Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Obligatory end-of-year post

I would like to say that I will promise more activity here in the coming year, but I won't (promise, that is).  Most of the time, I just don't see much point in trying to post everything I find interesting.  My other blog, The Briar Files, gets a lot more activity than this one, I suppose because it's so much more focused.  I post over there much more than here, but I still have a huge backlog of things I could post over there, and haven't because I just don't care enough to.

It just seems easier to me to throw a link up on Facebook, and most readers here are "friends" with me over there, so you probably see it over there anyway.  If anyone who reads this blog and uses FB is not a "friend" of mine on FB, you're welcome to send me a request.  Just be sure to include a message that you're a blog reader, because if I don't recognize your name, I won't approve the request.

Speaking of which, here is something that annoys me somewhat, but not a whole lot.  Someone who I am "friends" with will tell me in meatspace "I really like what you put on Facebook."  "Oh yeah?" I say, "which thing?"  "Oh, all of them!"  "Well," I say, "thanks."  But what I'm really thinking is, well then would it kill you click the "like" button every now and then?

The biggest thing this past year for me has been my ukulele playing.  Actually, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I can "play" the uke.  I just strum chords and sing, and my strumming isn't very sophisticated.  But I have been having more fun with it than just about anything else I have ever done, and I know I would get much better if I dedicated myself to a consistent practice schedule.  In years gone by, I was told my more than one teacher that I had an enormous musical talent.  The problem is, I just don't have the ambition to develop it.  Anyway, I'm planning on buying another ukulele soon.  This one will be a tenor with what's called "low G tuning."  You can look that up if you're curious enough.  Also, I'm most likely going to get an electro/acoustic model, which is an acoustic with a pick-up so it can be plugged into an amp (but can still be played without an amp just like an acoustic).  I was thinking about getting a baritone but the place I want to buy from doesn't have any of the affordable models in stock right now, so I'll have to keep watching and maybe get one later.  I want both a tenor and a baritone because they're tuned differently and of course the baritone has a lower, more guitar-like sound.  I'll still have my soprano if I want to play it, and my daughter also likes playing with it, so she'll still be using it.

I thought I'd add a list of cool websites that I probably haven't mentioned here but which I read fairly regularly, and most likely only began reading this year.  I haven't bothered updating the blogroll in a long time because I read so few personal blogs these days and the big non-personal blogs don't need my link to get traffic.

First, podcasts.

How to Do Everything - A couple of guys take listeners' questions and call someone up who they think might know the answer and have the person talk about it.  Most episodes run about 20 minutes and they are very interesting and entertaining.  This year they have also been running a feature called "Toilet of the Week" but I don't know if they're going to continue it into the coming year or not.

Sophos Podcasts - This is a short podcast (about 15 minutes per) regarding computer security, explained in language that non-experts can understand.  Anyone who regularly uses the internet should listen to this one.

Titanium Physicists Podcast - A podcast about complicated physics problems in language that non-physicists can understand.  Very educational.  The main podcast runs about 30 minutes, but then there are always some extras added on after the main podcast where they go into off-topic, sometimes humorous commentary, so the whole thing can sometimes go up to an hour.

Useless Information Podcast - Another short (20 minutes or so) podcast from a high school science teacher in which he tells about weird things "from the flip side of history."  Also included are vintage radio commercials and trivia questions about odd things from history.

Other stuff:

Forgotten Bookmarks - A blog from a book collector who posts pictures of things he finds inside books that come into his possession.

Roger Wilkerson, The Suburban Legend - Let's see, I guess we can call this a "historical pop-culture blog," mostly picture-based.  Photos, magazine covers, vintage ads and music.

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine - Another pop-culture blog about books, movies, music and other things, both historical and contemporary.

Great But Forgotten - A blog mostly about movies but also sometimes about books and music that, in the writer's opinion, are "great but forgotten."  I've learned about some good old movies from this one.

I guess that's about all for now.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Heh heh

My son has just spent the afternoon engaged in archery practice with his neighbor friend, using an old bow that I rescued from a dumpster one day when I was working (a perfectly good bow, I might add).  Just wait until he sees the new bow that Santa's going to bring him tonight!

P.S. The old bow that I found is also collapsible so it can be stowed in a much smaller place than you would normally expect to find a bow.  Don't know why anyone would throw it away, but they also threw away three perfectly good arrows at the same time.  Brought them all home.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Number 10

I don't have any big speech prepared or anything, but I thought I'd mention that I created this blog 10 years ago, this very day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

This irritates me greatly

No.  No, it is not.  Coincidence is not irony.  In fact, going caroling on Go Caroling Day IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF IRONY.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

That day gets ever closer...

6 Substances That Wipe Their Ass With the Laws of Physics

 Not long ago, I told my son, "In your lifetime, and maybe even in my lifetime, there will be computers that you can roll up and stick in your back pocket."

I would now like to add to that:  There will be communications devices (similar to cell phones) that will be lighter and thinner than our current credit cards, and they will be more powerful than the real computers we use now.

Friday, December 13, 2013

ALL of them

This is from Bad Newspaper, which is one of my regular humorous reads.  It reminds me of something that I always thought was quite hilarious.

My home congregation (note:  I am not Catholic) always has a Halloween festival, just as many Christian congregations do.  A few years ago when some of the group were setting up the festival grounds at night for the festivities the next day, one of our local cops noticed activity at the church grounds and went to investigate.  She saw one of our elders there helping out, so she went and asked him what was going on.

"We're setting up for the Halloween festival tomorrow night," he answered.

"Oh..." she said, "...I didn't know you...people...celebrated Halloween."

"Oh, sure!" he said, "we celebrate ALL the pagan holidays!"

This still cracks me up.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas is Blue mixtape #1 on YouTube

I've had this idea for a mixtape for quite some time now.  So I made this "mixtape" of Christmas music with a sort of melancholy tone and here it is.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


I had to work today.  Mandatory OT.  This always happens in December, and it will probably happen in January, too, because of the weird way the water company schedules its billing.  I don't understand it myself, but I'll have to work next Saturday as well, and we'll most likely have at least 2 more OTs in January.  Well, part of it is because of all the holidays, but it's really more complicated than that.

Anyway, it was cold today, but when the wind wasn't hitting me it wasn't all that bad because when you're walking as fast as you can for 3 hours at a time, you tend to warm up pretty well.  I was also "layered up," as my wife says.

Thermal socks for my feet.  My usual work blue jeans with flannel pajama pants underneath to keep my legs warm.  Torso:  a long-sleeved work t-shirt under my work button shirt, over that a quite warm hoodie, over that my work windbreaker.  Hoodie hood on and tied under my chin, windbreaker hood over that, also tied up.  I also had a Thermos™ of hot coffee in my truck.

There was going to be this Christmas party tonight that we were invited to, but my wife has to work tonight so I wasn't going, anyway.  But then I get a call on my cell and I let it go to voicemail.  Later I listen to the voicemail and the message is that the party has been postponed "because of the weather."

This struck me as quite funny.  Weather? I thought.  No rain, no snow, no sleet, no hail, no hurricanes or tornadoes or any otherwise hazardous winds, and it isn't actually below freezing.  What weather?  There is no weather!

I think that some people in this area need to experience real cold just once to give them some perspective.  For me, "real cold" was around 20 below in North Dakota once.  I hope never to experience cold like that again.  When I got back to the truck I drove another 10 hours southeast before I stepped outside again, and in my new location it was around 20 above.  I marveled at how warm it felt.  This was when I was driving a truck, of course.  When I dropped or picked up a trailer, I would have to go around the back and write the number of the trailer down and so forth.  I had to keep the end of my pen stuck in my mouth while I was walking around to keep the ink from freezing.  I had enough of that to last me the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Monday, December 02, 2013

How to sharpen pencils

I have to admire this guy for believing so strongly in what he does. I don't know why I never thought of sharpening a pencil with a fine-grit whetstone.

I should have also mentioned that this might be NSFW because of a couple of "bad" words. So keep your volume down if you are around people who like to act offended just so they can get you in trouble.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A quick video

My first attempt at video blogging.  I'm so cutting-edge.  Now you'll know why people say I have a voice made for writing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I haven't even been reading any Lovecraft lately

I'm going to write this down in case I want to refer to it in the future.


"Normally" is probably not quite the correct word to use here, except I've become familiar (although not accustomed) with very vivid nightmares.  So...

Normally, I have these extremely vivid and weird nightmares when I'm having trouble sleeping.  They usually happen when my wife wakes me up when she gets home from work late at night and I've already been asleep for an hour or two.  I can never really get completely back to sleep for the rest of the night and seem to be locked into a dream state that never ends.  Last night was not one of those nights, so I don't know where this one came from.

I was, for some reason, being shown through the house of some extremely rich guy.  He was showing off his place to me.  It was the most outlandish house I had ever seen.  It was constructed in a series of cubes--picture a floor layout like a checkerboard.  The black squares are open areas for human habitation, with furniture and all the other stuff you'd expect to see in a house.  The red squares are gigantic aquariums.  At first, they were filled with beautiful tropical freshwater fish.  Farther in were saltwater fish.  Even farther on, it got weirder.

At one point I suddenly noticed a thing in one tank that looked like a very large alligator with armored plates covering its body something like a turtle.  It's head was shrouded in tentacles.  A large fish swam in front of it and just as I thought something like wow that's a big fish the alligator-thing's head suddenly jetted out in front of the tentacles and snapped up the fish, then the whole head disappeared back into the tentacles and although it was in a tank full of water I could hear it swallow the fish whole.  It made a sound like a large metal pipe groaning.  I don't know how else to describe it.  So I started thinking that it was time to leave and oh God I hope that glass doesn't break.  So of course, that's what happened.  Utter chaos reigned.  I was running.  The alligator-thing was out of the tank and running after me.  I knew I couldn't outrun it, but then suddenly an even more enormous dinosaur-looking thing that was all slippery, leather green skin shot out from behind it and swallowed it up like a kid would swallow a jelly bean.  That's it, I thought, it's time to wake up.  So I started slapping myself to try to wake myself up.  Everything faded and I was left sitting in the middle of nothingness.  Just an endless open field with no grass or trees.  The ground was hard-packed earth.  Well, I thought, I'm still dreaming but at least the monsters are gone.  Then I really woke up.  After a trip to the bathroom and a glass of water, I went back to sleep and slept peacefully until my alarm went off at 5 AM, as usual.

Last Monday was a really tough day of work because of the rain and the cold.  Tuesday was quite a lot better, and today was extremely easy.  I finished my assignment by 10:30 this morning.  So now I'm looking forward to four days off work.  I'm not planning anything for Thanksgiving, not even turkey (I'll eat it, but there are lots of other meats I'd rather eat).  I'm going to attempt to smoke a roast tomorrow in my smoker which I've sort of "repaired" after the fire box rusted out.  I'll try to get some pictures of it tomorrow and maybe someone out there will like what I've done and find it useful.

When my dad saw what I'd done, he just stood there looking at it silently with a small smile.  "I've done a few test fires, and I think it's gonna work," I said.  "Well," he replied, "I can't see why it wouldn't."

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Various things

Last Friday morning my Jeep died while I was idling at a stop light.  The timing belt had broken.  Fortunately, since I was only idling and not flying down the highway, there was no engine damage.  It had also had the problem of missing badly when under stress (accelerating, going uphill), so while it was in the shop for the timing belt, I had them replace all the plugs & plug cables.  It runs great now.

My smart phone came in very handy.  I was able to use Google Maps to find a tow truck place that could get me to the garage.  So thank God for smart phones.  Also for Google Maps.

Another cool thing I recently did with my phone was when I was trying to find a meter that had been buried by landscapers.  I looked up the address on Google Street View and took a look at the old photo they had in case the meter was more easily visible in the photo.  It was.  So I was able to find the missing meter.

See it?  That's all heavily covered with grass now.  I also discovered why there's that long strip of dirt without much growing on it.  About 3 to 4 inches deep, there is an old sidewalk under there!  I kept hitting it when I was digging little test holes trying to find the meter.  The photo was from March 2011, so as I said, it's all heavily covered with grass now.

Unfortunately this isn't possible everywhere, since even all of San Antonio hasn't been "street viewed."  There's one neighborhood in particular that I've been keeping my eye on, because I was working there about 4 years ago when the street view car drove right past me.  So if they'd ever add that neighborhood, I'd be internet-famous!  But for some reason, that neighborhood isn't even on Google Maps yet, although it's been there for several years.  Wait, scratch that.  I just checked, and they have finally mapped the whole neighborhood.  But they still haven't added the street view photos yet.  I was back there about where Pleasant Bay turns into Watertrout Bay when the car went by.  There's something weird about that map, though.  It shows something called The Way Missionary Outreach, and if you click on it you see that it's in Killeen.  I don't think it's supposed to be there.

If you have friended me on FB, you know that I recently watched Forrest Gump for the first time, which elicited several notes of incredulity, mostly from relatives of mine.  This wasn't because I had something against the movie, in fact, I wanted to see it.  But I never go to the movies, partly because I just don't want to and partly because it's too frikkin' expensive.  I had decided that as soon as DishNetwork got it on pay-per-view, I'd watch it.  But they never had it.  It went straight from the theater to being shown on TV, and I wasn't going to watch a butchered-for-TV version of it.  I recently noticed that Netflix has it on their streaming service, so that's why I just now watched it.  I gave it 5 stars.  Except for the death scenes, I thought it was hilarious.

The last theater movie I saw was Saving Private Ryan when it was released, and even then my wife and I went to an afternoon matinee showing, which was very cheap compared to night-time showings.  Before that, the last time I went was to see City Heat in 1984, all by myself just because I wanted to get out of the house for a while.  I would have probably watched anything that night.  That movie just happened to be what was playing.  After the movie, I'm pretty sure I went to Hastings and probably bought a couple of records, and then went to Mr. Gatti's where I sat in dark front-room booth and had some pizza before going home.  1984 was a dark year for me.

1984 theme song.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to death metal

Because of the language, this is NSFW.  But it's pretty funny.  "Two words:  C f****** minor!"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

And they forgot the tilde

This just struck me as weird. 630 Pounds Of Cocaine Found On Band Bus In Texas.  Not that a...er...busload of cocaine was found on a bus.  Not that the bus belonged to a band (imagine that!).  But that the article appears to have been written for elementary school children, complete with pronuciation guides.

Also, strange that they need to specify what kind of music Norteño is, as if it matters.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The door in the floor

First, I want to make it clear that I don't believe in ghost hunting, except as a good way to scam people.  As for ghosts themselves, I neither believe nor disbelieve.  I know people who I trust who have been completely freaked out by a phenomenon that they believed was a ghost, but unfortunately, I have never had any such thing happen to me.

I'm just posting this video because of the basement they go into.  There is this one route that I was trained on extensively when I was first hired, but then became a sort of back-up to the back-up guy on it.  It's a route that goes into the south end of downtown (you can see some pix from it here), and at it's northernmost part it goes into two side-by-side Mexican restaurants (side-by-side Mexican restaurants are pretty much the norm in San Antonio).  Both have meters in their basements.  Now, the first of these has an open basement with just a more or less normal, although narrow, staircase down.  They use it for storage and so it's open all the time and easily accessible.  The worst thing about this one is that I have to walk right by their grill so I get a full dose of the smells of breakfast foods cooking, which always makes me hungry.

The second one is different.

First, I have to ask for the key.  Then they go check that the women's restroom is empty.  We go into the women's restroom where there is a strange door on the back wall with some chairs leaned against it.  We remove the chairs and unlock the door.  Open the door, and beyond is a small bare room about 10 or 12 feet long and a little more than four feet wide.  There's a handle in the floor.  There are a few more chairs in here that I have to move into the women's restroom so I can grab the handle and open the floor.  Before I open it, I have to go to the far end of the room (away from the door into the women's restroom) because that's where the stairs come up.  So I lift the floor.  It opens like a door in the floor, because that's what it is, although it's really just a 4x8 sheet of plywood with hinges and a handle, and I lean it against one wall.  There is a narrow-to-the-point-of-tiny staircase with a ceiling that was apparently made for people no more than 5 feet tall.  The walls of the basement are stone.  There is only one dim light that somebody must have run down there as a joke.  It feels like the light shouldn't even be there.  Most of the basement is completely dark.  Once you get down the stairs and into the basement proper, the ceiling opens up to maybe 6 1/2 feet.  The meters are on the far back wall--of course--and they've left a chair down there to stand on because the meters are mounted almost all the way up against the ceiling.  But the ceiling is so low that when you stand on the chair to read the meters, you still have to crouch so you don't bang your head.  You have to read the meters with a flashlight because it's so dark.  I always carry a flashlight anyway.  I use it to read the meters but then I always turn it back off because the shaft of light feels like some kind of offense in the murkiness.  Heading back to the stairs, the dim yellow light spilling down the staircase looks like a beacon for the last refuge of safety in a world gone completely to the far end of spooky.  I almost can't get up the stairs fast enough, but I still have to go slowly and in a crouch so I don't smack my head.

They don't use this basement for anything.  It's just there.  The floor is uneven dirt with some stones scattered around like an old cave that someone cleaned out at some distant time in the past and then forgotten about.  Getting back out in the sunlight on the open street is always a relief after going down into that thing.

When I saw those guys open that door in the floor I just thought holy crap! it's just like that place.  Gotta be one of the creepiest places I have ever been in.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Music of Sawney Bean

Although this isn't directly Halloween related, it is the kind of story that can make your skin crawl.  Back in the late 80s, I was occasionally mail-ordering music from an obscure independent label called Ralph Records.  One album I bought from them was a compilation of folk songs by various artists which I wrote about before.  My favorite song from that album was "The Ballad of Sawney Bean" by Snakefinger.  This was the first time I'd ever heard of the legendary cannibal Sawney Bean.

Since the days of the internet, I have been able to look up more information about him, and this Wikipedia entry on him seems to be fairly balanced and accurate. The legend is that Sawney was kind of a hell-raiser in either the 1400s or 1500s who met and married a woman who shared his predilictions.  They moved into a cave--this very cave, according to legend--on the west coast of Scotland at Bannane Head, and since neither wanted to work for a living, they made their way by killing and robbing--and eventually, eating--travelers.

They had sons and daughters, then grandsons and granddaughters, all of which were their incestous progeny, until at the time of their capture they numbered 48 in all, and they all had to eat, right?.  The number of missing persons grew and grew until they came up against someone who was able to defend himself and survived.  Then King James sent 400 men to find them.  The men of the clan were all executed by having their hands and feet removed and then hanged.  The women were all burned to death.

However, there is no actual historical record of hundreds of people disappearing from the area, nor is there any record of King James finding and executing the clan.  So it appears to all be mere legend.

But it's a legend that has inspired many songs.  Here are a collection of several that can be listened to via YouTube.  The first one is one of my favorites, by a group (or musician?) called Raymy.  I haven't been able to to find much of anything about them on the internet.  Since they don't have anything to sell on Amazon or anywhere else that I can find, I ripped this mp3 from the video a few years ago, and yesterday it turned up on my phone as I was working.  I was able to find a lyric sheet for it, and it wasn't hard to figure out the simple chords, so last night I was strumming my ukulele and singing it happily.  This is a more "poetic" version that doesn't detail the full legend, but I like it a lot.

The next one is by Sol Invictus, a neofolk or "folk noir" band from England.  You can find videos of them performing this song live, but I picked this one because the audio is better.  I'll give you this link to take a look at because it has one guy playing a hurdy-gurdy, which is pretty cool.

And here's a very different version by Canadian punk band The Real McKenzies, from their 2002 album Pissed Tae Th' Gills.

Scottish folk band Longshot Nelson and The Disjoints from their 2013 album Teeth Marks in Your Brain.

The Vegetables.  Another band that I can't find much about.  This was recorded in 1971, as far as I know.

And finally, the song that started it all (for me), by Snakefinger, 1987.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Something amusing for the Halloween season

Adult Wednesday Addams on YouTube.

In this case, "adult" does not mean "s3x."  It just means adult.  A grown-up Wednesday Addams deals with the travails of modern life.  Four 3-minute videos so far, with a new one every Wednesday (when else?).

Oh, there's some language that may be NSFW.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I realise you screwed up

I wonder if anyone will bother to point out to this guy that "realise" is the correct spelling of the word in English English, not American English.

If this isn't photoshopped, then that has to be the coolest-looking paint ever born.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let's just forget that 1900 to 1930 ever happened

Saw this at Country California:
I spoke yesterday … and I told them then, I said, “I know I’m gonna get a lot of flack about this, but sooner or later country music has to decide whether it’s an art form or a business. If it’s a business, welcome anybody that sells records. If it’s an art form, get rid of everybody that doesn’t sound like Hank Williams.” If you look back at history, the only music that has never progressed at all — is exactly like it was in the ’20s — is Dixieland. Because nobody ever experimented with it.
- – Kenny Rogers on progress in country music.
Holy cow, Kenny Rogers is an ignorant s.o.b.  I guess he thinks we got from ragtime to swing and eventually mid-century "hot jazz" by some bizarre detour that completely avoids Dixieland?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

That would have been a weird dream...

(Don't worry, I'm not going to start dream-blogging.  It just looks that way.)

Early yesterday morning, about 6:20 or so, I got my free annual flu shot.  This isn't mandatory (my wife works at a nursing home, and her's is mandatory), just something my employer offers.  The first time I got a flu shot was 5 years ago, and it made me sick enough that I called in to work sick for one day.  I haven't gotten it every year since then--I think I skipped one year--but that first time was the only time I felt sick.  Until this time.  By around noontime yesterday I had fatigue and body aches, and by the time I got home I was running a very mild fever.  So anyway, I went to sleep very early last night--around 8:00.  My wife was off work last night, so she was watching TV while I went to sleep.  "Just don't put it on anything obnoxious," I told her and passed out.  By this time, she knows what I mean.  Some shows just annoy me so much that I can't possibly sleep through them.

So I had this dream that I heard Randy Travis singing some old love song in 3/4 time.  The part of my brain that analyzes music seems to work much better when I'm asleep, or nearly asleep, and I found myself saying the chord numbers--it was a very easy 3-chord song.  So I'm thinking, wow, I wish I could remember this when I wake up, but I know I won't because I've dreamed music before and could never remember it later.  Then I hear Andy Griffith singing along with Randy Travis, and I'm thinking, well, that's weird.  And then I hear what seems to be a ukulele strumming along with the guitar, and then my wife says, "He's playing a ukulele."

At this point, I realize I am not actually asleep, although I am not what you could call technically awake.  I also realize that my wife is watching Matlock.  "I hear it," I answer.  "Have you ever played that song?" she says.  "No," I answer.  "You were saying numbers in your sleep," she says.  "Those are the chords," I say.  "You should learn to play it," she says.  And then I passed out again.

"Nobody's Darlin' But Mine" was written by a guy named Jimmie Davis, who was born in 1899 into a very poor family of sharecroppers.  But he rose above his humble beginnings and became a teacher, a musician, and a politician.
During the late 1920s [says Wikipedia], Davis taught history (and, unofficially, yodeling) for a year at the former Dodd College for Girls in Shreveport.
 "...unofficially, yodeling" just strikes me as hilariously funny.

You know that horribly, horribly famous song "You Are My Sunshine"?  He claims to have written it.  Well, I guess somebody somewhere must have.  He recorded it in 1940, but there were two previous recordings, both in 1939, and a pair of collaborators were credited with its writing.  So...I guess that was his politician side beginning to come through.

Anyway, he wrote and recorded "Nobody's Darlin'" in 1937.  It has been covered by numerous artists, but I guess most famously by Merle Haggard, who even performed it in one episode of The Waltons.

Here's a Jimmie Davis' version.

Since this is in stereo, I'm guessing this isn't the original. I don't think it would have been recorded in stereo in 1937.

Does anyone else think he looks like Bill Cullen?

So I guess I'll have to learn this one, too.  Shouldn't be too hard.

P.S.  I almost forgot.  Here's the clip from Matlock.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Well...I'm back

We had a big storm Saturday night/Sunday morning which knocked out our power for several hours and apparently knocked out our internet service as well.  At first, the woman I talked to on the phone checked our radio over the air and said something was wrong with it.  But then when the tech guy finally came out here today he said it was actually my router that had quit working.  Whatever.  Anyway, I've been without internet since Sunday morning and it was just restored today.  By the way, we got 7 inches of rain from that storm.  Yeah, 7 inches.  Fortunately, my wife dumped out the first 2 inches from the rain gauge when she got home from work on Saturday night so the gauge didn't overflow.

So anyway, in the past I had downloaded a bunch of stuff from YouTube for watching offline, so that I wouldn't have to deal with buffering pauses.  Most of it I had also backed up on CD so it wouldn't be filling space on my hard drive, and I dug out the old discs and watched some of the stuff since I didn't have internet.

I watched a couple of episodes of Stressed Eric.  You can still see all of these on YouTube; a user named AlienShame uploaded the full series and it looks like they are all still there.  I also watched all but the last episode of Police Squad!.  The last one was corrupted somehow, so I'll try downloading it again.

I also watched this.

Out of Mind:  The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft is a one-hour movie--possibly made for Canadian TV, I think.  It mashes together various HPL characters and story elements into a new story, interspersed with an actor portraying HPL speaking directly into the camera and using bits of HPL's letters to paint a portrait of who Lovecraft was.  It's about a modern-day man named Randolph Carter (an HPL character used in several stories) who inherits a copy of the Necronomicon from his uncle, Professor George Angell (a character from The Call of Cthulhu).  After reading the book, or parts of it anyway, Carter begins having very vivid and realistic dreams which place him in different HPL story fragments.  Eventually he dreams that he meets Lovecraft, or perhaps Lovecraft dreams that he meets Carter, or perhaps both.  I thought it was a pretty good film, and kind of amusing when Carter meets Lovecraft, while Carter is wearing a Lovecraft t-shirt.  "What am I doing on your shirt?" a bemused Lovecraft asks.  "Where I come from," Carter answers, "you've got quite a following...enough to put your picture on a shirt."  "How peculiar," says Lovecraft, then he invites Carter back to his house for some lemonade.  I thought that the actor portraying HPL did a really good job, although, of course, we don't actually have any film footage to show how HPL moved, or any audio recordings of his voice.  How unfortunate.

I also watched The Making of Twin Peaks, which I had downloaded from YouTube in full but which appears to have since been removed.  It's a 2-hour documentary that I think was included on the DVD set of the series.  I found it to be fascinating, especially the clip below.  I immediately became a fan of Angelo Badalamenti from the time I first saw the original pilot on TV, and have both volumes of the soundtrack plus the Julee Cruise album that was released back then, which overlaps and somewhat compliments the soundtrack albums.  The whole section on the music of Twin Peaks is much longer than this clip, and also includes comments from Julee Cruise herself (she's the petite white-haired singer in the biker bar in the TV show).

Here's another interesting clip that wasn't part of the big documentary.

Michael J. Anderson, the man in this video, has actually made a study of, and is an expert in, speaking in reverse.  For the red room dream sequences, everyone had to speak--and act--backwards, then the footage was played in reverse so that it came out forwards (that's David Lynch for you).  He had to teach everyone in these scenes how to speak in reverse.

By the way, the full series of Twin Peaks is available for streaming on Netflix, in case you never watched it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Screenshots from Viva Max! part 3

The final collection of screen shots.

Okay then, I guess they were marching down East Houston St.

The front of the Alamo.

Henry Morgan as the crusty police chief.  I only put this here to remind myself to say that the scenes that took place in the police headquarters were actually shot inside the old police HQ.  Several of the officers were used as extras.  A Rolodex!  Black desk phones!

Rushing through the streets to see what was going on at the Alamo.

The Mexican troops hoist their flag over the Alamo.  I bet this drove the DRT absolutely nuts, but by the time they knew about it, it was too late.

More downtown with Morgan checking the time on the big clock.

Another angle of the same scene.

Jonathan Winters testing the firmness of mattresses by jumping on them.  Maybe this was shot inside the Fawcett Furniture Company?  Anyway, he jumps on these a few times and says, "Yeah, yeah, that's firm."  Then he gets down and looks at the ends of the mattresses and shouts, "Now who in the hell cut all these labels off?"

Cops rushing through the streets at night.  The whole movie takes place during two days and the night in between.

A chaotic street scene as soldiers run toward the Alamo to battle the Mexican soldiers.  But don't worry, this is a G-rated, family-friendly movie and there's no fighting, just a humorous (cough) Mexican standoff.

Well, as I said before, I know someone who was an extra in this movie, and he told me all about it, so I knew where to look for him.  His entire screen time is less than 10 seconds as Henry Morgan walks around this corner, about to leave for the day, right before all heck breaks loose.  Anyway, the guy way in the back on the right, bent over and wearing a dark coat, is the guy who I know, who was a police officer at that time.

He has always had a dark complexion, very dark brown eyes, and back then when he was much younger, black hair.  He said that some of his Mexican-American fellow officers joked that he got hired because he looked more Mexican than they did.  But the real story is that Jerry Paris (the director), wanted someone who was exactly 6 feet, 2 inches tall to be back there messing around with the cigarette vending machine.  This seems odd to me, because the whole time he's on camera, he's bent way over working the machine.  But I guess that's directors for you.  Anyway, he was exactly 6'2", so he got picked as the extra for that scene.  For that scant time on camera, he said he was paid for 3 days at union scale, and, he told me, "they fed us like kings."  They had a buffet going on the whole time that was available for all the cast and crew, and while they were extras, they ate from the buffet.

So that's it.  Rated G, 93 minutes.  Written by news anchor Jim Lehrer.  For some more interesting details about the controversy this film caused, check out the trivia at imdb.com.  If you miss funny movies with no bad language* or violence, you'll like this.  Make it a Peter Ustinov double feature with Blackbeard's Ghost and you'll be all set for a great evening of movie-watching.

*unless you count the word "whorehouse"

General DeSantos:  She said my men would not follow me into a whorehouse!

Sergeant Valdez:  She is wrong, General.

General:  What?  You think so?

Sergeant (leering):  Yes, General.  Your men would most certainly follow you into a whorehouse.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Screenshots from Viva Max! part 2

As before, I tried to get some shots with good backgrounds.  This set are all from downtown.

Headed toward the Alamo.

At one point, a whacky old lady backs her car out into the street and plows into the army column.  One of the men gets a hurt ankle and can't march anymore, so they put him on this bus.  Unfortunately, this bus doesn't go to the Alamo, but a helpful lady inside tells him how he can transfer to a bus that does.  Check out the Joske's "product placement."

The Battle of the Alamo vintage game.  More product placement, I suppose.

Okay, this is supposed to be out of the front door of the Alamo chapel, or gates, or something.  This movie makes the same mistake as some other shows I've seen, in that they depict the Alamo as a place that still has surrounding walls with gates that can be closed so no one can get inside the grounds.  That lady on the left is hilarious.  She has a hugely exaggerated fake Texan accent and she's a tour guide who is giving a group of tourists a tour (3 tours in one sentence).  By the way, some of this movie was also shot at the Alamo Village set in Bracketville.

The army column somehow manages to get down to the Riverwalk.

Another familiar building.

And here they go marching down a bustling downtown street, but I don't know which one.  Jefferson is a short joining street that runs from Pecan on the north to Houston on the south, if I read the map correctly.  I never work in this part of downtown, so I am wholly unfamiliar with it.

Same as the last shot but from a lower angle as they've approached closer to the camera.

I don't know if this is the same street as the last two, but in the movie they are still marching toward the Alamo.

And I should be able to pretty much finish this up in one more post.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Screen shots from Viva Max! part 1

Quite some time ago I had posted a few screen shots from Viva Max!, a movie that was filmed in San Antonio in 1969.  So here's a more complete collection of screen shots, but I have so many that I'm going to do this in at least 3 posts.

I got lucky and found that it was showing on a movie channel one time when we had some free movie channels for a while due to some promotional thing DishNetwork was running.  This was a few years ago.  I had always been interested in seeing this movie, because 1) it was a comedy about the Alamo, and 2) someone I know was an extra in it.

If you haven't seen it, I recommend it highly because it's still very funny.  It stars Peter Ustinov as Mexican Army Brigadier General Maximillian Rodrigues DeSantos, John Astin as his somewhat sadistic seargent, and Harry Morgan as the cranky chief of police.  Other names you'll recognize are in it, like Jonathan Winters, who plays the owner of a mattress store who is also technically a brigadier general in the National Guard, and character actor and perennial wacky next-door neighbor Alice Ghostly (who thinks the Mexican soldiers are Chinese communists invading the United States).  Oh yeah, Keenan Wynn is also in it.  If you watch it, you'll most likely see other faces you recognize but whose names you don't remember, like this guy, or this guy, or this guy.

Unfortunately, these grabs are not of the highest quality, but I hope that if you still remember San Antonio in 1969, you'll recognize some of these scenes.  I tried to mostly stick with shots that show buildings and signs in the background that could trigger some memories.  Please feel free to leave comments about any of these photos.  Click on the pictures to see larger versions (but not a whole lot larger).

Just the Alamo itself with some tourists milling about in front.

Boy Scouts walking in front of the cenotaph.

The Alamo gift shop.  The guy in the foreground is one of the Mexican soldiers in disguise wearing a Baylor t-shirt.  I always wanted that play set that the kid is holding.

The General is riding his horse at the front of his column of soldiers, marching down the overpass of one of the freeway interchanges.  Based on how the story goes, this should have been IH35.

I managed to get this shot showing the Tower of Americas in the background.

Another shot taken right after the previous one, with some familiar buildings in the background.

What is that domey-looking building?

Downtown as they approached the Alamo.

A shot of Peter Ustinov with some building in that background that someone else who is more familiar with the downtown area can probably identify.

John Astin with Fawcett Furniture Company in the background.  What's that tuba doing there? you ask.  The army group had its own brass band.  They played the same piece of music everywhere they marched.  It was written just for this movie, and was called the "Viva Max March."  We played it for one of our half-time shows when I was in high school band.  Here it is on YouTube.

And here's a clip with Jonathan Winters, just for fun.

Steering without a steering wheel

I thought this gif at cheezburger was interesting.  This is supposed to be a funny "fail," but the guy obviously--to me, anyway--had done this before and knew what he was doing.

When I was a kid, my dad needed farming equipment but--back then--had very little money with which to purchase such equipment.  So eventually he ended up finding a good deal on an ancient Ford 8N.  It looked quite similar to the one in the picture at the link, except a previous owner had installed a front-end loader on it, so it had a little extra weight in the front.

Later on, he found another good deal on a shredder, but the shredder was made for a much larger tractor than the 8N, and it was so heavy that it would lift the front end a little.  Not nearly as much as that tractor in the gif is lifted, though.  But it lifted the front end enough that the tires would just skim the ground and weren't as useful for steering as they should have been.

One of my chores on the farm was shredding the field, and I got pretty good at keeping it in a straight line using the brakes.  Because, for anyone who has never driven a tractor, the back wheels each have a separate brake.  These are usually used to make a tight turn at the end of a row when you need to head back in the other direction.  But because of that extremely heavy shredder, we had to use them to steer with.

Later on he bought another smaller shredder that was more suited to the 8N.  All of that old equipment is gone now, though.  Now he can afford two tractors, and he bought two because he got tired of hauling the one he had back and forth between the two properties where he needed tractors.  They both have front-end loaders because he likes to dig things with them.  One of them also has a back hoe.  Whenever it gets dry enough that his tank goes completely dry, he digs it back out again.  It's his hobby.

That 8N gave us lots of problems.  At one point, the starter gave out so we had to "hotwire" it with a bent piece of threaded rod.  Then when that didn't work anymore, we had to pull-start it every time we wanted to use it.  Several times we had to take the tractor to another property, which meant driving it about 2 miles down a dirt road, then 4 miles down the highway, then another mile down another dirt road.  It topped out at 8 mph.  During the winter, that was a cold drive.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A clash of cultures

My daughter recently checked out the first volume of Death Note (manga) from the school library.  She says they also have Bleach there, so I told her to get the first one for me so I could see what it looks like.

Anyway, the other day she got out the Death Note book so she could show it to me, and she flipped open the front cover.  I told her, "You know you have to read that from front to back, bottom to top."

"What?" she said.

"That's how they write in Japanese, so that's how they put their books together.  They just replace the words in the word bubbles with English, but you still have to read it back to front, bottom to top."

So she said, "No wonder it wasn't making any sense!"

Friday, September 20, 2013


Prevous rant about Customer Service Week here.  No need to rant about it this time, except to say that it used to be a week full of onerous, tedious mandatory "fun" while the company allegedly showed everyone in the Customer Service section how much we are appreciated.

But...this year, the woman who usually organized all of our torture, didn't.  So we didn't have hardly any mandatory "fun" at all.  It was such a relief.  We still got our free barbecue plate on Thursday, so that was good.

Since the tropical storm rains began a couple of days ago, we've had nearly six inches of rain at my house.  I'll have to go empty the gauge tonight in case it rains more, but right now it's stopped.

Thanks to YouTubers who have uploaded full albums to that video service, I have been listening to the full studio album discography of Mott the Hoople this week.  Last week I did the same with Blue Oyster Cult.  I found a few BOC songs that were new to me that I like.  I still think "The Revolution By Night" is my favorite album, but it's a close one between that and "Imaginos," which I for some reason bought on CD as a new release back in '88 or whenever it was that it came out, and listened to it a lot.

Back in the 80s, I found a discounted cassette of Mott the Hoople's Greatest Hits at the local music store and bought it, even though I had never heard of them at that time.  I liked the whole tape, and listened to it a lot, but never bought any of their other albums, mostly because the store didn't stock any of them.  But I remember there was a guy who worked for a while as a pizza delivery guy at the restaurant where I also worked.  His name was Kenny, I think.  I don't remember his last name.  He was another country boy who liked rock & roll, so we talked a lot about things like music, guns and hunting.  I guess I must have mentioned my Mott the Hoople tape to him.

By the way, that tape just one day vanished.  I don't know what happened to it.  As time passed, I developed the theory that I must have left it in my old Ford Courier and forgotten about it when I finally sold the pickup.  But that's just a guess.

Anyway, several years went by and one day I went to the Wal-Mart in Seguin to buy a new tire, and found him working there in the automotive department.  We caught up with each other, and he thanked me for telling him about Mott the Hoople.  He had bought all their albums and they had become one of his favorite bands.  I didn't even remember ever talking about that tape but I guess I must have.

Well, he was right.  There's a lot of pretty good music from that band that wasn't included on their "Greatest Hits."  Actually I don't think anything from their first three albums made it onto their "Greatest Hits."

I've been trying to get used to my new capo.  I think that when I eventually get a tenor uke it will be easier to use the capo because the neck won't be quite so cramped.  And then when I get around to buying a baritone uke it should be easier still.  The main reason I wanted it is because sometimes my voice just doesn't do the low notes too well, so I can key it up a step to give my voice a little more room to work with and still play it the way I've already practiced it.

Here's one by Mott the Hoople.  That audience looks a little too calm, to me.  Maybe they were there for someone else.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New accessory

The other day I saw this video...

...and I decided, okay, if a professional musician is going to use a capo on a ukulele, then so am I.  She has that capo fretted so that she can use the fingerings for the key of C, but play in the key of E.  So be it.

My son needed a new alto sax band book for this year, and he "graciously" reminded me that our small town does have it's own music store.  So while there buying his book, I asked about capos, and they guy there grabbed a uke off the shelf and a guitar capo and tried it out right there in front of me, and it worked just fine, so I bought it.  I tried it for a few minutes when I got back home just now, and it works great.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Good article

6 Real-Life Gunslingers Who Put Billy the Kid to Shame at Cracked.  #6 on the list literally did put Billy the Kid to shame.  Also, there's a photo of a young George Patton smoking a pipe.

Friday, September 06, 2013

It's the greatest henge of all

I just now discovered this, and I watched a couple of their videos.  I think this one is pretty funny.  Ylvis is a group from Norway who make music that sounds like typical extremely polished power-pop, but their lyrics are a lot more--or at least, a lot different--than the typical overblown heartbreak love songs.  Hilarious.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Tech fail

Which doesn't use batteries, either.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Long weekend this week, with Labor Day tomorrow.  Unfortunately it means I'll have mandatory overtime next Saturday, but at least it should be a not-so-bad route by that time.

I think I mentioned that I had re-strung my ukulele.  It's working well, except the C string goes out of tune faster than the others.  I'm not sure if it's still stretching, or if it's slipping.  I'm not sure that I tied it off well enough, so I might re-string that one soon just to be sure.

I performed my first "gig" last July at our family reunion.  I discovered that one of my relatives also plays ukulele and we had a discussion about them.  Some of the songs I pick out are because I'm pretty sure that people at the reunion will know them, and possibly enjoy them if I don't screw up too badly; some other songs because I have an idea that they might not know them but would like them if they heard them.  I was gratified to hear some people singing along with a few songs, and I even got some applause for my performance of "Dark as a Dungeon."  I just played and sang for over an hour while everyone else was sitting around talking and playing dominoes or cards.  It was fun, but by the time I was finished, I was pretty tired.

So here's a list of more songs that I've printed out and added to what I call my "fake book."  My fake book doesn't have a melody line in it like a real fake book (a real fake book?); I just go on the melody by memory.

Jim Byrnes - Just a Pilgrim:  I'm still working on this one a lot.  It has a bridge that uses a couple of chords that are still pretty difficult for me to play.

House of the Rising Sun:  I gotta be honest, I don't feel at all confident with this one.  But I played it at the reunion and people were singing along with it.

Alex Woodward - Reno:  I added this one even though I can't really do it right because it's a male/female duet.  Maybe someday I can find someone to sing it with me.

Daydream Believer:  Another song that people were singing along with.

Bread - Yours for Life:  This popped up on my phone one day while I was working, and I thought, hey, I bet I can play this.  This song finally got me to wrap my head around playing a syncopated rhythm, with the down strokes on 2 and 4 instead of 1 and 3.  I had a lot of trouble with it at first, but of course the more I practiced it the better I got.  I'm playing several songs with that kind of strum now.

The Gray Havens - Silver:  This was part of a free download a while back.  When I heard it on my phone and started singing along with it, I knew I had to try it.  I think I actually do it fairly well for such an amateur.  It's in a very brisk 3/4 time, and it's another one of those ubiquitous I-V-vi-IV songs.  They actually have the chords for this song on their official website, but they're wrong.  As I joked on FB, they must've had some unpaid intern do it.

4 Non Blondes - Spaceman:  This is one of my two favorite songs from the only album that group ever recorded, and I know better than to ever try the other one.  I think I do this one pretty well, considering.  It has one weird chord in it that I am still not sure about, and I think it may be one of those extended chords that you can't really play with only 4 strings.  But I figured out a substitute that I think works okay.

Steve Young - Seven Bridges Road:  I do this one in a slow 3/4, more like the original Steve Young version and not like the fast 4/4 version by the Eagles.  I just printed out the lyrics for this one; I didn't bother to worry about the chords.  I already know it too well.

Puff the Magic Dragon:  Another one that I didn't print the chords for, just the lyrics.  I found the chords on some website and just looking at them and playing it my head, I knew they were wrong.  This was my first ever favorite song when I was a kid.  I had the single of it by Peter, Paul & Mary that I listened to over and over until one day it was tragically melted when I left it outside in the car.

Johnny Cash - I Still Miss Someone:  I had been wanting to add something by Johnny Cash, but was hesitant to do it because everything he did is still so iconic.  But I think I do this one okay.

Shriekback - Cradle Song:  A weird one.  The only Shriekback song that I would ever even attempt to play on the ukulele.  I've been trying to practice this one finger picking instead of just strumming, but it's going to take a lot of practice for me to get it.

Carly Ritter - Save Your Love:  I recently heard this one when I streamed her debut album.  It was written by a country songwriter named Jerry Lynn Williams, if I recall correctly, and has been recorded by others--I found one version by Bonnie Tyler on YouTube which I didn't really like at all.  By the way, Carly Ritter is the late actor John Ritter's daughter, Tex Ritter's grand-daughter.

Sons of Bill - The Rain:  I got this song as a free download several months ago and it has just haunted me since.  It's a very powerful song and I probably butcher it horribly, but I still keep working on it.  I recently got their newest album, plus I went to their official website and downloaded a bunch of live stuff for free that they had available there.  I'm probably going to buy their two previous albums soon.  They're my newest favorite group.

Sons of Bill - Roll On Jordan:   This was on one of the live sets that I downloaded.  It's a gospel-tinged Americana song.

The Baptism of Jesse Taylor:  I grabbed the lyrics for this one just about an hour ago, and it's another one that I didn't bother printing out the chords for.  I came across the Oakridge Boys' version of it while blog-reading earlier today, and thought to myself, how could I have forgotten this song?  So I looked up the original, which is by a guy named Johnny Russell.  He recorded a bunch of albums himself, but mostly he wrote songs that were hits for other country singers.  Russell's only top 10 hit was "Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer."  He also wrote "Let's Fall to Pieces Together," which was a hit for George Strait.

My next step is to pick out 5 or 10 songs and just practice those until I get them all completely memorized.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Well, that's...impossible!

Since my most recent previous post was about a documentary regarding shoes on power lines, I this photo I just found would be appropriate.

How in the heck did they do that?

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Mystery of the Flying Kicks

A mini-documentary about throwing shoes over power lines.

Walk Off The Earth: "Royals"

Note:  I've been posting various musical tidbits to a Tumblr blog, but every few days something else happens to makes posting to it difficult (latest thing:  absolutely will not let me log in unless I turn Ghostery off completely).  So I'm giving up on it and will just use my old standby here at Blogonomicon to post anything that strikes me as interesting/amusing/enjoyable.  And I will be re-posting about 40 or so things from the Tumblr blog over here.  I'll just create a new category here for musical stuff:  eat the music, which was the name of my Tumblr.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A story

5 Criminals Who Took Police Chases to Embarassing New Lows

It reminds me of a story.  When I was a kid, someone escaped from the prison in Kenedy and stole a car to make his getaway.  I heard that he was doing over 100 mph when he went through Stockdale; a co-worker of my dad saw him fly through on highway 123.  Police were, as they say, in hot pursuit, but not doing so well.  The escapee doubled back on some dirt roads and came out on FM 1107.  About that time, his stolen car either ran out of gas or broke down or something, so he abandoned it and took off on foot across a field.

A field that I at times had helped to harvest squash and cucumbers from, and which I also sometimes dove-hunted on with my dad, my uncle and cousins.  The field belonged to my uncle.  My uncle's house was on the other side of the field, and the outlaw found it.  This was in the middle of the day, so no one was home at the time.  It was an old house surrounded by acres upon acres of fields, and I don't even think it was possible to lock up--it was quite ramshackle.  He went inside the house, stole my uncle's old straw hat that he wore when working out in the fields (for some reason), and also took one of my uncle's shotguns and grabbed a few shells.  Then he fled, still on foot, through the corn field behind the house.  This was where the cops finally caught up to him, so he attempted to fight.  But when he tried to load the shotgun, he discovered to his misfortune that he had grabbed a 20-gauge shotgun and 12-gauge shells.  So...the shells wouldn't go in the gun.  At his point, he dropped the gun and surrendered.

Heh heh

I guess I've been doing a lot of work blogging lately, but lately it seems that the subject has been ripe for the picking.  So here's a story that I've just got to tell because it amuses me so mightily.

To start at the beginning, when I was first hired, our department had two supervisors.  Eventually, one of them was moved to another department.  The true motives behind this move are still unknown but rumors are rife, but that's not what this story is about.  More time went by, and the remaining supervisor applied for and got a position in another department, so the other supervisor was brought back.  So we still had only one supervisor.  But then the big water company took over the little water company, which brought all of their meter readers into our department and put our total of employees up to about 50.  So they decided we needed to go back to two supervisors.

There were a lot of applications for this position.  Both of the guys who were our "lead meter readers" applied.  One of them didn't even make it through the H.R. gantlet and wasn't interviewed.  He immediately quit.  The other one did get interviewed, but wasn't chosen.  The guy who did get the job had no supervisory experience, but then the lead meter readers didn't either.  The guy who did get the job had less seniority than the other lead meter reader--however he did have previous meter reading experience.  In spite of being continually told that our company is merit-based--that is, you get raises and promotions based on your performance, not on your seniority--everyone still thinks that EVERYTHING SHOULD BE BASED ON SENIORITY, regardless of actual competence.

Well, the lead meter reader who didn't get the job filed a grievance because he didn't get the job.  So, since this company is made up of such a bunch of spineless managerial types, they created a third supervisor position, even though it isn't needed and there isn't really much of anything for a third supervisor to do.  This third position was created solely to give that lead meter reader the opportunity of applying for and possibly getting a supervisor position.

So once again, there were a lot of applicants.  Out of them all, only three survived to be interviewed.  We'll call them 1, 2 and 3.  1 was from another department, has no supervisory nor any meter reading experience, and didn't really want the job but only applied because he was being pressured to apply for a higher position by management.  2 is the lead meter reader, who has no supervisory experience but does have meter reading experience.  3 is someone who has been a supervisor on two previous jobs, so he has supervisory experience.  He also has about five years meter reading experience (partly electric & gas, partly water).  However, he has the lowest seniority of the three.  This position is supposed to be primarily a field position, responsible for training and various other out-in-the-field supervisor requirements.  One of 3's previous jobs was as a field supervisor for electric & gas meter readers.

So who got the job?  3 did, of course.  Which means that the position that was created only so 2 could have a shot at a supervisor position went to someone other than 2.

This whole situation still makes me smile every time I think about it.  And, full confession, the guy who got the job was my supervisor in both of those previous jobs, and in one of them I was his assistant supervisor.  I've known him for about 20 years now, and count him as a friend because we've seen so much stuff together.

Heh heh.

"You get all the loonies on your routes"

That's what a co-worker told me today after I described the following encounter to him.

Today I had that all-alley cycle 11 route which I have mentioned before.  At one house, an ancient little old lady came out, trying to ask me something.  Her dogs were making a furious uproar; she yelled at them in German, which I found to be so funny I almost couldn't suppress myself.

So eventually I heard her ask me why I read meters when the houses are vacant.  I told her the simple truth:  "Because it's there, and it's my job."  "But why?  If dere's no one (von) in de house?"  "Because it's my responsibility.  I get paid to do it, and my employer requires me to do it."  "But why..."  This went on for a few more minutes, with her refusing to understand the simple reason "because it's there."

Then she said, "What happened to de regular guy?"  "I am the regular guy."  "No, you're not.  De odder guy...you know..."  "Ma'am, I've been reading this route almost every month without exception for the last six years."  "No.  You haven't."

So I gave up and walked away.  She was still yelling at her dogs in German.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Well, good

10 Artists Who Hated Their Biggest Hit

I was quite gratified to read that Chrissie Hynde hates that song, because that has got to be the WORST SONG THE PRETENDERS EVER RECORDED!!!

I don't think I can accurately convey how much I hate that whiney song.  I don't know what's wrong with the people who like it, but it must be something pretty bad.

Monday, August 05, 2013

An incident

I said in my last post that I had to work mandatory OT last Saturday.  What I didn't mention is that I was bitten by a dog that day.

It turned out to not be a serious bite; my pants protected me from the worst of it so all I got was a really scary-looking bruise.  But it was a totally unprovoked bite.  I didn't even know the dog was there.  It must have come out of a yard across the street and it bit me from behind (lower right leg) without ever barking, growling, or anything.

The thing was, I completely lost it.  When I was a kid, people learned to be very wary of my rage.  I'm not boasting, in fact I'm kind of ashamed of it, but I had no control when I lost my temper.  On certain occasions, it actually saved me because I was a frequent target for bullies when I was a kid, and although I would try and try to just get away from being beaten up on, eventually I would snap.  After enough people saw what happened when this snap occurred, they stopped picking on me.  It was a lot like when Ralphie lost it in A Christmas Story, except that there was usually more bleeding involved.  It also saved me once when I was attacked by one of our sow hogs when I was a teenager.  That was a bad bite that ripped a big hole in my pants and took a hunk of skin with it.  I stopped the attack by braining the sow with a cedar fence post, which briefly knocked it senseless so I was able to get out of the pen.  That was a bad one, though.  After the adrenaline wore off and the pain kicked in, I discovered I had dislocated my shoulder from swinging the fence post.

And that's what happened with this dog, the only difference being that I wasn't able to catch it after it realized it had made a huge mistake.  Then the idiot customer came out and told me to calm down.  This made me about a thousand times madder, and I let fly a string of profanity that I am not proud of.

So I had to file a dog bite report and today I went and asked my supervisor if there had been a complaint about me from the customer.  He said, "Why, did you beat the sh*t out of it?"  "I tried," I said, "but I couldn't catch it."  Then I told him about the customer telling me to calm down and he gave me a look that seemed to say, "You gotta be sh*tt*n' me!"  I went on to tell him something like, "I cussed her out pretty hard."  "Her dog was loose in the street," he said, "I don't care what you told her."

So that makes me feel better.  From now on I guess I'll drive that one block instead of walking it.

Sunday, August 04, 2013


The uke now has white strings.  The original strings were black.  I had said before that I had read that my particular model of ukulele would be better with better than the factory original strings, and so I would probably restring it sometime.  I recently made a trip up to the Sam Ash store for some band supplies for the kids, so while I was there I bought a set of Aquila strings, because that was the brand that was most often recommended in various online uke forums.  It was only $8 for the set of strings.

It took me quite a while to do it--probably about an hour and a half to two hours, but I wasn't paying close attention to the clock.  I had special trouble with the E string for some reason.  One odd thing I noticed is that the original strings all look identical, but the new strings have visibly different widths except for the A and G strings--they're too close.  According to what I've read and seen in some instructional videos, it should take a couple of weeks before the strings settle down and quit stretching so they hold their tuning better.  I had already noticed this with the factory strings when I first got it.  I just hope I got them wound correctly so they don't slip.  If that happens, I might have to go back to Sam Ash and have one of their techs string it for me.  That would be embarrassing, but might be necessary if my job is inadequate.  I have replaced a couple of broken guitar strings before, but they were easier than this.  Maybe because they were wire and these were "nylon."  Aquila actually calls them Nylgut, because they're supposed to be like some kind of synthetic gut and are better than plain nylon.  They feel like nylon to me.

I downloaded a sampler of this band a while back from Noisetrade and this song was on it.  It immediately became a favorite of mine, and yesterday it turned up on my phone shuffle while I was working (mandatory OT Saturday).  Nowadays, whenever I hear a song I like I always think about how to play it on the uke.  So when I got home I looked it up and found that they have the chords for it on their official website, but for some reason in certain places the chords were wrong.  Anyway, it was easy to fix and last night I played it over and over for a long time.  This is another of those four chord songs and it's very simple.  The original is in E♭, so I transposed it down to C to make it easier for me to play and so it would fit my vocal range better.  The E♭ chord itself is one I'm still working on playing smoothly; it has an easy fingering but requires some finger stretching.  However, the B♭ chord is still a problem for me and A♭ is just impossible so far.

I had already begun working on E♭ because I've been playing "Rain" by Uriah Heep.  It's originally in C, but I transposed it down to G for my voice, and in G it uses an E♭.

One of my FB friends had posted that "four chord" video the other day, and one of their other friends commented that that chord progression has become so clichéd that it should be retired.  I only commented that as long as people like hearing it, there's no reason to stop using it.  But beyond that, it just seems like a dumb thing to say, because you could say that about everything in music.

Anyway, the new strings seem to be better than the old ones so far, except that they don't hold their tuning very well yet.