The People Raise Their Hands

Rush kicked off their latest tour at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire last Friday night. Their latest album, Clockwork Angels, has been getting mostly good reviews, and I spent a lot of time listening to it over the summer in anticipation of this concert. Having bought two tickets in a simultaneous burst of passion and foolishness (though the two do often seem to go together, don’t they?), I was glad to have one of my brothers-in-law named Randy along with me to share the experience. (I actually have three brothers-in-law, but only two of them are named Randy, though maybe we can work on Brian and change that.)

After the Time Machine tour experience in 2010, I went prepared with ear plugs to sensibly limit hearing loss while, hopefully, still enjoying the music. Pulling into Manchester and finding parking (for a hefty price!) across from the arena I threw caution to the winds and left the ear plugs in the car. Inside the arena I was a little surprised at its size, which seemed small, though I guess it seats about as many as the Mohegan Sun Arena, and about half again as many as our local Cumberland County Civic Center.

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Zzzzzzzz……….. sknx! Hmph? What?!

Yes, I know it’s been a while, and it seems to have become a more or less constant condition. Still, the last few weeks have been busy, and I expect the coming summer to be full of its own comings and goings. A couple of comings and goings to note: middle daughter is home from college for the summer (yay!), eldest is moved into an apartment with roommates but we’ll still get to see her a couple of times this summer (yay, but also a harbinger of changes to come), and, though neither a coming nor a going, our youngest is itching for the school year to be over.

I did want to mention the end of a good friend’s blog, however. (Can’t link to it since it’s gone.) After more than a decade at it, my long-time friend Brian has decided to take a break from the grind of finding interesting and amusing things on the Internet to share, often with insightful comments about them. I’m not sure what, if any, plans he has to resume any kind of creative online presence but I appreciate both his efforts and the need to take a break.

Summertime will be full of softball tournaments, at least one college visit, side trip to Washington, motorcycle rides, hiking, gardening and grilling, family times, and, oh yeah, I still have to work at least some of the time. Maybe I will find time along the way to share; maybe you will, too.

4 Down, 158 to Go

It’s bottom of the sixth and the Red Sox are down 3-1 against the Toronto Bluejays. The Sox are 1-3 on the season and already people are talking about what’s wrong with them.

You’d think I was a big baseball fan or something, but I’m not. Not a big fan, anyway. My wife? Well, that’s another story. She’s the serious sports fan in the family, especially when it comes to baseball. I like baseball, but not as much as she does. She savors it, loves the fine points, and is much more in tune with its history. My enjoyment of it is much more conditional, and situational.

For me, baseball is best enjoyed in person on a warm summer night or bright fall afternoon. Or, better yet, on an AM radio, listening to the voice of the announcers, waiting for things to happen, the white noise of the crowd and radio static punctuated by the occasional drama. As much as I am not a big baseball fan, some of my fondest memories actually involve baseball – and AM radio. Listening to a game at night, particularly when the Sox are on a West Coast road trip, sitting on the porch on a Sunday afternoon while pretending to tend the grill, or when I was a kid, sitting in the barn with my grandfather and my dad on a hot summer afternoon. My grandparents lived that much closer to Boston than we did (only about 50 miles), and we could actually listen to the game on AM radio from Fenway and WHDH in Boston.

So on my way home from my evening meetings during baseball season I’ll already have the AM band preset for the local Red Sox Radio Network station and get my 15 minute fix of baseball on the radio. They were made for each other.

Grind

It’s winter. The holidays are over (even Chinese New Year was a few days ago), and now it’s just the long grind until spring. Shoveling, budget, plowing, chipping ice, budget, snow removal, budget, snow removal, budget, rain, budget, etc., etc Spring brings an end – and hopefully a satisfactory conclusion – to all these things. More importantly, it comes with other happy things – grilling, riding, hikingsoftball games, evenings on the porch. Sigh. Doesn’t help that I’ve already been dreaming about these things.

Now why’d I go and do that? There’s still five months to grind out between here and there. Guess I’ll keep working in the budget, then.

All Political Ads, All the Time

Now that the Iowa caucus is over all that political advertising, along with the GOP candidates, makes its way to New Hampshire. This means we’ll be treated to non-stop presidential wanna-bes, in between which we might see a little programming. And being in Maine, we don’t even get the pleasure(?) of seeing or voting for any of them. Of course, not being of the right persuasion, I wouldn’t get to vote for any of them anyway.

Maybe we’ll get lucky, find out the Mayans were off (i.e. late) by a few months, and we’ll all be spared the pleasure.

Happy Birthday Commodore!

Thirty years ago I was seriously itching to get into the brave new world of personal computers. No longer content with commandeering terminals at the local college, no doubt keeping actual college students from getting work done, I pored over catalogs from Radio Shack, Sinclair, Apple, and Commodore. I put together dream systems with not one, but two (!) floppy drives, and in my wilder moments, a 5MB hard drive. And I wouldn’t just run the embedded BASIC (bleah!) but prove my real abilities as a budding computer nerd and run CP/M.

Apple IIs were around, my mother even had a TRS-80 Color Computer my parents had bought when she went back to school, and I couldn’t get my mitts on my own computer fast enough. It took me a good year to save up the $595 to get my own Commodore 64 when they came out. Initially I had to settle for a cassette tape drive to store and load data and programs (zzzz….), but gradually expanded my system to include the 1541 floppy drive and 1702 color monitor. I’d hit the big time!

I had a lot of fun with my Commodore 64, writing lengthy BASIC programs and tinkering with FORTH (though I never did really get to run CP/M or any other “real” operating system until I graduated to the IBM PC). I wrote programs in 6510 assembly language, ported a favorite Star Trek game from the college time-share system, used VisiCalc, played games, even used dialup online services like Dow Jones News/Retrieval (at 300 baud), and reached a pretty solid “intermediate” on the computer nerd scale. Then I graduated from college, went to work in a non-computer related (except to use them) occupation, and have been gradually left behind by younger, nerdier people.

Thirty years later I still consider myself an advanced user, but as a computer enthusiast, the Commodore 64 was really when I hit my peak. Looking over that last sentence it seems kind of sad, doesn’t it? It isn’t really, because, like a lot of people, I simply moved on to other things.

I wonder if I still have that old 64 in the attic somewhere….?