Wish list #297

Public transportation in my city that’s still running after my night class ends.

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Voters must be more alive than this sign

The College Democrats on my campus are having an organizational meeting this week; they’ve got signs up around my building. They follow a “What/When/Where” sort of format that’s not uncommon for student organizations, and the “Who” is listed as “Everyone Alive*”… with a footnote in tiny print.

I’d figured that the footnote would be some self-deprecating reference to Chicago machine politics of fifty years ago… because in my head, I expect to live in a world where people make those kinds of jokes in passing. Instead, the footnote read:

zombies will be killed. sorry zombies.

Which kind of made my day, I admit.

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Does not compute

My laptop is nearing the end of its three-year extended warranty, which is more or less equivalent to the end of its three-year lifespan from what people have told me. The battery’s reached the point where it’ll last for thirty minutes unplugged, tops, which is just unacceptable. So I’m considering my options.

Option A is to just go and get a new laptop, essentially continuing my current computational lifestyle. This is in some ways the simpler option.

Option B is to get a desktop and a new battery. This would involve making the desktop my primary computer, and stripping down the laptop and making it pretty much a travelling-only machine. This has its attractions, in that desktops tend to be more powerful than laptops at an equivalent price point, and any new laptop I got would be larger than the one that I’ve got right now… and I rather like the size of my current machine for portability.

In either case, I’m not likely to move on it for another couple of weeks; having just gotten a major repair done on my car, I’d kind of like to wait for the next billing cycle to start before making another large purchase.

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Late-night musical thoughts

I’ve finally figured out a working version of Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom”. It’s not perfect, but then perfect isn’t generally what I do on guitar.

Musical notation is cumbersome. Really must get my MIDI keyboard set up and working. This might require procuring a large number of C batteries.

Plagal cadence: effective in its place.

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Service, please

In response to the continuing deterioration of my home phone and DSL service, I figured I should look into the alternatives: either switch to cable, or else “upgrade” to the phone company’s fibre-optic service. So I went and set up a nice little chart on a pad of paper, comparing and contrasting features and prices, because when I set my mind to it I can be as organized as the next person. As long as the next person isn’t very organized. And I grabbed the most recent promotional fliers so that I could call actual humans with my many questions.

Well, the cable company’s flier lists a phone number that hasn’t been connected yet, so that didn’t get me very far. The phone company gives a number that seems to filter into their universal system — I’ve called a half-dozen numbers for this company, for various different purposes, and they all seem to get into the same menu system — and, after a little bit of bouncing around, I get a canned voice saying that there’s an “emergency situation” and that my call can’t be answered at this time.

Seriously, o corporate entities: I’m looking to be giving one of you money. Is having someone answering a phone call too much to ask?

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In concert

(Hey Nutshell fans! Yes, I haven’t updated in two months; I’ve been out in the world for a spell. I actually have three partially completed posts in the Drafts folder, that I might work on finishing in the near future. But this site has not yet been abandoned.)

Last weekend I was at the Tom Waits concert in Columbus, Ohio. This means that I’ve now seen two members of my personal pantheon of legendary singer-songwriters live: I caught Elvis Costello in Toronto on two different occasions as an undergraduate. The two performers make for an interesting contrast.

Costello, as a performer, is warm. As cool and biting as his lyrics can be, when he’s up on stage he makes you feel like there’s a connection there. Part of it’s in his banter, but I think he mostly carries it in his voice: rich and expressive, even with its rough patches and flaws. (The last time I saw him, his final song was sung without a microphone; he projected his voice to the very back of Massey Hall, and filled the room with his personality.)

Waits preserves a little more distance. Of course his singing voice isn’t conventionally… well… it isn’t conventional. It does, however, do the job; he’s as much of a virtuoso as anyone else on that stage with his instrument of choice. (And the back-up band was tight; the guitarist and the winds specialist, in particular, really had some stuff to strut.) But Waits is, self-consciously, a showman, and you never forget that this is pageantry.

Both performers, as you’d expect from artists with such a long catalogue, delight in putting new twists on old songs. Both of the Costello shows I saw featured a single accompanist (Steve Nieve on piano and keyboards), and so stripped-down classics were the order of the day(s). While Waits (disappointingly, at least to me) didn’t reach back past Swordfishtrombones, he did provide some clever reworkings of some of his more recent pieces.

All in all, though, I felt a little let-down at the end of the show last weekend. A lot of the experience now seems fleeting, and I can’t remember much more than a moment here and a moment there. Which isn’t to say that I’d pass up the opportunity to see him in concert again… but next time, I think I’ll try harder to persuade people to come with me. What I really felt the lack of was someone at the end of the show to compare notes with, to talk about the little musical jokes with.

Next time, perhaps.

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Election day

State law made it illegal to sell alcohol before 6:00pm today… when the polls closed.

As I was walking home at around 6:30, it pleased me greatly to see business booming at the local liquor store.

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My state of residence is in the peculiar situation of having people care about its primaries on Tuesday… or at least about one of the primaries on Tuesday. I’m not sure I’ve seen more than two signs/stickers/etc. supporting one or the other of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, and while I’m aware that there’s a Republican race for the local congressional seat, damned if I can tell you the name of the challenger.

However! At some point I got onto a Democratic Party list (possibly when I voted in their primary last year, maybe? Or the year before? They tend to be moderately more interesting than the Republican versions, and it’s open primaries hereabouts) and so I’ve been inundated with attention. I’ve gotten a phone call from each of the competing camps, reminding me politely where and when I can vote; I’ve had an Obama supporter come to my door with the same information; and of course I’ve been getting roughly ten pieces of glossy campaign literature during each of the last 2-3 weeks. Plus for a while something from the Clinton campaign in Indianapolis was calling my home once or twice a day, but never left any messages.

So hey, supposedly my vote is important. A pity that I’m so indifferent between the candidates, then… though in a good way, in that I’ll happily vote for either of them come November over McCain, whose judgement seems suspect and whose ideology of “national greatness” is worrisome. At the moment I’m leaning slightly towards Obama, mostly because he’s got a bit of a better record of talking sense; Clinton’s support for the gas tax vacation is the most recent blow against her in this regard.

But I might well change my mind.

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An open letter

Dear spammers,

Please stop sending me notices about how easy it is to get a mail-order degree. As someone who actually earned an advanced degree, your suggestions that it amounts to nothing but an empty qualification are offensive and irritating to me.


Dr. Matt

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Vox populi

I got polled the other day. Go me!

Specifically, I got a phone call from a nice robot at Survey USA, asking about my state’s upcoming primary: how likely I was to vote, which party I’d be voting in, and which candidates (presidential and gubernatorial) I was likely to back. Yes, my state hasn’t held their primary yet, which means that for the first time ever there’s attention being paid by the presidential candidates.

There was also some demographic-type questions: how old am I, am I a party member (we have open primaries, so you don’t need to be a member of Party X to vote in the Party X primary), am I conservative/moderate/liberal, and (oddly) am I pro-life or pro-choice. Some of these are the sorts of questions that I would hem and haw over if asked by an actual human, since they’re not ones that necessarily admit clean answers relying as they do on arguable preconceived notations… but faced with a prerecorded voice, I had no choice but to press a button on my phone. Progress!

So now I’m watching the website to see when the poll results get published. Though if I’d visited before the phone call I would probably never have picked up; their “Why did they call me?” page is emotional bullying from start to finish, and mostly bullshit to boot.

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