Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Minor Grammar Complaints That Get On My Nerves More Than They Should Because People Should Know Better

"Review" and "revue" are not synonyms. One is a verb, the other a noun. I don't care what spellchecker says.

Things I'm Learning About Adulthood, Part 2

And by day, I mean week. The server farm has gophers or something.

Long Overdue Review: Hand Built By Robots

The subject of today's Long Overdue Review is "Hand Built By Robots," the debut album of one Newton Faulkner, a singer-songwriter from Surrey with carrot-colored dreadlocks, a cute smile and a incredible acoustic sound.

Faulkner not only pulls, plucks and taps the strings but plays his own percussion on the body of the guitar -- musically, he uses every part of the buffalo. The result is an imaginative, highly unique sound that touches on a multitude of emotions. The radio release, a single called "Dream Catch Me," is a funky blend of slight dischord and striding chords that pick you up and tell you to sit there, it's a better view. Have fun! The other songs range from slower contemplations on life's tendency to slip into neutral and stall at stoplights to fun, upbeat attempts to recall dreams and pick up girls at train stations. (That last, "She's Got the Time," was recorded after a session at the pub. It shows in a good way.)

The one real standout, stylistically speaking, is Faulkner's cover of Massive Attack's "Teardrop." Fans of "House M.D." would instantly recognize instrumental portions of the original as the show's theme song, but there's little of that version in this cover. The meditative ballad of the strange becomes an eerie tour-de-force that lifts to an unexpected climax before climbing back down to the rest of us mortals. It's been described elsewhere as "heartstopping," and I really can't do better than that.

Overall, Faulkner has put forth an impressive effort. Some lyrics are a tad repetitive (the phrase "I don't mind" appears in several songs), but debut albums are allowed a little leeway (and the music's solid). I'm sure that subsequent efforts will only improve on this effort, and, let's face it, he's still pretty young. There's nothing like a little life experience to broaden one's creative pool, and I'm sure he'll grow with time. I look forward to his next album.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Things I'm Learning About Adulthood, Part 1

The day your team gets a lecture on productivity is the day the system goes down for two hours.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Entrepreneurship Bubble?

Interesting article by Michael Malone in the Wall Street Journal: "The Next American Frontier." The thrust of it is that instead of a physical frontier, the new pioneers are in business. Self-employment is the new Western migration, and the next generation will be one of entrepreneurs. Which is all well and good, except if everyone is out starting a new business (as Malone seems to claim), who's going to act as an employee? It's one of those optimistic articles that forsees a new paradigm within the next few years, one that will shut down the old order and usher in a new era and a new way of doing things. I think he's overreaching a little, though: While small businesses and entrepreneurs are definitely going to play a big part in shaping the future, I don't think their influence will be as great. While most high school students would rather work for themselves, most of them will probably lack the initiative to do so. It takes a special sort of person to really make a successful go of it, and millenials (my generation) are just a little too hand-held for me to completely buy into Malone's premise.

Besides, in the '90s people were saying that real-world stores would be largely replaced by online shopping, and it didn't happen. Oh, sure, online shopping is a huge part of the shopping landscape, but they didn't push the brick-and-mortar storefronts into mothballs, either. Neither will online upstarts supplant large corporations, although they'll probably force them to adjust their business models and practices. By how much remains to be seen, but I doubt it will be as much as Mr. Malone seems to hope for.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Minor Grammar Complaints That Get On My Nerves More Than They Should Because People Should Know Better

"Bemused" is not a synonym for "amused." It means something along the lines of "bewildered and slightly disturbed". Wrong: "The kitten's antics led to bemused smiles among the watchers." Right: "He viewed the impaled squid in his bedroom with a bemused curiosity."

That is all.

Tell Me What You Think Of This

or

Ah, Ambition

Year before last (that's 2006 for your smartbutts out there), I participated in my first NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month for you non-pseudoacronym people out there -- and yes, I know it should be hyphenated). It was awesome: I successfully wrote 50,000+ words in the 30 days between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30 (nice how the dates work out like that) (I think I have a problem with parentheses). Last year I crapped out after about two days and roughly 2,000 words because a) I hated my topic and b) I'd had surgery literally a month before it started.

This year, though, will be different! *cue fanfare and defiant fist* Not only do I plan to be healthy, but I'm taking a non-traditional track. Since the rules dictate that "If you think it's a novel, it's a novel," I'm going to write (or at least begin) no fewer than 30 short stories that, together, add up to at least 50,000 words. I'm coming up with the seeds (titles and plot nuts) right now, and I plan to do at least one from each of the major genres (barring porn). If nothing else, it'll give me a break from my other writing projects and provide some starts for future works. At best, it will be the most brilliant collection of speed-written fiction the world has ever seen. I'll settle for the winner shinies and a little halo that means I chipped in some money (NaNoWriMo uses all proceeds after operating expenses to build libraries for kids in Southeast Asia).

I just checked my profile page, and I actually topped 5,000 words last year. Not bad for being that pooped. And now: Onward!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Minor Grammar Complaints That Get On My Nerves More Than They Should Because People Should Know Better

The phrase is "Without further ado," not "Without further adieu." "Ado" means a fuss or bother: "Much Ado About Nothing." "Adieu" is a French goodbye: "Adieu, mes ami!"

Myriad is an adjective, not a noun. Wrong: "There were a myriad of trees." Right: "There were myriad trees."

That is all.

Supply and Demand

The Ansari X Prize has been won, but the Automotive X Prize is still out there. The goal is to create a viable, cheap production car that gets at least 100 miles per gallon. Popular Mechanics has a slideshow about it, and while reading it - specifically, while reading about this car, I realized something.

Maybe a 100-mpg car isn't such a great thing, not right off the bat.

What raised the question was the detail about the car's 92-mpg fuel efficiency. "Wow," I thought, "you'd only have to fill up, what, every few months?" Then I realized that if everyone only filled up every few months, and if gas tanks were about the same size as they are now, gas sales would plummet. Supply and demand dictates that if demand goes down and supply stays the same, prices should go down - but without a major top-to-bottom overhaul of the petroleum industry, prices would have to go up to maintain the status quo - which is what most companies want. It takes a real visionary in large industries to be willing and/or able to adapt to game-changing technology (I don't mean changing the outcome of the game, I mean changing the game). Drastically higher prices would never stand, of course, so petroleum companies would have to find other ways to make money when the prices dropped. Some companies seem to already be doing this, if their commercials are to be believed, but it remains to be seen how serious they are about it. The easier thing would be to put the screws on Detroit and keep mpg rates low.

Other problems arise from a reduced demand: Oil-producing countries without other major industries would probably collapse (and God only knows what that would lead to - I'm looking at you, Venezuela. And Iran. And Saudi Arabia. And ... ). From everything I've heard, the UAE is the only Middle Eastern country with any long-term plans for what to do when the oil runs out (or when the price goes through the floor).

Anyway, just some thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Like the weather today? How's it going in Poughkeepsie?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

On the thankfulness front

Last year I had surgery for cervical cancer, and while I literally received the best care money can buy, when all was said and done I was woefully short of the money itself. Dealing with the resulting bills from this and a previous procedure for the same condition was a major source of stress in my life: I was practically unemployed, I had no savings and I had no insurance worth mentioning. All told, the bills totaled between $40,000 and $50,000 dollars, the bulk of which was a bill from St. Vincent Hospital in excess of $35,000 (the surgery and resultant two nights in the hospital). I had already had a $3,000ish bill forgiven under their charity care program, and I am happy to report that the $35,000 bill has also, as of last week, been forgiven. I don't call the debt forgiveness a miracle, because God works these things all the time, and it certainly wasn't out of the blue. But the growing up I did in the past few months dealing with these issues has been a miracle, because there is no way I could have done it on my own. I would have been a blithering jello mold, passively letting myself be dragged into collections and crying that they wouldn't go away, were it not for the trust I was able to place in my creator and savior. That trust, above all, is what gave me the guts to get up and do what I had to do, and I thank God for it.

I still owe several smaller bills that I'm paying down, most of which should be resolved within the year. There is still a $3,000 anesthesiologist's bill and a $5,000 bill from Riverview Hospital for the original procedure to remove the mass (which was super, super gross and cool - they showed me the pictures), but with any luck I'll be able to deal with those in the same way as I did the others: Namely, crying out to God because I have no chance of dealing with them by myself. It's a strangely happy place to be.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

My first real primary, and I'm not in the party that matters

I voted today; to my surprise, there were four options under (R) for president. I had forgotten that Romney is inactive, not out. As for Huckabee and Paul, they're the ones who everyone stares at until someone breaks the silence to ask why they're still here. I voted for McCain; Romney's a dead duck, and the other two would be no-gos even if they had a numerical chance. Which they haven't for several months.

The gentleman who checked in right before I did rode in on a motorcycle, wore a leather jacket, was lean and good-looking and checked (D) for his ballot. Based on the questions he asked the pollworker, though, I think he was an R who switched sides so he could skew the Democratic results. I thought about doing the same thing, but I wanted to cast a real vote in the local elections, so I didn't. Besides, if I had switched sides and then that candidate ended up winning the whole thing in November, I'd be very upset with myself.

In other news: I came across this quote in the comments on Pajamas and thought I'd pass it along here:

"[W]ealth is, for most people, the only honest and likely path to liberty. With money comes power over the world. Men are freed from drudgery, women from exploitation. Businesses can be started, homes built, communities formed, religions practiced, educations pursued. But liberals aren’t very interested in such real and material freedoms. They have a more innocent–not to say toddlerlike–idea of freedom. Liberals want the freedom to put anything into their mouths, to say bad words and to expose their private parts in art museums." – P. J. O’Rourke
It's an interesting take on an old problem, really: I've found that as I take more responsibility for my own life, simple truths like "You want to eat, you have to work" take on the profundity of scripture. The more I depend on others to provide for me, the more I sign away my autonomy and freedom to make decisions. Unfortunately, that's probably why so many people a few years older than me are still living with their parents. They got a taste of freedom in college (just a taste, not the real thing), and they think it's easier to just stay in the nest until their parents push them out. It is easier, but it's also a lot less fulfilling.

Final thought for the day: Two fish are in a tank. One turns to the other and says, "Man the guns. I'll drive."

Back with updates later. Have a fun day.