The Highways and Byways of the Stratosphere

We've moved to a new location!

Other People's Blogs and Such

My girlfriend
Bob Scott

See Also:

My livejournal
My homepage
My links page

E-mail me
AIM: Fablesto

Commenting provided by YACCS

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Thursday, September 30
For more radio fun, I listened to Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Presidential candidate, being interviewed on NPR. I thought he came across as fairly rude and not too bright. (Brighter than Bush, I suppose, but then so are most potted plants.) Really, he struck me as being pretty similar to the Family Radio fundamentalist types, only instead of "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," it was "private property, private property, private property." Yes, there are areas in which I think the government has too much control. The thing is, though, who doesn't? I'm sure if you asked Democrats, Republicans, and even Socialists, most of them are not going to say, "Yes, I want the government interfering in every aspect of my life!" There's certainly some disagreement among the different political parties in terms of exactly when the government SHOULD be allowed to interfere, but not wanting a lot of interference isn't an idea on which the Libertarians have a monopoly. Libertarianism, as least as explained by Badnarik (who might not represent the views of all people who consider themselves to be libertarians), seems to be based on easy answers and buzzwords. For instance, he said that criminals are people who don't respect private property. Also, Columbine was apparently caused by Ritalin (something with which the host of the program actually took issue), and a lack of restrictions on gun ownership would result in less crime. In addition, Badnarik used the word "steal" so often, you'd think he was a representative of the RIAA. It's a word that gets a reaction, even when used in a fashion that might not be entirely appropriate. So, yeah, even if I thought Badnarik had a chance of winning, I wouldn't vote for him.

Wednesday, September 29
Sometimes, when there's nothing good on the car radio, I listen to Family Radio, one of those crazy Religious Right stations at the end of the dial. I have to say, if you haven't listened to this kind of radio, you've missed such things as:

  • The host on a call-in show (where they find answers "from the Bible, not our own minds") backpedaling when called on the fact that he had said the world would end in the early nineties, and was now saying it would end in 2011. I think he eventually hung up on the caller.
  • A "creationism moment," where some guy talked about how bees provide evidence for intelligent design. The amusing thing was that he sounded kind of like Sterling Holloway, which, combined with the fact that he was talking about bees, made me think of Winnie-the-Pooh.
  • Another creationist type saying something like, "If birds and mammals have similar structures, that's because they were made by the same God." This guy kept saying that humans couldn't have evolved from "lower animals." Now, the general ridiculousness of his argument aside, why "lower"? I mean, I'm not a hardcore animal rights type, but isn't it pretty insulting to refer to other creatures that way? (I'll refrain from making a joke about many species of bird are actually "higher" than humans most of the time. [1])
  • As an example of what not to say if your son says he wants to drop out of school, the words, "Do you want to grow up to be a dumbbell?"

On an unrelated note, I left for work early today because I was expecting heavy traffic due to wet roads, but it looks like most of the roads have cleared up. I had time to stop at Coconuts, where I bought used copies of Sloan's Pretty Together and the Fastbacks' Answer the Phone, Dummy. (For those of you who don't know, Kurt Bloch, the lead guitarist of the Young Fresh Fellows, was in the Fastbacks.)

Hotmail just had some weird problem where it kept showing me my mail backwards (i.e., with the newer messages at the top). I think it's always been possible to set it that way, but I never did (I have no idea why anyone would, really, but it's the default on some mail programs), so I don't know what was happening. I sometimes think I should switch to a different e-mail program, but is there any free server that DOESN'T have problems that are just as bad or worse? I tend to doubt it.

[1] Okay, so I DID make the joke. But I made it in a non-traditional and mildly self-deprecating manner, which makes it clever instead of lame, right? {g}

The weather last night really got me down. I mean, there were tornadoes in places not far from me, and flooding on the Schuylkill Expressway. I take that road some nights, so it was scary to see the news report where the traffic there stuck in waist-deep water. I guess I'm lucky I didn't have to go that way last night, and even luckier that I don't live in one of the areas that was hit directly by the recent hurricanes. I mean, all we got here was some of Jeanne's aftermath. Still, it's disturbing when that kind of stuff happens near you. I often wish there was something we could do about the weather, but that would probably upset the balance of Earth even more than we've done already, or something like that. Maybe I should just move to another planet. {g}

I ganked this quiz from Beth:

Snuffy's Suicide Attempts

Poor baby, life is rough for you, huh? No one
seems to see you, no one notices your
pain--except for your friend Big Bird, but he's
alway off hanging out with his other friends.
You wish you were him, all happy and curious
and popular and bright yellow. You feel like
his shadow anymore, like the only reason you
exist is to amuse him. It's hard being
somebody's imaginary friend. But stop trying
to kill yourself--imaginary people can't kill
themselves. Sorry. And hey, maybe tomorrow
you'll feel better!
Someday people will see you, I promise.

Which Sesame Street Muppet's Dark Secret Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

They DID end up seeing him in more recent seasons of the show, didn't they? Then they introduced his niece Alice, or something like that. I'm not really sure of the order or the details.

Tomorrow night is the They Might Be Giants concert in Philadelphia. Probably the last one Beth and I will see for some time, since I hear the band is planning on taking a break after that one and their two Irving Plaza shows.

Tuesday, September 28
Do Bush supporters ever actually listen to themselves talk? I was flipping through the radio channels last night, and I came across some right-wing talk show where a caller said she thought Bush had to be re-elected because a Democratic President wouldn't scare the terrorists. Apparently her idea is that the only reason we haven't yet had a repeat of the September 11 attacks is that the terrorists are oh-so-frightened of Bush. I really have to doubt this is the case. Really, what was so great about the way Bush handled the aftermath of that tragedy? Ignoring the Constitution? Drawing the country into an unrelated war? Or was it creating a false "you're either with us or with the terrorists" dichotomy?

On the other hand, if it's true that Al Qaeda attacked us because they hate democracy, maybe it makes sense that they wouldn't launch another attack during a Bush presidency, because he doesn't seem that fond of democracy either.

Ugh, I wasn't intending to write another political entry, but that kind of nonsense never ceases to amaze and annoy me.

On a lighter note, I sometimes have dreams that I'm hearing a version of a song done by a different band from the one I'm used to hearing play that particular song. Not so odd in and of itself, I guess, but the weird thing is, in the dream, I know that the version I'm hearing is actually the original one. The night before last, I had a dream where I heard the "original" version of They Might Be Giants' "I'm All You Can Think About." I remember having two others years ago where the songs in question were Moxy Früvous' "No No Raja" and the Young Fresh Fellows' "The New John Agar." I'm pretty sure I've had more than that, but I can't recall them just now. It's some kind of weird recurring thing.

By the way, has anyone reading this played Paper Mario? What's it like? Is it more along the lines of an RPG or an action-based game?

Monday, September 27
Since I've been writing about free speech as of late, I think I should mention that I support the right to complain and criticize. I've already mentioned how I think the people who say you shouldn't criticize the government are pretty dumb, but it goes beyond that. A pet peeve of mine is when someone replies to criticism of an artistic work by saying something like, "Do you think YOU could do better?" Well, maybe not, but don't you think we should hold professional artists to a slightly higher standard, since they ARE getting paid for it and all? If I think some musician is a lousy guitar player, should I not be allowed to criticize him just because I can't play much on the guitar beyond "When The Saints Go Marchin' In"? Really, if you took that argument to its logical extreme, you'd pretty much HAVE to like every artist who's more skilled at a particular thing than you are, and that strikes me as ridiculous.

Mind you, I'm not saying that some complaints aren't unnecessary and annoying. They can also be quite rude in certain situations. Indeed, the same freedom that gives people the right to complain also gives you the right to say why you think a certain complaint is stupid. My point is mostly that everyone has the RIGHT to complain, whether or not their complaints are annoying and/or dumb.

Along these lines, I've seen a few comments to the effect that, if you don't vote, you have no right to complain about the government. The thing is, I agree with them in spirit. I think it's important to vote. In letter, though, these people are actually wrong. The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, but doesn't contain a mandatory voting clause.

To go off on a tangent, I sometimes wonder if we SHOULD be required to vote. I guess a truly free republic has to give the freedom NOT to vote as well as the freedom to vote, though. For that matter, I have to wonder if countries where voting is mandatory have a system in place to stop people from turning in blank or spoiled ballots. That might sound like a purely hypothetical scenario, but there really are people who just refuse to vote, for whatever reason. I've heard the "Every candidate sucks, so why vote?" argument. I know that Andy Partridge of XTC, when discussing the song "Here Comes President Kill Again," said that he doesn't vote because he doesn't like the policies of any of the people running, especially in terms of killing in the name of the people. I can sympathize with this position, but I disagree that it's a good reason not to vote. I mean, you can write in the name of someone you know if you have to, right? (I really don't know for sure how British elections operate, but I assume they still have write-in votes.) Personally, I have to agree with the people who think getting Bush out is the most important thing in the upcoming presidential election.

That was quite a tangent, wasn't it? So, yeah, I think everybody has the right to complain, whether or not they vote, but you should still vote. It's not that hard to do. Of course, I didn't register to vote until after graduating from college, but, well, you should do as I say, not as I do. {g}

Sunday, September 26
People keep finding my blog by searching for information on Don Lapre's "Greatest Vitamin in the World" scam. I actually haven't seen that commercial in a while. I wonder if he's in jail again. Someone else found it by searching for "robin goldwasser people are mean." What, is that like People Are Wrong combined with Mean Girls? {g}

There's a copy of Friday's local paper in the back room, and one of the stories on the front page is about a neo-Nazi group planning to rally in Valley Forge. (If they went through with the rally, it would have happened yesterday.) Even without the negative example of Hitler, I really can't see why anyone would support fascism. "You say it's a system where we have absolutely no say in the government, and they can do whatever they want, even kill us? Sign me up!" Yeah, I know they think the government would only kill the types of people they don't like, but I get the idea that hate groups can easily modify the objects of their hatred to fit any given situation. I'm hardly saying anything original there, though.

By the way, the article quotes a woman as saying, "We can't pray in public schools, but we have a neo-Nazi rally at Valley Forge." Um, how are those two things comparable?

As a librarian and a member of the American Library Association, I suppose I should let you know that it's currently Banned Books Week. You can find out more information here. Of the 100 most frequently challenged books, I've read thirteen, plus part of Brave New World. Since I read most of them for school, I suppose the bans didn't really work out that well, but it's still disturbing that people think censorship is a good idea.

So, in conclusion, fascism, racism, and censorship are bad. Wow, what original, cutting-edge ideas! {g}

Saturday, September 25
I've been wondering how other people go about writing their blog/livejournal entires. Personally, I usually write about one entry per day. I don't flog myself if I miss a day, and some days (today, for instance) will yield two or more entries, but, on average, I tend to write one entry per day. I generally try to make it at least two paragraphs long, as well. The one-sentence entry can be nice for getting something off your chest, but I generally wait until I have more to say before actually posting. I kind of think Blogger is more conducive to short posts than LiveJournal, if only because I see a LiveJournal entry as more of a separate entity. I guess I figure that something with a title should have some content. Then again, some people don't title their LJ entries, so I don't know. I'll sometimes read journals where people write a lot of brief entries, and, while I think that's an interesting style, it doesn't really work so well for me.

As for subject matter, I haven't done an actual survey or anything, but most of my posts are probably of the "what I did today" variety. Since I usually don't do much of interest in a given day, these entries probably come off as kind of boring, and probably repetitive as well. I try to add tangents to make things more interesting, but I don't know if I always succeed.

More satisfying to write, and hopefully more interesting to read, are the opinion/philosophy posts, where I post my thoughts either on general matters (religion, the concept of evil, musicians talking during concerts, etc.) or, more rarely, current events. I'm sure I'm not alone in having gotten a little more political as of late, what with the upcoming election and the totalitarian moron in one of the country's highest offices. Sort of along the same lines as these posts are the ones where I talk about my personal history, and how my opinion on something has changed over time, or how I started liking something. I liked writing the entry on how I got into They Might Be Giants (I'm too lazy to look up the link right now, but I'll provide it if anyone's interested), but I didn't get any comments on it, which was kind of disappointing.

I've also been known to write posts reviewing things. The former are easier for me to do when I have a clear frame of reference. I can usually review a TMBG album, Simpsons episode, or Oz book pretty easily, since I've experienced plenty of other things of the same sort. You might have noticed that my reviews for stand-alone types of things tend to be a lot shorter.

I'm not sure I really write in much of a traditional diary style. While I do mention my feelings on various things, they're rarely the main thrust of a post. I kind of get the idea that posting primarily about feelings is more of a female thing, sort of like gushing over celebrities (not that I'm trying to perpetuate gender stereotypes here {g}). I also write with an audience in mind. Not a specific audience, but I write entries with the expectation (and hope) that people will read them. While I do the occasional "This is just something I'm interested in, and you can read it if you really want to" entry, more of mine are probably along the lines of "This is something I wrote for the public, or at least a very small subset thereof."

Now that I have all that meta-garbage out of the way, I have a few other things to say:

1. There's a new Eagle-DNA, for the first time in over a year. Yes, Bob Scott is still around! Speaking of which, I still want to get that book that he did with Mike Leffel. I think it's supposed to be released soon.

2. It kind of bugs me when patrons at the library pay me fines after I've already counted down and locked up the money for the day. I really can't blame them for it, since it's not like we have a "No money transactions after fifteen minutes before closing!" rule, but it's kind of a hassle, you know?

3. I signed up for direct deposit, so I'm not sure why I keep getting physical paychecks. You'd think they would have processed my form by now. Oh, well.

4. I still can't figure out the instructions for finger picking on the guitar.

And, finally, there's this:

In 1977 (the year you were born)

Jimmy Carter becomes president of the US

Most of the 10,000 Vietnam War draft evaders are pardoned by President Carter

Singer Anita Bryant starts her "Save Our Children" crusade against gay rights

Elvis Presley dies in his Graceland bathroom

Congress creates a Department of Energy

Anwar Sadat flies to Jerusalem in a dramatic gesture of willingness to discuss peace

Orlando Bloom, Shakira, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Liv Tyler, and Ludacris are born

New York Yankees win the World Series

Oakland Raiders win Superbowl XI

Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup

Swedish music group ABBA passes The Beatles as having most records sold

Star Wars is the top grossing film

The Shining by Stephen King is published

"You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone spends the most time at the top of the US charts

Three's Company premieres

What Happened the Year You Were Born?

More cool things for your blog at

I knew about Elvis dying (if he really DID die, that is) in the year I was born. I'm surprised that Ludacris is my age. I would have figured he and Liv Tyler were both older than me, and Shakira younger.

You're probably all sick of me writing about my dreams, but, really, I don't have much else going on right now, so I might as well continue. In my most recent dream, I was starting my senior year of high school. Even though I had been in the same homeroom for my entire high school career thus far, they had us choose our desks in some weird order. Someone had already taken my old seat, so I chose another one near the front of the room. For some reason, I had my guitar with me, and when I put it down in front of my desk, the guy in front of me complained and said he'd heard that I was a troublemaker. The rest of the class supported the guy, so I decided to leave. If I remember correctly, the dream ended with me imagining violent revenge on the guy.

Why do so many of my dreams involve either someone getting mad at me for very little reason or vice versa?

Speaking of guitars (how's that for a segue?), the next section in my Chord Strummer book is on finger picking. I read the instructions, and they confused the crap out of me (not literally). Maybe I'll try following the instructions after work today, if I can.

I'm satisfied with both of the CD purchases I made for myself yesterday. That's a good thing, right?

It's kind of annoying that Amazon keeps recommended different versions of things I already have. For instance, if I have the complete set of the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, why would I want to buy the three discs separately? I guess there are some situations where you'd want to buy a different version of something, like, say, a copy of the same book with new illustrations, or a remastered CD, but quite a few of the same-item-different-version recommendations don't make much sense. I suppose that's to be expected with a computer doing the recommending, though.

Friday, September 24
Last night, I had a dream that involved some kind of magical frog. I think it could grant wishes or something. I just remember carrying it from one place to another. The thing is, I imagined it being kind of lizard-like, and having either gold or silver skin. Once I reached the place where I was taking it, I decided it would have been even better if it had a turtle shell. I don't think any of these changes in appearance actually took place, though, despite the fact that I thought they should. I kind of wish they had, since I like dreams where you have some degree of creative control.

Today, I went down to the Borders near Wilmington to take advantage of their CD sale. On the way, I found out that not only does my car tape player still sometimes have trouble rewinding and fast-forwarding, but it's also started turning tapes over for no apparent reason. Anyway, at Borders, I ended up buying the Magnetic Fields' Holiday, the CD of Leftover Salmon remixes of Cracker songs, and two CDs for Beth. I had wanted to get the Move On Future Soundtrack for America compilation, but they didn't have it in stock, despite it saying in their computer that they did. After leaving Borders, I bought some blank CDs from Best Buy, so I should be able to start making those mix CDs sometime soon.

I said "CD" quite a bit in that last paragraph, didn't I?

Thursday, September 23
How about a numbered list of unrelated things? I haven't done one of those in a while!

1. As I said earlier, I put in an order with Ape for the two upcoming Fuzzy Warbles CDs. I was supposed to get a digital download with my order. The e-mail I got contained a link to the download, but it was only good for three hours, and I didn't realize this at the time. When I clicked it over three hours later, it said to contact them for the files. I tried e-mailing the address given in the message, but I still haven't gotten a reply. Any idea what I should do?

2. Lunchmeat is way too expensive at the Acme. Well, at the Acme in my area, anyway. Maybe it's cheaper near you. I wouldn't know. The point is, it was too expensive, so I didn't buy any. They were also sold out of the frozen pizzas that were on sale.

3. There seems to be a common thread in several world religions that we're living in an evil time, and that there was a golden age in the past when things were better. The latter strikes me as largely nostalgic, but as for the former, I sometimes do think the world, and humanity in particular, is pretty bad. Then, at other times, I decide they really aren't. I guess what I really believe is that good and evil are human creations, so it isn't really fair to apply them to the world at large. Perhaps it's more that the world is chaotic, rather than bad as such. But then, chaos is often linked to evil, and to the mythical beginning of the world.

Yeah, that philosophical stuff was mostly just to pad out the entry. How could you tell? {g}

4. I hate having hiccups.

Wednesday, September 22
I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Bard Mage

Neutral Good characters believe in the power of good above all else. They will work to make the world a better place, and will do whatever is necessary to bring that about, whether it goes for or against whatever is considered 'normal'.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.

Secondary Class:
Mages harness the magical energies for their own use. Spells, spell books, and long hours in the library are their loves. While often not physically strong, their mental talents can make up for this.

Oghma is the Neutral Good god of knowledge and invention. He is also known as the Binder of What is Known, and is the Patron of Bards. His followers believe that knowledge reigns supreme, and is the basis for everything else that is done. They wear white shirts and pants, with a black and gold braided vest, and a small, box-like hat. All priests of Oghma are known as Loremasters. Oghma's symbol is a scroll.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)

I've never actually played Dungeons and Dragons. Okay, that's not ENTIRELY true. When I first started college, I played a tiny bit with some of my fellow students, but the game didn't really go anywhere. I think it lasted maybe two brief sessions. The thing is, it's the kind of thing I probably would have gotten into if I'd had any real friends when I was younger. I've always been into the fantasy kind of stuff, not to mention games (of the inactive variety, not sports) in general.

I'm thinking I should buy a hand-held system in the near future, but I'm not sure whether I should go ahead and get a GameBoy Advance SP, or wait until the DS comes out. The former is considerably cheaper, but then I'd be a generation behind the video gaming public (not that I'm not even farther back now). Or should an iPod be a higher priority item for me to purchase?

So, what's with the weather we've been having in this area recently? Within the same day, it can get from cold enough to require heat to hot enough to require air conditioning. It might be nice if it would settle, but only if it would settle on the warmer side, which is probably unlikely at this point.

In case you haven't heard yet, Cat Stevens was forbidden to enter the country. They apparently think he donated money to a terrorist group or something. Maybe it's not him they're worried about, but that moon shadow that's always following him. I've heard that thing can make people lose various body parts.

Okay, now that I've gotten the bad jokes out of the way, I can move on to more mundane matters. I stopped by Borders early this afternoon, and I ended up buying a book of Kafka stories for $5. I passed up a cheap book on Salvador Dali, on the basis that I already have two books on Dali, and I doubt this one really says that much more on him. ("He was messed up and perverted, but he drew cool pictures.") I do tend to like surrealism, though, what with its rather realistic drawings with a weird twist. I think that kind of taste spills into the types of books and music I like, too.

Speaking of books, there are a few new series books I should probably read in the near future. Beth has the new Lemony Snicket book, although I think she'll want to read it before letting me do so. I also used the public library's website to put a hold on Terry Pratchett's two most recent Discworld books, Going Postal and the children's book Hat Full of Sky.

Maybe I should take advantage of the CD promotion that Borders is running this week, where you buy three and get one free. I'll just have to make sure I'm actually saving money, since Borders tends to have inflated prices on some of their CDs.

Anyway, after Borders, I went to the dentist to have my cavity refilled. The dentist said that I bite my cheek, which I guess I must, but I don't do it consciously. Before I had my wisdom teeth taken out, they used to bite my cheek all the time, but those teeth are gone now, so I don't know exactly what the problem is.

I have a desire to make mix CDs, but I don't have anyone to make them for. There was a mix CD swap on the Frank Black Forum recently, but I missed out on it. I guess I could burn CDs for myself, but that's not really as satisfying.

Monday, September 20
You are a demon, a dark being without a soul.
Though you have power, you misuse it,
preferring to bow than to balance.

What level of divine power do you have?
brought to you by Quizilla

I saw Jim Croce performing "Workin' At The Car Wash Blues" on TV Saturday night, and it got me wondering why car washes are so prevalent in music. I mean, there's that song "Car Wash," and Elvis quit his job down at the car wash, in a line later referenced by They Might Be Giants. Is the car wash the employment of choice for wannabe musicians?

It turned out that the weather report for Sunday was correct, so I was able to go to Great Adventure with Beth and her cousins Marji and Alyssa. It was fun, and the park wasn't that crowded, which is always good. Rolling Thunder got stuck on the first hill while we there, but fortunately not with us on it. We ended up not riding that ride at all. That makes the second time I've been at an amusement park when a roller coaster got stuck. I wonder how frequently that happens, and why.

I'm pretty sure the website said the park was supposed to close at 9, but it actually closed at 8, which strikes me as a really early time to close an amusement park under any circumstances. They were also out of fried Oreos.

Speaking of deep-fried foods, I wouldn't mind trying deep-fried Twinkies.

Saturday, September 18
As I'm sure you'll know if you've looked at the placemats at a Chinese restaurant, the Chinese zodiac is based on twelve-year cycles. Being born in 1977, my sign is the Snake. Interestingly enough, Frank Black is about twelve years older than me, making him a Snake as well. In fact, he alludes to this in "The Snake," a song on his most recent album. Another one of my favorite musicians, Andy Partridge of XTC is apparently twelve years older than Frank (and, therefore, twenty-four years older than me), making him a Snake as well. For that matter, I think Andy might also be a Scorpio, as I am. I don't put any stock in astrology, but I thought that was pretty cool. Of course, it doesn't work for all of the musicians I like. John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants is a Rat. John Linnell, contrary to Tiny Toons, is a Pig. (Well, I guess you could say that, although Hamton was Flans in "Istanbul," he was sort of Linnell in "Particle Man." Then again, I guess Dizzy Devil was also sort of Linnell in that video, since he played the accordion. This is a pretty pointless digression, though.)

I need to get back into the habit of flossing and using mouthwash after brushing my teeth. I used to do those things pretty regularly, and then I got lazy and stopped. Said laziness probably coincided with running out of one or both of these oral hygiene products. It's not like it's that difficult or anything.

Speaking of hygiene, can anyone recommend a good face cleaner? I use Neutrogena now, and it seems to work pretty well, but maybe I should try another product in addition.

I've been making some progress in my guitar-learning, even though I'm still not very good. I've been working through my Chord Strummer book, and learned syncopated strums and bass note/after strums. The former type is difficult, and I'm still not sure I'm doing it correctly. The latter actually sounds pretty cool, even when I do it, so I would imagine it sounds even better when played by someone who actually knows what he or she is doing. I still have a problem with not being able to switch between chords very quickly, but I'm getting better (I hope).

Beth and I should be going to Great Adventure tomorrow, if it doesn't rain. says it should be sunny tomorrow in that area, but it also said it would only be cloudy today, and they've since changed their mind. I really do want to go there, since we still have season passes, and we haven't gotten much use out of them as of late.

I guess this was mostly just an entry made for the sake of writing an entry. How do you feel about that?

Friday, September 17
Well, I got my computer working again. Trying to install the Verizon software didn't do any good, but doing a System Restore did. I have to remember to set more System Restore points, especially when I'm planning on unhooking my computer or messing with the settings. It doesn't always work (in fact, the first restore point I tried last night didn't work), but at least then I'd have more of a chance of fixing problems without going so far as doing a total reformat.

I had another weird dream last night. I'm not trying to turn this into some kind of dream journal, but I've been having some particularly memorable dreams as of late. In this one, Beth and I were volunteering somewhere. We were stuffing envelopes, like we've done at WHYY, but I think the place where we were was a hospital or something. A lady was telling us we were doing a sloppy job, and I said, "Who gives a shit?" The lady didn't seem to care, but Beth got mad at me, and I got embarrassed and wanted to leave. When I tried to get out, though, I ended up falling into a mental ward, which was apparently impossible to escape. If I tried to go out through a door, another door appeared behind it. I eventually figured out the secret of the ward, which was that, even if you weren't crazy when you arrived there, you soon would BECOME that way. The people working at the gift shop seemed to support this conclusion.

Speaking of volunteering, I did cataloging at Longwood Gardens today. I hadn't done that in a while, so it was nice to get back to that. Also today, I went ahead and preordered the next two Fuzzy Warbles discs from Ape. I really don't know why those things are so expensive, but there was a discount for preordering both together, and I think that, even with the import charges, it came out to less than it would if I waited and ordered them from Amazon. (Of course, I don't really KNOW how much they'll be on Amazon, but they're selling all of the others for higher prices than the average price of the two I ordered, at least if the pounds-to-dollars converter I used was accurate, so it's likely that the new ones will also cost more there.)

Thursday, September 16
I went to the dentist today, for the first time in a few years. It turns out I'm going to have to go back next Wednesday to get a cavity refilled. Apparently I grind my teeth a lot, and that wore out the filling. I'm glad I don't have any more cavities than that one, though.

I brought my computer back home today, and it's having problems. I'm afraid it was messed up either by hooking it up somewhere else, or by following the ultimately useless instructions the AOL tech support people gave me. It seems like a computer should work no matter how many different places you've hooked it up, but I guess not. Maybe that's one reason why a lot of people like laptops. Anyway, what's happening is that the computer apparently is connected to the Internet, but the programs that use the Internet don't realize this, and they keep crashing. I tried to reinstall the Verizon DSL software from the CD, and the modem connectivity test seemed to succeed, but then the installation program crashed. Does anyone have any idea what might be wrong? My plan is to try to uninstall and then reinstall the Verizon software from scratch, and, if that doesn't work, call up and bitch at Verizon and/or Dell tech support. If all else fails, I can always reformat and reinstall Windows, but that's a hassle I'd prefer to avoid.

Hotmail has been having long delays in sending my e-mail messages. I hope they fix that soon.

Finally, just in case you haven't realized yet that the Bush administration has no shame, I saw a billboard by the Schuylkill Expressway with a picture of the Statue of Liberty, and the words "God bless America and George W. Bush." Needless to say, it sickened me.

Wednesday, September 15
In a dream last night, I had some kind of flying machine, sort of like the one I gave to Dr. Vell, the villain in a few of my Oz stories. It was sort of an open hovercar, operating like an automobile but not looking much like one. A cop gave me a ticket for something, but I don't think he was at all surprised that I had a flying vehicle. It would be cool to have one of those in real life.

Speaking of wanting stuff, I've been wondering if I'm a materialistic person. It sometimes seems like being anti-materialistic comes with being an anti-capitalistic, anti-war, free-thinking liberal wacko, but I like getting stuff, and I don't think wanting material possessions is bad in and of itself. I won't say that someone with, say, a computer is necessarily happier than someone without one, but I'd be lying if I said having a computer didn't often make me happy. (Of course, it also makes me really angry sometimes. It's a real love-hate relationship, or something. But I digress.) I think problems tend to come in more because of competition (the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality, and getting things not because you actually want them, but because other people do, and you have to outdo them) and valuing money for money's sake more than simple material desires. I'm all for more equal distribution of wealth, but it just seems like, in a rich society such as ours, everybody who wants one should be able to have, say, a Game Boy Advance and a big-screen TV. (Keep in mind that not everybody WANTS these things, and I'm certainly not advocating forcing them on people, like it's some kind of cautionary science fiction story.) I guess I don't know really the economic logistics, though.

I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon, but it might not be posted until sometime on Wednesday at the earliest, for reasons that should become clear shortly.

Since Beth's computer is still having problems, I brought mine over to her house. Unfortunately, though, she uses dial-up, and my computer just won't work for dial-up anymore. I tried to install AOL, and when it didn't run, I kept calling tech support. Each time, they told me something that they were SURE would fix the problems I was having, yet it never did. Finally, the last guy told me that there was some problem with my drivers, and I would have to have them fixed up at a repair shop, with help from my Windows CD. I don't think I'll bother doing that, but it puzzles me why it wouldn't work. When I first got the computer, I used a dial-up connection to connect to the Internet, and I don't recall having any problems with that. Later, however, I had difficulties similar to the ones I had at Beth's house. I couldn't connect to the Internet using dial-up. Fortunately, we got DSL around that time, and I didn't really have to worry about it. Since then, though, I've gotten a new hard drive and then reformatted that drive, with Windows installed anew each time. Why I would be having the same problems after a reinstall, and why, if this was, say, a problem with the Windows program itself, I was able to use dial-up before, remain mysteries to me. Anyone have any ideas?

Anyway, the point is that I currently have no way to access the Internet, except at work. When this kind of thing happens, I always feel disconnected. I tend to get used to it after a while, but it's both annoying and depressing at first. Of course, when I finally DO get online after a long absence, I usually find that it's pretty much as I left it, with hardly anything in my inbox or posted to the forums I read.

Last night, I had some interesting dreams. One was about a movie featuring They Might Be Giants that had come out BEFORE Gigantic. It was apparently kind of rare, but known to TMBG fans. In my dream, I was actually watching it for the second time, the first having been when I rented it from a local video store that carried a lot of rare stuff. Anyway, the movie wasn't a documentary, but rather a fictional story in which the Johns played themselves (sort of like A Hard Day's Night or something, I guess). It started with Flansburgh in jail writing lyrics on a piece of paper. I think Linnell was also in jail later on in the film, and the two Johns were talking about the band Linnell had been in prior to TMBG. He was actually in a band called the Mundanes at that point, but, within the dream-movie, his former band was known as "Snickers." Linnell also mentioned how he had been rejected by some goth band. There were also a lot of slapstick parts, like when Flans ran into a fence face-first. I think the last part of the movie that I saw had TMBG opening for some other band at a theater.

In another dream, I attended some kind of convention. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I met Weird Al. He walked up to my car, said he had heard I was a fan, and gave me an autograph. Later on, when I had time to examine the autograph, I discovered that Al had misspelled his own name, making me wonder if he was a fake.

Okay, here's to hoping I can get this online shortly!

Sunday, September 12
I spent pretty much all of yesterday on the Internet. I'm very lazy, in case you haven't realized that. Recently, I've started reading my livejournal friends' own friends' lists. Strangers' journals often come off as boring or hard to follow, but I've come across some interesting entries that way. I'm usually scared to leave comments on the journals of people I don't know, even when I have something relevant to say. As I've said before, I welcome strangers' comments on my own journal, but I don't really know whether other people feel the same way.

Recently, I came across a comment from Alice Cooper denouncing anti-Bush rock concerts, as well as mixing rock with politics in general. He said, "I call it treason against rock 'n' roll because rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics...If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons." He's apparently not alone in this opinion, as evidenced by a post that was made to a few weeks ago, regarding John Flansburgh's "trashing of the President" in the They Might Be Giants e-mail newsletter. Now, I'd say there's some merit in saying that you shouldn't use rock stars as viable sources for political information. You also shouldn't use my journal to decide who to vote for, but that doesn't mean I'm going to refrain to sharing my own political views here. Alice and Eric's comments imply that musicians have LESS right to discuss politics than anyone else does, and I can't agree with that. Do Flansy, Bruce Springsteen, and {gag} Dave Matthews not have the same right to free speech that you and I do? The whole bit about rock as "the antithesis of politics" strikes me as a ridiculous viewpoint anyway. I'm generally opposed to the idea that musical genres should be linked to attitudes. You can play or listen to, say, punk rock without being a punk, or gangsta rap without being a gangsta, and these genres are much narrower than the incredibly broad "rock and roll." Saying rock is anti-politics is sort of akin to saying it's the Devil's music (What about Christian rock, Jack Chick's opinion notwithstanding), or that it's rude music used by kids to annoy their parents (What about soft rock?).

Of course, being overtly political, or even controversial in general, in music can be a dangerous thing. I'm sure fans have been driven away by bands coming out in favor of viewpoints they oppose. I can certainly enjoy music that expresses an opinion I disagree with, but there's a difference between ideas I just don't agree with and ones that make me downright angry. On the other hand, as Eminem says, "We need a little controversy," and I'll bet controversial political opinions on the parts of bands have sometimes attracted new fans. Take the Dixie Chicks' comments about being embarrassed to come from the same state as Bush, for instance. I've heard of Dixie Chicks fans losing respect for the group because of this, but also of people who don't care for their music GAINING respect for them. So it works both ways, and it's something musicians (or any celebrities, I suppose) should think about before doing. I think they have just as much right to hold and express strong political views as any of the rest of us, though.

Incidentally, I don't remember where I first saw the Alice Cooper quote, but when I did a Google search to find it again, the first two results were conservative websites. Of those, the first one had a link to an article with the headline "Linda Ronstadt: I don't like singing for Christians," but with the actual quote from Ronstadt only applying to fundamentalists, not Christians in general, and just saying that singing for them is "a real conflict" for her. (Yes, they lie about the quote in an article that ACTUALLY CONTAINS THE QUOTE, or at least part of it, which seems to me to demonstrate how stupid they expect their readers to be.) The second one crashed my browser.

Saturday, September 11
The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a
mystery novel dealing with theology, especially
with catholic vs liberal issues. You search
wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that
learning is essential in life.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Hmm...I've never read it.

Looking back at the aftermath of September 11 three years ago, I have to wonder whether an increase in patriotism was really the right reaction. I think the solidarity that seemed to pervade the country after the attacks was a good thing. Of course, we all know how the Bush administration ruined this by creating an overly partisan Department of Homeland Security and the like, but that's not what I'm getting at here. Rather, I think seeing it as an American issue, and a reason for celebrating America, is a rather nationalistic approach. Isn't the important thing not that there was an attack on America, but that there was an attack on thousands of innocent people? I hinted at this before, but I tend to think that we should be moving away from patriotism, and toward a more global view of things.

Mind you, I'm not trying to say, "Loving your country is stupid!" or "All the people who bought miniature American flags in September 2001 were part of the problem!" I'm just hoping that the United States, and the world, can try to move away from approaching everything in a nationalistic manner.

The night before last, I had some weird dream involving a tower, and characters from various sources. I know Mario and Toad were there, and probably some other video game characters, as well as some inhabitants of Oz (I distinctly remember Dorothy and Toto being around). I think Conan O'Brien was also there at one point, as were some characters from Full House. (I blame Beth for that last one, since she made me watch Full House reruns before I went to bed.) There was another part in the dream (or possibly a different dream; it's sometimes hard to tell the difference) where my mom and I wanted to go to Alaska, but not the Canadian part. I think we were actually there at one point, and it was very warm for Alaska. We were in a field across from a gas station where Blur was having a concert.

There have been times when I thought it might be a fun idea to write some kind of crossover between Oz and video games, especially Super Mario Bros. And other times I've decided that idea was stupid and corny. Regardless, I think that makes more sense than a crossover between Oz and Perry Mason or Red Dwarf, both of which have actually been done.

Anyway, last night, Beth and I went to the Tin Angel to see Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor. It was a good show, although pretty much all the songs were kind of low-key. I'd never heard Nora before, but I thought she and Kelly worked well together. They did introductions before most of the songs. One of Kelly's was a song (I believe it was called "Golden") that she had written for Neko Case when she was having a bad day. They also did a cover of "Papa Was A Rodeo," one of my favorite Magnetic Fields songs. Kelly mentioned that it was written by Stephin Merritt, and that she'd "like to punch him in the nose with [her] love." Another song they did was called "Whispering Pines," originally by The Band (not to be confused with Johnny Horton's song of the same name, which I'd actually heard before), which Kelly said she had originally done with backing vocals by Edith Frost. I mention this because I seem to recall hearing that Jim once played with a band that opened for Edith. Like they say at Walt Disney World, it's a small world, I suppose. Anyway, it was a good show, if a poorly attended one. I think there were less than twenty people in the audience, which was disappointing. We did get to sit right in the front, though. I kind of wish I had brought the poster I bought back when I saw Kelly perform with Neko and Carolyn Mark, because I managed to get Neko's and Carolyn's signatures on it, but not Kelly's. We didn't meet Kelly, but she was out after the show, so it probably wouldn't have been too difficult to get her to sign it. Oh, well.

Yesterday was the forty-fourth birthday of David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, and the forty-eight birthday of Johnny Hickman, his bandmate from the latter. Happy belated birthday to those two crackers.

I still haven't gotten my label to send back my extra cell phone. I hope that comes soon.

Thursday, September 9
Last night, I was flipping through radio stations, and I came across a weird commercial on a religious station. It was playing these cartoon sound effects in the background and the voiceover went something like, "Cartoons can do all kinds of crazy things and not get hurt. We're not like that. Some people think they have cartoon souls. But there are a lot of things that can really damage your soul for a long time. Read the Bible to find out more."

I put in an application for an absentee ballot. They said they should be sending those out around the end of September. After that (applying for the ballot, that is, not the end of September), I went looking for a binder to hold my papers. I checked Kmart first, but they didn't seem to have much aside from those cloth-covered portfolios, which are probably more durable than the Trapper Keeper types of binders that I used back when I was in school, but I'm sure they're also more expensive. I found something that was more like what I was looking for at Eckerd.

I wonder if people are sick of reading paragraphs like that last one. I mean, I'm hardly the only one to go into minute detail in my journal, but does anyone actually want to read it?

Finally, Ashlee Simpson is a worse singer than her sister, and that's saying a lot. Where do they dig up all those dumbass "singers," and do all of them have relatives who want to ride their coattails to fame?

Wednesday, September 8
I start out this entry with a recent quote from our beloved Vice President:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

What a jerk. So terrorists are more likely to attack during a Democratic presidency than a Republican one? I somehow doubt that terrorists care that much about American party politics. John Edwards rightly pointed out that defense against terrorism "is not a Democratic or Republican issue and Dick Cheney and George Bush should know that." The Bush administration has taken an overly partisan approach to homeland security, and used the fear of terrorism to further their own agenda. Of course, I don't know how well John Kerry or any other potential future President would do at fighting terrorism, but I think Bush has made such a mess of things that he's definitely the "wrong choice."

On a lighter note, but still in the vein of annoying things, why do so many traffic lights at intersections where a lot of people turn left not have left-turn signals? I mean, how much extra money does it cost to put one of those on a light? It's annoying to have a wait for a whole bunch of people who are going straight.

I sometimes wish I could hibernate through the winter.

In the library building where I worked yesterday, one of the soda machines was totally sold out of everything, and the other was out of anything I might want. I tried the next building over, and they had another sold-out soda machine, plus another one that wasn't even turned on. Finally, in the third building, the porridge was just ri--I mean, I was actually able to get something to drink. Seriously, who's heard of not filling the vending machines until they're totally empty? Shouldn't the vendors do that more often, if they sell out quickly?

A few weeks ago, Beth and I were listening to one of those religious stations from the really high numbers on the FM band. I believe the group that was singing was seriously called "The Praise and Worship Choir." Beth brought up the question as to whether people think that they can't dislike that kind of stuff, or they'd be disliking Jesus. It's sort of cheating, like writing songs about national tragedies or dying children. Of course, just because you like or sympathize with the subject doesn't mean the song itself is any good, but I think there's a certain group of people who don't realize that. There's good religious music out there, certainly, but that Praise and Worship Choir kind of stuff is awfully trite, with mediocre singing.

Monday, September 6
When I vacuumed my car this morning, I accidentally destroyed my tape of Frank Black's Teenager of the Year. It was just a tape that I had made myself from the CD, so it's no big deal, but I still wish it hadn't happened. I guess next time I vacuum, I'll remember to take all the cassettes off the floor first.

I wish I could get some way to listen to non-radio music in my car other than a cassette player. I guess the ideal would be an iPod, but they're kind of expensive. How do you hook those up in your car, anyway?

In the near future, I need to call the Tin Angel about what time they think the Kelly Hogan show on Friday will end. I'm not sure how I should get there. I don't really want to drive, but I might not have any other viable options. I also need to apply for an absentee ballot, since I'll probably be away from home on Election Day.

Speaking of elections, what's wrong with Rebublicans? I mean, really. I'm thinking mostly of Bush supporters here, but just the general "only rich people are worthy of consideration" attitude bugs me as well. Of course, I'm not rich myself, so that might have something to do how I feel, but I hope that if I ever do get rich (yeah, right), I won't just totally be out for my own interests. I'm also sick of people supporting Bush because he's a Christian. It's not like he's a GOOD one or anything.

Sunday, September 5
Today was a short and boring day at work. After work, I went grocery shopping, buying mostly frozen food. I probably eat too much of that stuff, but it's easy to prepare, and relatively cheap. I should probably learn to cook at some point, though, so I can vary my diet a little more. Anyway, while waiting for my frozen pizza to heat up, I practiced the guitar. I'm back to working on syncopated chord strumming, which isn't that easy for me.

Also today, I read the Biblical book of Joshua. Wow, what a violent book. God commands the Israelites to commit genocide, and loot and burn cities. What's even more disturbing is that people today still use God as an excuse to make unprovoked war on others, and as an excuse for all kinds of atrocities. If God really, truly hates a certain group of people, why doesn't He use His omnipotent powers to destroy them Himself, instead of letting others do His dirty work? That's not even mentioning the fact that BOTH sides often think God is supporting them. And why would a loving god dislike people based on their ethnicity, anyway? I'm sure you've heard all of those arguments before. They're nothing original on my part, but I don't know that I've ever seen satisfactory answers from the holy warmongers.

As I'm sure I've said before, I'm pretty much opposed to war in general. Perhaps there are some situations where it's unavoidable. I don't really know. A lot of wars seem to be fought out of either greed (and quite often the greed of someone who doesn't participate in the war himself) or ignorance, though.

Saturday, September 4
1. I forgot to mention it yesterday, but, when I came online, there was a news story about Weird Al being "attacked" by moths.
2. I've been really lax about practicing the guitar as of late. I probably should make more of an effor to stick with it, but I guess I'm just not good about sticking with things like that.
3. I got my new cell phone working. I hope I get the labels to send the superfluous one back soon.
4. My throat is sore. If this keeps up, I might have to go over to the drugstore and get some medicine. I don't usually take medicine for sore throats, but maybe I should start, since they're really irritating, and I'm not a Christian Scientist.
5. I'm hungry. I should get something to eat. Maybe I'll have some yogurt.
6. This is even more boring than my other entries, isn't it? Unfortunately, I don't have any significant observations to share with the world just now. Maybe later.

Friday, September 3
So, I got my car serviced this morning (and into the afternoon). It cost me quite a bit of money, but hopefully it will let me avoid even greater expenses down the road. It turned out that one of my tires was dry rotted. While I don't know for sure which one it was, if it was the one that the garage put on after I got a flat, that's pretty annoying. I mean, that would be two tire replacements in one month! How wasteful.

I got my cell phone in the mail today. Unfortunately, it came with an unexpected and unwanted partner. Yes, I got TWO phones, instead of just one. I had to call customer service, and was transferred to several different departments. My conversation with the person from Internet sales was pretty irritating. Here's a paraphrase:

"So, you ordered two phones?"
"No, I ordered ONE phone."
"It says here you ordered two."
"No, I ordered one."
"I'm looking at the order right now, and it says you ordered two."
"Well, I certainly only INTENDED to order one."

She decided it must have been some problem with the website interface (I accidentally clicked something twice, or something like that), but this kind of problem seems to be pretty typical of AT&T, so I don't know. It took them forever to remove some extra phone numbers from my account. It doesn't really matter, though, since they're apparently sending me a label to let me send one of them back for free. The two phones were the same kind, but one was new and the other refurbished. I'm going to be keeping the new one.

I also got the Losers' Lounge tribute to XTC today. It's pretty good, but I kind of think most of the songs are too close to the originals. The thing is, I don't think I would have a problem with that if I were actually at a live performance, but it doesn't work so well on CD, because, well, if I wanted to hear versions that sound a lot like the originals, I could always just listen to the originals. I guess it's hard to improve on XTC songs, though. So far, I think my favorite is the version of "Scissor Man" by Robin Goldwasser (wife of John Flansburgh, whom you might know better as one of the guys from They Might Be Giants), mostly for the improvisational bit at the end. I was also amused that Michael LeMonde ended his performance of "My Love Explodes" with the "That is the most obscene abomination of a song!" radio sample that comes after the song on the Dukes of Stratosphear record.

Thursday, September 2
I've been having some trouble sleeping as of late. Actually, I slept pretty well last night, albeit only for about eight hours before I woke up with a sore throat. I think I might have a little bit of a cold. Hopefully it won't get any worse.

I wish people would stop parking in non-spaces. Designated spaces in parking lots aren't just to keep the parking attendants in business. Inventing your own space often means you'll get in the way of people trying to drive their cars through the lot. Thank you. This has been a public service announcement.

Has anyone else noticed how Ovaltine commercials just don't look, sound, or feel like other commercials? It's like they made them a few decades ago and are still showing them today. Hey, maybe that's what they're actually doing. For that matter, does anyone actually buy Ovaltine anymore?

Today is the day of an open house and scavenger hunt at work. That should be fun! Or something like that, anyway. I've already had to have my picture taken a few times.

Tomorrow, I have to get my car serviced, and then I have a phone interview.

Wednesday, September 1
So, it's the beginning of a new month. While I don't go to school anymore, I'm still not that fond of September. It means summer is on the way out, and stupid winter is coming soon. At least I'll be getting more hours at work in the coming months.

Speaking of work, I spent the first half-hour or so of my work day stuffing folders for new students. Fun!

Beth started school today. Before I dropped her off there, we went to the mall, where we we bought tickets for upcoming They Might Be Giants and Camper Van Beethoven concerts. (Well, Beth isn't going to the CVB show, but she was with me when I bought my ticket.)

According to Beth's calendar, September 11 has become "Patriot Day." Kind of ridiculous, I think. If we're going to remember the terrorist attacks, why do it with a positive spin? Besides, is patriotism really something we need in this day and age? I suppose it isn't bad in and of itself, but it's often combined with nationalism, which IS bad, as far as I'm concerned. You can love your country without putting other ones down in the process. Really, I'd say using the anniversary of terrorist attacks to celebrate the United States is kind of a wrongheaded approach. Shouldn't we be making steps toward a more unified world? (I guess "Patriot Day" could be a day for patriotism toward ANY country, but considering the jingoistic attitude that many Americans took back in 2001, I tend to doubt that was the intention.)