Saturday, October 30, 2021

Leicester 0 - Arsenal 2

It's been several weeks since I wrote anything about Arsenal. Recall, the Gunners lost the first three games of the season, and it looked only a matter of time before Mikel Arteta would be sacked (as I thought he should be). Fast forward nine weeks. Arsenal have not lost a game since week 3, and the Gunners have moved from last place to fifth (as of now, before the rest of the teams have played their games this week). They have, at least, confirmed their place in the top half of the league table. Arteta has committed to playing his younger, more exciting, players, who have rewarded him with performances ranging between solid and tremendous. Ramsdale has been consistently outstanding in goal, never more so than in today's game, when he made the save of the season so far. The porous defense has been solidified as Gabriel and White seem to have made a strong partnership. The midfield has become much more dangerous, in part because Saka and Smith-Rowe have been starting every game, but also because Partey has remained healthy. Arsenal still need a strong defensive midfielder, especially with Xhaka out injured. Lokonga has been far from convincing in his performances, but he's young (22) and might yet grow into the job. And up front, Aubameyang appears rejuvenated thanks, no doubt, to the energy of the youngsters around him. Even Pepe has impressed in a couple of games this season, where he's shown a greater willingness to work back on defense, when needed. He's still far too inconsistent and his passing is, frankly, terrible.  

For the time being, Arteta seems to have saved his job. Even his harshest critics (including me) have to concede that the team are playing well - the defense is cohesive and holds its shape when under attack. There are still times when the Gunners start a game without energy (today emphatically not being one of those times), and that is on the manager. It will interesting to see what business, if any, the Gunners do in the January transfer window. Adding another promising attacker to the roster, along with a solid defensive midfielder, certainly would help the Gunners get back into European football for next year. A Champion's League place could be a step too far this season, but a Euro League place seems very much within reach. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

My Audio System at College, Summer 1978


 The Thorens turntable on the left was not might, and I don't recognize the other one. The rest of the equipment is my own, including a Yamaha A600 integrated amp, Soundcraftsman equalizer, and a brand new (at the time) Pioneer RT-707 reel-to-reel deck.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Photo Restoration

 I signed up for a subscription for Vance AI, an online photo restoration software app that uses artificial intelligence to edit old pics. Here is the result of the first experiment. The band Rock Service (Kevin Kelly, Rock Joseph, John Osmon, and myself) at a gig on July 4, 1976 (just before I moved to LA for college). The results are, I think, quite good (I wasn't expecting miracles).

                                Before

                                After

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Mighty Tweak

 "Tweaks" are all the rage among audiophiles, looking to improve a system's performance without replacing pricey components. Ranging from tens of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, tweaks include (among many others): sorbothane isolators and platforms placed beneath components to reduce mechanical vibrations; room treatments; and cable risers designed to reduce static interference from cables resting on carpeted floors (though decent, double-cased speaker should be immune to any static interference in the first place). Based on advice from a column written by eminent audio guru, Herb Reichert, I just replaced the thin, cloth mat that came with my Pioneer PLX-1000 turntable with a soft rubber mat made for the Technics 1200 series of turntables, which are nearly identical to the Pioneer, but twice the price. The cost of the mat was $30 from Amazon. Of all the tweaks I've tried (it's not a long list), it has provided by far the greatest bang for the buck. Herb was absolutely right. Changing the mat tamed the roughness I had been perceiving in the upper frequencies and provided a boost to the low end, which had seemed somewhat skimpy. Before making the change, I had thought I might a different turntable-and-cartridge combination (I currently use an Ortofon Quintet Bronze on the PLX-1000). Very likely the $30 tweak saved me thousands.

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Right Combination

 My Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 is now paired with the Philharmonic BRM speakers in the bedroom. My old Snell Jii speakers have been moved to the living room, where they are paired with the Pioneer Elite SX-S30 A/V tuner and amplifier. Having the larger speakers in the living room makes sense, but the Lyngdorf/Philharmonic pairing is magical, with special credit to Lyngdorf's RoomPerfect software.



Thursday, October 21, 2021

Finding Gold in the Bins at Landlocked Music

I'm glad to have Izabela with me after a month in Poland looking after her mom. Today, I celebrated by buying three used LPs (actually, five since two are double-albums) in really fine condition: CSN&Y, "Four Way Street," Todd Rundgren, "Back to the Bars;" and Tears for Fears, "Songs from the Big Chair." I'm now only buying vinyl that is from analogue recordings (mostly pre-1990s). It took a while, but I finally figured out that buying analogue pressings of digital recordings makes little, if any, sense.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Happy Practicing

 After a three month or so hiatus, while my drum teacher got settled into his new job as an endowed professor and head of the jazz program at UMKC, we got back together this past week, with two lessons in seven days. During the hiatus, my practicing trailed off because, I guess, I really need the pressure of upcoming lessons to keep my nose to the grindstone. Since the first lesson back, I've practiced every day for at least an hour (almost nothing for those with grand ambitions, but it's a good start for me). Meanwhile, group practices have become more regular. I have two groups - a trio that meets weekly and a quartet that meets every other week. Having regular lessons and group practice sessions is a big deal for me. It really helps me to improve at a fairly consistent rate (albeit with plateaus between periods of clear improvement). 

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Gates BBQ Suite

 I've been waiting for this LP to arrive for months. Bravo, the great Bobby Watson.



Latest Addition To My Audio Collection

The Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 integrated amplifier has replaced the Peachtree Decco 125SKY in my bedroom audio system. It's about twice the money of the (now discontinued) Peachtree, but it's at least twice as good. For one thing, it has an HDMI ARC output, so it serves more effectively as a two-channel A/V system. Although it has less power than the Peachtree, its Class D amplifier is a lot better. I can hear a lot more detail out of my old Snell Jii speakers. It's in-house app is much better than the Muzo app on which the Peachtree depends. And, best of all, it comes with Lyngdorf's proprietary Room Perfect system to tailor the sound to the dynamics of the room. Without Room Perfect, it's still a better amp than the Peachtree. With Room Perfect, it's miles ahead. My Snells have never sounded so good. Special thanks to Lyngdorf dealer Jeff Stake Hifi for the great service.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Reflections on My Academic Career - Part I

 I'm currently in my second year of a three-year phased retirement from IU. After this semester, I will have one more course to teach in the 2022-23 academic year. I don't know whether the inclination is natural or not, but I've already begun reflecting on my career, the ups, the downs, the in-betweens. My reflections are not intentionally structured or organized. This will not be a chronological narrative; and it certainly will not be complete. It is not an exercise in nostalgia - I am not normally a nostalgic person, though I am sentimental. In other words, I care about the people and places currently and formerly in my life, but I have no desire to return to some earlier time in the mistaken belief that life was better then. Finally, I don't presuppose that anyone outside of my family will find any part of this, let alone the whole thing, interesting or valuable either in itself or as a socio-historical reference. For the most part, I'm writing this for myself and my family. 

This first installment examines the question of why I am retiring now. I'll be fully retired just after I turn 65, which is a traditional retirement age, but not so common today as it once was, especially in academia. Several older colleagues of mine have no intention of retiring any time soon. So, why am I retiring, when I'm in good physical health? I have several reasons, some of which are more important than others;

(1) I no longer enjoy teaching as I used to do. I increasingly dread it. It has a lot to do with changing course packages, something I knew would be necessary when I moved from Indianapolis to Bloomington. The biggest change was a move to regular teaching of undergraduate courses around 2014. Before then, I had zero experience teaching undergraduates who, pedagogically speaking, are very different from grad students or law students. The special challenges they present I've never been able entirely to overcome. The class preps more onerous and time-consuming, in part, because undergrads require more in-class activities to keep them engaged. And I taught three different undergrad courses over the course of five years. Anyway, SPEA kept me in the undergrad curriculum until I signed the contract for the phased retirement. I suspect I might not yet be retiring, if I was not regularly teaching undergrads.

(2) The increasing stress of teaching aggravated the depression and anxiety disorder I've been dealing with most of my life. It impacted not just my work life but every aspect of my life. 

(3) While my love of teaching has diminished, my love of music, especially (but not exclusively) jazz, has reemerged. I want to spend more time learning about, playing and listening to it. [It's very important to have something to retire to because, otherwise, retirement could feel like a death sentence.]

(4) Izabela and I want to travel more, especially to spend more time in the UK and Europe, while we are young and healthy enough to take full advantage. 

(5) Sorry to say, but I want more time for reading and writing than the life of a teaching professor, ironically, allows. I'm not nearly eminent enough to get course relief in exchange for more writing time. I have at least two books on my agenda, one on the global history of environmental protection extending back to the earliest human settlements, and one on institutional analysis (as a method). I'll be writing other pieces as well, I imagine.

(6) Very fortunately, according to my financial consultants, I can afford to retire.

(7) I don't think of my retirement as complete. I'm not leaving IU so much as changing my relationship with it. In exchange for not paying me, I will not teach, but I'll keep on producing scholarship, working with PhD students, etc., especially in the Ostrom Workshop. I might even teach the Workshop seminar, as needed or desired, after I'm "emeritus." That's assuming that the Workshop does not start ignoring the Ostroms' legacy again.

Future installments of reflections will focus on: perceived highlights, such as they are, of my career; whether my move from Indy to Bloomington was, on balance, worthwhile; as objective as possible assessment of my scholarly contributions, including one or two writings I consider under-appreciated; opportunities I've screwed up or spurned; the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary scholarship in the university; great scholars, and people, I have known; the silliness of over-seriousness in the cut-throat world of academia.   

Against Natural Law

Below are a few paragraphs I recently wrote for a book chapter, explaining why the concept of natural law is both rhetorically attractive an...