I took an emergency trip up to Holland earlier this week. My sister-in-law landed in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs. The good news is that she is back home now, and resting well. The bad news is there are no definite answers for why this has happened, and they're running more tests now to see if they can figure it out. I drove up Monday afternoon to make sure that she was in good spirits, and also to keep my brother from collapsing from his sleep-deprived state. While he was originally insistent that I didn't need to make the trip up there, he eventually conceded that he was glad that I took the time to come up and see them

This is my second seriously ill in-law in as many months. Fortunately, my mother-in-law is in much better shape, and currently finds herself somewhere near Greenland on a cruise ship. The threat of a pacemaker has abated, and the new scripts seem to have taken care of the problem for the time being. I'm am once again convinced that she will outlive us all. A few more bionic bits and pieces, and she will elude our probing phone calls and pleas for her to take it easy well into her 90's.

Even though they are super-cool, my boss must be increasingly suspicious of my reasons to leave work early. However, when that call comes in I'll be damned if I'm going to sit there while the world takes gut-wrenching turns around me. I suppose almost anyone would have the same opinion as I do, so I feel justified in dropping everything to make whatever hospital visit is necessary.

There's a lot of road construction going on from South Haven all the way down to Michigan City, and I happened to get pinned behind a truck doing 40mph for the entire stretch. It took me more than five hours to get back home. I spent a good portion of that time near tears. I don't think I would survive very well if something was to happen to Ann. The 28th was our 4th wedding anniversary, and while I can intellectually understand that is not a long time in the larger picture, my life has become irreversibly entwined with hers. I hold her closer than I thought I could ever be with anyone.

I'm not sure what happened to make the world so much scarier to me. I guess it must be that I have more to hold onto than I did a decade ago. I don't like this aspect of getting older.

"Aaah! There she goes AGAIN!
She's tidied up and I can't FIND anything!
All my tubes and wires,
and careful notes and antiquated notions...."

-Thomas Dolby

I saw Thomas Dolby perform live yesterday (September 28, 2006) at the Berklee College of Music, as part of his 'Sole Inhabitant' tour. He's gone back to his one-man electro show roots - him, a video screen, and an island of gear on the stage ranging from a 1947 impedance bridge to what looks like a brand new Macintosh Pro workstation, with several keyboards and a rack full of various modules thrown in, and everything in between. Although I never saw him perform live in the 1970s or 1980s, I did have most of his albums when they came out, and always followed his music.

At one point, he looked out over us and said half-jokingly, "You're a very respectful audience; you haven't shouted 'Science!' once!"

To which someone shouted out "Freebird!" naturally. Everybody laughed, including Dolby.

The show was excellent. He played a number of his oldest tunes, sometimes offering anecdotes about them; for example, I hadn't known the track One of our Submarines was written about his uncle, who perished in a British submarine. Dolby never met him, but would look at his black-and-white photo in the hall growing up and envision him as more of an 'action man' (his words) than the rest of the family.

He talked about his fascination with gear, as well. "This is a 1947 impedance bridge," he told us. "It ages like a fine French cheese." That device, with scrumptiously enormous metal dials visible on the video screen, provided rich warm analog warbles and buzzes during various songs. The video screen itself not only showed a montage of clips and effects, but also served to show us what he was doing via a tiny camera ("designed for the U.S. military in Iraq") mounted on the earpiece of his 1940s-vintage headphones.

As part of the show, he 'built' a song from scratch, layering it up from loops entered manually into various pieces of gear and sequenced in realtime on his music workstation. His samples were not only instrumental clips, but samples transferred from the cranky and hugely expensive early analog synthesizers and primeval samplers he had worked with in the late 1970s and 1980s onto modern gear; an archaeological archive of sound from a career in electronic music pulled from the stacks and made to dance for us on stage.

He did, of course, play 'She Blinded Me With Science' for us. How could he not? And there was a button, on the M-Audio pads, which simply played the sting of that wonderful British voice (which belonged, Lord_Brawl reminds me, to the late famous Scientist Dr. Magnus Pyke) shouting "SCIENCE!".

I want that button.

A partial playlist: Wind Power, Europa and the Pirate Twins, Airhead, Hyperactive, She Blinded Me With Science, The Flat Earth, Flying North, Leipzig, others

Update: I have discovered that the DVD of the Sole Inhabitant tour, available from Dolby's website (www.thomasdolby.com) and elsewhere, is in fact of the Boston concert that I attended, so if you're curious to see what I'm nattering about, that DVD will show you that precise gig.

I have never, ever even been on an airplane

In almost exactly two weeks I am going to the US of A. And I am going to make the trip from Denmark to US by airplane. If I had a couple of months of vacation time - or if I was so filthy rich I didn't need to work at all - I'd probably go by trains and big boats. Actually I disapprove of boats in general, and small boats in particular; when it comes to crafts which are not big enough to have a couple of decent tennis courts and, preferably, a dirt track for motocross, I'm outta there. Or rather: I stay ashore. However if the boat is big enough to give me the impression that I am really on an island, and not sailing at all... I'll go. I'd sail all the way to the states, probably going all 'Mayflower'-ish when arriving in New York, or something.

Well I'm not filthy rich and I don't have several month's worth of vacation time, so I am going to board an airplane, and lay my life in the (I hope) capable hands of an assembly of pilots, navigators, air traffic controllers, ground crew mechanics, and stewards/stewardesses.

I'm not nervous.

No, I'm not scared of flying. Or rather: I don't think I am. I don't rightly know yet, since this trip will include my first two airfare experiences ever. But I don't feel scared by the idea of flying. I am quite looking forward to the experience. I like driving fast in my car, and as far as I have been told I shall have my desire for speed fulfilled and then some, when the airplane hurtles down the runway at takeoff. It'll be great.

I have a window seat, well behind the wing, so I'll be able to get a good view of whatever there will be to look at, the entire eight hours we are on the move. Most of the time we'll be flying over the Atlantic but I suppose there'll be clouds and stuff to look at. From above. How cool is that?

I've had lots of advice on what to do with the popping ear phenomenon, and anyway I suppose the flight attendants will be at hand with chewing gum or whatever. It is going to be so great.

Oh... by the way: I picked up my passport only a couple of days ago. I am good to go!

And now I'm home again. If you want to know a little about my trip, it's here, somewhere below Braunbeck's awesome tale of horror...

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