Friday, February 27, 2009

Fifth Picture Meme

“Elect John Oliver for ‘Your Commissioner’”

I already did a version of this meme on Facebook, but Dragonfly tagged me with a slightly different variant—sorta like having two different types of flu, I guess.

Anyway: fifth folder, fifth picture. Since I have many, many folders, I just kept recursing the fifth folder portion of the instructions until I found pictures. Then I took the fifth picture I hadn’t already posted, which turned out to be the sixth one. So in my math, (3 • 5) + 5 = 6.

Suna and I had gone to see my Dad last year. We stopped for gas or something and I started laughing as soon as I got out of the car. John Oliver is one of my favorite commentators on The Daily Show, and there he was running for commissioner in DeWitt County, Texas.

I love the fact that he has “Elect John Oliver For” professionally printed, and then he hand writes “Your Commissioner.” It’s like he can run for anything on a moment’s notice.

Food for Thought #6

Michael Dowd stands by his evolution machine, the motor home in which he and his brilliant partner travel the country preaching the reconciliation of religion and science. I have never understood the conflict, myself.

Photo source The Great Story

Suna and I went to see Michael Dowd’s lecture Thank God for Evolution last Tuesday. She had a wonderful post in her blog about it, and I decided not to post a redundant one here. And while Dowd didn’t really say anything I hadn’t already thought through, that lecture got me thinking about the long-standing argument over nature versus nurture. (And I bought his book.)

Appetizer: Read the appetizer in full before acting. Focus on this screen. Then close your eyes and turn your head to the right. What is the first thing your eyes focus on when you open them?
The little clock and electronic picture frame that Suna gave me for Yule. (I’m at the office doing this on lunch on Friday—not ahead of time like I usually do. Busy week!)
Soup: When something good happens to someone you work with, how do you react?
Honestly, it depends. If it happens to someone I like and care about, I’m happy for them, no matter what. If it happens to someone I don’t like, I wonder at the injustice of the world because if I don’t like them, I usually thought they were unproductive mooks before I decided I didn’t like them.
Salad: If something happened in your career that doubled your income, what is the first thing you would do?
Tell Suna. Then I’d pay off things. Then I would stimulate the economy with a massive celebration—OK, I’d take a few friends out to dinner at a reasonable restaurant.
Entré: How do we acquire our drives, the parts of us that make us want to accomplish one thing versus another thing?
This answer proves me to be a true moderate. I think what drives us comes in almost equal parts from our heredity (musical talent, for example) and our experience. I have known overbearing stage parents who completely killed any musical appreciation in their very talented offspring. I once heard that Mozart played a complicated piece the first time he sat down at a keyboard.
I have also known people who were directionless until something happened in their lives to provide a clear direction—unfortunately, it was usually something bad. But that just shows that good results often come from the icky side of life. Our lives are what we make them. Hmmm…maybe I should write a series of questions on locus of control.
Dessert: What made you happy today?
Answering questions for my former boss and having her refer to me as “Oh, WBT master.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

25 Most Influential Albums

My friend Austin tagged me in this Facebook meme. (For those of you reading in Facebook, click View Original Post to see the blog entry.)

The rules for the meme are:

  • Think of 25 albums—which breaks my 10-item limit—that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it.
  • They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.

  • When you finish, tag 25 others, including me.

So here’s my list in alphabetical order by artist:

  • Bach, Six Brandenburg Concertos
  • This was my introduction to classical music. It was laying around the band hall, and we played it sometimes in the mornings. My favorite was #5, but I like them all. If not for this album, I would never have bought both of Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach releases.

  • Beatles, Hey, Jude
  • Hey, Jude was the next Beatles album I bought. I thought it was a real album at the time. Only later did I learn that it was pieced together out of “leftover” tracks from the British release. There were usually 12 or more songs on the British LPs but only 10 on the US releases of the same albums. Bean counters!

  • Beatles, Abbey Road
  • What can I say? Anyone who wasn’t inspired by Abbey Road didn’t listen to music.

  • George Benson, Breezin’
  • I loved the way GB sang his guitar solos. I later played in a band with a guy who played just as well as Benson and claimed to have arranged the Bobby Womac title track when he was Etta James’s music director.

  • Guy Clark, Old No. 1
  • Guy Clark’s first album was completely different than anything I had ever heard, which is strange considering the appropriateness of its name. Many of the songs had already been taken to the top of the country charts by other artists. Clark is an excellent guitarist, but he is a superlative poet first. And Emmylou Harris, a good friend of Guy and his wife Suzanna, sings harmony.

  • Dire Straits, Communiqué
  • While ’Sultans of Swing’ caught my ear, I didn’t buy the first album until much later. Instead, I started with the second one—the one that was so successful I’ve had to pull out my copy to prove it even exists—and fell in love with the band. Every track is good, but the most memorable is ‘Les Boys,”a cute little ditty about an S&M caberet.

  • Dire Straits, Love over Gold
  • “Two men say they’re Jesus; one of them must be wrong…How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease?” And let’s not forget “Telegraph Road.” Brothers in Arms was something of a let down after this, great as it was.

  • Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
  • This was actually the second ELP album I bought, starting my tradition of buying the first album second. My most vivid memory of this album is listening to it while watching Halloween on HBO with the sound off. ELP was a better match to the timing and mood of the movie than the original soundtrack. But then, I never did like John Carpenter’s music. I always thought he was just to cheap to hire a real composer.

  • Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery
  • Complete with a cover by H.R. Giger, this was the most awe-inspiring music I had ever heard. My first ELP album and my first concert. I remember cupping my hands over my friend’s left ear and screaming at the top of my lungs, ’This really doesn’t sound that loud!”—only to have him turn to me and move his lips in a pattern that looked like, “Wha?” There was a little tempo instability in the live performance, but the album was perfect.

  • Fanny, Fanny Hill
  • Fanny was the most underrated band in rock. I have two of their albums, but this is my favorite. To my knowledge, they were the first all-female hard rock band.

  • Merl Haggard, Greatest Hits
  • I was making a living playing country music, and I realized most of the songs I really liked were written by Merl. So I picked up this album and played it to death. Like the song says, “I’ll fix your flat tire, Merl.”

  • Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky
  • “And I would walk all the way from Bolder to Birmingham if I thought I could see, I could see your face.” Emmylou has always downplayed her own songwriting, but the songs that moved me the most were her own. Anyone can cover a Beatles tune. I remember playing this album over and over.

  • Emmylou Harris, Evangeline
  • Evangeline is one of my favorite Emmylou albums. I thought it was the most startlingly original work she had done since Pieces of the Sky. It even had hints of the future Trio albums with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt singing harmony on “Mr. Sandman.” Her cover of James Taylor’s “Millwork” made me cry the first time I heard it. Imagine how shocked I was to learn that it was pieced together from the outtakes of several other albums.

  • Kris Kristofferson, Jesus Was a Capricorn
  • Kristofferson is my favorite American songwriter—slightly ahead of Jimmy Webb—and he’s on Colbert tonight. This was the first of his albums I bought, and soon bought everything else he had released. I loved the gravel of his voice, which seemed to mirror the acidity of his lyrics. He lost something when he took voice lessons and tried to sing. He should have left pitch to Rita Coolidge.

  • Kris Kristofferson, Border Lord
  • It was really hard to choose between Border Lord and Spooky Lady’s Sideshow. And while I dearly love both, I listed the earlier work here because of a gaff I made. Without presceening, I played “Rescue Mission” on the radio the day I bought the album. I’ll never forget hearing, “‘And here’s to my old friend,’ he said and kiss his ass goodbye.” Then came, “The captain’s wife was aging, and the first mate heard her scream when Tommy slipped tobasco in the captain’s Vaseline.”

  • Lobo, Introducing Lobo
  • My introduction to soft rock. I learned to play every song on it, but I doubt I could remember a single one today. Well, maybe “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.” Let’s not find out.

  • Linda Ronstadt, Heart Like a Wheel
  • I fell in love with Linda Ronsadt when I heard her sing “Long, Long Time” on The Tonight Show in her bare feet. Hear Like a Wheel was the first time I knew who she was. What a wonderful album.

  • Linda Ronstadt, Prisoner in Disguise
  • With two songs by John David Souther, this is one of the best albums of all time.

  • Steeleye Span, Below the Salt
  • I bought this album because a good review by Bob Claypool. It became one of my favorites. Who else could have a top10 hit (in Brittain, not here) with “Gaudete.”

  • Steeleye Span, Parcel of Rogues
  • This one ranks up there with Prisoner in Disguise. The title track is done very darkly, seven voices and a bass drum, until the instruments kick in to end it. Not a bad song on it, but my favorite has to be “Cam Ye O’re Frae Fance.”

  • Al Stewart, Past, Present, and Future
  • I heard this album on one of those radio shows where they played the whole album, but missed the artist and title. It blew me away. Two years later, I walked in on one of my friends listening to it. I bought it the next day. It has never “left me here with the Post World War II Blues.”

  • Al Stewart, Year of the Cat
  • Not his best album, but definitely his most successful. My favorites from this one: “If It Doesn’t Come Naturally,” “On the Border,” and “Flying Sorcery.”

  • Rick Wakeman, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • This tremendous album set the stage for Wakeman’s career writing the music for soft porn movies like China Blue. Davi almost ruined this on for me, tho. To this day, I can’t hear that large choir sing, “Praise God,” without hearing “Frisbee!”

  • Who, Odds and Sodds
  • “’Cause I’m a farmer…”

  • Triumvirat, Spartacus
  • Triumvirat is a German ELP knock-0ff, but Spartacus was an awesome album nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Internal Validation on the Cheap: R(i)

This post originally appeared on the Central Texas Instructional Design blog on this date—or it would have if I had ever finished it.

Internal validation is a way to ensure multiple choice assessments are worth the time it takes to administer them. Without at least performing some kind of internal validation, an assessment isn’t anything more than a stressful method of tracking attendance.

My quick and dirty (cheap) method of internal validation uses the database described in the part 1 of this series, “Validating Multiple Choice Assessments on the Cheap.”

You also need a table that tracks the scores of each learner and ties to the previously described database. Here’s how I structure the record for this linked database:

  1. Student ID*—a value that differentiates individuals but does not necessarily tie to any personally identifiable information
  2. Assessment ID*—a value that distinguishes between the various assessments used in a curriculum and between versions of the same assessment
  3. Score—what the learner scored on the assessment
  4. Subgroup—the subgroup to which the learner belongs (more on this in a few minutes)

Fields marked with an asterisk tie this table to the previously described one.

The first step in the validation process is to divide the entire population into three roughly equal groups. These groups classify learners by how well they performed on the assessment. You can name the groups whatever you want. I usually number them to make sorting easier.

Formulas for this division exist, but unless you require a rigorous statistical methodology I prefer a simple method. Besides, smaller assessments don’t have a wide enough point spread to fine tune the size of the groups. So here’s what I do.

  1. Calculate the mean score and standard deviation for the assessment. (Any spread sheet has built in functions for these operations.)
  2. Place anyone whose score falls within ½-standard deviation of the mean in the middle group.
  3. Place anyone whose score is more than ½-standard deviation above the mean in the upper group.
  4. Place anyone whose score is more than ½-standard deviation below the mean in the lower group.

The size of the groups can differ significantly using this method. You can tweak the threshold scores a little, but small assessments and the tendency of scores to clump often make tweaking pointless.

With the learners assigned to groups, it’s time to use a database application such as Access or MySQL to help you analyze it. I usually generate a report defined something like this:

This is where I stopped. The report I created for the Fruit Company usually runs in excess of 15 pages, so I have no idea how I was going to simplify it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gwyn — RIP

Monday, February 23, 2009

And More Music

Triskelion. More pictures on Facebook.

Suna and I went to see Beccano’s band play in public for the first time tonight. Triskelion played an open mic at Nuno’s Bar and Grill (north).

We arrived with the band a little before 19:00. The kids had told us they would play a sometime between 19:00 and 20:00, but the guy who ran the show said his band played the first set, which started at 21:00. He promised to get Triskelion on next so we could get the kids home for school.

We settled down to wait with the other parents and Jeff. While we waited, we nibbled on bar food—jalepeño poppers (be careful how you type that), Buffalo wings, and so on. We talked about nothing and told old jokes. You know, the stuff you do when you’re bored and can’t do anything about it.

Finally, starting time rolled around. The first band took the stage. They we really good—two guitars, bass, three-part harmonies, tight, tight, tight. They kept looking over at the kids and cracking jokes like “This is what it’s like to be our age and still trying to do this for a living.” They even played two covers of ELP songs: “From the Beginning” and “Lucky Man.”

The it was the kid’s turn. They learned how to adjust to the room on a medley of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Revolution”—or as Parker described it, “two songs we kinda smooshed together.” Beccano did a great job on the bass solo for “My Generation,” and they finished strong with a Hendrix-like cover of “Hey Joe.”

The crowd, mostly older musicians there to jam, was really supportive of the kids. The guy running the show talked them off the stage by saying, “You really need to give it up for these guys again. This is the next generation of doing what we do.” Suna said he invited them back anytime they want to play.

Combined with yesterday, my life seems filled with music. So that is what I am grateful for this week: an abundance of music and nice people.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Day for Music…

What I really wanted to do at this point was stop singing and listen to Bowman play, but I soldiered on with a smile.

Photo by Jon Montgomery

… and music of all kinds. We started this Sunday morning in church singing “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine” to balance a rash of more traditional hymns. The choir director’s ubermusical son joined us on stage.

It was strange having someone else play bass, especially since he played so much better than I do. (But then I think he is majoring in performance—maybe composition—and will probably go on to grad school.) There were times I just wanted to listen to him play rather than concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing.

Here we are at the Artz benefit enjoying some music we could hardly hear.

Photo by Jon Montgomery (He was here, too.)

He played a Peavy bass that came with the frets filed down so that it occasionally gives that fretless moan but has the pitch stability of a fretted bass. I’d like to look into that for some of my own tunes.

The choir director played a really nice piece by Sate, which apparently sounds a lot like sauté, for the postlude. The piece was very lovely in its misleading simplicity. That is, it sounded simple but wasn’t.

Afterward we practiced with a Dixieland-ish—I can’t call it a Dixieland band because we have sheet music and we all mostly play what is written—band. We will perform in church and at a religious education dinner over the next couple of weeks—but I’m not sure in which order.

Later we went to a benefit to save Art’s Rib House, a South Austin landmark that has fallen on hard times recently. We took Beccano’s band, Triskelion. We arrived in time to stand in a really long line and listen to Art’s band while we waited.

After Art, we listened to a local jazz duet featuring trumpet and piano. Suna got to hear her heartthrob Slaid Cleaves do a set that ended with a yodel. We left during a set by a really hot, young local fiddler. I had had about as much fun as I could handle in a day, and the kids were looking bored.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

First Day Back in the Garden

I took a bunch of pictures of my new wild flower garden, but none of the pictures were usable. Maybe tomorrow.

Today was the first time I’ve had a chance to get back into the garden since winter set in. I had a lot of fun, and my head is clear even though I forgot to take my allergy medicine today.

The first thing I had to do was drag all of the equipment out of the garage. I ran the mulching mower over a big pile of leaves the wind had gathered in the side yard. I was going to put them in the compost pile after sifting through it. But I ran out of time, so the bag of leaves is still sitting by the back gate.

I then ran the edger and swept the resulting dirt and grass pieces. Finally, I ran the weed eater around the flower bed walls. It was all great fun that pointed out how out of shape I am after the winter’s inactivity.

The cure for this is more work in the garden. Luckily, the days are getting longer, so I will have the chance.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Food for Thought #5

Few things beat this blend of shrimp, garlic, and peppers. Nummy!

Photo source: Closet Cooking

Other than the economy, anti-Americanism has been causing some people in the United States (and some of our neighbors who fear being mistaken for an American) to reconsider travel abroad. That got me thinking…

Appetizer: Have you ever traveled outside your native country?
I have been to Canada, Mexico, Panamá, and El Salvador. Oh, and as Cheech and Chong would say, “and parts of Alabama.” Each country offered something unique in culture and landscape. And even though, El Salvador was the most dangerous—kidnapping is a growth industry there—it was still fun.
Soup: What’s the farthest from home you have ever ventured?
I think Edmonton, Alberta is actually farther north from me than either San Salvador or Cuidád Panamá, but I haven’t done the math recently enough to be sure. Oddly, most of my trips abroad have all landed me in the same time zone—with the exception of my trips to Canada, which have taken me to all the time zones in the lower 48 states, plus one.
Salad: Do you plan to travel abroad any time in the future, however long it may be? If so, where?
I hope so. I want to see New Zealand and parts of Australia. I have also wanted to visit he ruins of the Shaolin temple in Henan since I was a teen.
Entré: What would deter you most, fear of being targeted as an American, the security considerations of your on nation, or something else?
That answer depends on destination. For most of the world, excluding the caliphate (past, present, or potential), I am more afraid of my own country’s security policies. I’ve had to dig through my vehicle for change to be allowed back in to the United States after having spent too much of my cash in Canada. The Border Patrol won’t take an ATM card.
Dessert: If you could go anywhere in the world for free, where would you most want to go?
Answering this one, I realize it is redundant for me. I hope it isn’t for everyone. But since I worded the question in the superlative, I’ll go with New Zealand. Peter Jackson did an awesome job showcasing the terrain, but that only reinforced a desire to go. I first started thinking about a trip there (or possible emigration) in the late 1980s.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Google Yourself

This post is approved by all of my chins.

This post originated as a Facebook meme. The rules are simple:

  1. Google “[Your first name] needs”—including the quotes.
  2. Post the first ten results without edit or explanation.

Of the ones I’ve seen before doing this, my favorites include:

  • Gene needs to be studied elsewhere
  • Michelle needs to take photography lessons (for a very good professional photographer)

So here we go with mine:

  1. Lee needs more support.
  2. Nat-a-lee [[needs a boy]].
  3. Lee needs to do more for Korea’s upgrade.
  4. What Sara Lee Needs Now: A Giant Wiener Roast.
  5. Is Wonder Bread what Sara Lee Needs?
  6. Spike Lee needs your help to make a cameraphone film.
  7. Lee needs somebody to love.
  8. Lee needs to fine tune himself for Delhi.
  9. Lee needs a kidney.
  10. Lee needs a debt waiver to forestall default.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grateful Monday

Trackgrease and Roxy came by to visit this weekend.

This weekend my son Trackgrease and his partner made it up to visit. Since they had said they were coming by a couple of times before, it was nice that they actually made it and stayed with us and went to church with us, too.

Trackgrease has been making a living singing, and I have always liked the sound of his voice when he sings. So it was no big surprise to hear him singing well at church. What did surprise me was that he even sang the out the children—neither the words nor music are easily findable in the hymnal.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised because he has mentioned that he might like to become UU minister. I don’t think he quite gets it that he has to finish a bachelor’s degree before he can enter the seminary, but that’s OK. Its a good goal. Suna and I would both like to take classes there, too. Just for the helluvit.

After church we went to South Congress. It was my idea. I wanted to do something nice for Suna, but I wasn’t prepared for the press of that many people. By the time we headed back north, my nerves were already shot, but I was trying to hold on. Then I made a wrong turn and got trapped in a parking lot where nobody moved and I couldn’t turn around to get back free. This set up a full-fledged panic attack. This couldn’t have helped Suna, who was already jangled from a series of stresses she has already blogged about. Sigh.

So I am grateful for Suna not freaking out when I had a panic attack. And I am grateful for one of the last things Trackgrease said to me before he went back home. He said he was glad that he could still come stay with me and feel like my son. So am I.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Food for Thought: Valentine’s Day Edition

This Valentines cake looks delicious.

Photo source: Peggy’s Cake Decorating Ideas

Appetizer: What is your strongest childhood memory about Valentine’s Day?
I remember making cards and exchanging candy hearts in elementary school. By the time fifth grade rolled along, it didn’t mean anything because we bought boxes of cheap little cards and the school required us to give them to everyone in the class.
Soup: Who was your first crush?
Tammy Z. was a cute little redhead I met in first grade. She was the most beautiful girl I had known at the time. I think I had a crush on her because her name was Tammy, and I liked the song from the movie. I can still hear Debbie Reynolds singing it in my head.
Salad: Did your crush return the feelings?
We talked, so I guess that’s probably a yes for first grade.
Entré: Other than the massacre, what does Valentine’s Day make you think of?
Suna. I think school killed the spirit of Valentine’s Day for me. And she’s the first person I’ve known since elementary school to whom it matters. And who makes it matter to me. Still, I think every day should be Valentine’s Day.
Dessert: What are you going to do for your Valentine this year?
Last weekend when her ex had the boys, I took her out to a nice dinner at Z-Tejas, and we picked out some patio furniture for the new front patio. I spent much of Saturday putting it together. Hopefully, we will enjoy it for years has we have drinks—iced tea, beer, something stronger—with the neighbors and watch the neighborhood go by.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Update on Prospects

These pansies perked up after a rare rain

I mentioned last week that I was confident about the future in the face of diminishing opportunities. This week I have some news to reinforce that confidence.

First, I heard back on the initial interview for the extended contract. The recruiter said that they were impressed with my credentials and would fit in well with the existing team. That means I have passed the first hurdle. We’ll see how it goes from here.

Next, I had a one-on-one with my new boss on the Fruit Company contract. I like her. She seems to be a straight-shooter. She also mentioned that she isn’t happy with the current mix of rotational, contract, and dedicated staff. While acknowledging the difficulty of adding dedicated staff in this economy, she said that doing so is one of her top priorities.

So that’s where things stand as I wait in the dentist office. Hopefully, cleaner teeth will make everything seem even rosier—and thornless.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Patio Furniture

This is the new patio furniture that has been wet since I finished putting it together.

Suna and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early this year. We went to Z-Tejas, a restaurant that has some of the best food and deafening acoustics. Hopefully, the next time we go there, it will be warm enough to sit outside.

The other part of our Valentine’s Day celebration was to go to the Home Depot and buy some new patio furniture for our new patio. While we were deciding which set we wanted, we ran into the guy who built it for us. That was kind of a cool irony.

So I spent a good part of the weekend assembling the furniture. Even Ikea could learn something about packaging from Home Depot’s Hamilton Bay brand. Not only did they package all the tools required (as does Ikea), the shrink wrapped the nuts, bolts, washers, and spacers to cardboard backing that was labeled with the part reference from the assembly instructions. I was astounded.

This week, I am grateful for my special Valentine, Suna. Not to mention that I am also grateful for the new patio furniture and the patio to put it on. I’m looking forward to sitting out on the patio and sipping some cold beverages while getting to know the neighbors better.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that we got a healthy rain last night. It wasn’t enough to break the drought, but I appreciate every drop.

10 February Update: Added the picture I didn’t get to take when I was putting the furniture together.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Spring Cleaning (of the Camera)

Beccano: just two years ago

Suna asked me to clean off the excess photos from the camera. Even with a 4GB card, we have to do that every couple of months.

Well, that’s never as easy as it sounds. First, I have to look at the pictures. Then I have to figure out what to do with them. Then I found out that Windows writes tags to the files to help search for them, so that meant I had to start looking at some of the older pictures.

One thing leads to another, and I found this shot of Beccano. I haven’t seen this little kid in a long time. He’s almost grown now.

Makes me wish there were more pictures of Trackgrease around. But we didn’t have digital cameras in those days, and we didn’t always remember to process the pictures we did take.

Does that mean I’m getting older, too? I hope not.

The Recession, RIFs, and Wow

I’ve wanted a camper van for a long time. This one looks fun, but not for a long trip.

Photo source: BBC

This week was a difficult week on the job front. Yes, I still have a job, but my days are numbered. More on that later; I’m going to stay chronological in this post, even though I don’t really believe in linear time.

The first thing that happened was that I was invited to interview for a job. That’s never a bad thing, and I was excited. The interview went well, and we all had a good time. Anytime you spend most of the interview laughing with the interviewers, it’s a good thing, whether or not you get the job.

The next morning, I called the recruiter to touch base. She still hasn’t heard anything, and it’s a bit premature for that interview. But she did tell me that the fire has gone out around one of my other irons. That regulatory body decided to move someone they already employed into a contract position rather than reduce headcount in one place and bring me on in another. I have to admit it makes accounting sense, even if I don’t like it.

Then the department where I’m currently contracting at the Fruit Company was reorged. My boss is now filling the vacancy I originally interviewed for. Given the length of time it takes them to make a decision an the current economy, my contract will be long over—I may even be retired—before they free up the funding to add another instructional designer.

The state of the economy causes me to worry a bit, but I’m still confident and hopeful. I heard a promising bit on the news. It seems most companies are taking their RIFs upfront this year, front-loading the job cuts to save money the whole year. That means many economists are expecting job losses to slow as the year progresses. They’re now talking about peak unemployment of less than 20%.

I may not be able to find another contract soon, but at least the one I’m on can only expire once. That’s something to look forward to.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Food for Thought #3

This chicken and broccoli casserole is called Chicken Divine. It looks divine, and I think I’ll try it some time.

Photo source:

Appetizer:What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
Honestly, I haven’t had a song get stuck in my head that I didn’t consciously put there in a while, so I’m having trouble answering my own stupid question. (Why did I pick this one when I wrote these a couple of weeks ago?) I’m going to go with Kris Kristofferson’s “ Who’s to Bless and Who’s to Blame?” It’s the last one I picked up a guitar and started singing for no apparent reason.
Soup:What does that song make you think of?
I think it’s about a man wrestling with belief versus disbelief, something I do constantly. If there is a God, why does the world suck? Or how much worse would it be without one? I want to play this song together with Greg Lake’s “ Closer to Believing.” If I can find or write a couple more, I’ll have a spiritual journey in music.
Salad:What is your favorite song in a language other than your native tongue?
That would be “ Lo Siento Mi Vida” by Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Edwards, and Gilbert Ronstadt. It was the first song I ever heard Linda sing in Spanish, and I keep it close to my heart after all these years.
Entré:If video killed the radio star, will the Internet kill Literature?
I believe it will certainly change the predominate forms of literature. Shorter forms will previal: poetry and short shorts. Short stories and novels may become rarities.
Another thing is that the predomince of video on the Internet seems to be part of a change in brain wiring. We seem to be shifting back to a more visual, less linear form of thought. For more on this, see The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The conflict between word and image.
Dessert:What was the last thing you read for the pleasure of reading?
I’m currently reading a compilation called Vampires, Wine, and Roses: Chilling tales of immortal pleasure, among other things. I thought it would be cheesy, but it’s turning out to have some really thoughtful selections. Who realized that Shakespeareused the language of vampirism to make the separation of Romeo and Juliet more poignant? I certainly didn’t recognize it until JR Stephenspointed it out.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


The BtVS Scoobie Gang (from the first or second season)

Photo source: Hulu

Jo derived these five questions from Evelyn McFarlane’s The Book of If: Questions for the Games of Life and Love. Somehow, I think five is the perfect number for these question things.

If you could program the perfect evening of television shows, which ones would you select and in what order?

I assume in this mystical place, we would magically have new episodes of the shows, not just reruns. So I’m including a couple that are no longer on the air.

6:30-7:00: Friends—This is the exception to my general dislike of sitcoms. Even though I didn’t really like any of the characters, I enjoyed their foibles and felt as if I knew this collection of twenty-somethings stuck in early adolescence.

7:00-8:00: House—I don’t know what I like about this show so much. It is formulaic and filled with really dislikable characters, but they somehow seem real, if somewhat emotionally arrested.

8:00-9:00: Buffy the Vampire Slayer—This is the best show ever. I actually like most of the characters, even the bad guys. It has horror, humor, and character development. I also liked that the strongest characters (emotionally) were the ones without special powers.

9:00-10:00: Fringe—This is the most Buffy-like show on TV today: great writing that puts realistic characters in totally bizarre situations. Again, a good mixture of horror, humor, and character.

If you had to name the one area of your life that you are the least self-disciplined in, what would it be?

I’m really not very self-disciplined, even though I work at it. There are so many areas I could cite.

But I’ll have to agree with Jo and choose eating. I just love to eat. I love most of the flavors and textures of food. And as with most of life, even the icky stuff has value.

If you could enact one law that applied only to your own family, what would it be?

See I don’t think you can legislate family. Although the family has its power structures, what makes a family work is how we negotiate within those structures.You can’t force people to respect each other or be nice to each other or even take responsibility for themselves or each other.

Once you apply a power structure to those things, they tend to shatter. Even if you attain compliance, that attainment is temporal and breeds resentment.

If you could relive any single family outing in your life, what would it be?

I think it would be the trip I took to North Carolina to meet The Prince and Flo. I really enjoyed the time we spent there. It was totally stress-free and the weather was awesome.

The trip back with Suna and Beccano was fun, too. Even though we were pushing to get home, we stopped to have fun and see some of the sights.

If you could eliminate one hereditary characteristic from your family, what would it be?

I wouldn’t. We are what we are. If you change anything about us, you change something that made us what we are and, therefore, who we are.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Songs of the Heart

I think this was a high C note. I love hearing Suna sing.

Photo by Beccano

I went back to church yesterday after having missed a couple of weeks with the creeping crud.

My voice still isn’t under control, so I didn’t sing along with the hymns as I usually would. My throat wakes up in a different place emery day. That makes finding the initial pitch very difficult. And since I have relative—some would say questionable—pitch, I have to find that first pitch to make sense of the melody or whichever part I sing.

But yesterday, my voice was almost back to normal—just a little wobbly. In Microsoft terms, trying to hit a note could yield unpredictable results.

I found myself standing between two really good singers, namely Suna and Saranda. Suna sings alto and Saranda, soprano. When we got to the third hymn, they each knew their respective parts perfectly. Add to that a decent arrangement of this tune, and I was transfixed.

I stood between them and listened to the interplay of their voices rendering the parts. It was so pretty that I forgot to try to sing until the last verse rolled around. While I didn’t do the tenor partjustice, I really enjoyed the parts that worked.

Suna wants to get a studio set up in the old office. I’m looking forward to doing so. One of the first projects I want to try is recording some of these simple hymns, with Suna and Saranda doing the leads.

That’s I’m what I am most grateful for this week: being surrounded bysuch lovely voices.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

Harrison is the latest football player to discredit the team for which he plays. Totally lacking in honor or sportsmanship, he is a disgrace to the game.

Photo source: PSAMP

Suna and I just got back from a Super Bowl XLIII party at our friend Austin’s house. This was an exciting game—well, at least for the last quarter.

Arizona did a wonderful job of almost winning the game. They lost by only one point after both teams staged remarkable drives to take the lead. I’m surprised at how close the game was considering that the refs all appeared to be wearing Terrible Towels, and they had no problem throwing them if Arizona could be implied as a rule violation.

At the same time, James Harrison (#92) was penalized a half foot for assault and battery. He had one of the Arizona players down on all fours and proceeded to punch him in the back. When the Arizona player tried to extricate himself from this position, Harrison picked him up, threw him over backwards, and proceeded to punch him in the face. This assault had more than one person at the party calling for Harrison’s ejection from the game.

One Steelers fan even commented that Harrison shouldn’t be ejected; he should be arrested. Indeed, it wouldn’t have been Harrison’s first arrest for assault.

Seriously, this was one should earn Harrison the Michael Vic Sportsmanship Award.

But, according to Suna, the high point of the game was Bruce Springsteen’s halftime performance. I thought the best part was Springsteen executing his trademarked knee slide into a cameraman. The look on his face as he extracted the camera from his crotch was hillarious.