Friday, April 30, 2010

The Oil Spill

...looks worse then anyone may have dreamed:
The worst-case scenario for the broken and leaking well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico would be the loss of the wellhead currently restricting the flow to 5,000 barrels -- or 210,000 gallons per day.
If the wellhead is lost, oil could leave the well at a much greater rate, perhaps up to 150,000 barrels -- or more than 6 million gallons per day -- based on government data showing daily production at another deepwater Gulf well.
By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill was 11 million gallons total. The Gulf spill could end up dumping the equivalent of 4 Exxon Valdez spills per week.

My god. This is beyond awful.

Thoughts on Telecommuting

I've been pondering why it is that working from home typically inspires me to work harder then I do when I'm in the office. As I see it, there’s two factors at work here:
1. Since I’m not as tied to the clock as I am at work, I’m more motivated to get my work done early so I start doing personal things
2. There’s a fear involved that if you’re not producing or always available, your co-workers will think you’re at home watching TV in your underwear.
I’m being a tad glib with that last point but I did have a boss in an older job that seriously thought that no one ever did any work when they were at home, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In fact, at the time I was taking the train into Boston, which ate ~2:30 out of my day, so working from home not only gave me more personal time, but also mean that I had more time to devote to my work projects as opposed to traveling.
In my current situation, my lack of inspiration at work isn’t helped by the fact that I’m surrounded by people that hold relatively loud conversations with each other, making me wear my headphones 80% of the time just so I can concentrate. Another part of the appeal of working on the home couch is the absolute quiet.

Are Animals Self-Aware?

The Dish points out that even animals that are cognizant of themselves either lose or consciously give up this ability as they get older (and closer to death):
It is striking that chimpanzees start to fail [to recognize themselves in a mirror] once they reach 30 years old despite having some 10 or 15 years left to live. The reason is that self-awareness comes at a cost. Consciousness allows the brain to take part in mental time travel. You can think of yourself in the past and even project yourself into the future. And that is why Gallup believes that in later life chimpanzees prefer to lose their ability to conceive of themselves. "The price you pay for being aware of your own existence is having to confront the inevitability of your own individual demise.
"Death awareness is the price we pay for self awareness."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

- Dave Barry

Thought from a Boring Meeting

When i'm frustrated or bored while on one of the many, many virtual meetings I have to attend for my job, I find the temptation to use my iPhone almost irresistible. I suspect this is because using my iPhone lets me assume control of my situation and choose the data that I want to see rather then being dependent upon the boring presentation on my computer screen. In other words, iPhone = control, while Meeting = confusion/boredom. It's a dangerous situation, and one I attempt to nullify by putting my phone away in my bag.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Lying on the cot, she stares at the ceiling. A random design of holes is punched into the acoustic tiles. She searches idly for patterns, as one might scan the night sky for crabs and hunters and lions. Here is what might be a face with one eye, there a dig with an enormous tail. Only a desperate need for sense, she thinks, could connect these dots into pictures, or the constallations into a meaningful universe.

- Debra Dean, The Madonnas of Leningrad. Page 188.
This was a fantastic book. It takes on the power of Art, wartime Russia, and the effects of scenility in a moving way without resorting to sentimentality. No mean feat! I also loved reading it with the iPhone where I could quickly look up the paintings that were being referenced. Good stuff!  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do You Keep Your Lights On Longer Than Your Neighbors?

From Slate:
UCLA economists Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn analyzed the impact of an energy-conservation program in California that informed households about how their energy use compared with that of their neighbors. While the program succeeded in encouraging Democrats and environmentalists to lower their consumption, Republicans had the opposite reaction. When told of their relative thrift, they started cranking up the thermostat and leaving the lights on more often.

Quote of the Day

Steve Kilbey became "Steve Kilbey" by feeding his active imagination at every opportunity - reading voraciously in literature, history, and metaphysics; experimenting with altered states of consciousness; challenging himself to branch I to new mediums if ever his creativity waned. Coupled with this internal work, Steve pursued his professional goals with single minded focus, to the exclusion of all other considerations. ...
The time-honored formula for artistic success and longevity: Always keep your eyes open to the complexity of the world. Document it. Celebrate it and eviscerate it in equal measure. Work, work, work. And if you ever find yourself losing your state of innate wonder, alter your perceptions.

Robert Dean Lurie, "No Certainty Attached", page 300-1.

More Hunter and Music

Hunter and I were featured in the Ashland Tab as part of their coverage of the "Music, Mommy and Me" class run by the Ashland Recreation Department.

As you look through the pictures, a few things to keep in mind:

- Yes, Hunter is wearing a long-sleeve skeleton shirt under his regular shirt. It's tough to get him out of his pajamas on the weekend!
- No, I hadn't combed his hair that morning. I didn't realize we were going to be documented. At least you can't really tell he's got a big ol' shiner from running into a door at his daycare...

A Child After My Own Heart...

Hunter has started requesting that I play The Who's first album My Generation while we drive around town. I have the extended version, so we get to sing along to the classics along with their covers of "Heat Wave" and "Leaving Here." I always hoped that Hunter would have good taste in music!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is This Supposed To Be Funny?

Running Back? Really? With all the holes the Bills have to fill? Who's going to block for him?
What a stupid pick. RBs are a dine a dozen these days. We needed a lineman or a linebacker. Sigh. Going to be another long year...

Update: Jerry Sullivan agrees with me:
You do need big plays to be a playoff team in today's NFL. But if there's one thing we've learned since the millennium began, it's that small, skilled football players are only useful if you surround them with big guys who wear down the opposing team.
That's why I expected the Bills to go with a defensive player. They're going to a 3-4 defense, and they need athletes. They haven't added an impact player to their defensive front seven with a first-round pick since taking Shane Conlan in 1987.

I want It

Thomas Fehlmann's new LP Gute Luft

Grainy iPhone Concert Photography

From last night's show:

Pulp Fiction

An incredible collection of so-good-they're-bad SciFi covers.

Deep Thought

Marty Willson-Piper is an excellent guitarist. More to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Counting the Minutes...

...until I get to log off and go check out The Church in Sommerville tonight. They'll be playing two sets: 2 and a half hours of music!

Until then, here's a Kilbey interview for you with two great quotes:
perfection is not achievable; that's why it's a great thing to pursue because you can never have it. You can never find it. So you just keep going and going and going.

[Music videos] might be good but they limit the ambiguity the song used to have.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deep Thought

Having two kids means that you don't get a free second to yourself until both kids are asleep. And no, the bathroom doesn't count.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quote of the Day

He, too, has been transformed, her handsome young husband replaced by this elderly, white-haired man. It's as though his face has melted, puddles of loose skin forming under his eyes, the once firm jaw dripping into waddles. His ears are as long as a hound's.

- Debra Dean, The Madonnas of Leningrad. Page 11.

Nip Watch Ctd.

Nips and other trash picked up during dog walks this long weekend:

Sunday, April 18th
13 Nips
2 water
3 plastic flasks, vodka 
1 can
1advil
1 poweraide

Monday, April 19th
Another 13 Nips
2 vitamin waters
1 water bottle

The strange thing is that 99% of the alcohol is vodka.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

Let the latent meanings turn and bend in the wind, free from authorative comment
- Don DeLillo, Falling Man

Musicians & Internet Money

Update: Andrew's post, like all of his hood stuff, brought in some interesting responses, including this argument about 1000 true fans being the way out of the "long tail trap" for musicians/creatives. As one of his readers summarizes:
...check out Kevin Kelly's essay "1000 True Fans." In it, he posits that this should be the goal of any creative (musicians, writers, artists) in the digital age.  He defines a "True Fan" as somebody who is willing to spend $100 a year on your output (CDs, merchandise, print-on-demand publishing, live appearances, etc). Any creative who can reach that point (and really, it's not that difficult -- most of the creatives I know have managed to reach the 300-400 True Fan stage without really trying at all) has an annual income of $100,000 -- a comfortable living by any standard.

I know that, for me, having access to Kilbey's daily thoughts has made me much more obsessive about The Church than I was before (no mean feat!), causing me to buy more of their stuff...

Friday, April 16, 2010

How do Musicians Get Paid?

The answer may surprise you. Via the Dish.

I'm going to have to check out this edbaby.

Status

So it hasn't even been three weeks since I had my hernia surgically repaired, and i'm basically back to normal. I went on my first run since the operation today - albeit it on a treadmill, and slower then I used to run - and was able to run with no issues.

Ain't science amazing?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First lines of Girl in a Landscape

Mother and daughter worked together, dressing the two young boys, tucking them into their outfits. The boys slithered under their hands, delighted, impatient, eyes darting sideways. ... The four were going to the beach, so their bodies had to be sealed against the sun.

- Jonathan Lethem, Girl in a Landscape.
Yes, I'm back for more Lethem. This is one of his earlier, scifi-drenched novels, and it should be quite fun. More fun, I hope, then the relentlessly grim and sordid Going Native which was relentlessly depressing in it's depiction of simply abbhorant people. Nothing like what Wright's The Amalgamation Polka had led me to expect (with the exception of the exhileratingly fun prose.) I gave it up after two chapters, unable to take any more. It reminded me of a suburban version of Last
Exit to Brookyln
in it's examination of hopeless people but with less of Selby Jr.'s sublime insight into human motivation. 

Quote of the Day

Each island pointed out by the watchman
Is an Eldorado promised by Destiny; 
The Imagination which calls up its orgy
Finds only a sandbar in the morning light
.
- Charles Baudelaire, From "The Voyage," Les Fleurs du Mal 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Complex Taxes

As tax day approaches, and my wife and I have struggled through our tax forms, I'm reminded about how complex the tax structure is and how it doesn't need to be that way. The Tax Policy Center proposes that the IRS take the first stab at filling out our returns for us, because:
...in 2009, nearly 90 percent of taxpayers used either paid preparers or commercial software.
It is pretty clear that nearly all of us either need help doing our returns or think we do. ... “It is too complex and too fear-inducing,” TPC’s Elaine Maag concludes.

That's not to mention the industry of people and companies that have popped up to leech off of the complexity of the tax structure.
It doesn't need to be that complicated. But I hold out no hope that it'll ever change.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Line of Going Native

Rho is at the kitchen sink, peeling furiously away at a carrot when she draws her first blood of the day, and, of course, it's nonmetaphoric, and her own.

Stephen Wright, Going Native

Friday, April 9, 2010

Don't Take Away My Pandora!

Although it seems like a great idea, I never really got the urgency of Net Neutrality. After all, if it wasn't in place, it just seemed like it would affect file sharers. However, now that the concept's been shot down by at least one court, some of the implications of not having it in place are becoming clear: Pandora's in trouble!
The move by the federal court paves the way for ISPs to now more effectively manage their bandwidth, up to and including putting limitations on data-gorging services such as Pandora. In fact, service providers are now free to halt or suspend high data usage applications as necessary, to protect the quality of service they provide. Although this is unlikely, it is probable that wireless carriers will soon require fees for specific applications such as Pandora from consumers, as their infrastructure needs increase over time.

Would you pay for Pandora? It depends on how much they charge, but man is it a good tool for learning about and listening to excellent new music you never would have heard of were it not for the service. Here's hoping they stay solvent!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It was 20 years ago today...

...that Twin Peaks was first unleashed on the world.

K. and I spent a gloriously good chunk of 2008 watching the entire series while drinking whiskey sours. We even followed it up with Lynch's prequel Fire Walk With Me. Man, was that a fun time: the show is fascinating and weird and riveting and meaningful and just fun-as-hell. The first season - only seven episodes long - is a masterpiece of suspense and storytelling. Season two wasn't as good, although it still had it's moments. Some of the actors - like James - are really, really bad, while others are excellent. For example, Kyle McLaughlin has never been better.

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you give it a try.

An Intimate Space

Just picked up my tickets for The Church's 30th anniversary show on April 19th at the Arts at the Armory space in Somerville. Psyched - the reviews have been rave, and even their biographer says that they're playing the best music of their career. Plus, all attendees get a program and a free CD. Gotta love it.

To Chad...

Happy Birthday ya old fart!

Monday, April 5, 2010

I Love it when Old Ladies Tweet

The great Margaret Atwood on the Twittersphere:
So what’s it all about, this Twitter? Is it signaling, like telegraphs? Is it Zen poetry? Is it jokes scribbled on the washroom wall? Is it John Hearts Mary carved on a tree? Let’s just say it’s communication, and communication is something human beings like to do.

some amazing ones never got used

Steve Kilbey has some kind words to say about those of us who wrote reviews for the Church's Back with Two Beasts album for their latest tour's program.
Plus, based on this review, their latest tour sounds awesome. A live version of "Comedown" alone would be worth the price of admission. Although I can't picture an acoustic version of “Ionian Blues"...

Fa fa fa fa fashion

The chief characteristic of fashion is to impose and suddenly to accept as a new rule or norm what was, until a minute before, an exception or whim, than to abandon it again after it has become commonplace, everybody's "thing."

- Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-Garde
With that in mind, here's Stefany Anne Golberg on what she terms "American Bling":
There is an aspect of the American aesthetic that approaches design like a child. There’s a giddy lack of propriety, a joyful dismissal of taste, a love of big colors and sparkle. It’s connected to our attitude toward wealth, which often equates beauty with prosperity. In other words, if it looks rich, it must be beautiful. The shinier the better. This aesthetic of bling, though, is not simply about playacting at wealth; it’s about becoming lost in a fantasy of layers upon layers of artificiality and imitation. The Versailles that Larry Hart imitated in the Hartland Mansion (Versailles itself the classic contribution to Artifice) was not even the actual Versailles, but an idea of Versailles based on pictures of Versailles in a book and created with the mass-produced materials available to him at craft and hardware stores.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Quote of the Day

Since when do "the victors write history?" It is the writers who write history. Often, that means the perspectives of the literate and the literary trump those of the unlettered.

- Cynic, commenting on TNC's blog
Fascinating. I had never thought of the
essential fallicy of the phrase "the victors write history"
cliche.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quote of the Day

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep.
 

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
. The Shadow of the Wind Page 35

Deep Thought

Recovering from surgery sucks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New Toons!

I’m been feeling the itch to listen to some new again and, thanks to the internet and Swaptree, have a large collection of new albums to listen to. They include:

  • Belka & Strelka. Tales from the Projector Room. Ambient Downtempo style grooves from Dr. Patterson and his usual crew of misfits. Danceable quirky toons that avoid some of the bizarre turns that The Orb albums have been known to take (i.e., avoid The Dream!)

  • The Rural Alberta Advantage. Hometowns. I haven’t listened to it yet, but Pitchfork tells me that this Toronto-based trio “marries salt-of-the-earth acoustic rock to energetic rhythms and grand orchestral arrangements.” Intriguing!

  • Arctic Monkeys. Humbug. Excellent alt-rock. I like everything about this album so far. I’ll have more to say about this album later.

  • The Arcade Fire. Funeral. This one is on it’s way, but it sounds fascinating. I’ve heard a lot about Arcade Fire and am looking forward to seeing if they live up to the hype.

  • Slowpo. Hi-fi sounds for young Norwegians . Intreguing Bjork-style alternative music. While interesting enough, I haven’t yet decided if it’s a keeper or not.

  • Pantha du Prince. Black Noise. Fantastic electronica. Really takes you for a journey. Love the clear bell-like tones that are present in many of these tracks. A headphone album if ever I’ve heard one.


Anything else you think I should listen to?

Extreme Rain due to Climate Change

To follow up a bit on my last post, we should be clear about the cause of the torrential rainstorms that southeast New England just suffered through: the scientists say it was due to climate change. To wit, here's Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, talking on NPR:
Mr. TRENBERTH: The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago, means there’s about, on average, 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was, say, in the 1970s.
JOYCE: Warmer water means more water vapor rises up into the air. And what goes up, must come down.
Mr. TRENBERTH: So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, D.C., for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow, partly as a consequence of global warming.

Climate Progress has an extensive post detailing how extreme this weather event was, especially in Rhode Island. It's staggering:
Record rains from a slow-moving and extremely wet Nor’easter have triggered historic flooding in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, with several rivers exceeding their 100-year flood levels. The 16.32″ of rain that has fallen on Providence, Rhode Island this month is the most rain recorded in any month, besting the previous record of 15.38″ set in October 2005. ... The Rhode Island all-time state record for heaviest precipitation in a month was smashed as well, thanks to the 19.62″ observed this March at North Kingstown. The old state record was 16.70″, set at North Foster in October 2005. Many locations in the Northeast recorded their wettest March ever, including New York City and Boston.

This is not the time to live in denial. Climate Change is real and it will continue to affect us all.

Epic Levels of Water

My god:
By dawn, the unparalleled flood had transformed the Rhode Island landscape into islands of isolation, the region’s web of roadways broken, whole sections of neighborhoods stranded and without power.
Gridlock greeted thousands of commuters weaving like mice through a maze of alternate routes around Route 95, the state’s most vital transportation artery, closed in Warwick by the flooding Pawtuxet River.
And with a half-dozen sewage treatment plants compromised or overwhelmed by the most destructive flood in the state’s recorded history, officials braced for an environmental disaster with huge public health and financial ramifications.
Governor Carcieri shut down state government and urged people to stay home. In the epicenter of grief –– the Pawtuxet River basin where hundreds of homes were already submerged –– the water continued to rise to levels never before seen.

Makes my little adventure with wet carpets downstairs seem like a cakewalk. These storms have had no equal in the recorded history of the Boston/Providence region.