April 18, 2013

Well, I think it has become clear that this blog is no longer useful. In one of my most recent posts, I decided to keep it around for content that was too big for twitter of facebook. The problem is that most of the ideas I have that don't belong on twitter or facebook shouldn't be broadcast at all. So, there's really not enough content left to sustain this blog.

That said, I do have content about music worth sharing. It doesn't belong on the benandkaty.com domain, so I've started a new blog at tenorposaune.com. If that content interests you, and you're looking for something more than baby photos, find me over there!

By Ben at 9:49 am • 0 comments

December 10, 2012

We use a LaCie 2big NAS to store our backups, which are created automatically by Apple's Time Machine software. In a recent accident, my laptop was destroyed, and I am now setting up my new computer. As a fundamental part of that process, I am attempting to restore my backed up data from the LaCie drive.

Surprisingly, the new computer is simply unable to connect to the drive. I sent LaCie tech support a quick note asking what might be the problem and how I should resolve it. This is what I got back:

Hello Benjamin,

My name is Jon, and I’ll be answering your questions today.

This unit is not compatible with Time Machine on Mac OS X 10.7 and newer systems.

OSX 10.7 "Lion" issued a new version of AFP which is not compatible with devices that use older versions of AFP. Our older NAS devices all include the previous version of AFP. In order to update them to the newer version to comply with Lion, we would need to redistribute an entirely new OS but the devices were not designed at the time to be upgraded in that way. Thus our R&D department decided to focus on current models, which have all been upgraded to meet with Lion specifications. We realize this is a frustration from many of our customers who have not needed to update their NAS.

Fortunately you can still use an older NAS with Lion via SMB or FTP protocols, however Time Machine will not function because its locked into using AFP. There are other backup methods such as Intego or merely dragging and dropping which are still available.

Please let me know if you have any other questions regarding this. Thank you very much for your patience.

Regards, Jon

My response:

Allow me to express my extreme frustration. The first time I had a problem with the 2Big NAS, both hard drives were fine, and my data was intact. However, the board operating them had failed, and LaCie had absolutely no way for me to retrieve the data from the hard drives. That data was lost when I was sent a replacement unit with new drives.

Now, I would again like to get my intact data off of the LaCie disk, and you're telling me that LaCie can't update the software because the drive is too old, and that my data will again be lost? I have to point out that this device was new in 2010, and it is now 2012. Two years is not beyond the expected lifespan of a hard drive, and software upgrades are an expected part of the life cycle of any computerized product, from automobiles to RAID arrays. It is shameful that LaCie not only designed but shipped a product incapable of such basic functionality.

I also feel compelled to mention that people buy LaCie products to keep their data safe. It seems very clear to me that while the individual components may be fine, LaCie products in general are very definitely unreliable - each time I have needed to retrieve data from my NAS, it has failed to deliver. It becomes embarrassingly clear that there is no market value in LaCie products. I will not purchase another, and I am very confident that as others have experiences similar to mine, they will follow suit.

By Ben at 9:53 pm • 0 comments

November 12, 2012

The major work on my master's recital was Bach's second cello suite. That's about 20 minutes of unaccompanied playing with no breaks, nowhere to hide, and a lot of technical challenges. It's extremely difficult for cellists, and most of my colleagues and teachers say it's unperformable on trombone. It's a great thing to study, but it's just too hard to play in public. As expected, my master's recital wasn't outstanding - but, I got through it, and even that was a pretty major accomplishment in my mind. I took it as an acceptable checkpoint, but not a finished product. I've revisited the piece several times since then, including an in-class performance during my doctoral studies.

Each of the six movements presents a myriad of puzzles to solve, but I always found the first movement, the prelude, the hardest. Right in the middle of it, there are ten measures that just don't seem to go anywhere. For four bars, three competing sequences overlay each other and get in each other's way. Eventually the line succumbs to the internal conflict and dissolves into aimless arpeggiation. Another attempt at order is proposed, but it's all over the map and evaporates even more quickly than the first. Then, out of the chaos, a clear direction emerges, and the progress of the piece continues. I've had students working on this piece ask me about that section, and the best advice I could give them was "play it a little faster so you can get through it and move on while at least some of your audience is still paying attention."

I knew, of course, that there had to be some logic to it. Bach's work is characterized by impeccable internal structure and organic harmonic progressions. Bach simply does not include unnecessary or superfluous notes, much less ten bars of them. Today, I got my book of cello suites back out, mostly because I wanted the satisfaction of playing something that didn't need accompaniment. And, this time, it finally made sense. After six years of playing and listening to this piece incessantly, I now understand what's happening in those ten bars. The section begins with four iterations of a single, simple, scalar sequence that is periodically interrupted by an ascending line that connects to the arpeggios that follow. Three bars later, a variation of the same simple sequence is reintroduced with an octave displacement in the ascending line. It's so simple now that I see it. But, the music is so elegant, so deftly woven that I couldn't find the appropriate seams in the music.

Some people love Shakespeare, others Michelangelo. These and other artists were brilliant, but for me, Bach's music is the greatest achievement in the history of Western culture. There's nothing else that is simultaneously quite so powerful and yet refined. Nothing so viscerally impactful but subtly assembled. Bach, more than any other artist, evokes the awesome grandeur and abstract purity of the heavens.

By Ben at 2:09 am • 1 comments

October 25, 2012

So, we're parents now! Anson Daniel Coy was born on Friday, October 19, 2012.

A full week before she was due, Katy's water broke at work. She came home, and we spent the day making phone calls, packing snacks for the hospital and walking to try and start contractions. About 8 hours later, still with no real contractions, we headed to the hospital. They started an IV with pitocin to try and establish a contraction pattern, and it initially seemed to go very well. I had concerns about the drug, as studies regularly show that it can have long-term cognitive implications for the baby if overused. I made a bit of a stink about it with one of the nurses who seemed to just want to increase the dosage without any clear purpose or goal. But, most of the time, we received excellent care. In total, Katy was in labor for 34 hours, which was truly draining. Our doula, Kristen was there the whole time for us, though, and really made the difference. Because she can't provide any medical care, sometimes it's hard to pinpoint what a doula does. In Kristen's case, her greatest contribution was anticipating the needs of Katy as well as the rest of us in the room and suggesting things before we even knew we needed them ourselves. She knew when to get everyone (including herself) out of the room, when to bring people back, when to tell people to be quiet, when to turn up the music, when to massage Katy's shoulders, when to let her be. She orchestrated an organic flow to the entire process that we as first-time parents could never have known was possible.

Unfortunately, (probably because we were a week early), we were unable to deliver naturally and ended up with a C section. We did get lucky, though, that Katy's normal doctor was on call and was there to perform the procedure. We felt like we had a really excellent team, and they made the experience as positive as it could be. I was invited into the room and was able to talk with Katy for the duration. As soon as the baby was delivered, they brought him over for us to see, and then I was able to follow them back and watch while they cleaned him up. They even made sure I had my camera with me so that I'd be able to share the photos with Katy while she recovered. Comically, the scale in the operating room was malfunctioning. One of the doctors' greatest concerns was our baby's size; the 38-week ultrasound estimated him at almost ten pounds, and that was going to make any delivery difficult. When they weighed him at birth, the scale insisted through multiple attempts that he was barely six pounds. When they took him up to the nursery and used the scale there, he came in at 8 pounds 11 ounces, and 22 inches long.

We transferred up to the postpartum unit, and shortly afterward both Katy and Anson developed fevers, indicating infections from the long labor. They were both given antibiotics, and Anson recovered almost immediately. Katy, however, had a really rough time. Saturday evening the doctors prescribed a second round of antibiotics, and by Sunday morning she had recovered. By this time, Anson had tested marginally high for jaundice, so he was put under lights to try and clear that up in time for us to go home on schedule. Once again, he was fine by our scheduled departure Monday morning, but the doctors wanted to hold Katy for observation to make sure she didn't relapse after discontinuing the antibiotics. We finally left for home Tuesday at about lunchtime.

Katy's parents had been with us through the entire delivery, and they stayed through the first day of our stay in postpartum; my parents stopped by on Saturday. The support of our families meant everything, and we were very happy to be able to share these moments with them.

Anson Daniel Coy
Mom and baby
Buckeye Baby
Going home
Dad and baby
Granny and Anson
Corky and Anson
Anson, Grandma, and the Grandfather

By Ben at 2:26 am • 0 comments

September 30, 2012

The past two weekends have been pretty special.

Last weekend, some friends threw us a baby shower in Chicago, and we made a long weekend out of it. The shower was on Saturday, but we drove in on Thursday and spent two days enjoying the city. Thursday night, we had dinner at the Publican. While there are microbrews and charcuterie in Columbus, all the elements at the Publican are combined in a very thoughtful, intentional way that transforms the experience into something unique, more than just a restaurant.

After dinner, Katy took me to the Chicago Symphony - we were lucky to hear them, as they went on strike before the Saturday night performance. We had good seats in the lower balcony with the trombones pointing right at us. Hearing their performance was a great reminder about why I'm in this profession. Sometimes I get bogged down in trivia or regional limitations - the sheer power of the CSO put everything back in perspective. The care with which the musicians produced every note, even in the national anthem that began the program, was truly inspirational.

After that, Katy wanted to create a perfect end to the night for me, so we went to the Aviary, Grant Achatz's bar in the west loop. This was the first time I'd been to any of Achatz's places, and obviously this was the least expensive introduction possible, since we could order just a drink or two without purchasing a tasting menu. The drinks were quite good - top shelf ingredients in everything. My first drink I thought was a little out of balance at the top of the drink, but halfway through everything integrated ... possibly a mistake? In any case, all the presentations were exquisite, the service was impeccable, etc. I'd call it pretentious, except that it is the trendiest bar in the third largest city in the country. There's no pretense - that's just what it is. Whether one calls it pretentious or not, though, the atmosphere was a little too heightened for us to really relax. Overall, though, it achieved its goal of food as performance art, and I still would like to go to Alinea or Next to see a complete "show."

Friday was similarly spectacular. We spent the day in our old neighborhood of Andersonville; the commercial strip there never gets old, and while some of our favorite places are no longer there, the quality of the establishments there has generally improved since we left. It started raining halfway through the afternoon, so we ducked into Lady Gregory, a newer restaurant/bar that we hadn't been to before. Here, unlike the Aviary, the atmosphere was warm and hospitable, and we felt very comfortable waiting out the rain there, chatting with the bartender, etc. Obviously, the cocktails were not as elegant or interesting as at the Aviary, but they had a well-considered beer list and a staggering whiskey list. The most beautiful thing, in my mind, is that there's enough room in the Chicago market to support both kinds of bars.

That evening, we saw a preview of Lookingglass Theatre's Metamorphoses, which consists of a collection of Greek myths. It may have been a little sloppy because it was still in previews, but it was just beautiful. The whole play was staged on a reflecting pool of water, and every moment was designed to maximize the visual impact.

Saturday, of course, was the shower, and it was a really good party. There were a few obligatory elements of the baby shower - a couple games, and of course the gifts, but it was more about a bunch of friends getting together. I think the highlight of the event was Paul's smoked ribs, which he managed to create in a standard Weber grill without the benefit of a specialized smoker. Combined with Heather's designer cupcakes and everything else on the table, it was a great barbecue.

This weekend was less eventful, but just as significant for me. We had our first concert of the Springfield Symphony season. For me, it was an opportunity to apply the inspiration from last weekend. I worked hard with my section to exemplify the priorities that made the Chicago Symphony performance so special. We weren't perfect, of course, but I was pretty proud of what we accomplished. We achieved some really special moments. Particularly in Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide, we really came together as a section and delivered some solid section playing. I think we can only improve throughout the season as we get develop more of a sectional identity with our new 2nd player.

Our guest soloist was Carol Jantsch. Her story is pretty exceptional, and I was excited to hear her play. She did not disappoint - her sound was reminiscent of Arnold Jacobs, with (if possible) more refinement. We were all absolutely blown away. The concert will be rebroadcast on Dayton Public Radio ... the schedule for this season isn't up yet, but it's usually on Saturday mornings a few months later. I, for one, will be listening just to hear Carol's solo again.

By Ben at 2:52 pm • 0 comments

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