Friday, November 30, 2018

Queen & George Michael: Somebody to Love (1992)

Queen & George Michael: Somebody to Love (1992) in a tribute concert for Freddy Mercury at Wembley Stadium in Wembley, London, England, on April 20, 1992. As Eagle Rock Entertainment on Youtube writes: “On April 20th 1992, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon, the surviving members of Queen, took to the stage at Wembley Stadium for the start of one of the biggest events in rock history, which the band had organised to pay tribute to their former colleague—the incomparable Freddie Mercury. Queen were joined by some of the greatest musical talent in the world to celebrate Freddie's life and work and to increase public awareness of AIDS, the disease that had prematurely ended his life the previous year. As well as being great entertainment, the concert raised a huge and still growing sum of money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity formed at the time whose charter is the relief of suffering from AIDS throughout the world. Now for the first time both halves of the concert are being made available on Digital video. 
    “Special guests include David Bowie, Gary Cherone, Roger Daltrey, Def Leppard, Joe Elliot, Extreme, Bob Geldof, Guns 'n' Roses, James Hetfield, Ian Hunter, Tony Iommi, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Metallica, George Michael, Liza Minnelli, Robert Plant, Mick Ronson, Axl Rose, Seal, Slash, Lisa Stansfield, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Young & Zucchero.” Truly, it really all comes down to love, and many of our actions in life are in pursuit of love, and in finding somebody to love, one who will return this love.
Via: Youtube

Thursday, November 29, 2018

An Ordinary Man Speaking For Ordinary People During These Changing Times: Harry Leslie Smith [1923–2018]

The Common Good

Harry Leslie Smith [1923–2018] dedicated his life to the common good, raging against poverty, fascism and the dismantling of public health care—such becoming all too common among western democracies that once were liberal and now are neoliberal, unduly and perniciously influenced by corporations and elitist corporate interests who had the money and the means to change the way governments governed and made policy—a downward slide for the common man that began in the late 1970s. No doubt, Smith’s upbringing during the Great Depression, his service during the Second World War and his life experiences as a working man guided his views, as is the case with us all, including me. Smith was neither an elitist nor a politician, but, rather, a person with a moral vision. We can all look to his example; and many happily did. The CBC writes: “‘I am the world’s oldest rebel,’ said Harry Leslie Smith, a prominent anti-poverty activist who authored several books on the Great Depression, the Second Word War and postwar austerity, has died in an eastern Ontario hospital.” He was 95.
Via: Youtube & CBC News

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Flower Duet by Joan Sutherland & Huguette Tourangeau (1976)

The Flower Duet (Sous le dôme épaisfrom Léo Delibes’ Lakmé, wonderfully sung in Act 1 by Joan Sutherland and Huguette Tourangeau in what in my view is one of the most beautifully rendered duets in opera. The French libretto is by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille, completed in 1882. The operatic drama found inspiration in Pierre Loti’s autobiographical novel, Le Mariage de Loti (1878),  following his experiences in Tahiti a few years earlier; Loti is the pen name for Louis Marie-Julien Viauda French naval officer and author. The three-act opera was first performed by the Opéra Comique, at the (second) Salle Favart in Paris, France, on April 14, 1883. The setting is late nineteenth century India when it was under British rule (1858–1947). The libretto can be found [here]; and a a synopsis can be found [here].
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ray Stevens: Everything Is Beautiful (1970)

Ray Stevens: Everything Is Beautiful (1970), a song from the past, which just popped into my head the other day, so I thought I would share it with you. Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarkdale, Georgia, in 1939. He won a Grammy Award for this beautiful uplifting song in 1971. Enjoy.
Via: Youtube

Monday, November 26, 2018

Green Bins, Composting & Vegetable Gardens

Planet Ecology

Keeping it Green: Now that we no longer reside in a high-rise building, but live in a townhouse, we can take part in putting food scraps and other biodegradables in our green bin, which is collected weekly by the City and used for green purposes. We can also start composting, which we will add to the vegetable garden we expect to plant in our backyard in the upcoming Spring. Nature will do what it does best. Such is one of the advantages and benefits and might I add, pleasures, as well as responsibilities, of living in a house that has a parcel of earth-based land. It might be a small plot but it will serve our purposes for a small garden and a bit of greenery.
Photo Credit: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Proposed Vegetable Garden: This narrow strip along the fence will make an excellent site for our new vegetable garden; it is near here where our small composter will be placed, not far from our kitchen, from where the food scraps “feeding it” will emanate. I can’t wait till Spring to turn over the soil, to get my hands into the black earth to plant seeds. I can’t wait till Spring to start planting tomatoes, cukes and bell peppers. Maybe even some raspberries, a favourite of my ten-year-old son, although I understand this plant takes a little more preparation and care. Even so, only less than six months to go. I am already imagining in my mind what it will look like.
Photo Credit: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Many Ways Climate Change Affects Us All

Earth Our Only Home

The Many Ways: Scientists have come up with an all-encompassing and clever graphic to show how climate change affects us all. The journal Nature writes: “Researchers found 467 ways in which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry. ” Earth, after all, is our only home, and apart from science fiction and fantasy fiction, it shall remain so indefinitely. But what kind of home has it become in the face of extreme climate that is to a large part human-induced? The current way of life is imperilled by the current way that we live and go about our daily lives; the scientific evidence is both conclusive and unequivocal. The planet will not change back by itself; this is wishful thinking and there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support this assertion. It will take human effort. There is work that can be done now to mitigate against the changes now upon us. As a minimum, we have a moral and ethical obligation to take care of our home—the only one we know and love. This will require a change in habits on our part, even ones that are deeply ingrained in our thinking. This will not be easy, especially for us older ones, but with imagination and will, it can be done. More on this subject in another future post.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (1992)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal) perform Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” opus 35, with Charles Dutoit at the podium, conducting in Tokyo, Japan, on April 11, 1992. During the winter of 1887,  Wikipedia notes, “Rimsky-Korsakov decided to compose an orchestral piece based on pictures from One Thousand and One Nights as well as separate and unconnected episodes.” He completed it in the summer of 1888; it premiered in St. Petersburg on November 3 of that year, with the composer himself conducting. In a piece for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Richard Freed writes about this musical period in which drama and descriptive power drew in the listener: “The year in which Rimsky completed Scheherazade was the very year in which the young Richard Strauss completed the first of his great tone poems, Don Juan, and Gustav Mahler completed the score of his First Symphony. Strauss and Mahler, of course, knew a thing or two about exploiting the orchestra to paint a picture of tell a story, and Strauss even brought out his own edition of Berlioz's book on orchestration, but the Russians and the French were drawn to two particular sources of tales to be told that provided very conspicuous opportunities for new degrees of exploration in the world of orchestral color: fairy tales and legends in general, and more particularly tales from exotic cultures, distant in both time and place.”
Via: Youtube

Friday, November 23, 2018

Moscow City Symphony: Tchaikovsky’s Italian Capriccio (2012)

P. I. Tchaikovsky’s Italian Capriccio, opus 45 by the Moscow City Symphony—Russian Philharmonic, conducted by Michail Jurowski, at the Moscow International House of Music, Svetlanov Hall, on June 20, 2012. This symphony orchestra was founded by the City of Moscow in 2000. Tchaikovsky [1840–1893] completed this fantasy piece in May 1880; it premiered on December 18,1880, with Nikolai Rubinstein [1835–1881] conducting in Moscow the Imperial Russian Musical Society (so named between 1873 and 1917; see [here].
Via: Youtube

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

We Moved (2018)

New Beginnings
Our Backyard: We moved last week from a Toronto highrise to a townhouse in Maple, a bedroom community 30 minutes north of Toronto. We are, as can be expected, slowly getting accustomed to our new home. I plan to explore the neighbourhood and post some photos in the next few weeks. Here is one close to home: a photo taken the day after our move of our snowy backyard; we got about 10 cm (4 in) of snow. Yes, winter’s coming to Canada.
Courtesy: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Monday, November 5, 2018

My Cracked Tooth

Oral Health

Since the beginning of the summer, I have had tooth pain in one of my upper molars, a second molar to be precise. My hope and my intent was to save the tooth. Yet, one dentist, then another, pointed out that I had a cracked tooth and it could not by any known means be repaired. The same conclusion from an endodontist, who had done a root canal on an adjacent tooth. (Yes, it has been a summer of multiple visits to dentist offices.)

The only option, the only recourse, all three dentists had said, was one--extraction. So dutifully, I had an appointment scheduled for early August, but cancelled it when I thought that my pain had diminished. I was wrong; I was mistaken; I had hope for a different outcome. In reality, I had just become inured to it: pain Moreover, by doing so, I was only delaying the inevitable.

So, last Wednesday, after prodding by my wife and a consult with an oral surgeon, I was left with no choice but one: he confirmed what all three other dental professionals had said. There was no possibility of saving the tooth; it had to come out, and better sooner than later. There was no escape; so, on Friday afternoon, with the analgesic aide of nitrous oxide (i.e., “laughing gas”) and a local anesthetic he pulled out my damaged tooth; it seemed like the whole procedure took only a few minutes.

The tooth had multiple fractures, the good doctor said, adding that “it was a bad tooth.” I was holding on to a bad tooth. As reluctant as I was to take the tooth out beforehand, I am quite happy now, a few days after the procedure that I did. My sinuses are starting to feel better, as is my overall health and outlook. Pain, even if it minimal and manageable with Tylenol or Motrin or Advil, is not something I ought to endure.

My only question, four months after indeed enduring such unnecessary pain is, What took me so long to act? In my case, I think it was a combination of three human factors: denial that my tooth could not be saved, fear of post-surgical complications, and holding unrealistic and unfounded expectation that the status quo was acceptable, that somehow the issue of a cracked tooth would resolve itself.  Thank goodness for modern dentistry. A lesson well learned, even at my age.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Dazzling Male Duck of Manhattan

Natural Beauty

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata): Des Shoe writes for the New York Times about a rare and beautiful sighting of a male duck not native to NYC: “He’s a Mandarin duck, and his species is native to East Asia. He should not be paddling in the Pond in Central Park, and yet there he is. Nobody is sure how he got to Manhattan, but he appears healthy and is getting along well with the local mallards. His glorious plumage is already attracting fans. ‘As far as the colors are concerned, only nature can provide that,’ said Juan Jimenez, a 74-year-old photographer who has been taking pictures of the park for decades. ‘We could try to paint it, but you won’t be able to.’” There has also been a sighting in Canada, in Vancouver, British Columbia, of another male with equally colorful plumage. Perhaps one or two can come to Toronto to brighten up our city. For more on these beautiful ducks, go [here].
Courtesy: EJ Bartolazo; NYT

Friday, November 2, 2018

On Business Negotiation

B2B Deals

When I was a young engineer working in a sales position, my boss gave me some good advice about negotiation in a business-to-business (B2B) environment. Both sides have to come out of it feeling as if they gained something; both sides have to think that they won. This has long been considered the gold standard in business negotiation. This is the win-win situation that everyone talks about. If this is not the case, then the negotiation is not a success, but a failure, even if one side considers it or claims it “a success.”

In my view, this is still good advice. I remember when back in 1990, when I was 32, I was sent by my company to negotiate a large multi-year contract with its largest customer, Texas Instruments in Dallas. I was nervous to have such a large responsibility on my shoulders, but my boss had confidence in me and my abilities. I prepared well in advance, which is never a bad thing and always a good thing to do. Moreover, I was joined in the negotiations by a senior American company representative, so I felt much better, that we would share the responsibilities.

The negotiations lasted three days; they were tough and at times exhausting. At the end of the day, however, we both negotiated in good faith and a large multi-million dollar deal was signed—one in which both companies found to their benefit. Such is always a good thing. This was a lesson that I have carried with me for the rest of my professional life. Afterwards, I negotiated many such deals, some large; some small, but the same principal of mutual respect informed all such negotiations. Then, and only then, is the handshake a sincere and good one, based on good long-term relations.

There is a problem with a winner-take-all approach, which although acceptable and expected in a sports competition, is a poor way of conducting business affairs. It leaves one side of the negotiations feeling unhappy or slighted; this is not a good thing. You can be assured that the relationship afterward will be rocky. It is always better to get what you truly need, and also ensure that the other side also get what it truly needs. (To be sure, this is not the same thing as getting what you want or think that you can get.)

When both sides win, it is the sign of a successful negotiation; this is the sign of a successful and enduring deal and one of an enduring relationship. And in business, this is what it is all about.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Engineer Journalist

The Professional Life

The title sounds incongruous; two words that do not usually go together, yet they do when describing the professions I have chosen. First engineer, then journalist. Both appeal to me; both require certain practical and analytical skills and certain modes of thought, i.e., rational and ethical, which come easily to me. Both require problem solving abilities or skills; both require the respect for facts, for knowledge and for truth—all necessary in a free and democratic society.

This is why I have decided to combine my two career paths into one—the Engineer Journalist. Admittedly, such is an uncommon melding of two distinct professions, which does increase my uncertainty as to the viability of the whole new enterprise—pioneers can hardly ever be certain of the rightness of their actions. As a matter of clarification, this is not the same as the Journalist Engineer, or Data Journalist, whose job it is to use data sets to explain a story and make graphs, such as is explained and found [here].

While the result provides the reader information, this seems more engineer than journalist, more data than prose, which no doubt has its purpose. Engineering developed my thinking, and journalism my writing—both are important, yet I primarily see myself as a writer/journalist who was first trained as an engineer, and recognize the value of such training, the value of receiving a technical education 10 years before deciding to enter journalism school, where my interviewing, editing and writing skills were nurtured, advanced and honed. Such a distinction might seem like hair-splitting, but it is a distinction worth noting.

I see my role as using the engineering skills I have acquired to understand the implications and benefits of technology, and to write about such in a clear way, and to use words to explain to the reader in a humane way, free of arcane and specialist language; data sets and graphs are one way to communicate such ideas, but some people are turned off by graphs, and still look to words to tell a story.

While facts are facts, and without them we are lost, they require both analysis and interpretation. This is where journalism comes in, providing the who, what, where, when and why (5 Ws) and how to tell a persuasive and powerful story. This is still important today, as is an understanding and respect for facts, knowledge and truth, which more often than not comes in the form of scientific facts. Science today cannot and should not be denied its proper place.

Such would not be the case, I suggest, if people understood Science’s (and also its cousin, Technology’s) important contributions to the betterment of humanity, especially when such is encased in a moral and ethical framework. Science generally has a good story to tell.

This is where someone like me can help, who still sees the value and necessity of of words, even if these are employed in the form of long prose. So, it would seem that the joining of my chosen career paths remains unusual, even distinct; it is true that I have not yet met someone like me.

Yet, as western civilization moves further into the technological realm and its reliance on it becomes greater, and the need for clear communication becomes all the more necessary, so it will be that persons like me will not be unusual. We will become necessary and might become popular.

I would like to hear what others, notably engineers or journalists, think about the conflation of two old and distinguished professions into a new one. If so inclined, drop me a line.