Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Took This Photo Four Years Ago Today

Berko Bros
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
It's a label on a metal trapdoor in the sidewalk on Loockerman Street, in Dover.

And, oddly enough, I found myself noticing it again as I walked down the street today.

I thought," That could be an odd little picture."

Then I remembered, "Oh yeah. It already is."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

More Boundary Monuments

I was in Washington DC Saturday evening for my mother's 80th birthday party (mazeltov, Mom!). I stayed the night in northwest Washington and left this morning by way of Western Avenue, which forms the northwest boundary of the city. It gave me a chance to visit a few of the boundary stones that mark the District of Columbia boundary.

The stone pictured at right stands in Westmoreland Circle, where Massachusetts Ave. crosses Western Ave. It's not one of the original stones, placed by surveyors in 1791 and 1792. It appears to be a bit more recent and has at least one twin, on Chevy Chase Circle.

Just a bit north of this stone is Northwest No. 6 Boundary Marker, which is original and shows the significant weathering of more than 200 years. The iron fence was installed about 100 years ago by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

I took advantage of my drive back to Delaware to add to my Delaware Boundary Monument collection. I took a detour and visited Tangent Line Monument 55, which is a crownstone but is almost completely buried in brambles and honeysuckle.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This is Why I Became an Active Internet Citizen

Mother Jones News has a story up about an effort by members of MetaFilter to help two young Russian women who appear to have almost fallen prey to human traffickers: MetaFilter Saved My Pals From Sex Traffickers.

Though I am not very active on the site lately, I've been a MetaFilter member for about six years now and the reaction of this on-line community, and their success in dealing with this story, is no surprise.

I found MetaFilter when I was looking for help on a much more mundane level. A web-search for advice on an automotive matter led me to a MetaFilter discussion that solved my problem and I later joined the site. It was my educational resource for what the web has become, for blogging, on-line photography, and for social media.

I followed this Russian students/sex-traffickers story from afar this week. I had nothing to contribute, but I find this a fascinating example of what we can and should be in on-line communities.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Next Week: A Zoning Code Public Hearing

I'm getting ready for a public hearing next week on a draft update of the Lewes Zoning Code. I'm part of the city's Planning Commission and we have completely re-written the code. After this public hearing, we need to ship a draft off to the Mayor and City Council.

Part of my job is to promote the public hearing and help explain the draft to the public. So I wrote a newspaper column about it. versions of this have appeared in the Cape Gazette and the Coast Press.

And I created a slide show that I presented to Mayor and Council last week.
So. If you are in Lewes next Tuesday evening, why not stop by City Hall for the hearing?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Will Have Been 4 Years Too Late For This

The graduation speaker at Villanova University last week was Mythbuster Jamie Hyneman. His speech is now posted on the Discovery Channel web site. It made a nice word-cloud.
I heard about Jamie Hyneman being the speaker back in April when Colleen was looking at Villanova. I'm a big Mythbusters fan; learning that Mr. Hyneman has been working with the Villanova Engineering School and would be commencement speaker that school rose in my estimation.

Of course, it was not my decision. It was Colleen's. She did, in fact, choose Villanova, though she's not at all impressed with Jamie Hyneman.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Prom Night, Parental Edition

2010 Sussex Tech Prom
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
If we're looking at all bleary this morning, blame Colleen's Senior Prom. That event went off last night at the Exhibit Hall at the state fairgrounds in Harrington. It ate most of our yesterday and chunks of many other days leading up to it.

Karen, of course, carried most of the load. Try as I might, I have not been able to secure the role of dress, hair, and make-up advisor to my daughters.

Colleen's date was her young man from New Jersey, a very nice guy we've known since he was a boy. They made a lovely couple. I'll hold off on any more detailed pictures, publicly, until Colleen has time to go through all 300 that I took last night and approve any for publication.

This picture is Jake's shoulder, parts of his tux, and his boutonnière.

After a morning of hair appointments, the kids dressed in mid-afternoon and we gathered with a large group of their friends in a pocket park in Bridgeville for plein air portraits.

From there it was a short ride north to Harrington for a "grand march" designed to match the prom theme, which was something to do with Hollywood. A red carpet promenade was laid out in one of the nicer show-barn/pavilions at the fairgrounds and we cheered for and photographed our kids as they entered from a flotilla of limousines.

Based on a handful of wee-hour text messages, I understand that the Prom was good fun. A more full report, I'm sure, will come when all have recovered.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Green, in Dover

The Green, in Dover
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I brag a lot about how much I like working in downtown Dover, Delaware. I love the fact that I can walk uptown at lunchtime and not only find fine dining (or a cheese steak) but also beautiful, historic city spaces.

This is the old Green, which dates from colonial times. It was in a building on this Green that Delaware's leaders met on December 7, 1787 to become the first to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

Today it is a quiet pleasant spot in which to walk.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some Fine Singing

We went down to Selbyville this evening for the middle school band and choral concert for spring at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA). Christina is about to graduate from the 8th grade at SDSA and this was her concert there.

Aside from playing clarinet in the band and singing among the music majors and minors (her major was dance, chorus was a minor), Christina was chosen to be part of a special singing group that took on the challenge of a classical piece, in Latin -- Pallestrina's Sicut Cervus.

The sound quality here is not the best, and my shaky arms had to serve as a tripod, but I think you get enough of a sense of how this sounded from this video. These kids -- 13 and 14 years old -- did a great job.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

6,000 Flickr Uploads

Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I just noticed that this photo, which I took last week in Dover and only just uploaded this evening, is the 6,000th thing that I have uploaded to flickr.

Flickr has been a great boon to me. It has given me a visual artistic outlet that dovetails nicely with my writing outlet -- this blog. The two have fed each other.

So. In five years on flickr (give or take a week), I have uploaded 6,000 photos and videos.

That's a lot, I think.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Making Music: The Grateful Dead, Amanda Palmer, and John Mayer

I found an interesting confluence of ideas this week in the separate streams of information from two musicians I follow.

Amanda Palmer, who is touring in Europe right now, performing both her own music and as a part of the music/art project EvelynEvelyn, posted a full quote of a rant from a music commenter named Bob Lefsetz about the Grateful Dead exhibit at the New York Historical Society.

Mr. Lefsetz was not overly impressed with the exhibition, but his brief review of it leads into a lengthy discussion of the approach to music-making that the Dead had and how that approach is lacking in much of today's music business. The Dead, he notes, were "an adventure without a destination." They didn't really have "hits," they weren't all over the radio (at least not in their heyday), and they didn't play a scripted concert. But their approach -- a communal dedication to the idea of music, to trying, to musical experimentation -- could and did pay off:
You’re not waiting for the hit.  You’re not amazed by the pyrotechnics.  But if the band stands on stage playing long enough, we’re all gonna fall into a groove, you’ll feel it and be transported.
I have not yet seen Amanda Palmer play live. Though I had heard music from her first band, the Dresden dolls, in the past. I found her and started to follow her activities, and listen to recordings, after she became engaged to Neil Gaiman, a favorite author and social media presence who I have been tracking. But I think she lives this approach to music; open, free, experimenting and giving to her audience. And I applaud her for it.

Meanwhile, John Mayer, who is in a break between tours, posted a video and discussion on his site this week that suggests as a similar approach, even if he does come from a much more pop-star and celebrity place.

Mayer is starting work on songs for a next album and has decided to try writing while on tour, working with his band during sound-checks and perhaps adding early versions of tunes to his set to see how they play.

For his last album, Mayor used the internet as a sounding board and posted works in progress, snippets, and thoughts as he went along. This time, he says, he wants to "think like a new artist."
Playing arenas and ampitheatres doesn’t have to mean showing up and doing an end zone dance. What if it were alive and organic and I played new tunes that were constantly changing and growing up each night? It would sure light a fire under my ass to write the best song I could, knowing I’d be bumping a surefire album track for it.

Playing to 20,000 people should feel like playing for 200, just with 19,800 more people looking in.
I think this is promising. I like John Mayer and have since his early light-rock singer-songwriter days.

I knew we were onto something with him when he appeared on a grammy awards show early on as a new artist allowed to play a bit of an early hit, solo, on acoustic guitar. He went off-recording during an instrumental break and added some very tasty, jazzy licks that suggested a jammer was in there somewhere.

His subsequent music has borne that out as Mayer mixes hard rock, pop, and a bit of jam-band aesthetic into what is still a pop star career.

Making music is at its best when it is communication, back and forth, between musician and listener. This can happen live, it can happen in recordings, and it can happen in written music if one stays open to the idea that the music is alive and depends on both playing and hearing.

And to the idea that the musician is as much the audience as the people who paid a promoter to get in the door. The best music often comes as a surprise to the musician playing it.

So, let us support those musicians who embrace this approach -- whoever they are, where ever they are, and whatever they play.