A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Yesterday, one of my earliest heroes died. Van Cliburn was the youngest person (age 23) ever to win the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, the same year I graduated from college. This was the year I also listened to Saint Saens Third Symphony for Orchestra and Organ for the first time and wept copious tears for its sheer beauty (the piece was later a favorite of my former parents-in-law). And 1958 was just a three years after I was first swept away by the last movement of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, once again attended by tears.

Maybe what moved me so much was that I was roughly the same age as Van Cliburn when he won the prize--as an American (for the first time) and as the youngest pianist ever, in 1958.  I was finishing college; he had accomplished a miracle. I was humbled by his  feat, awed by his talent and self-discipline, and vaguely jealous of his popularity and almost "rock star" fame.  At the time, I saw
what an incredible distance there was between what he had already accomplished and what might be possible for me...ever...in any field.

This gave me food for thought for a lot of years. Now, as I read of his death,  I have grown beyond youthful envy: he's gone, I'm not, and there is much more left for me to do, but probably not at the keyboard. My life performance has been played at a different tempo from his, in  different keys, and in wildly different concert halls with mixed reviews, and no prizes yet. But I plan to play on in my own way, trying new melodies, techniques and venues, driven no more by envy or despair--but only by  hope and love for those around me.

Here are two selections of music you might enjoy, the pieces Van Cliburn played at the competition.  The first is Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto played by the master himself; the second piece he also played at the competition, Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. However, this rendition is performed  by Olga Kern, whose playing was introduced to me by Elizabeth Van Ingen. Van Cliburn would certainly have approved of the way Kern plays from her soul with passion and deep feeling.  I think she's great.

Just click on the photo.
Mark Johnson has shared a video with you on YouTube

In memoriam: Van Cliburn (1934 - 2013)

Maestro Cliburn, 78, passed away on February 27, 2013, in Fort Worth, Texas, from bone cancer.



The 2nd movement starts at 20:42 min; and the 3rd at 27:46 min.

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 (the companion piece on the same album) has also been uploaded.


No copyright infringement intended on photos and music.
Made for no profit.

Here is the Rachmaninoff with Olga Kern at the keyboard:


©2013 YouTube, LLC 901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066
©2013 YouTube, LLC 901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


It's about time, I'd say. I can't describe the amount of time I've wasted trying to figure out the CAPTCHA in order to send a poem or interesting article to a friend or two. Good riddance I'd say.

However, I'm not sure the replacement is a whole lot better.  I don't know about you, but after the last election campaign--in fact, well before that--I have become sickened with advertising in general and especially with ads that are intrusive and virtually mandatory. For example, when I go to Yahoo to check out an article--perhaps one about the budget or war--I am subjected first to a 30 second ad for a new car, lite beer,  or a remedy for erectile dysfunction, delivered at increased volume, before I can even begin to view the site I'm interested in and make a decision about whether it's worth my time or not.  That means listening to 30 seconds of nonsense as a requirement to make a five second decision.  And there's no way I know of to bypass or squelch those ads.  If I want to evaluate the news site, I have to listen first to an ad. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Internet advertisers kill text-based CAPTCHA

If you've submitted a comment, signed up for a newsletter, or uploaded a photo to the Internet at any point in the past five years, there's a good chance you're familiar with the CAPTCHA system. CAPTCHAs are the annoying little verification windows that pop up, asking you to decipher a nearly unrecognizable series of letters or words, and Web users have hated them for years. But if these silly security systems make you want to bust your keyboard in half, you'll be happy to hear that we may very well be seeing the last days of the obnoxious, text-based CAPTCHA system, and the next verification system you see online may make you happy to view advertisements for the first time ever.

Rather than taking just a mere glance to figure out, recent studies show that a typical CAPTCHA takes, on average, 14 seconds to solve, with some taking much, much longer. Multiply that by the millions and millions of verifications per day, and Web users as a whole are wasting years and years of their lives just trying to prove they're not actually computers. This has led many companies to abandon the age-old system in favor of something not only more secure, but also easier to use for your average Webgoer: Ad-based verification, which can actually cut the time it takes to complete the task in half.

Now when performing a Web task, such as purchasing event tickets fromTicketmaster, for example, you may no longer be met with a swirling mix of letters and numbers, but instead by an advertisement or common brand logo. Rather than demanding that you decipher a completely pointless combination of fuzzy words, you could simply be asked to recite a well-known company slogan. The security pop-up might even ask you to view an ad image and then type the company's name.

The new system is turning out to be a big time saver for just about everyone, and Web users are typically able to confirm their humanity much faster than with the standard verification tool. New York-based Solve Media—one of the leaders of the ad-based verification revolution—claims the ads it uses for user confirmation take about seven seconds to complete, cutting wasted time in half.

But ad-based verification isn't the only revolutionary idea looking to usurp the standard CAPTCHA's throne. Both puzzle and math-based variations on the tool have also started to gain traction. Puzzle versions of the tool ask you to perform a simple task, like draw a circle around a specific object in an image, while the mathematical option requests that you solve some simple arithmetic. Both of these variants allow you to confirm your humanity without deciphering a garbled string of text, but they lack the revenue-generating capability of the ad-based method. And because of this added monetary bonus of the commercial model, both the puzzle and math verification tools have less of a chance of becoming commonplace.

CAPTCHA—which stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"—first gained prominence in the early 2000s as a way to keep Web forms from being spammed by computer bots. It's impossible to tell how much time Web users as a whole have wasted as a result of the increasingly difficult text strings, but with much simpler alternatives finally beginning to catch on, it appears that the fuzzy text nonsense is finally meeting its end. Advertisements in general are usually seen as a hindrance to daily life, but in this case, ads will actually make your life easier. What a novel concept!