Known Johnson

February 28, 2006

This is why I need an 80gb Ipod

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:39 pm

(Preface: for those not in the know, I have 135gb of music ripped for my Ipod from a huge collection. This is over three times the capacity of my Ipod. And yes, I really do listen and need to have that much music with me.)

Having filled my 40gb Ipod, I’m forced to remove things in order to put other things on that seem to take precedence at the moment. Having just read about and listened to the preview clips from Joe Satriani’s new album (see below,) I grabbed my Ipod in the mood to hear some more of his stuff. Of course, there happens to be none on there at the moment. Was it on there last week? Yes. But I had to remove it to put something else on. Lesson to be learned here: always keep at least one album by every artist on your Ipod, if possible.

Dammit, Apple, hurry up – the drives are waiting, just pop ’em into some cases and get them in stores! I don’t need your speaker system, but I do need twice as much space!

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Everday Joe

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 12:14 pm

Joe Satriani’s all ready to release a new album – it feels like just a few months ago that his last one, the joyful Is There Love in Space? came out, but it was really two years ago. I remember that because I picked it up the day I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon after my gallbladder surgery. Good times.

Anyway, for the few of you who care, Joe’s previewing tracks from the modestly titled Super Colossal at his site, one track every few days or so up until the release date, March 14.

So far, so good – typical Satriani, which is a good thing. I gave up on hoping to hear anything “shocking and new” from Satriani years ago, and learned to just enjoy his lyrical playing, because that’s really all you want to hear when you listen to amazing guitarists like this. He hit such a high with Surfing with the Alien that there’s no way to top it, and for a few years there he really seemed to try – and failed. I think The Extremist really signals the beginning of a shift away from any attempts at topping himself, and that’s cemented with the earthy self-titled album that followed it. He stumbles when he tries to do anything too new – the bluesy tones of the self-titled album turned off many (it’s a favorite of mine, however,) and his flirtation with techno (Engines of Creation) is fun but ultimately too awkward to work very well.

Despite mining the same basic territory, his albums have had the tendency to take a while to really get into – not because he’s chosen something different to tackle, but because he hasn’t. The initial disappointment is just that it’s more “business as usual” from Joe. Once I came to grips with that a while back, I really found new life in his catalog – it’s just good music, plain and simple. There are probably better, faster, even more technical players out there (Steve Vai, most obviously) but there are none that I find as endlessly listenable as Satriani. And it’s because Joe’s emphasis is on writing great songs with hooks like a vocal-based song would possess. He has a rare talent among guitarist of his stature and skill – restraint. It may seem like I’m joking, but I’m not. Where most guitarists use the whole song to solo throughout, Satriani plays the verse sections like a vocalist would, then lets loose in the solo section. It’s exactly this that makes his music so refreshing.

If you haven’t heard him in a while, or have never heard him, give him a chance – if there’s any guitar-shredder out there that everyone can enjoy, it’s Joe Satriani.

Manifold density and the quake of meantime

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:57 am

It’s Mardi Gras time again, and like most of you, I’ll be spending it as everyone else does: by getting lunch at Wendy’s. I know, such a cliché.

Tonight unfortunately begins the crowding of our television recording-and-viewing routine, what with the latest installment of The Amazing Race beginning and all. Tuesday night has been the easiest night of must-see TV for us – Gilmore Girls at 7 pm followed by Scrubs at 8 and 8:30, the only problem being that GG tends to run a minute or two late so we still wind up having to tape the first Scrubs episode so as not to miss anything. Tonight, however, things get more complicated – with the spillage of GG over the 8 o’clock hour, we will now have to watch the ending in another room in order to record both (because our DVR has two recorders in it – very cool) The Amazing Race and Scrubs with the latter being watched later in the week, probably over the weekend. And that means that Scrubs gets added into the queue of shows, just like Veronica Mars (the most satisfying hour on TV, by far – please watch it!) and the old dog, ER, that we have to figure out good times to watch so that we don’t get behind the ball on them. It’s a lot more stressful than it should be! I mean, come on, TV-scheduling people, there are two week nights with absolutely nothing that we watch – Monday and Friday. Spread things out a bit, give us a break. It’s not like we have a choice to not watch.

February 26, 2006

33

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:10 pm

Today marks my 33rd revolution around the sun courtesy of this fine earth. I appropriately spent most of the weekend not on the computer for a change, and even rewarded myself with sleeping in very late Saturday morning – late being 8:15 am, however. Unfortunately, due to the nasty dry, pollution- and allergen-filled air, I woke up today, my birthday, at about 5:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. Not fair, not fair at all.

Speaking of dry, this weekend marks 130+ days without rain in the valley. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but one look at the struggling plants all around, you know it’s true. What I find scary is that we’re now only a mere month away from breaking the record – 160 days – with only the slightest hope of rain in the near future.

Last night was spent with Alissa’s family celebrating our nearly shared birthdays (hers is the 27th, believe it or not.) Dinner at Cicio’s – great “family style” Italian if you’re ever in Phoenix – and cake and presents later at their house. I came away with a slew of DVDs that I’ve been needing and two of the four latest Talking Heads remasters (True Stories and Naked) plus the astounding remaster of one of my favorite Brian Eno projects, his album with John Cale, Wrong Way Up. Seriously, if you like Brian Eno’s pop works (his four great solo albums in the 70s, his work with Talking Heads, James, and U2,) you owe it to yourself to pick up this album.

Alissa got a surprisingly fun gift from her older brother – season 1 of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. She had apparently mentioned it in a discussion one day a while back and John took it upon himself to take a chance. It was a good decision – watching a couple of episodes that we hadn’t seen in years proved very rewarding. It was even funnier than I remembered it, and I’m guessing that John will be out picking up his own sets sometime soon – he found them as funn as we did. Now I wish we had more gift-receiving occasions coming up so we could get the rest . . .

Today, as I stated before, I woke up feeling pretty dire. I took some Sudafed and my head cleared out a bit, but it wasn’t until many hours later that I realized why I was feeling so dull and lazy – Sudafed gives you the sleepies, and being already tired probably didn’t help any. I did next to nothing all day, basically, which now makes sense in light of my realization about the Sudafed, but sure made me feel lame at the time for being so slow and groggy. It’s my birthday, afterall!

This evening we went to Claim Jumper for massive portions of food, then back to my parents’ place for more cake and ice cream. It was all too much and both Alissa and I are feeling a bit overindulgent at the moment. We came away with some badly needed cash as a gift (my parents’ usual gift – and more on why it’s “badly needed” in a moment) and yet more cake to fill the fridge with.

Alissa gave me the much-desired second installation in the Guided By Voices Suitcase series – four more discs of very raw demos comprising 100 additional previously unheard songs. It’s an overwhelming amount of music, but that’s what makes GBV so much fun. Grab it all now and discover the gems at your own pace. On top of that, she also got me Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues remaster, and I’ll be picking up Little Creatures shortly to finish the collection off. And I know some film-buffs may scoff, but I was thrilled to see a copy of the much-maligned 2010 (the sequel to the beautiful and mysterious 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of my favorite movies of all time, if not my all-time absolute favorite. 2010 may not be so beautiful or mysterious, but I thought it was very effective and absorbing. The first time I saw it, the 11 year old me was completely mesmerized by the special effects and extremely realistic and thoughtfully designed space craft.)

It was Friday on the way home that I realized something a little worrying – our debit cards are due to expire in February, and with only a few days left and no replacements in sight, we had a little problem. Alissa called our credit union and checked on the situation – they claimed they’d been sent out in January! So where are they?! Well, there’s no answer to that so the CU did the safest thing – they cancelled our debit card numbers and are issuing us new cards with new numbers. Unfortunately, we won’t get those cards for a week or more, so we’re basically living on cash for a while, and checks when we can actually use them. If there’s one thing you take for granted, it’s the ease which the invention of the debit card makes in our lives. Paying cash for everything is considerably more annoying and clumsy than I remembered it. The gift-money from my parents comes just in time.

You’ll be seeing a new feature here at the site in the next few days. I’ve decided that I would find it interesting (if not you, Dear Reader) to keep track of the projects I’m working on. I don’t mean house projects, I mean hobby-related projects, so soon you’ll be seeing some stuff about building my RC truck that arrived the other day. At the moment all I have are pictures of parts laid out on the table (which includes a LOT of screws) but there will be more interesting things to come later as I start getting this thing together. After that . . . I don’t know – I’m hoping to revive my interest in modelling (kits, not clothing) because it’s a wonderful diversion.* I don’t need any more excuses to be on the internet than I already have, and I have a talent that I’m not taking advantage of. (May I toot my own horn? Thank you. I won Best In Show at the Arizona State Fair many years ago with a painstakingly detailed recreation of Titanic as it rests on the ocean floor. I’m still blown away by the months I spent building that out of a large kit and a role of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pics are around somewhere, and I will locate and scan for your perusal someday soon.) I’ve got a number of things I’d like to take on, not the least of which is a painstakingly detailed replica of one of my all-time favorite obsessions, the space shuttle (if I want to be really geeky, I would say “orbiter” instead of “space shuttle” because the latter refers to the entire system – tank, boosters, and orbiter – but I will save face instead. Oops, too late.)

I’m also hoping to get back to a more daily updating of this site – it’s far too easy to let many days go by and too many little daily events get backlogged to really keep track of.* I’m annoyed in looking back that I don’t have as many day-to-day details as I’d hoped to have since Amanda came into our lives. So keep checking back – there will be more than usual going on, and I hope to keep it up.

* (for both asterisks) I do realize the contradiction there – that I wish to spend less time on the internet but also wish to document my projects and life more on the internet. In short, it’s about the quality of the time spent on the internet.

February 23, 2006

Sign ‘O’ the times

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:39 pm

I guess it was only a matter of time, but now all LiveJournal pages have been blocked at work. (Thanks Websense!) It’s one of the very unfortunate downsides of working in a large corporation – they’re a lot more likely to come down hard on “wastes of time” like the internet, but it’s especially frustrating when you work in an environment that is busy one minute and void of work the next. It’s been like this for the 4.5 years I’ve worked at my current job and it’s just never going to change, but one of the plusses to that kind of work is that I often am left with time on my hands that I have to fill somehow. So reading sites is my time-filler. Unfortunately, now due to blocking LiveJournal, one of my favorites is off-limits to me at work, and my time at home is relegated to not being on the computer so much anymore. Sorry Chris! I’ll try to get around when I can, but I just won’t be around as much, unfortunately.

Sadly, I’m sure Blogger is next, simply due to the sheer number of people on and using it. Why it hasn’t been blocked yet, I don’t know, but it can’t be long now . . .

(And now’s my moment to plug getting off the Blogger/LiveJournal bandwagon and striking out on your own with your own domain! I highly suggest BlueHost, who have been my host for nearly two years now. They’ve been very solid the entire time, with only minimal downtime (I’ve got something like 99% uptime, judging by my stats.) Prices are cheap – as low as $6.95 a month if you sign up for two years, or $9.95 maximum for three months, with other prices in between. Just a happy customer, not a paid endorsement of any kind!)

Saving our Bluths

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 1:04 pm

This site says that one of the actors, who isn’t named, has confirmed that Showtime WILL be picking up Arrested Development for 12 episodes. I know – it’s an internet rumor, but the writer is Josh Horowitz, a known TV writer and producer who, according to Penguin Books (for whom he has written a book,) has contributed to “Us Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, and been a producer for Charlie Rose, CNBC, Fox News, and McEnroe.” (He also backs up his claims here.) Kristin at E!, their gossip hound, also confirms that this information is real – but states that her source says that the deal is not yet done, but it’s 50/50 at this point. It certainly wasn’t that just a week ago.

February 21, 2006

Hurray for piracy!

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:00 pm

Confession #1: When David Sylvian released remasters of most of his catalog a few years ago, I traded in my old versions for the new ones as soon as I got them.

Confession #2: Because his beautiful Secrets of the Beehive had been returned to its “original” tracklisting, I made a copy of the now-deleted and otherwise completely and strangely unavailable song, “Forbidden Colours.” Seriously – why is this song essentially wiped from the David Sylvian catalog?

Confession #3: I had this hidden away on my harddrive for a couple of years, forgotten. Last year, I had some serious hard drive issues and lost first one, then the other drive, that had most of my music stored on it.

Confession #3.5: I never burned this now-deleted track to an audio CD – due to having forgotten about it.

Confession #4 – the most embarassing: while watching Olympic figure-skating tonight, I heard a familiar song. (Okay, “watching” is really more grand than what it really was – “it was on” because nothing else was on.) “What the hell is that song?” I knew it, I knew that song. David Sylvian? my brain quickly offered. And off to Itunes I went, because I simply could not put a title to it, nor definitely determine that it was Sylvian. I listened through every David Sylvian song I have (everything but Brilliant Trees, which will be rectified shortly) and couldn’t find it. What the hell is this song? It has to be David Sylvian, I thought – he has a very recognizable sound and chooses some really intriguing chord structures. I spent a good 25 minutes searching the internet, listening to sound clips when it finally occured to me to check the original version of Secrets of the Beehive. Sure enough, there it was – “Forbidden Colours” in all its splendo(u)r. And then I recalled, sadly, that I no longer had that version of the disc, and that my drives had taken a dump last year. How could I not have kept that song safely locked away?! Well, after a few minutes away from the computer contemplating ordering another copy of the original, something struck me: check my DVD-Rs! And there it was – written out in ink on the first DVD of files I burned with my then-new DVD writer last year were the words “David Sylvian – Forbidden Colours.” Saved – and it’s an uncompressed wav file, no less.

And now the fruits of my efforts benefit you – grab yourself a copy of this gorgeous song. (Like the original, this won’t be available forever, so grab it now!)

Update the updates

Filed under: General — Tom @ 4:03 pm

As noted, I’ve been continuing my long-range slaughter of my CD collection, excising that which just doesn’t mean so much anymore. It’s been tough – things I haven’t listen to in years are still proving difficult to part with for no particular reason. “Do I really expect to need to listen to this?” and “when was the last time I listened to this – or wanted to?” are questions that repeatedly pop up in my head a lot lately. The answer is surprisingly more difficult than even I expected, but I’m relying on my gut more than usual. Some things were simply interesting for a while, but quickly fell off the radar, while others that may not get listened to as much simply mean more to me. Those things stay – the others I reserve the right to execute at will.

And with this cleaning out, I’ve managed to find some new interests. The most exciting of which lately has been Richard Thompson – a name I’ve always known I should invest some time into, but I managed to find excuses not to. Well, consider that a lesson learned – I picked up his Austin City Limits disc a month or so ago and instantly knew this was going to be like Elvis Costello was for me a few years ago. In the past few weeks I’ve grabbed a few others of his, maybe more than I can handle at the moment, but what doesn’t strike me right now gets filed away for future investigation. (Just today, in fact, I picked up a used copy of Watching the Dark, a three-disc career overview from the early 90s that is now out of print and very hard to find at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, as a used set, I wound up with a very, very stinky copy that belonged to someone who was apparently a severe chain-smoker. Anyone have any idea how to get this wretched smell out of paper? Man. Exciting update: Alissa did some research and found that putting the offending items in a bag with baking soda will help get rid of the odor. I also spent a good 10 minutes gently scrubbing the discs themselves with dish soap to rid them of the horrible stench – two to three times each! I replaced the old case with a new one, since it was beyond help, but I should hold onto the old one to show Amanda why smoking is so bad for you – the clear plastic of the case was yellow-brown from cigarette smoke! Man!)

Some may remember my story about hitting the tire-tread a week or so after buying my new truck. Since then, I have come to realize that the damage was more extensive than just the grill and dented front-bumper cover plastic. I have actually traced a path of destruction the tread took as it passed under and around my truck now: first the bumper, then the grill, hood, then under the truck where part of it curled up first striking my right front wheel (knicking the coating in several spots) and smacked my front mudguard, then the rear mudguard, then the metal behind the rear mudguard where it scratched the paint, then under the truck again where it grabbed onto the heat-guard for the exhaust pipe and mangled it. Just amazing. Relatively minor problems, but again, it’s amazing how much damage a little rubber can do.

(Speaking of that, I have a brand-new replacement grill bought off Ebay coming soon for a mere $40. Thank God for Ebay!)

Sit and be fit

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:48 pm

The biggest update is that Amanda is now sitting up. Before I could even post about her rolling over, she decided to just pop right up. Alissa and I have determined that she is almost definitely an underachiever already, because it’s certain now that she probably could have sat up and rolled over weeks ago, but just decided she didn’t feel like it until last weekend, when she sat bolt-upright with ease.

This has, however, not come without an increase in demand on both of us. While Amanda may be able to sit up, she has not mastered the art of staying up for long periods of time, so there are a lot of minor crashes that elicit a very unhappy response from her. It is sadly amusing to watch her sitting comfortably upright only to lean just a little too far one way or another and – boom – down she goes. What’s even more amusing are the times when she does so, doesn’t cry, and instead offers a giant smile that says, “Ooops, I’m a klutz!”

With her new-found ability to sit, she’s become bold and has taken to reaching for things far out of her range, which, of course, results in many minor crashes. She doesn’t learn, however, so as soon as she is propped back up again, she eyes the item in question and leans for it – crash! And then it’s up to one of us to swoop in and prop her up again. And again. It’s entertaining, in a way, but can be a bit frustrating while eating dinner . . .

I did notice this weekend, however, that she has figured out two separate components that are key to going from sitting to moving toward her intended object: one, she’s going to have to pick her body up to move, but has so far only mastered the “up” portion of that motion; and two, that in order to move, she has to use her legs. Unfortunately, she hasn’t connected these two things together, so she will either claw at the floor, fruitlessly, with her feet, or will do a massive single push-up, but nothing else. “Baby steps,” as they say, but in this case it’s not even steps – “baby push-ups and clawing,” I guess.

February 15, 2006

Big dumb fun

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:46 pm

I’m tired, I’ve been stressed out – not for any particular reason, just stressed out, maybe from being tired: clearly a vicious cycle. I’ve got some money saved up from Christmas and selling off CDs, and I won’t say it’s been burning a hole in my pocket, but I’ve really been wondering what exactly I should do with it besides just funnelling it back into more music or just saving it. Something didn’t seem right with that – that I made a big effort to rid myself of some excess CDs, and it’s not going into something “fun” for me. Maybe it’s selfish, but I feel like there have been too many times where I’ve opted to go for the safe thing – music – instead of the “fun” thing, whatever that may be. And so I let the issue sit, figuring that the money isn’t going anywhere, and should something “fun” pop into my head, I should seriously consider going for it. And then something did:

But reason tried to intervene – “Come on, a remote control car? You’re two weeks shy of being 33 years old! This is not the behavior of a 33 year old man – a father, no less.” And so I backed off the idea. But it kept nagging at me, taking me back to much younger days when my biggest concern was getting the battery for one of these things charged quickly to get out and play with it, or tearing it apart to rebuild it again after cleaning it. These are obsessive little tasks that keep a bored mind occupied, and maybe that’s exactly what I need right now. And let’s be completely honest here: I had one of these when I got laid off in 2001 and wound up selling it to get some much needed cash, so it’s not like I’m not one to give in to toys like this.

So, finally tonight I made up my mind: this is my birthday present to myself. I bought the Tamiya TLT-1 Max Climber kit, the remote control, battery, charger, and other assorted small things necessary to bring one of these beasts to life, and as a good birthday present should, it should (if the UPS gods smile upon me) arrive just in time for my birthday next weekend. It’s an expensive diversion, but it’s going to be a fun diversion.

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