2006 July at John Mackey's Blog



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  • How I Spent My Teen Years
  • New stuff for Fall 2014!
  • UTWE Tour : Shenzhen
  • Wine-Dark Sea – the video
  • Wine-Dark Sea – recording and score
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  • Symphony for Band – an update, with audio
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  • July 24, 2006

    On the road… again

    AEJ and I are off to the east coast tomorrow morning. We’ll drop off Loki with our neighbors, then head to LAX and fly to JFK. After a night at Newman’s, we’ll go on our little road trip up to Williamstown, MA, where Newman’s family has a beautiful country place. First thing Thursday morning, I’ll drive 45 minutes to Tanglewood to work with Bob Reynolds on his next performance of “Redline Tango,” this time with the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Wind Ensemble. I think this is the fourth band with whom he’s done the piece. (He’s also doing it tomorrow at Tanglewood — in the shell — as part of “Tanglewood on Parade.”) I’m a major Bob Reynolds fan, to state the obvious. That’s why I dedicated “Turning” to him.

    Coincidentally, right after the Tanglewood rehearsal, I’ll head to Mass MoCA — a great contemporary art museum in North Adams, MA — to hear a performance of “Breakdown Tango” by a chamber group performing on the Bang on a Can Summer Festival there.

    Friday night is the Tanglewood concert — and more importantly, Jonathan Newman‘s birthday. Shoot Newman a birthday greeting on Friday!

    Probably not a lot of blogging from the road, due to the lack of Internets in the country, but I may find a way to upload a picture or two…


    July 21, 2006

    Fast Machine

    I think it would be really fun to have a sports car. A startup company called Tesla has just invented my dream car: The Tesla Roadster.

    It’s very pretty, as any performance sports car should be…

    And it accelerates from 0-60 in under 4 seconds. That’s even faster than the acceleration of the Bentley Continental that I rode in last November. Reportedly, the Tesla accelerates so quickly that if you floor it, it becomes impossible for the person in the passenger seat to lean forward enough to adjust the radio. (This could be very handy for some negatron couples who disagree about music choices.)

    But wouldn’t it be awfully expensive to fuel this thing? I mean, the Bentley gets about 5-8 miles per gallon. That gas tank on the side is daunting…

    Oh, wait. No. Because this car is electric. That’s right. What looks like a gas tank is where you plug in the charger. The car gets the equivalent of 135 miles per gallon. Costs about $0.01 per mile to drive. Goes 250 miles on a charge. Recharges overnight in just a few hours. Can go over 130 miles per hour — almost silently. The company is even going to sell optional (but, as far as I’m concerned, mandatory for coolness alone) solar panels for your home, allowing you to charge the thing entirely on solar power.

    The car is American designed, financed by the guys from Google, PayPal, and eBay, and built at the Lotus plant in England. It’s made of carbon fiber. The engine maxes out at 13,500 rpm, allowing it to reach 70 mph in first gear. It has computerized traction control to prevent you from simply spinning out the tires when you floor it.

    The lack of loud exhaust is a little sad. I mean, hearing a Lamborghini accelerate is part of the fun. To that, the founder of Tesla says, “Some people are going to miss the sound of a roaring engine — just like people used to miss the sound of horse hooves clippity-clopping down the street.”

    Wow, I want one. A high-performance sports car that looks sweet and doesn’t use any gasoline or oil.
    Feel free to contribute to my fund to help me purchase one. I accept PayPal.

    1 Comment

    July 19, 2006

    Sony sucks

    So, I got my Sony DSC-T9 Camera back today from the Sony Authorized Service Center — Precision Camera — and it still doesn’t work. That’s right. Four weeks without a camera, and it came back, still unable to sync with any of my computers. Not only that, but Precision Camera scratched the outside of the camera, supposedly while trying to open it. Anybody who knows me well knows that this pissed me off.

    I called Sony, and they instructed me to send the camera back to Precision Camera for repair. I was like, “um, they had it for FOUR WEEKS, and it came back, not only still broken, but damaged even further.” They said this was the only option. I said no, the camera should be replaced with a new camera. That is the other option. No, they said, it had to be serviced by an authorized service center, and could not be replaced unless it couldn’t be repaired. When I pointed out that it obviously can’t be repaired, since they tried for 4 weeks to fix it and sent it back still broken, I was told, sorry, it has to go back for repair. “You obviously can’t fix it. Just replace it.” “Sorry, we can’t do that.” “What do you mean you can’t do that? You manufacture the camera! I’m sure you have another one lying around somewhere! Just send me a new one!” “No, I’m sorry, we can’t do that.”

    So I contacted American Express to contest the purchase price and request my money back. And I wrote a nasty letter to Best Buy, who refused to exchange the camera because I hadn’t bought their overpriced hard-sell “Extended Warranty” — even though the camera itself is still under warranty. And I wrote a nasty letter to Precision Camera, who failed to fix the camera, and scratched the outside. And I wrote a nasty letter to Sony Electronics, telling them I’d bought my last Sony. And I sent the same letter to Howard Stringer’s office — the CEO of Sony of America.

    All they had to do was replace the broken camera and declare a loss on the defective camera. It would have cost them next-to nothing, and I would have kept buying Sony stuff, as I have for years and years. But no, they had to piss me off. And years of being picked on in high school has created somebody who doesn’t like to be pushed around. To quote Cornelius Vanderbilt, in one of my favorite all-time quotes, “You have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I will ruin you.”

    In a few weeks, when somebody Google’s Sony Warranty repair, Precision Camera, Howard Stringer, or the Sony DSC-T9 Camera, this blog will show up, hopefully discouraging that purchase.

    Now if only I could find a way to get back at that kid in high school who opened my three-ring binder so my papers fell out. I hate that dick.


    July 17, 2006

    Wrong Line of Work

    The Smoking Gun has the complete budget for the film, “The Village.” After flipping through over 60 pages, I finally found the music budget page. (It actually continues for a few pages past that.) Among the findings: The composer, James Newton Howard, received what I had previously heard to be the standard rate for a film: $1.3 million. I heard it was “standard” for the big guys, but never saw any proof, until I read the budget. Other tidbits: the copying fee was $52,500. The orchestrator got $64,800 — but that includes $20,000 for transcribing the MIDI files. I would have thought the orchestrator would get a much bigger chunk.

    Still — it seems that I’m in the wrong line of work. Or, at least the wrong specialty.


    July 16, 2006

    Setting the pace

    AEJ and I headed to Beverly Hills today to buy a treat at the Nike Store: new running shoes that communicate with our iPod Nano. Have you heard about this yet? If you’re a runner, this is genius, and a must-have. Apple and Nike have teamed up to make a little two-part gadget to make running a bit more fun — a welcome purchase, given my recent difficulty getting motivated to run in the current summer heat.

    What it is is a little $29 thing that comes in two parts. One part is the transmitter, roughly the size of two Mentos, that goes under the heel padding of your Nike shoe. (Yes, you can use it on non-Nike shoes, but you’d have to either cut a hole in the shoe to hold it, or velcro it, or rig something decidedly non-elegant and therefore inherently non-Apple-like.) The other part — the receiver — plugs into your iPod Nano. That’s it. Now your Nano will measure your running distance, time, calories burned, mile pace. Whenever you dock your iPod, it sends your run stats to Nike, where you can review all of your runs onscreen.

    Also on the Nike site, you can set goals for future runs, like “I want to run 30 miles over the course of 4 weeks” or “I want to burn 3200 calories in 6 weeks,” etc. It’s strangely fun. You can even compare your runs to friends’, if they join the site, too. (That goes to any readers out there — if you get this little gadget, let me know, and we’ll link accounts. Think of the fun!)

    An added weird bonus — but one that’s extra-cool — is the voice feedback. When you finish your run, a voice tells you how far you ran, for how long, and your mile pace. Why? Because chances are, you have your Nano in an armband where the screen is covered. Supposedly, if you set a workout goal for an individual run (like, “run until 500 calories are burned”), the voice chimes into your headphones with updates as you progress.

    The shoes were $100, but they make some at the $85 price point, too. (The line is called “Nike+.”) Seriously — if you already have a Nano (it only works with the Nano — no other iPod models), and you run, you need this.

    Now they just need to make a model for bikes.