The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Tragedy and farce

We're all set to perform Handel's Messiah tomorrow and Sunday, which got noticed by both the local news service and local TV station. Otherwise, the week just keeps getting odder:

And to cap all that off, the National Weather Service has announced a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight that includes...tornados? I hope the weather gets better before our performance.

Cassie is bored

The temperature bottomed out last night just under -10°C, colder than any night since I adopted Cassie. (We last got that cold on February 20th.) Even now the temperature has just gone above -6°C. Though she has two fur coats on all the time, I still think keeping her outside longer than about 20 minutes would cause her some discomfort.

Add that it's Messiah week and I barely have enough free time to give her a full hour of walks today.

Meanwhile, life goes on, even if I can only get the gist of it:

Finally, journalist Allison Robicelli missed a connection at O'Hare this past weekend, and spent the wee hours exploring the empty terminals. The last time I stared down a 12-hour stay at an airport, I hopped into the Tube and spent 8 of those hours exploring the city instead, but I'm not a professional journalist.

Productive day so far

Having a day off with no real responsibilities gives me the space to take care of some niggling projects I've put off for a while. First, I finished updating a document for the Apollo Chorus that lists every sit and stand cue and every score marking for our Messiah performances. That took about 8 hours altogether.

I also updated my main NuGet packages to .NET 6. As a nice bonus, because of a quirk in how .NET assemblies get versioned, today's release is version 4.2.8000. (I kept the previous release active just in case someone needs it for an existing .NET 5 project.)

Oh, and I've got a pot of stew going that should finish in about an hour. I made a lot of it. I hope it freezes all right. Good thing I have tons of Mason jars. It looked like this at 3½ hours:

The busy season

I've spent today alternately upgrading my code base for my real job to .NET 6.0, and preparing for the Apollo Chorus performances of Händel's Messiah on December 11th and 12th.

Cassie, for her part, enjoys when I work from home, even if we haven't spent a lot of time outside today because (a) I've had a lot to do and (b) it rained from 11am to just about now.

So, as I wait for the .NET 6 update to build and deploy on our dev/test CI/CD instance (I think I set the new environments on our app services correctly), I have a few things to read:

OK, the build has...well, crap. I didn't set the environment correctly after all.

Update: Fixed the build bit. And the rain stopped. But the test platform is the wrong version. FFS.

Update: Well, I have to pick something up from a store before 6, so I'll come back to this task later.

Update: Even though I've had 4 tiny commits of minor things that broke with the .NET 6 upgrade, this hasn't gone poorly. Kudos to Microsoft for providing a straightforward upgrade path.

Where did Monday go?

I'm troubled not only that it's already November but also that it's already 5pm. I've been heads-down coding all day and I've got a dress rehearsal tonight. I did, at least, flag these for later:

OK, 30 minutes more coding, then off to the Kehrein Center for our final rehearsal before Sunday's performance.

Busy day

Tonight the Apollo Chorus of Chicago has its first in-person rehearsal since 12 March 2020, almost exactly 18 months ago. We're in a new rehearsal space with lots of new people and new challenges (like mandatory mask-wearing while singing). Poor Cassie won't see me for several more hours.

Tomorrow I expect a little more breathing room. Today, though...yikes.

Fun times with non-profit contracts

Local restaurant review show "Check Please," which was to begin its 20th season on the local public-television station WTTW, will instead end its run after the station proposed contract terms that the producers couldn't accept:

I'd like to say our upcoming 20th milestone season will be our best one ever!  However, WTTW/11 and I want to go in different directions and pursue other opportunities, so it's just not to be.

Crain's has more:

The show's last contract ended in the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic forced restaurants to close. Manilow said they started new discussions about a month ago and in the last week, WTTW presented him with a new contract and he said it was so different, it didn't make sense for him to continue the relationship.

"We talked about some different ideas they had. They were so drastically different that I'm not going to get into the details," Manilow said. "There wasn't much room for negotiation. We tried but it didn't work out. If they had done what we've done the last 19 years, we'd be in production now. That's just a fact and that's their prerogative. From a fundamental standpoint, every other renewal was kind of pro forma and they'd renew."

My guess, informed by years of dealing with non-profit arts organizations, is that WTTW misunderstood how pricing and microeconomics work.

Arts organizations have a tough time making money, because (let's face it) most people don't value them highly. So there's a large supply of arts organizations and small demand. If you graph supply and demand, where they meet is the equilibrium price (where curve D1 and S meet):

If you charge more than P1, you will sell less, and probably make less money. In order to sell more (move from Q1 to Q2), demand has to move first (D1 to D2).

Unfortunately, many arts organizations try to balance their budgets by increasing prices, believing demand to be constant. Someone whips out Excel and plugs in some numbers, and voilà! Instant revenue!

But that doesn't work, and it's easy to see why.

We sell tickets to Händel's Messiah for $35 to $70, depending on the section. We have a good idea how many we sell every year in each section, so we have some confidence in our budgeting. But imagine we found out that, say, a deadly disease would require us to have an empty seat between each person in the audience, meaning we could only sell half the number of seats.

So we plug everything into Excel and figure that we can sell half as many seats for twice as much money. Cool!

Except no one wants to pay $140 for a seat at our performance. They might pay $75, but at that price would many other people would shift from the orchestra level to the balcony, so we'd wind up with even less money.

I imagine that WTTW looked at their budget and figured that they needed to pay "Check, Please!" a lot less in order to keep their books in balance. And the producers of "Check, Please!" said no, we're not adjusting our prices to help you balance your books; we can take our product elsewhere.

We'll see. It's sad when this sort of thing happens, and I wish more arts organizations would recognize that they need people with business skills in management. I expect "Check, Please!" will do just fine online.

Getting the band back together

In a few minutes I'm hosting only the second in-person thing my chorus has done in the past 18 months: our last board meeting of the summer. We're all set to start in-person rehearsals on the 13th, though we will probably have to wear masks until our performances. That'll be weird—but at least we'll be in the same room.

Other choruses in Chicago have the same challenges:

“COVID shut us down completely because singing is a superspreader event,” said Jimmy Morehead, artistic director for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Immediately, they canceled all shows and in-person rehearsals.

But they set virtual rehearsals for the same time, hoping to provide connection.

“The twofold reason why people join the chorus is to either just sing, or make friends, and so we wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel alienated and didn’t feel isolated,” Morehead said. Everyone shared what they did that week, what they watched on Netflix or what they cooked.

In person, Morehead was used to being able to give quick feedback. On Zoom, “I have to trust and hope and pray that they’re learning and doing everything correctly.” The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus pulled off live online shows, where people performed from their home.

Some of our singers also perform with CGMC, and I've talked to Jimmy a couple of times during the pandemic. We are all overjoyed to get back to rehearsals, even if it means proof of vaccination and big ugly masks.

In praise of boring

On my horizontal monitor, I'm watching Apollo After Hours 2021, our chorus's annual benefit. Last year we deployed the 7pm video about now. This year we deployed it yesterday.

I've spent the last six years working very hard to spread the gospel of boring software deployments. I'm overjoyed that we had one this year with Apollo After Hours.