The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Software frustrations

I'm on the Board of Directors for the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, and information technology is my portfolio. Under that aegis, I'm in the process of taking all of our donor and membership spreadsheets and stuffing them into a new Neon CRM setup.

So far, it's going well, and it's going to make the organization a lot more effective at managing membership, events, and donations.

That said, in the last 24 hours I've logged five bug reports, including one of the most frustrating user experience (UX) bugs possible: a broken back button. This UX failure is so well-known and so irritating that we were talking about it when I started developing Web apps in the late 1990s. Jakob Nielsen called it the #1 web design mistake...of 1999:

The Back button is the lifeline of the web user and the second-most-used navigation feature (after following hypertext links). Users happily know that they can try anything on the web and always be saved by a click or two on Back to return them to familiar territory.

Except, of course, for those sites that break Back by committing one of these design sins:

  • opening a new browser window (see mistake #2)
  • using an immediate redirect: every time the user clicks Back, the browser returns to a page that bounces the user forward to the undesired location
  • prevents caching such that the Back navigation requires a fresh trip to the server; all hypertext navigation should be sub-second and this goes double for backtracking

Neon, however, has made some alternative design choices, and even has a FAQ explaining how they've broken the rules.

Seriously, guys. It's a good product, but wow, is that irritating.

Last chance to see

If you're in the Chicago area, today is your last chance to see the Apollo Chorus "American Masters" concert.

We're performing Jeff Beal's "Salvage Men," with Beal himself in attendance (and playing flugelhorn on his "Poor in Sprit" later in the concert). Tickets are still available, $35 at the door ($15 for students), this afternoon at 3pm at Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston.

Morning articles

Things to read today:

And finally, the Chicago Tribune has an article on our concert this weekend, and composer Jeff Beal performing in it:

"I suppose it might have been DNA asserting itself," said Beal, who will be in Chicago May 5 and Evanston May 7 when the celebrated Apollo Chorus includes his "The Salvage Men" and "Poor in Spirit" as part of their 145th-season-ending spring concert, "American Masters," in Chicago and Evanston. "It's true that [my grandmother] passed on her love of improvisation, but there's also something almost eerily similar about what she did, watching a screen and creating her own musical accompaniment, and what I do in my day job."

[H]e had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Though he took seven years to process the news before beginning to write "The Salvage Men" in 2014.

Serendipitously, that was about the time that Apollo Chorus music director Stephen Alltop, who studied with Beal at Eastman, got back in touch to praise Beal's work on" House of Cards" and suggest the possibility of doing a concert together. Which explains why Beal and his new choral works are appearing in Chicago directly after their debuts in London and Los Angeles. Beal also will perform solo trumpet over the comparatively simple text of his "Poor in Spirit," — it consists entirely of one repeated phrase from the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit" — much as he often plays trumpet over the score of "House of Cards."

Tickets are available through the Apollo Chorus website. It's going to be an amazing concert.

Sense8

The Apollo Chorus of Chicago are literally in the mix of the upcoming Netflix show Sense8. You can hear us in this promo.

We haven't been able to share this information until just now. The chorus recorded a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at our November 21st rehearsal. (I unfortunately missed the rehearsal, so I'm not singing in the episode. Boo.)

Halleluja!

Yesterday the Apollo Chorus of Chicago sang Händel's Messiah for (possibly) the 274th time since we first sang it in 1879. We're going to do it again this afternoon. Our local ABC affiliate has more:

For nearly a century and a half, the Apollo Chorus has brought beautiful music to Chicago. On this night, the all-volunteer choir is rehearsing for one of the city's most cherished holiday traditions: a performance of Handel's "Messiah."

"When we sing Messiah, since Handel wrote it - think of how many thousands and how many choruses have sung it in how many countries and we're a part of that," chorus [president] David Beer said.

So, it's a fluff piece, but apparently I was on TV. Thus the link.

Seats are still available for today's 2pm performance.

Chicago weather sometimes works

We had perfect weather this weekend, including for last night's performance of Mahler's 2nd, and it's still pretty epic, which is why I haven't posted a lot. Except for a brief interval to do a stupid task in my office, and after catching up on Game of Thrones, it's time to take a walk. Not sure when I'll be back.

I haven't hit 25,000 steps since March 8th, and I've only hit 30,000 steps once. I don't think I'll hit either today, but if I do, I'll blog about it.

Mahler's 2nd this weekend

Tonight and Sunday evening I'll be performing Mahler's 2nd Symphony with the Apollo Chorus and the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale, and Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble.

If you've never heard this piece, you have to come to one of the performances. Tonight's 7:30 p.m. performance, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on the Northwestern University campus, will have the best sound. But Sunday's 6:30 pm performance, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago will be free. Also, the weather forecast for Sunday night looks great.

Based on Wednesday's orchestra rehearsal at Pick-Staiger, I think this will be one of the most exciting performances of my career. Here's a performance with Claudio Abbado; skip to 1:09:18 to hear the choral portion:

Busy weekend

With two performances and two rehearsals over the weekend, I didn't have any time to post. I also didn't have as much time as I wanted to walk, though I did manage 20,249 steps for the weekend. (That was a little disappointing, especially because yesterday's weather was perfect for being outside.)

Meanwhile, the chorus have finally put up videos of our April fundraiser. So, yeah, we did this:

I'll leave finding videos of me holding a puppet as an exercise for the reader.