Sidereal ramblings

Thursday, March 30, 2006

An organ music revelation

On Sunday I was at a used bookstore in Minneapolis. Like all good bookstores, they were playing public radio over their sound system. There was a mention of the upcoming Sunday night program of organ music. This small incident brought forth a strong memory in me. When I lived in Winona and could get MPR, I used to play the classical music station overnight with the volume just barely loud enough to be heard. (The overnight music thing was a habit I'd picked up from a former girlfriend.) I remembered the Sunday evening organ music program, and I remembered how I'd feel a bit depressed on Sunday nights knowing I had to go to work again on Monday morning. I recently heard of a phenomonen where people tend to get a Sunday night blues because they know that Monday morning means the start of another work week. I had that back then, during the years I taught at Wabasha-Kellogg. I don't get that any more. In my current job, teaching at MCW, I have very rarely, if ever, felt depressed about having to go back to work on a Monday or any other day. Five years into it, and I find I'm still very much enjoying my job and what I do. I don't leap out of bed with a smile on my face every morning, but that's because I'm not a morning person. But I don't ever feel bummed out that I have to go to work. I like my job, and I like "my kids."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More snow, less school

We got about 8-9 inches of snow on Monday. Today, Thursday, we got another four or five inches. These late March storms, while not unusual, are really strong. School was cancelled on Monday. Tuesday we had a late start. Today we had a late start. So we've missed essentially 1 and 2/3 of a day this week.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Further proof that I live in a small town

I needed to get new tires for my car. Since I had the day off work yesterday due to the storm, I took advantage of the time and stopped in at a local tire shop. They told me what they could sell me and asked when I wanted to have the work done. I said, sometime in the next couple of weeks, and they said, we can do it right now if you want. I was told they could put on the new tires, check the alignment and re-align if necessary in about an hour and a half. (One truism I've learned about auto repair is that it generally takes someone much longer to do something than they tell you.) They offered me a ride home and said they'd call when the work was done. At home, I read, watched some TV and waited for their call. As it was getting close to 5:30, their closing time and over two hours since I'd left my car there, I decided to give them a call. The guy who answered the phone said they'd just finished it, and he'd come over and pick me up. I waited about ten minutes or so, and then saw my car drive up with another car behind it. As I went outside, the guy who'd driven my car got out, said something about wanting to make sure he'd got the right house, waved, got in the other car and off they drove. No payment, no bill, they just left my car there. Now granted, they had my phone number and address back at the shop, but it seemed very odd that they'd just drop my car off and not make any arrangements for payment. How many auto places would just let you take off afterwards? So I stopped by the shop on my way home from work today, and one of the guys behind the counter, who I'd never met before yesterday, called me by name as I walked up and pulled up my work order. Ah, small town life.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Snow Day

We got our first snow day of the year today, March 12th. I'm not surprised at the date because it's known that statistically March is the snowiest month in Minnesota. We probably don't think of it that way since the snow usually melts away soon after. I'm not sure how much snow we officially got -- predictions were for between five and eight inches, and I think we were on the high end of that -- but there were drifts in my driveway that were over a foot and a half. Some of the stuff on top's kind of light and fluffy (especially what's been blown in by the 30-mile an hour winds) but underneath it's wet and heavy. I just spent about half an hour shovelling my driveway and I'm only about halfway done. I'm trying to avoid going down to the street where the plows pushed in massive chunks of icy debris.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Keeping in touch by blog

There are times when technology is meant to further or simplify our communication. I remember when I got my first computer and instantly fell in love with the idea of email. My long distance phone bills dropped dramatically and immediately. I still believe, however, that the cell phone is the modern world's greatest curse, and that rather than helping people stay in touch, is serving to isolate people even more. I mean, how often have you seen someone chatting away mindlessly on their cell phone and completely ignoring the people around -- and with -- them? The blogs seem to me, after a year or so of experiencing them, a good thing. I still communicate a lot via email, but I find that I'm keeping in close touch with a number of people these days through their blogs. I have developed a kind of ritual when firing up my computer these days: after checking my email, I launch my internet browser and check out several blogs. (This is a daily -- at least -- event.) I'll check blogs from my friends Will, Steve, K, and Stix, and then check the Winona boys blog and, finally, this, my own to see if anyone's posted any comments. I guess what made me think of this is that I'm really enjoying reading (and commenting on) Will's blog to the extent that I feel I'm in closer touch with him these days than I am with his dad, with whom I've been friends for 35 years ("longer than I've known just about anybody, now that I come to think of it," to quote Neil Young).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Long Live the King

A few posts back I mentioned the new CD by the Flamin' Oh's, Long Live the King. I was first introduced to the Flamin' Oh's by my then-girlfriend, now-ex-wife Martha back around 1980. Martha's first cousin Joe was the band's keyboardist. I took to the Oh's pretty quickly and became a huge fan in short order. I own all of their released albums, in one form or another (and in some cases, more than one), and have a bunch of stuff on tape that I listen to in the car a lot. I have seen them perform live more often than any other musical group, probably 25 times or so, and often dragged unsuspecting friends along with me. Martha and I split up, sometime later Joe was tragically murdered (no connection between those two events), and the band went through some personnel changes, broke up, and reunited.

A couple of months ago, they put out their first recording of new material in about two decades. Lead singer and guitarist Robert Wilkinson -- who was always my favorite part of the Oh's -- wrote all the songs on the new album. (Joe and some of the others wrote some songs in their earlier days.) Robert here has reunited with original bass player Jody Ray (who I got to know a little when I lived in the Cities after he had left the band). Long time drummer Bob Meide is still a part of the band, and the keyboards are handled by Bob Burns, who replaced Joe when he left the band (shortly before his death).

Long Live the King is a true return to form for the Oh's. The original '80s version of the Oh's were part of the whole punk/new wave scene, although they were always more new wave than punk. (One of my favorite descriptions of the Oh's, though I don't remember who said it, was that they sounded like the Cars fronted by Bruce Springsteen.) The new CD captures the old sound of the Oh's, cleaned up a lot and modernized somewhat for the '00s (whatever they're called). If I have one complaint about the new CD, it's that the keyboards sound a little too cheesy '80s with lots of synth (though that was their sound back then), although thankfully they're mixed low in the sound. There are guitar rifts that sound just like the old days, but the songs show a great deal of maturity in the songwriting. Robert's always had a very interesting vocal style that I can only describe as him carefully articulating every word that he sings. (No question about the lyrics here, folks.) This can be a detriment with lines like "I'm just a thief who wants to steal your heart," but there's not a lot of that sort of drivel here. Many of the sounds are out-and-out rockers like the title song, and there are a few ballads; I think my favorite track is "The Hardest Thing," which is a heartfelt rememberance of Joe.

All right, let's see if I get 10 comments on this.