Wednesday, February 27, 2008


When I was in elementary school all the text books talked about how, based on temperature trends, we were slowly descending into a new ice age. The past decade it's been all about how we are doomed to a fiery death at the hands of global warming. Now we are experiencing the coldest, most snow-laden winter since 1966. Even Red China is suffering it's coldest winter in a century. And how about those quickly melting ice caps that last year were thinner than they've ever been (at least thinner than they've been since 1972 when they started taking measurements)? Well, they've gained their weight back. Makes ya wonder.

A great site, though at times a bit on the heady side, is Junk Science.

Data gleaned from here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Silent Shoveling

God dumped four inches of snow last night, delicately balancing it an inch high on every branch and telephone wire. Before the rest of the house woke up I trudged out to shovel the walk, trusty blue-bladed snow shovel in hand. I was greeted by peaceful silence, the kind you only get when sounds are hushed by fresh snow. I set to work, enjoying the steady rhythm of shoveling, the muted scrape of metal on concrete followed by a soft thump as the snow lands. Sshhhhhhfft thmp. Ssssshhhhfft thmp. Sssshhhhfffft thmp. Sssshhhffffttt RRRRRRRthmpRrrrrrr. Rrrrsshhfrrrffttrrrrrrrrthrrrmprrrrrr. Snow blowers. The bane of my peaceful winter meditations.

But I'm not writing to complain about my snow blower lovin' neighbors (who also, no doubt, own leaf blowers so that they can get absolutely NO exercise working on their property). Nope, I'm here to tell you about my weird neighbors across the way. Normally I like weird. I revel in weird. But this is the creepy kind of weird.

A) When we first moved in we didn't have curtains in our bedroom. We embarrassingly realized that someone across the street was watching us when we left the lights on.

B) The mom of the house walks around the block very early every morning, doing a strange floppy thing with her hands as if it increases her metabolism.

C) Their Volvo station wagon has a Cambridge University bumper sticker on it. Aside from Berkley possibly one of the most liberal colleges in the land, you know, the one that invited the Iranian "president" to speak but bans any branch of the military to visit the campus? About a year after we moved in the son returned, presumably from college. Nope, he was returning from a year abroad in Europe. He was plump, unkempt facial and cranial hair, not too clean looking, pretty much a stereotype of the latest generation of flower children. I tried to introduce myself and was greeted with a small sneer and one of the limpest handshakes on record.

D) They have a daughter, we think. She has been seen very, very, very rarely outside the house and even then she is running (seriously) to get back in. In three years I may have seen this girl five times.

E) The strangest of all, however, is how they clear the snow from their driveway. First the back their car out and brush all the snow (and I mean ALL THE SNOW) off into the street. Then the mother and son shovel together to clear the driveway until it is spotless. SPOTLESS! And then the pull the car back into the driveway. It's not like they have a long driveway... it's probably only a yard or so longer than their car.

F) No, I'm not obsessed with watching my neighbors. These are casual observations made over three years. I'm afraid that if I actually tried to watch them I'd find even stranger things. Like The Burbs strange.

So... does anyone else have strange neighbors? Or am I your strange neighbor?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Must.....Avoid.... Bloat

I'm fighting the very strong urge to add a flute to the song intro and second chorus. It just seems like it would fit. For consolation I actually made the decision to REMOVE the piano part from the second verse. Either it doesn't need piano or what I played didn't fit but either way, it's gone.

Um, and the accordion might be back in (ducks to avoid thrown objects).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Nerdery

Tappity Tappity is hosting the blog-o-cubes first Nerdery Week, encouraging everyone to let their nerd-flags fly by displaying their own haven of personal oddness. And so I present... my workshop/studio.

First the workshop.

Notice the extreme clutter. I organize is about once every quarter and I'm overdue. Note the electronics soldering project for my son (I need to fix a few bad solder joints that I made on 35 mini LEDs... ow, my eyes!), the lava lamp that needs a new socket of a specific size that is not carried in major home improvement stores, the Newcastle rag, the painting by my Beloved, the rack-o-mini clamps (you can never have too many clamps, sez Norm Abrahms), and the Delta band saw that is forever going out of alignment.

Up in a window well I have a few "manly" beverage containers on display, plus a few clay things created by my children. The ones with skeletons on them were chock full of food coloring, with the intent that it would change the color of your digestive output. Didn't work. Missing from this photo is the cat. This window is at ground level and many times I've been working away only to be started by a loud meow (single pane of glass... on the list to fix).

Nerdy reading indeed... Fangoria magazines! These are some back issues from the 80s that I bought to read and later found were collectively worth over $100. So my passive fun has turned into an investment and white-glove treatment.

Moving on... to your right would be the furnace and about eight square feet of ducts and air filters and stuff. On your right is a cabinet full of music gear and product/warranty manuals. Overhead is the severed head of a pinata and one of my grandfathers hats. Of special note is the aardvark doll my Beloved got me for my birthday the first year we knew each other. Searched all over the internet, she did. It was instant love. The Monopoly game.... over a year ago I lost my sanity and played Monopoly with my kids. They were 11, 8, 8, and 6. All of us are A.D.D. After I was released with medication I put the game up for a while. I'm considering taking it down again because, well, all my hair has grown back and I just love forced shock therapy.

You are now entering Aardvark Lounge, my studio. On the floor is the three foot tall Dr. Seuss hat I made in college - clamps to your head with coat hangers... almost completely pain free! My beloved bass is in it's protective case on the wall. I'm a sucker for glow in the dark stuff so that string is actually glowing stuff... keen-o-riffic! See if you can find the following: trombone, hippo guitar pick holder, folding chair I recently took from my wife's trunk for comfortable sitting (hope you don't mind, honey... I'll get it back to you in the spring), four-man raft, black light, spring santa, day-glo plaster cast of my foot.

The heart of the studio. Windows 98 PC, 1989 Roland Rompler, Yamaha consumer level keyboard as a controller, $80 strat copy painted NEON GREEN, cheapo Washburn acoustic guitar, blemished baritone ukulele with aftermarket pickup, plastic lobster that glows with the flick of a switch, homemade gear rack with the cheapest knock-off gear money can buy, a hint of pink insulation I've wrapped around the duct work so my sound doesn't carry farther than it already does.

Slightly to the right is my wall-o-CDs, a set of shelves I installed in am unused doorway. I also built in a secret compartment for my guns and Bibles. I think every house should have a secret compartment or two. Anyway, some DVDs and about 1/3 of my music collection - the good stuff in alphabetical order by band and then chronological order.

To the left are milk crates full of chord charts, to the right is a bookcase full of books of all stripes. The lovely guitar is a anniversary/Valentines/birthday gift from my Beloved... again a knock-off but an outstanding value. Also my gorgeous SWR Workingman's amp sits patiently for the day when once again it can crank up with a band. Also pictured is a Casio RZ-1 drum machine (put to pasture last year after I got a late 80s Roland drum machine), TWO homemade fuzz boxes, one of four chimes from an old doorbell, and a monster waterheater that has lately been heating suspiciously. I hope it's all in my mind.

One of the nice things about my studio is that I can hide out there whenever I need a break. Plus, with the furnace and water heater sharing my space I know that it will never be turned into a playroom or a bedroom or a chicken hatchery or nuthin. It's MINE! MINE I TELL YOU!

Sorry, Tappity, I don't have an army of figurines. Not that I haven't wanted to buy some McFarlane figures, it's just never happened.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You'll Read This If You're As Bored As Me

I spend the majority of each weekday in a small, windowless, beige room staring at a computer screen. So when I take my lunch I get as far away as possible, both mentally and physically, hence my constant reading of fiction. When the weather is good I'll walk to the park or the library. The young teens section is especially good for quiet reading - comfy furniture, big windows, and since it's the middle of the day, a minimum of ne'er-do-well teenagers surfing MySpace- much better than the dedicated Quiet Reading room which is usually stocked with at least one coughing homeless person or newspaper ruffling ruffian. Other haunts include the courthouse (half a block away for when it's really cold), the Senior Center (with a great bench outside that houses a frisky chipmunk), and the Hilton (once... the music was so blaringly loud despite the extremely comfortable chairs that I've not been back).

Today I decided to seat my seat at a new location: the Grand Wayne Center. A few years back our local elected officials decided that the existing Grand Wayne Center just wasn't cutting it. Just THINK of all the organizations itching to hold their convention in glorious, beautiful downtown Fort Wayne! And those studies that showed that the convention reception market was already flooded, well, they surely didn't apply to US! And so they forced out the fast food restaurants in the next block (including one of the top five profitable Taco Bells in the country) and started building this massive glass edifice. Which has, for the most part sat empty, forcing tax dollars to be used for heating and maintenance and staffing and paying off the mega-million dollar loan because the anticipated usage hasn't been met. So why SHOULDN'T I spend my lunch in this massive glass monument? Sorry, this EMPTY massive glass monument. At least with all those windows I had excellent views of the new library and the construction of the Harrison Square project. Hmmm.... three massive construction projects in the last decade, all on the backs of the taxpayers. Now I'm not a cynical man but if I were I'd be wondering if the city council had friends in the construction business.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Studio of the Sea

Some of my favorite music is "headphone" music, the kind of stuff that only really comes alive within the intimate confines of being piped directly into your head. So it's only natural that when I record music I tend to try to recreate this layered sound. Except I don't have the skill and equipment to do all the compressing and EQing to make it all fit. The result of my "everything AND the kitchen sink" approach is that it often takes months and months for a single song, a song which ends up being "muddy", and that IS a technical term.

As I recently completed a labor intensive song for my Beloved (with two kitchen sinks and a garbage disposal) I decided to do something light... and scaled back. Thus I'm redoing an old song an old friend and I wrote in days of old. I'm intentionally keeping things spartan and it's not easy fighting against my nature. So far I've recorded acoustic guitar and a glossy electric guitar part plus vocals. Still to go is piano, percussion, bass, and various keyboard bits (choir, strings, and church organ). I had planned to include an accordion part (any excuse I have to free the monster from it's cage...) but recently and painfully decided to cut it for the sake of sonic clarity. The same fate may befall one or two of the choir/strings/organ bits. The intent is to make the song sparse and organic so no heavy distortion (sniff), no weird effects (double sniff) and a moderately tame bass part (or maybe not... how much can a man restrain himself?!?!?). I started the song this past weekend and at this wreckless pace it should be completed next weekend.

Also since the song is a very early guitar creation from Shumway it's near-constant chord progression of D A C G had to be broken up with two instrumental passages featuring such exotic chords as Em, F#m, barre C and B. Ooooo, fancy!


Did you know that if you live in Allen County you can request that the local library purchase specific items? I had heard years ago that it is capped at two items per patron per calendar year but that may have changed. You can request certain books, DVDs, computer games or even a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum CD. heh heh heh. So if you live in Allen County and wish to experience the rock against rock lovechild of Stravinsky and Bartok all you need do is hoof it down to your local library and put a hold on "In Glorious Times."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Apt Descriptions

You may have noticed that Hilary is on the campaign trail calling herself a "progressive" instead of a "liberal". That's because over the past few decades the liberals have done a pretty good job of sullying their moniker by their very actions. Consider your reaction to such phrases: bleeding heart liberal, liberal media, tax-and-spend liberal. Icky, isn't it?

However as a fan of progressive music (albeit progressive music that stresses melody over cold technical skill) I hereby respectfully request that liberals leave this phrase alone. "Progressive" music already has a stigma about it as being egg-head or nerdy or nothing more than an excuse to indulge in technical excess. May I instead suggest going back to a term that quite apty represents your beliefs and policies: socialist. Go ahead, be honest with yourself.