Monday, June 20, 2011

Bye bye Blogspot

Today, I imported all my Blogger posts to my Wordpress account. If you ever bookmarked or subscribed or cared at all, my new blog is now at

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fun with MATLAB

There's not enough frivolity in engineering. MATLAB helps out.

%-- 6/3/2011 2:00 PM --%

>> why
The bald and not excessively bald and not excessively smart hamster obeyed a terrified and not excessively terrified hamster.
>> why
To fool the tall good and smart system manager.
>> why
The rich rich and tall and good system manager suggested it.
>> why
He wanted it that way.
>> why
The programmer suggested it.
>> why
Barney suggested it.
>> why
To please a very terrified and smart and tall engineer.
>> why
The tall system manager obeyed some engineer.
>> why
To satisfy some programmer.
>> why
Damian wanted it that way.
>> why
Can you rephrase that?
>> why
Because Damian wanted it that way.
>> why
How should I know?
>> why
Because they asked the terrified and smart and tall and tall programmer.
>> why
To fool a young tall hamster.
>> why
For the love of a bald and terrified mathematician.
>> why
It's your karma.
>> why
Some terrified and rich system manager knew it was a good idea.
>> why
Don't you have something better to do?
>> why
He suggested it.
>> why
A terrified and good and not very rich engineer helped the bald programmer.
>> why
To fool some kid.
>> why
I obeyed the tall and young system manager.
>> why
Bill insisted on it.
>> why
Some smart kid wanted it.
>> why
To please some very good bald and rich mathematician.
>> why
Loren knew it was a good idea.
>> why
A tall and good and not excessively rich and bald and very smart and good tall and tall and terrified and rich and not very terrified and smart and tall and young hamster insisted on it.
>> why
To please some tall tall system manager.
>> why
To please a hamster.
>> why
To please some rich engineer.
>> why
Some mathematician suggested it.
>> why
It should be obvious.
>> why
The good kid told me to.
>> why
To please some system manager.
>> why
You suggested it.
>> why
A good and not excessively bald young programmer told the rich hamster.
>> why
Cleve obeyed some not very young and rich hamster.
>> why
Bill asked some not very good very rich programmer.

Repeat ad infinitum.

I don't know about you, but I found this hilarious.
The help documentation for it was amusing too.

>> help why
 WHY    Provides succinct answers to almost any question.
    WHY, by itself, provides a random answer.
    WHY(N) provides the N-th answer.
    Please embellish or modify this function to suit your own tastes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Requiescat in pace

It's been forever since my last post. February, eh? Damn... I should be posting more.

Anyway, I felt today would be a good day for a blog post. Today is the 100th anniversary of Mahler's death (interesting how people celebrate births and deaths).

Mahler's death is one to be remembered, not celebrated, honored, not cheered.

And certainly not something to be made a meme out of. Yes, I'm talking about you, Daniel and Tyler.

How should one remember Mahler?


But it's not.

Since people are also still busy (damned Northwestern quarter system), it's not advisable to listen to a whole ton of Mahler in one day, mainly because it's kinda impossible at this time (I should've written this blog post a couple days beforehand).

Here's a listening guide that I have concocted to remember Mahler's death, which, my violin teacher Aaron Krosnick would say, could've been prevented by a heart bypass surgery.

  • Symphony No. 6, "Tragic"
    • Wailing winds, ghoulish xylophone excerpts, screaming and bellowing brass, mysterious distant church bells interspersed with cowbells to create an eerie pastoral scene as if part of a flashback, strict marches flourished with fanfare and tam-tam roars, passionately sweeping strings, and of course, THE MIGHTY HAMMER (Mahlerians know what's up)
    • According to many melodramatic Mahlerians like myself, he pretty much foreshadowed his next three misfortunes with each of the three hammer blows, the third, which he excised out of superstitious fear, foretold his death.
    • Yes, this is the author's favorite Mahler symphony. Yes, he does prefer the third hammer blow. He also prefers the scherzo-andante order of the middle movements (hardcore Mahlerians know what I'm talking about)
    • Recommended: Benjamin Zander with the Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Symphony No. 9
    • Mahler believed intensely in the Curse of the Ninth (the superstitious belief that composers die after having written their ninth symphony, e.g. Beethoven). He tried to circumvent by writing Das Lied von der Erde as a kind of Symphony 8.5. Then he wrote a Ninth.
    • Mahler quoted Beethoven's "Lebewohl" (Farewell!) in this symphony. He seemed to really believe that he was going to die, and this was his farewell.
  • Symphony No. 10 (Unfinished)
    • But he persisted anyway and tried writing another symphony. Too bad he started too late and actually died before finishing it, just like Beethoven, and he thus fulfilled his own Curse of the Ninth superstition. However, did he know that he was going to die while writing this? There is a movement titled Purgatorio, a quote from Dante, but possibly also a self-reference?
  • Symphony No. 5: I. Trauermarsch
    • I can't remember if Mahler wrote more than one serious funeral march, but this is definitely his most famous one.  Mighty and somber, I don't think Mahler would've minded having this performed during his funeral
  • Symphony No. 1: III. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
    • This is completely optional. Just in contrast to the actual funeral march, this is a parody of one, but a brilliant parody of a funeral march, which includes a Frère Jacques fugue + Klezmer music. It's actually pretty hilarious.
  • Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection"
    • Of course, Mahler must rise from the dead, right? Just kidding. That'd be scary. Yeah.
    • But still, this is intensely powerful music that has changed lives and moved people to tears.  I fell in love with Mahler's music after hearing a live performance of this, as it told of death and resurrection (sorry to say this, Alan, but I think it tops Strauss' Tod und Verklarung by a mile) so magnificently.
    • There's really no reason not to listen to this.
  • Symphony No. 8, "Symphony of a Thousand"
    • Mahler is alive and well! Praise the lord! If Mahler had to praise the lord, he did it with this, and it's pretty damned hard to top this. Written for enlarged orchestra, eight vocal soloists, double chorus, and children's choir, it's easy to see why it won its nickname (which Mahler doesn't like, by the way).
    • This is perhaps his most explicitly religious work, beginning with VENI! VEEENNI CREATOR SPIRITUS (Come, come creator spirit!)
That's my Mahler Deathday playlist! Give it a spin! Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Applause and Stuffy Farts

A friend (Joe E.) wrote a Facebook note about the do's and don'ts of concert-going.  One of the topics that were brought up in the comments section was applause.

Here were my thoughts on applauding between movements:

Clapping between movements was acceptable at one point. The faux elitism of classical music has made it almost a crime to do so. This is not conducive to reaching a wider audience...

Understandably, some composers do not want breaks between movements to be spoiled by applause (Mendelssohn circumvented this by providing no breaks between movements). This concern is legitimate, as ofttimes, the feel or magic of a piece can be shattered by applause.

Other times, such as in the case of Dvorak and Mahler, sometimes applause is called for and appreciated between movements. It really depends, so as a rule of thumb, don't clap between movements, but certainly don't suppress it to the point of illegitimacy.
What do you think?

The topic of expanding classical music to a wider audience has been of much concern to classical music critics and aficionados around the world.


When popular music continues to excite and move audiences around the world, why must we continue beating the same crap that people think "classical music" is into the heads of a youth that is looking for more?  The world is different. Things change. How does anything survive in a world of constant change? Adaptation. I'm not asking for a bastardization of Lady Gaga with Mozart; I'm simply asking for a new perspective and presentation of classical music.

The stereotypical current perceptions of classical music may include descriptors as stuffy, boring, old, plain, soporific, etc.

Pop music does so well because it is so easy to relate to, because it goes straight for our emotions, thoughts, feelings, etc. Intellectualism is a secondary pursuit. In a world of increasingly quicker results and communication, instant gratification, attention, distraction, etc. are the norm. Thus, fulfilling emotional needs comes first. This is completely understandable in a world where we have no time or place to have a good bawl in front of everyone. Music provides one of many avenues for venting.

If classical music is stuffy, boring, too-intellectual, etc., then classical music cannot survive.

What is the problem? What can we do to change this?


I had been a vocal proponent of change in my personal senior recital (which you can view on YouTube, lectures and all; [yes this is a shameless plug]).  We must get rid of this uptight traditionalism.

There is so much more to music than just the notes.  There are entire back-stories, explanations, interpretations, emotions, etc. that people might not grasp at first.  Sure you can provide them in the program notes, but what percentage of the audience is going to actually take interest in the program notes? Explanations must be made clear.  The concert hall should become increasingly a less stuffy atmosphere. Stuffiness is not conducive to enjoying music freely.

After my recital, many people had told me that the lectures were extremely helpful. My brother, who doesn't enjoy classical music, said he actually could understand and enjoy the music better. Have I proven my point?

Anecdotal evidence! you might shout at me. Well, there is certainly logic to this, don't you think?

Stifling and repressing anything is not conducive to doing anything freely, for that matter.

It is understandable that talking, coughing, sneezing, noise-making, whispering, etc. are frowned upon in concerts.  But, we can't stifle everything, like applauding between movements. That's just verging on draconic.

If we are to expand the horizons and ensure the continued survival of serious music, we cannot present it as an elite "I'm-better-than-you-so-nut-up-or-shut-up" holier-than-thou form of entertainment.

Classical music is truly awesome. It can be totally headbang worthy (see the second movement in Prokofiev's Scythian Suite or the last movement of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony). It can be heart-wrenchingly beautiful (Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis).  It can be so EMO (Mahler's and Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphonies).

We're just not presenting the right things. In a world where emotions are so ready to explode, we need explosive music.  There's a reason why romanticism and modernism sprung up. We need to embrace them and show how they relate.

Mozart, Beethoven, Bach were certainly masters; they were extremely influential in the whole realm of music, but their music really is old and, unfortunately, boring, compared to newer music.

We can't keep pushing old and boring music and pass it off as representatives of classical music. No one will take it seriously.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not the Po or Tiber

WARNING: If you are not a Doctor Who fan, you will not understand any of this.
Also, if you are a Doctor Who fan with no idea of who either River Song or Romana is, you will not understand any of this.

Disclaimer: this post will be edited continuously as I gather more info and musings.  I am a comparatively new Whovian and I don't know a whole lot, so forgive my naïveté.

I've seen many ridiculous theories on the identity of River Song, such as "She's Jenny!" or "She's Amy Pond!" or whatever else nonsense people can think of.

My guess: Romana.

Why isn't it Jenny?
Jenny is the Doctor's daughter, generated from a piece of his DNA (against his will).  She has no idea who or what she is, she just knows the Doctor is her "father" (by a lucky coincidence, Georgia Moffett is the daughter of the Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor), a lot about combat and gymnastics, how to walk and talk, and how to seduce (isn't that how they got out of the jail cell?)

Why would a daughter call her own father "sweetie" or "my love" and speak as if they were equals?  It just makes no sense.  Don't even dare bring up incest as an argument.
I think most people already get the hint that River is the Doctor's wife from the future.  This has basically been confirmed in the scripts and by Moffat himself.  It is quite obvious that their relationship is markedly different from a father-daughter relationship.  I have no idea why people keep insisting it's Jenny. Sheesh people, think!

Why isn't it Amy Pond?
Because Amy Pond's already married and she's a completely different person.  She and River Song have basically nothing in common, even superficially.  I wouldn't call her hair "red" or her accent "Inverness Scottish."  This is a bit weaker as a counter-argument, but I just don't think it's her.  The connection of "Pond" and "River" as bodies of water has already been dismissed by Moffat.

Why isn't it the Master?
Regenerations aren't known to be gender-switching processes.  It may be a black swan, though.  In any case, I don't think such an intense rivalry could turn into romance. 

Why do people think it's not Romana?
They cite various reasons like
1) Time Lords can sense each others' presence
2) Romana and River are two very different people
3) Romana was locked away with all the other Gallifreyans in the Great Time War
4) River doesn't regenerate in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

My counter-arguments
1) There have been many instances when the Doctor didn't recognize other Time Lords (I can't think of one right now, but I remember making note of that fact).  Also, what about the Chameleon Arch?  What if she wanted to disguise herself to prevent "spoilers," which is something she presumably knows that the Doctor hates?
2) Who's to say that Romana didn't regenerate and become a new person?  Of course personalities can change with regenerations, in fact, it is known that she became a radically different person when she was Lord President of Gallifrey.
3) No one ever knows what happened to her before the end of the Time War.  It is known that she was replaced by Rassilon as Lord President.  Maybe she regenerated again and this time decided that the Time War was a lost cause and went off as a renegade Time Lady looking for the Doctor again?
4) Well duh... we all know that a Time Lord/Lady can die if killed too fast (cf. Turn Left) without given a chance to regenerate.  Also, how do we know River Song isn't Romana's 13th incarnation?  The Time War went on for all the Time Lords incarnation after incarnation after incarnation.

Arguments for Romana (in addition to the arguments above)

My arguments do not stand separately, but must be considered as a whole.
1) River is exceptional.  She knows a lot about many things scientific, historically, even bestially, just like the Doctor, and perhaps like other Time Lords.  I'd even venture to say that she knows more than Harkness.
2) Both Romana and River Song know how to pilot a TARDIS better than the Doctor (see 4th Doctor and 11th Doctor episodes)
3) Romana and the Doctor were really close; she is one of only two Gallifreyans to have been a companion (the other being the Doctor's granddaughter Susan)
4) Romana and River both like bugging the Doctor in small ways.  I think...
5) Face of Boe said the Doctor's not alone.  What if he wasn't just referring to the Master?

The title is yet another pun.
If you didn't get it,
Romana + River = Roman River (two notable Roman rivers: Po and Tiber)

Friday, October 8, 2010

All the lonely people - where do they all belong?

Salvete, omnes!

It's been an awfully long time since I've last posted (if you consider over a month an awfully long time.......... long is a relative term...) but here I am!

As many people know, I've been at college since the middle of September. I must say, it is one awesome experience. Overall, Northwestern's not as bad as Stanton; the workload's not as bad, and my classes (mine, strictly speaking) don't start until 11 AM (M-Th) or 12 PM (F). My teachers are pretty cool, especially my chemistry professor and math professor (compare the two! Such a difference in style!). My TAs are cool too.

Enough about college. That's not the purpose of this post.

It's no surprise to people that listening to music is my drug. OK, so what?

I went to a different dorm last night (CCI for the NU-literate) to play piano, because, for once, my workload was minimal. I started playing and I realized how much I enjoyed just playing and making music, despite the fact that the music was not quite Stravinsky, Mahler, or Shostakovich. I fell into a sort of a drowsy state of "just keep playing and listen."

I realized today that there is something better than listening to music. It's making music and listening to the music you make, assuming that the music you make is bearable to listen to. (How bearable something is is completely left to the audience).

Listening to music is good enough to improve my mood significantly. Listening and taking pride in the music I make is something that's better. I've thus found that despite the fact that I like playing for other people, I like playing for myself. There's no one else to judge but myself, and I am a lazy judge. If it sounds good enough that I like it, I'm happy. Music + pride! Is there anything better?

That was no rhetorical question. The answer is, quite simply and emphatically, YES.

After coming to the realization that I liked making music simply for the sake of making music to listen to, I thought about when I really liked making music. I did not have to think long, because the answer facepalmed me rather quickly.

I used to think I was most happy when I was listening to music. I am now inclined to think that I am most happy when I am MAKING music with OTHER PEOPLE.

Stipulations! The "other people" have to be friendly and competent. Otherwise we'd all get pissy and sound like crap. And I'll have a massive headache, which is not good food for happiness. And no one likes pissy people. Especially me.

The more the merrier! One of the things that kept me really sane (but ate away at my time) was playing for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra. If you play an instrument and live in the Greater Jacksonville area, I highly recommend joining this organization, unless you simply don't have the time nor the money. I think my pleasure was apparent in the way I bounced around in my seat as I played (unintentionally!), much to the amusement of my colleagues, who are, I should add, friendly and competent.

It therefore made sense to me why I wanted, more than anything else, to join the NU Philharmonia, with or without private violin lessons. So far, I'm enjoying it a lot too, though not as much as I enjoyed JSYO, because no one really knows each other in the orchestra and there are no breaks in rehearsals to socialize. At least everyone's competent; but I suppose friendliness doesn't matter as much when you're in a huge ensemble.

Of course, I like making music with any number of other people, be it 1 or 80. Making music with one other person is awesome, as my experiences with friends have shown (e.g. Alan, Kim, David, Evan, Brad, teachers, etc.). Making music in small groups of 3 (as I have done for Bartók's Contrasts with John Henry and Nick!), 4 (string quartets with Anna, Peter, and Victor!), or even 6 (Brahms Sextet No. 1 with Rachel, Peter, Leah, Sunny, and Chris!) is pleasant too!

In ensembles, members or sections all interact with each other in many ways, constantly. We support and lead each other, sometimes both at the same time. Harmonies support the melodies, melodies give harmonies something to support and they are the most prominent elements in music. Instrument timbres color both the harmonies and melodies in different ways, depending on how the composer/orchestrator/arranger does it (see my previous post on cooking and orchestration). And when I'm not playing, I can enjoy the music made by others, until the time comes for me to contribute my skills to the overall texture of sometimes-structured aural stimulation.

It's best when we just make music just for fun, with or without instruments. There's no pressure to do well, no deadline to meet, just music and happiness. We can laugh at mistakes and carry on madly with no care in the world of how we might sound to a discerning audience or a critiquing judge. It's even better when you and a friend or friends sing individual lines at the top of your lungs (someone has to do that with me for Mahler or Shostakovich. Seriously! ANYONE?!) just for the hell of it.

All the lonely people belong in groups, where they can feed from each other's talents, skills, and perspectives. The Beatles were a group, and so were the instrumentalists for that song: a double string quartet. Their harmonies, timbres, and ideas mixed to become one of my favorite Beatle songs of all time: Eleanor Rigby.

Cheesy end? I think so. Bah, who cares?

Sunday, August 29, 2010