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Smoke and mirrors September 22, 2009

Posted by Matsu in Fun, Photography, Random, Travel, Uncategorized.
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Century Plaza Hotel in L.A.

Century Plaza Hotel in L.A.

During my recent visit to Los Angeles, I stayed at the Century Plaza Hotel. It was very nice. But, what I really liked was the view from the room that was randomly assigned to me for my visit. It was on the front side of the hotel facing, dead center, the uniquely architected (is that a word?) office building directly across the street. I couldn’t help but take some snap-shots of the view using my iPhone. The purpose of this blog post is to share those photos.

View from Century Plaza Hotel Balcony

View from Century Plaza Hotel Balcony

The unique building across the street has a hole in it, literally. It’s hard to see if from the above image, but what you see through that hole is part of two other buildings. One of the things I really enjoyed about this room, in addition to the view, was the fountain seen in this photo. It helped to drown out (no pun intended) the city noises. The sound of the fountain was a little bit like the sounds you hear at the ocean. Or, it was as close as you might get to it in a metropolitan area like Century City.

View of buildings in L.A. at sunset

View of buildings in L.A. at sunset

This wider-angle photo of the same view of the building across from my hotel room gives you a much better idea of how there are two separate buildings behind the building with the hole in it. To add to the strangeness, the two tall buildings behind are triangle shaped, not traditional buildings with four outside walls.

Yes, the hole is real. I’m not sure the thinking behind it, other than making it very unique, but there is no magic trick at play in these photos (no smoke or mirrors were used to produce these photos).

My stay was more pleasant because of the view and the sounds produced by the fountain. Oh, and the weather (65 F degrees at night), didn’t hurt, either.

The new phone books are here (or, I’m on the list) September 21, 2009

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, Random, Technology, Uncategorized.
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Midsize Enterprise Summit LogoLast week I attended the Midsize Enterprise Summit (MES) conference for CIO’s. This year it took place in Los Angeles, California. At that conference, which is made up of CIO’s from many different industries all across the United States, the organizers picked what they called the top 50 CIO’s. Well, today I found out the list was published on the Internet by Reuters news agency.

If you know me, you’ll see my name in the list. If you don’t know me, then you probably don’t care. I am really just posting this link so extended family, friends, and colleagues can know about it. I e-mailed a couple of people already but I don’t intend to e-mail anyone else about it. Obviously, this kind of thing would never happen if it were not for my staff. It is because of their hard work and dedication that we were included in the list. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank them for making this possible.

The title of this post? Yup, I took the inspiration from Steve Martin and his movie, The Jerk. Do you remember that funny scene when the new phone books arrive and he discovered his name is included? Well, that’s a little how I felt when I discovered the list was out and I was included.

Eroica: How I met Beethoven’s Third September 19, 2009

Posted by Matsu in Japan, Music, Random.
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As I was saying, just before I took a break from my blog, Beethoven’s Third Symphony is by far my favorite of all of his symphonies. Why? I’m glad you asked. I want to tell you the story of how I fell in love with the Eroica Symphony.

Title Page of the Eroica Symphony

Title Page of the Eroica Symphony

As some of you know, I grew up in Japan. I was born in America, but my parents took me to Japan when I was only about six months old. Being a native speaker of the English language had its advantages in a land where many of the young professionals aspire to learn to speak English. And, to the advantage of many teenagers in my day, most of the Japanese professionals who studied English had all of the book-learning they needed but they lacked the ability to properly pronounce English words. They needed help with their pronunciation. The best way to do that was to pay an American kid (at kid’s wages) to practice spoken English. So, at approximately $25 per hour, I worked a couple of hours a week with a thirty-something Japanese businessman who struggled to speak English in a way that American’s could understand.

From time to time, I was asked to record a reading of some book or manuscript (usually a presentation of some sort to be delivered at an international conference) so the “student” of mine could then play it over and over while practicing their own pronunciation of the text.

Cassette Tape

Cassette Tape (Side A)

One day, when I was about 16 years old, the person who I was giving English speaking lessons to asked me to read and record the play, Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller. That particular play was a favorite of the person I was instructing at the time. And, as often happened, he provided me with a used cassette tape to use for the recording. I had done this many times before, so it all seemed very commonplace to me at that time.

A few days after getting the recording assignment I placed the used cassette tape into my tape recorder and rather than start recording right away, I hit the play button. I’m not sure if it was a matter of curiosity or just a habit from playing so many tapes (at that time all of my music mixes were on cassette tapes, so I was playing them all the time).

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

What surprised me was the sound of an orchestra playing something that I didn’t recognize. After just a few bars, I was hooked. I let it play all the way through, which meant that I listened to the entire first side (side A) and flipped it over to listen to the other side. As it played, I was mesmerized. It just got better and better as it played. And, if you know Beethoven’s Third, it ends strong. That ending really got to me. I took the tape out and made note of the handwritten label that read, “Eroica.”

After listening to the tape a couple more times, I decided to keep the old tape and recorded my reading of the Death of a Salesman on a new cassette tape (something the student didn’t mind since I exchanged a new tape for his old used one). And, that’s how I met Beethoven’s Third.

You must understand, as a teenager I was not “into” classical music. Sure, I’d heard various classical pieces and had even been to the Tokyo Philharmonic Symphony to hear them play (it was required, not my choice). But my preferred type of music at that age was totally contemporary. Some of my favorite bands at the time were bands like America, Genesis, Eagles, Chicago, Boston, and Moody Blues (isn’t it funny that bands took on American cities for their name?). Okay, Dan Sims, I’ll admit that I also had a Bread album or two, but I didn’t listen to them that much! I mostly listened to 70’s rock and roll. So, it was really surprising to me that I actually enjoyed this random piece of classical music.

I can’t explain it, but even to this day when I hear even just a part of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, my ears perk up and I recognize it. If you are not familiar with it, you can listen to the entire 3rd symphony on YouTube. The two embedded videos below are the two halves of the same symphony. If you only listen to one, you might choose the second half (though I really like the opening few bars of the first half – it grabs you with the first note and after that it’s just a wonderful ride). Enjoy!

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Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony – Part 1:

Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony – Part 2:

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