Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On a Safety Kick

I got up and ran/walked this morning. Came home, did the usual hygiene thing, got a cup of coffee, and then ran into this gem regarding the cleanup around the financial district of 9.11.01. This line kills me:

"But former OSHA administrator John Henshaw, who declared the financial district safe six days after 9/11, said his agency did not have jurisdiction over the firefighters and police officers who swarmed over the 16-acre site in New York.

He said OSHA had done all it could, handing out 40,000 pieces of protective equipment, including more than 7,500 negative-pressure respirators."

No, John, you didn't do "all you could do." Did all of the people you gave respirators to get medical evaluations and fit tests? No. Apparently, you did not, because it would take a very long time to fit test and evaluate 7,500 people. "Here's your respirator. Good luck!" You did the absolute minimum, got the hell out of the way and then let the emotional mob go to work. Don't send one of your "C-" inspectors into my work facility and tell me my programs are not up to par.

But only half of this issue is your fault.

The other people to blame are the rescuers themselves. They got in a hurry and thought they were helping out, only now they find out they were making themselves casualties.

"In contrast, workers at the Pentagon crash site were forced to wear the protective devices and no one has become sick, he said."

Who was in charge of New York at the time? Oh yeah, Rudy Giuliani. And he wants to run our country.

No thanks.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

I Got the Popcorn Worker's Lung...

Here's a way you can stick it to Orville Redenbacher and his ilk: Refuse to buy artificially flavored popcorn. Not only will you be sticking it to the man, but you will hopefully be helping out future food-factory workers. From a National Safety Council email I received:

The House Education and Labor Committee approved legislation June 20 to force OSHA to develop a standard governing worker exposure to diacetyl, a chemical used in artificial food flavoring. Diacetyl is commonly used in microwave popcorn and has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible lung disease also known as "popcorn workers lung."

Yummy, yummy diacetyl!

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Albums of Influence

If you've got myspace, then you know that people can send out bulletins. These go to all your friends. One of these came through the other day, and most of the time, I don't really give a damn what they're about. My cousin sent one with the subject of "Why boys like girls." It was a list of about 25 items that what appeared to be "emo-boy" answers (sample: "How great she smells even if it's just her shampoo."). I replied with the 26th item, which stated, "Because the other choice would be to love a hairy man." I only reply to the sender of the message.

Anyway, one came through the other day with "Top 5 albums that influenced you," or something like that. I took a brief moment, took a sip of coffee, and then quickly pulled 5 out of my butt.

When I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning and couldn't fall back asleep, I decided to get up and expound on this topic.

KISS: "Destroyer"

This was the first album I claimed as my own. Everything else in the house was either mom or dad's. I begged for weeks to get this album. My mom and dad were not sure. I got verbally dogged for playing this album. Typical generation gap stuff. I probably played this album more than any other album I have ever owned. This is strictly based on format. There are CDs I have owned that I know I have played more, but this record was bought when we still had that all-in-one stereo from Sears. Eight track, record player, radio, two speakers. Soon thereafter, my dad bought a bunch of components, including a tape deck. My practice soon thereafter was to buy a tape with each record, play the record while recording it, and then store the record. Mostly, I got 7" records, which begat the creation of the "mix tape" concept, which is really what I miss the most about cassettes these days. Oh, sure, I can make you a "mix-CD" but I can only get about 70 minutes in there. 90 on a cassette.

This album would lead me into the heavier rock as I got older. I think I actually had this album just over the year, and then I sold it for like $5 to the kid down the street. The browbeating from my folks finally got to me. Plus, I was getting into tunes on the radio at the time.

Cheap Trick at Budokan

I have owned this album in every format except 8-track. It's just too bad that they didn't make this a double-live album. They released Budokan II, which was the second half of the same concert in 1994, and then after that, they put a package together of the whole thing, which I still want to get.

This might have been my first live album. My dad did have "Frampton Comes Alive" but that one had to grow on me. Cheap Trick was much more raw, and they were from my cousin's home town of Rockford, Illinois. I was never a big fan of the production on the first 3 Cheap Trick studio albums, and found the recordings on these albums to be more true to the band's sound.

This album developed a pattern for me liking new bands. If I was interested in a new band, I would buy a live album if they had one. If I liked a certain song, I would then go pick up the album with the studio version. I did this with Rush, for sure. I had a couple of studio albums by AC/DC, but I'm pretty sure "If You Want Blood, You've Got It" lead me to buy every album that Bon Scott sang on.

Wanted! The Outlaws and
Willie Nelson: "Red Headed Stranger"

Dad used to play these on Saturday and Sunday mornings while making breakfast. These two albums lead me to appreciate good country music. When I say "good" country music, I don't mean Garth Brooks or pretty much anything on country radio after 1986. Whereas Willie, Waylon, and these albums sort of gave rebirth to country music ("Wanted!" was the first country album to go platinum. Think about the history there.), Garth Brooks and the rest of Nashville killed country music. Oh, sure, they're selling more records now. But if you listen to the music and didn't know it was a country station these days, you'd say to yourself, "This is just cheesey pop" (especially if it's a woman country singer).

It was probably this appreciation that lead me to the Gear Daddies first, and then Uncle Tupelo second, in the 90's. Then came the whole alternative country movement, which never got its due credit. Who knows, maybe I'm the only one who likes the genre, but there were some great bands, that I bet if they would have received airplay on country stations would have had some great success. But they weren't from Nashville, and no one knew where to put them. Hell, I heard a Son Volt song ("Drown") on a mainstream rock radio station back in '95.

The Sex Pistols: "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" and "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle"

There are some people (Andy) who would say that the Sex Pistols weren't really a punk band except for their image. The tunes were more rock or even early metal than punk. However, the Sex Pistols influenced me in two ways. First, my rhythm guitar playing was influenced more by Steve Jones than any teacher or other friend (save Dan Malkinski, that guy is solely responsible for explaining the Barre chord to me). On these two albums, Steve taught me to keep it simple. He taught me how to "arpeggio" a chord ("Lonely Boy"). He taught me how to rock out with my cock out. Thank you, Steve. Because of you, I was able to chip out a career in the minor leagues of rock and roll. Because of you, I am the Crash Davis of Indie Rock.

Secondly, these two albums opened the floodgates of punk rock for me and my friends perusing the record stores in Germany. These guys allowed us to buy records in the genre and sub-genres, including bands like the Angry Samoans, Black Flag, G.B.H., Alien Sex Fiend, and countless others. The Sex Pistols rock influence later lead me to appreciate my favorite punk rock band, The Descendents.

I'd be really interested to see what records influenced you in the comments section.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Values, Opinions, Rules...Whatever You Call Them

Everyone has values, or maybe you call them "rules" that you live by. I was thinking about writing a column concerning all the values that my father gave me while I was growing up. I think I basically came up with three, so instead it evolved into this.

After reading some of these, you will probably realize, if you already haven't, that I am truly crazy.

1. Go to school and do your best.

Thanks for this one, Dad. Not sure I did as well as I could the first, oh, four years. The factory jobs I had in the summers pretty much told me if I didn't do my best in college, that's where I'd wind up. This motivated me enough to want to go back to school, but only because it wasn't the factory. After the internship at Speed Queen in Wisconsin, though, I made it to class everyday, and suprisingly enough (duh!) I made some of the best grades ever.

2. Do the tasks nobody wants even if they make you feel uncomfortable.

I've learned a lot by doing this. And I don't mean sucking up.

3. If you do a good job, people will give you more money.

I don't know why I remember this, but I think we were sitting at a traffic light in Germany and my dad pulled out a payslip and showed me this bonus he got. I was impressed. It's not that my dad didn't work hard, or anything, it was more of a situation where he worked for the government, and I thought it must be pretty hard to get bonuses working for the government. This stuck with me, for some reason. Thanks to my dad for this one, too.

4. Get self-actualized (goal based).

When I was in 4th grade, I was sitting there playing with my micronauts or something and I put this together: If I go to grade, middle, and high school and get good grades, this will allow me to go to college. If I do well in college, it will allow me to get a good job. Good job = money, which in turn = food on the table and roof over my head. It's so basic that it's easy to take for granted. Unfortunately, I think this has become the root cause, or basic reason for living to me. Which is a whole 'nother topic worth discussion at another time.

5. Get self-actualized (everything else).

I don't know if other people get epiphanies on a regular basis, but there have been times in my life where an event happens and it totally changes some facet of me. I was never much of a political kid growing up. I was aware of things like racial injustice and that I grew up lower to middle class, but I never really got into the politics of things until probably my late college years. I realized at some point that I was somewhat conservative, even though things I read and listened too and agreed with were somewhat more liberal. And that's all I really have to say about that.

6. Rules of Consumption

This is almost a subset of values on the consumption of food and drink.

1. If someone offers you a free beer, you either accept or decline it. Do not ask "What kind?" Thanks to my dad for this one. This also goes for food. If your friend says, "Hey, I'm ordering pizza, what do you want on it?" Make your suggestion, noting if you are allergic to anything. When your friend orders the pizza from a place you don't like, keep it to yourself, unless you're going in on the pizza, then you have a right to be choosey.

2. I only like three kinds of beer: A) Free; B) Cold; C) Everything else. It's a very easy rule to live with.

3. A margarita is served over crushed ice. If the ingredients of a margarita are placed in a blender (including the ice) this is something different. I offer the title of "Tequila Sundae," inspired by the Urge Overkill song of the same name.

What's that? It's the same thing? Oh, then if you wanted a Coke, and I went out and brought you back a Coke Slurpee, you'd be okay with that, right? How about if you wanted a pizza and I brought you back a Chicago style pizza? What's that? You don't like Chicago style pizza? Why not? It's got the same ingredients: dough, sauce, cheese and toppings.

4. As a guest, never take the last beer, slice of pizza, piece of cheesecake, etc., unless it is offered to you.

7. You can only be a fan of a college football team if you went to said college.

That's right. You heard me. Let's use Michigan as an example. No more, "I've been a Michigan football fan my whole life." That shit stops right now. You can be a Michigan football fan up until the day you are accepted by a college other than Michigan. If you get accepted by Michigan, congratulations, you can be a fan for life. If you end up going to Western Michigan U, then congratulations, you have a brand new team to root for called The Broncos.

What's that, you didn't go to a school with a football team? Man, that sucks. I hope you at least went to a school with a decent basketball team. If you like the game of football, you can pick ANY pro team and root for them.

And if you didn't go to college, you need to peel that Florida State Seminoles sticker off the bumper of your '89 Chevy S10. Unless your kid goes there. If you pay tuition at any school, you can pull for them, as well.

You can pull for any one college team for a limited time, for gambling purposes. This is sort of like the tuition rule.

This is why we have pro sports, people.

The only exception to this rule is if you live in the state of Arkansas. And I can't even tell you why.

8. You can only be a "fan" of one major league sports team in each sport.

As hard as I have tried to like both the Cubs and White Sox, I can't manage to do it. Bye, Cubs. You can like or hate as many other teams, but you can only "support" one team. Insert athletic supporter jokes here.

I'm sure I have more, but I can't think of any, and it's time for coffee #2.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Next Album I'm Buying

Holy balls! I was just listening to iTunes radio and came upon this gem from Luther Wright and the Wrongs:

It's a total bluegrass/country re-vamp of Pink Floyd's "The Wall." From the samples, it sounds GREAT.

Just thought I'd pass it along. You can't go wrong with a band name like that.

Month (or so) in Review

It has been absolutely nuts around here of late. In May, my work was severely hampered when my plant hosted a Plant Manager's meeting for a week. I was involved in some of the meetings and tours and after-hours events which prevented me from getting a whole lot done. Then we had the HSE folks conference in West Virginia, which I blabbed about missing the plane in another blog, followed by a week of vacation. I don't want to come off as whiny, but it looks like June is going to be full of work, when I should be enjoying the later evenings as they will become shorter around the summer solstice.

Did I mention that on our way to Florida, we put an offer on a house? We were looking to lower our mortgage by getting an older house and doing some things like puttting in a new kitchen. We had the inspection on Wednesday, and after that, I got a better look at the house. We decided to opt out of the house and were lucky when another offer on the house came in. So we're staying put, doing a couple of little projects here this summer that are minor in nature and enjoying it.

Speaking of enjoyment:

I finally found some Gumballhead Wheat, made by the fabulous Three Floyd's in Munster, Indiana. It was very good. I wouldn't say that it was my favorite beer, but it's definitely my favorite smelling beer. Yeah, I know, what are you going to do, walk around with a glass full, smelling it all day? Well, I sort of did, until it was gone.
Also, I finally fixed "The Creeper." So you can either get it here or in the more appropriate blog.
Have a good one. I think we're going to Chicago for the day.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Beer vs. Wine

So I heard about this article at the Slate website, saying that wine has become more popular than beer. It's a decent article, but I think that they go waaaay further than necessary to explain why wine has grown more popular than beer.

You wanna know why people in America are starting to like wine more than beer? My friend, let me freely give you some opinions:

1) Ladies prefer wine to beer. As a child, I even thought of beer as a man's drink, I didn't think women liked beer. Plus, I can give you endless stories about women who don't really like beer. For the most part, I know two women that like dark or darker beers. Most of the rest prefer light, or fruity beers. My favorite personal experience occurred during a Christmas vacation in Germany.

While in college, my folks moved back to Germany, and my main homie, P-Mart, came over for a visit. We loaded up on what was to be a failed bus trip to southern Germany to see the Neuschwanstien castle and other sites where we paused to have a beer at the world-famous Hofbraeuhaus in Munich, BEER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD (Okay, actually, I think Plzen, Czechloslovakia is the real beer capital of the world, but at this particular time in my life, this is how I referred to Munich. And I literally mean it. "Dad, how far are we from Munich, BEER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD?" "Did you spend the weekend in Munich, BEER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD?"). We were drinking a beer around 10 in the morning out of a HUGE beer stein. A G.I. and his girlfriend/wife was sitting across from us and we were having some decent conversation. We started discussing beer, and the woman says, "I don't really care for German beer, I don't think it's very good."

Now folks, I'm not a religious man, but I know blasphemy when I hear it.

I learned to appreciate and drink beer in Germany, and as far as I'm concerned, after the Czechs, the Germans make the best beer in the world. I then calmly asked this young woman, who was wearing glasses and appeared to have a blond permanent wave, "What do you consider good beer?"

"Bud Light."

P-Mart and I were beside ourselves. I do believe we ridiculed her for a solid ten minutes.

2) They're not the only ones who like wine. Men do, too, and with the invention of the "wine refrigerator", which appeals to men's (not man's, but MEN's) want of new gadgets, it's no wonder wine has grown. Do you know how many times I've walked by one of these at my local Costco and thought to myself, "I could use one of those?" Even more intriguing to me is the kegerator. I would kill to have one of these in my basement. But if I had one, I'd drink way too much beer and it would make me want to finish the basement around it.

3) The majority of American beer SUCKS. Sure, there are some great American breweries out there. Leinenkugel's and Sam Adams are two of my favorite "big" breweries. The little ones are good, too, especially Three Floyd's. Lately, though, I have to shake my head when I see a Lite beer commercial. They are going on and on about how they won the 2006 Gold Medal in the World Beer Cup Best American-Style Light Lager. I looked up "American-Style Light Lager" in a beer dictionary I have. There was a one word definition for this: "Piss." The commercials show how proud they are for winning an award for being a shitty beer. This would be like me being proud that Iowa State advanced to the final four of the N.I.T. basketball tournament. If they would have won, they would have been the 65th best college basketball team in America. Who Cares? Furthermore, the ads that they've shown in the past where they are attacking Bud Light are baffling. I say to myself, "Wow, one can of piss is actually claiming to be better than another can of piss. Who cares?"

4) The cost of wine has come down the past few years. Beleive it or not, most people still want to get their drink on at the lowest possible cost. People are willing to give different styles of wine a try to see what it is that they like. Unfortunately, my wife's Aunt from upstate New York apparently thinks we like these ungodly sweet table wines because she brings us at least 4 bottles whenever she visits. Everyone's got their price limit. Me, I try to stay well below $15 for a bottle. I can get two decent six packs of beer for under $15. Lately, you can go to Costco and get cool things like a case of Pilsner Urquell or a Sam Adams Summer Sampler case for around $20. I can maybe get 4 glasses of wine out of a bottle, so if I spend $15, it better be pret-ty good. Otherwise, I got 3 words for ya: "Three buck Chuck."

For the record, here are some of my favorite wines and beer:

Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon
Any brand Pinot Grigio
Charles Shaw Merlot

Three Floyd's Gumballhead Wheat
Pilsner Urquell

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