Known Johnson

October 31, 2004

Death in the family

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:35 pm

I pronounced the second hard drive death of the year at about 8 am this morning. The first occured early in the summer, a death timed well enough that I was exactly in between Windows XP installations and could easily run off to the store and pick up a new hard drive with no more harm done than to my wallet. I didn’t expect, however, that not more than four months later I’d be mourning the loss of another drive.

Something was cleary amiss – for the past few weeks, XP had taken an inordinate amount of time to boot up and general response time when it was finally up was molasses*-slow. And then when I attempted to defragment all of my partitions, the big partition on this particular drive just disappeared – gone, in the electronic equivalent of a “poof,” I suppose: a Windows message that stated something like “Hey, what are you trying to pull here? This drive’s not formatted anymore. You wanna go ahead and do that?” Not really, no – knowing how much stuff stored on that drive that would be irretrievably lost. Oh, sure, I could probably pay for some utility to scrape that stuff out, but, really, do I actually need the four or five deliciously wonderful Jeff Buckley bootlegs I’d downloaded from, or that two-disc Decemberists show straight from the soundboard, or any of many other audio delights? No, not really – nothing lost was worth paying to retrieve, and that’s the silver lining, I suppose.

Still, I want to count on these things to stay strong and safe and alive forever. Because I can’t, I can’t really say I keep anything particularly secret in them. I suppose somewhere deep in innards of Windows is some super secret cache of all my credit card numbers used to order CDs online, addresses, things like that, but nothing really significant is stored on the computer. The worry is just this – that it might die someday, taking with it something precious. What if I were writing a book, or had stored every photo I’d taken? These are irreplaceable things. It’s annoying enough to lose something meaningless. I guess I’m lucky that I don’t particularly trust computers anyway, so I’ve never solely relied upon them to keep safe that which I cherish dearly. But I wish I could, and I often wonder how society will truly depend on them as those in the know claim we will. I suppose the day is coming, but for today, we can’t all have arrays of cheap, disposable drives that back up everything we love.

*I am really embarassed to admit that I had to look up “molasses” because I couldn’t remember how to spell it. “Molassis”? “Molassas”? This is especially embarassing because I was a spelling fiend in elementary school, maybe not quite spelling-bee level, but I was damn good. And yes, I was a dork.

“I got a rock.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:07 pm

Halloween festivities have pretty much come and gone, seemingly a little quicker than usual this year. Maybe because it’s a Sunday night, with school the next day, but it seemed that Halloween pretty much ended by about 8 pm, and with a good portion of candy still left to hand out. Regardless, the big fun of the day for me pretty much revolved around the pumpkin carving:

And because I liked the little guy so much:

What’s interesting about Halloween is that it’s truly the one holiday where you really only give and give, with very little taking, if you’re an adult (generally.) Sure, it’s only candy, but if you think about it, you probably spent quite a bit on candy and you’re not going to get an equal amount back most likely. I mean, I figure that Alissa and I spent at least $30 on Halloween candy alone, most of which was given away in about 90 minutes tonight. So there’s maybe a bag of candy left, big deal – it’ll go to work with me tomorrow and be left in the breakroom for others to pig out on (I’ve had enough, thank you.) Halloween really is for the kids, for the most part, and even those of us without kids still eagerly snatch up giant bags of candy. We just want to be a part of it. Christmas isn’t even like this – you will buy a gift for someone you know will likely buy a gift for you, and it’ll likely be of a similar value. Halloween’s celebration is almost entirely unselfish in its generosity. That’s kind of neat.

October 28, 2004

Idle hands at work, the sequel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:28 am

(More free time + more business cards)/scissors = custom pen holder

October 27, 2004

Spam song

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:26 am

I’ve been bombarded by spam comments lately and have had to implement something I’ve never used before, an exclusion list, as well as moderating comments, so if your comment doesn’t show up right away, it’s because I may have to approve the comment before it appears. I didn’t set WordPress to do that, but for some reason it appears every comment, not just the 49 billion from the folks at the poker site that enjoy reading me, must await approval now. Once the poker-spam stops, I’ll try and get it straightened out, but I have to say that I will be a tad disappointed to see it go. It’s not everyday I get thoughtful comments such as:

  • “Proper names are rigid designators”
  • “The aim of philosophy is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term”
  • “Poets…though liars by profession, always endeavour to give an air of truth to their fictions”
  • “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important”

Thank you, “poker-rooms-777,” you have truly given me something to think about.

October 26, 2004

One flu over the cuckoo’s nest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:40 pm

Him: “I need to get one of those flu shots. I didn’t get them the last two years and spent a month getting over the flu each time. I don’t want to go through that again this year.”

Me: “Just think, though – if you get the flu shot, that’s one dead grandma that could have been saved if you hadn’t.”

October 24, 2004

Dead man’s party

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 7:55 am

I find something very fitting about the fact that election day this year also happens to fall on the Day of the Dead.

October 23, 2004


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 8:54 am

Alissa mentioned several times at her last job that she found the name of ice machine’s manufacturer funny, and I agreed – “Hoshizaki” is an unusual name – but it wasn’t until I moved into the building that I’ve been working in for the past couple of years that that really meant something to me personally. As luck would have it, Hoshizaki must be one of the preeminent ice maker manufacturers in the world, as my company too has stocked our breakrooms with them. Now that I’m confronted with it everyday, I can’t help but find humor in that name every time I see it, hearing the word being barked in a scene from an old Japanese film. “Hoshizaki!” screams the warrior as he draws his sword, charging on an unseen enemy . . .

October 16, 2004

All the fun of drugs without that nagging monkey to deal with

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 8:40 pm

This is truly a bizarre experience. (Requres Flash.)

Late bloomer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 8:27 am

There are some people who will be absolutely shocked by the statement I’m about to make. It’s so out of character, so against things I have frequently stood up for, and yet here I am on the verge of taking the plunge . . . I desperately want an Ipod. Yes, you read right – I, Mr. Anti-MP3, want to buy one of the devices that allows the vile file format to proliferate even further. The thing is, it makes sense. I have a HUGE collection of music – I can only guesstimate how many CDs it is right now, but it must be around 17-1800. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my tastes have not mellowed or gelled into a comfortable, small selection of artists of a particular style. On any given day, I’m just as likely to need to hear the ungodly-heavy clamoring of Godflesh as I am the decidedly British pop of XTC, and often back to back. And so I’m forced to bring more and more CDs with me to work. I have a dufflebag that can hold about 50 CDs and, believe me, it’s nearly always full. The problem is that once I get to work, I am finding that few of the CDs I brought with me are actually what winds up spinning around in my head, taunting me with no chance to satisfy my craving. The other concern I have with bringing so many CDs with me to work is that, if lost or stolen, that bag full o’ goodies is not going to get replaced for quite a while – that’s nearly a thousand dollars worth of CDs, at retail price, but I also have a lot of rare and out of print items. Being without music is unbearable. I mean, I’m the guy who will take TWO CDs in the car with me to drive the one mile down to the grocery store – because I never know if I might need to hear something else on that 4 minute round-trip drive. A boy’s got to have choices.

So I began looking at Ipod info online for the past week or so, relying upon the very informed, very outspoken members of IpodLounge. What’s nice about forums like this is that you can silently observe with no fear of needing to participate – most questions I have were likely answered many times, so the answers lie in the forums waiting for me to find them. In reading there I realized I neglected to consider other mp3 players – I hate to admit it, but all I ever hear about is the Ipod. There’s a number of others out there, but only the 20gb Rio Karma tempted me, with it’s apparently very nice equalizer and gapless playing capabilities (one of my big problems with mp3s is the gap the format forces in between songs – real annoying for live music or concept albums) but after reading the Riovolution forums, I find that it’s just too risky – far too many dead harddrives, broken joysticks, etc. The Ipod owners seem to be far happier in general with their devices – problems reported appear more to be random weird little things, or simply caused by user-confusion – where the Rio owners complain of much more severe and consistent failings. I’d rather spend more on the Ipod with its admittedly slimmer feature-set to know that I’m getting a quality product – and Apple knows this, unfortunately. So an Ipod it is, and it’ll be a 40gb, fourth-generation (4g, that’s what all the hip kids are saying these days, I guess) Ipod. No, it won’t hold all of my collection, but it will hold a huge amount of it, and I can swap out older stuff for something else whenever I feel like it.

I got over my resistance to mp3 – lossy, compressed files are really NOT the be-all, end-all of music. Despite claims by most people that you won’t hear it, yes, I really do hear the difference between regular audio and mp3. Having 500+ CDs with me at all times, however, makes up for what my apparently very good ear senses is lost. And NO, I will not be stealing music – what goes on my Ipod will be music I rip from my own collection. I’m still not down with the stealing.

So here’s hoping Santa’s paying attention (because I can’t afford to just up and buy one.) Just in case I need to make it more clear for your list, as I’ve been very nice this year, mark me down for one 4G 40gb HP Ipod (HP carries the Windows-ready version of Apple’s Ipod (it’s still built by Apple, I mean,) and has what users report is a much better, much faster customer service experience just in case the player does die somehow – carrying around what is essentially just a $400 harddrive in a little box is a risky thing. A little piece of mind goes a long way . . . )

October 15, 2004

Haul of the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:58 pm

Music geeks often have a strange selection of things they revel in. Today’s report of the used treasures I picked up may reveal far too much about my music-geek factor than I really should be admitting . . .

Genesis: Calling All Stations – When I got laid off in the summer of 2001, I was faced with a dilemma – either stop buying music altogether, or sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. I chose the latter. With all that time on my hands, listening to new music at the sacrifice of old music was a pretty reasonable idea. In the end, however, I wound up trading back things that I had an odd love for, such as Genesis’ final album, Calling All Stations. Fans and critics alike pretty much ripped this album to shreds when it came out, as it seemed to please no one in particular. The old fans didn’t quite get the full-on prog-revival Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks promised, and newer fans wouldn’t touch it without Disney’s current go-to guy, Phil Collins, fronting the band. In the considerable shoes of former vocalists Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, how was a stranger like Ray Wilson to make an impact? Wilson’s warm, throaty delivery departed from the characteristic and often downright odd vocals (at least in the early, non-pop years of the band) of Gabriel and Collins, being neither quite as defining nor as charismatic. The music too suffered from a lack of identity – was this the pop-powerhouse Genesis of the 80s and 90s, or the genre-defining prog Genesis of the 70s? The album attempted to tred a thin line between the two, going further into heavy prog territory with long songs and complex instrumental passages than the band had since Abacab, but it also contained a fair number of the radio-friendly, simpler songs that the band focused on in the years following that quirky album. And, so, no one really responded, leaving record stores and the label with batch after batch of this commercial dud. I, however, applied my usual critical stance – if it didn’t have the “Genesis” legacy to live up to, would I have enjoyed it anyway? Yes, I likely would have, and so I did. There are some awkward moments, like the purposely eclectic “Alien Afternoon,” schmaltzy “If That’s What You Needed,” and the completely out-of-place, dated, and unnecessary “Small Talk,” but there are enough solid moments, like the dramatic title track, or the velvety ballads “Shipwrecked,” “Not About Us,” and enough non-offensive filler that it’s an occasionally intriguing listen. Not to mention that I, at least, particularly enjoy Ray Wilson’s smooth-as-gravel voice. Price today? $8.99

Tin Machine: Live: Oy Vey, Baby – I think Tin Machine was unfairly dismissed. Consisting of two studio albums and one live disc (being what I bought today) and featuring David Bowie and guitar-genius Reeves Gabrels (who would accompany Bowie in his solo works through the 90s,) Tin Machine’s output was slammed for being woefully out of touch at the time they were released. Too rough, too angular and quirky, the mainstream music world just wasn’t ready for this sound. Had it been 5 years later that the self-titled first TM album was released, it might very well have been a success. Up against the sound du jour, big hair metal, Tin Machine sounded distinctly different, odd even, and even Bowie’s fans had a hard time swallowing this one. The stripped down, raw, back to basics approach Tin Machine took just didn’t have a niche to fill at the time, and it’s surprising that Tin Machine II even saw the light of day. How this live album was released is a complete mystery – I’m not sure who they thought this was going to appeal to, but as one of the few admitted fans of the band, I’m glad it was at least released, even if it did go quickly out of print. To prove just how few people were interested in this, the copy I snagged today appears to be virtually unused in the twelve year’s since it’s release – no significant scuffs on the case (not even shelf-wear,) nothing on the disc, and the artwork is in mint condition minus a corner having been cut from the booklet. Price today? $6.99 – totally worth every penny.

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