Thursday, October 01, 2009

My country, right or wrong

I remember when I was a boy and I heard repeated time and time again the phrase, 'My country, right or wrong, my country!' How absolutely absurd is such an idea. How absolutely absurd to teach this idea to the youth of the country.

Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object - robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick - a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor - none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, "Our Country, right or wrong," and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is "the Country"? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant - merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is "the country?" Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school-superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn't.

Mark Twain ca 1907

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The stupidest thing I've ever done

If the headache creeping up the back of my neck is any indicator, I'm gonna feel just awful tomorrow.

I have been a sober alcoholic for almost 15 years. I am not "born again" about it, I neither preach to or disdain those who do drink. Enjoy with my blessing, it is just not an option for me. You don't have to hide the liquor around me, I am truly not dangerous that way. If I was diabetic, I wouldn't eat candy; I am an alcoholic, so I don't drink alcohol. It's that simple.

It was a long hard fight to give it up, I won't give you details. If you have gone through it, you don't need my description. If you are not an alcoholic who has quit, you could not understand. It is a test of will that rivals anything else I have experienced. I have had a few trials in my life. I have come through them and become a measurably better person because of them, at least measurable to me.

This week at work, has been another trial for me. Nearly everyone has had those kind of times at work. The severity and frequency of these "tests" depends on where you work. I put in extra time last weekend to help fix a problem, not created by me. I have worked 32 hours since Monday at my regular job and a few extra on side jobs. In 2 hours on my "side jobs", I make more than I do all day at my regular job. Oh, I am a self-designated "Techno-Geek" and rather proud of it. I work in a call center (a small one), in the field and sometimes (big sigh) I get to climb Towers.

Peter is a personal client, who has rapidly become a friend. He is an Author and generally smart guy, who is just fun to talk with. If I had more time, I would go hang out with him just for the hell of it. I just don't know enough people that smart. The project for today was twofold: assist him in getting used to the interface on his new computer, remove a DVD recorder from the older computer, and install it in the new one. Even though I was pretty exhausted, I was looking forward to it.

We were nearing the end of the DVD installation, things were fairly disorganized. Peter always has something interesting for me to drink, last time it was pomegranate soda. This time I stuck with water. Peter is a piler. His desks are piled with manuscript and pictures, and he makes no lame excuses about his filing system, he is humorously aware.

I was bent over his new Dell, cursing inwardly at the annoying clips that are so common on cheaply manufactured cases. Peter and I were either bantering or I was instructing him about something. I was not paying attention, I was worn out, I was bent over at the waist swearing (silently) at a computer case. I reached for my glass of water and took a large, thirsty swig.

It was Peter's Vodka on the rocks.

It was down my throat before I felt the sting, realized what had just happened. It was Stoli's. I could smell the vapors even as I was saying "what was that.." I didn't need to finish the question.

I would like to think I can describe anything, but I can't find the words to describe the mix of feelings that rushed over me right then. I was devastated and confused, and all at once I was drunk. I wasn't very drunk, mind you, I had less than 2 ounces of watered down alcohol in me. I was surprised at how much effect it had on me - it had been 15 years (almost) since I last touched the stuff. but compared to being stone cold sober for all that time, I was plastered.

Me, I was a happy drunk, all those years ago. Folks bought me drinks because I was funny, and I played the guitar and sang. I had always enjoyed getting toasted, and I never got violent or weepy. When I played at parties, the hosts would let me know when they wanted everyone to leave and I could play three or four ballads and have the partiers falling asleep all mellow and no one fought about car keys, etc.

So now what? I have to admit there was a fleeting second when I felt the urge, to go for more. It made me smile that such a thought had entered my brain. I truly do not wish to go down that road again, ever. I turned my thinking to more practical things like; "I had better get some food and lots of fluids in me soon" and "will I be able to drive?"

There was still a couple or three "Uh-Ohs" lurking in my inebriated head. I had doubts about my ability to resist, it is a powerful drug. I had a bit of a pep-talk with myself in the car, "Self" I said, "There is no effing way you are going down that road again". I was successful in that; I didn't stop to get more booze, I got my ass home and ate dinner.

The 2nd Uh-oh isn't so easy. I blew it. Accidental or not, I blew 15 years of sobriety with one mistake. It doesn't matter that it was less than 2 ounces, and I was only woozy for about 15 minutes. It doesn't matter that I will have no more. I blew it.

I am proud of the way I handled it. It would have been easy to slide into that hole, again, but I didn't. For years after I quit, I kept a bottle of Chivas in plain view; there is no point in saying you quit, if the site of the bottle is enough to put you over the edge. I don't know what happened to it, most likely I gave it away. (and NO April, Jack Daniels is not whiskey, it's Diesel fuel). My big question is, "Do I have to re-start the clock?" In all fairness to anyone who has gone through it, it's day 1 again. I'll have to think about it.

Geez, I'm gonna feel like shit, tomorrow.

End >

Friday, May 22, 2009

Enough Is Enough

Because of the parking situation where I live, I have found it easier to park in the back of the place. It is only accessible from the dirt alley, which is strewn with broken glass, dogshit, and trash blowing along the ground. The good part of this is that I can see my car out the window over the top of my main computer screens.

Lately, I've found my car covered in crap, which seemed like it dropped in from the sky. I had no proof but, it seemed the upstairs neighbor's kids, were throwing things out the window on my car. I stoically washed the junk off and headed for work, but I was pretty sure I would catch them in the act someday.

For a little background...When I sold my last house, all I wanted was some place temporary where I didn't have to worry about roofs and leaks, etc. I was sort of burned out on the home repair scene. However, I am renting this place from the worst management company imaginable. If anything ever does get done it is done wrong the first 3 times, and generally I have had to do the repairs myself. I have been told I am not allowed to do those repairs, or turn on the cooler, flush the water heater, etc. I usually don't call in maintenance requests, because it's faster, easier and less expensive to fix it myself, then repair it after one of their idiot contractors screws it up more.

When I first moved in I was surrounded by old couples and hippie types, and we frequently hung out in my back yard. We played music, burned stuff on the grill and generally had a good time. When I did the first cleanup on my toxic backyard (it was unbelievably bad), many of my neighbors came by to help and one brought a gallon of homemade lemonade.

They slowly moved away and I am now surrounded by junkies, hookers, and illegal immigrants. the neighborhood is going to hell.

Last evening, while fiddling at my main computer I saw the contents of a potted plant drop out of the sky, and land atop my car. I might have actually said "Aha!" but I'm not sure. I hustled around the back, and there were the 3 upstairs delinquents hurrying back into their apartment, ducking out of site. I hollered up at the open window, "Did you think that was funny?" and some other less savory things which I will leave out of this missive.

The 13 yr old teenage girl told me she didn't want to hear my "fucking attitude" (I pity whoever is stupid enough to hook up with this one). I dialed 911. In my neighborhood, the response time is usually something over 90 minutes, unless you tell them you shot someone. Surprisingly, the cops showed up in under 10 minutes.

Three officers showed up. They knocked on my door by reaching around from their position, flattened against the outside wall. I actually didn't see them there at first. I led them through the place and showed them what had happened, explaining that I really didn't want to make trouble for little kids but enough is enough. They asked me if the hose was mine and could they use it, I replied in the affirmative.

The three cops came back with three kids and a Dad (? guardian, uncle, boyfriend?) and they proceeded to wash my car while I watched. I remained silently in the background, I offered no hints and refrained from telling them they missed a spot. When they were through the Dad and the 2 boys lined up and apologized, and I shook their hands in turn. The 13 year old bitch was not in evidence.

I must say it was immensely satisfying and it restored my faith in our police. The kids (except the little bitch) seemed genuinely contrite, and I spoke briefly with the "Dad" explaining that I wouldn't have called if they had not ignored my previous pleas to get the kids to act like humans. I did not phrase it that way, his English was worse than my Spanish but we made nice.

END> .

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Open Question: Kissable Faces

I'm seriously looking for input. Comments are welcome

Do you know anyone like that? Someone with a face you want to kiss?

Would you risk it, regardless of the consequences? (there would likely be consequences)

I'm talking about a strictly friendly action, a reaction to an adorable friend, who means a great deal to me.

I don't know.... hmmm, what have I got to lose? (possibly my gonads)

Do you think it would be mis-interpreted? We have established that my adorable friend is not attracted to me. That much has been settled. We do seem to be great friends, though (at least from my perspective).

It's too easy for that kind of thing to be mistaken for a come-on, don't you think? It wouldn't be a come on, but there is a bit of a history involving me and my big mouth (Over the years I have learned when to keep my mouth shut. This does not mean I WILL keep my mouth shut, but I always know when I SHOULD).

That face has been just asking for it; not my friend, herself, just her face. Sometimes, when she makes me smile, I want to lean over and kiss her cheek. Sometimes it happens when she smiles. Even if the gesture was interpreted correctly, it may not be welcome (and then there is that bit about the gonads to consider).

Three last points:

If it were a welcome expression of affection, it's not likely my adorable friend would let me know or hint at it in any way.

If it would screw up, what I think is a really great friendship, I'd just as soon skip it and never mention it to her. (although now that I think of it, she will probably read this - gulp!)

It might make her uncomfortable. Kissable face or not, I don't want to do that!

So come on guys and gals, give an old fellow a hand. Tell me what you think.

Should I or shouldn't I?

Oh yeah, and if you hear me talking in a high, squeaky voice, you'll know what happened.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Goodbye Montana

I signed the final papers on the Montana property, yesterday. It is officially "NOT MINE" anymore. I have lost the long battle, and I am worn out.

Besides being the last vestige of my life long battle against the stupidity and greed of American culture, it represented my retirement, which is likely going to be Social Security, if it still exists by then. I'm not sure why I didn't foresee this possibility.

It represented much more to me; freedom, respect for the planet, my Heather and so much more. It is more heart-breaking than I could explain. It was 126 acres of old-growth forest, many of the trees were there before the Native American tribes. The land was alive with wild horses, wolves, bears and an awesome array of plants and animals.

I protected it as well as I could, for as long as I was able. At least it is going to the Sierra Club, they may be able to keep it protected. If the world does go to hell in a hand basket, I would have liked to have been there. Ah well.

Still I am the eternal optimist, I have started over before (of course I was much younger then), and I am willing to do it again.

Last night I deleted the 2 albums of Montana pics, I didn't know I was going to write this. I uploaded the ones I could locate easily, but I can't remember all the captions. So if anyone is actually interested they are back up. (does anyone actually read this?)

here's a link to the Montana Album on My Space
Montana Pics

Oh yeah, Goodbye Montana.


Saturday, April 04, 2009


It was the first moment of peace I had in weeks. Ok it was a little late, but it had been a while since I played. I played the unfinished tracks over and over again. I still just wanted to get toasted and forget this bloody week ever happened. I had been neglecting the few songs I managed to choke out, for quite a while. I admit I have been having a pretty good time, but it is not as satisfying as finishing a song.

While I made these rationalizations to myself, I developed a fierce case of the munchies. I went in search of cookies. The other thing I have been neglecting is my apartment, it was hard not to notice. I should have stopped everything (except the cookies) and started cleaning. I didn't.

See, I was whistling this tune. It was not one I had made up; I may not always remember them but I always recognize them when I hear them. "Hmmm," I said aloud, "Chocolate Chip." The problem with the song I was whistling was this: I couldn't remember what it was. I knew I had heard it, possibly a long time ago, but I couldn't actually remember where or when, or even the arrangement.

More importantly, I couldn't recall the name.

I was hoping the cookies would help but then I would need to stop whistling. What vile conundrum had I created for myself? (I've always wanted to eh.. write that)

Of course gentle reader, you will have noticed by now that the main reason I allowed my mind to wander, was to avoid doing the laundry. Or to forgo the massive boredom of cleaning up my computer-music-workshop (with a bed for when I can't stand up anymore) Room. The kitchen's usually clean, it's only flaw were 3 knives and a drinking glass in the sink.

Even better, I managed to avoid the strain of thinking about my own unfinished melodies

Still the shrill tune mocked me. Even after many cookies, I found myself able to whistle the melody without actually recalling the name of the thing. Usually, that is reserved for commercial jingles like "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke." Gawd! What an ear-worm that is. Anyone know the real name of that song? Anyone know the name of the (Johnny Carson) Tonight Show theme?

There are a myriad of others out there. Songs, Slogans, Brandings, Icons, Celebrities, Logos, Trademarks.... I have unwittingly allowed them to take up space in my brain all these years. Intertwined with my experiences, the lovely moments and the dreadful ones, Coca Cola Logos. GM Mark Of Excellence (HAH!), and heaven help me "Where's The Beef?".

I don't really want them there. I have studiously avoided memorizing that tripe; muted the sound, averted my eyes, so to speak. Nonetheless, there it is. I wonder if any of my fellow techno-geeks know how you defrag your mind?

I thought about a DVD.
I thought it was getting late and being an apartment-dweller I had to be nice to the neighbors.
I thought They could deal with a vacuum at 1 AM but not guitar music.
I thought about headphones.
I thought of the name of the song.

Screw the neighbors. In under 2 hours, with no one to push buttons for me, I did it (with no complaints from the neighbors, BTW). So it's just me on acoustic guitar and I used a deep spark plug socket for a slide. I finally got to play with some effects on my acoustic, I figured out a few new techniques in my under-featured (but free) recording software. I ate way too many cookies.
If you want to listen it's at the link below, see if you can name it without looking at the title.

Oh yeah, I managed to defrag after all.
click here

end >

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Don't Panic! Conficker/Downadup/Kido worm

Don't Panic! You probably don't have the Conficker/Downadup/Kido worm

One fast way to check is to try to visit any major security software publisher's Web site.
If you've cleared your browser cache beforehand, and you can load the sites below then you're clean because Conficker blocks access to them.





There are some tools specific to this worm that you can download to clean up

McAfee's Stinger

Eset: Win32/Conficker Worm Removal Tool

Symantec's W32.Downadup Removal Tool

Sophos' Conficker Cleanup Tool

Don't Do This Unless you understand it!!!

To prevent infection form memory sticks, or USB drives, disable the Autorun feature
copy the text below into Notepad. It should be one line from the left bracket to the final quotation mark. save it as "StopAutoRun.reg"


right click the new file and choose merge

PS I dashed this off quickly


Sunday, March 29, 2009


It's an unusual title for a piece about riding a Horse, I'll admit. However, that was my horse's name. "Moo". Well, I called her Molly throughout the ride. She was a sweet, adorable, charming female, with an attitude. (Hmmm, this sounds familiar...). It was the first time I had ever ridden a horse.

My mistake was in letting her do whatever she wanted while waiting for the others to mount up. By not taking control immediately I opened the door to all kinds of mischief. Life is like riding a horse....?

It was important to me not to look like a Dork in front of the 2 young people in our party. I am very fond of them, and while I will freely act "dorky" in their presence, if it will make them laugh; I don't wish them to think of me as a "Dork". It is a fine distinction, but a significant one.

So I needed to display some courage to encourage the young fellow with us to show some courage of his own. Naturally, I stepped up first to mount, in my best "not a dork" manner. Mounting was not an issue, I had actually run it over in my head a few times. The stirrups were an issue, and the guide had to reset them to the level of my feet. While I had seen all this before, I really didn't know what I was doing. While trying to keep my feet out of the way I discovered some new muscles at the back of my thighs, which I would be reminded of again, somewhat later.

Some background information. I have been around many horses and spoken with them, played and walked about with them. One of my friends in Florida had a "retreat" for mis-used horses and I had spent a good deal of time there. Rusty said I was a good influence on them and even the most abused ones trusted me. I never told her but I always believed it was because I sang to the horses. Heather fell in love with horses there and we frequented several stables, while she was learning to ride. I became chummy with quite a few "stable Moms", and was surprised there were not more Dads involved. I "sang" to some of the horses Heather had ridden, and the submerged non-scientific part of me was willing to believe that it helped somehow. I've always been good with animals. Somehow I never rode a horse. That was quite a while ago.

One member of our party requested a particular horse named "Babe". Just a reminder, my horse was named "Moo". (I am starting to put more creedence in that Life is like riding a horse theory.) The stable hadn't saddled Babe and the guide, after correctly sizing up the requester, decide he better get Babe prepped. I am familiar with the requester and his estimation was spot on.

During this time I was mounted on Moo, and letting her wander about as she wished: a big mistake. Moo nibbled a few cowslips and a couple of brambly looking things, which kind of surprised me. When she moved too close to the fence, I took the halter and moved her away. She was a little resistant at first, snapped up one more brambly bit and acquiesced. As we moved away from the fence, she twsted her neck around and eyed me with amusement. I swear she was laughing at me.

I have found horses to be marvelous creatures, smarter than they appear, and capable of great affection. Most horses also have a highly developed sense of humor. It is, unfortunately a "Three Stooges" sense of humor and I suspect the pie in the face gag would be high humor to most horses.

Moo cleared her nostrils and laughed at me. "This," I thought, "is going to be an interesting ride."

The guide said, " Babe is the Alpha Female."

If the years on my shoulders have taught me anything, it is when to keep my mouth shut. This does not mean I WILL keep my mouth shut, but I always know when I SHOULD. I turned Moo around and heard myself calling out, "That figures". Even Moo laughed at that.

Finally everyone was mounted, and I attempted to get Moo to move forward. In some ways I am a bit of a wimp; for instance, I once accidentally ran over a fluffy bunny on the highway, and I actually cried. So couldn't immediately start kicking this sweetheart (with an attitude) horsie to get it to move forward. This was another mistake, as she was quite used to that sort of thing, and may have responded immediately had I not made that first mistake (up ^ there somewhere). I swallowed hard because my mouth was so dry I couldn't make the required tongue click to get her to move without kicking her. I swallowed again but couldn't get that click to come out. Almost as one, the party hollered "Kick her" and indeed I did. So I kicked her and squeezed her and she moved off at a descent (if comically lazy) pace. I started to sing and Moo seemed to turn her ears toward me, but that may have been wishful thinking. It would not be the last time Molly-Moo laughed at me.

She was testing me. She wandered in close to the cacti, and set me up for low hanging branches a number of times. Holding the opinion I do of horses humor, I found this hilarious and laughed aloud at each new "stunt". I finally got the hang of getting her to move forward and keep going. Moo tried her next bit of slapstick on me. She would start to trot, even though I was shooting for the more pleasant Canter. Moo would trot for 50 paces and stop dead. Each time she did this she twisted her neck around and laughed at me. I was still having an issue with not wanting to "kick" her to get her to move.

The young man who had displayed such incredible courage even to get up on his giant beast, was rapidly closing on Moo and me. The "Alpha Female" of the group was close behind. I gave Moo a quick slap on the rump and she took off for real. "Yeehaw" I thought to myself. The young man hollered from behind me something to the effect that Moo's running was causing his horse to run off too. Hmmm, I couldn't let that happen so I confused the heck out of Moo by getting her to slow down. She laughed at me and lifted her front legs off the ground, just enough to make me squeeze and grab the reigns a little more firmly. I laughed aloud and patted her neck, I was becoming very fond of this female and her attitude (Gosh, this sounds familiar too...). I started to sing John Mayer's "Daughters" while Moo clipped at the greenery.

My young companion and our "Alpha Female" were catching up so I tried to click my tongue and sort of made it, this time. Moo laughed and I had to kick her again to get her to move. Moo insisted on trotting, I believe, because she knew it would make my butt hurt more than any other gait. We were about 3/4 through our ride and I had not fallen off the horse. The scenery was deliriously beautiful, and the day was delicious. The Sun drizzled down on us through the crisp Spring air, and the desert is always an amazing sight, especially from up here. For all Moo's attitude I have rarely had such a good time with my clothes on. Oh yeah, and I never realized that the view from atop a horse was so different!

Moo (whom I was still calling "Molly"), didn't give me much of a hard time on the way back. I was getting the hang of it. I had taken a firmer grip on the reigns, which re-assured her, I think. (sot of brings me back to that "Life Is Like Riding A Horse" theory.). More likely: Moo had had her fun with me and knew we were headed home. Moo was determined to get a drink of water in the stream on the way back. I was determined that she would do as I wanted, even though I felt like a shit-heel if she was half as thirsty as I was. Moo did not drink from the stream. A private victory for the one on top.

I dismounted without using the kiddie steps and I did well (well, I didn't look like a total dork, anyway). It was as I was swinging my right leg over the saddle that I was reminded of that heretofore unknown muscle group in the back of my thighs. I believe they are called "Tensor Faciae Latae". For me, they will always be known as the "Gee that hurts like hell" muscle group.

I will have to say the high point of the day was the courage my young companion showed in even getting up on the immense, smelly, beautiful creature. He has some balls (you should forgive the expression) and I am immensely proud of him.

As for me, my only regret is I didn't do this sooner. My humble gratitude to my companions, without whom I may not have done this at all. I'm sure I will have to do this again.

Oh Yeah! I rode a horse. Moo!


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Theodore Geisel

It rained all day long, all that gloomy long day
My mother said we couldn't go out and play
The rain dripped on windows, and covered the lawn
And we knew this day would be one big yawn

So we played in the basement and under the beds
But nothing interesting popped into our heads
The TV was boring and then we got fed
And while we were eating our mother said

Go up into my room and take a good look
If you look in the right place you'll find a book
Then sit on the couch like good children should
And we'll read it together and it will be good

We were so bored that we just didn't care
So we all ran together, ran up the stairs
And we poked and jiggled and took a good look
And that's when we found a great big red book

And we ran down to Mother, just imagine that
She gathered us up on the couch where we sat
And listened and giggled without even a spat
And that's when we learned about the Cat in the Hat

Still in these long years we remember that book
And I've read it so often you might say I'm hooked
So whenever I need to chase away the blues
I'll pick up a something by dear Dr Seuss

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Child Of The Forest

Child Of The Forest

The light in the forest, was in her eyes
The bright filtered green of towering trees
as the sunlight drizzles through the leaves

she would sit quietly in the clearing in the sun
unlike any other child she was disarming
and without fear the creatures would come
knowing she would not harm them

Her laughter was the sound of angels when they play
when she'd pout her lower lip and say
"Daddy what are we gonna to today?"

She was the center that everything revolved around
You can hear the sorrow in the trees,
the emptiness in the ground
the creatures that she called to her
are nowhere to be found

The Child Of The Forest is gone, now
but her legacy remains
you can see her shadow in the trees
when it begins to rain
And I must move along, now
with only half-remembered laughter
to alleviate the pain

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Chaos Is Contagious

Did you ever hear someone say "It's Been One Of Those Days". I always wondered, which day in particular did they mean by "those". Is there a list? could I trade one of "mine" for one of "those"?

Today I found out exactly which ones they meant. There is probably not a list.

I will not try to describe work. I am trying to start a new business while employed at my current job. My current job sucks for 1 reason - my boss is a disseminator of chaos, He writes nothing down, tells nobody anything he has promised. He is always late, or has forgotten an appointment. He ducks phone calls from people he promised things to. We have to deal with his chaos every day.

He is a pack rat - worse, he is a neurotic hoarder. It's all in piles all over the place. If there is an open space he will fill it with shit and leave it there for weeks. He never finishes anything he starts. He never has the right equipment, or tools, or numbers with him so everything is jury-rigged, permanently. He promises to come back and fix it, but he never has time. He insists on being in control of everything, but he does not control it, barely knows what to do with most of it, and completely screws up 75% of everything he touches.

"Well, (bosses name here) told us that he would fix that 6 months ago (insert embarrassing amount of time here) and we haven't heard anything" A typical phone call. It should be noted that these calls are usually from people who are not in the customer database, and of whom we have never heard. We provide a highly technical service - lots of electronic junk and numbers assigned to things.

These are the things he never records. The things that are essential for us to do our jobs.

So, on top of this I have this gigantic financial avalanche about to consume me (you'll have to read the other blogs for the details). The startup business is screaming for attention which I am not able to give. I have 3 computers to repair, and we have to go repo some expensive equipment from some folks who would frighten the banjo playing MFs from "Deliverance".

I got back to work, and everything was mellow for 8 minutes; that was it, the lull.

Our boss decided he knows all about phones (he doesn't) so he reconfigured our phone system to suit him. This would have been a good idea if he could have got it working again. He didn't, couldn't and our lead engineer is a genius with phone systems. Our Boss will not ask because he is always right, always the smartest guy in the room. Everyone knows he is not, like Tommy Flanagan, there is no point in calling him out on it. So now our high tech business storefront has phone wires draped over the piles of crap.

Around 40 minutes to closing, my Best Friend in the Whole World texted me. She was having trouble with her newest website, so I tried to help her and just made things worse (I fixed it, I fixed it). I looked at the clock and should have closed the office 15 minutes ago. I was going to be late.

It's the "Nice Guy" curse.

I need to explain more here:

I made some big mistakes in my life. Almost without exception they involved me and my big mouth. But I have never done anything willfully mean, and I have never broken a promise to a child. Really.

I have attempted to do nice things for one of my friends, she is a good person and has great children. They were kind enough to accept me as a friend and I have grown very fond of them. I tried little things like dinner. I was a professional cook for 25 years, I am very good. I fucked it up - three times. There were other examples, which I should probably leave out before it's too obvious who I mean. Suffice it to say they were all accidental disasters.

So I purchased and shipped a much desired, often talked about, and recently promised electronic device to their home as a surprise for one of the kids. FedEx couldn't find the place, and no it's not that hard to find. Google maps knows where it is; I offered to send the link to their driver. The phone support lady contacted the site and gave me the address and the hours. That's what I was late for (see the novel above).

Wonderful! I raced to get there before they closed. I am not really a hot-rodder (unlike some folks I could mention), but I needed to get there in time and I was starving. I knew the Street and I could see the sign from a distance, it was big. The address was the one the phone lady gave me. There was a huge line, out the door. I gritted my teeth and parked my vehicle. I was pleased that it only took 13 minute to get to the front of the line (and yes I timed it, what's it to you?). The young man examined the print-out with the tracking number.

"This is for FedEx Ground." he smiled, "they're over on Mission Road." I was stunned. I thanked him (he was quite pleasant about it and gave me directions) and jogged to my car. Hot-Rodding again I drove to the place. There was a large iron security fence and no lights on in the office. There was no sign of a gate or entry of any kind. It looked like a prison.
Frustrated and still starving I wheeled out of the driveway, and stopped at a Wendy's. My choices for food were McDonald's (dear god not that) Arby's (OMG) or Wendy's. They all suck and just barely imitate food, but Wendy's was the least objectionable.

As I left my car and and approached the Choke and Puke, I called FedEx again. I explained the situation to the Customer Service Unit and she offered to call the facility. One of the crew, a fellow named Brendan, offered to get on the phone with me. He gave me instructions on how to get in the place, asked me for the tracking number (which I had now memorized). I thanked him got back in the car and drove back.

When I walked in the Holy Grail was sitting on the desk. It was my package. It really existed, this was not an episode of "The Twilight Zone", or at least it was one that ended well. I signed the scary looking signing device. From the back a tall shaggy headed guy peaked out.

"Are you Brendan?" I queried.

"Yeah" He replied.

"Dude!" It just came out that way, it's from hanging out with kids. The parents will understand. I thanked him profusely, and I hope I made his day. (At home I called FedEx and insisted that they give him a raise immediately.) He had restored my faith in humans.

On the way home, I stopped at my favorite Chinese place. I had not been there in many years and it was quite good, though I hate eating out alone. There was way too much so I ate all the gooiest stuff and saved the re-usables to take home in the clam shell the waitress provided. I tipped the waitress too much and thanked her for the wonderful service.

After having one of those days, I was finally settled, somewhat happy, and done for the day. I was nearly home before I realized I had left my leftovers on the table.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Recording, in general, is a large pain in the ass. I have done it quite a few times and it is much easier to record someone else, than it is to record yourself. There is no end of silly little things that need to be attended to; loose connectors, potentiometers (I love that word), background noise, 60 cycle hum, and my own goofiness.

Click "Record" and -

realize you didn't plug the guitar back in

realize you forgot to turn off the monitor (Echo echo echo)

the headphones slip and poke you in the nose

a freind comes to visit (even with a sign on the door)

Your UPS resets itself and leaves a .4 sec space in the track

you just gotta pee right now

There are a myriad of other things, each equally annoying, each pretty funny if you keep a good attitude. How funny they are is in direct proportion ot the Take #. The same error that was hilarious for take 3, is much less funny at Take 132. The proportion of swear-words to regular language is also directly proportional. The only reason for putting up with it is the end result, which usually elicits at least one "Woo-Hoo" or a similar phrase from me.

Early in my musical life I had to learn to play Rock and Roll, if I wanted to work. I am an acoustic guitarist, first and formost. I like rock and roll, but it is simplified for the masses. For Instance compare Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" to anything by the JGeils band, Grand Funk or the Archies. Compare Knopfler's "Telegraph Road" to Petty's "Breakdown". Compare Yes's "South Side Of The Sky" to to Springfield's "Jessy's Girl" (sorry my dears); Apples and Oranges.

If you play and instrument and you can't hear the qualitive differences in these, you should stop playing right away.

For us purists, any instrument that has to be plugged in to an amplifier, is fake; if it sounds different plugged in. I don't neccessarily subscribe to that theory, but I do empathize with the sentiment. I think it would take less time to learn to operate a drum machine, than it would to train a drummer to play music. Currently, I have little or no affection for drummers. Bass players on the other hand....

Lately though, I've heard drum machines compared to vibrators, and while I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment, I have never actually used a vibrator.

You can click the blog title "recording" to hear the song

Monday, January 26, 2009

Audacity, TASCAM and TGIK

Prologue: Originally I had the lady's real name here. I changed it to TGIK (This Girl I Know) to protect me.

TGIK doesn't believe in computers. She owns a cell phone, but that is the extent of her technological delvings. So, I have no fear she will trip over this blog, and stick me in the middle of a shit-storm - which has happened before. ( Surprising? I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.) I hope.

TGIK helped me record a simple rhythm guitar track Friday and Saturday. Yes it took 2 days (well a day and half) for one #$%ing rhythm track. TGIK was my button pusher, she sings but does not play an instrument.

The reason it took so long is two-fold: distraction and equipment. As for the equipment, I am doing this in my Apartment Bedroom. I am using a TASCAM MF-P01, a serviceable but not very advanced 4-track. After a few hours of trying to get this antique to do what I want, I gave up on it. Instead I used it as my board and input it directly into my computer. For the computer, I have been looking over Pro-tools (audio recording software) which is extremely expensive.

I spend some time at, because I play with Unix/Linux computers and that's the place to go for programs. I found an open source (free to use) program called Audacity, which in some ways is superior to Pro-tools, though it doesn't have as many features. It is free and does the job. SO - for those audiophiles in the audience, I used the ancient TASCAM's on board monitor as pre-amp, and output it to the sound card on my main system. It took hours of twiddling potentiometers to get my jury-rigged system stabilized. But I got it.

Now for the distractions. First I have a bunch of stuff on my mind. I am in litigation with a large, evil corporation over some Montana property that they want to push a road through - a logging road. I have been battling for almost 5 years. I am almost out of money, hocked the property up to it's ears and I will probably lose everything fairly soon. My deceased daughter's birthday is coming up next month and I always have a bad time with that. I hate my job, but I am currently stuck because every cent I have is tied up in the Montana lawsuit.

Enter TGIK, another unexpected voice from my past, and there have been a Twilight Zone-ish amount of those lately.

TGIK is as pretty as a picture. Her face is close to perfectly symmetrical, a desirable quality in models and movie stars. She has a line of freckles across the bridge of her nose that is just right, as far as I'm concerned. Here eyes are green or blue, depending on the day, which I find fascinating. I'm big on looking people in the eyes to see who's there. I'm afraid I over do it with TGIK, because I never know what color her eyes will be. A few years ago she began announcing "Blue" or "Green" when she greets me. It's sort of a running joke. Oh yeah, as far as I'm concerned TGIK is married. I only hear from her when she has a big fight with her husband, whom I have never met. She has divorced him twice, and married him twice. The last time they didn't get re-married. She claims this leaves her free to sleep with anyone she chooses. I don't actually agree, but when she calls I always invite her over. Over the years we have been intimate several times, always (I think) when she was fighting with her "husband".

She get's a little frenetic when she first get's stoned, but she calms down quickly. She likes music and thinks I am a genius (I don't have the heart to tell her lol). She is a really touchy-feely type of person, as am I. Because that type of thing has been absent in my life lately, I let her - helped her be as snugly as she wished. I am very fond of her, but I don't Love her romantically. It was nice to just hold somebody sweet for a while, and even better because we have always been such good friends - even when I told her I wouldn't have sex with her, this time, a few days ago.

We got everything organized so TGIK pushed the buttons and I could concentrate on getting the guitar right. It took 32 takes just to get the levels straight. It was annoying because I am (make that was) a certified Audio Engineer. TGIK made us breakfast! It amazed me because she is not really domestic. That stalled things for a bit and by the time we got back to it it was time for me to get stoned again.

The space that remains when you line up all the equipment in my bedroom is close. TGIK and I kept brushing each other, and YES it made it difficult to concentrate.

After 3 throw-away takes, I finally got a great one. 16 more bars and we would have made it! That's when the sirens started. I said "Oh Fuck" and pulled the the guitar cord out of the guitar. TGIK looked at me in surprise and said, "I thought that one was good."

Now, for those Audiophiles paying close attention: I had been recording voice, earlier, and because the apartment is not sound proofed you have to take your chances: an open mike is open to everything. This time the sirens were not picked up on the track because I was input straight through the board to the computer. I was so distracted that I didn't realize it.

During a later take I had some unexpected visitors, and TGIK went and hid in the 2nd bedroom. She thought it might be her "husband", who doesn't know me, has never even heard my name and couldn't know where I lived unless he followed her. (which would make him a real sick one). She ran and I continued strumming, but the whole scene aggravated me enough that I strummed a little too hard and the track clipped and distorted the last 32 measures.

Would I never get this done? Ah well. I ordered a Pizza for dinner, we blew right through lunch. We set up for another take, and I brought the sheet music up on the computer. I tapped my foot in 4/4 and nodded my head when it was time for TGIK to push record.

POING! My favorite cowgirl was IM-ing me and I forgot to silence the IM client. When this sweetheart contacts me I drop everything. She is one of those very special people, who (if she gets a break and some guidance) will be someone special someday. She is only 13 and has become a good friend. I don't know why she bothers with an old fart like me. But she is witty and sweet and has seen more than her share of stupid bullshit in her young life.

So TGIK donned her best pouty face while I chatted with my favorite cowgirl. TGIK didn't realize that this was more like big-brother, she thought that my little cowgirl was the reason I wouldn't sleep with her the other night. Not that the cowgirl isn't gorgeous, she is. However, she is only 13 and not the reason I told TGIK, she could spend the night but I didn't want to have sex. I never turned her down before. The reason I did is ... is way to complicated for a single blog entry.

Time to get stoned again and TGIK wanted to go out somewhere. I was all frazzled so we got toasted and went and got Ice Cream. When we got back I set my jaw, grabbed the guitar and TGIK punched record. 1 take. We got it. I put the guitar down and sighed. I was so relieved I could have cried.

TGIK, dropped into my lap and grabbed both my ears (honest, I was so surprised I tried to jerk away, which hurt more than I thought it would). She kissed me with a fierce tenderness that stunned me. We had kissed before, we are both such snugly people that it was inevitable, and we had been intimate before. I kissed her back, with as much feeling as I could muster. It was nice, it was very nice. We did it a bit more and then she stopped and backed away to look at me, with her hands on my shoulders. They were green today.

"It's that Princess person, isn't it?" she pouted. I didn't understand at first, I am a pretty good kisser, if I do say so myself. (It's all a matter of concentration) I was a little shocked. I started to laugh aloud, when I got it, because the mis-understanding was so funny - and so uncharacteristic. There had never been a spec of jealousy between us and that is what this was. I tried to explain that if I was 40 years younger, I would probably be chasing that cowgirl around the corral, but under the circumstance the extent of our relationship was helping with homework and one short wrestling/tickling match.

See, TGIK didn't know my cowgirl was only 13, and I didn't tell her the real reason behind my earlier refusal because it was actually a little embarrassing. She probably wouldn't have believed me, anyway. She knows me well and believes that I don't waste time on romantic lost causes. I think if I told her it was because of someone I had never kissed, never even held hands with, that she wouldn't have believed me.

I would like to tell you that I pushed her on the bed and we made passionate love for 3 hours (yes I can, we had before), but I didn't. I couldn't actually. Just the kissing was enough to make me feel like I had betrayed the other person, even though we had never done.. anything really. Jesus, this love stuff sucks.

So we played the track over and over, we sang to it and I sort of worked out some harmonies and a bass part. It has been a very long time since I tried to record anything other than a scratch track. Now I have to work out the fills and the lead guitar. I hope it's easier than the rhythm track. I don't have a drum machine, but I think I might get one, 'cause I really don't like drummers very much (lol). I've worked out a cool bass part, but I don't have one of those either (hint!). I can probably use a blind track to get the bass down and then track it after - when I find a bass.

Gee, I wish I had someone to push buttons for me.

PS: to my favorite hot jumper: I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Who Knew?

Do you remember how much fun a snowball fight is? How about how much fun it is to stay up too late, and get silly; just silly. When's the last time you built a snowman (snowperson?) Have you been missing this, for whatever reason? Yeah, me too. I've been a hermit way too long.

We have forgotten the importance of having fun. Over the past few years I watched the World get crazier and watched people do terrible things. It's been difficult for me to work up any enthusiasm for frivolousness. I pay attention to politics, I listen to what the bastards say. (keep your friends close and your enemies closer). I have a reasonably advanced grasp of politics. I am usually able to translate the bullshit they spout and figure out what it really means. Generally, when a politician makes a speech, someone is about to get sodomized. That hasn't changed.

Some of my friend will never forgive me. I bombarded them with email pleas to write congress and tell their friends, sign this or that petition.. well you get the idea. I set up an ACLU sponsored meeting. I was surprised to see which old (or new) went which way with that mess. I believe it is, now, generally accepted that we were lied to, and the invasion was wrong and badly handled. Torture, wire taps, lies, the attacks on the constitution, watching the Bush Administration destroy everything this country stands for,; there were many times I could have wept.

It's because I say I'm Agnostic (shudder) that my Christian friends discount some of the things I say. Could it be that they think I'm stupid or crazy; or that I am a mean or evil person, They obviously know me better - it's why we are friends. But, somwhere in thier hearts, these myth-believers (I kinda like that one, I wonder if I can copyright it?) Think I am deluded. That I haven't seen the light. That I am a godless, pinko, commie, fag. It's why they railed against my postions during the last Admnistration; inneffectively I grant you, but they railed none the less. It's why some of them don't communicate with me now. So this is for all my Republican friends. The one's who tsk'd like a Nuns in a porno shop when I railed against the war. The one's who told me they wouldn't vote for Obama because he's Black.

"Most Human dilemnas can be solved with the proper application of sunlight on one's face"

So I forgot. I forgot that the best times of my life, were mostly un-planned silliness. Think about it. Your "fondest memories" are probably about accidental tenderness, un-planned silliness and quiet moments of natural awe (or natural "awwww"), with those for whom you care. It's not being a "Rock Star" that will be your final reminiscence when you loose this mortal coil. Check your own memories again; what are the strongest good memories? The Eureka look on a child's face when you help them figure something out for the first time? The rowdy, cheeks-burning joy of a snowball fight, or sitting by the fire after? The scent of apple pie (cookies, turkey, or fill in with your own favorite:) cooking? Whatever it is I'll wager someone you cared about and some silliness or frivolity figured heavily.

So, after all that whining in the last post, my actual Saturday turned out great. A day I will never forget, I had fun.

Today I spent the afternoon with my nephew Austin. He and I are best friends. I have been busy and we haven't seen each other for a while. He is struggling with a new Dad and a new Sister and he is just turning 7. Whew, and I thought I had problems. He is doing well with it, but he is a willful child and he doesn't like being told what to do. I understand, and I believe it is a good trait to nurture - up to a point.

He is a rowdy, restless child and a handful because he is so blasted smart, too. He has been that way since he was very small. He and I started a- I don't know, call it a game. I would sit, cross legged on the floor, he would sit in my lap and we would practice calm concentration. Although, we called it rock and talk, if we called it anything. It included some gentle, nearly imperceptible rocking, and slow, quiet conversation. Sometimes, it included hushed singing or humming. Whenever possible it included sunlight. I did not mention the words meditation, zen, mantra or anything like that. I didn't bring it up to him or Mom, or Grandma or even Great-Grandma. But Austin was always less problematic afterward. Today he headed straight for Lotus position so I knew he was troubled, or in trouble with Mom and Dad

Later we played. I may be the only adult who pretends with him, kids are all full of boredom killing imagination and are usually discouraged from using it. It's one of the reasons we have so many frustrated, constipated 30 and 40-year-olds. So I pretend with him. I listen to his questions and give him straight answers. I don't lie as a rule of life and I would never lie to my best buddy - I don't have to, The truth is always better than a lie. We ran outside and shot the aliens. We hid all the Teddy-Bears. We talked about his sister, and about him.

He has grown too big for me to carry, anymore, as we discovered during our last outing to the Zoo. He has been sympathetic about it, and has avoided leaping into my arms, like he used to do. I feel worse than he does about it. Today, little sister was getting all the attention. She got the toys that could be opened, he got an art set with so many pieces, that even I said "wait until you get home". He stood there looking at me, after our conversation. I saw the disappointment in his adorable face. I reached out to him and he climbed into my arms. He rested his head on my shoulder, as he used to do.

It was worth going through a horrendous week for just one day like that, never mind two in a row. I just forgot what the important stuff was. I will try to remember that in the future. And to my friends who gave me such an unforgettable Saturday, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Oh yeah, Get some sunshine on your face.