Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We'll be handing out candies to the Trick-or-Treaters tonight. At least Liz will be. My job usually is to stay pent up in the computer room with our three rude, bark-&-growl-at-everyone-that-rings-the-doorbell mutts.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Festival of Light Classical Music

Absolutely the best collection of Light Classical Music of all time, it was released by Readers Digest in 1960 0r 1961. My Dad bought it, and I played it to death while everybody else was listening to some new group called The Beatles. You certainly got your money's worth too - each LP holds 45-50 minutes of music. . Somewhere along the line, it exited my folks' house - mosts likely when they no longer had a turntable. I can't see any chance of RD ever re-releasing it in CD form, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found the whole set (sans the box cover) at my local used-LP store. I was even more pleasantly surprised when they gave it to me for free. Because hey, it's a rock-&-roll store and no one would ever buy Light Classical LP's anymore, would they? . The records are in fair shape. No discernible warping, and only one skip so far after playing six of the LP's. But they are fraught with hissing and minor scratches, and that's the step in LP-to-CD conversion that chews up the man-hours. . So I was (again) pleasantly surprised last night when I came across a $20 software program last night that automatically removes hisses, scratches, and pops. I bought it, downloaded it, and tried it out this afternoon. I'd say it removes about 98% of the various types of noise, which is quite acceptable to me. It still takes about 2 hours to do a complete conversion, but that's child's play since I don't have to remove those scratches. W00t w00t!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I don't work for People Magazine

Their Headline : Mariah Carey is pregnant!. My first thought : Holy crap, Mariah. Roseanne's gonna start hanging out with you so she can look skinny! .

Their Headline : Billy Ray Cyrus and wife Trish divorcing!

My first thought : Good grief! Her eyes are three times the size of his. One of them is an Extra-Terrestial. And I think it's her.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

RIP - LimeWire

Born : 29 May 2000
Died : 27 October 2010
. It is with a heavy heart and a not-so-heavy yawn that we bid adieu to LimeWire today. A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction against the file-sharing network, the results of a 4-year (!) trial. LimeWire now joins entities such as Grokster, Napster, SuprNova, Pirate Bay, and MiniNova in that great P2P Neighborhood in the sky. You can read the Daily Telegraph's article on it here. . The article's claim of "50 million users per month" seems overblown to me. LimeWire was my first experience with P2P, but that was a long time ago. It wasn't too long before the site became so infested with viruses that only a naive 12-year-old or a master hacker would risk downloading anything from it. I am neither. . I also could never quite get past the sneaking suspicion that the site was actually a proxy spy-site for the RIAA. I mean really, guys. Why would you develop a feature that forced you to show your whole music library to anyone and everyone? Could things get any more convenient for the brownshirt thugs from the RIAA when they came a-trolling? . So while we're minorly bummed that another file-swapping site has been squashed, I was frankly surprised that it was still even around. Vaya con Dios, LimeWire. Sadly, I barely remember you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The NBA starts tonight!

And already we've learned that the Miami Heat might not be the greatest team of all time. . Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns start on the road in Portland, so the above comic seems appropriate. The experts are picking the Suns to finish anywhere from 5th to 8th in the West. . I'm thinking we won't even make the playoffs. As of this posting, it's halftime, we're down by four, and it doesn't look like we know the meaning of the words "defense" or "rebounding". Come back, Amaré. All is forgiven.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour (on the bedpost overnight)?

I learned about a new (for me) musical genre today - Skiffle. It's foremost artist - indeed, its founding father, was one Lonnie Donegan. I found a 3-CD compilation of his stuff for $7 at the used-book store, and played it at work all day today. It's strange listening to something that makes Bluegrass seem highbrow. Here's one of his more famous songs, although strictly speaking, I don't think it's a true example of Skiffle.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

World Series Time!!

And for the first time ever, my Texas Rangers are in it! My Phillies got close, but biffed last night. And my Diamondbacks were mathematically eliminated about 10 games into the season. . We play the San Francisco Giants, who I have nothing against. But I've been a Rangers fan for nearly 40 years, and we've waited a long time for this. It should be a great series, and it starts Wednesday night. .
I don't do a lot of prognosticating, but methinks having Cliff Lee gives us a slight edge. I'm looking for the Rangers to win it in 6 games. Which is too bad, cuz it means the final game will be in San Fran, not Arlington.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quote for the day

"When faced with the unthinkable, one chooses the merely impossible."
(from Laurie King's "The Beekeeper's Apprentice")

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mole Day

Tomorrow (10/23) is International Mole Day. As in Avogadro's Number and all that. It is properly celebrated at either 6:02 AM of 6:02 PM. I'll do something geeky - maybe mix vinegar with bleach. But I will definitely avail myself to the "PM" option.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vassar Clements - Orange Blossom Special

Vassar Clements was in my opinion the greatest fiddler of all time. I'm just finishing up converting the only two LP's I can find of his. Here's a YouTube video of him doing the Orange Blossom Special, which is also on one of the LP's. Oh yeah, his supporting cast in this video is pretty spectacular too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scientist quote for the day

"...then again it was a dusky and colorful group, of vests and shawls and scarves and jewelry, including an ankh here and a figurine of dog-headed Anubis there. Their women might not be Cleopatra, but they certainly had an alluring beauty. What lovemaking secrets might they know? I pondered that question for some moments. I am, after all, a scientist."
From William Dietrich's "Napoleon's Pyramids" (pg. 56)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

from our garden

Something quick, as I'm glued to for updates on the Yankees-Rangers Game #4. I'd watch it on TV, but Liz is glued to it watching Bristol and Kurt and Florence cha-cha their little tutus off. . Here's a photo I took in our backyard garden today of a spider weaving its web. I feel like he's trying to communicate with me, but what would he be saying?

Monday, October 18, 2010

True on both counts

It's always fun to be accosted by missionaries when we walk our dogs at night. Elder Elder exudes utter confidence as he tries not to look like a total dork in his crash hlemet and on his ten-speed. Elder Younger lags behind to learn. . I'm not really in any mood for a theological debate, and our three dogs just want to go on walking. So I amble away. Which Elder Elder is sure means I have no answer for his persuasive personality.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Bad John - Jimmy Dean

Album : Big Bad John & Other Fabulous Songs & Tales
Artist : Jimmy Dean
Release Year : 1961
Genre : Country & Western
Overall Rating : 8*/10
. Jimmy Dean passed away earlier this year (13 June), and I probably should've done a RIP posting on him. I remember hearing the hit, Big Bad John, as a kid; but I couldn't have told you any other songs by him. When I saw this LP in the freebie bin at my local used-record shop, I snagged it and converted it. . Nor surprising for a freebie, the vinyl was a holy mess. A zillion major scratches and a gazillion minor ones. I took the big ones out, but left the little ones, so there's a lot of "static" to put up with. Thankfully, the disc wasn't warped and there were no skips. . Jimmy Dean is first and foremost a story-teller. His singing voice is okay, and his supporting band is adequate, but you play his albums mostly to sing along. Big Bad John was a crossover hit, topping both the Pop and Country Charts. It even hit #2 in the UK. . I was surprised how many other of the tracks on this LP I had heard before. I don't think my dad had any Jimmy Dean records, and I'm certain none of my college roommates did. It was a laborious convert, but it's an album I'll enjoy, as long as I don't play it on a good stereo system. . Complete track listing (my favorites in pink) :
01.) Big Bad John (3:00)
02.) Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette (2:45)
03.) Sixteen Tons (2:40)
04.) Make The Waterwheel Roll (1:55)
05.) Gotta Travel On (2:17)
06.) Oklahoma Bill (3:42)
07.) Night Train To Memphis (2:28)
08.) Grasshopper Mac Clain (3:14)
09.) I Won't Go Huntin' With You Jake (2:49)
10.) To A Sleeping Beauty (5:16)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Family Portrait

Here's a photo of a bunch of my extended family. That's Lucy and Lucien in the lower right. I posted a picture of Lucy a couple years ago. You can see it here. She's held up pretty good over the past 24 months, hasn't she? . You can read more about this fabulous display here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Putting us on the map

Yessirree, bob. Having Jan Brewer as our governor has made Arizona famous. Do you think Terry Goddard can generate this kind of publicity? Not on your life. . True, she reinforces the image of Arizonans as xenophobic idiots. But headlines are headlines. And we haven't had this much press since electing that used-car salesman, Ev Meacham, to be our guv a while back. So here's to you, Governor Jan. You may be a cretin, but you're our cretin.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quote for the day

"That's the scary thing about hope. If you let it go too long it turns into faith." (from Christopher Moore's novel, Coyote Blue).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hang Cool Teddy Bear - Meat Loaf

Artist : Meat Loaf (that's two words, not one)
Title : Hang Cool Teddy Bear
CD Release Date : 11 May 2010
Genre : Rock & Roll, Baby!
Overall Rating : 9*/10
. The latest album from Meat Loaf, and an excellent effort. 12 tracks of good, old-fashioned Rock & Roll. The liner notes say it's a concept album, based loosely on a story by Kilian Kerwin. I don't see it, but what-evuh. . There are no songs written by Jim Steinman, but don't worry. The lyrics more than hold their own. There's even one penned by Bon Jovi. Jack Black joins in on vocals on one of the tracks. It's not as bad as most people say, but it's not the high point of the CD either. Stevie Vai guests on a couple of the tracks. Patti Russo is dynamic as always. . If you like Meat Loaf's Dead Ringer and Bad Attitude albums, you'll love Hang Cool Teddy Bear. The arrangements aren't as lavish as Steinmanic numbers, so the emphasis is more on good old Rock & Roll - the kind Springsteen used to put out before he decided he was a folk singer. Mr. Loaf's voice holds up quite well for a 62-year-old, thank you very much. . Complete track listing (my favorites in pink) :
01. Peace On Earth
02. Living On The Outside
03. Los Angeloser
04. If I Can't Have You
05. Love Is Not Real
06. Like A Rose
07. Did You Ever Love Somebody
08. Song Of Madness
09. Running Away From Me
10. Let's Be In Love
11. If It Rains
12. Elvis In Vegas
. It's nice to see an artist putting out an album that's good from start to finish, instead on one decent track and 11 chunks of filler. Meat Loaf did the first three tracks at his recent concert here in Phoenix. Buy this album. Play it. Over and over again. Sing along with him on Los Angeloser. 9 Stars.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thought for the day

"Against logic, there is no armor like ignorance." (Laurence J. Peter) (*)
(*) : Inventor of the famed "Peter Principle" in 1968 : "every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day (Concert)

It's A Beautiful Day played at the Rhythm Room Saturday night, and it was a great show. They started promptly at 6:00, and played two solid hours (minus some witty repartee). David LaFlamme is stunning on the electric violin (or, as he pointed out - a miniature viola, since it has five strings, not four). It was a family affair, with wife Linda handling the female vocals, and daughter (Alicia?) joining Mom and Dad on stage to sing harmony on a couple numbers. . They did most of the eponymous debut album, plus a couple cuts from the almost-as-good Marrying Maiden and Choice Quality Stuff ones. There were about 4 songs I didn't know, one of which was off the It's A Beautiful Day...Today LP, which I have but never play. .
The place was packed. Doors opened at 5:00, but we got there about 10 minutes before the gig started, so we had to stand throughout the show. But I'm used to that from attending various Metal concerts. And unlike those Metal concerts, where I turn out to be 20 years older than everybody else, the entire audience here was gray-haired, ponytailed SIT60's, except for Jason and Jasel.
This was a low-tech show - just the band doing their thing. The trade-off was that you were within 20 feet of the stage, and picture-taking was allowed. A month from now Melanie will be there, and then in February it's Goose Creek Symphony. All-in-all, three groups that I never thought I'd see in concert. Sweet.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy Anniversary Hamid!

Yesterday, 07 October, marked the 9th anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan. 2100 US and Coalition servicemen are dead, we've spent a gazillion dollars on the war, and what do we have to show for it? We occupy Kabul, but little else. Only someone with a deathwish ventures out into the countryside. . Our lackey figurehead, Hamid Karzai, just announced that he is forming a council to negotiate with the Taliban to explore ways of achieving peace. Does that sound like he has a lot of confidence in the US, the NATO troops, and/or his own soldiers? . And don't get me started on the 50,000 "trainers" still in Iraq. Hey, Obama! Did you forget we voted for you cuz you promised to get us out of that region? Have you seen the latest polls - 60% of Americans want our troops brought home. . I'm having trouble telling the difference between your war policy and Dubnutz's. If you can't say "Mission Accomplished" after 9 nine years, give it up.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

You can buy me one of these...

...for my birthday. Or for Christmas. Or for the upcoming National Mole Day. Heck, you can buy it for me for no reason at all. Or build me one. I'm not hard to please.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded on Monday to Professor Robert Edwards, for his groundbreaking work on in-vitro fertilization (test tube babies). I'm not quite sure about why they chose this year to give him the honor - IVF has been around since the late 70's. But Edwards is 85 and in apparent poor health, so perhaps they just wanted to give him the recognition before he dies. . You can read the MSNBC article on it here. Unsurprisingly, Pope Benny and the Roman Catholic church denounced the award. . Sorry, Benny. Science doesn't give a whoop-de-doo about your Dark Ages theology. I'm sorry that you think it's heresy to say the sacred Earth revolves around the godless Sun, and not vice versa. That's the way half-baked cookie crumbles. . Believe it or not, Science and Theology can co-exist. Science answers the question "How", and we leave it to others to pontificate on the cosmic question "Why". What Science is incompatible with is Religious Opinions. You're just guessing, Benny. We're analyzing. The latter trumps the former every time.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

I invented a new genre, "Dysfunctional Comedy" just to aptly describe this book. It's got a Sedaris-like family (although presumably, the Spellmans are purely fictional) and Bryson-like humor. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Druids are back!

The UK officially recognized Druidism as a religion this week. You can read about it here. Two of my multiple personalities are (what you would call) Druids, so they're quite ecstatic about this, even if most of the modern-day "druids" are just flower-children who like to smoke pot outdoors and take a whiz while standing on top of one of the cross-slabs at Stonehenge. . The more practical consequence of this is that the Druid organizations now have the same status and get the same tax breaks as mainstream religions. . You might find it hard to take serious a pantheistic religion that sees its gods as various forces of nature. But is it more far-fetched than thinking that 72 virgins await you in Paradise if you blow yourself up, or that there once was this giant boat that doubled as a floating zoo? Hardly.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Goose Creek Symphony in Arizona!

Oh my! I just found out these guys will be at The Rhythm Room here in Phoenix in February 2011. Normally, they don't do any concerts outside the Ohio - Kentucky - Tennessee area. The occasion for this exception is their induction into the Arizona Music Hall of Fame. It is a little-known fact that these hippie bluegrass rock virtuosos actually originated in the Phoenix area in the late 60's. . I've loved these guys since college. I don't remember which of my roommates had their albums; I'm indebted to whomever it was. Goose Creek Symphony is/was a tremendously talented band, but most people have never heard of them. I've found three of their LP's over the years and have converted them all to CD. I will definitely be seeing them in February.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Banned Books Week

I should've mentioned earlier that this past week has been Banned Books Week. As the Teabagger Movement gains ground, you can expect to see more and more efforts to control what people can read. Heck, the Texas Board of Education is already doing this by trying to rewrite the History books. . Most activists urge you to read a banned book during this week. I'll simply say that you should read whatever you want. Banned, not-banned, it doesn't matter. You make a statement by doing so.