I let the last.fm client dictate much of my music listening. It's nifty -- input an artist you like, and it plays you similar-sounding stuff. It's a good way to discover new music, and it's easier than organizing your own playlists.
Recently, I've been listening to a lot of alternative groups with female vocals along the lines of Fiona Apple and Nellie McKay (another recent find). When last.fm plays a song, it also displays the artist and album information on-screen. I find myself running to the computer once in awhile to find out who's making that lovely noise.
Which leads me to today's topic: Jesca Hoop. It seems the last three or four times I've wondered "Who is that?", it's been her. That being the case, I finally decided it was time to find her only (officially-released) album, Kismet.
Jesca Hoop's bio on Last.fm mentions she listened to Tom Waits early on, and it really shows. She's got the clunky, circus-like foundation in about half the tracks on this cut. Her influences, though, go far beyond that; "Out The Back Door" brings back vivid memories of Cibo Matto's distorted vocals and dark, syncopated rhythm, and "Silverscreen" has distinct splashes of Beatles-style elements, including tastefully-executed orchestral swells and a little melody in the chorus that sounds like it could have come straight from Sgt. Pepper.
There's so much variety on this album, every track feels like a brand new experience on the first listen-through, and most remain interesting on subsequent analysis. Best of all, Ms. Hoop manages to completely avoid the trap of neo-cabaret that plagues so many talented young female artists. It's alternative music, to be sure, but with such a wide variety of influences behind it, Jesca Hoop's sound is wholly original and wholly enjoyable.
Monday, November 30, 2009
I let the last.fm client dictate much of my music listening. It's nifty -- input an artist you like, and it plays you similar-sounding stuff. It's a good way to discover new music, and it's easier than organizing your own playlists.
Posted by frizzzzle at 9:29 PM
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I wonder if I could pass the bar exam with a bit of work. I picked up a criminal law textbook at Half Price today, and I'm actually interested enough to continue reading it. That's a good sign, no?
Unfortunately, it appears a Juris Doctor is required for actual admission to the bar in most jurisdictions. That part would be expensive. That said, most of the information itself is available online. Findlaw.com appears to have a decent amount of case law available for free. Would that be enough stuff to get me by?
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:04 PM
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I can't believe I've never bought myself an airsoft gun. Thirty bucks is a lot of fun, and I think it's the beginning of a new hobby. These things are just plain cool.
I did shoot Dad, but to be fair, he told me to as he walked out into the yard and spread his arms. I'm not one to disobey :p
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:50 PM
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I've written two stories now. Both end in death. There's a very simple reason for this: It's an easy way to end a story. I'm not much of a fiction writer, so it's simply a crutch. Seems like a more creative alternative to "and they all lived happily ever after." Besides, man falling from an elevator surely wouldn't end happily ever after, in any case. There's no need for alarm. If I said "it's fun to kill characters," perhaps there'd be some cause for concern. So I'll just keep that to myself.
Also, a seasonal thought: I'm glad I have family in town. I'm glad the family from out of town came to see us. I'm glad turkeys are made of meat.
Posted by frizzzzle at 7:42 PM
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
At each floor (*click* 4…) the corresponding number above the door lights with a click, punctuating the metallic scrape of an old elevator in an old building descending to the ground floor. Aryn checks his watch. 4:30. Only two and a half hours until this is over.
“Four days in a row,” Aryn thinks, Thanksgiving break just a couple hours away. This break is necessary. Between the influx of orders this week (everybody gets their work done at the last possible minute, it seems) and some tension between him and the new guy, the last month has been an absolute drag.
Before that long break, this ten-minute one is the last today. The coffee upstairs is horrid, having been made this morning and left in that decanter for, what, six hours now? It’s even stale by the time he gets to it when he comes in at 10. At least enough people use the coffee in the common room on the ground floor of the office it’s brewed relatively frequently. Aryn anticipates the cafeteria smell and fluorescent lighting and long tables with tattered wooden chairs from the 80s with that awful prickly upholstery on the seats. He’s made this trip twice daily for two years now. There’s no actual cafeteria here – just some vending machines and a microwave. But it’s comfort. It’s not-work.
No number. Weird. Light must be out. These elevators are serviced yearly for their vital parts, but the stupid lights keep disappearing, and the lights outside don’t always work when the elevator arrives. There’s no way to tell whether it’s going up or down without that bell.
As the door lurches open, Aryn steps out, checking his watch again. He looks up in time to see his foot miss the floor. He falls. There’s no floor at all here. The light is apparently just fine.
As he’s falling through nothingness, now looking up (there’s nothing down to look at, and some small part of his brain is sure looking at the one thing that exists will make some difference), the elevator door closes, and the perfectly-working exterior indicator light goes out. The elevator has gone to service another patient user. After a few more seconds, the closed door becomes a pinpoint in the distance, then it vanishes completely.
Describing “nothingness” is impossibly difficult. Suffice it to say Aryn still checks his watch every few minutes, partly out of curiosity, having grown up believing all falls end eventually and because this one is taking longer than any he’s experienced thus far, and partly out of simple boredom. There’s not a lot to look at when nothing is around; nothing is very much like a blank canvas without any texture or color. It isn’t even grey. It just isn’t.
After about ten minutes, according to his watch, Aryn begins to wonder whether he’s really falling anymore. Is it possible the door moved away from him as he stepped out? Without a way to orient himself and nothing to indicate movement (surely air exists, since he’s not suffocated yet, but there’s no wind in his face from rapid movement), Aryn believes himself to now be in stasis, suspended in a… what is this place, anyway?
Perhaps ten seconds after deciding he wasn’t moving, he changes his mind. The ground or something equally expansive and flat appears and begins approaching rapidly from his left side. He’s falling. Sideways, in fact. Before Aryn has a chance to wonder what, exactly, terminal velocity would come out to in a place of nothing and whether he’s been falling long enough to reach it, the ground or something equally expansive and flat interrupts his train of thought with a dull thud.
As his mind fades to black (at least there's color now), a mumble: “Terminal velocity, indeed.”
Posted by frizzzzle at 8:33 PM
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
When I was a kid, I remember Dad watching math on TV. I thought it was the strangest thing at the time, and I haven't thought much of it since. Until tonight.
I found some math on Youtube. I am amazed. I need to go back to school and learn stuff. I'd be so much happier there.
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:51 PM
Monday, November 23, 2009
I am not motivated to blog tonight, but I'm always motivated to complain.
I tore open a bag of Tootsie Pops a couple nights ago and found an unpleasant surprise: banana. Not an actual banana, mind, which would have been quite a lot better, but an artificially-flavored banana lollipop.
Waste of a perfectly good stick. That could have been orange, dangit.
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:50 PM
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Julia Nunes posted a new video. There's a band behind her, and there's no more spontaneity. There's not even a uke. I am disappointed.
She still rocks, don't get me wrong. It's just that this isn't the spunky youtube girl I fell in love with. There's a pop star in this video.
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:44 PM
Saturday, November 21, 2009
It's important to play fun things along with the pieces you're studying to keep burnout at bay, and reading through easy songs is good practice in itself. I found one the other day I like enough to share:
This is Schumann's Traumerei. Traumerei translates to "dreaming," from what I understand. Sounds dreamy, indeed.
Posted by frizzzzle at 8:47 PM
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I'm skipping the last paragraph. Self-censorship, maybe.
SEATTLE – The Seattle Fire Department said two people died after a fire swept through the Johnson Lofts building downtown. Firefighters arrived shortly after 4:45 PM after receiving a call from a resident who then evacuated safely.
Witnesses said they saw a woman on the fifth floor attempt to escape from the window but disappear shortly afterward. “It was pretty intense,” said witness John Smith. “The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see much. But we knew that lady was in there. There was nothing any of us could do but watch.”
Firefighters confirmed the two deaths and said it appears the victims were attempting to escape. One was the resident of the apartment were the fire began, and the other could not be identified.
The building, which had been recently renovated for residential use, has been a landmark in the city for over fifty years.
Investigators determined the cause of the fire to be accidental.
Posted by frizzzzle at 9:56 PM
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
When he approached the scene, it was clear he wasn’t going to get in. That was his, though, thick black smoke billowing from the half-open window. Christ. He tried to get some information from an officer on the scene, but the officer brushed him off. There was no distracting him from that window. Everybody was staring. Then he saw it, too, a towel almost draped out the window. Like somebody had tried to wave it for help. The firefighters were raising a ladder now.
Sam took off around the building since the police hadn’t had time to set up any sort of perimeter. When he got to the back door, the smoker’s door (fat lot of good banning smoking indoors did), he yanked it open and took off up the stairs. Why were they going for the window? Why hadn’t she used the fire escape like a normal person? Like an animal, she was, faced with fire, fixating on the nearest thing to “away,” even though it was fifty feet up. He should have shown her what to do.
When he got to his floor, winded, he could feel the heat. He could see the heat, even in the floodlit landing, making the door shimmer. He took off his shirt to protect his hands, but as he was looking down the stairwell hoping desperately for somebody to come running, the door fell on its own. It just tipped over into the hall, landing with a crash. The hinges had melted.
As Sam looked down the hall, he was amazed at how dark it was. The heat poured from the open door now, and he could see nearly invisible flames licking at the brick in the hall, blue where they appeared and heat shimmer where they didn’t. He charged in screaming for her, though he could hardly hear himself over what reminded him of the deep, rumbling sound the furnace at his childhood home made when he listened closely to it. It didn’t crackle. It nearly growled.
Posted by frizzzzle at 10:05 PM
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
On the way home, Sam watched the helicopters, three of them, hovering around downtown. He’d always been amazed by flying machines, even now into his thirties. He couldn’t tell what sort of helicopters they were, but it wasn’t the police. Theirs was a smaller one that looked a bit like a bumblebee.
He was about halfway home when he saw the smoke. The helicopters were for that – a fire. It looked like it might be even be near the lofts. He picked up his pace. Perhaps there’d be some action tonight, after all. And he’d have a great view if it was on his side of the building.
A bit nearer, as truth started to dawn, Sam started to run. He didn’t want a view of this scene. Watching a drama unfold as he looked on from his loft window was one thing, but he was kicking himself for the thought now. Karma will have her own way. How about a drama actually unfolding from your window, Sam? He didn’t wish for this.
Posted by frizzzzle at 10:18 PM
Monday, November 16, 2009
“How’s work?” he asked.
“Mmgh.” She shrugged, noncommittal.
She’d gotten a job at the grocery at the end of the block, but he didn’t hear her talk much about it.
“Heh. Mine, too. I have a feeling I’ll still be cleaning up yesterday’s mess. That was a disaster. Of course, I took the fall. I always do. I wish they’d quit using me as an excuse when things go wrong.”
“Why do you go if it makes you so miserable?” she asked. “You really don’t have any right to complain. You’ve put yourself in that mess.”
“It’s true. It pays the bills, though. I need to have a job, and I don’t want to work retail. If I could afford to, I sure would. It’d surely be easier than this. No offense, of course.”
At this, she was silent and nodded.
“I’ve got to get going. See ya this evening.”
“Yeah. Thanks again for all this,” she said. “I’ve never lived like this before.”
“What? No need to thank me. You thank me just by being around. I’m glad to have you.” Sam hugged her then he held her at arm’s length. “You really are lovely,” he said, smiling again.
She only lowered her head.
After Sam left, she opened the fridge and checked the date on the eggs. They were still good. Cereal wasn’t nearly as tasty as it used to be. Eggs are real food.
Posted by frizzzzle at 10:48 PM
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Sam stretched his chin out in front of the mirror, running his fingers down his neck, inspecting his shaving job. Shaving was his own time, and for all the five minutes it took, he had his mind to himself. Morning grogginess made his mind a funny place, with random words repeating themselves for just their sound (he was stuck on Timbuktu this morning) and simple, basic thoughts forming the foundation of his meditation. In the last six months, he’d learned to savor the time he spent shrouded in his morning stupor. He knew she’d be waiting to get in when he left the bathroom. He took his own toothbrush from the rack that now held two and ran the tap. He cupped some water in his hand, splashed his face, and Timbuktu disappeared for the day.
As he opened the bathroom door and stepped into the hall, she was, indeed, waiting. She looked almost domestic these days, now that she had more or less regular meals and slept indoors. Her face was still a bit rough, and she insisted on wearing a mess of randomly kempt, hacked short hair, but at least it was clean. He touched her arm, and she accepted it with a small smile. He smiled, too, knowing how much that meant, and passed her. He’d found out the hard way a couple weeks after their turkey dinner that a friendly hug was not that at all to a girl from the street. He ended up with a black eye, and she didn’t reappear at the side of the building for a few days.
These days, though, their relationship had developed into one of relative comfort. Over a standing breakfast of boxed cereal, Sam looked over her with approval. She’d come a long way, indeed. He didn’t rescue her, per se. But he’d sure helped her get back on her feet. And now he had a friend.
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:11 PM
She only acted startled the first time. The second, the very next night, she waved her hand in dismissal and grunted, never taking her eyes from the ground. The third passed the same way, and the fourth became a week. Sam, by this time, felt some small connection to the girl, even though only as a neighbor, which she technically was. And her situation started to bother him. It was just a niggling thing at first, wondering before he started speaking to her how long she'd been out there, but having no friends in town and a soul-sucking job that left him with more money than satisfaction, he was already disposed to find an emotional connection somewhere.
One night, after a particularly stressful day, he didn't make it to his apartment. Instead, he sat at the side of the building and looked for bugs. She'd taken to ignoring him again (she hadn't even grunted in a week), but with him sitting right next to her, she didn't last long.
After about ten minutes, she spoke: "The bugs' world isn't any bigger than ours," she said, still looking intently at the gravel. "They have no idea."
Sam hadn't actually expected her to say anything. He didn't even know she could. He was too stunned to respond. He sat, still staring at the ground. As she started rocking again, he joined her, but he wasn't feeling it. "Why do you rock like this?"
"Are you trying to fuck with me?" She looked at him now, weary.
"I.. no, I just..."
"Are you trying to rescue me?"
"I didn't... I was..."
"Am I a curiosity? What do you want?"
"Y.. You are, yes. You're human. And you sit here staring at the dirt all day. And you're apparently not completely loony. If you weren't a curiosity before, you are now. Why are you here?" In the face of this challenge, Sam was finding his voice again.
She sighed. "Because I am. Why are you here? Seriously, what do you want?"
"For the last month and a half, I've seen you sitting here and wondered what was going on in your head as you stared at those rocks all day. I still have no idea, but you're actually lucid. Now I know you can tell me."
She was silent again for a while, resigned. She broke the silence after a few minutes. "You're freakin' weird."
He just shrugged. Having the homeless girl call him weird put him oddly at ease, and now that he'd ascertained with more certainty her relative harmlessness, he was actually comfortable. She was just human, after all.
She looked at him, less weary this time. "Actually," she said. She paused.
Sam turned to look at her.
She looked back at the gravel. "I know I just accused you of attempting rescue, but I'm... I haven't eaten since yesterday. Do you have a couple bucks?"
"No." Sam looked straight ahead again.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have--"
"I've got some sliced turkey in the fridge. It's been in there for a week, but it's probably still good. Preservatives and all, you know. I'm not going to give you money. But I'll share. I'm hungry, too."
Posted by frizzzzle at 3:57 AM
Friday, November 13, 2009
I installed Microsoft Office 2008 for OS X at home expecting it to be somewhat similar to 2007, which we use at the office. It isn't.
Case in point:
I've taken a screen shot of the top portion of the screen in Word, the one that would normally contain useful tools. Instead, I have an entire row of buttons I'll likely never use. They're cool features (SmartArt, for example, allows one to insert shiny flowcharts and diagrams), but I'm not publishing. I'm processing words. In a Word processor. One that would do better to have tools like "Center" and "Italics" at the top of the page.
Which brings us to annoyance number two:
The aforementioned vital tools aren't even attached to the program's window. They float. And they disappear after a few seconds by default. I can't modify the toolbars at the top of the window, but at least I can change that horrid behavior.
I hear there are other annoyances (the actual removal of VBA support in Excel from the last version to this one, for example), but I can't account for anything else first-hand. I just know I don't like Word. At all.
Posted by frizzzzle at 10:23 PM
Thursday, November 12, 2009
When they first met, she didn't know it. He was too uncomfortable to say anything, and she was completely engrossed in her studies. She sat in the half-shade on the side of the building, a brick affair from the 50s, wrapped in a too-large flannel shirt and well-worn jeans, rocking a bit and murmuring to herself about the bugs. She studied the ground in front of her. It appeared, at least from Sam's perspective, to be absolutely fascinating.
Sam was new to the neighborhood, so he said with healthy irony as he introduced himself to his neighbor across the hall as they jostled to get past each other. These halls were too narrow. He'd just moved into the newly-finished warehouse-turned-lofts (closets, really) building in a somewhat seedy part of downtown, but it was a step up from the suburbs. It was more expensive at any rate, he told himself, and he could afford it easily. And it was a downtown loft. It may have been a closet, but it was a luxurious one. His bathroom counter was even made of frosted glass. Movin' on up, indeed.
After a few weeks of walking past the girl at the side of the building every night on his way home from work, Sam grew accustomed enough to her to say hello. The first time he did, she snapped her head up and sat frozen, wide-eyed, her mouth moving only slightly to return the greeting.
He knew by now she was nuttier than an ape on happy pills, but he could tell she wasn't the violent sort. It was something about her features; her face was undoubtedly soft at some point in the past but that had all but disappeared with the passage of time. She wasn't yet grizzled, and she was still young (so tragically young -- twenty-five, tops), but her cheek bones stood out, framing her face between them and a sharp jaw line like a painting left outdoors, exposed, becoming slowly more and more like the environment that surrounded it. She hadn't yet been worn down enough to put out the light behind her eyes, but she was no newcomer to the streets. He wondered how long she'd been here. And he knew by her reaction to him she'd seen more than her share of trouble.
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:39 PM
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
I had some herbs this summer. One week, I forgot to water them. One died.
At least, I thought it was dead. The leaves were brown and crinkly, the stems were brittle, and a spider even made a home in the pot. I was apparently wrong. It's come back to life. There's some new green in the middle, and a couple of the stems have even started to turn green again.
Was it faking its death for attention? Somebody ought to tell the plant that dead ones get significantly less attention than live ones...
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:47 PM
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I went to the same coffee shop several times per week for about five years. A year and a half or so ago, the drama finally sucked me in and I stopped going.
I went back on Halloween, and I went back again yesterday. The same people are still there, up to their same tricks. While many relationships are cool, at best, the place still warms me, and it hasn't yet come to fisticuffs.
I'm not sure if this is such a good idea, but it's too late now. A candle on my table and an oddly-instrumented band on stage playing odd, jazzy-like music and a crowd dressed from jeans and tees to cuff links and ties made the atmosphere a far cry from the sports bar near home. I've missed the place. I'm hooked again.
Posted by frizzzzle at 11:31 PM
Saturday, November 7, 2009
A snippet from train-of-thought at the bar:
This is one of her more croony songs. Whenever I hear Billie Holliday these days, it reminds me of a rather disturbing recording of David Sedaris singing commercial jingles in her voice. He does her well. A bit too well. I wouldn't say he's ruined her, but I can't get his voice out of my head. The influence makes me grin. Like I didn't grin enough upon hearing her already.
Posted by frizzzzle at 10:59 PM
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I hope this sore throat and exhaustion are due to stress, lots of talking, and a lack of decent sleep this week.
I don't fear the sowmonella, but I sure as heck don't want it. I don't want run-of-the-mill crud, either. Y'know, uninhabited mountain tops don't have contagious diseases or stressors that make mental crud. Just bears. I'd do well with bears at this point.
Here's a rather sad photo of a balding bear:
Posted by frizzzzle at 9:04 PM
I have seen a lot of shows. When we were kids (from about sixteen through twenty years, I'd say), they were our primary source of entertainment. We attended a few shows a month, mostly small. The bigger ones weren't nearly as much fun.
I saw a man climb to the top of his stack of amplifiers and forcibly dismantle the ceiling with his feet so he could hand out souvenirs. I've seen puddles of not-water, and I've seen people fall right into them. I've seen nunchuck halftime routines and a bust of Mozart. I've seen men and women dive from the stage into the audience. Once, I even saw the lead singer of a screamy metal band whip out a flute for an epic solo.
There are limits, though. So I thought before tonight. Before tonight, I had not imagined any of the following things appearing in a musical act:
Emilie Autumn is the single most annoying performer I have ever witnessed on stage. She didn't even play most of her music (nor did she pantomime well), and at one point, she even said, "I just know this is going to end up on youtube!" Many members of the crowd started recording with their phones. Clever, perhaps, but desperate much? Even so, the show was enjoyable. Her "band" had character, and there were breaks for what can only be described as campy skit-like interludes between songs. There was plenty to see, as outlined above, and little to, erm... cover it. Which makes me consider whether I'd have enjoyed it as much if the performers had been male. Sadly, it just wouldn't have had the same appeal. Or much at all, really.
It was worth my money, but I wonder about the throng of doe-eyed fangirls. What were they there for?
Posted by frizzzzle at 12:33 AM
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Last night, a friend sent me a link to an summary article entitled "How Introverts Communicate". The article outlines a book by a Dr. Marti Olsen Laney called The Introvent Advantage. Going beyond XKCD's "Just Shy" t-shirt (available at the xkcd store at the bottom), it offers gems of advice like the following:
Ask questions, such as what happened during the day. Introverts may need to be drawn out.
In other words, if we're sitting in awkward silence, I'm likely stuck. I do specify awkward silence, though, because the following is also true:
Be comfortable with silence. Introverts generally like it quiet – but they also enjoy spending time with others. Quietly.
Finally, one I hadn't thought much about:
Use nonverbal communication. According to Laney, shoulder pats, hand holding, kisses on the cheek are effective ways to “talk” to people with introverted personality traits.
Granted, in our culture, a kiss on the cheek would freak most introverts (or most anybody, actually) right the heck out if not from someone very close, but I'm sure the author's point encompasses more than just physical contact. Nonverbal communication indeed carries a lot of weight, perhaps because verbal communication carries less.
Combined with other personality traits, some introverts seem downright cold, but that's seldom the case. There's as much social ineptitude among extroverts as introverts, too; it's not a matter of sociability. We just communicate differently. There's little more to it.
Posted by frizzzzle at 9:50 PM
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Speeding, while it does make a difference, doesn’t make as large a difference as you might think.
At first glance at the below graph, you’ll notice the time saved on a 30-mile commute by driving at 90mph instead of 55mph is a whopping 12 minutes. For a trip that takes only 32 minutes to begin with, that could turn “running significantly late” into “right on time”. Bear in mind, though, that most highways have a speed limit greater than 55, and 90 in town is downright insane. I included such a large range to demonstrate a very important point: the graph is not linear. Note that while the difference between 55mph and 65mph is still a relatively significant five minutes, the difference between 65mph and 75mph is only 3.7 minutes. Perhaps more practically, the difference between 70mph (probably no ticket) and 75mph (definitely a ticket) on a 30-mile commute is a measly one minute and forty-three seconds. That graph doesn’t look so impressive anymore.
I’ve included a 150-mile trip as well to reiterate my point. You could, theoretically, shave 63 minutes from what would be a two-hour, forty-three minute trip at 55mph by driving 90mph. Once again though, 55mph is pretty slow, and at 90mph, the risk of running out of fuel in 150 miles becomes significant. So does the risk of death by blunt trauma. To be practical, if the speed limit is 65 and you normally drive 70, a ticketable speed of 75 miles per hour will save you eight minutes, thirty-four seconds on a trip that would otherwise take just over two hours.
As it happens, at 75 miles per hour, even in a 150-mile trip, one has still has essentially just as much time in the car for, say, algebra.
Posted by frizzzzle at 10:57 PM