Cleveland Cleavage

Cleveland Cleavage

Been There

Eights months in the City of Rock and Roll have come to an end. Living and working has been largely fun, thanks to all the time it left me to pursue my interests. Cleveland has earned the notorious distinction of being the 'most impoverished city' in the US and I lived in a largely working class black neighborhood. Coming from Ann Arbor, a university town, big city Cleveland had its share of culture shocks. I was initially quite wary of wandering late! It made my evening run much faster! Nothing happened, though. At the end I was sort of disappointed not to have witnessed a drug dealer, a mugging or hear gun shots.

Saw some of the sights last Sunday in the worst snow blizzard. Here I was in the freezing cold taking pictures as the car slipped and slid on the ice. Paid another visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and this time managed to sneak in with a camera. Was lucky to get away without getting arrested (Pics available on request). A great museum which would take more than a day to see. The stuff on display is simply amazing. A few sample exhibits: Joplin's psychedelic Porsche, Duane Allman's guitar with 'D-U-A-N-E' spelled out with old frets, Jimi Hendrix's stage costumes, Lennon's costume from the Sgt. Pepper cover, the original Sun studio equipment and piano, original sheet on which lyrics to Dream On were written.

Done That

The first few months, with my trusty AAA maps, I travelled every weekend. East, West & South till I got tired of being on the road.

I cooked extensively and finally figured out the ideal batter proportions for the perfectly crisp dosa. Sampled the restaurants, including an Indian-Chinese restaurant ( I know this is a rare treat!) The Italian and Greek festivals during the year were fun. The Italian one was much louder and crazier. Thanks to the umpteen farewell dinners, I managed to over drink and over eat so much that I have not even finished burping for all of them yet.

Went through the movie catalog of the excellent Cleveland Heights Public library like a locust. Saw most of their foreign and classic movies, got introduced to the magic of Kurosawa and caught the ones that I managed to miss. Never thought I would see the Apu Trilogy in Cleveland. It was amusing to explain to my roomates why I had read the subtitles to an 'Indian' movie.

Saw Eric 'God' Clapton in concert at the Gund Arena. Almost saw the Cavs play at the Gund had it been at a more convenient time.

It was great to catch up with the books, real books! As a grad student you are sometimes lucky to even get some decent hours of sleep! Read or rather heard quite a few books on audio. I think I have gotten over my initial aversion to reading (sic) books this way. It's a great way to make use of dead time while doing something boring and repetitive, like commuting. I am totally sold on the idea. It doesn't work too great with serious fiction but it works.

Picked up disc golf and Scrabble. The former will have to wait till Spring.

I also did 'some useful' work at Philips where I was employed. At least manged to impress the boss and others who thought I did a splendid job. Gave everything a nice ring to it.

All in all eight months well spent.

(Apologies to those who were seduced by the title of the post and did not find what they were looking for. In fact, I am surprised you got upto here!)

Blog Feed

Feed for Thought

There was a time (in blog prehistory) when there were not more than a dozen blogs that I read. Now almost every week I stumble to an interesting new blog or every other week some friend or the other decides to take the plunge. With the patronizing arrogance of an early adopter to them I say, 'Better late than never. Welcome aboard!'
It has however generated a new problem. The problem of 'Keeping Up'. Just to see if there were any new posts on my blog roll it takes a good thirty minutes. Barring a few most do not have updates. It seemed that I could no longer avoid getting a newsreader to check the stuff for me. Which one? I took a whirl with Feed Demon, News Gator and News Crawler. I found that Feed Demon had the best interface and functionality, though it has a price tag of about $29.99 to use it beyond 20 days. Bloglines seems to be a better idea even if it does match the others in terms of the interface or functionality. The major advantages are:
1. It's free and
2. It's web-based (so you can use it anywhere in the world)
So it wins on price and flexibility.
3. Supports atom and RSS feeds

I don't think that I am a part the problem. The problem being that not every one has RSS or atom feeds turned on.(Turn it on you Luddites!). Yet in the hope that it make things easier, in addition to the atom feed I turned on (for no other reason than being lured by the blogger's help)Feedburner as an alternative feed.
For the past one week 'Keeping Up' has been a breeze.. Though if you want to read a comment or leave one you have to navigate to that page. Won't be long before this becomes seamless.

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

Cleveland has been great so far, but the inevitable has to happen. The infamous Lake Effect caused what could be the worst snow day in my life. My car's wheels could have well been on roller skates.

My car got stuck in the snow.
Car slid around in the ice + snow + muck + salt mixture.
I slid into the opposite lane.
Thanks to snow all day, the car got buried in a foot of snow.
Seemed to have lost two digits on the left hand while scraping the ice and brushing the snow off.
The car refused to start. Realised that the AC does not work when the car is not running!
A friend tried to jumpstart the car, it didn't work.
I had actually run out of gas and had to be air-lifted (actually towed) to a gas station.
Almost hit the house wall when I got back, despite shoveling the snow last night.

To add to insult to injury, I got no sympathy for my woes at work, which in Cleveland terms was just a regular day. This is what happened on a 'regular' day.

Two Questions
On which accursed day did I pick to live in the mid-West?
California whither is thou?

Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs

Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs of All Time
Of late, every few months or so the Rolling Stone magazine has been coming out with its Top XYZ of All Time lists - guitarists, top albums, etc. and now The Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs of All Time. The newspapers seemed to full of which were the top 10 songs. Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' was nominated as the Best Song Ever and it immediately got the conspiracy theorists busy saying that this was no coincidence - 'Just like the Rolling Stone to come up with a stunt like this to boost its sales and popularity!'.
At the end of the last century we had a profusion of these lists and there seems to be no end of them even now. I find all lists of this sort quite idiotic if taken beyond a point. Lists are fine as long you use them lists, as things to do or see. To treat them as merit lists is to overemphasize some particular person/groups subjective thoughts. Compare any two lists of the same by two 'authorities' and see the amount of difference of opinion.
Rolling Stone has employed the 'safety in numbers' principle in making this list, by taking not the top 10 but top 500, so that no one is going to feel too bad about songs being left out. The panel they selected was quite distinguished and had an impressive range. Full credit for that. I found reading the personal favourites of people like Ray Manzrek of the Doors or James Hetfield more interesting. I agree with the reasons for choosing 'Like a Rolling Stone', the folk-rock transition and all that. Though personally, I would have chosen Jimi Hendrix's 'Along the Watchtower'. Why? For the sheer musical intensity and the sense of drama as Jimi rambles on crazy and then finally hits the correct key at the very end. Needless to say, that Dylan's lyrics are simply awesome. The best guitarist and the best lyricist ever combined.

After having slammed all lists in general, I must admit that they are fascinating. I have come up with a Rolling Stone Song Quotient or RSQ. I thought it was a fun exercise, even if a pointless one. This is my metric to gauge well you know your music. Since the list is heavily 60s and 70s (only 3 songs from this decade made it), a person who listens to the Top 20 or MTV will have a lower quotient. (Personally - Serves you right!)

Look at the list and check songs that you have heard before, originals only, and list the # of songs in the following blocks and calculate values of a, b, c, d, e, f.
a = [1-20]; b = [21-100]; c = [101-200]; d = [201-300]; e = [301-400]; f = [401-500];

RSQ = (a+b+d+e+f)/500* 0.8 + 0.2 *(a*0.1/20 + b*0.3/80 + c*0.3/100 + d*0.2/100+ e*0.1/100)

Why this formula?
I felt that simple average alone is not a good enough. So I grouped songs into blocks, making songs within a block to have equal importance. It modifies the simple average by giving more weight to blocks of higher-ranked songs. If you have heard every song you should have a perfect score of 1. More just weights can be obtained by using an non-linear curve for the modifier instead of the brutal quantization, but that's too much complication for what is an idiosyncractic metric anyway.

Listen to all the 500 songs, improve your RSQ and waste more time at work
@Rolling Stone Top 500 Radio