Archive for February, 2007


Connections between music and place

The other day Heather and I were watching TV and a PBS promotional ad came on.  The music in the background was “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” from the Smashing Pumpkins’ similarly titled 1995 double album.  I haven’t listened to this album in a long time and hearing it again made me remember my history with it, which is intimately tied to geographical location.

During high school, my indie purism prevented me from my buying any of their albums – they were just too mainstream.  However, during my year in Germany after college, I bought this album at a used record store in Cologne just before I moved from Cologne to Wilhelmshaven.  I listened to this CD a lot when I lived in Wilhelmshaven.  Because I listened to the album so much while living there, any time I hear it, it brings to mind images of the place.  Vertigo by Jump, Little Children is another album that is linked in my mind to Wilhelmshaven.  My friend Jeff sent it to me for my birthday just after I had moved there and I listened to it all the time – particularly while I was on the bus or train.  So, whenever I hear that album, it conjures up images of bus and train travel through northern Germany.

I have a similar connection between the Pixies’ Come on Pilgrim and a driving trip through England that my family took in the 90’s.  Now, whenever I hear songs from that album, I remember getting out of our car at Stonehenge and driving down the left side of the road through the English countryside.

It’s funny how our brains make these sorts of connections.  Does anyone else have these sorts of connections?


Back to the grind

Obviously we’re back from the weekend trip to Maine. It was fun. I took my Wii and my advisor and officemates tore it up with Wii Sports. We had some interesting conversations and we had lots of fun playing in the snow. I think I dug the longest tunnel in the snow in my life. I started it for Elizabeth’s amusement, but I continued digging even after she went for her afternoon nap. By the time I quit, my clothes were all sweaty and the tunnel was like 6 feet long. It was cool.

That stuff was fun, but we did have two bad things happen:
1) I lost the case for our digital camera.
2) Our digital camera stopped working.

The camera had been doing weird things in movie mode for the last couple of weeks. It looked like there was some kind of interference – weird horizontal lines, etc. During the weekend, I took a picture of Heather and Elizabeth outside and then switched to movie mode. At this point, everything went black. The screen still worked (I could view pictures I had taken previously), but when I had the camera in photo mode or movie mode, I got nothing.

On Monday, after we got back, I tried to use the camera again and it didn’t give me anything initially. I tried pointing it at something really bright, because sometimes that had produced really dark, intermittent, kind of smeared out images before. This time, I heard a click and then the proper image appeared. I was able to take pictures again normally. Even the movie mode worked. I had no idea what had happened, but it seemed like we were back in business.

Yesterday, the camera didn’t work again. I don’t know what the problem is. Does anyone have any idea what’s going on? Has anyone heard of this sort of thing happening before? Is it something that can be fixed? If we have to buy a new camera, I guess we’ll have to, but if we can fix the camera for under $100, I might want to go that route.

So, now, I’m kind of in the market for a new point and shoot camera. I’ve spent a decent amount of time looking at cameras on already. Does anyone have any recommendations for other sites that I should look at? If this camera were only for me, I would consider getting one of these super zoom (aka SLR-like) cameras, like the Canon S3 or something similar. However, I know Heather’s not going to want to carry something like that around, so we’re probably in the market for something like our last camera, which is a Canon SD100 (in the Elph line).



Tomorrow we will be leaving for a ski trip sponsored by my research advisor, Craig Carter. For those of you who don’t already know this, I might as well say this now: my advisor’s brother, Chris Carter, is the creator of the X-Files. This means I have 2 degrees of separation with Chris Carter and probably only 3 degrees of separation with much of Hollywood.  Not bad.

Anyway, we will be going to Sunday River, which is a ski resort in Maine. The nearest town is apparently Bethel, ME. I was looking up the area on Google Maps today and I noticed that near Bethel are towns with the creative names: East Bethel, West Bethel, North Bethel, and, my favorite, Northwest Bethel. It’s probably just a matter of time before some disgruntled citizens on the western outskirts of Northwest Bethel secede and form a new municipality: Westnorthwest Bethel.

Anyway, since I won’t be near a computer (or internet connection) for a few days, I won’t be able to make any blog posts until Sunday night at the earliest. I hope you all have a good weekend without me.  If you’re not in the market for a car, I may be able to help you celebrate Presidents’ Day anyway.  I have a bunch of posts I’ve been working on but haven’t finished, so perhaps I’ll get one or two of those done on Presidents’ Day.  And maybe I’ll even have a picture or two to share…


The power of a picture

I decided the other day that I should really have a camera on my person at all times.  This is because I often see things that are funny and/or somehow noteworthy that I think would make a good blog post.  Unfortunately, simply explaining what I saw is generally not that funny or interesting.  However, if I had a picture of the funny/noteworthy item, the post could be much better.  For example, this whole line of thought was prompted by an experience I had last Saturday when Heather and I were out on a date and Elizabeth was at home with a babysitter.  We went to John Harvard’s, a local brewpub.  On their beer menu, they list a couple of attributes of their beers – the specific gravity and the alcohol by volume and maybe a couple of others.  According to the menu, one of their recent specials had 78.1% alcohol by volume.  That’s 156 proof!  This was obviously a typo.  Anyway, I found myself saying, “Man, I wish I had a camera to take a picture of this menu!”  It’s somewhat funny when recounted in text, but it would be much funnier if I had a picture to show you.

To illustrate this further, I could tell you that my tennis rating in Wii Sports is now off the chart that is used to display a person’s rating.  This is not that funny.  However, when I say this and add the following picture, it is much funnier:


If I weren’t a poor graduate student, I might buy myself a camera phone or a really slim digital camera to have with me all the time.  Alas, I am a poor graduate student, so I’ll just have to come to terms with not being able to photograph everything I see that I think would be great for my blog.  Oh well.


Excite Truck is, well, exciting

Heather got me the Wii game Excite Truck for Valentine’s Day, but gave it to me yesterday.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Excite Truck, it is an off-road racing game with trucks.  It also involves a lot of flying through the air since the courses include of a lot of (huge) jumps.  Anyway, Heather gave me the game early because she was concerned that, if she waited until Wednesday to give it to me, I would stay up late playing it and would be exhausted the next day.  Giving it to me yesterday gave me plenty of time to play it before the work week started.  This was a smart move because I played it a lot yesterday.  According to the playing summary on the Wii messageboard, I played it for more than 4 hours.  I finally stopped playing at around 11:45pm, or so.  Yesterday’s experience taught me that I need to allow a long buffer period between stopping playing and going to bed.  This is because I slept very poorly last night.  All night I was plagued by dreams of trucks going off huge jumps and flying through the air.  It was similar to the experience I have had after playing lots of Tetris – an unending stream of Tetris pieces cascading down in my mind.  However, Tetris pieces are at least mildly soporific – not unlike counting sheep, I suppose;  trucks flying off huge jumps, not so much.  So, a warning to anyone considering buying the game: it lives up to its name, so don’t try to play it right before going to bed.


New additions to the blogroll

Tonight I decided to go ahead and add two new blogs to my blogroll. I’ve been reading these blogs for the last few months and I really enjoy them. I hope you will, too.

I met Liz over Christmas break. She is a friend of my friend Adrian, who is Rad (and also on my blogroll). She enjoys skipping and apparently rides horses with skill and enthusiasm.

I have never met Sarah Louise, author of Many Pink Sneakers; I found her blog through the infamous Urban Saddle (also on my blogroll). So, she has the distinction of being the only person on my blogroll whom I have never met. Congratulations, Sarah Louise! As a male, I am not generally drawn to pink (though I do like orange); however, I have found her posts encouraging, edifying, and entertaining, so she’s wound up on the shortlist of blogs I read.

Anyway, I encourage my readers to check out all the blogs on my blogroll. There’s something for everyone.


Say “Yes” to Mike Schmid

To echo a recent post by my esteemed blogging colleague Pat Bird of the famed Urban Saddle, I thought I, too, would sing the praises of an album that I recently downloaded from eMusic.

My friend Jeff Miller, an excellent musician himself, introduced me to Mike Schmid while they were both students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. I got a copy of a demo CD from Jeff and subsequently bought Mike’s debut album. A few years passed and I lost track of Mike, who had ostensibly taken a hiatus from recording. Anyway, not so long ago he came out with a new album titled “The High Cost of Living (A Love Story)”. I’ve listened to it quite a number of times now and I really like it. The album is full of great melodies and clever, thoughtful lyrics. It’s a little more on the electronica/trip-hop side of the rock and roll spectrum than most of the stuff I have, but the songwriting is excellent and the instrumentation works well with the songs. There are a number of really excellent songs on the CD and all the tracks are solid.

Anyway, if you’re an eMusic subscriber and you’re trying to figure out what to get this month, you owe it to yourself to check him out. If you’re not a eMusic subscriber, you can get his latest album at CDBaby. I know he would appreciate your support because in November, while he was on a tour through the southern US, his tour van and trailer caught fire and everything was destroyed – instruments, clothes, money, everything.


Pirates finally make some moves: Part 1

It’s been a slow offseason for Pirates fans. Basically, we’ve sat and watched as other teams signed all of this season’s good free agents while Dave Littlefield yammered on about how their focus was on acquiring players through trades. However, in the last two weeks the Pirates have actually made a few moves. Here’s a breakdown:

Adam LaRoche for Mike Gonzalez: I have to say that I’m sorry to see Mike Gonzalez go. That guy had electric stuff and was very entertaining to watch. On the other hand, he always looked like he was on the verge of coming apart, much like former Milwaukee closer Derrick Turnbow, who actually did come apart and lost the closer role. Also, as a closer playing for the Pirates, Gonzalez didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play, since closers generally only pitch the 9th if their team is winning. All in all, in spite of my affection for Mike Gonzalez, I think this trade will benefit the Pirates. He only pitched in 54 games last year while LaRoche will likely play 150 games or more. Plus, LaRoche will add some much-needed power to the middle of the lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do for the Pirates this year.

Tony Armas, Jr.: Last week the Pirates announced that they had signed right-handed starter Tony Armas, Jr. to a one-year contract with a club option for 2008. I’m less enthusiastic about this signing because Armas, Jr. is the guy they signed because they couldn’t get Jeff Suppan or Tomo Ohka. Last year Armas, Jr. started 30 games for the Washington Nationals, finishing with a 9-12 record and 5.03 ERA. This is not the kind of help the Pirates need. They got this kind of starter when they got Shawn Chacon from the Yankees in exchange for Craig Wilson before the trade deadline last year. His career numbers are better than his numbers from last year, so hopefully, he’ll do better this year. Only time will tell.

In future installments I’ll look at other transactions the Pirates have made this offseason, including the signing of Cuban defector Yoslan Herrera and the re-signing of current Pirates players like Freddy Sanchez.


Blogging now a family affair

Last night I set up a blog for my wife, Heather, on the same server that hosts this blog. If you know me, you probably know Heather, too, so you might be interested in checking out her blog. I’ve added her to my blogroll, so you can click on the link and get started.


A sad state of affairs

This afternoon I looked out my office window and noticed two helicopters hovering in the distance. I figured there must be some type of news unfolding, so I took a look at the website of a local TV station to get the scoop. Apparently, there had already been a string of suspicious packages or devices found in various locations throughout the city and the current developments focused on the fifth such device. The first one was detonated by the Boston bomb squad but from the video, it looked like the police were much less cautious with the fifth device.

That’s because it turned out to be a Lite-Brite! Remember those? Well, the devices weren’t exactly Lite-Brites but their appearance is definitely evocative of the once-popular children’s toy. They were apparently part of a strange advertising campaign for a show called “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”, which airs on Adult Swim, the after-hours incarnation of Cartoon Network, and depict a character from the show. How such a thing was mistaken for a bomb, I can’t understand. Admittedly, they were placed in strange places – like on the supports for bridges – so it’s not totally unreasonable that they might arouse some suspicion. But, in the end, it’s still just a Lite-Brite.

Tonight, a Boston-area man was arrested for putting up the devices under some new law that criminalizes the use, transportation, or possession of “hoax devices”. Can we please be serious? First of all, this was part of an advertising campaign and he was acting as an employee. Second, I don’t think anyone involved in this campaign even entertained the notion that these things would be mistaken for bombs. Third, they have been up for 2-3 weeks in Boston and a number of other cities around the country, without incident up until today. This is just ridiculous.

Anyway, the take-home lesson from all of this is that you should never bring your Lite-Brite out in public, lest someone mistake it for a bomb. That, and if these things really look that threatening, the government needs to rethink all the LED walk/don’t walk signs at intersections. Those things look a lot like Lite-Brites, too.

Jon Stewart, et al., do your thing.

storycartoonadultswim.jpg 10891659_240×180.jpg
You tell me: bomb or Lite-Brite?


February 2007

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