Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Melancholy

I'm really not wanting to work today. And it has nothing to do with work. OK, maybe just a tiny bit, but that's not really the issue. The issue is that I'm feeling so very internal today (hence all the Mary Chapin Carpenter, which really just perpetuates it) that I don't want to interact with anyone today. Call me crazy, but I'd rather just sit and lose myself in music today than deal with people.

I think I probably need to get my light box out. That'll help, undoubtedly.

Monday, August 28, 2006

MC squared

I must go on record as saying I absolutely adore Mary Chapin Carpenter. I'm stuck in a never-ending cycle of her songs on both my iTunes and my iPod. I have a tendency to forget about Mary Chapin Carpenter every now and again, and every time I remember her and go back to listening to her music, it's like reuniting with an old friend. An old friend who is part melancholy, part introspective, but completely and utterly amazing. I sometimes wish I knew her personally, but, like most celebrities, I prefer to keep my distance from them to preserve my idealization.

(I say that like I have a some kind of choice in the matter or something.)

I started listening to her music in the winter of 1993. I picked up Shooting Straight in the Dark at Christmas that year. Before long, I'd picked up every single one of her CDs. I was getting into her music around the time of Come On, Come On which I refer to as the Rhythm Nation of country music as it spun off something like 7 singles which was pretty much unheard of from any genre of music at that point since singles were being phased out slowly but surely. And truly, Come On, Come On is probably one of her best CDs. I've really been into the song "I Am A Town" these days. And this is really weird because it was always the one song I skipped when I listened to the CD. It was too slow, too ponderous, and I just didn't relate to the material at all. Heidi always liked it because she said it reminded her of Bellevue, the closest thing to a home town she has. I think the reason I didn't get it was because I was from a town that was just a little bit too big to be considered a "small town" so I didn't really get the whole "last gas for an hour if you're going 25" or at least didn't want to. But the other morning I was getting ready and I was listening to the song, and I just stood there and listened to it and it finally, after 12+ years really connected with me. It's gorgeous and poignant and captures something that's disappearing from the American landscape.

I almost gave up on Chapin after a couple of less-than-stellar CDs in the late 90s/early 2000s. But then she totally redeemed herself in my mind with her fan-fucking-tastic Between Here and Gone. It ranks up there with Come On, Come On in my mind as far as Chapin greatness.

I think that I started listening to Chapin at a very critical point in my life - a time when I was in school and feeling very alone and misunderstood. I remember being very much a four (even though I didn't know what a four was back then) and feeling so different from everyone else in the world. And I heard these sentiments echoed in Chapin's music. There are two things I remember vivdly from that time in my life -- I remember thinking about how MCC could be singing the songs of my life if only she weren't female, and that one review said "Mary Chapin Carpenter must be hell in a relationship - always wondering how things are going" and I thought that described me to a tee. In many respects, I've matured with her. She commented that the songs on Between Here and Gone could only have been written by her 45-year old self, and my 34-year old self understands that.

I think, in many respects, my admiration for Casey Stratton mirrors that of Carpenter. His music had a similar effect on me when I discovered him a couple years back. I know that he's more closely compared to Tori Amos, but for me, he'll always remind me just a little bit of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

And all I know is there's not enough Stones In The Road on my iPod, so that's getting imported tonight.

Buy The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter (iTunes, Amazon)
Buy Come On, Come On (iTunes, Amazon)

Songs of summer, part 3

Yet another installment in the continuing drama of my songs of summer. This time, songs 11-15.

1) Wynonna Judd - I Want To Know What Love Is (Piper Radio Edit) (iTunes)
I was randomly searching Wikipedia on night, and for some reason, my iTunes had landed on a Wynonna Judd song I hadn't heard in forever. While I was reading about her, I found out that her cover of the Foreigner song "I Want To Know What Love Is" had been given the remix treatment. Of course, I had to find it. And luckily, iTunes had it. It works on so many levels it's not even funny.

2) Madonna - Like A Virgin (Live - Confessions Tour)
One of the highlights of the summer was my trip to Las Vegas to see Madonna on her Confessions Tour. And this song was definitely on the of the highlights of that concert. It's a great new arrangement that's, oddly enough, faithful to the original arrangement. And while it was easy to focus on Madonna gyrating on a saddle going up and down like a carousel horse, if you were paying attention to the video screens behind her, you saw actual x-rays from her own fall from a horse a year ago.

3) Sheryl Lee Ralph - In The Evening (Almighty Anthem Mix)
Another find from my very exciting (and very expensive) trip to Borderline Music in Chicago last April. It's a great high energy song basically about going out and how "in the evening/the real me comes alive." I don't know the origin of the song, but the mix is fantastic.

4) John Mayer - Route 66 (iTunes)
I took Anna to Cars earlier this summer and we really liked it. Okay, it stretched her attention span some, but I thought it was great fun. I can pretty much always count on the Pixar folks to write a good story to go along with the computer animation. And I love this cover of Route 66. I have a love/hate relationship with John Mayer, but this is definitely one of his better works. However, I'm really not all that crazy about his "Waiting On The World To Change."

5) Saint Etienne - A Good Thing (iTunes)
I got into Saint Etienne thanks to a friend I made via Last.fm. It was one of his top artists so I found myself poking around iTunes wondering what they sounded like. He also sent me a few songs to sample, but "A Good Thing" was the first song I bought of theirs off iTunes. They're kind of like a version of Blondie, which is a good thing because I really heart Deborah Harry and, let's face it, she's 60 and won't be recording forever.

Only a couple more installments to go!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Stubbs the Zombie

Since I'm done talking about Pluto, I thought I'd return to one of my most favorite of all topics: zombies.

Last night when Heidi and I were at the Apple Store in Des Moines, I came across this game called Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse. Needless to say, I was intrigued. A zombie video game with a sense of humor that's not just mindless blowing up shit? It couldn't be!

I did a little bit of web research about it and found out that it wasn't just for the Mac (which, it being the Apple Store and all, was the only version the Apple Store had.) There was also a PC version. I found the demo online and downloaded it pronto.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this game is that you're not killing zombies - you ARE a zombie. You're Stubbs - the alpha zombie in the attack on Punchblowl USA. The game takes place in the 50s, which just adds to the campy feel. In the demo, you lumber around Punchbowl Dam ("Welcome to Punchbowl Dam, where our motto is 'Dam it!'") attacking various scientists and cops either eating their brains (where animated blood gushes all over the place) or simply attacking them and turning them into a member of the zombie horde. They, in turn can do the same and before too long, you can have a huge zombie horde.

While the game concept is cool, gameplay isn't all that great. It's hard to control Stubbs, as it's a combination of mouse and keyboard controls. The game is also really dark. And really, for my money, I can do enough brain munching with the demo - I don't think I really need the whole game.

Although if I found it for 10 bucks, I'd pick it up in heartbeat.

Friday, August 25, 2006

One more thought on Pluto...

I was reading some other stuff on Pluto's demotion this morning, and found this at MSNBC in the Cosmic Log.
"I think it'd be a good idea to keep Pluto around and explain that this has been a planet for 76 years," he said. "It becomes an educational process, to explain to kids why it was a planet, and now why it's not. ... That's the kind of critical thinking that kids need to be doing when they do science."
This, ultimately is what science is all about. Nothing is static, everything changes. What's clouding the issue here in the minds of not just me but apparently a lot of other people too is emotion. And in the scientific method, there really isn't any room for emotion. Sad, but true.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And then there were eight...

So today, Pluto officially got the axe as a planet. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I mean, it's probably been a long time in the coming. As a planet, it really barely qualifies, especially considering its gargantuan neighbors in its neck of the woods. It isn't gaseous, it's half the size of our moon and its orbit is so wonky that for a good chunk of a Plutonian year, it's closer to the sun than Neptune.

But that still doesn't make it any easier to swallow.

Being such a science head growing up (and even now) it's going to take a while to get used to there being only eight "classical planets" as they're being referred to now. (Pluto is now officially classified as a "dwarf planet" but that's still not a planet, if you can follow that logic.) I was reading an article about how the widow of Pluto's discoverer (which, incidentally, was the only man in the Western Hemisphere to have discovered a planet. That is, until today.) was "shook up" by Pluto's demotion. However, she said her husband probably would have agreed with the reclassification because of the discovery of other similar objects in Pluto's region of space.

But I think, in the end, I probably prefer Pluto's exclusion from planetary status to the other option - including the large asteroid Ceres and a couple of other trans-Plutonian objects as planets, bringing the grand total to 12.

So I guess when Anna really starts to get "Interplanet Janet," I'll have some explaining to do.

It sucks to be demoted.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Songs of summer, part 2

Time for another installment in my songs of summer 2006. Here's 5 more from my list.

1) Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean - Hips Don't Lie (iTunes)
I really didn't want to like this song. In that respect, it's this summer's "Hollaback Girl." But, like any good pop song, it crawled into my brain and has stayed there all summer. I would hear this song constantly at work, and talk about how I didn't like it. And then, before long, I was downloading it off iTunes.

2) Pet Shop Boys - I'm With Stupid (iTunes)
I've always been kind of a fair weather Pet Shop Boys fan. The only CD of theirs I owned (up till this summer) was Discography which has all the best known stuff on it, i.e. "West End Girls", "It's A Sin," and "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" Admittedly, the song appeals to my political leanings, but it's also a great little pop song. Heidi thinks it sounds like it could have been recorded in 1986. And that's one of the things I love most about it.

3) Pinmonkey - Fly (iTunes)
This is a cover of that Sugar Ray song from several years ago, only it's done by a country/western band. And I just can't resist it. They also have a song on the same CD called "Falling Out Of Love With Me" which originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton. She even does a guest vocal on their version. It was that song that exposed me to their music. And "Fly" was an unexpected benefit.

4) Christina Aguilera - Candyman (iTunes)
This was a late addition to my songs of summer, having just discovered it last week. It's from Christina Aguilera's newest CD. Usually, I don't really get into her music, as I think she mostly oversings and I really didn't particularly care for "Ain't No Other Man," but this one's kind of fun. It sounds like Madonna could have recorded it for her I'm Breathless CD.

5) Madonna - Liquid Love
And for the 5th one today, another song that you can't buy. However, if you look hard enough on the web, you'll find it. It's an unreleased track from the Ray Of Light sessions that could have easily found a place on the album, although it's said that Madonna didn't feel like it fit in with the mood of the album. That said, it is a little bit silly, and c'mon liquid love? But it's a great little song. And while I could have put the entire Confessions on a Dance Floor CD on this summer song list, I opted for this little known track. Hell, I didn't even know about it until just a couple months ago.

That's it for tonight. Off to bed once again.

21st Century Joan

So I heard the news today. Tom Cruise dumped by Paramount. Now, I don't pretend to understand all the particulars about this, but I really and honestly thought that the days where a movie star was the "property" of a single studio had gone the way of the dodo bird. In the music industry, it's slightly different (at least for now) where a person signs with a particular label, but movie stars? I pretty much thought they were free agents, able to work with whichever studio they wanted.

Jeff, Heidi and I were talking about this on the phone tonight. We wanted to know if Tom went home and cut down all the rose bushes in the garden after being dropped by Paramount. Did the head of Paramount have his trailer cleaned out already? Did they cite "creative differences?" And perhaps most importantly, was the line "SURI! Bring me the axe!" uttered at the Cruise/Holmes household tonight?

If only Joan were here, he could possibly offer some wise counsel to poor Tom. I can just hear her now.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Get Together - the KLYF version

When I was a kid, there was a radio station out of Des Moines called KLYF - or K-Life as they called themselves. While it played some AM easy listening favorites, it also played a lot of what could be classified as elevator music. Muzak. Instrumental versions of popular songs. They also had half-hourly (or was it every 15 minutes - I can't remember) "brief summaries of the news" which always had some freakish story that scared me a little bit. Anyway, I listened to it all the time. I had it on all night while I slept. I woke up to it in the morning. I listened to it while I was home sick with the flu or whatever. Needless to say, as a child, I needed help.

I was perusing a Madonna forum the other day and found this remix of "Get Together" called the "Underwater Piano Solo Version." Intrigued, I downloaded it. Now, most fan remixes are utter shit and are immediately deleted, but this one made me laugh so hard I have to keep it around.

Basically, it's the version of "Get Together" that KLYF would have played. All dramatic piano solo, just like the name suggests. Someone must have the sheet music to Confessions on a Dance Floor. In any event, I wish I had the sheet music to Confessions on a Dance Floor.

Here it is -- for you to enjoy as well.

Madonna - Get Together (Underwater Piano Solo Version)

Now excuse me, I'm off to listen to some Roger Whittaker. Probably "Durham Town." OK, not really.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Songs of summer, part 1

Usually, every summer I make a CD or two of songs that I spent the summer with -- kind of a "how I spent my summer vacation" type thing (even though it's been years since I've had a real summer vacation!) This year, I didn't have the motivation to actually put them on CD and who knows I might do it yet, but signs are pointing to not. But I thought I'd do a series of blog posts with links to a place to buy these tracks (iTunes where available, Amazon where not.)

In no particular order:

1) Dixie Chicks - The Long Way Around (iTunes)
I'll always feel like the Dixie Chicks got screwed over for Natalie Maines' comments on George Bush. I'll also always feel like they were crazy for forgetting who the vast majority of their demographic was. And why this song wasn't the lead single off of Taking The Long Way I'll never know.

2) RuPaul - Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous (iTunes)
Only on a RuPaul song will you get a line "You're just an overgrown orangutan!" Not quite "Supermodel" territory, but a great little piece of camp from RuPaul.

3) Sleepthief (featuring Kyoko Baertson) - Just Say It (iTunes)
Heidi discovered this CD - it only stands to reason. It's her type of music through and through. But I really do enjoy the CD. It's an electronica CD with female vocals. Different vocalist for each song. At first, I thought this was Kirsty Hawkshaw - the vocals are that similar. Kirsty does show up on a cover of Duran Duran's "The Chauffer."

4) Ladytron - Playgirl (iTunes)
Continuing in the electronica mood of the summer is this little number. I stumbled across Ladytron on an mp3 blog where there was a free download of "Destroy Everything You Touch." It got me to look into their other songs - another example of free samples working - and I eventually picked up "Playgirl" along with a couple of others.

5) Kylie Minogue - Made of Glass
Sadly, this song isn't available electronically anywhere that I can find, at least not in the U.S. And that's a damn shame. Anyway, I had downloaded it from arjanwrites.com last year, and it also ended up on a CD that I picked up at Borderline Music in Chicago (if you ever get to Chicago, you must get to Borderline Music) called Kylie Minogue: Unreleased.

More tomorrow - must go to bed.

Save the country

Last week I was up late on Saturday night and I ended up listening to some music that I hadn't listened to in ages -- the music of Laura Nyro. Laura Nyro, for those who may not know, is a folk singer from the 60s who had phenomenal success as a songwriter, less so as an actual singer. Perhaps some of the most famous of her songs were recorded by the 5th Dimension -- "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Wedding Bell Blues," and "Save The Country" were all performed by both Laura and the 5th Dimension. Of course, the 5th Dimension versions are the ones everyone knows. Even Barbra Streisand got into the act and recorded a version of Laura's "Stoney End" which remains, to this day, probably the definitive version of this song, if not, at least the best known.

Laura's album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession is probably her best known and most critically acclaimed work. I purchased a couple songs off of that particular album and a couple off of her Best Of compilation that iTunes had. The songs take me to a New York that I fear may only exist only in my imagination. It's a New York City of the late 60s and early 70s, when all was not well with the world. It's a world before cell phones and the internet and instant communication. Our government was deliberately misleading us about a foreign war and the people were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. There's something about music from that time period that, like it or not, encapsulates a lot of the anti-war movement of the 60s. And given my "affection" for that period in history, it comes as no surprise that a lot of the music from that period of time gets to me as well.

I was listening to the 5th Dimension's version of "Save The County" which I have incredibly fond memories of -- because as a kid, my folks had the 8-track tape of their Greatest Hits On Earth and I knew most of those songs inside and out - "Save The Country" included. It's a typical war protest song although I don't think I really figured that out until I was on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon and we listened to their music ad nauseum. And the funny thing is, listening to it now, I find that a lot of the sentiments could apply to now, with an equally unpopular foreign war raging in the Middle East, with our government deliberately misleading us about it. But, in stark contrast to the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era, I find myself asking "Where is the outrage?" How can the government illegally listen in on phone conversations without warrants and no one's up in arms? How can our illustrious leader stand up in front of a group of people and defend a program that a court has just said is illegal?

Craziness. Save the country.

Ames 1990 vs. 2006

So this weekend is "move-in" weekend at Iowa State, the weekend where Ames' population doubles and a lot of the locals start bitching about the very thing that keeps Ames from being a slightly larger version of Carroll. Without the students, we wouldn't be much. Their very presence keeps Ames looking forward (well, a section of the population anyway) and keeps us on people's radar. I, for one, welcome the student population. Sure, the "student slums" so-to-speak and increased traffic (from the sounds of it, Target is a madhouse this weekend) may be a pain in the ass, but I love this aspect of Ames -- that we keep getting fresh new faces into the community. And that we constantly have to bear them in mind, no matter how much a lot of people wish they would just go away. Or at least behave according to their narrowly defined set of rules.

I was one of those students, 16 years ago today. Probably not to the date, but you know what I mean. I probably spent this afternoon 16 years ago with a copy of my class schedule clutched tightly in my hand exploring the campus and figuring out where I was going to have to be the next morning. My life was starting anew, even though it didn't feel much like it. The fact that I was rooming with someone I knew from high school probably contributed a lot to that (Glenn, don't know if you read this blog, but that's not a slam on you in any way or form!)

Looking back on my college years, or my "non-wayward youth" as I like to refer to it, I don't really have all that many regrets. I'm not sure that presented with the same situation over again I'd react any differently than I did the first time around. However, living in the town where I was once a college freshman is a near-constant reminder of those days, although I don't frequent very many of the same hang-outs I did then (obviously.) I tried to go to the the Parks Library once, shortly after we first moved here, and never did I feel more out of place than I did then, amidst all the college students that I used to blend right in with. When I was in college here, most of my hang out spots were around the campus. Now, in the adult version of myself (or at least the 34-year old version of myself) I find myself coming to downtown Ames to disappear into the crowd. Perhaps this is one of my biggest fears about the new mall in Ames - that it will make the one place that I feel like I can disappear, well, disappear.

So I sit here at Cafe Diem, drinking a very yummy snickerdoodle latte and realizing that I'm really very lucky. I wish all those new students well. Sometimes I wish I could magically find every student that feels just as I felt back in 1990 (and I know they're out there) and let them know that it's ok. Perhaps they don't really need that - perhaps it's more for me than for them. I'm happy to be here in Ames, no matter what crazy things get thrown at me. I'm happier here than I think I ever was in Washington, even though I do miss John and Dawn a lot sometimes.

Good luck to the students this year - and remember that not everyone in Ames takes your presence as a burden. This local welcomes it. Even if it does make me feel older than Methusalah sometimes.

Nightmare demons

I've been meaning to blog this for a week or so now, but as usual, life has been to busy to even sit down and blog -- witness the seven days between posts which is kind of bizarre for me nowadays. Anyway, my brother Ryan and his wife were back in Iowa a couple weeks ago and he brought me my birthday present. He had picked me up from work that day and was building it up in the car back to my house. "Oh, Dan, you're gonna love it. My wife didn't understand the significance of it, but I told her 'Oh, he's gonna love it when he sees it!" This is what I got from him.

In case you're having trouble figuring out exactly what it is, it's one of the nightmare demons from An American Werewolf in London. And, of course, it's perfect. It even comes with a different head, if you so desire.

Anna loves to change their heads, just for the record. And he has taken a rightful spot on the shelf full of monsters that I have in my office. The next one I want to get is Fly Boy Zombie from the original Dawn of the Dead. Perhaps Christmas.

And just in case you've never seen the movie itself, let alone the scene where these monsters come, here it is, via YouTube, natch.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stop using sex as a weapon

The other day after work, I was totally grooving on Pat Benatar. And this is kind of weird because she's not an artist that I think of all that much. I mean, there's only four Pat Benatar songs on my entire iPod (there's more in my iTunes library) so when I was walking home from work that night, it was an amazingly cosmic alignment that led me to listen to Pat Benatar. But it was really fun.

The four Pat Benatar songs I have on my iPod are: "Le Bel Age," "Sex As A Weapon," "Lift 'Em On Up" and "Don't Walk Away." Yeah, it's an odd collection -- no "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (or, as Kerry Jackson thought in high school "Hit Me With Perfection") and not even "We Belong" (and believe me, Casey Stratton does a killer cover of "We Belong" so it's not like I don't like the song.) But these four Pat Benatar songs really hit the spot on the way home that night. Especially "Sex As A Weapon" which is probably my hands down favorite Pat Benatar song ever. It must be the chorus - it's got all these "almost" rhymes + they're "-tion" rhymes so even better.
Stop using sex as a weapon
Stop using sex as a weapon
You know you're already my obsession
Stop (stop) using sex as a weapon
Love is more than a one way reflection
Stop (stop) using sex as a weapon
Here's the video from YouTube -- amazing the stuff you can find there!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Grief

I took a quick break from Garbageland (which, incidentally, reads a lot like Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) to read a book that I read about on Salon. It's Andrew Holleran's Grief - and I'm not sure what attracted me to it. To be honest, it was probably its references to AIDS in the 1980s and the survivors of that stage of the epidemic. But nonetheless, I checked it out from the library -- after getting over my inital shock that they actually had something I was looking for. I tell ya, even though the Ames library is way better than the Washington library ever dreamed of being, there are days that I truly miss the Iowa City Public Library. I'm not sure I've ever lived anywhere that had a better library, or had a public more dedicated to it than that one. Granted, I haven't lived in very many places and have never lived outside of the state of Iowa, so that's not saying much.

Anyway, Grief kind of defies synopsis. If I were to try to summarize its plot, it's about a fifty-something gay guy that comes to Washington, D.C. to teach a class on AIDS and literature. He has just lost his mother. In the house where he's living, he picks up a book of letters by Mary Todd Lincoln. The juxtaposition of his grief over the death of his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln's grief (that was apparently lifelong) over her husband's death, and the pall that AIDS cast across that generation of homosexual men was the crux of the novel. Mostly, as Salon said, it was like sitting in a darkened room listening to someone tell their story. And it was fascinating.

I expected it to be a downer, and at times, it was. But mostly, it was just introspective and sedate.

Perhaps my favorite line was uttered by the narrator's friend, Frank, referencing the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. He said:

"I used to think that the eighties were very like a nice dinner party with friends, except that some of them were taken out and shot while the rest of us were expected to go on eating."

I really enjoyed Grief - in much the same way I enjoyed And The Band Played On. While the latter was a piece of non-fiction about the AIDS epidemic in the 80s (which I'm overdue for re-reading), this was fiction about the aftermath of that. They make good companion pieces. And I have a feeling Holleran's novel Dancer From the Dance is the opposite bookend to Grief, with And The Band Played On narrating the horror of the middle.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Tide

Heidi stumbled across this CD (how, I'm not entirely certain) today at Borders -- Lucy Kaplansky's The Tide. It was 18 bucks there, so I appealed to her to please check iTunes first as it'd likely be a lot cheaper there. And, of course, it was there. I bought it and I'm telling you, I love it! At first, I wasn't sure why I liked it, but I think I've figured it out. It reminds me a lot of mid-90s Mary Chapin Carpenter -- but without the Nashville corporate sheen that she was getting at that time. (And that's not slaggingon Chapin at all - even with the commerical Nashville machine working for her, he raw talent still shone through.)

And the reason it reminds me of mid-90s Chapin? It was released in 1994. The one she was listening to in Borders was apparently a remaster of her debut album. The one I downloaded from iTunes was the original version - and to me, it's indistiguishable from the remaster, at least via the samples on iTunes - but Heidi will probably end up buying the remaster as she says it's just a little bit different and something about the remaster appealed to her that's missing on the version that I bought. Oh well, to each their own, I guess.

I love finding new music - especially thoughtful, introspective music. Don't get me wrong - I'm the biggest whore for pop music that I've ever known, but a part of my inner four just can't get enough of Mary Chapin Carpenter's inner dialogue that she's always turning into songs. Or Casey Stratton's brand of male-angst that somehow validates all the angst that I feel at times in my life.

And it's funny - on this Lucy Kaplansky CD, there's all these deep lyrics set, quite frequently, to a fun folksy accompaniment. So it's not like it's all "night-night" music.

I'll probably be buying more of her stuff before long.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Water water everywhere

There was one hell of a thunderstorm this morning. I woke up around 6AM to thunder and lightning so I went downstairs to turn off computers. Not 10 minutes later, my mother-in-law (who is our houseguest this week) came upstairs to warn me that I had a little flood in the basement. Shit, I was just down there -- what could have happened.

Well, I wish I had had the wherewithall to take a picture because there was water all over my office floor. As near as I can figure, it came in through an outside door because rain came down so hard and so fast that the normal drainage system was simply overwhelmed. There's also a pile of dead leaves in that area which probably helped not one little bit.

So I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart this morning to get a Shop-Vac and I cleaned up the mess. It was, surprisingly, not as bad as I was anticipating. The carpet's still a little bit damp and I have to move the dehumidifier to a better location so as to facilitate the evaporation of what water is left.

Craziness - not how I expected to start today. Although, let me tell you, I've never been happier to work at 10AM than I was today.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dan Version 0.0000001

So I spent a lot of today being frustrated with my computer. Not so good. I ignored my daughter. I was not nice to Heidi even though she did nice things for me. The frustrating part is the story I haven't told here yet for fear of seeming silly. I went to Best Buy on Sunday, fully intending to spend the 50 dollars to have them diagnose whatever problem I had with my computer. They told me (for free) that it was likely the motherboard. Heidi and I talked about it and we decided that rather than take a chance with crappy parts again, I would just go ahead and buy a new desktop PC. And all in all, I'm a PC kind of guy. I've never had a Mac and I've got tons of PC software.

I get this computer home and almost immediately I'm reminded of why I always warn people against buying computers at Best Buy. It doesn't recognize any operating system on this prebuilt computer. Fuck me. So I do a system restore, which really, I shouldn't have to do on a computer I just bought, and Windows XP and all that gets reinstalled and it's all hunky dory until I realize that NONE of the drivers are installed. So I take the computer back to Best Buy where I talk to a guy named Ryan who's really cool and he installs all my drivers and gets me back on my feet again. Cool. Well, I get it home and the monitor is all fucked up -- it can't display in the right colors and when I try to hook it up to Anna's computer, it has a completely red sheen across it. At this point, I'm just pissed. But then, to top it all off, it doesn't recognize the wireless network in the house. At this point, I decide that I'm just going to take it back and get my money back and start from scratch.

I go to Best Buy this morning and get a guy that's not quite as helpful as Ryan was and he says "I can't find anything wrong with this computer!" The monitor looks fine. The wireless connection at Best Buy is detected right away. And because I think, in my heart of hearts, I really do want a PC, I agree to take it home and give it another shot. I hook it up, the monitor looks fine, and the wireless connection shows up. However, I never really get a good signal. I figure that once I get it set up and in its place, it should run like a champ. I should have known better.

I get it set up downstairs in my office and fuck me if it can't even find a wireless connection anywhere. Heidi takes time out of her day where she's trying to write her synopsis to submit to an agent to talk to Linksys to see if there's anything they can help us with. They get all our other computers up and running, but still, alas, they cannot figure out what's wrong with mine. They try to tell me that my computer is out of range. Well, hello, I have the laptop right next to me with an "excellent" connection. So that's not the problem. I called them tonight after I got home from work since they have 24/7 tech support and they do a few more things - probably way more than they should have to, but to no avail. I still have no wireless connection on this computer that should have worked right out of the box. I mean, I'm not naive or anything, I realize that wireless networks can take time to set up, but COME ON! This is bordering on ridiculous.

I'm currently trying to decide whether or not I want to just take the whole thing back and not let them talk me into it trying again like they did this morning. The problem is that I have a hellacious schedule tomorrow that has me leaving at 8:30 tomorrow morning and not getting home until 7 in the evening. I mean, I could box it all up tonight and go out to Best Buy immediately after work tomorrow or I could try to call them and see if they can figure out what the problem with my network adapter is since they sold me the damn thing. But a part of me is just ready to forget the whole damn thing and use the laptop until I can figure out what I want.

I'm ashamed in a lot of ways. But really, I shouldn't be, as a computer straight out of the box should work. I feel like I made some really bad choices. Perhaps I did. Maybe I didn't. But in any event, I'm feeling like one of the worst possible versions of myself right now. My reptile brain is really in control - I'm mean and vindictive and really don't give a shit about anybody but me right now. As far as work goes, I'm basically just showing up and doing my job and going home. I can't remember to take my Cymbalta and when I forget for more than a couple days in a row, I get dizzy and feel sick to my stomach. So yeah, I have work to do.

I think I'll sleep on it tonight. Lord knows I'm tired enough. Let's hope that tomorrow shows not only an upgrade in my computer, but in the version of myself that's participating in life.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Computer woes

I spent the vast majority of yesterday dinking around with my computer. It has, for some inexplicable reason, died. It all started on Friday, when I came home from work and was going to play Zoo Tycoon with Anna for a little bit. Every time I double clicked on the icon, it kept prompting me to put the Zoo Tycoon CD in. Well, hell, you stupid little fucker, it IS in there. So I decided to boot off the CD, which is when I discovered the problem.

Neither one of my DVD/CD ROM drives were being recognized by the system. Well hell.

Later the next day, I pulled the computer apart and switched the IDE connections around. When I did that, it recognized the DVD/CD ROM drives, but not the hard drives. Oh shit. It was starting to sound like a motherboard issue and not something simple like a IDE cable issue. What makes this even more annoying is that I just put a new motherboard in the computer in JANUARY of this year. And that was only a year after I got a completely new system.

So, needless to say, I'm pissed about it. Currently, I've got Heidi's laptop that I'm working on which gets me by but there's so much about MY computer that I miss. And I'm so pissed off that I'm ready to switch teams entirely and go to Mac. Especially after having watched Heidi with her new iMac over the last week. I know that there are things that you give up when you switch to a Mac, but frankly, a part of me would be so damn glad to not have to pull my computer apart every 6 months looking for what's wrong with it. Not that Macs don't die either, but at least it would be someone else's problem.

Right now, I'm just trying to decide what I want. I'm leaning toward Mac as we'd still have a PC upstairs that Anna uses so we could dedicate that to be the computer that we play games at and what not. It's frustrating. I don't have the money right now for a new computer (especially after Heidi just replaced hers) but who knows what I'll do.

This is one hell of a way to start my week.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Surprising contemporaries

I was reading the Ames paper this morning when I was presented with the following: Soleil Moon Frye a/k/a Punky Brewster is 30 today. Heidi and I werent sure what was more disturbing -- the fact that she was younger than we are, or that we are, in fact, "contemporaries" or Punky Brewster.

I always hated that show growing up.

Back with more proper blog entries later. My stupid computer might be on the blink again -- a mere 8 months after completely replacing the motherboard.