Friday, December 18, 2009

Editorial Input

Emily: Mommy, tell me the Frosty the Snowman story?
Mommy: Sure sweety. Once upon a time it was winter...
Emily: No, it wasn't.
Mommy: Ummm, ok. Once upon a time it was fall and turning into winter and the snow began to fall...
Emily: No, I want the story without the snow.
Mommy: Ummm, the Frosty the Snowman story without the snow?
Emily: Yes, I just want the children and no Frosty and they fall down and bump their heads.
Mommy: Why don't you tell me what you did at school sweety.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sports Apparel FAIL

This is what happens when your wife randomly picks out red and blue clothes for your son.

As several friends have pointed out it seems appropriate that the Giants ended up on top and the Pats are most likely the recipients of a steaming load.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A Lymeric on Sleep

There once was a little girl with croup
Who clearly felt just like some poop
Said her father that night as he turned off the light
I can't rhyme on four hours of sleep.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Care and Making Stuff Up

There have been a lot of awful things said on all sides of the recent health care debate and most of it has been a huge pack of lies, damn lies and things said by Fox News commentators.

However, while randomly reading the wiki page of Stephen Hawking, I came across an interesting paragraph.

In 2009, Investor's Business Daily (IBD) claimed in an editorial, "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." This caused widespread criticism, as Hawking does in fact live in the UK, and has received NHS treatment.[34] Hawking personally replied that, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he said. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."[35] Eventually, IBD issued a correction,[36] but continued to defend the original editorial, calling the mention of Hawking a "bad example" and accusing those that mentioned their error of "chang[ing] the subject."[37]
So, you know what, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with Sarah Palin. Stop making stuff up just to scare people. Have a decent reasoned debate, but stop talking out of your ass.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Emily's new skill

Now that Emily is potty trained she has discovered that she can actually stop peeing before she's done.  She used to use this skill to finagle a greatly extended bedtime by magically having to pee three or four times in a ten minute span. 

Well now she has a new use for this skill.  Emily likes to be told stories while on the potty but after telling stories in the car, during breakfast, and every other waking hour of the day, its sometimes hard to come up with another one on the spot. 

Emily: "Daddy? Can you tell me a story while I try to go peeps?"
Daddy: "Sure sweety..... ummmm.... let me think of one.....hrm."
Emily: (look of concentration and then she stops peeing suddenly) "That's OK Daddy.  I'll wait."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wifey was a good girl today

Emmy: Mommy, what are you eating?

Wifey: A Hershey's Kiss, sweety.

Emmy: Why?

Wifey: Because I went pee pee on the potty today too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

You kids and your music

My grandmother recently asked me this question:

Could you please tell me how entertainers(?) in dishabille attire,screaming incoherently into a mic can command concert size audiences - something I always wonder about. Does everybody memorize the lyrics before the concert? I am looking for a young person's perspective.

Here's my best shot at an answer.

A form of this question has been asked of one generation by the previous ones since the dawn of music, basically paraphrased as:
How can you kids listen to that hideous noise?

Sometimes the question isn't even a question at all, but an expression of incredulity that the performance of the latest popular musical trends managed to escaped explicit mention by somehow slipping the minds of the framers of the Geneva Convention.
My father "asked" me this question when I played Dave Matthew's Band for him several years ago, and by "asked" I really mean he looked at me with a cold stare, rolled his eyes and mumbled, "Whatever". I'm sure his parent's "asked" him the same thing.

You know how I know this? Because one of the most popular composers of his time, though not nearly rising to the historical significance as his father, Johann Christian Bach was frequently and publicly chastised by his father, the immortal Johann Sebastian Bach, for writing such festeringly putrid crap. J.C. Bach, the son, is most known for the influence that he had on the concerto style of Mozart. Yes, that Mozart. J.S. Bach, who died in 1750, basically asked of his own son, one of the great influences of possibly the greatest composer in the history of music:
How can you kids listen to that hideous noise?

This is, in my opinion, irrefutable proof that there is nothing special or particularly offensive about the music that "kids are listening to these days" no matter to which "days" and/or "kids" you are referring. Its all relative.

For a fabulous story on this exact subject I suggest listening to this episode of Radio Lab, a public radio show from WNYC. The show at the link is about sound and music and how the mind deals with them. You should listen to the whole hour, but if you are strapped for time, listen to the whole hour anyway but start paying attention to the story about the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring starting at 31:40.

Stravinsky was way out on the bleeding edge of tonal music in the early 20th century when his new ballet, The Rite of Spring, was first performed in 1913 in Paris. This was back in the day when going to the premiere of a new ballet was like going to see the new Harry Potter movie and Paris was the place to do it. Everyone was hip and really got into the whole classical composition scene. If you were going to draw a crowd in Paris you had better be doing something really new and cool.

Well Stravinsky brought it that night and the audience, if you'll excuse the colloquialism, completely lost their shit. There was a riot. Stravinsky had to sneak out the back. It was bad. They wanted him dead.

One year later, after other composers had assimilated what Stravinsky had done and started to emulate it, The Rite of Spring was performed again. This time they carried Stravinsky out on their shoulders, but in a good way. He was a visionary. A mere twenty-seven years after Stravinsky had to sneak out of the concert hall for fear of his own life, The Rite of Spring was selected by Disney as one of the pieces in their groundbreaking full length animated exploration of classical music, Fantasia.

From maddening to kids' music in one generation.

The Radio Lab podcast, and I highly suggest listening to it and all of the other Radio Lab podcasts for that matter, has a great explanation for what happened. It involves a part of the auditory cortex in charge of assimilating new and unfamiliar noises and making some sense of it. The practical upshot of which is, you are comfortable listening to what your brain has already parsed. If your brain hasn't analyzed some set of sounds yet, you will feel uncomfortable, possibly extremely so, listening to it until you have.

My guess is that in addition to this, some people like the feeling of unease that new and unrecognized music gives them and they go and search out new and interesting music to challenge their brains. Most of us, though, like what they liked when they are growing up and pretty much stick with that for the rest of their lives.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think I fall into this last category. I listen to a huge amount of music, but I haven't bought a whole new album in years, all of my stations are programmed to play music I already like and I can't for the life of my figure out how can the kids these days listen to that hideous noise?

So there you go, Grandma. That's the best answer I could come up with.

Monday, June 08, 2009

New Batteries

Wifey: Can you bring up some new batteries for my electric toothbrush?

Me: You know, sweetie, you used to actually just move your arm when you brushed your teeth.

Yeah, but its electric... boogie woogie woogie woogie.

*sigh*. Ok.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ok, yeah yeah, I work for Cisco, but that's not the point. This is musically amazing. Studies have been done where musicians try to perform together over phones or video conference but as the latency goes much above 250ms it gets maddeningly hard to stay together. This performance and the technological ability to do it is incredible.

Secondly, I wish I lived in a culture that still respected classical music enough to use it in a popular setting like this. If this were done in the US they would have been reduced to dancing to U2 or something.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Throwing a wrench in Apple's ad campaign

I know the Mac vs. PC ads are hilarious but I often wonder what was going on in the original casting meetings for those ads. Now, John Hodgman is perfect. Funny, great timing, more than a little dorky. But what about the Mac?

Justin Long always struck me as a strange choice. He's mildly cool in the ads but understated. Maybe that's what they were going for. But all I think about when I see him is wrenches.

Monday, January 05, 2009

What Guitar to Buy. An Answer to The Question

We have a guest writer today. A wise man once said,
Its not always about knowing the answer, its about knowing where to get it.

When it comes to a lot of topics, I know squat, but sometimes I know who to ask, which is just as good. Frequently when someone finds out that I am a musician they will eventually ask me the one question, known simply as the question, that non-musicians will always end up asking musicians because everyone wants to pick up chicks.
I want to buy a guitar. What kind should I get (that would land me the most tail)?

The part in parenthesis is rarely stated but clearly implied by the request.
Notice from the beginning I said I was a musician and not a guitarist or settings-fiddling-equipment slut as they tend to be known in "the biz".

So when one of my friends recently asked me the question, I did what I always do. I asked The Master. The Master was there when it was my time to ask him the question many years ago, and he guided me through selecting my own axe, which I still have and play to this day, and which played no part whatsoever in me landing the chick who usually prefers to be referred to as "my wife", or simply "Wifey".

While reading The Master's most recent response to my forwarded question I thought that this is exactly the sort of knowledge that the Internet is meant to store and make available to the masses as opposed the the mindless drivel that tends to clutter its nether regions. So here I am, doing my part to bring a spectacular response to the question to any who may stumble upon my humble corner of the tubes.

It is important to note that this particular answer to the question is lovingly crafted to the exact specifications of the original requester and is not meant for everyone. In fact, in order to present the correct context for this targeted answer to the question it is necessary to include the requester's description of his/her desires in this respect.
I am looking for guitar for fun - not to do any professional gig or anything like that. Neither I am a purist about Acoustic Vs Electric - whichever one is more fun to play for an amature like me.
I do like slow songs. No heavy metal. For me, being able to play something like "Hotel California" would be great.
As I see it, I will play around with guitar, maybe take few lessons. In couple of years, if I still enjoy it, will trade it for a better/fancy one. If I do not enjoy it, will put it on craigslist or give it away.
Right now, I am looking to spend less than $500

Now, without further ado, here is The Master in his own words. Draw nigh that ye may bask in his answer. . .
Excellent, you gave me all the info I need here. I would recommend getting an acoustic guitar as you can play without plugging in and it will be more satisfying as a solo instrument. There is a steep increase in quality when going from $200-500. The main difference is that once you get near $500 then you've increased the number of guitars that have the appropriate fit/finish.

Fit and finish are not referring to cosmetics, but instead to the playability of the guitar and quality of construction. On cheaper instruments, you may have loose tuning knobs, poor action, fret ends sticking out, and in general traits that make the guitar difficult to play. As such, I would encourage you to move up to the higher end of that range ($400-500).

Another huge factor in the price of guitars is the use of solid versus laminate wood. As you can imagine, a piece of solid wood has some flex to it and can act like a "speaker cone" to amplify and impart a pleasant tonal signature as you pluck the strings. Laminated wood is exceptionally stiff and is a poor conductor of sound. It is essentially the difference between jumping on a trampoline (solid wood) versus concrete (laminate). Vibration is key to creating the sound.

With this in mind I would recommend purchasing a guitar with a solid spruce top. Sound modeling, and other experiments, tell us that between 80-90% of a guitar's tone comes from the top (the sound board). As such, it is most important that this is constructed from solid wood. For your price range, you will be unable to find a playable guitar with solid wood sides and back. But it is a fair trade off for cost as you are new to the instrument. There are some chinese knockoffs being produced around $500 with solid wood all around (e.g., Blueridge guitars), but these instruments have quite poor fit and finish. I would strongly discourage a new guitarist from purchasing this instrument. Such an instrument would work as a "beater" for someone like myself, but would be exceptionally frustrating and counterproductive for a newbie.

Finally, given that you don't know if you'll enjoy playing the guitar and could potentially put it on ebay or craigslist, I would recommend purchasing a well known brand as it will hold value well.

So in summary, we are looking for an acoustic guitar with good fit and finish, good playability, solid spruce top, laminate back and sides, and a well known brand to hold value.

In short, these are the guitars I would recommend:
1) Martin DX1K

2) Martin DX1

3) Martin 000X1

The difference between 1 and 2 is simply cosmetics. Option 1 has nice looking wood on the back and sides. This means nothing tonally because both have laminate back and sides. I like the way #1 looks, but for a more subdued look you might go for 2. Now, what about 1/2 versus 3?

If you plan on strumming a lot and are above average in height/build I would choose options 1 or 2. This is a dreadnaught sized guitar. Great for strumming and good for fingerpicking. If you are a slightly smaller build (<5' 11"), want a very comfortable guitar to play on the coach and plan on fingerpicking I would choose option 3. I would choose option 3 for myself because although I am almost 6' with long fingers I find the 000 body size more comfortable and I love fingerpicking. That being said, the D size will be a much louder guitar. I hope this was helpful.

Best regards and enjoy playing.

Rock on.

Rock on indeed.