June 13, 2006: The Pajama Game

Today is the big day, Dominica and my first trip into Manhattan to see a Broadway musical while living in or near the city. It has been a couple of years since either of us has seen a real Broadway show. The last show that we saw together was “Into the Woods” with Vanessa Williams that Dominica got me for my birthday. We are really excited about getting to go into “town” to see a show and with HCJ no less.

I woke up on my own from my “nap” at 11:53 and came out to the living room to get to work for the night. Working overnights for over a week will really throw off your body’s internal clock. It is only midnight and my body really feels like it is morning. I half expect people I know to be getting up and going to work soon but they won’t be doing that for a long time yet and most everyone I know hasn’t even gone to bed yet. That is the weirdest part. Getting up before everyone else goes to bed is just strange. The upside of doing the overnight is that it gives me lots of time to myself to work on the SGL Dailies!

It is going to be a little on the warm side as Dominica and I go into the city this afternoon. The Weather Channel is calling for low eighties and ten to twenty percent chance of rain. Not too bad but a little warmer than I would have hoped for going into the city all dressed up.

One of the advantages of being in and around New York City is that you get to be a part of the news. While we were in Manhattan with Dominica’s family on Saturday we got to see a number of DRM (Digital Rights Management) protestors marching past the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue (believe it or not I only figured out that the Apple Store was there because of the protestors because Apple has done such a bad job and making the store visible.) Today Newsforge carried the article about Saturday’s national protest against Digital Rights Management being carried out by the Free Software Foundation’s Defective By Design campaign. I read these articles all of the time but I actually got to see something happening for once. That is pretty cool. Unfortunately the event didn’t go as well as planned and far too few Americans are aware of the evils of Digital Rights Management and are willing to buy products that rely on it. Considering how little Americans bother to learn today about things that drastically affect them it is amazing that once upon a time we were ever able to educate people enough to get them to bother fighting to have our own country!

It is definitely handy working the overnight as it gives me plenty of opportunity to do backups and other simple maintenance tasks. It is surprising how much stuff like that needs to be done on a regular basis.

A little before two in the morning Oreo decided that he missed me and he came out into the living room and plopped down onto his pillow beside my chair. It is so awesome to have a dog that works so hard to spend time with me. I have never had a dog before that chooses to spend time with me over other people.

I have plenty of work to keep me busy on the overnight tonight. Mostly a load of paperwork that has to be attended to. That makes for a long night but at least it keeps me busy.

Today I started using an awesome new feature of Firefox from Google. It is the Google Firefox Sync Tool. Now this little add on to Firefox might be just the thing to convince all of you Internet Explorer people to switch for good – at least those of you who use more than one computer. This new tool from Google is a simple add on to Firefox 1.5 that allows you to syncronize your browser settings including (at your discretion) cookies, history, passwords, favourites, tabs, etc. More or less your entire browser environment. You just download the free add on, install it (it takes like five seconds) and you enter your Google account information and select a new PIN for the sync process and away it goes. You do this on each machine where you will be using Firefox and Google takes care of the rest. Now whenever you are using your awesome Firefox web browser you can have all of the same settings that you hav everywhere else. Sounds simple but it is a pretty big deal and I am really amazed that no one has tried this before now. Google is doing it for free but this easily could have been a fee based service from someone. For people who do a lot of surfing at home and at work this is truly awesome. For people like me who use a Linux desktop, a Windows desktop, a Mac desktop, a laptop plus my computer at work this can really help tie all of those machines together. Now if Google would just make an open source Firefox Sync Server for enterprises to use within their intranets then we would really have something. Companies all over the place would roll that feature out in no time.

Dominica has been studying databases for her Database Development class (as one would expect) and she has a new book that she got a few weeks ago from SAMS Publishing “Teach Yourself Access 2003 in 24 Hours” and since I have never really worked with Microsoft Access before, and since I own it as well, I thought that I might as well read the book too and see what there is to learn about it. I am not much of an Access fan but I can see a few places where it could come in handy. One thing that I am learning is that Access can be used as a frontend tool and not as an actual database which makes it a lot more useful than I was aware that it could be. Access as a rapid database development tool isn’t nearly so bad. So often companies use Access as a stand alone database product that maybe it gets a bad rap. It really is not designed to be used in a business all by itself except in really rare circumstances. Often it is a crutch that bad managers use to get around doing things the right away and it ends up costing them a fortune in the end but the costs are hidden in ongoing support and in client application purchases that they can often hide their ineptitude. I have Access 2003 on my laptop and Dominica has it on her desktop but my desktop that I use for the overnight login to the office has the beta of Access 2007 on it so I am taking a look at that tonight while I wait for package installs to finish at the office. The 2007 interface is a lot different than what people are used to from 2003 and older and I wonder how much people are going to like it. Microsoft Office products linger around for so long that it will make for a steep learning curve and it will be tough for people who routinely move back and forth between modern and legacy versions of the suite. I can’t tell you how many people I talk to still use Office 97! Office 97 was replaced by 2000 which was replaced by XP which was replaced by 2003 and is now in the process of being replaced by 2007! And that list only includes the Windows versions of the tools and not the Macintosh versions which often fall inbetween then (Office 98, 2002, etc.)

The new interface is really attractive and I think that it seems, at first glance, to be pretty intuitive but it will take some getting used to. I am really happy with what looks like amazing integration with Microsoft SharePoint Services which I think is a really strong product from Microsoft. From my first look here it would appear that Access 2007 really focuses on working with SharePoint transparently and that will be a huge selling point for this product when the new 2007 version of SharePoint releases. It also appears that Microsoft has made Access 2007 work a little more obviously with SQL Server and other enterprise class database management systems.

I also took a look at InfoPath 2007. The old version of InfoPath wasn’t very interesting. I thought that they had some good ideas but there wasn’t much to make it a real value proposition for a business. But with 2007 I think they are heading down the right path (the right InfoPath, if you will.) In 2007 they have released an InfoPath Server product that should function to tie the InfoPath product into the enterprise. The real question, I think, will be pricing. InfoPath traditionally was so expesive that it really wasn’t useful for most businesses. Its purpose is to allow non-technical staff to do form design but if the product is anywhere near the price of having paid the IT guys (or gals) to do the same work then that would have gotten you a lot more mileage and companies are generally happier when their staves are busy rather than when they are idle and buying expensive software that requires expensive license management. So I am cautiously optimistic about InfoPath in this latest incarnation.

One thing that I find to be odd about the new Microsoft Office suite is that some of the applications, mostly the core applications, use the new “2007” interface while some of the less common applications like Publisher and InfoPath still use the “2003” interface. I imagine that these decisions were made simply based on time and how much revenue each product brings to the table but it seems weird to me that Microsoft would want to package two competing interfaces into a single shipping product. It seems almost as if they couldn’t decide whether or not they liked the new interface so they didn’t completely commit to it.

I fired up Outlook 2007 and took a look at it as well. There isn’t much noticable variation from Outlook 2003 but there seem to be some improvement here and there. It seems to act a little better. I have always found Outlook to be a really good tool if you are working with Microsoft Exchange on the backend but not very useful if you are not and I am not sure if this latest version changes my opinion of it very much. Outlook has some serious competition from Thunderbird as far as I am concerned. And my experiences with how flaky Outlook is at my new position really do not encourage me to recommend it.

Since I had tried out every other component of the new Microsoft Office suite I decided that I couldn’t neglect Groove 2007 which is an all new application added to the suite in this edition. (I didn’t leave out SharePoint Designer but I had looked at it previously and it is just a new focus and name for FrontPage.) Groove is a bit more enigmatic than most of the applications in the MS Office suite. Groove is a collaboration tool for teams. It is a little hard for me to audition it as collaboration tools are a bit boring when you don’t have a team working with you on it. But it looks to be interesting and I look forward to having a chance to work with it. I should mention that if you purchase Groove 2007 that it will handle the syncronizing of Internet Explorer favourites across computers just like the Google sync does for Firefox (only the Google version does tons more and is free.)

Six o’clock rolled around and I was starting to get pretty sleepy. You can only keep yourself awake for so long before you start to just feel like crap. I took a couple loads of trash out to the dumpster and that helped to wake me up a little bit. The sun was starting to come out and it is a beautiful morning. I just wish that I wasn’t so tired so that I could enjoy it a little more. I opened the shades in the kitchen and the drapes in the living room to get some sunlight into the house.

By seven o’clock I was really tired and working hard to keep my eyes open and pointed at the computer monitor. By body was beginning to ache from trying to keep it awake long after it needed to go to sleep. Just after seven thirty my terminal services crashed and I lost some work that I had been in the middle of. Argh. It is bad enough to lose work when you are awake but it is much worse to lose it when you have been struggling so hard to keep doing it. At least it was nothing critical.

Dad emailed me this morning to correct me for saying that there are not ice cream trucks in Geneseo. He said that he saw one in Geneseo just yesterday. Apparently they just don’t go out to the edge of town where we were.

When eight o’clock came around I was totally ready to sign off and hit the hay. I had brushed my teeth and taken my mobile phone and BlackBerry in and put them by the bed ahead of time so that I wouldn’t have to think about them when I was ready for bed. I cranked up the air conditioning so that it would be nice and cold while I slept too. I sleep much better when it is cold and when I am pushing myself like this it become much more important than usual. I normally turn the air conditioning down when I am working at night because I don’t need it as cold and it is annoying to have it run all night and because it is so inefficient it does even at very reasonable temperatures which is depressing. I hope that it doesn’t get too hot this summer or the air conditioning will never manage to keep up with it.

I slept very solidly until 2:30. I didn’t want to sleep that long but I was really tired and I needed it. I got up and Dominica and I needed to get moving right away to be able to make it to our show at 7:00. It seems crazy to think that you need to get moving that early but when you consider that I was just waking up and that there is a bit to traveling to do it isn’t that surprising.

We got ready to leave and made it out the door a little after 4:00. We were in a rush to make the 4:30 train out of New Brunswick. Dominica ran and got our train tickets while I parked the car in the garage across the street from the station. That worked well as we were both ready at almost exactly the same time.

The train ride takes about an hour during the day but at least during commuting hours they have the nicer cars on the tracks with the nice seats. At night they switch to the “drunk crowd” cars with vinyl seats that are much older and much less comfortable. We got into Penn Station and hopped the 123 subway to 42nd Street / Times Square. We made it up there just before 6:00 so we were doing well. Originally we had hoped that we would be able to do a nice dinner but we had figured out several hours earlier that that was not going to be possible at all with me sleeping in as late as I did.

We walked down 42nd and grabbed a quick bite of vegetarian wraps at Pax Food. We had both seen the restaurant when we were in the city on Saturday but didn’t get to eat there. The food was good and we figure that we will be going back there again. It is a really convenient place to eat quickly if you are a vegetarian on Times Square. We only had a small meal and we were both saving room for ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery where we had ice cream on Saturday which is also on 42nd on the same block which made everything really easy. Their ice cream is just amazing.

After our ice cream it was time to get to the theatre. Our tickets were waiting at Will Call and everything was very easy to deal with at the American Airlines Theater. Our seats were in the stage right box – 3 and 5. They were partial view seats but they weren’t bad at all. We were quite happy although seat 5 was a bit nicer than 3 and we switched halfway through the show so that neither of us would get stuck with the worse seat. We wish that we had gotten 5 and 7. We will know that for next time in that theatre.

So how was “The Pajama Game“? It was simply incredible! One of the best shows that I have ever seen. The entire cast was just phenominal. We are so glad that we decided to switch my schedule at work and get last minute tickets. We decided that we would have been happy even if we would have spent $700 for better seats (we tried but they were sold out – we got the best seats that we could get under $2,000.) Neither of us had ever seen “The Pajama Game” before so it was great to get to see a classic for the first time but it was also awesome to see it with such an amazing cast. This has to have been the best cast to have ever done the show. You can see some clips of the show from Opening Night on Broadway dot com. I really hope that they make a DVD of this show because I will definitely be buying that.

Harry Connick, Jr. was outstanding in the role of Sid. This was his first role on Broadway but I doubt that it will be his last. He has a great stage presence and we were really happy to be sitting so close because we could clearly see all of his great facial expressions which really added to the performance. And his singing was, as expected, just unbelievable. I have seen him in concert twice before (once in Michigan near Detroit and once at Darien Lake just outside of Buffalo) and he was every bit as amazing in this show. They even modified the show so that Harry could play piano in it and do some improvisation which was, of course, amazing. (Harry was a piano player before he was a singer. Check out his album “Eleven“.) If you are a real Harry Connick, Jr. fan then you should find a way to get to Manhattan before Saturday and get into one of the final shows – you will not be disappointed.

I shouldn’t focus just on HCJ either, the rest of the cast totally lived up to his performance. Kelli O’Hara playing Babe Williams was equally amazing. Her voice is really something. She was perfect as Sid’s love interest and there was a lot of chemistry between the two of them. Michael McKean, one of my favourite Hollywood actors that you will know from films like Clue, This is Spinal Tap and for his role as Lenny on the television show Laverne and Shirley, playes Hines and was really awesome. I have never really heard him sing and he really can. He was hilarious. Everyone did a really good; this was really an all star cast.

At the end of the show Harry Connick, Jr. came out and thanked everyong for coming to the special benefit and hosted the auctioning of his watch that he wore during the show. Sotheby’s had a representative there who did the auctioning. The watch ended up going for $20,000. They are auctioning one of these special, limited edition watches each night of the show.

After the show we caught the subway back and rode the late train back to New Brunswick. Neither of us was tired when we got back to the apartment but I had to get to bed because tomorrow I have to go back into the office for the first time in two weeks. It has been like a vacation. Dominica stayed up for a little while before coming to bed.

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