Saturday, March 31, 2007

Update on "Peyton"

I posted this after the superbowl. Apparently the judge took pity on his liquored ass and decided he didn't have to change his name. Whatever. Don't make stupid bets in the future, Junior, especially when the bet doesn't include anything if you win.

That's right. Apparently, this guy bet that if the Bears lost he would change his name to Peyton Manning. And if he won, he'd get the satisfaction of the Bears winning the Superbowl. This I heard myself as they interviewed this fellow on the Mike North morning show back when it first came out.

Anyway, I got nothing.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Priuses Kill The Environment

I went out to lunch with a guy I work with the other day. I work for a company that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shell. The oil company. I drive a Prius.

That's right. It's like Jam Master Jay used to say about drug dealers: "The coolest drug dealers don't use the stuff they sell."

So anyway, this guy was telling me that he read an article that said that the nickel in the batteries used on the Prius was bad for the environment. I can imagine. It's a metal mined out of the earth, and from what I've seen of mining, there's not a lot of good stories coming out of that industry as a whole.

I'm pretty sure the article was picked up by USA Today. Because that guy reads USA Today every day. My mother-in-law called my wife yesterday and cited the same article.

Whenever an article or news story puts the Prius in a bad light, people just fester to put it in my face. Maybe they think that everyone who drives a Prius is smarmy about it. There may be times when I have been smarmy about it. But it usually stems from people making comments to me about it first:

"Oh, you got a Prius? I heard it costs like $10,000 to replace the battery in those things."

"What kind of gas mileage do you get? Did you hear that they don't really get as much gas mileage as they say?"

"Oh, my car gets 40 miles to the gallon."

We'll cover all of these statements and maybe more below.

So let's take a look at Chris Demorro's editorial. Let's remember that it was an editorial written for his community college's media and communication's club called The Recorder. Editorial, in this case, means its mostly his opinion and therefore he doesn't have to site resources.

First paragraph: "...‘green car’ is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer."

If you own a Prius, you do not own a car made in America. It is made in Japan and is therefore an import. Therefore, the car is not a source of some of the worst pollution in North America. Since it wasn't made here - it doesn't pollute here.

Most people seem to choose imports over cars made in the U.S. based on workmanship. For some reason, this does not apply to Jaguar owners. Jaguars are notoriously known to have lots of defects. The difference with me and my choice of import was that I was not only looking for workmanship, but a way to reduce my environmental footprint.

Let's discuss the nickel pollution thing some more. According to this fine web site, nickel use falls into the following:

In the United States, large amounts of nickel (42% of consumption in 2001) are used in the specialty steel industry for stainless steel and related alloys.

Thirty-eight percent of annual nickel use is in nonferrous alloys (or mixed with metals other than steel) and superalloys (metal mixtures designed to withstand extremely high temperatures and/or pressures, or to have high electrical conductivity). Nickel is used as a coating on other metals to slow down corrosion. Nickel coatings accounts for 14% of nickel use.

The remaining 6% of the annual nickel use is for a variety of purposes including the production of coins, nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries; as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions; and, as a colorant, nickel is added to glass to give it a green color.

Rechargeable nickel-hydride batteries are widely used for cellular phones, video cameras, and other electronic devices. Nickel-cadmium batteries are used primarily to power cordless tools and appliances.

So, 6% of all nickel used is for batteries. While I agree, and apparently Toyota does, too, they're switching to Lithium Ion technology for the 2008 Prius. So this is already a moot point. Wanna bet that Mr. Demorro wrote his opinion on a laptop? Nice Ni-Cad battery, there. Don't forget the one in your cell phone.

Toyota offers $200 for recycled batteries, and they recycle the entire battery, according to the FAQ on the Prius.

I've seen the articles about the new EPA mileage estimates. All I can say is that now the estimates are truer. Instead of getting 60 mpg in town and 51 mpg on the highway, the car should average 46 mpg. For the record, if I'm the only one driving the car, I can get around 51.7 mpg on a full tank of gas. My wife likes to drive the car, but she doesn't pay as close attention to how she drives it as much as I do (It's like playing a videogame and trying to get high score. She doesn't like videogames). Therefore, I end up usually getting around 46-48 mpg on one tank. What Demorro doesn't mention is that these mileage stickers will only be required on cars that weigh less than 8,500 pounds. Why? Afraid that someone won't buy a car that only gets 8 mpg?

Maybe I should get a Chevy Aveo because the mileage is in "spitting distance?" The new EPA listing for the Aveo is 26 mpg. That's 19 mpg less than the Prius. Plus the Aveo is a glorified golf cart. The Prius is roomier than you think. Ask someone who owns one to show you the hatch. I can put more stuff in there than I can in my 2002 Saturn SW-200.

The "Dust-to-dust" study is from a marketing firm, not a science journal. It arrives at an artificially high cost for the Prius by assigning it an arbitrary lifespan of 100k miles, and a Hummer 300k miles. There's Prius being used as cabs that have 200k on them now. And, insofar as a car lasting, what car do you expect to repair less? A Toyota Prius or a GM Hummer? You can check Consumer Reports for the answer to that one. A good analysis of the flaws in dust-to-dust is available online.

The Sudbury info is seriously outdated, and the comment about moon buggies (like, when did NASA test moon buggies?) ought to have given the author a clue. Sudbury was polluted by a century of mining (1870 on). In fact, some of Sudbury’s nickel went into making the Statue of Liberty. Currently, the mine is owned by INCO (not Toyota), and produces 100,000 tons of nickel a year, of which Toyota buys 1% (1000 tons).

The Mail on Sunday newspaper, which ran the story the college article is a thin re-write of (visible here), used a stock photo from 1994 to illustrate the pollution (visible here). There were, of course, no Prius in existence or being manufactured in 1994. Sudbury is no longer as polluted, as INCO and the city have planted over 8 million trees there since 1979. The best history online of the Sudbury devastation/reforestation comes from GM Canada (the trees were all cut down in 1871 to help rebuild Chicago after the fire), and it provides telling photos of some of the reclamation from 1979 to present.

The acid rain problem David Martin of Greenpeace is talking about in is the situation pre 1972. INCO on regreening and SO2 emissions.

My main reasons for owning the Prius are: 1) To reduce my environmental footprint. I may not make a huge gas savings, but I'm definitely using less gas than my '93 Saturn wagon, and I'm emitting less air pollution with the hybrid; 2) Do my part to reduce my dependency on foreign oil; and 3) Have a car that I can drive my family around in on long trips and save money on gas that way.

There may be other cars out there that get decent gas mileage. There's a guy at work who gets 45 mpg with his Geo Metro. That's great. But have you ever driven a Geo? Think glorified Yugo.

I would tend to think that this Chris Demorro guy doesn't see himself as an environmentalist. He probably thinks that all people who buy Priuses think they're going to make money back on it. I know that for a fact this is the case in California, where Priuses have a special state-given sticker that allows single people to drive in the car pool lanes. In some instances, people make $4,000 more if they have one of these stickers on their car, as I saw in an article in Tuesday's USA Today.

Hey Chris, I think I hear your friends over at the keg calling you over to do another keg stand. Better get on it.

Special thanks to WALL OF CHEESE for some of the links above.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Embarassing Photos

I can't remember if this was 1994 or '95. But when I worked for AlliedSignal in Postville, Iowa, we always had these great Christmas parties. You had your choice of a HUGE pork chop or prime rib, with all the fixin's, and of course, an open bar. The whole open bar idea at corporate events has become almost taboo, but not at AlliedSignal in the 90's, at least not in small town Iowa. I gotta give credit to that TV show, "Wings", when they said, "Yeah, there's nothing to do in this town. The two most popular winter sports are drinking and suicide." That quote was too good not to use on NE Iowa. My buddy, Kelly Tschantz, was my date this particular Christmas party. I wasn't seeing anybody, and Kelly was between jobs, so she drove up from Davenport, helped me pick out a coat, pants, shirt and tie combo, and went to the party with me. I had fun.

Not sure after looking at this photo if Kelly did or not. I'm not even sure who took this photo. I think the guy hanging on us was named Dave. God bless him, he appears to be more hammered than I was. I understood where his head was at, though. As Slobberbone once eloquently put it, "It's about the easy sheen of alcohol..,"

The beauty of this photo is that we're both attempting to give a thumbs up to the camera. Kelly more concerned with Dave than the photo op. The flash and years of hanging out in my photo album have faded my face as well.

We went to the local tavern in town after this and met up with my main homie, Jon Duder, who had also been at a Christmas party. All I remember is that we smoked so many cigarettes that night that our lungs were suffering as much as our heads the next day.

Kelly now lives in Oakland, and is married to one of my best friends, Andy Levy. They play in a two-piece band called the Touch-Me-Nots. Buy all their records, they're great!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Music Discussion, Part 2

So I played in a couple of bands in my day, as well. Here's a rundown on that history:

Wiesbaden, Germany - 1986
1 show
Members: Michelle Montoya - vocals, Loren and Vernon Turner - guitars, a GI named Doug - drums, me - bass and vocals

From left: Loren, Vernon and meMy first band, ever. I bought a bass about 2 years earlier. I could play guitar okay, but everyone was buying electric guitars. No one was buying a bass. I did, therefore I was able to pick who I wanted to play with. Luckily, Vernon and Loren were quick learners. They had previous musical experience on the saxaphone and trumpet. They came to me with a tape of them playing "Jamie's Cryin'" after owning their guitars for 2 weeks. I said, "We need a name." After explaining to people that the name was not Black Male, we were good to go.

We played one show with a P.A. that was good for only public announcements. We covered Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," Metallica's "Seek and Destroy," Bon Jovi's "Secret Dreams," KISS' "Lick It Up," and at least one or two more songs. We opened for Rockibition, which featured Willi Geck's twin sons on bass and guitar. They had Marshall stacks. They played all originals. They were highly disappointed with the P.A.

Yesterday's Neuz
Davenport, Iowa - 1987
1 show
Members: J.D. Rios - vocals, Brent Sparbell - drums, Jason - keyboards, Kathy Nangle - bass, me - guitar

We played one show and actually had North high school put it together for us. We opened for another band from the school who played all hair metal tunes. We played Europe's "Final Countdown," Modern English's "I Melt With You," a version of "Louie, Louie" based loosely off Black Flag's version, Bon Jovi's "Run Away" and the Beastie Boys "Fight for Your Right." And that's it.

I goofed around that summer with the bass player from the metal band, John Kivlin, a girl on vocals and a guy on drums from across the river in Rock Island, and Jason, the keyboard player. We jammed on U2, Beastie Boys, and even tried playing "Stairway." Then we all went swimming in Jason's pool. Then I went to college.

Bad Habitz
Ames, Iowa - 1987 - 1989
many shows
Members: Gordon Brown - bass, Kurt Hicok - guitar, Eric Ward - vocals, keyboards, Andy Popandreou - drums, me - guitar

We were a hair metal cover band, but had 3 originals that we would play. We covered Faster Pussycat, Guns 'n Roses, KISS, Motley Crue, Tesla ("Changes" off the first CD; how many bands covered that?) and a whole bunch of other stuff that I don't even want to think about. We played in at least one Iowa State University Battle of the Bands during VEISHEA, including the one right before the first VEISHEA riots in 1988. We never finished in the top 3. This was my "volunteer" band, that is, I would volunteer us to play any show. We played a barn party for 500 people and never got paid a cent. What's worse is that WE were in charge of breaking down the stage since the floor rented the P.A. and stage for us. I didn't care. I just loved to play. The photo you see is us at an MDA dance. We played for free. Check out that shirt with a collar I was wearing? How metal is that? None, I'd say. Absolutely none.

Exit Wound
Ames, Iowa - 1989 - 1991
many shows, first "all originals" band

Members: (First Round) Karl - bass, Aaron Becker - vocals, Steve Hagemoser - drums, me - guitar (Second Round, transitioning to Trip Shop) Gordon Brown - bass and vocals, Gordon's friend - guitar, James Stone - drums, Aaron Becker - vocals, me - guitar and vocals

Me in the LOSER shirt, Aaron, GordonMy first all original tunes band. Wrote the first 10 tunes for the band during a summer in Germany with my folks. Got back, put the band together and went at it. Found Aaron singing along to a Guns 'n Roses video at a party. He had "the look." Karl and I basically started it, then we found Steve through some mutual musician friends. Steve went to school at ISU and was a local Ames dude. I wrote a lot of songs with this band. Later, through various graduations and people quitting to spend more time with their girlfriends (Aaron), I looked around and thought, "I'm the only original member here." So I changed the name to Trip Shop for my love of the two local convenience stores, Quik Trip, and Kwik Shop. Open 24 hours, baby. Welcome to America. After Aaron left, Gordon and I shared singing duties. Rob Valier, famous local boy gone on to bigger and better musical things, sang with us at one gig during the summer of '91. He is now residing in the "Where are they now" file. This band did finish 3rd at the Iowa State VEISHEA Battle of the Bands in 1991. We used the money to record 6 songs, but never released them. I've got them available, plus 3 more, if you want them mp3 style. Aaron actually has the VEISHEA show on video, and might even have it duped to DVD by now.

Total Passover
Ames, IA - 1988-1995
many shows, many incarnations
Members: Jason Rupe - drums, Tom Meehan - bass, Andy Levy - vocals and guitars, Kurt Johnson - guitars, me - guitars, Tom Halverson - drums

Tom and Jesse rockin' out at Dugan'sTotal Passover has its own history. I played with Jason, Tom and Andy for almost a year, 1992-1993. Kurt played guitar for the band during two different time frames and is on the "Nursing Home Hush Money" cassette, and the "...And Then You Woke Up" CD. I played on the "Eat My Moneymaker" CD and "Shlomo Rising" LP. This was as big as it got for me. Greatest bunch of guys to be in a band with (did he just say "bandwidth?"), we played a lot of shows in Iowa, and we recorded a lot of stuff. Lots of fun.

Ever since then, I've been strictly a solo artist.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Music Discussion Credibility

Initially, I started out today's blog as sort of a Guilty Pleasure review of a band. However, I felt the need to preface this with my background, or where I'm coming from. If this is boring, I apologize. I just wanted everyone who reads to have a reference point so you would understand why I have certain opinions. I do this because there are times when I read reviews of bands, releases or whatever, and it is entirely apparent that either a) It was an assignment given to someone who had no interest in the artist, or b) The person has no knowledge of history, and therefore does a poor job, or in the worst case, c) both of the above. So read on or go somewhere else, the other thing I need to mention in case it wasn't totally obvious, is that I write this blog for me, not you.

My musical knowledge as a kid started out with 70's radio. I could pick up words to a song very easily and would listen to KSTT in Davenport, Iowa on a little grey transistor radio my dad gave me. Later, I switched to FM radio and listened to KIIK on my GE clock radio. My dad brought me back a single speaker black radio/cassette player from Saudi Arabia in the late 70's. This began my foray into making mixed tapes. But I digress. What I'm getting at was that I was completely immersed in 70's radio pop. The 70's were quite great for this, because stations like KIIK would play a Boston song followed by Donna Summer. You got it all. From this, I started to develop favorite groups.

When my dad bought our first piece-by-piece component system, he said, "We need to go buy a new record." He let me choose. I picked out Cheap Trick's "At Budokan." I've been a Cheap Trick fan ever since. I don't know how I got into Heart, but they also became one of my favorite bands.

My dad was a HUGE influence on the music I listen to, even to this day. He used to play either Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger" or "Wanted: The Outlaws" while making breakfast on the weekends. When I got the "Red Headed Stranger" CD in college, my sister came into my dorm room one day and said, "Oh my God, you have got to tape this for me. This totally reminds me of when Dad used to make breakfast for us!" More on this influence later.

We moved to Oklahoma right before 6th grade. The biggest influence on me there were an album-oriented rock station out of Lawton, a mainstream pop station I could barely get out of Oklahoma City, and David Cizek. Being the new kid, David liked to push me around. Later, when he discovered that I was into music, he told me about AC/DC, especially the "Back in Black" album. In Oklahoma, there is a large Indigenous population, and David was an Indian, as much as that may offend some people. Looking back on our relationship, I'd say it was akin to that of John Dunbar's and Wind in His Hair's; at first a bit tense, but then in the end they were best of friends.

From 7th to half of 11th grade (1982-86), I went to an American Department of Defense Dependent School in Wiesbaden, Germany. Military people love their music, and if they have kids, they are quick to infuse the rock and roll into them as well. So therefore, I was introduced to a lot of that early heavy metal; Rainbow, Deep Purple, Krokus, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Dio I remember being some of the first.

Then a German kid by the name of Sasha let me borrow Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance" LP and I thought, "Wow, now this is a whole 'nother level of HEAVY." There was something about this album that made me seek out other "heavier" bands. There was a line drawn between the regular metal bands, and bands of this nature.

I eventually found Twisted Sister (before "Stay Hungry"), Metallica, Anthrax, Venom and Slayer. The thing about Germany was the exchange rate was so great for the dollar that you could buy records for $5 new, while my counterparts back in the U.S. were having to shell out nearly $10 for the same records.

My first album, overall? Kiss' "Destroyer."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I Hate My Generation, But I Hate Yours Even More

"So Ted, what are you doing tonight?"

"I heard they're having a party down the street at this dude's house who I know from my Psych class, but Tricia's gotta work on her art project. So I was thinking about going with her to Panera."

"Hey, they got wifi there. Do you think I could come along and bring my lap top?"

"I don't see why not."

Hell yeah, they got wifi at Panera. So come on down. Don't worry about battery power, you can get the corner table in the back and plug into the outlet around the corner. They don't even care if you don't buy anything to eat. Just get yourself a large drink and enjoy all the free refills you want. Hell, you got the closest seat to the bathroom, too. Yeah, your female friend can work on what could be an art project, but mostly just looks like she's Photoshopping a picture of her and her friend holding what looks to be like a large arrowhead.

You got a project to work on? What's that, you say? Your project involves you getting to level 22 of Hyper Jump Man? FANTASTIC! You're welcome to show up as well. Just throw that computer case and your coats down the bench seat so no one sits next to you. I dig it when there's limited seating around dinner time at Panera.

On second thought, take your power cord out of the wall, take your drinks to go, and go find a fucking life. Please.

I understand that Panera is not a cafe in the classic sense of the word, but still, I sort of see it as a modern, somewhat mass-produced lesser equivalent. But instead of how Bob Dylan sung about "music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air," we get this.

Don't get me wrong. I'm cool with individual people using their lap tops to check email, perform legitimate work and even listen to music while snarfing down a Morning Glory muffin and a cup of Black Goodness. Or if a group project is centered around using the computer as a tool, this is a great use of the Panera wifi. But video games in public are like talking religion in public to me. Some crutches just need to be used in the privacy of your own home.

I play video games. In my house. It's my opinion that playing video games in public places has become socially acceptable. My dad told me about a family who went to Europe, and the 12-year old had his face in his Game Boy the whole time. What a shame.

I just wish people could realize that there's a time and place for everything. Sure, it's just my opinion and my way of thinking, but I think the world would be better off.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Scenes from the South Shore

My wife took the kids to Porter Beach on Tuesday, when the weather was in the lower 70s. The first time she saw Lake Michigan, my wife said it reminded her of Pensacola Beach. I thought the same. Only we never saw a big sheet of ice in the Gulf of Mexico. Neat.

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