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.