Preflight/Santa Cruz, August 5, 1996
First equipment test

Visit to Santa Cruz
Technical Stuff

Waking up late after a Havdalah sing-along that lasted until the wee hours, I hurried through breakfast out with my friend Bernie, fueled up the car, and tried to make the 75 mile trip from Oakland to Santa Cruz in a mere 1.5 hours. Despite inexplicable, sporadic, 10-mile-per-hour traffic going over the mountains, I made it with fifteen minutes to spare.

The idea behind this mad dash south was to test my computer setup while taking advantage of a singular opportunity to view a new Santa Cruz klezmer band, Hoo Tza Tza. Unfortunately, upon my rising, I had discovered that the brand new Apple Powerbook 190 had a defective touch-pad. There being no way to actually use the computer (at least they now come with an "off" button), I put it to the side and placed the digital Kodak DC20 in my pocket and headed off.

I have to admit that my thoughts heading south dwelled much on the fact that I have a brand new computer with a hardware defect. My friend Bernard, an old Mac stalwart, and I, had tested for software problems prior to breakfast. So, here I am stuck, at a time when new Apple powerbooks don't exist, and when Apple quality control appears to be similarly rare. I have two weeks to get a functioning computer, or I'll have to do without. As much as I find Windows95 unattractive, it seems likely that it is time to reconsider and to change platforms upon my return. In the meantime, I may find myself reverting to the comfortable, tried and true, handwritten journal for this trip. That will seriously limit the usefulness of the digital camera, but that, too, may be a mixed blessing rather than a curse--take a look at the pix further down on this page.

In the next two weeks I will do what I can to at least get to Europe with the equipment I want. But this is vacation. If the equipment isn't there, I've still got the ticket and pens that I enjoy holding. Still, having decided that a PowerBook 190 made the closest to comfortable compromise between acceptable performance and lots of disk space (8/500, upgraded to 24MB RAM), I was disappointed to have a hard time finding one, disappointed to settle on the grey scale one as the last model remaining to any of the usual mail order outlets, and now, profoundly unimpressed by the fact that the touch pad used to move the pointer around on the screen is entirely funky. Some minutes it moves fine. Some minutes it moves not at all, and then jumps in small jerks in any random direction when I cease to attempt to propel it by my own efforts. At least I haven't yet bought a modem for it. And, I suppose I will waste valuable time tomorrow trying to get an RMA and seeing about exchanging the computer or abandoning it for the possibility that something useful will be available elsewhere.

So, there I am thinking heavy computer thoughts, trying to console myself with the likelihood that a trip to Europe forced to keep up with my thoughts with pen and paper will be just as comfortable as otherwise. Eventually I get into the mountains and the aforementioned traffic jam, and remember my early years in California commuting from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara, over the mountains such that the very rhythm of the hairpin bends in the road was once as familiar as the "Heyser Bulgar." Now I find myself striving to remember what it was like. I have a vague memory of everything, reinforced after the fact as each curve feels familiar. Eventually, I am in Santa Cruz and find the lovely downtown side street, now transformed into a small crafts fair where folks who may not have made it past the Sixties advertise booth after booth of curious artifacts. there are paint-it-yourself frisbies, the world's best digital recordings of ocean waves, tied-died lava lamps, and a delicious variety of great fast food: wine, felafel, Jamaican chicken, dark roast coffee, skewers of thai meats and vegetarian delights by the greasy fried bundle. It feels good that I have already had breakfast.

54K image of 3/5th of the bandI purchase some coffee and take a couple of practice shots of the stage at a distance. The band is warming up. It seems different, and larger than I expected. There are five members instead of the expected four--and this with one of them on vacation. I can capture only three members at once with the camera, but once they start, they play an entirely delightful set of klez standards. There are bulgars and freilachs and shers; the violin player dances when she isn't playing. Members of the audience get up and begin dancing behind the chairs set in front of the stage. The band closes with a wonderful bit of belly-dancing music. I am enchanted. It is a sunny day, and what can be better than sitting watching a very good group of klezmers play soul music?

It does get better. My friend, Scott Roseman, who owns a chain of three natural foods supermarkets in the area, comes and joins me. We haven't seen each other for at least a year.

"Why don't you ever come visit?"
"I dunno, busy I guess."
"It's not that far!"
"I'm telling what happened! I can't justify it. I miss you!"

We catch up with each other's lives as the band plays on. Later, we walk down Pacific Ave., finally almost entirely rebuilt following the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. His latest store is downtown in what was once the Bank of America. Good organic food for Santa Cruz is a wonderful change of pace. His meat counter is in front of the former bank vault. Since the butcher's name is "Walt," the meat storage area is now known as "Walt's vault." Scott poses in front of the heavy door. I love the store. It's clean. The food looks wonderful--it doesn't have that seedy, "we're too cool to deliver produce that looks good to eat" look that you get in many organic places. There are bins and bins of pastas and nuts and legumes and grains. There are even good wines and beers and meats. It is a store for living people.

We stand outside and talk for awhile, catching up. For the most part the conversation is quiet, give and take between two people who once knew each other better and now aren't sure. Job, religion, relationships. Then Scott begins talking about his kids, Ryan and Jessie, and his face lights up. And then it is time to walk back to the car and return.

Before returning to the car I wander up and down Pacific Avenue. In front of the former St. George Hotel (a victim of the earthquake, now the new site of a local independent book shop) is a stature of Tom Scribner, former logger, member of the IWW, musician, storyteller, and wonderful rabble rouser. I remember sitting on the Avenue staffing an information table for the Peace and Freedom party and having Tom come by to hang out with us and tell stories about his fights with the right-wingers. I also remember his annual performances at the Santa Cruz musical saw festival. I miss him. I am glad that there is a statue of him, playing the saw, noting his many accomplishments, outside the former St. George Hotel, his last home. I try to take a picture, but it comes out too dark to present online. I still have more to learn about the camera. Now it is full (8 pix!), so no chance for more tries.

On the way home, I catch "Tzvi the Fiddler's" monthly klezmer show on KKUP, Cupertino's public radio station, 91.5 FM. He isn't a very good speaking presence, but he plays good music--Maxwell St., from their latest album, the Klezmatics (from Rhythm and Jews), Mazeltones, the Klezmorim. Mostly the first two. His show lasts until I am almost at my door. A nice transition piece between Santa Cruz and Oakland, and in this case, between seeing it live, and having it only on recordings.

Tom Scribner jpeg On the other hand, this is the preflight series of pages, so I come home, dig out the t-shirt from Tom's last public appearance (the 1982 Saw Festival), and snap a quick photo. Surprising to me, the camera now performs just fine. In fact, being at home and preflight, also means that I can use Photoshop to create a reasonably compact GIF. The "PhotoEnhancer" application that came with the camera doesn't handle palette reduction or file size reduction with any useful grace. But for this all-critical fault (reducing file size is the most important thing to me after getting the picture as clear as it's going to be given the medium and camera), PE wouldn't be bad, at all.

Havdalah sing along

Friends of mine get together every month or two to sing Yiddish songs. The excuse is "Havdalah," the weekly ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath and the return to the workaday world of 9 to 5. We mark that separation with a pot luck and lots of music. Most of the repertoire is old Yiddish stuff, even the corny, weepy Yiddish Theatre stuff. The occasional religious song gets in there, and I tolerate it, and in return, sometimes, we also reprise some old lefty stuff. Most of the participants are decent musicians--we've got a clarinet and a dumbek and an accordion or two, and lots of percussion. Those of us odd folks out, bang along or sing. I like to sing. I don't sing notably on key or in tune, although I try, but this is something that was missing in my life for a long time. It's been very special having a group of people to get together with to sing songs that I love. Singing with friends is like getting extra hugs. It's an amazing way to start a week. If you live near Oakland/Berkeley California, and this sounds interesting, send e-mail to Daveed for more information.

Technical Notes

  1. Powerbook 190. So far, this is a bust. As of Monday, 6 August, ComputerWare is going to try to get a fixed/replacement unit to me by Thursday. That will give me a solid week and a half to load it, test it, get the modem and connectors--pretty grim. Were it six months ago, still, I would have purchased a name brand Windows95 machine and given myself time to learn its ins and outs and to find software that fits my hand like the Mac software I know and love now. Instead, here I am with a single laptop source that has recalled virtually all of its current units, and whose quality control is currently at rock bottom. This is stupid. I may well end up doing the tour with paper and pen. I do have a friend with a 530C that I may be able to purchase should this still not work by end of week, but I was looking forward to the 24/500 configuration that I set up--and I could be left holding the bag on the extra 16MB memory good for 190s and 5300s that should be arriving today.

  2. Camera (Kodak DC20). I'm a bit disappointed. The camera does okay on closeups (up to about 6 feet?) and can handle sort of okay buildings if I'm just across the block, but I can't recognize anyone in the band from any of the shots I took from about 20 feet back from the stage. That problem was exacerbated by the fact that the stage was not open--it was set up to shade the performers, which created shadow onstage, and that further fooled the camera. I was quite surprised by the poor showing on the photo of the Tom Scribner statue. I do not understand why it was so black. Further experimentation is in order. I also wish that (a) there was a way to preview images, (b) that I could hold another 8 shots, and (c) that there was a way to selectively erase shots, the better to maximize the 8 pix that the camera holds. Nonetheless, had there been a computer to download to, this would not have been a concern. And, should I be without a computer, 8 shots between computer connections will be pretty close to useless.

  3. PhotoEnhancer. This is the software that came with the camera. It does an okay job of color correction and some image enhancement. It is absolutely useless when I try to reduce file size. Short of cropping an image--and even then images create fat files--it offers no way to reduce file size. Even reducing the number of colors doesn't have an effect. I will have to bring along my copy of deBabelizer or something to deal with this issue. Bad enough that I can't create GIFs, but it is unreasonable to subject viewers of these pages to huge inline graphics. Or huge graphics in all events, unless the bulk is needed.

If the PowerBook 190 exchange works, I can try this setup again this coming weekend when I do the heavy moving to Petaluma. Stay tuned.

Back to the initial itinerary and equipment list

On to the next equipment tests and final preparations

Europe '96 | Ivritype | My WELL pages

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