Friday, June 28, 2002

John Entwistle, the bassist for the Who, passed away yesterday at 57, of a heart attack. Far too young for someone of his talents and experience. I've been a huge fan of the Who for several years, and I'm going to miss "The Ox" and his astounding feats on the bass. Compared to the other three members of the band, Entwistle was the rock, the one who kept the band together while Roger Daltrey screamed, Pete Townshend windmilled, and Keith Moon beat the crap out of his drum kit. I'm too young to have seen the Who live when Keith Moon was still alive, but I did have the privilege of seeing them three times in the past six years with Zak Starkey. Twice they performed Quadrophenia and Entwistle's bass solos on "5:15" were jaw-droppingly amazing. I've never seen or heard anyone play the bass like that. (John Myung, bassist for Dream Theater, comes close, but their music is such a different style from the Who's that it doesn't really compare well.) Fingers all over the fretboard, strumming faster than I would have thought possible for anyone, let alone someone his age. Two years ago I saw the Who live at Madison Square Garden, on their greatest hits tour. Everything they played that night was a gem. Entwistle didn't get too many solo opportunities, but he was rock solid. Even though they'd been touring for months, in their mid-50s these guys were still capable of taking the stage by storm and clobbering the audience with music. I wasn't going to see them on tour this summer, mostly because I didn't think I could find anyone to go with me at $100 a ticket. Now I'll probably never see them again, certainly not with one of the greatest bassists ever.

In addition to his playing skills, John Entwistle provided the Who with some of my favorite songs. "My Wife" and "Boris the Spider" are two of his album tracks, and "Heaven and Hell" is a great B-side that they used as a concert opener in the 1970s. He was a talent that will not be equaled anytime soon, certainly not by any members of the punk-metal crap bands out there now. Requiesicat in pacem.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

My usual browsing of unearthed an article on "warchalking," which is a way to discreetly identify wireless access points in urban areas. I immediately thought of a recent Simpsons episode where someone (Grandpa, I think) shows someone else the hobo markings on a fencepost, one of which is "comely daughter." I must not be an avid wireless network user, since I can't see myself lugging my laptop everywhere just in case I might want to surf wirelessly when I stumble across these markings. I guess it would be more useful when I'm traveling, not that I do much of that. Anyway, as usual I'm rambling. I do see the usefulness of warchalking to road warriors and workaholics, or just average geeks looking to surf all the time.

The shoulder injury feels a little better today, though I probably should have been more careful at the gym this morning. I'm hoping that it clears up enough that I can ride my bike this weekend, but I'm not optimistic. Right now I can't turn my head more than 60-70 degrees left or right, so riding in traffic where I might have to snap my head around quickly is a bad idea. We've decided to stay here in NY for the four-day July 4 weekend, so I could make up for the lost time then. In the meantime, let the pigging out commence!

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

I spent the morning at TECHXNY, formerly known as PC Expo. I saw all sorts of cool new stuff, like a new Kyocera Palm phone, a Pocket PC phone from TMobile, and the new IBM T30 laptop that I must have. You can read an expert opinion if you like. There was a woman in tight leather pants showing off the camera picture on the MSNBC article; a synergistic move, since the flyers she was handing out showed the camera in the hip pocket of tight leather pants. I didn't collect too much interesting swag, other than some free magazines and a plastic puzzle from the HP booth that I cannot reassemble, even with the instructions. It looks like I need a vise or an extra set of hands to hold all the pieces in place for construction. So now I have a little stack of colorful plastic loops that serve no useful purpose.

My shoulder is still bothering me. Still, because I initially injured it over a week ago at the gym. I was on the lat pulldown machine when I felt a small pop or snap, and knew right away something was wrong. It's not that serious: I can still move my head left to right, but it hurts. And I have full range of motion in both arms and shoulders, but it hurts when I roll either shoulder. The sad part is that the pain had gone away completely by Saturday, which I attribute to the comfortable bed at Liz's house in MS. But the pain came back last night after I worked out extra hard at the gym, trying to compensate for the overeating and indulging I did last weekend. Obviously, I'm a dumbass who should have recognized that my injury had not healed completely. So now I'll lay off the upper body exercise for a while and stick to legs and cardio. Hopefully I'll be able to ride my bike this weekend. Of course, this gives me an excuse to sit around, relax, and pig out. Which was what I was trying to recover from when I hurt myself again. Yes, I am a dumbass.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

And now, a new feature:

How to tell which of Bach's Brandenburg Concerti you're currently listening to:

If it sounds like a full chamber orchestra with winds and horns, it's No. 1.
Is a really high-pitched trumpet featured prominently? No. 2.
A rich string ensemble characterizes No. 3.
Two flutes and a violin is No. 4
Lots of harpsichord, including the best cadenza ever written? No. 5.
If you've only got lower strings, and plenty of viola, you've got No. 6.

I don't know why I thought of that, except that they're playing No. 2 on the radio right now. I bet I could do that for Beethoven symphonies too. Next time.

Monday, June 24, 2002

We got back from the reunion Sunday night. It was the first uneventful trip to Mississippi since we got married over four years ago. In December 1998, I got sick for a few days over Christmas, and we had a freak ice storm that knocked out power throughout most of Starkville, including Liz's house. In June 1999, on a weekend trip to play for a wedding, we lost our luggage for a day. On our Christmas visit in December 2000, we were stuck for an extra two days when New York had a freak snowstorm, and we had a scary drive to Memphis over icy roads to make our flight home. So this trip was a welcome change: no freaky weather, no illnesses, just a good time.

We both had a great time at the reunion. Liz's classmates are a cool bunch of people. I enjoyed meeting her old friends and hearing lots of funny stories. I was glad to catch up with some of her friends that I'd met before. And I was saddened by the knowledge that I won't get to have the same experiences at my own class reunion, since we're not having one! I'll have to settle for visiting some of my old buddies on my own.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

I'll be out of town for a few days at Liz's ten-year high school reunion. It should be an interesting weekend. I've never been to a reunion like this, especially one where I won't know anyone but my wife and one of her closest friends. And I can't drink, because they're having the main event 20 miles from her house, and someone has to drive. The worst part is that it doesn't look like my class will be having a reunion this year, so Liz doesn't have to return the favor. Still, I love visiting Liz's hometown and seeing her family, and it is a big party, so I'm sure I'll have a good time. Anyway, if you don't see any entries for a few days, that's why. Not that I post all that often anyway.

I'm beginning to understand why so many blogs are about politics, media, culture, etc. I approach this as an online diary, but I realize that I can't completely speak my mind here, or I might offend my readers. If I really wanted to keep a diary, I'd have to do it offline. It's easier to write about impersonal subjects, with personal opinions offered as commentary. Does this make any sense? I feel like I'm just realizing something that veteran bloggers have known for years. I do love writing, even if this is my only personal outlet. I have to make some use of the meager writing skills I honed in my academic career.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Here's my Blogger Code. I'll have to put up a bio page so that I have someplace else to show this off. One of the more clever links I found at my old college roommate's blog. Thanks, Jonathan.

B1 d t k- s- u- f- i- o+ x-- e+ l- c

As you can tell, I rule my blog, it does not rule me.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

I can add PvP to the list of things I've been wasting my time with lately. It's my current favorite online comic strip, about the employees of a gaming review magazine. Since I've only recently started reading the strip, I've spent several hours reading through the old strips, so far up to February 2000. It's damn funny, sometimes too much of a soap opera, but in a good way.

I'm completely addicted to Grand Theft Auto III at this point. I was up really late playing it, on a night when I get up early the next day to go to the gym. Then, when I got back from the gym and had even less time, I played it for another 10 minutes so I could finish another mission on which I was stuck. My goal is to get to the second stage of the game before Friday morning, when I go out of town for the weekend. I'm still playing Galactic Battlegrounds, and I'm trying to convince myself that I don't need to take my laptop with me to Mississippi so I can play it while I'm there. We're only going for three days, and we have plans for nearly all of our time there, so there will be no time for gaming. I have to believe that.

Maybe I should grow up someday.

Friday, June 14, 2002

I have my first blog link, on the blog of an old college roommate. He's much more prolific than I am, and he's got a better template. Ehh, whatever. You're reading this for the content, not the flashy graphics, right?

Sunday, June 09, 2002

I figured out how to put a mailto link on the left side. My meager HTML skills have come in handy once again.
Liz thinks that the person or persons who put our trash back in front of our door were the building management, in the form of our superintendent or one of his lackeys. So far our trash has stayed in the cans where it belongs. However, yesterday we were at a picnic in Central Park and we threw away two plastic water bottles instead of looking to recycle them. So we got some comedic mileage out of the idea that somehow the water bottles would reappear at our front door, horror-movie style. That hasn't happened yet.

We went to see About a Boy yesterday. It was one of the best movies we've seen lately, absolutely a wonderful work. The book is one of my favorites and the script, acting, cinematography, all captured the spirit and life of the book and even went beyond it. They did change the ending sequence, though the overall conclusion is the same. I'm definitely going to buy this movie on DVD.

James and I went for a long ride to Coney Island today. It was a strange experience, being the one familiar with the route and having to lead him. Actually, he rode in front of me most of the way, and I shouted the turns to him. It wasn't the best system, since he made wrong turns a few times, but I'm not that comfortable leading yet. And I figured out that two Nathan's hot dogs are not optimal nutrition for a thirty-mile ride. I can handle one, washed down with some lemonade, but I should hold off on the second one until after my ride. I've learned to listen to my body while I'm riding. If I ride at the proper pace, take adequate breaks, and eat and drink the right things on a ride, I usually feel fantastic during and after the ride, like I could ride forever. But today, after eating two dogs, I felt overly full while riding and by the end I was winded and out of energy. I had to lie down on the bed afterwards for about 20 minutes to wait for things to equalize. Even now, I still feel a little strange. I know that part of it is due to James' pushing me to ride faster to keep up with him, and that's a good thing. I have a tendency to under-exert myself when riding or exercising, so it will be good long-term to have a friend pushing me to ride harder. But I'll have to skip the dogs and eat a Powerbar next time.

Friday, June 07, 2002

I was furious this morning to find that someone had taken my trash out of the outside receptacles and placed it in front of our apartment door with a note saying "Please do some recycling." The note was attached to a one-sheet recycling flyer published by the city. I do recycle cans and bottles, and I can plead guilty to not always recycling paper products. Considering that the city has discussed suspending recycling pick-ups in an attempt to save money, I'm not sure what the big deal is. But what made me really angry was that someone saw Liz put our trash in the outside cans, then retrieved it (possibly in the rain yesterday) and put it back in front of our door with the note. Now our neighbors think we're inconsiderate jerks who don't recycle; I'm assuming that's the collective opinion of the ones who didn't do the trash-note job. I thought about putting up my own nasty note, but since I don't know who would get it, I'm just going to leave things alone. I took the hint, and posted the recycling guide above my kitchen trash can for future reference. But I'm not above leaving a nasty note in the hallway if I have to, to get a message across. It's been done before by others. On one hand, we have to live in this apartment for another 15 months, so I don't want to make enemies. But I hate having my personal habits called into question by people who don't know me and won't identify themselves. I'm hoping that the vigilantes are actual inspectors who have been nosing around lately. There are new signs in the hallways imploring us to "save water" and copies of the recycling flyers. I saw a group of unfamiliar faces with clipboards in the courtyard yesterday. I did recognize our superintendent, who presumably let them in. So something is afoot. I would just appreciate it if someone has a problem with the way I'm behaving that they tell me to my face, or at least sign any notes they leave us. So if you're reading this, anonymous trash-removal-recycling-fanatic, please stop by our apartment and say hello.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

We got back from Las Vegas around 1:30 this morning. Thank God for direct flights. I made it to work a little late this morning and on much less sleep than usual, but my body should catch up to the East Coast schedule in a day or so.

I spent most of Monday hanging around the hotel pool, reading The Godfather. I didn't want to travel far since I had to meet Liz and her group at 4 PM to pack up. That turned into a disaster due to poor planning on the part of the trade show organizers. We all ended up waiting five hours (until 9 PM) for the labor crew to show up and pack away the booth in its crates. Everyone else was long gone from the show floor by then, so we were all hungry and cranky. But we did get out for a decent meal and Liz finally got to see the fountains at the Bellagio. Then we spent a few bucks at the main casino at the Hilton before turning in. All told, I lost about $8 at the slots. While I thought I'd find slots gambling addicting, I actually learned that I don't like losing. So I'm going to look for a downloadable video poker/blackjack game so I can have fun with fake money.

It's good to be home. Las Vegas is a great place to visit, but I cannot imagine living there. It's a constant party, all day, all the time. I love to party as much as the next immature guy who still fondly remembers college revelry, but even I got tired of walking through casinos, hearing people having fun and seeing scantily clad women and hookers. After a few days, it's just too much. I wanted to get back to eating regular healthy meals, sleeping normal hours, and *gasp* going to work. What's wrong with me? I do want to go back to Vegas, without any work to do, so Liz and I can see some of the other casinos and night spots that we missed this time around. But I can definitely wait for a while.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Yesterday (Sunday) I hit all the sights I didn't see on Saturday. I finally saw Madame Tussaud's museum here, and got a picture of myself with Tom Jones. Unfortunately the digital camera makes all the wax figures look too shiny, but I can attest that when you're in the museum, they all look real. For about half the time I was in the museum I was in a group of 15 10-year-olds and their handlers as they took pictures of everything but the wax people. Damned annoying. After that, I spent about half an hour at the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris casino and took some great pictures of the Strip. Too bad this was at 3 PM; I bet the view at night is something. And I got to see the Bellagio fountains twice and the Buccaneer Bay Pirate battle. The latter was every bit as cheesy as the special effects show I saw six years ago at Universal Studios in LA, but shorter, funnier, and much less forced. When the pirates sink the HMS Britannia, the British crew jump overboard, but the captain goes down with the ship, standing stiffly at the mast brushing dirt off his uniform. After the pirates take their bows, the Britannia is raised, and you can see the captain still standing at the mast, waving to the audience. Liz wouldn't like it much, but I enjoyed it. I wonder if the British ever win the battle?

George Carlin was great, worth the money we paid. About half of his show was taken from his HBO special last November, a fact that he admitted at the beginning of his set; the rest was new material. Even the stuff I'd heard was just as funny live as it had been on TV. Liz really had a good time. I think she was in pain from laughing so much. The guy who opened for him was OK, but most of his jokes were stale. He had a guitar and did some funny parodies of artists whose names were shouted out by the audience. But for me he ruined his set by ending with some old bits and songs about the Clintons. Is it that hard to come up with new political jokes? I had enough of Monica and Hillary and Linda Tripp jokes four years ago. But I guess you don't want too funny an opening act for a comedian. Just like a concert: if you're the headliner, you don't want to be upstaged by the opener.

So far today I'm hanging out in the room catching up on my surfing. I'm doing my souvenir shopping today and maybe hanging out by the pool for a little while before I have to meet Liz and her colleagues to break down the booth at 4 PM. There's a chance we could be there most of the night if our crates are delivered late. I really hope that doesn't happen. I want to take Liz back to the Bellagio so she can see the fountains. I think she's having a good time here, but she's been so busy working she hasn't been able to see much of the other casinos. We'll have to come back here for a few days before we have kids. Otherwise we'll have to wait until we're in AARP. This is not a place to which I'd want to bring young kids. They aren't allowed in the casinos and there isn't much for them to do at night when you'd want to go out. This is a great place for a group of guys out for a bachelor party (or a bachelorette party, we saw many of those at the Mandalay Bay), for young couples without kids, or for the old folks gambling away their grandchildrens' inheritance. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

I've been busy the past few days touring Las Vegas. Yesterday I had my whole day free so I walked up and down the Strip and stopped in most of the casinos. After you've seen one, you've seen them all. They've all got something different to offer, and those individual attractions are interesting, but the gaming floors are always the same: same people, same games, same waitresses, etc. So they try to draw you in with the rides or themes and keep you there for the gaming. I liked the Forum shops at Caesar's Palace and the white tiger habitat at the Mirage, and I didn't get to see the pirate ship battle at Treasure Island or the fountains at the Bellagio because of high winds. Hopefully today they'll be running those; if not, there's still Monday. Tonight Liz and I are going to see George Carlin at the MGM Grand. Liz is a huge fan of his, and I like him well enough to see him live, so it should be fun.

On Friday afternoon, after setting up the booth for Liz's show, she and I went through the Star Trek Experience. It was amazing. There's a museum of Trek props and costumes, and a timeline of the "history of the future" taking you through today up until the end of the Voyager TV show, and everything in between. Then you go through the main attraction, which starts out as what looks like a generic motion simulator ride. But there's a problem and they have to beam you aboard the Enterprise, through some really cool effect where they take a square waiting room, turn off the lights, turn on a fan, and when the lights come up, you're in a round transporter room. Then they take you onto the Enterprise bridge, where Commander Riker tells you that you may be one of Capt. Picard's ancestors and you need to return to your time or he'll be gone forever. Then they herd you into a turbolift, then a "shuttlecraft," where you escape from the Klingons back into your own time. We rode it twice and I still can't figure out exactly how they do the beaming effect. We really enjoyed it.