Wednesday, October 31, 2007


As though anyone with a taste for good music and rationality needed any more reasons to hate Clear Channel, they have just given a golden reason. Apparently, they are doing what they can to ensure that Springsteen gets little or no play on their stations, which constitute the vast majority of stations around the country and the only stations in many markets.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

roasting pumpkin seeds

Note to self: do not forget that you are toasting the pumpkin seeds. Not even for three minutes. Burnt pumpkin seeds are just sad.

immunity absurdity

I'm glad the Democrats are making some noise about the absurd decision to grant "limited-use" immunity to the Blackwater mercenaries. I just wish for some reason to believe that their bluster will actually come to any result. Unfortunately, Bush&Co are brilliant at both crafting messages to relegate critics to crank status and doing whatever they damn well please.

At this point, the whole administration has become a tragicomedy of Shakespearean proportions. From faked FEMA news conferences to faked photo ops to the decision to protect mercenaries who randomly killed people to the ability to ignore calls for increased information, this administration has made a joke of our country and citizenry. As public servants, they have done nothing more than fuel their own machiavellian ambitions, and whoever takes over the reins will be left with more messes than we can possibly imagine.

And we owe most of it to the Supreme Court, a court that was less Conservative than the court we inherit.

Monday, October 29, 2007


You'd think by 37 I would know how to do things like get a furnace up and running. I have friends who can renovate whole houses, who know this sort of useful information by rote. Me? I had to consult a few guides to figure out why the furnace was blowing cold. (Mind you, I wouldn't have the furnace running except that 61 degrees was a little low for Banana.) Anyway, my next step was to climb up into the attic crawl space. Thankfully, there was a light switch up there, since my flashlight was dying. With a little bit of work and a Swiss Army knife (it was closer than the toolbox), I took the cover off and lit the pilot.


I have friends who can renovate whole houses, and I have to learn how to do basic home maintenance stuff like this.

navel-gazing moment over

Friday, October 26, 2007

two hours and fifteen minutes

That is how long I have after Banana goes to bed before a potty accident. If I get her to the potty by that time, we are fine the rest of the night. If I forget and remember ten minutes late, it's too late. Needless to say, the predictability has reduced the amount of laundry--as long as I don't lose track of time.


trying, but not there yet

For my day-after-birthday dinner, my Dad, his wife Cathy and their little girl D took Banana and me out for dinner. I'd suggested Northside Grille, one of two new restaurants on Richmond's North Side, and a place that has gotten some pretty good press of late. It is also billed as a very kid-friendly restaurant, and was convenient to where they would be anyway.

Walking in, I was impressed by the room. It's wide-open, with jumbo-sized booths lining either wall, and a U-shaped bar taking up the center of the room. Business seemed brisk, even though it was early on a rainy evening. Many of the tables were occupied by families, and the noise level was manageable. So far, so good.

Then the service started. It took several minutes before our server appeared. When she appeared, everything about her demeanor said she wasn't go to bring much sunshine to the table. She took the drink orders briskly--dad and Cathy each ordered from their wine list, which was moderately priced and had some fairly interesting wines by the glass. I asked what the seasonal tap was, and was a little bummed to hear that it was the Sam Adams Winter Ale. We're not even out of October, for crying out loud. Anyway, her irritation grew as I went back to the menu to figure out what I wanted. Not a good start.

We took a while to order, which can be irritating for servers. Still, she made no further efforts at helping us, and in fact seemed a bit frustrated when we asked about the specials. The way she kept glancing out the window, you'd think she had far better things to do than wait on us. Had I been picking up the tab, her tip would have dropped below 15 percent already.

When we did order, the adults all got Roasted Red Pepper soup. It was a hit--freshly made and with just enough spice to cut through a chilly evening. Things went down hill when the rest of the food arrived, however. Cathy had ordered a cheese quesadilla for D, but what came out was a full-on chicken and bean quesadilla, not exactly six-year old-friendly. The manager was quick to take care of the problem, however. Dad's burger was large and tasty. Cathy's salad was fine. For my entree, however, I had ordered the pork chops--"grilled and topped with caramelized peaches and a balsamic drizzle"--which sounded good, and about which I had read a good review. Instead of caramelized peaches, however, the line cook had put some canned peaches on top of the chops. The balsamic drizzle was nowhere to be seen, either. The sides--roasted red potatoes and grilled slices of zucchini and yellow squash--were good, but lukewarm. The chops were tough and seemed to have been cooked before being tossed on the grill for a quick bit of flame. Had our window for dinner been longer, I would have sent the plate back. It was mediocre at best, and certainly not worth $16. It's sad, really, because I had been looking forward to the meal.

The Northside Grille hasn't lost me yet. The place is kid-friendly and smoke-free, two big pluses. Clearly they need to even out their work in the kitchen. It would also be great to see them pull something out that doesn't seem like pure Sysco products. Several other restaurants in the area do--the Mamma Zu's empire, for example--and it would be nice to see this place differentiate itself from other cookie-cutter places by offering more than a stock menu and a smoke-free atmosphere.

Friday Fun

I'm a little braindead a day after turning 37. Just watch and laugh, m'kay?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

mortgage madness

As the headlines keep coming about the mortgage meltdown, I am more and more secure in my decision not to buy a house in the last few years. I would have been one of those people with a barely-affordable mortgage payment. And if I had taken an ARM on a gamble, I would now be screwed.

It was one wise decision, at least.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

From the "You've got to be kidding me" annals

a.k.a. the "Why is the government spending our money on this shit?" annals...

I bring you Ghostbusters 2007, the terrorism edition. Then again, this is also the edition where the ghost/terrorist is, in fact, a gingerbread ninja.

Thanks, guys. Our infrastructure is falling apart. Our schools are underfunded. Our health "care" system is a delivers better profits than care. Our environment is degrading. But at least we have a Terrorist Busters logo.

Thanks again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

courtship of Eddie's father, real-life version

The half life of a post-break recovery seems to be something on the order of a year. that's about how long it took for people to start asking me if

a. I was dating someone.
b. I was interested in dating.

These questions inevitably lead in one of two directions:
a. If the answer is no, the wizened suggestion that it is time to start looking.
b. If the answer is yes (or even a vaguely committal maybe), the person begins to tell you about the friend they think you should meet.

More often than not, the person in Case Bb is a woman. This fact is more or less irrelevant in the end. In any case, the brief dossier follows — age, hair color, brief description of interests, occupation, and any other essential details. The next question is whether I am interested in meeting the "perfect" friend. There is no good answer to this question, particularly if you're in a small social circle like I am. First off, there is a fair chance the meeting will happen anyway. Second, if it doesn't, the mutual friend will "inadvertantly" make it happen on the chance that we will hit it off, and I will change my mind.

Regardless of how it happens, dating as a full-time single parent is a dicey proposition. At least in my case, I have found that I want the connection, but that it is very hard to juggle all the priorities. And making trade-offs is no fun. Then again, there really isn't much choice but to suffer through the introductions and the choices if one wants to build a new, emotionally-healthy life.

Maybe one of these days I'll wrap my head around some of these experiences to write cogently about them again. Or to write again, period.

more corporate silliness

Give David Adams credit for writing a gripping lede for his op-ed in today's Times:
Young smokers who begin their habit with nicotine-laden cigarettes need a cigarette that will not leave them to later fight the ravages of addiction.

So rather than try to get kids not to smoke in the first place, the companies will just encourage them to smoke cigarettes that aren't physically addictive. Never mind the fact that it's the psychological addiction of the habit, oral fixation, and social component that are actually harder to break. At least that was my experience. Besides, teenagers who want to get the "real" thing will find ways to get the "real" cigarettes.

Isn't this just another version of the candy cigarettes that were sold to us as children? These same candy cigarettes had labels that were close enough to the real thing that kids could develop brand identification through design and color, and we could act like adults.

[image pulled from]

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Snotty aka Snobby

We went out to Short Pump Town Center, one of Richmond's "lifestyle centers," this afternoon to check out the Apple store and buy a new pair of Jack Purcell's for me. We went to Saxon's, the Richmond shoe-buying institution, which is where I bought my current pair eleven years ago.

Now, granted, I didn't exactly look polished and moneyed in my t-shirt, shorts, and battered Converse. Nonetheless, I was still a potential (and past) customer, and there was no cause for the salesman to snap at me haughtily when I asked if they still carried the Jack Purcell's. (They did not.) When I followed up with questions about lug-sole black oxfords, the salesman seemed entirely put out to have to answer any other questions. Assholes. I'd rather risk buying shoes online.

When I walked out of there, Saxon had lost a customer. I may buy shoes for Banana there in the future, but I will not subject myself to that kind of attitude from salesmen. Especially when I'm willing to pay for good shoes.

kids at concerts

Wilco, Charlottesville Pavilion, tonight.

I took a gamble on this one. Wilco fans are a pretty reserved group, and the Pavilion is an outdoor venue. It seemed like a reasonable chance that Banana would have a good time. But at $40 for her ticket, nothing was guaranteed. Still, it was their last show in the States this year, and it would be a bit of cleansing since the last show I saw was with the ex before the meltdown.

Blah, blah, blah...

Long story short: we ran into a few other kids; they all ran around and had a great time; Banana curled up in her Hello Kitty fleece blanket and passed out just before the encores.

So the show...

They played two hours and 40 minutes, with three encores. The set list (which I will link to when it goes up on WilcoBase) was heavy on the last three albums, but they branched out to a couple tracks from Summerteeth, several from Being There, and one each from Mermaid Avenue, and A.M.. Throughout the set, they kept up a little schtick around "Heavy Metal Drummer" -- they'd play the opening beats or Kotche would come out in a blast of white light. But they saved the song for the end of the first three-song encore. The second encore ran five songs, covering what amounted to the history of the band. The final encore was "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," and it was phenomenal.

The band was as tight as I've ever heard them. Nels Cline was pulling riffs apart and reconstructing them, and during "Hoodoo Voodoo" he traded dueling riffs with Pat. Then during "Kidsmoke," Pat and Mikael traded keyboard riffs. And the chemistry was there the whole show. Stirrat and Tweedy were playful. Tweedy brought an 8-year old girl on the stage for Kotche was fierce. I can think of no other word to describe how much energy he puts into his playing, and his ability to mix and layer multiple sets of complex rhythms is constantly amazing.

Overall, what constantly impresses me about Wilco is their ability as a group to rethink and retool their songs. It doesn't matter that some of the production work on the albums is unavailable on stage. Instead, they'd rather take the core of the song and explore from there. The performances rarely feel repetitive, but at the same time, they don't abstract the songs so much that you never know what to expect.

The venue deserves kudos, too. The central location off the Downtown Mall makes it feel far more linked in to the city than most such places. Furthermore, the sound was excellent, inside and outside. This was our first trip there for a show, but it's definitely on the radar now. Next time, we'll have to get there early enough to roam.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

National Folk Festival

Quick notes back on the weekend...

  • There were fewer acts this year than the past two years. This was fine because we spent more time with Banana's friends than trying to catch music. Still, there were too many open blocks on the schedule.

  • The more exotic acts (the gourd band, the Chinese clown, the flea circus, and more) in the children's area in previous years were more popular with Banana.

  • The crowds--175K, more than any other NFF location--were a shock (!) to the powers-that-be in Richmond. With any luck, the Richmond Folk Festival will not be co-opted by the powers-that-be; if anyone can screw up a good thing, they can.

  • Phenomenal tap dancing, great Acadian music, fascinating Phillipino drumming, no throat singing

  • Punch and Judy is PG-13.

  • We'll have to pray that we get decent rain in the months before next year's festival. No more dustbowls!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Great signs - Richmond edition

Should have worn his helmet, eh?

Octoberfests - the seasonal appendix

Clearly, I am a beer geek, but the brewers of tonight's tasting selection are in a different league altogether. First off, the guys at St. George Brewing Company don't sell their Fall Bock ("a seasonal brew") by the six-pack or in big bottles. Instead, this beer is in standard 12-ounce single bottles. Second, their description reads as follows:
heavy body, light amber color, low perceived bitterness, high malt flavor, medium/balanced hoppiness, no diacetyl, medium carbonation

They used the "diacetyl." I have to consult my beer-brewing books to even remember what that means.

But this is about how the beer tastes, right? That said, I'll counter their beer-geek description by saying that this beer tastes like delicious blend of crisp air, cider donuts, macaroni and cheese, and the ALCS.

Google amazement

So, if you google the Colbert web address I mentioned in my last post, this site is one of only four that come up. Fascinating!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Colbert on Gore

The "Gore-gernaut"... Brilliant.

BHUs — "Bush Hate Units"... usually brought on by reading Frank Rich. Brilliant!

"" — how soon will it be a parody site?

parenting moments — late-night potty trips

For the past couple weeks, I've done my best to watch the clock after Banana goes to bed. There's approximately a two and a half hour window, and if I miss it, I will be washing sheets again. Now, taking her to the toilet two hours after she goes to sleep doesn't guarantee there won't be another potty accident in the course of the night, but at least it decreases the likelihood.

The potty accidents started to happen a year and a half ago--when the recent marital meltdown happened. Even though Banana Mère insisted that there wasn't a correlation, it doesn't take much to find that the meltdown and the potty accidents match. After things cooled down, however, the potty accidents became rare. When they happened, she had had too much juice or water before bed, and the result was an accident.

For the past few months, though, the potty accidents have become a regular occurrence. I have worried over them. I have asked other parents--many of whom have similar problems with their children. I have read books. I have spoken to the pediatrician. The verdict for all of these people is that this is an age-appropriate issue--an inconvenience, not a problem. Banana Mère insists that there should be solutions to this--from conditioning with a "special" nightgown to walking her to the bathroom rather than carrying. Everyone else recommends one of three options: Pull-ups; lots of sheets and bed pads; and waking her up to go.

Clearly, I've chosen the last option, with the second as a back-up. Banana Mère's nightgown idea is a loser so far, and Banana is just as asleep whether walked or carried to the bathroom. Ah well, she lives with me full-time; so the choice most of the time is mine.

So is the extra laundry.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Ever since his nomination was announced, I've been saying that I hoped Gore would win the Nobel. Now he has. Will I get the second part of my wish and see him jump into the race? That's anybody's guess, and I won't add to the echo chamber that's already building noise.

What I do find pathetic—and utterly unsurprising—is the speed with which the Fox-driven media fast food chain has begun the Nobel-is-a-sham backlash. What a sad climate and country we have created.

movie adaptations

Just stumbled across Baz Luhrmann's 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet on one of my absurd number of cable channels. I don't recall ever having watched it, and I am amazed at how surprisingly—even shockingly—good it is.

Luhrmann's setting of it in a post-apocalyptic Venice Beach works well, and his staging shows precursors of what he did with Moulin Rouge. The color palettes and cinematography take us fully into the world of the film. The acting is, well, excellent. Chris Rock as a cross-dressing Mercutio to John Leguizamo as a goombah Tybalt—it all works. DiCaprio screams a bit much, but otherwise is excellent. And Claire Danes is a delight.

What I also appreciate about the acting and the staging is the way Shakespeare's iambic pentameter is maintained without being played off as some absurdly affected speechifying. The language gets to do its job without being the spotlight, and in the end, the beauty of the writing shines through again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

culture clash

When a young man and woman are driving around in a pickup truck, why does the woman sit in the middle? I've wondered this ever since I moved south in 1999.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pain, the next step

A couple weeks ago, I had an appointment with the pain specialists. The initial diagnosis for the ongoing pain was that the bullet might have damaged the brachial plexus. To test this hypothesis, they prescribed an electromyograph exam(EMG) with a neurologist. Today, I had that exam.

In short, the EMG entails pain to diagnose the source of pain. The first part of the exam is to shock the nerves and record the responses. This means that the arm jumps when the electrodes are touched. Fun stuff. But not as fun as the needles. The second part of the exam involves putting needles into the muscles to test the biofeedback. This is not like having a needle in a vein; in this case, you can feel the needle going into the vein.

This test was conducted at various points along my arm, my hand, and my shoulder. The result, despite less sensitivity to pain along my right arm, was normal. While this is good--no apparent damage to a major thruway of nerves, it also means I don't have an answer yet about the pain I am experiencing.

And that pain isn't going away, even with medication.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Octoberfests, pt. 5 – a teutonic head-to-head

I've been keeping these bottles in my fridge for more than a week now as I've tried to lighten up on the drinking. Anyway, it was finally time for the head-to-head—call it mourning for the baseball season.

1. Spaten Oktoberfest Märzen lager
With apologies to all the great American Octoberfests, none of them quite hold a candle to the real thing. The body of the Spaten is near-perfect—light, but with just enough heft to make you long for crisp days and almost-frosty nights. Then comes the taste, with complex layers upon layers. There is none of the overwhelming maltiness of some of the American brews. Instead, the malts bring out a certain caramel flavor that begins to hint of nutmeg and cinnamon on later sips. The hops don't jump out, but there are just enough floral notes on the nose to remind you that the hops are an essential building block of this beer.

2. Aktien Oktoberfest
This one comes in a bigger bottle--happy, happy! Overall, the beer's character is very similar to the Spaten--its body and malt. The nose is more balanced, however, and the flavor is more even. It's up to you whether this is a positive. Damn fine beer, I say.

Monday, October 08, 2007

global warming as a benefit?

So according to this diary on Daily Kos, Fox News has begun to spin global warming as a positive. Their argument is that the race for the arctic is a race for resources, not a race to retard the apparent acceleration of global warming.

What continues to amaze me is the ability of the conservative noise machine, shaped by Fox News, to perpetuate skeptical fictions about climate change. I worry that 20 years from now our kids will look back as they come of age and wonder what the hell was going on--as they deal with all the collateral problems that are likely to come from the changing climate.

For example, it is a warm, muggy night in New York. It was 80+ degrees on the coast of Maine this weekend. Blueberries come in earlier than ever. Growing seasons are changing all over. Droughts are getting more intense in regions all over the country. Parts of Maine haven't experienced a killing freeze in two years. I could go on and on, and the only thing that could convince me that this is cyclical is a record. But there are no records showing this sort of shift.

Read the Kos story, and tell me how many canaries (or walruses and polar bears) it will take for the naysayers to wake up.

notes on ptsd

I wrote this in a note to a friend, and thought it was worth posting out here, as well, for anyone who wants to read what it feels like:

...Unfortunately, I seem to be experiencing something far closer to what war vets experience [ed. or so I've read/heard]. Certainly, there are moments when [ed. seeing] young black men cause[s] a heart-pounding reaction, especially when I hear loud voices [too - ed. that's what really gets me, the memory of the voices.]. But I can't hear a balloon pop or a whip crack [or a truck backfire] without my head going into a really messy place. My heart skips. I want to drop to the ground. Beyond that, in daily functioning I pause and lose my concentration randomly. I see the gun again. I simply remember that I was shot. I think about the fact that an inch could have a made a difference between life and death. I hear the doctors saying, "This could easily have been fatal." It's not fear so much as a constantly paralyzing sense of [still] living in that moment.

My therapist and I did have a bit of a breakthrough about it last week; unfortunately, we concluded that it's also tied in with all the emotions from the roller coaster of the last few years. The unfortunate part is that this means I still have a much bigger ball of wax to deal with. Oy...

navel-gazing ends now

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Santa's New Elves (or a rather depressing look at where our kids' toys are made)

So Santa's Elves have migrated to factories in China where they churn out toys for Banana and her classmates one arm, leg, and Mickey head at a time. They eat the gruel doled out by fellow workers ("please, sir, may I have some more, sir?"), and sometimes sleep under the tables. I'll be hard-pressed to get this one out of my head the next time Banana asks whether she can get a toy--just a small Polly Pocket/Littlest Pet Shop/Barbie--on our next Target run.

Occasionally we pay attention to the costs this sort of economy of (cheap) scale is taking on our society, but mostly when it risks our kids' health. What would the real tab be in economic, environmental, and social scales if we actually tallied it up?

[Image and link via Daily Kos.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

trauma, pt. 600

The physical pain comes and goes. Apparently, though I avoided any severe physical damage (euphemisms, ahoy!), I have suffered some nerve damage. The extent of it will be tested next week. In the meantime, I am on nerve meds again. They are helping, but they exacerbate the effects of alcohol, I've discovered.

More than that...

As much as the physical pain continues, the psychological pain seems to get worse. I go through random moments when I lose focus on where I am. There are the occasional flashbacks which come more regularly than they did a few months ago. There is a distinct lack of motivation, and it's more than just burnout from work. The issues have gotten to the point that I even randomly lose my focus in the midst of a conversation. Worst, I can't seem to let go of how close I was to dying.

Apparently, I healed so quickly on the outside that I forgot healing internally would take a lot longer.

Chris Matthews on The Daily Show

Best interview I've seen in a while. Catch it online.

That's all.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Recent listening....

Last week, I picked up Steve Earle's latest and went alt-country old school with a re-issue of Uncle Tupelo's first.

Steve Earle — Washington Square Serenade
So Earle moved to the city and got a place literally steps from my first apartment. He left the Dukes behind and hooked up with Medeski and a few other guys. He went to the crazy music store on West 4th Street, the place that only lets serious people in the door. (I only went in a couple of times, and only after the owner was satisfied that I might buy something.) He went into the studio at Electric Ladyland and recorded an album that is subtly different than anything else he's done.

The instrumentation is subtle and acoustic throughout with a jumpy, unsettled rhythmic track below it all. It loses some of the straightforward drive of albums like Transcendental Blues. What the new album trades away, it gains back through some killer songwriting. "Tennessee Blues" closes with

Blue dog on my floorboard, redhead by my side
Cross the mighty Hudson river to the New York City side
Redhead by my side, boys sweetest thing I’ve found
Goodbye guitar town

It's a clear statement that he is striking out in new directions. The familiar observation and storytelling are there, however, as he moves through track after track evoking a newcomer's arrival in the city. There is also a familiar nostalgia for what has changed over the years in New York:

Now hell’s kitchen’s Clinton and the bowery’s Nolita
And the east village’s creepin’ ‘cross the Williamsburg bridge
And hey, whatever happened to alphabet city?

There is less storytelling throughout, which suggests that Earle is working through his own stories instead. Even his "chick songs" as he puts it are quieter and more optimistic:

Four more seasons on parade
Show their colors then they fade
But that won’t happen to us, darlin’
We’ll remember how it was
Then begin again because
Days are never long enough

Overall, it's too soon to say whether this is one of his best albums, but it's a good step after the intense politicking of the last two. Definitely worth some repeat listening.

Uncle Tupelo — No Depression
This album still stands up almost twenty years later. I've been listening to a lot of Wilco and Son Volt over the past year, so this was a bit of a re-introduction. What I most noticed is how much Farrar seemed to drive the early UT days, and how consistent his songwriting and instrumental style have been. Tweedy is almost absent in those early UT recordings, at least the Tweedy we began to see as UT broke up and Wilco began evolving.

UPDATE: Three minutes after I finished this post, Wilco came on Radio Paradise. Weird.

Verizon sucks, pt. 4,732 - the update that shouldn't happen

So, the Verizon mess was resolved in August, right? The service issues were resolved in July. The billing issues--namely double-billing for the period they thought I had two accounts, billing for the wrong services, and billing for equipment that had moved with me--were resolved in August. At least that's the way it was left with Aaron O'Connor, my local CSR who was dealing with the situation. In one series of conversations in mid-August, he eliminated more than $500 in erroneous charges and knocked off part of my next bill.

Or so I thought.

Until I got the bill from the collections agency today.

As it turns out, the main billing at Verizon apparently never got the message that I didn't owe them this money. Somehow, though, I never got notices or statements about the fact that this was still active. The sick irony is that I do remember the official notice on the billing site that my account had been credited--and I can no longer pull up this documentation because the account is closed.

I spent 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with the collections people earlier. When she described my payment options, I blew up. Not a good idea. Thankfully, she let me calm down and listened to my description of the whole stupid saga. Sadly, there is nothing she can do unless Verizon admits their error and pulls the account. This means I have to get back on the phone with them tomorrow and try to resolve this. Aaron O'Connor gave me his cell phone number during the earlier chapters of the saga. That may be my only saving grace in all of this.

One can hope, right? One can also hope that at some point this whole saga which began because two of their CSRs fucked up--first, the guy who processed my initial move order, and second, the woman who screwed up when they needed to shut off the other account retroactively. Those are the names I'd really like to have. They owe me apologies.