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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Paul Tevis

Entries in things i've done (111)


Improv For Software Engineers

Back in May, I spoke at the 3rd Santa Barbara PechaKucha Night. If you can stand hearing me say, “right?” approximately once every 5 seconds, here it is.


A Rare Bird Indeed

Last Sunday, we saw perhaps the best concert I’ve ever been to.

Now, I’m not the world’s most experienced concert-goer, so that praise might mean less than it seems it should. But both Gwen and I were highly impressive by both the musicianship and showmanship of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. The setup is straight out of vaudeville, with Steve doing the “egomaniacial but blissfully unaware front man” shtick between the numbers, and the band playing the straight man. It’s clearly an act — and a very well-done at that — because during the songs the entire group had a tremendous sense of ensemble.

I’ve been listening to their album Rare Bird Alert quite a bit over the last year, and I was happy see a mix of songs from that and other material. The Rangers also took the stage alone for a pair of beautiful songs from their new album. They closed the show with a tremendous version of Orange Blossom Special, complete with fiddle interpolations of over a dozen songs, including “Norwegian Wood”, selections from The Nutcracker, and the theme from The Simpsons.

The highlight of the show for me, however, came when Steve gave the band a break and played “The Great Remember”. His introduction, in which he explained the difference between Scruggs style and clawhammer playing, made clear his deep love for and understanding of bluegrass music — and called to mind an appreciation of the late Earl Scruggs he wrote just a few months before the legendary banjo player’s death. And as he sat there on the stool, alone on stage with his banjo, I could see the straight line from his teenage years working at Knott’s Berry Farm through the arc entire arc of his career and leading to that night. And it all made sense.


Private Key Art

Gwen and I managed to catch the Picasso and Braque exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art the day that it closed. The exhibit, comprising a double dozen prints and half that many paintings executed by the pair between 1909 and 1912, explores the beginnings of Analytic Cubism. Picasso and Braque worked closely together — often side-by-side — during this period, and the exhibit explores their similar, though not identical, explorations of the boundaries of art.

Talking about it afterwards, Gwen and I agreed that the best way for us to take in Cubist works is to not think about the original objects the artists were looking at. When we do that, we inevitably try to reassemble the work into those objects, which is usually an exercise in futility. (That’s not always true, as several of Braque’s prints involving bottles of Bass demonstrated.) I remarked at one point that the Cubist style is a kind of “artistic cryptography”: You can’t recover the original without having the key.

Other thoughts:

  • I’m not sure why, but I liked Braque’s pieces in this exhibition a little better than Picasso’s.
  • There’s something about the way they both reduced forms to sharply-defined areas of color and texture that led to a preponderance of pyramidal shapes in these works.
  • Their primary choices of subject material (cafe still-lifes) make me think how nice it must have been to hang around in cafes being artistic all day.
  • The layout of the exhibit itself was a bit Cubist, though perhaps unintentionally so. There was no route through the gallery that created a single, coherent narrative. Perhaps we were supposed to simply absorb the whole from different angles.

Staying the Course

A month ago, I took a look the progress I’d made towards my fitness goals this year, at the setbacks I’d suffered at the end of 2010, and asked, “Do I know I what I need to do to avoid a repeat of a year ago?” What I felt then was a mixture of confidence and anxiety. I was pretty sure I knew what I needed to do, but I was worried about my ability to execute on that knowledge. The impending Thanksgiving holiday, in particular, set me on edge, because I knew that’s where I started to get off track last year.

So how did I do? Here’s what my year-over-year comparison looked like on November 18.

Here’s what it looks like today.

Suffice it to say, I’m a lot less anxious now. Now I just have to avoid overconfidence and keep doing what it is that got me here.


Also, We Were All Wearing Silly Hats

This week I attended two holiday beer tastings: one at the Mercury Lounge last Sunday, and one yesterday hosted by one of the local homebrewing clubs. The former was moderately serious, with a beautiful printed program and several discussions about the history of the beers we were tasting. The latter — entitled the 12 Beers of Christmas — was distinctly less formal. One of the hosts, under the pseudonym of Irving Berlinerweisse, had re-written the lyrics to a number of Christmas carols around the topic of beer. So in between the “Brewer’s Dozen” (which turned out to be fifteen) beers we tasted, we sang songs like “It’s The Most Wonderful Time To Drink Beer”, “Let It Flow”, and “Simcoe the Red-Nosed Hop Cone.”

The only problem was that we ran out of songs in the first third of the event, so the organizers asked us to come up with new ones on the fly. My table’s contribution was a re-working of “I Have A Little Dreidel” that went like this:

Pitcher, pitcher, pitcher
A pitcher I will drink
And when I find it’s empty
Another one I think.

Sadly, we couldn’t come up with good enough lyrics for our favorite title, “Do You Taste What I Taste?”

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