Siege Diaries 1/14/2021

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Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  What jerks me around?

Today?  RSA soft token issues jerk me around.  I had to get a replacement token last week after mine expired (despite showing on my phone as good for 15 more years.)  This was the same week that Cogeco had a couple of outages, so I was having to call into the Help Desk after each instance to get a temporary code until my new one was finally set up.  Luckily, this turned out to be useful prep for today.  They’ve switched our work phones over to mobile versions of Office 365, so I had to uninstall and reinstall a bunch of stuff, including the RSA token.  All was fine until I got to the point in the instructions that told me to use the Device ID in the ServiceNow ticket.  I got the Device ID and then tried to figure out what ServiceNow thing to request.  Got completely lost.  Turned out I just needed to email it to a mailbox.  Got the ID imported.  No problem, right?  Well, the guy I was working with was super confusing about resetting up the PIN.  I got locked out.  He gave up.  I just let the website sit and unlock itself and then tried again, trying to remember my process from last week.  After one fumble (it didn’t like the PIN  I had picked), I got it to take.

So yeah, badly written instructions jerk me around, as do help desk staff who don’t really get what they’re doing.  However, this was really just a distraction, and one I knew I had a little knowledge about, so I just let it sit, came back to it, and got it to work.   Even if I hadn’t, I’d left

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I watched an experiment today.  Someone at the New England Conservatory of Music had made a go at transcribing Shostakovich’s Quartet no. 8 for a brass quartet–two trumpets, French Horn, and trombone.  And while they made a game go at it, it just didn’t work, for a number of reasons.  First, the instruments didn’t have the range of their stringed counterparts, and so their parts had to be adjusted.  This particularly stood out in the fourth movement, where there is a very high-pitched cello line, for instance.  But most importantly, wind instruments do not respond like stringed instruments.  This quartet relies not only on long, quiet, sustained notes, but also some absolutely furious ones in the second movement that are probably nigh impossible except for perhaps the best wind players in the world.  Indeed, they didn’t even make an attempt at it.  Strings are also capable of a lot more colour than brass instruments, through bowing techniques, use of mutes, and, in this case especially, pizzicato.  I know that the Shostakovich quartets are extremely challenging for string players–I can’t imagine how difficult they would be transcribed over to brass–and the players made quite a number of very obvious mistakes–which sounded particularly exposed because they were brass players and you can’t just vibrato your way out of things.   I know for a fact that wind transcriptions of larger orchestral works of Shostakovich can work just fine–in fact, that was my first-ever exposure to his music, when the symphonic band at UAHS played the final movement of the 5th symphony– but for a concert band work the transcribers would have much more leeway in assigning the parts than simply expecting the trombone to cover the cello line.  Anyway, it was at the least an intriguing experiment, and probably explains why you don’t hear many brass transcriptions of string quartets by any composer.

In other news, who ever thought finding cover-your-own buttons would be so hard?  I had noticed that Fabricland wasn’t really carrying them when last I was in there, and now, under lockdown, it’s impossible to just go there and check, or down to Nova Sewing or one of the other Ottawa St. shops to browse.  So–Amazon to the rescue?  Well, if I wanted to spend $9 for just six buttons–and my vest plans are going to require at least–sure.  I finally found a source on Etsy for 100 buttons for about $23 plus shipping.  They will be coming from Hong Kong, but at least I will have enough and not have to buy multiple packs.  The reason why I need them is that my 1930s-style vest/waistcoat pattern finally arrived today.  So another holding pattern on the vest plans, but at least I had already reordered my project priority list to jump ahead on the Shostakovich portrait.  And on that note, no embroidery update today.  I have gotten a start on the cat, but my brain is a bit melty now after Toastmasters, editorial consulting, the abovementioned hour of annoying technical issues, and the like.  I’m headed upstairs for some War and Peace.

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