Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And what is with airline food?

Any Gmail users on the blog tonight? Come on, don't be shy! I love Gmail, I really do, but it also kinda scares me. You ever take a look at those ad banners that pop up on the side of your email? Those scare me! Someone, or something, is reading my emails! So, I'm emailing my wife this morning, and somewhere I mention that I haven't been sleeping well lately, and then suddenly this shows up (click for to make bigger):

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords, but there's more: Play a didgeridoo? What? You're offering me an aboriginal flute to help me sleep? This calls for a quick consultation of the Font of All Human Knowledge!

"A 2005 study in the British Medical Journal found that learning and practicing the didgeridoo helped reduce snoring and sleep apnea, as well as daytime sleepiness. This appears to work by strengthening muscles in the upper airway, thus reducing their tendency to collapse during sleep."

Huh. It's worth pointing out that the study was of a mere 25 patients, including the control group, but still. Weird. I mean, is this a joke? Is there some email-reading robot out there playing a joke on the Cous? It certainly wouldn't be my first encounter with a malfeasant android.

How am I supposed to get to sleep now?

So for those of you who had trouble following along at home: insomnia, robots, didgeridoos. Got all that?

Friday, October 24, 2008


I was going to go through my blogroll and update it a bit (and I have, to some extent), but was dismayed by the number of people I've got on there who seem to have taken an extended hiatus from blogging. I've removed a few people who haven't posted in over a year. Perhaps some of you have also changed your blog's address and I missed it, I don't know.

My point, such as it is, is this: If you read my blog (a long shot), and have a blog (probabilistically diminishing), I would like to read it, and link to it. If you have one and haven't used it in a while, what gives? I know, I myself have never posted more than when I had a self-imposed quota for the year of 2007, averaging one (substanceless) post per week. That's not much.

So, good talk. I'll see you out there.

And looking up, I noticed I was late

A few days ago, Eric was talking to me about The Best Purchases he'd Ever Made (BPsEM). This distinction is given usually to something simple and relatively inexpensive that greatly enriches your experience of life. He and I disagreed somewhat on the particulars, but this was to be expected: we have very different personalities, and value different things, well, differently. The value of things is (neccessarily) highly subjective. I'm not especially into things, or at least I don't like the degree to which I seem to accumulate them. Once I have them, the damned things seem to be so hard to get rid of. Somewhere, some extraterrestrial being with a far superior internet connection is laughing at the dividedness of my person as regards the accumulation of chattels, but I digress. For your pleasure and amusement, I now present to you an uncomprehensive and unstratified list of my own Best Purchases Ever Made, excluding for reasons of brevity any music albums:

1. The pear I'm eating right now. I doubt that it's even the best pear I've ever eaten, but it's hitting the spot.

2. My winter coat and scarf. I love being warm.

3. Socks. I really think that if we dropped clean socks from planes onto our enemies, they would cease to hate us. Somehow those mechanically-woven cotton foot coverings contain within them the secret to world peace. Paradoxically, once a sock has a hole in it, it becomes the physical embodiment of suffering in this world.

4. Fragels. Once while leaving the hallowed spot from which flows these delicious fried things, clutching the weighty paper bag full of them as if 'twer full of gold, I whispered to my brother: "We've won! We're leaving with all of their fragels, and all they got in return was money!"

5. Books. I won't list specific books, though they are obviously far from equal. I don't buy books especially often (and sadly, I don't read as much as I'd like to), but I'm always so eager to take them home and plunge into their murky depths. Getting them from the library is nearly as good.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some. What are yours? Comments are (as always) open.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"No news, no new regrets..."

It's raining today, and if you're stuck inside and can't see the rain I'm sorry for you, because I believe that rain is one of the nicest things that can happen on a given day. There's still plenty of green to be seen in the trees if not the fields, but the air is cold and damp in a way that can only happen in autumn, and the seemingly defiant holdouts of Indian Summer are beginning to hint at the inevitable loss of their chlorophyll, and the listless end of their brief and sunlit existence. But you know that already, and there's no point in repeating it to you, save, perhaps, the fact that I like to read myself think.

I watched a televised debate between politicians last night, an experience which was far more instructive than I'd expected it to be. When it was all over, and the networks worked frantically to retain their viewers, the television chirped with this commentator or that, plus the occasional (supposedly) real human being, giving their estimation of who had won and why. What surprised me was that everyone who managed to crowd their way into the glowing Idiot Box in my sister's living room seemed to get exactly what they were looking for out of the thing. They all thought their man had won, and were able to point to a specific sentence uttered by him to support their assertion. "These idiots!" I said to myself, "those two buffoons stood there and said absolutely nothing for two hours!" (Actually, I don't know how long it was.)

That's when it hit me: That's what I was looking for. Damn it. Don't misunderstand me, I've always known that I have my biases. I just forget about them until I run into them again, which is always a frightening experience, given how influential biases can be. It's a little like arriving at some unintended destination, and then realizing that you have no idea who's been driving the car (or so I imagine; it's never really happened to me). Who is this person, and where has he taken me?

I've always said that it's important to understand yourself, yes sir, but I never did end up telling you how it came to be that she married so young and so wealthily to the Railroad and Axle Grease Baron, who was only after her looks and the way she could clear her throat before reciting a poem, which I suppose isn't so bad a reason as you might at first think, since we're not going to be around long enough to enjoy all of those telegrams and warm wishes and Canned Cream Corn (CCC) nearly as much as we would like to. She once told me that if she had her druthers, which is a rare thing for someone to have, like a deathbed conversion in the belly of a whale (you might say), she'd have played accordion at the Conservatory and maybe gone on to teach there as well, but then she never did learn to play the ridiculous thing, and I doubt that they'd have much use for it on Walnut Street if she did. You see, there was never enough time or money in the house, and so those of us who cared about such things (as I did at the time) did a great deal of looking for them outside of the house, which in its way was more productive than probing the ether for some nebulous Meaning of Life, since that's what we found anyways, by accident. If only we hadn't lost it we could have told her what it was, and whether or not it was alright that things turned out exactly the way she'd always said they would, but we did, and so we couldn't.

Oh well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Keep In The Vote Update

Newsweek: Bruce Springsteen rocks for Obama at O*** State.

It's just... wow. My head hurts. There's so much going wrong in the headline alone. Springsteen continues his relentless assault on rock music as an art form, at a rally for a politician that is also a voter registration drive, at You-Know-Where.

I'm trying to convince myself that this trifecta of pure evil is an incredible fluke, and not some sure sign of the impending apocalypse, but I'm not doing a very good job of it. America, we hardly knew ye.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

From Elsewhere on the Inter-nets

1. Ok, this is hilarious.

2. A little perspective on $700 Billion (HT: Marginal Revolution).

3. Obama vs. McCain: the fan edit.

The River Is Wider Than A Mile

Bad news has a way of finding you, or maybe you have a way of finding it. If you're not careful, it can crawl under your skin, and slowly devour you from inside. There's always enough bad news to go around, or so it seems, and it's sometimes easier to latch onto and recognize and welcome into your home than good news; it's a familiar face that you've somehow grown attached to. Good news, now, that's a different thing. Good news walks with just a little too much spring it its step, and smiles just a little too wide, so that you always suspect that it's up to something, or maybe after something that you don't have enough of anyways. And besides, where has it been all this time? Bad news may make you miserable, but at least it doesn't make you nervous.

Fortunately, despite the bad news and sometimes because of it, there's music. Music won't make the bad news go away and it isn't supposed to, it's just one of those coping mechanisms for the human condition that helps remind you that there's actually some bold, defiant beauty in a world that keeps trying to convince you of how ugly it is. Don't let it fool you.

The funny thing is that while I'm writing this, I'm not thinking about Brahms' concertos, or gospel choirs singing some Moses Hogan arrangement about my home being over Jordan, though those are wonderful things indeed. No, I'm a low-brow plebeian from the Great American Middle West, and right now I'm just talking about popular music.

The 8th installment of Bob Dylan's "Bootleg Series" is being released in less than a week, and you can listen to the whole thing online here. It's incredibly good. I can't wait to have it in my car's CD player. No, I don't have an especially impressive sound system or anything in my 10-year-old Accord, I just do my best music listening in there. The Bootleg Series Volume 8 (entitled Tell Tale Signs) is a collection of various studio outtakes and live recordings spanning from 1989 to 2006, a period in which Dylan has made six albums that are among his best work, including two with producer extraordinaire Daniel Lanois. I'm incredibly grateful to Columbia for continuing to release these collections; the stuff Bob Dylan throws away is better than what most people ever make. They do serve as something of an indictment of Dylan (or his people) though, because several of the tracks he's nearly left in obscurity over the years are among his best recorded work. Christmas is only five days away!

Also on the fast-approaching horizon are new albums from the british klavierpop trio Keane, Las Vegas' own The Killers, and country rocker Lucinda Williams. I've been a fan of Keane since their debut record in 2004, and they have yet to make a record that isn't both great and quite different than what came before it. Of course, this is only their third record. The same goes for The Killers, who are probably one of the most ambitious acts out there right now. If their third album (fourth, if you count last year's B-sides collection) fails, it won't be because they weren't trying hard enough. The lead-off single for the new record can be heard on the band's official site. Williams probably lacks the appeal of both of those bands, but at her best is very good indeed.

I also understand that Mates of State and Calexico both have released records this year that I have yet to hear. I'm going to have to start selling crack if I want to buy all of this stuff.

Happy fall, and happy landings!