Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jamming in Fort Worth

Tonight, I will be heading to 8.0's in Fort Worth to see Carolyn Wonderland (musician extraordinaire).

Depending on where you look it either starts at 7:00 or 8:00.  I plan to arrive in the downtown area around 6.  Might go to The Flying Saucer for dinner.  I might just have dinner at 8.0's.  They've got an interesting menu.

Best I can surmise, tickets are $5 which is almost a steal.  If you've never heard of Carolyn Wonderland (which I hadn't until last week).  Feel free to watch a video or two.

I hope to see you all there. Come support your Texas artists!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Running With Dru

A trip down memory lane...almost 30 years ago...
Back when I was a wee little tyke around the age of 14, a guy came over to the house.  He had trouble walking.  He was loud.  He was cheerful and energetic.  He had tickets to a rock concert in Odessa.  He invited me and my brother to go with him.  If I remember right, it was Golden Earring and Night Ranger.

Dru didn't walk anywhere.  He had cerebral palsy and his knees didn't exactly work.  It was more of a fearless act of forward momentum without quite falling.  He called it "running".  My memories back then are a little skewed by being young and barely weighing a buck fifteen.

Dru was big and when he got to running I'd often wonder how in the hell he was going to stop.  I quickly found out that's what I was there for.  He'd take off with a cry of "running" in his deep voice and I knew that was my cue to be one step ahead.  I had to stop him before he ran over the big biker dude 20 yards ahead.  Dru was at least twice my size.  I loved those days.  I learned a new appreciation of the 80's rock scene going to concert after concert.

He'd stand near the sound booth on the floor at all the concerts in Ector County Coliseum.  Standing for Dru wasn't exactly easy, but he'd do it.  Every time.  And I didn't mind standing beside him so he could lean on me when he needed to steady himself.

He introduced me to "38 Special" although I had no idea who they were at the time.  I was just a kid sitting inside the KUFO studio waiting for Dru to drive me to the next concert when suddenly he's introducing me to all these long haired guys wearing sunglasses.

His car was rigged so that he could do all driving with his hands.  The acceleration and breaking were both done by some mechanism on the left that looked like a steel pipe coming out the side of the steering wheel.  That was fun too.

When he had access to extra albums, he'd always offer me a copy (after my brother turned it down).  I don't know if I'd have near the appreciation for music that I do now had it not been for Dru.  He took me to see Dio's Sacred Heart Tour.  He took me to Blue Oyster Cult's comeback tour.  Sometimes my brother was there, sometimes not, but most (if not all) the time, I was invited to tag along.

I lost contact with him when I went to college.  I don't really know what happened.  My brother and I still talk about him occasionally and wonder what he's up to.  If he's still "running".

On Thursday, June 23rd, 2011, Dru passed away.  It makes me sad.  I'd like to hear the ominous rumbling yell of "running" coming up behind me one more time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Creepiness of No Child Left Behind

This is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I blogged about it once before and it was hijacked by ignorance.  I'm going to try again because it's in the news again.

When I was younger I'd get mad when people (mostly my family) called me lazy.  It would irritate me so much that it would almost bring tears to my eyes.  It didn't encourage me to go mow the yard, but it sure infuriated me.

When I was about 18, I woke up one morning, realized that I was lazy and I've been happier ever since.  To combat a problem, you have to own it.  The problem with the No Child Left Behind policy is that all people are not created equal.  Even the religious zealots need to own it.  Of course, the original quote is taken out of context, but it doesn't preclude people who are historically ignorant from using it out of context all the time anyway.  I'll be coming back to the history problem. I didn't start learning history until I was in my 30's.  Football coaches worried about winning Friday night's game just don't make good history teachers.

You can probably break down school kids into four broad categories: You've got the people who want to learn, but lack the ability to learn quickly.  You've got the people who don't want to learn, but can if given proper motivation.  You've got the people who don't want to learn and lack the ability to learn quickly.  Then you've got the people who excel at learning and have an undying thirst for knowledge.

I'd wager that a policy like No Child Left Behind is going to be an anchor to about 25% of the students.  We can't lump all kids into one training pool and say swim.  Some will drown.  Some will learn to swim quickly, but we'll have to force them to wear flotation devices so that they don't surpass the ones who are drowning.  It's not fair to any of the kids to do this.  Especially the ones who drown.

Recently, this article was published: US History Test Stumps Students.  You can go here and take a sample history test to see how you do.  The report says only 13% of graduates in 2010 could pass the test.  I think the sample gives you 5 questions (you have to pick a grade level).  I got bored with it after I missed the 3rd one.  I mean, I answered the first two correctly and then the third answer I missed, but at that point I was bored with reading the questions.

The article hypothesizes that the No Child Left Behind policy forces schools to be so dedicated on the core disciplines (so that schools can continue to receive government funding) that they gloss over things like history.  It sounds like a good theory.

I still maintain that you can't throw all kids into one class and expect some ubiquitous policy like "No Child Left Behind" to actually help anyone.  Maybe the intentions were good, but there's no way it's going to work because we're all very different.

I think the best way to fix the education system is to implant a device into all Americans under the age of 18 which prevents them from spawning offspring.  When they pass the parenting test, the implant is removed.  Part of the parenting test will be determining their dedication for teaching their young and not relying on the government to do it for them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jen's Blog

I've added Jen's Lyric Waltz back to my blogs there in the right column.  You might enjoy it.  She tends to write about art and literature which is not normally my cup of tea, but it is always interesting reading what people who don't live in America are doing.  If you need to turn off the music, it's a player at the bottom of the screen with a pause button, but you might give it a listen instead.

I put her on my blog roll once before and then she disappeared for a year without a trace.  She claims she was working or studying or something.  I suspect some kind of imprisonment for illegal activity, but that's just because I've got a wicked imagination and I don't really know Jen.  I don't even think it's her real name.

Don't get this Jen confused with guest blogger Jen.  They are two very different people.  At least I think they are.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I'm about to remove "there's sand in my latte" so bookmark it now if you want to go back to it.  According to Natalie's last post, it's her last post so no sense in checking here for updates.  She may go on to blog about something else and if she does, I'll be sure and let you know.

Thanks for listening.  I mean reading.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Amazon is Purposefully Pushing My Buttons

A while ago I blogged about the fact that someone complained to me that I spend too much time complaining about me.  I hope this doesn't violate any rules.

I've mentioned before that I bought a new laptop.  I actually went to the store and purchased the laptop.

It's a big laptop, but, in general, the purpose of a laptop is that they are easily transportable.  I like transporting laptops in backpacks so I began looking for a backpack which would hold a 17.3 inch G73SW ASUS laptop.

The first one I tried, I bought because one of the reviewers said, "Even though this backpack says 17, I put my 17.3 laptop in there with room to spare!"  I thought, "Excellent!  This will do fine!"

Swiss Gear Ibex 17-Inch Notebook BackpackSo, I ordered it and it didn't.  I had to call the folks that sent it to me and see about getting a refund or exchange.  They wouldn't exchange it so I was forced to get a refund.  A $75 backpack costs $12 to ship back.  It was turning into an expensive task.  For the curious, I ordered the backpack from DataVision, but via Amazon.  I still haven't actually received my refund.  They said it may take 10 days so that they can maximize the profits via interest rates on my money.

Targus XL Backpack Designed for 17 Inch Notebooks TXL617 (Black with Blue Accents)Anyway, I decided to be more specific and look for a backpack where someone actually claims that the G73SW (specifically) would fit in the darn thing.  And I found it.  At Amazon.  So, I ordered it.  This one was a bit cheaper and one of the reviewers actually wrote, "It's like this backpack was made for my G73SW!"  I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Four days after I ordered it, Amazon finally shipped it from Mesquite.  For those of you who don't know where Mesquite is, it's in East Dallas.  I live in Northwest Dallas.  I was already irritated because I had basically waited 5 days for a bag that could have shipped on day one from a site that was within 40 miles.

I ordered on June 8th.  On June 14th, I get a "post-it" from UPS saying that the sender shipped an empty box so they had refused it on my behalf.  UPS has never done me wrong so I tend to trust them.  Of course, I supposed someone could have crushed the box and the backpack could have slipped out.  Or someone at UPS was in need of just such a pack and took it.

Next day I get an email from Amazon saying they would like to "apologize on behalf of UPS for damaging my package during transit".  No indication of what would happen next.  Just an apology.  It's like, "We know you just spent $60 on a bag, but we're claiming UPS lost it and we are offering our condolences on their behalf, but you are shit out of luck."

Of course, this completely overloaded my low dose of blood pressure medication so I fired off an email calling people stupid and moronic and various other expletives without actually cussing.  I wanted to make sure it got past all the email filters.

I checked my order status periodically during the day, thinking to myself that Amazon would do the right thing and ship me a replacement overnight.  They didn't.  Eventually, the status of the order was updated to indicate that "the customer refused the order and the purchase amount was refunded."  So, I got pissed off again and called their 800 number.

I friendly man answered the phone and was immediately sympathetic to my plight (he probably had access to the email I wrote earlier predicting he'd be a moron).  He said he couldn't just ship me the order since the money had already been "refunded", but I could order it again and he'd insure that I could get upgraded shipping for free.  "Very good," I say, "Thanks for your help."  I ordered the backpack again with upgraded shipping.

This all happened two days ago and Amazon still has not shipped the backpack.  I got upgraded shipping but it apparently still takes them a week to not put the backpack into a box.  Oh, and I got an email today indicating that my "order that I refused had been refunded, but it'd take up to 10 days to credit my account while they maximize interest rate profits off of their mistake".

I've always been 90% satisfied with Amazon.  But this is causing me to rethink my ways.  Now I want to return my kindle and buy a nook instead.  Damn Amazonians.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The NBA Finals Required Post

I watched most of the NBA finals.  My favorite part was that the Mavs beat the Heat and won the title for the first time in franchise history!  I'll also admit to saying last night that I would watch no basketball on Tuesday.  The Mavs had one chance to do it (for me) and they did.

My second favorite part was the little girl, Julia Dale, singing the national anthem.  In case you missed it:

Not necessarily a favorite, but a part of the finals that reminded me of something else, were the Indestructible Volkswagen commercials. This is the one that aired:

This is the one I was reminded of:

It just cracks me up every time I watch it. But, I've got a wickedly odd sense of humor. I'm not particularly proud of it, but I do spend a lot of time giggling.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Am A (non) Sky Diving Cheap Pig

This little ditty went to market.  I'm kidding.  This little ditty will be somewhat rated R.  I encourage you to not read this particular post if you are easily offended or are related to me.

I was recently invited to go skydiving by my buxom girlfriend.  Back when I was a youngster, the idea of jumping out of an airplane sounded kind of reckless and adventuresome.

Now that I've become decrepit, all I can really think about is how painful it would be to blow chunks through my nose at 9.8 meters per second squared.

But, it is not my nature to say no.  So, I put on my best man pig attitude and I said, "Okay, I'll do it if you'll perform a lewd act involving nudity and breasts with your equally buxom friend."

She checked with her friend and, much to my surprise and alarm, all was agreed upon.  It was official.  I was to be the next skydiving pig.

Then there came the price.  Apparently this act of projectile vomiting while plummeting towards earth at 9.8 meters per second squared was going to cost me $320.  "Wow!" says the cheap pig, "this is way more than I intended to spend."

I'd probably still be picking chunks out of my nose while the lewd act started and I'd miss it.  It was just not worth the risk.  Okay, I'm justifying.  I know.  But still.

Then, the price came down to $220, but for an extra $100 they would video tape the event.  I didn't bother to ask whether the $100 was for video taping the chunk hurling or the lewdness.  I probably should have.  I might have been able to sell the latter.

Anyway, while researching my cheap piggedness, I found this video.  It made me smile.  Google may restrict my site for this.  Oh well.  It's a risk I'm willing to take.  Avert your gaze if you are offended.  I won't tell anyone.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Repairing American With The Internet

I've been in Canyon, TX since Saturday so I've had a grandiose helping of Fox News.  It's encouraged me to write about my most recent epiphany.

Not too long ago I wrote about how lazy people propel the human race.

I've been watching all the Republican candidates who are already lining up for President.  They all have one thing in common.  They all complain about the current President.  The odd thing is they are mostly senators and they all blame the President for our current woes.  I didn't make A's in Political Science, but isn't the President's power controlled by the House and the Senate?  Did I miss something?

Anyway, all these candidates do a lot of fiery speaking and complaining.  They sound like a Southern Baptist Preacher with a bad case of hemorrhoids.  They don't seem to offer a lot of solutions.  They're just trying to convince their voters that Obama is the devil and they are the everlasting salvation.  You don't need any proof.  Just have faith.  And I look good on TV.

The reason people like this get elected as senators, representatives, governors, and god forbid, presidents, is because people are lazy.  No one votes because it is too difficult.  It's not going to get any better because we are getting lazier.  We aren't even bothered to go to the store because we can shop online and have stuff delivered directly to our front door.

I spend an extra $2.50 "convenience fee" to register my vehicle every year because I don't want to go stand in line at the tax office.  With everything I need to do I have options.  I usually choose the easiest option.  I tell people I'm like an electron because I take the path of least resistance.  The way to solve America's current woes is to create Internet voting.  When you register to vote, you write in a username and are assigned a password.  You use the password to login to your voting account and are given all the elections that are currently up for vote.

With each ballot option, you are given multiple choice answers (area for "write ins" where required) and an "end date" or when the vote will be counted.  You can login whenever you want, as often as you want, to change your vote or check your votes (to make sure they weren't changed without your knowledge).  You'd be able to login and check your entire voting history.  You'd be able to vote for anyone, anything you wanted from the comfort of your favorite chair in front of you computer.  It'd be easy as pie.  

I'd be willing to bet that voter participation would go up exponentially and maybe, just maybe, America would finally wake up and vote for someone who may not be propped up by the media. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Am a Sloth (and proud of it)

I've been kind of thinking about getting one of those new Android readers (like Motorola's Xoom).  I've got a Kindle, and it reads well, but it doesn't have the touch screen or the ability to play many games.  With an Android based reader, I'd have games galore and the ability to load the reader of my choice (including Kindle for Android so I don't lose my current library).

In part of my ongoing research I decided to go to Best Buy last Sunday and get a hands on review of the little devices.  I decided to get an Acer Iconia because they were a lot cheaper and I was rather unsure.  The reason I did it was because Best Buy agreed to give me 3 years no interest on all my purchases.

While I was there checking out tablets I spied behind my left shoulder a laptop.  Now, I've been playing Rift.  It's a rather entertaining game, but I'm not ready to blog about it yet.  My kids were over and my youngest daughter was on my speedy desktop computer (so no Rift for me).  And, I've been wanting a laptop for a while now.  It just seems like a natural progression.  I had already been doing research, but I just wasn't ready to spend the money yet.  Since Best Buy was offering me 36 months, no interest, I said to myself, "No time like the present".  So I bought a laptop.

I didn't buy the one pictured to the left.  I bought a stripped down version from Best Buy.  Reviewers are fond of calling it, "The 'watered down for Best Buy' version."  But at 36 months no interest, that gives me 3 years to pay it off at $34 per month!

While at Best Buy I bought a little laptop desk so I could sit on my couch or in my recliner and play on my computer.  It's similar to the one pictured here (without the light and with a mouse pad that slides out on the side).

Finally, I went home.  Once home I started putting everything together.  First thing I had was a big happy helping of buyer's remorse.  So I packed up the Acer Iconia and took it back to Best Buy for a refund.  This made me feel enormously better.

I got everything installed on my new laptop.  Incidentally, if you do buy an Asus G73SW laptop and the keyboard lights aren't working, you must go to the Asus website and download the ATK drivers (I think ATK stands for Asus Technical Keypad or something like that).  The lights are controlled by the keypad and if the drivers aren't installed, the keypad doesn't work.  I accidentally disabled mine whilst trying to uninstall unnecessary software.  You might have to uninstall the existing ATK drivers and install the new ones.

On Tuesday evening, I sat in my recliner, in front of my TV, with a beer in my cup holder, playing Rift and watching the Mavs lose valiantly to the Heat.  I had brief moments of guilt because of all the things I "should" be doing, but it was masked by the shear satisfaction of being a sloth.