January 30, 2009

Friday Catblogging!

Fresh(ly recharged) batteries in the camera!  Now let’s take a look at what the boys are up to.

From Jupiter’s perspective:

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From Sebastian’s perspective:

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Otherwise, life proceeds apace.  I’ve only had a couple days with my new guitar method book (note guitar in stand in background of first photo), but I can already tell it’s fantastic.  The exercises in it are very challenging, but I realized after getting good (not quite mastering) a couple of them that I could do some chord changes a lot easier than I could before.  And this is with only a couple days of practice, albeit 2-3 hours per day.

My body is also well on its way to returning to normal after the annual holiday binge.  “Normal” still isn’t quite as fit as I’d like to be, but that will change when the weather does.  Or maybe a bit sooner if I decide to pay someone to give me access to treadmills and other fitness-type technology.  We’ll see.

Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 6:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2009

Why I Have Pets

Yesterday, Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) posted this touching piece on his cat, Sarah, who recently died.  I think it sums up pretty nicely the tradeoff that we all make when we have pets and how, as difficult as it is at the end, it’s worth it.

Check it out.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:02 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2009

Learning Curve

My new guitar method book arrived today, and it looks like it’ll be great.  First, it includes all three volumes (it’s the Leavitt Complete Method).  While I have a couple other method books (all over 30 years old), they are all the beginning books, and I’ve worked through them.  With the new book, I can tell that I’ll be working hard for a long, long time.  That’s good—nothing more to buy.  (That isn’t to say that I won’t also pull a few things from the internet, too).

As a demonstration, I spent most of last night practicing this song that appears on page 6.  It was pretty difficult, though I made some significant progress.  The difficulty was maintaining a consistent tempo, so eventually I flicked on the metronome.  I’ll have to have some more metronome training tonight.

In other news, I ordered a couple small items from Amazon.  While the method book arrived yesterday, two other packages got delayed because of bad weather here.  (The snow stopped, but it’s been blowing all over the place by some serious winds.)  I just checked this morning, and for some reason UPS shipped both my packages to Kentucky.  That makes no sense to me.  Why not just hold them until the roads open up again?  The only thing I can think of is that they’re out of space, so they put those packages on trucks and move them around just to have some place to put them.  It sure seems wasteful, though.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2009

Everyone’s a Winner! Well, Not Everyone. One Person, Really.

I’m happy to report, for those who don’t know, that one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman, won the Newbery award yesterday for The Graveyard Book.  I’m thrilled to see a writer I like so much doing so well.  And the book deserves it—it’s really very good.  If you haven’t read it, you’d better get to the library before all the copies get checked out.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2009

Miscellaneous Topics

It looks like winter is here.  We had around eight inches or so of snow over the weekend.  This could have some implications for my walk to work, but hopefully people have had time to shovel the sidewalks.

Speaking of which, know this: having a corner lot means more sidewalks to shovel.  Pass it on.

And on the topic of houses, it looks like my neighbors have finished doing whatever renovations they were doing and have now put the house next to mine up for sale.  They apparently had an open house yesterday, but I only noticed that as I was driving to go see a movie with some friends, and it was over by the time I got home.  That was actually the first house I looked at when I was house shopping a year and a half ago, so it would be interesting to see what they did with it.

Speaking of houses, my family's place circa my high school years (which, weirdly, is on the same block that I now live on) is up for sale again.  $127,500, if anyone's interested.

The movie I went to see was Slumdog Millionaire.  I enjoyed it, though the theater did blast the volume more than I would like.  perhaps sitting in the middle, rather than the aisle, would have been better.

Perhaps thieves should learn to play the guitar. I no longer have prints on my left hand fingertips.  Of course, this may only work with steel-stringed acoustic guitars--I seem to remember that electric is not quite as hard on the fingers.  Perhaps one day I'll get one and find out, but that's pretty far in the future.  First, I'm saving for my possible overseas trip.

My tax return will help.  I filed on Saturday, and it turned out to be even more than I expected.  That'll be nice.  Also, I get paid the end of this week, so next week my passport application will go in.  Hopefully, six months is plenty of time to get a passport, but I don't want to wait any longer than this.

I signed up for this year's CSA.  Fresh veggies for 26 weeks--it'll be fantastic.  If this year is like last year, I'll end up with plenty of things stocking my freezer, which I can then draw on during the downtime.

Speaking of which, I'm considering cooking some of the squash in my pantry and freezing it for later.  I have some that has been in there for 2-3 months, and I'm not sure quite when I'll get to it.  It looks ok, but who knows?  I welcome feedback on this point.

[Update: I'm revising upward my estimate of the amount of snowfall. New figure: 12 inches.]

Posted by Macknzie at 6:36 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2009

We’re a Go for Watchmen

It’s now confirmed that Watchmen will not be delayed—Fox and WB have settled.  I like this bit particularly:

Fox also pried a public admission from Warner that it had not been greedy. “Warner Brothers acknowledges that Fox acted in good faith in bringing its claims,” a joint statement said. That line was particularly important to Fox, which has come under fire on the Web from “Watchmen” fans who feared that the studio’s efforts would delay the film’s release.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and purport to speak for the fans.  From our perspective, we had no problem with the fact that Fox was enforcing its rights under copyright law.  Our issue was with Fox’s attempt to enjoin the release of this film.  Which it tried to do, so I don’t think this concern is too broad.

Ultimately, I think the request to enjoin release was simply a lever to use in negotiations, and a pretty standard one.  But Fox needs to realize that there are consequences outside the litigation when some tactics are chosen over others.  This realization depends on lawyers who understand not just their client’s business, but various intricacies of the field that they’re in, and the conclusions observers will draw about their client.  See RIAA lawsuits.  These lawyers aren’t terribly easy to come by.

Incidentally, there’s a fascinating discussion thread on The Volokh Conspiracy.  There are significant spoilers, so don’t read the thread if you haven’t read the original Watchmen book.

But if you haven’t read Watchmen, you should be doing that right now, anyway.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:51 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2009

History Being Made

Yep, I watched the Inauguration.  Seriously, who didn’t?  To say that it has a lot of significance would be a gross understatement.

But as much as it meant for me personally and what direction I hope the country will take, I wonder if some of the emotional impact passed me by.  I’m not from a generation that saw segregation first-hand.  Martin Luthor King, Jr. was murdered almost a decade before I was born.  Moreover, I was born in and spent the first ten years of my life in Missoula, Montana.  As diverse as it is by Montana standards (it’s a university town), it was still pretty white.  By the time I became aware of racial prejudices, most racism had moved underground and showed itself in only relatively subtle ways.  I didn’t think of it daily, so I simply wasn’t as conscious of it.

My emotion is more caught up in hope for our country.  I am optimistic that we’ll have a set of good policies, reclaim our standing in the world, and live up to the ideals that my country was founded on.  I feel relieved, like a great pressure has been taken off my mind.  That’s what the transition means to me.  We’ll see if it works out, but as I said, I’m optimistic.

Posted by Macknzie at 7:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2009

Surprise—It’s a Holiday!

I had no idea today was a holiday until after work on Friday—I really should start paying more attention.

Of course, I’m very aware that tomorrow is Inauguration Day—and that’s something I’m really looking forward to seeing.  I think I’ll set my computer to record the festivities, and will probably keep it running on my PC at work, too.  I’m quite happy to live in a country with an orderly transition of power.

So what have I been doing with my long weekend?  A couple things.  I’ve been digitizing my movie collection, for one.  But each film takes a couple hours or so to get in the right format, so that takes a while—it’s a long-term project.  I’ve also been practicing the guitar, naturally.  I’m getting better, but some chord changes are pretty tough.  I’ve been practicing a transition from D to G by repeating the opening arpeggio changes from R.E.M.’s Everybody hurts, but it’s a difficult change, and I’m still not up to speed.  That is, of course, in addition to other practice.

I also did a rough estimate of my taxes this weekend, and it’s very good news.  Thanks to getting a raise, student loan interest, and (especially) mortgage interest, I should be getting a hefty refund.  This is fantastic because it gives me a nice head start on saving up for overseas travel in August, which I still hope I’ll be able to do.

Posted by Macknzie at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2009

Friday Catblogging!

I think we should return to our roots:

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As for the other things, my guitar practice proceeds.  It’s a little scary how much knowledge you lose over the years—I have to re-learn the various notes on the treble clef (I still know the bass clef notes, but that’s not as useful), keys, that sort of thing.  It’s going pretty quickly because I used to know all this stuff, but it’s interesting.  Plus, I’ve gotten back into the habit of listening to music differently, i.e., paying attention to chord progression, etc.  It’s rather nice.

And now that I’ve developed some significant calluses, I can practice much longer.  I’m still limited by muscle fatigue, but I can pretty much play as long as I want.

Other than that, nothing particularly exciting is going on.  Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 7:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2009

All Good Things . . .

I just read that Patrick McGoohan died.  I suppose it's not entirely unexpected--he was 80, after all.  But I always thought of him as the much younger Number Six from The Prisoner.  If you've never seen it, it's a fantastic British series from the 1960s.  You can watch it for free online, and they're making a sequel.  (I'm a little skeptical about the sequel, but we'll see.)

[Update: Check out this tribute from TV Worth Watching's (and Fresh Air contributor) David Binaculli, and this comment from Randy Barnett of The Volokh Conspiracy.]

Posted by Macknzie at 7:16 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2009

Settling?

I didn’t get a chance to post about this topic this morning, but there are reports that Fox and WB are nearing a settlement that would allow Watchmen to proceed unmolested.  This pleases me.

Of course, it’s not really that much of a surprise.  I always figured this injunction against the films release was a negotiating stance.  Of course Fox wants a piece of the pie.

Anyway, I’ll be happy when a final settlement is reached and we can all breathe easy.

Posted by Macknzie at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2009

A Foreign Land

I’m making this rare weekend dispatch from a faraway place.  After dealing with a ridiculously bad rollout of the Windows 7 public beta all day on Friday, I managed to get license keys for both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the betas.  It was only recently that I learned that the beta has been extended beyond the initial 2.5 million licenses.  I guess my little club isn’t quite as exclusive as it previously was.

Anyway, first, I tried installing the 32-bit version on my old laptop.  It installed easily, and actually worked a decent speed.  That’s quite impressive considering how old that laptop is.  The only problem was that the video resolution was terrible.  Normally, I’d install updated drivers and everything would be fine, but I’m afraid the on-board Intel video chip is so old that none of the drivers will work.  So I ended up restoring my old WinXP.  (Thanks to having a Windows Home Server, I could just restore last night’s backup from the server—about an hour of set it and forget it.)

I also installed the 64-bit version, but on my main desktop.  Rather than do an upgrade (which I couldn’t do to a 64-bit version anyway), I decided to install on a 250GB hard drive and set up a dual-boot system.

So far, I quite like it, though I liked Vista, too.  (I know some people think that to be ridiculous, but I’ve been using it daily for a long time, and I’ve found it rock-solid and easy to use.)  It seems pretty speedy, but then it’s a fresh install, as opposed to my old partition that has gotten a bit bloated over time.  I haven’t had any compatibility problems yet, which is nice, but also I haven’t really tried out a ton of apps yet.  Steam installed just fine, and I’m currently installing a few games, so we’ll see how it goes.

I did have one problem with Media Player 12—it wouldn’t automatically add my MP3s from the network drive, which irked me a bit.  It seemed to resolve itself, however, once I got the Media Center set up.

I plan on using it for everything day to day for the foreseeable future, so if there’s anything to report, I’ll mention it here.

Posted by Macknzie at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 9, 2009

Friday Catblogging!

I think we may have some more New Orleans pics:

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(Yeah, somebody wanted in from the back porch area.)

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My friend J’s cat, coincidentally also named J.

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J’s other cat, T.  He and Jupiter are sort of brothers who haven’t seen each other in eight or nine years.

Seriously, they’re quite the hams.

In other news, I’m slowly making progress on the guitar.  My fingers are starting to toughen up, though I don’t have full-blown calluses.  I decided to forgo straight tabulature for now and learn the actual notes so that I can sight-read music.  It has brought home how much I’ve forgotten about music theory since high school—I need to relearn the notes and key progressions.  I think this weekend I’ll make myself some flash cards.  Working with them will give me something to do when my finger pain precludes me from practicing more than an hour and a half (which is more or less what I’m up to now, depending on the nature of my practice).

Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 7:07 AM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2009

Time Warp

So I wasn’t going to post this early today, but there was “an incident.”

The morning started out pretty normal, though I woke up a bit late.  I had some tea, toast, read some selected works from the internet, etc.  I did start my morning toiletries, but I just thought that meant I’d be maybe 5 or so minutes late for work.  Not a big deal.  I decided to cut that down by driving, since I have some car-required errands at lunch.  (Normally, I’d just walk back to the house, drive, return home, then walk back to work.)

It was odd, though, when I went out to the car.  It just seemed so dark.  I had noted that inside, but I figured that just meant that it was cloudy outside.  But once I went outside, it seemed clear that the darkness came from the sun not actually being above the horizon yet.

Yeah, you’ve probably guessed by now—I got ready for work an hour early and was set to wander in at 7 and wonder where everyone was.  Not that I don’t have enough work to occupy the time—I have a pretty steady stream.  But there’s nothing pressing, and it’s not worth making myself more tired in the afternoon (and making myself less productive).

So I’m about to settle in with another cuppa and make some more headway on reading the whole internet.

Posted by Macknzie at 7:20 AM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2009

Back to Work

Going back to work was nice—it’s good to return to my regular routine.  The only problem is that my body’s schedule is really off, and it’s taking a little time to acclimate.  Some of it may be because I drank caffeine in New Orleans then quit once I returned home.  Both Monday and yesterday, getting up at my usual time was a real struggle.  Plus, I crashed hard at about 4 pm.  That’s inconvenient because I still have an hour of work left.

To combat these effects, I’ve been going to bed earlier.  Monday night it was 9 pm, and last night it was 9:30.  Getting up early was a bit easier today, so maybe it’s working.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:43 AM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2009

Hurting Fingertips

My fingertips are a little tender, which will make typing at work today interesting.  They’re tender because I’m sick of not playing any music, so I decided to pick up my mother’s old guitar, which is now mine, I suppose, and learn it.  (While I previously played the trombone, I decided it was not as appropriate.  A guitar stands on its own much easier.)  The new strings arrived while I was in New Orleans, so I replaced the old (really old) ones, and I’m off.  Given my near-pathological avoidance of physical labor, my fingers need to grow some calluses.  Hopefully this won’t take too long—learning an instrument requires pretty regular practice, and I’d prefer to keep a regular schedule and not have to stop to heal.  I’ve managed to get in a bit of practice every day since I returned.  The internet is a wonderful thing—it can teach one just about anything.

It turns out that my inherited guitar, a Yamaha FG-75, is pretty well-regarded in the guitar community.  It seems to have a reputation as an excellent value with good sound and durability.  I can vouch for the durability—the thing is about as old as I am—though admittedly it hasn’t been played much in its 30-or-so years of life.

Posted by Macknzie at 7:05 AM | Comments (0)

January 2, 2009

Friday Catblogging!

Today I return from New Orleans.  It was a great visit, but I’m looking forward to seeing my cats and my own bed.  Here are some more NOLA photos.

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This kitten can be adventurous:

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I rescued her shortly after that last photo.

Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 7:57 AM | Comments (0)

January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Now is the time that everyone and their dog is looking back and forth at their lives.  I am not excepted from this festival of navel-gazing, but I will refrain from making everyone who reads this (both of you) suffer through it with me.  Suffice it to say that my permanent goal of self improvement remains unchanged.  (I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions.)  As part of that, I think I’ll focus a bit on getting into playing music a bit more.  I could return to the ole trombone, but I think it will be easier if I go with a new instrument.  After looking at a couple pianos on Craigslist, I think I’ll get some new strings for the guitar I inherited from my mother and go with that one.  We’ll see how it goes.

Tonight was pretty fun—I spent New Year’s Eve in the French Quarter.  MackenzieMom and I (J was not feeling well) went first to a little wine bar in the Quarter.  Two years ago, it was new and very empty on New Year’s.  This year, it was established and quite crowded.  Though we had to wait for a table, it was still pretty good.  We had several excellent appetizers, and some not-bad wine.  Then we went to The Kerry, an Irish bar also in the quarter.  They seem to have the same cover band (Rites of Passage) every year, so it just wouldn’t be New Year’s in New Orleans without going to hear them play.  The only down side is that we arrived near the end of the set, so the band took a break and we didn’t hear as much as we’d like.

After that, it was time to mosey on down to the river, where the fireworks did play.  We got a really good spot right up front, maybe a hundred yards or so from the boat from which the fireworks were launched.  It was a pretty decent show for New Year’s.  I think the 4th of July show in Cheyenne, and probably New Orleans, for that matter, would be better.  But overall, it was a pretty good job.

So right now, I’m at my mother’s dining table with a glass of wine and some cheese, and will be crashing pretty soon.  Overall, a pretty good time.

I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2009.

Posted by Macknzie at 1:02 AM | Comments (0)