Trip Summary Calendar - Where we went and when

September 06, 2005

Anniversary of the grand return

Today, September 6, 2005 is the one-year anniversary of our return home from the big RV trip. Considering there have been a grand total of seven entries since our return, we obviously won't win any blogging awards. Not that I'm interested in such things, but it's a shame we've posted so rarely. So, on this anniversary, I'm going to attempt more regular blog entries.

The idea has been rolling in both our heads for some time. What convinced me was, while driving back from moe.down yesterday, realizing how many friends I owe emails back to. I get a bit busy between work, town stuff, and endless hobbies - so personal emails have the tendency to pile up. When I do get the chance to write, I find myself telling the same stories again and again. So in a way, I'm hoping the blog will help us keep in touch with our good friends who are always wondering why I don't respond to emails. I'm not sure if Alysa will also add entries, but I suspect she will.

The blog will also give me a chance to write some random thoughts, whether on computers, politics, or whatever comes to mind. Nobody really needs to read this stuff but it may as well go somewhere. So when I'm old and senile, someone can read me back the blog to remind me of my youth (if being 38 is still considered youth - I do).

So without further ado - I shall begin blogging!

Posted by Mitch at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

Hello from the hammock

I'm currently enjoying my favorite spot in the house, which isn't in the house at all. About 100 feet into the woods behind the house itself is a rope hammock, placed here for the occasional visit. Through the trees I can vaguely make out our house, and also one neighbor's house. We have two acres, mostly wooded, so I could easily have placed the hammock more remotely. But getting here would be even harder (there is no path and the brush is quite thick) and getting home would invariably get me lost. We're considering cutting an informal path which would make getting here easier.

As promised, none of this is of much interest to anyone!

Apparently all the rage for blogs is to include a comment on the music the author is listening to. On the iPod is Yes, their album "Time and a Word."

On the technical front one of my goals for the hammock is to gain WiFi access to the house. Two years ago I did have it. But I've since changed the wireless equipment in the house (and its location) and no longer can I pick up the signal. So when I'm here and need net access I'll use my Treo 650's modem capability. There is some negative thought regarding accessing the internet from such a relaxing location but, well, I am what I am!

Weather is perfect - low 70's, only a very slight breeze, and thankfully not buggy at all.

This is my favorite place to read - perhaps the only place where I'm not too distracted to read - so it may also be a great place to write. Once the winter comes I'll naturally search for other locations. If you're new here, we live in Massachusetts, USA, which gets quite cold several months of the year.

Posted by Mitch at 04:05 PM | Comments (0)

By the way, which one's Moe?

Last night we returned from the moe.down, a nifty music festival in central NY. moe. (all lowercase, trailing period) is "jam band" in the same genre as the Grateful Dead, Phish, and to some extent Dave Matthews Band. Alysa's known the band since college and we're good friends with some of the behind-the-scenes folks. moe.down is a gathering of moe.rons (really!) to camp out and listen to moe. and other bands every Labor Day weekend. When it comes to camping with 8,000 stoners we're a bit out of our league, so we stay at a nearby hotel, and always enjoy the weekend.

Something fun happened Saturday afternoon. Actually, two fun things happened within five minutes. I was running around taking photos (moe.down offers no shortage of fun fan shots) when I was tapped on the shoulder by a guy identifying himself as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. He was writing a story on the moe.down (really!) and asked for me to send any good photos his way. I don't know whether it was the fancy looking camera, the VIP badge, or just the fact I was sober that caused him to approach me. We exchanged biz cards, so I knew he was legit. I thought this was a great opportunity - I've taken plenty of photos in my day but have never seen one published. I only had my 75-300mm lens with me, and this being the only daytime moe. set this weekend I wanted to get all the variety I could.

So I started a mad dash to the car for my 17-40mm (a Canon "L" lens - it is now appropriate to "Ooh" and "Aah"). Not even to the parking lot I run into one of our behind-the-scenes friends. I won't say who, just so thousands of moe.rons don't suddenly beg for my friendship out of some inclination I'd give out the secret to all moe. knowledge. Anyway, he says "Mitch, can you do me a favor and go on-stage and take a few photos?"

Now I should interject and say being on stage with moe. isn't something very new to me, but that's usually just from the side of the stage. I'm not in awe of the band as they're just regular guys to me who happen to play great music. But the opportunity for full run of the stage with 8,000+ screaming fans staring at me made for an amazing photographic opportunity. I still needed the wide-angle lens so my mad dash turned into a full-out sprint, and minutes later I was running across the rear of the stage.

So you know where I hoped this would lead, and it has. Sometime in the next few days the Christian Science Monitor will publish a story on moe.down, accompanied by my photo! It's one of those photos that as I took it I knew I'd captured something special. I won't show it here just yet - gotta keep up the anticipation. They're actually paying me for it too, which is a nice bonus. And it's a non-exclusive license so hopefully it can be used elsewhere by moe. or other publications.

CSM, if you aren't familiar, isn't a wacky religious newspaper as its name might indicate. They're a very solid, independent publication. They used to run a great cable news channel but folded that years back.

But just to place something here, here's one photo I like a lot but isn't the one they'll be using.

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I won't bother listing every band at moe.down but I'll mention one very original act. Matisyahu, a Hassidic Reggae band. Really! And you know something? Fantastic! He had the biggest crowd of any act other than moe., and really had the crowd going strong. By my untrained ears I'd classify them more as rock than reggae. The story is a regular guy was searching for something, and found it in converting to Hassidic Judaism. But with music in his blood, he put this band together. The lyrics seem more story-telling and not too preachy. The lead singer, Matisyahu (his Hebrew name after his conversion) is full-blown Hassidim. The other guys in the band aren't, at least in appearance. A picture is worth more than I can describe, so:

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After a while of running around in the hot sun, he did remove his hat and jacket, and you could see he was wearing a tallis beneath his shirt. If he's doing this as a gimmick he's taking it all the way.

Sunday at the moe.down was also my birthday, and after we returned to the hotel Alysa gave me a birthday blueberry pie (complete with candle), which was a great way to end the day.

If I ever get around to posting photos from last year's moe.down you'll see the hat I wore on my birthday both last year and this year. All I will say is any where else I'd be taken to a funny farm but here I fit right in.

Posted by Mitch at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005

Thinking of New Orleans

We spent a week in New Orleans last June. Since then, every time a hurricane comes close I think of our tour guide telling us how the city is below sea level. A hurricane could really make a mess of the place, and everyone knew it. Now ten days or so after Hurricane Katrina did just that I keep thinking that if a loud-mouthed tour guide knew this would happen, how did the federal government miss that little tidbit? When a hurricane came near, why didn't they start bringing helicopters and sand bags into the area? Instead, they studied the problem until the water leveled off (in other words, until the city's flood water was AT sea level) then did it. Not only reactionary, but poorly reactionary. I'm not sure if the FEMA director should be fired but there's obviously a case of FEMA not thinking proactively about possible, even likely, disasters.

So I've been thinking about some of our highlights from New Orleans, and what they're like now. All our photos are still online but here are some things I've discovered.

Img 4633The KOA campground where we stayed is closed. A message on their web site says they're canceling all reservations. I'm not sure if they're flooded out or not - they're in River Ridge, just west of the city, but right along the Mississippi. I remember the campground particularly well because it was the first spot where I had to (yikes!) back in.

Img 7454I haven't heard anything about this yet, but New Orleans cemeteries are above-ground. Basically each crypt is a family crematorium, and many go back generations. I wonder how these were effected by the risen water.

Img 4607The French Quarter seems to have survived reasonably well. New Orleans has been described as like a bowl. The French Quarter is almost right on the Mississippi so at higher elevation. Preservation Hall was built in 1750. All their web site says is "Due to the recent hurricane, Preservation Hall will be closed indefinitely."

Img 4560The Steam Boat Natchez survived the hurricane. According to their web site they brought the boat up to Baton Rouge before the hurricane struck. The company is continuing their employee's medical benefits, and are trying to get in touch with all employees.

Img 7861The Aquarium of the Americas didn't do so well. While the structure is sound, most of the 10,000 fish did not survive the loss of power which runs the air filters for their tanks. This photo is a tunnel through a large tank. The sea otters, penguins, birds, the white alligator, and the 250-pound turtle are fine. Many staff stayed behind during the hurricane but were forced to leave due to the violence in the area.

Img 4597 This photo was taken from the steps of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Apparently the museum itself is ok, but all that you see here is flooded. Some of the outdoor sculptures were destroyed. One report described the museum as "looking like a castle on a hill with a moat around it." The museum's web site is currently down.

Img 4629The National D-Day Museum escaped the flooding. One thing that struck me early on is whether this landing boat, built in New Orleans and used extensively on D-Day, could have been used to rescue people if still in use. It's meant for shallow water and can carry many people.

Posted by Mitch at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

Christian Science Monitor article on moe. !

And there it is, the article about moe.down. In print tomorrow, September 9, 2005. It's actually a well-researched thorough article on the whole Jam Band scene. My photo is the top-left photo looking out over the heads of the moe. guys (Chuck excluded, who was just out of frame) at the crowd. Here's a larger version of the photo:

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It's really nice to see moe. get this kind of press. They're a fantastic band, and everyone involved (on-stage and off) are just wonderful people. Pretty cool to get my photo and name in print too! :-)

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Posted by Mitch at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2005

Ode to the five digit odometer

"Rolling over" 100,000 miles in a car used to be much more exciting. For those too young to remember, older odometers simply had five integer digits. When the car hit 100,000 miles, all was reset to zero. That was fun.

Hitting 100,000 miles is still an event to be appreciated. I drove my car over the threshold last weekend. But up pops a sixth integer digit. Boring. 100,000 miles is roughly equivalent to driving four times around the globe at the equator. This is the first car I've had where I've driven all the miles (I often buy one-year-old cars to save the initial depreciation, but this came brand new). Did it sing a song? Did Lee Iacocca personally dance on my dashboard? No. But I still managed to memorialize the event with a photo - and a movie!. Never mind the speedometer... Sometimes you've just gotta get that shot!

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Or the movie (click to play):

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Posted by Mitch at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2005

So what does it cost to watch that huge TV?

Kill-a-WattAfter receiving ever-increasing electric bills, I decided to do something about it. No, not conserve silly - analyze! Ok, the eventual goal is to conserve but how does one know what in the house is using the most juice? After a bit of research I bought a cool toy called a Kill-a-Watt (heh, cute name). The idea is you plug this into the wall, then some electrical item into the Kill-a-Watt. It provides instant readings like the current wattage, and measurement over time like KWh. KWh are the Kilowatt Hours your electricity bill is based on. Here we pay about 11.6 cents for every KWh we use. One nearly needs a PhD to understand how this is calculated, but that's another story.

The first big test for the new toy is our home theater system. We have a nice system but not that far off from what others are buying these days. We've got a 61" rear-projection TV, a Tivo/Satellite receiver, a receiver/amplifier, and the usual collection of CD/DVD/VCR/tape/etc players. The Tivo is always on, as it is always recording. The receiver is always on as it's the main switcher for the whole system. The other devices are on when we use them - most often the television. So what does this all cost to use?

I also wanted to answer a question I've had for a while, which is how much electricity does the receiver/amplifier use when powered on, but not in use (volume down). When I wired the system I had to use the receiver because the TV I had at the time didn't have enough inputs. The 61" beast has plenty, so a viable option is to use the TV as the video switcher. What's the cost benefit?

So here's what I've learned thus far... If the TV is turned on 24 hours a day, it would cost us 76 cents a day or $22.88/month. With the TV off, that drops to 29 cents a day or $8.72/month. Remember, I'm measuring the whole system - not just the TV. So the system costs $8.72/month just to sit there.

In bare watts, the system uses 104 watts with the TV off, and 273 with the TV on. If I use the main amplifier's volume to get surround-sound, wattage goes up another 50-80 watts depending on volume (most often we just use the TV's speakers so that rarely applies).

Turning off the Tivo/Satellite receiver makes no difference. Even when "off" it's really on recording two simultaneous Satellite channels and/or anything we have programmed in. Powering it off saved a mere one watt. So leaving that on all the time is fine. I didn't measure how much it uses because I know we'll leave it on anyway.

Turning off the receiver/amplifier, though, dropped the 104 watt usage of the idle system almost in half. It uses 47 watts while powered on and idle. That's a cost of $4/month, or $47/year! So yes, there's a financial benefit in rewiring, especially because I have most of the cables I need.

The last 57 watts is apparently used by everything while powered "off" - many electronic devices, especially televisions, use power even when off. I suspect much of this is the Tivo - I'll figure this out later.

As a test, I turned everything on - two CD players, a DVD changer, a VCR, and a tape deck. 320 watts. With the amp's volume cranked half-way, just over 400 watts. Ouch.

What about cumulative actual use? I've had the Kill-a-Watt monitoring our system for 58 hours thus far. This 58 hours has cost us 99 cents. At this rate the system as-is contributes about $12.35 to our monthly electric bill. Once I remove the receiver/amp this should drop below $9.

Next up will be the laser printer (which is always on, often in "sleep mode") and my main computer which is always on.

Imagine the spreadsheets I'll be creating!

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Posted by Mitch at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

Do you want my autograph?

I received this email today:

200509211754Dear Mr. Cohen,

I am hoping that you are the same person that I am looking for. If so, I am a big fan of your work as an actor in the horror genre. I think you are one of the most talented men to ever be involved with the genre. I am especially fond of your work as "The Toxic Avenger". I was wondering if you accept autograph requests through the mail. If so, I was hoping you might tell me how I could go about getting an autograph from you. It would really mean a lot to me as a fan. Thank you for your time and your wonderful work. I hope to hear from you soon.

So I thought I should announce to the world that I am not the Mitchell S. Cohen that starred as the title character in The Toxic Avenger. The Toxic Avenger is a cult classic campy monster movie, that I've actually seen - simply because the video box had my name on the cover.

The same Mitch Cohen had a minor role in a movie I really do like, Clerks. He played "Leaning Against Wall." Really.

Posted by Mitch at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

I'm also not the Mitch Cohen who...

While on the subject of who I'm not, I thought I'd google myself to see what else I'd find. I'm not the Mitch Cohen who investigates infectious diseases for the Center for Disease Control - he was on TV a lot during the anthrax attacks a few years back. I'm also not the Mitch Cohen who co-edits the Green Party's official newspaper, "Green Politix." I've driven through Mississippi but I'm not the freelance writer from Oxford and runs his own blog. I'm thankfully not Mitch Cohen the music promoter, since he's dead. I'm definitely not the Mitch Cohen who broke his knee surfing in 2004. Neither am I the Mitch Cohen who will marry you in Florida for $250, ceremony music included. There's a Mitchell Stuart Cohen working for Intel, and despite the name similarity (my middle name is Stewart) he isn't me. The same Mitch Cohen is soon to marry Danielle - congrats to them both. Turtle racing? This Mitch Cohen is actually the President of the New York State Turtle Racing Authority. I've been accused of being creative, yet I'm not this artist Mitch Cohen. Rabbi Mitch Cohen runs the Ramah system of summer camping, but he's not me. I have no rhythm so I couldn't possibly be drummer Mitch Cohen of the band Mamadou. Dr. Mitch Cohen's laboratory at the University of Cincinnati is focused on elucidating mechanisms of intestinal secretion resulting from infectious, inflammatory or allergic responses - certainly not me. This Mitch Cohen had good success with ear surgery, but I don't need ear surgery. Deputy District Attorney Mitch Cohen works in Las Vegas, where I've been but am not him.

I'm also not Eugene Levy, who played a character named Mitch Cohen in the funny movie A Mighty Wind. In David Mamet's wonderful movie State and Main, Sarah Jessica Parker's agent is Mitch Cohen but he's never actually seen.

Posted by Mitch at 12:55 PM | Comments (1)