Archive for ‘Ramblings’

March 27, 2012

What the heck is this?

A friend of mine linked to her blog on Facebook and I read it (and dug it, since I hadn’t seen her or talked to her in a long time) and I realized, oh yeah I got one of those things too. I spend too much time on FB and playing Angry Birds. But I also play the piano a lot and, as of late, recording (finally) and trying to put out the 10+ years of music I’ve sworn I will finish.

Progress is slow. Time takes way to much time. And there isn’t enough of it on any given day to just get a decent take. And I’ve forced myself to get a take of something done every time I set the mics up and tune the guitar and let it rip. And the rule is that if I get the take done, I can’t listen to it until at least 24 hours later. My sense of objectivity will have some recovery time and then I can decide that, yeah it’s a keeper or nope, that’s going to need to be replaced.

Is anyone out there reading? Drop me a line, I’ll probably link to the FB once I have something interesting to say.

November 19, 2009

Back to the blog

We finally got the blog moved to a new server and got a new design on the site. In the meantime I started writing for and joined twitter to further my exploration into cyberspace. The examiner pieces are specifically about the local music scene and I’m trying to cover a nice mix of bands, venues and general observations about what’s happening musically in Madison.

I know there are many places to check listings and get information about bands and venues but I often feel like there’s no sense of history for our scene. I wrote a bit about O’Cayz and went to do something about Club Du Wash and found very little information anywhere about the place. So I’m hoping to pick some local brains about venues and history and publish more stuff that documents what happened and how we got to where we are now. And now that the blog is back (and Word Pressy) I’ll be tugging on the collective ear as much as I can.

February 5, 2009

I'll Be Seeing Ya

I’ve been very busy doing all sorts of things recently, so not much blogging happening here! One of the reasons for this is that I managed to blow up both of our home computers. Deanna and Soren flew down to AZ a few weeks back and while they were gone I got the recording bug. I mostly do this in the basement but winter makes it impossible to hang out down there, so I decided to move my computer up to the living room. I got a table set up and hauled the gear (mixing board, microphones, pre amps, stands, guitars, effects boxes, computer monitor) and tried to get down to work. Then I turned on the computer and got nothing. Well, almost nothing: It powered up but did not boot and no amount of restarting (or unpluggint) did anything. So I chalked it up to it being an old machine (6 years old in the new year) and realized that I could probably harvest the hard drives and find a new more modern home for my music.

On Sunday night I decided I would try to move our main computer out of the office in to the living room to try recording on that machine. Once again I plugged in the computer and it did exactly the same thing: power sans boot or any action. I was crushed and now felt like I was in real peril, as every bit of writing and music (as well as pictures and financial info) was now unavailable and might not ever return. Deanna came home on Monday and we brought the computers to a friend, who managed to revive mine (the BIOS needed a reset) but not our main computer. We did harvest the hard drives but now need to find a new home for our data.

We only went a day or so without an internet connection (we got a laptop loaner) but it was plenty long for me. I am hooked on Facebook and enjoy the networking and nostalgia and pictures, but I mostly use the internet for research. If I want to know something I sit down here and let my fingers do the walking. The withdrawl from being able to do this whenever I wanted was painful. And we never did figure out why our computers blew up, though we did note that none of our first floor outlets are grounded (Our house is 99 years old). So last weekend we installed a GFC outlet in the office. We took out the old outlet and threaded the cable through and across the basement and hooked it up to the breaker box. We were very surprised at how easy it was and how good we felt doing something so important ourselves. We hope this new outlet, along with a strong surge protector, will keep us safely online for many years.

December 21, 2008

Pomp or Circumstance?

I’ve almost entirely stopped looking at my favorite local page The Daily Page Forum over the last few months. Activity has gone down in general, especially in the wake of Obama winning the presidency. I still check in a couple of times a week, mostly to hear local folks weigh in on events in Madison. But I feel like the people who posted intelligent things are not doing it as often and much of what gets discussed does not interest me.

Plus I’ve been sucked into Facebook. And the connections keep on coming, from former workmates to old friends and exes. I’ve even had a couple of chats with some folks I used to spend a lot of time talking to face to face. I joined a group for the bar that I used to hang out at in Ames where I met many of the musicians I still play with. I joined a freakin’ group for the dorm floor I lived on as a Freshman and Sophomore. These are strange digital times indeed.

The oddest part so far is the joining up with a page for my high school graduating class. My 20th is coming up in 2009 and I’m mulling over the idea of attending. I missed the 10th since I was quite poor and didn’t have a car and wasn’t sure I wanted to face all of those people quite yet. But this time around my life is a bit more together and I’m a bit more piqued. A few of my classmate have friended me on Facebook. While I don’t have any problem being their virtual friend, the people who picked me out were not really people I knew all that well in high school. At least one is someone I did not recognize, even after getting the yearbook out. I did not friend anyone out of the 100 or so folks who have acknowledged the page. I haven’t talked to or seen at least 75% of them since the last day/week/month of school. Maybe another 10% I saw since they went the same college as I did. I think the last person I graduated with that I actually talked to face to face was Rob Harkin, who I saw the last week I lived in Ames. That was 12 years ago.

Deanna wants to go to my reunion–we’re the same age so hers will be in ’09 as well, though her class was 40 some people and mine was over 300. I’m worried about not remembering who anyone is, especially people who I didn’t know in the first place. My brother went to his back in ’07 and had a blast. Part of me is really looking forward to seeing old acquaintances but part of me would also like to remember everyone as they once were. Though if I don’t show up, I suppose folks will always think of me as that intensely shy skinny kid with braces who used to burst into tears at least once a week.

November 6, 2008


As with any given Tuesday, I was driving my cab on Election Night. Four years ago, as I ferried folks around the city, many of them ranted about how they couldn’t believe things were turning out so poorly. I picked up a lesbian couple from Club 5 and took them to their house on the southwest side. They were both pretty drunk and downbeat, claiming that if Bush wound up winning again they were definitely leaving the country. Their conversation was spiked with heavy sarcasm, so I couldn’t tell if they were kidding or not.

This year I started at 8pm just as the polls closed and I decided to leave my radio silent for the evening. Politics and religion are subject areas best left out of the small talk in a cab. If someone wanted to chat with me about what was going on I was game, but I wanted to make everyone who got in feel like they were entering a neutral space. I also kept the radio off because this political campaign could not be over soon enough. The negative ads and the exaggeration and the dumbing down of everything made my stomach turn over and over. My parents were (and probably still are) involved in political campaigning and I admire that anyone could be older than me and still have faith in the system. We look to our leaders to guide us but I know the only way things will ever get better is if the people in the United States take a long look at themselves and the way they lead their lives. We need to discard the laziness and wastefulness and entitlement that colors most of our society and streamline things so that the next generation of Americans can enjoy what we all take for granted. But I doubt many people would be willing to make such sacrifices.

The other reason I did not turn on my radio was because I wanted to see if I could tell when Barack Obama was declared as POTUS. I was driving up First Street towards the Fiore Shopping Center around 10 pm when I saw fireworks go off somewhere east of me. I turned on the radio and indeed they were touting Obama as the winner. I went on break and headed up to a bar that my friend Bob’s band was playing at and watched Obama give a very nice acceptance speech. While I sipped my soda, many of my friends were celebrating like it was a holiday. I’m glad Obama won and I’m happy that the last 8 years will finally end but I’m also wary that things could get a lot worse before they get better, if they ever truly do get better.

October 11, 2008

Have we got contact, you and me?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard from or contacted several old friends. These are all folks I’ve not seen in the flesh in a long time. In one case, an ex, who I am in myspace contact with, emailed me to ask how I was doing. It looked from her pictures that she had visited the humble city of Ames, Ia where we both used to live and was feeling nostalgic. Another friend found me through the fake band page (also on myspace) for my former band The Ultramaroons. He also wanted to know how I was and how our mutual friends were as well. I tried to reply with tempered enthusiasm as I think I scare folks away by being too excited to hear from them. Or maybe some folks are just lazy and don’t feel like sharing their life story with me.

The best contact came from someone I had not seen or heard from in 15 years. Dan and I met back when we were both crazy Unitarian Youth. Unitarians are really into getting together and talking about just about anything, so every few months they hold conferences to discuss church policies and to get to know the folks in the neighboring states (in our case we Iowans mingled with Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska) and the kids would come along and hang out. Often there were organized activities but mostly it was a chance to get together with other similarly freaky teenagers. These conferences were lifelines for me as I’d been stereotyped into a persona that I could not shake at school. The kids at the conferences were often in the same boat and were often more interested in politics and counterculture than any of my friends. Dan and I bonded over the band XTC as they were my musical obsession back in 1988. He was able to play some of their songs which blew my mind at the time (and still sort of does, me being 17 and him 15) and kicked off a great friendship. Dan is one of the siliest people I’ve ever met and never seems to be tired of talking about any subject. At least, thats how it was when we last saw each other in 1992. Since then we lost track and moved around the country doing our own things. I found him on facebook and we’ve had a really happy and satisfying exchange and catch up. I’ve been thinking of a Kurt Vonnegut quote while I’ve been corresponding this week:

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

I’m not really old and I do keep my good friends but I also know that along the way there were many that I would like to revisit, even if it’s just a single exchange to remind us of what once was going on.

June 22, 2008


I frequently check up on my close myspace friends. The feature which lets you “subscribe” to what changes people make has helped quite a bit but there are things you don’t know unless you visit their page. I just learned that an old friend had broken up with her long term boyfriend. She didn’t email me with the news or anything, but was now suddenly listed as “single” on her page. Her ex is still number one in her list of friends but he too lists himself as single on his page. And both have rearranged their pictures so as to not appear together anymore. He actually went through the trouble of removing most of those featuring her; she merely re-captioned several and left the rest alone. I’m of course curious what went wrong but since I’ve not heard officially that they split (and we’re not that close anymore) I don’t have any reason to pry. But the spyglass that is myspace continues to fascinate and make me wonder how much people might be able to uncover from the mere facts that are posted on someone’s personal page.

January 25, 2008

What's the time?

Sometime in junior high I got a really nice watch for Christmas. My grandparents (who gave it to me) came from an era where a nice watch was an important gift and I was flattered. I always suspected that my parents had a hand it the gift as well because I was chronically late. I used my new watch all the time on my paper route, at school, when I was traveling, etc. (My lateness continues to this day) Somewhere in there I lost the watch and never got another one.

Now that I’ve started running again I’m wearing a watch to time myself, but I take it off whenever I’m done. I don’t like the feel of it on my wrist and there are so many clocks in my house that I hardly need to have a personal timepiece. But out in public, without a watch (and rarely with a cell phone either) I’m dependent on public clocks. Two of the ones I relied on the most–the one on the north wall of the far check-out area at Woodman’s and the exaggerated clock face at Target–have been taken down in the last year. There’s still one at Woodman’s by the customer service station, but if I’m far away I can’t read it accurately. I was at Target yesterday and I still looked over and remembered that, oh yeah they remodeled in 2007 and disposed of their ugly clock.

I guess I could look at my receipt for the time or ask someone around me since every other soul has a cell phone. But public clocks are a wonderful concept and a service that just isn’t as vital anymore. I was crushed when the tore down the building with the Bucky Badger Clock as I always liked looking at it when I was stopped at the light at Park Street. I just noticed the other day that they put it up on the New UW Welcome Center. The clock is not close to the street and not as noticeable, which to me defeats the purpose of a public timepiece.

February 27, 2007


I recently ran into an old friend at a party. He’d been out of town for almost a year so when I saw him I was surprised and pleased to meet him there. These sorts of situations used to give me a lot of trouble. I’m a rather shy person and I’ve always carried myself with a detachment specifically designed to ease difficult social encounters. Constant social interaction worked fine but if I didn’t see someone for a while (for whatever reason, even the ones beyond our control) I might be more hesitant to interact with them when I saw them again. I might not even say hello if it had been a really long time. I felt uneasy about how awkward it was that it had been so long and that I’d been slack about keeping in touch, etc etc. I realize now that being friendly is something I can do pretty well, not just in a polite sense but as a way to network with people. And in Madison the network is almost always just a few steps away from someone you know (or from your own self) and now when I see someone I haven’t in a long time I feel like focusing on making the best of the fact that, yes indeed we did know each other for whatever reason and now here we are and lets take a moment to figure out what it’s all about.

The person at the party also seemed pleased to see me. This is someone who prides himself on his ability to talk to just about anyone and make a good impression. After about 3 minutes he was shifting his eyes when I was talking. After 5 minutes he was visibly uncomfortable. I was telling him about the last year of my life where lots of thing happened–and folks, I’m not a blabber and if I don’t think something would be interesting to someone I don’t tell them about it, so I was doing my best to cut to the chase in this conversation. I wasn’t giving him my 3 hour explanation of having a foster child, just the 2-3 minute overview. But this person was somewhere else, or at least really wanted to be somewhere else. I had to suppress a snort when he found his opportunity to walk away when someone else recognized him. Just as I wondered about myself and my ability to be polite–which has increased to a point where I’m genuinely interested in finding out what other people have to say–I always had my doubts about this person’s actual motivation. In the years we’ve known each other, his ability to fake interest has all but vanished while my ability to stand everyone has increased.

December 17, 2006


Here’s my review, courtesy of The Dispatch

The Taxi That Hurried
By Lucy Sprague Mitchell
Irma Simonton Black and Jessie Stanton
Pictures by Tibor Gergely
Published in 1943 by Golden Books

This children’s story is about a cute little yellow taxi with red stripes all around its body that lives and drives in some vaguely Philadelphia-ish American city circa WWII.

“It was a smart little taxi. For it could start fast-jerk-whizz!! It could tear along the street-whizz-squeak!! It could stop fast-squeak-jerk!! Its driver’s name was Bill. Together they made a speedy pair.”

While enjoying a smoke at his hackstand, our driver Bill is approached by a woman and her son who are running late and need a ride to the train station. On their journey, Bill drives like a maniac and they get stopped by the police, blocked by a coal truck and finally stuck in a traffic jam. Like all good cabbies, Bill lays into the horn to clear those pesky other vehicles and somehow ekes through the masses around the station and gets the family to their train with seconds to spare.

Terse and thrilling from cover to cover, I was soothed by the cool pastel illustrations of round, clown shaped taxis. In their lyrical, rhyming exchanges, Bill and the mother comment on the taxi industry (“We’re a speedy pair/We can get you there) as well as middle class angst while dealing with Man (“first it’s a cop that makes you stop and now we’re stuck behind a truck”). The ideological climax at the station hammers home two points-how train travel is cold and rigid while automobiles are speedy and flexible-and how man and machine working in tandem can serve the greater good.

(It appears that the reviews of this one at Amazon seem pretty well split about this book. I love this book but understand how someone might really hate it, too.)