Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.

Off to Beantown for a couple of days of meetings and discovery of the situation on the ground at Respected New Client; hopefully things won't be as farked as they usually are in this type of situation, but nothing surprises me in this day and age. Client's looking at some hot new replication technology, and just might be willing to spring for the bandwidth to support it. Problem here is that I'm having some issues getting some enterprise database code from them (there seems to be something funky in one of the vendor's load balancers that points my home IP to their flakiest server; in the worst event I'll get the code at the hotel or from Mom's when I come back).

I've been messing with another enterprise DBMS on Linux the past couple of days. The vendor did something very smart; they provided the database to me as RPMs, instead of a set of modules that need to be relinked. Took a grand total of about 10 minutes to install and get ready to create an instance. Note to the database vendor who provides code that needs to be relinked - follow the example of your competitor. There are a bunch of sites out there that offer workarounds for the problems with your Linux installer, but the plain fact remains that your installer should work without kvetching. I've done more than my share of administering *nix boxes and know that occasionally you have to tweak a makefile, but come on, consistently failing at a critical step of the install and needing to retry after opening a shell and editing the makefile? Sorry guys. Not cool. I should note that the test instance of Linux for the DBMS I'm messing with is SuSE, which makes it doubly sweet that the RPMs worked painlessly. I've grown to prefer the SuSE distribution lately, and other than 9.1 and 9.2 not working with VMWare 4.0 (I'm getting ready to upgrade to 4.5, I'll probably do so after the holidays) I've had some great results with 9.0, patched and have gotten a nicely consistent, stable build out of it that's made life very easy for testing various Linux toys. Make a gold copy, and you're ready to rock for repeated installs.

I miss the family already.

Monday, November 29, 2004

 

Monday Morning Inanities

Much doing today, with a lot of errands and petty tasks to run, not to mention getting ready for Respected New Client tomorrow up in the heart of Kennedy Country. One interesting thing I caught yesterday while watching the news was that I recognized the Cyrillic word "Svoboda" on one of the signs at a demonstration in the Ukraine. Obviously I'm hanging around too much with the Russian guys at work, but even though the context was demanding freedom of some sorts, naturally my thoughts turned to the '69 Mets. There was a recent book by Art Shamsky about the Jets and Mets championship teams of that year, and there were a couple of interesting bits contributed by Ron Swoboda. I was a bit surprised to read that he didn't get along all that well with Gil Hodges, but there were some great insights into the team from both Shamsky and Swoboda, who were platooned by Hodges that year. Swoboda had a lot of potential and was a fan favorite, but the context of the times didn't permit him to reach that potential. He was and is an excellent sportscaster and commentator, and unfortunately isn't up here at the scene of his greatest moments. He did some local news commentary way back when here in the NY metro area, but somehow managed to tick off someone with his incisive, outspoken comments. Ron, wherever you are (I think it's Atlanta), the fans here want you back...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

 

Six months in....

Today marks the six-month mark into this blog, certainly over 100K words, and something over 182 posts (for some reason, Blogger doesn't update the statistics on any sort of discernible schedule so without checking the archives I can't be exactly sure; like I've said, you get what you pay for). It's an interesting trip, in that I take a bit of advice I got from Kim DuToit very seriously (Kim's the gold standard for bloggers, IMO) in that no matter how busy or whatever else is happening, make sure you post every day (vacations of course excluded). Like a lot of bloggers I occasionally suffer from bloggers' block, and sometimes that daily post may indeed be the simple "keepalive" note, but the wisdom in Kim's advice is obvious. Even if there's a momentary dry spell something will come up that will inspire or enrage you and the verbiage will come pouring out.

I suppose that my biggest frustration when writing this blog is that upon occasion there have been items in the Wall Street Journal or the Sulzberger Entity's business section that I can deliver some very pithy insider commentary on, but because of a nasty habit (I like to eat and pay my mortgage) I have to hold my tongue lest this blog cause me more grief with Respected Employer. Sufficiently sanitizing some of these stories may take some time for them to pass from immediate news consciousness (I'm actually sitting on one story which I'd dearly love to tell, it's about an incident which is positively legendary at a certain brokerage/investment bank giant, but because there's a very small group of people who actually witnessed the incident - myself among them - and the protagonist is very hot-tempered and still floating around in the financial services community, there's no reason to expose myself to grief. Suffice it to say the story could well have been used for a gag in a slob comedy).

That said, there's a Respected New Client who's spinning up a new project this coming week, and I'll be getting used to a whole new bunch of excitable types who're trying to do More With Less and other sorts of deviltry, and surely they will provide me with new fodder, and perhaps even give me some clues as to how to obfuscate some of the stories from places like Colditz (perhaps the distance helps). Blogging may be on an oddball schedule this week, as I will be on-site at Respected New Client and I can't speak for how my schedule (or their content filtering) will allow me to rant. More'n likely blogging will be in the evening or very early morning.

Welcome again.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

 

What's wrong with this picture?

A bit of a discussion is going on over at the Beat Gear Cavern over this one. If you believe Christie's, this is the SG owned by George Harrison in the mid-60's and used both live and in the studio by The Beatles. There is still a bit of controversy as to whether this guitar actually is said guitar (unlike the Beatles' Rickenbackers, the serial number of the SG is unknown, and the chain of custody is unproven. Harrison was of course known for giving guitars away, witness the rosewood Telecaster, but since he supposedly gave this to the late Pete Ham of Badfinger, the interesting detail emerges that Badfinger had several SGs of this vintage and appearance, so therefore although this may likely be a Badfinger-owned guitar, there's no definitive proof that this is the Harrison guitar that may have been given to Ham).

It's a fair bet that the only person still alive who could give a reasonable opinion as to whether this was indeed George's guitar is Neil Aspinall, and I don't see his name mentioned on any of the authentication paperwork. Given some of the Badfinger history, I doubt Joey Molland would be enough of a disinterested party to authenticate the guitar.

So, giving Christie's the benefit of the doubt and assuming for the moment the guitar is indeed the Harrison instrument (its most famous moment probably being "Paperback Writer"), what's wrong with this picture? Based on gut check and previous guitar auctions, it's a fair bet that this guitar would go for at least half a mil. So why in heck is this clod carrying the guitar in the street sans case as if it were a broom?





Friday, November 26, 2004

 

Give me a jewel for my belly and call me Buddah

We hosted another successful Thanksgiving dinner, the Mrs. really cooked up a storm, and dinner was awesome. Only bummer was the relatives showing up extremely late, leading to kids squawking about why we had to hold dinner (another five minutes and I would've said "start eating"). The tryptophane did its number on me as usual, and I'm feeling mighty bloated today.

I generally hate shopping on Black Friday but I've got a minor interest in checking out either a Line6 DL-4 or Boss DD-20 delay pedal. I'd like to put my Roland GR-33 to work a bit and I'd like to mess with some looping. Harmony Central has some pretty scathing reviews of the DL-4 and consistent good reviews of the DD-20, but since I take their reviews cum grano salis I'll take a ride up to my friendly music store and test drive the pedals to see if there's anything there to bother with (it's either this or go for something like a T.C. Electronic G-Major, which intrigues me, but unless I see one relatively cheap on eBay, I doubt I'll spring for one). I've also got to hit my cell phone dealer, as the battery in my phone is having trouble holding a charge, and since the phone is a couple of years old, I might as well look at what's out there (and no camera phone for me, what the heck do I need a gimmick like that for? If I need a digital camera, I'll take one with me).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

 

Maudlin Sentimentality Time

OK, Thankgsiving. Time for the list of things to be thankful for:

Enjoy your turkey!



Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 

Quote Without Comment Department Part 2

The Hindustan Times reports that the US is increasing the number of H-1B visas. Oh, they've increased the fee for an "anti-fraud" program, and they're tightening up the rules for L-1 (body shoppers) visas, but surprise, surprise, the measure was most supported by academia. Money quotes include:

The initiative to raise the number of H-1B visas and fix loopholes was taken by senator Saxby Chambliss and representative Lamar Smith, both Republicans, through separate Bills in the two Houses. The Bills were finally tucked into the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that was passed by Congress over the weekend.

Both made out the case for reserving the additional 20,000 H-1B visas for foreign students passing out of US universities with master's or doctorate degrees — a move vigorously supported by the leading lights of US tech industry like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett Packard and Texas Instruments.

"It's counterproductive to educate these students and then force them abroad to compete against us," says Sandra Boyd, who chairs the "Compete America" coalition that lobbied for the exemptions.


Your government at work. You know, the one that thinks feeling up women will increase air safety.

 

Quote Without Comment Department

From the Economic Times service of India Times, we find this article on BPO. The money quote of course is:
This seems to be the Great American Dream turned upside down. Any BPO scavenging for work in the US services market apparently just has to say, "I'm going to operate from India" and he's on!

I needn't remind you of the major (and I mean major) investment bank located south of Chambers Street that attempted to set up a "coding factory" in sunnier climes and is now going absolutely crazy for competent J2EE resources here in the NY metro area to fix the code from the coding factory.

 

I'm free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.

The best line of the day comes from an item in the Voice Of The People (those are Letters To The Editor in non-mouth breather parlance) of the New York Daily News:
A funny thing happened Friday night: I was watching the Pistons-Pacers game and
a hip-hop awards show broke out.

Amazing that anyone actually bothers watching awards shows still and that the sponsors are stupid enough to pay for them. The most recent amusing example was Dick Clark breathlessly announcing a previously-unseen for 40 years Beatles performance clip would be aired on his latest Chanteuse-With-Call Center-Mic-Wearing and Thug Love-Fest, and even schnookering Ringo into making promotional announcements about the clip (which of course says an awful lot about it in the first place; the Beatles themselves are probably the most inconsistent and incomplete source of information about themselves - witness a recent Paul interview where he didn't even know what kind of strings were on his Hofner bass. You can find an awful lot of folks who can cite chapter and verse better than the lads themselves). The clip appeared, and lo and behold, it turned out to be part of the song medley from the "Around The Beatles" show. This show was particularly legendary because the Fabs did an absolutely incendiary version of "Shout" as a closer (of course they had opened with "Twist And Shout"), but for some inane reason the producers of the show had them jumble a few big hits together into a medley. But the really interesting thing was that far from being unseen for 40 years, the entire performance was released on VHS (the rights controlled by none other than Dave Clark, as in the Dave Clark 5; no relation to the world's oldest faux-tastemaker) and is easily obtainable. While it's no longer in print it can easily be found on eBay - I counted about 4 copies just on a cursory look, most in the $3-4 range. Dick Clark is still kicking himself over not controlling the Beatles when they first came to America (his Philly audience didn't care for them at first, rating "She Loves You" as about a 75 on Rate-A-Record because "it was too hard to dance to"), but being someone who can wring money from any situation, needless to say he will hype to the fullest extent possible even if it means he's embarassed after the fact.

In other news we see that Robin Quivers is going to do a TV talk show. If she does the talk show, no time for Howard. No Robin on the Howard show would kill it (let's face it, if you give Stern total license without anyone acting outraged or challenging him it will get even unfunnier than it is already. The best part of the show has been the interplay between them during the news). Start shorting Sirius stock (and in case you're from the SEC, that's NOT a recommendation; this is merely an allegedly humorous aside). Sirius has an interesting promotion on now which may indicate how desperate they are. They're offering lifetime access for an upfront fee of $400, however, it looks like that's tied to a single receiver (and presumably, if the receiver goes kerflooey, there's no recourse other than to set up another account). At their current rates, it pays for itself in 3 years, but they need to almost quintuple their subscriber base to make their business model work, and I don't think that Stern alone (especially without his "classic" core cast and with the stale lesbian jokes) can do that. The one thing that could potentially induce me to take a listen is that Sirius' classic rock channel has a lot of my favorite DJs from the great days of WNEW-FM and WPLJ before they were destroyed by the talk and "Mega" programmers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

In The "Feh, Spit" Department

Courtesy of Little Green Footballs, we find the BBC is reporting on Islam Awareness Week.

In the Blinding Glimpse of The Obvious Department, we note that we've only been too aware of them for years. There's a tiny bit of urban renewal going on at the intersection of Liberty, Church and West Streets in Lower Manhattan thanks to them (cue the Tom Lehrer song "like the widows and cripples in old London town, who owe their large pensions to....)

If perhaps it was Islam Wariness Week, I might participate.

I should note that on the occasion of Arafat's (Y''S) assuming room temperature, I recalled that my childhood clergyman's son (also a clergyman) was a passenger on one of the hijacked jets that were blown up in 1970. I remembered seeing him embraced by his father on his arrival back at JFK on the local news. And I also remembered that these swine wouldn't let such a reunion happen nowadays. I get the chills still thinking about it....

 

DVD Review - The Guess Who "Running Back Through Canada"

The DVD du jour is a very cool reunion concert from The Guess Who called "Running Back Through Canada". Filmed at a show in Winnipeg, the concert features their classics "American Woman", "Undun", "These Eyes", "Laughing", "Share The Land" and "No Sugar Tonight", plus running through a couple of BTO songs as well. There are a couple of songs on here which I'd call filler, things like "Albert Flasher", "Glamour Boy" and "Rain Dance", but then again, those may be Canadian hits which didn't chart here and as such just don't register with the impact of thirty-plus years on what's left of AOR (and of course that horrid institution known as "oldies radio"). The band is incredibly tight, and Randy Bachman's playing was exemplary. Special recognition also to Garry Peterson on drums and vocals - great stuff. The band played under very arduous storm conditions at an outdoor show (and actually had to leave the stage for a while to avoid being electrocuted) and as such deserves a big hand for really going the extra mile for their hometown crowd.

About the only disappointment with the show was Burton Cummings' voice. To be honest about it, it isn't what it used to be. He sounded at best very nasal, and at worst sort of like Al Lewis channeling Cummings' younger self. Cummings was giving 110% like the rest of the band, so I don't fault him in any way, but be prepared for a slight letdown on his vocals. In fact, "American Woman" was played a full step below its recorded version (the album cut is in 'E' and the DVD has the band playing it in 'D'), apparently to accommodate Cummings' voice. Bachman, Peterson, Donnie McDougall, and Bill Wallace's backup vocals are almost ageless, with tight harmonies. Bachman's lead vocals on his BTO numbers on this set were also very close to the original recordings.

The band dropped into a "plugged unplugged" set in the middle of the show to do things like "Undun" and "No Sugar Tonight" and sounded wonderful. The electric sets were first rate. Bachman reproduced his classic tones nicely (I wonder if it was with the help of the American Woman distortion pedal he endorses?) through Strat clones with humbuckers in the neck position. I couldn't get a close enough look at Bachman's rig due to the constantly changing camera angles (although there were thankfully plenty of good closeups of Bachman's fingerings during solos, an example other concert videos should follow), but I saw an amp which looked like the Fender Cyber Twin on stage. Donnie McDougall's guitar playing is also excellent, playing some sort of Telecaster clone with an excellent tone. Unfortunately I couldn't discern any part of his backline.

Oh, and no jokes about Bachman-Turner Overweight (funny, in a couple of views, Randy Bachman looks quite like Carl Wilson). Yeah, a few of these guys could stand to lose a few pounds, and they aren't doing dance steps with backup dancers of questionable morality. They're playing solid classic rock here and can teach these young whippersnappers a lesson.

Recommended.

Monday, November 22, 2004

 

Secretly, I wanted to look like Jimi Hendrix, but I could never quite pull it off

Gotta head up to Beantown today for a meeting with some honchos of Respected Even Newer Client (like C-level) so let's quickly take a look at Rolling Stone magazine's idea of the top 500 songs of all time for a good laugh....

Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" is way down at #204. Absolutely fucking criminal.

Archie Bell and The Drells' "Tighten Up" is at #265. Let's take a look at some obviously better songs below that on the list:

Some curious omissions of Beach Boys songs - no "I Get Around" or "Help Me Rhonda".

Unsurprisingly, "Hey Jude" is the highest ranking Beatles song. Some huge omissions here too, "Paperback Writer", "I Feel Fine", "Day Tripper", "Nowhere Man" being the most egregious.

The Bee Gees only get a couple of Saturday Night Fever-era tracks on the list.

No "Turn, Turn, Turn" from The Byrds.

Eric Clapton gets "Tears In Heaven" and "Layla" (thankfully the original version).

They actually gave Eminem a couple of slots on this list. That's enough to invalidate it for me.

Mrs. Ritchie thankfully only got one slot. (There's a double-entendre in there that I don't necessarily want to visualize).

Thankfully there was good representation of James Brown and Ray Charles on the list. There were various anti-confections that have annoyed the heck out of me over the years (e.g. "Rapper's Delight", which I think is supposed to annoy any person who lives by the phrase "It's got a backbeat you can't lose it"). Too much Elvis on the list for my taste. Too litle Doors. And of all things, "Twist and Shout" isn't on the list, neither Isley Brothers or Beatles.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

 

Bromelaine Residences and Absorbency

As promised, took the youg'uns to see the Sponge Bob movie yesterday. Other than finding the show we wanted to attend sold out (hey, it was a rainy day) I presciently bought tickets for the next show before returning home with the disappointed brood, but two hours later we piled right back into the car and headed back to the multiplex. As we walked in I noticed that our show was indeed sold out and I saw several frustrated parents taking their upset little ones to the mall or some alternative amusement trying to explain the concept of "sold out". Other than a particularly indecisive patron in front of me in the candy counter queue (whose dithering ended up causing us to obtain seating in the second row) even that wasn't such a horrid experience (other than sticker shock, of course).

As to the movie, it's essentially one long not particularly good Sponge Bob episode. The best episodes of Sponge Bob center on how he manages to screw up the Krusty Krab and drive Squidward nuts, yet the film itself has precious little Squidward in it, and Mr. Krabs is relegated to an icicle (for being set up by Plankton for a serious crime) for most of the movie. Plankton and his computer wife are pretty funny, but it's kind of dragging out a one-note joke for eighty plus minutes. The live action bit with David Hasselhof is cute, but wears thin quickly. For some reason this reminds me a bit of the first feature film based on McHale's Navy (I'll discount "...Joins The Air Force" and the more current film of that name, which of course had nothing to do with the classic sitcom). The feature film had to introduce outside stuff (Cluadine Longet and the whole New Caledonia bit) and drag the plot out as well (the bit with the horse could've easily fit into a single half hour show), not to mention giving short shrift to certain characters (Joe Flynn). Although of course we did get several "Oy Vey"s and "Mamma Mia"s from Yoshio Yoda, something which I find hysterical in these days of political correctness.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

 

Wild Weekend

Jammed last night with some of my band and assorted friends and family thereof. Had a blast, but I'm beat today; bad cold coming on, plus a bit of laryngitis. Finally got a chance to really work out my Boss ME-50 multi-effects unit. The natural overdrive sound was nice, not oppressive and a bit of compression, really short delay and chorus gave a nice fat sound. I played with the echoes for a moment and got a nice Edge tone; will investigate further when my head stops pounding :-)

Heading to see the Sponge Bob movie with the young'uns - will review later or tomorrow depending on how this cold progresses.

Friday, November 19, 2004

 

I have an existential map. It has You are here written all over it.

Even more short shrift, as I have to get conversant real fast with Oracle 10g (in other words, by Monday morning, where I head to Respected New Client and have to harrumph about how wonderful the new release will be for them). Some of the new replication stuff looks really cool and will address some of their "follow the sun" concerns. Only problem of course is that Respected New Client is an AIX shop and all I've got access to at the moment are Linux and Solaris boxes (plus a Wintel server that's woefully underpowered; it was sputtering on Oracle 8 running on Red Hat despite 2 processors).

Gotta hand it to Oracle. Unlike certain other companies....

they provide real working software for evaluation and training.
Image courtesy of the lunatics at Fark

A couple of good editorials in the New York Post about that cesspool on First Avenue, first relating to BNP Paribas as the UN's bank (quelle surprise!) and guess what? The UN wants to grab a park for an expansion. Screw them. $7B of your tax dollars every year, folks.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

 

Phew...

I managed to bang out a deliverable I needed by EOD tomorrow this AM, so I can relax a tiny bit, next big checkpoint is 11/30. Funny how in the weasel word industry the word "deliverable" is now anathema and "work product" is in. To paraphrase John Lennon, I think I can go backstage and be sick for a day or two. It's even funnier how what I banged out is utterly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but some pompous twit requires it for his electron collection, even though it will be used to advance nothing qualifiable or quantifiable.

I won't mention the client of course, but this reminds me of a story about a certain business - technology liaison type who was a touch excitable. They were having horrid performance problems with a key application in their workflow (this was a legacy thing and it really can't be integrated into any sort of modern system) and they were convinced that it was network problems due to some of the symptoms they were seeing. I took a look at the network, and other than some dope putting a Cisco switch in an unlocked closet with no bezels on the open slots (you should've seen the dust in that thing) there was nothing hugely wrong other than a boatload of legacy IPX traffic. Since the IPX traffic was from apps that were going to go away soon, I didn't see any huge need to get excited over that. A quick dig into Sniffer traces confirmed my suspicions that it was a brain-dead application just constantly retrying (the developers basically assumed that this would be used by only a small set of users and as such didn't put a lot of thought into the locking/retry strategy). The excitable one hung on every word we said throughout the whole exercise, and if I said something benign along the lines of "That's interesting" he'd be screaming "What's wrong?". The ultimate recommendation was to fix the application, but in order to write the report, we had to wait for input from a team member who was based somewhere in the sticks and who had other responsibilities. Accordingly, I mentioned this to the excitable one and said we'd have it to him sometime on a certain morning. I received the missing input late the night before, quickly reviewed it and pasted it into the Word doc, and created a PDF just in case on removable media. I planned to get into the office early to accommodate the excitable one, and managed to get into midtown well before eight. As I was waiting for the elevator in my building's lobby my cell phone went off, and sure enough it was the excitable one demanding his deliverable (mind you that this was still well before eight) and screaming bloody murder about it. Even though it was to be forthcoming within a matter of minutes, he was using every four, seven and twelve letter word in the book about it. By the time he finished screaming, it had popped up in his inbox. He promptly calmed down. Last I head, said report gathered dust, as App Dev didn't want to touch the code.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

DVDXCopy Retired On High Altar

I've finally given up on DVDXCopy. Despite the new firmware for the drive, it just hangs when trying to copy most DVDs, and DVDXCopy XPress is too dumb to copy certain multi-part DVDs. I've had good luck with DVD Decrypter and DVD Shrink, the combination of which just took care of a particularly problematic DVD with two short main features and an extended bit of extras.

Lots of good info and links to these at After Dawn. Be sure to check out their guides on using the two programs, and the forums as well in case all doesn't go as planned. Thinking about it, this combination is actually far superior to DVDXCopy with only one extremely minor downside, that being that it's been best in my experience to rip the source material to an ISO file (using Decrypter or Shrink depending on the size of the source disc), then to burn the ISO with Decrypter (or for that matter, you could use Roxio or Nero). About ten seconds is added to the entire process to start (or change the mode of) Decrypter. BFD. Two thumbs up for the authors of Decrypter and Shrink.

 

Assorted ramblings

It's the typical hurry up and wait situation, as a new gig is supposed to be starting next week at a Respected New Client, where of course nobody bothered to actually look at a calendar and see that it's a short week and likely people who have answers to questions that will be asked within an hour of starting will be either on the slopes or in the Carribean. Could be worse. Someone could walk in with an RFP. That always sets off a lovely Chinese Fire Drill. Still much HR nonsense to deal with.

Had a chance to play with a real Pro Tools system last night, and I have to say that I was mightily impressed with the power of the thing. Truth be told, for a bedroom hacker (musically speaking, of course) like myself a DAW is much easier to deal with. Unless you're going for the whole shebang with Pro Tools and can interface it with a digital control surface, it's tough to deal with in the mixdown stage. I've played with the free version of Pro Tools and got some good results out of it, but for all of the failings of the Roland VS series (at least on my cockamamie unit, little things like inputs working when you set levels, but when you arm the track for recording they mysteriously stop working; or a track that records just dandy during the initial session but when you want to punch in a note or phrase, something funky goes on with the signal routing and you can't hear parts...) they're just a bit easier to deal with.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 

No Comment Necessary

Courtesy of the lunatics at Fark, this one needs absolutely no comment:



 

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!

Yea verily the HR season hilarity begins, pushing to get paperwork that means absolutely nothing into a system that will induce anxiety, empower pompous twits who love power trips and result in absolutely no quantifiable benefit for yourself, your firm and its stakeholders other than justifying the miserable existence of HR twits. A pox upon them, and a pox upon Jack Welch for making HR processes like this de rigeur. A colleague of mine once got trapped into an internal project to implement the cluster fuck known as our HR framework from an IT perspective, and he spent years trying to shoehorn this thing into working with the very ancient systems (some even running on VAXen) we were using at the time, only to find that like poor Dr. Guillotine his toolset was turned against him. A stupid idea, trying to qualify and quantify subjective impressions, when the only quantifiable measure is productivity (which of course is a function of how well the sales team does; it seems odd to punish those who are solely in a delivery role for the failures of sales teams to land business. Yet indeed this is the way it works, leading one to believe that actually doing something is not the ultimate objective of the firm, it's selling more business. Sounds like some multi-level marketing firms....).

I'm a bit hot under the collar over the new health plan options offered by Respected Employer for next year. Costs are significantly increasing, and the one plan that actually made sense for most of us has been discontinued for poor financial performance. Boiling frog syndrome, anyone?

Monday, November 15, 2004

 

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons

Altogether too busy today and tomorrow to get even a wisecrack off. Have to juggle schedule to accommodate Chinese Fire Drills in progress. It's HR season, so gotta deal with that as well.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

 

Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?

The DVD du jour is Dream Theater's "Live At Budokan". Tell the truth, I don't know what to think about these guys. Their chops are all unbelievably good; I've written about Mike Portnoy elsewhere in these pages, and I'm mightily impressed with him - he's a true successor to Bonzo if there is one. I'd never really had a chance to look at John Petrucci's guitar style before, and likewise I'm blown away by his chops. The guy has unbelievable speed and fluidity. John Myung is a powerful 6-string bassist who also plays Chapman Stick, and Jordan Rudess will make you forget about Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. I have to admit to being cool on James LaBrie as a vocalist, as he's basically a rather uninteresting cross between Ian Gillian and David Lee Roth. One of the things that bugs me mightily about this DVD is that there's too much of what I call dark metal - basically stuff that tries to out-Sabbath Black Sabbath with guttural vocals (I dislike the faux-Satanic sound immensely) with thudding rhythms. The songs then launch into double time instrumentals with astounding chops that say absolutely nothing. There are very few hooks in these songs (I kind of like "Endless Sacrifice" and "Trial of Tears" though). The audience is obviously wild about them (lots of salarymen in suits attending the show in addition to the metalheads) but other than the chops, I just don't get more than a bit of it.

Sonically, this is one of the better concert DVDs I've heard, and the picture is crisp and enjoyable (from my admittedly prejudiced standpoint as a musician, the directors of this disc actually included plenty of closeups of the band showing off their chops). The extras disc has a pretty cool documentary about the tour (with some hilarious commentary from Portnoy) as well as individual segments on Petrucci, Portnoy and Rudess.

Surely this DVD will impress musicians, but it's interesting to think of Roy Buchanan's career when watching this. Buchanan of course was the guitarist's guitarist, but had absolutely no sense of commerciality when it came to his music. He had some impressive set pieces that blew people away at every live show (which even came off on well on the first album, e.g. "Sweet Dreams" and "The Messiah Will Come Again"). Other than that, Buchanan's reputation was confined to those who appreciated his incredible chops, and not to the public at large. Dream Theater is of course a somewhat different situation in that they have more than a few headbanging metal fans in their fan base who like them for the goofy aspects of their music (and will likely keep the commercial sales much better than Buchanan's were), but the analogous problem of no truly memorable songs makes this an iffy proposition. It isn't Zeppelin, by any stretch of the imagination. I'll certainly keep this DVD, and I'll probably take another pass through it this week to see if my feelings shift any, but chops alone don't make an act.

Next DVD cued up for review is Spock's Beard's live set "Don't Try This At Home". I've taken a brief look at it already, and I've got a much better vibe about the music ("Snow" is in regular rotation in the CD changer; while this stuff is earlier, around the time of "V", it still has a much more melodic aspect than Dream Theater's set list. I should at least note that Dream Theater does indeed have a great sense of dynamics, as does Spock's Beard; it's not apparent on a cursory listen or viewing of "Budokan" but a dedicated listening session will reveal it). Main thing I've noted about the "Don't Try This" video at this point is that it's dark (whether this is a function of the stage lighting, videography or the DVD mastering I don't know) and the sound is merely OK. Good bonus material, with an entire disc dedicated to the recording of the "V" album, plus an audio CD as well. I'll take a closer look in a day or two.

My local Borders has "Meet The Flower Kings", and my local indy record shop has "Focus Live In America" (with the new lineup led by Thijs Van Leer) on DVD, both of which are possibilities for upcoming review. I've been a bit iffy on the Flower Kings (although I do like Roine Stolt's guitar chops; check out Transatlantic's "Live In Europe" DVD for Stolt, Portnoy and Neal Morse playing together). Watching the Jan Akkerman DVD is giving me an itch to see what Focus is doing without him. I'm still toying with the idea of getting the 20th Century Schizoid Band DVD (which unfortunately isn't available from Burning Shed at the moment, leaving only Japanese Region versions out there. There are more than a few multi-region/format DVD players for sale at reasonable prices on eBay, and there's at least two other non-Region {01} DVDs out there I'd consider buying).

Saturday, November 13, 2004

 

The Incredibles

In two words - see it. A couple of scenes might be a bit intense for the very youngest, but you know something? This movie works on a lot of levels - not just for the kids. Every suburban adult working as a cog for a large company with constantly fighting children will laugh their heads off. If you're a film buff, there are a few knowing winks to the James Bond movies, other recent superhero films, even a nod to some classic sci-fi (I caught references to Forbidden Planet and The Day The Earth Stood Still). The kids will love it.

Even the primate at the concession stand was able to serve us quickly and accurately. It still cost me $43 for the tickets, four drinks and one, count 'em, one medium bag of popcorn. Entertainment industry thinks that they can rape their customers on all fronts, then if there's a backlash against them and people either boycott or file-share, put their customers into the poorhouse or jail. And on top of it, shoot their mouths off (see Streisand's all-caps pre-election shout on her web site for a hilarious example of how stupid celebrities are; you'll have to Google it, as I refuse to link to her under any circumstances) that we're the idiots. Sigh.....

 

Lutefisk Lickers

Via Little Green Footballs, here's an all too believable entry from Andrew Sullivan:

This evening in Oslo there was a march commemorating Kristallnacht. According to TV2 News, no Norwegian Jews were present. The authorities, saying that they did not want any trouble, forbade any Jewish symbols, including Stars of David and Israeli flags. On the TV2 evening news, a group of Jews and their friends who wanted to take part in the commemoration were shown being firmly told by a policeman to "please leave the area." This in a city where Muslim demonstrations take place on a regular basis, and include signs and banners bearing hateful, barbaric slogans.


It also got the attention of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

Rabbi Cooper continued, "Mr. Ambassador, the Simon Wiesenthal Center protests in the strongest terms possible this outrageous, hypocritical and ominous development. Can one even imagine a commemoration of a solemn anniversary of the Shoah that itself is Judenrein?"

“As the largest human rights NGO devoted to the memory and the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust, I can only urge Norwegians not to bother to shed tears for dead Jews if they show no respect for live Jews," Cooper concluded.

I seem to remember that supermarket chain in Norway that wanted to specially identify Israeli products, and more than a few cynical commentators wondered if they would choose a yellow star. These guys really learned their lessons from Quisling and the other collaborators.

One more comment on the subject, did Rabbi Cooper have to use the "protests in the strongest terms" terminology, the favored words of the Turtle Bay cesspool? Occasionally there is use for undiplomatic language. The Arabs use it all the time.

Friday, November 12, 2004

 

And this is what we pay into 529s for?

Admittedly it's a California institution of higher learning, so I suppose this was unsurprising. I wonder if the home schooling movement has a higher education division....

 

Doesn't this say it all?


Salope. Putains de merde.

Thanks to Rantburg for the pointer to the image.

 

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life

Courtesy of Little Green Footballs, we have a link to a site dedicated to the memory of Cleo Noel, the US Ambassador to Sudan who was murdered on Arafat's orders. Read what happened to this dedicated, brave man and his team:

Cleo A. Noel Jr. and George Curtis Moore were among a group of men seized by Black September terrorists during a reception held at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum [Sudan]. The terrorists demanded the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy, as well as terrorists being held in Israeli and European prisons. President Nixon refused to negotiate. The tape was of conversations between Arafat in Beirut and his thugs in Khartoum. Execute the diplomats, ordered Arafat. The terrorists obeyed, machine gunning the unarmed, hapless Noel and Moore. They also killed a Belgium diplomat. The authenticity of the tape was verified in U.S. laboratories by both the State Department and the White House.


On March 2, 1973, around 8:00pm (local) --Abu-Iyad called Abu-Ghassan and gave him the Cold River [Nahr al-Bard] code: "Remember Nahr al-Bard. The people's blood in the Nahr al-Bard is screaming for revenge. These are our final orders. We and the world are watching you." The execution took place on 9:06. (Reportedly, about half an hour later than planned because Abu-Tariq let the Americans write last letters and wills.) A few minutes later, when the international media still did not report the killing, Beirut wanted to make sure that the executions took place. Arafat himself did the talking to Abu-Ghassan. He asked him if he received the code word Nahr al-Bard and if he understood what it meant. Abu-Ghassan assured Arafat that he had understood everything and that his -- Arafat's -- orders had already been carried out fully.


If you've ever read the story of the executions at Nuremberg, there's a bit where one of the British reporters commented on the actual performance of the executions as inferior, since several of the bonzen took twenty minutes to expire at the end of the rope. His opinion was that a British hangman (presumably referring to Albert Pierrepoint) would've done a better job of it (an interesting point for a British reporter to make, since reporters had been banned for decades from being at executions in Britain). Perhaps instead there was a certain karmic justice in the war criminals dying badly. In the case of Arafat (Y''s) his end didn't have the poetic justice of the drop and snap that would've been the appropriate means of his disposal, but the truth about the decedent's murderous, filthy life is out there, and he will also be on the ash-heap of history after the pomp and circumstance awarded to him by the likes of the UN dies down.

Speaking of which, the UN doesn't particularly like the fact that ICANN runs the show for the Internet, and wants to take it over. I suppose they'll do just as spiffy a job as they do with things like removing dictators and preventing genocide.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

 

A final word on that monster's legacy

The Boston Globe actually gets it right, for once.

It would take an encyclopedia to catalog all of the evil Arafat committed. But that is no excuse for not trying to recall at least some of it.


Perhaps his signal contribution to the practice of political terror was the introduction of warfare against children. On one black date in May 1974, three PLO terrorists slipped from Lebanon into the northern Israeli town of Ma'alot. They murdered two parents and a child whom they found at home, then seized a local school, taking more than 100 boys and girls hostage and threatening to kill them unless a number of imprisoned terrorists were released. When Israeli troops attempted a rescue, the terrorists exploded hand grenades and opened fire on the students. By the time the horror ended, 25 people were dead; 21 of them were children.


Thirty years later, no one speaks of Ma'alot anymore. The dead children have been forgotten. Everyone knows Arafat's name, but who ever recalls the names of his victims?


So let us recall them: Ilana Turgeman. Rachel Aputa. Yocheved Mazoz. Sarah Ben-Shim'on. Yona Sabag. Yafa Cohen. Shoshana Cohen. Michal Sitrok. Malka Amrosy. Aviva Saada. Yocheved Diyi. Yaakov Levi. Yaakov Kabla. Rina Cohen. Ilana Ne'eman. Sarah Madar. Tamar Dahan. Sarah Soper. Lili Morad. David Madar. Yehudit Madar. The 21 dead children of Ma'alot -- 21 of the thousands of who died at Arafat's command.



 

Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room

Also in today's Sulzberger Entity, we finally see some bipartisan backbone bitch-slapping that mendacious liar, Kofi Annan. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Carl Levin (D-MI) say:

... the secretary general and a panel he appointed to conduct an independent investigation into the charges of abuses appeared to be "affirmatively preventing" the Senate from getting documents from a former United Nations contractor that inspected goods bought by Iraq.


The senators also complained that Mr. Annan was blocking access to 55 internal audit reports of the program and other relevant documents and refusing to permit United Nations officials to be interviewed by the subcommittee's investigators.


Knowing the UN we can promptly expect a fusillade of obfuscations and denials designed to keep the internationalists and Arabists feeding them money. It's likely that there will be at least some unflattering reference to the senators religious affiliation from the more "progressive" and "activist" members of Mr. Annan's constituency.

We send about $7B down the crapper at this pesthole every year.

 

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last

One of my favorite moments in "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" was the recounting of how one of Baccala's sons first displayed his talents for mayhem. Baccala struts into a bar, and loudly announces in what amounts to pidgin English that "the little bastard went and broke his teacher's head" (I'm paraphrasing of course), and one of the barflies calls out "A salut!" and a general celebration ensues. Since it's a bit early in the AM to down a Strega and light a cigar to celebrate the shagging out after a prolonged squawk of Arafat (Y''s), let's look for a laugh at some political correctness about him and his cretinous ilk.

From the Sulzberger Entity:
It says much about the depths to which prospects for peace in the Mideast have fallen that it comes as a surprise that Israel and the Palestinians have agreed on where to bury Yasir Arafat, whose death was announced today in France. It's a modest achievement, but a hopeful one.
....
Yesterday, bulldozers were clearing the way for the Ramallah burial site, which Palestinian leaders said would be temporary, until Palestinians got East Jerusalem back. That is undoubtedly a fight for another day. Right now, the Palestinians will be able to bury their leader with dignity and respect. It's a start, and given the intractable hostility of recent years, even a small start is a good thing.

Of course, as any sentient person who reads carefully and who reads MEMRI knows, any giveback or concession on the part of the Israelis is regarded as weakness and stupidity by the Arabs, who of course have never renounced their plans to destroy Israel. There have been any number of documented cases where the decedent has said that any "peace" plan was merely an intermediate step towards his judenreintraum. In the Times' obituary of the decedent (which runs to eight online pages, I haven't picked up the dead tree edition) we find this quote:

Henry Siegman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, called Mr. Arafat's rejection of the American-brokered peace package a "disastrous mistake.'' But, he added, "based on my 14 years of dealings with Arafat, I reject the notion that he was bent on Israel's destruction." Rather, he said, Mr. Arafat's decision reflected his political weakness, a result partly of Israel's acceleration of settlement expansion and Mr. Barak's lack of interest in peace with the Palestinians until his own government began collapsing.


Notice how they find someone with a Jewish-sounding name who's an apologist for the decedent's intentions. Continuing the shibboleth:

The International Crisis Group, an independent Brussels-based group that studies global issues, partly blamed the Palestinian leadership. "Recent power struggles, armed clashes, and demonstrations do not pit Palestinians against Israelis so much as Palestinians against each other,'' the report stated.

Under Mr. Arafat, local actors like mayors, kinship networks and armed militias competed for authority in the vacuum. One result, the report said, was growing chaos.

Notice a couple of things about this quote. First, the name of the group, which in the days of the Comintern would set off the Commie-Front Detector, obviously indicating a left-wing agenda. Second, notice the word "independent", a sure sign in any Sulzberger-affiliated paper that it is aligned with its editorial weltanschaung. Third, it's located in Brussels, which only indicates that they're a pathetic EU mouthpiece (either that or they like to eat and drink well; let's face it, other than the food, beer and chocolate, Belgium for the most part is a dreary place). And notice the word "partly". Obviously careful editing to avoid any unfortunate references that might actually not go down well at Emanu-El.



Notice the Viking funeral they've got going for the decedent already. Interesting to note that Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, will be attending, one of the few heads of state other than Chirac and his Arab masters. Mbeki is of course Mandela's protege and given Mandela's love of the decedent that's unsurprising....

And speaking of Salope Jacques, this news story sums him up nicely. Contrast that with the integrity and fortitude of John Howard, who again proves himself a gentleman, statesman, and friend of freedom.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 

Aucun commentaire nécessaire

Quel est bon pour l'oie est bon pour le jars.


Le travail agréable dans la Côte d'ivoire, Jacques. Vous êtes le fils d'une prostituée.



Thanks to Little Green Footballs and its' great readers for the pointer to these photos.


 

Cream reunion?

Billboard magazine has an item claiming that a Cream reunion is in the works. The article claims rehearsals will begin in January, preparing for a week's worth of shows at the Royal Albert Hall.

Like every other red-blooded classic rock fan this news set my Pavlovian reflex to High Drool, but I think this should be taken cum grano salis. Clapton's spokesperson had no comment on the story, and Jack Bruce has been seriously ill. Cream did reunite once for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, but I recall that performance as very cautious and aloof, not like the wild Cream shows of legend. Another point to bear in mind is Sir George Martin's comment about the possibility of a certain other legendary band potentially reuniting, "You can't reheat a souffle".

Still, if it comes off, I'd love to see it. I somehow doubt that EC will be playing a Gibson through a huge Marshall backline, but on the assumption it does come off it'll make a dandy concert DVD (something to replace the wretched "Farewell Concert", hmm?)

Cream's legendary status is such that it inspires one of the few put-downs of Clapton heard - "What's the difference between Eric Clapton and coffee? None. They both suck without Cream".

Update: Cool video of Cream performing "Sunshine Of Your Love". Highlights one of the great problems of music video even going back to the primordial days - when they launch into the solo section, who does the camera focus on? Ginger.....

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

Jan Akkerman - "Live"

The DVD du jour is "Live" by Jan Akkerman. Like a lot of kids who picked up a guitar in the early 70's I was quite awed by Focus, especially by "Hocus Pocus" (I still love the song, but that yodeling....). Akkerman has maintained a low profile for quite some time, and when this DVD came out I was intrigued enough to research it. Seeing "Hocus Pocus" on the track list was enough to cinch the decision. Let's address that one first - there's only a tiny bit of "Hocus Pocus" on here. Akkerman is playing a soft jazz blues thing called "Pietons" (for some reason this sounds like a Toots Theilemans or Django Reinhardt piece to me; I suppose I'm terribly nekulturny for not knowing this piece's lineage). Akkerman is playing some very tasty jazz picking on a Gibson L-5 on this one, very clean sound, some unbelievably fast runs, but nothing especially memorable, at least to my ears. At the very end of "Pietons", Akkerman and band look slyly at each other, he reaches for the volume control, and the band kicks into a about a minute of "Hocus Pocus".

Most of the DVD features Akkerman on either an L-4 or an L-5 (pretty far cry from the days of the Framus, Les Paul Custom and the Gibson Personal) with a bluesy backing band. There are portions of two shows on the DVD, one at Viersen and the other at Leverkusen. It's a good guitarists' DVD, in that there are plenty of lingering closeups on the fretboard and picking hand and no unnecessary nods to music video fashion. Some great 5-string bass work on this by Wilbrand Meischke.

The extras include an interview with Akkerman in Dutch with subtitles. There is one very cool segment of Akkerman playing the lute during the interview (it's an old clip, but still quite impressive) segment. Overall sonics are very good. It isn't Focus, so caveat enptor if that's what you're looking for.

Monday, November 08, 2004

 

Nietzsche says that we will live the same life, over and over again. God - I'll have to sit through the Ice Capades again.

Handicapping the Paleostinian Weekend At Bernies-Fest this AM, we find that Suha Arafat is going public at Al-Jazeera saying that
"I want the Palestinian people to be aware of the scope of this conspiracy. They want to bury him alive"

Boo-fucking-hoo. You know there's going to be trouble when Hanan Ashrawi chimes in that Mrs. Arafat's remarks were "very, very unfortunate" and "very provocative, almost slanderous". The word "slanderous" is a very loaded one amongst lefties, as it implies treason (Loot at how many Communist nations had slander against the state as a serious offense, warranting even capital punishment).

Now that it's gone to Al-Jazeera, the Mexican standoff is officially out in the open. Gut check here is that like Coca Cola, old Yasser didn't trust any one person with all of the info needed to operate his various bank and investment accounts, and that Suha doesn't want to give up her yichus (pardon the expression) without making sure she's got irrevocable carte blanche on Avenue Montaigne and Fauborg St. Honore for the rest of her life (you really don't think she'd move back to that pesthole, do you?). Considering the French attitude towards refrigeration, you'd think they'd be getting pressure to get the issue resolved....

It's HR season at Respected Employer, at which those of the officious self-demeanor like to put the working stiffs through various hoops for the illusory promise of rewards such as bonus and salary adjustments. Since there hasn't been a positive compensation adjustment in several years, their little game rings quite hollow (they've even gotten to the point of publishing a schedule of suggested increases and bonuses depending on your rating. The word "suggested" is of course the operative term, as the actual compensation decisions are determined by Your HR Professional and its business unit leader, who have thoroughly gamed the system by making sure your business unit didn't make its numbers despite having an overall productivity of over 100%; therefore it's BOHICA time). Since there's little realistic chance of anything meaningful coming out of this exercise, it's time to summon up the Method Acting skills to show how seriously we take this, and how we contribute on all fronts (I especially love the part where in order to demonstrate exactly what an asset you are you have to show that you are an active community participant and give willingly of time, effort and money to what is defined by the powers-that-be as "community development"; of course there are no qualitative measures for same and it's all as bloody subjective as could be).

Sunday, November 07, 2004

 

A looooooooong day Saturday

A seriously long day doing what is nominally supposed to be rest and relaxation. Pretty much non-stop from about 9:30am until just about now. Methinks I'm taking a break for the rest of the day today. Should be some nicely pithy observations for Monday (tomorrow). Odds fish, the very air abounds in kings (extra points to any reader who can identify that reference!)



Saturday, November 06, 2004

 

Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies

For a day that's supposed to be a day of rest, today sure as heck isn't. Lots of running around to various activities and events, I'll probably be totally wiped out by 6, which is when we're going to leave to go to a local charity shindig.

In other news, we categorically deny that Arafat is dead.

(I haven't had my coffee yet, so I couldn't find a good Chevy Chase Weekend Update image. I know, lame...)

Since everyone else has a Dead Pool going on Arafat, I say let's get a money pool going on. How much does he actually have stashed? Gotta figure the only reason they're stalling is to do a "Weekend At Bernies" in front of some Bahnhofstrasse gnomes who wouldn't let a pfenning out of their tight little hands without the old bastard's approval.

Friday, November 05, 2004

 

Payback's A Bitch, Ain't It?


From Newsday regarding Mr. Pining For The Fjords himself:

Erekat chided Israel after some people celebrated the reports that Arafat had died. "I hope the Israeli public will show sensitivities. I've seen some Israelis dancing in the streets, hugging each other other yesterday," Erekat told CNN. "I think it's alien... I cannot describe my feelings. It's heartbreaking to see Israelis hugging and kissing in such circumstances." After Israeli media reported Thursday night that Arafat had died, some young Orthodox Jews gathered in a downtown Jerusalem square to celebrate -- singing, dancing, distributing sweets and declaring that one of their greatest enemies was "on his way to hell."

Image courtesy of the lunatics over at Fark.

 

Always knew there'd be a good use for that song by Steam

There's a delicious bit of schadenfreude in Arafat's (Y''S) current location, a French military hospital in Clamart. As anyone who read "The Day Of The Jackal" can tell you, the book opens with the execution of a French OAS operative who masterminded an assassination attempt on DeGaulle at a crossroads in Clamart. The entire raison d'etre of the OAS was of course Algerie Francais, wanting to have a bit of lebensraum as well as cheap, docile labor, but of course Ben Bella, a spiritual predecessor of Arafat (Y''S) if there ever was one didn't quite see eye to eye with that outlook.

Might be light posting today, as there are several PEBKAC honchos who need to be dealt with....

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

Work is a necessary evil to be avoided

Duty calls today. Much hilarity related to both data architecture and security/privacy. And happy, happy, joy, joy, much of it's related to M&As (translated as transmogrified digestions). Not to mention that tomorrow is Conference Call Friday, an institution where the universal theme is "look at all I do for you, and you can't be bothered to join my call?". Ugh.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 

Yogi Was Right

Kerry has had the good graces to concede, and we must be magnanimous to him for finally being a gentleman and a patriot. No doubt he was egged on in some of his more egregious actions by the left wing of the Democratic Party (Department of Redundancy Department) and of course being from the "Vote For The Kennedy Of Your Choice" state, he had certain expectations to uphold. It's over. Credit the man for trying.

We won. And you know something, when even Putin says we did the right thing, you know we've got something going for us. God bless the USA and those who love freedom.

And of course, I look forward to tons of new real estate listings in tony LA and Malibu neighborhoods as the celebrities pack their stuff into containers and head for what they perceive are greener pastures. I have just two words for the Streisands and Baldwins of the world - Philip Nolan

 

Aftermath

I was hoping to get up this AM and find the election settled, but it looks as if Ohio is taking their time with finalizing the results. Here's hoping they don't let it drag on, otherwise it's Through The Past Darkly Volume 2. Glad to see some confidence coming from the White House and the gentle hints to Lurch to call it a campaign. I'm beat from watching the coverage till all hours, and I have stuff to do. Later, as things develop...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

 

E-Voting Hilarity


Electronic voting in action, courtesy of Boing Boing via Instapundit.

We use voting machines in my neck of the woods, other than someone preloading the counts like they seem to in Philly, they seem to work OK. Yeah I know they're old, but for some reason I rather like that "thunk" when you pull the level and you see all of the ballot levers reset for the next voter. Somehow has an air of empowerment. I suppose I could deal with a paper ballot too (just please not a scan form that has me fill in the ovals like the SAT; I left that crap behind long ago).

No indication if these e-voting boxes are running the dreaded Access-based voting software, but if e-voting is going to be MSFT-based, I want a paper ballot.


 

Neal Morse's One

Some very good stuff on this album, first rate musicianship (Morse's guitar work is terrific, and Phil Keaggy guests on several tracks) and terrific sonics. Some very good long epics on here including "The Creation" and "The Separated Man". Morse has a terrific sense of dynamics, which was very apparent on his "Testimony" set, and seamlessly transitions between traditional prog-rock, acoustic ballads, some ethnic influence (one section of The Separated Man has a cool Celtic influenced picking bit) and for want of a better term, spirituals. No, not "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" but songs that reflect Morse's faith. This is where the only caveat for this record comes in. As you can guess by the title of this blog and if you've been a regular reader you know where my theological leanings are, however, this is music that is trying to tell a story of religious faith and it's a positive message, so I can put up with a few references to Yashkele even though that's not my religion. Some folks might be turned off by the overtly religious message of some of the lyrics here, but there's no proselytizing going on here. This is Morse talking about himself (in pretty much the same way Keaggy does) and although he's of a different faith than me, he's creating a very positive message very much missing in a lot of pop music. It's good stuff, take the word of a landsmann.

Mike Portnoy's drumming was excellent on this album (as usual) and he played with a somewhat lighter touch than I'm used to from him (as cool as the "Yellow Matter Custard" set was, the drums were too heavy on it). The strings and horns are very tastefully done, reminding me of George Harrison's "What Is Life" (which is of course covered on the bonus disc in the special edition only available from Radiant Records). Morse gets great tones on the guitars (a Parker, an ES-335 and a Strat), with a very eclectic set of amps (I caught at least one Orange head and a tweed Bassman in the studio photos). Keaggy of course is playing his Zion and gets that amazing tone on his wild solo on "The Creation" (I would've liked to have heard him with the Les Paul as well, but I guess he reserves that for Glass Harp).

An interesting thought occurred to me as I listened to this - this is one of those records that grabs you on first listening and you want to listen to it straight through. With "Be", when the inevitable interruptions (phone call, meetings) happened, going back to it was a bit jarring in that there wasn't any great hook or melody that I could immediately get back into. While the interruptions came during the first listen to "One" it was easy to fall right back into listening to it. The songs were melodic and powerful enough that I actually wanted to recycle a bit into the album to get back into the groove where I was when I was interrupted. It's that cool to listen to. The only other time recently that I've felt like that when listening to a new CD was when I picked up "Smile", but that's an album that demands a lot of the listener and pretty much a dedicated listening. I daresay I won't be listening to "Smile" in the car, but this might just make it into the changer. It works on both the dedicated and casual listen levels.

 

Vox Populi

You did vote today, didn't you?

My father once told me how during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he would look at me playing around the house and worrying like hell that the events of the day meant no future for me. I look at my kids and I feel the same anxiety sometimes as well, perhaps more so for as horrid as the enemies of freedom were then, they were essentially rational beings who understood that any exchange would be detrimental to all. We're dealing with entirely different types of brutes now, fanatics who believe their rewards are in the yenem welt, comme ce dit en Francais. The words of Thomas Jefferson resonate more loudly than ever today:

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."


"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."


"The flames kindled on the Fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.


Salem Hill's "Be" is a strange record. It's a pastiche of a lot of different artists and styles; I hear a bit of Yes in "So Human", some Rush and/or Triumph in "The Great Stereopticon", a bit of Pink Floyd's spaciness (although these guys actually know tempos other than funereal, a listen that Messrs. Gilmour, Waters et al never learned), a touch of Queen in "Children Of The Dust" (although without Jellyfish's flair) amongst other things (I was trying to pin down what "Underneath" reminded me of and it finally hit me - "Carry On Wayward Son"). The record's tone reminds me somewhat of The Flower Kings, a band that I'm trying to like as well, but I suppose it'll take a couple of listens to see if this grows on me. I'm one for a more melodic approach to prog and hard rock, something like Marillion's "Misplaced Childhood" or Spock's Beard's "Snow" works better for me out of the neo-prog bands. I haven't heard any Spock's music that's come out since Neal Morse's departure, so I can't speak to it as of this writing, but I suppose that Morse's obvious Beatles influences make his tracks more in line with my tastes. The musicianship is first rate on "Be" and the sonics are fine, but I can't say for sure whether I really like this yet.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Monday Morning Grouchies

I happened to see "Far Out Munster" yesterday, and I grabbed a guitar to check out the chords to "Come On And Ringo" (or "Do The Ringo" as some sources have it); most of the song is obscured by dialogue, but the chords over the part that goes "I'm gonna set you straight, this dance is great, come on and Ringo" go Am-Bm-C-D-G, and then vamping on G to C for the repeats of "Come on and Ringo" and the "yeah, yeah" part. The show's credits didn't mention either of the songs. It looked like Larry Tamblyn was "playing" a single manual Vox Continental organ from what I could see. At least Tony Valentino was playing the correct chords that were sounding from the song (Ashlee, please take note).

One of these days I will track that song down. Then again, with my fatalistic cynicism, I'm reminded of "The Nine Billion Names Of God" when I think of this quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless (oh stop it already!)

The WaPo (via Slate) comments on on-stage backing tracks and pitch correction. Money quotes include:
O'Donnell remembers seeing R&B crooner R. Kelly drop his microphone during a live arena performance — but his vocals just kept on going. "His fans loved it," O'Donnell says. "They didn't care. They want the dancing. They want the show. Plus they knew Kelly really could sing"
....
Jaworek attributes a lot of it to "the cost of doing business." It's cheaper to bring a band in a small black box than a band on a tour bus. "This is why Enya won't tour," he says of the New Age pop star who uses lush orchestration and scores of vocal effects. "She feels she can't [properly] re-create her music live."

I seem to remember Kitaro doing live shows, and he managed to do a fine job without ProTools onstage. True, lots of sequencers (inherent to the type of music), but at least it was a full live reproduction of his albums.

Album reviews might have to wait until tomorrow, as today's shaping up busy by the looks of things.

Speaking of tomorrrow, vote. No excuses. Vote.

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