Friday, January 30, 2009

Seattle Symphony 2009-10

Today the Seattle Symphony announced their 2009-10 season schedule. Just like the holidays, it seems like this happens earlier and earlier each year. Looks like another season of good concerts, this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of Gerard Schwarz as the symphony's Music Director.
[As an interesting aside, on the second page of this year's subscription brochure there's a photo montage of Schwarz over the years, which I've replicated here, left-to-right from top, his first year back in 1983 "young", 1988 "dorky", 1992 "serious", 1998 "intense", 2001 "Dan Rather", 2005 "profound", and finally 2008 "old".]

As usual there are some concerts that on first look seem to be the "not-to-be-missed" of the season. The Seattle Pops series, once again led by Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch, kicks off in September with The Fabulous '50s, followed by December's Holiday Pops Spectacular this year featuring Cirque de la Symphonie. The rest of the season includes a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, an appearance by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and finally highlights from The Music Man. Yet another amazing season lineup.

On the classical front, highlights include December's "Swan Lake & Festive Holiday Classics" slated to include The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Prelude to Hansel and Gretel, Smetana's The Moldau, in addition to Tchaikovsky's Suite from Swan Lake, among others. Additional concerts of note include Beethoven's 5th in April, and numerous other classics. (What isn't a classic, these days?)

Season subscriptions are on sale now, single ticket purchases will begin in September. Hard to believe we're already thinking out to the spring of 2010, I thought we just hit 2009. Fortunately, having not received most of the Olympics tickets I requested, maybe I'll support more of the symphony this year. It might be more satisfying in the long term.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wanna get away?

The bad economy is yours to gain, if you've got a little vacation time to throw around and can scrape up a few pennies to fly somewhere.  Airfares are about as low as I've seen them in, well, as long as I've cared about going places.  Now admittedly, if you factor in the $15+ most airlines will charge you to check a bag, it's probably only as good as some previous steals of deals, but it's still pretty amazing given the current economy.  

Southwest Airlines currently has 50% off all flights to/from Seattle.  Which can make some deals downright a steal.  Southern California or Vegas from about $65/each way, Bay Area for about $47/each way (with taxes that comes to just $115 round trip).  Or to the East Coast (D.C. rated in at about $211/RT all-in).  As noted on the website, book by 11:59pm PST today for travel through May 31st.  

Amazingly enough, there are actually some other airlines deals which are already even better than the 50% that Southwest is offering.  Seattle-Birmingham as low as $135, Orlando around $200, or anywhere else you care to travel is downright cheap through April.  This is the time to go somewhere.  

Now I just need to figure out where I want to go.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blog Roundup

My blog articles tend to all come in groups, today is no exception. So you get three completely unrelated items of interest today:

Inauguration Excitement

Well, yesterday was probably the most excitement and fanfare I've ever seen for a Presidential inauguration. Being a big fan of the pageantry of such events, I'm always excited to watch these things, but this was even more exciting than usual. Most of my office gathered in a conference room to watch the webcast. Though I did find it somewhat funny that we were requested not to send out an e-mail about it, but we could still do it. I think some people don't understand now that the Inauguration is not political, it's patriotic. Democrat or Republican, like him or not, Obama IS the President of the USA. If you're an American, he's YOUR president. There's nothing political about it. You respect the position, even if you don't agree with the man in it. The same goes for the recently-departed President Bush. Like him or not, agree with him or not, he was President, and you show the position the respect it deserves. Somehow, I think so many people don't share my sentiment in that regard. But I digress.
Of more interest to me was the musical piece performed by Perlman, Ma, McGill, and Montero right before Obama's swearing in. This was a new composition by John Williams, "Air and Simple Gifts," borrowing the classic shaker melody most popularly used in Aaron Copland's Appalchaian Spring. Music geeks of the world unite in enjoying this, not only because it was great, but because it's nice to see John Williams write something that doesn't sound like everything else he writes. :)

Husky Stadium - To Fix or Not To Fix

Now, I'm biased. Having spent literally thousands of hours in Husky Stadium over my college and post-college career, I've been in every ominous corner of that stadium. From the terrifying restrooms, to the press box with its long, narrow hallways seemingly hanging by a thread from the roof. And if I didn't have such a sentimental attachment to it, I'd probably be saying "why bother?" But my journeys have also taken me to dozens of other college stadiums around the country, and I can honestly say few if any rival the gameday experience at Husky Stadium. As such, I'm greatly concerned with preserving that in any stadium improvement plan. Imagine my surprise when I found the latest artist rendering of a "new Husky Stadium" (above). It's spectacular! They took the rundown look of the current stadium, and wrapped it in a beautiful new layer. But it still LOOKS like the Husky Stadium we know and love. Absolutely amazing. I can only hope the UW can scrape up the money to make it a reality.

The Unit

And finally, I don't think I've fully extolled one of my newest favorite shows on television: The Unit. I started watching it this season, only to get hooked and find out this is Season 4! Where have I been the last 3 years?! In my own defense, its first season was a mid-season replacement, with only 13 episodes, and its third season was cut short by the Writer's Strike that left it with only 11 episodes. But for Christmas, I was fortunate enough to receive the first 3 seasons on DVD in order to catch up, and last night finally finished them to get me all the way to this season. What a spectacular show! If you've never seen it before, I highly recommend it (Sundays at 10pm on CBS). One nice thing is that it follows a semi-serial format (as did one of my other all-time favorites The West Wing), where story lines do continue throughout the season, but each episode individually contains its own distinct plots that wrap themselves up nicely by the end of the episode, so you don't have to worry about having not seen previous episodes in order to keep up. (Lost and Battlestar Galactica could take a lesson in that. One of the biggest reasons I've never really picked up either of those shows.)

And that's all the news that's fit to print for now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I love the Olympics... slightly less than I used to

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved the Olympics.  Two weeks every other year when the likelihood of calling-in sick to work goes up exponentially.  The pageantry, the competition, the 24-hours of always having something great to watch on TV, even if it's delayed or rerun.  

Think of how excited I must be to have that biennial spectacle taking place a mere two-hours away from where I live!  I can actually GO see events live!  And maybe, just maybe, I can score some tickets to the Opening Ceremony, historically the most elaborate and exciting event there is to see!  Then, watch that excitement get shot down when we learn of the dirty reality of the Olympics and their ticketing process.

Ron Judd, in his Seattle Times Olympics Insider blog, provides his rant and background on the ticketing process, and it's enough to give you bad dreams.  Don't read if you want to keep your visions of the Olympics as the "Disneyland of Athletic Competition."  The truth is, as with anything else, money drives the whole thing.  

It's no surprise that demand would outpace supply for tickets, especially for the bigger events.  I'm not just a bitter fan who requested Olympics tickets (that I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to "afford" though even that's questionable) and was almost completely denied.  Really, it's the process that I find appalling.  I requested tickets to several events, including the Opening Ceremony, but received only one of my requests for some curling tickets (though my credit card is quite relieved).  The so-called "ticket lottery" appears to be nothing more than a way for CoSport to offload a ridiculously small amount of tickets with the appearance that any Olympics fan could get some tickets.  

As always, now the ticket scalpers, whether professional or just "Joe lottery-winner" who happened to get their hands on a few high-demand tickets, are turning them around at what can only amount to a ridiculous markup over the already ridiculous markup they paid for the tickets in the first place.  It's enough to make my stomach turn.  

Maybe I am a little bitter about it.  But I really just wish there was a more fair and honorable system to it all, one that wasn't driven by greed but by making an honest effort to provide anyone interested the chance at reasonably attaining tickets to attend a part of the Olympic experience.  

Will it stop me from watching the Olympics?  Of course not.  But I can't say I feel the same way about them that I used to.  And who knows, maybe my proximity to Vancover will allow me to capitalize on someone trying to dump some tickets at the last-minute at a reasonable price?  I can hope.  On the bright side, the Opening Ceremony will probably look even better on TV anyway... yeah, I will at least pretend to believe that.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Well, it's been a long and eventful holiday season... one that has had countless situations I've been intending to blog about, but never the motivation to do so.  Trying to summarize all the way back to the snow will be a challenge, but I'll try to give you the highlights. 

Christmas was good.  The traditional family gathering on Christmas Eve was postponed due to the trecherous driving conditions and snow, but I did make it down to my parents' house for the day.  My car performed admirably, until on the way home after dropping my sister off at her house, a mere mile from my house, the lights on my dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree and I knew something must be wrong.  But more on that later.

Christmas Day the entire family came over to my house.  It was a nice day, despite even more fresh snow falling in the morning.  I took my morning to shovel out a couple of parking spots on the street, and then everyone showed up for the day.  Lots of food, good times, not much to complain about I'd say.  

Day after Christmas, it was time to address the car issues that I knew were going to be a problem.  Determining that there was some sort of problem with the electrical system, I considered the distinct possibility that my car battery needed replacing.  The battery was original to the car, which is now about 8 years old, so it's reasonable to assume it's time to be replaced.  Driving over to Schuck's, I made my way through the slushy mess that was the street, and as I was a block away from the store, heard my engine begin to sputter, as one-by-one each electrical component in my car began to shut down.  Pulling into the parking lot, the car died completely, not to start again.  With the help of some folks, I was pushed into a parking space, where I proceeded to buy a new battery and replace it there in the parking lot, as the snow began to fall again.  After finishing that, the car started up just fine, though the warning lights on the dash remained.  The worker at Schuck's brought out a tester, and determined that as I had suspected likely, my alternator was certifiably dead.  On battery power alone, I managed to get my car driven over to the Nissan dealer just 20 blocks away, where I had taken my car before to solve the great Window Regulator Debacle.  Of course, as I attempted to pull out of the parking lot at Schuck's, my tired got stuck in the slush, necessitating me pulling the shovel out of the back seat and digging out the tires again.  But at the dealer, they took my car and I found my way to walk across the street to the transit center, grab a bus to get me within 1.4 miles of my house, where I proceeded to walk home through the snow.  Later found out that I had both a dead alternator, and a cracked radiator hose (no doubt from driving over some ice that jabbed into it).  They fixed them, and the next day I paid $750 to get my car out of hawk, and all was well.  

My week off from work was reasonably enjoyable, though I did work a couple of days to stock up on some comp time, and New Year's was also fun.  Then we come to last weekend, where my comp time came in handy as I took Thursday and Friday off to be Chief Umpire for the USCA West Regional Curling Qualifier for the Olympic Trials.  As my math works out, I was at the curling club for about 65 hours over 4 days, but had a good time for the most part.  Met lots of great curlers from around the country, and despite the average of about 6-hours of sleep each night, managed to enjoy myself.  

And now, after a month where I had so little downtime it's hard to remember the last time I took a night off, I have a night off.  But I leave you with this random rant:  

Do the legislators in King County have anything better to do than pass these ridiculous laws requiring calories information posted on menus in all restaurants?  There is nowhere I can go without seeing ridiculous information I have no desire to know, let alone care about.  I do not want to know how many calories there are in my large curly fries from Jack In The Box.  All it makes me do is go "hmmm, that's interesting" and proceed to order them anyway.  Knowing fast food is bad for you didn't stop me from eating it before, so why would I stop eating it now that I see this (admittedly large) number posted on the menu.  As far as I'm concerned, the only number I should see on the menu when I pull up to the drive-thru window is the one with a dollar sign next to it.  

So listen to me King County.  I'm going to thank you.  Not for trying to use numbers to try to dissuade me from eating foods that might be bad for me, but for giving me the power to use those numbers to know exactly which foods I WANT to eat.  From now on, I'm going to religiously look at those calories numbers, and know definitively that the higher the calories, the tastier and more satisfying the food will be.  And that's what it's all about.