Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Days Ahead

And so, I decided to study law.

I will serve my internship beginning in September of the coming year.  Federal practice is my area of interest, and I hope to be assigned to the federal courthouse.

I was inspired in no small part by the opinions of the Hon. Paul W. Grimm of the District of Delaware; previously our nation’s foremost magistrate judge, now a United States District Judge.  The opinions of Justices Brennan and White were also quite influential in this decision.

I will write somewhat on law in the coming year, as I find the matter fascinating.

I am aware that what little readership here remains is of an international nature; I have no heart to seek out a greater audience, due in no small part to the mob swarm of years ago.  That is a matter yet to be fully adjudicated, and I prefer to speak no more on it.

With that in mind, the topics on law of which I shall here recount will be of such a nature inclined toward mindfulness of the commonality of our systems of law.  The first of this series is to be an examination of exactly where our appellate courts come from; the answer is from a common source stemming from events occurring under the rule of King James I in the early 17th century.

Still, while the history of law may serve to intrigue, it leaves many open questions.  I hope to explore those a bit in the comments.  To my knowledge, there has been no thorough examination of the various systems of law derived from the English common law; and so I encourage you to share your own thoughts, experiences, and anecdotes in the comments.

I was waiting on Cindy to redecorate the place, but that appears to be a very long wait (though she’s no longer lost in Farmville).  About time the New Mexico centennial theme should be gone, and that will be done, likely, after the first of the year.  Any comments or suggestions on the redesign are welcome.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.
May your endeavors be fruitful, and your joys abundant.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

By the Numbers

Looking at the population figures for the United States, here are a few things that I've noticed:

The age group from 35 - 45 is the largest of any single ten-year period.

You stand a much better chance of making it from age 65 to 75 than from age 45 to 60.

Your chances of living beyond age 75 are significantly increased by being female.

Most people seem to die in their late 50's.

Just noticing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


In what seems like a very long time ago, I had posted this video of a student playing a piece by Frederico Moreno Torroba.  This is easily among the best renditions I've heard of this piece; a favorite of mine.

The performer here is Jonathan Edwards, at Eastern Michigan University.  I believe this is the same Mr. Edwards now a member of the adjunct faculty at Siena Heights Univ.

At any rate, I was asked whether there would be a particular recording of this piece that I would recommend.  A difficult question, mind you; as most have their strong points, but so many have telling flaws.

Personally, my own rendition is very much like Norbert Kraft's.  In fact, I took the little slides at a certain part from Kraft for my own.  But there's this one note which Kraft hurries through, to his detriment-- and it appears three times.

And of course, I'm just the type that the one note tends to irritate me to no end.

But then, I like to add the D below it on the 2nd & 3rd pass; like so:

As previously noted, the piece is best expressed as a series of cadenza passages; hence, to be 'technically correct' does not equate to being 'right.'  Your ears will tell you what is 'right.'

At any rate, I've had the Recital CD by Denis Azabagić from Naxos for some time.  I've never listened to all of it before.  Frankly, I bought it for the allegretto from the Sonatina, and for some Ponce selections that I hadn't heard before.  (An interview with Denis Azabagić may be found here; part one and part two.)

A long drive through the countryside changed that not so long ago.

Torroba had an extensive background in theater, and his Sonatina certainly showcases his evocative capacity through music.  Azabagić has a very adept command of dynamics which lends itself well to the expressiveness of the piece.

Azabagić plays the allegretto as well as anyone I've ever heard do it.  Some of his rhythmic variations in the andante are other than what I'm accustomed to; more akin to what I would associate with a certain style of jazz.  I like it very much; it flows very natural and freely.  And his command of the dynamics is enviable.

But it's the allegro at the end of the Sonatina that is most amazing.  I've always liked the little part at the end of the first statement of theme.  It sounds very folksy in a traditional melodic sort of way.  I never really had much interest in it past that one part.

But Azabagić's command of dynamics lends this piece its extraordinary quality.  The finger roll toward the end is absolutely thunderous, followed by harmonics like gently falling drops of rain.  Frankly, Azabagić's rendition of that part tends to make my eyes a bit misty whenever I hear it.

The allegro con brio from Anontio José's Sonata is also a favored piece from the CD.

There are two composers represented that I am wholly unfamiliar with: Antonio Ruiz-Pipó and Carlos Rafael Rivera.  Of the two, I would say that I like the Rivera selections the more.  These are very unusual pieces, and the dance is unlike anything else I have ever heard; one of those truly unique pieces which seem to define an entirely new style of music.  Azabagić's technical mastery shines here, though his command of dynamics is notably present throughout.

I would say that I would have to change my recommendation:
Kraft has been bumped to no. 2.
Azabagić would be the one I would recommend to anyone wishing to have only one copy of Torroba's Sonatina.

I hope to add some of those rhythmic figures to my own rendition.

Here are a couple of selections (not appearing on the Recital CD) of Azabagić playing the Preludes of Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Brain, Revisited

About six months ago, I began a program of brain training; mainly to assist in overcoming the effects of PTSD.  I wrote about that one month on here.

Now, I have completed my 1000th game, which is something of a milestone.  Now my scores will be tallied with the rest for computing averaging for assessment.

I can say that I'm pleased with the results.  More on the system and development after the data.

Here are my current scores for my age group:

Not shabby.

Actually, most of these scores have gone down over the past month.  Only speed & attention have gone up.

Here are the scores compared to the 30 - 34 age group, which is effectively where I compete at the professional level:

Still not bad; though slipping notably from the scores within my age group.

And here are the scores as compared with the 20 - 24 age group:

The first three have dropped notably, while the remaining remain quite high.
For all the world, this says to me that the old man may be slipping a bit, but he's still fairly sharp.
Alternatively, one might say that the benefits of wisdom & experience (of which, I arguably may hold quite little) tend to stand out markedly in this set of scores.

Granted, I was scoring 154 on IQ tests when I was 18.  In my early 30's, that had dropped to where I consistently score around 132 on such things; which has remained fairly consistent from that time.

Also, I have something of a background in mechanical engineering; and I can say that manner of operation of thought has infected my thinking in a great many ways from my early 40's.

Which is to say, that I've always been something of a particularly bright individual; though I know all too well that such persons are prone to be a bit thick in somewhat surprising ways.

The Games:

Each one of the games focus on a different area of assessment for the particular scoring area; e.g. the 'Attention' games are divided into Focus & Visual Field.  I tend to do much better on the Focus games.

For each scoring area, there is at least one area of assessment where I excel.  Alternatively, for each scoring area, there is at least one where I  tend to do not quite so well.

The games which are my favorites to play aren't always reflected in the scoring.  I like Pinball Recall (a memory game), Penguin Pursuit (a speed game, guiding a penguin through a spinning maze), Route to Sprout (a flexibility game, like Penguin Pursuit, dealing with a maze to be solved), Playing Koi (an attention game, feeding more and more fish as they swim about), and Word Bubbles Rising (another flexibility game, making words from a common stem).

I tend to like the games where I get to pause a bit before going on (old man here, mind you; or, at least, heading in that direction).  Some of the games go on too long for my taste.

The games become progressively more difficult.  Some days, I think I have done terribly, only to see a personal high score.

Maintaining high scores can be something of a challenge.  Scores are much more likely to go down from a day of bad performance in such a case.

The study says that exercise of the brain can turn back up to 14 years of cognitive decline.  I was hoping I was doing a bit more well than that 14 years ago.

My Progress:

I have noted that nutrition plays an important role in performance.  Giving it a round before my vitamins, or while hungry, can contribute to a day of bad performance.

The brain function came back slowly, but dramatically.    Both the Problem Solving & Flexibility took a big jump early on, followed by a much slower rate of progress.  Next was the Memory, and then Attention; both of which followed the same pattern.  The Speed was the last to return, and took some three months to do so.  It continues to improve markedly.

I think I might find an equilibrium in there somewhere.

Also, I think this might help explain why I don't do so well at video games when playing with my nephews.  Their brains are much sharper than mine in key areas; and vice versa.  The study says that the benefits of exercising the brain can be seen five years later; so maybe I'll have my day against them yet . . .

I'm thinking about learning conversational Spanish as an additional means of improving brain function.  I know a lot of words, and I can read the language fairly well (for the most part), but I've never been able to construct sentences properly.  Unfortunately, I don't have so many fluent Spanish-speakers around me these days.

Foolishly, it was French that I took in high school; under the mistaken impression that I might wish to speak to them.  Not so many French speakers about either; no loss.

Again, recommended.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Things Seen

This is a particularly poignant video.  It carries a very strong message.

It's something that I would like to share with you.

It will be three minutes of your time well-spent.

I hope you have learned something from this.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Mix

Over at the League, there's a new question up for the Thursday Night Bar Fights feature.
This is one of the new features for the new year; a different question every Thursday intended to provoke disagreement & discussion.

Though it sounds like just the sort of thing I would be into, I usually stay out of it.

This week though, the issue was one of what ten cd's you would want to take with you for a cross-country roadtrip; no anthologies, greatest hits, or boxed sets allowed.

Here are my choices, slightly re-ordered, with a bit of explanation.
I invite you to leave your own choices in the comments.

1.      Christopher Parkening & David Brandon – Virtuoso Duets
Best version ever of Zipoli's "Offertorio" and Gordon Young's "Hymn of Christian Joy (Prelude in the Classical Style)."  It's strong throughout.
The Andrew York piece makes it drag a bit at the end, being somewhat overlong.
Well worth listening to.

2.      Ana Vidovic – Moreno-Torroba Vol. 1
I feel certain aspects of Mvmt. II of the "Sonatina" are rushed; a common complaint for me (I prefer the Norbert Kraft most of all the available recordings, but still there's that one note that he hurries through).  Her Bach is definitely way too fast (a common criticism against her).
This is the complete "Castellos de España" series by Frederico Mereno-Torroba; rendered excellently.

3.      Gordon Lightfoot – The Way I Feel
This one has a lot of my favorites.
There are two versions, and you can tell which it is by the title track.  The original is more of a folk song, and the remake more uptempo.  I prefer the remake, though the artist prefers the original.  Everyone hears a bit different, I'd say.

4.      Neil Diamond – Hot August Night
This one is probably disqualified as a greatest hits.  Recorded live in 1971 while Diamond was still a rising star.
Though I typically detest live albums, this one has a great sound.
All my favorite ND songs on here.

5.      Kiss – Dressed to Kill
Sounds like a good rock band should sound.

6.      Less Than Jake – Hello, Rockview
It's hard to pick just one, but I think this is the strongest one throughout.

7.      Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
Works better if you chop about 2 1/2 minutes out of the part immediately following the intro, but a lot of good stuff here.

8.      Gentle Giant – Octopus
Again, hard to pick just one, but I think this is the strongest one throughout.

9.      Celtic Frost – Into the Pandemonium
A classic.
Nothing more need be said.

10.  Coroner – Mental Vortex
A toss-up between this one and Permanent Waves by Rush, but I felt prog was already well-covered by the Gentle Giant & Jethro Tull; metal needed more of a presence.

The floor is open.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Ramada

This is a photo that I picked up from a news article.  The photo attribution is from Nina Raingold of Getty Images.

This is a street scene from a town in New Mexico.  I'm not sure what town this is.

Those buildings with the green awnings are in the adobe style; very common in NM.  Houses built in this style are commonly referred to as "snow homes."

What I would like to call your attention to is the group of wooden poles sticking out from the top of the nearest building on the left.

Odd, isn't it?

This is known as a "ramada."  The word is the same in both Spanish and English.

The purpose of a ramada is to hold cut branches.  You cut a few mesquite limbs and throw them up there, and you have some good shade, while the looseness of the branches still permits any breeze to come through.

I seriously doubt that this ramada is being used like that.  It's more of a holdover of a design element.

In fact, I believe that most ramadas which are used for their original purpose are in Mexico these days.

But that's what it is, and that's why it's there.