Letter to my Uncle Lorell who is dying

September 3, 2011


Dear Lorell,

When I was a kid there were few things I liked more than going to my uncles’ farms. Being a “city slicker” (as my classmates often called me), the farm was a completely different world to me. When I visited my Uncle Merlin’s farm it was mostly about hanging out with my cousins who were close in age to me, but when I visited your farm, it was always about you and I spending time together. That is a gift that I will always treasure.

One time when I was there “helping” you, we tried to take a dent out of the local rat population. I’ll never forget when you lifted up a piece of plywood (or maybe it was corrugated tin) that was laying behind the big machine shed. The plywood was laying on a small pile of corn and when you lifted it, it revealed several rat “tunnels” and the rats inside them. I was surprised but you were not because you had a gun and started shooting the rats as they scurried away. Guns, rats, tunnels – everything about being on the farm was so cool.

You’ve always been there. You were at Grandma Christensen’s for all those Christmases with the toys in the bedrooms and the money in the envelopes. And you were at Grandma Ring’s for the oyster stew. I remember sitting in that little living room watching Vitas Gerulaitis play tennis and you laughing when I joked that his name sounded like a disease. Harold was there. And my dad. And Gene.

So many memories I have of you and so little time to tell you about them. You kept your golf cart in Grandma Ring’s garage. You drove that giant green Cadillac. You visited me at my first house in Portland. Remember? You got lost and I told you “find the first bridge you see and cross it.” I was so sad to spend what I thought would be our last birthday together three years ago but now I’m so glad that you have had three more years in this world. I’ve never had a birthday where I didn’t think of you. And I never will.

As I sit here with all these thoughts and memories swirling through my head, I’m desperately trying to figure out how to end this note to you in a meaningful way. I suppose that life mostly doesn’t come to an end in a dramatic or meaningful way so perhaps I should just end this by saying that I thank you for your many kindnesses towards me over the last (almost) 45 years and that I think you’ve been a good uncle and a fine man. I also thank you for my double cousins without whom my life would be lesser. I hope that you reach the end of your days peacefully and without regret. And I love you.


Summer Playlist

After a few hints from the family, I have concluded that is time to end my blues exploration – at least for the time being. I had a revelation while eating dinner with the family the other night: The Summer Playlist. I’ll describe it in detail below but first a little context about the music listening situation in our house.

iTunes MBPDuring the work day I spend most of my time in my office, the kitchen or the bathroom (in that order). On the left side of my desk my MacBook Pro (MBP) runs iTunes all the time. The MBP is connected to my awesome PMIX-100 personal audio mixer (seen on the right of the photo). The mixer is connected to my Cambridge Soundworks desktop speakers which are located 18 inches in front of my head in the classic stereo position. This is where I do almost all of my listening these days.
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The Stumble

Today as I was listening to A Hard Road by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for the first time, the song that most caught my attention was their cover of Freddie King’s “The Stumble”. Since I had recently added The Very Best of Freddie King to my iTunes collection, I knew I probably had the original:

iTunes search for "The Stumble"

Sure enough I had the version by Freddie as well as another by Jeff Beck I immediately queued them to play next: Freddie followed by Beck. In the meantime, I pulled up the Wikipedia article to find out more about this rollicking electric guitar solo + what is the wah wah effect. There’s not much there but the article does have a list of artists that have covered it. My eyes immediately found Gary Moore who was more or less a disciple of Peter Green, Mayall’s guitar player on his version of “The Stumble”. Having just downloaded a chunk of Moore’s work the night before, I anxiously scanned the files for his version of “The Stumble”. I dropped it into iTunes just as Beck’s version faded out.

As Moore’s version blasted my ears, I went to YouTube for further insight. I wasn’t able to find the Freddie King version but I did find Green, Beck and Moore as well as a couple of interesting versions.
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Mega Cool Super Church (and Technology)

Saturday I drove down to Happy Valley to pick up Graham following an overnight at his friend’s house. On the way there I saw a monstrous building and noted it was a church. On the way back home, we stopped so I could get a picture. I posted the first picture to Instagram (warning: link opens iTunes). In that picture, I included the sign as a point of reference but it somewhat eclipsed the gigantic church so I moved a few steps east and snapped another:

Abundant Life Church
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The Impact of War on Segments of the Middle East Population

Have you seen Google’s Public Data Explorer? It’s an interactive interface to some gigantic sets of data gathered from around the world (sorry, requires Flash). I found it when I searched for “population growth” on Google. If you click the chart at the top of the list of results, you can graph the change in population growth rates for any country from 1960 to present. The chart graphs the US population rate by default but you can turn on any combination of countries as well as the world population growth rate for comparison.

After playing with it for a few minutes, I wondered about Iran and Iraq, two countries that we all probably wish we knew less about:

Remember the Iran/Iraq war? You can see it right there in the data. Can you tell who “won” and who lost that war?

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All I Got For Xmas 2010

All I Got For Xmas 2010
Originally uploaded by rynosoft

Once again I had a very bountiful Christmas. Click the picture to see the details but my gifts included:

  • Earth: The Book
  • Microwave safe soup bowl
  • Soup spoons
  • Chopsticks
  • Microwave safe coffee cups
  • Instant coffee
  • My four favorite Beatles albums remastered
  • $75 in cash
  • Personal audio mixer
  • Let It Beā€¦Naked
  • Sugar free candy
  • New earphones for my iPhone
  • Six pack of grilling sauces/rubs
  • Two iTunes gift certificates worth $45 (not pictured) – redeeming for various apps and songs
  • Amazon gift certificate for $50 (not pictured) – redeemed for iLife ’11

Thanks to Buddy, Leroy, Tom, Jan, Michelle & Ric, Tina, Thomas, Graham and the Kittens. I know I’m hard to shop for and appreciate when people do so anyway.

Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll

If you were a teen in the 80s like me then you probably remember the short-lived sketch comedy series, Fridays, on ABC. Although it only lasted two seasons, it left an indelible impression on my young brain.

Sadly, a DVD release of those two seasons is reportedly held up by Michael Richards. Luckily, YouTube has most of their great sketches including the ones I’ve included below the fold:
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Fun with the iTunes “search box”

Here’s a fun little exercise you can do in iTunes:

  1. In iTunes, click on your music library in the sidebar.
  2. Turn on shuffle, ensure that you have “By Songs” selected in the Shuffle menu (which is in Controls in the main menu)
  3. Type the first word that comes to mind in the search box
  4. Play one of the songs that is displayed
  5. Pick a new word or name from the currently playing song, type that word into the search box
  6. Listen
  7. When song changes, repeat 5

Note that in step 5 that you must pick a word that will include the currently playing song or iTunes will get confused and stop playing after the song is over. Obviously, having a large music library (23847 songs for me) and lots of metadata helps make the game interesting.

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Cee-Lo Green and the Horse He Rode in On

Remember Gnarls Barkley‘s first single in the summer of 2006? “Crazy” was the first single to chart in the UK based purely on online sales. Now one half of that duo, Cee-Lo Green, has released an equally enchanting single called “Fuck You” off his upcoming album, The Lady Killer. Here’s the first video for the song:

If you love the song as much as I do, you won’t mind hearing it a second time (in a different video):
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An Extra Day in Milwaukee

I spent most of last week in Milwaukee (actually Menomonee Falls), Wisconsin, searching for the cause of a crash in our software that is adversely affecting a client. I flew into Milwaukee on Monday, spent three days on the client site and planned to fly back home Thursday evening. Thursday morning I glanced at my Google Calendar on my iPhone for my departure time. This is what I saw:
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