Friday, June 27, 2008

SPC - Nude Week 4

I couldn't resist one more nudie shot for this month's SPC!

To see what other people look like nude, visit the Self Portrait Challenge website.

p.s. I'm going out of town this evening, so my Internet access will be spotty at best until Monday night in case anyone cares.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Tom Waits Show

Monday night I went to see Tom Waits in concert. I still kind of can’t believe it – Tom doesn’t tour very much at all. I’ve been very lucky to have seen him now twice in the last two years. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I would ever get to see him.

I went with a friend who lives here and a college friend who happened to be in town. The doors were scheduled to open at 7, with the show starting at 8. We got there at about 6:30 and there was a huge line to get in. Unlike Aimee, this wasn’t a show where you could just show up late and expect to get right next to the stage. By the time we walked to the end of the line it started moving. The ticket process was kind of weird. In an effort to deter scalpers they used electronic tickets. You went up to a guy right inside the doorway with a handheld scanner. You gave him the credit card that you purchased the tickets with, he ran it through the scanner, and then the tickets printed out right there. One unfortunate side effect was that these have to be the least photogenic ticket stubs I have ever seen. They pretty much look like a receipt you would get at 7-11.

The show was general admission – no seats – so I wore my shoes with the insoles that I bought before the Radiohead show. We got inside about 5 minutes after 7, and there was already a pretty good-sized throng of people in front of the stage. We staked out a spot at the back of that crowd and proceeded to wait. And again there were no cameras allowed, so I wasn’t able to take photos.

One thing that became clear a little before the show started was that it was becoming very, very hot in there. It pretty much felt like being outside. After a while there was sweat trickling down my back. It was unpleasant, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying the show. I’ve heard several explanations, but the one that makes the most sense is that it was turned off to reduce noise because the show was being filmed.

Tom was a little late starting; he came on about 8:25 or so. He was wearing a suit and a hat, and he looked like an old bluesman. He wore that suit for the whole show. I know if we were hot, he had to be melting up there.

It’s still surreal to hear that voice in person. I can’t talk like him for more than a couple of sentences without messing up my vocal chords.

The show was a really nice mixture of older and newer material. At one point Tom put on this hat that was covered by little mirrors like a disco ball. There were all these light beams shooting off of his head in different directions, which was really cool. Tom was quite animated all night. He was gyrating and doing these weird movements with his hands. He had lots of funny comebacks for all the people that were constantly shouting out stuff between songs. I’ve seen it mentioned that Tom kind of takes on all these different characters during his performances, and there’s some truth to that.

There were 2 songs that I really wanted to hear – “Chocolate Jesus” and “Misery Is The River of the World” (side note: lyrically maybe the darkest song I’ve ever heard, but unfortunately it’s hard to refute), and I got to hear both of them! So I was happy. He did a couple of his spoken word songs, including “Frank’s Wild Years”. That one reminds me of Bukowski. "Way Down In The Hole" and “16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six” were also highlights. In the middle of the show Tom sat down at the piano and did about 4 songs with only the upright bass accompanying the piano. At the end of this was one of the coolest concert moments I’ve ever experienced. Tom played “Innocent When You Dream”, and on the last verse he asked everyone to sing along. Everyone did, and Tom stood up and said to sing it again and he stopped singing and conducted the audience in singing the verse one more time. I’ve never heard a better audience sing-a-long.

The band was pretty amazing, especially the saxophone/harmonica player. The sax solos were outstanding and reminded me of James Brown songs, and at a couple of points he was actually playing two tenor saxes at the same time! Crazy.

Side rant: Can we stop the yelling out of song titles in the space between songs unless requests have specifically been asked for? Most of the time you’re wasting your breath when you do that and just annoying the crap out of everyone, including the performer. Most large shows these days are planned out in advance for reasons of timing and so the band can learn the songs. If the band hasn’t rehearsed something there’s not a very good chance that they are going to play it on the spur of the moment. If someone has a back catalog of 1000 songs, there’s no way in hell they’re going to know every song. They may not have played a certain song in 30 years. They pick songs to play based on what they like to play and what they think people want to hear. So quit trying to show everyone that you’re SuperFan by shouting out obscure requests, and shut the hell up!

Whoa, got a little bowed up there for a second! Anyway, it was an amazing show and I’ll always remember it. Tom’s a one-of-a-kind performer, and I’m glad I got to see him do his thing.

Way Down in the Hole
Anywhere I Lay My Head
Chocolate Jesus
Frank's Wild Years
Hoist That Rag
Get Behind the Mule
Such a Scream
Eyeball Kid
Lucky Day
Invitation To the Blues
Lost in the Harbour
Innocent When You Dream
16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six
Lie to Me
Fannin Street
Black Market Baby
Misery Is The River of the World

Make It Rain
Jesus Gonna Be Here
9th and Hennepin


Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Evening With Aimee - The Real Post

Last Wednesday night I went to see Aimee Mann in concert.

This was my fourth time to see a full Aimee show (in addition to one in-store performance). Her new album came out on June 3rd and I really like it.

I got there about 45 minutes before the doors were scheduled to open. I wanted to be literally front & center if I could. When I got inside there was only one other person, so I got my wish. The weird thing is that the guy who was there before me had a reserved seat in the balcony. Um, that means you can show up right before the show starts dude!

Anyway, I got center rail. And I do mean “center”, I was right by a mark on the stage that indicated the centerline.

The opening act was a guy named David Ford. I had not heard of him before. He was really good. It was just him and his instruments. He did this amazing thing where he would play a riff on the guitar or other instrument, record it, and then loop it. He would then add on other layers as necessary, resulting in kind of a one-man band deal. He had a great voice. I thought it was kind of weird that he looks a lot like Justin Timberlake.

The wait for Aimee was much longer than I thought it would be. But Aimee and the band finally came out. There’s not much electric guitar on the new album, and Julian is no longer in the band. There is now a second keyboard player who plays a lot of ‘80s sounding synthesizers. He’s kind of a real prim & proper-looking dude, which I think is kind of funny. I do love the retro synth sound though. Very reminiscent of The Cars in certain passages.

I thought the band sounded great, and so did Aimee’s voice. I love how Paul Bryan’s voice blends with Aimee’s. You can hear it on the records, but it was really cool to hear it in person and be right there in front of the two of them. She did 9 songs from the new album, which meant that she only skipped 4 tracks. That didn’t leave much room for older stuff. She only did one song from Lost In Space, and only one song from The Forgotten Arm. It was still a great show though. She didn’t take requests like she had at some of the other shows on the tour.

I loved the rendition of “You’re With Stupid Now”, during which Aimee played the bongos for a little bit. I also really enjoyed getting to hear “How Am I Different” live. That song has one of my favorite Aimee lyrics ever: “just one question before I pack/when you fuck it up later/do I get my money back?” I thought I was kind of over “Save Me” and “Wise Up”, but I’m not. They still raised goosebumps. I got to hear two of my favorite songs from the new album – “Little Tornado” and “The Great Beyond”. My only complaint about the show itself was that I wish it had been longer. Aimee usually only plays for about an hour and a half including encore. She has enough material now to play twice as long! My other complaint was that the House of Blues doesn’t allow cameras. Pfft.

After the show ended I hung around hoping to get a setlist or something, and it played off! The drummer, John Sands, came out and was talking to some people, and I got him to give me the setlist that Aimee had been using. He also gave me a guitar pick! I name dropped Baby Faith (for the back story on that, read Holli’s blog), and he remembered her. A really nice guy.

Tomorrow I’m off to see Tom Waits. I can’t waits!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Evening With Aimee

Setlist beeyotches! And guitar pick! More later...


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SPC - Nude Week 3

This month's theme at Self Portrait Challenge is "Nude". I don't really have anything profound to say about this photo, so I'll just say: it's me - and I'm nude and stuff.

To see what others are doing with this challenge, visit the SPC website.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lay Z

Holy smokes this was one lazy weekend. That used to make me feel kind of guilty, but not anymore. I mean c'mon, I've done my share of work lately!

Friday night I ended up sleeping 11 hours. I didn't plan on doing that, but when my alarm went off Saturday morning I didn't feel like getting up just yet. So I turned it off, and ended up going back to sleep for another 2 hours. Hey, I figure if my body didn't need it, it wouldn't let me go back to sleep, no?

I watched about half of season 3 of Weeds. I don't get Showtime so I have to wait for the DVDs to come out. I read the beginning of a review the other day that said that season 3 was when the show turned into self-parody. It is pretty outlandish, but what I've seen so far still entertains.

I tried my first grape beer. Yep, grape. I'm all about trying weird beers. Actually it didn't taste much like what I expected (which is probably good since I was expecting something really, really sweet). Actually it didn't seem to have much grape flavor at all. It was OK but nothing special. I think someone could really do something interesting with grapes and beer, maybe something really hoppy. It could be like a dry wine. Somebody should really get to work on that!

P.S. I did mow the lawn! :P

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Slower But More Hyper

I have continued trying to squeeze more mileage out of my car. So far it’s working great! OK, I'm going to get all math-y here for a minute (I have retained some of my engineer training).

I drive a 1998 Toyota Corolla (sexy, I know. But it’s paid for, and I’m beyond caring about what kind of car I drive). With my previous driving habits I usually got about 28-31 miles per gallon overall. I probably do about 75% of my driving on the highway. I’m going to say my baseline mpg is 29.5 mpg.

I have a 12.4 gallon gas tank. I used to have to fill up when I would hit about 330 miles driven on a tank. For my first tank after changing how I drive, I went 374.4 miles before having to fill up. I put in 11.0 gallons, so that works out to 34 mpg. So, dividing 34 by 29.5 results gives me a 15% increase in gas mileage. Not too shabby. I drive about 1600 miles per month. At 29.5 mpg that’s 54.2 gallons of gas. At 34 mpg that’s 47.0 gallons of gas. So if I got 34 mpg from here on out (very doable) I would save 7.2 gallons of gas per month. At the current price of $3.93 per gallon, that saves me $28.30 per month. That’s $339.60 per year. Not a fortune, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Tank 2 has been even better. I’ve been driving slower, using the AC less, and coasting more. I also aired up my tires close to the maximum air pressure. I got 415.4 miles out of my tank before filling up. With an 11 gallon fill up, that’s 37.8 mpg, which is a 28% increase over my baseline. At 37.8 mpg, I use 42.3 gallons of gas per month. That saves 11.9 gallons per month over the baseline. At $3.93 per gallon, that saves $46.77 per month, or $561.24 per year. Wow! I think that’s pretty impressive given that my car is 10 years old and that the only physical modification that I made was to add more air to my tires.

So I’ve pretty much gone from a speed demon to a grampa driver in the last 3 weeks. But I think getting paid $46 a month in exchange for people giving me the stinkeye occasionally is worth it. Maybe I should start a driving school.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What The Hell Is Going On?

I'm finally out of paper hell. I feel like Rip Van Winkle. It's like I was in this netherworld for a week where all I could do was work on those papers! And now I have awakened.

I have to say it was tougher than I thought it would be. I wasn't really dreading it that much when I went into it, because one of the people that I work with at the library went through it a year ago and when I told her I was worried about it she said: "Aww, it's no big deal. Don't worry." So I didn't. But when I saw the list of 12 questions I started freaking a little because there weren't any on there that looked like slam dunks. And I thought there would be at least one that looked easy. After I wrote the first 2 papers I struggled with selecting a third question. I didn't feel like I knew much about any of the questions that were left!

I kind of laughed at the terminology of this thing at first. They call it an "experience", which seemed kind of funny to me at first, but damned if that's not what comes to mind now when I think about it! Oh well, I'm glad to be done. I need to get caught up on blogworld. I'd say that I'm never writing another paper, but the class that I'm taking this summer has a final paper! Gah!


Monday, June 02, 2008


I kinda got hit in the face with a sock full of suck this morning. You see, I have this big project that I have to do to graduate in August. I thought it was supposed to start on Thursday. Only this morning when I logged on to my school's website (seeing as how this is the first day of the semester and everything), I found out that it starts tomorrow! Yikes! So much for easing into this thing.

Tomorrow at noon I get sent a list of 10 or 12 questions. I have to pick 3 questions to answer. Each answer is in the form of a 1500-2500 word essay, with references. The questions can cover any topic that has been covered in any of my liberry science classes. I have exactly one week to complete all of the essays. So, if I seem even more scarce around here than usual over the next week, now you know why! See you when I see you. Go out and buy the new Aimee Mann album tomorrow!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Being Hyper

I read this article about a week ago, and it really caught my interest. I'm sure that most people know that gas prices have gone up dramatically in the U.S. in the last couple of months. I would love to be able to walk more places or use public transportation, but the reality is that this area is just not conducive to doing that at all. This area, like many large metropolitan areas that saw the bulk of their growth after World War II, was designed for the automobile in an era when oil was cheap and plentiful, and are thus very spread out.

In any case, this article is about a guy who describes himself as a hypermiler. He uses all kinds of techniques to wring an amazing amount of mileage out of a tank of gas. He gets about 44 miles per gallon from a Toyota Corolla (average would be 28-30), and he gets 30 mpg from his wife's Lexus SUV (average about 18). Some of the stuff he does is quite extreme, but some of it is easy to do. I've been trying out some of these techniques for the last week, and I can say that they are making a difference. I haven't filled up my tank since I started doing this stuff, so I don't have any MPG numbers yet, but I will post them next time I fill up. It does look like I'm going to get noticeably more miles out of this tank of gas than my last one!

The techniques that seem to be practical can be boiled down to these:

* Accelerate as little as possible.
* Use your brakes as little as possible. Try to coast as much as you can. I was amazed at far my car will coast!
* Don't drive faster than 60 miles per hour on the highway. Your fuel economy decreases as your speed increases. That was the whole reason we used to have the 55 mile per hour speed limit on highways (which by the way, how come no one is promoting this now? If we ever needed to reduce oil consumption, it's now!).
* Use your air conditioner as little as possible.
* Get rid of any extra weight in your vehicle.

I will say that minimizing acceleration and braking does require one to be quite attentive while driving. You have to try and anticipate what traffic will do more than you otherwise would. But I'm finding it kind of fun. It's kind of like a game. And the high score is seeing how much money you can save!

Another interesting article with some good gas-saving tips can be found here. A really easy tip to implement from this article is to inflate your tires a little bit above the recommended air pressure, which I'm also trying. I'll let everyone know how this experiment works out.