Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Have you ever noticed that anybody going slower than you is an idiot and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" - George Carlin

Alright, so I admit it. I read it in this month's Reader's Digest. How about this one, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." - Jesus, quoted by Matthew in Chapter 7, KJV.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Deep Fried Oreos

There is nothing I can say that will add to the glory...

Just go here and read.

You can thank me later.

Oh, yeah...I'm the expert

Every year our church puts on a community outreach event called "Summerfest" or "Fallfest", depending on the season. The emphasis is typically on fun, food, and family and there is usually some theme intended to inspire curiousity and interest. This year's activities were originally entitled "Technology for Dummies" until we found out that is a trademarked moniker that is restricted. So the name has been changed to something else, but we are still going to have a kind of technology fair featuring a variety of "stations" where different aspects of consumer electronics, computers, and other technology are showcased in some fashion.

Proving once again that an "expert" is someone who knows only the slightest bit more than the guy next to him, I will be running a booth devoted to blogging. Basically, I will provide a 15-minute introduction to what it is and how to do it. Then I'll pass out a 1-page hand-out and take questions. This will go on for a couple of hours, I guess, and it should be fun. Obviously, I am really not an expert, but it will be worthwhile and fun. I intend to simply show how easy it is to create a blog and discuss some of the enjoyable aspects of blogging.

Heck, it could be a lot worse. Thankfully, I'm not going to be in one of the really difficult booths, like the one where they'll teach you how to set the clock on your VCR/DVR.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

You can tune a piano, but you can't tune a fish

This is an interesting notion, that perfect pitch is genetic, traceable to a rare and specific gene possessed by 1 in 10, 000 people. There is still research to be done, but it is a fascinating subject.

I do not possess this gene, but in my musical life I've known a handful of people with perfect pitch. More than one of them mentioned that it is both a blessing and a curse. One of them, a friend who is a gifted bass player, said that it can be maddening at times, living in a world that wheezes, whistles, bellows, and mutters as it does. Because most sounds are no where near perfectly pitched, he would often find himself obsessively noting that this sound or that sound was almost right, but off by just so much, clashing abrasively with some other sound. The upside, though, was that he never, ever played out of tune, he could readily play numerous instruments surprisingly well without practice, and he could easily recall and analyze in detail complex melodies and chord progressions. He is a successful commercial real estate agent.

There are, in fact, teaching methods for sale that claim to be able to teach people to have perfect pitch. While that may well be possible, it is far more common among musicians to develop a heightened sense of relative pitch which, I've always believed is based on memory. My wife and son both have excellent pitch memory. When they sing a song, spontaneous and unaccompanied, they almost always nail it in the original key. I am not as good a singer as they are, but I am usually in the ballpark. These are handy skills and, while not intrinsically difficult to attain, typically come only with practice and experience.

A related skill that I have is that I can tune my guitar, both electric and acoustic, with out a pitch standard, even without being able to really hear the instrument. It is not "perfect", but it is usually close. I can sense by the way the strings feel, especially the A string. And once the A feels right, it is pretty easy to get the rest close. What my brain is doing in this case is responding to the tension of the string and the way it feels under my fingers when it vibrates, so it is more like muscle memory and less like an aural experience. I don't think this is an unusual skill, per se, and there are probably many guitarists who can do this. I developed it in my 20's when I worked in a couple of different music stores in Texas for several years. I have restrung and tuned many more guitars than most people, and I'm sure that is the source of this peculiar ability. It is all about familiarity and conditioning and I'm sure many other people in other disciplines have similar experiences.

The way we process and experience musical information and respond to sound is a never ending source of wonder and fascination, though. And it never ends. It is science, it is emotion, it is spiritual, and it is experiential. We will never figure it all out or reach the end of what there is to hear. There is infinite variety in musical is a glimpse into something beautiful, something personal, and something eternal. I understand only a few very small pieces of it, but I can't put it down. And I don't want to.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I won the Hoosier Lottery!!!

Okay, well, technically, ahem...that is not exactly true. I just wanted to see what it would look like in print. Because to have won would have required that I actually buy a lottery ticket. Which I didn't. My sincere congratulations goes out to whoever won, though.

(click to enlarge)

A friend of mine describes the public lotteries as "a special tax for people who are bad at math." I always liked that definition. There are any number of reasons why lotteries are a bad idea, and one of them is, in fact, that it it preys on people who do not have an understanding of or appreciation for basic statistical analysis. The same could be said, broadly, of many of the participants in the US Stock Exchange, I realize.

Another problem with lotteries is the brazen deceit that is perpetuated by proponents selling its virtues as a source of public money that will reseed regional economies, fund state projects, build schools, eliminate poverty, fund public healthcare, etc ad nauseum. Not surprisingly, there is typically far less than 50% of the money left over for such altruistic aims after the various commissioners, agencies, advertisers, and bureaucrats get there slice of the pie. Money that could have been far better spent at the grocery or any number of other places.

And, of course, it has been shown repeatedly that the target market for lottery customers consists of people who cling to the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.

And there are theological reasons that I won't even get into unless provoked.

All that notwithstanding, nearby Richmond, Indiana has made international news this weekend as the sight of the winning $314.3 million dollar lottery ticket purchase. So, hopefully we'll have a new millionaire among our neighbors. I pray it doesn't wreck their life.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I don't know why this weirds me out...

...but it does.

I hoping to get a new Mac laptop soon so lately I've taken to cruising around some of the Apple Mac sites and blogs and stumbled across this news.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What was the first CD you ever listened to?

Mine was "Power Windows" by Rush.

I had purchased it and Simple Minds' "Once Upon A Time", but I listened to Rush first. I was blown away by the fact that where there was no music, there was the most profound, utter silence. I imagined that it was silent like in a vacuum, like in outer space. I had an excellent pair of Sennheiser headphones and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard, that silence.

The CD is 25 years old.

Tell me what you listened to first.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

PSA: Dover Publications Clip Art

In lieu of anything more substantive, here is a Public Service Announcement. Dover Publications has a free weekly newsletter email to which one may subscribe that I can recommend. They publish a wide variety of books, cards, and other paper and electronic materials. Their newsletter is a sales promotion tool, to be sure, but it is as polite and unoffensive instrument as you are likely to see, and it offers something cool in return.

Each week, the newsletter features a sampler page of free clipart images from their publications. Dover encourages you to download and use this material in any way you see fit. Each week there are at least a dozen different interesting images from a variety of sources. Many of the images are iconic or historic and feature a broad range of style and design. I have reproduced a few here.

Those of you with an artistic bent will really like this, I think, and I encourage you to check it out, and then sign up for their free newsletter.

h/t to Nancy for turning me on to this.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I was going to post some lyrics that I had written recently that I liked.

However, I can't seem to find them anymore. I believe they are buried somewhere under all of the business paperwork that is on my desk.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pt. Pleasant, WV - Part II

Early last week, we took a couple of days off to drive to Virginia. My niece and nephews needed a ride back home after a busy summer shuttling around between Florida, Indiana, and many places in between visiting family.

We left fairly early on Monday morning, July 30th, as you can see.

It is about a 9 hour drive (with stops), and we kept up a pretty consistent clip through Ohio. But there was a reason for this.

Nancy and I wanted to stop in Point Pleasant, WV, and check out the infamous Mothman. This area also has an extraordinarily rich history of alleged UFO phenomenon. I say alleged not because I doubt the reports of the people who say they saw them. But simply because we didn't see any and, well, best to err on the side of skepticism in order to maintain our thin veneer of respectability.

We stopped in at this little cafe' which, if local legend holds true, was the inspiration for the cafe in the movie, The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere. Turns out the movie was actually shot somewhere in Pennsylvania, but they did use a lot of the Point Pleasant townfolk as extras. The movie gets a lot of the facts of the story wrong, too, but it is still pretty entertaining.

Here we are dining in said cafe'. I had the "Big Ed", which was basically a big hamburger. There was no sign of the actual Mothman.

Then we went to the place where the eastern entrance to the Silver Bridge used to be. This is the great tragedy that marked the end of the sightings of the Mothman and the UFO activity. Many people believe that all of these events are inextricably, but unexplainably, related.

The Silver Bridge used to run parallel to the old railroad bridge that you can see in this picture.

This picture seems to demonstrate that the residual power of the Mothman consists mainly of making men look older, balder, and fatter than they actually are in real life. Curse you, Mothman!

We had a great trip to Virginia, a fun quick visit with loved ones, and then a pleasant leasurely trip home.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cavalier's Update

The DCI Drum & Bugle Corps season is almost over, culminating in Pasadena this weekend at the world championship competition. The Cavaliers arrived there today and will no doubt be rehearsing relentlessly. They are clearly in the top 3 contenders, but the competition is fierce between them, the Blue Devils from Concord, CA, and The Cadets, from Allentown, PA. Honestly, at this point, it is way too close to call.

As usual, you can click on the photos for larger renderings.

Here are some pictures from the recent contest at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. This is considered one of the last, big contests before the finals. The Cavaliers came in second place, behind the Blue Devils by 0.6 of a point. This is a shot of the finale performance.

For this performance, we got to go with Jordan's grandparents, and his great-grandma, which was really excellent. It was their first opportunity to see the Cavaliers in action. They had never seen a drum corps competition and had a great time. To say that they are proud of JP is a massive understatement.

In this photo, you can see JP, the 5th trumpet from the end, in the back row.

He has made some great friends in this group. The Cavaliers are like a fraternity, a brotherhood that stretches across generations.

After the finale, we were able to walk down from our seats and talk to JP. He was so glad to see his grandparents and great-grandma. And they were tickled, too.

After the show, at about 11:45 pm, the corps went back to the buses, packed up its gear, and served a meal for 135+ young men. Nancy walked back to the buses with Jordan and I drove the folks there, so we got to spend some quality time with him before they headed out to drive back to Chicago. Here they are giggling about something...

Here is JP with his grandfather.

And with his mom, who couldn't be more proud.

He will fly home this Sunday from Pasadena. Hopefully he'll be here for a couple of days, but then it is off to Bloomington to move into a new house and get geared up for another semester at IU.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why MP3's are Tools Of Satan

"For purists, it is the dark ages of recorded sound." Even for those of us who aren't, strictly speaking, purists, it sucks.

Yes, I know this horse is dead. And yet I am strangely compelled to drag it out and beat on it periodically. Technology should make art, and therefore, life, better, not worse. (Is that too many commas? I couldn't decide.)

I've got things to say. But I've been fiendishly busy lately, plowing the fields of commerce.

UPDATE: "Big-selling albums by Linkin Park and the White Stripes were not enough to prevent widening losses at Warner Music, which suffered a drop in income as fans shifted from compact discs to digital downloads."