Thursday, July 29, 2010

Well, that, and food and science shows...

Ok, he's exaggerating a BIT, but really...He kinda has a point....

Nearly all the fiction programming we watch is crime or crime related at this point... at least for the summer anyway.

Hell, four years ago we barely watched TV at all... Then we got a DVR and we started actually liking TV again. We watch whatever we want, whenever we want, without commercials now. I'm pretty sure without a DVR, we'd stop watching TV again.

...and yeah, most of what we watch fictionwise, is about crime in some way.

Actually, we pretty much watch a fairly limited subset of genre: crime, medical, sci-fi, fantasy, adventure/espionage, cooking, science, and history shows.

The only things we watch that don't fit into those categories are "Bullshit!" "Pawn Stars" and "Top Shot", all three "reality" shows that are kinda hard to classify. 

Espionage/action shows used to be big... now not so much, and most of them are more crime oriented too. We WILL be watching "human target" again when it comes back on, but that's really about crime too. Burn notice? Crime... espionage is a crime, and most of the time what they are dealing with is just plain crime. The new show "Covert Affairs" is pretty much the same. Theoretically it's about espionage, but so far it's mostly been about murder.

Even all the Sci-Fi and fantasy is pretty much crime/mystery sci-fi... Though I suppose "true blood" is more about kinky sex than mystery; all of the major plots involve murder, kidnapping, and drug dealing.

We like other kinds of SciFi and Fantasy, but right now, that's pretty much all that's being offered.

There aren't any military shows left on the air at the moment. We used to watch a bunch of those (JAG, The Unit etc...), but there aren't any really on right now.

There were some decent modern westerns in the past ten years, but none right now.... and even then a lot of them were about crime or law enforcement or somehow otherwise crime related.

Same thing for legal shows. The once mighty genre (at one point taking up more than 50% of  one hour prime time shows) has been brought low so to speak... and even then most of them were also about crime, or crime related.

I SO miss the genre blending or genre defying shows like Firefly, and "Briscoe County Junior". SciFi western crime adventure comedies with dramatic moments...

We only watch two sitcoms... in fact the only 30 minute fiction series we watch at all, are "Hung" (a show about prostitution. Crime related); and "30 Rock" and "big bang theory", which are both on summer hiatus.

Oh wait... "Royal Pains" isn't about crime... usually (unless you count Evans shirts). Same thing for House. Both are mystery shows, but they're medical mystery shows so they don't really count.

And Mad Men started back up last week, so that's not about crime either...

Glee isn't about crime, but it's on hiatus as well

We WERE watching "Miami Medical", but they only produced 11 shows, and it hasn't been renewed. Same thing for "The Deep End", a legal show. Both are potential pickups for next year, but neither did particularly well on ratings so they aren't likely. So no legal shows and only two medical shows right now.

We used to watch CSI, and CSI Miami, but they just got too awful to keep watching.

Crime really has taken over the networks schedules.

As of right now, here's what our DVR list looks like (in order, but that order changes around based on season. In the summer we move the summer season shows to the top. When the fall season starts up we move those shows back up to the top):
1. True Blood
2. Mad Men
3. Rizzoli & Isles (new show for the summer)
4. The Glades (new show for the summer)
5. Memphis Beat (new show for the summer)
6. Scoundrels (new show for the summer)
7. Covert Affairs (new show for the summer)
8. Hung (summer season)
9. Leverage (summer season)
10. The Gates (new show for the summer)
11. The Good Guys (new show for the summer)
12. Lie to Me (summer season)
13. The Next Food Network Star
14. Burn Notice (summer season)
15. Royal Pains (summer season)
16. White Collar (summer season)
17. Haven (new show for the summer)
18. Glee
19. Chuck
20. Bones
21, Castle
22. NCIS
23. The Big Bang Theory
24. 30 Rock
25. House
26. In Plain Sight
27. Chopped
28. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
29. Mythbusters
30. The Best Thing I Ever Ate
31. Dinner: Impossible
32. Human Target
33. The Mentalist
34. Criminal Minds
35. Pawn Stars
36. Law & Order: Criminal Intent
37. Good Eats
38. Throwdown With Bobby Flay
39. Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
40. Man v. Food
41. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
42. Top Shot
43. Dexter

Oh and NO, that doesn't mean we watch 40-50 hours of TV a week. More like 25 or so. Half of these shows are summer only or split season, and half are currently on hiatus for the summer.

We usually sit and read, or play on our computers, in front of the TV from around 7 or 8pm, 'til around 11pm most nights. We don't go out much at night since we've got young kids.

We're also multitasking that whole four hours. It's when I do most of my reading, and most of my writing for example. Also when I mess around with my hobbies the most (last night I built a model airplane). The TV is really on as background noise most of the time.

Also, a lot of the time, we're watching DVDs of movies, or of foreign TV series, or older TV shows etc... Right now for example, we're about a third of the way through re-watching the entirety of Joss Whedons creative output (which we have, in its entirety, on DVD), in order.

Some of these we're just trying out, to see if we like them. The networks have really jumped on the split season/summer season thing the last two years so we don't really have the classic "summer re-run" season anymore. dvr's pretty much killed that.

Also, not on this list are Eureka,  Breaking Bad, and Fringe, which I watch on DVD after each season is over... and all three are about crime or law enforcement. I'm anxiously awaiting the U.S. DVD release of the UK show "Ashes to Ashes", which is the followon show to "Life on Mars" (the UK version is some of the best TV ever produced. The U.S. remake... wasn't). I watched the entirety of the UK series "Kingdom" recently; sadly it's been cancelled.

I also watch a bunch of shows and movies on Hulu, and on Netflix streaming. Usually old canceled TV shows, and foreign shows. I'm a big fan of British comedies and mystery shows.

Some of these things, Mel doesn't watch, just me. I sit up and watch them when I can't sleep; which being an insomniac is frequently. The combination of a TV show on DVD and a book tend to occupy my mind enough with relatively passive reception (rather than active participation and analysis as when I'm writing or on internet forums and blogs etc...), that after an hour or two I can sleep.

Listening to a fiction audiobook while I read a non-fiction book, or vice verse works well for me too. I can't listen to a fiction and read a fiction, or the other way round, because my head won't stay immersed in either, and I end up concentrating on one or the other.

Just plain reading, or listening, to one source at a time also works; but not as well for putting me to sleep. Something about having to process two completely independent sources of input prevents me from getting too deep into either and just reading it to the end (which is what will frequently happen with just one).

Anyway, of 30 scripted fictional shows we record, and another two we watch on DVD... there are only six that aren't crime related: we've got Glee, Mad Men, House, Royal Pains, 30 Rock, and Big Bang Theory. Of the six,

It's not that we disklike other genres, it's just of the good TV out there, that's what they are offering.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh Won't You Be My Neighbor

One of the biggest differences between our life in North Idaho and our old life in Scottsdale are the neighbors.

Sure we had neighbors in Scottsdale, the kind that came with high fences and nods. We even knew a few names but we weren't really, well, friendly. Everybody had their own lives and not much in common and the entire neighborhood was transitory.

Not so here.

Our one set of true neighbors, the only ones who live here year round anyway, introduced themselves and gave phone numbers the day we moved in. They also noticed the AR, and said we should go shooting sometime.

4 months later, and they drop in on a fairly regular basis their (grown and almost grown) kids included. They ask to borrow tools and the canoe, I get the occasional technical help with the lawnmower, that kind of stuff. We live next to some really nice, well-armed ex-canucks.

So today the entire family is in Coeur D'Alene running an errand and Chris decides we need to go to a hobby shop. He wants to introduce the kids to model rocket building and wants a pre-made kit to gauge their real interest.

Fast forward a few hours and we've got a launch pad set up on our newly mowed lawn with the kids waiting anxiously. We have our acre and a half, the acre next door that consists of the community water access, and our neighbor's acre and a half, and lake right in front of us. Plenty of drop zone for the rocket.

The contractor who is rebuilding our stairs tomorrow comes by to drop off the materials so we invite him and his son to watch.

Then I call out to the neighbor. He still has guests left over from his family reunion this weekend (4 RVs camped out on his lawn, quite a sight) so he and his grab lawn chairs to watch the action. We warn him the rocket may land on his side; he's good with that.

13 people, 6 on our lawn and 7 across the fence, watch the rocket reach an estimated apex of 1000 ft, and watch it fall. The nose lands in our yard, the body in the community lot.

And everybody is well entertained.

This is what passes for entertainment out here, and I'm glad we get to share it with such great people.


Cross-posted to We Few

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lost Another Friend I'd Never Met

On July 19th, 2010, Charles H. Sawders known widely as "Straightarrow" to the gunblogger community passed away.
Charles Sawders
65, of Doddridge, Ark., died Monday, July 19, 2010, in Vivian, La.

Mr. Sawders was born March 4, 1945, in Bakersfield, Calif. He was a pipe fitter and a Baptist.

Survivors include his wife, Cathy Williams Sawders of Doddridge; three sons, Hunter Sawders of New Jersey, Christopher Sawders of Brownswood, Texas, and Steven Turner of Doddridge; three daughters, Shelly Bowen of East Dorsett, Vt., Veronica Jenkins of Comanche, Okla., and April Doeppers of Omaha, Neb.; his mother, Fran Boon of Duncan, Okla.; one brother, Jack Boon of Florida; one sister, Cherri Quinn of Portales, N.M.; 12 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a number of other relatives.

Services will be 10 a.m. Friday at Olive Branch Methodist Church, Doddridge, with the Rev. Walter Burnett officiating. Burial will be in Olive Branch Cemetery under the direction of Hanner Funeral Service.

Visitation will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at the funeral home.

One can visit the funeral homes registration book online.

I have been talking with, and participating in this community with, Straightarrow since something like 2002 or 2003. A good man. Strong opinions well argued. 

Rest in Peace Straightarrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Refresher Course in History and Moral Philosophy

I was reminded of something today, which caused me to think very hard about an important experience in my life...

And I realized something...

Though I've only read it fully twice, and haven't read Robert Heinleins "Starship Troopers" in a hell of a long time; there are still to this day, entire passages that I can quite word for word from the book (and many others that I remember nearly word for word).


I had to think very hard about when the last time I read the book was. Thinking back, I realized that it was while I was in college, more than 15 years ago.
note: in my mind it's not "more than 15" it's "almost 20 years ago", but my wife says "Saying 'almost 20 years' makes you sound old... You aren't all THAT old"....

Actually I think either 16 or 17 years I don't remember the exact date, just where I was living and who I was living with at the time... which narrows it down sometimes between late '93 and early '95.
Of course, the fact that 1993 qualifies as "almost 20 years ago" induces a certain cognitive dissonance all by itself. 
I've read and re-read many Heinlein classics since then of course (most recently re-reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and  "Time Enough for Love", late last year and early this year); but for some reason I haven't read "Starship Troopers" or "Strange in a Strange Land", in almost 20 years.

 At any rate, time to correct that. I've got the complete works of Heinlein as ebooks, I'll start re-reading it tonight... It's pretty short I'll probably be through it by tomorrow. Maybe I'll re-read "The Sixth Column" another of my Heinlein favs (And a short one) that I havent read in years (though more recently than "Troopers"... I think I re-read it about 7 years ago, around the time I moved back to the U.S. from Ireland.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Woo Hooo, I got my Hulu Plus invite

Now, to see how much of my cable/satellite bill it can offset for $10 a month...

For those of you who don't know, Hulu, is a video streaming service that includes recent episodes of most of the current shows from ABC, NBC, Fox, and Showtime, plus many movies, full season archives of many older shows, and other non network TV shows.

The difference between regular Hulu, and HuluPlus, is that you get more episodes, including full series run archives for many shows, many in HD; and you can stream them to your iphone, ipad, computer, game console, internet connected BluRay player, and internet connected TV.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now That's a Change

So, we just received the first electric bill for this house in our name (the lease originally had our landlord receiving the bill and then billing us, but that was inconvenient, so now we're getting billed directly).

Wow what a change!

Last year our bill from SRP from June 14 to July 13 added up to $540.68. Our current bill from Avista for June 15 to July 14 is... $184.30.

Just a little bit different.

The breakdown:
Time Period July 2009 July 2010
kWh 4451 2264
Cost $488.87 $179.70
Cost Per kWh $.1098 $.0794
Monthly Basic Charge $12.00 $4.60
City Tax $8.26 none
County and State Tax $31.56 none
Total $540.68 $184.30

Yeah... the cost of living is a little lower here huh...

Oh, and though we don't have air conditioning in this house, the numbers here include the cost of running the hot tub 24/7 (1500 watt heater, plus pump).

And of course, without the ever increasing AC cost through the summer, our bill should be about the same for July (actually July 15th through August 14th), through September; vs. the $700 per month we paid last July, August, and last September (yes, our June-July bill was relatively LOW last year).

The savings from one summer month alone, is enough to buy heating oil and firewood for the whole winter.

Oh and now we have an idea of how much generator we need to buy for the inevitable winter blackouts.

Cross-posted to We Few

A little bit of insight into why the Democrats are losing so badly this election cycle...

It's because they don't realize that the elements of their "turnaround plan", are what is causing them to lose in the first place:

From Mark Halperin, writing in Time:
"What has kept the easily panicked denizens of Capitol Hill from open revolt until now was a shared confidence that there was still plenty of time to turn things around, and that the White House had a strategy to do just that. (Comment on this story.)

The two-part scheme was pretty straightforward. First, Democrats planned a number of steps to head off, or at least soften, the anti-Washington, anti-incumbent, anti-Obama sentiment that cost them the Massachusetts seat. Pass health care, and other measures to demonstrate that
Democrats could get things done for the middle class; continue to foster those fabled green shoots on the economy, harvesting the positive impact of the massive economic stimulus bill passed early in the Administration; heighten the contrast between the two parties by delivering on Wall Street reform and a campaign-funding law to counteract January's controversial Supreme Court decision.
Use all of those elements to contrast the Democrats' policies under Obama with the Republicans' policies under Bush, rather than allow the midterms to be a referendum on the incumbent party. "

.... Soooo their plan is basically "Wow, it didn't work, let's do it again only HARDER".

What a work of utter fantasy and self delusion...

We call this "believing your own bullshit".

See, the Democrats really honestly think that "the middle class" is all for their program, and they just aren't executing well enough etc... That the mass of voters frustration is about their inability to get things done.

In reality, the mass of voters are CHEERING because they caren't getting things done. They don't WANT this healthcare boondoggle. They don't want more restrictions on free speech. They don't want more government control and interference in their lives and their businesses.

The far left, and the idiot youth (and yes, they are useful idiots as far as the Democractic political machine is concerned) are disappointed (At best) and riled up (at worst) by the Democrats failures, but they make up a small minority of the voting electorate (no more than 20 percent, and most years a lot less). Most of them are reporting to pollsters that they won't be voting this time around.

The Democrats don't realize, it's not their lack of execution, it's their program itself that's killing them; because "the middle class" recognizes that said program is really going to hurt them, to benefit the non-taxpaying class, and the Democratic political establishment.

"The Middle Class" recognize when someone is trying to steal from them, they don't like it, and when it comes down to protecting their wallets, THEY VOTE.  It's why whenever the left wants to pass some big social legislation, they have to lie to the people and tell them that it won't increase THEIR taxes, just those rich fat cats up the hill, and those evil corporations...

Only they've beaten that horse to death now, and the truth is obvious for anyone who wants to look. The lefts agenda will directly hurt the wallet of everyone who actually pays taxes.

The people may be apathetic about most things, and they may be uninformed and unobservant about politics... but they aren't stupid. Hit'em in the wallet, and they will hit back.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Anger, it is MINE


Last month, my web hosting provider screwed up my billing on two of the TWENTY SIX accounts I have with them (I manage a bunch of web sites, domains, hosting accounts, mail hosting accounts etc...).

For some reason they were trying to bill to a very old credit card that expired in 2006. Now, they had been successfully billing me with the default method on file, for all my accounts, for over ten years now; and were still doing so for my 24 other accounts... I'm not exactly sure how or why this happened now, but OK, it did.

They called me up a few weeks ago, and over the phone we supposedly fixed it, so that ALL twenty six of my accounts, products, and services, were being billed in the same way.

That was the 8th of July.

Yesterday, the 18th of July, they deleted the accounts, AND THE CONTENTS OF THE SITES, without notifying me. I found out this morning when I got to a domain parking page instead of my personal web site (which up until yesterday, had been up continuously since 1993)

Apparently, they have been trying to re-bill the same old expired card, again and again, since our phone call.

It only took me over an hour on the phone for them to figure out this is what they had done. Against their own policy (which is 30 days past the first notice, which was 6/28), and somehow against the rules of the automated system.

I've been using this company for over ten years. I have spent, at this point, tens of thousands of dollars with them (both personally, and for all the websites I manage), for hundreds of different domains, hosting accounts, mail hosting accounts, certificate management, and related services.

This is NOT how you run a business. How you handle good customers, who spend lots of money with you. When someone has 24 accounts with you in good standing, and for some reason two of them are not, you find out why and you FIX IT.

After an hour on the phone with them, and their distinct lack of helpfulness, I informed them that I would be cancelling all my services with them, and that prior to the next domain renewal time for each of my 21 active domains, I would be changing registrars (it's a real pain to change registrars in the middle of the registration term, especially since I recently renewed a bunch of domains. 60 days on either side of the renewal can be considered a blackout period for a registrar change unless you want to deal with a bunch of extra crap).

So, now I need to find a new registrar and hosting company, find backups of everything, reformat everything how the new host needs it formatted, report... Then I need to change my mail hosting, and deal with the most likely several days of buggy mail transfer.

One of the sites has NO direct backup because it was built in a CMS. We'd have to rebuild the CMS elsewhere (presuming it was supported on that host) then reconfigure it to match, then import the old and incomplete exports... It just isn't going to happen, that site is lost for good.

Oh yes, this is going to be fun. Really.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Majority Math

Ok, so I'm hearing a lot of noise from people on the right and libertarian side of the aisles that "the dems are going to lose everything this election and we can undo everything Obama has destroyed yaaaay!!!!"

Yeah... No. Not Gonna Happen.

Oh, I agree the dems will lose huge, but I doubt they'll lose enough to lose control completely.

In fact, realistically it's a mathematical impossibility in the senate for them to lose too badly; as there aren't enough seats up for reelection that have a serious challenge mounted against them.

note: I'mna highlight the magic numbers for this post so you don't need to wade through the text if you just feel like skimming. 

Right now the senate is 59-41 dem counting the two "independents".

There are 36 seats up this year. Twelve are widely considered dead locks for the incumbents, leaving 24 "competitive" seats.

Six republicans and five democrats are retiring and one each were defeated in primary challenges, putting eleven seats in play without an incumbent.

The Republicans are going to lose at least one of those six seats because popular republicans are retiring from otherwise democratic states and their potential replacements are not doing particularly well, maybe two or three because of split voting in Florida, problems in Missouri and Kentucky with the Republican candidates, primary problems in Ohio and Kansas etc...

At this point, Ohio looks like it's going Democrat, and Missouri is an absolute tossup, and they really shouldn't be.

Florida has the Republican support split two ways, with the popular republican governor (who would almost certainly win the election in a walkaway if he were the Republican candidate but wasn't sure he could win the Republican primary against a hard right opponent) running as an independent. These are real problems for the Republicans electorally.

Basically in every one of the states where the Republican senator is retiring, the Republican candidates are killing each other in the primaries, or in the media (or are killing themselves in the media).

It seems likely, at least one and maybe as many of three of those are going to end up a loss.

On the retiring dem seats, they'll likely hold Connecticut because the Republicans (including Linda McMahon of WWE wrestling fame) are killing each other in the primaries. The dems are likely to hold Illinois with Giannoulas, though just barely and probably only by playing Chicago ball. At this point Delaware looks like a win for the Republicans. Indiana is almost certainly going Republican, as is North Dakota.

So let's call that a net pickup of 2 for the Republicans.

There was one primary defeat on the dem side, Arlen Specter. Pat Toomey is almost certainly going to win that one for the Republicans, but not by much.

There was one primary defeat on the Republican side, but it's in Utah. That seat is going to a Republican. Even though there are some major issues with the candidates at this point, the dem candidate barely registers on the polls.

Net pickup of 3.

That leaves eleven incumbent races as "competitive", five dem and six republican:

Boozman is going to CRUSH Lincoln in Arkansas for a Republican switch.

Right now, Colorado is hard to call, but it's looking like a switch to republican.

Reid is in deep trouble in Nevada, but he has a TON more money, and he's only behind by 2-3 points... I think he keeps his seat.

Washington state is a total tossup between Rossi and Murray... It could stay or it could switch, but for now favor the incumbent.

Wisconsin also a dead heat, but Feingold is likely to keep his seat as he's one of the DNCs most important defensive moves.

On the Republican side, I don't see any of the so called "competitive seats" losing right now.

Call that a net pickup of 2.

 So that's a likely net pickup of 5 total for a 54-46 Senate. I think that's the most likely scenario, and that it's highly unlikely it will be any worse for the Republicans.

In order to get a majority, they need a net pickup of 10.

Even if the Republicans don't lose a single seat that's a net of  6.

If they don't lose a single seat and pick up all the tossups, that would be a net pickup of 11 (for a 52 to 48 senate), but that's NOT going to happen. I think a best case scenario is a net pickup of 9.

Of course, a net of 9 gives us a deadlocked senate.

On the house side, it's a different story. Right now, it's 256 to 179 dem, needing a swing of 39 seats to swap hands.

That's definitely going to happen. There is no sane person, currently paying attention, who reasonably believes the dems are going to lose less than 39 net seats. Nancy Pelosi is almost literally screaming from the rooftops that no, they are going to keep control, but it's just noise.

The dems are going down hard in the house. They're going to pick up maybe 2 or 3 races from Republicans, and lose as many as 106.

They're definitely losing at least 50; even the DNC thinks that's the minimum (and are already allocating money based on that conception). They are internally estimating a more realistic number at around 70-80 net lost seats. The white house press secretary just said they thought it could be as many as 100 net lost.

There are currently about 150 "safe" dem seats, and 165 "safe" republican seats; and it looks like the dems will lose most if not all their 106 seats in serious contention.

If the dems are LUCKY, under the most optimistic projections right now, they'll hold on to 200 seats, giving the Republicans a 35 seat majority.

Oh and of course, as usual, there isn't a single realistic chance that anyone other than a Democrat, Republican or "Independent" who is really one or the other but for some reason couldn't win under their proper label (unless you count Rand Paul... I don't. Bernie Sanders isn't up for election this year. He's really a socialist, but runs as independent).

What that means however, is that  under no realistic scenario, will the Republicans get a 2/3 majority in either house, which is what it would take to undo at least some of the Obama damage.

You've got to get veto proof, and fillibuster proof, in both houses; to start repealing and fixing the damage, and that's just not going to happen.

Believe me, while there are dissenter Democrats tolerated right now, the Democratic party leadership will expel people from the party before it lets them side with the Republicans against Obama when they end up in the minority.

Oh and of course, the whole premise rests on the idea that if they get in with a big enough majority, the Republicans will actually FIX anything; rather than just finding new and different ways to break everything EVEN MORE.

A Question of Revolution and Reputation

Being a music geek, I was recently asked the question "Some have said that Bob Dylan was a genius while other said that he got a free pass for writing junk because he is Bob Dylan. Which is true?"

Well, the statements are phrased as if they were mutually exclusive, when in fact both are true.

Dylan wrote some great stuff, he plagiarized some pretty good stuff too (actually, rather a lot of stuff, and he's never been seriously called on it, though it's not exactly a secret)... and he wrote some mediocre stuff, and some utter crap.

As far as his singing... Well, sometimes it was the right voice for the song (Subterranean homesick blues, rolling stone), sometimes it wasn't a particularly good voice for the song (Tangled up in blue, Maggies Farm), and sometimes his voice is bloody awful for the songs (Watchtower, Masters of War).

On "Watchtower" Dylan himself said (and I'm paraphrasing since the quote is reported differently from different sources) something like "I wrote this song for Jimi Hendrix. I didn't know I was writing it for him, but now it's clear".

I think his lasting legacy once the baby boomers are gone, will be Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, a few singles from other albums and all the songs he wrote and then other people did something with (dozens).

That said... You have to remember the times a lot of these songs were released.

Dylans first real hits came out in 1963. "A Hard Rains Gonna Fall", "Blowin in the Wind", and "Girl from the north country".

For these songs to break through into the main stream (mostly on the success of other people singing his songs actually) in 1963, was incredible. The top songs of 1963 were "Sugar Shack" by the Fireballs, and "Surfin USA" by the beach boys (Dylan himself didn't make the top 100 singles, but Peter Paul and Mary did singing Dylans "Blowin in the Wind", and the album hit number 22). Other popular selections from that year included Sukiyaki and Andy Williams "cant get used to losing you".

"Can't get used to losing you" vs. "Blowin in the wind"...

We think of the '60s as a time of great social change; but if you look at pop culture, most of this change didn't really burst onto the public consciousness until 1967 or 1968... and has been point out by many, most of what the public thinks of as "the sixties" didn't really happen in most of the 60s... it was mostly from '68 to '74.

But Dylan was laying it down in '63.

In '64 he released "the times, they are a changin", and "It Aint me Babe"... Top 3 songs of '64: "I want to hold your hand" and "She Loves You" by the Beatles, and Louis Armstrong doing "Hello Dolly".

'65... Dylan releases "Subterranean Homesick Blues" off of "Bringing it all back home", and then the album that breaks him into the wide world "Highway 61 revisted" followed 8 months later by "Blonde on Blonde".

Top song of '65? Wooly Booly by Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs. "Like a Rolling Stone" was number 41. '66? Barry Sadlers "Ballad of the Green Beret". Dylan hit 82 with "Rainy Day Woman".

That was the peak of his career. It was almost two years before he would release another album (December of '67 with "John Wesley Harding"), and by then the world had caught up to Dylan, and he wasn't the revolutionary any more. He didn't make the top 100 that year... though "The Monkees" did, four times...

In fact his next top 100 single wouldn't be 'til '69 with "Lay Lady Lay" off "Nashville Skyline" (a polarizing album, that I actually like, but most critics and casual fans didn't... it still made it to #3 on the album charts), and it would be his last top 100 charting single (though his albums continue to do well even today).

Which just reinforces that what charts isn't necessarily what people think of later as "great music"...
... though actually, as an aside, I need to defend the Monkees.

First, I really like a lot of the Monkees stuff. It was great songwriting, from professional songwriters like Goffin and King, Lieber and Stoller, Boyce and Hart, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond etc... And at the very least competent, and even sometimes excellent musical performances. Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith were both professional musicians (both played guitar and sang, Tork also played Bass, Banjo, Violin, Piano, and Organ). Micky Dolenz was a child actor, but after lessons and some time with studio musicians was actually a decent drummer. Davy Jones, also a child actor, played piano, drums and bass. Both Dolenz and and Davy Jones could sing quite well;  both having distinctive voices that worked very well for their particular songs. 
The DID in fact play their own instruments, though they ALSO used session musicians. They were a real band,  and are derided for not playing or writing their own music etc... Well, big secret folks, that's how almost every band from a major label worked in the 50s and 60s. That's what A&R people did. They took artists, and combined them with repertoire from the record companies catalog or contract songwriters. Most artists never wrote their own music... and in fact even today most pop artists still don't... and on studio records of the time, most artists used session players for various parts, and again they still do. 
The Monkees actually had to threaten to walk out on their contracts if they weren't allowed to put their own music, and play their own instruments on the records, from the second album on (and even on the first album, they used Guitar from Tork and Nesmith). Although not every track had every part by a Monkee, at least half the tracks on all the remaining albums featured instrumentals from Tork and Nesmith, and by the last four albums they were doing mostly original composition.
People often called them some variant of "fake beatles", but in fact they were good friends with the Beatles; and all of the Beatles have (or had) repeatedly said in interviews how much they liked and respected the Monkees both as guys, but also musically.

The Monkeys put out 9 albums in 4 years of generally quite good pop rock music, all of which were in the top 40 albums, and the first four of which hit number one on the billboard album charts. Yes, they did it with a strong studio backing them, and a TV show, and outside songwriters etc... But that is no less difficult than many other pop stars have had to do, and any way you take it, is an achievement worthy of some respect.

Oh and take this as you will... But Mike Nesmith has gone on to a very successful career in music both as an artist and a producer. He created the concept of "music videos" as we know them today, made a successful venture out of it, and then turned it over to Warner cable, who turned it into... Yes that's right... Mike Nesmith came up with MTV, and was the producer, co producer, or executive producer on a couple hundred of the early videos played on the network. He also won the first Grammy given for a video.
At any rate, Dylan never really had much single success, but his albums have always charted well. He only ever missed the top 100 albums in '62 with his first release (which didn't chart, even when re-released after his later top ten successes); and in 34 studio albums has only missed the top 40 albums 4 other times (the widely hated "Knocked out loaded" and "down in the groove" from the early 80s, "good as I been to you" and "world gone wrong" both in the 90s) and other than his first uncharting album, never missed the top 100 ...with even his awful Christmas album making number 23.

When albums chart well and singles don't that usually means you aren't getting a lot of mainstream airplay; and your albums are mostly being purchased by devoted fans. That seems to have always been the case with Dylan, outside of the period 1964-1969... and really '65-68, which can be seen as his "mainstream rock" period.

But man.. from '63 to '66... it really was revolutionary what he was doing. THAT is what makes him legendary.

A bit sick at the moment

Nothing major, just a little stomach disturbance last night and today... still irritating. I'm pretty much running from bed to bathroom every few minutes the last few hours.

Always fun to combine seep deprivation with body revolt, and general irritation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

WF, WHF - The Local Food Movement

There's a new post up at We Few:

I am a member of the Local Food Movement.

Am I a card-carrying Organic Only soccer mom? Uh, no. The word "organic" means next to nothing to me, its overly squishy and variable. Oh, and comes with a horrendous price tag. As for the purported benefits that a whole post by itself.

Am I an eco-nut worried about the carbon that's being released into the air by those evil delivery trucks and contributing to "global warming"? Most definitely not.

Am I a free-range cruelty-free we're-evil-because-we-eat-animals PETArd? You're kidding, right?

I am a food snob.

A Lesson in Class and Grace

Tonights Top Shot...

There's a way to do it, and a way not to do it. Caleb Giddings showed the world that he knows how to do it.

I realize this was months ago now sir; but I have to congratulate you for showing that you were, in every way, the better man.

... Actually, that leads me into something that bugs me...

Look, I know it's easy to poke fun at Caleb because he's short, and he looks and sounds like a kid... It bothers me that the producers decided to play that up.

It doesn't surprise me, but it bothers me.

Frankly, I don't think that Caleb has been treated with the respect that he is due.

I've given Caleb a lot of shit over the past few years, but that's good natured "blogger and shooter to blogger and shooter" shit. When it comes down to it though, I'm right there to acknowledge and congratulate him for his shooting accomplishments, on his excellent journalism on competitive shooting, and for his efforts to advance the shooting sports.

I think it's only what he's due.

They label Caleb as a "collegiate shooter", but never mention in the show (it is on the web site) the fact that he is a competitive and in general highly ranked (he is one of the top shooters in his region), IDPA, USPSA, and Steel Challenge shooter.

Obviously, this was to play up his apparent youth, but he wasn't by far the youngest (Caleb is 27). Kelly of course is only 22, but Brad is just 26; and on the other side, Andre, and Blake are just 28, and JJ and Peter are just 29.

Also... and this one REALLY bothers me, much more than anything else...

...Unlike all the other veterans on the show, where they always put "former marine" etc... under their name, they never label, note, or bring up that Caleb is also a veteran (it isn't even really on the website, just a quick note about the Coast Guard academy). I find that extremely disrespectful, both of Calebs service, and of the Coast Guard.

It's just a matter of respect, plain and simple.

Yeah, I know, the Coast Guard has been moved under homeland security, and yes I know they get a lot of crap about not really being military... Bull. I've known a lot of Coast Guardsmen in my life, and every one of them deserved the same respect and courtesy due any other service member.

Oh and another pet peeve of mine (this one Caleb and I have actually talked about)... those of you who think the Coast Guard isn't military, because they "don't put themselves in harms way" (I have actually had other servicemembers say this to me, nevermind civilians) I'm sorry, that's just silly and ignorant.

I'll give the Coasties as much shit as anybody else (including calling them coasties, which they hate), but (not to denigrate any of our armed services) at the end of the day I will guarantee you that most Coast Guardsman spend more time in harms way in their career than 90% of the members of the other services (and for damn sure they save more lives every year). Not only are they the nations defacto drug cops on our coasts and waterways (and all the risk that entails. Drug smugglers don't play nice), but they also face a much bigger enemy, who attacks in times of war and times of peace equally... The Ocean.

Every sailor knows, The Ocean is doing it's damndest to kill every last person floating on it or in it, every moment of every day, and if you screw up, she's got you.

The Coast Guard has an unofficial motto that I think says everything you need to know about the service:
"You have to go out... you don't have to come back".

I know Caleb has nothing but positive feelings about his experience on Top Shot, and that it was a tremendous opportunity that I'm sure will prove out to be a great benefit to his career as a firearms and shooting sports journalist. And I'm sure he's going to disagree with the fact that I think he wasn't treated properly...

I just don't think that anyone who has put on this countries uniform and put himself in harms way; and has come home and taken care of his family, and gone on to shoot at a championship level; should be portrayed on national television as a beardless boy.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

This whole relaxing thing...

Kinda workin... Finished two books today... sadly both were crap, but I finished them. Been reading three more (yes I sometimes have two or three books going at once, plus the one were reading together with the kids, plus the audiobook the wife and I listen to together when we don't feel like TV or conversation etc...) finished one two days ago, prolly gonna finish t'other one tonight before I go to sleep.

Not sleeping enough, but really I never do.

The only bad parts about this week, are that I had to take a couple hours out of it for work (once you hit this level, theres no such thing as a week off without interruptions. At least this was only a couple hours), and that it hit 90 today and we don't have AC (though we do have a portable AC unit, it isn't very effective).

So it was a bit hot late afternoon and into the evening, but come 9 oclock it started cooling down nice, and now it's a lovely 63 outside, and 74 inside with fans blowing cool air through the whole house.

I'll take this over central AC in Phoenix any day.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Oddest Damn Dog That You Ever Did See

We love mutts.

All of our dogs are mutts. This is due to a mixture of not being breed fanatics, not being breeders, not wanting to keep uncut dogs, and a weakness for shelter dogs. More specifically a weakness for politically incorrect dogs.

We're familiar with the mixed bag mutts bring. Some of the best (and worst) qualities of each breed seem to be magnified with some interesting combinations. Jayne, our pitbull/Rottweiler mix, seems to have gotten a double dose of lapdog, teddy bear, and high pain tolerance. Zoe, our coonhound/Rottweiler mix, got a double dose of affectionate and trouble-making.

For weird qualities though, Wash takes the cake.

Wash is... we don't know. Obviously Doberman, some Rottweiler, and the double coat he's developing suggests German Shepherd like we always thought. His ears resemble a bat, his tail is a lethal weapon, and he's got incredible hearing. All wrapped in a 60 or so lb lapdog and companion.

This dog follows me everywhere. Whatever I'm doing, he's there. He sits and waits by the gate when I go get the mail. He's the first to show up when I get home from wherever.

That's normal, very attached pack behavior. Wash is not normal.

Wash is a pyro.


There's the typical "hound dog lying at the hearth" fireplace behavior. Then there's doggy pyro territory.

On the 4th we set off our fireworks in the yard. The kids were watching from the top deck, Chris was setting off the fireworks and sitting 10 feet away, and I was sitting 15 feet away on the bottom steps with the hose ready.

Jayne watched the fireworks with the kids. Wash watched the fireworks with me. Totally unafraid, tail wagging.

The louder the fireworks got, the closer to them he went. The brighter, the closer. The higher the keen of the sound, the closer he went. He was "investigating" with his tail wagging.

I finally had to hold him back because he got too close.

I've seen dogs run away from fireworks. I've never see a dog run towards them though.

Oddest damn dog.


Cross-posted to We Few

Low Sodium Levels Suck

Sometimes I am a complete and utter idiot.

I was born with natural low sodium levels. It's genetic. My renal-failure on-dialysis brother is, as far as I know, the only kidney patient who has ever been told to eat more salt.

To top that off, I'm on a nearly no processed food diet, since we cook almost everything from scratch. That means I don't get salt the way most Americans do, through excessive salt in food.

I'm also very sensitive to the taste of salt and don't like excessive amounts.

Salt is necessary for hydration, and necessary to keep dehydration at bay. Drinking enough water to keep hydrated is pointless without eating enough salt to keep the water in your cells.

I learned this lesson hard in Phoenix, where merely walking out the door was enough to make me dehydrated. Summer was intolerable, and to this day I'm the only person I know who took runner's salt tablets just to keep hydrated.

Ever try to find salt tablets in a health food or vitamin store? They look at you like you're nuts. Salt is bad for you, didn't you know?

So compared to constant dehydration in the desert the summer here so far has been a breeze.

Until it got up to 80 and severe clear that is, and I forgot that I needed salt with all that water. Water drunkenness is just as bad, if not worse, than dehydration itself. Sure feels worse.

So now I'm making myself some Southern Gatorade (sweetened iced tea with salt added), and I will be drinking at least a gallon a day of it until the temperature dips again.


Cross-posted to We Few

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Increasingly Obvious

Napoleon once said:
"Never ascribe to malice, that which can be adequately explained by incompetence"

The gulf, the economy, the court, voter intimidation, Iraq, Afghanistan...

...At this point, it should be obvious, incompetence is no longer an adequate explanation.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

--And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Holy crap I'm on vacation...

Well, as of five minutes ago, I am on vacation for the next 8 days and 15 hours... and I aint gonna do a damn thing  all week long 'cept whatever mood takes me.

Ok... that's not true... I'mna cheat for two hours on Thursday, because somebody scheduled a critical project meeting with top management (CIO level) for one of my projects on Thursday... but that's the ONLY work I'mna do all week.

I like two kinds of vacations. The kind where you do nothing but whatever strikes your fancy for a week; and the ones where you something you've never done before, may never be able to do again, and/or could possibly kill you.

This'll be the first time off I've taken from work this year that WASN'T taken up with the move (I took 5 days for the move, and it was WORK the entire damn time that's for sure) and man I do need it.

I took a couple weeks off at Christmas last year... but that's Christmas, and I took it off because I had to use up my excess vacation time for the year, not so I could enjoy it. Doesn't really count. Plus, living in AZ... Meh. Not the most relaxing, even in winter.... especially since we were already starting to get ready for the move (which was originally going to be in February instead of March).

Now, I've got a lake, and a canoe, and a small boat (that needs a new outboard which I don't have yet unfortunately), and the entirety of north Idaho to have fun in; and nothing particularly hanging over my head to worry about.

I think I'll read a lot, do some writing, finish a bunch of big posts (of course I said I was going to do that over Christmas, and I ended up not... ) watch some movies I've been meaning to watch... and if I don't so what.

That's the joy of the "do nothing" vacation.

I'mna swim in the lake every day... or not... but probably yeah, and warm up in the hot tub every night. Play with the kids all week. Maybe get some work done on the little boat, get it ready for an outboard. Maybe build a little patio furniture in the shop. Smoke some meat, grill some steaks and some sausages...

Oh and I got a decent sized box of fireworks for Sunday:

Too bad Idaho only allows class C (15 feet height or less) I could really go for some skyrockets; but I got a couple of what should be pretty spectacular ground bursters and fountains.

It'll be the first time the kids have ever seen fireworks up close; and we're gonna let'em stay up late so we can do them in full dark (which isn't til after 9 around here these days).

Generally I plan to enjoy a summer like I haven't since I was 15 in New Hampshire, on Lake Winnepesaukee.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Summer Homeschooling Rant

Today we discovered that Daughter the Older has lost some of her math skills, or is pretending that she can't remember. Given that I distinctly remember her 1st grade teacher, a strict nun, instructing me to help her rehearse her times tables and sign off on them, and then testing DTO on said tables, I think it's the latter.

She's been sentenced to a summer of remedial education via Mommy so she learns that 1. she's supposed to remember this stuff, and 2. never to pretend that she doesn't know EVER AGAIN.

Thus I'm wading through textbooks, curriculum, software...

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

I've found teaching resources come in distinct flavors.

1. OMG expensive homeschooling curriculum of the "tough" variety.
2. Fluffy bunny entertaining "education" to make parents feel better about their kids spending all their time coloring.
3. Fluffy bunny "educational" software sold according to its interactive qualities and last updated for Windows Me.
4. "Conservative" (God I wish) curricula made for Bible thumpers specifically.
5. Used school textbooks.

Gee, which one am I going to pick? Option number 5 please.

This is where it gets fun.

How does a person pick a textbook anyway? There's thousands available, especially once all the editions are considered.

Some kind of rating system would be nice, right?

So I look up textbook ratings, and I get this site.

Looks good, right?

That is until you get to the reading textbooks ratings, and see their criteria for the 1993 ratings.

Texas approved five basal reader series for local use beginning in 1993. All contain occultic, supernatural stories, for example, shamanism (witch doctor techniques) and irrational manipulation of nature. One series describes com­muni­cation with the dead. None uses genuine phonics.

They rank here in descending order from best to worst, based upon the proportion of occult to wholesome stories.

That's it, I'm going to bed before I smash my poor netbook to pieces.


Just change the meaningless titles, and I've had this conversation a thousand times