Monday, August 27, 2007

A Trip to the Great North

So, we vacated to Canada, le Provence de Quebec to be exact, from 8/12 to 8/19. Flew from Louisville to Montreal on Sunday, stayed there until Thursday. Mostly did tourist foo, Botanical Garden very nice, the Olympic stadium tower. Ate lots of good french food -- sweetbreads and a rack of lamb rubbed in rosemary the 1st night, magnifique. Thursday our oldest daughter flew in from NYC and we took the train to Quebec City (3 hours), stayed there until Saturday, took the train back, then flew home Monday after our Sunday flight was cancelled (thanks United). Quebec City we didn't like as well, pretty much solid tourists, with the big historical point of interest that they seemed obsessed with being the loss of the city to the British in 1759.

So our summer vacation to the north to escape the heat was successful again. I think it may have gotten to 80 1 day in Montreal, and Quebec didn't get over 75, while it was close to 100 down here. So of course, we got rained on in Quebec Friday evening when the temperature was around 60 and I caught a cold, that I am just now about completely over. Hoisted on my own petard.

On the way to Montreal, I finished "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession", by Daniel J. Levitin. He is a former record producer/engineer who is now a researcher at McGill U (in Montreal!) into the cognitive science of music. An OK book, good analysis of the components and evolutionary basis of music, lots of fun factiods (FFTKAT) re why the music of some modern pop artists such as The Beatles, Steely Dan, and Joni Mitchell are so appealing. The web site for the book has song samples and other stuff. One interesting thing that I will research further was his statement that starting times of sounds/notes are discernable by the brain at the level of a few milliseconds. Everything I have seen prior to this has said that the lowest level of time that the brain/consciousness can process is 50 milliseconds / 20 hertz (movies run at 24 frames/second) -- so an interval an order of magnitude below that is definitely worth investigating.

This is the third book on music/mind I have read, much better than the other two, but still, I was glad when this book was over -- not really that much new there. 3 stars.

After that read "Thirteen" by Richard K. Morgan, his 5th novel. Aside from some pacing problems in its 550 pages, a very good read. But, very depressing. Morgan is a Scot. The novel is set in ~2105. The northeast states and the west coast have split from the US in the mid 21st century, leaving the rest as a country known popularly as Jesusland. It's main characteristics are its poor education system, legislated morality, and its willingness to do dirty jobs for cheap, and its suspension of the rule of law, habeus corpus, etc. The truth hurts, don't it? 4 stars.

I never watch The Daily Show any more. It's just not funny any more, the idiocy has gone on far too long. And even with the Bushies in increasingly severe disarray, the democrats seem to remain clueless. Sigh ...

After that I read the new William Gibson, "Spook Country", very good, very much in the vein of "Pattern Recognition", which I thought was his best book since "Neuromancer" in 1984, 4 stars.

Last Wednesday was the last blues jam at Lynagh's, they were ready for a change after 15 months of the Old Farts Blues Jam. Many guitarists there, they were kind of rushing people through, my 3 went OK, considering I still had the damn cold. I'm supposed to be taking the pedal steel to some coffee place for some low volume acoustic type stuff this Wednesday, we'll see how that goes.

My old friend Slaphead, aka Diana Probus, whose blog I linked to recently, died yesterday morning, apparently of complications/side effects of chemotherapy. Her blog went silent June 16, and one of her online friends was kind enough to give me the news. She was 50.

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