Saturday, November 01, 2008

Vote Democratic

Pasted verbatim from Rudy Rucker's blog:

Tuesday is the big election day we’ve been waiting for. It’s finally our chance to be heard!

Help the Democrats take over the Presidency, the Senate and the House! Let’s get our country working again. Let’s heal the damages of the last eight years.

And don’t assume the Democrats can win without you. Remember 2000 and 2004? A close election can be stolen. If we’re going to win, we have to win by a landslide.

We can have a free country again—if we want it.

Vote Democratic on Tuesday.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

TTFN: Dumbass v2.0 Released

Just got back from a 1.5 hr walk with the dog. After 2 blocks, I'm like, "this heat is brutal". No biking tomorrow, I don't think, maybe a short walk. The latest cold front from Canada is now stalled as an east-west stationary front over the Great Lakes. My prediction is we will be into drought for the rest of the summer. The cold fronts just can't fight their way south through the warm, moist Gulf air. The farthest south they get is Indianapolis.

Got 4 good CDs from a young coworker:

  • "Blueberry Boat", The Fiery Furnaces, 2004. Nicely eclectic, might be changed to "unclassifiable", long narrative songs, I'm sure some 4 stars.
  • "You Forgot It In People", Broken Social Scene, 2002. Again, nicely odd stuff.
  • "At Mount Zoomer", Wolf Parade, 2008. Very nice stuff, like their 1st one.
  • "Rubber Factory", The Black Keys, 2004. Cooper thought I would like this one the most because of a Captain Beefheart cover (I still haven't figured out which track). My least favorite of the 4, the most bluesy.
Read last weekend "Dark Integers and Other Stories", by Greg Egan. Five stories, I had already read three of them. His grasp of physics, particularly quantum and astro, and computing, makes him by far the best hard science fiction author out there.

I'm currently reading "Brasyl", by Ian McDonald. Not bad, but dragging a little.

I've started impulse buying movies on iTunes: "Jumper" (guilty); and for my future grandchildren (no jinx), "The Golden Compass" and "The Spiderwick Chronicle". All were OK films.

Now to our title topic. Dumbass v1.5 is just not working out. The central existential feature of Dumbass v1.5 was, "stay drunk all all the time". Unfortunately, ever-increasing alcohol tolerance make this an unobtainable goal. I was averaging about 4 oz alcohol a day, and not getting a decent buzz on until I got to about 8-10 oz -- too much. And, no hangover, but about 6-7 the next evening, man would I be thirsty, my throat would be so parched, mildly headachy, and that 1st drink would really address these symptoms nicely -- not good.

So, in a fit of existential spontaneity, I have conceived Dumbass v2.0. The central feature, no alcohol. I have such an addictive personality, I really have a problem with moderation approaches. I was up to smoking 10 or cigarettes at O'Neills on Wednesday nights. No drinking implies the proscription of the following drinking-related activities:

  • dining out in the evenings -- I have gone to cooking in the kitchen every 2-3 days, the old dishes I used to make when the kids were here;
  • grilling out;
  • entertaining (our minimal number of) friends; I have never been social. Stimulants always helped to lubricate interaction with others;
  • playing music in public. Summed up nicely by "Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore", Van Morrison, "Keep It Simple" CD. Plus O'Neills has gotten successful to where it's down to 3 songs a night. Last time I was there, "One Way Out" got done 3 times (I played bass on one). I mean, I don't mind the song, but 3 times in one evening?
  • blogging -- you knew half of the posts were drunken, right?
  • travel, particularly long car trips. If anything makes you want a drink, it's the frustration of flying, or spending 10 hours in a car.
So Dumbass v2.0 was booted last Sunday. Day 7 w/o a drink. Still a little headachy and throat still parched, but no biggie. I canceled the August swing up east, I'll veg at home, my wife is talking about driving to Ithaca with her sister for one daughter, and then flying to NYC to visit our oldest.

What are the fun features of Dumbass v2.0, you might ask? Sounds pretty boring, doesn't it? But, I don't think it's inappropriate to be stop trying to be the coolest 57-year old in Lexington, KY. Instead, I will just enjoy the following Dumbass v2.0 features:

  • reading -- my reading had gone way down;
  • walking;
  • cooking in the kitchen;
  • playing music in the basement (I think);
  • an occasional movie or sit-down concert;
  • birdwatching;
  • vegetable gardening (next year);
  • getting more massages and variously reallocating the $1500 a month I've been spending of dining out, bars, and alcohol.
By February, I may feel secure enough to hazard going to St. Martin. Maybe my old "no drinking before 4 pm unless you're in the Caribbean" could morph into "no drinking unless you're in the Caribbean" -- or "on vacation" -- or "on vacation or on birthdays or holidays" so I am not totally a sober sad sack. We're also talking about returning to Manzanillo for my wife's birthday in mid-November.

As I get towards retirement, I also want to find some activity where I can give back to the community -- my rearing nags at me if I don't. My youngest has told me that the Fayette County public schools could find something for me to do. I also ran into Henry Wu ("Mr. Wu! Mr. Wu!") a few weeks ago. He was trying to recruit me to come back to soccer refereeing. He's 65, been retired a few years, and refereeing 80 high school games a year. Aubrey Cashman he said is 74 and still reffing. Well, I'm now down below 210 for the 1st time in maybe a year. If I can get down around 180, maybe I'll think about it. Nothing like some good old-fashioned referee abuse to imbue oneself with the love of one's fellow man.

Well, I guess we've come to the end. Those of you paying attention may have noticed that blogging is a proscribed activity under Dumbass v2.0. So this post, #150, a nice round number, is the last. As I mentioned last time, I think I'm out of piquant existential insights. I do think there have been some in the 5 year, 2 month history of this blog, but, again, I think they're mostly all there, not too many left in my brain only. And, there are plenty of higher-bandwith bloggers out there so who can give you music and book recommendations. I have nice point-to-point communication going with several family and friends, I will continue on private channels.

So, TTFN, and good luck to all!

Chris Heinz
Lexington Kentucky
July 19, 2008 12:10pm

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Nice New Look ...

Thanks to my oldest daughter the graphic designer, the blog now has a snappy new header, woo-hoo! She has gone back to freelancing, so any of my multitudinous readers needing a fabulous graphic designer can check out her work and contact her here:

Had an interesting music weekend last weekend. My wife was on third shift, so she left for work at 8pm and got home at 8am Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So 1st night sat at the bar at Azur and had the special (BBQed goat ribs, woo-hoo!) and listened to The Real Deal Willie Eames. Then Saturday, it was Internationally Renowed Guitarist, the Inimitable Ben Lacy. I sat with a musician / computer geek friend and his wife and 8-week old daughter; then some of my neighbors (Lacy fans) came in; then a young guy from work and his friend came in. Both nights I wound up getting to sleep 2:30-3:00am and sleeping in with the wife until noonish.

Finally, Sunday night went out to Lynagh's to see Willie Eames' 3 piece band, The Tall Boys. Great stuff, Hendrix meets Captain Beefheart, very eclectic drumming. Willie was playing an ES-335, a TubeScreamer, a Vox wah-wah, and a 1968 Super Reverb amp (like mine). Chatting with Willie, he mentioned after we had talked Friday, his wife had found the reference in an earlier post to Willie playing the Steinberger. Woo-hoo, another reader, welcome aboard to this wild ride!

Actually, seems like this blog is becoming all about music. I have hit a wall with cognitive science, until I get over my realization that music, language, large brains, basically all of human civilization, was sexually selected, i.e., primarily evolved because chicks dug it.

I have downloaded Python for doing some data work for Google Sky. I also signed up as a Google App developer. Maybe when I retire. After coding 8 hours at work most days, I don't feel much like coding in the evenings -- too many years of night consulting jobs, I guess.

I was supposed to be out of town Wednesday, so I'd told the gang at O'Neills I wouldn't be there. I wound up being in town, decided to take a night off and play and sing in the basement. I love my song book, it is great fun to be able to do songs that I really love: "Unfaithful Servant", "King Harvest", "Jawbone", "Such A Night", "Anna Begins" ...

I have a ton of new music:

  • Van Morrison "Keep It Simple" has gone from 3 to 4 stars -- not a bad song on the album.
  • Currently listening to Disc B of E of "The Carter Family -- 1927-1934". Special guest appearances by Jimmy Rodgers (yodelay-dee-hee). Around 125 tracks, I've listened to about 30. I surely prefer old-timey country to modern. This will be 3 stars maybe a few 4s. Too bad it's about 20-30% hymns ...
  • Matt Sweeney and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, "Superwolf". This is Will Oldham who did the great vocal on the Bjork song "Gratitude" -- plus I had another recommendation of his work. Need more listens.
  • Aimee Mann, "@#%&*! Smilers" -- at least it's not a @#%&*! Christmas album! Nothing real catchy, probably 3 stars.
  • Delbert McClinton "Feelin' Alright" (1993) and "Cost of Living" (2005). The 1st one sounds like, Delbert needed some quick cash. The 2nd one has some good tunes. Probably both 3 stars.
  • My Morning Jacket, "Still It Moves" (2003). Interesting stuff, 3.5 stars?
  • Adele, "19". My oldest daughter pointed me at this. 4 stars, and 5 for the track 3, the ever so catchy "Chasing Pavements". I watched her perform this on YouTube on Letterman, then spotted the original video. Wait a minute, I've seen that video before -- I checked my piece of Hotel Russell stationary from when I was in London in March, and there it was, "Chasing Pavements". So, is the song really that catchy, or did I respond to it so strongly because it had planted a seed in my brain in March?
  • John Mayer, "Millenium" -- haven't got around to listening to it yet.
  • The Yardbirds, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, 1964-1968". After that live album I got, I had to hear the originals. So, 27 tracks for $19 from I did remember the timing on "I'm Not Talkin'" correctly, they do it differently on the live album. And, the guitar solo on "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" is still one of my favorite of all time. I've probably listened to it 5 times since I got it.
  • Hank Ballard, "Finger Poppin' Time" and "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" (1960). So the prior Wednesday I saw Matt Knowles at Lynagh's playing with Johnny Roy and the Rub Tones. They did "Finger Poppin' Time" -- great song, probably hadn't heard it in 30 years. So I mentioned that to Willie Eame's chatting the following Friday, and he said, yeah, Hank Ballard, who wrote and originally recorded "The Twist", other big hit "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" -- also a great song. So I downloaded them both and worked up "Let's Go ...".
  • The Tall Boys (of Kentucky), eponymous, 2007. The same eclectic stuff I heard Sunday at Lynagh's. More electric that what I usually listen to anymore, still, there may be a 4 star tune or two on it.
  • Coldplay, "Viva La Vida" -- seems listenable, nothing jumping out after 2 listens, 3 stars.
Biked today, 31.3 miles, 2h35m, 1 stop, through Versailes.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Three Sources of Coolth

So last Sunday did 26.4 miles in 2h10m, 1 stop.

This morning did 33 miles in 2h40m, 1 stop. Felt surprisingly good the last 5 miles. It really helps, the cooler weather we've been having. After my b-day weekend of 6/8, the 5-day forecast has looked the same -- high 78 to 84, partly cloudy, chance of storm. The storms are late afternoon, or 5 in the morning, and last about 10 minutes. Nice breezes, pretty much ideal weather. We fine-dined with friends at newly-opened Summit (the former site of Emmett's) with friends last night, air was fabulous, meal was very good.

There are three sources of coolth when biking:

  1. The breeze, be it the wind or the relativistic one from going down a hill at 20-30 mph. The difference is indiscernable.
  2. The shade of clouds.
  3. The shade of trees. Normally deeper than the shade of clouds.
Put all three together and it's like, ahhhh ...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Too Damn Hot

So, Memorial Day weekend in Lexington Ky (the highest carbon footprint per capita in the US! -- we're so proud !) was 3 days of gorgeous -- partly cloudy, bright sunshine, low 80's. Last weekend was also OK, I biked 30.1 miles in 2h50m with 2 stops.

Yesterday, 94 degrees with about 90% humidity -- I got to Old Frankfort Pike and said, time to head for home -- after 3 of the roller coaster hills on Old Frankfort, I pulled up in front of the Mason-Headley museum and let myself cool down for around 15 minutes. Wound up doing 19.3 miles in 1h50m.

Here is a post to KASES I wrote yesterday, re, "USAF inviting GhostBusters to investigate ghosts at Wright-Patterson AFB":

The U.S. Air Force Academy has also been noted recently as being practically a fundamentalist christian institution. I guess "all superstition = good superstition".

I think that you have to look at belief in ghosts from the viewpoint of evolutionary psychology.

I once had a neighbor tell me how after being in the room during the death of a relative, she could "sense the presence of the departed spirit in the room for several minutes after the person passed away."

Was there a spirit in the room? No. So what that implies we have here is a cognitive or sensory illusion of some type.

Is there evolutionary value in being able to detect the presence of another human in a closed space with us? My guess, definitely yes.

Does that imply that one of the many subroutines that has evolved in the human (primate?) mind is one for detecting the presence in a closed space of another person (or animal)? Again, my guess is yes.

Do cognitive circuits such as this sometimes misfire, particularly when one is tired, stressed, etc? Again, my guess is yes.

A very similar perceptual illusion I think we all have probably experienced: you're driving on an interstate late at night, you're tired, you've been driving a while and may be slightly fugued out, you see an evergreen tree around 6 feet tall at the side of the road and think it's a person.

The same chain of logic applies -- there is clearly evolutionary value in being able to quickly identify other people so we have dedicated circuits to do so that misfire when we're tired, stressed, etc.

I think I may have referred before to the pretty good book on cognitive illusions "Inevitable Illusions", by Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, 1994.

Was it this forum that had a link to the article about many "haunted" places being permeated with infrasound, which gives us the creaps?

Last Wednesday I thought I was due to be a rock star -- play at O'Neills, then go play at a 2nd jam at Lynagh's. But, I did not get to be a rock star, but the Steinberger did. I played it at O'Neills, it freaked the bass player out, "What the hell is that sound?" -- but, I got to Lynagh's, no sign of David Ponder / Matt Knowles. Instead, The Real Deal, Willie Eames, was playing. Willie plays mostly fingerpicking blues, with some Kinks or Bill Withers thown in, and is a wonderful musician. I'd seen him at Azur the week before and told him about the Steinberger. He was playing capoed at the 5th fret in A and I told him how the Steinberger baritone was tuned 7 frets below a normal guitar so that playing it open you would be in A, but an octave lower. So, Willie did two songs open in A, then capoed up to 7 and did 2 songs in E. The Steinberger sounded wicked growly and low with Willie finger-picking it in A, and the intonation was decent capoed up to the E. So, it totally rocked -- but me, somewhat less so.

Somehow wound up with a trade paper edition of "Voice of the Whirlwind", by Walter Jon Williams, originally 1987. I am sure I read at the time, it's very cyberpunk, and I totally remember a French-Canadian protagonist who says "d'accord" all the time, but the plot was like totally new to me. Still, good cyberpunk read.

Musicwise, my NYC daughter brought me 5 CD's of The Carter Family, 1927-1934. Somehow they are hanging my iTunes and PC. Damn, just when thought I didn't have to worry about that kind of stuff. Also listening to:

  • T-Bone Burnett, "Tooth of Crime". A Walter Tunis recommendation. Kind of hard to get into. It's got some nasty low baritone guitar on it tho.
  • Tony Joe White, "Baby Please Don't Go" -- for the 1969 hit "Poke Salad Annie", which I played at the jam and seemed to work. We've been to T.D.'s at 2nd and Elm Tree a couple of times in the last month. They play R&B DVDs before the music starts. They played Bobby "Blue" Bland (Turn on your live light) there, he does this odd snorting thing. Tony Joe is the grunt guy. 3 stars.
Had a very nice Heinz 57 birthday yesterday. My oldest came down from NYC, we went to an outdoor concert with her, meine frau, and my youngest at Equus Run on Saturday. Then on Sunday, I grilled corn-on-the-cob, asparagus, BBQ eggplant and tuna, my youngest made a great salad, they both made german chocolate cake with home-made mouss, tres delicious.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Little Better

It was a beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky, a little wind. I biked 21 miles in 1h50m. A little rough at first, but better towards the end. I think that's a good sign.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Walk This Way

Haven't biked after that first time. Our May has been rainy, cool and windy. I did walk 90 minutes yesterday and today with the dog tho.

Played guitar a while yesterday at LexJam. I would say an inferior product to our Wednesday jam at O'Neills. At one point a guy rather than saying "12 bar blues in A with a quick 4" proceded to call out all the chord changes for the 1st 3 go-rounds. People also seemed to be pretty challenged at catching stops. None of my band showed up.

The official band name is "King Chukka", in honor of our lead guitarist King William (Allen). I just set up a personal myspace page, so I could see some music videos that a young coworker had posted to their myspace page, I guess if King Chukka ever starts doing some gigs I will create one for the band. The online stuff seems to be more and more time consuming, with limited return for the time. Probably better off practicing music -- except, the osteoarthritis in my left hand has spread from the thumb into the first finger. Playing in public, the adrenaline rush pretty much blocks the pain of playing; practicing, usually not much in the way of adrenaline.

Re music in:

  • The new Portishead, "Third", is anxiety-producing to the extent that it is hard to listen to. A few places I noticed riffs that sound exactly like Stereolab. 3 stars rather than 2.
  • Elvis Costello, "Momofuku". Not doing much for me yet, probably 3 stars.
  • The Yardbirds, "The Best". I got this off of eMusic after Amazon sent me an ad for a Yardbirds CD. As it's downloading, I notice the reviews "none of these are the tracks I expected, it's some kind of live tapes" -- and indeed it is. Very well done, but not what you expect. I think I'll go on and get the one from amazon as well. "I'm Not Talking" -- I'd forgotten what an odd, fun song that was. The Wikipedia page on the Yardbirds had some interesting stuff. Eric Clapton, their 1st lead guitarist, quit when they started doing more pop stuff -- he was a total blues purist at the time. He recommended Jimmy Page to replace him. Page was happy doing studio work so he recommended Jeff Beck. After their bass player quit, Page joined the band as bass player until the rhythm guitar player learned to play bass, so Page and Beck could play lead together. Beck was kicked out of the band while on tour in Texas??? Page then went on to Led Zeppelin. The 1st Led Zeppelin tapes were actually done as The Yardbirds, but then Chris Dreja, the rhythm/bass player, told them that he owned the name.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

It Wasn't Pretty

Finally biked this morning. 11 miles in 50 minutes, much huffing and puffing, much use of low gears. And forgot to take water, which definitely doesn't help with the alcohol / dehydration.

Anti-grackle strategy seems somewhat successful. Removed bulk seed feeders, bulk feed available on a squirrel-proof feeder with small holes only, no sunflower seeds. They're still around, using the birdbaths, but, at least I ain't feeding them much. We have cardinals, sparrows in the small-hole feeder, finches, goldfinches, chickadees. We also have up to a dozen doves, who unfortunately like the safflower seed just fine.

Impulse bought a new guitar -- a baritone guitar! I did not know there was such a thing, so the purchase was clearly justified. It came in with light baritone strings tuned down a step to D. I tuned it down further to C and it sounded great. I have ordered standard baritone strings and want to tune it down to an A -- a fifth down.

Unfortunately, after consulting with two (clueless) support people, I sent it back, because the side dots on the neck don't match up with the main dots on the fretboard -- and just an hour ago, read an article saying this was by design. Hopefully I will get it back before too long. Here's a picture.

Music-in, I've been all over the place:

  • "I.O.U" (1982) and "Atavachon" (1986), by Allen Holdsworth. From Guitar Player magazine, "the greatest prog-rock guitarist of the 80's and 90's". Pretty prog-jazzy stuff, 3 stars.
  • "Shine" (2008), by Estelle, and her earlier effort "The 18th Day" (2005). She was one of 4 I brought home from London on my "check it out" list. Kind of reminiscent of Lauryn Hill, 4 stars.
  • Sam Cook, "Keep On Movin", 1963. 23 tracks, pretty much none of his big hits, but some good stuff nonetheless. 3 stars.
  • Mississippi John Hurt, "Library of Congress Recordings, Vol 2, Disk 2". I was looking for a version of "See See Rider" for the jam, really struck by his laid back voice. 3 stars.
  • Portishead, "Third". Very aggressively innovative, just got today, needs more listen. I'm guessing 3.5 stars.
I downloaded all the colliding galaxy pictures mentioned in the last post. My favorite was this one. It reminds me of this picture of NGC 1275, my favorite galaxy, at the center of the Perseus cluster, Abell 426, 100Mpc distant and still the bright extragalactic X-ray source in the sky. I am seeing both of these as: an existing large elliptical galaxy with a large (10^5 or 6 solar masses) central black hole is being plowed into by a spiral galaxy whose plane intersects the black hole. As the spiral rotates, it feeds its spiral arms into the black hole. I'm wondering if there's any way this can cause the spiral's progress get seriously impeded, such that it is trapped and eaten more than you would expect. The NGC 1275 picture tho shows much less sign of the elliptical target -- but, it seems like something has to be there triggering the stuff to the west of the spiral shape -- so maybe the spiral is proportionately larger.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Astronomy Alert

A great set of 59 images of interacting galaxies has been posted by the European Hubble group:

Galaxy wars!!! They shred each other, in many different configurations, until nothing is left of the original galaxies!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I finally finished "Sixty Days and Counting" by Kim Stanley Robinson. Very positive stuff, that to fix the earth we have to fix everything -- health care, economics, etc. Clearly a best of all possible outcomes scenario.

So, why did it take me so long to finish this book (540 pages)? I started it on my way home from England. I guess my time is being spent instead on:

  • My project to enter the Abell Catalog of clusters of galaxies into google sky. The latest post is here -- it has links to the other ones. I'm now out to around 250 Mpc, so the numbers are going way up. My value add was to set the viewport to include the whole cluster. For the hundreds of more distant clusters, I will instead be writing some perl scripts to convert raw lists into the XML that Google Sky accepts.
    Google sky has some great images of clusters out to around 1000 Mpc, amazing. I'm looking forward to finishing my 1st pass and then coming back and doing a "best of" list -- all the ones with dozens of galaxies, and with the viewports set to emphasize the populous central regions of the cluster, rather than the whole cluster.
  • Answering posts to the google sky message boards. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. The clueless factor is so high -- "look, it's a spaceship", or "this looks like the firefox logo". And as my son says, they always win in the end. Still, you hope that maybe you can help get a young person interested in Astronomy.
  • Playing the stock market. Don't ask ...
  • Playing music. Jams have been generally going well, my 4 piece band is doing OK, but needs a lot more work. We are to the point tho where we are trying to come up with some more unique arrangements, to make the material our own. I'm getting busted at the jams tho, for the old black man growl. I had thought it was working ...
  • Spending quality time with my wife, when the good doctor is not working.
I'm two months behind on the magazine stack. I need to make more time to read. I have now decided I will retire at 62, five years from my birthday in June. I think I have enough going on to keep me busy.

Music-in wise, I am right now listening to a new pandora radio station I created from Man Man. Four songs by groups I have never heard of, and all quirky and good. Pandora kind of scares me. All the time I have spent collecting, collating, classifying music, unnecessary? This is only the 2nd station I have created there. The 1st was based on The Band, and it performed admirably.

Other new music I have gotten lately:

  • Cosas en ComĂșn, by Juanito Pascual. He's a flamence guitarist out of Boston, we saw him at Woodsongs, show 479. He totally blew the other two (very excellent) guitarists away. 3.5 stars.
  • This Is What Is, by Daniel Lanois. A studio pedal player, an interesting mix of music, 3.5 stars. I was pointed at this by the blog of the local music critic Walter Tunis. It seemed to me like he has been doing this forever, and per the profile, he's been the Herald Leader critic since 1980, we got here in 1981, so I guess that the local forever is true.
  • Keep It Simple, by Van Morrison. Van The Man totally succeeds here by keeping it simple, there's not a bad song on the album. 3 stars.
  • Life, by The Cardigans. Guilty as charged, 3 stars.
The blackbirds we have are common grackles. They are totally dominating the yard now, need to figure out a plan to maybe get rid of them. Maybe real restrictive small bird feeders, and safflower seed, which they don't like.

My oldest daughter says I should use this picture for my blog profile. I don't think so.

I am also undecided about putting my flying spaghetti monster car emblem on the black prius, which I now have back. There are currently no fish emblems in the parking lot at work, why should I cast the first stone?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Zombie Jebus Day!

That was the subject of the e-mail I got from my younger brother the author this past Sunday. I liked it. And, it's shorter than "The First Sunday After The First Full Moon After The Vernal Equinox!"

In London I finished "Musicophilia : Tales of Music and the Brain" by Oliver Sacks, of "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat", blogged earlier. I think I'm getting somewhat tired of reading this kind of stuff -- "The Singing Neanderthals" might have to wait awhile. FFTKAT:

  • The brain of a musician is easily discernable in an autopsy?!?!? Enlarged corpus callosum (the large fiber that connects the two hemispheres of the brain) and fine motor control areas.
  • Music has proven to be an effective therapy for stroke-induced aphasia (lack of speech) -- the music survives, patients who cannot speak can sing lyrics, which seems to help their speech recover.
  • A couple of chapters talked about musical hallucinations -- people hearing music all the time. I think it's not like my hit parade -- or maybe it is, and they just don't have sufficient cycles to listen to the music and think or perform other mental activities.
  • There as numerous documented cases of musical people with severe dementia who still retain most or all of their musical skills. So, my vision of ending life as "the human jukebox" has already been realized many, many times.
So I finished this shortly after starting the 8 hour flight from Bristol to Newark. I pulled out the other book I had to read, Kim Stanley Robinson's "Sixty Days and Counting". Looking through the intro pages, I realized I had read the 1st book of this trilogy, "Forty Signs of Rain", blogged September 16, 2004 -- but had not read the 2nd book, "Fifty Degrees Below Zero".

Crisis. Seven hours left on a transatlantic flight, and if I want to read something, I must skip a volume in a trilogy. I refuse to watch movies on airplanes, it has to be the worst imaginable movie-watching experience. So, I said, whatever, and started the book. I'm somewhat bogged around halfway through. There have been enough back-references to figure out what the plot of the 2nd book was, so I think it's burned. This one is good, but somewhat annoying in that the protagonist is a middle-aged man who in his spare time from the plot is juggling three girlfriends. Grrr, yeah right. I guess KSR is getting to that age.

I did get a good musical reference from it: Astor Piazzolla, who was apparently the god of tango music from around 1960 on. I'm listening "Piazzolla En Suite" now, pretty good stuff, 3 stars.

Jams have been going well. The Monday night jam at Goshin's Tavern appears to be dying out -- too annoying to the pool players. I've been up at least twice at the last two Wednesday O'Neill jams, playing and singing pretty well. Last week the jam overall was kind of off, some country people there, and a gay guy doing "At Last", "Summertime", and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" in a very high voice. He's not bad, but I don't think it's an appropriate venue for his material.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Blackbirds Are Back

The blackbirds came back two weekends ago, at least a dozen of them. We currently also have doves, sparrows, goldfinches, house finches, juncos, chickadees (3) and a pair of cardinals. Over the winter, we also had titmouse (3), starlings, a downy woodpecker, and a carolina wren. I saw the cooper's hawk flying around a couple of blocks away a couple of days ago.

England Swings

Flew to England (London Heathrow) on March 9, leaving at 2pm and arriving in London at 11am on Monday. We were supposed to have had a 6-1/2 hour layover in Newark, and as planned, I took a taxi with my coworker/traveller to Landmarc restaurant in Tribecca in Manhattan for dinner with my oldest daughter. This place was only about 4 blocks from the Holland Tunnel exit, and the cab ride from Newark airport was still $80 each way, woo-hoo! Dinner was excellent, and it was great to see Erica. They had as an appetizer "Roasted Bone Marrow" -- I had to see it. Umbeeleebabul -- 3 pieces of bone on end, some caramelized onions, with bread to spread the greasy, marrowy mess on -- yum!

So we get back to the airport and our 10:30pm Virgin Atlantic flight has been delayed until 4:00am :-( They gave us an option to give us a voucher to take a cab to JFK for a 12 midnight flight on American -- which we did. It wound up leaving at 1am. But, in changing our tickets, Virgin managed to cancel our homeward leg from Newark to Lexington. So coming home on the 14th, we get to Newark and have no ticket to Lexington. By the time they straigtened it out we missed our connection and had to come home through Cleveland, getting in at 11:15pm rather than 6:00pm. Given that I'd been up since 1:40am, it was a long day. I am hoping my lower back is going to forgive me soon and stop hurting. I had a great massage Friday, she really did a great job on the lower back -- it still hurts but at least I could stand up straight.

So England was fun, my 1st time there, only my 2nd time in Europe. I was at the Hotel Russell on Russell Square from Monday through Thursday morning. Tuesday through Thursday, I got up at 7:00am, walked over to Russell Square and ate breakfast there, with a large cup of coffee, and then took a few laps around the square, then went back and showered. In the evenings I drank enough to fall asleep at 11:00p every night. They were only 4 hours ahead of us (not on daylight savings yet), so the jet lag was really minimal.

My meetings for Tuesday and Wednesday got cancelled so I spent both days sightseeing. Tuesday I took The Big Bus 4 hour tour of London. Wednesday I spent 3-4 hours in The British Museum (just off of Russell Square) -- man, did they score a bunch of loot. Many many mummies and cases, and 60% of the statuary from the Parthenon ("protecting it from acid rain and vandalism"). I think I'm getting too old for museums tho.

Then I walked north around 6 blocks to The British National Library. Saw the magna carta and lots of other old books. Didn't do too much for me -- it didn't help that the lights were real dim, making it hard to see. I did like that their central glass cage with the fire walls that drop down from which the air can be evacuated was 10 stories tall. I think the one we saw at the Princeton library (which had the really cool 1/4 inch thick white marble walls instead of windows) was only 5 stories.

I then walked about 12 blocks south to Aldwyck, then west to Strand, past the Savoy Theatre and the Coal Hole Pub (out of the Gilbert & Sullivan movie "Topsy-Turvy" that my wife and I love) to Tralfagar Square. The bus tour the day before had shown me, the touristy parts of London, from Kensington Park in the west through Hyde Park, by Buckingham Palace, parliament, Big Ben, and finishing up with the financial district and the Tower of London, is only about 2 miles, very walkable.

Then Thursday morning we took the train west to Bristol, which is almost in Wales, I think around 1.5 hours. The English countryside was suitably quaint. The houses are all small, lots of tudor (shocker). I liked their streams with little boats and lots of swans.

I felt very comfortable there. I think that having a fondness for BBC series and English movies over the years helped make it feel relatively familiar. My coworker/traveller, who had lived in England, did me the solid of warning me about stepping off the curb -- the wrong-way traffic only almost ran me over once. They also have "Look Left" and "Look Right" on most pedestrian crosswalks through most of London. They also impede jaywalking where they don't want it by putting fences between the sidewalk and street.

It was also weird, the mimic in me so wanted to try a British accent. I was really conscious of the fact that anytime I opened my mouth anyone could tell I was an American. But, I never did. Two or three times, they spoke quickly and used terminology different from American English, I couldn't understand it at all.

I liked a lot of their different usages. I should have kept a list there, there were dozens of them:

  • "brilliant", shortened to "brill", for "cool" or "outstanding"
  • "way out" for "exit"
So anyway, after a meeting on Thursday in Bristol, home (interminably) on Friday. Food (pub, italian, chinese, indian) was generally OK -- except for a lambburger at "Mabel's Tavern" near the National Library where the "meat" patty was ???

Right now listening to "Here Is What Is", by Daniel Lanois, who is apparently a British pedal steel player studio musician. Very nice and quirky, 3.5 stars. I got it from Walter Tunis's blog. Walter is the Lexington Herald-Leader music critic, who I have pretty much always thought does a pretty good job. I have thought several times that it seems like he has been their critic pretty much forever. His blog says he started in 1980, and since we moved here April 1, 1981, I guess that makes sense.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Theocracy Sucks Even Worse Than Theism

All this foo going on in Tibet reminded me of this piece on Tibet when it was under the control of the monks, from Charlie Stross's blog. Here's a shocker: it ain't pretty.

A Waking Dream? A Psychotic Break?

This happened when we were flying to St. Martin. I meant to blog it earlier and forgot.

Anyway, we're in the Lexington airport to leave, and as I'm walking to the gate, the standard security announcement comes on:

The Department of Homeland Security has raised the alert level to orange. Please blah blah blah ...
But then, after the standard announcement finished, the same voice continued on:
And when you're done with your traveling, why not unwind and relax at Blah resort? They know how to get rid of the stress of travelling.
??? Holy shit, I thought ... commercials on airport security announcements? As my friend David says, is irony dead? I couldn't believe I had heard it. I asked an airline employee how long they had been doing that, she said a couple of months. I sat down and remarked on it to my wife and another woman seated by us. I don't particularly remember their reaction, but I don't think they acted as if I was crazy.

But, that was around 5 weeks ago, I have been in airports 4-5 times since then, and I have not heard this again. And, when I think about it, I just can't believe that they would do that. So was this a dream, or what? I guess I will ask my wife what she remembers about it.

Putting my shoes back on at security a week ago on my way to London (more later), I asked a TSA guy if there were commercials attached to the security announcements. He kind of ignored the question -- maybe not the sharpest pencil in the box -- shocker -- but did comment on the fact that "the level has been raised to orange" for around 18 months. Maybe time to change from the past participle to the past tense ...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


The official rating of the week in St. Martin was Highly Non-Suckish. Mostly just walking the beach, enjoying the panoramic views to the horizon and the many shades of blue in the ocean. We did hike to the top of Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island. I did learn a lesson tho. I did way too much gloating before we left and was punished by the laws of karma -- a smallish ice storm canceled our flight out on 2/12, so we were only there for 6 days rather than 7.

Got lots of reading in. I'm feeling lazy, I'm not going to hyperlink these, cut and paste to google please:

  • "The Android's Dream", by John Scalzi. Nicely written and diverting, 3 stars.
  • "Yhe Dog Said Bow-Wow", by Michael Swanwick. A good collection of stories, and not much evidence of Swanwick's sometime misogynism, 3 stars.
  • "Rewired, the post-cyberpunk anthology", edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. A very good collection of stories. Unfortunately I had already read 3/4 of them. Still, 4 stars.
  • "The Lightstone", by David Zindell. My friend Jon really liked Zindell's Neverness novels. I did too, enough to read them twice. Here he does high fantasy. I was kind of freaked, the thing just kind of ended. Wikipedia says there are 3 more in the series. I guess I have to read them now. 3 stars.
  • "The Tin Roof Blowdown", by James Lee Burke. A Dave Robicheaux novel. Seemed appropriate to be reading the cajun cheap detective series in French St. Martin. This is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, and is very disturbing. 3 stars.
  • "Quirkology -- How We Discover Big Truths In Small Things", by Richard Wiseman, Ph.D. Kind of a bible of Fun Facts To Know And Tell. A very fast and easy read on real-life experiments in social psychology, uncovering numerous quirks of human nature. 3 stars.
I took my ukulele to St. Martin, but it's not the same, I missed my guitars. Blues jam tonight, I'm ready.

Just upgraded my Apple TV. They really changed the UI, I guess we've gone from around v0.8 to v1.5. Kind of refreshing to see them hacking and burning -- agile software development rules, yeah!!!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Four Versions

So, I'm listening to the Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli recommended by indogout (thanks again) -- 6 tracks, so far most excellent, 4 stars, and for jazz even! Track 3 is "Someone To Watch Over Me" -- and I noticed, I have 4 versions in 3 genres of this track in my iTunes:
  • Art Tatum, jazz
  • Frank Sinatra, pop
  • Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, jazz
  • Rickie Lee Jones, chick pop
Ain't life grand? (St. Martin in 5 days ...)

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Finished reading a Gardner Dozois short story collection "One Million A.D.", which (duh) had the theme of the far future. The 1st and last stories I had already read in The Year's Best. The rest were all pretty readable. But, the Charles Stross story "Missile Gap" made me realize what the others were missing: evolution as a major part of their theme. I've mentioned before, Frank Herbert was always one of my favorites because his stories wound up being about evolution. As our knowledge of evolution progresses, it is good that science fiction continues to stretch it, as in the Stross story, or in Stephen Baxter's "Coalescent" (blogged 2/26/5), which touched on the same topic as the Stross story.

Accompanied keyboard man extraordinaire Bob Hopps at his Clay's Steakhouse gig last night from 6-9. I took Black Beauty out in public for the 1st time. The owner of Clay's commented on its beauty -- "A class guitar for a class joint" I told him. It was fun, played pretty well, but both thumbs hurt this morning.

Re music in, I have been listening to:

  • Delbert McClinton, various albums. An interesting musician who's been around since 1962 (harmonica on "Hey Baby") playing blues, rock, country, honky-tonk, etc. My favorite is the song "You Were Never Mine" off of "One of the Fortunate Few", 1997.
  • John Legend, "Get Lifted". West Coast R&B, could be a little catchier, 3 stars.
  • The Jefferson Airplane, "After Bathing at Baxter's", 1967 -- I think this is the best psychedelic album made, 4 stars; 5 stars for "Watch Her Ride", maybe others.
  • Tinariwen, "Aman Iman: Water Is Life" -- a Tuareg (North African nomad) group. Nicely odd, 3 stars. This came from a college friend/keyboard player Del, who spent his high school years in Tangier, Morocco. He set up this Virtual Tangier Web Site.
  • Various blues (John Lee Hooker, Albert King) from, checking out songs for the Wednesday night blues jam. Last two weeks have been good. Getting to do 6 songs, numerous folks from Exstream have come out.
Speaking of Exstream, on Jan 22 it was announced that HP was acquiring it. Closing will be next month, April 1 is supposed to be Day One as an HP employee. Finally made the front page of the Herald-Leader, but no coverage in InfoWorld or Computer world -- of a > $500M acquisition?!?!?

My baby sister sent me a link to a fabulous collection of anti-Intelligent Design cartoons. I posted to KASES, and it was well received there, and everyone I have sent it too has really enjoyed it.

We had a mockingbird eating suet today. We used to have mockingbirds around all the time, but hadn't for the last few years, so I was glad to see one.

In 9 days at this time, I will be on St. Martin, woo-hoo!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy New Year

Holidays went well, good family visits and good loafing and reading.

But, have had a cold for the last 6 days. Not a bad one, but enough to make me spend all weekend under a blanket on the couch with football on reading. Missed music last week, probably will skip this week as well.

I was filing some of my youngest's textbooks on the basement and came across "The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution", by Luigi Luca and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza, 1995. A lot of stuff I already knew -- I thought about not reading it when I saw the 1995 publishing date, but, "diaspora" is such a great word, I went on and read it. There were some points interestingly presented:

  • The Basques seem to be the last remnants of hunter-gatherer Cro-Magnons who were left as the rest of Europe was settled by farmers moving out from the Fertile Crescent;
  • The evolution of language and genes follow similar paths across the globe;
  • The words that tend to evolve most slowly are: the numbers 1, 2, and 3 and the names of parts of the body.
  • Some of these are close to being the same in languages all around the world.
Still having fun with Google Sky and answering questions there. Had a scare when my local settings seemed to get screwed up, but I recovered from it OK. Still need to figure out how to post some of this stuff, if for nothing else but to get it backed up.

Got some cool stuff for christmas. Many new bird feeders. Somehow I think my wife prefers me watching birds out the kitchen windows to playing guitar in various bars and dives. Go figure. There was a hawk sitting in one of the arbor vitae on the left of the yard a week or so ago. It flew off, it had 3 dark bars across its tail. I think it's a Cooper's hawk. The bird book says they like to stake out bird feeders. Still getting juncos, sparrows, finches, chickadees, and doves, and still occasionally see the Carolina wren.

My in-laws gave me Apple TV for xmas. So, the iPod for your home entertainment system. It's pretty cool, can view the pictures on my hard drive, listen to my iTunes, watch YouTube videos (?!?!?). Not sure how to proceed with films tho. I bought "Tombstone" (of course) from iTunes for $9.95 to have something to play with. Quality is lovely, but an hour or so to download and then sync to the Apple TV seems highly non- spur-of-the-moment. I thought I would rip my few existing DVDs, but, you have to buy some third party software to do that and so far it doesn't work well: pixelation, slight pauses, vague slow-motion. Their (automated) tech support sent some suggestions, I need to play with it some more. But, at an hour a pop, it's an easy thing to put off.

So, not sure how to handle movies. We had started renting more movies OnDemand from the cable: $4, starts immediately, very convenient. But, not HD. They are offering a few HD movies, but for $6. The upsampling on my DVD player works great, so renting DVDs still seems the best way to go -- $4 for near HD quality.

I don't want to fool with NetFlix. I think iTunes is going to offer movie rentals. If they do that, and then will let you buy for an upcharge for a movie you really like, that might be the way to go.

I also for xmas got a beautiful nickel flute. I was pleased to find that I could blow about 2-1/3 of the 3 octaves available on a flute -- for about 5 minutes before my lips gave out. So, no problem, I figured I'd play for 5-10 minutes every day until my embouchure came back. Then, after around 5 days, tragedy. My left thumb is now screwed up from bending it back, on the neck of a guitar. Guess what you use to support a flute? Two bent back thumbs. I got a spot in the 2nd joint of my right thumb on the palm side that produces excruciating pain when pressed. And it seems to be spreading to the 1st and 3rd joints.

It ain't fair, getting old sucks!!!