Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Another one clicks by.

A wise man once said, "Every day above ground is a good day." That wise man may or may not have been my uncle Frank.

(Honestly, I have no idea who said that. It could've been him; he's been known to snap off a profound statement now and again. Then again, he had surgery for lung cancer and kept right on smoking, so you may want to doubt his capacity for logic and reason.)

It's a good notion, though; a solid way of looking at the world. Even if things don't quite turn out your way, what's the alternative? You're in the cold ground, someone else is nailing your wife, and some raccoon is probably taking a dump on your tombstone.

I turned 34 today. This means I'm solidly in my mid-30s. Y'know what, though? I'm fine with that. I really am. I mean, sure, I haven't got the whole romance thing locked up yet, I still haven't written the Great American Novel, and to this day I get my ass thoroughly kicked every time I play Scrabble.* But other than those little wrinkles, I think I'm doing fine overall.

Yep, your ol' pal J is doing alright, thankyouverymuch.

(Seriously, thank you for reading all my inane posts over the years. This thing has been going since the fall of 2004, when I was but a young buck, a graduate student chasing a dream of being a rockstar astronaut. Now that I am one, all I can say is that playing a the "Freebird" solo on the International Space Station was pretty damn amazing.)
* I'm not entirely sure if this is true, seeing as I haven't played Scrabble in about a decade. But I assume it to be true.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Way to go, Mr. President.

A little while ago, B. Hussein Obama set up a fancy-sounding "Congressional Supercommittee" to wrestle the ol' budget thing to the ground. You know, 12 people — six Democrats, six Republicans — who were going to single-handedly* save the US government's ass when it came to deficits and such.

Guess what? They failed.


Here's why the whole exercise was doomed from the start.

If the Supercommittee somehow was able to work together and magically figure out a way for the US government to avert financial disaster without wholesale hacking-and-slashing of various department budgets, that would've required compromise between parties. And, to quote Del Griffith, "You'd have better luck finding a three-legged ballerina."

If the Supercommittee failed to do this Herculean task, though? Automatic across-the-board cuts to everything the government buys.

So, lemme get this straight.
  • Obama allowed Republicans on this committee; a nice touch, but let's face it, the only thing they do is fuck shit up. Included on this is Sen. John Kyl (R—AZ), who has been ranked as the fourth-most-conservative Senator, and incidentally opposed the new START arms-reduction treaty with Russia. The other Republicans that got named (by Republicans) on this committee include Senators Rob Portman and Pat Toomey, and Representatives Jeb Hensarling, Fred Upton and Dave Camp, all of whom appear to be giant dicks.
  • These Republicans, in no way, shape or form, would EVER agree with a Democrat on ANYTHING. That's just how things are in Washington these days: stall, bicker, remain completely ideological, and for gosh sakes, don't you dare ever work with the other side on anything!
  • Thus, they were never going to get a deal done on anything.
  • Because they didn't get a deal, automatic huge spending cuts kick in for next year's budget. This is the sort of thing that makes Grover Norquist's nipples hard (along with a sizeable chunk of the GOP caucus).
  • So, if there was no deal — to which Republicans never would've agreed anyway — the Republicans win. If the parties had been able to work out a compromise, they'd have gotten something somewhat reasonable, I imagine. But we'll never find that out, will we?
In the end, it didn't work. But I could've told you that.
* This group may in fact have 24 hands, not a single one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Simpler is not always better.

When it comes to contracts and tax forms and drinking-nights-out, simpler is definitely better. Not so in music.

I was driving home today, and the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" came on my iPod. Now, by any measure, this is a great song, even if the lyrics are a little nonsensical; but you know my stance on lyrics, namely, they don't mean anything and I don't listen to them and I don't care what they say. Besides, I'm too busy listening to the music (also alluded-to in another awesome Doobies' song).

But, what struck me about the song was that, in comparison to a lot of modern popular stuff, there was a hell of a lot going on, musically. I SoundCloud'd the intro, first verse and first chorus for your listening pleasure:

db by frisbeepilot

Layered guitars of all types, actual melodies, some form of technical skill required. On top of that, it's pleasing to the ear (at least to me).

Now, I thought to myself, What band is the complete opposite of this, musically? Naturally, exactly one (1) band came to mind:

With great distaste and much nausea, I headed over to YouTube to, ahem, "borrow" a little snippet of music so I could edit it neatly, SoundCloud it up, and present it to you. Alas, Nickelback's pretty possessive of their copyrighted material, and SoundCloud recognized the music in the clip as belonging to this horrific excuse for a musical act. So, I had to just embed the YouTube clip here... be forewarned, it is very, very loud, so please turn down your volume. (You can stop it at the 1:09 mark, but you'll want to do so much sooner.)

Awful, I know. But, let me try to explain why.

The lyrics are awful. So awful that I actually care. But, aside from that, here's what's going on:
  • The intro riff sounds like something the guitarist came up with two minutes before they started recording. Most likely it was something that sounds very similar to a riff he'd made for another song; this band has a history of things like that.
  • The music behind the lyrics in the verse is exactly the same as the intro riff, just turned down a bit. Nothing new is happening. At all.
  • All four lines in the first verse sound exactly the same. It's the same thing, repeated. A boring thing got repeated. Over and over.
  • The overall sound of the thing is... hard to describe. "Overprocessed" is the technical term for it, I guess. "Homogenous" is a little closer to what I want to say. "Steamroller-y" might get me almost there. "Shitty" is too obvious and not descriptive enough, but yet perfectly bang-on.
  • Chad Kroger's voice is legendarily grating, of course. But what gets me is that he's essentially shout-growling one note. There's no lyrical melody at all.
  • The bass and rhythm guitar are just chugging along, playing (a.) the exact same thing as each other, and (b.) the same note over and over. Go back and compare it with the Doobie Brothers' track, where there are multiple little hills and valleys, chords cycle through, and the bass has a melody all its own.
Who keeps buying all these Nickelback records, anyway? Certainly nobody I know. Anyway, if you need me, I'll be relaxing in my music nook.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One-sentence random thought #14.

I know less about women than I ever thought possible.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Never a dull moment.

I posted this to my FB status yesterday:

So, a kid has to write a test in my class today. His notes, which he can use for the test, are in his backpack. Someone put a lock on the zipper. A week ago.

Welcome to one of several dozen ridiculous situations I face, every day of my professional life.

And it's true. This is the sort of crazy crap I have to deal with, every day, 194 times a year. (And yes, we count.)

Usually it's the kids who make you shake your head. Sometimes, parents get into the mix. And, even occasionally, my colleagues do and say things that make me wonder, "You teach children for a living?"

There are a lot of things my job isn't, and one of these things is boring. I have to constantly be on my toes, always have to put on a reasonably happy face (even if I feel like crap or someone just did something completely idiotic), and since it's far easier to just come in and slog through a day if I'm feeling sick than to take a sick day — took my first one in nine years, last year — rain-or-shine, I'll be there.

(That being said, I do get three lieu-days from my union for working on assorted political campaigns this fall. One will be spent visiting ECB in Chicago; another will be spent (hopefully) watching the Detroit Tigers' home opener in April, assuming I can get a ticket; the third is just a random Friday in May that I had to pick because, well, I had another day coming.)

(Oh, and the April one is the day before Good Friday, which turns that weekend from a 4-day into an unprecedented 5-day. Will I even remember the kids' names?)

I've often thought to myself, I should write down all the crazy crap my kids say. It'd be amusing, for sure. But, to be honest, if I did that, I'd never have time to do anything else during the day. Because my memory's so terrible, I barely remember anything; the only reason I was able to write that down was because my kids were doing a test, and I have a computer on my front lab bench.

At any rate... there we go. If you're looking for a career where you are guaranteed not to ever, EVER be bored, c'mon down and sign yourself up.

Friday, November 04, 2011

On doohickeys.

I have too many electronic thingamajigs these days.

And yes, new cellular telephone, you are partially at fault. (More on that later.)

Current gadgetry inventory:
  • one desktop computer (Linux)
  • two notebook computers (netbook runs Win7, laptop is an old iBook)
  • one iPod Touch (4th generation)
  • one cell phone (Blackberry Curve 9300)
See, here's the problem. With all these whatzits, there's a million ways to get in contact with me:
  • regular telephone
  • cell phone
  • email
  • text message
  • iMessage
  • MSN Messenger
  • Facebook Chat
  • Gmail Chat
Alright, I grant you, 1,000,000 ≠ 8, but you get the point: 8 is too many for me.

I have my cell phone on my coffee table presently. Will it ding and tell me I have a text?

MSN is on. (Does anyone use MSN anymore?) Who will contact me there?

I'm currently chatting with former blogger ECB on Facebook. Who else will pop up?

I've only contacted two people through iMessage so far. How the hell does it work?*

And don't even get me started on all the Strip-O-Grams I get on a daily basis. Really? Does a man need to see all those boobs?**

Anyway... this is stressing me out. I didn't think it would, but the addition of the cell phone has been the real tipping point. I don't want to have to think about all these things all at once. This is too many. Too many connections to people.

I was fine with landline and email. I really was.

You want to get in touch with me? Call my house. If I'm there, I'm probably alright to talk with you, unless I'm in the shower. But when I get out and dry myself off, I'll hear your message, and call you right back. Or, if I'm out of the house, that means I'm busy doing something else, so when I get back from doing whatever it was that I was doing, I'll check your message and get back to you.

Or, if you wanted to send me something electronically, or just have a textual conversation with me, or if it's not really urgent, or it's just more convenient to type, that's what email and Facebook/MSN messenger are for. If it's urgent, call me. If it's really urgent and I'm at work, call my work and they'll find me, I guarantee you. I've been working ten years and this situation has never come up; I'm not saying it never would, but y'know, ten years.

So, that's the point at which I find myself. I'm antsy, I really am. And I don't want to be. I'm not sure right now, but I think, most of the time, my cell phone will just be off. I don't want it dinging all the time. Call my landline; I've decided to keep it, and keep it as my primary means of communication. If you and I are planning on doing something, maybe I'll have my cell on me, but don't bet on it; I'm betting on you keeping your word, because there's a chance I've had to rearrange other things in my life in order to accommodate this thing we were supposed to be doing, and changing or cancelling at the last minute is a dick move, and then I'm sitting at home alone instead of doing the other thing I'd have been doing if I hadn't made a plan to do the thing with you that you just flaked-out on.

It's ok. I can change this plan I made, he's got his cell on him.

Ah, no, it's not ok., I really got off on a rant there. But rants are good. I'm done, though.

* According to the Insane Clown Posse, probably magic.
** Yes, I do.