Monday, October 22, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30499 [30473] rated (+26), 287 [286] unrated (+1).

Forgot to include the grade for the Myra Melford album reported last week, so I'm running it again here.

I've had a rough week, and it's left me pretty badly shaken. I used to think of myself as fairly handy, and started the week with several seemingly simple projects to do. One was to repair some office chairs. They have a standard gas lift cylinder to adjust the height. Over time, it can leak, causing the chair to sink under weight, often in startling little bursts. I've replaced them before, and never had any problem. The ends are slightly tapered, so the weight of sitting on the chair presses them into the base and seat frames. You can find YouTube videos that show how easy it is to extract the old cylinder and replace it with a new one. Typically, you use a hammer to tap the cylinder out of the base. It took me a few more blows than the video shows, but I did that part was easy enough. Separating the cylinder from the chair is a little more awkward, so they suggest using a pipe wrench. I tried that and failed. It was stuck so completely that my wrench cut deep gouges in the side of the cylinder without budging it. Nor did spraying WD-40 around the interface help.

So I thought, maybe I could tap it out, like the base. I unbolted chair from the metal frame the cylinder was stuck into, so I could hit it from the top. I pulled a clip and moved the handle out of the way. I clamped the unit into a WorkBench. I took a chisel I use for chipping apart masonry that's just a bit smaller than the top of the cylinder, centered it over the cylinder, and smashed it 20-30 times with a heavy mallet. It didn't budge, although it did start cutting into the top. Then I took a gear puller, wrapped it around the frame with the screw centered on the cylinder, and started tightening it with a wrench. No change (except perhaps that the screw, which has a point to help keep it centered, is now drilling into the middle of the cylinder). Only other idea I can think of would be to get a flat steel disc just a bit smaller than the top of the cylinder, and insert that under the screw to spread out the pressure more evenly. I thought about using small stack of quarters, but the amount of pressure I've already put on it would tear a hole in such soft metal. So right now, this looks like a total failure: having bought replacement parts, nothing I can do now but throw the chair away.

Second project was to install some covering over the gutter on the garage. We had new gutters and covers installed when we had the house covered with vinyl siding ten years ago, but the garage is detached and a separate deal. I found some material that looked promising at Home Depot, and ordered enough for my garage and my nephew's house (at pre-sale prices, I now see). Should have been a pretty simple installation on the garage -- one 22-foot run, not very high -- but it would up taking me three afternoons. The material had to be bent to fit, I had to cut one piece short, and trim both ends. I bought screws that didn't work very well. But mostly it was just a lot of aches and pains going up and down the ladder. At least I got that little project done. But that still leaves my nephew's house, which will be four times as much work (hopefully, with some help, and having learned some tricks).

The more serious problem struck Thursday evening. I figured it was tie to upgrade my main computer from Ubuntu 16 to 18. I've done this upgrade twice before, so expected it to be slow and disruptive, but uneventful. To be safe, I copied all my data off onto another computer, then shut my work programs down and ran the upgrade. It failed, leaving the machine in "unstable" state. The specific error concerned grub, which is the Linux boot loader. There is something called UEFI built into the motherboard software to provide a feature they call "Secure Boot," which will only allow kernels with certain signatures to be booted. The install program normally creates signed kernels, but due to a bug (reportedly since fixed, but somehow still in the upgrade package) it detected unsigned kernels on the system, and aborted the upgrade rather than install a boot loader that might not be able to boot up. I'm not clear on the exact implications of all that: basically, a bunch of stuff got installed, but not everything, so there are possible incompatible versions. More obviously, with the upgrade process aborted, it isn't clear how to identify and fix the problems, and how to restart and finish the upgrade.

What happened then was basically my mind froze up and I stopped, not knowing how to back out, and not daring to move forward. The computer itself was semi-functional: indeed, I'm using it now to write this post, and should be able to upload it before I'm done tonight (but between Thursday and now I've done next to nothing). After I'm through with this upload, I'll try rebooting, which may or may not work. Worst case is I have to put a new disc in and do a fresh install, then bring the old disc back and patch it all up. Best is that it will reboot, finish installing the packages it has downloaded, and be stable enough that it can look for updates and finally get a complete up-to-date system installed.

Couple other problems this week, but that's enough to chew on. My music work stopped with the computer on Thursday. Most of what's listed below comes from the Will Friedland The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums list. I started a couple weeks ago having only heard one-third of the 57 albums on the list. Now I've heard 47 of the albums: 6 I wasn't able to find on Napster, 4 more I haven't gotten around to checking on. I don't align very well with Friedland's taste here -- I've only rated 12 of 47 at A- or higher -- but three A- records this week all caught me by surprise (Judy Garland, Della Reese, and Kay Starr; the high B+ records by Anita O'Day and Maxine Sullivan were pretty much what I expected, but my previous Garland grades were { C+, C, B, B- }, and I had nothing graded by Reese or Starr).

When I resume, I'll probably go deeper on Frank Sinatra than the one I've missed (In the Wee Small Hours, which pretty much everyone regards as A/A+), not least because I actually own (but never rated) the 14-CD Capitol Records Concept Albums box). The others I need to look up are less promising: Mel Tormé (2 rated, 1 B+, The Mel Torme Collection: U), Sarah Vaughan (13 rated, 1 B+(*), 4 B+), and Margaret Whiting (1 rated: C+).

Didn't even think about Weekend Roundup yesterday, although I'm pretty sure there were some really terrible things to write about (especially with Trump's America Only foreign policy). Moreover, even if the computer comes back to life painlessly, I don't expect to get much done on it next week. I still have the gutters on my nephew's house to deal with. Also, I'm cooking "birthday dinner" this week, so will try to come up with something fabulous for that. Seems like that, at least, is still a project I can carry off. If not, I'll be even more bummed next week. Doesn't look like I'm cut out for getting old and decrepit.

New records rated this week:

  • Alchemy Sound Project: Adventures in Time and Space (2016 [2018], ARC): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Myra Melford's Snowy Egret: The Other Side of Air (2017 [2018], Firehouse 12): [cd]: A-
  • John Moulder: Decade: Memoirs (2009-17 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Tyshaw Sorey: Pillars (2017 [2018], Firehouse 12, 3CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Brad Whiteley: Presence (2016 [2018], Destiny): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Judy Garland: Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961 [2001], Capitol, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • .
  • Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence: Sing the Golden Hits (1960 [1990], MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dick Haymes: Rain or Shine (1956, Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peggy Lee: The Man I Love (1957, Capitol): [r]: B
  • Marilyn Maye: Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye (1965, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marilyn Maye: The Happiest Sound in Town (1968, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Anita O'Day: Sings the Winners (1958, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Della Reese: Della (1960, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Della Reese: Della Della Cha Cha Cha (1961, RCA Victor): [r]: A-
  • Jimmy Scott: The Source (1969 [1970], Atlantic): [r]: B
  • Jimmy Scott: All the Way (1992, Sire): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Short: Bobby Short (1956, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nina Simone: Nina Simone and Piano! (1969 [2011], RCA/Legacy): [r]: B
  • Jo Stafford: Capitol Collectors Series (1944-50 [1991], Capitol): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jo Stafford: Sings Songs of Scotland (1953-56 [1957], Columbia): [r]: B
  • Jo Stafford: I'll Be Seeing You (1959, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kay Starr: I Cry by Night (1962, Capitol): [r]: A-
  • Kay Starr: Capitol Collectors Series (1948-62 [1991], Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maxine Sullivan and Her Jazz All-Stars: Memories of You: A Tribute to Andy Razaf (1956 [2007], Essential Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jack Teagarden: Think Well of Me (1962, Verve): [r]: B
  • Tiny Tim: God Bless Tiny Tim (1968, Reprise): [r]: B-