Julius Caesar

Or, to sound a bit more snooty, I saw Giulio Cesare at Lyric Opera tonight. It's a long one. Starts at 6:30 and ends who knows when. I only made it through two acts, but a small part of me wanted to stay for the third. I didn't because I would have gotten home really late and I really didn't love the opera. Sometimes you get great ones, sometimes good ones and sometimes bad ones. I'd put this one in the good category.

I want to start off by saying that one of my favorite operas, Alcina, was also by Handel. I saw that years ago and still remember some arias, what the set looked like and the basic story. I guess I had very high expectations for this one because of Alcina. Giulio Cesare is a very different beast. First off, there were no tenors. But there were three counter tenors. I am not a musician or opera expert. I had thought that a counter tenor was to a tenor like a mezzo soprano was to a soprano. The counter tenor would be a bit lower than a tenor. I was completely wrong. A counter tenor is higher than a tenor. I have to say that I'm not a big fan of counter tenors. Well, maybe I would be if there were just one or two, but having three and all the women being mezzo sopranos (being lower than a soprano), made everyone sound like they were singing the same notes. The range was provided by two bass baritones. It was just weird having no tenors and no sopranos.

The other part that I didn't like was that it was described as a bollywood version of Giulio Cesare. This was an accurate description, based on the couple of bollywood movies that I've seen. And I'm not saying that bollywood is bad, I actually like the high energy dancing of bollywood. What bugged me was that this was set in Egypt, "Bollywood" is Indian. I guess the director was trying to just differentiate the West (Rome) with the East (Egypt). But the Indian feel just seemed out of place to me. That and parts of the set also didn't fit. There was a scene with Cleopatra (who was great, by the way) where she was wearing a "flapper" outfit that seemed both out of place and out of time.

As to the singing, it was fantastic. All the singers were great, especially Cleopatra. She easily had the most fun with the role. Cordelia was good as well, but she seemed to spend the entire opera lying on the floor singing "woe is me"-type songs. The male singers were all good, I just have to say that I wasn't crazy about the counter tenor voices. Oh and the mezzo who played Cordelia's son Sextus, was really good as well.

The sets were very good as usual. They made a lot of changes to show the differences between Rome and Egypt. There also were a number of dancers and actors on stage, who did not sing. That made things a little more interesting. And was necessary, because some of the arias were really long. One strange thing was that it didn't appear that the supertitles were telling all the story. In the few years that I've gone to the opera, usually the words show the first time they are sung and then when they're repeated, the supertitles don't show them. In act I, I actually thought that the supertitle screen was broken because they were showing so very few words. But that just seemed to be how it was in this opera. So, I did feel like I was missing part of the story.

Anyway, overall it was good. I'm glad I saw it and it gave me a different perspective on how an opera could go. It was also my introduction to counter tenors which was interesting. Will I see it again? Probably not. Am I glad I went? Definitely.

A side note is that I have to get different seats next year. The people around me were talking and moving around a lot. So, I think it's time for me to try to get some better seats next year.

Progress!

Since I spent just about all the time I had off for Thanksgiving (minus the day itself) working on the bathroom, I should have something to show for it. So, here it is. I just finished priming and should be able to paint tomorrow. Then, finally, I can start tiling! I am so looking forward to taking a shower at home, I really can't put it into words.

Here's how I boxed out the window for tiling. I hope that it turns out ok. (My idea of using concrete around the entire window is out. After doing a bit of mortaring around the window, I realized that there was no way I could make it look nice. I'm hoping I'll have better luck with tile.

Here's an overall shot after I taped all the seams on the concrete board. I don't think that I needed to do this, since I put silicone also between all the seams, but I did it anyway.

Here's how it looks after priming. I'm not the best drywall taper and if you look closely you'll see plenty of errors. But it's good enough for me.

Nap Time

It's been a great Thanksgiving so far.  I got up this morning and ran in the Turkey Trot in Lincoln Park.  My goal was to finish in under and hour and though I walked the last 100 yards or so (because I was sure I was going to throw up), my official time was 59:50.  (My ipod showed 59:40, so I may have to recalibrate it.)  Then we went to the Museum of Science and Industry to look at the Xmas trees and I thoroughly enjoyed a special exhibit they had on maps.  Back to my Mom's to eat and now, my brother's family has left to go to his inlaws.  It's now 5pm and most of us are taking naps.  I love this holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday. I've decided to list some of the things that I am most thankful for this year.

Family and Friends
This is an easy one. People have helped me out so much this year that I don't know where to start. Two examples off the top of my head are my cousin Mary's husband Mickey and my friend Laurie. Thanks to Mickey my bathroom is being remodeled and all the plumbing in my house has been updated. I would never have been able to do or afford this without his help. Not only that, he's taught me things that you just can't learn anyplace. Say you come into possession of a car without a title, what should you do? Cut it in half. Then you can take it to the junkyard. Or what's the going rate for hiring a homeless handyman? Around $20 a day, plus meals. As for my friend Laurie, it was her idea to run the half-marathon. I'd probably thought about doing something like this a million times, but she formed "Team Insanity" to actually go out and do it. My Mom and siblings have been amazing as well. They've come over to help work and clean, which was a HUGE job.

Health
Thanks to the half-marathon training, I'm feeling pretty good these days, which is great.

Home Depot
Yes, this is goofy that I'm thankful for a giant corporation, but it's true. Just about everything that I've needed to remodel my house, I've been able to get there.

My MacBook Pro
I've had my macbook pro for just about a year now and I love it. I feel that I'm really productive with it, especially being able to run windows on it. I'm now able to provide help to windows users, right from my laptop. It's great.

Radio
I love listening to the radio. My favorite broadcast stations are WBEZ (NPR) and WFMT (classical). I also have Sirius satellite radio so that I can listen to the BBC World Service anytime. The commerical-free music stations are good too.

Hot Blueberry Pie
Ok, I just like blueberry pie. And with whipped cream, mmmmmm.

Chocolate
What's not to love?

Getting Closer

Mickey the Great has just left. He came over today to install the drain for the toilet, shutoff valves on all the pipes in the bathroom and drill a hole in my brick house for a bathroom vent. All the while recovering from the flu. He is altogether deserving of any praise I can heap on him. Thanks Mick! I owe you big time!

Now that Mick has done his job, it's time for me to take over. Tomorrow morning, I need to go and buy a door and try to install it, so I know where the drywall will end. I also need to buy one piece of cement board, two pieces of greenboard and tile for the walls. Once I get the door in, I can finish drywalling, then start taping and then tiling. It's a lot, but it's getting so close to the end that I'm starting to get excited.

New Toy

Yesterday I bought two laptops through the "Give One Get One" program of "One Laptop Per Child". One of the inexpensive laptops will be sent to me and the other goes to a needy child. Here's the link:

http://laptop.org

I'm looking forward to seeing what this laptop can do. Ultimately, I'll probably give it to my nephew Jack or my niece Emily, but before then I'm definitely going to be playing with it myself.

As for the program, I'll admit to being someone who thought it was silly to give needy kids laptops when they really need food and water, but I've changed my way of thinking. Individuals can't do much about providing water for a village. That's something that a government or other large organization needs to do. Giving an individual a laptop empowers that person. That individual may now learn to read or solve problems. If I were a government, sure I'd set up water resources and food supplies. But I'm not. So giving someone a tool to help themselves is the best that I can do. It's me helping someone to help themselves.

Progress

Last weekend, we got a lot done. We, being the operative word. Mom, Mark, Paul, John and Jack were all over. They did a ton of cleaning, which was great. Mark helped frame out the medicine cabinet. Then Paul came over and we hung a bunch of drywall. Today, I hung the cement board that goes over the controls of the tub. I have to buy a door so that I know where to end the drywall on the last wall. And then I'll be ready for tile!

I also wanted to do something unique in the bathroom. And, working on the principle that you can't fail if you don't try, I've decided to try to make a concrete frame around the window. If I do it right, I'll be able to keep the arch in the window and it'll look really cool. If I do it wrong, I'll have learned something.

Here are some photos showing the progress.

Faster?

Today my dsl from Speakeasy was updated. The installation went ok. The guy from Covad was terriffic. He really knew his stuff and got everything set up properly, though it took a bit of time. The Speakeasy group, on the other hand, disappointed me.

Since I had already had Speakeasy service, I simply wanted to upgrade to their package that didn't require a phone line. Then, since I wasn't paying for the phone line, I upped to the next faster package. (Does it seem faster, the upload speeds were the only thing I really upped.) I asked them, before agreeing to anything about keeping my current ip address and getting two new ones, which is what their newer package offered. I was assured that I could keep my ip addresses and get two more, no problem. Unfortunately, after placing the order, I learned that I had to ask the installers to transfer my ip address. I sent a message on my order that I wanted my ip addresses changed. Well, after we got the new line setup, I couldn't get online. The Covad guy gave me the ip address he had which was different from what I used to have. After some messing around, everything worked ok with the new ip address.

I then placed a support call with Speakeasy about the new ip address and asking what the other three ip addresses were. I was told that I only got one ip address with this package, but that the salesman had given me two more free ones. I brought up my old support call with everything the salesman said and was given another "free" ip address (since I told them that if I didn't, I wanted to get my old service back), but none of them were my old ip addresses. And it didn't look like I was going to be able to get the old ip addresses because they were "on a different circuit".

I had to spend some time with godaddy.com to update coldandheartless.com to the new ip address. It was a bit frustrating since the website was down for a few hours until this was all straightened out. I know I don't run a commercial site or anything, but it was really frustrating that Speakeasy didn't deliver as promised.

Hopefully after all this, the website will run a bit quicker.

House Pains

I haven't written much about the house lately, not for lack of work on it. I'm just tired of explaining to people that it's still not done. I work slowly because I really don't know what I'm doing. Yes, it is a pain to have to go elsewhere to take a shower, but it's not the big of a deal.

When will it get done? I don't really know. But thanks to Mickey helping doing the work, the plumbing is basically done.

I'm going through a phase right now where I thought things were closer to being done than they actually are. I've put up a couple of pieces of drywall and concrete board on the walls, which got me a little exciting about being finished. But then, we (really Paul and Mickey) had to take the big iron drain pipe for the toilet out because it was loose. So, now that needs to be replaced as well, which is good because it's being fixed. But it feels like the process is going one step forward, two steps back.

Anyway, here are some photos of work done over the past month. (I finally got them off my camera.)

New water lines for the sink.

New tub.