THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 7, Issue 17 – January 7, 2013
What Happens in Vegas…
For the holiday vacation, wife Jill, son Mark, and I decided we were going to go to Las Vegas to visit my parents and my uncle and aunt, who all live there. Trying to get reasonably priced flight tickets over Christmas is always a challenge, but it didn’t turn out to be that big a deal this year—at least if we were willing to take the “red eye” flight both ways. As it turns out, I kind of prefer it at this time of year—the airport is much less crowded at that hour, so security can be cleared pretty quickly and you don’t feel as much like a lemming jumping over a cliff.
We left on the 19th at 10:30 PM. I’d shelled out a couple of extra bucks for the extra-legroom seats, so things were relatively comfortable. A minor snafu occurred due to the fact that Delta had changed the equipment and when they reassigned the seats, the three of us were no longer together on a totally full flight. It didn’t turn out to be a problem, since the person assigned to the seat between Jill and Mark was happy to swap for my window seat. We arrived in Las Vegas at 11:30 PM (three hour time change—so 2:30 AM our time), and my parents promptly picked us up. As soon as we got to their condo, we went fast to sleep.
The next day, it was off to Sam’s Club to pick up some groceries—some lox for breakfast, some cakes for dessert, and so on). While there, I noticed that they had some Rokus on sale (a Roku is an internet television streaming box—if you have internet at your house and watch TV, you should really own one, and it gives you some 600 different channels) for $70 including an HDMI cable. So, I convinced my father he needed one. Every time I go to Vegas, I always feel the need to upgrade my parents’ electronics in one way or another. They sometimes gripe a bit, but ultimately wind up enjoying it. Installing it only took about a minute, and Mark promptly took over control of the TV for the rest of the trip. One problem—the signal to the Roku kept cutting out, freezing the picture, because my parents’ wi-fi was wonky. To avoid future problems, I picked up an Ethernet cable and hard-connected the Roku to their router. So, it was a regular diet of whatever movies and shows Mark wanted to watch, as well as playing a lot of Angry Birds (a pretty cool game that comes with the Roku).
Mark had been sick a few days before we left and we were concerned about how he’d be on the flight and in Las Vegas, but as it turned out, he was the only one who was well the whole time. My father had picked up a stomach virus just before we came, and he didn’t feel well for a few days. The second day we were in Vegas, Jill and I went out to our favorite Indian restaurant buffet for lunch. That night, we were both sick as dogs. We marked it off to what we had eaten for lunch, but I never really believed it, since we had eaten at that restaurant numerous times with no ill effect. My mother got sick the next day. A few days later we found out why—we got a call from Sam’s Club telling us that the lox had been recalled, and we’d been having it with breakfast every day. After returning to Marietta, Russ Hunt told me that he had tried to get some lox at Einstein’s Bagels, and that they told him it had all been recalled—so this was apparently a national problem.
We also spent some time with my uncle Nate (who is now 88) and aunt Shirley, who live in the same condo complex as my parents. My cousin Karen (their daughter) was visiting, as was her son Jacob and my cousin Barry’s son Joshua. I hadn’t seen Karen in a couple of years (more for the two sons), so it was nice to get together again.
We had hoped to go down to the Grand Canyon for a few days, but everyone’s various illnesses put the kibosh on that. Instead, we spent some time on the strip and decided to take in a show. Mark originally wanted to see Carrot Top (who does a comedy act), but that was sold out. Instead, we went to see Legends, which is an impersonation show of various singers: Barry White, Adele, the Blues Brothers, Whitney Houston, and Elvis. All the artists were good, and not only sounded like the singers, they looked like them too. We all enjoyed the show and afterwards, the various singers came out to meet the audience and for pictures. So, if you don’t believe that Elvis still lives, I have photographic proof: a picture of him, Jill, and my mom.
Something else we always enjoy doing in Vegas is going to see the decorations and the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel. This year was no exception—the decorations were beautiful and the fountain show was very nice (although it was a bit windy out, and the wind blew the fountain spray onto my camera lens). Gambling-wise, Jill lost a few bucks and Mark won a few—he’s the lucky one.
The time in Las Vegas went by really fast and on December 31, it was back home on the 11:30 PM flight. It arrived in Atlanta at 5:30 AM, and we were back at home (and asleep) by 7:00 AM.
Upcoming Polytechnic Summit
As many of you know, the upcoming 5th Polytechnic Summit will be held at Wentworth University in Boston, from June 5-7. If you’d like to present a paper at the Summit, here is the link to submit it: http://polytechnicsummit.org/proposals.html. Funds will be available from your deans to support a limited number of folks to attend the Summit, so please make every effort to participate.
Well, It Made Me Laugh
Bob Brown sent me a picture of what may be the ultimate Periodic Table. It kind of reminds me of Kramer’s coffee table book about coffee tables (which unfolded to form a coffee table) on Seinfeld. Here’s the picture of the Periodic Table.
Burning Down the House
It was fun going to the bonfire that Lance Crimm (EE) hosted in his backyard this past Saturday. Lance decided to “recycle” some Christmas trees in the fire and it’s really amazing (and somewhat scary) to see how quickly the trees burned and how high the flame got. It’s an excellent study in kinetics and chemistry: combine a high surface area with dry wood and oil in the leaves, and WOW! Here’s the result from just one tree.
Goodbye, Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck, the great jazz pianist, died on December 5, 2012, one day short of his 92nd birthday. Brubeck was one of the early leaders of the “progressive jazz” movement, and his quartet and recordings caught on big-time at colleges and universities in the 1950’s. He was the first jazz musician that I had ever heard. His music opened the door to my interest in jazz.
Brubeck went to the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific), intending to study veterinary science. The head of zoology, a Dr. Arnold, told him: “Brubeck, your mind’s not here. It’s across the lawn in the conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours.” So, Brubeck became a music major and was nearly expelled when one professor found out that he couldn’t read music. Other faculty intervened, arguing that his knowledge of counterpoint and harmony more than compensated, and Brubeck was allowed to graduate on the condition that he never become a piano teacher.
After graduation in 1942, Brubeck went into the army and volunteered to play piano during a Red Cross show. He was asked to form a band, and the group “The Wolfpack”, one of the first integrated bands in the military, was the result. The army was where Brubeck met his longtime musical collaborator, saxophonist Paul Desmond.
The Dave Brubeck quartet was formed in 1951, featuring Brubeck, Desmond, and several other short-lived members. In 1956, Joe Morello joined on drums, and in 1958, Eugene Wright (a black bass player) completed the “classic” version of the quartet. The Quartet’s biggest hit, “Take Five”, was released in 1959 and was the first jazz album to sell more than one million copies. The 5-4 time signature is probably the most instantly recognizable single jazz work of all time.
Wright’s membership in the quartet led to protests from southern universities, who didn’t want to feature an integrated group and insisted that the Quartet drop Wright. Brubeck refused, instead cancelling appearances at Georgia Tech, 23 of 25 colleges on a 1960 southern tour, and on the Bell Telephone Hour television show, where they wanted Wright to play off-camera. “Jazz stands for freedom,” Brubeck said. Brubeck recounted another incident:
“I wasn’t allowed to play in some universities in the United States and out of twenty-five concerts, twenty-three were cancelled unless I would substitute my black bass player for my old white bass player, which I wouldn’t do. They wouldn’t let us go on with Gene [Wright] and I wouldn’t go on without him. So there was a stalemate and [we were] in a gymnasium, a big basketball arena on a big campus. And the kids were starting to riot upstairs. So the President of the school had things pushing him from every side: The kids stamping on the floor upstairs, me refusing to go on unless I could go on with my black bass player.
So we just stalled and the bus driver came and said, “Dave, hold out. Don’t go on. The president is talking to the governor and I think things are going your way.” And the Governor says, “You’d better let them go on.” So we held on and the president of the college came in and he said, “Now you can go on with the understanding that you’ll keep Eugene Wright in the background where he can’t be seen too well.” And I told Eugene, “Your microphone is off and I want you to use my announcement microphone so you gotta come in front of the band to play your solo.” Well the audience went crazy. We integrated the school that night. The kids wanted it; the President wanted it; the teachers wanted it. The President of the college knew he might lose his funding from the state. So here’s the reason you fight is for the truth to come out and people to look at it. Nobody was against my black bass player. They cheered him like he was the greatest thing that ever happened for the students. Everybody was happy. My point is those students had hired me in twenty-five universities. And twenty-three had to cancel because of what they thought they would lose from the state government. But they wouldn’t lose it. We went back and played all of those schools in a few years. And we’ve had a lot of terrible things happen to us while we’re fighting to have equality – police escorts from the airport to the university, or where I wouldn’t go on [stage] until the blacks could come in or [until they] didn’t have to sit in the balcony. I wouldn’t play until they were in the front row. You gradually stop all these ridiculous old rules that nobody really believes in.” [Quote from Rediscovering Dave Brubeck with Hendrick Smith on PBS.]
Dave and Iola (his wife) wrote a musical called The Real Ambassadors as a commentary on race issues in the US in 1962, with the Quartet performing it at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Louis Armstrong was the main character in the musical. On September 21-23, 2013, the Monterey Jazz Festival will feature an exhibit and a panel entitled: “Remembering the Real Ambassadors: Brubeck and Armstrong Speak Out on Civil Rights at Monterey”. A team of student historians will record recollections of patrons who remember that performance.
In 1967, the Quartet broke up, Brubeck and Desmond going their separate ways with occasional reunions. Brubeck became a solo act (also appearing in a trio with his children). He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and founded the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific in 2000, which is the repository for his personal papers and provides fellowships for students studying jazz. In 2008, he won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy, awarded by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The State Department announcement noted: “as a pianist, composer, cultural emissary and educator, Dave Brubeck’s life’s work exemplifies the best of America’s cultural diplomacy.”
We’ll miss you, Dave.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
2013’s first trivia challenge focuses, naturally, on the number “13”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- There were 13 of them before 1776.
- It outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.
- It’s almost never there in a tall building.
- Movie from 2000 about the Cuban Missile Crisis. It starred Kevin Costner.
- Compassion before a person sins; after a person has sinned; mighty in compassion to give all creatures according to their need; merciful, that humankind may not be distressed; gracious if humankind is already in distress; slow to anger; plenteous in mercy; truth; keeping mercy unto thousands; forgiving iniquity; forgiving transgression; forgiving sin; and pardoning.