Bootcamp Day 46 — XM Music Lab

XM Music Lab has a split personality. Sometimes, it plays good ole progressive rock (Yes, Genesis, and the like). Othertimes, it plays “jam bands” like Phish.

My tastes lean strongly towards the old stuff. So my reaction to this channel varied a lot through the day — when it was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad, it was barely OK.

I’ll be back here, but how long I stay on any visit will depend very much on what mode the playlist is in at that instant.

Shabbat Shalom!

…and there's hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut!

But the beginning of that famous newscast is even more relevant and welcome today:

“Big light in sky slated to appear in east!”

Yes, there was actually some sun visible on my way to work, for the first time in days. Maybe it’ll be possible to get outside at lunchtime for some walking — I tried yesterday, but decided I wasn’t really dressed for a swim and came back into the building. Walking the halls just isn’t the same thing.

Bootcamp Day 45 — Soul Street

When I was growing up in Richmond, there was one station (WANT/990) which was aimed directly at the Black community. I never listened to it. But the top-40 station (WLEE/1480) played a lot of music from Black artists (especially those who recorded for Motown), mixed in with the rest of their playlist.

Listening to Soul Street today reminded me of those days — I heard many familiar artists and songs which I’d heard often on WLEE — and which, for the most part, I hadn’t heard since.

There were some clunkers, but in general, Soul Street was good listening today (though they lost me when they went to a half-hour of Black History Month celebration — I was looking for music, not documentary programming). I’ll be back, but for fairly small doses; I like my soul music mixed in with other formats, not as an exclusive diet.

Bootcamp Day 34 (Delayed) — The Heart

After my brief visit to The Torch earlier today, it was time to catch up on the last channel I’d missed while in France — The Heart.

The Heart’s programming theme is very simple and straightforward: all love songs, all the time. They stretch it as far as playing “breakup songs”, but that’s as far as they go. And they lived up to their claims, at least during the time I was listening.

I could see coming back here once in a while (and it might make better background music for activities other than sitting in my office, writing Python code), but it’s not likely to be one of my frequent stops.

Bootcamp Day 44 — The Torch

Today, Bootcamp visited The Torch, which is the first channel in XM’s Christian neighborhood.

I had considered skipping these channels, since I’m Jewish and have no interest in the message that these channels are preaching, but I decided to tune in anyway and hear what the music sounded like as music, independent of the content.

So, with that disclaimer, let me say that listening to The Torch reminded me a lot of my visits to KISS-XM and Top 20 on 20. I’m giving it the same rating I gave those channels, too. And, like those channels, I won’t be back.

Bootcamp Day 43 — The Loft

The Loft is yet another channel which attracted me to XM, and yet another channel I hadn’t gotten around to spending any time with before Bootcamp.

I have mixed feelings about this channel — I enjoyed the music and the comments from the knowledgeable and personable DJs, but I would have enjoyed them even more if I’d been able to focus on the radio instead of work; as it was, the channel was somewhat distracting.

So I’ll be back, but probably at a time when I can pay attention to the music instead of other things.

Bootcamp Day 33 (Delayed) — Caricia

I was out of the country when Bootcamp visited Caricia; I finally got around to listening today.

Even though I took three years of Spanish in high school, I couldn’t understand the lyrics to any of the songs (I’d get a few odd words, but nothing useful). Ignoring the lyrics, the music was pleasant, but no more than that — the arrangements tended to be lusher than I like, and the tempo was generally a bit slower than I’d prefer. But I guess that makes sense, given the positioning of this channel as featuring soft, romantic and pop ballads.

As I was typing this note, I heard an announcement from the channel’s program director explaining that it was “in transition”, and apologizing for any inconvenience, so perhaps it’ll be different in a few days. Or weeks.

I might drop by again sometime, but not often.

Bootcamp Day 42 — Ask!

In general, I’m not a big fan of talk radio. All-news formats, such as KCBS/740 are fine (at least until they start repeating stories), and some topical talk shows, like Car Talk, can be fun or useful.

But the typical talk show, where the host has an agenda, and the callers are either sycophants who agree, or idiots who are trying to argue the inarguable by disagreeing, is not my favorite listening matter.

But I gave it a try anyway today, when Bootcamp visited Ask!. I listened to some of the Glenn Beck show, some of Dave Ramsey, a bit of Rusty Humphries, and a little of Bruce Williams — none of them changed my opinion of the talk show format.

I guess I might potentially listen again, if I had XM in my car and I was falling asleep while driving and thought that being irritated would keep me awake. But other than that, I don’t expect to return.

Bootcamp Day 40 — 20 on 20

Today’s stop was 20 on 20, where the listeners pick 20 songs from a list of about 40 current hits, and XM plays them; this cycle repeats every 90 minutes or so, ad nauseum.

Nausea set in pretty quickly. Before I gave up, I was “treated” to Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and, of course, Hilary Duff — a threesome I could do without. And there were other hits, too, none of which I enjoyed. But, to 20 on 20’s credit, they didn’t talk non-stop about Hilary Duff, unlike Radio Disney.

I had low expectations for this channel — I wasn’t disappointed. And I won’t be back.

Bootcamp Day 39 — The System

When I went to Israel for the first time, back in 1997, I spent Shabbat at the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv. I intended to go to services on Friday night, but I didn’t know where to find a Reform shul, so instead, I found myself wandering along the beach and Hayarkon Street (adjacent to the beach). My meandering took me to the Sheraton Tel-Aviv, where a big crowd of twenty-ish folks was spending Shabbat evening at the Tango Club, dancing frenetically to music with a very distinct thumping beat. I listened for a while, then walked on — it wasn’t what I was looking for on my first Shabbat in Israel.

Today’s Bootcamp channel, The System, might well have played some of the same music I heard that night. It certainly had the same energy.

And, much to my surprise, I kept listening to The System all day — it was good music to program to, and even to have on in the background during a couple of phone calls. It’s a good thing I don’t use a touchpad, though, because I kept tapping my hands and feet to the rhythm all day long!

I don’t know if I’d want to listen to this kind of music as a foreground activity, but I might well return here on a day when I can use an infusion of energy.

Bootcamp Day 38 — The 80's

I didn’t listen to a lot of current music during the 80’s; during that decade, I was mostly listening to classical music, with occasional visits to the local rock stations (WSHE being the only one I can remember from my time in South Florida), where I usually hoped to hear early-70’s progressive rock.

But I guess I did get exposed to some what was on the radio during the 80’s, because much of what I’m hearing on today’s Bootcamp installment is at least vaguely familiar — I even recognized one song well enough to know its title and who did it (Peter Gabriel’s “Games without Frontiers”). On the other hand, although I’d heard of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” before today, I am sure I’d never actually heard it (and I don’t think I missed much).

I just looked at the 80’s IT list and there are lots of familiar songs through about 1983; after that, they’re few and far between.

I tuned in too late for Bruce Kelly’s show, but I should be around for some of Heidi Selexa’s gig later this afternoon; from what I’ve read on the XM discussion board, it should be fun. (Yep, it was fun; I left the office and my XM radio five minutes before she played my requests — I guess I’ll have to try again another day!)

I’ll be back — the more I listen, the more I like it!

Bootcamp Day 37 — The Flow

Today’s Bootcamp stop is The Flow, which describes itself as “America’s first Neo Soul channel”. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Soul Music the first time around (except for some Motown crossovers), so I didn’t have high hopes for today’s visit.

The music is better than I expected, but it doesn’t really speak to me (as usual, I’m listening in background mode, so I’m not concentrating on the lyrics). I might stop by again, but it’s unlikely that I’ll make The Flow a regular part of my XM diet.

Bootcamp Day 32 (Delayed) — Frank's Place

Frank’s Place will be my last stop on today’s Bootcamp catchup expedition, and a very nice stop it is, too. When I was growing up, I heard a lot of music from this era — when I didn’t have control of the radio, it was usually on WRVA/1140, which played “the standards” — Sinatra and his friends. And, while I liked the music of my generation better, I enjoyed listening to this music, too. And I still do.

I wouldn’t want to spend every day here, but it’s a nice place to kick back, relax, and enjoy real pros.

Bootcamp Day 31 (Delayed) — Hank's Place

It’s a quiet day at work — my manager is in Asia, most of my colleagues took the day off or are working from home, and IBM locations in New York are closed for the holiday. So I’m taking advantage of the quiet to work on a proposal, get caught up on my e-mail, and catch up on the Bootcamp channels I missed last week in Paris. I’ll be catching up on the rest of the channels later this week (I suspect that some of this week’s channels won’t hold my interest for very long).

At any rate, I’ve spent the last hour or so at Hank’s Place, which has been a very pleasant surprise. As I’ve written before, I didn’t like country music when I was growing up — but my tastes have broadened over the years, and I’m enjoying my visit to the honky-tonk country era at Hank’s today. I’m surprised at how many of the songs I know, too.

Sometimes, though, when I listen closely enough to hear the lyrics, I’m taken aback, as when they played Mary Kilroy’s “Bit and Bridle” a few minutes ago.

I’ll be back to Hank’s. Wish I could get them to deliver the beer, though!

Bootcamp Day 28 (Delayed) — The Joint

Reggae music — “The Joint” — get it?

But even without inhaling, the music’s pretty good to listen to, and quite relaxing. I missed the official visit on Bob Marley’s birthday, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard today, and expect to wander back from time to time.

Bootcamp Day 30 (Delayed) — E!

I don’t read Entertainment Weekly, People, or Us. I don’t watch E! on TV. And I didn’t expect to get much out of listening to E! Entertainment Radio.

I was right.

I listened to part of a program called “Rock Stars’ Daughters” and decided that that was more than enough time to give this particular channel. It takes all kinds, I guess, but E! gets an F from me.

Bootcamp Day 36 — Unsigned

Now that I’m back at home (and work), I’m resuming my Bootcamp listening (and while I’m at it, I’m switching to the official day numbering, including the weekends, which I’m skipping; I’ve gone back and renumbered all my earlier entries).

Today’s channel is Radio Unsigned, featuring unsigned bands from many genres and locations. As you’d expect, the music is varied — I’ve heard rock, rap, and more. I’ve liked quite a bit of it, but very definitely not everything.

I’ll probably come back to this channel for occasional visits, but it’s uneven enough that it’s not a good choice for me to listen to at work.

Home again!

Somewhat to my surprise, I was able to change my flight home, so instead of stopping and changing planes in Washington, I took the non-stop from Paris to San Francisco. This meant getting up a bit earlier than I would have otherwise, and doing without a trip to the fitness center this morning, but it also meant getting home about 6 hours earlier — which is always a good idea.

I expected to eat breakfast in the hotel this morning — but at the last minute, I couldn’t bring myself to spend 23 Euros when I wasn’t all that hungry. It was too early to try the 7 Euro croissant and coffee in the bar, so I went out anyway, and found a bakery nearby which opened just as I got there at 7am. I had coffee and croissants and spent a little less than I would have in the bar, but at least I got a bit of exercise in the bargain.

The trip home was uneventful, which is just the way I like it. Now, all I have to do is stay up for a few more hours so I can get adjusted to Pacific time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Falafel for dinner

Somewhat to my surprise, one of my colleagues asked me tonight if I was serious about going to Rue de Rosiers and eating falafel — I thought about it for a few seconds and decided that shwarma last night didn’t mean I couldn’t have falafel tonight, and said “yes”.

So we bought zone 3 tickets (1.90 Euros instead of 1.30 for zone 1) and took the Metro to St. Paul. Then we wandered around the area for a bit, checking out some shops (but not buying anything), before heading to the proper street for dinner.

There were lots of restaurants to choose from; finally, I succumbed to the lure of the “Artisanal Pita” sign on Mi-Va-Mi (which also got a good review from Megnut), and we sat down for a repast. Doug had the deluxe shwarma plate; I had a simple falafel sandwich (very good, though I didn’t see anything fantastic about the pita); and we split a half-bottle of Kosher L’Pesach Bordeaux. Nice and cheap.

I was still a little hungry and in a mood to do some comparison eating, so then I went to L’As du Fallafel and had another falafel. Yummy, but I’d have to say Mi-Va-Mi was a little bit better (though slightly more expensive).

A Californian-French lunch

I decided to eat lunch in the IBM cafeteria today instead of wasting my 8 Euros again (it was raining, which did help me choose to stay inside). Even though I don’t keep Kosher, I don’t eat pork or shellfish, and I wasn’t sure that any of the entrees available today were suitable (they had salmon, but it appeared to be garnished with asparagus and ham, and there was a quiche, but who knows what was inside). So I avoided the entrees.

Instead, I filled my plate with salad (that was the “California” part of my lunch) — then I met the “French” requirement by adding two kinds of cheese, four kinds of bread, and a nice dessert. I think I’ll do the same thing tomorrow — I could get used to this kind of lunch.

A Franco-American breakfast

On Tuesday, I ate breakfast at my hotel — 23 Euros’ worth of breakfast. That’s what they charged me, anyway; I don’t think it was worth 23 Euros. And I didn’t want to have breakfast at the hotel again today if I could avoid it.

Last night, I saw a greengrocer as I was walking from the restaurant to the RER station, so I went in and grabbed an orange to take back to my room (0.77 Euros). That was the first part of today’s complete breakfast.

After eating the orange, I took off to explore the area around my hotel. When I walk to IBM, I cross a street and turn right; this morning, I turned left. I wasn’t in real Paris: But I was still hungry. So I retraced my steps and found a bakery; they sold me a pain du chocolate for 0.60 Euros. But they couldn’t sell me any coffee. So I continued onward to the plaza at the Grande Arche de la Defense, where Starbucks has established its second French beachhead (so new that it’s not even on their website).

This Starbucks wasn’t nearly as crowded as the one I often visit on my way to work — there was no line, in fact. But I recognized many of the customers who were there — they were my fellow attendees at this meeting!

I had a bit of trouble ordering, because the signs were in French instead of Starbuckese (imagine my culture shock at having to ask for a middle-sized cappucino as a “moyenne” instead of a “grande”). But I figured it out, and my wallet was soon emptier by 3.50 Euros (this Starbucks couldn’t take the Starbucks Card, either!), making my visit to Starbucks by far the most expensive part of today’s breakfast.

A ride to Orient Express

One of the colleagues with whom I went to lunch yesterday had a hard time finding someting to eat — it turns out that she keeps Kosher. And so she actually took me seriously when I talked about going into Paris to have falafel in the Marais. But the Marais is a long way from La Defense, so we decided to look around for alternatives.

I tried to find Kosher (Cacher) restaurants on Paris WebCity, with very limited success. So I fell back to the ultimate resource — Google. A quick search for “Paris Kosher restaurant” gave a recentarticle in the Forward as the first hit. So I looked at the article, which pointed me to the Kosher in Paris web site, which was exactly what we needed.

A few minutes later, we’d settled on Orient Express, at 18 rue Jouffroy D’abbans in the 17th (phone +33 1 40 53 88 88). I called them (using my trusty IP phone, which meant that the call was actually dialed from my office in California!); fortunately, they spoke more English than I spoke French, and were able to tell me roughly where they were. We decided that, rather than take the Metro and walk, we’d take a taxi.

That was an expensive decision. The receptionist at IBM said that she’d call us a taxi — that worked fine, but when we got in, we discovered that the meter was already over 8 Euros (the driver must have started the meter when he arrived at IBM). Then the driver fiddled around trying to find his GPS remote control (another Euro gone) and eventually decided he’d call for directions while driving. Which he did, and we took a direct route.

8pm is still rush hour in Paris, at least for the trip from La Defense to the Etoile. The trip around the Etoile was exciting, too — I’m glad I didn’t have to drive. Once we left the Etoile, there was much less traffic, and we got to the restaurant quickly.

The food was good (not superb, but I’d go back quite happily). I decided to have shwarma rather than falafel; my colleague had a steak (she’d been unable to eat meat since arriving in Paris, and had to be awfully careful at the reception earlier in the evening (as had I — they love to sneak pork and shellfish in odd places)). It was nice to be at a resturant where we could eat anything safely, even if we didn’t know exactly what it was.

After dinner, we walked to the RER station at the Etoile (about 15 minutes’ walk, which was no problem), and bought tickets to go back to La Defense. Unfortunately, we bought zone 1 tickets but we needed zone 3 tickets. And when we tried to exit, the turnstile wouldn’t let us out. And we couldn’t find any place to make up the difference, or anyone to ask. Fortunately, two French-speaking ladies had also only bought zone 1 tickets, and they were able to get a guard to unlock the door and let us all out.

From there, all we had to do was find an exit to the outside world which was still open at 10pm — that was not as easy as it might have been, but we succeeded, and then walked our separate ways to our hotels.

I suffered a bit from jetlag, I guess, because I couldn’t fall asleep right away, but it wasn’t too bad — I was asleep by midnight, and I slept until the alarm went off at 7am.

Eight Euros cheerfully wasted

The cafeteria at IBM Tour Descartes doesn’t handle money. Visitors have to buy a bunch of lunch tickets before getting in the line, and that’s a slow procedure. So the organizers of this conference arranged a shortcut — for 32 Euros, we could buy a whole week’s worth of lunches in advance. It seemed like a good idea to me, and I bought in.

Yesterday, I had lunch in the cafeteria. Even though the lines in the servery were crazy, the food was pretty good for cafeteria food — but awfully filling (and I didn’t even have a dessert or wine). I was all set to go to the cafeteria again today, when one of my colleagues said that there was a small group who were going to go out and get something to eat elsewhere (they hadn’t had a chance to buy the all-week card yesterday). I hesitated (after all, I’d already paid my eight Euros), but eventually chose to go along for the walk.

That was one of the better decisions I’ve made so far today. We ended up at Pomme de Pain in Les Quatre Temps, where I had a curry chicken sandwich. And then we went out to the plaza for dessert and I had an apricot crepe from a semi-permanent cart. The crepe was better than the sandwich (messier, too), and it was very nice to get out of the overheated building for a walk in the bright sunshine and 45-degree air.

I may not get to see the sun again today, though; the meeting I’m in is expected to go till 6pm, and that’s when the sun will set. Maybe there’ll be a break….

Mission Accomplished!

Cassie the travel bug is now waiting to be picked up from View Over Paris – Paris Overview.

Cassie in the cache: Cassie's ready to move on! I successfully found an ATM which worked for me (apparently Meriwest Credit Union and BNP don’t like each other, but other banks are perfectly happy to deal with Meriwest), too.

And I’m almost ready to fall asleep — it’s been a long long day.

Bonjour de Paris!

Well, actually de La Defense. I am currently in my meeting, wishing I were outside where it’s bright and sunny and cool (in contrast to the meeting room, which is hot).

I am also wishing that the ATM in this building took my credit union’s ATM card; I will have to go find some other bank’s ATM and get some Euros — it is scary walking around without any money!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I’m in Richmond, Virginia, on my way to an IBM meeting near Paris. The geographically-challenged among you may not think that this is anything worth writing about, but trust me — Richmond isn’t on the direct route from Los Gatos to Paris.

But there were good reasons for taking the indirect route — it let me be in town for my Mom’s [redacted]th birthday (as well as being here for a late celebration of my nephew’s 8th birthday).

My travels were easy until I got to the Hertz booth at Dulles Airport; they’d moved my reserved car around on their lot but hadn’t updated the display, so I had to go and talk with people instead of just driving away. I took advantage of that to get a car with Sirius Satellite Radio, and then I drove off into the rain and rush hour traffic.

When I got into the car, I noticed that the windows were a little foggy, but I assumed it would go away quickly. It didn’t, and changing lanes was a scary experience. Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic on the Dulles Toll Road, but when I got onto the Beltway, things were different, and very frightening. So I got off and went to Tyson’s Corner to have dinner, clean off the windows, and wait for rush hour to end.

90 minutes later, I was back in the car. The rain was mostly gone; the traffic was mostly gone; and the schmutz on the windows was mostly gone. And I made good time until just a few miles north of Richmond, when the rain returned big-time. But it wasn’t too horrible, and I eventually arrived safely at my brother’s house.

I was glad to have had a Sirius-equipped car — otherwise, I would have wound up listening to news and weather all the way down, or cursing at commercials. Or both.

Today was the big [redacted] birthday — I helped fix up some technical issues at Mom’s place, and then we all went to Maggiano’s Little Italy in the new Short Pump Town Center, which is an outdoor mall, probably more suited for California’s climate than Richmond’s (though they had shovelled almost all the snow out of the way of the shoppers).

Birthday Girl: Happy Birthday, Mom!

Taking a hiatus from Bootcamp

It was actually somewhat of a surprise that I got to listen to Lucy at all today — my calendar was packed more than usual in preparation for a trip which will keep me away from XM. It should be a good trip — there are birthdays to celebrate, a travel bug to deliver, falafel to enjoy again, and shopping to do. Oh, yeah, I also have to attend a meeting which is paying for the trip.

So Bootcamp postings will be on hiatus until my return; I’ll do my best to catch up then, work permitting (ha!). But I do hope to post while I’m travelling; I’ll just have to talk about something other than XM.

Bootcamp Day 27 — Lucy

The music I heard today on Lucy reminded me very much of the music they play in the background on Smallville. In fact, at least one of the bands I heard has been on Smallville — a band called Kryptonite.

I heard some other somewhat familiar tunes from Talking Heads and a few other bands whose names I recognized when I saw them on the display but can’t remember now. All in all, it was a fine station to listen to for a few hours, but it’s not near the top of my hit parade.

Bootcamp Day 26 — Fungus

I had the volume very low for today’s Bootcamp stop, Fungus. And at low volume, it was mostly OK — definitely high energy music. I was glad not to be able to hear the lyrics well or to be looking at song titles, though; some punk music makes country seem optimistic.

I wish Lou Brutus hadn’t killed off Special X to devote his time to Fungus. I probably won’t be back.

Bootcamp Day 25 — The Blend

The Blend describes itself as

…a collection of the smoothest hits from the 60’s to now. A tasteful combination of familiar favorites from singer-songwriters to stadium fillers without the hard edge or driving guitars.

and that’s just what they seem to provide. It seems like it’d be the perfect background music for Supercuts or a family pizza place.

It doesn’t seem to be a channel which will surprise me with new musical discoveries, though, and it’s probably not a channel I’ll turn to very often.

(Hmmm…I used “seem” three times in three sentences. You can tell that The Blend didn’t move me to very strong opinions!)

Bootcamp Day 24 — Highway 16

It was another busy busy day at work, so I didn’t get a chance to turn on the radio until a bit after 2pm; I nearly turned it right off again, because the song that was playing (something by Patty Loveless) was the kind of twangy country music that I don’t like. And I can’t say I was particularly thrilled by anything else I heard during the afternoon’s listening, either, though after a few minutes, the music receeded into the background and I pretty much ignored it.

Maybe some of the other new channels will be better, but Highway 16 is a road I don’t think I’ll be taking very often.