Yuja Wang and Mahler

January 28 2022

Tonight's seemingly short program was augmented by a surprise tribute performance for Nancy Hellman Bechtle, a long-term former President of the San Francisco Symphony. It was also special to see Michael Tilson Thomas conducting, in what I have to imagine will be one of the last times (if not the final time) I'll see him in person.

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2022 Reading List

January 01 2022

This is the reading list for 2022.

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Nutcracker During Covid

December 26 2021

We took the kids to the San Francisco Ballet in our annual showing of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The youngest is still only four, so we had to get a negative test within 48 hours of showtime. With Omicron raging, it was surprising to see that the concert hall was nearly entirely full, but I guess many other parents also wanted to provide a small bit of normalcy to their kids.

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Gil Shaham Solo Recital at Stanford

December 08 2021

In our first indoor concert since Covid began, we got to see my all time favorite violinist, Gil Shaham, play a solo program mostly consisting of Bach. It was a nice little return to normalcy, but it did still feel wierd to be there, and the audience was not nearly full.

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Hilary Hahn's Paris Album

March 21 2021

It's been a while since I intently listened to a new music album, and this recent release from Hilary Hahn was generally a joy. I think of a Hilary Hahn album as having a very high floor. You know you're always going to get perfect intonation, impeccable articulation and clarity, and a solid and present sound. This album is no exception. Ultimately, the Prokofiev is not my favorite rendition (that would be Vengerov's), but overall it's a very good album of music.

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Which Deathbed Mahler Symphony Are You?

January 18 2021

A quick warning that this post is quite morbid. The great conductor Jascha Horenstein is purported to have said, while on his deathbed, "the saddest thing about leaving this earth is never to hear 'Das Lied von der Erde' again" (New York Times and Local 802 AFM). I have been thinking a lot about Horenstein's last words, and how he associated so much with Das Lied. In particular, I started wondering what Mahler symphony I (and others) would choose to listen to while on my deathbed. It struck me that each Mahler symphony has its own unique story and conclusion, and each one would potentially illuminate the personality or outlook on life of the person that chose it.

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2021 Reading List

January 01 2021

This is the reading list for 2021.

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Book Review - The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan

November 08 2020

I was gifted this book by a friend a few years ago, and frankly I didn't try hard enough to get through it. The Storm Before the Storm describes the events of the roughly last 100 years of the Roman republic, before Julius Caesar created the Roman empire. It's stunning to see the parallels between the Roman Republic and our own system of politics.

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Book Review - Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

April 05 2020

Absolutely on Music, Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami is a series of conversations on classical music between the great conductor Seiji Ozawa and Haruki Murakami. I hadn't heard of Marukami before finding this book, but he is an excellent writer. While Murakami doesn't have any classical training, he has very deep observations and he is a true fan of classical music. The conversation is much more balanced than I would have anticipated. I thought this would be more just a way for Ozawa to recount his life stories, but Murakami more than holds his own in the classical conversations.

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Touring Munich's Pinakotheken

February 08 2020

I had a free day in Munich, so I decided to make the most of it by visiting all the Pinakotheken art museums that Munich has to offer. Munich seems to have embraced modern and contemporary art in particular, and the entire day was educational for me.

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Bartok and the Bavarian State Opera

February 07 2020

During a very quick 2-day trip to Munich, I was able to squeeze in a performance by the Bavarian State Opera at the gorgeous National Theatre. I was not picky on the performance since I only have two days here. I got a very nice ticket (fourth row, near the center) for a performance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and Bluebeard's Castle. My luck wasn't perfect; the next day, there is a performance of Mozart's Magic Flute, but unfortunately it is a children's only concert.

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Sergey Khachatryan Plays From the Heart

January 24 2020

Tonight was a vivid reminder of why it's so important to attend concerts live in person. We were completely and joyously surprised by the heartfelt playing style of Sergey Khachatryan. In his hands, Sibelius was the same notes and yet entirely different, a lot more personal and introspective.

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2020 Reading List

January 01 2020

This is the reading list for 2020.

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Nutcracker with the San Francisco Ballet

December 29 2019

For the first time, we attended a formal performance as an entire family (it was Kiki's first show!), seeing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet with the San Francisco Ballet. The show was as pleasing as always, and we were especially impressed by the beautiful design of scenery on stage.

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Tessa Lark Private Recital

December 11 2019

We attended a violin recital featuring Tessa Lark in a private home in Palo Alto. This is probably as close to true 19th century style salons as we'll get in this day and age, and it all resulted in an unforgettable music experience.

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Book Review - Range

November 30 2019

Range by David Epstein is the most influential book I've read in some time. Range discusses the impact and benefits of generalized learning vs. specialization. In particular, it argues that waiting to specialize, and instead embarking on a general, varied field of study and experiences, will lead to better problem solving skills and eventual success.

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Visiting Mahler's Composing Hut in Attersee

September 02 2019

As part of a family trip through central Europe (Switzerland, Austria, and Germany), we were able to make a stop in Gustav Mahler's composing hut in Attersee, a beautiful lake in Austria.

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Beethoven 9 Picnic at Frost

July 14 2019

After seeing the first SFS concert at Frost in several years a few days ago, we took the whole family and the kids to see them again, this time as a picnic. The music is of course still important, headlined by Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, and started with Ravel's Sheherazade song cycle. This experience wasn't as great as the Tchaikovsky with Gil Shaham, but it was still good to be outdoors and have our kids discover Beethoven's best in a great setting.

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Gil Shaham and Tchaikovsky at Frost

July 10 2019

We took in a summer concert at the newly re-opened Frost Amphitheater at Stanford University. It was an all-Tchaikovsky concert, with Gil Shaham playing the Violin Concerto, and the San Francisco Symphony with Genna New playing the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin and the Symphony No. 5. It was fun to attend an outdoor symphony concert again (I used to go regularly to Ravinia concerts when I lived in Ravinia).

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Gil Shaham and Tchaikovsky's Fourth

February 08 2019

For the second consecutive year, our one trek into the city to see the San Francisco Symphony is in fact a trip to see Gil Shaham. As part of an early Valentine's Day, Celia and I saw Gil Shaham performing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, Tchaikovsky's fiery Symphony No. 4, and a world premiere piece in Steven Mackey's Portals, Scenes and Celebrations.

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2019 Reading List

January 01 2019

I'm using this post to keep a running list of the books that I read in 2019. I'm also going to write a very short review for each book, with just some of my thoughts.

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Visualizing NBA 3 Point Shooters

August 25 2018

I was listening to the recent Bill Simmons podcast with Stephen Curry, and they had a brief discussion of the best 3 point shooters . Simmons wussed out by choosing the four absolute safest choices (Curry, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, and Klay Thompson). He then later covered by adding “specialists” like Dell Curry, Steve Nash, and Larry Bird. I was disappointed this discussion couldn’t go on much further (Simmons doesn’t want to offend Curry or other potential NBA players that will do his podcast), especially given Simmons’ stature as a basketball historian.

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Kuss Quartet at Tonhalle in Zurich

May 13 2018

On my first night in Zurich for a week-long business trip, I was lucky to take in a chamber music concert at the Tonhalle Maag, the modern-looking temporary home for Zurich classical concerts. The Kuss Quartet played with soprano Mojca Erdmann a couple of Beethoven quartets mixed with more contemporary-sounding music.

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Gil Shaham and Mahler, the Perfect Combination

March 25 2018

Usually, when I look at the season calendar to figure out which concerts to buy tickets to, I'm choosing between seeing a great soloist or a great orchestral piece. It's very rare that I get to combine those two, especially in a pair that includes my most favored artists. Things have been busy, with the arrival of Kiki 9 months ago and my new job at Google. This was the first and only SFS concert we attended this season. So what a great treat that it was absolutely the perfect combination of Gil Shaham and a Mahler Symphony from the country's best Mahler orchestra and conductor.

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2018 Reading List

January 01 2018

I'm using this post to keep a running list of the books that I read in 2018.

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Top 1% Percent Reader Episode V - The Pocket Strikes Back

December 08 2017

Once again, I'm one of Pocket's top 1 percent readers. I write this post literally every year (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016).

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Mozart's Don Giovanni

July 01 2017

We saw the SF Opera perform Mozart's Don Giovanni today. It was the first time I've seen it live, although the piece has always had a special place in my heart. This was also our first time seeing the SF Opera. The singers were quite good, but I was underwhelmed by the orchestra.

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Mahler 1 and 10 with SFS

April 01 2017

We took in our last San Francisco Symphony concert of the season tonight on April Fool's Day. This was a completely serious affair though, with Mahler's Adagio from the 10th symphony and the 1st symphony. In the end, I'm left only with the affirmation that Mahler is my favorite composer and an inspiration. And I now think that the SFS is the absolute best Mahler orchestra in the US.

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Gil Shaham Plays Barber

March 18 2017

In what is becoming a yearly tradition, we saw Gil Shaham live in performance today, this time with the San Francisco Symphony. Shaham played the Barber concerto, one of those pieces that every single violinist absolutely adores. Juraj Valčuha conducted in place of MTT, and the orchestra also played Kammersymphonie by Franz Schreker and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

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Top 1% Percent Reader Episode IV - A New Pocket

December 22 2016

It is now my fourth year straight year as one of Pocket's top 1 percent readers (see 2013, 2014, and 2015). I'm even making the same Star Wars episode joke as last year as the title of this post. As always, it's a pleasure getting this annual reminder from Pocket that they produce a wonderful app that I use nearly every day.

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Hilary Hahn Recital at Davies

April 26 2016

Just a few weeks after the Gil Shaham Bach recital, we took in another violin treat with a recital by Hilary Hahn. Seeing both of these virtuosos at the peak of their abilities, and in such a close time range, really clarified for me the differences in their playing styles.

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A Religious Experience with Gil Shaham and Bach

April 14 2016

When I was younger, I'd always heard about violinists that would do crazy endurance recitals, like play all 24 Paganini Caprices in a single performance. I never thought anyone would still do this type of concert today. So this was really a special treat for us. We saw Gil Shaham perform all the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. I truly think this was one of the most memorable musical experiences I'll ever have.

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Mahler Song of the Earth with SFS

April 10 2016

Jet-lagged from a return flight from China just the day before, we took in a heavy afternoon SFS concert with Mahler's Song of the Earth and Schubert's Unifinished Eighth Symphony.

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Book Review - 1984

April 08 2016

Yikes. That's the only word I can think of to describe this book. George Orwell's 1984 is truly terrifying. And yet I couldn't put it down - I can't remember exactly, but I devoured this in maybe 4-5 days. It is completely relevant today and not dated at all. I don't even know how to feel, after finishing the book.

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Book Review - Tesla, Inventor of the Electrical Age

April 02 2016

Nikola Tesla was of course a gigantic figure in the development of science, physics, and electricity. Bernard Carlson's Tesla, Inventor of the Electrical Age is a good and functional biography of Tesla.

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Swan Lake with the San Francisco Ballet

February 27 2016

For Celia's birthday, we attended an old standby, Swan Lake with the San Francisco Ballet. It was a good performance, with an excellent lead performance by Sofiane Sylve.

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Top 1% Percent Reader Episode III - Revenge of Pocket

February 07 2016

In what has become a yearly tradition, I am once again one of Pocket's top 1 percent readers. I enjoy this email every year, and this year they waited unti February to send it out, meaning they are actually factoring the entire year now (it was previously sent out in mid-December).

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Birthday Date Night with Leonidas Kavakos and the San Francisco Symphony

November 15 2015

Yesterday was my birthday and as celebration, we got a babysitter and did dinner and a concert. It was the first time for just the two of us in quite a few months and certainly very enjoyable. It was also great to take in a concert and from such a great orchestra and soloist. It was my second time seeing the San Francisco Symphony live, but the first time was 15 years ago.

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My Favorite Grantland Pieces

October 31 2015

Grantland is dead. Long live Grantland. Like many others, I was shocked and saddened to see the sudden shutdown of grantland.com yesterday by ESPN. Grantland had become a habit, a way of life and thinking for me. I think the best way to move on is to remember what made this site so special.

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Hiking Mt. Diablo

June 21 2015

I just completed a rare weekend where I had very few obligations and all the time in the world. I originally planned to stay in the bay area this weekend to look at housing rentals. But I quickly found out it's still a little too early for an August move-in date. Instead, I decided to spend Saturday hiking Mt. Diablo and Sunday at Half Moon Bay.

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Beethoven's Ninth in a Brewery

May 31 2015

Earlier today, I took in a very unique and interesting music experience. I saw the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra, an amateur community orchestra, perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at Southern Pacific Brewing, a microbrewery in the Mission District. It was great to see such as creative and ambitious programming element, especially from a community orchestra. I left the concert a little bit buzzed and with a smile on my face.

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Pinchas Zukerman Recital

May 27 2015

Last night, I saw Pinchas Zukerman performing live for the first time. Zukerman is 66, definitely an advanced age for a concert violinist. Unfortunately, we got very little of the peak Zukerman, who was as close in sound and style to Itzhak Perlman as any violinist. Instead, we got a low energy performance of some fairly bland repertoire material.

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Cross-Region Replication Demo at the San Francisco AWS Summit

April 22 2015

I recently launched Cross-Region Replication for Amazon S3. This was a challenging and complex project for S3. I started working on it in early January 2014, and we finally launched on March 24th, 2015.

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Pocket's Monetization Strategy

April 20 2015

I'm excited to see Pocket has finally monetized in a way that's not a subscription plan for power users. I previously wrote about their ad monetization possibilities in late 2013. Now I've finally seen the first ad served up by Pocket.

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Choosing Nine Symphonies Challenge

January 09 2015

I saw via violinist.com a fun little challenge put forth by CK Dexter Haven. You have to pick nine symphonies for the desert island. The challenge is that a composer can only be chosen once, only one symphony can be chosen per number, and the symphony must be generally agreed to actually be representing that number (this is challenging for

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Book Review - The Innovators

January 05 2015

Walter Isaacson's The Innovators tells the story of the people responsible for the current digital world. I really enjoyed Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. This book doesn't go nearly as deep, but it covers many more areas and is an enjoyable read. Effectively, it's almost like the history book of computer engineering.

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Beijing Symphony Orchestra Plays Strauss and Brahms

December 22 2014

Last night, as part of Richard Strauss' 150th anniversary year, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra played his Don Juan Overture and Der Rosenkavalier Suite. We were also treated to Brahms' pastoral Symphony No. 2. Marc Moncusí conducted. This was the first time I've seen a live performance by a Chinese orchestra. The Beijing Symphony Orchestra is not the best China has to offer (I think that would be either the China Philharmonic Orchestra or the China National Symphony Orchestra). My personal experience is that there is plenty of room for improvement.

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Top 1% Percent Reader (Again!)

December 16 2014

I wrote about this last year as well, but I am once again one of Pocket's top 1 percent readers!

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Speaking at the AWS Summit in Beijing

December 12 2014

I presented today at the AWS Summit in Beijing. My topic was AWS Cloud Storage. It was the first time I'd ever presented anything professionally in front of this many people (around 400-500 in the audience) at a public event. To compound matters, I had to do most of the presentation in Chinese!

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Book Review - The Breaks of the Game

October 26 2014

I've been meaning to read David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game for several years. It's universally recognized as a milestone in NBA writing. Bill Simmons wrote glowingly about it and frequently references the book in his articles. After finally reading it, I'm happy to say that it's not just a truly wonderful and descriptive book about life in the NBA, but also in general an amazing piece of writing.

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