Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
As hobbies, they all have different requirements from the perspective of time commitment. being successful as an actor requires a focused commitment of between 4 and 8 weeks at a time. Being successful as a birder has no hard and fast rules, as long as you are committed to a lot of early mornings. Being a successful race official has a more structured schedule - I already know the bulk of my weekend commitments for 2009, as race schedules must be fixed well in advance.
But for me, enjoyment and aptitude are not necessarily enough to make a hobby a passion. The third ingredient is social interaction, and that is the other component that each of these three share that has caused me to pursue one over the others at different phases of my life. Theater was my primary hobby throughout my undergraduate college years, acting in 11 shows throughout my 4 years at Washington & Jefferson College. It was the people I acted with for 4 years, and the friends that I made there that really turned theater into a passion. When I left for graduate school, I left the core social group that I had come to know so well, and because I was afraid to commit the same level of effort to theater that I had as an undergrad, I drifted away from theater, and it was 12 years before I did another show. In graduate school, birding became my primary hobby, and it really was turned into a passion when I was at the University of Florida. It was there that I got involved with the Gainesville birding community, which provided that key social element. However, when I moved to Virginia in 2001, a couple of negative interactions left me with the impression that the Northern Virginia birders operated in a closed clique, and that took the passion out of local birding for me. I still love to travel and bird, and I still love to go to Florida to bird with the friends I made there. I still travel to Gainesville every year to participate in their Christmas Bird Count. Though it would be a lot easier and cheaper to stay and do the local Northern Virginia counts, it would not be as fun. This year marks my 15th Gainesville CBC, with the last 11 of them requiring me to travel either from New Mexico (1998 - 2000) or Virginia (2001 - present) to participate. It does make me a bit sad that I don't have that passion to go out and bird locally anymore - and it makes me think that I can't really call myself a birder anymore. I'm more like one of those people I used to look down on - the birder who only chases rarities, or who only travels to other locales to have someone show them new birds. Perhaps it is time to give the local birding community another shot, especially during these winter months when racing, my current "Enjoyment+Aptitude+Social=Passion" is in its off-season. Maybe a New Years Resolution is in order for 2009.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Link the Loot
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The current lineup of G n' R
OK, it has been over six weeks since I last made a post here, and my one lone reader long ago stopped checking for updates. What can I say, a combination of a heavy workload and a severe mental rut left me with little energy or desire to communicate with, well, anyone really. Hopefully I'm starting to pull out of that, so PERHAPS there will be more frequent updates here.
So, on to the news. At midnight tonight, in what is sure to be the definition of "anti-climactic", the "new" Guns n' Roses album Chinese Democracy debuts. Actually, when I go back and re-read that sentence, the words "Guns n' Roses and "debuts" are also deserving of their own set of quotation marks.
"new" - work allegedly started on this album in 1994. Axl Rose has promised a finished version for at least the last nine years. Rumors suggest that well in excess of 13 million dollars has been spent on the recording of this record.
"Guns n' Roses" - The only member remaining from their superb 1987 major label debut "Appetite for Destruction" is lead singer Rose. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed remains from the "Use Your Illusion" albums released in 1991. The current G n' R lineup is Axl Rose: vocals, Dizzy Reed: keyboards, Tommy Stinson: bass, Bumblefoot: lead guitar, Richard Fortus: rhythm guitar, Frank Ferrer: drums Chris Pitman: instrumentalist. And yes, you are forgiven for saying "who?" Bumblefoot is actually the third lead guitarist used on the project, following Buckethead and Robin Finck. If you want to hear what classic Guns n' Roses should sound like today, pick up either of the releases from Velvet Revolver, which feature original Guns guitarist Slash, original bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer from the "Use Your Illusion" era Matt Sorum, along with vocals from Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. Alas, Weiland has rejoined Stone Temple Pilots, and Velvet Revolver is on indefinite hiatus after recently being dropped by their record label.
"debuts" - It is possible that a few of these new songs may stimulate a feeling of deja vu in some people. A recording of the song "I.R.S" was leaked in 2003, and again in 2006, along with demos for three other songs on the album: "Better", "Catcher in the Rye", and "There Was a Time". In addition, G n' R has been playing some of these songs in their infrequent concert appearances since 2001.
So, all that said, this record actually doesn't suck. I was prepared to hate it, but surprisingly I don't. None of the songs sound like they would fit on "Appetite for Destruction", but "Street of Dreams", with its piano riffs and orchestral backing, and the aforementioned "I.R.S" would both sound at home on "Use Your Illusion". The title track, which has been released as the first single, is a decent rocker. "Shackler's Revenge" bears no resemblance to the G n' R of old, but carries more of a new metal vibe with it's detuned guitars and industrial rhythm. Some of the songs are outright misses. On "If the World" Rose sounds like he is channeling Rik Emmet, singer for the 1980's Canadian power trio Triumph.
Chinese Democracy is currently streaming on Guns & Roses Myspace page. At midnight it will be available as a download from Itunes, and probably elsewhere. However, if you want to buy a cd, you will have to go to Best Buy, as that is the only place they will be sold. Oh, and back in March, Dr. Pepper stated that they would give everyone in America a free Dr. Pepper if Chinese Democracy was released in 2008. So starting at midnight and lasting 24 hours, you can get a coupon for a free 20 oz Dr. Pepper on the Dr. Pepper website.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
As the classic Christopher Walken sketch on SNL taught us - you can never have too much cowbell! Well, now you can make it happen!
Just go to
Upload any mp3
Select the desired amount of "cowbell"
Select the desired amount of "Walken"
Ta da! Listen to your song.
(Thanks to worldofhiglet for the link!)
Sunday, October 5, 2008
"This is a comedic failure beyond any I've ever seen. Not funny ever. I'm dumber for watching it."
Really fun and waay out there -- I love it"
"Oh God does this show suck"
"I love this show. Of course I'm very ill"
Friday, October 3, 2008
One of my favorite artists released a new cd last week. "Acid Tongue" is Jenny Lewis' follow-up to her 2006 release (with the Watson Twins) "Rabbit Fur Coat". Who is Jenny Lewis, you ask? Jenny Lewis is the lead singer for Rilo Kiley. Uh huh. And who is Rilo Kiley? Rilo Kiley is the LA indie band formed in 1999 by Lewis and fellow former child actor Blake Sennett. Though I guess I should say former indie band, since their 4th release, 2007's "Under the Blacklight", was their 1st major label release (Warner Bros). But what the heck, I'm still calling her an indie goddess because she and Rilo Kiley are still relatively unkown to much of the music listening public. Rilo Kiley is often mentioned in the same breath as Death Cab for Cutie, which is not surprising since their members seem to spend a lot of time jumping into side projects with one another, and because both bands' early records were released on Seattle-based Barsuk Records. One area that Rilo Kiley has had mainstream success is in marketing songs to tv and movies - various songs have been used in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Dawson's Creek", "The O.C.", "Weeds", "Nip/Tuck", "Grey's Anatomy", "Must Love Dogs", and "John Tucker Must Die".
Jenny's solo work is more acoustic and folkie than her work with Rilo Kiley, and "Acid Tongue" features guest appearances by Elvis Costello, M. Ward, and Zooey Deschanel. I do not have any of her current record to link to here as an example, as there are no official video releases yet. There are a number of bootleg video recordings on YouTube of Jenny performing songs off the new album, including the title track, "Jack Killed Mom", and "See Fernando", but I'm not linking to them because they are primarily shaky hand-shot video.
That said, below here are two Rilo Kiley songs, and a Jenny Lewis song from her first solo album. Give them a listen!
Rilo Kiley, "Portions for Foxes", from the album More Adventurous
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, "You Are What You Love", from the album Rabbit Fur Coat
Rilo Kiley, "The Moneymaker", from the album Under the Blacklight
Try it yourself. It's easier than last.fm because you don't have to search for and add the artists yourself, and you may find some new artists you didn't know of before.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Paul Newman passed away today after a long but private battle with lung cancer. Tributes will certainly come pouring forth honoring him for his acting career and his philanthropic work through his Newman's Own brand and his Hole-In-the-Wall camps. I want to honor Paul for his other overriding passion - racing.
Paul Newman did not start racing until he was 47 years old. His interest in racing was spurred by his role in the 1969 movie "Winning". Paul participated in his first race in 1972, and immediately showed an aptitude for the sport. Yes, he could afford the best equipment, but he also had an undeniable talent for road racing. Newman participated in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Championship Runoffs 14 times, winning in 1975, 1979, 1985, 1986. He last participated in the SCCA National Championships in 2002 at age 77. Newman co-founded Newman-Haas Racing in the Champ Car Indycar Series in 1983 with his partner Carl Haas, and over the years employed such legendary drivers as Mario and Michael Andretti and Nigel Mansell.
Throughout SCCA Newman was not viewed as a celebrity, but as just another racer. He was often referred to simply as PLN, which were the three intials that he placed above the drivers side window of his race cars, where drivers typically put their names. He continued to race well into his golden years, competing in the 2005 Daytona 24 hr Endurance Race at age 80. He won his class in the 1995 Daytona 24 hr race at age 70.
Paul Newman was a tremendous embassador for amateur sports car racing in the U.S. His high profile, long-term involvement, and success in both amateur and pro racing helped helped shine a spotlight on a niche sport. He will be greatly missed.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Rex Rowan at Power's Park Overlooking Newnan's Lake, 2002?
When I moved to Gainesville, Florida in August 1992, I considered myself a birder. And I was a birder, by most standard definitions of the word, but I was a rank amateur compared to the folks that comprised the birding community in Gainesville. For most of my first two years in Gainesville I birded alone, though occasionally I went on one of the many field trips sponsored by Alachua Audubon. My birding was somewhat limited due to the fact that I did not have a car, electing to make my daily commutes to the UF campus via bicycle. I did my first Gainesville Christmas Bird Count in December 1994. It was there that I first met Rex Rowan. Rex's name was familiar to me from the visitor's sighting log kept at the LaChua Trail trailhead, and I knew he was a birder of some standing in the local community. Rex introduced himself, and casually said that we should go birding sometime. I agreed, but was too embarrassed to say that I didn't have a car, and I certainly didn't want to impose on Rex or anyone else to have to provide transportation for me. As a result, it was another 8 months before I encountered Rex again. In August of 1995 a few fellow entomology students and I engaged Rex's services to walk La Chua trail with us to show us the flocks of Mississippi kites which congregate there prior to migration. That was officially the start of my tenure as a member of the Gainesville birding community. Within weeks of that hike, I met Mike Manetz, and Rex and Mike spent the next four years hauling me around north Florida looking at birds. More importantly they became valued friends. Even though I haven't lived there in over 10 years, I still consider myself a member of the Gainesville birding community. And aside from birding, I have Rex to blame for introducing me to the Harry Potter books, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the TV world of Joss Whedon.
All of this is just background for saying HAPPY 52nd BIRTHDAY to Rex. Hope you have a great day!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
The trailer for the Season 1 DVDs. Warning - the audio is NSFW.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Definitely a long tiring weekend for us workers, though. By the end of the weekend my feet hurt from standing for 10 hours a day, and my knees were making very annoying popping noises. Monday was a weird day, with 3 ambulance calls and a life-flight, and not one of them related to on-track racing action! One was for a worker who injured his arm, didn't realize how badly he had injured it and ended up going into shock. One was for a child who fell about 8 feet out of a viewing tower onto the pavement below, and ended up being med-evaced by helicopter (though word has it he is fine and at home), and one was for a flagger who fell and broke her arm.
Our videographer for the Washington, D.C. Region puts together some entertaining videos every year for our annual year-end banquet. Below is one such video highlighting some of the racing action from last year. Special thanks to Daniela Anderson for all her hard work filming and editing the videos.
Video by Daniela Anderson
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
As mentioned in the Part 1 post, the nights of June 3 and June 4 will be spent at Migunga Forest camp outside the village of Mto wa Mbu. Mto wa Mbu literally translates as "River of Mosquitos". The local chamber of commerce might want to consider a name change. After a morning game drive in Lake Manyara National Park on the morning of June 5, we depart Migunga Forest Camp for our second destination, Ngorongoro Crater. The world's largest intact volcanic caldera, Ngorongoro Crater is a highlight of our itinerary that we visit on two separate occasions. Our lodging for the first two night visit to this location will be Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, located on the eastern rim of the caldera with a virtually private road for accessing the caldera floor. It definitely appears to be a step up from Migunga Forest Camp, with full suites, restaurant, solarium, and pool. The nights of June 5 and 6 will be spent at Ngorongoro Sopa, with a full day game drive on the crater floor on June 6.
On the caldera floor we may encounter some of Africa's densest populations of large mammals, including the endangered black rhinoceros. Somewhere between 10 and 20 black rhinos inhabit Ngorongoro, and this likely represents are best chance to encounter one.
The crater is home to roughly 25,000 large mammals, including 7000 wildebeast, 4000 zebra, 4000 African buffalo, 3000 Grant's and Thomson's gazelles, and lesser numbers of eland, mountain reedbuck, elephants, lions, and hippos. The larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area is also home to Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world.
Vitelline Masked Weaver
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Then to top off the weekend, I had to go car shopping today, which resulted in a new 2009 Mazda 3s hatchback in the driveway. My old Nissan, which I've owned for over 10 years, was still running fine, but at 181,000 miles was reaching the point where things were starting to fail. The air conditioning went out a month ago, it needed tires to pass inspection, I broke a wheel stud while rotating tires, it was about ready for brakes, etc. Since the registration was expiring at the end of August, I decided it was time for a new car. It sucks to have a car payment for the first time in six years, but I guess I really can't complain too much. I'm almost 42 years old and this is only the third car I've had to buy! If this one lasts as long as the last one, I'll be in the market for another new one somewhere around 2020.
Friday, August 22, 2008
I purchased an airline ticket today for my vacation next year - a 17 day safari through Tanzania arranged by my undergraduate mentor, Dr. Vin Lawrence. To ease the pain of shelling out that much money (the airfare had gone up almost $600 since I last checked a month and a half ago!), I thought I'd write about the trip to get me excited again. So, this is the first of a series of posts previewing the various spots we will be visiting on Safari. I leave Washington Dulles aboard Northwest Airlines at 5:35 pm on June 1, arriving in Amsterdam at 7:20 am on June 2. After meeting up with the rest of the group, we depart Amsterdam aboard KLM airlines at 10:30 am, arriving in Kilamanjaro, Tanzania at 7:55 pm. A total of sixteen and a half hours flying time, with a 3 hour layover. Upon arrival we transfer to the Klub Afriko Hotel (actually a series of 7 bungalows) outside the town of Arusha. On our first full day, we travel to Lake Manyara National Park for two nights at the "rustic" Migunga Forest Camp. Lake Manyara lies at the base of the Rift Valley Escarpment in Northern Tanzania. Smallish in size, Lake Manyara NP covers only 127 square miles, about two-thirds of which are the lake itself. The rest of the park is comprised of ground water forest, acacia woodlands, open grassland, and lake shore habitats. The name Manyara comes from the Maasai word for the plant Euphorbia tirucalli, which is used by the Maasai to construct living fences for livestock enclosures. Lake Manyara NP is best known for its baboon troops, and as one of only two places in the world with a population of "tree climbing lions". The lions of Manyara are well know for their ability to climb and slumber in the acacia trees around the lake.
Tree Climbing Lions in Lake Manyara NP.
The park is also home to hippos, elephants, buffalo, impala, warthogs, and giraffes, and over 380 species of birds have been recorded within the park.
Hippos in Lake Manyara
Woodland Kingfisher, Lake Manyara
Southern Ground Hornbill, Lake Manyara NP
Giraffes, Lake Manyara NP
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Last night the women's beach volleyball team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh claimed their second consecutive Olympic gold medal. They dominated their opponents and never lost a set throughout the tournament. I'm sure my salute to Misty in this space a couple of weeks ago provided the final bit of inspiration they needed to capture the gold. I mean, this blog has had forty hits, I'm sure one of those must have been Misty or Kerri, right? Anyway, congratulations Misty and Kerri for once again standing up and showing the rest of the world that, without a doubt, our tall hot chicks are better than their tall hot chicks.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sarah Bareilles and Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz at Nissan Pavilion
If you had asked me to name a Maroon 5 song prior to the show, I would not have been able to. I was sure I had heard songs of theirs, but I never paid attention to them. Probably still won't pay attention to them, but I did recognize about four of the songs they played. Maroon 5 is the type of band that teenage girls graduate to when they've outgrown Miley Cyrus and the boy-band du jour. And there were many screaming females in the audience, singing along to every song. Some thoughts on M5:
1) They are most listenable when they're adopting a kind of 70's funk groove, such as on the songs "Harder to Breathe" and "Wake-up Call"
2) Lead singer Adam Levine looked disturblingly like actor Seth Green onstage
3) On some songs (e.g. Sunday Morning), I thought I was listening to 90's British singer Jamiroquai
Maroon 5 at Nissan Pavilion, 8/16/08
Counting Crows took the stage and opened with "Rain King", but halfway through the song singer Adam Duritz wandered into the middle of "Mr. Jones", prompting the lady sitting next to me to wonder just how stoned he was. We finally concluded the excursion was planned, as he eventually made his way back to "Rain King" and finished the song. The first few songs suffered from sound problems that made it difficult to hear the vocals, which was not helped by the fact that Duritz's vocal range falls squarely into the sonic range of the guitars. Those issues seemed to be worked out, though, and he was in fine vocal form the rest of the night. He also showed no signs of the ankle injury he suffered on stage a few weeks ago, which caused the band to play semi-acoustic versions of their set at several recent shows. The crows were joined onstage at one point by Sarah Bareilles and a bunch of kids for the song "Hangin' Around". I didn't keep track of a set list, but since this is a co-headline tour, sets were a bit shorter than you expect with a single headline act.
Counting Crows Singer Adam Duritz, Nissan Pavilion, 8/16/08
Counting Crows performing "Long December", Nissan Pavilion, 8/16/08
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Writer Joss Whedon's story of a high-school cheerleader who battles the undead suffers a lackluster debut as a movie, but resurfaces as a hit TV series. Includes interviews with Whedon and star Sarah Michelle Gellar, who came to the show as a 17-year-old soap-opera actress.
The cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at a March 2008 reunion.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Below you can check out K's Choice in the video for "Mr. Freeze" off their 1995 album Paradise In Me, and Sarah doing an acoustic version of "The Soldier Song" off her 2007 release Shine. Learn more at http://www.sarahbettens.net/
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Anyway, to the issue at hand - Kiva is trying to win an award of $1.5 million from the American Express Members Project, which awards money to deserving organizations as selected by American Express Cardmembers. But you do not have to be a cardmember to participate here! Just go to: www.membersproject.com/project/view/P6KQEI
If you have an online account with AMEX, just login, if not you can login through the guest login button. You should be on the KIVA Loans That Change Lives page, if not you can get there by typing Kiva in the keyword search box. Once on the Kiva page, just hit the "Nominate This Project" button. At the end of September AMEX will award 2.5 million dollars to the top 5 projects, with the #1 project getting 1.5 million of the money.
And so, without further ado, the totally randomly selected athlete is.....beach vollyball player Misty May-Treanor! I salute you Misty for representing our country against the best beach volleyball players those damn foreigners can come up with. I salute you for the intensive training you endure, and your dedication to a vocation where you must wear swimsuits every day. As part of my support, I promise to follow your progress in Beijing very closely. I will salute you by watching every match, perhaps even TIVOing them so I can salute you over and over again. I may even salute your partner, Kerri Walsh, once or twice.
So thank you Misty May-Treanor. You make me proud to be an American.
Misty May-Treanor - American Patriot
Friday, August 8, 2008
First the ballad: "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy. With a name like A Fine Frenzy, you'd think you might be listening to an indie rock quartet, maybe even an Emo band. But no, A Fine Frenzy is actually 22 year old Alison Sudol. Her debut album One Cell in the Sea has been out for just over a year, but I had never come across her until last week. Piano-driven melodic melancholia is an apt description for some of her songs, including "Almost Lover". But even the majority of the sad songs I find to be strangely uplifting at the same time. Melancholy lyrics set to an upbeat piano melody. Listening to songs on the album such as "Think of You", "Ashes and Wine", and "Almost Lover", you can't help but think that there is someone out there who has done this girl some serious wrong in her life. One commenter on "Almost Lover" had the following to say:
Yep, I think I agree with that. Here is Alison performing "Almost Lover" on VH1 .
"One day I will find the man who inspired her to write this song.
Shake his hand for introducing such a fine piece of musical art into this world.
And then kick the living shit out of him for breaking her heart."
The second song is "Cowboys" by Counting Crows, which for my money is the best song Counting Crows have released in years. When I first heard the song, I assumed it was expressing the frustrations of a man whose life had not turned out the way he planned "This is a list of things I should have been but I'm not; This is a list of things I should have seen but I'm not seeing". On repeated listenings I realized that it is definitely darker than that - it is a man on the verge of acting out on the perceived wrongs he has suffered; who feels insignificant and beaten down, and unnoticed by everyone- especially the woman he is obsessed with.
"The look in your eyes
As his fingertips slid down your neck and made you shiver
I'm just turning away from where I should have been
Because I am not anything, oh, anything, oh"
"You look at me, so please won't you look at me?
'Cause I'm not seeing you look at me
Oh, I will make you look at me
Or I am not anything, oh, anything, no, no, no, no"
Still a rocking song though!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
"I am dumber for having watched this steaming pile for even five minutes. Please tell me no one actually got paid to create this dung heap"
"This is genius. ... I feel so sorry for people who won't "get it" due to inferior comedy genes within their bodies ("get'r dun")"Judge for yourself.
Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show
2 Hot Girls in the Shower