Tuesday, June 28, 2011

3 facts about me today, 6/28/11

1. So there's an update on my previous post. As I mentioned, I'm weeding all of these amazing books to be removed from a library, which I'd be lying if I said wasn't the worst part of the job. A lot of these books Are not only being weeded, but a lot of them are somewhat dated and will probably just get chucked in the end. Usually these are technology or current affairs texts. Case in point, yesterday I was working my way through a chunk of books largely devoted to military science and history. While I admit a fondness for this subject area (I can idly thumb through a book about swords any day), it was the section about nuclear armaments in the Cold War that caught my attention. It seems that in the mid-80s, Cold War hysteria reached the library in force. I probably discarded some 35 books on the subject. One of them was so great, though, with all of these vintage graphics and charts explaining the history of the ICBMs and there's even a cutaway picture of a Soviet 9K52 Luna portable missile complex (comedy nerds might remember this as the giant truck/missile thing from the ending of Spies Like Us). It was the sort of book I knew would get junked and also that I had to have. So I went home, found it for $0.98 on Amazon, and bought it. This is a process I find both liberating and rewarding, but it's going to get me into a lot of trouble. Last night I ordered 4 books spotted on just one short shift of work. I'm afraid to see what happens when we start hitting the areas of knowledge I'm really fascinated by.

2. As much as I enjoy the Pod F. Tompkast and Stop Podcasting Yourself, Paul F. Tompkins as a guest on SPY is one of my favorite things in the world. If not for that most recent episode, there's half a chance I'd be a smear on a freeway in Orange County right now.

3. I'm sure a lot of you have seen this by now, but there was some footage making the internet rounds last week of an SUV plowing through a 7-11 (and one of its employees). It's pretty horrifying to see, especially when two people jump out of the car and nonchalantly walk away before the driver takes off. When it came up last week on one of the Spanish-language news channels, I assumed it had taken place in either Southern California or Mexico. But it happened in Yeadon, PA, which I found to be a little disheartening. Then 2 minutes later I picked up a newspaper and read first about some monster killing a Golden Retriever less than a mile from my home and then something in Sacramento I cannot even being myself to repeat. So now I'm just depressed for all of us. For the next week, I can't bring myself to read any of these stories that have taken place in this country. Even Florida. Can we get on that somehow?

Friday, June 24, 2011


Part of my job consists of weeding the print collection a relatively large community college library. As electronic books and databases become the norm for research practices, the print collections of most libraries is being drastically reduced. I understand this, and there are long-term cost savings, but at the end of the day it still means that a bunch of books are getting thrown out. Of course, a lot of the time these books are outdated and somewhat useless (see, computer science manuals) or too specific for a community college (veterinary medicine is not a huge topic here). But sometimes, it's just an old book that not many people check out. At the moment, I'm looking at a book called The Power of Steam: An Illustrated History of the World's Steam Age. It's a thirty-year old book that's long since been out of print and not specific to a subject taught here. And it hasn't been checked out since 1997. So I am forced to recommend it to be junked.

But here's why this bothers me so much.

This book is amazing. Never mind that I don't care about a lot of the specifics of the development of the steam engine, though it confirms that it was invented by James Watt (thanks, The Simpsons!). The book also explores the social and practical impacts of it (which is way more in my wheelhouse) and features so many awesome pictures I don't know where to start with it. There are oil paintings of a steamboat drag race, photographs of the Industrial Age's foot soldiers toiling in assembly lines and engineers caked with oil and grime. There's a wood engraving of an engine on Tokyo's Negishi Line from 1872*! There are lithographs of the first trial run of the London Underground (between Paddington and Farringdon in 1863), and a race in 1866 between a steam engine and a pack of dogs!

Sure, this the sort of thing a dork like me loves, and I hardly had time to explore the text itself. But if I can be so engaged by this book, couldn't someone who actually cares about engineering or history get even more out of it? This is my biggest problem with the eagerness of so many libraries to dump their print collection. I never would've searched in a computer for this book in a million years. The only reason I found it was because I stumbled across it while going through the shelves.

*Strangely enough, we were at a train museum a few weeks ago and saw an electric trolley that ran on that exact line at around 1910. I won't get into why we were there or why that excited me, but it should probably confirm what you think you know about me; namely that I am a 6 year-old at heart.

3 facts about me today 6/24/11

1. It's 11:12 AM and I have already spilled two separate cups of coffee on myself.

2. Right now, the only thing I've listened to (aside from a few podcasts) is Fucked Up's David Comes to Life, which might be the best album I've heard in 4 years. It's got a lot of things that I should dislike about it in theory, not the least of which being that it's a narrative concept album. My track record with these is spotty at best, despite some of my favorite songs of all time come from albums like this. My problem is that they invariably go off the rails in a serious way. Sometimes they make a movie out of it, which might help to fill in a lot of the blanks (Quadrophenia) or it might help to illustrate how poorly thought out the third act is (Tommy). Even Songs From the Capeman (shut up, I stand by a lot of those songs) loses track of its voice a couple times, and that's about as straightforward as it gets.
   But David Comes to Life feels different for me, perhaps because I'm not trying to follow the plot. Or because the music has so much energy (those guitars!) that I can't be bothered. Maybe because the lyrics paint enough of a picture that I can just consider the songs vignettes and ignore the larger picture. Maybe I just love driving and listening to it. Regardless, it is amazing.

3. The NBA draft is over, which means that until late fall, the only sport I really need to think about is the Phillies. The exception, however, is going to be the U.S./Mexico soccer game taking place in Pasadena tomorrow. It's the final match of the gold cup, and watching the semis has somehow endeared this whole tournament to me, not to mention the sheer insanity of what's gonna happen at the Rose Bowl tomorrow.

4 (Bonus!). We finally finished season 1 of Treme last night, and I still have very, very mixed feelings about it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

3 facts about me today 6/19/11

1. I'm fresh from one of the most relaxing (and rewarding) mini-vacations ever, which is strange. I've never imagined myself as Desert Folk. In fact, as someone who has watched horror movies for the better part of his life, Desert Folk scare me only slightly less than Mountain Folk and Swamp Folk on the grand scale of creepy desolate weirdos. They live in the closest thing to a wasteland I can think of, with only rattlesnakes and coyotes (2 syllables) for company. The cultural norms and and legal standards of the nation seemingly vanish with the water vapor, replaced with the mysterious, unwritten code of DESERT LAW. DESERT LAW, it seems, is a lot like the law of the jungle, but with allowances for things like crystal meth and the living mummies that inhabit Palm Springs.
   But weirdly enough, we had a great time out there. Not that I could live there permanently, but there's something refreshing about being out there, with pure spring water coming out of the taps and the massive San Gorgonio Wind Farm. The wind farm is one of the saving graces of the trip. Instead of seeing nothing but brush and corpses for miles, the different sizes, shapes, and speeds of wind turbine provide an almost hypnotic landscape I can only compare to an ocean. Also, it gets so hot there this time of year that everyone just kinda siestas in the afternoons, which I'm clearly a fan of. In all, Desert Folk ain't so bad (some of 'em, anyway), and there are surprising advantage to living out there. I'd describe the trip in greater detail, but it was a) a personal vacation, and b) it would ruin a lot of my next pic dump. But keep an eye out.

2. Once again, my hair is getting embarrassingly long. Right now my 2 options are to comb it super-tight with product for work or to slap on a baseball hat. Part of me wants to grow it out a little (not mullet length, but floppy), but then I remember that in 2 months, it's gonna be too hot to think around here so maybe I'll just chop it. Stay tuned!

3. Clarence Clemons died last night, and while I'm certainly not the only one thinking about this on Father's Day (see Will's similar thoughts here), it's a loss. I've written enough about my father and I's shared love of Springsteen here, so I don't want to bore you with that. Clearly, the band will never be the same. The Big Man was an essential piece of the E Street Band and, like Danny Federici, he is irreplaceable. Sadly, those two were also the most unique pieces of the band, and among the most identifiable musicians I can think of, but so different. Danny's accordion (particularly on "Wild Billy's Circus Story") and organ are ornamentation that fills in the empty spots of the records, painting the rest of the picture. Clarence's sax, on the other hand, just grabs the reins of the song and takes off. Late last night I was listening to one of my favorite recordings of all time, with the guys in Bryn Mawr, PA playing at the Main Point in 1975. It's a super early concert by band standards, and there's plenty of things still being worked out onstage (including the prototype for what later became "Thunder Road"). It's an amazing show, but at some point during "Rosalita" that night, Clarence not only took over the song, but he sent it careening in an entirely new direction, forgetting Bruce's please for love and instead strapping it into a roller coaster. the jaunt resolves itself a few minutes later when Clarence and Bruce start tapping out a call-and-response with sax and guitar, and things right themselves cosmically. It's a thing of beauty.

Go ahead, give it a listen.

There's a great old story about David Sanborn when he was the hottest of the hot shit studio horn men, he was asked by some producer or artist if he could play a song more like Clarence. He thought for a minute, and replied that yes, he could, but in order to do so, the lights in the studio would have to be turned way down, in order to provide mood. They accommodated this wish, and started again, but Sanborn stopped them again, and asked that the lights be turned down even more. They did this, and then a third time Sanborn asked for the lights to be turned down yet again. They did this and started the track once more. They played the song through but when the sax parts came up, there was nothing from silence coming form the darkened booth. When they stopped the track and turned up the lights to see what had happened, Sanborn was gone.

Sure, the veracity of this story is highly suspect, and I'm sure that even if it was true, nobody's gonna admit it. But it's a fitting story to this man, who was introduced in a fantastic way every time he took the stage with Springsteen. He was larger than life in a lot of ways, and while I can't replicate most of Bruce's stories, I can at least repeat one I heard secondhand.

Happy Father's Day to every great dad out there. If I could, I'd send each of you a ridiculous tie and a warm handshake. Keep doing what you're doing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

3 facts about me today 6/14/11

I missed doing this last night. I'm not trying to say this is something I plan on (or will end up) doing every single night, but I'm gonna try to keep it somewhat consistent).

1. I'm trying to make this a little short because tomorrow Carrie and I are going for a tiny vacation out near Palm Springs and we've promised each other that we won't bring computers. This is a pretty big statement, considering we both spend at least 10 hours a day or so working on them. I'm actually pretty excited. I'm bringing a fresh order of books to read and reread (Duane Swierczynski's Fun & Games and Greg Rucka's first two Queen & Country novels -- the first is new and I'm revisiting the second two). I'm really excited and plan on do a lot of reading by the pool with beer. You know, to keep hydrated in the desert lest some coyotes decide to have their way with my unconscious body. What? I heard they do that now.

2. I've been picking up a lot of snails lately. Have I mentioned this here? Every time it rains here, hundreds of snails end up on the sidewalks. I feel like that's happened everywhere, but here on the edge of the desert (where we still get rain), this is magnified a hundred times. Normally I wouldn't notice, but sometime after I accidentally stepped on my tenth snail I had a change of heart. The crunching sound alone is revolting and causes me to freak out, and so now I try to chuck 'em into some bushes to slow them down. They still gross me out and I hate touching them, but at least I don't have snails on my conscience. or on my shoes, I guess. Which is just as nice.

3. I forgot to call my mom on her birthday last week, which makes me feel just about as terrible as you would think. The thing is, I had a note on my nightstand to remind me, and I still didn't remember. I'm hoping that by writing this out now, I'll remember to call my grandmother tomorrow for hers. There are like 20 friends and family members with June birthdays, but that's no excuse. My excuse is that I never remember them. The only birthday I remember consistently is my grandfather's, and that's only because it's the same as mine, which I'd forget if Carrie didn't remind me. Yeah, I'm a crappy person. But also birthdays sort of stop after 18, right? excepting round numbers?

on an off note, does anyone have anything to say regarding Pandora vs. Rdio? I know I'm super late on these, but I spent like 4 hours working yesterday while listening to a Louis Jordan channel yesterday that has me rethinking my dislike of streaming/cloud audio. Is one of these services clearly superior to the other? Should I just be waiting for Spotify before paying for either? The last one one is the likeliest candidate at the moment.

Monday, June 13, 2011

3 facts about me today 6/12/11

1. The NBA playoffs have come to an end. Obviously this isn't a fact about me, but it was a satisfying end to one of the best NBA postseason I've ever had the fortune of watching. I've been thoroughly entertained by the past 9 months of basketball, but I'm happy it's done. Now I'll have more time to devote to work and following Phillies games.

2. So, our cat has been involved in this long-term psychological operation on some birds near out balcony for the past few days. I assume that they have a nest nearby or something, although I haven't seen it. But they will flap around just outside of our balcony, squawking up a storm and trying to scare of Fergus, who just sits there staring at them with something resembling a grin on his face. I'm not even making this up! I think he basically just goes out there to antagonize them, despite being the scarediest cat I've ever seen.
   The thing is, these birds are really pissed off, and when I go out on the balcony to see what's happening, they're about eye level with me and so I run away screaming.  Fergus is relatively safe behind the bars of the railing, but I'm still uneasy about it, so I go out there and chase off the birds a couple times a day. Usually I throw a grapefruit at them.
   Ours is a home with a lot of grapefruit. Especially right now, when they're in season and friends drop off whole bags of them, which we always happily accept. But if I have to throw something at some birds (or in some cases, a relatively large stray cat orgy in the parking lot of the vet outside of our window), I don't want it to be hard enough to break anything, or for it to just become litter. So I fire a grapefruit at them. It works, but now there's grapefruits all over the lawn by our balcony and so our neighbors probably think something crazy's going on. Nice.

3. I was up at 4:35 this morning researching the etymology of the word "filibuster", and trying to see if there's a "crownstone" from the Mason Dixon Line that's still intact that I might be able to visit when I'm back East this Summer (I think there is!). This, along with stops at a few restaurants, is what I'm most looking forward to on that trip.

okay, I'm done for the night. Hope everyone has a stellar week.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

3 facts about me today 6/11/11

1.  I had to go to Target twice in one day and I'm super ashamed of it. Even more, I'm angry because the stupid Target brand mineral water is TERRIBLE.

2. In the past 4 days, I've seen 5 bands perform featuring people I know. Basically, I'm hiding out at home right now because a friend's band is playing at the bar next door and I'm just overloaded on live music right now. Thus, I am home unable to decide whether I want to watch an MST3K movie or WWII in HD.

3. This morning I was awoken -as I am most saturdays- by a band playing the Harley dealership also next door. Without fail, they play a lot of Sabbath and Steppenwolf covers but now they've incorporated "White Rabbit" into the set and it is seriously affecting me. I've always disliked that song, but it's now been upgraded to outright hatred.

Friday, June 10, 2011

3 facts about me today; 6/10/11

Okay, this is gonna be a new feature on here to try to get me to write more. Mostly, it's the thought that by posting 3 current facts about myself is both narcissistic and short enough that it shouldn't be as daunting as when I park my ass in front of my laptop for 2 hours and rant about M&Ms or something. Let's hope it works!

1. From when Carrie got on a plane late on Sunday night until yesterday evening, I ate nothing but sandwiches. There was a slight amount of controversy when I introduced the "Swedish Fish Sandwich", but after review from the all-sandwich diet committee, it was ruled that the SFS did, in fact, qualify as a sandwich provided that the top and bottom fishes were of the same color/flavor. The streak ended last night when I made myself some short ribs. They were delicious.

2. I've been listening to a lot of Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads & Dirges 1968-1974, and last night I fell asleep in the tub listening to Donny Hathaway. Also, a collection of Pakistani pop music that constantly makes me feel like I'm in that scene in The Wire where the Greek is shutting closing up shop in Baltimore for the time being.

3. I saw X-Men: First Class and loved it. There were a few things (and 1.5 characters) that bugged me, but overall I really enjoyed it. Probably in my 5 favorite superhero movies ever, and certainly the best movie I've seen in a theater all year. In all fairness, I think Thor is the only other movie I've seen in the theater this year. Man, I'm a loser.