November 27, 2007

An Open Letter to Bob Geldof, KBE

Dear Mr. Geldof,

I wish to address you as "Sir Bob Geldof", but I understand that as an Irishman, your knighthood from HRH The Queen is only an honorary one, and does not entitle you to the "Sir" title. I would like to still use the most respectful form of address I can when addressing you, as you are a man of very high honors, and I am about to ask you a rather large favor. Would "The Most High Lord of All Things Charitable, Bob Geldof" work for you? Let's assume it does.


Dear TMHLoATC, Bob Geldof,

I watched the Live 8 concerts two years ago and really enjoyed everything I saw. However, the most exciting moment for me was seeing the reunited Pink Floyd on stage again after almost 25 years. I read with great interest the news reports about how you were able to convince Roger Waters and the rest of the band that the cause was much more important than whatever personal differences they might have. Those differences run deep, and I would never have imagined that anything or anyone could ever mend that rift. Truly you accomplished a major feat.

I was listening to Oingo Boingo in my car the other day and I was awash in a moment of regret that I never got to see them perform live. I had the opportunity once, in 1995, but I was sick that day and didn't go. It turned out to be their last tour, and I've been kicking myself ever since. Interviews with Danny Elfman show him to be pretty dead-set against the idea of a reunion. I started thinking to myself, "Wow, with Danny Elfman being so against the idea, what would it take to get him to come around?" It was then that I remembered you, Bob, and your powers of persuasion.

So, do you think it might be possible to do a favor for me? Can you give Danny Elfman a call and do whatever it is you did with Pink Floyd to get them to reunite? I know you said it's the cause that convinced Pink Floyd to come together, and not you specifically, but let's be honest: You're a silver-tongued devil who must really have some terrific ability to cajole. Just work your magic. If you really think that it's a cause that's going to get everyone back together, I'm sure you can find one, or just make one up. I mean, whoever heard of African debt relief before Live 8? I have a sneaking suspicion you just made that one up so you could see Pink Floyd play.

I would think that this task would be easy for you since you've already demonstrated such prowess at it. Also, you only have to call Danny Elfman. You don't need to call the rest of the band to convince them. They're not working. I'm sure they'll jump at the chance to play again. Thanks in advance for your help with this.

When you've done that, if you're still willing to help, I have a couple of other little things you can do for me. One night, I had the choice of going to see either Matthew Sweet or That Dog. I was more into Matthew Sweet at the time, as was the person I was going with, so we went and saw Matthew Sweet. Turns out, that was That Dog's last tour before a pretty rancorous breakup. Their last album, Retreat From The Sun, has held up better than any of Mr. Sweet's work for me, and I'd really appreciate seeing them live sometime. You know what to do.

There was another band that I was really into at the same time, Suddenly, Tammy! They broke up before they ever even got over to my side of the country. I'm more than willing to travel to wherever for a show this time, I just need you to put the wheels in motion.

I had the chance to see the Sugarcubes in some sort of festival bill with New Order and PIL, but that would have required travelling to Phoenix, so I passed it up. I could have see them again opening for U2, but that would have been another trip to Phoenix, so, meh. Now, I wish I had taken whatever opportunity I had. I just recently found out they played a one-off reunion show in Iceland last year for Icelandic charity. I didn't know about it beforehand, or I would have gone. I'm more than willing to travel to Iceland, I just need you to tell them to do it again, then maybe shoot me an email with the date so I can plan travel arrangements in advance.

Oh, and I see the Commodores play the casino here every once in a while. Can you please arrange for Lionel to come with them, just once?

There's a couple of other things I have to ask you, but I'm not sure you have the ability. Look, it's not like I'm doubting you or anything. I know you have wonderful powers. It's just I've not seen any evidence of them being used in this way.

But, if you can at all make it happen, I'd really like for you to bring Freddie Mercury back from the dead so that I can see a proper Queen reunion show instead of this Paul Rodgers crap. Of course, you'll have to get John Deacon back on board, which may be harder than getting Freddie back, but I have faith in you. If for whatever reason, this isn't going to work out, I'd settle for a trip to Japan to see Kween.

As long as we're bringing people back, can you do something about Kurt Cobain? I'm not asking to see Nirvana live again; I'm just hoping that Kurt may be able to do something to rein in Courtney Love. I just really feel like those two ought to be reunited, and if you can't bring Kurt back to this side of that great divide, can you at least send Courtney over there?

Oh, and I've already seen Elliott Smith play, but I was wondering if you could bring him back and maybe dry him out so that he can make a better last album than that ramshackle mess that became From a Basement on the Hill.

Just a couple of more things, thanks...

Can you call Stevie Wonder and convince him to make good music again? Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life both move me in ways no other records can. But, his more recent stuff, starting with "I Just Called to Say I Love You", moves me to tears at the talent wasted. Please just see what you can do so that I can see what he can do.

Oh, and can you restore Michael Jackson to the physical and mental state he was at in about 1980 or so? I think if we all chip in, we can get him to do it right this time.

That's about all I need. If I think of anything else I need, I'll call. Again, huge thanks for all you can do for me. And, don't forget, if there's anything I can ever do for you, please drop me a line sometime. I'd be happy to pay you back in whatever small way I can.


November 24, 2007

Semi-Annual Plumbing Catastrophe

Having a blog means that whenever I have something interesting to write, or can write in an interesting way about something that's otherwise uninteresting, I have a bit of responsibility to myself to actually write it. Today, I'm coming off of a 2 day plumbing calamity (that's actually an extension of the previous plumbing calamity this summer) that I'm sure would make a great story. Yet, I want so much to forget any of it ever happened, so it's hard to even want to write it down. I know there's some great humor in here somewhere, but I'm just not feeling it.

For the sake of posterity and purging, I tell my story here, but in a severely condensed format more suitable to getting past it quickly. I understand there are some who will say to themselves, "Condensed? Egads! I'd hate to see the uncondensed version!" To those wags I would suggest they reread the title of this blog and either strap themselves in or bail out now, because it doesn't get any better.

There's two things you need to know to make sense of this story. First, the very act of fixing or improving something in this old house of ours will always cause other things to break, and all such projects therefore take longer than you'd hope. And second, you should be disabused of the notion that I should have called a professional for any of these jobs. Virtually every complication that comes up in these things would have been just as likely to happen to a professional. If the handle of a valve was going to break off in my hand, it would be just as likely to break off in a plumber's hand, and they wouldn't take responsibility for breaking it either, I'm sure. Sure, there are occasional things that are mistakes that a professional wouldn't do, such as on the water filter installation when I left the hot water valve open after replacing it, then turned the house's water back on, coming back in the house to find water running down the stairs. But, virtually everything else is just going to happen, no matter what.

The story starts at the beginning of July when I try to install a nice reverse osmosis water filter under the kitchen sink. It's a really nice filter, a birthday gift from my mom. It recirculates the unfiltered water instead of dumping it down the drain like most will. I wanted it for a long time, and I'm so glad I have it, and I so looked forward to installing it.

In the process of installation, the handle for the hot water valve under the sink broke off when trying to shut it off which meant that the whole house's water needed to be shut off to replace it. There were several trips to the hardware store due to getting parts then finding the parts to be mislabeled, then getting adapters to make sure every piece could connect to the one valve. There was the aforementioned kitchen flood. But, the project was eventually finished (the same day even).

Shutting the water off to the house means that all the sediment in our 50 year old pipes gets stirred up, and after this filter project was done, we discovered that some sediment had gotten lodged in the body of the faucet in our upstairs bathroom, completely blocking the hot water flow. Some sediment had also gotten lodged in the fill valve for the toilet in our renter Rhonda's bathroom, causing it to not shut off. Then, in trying to shut off the water to that upstairs faucet to see if it could be fixed, the handle for one of the valves under the sink breaks off. So, fix one thing, then have three other things break.

Rhonda had another problem with her kitchen faucet that would require replacing it, and the valves underneath her sink wouldn't shut off, so they'd need replacing too, so the whole house's water would need to be shut off again. So, I waited to find the right time to do all this crap when I could set aside a day or two to do it all.

Rhonda's out of town for Thanksgiving, and I've got a long holiday weekend, so I decided to give it a go. I shut the water off, get her valves and faucet replaced without incident, go upstairs to replace our valve to find that when I take the valve off the pipe, a piece of the pipe breaks off inside the valve. So now, I've got this jagged stub of iron pipe sticking out of the wall.

At that point, I have to either find a way to get the new valve onto that jagged piece of pipe, or I will have to go downstairs and cut off the whole section of pipes that go upstairs since I wouldn't be able to cut off just that one because they split off inside the brick walls somewhere. Then, I'd have to run new pipes to every upstairs fixture, and do it outside up the walls, since there would be no possibility of running them up through the bricks. Once I realized what was in store for me, I decided that I was either going to fix the end of the pipe somehow or I was going to burn the house down for the insurance money.

The jagged end of pipe was still within the threaded portion, so I though if I could just square it off, I'd be able to thread the new valve on. I couldn't really get a hacksaw in there because space was too tight. I thought I could cut it and smooth it out with my Dremel™, but my little battery powered Dremel™ was petering out too fast. Finally, after three hours of screwing around with it, I went to the store and bought an actual plug-in Dremel™ knowing that if that didn't work, I'd be out that cost as well.

After coming back from the store, I offered up my most sincere prayer for the squaring off of the broken pipe, and after 15 minutes of Dremel™ futzing, finally got the new valve to screw onto the pipe (and not even leak!). Moving on to the faucet...

I had got a warranty replacement for the old faucet, but didn't notice until yesterday that the replacement they sent me wasn't quite the same as the original. The original had some metal braided supply lines integral to the faucet, and those just connected right to my valves. The new one just had two bare copper tubes sticking out the bottom with no connectors or anything. It came with compression rings and adapters and things, but I couldn't put those things on before sticking the faucet through the sink or the faucet wouldn't fit through the hole. Putting them on after sticking the faucet through was almost impossible because the space is so tight I couldn't get the leverage necessary to get a tight fit on those compression rings (which have to be really tight so they won't leak). After two hours, I finally got them tight enough and connected to the water supply and turned everything on to find the faucet was actually leaking out of the body of the faucet, and all my previous work was for naught.

I could pursue another warranty replacement, but that's like a 4 week process, and we already went a few weeks without a faucet in that bathroom when we first tried to fix the faucet that came with the bathroom at the end of 2003. So today, I had to just go out and buy a new bathroom faucet, which, when combined with the cost of the Dremel™ and the toilet parts, adds over $200 to the cost of installing our water filter.

So, I spent like 12 hours on this project yesterday, causing me to get frustrated, get exhausted, and miss my running for the day. And, I still haven't fixed Rhonda's toilet, because the Home Depot I went to today didn't have the right fill valve in stock. And, I just found out that our downstairs toilet is leaking out of the tank somewhere. And, this is all coming on the heels of last week when Joey stuffed a bottle of bath salts into our upstairs toilet, plugging it up and causing us to spend $55 on a plumber to unsuccessfully get it out, then me spending several hours pulling the toilet up so I could dig the bottle out and replace the toilet (After Miranda did the same thing a couple of months ago).

I don't regret buying this house. I still think it was a smart move to pay so little for such a big house, and the work we have to do is the price we pay for this. I don't mind doing the work. However, I just feel like the plumbing thing isn't quite fair. If something's broken, I want to fix that one thing. Don't trick me by throwing other things at me in the middle of a job. Don't mess with me like that, House.

November 19, 2007

Naming Wrights

My brother Steven has for a while referred to my brother Carson as simply "Brother", both in direct address ("Hey, Brother") and in reference ("I heard from Brother that you..."). Today, he clarified to me that he also refers to Tyler as "Big Brother", Andrew as "Bigger Brother, and me as "Biggest Brother". Note that this directly corresponds with birth order, not relative size.

I got a huge kick out of this, because this directly parallels my own form of referring to things using descriptive nominatives rather than their actual names. When Becki and I got married, she had two cats. Because I wasn't 100% clear which one was named what and didn't want to stop and think about it all the time, I took to addressing them as simply "Black Cat" and "Grey Cat". A few years later, Grey Cat died and Black Cat just became "Cat". A little while later, Becki took the first cat she had back from her mom. That cat stays in our basement and is "Downstairs Cat". The cat upstairs doesn't have to be "Upstairs Cat", though. She is still able to retain the title of just "Cat".

This is the case for inanimate objects as well. While I do talk to inanimate objects, I would never name them. That's just silly. Instead, I will address them only as "Car", "Computer", "TiVo", etc.

Now that Joey talks so much, I address him as "Joey", but it wasn't always that way. He was "Baby" nearly up until the time Miranda was born. Miranda got to be "New Baby" for a while, then eventually settled in to the now available again "Baby". She's almost a year and a half old, and I still probably call her "Baby" about ten times as often as using her actual name.

I'm trying to think how this got started. How did my brain fall into this pattern of description rather than naming? I've come up with three possible influences that have shaped my way of thinking about names and forms of address. First: there's my horrible memory for names. If everyone in the world would allow themselves to be called by descriptive listings of their attributes, everything would be a lot easier. Instead of seeing a guy in the grocery store and trying to remember "Is that Mr. Palowechez?", you could just confidently stride up to him and say "Hey, Thick Across The Middle Bald Guy! How's your wife, Shaves Her Moustache?"

Two: On the late lamented Viva Variety, there was a segment called "Monkey Sports", where the sidekick, Johnny Blue Jeans, would demonstrate sports with a monkey. The genius of this bit didn't entirely lie in the aptness of its title, however. Near the end of one segment, Johnny Blue Jeans was giving praise to the monkey, who had just done a great vault or something, by saying, "That's a ten for you, monkey".

That line has stuck with me for years, because it just made so much sense that if you had a monkey, you would address it as "Monkey". There's no point in giving it silly names except to impress your friends who otherwise wouldn't be impressed enough that you had a monkey. When you actually wanted to communicate with the monkey, you call it "Monkey". That was one of those points where something just all of a sudden clicks and universal truth shines through the heavens and becomes clear.

Third (and here's where I bring it all back to Steven in my very own warped chiasmus): Many years ago when Steven was little, I was charged with taking the cat now known as "Downstairs Cat" on a plane from Tucson to Salt Lake. Steven was petting the cat in its carrier and said "I think this cat's name should be 'Soft'". Minutes later, the cat scratched him completely without cause (as she was wont to do). Steven said "I think today's the day we change this cat's name to 'Mean'".

November 16, 2007


I've been growing my current beard since about the end of August/beginning of September. My normal beard progression goes like this:

I stop shaving. Some over aggressive hair follicles start to immediately dispatch long tendrils of wiry beard hair. Some normal follicles grow their hair at a relatively normal rate. And some deficient follicles slowly push hair out at the rate of 1 mm per year. The result is that for the first little while I end up with a really thin looking, patchy sort of nerd beard. I usually take great care to keep the long hairs trimmed short so as to eliminate the scraggly look while the short hairs play catch up. After about six months or so, the slow follicles have grown enough to fill in the rest, and I end up with a full, even, man beard. Then, for reasons passing understanding, I immediately shave it off, wait another six months or so and start again.

This beard, for various reasons, hasn't been trimmed since I started it. I've cleaned up the neckline some, but haven't trimmed the long hairs like I normally do. This means it's more scraggly than normal. This also means I haven't trimmed the moustache either, which makes it more bushy than it otherwise would be.

Today, I was absentmindedly playing with my moustache hairs when I noticed it could do this:

It's a little sick how excited that made me. I realized that a whole new world of facial hair possibilities are opening up to me now, much to Becki's certain chagrin.

With a little more work, I'll be ready for the champeenship.

November 15, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy

I have a Wii. I'm not a very avid video game player, but I have been looking forward to the new Super Mario Galaxy. Toys R Us has a sale this week only where you buy the game for $50 and they give you a $25 gift card good on your next purchase. Great deal, but they have trouble keeping the game in stock.

Today, I got lucky and got the last two at the East Tucson Toys R Us. I then went to the North Tucson one, and used the two gift cards to buy a third copy of the game. Now, for total investment of ~$112 (including tax), I am the proud owner of three copies of Super Mario Galaxy, plus one more $25 gift card. Now, if I can sell two copies for a net $43 a piece, and use the last gift card for something I would have been buying anyway (like Christmas gifts), I will have finagled myself a free game.

I am so proud.

November 14, 2007

José González

I have friends and family who are into music like Kings of Convenience, Iron & Wine, and Nick Drake. It is to you people that I direct this post. I invite you to check out the work of one José González, a Swedish singer-songwriter (of Argentine descent). Most of his stuff is just him and a nylon stringed acoustic guitar with perhaps a bit of percussion. It's very sparse and subtle, not just in the instrumental arrangement, but also his singing. His recent album includes a cover of Massive Attack's "Teardrop" (one of my favorite songs). It manages to in some ways be even more haunting than the original.

November 1, 2007

Fall 2007 TV wrapup

Now that I've watched all of the fall 2007 pilots, I can sum up the new shows and identify for you who the winners and losers are. And the big winner for the fall 2007 TV season is...

Peter, Bjorn and John. Their song "Young Folks" was prominently played on three of the new pilots. I heard it on Gossip Girl, Big Shots, and Dirty Sexy Money. I also heard it on Journeyman's second week. Oh, and the iPhone, which I also saw on three different shows.

As far as which shows are destined to be hits, I have no idea. When I was young, I used to think that whether a show stayed on the air depended on whether or not it was any good. I long ago disabused myself of that notion. Until fairly recently, I thought it was based on what other people thought was good. I've since learned that that's not really the case either.

Even if you judge success based on simple ratings, those ratings don't come from people making their viewing choices of their own free will. It comes down to a complex calculus of what's scheduled when, what the other networks have on against it, what it's lead-in is, et cetera. It seems really odd to me, because if I want to watch a show, I just point at the TiVo and watch it. It doesn't make a difference to me when it airs or what's on the other channels. And I certainly don't watch a show because I left the TV on that channel after the previous one ended. But, apparently, the majority of people still do.

Of course, success isn't even based on simple ratings. Lower-rated shows can stay if they cost less to produce, or bring a more desirable demographic, or draw viewers away from another network, or any of a number of reasons. So, I've stopped even trying to guess what will work and what won't. There are shows that are so bad that it's obvious to everyone they won't last long (Viva Laughlin), but beyond that, I don't even pretend to know anymore.

Viva Laughlin is actually the only show to get cancelled so far, which is very strange. In a normal TV season, several shows would have got the ax already. However, this season with the writers' strike and all, the networks need to hang on to every scripted show they've got. That makes Viva Laughlin's cancellation even more notable, because they're essentially saying, "If it comes down to us running out of TV completely, we'd rather broadcast dead air than this pile." So, basically, every show that isn't Viva Laughlin won.

Here's how my choices panned out:
I gave season passes to Dirty Sexy Money, Journeyman, and Carpoolers. The first two because they're good shows, and I'm intrigued enough in their continuing story lines to want to watch and see them resolved. Carpoolers because it's silly enough to keep me laughing, and because Becki really likes it.

I was really treating this season like a normal TV season, and completely forgot any potential impact the writers' strike would have. That was a big shortsighted mistake on my part. There were three shows that were on the fence for three episodes before finally getting dropped. They were: Pushing Daisies, Samantha Who, and Chuck. Once the writers' strike started, it finally hit me that I was going to run out of TV to watch, and saving episodes of marginal TV is better than getting stuck with the crapful reality fest that's coming our way in January. So I went back and gave all three shows season passes. But now, I've missed two episodes each of Chuck and Pushing Daisies, and therefore I can't watch any of those that I've recorded until I catch up, either from the network's web sites or from iTunes. My hope is that if I wait a while, the networks will start reruns, and I'll be able to get the missing shows within a month or two.