Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tax brackets has a graph of tax brackets through the years, superimposed with a budget deficit graph:

Update: I wonder what percentage of the population is aware of how high the highest tax brackets were from the 50s until Reagan in the 80s.

Long weekend in NYC - Updated to add photos

K has been working a long-term freelance project for about 15 months. In that time, he hasn't taken a day off except for the holidays that his client is closed. He's been exhausted and miserable and cranky, but hasn't wanted to say "no" to even one day of work, since it'll dry up eventually and there isn't much other work out there.

Friday at noon, K called from work and said, "I'm not booked on Monday and Tuesday. Let's go to New York tomorrow." I started looking into airfares and he called back a few minutes later and said, "Let's go TODAY so that I can go to a ping pong seminar at Spin at 1:00 tomorrow." Spin is a table tennis club in Manhattan that is part-owned by Susan Sarandon. I finished some work, found a kennel for Karma and dropped her off, booked a hotel and flights, went home and packed and we made it to the airport by 5:30 for a 7:00 flight.

This is not how I like to roll. I like to research and plan so that vacation time is put to optimal use. But this is how K likes to do things and it was his trip, really. It all turned out well. (Flights were even on time; that's never happened to me before when flying to NYC. This was my fourth trip there.)

Our favorite experience of the trip was on Monday. We went to a recital for a master's student at Julliard. Afterward, about 7:15, I steered us to the Metropolitan Opera House [Update:  photo of Lincoln Center added] so K could see it. The concierge at the hotel had told me that the Met's season wasn't starting until next week, so I hadn't tried to get tickets to an opera, but the building is beautiful and shows up in movies now and then (e.g. Moonstruck), so I thought K should see it. As we came into the plaza in front of the Met, we saw that it was packed with people. There was a huge section with chairs, surrounded by a barricade. A giant, GIANT, screen was hanging on the front of the building and an opera was playing on the screen. Great quality sound came from the speakers. We thought, "Oh cool! They're playing a video of an opera from last season." So we watched from behind the barricades until the end of the first act.

Moments after the screen went to intermission, we saw, through the huge front windows, people in tuxes and gowns moving into the atrium space from the hall, and it dawned on us that what we'd been watching was live from inside the Met. The concierge had it wrong; this was opening night! We tried to get a seat on the plaza, but learned we needed tickets to sit. We resigned to stand and watch, though our feet and backs were worn out from a long day of walking. But then a very nice woman picked us out of the crowd of standing people and offered us her two tickets for the outdoor seating; she wasn't in the mood to stay. So we watched the second and third acts from the 7th row. The weather was beautiful and the sound system was amazing, so it was a completely fabulous experience.

The opera was Tosca. The singers were well-received by the audience, but the director, set designer and costumer designer, who went with a non-traditional approach, got booed loudly. Reviews here: NYT; NYT blog; LATimes; Financial Times. In the blog post, the Met's general manager suggests that the reason for the boos was that the crowd was rooted in the past. I know a smidge about opera, but not enough to have had any clear expectations about how Tosca should look. Still, I didn't like the sets or costumes. It didn't look like it was a particular modern vision being executed; it just looked like they were trying to get by as cheaply as possible.

We loved Karita Matilla as Tosca, but I see her reviews are not glowing. She made us (and the lady next to us) cry at the end of the second act.

I'll post pictures when I offload them from K's camera.

I see that the production was broadcast all over the screens in Times Square too!

The Met's HD live broadcast of Tosca to theaters all over the country will be on Oct. 10.

We also saw Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane's son, in a quartet at the Village Vanguard. He was great; his drummer (E.J. Strickland) and piano player (Luis Perdomo) were even better. The quartet has been together since 2003. Review of this stint at the VV is here.  [Update: photo of Ravi added.]

We went to The Lion King. For me, the set and costume design and art direction are the reason to see this. The creativity is stunning. The music is meh.

We saw a retrospective of Richard Avedon's fashion photography at The International Center of Photography. (Review is here.) This exhibit was timed to coincide with Fashion Week last week that took place at Bryant Park, kitty-corner from ICP. People like to poo poo reality TV shows, but I have to say that I've picked up some appreciation for the skills and techniques of clothing design/construction from Project Runway and for modeling from America's Next Top Model. This made the photography exhibit more interesting to me than it would have been otherwise. Also, I learned that Angelica Huston was a model when she was young.

K got to enjoy his table tennis seminar at Spin. We ate lots of great food. All flights were on time. The weather was perfect.

Our hotel was crawling with young men with German shepherds. If I were to see lots of people wearing fezzes in a hotel, I would assume there was a Shriner's convention in town. So my first thought when I saw the fourth or fifth shepherd was that there must be some sort of training seminar for police dogs. But then it dawned on me that if one were to hold a training seminar, one might find somewhere cheaper to do it than Manhattan. I tried to talk to the men with the dogs and they didn't volunteer any information about their dogs or their dogs' jobs. I would guess they were there to do explosives checks for the UN General Assembly taking place this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not a great week - New Update as of 09/22/09

Finished up with one of my specialists this morning. One of possible candidates for the root of my problems was something heart related. So I was referred to a cardiologist. I've had several tests done in the past couple of weeks, one of which was to wear a heart monitor for 48 hours. My follow-up with him was today and to "close the book" on this avenue, he suggested a treadmill stress test.

Bottom line: whatever is causing my symptoms is NOT heart related as far as he can tell. I could lose some weight (like I didn't already know that) and while my resting heart-rate is a bit high, it's not high enough to warrant any concern. I've always thought my resting/normal heart-rate was on the high side, especially compared to my dad's, which is very low. He admitted that they wanted something to occur while I was wearing the monitor (this wasn't a surprise) and only noticed "a few extra beats every now-and-then", but nothing out of the ordinary or a concern.

So, while I still don't know what exactly is going on, it appears that I've received a clean bill of health on the cardio front. My last test with specialist #2 is later today - I'm hoping his news is good as well.