In case I haven’t previously made it obvious, 2013 is the 100th birthday of the composer Benjamin Britten, whose music moves me more than any other.

Lots of things are happening this year to mark the occasion -including what looks like a brilliant exhibition at the British Library which runs until the end of July (and which I shall therefore miss).

In addition, the Royal Mint is promising to release a 50p piece in his honour later this year, and I’m in the queue to buy one. Meanwhile, Decca have re-released all their recordings of his music (usually under his baton), and have collaborated with a bunch of other labels to get their hands on recordings of pieces they never quite got around to recording themselves. The results are the new Decca Britten Complete Works collection of 66 CDs pictured here.

I have just signed up for a shipment, though I believe I have every one of his works already, with the sole exception of his Op. 75, Voices for Today (which I’ve heard, and didn’t much like). Nevertheless, the new set is worth getting because Decca have re-engineered the War Requiem recordings from 1966. The original CD transfer was very good, but a little “hissy”, and I shall be interested to hear whether the new engineering is significantly better or worse.

Delivery is due mid-July (for a suspiciously low £3.85), so I am looking forward to that immensely.

I hear the BBC are broadcasting live from Aldeburgh (Britten’s home town) on the night of November 22nd (the actual birth-date), which is interesting because we’re going to be in Aldeburgh that evening and I wasn’t aware of any concerts we could book. I shall have to look again.

If I had several million pounds to spare, I think a few of them would be easily spent on a manuscript score of Peter Grimes. I’d love to hire the London Symphony Orchestra for a couple of hours, too, to conduct the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and the Peter Grimes Sea Interludes. Will never happen, of course… but a man can dream.

If you don’t know any of Britten’s music, I energetically urge you to listen to some of it (Op. 33, Op. 16, Op. 31, Op. 71, Op. 64, Op. 50, Op. 88 and Op. 93 come particularly recommended). It is strange, wonderful, technically superb stuff. It challenges, but never insults. It is generous and repays listening with compound interest. I would never want to live without Bach or Stravinsky, but I would never want to have been born into a world without Britten, either.

Don’t run towards closing doors…

This is what happens to a Nexus tablet you’re holding in one hand when you run towards the doors of a train that are closing and trip as you do so.

When your arms go up to protect you on the fall and smash into the train doors, whatever is in your hands tends to get walloped on the doors, too. When it’s made of glass, the results aren’t pretty.

Fortunately, I somehow managed to trip into the train carriage, though my other arm got bruised and scraped in the process. Naturally, an entire carriage-load of passengers looked bemused at the flailing, wild-eyed loon that had just fallen into their midst, but you get over the embarrassment quite quickly when you realise you’ve got nothing to read for the rest of the journey.

It took me quite a while to get to like the Nexus (which I bought almost exactly a year ago), before discovering that it was a brilliant way of reading the Internet for an hour each morning and evening. I shall miss it. ToH has insisted I get a replacement -but that brings me back to my original purpose in buying the Nexus in the first place: reading music scores in real-time. For which the Nexus was, and is, utterly useless.

I went to the Samsung shop in the city yesterday and tested out pretty much everything they had on display (there is a bewildering variety to choose from!) Not one of them was up to the score-reading task, either.

So, perhaps a little oddly, I’m not actually in any hurry to replace this. If someone in the office has an <cough> iPad </cough>, I may test out Aida on that. Failing that, and please don’t faint in shock, I may have to see if the MS Surface Pro can cope. At over a thousand bucks, though, I don’t think that’s quite the replacement ToH had in mind (and would be the fourth PC/Laptop/Computing device I’ve bought in the past 12 months… there are limits to these things, you know!!)

Google are alleged to be having a hardware refresh of their Nexus line any time soon, too. So maybe I’ll wait for that, if all else fails. Time enough for the bruises and embarrassment to fade, anyway…

Foreigner in a Strange Land

I have been attending DBA training for SQL Server 2012 this week, courtesy of my current employer’s attempts to broaden my horizons. Talk about a culture shock!

I’m not just talking about the product, either: training is very different from what it was “in my day”! Currently, for example, I am sharing the same classroom with students doing 6 different courses, simultaneously. How is this possible? Because the instructors (there are two of them) don’t actually instruct. In fact, they don’t seem to do anything very much at all. The real training is instead delivered via streamed, pre-prepared video and a set of headphones. The “mentors” (for so they are called) are just there in case you forget a password, need a pen or screw something up really badly. Otherwise, they are mute for the day. Looks to me to be the most boring job in the world, to be honest!

I will grudgingly admit, however, that this learning method suits me very well. I can concentrate exclusively on the material, rather on the annoying quirks of the presenter. If my mind wanders, it is trivial to re-wind the last few minutes of the video and try again. If I stuff up an exercise, it’s painless to revert the virtual machines they give us back to the previous known-good snapshot. I can work at my own pace, and no amount of ‘thickies” elsewhere in the classroom are holding me back. At the end of each day so far, I realise with amazement (and a certain amount of exhaustion) just how concentrated and focused I’ve been for nearly 8 hours: to a degree I would have considered impossible in a traditional classroom.

But I am glad I was a trainer when I was and didn’t last to see this happen to what I once considered my profession, nonetheless!

As for SQL Server: it’s a very nice RDBMS, with a lot of nice integration with the O/S and a lovely toolset. But there are times you glimpse a boney skeleton beneath the gaudy finery! Maybe it’s my particular (Microsoft-approved) course, but do SQL Server practitioners really, truly still worry about file placement for load-balancing and performance reasons? Was SAME (stripe-and-mirror-everything) just something that happened in the Oracle world?! There are quite a few other areas where you (I mean, I) feel that SQL Server is struggling to do things, or has to do them incredibly manually, where Oracle has automated the problem away since about 10g. Beneath the gloss, there are patches of threadbare…

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying it immensely and the product impresses.

As does my employer’s touching faith in me: it has to be that to part with about $4000, don’t you think? For that sort of money, I’d really want better lunches, less sticky keyboards and a take-home DVD of the courseware, to be honest. But it’s not to be. Finish on Friday… and then a long weekend (we get Monday off for the Queen’s birthday). Joy!