Sunday, December 30, 2007

Facemask Penalties Now Worth 2 Points

What the fuck?  

I was just upstairs getting some bagel recipes and checking the scores and I notice that the Broncos apparently scored a safety.  So shouldn't that say that in the Scoring Summary?  No, instead, it shows the Broncos scored 2 points due to a face mask penalty.  

Maybe they'll fix it, but I've never seen anything like this.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hallelujah - The Missing Influence of Leonard Cohen

In 1984, I lived in Germany, as I've mentioned ad nauseum here. I was in 9th grade at the time, and was huge into Van Halen and other metal bands.

My dad had two buddies from High School, Ron Getman and John Crowder, who actually got my dad to go to school at Oklahoma State University.  Ron and John were in a band called Carp, with Gary Busey, who was the drummer.  

I don't know how Ron found out that my dad was living in Germany, all I know is that they were playing in Leonard Cohen's band, and Cohen was doing a show in Wiesbaden at a the Rhen-Main Halle downtown.  I had seen the theatre before, as it was by the bahnhof (train station), and actually thought it looked like an upscale place.  I was somewhat in awe that a guy I never heard of (Cohen) was doing a gig at this place.  I was only familiar with a few other venues in Frankfurt, where I had gone to see bands, like AC/DC and Rush.  But I can't, for the life of me, remember the names of those places.  Only that they were big, and that the Rhein-Main Halle was not as big as those places, so how famous was this guy, anyway?  

I remember my dad going right up to the box office with the whole family, buying 4 tickets, and we quietly went to the balcony in the middle of the show and there's Leonard kind of out front with a nice, quiet audience, very different from the general admission shows I'd been to with all the pushing, shoving and jockeying for position.  I thought it odd.  I remember thinking, "Wow, so this is the kind of music old hippies listen to."  The music struck me as very hippie-European.  It just made so much sense.  My dad sent a note to Ron and John, and they came out and talked to him after the show.  I remember them saying, "Yeah, his music is kind of different."  Although, I don't know if that comment was said just to appease my conservative dad, or if Ron and John actually felt that way.  They would later form The Tractors in the early 90's and have a pretty big hit on country-music radio with "Baby Likes to Rock It"

After the show, my dad brought home the "Various Positions" album, and sure enough, there John and Ron were, credited with playing on the album.

It's totally hilarious, when you think about it.  Or at least when I do.  Only later in my life would I find out what a huge influence Cohen had on the music world.  Even Kurt Cobain mentions him in the Nirvana song, "Pennyroyal Tea:"

Give me Leonard Cohen afterworld
So I can sigh eternally

I'm coming home from somewhere the other day, listening to WXRT on the radio, and I hear this song that I think I've heard before.  I know it's called "Hallelujah," but I don't know the artist.  So I get home, go to iTunes, and type it in.  Sure enough, it's Jeff Buckley, which is a perfect example of an artist that WXRT would play.  I had heard of Jeff Buckley.  Died tragically in a drowning in May of '97.

I got an iTunes card for Christmas and was actually thinking about downloading that song this morning.  It's a nice tune.  Very mellow.  Powerful message, lots of biblical imagery.  Nice.  However, something keeps me from pulling the trigger.

We were at the library the other day, and we were in the A/V section, getting the kids a DVD to watch.  I walk in, look at the "new releases CD" shelf, which isn't really new in the sense of the rest of the world, but instead just new to the library.  I pick up Volume 23 of the Have a Nice Day series which is about 20 songs from the 70s.  I find the sports section of the DVD, hoping to find the 4-DVD set of the White Sox 2005 World Series, but only find a single DVD summary.  I pick it up.  I wasn't paying attention to baseball in 2005, so I am curious to see how that all played out since now I totally love going to watch the White Sox.  The wife and kids are checking out, so heading toward the front, I walk throught the A-C section of CDs, and notice the Leonard Cohen The Essential CD.  I grab it as I'm walking by.

And instead of buying the Jeff Buckley tune, I look down at the above-mentioned CD and notice that there is a song on there called "Hallelujah."  Same song?  I put the CD in the computer, and sure enough, it is.  I want to see if there are any songs on this CD from the one Ron and John played on.  Sure enough, "Dance Me To The End of Love" is on there.  I go look up the Various Positions CD, and you know what?  Fucking "Hallelujah" is on Various Positions as well.  

I do a lyrics search.  I'm wondering if Cohen wrote the song.  He did.  I find the lyrics for Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Cohen, and some Canadian female artist.  The site for the female artist credits words and music by Cohen.

I just have to laugh, because, here was this great song all along in my father's record collection that I feel I've discovered over 20 years later.  A song, that appears to me, to have been covered by many people, but also that was originally recorded by friends of my father.  

It's odd, because I will probably share this story with my father, but I doubt he will see the enormity of it.  Maybe I'm just easily amused, but I find this kind of connection, or lack thereof at the time, when I was 16, incredible.  

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Under the Christmas Fish


Happy Channukah, Everybody

There's been a movement to get everyone to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." Some would say that this is a Christian nation. I'd like to think otherwise. So, I've decided to go against both parties and declare "Happy Channukah" to those who wish me "Merry Christmas."

Lady at the store: "Merry Christmas!"
Me: "Happy Channukah!"
Lady: "I'm not Jewish."
Me: "That's okay, I'm not Christian, either."

Happy Channukah, everybody!!!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tunes for the Holidays

I can't tell you how much I despise Christmas music. I really don't understand why there are so many versions of the same songs out there. The initial premise is that someone wrote a song to celebrate a certain holiday this time of the year, and the primary motive (other than making money, which, you must admit, is REALLY what Christmas is all about. In fact, side rant here, America's religion is not really Christianity, like so many conservatives would like you to believe, but it's money. That's right, I said it, America's national religion is Money. Now go to your banks and worship) is to get people in a festive mood.

I have to admit, in small doses, I don't mind Christmas music, despite the fact that I told you I despise it in the first sentence there. But when the same CD gets played over and over, I start looking for something to stab myself with. This really isn't just confined to Christmas music, because one time, my room mate in college played Pink Floyd's "Momentary Lapse of Reason" CD ad nauseum. Problem was, it was my CD, so what I did was I sold it to my friend down the hall for like $3. Of course, I told Banas who I sold it to, and then he went and borrowed it. I think he was doing some kind of crazy art project that kept him up for 3 days, and he just kept playing that CD over and over. Oh well, I guess it could have been worse. The dude did have a Marillion poster on the wall.

The problem with most Christmas songs (or maybe "thankfully") is that they're only good during Christmas.

So I was thinking of Christmas songs I actually like, and I came up with a short list. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to actually download these songs to my computer and then upload them somewhere you can find them. Luckily, you can sample all of these on iTunes. Some of these are good at times other than Christmas, some are not. Here's my very short list:

4. "Under the Christmas Fish" - Didjits

As far as Didjits tunes go, this is probably a typical one, but not one of their best. Rick Sims of the Didjits and the other guys were from the Shelbyville and Mattoon, Illinois area. I mentioned this to my wife, and she's like, "So?" Yeah, I know. But still, crossing paths with minor stars is my specialty. Praise God, THE CHRISTMAS FISH!

3. "Feliz Navi-Nada" - El Vez

El Vez is the Mexican Elvis. This version is from the Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus CD.  Nice distorted vocals.  Pretty much any version I have heard of this song is great.  For the most part, it's pretty upbeat, and I like the influence of Mexican music.  There's a Mexican music station out of Chicago, and the songs are very uptempo, polka-like, and the DJs always sound like they're having a good time, even though I don't understand a word they're saying.

2. "Christmas Vacation" - Descendents

This one is from their "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" release.  I think I actually like the live version from "Hallraker" better.  Nice vocals on the live version, Milo doesn't sound as restrained as the studio version.  I think it's either about a break-up, but for some reason I always thought it was about suicide.  Good year-round tune.  Christmas vacation, you took a vacation from me.

1. "Merry Christmas from the Family" - Robert Earl Keen

This is kind of a stereotypical redneck-family song, but still very enjoyable.  Great character sketches, typical holiday activities (turn the ball game on, turning on the house Christmas lights), as well as lists for someone to run to the Quickpack store (tampons come up on two lists, classy).  This is one of those that I can listen to year-round.  

Carve the turkey, turn the ball game on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak store
We need some ice and an extenstion cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of tampons and some Marlboro Lights
Halelujah, everybody say "Cheese"
Merry Christmas from the family

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Friday, December 21, 2007

What A Great Day For A Stack Test!

Hey fellas! Glad to see you could make it back for a second day of stack testing. Looks like the high is going to be around 38 degrees. It sure would be nice to get all 3 tests done today. In fact, its pretty much imperative.

Look, I know the plant shit the bed yesterday. I hope they're running better, or else this is going to be a short day for both of us. See, I was supposed to be off today and starting my vacation, but you know what, I'm not really going anywhere, so its no big deal.

I just hope you guys are as fired up about this as I am.

You know what I did yesterday after you guys left? I hooked up a huge stereo system up there. Then I made a CD of 80's metal that should get us partway through the testing. I put stuff on there like Y&T's "Hang 'Em High" and a whole bunch of songs from Ozzy's "Speak of the Devil" album, the one where he was still drinking and drugging and had Brad Gillis from Night Ranger playing all those Black Sabbath songs. Man, that album rocks!

Come on guys, let's get FIRED UP!

Think about it. What a great job this is you have. You get to go different places every day, work with government people some of the time, climb up on stacks. I'm sure you get some great views from where you work. Can you see the lake pretty well from up there on top of that scrubber stack? Is it hot up there? It's only 38 degrees, but that's on the ground, I bet that wind will keep you cool.

This has got to be awesome for you. I mean, I bet when you were a kid, you told your mom and dad, "When I grow up, I wanna be a stack tester." And look at you now! You're dreams have come true! What's not to like about today? The sun came up, it's above freezing, and you're living the dream!

Hey guys, you know what? We're doing compliance work here. Any dumbass can be a rebel and buck the rules, the system, what have you, but it takes a real man to comply.

Thanks for bringing that ice. You'll need that for the impingers. If you got any left over, I'd like to take it home and make margaritas with it. I'm just sayin'...

So anyway, looks like we got that first test going. I'll be back in two hours to let you know what's up. I'm going back to sit in my office and tie up some loose ends before I take off the rest of the year. Make sure you wear your safety glasses, ear plugs and hardhat. If any of my employees see you, they're gonna get pissed and call me, and I don't need that. So help a brother out and stay safe. All that gear is there to keep you from getting hurt. You got my cell phone number, call me if you need me.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

When Your Future Looks Quite Bright to Me

Not very often I break out Styx lyrics, but to do it in a row is uncanny. From the same song and in sequence, even. I was over at Uncooked Meat and TK found someone who had this premise: Write a letter to your 13-year old self. So I thought I'd run with it.



I'm sure you were somewhat taken aback when you recognized the block print on the envelope. Yeah, well, this is a letter from you, and hopefully by writing this I can quit wishing I could go back in time and change some things.

Overall, you've got a great life. It's turned out pretty much how you planned it, except for the whole rockstar thing. You'll get to go into the studio and release a couple of albums, but you won't be a millionaire living high in the Hollywood hills or anything like that. I'm not even sure you quite understand how that whole thing works yet. But you will. Like it or not, you will.

So you should be in 7th or 8th grade now in 1981. This is pretty much the low point in your life. School has gotten tougher, but the American schools in Germany are pretty great. You should enjoy Germany, and try to travel as much to the different European countries as you can. Trust me, if you do this now, you won't regret it later. Just go with the flow.

Oh, and I should let you know, you won't be staying in Germany for 3 years; Dad's going to extend, so don't get upset. ENJOY it. You had the right attitude when you went over: Learn the language, play soccer on a German team, and you're doing great at that. Set some other goals as well.

Don't worry about the popularity thing, either. I know you tell yourself this, but you haven't totally bought into it. Popularity is fleeting, and it doesn't like to be chased. Here are some things I can suggest to you that will help you out for the rest of your life:

Don't wear the same clothes other people wear. Wear what you like. Remember those surfer shirts you had in 6th grade? Good call. They're comfortable. Do me a favor, though, and don't EVER tuck your shirt in unless you're working around moving equipment or attending a formal event.

Wash your face every morning and evening. Acne sucks, but I think you can get a better grip on it if you just do this. Stop blow-drying your hair, and let it grow. It's got a curl to it when it gets long and the ladies love it.

Oh, and speaking of ladies, stop trying so hard. Let the game come to you. I know it's tough, but trust me, you don't need a high school sweetheart. It's all bullshit because they don't know what they want out of life, either, and you should be focusing on developing your guitar-playing and brain skills. You live out on the economy, anyway, and can't drive. Just don't sweat it. Make friends during this phase of your life. That whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing at this stage is just one big heartbreaking distraction.

Listen to your folks most of the time. You've got a pretty good eye for staying out of trouble, so stick with that. Also, your sister has a sense of style that is way ahead of her time, and she's got eccentric tastes, which are cool as hell. You should be supportive of her. She's gonna need it, especially when you move back to the states. She's going to give your parents hell when she turns 13 and won't stop until she goes to college. She's going to stand up for you when you're not around so return the favor.

The only thing I don't want you to listen to Mom about is the computer career. That stuff is going to BLOW UP right around the time you're getting out of school. Already, you can see you've got a knack for it, and I'll tell you, from what I remember back then, you were like the 3rd best guy at computers in that whole group, and once you get into college, people in your computer science classes will be lining up outside your door for the next day's homework that you finished the day it was assigned. So learn as much as you can, and don't let Mom tell you that computer people are weird and don't have a lot of friends. That's total bullshit. Learn all you can about systems and how they work. And tell Dad to invest all of his retirement into Microsoft when it comes out. You'll make him a rich man. Just remember to get out of it around 1997, when the market is at its peak. After that, take your money and open up a brewpub. I know you probably don't know what that is now. It involves beer. You don't like it yet. You will. Trust me, you will.

For the most part, that's it. The one final thing I'm going to tell you is very important. Learn to wear a condom when you start having sex. I know it appears to be pretty gross, and doesn't sound appealing, but trust me; it will save you a lot of grief and $511 dollars a month in child support if you do it.

Remember to enjoy differences in people. It's the flavor in life. It's what makes life tasty. Have fun, I wish I was going down this road with you again. It isn't always easy, but there's good times as well.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Why Must You Be Such An Angry Young Man?

My longtime friend, Garry, who I hung out with while I lived in Germany, got a scanner and sent me a couple of photos from what I suspect is either my sophomore or junior year in high school.

Man, I was skinny back then. I think I just got my braces off as well, because those are as straight as my teeth have ever been (I probably should have wore my retainer at least another year).

Unfortunately, most of the photos from this era probably have me making a similar type of face. Not sure if I was trying to be Billy Idol or what. It's pretty understandable now why I didn't have a girlfriend back then. Walking around all the time being surly.

Living in Germany was a good time. Especially in the 80's, during the high school years. The mark (DM - their unit of currency) was weak against the dollar. When most of you were buying your Motley Crue and Ratt records for $9 or $10 in the U.S., we army brats were hitting the local record shops or the PX and paying, at most, $6.50 for the same unit. Anyway, I could write a book about my experiences there, and should probably at least write them down just so the memories don't completely fade. For all you youngsters out there, keep a daily journal from the day you can write complete sentences and guard them like they were your kids. You will thank yourself later.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pass Me Some of That Dumbass Over There

I work at a great company that is focused on all kinds of process and personal safety. We get alerts at least once a week, mostly from the guy who used to have my job, who now happens to be in a corporate job. You can learn a lot from some of the incident sharing, and I pass pretty much all of it along.

However, once in a while you get a gem that is just too hard to let go without some kind of comment. I wanted to share one with you.

In figure 1, you'll notice your typical LCD projector, which is usually paired with a computer for doing Powerpoint presentations and such. I use these at least once a month. I'm not an expert, but I can tell you this much: that bulb is HOT! I wanted to point this out to you, especially my office dwelling friends. If there are three things that can burn you in the office, it is this: The LCD projector bulb, the coffee in a paper cup, and that leftover soup you put in the microwave for 3 minutes.

The other thing you need to understand is the fire triangle. You see, heat + fuel + oxygen = FIRE! Three sides, so it's a triangle. In this case heat (bulb) + fuel (paper pad) + air (oxygen) = FIRE! Feel free to use your Beavis voice when saying "Fire!"

This will result in something shown in the next picture. Yep, burned a hole clean through that cardboard backer. I TOLD you it was HOT!

Here's the whole thing that annoys me with this. There's actually a safety alert about an incident that happened at a university in California. Yes, these people are smart enough to get into college, but probably have burns on their hands from pulling the pizza tray out of the oven without mitts.

I can almost see the train of thought here: "Boy, I feel stupid for doing that. If I turn it into a SAFETY ALERT, though, then I can look like I actually learned something from my stupidity."

I guess that's a good thing. But if you're using powerpoint, and you don't want anyone to see the screen, you can always hit the "B" key for "blackout" or hit the "W" key for "Whiteout."

Hopefully everyone learned something from our presentation today. Feel free to pass it around.

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