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February 28, 2005

Ten things I've done (that maybe you haven't)

The meme sensation that's sweeping the nation....

  1. I've been on a train that derailed because it hit a cow.
  2. I got badly lost in Maputo (that's in Mozambique) and only got unlost by blindly following a guy who knew only ~50 words of English... and where exactly it was I was trying to get to.
  3. I've eaten lamb fries (aka Rocky Mountain oysters, aka bull testicles) and I like them.
  4. I shook hands with Dick Cheney. No, it wasn't at a crossroads.
  5. I've seen the World's Largest Prairie Dog.
  6. I once set off the fire exit alarm at the National Firefighter's Hall of Fame. I thought it was an exhibit. Really.
  7. I've spent six hours in the Colorado Springs airport on a layover.
  8. I've had a Guinness in the Bird and Baby.
  9. I cut my foot open by stepping on a hoe.
  10. I saw the Feelies on their final tour.

Seven of the ten are travel-related. Huh.

Posted by dylan at 10:20 PM | Comments (5)

February 20, 2005

Microwhacked

Saturday night I put a bag of popcorn into the microwave. Hit start.

Nothing happens. Well, something happens -- the time clock goes blank, and the microwave is unresponsive.

It's dead, Jim. Emerson "Professional Series" with the brushed aluminum sides, 2001-2005.

After some poking and prodding and Googling, I track the probable cause of death to either the resistor or the capacitor. A microwave works by running a lot of energy through something called a magnetron. In turn, the magnetron turns the current into radio frequency radiation that excites the water molecules in Healthy Cardboard meals, causing them to produce heat. In order to keep things orderly in the box, you need a capacitor and a resistor to store incoming AC current and mete it out to the magnetron in such a way that it won't short out. If either one of these were to fail, you would get all sorts of oddities with electricity in the oven, including a complete frying of the electrical system. One would think that there would be a fuse or a breaker that could stop this from happening, but apparently, this particular model doesn't have one.

Here's the kicker: The magnetron has a seven year warranty; everything else, one year. If the magnetron had failed, we'd get the machine fixed without a charge. But since it's not, we were looking at $75 to get it fixed. A similar model (in cubic size and wattage) costs $60 new. So, guess what I did today.

We live in a disposable society here in the US, and it's annoying. Electronics and appliances are getting cheaper thanks for free trade, but the price point competition has led companies to trade quality for quantity. No one makes appliances that last because it's unprofitable for them to do so. Instead, they can whip out $50 microwaves that will last five years because people are willing to take the immediate, tangible savings and ignore the problems of repair and disposal later.

Remember Curtis Mathes? You youngins out there probably won't, but they used to be one of the biggest brands of higher-end console televisions in the US (If you don't know what a console TV looked like, here's a classic mid-70s Magnavox.) Their big selling point: A four year warranty. Their tagline: "The most expensive television in America, and darn well worth it." Then came the rise of Asian manufacturing and falling TV prices in the 80s and 90s. Suddenly, paying $1000 for a Curtis Mathes and its four year warranty seemed stupid when you could get an identical feature set from a Sharp for less than half that. So what if the Sharp or Toshiba crapped out after three years? Two Sharps were still cheaper than one Curtis Mathes over four years. Curtis Mathes went bankrupt; its name was bought by a Korean firm that sells its cut-rate Curtis Mathes branded sets through KMart. Their warranties are now all 90 day.

Toshiba and Sharp, though, got better over time. Toshiba, long known for TVs that gave up 91 days after the warranty, now makes much-sought-after DVD players. Sharp, always the "Japanese TV you bought if you didn't want a Toshiba but didn't have the money for a Panasonic," found its niche in the mid-range camcorder market. So, in the end, they accumulated the capital to become companies that produced quality consumer goods, while other firms (like Tatung and Goldstar) have taken over the cheap craptacular end of the market.

I'm not sure what to take from this whole rant. On the one hand, the disposability of electronics and appliances has given companies the room and capital to innovate. Our new microwave, despite being the same wattage and capacity of the old one, has more features and costs $40 less. On the other hand, I spent my afternoon replacing what should have been a perfectly working microwave with a new model that cost me $60 I won't be able to save or dispose of in another way. I may accept the advantages and benefits of a disposable global economy, but it doesn't mean I accept disposability as a good thing.

Posted by dylan at 10:06 PM | Comments (5)

February 18, 2005

Another long weekend

And what are we doing? Going to Whidbey for the weekend? Hanging out on the Peninsula? Doing the once-yearly trip to PDX to offload books at Powell's?

Of course not.

No, we're doing our best getting sick, like we do on every holiday.

On the positive end of things, we do have a baby sitter for an undisclosed time this weekend, so may or may not leave the house on a date.

Also, Annabel has a new song she likes: "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" by LCD Soundsystem. Apparently, when I was a child I used to dance in front of the TV to the theme from "Sanford and Son." Now, I have something to embarrass Annabel with when she's 32 and I comment in her blog.

If you want to dance along with her, here's a link to the song on iTunes.

Daft Punk Is Playing At My House Download "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House"

Posted by dylan at 10:21 PM | Comments (1)

February 15, 2005

That is, for example...

Look, for the billionth time people, use i.e. and e.g. CORRECTLY.

i.e. = id est = "that is"
e.g. = exempli gratia = "for the sake of example"

And here's how you use them:

Tyler didn't feel he had to justify his sleeping with Kaylee to Mikayla, i.e. (that is), his girlfriend.
Mikayla felt she had a number of justifiable reasons to dump Tyler, e.g. (for example) his repeated cheating on her with Kaylee.

I edited a 200 word paragraph this morning with no fewer than five misuses of i.e. and e.g. This is a REALLY SIMPLE CONCEPT, people. Learn the DIFFERENCE.

Posted by dylan at 12:11 PM | Comments (7)

February 14, 2005

That day again

Valentine's Day. It's a racket. A time for Hallmark to get in the black for the year. A time for rose growers to jack up prices on their fragrant carbon, color and water combinations into the "flowers or dinner, take your pick" range.

I used to come home and crank up "Love Stinks" by J. Geils. Now, though, I'm married, though to someone who'd prefer a book to a five carat diamond that was probably came from some African rebel group whose members' average age is hovering in the tweens.

I don't like that many love songs. I should be clear here, though. I'm not talking about Al Green or Marvin Gaye, because they weren't writing about love as much as the carnal knowledge of love. I like Al. I like Marvin. But neither of them could make "My Heart Will Go On" into anything that would in the slightest have me considering procreating with anything, let alone anybody.

There is, though, one love song I do like, one I could argue is my favorite one of all time. You'd never guess what it is.

No, go on. Guess. Really. Fire away.

BZZT.
BZZT.
BZZT.

Told ya you couldn't. Johnny, what's behind the extended entry curtain?

It's very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year
But forever and a day
The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
There just passing fancies and in time may go

But oh my dear
Our love is here to stay
Together we're going a long, long way

In time the Rockies may crumble
Gibraltar may tumble
They're only made of clay
But our love is here to stay

(and if any of you did guess it... I'm shocked. I don't even think my lovely wife knows this.)

Posted by dylan at 07:20 PM

February 10, 2005

You won't see me follow you back home

"Walk Away Renee" has been stuck in my head. All. Day. Long. Strangely, the Postal Service did a good job of breaking the loop.

And this brings us to one of our regularly intermittent C&S features, "Buy a song from iTunes and give me a nickel in the process."

There's been a lot of Nick Drake: The Next Generation bubbling up in the English folk-rock world in the last five years. First came David Gray in 2000, and then the can-he-be-any-more-overpopular Damien Rice in 2003. Meanwhile, poor Kathryn Williams isn't getting a lick of buzz anywhere in this country, and she may well be Nick Drake reincarnated as a woman. (Well, if you believed in that sort of thing, maybe you'd think that. I sure don't.)

Where Gray wants to make a techno Five Leaves Left and Rice wants a poppier Pink Moon, Williams just wants to write a song that's half as good as Drake or Cohen. She uses much sparser arrangements than either Gray or Rice and sings more plainly, almost a whisper. She's not trying to wail or belt, just sing a song.

The problem is, her CDs are really, really hard to get in this country. Right now they're running over $25 at Amazon, and you can't even get a new copy of Little Black Numbers here anymore. That, coupled with her complete inability to produce a catchy song like "Babylon" or "The Blower's Daughter," dooms her to a fan base of 46 in the US. (And, this isn't a knock on either song. It's just that they're real outliers of the mean for Gray and Rice.)

So, consider dropping a couple bucks on these songs. Then, take the $25 you had set aside for food and alcohol and try to find a copy of Little Black Numbers or Dog Leap Stairs. Once you do, you'll be able to reference a real live folk singer that no one on KEXP has ever heard of.

Jasmine Hoop Jasmine Hoop
Mirrorball Mirrorball

Posted by dylan at 11:58 PM

February 07, 2005

Coming attractions

The long-awaited redesign may make an appearance as early as the end of the month.

In addition... I'm planning on spinning off two new sub-sites to this one, both new blogs. One is a passion, the other is me compartmentalizing something I rarely ever talk about on this here blog. And both are directed by Steven Soderburgh, produced by Jerry Bruckhemier, and co-written by Douglas Coupeland, Neil Gaiman, and Donna Tartt.

No, wait. Getting them together would be too much effort. I'll just let Annabel do it.

Posted by dylan at 08:31 AM | Comments (2)

February 04, 2005

Dragging

It's Friday night, and it's been a strange, somewhat depressing week. Someone please say something nice about me. Really. I'm fishing for compliments. My self-esteem is pretty damn low right now.

Time for the hectic weekend.

Posted by dylan at 06:31 PM | Comments (7)

February 03, 2005

Meme #2

By way of Elaine.

A. First, recommend to me:
1. A movie:
2. A book:
3. A musical artist, song, or album:

B. Ask me three questions, no more, no less. You may ask me anything you want. Just keep it above the belt.

C. Copy and paste this in your blog.

Posted by dylan at 09:45 PM

Meme #1

Tara gave me permission.

Random 10 from a random iTunes shuffle (entire library):

1. "Hokey Pokey," Richard Thompson
2. "Bittersweet," Big Head Todd & The Monsters
3. "Retrieval Of You," The Minus 5
4. "Summertime [UFO Remix]," Sarah Vaughan (from the Verve Remixed album)
5. "Peace & Love," Camper Van Beethoven
6. "Tulips And Heather," Perry Como
7. "Mr. Bojangles," Jerry Jeff Walker
8. "Baby Love," The Supremes
9. "Sunflower Suit," Buffalo Tom
10. "Louise," John Lee Hooker

What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
9,999. Yes, one short of 10,000. 26 days, 6 hours, 29 minutes.

The last CD you bought is:
Hmm. Um. Let me check. "Faithless Street" by Whiskeytown, October 17th.

What is the song you last listened to before this message?
"Galveston," Glen Campbell. Shut up.

Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:

FIVE?
1. "Sandusky," Uncle Tupelo
2. "Love Is Not The Only Thing," Mark Heard
3. "Bittersweet," Big Head Todd and the Monsters
4. "Sweethearts," Camper Van Beethoven
5. "Let Down," Radiohead

Name three artists/bands you adore:

1. REM - It goes without saying, though their recent stuff is really getting pathetic.
2. Uncle Tupelo/Wilco/Son Volt - Alt-country's royal family (now divorced).
3. Whiskeytown - Because Ryan Adams doesn't sound overhyped when Caitlin Cary and Phil Wandscher are paying for his alcohol.

Who are you gonna pass this stick to (three persons and why)?
Three? Nah. I'll just tag the Rev. Hasty and be done with it. But if anyone else wants to be tagged, let me know.

Posted by dylan at 09:40 PM

February 01, 2005

Is he to be reached? He's not to be reached.

Another collection of random talking points:

I think that with men of my generation, it's not about cars, it's about computers. I know one guy my age who has any interest in cars, but I know ten guys who salivate when you mention hyperthreading or gigabit backbones.

Annabel, I think, is figuring things out. I was feeding her, and she took out the bottle and starting going "da da da da." I asked her who her Dada was, and she looked at me and smiled.

I'm working on a web project right now. My goal this year is six freelance sites. I'm available for wedding and bar mitzvah... web sites.

As mentioned before, I'm back on the diet. I'm on a two pound a week clip; if I can maintain that I'll be "healthy" by BMI standards on my birthday. Diets do odd things to me. I don't have a real blood sugar problem, but I've really wanted a Cornish pasty the last week or so. I haven't had a Cornish pasty in, well, this millenium. I don't even know where you can get one in the metro Seattle area.

I wonder if anyone from work reads this blog. I know someone just has to be.

I have a post that will eventually come out, in which I explain how I taught a web novice the CSS box model. Look for it this week, maybe.

There's this music meme circulating that I haven't been tagged by. The irony is, if you take the total number of digital music files of the three people listed above, then added another 3000 on top of that, you still would be short what I have by 1.5 times what Samantha has. Just another reminder that I'm not one of the cool kids.

In fact, you cool kids, I bet none of you can tell me anything about the title of this post without looking at Google.

Posted by dylan at 12:59 AM | Comments (3)