February 13, 2015

Office Clean Up: Fax Line and Spam

For whatever reason, this was a good week to do some clean-up and tech organizing.

First off, my fax line. Way back in 2007, I noted the way my professional need for a dedicated fax line had changed (I was renting space in an office building at the time). Nevertheless, when I set up my New Britain home office in 2009, I opted in for a second landline in the place to be used as a fax line.

Somewhere along the line, I gave up that second line (probably about the time my Comcast TV / Internet / Phone bill started to hit the pain threshold and I bought a digital television), I cut the video cable and probably let go of that second phone line.

Not wanting to lose the cachet of a dedicated fax line, I signed up for a digital fax service, OnlineFaxes to be specific. For $36 bucks a month I get a dedicated, 860 fax number, and 25 free pages per month. I almost never receive any faxes, but I at least have the capability.

Today I *finally* got my in-office tech up to speed - plugged my all-in-one printer / scanner / fax into my voice phone circuit (so I could send a hard-copy fax if I needed to), set up the header to reflect the "new" digital fax number, and programmed the fax machine to pick up "after" my landline goes to voice mail (which is to say, never)

Faxes are all but dead, I know, but it's nice to have the capability.

On the spam front, I spent some time trying to shovel sand against the sea of spam. I've owned my powerlines.com domain since the dawn of the internet, and have been using my primary email address since 2001 or thereabouts. So I get a *lot* of unwanted email. And while a pile of that is clearly spam that is not going to change regardless of my actions, a second pile is stuff that I have deliberately or inadvertently opted-in to over the years. It's not that big a deal on my dedicated computer - I have spam filters, junk filters, folder filters to move stuff around and my in-box is traditionally a dozen or so emails a day. But on my phone or tablet - well, there are 100s of emails every day to scroll through. 

So this week I set out to thin the email herd a little bit. I sorted my SPAM / JUNK folder by sender, and for anything that looked like opt-in email (SPAM comes in 1-2 day waves, opt-in stuff comes pretty consistently) I chose to either accept it (setting a filter to dump it into a semi-organized / useful folder, such as "electrical newsletters" or "consumer" or "musical" for places I do frequent) or to unsubscribe.

It's a huge task (over a decade of not really paying attention) but I think I'm making some inroads. the work continues....

February 12, 2015

Dream Log: Long Island, Dad, Yoga

Last night's short dream. I was inside an older house that was (apparently) recently purchased by my parents; it was kind of empty in that "not yet moved in" kind of way. It was located on Long Island, right off the Whitestone Bridge entrance, and I recalled thinking "Dad's moving home" (Dad passed away in 1979). Neither of my parents was in the dream though or in the house, just me and Elo, my dog. I walked around the house, the doors and windows were mostly open. I think the kitchen door had been left open overnight.

I took Elo out on a leash; he chased a squirrel who seemed a little too unafraid, not used to a dog in its yard. A couple of neighborhood dogs came around to check out the new arrival, and I was concerned about Elo getting into a fight with one of them.

Then, I ran into a young yoga teacher who was talking about her iPad; think she was teaching classes online or something, and I did not have much to say to her. And then an older yoga teacher came by who commented "I see you're addicted to sugar" and I replied "I see you're not very yogic" and she smiled and I got the feeling we were going to be friends. 

February 07, 2015

David Wilcox and Patty Larkin at The Iron Horse

Old friends. That's what David Wilcox and Patty Larkin are, in my folk / acoustic / singer-songwriter fandom. Way back in the early 90's, I found them both; pretty sure there was a cassette tape dub of Wilcox's How Did You Find Me Here in my "pre-CD" collection, courtesy of a former partner. Both Patty and David were featured on the root document in my folk / acoustic journey,"On a Winter's Night" which also introduced me to John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Christine Lavin, Bill Morrissey, and others. And I've seen them both multiple times, at Falcon Ridge, other folk fests, and in solo concerts and coffeehouses.

Wilcox was more of an earlier fave - I covered "Eye of the Hurricane" years ago on the open mic circuit; his creative tunings and capo use were my first introduction to those techniques. I've got his earlier works on CD, and downloaded a handful of his mid-career albums via eMusic. Patty's strong songwriting and musicianship has kept me engaged throughout the ensuing years; I have early and late stuff downloaded, the middle career is all CD. Come to think of it, I think I covered her version of "The Letter" back in my open mic days as well.

I was not planning to go (I've got tix for the Nields CD release party at the Iron Horse this evening, two trips north is a stretch for me), but my friend Amy, who does Patty's website, got a couple of comp tickets, so along I went. So happy I got the opportunity.

Patty, and then David, each played a short solo set, that included many faves (David quipped about getting "Eye of the Hurricane" out of the way). Although I've seen Patty many times over the years, I've never been close enough to really watch her hands, and I was fascinated by her right hand technique and the way she just pulls so much sound - bass, mids, highs - distinctly and simultaneously out of a single instrument.

I've mostly loved her song-writing over the years, although the "Patty Larkin is an amazing guitarist" meme has been out there all along. I think I have not fully appreciated how amazing until tonight. Mostly playing acoustic, she did pick up a Strat for one piece that she augmented with a bow - although truthfully she needs neither an electric guitar nor other props to impress and engage.

David is an amazing guitarist in his own right (as Patty quipped "I'm playing this brand guitar because it's the one David was playing back in the day") but while Patty is a force of nature, who plays with such ferocity and authority that she barely needs a sound system, David is a craftsman who draws the listener in with the subtlest of notes and lyrics. We're leaning in to get it all, and he's quietly offering what he has.

David in particular, seemed impish and playful all evening. After their solo sets, they took the stage together in a sort of "round robin / song swap" format that each has participated in at Falcon Ridge. Patty was a bit more formal, playing favorite songs that she felt drawn to (including one of my faves, Me and That Train). But David was kind of a trip - taking cues from Patty's songs or stories to advise his own song choices, folding pieces of Patty's dialogue into a song coda. He was listening intently as Patty played, and often he heard something that made him whisper "yes!" or shake his head at the language.

At one point, he asked the audience to dig up some some lyrics for a song that Patty's last song brought to mind (but that he could not fully remember) - 2008's Captain Wanker. After running through the verse once or twice (and letting us watch as he searched for one tricky chord), he started the song, calling out for the first line of each subsequent verse, and obviously amused at each verse as if he were hearing it for the first time. It was performance art, hilarious, endearing, hard to resist.

They each played solo (although each injected a little bit of harmony, some lead, a little slide guitar on Patty's part). Although they ostensibly dueted on "The Cranes, which David contributed to for Patty's "25" project, it was mostly Patty with some quiet harmonies by David.

For an encore, they came back with an unexpected blast from the near past ' Jean Rohe's Arise! Arise! - which David touted from the stage, and led as a sing-along. (David played, Patty held the lyrics, Jude yelped and tweeted to Ms. Rohe)

Being a new convert to the cult of Jean Rohe myself (having just seen her a few weeks back), I was thrilled to have her song brought forth to what was perhaps a more conservative, old-school folk crowd.

Delightful evening of music with some old friends. And headed back this evening for what I imagine will be a bit more of a raucous love fest with The Nields.