10/31/2003

Happy Halloween! I got my first blog comments spam yesterday. Maybe it was due to cabbage night?

10/30/2003

Today's news is that the British MPs have voted to downgrade Marijuana to a less illegal drug, no longer an arrestable offense.

To me (and most sane people I know), this is welcome news. The war on drugs is an illegitimate, moralistic, costly affair that helps nobody and hurts many. If you really want to stop harmful drug use, legalize and control it - people who do enough of it to endanger themselves (or who EVER endanger anyone else by their drug use) are then out in the open and thus can be helped (or imprisoned) as appropriate. Total drug prohibition is like preaching abstinance over condoms in Africa - it doesn't work, and millions of people have their lives ruined as a result.

At the very least, drug use (on its own) should not be a criminal offense - our jails are full of non-violent drug offenders, and that just plain sucks. The history of marijuana criminalization, in particular, is rife with racism (black people mostly smoked it) and economic cronyism (timber companies didn't like that you could make a lot more paper a lot cheaper from hemp). Maybe that's still with us, or maybe it's just momentum, but I can't think of any modern reason why it is criminal to have and use this plant. Drug use (when it doesn't endanger anyone) is a personal choice, just like religion and diet and body modification and whatall else.

10/29/2003

Just rediscovered a piece of time-management software called Life Balance. I had used it a couple years back when it was just for Mac OSX, but now it's on Windows too so I can use it at work.

Basically, it's a to-do list. But the cool thing is, you can put in to-do items, big or small, sweeping or discrete, from all the different competing areas of your life. They can contain sub-tasks, so the whole thing is hierarchically organized. (For example, you could make a task "Get organized", and within that, tasks for "Clean out desk", "Respond to emails", etc.). Then you can state which tasks are most important to their parent tasks. From there, it basically organizes your to-do list based on importance.

Seems kind of silly, but I have found that this software really does work. The typical view of human memory is that short term memory holds an average of 7 items at a time (that's a simple and outdated model, but it's generally agreed that you can only keep a small, discrete set of items in mind at once; see this paper for a fascinating look at human memory). Anyway, I've got way more than 7 things going on at any one time - more like 70. Rather than just dealing with whatever happens to be most in my face at any given time (like, what's an emergency, what's the squeaky wheel), this software lets me focus on what's most important first, even if it's not the most obvious thing. So long term goals, if you've said they're more important than short term stuff, get more priority. You can adjust it over time if you don't think it accurately reflects your priorities, but if you use it right and are honest about what's important, it might surprise you what you need to do next.

There, now I can check "Write in my blog" off. Phew.

10/27/2003

Our wonderful friend Carrie Kirby (Sinophile, Kenoshan, and writer for the SF Chronicle) is having a baby!
Great essay by IdiotProgrammer about leaving Austin. He captured the spirit of what so many of us went through in the dotcom boom (he was in Austin, I was in San Francisco - same difference). I came to Houston for somewhat different reasons (my wife entered graduate school here). But everything else - the high cost of living, job hunting, trying to get by without the resources, doing jobs you hate, worrying about the next layoff, wanting so badly to stay in that wonderful town - yes. And likewise this strange, unfathomable affection for the homely hometown of Houston, that takes you in and lets you live your life.
Two highlights of the evening yesterday:

1. Witnessing 60 musicians in 60 minutes. The superb musical performances ran the gamut - each was totally unique and interesting, surprising and creative. From the dual slide whistles to the giant Hamburg drum, it really was a masterpiece - a quilt of Houston's creative music community. Way to go POF!

2. Seeing J. W. Americana perform for the first time, at the Houston Music Foundation benefit. These guys are wacko and amazing - it's got to be seen to be believed. I am planning decisively to hit their Nov. 18th show at Rudz.

Ed. Note, 11:36 pm - Turns out their site is wrong, and the date at Rudz is 11/15. Which stinks for me cuz I'll be playing out of town, but it's better for them, since that's a Saturday night and not a Tuesday. Ah well.

10/26/2003

We're spending our extra hour this morning listening to Elliot Smith records. Getting ready to go grab some brunch at the Black Lab (best brunch in town, by the way) and then head over to the Call & Converge festival at Barnevelder. It will be really interesting, if you like creative improvisation and amazing art by local artists, you owe it to yourself to come by. It starts at 3, and I'll play at around 8.

10/24/2003

Music outlook this weekend is great, make sure you go see live music! Tonight (Friday):

- Drop Trio (w/ Olospo) @ Rhythm Room
- Houston Indymedia Party @ Helios w/ Free Radicals & DRUM
- Oteil & The Peacemakers (w/ Vibe Committee) @ Last Concert Cafe
- Hilary Sloan @ West Alabama Ice House
- Junior Senior @ Stuka (Jill's pick)
- Clouseaux @ Rudyard's

Tomorrow night (Saturday):

- Drop Trio @ Brasil
- Free Radicals / Persephone / Voltron Harmonix @ Dubtex Warehouse
- Norma Zenteno @ Cosmos
- D.R.U.M. @ Last Concert Cafe
- (Daytime) Joe's Roadhouse @ Rhythm Room (Live broadcast on KPFT)
- Carolyn Wonderland / Buddhacrush @ Rhythm Room

Sunday:
- I play in "60 Musicians in 60 Minutes" for the POF "Call and Converge" @ Barnevelder
- Houston Music Foundation kickoff event @ Engine Room

10/23/2003

Last night as I was loading in for my gig, I had the pleasure of seeing the very first Metro Rail operational test. VERY exciting. They're quite nice looking (I wish I had, or could find, a picture. It's kinda like this but taller and more futuristic looking. Here's a video if you really care to see it.)

All the bartenders on main street were out with bottles of champagne, toasting the train as it went by.

10/22/2003

Terrible news - seems that Elliot Smith has committed suicide.
Neighborhood blogger Claire got her car broken into last night, as we did recently. I wonder if it's just one dude with a penchant for cheap car stereos? I wonder, further, if our neighborhood watch group is making any difference in the crime rate.

After some research I see that you can actually look up crime stats by neighborhood in Houston. Here are the stats for our neighborhood. Looks like there are about 60 car break ins a month in our area of town. That is one busy dude!

10/21/2003

Possibly the most genius. mocumentary. ever.

"Skipping rocks is just too empircal ... too limiting."

10/20/2003

Anybody want to be my sponsor? I am playing this Sunday in a performance called "60 Musicians In 60 Minutes", which is part of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation's "Call and Converge" event happening at the Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex. I am supposed to find one or more people to sponsor me to the tune of $10. All proceeds benefit the Pauline Oliveros Foundation. Any takers?

For more background: the Pauline Oliveros Foundation was founded by (you guessed it) Pauline Oliveros, a 20th century composer (with an impressive discography) who was originally from Houston. She's a big supporter and enthusiast for creative improvisatory music. She comes out of the "classical" tradition (meaning, western-based through-composed music with historical roots in the Classical period), but she pushes any and all boundaries, and her music is now best called "Deep Listening Music", meaning it fuses a spiritual / psychological focus in the listener with a deeply creative & free approach to making sound. Her foundation thrives today in several cities, one of which is Houston. Dave Dove, a local trombonist and improviser, is the head of the foundation locally, and he has gathered to himself a wide array of local Houston (and Austin) musicians interested in free improvisation. Not what you'd expect from a city like Houston, eh? Anyway, this Sunday is their BIG EVENT. There will be an art show, free food, live improvised music, and then the aforementioned "60 Musicians in 60 Minutes" piece, which I'll be participating in. (BTW, some of the other friends of mine in it you might know and / or want to sponsor: Brian Allen, Brian Arthur, Maria Chavez, Chris Cogburn, Thomas Helton, and Mike Switzer.)

Even if you're not interested in sponsoring me, make a point to come by the Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex (east side of downtown) this Sunday, anytime after 3:30 pm (there's a suggested $4 donation). I guarantee it'll be one of the most unique creative experiences you've ever had in Houston.

10/19/2003

Nice review of my good friends m headphone. They recently trekked back east after several years in California (as did I, though to a different destination, mine being somewhat more south than Connecticut). It's a great review, and they deserve it - they are an amazing band. Go check out their site and listen to some of their music, it's totally catchy.

10/17/2003

OK, it's official: I get too much email. It's not yet 5pm, and already today I've gotten over 75 emails, about half of which are important things I need to respond to. Perhaps I need some better email tools.
Mike Switzer points out a great new way to amuse yourself on the web. It's called Googlism, and it basically uses Google search results to suck out a series of more or less sensible phrases that can be applied to the given query. Try it, put in your own name.

It's just the sort of unintentional poetry you might find from the likes of Donald Rumsfeld. I think my favorites are the ones about George Bush and cameltoe. What's your favorite?

10/16/2003

Big news for Windows users who like music: Apple just released iTunes (complete with iTunes music store access) for PC. I just downloaded and installed it, and it works just like my Mac version. Beautiful. It is light years beyond any exsting MP3 players for Windows, especially the piece of crap known as windows media player. Woo hoo!
Weekend music roundup ...

Thursday
- Cezanne Jazz Jam
- Phuz @ Grabba Java
- Beetle @ Continental Club
- Carla Bozulich @ Super Happy Fun Land (Mike Switzer recommends)
- Melinda Mones @ Blanco's
- Norma Zenteno @ Sambuca
Friday
- Plump & Brothers Past @ Rhythm Room (Charles Bishop recommends)
- Tru Sol @ Warehouse Music Cafe & Icehouse
- Ulu @ Last Concert Cafe
- New Jack Hippies @ Rowdy's
- Southern Backtones @ Continental Club
Saturday
- Drop Trio, Dubtex, DJ Swift & DJ Suma @ Dubtex Warehouse (1211 Hutchins @ Polk)
- Rosta Jazz Avengers @ Super Happy Fun Land (8pm, so you can go see them and still make it over to the Drop Trio Fire & Ice party w/ Dubtex)

Of course, there's a lot more than that ... check out the KFPT Music Calendar for the full details.

10/15/2003

Just got home from a couple hours of practice, and it feels great. This fall, thanks in large part to piano lessons I'm taking, I have found a renewed sense of joy in practice. Or maybe "renewed" is the wrong word, since that implies that it was there before. No, I have never really enjoyed practice before. But now it feels right. I am learning from it, almost every time, and seeing (small) progress. Tonight I also wrote the 2nd half of a new jazz tune I'm working on. (Any name suggestions? Leave a comment...)

10/14/2003

OK, finally I have gotten my blogroll together. (A blogroll is a list of other blogs that you link to.) Here's the list (also on the right now) with a bit of explanation for each:

Friends o' mine:
Polyphony - Good friend from Skidmore, now living in DC, and just engaged to be married.
Nino - Sometimes bass player for my band, Drop Trio.
Alpern - Fascinating guy I know from Skidmore - a fellow fan of Hofstaedter and cognitive philosophy. Now working as a UI designer at eBay.

Locals:
Not A Compliment - Mike Switzer, local trombonist and misantrhopic populist.
Poopscape - Montrose resident, craftswoman, restraunt critic and new mom.
Houston Calling - High quality local music blog by David Cobb.
Idiotprogrammer - Fellow computer guy & music fan in Houston who is experimenting with listening only to freely available MP3s.
Overflow - Cody, a Houston dad & computer guy; writes really insightful stuff about spirituality and its continual clash with daily life.
Perfectly Cromulent - Local music fan & left leaning political observer
Dan Workman - Producer at SugarHill studios

National:
Dr. Howard Dean - Howard Dean's campaign blog (the original, the busiest, the best). Dean is my man - a smart, down to earth guy with sensible policies.
Cho - Margaret Cho rocks my world, now on a daily basis.
OM Trio - Stories of the road from America's hardest travelling metal funk jazz trio.

I'm always looking for new ones - I figure that I can fit about a dozen or so in my daily reading list, so as I find new ones, I'll bump others off to make room.
Ani was most righteously, outrageously amazing. She is one of the few celebrities who I actually look up to. She is an inspired, honest performer, a brilliant songwriter, a straight up poet. She makes me want to be the best, highest version of myself; she inspires me to keep trying lofty things no matter how many times I fail. She can laugh at herself, which is the best thing.

"When I look down, I miss all the good stuff;
when I look up, I just trip over things."
Go Ani, we are right there.

10/13/2003

Getting ready to head over to see Ms. Ani Difranco downtown! I am very very excited. I bought the tickets (v. good seats) off somebody who got them right when the box office opened and then had to get married or something instead. Just goes to show that there's something worth reading on Hands Up Houston.

10/12/2003

OK, ignore my previous endorsements of eMusic. From a message titled "important subscriber information" they just posted:

As of November 8, EMusic will be discontinuing the unlimited service offering and replacing it with a new service offering that places a reasonable limit on the number of downloads available to each subscriber in a billing month.

At that time, EMusic will offer two service plans:

EMusic Basic: $9.99 per month/maximum 40 downloads
EMusic Plus: $14.99 per month/maximum 65 downloads
I guess I will be downloading everything I can from eMusic between now and then and then promptly cancelling my subscription in favor of the iTunes music store, which has much better selection ...

10/11/2003

Dang am I tired. It's 3am and I just got home from our Super Happy Fun Land show tonight. And of course, after playing an intense show, schlepping my gear in and out of the venue and the van, and driving home ... now I can't sleep! Isn't that always the way. It could be worse, I could be stuck on a couch in Allentown, PA. But no, I must go rest, we've got big stuff to do tomorrow.

10/10/2003

I've been listening to Sebastian Whittaker for the first time today - he's a nationally recognized drummer from here in Houston. It's awesome - just good solid straight ahead jazz, played masterfully. I downloaded all of his records from eMusic, which if you've not heard of it, you should check out. It's a legit mp3 downloading company; you pay a monthly fee of $14.95, and then you can download a basically unlimited number of entire albums in mp3 format. The downside is that their catalog is somewhat limited. But if you like jazz, they will hook you up. Every Bill Evans record ever made is on there (and yes, I have downloaded them all, though I haven't listened to them all yet). Lots of Miles Davis, Coltrane, Monk, etc.. And little gems like, well, Bash. You can sign up for a free trial, where they give you something like 50 mp3s.

10/09/2003

It is pouring rain right now - people are talking about floods and tornados and stuff. Meanwhile, I have to cross the city twice this evening: once to get over to a lesson at HCC (on the far west side of town) and then again to get to a gig downtown (east side of town) tonight. Of course, if it's really flooding, we probably won't get to play our gig. Or maybe people will just treat it like a swim up bar?

10/08/2003

Ahhhhh! It's freaking me out! This picture has no moving parts.
Saw my friend Turlach Boylan and his group Glen Road last night at the Mucky Duck. It was a wonderful show - Turlach was funny and is a truly amazing player - he just makes the music feel right. Mike Dugger, an old favorite of mine from my radio days, was on guitar and mandola, and his songs were really touching, especially Tender Mercies and Rosemary's Sister. The group is rounded out by Greg Brown, a Newfoundlander who plays fiddle, concertina and guitar like nobody's business. I picked up a copy of their new album, "Round The Bend", and I've already listened to it twice. They played lots of the tunes from the record at the Duck - my favorite part was the end of Queen Amongst the Heather, where they broke into double time and played the tune Morning Dew. All in all, it was a great show, and I'm glad I caught it. I only wish they would play in Houston a bit more often!

10/07/2003

OK, time to fess up - Jill and I have been taking dance lessons. There, I said it.

And you know what? It's actually fun. We're taking lessons with a guy named Rabih (yes, that's him in all the pictures). But I've noticed since starting that there are actually lots of dance events in Houston - one this Thursday at the Black Swan, and lots of others scattered around. The City Cafe web site actually has lots of information about dancing (as well as other good events).

10/06/2003

Hey, my good friend Carey from Skidmore is engaged! Who would ever have thought that all that flirting in the music building would actually lead something? ;-)

Carey also illuminated me as to the etymology of my internet namesake, esemplastic. I never even knew it was connected with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Finally back in H-town after a whirlwind trip up north. The wedding was wonderful and went off without a hitch. The reception was awesome (held in the old Cambridge Hotel - which, I will have you know, is the original home of pie a la mode). We stayed the night in their lovely Autumn Delight room (which would have been all the more delightful had there not been a neighboring room with the TV on full blast all night). All in all, it was a much needed and appreciated visit (though I can't say we were sad to step off the plane into Houston's 70 degree weather, after freezing in the northeast for a few cold, soggy days.)

10/04/2003

Grandfathers have been collected, mascara has been located, dance lessons and wedding rehearsals have been accomplished ... now all we've got to do is get her married! It's been a drizzly morning, but it was brigtened immeasurably by Happy Bob's Polka Magic show, a standard bearer at WSPN for years.

Now I'm off to don my tux and try to act calm.

10/03/2003

I'm sitting here at the Skidmore library in Saratoga Springs, NY. It's the day before my sister's wedding, and there's a flurry of activity. My part is mostly done, except for the random grandfather & mascara pickup, figuring out how to get a pair of tuxedo pants that doesn't have cuffs just below my knees, etc.

But it's wonderful to be here, in upstate New York. Skidmore is beautiful at this time of year - I remember being in awe of the surroundings every fall while I was an undergrad here. I've been eating Macoun apples pretty much continuously since we got here, and I actually have to wear a coat! I visited with my good high school friends who have kids (!!) and got to stroll around Saratoga a bit. This is such a good place, and I miss it.

Being back, it's hard to concieve of the intervening 6 years - living on Martha's Vineyard, working through the dotcom boom in San Francisco, getting married in Beaumont, moving to Houston and starting a funk jazz band ... time moves quickly, doesn't it?

10/01/2003

For some reason, it's been an amazingly busy couple days. Last night I stayed up late watching the numbers and comments roll in for the Dean campaign. There's so much energy in this campaign, it's unbelieveable. They raised over 5 million dollars in 10 days, and the average donation size was $86. Tonight there's a meetup over at Schlotzky's that I'm going to hit. Then it's off to packing for a trip up to the northeast for my sister's wedding this weekend!