Posts Tagged ‘portland’

I’ve been thinking a lot about music – what I like, and what I like about it. (BTW, thanks to all of those who left suggestions on my post earlier this month! Still open to more if anyone cares to drop them in there.) I started writing up some thoughts on that, which were then preempted by the post immediately below this. But since my music posts often seem to come in twos, here’s a little more.
phrenology head image from WikiMedia, headphone mine

Since the dawn of humankind, we have had music. From the earliest drumming of stone upon stone to the latest Next Big Thing, music has fulfilled a niche in our existence into which nothing else could comfortably fit.

Whether your poison is Slipknot or Shostakovich, Coldplay or Common, we are sensitive to rhythms and to harmonic vibrations.

I had for a long time heard and accepted the notion that music is really just a form of applied mathematics, but I no longer believe that to be the whole truth. Ultimately, the structure of any given piece of music can be described mathematically – as a sum of the frequency, duration and shape of each waveform – but I think this misses an important element.

Knowing why┬ámusic sounds the way it does is all well and good, but that doesn’t tell us why it is good.

So instead I submit that music is 75% mathematics and 25% psychology. Add in lyrics (if appropriate to the piece in question) and the ratio might instead be closer to 65-35.

In Western music, we find that major chords sound happy, minor chords sound sad and diminished chords send us looking around for the small animal we must have just stepped on.

startled rabbit

We also find that certain chord progressions evoke specific ideas. For example, a movie showing a boat on the open sea will often be scored with a chord sequence of major I to minor v. (Side note – saw a planetarium movie while I was in Portland which used the same I-v pattern for space travel montages. The parallel is interesting.)

The emotional interplay between our existing mental states and the subtle but profound messages we get from music is incredibly complex – indeed, it must logically be a product of both the inherent complexity of our minds and the number of possible musical permutations, an almost unfathomably wide array of information.

This, I believe, is why we don’t all like the same music (even though Clear Channel, Viacom, SonyBMG and others seem to be trying to convince us otherwise). Perhaps everything lies in our individual reactions to the mathematical structures we perceive, and there’s really no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ music.

Except Muzak, of course. That shit is just terrible.

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Portland, Day Three

No wake-up call this time. Not even the one I had actually requested. Fortunately I am still insufficiently adjusted to the time zone change and thus I was awake in good time anyway.

Back to the conference center, wherein we discover we have gained two new faces. Well, not literally, nobody grew a second head or anything. But there were a couple of consultants there from a company named On Your Feet – this was to be a workshop on interpersonal communication, using the medium of Whose Line-style improvisational comedy.

The visual of one minorly befuddled human wandering around a room in search of a mysterious task while 40 others sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” at varying volumes will stay with me for many days, I’m sure.

After lunch, we reconvened at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) for a planetarium movie and a sneak preview of their Mindbender Mansion exhibit, which was all about puzzle solving.

Between improv comedy and puzzles, it was almost as though someone had tailored the activities to me specifically – this made for a great day out.

Unfortunately, I have another ludicrous o’clock flight in the morning and thus was disinclined to stay out for very long thereafter, but did join a small subset of the team for dinner at the Kennedy School. Their ‘Ruby’ beer may be among the greatest things I have ever had in my mouth, and I have probably had a little more of it in there than was strictly necessary.

Talked to D for a while using manager’s calling card (with permission) – L having an extremely hard time going to sleep. Not fun.

Assuming an uneventful flight back, I will probably not bother posting about the final piece of the trip, since I believe that at this point the fun has been had. Having said that, I’ll be glad to get home to D & L, and to sleep in my own bed.

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Portland, Day Two

I got punked. The person who had stayed in the hotel room before me had apparently requested a 5:45 am wake-up call, and this hadn’t been cleared from the system. I had been needing to be up at about 6:30 in order to be ready to head out by 8:00 for a day-long offsite meeting. But in a Lymanesque semi-slumber, I thanked the automated wake-up doohickey profusely and began to go about my day.

I’d like to state for the record here that the Hilton Garden Inn in Lake Oswego has an absolutely marvelous breakfast buffet, of which I partook quite liberally, to the amazement of one of my co-voyagers.

And so to Canby, OR, for a day-long meeting in which participants were exhorted to think outside the box, change the conversation, ideate on Agile approaches and above all drive revenue. Maybe it’s a function of my having an actual “real job” now, but some of these phrases have begun to make a creepy kind of sense to me.

We also got little monster-shaped finger puppets. And candy!

I couldn’t shake the business phraseology when lunch came around, and as such I made a fool of myself suggesting that we “leverage the cheesecake”. I’m positive that should be a euphemism for something, but I can’t quite imagine what.

Nevertheless, the meeting seemed productive, in that for the whole 8 hours nobody blamed anybody else for anything and everybody seemed to come away from it with a clearer idea of where we were going from here.

That being to dinner at the boss’ house. This is an absolutely gorgeous house up in the West Hills (not that this is very specific, we’re talking Portland). Knowing no people well and few people at all, I opted to be reserved and quiet while getting used to my surroundings.

And if you know me, you’ll know that’s total crap. I was my usual wise-cracking self, and flitted from conversation to conversation trying to get to know everybody at once, which is rough with 40 people in attendance. I had managed to add many of them to my Facebook/LinkedIn/etc. lists, though, so that I could also look like a creepy stalker. Yay me!

The beer was rather good also. Portland seems to be quite the city for beer, and this warrants further investigation.

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At 5:30 this morning, having woken up at ludicrous o’clock for shower and breakfast and the usual morning things, I was picked up by one of my co-workers on the way to the laughably-named Greater Rochester International Airport for a 7:25 flight. Since my last flight from a US airport had been back in 2001, the experience was rather different from what I had known. Check-in hadn’t changed much, other than there being a $15 fee for checking a bag. But hey, this is what expense accounts are for. I finagled relatively decent seats and made my way to the end of the already backed-up mass of humanity at the security checkpoint. I dutifully removed anything made of metal, took the laptop out of the bag, all of the things I knew to do. Then I saw everybody in front of me removing their shoes and putting those on the belt also. Hadn’t really thought of that, but considering the actions of one of my more moronic countrymen, it made sense. So. Off they came.

Fresh from Indignities ‘R’ Us, I procured coffee. I knew that bedtime was a long way off, and by the time of takeoff I would be sufficiently engaged in conversation and thought to make an in-flight nap unlikely. I did not, however, think to expense said coffee, even though this would have been a perfectly valid thing to do. Ah well. The recently-irradiated granola bars which I had brought along complemented the coffee as second breakfast.

The flight itself was uneventful, though I noticed the side effect of the $15 checked-baggage charge: a sea of identical black wheelie-suitcases being brought into the cabin itself, taking up space in the overhead bins and causing needless annoyance. That said, most things fit relatively well, we left on time and arrived in Chicago just a little ahead of schedule.

In-flight movie: none.

In-flight book: “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” – Deborah Grabien. Highly recommended if you’re into murder mysteries.

In-flight listening: the From Where You Are album by Catchpenny. Highly recommended if you’re into music.

And so to O’Hare.


O’Hare is an incredibly large and sprawling edifice. This is one of the nicest things I can say about it. That said, it was kind enough to provide me with a bagel (which I again forgot to expense – I may yet be able to recoup these things, though) for elevenses.

Had a really good seat on this one. When a guy my height can stretch out his legs on a plane without causing bodily harm or property damage, you know it’s a good seat. I was seated next to two elderly ladies who appeared to be friends despite not knowing a word of each other’s languages (English and Spanish). On the one hand, this meant that there was quiet for much of the flight. On the other, it meant that on the occasions when something needed to be communicated in both languages, I was suddenly pressed into service as an emergency backup United Nations.

Not far from our destination, the pilot called our attention to the view. Yellowstone National Park was beneath us, then later were spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier. On the surface, it can be easy to forget just how phenomenal certain things are, and I would later comment that the trip caused me to fall in love with this country all over again.

In-flight movie: the splendor of America from 33,000 feet. There might have been something on a screen, but if there was, I didn’t notice.

In-flight book: none, just the latest issues of Spin and Games.

In-flight listening: the Catchpenny album, twice more. It’s that good. Some other stuff afterward, which I allowed the iPod to choose for me.

I like Portland airport. It seems to run a lot more efficiently than most, and (at least at that time) was refreshingly devoid of arseholes.

Portland Itself

“Ocean in view, O! The Joy!”
  Lewis & Clark, reaching the West Coast

I had been warned of what to expect as far as traffic in Portland. The warning did not do it justice. 25 minutes from the terminal to the car rental place, with 20 of those being on a single street. (NE Airport Way, for anyone familiar).

Nevertheless, car was found and hotel was reached with a minimum of fuss, and co-worker and I were to present ourselves in the office. But we were starving, so we went to Applebee’s. She expensed lunch. (Oh, right! Expensing. I oughta be doing that.)

We didn’t play hooky all day, and indeed went to the office after lunch, feeling rather more refreshed but still disinclined to accomplish anything. So for the most part, the office time consisted of my being introduced to the West Coast team, at least those who were not participating in the game of musical meetings already in progress.

So quitting time came, I talked to D (using Co-worker’s cellphone due to unlimited long-distance plan) about the impending challenge of getting L to go to sleep, and headed out for hotel via dinner. There were a couple of quick stops along the way, one at Goodnight Room to pick up a toy for L, and one to get some white chocolate covered gummi bears, half of which are being saved for D along with a few souvenirs. Dinner at Qdoba, thus satisfying a long-running jonesing. This place needs to open up a location in Rochester. Soon. And I remembered to expense it!

Way too tired to attempt a night out in Portland, so came back to the hotel and talked to D online for a little bit, then attempted sleep. Failed. Went downstairs to the lobby and walked around for a bit, pausing briefly for a complimentary cookie. Back upstairs. Need sleep now.

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