Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Can Hear Clearly Now The Ring Is Gone

I'm in love with this man. Call it a bromance if you like, but he's done for me things no one else can. Specifically, he's given me back my appreciation for music.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="332" caption="George and Slau by Skepticality - truth in podcasting"]George and Slau by Skepticality - truth in podcasting[/caption]

That's Slau. (No, the one in the jacket. The other one is George. I've talked about him plenty in the past. Look it up.) Professional recording engineer, musican and friend, I called Slau recently when I was looking to upgrade my headphones. You see, I can't hear for squat. Partly genetics, partly stupidity when I was younger, but I've lost the ability to discern subtle audible changes. That causes no end of grief for my wife and co-workers. Yes, I've become my grandfather.

As you might have heard, I do the podcasting thing. Before that, I was in radio. Before that, I was in a semi-pro band. Before that, I was a recording engineer. Back when editing was done with a razor blade. No, not kidding. That's a slightly broken chain of occupations and avocations over 25 years where I spent time -- a lot of time -- with a pair of headphones clamped to my ears. Yet for the last five years or so, I've been getting by with the crappy ear buds that came with my MP3 player. That changed today.

Today I got in my new pair of Sony MDR7506 headphones, on Slau's recommendation. And for the last two hours, I've been re-discovering my music collection. Holy crap, have I been missing things.

For years I've been telling podcasters and home-recording neophytes that the very first piece of equipment they should purchase should be a good pair of headphones. But I wasn't taking my own medicine. So I took the plunge, dropping down a C-note on the MDR-7506s. It's about time I ate my own dog food, as they say.

I couldn't be happier. Yes, I could have spent more, but I didn't. A lot my hearing range is shot, so it doesn't make much sense for me to fork over close to a grand for some super serious 'phones. These do me fine. They fold up nicely to fit in a kickin' little bag, making them easy to transport to work, gigs... whatever. Though I don't gig any more, so they'll likely stay in the studio. Except for the times when I want to listen to music at home. And judging by tonight, that's going to happen more.

Thanks for the recommendation, Slau. I couldn't be happier! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes, you have to trust the bartender

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Sazerac Cocktail by ~dgies"]Sazerac Cocktail by ~dgies[/caption]See if you know this one. Guy walks into an absinthe bar and orders a Manhattan. The bartender says "you want a Sazerac instead. It's like Manhattan, but made with rye and a dash of absinthe". Guy says, "What the hell."

That guy would be me. And that's the story of when Phil and I and our lovely wives went out tearing it up Saturday night in Boulder. Well, "tearing it up" may be taking things too far. But I did have a Sazerac, and I'm writing this blog post about it for no other reason than my attempt to not forget the name. Because it was damned good. And I have a shitty memory for things like names.

Let me say that I categorically do not like absinthe. It tastes like Nyquil™. I don't care for wintergreen because it tastes like Pepto-Bismol™. Whoever the hell first decided medicine-flavored candy and booze was a good idea is a moron. But back to the drink.

I'm not sure if I like rye whiskey. I probably do, but I don't have the necessary palate to discern what makes rye whiskey better -- or at least different -- from bourbon. Yeah, that's going to piss a lot of you off. Sorry. Not my intention. And I'm sure with a little coaching and guidance, I'd develop a taste for whiskey like I have for scotch, beer and tequila. Not that I need to develop the taste for yet another expensive sin.

But back to the drink. I let myself be lead down the path -- more like rolled down the path -- for a simple reason: I was in the Absinthe House in Boulder, and the bartender exuded confidence. It wasn't that he didn't have the stuff to make a Manhattan. He did. I saw all the necessary liquids on the shelf right near everything else. No, this guy knew that people who like Manhattans would probably like a Sazerac. But just to be safe, he floated the "rye whiskey" part out there in case I fancied myself a bourbon man. I do not.

And so... he made it. And I drank it. And more importantly, I liked it. No, I can't share the recipe with you. There are plenty online and I can't say for certain if any of them would match up to the caliber of the one I had. Hell, I can't even say for sure if the one I had was a good one or not. I can say that I liked it, and now I have another cocktail to order when the tap selection of a place leaves me wanting. Which is all too often.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The best science fiction author you probably aren't reading

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton"]The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton[/caption]On the plane coming home from Denver this weekend, I polished off The Evolutionary Void
by Peter F. Hamilton. It's the third and final (duh) story in the The Void Trilogy... and now I have to wait for new stuff. Dammit.

Peter is, by far, my favorite science fiction author. He weaves intricate plots and complex narratives to not just world-build, but to universe build. His books are long. He isn't big on exposition. And you need a fair understanding of real science and physics to get a full appreciation of his inferred science and physics.

And that's why I think I enjoy his work so. You have to think about it. Sure, it's science fiction, and you might consider scifi writing throw-away fiction. I get that. And I won't try and convince you otherwise. But the many works of Peter F. Hamilton are anything but throw-away for me. They delve deeply into what it means to be human. They explore connectivity and personal networks in expansive ways I can only hope we one day achieve. He takes on religion and "spirituality" without wavering one bit, weaving together the promise of both along with origin stories that are all-too believable. Much of his work causes me to go "Oh yeah, now I see the sort of events that could lead to some strange beliefs in a few thousand years..."

Murder. Mystery. Intrigue. Action. Love. Romance. It's all in there. In a science fiction novel. Yeah.

These are the type of stories where the word epic just isn't big enough to describe. These are stories that aren't for everyone. Heck, they probably aren't for most people, because many of the fiction book-readers I've met prefer fluff over substance. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And not that I don't occasionally enjoy the hell out of that type of story.

This ain't it. But if you think you'd like to try something a bit more challenging than the norm, I highly endorse PFH's work. All of his series can and do stand on their own, so you can start at the first book of any trilogy. Forget the idea of "linear" storytelling. This is much more fun!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yes, I really did get hit by a car today.

Yes, I really did get hit by a car today. And yes, I'm fine. So is the bike. Allow me to explain.

[caption id="attachment_1546" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="My Strida folding bike that got hit by a car today"]My Strida folding bike that got hit by a car today[/caption]Since returning to civilization (Tempe) from the boonies (Chandler), I've discovered that I'm about a half a mile from a bus route. You see, I like to ride the bus. I don't do it because of my desire to decrease my carbon footprint. I don't do it to make a stand for better public transportation. I don't do it to protest rising gas prices. All are worthy causes, and all I've supported (to varying degrees) in years gone past. Back in the deep dark oughts, I bought1 a folding bike by Strida just so I could take it on and off the bus with me, zipping to and from the stops so I could decrease my commute time. Yes, that's what the bike I ride looks like. No, they don't make that version any more. Yes, you can buy the updated version and be almost as cool as me. And you'll like it.

But today, I bike/bus for more selfish reasons: More time to decompress. Though tonight was an exception. Allow me to explain:

  • Drive to work: 20 minutes. Me, behind the wheel and paying close attention to the road and the idiot drivers around me.
  • Bus to work: 30 minutes. Me, sitting on my ass listening to podcasts, audiobooks or reading an ebook. Idiots likely surround me, but I'm not paying any attention.
  • Bike home from work: 38 minutes. Me, pedaling and expending energy to reduce stress. And get hit by a car.

  • OK, that doesn't typically happen. But it did today. Albeit a very low speed collision, but a collision none the less. I wasn't bodily injured or even bodily impacted by the strike. The bike's chassis took the full force of the impact, knocking my back tire sideways about 2 feet. My foot was mere inches from the bumper, but missed entirely.

    How did this happen? The simple answer: She had her head in her ass. The more complex answer: No, she had her head in her ass. There is no more complex answer. She claims she was "looking out for cars". And I guess by that she meant she was looking beyond the crosswalk, where my slow-moving folding bike and I were meandering across. Because she sure didn't see me as she blew all the way into the crosswalk, where vulgarity ensued post-impact.

    Save a few minor scratches, the bike pulled through like a champ. Score one for solid manufacturing skills! And save a serious tongue lashing, the young woman with the head so solidly shoved up her own ass pulled through as well, hopefully paying significantly greater attention in the years to come.

    And yes, I'll be back on the bike tomorrow. Don't hit me!

    1 - Yes, I really do own a bike that looks just like that. Yes, I really did buy it with my own money. And yes, those are affiliate links. But I assure you the story is real, and that I ride this bike damn near every single day.