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  • April 28, 2008

    Shall We Play a Game?

    Much of today was spent playing Mario Kart Wii, and Tuesday is the release of Grand Theft Auto 4 — on preorder from Amazon, so it should arrive around lunch time. I’m supposed to teach on Wednesday, but I’m trying to decide if I should “come down with something” instead. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for the amount of gaming I need to do…

    6 Comments

    April 25, 2008

    Austin 78704

    As some gathered from my hints in old blog entries, and as others noticed after reading all the way to the end of the last blog entry, yes, it appears that AEJ and I are moving to Austin this summer.

    Texas has been awfully good to me — as my dad has pointed out, I wouldn’t have much of a career if not for Texas — and it makes sense to go where the work is. (Having three performances at the Texas Music Educators convention in February kind of felt like a sign.) It’s a nice bonus that I really like Austin. I think it feels like the San Francisco of Texas (work with me, here…) — good restaurants, politically liberal, and environmentally green. The biggest differences, as far as I can tell: the weather is better in San Francisco, but I can afford to buy a house in Austin.

    Here’s a little blurb about Austin from Treehugger:

    The politics in Austin, Texas, home base of Whole Foods Market, have earned it the title of “the blueberry in the bowl of tomato soup.” But the city’s energy portfolio could make it known as the ray of sunshine in the field of oil pumps. If you want to sign up for green power from Austin Energy, possibly the greenest power grid in the country, you can get in line—this year’s demand was unpredictably high, and they’re fresh out. Austin’s growing list of proactive energy maneuvers is, to say the least, striking. Not only does Austin lead the country in wind power and biodiesel production, but it has built advanced plug-in hybrid vehicles into its energy strategy.

    As part of the recently announced Austin Climate Protection Plan, all facilities, fleets and operations will be carbon-neutral by 2020, and 100 percent of city facilities will be powered by renewable energy by 2012. There will also be CO2 caps and reduction plans for all utility emissions, something the federal government hasn’t dared do.

    That sounds pretty sweet to me. I have loved living in LA, and I’ll miss a lot about it (the sushi and weather, in particular), but I won’t miss the smog…

    Our plan is to look at apartments when we’re out there in two weeks for the premiere of my middle school piece (premiering on May 13 at UT, with Cheryl Floyd conducting the Hill Country Middle School Band — be there!). We’re planning to rent a place for a year while we get to know the city and the various neighborhoods, and buy something next year.

    Now that I have two pieces on the Texas Prescribed Music List, I’ve gotten a handful of invitations to come work with high school bands in Texas. Unfortunately, even fancy-pants schools have trouble justifying the expense of flying me from Los Angeles and putting me up at a hotel in, say, Houston — but if I live in Austin, I can drive somewhere and work with a group for a day. There’s a higher concentration of great high school bands in Texas (particularly in the Austin, Houston, and Dallas areas) than anywhere else I’ve found in the US, and I think it’ll be good to be “in the hood.” My hope is that there will be even more opportunities for school residencies, but without nearly as many hours lost in airports and on planes. (I’d much rather spend time in the pretty new Prius.)

    Plus, the National CBDNA Convention is in Austin next spring — and this way, I won’t have to pay for a hotel room! Think of the savings!

    Another curious coincidence: the founder and CEO of the Whole Foods grocery store chain — based in Austin — is named John Mackey. I’m hoping that will somehow get me free stuff at Whole Foods when I flash my credit card there.

    The title of this blog entry is Austin 78704, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily moving into that trendy zip code, although it looks like a fun area. (It is, after all, the location of Uchi, a most-excellent sushi spot.) For those who know Austin well, where do you think we should rent for this first year?

    12 Comments

    April 24, 2008

    Kansas

    I’m heading to the University of Kansas this morning to work with Scott Weiss (to whom Redline Tango is dedicated) and Vince Gnojek on their upcoming performance of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble. The concert is on Sunday afternoon — but I have absolutely nothing to do on Saturday. If you live in Lawrence, Kansas, and want to entertain me, I’m accepting offers.

    4 Comments

    April 22, 2008

    Revised recordings

    I just posted a new recording of the last two movements of my Concerto for Soprano Sax & Wind Ensemble. This is just the last two movements — “Wood” and the “Finale” — as performed by Timothy Roberts and the US Navy Band, conducted by George Thompson, at the recent International Sax Symposium. The old recording was also with Tim Roberts and the Navy Band, but this performance was two months after the original recording, and the difference shows. As AEJ put it, Tim plays with a real sense of mastery that comes only after spending a long time with a piece. And he plays the finale faster — and more breathlessly — than anybody. It’s kind of crazy. I mean, he plays it faster than the MIDI. The guy is awesome. I can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been with the performances of this piece. The new recordings with Tim Roberts are the reference recordings on the Sax Concerto page.

    As I mentioned in my last entry, I bought a Prius yesterday. It was kind of a spontaneous purchase, which may not be the best way to buy a car. We’ve wanted one for years, but back when we bought our first car, there was a wait for the Prius, and we had to buy a car fairly quickly for the move to LA. We decided on Sunday night, though, screw it, we’d go ahead and buy one soon. Like, the next morning.

    We started by going to Toyota of Glendale. The salesman was pleasant enough, but when the manager came up to us to make the offer, he was an ass. We came prepared with all of the documentation about our trade-in — a 2005 Volkswagen Golf GLS with 24,000 miles on it — which two websites had valued at anywhere between $12,200 and $13,500. There was even a VW dealer selling one on Craigslist here in LA — same year, but fewer features, and with more miles — for $17,000. I knew we wouldn’t get $17000, or even the Edmunds trade-in estimate of $12,200, but I figured we’d be somewhere in that lower ballpark.

    So the guy in Glendale offered us $8000 — without even looking at our car. When I told him that was a little offensive, he said he was offended that we would even suggest that it might be worth more. Oh dear. We offended him. Oh, and he also quoted us a price for the Prius that was more than list. And he didn’t have the model we wanted on the lot. So, we could take a $4000 loss on the trade-in, pay $500 over list for the Prius, and wait “at least two weeks” for them to get one in. When I told him that his price was higher than the sticker price — and I showed him the printout that I had with the correct price — he said that the prices are going up. I told him, “er, I printed this price today — from Toyota.com.” This clearly was not going well. The guy was rude and he was trying to scam us. So we left — pissed off. If you live in LA and you want to buy a Toyota, whatever you do, do not go to Toyota of Glendale. Buying a car should be fun and exciting — not a frustrating, insulting pain in the ass.

    We decided to try one other dealership — Toyota of Hollywood. It’s the oldest Toyota dealership in America, and they have the biggest selection of Priuses (Prii?) in America. The experience there was completely different. Our salesman was Sal Santos, and he was helpful, nice, funny, and sincerely seemed to want us to be happy. Whereas the manager in Glendale determined the value of our car simply by reading a form filled out for him by his salesman, the used car manager of Toyota of Hollywood actually took our car for a test drive and closely checked it. He also offered us much more than we were offered in Glendale. Knowing there was still a difference between what we thought our Golf to be worth and what they were offering, Sal was able to lower the price of the Prius to meet us in the middle. Oh, and they had the exact car we wanted — a black Prius with package 6 and bisque leather interior — on the lot. In fact, they had at least 25 Priuses on the lot — even after selling 18 of them on Saturday.

    Sal is great — as were the rest of the staff that helped us, from Morris (in the finance department — wow, who knew that could be so pleasant?!) to the manager, to Tom, who installed our alarm and Sirius. When we went to pick up the car after the installation, Tom asked us to bring the car back next week to be re-detailed, as some of the wax had been scratched off. (They’re going to provide us with a free rental car to use while they detail the car. How great is that?!)

    The Prius is sweet. Even if it didn’t get 45 miles per gallon, it would still be awesome, just as a gadget. It’s like driving a robot. The stereo is nice, the GPS is slick, the seats are comfy, the trunk is big, the Sirius satellite radio integration is good, and it even came with a full tank of gas! (No small thing here in LA, where gas is $3.89 a gallon.) We love the Prius. It’ll make the drive for the move to Austin so much cheaper, it’ll practically pay for itself!  Bloop!

    8 Comments

    Happy Earth Day

    To celebrate, AEJ and I bought a Prius yesterday.  Seriously.  Wow, what a fun gadget this is.  I’d take pictures, but we have to take it back to Toyota this morning to get the Sirius radio and alarm installed.  But I promise you — pictures to come…

    5 Comments