Saturday, June 09, 2012

Once Upon Another Time

In a couple of days I'm going to start getting some serious ribbing from my friends and family, so I might as well get ahead of it.

You see, I just bought a Kindle.

Now, some of you won't understand what the problem is here, e-Readers are well loved by many in our circle, but I have been resisting the pull, strongly, vocally, loudly, and proudly. I love my books.  My wonderful, beautiful hardback books on my beautiful wood bookshelves of which I own 4 of (5 when Ian is old enough).

But a couple of things have happened.  The first of which is the large tree of authors I've been reading for years who have provided those wonderful hardback collections has been fading away.  They've passed on, stopped writing, etc.  So I've started experimenting with different authors, and my bookshelves are filling up with experiments (luckily mostly successful).  A lot of them are new, and I'm trying some different directions.  So it seems like the perfect time to move to transition to a digital format, where I don't have to worry about the investment I've put into the physical for all these new authors.

The second is that the economics never took the turn I was waiting on, and you all are to blame.  I've been waiting for people to reject the price point of eBooks so they would drop dramatically.  My dream was that I would buy a hardback book, then for a dollar or two more, I'd get the eBook as well.  A couple of authors I've run into (yes, people besides my sister-in-law-in-law) loved that idea.  But again, you people screwed it all up.  You all decided that the price of an eBook pretty much matching the physical was good enough, and purchased like crazy.  So my dream will never happen, there's no incentive.  You bastards.

Now this doesn't mean I'm giving up my hardbacks.  Brandon Sanderson, you're in, forever.  Brent Weeks, you also get my money for a physical book.  George R. R. Martin's series just feels right as a tome.  I'll re-buy all of Jim Butcher's books in hardback if given the opportunity.  There are some books that you know you'll read for years to come, that you want to hand to your kids, that I feel must be physically owned (and yes, I realize my kids may never agree with me, that's not the point).

So for a year, I'm going all digital.  If I like it, I might upgrade to the Kindle DX format which is much larger and give the smaller Kindle Touch to my wife.  If I don't like it, I'll give the Kindle Touch to my wife.

So basically, the winner in the end is my wife.

As it should be.

And seriously, you should check out those bookshelves.

Monday, March 16, 2009

So I roam these open roads

I’m kind of roaming iTunes right now, looking for something new.  Its been 5 or 6 months since an album has blown me away (U-Catastrophe), so I’m getting antsy.  I’m digesting Lijie’s Roam right now (and no, I don’t know how to pronounce Lijie), and downloading Tara MacLean’s Wake and Keane’s Under the Iron Sea.  Tara I found while listening to Pandora (better than the radio for finding music) and Keane comes from a recommendation from my sister-in-law.  I’m pretty much a sucker for music people suggest to me, if someone thinks its worth mentioning to me, its usually worth a look at.  We’ll see how this all turns out.

I don’t want to turn into one of those people who can only listen to a type of music from a certain time period (hi dad).  That being said, I wish there was another Rush or Genesis album coming.  Thank god Tori is releasing one soon.

Ian is crawling now, it surprised us somewhat since for so long he had no interest in moving around.  He was quite willing just to watch his big brother run amok.  His focus was on the talking.  Then he stopped talking for a couple of days.  We should have figured out what was going on, but we can all be oblivious at times.   Needless to say, he got it in his head it was time to start moving, and he focused all his energy on that.  Now he’s all over the place, babbling while he tries to grab everything in sight.

Needless to say, I’ve had to put the staircase gates back up.  Including the one Gavin ripped out of the way a couple years back (Gavin MAD!)

What’s not surprising is his determination to follow Gavin.  During Gavin’s bath time a couple of days ago, I put Ian on the floor and watched him crawl out of the office.  First stop was Gavin’s bedroom.  After circling around the whole area (apparently he was checking if he was hiding), he sped off to the bathroom where he went right up to the tub and gave his big brother a huge grin.

Gavin’s taking it all in pretty good stride, and he doesn’t mind herding him around somewhat.  Its funny to watch him scramble to get his toys out of reach of Ian’s drool covered hands.  So if nothing else, Ian’s crawling will teach Gavin the importance of picking up his toys.

Warm weather this weekend meant we got to take Gavin & Ian to the park for a while.  These trips are always amusing to me as I can watch Gavin interact with any other kid or group of kids.  He somehow becomes instant friends with anyone.  No idea how he does it, he sure as hell didn’t get that from me.  He even charms the parents.

I hope he keeps that skill when he enters school….

Monday, February 16, 2009

And I will smile till my heart stops beating

Well, another year, another DVD of the kids out the door to the extended family.  Took me long enough.  It’s already mid-February.  You’d think with dropping a couple of months would make it easier right?  For those of you who don’t understand, the DVD’s used to take place between Gavin’s birthdays.  With Ian now with us, that only makes sense if we REALLY want to give Ian an inferiority complex.  Now we all know I’ll mess with my kids minds, but that’s a bit much even for me.   Hench, this year’s DVD going from March to December.  Surprisingly that made it a pain the ass.  Everything felt compressed and uneven.  I started over three times. 

I know, its my own fault, I’m a perfectionist.

Anyway, I can say it was a success by my standards (Pam cried).  Not as good as last year, but I have a feeling it will be a while until I put together something as good as last year.  Such is life.  At least the music choices were easy.  With the obvious song for Ian’s birth laying the groundwork for everything else.

What you do you mean it isn’t obvious?  You need to update your music library with the classics.  Here’s a hint, it was on Live in Australia.

Anyway, now that project is over, and work is relaxing its grip somewhat, I’m going to try to be counterproductive for a while.  God knows I’ve skipped enough fencing sessions, its amazing I know which end of the sword is the pointy part.

Maybe I’ll update this blog more than once a @#$#ing month.  That’s right, I said @#$#.  We’re adults, we can handle it.  My writing skills have definitely suffered from the time off.  I’ve deleted about 5 or 6 half written blog entries over the last couple of months because I haven’t been able to keep a coherent thought between sessions.  So this one is going out, even if it is utter crap.  Stream of consciousness time.

I usually don’t talk about work, but I do have to mention that I successfully fought off being given a blackberry for the time being.  I see what those things do to good people.  It isn’t pretty.  When you are waiting for your ball to be returned to you in bowling, and you are typing into your blackberry, it is a sign.  I’m not a big fan of texting either.  I’ve received about 2 text messages from my brother in my life, and sent none so far.  I like talky talky.  If it isn’t urgent, I’ll live with an email communication, but texting just sets my teeth on edge for some reason.  Maybe its the belief people seem to have that the act of texting while in a conversation with you isn’t rude since they aren’t actually talking on the phone.  I’m not casting judgment on you people who use it, its just not for me OK?

Time for some calming thoughts.  I got Pam Rock Band for XMas, and I have to say it was much more fun than I anticipated. I’ve re-kindled my love for drumming.  After a stressful day, I find it to be very therapeutic.  Gavin enjoys playing along as well, either running through all the possible drum sounds in freestyle mode, or playing along with his toy guitar while I drum.  It seems to suck in others as well.  P&A complete a regular foursome at the household.  Pam usually takes guitar, I’m on drums, P is on bass, and A is on vocals.  We have a pretty good time, and with A singing I actually understand some of the lyrics for some of these songs.   We had A&A over today and I think we addicted them as well, and I learned I wasn’t as bad on vocals as I thought I would be.

Anyway, its fun, come by if you want to rock.

But back to drumming for a minute, I want to shout out to my old college drum teacher, who knew what the hell he was talking about.  When I first graduated to a drum set from the little snare drum I started on in college, his first question to me was “Do you dance?”.  When I admitted I was not what you would call a dancer type, he just smiled and said “You are now”. 

When he asked me what I thought my biggest problem was going to be at the end of the first day on the set, I told him it was obviously going to be my feet.  He told me it was going to be my left hand.  Since I am a violinist, who’s left hand is quite dexterous, I voiced my disagreement.

He was right about everything.  When I’ve got a piece, I feel like I am dancing with the kit.  My foot has become like an extra hand, and complex rhythms using the bass petal don’t throw me anymore.  My left hand has revealed itself to be a control freak and doesn’t like to relax when I have to do even triples or quads.  My right hand, which has never been called on to do the complex finger work on the violin, does the finger movements to control the drumstick perfectly.  Just like he said.

He taught me to get more efficient movement by relaxing and stop getting in the way of myself.  How hitting the drum sooner was better than faster.  A lot of how I listen and feel music today came out of those lessons.  I wish I would have been able to keep on drumming after graduating, but I don’t think the people in my apartment building would have appreciated it.  Or my roommate.

But I am glad to be doing it again, even if its on a fake drum set that wasn’t as fake as I thought it was going to be.

I do feel like a bad husband for getting so much enjoyment out of my wife’s present though :)

On a final note, I am on facebook now.  I really don’t know why.  OK, I know why, its because A kept nagging me on the phone to do it, and since it has been proven (and published) that I will spend $100 dollars to shut him up (he’s proud of that), it was pretty much a given I was going to just do it.

Wow, there were WAY too many commas in that last sentence.  SL is probably writing a nasty comment about that right now.

Anyway, it was a little freaky how the initial friend selection list found so many people I actually knew, but hadn’t seen in a long long long time.  Either all the people on facebook who went to Wash U. were APO people, or facebook is just freaky. 

I’m not complaining mind you, its actually quite nice to see (figuratively) again.  Its just a little freaky how good it was at picking those people from the ether.  And even more so since it didn’t even bother suggesting anyone from my high school except one person.  That’s a good thing, I can think of only a very few people I’d want to see from there.

Its also a little out of my comfort level. Yes, I have a blog, but let’s be honest, there’s like 10 people who read it.  I don’t count the people who came and read the Limelight album review, I don’t think they stuck around (if you did, cool).  But there’s a lot of people on facebook.  As Gavin would say, a lot a lot.

Maybe I’m just getting old….young whipper-snappers and their technologies these days.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And now it seems as though we're disappearing

Soooooo, its been a while. Does anybody read this blog anymore? :)

Every once in a while, you get tasked with something at work that is pretty much impossible, but you have to do it anyway. That's where I've been. Enough said.

Anyway, 2 posts ago (sept 10th) I made reference to the fact I was very wrong about something music wise. The last couple of posts have had some obscure lyric titles as a promise to myself that I would keep quoting the album until I came clean. So here we go.

I'm usually very open minded music wise, but there are a couple of guidelines I apply to music before I listen to it that have served me pretty well

1) A drum machine should be done only by a drummer, otherwise it will suck.
2) Covers of a song to put them to a dance beat, will suck.
3) Children of successful musicians will usually be mediocre, if not outright bad, and are best avoided.
4) Trance music sucks unless you are dancing.

It is with rule #3 that I openly responded "no interest" when queried about a certain artist, on 4 separate occasions, and one of them being my wife. In fact, I got quite irritated when asked why I had no interest in the son of an artist I was known to admire. I openly scoffed at the potential of his career. Especially when I heard his first album was dealing with some trance music in his early days.

To those people, I apologize. I was wrong. Very wrong.

The artist is Simon Collins, the album is U-Catastrophe (his 3rd album). And its my pick for the best album of 2008.

It's rare to come across an album with this much variety in it. The first 3 songs are a definite picks for rock fans, while the next 4 will please those who range more towards pop. Then we start getting progressive & experimental. If you're a person who picks just a couple of songs off an album, you'll like at least one or two things here. No only is the music good, but the lyrics are fantastic.

The biggest surprise for me was the RANGE of Simon's vocals. Hitting hard rock with screaming intensity, then softer more emotional range.

Simon also does the drums on the album, it surprised me he was more of a rock drummer than the jazz/fusion that his father is.

With my last review I mentioned going away from talking about individual songs too much, but with the variety on this album, its hard not too.

U-Catastrophe (****) - Frankly this is one of the best album openers I've ever heard. You can envision this opening a set in an arena concert. It really gets the blood pumping to start the album.

All I've Left to Lose (****) - The most hard rock type song on the album, with a surprising melodic bridge. Simon really lets it loose on the vocals here. Rock out in your car with this one.

Disappearing (****) - Simon's angry about a couple of things, and it really comes through on this song. The lyrics on this song are incredible, and the music takes you on a roller coaster of different paces. The rhythmic delivery of the 2ndary verses is hypnotizing.

Powerless (*****) - Best song of 2008. You may disagree, but you're wrong. Many songs out there about drug addiction, this one is a haunting honest look at the addict (unfortunately from personal experience). The beautiful melody is counterpointed by the subtle drums that drive make the song feel like it might go out of control at any moment. The pure crafting work put into the details of this song is breathtaking. You will sing along, you just can't help yourself.

Go (Only One I Know) (***) - The weakest song on the album, back to the rock vein. The verses are good, but the chorus just disappoints for some reason. It seems as if this song still needs some polishing, which is strange considering the rest of the album. Still a fun song though.

The Good Son (****) - The song structure on this is quite interesting, it flirts with pop at times, then breaks away with some surprises in instrumentation. The verses are the highlight of the song, while the choruses fill their assigned spot without taking away from the song, but not really adding anything to it either. The lyrics again are fantastic.

Unconditional (***) - Pure pop fans, this one is for you. This love song is as close to pop as you can get. Upbeat, fun, good lyrics that are easy to sing along with. Its a setup though, because as you finish listing to this song, you would never expect what comes next.

The Big Bang (*****) - Wow. This is an instrumental drum duet with some music in the background. Simon drums with his dad, and the surprising thing is, it doesn't SOUND like Phil. Phil's always been a jazz/fusion guy, I've never heard him do rock drumming like this. If you like drums and rock, you will love this. The rhythms and fills are incredible.

Eco (****) - This is an environmental protest song that causes my son Gavin to ask lots of questions about the lyrics. He starts introducing some electronic sampling elements into the song that incredibly done to accentuate the music without detracting from it. This song will shift gears on you with angry verses to an incredibly beautiful melodic chorus.

US (****) - Soft love song, that started out at 3 stars, but grew on me. Romantic, elegant.

Between I & E (***) - Religious protest song. I love the lyrics on this, but for some reason I just can't get into this song as much as the others. Its got a good rock feel to it, but doesn't grab you in like Eco did.

Fast Forward the Future (*****) - Simon drops the drums for a drum machine here, but that's ok because of rule #1 above. Its hard to define this song. It starts off with some trance elements, but includes rock and progressive as well. It grinds together a lot of genders and comes up with a gem. The bridge on this song is well....luminous. With all the gear shifting, and variety on this album, this was the perfect ending song.

There is also an extra remix song of the Big Bang. But if you have the Big Bang, you don't need this remix, it just doesn't compare.

So, for those of you who cherry pick songs instead of picking up albums, here's how I would recommend.

Rockers: U-Catastrophe, All I've Left To Lose, Disappearing, The Big Bang
Poppers: Powerless, Unconditional, US, The Good Son
Progressive: Powerless, The Big Bang, Eco, Fast Forward The Future, U-Catastrophe

Everyone: Powerless

Sunday, September 14, 2008

With a knowledge we're unbound

A couple of quick things...

First, in target the other day I'm looking for an accent table with Ian, when I notice my cart isn't moving quite as smoothly. I look down and there's a strange kid hanging on the side of my cart.
"What's the baby's name?", he asked.
"Ian", I replied.
"What's your name?"
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for accent tables"
"Where's your mother?"
"I dunno, what are accent tables?"
At that point, I turned around and deposited the kid with his mother.

What surprised me on reflection, was how calmly I took the whole thing. This isn't the first time I've had kids who have never seen me before attach onto me. The most memorable was the one at M&K's house who on entering their kitchen, saw me for the first time, and came over and attached himself to my leg. Apparently, I've become numb to the whole thing. I don't think I even mentioned it to Pam.

Second, I'm soooo unprepared for hockey season this year. It managed to sneak up on me. Those of you going against me in fantasy hockey will have an easy time of it.

Third, when you get Gavin into cleanup time, he goes all in. His little legs were pumping in place looking for the next thing to pick up. We had fun.

Fourth, go Steelers!

Fifth, the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian is an absolutely fantasic series of books (the movie Master & Commander was based on them).

Sixth, its been a strange week. Gavin & Ian have both been in bed and asleep around 8:30. Pam and I have time. We weren't sure how to cope with that...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We're too sick to know we're sick in the mind

What to blog about, what to blog about, I have home stuff, I have politics stuff, I have music stuff...

I just blogged about politics, I'll put that on hold...

The music stuff (the title is a clue) means admitting I was very wrong about something, not up to that yet...

So apparently work has been busy enough that I can't seem to sit and relax anymore. On Sunday, Gavin was playing quietly by himself, and Ian was asleep. Pam was busy watching her shows, and I was on the couch. Being lazy. I hadn't been lazy for a while, I liked it. But that nagging feeling started, the feeling of needing to be I rearranged all the furniture in my family room.

I've been thinking about it for a while (and I've gotten plenty of suggestions as well). I finally did some measurements, plugged it in Google's SketchUp, printed out the plans, then saved them for a rainy day. There was no rush after all...

Btw, for any space planning project in your home, I highly recommend using Google's SketchUp. It's free, and pretty functional. The interface can take some getting used too though.

Anyway, this is what the family room originally looked like

(OC stands for Orange Chair)
It's set up for maximum viewing comfort of the TV. However, we lose some space due to the size of the TV (it's not a flatscreen, and the partition of the back wall of the couch. It wasn't terrible, but that 'what if' kept nagging us.

So now it looks like this

The TV now goes through the opening and invades the room on the other side that holds Pam's shot-glass collection and other nice things. We'll have to keep the kids away from the back of the TV, but look at all that room!

Gavin wasn't very happy about it at first, "I can't go over the back of the couch!" (he's not allowed too), but he's on board now. The downside is not all the viewing angles to the TV are as comfortable as they used to be, its not bad, it just isn't as effortless as it was. On the upside, I can actually set up the surround sound correctly. Speakers in the old setup were all over the place, now the effect is much better.

BTW P, when you get back from Europe, I need to borrow your sound meter and re-balance the speakers again.

I'm quite proud of myself, yet slightly sickened by my inability to seriously slack off. Well, that's not exactly true. I can slack off as long as I've accomplished something that day, however with kids, if you miss your window of slacking by being productive, you don't get another chance that day.

Frankly this is probably the best way for my wife to get me to do home improvement projects, just clear everything out of my way during the day and leave me to my own devices.

I need help.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And even I'm getting tired of useless desires

So the Olympics are over....I guess that means the break is over, and the election is back in the news....again.

It's not that I've made up my mind (I haven't), it's just that this has gone so long it's getting ridiculous. Both the media, and the campaigns.

Seriously, you're going to slam Obama for vacationing in Hawaii?

Seriously, you're going to slam McCain over the houses his wife owns?

Remember how at the beginning of all this everyone agreed we had a rich field of candidates (any one of them better than Bush)? Why does it now that it seems like we're tired of all of them?

On the up side, it does seem like the bubble of invincibility around Obama has popped, so he'll have to do more than coast on good rhetoric. That's not a bad thing for him, he rose to the challenge that Clinton put out. When he said Clinton made him a better candidate, he wasn't kidding. At last the Democrats have someone who can run a campaign again, god knows Gore and Kerry couldn't.

As for the Republicans, they've always known how to run a campaign. So well in fact its hard to know what the candidate actually wants to say, slave to the message machine that the GOP runs.

However the GOP is making a misstep trying to run commercials slamming Obama for not picking Clinton as a VP. One, it only works if Clinton rises to the bait (which she won't). Two, it's putting more good emphasis on a Democrat. As long as this election is Republican vs Democrat, there's no way the GOP can win. The only way McCain wins is its McCain vs. Obama. People just don't like the GOP that much. The GOP needs to accept that and step into the sidelines. Three, the only people who really care about the VP choice is the media who is dying for something new to talk about.

Its interesting talking to people, around here I will hear "I like Obama, there's no way he can loose". When talking to some people back East, I will hear "I like Obama, shame there's no way he can win". Why? Well look at the people who believe that Obama is a Muslim. Then realize that isn't the bad thing, the bad thing is that is matters. Why? Because as Carlin said "Imagine how dumb the average American, now realize that means that half of America is dumber than that". Remember the footage of voters in West Virginia? There are a lot of those people, and they vote.

The big problem is most people are getting their news from a source that has turned it into an entertainment medium. Looking to twist every little thing into drama, even if has nothing to do with a person's qualifications for President.

Why can they do this? Because the level of education in this country seems to be on the continuous decline. And that's something I'm waiting for the candidates to discuss.

At least the debates will be good. I hope. I just know I'll be ignoring politics as much as I can until then.

I've definitely been on a Patty Griffin kick lately. I've definitely been pulling from here lyrics for post titles recently. I'll have to start putting a little more variety into it next time.