The Christmas merchandise hits the shelves in early October anymore, pushing the Halloween junk off the racks before the day even gets here. My wife succumbed to that somewhat when last night she took the cat's eyes out of the upstairs windows before dark. She did, however, leave the mummy in the downstairs windows and the jack o'lanterns on the porch bannister. But, I digress. Christmas has become the be-all and end-all for the American (or as I like to refer to us, USers) consumerist economy. Most retailers do a huge majority of their business in the run-up to Christmas. In their current desparation, given the state of the economy, the value of the dollar, the crisis in the real estate market, the impending Presidential election, and the record breaking price of oil and oil company profits, the Christmas "push" seems to come earlier and earlier, with deeper discounts given closer to the start of the greed season. In all of this, Halloween has gained ground somehow, with more people decorating for the demonic holiday than ever before. Yet with the increase of Halloween celebration and the encroachment of Christmas into autumn, Thanksgiving has been pressured almost out of existence, and it's the one true, genuine American holiday, forgetting for the moment that every tradition and myth about it is based on a lie. . . much like any other holiday.
Having said, I can see from the following quotation that this trend has been going on for a long time. It's amazing that sometimes what we think of as "modern" conditions can be found in the ranting and railing of people from more than 100 years ago, like Nietzsche and his condemnation of the deterioration of the quality of education. Wonder what he'd think now?
Quote of the Day: "I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness."
-- Julia Peterkin, A Plantation Christmas, 1934
This is another of those over-exposed photographs that I took last weekend on our day trip to Green Bank and the Cranberry Glades. I managed to "correct" it to a usable form. This is a thicket alongside the boardwalk through Round Glade.
It really bothers me when I do something boneheaded like inadvertently setting the exposure compensation when I don't need to. I'm not exactly sure how I manage to do that. Still it irks me.
Hey, it's November!
I structured these journal pages this way because the reverse order of most blogs or the one entry per page of some seemed, in order, cumbersome, and inefficient. One problem with the way I've done things is that after the current month is over, the links that anyone might have made to a specific entry or to the current page are automatically broken. I've been thinking about doing something about that. Instead of linking to http://www.ide-a.net/current/index.html#Nov022007 as in the past, starting with this month, you can link directly to http://www.ide-a.net/nov07/index.html#Nov022007 and get the same result after December first. Currently, I'm still keeping the ide-a.net/current/ directory active, but I'm thinking possibly of creating a way to point all the links that currently aim at that directory to the monthly directory as the months flip over. I'm not sure that it's a simple thing to do without using redirection. Not very many external sites link to a specific month and day, but there are a few. I'd like to make it consistent and keep links from breaking. I'm not exactly sure how to do that, but I'm giving it some thought.
Today's Fortune, Cookie:
My Zoom guitar effects pedal developed a hiss and some crackly noises. I got a return authorization number and sent it off for repair. It's been four weeks since it went to New York. I miss it. I bought a Boss distortion pedal to kind of fill in the gaps in the meantime, but it's not working well. My Zoom G2.1u works better than any other multi-effects pedal I've ever used, and the switching is so fast as to be instantaneous. I wish it would come home.
Quote of the Day: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand , a good Reisling in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - WOO HOO, what a ride!"
-- from an e-mail .sig file
Last time we went to Green Bank they let us shoot photos of the GBT and other telescopes from the tour bus and on the stops it made. In fact, they even stopped at certain vantage points on request. This time things were a lot tighter. Only film cameras were allowed to be operated within the site boundaries and the only opportunity those of us in the digital realm had was from an observation platform outside the preserve. The GBT was over a mile away. Of course this point of view allows you to see how big that sucker really is. It looks nice against the backdrop of the hills, too. Like I said, to put things in perspective, this shot was taken from over a mile away using a focal length of 97 mm. The puppy is 455 feet tall and you can easily fit a football stadium on the dish.
The city left a knob-hanger on the door yesterday and another one under the windshield wiper on the cars on the street (possibly just on this side of the street) informing us that paving on the street was to commence within 24 hours. We were advised to move our cars by 7:00 am this morning. Well, the crew showed up just before noon, cleaned out the holes they left when they did the sidewalks, then left. I had to park around the corner at the end of the block. This bunch inconvenienced us for over five weeks when they did the sidewalks (which was supposed to be two weeks) and now they're going to do it again. No one will return calls from the City Traffic Engineering department and our city councilman can't seem to get any better results on this matter than we, as individuals can. This is messed up.
Saturday I went to the Pied Piper (music store) after the flea market. At the flea market I bought a fixer-upper guitar, a mid-80's (or mid-90's) Epiphone Les Paul Limited Edition. I went to the Piper to get a strap. While I was there I saw a nice guitar for my granddaughter (she's only six so I doubt she'll be browsing here and find out about this) for Christmas. Anyway, to make a long story. . . well, different, I started thinking that maybe I'd better go ahead and get it (her dad was going to give me the money for it on December first). So, yesterday I went to the Pied Piper again and got her the guitar (with included "durable" gig bag), a bright red strap, a Dean Markley tuner, and some picks. On my way into the store, I noticed something red under the bushes in front of the store. I looked closer and the something red was inside a plastic barrel, like the ones bubble gum, candy or other counter-positioned merchandise comes in. It didn't have a lid, so I poked my can into the aperture and picked it up. I took it inside and asked if anyone knew anything about it. The red inside the barrel turned out to be a Fender ball cap. Additionally there was an envelope that resembled those that banks use to dispense cash, and two Hampton Inn room keycards. I now own the cap. I'd love to hear the rest of this story. . .
Quote of the Day: "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
Keith Olberman is my hero again (actually, still). Last night on his Countdown show, he had a special comment on Torture, Waterboarding, and the Criminal Conspiracy to keep George W. Bush and Dick Cheney out of prison. What I want to know, is "Where is the outrage?" Why is there not a groundswell of public ire, demanding that this Texas Mafia family be impeached, arrested, tried, and imprisoned, like forever!? NOTE: The video in the above link might not start automatically. You might have to find the link next to the video screen and click on it as well.
Song Lyric of the Day:
I am the one in ten
A number on a list
I am the one in ten
Even though I don`t exist
Nobody Knows me
But I`m always there
A statistical reminder
Of a world that doesn`t care
-- UB40, One in Ten
Anyway, back to the Epiphone Les Paul. I'd always avoided Epiphone instruments because I'd just assumed they were inherently inferior since a lot of the time they cost 1/5 the price of the Gibson equivalent. Now that I've played a few of them and looked at the construction, I realize I was wrong. Some of the components that go into the Epiphone guitars is of lesser quality than those that go into the similar Gibson model. For starters, the Epiphone Les Paul does have the Les Paul signature, and it does say "Gibson" on the truss rod cover. The pots are not as robust as those on a Gibson Les Paul. The switch is an enclosed Single-pole toggle switch instead of a reed switch on the Gibson models. Okay, $12.68 fixes that. The pots work, but will fail eventually. When the first one goes, I'll replace them all with heavier duty components. The screws on the surface of the guitar are all corroded. $0.37 each. No big deal. The switch plate is worn and the jack plate is cracked. A total of $2.62 replaces both. The fret board needed some love, too. I took care of that last night. I need to obtain some pickup guard and pickup mount screws and the large screw that holds the pick guard to the bracket. Some better machines would be nice too. All-in-all, it will cost very little to upgrade a cheap Epiphone to Gibson standards and quality. And it sounds so sweet, too.
I made some improvements to the Epiphone Les Paul. I replaced the worn and cracked switch plate and jack plate. I put in new screws in all the body plates and pickguard. I replaced the jack and switch with better components. I conditioned the fretboard and changed strings. While I had the strings off, I noticed the top corner of the nut has been broken. It's not deep enough to affect the low-E string, but eventually I'll need to replace it. I put new amber speed knobs on it, replacing the "bell" knobs that came on it. Other improvements to be made will be replacing the bridge (Gotoh has a clone replacement that I've used before), replacing the machines, and completely rewiring using better components. The tuners are not the same quality of the Gibsons, but Grover makes a 15:1 ratio, screw-for-screw replacement for less than $50.00 and they match the style pretty much exactly. I could replace the pickguard, but I really don't see any point in doing so. There are a few dings in the finish, but nothing really even noticeable unless you look really close, and at the back and edge. The case is a mess. I ran some photographer's tape around the edges and touched up the surface scrapes and dings. I may either varnish it or just ditch it and get a new case altogether. I'm enjoying this project. I'll probably spend a total of $150 on improvements, not counting the case, which puts the total outlay at less than I'd have to have paid for a perfect condition equivalent or a new one. This guitar is still in production and costs about $600 new. Mine was made in Korea in 1996. This makes the fifth Korean-made instrument I have. The quality is superb on all of them.
Quote of the Day: "So, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, if you go for all these fairy tales, that "evil" woman convinced the man to eat the apple, but the apple came from the Tree of Knowledge. And the punishment that was then handed down, the woman gets to bleed and the guy's got to go to work, is the result of a man desiring, because his woman suggested that it would be a good idea, that he get all the knowledge that was supposedly the property and domain of God. So, that right away sets up Christianity as an anti-intellectual religion. You never want to be that smart. If you're a woman, it's going to be running down your leg, and if you're a guy, you're going to be in the salt mines for the rest of your life. So, just be a dumb fuck and you'll all go to heaven. That's the subtext of Christianity. "
-- Frank Zappa
Well, it looks like the economy is headed for the crapper. Oil prices will soon be over $100 a barrel, the housing market is collapsing, the dollar is on its way to equivalency with the peso. A lot of what's going on is due to the predatory practices of lenders, banks, and others. The people least able to afford to pay for financial services are the ones who have to pay the most. People took on these variable mortgages because that was the only way they could afford to buy. Did the banks and mortgage companies not forsee that when the rates and payments went up that there would be mass default and foreclosures? I'm sure they did. They just didn't see it as their problem. In many ways, it's not, but when the dollar falls and recession sets it, it will be everyone's problem. Reagan started this mess with his deregulation of vital industries. Bush 41 continued the process. Clinton even did his part with NAFTA and some other less-than-consumer-friendly measures. Now Bush 43 has really fucked things up, and the people on the lower half to two-thirds of the economic spectrum will be the ones who absorb most of the impact. Heads need to roll. People need to go to prison. And I'm not talking about anyone outside the executive branch of government. It's all so discouraging. If you want, go to my Information Page and donate to my "Emmigrate to France" fund.
In reference to the above photo, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Next time I'll try my best to remember to pay attention to the Exposure Compensation settings.
I ordered some of the parts to work on my Epiphone from Stewart-McDonald. Since most of the screws on the instrument were corroded, I ordered 20 Gibson-style plate screws. Well, they might work well on Gibsons, but they're too small to replace the ones on the Epiphone. I had to make a trip to Lowe's and settle for zinc instead of nickel, flush instead of domed. They look fine, though. In my sojourn at Lowe's I finally discovered where I'd bought my cable ties. I'd looked at Lowe's before, but I found the velcro ties in the hardware section. I'm not sure I understand that. Oh well. I now have enough ties to last me a while, maybe for decades.
I hab a code.
Cold's somewhat better, thanks for asking. I know that's a comma splice technically, but how else ya gonna get the flow of that right? I hate colds and the like. At the Open Stage Friday at least one performer brought his own windscreen for the microphone. That's probably a good idea this time of year. I know when I sing I sputter a bit. It was during Friday evening that I started to realize I was actually coming down with a cold. I hope I didn't spread it too widely. Speaking of Open Stage, it was very good. There were a few "regulars" notably missing. Our token Republican, Dick Patton and his minion (note the singular case of that) weren't there, nor was one of my favorites, Mike Arcuri. Also absent were the trio who play bowed saltries and dulcimers. For the second month in a row, there was a fellow who played the Celtic harp. I kept thinking about a Guinness all the while he was playing.
Song Lyric of the Day:
"When you're out for revenge dig two graves
When you run from the truth it comes in waves "
-- T-Bone Burnett, Every Time I Feel the Shift
Microsoft really bugs me sometimes. Every Tuesday they do their automatic updates and every Wednesday I have to set my e-mail client back to what it was before the update changed it to Outlook. Yes, I have Outlook, along with the rest of Office 2003 on my machine, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to use it as my default e-mail client! You'd think they'd check to see what I'm using before changing it. I will NOT be intimidated by updates!
Quote of the Day: "A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians. "
-- Frank Zappa
If you hadn't noticed, I'm a real big fan of Frank Zappa. Like so many of the people I admire, he died too soon.
Uh huh. Riiiight. You've heard it. Those who deny any consequences of our pumping tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere constantly spout the homily, "Global Warming is a Myth," or something to that effect. They've bought it, like they do many other things that harm us all and benefit corporations, lock, stock, and barrel, and they parrot the excuses, apologies, and denials fabricated for them by the corporate masters. They can deny any relationship between what we do to the environment and the melting icecaps. They can blame any climate change on cow farts. Let's see them deny this: Today, our mail carrier was delivering mail wearing shorts! It's two days until Thanksgiving, folks. Right now it's mid-60's outside with a high expected above 70. My pitiful little nasturtum plant is still blooming. The purple is still on my Russian sage. The trees in this area haven't quite reached peak color yet. No one listens. No one cares. Gimme gimme, mine, now! is the mantra of America. Not just America either -- China, Japan, India, and other lesser countries either don't care about what effect they're having on the planet, or they can't afford to care with starving and impoverished populaces. Even widespread disaster won't stop us. We'll deny that it's our fault or that we can even do anything about it all the way to oblivion. Where's all-out nuclear war now that we need it?
Quote of the Day: "The soul never thinks without a picture."
I've hit another of those patches in my life where things just cascade down on me to the point where things I usually do as a matter of course are put off or neglected or shoved into the mix of things that get scheduled according to some triage process that I don't even understand. Writing here is one of those tasks. Part of the scenario: Wife gets idea. Idea involves moving things. Husband gets to execute idea. Gets into process. Realizes how much more complex it is than wife made it look initially. Considers executing wife. (not really, but you get the gist)
Another portion of the pile of things hitting me is one of those periodic phenomena that I experience where all kinds of people want to give me things. Sometimes the things are physical and I really appreciate them but struggle finding places to put them. This time mostly it's ideas, written works, and links to things I find wonderfully interesting, so I use up many hours taking advantage of these items. One of these days, I swear, people will line up at my door to give me money, jewels, and precious metals. For that I will be most thankful.
Quote of the Day: "Treat a man as he is, he will remain so. Treat a man the way he can be and ought to be, and he will become as he can be and should be. "
Catching up: Friday, didn't do much. Went somewhere late in the day. Don't remember where. Oh yeah, La Carreta, the Mexican place in KC. Saturday, Duh. Football game. West Virginia 66 -- UConn 21. Sunday, lazy day. WVU #2 in BSC and AP, #1 in USA Today Coaches Poll. Backyard Brawl #100 with Pitt this coming Saturday. If they win that one, it's on to the National Championship game, almost certainly. If Missouri wins against Oklahoma Saturday, we'll play them, if not most likely opponent will be THE Ohio State University. I think if Missouri loses on Saturday we should start referring to WVU in all interviews and casual conversations as THE West Virginia University, if for no other reason, to piss off those uppity preppies at Ohio State. Aside: Don't get me wrong. I have friends who went to Ohio State and a couple friends who teach there. I have nothing against the University, just their football tradition.
Something I'm starting today is seen below the Comments button. It's a link to the permanent address of each daily entry in this journal. Every day from here on out I will include such a link. If you need or wish to link to a page or specific day, this would be the link to use, not the one that takes you to the current page. Eventually I'll tire of cutting and pasting and changing the date id and automate the process like I've done with most other housekeeping details of doing this.
Once more, we're into "Anything Can Happen Day." Thankfully, so far, nothing has. . . happened, that is. Already I've automated the permalink thingie at the end of the entries. One problem, though. I can't quite figure how to get the date strings to appear in lower case. Also, the shorter named months, I'll have to add the 'e' and 'y' and the 'il' and the 'ust' to June, July, April, and August. Oh well, it's not a big deal. I just have to rely on an increasingly unreliable memory to keep it fixed before uploading the page with a new entry. Surely, there's a way. . . hmmmmm. . . I'm sure you're interested in hearing about all of this. . . Lot's of ellipses today. . .
Quote of the Day: ". . . Violence as a way of gaining power. . . is being camouflaged under the guise of tradition, national honor [and] national security. . ."
-- Alfred Adler
All the rearranging I mentioned on Tuesday. . . Fini! It wasn't as painful as I'd expected. However I did stir up some dust that hadn't been disturbed in quite a while (reallocating the liquor cabinet principally), and I've been sneezing the past two days. I've also been dusting other things more than usual. Such is life.
Speaking of brushes, I haven't picked one up since spring, other than to apply glue or paint remover. I'd love to get back into painting and/or collàge, but I can't seem to summon the impetus to go there. Similar situation with writing, save for the occasional journal entry (as you may have noticed). I don't know what the problem is, or what to do about it. I wonder if perhaps the tank is just empty. . . (another friggin' set of ellipses. . .)
Surely you've heard about the teacher in Sudan who was under threat of receiving 40 lashes for allowing her students to name a teddy bear 'Mohammed.' Well, she got off easy -- 15 days in prison and deportation. How ridiculous! Mohammed is the most common male name on the planet. My podiatrist is named Mohammed. This is in the same vein as the moron who killed the film maker Van Gogh, and the idiots who protested supposedly anti-Islam cartoons. I mean how seriously can you take a friggin' religion anyway? In my opinion, any religion that can't stand up to a little ridicule, questioning, and poking fun at, is not worthy of being called a religion in the first place. It's a travesty. Can you imagine? She didn't name the bear. She let her students (young students) name it. For this she's subject to corporeal punishment, imprisonment, banishment? These Mullahs and Imams need to grow up and realize that God or Allah or Vishu can take care of himself, and doesn't need self-appointed arbiters of His intention to punish and cajole and coerce people into believing and acting in a certain manner. This goes for fundamentalists of every stripe. I think a lot of proselytizers will be in for a BIG surprise in the afterlife.
Quote of the Day: "My definition of free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular."
-- Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)
The world is divided up between the ultra-religious and the unabashedly-materialistic with little room in between for those of us of a more rational and humanistic bent. The materialistic camp is seemingly out to keep us apart, keep us careening down the consumerist path. I noticed the other day that Trojan's new slogan inveigles us to "Use a condom, every time." I wouldn't be surprised if HIV wasn't engineered by the corporate powers-that-be as another means of keeping intimacy artificial and once-removed from direct contact with another human being (or sheep or monkey as your taste may be).
I saw a little kid the other day, riding a bicycle with training wheels. He was wearing a helmet bigger than his head, elbow pad, knee pads, and protective gloves. He did not look like he was having fun. What happened to the freedom of riding a bicycle at full tilt, unencumbered by protective gear? Are kids not allowed to enjoy physical activity without extreme measures to protect them from the slightest ding? Pretty soon we'll all be so isolated and protected from intrusions from the world that we'll be encased in plastic at birth and the eye, ear, nose, mouth, anus, and ureter holes merely plugged up at death before we're freeze-dried then incinerated in a hermetically-sealed crematorium.
Bonus Quote of the Day: "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."
-- H.L. Mencken
Doctors! Insurance Companies! Need I say more?