Monday, January 31, 2011

Playlist for Feb 1, 2011 at 6 a.m to 11 a.m. (FIVE HOURS), Music on WPRB princeton, 103.3 fm (streaming around the world):

Here's another Classical playlist I'm posting in my blog. The first one (with an explanation here.

The actual list will get filled in as I broadcast, Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Playlist for Tobias on WPRB, 103.3 FM and WPRB.COM, for Dec 21, 2010
Composer TitleOrchestraConductorSoloistsAlbum IDStarting time
Gershwin, GeorgeCuban OvertureRoyal Philharmonic OrchestraSimon Leen/aRPOSP0126:03
Saint-SaënsPiano Concerto #2 in g, Op. 22Orchestre de ParisSerge BaudoAldo Ciccolini (pno)EMI 694436:14
Copland, Aaron Billy the KidCincinnati Pops OrchestraErich Kunzeln/atelarc 803396:41
Schubert, FranzSymphony (#7 or #8 or #9) in C, D. 944The Classical BandBruno WeilFrench horn; tromboneSony SK 481327:03
Rifkin, JoshuaEpstein Variations, MBE 69A, on 'Hold Me Tight'n/an/aMurray the KlavierKitzler (harpsichord)lp: Elektra EKS 73067:54
Berg, AlbanViolin Concerto (corrected score) 'to the memory of an angel'BBC Symphony OrchestraPaul WatkinsDaniel Hope (vln)WARNER 602918:01
Debussy, ClaudeNocturnes (for orchestra and chorus)Boston Symphony Orchestra & Tanglewood Festival ChorusColin Davisn/aPhilips 411 4338:33
Schubert, Franz Piano Sonata in G, D. 894n/an/aAlfred Brendel (pno)lp: Philips 6500 4169:02
Rifkin, JoshuaThe Royal Beatleworks Musicke, MBE 1963Baroque Ensemble of the Merseyside KammermusikgesellschaftJoshua RifkinSeveral, including Paula robison (fl)lp: Elektra EKS 73069:40
Debussy, ClaudeL'Isle Joyeuxn/an/aAldo Ciccolini (pno)EMI 544519:55
Shostakovich, DmitriViolin Concerto #1, op. 77BBC Symphony OrchestraAndrew DavisDmitry Sitkovetsky (vln)Virgin vc 7 9114310:03
Adams, JohnThe Chairman Dances, Foxtrot, not from Nixon in ChinaCity of Birmingham Symphony OrchestraSimon Rattlen/aEMI 5505110:42
Chopin, FrédéricEtude Op. 25 # 12n/an/aIlana Vered (pno)Connoisseur 419710:56

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Studying the Hardware:

I’ve made my living writing software. But again and again in my checkered career, I’ve written software that is intimately associated with hardware. (Here’s a particularly egregious case.) I’ve helped to architect hardware that my software needed. I’ve read hardware diagrams to understand how to program interfaces. And often, I’ve debugged software and hardware together when it was unclear where a bug lay. I’m even a tyro at using logic analyzers and and oscilloscopes.

During one of my hardware/software binges, I decided I really ought to learn a little something about hardware. I acquired some components, read up a bit, and breadboarded a few experiments.

During this newbie phase, I remembered our compact transistor radio. These devices were still pretty new at the time. We had bought one so that when power was out in an emergency, we could still get radio news. But after a while the thing produced only static. I took it to a shop, but they said they couldn’t fix it, and because we hardly ever throw a device away, it sat in some closet.

Time to look at it, I thought. With my newfound hardware skills, I might just fix it. I opened it up on a table with my tools, just as my wife was leaving to run some errands.

When she returned, the radio was working.

”How did you fix it?” she asked.

”It’s no use trying to explain it to you,” I said. “You would never be able to understand.”

”It just needed a new battery!” she said.

And I replied, “Yup.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ... with some exceptions:

Your intrepid postman may not arrive today. If your road is impassible, not plowed, say, then that's an excuse; the mail will have to wait.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Leon Prilo has been arrested for ... what?

Here’s a link to one of the similar news stories covering Mr. Prilo’s arrest. I suspect there’s something missing. But if not, it appears that Leon Prilo has been arrested for not robbing a bank.

It could get really tough if he goes to trial. I assume they will add a “littering” charge for throwing the robbery note into the snow, instead of using it.

Seriously: what did he do?

Update: It appears that thinking seriously about robbing a bank is actually a crime. Here's another one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Playlist for Jan 25, 2011 at 6 a.m to 11 a.m. (FIVE HOURS), Music on WPRB princeton, 103.3 fm (streaming around the world):

Here's another Classical playlist I'm posting in my blog. The first one (with an explanation here. Today's program will feature the most wonderful composer that Anthony Tommasini couldn't quite fit into his "Top 10" list: Sergei Prokofiev.

The actual list will get filled in as I broadcast, Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. to 8:30.

Playlist for Tobias on WPRB, 103.3 FM and WPRB.COM, for Jan. 25, 2011
Composer TitleOrchestraConductorSoloistsAlbum IDStarting time
Rachmaninov, SergeiPiano Concerto #3Dallas Symphony OrchestraAndrew LittonStephen Hough (pno)Hyperion CDA67501started about 6:03 a.m. EST
Prokofiev, SergeiVisions Fugitives ## 6,8,9,5,18n/an/aSviatoslav Richter (pno)LP: time life STL 547 3F6:42
Dvořák, AntonínMazurkas, Op. 56, ## 1-4n/an/aFirkusny (pno)LP: candide CE 310706:49
Prokofiev, SergeiSymphony #5, Op. 100Cincinnati Symphony OrchestraPaavo Jarvi (cond)n/aTelarc 806837:03
Schubert, Franz Lieder: Dass Sie Hier Gewesen, D. 775; romanze, D. 797n/an/aElisabeth Schumann (sopr), Gerald Moore (pno)LP: Angel COLH 1317:52
Prokofiev, SergeiCello Concerto in e, Op. 58Philharmonia OrchestraWalter Sussind Janos Starker (vc)EMI 687458:01
Debussy, ClaudeFetes Galanates I (Paul verlaine): En sourdine, Fantoches, Clair de Lunen/an/aDarren Chase (ten), Mark Cogley (pno)TROY12218:37 (New Acquisition)
Sibelius, JeanFinlandia, Op. 26 #7Atlanta Symphony OrchestraJoel levyn/aTelarc 803208:47 approx
Glinka, MikhailRusslan & Ludmilla: OvertureChicago Symphony OrchestraFritz Reiner /td>n/aBMG 601768:56
Prokofiev, SergeiPedro Y El Lobo, Op. 67Vienna State Opera OrchestraEugene GoossensJose Ferrer (Narrator)MCA classics MCAD2-9820B9:03
Schubert, Franz Lieder: Fischerweise (Schlechta), D. 881; Gretschen am Spinnerade (Goethe), D. 118n/an/aElisabeth Schumann (sopr), Gerald Moore (pno)LP: Angel COLH 1309:32
Prokofiev, SergeiPiano Concerto #1 in D flat, Op. 10 (1911)Prague Symphony Orchestra Karel AncerlSviatoslav Richter (pno)Supraphon Su 36709:40
Strauss, Johann, Jr.Csardas from Die fledermaus, for orchestraWiener PhilharmonikerLorin Maazel n/aSony SK 466949:55
Prokofiev, SergeiRomeo and Juliet Suites #1, #2. Op 64A-BCincinnati Symphony Orchestra Paavo Jarvi n/aTelarc 8059710:02

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spike Jones, Video:

I've had a life-long fascination with Spike Jones's music novelties. He had a crack band, full of musicians who could add ugly sounds in the most complicated rhythms, and he used his imagination to wreck just about every style of music that mid-20th century folk admired. As a child I had seen him on TV, but it never occurred to me that some of his novelties had been preserved in video. Thanks to a link from the Dvorak Blog, I was inspired to search Youtube. I urge you to do the same. Search for:

"Spike Jones"

Some of the results from this search are the worst kind of "video": an audio track of the song, with a few still pictures to look at. I assume these videos are created on the assumption that 21st century people must have something to distract the eyes, in order to hear. Some of the links are actual performances, and some of them have a taste of the modern music video.

I do not know if all of these items have been posted legally, so you are on your own in deciding whether it's proper to view them. Here are the true video links from my "spike jones" search:

Cocktails for Two
Clink! Clink! Another Drink!
Weird Al discusses Spike Jones: the legend
Blacksmith Song
Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy
Beetle Balm (not an original video, but weird enough!)
You Always Hurt The One You Love(the same weird guy)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Male breast Cancer:

I've heard a statistic that each year in the USA, 10,000 men get breast cancer. I believe that implies that in my adult lifetime, I have a less than 0.5% chance of getting this awful disease.

That knowledge was a great comfort to me when I showed the lump in my breast tissue to my doctor. “Considering where it is,” he said, “You’ll have to have a mammogram and an ultrasound.”

It all happened very fast, thank goodness. I found the lump on January 12, saw my doctor on the 17th, and the procedures happened yesterday.

It’s benign.

I really thought I had little to worry about, until the ultrasound technician went out and got the radiologist. She turned on the probe again, and they quietly conversed, three feet from my ear.
“There’s one,” the tech said. “And there’s another one.”
“Please tell me,” I said. “Another what?”
“Bright spots,” the radiologist said. “They’re lipoma, fatty tissue. Let us know if it gets larger.” He told me that 5% of breast cancers happen to men. He also told me that most cases of men's breast cancer run in families. The man's mother might have had breast cancer at an early age, for example.

Well, that’s that. Next time I hear women talking about those clamps, I’ll know what they mean.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Top N:

Anthony Tommasini has been having a lot of fun over at the New York Times, reasoning out loud about his attempts to pick the top ten greatest classical composers of all time. His assumptions are too germano-centric for my taste, but he’s talking sense. The tension that drives this series of columns is that there are too many fine, fine candidates. I would like to give Mr. Tommasini a bit of advice:
  1. Decide who the very best contenders are. (Don’t forget Gustav Mahler.)
  2. Count them. For the sake of example, suppose there are sixteen.
  3. Rename your quest: to create the Top 16 list, and include them all.

Mr. Tommasini might complain that being so inclusive is not exciting enough, so here’s a compromise: If there are sixteen worthy candidates, make a “Top 15” list, and agonize over who gets the axe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jeff Meshel on Music:

Jeff Meshel asked me to check out his blog. I knew that we shared some musical interests, but I was surpised by the first musical mutuality I discovered there. His most recent article (Dec, 2010) links to a fine DooWop Kinescope of Dion and the Belmonts singing “I Wonder Why” before a rapt, gum-chewing audience. I was going to give you the link, but please drop by Jeff Meshel’s World and take it from there.

Last June, Meshel discussed another favorite of mine, the Concierto de Aranjuez from the LP album MILES Sketches of Spain. Meshel flirts with calling this a piece of classical music, by I think he does not quite come out and say that. I imagine that most people discover this album by looking for Miles Davis, and there’s some spell-binding Davis here. But in this album’s music, especially the concerto, it is the composer, Gil Evans, who weaves the spells.

My own casual interests in Jazz did not naturally reach to either Davis or Evans. It was a cousin of mine, a professional classical musician, who led me to it.

Don’t forget: We’re litigious.

Everyone is speculating about how many people will jump from AT&T to Verizon, to escape all those dropped calls on their iPhones. It’s obvious that many people who never tried an iPhone will buy from Verizon, and some people who just have to try the newest tech will switch, regardless of cost.

The cost is considerable, something like this (don’t trust my figures): $300 to terminate your AT&T contract early; $200 or $300 to buy what feels and seems like the same iPhone from Verizon; and then an investment of your time to set it up just like your old iPhone, with the same apps and options. (Will you have to repurchase some of the apps?)

Leo Laporte mentioned one of the most important scenarios: it’s April, and people are pretty excited about the Verizon iPhone, but they won’t risk buying it until they find out what the Apple iPhone 5 will be (in June). How would you feel if you jump to Verizon, and then you just HAVE to have an iPhone 5?

I’ve identified a more important scenario, which will also kick in around April: class action lawsuits. If Verizon demonstrates that you can have an iPhone without dropped calls, people will want to reduce that early termination cost from $300 to $zero. The lawsuits will target a basic aspect of sales: implied merchantability, the requirement for a product to perform the basic task you bought it for. In the case of PHONES, the basic task is to make phone calls. And since the AT&T iPhone is regarded as an “almost phone,” it fails the merchantability standard. So it must be acceptable to return it for a full refund and no termination fee.

I’m not saying that such lawsuits will succeed; only that they are inevitable. And they could save you nearly $600.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Apparently you can sell more dress shirts, or you can sell them for more money, if you gussy them up with bits of cardboard, sheaths of plastic, and those damned, damned pins.

I unpacked an Alfani shirt today, and I followed my usual rule, which was to run scared until I discovered seven pins. Pin number seven was a beauty, hidden in folds of cloth. I could see it was there, but it took me four minutes to bare its head without getting stuck. It was a triumph to remove it!

And then there were two more pins. I’ve never seen a nine-pin shirt before. I’m going to wear it tomorrow. If it’s actually a ten-pin shirt, you’ll hear from me.

Playlist for Jan 18, 2011 at 6 a.m to 8:45!, Music on WPRB princeton, 103.3 fm (streaming around the world):

Here's another Classical playlist I'm posting in my blog. The first one (with an explanation) is here.

The actual list will get filled in as I broadcast, Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. to 8:30.
Playlist for Tobias on WPRB, 103.3 FM and WPRB.COM, for Jan 18, 2011
Composer TitleOrchestraConductorSoloistsAlbum IDStarting time
Hindemith, PaulKleine Kammermusik, op. 24 #2Ensemble Wien-Berlinn/an/aSony SK 64400Started about 6:03 a.m. EST
Khatchaturian, AramConcerto for Piano and OrchestraScottish National OrchestraNeeme JarviConstantine Orbelian (pno)Chandos 85426:18
Bob & RayVolume 3, cd #2, track 1: Mary Backstaygen/an/aBob Elliot and Ray Goulding (spoken)RACD 50136:50
Beach, AmyThree Browning Songs, Op. 14n/an/aDaniel Weeks (ten), Naomi Oliphant (pno)Centaur CRC 29666:55
Dvořák, Antonín/Arr. David JolleyPiano Quintet in A, Op. 81 (arranged for piano and wind quintet)Windscape (wind quintet)n/aJeremy Denk (pno)MSR MS 11757:04
Bob & RayVolume 3, cd #2, tracks 2 & 3: Einbinder flypaper, Mary Backstaygen/an/aBob Elliot and Ray Goulding (spoken)RACD 50137:41
Bach, Johann Sebastian /Arr, Ward SwingleBadinerie (from suite in b); Air (from harpsic suite in E), Gigue (from cello suite in C)Swingle SingersWard Swinglen/aLP: PHS 600-1267:46
Rossini, GioacchinoOverture to TancrediPhilharmonia OrchestraCarlo Maria Giulinin/aEMI 754627:53 approx
Bartok, BelaSonata for two pianos and percussionClinton-narboni duo and friendsRichard Brown & Doug Smith (perc)Elan 824047:59
Bob & RayVolume 3, cd #2, track 5: Mary Backstaygen/an/aBob Elliot and Ray Goulding (spoken)RACD 50138:25
Ravel, MauriceBoleroOrchestre les Concerts LamoreuxRavel conducting!many!Philips 420 7788:30

Monday, January 17, 2011

Anachronism in the New York Times:

The Sunday Opinion section contained an astrophysical essay called Darkness on the Edge Of the Universe. (I urge you to read the essay. You may enjoy discovering why this piece belongs in the opinion section.) The author, Brian Greene, explains an oddity that devolves from our current understanding of the composition of everything we can see: the universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate, such that, a hundred billion years from now, if astronomers can point their telescope at the skies, they will see: nothing. Because no light from the ever-distancing stars and galaxies will reach us.

Through no fault of the author, the essay has a subtitle that, in my opinion, is just wrong. It says: The day will come when most stars will disappear from the night sky. (And by the way, this subtitle does NOT appear in the essay online.)

There’s a simple problem with the subtitle: What is a day? Leaving Shakespeare out of this, we must note that the concept of a day is defined by our relationship to our sun, and it has to do with how the earth rotates as it chugs along in its orbit. Long, long before a hundred billion years, the sun will be gone. If there are astronomers to observe the darkest sky, they will have some other vantage point than earth, a place where there may not be days at all, but certainly, not what we regard as days, Thus, our sort of day will not come when most stars will disappear from the sky.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aeropress: The “Tobias” Full Cup:

In my recent review of the Aeropress, I lauded it for its espresso coffee, but expressed reservations about using it to make a full cup. The Aeropress instructions are, basically, to make an espresso and then add hot water to fill your coffee cup, the so-called “American.” Their idea does not work well for me. I think their American cup tastes rather thin.

Nonetheless, the Aeropress makes good coffee beans delicious, and it make adequate coffee beans taste better than they should. There ought to be a way to make a fine full cup of coffee, and I believe I’ve discovered it. Here’s how to make

The Tobias Cup:

Set your Aeropress apparatus over a mug or coffee cup, and make a single espresso. I recommend filling the water level to just above the circled ‘1’ on your Aeropress. (If your coffee cup holds only six ounces, use a little less water.)

After you have pushed all the water into your cup, slowly pull the two big Aeropress components apart. There’s some suction involved when you do this, so you may find that the coffee grounds rise near the top of the cylinder. If they do, tap the grounds gently with a spoon and they will fall back down onto the filter. Set your apparatus on your cup again, and a second time, pour water up to the “1” level and make a single espresso, even though you are using the same coffee grounds and adding liquid to the same cup. You are extracting more caffeine and more taste from the coffee grounds.

Repeat this process a third time. You have now essentially made three espresso cups, six to eight ounces of liquid in all, in your coffee cup. The second and third extractions are much weaker than the first one, so you have not made a triple espresso! You’ve made a fine, full cup of coffee.

Notes: If you prefer a mild full coffee cup, skip the third extraction.

I recommend using a new filter for this process. Using the filter three times like this puts a strain on the paper. I think it won’t tear, but it can crimp, and allow grounds to be pushed past it into your coffee cup. If that happens, do not despair! Simply pour your cup through a strainer to remove the excess grounds. (You may want to buy a small metal strainer for this purpose, for less than $5.) I have experienced this problem only once. The Aeropress instructions tell you to push down gently when you make your coffee. ‘Gently’ is the watchword here. Pressing hard increases the risk that the filter paper will crimp.

Tobias? That’s me. Enjoy your fine full Tobias Cup of Aeropress coffee. I think it’s wonderful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sensible eyeglasses:

I just want my glasses to do three things:
  1. Auto-focus accurately on whatever I'm looking at, regardless of distance.
  2. Let me take a picture of what I'm looking at, and post it on the web.
  3. When I see people, do facial recognition (aided by sites like Flickr) and show me their names.
I've been waiting for these features for years. I still hope that some will arrive in my lifetime. And one of them is close: Pixel Optics' Empower is a pair of glasses that can auto-focus for you. (I heard about them, courtesy of Leo Laporte, at CES.) Now, where's that wirelss connection inside my eyeglasses?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Playlist for Jan. 11, 2010 at 6 a.m., Music on WPRB princeton, 103.3 fm (streaming around the world):

Here's another Classical playlist I'm posting in my blog. The first one (with an explanation) is here.

The actual list will get filled in as I broadcast, Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. to 8:30.
Playlist for Tobias on WPRB, 103.3 FM and WPRB.COM, for Jan 11, 2011
Composer TitleOrchestraConductorSoloistsAlbum IDStarting time
Rachmaninov, SergeiSymphonic Dances, op. 45Novosibirsk Philharmonic OrchestraArnold Kazn/aSony SMK 57660Started about 6:03 a.m. EST
Shostakovich, DmitriSymphony #9 in Eflat, OP. 70London Philharmonic OrchestraBernard Haitinkn/aLondon 414 6776:38
Michalowski, AleksanderParaaphrase sur le Valse de Chopin, op. 64n/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:07
Cage, JohnThird Interluden/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:11
Scarlatti, DomenicoSonata, K. 247n/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:14
Saint-SaënsCello Concerto #1 in a, Op. 33Cleveland OrchestraNeville MarrinerLynn Harrell (vc)London 410 0197:22
Lansky, PaulAlphanumeric Song; Interesting Numbers; Pattern's patternsn/an/an/aBridge 91267:42
Janacek, Leos Sinfonietta, Op. 60Czech State PhilharmonicSerebrier Lots of extra trumpetsReference RR-65CD8:01
Chopin, FredericEtude, Op. 25 #11, Winter Windn/an/aJohn Browning (pno)RCA 601318:25

Monday, January 10, 2011

We're not Satisfied! (The NFL again)

Due to the peculiar rules for playoff qualification in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks enetered the playoffs with 7 wins and 9 losses. I'm rooting for them, because every win they get will be an embarrassment for stuffy Pro Football. They won their first playoff game, beating a team with a far better record. The New York Times reported a wonderful quote by one of their players: "We're not satisfied," said tight end John Carlson. "We're not even .500 yet."

Carlson has a point. His team can finish this year above .500, if they win the superbowl.

UPDATE: Edited to spell the title correctly. I proofread pretty well, but I almost always forget to proof the title. I send out some emails with pretty stupid subject lines. Note to self: Look, idiot...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

CES, Breaking News:

"CES" is the yearly Computer Electronics Show. These days, it's the place where most non-Apple breakthroughs are announced, and it's the place to be (I've never been there) to see what new directions the personal electronics industries are taking. Of course the show is ridiculously large. If you want to see even half the booths, you've got to train your body for the challenge.

This year, I'm getting LIVE reports on CES, courtesy of Leo LaPorte's streaming TWIT 'radio' station. He, and some of his key people, are reporting onsite. I'm excited to get breaking news before it even gets to Yahoo and Google, let alone the newspapers and magazines.

Dick DeBartolo, the GizWiz himself, has been to most of the CES shows. He said that at one booth, he expressed doubt that he would like one gadget they were displaying.
"Don't worry," the demonstrator said. "We'll never sell it."
Dick gave the demonstrator a puzzled look, and the guy explained. "We've been showing his gadget for three days, and nobody's interested."

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Channel 440:

Our cable system has too many TV channels. They are there, whether we subscribe to them or not. They are there, whether we have the necessary HD TV to see them or not. I could teach our TIVO to be aware of only the hundred+ channels we can see, but the effort would be far too time-consuming. So, from time to time, I wander among the forest of channels to see what's visible.

Channel 440 is aptly named. It plays classical music. The music is accompanied by background screens of pictures associated with classical music: pianos, orchestras, scores, other instruments. The screen also shows the name of the piece and who is playing it, and this is great. My streaming radio rarely has all of that information when it streams a classical station. Every minute or so, the channel 440 screen shows a different picture and a different 'fact': an info-bite about the composer, the performers, or the piece.

As a software developer, I ache to see an improvement in these screens. It would take very little effort to make them better. First, the background pictures are often ridiculously irrelevant. Imagine hearing a string quartet and looking at a picture of a piano's innards. Second, the info-bites are pretty lame, and they could be more apt. I think that the channel has a database of these bits of info. A program searches for random information about the composer or the piece. If that's not found, then a random bit about the orchestra might show up.

What's missing is a piece of software that tries to analyze the sound. I think it's not impossible these days to determine that the music is orchestral, or has a piano, or is chamber music. Several instrumental sounds can be identified. This info can be used to select the background screen, and to decide what to look for in the database.

Another thing that's missing is the added value of user content. A message on the screen could invite us to log in to a website and type in additional info-bites for them to display. A human would have to review such texts, but users like to add value to websites, and so their database would effortlessly grow. And by the way, this is the sort of database that does not have to carry unique items, so the human who reviews them does not have to worry about duplications. If three different users add the same bit of info, described similarly or differently, so be it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

There’s life in the old orchestra yet:

Amit Zoran has used a 3D printer to print a playable flute. I hope that in years to come, many imaginative instruments can be printed and played. We are in a long trough of despond, a period of time in which canned music and electronic keyboards are replacing musical instruments. Aside from the odd contrabassoon and many imaginative-looking guitars, little innovation has come to the rescue of traditional instruments. But now, we can hope for myriads of creative musicians to invent and play the instrument of their desires.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Mike Francesa and a weird 'Overtime' Rule:

I often listen to Sports Pundit Mike Francesa. He's very clear. That is, when he makes a point, he repeats it at least four times so you can't miss it. And he's very authoritative. That is, when he gives an opinion, it sounds well-judged and correct, and unless you check out how often he's wrong, you're always convinced you are hearing the down-home truth.

Mike also thinks fast when talking to his on-the-air callers, but a caller today (I'm sorry I don't have his name) put Mike into rather desperate high gear. The subject was: Overtime rules for Pro Football. It’s generally understood that the current rules are unfair, and an improvement will be tried this year in the playoffs. But this caller had wild idea that’s really fun to think about. Let me explain his idea:

The goal is to be fair about deciding who gets the ball first. At the beginning of overtime, each coach writes the number of a yardline on a piece of paper and gives it to the referee. Whichever coach has written a lower number gets the ball ON THAT YARDLINE. So for example, suppose coach A writes 20 and B writes 5. B’s team starts the overtime with the ball in their possession on their 5 yard line, 95 yards from the goal.

We’ll get to my objections later, but first we’ll pick at Mike. He started with an excellent complaint: “You mean the coaches have to take a quiz?” Now in fact, that does sound like a good reason not to try this rule. Coaches coach football plays! They don’t play guessing games on paper. Or do they? Pro Football is full of probabilities and zero-sum games, and coaches play them all the time. But not by writing a number on paper; that would look wrong, even though it’s a natural extension of what coaches actually do.

Francesa’s second complaint was that it’s all-important to get the ball first. He would want his coach to always write 1 and get the ball on the 1 yard line. The caller thought this was crazy, and so do I, up to a point. Mike said, “If the team on the one yard line gets one first down, or even a penalty, there goes your [defensive] advantage. I’d rather have the ball.”

But probabilities often favor the defense in football. And suppose that after four quarters, the score is tied 3 to 3. Would you be willing to take the ball on your 1-yard line in such a defensive game?

Alternatively, suppose the score is 49 to 49. Sounds like both coaches would write 1, just to get the ball. Which brings me to my lesser objection: in a lot of cases, this method of awarding the ball would result in a tie. Not just a tie because both coaches wrote “1.” In other situations, some other number might be favorable and both coaches would write that number. How would you break the tie? If you could think of a fair way to break this tie, then probably it would be best to forget about the coaches writing down a yardline number, and go right away to this other fair method; unless your tiebreaking method is to flip a coin.

My greater objection, I think, is a killer. Coaches would hate this proposed rule, and campaign to get rid of it, because it would make them look SO BAD when they tried a number that didn’t work. For example, Coach A writes 1 and gets the ball on his 1 yard line. Three plays later he punts and the other team scores, and Coach A looks like a dummy. Or coach A writes down 35 and coach B writes 20; B’s team takes the ball and scores. Coach A looks like a dummy! Why didn’t he write 19?

By the way, I have blogged about Mike Francesa before, when he voiced an awesome malaprop: There are No Words to describe It.

Playlist for Jan. 4, 2011 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Music on WPRB princeton, 103.3 fm (streaming around the world):

I have posted several Classical playlists in my blog. The first one (with an explanation) is here.

Please read here for my own discussion of my 8 a.m. selection, Schöenberg’s Verklärte Nacht.

The actual list will get filled in as I broadcast, Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. to 9.
Playlist for Tobias on WPRB, 103.3 FM and WPRB.COM, for Jan. 4, 2011
Composer TitleOrchestraConductorSoloistsAlbum IDStarting time
Schubert, FranzLied: Die Junge Nonne, D. 828n/an/aFelicity Lott (sopr), Graham Johnson (pno)MCAD 25235about 6:03 a.m. EST
Schubert, Franz'Trout' Quintet in A, D. 667n/an/aEmanuel Ax (pno), Pamela Frank (vln), Rebecca Young (vla), Yo-Yo Ma (vc), Edgar Meyer (cb)Sony SK 61 9646:10
Dvorak, AntoninDumka and Furiant, op. 12n/an/aRadoslav Kvapil (pno, on Dvorak's own Bosendorfer!)ALC 10446:48
Cage, JohnSonata In/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10396:59
Schumann, RobertNovelette. op. 21, #8n/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:03
Cage, JohnSonata IIIn/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:14
Strauss, Richard (arr. Godowsky)Ständchenn/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:16
Cage, johnSonata Vn/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:19
Liszt, FranzBagatelle sans Tonalitén/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:21
Cage, JohnSonata XIIn/an/aPedja Muzijevic (pno)TROY10397:24
Sibelius, JeanSymphony #7 in C, op. 105Pittsburgh Symphony OrchestraLorin Maazeln/aSony SK 52 5667:30
Schönberg, ArnoldVerklärte Nacht (for 2 vlns, 2 vlas, 2 vcs)London Concertanten/an/a cmg011about 8:05
Haydn, Franz JosephSymphony #94, 'surprise' in GConcertgebouw Orchestra, AmsterdamColin Davisn/aPhilips 412 8718:35