Thursday, December 24, 2009

And Another One Bites the Dust

In today's mail, I got the last-ever Washington Post National Weekly Edition. Until now, this had been the only reliable means for those of us who live more than appx 150 miles outside of DC to subscribe to a true paper and ink edition of the Post. But it's rough out there for newspapers, and the Post decided that it had to ax the Weekly Edition. It's too bad. It's also becoming routine, which is worrying (or it ought to be).

Of course, I still have the Raleigh News & Observer, which is a good paper. When there is a long list of state politicians and administrators who hate and fear a newspaper as there is in the N&O's case, you know that paper is doing something right. Need confirmation? Try asking former NC House Speaker Jim Black (you'll first have to get on his prison visitor list) or former governor Mike Easley (you'll have to catch him when he's not with his attorney talking about the federal and state investigations into his alleged abuses of power, illegal fundraising, and misuse of public funds) or the former director of the NC mental health division & the former directors of the state's mental hospitals. Unfortunately, the McClatchey papers are in far worse shape than is the Post, and have gone through several rounds of layoffs since I moved here.

Additionally, I still have the Washington Post website, but despite how much I appreciate the WaPo online and how much time I spend on it throughout the day, I've realized in the last couple of years that it's not the same. The physical paper is much easier to navigate: every week I'd find stories in the Weekly Edition that I'd completely missed online.

(On the upside, I'm thankful that the WaPo mgmt didn't decide first to try something shockingly desperate and misguided, such as, oh, I don't know, maybe restructuring the org chart so that section editors would now report to the sales managers, violating one of the biggest church/state separations in journalism.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's a Plan, Anyway

Ah, don't get so frustrated. It's not like your company-organization-bureau-squad-gang-crew-syndicate-government is any more screwed up than most others. No, really...

Maj. Colvin: "I'm guessing that you have some thoughts on where we should go from here."

Sgt. Carver: "Well sir, we were thinking of a modified zebra operation. Jump-outs rotating from sector to sector combined with a zero-tolerance approach. We detail a couple men from each sector, build a flex squad, double up on the head-knocking and corner clearing."

Maj. Colvin: "More of the same, you mean?"

Lt. Mello: "But better."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Recovering From Bad Decisions

Lenovo is going to buy back the mobile phone business that it sold last year to a group of Hong Kong investors. Their reason for such a quick 180° change in business plans? The article quotes a statement from the company's CEO indicating that "the switch in strategy stemmed from 'changed market conditions' in which PC and mobile-phone technologies are converging."

Thanks for the hot tip, boys.

Either Lenovo's PR folks need to learn to lie better (that's assuming they're simply unable to issue honest statements along the lines of "we fucked up last year") or the company is more blind to technology trends than my long dead grandmother.

The Washington Post and Personal Affairs

I usually have a problem with the news media airing most people's personal problems, especially those stories that involve family tensions. Like it or not, I expect that crap from the celebrity shows and magazines, but not from respectable newspapers.

In the case of politicians, the argument is made that knowledge of a person's problems can help voters make determinations based upon issues of (perceived) character. Unless the story involves abuse of power or some criminal activity or something of the like, I think that argument is a load of crap: most such stories are published to satisfy people's voyeuristic instincts or to either put forward or buttress some overarching belief (true or not) about the person in question. The support for reporting on personal problems of pop culture celebrities is even shakier and is nearly non-existent in the case of near- or former-celebrities, especially those in such position through no effort (or fault) of their own.

The story in the Washington Post about Rod Langway's estrangement from his daughter made for an interesting reading exercise: I knew it was none of my business and I was upset that the Post would feel comfortable publishing such a story involving people mostly outside of the public eye (yes, Langway is still a minor sports legend and still makes the rare public appearance) and where the emotions are still raw and far from being resolved. And yet, despite all that, I kept reading all the way to the end, fascinated, which is more than likely all the justification needed by the Post for printing the story.

I don't know Langway or his family. Really, I shouldn't care about them or their personal struggles. And yet, I now find myself having a very poor opinion of the daughter and her mother for being so willing to air their family's dirty laundry in such a manner, which, by the way, strikes me as merely another attempt to ambush Langway and then cry about his surprised and resentful reaction afterwards. The mother and daughter seem to define dysfunction.

I also have sympathy for Langway for what appears to be his (by contrast, at least) reticence on the matter, especially regarding whatever incident(s) lead to the dissolution of the relationship in the first place and his seeming concern for how that story will impact his daughter. I don't know these people and shouldn't really care, but here I am forming some strong opinions about them based upon a newspaper story relating a single troubling aspect of their lives. Such a strange phenomenon, both from the perspective of a reader learning about someone else's personal business as well as from the viewpoint of the average Joan who decides that she wants everyone to know about a personal and painful (and on-going!) affair.

At the other end of the trashy celebrity news spectrum, we have this Washington Post profile on Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia couple who somehow gained entrance to the state dinner at the White House and greeted President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Singh. This story is amusingly full of unseemly details about the couple: much of the information is public but there is enough personal to make it an exceedingly uncomfortable news story for the couple and their family and friends. You've got family squabbles, financial difficulties, untruthful self-promotion, and charges of bad character. Excluding the information regarding possible fraud, this is a very personal story that normally would serve to do little beyond embarrass the subjects and instill readers with a bit of Schadenfreude. But the difference between this story and the Langway article is simply that the Salahis are celebrity chasers and celebrity wannabes. They're starfuckers. And appropriately enough, their latest stunt (but by no means their most outrageous: read the article's account of Tariq's supposed children's charity fundraisers) has resulted in the celebrity they've wanted while also ensuring that they've screwed themselves quite royally. Really, it couldn't possibly happen to a more deserving couple. In contrast to the Langway story, there are no feelings of guilt or embarrassment associated with reading this story of another family's troubles, though those problems have been, to varying degrees, self-induced.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

World Party (private revolution)

iPod's Shuffle Songs mode reminded me earlier this week how much I used to love this band. As it turns out, I still do.

And God Said...

Monday, November 2, 2009

You're a Little Late, Guys

I'd happily return the rest of the meat to the store, but I haven't been able to put more than 25 feet between myself and the bathroom for the last month.

Seriously, you're telling us about this now, four to six weeks after the beef's sell by day? Why?!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good News, Fran!

Jolt Cola in bankruptcy, may close.
Finally, somebody thought of the children.

But for the rest of us who are not inclined to rail against the supposed evils of high levels of caffeine, Jolt Cola holds a special place in our overly stimulated hearts. Jolt and No Doze helped get me through eight sometimes brutal final exam weeks back in the 1980s (special shout-out to Dr. Shealy and a RIP to Dr. Carlson and his exam dice). Couldn't have done it without ya, my fizzling friend. Thanks, goodbye, and good luck.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trinity Cart

I can vouch for Maple Stave, Hammer No More the Fingers, The Dry Heathens, and The Loners being great, fun bands, both on record and live.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inside [Somplace]

On Sunday morning, I got exterior shots. This evening, after work, I got the interior.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Quick Tour of [Confidential Information]

This last week I started a new job at [oops, sorry, no, you're not allowed to know that information]. Spent just a small amount of time this morning wandering around [bleep] and the [bloop]. Because it was a Sunday and a service was being conducted, I wasn't able to go into the chapel; will save that for one evening after work this week, perhaps, as I understand the interior is equally stunning.

[oops, sorry, no, this entire question must be redacted]

The  [oops, sorry, no] is a popular spot for professional photographers. I have to admit to feeling wholly inadequate while carrying around my little HP Photosmart camera when every few minutes I would walk by someone setting up a complete camera system worth several times more than my car's current value.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Steve Wynn Live at Cat's Cradle on 2009-09-26

Steve Wynn not only allows people to record his live shows for trading, he encourages it. So last Saturday's most impressive show from Cat's Cradle in Carrboro is now available online from LMA for listening and downloading. This is an excellent recording. At bottom, I've embedded just a few of the songs that stood out for me from that night: "Lies of the Living Dead," "Amphetamine," "Medicine Show," "Aw Shit Man," and "The Ballad of John and Yoko." Again, follow the link to get the entire show or to see the full setlist. Highly recommended.

Might be worth keeping an eye on the Steve Wynn LMA page to see if last night's show from the 40 Watt in Athens, GA might be posted because it sounds like it was equally exciting. That show featured both Mike Mills and Bill Berry (!!!) guesting during parts of the encore. Info, video, and pics available here and here.

As I mentioned earlier, Saturday's Cat's Cradle was an amazing show. Not only was the band in great form, but there was a considerable amount of energy flowing back and forth between performers and audience the entire night. I'd forgotten about this particular exchange until thinking just now about the various interactions from that night.

After the show, I was sitting outside the club reading a book because my ride wasn't going to be there for another 30 to 45 minutes. At one point, Peter Buck walked by and, after we chatted very briefly about how good the show had been, he noticed that I was reading Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, and let me know that he'd already read it and thought it excellent. My choice of reading materials was validated by a member of R.E.M.!!!

No, really, what struck me was just the fact that he'd make conversation about it. All four of these musicians were incredibly nice and easy to talk with and generous with their time after the show. And while they all clearly enjoy their jobs (part of the fun and the energy of the show, I think, came from the sense that they were enjoying themselves up on stage just as much as we were down on the floor), I think that must be especially obvious in Buck's case. I doubt that he needs the tiny amount of money he gets from this tour, and I can't imagine that he'd put himself in a position to be in another indy band, playing the small club circuit, hanging out with the audience after the show, and traveling across North America in a small van with four other people again at this point in his career unless he really loved the work.

(Oh, and as for his comment to me, he's absolutely right: it truly is an outstanding book.)

Lies of the Living Dead

This one doesn't hold up quite as well as I'd have hoped, but hearing/watching it live while pressed up against the stage was a thing of pure beauty. I'm posting it anyway. It's just too great a song not to. "I'm gonna live until the day I die." Indeed.

Medicine Show
Really, all of the Dream Syndicate songs from that night were outstanding, in part, perhaps, because I was so surprised to hear any: I would never have guessed that they'd reach back 20-some years when putting together the setlist given the approximately 200 songs that Steve's and Scott's various bands have recorded in just this current decade.

Aw Shit Man

The Ballad of John and Yoko

Monday, September 28, 2009

Disgust: A Pictorial Definition

Photo by Toni L. Sandys of The Washington Post

(want to scream and complain? great, go for it! want to do something that might actually have an impact? stop going to the games and stop buying the merch and stop putting more money in danny's pockets.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wynn, McCaughey, Pitmon, Buck

Back from seeing a great concert Saturday night at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, a show I've been looking forward to for months. The musicians: Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon, and Steve Wynn. The bands represented: The Baseball Project, Dream Syndicate, The Steve Wynn VI, Gutterball, R.E.M., Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows. It was a real alternative music supergroup on stage without anybody ever using that label.

And as if those four weren't enough, hometown hero Peter Holsapple (of the dBs; most recently, he and Chris Stamey put out a new album named Here And Now that is worth checking out: it's one of the best new albums I've heard this year) was in the audience and joined the group for their encode.

What a great, awesome, fabulous, incredible, fun night.

To add to the fun, I tried a new service tonight. Zingo is a designated driving service: for a bit more money than having a taxi drive you home, Zingo will drive you and your car home, which means no hassles or 2nd taxi fare the next day to pick up your car again. Meant that I was able to enjoy the music tonight and enjoy several beers without having to worry about how I'd get home or how I'd retrieve my car Sunday.

Gutterball: Black & Gold/Lester Young (no embedding allowed on this one, damn it!). (The band tonight played Gutterball's "Trial Separation Blues" in memory of Bryan. Very damn cool.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Damn It, Google

Gmail is experiencing problems this morning. Again. This morning, contacts aren't available and the service is sloooow. It seems like Gmail has been having a tremendous number of problems -- including outright outages -- in recent weeks. In addition to the regular service access issues, spam has been creeping into my Inbox on a daily basis this month (up yours, Magic Jack and Kiwi Services).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


In a shocking development, MSNBC and local affiliate WNCN in Raleigh have uncovered evidence that...

No doubt, they had a team of their best investigative reporters on the case.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Libertarian Hypocrite

For years now, I've opposed government-imposed smoking bans, feeling they are yet another violation of individual liberties (not just against smokers, but against business owners, as well). And in an era when an increasing number of businesses are banning smoking on their own for economic reasons, it makes little sense to take the drastic step of a government ban on otherwise legal behavior. I'm convinced that I would have stopped smoking years before I finally did if it hadn't been for the obnoxious, holier-than-thou, self-righteous bullshit of the hardcore smoking ban mob.

But now that the smoking ban is just over 3 months away from being enforced here in North Carolina -- the heart of tobacco country! -- I have to say that I've lost the ability to rail against the prohibition. In fact, I have to admit that I'm looking forward to it, even if most of the places where I see bands these days already ban smoking from the main rooms.

I've sold out. I've given into the man and joined the system. I'm now officially part of the problem.

Fort Worth Blues

Saw some musicians tonight who left me so disappointed that I'd planned on writing a screed about bad music. (OK, technically, this first paragraph is very much a screed of that sort, but I'd planned on something much longer and with more of a George Will style of overly practiced righteous indignation.) The second set tonight was by a bluegrass band whose singer (a woman, which, for some reason, remains fairly rare for the genre) had a great voice; otherwise, the band seemed to have little else going for it: bluegrass is made for musicians of pretty phenomenal talent whereas these folks were simply bland, and bluegrass can be many things but it should never ever be boring. But they were far better than the guy who played the first set. The guy might be a decent guitar player if he slowed down; instead, he tries to show off what I guess he thinks of as his "chops" (and I'd bet $10 that the guy uses that very term), but what he ends up creating is just a loud, fast mess. Worse, the song choices were mostly predictable for a slide blues guitar set (the couple that weren't predictable -- "Come Together" and "Hey Joe" -- just plain didn't work), and he sang/shouted all of them in the same style, which he might not be able to help because he certainly looked the part of a white, 40-year-old, balding desk jockey in 2009 Raleigh who wanted to roleplay as a 50-year-old black former sharecropper from Mississippi playing the blues in a smoke-filled Chicago bar of 1950. I wasn't having any of it.

So I came home tonight and was going to find a video of Kelly Joe Phelps playing slide blues. Phelps is phenomenal and can absolutely play traditional blues, but he does it with enough of his own style that he's not simply covering other artists or trying to sound like someone he's not.

While searching for such a video (and they certainly exist), I happened upon this one, in which KJP is supporting Steve Earle on "Fort Worth Blues," a tribute SE wrote for Townes Van Zandt shortly after TVZ's death in 1997. Not at all what I had in mind, but it's quite a nice find. "Fort Worth Blues" is an amazing song in itself, but this is the first time I've heard a slide accompaniment -- in fact, I'd never even known that Earle and Phelps had ever crossed paths -- and Phelps' contribution adds quite a lot to the beauty. It really is a stunning song, and this performance might be the best I've heard over the years.

In Fort Worth all the neon's shining' bright
Pretty lights red and blue
They'd shut down all the honky-tonks tonight
And say a prayer or two if they only knew

You always said the highway was your home
But we both know that ain't true
It's just the only place a man can go
When he don't know where he's travellin' to

And Colorado's always clean and healin'
And Tennessee in spring is green and cool
It never really was your kind of town
But you went around with the Fort Worth Blues

And somewhere up above the great divide
Where the sky is wide and the clouds are few
A man can see his way clear to the light
Ah just hold on tight that's all you gotta do

And they say Texas weather's always changin'
One thing change'll bring is somethin' new
And Houston really ain't that bad a town
So you hung around with the Fort Worth Blues

There's a full moon over Galway Bay tonight
Silver light over green and blue
And every town I travel through I find
Some kinda sign that you've been through

And Amsterdam's always good for grievin'
And London never fails to leave me blue
And Paris never was my kinda town
So I walked around with the Fort Worth Blues

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starbucks Now Offering Earworms

Recently, I've gotten in the habit of stopping at Starbucks every morning on my way to work for a large coffee or a red eye if I'm jonesing especially hard. It's money that I don't need to spend, but it's allowed me to sleep in an extra 30 minutes each morning, so in that regard, at least, it's a bargain.

Last week saw the release of the newly remastered Beatles catalog, and Starbucks has been pushing those CDs hard, playing all Beatles on their store sound systems. So every morning, I not only pick up my coffee, but I also get an earworm that stays with me until at least lunchtime, even on days when I'm able to listen to the iPod most of the day.

This morning, it was "In My Life" that was on a loop in my brain. Tuesday, it was "I'm Looking Through You," although that was especially nice since my brain kept switching back and forth between the original and Steve Earle's cover.

If they play "Run for Your Life" while I'm in there Thursday morning, I'm leaving a generous tip. Greatest stalker song ever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Love

is like celebrating the Fourth of July with dynamite.

What a fantastic show at Cat's Cradle Sunday night. Son Volt impressed me by being much more energetic (and rocking and LOUDER) than I thought they'd be given the more subdued nature of the new album. With the exception of some tuning problems on a couple of songs near the end of the first set, an incredible show. Overall, the band was tight, and I loved the effect on certain songs of having both pedal steel and lap steel. As I say, a pretty raucous affair.

But it was the opening act that blew me away. Sera Cahoone is out of Seattle and is currently with Sub Pop. It was just her on her acoustic (and occasional harmonica) and her pedal steel player, Jason Kardong. I'm a sucker for pedal steel, so I normally would have focused on that sound during her set, but this woman has an astounding voice. Crystal clear. Strong. Striking. Definitely worth checking out. I bought both of her CDs last night (both of her solo CDs, I should specify, since she's been in other bands over the years) and am excited to discover how she sounds accompanied by her full band.

Quite a number of videos of her on YouTube. Here's one of her playing live with her full band.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Good Kimchi

Have a number of reasons why a bad mood might be justified today, but I'm actually feeling pretty good.

1. The newest edition of Oxford American magazine arrived in the mail today, a week earlier than expected. This is their first (surprisingly) Southern Literature edition, and I've been looking forward to it for months now. One among many features prominently displayed on the cover: POEMS ABOUT: Nymphomania, Jesus, Vultures, & an Argument. (What, no Spanish Inquisition?! Must have been expected.)

2. I came down with a cold yesterday. Made for a slightly frustrating day at work, but I took Nyquil last night and slept well over nine hours, which is always something to celebrate. Today, I have head congestion, runny nose, and a soar throat, but because I have a ridiculous amount of studying to do this weekend (this blog post is my break between sections of the latest precalc lecture video: living life on the edge) I'm not going to take any meds. Nyquil during the day puts me in a stupor while non-drowsy meds cloud my head and in recent years have started causing me arrhythmia, which, though a bit disconcerting, is non-threatening in my case, according to my doc. So what's so good about this cold today? It's a perfect excuse to drink hot tea with honey and a shot of bourbon. Granted, if I have too much, my thinking will get just as cloudy as it would with the meds that I refuse to take. But this, my first cup of the day, is awfully good. [This was written about 8 hours ago. I have since completed my studies for the day and am thinking about having whistea #4 of the day... I think I've exhibited enormous self-control.]

3. I find myself kinda sorta understanding the math coursework. The progression seems to follow this pattern: (1) pull my hair out and cuss while initially reading the text (2) pull out more hair and curse further while trying to work the initial set of examples (3) feel a slight glimmer of recognition while watching the video lecture and (4) have a profound sense of "aha!" when doing the second batch of problems. We'll see how much of it still makes sense when I revisit it Sunday morning.

4. I'm dropping the C++ course. The math studies take up so much time (I not only have to keep up with the regular course material, I have to spend nearly as much time reviewing or relearning the fundamentals, and you know what they say about old dogs relearning old algebraic tricks) that I've paid very little attention to the programming work over the past week. It turns out that I make this decision two days before the deadline for partial tuition refunds. So while I'm not entirely thrilled that a single course turns out to be my limit at the moment, I'm relieved that I came to the realization early enough to get some of my money back.

5. Mailed two CDs from The Loners (also check this page), a two-man Raleigh band, to friends back in DC earlier today. Between and after study sessions today, I've been listening to those albums and watching several YouTube videos from live shows. Saw these guys at Tir Na Nog at the WKNC Local Beer Local Band night back in mid-August and they just about floored me: loud, energized, fun. Great time. Check 'em out.

6. And as I linked to the Tir Na Nog site in the previous Get Happy!! point, I saw that another local band is playing there tonight. In fact, they take the stage in about an hour. I Was Totally Destroying It is out of Chapel Hill, and I've liked the little bit I've heard of them on WKNC and their website. Might have to mosey downtown, this cold be damned. Lucky that I hadn't fixed that whistea #4 just yet.

[UPDATE: The IWTDI show wasn't exactly my kinda thing. By most accounts, this 5-piece group is a good band with good songs. But tonight, they were playing as a U2 cover band, with a couple of members even dressing the parts. No, thanks; I'd much prefer to see and hear them as themselves.]

Loners videos:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mathematically Speaking, I'm a Moron

Yesterday, I got the results from the math skills test that I had to take at NCSU last week. I'd mentioned in a previous post that I'd planned spend the weekend prior to the test reviewing, but I gave up on that idea when I realized how hopeless it was. After 20 years of successfully avoiding polynomial equations, cosines, calculations of conical surface areas, and the rest of it, a few days of light review was going to do nothing for me.

It turned out to be just as well that I didn't invest as much time preparing as I'd planned: while I might have been able to answer 2 or 3 questions that I skipped on the test, the majority of the questions left unanswered involved trigonometry, which hadn't even been on my agenda for review.

So, the result: It was a near-total massacre. We're talking Little Bighorn.

The test is scored so that one point is awarded for each correct answer while a quarter-point is deducted for each incorrect response to discourage blind guessing. Out of 50 questions, I answered only 18. And of those 18, I only answered 7 correctly. Ouch. Final score (rounded): 5 out of a possible 50.

Still, it was enough to allow me to take precalculus instead of having to start back at basic algebra. But who knows: it might be that a month from now, I'll be wishing I'd taken basic algebra anyway. As with so many things in my life at the moment, we'll see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

House of Freaks: Crack in the Sidewalk Documentary

Interesting short documentary about House of Freaks and the murder of the Harvey family.

It's an extraordinarily well-done piece. And it's great for the Freaks to get any attention for their music and their performances, albeit 20 years too late. I saw them half a dozen times, I think, and while they were always good, that last show at the Black Cat in Washington, DC, back in summer '95, I think it was, stands out as one of the top 10 best shows I've ever attended. Actually, that had already been a memorable show when Steve Wynn joined them, unannounced, for the last half of the night. Such great stuff.

On the other hand, I'm still not sure even as I type this if I'll post it because of the murder aspect. There's something about the coverage of this story -- it's not just this film, it's much of the coverage I've seen over the years -- that gives me the feeling of voyeurism at points. I think the counterargument in this case is that the documentary focuses much more on the band and the connections that Harvey and Hott made with fans and less so on the details of the crime, which, unfortunately, were ready-made for the sorts of sensationalistic coverage the story has created in the last three-plus years. Meaning, I think, that I've finally convinced myself.

And with that bit of explanation and hand wringing out of the way, finally, here's the link:
Crack in the Sidewalk
Also available on IMDB.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Raleigh Contrasts

I've walked this area a dozen times in the last two years, but the contrast between the North Carolina State Capitol and the Wachovia Capitol Center never caught my attention until yesterday.

Cold-Brewed Coffee

I love iced coffee, and this is an excellent and simple guide to making the best iced coffee you didn't pay $2 for. And there's no guilt-play involving tip jars, either, unless your kitchen setup is quite different from mine.

The piece kinda lies at the end in making you think that the final prep is quick and easy; no, actually, it takes bit of time to filter the mixture; plus, getting rid of the leftover grounds in the pitcher is also a bit of a messy pain. But it really is worth it.

I've seen other guides telling people to totally screw this up by either not refrigerating the mixture overnight and/or diluting the final product with equal parts water. No, no, no, no, no. Don't listen to those people. That would be an abomination before Juan Valdez's burro.

(I want some credit for resisting the temptation to substitute "ass" for "burro.")

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Maths Are Killing Me

I'm a newly enrolled NCSU non-degree student and will start taking classes later this month.

The program that I'm going to start working requires a calculus class. I know there's no way that I could take a calc course right off the bat: it's been 20 years since I've set foot in a math classroom. I assumed that I could enroll in the precalc course and take calc next spring, but it turns out that I first have to go over to the math dept and take a placement test before enrolling in any math classes.

OK, fine. That's a minor inconvenience, but I wasn't all that worried about it: I felt confident that with a few days to brush up on some concepts, I could score well enough to get into that precalc class.

Or not.

I've spent about an hour this evening going over some basic materials and am wondering exactly how many brain cells those long nights at Murphy's Pub and Galaxy Hut cost me back in the '90s. I'm beginning to envision myself not in a precalc course but in the bonehead class with a roomful of my fellow drooling morons as some long-suffering grad student pleads with us to please stop eating the damn paste.

What's the least common multiple of 18, 45, and 81? Jesus man, I don't even remember the concept coming up 20-25 years ago. I remember working with least common denominators, but LCM expects me to recall the LCD concept and reverse engineer it. You might as well ask me to close my eyes, stand on one foot, and recite the alphabet backwards for the effect this has on me.

I'm nowhere close to starting a review of geometry and algebra but already feel as if my head might just asplode.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Road Widening, Landscaping, and Local Bureaucracies

My attention was caught by a strange message that had been spray painted on the front of a house in Cary last Saturday morning. I kept meaning to go back and take a picture, but never quite got around to doing it, but that's OK since others better prepared had also taken notice. (How could anybody not, right?)

The full story is here.

I don't blame Bowden for being pissed, although I'm not certain that I'd deface my own property to express my frustration. I might need to go by there and take a couple of pics of my own, now that I think about it. The Flickr photo doesn't do justice to the tremendous slope that has become this guy's front yard.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cunker? Yeah, Then You're Probably a Fan

Why all the talk recently about Clash for cunkers? The Gang of Four were decent and all, but really, we're talking about an inferior imitation of Joe Strummer & Mick Jones. Clash for cunkers, indeed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Swine Flu Moguls

I want to start a band called the Swine Flu Moguls. We would only be together for the next several months. Or perhaps we'd continue on but change the name next spring.

I have no idea why this thought just hit me nor do I have a single clue as to why I believed it interesting enough to merit a blog posting. Nonetheless, here it is.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Another Weekend, Another Jump

Not wanting too much time to pass following my first jump, I went skydiving again this past Friday, this time near Wilmington, NC.

Despite having done it once before, preparing to exit the plane is still scary as hell; however, the resulting joys turn out to be no less diminished by having gone through the experience previously. One of several factors that made this jump a little different was the location: perfect weather (90 degrees and clear skies) provided fantastic views of the Atlantic, the Cape Fear River, the Intercoastal Waterway, and both Oak and Bald Head Islands. Stunning.

Had a slight problem with this jump when, halfway through freefall, my goggles went flying off my face. It took several seconds to readjust, and I have no idea how it is that I was able to keep my glasses from taking a two-mile plunge back to Earth without me. I've brought a spare set of glasses with me both times I've jumped, and I now have ample reason to continue doing so on future jumps.

UPDATE: Somebody made a comment joking about my having become an adrenalin junkie. While that may be true, the thrill is about much more than just the rush of freefall. Once the parachute is deployed, everything becomes instantly calm and peaceful. That serene glide down is normally about five minutes, but Friday's jump featured competing interests between me and my tandem instructor: a vertical draft had developed over the landing zone that was preventing us from coming down as quickly as we normally would. So while I was loving the extra time up in the air (judging from time stamps on some pictures, it was at least 10 minutes between chute deployment and landing), the instructor was fighting hard to get down ASAP as there were several other jumpers waiting behind me.