Billy Joel Setlist Madison Square Garden (MSG) July 2, 2014

July 3, 2014

Great show from Billy Joel last night at Madison Square Garden.
Here are the songs he performed:
Miami 2017
Pressure
An Innocent Man
The Entertainer
A Room of Our Own
These Are the Times to Remember
New York State of Mind
Moving Out
And So It Goes
Allentown
Big Man on Mulberry Street
My Life
Shes Always a Woman
Don’t Ask Me Why
Sometimes a Fantasy
River of Dreams
Summer in the City (he sang a bit of this in the middle of River of Dreams)
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Piano Man
Unfortunately at this point we left to catch the NJ Transit train to NJ.

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When your parents go, you’re next

January 4, 2013

We feel many things when we lose our parents.

Of course, we have the typical grieving experiences, such as we may think about all the experiences we had with our parents and we know we’ll never have them again.

But also, since they were our parents, as their children, we may miss the parental figures that have been “above” us, ahead of us on the path of life.

We now feel the buck stops with us. There is no one to answer to anymore. We’re the ones at the top.

If we’re in your 40’s or maybe 50’s when you lose your parents, we may not notice another feeling – “I’m next!”

If our parents were, say, 30 years old when we were born, then we may have 30 more years left on our lease on life. The clock is ticking.

This conversation raises the whole issue of confronting our own mortality.

In the first half of our life – however many years that is – we may generally think we have our whole lives ahead of us – more time ahead than behind us. Plenty of times to accomplish all the goals we’ve created for our lives. Plenty of time to make all money we thought we’d make. Plenty of time to find that real love of our life. Plenty of time to reach the heights of success we’ve wanted to have. Plenty of time to try that new career. Plenty of time to have those children, write that book, be nicer our loved ones, plant that garden.

But we hit a certain age when we decide there may be less life ahead of us than behind us. What a sobering spot.

It seems the pendulum comes to rest for a moment in the middle of life when you’re right on the cusp, but then all of a sudden you realize you’re going down the other side. Perhaps it’s like a hill you’ve been climbing, now you’ve crested it, and before you know it, you begin sliding down the far side, and – alarmingly – at a seemingly increasing rate.

What a sobering time.

I’m next!

Movie Review: Rio (2011)

March 28, 2012

Rio was a really cute movie! I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite so much.

It’s an animated film from Blue Sky Studios, distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, with primary voices by Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, and Jamie Foxx.

It’s a light, fun story, with a little romance and drama thrown in. Rated G and 96 minutes.

The graphics are extremely colorful and vibrant, making for a really fun visual treat.

The story is about Blu, the last male macaw, living in Minnesota with his young owner, Linda, who’s a bit of a loner who runs her own bookstore. Blu is Linda’s closest friend. A young Brazilian veterinarian who loves birds finds Linda and Blu and asks Linda to bring Blu down to Rio de Janeiro to mate with the last surviving female macaw, Jewel. Reluctantly Linda and Blu agree and they travel down to Rio.

The excitement starts when Blu and Jewel are birdnapped, sending Linda and Tulio (the vet) and many animals from the rain forest out on a quest to rescue Blu and Jewel from their captors. Comic effect and emotional tone are contributed to by Blu’s inability to fly because he’s lived too domesticated of a lifestyle, which ties in with another theme that is explored in the movie – Jewel’s freewheeling nature vs. Blu’s more conservative safety-oriented approach to life.

The movie has a happy ending for all, and all-in-all, it’s quite a joyous romp, with much to enjoy for audiences of all ages. This is not an excellent movie, but a light one that provides lots of beautiful visual imagery and a lot of fun for everyone.

Interesting developmental psychology resources

March 22, 2012

Have you seen this book:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blank_Slate

Sounds interesting. I haven’t read it.

Also, check this out – my friend Marc Beneteau interviewed quite a character – consultant Mike Jay. There’s video and audio at:

http://lifestyledesignschool.com/2012/03/interview-mike-jay/

I think it gets particularly interesting at around 20 minutes, but it’s all good.

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Movie Review: Mean Girls (2004)

January 11, 2012

Mean Girls movie photoTitle: Mean Girls

Year: 2004

Minutes: 97

Directed by: Mark Waters

Written by: Tina Fey (screenplay) from material in Rosalind Wiseman’s book “Queen Bees and Wannabees”

Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfriend, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, etc.

Genre: Teen Comedy with a good character story

Last night, Bonnie and I watched Mean Girls. Great movie. I recommend it if you like Lindsay Lohan, stories about teenagers, stories about teenage girls, stories about the meanness that people commit against each other in high school, stories about good triumphing over bad.

It was fun to see Lindsay Lohan when she was about 18; Rachel McAdams around the time of The Notebook, Wedding Crashers, and The Hot Chick; Amanda Seyfriend before Big Love and Mamma Mia!; and always fun to see Tina Fey – especially in a movie for which she wrote the screenplay!

Also Lizzy Caplan from True Blood, and SNL alums Amy Poehler as Rachel McAdams hot mother, and Tim Meadows as the high school principal.

It’s a wonderful colorful movie about the tough experiences Lindsay Lohan’s character faces dealing with the cattiness of high school female dynamics. Her character undergoes several transformations throughout the movie, ending with redemption.

*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

Lohan’s character Cady (pronounced just like Katie) has been homeschooled her entire life – her parents were zoologists and they lived in Africa studying animals and their behavior. She’s had a great life, living close to the earth, getting along with the local people, learning a lot about animals and being very close to her parents.

She has a great relationship with her parents, they trust each other, everything is hunky-dorey.

Now however, they’ve returned to the United States to the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, just in time for Cady to begin her junior year at North Shore High.

She comes into school, bright-eyed and ready to experience something new.

What she finds is a bit of a nightmare. She finds that adults don’t trust students nor take them at their word, something she always enjoyed in her relationship with her parents. She’s always been good-intentioned.

However even in her first day in school, she learns there are many things about school life that she’s got no understanding of, and she’s got quite a learning curve.

Cady loves math, and at least she gets to enjoy her 8th period math class taught by Mrs. Norbury, played by scriptwriter Tina Fey.

Cady makes friends with a punky, outcasty gal named Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and her gay male hulkish friend Damian (Daniel Franzese). Janis and Damian are sort of fringy, and hate the popular girls known as The Plastics, consisting of Regina (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen (Lacey Chabert), and Karen (Amanda Seyfried).

Regina (McAdams), the ring leader of The Plastics, seems to take an early liking to Cady (Lohan) and asks her to join her and her fellow Plastics at their lunch table, which Janis (Caplan) observes. Later that day, Janis pleads with Cady to gain the trust of The Plastics so eventually they can find a weak spot and destroy them. Janis apparently hates Regina because of some incident that happened many years ago of which Janis is extremely embarrassed and shushes Damian each time he tries to describe the incident to Cady.

This is Plot Point I – Cady gets in with The Plastics.

The substance of Act II consists of Cady having various experiences with The Plastics, learning the ins and outs of life in the catty world of popular teenage girls. There are incidents related to boys and dating and ex-boyfriends and social etiquette and all kinds of other things. Cady keeps experiencing life as one of The Plastics and reporting back to her friends Janis and Damian.

An inciting incident comes about midway through when Cady discovers that Regina has majorly violated her trust and in a two-faced manner torpedoed Cady’s plans to get together with the boy she likes (who happens to be Regina’s old boyfriend). This destroys Cady’s good-natured, optimistic way, and she is really disturbed.

Cady, Janis, and Damian develop a three-point scheme masterminded by Janis to topple Regina’s reign and they set out to do it.

What occurs is that, while endeavoring to wreak revenge on Regina, she ends up becoming a true catty Plastic herself, alienating her friends Janis and Damian in the process. Her behavior, which was supposed to be solely based on revenge, becomes pretty much the same as the normal Plastic behavior!

Plot Point II occurs when Regina finally starts getting affected by their scheme and in a desperate move, brings The Plastics’ “Burn Book” to the principal (Tim Meadows). The Burn Book is a scrapbook with cutout photographs of many of the school’s students and teachers along with captions saying really nasty things about each person. While Regina is actually the primary author of the book, she presents it to Principal Duvall as if she is a victim of the book.

Regina plasters the contents of the book around the entire school and when all the students see the contents, all hell breaks loose. The school is literally abound with physical fights between just about everyone in the school building. Cady says it’s really like what goes on in the jungle between the animals, a theme that has been running throughout the movie.

Act III: Principal Duvall gets tough (quite fun to see!) and orders all junior-year girls into the auditorium. He’s determined to working everything out by 4pm. He enlists Mrs. Norbury (Tina Fey) to hold a workshop in which all the girls come clean with all the things they’ve been saying behind each other’s backs, and doing all kinds of exercises like in an empowerment seminar, like falling backwards off a table to be caught by the other girls.

Cady holds out until the very end, maintaining her deception and refusing to come clean. Finally, when the Book ends up getting Mrs. Norbury in serious trouble with the law (the book said she was a drug dealer and pusher!), Cady finally breaks her silence and admits she had made up the lie about Mrs. Norbury.

This is Cady’s moment of redemption and the whole movie can now wind to a close.

We finish in September of the following year, with our junior class now the seniors. Peace reigns over the school campus, everyone gets along and is nice to each other. Mention is made that new groups of younger students may try to disrupt the serenity with catty antics, and the seniors, who are now experiencing how good it is to have peace in the land, are there to slap down these upstarts and make sure no new plasticky cliques arise to threaten the peace.

All-in-all, a feel-good movie, plenty of cute young girls and guys, and a great script by Tina Fey.

While the movie is very fun, it is also thought-provoking. The book upon which the material is based, “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman was a NON-FICTION bestseller. The subtitles of the various editions are “Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence” and “Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World”.

It’s fascinating that Tina Fey wrote a script based on material in a non-fiction book.

It’s wonderful to see these issues – the challenging life of teenage girls, and teenagers in general – exposed for people to look at.

One Man’s Struggle with Visual Disability

December 19, 2011

On my Windows PC, I always use both the Magnifier and the High Contrast display mode to reverse screen colors.

While it gets me through the day, it is still an awkward way to use a computer. To read text, I must hover my mouse over it so it appears in the magnifier window which takes up the top quarter of my screen.

Most hardcopy printed material is tedious for me to get through, and I have stopped reading books many years ago.

Today, I had an interest in reading Syd Field’s classic book Screenwriting, the de facto book on the subject of… wait for it… wait for it… screenwriting.

My desire was strong enough to make some little fact of which I was peripherally aware come to the forefront of my mind – there is a Kindle reader application for PC’s.

A Google search easily took me to the correct page on Amazon and I downloaded the Kindle for PC software.

It came preloaded with Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, and a translation of Aesop’s Fables.

After learning the software and fiddling with it for several minutes, I discovered the font settings that work best for me, those being the largest font size, the most number of words on a page, the highest brightness, and the black background. I then go into full screen mode, and I began reading Aesop’s Fables.

For the first time in maybe about 10 years, I had the virtual experience of reading a book, without being squashed up into the highest corner of my screen. I can actually read the text without the magnifier tool and turn pages.

I’m not sure I’ll go back to reading as many books as I used to, but I know I will enjoy some, starting with Aesop’s Fables, and then maybe the entire Syd Fields library on screenwriting, and perhaps the Steve Jobs biography.

Aesop’s Fables has special meaning for me – grandma and grandpa always had a set of cards, the size of large playing cards or tarot cards, each containing an Aesop’s Fable, usually with a nice illustration of the animals on it. When we were little, I read those cards over and over again. In reading several just now, I realize many of my thoughts on morality and life came from these stories.

Thanks for being my Kindle inspiration Mom!

The Feasibility of Converting Office VBA Applications to VB6

December 15, 2011

The first thing one should address in an article about converting Office VBA applications to VB6 is “WHY?”

Why would someone bother in the year 2011 to convert one decade-old technology to another decade-old technology?

The answer is this: many businesses are still using these technologies. Especially large firms find it takes many years to switch to the latest and greatest.

Some of my clients still use Office 2003 or even Office 2000.

And I’m not talking only about small companies who perhaps don’t know any better or who are on tight budgets. I’m talking about large multinationals, the largest companies in the world.

The next question is: why convert from Office VBA to VB6?

The answers:

  • To create a free-standing application executable, one which doesn’t use a Word document or template directly to house the code. Granted, there are other ways to do this, but using VB6 may be one of the simplest.
  • To take advantage of the speed advantage by using a compiled language like VB6 versus a semi-compiled/interpreted language like Office VBA.
  • To have your code run in a more stable environment – VB6 versus Office VBA.

While we won’t go into a detailed technical how-to here, we will address the feasibility.

The answer is: yes, it is feasible to convert Office VBA applications to VB6 applications.

The language syntaxes are virtually identical.

Here are a few pointers:

  • You must physically move the code. There are easy ways to do this.
  • You must set proper References to the Office libraries that are usually set by default within the Office VBA environment.
  • You must account for the differences between the Application object in Office VBA and the App object in VB6. They have little in common.
  • Generally, you may find it best to use full object qualification in your code. For example, I routinely use Word.Document as an object type in my Word VBA code rather than simply Document. This does tend to make things a bit easier when converting to VB6. If you do this, you can be sure you’re referring to the correct object type. The same object type may exist in different libraries. I also use Word.Application rather than simply Application.
  • With a bit of diligence and a cool head, you can successfully convert your Office VBA applications to VB6 applications.

Happy coding!

Just had a fight and made up with my wife

November 1, 2011

Bonnie and I had a fight (an argument) about an hour ago. She was feeling tired, and I wanted to relax. It was about 10:30pm and we had had a long day.

Bonnie wanted something to eat, but didn’t feel she had the energy to prepare the food for herself. Nor did she feel comfortable asking me to prepare the food for her; I suppose she didn’t want to impose on me since she knew I was tired also.

But I sensed she would have liked to ask me to prepare it. I didn’t feel like doing it for her though. However, I felt that if I didn’t do it for her, I’d be letting her down.

So neither one of us was feeling right about what we were doing or not doing. I started yelling and making a big stink. As I was doing it, I was vaguely aware I was doing it simply because I didn’t feel right just  saying no. That’s gross, right? 🙂

Finally, we both went separate ways – she went upstairs with her snack (that she prepared while we were fighting) while I went downstairs to my “office” in the basement. I worked for a while on the computer, listening to old Queen hits, and doing a little work.

After a while, I heard Bonnie coming down the stairs to the basement. I turned off the music and said hi. We both smiled at each other and said “I love you” and we hugged. Bonnie told me she had done a 15-minute exercise routine that she enjoyed and took a bath which she enjoyed also. I told her what I had been doing.

We both apologized and explained why we had acted the way we did. She said she was going back upstairs and I said I was going to spend a bit more time downstairs and would see her soon.

One of the things I appreciate about where we’re at in our relationship is that we so clearly know the foundation of love that underscores our relationship. There were times in the past that, when we’d fight, one or both of us would get a vague fear that maybe the relationship was going to break apart.

We don’t seem to have that concern anymore. While we do occasionally have some pretty intense fights that can be quite unpleasant, they blow over so quickly, with such clarity about which end is up.

So now I’ll finish this post, as Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” winds to a close, and go watch some television with my best friend.

Steve Jobs eulogy by his sister Mona Simpson

October 31, 2011

I’ve been quite taken by the life and death of Steve Jobs the last few years.

The phenomenal success of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have been astonishing. You can’t help but pay attention.

But ever since I watched Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University, I’ve been fascinated and inspired by his viewpoints on life, and perhaps even more, death.

I don’t think most people talk about death. And I think that’s a shame. Because being more deliberately aware of death provides an opportunity to be more consciously aware of life, and hopefully, more appreciative of this time we have here together.

Now with the release of the only authorized biography of Steve Jobs, entitled Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, we’ve been seeing excerpts and press from all angles. Walter Isaacson even appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN and talked about Steve.

Yesterday, the New York Times published Steve’s sister Mona Simpson’s October 16, 2011 eulogy of Steve delivered at the Memorial Church of Stanford University. I read it, cried throughout, and openly sobbed and wept upon completing it. Perhaps it’s not really that moving. Somehow for me though it is.

I am so inspired by the way this man approached death, eyes wide open, surrounded by the ones he loved, giving and receiving comfort, love, and support all the while.

Clearly, he was a remarkable man, with an extraordinary spirit. Despite whatever harsh manner he’s known for around the workplace, this man was clearly inspired and there was something special here. If nothing else, just the way he approached everything with such deliberate consciousness.

Why I never liked competitive sports, Dad

October 21, 2011

I’m writing this blog entry to let my father know a little bit more about me. He’s dead three years now, but I assume he’s listening somewhere. No one else probably is – no one reads this blog, from what I can tell.

I never liked competitive sports. I only spent a few weeks on my Little League team when I was a kid. My mom says I had a great swing, that is, when I actually connected with the ball, which was about 1 out of 10 times at bat.

My fielding performance was even worse – I bet Mom would say that I was really good at catching the ball, when the ball ended up in my glove.

So I didn’t like Little League much. I remember telling my mom that I was thinking of dropping out, and I remember her saying to me that I could do whatever I wanted of course, but she was concerned that if I quit, I’d feel like a quitter. But of course I was free to make my own decision. She gave me enough rope to hang myself.

I did drop out. And ended up feeling like a quitter. Go figure. Thanks for putting the idea into my head Mom. She gave me free will to quit, but didn’t just say, “Sure honey, you can do whatever you want, either way, it’s fine.”

I’ll never know if I just sucked at baseball, or if my poor performance could have maybe, just maybe, been attributed to the genetic eye disease I inherited from my mother that gave me some visual difficulties even at a young age.

All this being said, I don’t think I like competitive sports in general. I didn’t seem to like games in which there’s a winner and a loser. It seemed too harsh an environment to me. And these days, we see games with winners and losers played out a lot. I can point to the rash of Survivor-style elimination TV shows, like Survivor, The Sing-Off, The Biggest Loser, The Apprentice, etc.  But you also see it with our fascination with celebrity – the celebrities are the winners, the rest of us are the losers.

Then there’s politics, in which people intensely campaign to be the winner and to vanquish their opponents.

And countries go against each other and try to be the winner, and the other will be the lower.

It’s winners and losers everywhere you turn.

Somehow I was a softer kind of character, and this seemed all too harsh an environment to me growing up. Of course, there was one area where I was the winner and others the losers – academics. I got great grades and graduated near the top of my high school class and went to an Ivy League school. But we’ll leave that on the table for now.

My dad was always debating something, usually sports, politics, or morality. And in his debates, there was always a winning opinion – that one was always his. And there was always a losing opinion – that was always the other guy’s, and it seemed to me the other guy was me, whenever I spoke with him about anything.

Somehow, I grew up, or got older at least. And I discovered eastern philosophies, in which they teach that when one takes up a banner to oppose something, they invariably give more energy to that thing they oppose.

Let’s take an example – my dad, having grown up during World War II and being Jewish, dealt a lot with the topic of the Holocaust. As a matter of fact, he said that when he was young, just after the end of the war, concentration camp survivors would come to the United States and live with Dad’s grandparents until they got on their feet. He said these people were fresh from the camps, and were emaciated and had deep, darkened, sunken, far-off gazes. They were like ghosts, shadows of people. And this deeply affected him, in ways I could never pretend to comprehend or fully appreciate, not having lived in this time and through these experiences.

Naturally, being a Jew so imprinted at such a young age with these Holocaust experiences, Dad thought Hitler was bad. He thought prejudice was bad. He thought intolerance was bad. All reasonable decisions for someone in his position to make. He strongly believed that “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing," a quote that has been variously attributed to Nobel Peace Prize winner and noted Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and 18th Century English statesman Edmund Burke.

I’ve always felt funny about that quote. I remember it being plastered on a poster on a wall at the Port Authority Bus Terminal as an advertisement for the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. My issue with it is that it seems to separate (segregate?) humanity into two categories of people – good people and evil people. I feel uncomfortable with that concept. For one, it would seem to separate people from each other – it would separate the good people’s camp from the evil people’s camp. Second, it perpetuates the war between good and evil. Third, it perpetuates the very notion of evil. Even the famous Garden of Eden story from the Old Testament said that the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was becoming aware of that distinction that exiled us from the Garden of Eden, the original Diaspora. Fifth, who is to decide who is a good person and who is a bad person – who is qualified to pass that judgment? My father certainly thought that he was – he thought he was a good person for sure. And people like Hitler and Ahmadinejad were bad people. Well, perhaps they are. But there’s something so “holier than thou” about being so sure that you’re a good person and being really clear about who the bad people are.

I prefer to subscribe to the more eastern philosophy, that each of us has both good and evil inside of us.

“Win-win” is a concept you hear bandied about quite a bit these days. I am familiar with a community of people who believe their founder, a man named Victor Baranco, first put forth that concept. His idea, as best as I understand it, was that when two people come together, it is most fulfilling for them if they both look to ensure that both of them walks away from the interaction feeling like they had won. That they each were so pleased with what they were walking away with, that there was even some good stuff left over to spill out onto the people around them. This was the concept of win-win.

Competitive games presume that one side will win while the other side loses. What Vic said was that when the other guy loses, you can’t really be winning all that much, because you’ll be aware the other guy lost, and you won’t feel really good about that. Or if not that you won’t feel good, he surely asserted that you’d feel better knowing that both parties were very happy.

This is a concept that seemed to elude my Dad. I’m sure he would have understood it on an intellectual level. But when interacting with him, he often didn’t act as though he came from this place. Of course, he was an attorney, and one who liked litigation, and what is litigation if not the perfect example of a game in which one party wins while the other party loses?

So I suppose I showed up like a bit of a pussy to him. He’d always want to suck me into some argument of one sort or another. I felt like I couldn’t express an opinion about anything without him taking the opposing side and arguing with me. Of course, one could say, “Who cares that he did that? Let him do what he wants. Why should it bother you so much?” A good point, to be sure. But it always did bother me. Perhaps it was that I felt I never got a rest from it. It happened as well as I can remember during my entire life with him. Mind you, he wasn’t just looking for a debate, or prompting me to express an opinion so I could define myself. If I ever actually tried to justify why I felt a certain way, my memory is that he would berate me and call me stupid for having whatever viewpoint I was professing. I think he thought he was just being provocative and soliciting people to have strong opinions, but I don’t think he was aware that he’d insult me and was quite intolerant himself.

So I don’t go in much for competitive games. I like to “win” as much as the next guy. But I think I define “winning” differently than a litigation lawyer would. To me, winning is enjoying myself. Maybe I don’t have that fighter in me. I always felt like Ferdinand the Bull, who would rather sit in the meadow and enjoy the smell of the flowers than flare his nostrils and charge at a matador.

Of course, usually the charging bull gets killed by the matador.