Known Johnson

February 23, 2009

On the move

Filed under: Boring site stuff — Tom @ 6:40 am

Hang on – adjust your links – we’re moving the island!


(Yes, this is the last post here. Stop looking. It’s over. Let’s move on.)

February 12, 2009

You take the good, you take the bad

Filed under: Creations,General,Kids,Music — Tom @ 2:18 pm

. . . and there you have the Facts Of Life. Thank Alan Thicke, and Scrubs a couple weeks back, for that one.

To All The Girls . . .

I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique until recently, when I finally “got it.” Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Sure, it’s full of ridiculous, pedantic rhymes, but the music, oh man, what they did was incredible. Nothing before, nothing after (because The Law put a stop to this kind of sampling) matched the creativity or wit of what they and the Dust Brothers concocted. This new remaster is of the “good” kind – it simply makes it sound better, which that old CD was in dire need of. As their website says, it now has enough bass to crush your one frozen testicle. Thanks, I needed that.

Broken suspension

You know, I love my truck – a Honda Ridgeline, if you didn’t know. But there are times when I realize that it’s built by a car company, and the picture above is an example of one such time. I’ve never had this truck off road and yet one of the suspension components is broken. On top of that, this component (the left rear sway bar link, if you’re curious) is pencil thin. This is ridiculous. You don’t have a 5000 pound truck bouncing around on top of something that flimsy. This is what happens – it breaks. And there are no aftermarket replacements – I’m just going to get another one of these and hope for the best.

Rainbow in the dark

It’s just nice, isn’t it?

Asleep, again

Sleepy head.

Flash train

A piece drawn for a project for work, done completely in Adobe Flash. This took friggin’ forever. FOREVER. It is incredibly detailed. Flash is definitely not the tool to use for this kind of illustrating, but I wanted to try it because many of my coworkers draw their stuff in Flash rather than Adobe Illustrator, which is far more exacting. I would have saved a lot of time and frustrating going my normal route with Illustrator, but I’m still rather proud of this train. It doesn’t exist in real life, by the way – it’s an amalgamation of who knows how many trains I looked at online for inspiration. If you ever wondered what it is I do for a living, this is it.

February 11, 2009

Wake up laughing

Filed under: Weird — Tom @ 10:52 am

I woke up laughing last night. In the middle of the night, I dreamt something funny and it made me laugh, and I woke up laughing. I laughed the kind of laugh that you do when you’re not supposed to anything out loud, so as not to wake up Alissa. It came out my nose more than anything, a stuttering sneeze-like sound, so I stuffed my face in my pillow to muffled the sound, where I laughed some more. And then I thought of what made me laugh again, and I laughed more. For a few minutes, I couldn’t help but burst into periodic fits of strained, near-silent laughter, thinking of what woke me up laughing: the non-word “quuck.”

February 10, 2009

Give me my money back, you bitch

Filed under: Annoyances,Music — Tom @ 10:21 am

A couple months ago, you might have seen me writing about Ben Folds releasing an audiophile version of his recent album, Way To Normal, to fanclub members, and if you joined before this week, you too could get a copy. Well, I fell for that wording too and joined – read my piece and you’ll see that I wrote that it was for fanclub members. WRONG. It’s in stores, today, right now . . . if they’re carrying it, of course, but the fact remains that you, anyone, can buy it, meaning it’s not exclusive to fanclub members, but that’s sure how the missive on Folds’ myspace page felt. I’m not interested in fanclubs, t-shirts, or exclusive access to tickets. I just want the damned music.

And, you know, you can choose to go “Ah, well, woe is me, I didn’t think this one through,” because, well, technically, nowhere on the page did they say “exclusive.” But, then again, nowhere on the page did they say “available in stores February 10,” either. It’s deceptive, and it’s intentional, and that’s gross. So I chose the other route. I bitched. I wrote an email, a strongly worded email, and said I wanted my money back (leaving out the “you bitch” part from Ben Folds Five’s “Song For The Dumped.”) I really didn’t expect much – I figured I’d get an infuriatingly nicey-nice email stating how great the fanclub was, and that it was too late to refund my money because the membership packets, with the CDs inside, had just been sent out, or an infuriatingly snide response – such as when I complained about Andy Partridge of XTC releasing a box with all 8 of the Fuzzy Warbles at a far lower price than they were separately, but because I bought them separately, I bought a “partial box” with the last parts of it, which was technically cheaper, but still brought the total price for all discs and box to house them to a ridiculously high price (the box should have been free to those who bought the whole set, and it wasn’t.)

I got a response fairly quickly – they’d refund my money. Nice. Good. (But they did want to remind me that Ben would be signing each and every copy sent to fanclub members. That’s okay – I’m not an autograph collector. Refund please.) Is this a sign of the times? Are artists doing dishonest things to their fans because of the economy? Die-hard fans are notoriously forgiving, but duping others into excessive purchases can backfire in a big way – this could very well have put me off of Ben Folds all together. I’m not saying that I’m a fair-weather fan. I’m saying that I’m not a huge fan, but if I listen, I want to hear the best version of an album that I can, and that is what I opted in to the fanclub for. But because I’m not a die-hard fan, and this music doesn’t mean the world to me, a situation like this could very well simply turn me away all together. Is that worth it to Folds and his fanclub? Maybe not for me, one simple fan, but how many others are feeling duped, too? How many others will approach his music with a bad taste in their mouths because of this, and slowly drift away, not purchasing anything more of his? And what about the impact it has on other “exclusive” releases by other artists? Does it make buyers wary to believe they truly are exclusive? These are things that artists, especially smaller acts, need to think about today, when they absolutely need to build a strong, loyal fanbase. Because ticking off a few fans here and there may seem like a small thing right now, but it may just destroy the ability to build me into a big fan later on.

February 1, 2009

Twin girls, three years apart

Filed under: Baby makes FOUR — Tom @ 11:31 am

Danielle at 2 months, at left, and Amanda at about 45 days, at right. Pretty weird, huh?

A happy girl 2005-10-15-033-s

January 31, 2009

My beat is correct

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 8:01 pm

Tonight, while listening to Beck’s Guero, as the song “Hell Yes” played, Amanda asked what the song was. I began to tell her and then stopped, halted by the fact that the name of the song was a swear word. Now, let me say that I’m not really worried about her hearing “hell” but just telling her the name of a song like this plants it in her head as something she can say. I know she has no ill meaning behind her usage of words, just like most people don’t when they use something like “hell,” but I pause at simply telling that to a three year old. It’s just too damn weird.

“Daddy, what’s this song called?” she asked again, and I thought for a moment, then stumbled out a brief, “‘Yes,’ it’s called ‘Yes.'” I felt like I’d lied to her. Of all the things that we’ve talked about – Santa, the toys she could get for using the potty properly right now because I know it isn’t going to happen, why things are called what they’re called – leaving “hell” out of this song title bit at me the most. Maybe because I don’t want to be one of those parents, you know the kind – the ones who endlessly, mercilessly censor their childrens’ lives to the point that it’s all bright colors and lollipop and gumballs, yay!

And then we were off the subject, as she became fascinated with the sounds within the song itself, pointing out a repeating beep that she thought was funny, or how the lady said “hi!” a lot (I tried to inform her it was probably “hai,” as in Japanese for “yes,” but that fell flat – she had a whole story concocted in no time, that she was saying hi because she wanted more customers. “You are a very business minded little girl,” I said.)

But soon it was back to the title at hand, “Daddy, what is this song called?” And just as I was about to try and pass off my edited title again, she blurted out the words: “‘Oh Yes’! Is that what he’s saying?” Yes, yes, that’s it, I happily agreed, just fine to let the computer voice in the song that slurs the “hell” into “oh” take care of my problem for me.

January 30, 2009

Have it your way

Filed under: Eating picky — Tom @ 4:36 pm

It didn’t use to be this easy, you know. It’s almost – almost become acceptable to be as picky as I am in restaurants. For a long time, however, walking into any restaurant and asking for anything “plain” resulted in awkward exchanges or, at worst, meals sent back time and time again.

One of the things I’ve seen with picky eaters is that they often prefer fast food. It’s not just because it’s convenient and they serve simple food. I think it’s also because they have embraced the “choose your own adventure” philosophy of eating that we prefer. Think of how many fast food places emphasize their easily customizable menus and compare that with any experience in a regular restaurant trying to modify a menu item. It’s just more difficult, even at some place like Chili’s, to get a plain, “dry” hamburger, than it is at Whataburger. In fact, it’s pretty rare that I even get the mistakenly decked-out sandwich from a fast food place than from a restaurant. Even better, I don’t have to deal with the chefs who have made up their own definition of the word “plain.”

You see, while I have always had to struggle with getting food ordered plain, getting it that way is never really all that hard at fast food restaurants. Years ago, before they actually added “plain” as an option on their registers, it would take some explaining, but once explained, the sandwiches generally came out plain. At restaurants, however, even if the waitstaff explicitly defined PLAIN/DRY on the order, some chefs would define that as “with cheese,” or any number of other condiments that I don’t want anywhere near my mouth or burger. And so it goes that when ordering in a restaurant, it isn’t as simple as saying, “I’d like a hamburger, plain.” No, it has to be, “I’d like a hamburger, plain – dry, nothing on it. Just the meat and the bun.” And then the waiter will ask, “Just the meat and the bun, nothing else?” to which I have to repeat, “Just the meat and the bun, that’s it. Plain and dry.” It’s rarely easier than that.

I am fearful of weird things winding up in my foods, so I am very kind and generous to waiters. If something comes out wrong, I resist the urge to get upset, even if it’s the second time that it was wrong, and sometimes if whatever is wrong is minor, I just live with it. I don’t want weird things in my food, and I think you know what I mean. You make someone upset, and you wind up with a little special sauce. Smile, say what is wrong, and repeatedly say, “It’s no big deal,” and live with it. I realize that I am one of the few that places these demands on waiters, so when something comes out not quite right, and I can’t simply eat it that way and have to send it back, I have to make like I’m not upset about it. If I get upset, I will spend the rest of the night worrying that I just ate someone’s snot, feeling around in my mouth for every unusual little thing that I can’t immediately identify. Trust me, there’s enough I already worry about with food as it is.

It sounds worse than it really is. Once in a while it is a hassle, but I know, as I stated before, that the world isn’t built for us. I have to make do within the confines of a world made for people who will happily gulp down anything put in front of them. Were it my choice, everyone would have to declare what they want on every meal they order. Really, wouldn’t that kind of be perfect? How many times do you get exactly what you want? You could have it your way.

January 28, 2009

Eating picky

Filed under: Eating picky — Tom @ 12:32 pm

I took a bite from the apple and knew instantly that I was in trouble. Soft. Mushy. Not good. Maybe it was a bad spot. I turned it and took another bite, hoping it was just one bad area and the rest would be fine. It was a good looking apple – shiny, smooth, deliciously red like its name suggested it would be. It was not. More grainy mush inside. Bad . . . for me. I think, however, that most people would probably have been able to eat it just fine. I have issues, you see.

I don’t talk about this much and I don’t know why, but as I attempted to eat that apple it crossed my mind: “Why don’t I talk about being a picky eater more often?” I’ve mentioned it before but never really bother to expound on it, and that’s a shame because I’d say that this is one of the bigger issues in my life. I’m extremely picky, Alissa is a confirmed supertaster (I thought I was one too until we took that test.) It’s a big deal. It affects nearly everything in our lives that involves food, and how much of our lives doesn’t involve food?

I wanted to eat that apple yesterday, because I like apples . . . basically. But I’m very finicky about the particulars of apples. No bruises. None. That’s very hard to find. Sometimes I have to give in to a few minor divots, but if there’s any kind of soft spot, well, that apple is out. And if I bite in and anything is off, that apple is out. Apples have to be crisp. They need to have that sharp snap. If they’re even remotely mealy inside, I can’t eat it. And a lot of apples are like that. Others are too fragrant, almost flower-like, making my eyes water and my gag-reflex kicks in. I spend a lot of time at the store picking out apples.

The thing that boggles people’s minds about this is that I enjoy what I eat the way I eat it. I eat all sandwiches plain. Hamburgers? They consist of meat and bun, no condiments. I frequently eat peanut butter sandwiches – no jelly, no thank you! I even often have spaghetti with no sauce, just some butter, but I happily will eat spaghetti with sauce. I eat a from a limited menu, and that’s okay to me. It would probably drive most people insane, but I don’t really care – most food simply grosses me out. I shouldn’t have to apologize for this, and I don’t, but I also don’t feel like I should feel so self-conscious about it, and sometimes I am. The world is not built for the picky, but that doesn’t mean you all have to gape and stare when we ask for everything on the side. And, trust me, I see it all the time.

Just a short while back, Food Network aired a show about picky eating adults (because we know that kids just go through that phase and emerge on the other side as normal eater.) We are out there and there are more of us than you realize. More than that, I have no reason to hide this. The more I talk about it, the more normal it becomes for you, the “normal” eaters out there. It’s one thing for me to sit here knowing what foods are fine and why, but another to get upset when “normal” eaters express disdain at my disinterest in certain foods . . . without explaining why I can’t eat them. I may not be responsible for people’s rude reactions to me, but as Mahatma Ghandi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If I explain my reactions to food, perhaps others will have kinder reactions to all of us.

January 20, 2009

A Great Day for Freedom

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:48 am

Watching the news this morning, this late-model Pink Floyd song immediately came to mind this morning, just hours before Barack Obama became our 44th, and first African American president. Regardless of your political feelings about the man, it is impossible to ignore the cultural significance of the event. It is huge, and I think it’s pretty cool that my daughters won’t know an America where only white men were president. “On the day the wall came down” indeed.

Beyond that, if there’s one thing I hope it’s that out of this comes the “change” everyone backing Obama chanted about last year. If everyone embraces a spirit of simply changing their outlook, things can turn around – because, if everyone’s not aware, most of our biggest issues in this country right now, and I’m talking about the financial crisis, are based solely in people’s minds. If people want change, here it is. Today marks your change. Embrace it and move forward. Fear has gripped us for so long that we can’t move. I pray that Obama’s messages of “hope” and “change” really are carried forward by people and we get this economy moving again. Because that’s really all it takes. People stop taking their money out of their 401k plans out of fear of what could happen, banks stop saying no to lending out of fear of what could happen, and people stop hoarding all their money out of fear of what could happen: if these three things happen, everything will slowly go back to normal. Start investing, start lending, start buying. Yes, you.

Maybe it’s not as romantic or dramatic a vision of change as you might imagine with our first African American taking office today, but it’s what our country needs more than anything right now. The racial barriers are coming down, slowly but surely. His win was a major triumph in that regard, but his legacy will only be as meaningful as what he can actually accomplish with the power that has been given to him, not only as president, but as possibly the most significant presidential election in ages. There are very few firsts, and very few are as momentous as this one. I hope in four years to be able to look back and say, “Yeah, he actually did do a great job,” and that one of the first things that happened, albeit tangentially, was the economy turned around. Good luck, Obama, Mr. President.

January 16, 2009

The gateway read

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 3:25 pm

Can I just say that while I’m glad that younger people are reading anything, I’m getting a little tired of seeing people talk about “the books they’ve read” only to see lists of comic books and graphic novels? I know, it doesn’t make me cool to say that, but whatever. The illuminated manuscript is in, I know. Sorry – I consider reading to be, you know, reading, where the book in question contains mostly, if not all, words. Not to belittle the artistic efforts of comic book creators, because I know that requires a lot of work, and they very often have intriguing stories to tell. But there are different actions going on with the reader – a novel/stories requires the writer to do his job in such a way that the reader fills in the details, creating a world around the words, whereas the comic is bolstered by art that supports a minimal amount of textual cues, be it dialogue or narrative in nature. I want to encourage people to read, and if comic books gets them to start doing so, great. Maybe I’m too cynical. I just don’t see it being the gateway drug to reading novels.

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