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Washington Square Park Dancer 2

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Dancers in the Park

Dancers in the Park

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

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I have quite a few vivid memories with my Mom that stand out over the rest. There are many memories, but a few stand out as vivid points in time. I count myself as having one of the best Mom’s out there.  Not because we were best friends, or because she let me do anything I wanted, or because she gave me everything I ever asked for.  On the contrary, Mom was Mom first.  She and Dad gave me clear boundaries, and me work for what I got.  That last part had mixed results, but I got a foundation that helped me improve later in life.

I remember when I was very young, perhaps 3 or 4, and I decided I wanted to read.  My Mom read a lot, and we always had books around the house.  The kids books on the bookshelf in my room had nice pictures, but words too.  I walked up to my Mom, who was standing at the sink and told her I wanted to learn to read.  She told me to go get a book, and I chose “Now We Go to Church” from the shelf.  I would point to a word, and she would tell me what it was.  I would repeat it, and move to the next word. It went like this for a few days until I could read through the book unaided. From that day forward, I was a reader.

Mom has always been quite musical.  She played the piano as long as I can remember.  She sang in church often, and led the church choir. She transferred this to me through singing, piano lessons, and violin once I was old enough to join the school orchestra.  I joined her, singing in church.  Often we would sing duets, or she would play the piano while I sang. One of my favorite memories is my Mother and her sisters, gathered around a piano singing “Mockingbird Hill.” These days, Mom’s tickling the keyboard of her PC more than the ivories of the piano, but so aren’t we all.

When I was in the latter half of my school career, Mom was the School Food Supervisor for our school system. This gave me input into the school lunch menus, as Mom would ask my opinions.  I’d ask the other kids at school what they thought about things.  On days where lunch choices were particularly good or bad, people would come to me to comment.  The good would return, and the bad would never be seen again on the lunch menu.  Little did Mom know that her job choice actually slightly elevated her son’s social standing.

One day I was talking to Mom in the kitchen.  I forget the details of the conversation, but I do remember my adolescent mind coming up with a joking smartass comment.  When I said it to Mom, she took the glass of water she was drinking and threw it at me.  There I stood in the kitchen, my wet shirt a sign that I had reached a boundary. Mom wasn’t one for sass, and I wasn’t one for dishing it out. As it turns out, I spent most of my time growing up well within those boundaries.  I made mistakes, but I always came back to my comfortable place, following the lessons that taught me what boundaries should exist.

This is the same Mom that decided she wanted to sell books on the Internet, so she learned how.  I helped her a lot, but she studied, practiced, and improved.  Eventually she decided to go to school, so she proceeded to graduate at the top of her class in Internet Technology.

One thing, though, that Mom has done is endure.  I know my Dad.  Great guy, but he must be a pain in the ass to have as a husband. For sure their kids are all pains in the ass to varying degrees, myself most-definitely included. There was also another sibling, my sister Denice.  She lived for 9 years, severely mentally retarded (the acceptable term of the day) and generally sickly. She died young, but not before exceeding pretty much every grim outlook the doctors gave. Mom endured us all, and still does.

For a while Mom handled the business end of Dad’s shop, later in the day. She would be working in the shop, her hearing-aids turned down low, concentrating on numbers.  Unfortunately, my brother and I were often in the shop together at that time.  There are many stories to tell, but suffice to say she endured that too.

Oh, an the food.  If you know my Mom, you’ve at least heard about the food.  Mom has been cooking all of her life, with fresh ingredients.  She cooks with the simple flavors of good ingredients, allowing the flavor to shine through.  That’s called good, homecooked, Southern cooking in general, but Mom’s was always special.  The table was full of a variety of often one-ingredient choices at dinner, supporting at least one more complex side dish and a meat or two. It resembled a buffet as much as a family dinner, and it was all delicious.  Well, except for that one time that Mom insists was an experiment every time I bring it up. I think of that one major gastronomic failure from the woman in my entire life as endearing.  I don’t think she does.

Mom, you’re awesome.  Thanks.  Here’s a picture of a squirrel levitating a nut.

The Buffy Project – First Ten Episodes of the Vampire Slayer

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I’m a firm believer that any TV show can have a good first season. I’m also a firm believer that all long-lived shows have that one point that matters. It’s that one point in the show where everything suddenly clicks. You still love the shows that came before that moment, but the shows after really had something extra.

For M*A*S*H that moment was the cast change. Out were Col. Blake, Trapper, and Frank Burns. In came Col. Potter, BJ, and Winchester. The new cast, along with a gradual change in style, brought some of the best episodes ever to appear on television. We all love the early episodes, but there are far fewer moments that just felt great.

Star Trek – The Next Generation had that moment when they introduced the Borg. Until that moment it felt as if the Enterprise were the greatest ship in the Universe. Unless someone had a planetary weapon or was fairly lucky, the Enterprise could prevail easily enough. There were threats, but none felt overpowering. The Borg changed all that. Now there was an enemy that could swat the Enterprise like a gnat and move on through the rest of the fleet with ease. After the Borg were introduced, there was always that nagging feeling that they’d be back.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has that moment. Since I’m totally unspoiled, I still don’t know when that moment comes. Ten episodes in, it’s still just a pretty good show.

The first episodes dealt a lot with Buffy wanting to be a normal teenager. The later realization that normality would be impossible came none too soon. It was getting old quickly. At this point in the season she’s dedicated to her role, and things are improving.

The feel of the show is weighted toward the episodic. There are arcs that carry through the episodes, but each episode is bringing its own unique challenge. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can make storylines start to feel contrived. I’m early enough in the show that I expect this to change quite a bit. Being unspoiled except for how long the series ran, I do have certain expectations.

Buffy is a likeable character. She’s becoming more likable as the season progresses. She’s becoming less giggly and more rounded as a character. The short dresses are just a bonus, really.

Xander is starting to get a little depth to him. He’s useful as a third wheel character. He can provide comic relief, be cannon fodder, and a romantic interest (there must be a reason). Every once in a while he can even save the day. Buffy can throw him a bone now and then when he’s feeling particularly emasculated.

Willow is a perfect sidekick. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s not charismatic enough to overpower the main star. She’s very likeable, and she’s in LURVE with Xander, who’s in love with Buffy, who appropriately is torn on the issue.

Rupert is a problem. He’s a useless character. Willow is the smart researcher, so she could fill that side of Rupert’s role easily. He’s not terribly likeable, but we’re not supposed to hate him either. He’s just there as a false push to the plot. Actually, he does serve one other purpose. If not for Rupert, who would turn the school library into a cache of dangerous and deadly artifacts and weapons? Have you seen all of the felonies this guy has in his locked cage area? Does the main librarian, who knows all about them newfangled computers, have keys to all the storage areas in the library? Is she complicit or incompetent?

I digress.

I’m enjoying the show. It’s nothing special at this point, but it’s enjoyable. I’ve been watching them slowly, not trying to overload myself at once. I set my expectations low for the first season. The show has exceeded those expectations.

So, ten episodes into the show the project is going well. It’s not a great show… yet.

Shannon at the 42nd St Subway

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It’s True: New York City Is so Much Cooler, and So Is My Hometown.

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Since moving to New York City, I’ve come to understand why so many people from here felt so down when they came to my little podunk hometown of Sanford, NC. New York City really is that much cooler in so many ways. Don’t get me wrong.  I love my hometown for many reasons.  This big city, though, is a completely different scale.

First, there are the sights.  There is always something to see in NYC.  Whether it’s people-watching in Times Square, taking the water taxi across to Brooklyn, walking a new area of Central Park (still all new to me), or finding yet another great museum to see, you can always see something amazing and new here. I still haven’t been to the 9/11 Memorial, The Intrepid Air and Space Museum, The Statue of Liberty, or Queens.

There are the neighborhoods. Washington Heights is a wonderful place to live, but New York has a lot of them.  Chinatown itself can be a different place depending on whether you’re on Canal St or one of the smaller side streets. I much prefer the side streets, because they’re full of small shops and stands and some of the most amazing seafood. Hell’s Kitchen, SoHo, TriBeCa, they’re all different, interesting, and absolutely great for a walk.

Oh, and the food.  I cannot say how many fantastic meals I have had since moving to New York City. The local bar’s burgers are perfection.  We have a favorite Irish pub near Times Square that fills the comfort food need from time to time.  The pizza is better here.  The sushi is better here, though it would be in any large coastal city. Almost any food you want you can find, and it is probably delicious.  We’re talking “Lockjaw’s Mama’s Cooking” levels of deliciousness here.

You see, New York City has a lot of restaurants.  New York City probably has a lot of restaurants within three blocks of you in most areas of the city. This means you have choices.  If you discover a restaurant has bad food, you never have to go there again.  As a result the bad restaurants don’t last.  The good restaurants do.  The mediocre restaurants are at least cheap, but the converse is not true.  You don’t have to pay a lot for a delicious meal.

Hell’s Kitchen’s HK Diner is a good example.  This isn’t a place you go for bacon and eggs and a side of toast.  They serve a higher class of brunch faire.  My initial favorite was the HK Fritatta with peppers, onions, tomato, lamb sausage, and an avacado spread. I moved on to the lobster eggs benedict soon after.  I’ve had the steak and eggs and the salmon burger.  Everything was fantastic and nothing cost more than $20 for the plate.

I think the best thing about New York City is that I can decide I want to do something at pretty much any time of the day or night.  I can probably find something, somewhere, to do, eat, visit, or just see.

New York is also a busy place.  There are people everywhere.  As you walk down the street in many places you can be within 20 feet of a dozen or more people.  In some areas it can get quite dense.  Once you realize that none of those other people care about you at all, though, it’s much less uncomfortable.  Now I can feel as alone walking through Times Square as I did walking around the block back home.

There’s nothing quite like it, though, to walk around the block back home alone.  The little three-block-long downtown may not be the hub of the city anymore, but it is definitely more dog-poop-free than New York’s streets.

Oh wow, yeah.  That’s right.  New York City’s streets are COVERED with dog poop.  Most dog owners pick up after their dogs.  Unfortunately there is this one little old lady with three very productive beagles that walks the streets night and day.  I would guess that, on average, I see signs of dog poop once per block.  Well, each block has four sides, so that’s four.  Maybe six.  The bottom line is that I dodge more poop in this city than I used to when I walked through cow pastures barefoot.

Back home in Sanford I can drive my car through the countryside.  I can smile and say Hello to people on the street, if there are any there.  I can go to Wal-Mart, and while I’m there I can say Hi to people I know from high school.  I can easily find a normal breakfast joint where the staples of the meal are meat and eggs, and not bagels.  Grits.

As much as I love New York City, my hometown is still a cool place to me. It’s small, but growing.  It’s quiet, but comfortable.  It has a smaller selection of restaurants, but it has Mom’s cooking.  All in all, how can I choose which is cooler?

New York.  WAY cooler.


How Music Companies Can Make Easy Money on iTunes

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Back in the 1980s, a lot of great music was released. Fans of a particular artist could purchase the albums on LP or Cassette. CDs were starting to become more popular, and the 45rpm single was still a common find in many stores. Among these options, fans could get all of the songs from the album, plus radio edits in the single versions.

Many of the singles had B-Sides that were not available on the album. Fans that wanted to collect everything would get these singles to enhance their collection. On top of that, many artists also had remixes that could be purchased in LP or CD form, adding still more content to their collection.

I personally had quite a few remixes from Duran Duran that I listened to on a regular basis. Later on I collected remixes from other bands as well as special outtake CDs.

Now with iTunes many artists are offered in digital form for a reasonable price, but these remixes and outtakes are often nowhere to be found. There are a great many recordings that are in the hands of the record companies that music fans would love to buy, but which are no longer offered in any form.

It seems a simple idea for the record companies to take these existing recordings and release them on iTunes. Where are they? There would be no need for marketing. There are no additional studio costs. There is just a catalog of currently out of print material which could be once again sold, and with no printing, pressing, or other costs.

It is an easy-money proposition. Why don’t they do it?

So, basically, my question to the record companies is this. Why not try to make a living from your fans by selling them what you have instead of by suing them?

Arizona Gunman Planning Ahead? Videos from the shooter.

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Jared Lee Loughner has a youtube account, and has apparently been identified as the gunman in the Tuscon Arizona shooting of a Democrat Congresswoman. The videos below from his YouTube account indicate a bit of instability and foreshadowing.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

The earliest of these was posted a month ago, and the others three weeks ago. One states “In a few days you will know I’m conscience dreaming,” whatever that means. Perhaps it meant he planned to go shoot someone.

Of course, I can’t be 100% sure that these are videos posted by the gunman. If I am mistaken, I apologize, but the details seem to link properly.

*Update – At this link we can see that the shooter had an interest in Drug addiction,health, health conditions, mental health, psychology, and society. As his YouTube videos show, he was a bit incoherent in his writing, so it’s probably a good thing there’s nothing to read there by him.

*Update – A photo of the shooter?

It is 2011

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Just an FYI. It is now 2011 everywhere in the world, except for those folks that use other funky calendars. If you still write checks or perform any other hand-written datestamp routines that are not handled by computer, you might want to write 2011 on the back of your hand in ink for the next few days. It might help you remember.

Did I need to write this? No, but I did need to test the word press app for the iPad.

Order for me. I’ll order for that guy.

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Would you eat at a restaurant in which each person ordered the meal for the next person to order? Offsetting Behaviour tells of a japanese restaurant where each person orders, and pays for, the meal of the person to follow.Yes, when you visit, you eat what the person before you ordered, and the next person eats what you ordered.  Something tells me, if you tried this in the US, somebody would try to sue.

Interesting Self-Quote from 1991 BBS Post

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4/60: new portable computers with color VGA
Name: Lockjaw The Ogre #31 @9955
Date: Mon Jul 08 11:22:54 1991

i am watching a story on CNN right now about new portable computers with flat 
color vga monitors. they look great, with awesome color capabilities. the 
screen is made up of loads of tiny transistors that control the color, rather 
than the picture tub. only one american manufacturer is making them, dolch, 
but toshiba and nec are making them elsewhere.
Interesting how times change.
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