Saturday, December 24, 2011

Just a dollar a day

I've been back in Nebraska for two days now, and in that time I've seen about 200 commercials asking for money for African orphans and animal shelters.  But I'd like to see this commercial.
Thousands of middle-aged men and women in America suffer from ancient, lame-ass computers every day.  They have loud, ear-shattering fans, and they may have single-core Pentium processors that can barely even browse Facebook.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  For your gift of just a dollar a day, your parents could get a new computer that's still crappy, but not as crappy as their decade-old one.  At least it would be running Windows 7.  With your donation we'll send you monthly updates on which chain emails they've forwarded, how out-of-date their Flash plugin is, and even how many new browser toolbars and pieces of spyware they've installed.  You can make a real difference in your loved ones' lives, for far less than the cost of a daily cup of coffee.  Please call now.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


indomitable will(n.) euphemism: terminal illness or handicap.  ex: "We're waiting to hear from the doctor.  I sure hope Grandma doesn't have an indomitable will!"  see also: inspiring spirit.

Seriously, though, have you ever seen someone use a compliment like "indomitable will" and have it mean anything other than "man it must suck to not have working legs?"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The short version:
Various Artists—Breaking Dawn Part 1: 5/10
Mutemath—Odd Soul: 5/10
Coldplay—Mylo Xyloto: 7/10

I haven't been listening to a lot of new stuff recently, but the Breaking Dawn Part 1 soundtrack album came out and Bruno Mars' It Will Rain is good enough that it was worth a preorder.  Beyond that, there's a lot of whiny nonsense on this CD... more than one track makes me want to dive for the Skip button.  Barring some unlikely situation in which I turn into a moody teenage girl I do not anticipate there being any future time in which I'll be in the mood to actually listen to this whole thing from start to finish again.  Anyway, that said, beyond the amazing and fantastic It Will Rain, Theophilus London's Neighbors and Northern Lights by Cider Sky are both pretty good.  But I'd generally recommend you just get an MP3 of It Will Rain and call it good, and save yourself the travesty of accidentally hearing Turning Page because you couldn't click Next Track in time.

I rather like Mutemath.  I don't rather like their newest CD, Odd Soul.  It seems as if they set out with the goal of making a rock album that sounds as warm and exaggerated and huge and unfocused as they could.  In their past albums I was impressed with the clockwork precision of their drummer and the crazy things he was capable of.  And he's still there.  But he's in the background, drowned out by amped GUITAAAAAARRRWWRRRRRRRRRR and wailing.  Just about every aspect of this album seems to be a big step backward from their previous body of work and it's unnerving.  The band is still recognizable, certainly, but I'm wary of what I'll be hearing a year from now.  Quarantine, Odd Soul, and Prytania are the best tracks, but none of them are nearly as good as some of the best stuff from their earlier CDs.  Not much really stands out.

Finally, I picked up Coldplay's latest, Mylo Xyloto.  It's not as good as Viva la Vida, but their last CD was pretty excellent and I suppose it would be pretty difficult for any new album to not be a little disappointing after that one.  Paradise, my favorite song, is simple and catchy but sort of embarrassingly cheesy.  The chorus is little more than the two-note word "paradise" repeated over and over and some very Coldplay "oohhhh-ohh-ohhhs" thrown in.  But it sounds great, and I'll still take that over something with a little more creative integrity that's painful to listen to.  Hurts like Heaven is rather good too, and not quite as embarrassing.  Third favorite is probably Princess of China, featuring Rihanna.  The style is nearly identical to Viva la Vida, with a little more electronic influence thrown in, though it's used pretty subtly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Half frustrating and half awesome

Amazon is really bad at informing you whether or not you're going to have to pay for digital downloads, but they're really good at apologizing for how terrible they are at it.  I've had a $10 credit toward Amazon's game download store listed on the site for a year, and now their digital downloads work through Steam which is totally awesome, and Dungeon Defenders was on sale and it looked mildly interesting, so I decided to buy that with my $10 credit.  The checkout page listed "gift certificate / Visa" as the payment option ( pays me in Amazon credit so I constantly have gift cards applied to my account), so I figured yeah, totally, that $10 credit toward game downloads must be working.  Nope.  The full price was charged to my credit card.  I had already put my activation code into Steam and installed the game at that point too, so no hope of a refund.

So I contacted their customer service.  The woman apologized and said that that $10 credit was only good for Xbox Live subscriptions.  WTF.  Oh, duh, I totally should have been able to tell that from the "Your Balances" screen, which from what I can tell is the only place where you can see your store credit for downloadable products, and is only accessible from the pages for MP3 albums.

So yes, obviously that is just for Xbox Live subscriptions.  My mistake.  But she was nice and refunded my credit card.  And I get to keep the game.  And I'm not sure exactly what she did because there's no place that lists your various promotions, but apparently she converted that $10 credit for an Xbox Live subscription into a $10 credit for any digital download, because all of the other numbers other than software / video games and gift card just increased by 10.  WHAT IS GOING ON?

Is this what it feels like to be the annoying customer who gets free stuff just so the customer service rep doesn't have to deal with you anymore?  Because it's half frustrating and half awesome.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mainly for the health benefits

Today I went to an informal lunch meeting where there were going to be several gay Microsoft employees in attendance.  I thought of how I was going to introduce myself, and this is what I came up with.  Unfortunately a good opportunity never really arose so I never got a chance to use it.

"So anyway, I recently decided to become gay mainly for the health benefits. I haven't really noticed any improvement in my appearance though. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong." Assuming I couldn't quite keep the deadpan look, I'd then follow up with "Sorry, I just couldn't tell that joke with a heterosexual face."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Next week off

It's generally not necessary to get approval for vacations or other time off at Microsoft, but it's customary to give people a few days' warning rather than just disappear randomly.  Today I sent this mail to my team:

I’m gonna take next week (Thanksgiving week / 21-25 November) off and start using up some of this vacation time before it expires. Presumably I will take a short break from playing Skyrim at some point during that week to eat turkey but no guarantees.
It started out as a joke but at some point in typing the message I realized that it's not much of an exaggeration.  Since Thursday at 9pm, life has basically been Skyrim with the occasional interruption for sleep, meals, or work.


Some more of my favorite random short thoughts of recent times, collected here for archival purposes...

You know you've hit rock bottom when you're just walking around and someone stops you because they think you're cosplaying the Baron Harkonnen from Dune.

Today instead of working out I went to the Olive Garden for lunch. I feel sort of like Maeby Fünke throwing away a banana for each dollar she steals.

Dear Shakira: every time you sing jealously about some woman that is hotter than you I want to slap you in the face. (Just don't bother.)

Who really throws their hands up in the air when they just don't care? Sounds like a lot of effort. If I just didn't care I'm pretty sure I'd just stand there with a dumb look on my face.

The worst part about having non-white waitstaff who are terrible is that I assume that they think that I'm tipping poorly because I'm racist. Wait, no, the worst part is that they're terrible. Then the racist thing.

Each morning I wake up and find a new spider web on one of my car's side mirrors. Some spider must have written a really good Yelp review if people keep coming back. Or maybe they're just trying to be the mayor of my car on Foursquare.

Today's gotta be a new record for number of times I've threatened to burn my work computer's house down if it didn't start behaving.

No, Visa Fraud Protection Hotline, me purchasing several things from Amazon is not unusual account activity. You should know this. You're the one with a list of my usual account activity.

Good life advice: if you're about to do something, first ask yourself if it would make a good Insanity Wolf meme picture. If the answer is yes, you should probably not do that thing.

Someone at Microsoft sent an email about some "cool Forza skins" and I just want to shake him vigorously and yell "DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAYING? DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT THAT SOUNDS LIKE?"

Today I rickrolled a Microsoft vice president. That's one thing I can check off the bucket list.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'd be all like whoosh

I daydream a lot.  One of the things I daydream about pretty frequently, especially as I'm walking or driving, is what it would be like if I could teleport.  This is usually the way my thought process works:
  • Traveling sucks.  I wish I could teleport.
  • Oh man that would be sweet.  I'd be all like whoosh (I imagine the visual effect of the teleportation).
  • If I could teleport, I'd be rich.  I could quit my job and just stay at home and play [game I've purchased most recently] all day.
So basically my daydreams of having superpowers always end up with me staying at home and playing video games rather than becoming a crime-fighting superhero.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Way too many Ladies Gaga

The short version:
Bear McCreary—Dark Void: 7/10
Amadou and Mariam—Welcome to Mali: 5/10
Justin Timberlake—FutureSex/LoveSounds: 5/10
O.A.R.—King: 6/10
Bruno Mars—Doo-Wops and Hooligans: 6/10
P!nk—Can't Take Me Home: 3/10
fun.—Aim and Ignite: 7/10
Teddybears—Soft Machine: 6/10
Various Artists—Almost Alice: 6/10

Bear McCreary is one of my "new" favorite composers as of the last several years.  His work on the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack is nothing short of phenomenal, and he has a keen ear for interesting and unusual sounds combined in unusual ways.  (By the way, I totally recommend following him on Facebook; he posts fascinating insights into his musical processes, videos of him playing BSG tunes on the piano, and so on.)  Anyway, he also did the soundtrack for a video game nobody heard of called Dark Void.  It's not as good as his BSG soundtracks (well maybe better than The Plan / Razor, the weakest one), but it's pretty definitely recognizable as Bear—wacky unidentifiable foreign instruments, heavy percussion, and stuff that makes you just nod your head in appreciation of this dude's ridiculous creativity.  I think the best things here are Above the Canopy (which I would totally believe was from BSG seasons 3-4 if someone told me that), The Collector, and Survivor Camp Combat.  Overall it's good enough that I thought about picking the game up for six bucks on Amazon until I saw how poorly it was reviewed, but I can still recommend the Dark Void soundtrack to anyone who enjoyed the BSG soundtracks, which is I suppose anyone who doesn't hate music.

I don't know what genre Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam is.  I admit it.  Just a sec; I'm gonna go look it up.  Okay, Wikipedia suggests that it might be "African blues."  I dunno.  I always enjoy when an otherwise pleasant piece of music makes me furrow my brow and wonder to myself what on earth I'm listening to, and Sabali fits that bill.  Most of the album isn't doesn't sound like that though, with my other two favorites Africa (featuring K'NAAN) and Je te Kiffe being decidedly more blues-y and rock-ish.  Overall I'd like it more but I don't really love the vocals.  It's not mean to complain about the way that blind people sing is it?  That's just deaf people, right?  Anyway, I don't know who to recommend it to.  It's a long CD and there's are several tracks that I don't care for all that much, but at the very least I can't complain that it's just like all of the other world music albums I have by blind husband and wife duos.  Just check it out.

FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake is okay.  Actually, I think that Lovestoned / I Think She Knows is completely fabulous, and of course SexyBack is super catchy.  The rest I don't really care too much about.  I probably should have stuck with singles for this one.

I'd heard of O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) before but I can't recall why.  They had a new album called King on Spotify with a very pretty album cover so I decided to click on it.  It turns out it's kinda decent.  It's one of those albums that starts out strong and then probably should have ended a lot sooner than it really does.  It's twenty tracks (!) and only three of those are interludes... but there's only one that's better than mediocre after #6.  Heaven, King, and Not for Me are all some good head-bobbin' rock music.

I'd been on the fence for a while about Bruno Mars' Doo-Wops and Hooligans.  Actually, I was on the fence for a while and then I decided on the "no" side of the fence, but I changed my mind and decided it was worth buying after all.  (His amazing new single It Will Rain is mostly what made me reconsider.)  That should probably adequately explain what I think of it.  I think it's decent, and it's worth owning, but not overwhelmingly so.  Just the Way You Are, The Lazy Song (omg best video evar, starring Leonard Nimoy), and Marry You are my favorites.

Ugh.  I figured I should round out my P!nk collection and get Can't Take Me Home, but I curse my completionist nature.  It's not good.  There aren't any songs on it that are really all that good.  There are a few that are okay, and that's it: Most Girls, Private Show, and There You Go.  I say skip it, even if you're a fan.  Maybe there's a reason it was impossible to find the songs on it streamed.

Another random promoted Spotify find, Aim and Ignite by fun. was well-named and unexpectedly pleasant.  The opening track Be Calm is wonderfully unpredictable and perky and joyous and, well, entertainingAll the Pretty Girls is more pop-rock and less insane than Be Calm, but still really nice.  And Light a Roman Candle with Me is interesting too.  This is another one of those CDs for which I can't really guess who might enjoy it, but I do recommend giving those tracks a listen and see if it's something you'd like.  I don't even know what genre to call it.  Indie rock?  Some of it sort of reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra, so maybe it's oldies...

After the resounding success with their last album Devil's Music I picked up Soft Machine by Teddybears.  It's certainly not as good but it's rather similar in style and still decent.  I can hear the sounds of their latest album in this one in a somewhat less refined form.  Yours to Keep, Automatic Lover, and Different Sound are all worthwhile, but they just aren't as awesome and memorable as the best tracks on their newest CD.

Finally, I picked up the CD of music "inspired by the movie Alice in Wonderland," Almost Alice.  I got it for Tea Party by Kerli because Kerli is awesome, and I like the idea of the lyric "I'm a lady, futhermucker, have some class" occurring in a song for a PG-rated children's movie.  The video for that song is terrifying though; it's basically twenty Lady Gagas having cake, and that's just way too many Ladies Gaga.  But there's other good stuff on there too.  Shinedown, a band I don't really care for, has a really excellent metal-ish song Her Name Is Alice on there, probably the best on the CD.  And Welcome to Mystery by the Plain White T's is rather good too.  As with any compilation album there's a lot of variance, but Almost Alice fits the movie appropriately.

Not the greatest batch of CDs, but a bunch of "decent enough."  I got the latest from Mute Math and Coldplay and they're also both decent but sort of disappointing so far; I'm not yet ready to pass judgment though.  I'm pretty excited about this four-disc Skyrim soundtrack coming in a couple weeks however!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don't believe the bubble

Back in high school I found myself in a three-hour car ride from Nebraska to Kansas with a group of teenagers from my church.  I'd recently purchased the album Europop by Eiffel 65 (containing such hits as Blue (Da Ba Dee) and... well... that was really their only hit), and being the only person with the foresight to bring a cassette tape adapter and probably the only person who brought music with lyrics describing topics other than homicide and fornication, I was put in charge of providing music to all of the denizens of our fifteen-passenger van.

Overall Europop is about as G-rated and inoffensive as it gets, at least as long as you don't have something against cheesy electronic pop or vocoders.  Perhaps the catchiest song on the album is Living in a Bubble, a song that teaches about the dangers of becoming rich and famous and finding that everything seems way better than it really is.  About halfway through the song, the driver-slash-chaperone of the van became very audibly concerned when he noticed the lyrics.  For example:

Don't believe the bubble cause it's nothing but a dream
And when it blows you'll be alone 

The problem is that the singer is Italian (not French as the name might indicate) and the vocals are very distorted, and it sounds an awful lot like he's saying "don't believe the Bible," "the Bible's not reality," "it's a place of lies and hate," "famous all over from this shit to Mars," and so on.  He wasn't the only one who thought I was corrupting the other poor teenagers in the van; a couple others were also pretty skeptical of me.  But the song's called Living in a Bubble.  Bubbles are something that you live in, metaphorically speaking, not bibles.

It took a bit of explaining but I eventually convinced him that I was indeed not the spawn of Satan trying to tempt his daughters into a world of blasphemy.  And then on the trip home he requested "that bubble song" about half a dozen times.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The least special snowflakes

I was curious which of my friends on Facebook have the most common names.  The winners are those named John (including Jon and other variants)—I have fourteen friends with that name.

John: 14
Dan: 11
Matt: 11
Andy: 10
Brian: 10
David: 8
Joe: 6

Of course just because you share your first name with more than dozen other friends of mine doesn't mean you're not a special snowflake.  It just means you're the least special snowflake.

The Coma That Failed

The short version:
Kelly Clarkson—Breakaway: 6/10
Blue Stone—Breathe: 6/10
Cage the Elephant—Thank You Happy Birthday: 2/10
P!nk—Try This: 3/10
The Roots and John Legend—Wake Up!: 4/10
Kate Havnevik—Melankton: 6/10
Justin Timberlake—Justified: 5/10
Ratatat—LP3: 6/10
Ratatat—LP4: 7/10
Xploding Plastix—Devious Dan EP: 7/10

I'm not really hip with these American Idols and the Glees so I was a good half a decade behind on hearing Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway.  I think it's decent; it's a pretty standard female pop-rock affair, heavier on the rock aspect than I was really expecting.  The voice and style remind me more of Evanescence than I assumed it would.  There's nothing outstanding on the disc but there are no terrible tracks either.  I like Since U Been Gone, Gone, and Hear Me.

Breathe by Blue Stone is a pretty acceptable new age instrumental CD.  A little bit above average.  The musical style is utterly unremarkable and it's one of a thousand CDs from which you should shuffle the tracks together and nobody would notice.  But it's pretty and soothing and nice to listen to.  Traveler is the best track on the disc, and New Beginning is a pretty piano piece, and Forgiven is rather relaxing.

Thank You Happy Birthday is not a present for anyone.  I rather enjoyed the debut CD from Cage the Elephant (the Borderlands theme song guys, if you recall); it was rough and intense and interesting.  Their second CD is awful, one of the worst albums I've bought recently.  The opening track Always Something is actually pretty decent, and Shake Me Down isn't bad either.  The rest is all atonal, messy nonsense.  Just so you don't listen to those two tracks and think to yourself that you should buy this CD, let me just link to Sell Yourself so you can get that idea out of your head quickly.

P!nk's Try This kinda sucks too.  Certainly not as much as Thank You Happy Birthday but there's not much more to like on this one either.  The whole album sounds just sort of boring and unrefined, like a subpar debut or a rushed sophomore slump.  God Is a DJ is the best single on the CD, and Last to Know and Humble Neighborhoods are both okay, and that's just about it.  Not worth owning at all.

The Roots and John Legend got together for a full-length album not long ago, Wake Up!, and it fits in that weird little corner of music that's decent but I still don't really want to listen to it.  The opening track Hard Times is the best, and Little Ghetto Boy and Our Generation are the next two.  None of the other tracks are all that special as far as I'm concerned, and there are a few that I just don't like at all.

I don't remember where I heard about Kate Havnevik or her first album Melankton, but it's not bad.  Prolific electronic composer Guy Sigsworth (the non-Imogen Heap half of Frou Frou, and producer on many of the albums I own) provides the background for the CD, and does a fine job, though a lot of the tracks aren't super interesting.  (If you've heard enough of his music there are several songs on here that you can immediately recognize as his thanks to that signature synthesizer he uses all the time.)  Kate's voice is pretty but it seems a little too weak sometimes.  It's sort of like what would happen if Enya got a drum machine.  The (maddeningly mispronounced) Kaleidoscope is easily the best track, and Suckerlove is pretty good too.  Travel in Time is probably third-place.

I also picked up Justin Timberlake's solo debut, Justified.  As is the case for way too many CDs in this batch, it's merely decent.  Rock Your Body is a great dance pop song, but the rest of the album is not up to par.  Like I Love You is pretty decent, and Señorita gets some bonus points for being rather funny toward the end.  Still not something that I'm really certain one needs to own, but I'm not too ashamed that I have a copy.

I picked up the terribly creatively named LP3 and LP4 by Ratatat to round out my collection, and their music has gotten increasingly better since the beginning.  The basic style of instrumental songs focusing on an electric guitar and synthesizers is the same, but the later albums have become more and more varied and intriguing.  Drugs and Bare Feast from LP4 are both a lot of fun to listen to, and Shempi and Falcon Jab from LP3 are cool too.

Finally, I resolved to purchase the digital-only Devious Dan EP by Xploding Plastix after hearing the first track, The Coma That Failed.  It's long and it's mostly percussion and it sounds fantastic played loud, and I love how it builds up over the course of nine-minutes-plus.  Pretend You Owe Me Nothing is great too.  The CD was introduced as being similar in style to Amon Tobin's older music and I completely agree; Tobin's last two CDs have been lacking, and this EP is just what I was looking for.  I'll definitely be checking out more from this guy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rocket Scientist

The short version:
Florence + the Machine—Lungs: 7/10
New Politics—New Politics: 6/10
Dragonette—Fixin' to Thrill: 6/10
Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Borislav Slavov, Tilman Sillescu—Crysis 2: 8/10
Little Boots—Hands: 6/10
Mike Posner—31 Minutes to Takeoff: 6/10
Teddybears—Devil's Music: 9/10

I decided to pick up Florence + the Machine's debut album Lungs after enjoying Heavy in Your Arms from the Eclipse soundtrack.  Overall it's pretty decent.  The songs are all well-made; there's just something that I don't quite love that makes me not like this CD more than "above average."  Is it the singer's slightly unconventional singing style?  Do I resent that the album sounds like it's trying a little too hard to avoid being radio pop?  I'm not really sure.  Or maybe it's just that while I enjoy listening to it for a while, I don't really ever feel like listening to the whole album at once.  Regardless, I sure do like Rabbit Heart, You've Got the Love, and Dog Days Are Over.

I got the self-titled New Politics debut CD as well, and my opinion is kind of the opposite of what I feel about Lungs: it's not a very good CD but it has a bunch of catchy rock music.  Overall the album is a bit screamy for my tastes but My Love, Dignity, and Give Me Hope are all pretty pleasant to listen to.

Dragonette's Fixin' to Thrill just isn't as good as her first album Galore.  The backing beats and melodies are all pretty solid though they don't match the quality of the previous album, but I guess my main complaint has to be with the vocals.  Her voice just doesn't come through clearly, like the whole album was recorded while she had the flu or something.  The title track and Liar are the best two, and Don't Be Funny is probably third place.  (The lead singer looks pretty terrifying in the Fixin' to Thrill video.  I fear she may be undead.)

Hans Zimmer's the big name on the Crysis 2 soundtrack, but he mostly just composed the theme for the game and most of the tracks on the disc are by Borislav Slavov and Tilman Sillescu, who do a great job with the bulk of the tracks.  It's one of the best game soundtracks I own, and it's fantastic action movie music, with good variation between the grandiose and the tensely quiet.  It fits the game extremely well, but much of it sounds good on its own as well.  Insertion is one of a few Zimmer tracks that feature his main theme for the game.  Unfortunately there are multiple issues of the album with different track listings, and apparently what some of them called Insertion is Intro on mine, and Insertion is a different track that I think is better.  Spotify has the version I like.  The best two others are New York - Aftermath and SOS New York.  If you liked Crysis 2's music or like instrumental action movie music in general, I think it's definitely worth looking into the 2-disc set.

Something's... off about Little Boots' album Hands.  The production and beats are for the most part quite good.  I just don't like the singer's voice all that much.  I sort of feel like I'm saying that a lot for this batch of CDs but it's very true.  About half of the songs on this album are produced by Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee and he's responsible for one of my favorites, the opening track New in Town.  My other two favorites are from other producers, though: Remedy and Hearts Collide.  Overall the album certainly isn't bad by any means, but I feel like it could have used stronger vocals on the other tracks, like Mathematics.  Maybe I'll warm up to it more over time.

Mike Posner's 31 Minutes to Takeoff is a hard one to describe.  Two of the tracks are just jaw-droppingly amazing, Cooler Than Me and Please Don't Go.  I think I could listen to those two back and forth for like an hour and not get bored.  The bassline and beat on each of those is absolutely gorgeous.  But then it's hard for me to pick a third favorite; those two are just so much better than the rest of the album.  I guess it'd be Déjà Vu (featuring Boyz II Men... no, really).  Most of the other tracks are pretty disappointing after hearing the best singles.  Three of the others are also produced by—that's right—Greg Kurstin, and his portion of those tracks is excellent as usual, but the vocals and lyrics just don't really stand out.

I hadn't heard of Teddybears until seeing their latest album Devil's Music featured on Spotify, and I bought the CD almost immediately.  The first real track on the album, Rocket Scientist (featuring Eve), rocks my world.  The lyrics and singing style remind me a bit of Robyn's Fembot, but this one's got more of a rock vibe.  (Speaking of Robyn, she's got a track on here too.)  Second best is Get Mama a House (featuring B.o.B), and then Crystal Meth Christian (featuring The Flaming Lips).  (The original version of the album has Desmond Forster on Get Mama a House but the new US version is better.)  It's not quite electronic dance music and it's not quite typical rock.  Dance-rock perhaps?  Is that a thing?  Anyway, I love this CD.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recycled content

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging as much recently is that all of my short posts have sort of migrated over to Facebook.  I'd post that sort of thing here and let them just magically syndicate over there but then it would take a random time between 1 and 30 days for them to appear which isn't really practical.  Anyway, just in case you follow me here but not there, here are some of the recent posts that I'm proud of.  Someone recently accused me of taking illegal humor-enhancing drugs, which is just about the best compliment I've gotten in a very long time.

* * * * *

Who decided the spacing on belt holes? Why is there no setting between "intestinal discomfort" and "pants nearly fall off in the Best Buy parking lot?"

I really hope the City of Redmond is at least aware of the irony in sending out a survey to find out if people read the inserts that come with their water bill as an insert in their water bill.

Manager: My goal this week is to finish reviews, so soon I'll have some numbers for you.
Me: That's good. If possible I'd just like my numbers in a canvas bag with a dollar sign on the side.
[Later as I leave his office...]
Manager: By the way, flaw in your plan: you did not specify what you wanted in your bag.

Last night I dreamed that I bought a head of cabbage. I carried it around for a while but it was annoying because I didn't get a bag. And now you know why the phrase "in your wildest dreams" has little effect on me.

I hereby declare that new RPGs that satirize the clichés of old-school classic RPGs are themselves now cliché. Whoa.

This Betty Crocker cookbook is way better than my old Chris Crocker cookbook. Every recipe was like "LEAVE THE POT ROAST ALONE!!"

Every time I walk down the hall toward the bathroom and kitchen with a water bottle in my hand I get this strange urge to pee in it. In summary, don't steal my water bottle.

Now that hotel wi-fi is quickly becoming a standard feature, I hope that the new differentiator is how many waffle irons they have for public use. Yum.

Today I won Photoshop. I was cropping a picture and I thought to myself, "256x256 would be a good size for this. Nah, I'll just crop it freeform and see what size that is." Then I proceeded to draw a rectangle of exactly 256x256 pixels. UNSTOPPABLE.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

King of Anything

The short version:
Filter—The Very Best Things: 5/10
BT—These Hopeful Machines: 8/10
Janelle Monáe—The ArchAndroid: 6/10
Sara Bareilles—Kaleidoscope Heart: 7/10
Fauxliage—Fauxliage: 7/10
Amon Tobin—ISAM: 5/10
Lady Gaga—Born This Way: 7/10
Kidda—Going Up: 6/10
Ratatat—Classics: 6/10

I got Filter's best-of compilation The Very Best Things so I'd have a copy of Take a Picture and The Best Things, already having a copy of One from The X-Files: The Album.  There's not much else to be happy about on the album besides Hey Man Nice Shot which is also decent.  So it's got three great hits, a couple good songs, and some moderately awful crap.  I'd only recommend it if you're as anal as I am about having things on CD and not just MP3s.

BT's These Hopeful Machines turned out to be way better than I expected.  I guess it's a combination of house-techno and rock?  I'm not really down with my electronic music lingo.  I don't really consider myself much of a fan of house music—most of what I've heard sounds pretty lame and cheesy to me—but for the most part these tracks are interesting and sprawling and beautiful.  And long.  The shortest of my three favorites (Suddenly, Rose of Jericho, and Forget Me) is about eight minutes long.

Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid is some moderately weird-ass R&B.  It's what I would expect R&B music to sound like in Blade Runner or The Fifth Element.  In fact if you told me that Wondaland was playing in a club scene in some blockbuster sci-fi movie I would totally believe you.  A little ahead of Wondaland are my two favorites, Cold War and Oh, Maker, which are a little less bizarre than things like Make the Bus.  The album isn't all crazy, and at least I can't say it sounds like anything else.  I just can't quite tell if it's closer to genius or insanity.

I got Kaleidoscope Heart by Sara Bareilles specifically for King of Anything, which is gloriously perfect adult contemporary and absolutely the best song on any of these albums.  Watch the video, listen closely, and don't fall in love with it.  I dare you.  Uncharted is really great and Not Alone's not bad either.

So apparently Delerium had a side project with one of their favorite vocalists Leigh Nash from Sixpence None the Richer called Fauxliage, with one self-titled album.  It's no different in style than other Delerium albums of the 2000s except she's the only vocalist.  It's a bit bland though, and there aren't any truly excellent tracks.  All the World, Let It Go, and Someday the Wind are my favorites, but nothing stands out in comparison to the various Delerium and Conjure One CDs I already have.

Amon Tobin's latest album ISAM is a huge disappointment.  Tobin's no stranger to bizarre explorations of sound effects in his music, but the word "music" is beginning to be stretched a bit too far out of shape in this last CD.  Journeyman, Lost and Found, and Kitty Cat are the best tracks, but none are really all that great, and then there are just WTF moments like Surge that leave me scratching my head.

Oh, and maybe you heard: Lady Gaga has a new CD, Born This Way.  And it's relentlessly cheesy.  It seems like half the album has already been released as singles, and atypically, none of my favorites are among them.  The CD's not bad per se: Bloody Mary, Americano, and Government Hooker are all excellent and interesting and creative, for example.  But some of the new hits like Born This Way and Hair are like an entire gay pride parade condensed into audio form, and while they're generally catchy, they also kind of make me throw up in my mouth a little.  Not a good sign is that the special edition is 22 tracks and most of what's after track 8 (Bloody Mary) at best qualifies as "decent."

I picked up Kidda's album Going Up from a tipoff on Snow Patrol's Facebook page because the lead singer is the guest vocalist on the best track, Shining 1.  The rest of the CD is more peppy and less low-key than that one—Strong Together and VIP are both rather upbeat and fun.  The biggest problem is that those two tracks aren't much different than the remaining seven (ignoring a few terrible bonus remixes).  It's all heavily-sampled and repetitive electronica.  There's not enough variety to really keep my attention through the end.

I gave Ratatat another chance after not being too thrilled with their debut album, and from what I can tell their music has improved consistently and become more varied with each release.  Classics is their second CD and it's a lot more pleasurable to listen to.  It's still starting to try my patience by the end but there's nothing else like it that I'm aware of, and the more interesting beats let the guitar madness and solid songwriting shine though better than the last album.  The highlights are Lex, Montanita, and Loud Pipes.

After those I've got a lot more to check out: my music queue's pretty long again for now.  I've been listening to the Crysis 2 soundtrack which is also very good, and I've got a good variety of upcoming albums to keep me company.

(Sorry, no more album art for my music posts.  Blogger makes it a huge pain to format and Facebook ignores the formatting anyway.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Paulie Bleeker

I'm pretty sure that the most useful thing I've ever learned from a movie is seeing Paulie Bleeker in Juno apply antiperspirant to his thighs before heading out for a run to prevent chafing. That was pretty helpful given how much we were walking in New York. Just sayin'.

Theses I wanna nail

Pickup line for a Protestant trying to pick up a Catholic: "Baby, you should show me your church door 'cuz I got about 95 theses I wanna nail there."

Feel free to try it out and let me know how it works.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

British birds

I'm back from a week-long vacation in New York. I wrote a few posts on my phone while I was there about thoroughly unimportant crap that I thought I'd share. Here's the first:

* * * * *

Things are different here in New York. Or technically, Newark. Naming your city Newark next to a city named New York seems sort of like those low-budget lookalike DVDs like Transmorphers and the non-Disney version of Aladdin, meant to ensnare clueless grandmothers buying gifts and trick them into horribly disappointing their grandchildren on their birthdays and Christmas.

Anyway, hotels are different here: humans not the only visitors. There are some pretty chatty birds that like to hang out outside our window at 2:00am at night. The only justification for birds chirping at that hour is if they're from the UK and they haven't gotten over their bird-lag. I wish them a pleasant vacation and hope that they STFU.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My not-strictly-intentional hiatus

This afternoon I was all about to break my not-strictly-intentional hiatus and post something cute and clever, but before the time I got to Blogger to write it I had completely forgotten what the post was going to be about.  So, oops.

It's not that I don't love you.  It's just that I've been kind of busy, and when that happens, not a lot of interesting things happen to me.  I imagine I'll have something to write about in a couple weeks though.  Just you watch.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The short version:
Deadly Avenger—Deep Red: 7/10
Sixpence None the Richer—Divine Discontent: 6/10
The Roots—How I Got Over: 7/10
Hyperstory—Hyperstory: 6/10
Arcade Fire—The Suburbs: 5/10
Ratatat—Ratatat: 4/10
La Roux—La Roux: 7/10
Holy Fuck—Latin: 6/10

I finally managed to find Deep Red by Deadly Avenger at a reasonable price, and it's pretty good electronic instrumental music.  A few of the tracks have a sort of faux-orchestra vibe going, and they work well enough, but it sounds more obviously fake than some people who are better at that sort of thing.  There's a some variety between the chill tracks and the hyper tracks, with a bit more of the former, and overall I think it works pretty well.  My favorites are We Took Pelham, The Quest Part 2, and the Outro.

Remember Sixpence None the Richer?  No?  I had mostly forgotten about them but they were all over the radio back when I was working at Burger King.  I decided to pick up one of their albums, Divine Discontent, and it's pretty.  I like Leigh Nash's vocals in small doses, but I can't really make out much of what she says and after a while it makes it kind of hard for me to focus on anything else in the music.  I've listened to this album several times and I feel like several of the songs are good, but I can't really remember which ones are which.  It's like I just sort of subconsciously enjoy them.  I dunno; it's weird.  Check out Breathe Your Name, Still Burning, and Down and Out of Time.

The latest studio album from The Roots, How I Got Over, flows better from start to finish than any other rap album that I can think of, and it's actually pretty nice to listen to all in one stretch.  Most of the individual tracks don't stand as well by themselves.  Walk Alone is a great exception to that, and the heartfelt track Dear God 2.0 is a good song with a good video.  Right On's not bad either.

Hyperstory's debut self-titled album is kind of like proto-Zero 7.  The musical style is very similar, but it's not quite as refined—still, if you like the latter I think you'll like the former.  At just half an hour it seems awfully short for an album, though.  Check out A Happening, Something Good, and A Reckoning and see if it's your thing.

Arcade Fire's highly acclaimed The Suburbs is surely the right CD for someone but it's not the right one for me.  I feel like a dozen scrawny guys with black plastic glasses are holding me down on a Seattle sidewalk repeatedly screaming "I'M INDIE!  LOVE ME!" when I listen to this album.  It revels in its completely standard nonstandardness, and I really can't stand the lead singer.  The production quality of the CD is sort of weird; parts sound really rough, and others sound like they were definitely put together by someone who knows what they're doing.  It's all very intentional, I'm sure, meant to further remind the listener of just how indie they are.  All that said, I've certainly heard worse music, and Rococo, We Used to Wait, and Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) are all good stuff.  Most of the rest is more like City with No Children, though, and makes me want to look for that skip track button.

Ratatat's self-titled debut really, really needs some guest artists, or they need to stick to being guest artists.  They've got a dude with some mad synth guitar skillz and a dude who makes some phat beats, but they need some vocals or some other instruments.  It just doesn't do it for me.  Almost the entire album seems incomplete—creative, with interesting melodies and song structure, but more like experimental musical playgrounds than actual complete tracks.  Sort of like those "string quartet tribute to..." albums, you get the sense that you're only getting part of the whole picture.  Even the best tracks on there—Seventeen Years, Desert Eagle, and El Pico—suffer from this, but then there are half a dozen songs that all remind me of Cherry.  From what I can tell, their more recent albums are notably better, so I'll look into those.

Yet another self-titled debut, La Roux is great 80s-ish dance music, but most of the CD sounds like a girl pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl ( which a friend of mine responded, "have you seen the album cover?").  The majority of the CD is in a bizarre female falsetto voice that really starts to grate on my nerves even as the beat gets me groovin'.  My favorite track, Bulletproof, doesn't really show it, but in my second-favorite song In for the Kill it's very, very noticeable.  In Reflections Are Protection it's sort of in-between.  The beats are pretty well-done, but like in a lot of dance albums, they start to get repetitive by the end.

Looking for a great Mother's Day gift?  Look no further than Latin by the delightfully-titled band Holy Fuck.  If your mom loves alt-rock instrumental music as much as she loves the F-bomb she'll probably enjoy it.  (I'm not really going anywhere with the mom thing; I'm just commenting on the band name.)  I found out about the band from the video for Red Lights, which must have had a filming budget of tens and tens of dollars.  It's repetitive but catchy.  Latin America is probably the best track on the disc, and Stay Lit's worth checking out too.  Ultimately it's similar in concept to Ratatat's album, and while I might argue that Ratatat might have the edge on melodic structure or other things that music professors are looking for, Latin has a lot more interesting variation in the sound and is definitely more pleasant to listen to.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

News flash

News flash: Portal 2 is astounding, just like everyone knew it would be.

The writing and voice acting are just perfect, which is especially impressive considering that at no point in the game do you ever actually meet another human being.  Even in the best games there are usually times when you can tell that there are actors somewhere reading lines, but not so here.  Toward the beginning of the game when the puzzles are easy enough that you solve them rather quickly, I'd hardly have enough time between lines of dialogue to stop grinning.  My face was getting sore.

There were a couple parts in one particular section of the game where I spent more time than I'd have liked searching every pixel of the level for white patches to shoot, but besides a couple small missteps, it's about as close to perfect as a game gets, and in a class of its own.

Monday, April 18, 2011


In case you're curious where I've been, I've been playing video games pretty prolifically recently.  It's just that a lot of top stuff that I'd been waiting on is all converging at the beginning of this year for some reason or another, and, well, I have my priorities straight.

In one sentence...
  • Bulletstorm is awesome fun for anyone who thinks that their first-person shooters are getting a little too serious.
  • Crysis 2 is not as good as the first Crysis but it looks spectacular, the combat is still interesting, and it's very cinematic.
  • Dragon Age 2 starts off pretty terrible and then becomes rather good with an unconventional story for a fantasy RPG—but it's still obsessed with BLOOODDDD MAAAGGGIC.
  • Hoard is a fun, light co-op game.
  • I don't know what everyone's complaining about with Civilization V; I thought it was perfectly amusing.
  • Might and Magic Clash of Heroes is really fantastic, and anyone who enjoyed Puzzle Quest is going to love it.
  • You Don't Know Jack is back, and it's even better than it was in the past.
  • Red Alert 3 Uprising is mediocre: it has similar high production quality to the original game, but many of the missions don't seem to be particularly clever.
  • I can't believe I put seven hours into The Witcher before I fully realized just how terrible it is.
Oh yeah, and Portal 2 is coming out in like twenty-four hours.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A real relief

This new shower curtain is "100% guaranteed" not to mildew.  That's a real relief.  My last one was only 85% guaranteed, and when I called customer service they said they were sorry, but I was one of the other 15%.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Call Your Girlfriend

The short version:
KT Tunstall—Tiger Suit: 8/10
Hooverphonic—The Night Before: 4/10
Shakira—Sale el Sol: 6/10
N.E.R.D.—Nothing: 4/10
Scissor Sisters—Night Work: 8/10
Jack Wall—Mass Effect soundtrack: 6/10
Newsboys—Born Again: 6/10
Robyn—Body Talk: 8/10

I've been very pleased with KT Tunstall's third album Tiger Suit.  Her last album Drastic Fantastic made it seem like she was trying to adapt her singer-songwriter style to more pop sensibilities but wasn't really sure how.  She figured out how.  Tiger Suit is much more radio-friendly than either of her previous two albums but has all of the charm and fun of her first album: branching out without selling out.  It's a good brand of smart pop, and I can recommend it to anyone who liked KT Tunstall's first as well as some people who might not have liked her previous work but might enjoy it now that it's just a bit more flashy.  Glamour Puss, Uummannaq Song, and Difficulty are my favorites here.

One of my long-time favorite bands Hooverphonic from Belgium just put out another disc after replacing their lead singer with someone who looks and sounds an awful lot like their last singer.  The Night Before isn't that good, though.  Their last album was sort of an alternative-rock album which felt weird from a trip-hop band, and this one is even more awkward and bland.  I hope they make a retreat and get back more of their old soul and style, because I don't think I want to buy another CD like this.  Anger Never Dies, The Night Before (video), and Identical Twin are the best tracks on here, but it's all pretty skippable.

Shakira's got another mostly-Spanish CD, Sale el Sol.  It's decent.  Generally her voice sounds better in her Spanish songs, but many of the songs here just aren't that strong.  By far my favorite on the album is Rabiosa, and while it's present in both Spanish and English I actually prefer the English version simply because the guest vocalist Pitbull is much better than El Cata on the Spanish version.  I've listened to one of Pitbull's CDs and I wasn't too impressed (though his song I Know You Want Me as seen on the game Dance Central is pretty good), but there's something very erotically appealing about how he sings on Rabiosa.  The Spanish version of Loca and Devoción are both good too.

N.E.R.D.'s got a new album out too titled Nothing, which is somewhere around what you should pay for it.  I don't care that much about any of the tracks on it, but Help Me, Nothing on You, and Not-N-Fun are decent.  The rest is just like a bunch of B-sides that seem to focus mostly on the sorts of things that I think are annoying about quite a few of their songs.

There's a new Scissor Sisters CD out as well with vaguely NSFW cover art of a basically naked ass, which is adequate preparation for just how unsafe for work most of the songs are on Night Work.  I'd be embarrassed if most people came into my office if the excellent track Whole New Way were playing, with more buttsecks innuendo than you can shake a naked ass at.  This just has to be the gayest CD I own.  Besides the aforementioned track Any Which Way and Invisible Light are both really good, but if you've liked any of the earlier Scissor Sisters songs you're gonna like just about everything on this disc.

Jason got me the Mass Effect soundtrack by Jack Wall for Christmas since I loved the game and the sequel and both had pretty good music.  Mass Effect 2 had a more solid score than the first game, but both were quite fitting.  As an album on its own it's not super interesting, but it's good sci-fi electronic background music nonetheless.  My favorites are Breeding Ground, Vigil, and From the Wreckage.

Ancient Christian pop group Newsboys lost their lead singer since their last album and got a new guy for the appropriately titled Born Again.  It's definitely their most rock-focused album so far, which is okay, but there are some pretty cringingly cheesy songs on here—I find them kind of annoying, and anyone who wasn't raised in a religious household is going to abhor them.  That said, the title track, a cover of DC Talk's Jesus Freak, and One Shot are all pretty good, and the album overall isn't terrible.

I found out about Robyn's album Body Talk from Rolling Stone while I was in the waiting room for my MRI, and it was rather a fortuitous find because it's a really excellent dance CD.  (It's sold as three EPs or a single LP including most of the tracks from the EPs.)  It's not complex and it doesn't need to be.  Call Your Girlfriend is a simple enough dance song and my favorite on the disc, and I challenge anyone to listen to it from the beginning and not burst out grinning when it hits ~2:30.  (I still can't avoid smiling there.)  Dancing on My Own (video) and Fembot are both also really good, and there are plenty of good party-friendly tracks on here with only two obnoxiously repetitive songs that Jason makes me skip every time.  Definitely worth picking up if you like dance music.  I've been through her earlier work and it seems that this is a departure; I wasn't nearly as interested in her past CDs as this one, which is too bad, but I'm still looking forward to her next one.

The Grammys have given me some ideas for stuff to check out soon, but for now I've still got a dozen albums or so to listen to over the next few months.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What it feels like to be elderly

I injured my back a few weeks ago while lifting weights, and it's been bothering me on and off again since then.  It was really, really bad for the first couple days: I couldn't bend over or twist my back at all, and sitting down and standing up was a challenge.  I hurt myself on Tuesday and was feeling pretty fine by the next Saturday, but now it's been three weeks and I can still feel a little bit of it.  Supposedly it takes at least four weeks to completely heal, and the doctor tested me in myriad ways and is certain I didn't do any permanent damage, so nothing's out of the ordinary just yet.  But I imagine that was roughly what it feels like to be elderly—grunting and sighing every time I sat down or stood up for those first couple days, dreading the next time I had to get up to go pee.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Payday loan or the mafia

Of the $2,359.69 I paid on my home loans last month, $404.77 went to principal.  If I had just told you that 83% of my payment was lost to interest you might have assumed I was talking about a payday loan or the mafia.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sensors wired to your body

I had a sleep study done at the end of last year on the insistence of my neurologist.  I'd heard they were awful, but what could be more fun than sleeping in a lab with thirty sensors wired to your body under constant supervision of night vision cameras?  Anyway, the results came back negative for any noteworthy sleep disorders.  I kick my legs more than is typical during the night, but my breathing and heart rate and all of my other vitals were normal.  I snored that night, but that might have been due to a stuffy nose that day and the world's most ironically uncomfortable bed.

So with sleep disorders crossed off the list, I'm having an MRI of my head and neck taken in a week or so.  I've never had one of those before either, so I'm sure that will be yet another fantastic, joyful experience.  I'm also completely off caffeine at this point—not even a little bit.  I don't actually care about the caffeine, but being banned from it is annoying for two reasons: first, restaurants don't serve much that's caffeine-free besides water, and water with a meal is just depressing.  And second, Coke Zero doesn't come in a caffeine-free version, and I'd mostly switched over to that from Diet Coke.  So, I'm hating that.

I'm also on the maximum dosage of my medication.  I'm starting to notice the side effects, the most obnoxious of which is weight gain.  I've put on a few pounds.  The decreased metabolism also means I'm more tired than usual.

All that and I'm still having headaches at least every other day—before, it was pretty rare that I'd have a headache that persisted through the ibuprofen.  I'm still holding onto hope that all these tests and trials will figure something out.

Martha Spomer's household tip # 00271

You can undo many of the effects of cherry Chap Stick being put through a load of laundry by scrubbing the waxy blotches with Dawn Ultra concentrated dishwashing liquid.  Oxi Clean stain remover helped to remove some of the pink discoloration, but I had the best overall results with Dawn.  Tide and Shout were not effective.

Today's household tip is brought to you by a very sorry boyfriend who tends to leave things in his pockets.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Antidepressant side effects

Today at the neurologist's:

Doctor:  So at that dosage, nortriptyline can have some antidepressant side effects.  You're not noticing any, are you?
Me:  (confused)  What would that even mean?  Would I feel, like, extra happy?
Doctor:  Well, no, it wouldn't make you happier, unless you already had a mood disorder.
Me:  (confused stare)
Doctor:  (confused stare)  So... no, then.

I'm still unsure what an antidepressant side effect is.  But if I've been more pleasant than usual please let me know; I should probably report it to my doctor immediately.