Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This And That


I woke up this AM feeling kind of sickly, like I'm coming down with a cold: achy, sniffly, that sort of thing. It feels like the whole month of January I've been fighting something or other in the cold/flu department - as well as doing mano-a-mano combat with my usual depressive/anxious/OCD tendencies - and as wicked-frigid as it's been, I haven't been able to get out walking as much as I'd like.

Parenthetically, it was around twenty below zero last night, with wind-chill factors of forty below, and at mid-morning as I write this, it's still ten below. Gaahhh! The only place fit for walking at these temps is indoors, at the mall, or at a track in the gym. Where the bleep is that dastardly Global Warming the Chicken Littles keep prattling on about?

Okay, where was I? Anyway, I haven't been able to get out walking as much as I prefer, but since I've had the past couple of days off on Daddy Duty®, I did squeeze in a brisk 5km walk at the mall yesterday AM, and hoped to again today, but I'm just not going to make it. I have to take the girls to appointments all PM, and I'm not feeling at all well. Gawd, I wish I had a gallon of Lotsa Pulp Tropicana Orange Juice right now.


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Oh yeah, I'm wearing a pair of Wrangler Thinsulate-Lined Jeans, just about the warmest jeans ever. I paid a visit to Kaplan's - clothing store in Minneapolis - earlier this month and bought a whole lotta stuff, spent nearly three hundred dollars, and my haul included these jeans. I've seen fleece-lined ones before, but I didn't know that they even made them with Thinsulate, and I gotta tell you, if you need to be outdoors in weather like this, having a pair of insulated jeans makes a huge difference. I just don't know how I got thru some thirty-plus winters here in Minnesohcold without owning a pair or two.

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About a week and a half ago I chronicled the tiresome task I'd undertaken of getting a used Mac up and running WIFI, an older machine deeded by my MIL for my girls to use.

After hours and hours of effort, I finally got it working, but in short order the machine suddenly heaved a deep sigh and its spirit sped off for Valhala. After divining the entrails of several roadkill critters, I decided I would be better off buying a new used machine than trying to re-animate the now-deceased one, and so it was that I came to pay a visit to Que Computers in Minneapolis, and spent a hard-earned $200 on what seemed to be a nice kid-friendly machine.

Of course, the trouble with normal is that it always gets worse: the *new* used machine itself decided to stop booting up this week, and what's worse, when I ran some diagnostic software on the machine, the two internal hard-drives don't show up, like they don't even exist. I finally pulled out an external backup firewire hard-drive I made for just such a contingency, and booted up off that.

And so I have the machine functioning again, but it has two non-working hard-drives in its belly, and it seems unlikely that the two internal drives would just fail like that. I suspect it's something to do with the IDE controller, but I will have to take the whole thing in for service to get it repaired. At least the machine has a ninety-day warranty, and the shop said they will fix it, but still, the idea of having to haul it cross-town yet again is more-than-annoying. Meh.

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I've been listening to two different audio books on and off during the past week: Neil Gaiman's 'Stardust,' read by the author, and Rhonda Byrne's 'The Secret,' also read by the author. The two books could not be more different.

'Stardust' is a charming fairy-tale for adults, first released as a graphic novel, and later as a major motion-picture. Gaiman reads the audio book version himself, to great effect, and it's a treat to get to hear the author's own emphases and vocal inflections. He's very good, and the novel, like all great novels, doesn't just entertain, it informs truths about life and living because, well, that's what great novels do.

'The Secret' on the other hand, is just dreadful. Or rather, even though the audio book is lavishly produced - with the requisite tinkly new-age music - and even though Rhonda doesn't have a bad speaking voice, the content is such utter balderdash that it's hard to keep a straight face whilst listening. Granted, there are occasional flashes of genuine metaphysical and psychological insight, but the whole time I've been listening to 'The (so-called) Secret' I keep thinking of the title of that Deana Carter album, 'Did I Shave My Legs For This?,' and even if he *didn't* actually utter those famous words, the phrase the attributed to PT Barnum would seem appropriate to insert here.

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I've also been listening alot to Fiona Apple's 'Extraordinary Machine,' which I bought when it first came out, but hadn't listened much to it, until now.

I don't know why I was never really into Fiona when she first burst onto the music scene, still a teen but extremely literate and massively talented. I guess I found the whole 'Sullen Girl' mode and motif of 'Tidal' a bit wearisome, but the thing is, nearly every song she's ever written and recorded seems to be a pissed-off and depressing outburst about a relationship of some kind, and maybe like alot of men, I am a wee bit scared of pissed-off and angry women. Then again, I suspect we men have good reason to be a wee bit scared.

But truth be told, I've come to appreciate her writing more and more in recent years, and I dare say that when the rock history books are written and shelved, Fiona will be regarded as one of the finest female singer-songwriters of the past couple generations, right up there with the likes of Joni Mitchell.

On 'Extraordinary Machine' Fiona is a bit more at peace with herself, though not by much. In several songs she spits on the ground at thoughts of various fouled-up relationships she's had the misfortune to endure, but there's a good deal more maturity on display than she showed in her nonage, and in some songs - like the title track - she actually sounds quite hopeful.

In short, I really dig the poetry of her lyrics, and the high-art of her music, and I especially admire that she refuses to allow herself to be pigeon-holed by an industry that is hard-pressed to know what to do with a beautiful and enormously talented young woman like her. After all, why *not* just put Fiona in a tight-fitting leopard-print suit and have her sing club anthems? Why not, indeed? It works for so many others, no?

(Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the -cough- genius of a hot-looking woman gyrating in a tight-fitting leopard-print suit as much as the next mensch, but come on, man does not live by cotton-candy alone, right?)

Anyway, I find Fiona Apple a breath of fresh air and I've become a huge fan, even *if* the Walter Mitty in me is still a bit intimidated by the likes of her.

(If you are adept at finding things on the net, hunt down the unofficially-released version of 'Extraordinary Machine,' as I found those sessions to be even better, in many instances, than the official release.)

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Oh yeah. Idol's on tonight. Check out all the skinny here.

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Peace - Out!

A Cautionary Tale


From Blender:



Britney Spears: The Road to Ruin

In four chaotic, self-destructive, fateful years, Britney Spears hit rock bottom … and kept on falling. Here, the inside story on all that went wrong—her missteps, her meltdowns and what friends say may be her last hope for rescue.

Michael Joseph Gross
Blender January 23 2008

1. The Paps

Christmas lights dangle from tree branches in front of the Raffles L’Ermitage, the Beverly Hills hotel where Britney Spears slept last night—and where the paparazzi who keep watch over her now sit waiting. Although she owns a mansion in L.A., she often crashes in hotels because, the press speculate, her cupboards at home are bare: She likes to order room service. Spears is the only celebrity in the world under photographers’ 24-hour watch, a surveillance mode usually reserved for prisoners and suicides. Some of the core group of 15 or so lensmen who call themselves “her paps” pass the stakeout hours online, chatting with women via wireless laptop connections. Some smoke pot. Felix, the team captain for X17, the paparazzi agency with the closest ties to Britney, occasionally looks down at his phone to find a text message from Sam Lutfi, Spears’s confidant and de facto manager since last summer. Felix reads aloud: “She is inside.”

“Britney is money,” says another X17 photographer, standing next to the BMW that pictures of Britney have bought him. Someone tells the story of the day they followed her halfway to Las Vegas. She got takeout from Taco Bell at a rest stop in the desert. Then she turned the car around and drove home. “Britney is crazy,” says another, bemused.



Read the rest here.

Going To Pot




Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Remembering Father


My father was born on January 29, 1935, in Pyengyang, Chosen (Korea), the son of American Presbyterian missionary parents, and was therefore by birth American, Korean, as well as being a subject of the Empire of the Rising Sun. (Japan had annexed Korea in 1910, and called it 'Chosen,' which remained the official name until the end of the second World War.)

In 1939, when the Japanese were moving towards all-out war with China, it was decided that the Americans would pull out of Korea. My Grandparents were reassigned to Columbia and Venezuela, and did not return to a free Korea until after my father had gone off to college, where he met a woman five years his senior, whom he married at age twenty-one, in 1956.

My dad, by turn, felt a call to Mission aviation work, and after attending Princeton Seminary and taking a rural pastorate on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he studied aircraft mechanics. In 1963 we moved to Brazil, where my father did a number of different Mission jobs - preaching, church planting, teaching - though for a variety of reasons he never worked directly in aviation.

Dad died of an unexpected heart-attack at just fifty-one years of age, and was buried in Parnaiba, Piaui in 1986.

I was always a bit in awe of my father. Like so many other kids with their dads, I saw him as somehow larger-than-life, a kind of superman, if you will, but in his case, saying such things isn't just puffery.

Dad was Mensa-level smart (finished his post-graduated degree at 24); learned to speak Portuguese with native fluency (his lack of 'American Accent' probably had alot to do with having grown up speaking Spanish, but still, his Portuguese skills were impressive); taught himself to play a variety of musical instruments with aplomb (guitar, trombone, and several keyboard instruments such as piano, accordion and pipe organ); had an amazing mechanical aptitude (he scored 100% on his finals for his two-year Aircraft Mechanics coursework, and could tear apart and rebuild engines and washing machines); was a wonderfully skilled expository preacher who spent hours laboring over the right words (he would often preach outdoors to small groups of ten or twenty, and yet he seemed to spend as much time on one of those sermons as he did when he was scheduled to speak before five hundred); made certain we kids were exposed to as much of both the US and Brazil as possible (every four years we'd spend a year in the US, and Dad would drive us from the east coast to the west, and back again, over five or six weeks, making sure to visit national parks and relatives along the way); kept up a voluminous correspondence with hundreds of people during his lifetime (he kept carbon copies of every letter, filed with the responses he received); read voraciously (one summer I watched him read Churchill's six-volume history of World War II in a few short weeks).

I could go on, but I'd doubtless be considered by some to be exaggerating, although I assure you I would not be. Yes, my father was all that, and more, but he was no superman, and indeed, like all men, he was also quite flawed, in a variety of ways.

Dad suffered what only in later life I came to understand as chronic depression, fueled by a poor self-image, a belief in an inability to achieve his potential, a massively unrealistic idealization of others he admired and cared for, and a repressed anger at himself for his real and imagined failings. And after my sister died, he sank into a morass of dark depression. Indeed, from the day Elizabeth drowned till his own death, twenty years later nearly to the day, he was never really particularly happy or even content.

As a lad I didn't really give much thought to the fact that was Dad was often withdrawn - that he seemed to hold me emotionally at arm's length - and I suppose I imagined it was just how dad's were, but as an adult I've come to realize he was probably terrified at the notion of getting too close to any of his other kids, for fear of losing them, too. I just regret not having been able to get to know him better than I did, but I never had any idea how to get past the wall.

I say all this not to disrespect my dad, but to present what I hope is a balanced picture of him. I would much rather remember him as he really was than just as a collection of the admittedly fine skills he possessed. He was human, and he hurt alot, but in the end he was a good and decent man who did the best he knew how. I do wish he had lived till a ripe old age so as to have met the next-generation progeny, but as that was not to be, I regularly tell my girls stories of their grandpa, so they will have some memories of him, if only second-hand.

Anyway, on what would have been my Dad's seventy-third birthday, twenty-two years after his passing, I still miss him: parabens, reverendo, e obrigado por ter sido meu pai.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Music Monday - Zelda Reconsidered


From ZREO:



What is ZREO?

"ZREO stands for Zelda Reorchestrated. It is our goal to transcribe the musical masterpieces that you have heard in the greatest video game series ever created: The Legend of Zelda! Our goal is to give each and every song from The Legend of Zelda series a realistic and atmospheric sound with the quality that you would expect from such film composers as John Williams, Howard Shore, and James Horner.

We don't look to seek profit or fame. This is merely our own form of artistic expression that stems from The Legend of Zelda. If it weren't for Zelda, ZREO wouldn't exist. So we are grateful to have such a legendary video game series that can pull so much inspiration out of us."



Read the rest here.

And download the tunes here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Music Monday - Blue Monday




'Blue Monday'
New Order

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'Blue Monday'
Orgy

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'Blue Monday'
Nouvelle Vague

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Ramblings


From Blogizdat LJ:



6:45 AM

It's the weekend, and even though I'm on Daddy Duty, I can usually sleep in until at least 8 AM, as the girls love to lollygag about in bed until around then, or later. Thing is, even though I didn't get to sleep until well after 1 AM and didn't sleep more than about 4 hours, I'm wide awake - at least right now - and decided to get up and about. I suspect I'll sleep better tonight.

The house is deathly quiet: Mrs. Muzzy is off at work, the girls are still fast asleep, and even the aging and heavy-set house cat is off somewhere, being still. I love to hear my daughters laugh, and they are a delight, but sometimes I just like the Sound Of Silence, with no dishwashers, no washing machines, no music, no nothing.



Read the rest here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ramblings


Posted on Blogizdat LJ:



7:15 AM

I may decide to add to this throughout the day, but I'm starting out with this.

It's fairly early on Friday AM, and I'm on Daddy Duty this long weekend, but right now the house is quiet, the girls are still sleep in their beds, having been up way too late last night on the occasion of LK's fifth birthday yesterday.

(We didn't have a party - that's coming in a couple of weeks - but she had a tea party with her grandma and grandpa yesterday AM, and we went out to Fuddruckers for supper last night.)

Even though it's bitterly cold this morning, the sun is shining and the sky is a bright blue. The bird-feeding stations outside are being visited alternately by flocks of white-breasted nuthatches, and the large, fat squirrels who've learned how to hang upside-down and feed from the supposedly squirrel-proof feeders.



Read the rest here.

Updated 3:30 PM. - More Rambling (Computer Problems)

Updated 4:00 PM. - More Rambling (Bridge Collapse)


Thursday, January 17, 2008

This Is Still Very Strange


Extreme Ironing



"Welcome to the home of extreme ironing - the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt."



Indeed.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Night Videos - Dropkick Muprhys




'Sunshine Highway'
Dropkick Murphys

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'Walk Away'
Dropkick Murphys

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'I'm shipping Up To Boston'
Dropkick Murphys

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This And That


I haven't waxed poetic here in a bit, and won't write too much tonight, either, as the knuckle of my left index finger is hurting heaps right now, for some reason. I don't remember cracking it on anything, so I'm baffled as to why it hurts so much.

My injured foot, on the other hand - go ahead, I'll wait for you to laugh - I know perfectly well how I injured it: I stepped on a notebook. No, really. I was in a hurry this AM and accidentally - doesn't that go without saying? - stepped on a large three-ring binder that was sitting on the floor. It popped open and the end of one of the rings poked thru my thick wool socks, took a chunk out of the bottom my foot. That's how it happened. I swear.


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I joined Mondo and The Imp at Keegan's Irish Pub last night for a round of Keegan's world-famous trivia challenge. Okay, it's not world-famous, then, but it *was* Trivia Night, and unfortunately our efforts were not rewarded: we did not do well. Then again, it wasn't all bad. I was served dinner and drink by the lovely Lindsey, and got to say hi to the proprietors of the establishment, the Keegans - The Silver Fox himself and his even better half - as they made the rounds throughout the evening. Since I hadn't seen either Mondo or The Imp since long before Christmas, I presented each of the lads with a gift card to Half-Price book, and received a copy of the newly-restored 'Help' on DVD. I ended up having my usual, the Shepherd's Pie with a Tonic Water, straight, and one huge-*ss piece of Bread Pudding Cake - it was tasty fare, indeed, and a nice evening.

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The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak: I can barely keep my eyes open, and I'm off. I'll try to write more in the morrow.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Night Videos - Aussie Ladies




'Planet New Year'
Sarah Blasko

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'Easily Affected'
Melissa Tkautz

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'Round And Round'
Amiel

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'2 Hearts'
Kylie Minogue

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

From The WTH Files?



From WCCO:



Icy Polar Plunge Sets New World Record

Heather Brown

(WCCO) There is a new world record in Excelsior: 689 people jumped in Lake Minnetonka on New Year's Day morning.

By the numbers, the air temperature was no more than 5 degrees. The water temperature was near freezing. The lake's ice was 7 inches thick. The oldest jumper was 71 years old and the youngest of them were 6.

The divers jumped into a 32-foot-long, 8-foot-wide hole cut into the lake ice, a unique event because of the use of the frozen lake.

The Active Life and Running Club (ALARC) established the site for the World Record Official Organization this year after Guinness determined it was not interested in establishing the ice dive as a new category.



Read the rest here.

Happy New Year