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Month: November 2010

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

As far as I can tell, the voice auto-tuner did not exist when Stevie Wonder made this record. However, there are a couple tracks where either his voice has been somehow altered in post-production, or he’s doing some weird things on his own. And I mean weird: I think it’s more distracting than musically worthwhile.

Most songs on the album are what you would expect from Stevie, mostly Motown, with a bit of influence from Reggae. I have listened to Stevie’s “Greatest Hits” album which includes a few songs where he experiments with rapping. Thankfully, “Hotter Than July” does not include any Rap songs by Stevie (he’s not a good rapper).

A minor quibble: This album was released in late September 1980, well after the summer heat that is beading sweat on Stevie’s face ended. I think that it should have been released earlier (or later) in the (next) year, because listening to this in late November feels a bit out of synch with the calendar. I haven’t sweated due to the weather in months!

Last Week: Kenny Rogers – Greatest Hits

Next Week: AC/DC – Back In Black
Cal-Washington Football Game

Cal-Washington Football Game

Today we went to the Cal-Washington football game. This was the last game held at Memorial Stadium before it is torn down and rebuilt. It’s about time – the bleachers are falling apart, the concrete is deteriorated, and it’s seismically unsafe. The outcome of the game was not a good one: Cal lost 16-13 on the last play of the game, where Washington scored a touchdown. It rained (and even hailed) for much of the game, which I suppose is kind of poetic.

We ran into Paul (pictured above), an old Cal Cycling friend of mine. Unlike me, he’s been to Cal games all season. I’ve only witnessed their futility on the TV until now. Below is a short video of the last play of the game, and the end of the Bears season. Washington had the ball on 4th down, with half a yard to the end zone, with one second on the clock. If Washington had been stopped, Cal would have won the game and gone to a bowl game. As turned out, Cal could not stop Washington, and finished the season with a losing record, and no bowl game. Wait until the end to see what Paul’s opinion was.

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Kenny Rogers – Greatest Hits

Kenny Rogers – Greatest Hits

This album hits all the typical country themes: a woman leaving a man (“Lucille”), American military (“Reuben James”), inter-class (or perhaps race) love and intolerance (“Long Arm of the Law”), prostitution (“Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”), gang rape and revenge (“Coward of the County”), and love (every other song on the album). What strikes me is how similar these topics are similar to those in rap music, but since it’s sung by a white guy with an actual tune behind it, it’s somehow more socially acceptable. Perhaps it’s because most of the non-love songs here are in the third person, while in rap it’s often in the first.

Would I recommend this album? Eh, I’m fairly ambivalent about that. The first sentence above notwithstanding, the album isn’t actually as country as I’m making it out to be. I’m generally not a fan of country, so this is actually a small amount of praise. It might be worth a listen just so you can say you’ve heard Kenny Rogers sing about the topics above. Or you could not, and go on with your day with the knowledge you’re not missing much.

Last Week: Bruce Springsteen – The River

Next Week: Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July
TSA Regulations

TSA Regulations

We’re flying to Oakland next week for a whole slew of events with family. I haven’t decided if I’m going to opt-out of the advanced imaging scanners (AIS) or not. The TSA and FDA claim the X-ray backscatter imaging machines are safe, however they reference studies looking at a different energy-band of X-rays than are used in the machines. The millimeter-wave machines are likely safer. My decision may depend on which type of machine they’re using (if Denver has them yet, they didn’t the last time I was there) and how much time we have before the flight.

I am a firm believer that most of what the TSA does is “security theater,” wherein they do things that appear to make us safer by responding to specific threats, but it does not (and can not ever) address all the different attack vectors terrorists might use. In particular, the AIS machines and the “enhanced” pat-downs (more like “feel-ups”), which have been introduced ostensibly in response to the “underwear bomber” from a year ago, fail to address “internally” stored explosives, so to speak. Not that I’m hoping for it to happen, but as soon as this fairly obvious attack vector is tried, what will the TSA do then?

I have some ideas.

  • Have passengers to disrobe into hospital-style gowns with open backs. Then they must perform ten deep squats in view of a TSA agent. They have the option of visiting the bathroom beforehand to prevent “accidents” (or get rid of the evidence). This will have the side-benefit of preventing obese and disabled passengers from flying, allowing the airlines to reduce seat and aisle width and legroom even further.
  • Tell passengers to show up to the airport six hours early and give everyone a strong laxative. This may be combined with the above, in order to “facilitate” the discovery or disposal of explosives.
  • Sedate passengers prior and during to each flight period, giving them a 24 hour window over which the flight may occur. This prevents the terrorists from being conscious to set a bomb off, or set a timer beforehand. To prevent the use of air pressure-sensitive triggers, the sedated passengers would spend time in a high-altitude chamber.
  • Good ol’ fashioned cavity searches. Anything for security, right?

Sure, the things above sound ridiculous, but so does wasteful security that responds to specific threats, which is what we have now.

Bruce Springsteen – The River

Bruce Springsteen – The River

The River, by Bruce Springsteen, is a double album that reached the number one spot 30 years ago this week. Springsteen is one of my favorites, he ranks second in my list of number of plays on Last.fm, behind the Beatles.

I can’t say that this is one of my favorite Springsteen albums, but I don’t dislike it. It’s the beginning of the path to Nebraska, an album I definitely have to be in the right mood to listen to. I think that’s why this album isn’t quite what I normally want out of Springsteen. I generally want upbeat, rocking songs out of Springsteen, and this only partially delivers. But, I’m comparing Springsteen with Springsteen, and all Springsteen in my opinion is better than most contemporary popular music (e.g. recent Black Eyed Peas). Which is to say that, this album should be listened to, unless, of course, you have bad taste in music and actually like current popular music (e.g. Justin Bieber).

Last Week: Queen – The Game

Next Week: Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits
Queen – The Game

Queen – The Game

This week I listened to Queen’s “The Game”, which was in second place behind Barbra Streisand’s “Guilty” this week. This album has two genuinely big hits on it that still get plenty of airplay: “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

One of the songs I like is “Don’t Try Suicide” which is simultaneously macabre and sarcastic. Well, actually, it isn’t a great song or tune, but I like the idea of a ridiculous song about something so serious. In this way it’s similar to “Suicide is Painless” from the M*A*S*H movie and TV show (although the words are missing in the TV show). “Sail Away Sweet Sister” is a harbinger for the future of hair metal power ballads in the 80s. The number one hits mentioned above are still fun, if a bit over-played, still, 30 years later.

Overall, this is enjoyable album. You should check it out!

Last Week: Barbra Streisand – Guilty

Next Week: Bruce Springsteen – The River
Back in The Saddle Again

Back in The Saddle Again


Image location (Green Arrow)

Today was my first official day of my postdoc position. Naturally, like most people would, I skipped out early to go ride my bike. It makes more sense once you know that for the last month and a half, I haven’t gone for a bike ride because I haven’t had health insurance. Not being insured made bike riding a risky proposition. As a result, I’ve also been walking to school and back which takes 40+ minutes each way, in comparison to the 10 minutes it takes on a bike. Today was my first opportunity to ride my bike, and it was sunny and relatively warm, so I wasn’t going to pass it up. In addition, I’ve basically been doing this job for over a month already, so the first-day impression came long ago.

Today’s ride was a bit of exploration, and very autumnal, as the photo above proves. If you look carefully, you can see some snow on the highest peaks. It was also my first opportunity to use my new Garmin Edge 705, which was a graduation present from various Ruggles. My legs definitely exhibited the effects of no bike riding – they got tired very quickly.

Finally, happy November!