Known Johnson

June 27, 2008

On the road again

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:10 pm

By this time tomorrow, we will be well into California, hopefully nearing San Diego and a week’s worth of relaxation. We’re going armed with my in-laws’ Garmin GPS unit, which should make getting around in a relatively unfamiliar city much easier – I love the idea that we can simply hit a button to find restaurants and up pops every restaurant in the area with directions to each one. How did we ever survive without these things?

In my first serious concession to gas prices, we will be taking Alissa’s Accord rather than the Ridgeline. The 10 mpg to be gained in her car is enough to make driving my truck over there just not make sense, plus she’s got nice quiet new tires on her car, and the XM that I got her for Christmas, so if we run out of stuff to listen to on my 160gb Ipod or her 8gb Nano, that might come in handy. Besides, I still have yet to hear any of that odd Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour, and Alissa says that even if the music isn’t always interesting, he is. And we could also probably tune in to Oprah’s channel and listen for her latest new-age snake-oil salesman, I mean, Eckhart Tolle. Seriously, people actually buy (literally and figuratively) this guy’s shit? He’s a creep, 100% fake. Shyster. Oprah’s slowly building a very disturbing little cult out of The Secret and Tolle’s selfish, self-serving philosophies. I am fascinated, but disgusted because no one else seems to be as disgusted as they should be. Oprah is scary, people. I suggest everyone go rent/buy Being There to see a beautiful example of how people turn the simple into the profound – it was the opposite direction in the film, but the idea is the same. But I digress.

We are predicting that we will be revisiting Legoland multiple times next week. We got a Go San Diego card that allows us access to pretty much everything of interest to us there for much of the week as many times as we want, and with her interest in all things fast and spinny, I’m sure we’ll be on the rides quite a few times. Legoland seems to cater to the very young, so there are a quite a number of rides the just-barely-36″ set can take advantage of, and besides that, there’s Legos!

We’ll also hit the San Diego Zoo and probably the Wild Animal Park, as Amanda is big on animals, as well as the Balboa park museums, and I am dead-set on taking a tour of the harbor – I am not exactly sure why, I just really want to do it. That kind of sounds like a week right there, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, we’re trying to stay loose, but you have to have some kind of a plan with a card like this – you have to use it over consecutive days, so it’s best to at least rough out some idea of where and when you want to go do stuff. So it’s not just me being OCD, okay? Oh hush.

I’m also really intrigued to see our hotel room. We were initially going to stay were we stayed last year, but lingering worries about the noise from . . . well, we have no idea what, but some kind of metal work is all we can assume ALL NIGHT LONG . . . ultimately got me looking elsewhere, and now we’re staying outside of San Diego proper, but still in a suite. This, however, is more like an apartment – a living room and a completely separate bedroom, not just one long room divided in half like at the Embassy Suites (which was fine, don’t get me wrong.) It has a kitchenette with a full-sized fridge, which I think is extra cool, plus dishes and silverware, etc. It’s kind of like we rented our own place for the week. We’re also located in a more suburban area, so there are plenty of restaurants literally right around us – this was a big problem last time. As anyone who has travelled with a small child knows, finding easy dinner solutions in an unfamiliar city is nothing short of stressful, and we wound up eating at the same Italian place last year three or four times, I think. It was the only option that didn’t involve $50 plates of food or 30 minutes of driving. So this place should take care of that issue. And, of course, there’s our kitchenette . . .

To say I’m anxious to leave is putting it mildly. I have had little else on my mind. Besides getting over this nasty allergy attack (update: it really was allergies, read there for more) I have been mentally getting everything prepared to go. Tonight we actually have to do it. My goal is to have everything that could possibly be packed tonight done tonight and in the car, because I know if much is left for tomorrow, we won’t roll out of the house until much later than planned. Given any option to be late, we seem to take it. The vacation begins once we leave the house. I’m doing everything I can to make sure we start that as soon as possible.

June 25, 2008

Thick

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:06 pm

Well, I’m sick, or something. I’m not sure, believe it or not, because it could be really bad allergies, but I’m something, that I know for sure. Amanda’s been sick for the past few days, but the thing is that I went and did some stuff outside, sticking my head right into some plants I’m almost certain I’m allergic to, and I didn’t use any of my nose spray like I always do before I go outside. I started feeling something immediately afterward, and it got worse. I’ve felt this before, and it’s bloomed into a full-blown sinus infection in a week or so, so I went ahead and called my allergy doctor yesterday. And even he couldn’t tell what this is. I don’t feel sick. I just have a really, really congested nose that likes to run like the antelope – so much so that I hardly slept at all on Monday night, which made for a hellacious Tuesday. And, as he said, if I’m sick, by today I’d start seeing nasty green or yellow . . . you know, mucus . . . and I’m not. Totally clear, like water. So what the hell is going on here? Well, I don’t know. I just know I need to be free and clear of it by Saturday, as we’ll be leaving for San Diego bright and early, or some variation thereof, and I don’t want to spend the entire drive nursing a drippy, sneezy nose, nor do I want it hampering this much-needed vacation.

There is an upside, however. I had all these plans to do all kinds of stuff around the house after work each day this week – mowing the lawn, fixing this, doing that, etc., and I’ve successfully done none of them. I now realize that would all have been a very bad idea – I’d have exhausted myself before we’d have even left, starting off our trip on the wrong foot. So this could just be mother nature’s way of saying “slow down.” Kind of amazing how things like that tend to happen right when they’re needed.

Update: Contrary to popular opinion, it WAS an allergic reaction. Doc Snots gave me some prednisone to take if nothing changed after a couple days, so I popped one pill and within an hour I began seeing major changes. Now I just have to finish out the regiment over the next five days and I should be good and healthy again. But even after one pill I’m 64.3% better than I had been before the pill entered my body.

As opposed to “freeze pops”

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:28 am

I started giggling half way through when I realized I’ve never heard the word “poop” said so many times in one place, or so enthusiastically:

You might think this is fake, but here’s their site and there’s a list of stores you can buy it at.

I wonder if the fantastically upbeat music from the ad is available on one of their pet music CDs? So peppy! Or should I say “poopy”?

June 22, 2008

Stand up

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:23 pm

Amanda has picked up some jokes. I should say, she’s made up some of her own jokes. Well, okay, maybe just one joke that she keeps retelling over and over in slightly varying forms:

“Knock knock who’s there? Banana.” That’s all said by her in one breath, and, of course, you have to ask, “Banana who?” Her response . . . “Banana boy!” She hasn’t quite fully grasped the concept yet, as you can see, but she finds the jokes equally hilarious each time, which we, in turn, find hilarious. How could we dare heckle her?

The more things change, the stay the same

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:53 am

One of the great things about buying used music is that sometimes you find something inside that gives a little bit of history to the product. Just yesterday, I picked up a very cheap, used copy of Roy Orbison’s last album of new music, Mystery Girl (which could almost be called Roy Orbison And The Heartbreakers from the extensive use of Tom Petty’s backing band, along with Tom Petty himself on a number of tracks, but it also features prominent cameos from a number of big names – George Harrison, Bono and The Edge, T-Bone Burnett, Ian Wallace (of King Crimson, no less,) Mitchell Froom, and a whole bunch more on a list that begins to spiral into relative obscurity for most people but means a lot to music geeks like me.) It’s a sweet album – “California Blue” is worth the price alone, and Bono/The Edge’s “She’s a Mystery to Me” is pretty great too.

Inside the booklet this morning I found the receipt from the first purchaser, one Lorraine …*, complete with credit card transaction, from July 6, 1989, at Tower Records, and credit card number. (Check inside your CDs before you get rid of them, kids. I’m sure this one is long inactive, but you never know.) What really got me was the receipt. On it are two CDs, one pop, one oldies (and I’m really not sure which one this falls under.) One is prices $13.99, the other $14.99. This is 1989 we’re talking about, and these were likely on sale (I’m guessing the Orbison was, being a recent release, and knowing Tower). I regularly buy CDs today for that and more. Granted, this was Tower we’re talking about, but still, this indicates why things are the way they are today: CD prices should have been lower today than they were back then, being a relatively new technology and all. And yet we may actually pay more than that now. And that’s just stupid. But that’s how things are – the industry knew they could get away with it because what choice did we have? But now we have choices – crappy as they may be, people are choosing to live with awful sounding mp3s and Itunes downloads. I can’t say I blame most people, I guess, given that most people view popular music as pretty much throwaway music, but I won’t ever fully understand this, just like I don’t understand people spending thousands of dollars on big surround sound systems and a huge HDTV so they can watch Deal Or No Deal. Priorities seem to be screwed up, but I think it’s more that those industries have taught us that “home theater” is what we need to be spending money on right now, not “home/car audio.” That too will come around again, just you watch, and then the music industry will be having a field day with everyone replacing mp3s that sound on those systems like VHS looks on a 52″ HD screen.

*The more I thought about it, the more I realize that if someone Googled themselves and found some random dumb blog post with their name on it, talking about having their credit card number, they might feel paranoid. Identity is now protected, but you shouldn’t expect it, Lorraine! Don’t worry with me, however, your finances are safe with me, at least.

June 19, 2008

Degrees of subtlety

Filed under: Baby makes FOUR — Tom @ 9:54 am

I like subtle, I prefer subtle. I think subtle is classy. Perhaps, however, I was too subtle? Or maybe no one read the whole thing? Or . . . no one cares? Here’s less subtle, and very little reading is required, if that was the issue – the caring, well, I can’t do much about that:

Baby!

Due date: Dec. 5. Yes: the next unknown Johnson.

I thought the other piece was a much better way to announce it. Oh well, so much for subtlety and class.

June 17, 2008

Allegiance

Filed under: Tech/geek — Tom @ 10:38 am

Mozilla wants to set a world record for the number of downloads of a piece of software with the release of Firefox 3 today. I guess that’s “neat” or something. Like most world records, it pretty much gets filed under “who cares?” – world’s largest pizza, world’s largest cake, world’s largest aluminum foil ball. I’m just intrigued about Firefox 3.

Beyond that, what I find interesting and possibly a little creepy is that they ask that you pledge to download Firefox 3 today on this page. Pledge? What is this, the Boy Scouts? Do I need to hold three fingers up and recite a little speech before clicking the button? “I do solemnly pledge to abide by Firefox and safely surf the internet using tabbed browsing and other such innovative features, and promise to ignore Internet Explorer in all its various incarnations because it is bad.”

I really like the rollover map that tells you how many people have pledged. The Soloman Islands have pledged to download 50 copies. Come on! Djibouti is kicking your ass with 55 copies! Get with it Solomons!

Update: Mozilla’s servers have crashed due to the demand. Um, how were they not expecting a huge surge of traffic to the site? Wasn’t that part of the point of the pledges? Well, if you want it and don’t feel like dealing with the wait, it’s on their FTP.

June 16, 2008

Idork

Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 4:39 pm

I’m torn on whether it’s smart or dorky of me to have prepared things in advance for the upcoming release of the Iphone 3G, which, yes, I do happen to plan on getting. I’ve put together a Google bookmarks page, have heavily invested in setting up iGoogle, and keep adding to my Google calendar . . . mostly because it’ll be so much easier to use all this on the Iphone. I’ll tell you, I’ve never been so excited about a phone in my life, but you also have no idea how many times since the Iphone came out last year that I’ve thought “Dammit, I really could have used the Iphone to look that up.” I realize other phones have internetability but not quite in the way the Iphone does, and therefore I had no interest. (If you haven’t played with one, you might not understand.) Nor have they had the pricing structure that the Iphone has – all in one. So, yeah, I’m there.

And believe me, I am so looking forward to walking in to Best Buy some day and having one of the blue shirts try and ring me up for a price I know is cheaper on their site, have them show me their infamous fake instore “web” site, and just pull it up on the Iphone.

Re:Collection – Europa String Choir: Lemon Crash

Filed under: Baby makes FOUR,Music,Re:Collection — Tom @ 3:20 pm

I awoke at 3 am and that was it. My sleep was over. I laid awake for hours, mentally shaking an invisible, frustrated fist at the darkness. It wasn’t the first such night; it won’t be the last.

In moments of calm coherence, I thought to myself, “Think about Lemon Crash, think of something to say.” I’ve been trying to say something for weeks, wanting to come up with something clever and meaningful about it, pairing it with relationships. Europa String Choir’s Lemon Crash, you see, is one of these oddball albums that few know about yet ranks as one of my all time favorites, and I continually feel a need to spread the word. Not quite classical, and not rock, it straddles a weird line between the two that is perfectly comfortable territory for the group, who, with like minded peers such as Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Kronos Quartet, mix in instruments that fit in multiple genres, play with typical rock abandon, yet approach their music with orchestral grace. ESC’s two guitars, violectra, and Warr Guitar yield an unusually lush sound.

But that’s the thing. That’s as far as I can get. In being one of my favorites, it sits closer to me than I can comfortable speak about, occupying a space that is almost sacred. It’s a safe-haven album – hectic times call for Lemon Crash soothing, lulling beauty. And lately life has been hectic.

In speaking about Lemon Crash, I wanted to mention the power of growing lineups. Europa String Choir began, like any relationship, as duo, and grew over time to be a trio. The trio, as I have always been fond of thinking, is a powerful, strong unit. Triangles have great strength over their three sides because no one side can easily be crushed – all three sides divide up the stress, supporting the structure of the unit. Each side, however, is responsible for more work. We can see this in most rock trios, where each member has to make up for what an additional member might have provided. I can easily point to Rush here – a band of great musicians to fill the space between them with strong, supportive music, and it’s a relationship that has worked for nearly 35 years.

For Lemon Crash, Europa String Choir grew to a quartet, adding the 8-string touch guitar talents of Markus Reuter on Warr Guitar. It’s Reuter’s work that keys me in on this album – where I found the previous trio album, The Starving Moon, a bit dry, here his rich, deep basslines provide an anchor around which everything pivots. Sometimes trios simply need to expand to quartets for it to all make sense, and that’s what makes Lemon Crash make sense.

I’ve been thinking about trios and quartets a lot lately. Alissa and I form a trio with Amanda, and come December, we’ll be expanding our lineup to a quartet with a tiny new addition. It’s new territory for me, an only child, part of that venerable trio I spoke of earlier, and old-hat for Alissa, one of a sextet, the mechanics (and sanity) of which I still have a hard time grasping. Where we go from here, however, is anyone’s guess. The sheet music is blank, but I’m sure the air will be filled with a lot of sound.

June 12, 2008

Movin’ on up

Filed under: General — Tom @ 4:48 pm

Not to the eastside, nor to a de-luxe apartment in the sky – the Jeffersons had it so good. I’m simply dumping having my site hosted on my own domain and moving it to WordPress.com where the WordPress install will be updated by them all the time and I don’t have to worry about 133t h@x04 types who want to play with everyone’s blog. Hopefully you won’t see much of anything – WordPress hosts domains, as well, so I just need to transfer my domain to them, move the contents of this (and all my previous sites – yes, everything will be in ONE place for once!) and I’ll be up and running again. I wish I had a way to bring back my very first incarnations of unproductivity.com, which is tucked safely away at home, but I’m honestly not sure how to import the contents of that without installing somehow . . . and I have no idea how to do that at this point. That’s something like five years in the past. I will recover it somehow, just not right now.

You may encounter a day or two with no access, but it’ll be back, I promise. It’s better than my previous plan: I was going to dump everything all together and start over anew. I kind of like that. It’s sort of like closing a chapter. Blogs are like books to me, I guess, seeing as this is my, what, sixth? Seven years of this and I’ve had nearly that many sites. I get to a point where I feel like I’ve said all I wanted to say here, and I “finish,” then start writing the next one. But this one’s not done yet, I suppose. There is more to be said.

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