Friday, December 07, 2012

(Too Much) Music In

Man, so much good music! But it seems like I just cannot find enough time to listen to it all to where it sinks in. Between new albums from known favorites, and the 2 fabulous new Brooklyn bands I seem to find every month, and going back and mining gems I missed like Tom Waits, and ripping my vinyl to MP3 (which I basically haven't started yet), there just ain't enough time!

My current sources of new music are:

  1. An email every Tuesday from Amazon: MP3 Newsletter. Usually 20 or so recommendations. I'll usually listen to any indie / alternative that look interesting. (Note, I'd still like to have someplace to buy music from other than Amazon (or Apple)).
  2. Lexington Herald-Leader Friday Weekender section, In The Bins column lists newly releaased albums and albums to be released the next Tuesday. Plus their music critic of 30 years Walter Tunis usually reviews a few albums a week.
  3. The Rolling Stone RSS feed. It has around 10-20 items a day, usually one or two videos of new songs.
  4. Word of mouth (particularly Chris Cooper).
I got somewhat signed up for Spotify but haven't been using it. I unsubscribed from its email notifications "so-and-so is listening to blah" almost immediately. Way TMI.

OK, enough whining, let's get down to it! (Gotta get down to it!) This is acquisitions from the start of October to the start of December.

  • Dave Matthews Band, "Away From The World". I think about half the people I play music with don't like DMB. My daughters all liked them in high school (particularly my middle daughter), and I always liked it pretty well myself. I checked, my smart playlist of 5-star songs "Serious Medicine" has 7 DMB tracks in it (out of 115), so I guess I like them a lot. This album is a good effort. This is the first time that I noticed that some of the instrumental sections of multiple instruments playing the same theme reminds me of some of Frank Zappa's orchestral stuff. 3 stars.
  • Van Morrison, "Born To Sing: No Plan B". This one more jazzy that the last one. Very nice tunes. Some of the same world-weary lyrics as his last album: "Playing in the background, some kind of phony pseudo jazz". I classified this album as Pop, Van's 3rd genre, along with Rock and Blues. 3 stars.
  • A.C. Newman, "Shut Down The Streets". Very nice tunes, extremely listenable. 3 stars.
  • Grizzly Bear, "Shields". Man, another great Brooklyn band! From the catchy and distinctive opening riff of "Sleeping Ute", the 1st track, to the last track tour-de-force "Sun In Your Eyes", which became the 115th 5 star track (out of > 16,000) in my iTunes library. 4 stars for the rest of the album.
  • Benjamin Gibbard, "Former Lives". At some point I am going to go through the 3300 "Alternative & Punk" tracks in my library and break them down into more atomic genre. Benjamin Gibbard, along with his bands Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service, will definitely go under Emo. Very nice songs. Aimee Mann featured on "Bigger Than Love". 3 stars.
  • Of Montreal, "Daughter of Cloud". Their last couple of albums hadn't been up to the crazy energy of "Skeletal Lamping". Well, they're back, with Kevin Barnes at his snarky, gay, obscene best, with great ELO backgrounds and vocals and, of course, bongos! 4 stars.
  • Andrew Bird, "Hands of Glory". Much folkier than his earlier stuff, and as such, somewhat lacking in the quirky charm of the earlier stuff. 3 stars.
  • Donald Fagen, "Sunken Condos". OK tunes. Donald apparently is still a player. The best Steely Dan followup album is still "11 Tracks of Whack", by Walter Becker. 3 stars.
  • Beach House, "Bloom". This is the 2nd I have by this husband/wife duo from Baltimore. Very nice tunes. They remind me of the other excellent husband/wife duo Tennis. Wikipedia says their genre is Dream Pop. Another genre for the big split. 3 stars (almost 4 tho).
  • Dirty Projectors, "Swing Lo Magellan". Another great Brooklyn Band. Really distinctive voicings of both melodic and rhythmic instruments and vocals. In "Maybe That Was It" it sounds like the guitarist is playing the tuners on the guitar, very odd. 4 stars.
While doing this post, upgraded to iTunes 11. It created duplicate entries for ~400 tracks, not sure what that was about. Hopefully OK now.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Synchronicity

Weird. Posted as a response to Walter Tunis's article on the death of Dave Brubeck.
Very strange, this past Saturday 12/1/12 went to see the internationally renowned guitarist, the inimitable Ben Lacy at Azur. The first song he did was "Take Five". Talking to him later I told him he had to do "Blue Rondo a la Turk" as well. And he posted 3 days later that based on the positive reception of "Take Five", he was working up "Blue Rondo a la Turk" -- but that it was really hard (yeah right).

After he did "Take Five", I googled when it came out. I would have thought early 60's. My (3 years) older brother, who graduated HS in 1966, was a jazz fan in HS, so I heard Brubeck, Miles, Nina Simone, etc, when I was 10-15 YO. I was surprised to see it was 1959.

Within the last year, I watched Ken Burns "Jazz", loaned to me by a friend. The West Coast Jazz movement (Brubeck) was the only thing that kept the jazz of the period from being completely dominated by the (junkie) East Coast scene.

Anyway, one word: synchronicity.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Economy of Plenty, Part 4

So I'm totally churning here. I'm finding more and more stuff, bringing it here, throwing it up against the wall, seeing what sticks.

As Tim O'Reilly has been talking about Economy of Abundance rather than Economy of Plenty, I was considering editing my posts and changing everything. Nope, not happening. For one thing, I have also come across references to this concept as Post-scarcity Economy. This seems to be very science-fictiony -- right up my alley. But, with 2 optional names, I'll stick with Economy of Plenty.

O'Reilly is actually talking about something that exists now, in that, for digital goods -- an eBook or a MP3 track of music -- there is no natural scarcity. It has to be created artificially. Like when my public library has only 2 "copies" of a given eBook -- LOL, they have infinite copies. Hence the huge market for pirated music, movies, books worldwide. And, as 3d printers continue to come down in price, soon the same thing will be true for lots of physical objects as well.

Here's O'Reilly talking about "The Clothesline Paradox" and new economics.

I mostly talked about what I call "The Clothesline Paradox" - the way that our economic measures favor value captured from the economy rather than value created - and why we need to change that. Tim Berners-Lee and the people who created the open source software that powers the internet didn't capture very much of the enormous value they created for themselves. It was captured elsewhere in the economy. Meanwhile, the titans of Wall Street are very good at capturing value for themselves while actually destroying value for the economy as a whole.
Here's a slideshow of this same material.

Here's a post that does a nice analysis of post abundance. I posted this response:

Nice post. I've been researching this and done several posts lately. Not near as well organized, more on the order of thrashing around. My blog is portraitofthedumbass.blogspot.com.

Your tiered system intuitively seems like the wrong model to me, not sure why, I need to think on that.

One thing I have seen is that my children (36-29 YO) seems to be much less materialistic than our generation. They also seem to be somewhat immunized to advertising.

My 33 YO graphic designer daughter in Brooklyn has done a lot of pro-bono work over the years. She finally cut back on that a few years ago and made some money, now she's done a lot of work for Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy. In her community, and in software development communities, especially open source ones, there does seem to be a "reputation economy" growing up, which is often mentioned as a sign of a post-scarcity economy.

So, with so much as cheap as it is, and a billionaire unable to get a better smartphone then anyone else, maybe we're almost there already? Just need universal health care and some serious tax reform.
Google autocomplete also suggests Economy of Plentitude. That seems to have been coined by these guys. Their mission statement:
Inspiring, engaging, and challenging Americans to re-examine their cultural values on consumption and consumerism and initiating a new national conversation around what “the good life” and the “American dream” mean.
They've got a book, and a video. I like the video. Apparently mostly the brainchild of Juliet Schor, a Sociology prof at Boston College.

Here's another short post on Economy of Abundance.

One of my favorite sci-fi authors, Charles Stross (@cstross), had an interesting post on his blog re, what makes a billionaire want to make even more money? Three theories:

  1. "It becomes a habit". And amongst businessmen I know, just because you get (filthy) rich you don't change how you do business -- you do it right.
  2. "It becomes a game", trying to rack up the top score. Larry Ellison comes to mind.
  3. "you're trying to build up a war chest that will buy you a very expensive toy one that isn't currently available at any price, so that if you want one you'll have to sink billions of dollars and years of your own time into building it." Think Elon Musk saying he wants to retire on Mars.
All three reasons make sense.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Much Is Enough

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.
Epicurus

I finished reading "How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life", by Robert and Edward Skidelsky (British, an economist and a philosopher), a couple of weeks ago. Their article "In Praise Of Leisure", which I cannot recommend highly enough, contains about 70% of the preface. I discussed and quoted that in my 3rd Economy of Plenty post.

The book is a quick read, 218 pages, and written in very common-sensical prose. I almost thought about rereading it before writing this post, but decided to proceed on the single reading. I will summarize the book's 7 chapters a chapter at a time.

Chapter 1, "Keynes's Mistake". This reviews Keynes article from the 1930s, which posited that once productivity had increased by a factor of 8 or so, how we would be living in a utopia for all. What happened instead? Almost all of the increased income from the increased productivity ended up in the pockets of the 1%. With many fine charts, facts, and figures. Keynes's error: to assume that material wants are naturally finite.

Chapter 2, "The Faustian Bargain". Reviews ideas of utopias. Hmm, I didn't know that the devil as "old Nick" was a reference to Nicholai Machiavelli. The history of how money-making as a goal got out of control. Never heard of Mandeville, who apparently was somewhat of a predecessor to Hegel and Marx. Marx thought capitalism had to end eventually because it was unjust -- but he never quite figured out how. "Greed is good" is a very new concept, throughout prior history, greed was bad and considered immoral. The Faustian pact: "the devils of avarice and usury were given free rein, on the understanding that, having lifted humanity out of poverty, they would quit the scene for good". Oops.

Chapter 3, "The Uses of Wealth". The good life, according to Aristotle, Pericles, Epicurus. "Use values" vs "exchange values". Acquiring money is a means to what ends, according to Western, Indian, and Chinese tradition? One thing I found out in this chapter is that I am not a liberal. "Liberal thinkers have insisted on public neutrality between rival concepts of the good." -- I am not a relativist, I believe there are absolutes. I judge a culture number one by how it treats its women, children and minorities. Apparently liberalism changed from emphasizing tolerance to emphasizing neutrality in the 1960's.

Chapter 4, "The Mirage of Happiness". The definition of happiness through history, and the economics of happiness. More fun charts. Is happiness aggregrative, i.e., a function of your entire life? Is it uni-dimensional or multi-dimensional? The conclusion is, happiness ≠ The Good Life.

Chapter 5, "Limits to Growth: Natural or Moral?". They argue that global warming does not necessarily mean that we need to reduce growth, a pretty non-PC position. They compare deep environmentalists, "who value nature as an end in itself", and shallow environmentalists, "who value nature as an instrument of human purpose". Gaia is discussed. And they introduce a concept I really like: "harmony with nature", which is one of the components of The Good Life. Their best example of harmony with nature: gardening.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. -- Cicero
The pear tree near the house in our back yard is definitely coming down, I will have a vegetable garden next spring!

Chapter 6, "Elements of the Good Life". So we finally get our shopping list, and it is a good one. First tho, the attributes of what makes something a Basic Good are discussed. These are concluded to be:
  • it must be universal:  world-wide and world-view independent.
  • it must be final:  it is not a means to an end. It must be the end.
  • it must be sui generis (of its own kind/genus):  atomic and not part of some other good.
  • it must be indespensible:  "anyone who lacks it may be deemed to have suffered a serious loss or harm."
So here are their 7 Basic Goods, the elements of The Good Life:
  1. Health. "The full functioning of the body, the perfection of our animal nature." Sounds like universal health care would help with making this available to all.
  2. Security. "An individual's justified expectation that is his life will continue more or less in its accustomed course, undisturbed by war, crime, revolution or major social and economic upheavals." Of course, when I did computer security, I would always say, there is no such thing -- we should all become Buddhists. But I understand the principal here and agree with it as a Good.
  3. Respect. What Mitt Romney did not have for the 47%. Some relative level of equality, in all forms, is probably a prerequisite for respect. "Where the rich behave with lawless arrogance, the poor with impotent resentment and politicians with obeisance to money, inequality has exceeded the mark."
  4. Personality. "The ability to frame and execute a plan of life reflective of one's taste, temperament and conception of the good." It would hard to conceive of any kind of Good Life that did not have rampant individuality, the more the better. It also implies the concept of private property.
  5. Harmony with Nature. As discussed above. I want my garden.
  6. Friendship. They include family in this Good. Plus they distinguish it from community, which does not imply a reciprocal relationship between the participants.
  7. Leisure. "That which we do for its own sake, not as a means to something else". What floats your boat. What you love. What would do if money were no object? (This Allen Watts video has been floating around the web lately). Throughout history this has included participation in things like sports, art, crafts, music, and citizenship. Note we are talking participation rather than spectatorship.
So how do we achieve these? "The state's first duty is to create the material conditions of a good life for all." We realize that growth for is own sake is not part of The Good Life.

Chapter 7, "Exits from the Rat Race". "Darwinian capitalism", with its buddy "social Darwinism", must be reigned in. We must "reverse the onslaught of insatiability". Social Catholicism is examined. Hmmm, with the fall of the USSR in the 1980's, capitalism was declared the winner in the race of world ideologies -- which undoubtedly accelerated the growth of the out-of-control, rape/pillage/loot capitalism that we now have.

They also identify the fact that it is cheaper for employers to have fewer employees working more hours than more employees working fewer hours because that minimizes their overhead for benefits. This could be fixed by legislation to limit the work week. "The Dutch work fewer hours than the British yet enjoy a higher average income".

They propose (gasp, socialism alert), a basic income for all citizens. Lots of good arguments why this won't lead to generations of slackers worse than what we see amongst trust fund children.

In even more heresy against the 'Murrican Way, they discuss ways to "reduce the pressure to consume":
  • sumptuary laws, which, dating back to ancient Greece, forbade various forms of conspicuous consumption. LOL, is that foreign to modern thinking or what? Well, excessive conspicuous consumption was part of what led to the French Revolution. Man, if Romney had won the election, I was really afraid we were totally going that way. At least we have a little breathing room now to try to fix some of this.
  • consumption (or expenditure) taxes. We are used to sales tax, but these would be progressive, based on annual consumption or (highly priced) single items. So you pay a higher tax rate for consumption over $100K a year and/or for your Rolex. Hell, we all grew up playing Monopoly, which has a Luxury Tax square. Of course that dates back to the 1930's, when tax rates were actually much more equitable than they are now.
  • reduce advertising!!! Gawd, would we all love that!!! They point out that whereas some ads provide useful information about necessities, far more have as their purpose creating a desire for something that is not a necessity.
    My add-on thought was, how about a tax on every advertising transaction? Just like microtaxes on stock market transactions would probably quickly reign in the zero-value-add programatic trading on Wall Street, you wonder what a tax on all marketing transactions would do to all the Internet businesses for whom ads are their main source of revenue. It might make some of them have to come to grips with what their real value-add is.
I've missed a lot here, but hopefully you get a feel for it. I really do highly recommend this book, it is a quick, easy and very informative read. I finished it 3 days after I started, reading at most a few hours a day. I'm getting more interested in economics, it had a lot of good background information on economic history, as well as philosophical history.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two Books

So last week finished "The Fractal Prince", by Hannu Rajaniemi. This is the 2nd book of a trilogy, following "The Quantum Thief", which I have already proclaimed to be the definitive sci-fi novel of the 2010's. There are so many neologisms in this book, it was really helpful for me to go to the handy glossary of terms for the first novel in wikipedia for a quick review.

That said, what a cool read. An "Arabian Nights" tribute, stories within stories within stories. At one point a story that includes one of its figures retelling the same story causes a person infected by the story to go into an infinite recursive loop, presenting to the outside world as catatonic. A great read. Looking foward to a year or so after the 3rd book comes out, reading the three of them end to end.

Just yesterday, I finished "2312", by Kim Stanley Robinson. The ultra-wealthy have mostly moved to Mars. Earth is mostly a still a mess 2 centuries after the oceans rise 11 meters. The rest of the inhabited solar system: Mercury, asteroids, Jovian and Saturnian moons; are mostly a coop based on the Mondragon Accord. They wind up being a post-scarcity, semi-anarchic utopia reminiscent of Iain M. Banks "Culture". A lot of implicit and explicit commentary on current politics, particularly climate change denialism. An excellent read.

Note, this was the 1st book I read using the Kobo reader. I linked to these books on the Kobo website. This is what Carmichael's, Louisville's oldest independent bookstore, is using to sell ebooks. The reader is a little buggy but not too bad. Better than the IndieRead reader.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Children Do Not Get To Choose

Posted this to Facebook the 23th. Figure it's long enough to go here. This blog I clearly see as my external memory. Not sure what I see FB as. Man, I am definitely cutting way back on FB and Twitter after the election.

Begin post:

Poor people "entitlements" vs rich people "entitlements" == blue collar crime vs white collar crime.

Blue collar crime == bank robbery, net $5-10k, 5-10 years jail time.

White collar crime == embezzlement, net $1-5M, 6-12 months in a country club jail.

$$$billions in preferential tax treatment to corporations and "investor class", but heaven forbid we should try to feed the 20% of children in the richest country in the history of the world who are hungry. That would be SOCIALISM!!!

Children do not get to choose to be born, nor do they get to choose their parents. If our basic goal is, "maximize the outcome of every child", how can that possibly be wrong for our country?

The game is rigged. We need above all else campaign reform and repeal of AU so our democracy is not for sale!

Next, try, try to rein in the military-industrial complex, so that the US can quit being, by a large factor, the biggest arms dealer in the world.

Finally, my greatest disappointment in my BFF Barack Obama, get rid of indefinite detention, ground the drones, restore the rule of law and constitutional rights, and in doing so, restore the US to being a shining beacon for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tiger! Tiger!

There was an interesting article in Scientific American about the many psychological characteristics shared by successful CEOs, top surgeons, and psychopaths: "fearless, confident, charismatic, ruthless and focused".

BTW, you can see if you are a psychopath by taking the handy, online test here. I was 44th percentile for primary psychopathy (a lack of empathy for other people and tolerance for antisocial orientations) and 12th percentile for secondary psychopathy (rule breaking and a lack of effort towards socially rewarded behavior). And I did not game the test, I answered honestly, I swear.

A while ago, I was thinking about Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged", and "Going Galt". First off, the whole "Going Galt" thing is such a complete crock. All you misunderstood and unappreciated executives, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. There are plenty of ambitious people who would be more than happy to take your jobs. I have blogged before about "The Great Man Theory" and concluded that it is completely bogus.

We are all Atlas. Every one of us, from Bill Gates to an armless, legless veteran homeless somewhere.

But the SciAm article reminded me of the thing I realized thinking about "Going Galt" -- that the main message of one of my favorite stories of all time is the exact opposite of "Going Galt". The story says that all of us have the seeds of greatness within us, and will step up if necessary, as opposed to, what, being handed "greatness" by your parents, and stepping down when you don't feel appreciated enough?

That story is "The Stars My Destination", by Alfred Bester, 1956, blogged about my me here. The anti-hero protagonist is an everyman whom events push into becoming "ruthless and focused". If you have not read this, I highly recommend it. It is very commonly mentioned as one the greatest sci-fi novels of all time. It is amazing that, despite first coming out in 1956, it still has edge. And it comes in at only around 180 pages. I include an except at the end, after the "SPOILER ALERT"s.

After review, I stand by my conclusions from "The Great Man Theory":

"If they decided to opt out, the forces of memetics and history would push someone else into the role."
So, moving into a better, more equitable world of the future, we should all us be ready at all times to tell the "job creators" who are "Going Galt" with themselves or their money, "don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out." And, "Here, have some nice new taxes!"

So psychopath/normal or alpha/beta males? I've talked before about alpha vs beta males in humans here. I think that the alpha/beta male difference is more physical, and probably has a genetic component. The psychopath behavior seems to be newer, more software/mentally based. Maybe less of a genetic component?

The title of this post is a poem of Blake's that opens "The Stars My Destination". In Britain, the novel's title was "Tiger! Tiger!".


Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
And here's Gully Foyle's identity poem that he recited to himself attempting to keep his psyche from unraveling:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
(And death's)/(The stars) my destination
Here's another bloggers read on the SciAm article. I like his conclusion:
"The problem is keeping the psychopaths under control of people with normal moral intuition."
i.e., a strong government with strong regulatory powers. When the psychopaths have $$$ billions, nothing else will have the power to do it.

* * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * *

* * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * *

* * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * *

Here's Gully Foyle's rabble-rousing speech from the end of the book:

"You pigs, you. You rut like pigs, is all. You got the most in you, and you use the least. You hear me, you? Got a million in you and spend pennies. Got a genius in you and think crazies. Got a heart in you and feel empties. All a you. Every you...

Take a war to make you spend. Take a jam to make you think. Take a challenge to make you great. Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you. Pigs, you! All right, God damn you! I challenge you, me. Die or live and be great. Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me, Gully Foyle, and I make you men. I make you great. I give you the stars."


Monday, October 22, 2012

Twitter Digest: #biking

#biking Car turns right in front of me, I backpedal to engage my coaster brake like I'm 8YO. #LikeRidingABike #MuscleMemoryFail
I was in the bike lane heading north on Newtown Pike, a car turned right in front of me onto Short St. After noticing I didn't have coaster breaks, I did hit the hand brakes. I would say that the reflex failure cost me 0.4-0.6 seconds in hitting the brakes.
OH #biking. 5YO: "Why is the ninja riding a bike?" (A: To keep his face warm.) #SheAskedTheWrongQuestion
Ha ha. At the Legacy Trail start at the Loudon Ave YMCA, there was a pee-wee football game in progress, with lots of kids around. Head warmer really helps nose and cheeks when temperature is below 50. I like that this is a classification error: for the 5YO girl, ninja overrode cyclist.
#biking past Lexington Fed Prison. Late 1978 installed a DEC PDP-12 there for data analysis on dream deprivation of prisoners dosed w LSD.
In response to a query from my brother, I thought about this more. Actually it was in late 1977. I started working for DEC (Digital Equipment Corp) in July 1977. This was the 1st time I went on site -- and I did not install the system, I tweaked a magtape driver to attach a magtape for backups. The PDP-12 was a kind of 12, kind of 24 bit minicomputer -- a dual PDP-8, which was a 12 bit minicomputer. About as powerful as a current garage door opener.

This was some NIH study being run by a UK professor. I would guess that the prisoners volunteered in exchange for perks. Congress shut down this kind of research a few years later.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Music In

Time once again for our favorite feature, Music In. We have some great contestants and fabulous prizes, so let's get started!
  • Block Party, "Four". One of my oldest daughter's fav bands. More rock than dance as I remember their earlier stuff being. Very good quality. 3 stars.
  • Tom Waits, "The Heart of Saturday Night" (1974). After how much I loved Tom Waits' 1st album "Closing Time", I was a little disappointed with this one, his 2nd album. But it did grow on me the more I listened. 4 stars.
  • CHRY, eponymous. Three tracks from the latest band of my nephew Max in Portland ME. Very good quality, good tunes. 3 stars.
  • Deerhoof, "Breakup Song". Every time I get something by these guys, I look them up on Wikipedia and remember again: San Francisco group, 2 guys and the singer who started with them right after she got to the US from Japan 10 years ago. They consistently produce very unique and excellent music. 4 stars.
  • The xx, "Coexist". Very nice tunes, ethereal male and female vocals. 3 stars
  • David Byrne & St. Vincent, "Love This Giant". Much anticipated collaboration between 2 of my favorite artists. No real breakout fabulous tunes, but some nicely catchy ones that capture both their quirkiness. Their voices work well together. They featured horns for all the orchestration, and one of the arrangers was Lexington native Kelly Pratt. I like this nicely surreal video. 4 stars.
  • Tom Tom Club, "Downtown Rockers". Another Talking Heads descendant. First thing from them in a long time. I think that basically Tina Weymouth and her sisters like to get together and sing cheezy dance tunes in unison. 3 stars but just barely.
  • Aimee Mann, "Charmer". What a mature and accomplished artist Ms. Mann is. She cannot but write a good song. No real standouts tho. 3 stars.
  • Ben Folds Five, "The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind". Ditto for Ben Folds. Great to see the Ben Folds Five recording together as such again. They do a good job of recapturing their early energy. 4 stars.
  • Rickie Lee Jones, "The Devil You Know". Hmmm, this reminds me a of a remark I made about Cat Powers "Covers" album: "don't do smack before going into the recording studio". This is an album of covers, which Ms. Jones has done before, but, ouch, these are so low energy. 3 stars, but only because I am such a fanboy.
My iTunes music has passed 16,000 tracks.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hi? Hi!

Two weekends ago, I was in NYC seeing my oldest daughter's (fabulous) new Brooklyn apartment, and attending the World Maker's Faire in Queens. My son, daughter-in-law and grandaughter Lucy came up from NC for the Faire and a visit as well.

The Maker's Faire was cool -- great to see so many people wanting to do and make things rather than just consume. The 3d printing stuff was a little disappointing -- kind of seemed like PCs in 1980, still waiting for the killer app.

But the main reason for this post is Lucy. She was great for the two days they were there. She was 19-1/2 months old at the time. So fascinating to see her young mind growing:

  • She knew and could say peoples names.
  • She knew the name of everything she liked to eat. She learned about "mini-kiwis" over the weekend.
  • She knew colors and shapes.
  • She knew animals and the noises they make. A trip to the Brooklyn Zoo was great fun.
  • She knew cars, bicycles, and airplanes. She pointed at a plane flying overhead and said "airplane".
  • She knew "walking", "running", "spinning", "dancing", "right side up", "upside down".
  • Her dancing moves included arm waving, hip swiveling, bouncing, and waving her upper body back and forth from the waist.
And she sang:
  • The Wheels on the Bus;
  • Two alphabet songs;
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star;
  • Ha Ha This-A-Way;
  • Old McDonald;
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider.
After dinner on Saturday, we took turns walking with her outside the (mediterranean) restaurant. She is a great eater, but after she was full she was ready for action. When I was walking with her, she wanted to go up the steps of a brownstone. At the top she said "Open". I showed her the door was locked, got out my keys, showed her that they didn't work. "Please" she says. Too cute.

But the real reason for this post was to note how she did "Hi? Hi!". Her mind would wander and she would just be running subconscious processes. Then, her consciousness, her "narrative I", would wake up. "Hi?", she would say -- hunh, what's this, what's going on here? Then her consciousness would remember herself, and "Hi!" she would say -- it's Lucy, I'm back, I'm alive, how cool! Woo-hoo!

Complete and utter joie de vivre. She would do it every hour or so. It was so, so cool.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Economy of Plenty, Part 3

The article by the two professors "In Praise Of Leisure" says maybe everything I am trying to say:
Keynes's essay challenges us to imagine what life after capitalism might look like ...
But so accustomed have we become to regarding scarcity as the norm that few of us think about what motives and principles of conduct would, or should, prevail in a world of plenty.
Keynes was well aware of the evils of capitalism but assumed that they would wither away once their work of wealth creation was done.
It is only our culture's poverty of imagination that leads it to believe that all creativity and innovation—as opposed to that specific kind directed to improving economic processes—needs to be stimulated by money.
Quoting economist Harry Johnson, 1960:
we live in a rich society, which nevertheless in many respects insists on thinking and acting as if it were a poor society.
End of quoting.
That was not the ancient view of things. Athens and Rome had citizens who, though economically unproductive, were active to the highest degree—in politics, war, philosophy, and literature.
The beginning of sanity in this matter is to think of scarcity in relation to needs, not wants.
Considered in relation to our vital needs, our state is one not of scarcity but rather of extreme abundance.
Interesting, this definition of the science of economics:
Economics, says a recent text, studies "how people choose to use limited and scarce resources in attempting to supply unlimited wants."
So if economics is based on the assumption of scarcity, maybe we need a new science? Even the noun "economy" has as synonyms "thrift - husbandry - saving - frugality - parsimony". So "economy of plenty" is maybe an oxymoron.

Of course, there will always be the rich and the ultra-rich. They just need to realize that we don't need to have the poor. Everyone can have enough to eat and they can still have their yachts, airplanes, helicopters, and multiple estates.

Maybe a positive sign as we look for the Death of Capitalism? In the tech world, we now have Kickstarter, where you can raise millions of dollars to start a company or create a product without having to beg for money from -- and indebt yourself to -- banks or venture capitalists. (Weird, "indebt" is not a word, but "indebted" is ??? WTF???)

Well, much to think about. How do we get there? I guess next thing for me is to read these guys' book, "How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life" and see if has any action items. I will be sure and report on it.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Economy of Plenty, Part 2

Despite spending almost 2 months thinking about last week's post, "Economy of Plenty", I still rushed to get it published. I think I did not address the questions raised with possible answers. Instead, I just listed three things to make taxation in the US more equatable, which is a first step towards putting a birth-to-age-21 social safety net in place. So let's look more at, what an Economy of Plenty would look like.

So the goals are:

  1. More equitable distribution of wealth and a universal minimum standard of living.
  2. No child left behind, ever.
  3. 20 hour work week.
  4. Full employment if desired.
So, the 1st and 2nd goals are what the 3 points at the end of the last post addressed. Also, let's look at the minimum wage. How would you level wages? I saw a post somewhere that if income were distributed evenly, the average salary in the US would be around $196K per year. That's around $98/hour if you work 50 40 hour weeks. So that is probably an upper limit on the minimum wage. If we target $50K/year for a living wage (with usually two wage earners per family), that goes down to $50/hour for two 20 hour work weeks.

How would we get to a 20 hour workweek? We got to our current 5 day, 40 hour workweek with paid holidays pretty much solely based on the efforts of labor unions. Unfortunately, unions have been stripped of much of their power thanks to "right-to-work" states. Maybe the internet could lead to a resurgence? Somehow I don't think so.

So many of the new, information age jobs don't seem like they would be amenable to unionization. Say software development, where there is a well know factor of 10 difference in productivity between the best and worst developers. If I'm one of those high-end developers, am I going to agree to the same wages as a low-end developer?

Additionally, there is so much startup activity and entrepreneurship going on in technology companies, that often workers have equity in the company and put in far more then 40 hours, hoping to build the company to a level of success that they would have a liquidity event which would result in a huge windfall for them -- millions to billions of dollars.

But, there is a trend among startup companies who are in it for more than the money to organize as cooperatives, where, after 1 year of work, you become an equal shareholder in the company. So all employees share equally in the success of the company. 37signals is the poster child for this. Such a company might reach a point where it chooses quality of life over more money and created a shorter work week.

There is also very much a "reputation economy" in the software world, particularly where FOSS (Free Open Source Software) is concerned. Having dozens of heavily-used libraries on gitHub earns you the respect of your peers -- and is now also quite often the basis of getting paying jobs.

For big technology companies, offering a shorter workweek might be a recruiting advantage. Can they afford it? Look at Apple (probably a bad example): last year, $25B profit after taxes, 60,000 employees => $433K profit per employee. If they doubled those employees, at a $100K salary, that would be an additional $6B overhead, so say, $17B profit for 120,000 employees => $141K profit per employee. That's still pretty decent profit. And they could still afford to pay CEO Tim Cook his $378M, which I am sure he earned.

Currently there is negative unemployment for software developers. So if we can retrain people from older industries, there will be some jobs for them. But, as the robots do more and more, are the other options than everyone working for software companies?

What about employment in virtual worlds? I read recently that gold farming (grinding your way through lower levels of role-playing games to build up characters that you then sell) is now a $3B industry. I know many young people who would like to work in World of Warcraft, or Call of Duty. Can where be other types of jobs created there? Say maybe, that after a certain level, you go on salary to the game company as a guide or mentor?

But, come on you say, do you really believe that this can work? The long and the short of it is: money is software. We haven't been on the gold standard for 50 years. So getting this stuff to work is just a question of getting the parameters of the money machine tweaked. Inflation is not a problem of having too much money, it is a problem of having a scarcity of goods. And our premise is, in an Economy of Plenty, there is no scarcity of goods.

An immediate exception to that is land/property/housing. So everybody won't be living in a McMansion. But they should be living in an apartment or house with enough bedrooms for their family members. And they should have enough food to eat, universal health care, merit-based educational advancement through college, and, of course, a smartphone, to help make them smart.

Going back to the Bertrand Russell article, there was one quote I will take exception with. The quote is:

... a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.
I would say instead:
... a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in whatever amount is required to make the system work.
So I am convinced that the Economy of Plenty is totally doable. And I think that the alternative is a dystopic plutocracy, where all power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of an ever fewer number of people, particularly as life spans lengthen. But the question is, how do we get there?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Economy of Plenty

Fred Pohl over his 60 year career has written many stories with crazy insights into politics, economics, and our beliefs. His novel "Jem" may be the most cynical indictment of consumerism ever written. He's still writing. I subscribe to his blog and he still occasionally skewers the hell out of the powers that be.

So when I was a kid, probably a teenager, I read his story "The Midas Plague". Here's a synopsis (from Wikipedia):

"The Midas Plague" (originally published in Galaxy in 1954). In this new world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. So now the "poor" are forced to spend their lives in frantic consumption, trying to keep up with the robots' extravagant production, so that the "rich" can live lives of simplicity. This story deals with the life of a man named Morey Fry, who marries a girl from a higher class. She is unused to a life of consumption and it wears at their marriage. Morey eventually hits on the idea of having the robots help him to consume his quotas. At first he fears punishment when he is discovered, but instead the Ration Board quickly implements his idea across the world.
Somehow, this always made sense to me. Robots make everything, there's plenty of everything for everybody, right? What does an economy like this look like?

At the start of the 20th century, the occupation that consumed the most manpower was farming. That is now handled by 1-2% of the population.

The industrial revolution created new classes of jobs -- or better, new species of jobs in the ecosystem that is the economy. People left the farm, but in recent decades those jobs have been transitioning to robots -- and there was just an article floating around about the new generation of robots that will take over pretty much all manufacturing jobs. Here's another one. Here's yet another one. Eventually there will be no physical jobs that robots can't do.

And white collar jobs are not immune to automation. In fact, probably most of the 8x productivity gains that the US economy has achieved in the last 50 years have come in white collar work thanks to computers.

So what jobs can't be automated out of existence? Not doctors. Not Foxconn slave girls. Not drivers. Not soldiers.

Maybe software development? Overall, the consensus seems to be that the machines aren't making too much progress at being able to program themselves.

I have for years now had hope that software could answer the question of how to create a growth economy that doesn't eat the world. Software is like language: it is generative. You can always add another clause to any sentence; you can always add another feature to any piece of software. So maybe, like Estonia, we start teaching first graders to code. A recent article on the Flynn effect in Scientific American suggests that the 3 points/decade IQ rise is primarily from improved abstract reasoning -- just what is needed for working with computer logic. (Sorry I can't link to the article, it's behind a pay wall.)

But, back to the original question. If robots can make everything, what does everybody do for a job? And if nobody has jobs, who can buy the stuff the robots make? We are currently in an Economy of Scarcity, which assumes that no one has anything and has to earn everything. But if the robots can make everything, why aren't we in an Economy of Plenty, which assumes that everyone has automatically earned everything they need to live, just by being born? Or, at least until age 21. Children do not choose to be born, nor do they get to choose their parents.

As mentioned above, in the last 50 years, productivity in the US has increased by a factor of 8. So are workers now working 1/8th as much? Are workers getting 8x the pay? I think we can safely answer, no and no. Instead, the haves have managed to keep it pretty much all for themselves. Corporations are doing just fine. Executives are doing just fine -- with US CEOs making ~200x what the average worker does -- 10x or so more than most of the other industrial democracies in the world. It's just the rest of us that have been left behind.

80 years ago, two renowned thinkers addressed this same issue. It is very sad to read their musings and see how far off they are -- or, maybe instead, to revisit these ideas, and see if we can do something with them.

First, "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren", by John Maynard Keynes, 1930. "In the United States factory output per head was 40 per cent greater in 1925 than in 1919." [Twitter digest] He thought all this increased productivity would lead to utopia for all of us! What a socialist loser! Course Ayn Rand wasn't around then, he clearly didn't understand the importance of Job Creators. Other quotes:

Let us suppose that 100 yrs hence we are all of us, on the average, 8 times better off than we are now.

Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while.

The love of money as a possession will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity.

All kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to discard.
Here is another overview of the Keynes paper by one of my favorite bloggers.

Here is another article revisiting Keynes, by an economics professor and a philosophy professor.This is adapted from the opening of their new book "How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life", which I will be reading before too long.

Second, "In Praise Of Idleness" , by Bertrand Russell, 1932. Also written at the start of the Great Depression. Many of the same thoughts as the Keynes, but the arguments are somethat more pointed. Here are some quotes:

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given.

Throughout Europe, though not in America, there is a third class of men, more respected than either of the classes of workers. There are men who, through ownership of land, are able to make others pay for the privilege of being allowed to exist and to work.

The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was appropriated by warriors and priests.

The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own.

The war showed conclusively that, by the scientific organization of production, it is possible to keep modern populations in fair comfort on a small part of the working capacity of the modern world. If, at the end of the war, the scientific organization, which had been created in order to liberate men for fighting and munition work, had been preserved, and the hours of the week had been cut down to four, all would have been well. Instead of that the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed. Why? Because work is a duty, and a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.

This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous.

The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich ... When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: 'What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.'

Oddly enough, while they wish their sons to work so hard as to have no time to be civilized, they do not mind their wives and daughters having no work at all. the snobbish admiration of uselessness, which, in an aristocratic society, extends to both sexes, is, under a plutocracy, confined to women; this, however, does not make it any more in agreement with common sense.

In the past, there was a small leisure class and a larger working class. The leisure class enjoyed advantages for which there was no basis in social justice; this necessarily made it oppressive, limited its sympathies, and caused it to invent theories by which to justify its privileges.
But if we fix it?
Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion.
Follow the link and read the whole thing. I have not read much of Russell, I think I will have to read more.

Ha ha, putting their Wikipedia links in, both were British nobles, Keynes a baron and Russell an earl. Well, their hearts were in the right place, regardless.

One thing that is mentioned in several of the papers and articles mentioned above is that the target should be something like Athenian Democracy. The existence of a slave class (which we are replacing with robots) enabled the (male) citizens of Athens to get involved in government, the arts, and all forms of creative activities. There are also multiple mentions of how our work, work, and more work has lead us to be passive consumers of culture, rather than active creators of culture.

So, what, am I a utopian? Yes, I am. We are increasingly heading towards a dystopia with income and wealth unequally distributed probably worse than in the time of kings and emperors. How do we fix it? I think We The People will have to take the bull by the horns and fix our government.

  1. Figure out how to control the power of the corporations, the ultra-rich, and the military-industrial complex and all their lobbyists. Getting rid of Citizens United is a start. Online, open government should help too.
  2. Reform the tax code such that all taxes on investments, particularly dividends and capital gains, are taxed at a minimum at the rate of wages. Why should income earned without any "sweat of your brow", for which you possibly have little or no time investment, be taxed less than labor, which costs you one minute per minute of your life?
  3. If we decide that we can't get rid of economic parasites that extract wealth while adding no value, such as high frequency or program equity traders, then they should be taxed at a minimum of 50% -- you're just hacking the system, as pointed out by Mark Cuban, the rest of us will take at least half of your ill-gotten gains. Other companies in this category: insurance companies? Other?
I believe that the primary goal of the US government and of every government in the world should be simply: to maximize the outcome of every child born. What are the arguments against that? How can we go wrong if that is our goal? As opposed to now, when we have 15 million children in the US living in poverty without enough to eat.

The other thing we need to fix when we fix this is to also get out of a growth economy, before we completely eat the earth. We have to figure out how to grow at a rate that is sustainable and environmentally neutral. Germany is taking some real leadership actions re this. Here's an article. "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coal Mining Robots -- RSN?

So, coal is still "Kentucky's ace in the hole". And I see "Friends of Coal" license plates everyday. And there was just an article today in the Lexington Herald-Leader, about how the EPA's forcing scrubbers to be installed on coal-burning power plants lead to a boom in coal mining in western Kentucky, where the coal has very high sulphur content.

Also, did you know, "Coal keeps the lights on"?

But, unfortunately, pregnant women are not allowed to eat fish caught in our beautiful lakes, and the rest of us are only supposed to eat them once a week, because of the hight mercury content in the fish from all our coal-fired power plants putting the mercury in our water.

Weird that recently, coal has been taking a beating, from natural gas. Fracking (and other new techniques?) have produced a great surplus of methane, and utility companies are flocking to the much less environmentally harmful fossil fuel.

But back to coal. The last (Massey?) mine disaster was maybe 29 deaths? All the bodies that were recovered were autopsied. 1/3 of them had black lung -- and these are miners in their 20's.

So, seriously, WTF, why are we still sending people down into these hellhole mines? Why aren't the miners sitting in air-conditioned offices, in comfy chairs, on the surface, operating telepresence robots? That technology is not available? Seems to me it should be totally doable. So WTF has the University of Kentucky been doing with the 10s-100s of millions of research dollars that it has for the coal industry? I guess saving miners lives is somehow way down towards the bottom of the priorities list.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Two Books

So I was trying to get the 2nd of these books read by yesterday to turn it in on time at the Lexington Free Public Library, but I wasn't going to make it. So I pulled up my LFPL bookmark in my browser and 30 seconds later had renewed them both for another month (I finished it today, they'll go back tomorrow).

Really nice tech at the LFPL site. Books I want to read that they don't have yet, I search for and then save the search and voila! a to-read list aka Saved Searches!

William Gibson and others have been recommending the Sandman Slim series, 4th book just released. All available as eBooks at LFPL, hell yeah!

So the 1st library book I read was "Time Travelers Never Die", by Jack McDevitt. The bulk of his work is astro-archeological SF -- exploring ruins of departed stellar civilizations, of which there may be many. This is totally not in that genre. I spent the first 1/3 of it trying to figure out what it was. Then read (later rather than sooner, not sure why) one of the cover blurbs that compared it to the all-time classic movie: "Bill and Ted's Fabulous Adventure". And realized, it was completely correct. This is "dumbass American twits get a time machine and become posers throughout history". Enjoyable, I guess, but, I don't really think I can recommend it. 2 stars.

2nd book, which I just finished today, was "Up Jim River", by Michael Flynn. The first novel of his I read was "Elfenheim", about space aliens stranded in a 12th century (or so) German village. Flynn is a very good writer. Next, I think I read his "The January Dancer" a few years ago. "Up Jim River" is the sequel to that. Hard to characterize these. Space opera, Star Wars in scope but all human, legendary human commonwealth of supernatural powers (nanotech AI) has passed, replaced by celtic League vs sinister mandarin Confederation. Main characters are basically mostly League FBI agents searching for various foo. Flynn writes well, these are very good reads. 4 stars.

I wonder if Romney/Ryan have a plan to privatize our public libraries? If it can put money into the pocket of someone who is not working for that money, probably so. It's a sacred trust, after all.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Only One Path At A Time

So I was out walking this morning and at one point started thinking about the route I was going to take biking this Sunday. When I snapped back to the here-and-now, I was disoriented and didn't know where I was. So this somewhat refines an earlier conclusion of mine: that our minds have only one set of circuits for following paths. Hence the confusion when you think about following a path while actually following a path. I think I blogged this before with regard to becoming disoriented while driving if you think about how to drive somewhere else (but I couldn't find it). This generalizes the conclusion to be independent of mode of travel, be it on foot, by bike, or by car.

Of course it could mean that I have only one set of path-following circuits. Maybe other people have more than one?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Music In

Reader polling has revealed that the favorite feature of this blog is the Music In topic. Acquisitions have down lately. Everything is rated back to the start of June, so 2 months worth. Also some exciting Music Out News.
  • "Closing Time", by Tom Waits (1973). So Amazon says, Tom Waits, 2005, I think, I don't have that. Download, start listening. First song, "Ol' 55", I'm like, wait a minute, I know that song, it's an Eagles song?!?!? Why would Tom Waits cover that? So do some research, this is Tom Waits' first album, from 1973. The Eagles covered Tom Waits. If you do not have this album, I would highly recommend you get it. It's one of those fabulous 1st albums by a singer-songwriter who went on to a 40 year (and counting) career. His voice wasn't so gruff then. 4 stars.

    I was going to work up the 2nd song, "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You", really nice guitar riff. I download the lyrics, 5 verses of 7 lines each -- lots of songs only have 2 verses. So I'll be doing this one from the book only, doubt I'll memorize all 5 verses. Altho, I have remembered all 5 verses of "Up On Cripple Creek" the last couple of times I did it (around the time of Levon Helm's death).

    Tom Waits just released this really ... nasty, creepy, dark ??? but compelling video. I've watched it several times.

  • "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do", Fiona Apple. Ms. Apple puts so much angst into her music, you cannot help but admire it. No standout catchy tunes tho. 3 stars.
  • Walk The Moon, "Walk the Moon". A Cincinnati band. We all know what a sucker for pop I am, this somehow crosses the line from pop to commercial. Still, the tunes are not bad. 3 stars.
  • "The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends", Flaming Lips. These guys continue to pad their resume as the masters of odd orchestration / sounds / noises. Some of these collaborations really work, I particularly liked the ones with Nick Cave, and with Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. 3 stars.
  • "New Beard City", New Beard. Hot damn, another great Brooklyn band! The 1st track opens with peppy pop, strings and hand-clapping orchestration, male and female vocals, then an 80s guitar harmony interlude, then a shredding solo, while the strings continue to build. 13 consistently good tracks. 4 stars.
  • "Carry Me Back", Old Crow Medicine Show. Power folk / bluegrass, similar to their prior album, somehow it doesn't work as well for me. 3 stars.
  • "Shrines", Purity Ring. A Montreal band, electronica/dance. Good female lead singer, nice grooves. 3 stars.
  • "The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2", Joss Stone. Has Ms. Stone got this sh#t down or what? Interesting to see the covers she decided to do -- wait a minute, I thought only a few of these were covers, looks like they all are. I only recognized a few. Ms. Stone must be a real aficionado -- duh. 3 stars.
The Joss Stone has been here for ~10 days, nothing new since then, so, I am all caught up! All music rated and reviewed!

Re Music Out, after years without one, I've recently played 3 paying gigs with the Here For Party Band: the weekends before and after the 4th of July, and last weekend. A block party (cancelled due to a blown transformer in the heat wave, but, we still got paid, so it counts) and 2 private parties. I think that 4th of July is the time of biggest demand for musicians, even more so than New Year's.

The most recent gig was the most fun, lots of dancers for the last 1-1/2 hours. And the last hour, I was the only guitarist (the most excellent Lindsay Olive had to leave for another gig), and I played some feedback on "Wang Dang Doodle" that seemed to really work. A compressor, 2 fuzz tones and a wah-wah, you can definitely get some serious feedback, but totally under the control of the wah-wah and the whammy bar.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

More Reading

I don't actually read all the time. I do work (which does involve reading technical articles and books). I exercise -- biked 43.6 miles this morning, temperature not bad at all, but my legs are talking to me. There are actually several other blog posts rolling around my noggin, but, want to take these two books back to the library, so they go to the top of the stack.

"Black Hills", by Dan Simmons. Simmons has written award-winning science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror. Lately he has been doing kind of magical realism with a lots of historical fun facts. "The Terror" was a British Northwest Passage expedition stranded in the ice (with weird eskimo gods running around), blogged here. "Drood" was cults in the London of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, who is the narrator (and author of "The Moonstone", considered the first detective novel).

This one is a young Native American who touches Custer right as he dies and who becomes infested with Custer's ghost. Several timelines, including one of Custer's, and the NA working on Mount Rushmore. I learned a lot about the Black Hills. In some ways tho, this novel seemed more straightforward than the prior two, which really kept you guessing as to what was going on. It also seemed a little shorter than it could have been (486 pages). There were a couple of threads, in particular that with the NA's wife, that seemed a little sketchy.

Still, Simmons cannot but produce a readable and enjoyable novel, which this is. I liked how he worked in a one sentence (anonymous) appearance by Richard Baedecker from "Phases of Gravity" (blogged here), and the Greek philosophy from "Ilium" and "Olympus". 4 stars.

"Eastern Standard Tribe", by Cory Doctorow (2004). I have been really enjoying his recent stuff, championing worker's rights for the digital. This story is more like a novella. The central character is reminiscent of Charles Stross's Manfred Manx -- every conversation winds up having several patentable ideas in it. It moves fast, a little sketchy, but great insight into modern tech. 4 stars.

Speaking of of Charles Stross, he and Doctorow are supposed to have a collaboration "The Rapture of the Nerds" out RSN. Definitely looking forward to that one.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Reading

Just got back from the library, picked up 4 books. A new Dan Simmons, woo-hoo! The prior time I was there I only got into the B's before I had 2 books to read. Those were:
  • "Not Less Than Gods (The Company)", by Kage Baker. I think I've read most of Ms. Baker's Company stories. They're OK, semi-immortal superhero types are usually fun. This one is set in the 19th century, and kinds of twists itself around to get some steampunk thrown in. An OK read.
  • "The Sunborn", by Gregory Benford (2006). A sequel to "The Martian Race", which I enjoyed. Surprised I missed this, I normally keep up with Benford. This is a good read, with interesting ideas about non-CHON-based life forms.
I finished these while we were on a 4 day trip to Philadelphia for the wedding of an old, good friend of my youngest. She and I performed "Our Love Is Here To Stay". After six weeks of practicing on an electric guitar, all that the band there had was flattops. So lots of flubs chasing the flattop around my belly, but Christie sang beautifully, and the song was rich in emotional content and was very well received. That song was the last written by George Gershwin before his death. It first was used in a "Goldwyn Follies" movie in 1938. But it then got recycled as the main love theme of "An American In Paris" in 1951.

So on the flight home it was back to ebooks on the iPad.

  • "An Unexpected Twist", by Andy Borowitz. A whimsical short story about a near death experience that was a $0.99 kindle special. A quick and sweet read. He is very funny on Twitter (@BorowitzReport), and "The Borowitz Report" is a regular feature in Funny Times.
  • "The ChristWire Handbook". Based on a web site that satirizes fundamentalist christians so well that people didn't realize that it was a satire. I read the first two chapters, very funny. Probably read more in the future. This would make a good bathroom book -- I guess at some point there will be cheap tablets on the back of every toilet?!?!? This kindle book was a father's day gift from my oldest daughter - thanks!
  • "Religion for Atheists: A non-believers guide to the uses of religion", by Alain de Botton, who is a Swiss writer and philosopher living in Britain. I read the first chapter, disagreed with most of his premises and assumptions, and decided not to proceed further. I don't think we need religion for handling funerals, weddings or childbirth. I have been to totally non-religious versions of all of these and they work much better without having to artificially inject god into them. I did see a chapter named Community, and in raising our children without religion, I did miss the community that I had growing up, although we did have neighbors and the church of soccer. I will probably try the book again in the future. Also a gift from my oldest daughter.
  • "In Her Name: Omnibus" by Michael R. Hicks. Apparently three novels, "Empire", "Confederation", and "Final Battle", published as one ebook. Looks like it was $5.99 and I probably bought it based on the recommendation of some other sci fi author I follow. I almost put it down after the first page due to bad sentence structure. But it was the only thing I had to read on the plane, so I kept on. Not too bad really, it keeps you turning its 700 pages. Epic space opera, human confederation vs blue female warrior race of a 100,000 year old empire. Almost fantasy in that their empress has powers that are basically godlike. Oh, and the race is sexually compatible with humans -- so the "Avatar" movie fans will be into the blue warrior chicks -- who have upper and lower fangs for the vampire fans! Unfortunately as well, I believe it is showing "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" effect -- it has rape scenes, which I'd just as soon not have in my comic books. The ending of the book was really bad tho. It was like "OK, long enough, we're outta here!" What should have been at least several pages explanation of what was going on was instead a couple of shortish paragraphs. I guess I will rate it a solid "meh".

Friday, June 29, 2012

Music Velocity

Time to catch up on Music In, which will be followed by a discussion of Music Velocity.

  • "Slipstream", Bonnie Raitt. Man, what is not to like. She has such a fabulous voice. So many completely catchy guitar riffs. It's interesting, she does a cover of "Right Down The Line", by Gerry Rafferty. You really wonder how someone of her stature decides to do a cover. Like on Prince's "Emancipation" albums, where he covered "Betcha By Golly Wow!", "La-La(Means I Love You)", "One Of Us", and "I Can't Make U Love Me" -- the 1st covers he ever did (of course, he was trying to get out of his Sony? contract). Notice the Bonnie Raitt tune there -- but somehow I don't think her version had "U" in the title. We will revisit the covers issue later. 4 stars for "Slipstream", major props for Ms. Raitt.
  • "Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)", Counting Crows. My youngest told me she no longer listens to Counting Crows. They did do that Shrek song after all -- and I for one completely quit listening to Phil Collins once he started shilling for Disney. But, I think that CC still has some authenticity, and some excellent guitarists. However, sometimes the lead singer Adam Duritz, starts doing talking and other stuff which tells me he's bored. He needs to get that shit reined in.

    Back to the topic of covers. They cover "Amie", Pure Prairie League, and "You Ain't Going Nowhere", The Byrds. I still have them in the Southern Rock genre, those are OK there, but, not totally compelling picks for covers??? BTW, I have like 4 of the 1st 6 Byrds albums on vinyl. Ripping those to MP3 is definitely on my stack.

    3 stars, 4 stars for "Like Teenage Gravity" and "The Ballad of El Goodo" -- which has banjo, yes!

  • "Stars and Satellites", Trampled by Turtles. I think the genre for these guys, and Fleet Foxes, and Mumford and Sons, and OCMS, is "Power Folk". Enjoyable stuff, 3 stars.
  • "In The Time Of Gods", Dar Williams. I have a fair bit of her earlier stuff, and I saw her live at Woodsongs. Good tunes, no real standouts, 3 stars.
  • Butterfly Boucher, eponymous. I think my friend David gave me one of her early works. This is a nice effort. I thought maybe there would be 1-3 4 star tracks -- maybe the 1st track "5678!" -- but it wound up all being 3 stars.
  • Delbert McClinton, "Keeper Of The Flame" (1979) and "Live From Austin" (1989). Both of these reminded me of Paul Butterfield "East-West" -- I heard that, I'm going "Damn -- that's half of Patty Butcher's material". There are several songs off of both these that are permanent parts of the repertoires of good players that I've played with. 3 star, with several 4 stars for the ones I've enjoyed playing. "Standin' On Shakey Ground" (the last hit of The Temptations in 1975) and "Givin' It Up For Your Love" are in my book.
  • Norah Jones, "Little Broken Hearts". My first couple of listens to this were totally, "meh". But it really grew on me. Noteworthy is the creepy "Miriam", about murdering a female rival who messed with her man. I read an interview with her, she's saying "Oh, it was just a "murder somebody" song -- traditional" -- I don't know. Really comes across as some seriously bad feelings towards another female who f#cked her boyfriend. 4 stars.
  • The Lumineers, eponymous. Another Power Folk band. I think some of my young friends are totally into these guys. Nice tunes, no standouts. 3 stars.
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, "Soul Time!". If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times, there's nothing as fun as playing in a funk band. Ms. Jones has played Lexington a couple times in the last few years and gotten rave reviews, and rightfully so. Man, does she open the can of funk. Totally kick-ass. 4 stars.
  • Yes, "Fly From Here". So Amazon (still looking for an alternative) has this as a $5 special. I go for it. It is totally excellent. Totally Yes. But I'm like, it is ~50% evolved from 1970 Yes. Shouldn't it be like 400% evolved from 1970? Very interesting listening. Yes is definitely added to the list to be burned from vinyl. 3 stars.
  • Ben Harper, "Diamonds On The Inside (2003). Another $5 Amazon special. I remember some of my kids liking Ben, and having a decent impression of him. Very nice collection of tunes, a variety of genres including reggae. 4 stars, except for a couple which are a little too raucous for my current years. Sad but true, heavy rockish doesn't work for me anymore. And Metal is Right Out.
  • Monica Lionheart, "Indian Summer". Holy crap, another great new Brooklyn artist! IMHO, Brooklyn is indeed the coolest city in the USA. And my daughter Erica is now the proud owner of an apartment in Park Slope 2 block west of the Civil War Victory monument. (What? The Civil War is over? The North won?) This album has an excellent variety of orchestration. The hook was planted deep in the 1st track, "Air And Sea", which has a very nice, reverbed pedal steel track as the main ambience. 4 stars.
  • John Mayer, "Born and Raised". He's a great guitarist, too bad he just seems to come across in his People Magazine personal life as such a dork. Maybe we'd work harder to ignore that, but then there's songs where he bemoans how hard his life as a multimillion celebrity is. Please. 3 stars.
  • Regina Spektor, "What We Saw From The Cheap Seats". I have the rest of her work and I like it, but somehow, I was expecting that somehow she should mature somewhat as time passed. In particular, sometimes she does this teenager cutesy stuff in her vocals which I would say is becoming inappropriate, as she is now 32 YO. But, I guess it is still distinctive. 3 stars.
So, onto the topic of Music Velocity. We just reviewed music acquired from 4/10/12 to 5/29/12. So that's 49 days, 7 weeks, in which I ingested 15 albums, 173 tracks. Let's do the math! 2 new albums per week, 3.5 new tracks per day.

It seems at times like it's too much. It's like there is a river of music flowing through my mind. I am notorious for not particularly remembering new recent events of import. Maybe it's because the stream of music washes it all away.

Most of us resonate most strongly with the music of our puberty. I continued to acquire music for 8-9 years after that, before I in quick order had 4 kids and forgot about music pretty much for 25 years. I restarted with music in maybe 1997. Since then, it has come to fill my mind. But, I'm wondering if, it's too much so. So I'm trying to slow down on new music acquisition. But, come on, a new Brooklyn band? I've gots to be there!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Big Government Sucks!

In response to someone in a comment thread on a Tim O'Reilly post on Romney's clueless comments on public servants.
Big government sucks!

But, the only other option is letting the .01% and the corporations run everything. Welcome back to feudal times! And with AU, and the government big or little completely for sale, we're practically there already.

I'm a 1%'er, the ultra-rich have been good to me. F#ck them. My dad was a union man, I don't forget where I came from.

Like all those role-players who talk about living in the middle ages and practicing fencing and jousting. I'm sure my forebears from those times were serfs, for whom touching a weapon was punishable by death. Keep this in historical perspective. We're still trying to get rid of kings, dukes, nobles and opposition-crushing hereditary wealth.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

True Life Nature Adventures

This morning I biked Keene Rd through Troy to Paul's Mill Rd. I came back in Delaney Ferry. 2h20m 30.2 miles. Overcast, a little breeze, not too hot.

On Keene Rd just before the Jessamine Co line, a mole ran into the road in front of me. At first I thought it was a leaf blowing, but it was a mole, around 2.5 inches long.

At the small pond (eutrophication experiment #1) on the left of Keene Rd just after Delaney Ferry splits off, a turtle was sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the pond. Not a snapper, shell maybe 10 inches long.

Just past Keene, I spooked a bunch of turkey buzzards feeding on a dead deer. 3-4 of them flew right in front of me, I'm like "Oh crap, I hope I don't hit one." They were full grown, 4-5 ft wingspan, probably weighed 20-30 pounds each. But I was on a slight uphill, probably doing below 10 mph, so I didn't get within 5 feet of one.

There was a man and a woman fishing in the creek that runs next to Paul's Mill Rd -- my map says that is the East Fork Clear Creek. Just past them were two swans swimming. I think the horse farm there on the left keeps the swans.

Yesterday I finished reading "The Drowned Cities", by Paolo Bacigalupi, on an ebook purchased from Carmichael's Book Store. He won some awards last year for "The Windup Girl". This one was short, 286 pages. Post-apocalyptic, or post global-warming ocean rise, survivor/refugee story. Child soldiers like in Africa now. Kind of an ensemble cast of characters, including a war machine "half-man", 400-500 pounds of human/tiger/dog/hyena/wolf hybrid bred for war -- a good character. The main "Drowned City" is Washington D.C. Strangely bothersome are images of warlords shelling the capitol building, etc. An OK read, 3 stars.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Oriole and Peacocks

Sounds like a fable, doesn't it?

I biked to Midway, back via Ft Springs. 34.5 miles, 2h50m. Beautiful morning, sunny and cool but windy.

I saw a baltimore oriole on US62 just south of Midway. Amazingly bright orange, he flew ahead of me down the road for a while.

I saw and heard the peacocks on Moores Mill Rd. I think they're at Elkview Farm, at the top of the hill up from the creek. No tail displays, but the chest feathers are such a brilliant iridescent blue. I was thinking, "This is the place with the peacocks, wonder if there are any ..." and then heard one call -- loud and distinctive, no mistaking it for anything else.

Finished my 2nd library book, "Surface Detail", by Iain M. Banks. It is a Culture novel, I think he's done about 6 or 7 of these. I love The Culture -- an advanced, "8th level", post-singularity galaxy-spanning pan-human civilization. Artificial intelligence is ubiquitous, in orbital and ship minds in particular. Wow, an extensive Wikipedia article -- "anarchist, socialist, and utopian". Most of the stories seem to deal with The Culture dealing with more primitive civilizations. My son loved the 2nd Culture novel "The Player of Games" (1988).

"Anarchist, socialist, and utopian" -- what's not to like? I mean seriously, how do conservatives see the future? Or are they too busy trying to reclaim the past to think about the future? Right now, this very moment, there is enough food to feed the entire world. But 20% of the world is starving because of politics. When are we going to quit letting the "haves" get away with saying "there's not enough to go around". They've been saying that for 6000 years, and it's a lie now more than ever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Yellow

I biked out to my friend Tim's house this morning, and got some new yellow highlighter on my bike maps -- roads I haven't biked before. I took Keene Rd to Keene, then south on 169 (new yellow) to Harrodsburg Rd and south to Barkley Woods subdivision. After visiting, I continued south and then came back Clear Creek, Woods, and Delaney Ferry. 2h18m, 27.1 miles. Hot.

Harrodsburg Rd was four-laned out that way last year. Jessamine has turned 3-4 miles of the old 2-lane into a bike trail. Nice!

Saw a meadowlark on 169. Phew, I guess. Hopefully not another sign of global warming.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where have the Meadowlarks Gone?

Biked this morning from 9:07 to 11:03. 23.8 miles, Parkers Mill to Dedham to Ft. Springs-Pinkard through Little Texas, out Military Pike to Shannonwood, Dry Ridge to 33. Then south, back 169 to Shannonwood to McGee to James and back in Military Pike.

Right before I turned onto Dedham a hawk flew about 5 feet in front of my nose with 2-3 smaller birds on its tail. On Dedham, I heard crows making a racket and out of a tree busts another big hawk with 3 crows chasing it. I didn't have enough time to ID the hawks, but the 2nd one at least I think was a red-tail.

I saw a kingbird on a fence on Military Pike. It was the 1st one I'd seen in a while. That got me to thinking about other birds, and I realized, I don't think I've seen a meadowlark for several years.

They are easy to spot. Distinctive markings, short tail, helicopter flying style, very sweet, melodic song. They hang out in fields rather than trees. I used to see and hear them all the time, now I can't remember when the last time I saw or heard one was.

So have the fields become subdivisions? Are they really gone, or is this just the general (increasing?) spottiness of (my) memory? Guess I'll keep more of an eye out for meadowlarks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Music ... And Videos

Looks like this is April through mid-May. Then I got hit with an especially rich "100 Albums for $5" email from Amazon and bought 6 I think. So better get caught up some.

BTW, I posted to Google+ (mostly my geek friends) asking for a MP3 purchasing alternative to Amazon. Didn't particularly get any good alternatives.

  • "Natives", by Bright Moments. This is the latest band of Lexington native and Dunbar graduate Kelly Pratt. Kelly is also in Beruit, and toured with Arcade Fire a couple of years ago. Really catchy grooves, and in one of their live videos you can see that the bass is coming from a tuba. Kind of the balkan pop like Beruit, but a little more catchy and brighter. 4 stars, and 5 stars for "Travelers", video here. Man you just keep waiting for that monster groove to come back around.
  • Miike Snow, "Happy To You". 2nd album by this Swedish group. Catchy dance grooves, I thought about putting it in Electronica & Dance instead of Euro Pop. 3 stars.
  • Idiot Glee, "HopHop EP" (2010). A local group, 4 songs recorded at Lexingon's HopHop studio. Doo-wap type tunes. Way too much reverb, 2 stars.
  • Hospitality, eponymous. Surprisingly tasty stuff from yet another great Brooklyn band. Nice female vocals. 4 stars.
  • fun. "Aim and Ignite" (2010). The first album of these guys, who got a great review last time. I love this peppy, poppy stuff. Vocals that sound like ELO or Queen. And, no, I'm not gay. 4 stars. This song messed with me. Here's the video for"All The Pretty Girls". My wife insightfully pointed out that it reminded her of the incredibly catchy "Come On Eileen" (video here, 1982).
  • Tennis, "Cape Dory" (2011). First album by this husband and wife duo whose 2nd album was mentioned last time. Still gets "Girl Groups" classification -- again, I think that it's the reverb on the drums that gives it the Phil Spector sound. 4 stars.
  • Rocket Juice & The Moon, eponymous. Brit-hop, with some contributions from Gorillaz members. Interesting how as the various parts of the empire come home, Brit-hop becomes world music. Good dance tracks. 3 stars.
  • Of Monsters And Men, "My Head Is An Animal". Icelandic Euro Pop. The female vocalist really reminds me of someone else who's come out recently. Nice tunes, very listenable. 3 stars.
I stayed up til 1 last night and finished my 1st library book in a while: "Exultant", by Stephen Baxter. Very hard science fiction / military space opera. A fun read. But, should I feel bad about a book where humanity has spread like vermin through the galaxy, wiping out or assimilating other races as it went? A little too close to US history? Baxter is British tho.

Monday, May 14, 2012

eBooks at the LFPL

So I followed the instructions of the fine pamphlet I was given at the Beaumont branch of the Lexington Free Public Library. I went to www.lexpublib.org/elibrary and downloaded the OverDrive Media Console from the iTunes app store and put it on my iPhone and iPad. It has a Find Library function, and there was the Beaumont branch. Select it, all done!

They have a limited number of books per title to download. If one is available, you can add to your cart, otherwise you can put your name in the queue for a copy, or add it to your wish list. Most books seem to be available only for 7 day checkout.

They offer two flavors of downloads:

  1. Kindle format books. When you pick one you are redirected to amazon to check-out. You must also go back to your Kindle page at amazon to return the book. So I think I will forgo this in favor of
  2. Adobe EPUB format. These load directly into the OverDrive app, and you can return them from there. The app is pretty well integrated with the library when you want to look for more books. I did download a book and read it in this format. The reader is a little bit funky tho. When you swipe to the next page, rather than any kind of page turning animation, the new page just pops into place, but maybe looking like it is scrolling down a line. Odd that something like that is just a little annoying, but it is.
So the tech is decent, I would have to say the selection, not so much so. I searched for a few sci-fi authors I like, nothing. So in 10-at-a-time mode, I looked at the 451 titles they had listed in their top level browsing category "Science Fiction & Fantasy". It was pretty much completely fantasy. I don't remember a single sci-fi title. And the emphasis was on fantasy series I'd never heard of, most in 12 volumes or so. They had the whole Sookie Stackhouse series (Twilight). They did have "The Lord of the Rings" and "A Song of Fire and Ice" (A Game of Thrones) series. Interesting, 10 people waiting to read "A Game of Thrones", tails off pretty rapidly after the 1st one.

This kind of fits with what my friend Michael the bookstore owner told me: ebooks are being overwhelming adopted by genre (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, western) readers who plow through far more titles than your average reader.

For my sample read, I chose "Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher, a collection of short stories set in The Dresden Files series. I had read the 1st of these "Storm Front" and liked it OK -- although there were some anti-science rants that seemed unnecessary to me -- but didn't follow up with the series. Stories were OK, I'm kind of digging urban fantasy as mindless reading -- but it looks like the series winds up getting into some serious christian mythology, with archangels and that murderous psychopath jehovah (god the father) getting involved.

I don't mind christian mythology, like in the movies "Constantine" or the "The Prophecy" series, but, man, I'm so tired of christians in general. We went to Campus Pub to see Ben Lacy Friday, got there 1 hour early, the trivia question is "Which is the only gospel that mentions the word "manger"?". KMN, fucking bible trivia in a bar? Where will it end?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

R&R + T&T

Well, since it's been a while since I've had a paycheck, I decided to go the library this afternoon rather than go eshopping for ebooks. Hadn't been there for a while, the Lexington Public Library now has self-checkout. You just scan your card and the books yourself. I also got a pamphlet on their ebook lending, I'll see how that works.

Looking at books by two prolific authors -- Stephen Baxter and Iain M. Banks -- and I was having trouble remembering if I had read them or not. So got a couple and then checked this blog to see if I'd read them. Apparently not, yay! Although searching for Banks turns up a single reference to his work in general, and no specific titles. Need to do better blogging this stuff. I definitely need the external memory. There are some mystery writers I've kind of quit reading because I can't remember which of their stuff I have and haven't read.

Anticipating rain tomorrow, I biked today, Saturday: 28.3m, 2h20m. Browns Mill to Leestown, back Waizenberger Mill, Pisgah, and Military Pike. Nice day. Kind of felt like I was getting stronger at the end. Almost fell down a steep trail down to the creek when I stopped at Waizenberger Mill. I always stop there to check out the waterfall.

So, recent reading (R&R), from most recent back:

  • "Japanese Fairy Tales", compiled by Yei Theodora Ozaki (1908). When we 1st got an iPad, I went into the Apple store and downloaded lots of free, out of copyright books. Nice that Apple makes them available. All the Oz books, some Kipling, Wind and the Willows, complete works of Shakespeare, and lots of books of mythology and legends. I ran out of reading material coming back from Jacksonville last week and pulled this up. Interesting stuff. Evil stepmothers appear to be a cross-cultural constant. Ditto for cannibalistic ogres. A few stories feature Ryn Jin, the dragon king under the sea, who was generally a pretty good guy unless you disrespect the power of the sea.
  • "Year's Best SF 6", edited by David G. Hartwell (2000). I think my daughter Alexis got me this for solstice. Kind of interesting, 12 years old, but the stories all pretty good. I think I'd read only one before. I think this validates my building a stash of "Year's Best" collections in Florida -- good reading even when old.
  • "Majesty's Offspring", by A. J. Vega. This was a free Kindle book. The A.I. kind of ruling humanity decides it wants to breed. Humanity decides, bad idea, and destroy it in a big war. Story set post war, with lovable, former navymen turned space pirates (arrgh). Ends in a complete and total cliff-hanger. I the 2nd one costs money, I will probably decline. 1 star.
  • "Deep State" and "The Fourth Wall", by Walter Jon Williams. These are sequels to "This Is Not A Game", which I thought I'd blogged but can't find. Both very enjoyable reads, gaming nerds trying to help make the world a better place. 4 stars.
  • "Liminal States", by Zack Parsons. I think this was recommended in a tweet by one of the SF writers I follow on Twitter. Harry Connolly, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, and William Gibson get some lively exchanges going on Twitter. Anyway, this is a 1st novel, and it really, really covers a lot of ground. It goes from being a western to a 50's cheap detective mystery to a 21st century SF story. When I got to the end, my reaction was kind of like, "huh"? But you keep turning the 448 pages. 3 stars? BTW, the eBook format on this was bad. Like a file that had inconsistent hard and soft returns. Lots of bad white space and run on words. I emailed the author, he said he fwded on to the publisher -- nice!
  • "The Magicians" and "The Magician King" by Lev Grossman. This started out looking like magical realism in Brooklyn, and I'm kind of like "Oh no, that never works". But then it becomes Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia -- but for adults, dark and with sex and death. Pretty good reads, I guess. 3 stars.
  • "Distrust That Particular Flavor", by William Gibson. A collection of his non-fictional essays. I think I'd read most of these before. I never believed in semiotics until Gibson explained it to me. He has definitely coined some bon mots -- wow, a web page just for these, nice! "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." 4 stars.

    The other day I thought I came up with a good term for something I was working on -- something unique and cute. Quel dumbass, I didn't check it with The Google. When I finally got around to it, of course there were already several versions of my "original" idea out there. When will I learn? ;->

Sunday, April 08, 2012

FSATFFMATVE

Double duty, the First Sunday After The First Full Moon After The Vernal Equinox is both a lunar and a solar fertility feast. So to celebrate, I will hard-boil some eggs and make some fine, fine egg salad and eat egg salad sandwiches. Yum!

And for all my Jewish readers and friends, happy Feast of the Murdered Children (aka passover).

This morning biked 1h21m 17.1 miles, top speed 32.2 mph. I went on and wore arm and leg warmers but probably could have done without them. I took Woods Ln south from Delaney Ferry to 169, then left and back through Keene. I've taken Woods Ln many times, but I think always in the past I've taken it in the opposite direction. Of course, the hills were worse this way ;->

It was worth it tho, because I saw a bluebird on Woods Ln. I think only the 3rd time I've seen one.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

What is a Milkman?

So, I wonder what the min age is for not knowing what a milkman is? I think when I was growing up, I was fuzzy on what an iceman was. A job species in the economic ecology that is definitely on the endangered list.

I was thinking about milkman based on the fact that I now have three different versions of "My Very Good Friend The Milkman" in my iTunes:

  1. Fats Waller, 1935. Genre is Early Jazz.
  2. Eric Clapton, 2010, off of his latest album. Genre is Rock.
  3. Paul McCartney, 2012, of the album of standards he just released. Genre is Pop
The Fats Waller version is, of course, the best.

So on to new music for the 1st 2 months of 2012.

  • "For The Good Times", by The Little Willies -- Norah Jones country band. Very listenable. 3 stars, with 4 for the title track.
  • "All Hours", by Ivy (2011). I think they are getting a little tired of their format. 3 stars.
  • "An Innocent Man", by Billy Joel (1983). I ripped this with the fine USB-out turntable given me by my children. The quality from this is surprisingly good. This was a family favorite as the kids were growing up, lots of dancing in the foyer in sock feet to these songs. I think too that "Leave A Tender Moment Alone" may be my wife and my "song" -- the only other contender I can think of is "Wonderful Tonight". That it came out after we'd been married 9 years I believe to be immaterial. 4 stars.
  • "Duets" soundtrack (2000). We loved this movie, about competitive karaoke singers. Great ensemble cast with Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Giamatti in particular acquitting themselves well with their singing. 3 stars with a couple of tracks 4 stars.
  • "With A Twist...", by Todd Rundgren (1997). I've always been a big Todd Rundgren fan, and I've loved bossa nova since I first started playing guitar and was given an Antonio Carlos Jobim songbook by my first guitar teacher at age 15 or so. So an album of some of Todd's greatest hits done with bossa nova arrangements definitely gets me off. 4 stars.
  • "Le Voyage Dans La Lune", by Air (French Band). So this is a new soundtrack written for the re-release of the colorized version of the 1902 Georges Méliès movie, known for its image of the moon with the shell/rocket stuck in its eye. (Méliès, BTW, is the topic of the recent Scorsese move "Hugo", one of those execrable Hollywood patting itself on the back movies -- "Movies are magic, and we make them! Hooray for us!") Listenable I guess, 3 stars.
  • "Kisses On The Bottom", by Paul McCartney. Released on Valentine's Day and given to me as a gift by my lovely wife. McCartney covers 30s to 50s standards. I don't think his voice is really that suited to this material. 3 stars (maybe more like 2.5).
  • "Paralytic Stalks", by Of Montreal. I don't like this as well as some of their earlier stuff. More neurotic than psychotic. 3 stars.
  • "Young & Old", by Tennis. I think the best find of this batch. I put the genre as "Girl Groups". It's got kind of Phil Spector production value (reverb on the drums?). Very nice quality songs. 4 stars. This is their 2nd album, I'll have to check out the 1st. Wikipedia says it's a husband/wife duo. This was a $5.00 special from Amazon.
  • "Where It Hits You", by Jim White. Quirky southernish tunes once again. I really like his stuff. My favorite was "My Brother's Keeper", about the death of an old friend who he hooked up with a "honky-tonk angel" who broke the friend's heart, after which he wouldn't leave the house and grew to 400 pounds. Started at 3 stars, ended at 4.
  • "Obadiah", by Frazey Ford (2010). Mostly folky stuff with a variety of instruments. 3 stars.
  • "Some Nights", by fun. These guys remind me of Of Montreal or Apples In Stereo -- vocal harmonies sounding like ELO are the main giveaway. This is also reminiscent of Queen and maybe BeeGees. Kind of a show tune / rock opera sound. 3 stars (maybe 3.5).
  • "All Of Me", by Estelle. My favorite Brit-hopper does a take on "The Miseducation of Lauren Hill". So like Miseducation, you have to go through and mark all the spoken bits as 1 star. Some good tracks, 3 stars.
  • "Something", by Chairlift. A Brooklyn duo. Edgy arrangements. I put in Chick Pop genre. 3 stars.
  • "Break It Yourself", by Andrew Bird. Nothing really jumps out from this album. As usual a solid piece of work tho. 3 stars.
Suffered a shock Wednesday night. After playing at O'Neill's, which was pretty thin both crowd- and musician-wise, I stopped by Lynagh's, where I sometime play at the open mic Wednesday night. I wanted to talk to Jamie Green and tell him that I'd mentioned him to Ross Compton, whom I've been trying to get Jamie to hook up with re getting some tracks down.

Lynagh's was closed! The guy mopping up came and told me that they'd been real slow so they closed up early. Not a good sign, I worry about live music in Lexington.