Monday, February 17, 2014

Stealing & Recovering a $5 Million Stradivarius in Milwaukee

It's easy to put a romantic spin on a story about the theft of a Stradivarius violin, but it was anything but for Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster Frank Almond when he found himself tasered and his $5 million "Lipinski" Stradivarius stolen just before he got in his car following a concert.

Indulge me with a moment of levity. I can't help it. I imagine that there are many in my age group who automatically hear the pronunciation offered by Vincent Furnier, known professionally as Alice Cooper, in this movie scene:

Done? Done.

Almond recently told his side of the story to The Violinist's Laurie Niles.

Fortunately, the tale ends positively with the recovery of the violin and the arrest of the two individuals suspected in the case. Almond was back on stage with the "Lipinski" in concert a week after it was recovered.

One of the things I appreciated is that the value of both of the bows that resided in the violin case along with the Stradivarius were divulged: $20,000 and $30,000. Stradivarius violins are so desired because they produce an amazing sound, are rare, and still retain some mystery in terms of the exact combination of materials that work to give the instrument its sound. But every violin needs a bow if you are going to realize the instrument's potential. A bow's construction is just as important as its larger partner. Of course, a bow isn't much without a violin where you can still make music on a violin in the absence of a bow.

My public service announcement for the day to any parent who has a child who is becoming more serious about being a violinist and who is playing on a full-size instrument, is that it's worthwhile to invest in owning a violin and it's worthwhile to buy a quality bow. Your wallet may be unhappy in the short term, but your child will enjoy playing on a better quality violin versus struggling with a violin-shaped-object. The goal of purchasing a violin is not just to save on rental costs but to give your child the opportunity of a lifelong enjoyment of her instrument. Here are some other thoughts on the topic.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Coffee To The Extreme

Caffeine addicts, like me, will joke about needing a mainline of the stuff on particularly rough mornings. It's probably a good thing it never occurred to most of us to try something like this. As the sub title says, Never Ever Do This At Home:

Facebook-Free Month - A Two-Week Update

As of yesterday, I had gone somewhat Facebook-Free for two weeks. The "somewhat" is a bone of contention for me because I still have to log in to do updates to the work Facebook page. In fact, not even a week into my month-long hiatus I got an email full of pictures from my boss asking if they could be uploaded to the work page.

Logging in means there are glances at the top item in my newsfeed. Other times, clicking on shortened-urls in my Twitter feed that have led me to a Facebook post or image. Then there is the dilemma whether to allow 3rd-party apps, like FourSquare or Untappd, to send my update to just Twitter or to both that and Facebook. I'd say I definitely cheated when I used Selective Tweets  to send Matt a Valentine's Day wish to Facebook by adding "#fb" at the end of my tweet.

The negative newsfeed was the big reason why I wanted to take a break from Facebook for awhile. While it feels good to not have that sitting in the background constantly, I feel like I am missing out on stuff happening in my friends' lives. My first week away, some high school friends posted quite a set of hilarious (so I'm told) pictures of Friday night fun. One of them even taunted me via Twitter,
"there are pics on FB... You can enjoy them on March 1st ha ha"
Schedules have aligned so that I've had more face time than Face(book) time with some friends lately, but those get-togethers wouldn't have happened if not for the use of Facebook Messenger. Then there are friends who live far away who I wouldn't be able to keep up with if not for the dialogue we maintain on each others Facebook posts because they're not emailing/texting/phone call types. I'm definitely missing those people right now. I even thought about name-dropping them in this post but the list is getting rather long in my head.

This morning I was reading an article online about The Pub, a popular local bar that had a devastating fire last month. In it, it mentioned how pictures were being posted on the establishment's Facebook page of the interior of the bar and of work being done. I sighed, knowing that I wouldn't get to see them for another 2 weeks.

And then I thought, "There's nothing saying I HAVE to stay off Facebook for a month. It's a self-imposed hiatus." Of course, I'm not a fan of quitting a project early. It's one of the reasons why I steadfastly continue growing my hair out even though it's at a length that's driving me nuts. So onward I plow. I suppose it's a good thing that what I miss most about not being on Facebook is how it helps enhance actual relationships I have as opposed to missing the myriad of link bait that fills the newsfeed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

History of Women Moving On

Yesterday I shared the History of Men Moving On. Today is for the ladies. The ones who have been wronged. The ones who will get back up again and sing their heart out in the shower or in the car when any one of these gems comes on their radio/iPod/satellite radio/Pandora/Spotify/etc. etc. etc.

Happy Bacon Roses Valentine's Day

I got together with some friends last night for some girl time, wine time, and making bacon roses for Valentine's Day time. My friend, Allison, got the idea off Pinterest. As far as Pinterest projects go, this one wasn't too difficult other than waiting for all the bacon to bake. We call this success! Plus, who wouldn't, other than vegetarians, love bacon for Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

History of Men Moving On

Here's a little something special for the day before Valentine's Day for all those guys whose hearts have been broken

Why Comcast Reportedly Buying Time Warner Cable Isn't Great News

The news has broke that Comcast has reportedly bought Time Warner Cable for $45 Billion. Hat tip to 106.9 Kiss FM for being the first place I heard about this dismal news.

Why isn't great news if you're a Time Warner Cable customer?

First off, you're taking the two largest cable and internet providers in the country and merging them into one. Their service didn't overlap anywhere, but then again there is usually no competition for cable service anywhere that Time Warner or Comcast is located other than going to satellite. On the internet side, the linked article above had this to say:

One likely important factor that would not be as consumer-facing but would still have a huge impact on consumers is the leverage that a combined Comcast/TWC would have with regard to bandwidth. With the recent removal of net neutrality regulations, Internet service providers have the ability to charge whatever they want to — or to block or slow down traffic for — online content providers. 
Also, it doesn't make me feel good that Comcast was also in the news this week for possibly being hacked

I do have mild concern in regards to what the deal would do to the Time Warner Cable News outlets. As much as I grumbled in the past about TWC taking over our beloved Cable 8 News back in 2011, I'd still rather have what we were left with than no reporters stationed down in Chautauqua County at all. Plus, I don't know that a merger would mean the end of the stations anyway.

In regards to how this will affect the wallet, I almost have no doubt that consumers would get the shaft in this deal. As it is, broadband costs are higher in the U.S. with much slower internet speed than the rest of the world.

Thankfully, this is not a done deal yet. The FCC and Justice Department still have to approve the deal.

UPDATE: To give you an idea of how much Comcast is loathed, Doghouse Diaries thinks wishing "A Comcast Monopoly In their region" is great revenge on an enemy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lemon Sunshine Over Chicken

Endless cold days combined with very little sun has me craving a hometown restaurant staple: Chicken French. I do not think it's a coincidence that the dish has made a reappearance in Wegman's $6 Meal offerings as I noted when I passed through the prepared foods department on Sunday.

The dish didn't originate in Rochester, but that city made it popular. The dish lacks love in certain populations. A friend who worked in catering in Rochester for a stint had no love for the endless plates of lemon-sauce drenched chicken. Despite that, The dish's ubiquitous home on innumerable menus of Italian restaurants in the area means you can taste test around town until you've hit upon the place that makes it just the way you like.

If you want to make this sunny chicken recipe at home, the Artful Gourmet's recipe pairs the chicken with a bright green side. As much as I love pasta, this combo is like a reminder of Spring and Summer in the mouth.
Chicken French & Lemon Broccolini

Monday, February 10, 2014

Undercutting Matt

Martha preps Matt for the cut
At least one hair stylist and one 1940s-Fan friend on Facebook posted a link to the haircut all men should get. I took a gander and agreed. For a long time, I've wanted Matt to keep his hair longer on top with short sides. Naturally, I schemed with our friend/hair stylist, Martha, about this new look.

On Saturday, he took a chance that we might have a good idea. In the end, we're all pleased with the result.
Martha begins the final style

Matt's new undercut

The new undercut style-side view

Another side view

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Russia Declares Discrimination Newest Olympic Sport

29 Common Myths About Booze

Thank you Mental Floss for this. I shall never worry about beer before liquor again. Unless it's 2 beers and 2 kinds of liquor. Anyway, just watch...

Stalking Design & DIY

While I might not be the most handy around the house nor have much of a DIY streak in me, I do enjoy reading house/design blogs. I derive great delight in before/after stories, especially when it involves good design overcoming some of the horrific things done to living spaces. Here are the sites I enjoy the most:

Young House Love  - My best friend and I talk about the Petersiks as if we actually know them. In fact, when they announced they were moving my BFF texted me about the news. The Petersiks' enthusiasm for DIY is infectious and it has been fun to be along for the ride as they've moved twice, had a daughter, published a book, and are now expecting a baby boy.

Door Sixteen - Anna Dorfman embodies cool. She's a book cover designer who renovated the Victorian row house she and her husband own in Newburgh, NY and rents an apartment in the Cobblestone part of NYC. She loves Morrissey. Need I say more?

Manhattan Nest - Daniel is a friend/DIY Partner-In-Crime of Anna Dorfman. He initially started his blog about DIY projects he had taken on in the apartment he was renting. Then the guy went rogue and bought a house that needs serious work. He's in the middle of it right now. You have to read this for the sheer spunk this guy has in tackling such a mammoth project. I think he's my hero right now.

Merrypad - I started reading this blog before I knew that the author, Emily, lives in Rochester. Based on several things she's mentioned, I also gather that she grew up in the county I live in now or in Southern Erie County (another prime example of the vortex).

Russet Street Reno - While life (AKA baby) has led to Sara not updating this blog as frequently, she has shared some recent projects that make me hope there will be more to come. Of course, (SPOILER), her family's plans to move to a new house has me hoping we'll be treated to more DIY posts in the months to come.

Hooked On Houses - I honestly didn't know until I started writing this post that the name of this blog's author is Julia! I've been reading this one only for a few months even though it has been published since 2008. Julia posts include houses you've seen in the movies, awesome before/afters, incredible houses for sale, and a myriad of other things that could fall under the "house pr0n" category.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Rochester-Jamestown Vortex

I've lived in Jamestown, NY for nearly 15 years now. A few years after I moved here, I started realizing all these odd connections between people who had moved to Rochester or people who came here from my hometown. I've jokingly called it the "Rochester-Jamestown Vortex," saying it's like our own little Twilight Zone or Bermuda Triangle.

My favorite experience with this was taking Matt, before we knew he had a seafood allergy, to my preferred sushi joint in Rochester for the first time. I had mentioned to Matt that one of the Sushi Chefs at the time had lived in Jamestown once. As we sat down at the bar and I started to make introductions, Matt says,


Turns out Barry and Matt had taken a critical thinking class together at Jamestown Community College. What I thought would have been a possible "Oh, do you know so and so from back there?" conversation was more of a, "Remember in class when this happened?" and "Remember that professor?" situation.

Research has backed me up at least on the number of people moving to Chautauqua County from Monroe County, NY. WROC's Rachel Barnhart posted about her blog about the inbound/outbound migration for Monroe County, noting that 375 people moved from there to our fair corner of Western New York. If you want to see where people have move to or from for your county, you can research that info here.

The Love Tour Comes To Jamestown

Jim Brickman is bringing "The Love Tour" to Jamestown tonight at the Reg Lenna Civic Center.

I honestly hadn't heard of this Cleveland-native until people started talking about his tour coming to town. Turns out that SE-93 carries his syndicated show on Saturday mornings. The morning thing on a weekend could be why I've been in the dark. Anyway, to promo tonight's show Jim is on the air live with Morning Show Host Lee John until 9am.

I mention this because you might want to tune into 93.3 around 8am to listen when some special guests join him on air (cough cough the Mayor ahem ahem Matt). I don't see a way to listen to them online so this is aimed at the local folks.

Also, Matt and I will be slinging drinks tonight at the Reg, so say hello if you're at the show!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Green Mountain Conversion

My Mom, Matt, & my Dad having a mid-morning coffee
While on a trip to Vermont this past summer with Matt and my parents, we dropped into Green Mountain Coffee's Visitor Center in Waterbury for a caffeine boost and to learn a little more about the company.

After a tour of the center which included a tasting of a delicious, but expensive reserve blend, we grabbed an empty table outside the station to plot our next stop for the day. I decided to take some pictures and wandered into a park across the street where I came upon a couple ladies who asked if I wanted to do a coffee taste test/survey. Never to turn down a chance to taste coffee, I agreed as did my mom and Matt. Of the 3 coffees we tried in a blind taste test, we all picked "B" which turned out to be a Green Mountain Coffee's Vermont Country Blend. The losers were Maxwell House and Starbucks.

Since that trip, Matt and I have switched up our brand of coffee at home to mainly Green Mountain. It also helps that we inherited on Keurig and bought another Keurig for super cheap from friends so that Matt could have his 1-cup at work and not have to make a full pot of decaf coffee at home when he wanted a cup. I appreciate their collaboration with Newman's Own in making an affordable Fair Trade coffee available on grocery shelves.

Of course, Green Mountain Coffee has the tricky balance of maintaining its commitment to the environment while selling a popular product that seems counter to that mission.

The latest news is that Coca-Cola, in making a move against SodaStream, has bought 10% stake in Green Mountain. Since Keurig machines are not fitted with the appropriate gadget to make water fizzy, Coca-Cola will be working to create the gadget that will.

There Is Violins in "Annie Get Your Gun"

I did my first run through of the music with the pit ensemble for Falconer High School's production of "Annie Get Your Gun" last night. Initial ensemble run-throughs are always interesting because you're not only getting a chance to hear how your part fits in with everyone else but you also get to find out just how different some of your music markings are from the Conductor's score. The only issues that seemed to come up tonight were whether we were in 4/4 or 2/4 time since it wasn't always written in the instrumental part if the time signature had changed. Our conductor loved that one!

The fun thing about playing in musicals for high schools is that there are usually a couple students on in the ensemble. FHS's pit orchestra is hampered this year by a lot of would-be-pit members being part of the actual stage show. Still though, it was good to see the return of one of the flutists who had performed in the pit for "Cinderella" last year. As the students move up in grades, you can start to hear them grow as musicians both in confidence and musicality. 

This year's show will run the weekend of March 14-16th. Here are some numbers as done in the Broadway revival of the show.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

First Time In The Rain

It would be inaccurate to say we had snow fall on us today across Jamestown. It was more of a snow dump with how much fell in a short period of time. It kind of snuck up on us even though the Winter Storm Warning had been announced and was in effect. It caused quite a few headaches for people trying to drive around, keep their driveways and sidewalks clear, or just trying to walk to lunch. It's easy to sneer at the weather and get disgruntled with day after day or cold by February. It's easy to forget the sheer joy of that first snow fall and of waking up to see frost decorating the windows in a intricate patterns.

This video is of a toddler experiencing her first rain fall on her terms. We should all strive to be open to how wonderful nature can be even when it's soaking us, making us cold, or seemingly melting the skin off our bones.
Kayden + Rain from Nicole Byon on Vimeo.

Tea Time All The Time

I love tea. As I've gotten older, my body seems more susceptible to getting colds or having sinus issues when it's cold and dry out. My main way of keeping myself healthy has been running a warm mist humidifier at night in our bedroom and during the day at work along with drinking less caffeine. A side benefit is that this has greatly expanded my tea collection both at home and work:

There is more tea behind those boxes in my cupboard at home

My stack of herbal teas at work next to the tea maker my mom gave me

Where once I was a solid, black tea only imbiber I now have a variety of flavors to tantalize my palate: Chai! Country Peach! Raspberry Zinger! Pumpkin Spice!

I've also allowed other flavors into my caffeinated beverages including more chai or cinnamon spices along with vanilla. I'm a dessert fiend so it's nice to be able to enjoy some of the same sweet taste in a calorie-free beverage. I do feel my tea collection is getting slightly out of hand as it's taking up an entire bottom shelf of a kitchen cupboard. The collection of coffee between whole beans, ground, and K-cups is a whole other issue.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Most Metal/Best Attorney Commercial Ever

This most metal commercial aired during the Super Bowl as a local spot, which is why most of the U.S. didn't see it. Thankfully, the Internet is a wonderful sharing machine. Here's the story and here is Jamie Casino giving the back story on doing the commercial.

Here's the commercial

Dogs & Cats Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

While I was finishing up Morrissey's autobiography (UK version) on Saturday night our cat, McKinley crawled off my lap and snuggled in next to our almost 2-year old super-mutt, Sammy. This is the most we've ever caught them snuggling together. Damned cute!

Sammy & McKinley

You Know That Sarah McLachlan Ad for the SPCA?

A few people on my Twitter feed didn't like the Super Bowl ad for Audi. I laughed my ass off the whole way through. It's worth a re-watch if just to see it all the way to the very end.

Monday, February 03, 2014

United Airlines Cuts Cleveland As Hub

United Airlines has cut Cleveland as a hub. This is more bad news for the Jamestown Airport as its commercial air service is provided by United Airlines with flights to Cleveland.

Last month, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer was in town to advocate for the Jamestown Airport keeping its status in the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. The EAS designation, which equates to $1.9 million in Federal funding, is threatened due to not meeting the minimum passenger rates required to stay in the program.

Here's hoping that all parties involved have something up their sleeve in order to keep the Airport going.

Supressing the Depressing News Feed

Another truth for why I decided to take a break from Facebook is that I've been suffering a bit of depression while reading my feed the last month or more. There is a lot of negativity out there whether it's the same depressing news item posted repeatedly or general ignorance. I can handle news in a radio/tv/print and even news blogs because you know what to anticipate when tuning into those sources whereas with Facebook you can be happily scrolling along, cooing at baby or puppy pictures before being smacked in the face with some new awful truth about how we're destroying earth or how the Republicans hate women.

Unsurprisingly, someone did a study about this and found that Facebook makes us unhappy. Of course, it's not that Facebook is the problem. Psychologist Timothy Wilson had this to say:
"Getting rid of Facebook wouldn’t change the fact that our attention is, more and more frequently, forgetting the path to proper, fulfilling engagement."
One could argue that by using blogging as an alternative to being on Facebook this month that I'm not attacking the real issues of why I'm feeling unhappy, but I'd argue back that at least this is a more engaging use of the Internet versus passively trolling my news feed. Additionally, at the end of the day a blog post I wrote and can readily access is far more fulfilling than a Facebook wall of links with a line or two of text that is near impossible to search.

Gamers & Math Geeks: A Couple Links

The Super Bowl may be over but the football season can live on through games like Madden NFL. One guy made it his mission to break the game. It's hilarious not just because of how lopsided it is but in how much it mirrored the actual Super Bowl this year.


Finding love in the 21st Century no longer simply involves hitting the bar or coffee shop scene. There are mind-bending assortment of online dating sites that are as general as can be to targeting specific subsets of the population like farmers or those of Jewish descent. I personally know of at least two couples who made successful matches online that led to marriage and children. This story is about a mathematician who hacked OK Cupid to find true love.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

I may be off Facebook but sad news has a way of finding you. There are few details at this moment, but Fairport/Rochester, NY native Philip Seymour Hoffman has been found dead in his NYC apartment. I've enjoyed his films over the years and am saddened that such a great talent is gone at so young an age. Here's his wiki for details about his life and work.

Here's the post I did after Philip won an Oscar for Capote.


CNN's initial story before Monday's autopsy

The Atlantic Wire: Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Ethos of the Uncool

Rolling Stone's David Fear's obituary for Philip Seymour Hoffman

Groundhog Day

It's to no surprise, given the two Polar Vortexes that have invaded a good portion of the lower 48 over the past month, that Punxsutawny Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter. Of course, to be contrary, Dunkirk Dave is predicting that warmer days are ahead.

My favorite thing about Groundhog Day is not the prognosticating by rodents but the 1992 movie starring Bill Murray. Here are a series of scenes from the movie (can't imbed video). I learned today that you can live out the movie in the place it was filmed. Woodstock, Illinois is almost 9 hours from Jamestown so that would be a heckuva drive during a time of year that can be truly iffy when it comes to snow and ice.

Growing On Me

The February 2014 Stage of Growing Out My Hair

Back in August 2011, I got the ultimate haircut by having my hair stylist/friend, Martha, cut my hair in a pixie style. My hair had never been shorter than chin length aside from when it was growing in as a baby. I decided at that point that I'd wear it short for at least a year and then decide whether to grow it back out.

This past August, I made the decision to grow out my hair. It wasn't so much that I disliked having short hair. In fact, the amount of compliments I had received after cutting it all off were almost overwhelming, but very gratifying.

Part of my decision was due to my dreams. I kept dreaming that I'd catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or be walking somewhere and that my hair was suddenly long again. I'd think in my dream, "How is it that I'm just noticing how long it is. Isn't it great to be able to pull it back?" or "How long it's been since I could feel the wind tossing it around."

The other part of the decision was the ever closer date of my 40th birthday. Granted, this is still almost 3 years from now, but given how long hair can take to really grow out I thought I better get started. I wanted to enter my 40s either with long hair or to at least have gone through the agony of growing it out.

Believe me. Growing out your hair can be pure agony. I miss all the fun ways I used to be able to style it each day. I grow more and more frustrated as each day passes since my last hair cut where my hair seems to lose whatever style it had. I've been moaning about how maybe I'll just give up and cut it all off again. What stops me is the fear of regret. Regret that I didn't have the stamina to go through with it and finish the journey. I know this sounds silly because it's just hair, right? Naturally, that statement usually follows a discussion about whether to cut it short, "It'll always grow. Don't worry!" Well, that's my worry. I'm waiting for it to grow.

Thankfully, I'm in the hands of a great stylist. Martha has made the whole process a lot easier with all the little shaping she has done each time I see her. Plus, I know that once I get the time and some spare change that she'll whip up the color magic and put those highlights in just where I want and need them. If you want Martha to help you change your life, you can find her at Mia Bella Salon (formerly 3rd Street-Salon 1) in Jamestown. It's a great little place and I've had plenty of really good experiences there not just in the hair department but in the mani/pedi area as well.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Too Old For Tumblr?

There have been news stories out in recent weeks about studies that are heralding the future demise of Facebook. I asked a few friends with kids where the young ones are now hanging out if Facebook isn't so cool. The answer I've gotten back is Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. I actively use Twitter, although not as much as I had been using Facebook. I've avoided even creating an account for Instagram because of major privacy and use concerns. Tumblr was something I wasn't quite as familiar with even though I subscribed to a few Tumblr-based sites. I had even looked into starting up my own Tumblr using the name of this blog as a way to move content from one platform to the next, but couldn't find the interest in following through. It occurred to me that I may have just become too old for Tumblr.

Leave me a comment about where you're contributing content or just hanging out social media-wise these days. If you're brave or don't give a toss, tell me your age too. I'm curious.

Away, Away

We're on a mini-vaca in an area where they're experiencing forest fires (thanks asshole arsonist). It's an area that makes Clift...