Journey – Captured

I wasn't looking forward to Captured by Journey. I've already listened to two albums like this (1, 2) and I was thinking that this album would bore me. I have to admit that I wasn't bored completely by this album, which surprised me. This album is a live album, made up of recordings from several different performances. I think that the energy of the live performances makes the music less soporific, which is good.

If I have one complaint, it's that this album is a bit too long in duration. By the last few songs I was getting kind of tired of Journey. But it took until the end of the album to get there, so that's a small amount of praise. Nonetheless, this is an album you can skip.

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Kool & The Gang - Celebrate!

I am way late on this review. Many weeks. In my defense, I did some traveling, and the gap that was only going to be 3 weeks just grew and grew. So in the interest of getting back on time, I'm going to do some quick, short reviews until I'm back in sync.

The album Celebrate! by Kool & the Gang has exactly one song you will ever hear: the title track "Celebration". And that's all you need to know. The rest of it is not very exciting.

I will remark that the second song on the album is about divorce. Either it's intentionally ironic to follow a song like Celebration with a song about divorce, or fantastically incongruous.

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A Gold Star

A Gold Star

A gold star to the first person who can figure out what's happening in this photo (click to enlarge). This was taken just an hour ago on my bike ride on Sunshine Canyon Dr. above Boulder. I think everything you need to know is in the photo. Good luck!

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Making the Switch

SNTP

Looking at the oldest email I can find, I have been using my Yahoo email address for nearly 9 years. Back then, there was no Gmail as an option. The only other webmail that was comparable was Hotmail. And there was no way I was going to use Hotmail because it was, and still is, owned by Microsoft. For much of that time I have even paid a yearly fee to Yahoo to remove advertisements and add other features.

In the last year I have become increasingly unhappy about Yahoo mail. They have refused to enable IMAP for anything but smart phones. GMail has enabled IMAP for everything for a long time. Yahoo's servers are slow and flaky. Sometimes I cannot access my mail for half an hour (or more) until someone (presumably) does something somewhere to clear it up. I could overlook all of these things, mainly because I knew that switching email providers would be a chore.

However, the last straw was when they added a new feature that allows you to chat with your facebook friends in Yahoo mail. I suppose that this might be useful to some people, but it smacks of "me too" by Yahoo. The faceplace is the new hotness, something Yahoo hasn't been in a decade, and since Yahoo can't innovate their way back into relevance, they've just given up. This is the kind of stuff that insults my sensibilities.

Initially unrelated to all of this, my brother recently purchased a new domain: skory.us. He purchased it primarily so he could make a 10 digit email address: ?@skory.us (? = some letter of the alphabet). I thought that was pretty cool, and I wanted in on that action.

What pushed me to make a decision is that in a couple weeks my Yahoo mail membership comes due, and I didn't want to give them any more money.

Therefore, last weekend I decided to sign up for a free Google Apps account using the skory.us domain. I swapped the MX DNS records over to Google's servers, and started pulling all my old email from my Yahoo account. The pull of 50,000+ emails took over a week and wasn't straightforward. I had to baby sit it daily on each end. THIS is why I was so hesitant to switch email providers because I knew it would be a hassle, and it was a hassle.

The move wasn't perfect - although I pulled all my sent mail (i.e. email I wrote), I can't get it into the Google sent mail folder. And there's still more work to do. I have my Yahoo address in many, many places on the internet that I am going to have to slowly change. In the meantime, the Yahoo email will forward to Google.

Finally, here's my new email address in a human parse-able but obfuscated format. Update your address books!

(First Letter Of My First Name)@skory.us

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Betasso Preserve

Betasso

Taken yesterday on the Betasso Link Trail to the Betasso Preserve above Boulder at about 2000m/6600ft. The CU Campus is visible in the gap at the bottom of the canyon. The horizontal color gradient is due to different exposures & white balances for the individual pictures that make up the panorama. I could probably fix it, but it's OK. As always, click above to enbiggen. Here's the GPS track of the ride.

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Boulder Creek in March


NCAR Panorama

NCAR Pnaorama

Click the image for the full 2.6MB version. It's a bit grainy because it's from my cell phone. Taken approximately here, today. It snowed yesterday, but it warmed up quickly enough for a bike ride today.

p.s. NCAR = The National Center for Atmospheric Research. Science, supercomputers, grand views, and award-winning architecture: what's not to like about that? I wouldn't mind working there.

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'The Denver Museum of Nature & Science'

Museum

Yesterday Melissa and I went to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Like many big-city science museums, it is targeted towards the ankle-biter set, but it is still fun for fuddy-duddy adults like us. If there is a theme for the museum, it's Colorado and Western history, which is dominated by mining and resource extraction. There is a very large and impressive collection of gems, many of which originated in Colorado. I didn't take as many photos as I should have, and it was difficult to take good photos in the dim light, but below is an example of how amazing some of them are. For some reason, they have a very large topaz gemstone that was previously owned by Salvador Dali.

Museum

There is also a space sciences exhibit with plenty of hands-on displays for children to interact with. The one I liked best is a meteoroid simulator that is Rube Goldberg-esque. Enclosed is a sand pit with a pressurized nozzle above that shoots ball bearings downward into the sand. The bearings make a crater in the sand that is similar to what a meteoroid does to a planet. When all the bearings have been shot, an automated rake sweeps the sand, dumping them into a sluice that feeds a chain lift, closing the cycle. It's debatable how much some of the children were learning from it, but it is fun.

On the West side of the museum is a very nice atrium with an excellent view of downtown Denver and the front range. I'm sure that the foreground looks better in the summer when the grass is green, but in the winter the snow-capped peaks make up for that. If you look carefully in the full-sized panorama, you can see the gold dome of the State Capitol, and a flock of some ubiquitous Canada Geese.

Panorama

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Styx – Paradise Theater

The album Paradise Theater by the band Styx does not include their song ["Mr. Roboto"][4]. For most of you, that is your signal to stop caring about this review and move on with your day. The brave, the steadfast, and the bored may continue on!

This album is not terribly dissimilar from last week's album, which is somewhat disappointing. I was not thrilled with REO Speedwagon, and this album isn't any different for me, if I'm honest. The most I can say about this album is about one song, which is the only one that made an impression on my brain. The song "She Cares" has the line: "she treats me like a human", which is such a vacuous (*) statement that it needs to be commented on. How else might "she" treat the singer of the song? Like a dog? A teacup? A 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner? I can understand the need to rhyme in a rock song, but that line is insulting to either "she" or the singer, and definitely to the listener's intelligence.

My recommendation for this album is identical to last week's album: skip it, and if you must, just listen to bad radio and Styx will come on eventually. "Mr. Roboto" is kind of fun, so if they play that, consider yourself lucky. Note that the content of the top-10 albums list does not change for three weeks, which is how long it will be until my next review.

(*) I wanted to pick a good synonym for "stupid" to describe the line in the song, so I went to the Mac OS X system Dictionary application which includes a thesaurus. The entry on "stupid" synonyms has a bonus section apparently unique to this word titled "Choose The Right Word" that advises which synonym is appropriate for each situation, and how to avoid insulting someone unnecessarily. I think the next iteration of IBM's Watson should include the ability to scan an email for misuse of "stupid" synonyms. Think of all the marriages and friendships that might be preserved!

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REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity

Named for a precursor of the pickup truck (the O stands for Olds, who also founded Oldsmobile), REO Speedwagon reached the zenith of their popularity in 1981 with the album Hi Infidelity.

If you do not know what REO Speedwagon sounds like, think of the band "Journey", and that will be close enough most of the time. One exception is the song "In Your Letter", which sounds like 1950's bubble-gum rock, and even includes backup female doo-wop singers. I have to admit that for one of the hits on the album, "Take It On The Run", I had previously only heard covers of the song. I think I like the covers better.

The main problem I have with this album is that it is the kind of music I hear played incessantly on the worst FM radio stations across the country. These are mostly owned by Clear Channel, including Jack FM, which I loathe. REO Speedwagon isn't awful music, it's just bland, and it gets played by radio stations that purport to have wide variety, but don't.

Therefore, my suggestion is to not listen to this album. If you need your dose of this music, there is almost certainly a Jack FM in your town, and REO Speedwagon will be played eventually.

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Boulder Creek in February

Boulder Creek

I hope to post more from the same spot as the seasons change.

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Snowy Folsom Stadium


Blondie – Autoamerican

The album Autoamerican by Blondie contains some good examples of popular musical styles in the beginning of the 1980's. It has disco ("Live it Up", "Do the Dark"), a rap song (!; "Rapture") that includes the often used line "hip, hop, and you don't stop", songs that sound like the B-52s ("Walk Like Me"), and a genuinely popular reggae/ska hit in "The Tide is High". It is not a boring album in the sense that there are some interesting musical choices in a (nearly) instrumental opening in "Europa" and a incongruous 30-second intro into "Angels on the Balcony".

An aside about the cover: I don't care to figure out which band member it was, but one of them was relegated to being depicted on the album cover as white pants, a black shirt, dark hair, and no facial characteristics. Sure, Blondie deserved to be up front, but if I were that last guy, I'd feel a bit insulted at being completely anonymized.

Because it isn't boring, and has the several of the contemporary musical styles represented, and the songs are generally entertaining, I think this album is a good one. So I will recommend to my readers that they check it out!

My next album review will be in two weeks because next week's top-10 chart has no albums that I have not already reviewed.

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Cows and Longs Peak

Cows and Longs Peak

Taken approximately here, yesterday.

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Steely Dan – Gaucho

I am of two minds about Gaucho by Steely Dan. In one mind, I think the melodies are entertaining and high quality, combining Jazz, Funk, Rock and R&B. The instruments, drums, and lyrics are very tight, a result of the perfection demanded by the band. This forced the production of the album to take two years. In the other mind, I dislike the manner of the vocals. The vocalists, including a previous nemesis Michael McDonald in a backup role, do things that annoy me. Imagine Yogi Bear trying to sing, and that is what I hear in my head when I listen to this album. Unnecessary pitch bending and weird transitions from a nasal- to diaphragm-driven voice.

I am a few months into this project, and I am observing that nearly all of the music I've liked I had heard previously. I think that this is natural for a few reasons. First, I seek out music I like over music I dislike, meaning that the albums I've listened to that I disliked never entered my mind because they are in a genre I generally dislike. Of course, I couldn't have truly known I disliked them until I listened to them, but there is some personal selective effects going on. Second, and this is definitely inflating the value of my own opinions (so throw some salt over your shoulder), but it seems that music I dislike has proven itself over time to be less popular and inferior to music I do like. When was the last time you heard a Yoko Ono song on the radio? Or a Barbra Streisand song from Guilty? However, Bruce Springsteen is still making records and selling out arenas, and AC/DC is still selling records and getting airtime.

If you can get over the vocal style of this album, or indeed if you even like it, I would recommend this album for its melodies. However, that is a very qualified recommendation. Listen at your own risk.

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