Archive for October 2016

Rach 3

October 20, 2016

Today, I am continuing on the music theme. Today’s subject is “Rach 3” or “Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto in E minor. Okay, I play the piano, but there is no way in hell, that I could ever play the Rach 3. The only version I could play is the version in my “Classical Fake Book”. Not exactly a Symphony Hall version. This is another one of those pieces that I listen to when I am alone in my Jeep and can turn up the volume without my wife or mother-in-law complaining.

This is the version that I can play.

I found an article in the Guardian about the Rach 3 by Alex Wade. Here’s how he describes it:

The Rach 3 is the K2 of the piano repertory: a savage, relentless exposure to everything the keyboard can throw at anyone who dares to take it on. Just as K2, despite its death rate of one in three, will always attract the elite in mountaineering circles, so too is Rach 3 the work that every pianist of genuine ability will want to master.

So I started searching youtube for suitable performances of the Rach 3. The performers that I found should be in the hall of fame class of classical piano artists. We’re talking about Van Cliburn or Vladimir Horovitz. There is plenty of film but most of the versions are grainy, black and white videos.

Listening to Rach 3 brought back memories of a movie done about 20 years ago called “Shine”. It was the biography of David Helfgott played by Geoffrey Rush (Rush won Best Actor Oscar in 1997). Here’s the Wiki entry about the film.

If you have less time to listen, try this excerpt from the soundtrack of “Shine” (about 4 minutes).

Finally, here is a full length performance (runs about 45 minutes) of the Rach 3 by Anna Federova and the Avrotros Symphony Orchestra. Also, there is a good technical discussion about the Rach 3 in Wikipedia.

Saint-Saens Organ Symphony

October 19, 2016

As many of my readers know, I am a big fan of classical music. When I lived back east, I played the organ for several Masonic organizations. I love listening to big organs, especially big pipe organs. You just want to turn up the volume.

So one of my favorite, classical organ pieces is Saint-Saens Organ Symphony No 3, movement 4. I was listening to this on a CD I had in my Jeep the other day and thought to myself. I should do a blog post on this. This is a version done by the Radio France Philharmonic, directed by Myung-Whun Chung.

So without further ado, go ahead and turn up your volume.

Hearst Castle

October 11, 2016

William Randolph Hearst was an American newspaper publisher born in 1863 and died in 1951. Mr Hearst built the nation’s largest newspaper chain. In 1919 he began work on what is now known as the Hearst Castle near San Simeon, CA on California’s central coast. The castle was designed from 1919 to 1947 by Julia Morgan of San Francisco. The castle was under construction right up until he died in 1951.

2016-10-07-12-07-39The estate covers 250,000 acres. The main house “Casa Grande'” sits on a hill at 1600′ in the Santa Lucia range and about 5 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. The castle is about 200 miles from San Francisco and 200 miles from Los Angeles. Mr Hearst has been quoted as saying:

I would like to build something upon the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I’m getting a little too old for that. I’d like to get something that would be a little more comfortable.

The property is managed by the California State Parks and is open for public tours. Tours can be reserved on their website. When I was arranging our tour, I found out that they had “Accessible” tours for folks who might have difficulty with the many steps around the main mansion. I opted for this because of my difficulty climbing steep steps. Indeed, a customer service agent called me a few days after I made the reservation and asked whether I had any special needs (ie. wheel chair). I told him no wheel chair would be needed. What great service!

We rode in a golf cart up to a back entrance and Paula and I, plus two others had a pretty much private tour. One parks outside a visitor center and board a bus that takes you across many switchbacks as you climb to the castle. They had some chairs set aside for us along the tour if we get tired. Very thoughtful.

So back in the day, guests would take an overnight train either from LA or San Francisco to San Luis Obispo where Mr Hearst’s staff would pick them up at the train station and ride to the estate. Mr. Hearst also built an airstrip not far from the castle. Apparently, an invitation to the castle was very much in demand.2016-10-07-10-47-58

Among the many guests include the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, James Stewart and Bob Hope.

Here’s a picture of the famous Neptune Pool. Unfortunately, the pool is under construction to retrofit the tiling. Click here to see a picture taken before the pool was drained for reconstruction.

Our tour started with the main kitchen. The kitchen was state of the art for the 1930’s. It had a real refrigerator. It kind of looks like an ice box, but you can tell by the compressor on top that it’s a refrigerator. Hearst had his own private power plant on his property. Here a few pictures of the kitchen.

After the kitchen comes the main dining room. Guests were expected to attend the formal dinner in the evening.  Mr Hearst would sit at the middle of the table. He would sit people that he thought would be interesting to him close to him. If Mr Hearst found a guest to be not interesting, they would be shifted down to the end of the table.

The size of the rooms were designed to allow the art works to fit. In the dining room, there were tapestries on both walls.

After dinner, films were shown in the movie theater. The guests had to wait for an hour (often grumbling about waiting). The delay was to allow the kitchen and wait staff to finish their work and join Mr Hearst in the theater.

What mansion would be without a room for games. There a billiards room and card table rooms.


Statues? They’ve got statues. Too many to show. Here are a few.

Finally, the tour ends at the indoor pool. The water is so calm, that you almost don’t see it. The reflection is incredible. There are two tennis courts on the roof of the indoor pool.

That’s about it. Exit through the gift shop. All of the pictures were taken with my iPhone 6 plus.




Morro Bay

October 9, 2016

So a couple of months ago, I asked Paula what she wanted to do for her birthday and our wedding anniversary. She suggested that we do a two day road trip somewhere in California. So we decided to drive up the CA coast to Morro Bay. Morro Bay is about 200 miles from LA. It is a small sea side community. So our plan was to drive up to Morro Bay on Thursday on rte. 101. It takes about 5 hours including an hour for lunch.

2016-10-09-14-55-23So for us to get away for three days means that we need to get care givers arranged for Mary. At this stage of her life, we can’t leave her alone. So we sent an email to to arrange.

On the ride north, we stopped at town called “Buellton” for lunch. We ate at a restaurant called “Pea Soup Andersen’s” which was apparently famous for its pea soup. So we decided, what the hell, we’d give it a try. The waiter told us that we could have free refills on the soup. Apparently the record is 17 bowls of soup. My word, that’s a lot of soup. We politely declined and had just one bowl each. Very tasty. Though, truth be told, the pea soup that I make is better.

Rte 101 tends to hug the coastline through Santa Barbara and Ventura. The route turns inland after Santa Barbara to avoid Vandenberg AFB. (We went there last year for Mike’s promotion ceremony.) Then back to coast through Santa Maria and Arroyo Grande’. Lots of surfing along this area.

So we decided to stay at the “Ascot Inn at the Rock“. A nice little hotel with a great view of the harbor. Included free breakfast and free WiFi. Breakfast was decent. Scrambled eggs and sausages, toast or cold cereal. Our plan was to have a nice dinner out, then on Friday go up to tour the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. We ate at a place called “Dorn’s Breaker Cafe“.

Needless to say there are sea food restaurants here. We found a nice place within walking distance. Paula had broiled haddock and I had saute’d scallops. I had a tasty martini before dinner and a glass of sauvignon blanc during dinner.

They had a roof top deck set up for evening get togethers. I took a couple of pictures. The sea gull was seemed to be very used to people. I think he was expecting to be fed. There is a huge rock formation out in the harbor. Quite distinctive.

Paula suggested we take a couple of pics of the room. Decor was a pleasant rose color.

Take a look at the links that I added. Most of them have better pictures than I could have taken. Now on to San Simeon.


October 7, 2016

Here’s a quick update on Mary. She has been doing pretty good the last couple of weeks. We even got her to go to church this past Sunday. (Be still my beating heart). Still, she wasn’t up to doing Bible study this past Wednesday. I think that confuses her a lot. Of course, she won’t admit it.

Paula took her to see her eye doctor on Wednesday. It turns out that her prescription is in serious need of updating. She could barely read the big letters on the chart. So Paula ordered her two new sets of eyeglasses, one for her to use watching TV and one for general use. New glasses will be ready in a couple of weeks.

She is getting used to using the walker. She goes to PT twice a week. I think it helps, and it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The above picture was taken by me when we were at the Pacific Diner after church. Mary likes that because she gets to the the grand-kids.

So Paula and I are celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary and Paula’s birthday. So we got in touch with our caregivers to watch Mary while we take a trip up the Central California coast. Today, we toured the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I will do a blog post on that tour on Sunday or Monday.

We are staying in a nice hotel in Morro Bay. Beautiful view of the bay. It’s nice to get away for a couple of days.  Drive back tomorrow. Our son Neil will be in town on Sunday. His trip is mostly for his girl friend to visit Disney Land and hit the beach. But we’ll get to have dinner with them on Sunday evening.