The Casual Blog

Tag: Buku

Ordinary health matters, learning Lightroom, and seeing sweet Cinderella


I took these pictures late Friday afternoon at Raulston Arboretum. The fresh blooms of early spring are gone, but there was a richness to the atmosphere, and great smells. I tweaked these with my brand new software, Lightroom 6, which I decided to buy on DVD, rather than the subscription service. After watching a number of instructional videos, getting a short lesson from my friend and colleague Ruth S., and experimenting a bit, I’m starting to get the hang of what Lightroom will do, and looking forward to improving some of my image making and storing.

Jocelyn’s been running, and texted this week that she’d taken two minutes off of her four-mile time. She was pleased! When we talked, she reported that running was helping her get to know her neighborhood Fort Green and the environs. I’m so glad she’s taking good care of herself!

Here in Raleigh, Gabe has been running, too, at a nothing-to-sneeze-at pace of 8 minutes. Thinking of his health, I asked what he was doing about health insurance since leaving his job last month, and determined he hadn’t really addressed it. I briefly panicked, since one serious accident could mean financial ruin for us all.

Sally has long been a skeptical critic of the American health care system, and pointed up an on-point new piece by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker. It’s about the incredible waste in our system from the many unnecessary medical tests, drugs that don’t’ make people better, and surgeries with more risks than benefits. Gawande is a practicing surgeon, and thus has a fair bit of credibility, as well as interesting personal anecdotes. The legal scholar in me would have appreciated more citations, but I don’t have much doubt as to Gawande’s basic point: our system is optimized to make money for hospitals and the medical establishment, rather than to keep people well, and is horribly inefficient. It’s remarkable to me that we can’t get general agreement that we need major reform.

Anyhow, we live in the world that is. At my urging, Gabe figured out how to get an ACA silver plan, which doesn’t kick in until the first of next month. Meanwhile, I counseled him to cool it for a couple or weeks on skateboarding. Also, he should be particularly conscious of looking both ways before crossing the street, and watch out for falling flower pots.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a short walk from our apartment over to K2 Massage, where I had an extraordinary therapeutic massage experience with Ken Katchuk. For this first visit, Ken told me to allow for two and a half hours, and ended up needing about three. He spent time debriefing me on ailments and old injuries, and on things I liked to do. Then he got down to the business of figuring out where my areas of tension were, and going after them. It was difficult by moments, but I felt that I was in good, experienced hands, and my body was being helped.

That evening we had dinner with friends at Buku, and saw the Carolina Ballet’s new Cinderella program. Margaret Severin-Hanson was a lovely, graceful Cinderella, and Alicia Fabry and Randi Osetek were very funny as the mean stepsisters. Fabry’s tango solo was a hoot! I wish, though, the score were less sweet and repetitious. In the second half, I really liked Zalman Rafael’s new piece, In the Gray. Set to music by Philip Glass, it is sort of an anti-Cinderella, emphasizing kinetic abstract shapes rather than characters. The dramatic side lighting deemphasized the dancer’s individuality, but Jan Burkhard, Cecilia Iliesiu, and Adam Crawford Chavis made powerful individual impressions. As with other Rafael work, this one shows deep comprehension of the music and unites with it.

Find out your fitness age

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Jocelyn came home for a visit on Thursday, and she was glowing. After six months in New York, she’d (1) learned her way around, (2) found good friends, and (3) got a job she really liked. Also, she’d joined a gym and started working out regularly, and gotten focussed on nourishing herself in a healthy way.

This was music to my ears! My messaging on healthy habits, which I realize can be annoying, has not been all in vain. I’m delighted that my beloved offspring (including also Gabe) are taking good care of themselves.

That same day I came across an article in the online NY Times about assessing your “fitness age,” defined with reference to peak oxygen intake, which apparently is a strong predictor of future health. A large-scale Norwegian study examined oxygen intake levels at ages between 20 and 90, and also developed a tool using indicators including resting heart rate, waist size, and activity levels to determine fitness age.

The article had a link to the fitness age calculator. Needless to say, I gave it a shot. My fitness age? 28! Not bad for a guy born in 1955, right? But I soon began considering how I might get it down to 27.
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In our neighborhood, Glenwood South, there’s been a fair bit of construction, and also some destruction. Sally told me that an unattractive building on Glenwood across from the Creamery and catty-corner to the Armadillo Grill that had just been demolished, and I went over to inspect the site on Saturday morning. They’d walled off the site, but I got a good view from the adjacent parking deck. Sure enough, all that was left was rubble. It was overcast, but there was still a nice quality to the light, and I took some other pictures of the neighborhood on my walk over to the gym.

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An eye update, and a very musical weekend

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It was quite a musical weekend, with three concerts, but before I get to that, for those kind souls following my eye surgery saga, a brief update: my one week postop checkup was last Tuesday. While Dr. M was away speaking at a conference, I got examined up by Dr. S, one of his fellows. I did substantially better on the chart test, seeing part of three rows (up from zero the previous week). But things were still very foggy. Dr. S detected corneal edema, which sometimes happens after surgery, and likely would clear up in a few weeks. From what he could see of the retina, he thought it was doing OK.

Friday evening was mild and clear, and we sat outside for dinner at Buku. Their pad thai may be the best in town In any case, it was delicious. I tried the flight of three wines from Naples, which were worth trying. For dessert we got two spoons and one apple tart with cinnamon ice cream, which was a treat, then walked three blocks to hear the N.C. Symphony.

It was our first symphony concert of this season, and I was looking forward to it. The highlight of the evening was Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnol, a piece with rich colors and textures that featured sectional solos from most subgroups of the orchestra. The sound was fantastic. I was particularly struck by the warmth and vibrancy of the strings, which made me think of the famous Philadelphia sound. Conductor Grant Llewelleyn always looks great, but at times he’s struck me as too rhythmically literal and rigid. Not last night – there was a lot of rhythm flexibility as well as high energy. It was a brilliant performance worthy of a great ensemble.

Also featured on the program was a young Korean pianist named Joyce Wang, who played Cesar Frank’s Symphonic Variations and Manuel De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. I liked the de Falla, and I really liked her. She was unquestionably a real musician — sensitive, imaginative, and willing to take risks. And she had a spectacular silver shimmering gown, which fit her nicely.

Does it matter how a pianist looks? I’d like to think that the sound is ultimately what matters, but a recent short piece in the Economist points strongly the other way. Experts and musical amateurs tried to rank the three top finishers in a piano competition based on either sound alone or video alone. With sound alone, the amateurs didn’t get close to agreeing with the original judges – but neither did the experts. With video, both amateurs and experts came much closer to the actual results, and agreed together. This suggests that showmanship is a big part of what we enjoy about a musical performance, and how we distinguish one player from another.

On Saturday night Diane, my mother-in-law, and I went to the N.C. Opera’s new production of Mozart/da Ponte’s Cosi Fan Tutte. I’d enjoyed listening to it on my iPad during my morning workouts, but had never seen it. It was a really good show! The set was classically elegant, and the period costumes almost sumptuous. English subtitles were projected above the stage. The six principles were all musically and comically gifted. And Mozart’s music is sublime. So much melody, so natural but so inventive and surprising!

The plot device is oddly dissonant to a non-eighteenth-century audience: it is a comedy on the theme of women’s (but not men’s) inconstancy in love. There are moments that seem harshly cynical and misogynistic. But the meta message is more cheerful: human attraction is unquenchable, touching, and also at times very funny.

On Sunday afternoon Sally and I went to a concert by the Jerusalem Quartet, which played Mozart, Shostakovich, and Dvorak. They were four intense young men in dark suits and ties, and they were excellent. This is really a world-class ensemble, with a brilliant first violinist. I