Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We Meet, We Part

Too short, IMHO. But a gem nonetheless. Good time to head off to Germany and follow the Holmes Brothers around. Always a powerful show....and they're not getting any younger, as they say. Their latest release, State of Grace, has a gorgeous version of Nick Lowe's "(What's so Funny About) Peace, Love, & Understanding".

(Click here for some pics from a concert in Arden, DE, courtesy of Studio M)

NaBloPoMo begins in 2 days, so I advance-apologize for some of the dreck I may have to post in the next month to keep my Once-a-Day promise about blogging.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Evil Empire Moves North

As global warming or worldwide warmth or whatever the heck the au courant expression is for the condition that has me sweating in late October is upon us, forcing us northward in search of temperate climate, so has the Evil Empire picked up its stakes from the land of Trump, Steinbrenner, and Giuliani and headed up in the general direction of Canada. Boston is looking at itself in the mirror and is answering the question, "Who is the enemy now?".

MVP of the series, Mike Lowell, acknowledged to be a great guy as well as an excellent 3rd baseman, will be counting some heavy change now that the Series is over and he is a free agent. Couple that with Mr. Alex Rodriguez's and his agent's, Scott Boras (who is never a bore but is most certainly an as_), announcement that they will be shopping elsewhere than the Bronx for the platinum coinage needed for Mr. October Fade's services and you have to laugh at some Bean Town fan's prediction of a Red Sox Dynasty.

Come on! Hubris is being doled out in Boston along with cases of Samuel Adams. You just know that the Red Sox management trust will bite on Boras' bait. The Sox almost had Rodriguez before; hubris will drive them toward mussing the Yankees hair and getting him this time around. There are very few professional teams in the world that can afford the regular season services of the walk-on-pre-playoff-waters of Mr. Rodriguez. As far as I know, one of the only other teams than the Red Sox, Manchester United, doesn't believe his striker skills are adequate and his big-game cojones are oout on loan. So the Sox will sign Alex, ignore the Good Guy Lowell, the better choice, and head immediately back to where their existence is more appreciated as the Tortured Soul of Baseball, namely the Cubbies Division. Sorry, Tim!

Then, in a "Planets and Stars Alignment" 2008 season (something the Rockies had for 170 games this year), the Phillies acquire Mr. Lowell and perhaps his ex-Marlin teammate Mr. Dontrelle Willis, who is so happy to be re-united with Mr. Lowell that he proceeds to go out and have a 21 game winning season. Oh, and Joe Torre, in mid-2008 season, drives down the NJ Turnpike to the City of Brotherly Love where he begins part of his Year of Charity program by taking over from Charley "Mumbles" Manuel and managing the Phighting Phils to the World Series against the Indians of Cleveland.

The Sox and their fans will be back in their 12 Stages of Misery with their new 3rd baseman, Alex "Cloak of Playoff Invisibility" Rodriguez, while the Yankees struggle with the Sons of Steinbrenner and the unlucky manager succeeding Mr. Torre. Yes, all will be right with the universe come the 2008 season; the Sox will be in their most comfortable melieu, the Misery Métier.

Cheesesteak, anyone?


Friday, October 26, 2007

Hearing & Understanding

Came upon this Wiki-How at the bottom of this Wiki-How. This piece of advice was also a link. A thread of mis-understanding, I guess.

All three communication advisories shared the following common points.
1) Keep your sentence structure simple.
2) Look in the person's eyes when you're listening or speaking.
3) Stay calm.
4) Be patient.
5) Smile.

I'd add one more.
6) Breath.
It will help you with points #1 and #3.

All common sense, you'd assume. But, think of your daily communications (an easy task for us introverts as we can number them off on our fingers and still have a whole hand left..or is that right?). How often do you leave the verbal exchange with minimal forward progress on the topics discussed? Work, home, social events, doesn't matter. Maybe it's just an introvert's take on the matter. If one has minimal verbal exchanges a greater level of importance is attached to the events. An extrovert would be having these exchanges from the time their morning head rise from the pillow until the night time head drop back. While their % of meaningful conversations may be the same as an introvert's, the number of meaningful conversations is much higher. As in baseball, averages can cloak the activity level.

When traveling, I tend to pay more attention to the mundanities in the place that I'm visiting than to those same mundanities in the place that I'm living.
(Short aside here: What's up with the word mundanity? One definition of the word is "The quality or character of being intellectually sophisticated and worldly through cultivation or experience or disillusionment" and another is its opposite, "The quality of being commonplace and ordinary").

Back to the topic.
On a recent trip to Pittsburgh, I had a chance to experience quite a few no-no's from this list. More specifically,
Point #2 Recognize that people wrongly think that turning up the volume somehow creates instant understanding. Avoid this common mistake.
I had treble luck.
1) I was a foreigner (Croatian and from Delaware)
2) I have graying hair, signifying I don't dye my hair and I'm over 40.
3) I hum, at times, in a tone that most exemplifies White Noise, thus thwarting any vocal missles launched my way.

I'm sure our waitress had goodness in her heart but she was dealing with me, an atrociously critical customer (well, viewed as such by my family). I was actually in a very positive mood. The October weather was July-like. The outdoor seating was covered by a canopy that softly snapped with each waft of cool air blowing in on us. The sun was shining brightly causing passing pedestrians to squint and duck their heads while we sat in the shade, eyes wide-open. Barbecued meat smells lingered and extra-cold beers sat in tall chilled glasses on our table. Life was good and a fine meal was anticipated.
My camera bag sat opened on the chair next to me. Some brochures of museums and sites poked their titles out of the bag. The waitress came by and saw all the tourist/foreigner sights and proceeded to bellow. My humming stopped; I cocked my head at the source. She was a tall glass of water and a loud torrent of words poured from her. She, being turned to high volume, expected comprehension and compensatory ordering action on my part. I, being swallowed in the thundering mass of words, struggled to catch my breath and to shield my ears. I mumbled something, nothing that I understood nor obviously she as she came back shortly with some fish-like product. My ever-loving wife, flashing her extrovert credentials, ordered something and received the same thing. I treated my meal like chum, hoping it would catch something delectable but, alas, no bite on the bait so no bite for me.
I will hone my Pittsburghese and stretch my facial muscles for the next time. When I'm back'air, it'll be a can a corn to order eats ovedder.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Back on the Endangered List

This, (from the excellent ink, drawing, and word site of Cubby Blue. Please visit early and often. Very illuminating place to visit and I'm not just referring to his unique illustrations.)

and this bit, from McSweeney's just about synopsizes the season, going forward, for the Eagles.

Not enough mirrors to disguise the confusion, injuries, and consistently poor coaching for this year.
The good news?
The sports radio talk shows have a mastodon of a topic, the Eagle's demise, to chew on for the next 2 months.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

What's Edible

Eating, well, really NOT eating, has been on my mind lately. Since a Trader Joe's opened up in our area, we, along with the other new food stlings lemmings in our area, streamed off the cliff to their only store in the First State. Along with the various coffee offerings we were intrigued with the Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Greek style yogourt and frozen vegetables and frozen berries. After the recent lead 'n' toy related news came out, we started reading our food purchases' packaging more closely. Turns out the frozen green beans we'd purchased from Trader Joe's came from China. Now, most folks know that water pollution in China is pretty much an accepted thing. With minimal environmental controls and ludicrously low penalties for any violations, manufacturers can preach that they're following the laws as regards pollution and not be lying. Unfortunately, while these lax laws are one of components in keeping the cost of manufacturing low in China these laws have a direct effect on the agriculture grown there. Irrigation source water is this same, by US and European standards, polluted river water.

So, we threw out all of the frozen green beans one day. Thinking back, I hit myself in the head. Why didn't we just take all of the stuff back to TJ's? It has their brand name on it; it's not as if they could say we bought it elsewhere. Unless there's an underground market for Trader Joe's foodstuffs...

Eat Less. Pay more. It's as simple as that.

Other things I won't be eating any time soon would be Polh Stew, a delicacy in certain parts of Europe, including Slovenia.
Polh, you ask? What is it? It is this,the humble dormouse. In Italy, some folks are serving jail time for having poached these furry little things.

Thanks to Michael over at Glory of Carniola and Piran Cafe for some of the dormouse-related links. Dobar Tek!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Variable Costing

A bunch of us at work were at a meeting where we were introduced to the Evil World of Variable (or Marginal Cost) Pricing. The initial shock of listening to this topic as expounded by a company accountant (Gwynne!?!? How do you deal with this stuff on a daily basis?) did not result in deep hibernation as expected (shock, accountant, hibernation usually are not words one usually associated to be found in one sentence). The bean counter (Yes, I know that it’s an irritating descriptive to be hung with) had come up with a subtle plan on presenting his topic.

Radiohead. Well, Radiohead and their latest album release payment policy. Those of us musically inclined lent him our ears.

"In Rainbows" is, as most every music fan and Wall Street Journal reader out there knows, is being sold as a You Determine the Price release. At Radiohead.com, you go to the DOWNLOAD option and put in the price you’re willing to pay. $0.00 is allowable, as is $100.00. I didn’t try $1 million, in case my finger slipped and locked in the order. Negative amounts are not accepted; come on people, Radiohead is not going to pay you to be listening to their music.

The accountant started off by complementing the band on the size of their financial cojones as they were taking a shaky bet on the behavior of the human animal. Note Bene: I use cojones here in complete comfort since a former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, deemed it possible to be speaking in public of such anatomical admiration. He noted that the bandied around term of Variable Pricing in regards to the album purchase was basically incorrect. At the least, it was misleading. While different sources out there (reliability is not being discussed here) provide definitions more fitting for the term Bid Pricing, our plucky accountant noted that most of these definitions miss out on the most important component. The cost. From there, he wended his way through the archaicity of accounting terms such as contribution margin costing, marginal value costing until he arrived at the door leading to Evil World of Variable (or Marginal Cost) Pricing.

This world sounded way too much like that physics world of Zeno’s Paradox, a place (and time) I was not interested in revisiting. Zeno’s Paradox was the nail-in-the-coffin for my career path in Physics, a very short career path, I'll add. According to that ingenious juggler Zeno of Elea, you cover half the distance between two points, over and over again, but you never get to that last point because the halving of the distance always gives you another distance to halve. Funny how my Physics teacher in high school was not able to explain how I was able to walk out of that class if I was continually covering half of the distance from my chair to the door.

Much the same with the Evil World of Variable Costing. A good or service is composed of 2 costs, fixed and variable. Whether we sell zero or a million of these goods or services, we have a fixed cost, say like rent, coffee, or Twinkies that we have to pay for. If we sell everything based on our Variable Cost, we are not paying for our rent, coffee, or those darn fattening Twinkies. We’d be selling ourselves into bankruptcy. And yet, as the accountant nudge-nudge-wink-winked, some companies’ purposely did this to maximize their sales. Not us, as our future seems quite bright, but some folks out there are unknowingly operating under Zeno’s Paradox of Accounting. (Gwynne? Ever come across this?)

Tying it all up, our accountant admitted that he was left paff as to how the financial folks involved with Radiohead came up with their "You Set the Price" scheme as cost of any sort never seemed to enter the calculation. He thought that at least a minimum price needed to be set. This faith in the Common Man that Radiohead seemed to be espousing was not in his Accounting Bible.

An interesting "What If?" music commentary on variable pricing is here. Economic Theory meets the Wallet of Reality.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Not sure if Mr. Sgazzetti has signed up. His joining in on the November 2006 version of NaBloPoMo prompted me to sign up before I realized the level of commitment required. I made it through last November with at least one post a day. Unlike Ms. Jag over at Hillbilly, Please, who posts on almost a regular daily basis, moss tends to grow over my entries such that 2 posts a week is doing well for me. I need this commitment to get the posting numbers up. It's not a competitive thing although prizes are available. The tax consequences resulting from such gains is not worth the hassle; all I need is the IRS after my blogging personality to make this year truly special. So, if I win anything (hardly likely), I will not accept as I'd prefer not to have a taxing authority in my blogging domain.

So, my usual suspected readers. Any of you willing to make a month's commitment to the Daily Word?

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Hornby Radar...

...is in serious dis-repair. His Slam was released September 11th and I hadn't a clue he was even working on something. Slam is his debut teenager book. Most of the reviews seem favorable, no that that is any reason to pick up this book. Here's a non-review by The Times. Come on! It's a Hornby. Reason enough.

Rough story outline is teen-aged boy finds out ex-girlfriend is with child and he is then deep into philosophy with his Tony Hawk bedroom poster. Mr. Hawk gives a quote line in today's NYT of the novel stating, "SLAM is a poignant, endearing story for teens and adults alike.
I know very little of Mr. Hawk, but somehow me-thinks "poignant" and "endearing" are not words he'd normally be heaving out.
Still, it is a Hornby, so Slam may be well worth...borrowing from the local library. Or, perhaps from some skateboarder who may have picked up the hardback version based on the old-timer Hawk's recommendation or his inclusion as an inspiring icon in the book.

Or, as another reason to obtain the book, as reviewer Janet Christie suggests, "So if your teenager is out skating, they're probably too busy to read this book - or have sex - anyway, but if they're in their room with a boyfriend or girlfriend, shove it under the door quick, before it's too late."


Friday, October 12, 2007

Hockey is Not War....

..and that's where the problem lies.

"Let’s pretend we’re somewhere else.

Let’s pretend its 3:17 AM on a Tuesday, and we’re sitting in a bar. Not a club or anything fancy, just a very ordinary neighborhood tavern type thing (if your neighborhood bar isn’t open at 3:17 AM on Tuesdays, you live in the wrong neighborhood). Let’s pretend we’ve been drinking quite a bit for quite a while and chatting drunken-style about all sorts of things. Maybe I serenaded you with my very moving version of Rex’s Blues, and you were (being drunk) appropriately appreciative. Now it’s very late and things are getting pretty quiet and we’re not in Montreal because I’m smoking and staring at the smoke in that vaguely perplexed way that drunk people tend to stare at cigarette smoke. And after a longish silence, in which you were beginning to think about heading home, I say the following:


[Pause. Deep breath.]

Sometimes I think that watching hockey makes me a bad person.

So, Ms. E over at A Theory of Ice begins her entry, On Watching. I've effused about her site quite a few times. This last entry seems to be something she's been working her way through for a while. Over 5,500 words, just short of 11 single-spaced pages. It's about hockey like Catch-22 is about planes. Print it out, mark it up, read it through multiple times.

Another bite:
"But all watching is a sort of vampirism. It’s all about appropriating the qualities of the game for ourselves. For some people it’s vicarious macho, for others it’s vicarious speed, vicarious anger, vicarious triumph, vicarious courage, vicarious endurance. In some sense being a hockey fan is similar to any other form of the symbolic consumption which is so characteristic of contemporary capitalist society- those qualities which we feel lacking in ourselves we seek in something external. Buying a sexy sportscar to feel young, or a hybrid to feel socially responsible. Getting a tattoo to feel cool. We are all very conscious of what our tastes and our choices say about us, we define other people often by what they like to watch, and define ourselves similarly."

and, finally:
"If hockey were war, it would in fact, be war, and if that’s what you really want, you know, we already have that and I’m very sure that a good many governments would be just thrilled if you wanted to go take a closer look. The whole reason that hockey is hockey is that it is not war, neither is it gladiatorial combat, or murder, or Fight Club. It’s not ultimate fighting, boxing, or (American) football. For that matter, it’s not basketball, baseball, figure skating, or dwarf bowling. It’s hockey, and it is different from all those things. So don’t tell me that hockey is violent because it’s battle. It’s not. Battle is battle and hockey is hockey, and metaphor is an art that points obliquely at truth but is not truth itself."

She makes me nervous and itchy with how well she writes about hockey. Seriously, has anyone out there come across someone else who comes even close? And it's not just this linked piece; it's all of her stuff. She is the Roger Angell of hockey.

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Listenin' 'n Lookin'

Just a short list of some YouTubes that I've enjoyed repetitively viewing. While I certainly enjoy some of the jazz musicians' YouTube offerings, the limited sound quality and compressed screen sizes never seem to do jazz justice. It's frustrating, for me at least, to see the performances. What tends to happen when I see, say Lee Morgan in a YouTube clip, is to watch it for a bit and then run over to the CD stacks and see if there's a similar cut of his I can play on the stereo. I appreciate the folks who post the YouTubes of the performances; I'm just impatient with the sound quality.

In contrast, most R & R performers do well on YouTube. Is it the volume and the lack of nuance in the genre? A R & R band can get away with sloppiness, even thrive on it. A jazz group/performer can't and I think YouTube's methodology simply cloaks the light almost invisible touch that jazz has.

The Band w/ the Staple Singers (including Pops and Mavis) doing "The Weight". Is there any other bass player who plays the electric bass as if it was a stand-up acoustic bass like the late (and great) Rick Danko? Has there been a drummer with as distinctive and as captivating a voice as Levon Helm? The non-rhetorical answer to those rhetorical questions would be "No!".

Andrew Bird, violinist, guitarist, whistler, and quite witty wordsmith performing "Imitosis" from his album, Armchair Apocrypha.
When your lyrics include "Professor Pynchon", "machinations", "palindromes" and then the run:
"we were all basically alone
despite what all his studies have shown
that what’s mistaken for closeness
is just a case of mitosis
sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis
", one's ears perk up. A most interesting fellow is Mr. Bird; just consider that he's on Fat Possum records, a label usually associated with R.L. Burnside and Sleepy John Estes.

Little Feat, with the late Lowell George, doing his self-parody composition, "Fat Man in the Bathtub". IMHO, when Lowell George was alive 'n kicking, Little Feat was the best band of the '70's.

And the 1980's? Well, no better band than the

Talking Heads, doing "Road to Nowhere". Their stuff still sounds fresh and applicable these days. Jerry Harrison is a very under-rated guitarist. Quite the quippy notes and certainly a solid underflow for the T-Heads lyrics.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cubbie Stocks

You can read this relatively short Morningstar posting or just take my advice and save yourself some eye wear.

If you are ever tempted by promotional literature, cold calls, door-to-door investment counsellors, or recommendations by close and trusted friends regarding the services of some company called Cubbie Cash Counselling & Investment Emporium, keep in mind that the last time the Cubbies hit it big was 99 years ago. Not the kind of success one would want to count on for one's comfortable retirement. Only a bear would like the Cubs.


Be Honest

How many people do you know, including yourself, does this excellent graph (thanks to the ever-machinating mind of Jessica Hagy) apply to?

I ashamedly raise my paw. With the exception of Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, and (Lowell George original version of) Little Feat, once a group I liked/loved became a bit popular, I tended to listen to their music a lot less. I blame it on my Musical Attention Deficiency, because it sounds more clinical than music snobbery.


Thank You Don,

...I'm not going nuts. In this posting, Mr. Don Lindich of Sound Advice Blog answers a nagging iPod situation I've blogged on (and on and on) about in the past.
Namely, the lousy sound quality of the iPod, specifically when played through any decent stereo equipment or set of headphones (and don't get me started on playing an iPod through a car stereo..).

I'm not posting this to continue any discussion/argument on this topic. Nor am I trying to change anyone's mind on the iPod. Please, go out and buy the newest version as soon as possible! Like, right now! Me, I'll stay here and fool around with my CD's. It's just good to know this old guy isn't quickly, as opposed to slowly, slipping off into senility. Thank you, Don.
The only thing Don left off of his answer was just how much of a loss of iPod hard drive space do you lose by opting for Apple Lossless Compression under the Importing options. Hmm, let's see if he answers that question.

And, stating the obvious, Don's post was just another reason for having his site listed on the Daily Clicks, off there to your right. It's always a place of interest as long as you heed the caveat of "Keep your wallet in a secure and hard to access place."

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Cicadas and Phillies

Every 15 years (or so) both the Phillies and the Cicadas make a lot of noise and get everybody so churned up that thoughts of the World Coming to an End or the return of the Philadelphia Plague are swirling about. I know that Jim is already out there tromping around and getting tired of hearing that the Phillies are the Nat Leagues East Champs.

But, come on Jim! You're in the Greater "Yo!" Area, you've got to give them some cred! I mean, even that New Yorker Conan is getting into the act (while simultaneously showing no heart for the Mets). It's not about laughing at the Mets; you've got to empathize with their drop off the cliff. It's about the Phillies, complete with Manager Charlie Manuel's hair-pulling late inning decision-making and heart attack inducing bullpen, and how they pulled it out with no time to spare. Things like this just don't happen to the Phillies. This is machina ex deus we're talking about here!

(Thanks to Philly's own 700 Level for links.)


Before I Died...

...I was hoping this would come out on DVD. My old chewed up VHS copy jitters and jakes when I put it in the even older Toshiba tape player. There was an early DVD version available to buy. But, unless you lived in Europe or had the very expensive European style DVD player, you were out of luck as far as watching a DVD version of the movie.

But now, thanks to Criterion, Night on Earth, a personal Top Five film, is available. Yeah, yeah it's got extras so that you can do the self-delusional monologue to convince yourself that the DVD needs to be an integral part of your collection. But, as anyone who has seen just the Roberto Benigni taxi-driver in the Rome sequence knows, the Criterion DVD is worth buying just for that short alone. Why hasn't someone contracted with Mr. Benigni to record Italian Made Easy DVD's or CD's? Who would not want to speak/understand Italian the way he does?

Night on Earth is a collection of five shorts that follow taxi-drivers and their fares during the other half of life that lives and moves in the night in Los Angeles, NYC, Rome, Paris, and Helsinki. A Tom Waits soundtrack, an incredible cast that includes Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and the incomparable Roberto Benigni. Even Rosie Perez, the high-screaming Brooklynite who tends to wear out her screen appearances quickly with me, has a role in the NYC sequence that is manageable to a viewer's eyes and ears. Each of the five filmettes is a stand-alone. To have them all in one 129 minute long film is a treat that you'll be playing over and over. The Helsinki taxi-driver story stars Kari Väänänen, who was earlier in Leningrad Cowboys Go America, a jewel of oddness and fine hair stylings. (Note: Night on Earth's Writer/Director/Producer Jim Jarmusch has a cameo in Leningrad Cowboys Go America)

Yes, yes Criterion has also released a souped-up version of Stranger Than Paradise as well. Personally, while I enjoyed Stranger Than Paradise, viewing it twice was enough. Night on Earth is an entirely different matter. I'd have it on virtual play if I were living the monk's life. I strongly encourage all sentient beings out there to procure a copy.Who knows? You may find yourself humming Back in the Good Old World as you taxi yourself to work each morning.

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