose to go on auto-pilot and become mindless consumers of culture and products? Or do they choose to question the rules of civilization and make deliberate choices about what they want to do and to choose their own destinies?

Vicki sat in the front seat of the van and looked out at the parking lot while Maya searched for another Harlequin. Citizens came out of the warehouse store with extra-large shopping baskets piled high with food, clothing, and electronic equipment. The baskets were heavy with all these things, and the citizens had to lean forward to push them to their cars. Vicki remembered reading in high school about Sisyphus, the Greek king doomed forever to push a stone up a mountain.

Page 164

Hollis paused and stared at the students sitting in front of him. He seemed to be evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. "In New Babylon, many of the people you know think they're being deliberate when they're just on automatic. Like a bunch of robots, they drive their car down the freeway, go to work, get a paycheck in exchange for sweat and pain and humiliation, then drive back home to listen to fake laughter coming from the television set. They're already dead. Or dying. But they don't know it.

"Then there's another group of people—the party boys and girls. Smoke some weed. Drink some malt liquor. Try to hook up for a little quick sex. They think they're connecting with their instincts, their natural power, but you know what? They're on automatic, too.

"The warrior is different. The warrior uses the power of the brain to be deliberate and the power of the heart to be instinctive. Warriors are never automatic except when they're brushing their teeth."

Hoilis paused and spread his hands. "Try to think. Feel. Be real." He clapped his hands together "That's all for today."

page 167 - 168

This all happens against the back drop of our own modern culture, and the author uses the story as a cautionary tale about the increasing surveilance we are already under in real life. From data mining to credit card transactions to security cameras popping up all over the place, the world the author writes about really is our world.

Panopticon is the Brethren's approach to controlling the world. It's based on a prison design by Jeremy Bentham. The prison was designed in such a way that inmates could not see one another, the inmates could not see the guard, and that from one place, a single guard could watch hundreds of inmates.

It's a concept Matt Ruff also used in his book, "Bad Monkees."

Since the inmates could not see they guards, they could never be sure exactly when they were being watched. Essentially, the guards did not even have to be there the whole time, since the inmates would never know when the were unguarded. It was a model of efficiency.

The Brethren embrace panopticon to monitor the citizenry. They can use electronics, police, guards, airport security, and suspicious neighbors to monitor people. The all-seeing system gives them power.

Even in Las Vegas.

For most people Las Vegas was a happy destination, where you could drink too much and gamble and watch strange women take off their clothes. But this city of pleasure was a three-dimensional illusion. Surveillance cameras watched constantly, computers monitored the gambling, and a legion of security guards with American flags sewn on the sleeves of their uniforms made sure nothing truly unusual would ever occur. This was the goal of the Tabula: the appearance of freedom with the reality of control.

Page 356-357

The author himself lives of the grid. John Twelve Hawks is a name he adopted for himself, and he does his best to live in relative anonymity.

The "Realty of Control" the Brethren wants is really only possible with the consent, or, rather, lack of dissent from those being controlled. Like the prisoners in Benthem's design, once people reject the "appearance" of being guarded, and choose to look at things differently,then they can begin reclaiming their freedom.

"Everything got worse after that. There were hundreds of police officers at the Washington airport because of some kind of special alert. I got searched twice passing through security and then I saw a man have a heart attack in the waiting lounge. My plane was delayed six hours. I spent my time drinking and staring at a television in the airport bar. More death and destruction. Crime. Pollution. All the news stories were telling me to be frightened. All the commercials were telling me to buy things that I didn't need. The message was that people could only be passive victims or consumers.

Page 306

The story itself follows the path of two brothers -- potential Travelers as they choose their paths in this world. Maya, the Harlequin, is dispatched to LA to protect them, if they are, indeed, able to Travel to the different realms. She is there to protect them from the Brethren, which wants the potential Travelers for their own purposes.

Each side elicits allies and fights for its cause. We hear about the current battles, and we hear about the battles that played out over the decades.

At time the book is brutally violent.

Interestingly enough, the orderly, controlled group -- the Brethren -- is the most chaotically violent. They use all sorts of tools to fight viciously -- from private armies to gangsters to rape to genetically engineered animals, bred to eat defenseless or defeated victims alive.

The Harlequins -- the force of randomness -- fight with strict discipline. They aren't afraid to kill their enemies, but they are not killing them gleefully. It's about efficiently protecting themselves and their charges.

The aspects of life that the Harlequins and the Brethren are most afraid of, are embodied in their own fighting styles.

After all this, the book is really about choice. It's about people finally having the opportunity to make a deliberate decision about what they want to do with their lives. And when presented with question -- that fundamental decision that defines who they are as a person, what decisions do they make?

"Every new experience is unusual. The rest of life is just sleep and committee meetings. Now come along and shut the door behind you."

Page 34

"I've organized sweat lodge weekends for divorced men and women. After two days of sweating and pounding a drum, people decide they don't hate their ex-spouse anymore." Thomas smiled and gestured with his hands. "It's not a big thing, but it helps the world. All of us fight a battle every day, but we just don't know it. Love tries to defeat hatred. Bravery destroys fear.

Page 151

Vicki stood between her mother and the Harlequin. So much of her life had seemed hazy and vague until that moment, like an out-of-focus photograph in which blurry figures ran away from the camera. But now, right now, she had a real choice in her life. Walking is easy, said the Prophet. But it requires faith to find the right path.

Page 162

The Traveler is definitely one I suggest reading. It raises important questions that it might not be too late to answer. Besides the subtext, the story itself is fantastic. And, while the writing appears juvenile at time, the author's story telling skills make this an excellent read.

You can find more of my Book Reviews here.



I've lauded the GF's cooking several times on these pages.  Now, you can see a little more about how she does it.

Last weekend, to celebrate Chinese New Year, the GF launched her own blog about culinary fun from her little studio aparment.

"I cook. I eat. I bake. I look for new places to stash my mixer."

Please welcome her to the blog world, as she writes about cooking and dining. And, Foodnetwork, if you're looking for a columnist, I have a suggestion...


Fire (or at least smoke) at the St. Louis Airport

My recent adventures at the St. Louis airport (STL) on 2010-02-18 started in the amusing category and drifted towards the annoying category, with kinda scary off in the distance.  Those of you who followed my Twitter stream (@Cromely) may have already been annoyed by my telling of the story as it unfolded.

Travel anecdotes generally fall into one of five categories:
  • Amusing
  • Entertaining
  • Annoying
  • Anger inducing
  • Scary

I flew into STL from O'Hare and we were essentially on time (which is is almost newsworthy itself). We got off the plane and headed toward the exit. The crowd thickened and slowed Eventually we came to a stop in the hall outside Starbucks and the smell reached us.

Smoke. Looking over the heads of people toward the security checkpoint we could see the thickening haze. TSA and airport staff kept us in the C terminal. We could see the flashing lights of the fire alarm further up, even though we couldn't hear anything. And there were no announcements. Word trickled back to us that the fire department was there.

So we have visible smoke, smoke we can smell, fire department on scene, no PA system, and hundreds of people. The logical solution is to keep us all in the terminal instead of using the emergency exits onto the tarmac, right? Apparently STL and TSA staff thought so. Perhaps that was the right decision for them given the circumstances.

After several minutes they decided that maybe it would be a good idea to get the passengers out of the terminal. They routed us from the C Terminal, down a hall to the B security checkpoint to get out.

Of course, the hallway was smaller than the terminal and they were courteous enough to direct more of the smoke into that hall. It was thicker and smelled stronger. A few people began coughing more. Then, for whatever reason, we came to a stop in the hall way. I'm not sure if the authorities stopped the group from moving, or if it was just traffic as we merged with the crowds being evacuated from Terminal B, too.

Ultimately, I guess it turned out to be no big deal (except for all those delayed flights and rescreening of passengers). I didn't see anything about it in the news. I'm not sure when people were able to get their checked bags. I just carried on and went straight to the rental car shuttle.

But when I stepped outside the terminal building, and took several big gulps of air, I smiled. I never expected to enjoy the fresh air of St. Louis quite so much.

The map below shows the path we took to leave the terminal. We started on the right of this image and moved towards the left. The two "X"s mark the approximate place where I took the pictures of the crowd.


Sharing hotel room

The Hampton Inn in St. Charles, MO, decided I needed a room mate.  So they made me a swan.

I think I'll give him first dibs on my USA Today.


Olympics, Ice Skating, and Perfection

I've been watching Figure Skating these past couple of days and I am perplexed by the number of falls. Now, I have all the athletic ability of a one-legged, 22 year old, blind dog, so perhaps I'm not one to talk.  And I fully realize there is now way I could even think about accomplishing what these Olympians do.

But the falls and mistakes surprise me.  Here's why.

The routines they do in competition are the same ones they have done for weeks or months.  The exact same moves are supposed to happen every time.  They are supposed to happen at the exact point in the music at the same time.  There are no outside elements to interfere with that.

As such, these moves are things that can be practiced over and over for days or weeks on end.  All they need to do is duplicate that exact performance for the judges.

Easier said, than done, I know.  But should that be the case?  When this is your full-time job, or for many athletes, their full time life, is that expecting too much of them?

Part of being an Olympian is being prepared both physically and mentally for the realities of competition on the world stage.  Maybe we should cut the teenagers in their first appearance some slack. But for everyone else, why isn't near perfection in their routines something we should expect?

And yet there are still the slips and falls on routines that should be as reflexive as breathing.

Are competitors trying too hard?  Is the Olympics the time to try out new things they haven't mastered yet?  Or are these routines unmasterable?  In other words, are the Olympian cutting corners with practice, or have we finally reached the maximum the human body is capable of performing?

Unlike the events where players compete directly with someone, like Speed Skating, hockey, or Curling, there really should be nothing unexpected in a Figure Skating performance.  The Olympians know their equipment, they know their partners, they know about ice, they know how much space they have, they know the moves they are going to do, the know the scoring system. They don't have to watch for tackle or interceptions.

 So why do so many performers fall?

More specifically why do so many medalists medal in performances in which they fell?  These people are the best in the world.  It seems like executing their routines better is something we should expect.

I don't intend this as a slam of the Olympians.  The skill, talent, and dedication they demonstrate is utterly amazing. But the whole thing kind of hurts my head.


CSI: Seattle Center

The GF and I checked out the Seattle Center in December and stumbled on a grisly scene. The Christmas Village in the Center House was the scene of ... a murder!

One person killed and another injured and hauled away to the hospital in a wheel barrow.

The police began questioning their suspects, and, as they usually do, went right to the Iceman.

After getting into an extended argument about profiling, the police finally realized he hadn't done it, because another victim was killed while they were interviewing the Iceman.

It was the boy's father.
The boy's father didn't suffer much. Probably because his BAC was .24

The carnage continued, with the boy's aunt next on the list.  She was brought down in the street, outside of where she worked.

The police were stumped at first, until they go the initial reports from the Medical Examiner's office.  The reports described the wound.  With that information, police quickly identified the murder weapon.

After doing some electronic research, the discovered that the boy and his father had been targeted for some time.  Two weeks earlier, someone broke into their home, stole all their eggs, and left a threatening note on the refrigerator.  Police, finally taking the complaint seriously, went back to the break in to look for fingerprints.  The found the window had already been replaced.

Local business leaders called on the police to handle the matter as discreetly as possible so as not to chase away tourists.

While the police tried to figure out who had been harrassing the family, then turned to their next normal suspect -- the Artist.  He wasn't like everyone else; he always looked at things differently, and the police "knew" how weird and dangerous they could be.

Then they began to learn the whole story.  The Artist would never hurt the boy.  Afterall, he was the boy's father! Yes, he took the eggs, but he needed them for his new piece and show.  He suggested they check out the boy's mother.  Lately she hadn't been happy with the way things went several years ago.  She was having second thoughts about putting the boy up for adoption.  She told the Artist she knew the courts would never give him back to her because of her job.  The boy never knew who she was, or that the Artist was his father.  They kept the secret from the boy -- the secret that the Artist met the mother at her place of business -- the brothel!

When police got there, she was already gone.  They tried to stop the trains before she could leave town.

But they were too late. The train was already gone.

They radioed ahead to the next town, and the local Sherriff stopped and personally searched the train.  She was no where to be found.  How had she escaped?  While the police searched the ground, she took to the air, off to reign terror on another town.


Running for a flight

I don't know what was meaner to my body this week: all the fast food I ate, or The Run.

After a long week on the road, it was time to go home.  Tonight I had a flight booked from Milwaukee (MKE) to Minneapolis (MSP) on Delta, a 50 minute layover in MSP, and then a flight on Alaska from MSP to Seattle (SEA). Normally, this would not be a problem.  I was feeling pretty good when my upgrade to first class cleared on the Alaska flight.

But then the storm slammed the East Coast, and snow fell in Dallas and Atlanta, thoroughly trashing the air travel system across the country.  Flights backed up and booked up.  My MKE-MSP flight was delayed.  The inbound aircraft was late. Once we got on, my seat was all the way in the back.  Still, I figured I would have time to make my connection.

As we sat there, that dreaded announcement happened. Mechanical delay.  And what caused this new delay? 

An overhead bin that wouldn't latch.  Seriously. 

They called for a mechanic who came over with his special tool -- a roll of tape.  He taped it shut.  Then we sat at the gate longer so they could to more paperwork.  After all that, we left 39 minutes late.

Generally, delays don't bother me too much, but this was different.  First I didn't want to lose my upgrade. Second, with the mess the airtraffic system is in today, I thought if I missed my flight, I wouldn't get another one for a couple days.

We got in 16 minutes late, but I was still in back row.  By the time I got out of the plane, I had about 10 minutes to make it across the MSP airport to make my connection. This is when I made my bad decision.

I decided to run. 

Part of my brain did the math and concluded this was my best chance to make the flight.  So I took off.  Things seemed to go well at first.

After about 300 feet, I heard Majel Roddenberry's voice come from inside my lungs.

"Warning.  System overload in progress. Warp core breech imminent. Commence automatic shut down."

At about that samestime, myhigher level brain functions came on and responed to the stressed out math section that computed the run, with, "What?! We're running? We haven't in 15 years! Knock it off."  So I stopped running and tried to walk.

I thought the run would be easy. After all, I run the in Wii Fit all the time.  And I can run for 13 minutes with little trouble.  But here's the problem.

The Wii Fit is easier beause I don't have luggage on me.

Plus running on the Wii fit is really more like jogging.

Plus it's not like real jogging; it's more like jogging in place.

Plus it's not really like jogging -- it's A VIDEO GAME!

So my brain listened to Majel and I stopped running.  It traded that for a quick walk, while the gate started paging me. I made it .  Barely.  I was the last one on the plane and they shut the door behind me. I"m actually a little surprised they didn't try to bump me for medical reasons with loud breathing noises I made.  They took just a cursory look at my boarding pass, and I nodded in response to their questions because talking over my raspy wheezes was just not going to happen.

So now I'm back at Starbase waiting for repairs to the warp core, and working on my own vessell overhaul. And I'm ready for the next adventure.


Hampton Inn at the Milwaukee Airport

Tuesday night, I flew into Milwaukee (MKE) and after spending 2 hours waiting on the tarmac waiting for a gate (thanks, American Airlines) eventually made it through the airport, to my Toyota Corolla rental car, and on to my hotel for the night.

It was snowing.  It had snowed much of the day.  And it continued snowing through the night.  I managed to make it to my hotel (the Hampton Inn in Oak Creek, WI) without incident as my snowdriving skills kicked back in (6 years of living in MT will teach you something).  I pulled into the last parking spot, and dragged my luggage through 8" of snow to the check in desk.  It continued to snow throughout out the night.

The next morning I got out to my car and prepared to dig out in my dress shoes.  But when I got out there, the Hampton staff had already dug out my car, and those belonging to the other guests.  Not only that, they had wiped the snow off the car and scraped the ice off the windows.  They saw me walking over to my car, and met me over there so they could sweep and scrape the windows again.  The guy even offered to pull my car out of the spot for me so I didn't have to walk in the unshoveled snow next to the car.

I've stayed at a lot of hotels over the years, including some really pricey ones. Still, the customer service I've gotten from Hampton Inn is second to none.  I never expected this kind of service from a hotel, especially one where I don't pay for parking.  This unexpected effort on their part is the kind of thing that will keep my coming back.

It seems it's always the inexpensive hotels that provide the freebies and excellent service.  Over the summer I wrote about another great experience at a Hampton in Clemson, SC.

While $200 and $300 per night hotels will charge $20 or $30 for parking, plus $15 for a continental breakfast, a $50 package acceptance fee, and $9.95 per day for WiFi, the inexpensive Hampton includes all this in the room rate.  The rooms and toiletries may not be as fancy, and they may not offer room service, but the little things they do are outstanding.



Boeing's 787 has been getting all the attention in recent months.  It's a revolutionary new aircraft that I can't wait to fly in.  But it's not the only new one from Boeing.

Monday was the first flight for Boeing new 747-800 aircraft.  Most of the orders are for the cargo version, though a few carriers ordered the passenger version, too.  It is Boeing's largest aircraft every and builds on the historic success of the 747-400 and new technologies borrowed from the 787.

The Airbus A380 may hold more people, but it can't touch the 747-800 in style.  Despite all the problems Boeing has had with delays and unions, they still make the world's most beautiful aircraft.

You can read more about the flight, and see more pictures, at the Seattle PI.

For detailed information about the aircraft and test program, check out the Boeing site.


Billy Joel and Elton John Face 2 Face Concert in Seattle

Let me begin by saying I have been a huge Billy Joel fan for nearly 25 years.

I attended this show at Key Arena on Saturday night.  My ticket was just over $100 and my seat was in the upper reaches of the stadium.  This is the best picture I got of the performers when I zoomed in:

Was it worth it?  Nearly.  Now, let me alienate a chunk of my readership here with this next statement: It definitely have been worth it if Elton John wasn't on the bill, and it was all Billy Joel.

The show opens with a half hour of Billy Joel and Elton John playing their own pianos, facing one another.  They alternate songs -- an Elton song, followed by a Billy song.  They sing each song together. After that first half hour, Billy Joel goes away, and his piano sinks into the stage (which is pretty cool) and Elton plays songs for an hour.  Then, Elton goes away, and Billy comes out for an hour.  After that, Elton comes back and they do another 45 minutes together.

I like Elton's work.  He's a great musician.  But I don't own any Elton John albums.  All the Elton songs I own are on various compilations.  So, while Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Tiny Dancer, and others are all great songs, I'm not a big enough fan to go out an buy them.

In contrast, I have all the Billy Joel albums.  In many cases I have the same album on both cassette and CD.

The problem is that most people probably had a significant preference for one artist over the other, and this hurts both of them.

After a pretty intense opening sequence, the show slows down for Billy Joel fans as we wait for an hour through the Elton John concert to get back to the performer we really wanted to see.  For the Elton John fans, they experience a great start, then another hour of Elton, then the show kind of stops for them as Billy Joel comes back out to perform, and they are left waiting for the conclusion.

The problem is that regardless of whom you're a fan of, the momentum of the show is going to hit a wall at some point.

But what about those who are just casual fans of both artists?  With ticket prices of $89, $108, and $181.50, I don't think casual fans are attending.

I'm not sure if the momentum issue was the reason behind my other observation or if it has more to do with the nature of Seattle fans.

When Jon and I saw Billy Joel in Vegas in 2006, it was an amazing show.  The whole show quickly turned into a sing-a-long for 12,000 people. The fans loved what they were hearing and even sang along with the more obscure songs.

In Seattle it was different. Is that the Seattle concert fan?  I'm not sure.  But for most of the show, nearly everyone actually stayed in their seats.  There was no great mob singing along to the classic tunes.  People for the most part observed the concert.

Is was a diverse crowd age wise.  The 50+ set was well represented, as was the 25- set.  And the rest of us in between, so that may have had something to do with it.  But it was definitely weird.

That's one of the reasons why that Vegas show, or the show I saw him at with Scott and Adam in 1989, was a better show.  Those shows were much more fun.  We were all a part of something. We found it exciting and could not contain our enthusiasm.  That wasn't the case at the Seattle show.

To be fair, it wasn't a Billy Joel crowd.  It was an Elton John crowd. When Billy made his initial entrance everyone cheered.  When Elton made his, the crowd erupted.  Probably 2/3 of the crowd was there to see Elton.

But they still stayed in their seats during the whole show. 

Unless a critical mass of people were going to just assume they could sing and stand and go nuts, no one was going to do it.  And I'll admit to bowing to the social pressure to be more reserved than I would have cared to.  But it was clear that sort of behavior would not have been welcomed by the patrons sitting near me.

Perhaps if they had separated the Elton John fans from the Billy Joel fans, it would have been a more exuberant crowd, like at a High School basketball game. We all could have been surrounded by our "own people," and the enthusiasm could have built. I can't really expect the Elton John fans to know the words to Allentown, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, and We Didn't Start the Fire.

Momentum, format, and Seattle-ness all impacted crowd behavior.

So how was the rest of the show?

Elton did a nice job with his songs. He doesn't really engage the crowd, though.  Friends on Facebook have said it looks like Elton is phoning it in, and I can see it.  The only time he talked to the audience was when he screwed up his song order.  A couple times, he "conducted" the audience.  Had I known his songs better, I could offer more insight, but all I can really say is it was a very capable performance.

Billy put on an enthusiastic show.  I'm not sure why he even has a piano stool.  He just keeps bouncing off of it.  He talked to the audience between songs, acknowledged the crowd, and told jokes.  He also made a point of introducing each of his band members after they were featured in a song.  He really seems humbled by the fervor of his fans.

He even slipped a few bars of "When the Saints Go Marching In" into a few songs, presumably because of the Superbowl.  I don't think Elton did anything like that, though if he did slip in something that calls to mind Manchester United, I would have no idea.

Billy puts on a great show, and he really seems to love what he does. He runs around with energy and enthusiasm that are fantastic to see.  Elton seem more technically minded.  I suppose you could say Elton is the Spock to Billy's Kirk.

The sound quality in the Arena wasn't great.  The mids and highs seemed muddled.  The instruments would blend together (not necessarily in a good way) and they would drown out the singers.

I do like the idea of these two great pianists working together, but a more tightly integrated show might have worked better.  Or better still would be to do a more intimate show for maybe 100 people and make it more of a discussion of the music.  We could hear Elton and Billy talk about their songs and piano-playing experiences.

Of course, there is no way I'd ever be able to get tickets to such an event so it's a a moot point.

Still, despite my kvetching, Face 2 Face was a very good show, and I'm glad I went.


Laundry and space

It was time to wash the bedding in my apartment.  Now, I probably don't do that as often as polite society would dictate, but 1) I probably spend more time on Hilton's sheets than on my own, and 2) I am a guy.

But it was time.  So yesterday I stripped the bed, pulled the pillows from their cases, yanked off the mattress pad, and pulled the comforters from their duvets.  Since I have such a small washing machine, the only way to thoroughly wash the linens is to first soak them in OxyClean (RIP, Billy Mays).  And it's not like I have a laundry sink or soaking facility, so into the bath tub they went.

I went about my day, and eventually went to bed.

Today I woke up and went to shower, only to discover a bunch of damp sheets already in the tub.  I thought, "Huh.  That's inconvenient."

My next thought was, "Guess I should skip the shower."

That seemed like a bad precedent.  Besides, I didn't think it was right that I had to wait in line to use my own bathroom, behind my sheets.  They take forever to get ready for the day.

While I considered the DSM IV ramifications of personifying my sheets like that, I thought, "Why don't I just do the laundry?"  Which brought me right back to the issue of there being a good 4 loads of laundry in the tub, and only 1 barely able to fit into the washing machine.

Finally, I came to the only logical solution. The laundry has been in contact with me in the past.  Now it was going to be in soapy water.  So was I while I showered.  So I shrugged, kicked the laundry to one end of the tub and took my shower. 

And for some reason, The GF was appalled when I mentioned it.


787 Cabin in test plane

As part of a more intense than normal testing program, Boeing actually outfitted one of their test 787 with an actual passenger cabin. This post from the Seattle PI highlights some of the features that up to now were just bullet points on a PowerPoint slide.

The also shot a short video.

If you want to stay up to date on the latest developments in the test program, you can follow it on Boeing's web site here.


Shatner-Palooza: Weird Al on Raw Nerve

Shatner's recent interview of music and comedy legend Weird Al Yankovic on Shatner's Raw Nerve was fairly interesting, largely because of Al. The show didn't turn into the same trainwreck it often does.

Never forgetting that the interview is about him as much as the guest, Shatner got an early start talking about his show Rescue 911.  He talked about the letters they got from people telling how the show saved their lives. They estimate that 3,000 lives were saved by the existence of that show.  To drive the point home, Shatner told the story of a familly.

The mother was feeling sick, and so the father decided to take her to the hospital.  They left their young children home alone.  While waiting in the hospital for treatment, Rescue 911 was on (isn't that like watching an airplane disaster movie while on an airplane?).  They told the story of how some people were saved from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  The mother turned to the husband and said that the symptoms they just described were her symptoms.  Realizing their children were in danger, the rushed home in time to save the unconscious children from a Carbon Monoxide death.  Everyone was fine.

It was great story about how a Shatner TV show saved lives. The Carbon Monoxide death could have been terrible, but because of Shatner's show they had a happy ending.

Shatner told this story to ask Weird Al about his story.  This one:

Weird Al interview clip.

It's the story about how his parents died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning while Al was on tour.

Classy move, Shatner.