Thursday, April 30, 2009

Get your elbows off the table!

So my family and I were eating dinner tonight and the conversation ended up on manners and Ashley pointed out it was bad manners to put your elbows on the table. This example of bad manners has always bothered me, so I challenged her on it. Why? Because I couldn't think of any reason why it should be offensive, discourteous, or annoying to anyone else.

So Ashley does what she does when I challenge these things, she googled it. As she read me the results, I became even more convinced that it was a silly rule. It seemed that the most likely culprit of where this originated is noted here, and it's basically that in castles and great houses in England they didn't have large dining tables, they merely erected a temporary table that diners sat on one side of only. If you leaned on the table you could cause it to topple, which is obviously bad. So somewhere along this way this "rule" may have turned into "bad manners."

There are other explanations listed like you could be blocking others from being able to have conversation or if seated close together your elbows could cramp the space of the folks on either side of you. So sure, in those cases perhaps the act of putting your elbows on the table is indeed bad manners. But that's not because you have your elbows on the table, it's because your elbows on the table are infringing upon the will of others. The infringing on the will of others is the bad manners part, and shouldn't carry over to situations where you are NOT bothering anyone else with your elbows on the table. But these days we have enough room at our tables that this is very rarely a problem anyway!

Basically, it's an outdated part of what some folks consider "etiquette." In researching this, I found an interesting comment on a forum about this issue, and it was "etiquette is all about considering other people's sensibilities." I agree, but old rules that no longer bother anyone's sensibilities need a way to go away. Continuing them "because I said so" simply makes no sense.

Now, if you keep reading links on this subject you'll find all manner of other reasons why you shouldn't do it. Most seem contrived or completely outdated to me, and thus I'm now on a mission to destroy this tiny part of "etiquette." This rule must die.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where will we find our music?

I know, that's a strange question. But here we find ourselves in the iPod age and I have to wonder where we'll find new music. In the old days we relied on the radio to find our new music for us. I even remember shows every Tuesday night at 8pm where they'd play a couple new tracks from different albums and let you vote on which was better and such. DJs told us about the new bands and about changes in band members and when bands broke up. But now as more and more people get iPods and put their music collections on them, where will they find new music?

Oh, don't say iTunes. I just can't fathom a world where Apple's suggestions actually let you find new music you love. Sure, you can sample the new songs from the bands you already know, but past that I've never sat there just trying random artists I've never heard of. I'm sure some people do, but not most. Maybe they ultimately do come up with ways this can work, but for now no amount of "artificial intelligence" can do a good job of recommending music for me. My own assistant, who is pretty good at knowing what I like and don't like about most things, stays pretty befuddled by my music tastes.

Okay, the next way is social networking. Almost everyone is on Facebook or MySpace or Twitter and we all like to "tweet" about what we like, so maybe you hear from your friends who have similar tastes to yours. And then there's the first person, where we're riding in the car together and all listening to only one iPod. Okay, I get that, but it's still not terribly common to do that, I don't think.

You can still listen to the radio, but as has been pointed out by Jane on her blog, the radio can just plain suck. It's always seemed bad in the Triangle area of NC for some reason to me, and that's funny that I agree with Jane on that because I don't think she and I have much in common when it comes to music taste at all. And others who moved here from other areas seem to have the same opinion of the general state of radio in the Triangle. Why is that? I've been here for fifteen years now (!) and it's been that way the entire time.

Another old-fashioned method of finding new music is going to listen to bands at local clubs. But that's more a young person type thing to do. While popular and covering much of the music buying public, it still doesn't reach the vast majority of folks out there, I don't think.

So these days I find I listen to a LOT more satellite radio. I've got it in most of the vehicles I drive with any regularity and find I quite enjoy it. I can always find something I like one one of the "standby" type stations (80's, 90's, oldies, current country, etc), and when I want to branch out there are several good opportunities for that, too. For the last couple of years this has been my best way to find new music to add to my collection. But is it working for others? The subscription numbers and the fact that had XM and Sirius not been allowed to merge would have likely sent both into bankruptcy seem to indicate it's not catching on very well. So this one isn't helping the masses, at least not yet.

But maybe more people do have good local radio than not. Maybe those of us who don't were driven to the other alternatives and are doing quite well. Maybe the sum total of these methods is still better than back when it was all just AM radio or, uh, before radio at all (duh) and there is no problem whatsoever. I don't know. I just know it seems more difficult for me to find new music that I like these days. Seems like when I put the effort in I find it, so it's not a lack of music options. Maybe I'm just lazier. Or maybe I'm just pickier.

There was an episode of the old sitcom called What's Happening that's always stuck out in my mind. I don't remember the exact context, but the regular cast members (all high-school students) were talking to a football player who couldn't read and trying to figure out how he was passing his classes. They ascertained that one of his classes was "music appreciation." They asked what he did in that class. He said "well, they play me some music and I say 'I appreciate that!'" I often feel like I'd fail that class, because it might be too difficult for the teacher to find music that I appreciate. *cough*

At any rate, I suppose my point here is a general question more than any good point. How do you find your new music? I also wonder if there are people out there that don't care if they find new music or not. Do you get old and set in your ways such that you've heard all the new music you want to hear and will now just settle in with your collection and call it quits outside of that? Would it be okay if I did that? I sort of hope not, in one way, but in another, maybe that would be fine. Or do most people have no urge to find new music and just let it find them? Or do most people enjoy the hunt more than I do and find that all these new tools really make their lives easier, even if they spend more time doing it?

Man, I'm full of questions on this topic. I should have been in bed 45 minutes ago. But instead I was watching What's Happening minisodes on YouTube. *sigh*

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blog readers, the good, the bad, the mildly disfigured.

Okay, so they aren't that bad. But I have to stop and think. On the one hand, I find it very convenient that the Mac email program has the ability to let me subscribe to the blogs I want to follow and let me know when there are new posts. That's handy.

But on the other, I find that I no longer comment on my friend's blogs. It's a lot of extra clicks and the associated waiting to get the pages loaded to then comment. So I just don't do it. And I feel guilty about that, because as a blog writer, I like it when people comment. It lets me know that people are reading it, and gives me reason to continue to do it. I can't help but think most of my friends are the same way. Not that we wouldn't blog if we didn't get comments, but it's extra motivation and validation for what we do.

So what to do? I'm pondering this one and welcome your comments on what you do to solve this. Or what you think I should do. Or what you think I should watch on TV. Anything, just comment!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cadillac Records

Took some time to watch Cadillac Records tonight. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that rock-n-roll evolved mostly from the blues, but this movie is more a history of many of the people involved in that evolution, primarily Muddy Waters and to a lesser degree Etta James and Chuck Berry. It's "based on a true story", but I left this one wondering just how much of it was "based" and how much was "true." Did Little Walter really just shoot a man who was in a traveling band impersonating him? I'm skeptical.

That said, the story was very good. And for a movie with a good many recording artists having turned to acting, it had VERY good acting. I'd say the direction was very good, too. Writing was good. Casting was excellent with the exception of Cedric The Entertainer as Willie Dixon and the narrator at the beginning and end. But where it was lacking was in production quality. The editing was just plain odd...there were several scenes that I don't even understand why they made the movie. The musical performances were far too obviously studio recorded and then sync'ed...this is not hard to do properly these days.

Overall I'd say if you're a music lover, this is a good film to see. Even if the stories aren't completely accurate, I did feel like they gave a good sense of the emotion of the time. It also made me want to learn even more about Muddy Waters. I knew through interviews with people like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton that he was a major influence on the early days of rock-n-roll, but he was much more than that. While he never played much rock-n-roll, he did sort of champion it through his influence at Chess Records.

Definitely a recommended movie, particularly for music lovers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The "big one."

When NASCAR races at Talledega, they always talk about when "the big one" is going to happen. "The big one" is the inevitable large crash that takes out much of the field thanks to the tight racing caused by the restrictor plate. Well, I didn't involve anyone else, but today I had my "big one."

We were in our qualifying session for the first of the two races at the SCCA Double National at VIR. I was drafting with Glenn Stephens (of Traqmate fame and a heck of a nice guy...thanks for the data help this weekend!) trying to get a good time in when I overcooked the entry to Oak Tree just a little and ended up looping it part of the way around. Glenn and I hadn't gotten a clean lap up to that point, but were still motoring pretty good. But Glenn got away, and I checked the track for traffic and took off. Never even killed the car, and I really only did half a spin to a stop with the rear wheels off the pavement.

I made one mistake, and that was not checking my brakes. Something about that off caused my front left brake line to get cut. I went full bore up the back straight and was passed near the end of it by another Spec Miata. But I still hit fifth gear and was right on his tail going into roller coaster. He hit the brakes and I did as well, only my pedal went to the floor. I dove to the inside of him so as not to hit him (that would have been ugly for both of us!). As I was navigating his car and trying to make sure he didn't turn into me (nobody in their right mind would try a pass like that, so I knew there was a good chance he wouldn't see me or at least wouldn't be expecting me to be doing that), I kept pumping the brake pedal. I'm pretty sure I got five and likely six pumps before I left the pavement, but none did anything. As I cleared his car I tried to turn the car back to the right. As I did I knew it wasn't going to stay on the pavement, but I got it turned just enough to go sideways in the dirt, which helped scrub a LITTLE speed off. I hit a peak of 115MPH and the data showed I was only down to 100MPH when I hit the wall with the right rear corner.
It would appear my Miata will live another day, too! Thanks to the awesome engineering by Mazda it would appear this thing still has straight frame rails and everything is "merely superficial." Not so superficial that it will buff out (as Tom at OPM said, "we didn't bring that much wax!"), but not so bad, ultimately. Especially for a triple digit hit. I can't complain too much, but I can take this moment to thank all the fine folks that helped me out this weekend, inlcuding Reid Allred, Glenn Austin from Traqmate Data Systems, OPM Autosports, and Rossini Race Engines.

For whatever it's worth, it looks like I would have been 11th on the grid (and maybe higher, a few people were found illegal in impound after qualifying) on my time now, and could have probably improved to around sixth or seventh if I had some clean track and working brakes. Oh well, we live to race another day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I hate toilet paper.

Well, okay, I'd rather not go without it, but man, why does it have to be so annoying? Is there no "perfect" brand? I think we've tried them all at some point or another. And strangely, this is not about soft versus, err, un-soft. This is about everything else.

Ever try to blow your nose with toilet paper? Of course you have. Ever notice how some brands seem to generate all sorts of "dust" into the air when you do? I hate that stuff. You're breathing all those fibers in when you inhale during a nose blowing session. Yuck.

Then there's my most recent peeve, and that's with the glue holding the roll together when you first go to use it. Seems like lately the brand we normally use is using WAY more glue than normal. It doesn't seep in past the first layer, but it's a HUGE spot of glue. You tear and tear and tear and end up with little bits of paper all over the floor before you can get that layer started. DRIVES ME INSANE. I just want to wipe! Does it have to be this annoying?!?

And then you've got some brands where I swear the stuff is so thick that a roll lasts no time, then some so thin it lasts forever. Here's the thing...when the paper is that thin, well, I don't want it to last forever! Ca piche? Too thick can surprise you such that you pull off a strip of it only to find that when you wad it up you've got an entire tree in your hand. Ugh. Why can't we get an international standard for toilet paper? Someone start a consortium or something.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Looks like we've got our own groundhog at the Carefree Ranch.

Interestingly, I found that they are considered "game animals." That means proper hunting licensing laws apply. In this case the season is "open", meaning this sucker is in jeopardy. Except I kind of dig watching him forage around. He's been around on the flood plain the last couple days quite a lot of the time.

This image was taken with a 400mm zoom lens from my office window. A tripod would be necessary to get it any clearer, which I may do. He's a little too sensitive for me to get him outside easily, but he seems new to the area, so perhaps he'll acclimate some to the noise from the house and I can sneak up on him outside for a little better shot. Err, with the camera! Shot with the camera! *cough*