Next to Normal was Next to Perfect

Next to Normal Sound Setup
My Sound Setup for the show

This past weekend I had the absolute privilege of running sound for The Refuge‘s first show, Next to Normal. When the opportunity was sent to me, I hesitated, it was going to be a real challenge, no lengthy week of tech/dress rehearsals to get sound right, unknown sound equipment in an unknown space, and no orchestra pit meaning the band is on stage which makes controlling the audio levels much more difficult. On top of this, the show was in San Francisco, meaning I’d have a long commute to and from the show each day.

I’m so glad I decided to take the opportunity. The Refuge is an interesting concept of a theater company. Daniel Shaindlin has tried to come up with a way that the best college actors can get an experience to act in a professionally produced show. The group of students that he brought together for this show is absolutely incredible. If these young men and women don’t end up on Broadway or in Hollywood, the arts will have lost out on some real talent.

If you didn’t read that these were college students and just came to the show, you would believe these were old pros who have been belting it out on the Broadway stage for years. Heck, they are better than many of the actors I’ve actually seen on Broadway and other professional productions.

On top of this, to make the show as amazing as possible, our extremely talented Music Director Kevin Surace told Daniel that this show needed professional musicians. This show is an extremely challenging one to play and the timeline to produce it was going to be extremely short. Kevin knew that this group of actors deserved to be backed by an Orchestra that was ready and able to play this music. The musicians they hired for this show have toured, they’ve played concert halls and stages around the world and it shows.

As I said above, when Kevin first emailed me to ask if I was interested in running sound for this show I hesitated.  The challenges were going to be immense, and it would require a ton of energy that I wasn’t sure I had.  When he described the talent of these practically professional actors and these already professional musicians, my self doubt told me I wasn’t up to the level this show deserved.  Finally there was the play itself.

I wasn’t familiar with Next to Normal before this, but looking it up showed that the subject matter was, heavy.  The play covers a family who is in turmoil as the wife/mother battles with Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and delusions.  The main character deals with the grief of losing a child, the crippling grip of mental disorders, attempted suicide, electroconvulsive therapy, memory loss and more.  Simultaneously we see the rest of the family as they try to care for and protect their suffering loved one, and we see the heavy toll it places on all of them and the way it pushes her daughter to abuse drugs.

As some of my friends and family know, I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) myself.  I currently take Bupropion to treat this.  While it helps a lot, I go through bouts of severe depression when it doesn’t work well enough for me.  When I read the synopsis of this play I was worried that if I worked this play, the heavy subject matter might feed my own depression, making it worse.  Part of the reason I love musical theater so much is because it offers me an escape from my depression for a few hours, and this play seemed like it would do the opposite.

All this said, when Kevin contacted me a second time, I decided to see if I could fit it into my schedule.  It was going to be difficult, but I decided that it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.  My life is forever enriched from this experience.  Last night, even though it was the fifth time in 4 days that I had seen this play, the performance moved me to tears it was so incredible.  Everything from the voices, to the music, to the emotion these amazing actors put behind every word.

I clearly wasn’t the only person to think so, last night, a packed house at the historic Victoria Theatre in San Francisco gave this cast a well-deserved standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

Thank you, Kevin Surace, for thinking of me when you needed a sound operator for this show.  Thank you, Daniel Shaindlin, for allowing me to be a part of this.  I will watch The Refuge and eagerly await your next show.  For those of you in the bay area, next time The Refuge puts on a production, be sure to put it on your must-see list, I know I will.

Seven Blog Posts in Three Days

Last week Barbara and I attended the annual Google I/O Developer’s conference in Mountain View.  We’ve attended every year since the first one back in 2008 and were glad to continue the streak.

As you may have noticed from my last few short posts here, I’ve been doing more writing over on Justia’s Legal Marketing & Technology Blog this year than in years past and as such I proposed the idea of live blogging sessions at Google I/O this year.  My suggestion was readily approved and I set to work on planning which sessions I would Live Blog.

In the end I Live Blogged 7  sessions over the course of the 3 day conference and wanted to make sure those that follow me on my personal blog knew about them.  Check out the list of sessions I ended up blogging, with links over to the individual live blog posts after the break.

Continue reading “Seven Blog Posts in Three Days”

On the claim that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is anti-feminist

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a bit of an unusual entry into the Harry Potter canon.  Not being a novel makes it a completely different reading experience than the core 7 books that we love, being written by multiple people (rather than just J.K. Rowling) makes some of the characters have a slightly different feel, and centering the story on a character other than Harry makes it inherently feel different.

I for one loved reading it and I look forward to the day I can eventually see the play itself to experience it the way it was designed to be experienced, but not everyone agrees with me.  People speak out against the differences in Time Travel between this story and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  People speak out against the differences in the way Ron Weasley is characterized.  I tend to disagree with them, I think Ron seems perfectly normal and the Time Travel is consistent with the warning Hermione gives to Harry in Prisoner of Askaban.

One thing that has been hitting the media lately is a statement by a few people that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lets down women and betrays Hermione’s legacy” (Mashable) or “How Hermione Granger Is Portrayed in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child is Offensive To The Fans & The Character.” (Bustle).

As with the other claims, I disagree with this assessment and wrote an Essay for the Harry Potter Lexicon to dispute it.  Please give it a read and see if you agree with me or not.

Curious how the Google Assistant stacks up against Siri, Alexa and Cortana? So was I

I did a wrap up of how the Google Assistant compares with its competitors at Apple, Microsoft and Amazon for Justia’s Legal Marketing & Technology Blog.  My brief overview discusses what each of the Digital Personal Assistants brought to the table, and how Google has taken what they see as the best aspect of each and added their own flair.

The Time Keeping Cycle

From our pockets, to our wrists, and back again. A history of how watches move in and out of our pockets.

As I sit here today checking the time on my Moto 360 Android Wear smartwatch, I’m amused by a concept I’m calling “The Time Keeping Cycle.”  When I was in high school college I wore watches all of the time (usually a Casio calculator watch, yes I was “that guy”), and pretty much everyone I knew wore wrist watches at the time as well.  They were simple and useful.

Continue reading “The Time Keeping Cycle”

Wearing a computer at MIT, a 2 decade dream realized

When I was young (somewhere in the early/mid ’90s), I saw some program (I don’t know which) on PBS and they were talking about some guy (I can’t find the program, and don’t remember names, but I presume it was either Thad Starner or Steve Mann) at MIT who is wearing a computer with a Head Mounted Display and a single hand keyboard, and a computer kept in some sort of backpack.  At that point I knew 2 things.

Continue reading “Wearing a computer at MIT, a 2 decade dream realized”

Looking forward to the Third annual 24 hour Disney Day

Barbara and I are ready to attend the Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event at Disneyland Park this Friday.  For the third year in a row, Disneyland will be open for 24 hours from 6 am Friday to 6 am on Saturday morning.  This year’s hashtag is #RockYourDisneySide and the event has a Heroes and Villains theme.  Looking forward to an exhausting but fun day.

We are now a month and a half after Barbara’s last chemotherapy treatment and while we still need to be careful with her out in crowds and sun, we hope this event marks the beginning of a return to normalcy for our lives.  She’s not officially marked as being “in remission” yet, but her counts have been stable for the last few months and she is no longer on the chemotherapy, so we are confident and hopeful that she will be declared in remission soon.  What better way to celebrate than a return to “The Happiest Place on Earth”

Walk with me to End Lupus

As many of you know my wife Barbara has Lupus and in October she experienced a flare up of her lupus that put her into the hospital.  Before this flare up occurred however, I was already planning on doing a 5K charity walk called the Walk to End Lupus Now.  After the flare up occurred it became even more important to me to participate in the walk and raise money to help fund Lupus research and awareness.  Me and my boss Tim walked the 5K and I’m proud to say the two of us raised $1600 for the Lupus Foundation.

This coming October I will be participating in the walk again.  If you would like to sponsor me in my walk, you can do so at my donor page for the event here.  If you want to help even more though, I encourage you to get out there and walk with me.  You can Join Team Moline and  walk with me at the 2014 San Francisco Walk to End Lupus Now on Sunday October 26, 2014 in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  If you aren’t in the bay area but want to walk to raise awareness and money for Lupus Research, the Lupus Foundation hosts walks around the country throughout the year.

Just last week Barbara had what is expected to be her last (6th) Chemotherapy treatment of this particular flare up and the doctor is optimistic that this particular flare up is under control.  This is a tremendous blessing to hear as her previous flare up when she was 12 required 15 Chemotherapy treatments over the course of 3 years.  The doctor is also slowly stepping down Barbara’s dosage of Prednisone (steroids).  She is now taking just 1 20 milligram pill per day.  At the height of the flare up she was taking 60 milligrams per day.

If you would like to know more about Lupus and how it effects people who have it, I encourage you to check out Barbara’s story on her blog, and you can also read more about Lupus at the Lupus Foundation of America Website at lupus.org.

MoviePass Insults and screws its customers

For Many months now I’ve been recommending MoviePass to everyone I talk to who likes movies. It always had several restrictions that made it hard to justify:

  1. Only one movie per day
  2. You can only see each movie once
  3. No IMAX or 3D (you can’t even pay the upgrade cost)
  4. You can’t pre-buy your movie tickets, you have to go to the theater, check in, and then buy your movies (and if you have multiple people in your party with passes, you have to each make your transaction separately, which causes longer lines at the box office)

These were annoying restrictions but overall I still considered the pass to be a good enough deal to lock myself into a year contract at $34.99/month each (Me and Barbara) and do it. It gave me the opportunity to budget my love of going to the movies to a set amount per month and not have to think about “Do I really want to pay to see this movie in theaters or should I wait for BluRay?” If I was remotely interested in a movie I went to see it, and if it turned out to suck, I didn’t care because I’ll just see another movie the next day for no additional cost.

Unfortunately yesterday MoviePass made a sudden change with no warning that I find absolutely unacceptable, and to make it worse they tried to pass it off as if it was some exciting new feature for their customers.  Yesterday I received an email from MoviePass with a subject line of “New Features.”  This is what MoviePass had to say Continue reading “MoviePass Insults and screws its customers”

Looking at Life from the Other Side of the Glass

It is hard to believe that it was just 1 year and 1 week ago, Google uploaded to its YouTube channel, a teaser video for a project they had been working out of from their top-secret “moonshot” [x] Labs called Project Glass.

The project was ambitious, an augmented reality layer over your very life, answering questions before you even asked, and all around simplifying your life.

2 Months later at Google I/O 2012, Google staged a “demonstration” involving a blimp, skydivers, BMX Trick bikers and more to show off the device as what seemed like little more than a network connected GoPro camera.  They then asked Developers who are interested in getting an early look at the technology if they would be willing to fork over $1,500 for the chance to be one of the first non-Google employees with this whole new class of Technology.

I and 2,000 other attendees happily stood in a long line to put down our commitment to try it out.  Then, months of agonizing waiting began.  Waiting for a future that was so close we could taste it.

Continue reading “Looking at Life from the Other Side of the Glass”