Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Steppin' up to the plate like Jim Thome

It has been a stressful time for those of us in the IT department at Phoenix International. John Deere going through a massive reorganzation. We'll all reporting to new bosses, have new responsibilities, determining who will take over those roles. Lots of fun. But there's one man that hasn't been fazed by all this chaos.


I'm just as affected by this transition as anyone else. Especially since I've been promoted to an Infrastructure Anaylst, which is Tier 3 support. Determining hardware and software standards across the ENTIRE Deere enterprise. But I'm not getting all bent out of shape over this.

Maybe it's the happy pills. Maybe it's because I just don't care. Maybe it's because I'm just taking things one day at a time. As my new boss continues to stress, my first responsibility is to the unit. I have to keep the day-to-day operations going and provide Tier 2 desktop support to the end-users. And until I get my replacement trained in (and they find a replacement for him), that's my primary role at Deere.

I talked with my current boss late this afternoon, before we left for the day. She's overwhelmed, trying to do her new job and working with my fellow techs' new supervisors to move them into their new roles. There's just not enough time in her day to get through everything.

I, however, am looking pretty free and clear right now. My ticket load is down to the high teens, when it has usually been in the high 20's to low 40's. There are brief moments where I'm looking for something to keep me occupied, then I realize, I should just keep my nose on the grindstone. Continue to work on those old tickets still in my queue. Hack away at my projects. But I don't feel like it's enough. I want to do more.

That's where I want to go into Jim Thome mode. When Justin Morneau was out with a concussion (which kept off the field for the entire second half of the 2010 MLB season), the Minnesota Twins found a way to make it work. Michael Cuddyer came in from right field to play first, Jason Kubel moved out of the DH role and replaced Cuddy, and Jim Thome became the full-time designated hitter.

I told my current boss that I wanted to step up and help out in any way that I could. I have the availability, put me to use. She told me that this shouldn't have to all fall on me, it's supposed to be a team effort.

But isn't this what people DO when they're on a team? Step up to the plate, take a bigger role, carry them to victory? I don't expect to do it all either, I just want a chance.

A chance to come through like Thome. Yeah, I've got a back problem, and I'll probably strike out a few times. But I know I'm going to connect on one of them and just drive it out of the park. And everyone will celebrate. Then we'll get ready for tomorrow's game. It's a long season, and every win we can pick up is gonna help us.

So, put me in coach, I'm ready to play. Today. Look at me, I can be... Center Field.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Top 10 Bassists

Disclaimer: Similiar to my list of top ten drummers, this not a list of the best bassists of all-time, or the best bassists around right now, or anything like that. I am not qualified enough to judge the abilities of every bassist in the history of the world against each other and determine the best. Nor is this a list of the bassists from my favorite bands (though there is a noticeable overlap; half of them are/were a member of one of my top five favorite bands). This is a list of the people I'd pay just to watch them play bass (without the rest of their respective bands) and get some pointers. They are presented in no particular order.

Kelly Ogden, The Dollyrots - One of my more recent favorites, I love her upbeat personality, and the way she has fun with it.
Maya Ford, The Donnas - She's also a pretty good artist, as seen by this Donnas T-shirt.
Mike Dirnt, Green Day - My favorite on this list. Author of one of my favorite Green Day songs, J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva).
Scott Shriner, Weezer - A great pick up after Mikey Welsh left Weezer in 2001.
Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers - Slap-style technique, very cool.
Gene Simmons, Kiss - A tip of the cap to Gene for admitting why he markets the hell out of Kiss. He didn't want his kids to grow up poor like he did. His reality show is pretty good, I enjoy watching it.
Mark Hoppus, blink-182 - I prefer his singing to that of guitarist Tom DeLonge.
Greg K, The Offspring - Dexter and Noodles get all the love, but don't underestimate what Greg brings to the table for this band.
Matt Sharp, Weezer - Did a fantastic job when he was in Weezer.
Emma Anzai, Sick Puppies - The most hardcore (IMO) on this list. Just look at the way she rocks it in their video for "You're Going Down".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If only I had more time...

I don't suppose anyone has a DeLorean I could borrow for a little while, would they?

No? Dang. Well, I had to ask...

Ever since I became a Donnaholic, I've wondered how much it'd cost to hire The Donnas to play a private show for me (and anyone else I'd want to invite).

I no longer have to wonder about that. I called their booking agents last night. For the low, low price of $15,000 + travel expenses, they could fly up to Fargo and melt my face off.

I'm surprised I was able to get a figure that easily. I had this elaborate pseudo-lie all planned out to snow the guy over and make it seem like I was completely serious about it. I'd be hiring them for my birthday (which is at the end of December), I had the money (which I do, just not easily accessible), I had a venue picked out (that was a COMPLETE lie). But Ron just told me. Quick and easy. I beat around the bush a little more, telling him I'd have to crunch the numbers. He told me to shoot him an e-mail if I could make it work.

And I think I CAN make it work. I'm assuming a minimum of $10,000 for travel expenses (flights, hotel rooms, meals) and venue rental. I think it'd be just enough to eke it out.

Onto the event itself...

Simple. They'd play at my birthday party. Help me celebrate my ascent (or descent) into 30. Then I started to think bigger. December 29th is only a couple days before New Year's. Let's combine the two!! It's been done before. It'd make the party even bigger. Perhaps sell some tickets and open it up to the general public (and recoup expenses).

But who am I to hog The Donnas to myself in such a small town?! If we're gonna do it right, we need a REAL location. The Twin Cities. This would also allow all my friends to come, which is all I've really wanted for my birthday. Spending it with the people I love. And I can't leave out the Donnaholics. I'd be willing to pay to fly a few of them in, like my friend Jennifer from Phoenix. Of course, with it being New Year's, I'm sure The Donnas and their crew would want to spend it with their loved ones. I'd allow all of them to bring one additional guest each (if they have an S.O.).

Additional airfare... Nice hotel for The Donnas to stay at... A metro-area venue for New Year's... We're looking at $40,000 now.

I just added up the numbers. If I mortgage my future and rob from every bank and savings account I have, I've got over $44,000 to my name. We're in business now...

Sadly, six weeks is not going to be enough time to pull this off. I should have started planning this in, like, August. And maybe saving the money up since... I dunno, 2008?

There IS always next year... :D

Friday, October 29, 2010

They're on to me!!

The Phoenix metropolitan area is onto me and my nefarious plot.

Flew into Phoenix from Fargo yesterday evening. Landed at 8, got to my hotel at 9 (local time). Jennifer, a fellow Donnaholic with whom I'm going to the Arizona State Fair with tomorrow to see Godsmack and Five Finger Death Punch, picks me up at 10:30, after she's done with class. We drive around looking for a place to eat before we find a Denny's. We sit, talk Donnas, tell stories, and have a good time. She brings me back to my room after we're done, at about 12:30 AM. It takes me a half hour to wind down, then I went to bed at 1.

Half hour later, my room phone rings. I wasn't asleep yet, but I'm thinking "Who knows where I'm at? Who could be that crazy enough to track me down and call me?" It's the front desk. Guy tells me he received a report from other guest that I was being a disturbance. I think, "Noise? Yeah, it's late and I was watching some TV before I tried to go to sleep."

Nope. The guy was concerned because the other guests at the hotel thought I was trying to use Facebook on my cell phone to build SkyNet and usher in the end of humanity. I assured him this was not my intention, and he insisted that I stop using Facebook forever.

I love this place. I may even have to move here... XD

Monday, September 20, 2010

We landed on the moon!!

America went to the moon in the late 60's and early 70's. No one's been back since. And if you believe the conspiracy theorists, we weren't there to begin with.

They say it was all filmed on a sound stage, because you don't see any stars in the background in those moon photos.

OK, fine. Answer me this then. You ever seen the stars in the sky on Earth IN THE DAYTIME?!?!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Uh, how full is my glass...?

Anybody who knows me knows I'm a pessimist. I'd like to think I'm more argumentative, or maybe more realistic when they're trying to drown me with optimism. I agree that I go looking for clouds amongst the silver linings. But I realized something about my outlook on life the other day.

I may look at life as "glass half-empty", but I never actually USE that term. I always describe the liquid is in a container by how full it is.

So, what would that make me? I just don't know...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

American Idiot musical soundtrack review

Green Day has been a commercial juggernaut within the last 18 months. They followed up their most successful album to date, American Idiot, with 21st Century Breakdown, a very solid album in its own right, and worldwide tour to support it. EA released a Green Day Rock Band title. And most impressively, Billie Joe Armstrong worked with Broadway director Michael Mayer to turn American Idiot into a Tony award-winning musical.

If, in 1995, you tried to tell Green Day or any of their fans that they'd pull of something like this, he/she probably would have punched you in the face. But the soundtrack to the American Idiot musical shows how far Green Day has come in their 20 years together. This album shows both the band's maturity, as they all approach 40, yet how they've remained young at heart with their devotion to all things rock and their punk attitude.

I cannot stress how great this musical soundtrack is. In fact, I'd even say it's an improvement over the original American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums. Everyone involved just took this thing to another level. The cast of the musical has incredible vocal range, hitting and sustaining notes in a way that Billie Joe never could. They made such a production of the music by adding string sections and choruses (I love that kind of stuff; the more, the better, IMO). But Green Day didn't just sit on the bench during the recording of these tracks. They did what they do best on this album: they recorded most of the music themselves. Yes, that's Mr. Armstrong on guitar, Mike Dirnt on bass, and Tre Cool on drums. Finally, the album is uncensored. Honestly, you think Green Day would allow that? Hell no. No parental advisory label on the album either (not sure how they pulled that off, as the F-bombs are clearly audible throughout the album).

This is the first album I've ever listened to that IMMEDIATELY gave me goosebumps. And this was on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, during the summer, in a hot car, after picking it up at my local Best Buy. It instantly got to me, and I fell in love with it (and Green Day).

The album starts off with the title track, and you notice the first of the subtle changes with the music itself. The intro is a little bit different than that from the original version of the song. The goosebumps kick in when the cast sings round during the bridge from the guitar solo to the final chorus. So good...

The goosebumps continue into track 2, Jesus of Suburbia. Especially when "Heather" (Mary Faber), one of the female lead character, comes in for part 4 of this song, Dearly Beloved, and again for part 5, Tales of Another Broken Home. It's haunting, sending chills down my arms.

The next track, Holiday, starts off with an awesome bass intro. Mike Dirnt did a great job with it, trumping Billie Joe's original guitar intro. The "ooh, ooh, OOOOOH" during the guitar solo, the "THREE FOUR!!", the deep-toned piano into and during the bridge. Amazing. They melded into the rest of the song very well.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams starts out with an acoustic guitar intro that nicely mellows down the raw energy from the first three tracks. This relaxed tone is calmed down even more by the string section and lead character "Johnny" (John Gallagher, Jr.), but it kicks back into gear during the second chorus and bridge into the guitar solo. The outro really drives it home and brings the goosebumps back in full force.

Track 5 is Favorite Son. At first, I thought this was a new song written for the musical, but after some digging around on the Internet, I found out it was an unreleased B-side from the original American Idiot album, and it was eventually used in the protest compilation "Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2". I won't get into the politics this song MAY convey, but it's a damn good song. A real hidden gem. I love the female backup vocals chanting "Oh no, it's a drag" during the chorus that are anything but. The song stops briefly before the third verse goes off with a very appropriate "Now where's your fucking champion?" and a series of "Doot doo doo"s from those ladies singing backup. Chants of "It's your favorite son" and a drum outro segue nicely into Are We the Waiting. The entire cast continues delivering goosebumps with the choruses of "Are we, we are/Are we, we are the waiting". Tre Cool finishes out this song with a very nice drum solo. The outros for these two songs are some of the best drum work on the entire album. Tre one of the best in the business these days BY FAR.

St. Jimmy has a very quick pace to it, full of all kinds of energy, bringing you back up from the last track. I didn't like this song at first, thinking it was too busy, too noisy, too all over the place, but after listening it to it a couple more times, it grew on me. I can listen to it without pressing the skip button on my media player, but it'll never be my favorite track of this album, unlike...

Give Me Novacaine. This is my favorite song from the original American Idiot album. You can keep all those other songs that got released as singles, but this one? It's all mine. It starts out with the same drum beat as the album cut, but then the drums stop and an acoustic guitar starts, with Michael Esper ("Will") singing a couple seconds later, then a stringed portion during the first chorus. It turns the goosebumps up to 11. It gets me EVERY time. Then after the second chorus, the drums come in hard and fast, the cast belts out a "Aaah, novacaine", and a small snippet from a stringed instrument, BOOM, right into the guitar solo. Turns the goosebumps up to 12!! After the final chorus, the tempo comes back down, but not for long.

Track 9 is a medley of Last of the American Girls from 21st Century Breakdown and She's a Rebel from American Idiot. The cast goes back and forth between the two songs, not just lyrically, but musically. Last of the American Girls is backed solely by a stringed section, with She's a Rebel with the full rock, like the original. This medley is greater than the sum of their parts. Each original was good, but the two together is unbelievable. Everyone involved in this arraignment is a genius.

This album turns somber again with the stringed intro for Last Night on Earth. Another haunting song with "St. Jimmy" (Tony Vincent), "Heather", and "Whatshername" (Rebecca Naomi Jones) on vocals. It's chilling. Finishing off the roller ride of down, up, down, and back up again from these last four songs on Disc 1 is Too Much Too Soon. Another Green Day B-side, this time from the American Idiot single. It's got that classic, "I don't give a fuck" Green Day attitude. You just want to sink your teeth into it. Strong guitar riff, constant drum beat, driving bass line. Real good modern punk rock sound. The big "FUCK YOU!!" drives that point home so well.

Disc 2 kicks off with the first half of Before the Lobotomy. The organ intro sets up the four-man round of cast members Stark Sands ("Tunny"), Chase Peacock, Joshua Henry, and Ben Thompson. Each one finishes their respective verses, then repeats their parts as the next man joins in. I can picture a dark stage, with a spotlight coming down on each one they enter. It gets a little busy at the end, but you can still make out most of the words. Very well done. Extraordinary Girl, sandwiched between the two parts of Before the Lobotomy, has a very Middle Eastern tone with the opening beats and backing vocals. The reprise of the former song lights the fire after these two very relaxed songs. Again, goosebumps start as soon as this track opens up and will stay with you the rest of the way.

When It's Time is a song from WAY back in the Green Day. According to Wikipedia, Billie Joe Armstrong wrote during the Kerplunk! days for his wife Adrienne. It's a very sad song, with "Johnny" alone on vocals and guitar. It really touches you. You won't feel down for long, as Know Your Enemy will pick you back up again. It moves you to get up and do something about all the crap you've experienced in you rlife. It ends abruptly after a couple of minutes, which is a little disappointing. The original version clocked in a little over three minutes. They certainly could have done more with it, especially when you crash right into...

...21 Guns. This is probably the best track on the whole album. Six of the seven main characters sing this together, but it's the women ("Whatshername", "Extraordinary Girl", and "Heather") who really knock it out of the park. Haunting, chilling, driving, all filling you up with more goosebumps. It's got all the emotions we've heard across the album rolled up into this song. It's easy to see why a version of it with Green Day and the entire cast all together (with Billie Joe Armstrong handling most of lead male vocals himself) was released as a single. It finishes up with a couple lines from Nobody Likes You, part 3 of Homecoming. "Heather" sings "Nobody likes you, everyone left you/They're all out without you, havin' fun". Those words will stick with you FOREVER. I just can't get them out of my head.

Letterbomb brings the bar back up again (it's just one roller coaster ride after another). "Whatshername" carries the torch on this one solo with her voice. I expect Rebecca Naomi Jones to have a long, successful career after all is said and done. She's definitely one of the stars on this album. She belts out, "It's not over 'til you're underground," and just have to nod my head in agreement. The great guitar work and drums also carry this song to that higher level. It comes down again with Wake Me Up When September Ends. Another one of the vast improvements over the original version by Green Day. Again, conveying great sadness, more appropriate to its original intent (a story about Billie Joe's father passing away while he was a teenager). It really makes you reflect on those low members in your life, when you just wanted the calendar to turn the page to something better.

Homecoming starts bringing the show to a close, but it's doing so at full speed. The energy rides high through all five parts of this song, closing out with the entire cast singing the same last lines as 21 Guns. Whatshername is the final track from the musical itself, with a sobering piano intro and "Johnny" reflecting back on everything that's happened throughout the story line. Those aspects and the stringed portion after the first verse make you think, "Geez, it's just never gonna be the same, and that sucks..." But all hope is not lost. In the final sequence of goosebumpery, the "Aaaaaah..."s and guitar solo carry you into the cast repeating the chorus of "Remember, whatever/It seems like forever ago", you get the hope back. Yes, things have changed, but you can't go back and "fix" them. You have to continue down the road you're on.

The album closes out with Green Day's own version of When It's Time. It reminds me a lot of Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), but this one has the weight of the full band behind it. It's also one of the rare exceptions on this album (and perhaps the ONLY one) where they did a better job than the musical cast did. The Green Day version just doesn't seem like the emotional drag that the musical version is, and I think that's why I prefer it.

Start to finish, you go up and down with Green Day and the cast. It's a journey full of all kinds of emotion. This album is so good, it makes me want to fly to New York so I could see this show on Broadway. And I HATE New York with every bone in my body. It's just that good. All musical theater should be like this. I'd love to see other bands try to pull this off. Maybe Weezer can resurrect Songs from the Black Hole (the follow-up to their debut album, but ended up becoming Pinkerton). Or The Donnas can go on tour to support their upcoming Meatballs musical.

Green Day is one of the greatest bands in the last twenty years. With work like this, I expect them to stay on top for another twenty years. Keep it up, guys.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thanks for nothing

I really hate the words "Thank you." It just never feels like it's ever enough.

When I'm at work, busting my ass to fix a computer problem for a customer, they'll thank me for helping them out. But it feels empty to me. I know I'm just doing my job, and I'm being paid nicely for it, but I wish they'd do little more to show their appreciation. Maybe a little kickback or bribe. A small snack, an offer of an alcoholic beverage after hours, a few extra bucks out of their own pocket. If you really were thankful for helping you out, you'd SHOW me. Or tell my boss.

On the reverse side, "thank you" doesn't properly show my gratefulness for someone helping ME out. I could say it until I was blue in the face, and I'd still fall short. Doesn't matter who: family members, friends, customer service. I usually want to offer someone something in return. "Hey, I'll buy you beer". "You want me to come over and give you a hand with that?". Seriously, is there anything I can do to repay you? I'd like to give what I get; I don't want to feel like I owe anybody anything.

When I was in college, my roommate Paul talked about this book he read about the five languages of love. Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. I speak those last four languages pretty well. I want to spend time with the people I care for. I love gifts, usually receiving, but I'll put a lot of thought into giving something from the heart. I always want to lend a hand or borrow someone else's. Then there's the handshakes, pats on the back, man-hugs.

That first language? I understand most of it, but when you say "thanks", you might as well be talking French or Japanese, Arabic or Portugese. I'll show my appreciation for that on my face for about two seconds, then turn away in disappointment with a blank stare (I don't actually stare blankly, but that's how I feel on the inside).

Need help showing your love for me? I'd take advice from Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt on that one.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Having a Blast (or five)

I've been on a huge Green Day high the last couple of months. No, not Mary Jane, but the band. Partly because their recent commercial success permanently solidified them as my #3 band, but I'd also like to think it's because my Minnesota Twins have battled back from being 3.5 GB of Chicago to leapfrog them and Detroit for the AL Central lead. It'd had me thinking about one of my many fantasies: becoming the first player in MLB history to hit 5 (yes, FIVE) home runs in a game.

I know I stated that if I were a closer in the majors, I'd come onto the field to The Who's "Baba O'Riley". As a position player, however, I'd go with Green Day hits for my plate appearances. I'd rotate through a list of ten or twenty, including (but not limited to) "American Idiot", "Who Wrote Holden Caufield?", "Basket Case". The intros for each song would be played as I make my way from the on deck circle to home plate. If I were to hit a home run, the guitar solo would come over the sound system as I'm rounding the bases, greeting my teammates at home plate, and going back into the dugout. For my place in history, I'd go with these five, in order of game progression (first song for first plate appearance, etc.).

Picture a warm, early September afternoon at Target Field (or maybe Busch Stadium)...

** Geek Stink Breath - A power packed song to get the day started. Something to get the crowd going with a lot of energy (and they're going to need it). I'd start off with a solo home run in the 1st to give my team the early lead.
** Holiday - More energy for more power. And it'd work. A two-run shot in the third breaks the tie and puts us on top once again. Score at this point would be 3-1.
** When I Come Around - Take the tempo down a little bit. Try to play it cool from having a good day at the dish. This fifth inning, three-run homer would increase our team's lead to 6-2. After this third round-tripper, the fans would be giving me a standing ovation, and I'd come out of the dugout non-chalantly for a curtain call. I don't know why they'd be so into it. The game's far from over (as they'll soon find out), and plenty of people hit three home runs in a game all the time. Big deal...
** J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva) - Here's where things get interesting. Our opponent has battled back and taken an 8-7 lead on us. I'm coming up in the seventh, with a man on second and a shot at the record books. Only 15 men have accomplished this feat in MLB. With one swing, I become #16 and put us back in front 9-8. I get another standing ovation from the crowd and acknowledge it, showing a little more emotion about it compared to the last one.
** Hitchin' a Ride - That lead became short lived. Our opponent is up 11-9 heading into the bottom of the ninth. I come up with two outs, bases loaded. After a first-pitch ball, their closer fools me once with a nasty slider I swing at (shame on him), then catches me looking at a sweeping curve (shame on me). One more pitch to decide the whole thing. I swing and connect with his next offering, a fastball on the outside part of the plate. I start a VERY slow trot down the line, while I and everyone else in the stadium (including those of us on the field) watch the flight of the ball to left center field, the stringed portion at the end of the bridge comes on the speakers. As the ball clears the fence and lands, Billie Joe screams "SHIT!" and the solo kicks in. Everyone is going crazy. I jump for joy once on my way to first, then shake my right fist as I head to second. I give a big Kirby Puckett-esque fist pump on my way to third, then make the turn home where my teammates are awaiting. They've got a nice three-foot radius cleared out for me. After I touch home plate and raise both my arms in the air in celebration of our 13-11 win, we do a World Series-caliber jumping group hug/mob (like Joe Carter and the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays).

I stay on the field for a few minutes to take it all in, maybe give an interview (where I don't want to talk about my accomplishment, but how we won an important game to put us in prime position in our run into the playoffs). We ride the high of that game into the division lead, League Divison and Championship Series, and finally a World Series victory.

Certaintly a VERY far-fetched dream. But hey, it's for the love of the game, so it's OK.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Best idea ever!!

First Mark Cuban tried to buy the Cubs.

Then he tried to buy the Rangers.

I think Cuban should go after the Dodgers next. Try to save them from the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt, like the bankruptcy of Chicago and Texas. One of the biggest media markets in America? Flashy Los Angeles? A team with a very rich history? It'd be perfect!! Exactly what the Dodgers need to get to and stay on baseball's top tier in the current age.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weezer at 2010 Basilica Block Party - Concert Review

On Friday, July 9th, I crossed off one of the top priority items from my bucket list by attending the 2010 Basilica Block Party in the Twin Cities and seeing Weezer perform on stage.

The set kicked off with "Hash Pipe", a great choice for it's catchy guitar hook. Dun-dun-DUH-naa, dun-dun-DUH-naa... You knew you in for a hell of a show with that opening riff. After that, Weezer's true colors revealed themselves with the next song, "Troublemaker". Rivers Cuomo was singing lead WITHOUT a guitar, so he started started climbing the stage set onto speakers.

I felt a little ashamed watching his antics. I've always considered Weezer to be "geek rock", for the way my fellow geeks have embraced these guys as one of our own. The look, the attire, the meticulous attention to detail, their music evolution throughout their seven-album catalog. But that night, Rivers seemed more like a dork (heck, they all did with guitarist Brian Bell in a polo shirt, Rivers in his red jacket over the top of a polo shirt, bassist Scott Shriner in a brown kilt, and drummer/guitarist Patrick Wilson in a faded gray T-shirt and plaid green and blue shorts) with how he was flailing his arms around while "dancing" and belting out the lyrics. As the song came to an end, he tried to take one of the production crews' cameras and hoist it up on his shoulder, with mic still in hand and singing the last few lines. Someone should have given that kid a guitar...

The rest of the night continued in mostly the same manner as they played a nice variety of songs from the Blue Album to Raditude. After being troublemakers, Weezer charged through Undone (The Sweater Song) and Surf Wax America, to a "medley" of Trippin' Down the Freeway and Keep Fishin'. I use quotes there because they only did a few lines from Keep Fishin'. I wish they would have played more of that song. It's one of my top five favorite Weezer songs (if you want to know why, check out the music video).

After that medley, they played Perfect Situation, and then Dope Nose, with Scott taking on the lead vocals for Rivers. Over the last several years, from about Make Believe onward, Weezer has shifted away from being a Rivers-ocracy towards involving the rest of the band more in the performance and authoring process. That's a good thing. Scott, Brian, Patrick and are all very talented musicians in their own rights, and they bring a nice contrast to both Rivers' musical and lyrical style. I would have liked to seen more of this, maybe next time.

Next on the setlist was one of Weezer's crown jewels: Say It Ain't So. For most of the night, and ESPECIALLY during this song, I sang along at the top of my voice. This was also one of the first songs where Rivers was playing guitar while he sang (a VERY NICE white Gibson SG). After they finished this song, the rest of the band took a bit of a break while Rivers switched to an acoustic guitar and started out with a solo performance of Island in the Sun. This was a cool and collected performance, but as soon as Rivers completed the second chorus and went into the bridge, the rest of the band joined back in and turned it back up to 11. An excellent job kicking the show back into high gear, almost like a second wind.

After some Can't Stop Partying action, there was some more intra-band collaboration when Brian and Rivers shared the duties of lead vocals on El Scorcho. They played My Name Is Jonas, then made the turn at third and started bring it home by going to their bread and butter of their more recent hits, Beverly Hills and Pork and Beans, the lead singles off Make Believe and the Red Album, respectively.

They finished their set with a two-song medley. I didn't recognize the first half, so I made a note of the lyric "control yourself, take only what you need" to look it up online later. I found out it was MGMT's Kids. I'd never heard of it before, but after listening to their original version, I think Weezer did a better job with it than they did. The second part of that medley stabbed me in the back. Lady Gaga's Pokerface. Ugh, now I was REALLY embarrassed. I don't care for most pop stars from the last ten years, and even less of those who dress in ridiculous costumes like she does. But again, Weezer made an improvement over her version of that song.

The show was over after this final song. Or was it? No, of course not. Weezer came back on stage a couple minutes later to perform (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, the lead single off their most recent album, Raditude. Finally, THE Weezer song, Buddy Holly. And that was it, more than an hour and a half later. A very solid, balanced setlist from their 18 years together.

A few things to nitpick on after it was over. They only played one song from Pinkerton. I would have loved another one from that album, like Falling for You or maybe Why Bother?. As I mentioned before, they should have also played Keep Fishin' in its entirety. A little more Patrick Wilson; he seemed a little too quiet for the goofball he can be (check out the Photograph music video; there's a guy who really enjoys life). And I can never get enough Weezer. I wish they could have played a few more songs, at least enough to fill up another 20-30 minutes.

Overall, I give the concert a 9.5 out of 10. There was very little filler between songs, and they touched upon many of the top-tier tunes. I had been worried that I would have never seen my favorite band perform live after the bus accident last winter that almost took Rivers from us. I don't have to worry anymore; I'm as good as he and the rest of was on stage that evening.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You guys could learn a thing or two...

Even though Weezer is and will forever be my favorite band, and I fell head over heels in love with The Donnas last Labor Day, I really think Green Day is the team to beat now.

If Green Day continues the musical and commercial success they've had over the last 12 months, the bands in my top two could fall out of their respective rankings. How can Weezer and The Donnas solidify their spots? Easy, just borrow from Green Day's playbook.

For example, Rivers Cuomo and the rest of Weezer should go back to Songs From the Black Hole. This album was planned as the follow up to the Blue Album, but the idea eventually fell apart and the end result was Pinkerton (which itself was a good album, but not the immediate commercial success that the Blue Album was, and more or less caused Cuomo to disappear from the scene for a few years). With the success of the American Idiot musical on Broadway, maybe it's time for Weezer to go back to that fountain. They can make it work, Rivers is just a musical genius, and I'm sure he and a broadway director would hammer out a damn good show.

As for The Donnas, they should also release their own Rock Band title. I love playing Green Day: Rock Band, even more than Rock Band 2. I realize that The Donnas: Rock Band is probably more of an EA decision than anyone else's, but I've thought most of this out. Three of the four venues would be Hugh Center Court at Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, CA, site of their first performance when they were still in the eighth grade; the auditorium hosting the battle of the bands in the Take It Off music video; and Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, site of Desert Moon 2, the holy grail of live Donnas performances. As for the song list, I think there'd be significant overlap with this sampler platter playlist and the DM2 setlist. I don't think you'd have full albums like GDRB, but definitely 4-5 songs from every single album they've released (might be a little tricky, though, since The Donnas have been on 3 separate record labels in their 17-year history).

I really can't make it any simpler than that. You have your orders, so get to work. :D

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Medical update - 6/27/10

Let's start with the good news. My back is doing much better. It was giving me the usual problems last Monday (6/21), plus some extra aching in my middle back, to the left of my spine. Then at about 9 or 10 that evening, I was able to stand fully upright once again, and have been able to do so ever since. Physical therapy has helped as well, especially the electro-massage on my lower back. My spine still looks like it's out of alignment, I've got a cortisone injection tomorrow morning, then two more physical therapy appointments next week. I'm trying to avoid overexerting myself at work. I'm using the spare roller backpack to "carry" my laptop, using the cart to move equipment around (regardless of size), and taking the elevator to my desk (I know the building only has 2 floors, but still...). The ultimate test will be to hit some golf balls; will have to MAYBE give it a shot next weekend (depending how this week goes, painwise).

The bad news? It's REALLY bad. Met with my doctor on Wednesday, and he informed me that I likely have MS. He can't say with 100% certainty, though. The lumbar puncture indicates I do. The MRI and vision problems do as well. But since my vision problem is the first and only attack, they can't absolutely confirm I have MS, until I have another one.

What does this mean? I'll start treatment to prevent additional symptoms soon. The doc gave me a bunch of homework on various steroid medications that I'd have to go on. I need to go through it and pick one. All of them are about the same; it's a question of how often I'll need to inject them and where I need to inject them (subcutaneously or intramuscularly). Also means I'll need to get yearly MRI's. It's not going to be cheap, either. Insurance will cover most of it, drug companies have programs set up to cover a good chunk of the rest. My doctor is also looking into getting me into a study program for a new oral medication; we'll see how it plays out. Follow up with him is at the end of July, but I'll probably select a treatment program before then. However, there's no guarantee that I'll fully get my vision back.

I'm not too worried about all that, though. I'm trying to think more bigger picture. How this is going to interfere with my life, which I've decided is zero. I'm going to continue being me, like nothing was ever wrong. In fact, I'm gonna start living like tomorrow's my last day on earth (even though it isn't). Prime example: I'm going to the Twin Cities in a couple weeks to see Weezer in concert. I had some concerns about my back problems stopping me, but this whole thing makes me realize that I can't be passing up opportunities like this.

On the other hand, this does handcuff me to my current job, I had thought about quitting so I could move to the Twin Cities and go full-steam on my search for a new one. But I certaintly can't do that now, or I'd lose my insurance coverage (I've been told by friends if I actively have insurance going into my next job, the new provider can't play the "pre-existing condition" card).

Again, I don't want to talk about this much further. That's all I've got to say about that. Let's talk about something else. Go out, grab a drink, maybe a bite to eat and discuss sports, music, movies, stories. I don't care, just anything but my impending doom.

Thank you all for all the good vibes you've been sending my way. Please keep 'em coming. And I hope to hear from you soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's a dark day...

Whatever happened to the good ol' days when vampires and werewolves were primal, bloodthirty monsters to be feared, not whiny, emo-listening, angst-ridden, pansy-ass teenagers? And where are Blade, Abraham Whistler, and the Nightstalkers or Buffy and the Scooby Gang when we need them most?

It truly is the darkest before the dawn...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Medical update - 6/18/10

Updates on my medical condition (originally reported on 6/16):

In addition to the vitamin B12 deficiency, I'm also lacking D. I've started a daily vitamin regiment to try resolve both of these problems, but it may not be enough to take care of the B12. I had the first of six (6) weekly injections for B12 this afternoon. After that, they want me to come in monthly for the shots. I'll be re-evaluated on this front in a few months.

Saw my back doctor yesterday afternoon. She sent me back to physical therapy, and signed off on another lumbar injection of steroids to take care of the pain issues I've had since Sunday. First PT session is Tuesday, waiting to hear back from the pain clinic on the lumbar injection. My back doctor was also the one who informed me of my vitamin D problems and suggested taking supplements to correct it. Back doctor was also telling me my neurologist is hoping the vision and back problems would be fixed with the B12 shots.

I have not heard anything back yet on the lumbar puncture and blood work from Monday, with the exception of the vitamin problems (and I'm assuming that's how the docs knew about those problems). Follow-up appointment to discuss the results still scheduled for Wednesday.

Back is feeling a bit better today, as I had the day off. No noticeable change in the vision in my left eye.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I admit it; life hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to. I don’t like my job, but can’t find a new one. I still live in Fargo. I’m single. Most of my friends have moved away and/or started having kids. The Yankees won the World Series last year. I’m working on making some lemonade; I got my recipe, but can’t seem to put it all together yet. Through all this, I’ve always had my health. Or I did…

Three weeks ago today (May 26), I woke up with a problem with my left eye. The vision from it was dark and fuzzy. At first, I thought my brain was still trying to boot up, or maybe I just put my contacts in wrong. I sat through my first meeting that morning, waiting for my eyes to get it together, but no luck. I went to the walk-in clinic, and about 90 minutes later, I was seeing an optometrist. She found nothing wrong with my eye itself, but discovered I was suffering from optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. Then my optometrist said that this could be caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). Optic neuritis is the initial symptom for MS in 20-30% of the cases.

I didn’t really react to this news. Mostly because it wasn’t conclusive, nor was it proven to be MS. I kind of continued my normal life (as best as I could), but the possibilities bounced around my head like a super ball on speed. I tried to reach out to some of my friends so I’d have someone to talk to, but couldn’t find anyone. I was losing my sight, losing my mind, wishing someone would tell me I was fine. My parents came down to Fargo Memorial Day weekend (because they already planned to, not because of this). I stood out on my balcony as they arrived and started bringing everything up to my apartment. I started to lose it a little bit. No crying, but you could hear my fears and worries in my voice. After about 20 minutes, I pulled it together and got through the rest of the night OK.

They came with me to my MRI the following morning (May 29). I was getting the MRI because the doctors wanted to look for white matter lesions on my brain to help them confirm or rule out the MS diagnosis. My folks stayed at my place for the rest of the weekend, but came back down on Thursday (June 3) to accompany me to my appointment with a neurologist.

There was nothing conclusive on my MRI in terms of the MS. A couple of spots on my brain that maybe looked like white matter lesions, but nothing definitive. We kicked around the idea of me going on a steroid regiment to restore my vision, but we didn’t catch it early enough (not sure how that worked, I came in the same morning I was having issues…), so it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I decided against it, because I was not a fan of having to give myself multiple injections a week.

I was scheduled to take a few more tests. I went in for another MRI the next evening (June 4), this time to check my spine for MS. I had an issue where I was experiencing tingling and numbness on my right side from my mid-torso down to my knee in mid-April over the change in my pay schedule, due to the IT realignment at John Deere. They wanted to see if this was also caused by the MS, and not anxiety as my primary physician originally stated. A VER test (not sure what that acronym stands for) the next Tuesday (June 8), which consisted of me staring at a pulsating red dot in the middle of a moving black-and-white checkerboard pattern on a computer screen.

And to top it all off, a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) this past Monday (June 14). That procedure was relatively uneventful, or at least as relatively uneventful as getting a big needle poked into your spinal column so they can draw fluid out. Also got some blood drawn. Again, they’d test for MS, but they are also looking for Lyme disease and other possible infections. Most of the tests are being done up here, but some have been sent down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

The results will come back early next week. I’ve got another appointment to follow up with my neurologist’s office next Wednesday (June 23). Until then, I’m going to continue living my life. Doing all the things I’d normally do. It isn’t that bad, it just looks like I forgot to put one of my contacts in.

Well, this kind of thinking got me into more trouble. I know, what else is new? I purchased floor tickets in January to go see Nickelback, Sick Puppies, Shinedown, and Breaking Benjamin at the Fargodome on May 27. One day after I started having vision problems. I told myself, “Hell, my vision might be screwed up, but my hearing OK. This isn’t going to stop me from going to the show and having a good time.”

I had a great time. Mostly. I got into the concert at 5:30, went down to the floor, and proceeded to enjoy all the excellent rock music. But as the night progressed, my back started bothering me. I tried to turn and twist and bend and stretch to relive the pain, but around 8:00, I started going down into a crouching position for extended periods of time (about 2-3 minutes each). I willed myself to make it through the rest of the show, as I had paid $70 and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. This may have been a bad decision. I was hurting bad by the end of the night. I continued to have some pain in my lower back and my left leg. Nothing I was doing (ice, pain relievers, ointment) alleviated the pain. It wasn’t too bad; I was able to work through it…

…Until this past Sunday (June 13), when I needed to do my laundry. I had to wash everything: towels, socks, underwear, bedsheets, shirts, pants. As the day progressed and I carried loads up and down the hall to the laundry room, I started feeling more and more pain. I finally had to stop before it was all done because I was in such rough shape. Since then, I can’t stand up straight. I’m walking around like a caveman, all hunched over. I’m in considerable less pain when sitting or lying down, but it still lingers there.

In case you’re not aware of this, this will be the THIRD problem I’ve had with my back, and I’m more than SIX MONTHS away from my 30th birthday. The first round happened in the Fall of 2000, when I was a sophomore at NDSU. I think it all started by standing outside the Fargodome, starting at 8 AM, waiting for the doors to open for the NDSU/UND football game that afternoon. Then, once we got inside, we continued to stand throughout the game. Somehow, when we picked a place to sit, we chose a spot were there wasn’t enough seats for everyone, and then ended up one row above my friends, again where there wasn’t a spot for me to sit down at any point in the game. A couple weeks later, after persistent sharp pain in my left hip, I thought rollerblading would help stretch out the stiff muscle I thought I had in that area. Wrong. Made things worse. A month later, after spending a Friday working on my laundry, the pain in my leg and back got so bad, I went to the emergency room at 1:30 AM. Saw a neurologist, a physical therapist, and a chiropractor, but they couldn’t fix it. I kept telling them and my parents I needed surgery to fix it, but they insisted against it. I was barely able to fly home for Christmas break, and when my mom and dad saw how bad of shape I was when I got off the plane, they yanked me out of college and got me to a doctor who confirmed my beliefs, though it was still ANOTHER month before I finally was treated.

This past summer, maybe after going to the Green Day concert on July 11 (and again standing on the floor the whole evening), and maybe after playing hockey all winter, spring, and most of the summer, I started having the same pain in my hip that I had as a college sophomore. I was worried that I was going to go down that same road and be put under the knife again. I stopped playing hockey for the rest of the year, but the pain continued. I saw the doctors (not any of the same ones as the last time around), who sent me to physical therapy. I also got a couple of monthly lumbar injections of steroids. This time, the non-surgical treatments worked. I became completely pain-free (except after one potentially last hockey game, but I was fine again after a couple weeks of rest).

And when it comes to back problems, I’m already playing with the deck stacked against me. My dad has had three back surgeries by the time he was fifty. A couple of his brothers have also had the same problems. It’s one of those degenerative things, since my dad’s family went through it, I was kinda doomed from the start.

I’m going into see the doctor tomorrow afternoon. Same one as my most recent bout with backitis. They’re going to take some x-rays, and look at my most recent MRI (they found some disc bulging in my back, but no one ever told me WHERE it was). Not sure where this is going to go yet, but I’d like to get back to normal ASAP, with the trips I have planned for the first couple of weekends in July.

Well, you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse right? No. A nurse from my primary physician’s office called me this afternoon, telling me I have a B12 vitamin deficiency (barely, I’m just slightly under the lower limit for a normal range). Not sure if this discovered from testing the blood drawn from me on Monday or not. I’m gonna go in on Friday to get an injection and get this taken care of. I don’t think a lack of B12 is causing either of these issues, but looking at the symptoms, I found a number of things on that list I have been struggling with lately (fatigue, weakened memory (in the form of more brain farts than normal), irritability, depression).

I just want to get all this over with and be healthy again. I’ve got too much other stuff to worry about, and I don’t want to put my life on hold, like I did 10 years ago before, during, and after my back surgery.

I don’t want to talk about this either. Please, let’s talk about something else. Sports, music, video games, puppies. Tell me what’s going on in your life. Call me, e-mail me, find me on Facebook. I don’t care, just as long as it’s anything else.

And until all this is fixed, I’m going to see if I can find the receipt for this body I got from God, so I can exchange it for a non-defective one. I know I have it around here somewhere…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dark Horse Tour - Concert Review

Last night, the 2010 Dark Horse Tour with Nickelback, Sick Puppies, Shinedown, and Breaking Benjamin came to the Fargodome, they put on one HELL of a show. Here's my review of the evening's festivities:

Sick Puppies - They were awesome, despite the short set (only 5 songs). I debated about going to meet them at one of the merchandise vending locations, but decided against it, in fear of losing my spot on the floor (I got within 30-40 feet of the stage when I arrived), and because they are going to be back in Fargo in a couple weeks to play with Papa Roach. I might have to go check them out.

Shinedown - They were good, but I'm going to nitpick on them. I wish they played a little more older stuff (all but 2 of their songs were off their new album, "The Sound of Madness"). And they could have used a little less acoustic guitar and rocked out more (they played three songs that'd be considered rock ballads). However, Brent Smith has an amazing stage presence. Reminded me a lot like Josey Scott when Saliva played here in Sept. 2007.

Breaking Benjamin - This was the only "meh" band on the tour, and by that I mean I was indifferent to them. I went to this show to see every band on the bill BUT them. Regardless, they were good, in that they didn't suck.

But I didn't get much of a chance to enjoy their set because: 1) My back was really starting to kill me at this point. Doors opened at 5:30, and Breaking Benjamin's set started around 8, so I'd been standing for close to three hours at this point. I had to frequently drop to a crouching position to relieve the pain. Thank you to the two fellow concertgoers for checking to see if I was OK. 2) Three drunk girls behind and to the left of me who HAD to start dancing halfway through the set. They kept bumping into me. It was very annoying. And they were DRUNK; they had been holding onto all their beer cups since the evening started, and I counted 6 in one girl's hand. I usually don't have a problem with people who drink, as long as it's responsibly and they aren't causing havoc to others. Fuckin' bitches... Needless to say, this was the most sour moment of the evening.

Nickelback - The headliners, but to be honest, if Shinedown and Sick Puppies weren't opening, I don't think I would have went. Don't get me wrong, I do like Nickelback, just not enough to pay $70 JUST to see them.

They put on one amazing show. Playing some of my favorites, like "Figured You Out" and "Someday". Daniel Adair's 6 minute drum solo was probably the best I've ever heard. I'm going to have to promote him Top 10 Drummer status after that, but I'm not sure who to bump off the list (I'm getting off-topic). And the partial covers of Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"? God, I WISH they would have played them all the way through, those were GOOD. Guitarist Ryan Peake was right when speaking of the latter, "I wish we'd written this song". I'm sure it would have torn the roof of the Fargodome.

However, the thing that I'll remember most from Nickelback's performance was Chad Kroeger. Firstly, he cut hair and trimmed his beard!! He looks like an extra on an episode of Dawson's Creek. Not very rock 'n' roll. Secondly, he acted like a stereotypical frat guy. You know the kind, only cares about drinking, perverted mind, cusses like a sailor. I don't know if this is what he's really like, or if this is just a persona, but either way, I can see why critics say the things they do about Nickelback. Regardless, he and the rest of the band had a good time on stage.

And I had a good time watching them and all the rest of the bands at that concert last night. I give the entire show a 9 out of 10. I also proceeded to purchase four albums this morning, Sick Puppies' "Tri-Polar", Shinedown's "Us and Them" and "The Sound of Madness", and Nickelback's "Dark Horse" (I woulda bought them after the concert, but they were $15 each, but only $10-13 each on Amazon).

Shimon, Emma, Mark, Brent, Zach, Eric, Barry, Benjamin, Aaron, Mark, Chad, Chad, Ryan, Mike, Daniel, and Timmy, thank you once again to coming to Fargo and putting on a great show. We'd love to have you back again someday.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

And I care what you think because...?

I don't care what you think about me. And there's one of two reasons for that. Either...

1. You're my friend. You already like me, so I don't need continue earning your approval. Now, you may disagree with me, you may not understand me, you may even think I'm being an idiot. There's nothing wrong with that. I know you're looking out for me, but you accept that I have to live my own life, form my own opinions, and make my own mistakes.


2. You're not my friend. If you want to be friends, we can have a discussion and come to some sort of agreement. Even if it's only to disagree. And if we can't be friends after that discussion, I'm fine with it. No big loss.

If you don't want to be my friend, then to hell with you. I don't need you. I don't want you. You're just some jerk, and I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.

Ultimately, I don't answer to you. I answer to ME. I'm going to do what makes me happy. As long as you can be happy for me, we're good. If not, I'm better off without you. Just go away...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dome Sweet Dome

As I right this, the Minnesota Twins should be hosting the Baltimore Orioles in the second of a four-game series. Mother Nature had other ideas, as the Twins have been rained out for the first time in almost thirty years.

How was that possible? Easily. The Metrodome. In my opinion, it went before it's time. Sure, it still stands, but the Twins don't play there anymore. It's a shame, really. That place holds so many fond baseball memories...

It's where I saw my first MLB game. Wednesday, August 12th, 1992. Minnesota's just two games back of the Oakland Athletics (their primary rival of the late '80s and early '90s, but that's another story for another day). Minnesota was hosting the Texas Rangers. Closer Rick Aguilera gave up a three-run homer to Juan Gonzalez in the top of the ninth to blow the save and lose the game 5-3. The thing I remember most was the guy in the row behind me, pretending to read a story out of the back-to-school binders handed out to schoolchildren for that evening's promotion, about how Aguilera was the goat after that home run. I still have my binder from that night, and it's currently holding my Twins baseball cards.

I think I ended up seeing at least 8 Twins game at the Dome before they moved out at the end of 2009. I still have all my ticket stubs (except that first one) for those games. Every time I have visited the Twin Cities in my adult life, I've tried to talk my friends into catching a game there. I felt that every time I was in town and we didn't see a game was a wasted trip. My friends Paul and Nikki didn't want to go when I was in the Cities in '04 (Joe Mauer's rookie year) to try out for Jeopardy! No one wanted to see them play the Yankees the day after those two got married in '05. So disappointing...

But my love for that place goes beyond my personal visits. It's about the greatest Twins player of my generation, Kirby Puckett. Game 6 in the '91 World Series? The man single-handedly wins the game staving off elimination and setting up the final chapter of the most historic World Series ever. I hated to see him go too, first into retirement with glaucoma in '96, then into the next life with a stroke in '06.

I could go on. The Baggy in right field. The Plexiglass in left. The turf. Pale Hoser manager Ozzie Guillen bitchin' about the turf and the Piranhas using it to their advantage. "Little Big League" and "Major League: Back to the Minors". The heir to the throne in center field, Torii Hunter, making amazing plays on a near-nightly basis, earning seven straight gold gloves in a Minnesota uniform. The roof messing with opposing outfields. Game 163.

I cannot wait to see a game at Target Field this summer, even if it does get rained out. Baseball is meant to be played outside. I've watched almost every game on TV so far this year, and it looks great. Nothing short of amazing. The house that Mauer will build will serve this team very well for the years and decades to come.

But I'll never forget my first love. The Metrodome holds a very special place in my heart. It will always be my Dome Sweet Dome...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm no hero...

Several weeks ago, I made the observation that working in desktop support is like playing Whack-a-Mole. You spend all day knocking out problems, but they keep popping up, usually at a pace quicker than you can hit them with your mallet.

Well, yesterday, my buddy Chris popped up out of his hole a little before 11:30, sending me two e-mails in three minutes about an issue he was having with one of his applications. Shortly after the program opened up and appeared on his screen, it would max out his processor and become unresponsive. He needed it fixed right away, as it was an urgent issue (aren't they all...).

I went over to his desk, hoping I could resolve it right away. Not because he's my friend; I just wanted to go to lunch. As we're sitting there, uninstalling and reinstalling it, he makes the causal remark that I'm his hero (he may have even called me a "superhero") for dropping everything I was working on and coming over to help him right away.

This comment has greatly disturbed me since then, because it's so true. It makes me want to retreat to my fortress of solitude and never come out again. My users, my customers, my co-workers just see me as this guy in a cape that will come to their rescue when things look bleak. I fly in and resolve the issue, and although they are usually very thankful of it, they'll think nothing more of it and proceed with their lives.

This is why I have to get out of desktop support. I'd much rather have a job where I can work behind the scenes and go unnoticed. Where I can walk by someone's desk or pass them in the halls, and they ask me about last night's ball game, not the error message they get when launching PowerPoint. Where I can focus on one or two tasks all day, instead of twenty. And without interruptions or having to save somebody's life.

I don't want to be Superman anymore. I just want to be Clark Kent.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's a... A... What the heck do you call it?

What do you call a horse with wings and a horn?

Seriously, what is it? A horned pegasus? A flying unicorn? Pegacorn? Unisus? Unipegacornsus?

We really should come up with a name for that...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What I'm looking for in a girl...

I know I said I'm not looking for a girl in 2010, but at the recommendation of a friend, the amazing Amybeth "Research Goddess" Hale, I've made a list of what I'd be looking for in a girl.

Please note, this is a work-in-progress. I will be adding to this list as I come up with more.

Items listed in bold are non-negotiable. Order of items does not imply any type of priority over any other.

** No elective plastic surgery (breast implants, liposuction, nose jobs, tummy tucks, etc.). Vehemently opposed to putting herself under the knife for such shallow physical changes to her body.

** Someone who doesn't need me, but wants me. Totally independent and can take care of herself, but wants me by her side supporting her.
** Fiscally conservative, yet socially liberal (both in a practical and a political sense). Open to all types of people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, creed, race, nationality.
** Sports fan. Knows a fair amount about the major sports, and always wanting to learn more. Team doesn't matter, as long as it's not Dallas Cowboys or New York Yankees. Would love a Twins and Gophers fan. Loyal to her teams and doesn't constantly jump on and off bandwagons.
** Takes care of her body. Physically active, prefers outdoor activities to indoor ones on most days. Also prefers games/sports as an exercise activity over conditioning (running/jogging/biking/hiking/rollerblading would be fine).
** Open to a wide range of activities for a date night. Doesn't always want dinner and a movie, would accept things like bowling or going for a drive.
** Intelligent. Not necessarily book smart, but also common sense smart. Wise. Always wanting to learn new things, and not against getting her hands dirty to do so. Some college education (but does not need a degree).
** Into music (rock preferred). Open to different types of music, and willing to share her tastes with me and to try out some of my favorites. Likes to get into heated discussions over which albums by specific bands are better than others (for example: Continuum is John Mayer's worst album, but has some of his best songs ("Gravity" and "Bold as Love")).
** Grateful. Both happy for what she has and thankful for what I can do for her.
** Religion: Protestant preferred, but accepting of all other faiths/practices. Willing to have a reasonable discussion on the pros/cons of some choices. Not fanatical or blindly obedient either; does not let her devotion cloud her personal judgement. Believes in things by her own will and can make her own decisions. Not going to convert me; shows patience with me coming to my own decision on my own timetable (encouragement is OK).
** Tech-capable. Not totally clueless when it comes to determining a hardware/software issue. Able to convey an issue in a manner that's easily to understand. Doesn't hit the panic button each time something doesn't work the way she thinks it should. Easy to train, so she won't have to be dependent on me for help.
** Wants to have kids. 2-3, with at least one boy and one girl. Understands that I need to have my son and I get to name him without any objection. If she already has kids, these rules go into effect.
** Animal lover. Prefers dogs over cats, but willing to have both as pets. Understands that animals are just animals and shouldn't have to be treated like people (No PETA fanatics).
** Cares for the environment, but realizes we have a personal responsibility to do (doesn't/won't rely on the government to do so).
** Great sense of humor. Can detect my sarcasm. Understands some of my usually vague references. Asks for clarification if something doesn't make sense. Doesn't always have to laugh, but reacts to most things in a way that she gets it.
** Accepting of who I am. Won't try to change me, allows me to be myself, lets me do my own thing.
** Casual/social video game player. Enjoys the classics (NES/SNES). Likes Wii games and rhythm music games (Guitar Hero/Rock Band).
** Willing to try new things/go new places. Sometimes do crazy things (like skydiving). Likes to adventure (defined as going places we maybe shouldn't be going).
** Physical appearance - Height of 5'2" to 5'10" preferred, but willing to go two inches in either direction. Prefer a few extra pounds as opposed to a too thin girl. Minimal tattoos and piercings (ears and belly button OK, anything beyond that is a likely "no").
** Not crazy. Does let her emotions show, but doesn't constantly fly off the handle. Can look at situations rationally. Not a problem if she's taking medication for a condition as long as she's responsible about it.
** Enjoys the activity of cooking and doesn't see it as a chore.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Forget the Wedding

If you're thinking about getting married, I highly recommend eloping, instead of a wedding. Eloping is FAR superior, and here's why...

Weddings may be romantic for the attendees, but how about for the bride and groom? It's a formal ceremony to confirm to the world what they already know: these two people love each other. Does/did your own wedding put you in the mood? Maybe later that night, and the next morning, but... Do you really need that to validate your love? A wedding is too structured and planned out. You work yourself into a frenzy doing everything possible to make sure it goes off perfectly. And it doesn't. Sure, you'll try to tell me your wedding went off without a hitch, but if you think about it, you can find a couple things that did not go as expected. And you know it.

Conversely, there's something magical about eloping. The spontaneity, the running away together, the tabooedness of it. The two of you against the world, throwing caution to the wind and ignoring what everyone else thinks (which is how you should treat the situation to begin with; if you two love each other, it doesn't fuckin' matter what anyone else says or thinks). It's more like real love, and the more romantic experiences, in your life. You can't plan it out, it just happens. It's also more like the proposal. It comes out of nowhere (true, a guy will plan a big showy display when he does go to propose, but he'll do it in a way that it comes out of left field for his girl). And she when is surprised with that ring, she'll be overcome with delight.

I understand the argument that the wedding is the girl's day. The one day where she's the center of attention, the queen, the star. But shouldn't every day be hers? Before she's the bride, and after she becomes the wife, the guy should shower her with love and affection every moment of every day for the rest of their lives.

The two of you may look back on the fond memories of that special day, but if given the choice between a perfect wedding and a perfect marriage, which one are you going to choose? I'd hate for anyone to look back at their life in 20 years and say, "You know, it didn't really work out for us, but man, what a wedding!!" It'd be better to look back and say "That was a disaster, but we got through it, just like every other obstacle on our journey together."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Arguments for Wind Energy

Driving back to Fargo from my parents' place in Minot this afternoon, I passed two wind farms (one about 10 miles south of Minot, another 20 miles north of Bismarck). I took this picture of one of the wind turbines, and mentioned that we should build more in America. Here are my arguments for more wind power:

  • It'd create manufacturing jobs that are needed in this type of economy. It would also create engineering jobs as we develop more efficient turbines, transportation jobs to move the components to the construction sites, and construction jobs to erect the towers once they are on-site.
  • It's clean. There are no greenhouse gases produced by harnessing the power of the wind (though, I admit it may indirectly create greenhouses gases in the manufacture, transportation, and assembly of the turbines).
  • Becoming more energy-independent, we can decrease our reliance on foreign oil, which in turn would help our national security (since we'd be giving less money to the countries that have the oil, but generally hate us).

We can't rule out any type of energy source. We need to use any and all sources at our disposal for our ever-increasing energy needs.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When I'm Gone

One day, you're going to hear a horrific story about my untimely demise. It will shock you, it will sadden you, it will bum you out.

Then you'll be standing around at my funeral. Perhaps in front of my casket at the venue. Or maybe outside after the service. Or in the graveyard after my body has been lowered into the ground. You'll be amongst my friends, and someone will say, "I'm not surprised by this. I knew Paul would do something crazy like that that would get himself killed." And you'll nod in agreement, maybe with an auditory gesture of disappointment.

Just wish I could be there to see it. And nod in agreement with you.

Ed. Note: There is nothing wrong with me. Thank you for your concern.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fritz's Golf Tips

It's spring, so that can only mean one thing. Golf courses around the Midwest are starting to open up. I'd like to take this opportunity to provide some tips on improving your game, from the lessons I've learned over the past three years.

  1. Slicing the ball? Close your club face (rotate it towards your front foot) and open your stance (move your front foot back).
  2. Topping the ball? If you're hitting the top of the ball on your drives, raise the height at which you tee off. I suggest using longer tees. If you're topping the ball on the fairways, from the rough, or in the bunker, choke up on the club and/or stand closer to the ball.
  3. Focus on a smooth, fluid swing. Don't try to kill the ball.
  4. If you wanna go Happy Gilmore-style, make sure you make good contact with the ball. Again, don't try to hit the bejeezus out of it, just keep your eye on the ball.
  5. And keep your eye on the ball. If you swung and whiffed or otherwise hit the ball wrong, you probably took your eye off the ball.
  6. The sign of a good drive? A broken tee. (Thanks for that tip, Dad).

Most of all, do not forget the words of the philosopher Kennedy: "The moment you stop learning to play golf is the moment you stop playing golf."

Friday, March 26, 2010

How to "buy" a pony

I don't know if you'll find this of interest to you now. I'm working off the assumption that you're my friend, and if you have a child, that child isn't any older then four or five. But I don't think that invalidates my point.

So, you're son or daughter is asking, BEGGING to get a pony. Here's how you go about doing that...

1. Ask your friends if they know someone who owns horses. If not, you may need to scour the internet for horse farms. I highly recommend using other social networking tools to find such operations.
2. Once you locate someone who owns horses, ask if you can "pretend" to buy a horse for your son or daughter. Tell them that you'd like to exchange money for the ability to bring your child out to the farm and let him or her ride, feed, and care for the horse.
3. When the transaction is completed, get your kid in the car, drive out to the stables, and "give" them the horse. They'll be thrilled!!
4. After that first encounter, install the fact in the child that they see the horse any time they want, but they have to ask to go see it. If a visit won't work for either you or the owner's schedule, come up with a clever lie as to why you can't see the horse.

Look, I know it's not nice to lie to your kids. And this one is gonna be a whopper!! However, as a parent, I would think it's your responsibility to bring happy memories into their lives. A couple of happy visits to "their" horse, and they'll love the heck out of you.

I never said this was a GOOD idea...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The future of the organ business?

Repo Men came out in theaters yesterday. It looks pretty terrible (and the reviews seems to agree with that sentiment). It's too bad, because I think it brings up a great slate of moral/ethical debates that I want to discuss.

And since I'm not going to see this movie, and I don't know anyone who is/was, I'll just throw them out there here on my blog.

To those of you unfamiliar with the plot, Repo Men is about the future, where people who cannot pay for their artificial organs get them repossessed. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are two of these repo men who are responsible for hunting down the delinquent payers.

This leads to the first interesting debate. Is it right to let someone DIE for not being able to make payments on these life saving devices? I know this isn't much different than our current health care situation (and I don't want this to turn into a health care debate; that's a topic for another day). However, there is a key difference between this movie and reality. In reality, someone would eventually die for not getting the medical care they need. In the movie, the owner of the artificial organ would IMMEDIATELY die. In other words, you don't make the payments, the penalty is instant death. Is that right? Tough call. On one hand, whomever sold the artificial organ is entitled to payment and should be allowed to take action to recoup those lost payments. On the other hand, it sounds like the practice of a mobster. Killing people who don't pay you. I don't think two wrongs make a right in this situtation.

Let's extend this argument a little further. Instead of artificial organs, let's say a company was able to use stem cells to grow replacement organs for customers (and let's not get into a stem cell debate either). Do things change if they're repossessing organic organs, rather than artificial?

Regardless of how the repossessed organs were "manufactured" (grown in a human body, grown in a lab, or produced in a factory), if you needed a new vital organ, would you be comfortable with a used organ? Granted, with the current process of organ transplantation, people are currently getting "used" organs. But how many additional owners would scare you off from obtaining it? Would you accept a heart or a lung if it'd been already been in two, three, or even more human bodies? Where do you draw the line? Or, do you look at the counter-point: "Hey, it's already kept two people alive and hasn't failed yet. It's a quality product, so I've got nothing to worry about!!"

I'm maybe only scratching the surface of these ethical dilemmas. But I'd love to hear what you think. Please, keep the discussion on the topic of organ transplantation and repossession.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tom Petty was right

The waiting IS the hardest part.

So many things to look forward to this year. The snow to melt. Golf courses to open up. Trips to the Twin Cities, Lawrence, KS, Dakota Magic. The Nickelback concert at the Fargodome.

Thanks to this online course I'm taking from SetFocus, I'm not going to have the time or money to take a big trip or buy big, fun stuff. My friends in Fargo are dwindling (not really, but they aren't as available to hang out as I'd like them to be (not that I'm blaming you, either)).

So, I'm essentially stuck waiting for these big planned events to come around. At an average of about one a month.

There's only one thing I can do about it. Take it on faith, and take it to the heart.

It's going to be a very LONG year...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why does almost every hero on TV, in the movies, and in print, have to be dark and troubled? I mean, "Yay!!" for overcoming your adversities, but isn't it getting a little ridiculous at this point?

Most heroes in the real world are just normal people who make the tough decisions to risk their own lives in dangerous situations to help their fellow man. They don't have interesting backstories; they're just like you and me. Unfortunately, that doesn't make for good ratings. There always needs to be that angle. If it's not there, the media has to make one. It's sad.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Doomed from the beginning...

So, a couple of weeks ago, MTV re-branded itself to remove "Music Television" from its network. It was just a technicality, that channel hasn't had anything to do with music for years (and possibly even decades).

Not that I really care. I don't need MTV to tell me what's cool (although they are kind enough to let me know what isn't cool, which is pretty much everything they air). A rotten pile of shit by any other name would still smell revolting.

I want to submit a resume to them to take over as network president, but I couldn't find an e-mail address to sent to. Return it to its former glory. Make the focus on MUSIC again.

I'm sure everyone will agree that MTV has going downhill since the mid-90's. But their problems go back way further than that...

In an effort to broaden my musical horizons and expand my collection of songs (because MTV sure wasn't going to do so), I ran out to my storage location to find any and all Blender magazines I owned. I knew I had a couple with articles like "500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".

While working on backing up my computers, I started reading it. The #1 song on that list is "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. Duh. But here's the shocker:

MTV rarely aired videos by black performers, and when they refused to show “Billie Jean,” CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff went ballistic. “I said to MTV, ‘I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy.’” - Page 78, October 2005 issue.

There it is. Back in 1983, MTV was run by idiots. Maybe they were more concerned with the bottom line being negatively affected by airing a video by a black man than they were with good music. Maybe they were just racists.

MTV was doomed to fail from the beginning. They should just take it off the air at this point, because it's only going to get worse.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Damned if you do...

So, lemme get this straight...

Either global warming doesn't exist, and it will remain cold and miserable in the Upper Midwest during the winter months...

...Or, it does exist, and the increased temperatures means there's more moisture in the air, so then there'd be more snow in the Upper Midwest.

Mother Nature can be such a bitch...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Take your time

There are two ways to choose when become a fan of something.

First, you can become a fan of something right away, getting in on the ground floor. And sometimes, it's really great, because you can "grow" with the target of your fandom, change in-sync with them, and the influence it/they have over you will last your entire life.

It doesn't always work out that nicely and neatly. You're human, so change can potentially frighten you. And when your idol changes for the worse, you're disappointed. You don't like that change, you complain "it's not like it was before". Eventually, you're not a fan anymore, because they don't stand for what they originally did.

Worse yet, if you remain a fan, accepting the change of your heroes, you could become overpossessive. I knew a guy in college who was (and probably still is, to my knowledge) a big Barenaked Ladies fan. Even before they broke through in America with "One Week". And he was ultra-critical of those more recent fans who only liked BNL because of "One Week". He was kind of a hateful douchebag about it. So angry. You'd think a true fan would be glad when their heroes make it to the top and get more fans. You know, to validate the time and money they've invested in following their pursuits and have someone to share it with.

Or secondly, you can wait before you hop on the bandwagon. Wait until someone has been out there for a while before you decide if you want to be a fan or not.

I recommend this approach. It's way less stressful. When you look back at something that's been out there for a while, you can be more objective about the things that entity has done. Sure, you can say "Oh, they changed". But that change happened YEARS ago. It's done, it's over. Looking at something in retrospect, you don't have that emotional attachment, so you can judge things with a clearer mindset.

For example, my two favorite bands are Weezer and The Donnas. In both cases, I didn't become a fan of them until they'd already been around for nearly 10 years (or more). Sure, I did have one of their albums each for a few years before I became their fan, but I was only a fan of the album (or even just a few of the songs). Then one day, something just clicked, I started digging through their catalogues, and fell in love.

If you want to understand how I got to this point, you can read my "Levels of Music" post, but to quasi-summarize: Weezer released the Blue Album in '94; I got it as a freshman in college. They released their Video Capture Device DVD containing all their videos and some behind-the-scenes stuff in '04, and I absolutely loved it. I then proceeded buy their other three albums (at the time) and their three albums since then shortly after their release dates. The Donnas released "Spend the Night" (their major-label debut, but fifth album overall) in October '02, I bought it in October '05. I got Rock Band 2 last summer, featuring their song "New Kid in School". The last weekend of August, after a brutal week at work and still waiting for my replacement drum pads to come back from EA, I surfed the Internet and became entranced by those beautiful sirens. Since then, I bought 6 of their albums, watched countless videos of them online, and read anything I could find about them.

In both instances, I can look back at all their albums and see the evolutions in their respective styles and sounds. Each album from both bands represents not only a different sound, but a different maturity level and emotional state. I could get into a big long thing about what I think each album stands for, but that'd take too long. What I can say is, "I can appreciate each one in their own special way. Just because X doesn't sound like Y, and neither sounds like Z, doesn't mean I can't like them all."

So, if you're considering becoming a fan of something, take your time. This isn't a limited time offer. You don't have to act now. Wait. Days, weeks, months, years; doesn't matter. The targets of your affection will be there for you, if and when you become a fan.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I don't see what the big deal is

Over the past couple of days, my friends on Facebook have been complaining about the changes to their layout.

As a guy wanting to find a girl, I should expect this kind of unwelcome change, accept it, and love it.

Right? I've been given the impression that this is the way the world works...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Top 10 Drummers

Disclaimer: This not a list of the best drummers of all-time, or the best drummers around right now, or anything like that. I am not qualified enough to judge the abilities of every drummer in the history of the world against each other and determine the best. Nor is this a list of the drummers from my favorite bands (though there is a noticeable overlap; 4 of these people are a member of one of my three favorite bands). This is a list of the people I'd pay just to watch them play drums, up close and personal (within 10 feet, and over their shoulders), without the rest of their respective bands. They are presented in no particular order.

Torry Castellano, The Donnas - My dream girl for the last five months. Get well soon, sweetie, I wanna see you play in MSP this year!!
Patrick Wilson, Weezer
Tré Cool, Green Day
Brad Arnold, 3 Doors Down
Longineu Parsons, Yellowcard - That guy is fast, holy lord!! Just listen to some Yellowcard and you'll be blown away.
Rivers Cuomo, Weezer - I know he's not the drummer for Weezer, but he's just as talented. He can play as well as anyone on this list.
Brad Wilk, Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave
Greg Eklund, Everclear - I will always see Everclear as the '94-'03 Art Alexakis-Craig Montoya-Greg Eklund trio
Dave Grohl, Nirvana/Foo Fighters - The BEST drummer on this list, by a good margin (IMO)
Chad Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm changing my priorities...

I'm giving up on women. FOR NOW.

Even since I was a teenager, and maybe even a couple years before that, my number one concern in life was finding a girl. I'd think about how I'd try to become financially secure (and then some), or what I'd do for a living, or how to spend my free time, but eventually it'd all come back to same thing. Finding someone to love, someone to love ME. If I did that, it wouldn't matter how everything else would turn out. I'd be happy, I'd have accomplished everything I wanted to do with my life. As long as we got each other, we got the world spinnin' right in our hands.

As you may know, that hasn't worked out too well. It's been 15+ years and I'm still alone. It sucks. Trust me, you don't know how good you've got it. Even if you think you do, you don't. I'd give anything to just have a few moments like that.

Now, a large part of this is probably my fault (Who am I kidding? It is ALL my fault.). I've fallen for girls that didn't like me that way. For girls who didn't like me, period. Girls who are way too out of reach. Celebrities. And when I do find one and things start going well, like maybe "this is the one", I kill it before it even has a chance. You know that analogy of holding a dove too tight and it dies? Yeah...

Making things worse (at least, in my own mind), all my friends from college have gotten married. Some to people they knew since elementary school. Some to their high school sweethearts. Some to people they met in college. And they all got married pretty young. In most cases, at or before 25. They keep telling me that those situations are the exceptions to the rule, and if I'm patient, I'll find my one. But when you look around and see exceptions everywhere, it's hard to understand what the rules truly are.

No one's pushing me to settle down and find someone, but I still feel this incredible amount of pressure to do so. Maybe I just watch too much TV and expect my life to be scripted in a similar manner. Maybe I just spend too much time inside my own head. Maybe I'm not meant to be with anyone.

Well, for 2010, I'm not gonna let this bother me. Because I'm not even gonna try. I practically couldn't care less about it. I could, but I highly doubt it.

I have something more important to worry about this year: leaving Fargo and moving to the Twin Cities. Sure that doesn't sound like much, but everything I'm focusing on will help me achieve that goal before the end of the year. Trying to endure one more year at my current place of employment. Taking a .NET course online. Searching for a job. I don't know if I'll find what I'm looking for down there, but I know my chances of finding it here are effectively zero.

Sure, accomplishing all this will help me find someone eventually. But I'm not doing this for them, I'm doing it for me. I need to take care of myself, doing the things that make me happy (or maybe just less miserable). Who wants to be around a pissed-off, angry white male all the time? Besides, even if I found someone tomorrow, no matter how well it'd go over the next 12 months, it's not gonna change my plans. I'm moving to the Cities. And if you don't want to, it's over. It wouldn't be fair to that other person to present them with that kind of ultimatum, so why bother?

I don't know if things will actually change once I get down there. I'd like to think so. Many, many more fish out in that sea. I'm sure I can find one that shares many of my interests (Twins, Gophers, video games, golf, modern rock music, etc.) that I do. I can't imagine being in any major metropolitan area and still not being able to find someone. That's just wrong.

Ladies, if you're out there, sorry. I'm off the market. Come back in a year, then we'll talk. Until then, do what I'm doing. Take care of yourself, so you can be in a better position to find your someone.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My new career path

I just had a thought...

I should submit a resume to MTV to become the president of the network. Or maybe the director of programming. Or whatever position would give me the power to decide what goes on the air and what doesn't.

I don't see how I'm any less qualified than the bozo monkeys that are currently running the show...
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