1/28/2004

Had a fun gig at St. Arnold's Brewery last night with Thomas Helton and Richard Cholakian. We played (quietly) a bunch of funk and jazz tunes, while some 25-35 year old Rice alumni mingled and drank beer. And we got to drink free beer too. I can say with authority that: beer is good!

And meanwhile, Dean comes in a strong second to Kerry in New Hampshire. That's as good as could be hoped after last week, and points to a Dean / Kerry matchup. I welcome that. I think when people look at Kerry in depth, they'll go for Dean, if they really want to have a chance at beating Bush. IMO.

1/27/2004

OK, I just got back from Drop practice, and yes, it's "worthwhile stuff". I was just in a weird mood when I wrote that before - I really am pretty psyched about all of my projects right now (except, perhaps, for my gainful employment; but who is ever really "psyched" about that, eh?) We (Drop) have been writing some crazy new prog tunes slated for our next album. We're kinda in a race against the clock at this point, cuz we wanna finish it before Ron's wife gives birth to Ron Jr.. Er ... Ronette? Well, her name is actually Pennie. But you get the point. We're zooming ahead to try and finish out a whole new repertoire in time for recording in early April.

So one of the problems we're having is song names. Not too few ... too many! Recently used song titles include: "Adcock Ice", "Faster Than A Motor Home", "Wake The Whale", "Jaaaaacob Maaaaarley", and "Cognac Morning". We keep coming up with new ones. Here's our list:

Pelted With Berets
The Best Nude Beach In Houston
That There
Tardigrade
Retromingent
A Chicken Caught The Wrong Bus
Arrroooo!!
Dropping Sticks
Whistling At Work
Monkey Bacon
Bow Hat
Have You Seen My Loft?
Blasphemoose
Achafalaya
Sit On A Potato Pan, Otis
The Big SO
2-1-1 Ratio
Playing To Backs

Which do you like best? Or, any other suggestions? (Mike and Ron, you're exempt from this discussion, we talk about this too much as it is.)

1/26/2004

I had a really nice weekend. Not too busy, not overy crazy or stressful or anything. I got to practice for a few hours, went to a great Free Radicals show, and just enjoyed myself. This morning I even got up early so I could go practice some more before work. It felt nice.

Today I'm busy at work, writing data import routines and other incredibly meaningful stuff like that. And tonight I've got Drop Trio practice. In fact, I've got practice or a gig or something pretty much every night this week. Jill and I were talking this weekend, and we were both like: when did we get so busy? Despite the minor respite on the weekend, my time just keeps getting more and more filled. I hope it's with worthwhile stuff.

By the way, I'd like to give a shout out to Star Pizza. Mmm, Star Pizza rules. I had it for lunch AND dinner yesterday. I'm still mad at them for closing down the Satellite Lounge, but I just can't ... stay ... away ...

1/25/2004

So Kerry won the Iowa primary, and now people are taking a harder look at him. I just read today that he has missed 70% of his Senate votes, including the recent medicare and overtime votes. And he voted for the Iraq war, against the 1st gulf war. That's a lot more fodder than Bush needs to totally bitch slap him.

We'll see. I'm not totally against Kerry - I mean, he's a liberal guy, and so am I. And he's a war vet, which means that he'd probably be more careful with our armed forces. But he seems like such a lame, washington insider type of candidate. Dean seems like something different, someone with integrity and guts. We'll see.

1/23/2004

Sorry, I don't mean for this to be an "all Dean all the time" blog. That's just what I've been thinking about a lot lately. Here's a quote by Russ Baker at TomPaine.com:
If anything, this affair is a kind of test. Dean seems too tough a customer to back out after such a setback. And the fact remains that he essentially still holds exactly the same constituency he did before. If his supporters keep their eye on the ball, if Dean refuses to be distracted or rattled, and if the media somehow manage to restrain their headlong rush into tabloid-land, this country may yet have a meaningful conversation on what really matters.
There was also a great "Top 10 List" on Letterman last night, delivered (via video) by Howard Dean himself:

Top Ten Ways I, Howard Dean, Can Turn Things Around

10. "Switch to decaf"

9. "Unveil new slogan: 'Vote for Dean and get one dollar off you next purchase at Blimpie'"

8. "Marry Rachel on final episode of 'Friends'"

7. "Don't change a thing -- it's going great"

6. "Show a little more skin"

5. "Go on 'American Idol' and give 'em a taste of these pipes"

4. "Start working out and speaking with Austrian accent"

3. "I can't give specifics yet, but it involves Ted Danson"

2. "Fire the staffer who suggested we do this lousy Top Ten list instead of actually campaigning"

1. "Oh, I don't know -- maybe fewer crazy, redfaced rants"

He can laugh at himself, and that's important. And I think people can laugh with him. But ... and I don't understand why this is ... so many people want to hate him. That's the part that might not be pull-off-able.

Then again, Clinton was the same way ... :)

1/22/2004

God, I've been going back and forth like a teeter totter for the past two days on this Dean thing. I support him and I think he would make the best president ever. He's really smart, really passionate about doing good, excellent on all the issues, etc. He seems like an admirable man.

But the entire media is just lambasting him this week over his speech in Iowa. How do you make a comeback from that? I mean, is there even a solution? The soundbyte is out of context (it was a rally for God's sake, with thousands of screaming supporters in front of him), but ... damn. The media portrayal is unfair, but it is what it is - the main image most people will have of Dean, unless he can give them a better one to inspire them. It's a pickle.
Mmm, the new Ani album is out, and believe it or not, you can listen to the whole thing streaming on her web site! I'm listening right now, and, well, it totally rules. I recognize a lot of the songs from when Jill and I saw her last fall. Ani, you are so awesome. :) She's speaking at SxSW this year, I hope I get to meet her.

1/20/2004

It's been a rough few days for the Dean campaign. In Iowa last night, Dean did better than Gephardt, who is dropping out now, but his weak 3rd place finish, and subsequent angry shouting speech, can only be described as a disaster.

What to do now? I'm excited about the Dean that I encountered 6 months ago ... but as everyone on the blog is saying, WTF? There is such possibility - Dr. Dean is very smart, he's great on all the issues, he's got more supporters and cash than any other candidate, and he really makes people excited. But they've made some serious mistakes lately: getting too angry, oversaturating Iowa with calls and campaigners, and lacking a really sharp, good looking media face.

One of two things will happen now. Dean's campaign will continue on it's present course, and he'll go down in flames. OR, Dean's campaign will take a dramatic shift in approach, based on the advice flooding in from hundreds of people, and come back swinging as the candidate I was supporting in the first place.

I hope it's the latter.

1/19/2004

I've been thinking about this whole "going to mars" thing. Maybe I'm jaded, but does anybody else see it as a completely transparent election year ploy? Bush has earmarked a couple billion dollars for something that experts are saying will cost well into the hundreds of billions of dollars, while meanwhile our deficits are soaring, poverty is higher than ever, Africa is basically one giant AIDS ward and average American families everywhere are being bankrupted every time they need to visit a hospital. Somebody said it recently, and I think it's fitting. Bush is the "Credit Card President". Buy now, pay later.

BTW, if you've never read "Get your war on", now would be a great time to start.

1/18/2004

Just got my blog comments up and running again - apparently BlogSpeak went under recently, but thankfully, they transmitted all of their comments over to HaloScan. So I've made the required changes and my comments should be back now. Hurrah!

1/15/2004

What a hectic couple days. I think I need to take more time to rest, my health has been flagging lately. I've had a persistent headache for the past 2 days (a bad one) and a couple cold sores in my mouth. I think those are both signs of too much stress.

The thing is, the stress is all self induced! I sit at my workstation all day and work (mostly on work work, and a little bit on personal work), whipping myself up to faster and faster paces. I wonder if that To-do list software is the problem? When I look at my todo list, it just stretches out into the distance with all my various plans. I try to work at double speed. I suppose what I need to do is build more "quality of life" tasks into my list. Like, "take a walk", "relax", etc. Hmm, I'll work on that.

Tonight Drop is over at Cotton Exchange Bar, and then tomorrow we trek to Lubbock. Gah. We were offered a show on Saturday with one of my favorite local bands, Clouseaux, but we decided to turn it down in favor of our own mental health. If we could quit the day jobs, that'd be one thing, but we're not quite there yet.

I don't know, I guess a couple days to chill out will do me good. Off for more asprin ...

1/09/2004

Yesterday, I received 3 late christmas presents (OK, 1 was a band purchase, but close enough).

1 - The Indie Bible - a great book with tons of information about how to "make it" as an independant musician. Thousands of web site listings that review music, articles about how to get your name trademarked, etc. Fun stuff (for me at least).

2 - The Slonimsky Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns - great fodder for practice, reccomended highly by most of the best musicians I've ever known.

3 - A Nomad Creative Jukebox 3 40GB audio recorder. This thing is all the rage among tapers, because it can record and store about 60 hours of music in CD quality (uncompressed) WAV audio, and you can then transfer those recordings to a PC more or less instantly. That is light-years beyond the minidisc method I've been using for taping Drop Trio shows. Now I just need to find a microphone for it ...

As of yet, I haven't been able to actually enjoy any of these new purchases, but I should be able to soon.

1/08/2004

I've lately been feeling like my life, and all the stuff I do on a daily basis, is spiraling out of control. I do things when I happen to remember them, and moreover, I'm not making progress on the bigger projects in my life that I know are really important (but might not be as "pressing").

So recently, I found this software called Life balance. It allows you to keep a hierarchical to-do list - a tree where to-do's can contain other to-do's, and you can break it down as finely as you want. Like, I might say that one item is "Print posters", which is under "Promote friday's concert" which is under "Promote my band". Then, by assigning each item a priority relative to it's parent task, it creates an ordered linear to-do list. So "print posters" might be extremely important to "Promote Friday's concert", but Friday's concert may be only moderately important to the bigger picture of "Promote my band". So all items compete for priority in the final to-do list by virture of the importance of their parent items.

I've been enjoying putting things into this list lately, and I'm coming close to feeling like "everything" is in there. I've got over 230 items in the hierarchy, which translates to some 75 tasks in the active list, ranging in importance from "Get a doctor's appointment" on down to "Enter friendster testimonials". You can assign due dates for tasks, make them repeat regularly, etc. You can also give them "places" so that they only show up on your list at certain times (like, for me, "practice piano" isn't going to show up while I'm at work because, well, there's no piano here at work).

The way that this program makes you think about your life is actually pretty interesting. Here's a very mundane example. One of my current "To Do" items has to do with this pair of brown dress shoes I'm wearing. They're nice enough shoes, but the right sole is coming unglued. Cheap to fix, I assume; but I've also been thinking about getting a new pair of brown work shoes anyway. In any event, I've got to do one or the other soon or it'll come completely off and that would be no fun.

On a normal to-do list, this might just be another item on the list, and would fall wherever you
Where in the hierarchy should I file this?

Well, my 3 top level categories are:
  • Be a loving person
  • Be a successful musician
  • Be a better computer programmer
(In that order.) The "Be a loving person" category is where stuff like cleaning the house goes - the thought being that if I let my dishes pile up, for example, I'm hampering my ability to love myself. I suppose I could make a "Do mundane stuff" category or something, but I'd rather think of the big picture and keep a sense of, really, why I am living. Anyway, under the first category, the next level down has:
  • Love Others
  • Love Myself
Shoes are my own problem, so they go under myself. Next down is:
  • Stay Healthy
  • Reflect and learn
  • Keep Organized
  • Have Fun
Ah, here's a problem. I've got no category here that these fit into. Shoes have nothing to do with my physical health, my mental peace and learning, my personal organization, or having fun. I suppose you could consider them part of house cleaning, which is part of keeping organized, but that seems like a stretch. So I ask myself, why do I need to fix the shoes? The answer is, because I want to maintain a comfortable and day-to-day life. I realize that being organized and being healthy are both actually just part of this desire. So I reorg it like this:
  • Reflect and Learn
  • Increase Comfort
    • Stay Healthy
    • Keep Organized
    • Improve Surroundings
      • Improve Home (moved from "Keep Organized)
      • Improve wardrobe
        • Fix Shoes
  • Have Fun
(In the program, you can just drag and drop items to move them around the tree, so this was an easy change.)

See what I mean? Something as mundane as fixing my shoes has prompted me to examine my priorities on a bigger scale and understand how things fit together.

The main problem with this software is that it takes a lot of time, especially to get started. One of my main activities this week has just been putting in to-do items. But the thing that takes all the time is figuring out where stuff goes, not actually working the software. And that's effort that should be expended anyway - the unexamined life is not worth living, right? I don't know if examining it this closely is always helpful (some might even call it compulsive?) but the main goal is to prevent the big, amorphous stuff from getting lost in the daily din. I'll let you know if it works.

Now I can cross of my top to-do item - write in my blog. :)

1/04/2004

We took our Christmas tree off to be recycled yesterday, so I guess the holidays are officially over. ├╝berjam and I decided that we love the Houston Recycling Center. It's easy to get to (right off 59 at fountainview) and they take glass, computers, paint, and Christmas trees. What more could you ask? Try it, you'll love it.

Despite the ease of getting rid of it this year, we still decided that next year we want to go the living tree route. Cuz it sucks to cut down something that would live for years, just for a decoration that lasts 2 weeks. Why not keep it alive and plant it after Christmas?

1/03/2004

Happy new year! It's been a few days since I posted. I wanted to give that last post as much "above the fold" time as I could, because it's important.

And what's new with me? Let's see, ├╝mberjam and I had a nice NYE - we drove out to Austin and hung with her brother and his girlfriend. Ended up going to the Continental Club to see the Damnations. They were pretty damn good. Just when I thought I had them figured, the bass player handed off her bass and sat down at a Wurlitzer electric piano and nailed some serious blues riffs for a couple tunes, right as we were about to ring in the new year. It was a good time (outrageous cover notwithstanding, and missing Stanton Moore notwithstanding).

There really is something special about Austin - I can't put my finger on it, but every time we go there, the second I get out of the car, I breathe in the air, and it just feels ... better. Cleaner? Maybe. Whatever it is, Austin is a town that attracts jam and I.

But alas, now it's back to H-Town, described recently by Craig Lindsey as a city that's like a mean girlfriend who cooks really well - you feel like you should leave, but you can't bring yourself to. Today is gray and still, calm.