Happy Easter Island

eiflagLast year I noted with surprise that Easter and my birthday have coincided only twice in my lifetime. But it has happened several times outside of my lifetime and that includes 1722 when Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen came upon a tiny South Pacific island which the residents may have called Rapa. Whether they did or didn’t mattered not a bit to Roggeveen who decided to call the island Paaseiland. Dutch Paaseiland translates to the English Easter Island. The island is now part of Spanish speaking Chili where it is known as Isla de Pascua. Its modern Polynesian name is Rapa Nui.

hcafeiheadThe opening image is the Isla de Pascua flag. The red figure represents a reimiro, an ornament worn by the native islanders. At left is an image more commonly associated with Easter Island. The island contains nearly 900 statues similar to the one in the picture. I’ve never been to Easter Island and have no pictures of my own although there are plenty to be found around the internet. This photo is one I took of an imitation at the Hill County Arts Foundation near Ingram, Texas.

The true significance of the statues, called moai, is not known but we do know that they once outnumbered inhabitants by roughly 8 to 1. The island is believed to have once held about 15,000 people. A number of factors reduced that to maybe 3,000 by the time Roggeveen came along. Contributing causes were deforestation, erosion, and the extinction of several bird species. The population probably remained around 3,000 until 1862 when Peruvian slavers began a series of raids that resulted in about half of that population being hauled away. The raiders were somehow forced to return many or perhaps most of those they had captured but they brought smallpox to the island when they did. Tuberculosis arrived just a few years later and disease, violent confrontations, and a major evacuation reduced the human population to just 111 by the late 1870s. There are currently 887 moai on the island. In the past there may have been more.

Today is the 295th Easter Sunday that Easter Island has been known by that name. The population has grown considerably and is now around 6000 which must make for a much happier island than when barely a hundred hung on. Of course the actual calendar date of the naming (and my birthday) is still more than a week away. I hope you’re looking forward to wishing everyone a Happy Easter Island Anniversary as much as I am.

A Pre-Refurb Peek at Music Hall

cmhmn01At the end of this year’s May Festival, Cincinnati’s Music Hall will close for extensive renovations. The Cincinnati icon, which first opened in 1878, will open again in the fall of 2017. I knew I ought to attend at least one more performance there before the closing and working in part of the May Festival has been in the back of my mind. A number of things lined up Friday that made attending the first night of the MusicNOW Festival possible and attractive. I may still try to make it back for the May Festival but the pressure is off and I had a most enjoyable evening.

MusicNow, the brainchild of Bryce Dessner of The National, was first held in 2005. Although The National was formed after he moved to New York, Bryce is a Cincinnati native and frequently involved with the city’s music. An Australian tour prevented him from attending this year’s festival but one of his compositions opened Friday’s concert and another was premiered on Saturday.

cmhmn02cmhmn03With about an hour to go, the lobby was pretty empty and I grabbed a couple of pictures. There are a number of large chandeliers in the building with one of the most impressive hanging in the center of the lobby..

cmhmn06cmhmn05cmhmn04I used some of the extra time to head upstairs. On the second floor, I snapped pictures of the upper level of the lobby and the balcony of the main concert space, Springer Auditorium. The third photo is of the Springer Auditorium Gallery. The seats in the foreground are about where I sat to watch Big Brother and the Holding Company in October 1968. This was the performance that was paused while Janis and the band watched the Beatles on the Smothers Brothers Show.

I believe that 1968 show was my first at Music Hall. Many, wildly diverse, have followed. If Big Brother is at one end of the range, Andrés Segovia might be at the other. He was solo and acoustic when I saw him in 1982. So was Bruce Springsteen in 1996. But Bruce was 47; Segovia nearly 90. That little old man and that little old guitar on the big old stage remains one of my most memorable concerts and a great demonstration of the wonderful acoustics of that big old space. There were numerous Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts that included a variety of soloists; several performances of the Nutcracker ballet; the Kinks; John (not yet Mellencamp) Cougar; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and others I’ve temporarily forgotten. But my purpose in going to Friday’s show was not to trigger old memories. I wanted to firm up my impressions of the building in anticipation of next year’s changes. It was standing at the back wall of the Gallery and looking at the distant stage that prompted the most ancient memories then not-quite-as-ancient memories just followed.

cmhmn07My seat was a last minute pay-what-you-want bargain. From the left side of the second row the visuals consisted largely of orchestra member’s ankles and partially obscured profiles of featured performers but the audio was fantastic. The Kronos Quartet performed first followed by violinist Jennifer Koh with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. After an intermission, the quartet and orchestra performed together. Mandolinist Chris Thile closed the show. He performed, like Segovia and Springsteen, solo and he even stepped in front of the mic to do a couple of songs completely acoustic. Not suprisingly, it sounded great from a few yards away but I almost bolted from my seat to see if he reached the rear of the audtorium as well as Segovia had. I didn’t. I wish I had.

cmhmn08The Cincinnati Opera has put together a rather nice Music Hall Renovation FAQ in which they specifically mention that “The large chandelier in the auditorium will be restored.” I don’t know if that means the others will not be but it does raise the question. I hope that’s not the case although if only one can be saved, this is certainly the right one.

Bye Bye Bell

cbtSome might remember 2014’s Bye Bye Four One Two Five blog post in which I bid farewell to a long held telephone number and a couple of Cincinnati Bell services. For roughly six years preceding that post, I had relied on CB for my mobile telephone as well as my home phone and internet connection. That had to change because the company was bailing out of the mobile business. When I made that post in October of 2014, I had switched to Verizon for my mobile service and had simply dropped the seldom used home voice service. The only service I retained with CB was an internet connection. In the last paragraph of the post I expressed happy surprise that the internet connection was the same price alone as it had been bundled. That didn’t last.

For the first year, my internet-only bill was $35 per month. It then went to a perfectly acceptable $36. Five months later it jumped to $48.54 which was neither acceptable or ignorable. There were, I soon learned, two components to this roughly 35% increase. One was a significant but not quite outrageous jump in the service rate from $36 to $39.99. The larger piece of the increase came from the addition of a $7.99 equipment fee and accompanying $0.56 state tax. Through on-line chat and a subsequent phone call I was able to verify that this was, as I immediately suspected, a monthly rental fee for the nondescript ADSL modem I had been using free since 2008. I was also told that I could neither buy the modem outright from Cincinnati Bell nor supply my own. As the representative looked over my account, she uttered the phrase “wireless internet” and I told her I did not have CB supplied WiFi which she shrugged off and so did I. I guess I had already decided to run away fast rather than pursuing specific issues.

Cincinnati Bell’s current flagship product uses fiber-optics. Called Fioptics, it is not yet available at my address although I doubt its availability would have materially changed things. My service was a copper wire product called ZoomTown 5 Mbps. The service is often described as “5/1” to indicate 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. These are marketing friendly “rounded up” numbers more precisely described as “Download up to 5 Mbps. Upload up to 768 Kbps”. There is also a ZoomTown 2 Mbps or “2/1” product. Although I have seen download speed as high as 4.47 Mbps, recently observed download speeds have all been under 1.33 Mbps. Observed upload speeds have always been around 0.66 Mbps which is close enough to 768 Kbps to keep me happy. It happens that the only record I have of speeds near 5 Mbps (the 4.47 reading) is from before switching off voice service but I have no evidence that the slowing coincided with the switch.

My most charitable interpretation of this is that Cincinnati Bell made a couple of small errors. It seems quite possible that somewhere along the way I was accidentally switched from the 5 Mbps service to the 2 Mbps service. It is also quite possible that I was somehow supposed to have a WiFi router from Cincinnati Bell but that someone forgot to actually provide it. If that were the case, then I could press Cincinnati Bell and get a fancier modem/router for my $7.99. If an accidental service reduction had actually occurred, then I could press Cincinnati Bell and get it switched back or I could arrange for my billing to be changed to match the service I was apparently receiving.

I might have merely grumbled and moved to get the errors corrected had there not been at least a little bit of competition left in the local internet market. There is, so instead of expending energy trying to get Cincinnati Bell to correct its errors, I switched to Time Warner Cable. Three things led to the switch. For one thing, TWC allows customers to supply their own modems and provides a list of compatible products. Secondly it’s cheaper. I’m starting with a 2 Mbps plan which should be the equivalent of what I’ve actually been getting from CB. The CB rate is $26 per month (although I’ve actually been paying more) and the TWC rate is $14.99 per month. Yes, I had to spend some money up front but I’m getting nearly twenty bucks ($8.55 + $26 – $14.99 = $19.56) back every month. If I should decide I want more, TWC lists 6 Mbps and 15 Mbps plans that are both cheaper than CB’s 5 Mbps plan. The third reason to switch is that TWC hadn’t pissed me off in years.

Getting the new service should have been quick and easy. It wasn’t although neither was it exactly horrible. When the condominium I live in was built in 1997, all units were pre-wired for Time Warner Cable. I subscribed to TWC for a couple of years before going to DirecTV in 1999. The DirecTV installation made use of the TWC cabling and was working fine when I canceled my subscription in favor of over-the-air TV in 2009. An appointment was made and a technician arrived right on schedule. However, after doing a LOT of testing, he told me that there seemed to be a break in the internal cabling and that someone else would need to come out to fix it. I would be contacted within a week.

I let two weeks pass then called. Someone had entered a placeholder appointment for a couple months in the future then dropped the ball. A more qualified tech arrived less than two days later. He looked things over and, rather than pulling new cable as I expected, simply completed the one connection the previous tech had missed. Bingo!

While both services were connected I checked their speeds using Ethernet (not WiFi) and found the Time Warner connection delivering essentially what was advertised:nsttwc

Cincinnati Bell, not so much:nstcb

I know those rates seem pretty pitiful to many. They are the minimum offerings from the two companies but they are sufficient. One might think that, as a feeder of a blog and website, I am a heavy Internet user. Nope, heavy Internet users are families streaming movies to multiple TVs while playing World of Warcraft with friends in Walla Walla, Washington. I certainly wouldn’t object to more speed but I have what I need for less than a Skinny Vanilla Latte Grande per week.

The opening photo shows a detail of the 1931 Cincinnati Bell Building in downtown Cincinnati.

Bock Again

cbf16_01It was cold and cloudy for the 24th Cincinnati Bockfest Parade. It was, however, dry so a friend and I braved the 40-and-falling temperature to walk beside the merry participants. It was my friend’s first exposure; my fifth.  The cold seems to have kept some observers away but it had no noticible affect on the size of the parade itself. I think a few past entries were absent (e.g., the whip lady) but I doubt that temperature was the cause and there were compensating new entries to keep things interesting.

cbf16_02cbf16_03Proving that the temperature was not a deterrent to everyone was this this wading pool accompanied group wearing shorts, T-shirts, and water wings. Some Red Hot Dancing Queens gathered in front of Arnold’s, Cincinnati’s oldest bar and traditional parade starting point. The Dancing Queens instantly became one of my all time favorite parade groups when I saw them on their second outing at last year’s Northside 4th of July Parade.

cbf16_05cbf16_04I failed to get a picture of parade Grand Marshall Mick Noll and barely caught Schnitzel the goat pulling the ceremonial keg of bock beer. That’s 2015 Sausage Queen, Elyse Lohrbach, in the Caddy. Her reign ended Saturday night when the 2016 queen, Rachel Appenfelder, was chosen.

cbf16_06cbf16_07It’s always good to see perennial favorites Arnold’s self propelled bathtub and the Trojan goat. I personally prefer the original motorized tub (two paragraphs back) although I’m sure the new model is both safer and more reliable.

cbf16_10cbf16_09cbf16_08And now some of the new entries. In case you haven’t noticed, the parade is a real showcase for certifiably groan-worthy puns. Here we have “Whatever Floats Your Goat”, “Bocktor Seuss’ Whodeyville”, and “The Empire Strikes Bock”.

cbf16_11cbf16_12That cluster of Red Hot Dancing Queens in front of Arnold’s had grown to full strength when the parade stepped off. The fun that these gals have is truly contagious and there is no known cure.

cbf16_13I normally probably would not post this blurry picture of a float that has appeared in previous parades but I really need to this time. The 185 year old Rabbit Hash General Store was destroyed by fire just three weeks ago but, as the sign says, “You Can’t Keep a Good Town Down”. There were no injuries and there is some insurance but it isn’t really enough to rebuild the store. A GoFundMe campaign, accessible through the Rabbit Hash website, has been established.

cbf16_14We got inside Bockfest Hall which is something I did not do in either of the preceding two years. I guess that was our reward for dealing with temperatures that not everyone wanted to deal with. In the warmer and brighter 2014 and 2015, when the end of the parade reached the end of the route, the street outside the hall was filled withe people trying to get in. Of course getting in didn’t mean getting to see or hear much. The reduced crowd was still a very big crowd. I snapped this picture over to to of that crowd and only later realized that it contained the previously miss Grand Marshal. That’s Mick Noll in the blue hat at the photo’s left and Christian Moerlein’s Greg Hardman in the top hat on the photo’s right.

The following links lead to evidence of my previous visits: 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015