Friday, December 28, 2012

Evidence that you shouldn't get music recommendations from sound therpists

Study Determines This Is the Most Relaxing Song* Ever

Because music is an art, not a science, and perception of it is entirely subjective.

There are five pieces here that I would consider "relaxing":  1, 2, 3, 4 and 10.  The Coldplay song is nice, mellow pop but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's "relaxing."  I like the All Saints song but it is far too peppy to be anywhere close to "relaxing."  As for Barcelona and Adele?  They're crazy.  These songs are too emotionally fraught to be able to relax anyone, although I suppose the Adele song might relax a creepy stalker.  And finally, whoever put that Mozart piece on there must be utterly insane.  That thing sounds like someone scratching their fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

The most sleep-inducing album I have personally owned was The Caution Horses by Cowboy Junkies.  That's not a slam against it, because I think it's a good album.  I just never could listen to the whole thing without nodding off.  But then I also used to go to sleep listening to Deep Purple, so what do I know.

I probably have a couple hundred pieces--at least--on my hard drive that could blow most of this list out of the water.  Here's one that immediately came to mind.  I've had this piece on my "chill" playlist for years, and before that on a homemade mixtape that I often played late at night to relax after coming home from working in that pizza restaurant.**

*Wrong word.  In order to be a song, it must have words.  Many of these are instrumentals.

**A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed yet again that I was back working there.  Brer will know what I mean.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas song a day

Every day since December 1, I've been posting one per day on Facebook of what I call non-traditional pop Christmas songs.  Why?  Well, I don't play any of those stupid FB games, I don't follow astrology, and I don't do any of the other dumb things most FBers do  (sometimes I think Facebook is the last refuge for people who were too stupid to make it at AOL).

Anyway that makes 21 songs so far, and of course there are still a few days left before the season officially ends, so I'll update this later.  I'm not going to embed all these songs here because posts with several videos really bog down my old computer, but here are the links and you can click over if you're interested.

A few of these songs are taken from traditional Christmas songs, but they are significantly different from the usual boring, rote regurgitations of these songs.  So here they are in the order I posted them.  All YouTube links except where noted.

Over The Rhine - All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue

Rosie Thomas - Christmas Don't Be Late

Joni Mitchell - River

Torero Band - Silent Night

The Pretenders - 2000 Miles  (NOTE:  the original link I used is giving me a "blocked in your country" notice now for some reason, but it was here)

Wayfarer - The Holly & The Ivy

Vince Guaraldi Trio - O Christmas Tree

Twisted Sister - I'll Be Home for Christmas

Cocteau Twins - Frosty the Snowman

Ronnie Fauss - Everybody Deserves a Merry Christmas (soundcloud link)

Ralph Stanley - I'm Going Home, It's Christmas Time

Bunch Of Believers - Room in Your Heart

The Pogues (feat. Kirsty MacColl) - Fairytale of New York

Dustin Kensrue - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Dr. Doofenshmirtz (Phineas & Ferb) - I Really Don't Hate Christmas

Caravan Of Thieves - I Don't Want Anything for Christmas

Rachel Platten - You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Heaven & Hell (Ronnie James Dio) - God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen

Brave Combo - Must Be Santa

Meiko - Maybe Next Year

Matt Wertz - Snow Globe

Bob Walkenhorst - Christmas in Nashville

Hayes Carll - Grateful for Christmas

Dan Fogelberg - Same Auld Lang Syne

Robert Earl Keen - Merry Christmas from the Family

Kate Miller-Heidke - The Day After Christmas

So there they are.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Long file name problem with mp3 downloads

This is one of those rare posts in which I am relating some information that may be helpful because it caused me such a headache.

Recently I have downloaded some of's free mp3 albums that caused problems because either the directory or some of the filenames were too long for WinXP.  I was unable to play them, modify them, or even delete them.

The first was a London Symphony Orchestra version of Tommy (the rock opera by The Who).  This one is no longer available as an mp3 download--it was deleted almost as soon as I had finished downloading it--but you can see which album I'm talking about from this CD link.  In this case, the directory name was too long as written by Amazon Downloader and I couldn't open it, rename it, or delete it.  It appeared to delete, but actually it was only moved to the recycle bin and could not be permanently deleted from it.  Eventually I discovered that I could move it to my root directory and from there was able to permanently delete it.  I came across this solution by sifting through several Google hits on the topic.  Of course this means that this particular album is now lost to me, but hey, at least it was free.

Today I had two more problems with A Collection of the Most Relaxing Classical Music in the Universe and Beethoven Big Box.

Apparently someone at Amazon thinks the full information for all these various movements should create the filename, and often this is too much.  There were three tracks with filenames that were too long for Windows in the "Relaxing" collection.  I was able to fix these by opening the command prompt, viewing the 8.3 filenames by using the "dir /x" command and then copy them to a shorter filename with the old "copy" command.  From there I went back to Windows and renamed them to something descriptive enough but also short enough.  Of course, the full tagging information remained intact.

But when I tried this solution with the four tracks that had too-long filenames in the Beethoven collection, it crashed the command window and failed to copy the files.  So, after much more Googling, I came across this little (free) tool right here:  cutlongnames.  This tool truncated the names so that I could use the files.  So there you go. The only extra information I would add is that cutlongnames is not default-configured for mp3s, so you need to add the extension "*.mp3" to the configuration, and don't forget that the extensions on the list are separated by a semicolon.

I hope this helps someone eventually.  And you're welcome!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Julian Koster - Jingle Bells

Here is one that I did not post on FB. I present it as a special gift to you, my loyal readers. Enjoy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's not the Mayan Apocalypse

But it is my 9th blogiversary.  It's also Yule.  And so to celebrate, here's Fferyllt with "Yule."

That woman's voice still makes chills run up my spine, and I mean that in a good way.  Here is an English translation of the lyrics that I found at Spirit of Metal.

Strong oars crash to the waves,
Northern wind carries the ships,
Toward their home row grey-haired warriors,
Leaving strange lands far behind.

Grasping flock of ravens were circling
Under coverlet of night clouds,
Sleeping shore was covered, like with black wing,
With the shadows of the horrifying dragonheads.

Like a whirlwind we rode under crimson moon,
We didn't count slain enemies.
By our force we have taken the riches and glory
Of turned into dust strange shores!

In scabbards rests now icy steel,
Sky has changed its crimson color.
Passed out of sight flocks of black ravens,
The holds are crammed with wines and coins.

Winter sun shines through the clouds,
Throws its ray on snow-covered fjord,
Icy strong wind rips the sails
It brings our drakkars to the homeward shore.

Bound up wives with sons will meet us,
Troll will hide in mountain ravine,
With tongues of winter piles, reaching out to the sky,
The fest of Yule begins now!

Again fill be filled our bowls,
Foreign wines flow, like a river.
Drunkenness again will overcome our heads.
Gloomy singer, sing your song for us!

And through the centuries Scald's strings will sing
Songs of our bold victories.
But the Gods carve again the Runes of War for us,
Their Spirit in us will never cease!

Again the sunset is colored with crimson blood,
Again we will leave our home for long.
The world will be shaken with our power,
Again we go to march for glory!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And a horde of faceless cultists

I know I've posted a photo of this thing before, but I just had to say that every time I walk by here, Geronimo looks a little more perplexed, and Hecate looks a little more Gorgo Mormo-ish.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This was interesting to me

12 Letters That Didn't Make the Alphabet.

When I was a kid in school and had to take extensive lecture notes from one of the worst teachers I ever had--our 7th grade Texas history teacher--I made up right out of my head symbols pretty much identical to "that" and "eng" so I could (in theory) write notes faster.

I also used a numeral "2" with a slash through it for "to" or "too."

He wasn't one of the worst teachers I ever had just because I had to take lecture notes all year long.  He was one of the worst because he was ignorant and knew nothing about Texas history--getting all his information from some book he had taken from the high school library.  The first time I corrected one of his mistakes, he gave me extra points.  The second time he only grunted acknowledgement.  The third time he told me, "Shut up, Peschke."  After that I never spoke to him again.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twice in one day

When I came across the first of these today, I made a screen cap of it and then thought, "is it really worth bothering to make a blog post about this?"  But before I got around to deleting the file, it happened again.  The first is from the Noisetrade website about an artist whose Christmas album I just downloaded.  Quite nice, too.

The second one, below, is from a humorous article at Mental Floss about outdated references in Golden Girls.

Now, we may discount these as mere typographical errors.  However, I have upon numerous occasions heard this same error spoken.  I have no idea if the caterer character actually said that or if it was an error on the part of the Mental Floss writer, but please, is it really so hard to understand the difference between "climatic" and "climactic?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An almost-close call today

Today I was working that cycle 11 route which I have probably mentioned before as the worst foot route I have ever done, and which is my regular 11 so I do it almost every month (in the area of Harry Wurzbach and Rittiman).  Right now it isn't quite so bad, because we haven't had much rain in a while and it's the right time of year for all the overgrowth to be dying off anyway.  Plus, the cool weather today made it not too bad at all.  Oh yeah, I should mention this is an almost all-alley route.

I've seen all the many backyard dogs on this route many times, and know ahead of time where the really bad dogs are.  I got to one yard which holds two dogs:  an older one of undetermined breed which simply walks around quietly and watches me, and the other an extremely active and outgoing young boxer.

I've encountered hundreds of dogs and have developed the talent of being able to read a dog's hostility potential almost immediately, but sometimes I have found boxers are hard to read.  I have also noticed that many boxers do not bark until they are right on top of you.  I make it an iron-clad rule never to reach through or over a fence to pet any dog, because no matter how friendly a dog seems, it's just not worth the risk.  One wrong move and I could end up spending all day waiting to see a doctor at the company clinic, possibly being put on light duty until the injury heals, and maybe even having to suffer through rabies shots.

So I got to this one yard, and as usual, the boxer greeted me by jumping and running around, but he never barked. I said a few things to him, the usual things you might say to a friendly-seeming dog, but of course I did not reach over the fence to pet him.

I went on my way, and two or three houses farther along, I came to a new meter that had not yet been "reset" in the system, which means my handheld still had the information for the old meter in it.  When this happens, I have to reset it myself, which means I have to get the new meter's serial number and enter it.  So I had to kneel down and brush some dirt off to get a good look and make sure I was reading the serial number correctly.  It was when I was down on my knees trying to read the meter number that I suddenly felt two soft things shove into my back.

So in the space of about 1/100 of a second, I thought:  ohcrapsomeoneisbehindmewaitthosearen'thandshthey'repawsohf***thisiswherei'mgoingtodie!!!!!

And then I spun around to see this:

Friendly Boxer at the Dog Park
not the actual dog in question, but very similar

The friendly boxer from two houses back had jumped the fence and run up behind me, demanding attention.  He never barked the whole time.

So for the next several seconds I was a confused confusion of feeling relief, still shaking from the adrenaline surge, and trying to fend off a dog who was trying to lick me to death.

He followed me around for about 20 minutes.  There is a part of this route where there's a string of about 20 meters that are in front yards, and in that stretch there's this one little rat-dog always running loose that tries to nip my ankles.  Today, he just stayed in his own front yard because the boxer stood in the street staring at him.  I guess the rat-dog wasn't going to take any chances on braving a dog that technically could have snapped him in two with one bite.  So that was a plus.  Eventually the boxer got bored with following me around and I guess he went back home.

I greatly prefer dogs that bark.  That way I can tell where they are.  But if a dog isn't going to bark, I would rather it be like this boxer.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

"The Shadow Out of Time" short video

A low-tech and I think sometimes unintentionally humorous but still good short video of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time."

Every time I saw one of those flying polyps jetting around it just cracked me up.  Watch and maybe you'll see what I saw.

Friday, December 07, 2012


Just discovered this relatively new webcomic called Broodhollow.  A comic of "cosmic horror" with some bleak humor.  It's new enough that you can start at the beginning and catch up in just a few minutes.  So far there is nothing overtly Lovecraftian about it (which is a plus, in my opinion), but I can see the influences are there.  I just added it to my newsreader subscriptions.  So check it out if it sounds interesting to you.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Christmas songs from childhood

This is probably something that most people won't want to listen to, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.

This is a song I selected more or less at random.  It's from an album called Santa Claus is Coming to Town by a cheesy-sounding group called The Caroleers.  When I was a kid, someone gave this to us kids (my two sisters and I).  I don't remember it being a gift specific to any one of us.  I will conjecture that it came from one of our aunts or uncles.  Back then, we would all gather at my paternal grandparents' house for an early Christmas celebration; usually the Saturday before the actual holiday or sometime thereabouts.  So that first year we got it, we listened to the **** out of it in the days until Christmas actually arrived.

The next year, we did it again, except this time we had even more time to listen to it, beginning with the start of school break.

The next year, we did it again.

Etc., etc.

It must have driven my grandmother crazy.  (My maternal grandmother was our baby-sitter back then).

One strange thing is that I don't remember this being on an LP.  The thing given to us was a boxed set of 7-inch records, although I don't think they were singles.  I think they had two songs per side.  Now, I had gone looking for this stuff in the past.  The problem was, I couldn't remember who the group was, but I could remember the names of two songs:  "Who's That Up On the Roof?" and "Icicles, Holly, Red Berries and Snow."  The latter of those was my favorite from the whole collection, possibly because we never had any of those things at Christmastime or any other time--unless you counted unripened wild dew berries in the summer time.  The former of those two is a song that, I think, could absolutely drive some people nuts if they heard too much--one time probably being too much for some.  I remember being annoyed by it when I was a kid, but now I like it.  Although, I still acknowledge its potential for being incredibly annoying.

Well, this year I went looking for it again and this time discovered that the whole album has uploaded to YouTube by more than one person.  Furthermore, on December 1 of last year it was released as an mp3 download at Amazon.

I was listening to a podcast recently about memory, and one of the researchers they spoke with told how the more often you remember something, the less accurate your memory becomes, and you remember things more accurately if you recall it less.  This seems right to me, because I had remembered the "Icicles" song as being much slower and more atmospheric.  When I was a kid, and even later growing up, I would often replay this song in my head from memory as I was falling asleep during the Christmas season.  To digress a little:  I don't know how many people do this, or even how many can do it.  But I've always had a very good musical memory and often use it to help myself fall asleep by replaying a soothing piece of music in my mind to help me relax.*

Anyhow, on the off chance that this music was also a part of your childhood at Christmastime, you can listen to the whole thing on YouTube.  Here's a playlist.  And yes, I've already listened to the whole thing.  More than once.

*There was another song that I often put myself to sleep with by mentally "listening" to it.  It was a song about rain, and was something they played on Captain Kangaroo with a video showing various rainy scenes.  I'm still looking for it.  The only words I still remember went something like, "It's raining/Morning to night it's the same thing/Falling on my window pane."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This Dilbert strip

Right here.  I once worked for a company that actually did that thing about the screen savers.  That was the same place where one of my managers eventually committed suicide.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A question

Now that I think we can safely say it's the beginning of the Christmas season, I will probably begin watching all the different versions of A Christmas Carol that I can get my hands on.  So that leads me to a question for all my legions of readers.

What actor would you like to see portray Ebenezer Scrooge, who hasn't yet done so?  Male or female, because I don't personally have a problem with revisions starring a woman as Scrooge's character (as long as it isn't Whoopi Goldberg).

I'll wait to see if I get any comments, and then tell you who I'd like to see.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Obligatory Thanksgiving post (also one more)

Well, actually I don't think I usually do an obligatory Thanksgiving post, but here goes.  I'm thankful that I'm not living alone on Thanksgiving as well as all the other days of the year.  The way my life was going 20+ years ago, I foresaw becoming what in the olden days was called a "confirmed bachelor" and God only knows what my life would be like now if that had happened.  This is something I think about and am thankful for every day.

I'm thankful that I have a job that I don't absolutely hate on most days.  I ran into a few people this week who remarked that I had a great job, so it gave me the opportunity to consider it afresh.  One guy even said, " got it made...walking around, listening to your tunes..."  I had my phone in my pocket playing some music at the time.  Yeah, I thought, some days are like that:  I actually get paid to walk around listening to music.  Of course, some days are not like that, but on the whole, it's pretty good.  I'm also thankful that I get two paid days off for this holiday (also, two paid days for Christmas and two paid days for New Year).  I guess I'm also thankful that I get so much time off I can sell a little of it back to the company and get a little bonus at the end of the year.

I pecan-smoked a small--3 pound--turkey breast today, but unfortunately the bottom of the fire box on my smoker has rusted out so I couldn't control the heat as is my usual wont.  I'm going to have to figure out some way to repair my smoker.  Anyway, the turkey turned out great--my son gave it his "awesome" rating, so it was okay.  So my family sat around snacking on turkey and other food items all day while watching stuff on Netflix (did I say I'm thankful for Netflix?).

I've been re-watching The X-Files.  It has been so long since I've seen any of these that I've pretty much forgotten them.  Also, I had stopped watching it back in the old days, and I've never seen either movie or any of the shows after Mulder got replaced by the Terminator guy.  I was kind of bummed recently that Netflix lost streaming rights for Full Metal Panic, an anime series that I was right in the middle of.  My wife has been blazing through Burn Notice and In Plain Sight.

I'm thankful for YouTube.  Thanks to YouTube, I have been able to listen to playlists of albums by groups that I would never be able to hear otherwise, because I just can't afford to buy all those albums.  My musical tastes and experiences have been broadening dramatically since I got high-speed internet (which I'm also thankful for).

I should also thank you to Amazon, because today I got an electronic gift card in my email for $10.41.  So I redeemed it right away.

Rattlin' Bones is from  2008, and was the first of Kasey Chambers' duet albums with her husband Shane Nicholson.  Amazon's genre tag calls it "country," and I guess that's okay, I'm not going to change it anyway, but I would call it Americana.  So...thanks, Amazon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two more

Okay, so I got excited and decided to get a couple more that have been on my list for a long time.  Too long, really.  I first read about The Quebe Sisters Band in our monthly GVEC newsletter.  GVEC is my electricity--and more recently, internet--provider.  They publish a monthly newsletter on various topics, many of which have nothing to do with electrical or internet service.  A couple of years ago they had an article on the Quebe sisters.  I immediately tried to find their stuff, but it was pretty much unavailable except for a couple of used CDs that were listed at Amazon and which were pretty expensive; a logical thing to me since they were obscure and at the time their CDs were basically being printed on their own dime and were rare and hard to come by.

So time went by, and I kept checking.

Amazon now has both of their albums (so far) on either CD or mp3 download.  The band centers on three home-schooled sisters from Texas who, at the ages of 12, 10 and 7 heard some fiddling at a fiddle contest in Denton, Texas and decided to start taking fiddle lessons.  So their band features them on fiddles, with various other members and instruments backing them up, singing with sweet three-part harmonies.  So far they have mostly stuck with the western swing style of music, but they could easily branch off into more traditional country or even bluegrass without any problem.  Think Sons of the Pioneers but with women, with an occasional nod toward other things, like a western swing version of the jazz standard "Take the 'A' Train."  It was 14 years ago that they got the fiddle bug, so they are now all in their twenties.  Click the link above to see pictures of them and read all about them.  By the way, their last name is pronounced KWAY-bee.

The Lovell Sisters were another Americana band.  I got one of their tracks from this album as a free promotional download from Amazon some time ago.  I've been meaning to buy the album ever since.  Another band with three-part harmonies that leans toward folk/country/bluegrass.  They released only three albums as a trio.  Two of them have since continued on in a group called Larkin Poe.

So...that will have to hold me for a while, probably.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A couple of new albums

This one isn't quite good enough for Least Helpful, but it's close.

So today I sort of got a small bonus at work--not really a bonus--but anyway what I did was sell some unused personal time back to the company so I got a check for 16 hours.  A while back I reached my 5-year mark and as part of the reward for that I got a Visa gift card for $25.  So I figured I could afford to splurge on a couple of mp3 albums.

I have mentioned Kasey Chambers before as someone who I really like and will put everything I download by her on my big playlist with no hesitation.  Storybook is one of two albums she has released this year, in September.  The whole point of the album is that it consists entirely of cover versions by artists who influenced her.  Yeah, I thought it was worth italicizing that whole sentence.  If anyone wants to hear her original work, she has several other albums that are full of such songs.  P.S.  The mp3 version is $9.49.

I've also said before that I used to buy albums blind (or deaf), meaning that I just bought them because I thought they looked interesting.  I don't do that anymore, pretty much.  I mean, thanks to the internet, it's easy to research an album beforehand and get a very good idea of what you're getting into.  Also, pretty much everything Amazon sells has preview clips for every song.  So, I don't really understand how anyone could seriously make the above complaint.

Anyway, this is one of the albums I bought.  Covers ranging from Hank Williams to Cyndi Lauper.

The other one I got is Wreck and Ruin (mp3 version is $9.49), a duet album by Kasey Chambers and her husband Shane Nicholson.  Her second album release this year, from October.  Whereas Storybook tends to wander across the map from country to pop, Wreck and Ruin is more typical of her modern country/folk/Americana sound, that is, country music that will be played on stations that bill themselves as "Americana" but not on any common commercial country stations--at least none of any such stations in this area.

I might also mention that my daughter, who is a Swiftie, also wants all my Kasey Chambers songs to put on her iPod.  So thanks for helping me bridge the generation gap, Kasey!

I still need another 5 albums or so to get her full collection.

Monday, November 19, 2012

And what about that prison escapee in the turkey suit?

From the folks who brought us "Friday" and "My Jeans."

"We, we, we are gonna have a good time with the turkey..." WTF is she doing with that turkey leg?!

At least this kid can sing without auto-tune.  But still, beware of clicking the play button.  You will probably regret it.

UPDATE:  A ha!  Well...that explains it.
5 Music Videos that Justify the Existence of the Internet.  That first one about Die Hard might, in fact, do it all by itself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hot Wells Resort

Today I had a route that I do occasionally, and which I really hate because it's so hard, in the area of Hot Wells Blvd. and S. Presa.  At one point I came out on S. Presa and walked up the east side of the street, from which I could view the old Hot Wells Resort.  Here's a postcard of the resort in its heyday.  It's undated, but I think we can safely assume early 1900s.

My great-aunt (one of my grandmother's sisters) was still working as a caretaker at this place when I was a little kid, and I went there with my mother to visit her a couple of times before she passed away when I was 5 or 6 years old.

This photo was taken in 2000, and it's still accurate except for the people who now live there in a large Airstream camper which is parked off to the right.  When I was a kid and my aunt worked there, one of those wings had already been closed down--I don't know which one, except that it was also the one that was allegedly haunted, but as you can see, since that time in the late 60s there is no part of it that is now habitable.

I don't really have a point to make, just relaying some brief personal family history.  I will say that I wish I could get a close-up look at the ruins and take some photos.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls animated gif series.

Just thought I'd take a moment to recommend this show.  It's on the Disney channel, which would usually mean it's full of stupid, but...

I don't how it happened, but this is a great show.  It's full of in-jokes for people who are fans of strange phenomena, and more in-jokes for adults who remember things from 30 years ago or so.  I don't know how a show like this ever ended up being aired on Disney, but man it's good.  I just love it.

It's about twins brother and sister named Dipper and Mabel who are spending time with their great uncle Stan, who they call Gruncle Stan.  Stan is a scheming, avaricious man who runs a tourist trap in a weird little forest town named Gravity Falls, nearby where lives Bigfoot, the lake has a lake monster, and every other weird thing you've ever heard of happens at one time or another, plus a few things you haven't heard of yet.  And the twins' arch-enemy is another kid who is a faith healer.     There's even a tome of hidden knowledge that plays a big part in the show.  Give it a watch sometime if you have a basic cable package.

Friday, November 09, 2012

A photo of downtown San Antonio

My wife, who is a CNA (certified nurse assistant), recently was awarded CNA of the Year for District 3 (whatever District 3 is, we're in it).  They put her up in a room on the 17th floor of the Grand Hyatt and had a big to-do for all the award presentations.  She took this photo from her window, and I thought it was pretty cool, so here it is.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A tiny cemetery

I found this article interesting:  The Smallest Graveyard in Manhattan (via Mental Floss).  I don't know if it would be appropriate to say I'm a "fan" of cemeteries, but I do find them interesting--perhaps even engrossing--and I really like taking photos of them.  This article also reminds me of a cemetery I just recently noticed.

From the first month that I was hired at my current job (more than 5 years ago now), I was put on the Dominion route.  Although I have been down this particular street many times since then, it was only a few months ago that I suddenly noticed there is a small family cemetery in the Dominion.  I have always wanted to get a closer look at it, and perhaps take some photos, but since I'm on the job every time I'm there I've always been reluctant to stop for long.  It's for the Toepperwein family; a name you've probably heard if you live in San Antonio.  There's some information about it here.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Samurai 7

I just thought I'd throw in a few thoughts about this show, since I haven't said much lately and don't have much else to say.  Cartoon Network started airing this several weeks ago during their Saturday night anime block.  I watched the first episode, then looked it up on Netflix and found that I had already added it to my streaming queue some time ago when I was browsing through the anime stuff, so I quit watching it on CN and just watched the whole series through on Netflix.

Samurai 7 is another take on the Seven Samurai story.  I must admit here that I've never seen the original movie.  I did record it a long time ago so I could watch it at any time, but the 3 3/4 hour length throws me.  There's no way I could sit through any movie that long all at once.  I still want to see it, but I'll have to go it in three or four shots.

Anyway, if you've at least seen The Magnificent Seven, then you know the basic plot.  A village of rice farmers are constantly getting robbed of their rice by bandits, so the villagers decide to send a team of their people out to try and hire some samurai to protect them--and the only thing they can pay the samurai with is all the rice they can eat.  They eventually find a team of seven samurai who are willing to take the job, mostly because they're just nice guys (except for one of them, possibly).  Like I said, I haven't seen the original movie, but the thing that sets this apart from The Magnificent Seven is that after the initial conflict of the samurai protecting the village, there begins a sort of cultural spill-over that eventually effects the entire country.

One thing that I like about it is that the samurai don't do all the fighting.  They spend a great deal of their preparation time teaching the villagers to fight--and that makes all the difference.  Also, the giant ballistae that the little steampunk-looking guy (far left) builds are just awesome.

And since this is anime, there are some twists.  The overall setting is that of feudal Japan, but there are science fiction elements (very advanced technology) and even some medium-level steampunkish elements all mixed in.  The series runs 26 episodes, but there is plenty of political intrigue and backstabbery throughout.

The sci-fi elements run toward mecha (giant "robot" fighting machines which are piloted by a human operator), but fortunately the mecha elements don't take over the story--if they had, I wouldn't have watched it.  Other "advanced" technology deals with a floating city which apparently runs on DC power (giant power cells), cloning, and various bits & pieces dealing with combat which are left over from a huge war that happened in their recent history.  The war is, by the way, briefly explained a couple of times so you can sort of understand how things got to be the way they are.

For example, the big red guy in the center of the graphic up there is a mechanized man.  He was someone who didn't have formal samurai training, but wanted to be able to fight effectively, so he had himself turned into this big mechanical thing.  How this was done is never explained, but apparently there is still a core of a human body inside this suit, because he still has to eat, but he has greatly enhanced strength over a normal human (see the sword he carries).  During times of extreme effort he'll blow a cloud of exhaust out of a pipe on the right side of his "helmet" (or head, I don't know).

The leader of the group (second from right above, in white) is an anti-hero worthy of a spaghetti western.  The others are a mixture of experienced and non-experienced samurai (and one samurai wanna-be--the young guy on the far right).  The blonde-haired guy wearing red is a sort of enigma who may be a good guy or may be something else.

I don't want to say anything else, lest I spoil it, but I will say that there are some heart-breaking deaths before the end.

So...the final word:  I think this is a good show.  I gave it four stars on Netflix--as a base of reference I gave Trigun and Bleach five stars.  A good story, and worth watching if you can.  You might be able to stream it from the Funimation website.

Here's the opening theme, because why not?  Actually the second opening.  There are two, but the first one was used for only the first few episodes, and this is a "clean" version (no credits to clutter it up).  They both use the same music.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I don't get it

Why would these be "inappropriate?"  Especially the grown-up Wednesday Addams model.  Yow!

(Most likely NSFW).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A couple of vintage book covers

Found these at My Ear-Trupet Has Been Struck By Lightning.

"I will just add that the people who bought this book based on its cover were among the most cruelly disappointed people in history." kidding.  If you saw the covers of the versions of these books that I own, you would be hard-pressed to believe they were the same books.

I might have to re-read that first one again.  I don't remember anything about a sarcastic beaver.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shaun of the Dead

Just wanted to say that I finally got around to getting this DVD from Netflix.  I guess I was expecting it to be a lot funnier because so many thousands of people kept telling me how frikkin' hilarious it is.  It was funny enough and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't nearly what I expected.  As far as I'm concerned, Zombieland was much better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meeting follow-up

I think I acquitted myself well at the meeting today.  The only point I made that ran up against opposition was the one about showing us the customer name.  The main objection was, "but it's too haaaaarrrrdddd."  I found that some of my suggestions had already been addressed by the higher-ups.

The manager who was running the meeting started talking about how GPS should be incorporated into the new units, and for a few minutes he and I went off on a tangent talking about the potentials of using GPS in such a device.  Everyone else was stone silent; I don't think anyone else had ever used a GPS device and no one understood what we were talking about.

If you're a customer, you might be wondering if this is worth the money.  I guess that's up to you to decide, but...the old units are old and are having problems:  primary batteries that won't keep a charge, a back-up system that doesn't work on many of the units, and a contract with a company that can takes weeks to make a simple repair like replacing a broken screen.  Also, the recent addition of the other water company has introduced further logistical problems because they use a different make of handheld.  They want to get everyone on the same unit.  Also, any new contract will include a 3-year commitment to replacing worn-out batteries and broken screens for free.

If you're wondering why screens get broken, you should try doing this job and see how long you can go before you trip over a hidden obstacle and fall down.*  I've never broken the screen on mine, but one look at all the scratches on it would tell you that I've fallen down and dropped it many times.

*I think the worst offender is the "retracting" sprinkler head that no longer retracts.  Those things just kill me.  They're essentially invisible until you crash into one.

Got some good laughs out of this

People photographed with expressions of terror in a haunted house at Niagara Falls.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What have I gotten myself into

I volunteered for something a few weeks ago, completely against my policy of ever volunteering for anything.  I did it only because of the same reason I have ever (rarely) volunteered for anything:  I was afraid there weren't going to be any competent people involved.  This isn't a boast about myself; rather, it's an honest reflection of how I perceive the people around me.

So anyway, the company is planning on buying new handheld devices for us, to replace the old Datamatic Roadrunner.  I thought they were asking for volunteers to try out new devices.  Back when I was first hired, I was trained on the Roadrunner by a few people, but within a few days I had already figured out how to do a lot of stuff I was never told about.  It's a knack I have.  So I thought it would be fun to work with some different handhelds and figure them out.

Unfortunately, I have since learned that I will also be required to attend meetings.  So tomorrow I have to go to a meeting and bring some recommendations for the new device.  I've spent the last hour or so writing up the following, which I offer here just in case you aren't already bored enough.  You may notice a running theme which is explicitly summarized in the final point.

·         Multiple trouble codes:   We frequently encounter a situation in which two or more trouble codes could be used.  In these situations, the meter reader is required to use the trouble code which prevents him from receiving a processing error, which is not necessarily a trouble code that would generate a work order.  For example, a frequent occurrence is to have a meter that is vacant but shows consumption, and it has a service-side leak as well.  In this situation, the meter reader would be forced to enter a trouble code 82 to keep from receiving a processing error and then must “write out a card” for the leak.  Our current handheld device is capable of recording up to three trouble codes, but the system that receives the data is set up to catch only the first trouble code; the remainder are ignored.
·         Input of new meters:  When a new meter is found that is not yet on the Roadrunner, we are currently able to add the new meter in and properly sequence it, however, the system is not set up to catch these new meters.  It goes ignored, and we must “write out a card” on the new meter.  Adding new meters should be fully electronic.
·         Straight connections:  In relation to the previous point, the ability to add new meters could also be used to electronically add straight connections, rather than being required to “write out a card.”
·         Special messages/instructions:  Our current handheld device has the capability for the user to type in a “special message” on any given address/account.  However, the system is not set up to record and remember these special messages.  Such special messages would be invaluable for meter readers to leave each other specific instructions on how to approach and find difficult meters.
·         Customer information:  The handheld device that I used when working as a contractor for CPS had customer/account holder name available at the touch of a button.  This extra information was often very useful in finding business accounts which had no address displayed on the property.  Also, the Roadrunners that Alamo Heights currently uses have room on the display for the customer name to be displayed at the bottom of the screen.   Therefore, our current Roadrunner device also has this capability, however the system is not set up to give us this information.
·         Backlit keypad:  Our new unit should have a manually switchable backlit keypad.  Manually, in that there is no light sensor employed, but the user is able to turn the light on or off as conditions require.  Ideally, a timer would also be used in the backlight circuitry so that it automatically switches off within a certain period of time of no keys being pressed.  This would help prevent battery drain.
·         Adjustable contrast:  The display of our new unit should have a manually adjustable contrast that is controlled by the user.  This would be very useful in increasing readability based on lighting as well as sky and weather conditions.  Both the backlit keypad and adjustable contrast would help reduce input errors and improve accuracy.
·         Technical support:  We absolutely must have proper technical support for our new device.  As shown in several previous points, our current units are capable of more than how they are now used, but the system behind the units has never been set up to exploit these capabilities.  Exploring, adapting, and even changing the capabilities of the new unit should be an ongoing process as new needs arise and new situations are encountered in the future.

And here I'll just go off on a little rant.  A "processing error" is an "error" in which the meter is read correctly, and there will be no error on the customer's bill.  In fact, the customer will never know about it.  They are put there for the sole purpose of creating additional potential for someone like myself to make an error, because they do everything they can to make sure we get as many errors as possible, even when the "error" doesn't mean $#@!.  Probably the biggest offender here is the trouble code 82, which means "vacant meter shows consumption."  The computer already knows that a vacant meter is showing consumption, because it makes a kerchunking error noise and forces us to re-enter the read.  I'll also add here that the Alamo Heights Roadrunners don't even have a TC-82 because of why I already said.  If a meter is vacant, and you enter something higher than the previous read, that can only be because a vacant meter is showing consumption. If a vacant meter shows consumption, but also has a leak, in my opinion the leak is more important, but we can't enter the trouble code for a leak because if we do, we'll get an error for not putting a TC-82 on it.  So it continues to leak, and our only recourse is to "write up a card" on it and hope someone notices.  Usually, they don't.

This kind of dumbassery is standard operating procedure.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fainting goats

Fainting goats.  Heh.  When I was a kid, a guy who was in the Air Force and stationed at Randolph, and who lived in Universal City bought the 50 acres behind my dad to use as a sort of "weekend getaway" place in the country.  He never built a house there, but he did build his own gun range, with benches at 25 feet (for pistol shooting), and at 50, 100 and 200 yards.  He gave us permission to use the place--we occasionally ran some of our cattle on it, and to hunt there if we wanted or to use the gun range.  So I grew up with this home-made gun range just a couple hundred yards from my house.  Man, I miss that.

Anyway, he also put some goats on it, partly to help clear out the underbrush--which goats are exceptionally good at--and partly to get an agricultural exemption on his property tax. He had told us they were "fainting" goats, which I had never heard of before.  So I knew about the goats, but never really thought about it much.

One day I was over there, probably walking to the gun range, and his dozen-or-so goats were following me, probably because they expected me to throw out some pellets or range cubes for them.  Being a somewhat mischievous teenager at the time, I suddenly spun around and shouted "BOO!" or something like that at them.  Goats suddenly toppled around me like they had all just been struck dead by the hand of a vengeful, goat-hating god.

For about two seconds my mind was completely blank.  Well, maybe not completely blank, but certainly there was nothing in my thoughts except a whole bunch of exclamation marks and a few question marks.

There's a certain breed of goats that have an inherited genetic disorder that doesn't actually cause them to "faint," that is, they don't lose consciousness, but they do become paralyzed when frightened or stressed.  That Wikipedia article says "Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle."  Well, these were all fully adult goats and they hadn't ever learned anything.  They just collapsed.

After a few seconds I remembered what he had told us about the "fainting" part, and within 10 or 20 seconds they were all up and staggering around, and a minute or so later they were all back to normal.

So then it became funny, and I still laugh about it sometimes when something like this picture reminds me of it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thanks, internet

I saw this at LP Cover Lover and just had to hear the story behind it.  And here it is at  Edna and the Toothbrush.

"I ran as fast as my legs would go, and right behind me was the Toothbrush Man tickling the back of my neck with his bristles at every step.  I ran with the Toothbrush Man just one step in back of me.  As I jumped into bed, and pulled the covers over my head, I could feel the Toothbrush Man brushing up and down on the top of the bed spread."

And this was supposed to make kids want to brush their teeth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This may be the most epic music video I have ever seen

The Fount of All Knowledge

Wikipedia Deems Philip Roth an Unreliable Source On a Philip Roth Novel

There's an old post on this blog about an obscure and forgotten rock band called LAW, which I wrote about because I somehow managed to get one of their albums.  Somebody on Wikipedia linked to my blog as a source of further information, but they linked to the main page. I have tried several times to change it to link directly to that specific post url, but they won't accept the change.

Reminds me of something I read somewhere once:  "Wikipedia is a reliable source for The Family Guy, but not much else."

I still use it quite a lot to find track lists of albums I'm trying to hunt down, which I think should be safe.  But if not, I don't think it matters a whole lot.

A totally hypothetical situation

Let's say you pay someone a certain fee every month for a service they provide you.  One month, they accidentally overcharge you.  The following month, they deduct the amount of the overcharge from your bill.

Would this, or would this not, correct the overcharge?  Because if it doesn't, I must really be missing something.

The stupid people were coming out of the woodwork today.  Another guy told me that he keeps his water bill down by drinking bottled water.  And, "I only bathe four times a week."  TMI, dude, TMI!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Mars Curiosity rover video

Cool video showing the process of getting the Curiosity rover to Mars from blastoff to landing.  I thought it was kind of funny that it landed by inflating a bunch of balloons around itself and simply bouncing and rolling until it stopped.

I must say, though, that the "swooshing" noises it made going through space were kind of ridiculous.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A little story

This post at Strange in San Antonio reminds me of a little story I could tell.

Back in the days of my previous job, when I was either reading gas & electric meters for the S.A. company who provides those utilities, or dropping off final cut-off notices for people who didn't pay their bills, I had a notice for the Zachry company.  Every time I see one of their trucks these days I'm always reminded of this and smirk knowingly.

You might wonder why such a big company had a bill that was overdue enough to deserve such a notice.  Well, you might be surprised at who gets these notices sometimes.  I once delivered one to the AT&T Center for several thousand dollars.  I kept getting passed off from one person to another; no one wanted to accept the notice.  I knew that the Spurs were going to play the Lakers there that night, so finally I said, "Look, if this isn't taken care of, they're going to shut you down and you're not going to have any electricity tonight."  It was totally untrue, but I had to deliver 125 of those things every day and I was tired of their bullsh*t.  It was like I had kicked an anthill.  It didn't take them long after that to find someone who would accept the notice.

So anyway, back to the original story.  I took this notice to the Zachry company and they pulled the same trick.  No one wanted to take this thing from my hand.  I got fed up and just put the pink slip down on the nearest desk and started to walk out.  One of their goons yelled at me that I couldn't leave it there, and I simply said, "It's my job to leave it there."  His face got very dark and he said, "You don't wanna make Zachry mad at you, boy."  I involuntarily snorted and very short snort of laughter and then found myself replying, "What're you gonna do, pave my driveway bad?"

After a second or two of utter silence, he stomped away shouting "somebody take care of this."  I walked out, leaving the pink slip where I had already dropped it.  I guess they paid their bill.  I never got in trouble for my crass behavior.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

So funny it's sad

First I want to make it clear that this is not a photoshop. This is an honest-to-Pete status update I recently saw at Facebook because I "liked" Tommy Shaw some time ago.

Because, know.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A couple of good humor sites

Just wanted to briefly mention a couple of sites that you may get some amusement from.  First, Literally Unbelievable posts screen shots of Facebook status updates in which the indignant Facebooker believes a satirical article from The Onion is real; also included are the follow-up comments.

And, an associated site is Least Helpful:  The Internet's Worst Reviewers.  This one posts screen shots of moronic reviews at

I've been getting some laughs from them lately, so check them out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A lime from Haiti

A Facebook friend of mine recently went on a mission trip to Haiti and posted this picture of a lime from there.  She said the rind is very thick so the internal fruit is only about the same size as a lime that we're used to buying here in a grocery store.  Must be a real bugger to slice.

We are Pirates

Here's something for Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Orden Ogan is one of the many metal bands I have learned about in the past months when I began getting more into symphonic, progressive and folk metal. Their music has both progressive and folk metal elements with lots of vocal harmonies, which is something that always catches my ear. This song was originally recorded by Running Wild, who are the band who created pirate metal.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vampires (the real kind)

Vampire bats near Johnson City.  At the KSAT website.  Vampires don't normally range this far north.  Imagine the horror if he had awakened during the night to see himself and his friends with bats crawling all over them.  Yikes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A street lamp

Here's a work pic that I took a couple of weeks ago.  I thought it turned out fairly well for a phone shot, so I also put it on my photo blog.  I can't say that "like" is the correct word, but I think it wouldn't be inaccurate to say that I was drawn to the conflict between the paved street, the electric lamp post, and the otherwise brushy and untamed look of the surroundings.

It just now occurred to me that I have never driven up and looked over the top of that hill.  I know my mental illusion of this scene would be destroyed if I did, because I would probably be able to see Bass Pro Shops in the distance.  This is from a part of The Dominion that has not been fully "developed."

Thursday, September 06, 2012

An imagined conversation

Scene:  a smoke-filled backroom somewhere in San Antonio, Texas.  A highway planning session is in its concluding moments.

Boss:  So there you have it.  Any questions, comments, concerns?

Jenkins*:  Sir...what about the northbound exit?

Boss (imperiously):  What?

Jenkins (clears throat nervously):  It's just that...sir...what about the people who want to go from Basse Road to northbound 281?  There's no exit for them.

Boss (leaning forward ominously):  Let me tell you exactly what I think of people who want to go from Basse Road to 281 north:  Every single damned one of them can go straight to hell.  Do we understand each other?

Jenkins (meekly):  Yes, sir.

Boss:  And one more thing, Jenkins.  I want you to make sure there are at least two directional signs pointing the way to 281 north that will cause all traffic following them to turn too early.  The process for getting from Basse to 281 north is going to be an absolute clusterf*ck.  See to it.

Jenkins:  Yes, sir.

*Because Jenkins is my favorite name for a generic workplace flunkie.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Billy Edd Wheeler - Gabriel's Horn

A few months ago, I had written about a song I vaguely remembered from my childhood. It was the one about a country preacher who end all of his sermons with this thing about almost being able to hear Gabriel's horn, and a little boy named Leon Rose who "climbed up in the hot church attic" with his bugle just to play a practical joke on the preacher. An anonymous commenter left me the information I was hoping for, and here it is.

It turns out that a 2 CD compilation was released just last year with a whole bunch of Wheeler's stuff called Country Essentials. Nice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012


I just gotta share this one:  10 Photos Capturing Moments of Spontaneous Badassery.  #1 had me laughing until I had tears in my eyes.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Watch this video

A strange and interesting experience today

I was working on the west side today, in that area where all those long, straight streets named San something run off of Culebra.  I got to one place that looked like someone had combined two lots; there was a house close to the street and, off to the side and set back from the street, a second building that didn't look exactly look like a house.  Indeed, this place had two meters, probably from back in the days when it was two separate lots, and I missed one of them so I had to go back and look for it.  A couple of guys who were outside noticed and came over to say hello.  One of them told the other to get me a glass of cold water and he sprinted away to get it.

It turned out that I had stumbled across one of the "Outcry in the Barrio" locations.  According to their Facebook page, their main HQ is somewhere on SW 38th, so I guess this was one of the branch locations or whatever they call them.  You can't work in the streets like I do without having learned something about this movement, or church, or whatever it is.  I had already run into a few of their guys before, but usually they would just nervously hand me a pamphlet and hurry away.  Not these two.  They were fervent and zealous.

So this one guy began telling me the story of the "Outcry" thing in general and his personal story in particular.  Pretty soon the other guy got back with my glass of iced water and he added his own story into the mix.  And then they asked if it would be okay if they said a prayer for me.  "Sure," I said.  I didn't realize that they meant right then and there.

Now, in the Christian church with which I am most familiar, a group prayer is usually "led" by a single person who speaks aloud while everyone else prays silently.  These two guys weren't having none of that.  When they started, they took off.  Heads bowed, speaking clearly and loudly, as fast as they could go.  And they weren't just reciting something from memory.  They were making it up as they went along, speaking specifically about me and my job (they had asked my name so they could use it in the prayer), and they were both saying different things.  I tried to hear all they were saying, but it was like having two songs pumped into different stereo channels and they were going so fast I could barely understand anything.  The most amazing part was when they somehow managed to both finish at the same time.  I had to wonder if they do this in large groups.  What a cacophony it would be to have 100 people doing this all at one time.  I must say I would love to hear it!

And they gave me their book that tells all about their founder's life and how he got it all started.  I do intend to read it.

So it was strange, but kinda cool too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quick movie review

Cowboys & Aliens (2011).  So I just watched this tonight and thought it was pretty good.  Not something that really breaks any new ground or has any life-changing message, just a good flick.  So if you haven't seen it yet, I'll try to avoid any spoilers.

It's a mix, or mash-up, or whatever they call it these days, of two genres:  western and sci-fi.  There are several familiar western tropes that will give it the feel of many other westerns you've seen:  an outlaw trying to go good, an evil cattle baron and his family of bullies who dominate a poverty-stricken town, a meek bartender (who, in this case, is also the town's doctor), a washed-out gold mine, etc.

It turns out that there also extra-terrestrials in the area, and they aren't the friendly kind.  They're the kind that kill anyone and destroy anything that gets in their way, pretty much like the aliens from "Independence Day."  So there's a collision of realities between the extremely advanced aliens and humans from 1873 who have a hard time wrapping their heads around what the aliens really are.

It gets a little too feel-goody toward the end for my taste, but I guess you can't have everything.  I still say it's worth spending two hours on.

As for the guns.  I never heard anyone say the specific year during the movie; the best I could guess was that it was in the late 1860s or early 1870s, not long after the Civil War.  According to the official movie information, it was set in 1873.  Almost all the handguns I saw were cap-and-ball revolvers (a wide variety and I am not skilled enough to identify them all), which would be appropriate for this time period--the Colt Peacemaker (the stereotypical western movie handgun) didn't actually begin production until 1873, so it would be unlikely that anyone in this isolated frontier town would have one.  I did notice one Schofield revolver (which used a cartridge), which began production in 1870 and therefore is not an unreasonable handgun for 1873.  Long guns appeared to be mostly Henry rifles and maybe a few early Winchesters--nothing that was out of place (or rather, out of time).  The only specifically named firearm in the movie, which I recognized as correct, was the Spencer .56.  The Spencer (in case you don't know) was a cartridge-fed repeating rifle that began production in 1860 and there should have still been plenty to go around by 1873.  So, to the best of my knowledge, all the guns were correct!  One thing I especially liked was that the Spencer was the only gun they had that was capable of dropping an alien with a single shot--as long as it was a head shot.  The Spencer fired a very heavy 350-grain bullet, which to the best of my knowledge had a muzzle energy of almost twice any of the other rifles they had (which would have all been .44s of different sorts), and vastly more energy than any of the revolvers.  So the effectiveness of the Spencer made a lot of sense, in my opinion.

Some people always have something to say about the casting, but that's not something really ever interests me very much.  I was surprised to learn that the star was the same guy who's played the latest James Bond, and I think he played a very good western movie tough guy.  There's even an obligatory Carradine (Keith).  I must say that I am not looking forward to the day when a western movie is being made and there are no Carradines left to put in it.  Oh yeah, Harrison Ford is in it.  He played the cattle baron.  I think this is the first time I've seen him play a total bastard* and he was pretty good at it.**

So, in conclusion, if you haven't seen it, check it out.

*Saying anything more about his character would be a spoiler, so that's all you get.

** Has Harrison Ford made any other westerns besides this and The Frisco Kid?

Monday, August 20, 2012

More meter weirdness

Today on my regular cycle 17, which covers a huge swath of ground roughly bordered by E. Southcross, S. Presa, S.E. Military, Roosevelt and Mission Road, I had a new meter-- a niner, which term I've explained before.  It had the address of 1130 E. Southcross, which to the best of my guesses, should have been somewhere right about where that blue dot is on the map below.

There is a new access point for the Riverwalk extension right about there, and I've had several new meters in the past months because of this new Riverwalk construction, so I figured I had found the right spot.  I got out (this is an all-motor route--which means I was driving the whole time) and walked around and saw no fresh water facilities that would require a new meter.  This one has no water fountains or restrooms like some of them do, only purple-lidded irrigation control boxes here and there.  Purple means recycled water.  Which reminds me of another question I've been wondering about:  where in the heck are the recycled water meters that supply all this irrigation?  I have no idea.  Anyway, I couldn't find a meter here so I called in for tap measurements, and for extra help, I also asked for the customer name.

The customer was the San Antonio River Authority, so I figured that it had to be something to do with the Riverwalk extension.  The tap measurement, however, added a new twist.  The description I got was, "between VFW Blvd. and Aquarius next to the San Antonio River."

Right about here I uttered a quiet WTF?

So I drove back around to VFW Blvd., which I thought I had already finished with, and after a couple of passes discovered a new meter right about where that red dot is.

So I checked the meter number and, sure enough, it was the meter I was looking for.  Tapped at the corner of VFW and Mission Parkway, quite a long way away from E. Southcross.  My WTF? still stands.

This route has always had strange things going on with it.  I could probably start a whole blog just about this route.  That's how bad it is.  Maybe sometime I'll tell the story about the new meters at what they eventually decided should be 623 E. Bonner.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Does anyone else see anything funny in this?  Not funny strange, but funny ha-ha.  I actually laughed out loud when I read this.  If anyone wants to take a stab at what I thought was funny about it, leave a comment.  If no one gets it, or if no one cares, I'll update with the answer in a day or two.

UPDATE:  As I said in comments, Brer was correct.  A joke is never funny if you have to explain it, but maybe these pictures will help.

Band of Horses

The Beach Boys

Fleet Foxes

 Isaac Watts

UPDATE 2: Here's the review I posted at

Sunday, August 12, 2012

just a comment

I found this article at Snopes interesting:  Guitar Man.

Back in the 80s when I was an aspiring keyboardist, I would go to Hastings sometimes and buy the piano score books to albums and groups that I liked.  One of the books I bought was for Styx's Paradise Theater.  Remember the beginning of the song "Snowblind"?  It has a bass line with a sort of arpeggiated keyboard riff over it.  I tried and tried to get the hang of that piece, but never could.  I didn't seem to have enough hands.

Then one day I bought a video of them in concert, and they played that song.  The bass part, of course, was played by Chuck Panozzo on his bass guitar.  The keyboard part was, of course, being played by Dennis De Young on a synthesizer.

"WTF?!" I thought.  "This part takes TWO professional musicians to play and I'm supposed to play both parts myself?!"

I did learn to play "The Best of Times" and could crash through "Half Penny, Two Penny" fairly well, but did I ever master "Snowblind"?  Nope.

But even worse: the repetitive downward key change

I hate to post so much on this because people might think I'm suddenly back to frequent posting again, and that just ain't so, but this song frikkin' drives me nuts.  Same goes for "I've Seen All Good People" by Yes.

In reference to the previous post

Here is a pertinent website:  The Truck Driver's Gear Change Hall of Shame.  Even if you didn't know what I was talking about in the last post, spend a while on this site and you will understand fully.

Although, I do have some quibble with their name.  It was obviously coined by someone who is unfamiliar with shifting a big rig.  In fact, several people I have run into have commented on a loud noise made by a truck, saying that they were down-shifting, when in fact it was only the driver turning on his unmuffled jake brakes.  I hear trucks doing this all the time on IH35 in downtown S.A. and lemme tell ya, there is simply no excuse for this in the flatlands.  It's just laziness and bad driving.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rhonda Vincent - Sunday Mornin' Singin' LIVE!

Well, I got it.  I've been taking advantage of that free music offer that Valero is doing when you buy a 44 oz. fountain drink.  Also I've torn a few credits from cups that people tossed in the street instead of putting in the trash.

As I had mentioned before, this is a collection of gospel songs, or gospel-related songs performed in her usual bluegrass (or bluegrass-related) style. They were all recorded live, and these are the most well-behaved audiences I've ever heard on a live album.  Most of these songs don't even sound like they came from a live performance until you hear the applause at the end of each piece.

Most of these songs are original, but there are a few old traditional hymns in the mix.  One song, "His Promised Land," is performed a capella (nothing but voices), but for some dumb reason they stick a half-step up key change in the middle of it.  This is a typical trick in pop music to keep a boring song from sounding quite too boring, and in the vast majority of cases it's musically illogical and irrelevant.  Suddenly changing key without reason between stanzas of a hymn is just weird and jarring.  I felt like someone sneaked up and poked me in the stomach without any provocation.

I'm listening to it as I write this, and just came across another song with a similar unnecessary key change.  I hate to harp on this, but man it's just not right.  But I'm sure her audiences have been conditioned through listening to so much pop music* that they expect it and to them it sounds good.

Now where was I?  Oh yeah, there are a few old traditionals here:  Just As I Am, God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds, Joshua and The Old Rugged Cross.  Possibly a couple of others, I'm not sure, but those are the ones I'm familiar with.  In the case of "Just As I Am," I could go so far as to say terribly familiar. But this version I like.  It's a little faster than I'm used to hearing it, and it's got a nice little swing to it that makes it sound like a waltz.  She sings only three stanzas, which is probably a very good thing or she would've had to stick in a couple of those modulations just to keep people from drifting.  The most "complete" version I know of has six stanzas.  Once, during a particularly long and grueling service, we sang the whole thing through twice.  Twelve stanzas of "Just As I Am" at once.  I must admit that we might have benefited from a couple of key changes that time.

Unfortunately, since I downloaded this, I didn't get any documentation with it.  I'm going to have to look up most of these songs and see if they are traditional hymns or not.

Okay, two a capella songs, the one previously mentioned and another called "Fishers of Men."  She has a really good group of singers with her.

All in all, a great album in spite of my personal little gripes that don't matter anyway.  I'm not going to say that I recommend it because I doubt that any of my readers listen to much gospel or bluegrass, but if you do, you should get it.  And please note that by "gospel" I do not mean "contemporary Christian."  As a general rule, I don't listen to lame pop music, no matter what the lyrics are about.

I might have to eventually buy this on CD anyway just to get the documentation on it.  If anyone reads this who has the CD, I would be very thankful if you'd go to the trouble of scanning and emailing me the booklet.

*When I say "pop music," I don't just mean what most people refer to as "pop."  I mean pop, rock, modern country...pretty much anything that's not classical, jazz or old hard-core country/folk, which has much more in common musically with classical than it does with modern "country."