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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Exploring Boston: Ellis and Delfeayo Marsalis at Sculler's Jazz Club

Boston is home to a number of good jazz venues, but two usually bubble to the top of the list: Wally's, and Scullers.

Wally's is the "oldest continuously-operating jazz club in the US;" a kind of hole-in-the-wall place that features professional acts and jam sessions with pros and aspiring musicians from the local colleges and universities, including nearby Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Scullers is a more conventional night spot, with major "name" acts rotating through. It shows up on many "best of" lists: best jazz club, best dinner-and-a-show-venue, etc.The location --- a generic Hilton Doubletree --- is pretty mainstream and standardized, but the music is usually terrific.

(It's called "Scullers" because it's on the Charles River, where rowing teams from BU, Harvard, and other area colleges, practice and compete.)

Last week, I went to Scullers to hear the youngest and oldest musical members of the phenomenally talented Marsalis family play together.

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They're on tour in support of their new album, "The Last Southern Gentlemen." It was an excellent show.

Delfeayo Marsalis plays a very mellow trombone. He's the brother of Wynton Marsalis (trumpeter), Branford Marsalis (saxophonist), and Jason Marsalis (drummer). At Scullers, he played with his grandfather, pianist and music professor Ellis Marsalis, Jr.

The quartet was rounded out by Winard Harper on drums, and Dezron Douglas on stand-up bass.

The club was dark, and I only had a cell phone camera with me; I also didn't use the flash, so as not to disturb the mood or the performers. But you'll get the idea:

We had great seats.

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Delfeayeo was excellent.
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Dezron Douglas:
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The piano was off to the side, which limited the view of Ellis Marsalis; but the sound was unaffected.
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Winard Harper was outstanding:
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The family dynamic was interesting. At one point, a song began with a piano intro by Ellis, leading up to what was supposed to be a trombone lead by Delfeayo --- but the song grabbed Ellis, who wouldn't relinquish the lead. Delfeayo was visibly surprised, but then it became apparent that Ellis' muse had taken over; he was captured by something in the music, and wanted to see where his improvisation was taking him.

Delfeayo good-naturedly left the stage so his grandfather could have the moment, and the spotlight. Ellis played beautifully.
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Scullers offers a dinner-and-a-show package, which I tried; the meal, alas, rated only a "meh." I won't bother eating there again.

But the music was very, very good.

Wally's Jazz cafe is on my must-do list for this fall. It will be fun to compare.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ann Coulter takes the ice bucket challenge!

(props:  @SherrieGG, @KagroX)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Boston tornado update:

It was an EF2, and a bit further away from me than was originally reported.


Tornado in Revere, Mass.

A strong thunderstorm rolled through the area this morning, spawning a small tornado that touched down about 1/4 mile (.4km) from my apartment.

On 7/28/2014 12:04 PM, BostonGlobe.com wrote:

 The city of Revere was hit by a tornado this morning, the National Weather Service said. The city appears to have taken the biggest hit from severe thunderstorms that dumped torrential rains and whipped up strong winds as they rumbled through the Boston area.
To read more, visit: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/07/28/severe-thunderstorm-warning-issued-boston-area/niu44DD0yg1PiTCbOsVyXL/story.html
Example pix (from Boston.com):

Hats (c. 1930, NY garment district)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Embracing "the mark of the tool" in photo-editing

Interesting article on image manipulation (with some gorgeous graphics) on what happens "... When instead of advancing towards the senses, the image recedes beneath the mark of the tool.....”


That's actually Van Gogh's Irises, reworked. 

Article and images: "Why Are We So Obsessed With Editing Photos Beyond Reality?" http://bit.ly/1yDeNRu

Props @kineticamuseum, @CreatorsProject

Friday, July 18, 2014

Big fish, little fish... (Part One)

First, the little fish: The herring count* officially closed.

The final talley: 31,063 herring observed at the ladder.

That extrapolates out to a herring run of around a rough quarter-million or so:

While this appears to be a modest uptick in the run year-to-year, the error bars are large.

With only three years of counting, it's actually possible there's been no change at all, or even a slight decline:

They need more data points before they can firm up the information, but at least the early trend appears to be good.

Thus endeth the thread on the little fish.


*Herring count info/previous posts:





Big Fish, Little Fish... (Part 2); whale watching on Stellwagen Banks

I was on a very successful whale-watching cruise last weekend.

And yes, I know whales aren't "Big Fish" in any literal sense.

But the "big" certainly pertains. Here's one of my shots from the cruise: Compare the size of the tail to the size of the boat. Whales are huge animals.

The trip left Gloucester and headed out to the Stellwagen Banks National Marine Sanctuary (http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/). It's an area at the border of Massachusetts Bay and the the Gulf of Maine; a giant pile of submerged glacial sand that was abraded off upland New England and deposited offshore during the last Ice Age. A similar pile of sand, Cape Cod, is more familiar to humans because it's still (temporarily) above sea level. Stellwagen Banks was once also above sea level, but is now about 100 feet (30m) underwater.

Stellwagen is rich with sea life. Part of it is that the relatively shallow water allows sunlight to reach the top of the Banks. Part of it is that the Banks are a physical obstacle to ocean currents, which causes mixing of the colder, nutrient-rich waters from the north with the warmer waters of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays, and the tropical gyres spinning off the Gulf Stream.

To baleen whales --- like the two pods of humpbacks (that's humpback tail, above) and a minke we saw --- the summertime Stellwagen waters are a free buffet.

I recorded a GPS track of the trip. Here's the overall schematic, so you can orient yourself:

Here's a closeup of just the on-water part of the tip, with a seafloor overlay, so you can see the track in relation to the Banks.

That knot of looping gps tracks at the lower end of the Banks is where we found the whales; feeding off the southern Stellwagen boundaries.

Closer still:

Here's what it looked like above water:

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Here's why they're called humpbacks:
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The humpback is also notable for two very long, wing-like pectoral fins; and for its strong association with Stellwagen in particular and New England in general. In fact, the humpback's scientific name is Megaptera novaeangliae"big-winged New Englander."

The "big wings" --- the pectoral fins --- are largely white, which makes the whales easy to spot even when they're shallowly submerged, such as when they're deep-breathing near the surface in preparation for a typical 5-10 minute feeding dive. Note the white (greenish, after filtering through the water) area to the right:

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The whales put on quite a show:

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Here's a brief slideshow of the whole trip, starting in scenic Gloucester harbor and heading out to sea; with lots of whale shots.

Set the slideshow speed to "fast" for best effect:


Stellwagen Banks are on most "top 10" lists for whale watching. Commercial tours leave from Boston, Gloucester, Salem, Provincetown, and many other New England coastal towns and cities.