2017-06-01 10:08 pm

It was fifty years ago today...

Those few folks here who've known me for a long time know how much of a Beatles fan I am. My parents weren't big pop music listeners, so it took me a little while to discover the Fab Four, only to disciver just how many Beatle songs I'd first heard as cover versions when I was very young. Eventually I got my first Beatle album as a Christmas present -- 1976 or '77 it was. And that album was Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

According to the Beatles website and EMI's records, the official UK release date of this album was the 1st of June, 1967. Which makes today its Official 50th Birthday.

Sgt Pepper is, in the end, not my *favorite* Beatles album, but it still gets my vote as their *Greatest* album, and in my opinion the most important album ever. So I've been listening as I can today (my abilities are currently limited in that regard) and wish everyone a Happy Sgt Pepper Day.
2017-05-23 12:25 am

Rambling musings on a local-to-me strip mall.

Ear;ier this month, the Staples down the hill closed its foors for good. About a week after the closing, I was passing by there when someone else came up to the front doors and looked confused as to why the store wasn't open (it was during what had been normal business hours). I had to make it very clear that the store was not just closed for the day, but shut down permanently, and pointed out the sign stating where the three closest still-open locations were.

Got me to thinking about that shopping center. Once upon a time, I lived on the edge of suburbia. A mile and a half west and you were out in the country. 20-plus years later that's not the case anymore. And as the money migrates west to the new outer suburbs, the shopping options in our area change somewhat. But only somewhat.

The small strip mall nearest my house, the one that had the Staples, is a bit of an odd bird. It has no grocery store, and hasn't had one for more than half the time we've lived here. Where the Staples was, had been a drugstore when we moved here, and when it closed, Staples took over. The store next to that was a Total Crafts before that chain shut down, though I think there had been one changeover in that spot shortly after we moved in. The store next to THAT has been an auto parts store the whole time. There's the Obligatory Asian Restaurant which has changed multiple times over the years. There's a hair salon, a nail salon, a vacant spot where a carpet store had been for nearly 20 years, and a mediocre pizza-amd-such delivery joint.

Back in the 1990s, there had been a small "mall" area, an wnclosed walkway with stores on both sides, though there were only 3 or 4 stores on each side. There was a donut shop and a cleaners and maybe one other store on the side that eventually got torn down. The teardown happened when they enlarged the other big store -- which had been a smaller grocery store for our first 6 months here, then was vacant for a couple years, then was an Amish marketplace for maybe 3 years before falling vacant again -- the center owners remodeled and made that store bigger to accommodate a Food Wombat (Food Lion to most, long story from college which I may have told somewhere in the archives). But that store didn't last either, first being rebranded a Bottom Dollar but then shutting down when that experiment failrf. Now it's a StienMart.

So it's odd in that many of the stores have managed to stick around for a very long time, whereas others haven't.
2017-04-20 03:28 am

Links to LJ classics

I'm putting these links down here now while I'm thinking about them. These are posts that were highly memorable to me over on LiveJournal, which may or may not bw available elsewhere on the 'net. Knowing how possible it is for LJ posts to just disappear, if any readers know where these can be found off-LJ, please put that info in a comment. Also feel free to comment with links to posts *you* found exceptionally memorable.

And then I was eaten by a grue.
Entirely too true for anyone who's ever been a TA. "You spy a clutch of young semi-colons here, looking slightly confused."

I Has a Sweet Potato
I don't mind dogs, but I don't think I'll ever have one. This is one reason why.

A Brief Brief History of Time, Part I
Utter, utter physics hilarity.
2017-04-11 10:14 pm

(no subject)

SCA friends (primarily),

Did you recently migrate here from LJ? Are you trying to find your friends? [personal profile] cellio has a post for that purpose.
2017-02-15 09:39 pm

My last 6 months have been, shall we say, less than fun.

For the handful of you who wouldn't have read about this elsewhere sooner...

The following is in part a short update on the major thing that's been happening to me over the last several months -- which also explains a large part of why for several months I've barely been online, much less keeping up with social media -- and in part a plea for help from those who can.

Behind the cut: A tale of multiple vision problems, and an ongoing series of surgeries to try and correct them. )

All these surgeries cost, of course, and most of it is out of pocket. Plus I am unable to work during all this -- much of the recovery so far has involved extremely poor vision, and I still don't see well enough to drive. Therefore the non-medical bills are all past due as well. So here is a link to my GoFundMe page.

Please, if you can, contribute what you can, but please don't feel guilty if you can't. Also, whether or not you donate, please *please* share the link to my fundraiser, to the extent that you have the spoons to do so; public sharing is fine. Many hands make light work... and ideally I think 1,000 individual contributors would probably be enough to make my goal.

Thank you to everyone who has helped already, and thanks in advance to those that will help in future.
2017-01-02 12:31 am
Entry tags:

Good riddance 2016, and Happy New Year everyone

Notice to 2016: You were fired months and months ago and yet refused to leave, and kept piling abuse after abuse upon us to boot. Don't let the screen door hit'cha on your way out, as I'd rather avoid damage to the screen door.

For most practical purposes I've been gone from LJ for something over five months, and mostly been not online at all for most of that period. A few of you who read this may not have heard, through other channels, what happened. I'll post something about it soon, but not tonight.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 bring prosperity, peace, progress, and love to all my friends. (hough I suspect some of my non-LJ friends might not appreciate all of those if they received it, by how *I* am defining the terms.)
2016-01-26 12:44 am
Entry tags:

Snowzilla, and other winter weather

This has been frustrating. I mean, yes there is some point to getting through the worst part of being sick when there's really no point in going outside anyway. But this hung on and hung on, and here it is 40-mumble hours since the snow stopped falling, and I haven't been well enough to get out and shovel. [livejournal.com profile] montuos has been a real trooper, doing what she could over the past couple of days. Nevertheless it's going to take a serious effort before we can break through the plow berm and be able take the car places.

At least the big Katsucon meetings hadn't been scheduled for this *past* Saturday.

The Capital Weather Gang dubbed this storm "Snowzilla". That's a good name for the second-biggest storm ever at IAD, and the all-time record setter in: Baltimore, Harrisburg, Allentown/Bethlehem, New York (LGA), and New York (JFK). The storm Maxwell-Smart-ed the record for Central Park in NYC, coming up a tenth of an inch shy of tying the record.

This is the 23rd winter we've spent in this house. The winters have not been *uniformly* horrid ever since we moved in, but a lot of the worst winter weather ever in Chantilly has happened in that time:

1993-94: We shoulda known that the Christmas Night ice storm was a bad portent. We left Glen Allen VA a little after 8:00 that evening. We got home OVER NINE HOURS later. Not going into further details here. A few weeks later, MLK Day marked the beginning of the worst winter I've ever had to endure.

1995-96: The "13th Night/14th Night" Blizzard of '96 is still the third biggest snowfall on record at Dulles.

2000-01: A top-20 storm dropped about 11 inches on us, though I'm not recalling the exact date too well.

2002-03: The Presidents' Day 2003 Storm is still number five on the all-time Dulles list.

2006-07: The Valentine's Day Ice Storm that hit us was sandwiched between a major snow event to the north, and tornadoes to the south. Lots of people still remember Interstate 78 getting blocked by trucks that couldn't make it up a hill, and at one point ALL east-west Interstates in Pennsylvania were closed east of Harrisburg. I know, I was trying to get across PA at the time.

2007-08: the Just Before Valentine's Day Ice Storm closed quite a lot of roads in Northern Virginia.

2009-10: The snowiest *winter* on record at Dulles, which included the Pre-Christmas Snowpocalypse (number 6 all-time), the Son of Snowpocalypse aka Snowmageddon (still the all time champion at 32.4 inches), and after only 2 days respite from Snowmageddon, Bride of the Son of Snowpocalypse aka Snoverkill (number 12). But that wasn't all -- the latter two storms were numbers THREE and FOUR out of FIVE storms that hit between 30 January and 15 February.

2010-11: Memories of hacking my way out of our driveway a few times in January and February, and needing to park the minivan on the street in Allentown because of the plow berm blocking the driveway, which took me all weekend to get rid of.

2011-12: My memoerable winter weather from this season was actually up in the NYC metro area, as we were up there for both Snowtober and the January storm.

2013-14: Yet another Valentine's Day storm, this one dropping over 13 inches on Dulles for spot number ten on the current all-time list.

2015-16: See above.
2015-12-24 07:05 pm
Entry tags:

::sings::

(Tune should be obvious.)

"Mikey's ordered a shipment at the MIL-waukee station
For this afternoon at quarter past two;
And flyin' IN the open window here comes Mikey's cable
As the train goes a-rum-b-lin' through!"

(I *may* provide context upon request. Not sure yet.)
2015-11-10 11:35 pm

Forty years ago on this date

Most folks above a certain age (and some below that age) are aware of what happened forty years ago this evening, if only because of the very well-known song that Gordon Lightfoot wrote about it. On 10 November 1975, an early and vicious winter storm hit Lake Superior, and took down the SS Edmund Fitzgerald with all her 29 crew.

My father-in-law was a merchant mariner -- an engineer to be specific -- up through the mid-1960s, when a medical condition caused his retirement. His son was career Navy, also in engineering. Tonight my thoughts are with all those who go down to the sea in ships, with special prayers for those (and the family and friends of those) who didn't come back.

Here's an excellent video with an intro of what I think is an ABC newscast from the following day, footage of the big ship herself, and Gordon singing the song live in the background: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
2015-11-01 12:47 pm

Silly thought of the day

Titles of actual books that you wouldn't want in series with each other.

"God Is My Co-pilot"
"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret"
2015-07-10 12:00 am

Ideas that go around, come around...

(Adult Content: references to computers older than my high school diploma.)

Two dozen years ago, I moved into a house with an old-fashioned electric resistance furnace. Now, I cannot claim to never have lived in such a house before; after my dad's transfer to eastern PA we moved into an all-electric house, in the days before heat pumps. My parents still live in that house, though they are now on their second heat pump (FAR more efficient, as modern heat pumps tend to be) rather than the relatively inefficient electric resistance furnace that house started with.

However, I had never paid attention to my parents' utility bills while I lived there. Something about being in middle school and high school at the time.

Back to the early 1990s, we moved in during the spring and I didn't run the furnace before that autumn. (The air conditioner was separate and generated electric bills about the level I expected over the summer.) Then heating season came, and I totally gacked at the first electric bill after we turned on the heat. In a panic I called my dad and said "Is it normal for an electric furnace from the early 1970s to generate electric bills nearly double those when running the air conditioner in summer?" My dad, somewhat to my surprise, said "Yes -- that bill is not indicative of your furnace needing repair, they really do cost that much to run."

Holy crap.

The following spring, we were asked if we could do a friend a favor, and store one of his currently unused computers in our garage (which was effectively a storage unit at the time anyway). We said sure. Now the computer in question turned out to be a Prime 650 supermini. When George rolled it in, I looked at it and said "How big is the power supply on that?"

George: "45 amps, 110 volts."

Me: "That sucker is about the same size as my piece-of-shit electric furnace, which also takes 45 amps. If I could convince the landlord to take it out and install your PR1ME in its place, then during heating season we'd have just as much heat *AND* lots of computing power, and I bet it would cost less to run than the furnace!"

20-something years later that idea has made it to the commercial marketplace: Heating houses with 'nerd power'

*facepalm*

(Footnote: The History Of "Prime Computer, Inc." on a site run by a former employee.)
2015-06-06 02:27 pm
Entry tags:

'cause Uptown Funk gon' give it to ya...

I'd long since fallen out of any habit of listening to "current pop" radio, until a need for Frederick-specific traffic reports got me listening to a local pop station there. For those who didn't know, the biggest hit of the first 4 months of 2015 (according to Billboard) was "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. (Ronson is a guitarist and producer, but mostly doesn't do vocals, so he brings in divers folks to do the lead vocal on each track.) Perhaps it's a guilty pleasure, but it's definitely my favorite from that time frame. If it comes on while I'm alone in the car I'll crank up the volume and sing the bass line, or sing the trombone part, or some of both.

It struck me as very reminiscent of songs I heard during my first widescale experience with pop music, from 1975 or 1976 through about senior year of high school. Ronson freely admits that this isn't an accident.

Mark Ronson on ‘Uptown Funk': Pop Songs Don’t Need to Have Dumb Lyrics

"Thing that you ever don’t want to sound like is something that came out last year, but 20 years ago is fine." Or in this case, getting close to 40 years.

One review (I've misplaced the link) opined that this was an homage to the 1980s Minneapolis Uptown funk scene. Given the song title, I wouldn't be surprised. And the *lyrics* are certainly more like mid-1980s (or later) than they are like most of what came earlier. (In fact, certain pieces of the lyric would disturb me more than they do, except that I'm treating even the lyric as being a retro-style pastiche.) But the *music*? That groove is older than 1980s Minneapolis. Now, the only funk act I can recall from that scene is The Time. (Yes, the biggest name to come out of that scene was Prince, but his albums that everybody knows from 1999 on are far more funk-*flavored*, either synthpop or just plain pop.) And by the mid-1980s I wasn't listening to that genre as much. In retrospect, I wonder if it's because I wanted something new, or new to me, for the same reason as the above Ronson quote.

So why am I asserting that the groove comes from earlier than the 1980s?

This mini-history lesson starts with James Brown. The "Godfather of Soul" was better described as the Godfather of Funk. He expanded on the Stax/Volt "Memphis Sound" (with its signature horn section), and all of Brown's best work had horns as an integral part of the sound. A bit later on, crossing from the 60s to the 70s, you had Sly Stone further expanding the horizons, and through the 70s one had the Ohio Players, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, George Clinton with Parliament/Funkadelic, and others, all refining the sound... and in a somewhat more mainstream-accessible vein there was Earth, Wind, and Fire; and increasingly funkily from 1972 through 1977, Stevie Wonder (think "Superstition"). Which brings me back to 1976, when EW&F had their "Spirit" album, and Wonder came out with one of those all-time great albums that everyone really should hear all the way through before they die, "Songs In The Key Of Life".

Herewith a couple well-known examples of 1976 funk on the AM Radio (Everclear song reference intended):
Earth, Wind, and Fire, "Getaway"
Stevie Wonder, "I Wish"

I hope this helps demonstrate my point.

And now for a change of direction. In the Ronson interview there was some discussion of his use of live instrumentation, especially on his current Uptown Special album. A lot of acts have gone to all or mostly electronic backing tracks even for live shows. They're missing something. There is an energy generated by a bunch of live musicians that a prerecorded backing track just cannot duplicate. It's clear to me from being in the audience, or even working the concession booth, at live shows, and even more clear to me from my days of playing and singing in ensembles, going all the way back to high school (primarily the jazz band). I remember seeing EW&F perform live on a television show, perhaps Midnight Special but I don't recall exactly, and that same vibe was there.

So here are Ronson, Mars, and the gang, in the debut live performance of Uptown Funk. As its lyric goes, "it's Saturday night and we in the spot" -- and if you'll forgive the baseball analogy, they crushed it on SNL. The Rolling Stone article said "they hit it out of the park"... and if Studio 8H in Manhattan is the metaphorical ballpark with home plate to the west, I'll go further and state that the ball landed somewhere out in Block Island Sound east of Montauk, THAT'S how well they nailed it. And you can even tell from just watching the video... but this is one I wish I'd been there in person for.

"Uptown Funk" Live on Saturday Night Live
2013-11-28 10:50 am

Because it's Thanksgiving

The "church nearby the restaurant" was later bought by Arlo himself, and forty years after the incident that started at the church, he sang the song there...

Alice's Restaurant Live at Guthrie Center

Which makes this rendition a real-life example of telling band camp stories at band camp. ("This one time, a- here...")

Happy US Thanksgiving everyone.
2013-10-30 09:04 pm

Signal boost

My friend [livejournal.com profile] zephyrofgod ran into some serious trouble with airlines not too long ago and almost didn't get back to the States after her vacation. I'm signal-boosting her post about it, which is unlocked.

http://zephyrofgod.livejournal.com/563948.html

Please go read it and offer suggestions if you have any. Thanks.

(All comments on this post screened; not on the post I'm pointing to.)
2013-05-28 06:26 pm

Requiescas in pace

It was 18 years ago this summer that we got inquiries on the Rialto (Remember the Rialto?) from one who was about to start grad school at Catholic U., and wanted to know if there were heralds in the area. Umm, why yes, there were a few. He came to herald practice pretty regularly once he moved in. We survived the Blizzard of '96 and 12th,er,13th,er,14th Night together. Our friendship endured for those nearly eighteen years. I managed to refrain from maiming his father the morning of his wedding (and also from throwing his brother off the 11th story balcony that night, after the wedding). Two weeks ago I was over at the apartment he and his wife were moving out of, packing stuff up for the move (and carefully NOT packing the many things that were not going with them in the move). We were planning to help unpack boxen in their new place this past weekend.

36 hours later he had a severe stroke. A week and a half of heroic effort by the medical team only yielded that he wasn't going to make it. 11:10 pm Eastern last night was the end.

He was born only a few months off from my kid sister. Now he's gone, and it's hard to understand how this circumstance could occur. Heart attack due to a congenital condition that stayed hidden until it was too late? Post-operation coronary thrombosis (aka throwing a clot), or even a post-op cerebral thrombosis (clot-based stroke)? Those are more understandable flavors of shit-happens. But a *hemorrhagic* stroke at age 42? That just ain't right.

I'm finding it hard to come up with words to explain what he meant to me.

[livejournal.com profile] pedropadrao, I will miss you immensely. We all will miss you one helluva lot. Your wife will miss you even more than the rest of us combined.

Baruch dayan ha'emet.
2012-12-23 12:31 am

Not exactly a political post.

Perhaps a metapolitical post?...

The Declaration of Independence is a document many of us are familiar with. What some may have not noticed was that, as a resolution of the only effective government of the Assembled Thirteen Colonies at the time, this was a *law* and not just a philosophical and practical statement. The duration for which this was in force as a law is open for discussion, but that's not really relevant to this post, as I'm actually going the political philosophy route.

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html ... in case folks want a ready reference.

The "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." sentence is well known. The "unalienable rights" include but are not limited to the ones enumerated. But the kicker is what's next: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,..." I'll stop there, at least for now.

This concept was not unique to folks in The Thirteen Not-Colonies-For-Much-Longer -- European writers had been playing it up for quite some time already. But it had mostly failed to gain traction in the highest political echelons of European nations, save perhaps for Iceland and the Helvetic Confederation (colloquially Switzerland). It was a pretty radical idea at those levels: that government exists to protect the rights of individuals, and that while there are certain "protections of individual rights" which pretty much need a government/state to implement effectively, that doesn't invalidate in any way the basic premise of the state subservient to individuals, and not the other way around.

I've seen it argued in other fora that Europe (and even Canada) subscribe to the opposite view, that the state is paramount. That may be the case, or maybe not; I'm not going to try to deal with that in this post. The logical follow-through to that view, however, is that individual "rights" are not unalienable: they are actually privileges, and they are whatever the state decides they are... no matter how admirable nor heinous a given state's definition might be. For now it is left as an exercise for the reader to provide to oneself examples of how that could go very very wrong.

(WORK IN PROGRESS; TO BE CONTINUED AND/OR MODIFIED LATER. All comments initially screened.)
2012-12-12 07:36 pm

Resurfacing

So, I made one post to DW three years ago, got distracted by other stuff. In the meantime my primary email provider went catatonic -- long story involving hosting companies going belly-up without giving notice, and creditors going in and shutting stuff down on only 4 hours notice or something similarly crappy. And then I forgot my DW password and couldn't get it reset because I couldn't get to the associated email address.

Well, the email address has returned to active status as of today (hallelujah!) and thus I could reset the DW password. So I did, and I'm back. Still not sure how much I'll be posting here quite yet.
2012-11-26 01:31 pm

More cooking as done by engineers

Somewhere in the not-recent past I remember an article about engineers at a cookout, figuring out the best way to get from "light the charcoal" to "nice bed of coals" in the shortest possible time interval. One can imagine what ensued.

Now for the holiday season, we have some folks from NASA demonstrating Four Crazy Ways to Cook Your Turkey Using NASA Equipment.
2012-10-22 10:45 pm

Overheard tonight during the debate

@JacksonPearce on Twitter: Every time Romney says "step one," I can't help but think "cut a hole in the box." #debate2012

To which I add... Step 2: Then a miracle occurs

Step 3: Profit!
2012-08-24 01:37 pm

Songs you know by... other reasons

Thanks (?) to a picture that I saw on [livejournal.com profile] montuos's G+ feed... here are some UNofficial names of fairly well-known songs. How many of them do you recognize, and do you have any others to contribute to the list?

The Viking Kittens Song (the one that prompted this post)

The MTV Song (This may be easy)

The Popcorn Song (I've also heard it called The Jiffy-Pop Song)

The Ajax Song

(Possibly more to come!)