Monthly Archives: February 2008

Learning songs about the one that got away

Yesterday, part of my IM conversation with Tina went like this:

Tina: so guess what?

Me: what?

Tina: there is a surprise for you in the boys bathroom. it has paws.

Me: mouse?

Tina: and it scared the shit out of me

Tina: yep

Tina: wrapped up in a towel

Tina: waiting for you to come home and throw it away

Me: we should set traps again

Tina: thinks that’s a good idea

Tina: at first i thought it was a toy

Tina: then i saw blood

Tina: then i screamed

Tina: and threw a towel over it

Me: haha

Tina: mice are scary

I was able to guess the answer easily because this is the second we have found this year. The first we took from one of the kittens more than a week ago after they had eaten the guts out of it.

After I got home last night, I went into the bathroom and grabbed the towel in question. I took it out into the garage and put it into the garbage can, which is conveniently full to the top. I unwrapped the folds and found a positively live mouse looking at me inquisitively. There was no sign of blood and the little fellow look quite healthy. I quickly refolded the towel and went back into the house. “That mouse is still alive,” I whispered to Tina. The range of emotions that passed over her face was pretty amusing.

I found a plastic container in the recycling and dumped a little baking soda in it and returned to the garage with the intent of gassing the critter. I put the container on the floor and began to unfold the towel to dump the mouse into the container. Unfortunately, he landed right next to the container and took off under the car. Baby, who just happened to be in the garage with me at that moment, immediately pursued the new toy under the car. I assumed that he would emerge with mouse in mouth, but I was wrong. Soon he was digging around behind some shelves where his brother joined him, but they never caught the bugger.

When Graham got wind of the situation, he refused to go to bed. We eventually talked him into it, but I think that the presence of his nightly companion reassured him that he would be safe from any rogue rodents that might trespass into his bedroom.

Rory spent most of the evening camped in front of the stove intently looking underneath it. Since that was a prime spot for catching mice last year, I’ll put a couple of traps under there tonight as well as one by the cat food and one under the dishwasher.

Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2360
Van odometer: 150830
Weight lost (in pounds): 16
Hours of sleep last night: 8
Aches & pains: left foot
Current reading: The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees, The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
Recent listening: This American Life, News from Lake Wobegon, DrugMusic
Recent viewing: Countdown, Monk, Suns at Lakers, Austin City Limits (Etta James), Soundstage (John Fogerty)
Recent playing: Spikeys Bounce Around, Chicken and Egg, Virus 2
Recently accomplished: battery for Graham’s iPod, more Best of 2007, backups for everyone, new hard drive and iLife ’04 for Graham, new hard drive for Tina’s new MacBook, migrated data to my new MacBook Pro
Imperative To Do: Sift through inbox, post office (Kent, Sue, Lala), phone calls, finish Best of 2007, test bike commute, join gym, 401k rollover, find new internet host

Best of 2007: Songs

    Top 5 Songs of 2007   

  1. Remember the Name by Fort Minor: “This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, Fifteen percent concentrated power of will.” So begins the swaggering second single from The Rising Tied, the side project album from Linkin Park band member, Mike Shinoda. The lyrics are crafted so well that you can’t help but chant them to yourself even after the song is over. The fact that the rapping is very old school (i.e. easy to understand) also endears it to me. Oh and the video is fun, too.
  2. Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae: From the moment I first saw her perform this song on Saturday Night Live, I loved the exuberance and joy, both in her delivery and in the song itself. The lyrics evoke a warm summer day from your childhood while the song plants a gentle dance groove in your body. Corinne’s inflections and phrasing is near perfect without seeming contrived, even during the “diva moments” that so many female singers these days over-dramatize. This song is going to be on my future playlists for a long time to come.
  3. Points of Authority/99 Problems by Jay Z and Linkin Park: What do you get when you “mashup” songs by a mediocre rock band and a highly acclaimed but sometimes mediocre rapper? A hard-rocking, rabble-rousing polemic that has a metallic edge and street smarts. I quoted the refrain, “99 problems and a bitch ain’t one,” many times to Tina last year whenever she had to deal with a particular bitch. The lyrics make this inappropriate for some situations but ideal among adults of a specific vintage.
  4. I’d Love To Change The World by Ten Years After: Alvin Lee‘s take on the hippie revolution that never came to pass still sounds fresh 37 years later. Frantic and insistent during the verses, Lee lays back and relaxes for the chorus: “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do. So I’ll leave it up to you.” Although the song doesn’t give you much of his famous electric guitar, the frenetic acoustic guitar strumming more than makes up for it.
  5. Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull: I know it’s cheating a little bit to include this entire album as a “song”, but Tull’s intention was that it should be heard as a continuous work. I used the “Join Tracks” feature in iTunes to turn the two songs on the CD (called simply “Side 1” and “Side 2”) into one. Although the 45-minute length might be intimidating, the song never meanders and revisits common themes often enough to keep your attention. The lyrics are a musical retelling of a poem written by the fictional character, “Little Milton“. “I really don’t mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper, your deafness a SHOUT,” begins the first of many verses that peek in and out between the musical change-ups and not-too-extended jams. Although it’s not necessary to appreciate the song, the newspaper covered album cover provides a lot of background to the story and is fun to read as you listen to the album.

Click the song titles to hear a sample of the song in the iTunes Music Store. You can get iTunes here.

Rory comes home

As I tried to drift off to sleep Sunday night (er, Monday morning), I imagined the conversation that the cats had when Rory appeared again after being gone for three days. Here’s the scene:

Ming is laying on the back of the couch in the library room and Baby is relaxing nearby on the rocker/glider. Butters bursts into the room exclaiming, “Rory’s home! Rory’s home!”

Ming slowly opens his eyes and says, “Rory’s phone? Rory has a phone? Then someone should call her because I haven’t seen her for awhile.”

“NO, MING,” Butters shouts, “I SAID THAT RORY IS HOME!”

“I can barely hear you, boy, you’ll have to speak up! You say Rory’s alone? I bet she is, she’s been gone for awhile.”

“No, no, no, ” says Butters. He turns to Baby and says, “Did YOU hear me? Rory is home!”

Baby blinks at Butters twice and slowly says, “That’s cool, man, because that chick is fun. But I’m just going to hang out here a little longer with Ming. I’m tired and have only napped for 10 hours today. I need to get my sleep so I can tear around after everyone goes to bed.”

“I can’t believe you guys,” Butters tells them, “We should go make sure she’s alright. Come on!”

And with that he runs out of the room as fast as he can. Unfortunately, he’s going too fast to make it around the first corner and slides right into the cabinet where Frederick the Frog lives.

“What the hell’s wrong with you crazy cats?” croaks Frederick. “Let’s see you come up HERE and do that, smarty pants!”

“Oh, sorry, Frederick,” says Butters, “It was an accident. I’ll come visit later.”

Just as he’s saying that, in walks Rory who says, “Hello, boys. Didja miss me?”

What remains of the day remains to be seen

I am now in the winning stages of a five day battle with strep throat that caused one side of my neck to swell up and made it very difficult to swallow for several days. The doctor concluded today that it was likely the preliminary stages of an abscess. Yesterday the pain had actually moved into my jaw and the swelling had progressed into the middle of my neck. On my first trip to the doctor on Friday, he prescribed amoxicillin and vicodin after concluding it was probably strep throat. He said to watch the swelling and if it got worse, see him again. And so I returned yesterday after spending a day alternately sleeping and zonked on vicodin. He agreed that the swelling had worsened but wasn’t ready to resort to more drastic measures like prednisone or stronger anti-biotics. He did have me make an appointment for today to check on my progress. I stuck with the omoxicillin and vicodin and threw in a box of shells and cheese (first real food in several days) last night. I slept for nearly 12 hours straight and woke up just in time to make my appointment with him today. And I felt great. And feel great still. Hail to the shells and cheese!

Thursday night I wasn’t feeling very well so I asked Thomas to put the trash and recycling out to the curb. Tina volunteered to help him and I’m grateful they spared me the effort. Sometime during the process, though, our little girl, Rory, snuck out of the garage and hadn’t been seen until just a few minutes ago. Tina and the boys made “missing kitty” posters and were going to plaster them all over the neighborhood. We feared that she had escaped to the greenspace behind our house where coyotes are rumored to wander. We know for sure that there are raccoons back there so we were very concerned. Tonight when we returned from dinner and book shopping at Goodwill, we thought we heard distant meowing outside the garage. When we went outside to investigate, there was Rory on the roof and glad to see us! I can’t tell you how happy our household is at this moment.

Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2360
Van odometer: 150819
Weight lost (in pounds): 14
Hours of sleep last night: 12
Aches & pains: swollen glands/sore throat
Current reading: The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees, The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
Recent listening: The Band, This American Life
Recent viewing: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Countdown, Charlie Rose, Larry King Live, The Simpsons Movie
Recent playing: Spikeys Bounce Around, Chicken and Egg
Recently accomplished: two doctor’s appointments, searching for Rory
Imperative To Do: Sift through inbox, post office (Kent, Sue, Lala), phone calls, finish Best of 2007, test bike commute, join gym, 401k rollover, find new internet host

Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2360
Van odometer: 150701
Weight lost (in pounds): 8
Hours of sleep last night: 7
Aches & pains: none
Current reading: The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees, The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
Recent listening: The Rising Tied by Fort Minor, The Shepherd’s Dog by Iron & Wine, This American Life, Wolfmother by Wolfmother
Recent viewing: Countdown, The 4400, Superbowl XLII
Recent playing: Peggle
Recently accomplished: cleaned cat boxes, recycling, paid bills, finished Holiday Road series, evaluated Quicken Online (fail), started new job
Imperative To Do: Sift through inbox, post office (Kent, Sue, Lala), phone calls, finish Best of 2007, test bike commute, join gym, 401k rollover, find new internet host

Best of 2007: Honorable Mention

    Honorable Mention Albums for 2007     

  • The Blind Leading The Naked by Violent Femmes: Talk about a late 80’s flashback! Few bands can lay claim to the soundtrack of my college career but the Femmes are definitely one of them. Of their first three albums, this is probably my least favorite but also the most accessible for the masses. While “Old Mother Reagan” definitely sounds dated, the rest of the album still sounds as fresh as the first time I heard it twenty years ago.
  • Chicago IX (Greatest Hits) by Chicago: Before they were the Peter Cetera Love Song Band, Chicago was a kick-ass rock band with a great horn section. Although some of these songs hinted at the mediocre ballads that would come later, this set of songs is never formulaic and recommended for all fans of classic rock.
  • Eagles Live by The Eagles: Classic rock seems to be the theme for this year’s crop of Honorable Mentions and this live album represents the classiest of the classics. This two-disc set was the capstone on the Eagles’ decade long run at the forefront of the country-rock movement. Although it’s a little heavy on songs from The Long Run (most of the album was recorded during that tour), two discs leaves lots of rooms for all the old favorites and even a “new” classic for this album, “Seven Bridges Road”. More than anything this album proves that the Eagles were a great live band that did not rely on the studio to make their sound. The harmonies are all spot-on and the musicianship is exquisite, particularly on “Hotel California” which ends with a legendary guitar duel between Joe Walsh and Don Felder.
  • Volcano, Riddles in the Sand, Last Mango In Paris by Jimmy Buffett: My sister introduced me to Jimmy Buffett in the 80’s and I have loved his music ever since. For years I had been satisfied with owning the wonderful Boats, Beaches, Bars, Ballads box set but I have missed many of the album tracks from the period of his career I like to call the Mustache Years. Upon signing up for Lala I immediately put those albums into my Wanted queue. This year I was lucky enough to receive three of those albums. Riddles and Mango have particular meaning for me because they helped provided the soundtrack for my summers in 1984 and 1985 when I lived with my sister in South Carolina. I’ll never forget the look on my brother-in-law’s face as the melody to “La Vie Dansante” played near the end of “Beyond the End” – we were perplexed, delighted… and stoned.
  • Walls and Bridges by John Lennon: Although this album is not considered among Lennon’s finest by most critics, I still count it as one of my favorites by John, probably because it was my first solo Lennon album. The Phil Spector-inspired production can get unnecessarily cluttered with horns sometimes, but each song has almost exactly the right atmosphere it needs. The downbeat numbers, in particular, have a definite dark feeling to them and John’s estrangement from Yoko is obvious. Perhaps that’s why the upbeat numbers feel forced, as if John was trying to convince himself that he was happy when he was not.
  • Apple Venus Volume 1 by XTC: Although I would classify myself as an XTC fan, I haven’t been very impressed with anything they’ve done since Skylarking, perhaps one of the Top 10 albums of all time. Sure there have been songs that I liked, but each album has been a disappointment as a whole. And so it took awhile for me to finally pick up the first release on their own record label, Apple Venus Volume 1. It undeservedly languished outside of the rotation for months last year until I finally set my mind to rediscovering XTC. Oh how I was rewarded! The lush production and the willingness to throw in a horn or some strings harken back to Skylarking but this album isn’t quite up to that standard. Thus, it only makes Honorable Mention this year.
  • Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull: Convential wisdom says that Aqualung and Songs From The Wood make up the essential Jethro Tull oeuvre but I would make the case that this masterwork should be included in that collection as well. I first stumbled upon this album in the mid-80’s as a plundered my sister’s record collection with cassettes in hand. I finally purchased the album on vinyl sometime in the 90’s just so I could have the full version of the epic liner notes but it took this long for me to pick up the CD. After ripping the CD into iTunes using the defaults, I went back and re-ripped it as a single track since I think that’s what Ian Anderson intended all along.