Tuesday, September 29, 2015

increase in rank

It seems I have received an unexpected yet completely welcome promotion. While we were eating breakfast, my daughter informed me that I am now "King of the Robots." Needless to say, I am thrilled and honored. And, if any of my royal subjects are reading this, you have a full week to bring me your tributes.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

an informal judgement about the medical profession

I am at the age, mental, and physical condition to where I have seen and continue to feel a certain number of medical professionals. This means that I know waiting rooms. And while I don't have enough data to extrapolate with any degree of statistical significance, I can say this: if this swanky leather chair waiting room is any indication, psychiatrists have the nicest digs

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

new insect taxonomy

Today, my daughter showed a certain amount of aptitude towards becoming an entomologist. As we were walking towards my car, we saw some wasps flying around. My girl looked at me and solemnly informed me, "Daddy, you see those bugs? Those are daytime bats."

Admittedly, she might still need more direction.

collective creativity

When I teach a class I've taught before, my usual modus operandi (or however you spell that; why doesn't my computer's spell check do Latin?) is to look at the lesson plan from the last time I taught that day's class, copy it over to the current class's lesson plan file, and tweak as needed. Today, when I looked at last semester's lesson for today's Business Writing section? Frankly, I have no idea what I was thinking. It pretty much had to be scrapped.

Luckily, I have a secret weapon: TedTalks. They are almost always entertaining and informative, and I can usually find one which fits my needs. Today's one, in spite of the distraction from the speaker's shoulder pads, was particularly up my alley:

If I had a time machine, I would go back and make all my former bosses see this. Ah, life could've been so much better.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

and another joy!

Back in December 2013, I recorded a live set for the local PBS station. It was for their live music show Livewire. It was the acoustic showcase. Additionally, they asked us to do Christmas songs for a holiday special. So I did my set, complete with my own original Christmas song "Xmas in the Drunk Tank." And then I waited for it to be aired. And waited. And waited.

I just found out they actually broadcasted the acoustic showcase episode back in March. No one told me. And they don't have Youtube clips to show me.

It's one of those days.

Adrian shows cancelled

A while back, I was booked for a bunch of shows at a venue in Adrian, Michigan. They had me going through the end of the year, and I was ecstatic. I thought I made a break-through as a solo artist. I was starting to actually make profit! Moreover, I was able to meet my "I need to play a gig a month or I start to go crazy" requirement.

I played the first show, and it was really fun. The place was pretty empty, but I assumed I just had the worst luck of the draw. Crowds can never really be all that predictable. Nevertheless, I vowed to really polish my act and make sure I was ready for the next gig. I wanted to keep coming back. I wanted to become a regular draw.

About ten minutes ago, I just found out that the venue has decided to quit doing music. Apparently, their business is down, and they just could not afford to pay talent anymore. Those remaining gigs of mine, all the way through December? Cancelled.

Anyone need an acoustic guy? Or better yet, anyone got anything to stop me from having a depressive fit?

manic thrills

Where does a sober person find joy? It's been a question ever since I quit drinking. I don't do illegal drugs. I don't eat any meat, not even barbecue. And I'm too broke to even do shopping therapy. So what can one do?

Lately, I've started to act like a madman. My biggest act of pure insanity occurs when I use the restroom at work and no one else is inside. When this is the case, I use both of the air hand dryers to dry my hands. At the same time! Wooohooo! Party!!!!!

I'm dangerous, baby.

Monday, September 21, 2015

another album project

I seem to be at a stage of music overload lately...and I'm okay with that.

I've never understood people who have problems writing new songs. I treat songwriting as a muscle; if I don't exercise it regularly, it will atrophy. So I keep writing. I finish writing ideas that don't start out too well...because by the time I'm finished with them, who knows? And, as a result, I tend to get ideas pop into my head. Saturday, as I was getting ready to go into the living room, I had chords and a melody pop into my skull. That one will be the next writing project

unlocking a key to the universe

Lately, I'm on a roll. I'm caught up on grading. My wife and kid still seem to like me. I got to hang out with friends, and it wasn't even a special occasion. All of this on top of mastering the art of folding a fitted sheet? Unbelievable good luck.

Today, it got even better. I work at a university, so of course most of my work day's energy is spent trying to find a parking spot. There is absolutely never enough parking. I'm not sure who said it first, but the old adage, "a university is a diverse group of students, faculty, workers, and administrators who all come together to complain about parking" is absolutely true. Why, the building in which I work, in the plaque describing all the green technology and ideas they used in its recent reconstruction, even brags about not adding any more parking spaces (in a supposed effort to "encourage ride sharing"). Add to this parking services's habit of randomly closing off spaces, and it is assured that many people start off their school day trying to suppress their parking rage.

The lot by our building is (I am told) completely clogged up by 8am. If you get here later than that, you can only get a space by endlessly circling the lot in the hopes of spotting someone leaving and getting there to grab their space before someone else snipes it. One day, I circled the lot for 40 minutes before finding a space (and then accidentally locking my keys in the car while exiting...sigh). So I've started to park in a faraway (read: other side of the campus) lot and just hoof it. What the hell...I need the exercise.

Today, though, when I went to park, parking services had (of course) randomly shut down a significant portion of spaces, so there were no vacancies. I tried the lot near my building, but it was full...and I didn't feel like going on a snipe hunt. I left, resigned to parking a good mile away.

I turned into a lot on campus on a whim, even though the front was stuffed with cars. Lo and behold, I turned a corner to find...an empty space! Then another...then another? The lot on the side of the building (which I will not name) was half-filled...at 10:30, no less. Spaces! Regularly open spaces! Glorious spaces!

The skies opened, and I was hit by rays of light. The angels began their choir. Everything took on a technicolor hue. I have been given the key to the universe of parking on campus!

I promise I will try to remain humble.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I've been saying for a while now that the older I get, the more politically radical I get. Well, earlier, I found myself reading an interview with the head of Communist Party USA...and I couldn't find myself disagreeing with anything he said. I wonder, however, how 1980s me would've taken this news.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

one more RnB thing

Emma Franklin's version (the original) of "Piece of My Heart just came on, and with apologies to Joplin fans, but it blows away the more popular cover. But then again, I feel the same way about the aforementioned "Tainted Love" being superior to the 80s cover. A few other songs have come on, and in every case, the original was better.

The lesson? It's cool to cover old RnB, but don't ever expect to outdo it.

creepy songs

I'm stuck in traffic, at what would normally be two minutes from my exit. So what am I thinking? About how creepy the world is. And what's causing me to think think this way? Current events, yes, but mostly RnB.

A while back, I combed through my mp3s and put together a 180 song folder of the best of Motown, Staxs/Volt, Chess, Atlantic, and Muscle Shoals. Whenever I'm working on songwriting, I put the folder on random play when I'm on the road. It's very awesome and educational usually. Today, though, it's a bit unnerving. I seem to keep hitting the most frightening lyrics. "Tainted Love" is, when done by the original female singer, so much more obviously about an abusive relationship. Then I hit "He Was Really Saying Something." Stalking. "Jimmy Mack?" Stalking again..but also about how weak-willed women are. And "Shake, Rattle & Roll" is just straight misogyny.

I realize it could be much worse; after all, Country music even has a standard sub-genre called "the murder ballad." But really, there's not a genre which comes off okay upon examination. Today's selection is just peculiarly focusing on how rotten it can be to be a female.

It's not like it's easy to be any non-dominant person...just ask Ahmed Mohamed. Yet that songwriters (and other artists) feel free to be so blatant and open about it? Frightening.

It definitely pushes me to ignore lyrics whenever I listen to huge swaths of music. It does, however make me feel better about my insistence to, when writing my own songs, to make sure I'm treating them with respect and trying to actually say something.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

mood swings

The more I think about it, the more I've come to one conclusion: my mind just doesn't make any damn sense.

Friday, a simple discussion on household finances threw me into a horrible depression. I'm talking about "the entire world is doomed"/feeling weighed down by a thousand pounds of sludge/punched in the torso-level depression. Saturday, my apathetic audience threw me into a less intense but longer funk. Typical depression...the slightest tremor causes an unpredictable level of fit.

Yesterday, though, everything changed. When I got close to work, the oil pressure light in my car started blinking. On the way to grab my kid from day care, I looked at the oil pressure gauge, and it was just a hair away from the red zone. I stopped to check the oil, but it was fine. When I got home, I did some research online which was confirmed by a call to my mechanic this morning. The verdict? My car's time is swiftly approaching. It will not last through the winter. It's almost time to grab a rifle and take it behind the barn.

Surprisingly, I'm actually feeling fairly zen about the whole deal. My car is well beyond saving without investing roughly three point seven times its blue book value into the repairs. And I can by no means afford to replace it. Yet, for some reason, the prospect of taking even more debt than I have already to buy a new (to me, anyway) car I had no intention of getting has me feeling...pretty okay, actually.

The randomness of my depression often surprises me. Now...anyone got a car they want to give me?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

alternate explanation

I've given some thoughts to the events of yesterday, and I now have a different interpretation: I must be a wizard.

Think about it. I was able to play four sets and barely be acknowledged. Invisibility. I was able to perfectly fold a fitted sheet. Manipulating the laws of physics. I have arthritis in two places and bursitis in one, but they are all on the right side of my body. Cursed.

The only bummer here is that my apparent wizardry did not manifest itself in a heavy skillet of alchemy. I could use that. I got credit card debt.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Today I played four sets to the most staggeringly indifferent crowd to whom I've played in ages. This was at my favorite bar, during a local festival which is usually my favorite weekend of the year. I had three people clap, and the rest ignored me totally. During the last set, no reaction at all...and I started to question my actual existence. I walked back to my car with my head battling between "some people do claim to like me, so what happened tonight?," "how did this happen when I thought I played pretty well?" and "Geez, I must really suck."

On the other hand, I did tonight finally master the skill of folding a fitted sheet.

One must take whatever balance one can get.

the future looks bright 9/12/15

Earlier this morning, my daughter took a bite out of her waffle, examined it, and said, "hey, this looks like PacMan!" She then got up and started running laps around the kitchen, yelling "wakkawakkawakka...."

As I've said, the future is in good hands.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

ups, downs, parking

It started off so well, this day. A rare shower where my next door neighbor was not alternately scalding and freezing me by random water usage. A good hair and beard day. Cold brew coffee. Snuggle time with my daughter, followed by her non-stop comedy routine as I drove her to daycare. No traffic on the ride to work.

Then it went all wrong with parking (as it is wont to do). Got to campus in plenty of time, only to have to circle various lots for an honest forty minutes (including waiting for five minutes each for two different cars to leave, only to figure out the drivers in question were just hanging out, with running car and lights). Finally got a space, only to have the keys fall out of my pocket when I exited my vehicle. A good twenty five minute wait for the cops to arrive. Five minutes for said officers to break into my car.

Surprisingly, I'm in a decent mood. There you have it, folks: therapy actually helps!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

lyrical realizations

I just realized that a good twenty percent of my songs mention scars or carved lines. So if I ever say I don't think at all about getting older, please point me towards my own words.


Writing night. I'm chipping away at a song, even though I know the chances of breaking it open tonight aren't great. I know it will be an acoustic song, and I know it won't be exactly upbeat in tone. The rest, however is still cloudy...and I know I will have to live with the uncertainty at least another week.

The semester is under way, and I've just reached the time where the students are getting to know what's at stake. They are, however, a few weeks from insight. They will, for the next few class sessions, have a lot thrown at them, and it's still unclear if they will sink or swim. Meanwhile, while they circle around the uncertainty, I begin my own cycle of seemingly endless grading.

This is usually how things go. One of the hallmarks of my younger days was that I expected stuff to build to some grand conclusion...the search for ultimate meaning and all that. Now? I don't expect any real resolution, just one damn thing after another. And when we do get closure? It will be way too ultimate, way too final, and, most likely, won't be something to which we should look forward. Certainty is too close to being an end.

I believe this, I really do. But every so often, I get reminded that being certain of uncertainty is itself too definitive...and then I really don't know what to do.

Today, while I was getting ready for work and getting my daughter ready for day care, she turned to me and sweetly asked, "Daddy, are people permanent?" When I asked her what she said, I got "are people permanent? Do they break, or do they go on forever?"

This hit me, but I realized I couldn't let it stop me in my tracks. So I gently replied, "I don't know, sweetie. I hope they go on, but I don't really know." Surprisingly, this answer seemed to satisfy her, and she moved onto other things.

I wish I could tell her how much I envied her in this.