September 08, 2005

Return to Piano

Posted by Scott at 10:33 PM

Image of Claire at the pianoLessons - After having a decent break for much of the summer, Claire resumed piano lessons last night. I went straight from work to pick her up. I got to speak briefly with her teacher and give her the DVD of "People and Pianos: 300 years" that I made last weekend. Claire has started to learn about major and minor key scales and has a new song to work on this week called Whirling Leaves.

Encoding - Recording that MP3 gave me a chance to play with the MP3 encoder called LAME. While LAME is a command line utility not often used by the average computer user, it's encoding engine is actually embedded within a bunch of other more familiar tools. Nevertheless, there was something about using a command line tool that appealed to a retro-geek like me. "Old school" you might say. It also gave me a chance to play with MP3 ID3 tags, which allow you to embed things like the title, artist, album, track number, etc., into the MP3 file. Unlike my first effort at MP3 encoding last weekend, this time I decided that I'll probably save space and download time and just encode these things in mono rather than stereo. It's a single instrument. Do you really care about left and right? Perhaps the audio purist might care that bass comes more out the left channel and treble on the right. I don't.

Weather - I'm aware that the weather excerpts on the right side bar are broken. Weather Underground has changed their formatting so I need to tweak my program to adapt to it. Some night in the near future when I have half an hour or so, I'll fix it. In the mean time the links for the different cities still work.

Dorothy Day - Michelle and I finished the DVD "Entertaining Angels" last night. We enjoyed it. I liked it because after her conversion, Dorothy still was portrayed as having many struggles to deal with even when doing "the right thing" — what she felt called to do. Money problems, the poor that took advantage of her, a staff that nearly walked out on her, doubts in faith, the temptation to give it all up and return to her old boyfriend, etc. I was glad that they didn't sugar coat it into "but then she decided to follow Christ and all was peachy." They "kept it real."

Energy Prices - Although it has long been an odd fascination for my dad, the changing costs of gasoline has lately become a national obsession. Our local newspaper, The Cabinet, did a front page story on how it affected local businesses. Michelle called me at work to read a few paragraphs near the end of the story.

But at Peters Honda in Nashua, General Sales Manager Jim Green said that used car lot is filling up with Dodge Durangos, Ford Explorers, and Expeditions, and other full sized SUVs, while hybrids and other fuel efficient models are flying out the door.

"The Civic and Accord hybrids weren't that popular until last month," said Green.

One customer came to trade in an Expedition when he discovered it cost more than $100 to fill his tank.

I had some hopes for the past few months of buying a 2006 Civic Hybrid (since they are undergoing a major redesign) to replace my 1998 Accord, but with a sudden surge in demand, I think it's likely I'll wait a while. It's no fun dealing with Honda when their cars start getting into "waiting list" mode. We went through that with our Odyssey back in late 2000. If gas prices subside in the next month or so, perhaps then but otherwise I'll probably just wait another year. There's no rush. I won't save enough in gas to account for the premium Honda will want for their cars now.

One bandwagon we were glad to be ahead of was getting a couple of wood stoves. The article mentioned the company that we bought our stoves from:

Art Kelley of Stove Keepers in Amherst said his business didn't experience the usual summer slowdown this year and pellet stoves are becoming more popular with every increase in oil prices.

"A ton of pellets, made of compressed sawdust, is equivalent to 125 gallons of home heating oil," Kelley said. But where a ton of pellets cost around $200, 125 gallons of oil is closer to $325.

Michelle and I noticed that when you drive by their shop these days, their sign hypes that they are open 7 days a week. I'm betting that they can't install stoves fast enough these days!

If it's any consolation, some are saying that these oil prices will crash. In particular Steve Forbes says:

Publishing billionaire Steve Forbes has predicted that soaring oil prices will lead to a crash that could make the hi-tech bust of 2000 "look like a picnic". Mr Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine, said the price of oil, which peaked at more than $70 a barrel on Monday as Hurricane Katrina headed for the US Gulf Coast, was unsustainable. He predicted that oil would fall to $30-35 a barrel within a year.

I guess when school starts next year, we'll have to see how accurate he was.