Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In My Ears VI

Since last I spoke of my music listening...

R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction
This was the R.E.M. album that really made me a fan, I played this on my college radio show a lot, every cut. I also like how the title of the record could be seen as either Fables of the Reconstruction or Reconstruction of the Fables. This record still sounds amazing!

KISS - Asylum
After writing very brief reviews of a few KISS records for a friend who has a hole in his collection, I just decided to listed to this one.

Judas Priest - Screaming for Vengeance
Recalling the live show back in the day, had to go back and listen - Halford is a monster vocalist!

Hal Ketchum - The King of Love
I lost track of this guy and saw this on the Amazon Prime streaming list, such a smooth voice. Dubbed a country artist but there's an R&B vibe that runs through his music and delivery.

Deep Purple - Machine Head
More talk about Deep Purple recently than in a while, I hadn't listened to them in so long and it was time.

Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream
There were a few songs and melodies from this record I needed to revisit at the time.

Alabama - For the Record
An exhaustive retrospective of their hit songs - felt so right.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
They were so much less pretentious them, such a great record.

Lindsey Stirling - Lindsey Stirling
This is a super talented young lady who plays violin and has a unique, modern approach. I've seen her perform live, especially where she first hit the spotlight on America's Got Talent and boy, she is something to see but I can't say it translates well on record - hard to listen to the whole thing straight through.

Mark Knopfler/Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning
Two great artists on one great record - win/win.

Shakira - Shakira
Always throws me when an artist titles a record eponymously deep into their recording career. Regardless, some standout cuts here.

Rascal Flatts - Rewind
What you might expect from these guys. I feel like it might be taken wrong if I say it was just okay but I will risk it.

Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else
Great record, and features a cover of "They Don't Know" a Kirsty Macoll song but later recorded my Tracy Ullman in the early 80's and her video featured a cameo by Paul McCartney. Lydia Loveless is a keeper - if you don't know her, check her out.

Utopia - KSAN 95 FM Live '79
A live recording from, that's right, 1979 - good show!

Gene Simmons - Asshole
I intentionally didn't get this record when it came out nearly a decade ago. I don't know why - but I was missing out, it's actually got some character and personality.

Joey Ramone - Don't Worry About Me
The Joey Ramone solo record, released after he died. Haunting in some ways but all Joey.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: The Sweet Smell of Psychosis

Dubbed a "Novella", the size of a large pamphlet (89 pages), I read this on the plane en-route to Las Vegas. I picked this one up on a recommendation noting that is was "odd and a quick read"; both were understatements.

I feel like I should offer up the brief synopsis provided by the publisher, this is the paragraph they are using to "sell" the book:

"A brief and brilliant satire of magazine hacks and fashionistas, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis shows Will Self - a writer acclaimed as "a masterly prose-maker" by London's Sunday Times - at the top of his form. It looks as if it's going to be quite a Christmas for Richard Hermes, powdered with cocaine and whining with the white noise of urban derangement. Not so much enfolded as trapped in the bosom of the most venal media clique in London, Richard is losing it on all fronts: he's losing his heart to Ursula Bentley, a nubile and vacuous magazine columnist; he's in danger of losing his job at the pretentious listings magazine Rendezvous; he's losing his mind courtesy of Colombia's chief illegal export; and, worst of all, he's losing his soul ... to Bell. Bell is a newspaper columnist, radio host, television personality - but more than that, he is the kingpin guiding the ship of media scandal through the lower depths. From his headquarters in the Sealink Club he pulls the strings that control the disseminators of drek and gatherers of glib. And he has had Ursula Bentley and just about everyone else, female and male. As Richard pursues the Jicki perfume wafting from Ursula, he is in fact being drawn into a much more sinister web. Murky, paranoid, and hilarious, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis is Will Self at his best."

Depending on who you are, that has the potential to at least sound somewhat interesting, right?

I might recommend that if the synopsis above is even the least bit interesting to you, that you might want to just stop there - reading the book may just end up disappointing you. This is a poorly written story that reads like you had the displeasure of getting trapped in an elevator with a sad sack who on the brink of a breakdown decides to pour out his tortured soul and all you could get from it is how bad you wished you were deaf and mute.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Trying to Catch Up!

Still playing catch up on things from my week in Vegas. I did get all caught up on my grading of assignments for my students. My house is a total wreck, I am glad that my house guests while I was away are close enough that I didn't have to really scrub down - I am still not in order post kitchen remodel.

I feel like I need a solid week off to work full-time on getting things in order - that's not my favorite feeling.

I gotta run...keep this short for now.

Oh, I know I've slowed down my reading pace considerably. I finished a book in flight en-route to Vegas, a disturbing tome....I'll review tomorrow (I hope).

Later.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tuning In to the Universe

Original was written using voice type on the run - corrections made 7/19

For a moment I thought about not writing this blog post.  The last thing I would want for this to be perceived as is the desire to gain any recognition for having done something.  After thinking about the experience that I had, I felt it was necessary to take that risk and share my story; you’ll see why by the end.
 
I like to believe that if you take the time, you can find beauty everywhere.  I have been here in Las Vegas since Monday. If you have never been to Las Vegas it’s a place where you are never more than a stone’s throw from any one of the seven deadly sins.  However, there is also much beauty to be seen.  There are countless creative souls in a myriad of different situations whether it be food, entertainment, or some other form of the arts -you will find it here in Las Vegas without having to look very far.  Of course, also without looking far, you will find your share of vagrants, thieves, and other sorts of riff-raff.

One of the things you will see whether you want to or not, are beggars.  Before I continue, I feel the need to clarify that I do not use the word beggars lightly, or in a derogatory way; it is simply the proper word to use to describe the people that I am referring to.  Some beggars will be vocal and ask you for money or some other help, some will simply hold up a sign, some are in search of money to purchase food and some, unfortunately to purchase alcohol or cigarettes.

Having been to Las Vegas many times, having lived and worked in New York City and traveled a number of major cities across the country, I’ve seen homeless people before, I’ve seen beggars before.  Regardless of the context, from a human perspective it’s understandable to want to help all of them but it’s also a reality that it is very difficult to make a significant difference; or is it?

The truth is, at least as I see it, to simply go about your day most of the time you have to walk past these people and simply do just that, walk past them.  What I hope you believe too is that walking past them does not mean it is OK to ignore them completely.  I always try to be cognizant of the fact that whatever it was that got that person into that situation, I am fortunate enough to be in a better situation.

As I was walking the Las Vegas strip today, as expected, there were the usual large number of beggars.  I was walking across a footbridge that spans across Las Vegas Boulevard and there was this one beggar who was sitting on the floor under the beating sun of 105° holding up a small sign that read, “just need a little help”.  The man was curled up into a ball, shaking, and clearly in a bad way.  I don’t know what it was about this particular man or this particular moment, but the very instant that I saw this man I knew what I had to do.  I continued the rest of the distance of the footbridge that led into the hotel and went into the shop that was right at the door.  I ordered a sandwich, and brought it back to the man I had seen.  He thanked me, I turned around and walked back into the hotel and as soon as I got inside I began to cry almost uncontrollably.

Like I said earlier, I have seen many homeless people, many beggars, and have helped others in the past.  Just in the time I have been here in Las Vegas, I have seen dozens of beggars, so why did this one man at this particular time draw so much emotion from me?  I don’t know that I will ever really understand why or if it is even necessary to understand why.  I simply think that like I said earlier, while it’s impossible to help everyone, it is not impossible to make a difference.  In this particular instance, the world was telling me it was time to make a difference right now.

The reason I’m telling this story, and the only reason, is that I want you to do the same thing.  Listen to the universe, whether in your heart or soul that means listening to a god, to a spirit, or just listening to your heart, I am asking you to listen.  It’s not always as easy as it sounds, the world around us is noisy and that noise often clouds and hinders that which we are meant to hear.

So while the possibility exists that by having typed this post, someone will read it and say he’s just to tooting his own horn, if one person gets the message, the real message, then I care not what anyone thinks of me.

Line Relationships

You know how when you are on a really long line, the ones where you wait for an hour or more? Funny how you start developing short relationships with people on the line. Do you play that game where you make up stories about people too? Not mean stories necessarily, just stories to pass the time.

Being on a long line is actually quite similar to a little temporary neighborhood. A diverse assemblage of people that all for some point in time live in the same, limited demarcation of geography and have to come together to create a sociosphere (I made that word up).

Fremont

The Fremont Street Experience is just as the name implies. You really never know for sure what you'll get there but it often has many entertaining qualities. There is a bounty of free live entertainment that ranges in musical styles, and odd collection of people dressed as "characters" and some people barely dressed at all, trying to coerce you into taking a photo with them for some "donation", a host of oddball vagrants who have acclimated to the environment and simply hang around and enjoy the music, a collection of diversity among the visitors that make every moment there a unique one, and a what I believe a guaranteed unpredictability that makes hanging around there every now an again and entertaining adventure.

Here are some pics from Thursday night:

This is me with my pals (whom I grew up with back in Brooklyn) Dan and Joanne along with their youngest daughter, the recently 18 Jen (also a pal). BTW, selfies are brave, so hard to look good in one, every bad angle...jeez!

The couple here, I know you can figure out which I mean, were just super interesting to watch. they danced non-stop, had a really unusual look, but were just completely uninhibited and did their own thing.

This may just look like I took a picture of a girl's ass or the whole little to no clothing thing. What this picture really shows is these two barely dressed girls attempting to seduce the guy in the wheelchair into giving them money in exchange for a photo opportunity. What I believe often happens, and I witnessed this with a significantly older gentleman in a wheelchair inside one of the casinos, is that these barely dressed assess their prey for vulnerability and as such, try to lure more cash from them simply by being "nice" to them.. I should be clear I am not attempting a mild euphemism, while there are hookers and the sort in Vegas, I don't believe that's what these people here are, they are just street "performers" looking to make "tips" for doing their shtick.
 A number of the bars right on the street deploy go-go dancers to entice the crowds into spending more time their and buying beverages from them.
 This dude was just dancing about, completely in his own space and mind, despite the 100+ degrees he just went for it. For a very brief time, I even joined him :)
 The band "Zowie Bowie" (no relation, and no necessary indication of the music they play). My pals have seen him so many times they kind of know him and got pointed out during the show and after the first set, had a chat. His fiddle player/girlfriend plays for Rod Stewart when he does his Vegas residencies, she has talents.
 This was a random flash mob style Electric Slide. Some folks just busted into it and a bunch of people just joined it.
 This is me overlooking and pointing out the "El Cortez" hotel in the background of the parking lot, deep in the heart of "downtown". I have a crazy story about that place from a time me, my cousin and her husband (cuzzhuzz) came to Vegas back in 1999. In fact, I think the story is somewhere on this blog (just check, I mention is like I do here and even say I'll tell it someday, but haven't yet).

coming soon, the "El Cortez" story :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shania

Two decades I've had a crush on Shania Twain. Tonight, I finally got to see her in concert - she was great and after all these years, still smokin'.

There's an entertaining journey that went along with getting the ticket, which I did during lunch break today. I'll abbreviate since you need to be familiar with the Vegas strip and ideally, the inside of Venetian/Palazzo. I was deep in the Sands convention center, left, went to the Fashion Place mall to get the ticket discount vouchers, then went to the Coliseum at Caesars to redeem for the ticket, then back the the Venetian/Palazzo/Sands Convention center...all on foot, all in coporate casual, and all in 75 minutes.

Yes, I am pretty amazing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Day

Started the day with some networking with colleagues. last night was hard to sleep, and easy, all at once. Of course the time difference is always a mind fuck, then the fact that Vegas is designed to chew you up, twist your mind and spit you out, I was on hyperload last night but ended up waking up every hour or two. Finally, at 5 am pacific, stayed awake.

Of course, once I thought about it, I was actually getting up late by my coast time standards. I got some work done remotely, dealt with student issues, then wandered about for a walk. A colleague texted looking for coffee company, and so the business end began.

Another brief post coffee stroll before some brief time cheeking up on email and it was off to a very lovely lunch at Delmonico Steak house courtesy of a vendor, whose hospitality was just beyond stunning. What a great time with good food and incredibly stimulating conversation. I was particularly impressed chatting with someone from Amarillo, Texas about their impressive K-12 system.

Post lunch, I had a few session, an interesting keynote from MIT's Joi Ito and some time at the welcome reception. I left the reception just before 6 pm pacific time ready to call it a night; even got into my sleep attire. Of course, the Vegas ghosts were haunting me and as much as I tried to relax and be done, I suited up in shorts, a tee shirt and my sneakers for a stroll on the strip.

I ended up down in a newly renovated area and took a ride on what is called "The High Roller", a super deluxe ferris wheel (they don't like to call it that, because it's $25 to $35 for a single ride depending on time of day.

back at the hotel, took a final look at emails and did the social networks...off to bed...tomorrow is an early and filled day of conference things.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Las Vegas 2014

I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the TSA check in Boston was, I got to keep my shoes and belt on and overall, it was painless - a nice change of pace.

I think I might have reached the point where five and a half or more hours on a flight is a bit much - not easy, but I got through it. I wish I could fall asleep easier on a plane.

Spent some time with two colleagues from other MA schools in town for the same conference; we share a cab from airport and had a nice lunch.

Got to spend some time with Dan, Joann and Jennifer O'Connor.

Conference kicks into high gear tomorrow - full day planned. Hoping to get some time with my old friend Ro Carlson, who moved out here this past year.

Later.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Travel Consistencies

I don't travel often, but when I do, I am consistently behind schedule, hate packing, over pack, get to bed to late...

I'm heading off to the scorching desert, Las Vegas, to attend a conference and spend a little time with some friends while a family member and their other half use my home as their home away from home.

In addition to the first sentence, yes, late about getting the house ready for guests.

On a positive note, I think I may have done a way better job of packing. Of course, even thought I write this at 10:30 pm and I have to get up very early, I haven't actually packed yet. I have gathered, I just need to place all that is gathered into luggage and bags.

Did I mention also late taking care of the cat's needs?

I better get to it.

Second Session, Different than the First

I told you of my first six week class that ende a few weeks ago. Overall, quite successful and most were on board right from the start, a necessity in such an accelerated situation.

Noon today was the official end to week one of the second six week session and boy, what a difference-and not for the better. I was on top of everyone, assuming that perhaps signing up a whole back then all of a sudden when the heart of summer hits, it's time to get into school mode. I sent 3 or 4 emails throughout the week before the class and opened up the learning environment at that time. At the end of the first and second days of class, I sent email to those who had not yet checked in. I've been on top of them all as much as possible yet only about half completed all of the assignment and about a quarter of them got no work done at all. Ouch!

I have been working really hard, I know I've done my part, but some of these folks have checked out before they checked in and worse, a couple have to be withdrawn for violation of attendance policy, that means they lose all the money they paid for the course.

I hope there's a drastic turnaround in week two.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Work Place

When you've worked at the same place for 16+ years, there are a lot of things you see, one of them is the cyclical nature of, well, for ease, let's just refer to them as good and bad times.

Right now, the college is experiencing some difficult financial times and as a result, there have been layoffs. Layoffs end up leaving everyone concerned about their own position but also get people talking about those who were let go.

"They didn't do anything anyway" or "How could they have let that one go" and everything in between. There is a lot of emotionally driven reaction to actions that are, from a practical and business sense often required to be emotionless, or, more hopefully, despite emotion.

It sucks when someone who I respect and like is let go, but I also feel like it would be unfair to simply act in haste and anger. I'd like to believe that the administration made that decision for a reason that made sense and out of necessity.

Of course, there is always the thought, what if it was me? What if I was let go? How would I feel and how would others feel about it?

This is all a very difficult part of the process, I've seen quite a few people over the years let go, or who left on their own, who were, in my estimation, valuable team players. Of course, I've seen a lot of riff-raff go as well, that never really gets negative press but still gets people talking.

I've seen tough times before and I've seen the turnaround. There is reason to believe things will again turn around for the better and the best part, this time, for the first time in my 16+ years, it will be with a president who I have some faith in, who I believe in and who I feel really cares about the big picture.

Time will tell.

Perception

I sometimes wonder if there ever really is clarity in how one sees something. is it possible that everything we see and hear is taken in and filtered through however we really want to see and hear it, which may not be what it really is?

Could it be that the main fault in the human condition is that we are guilty of self-deception by means of our perception - of the way we perceive all that is around us?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How Much Can it Hurt?

You ever have a friend, someone that you got along really great with? Supported every way you could, treated with love and respect, really felt comfortable sharing things with?

Then, for what appears to be no reason at all, that friend just stops talking to you? Stops acknowledging your existence? Then you just find yourself in extreme pain because someone you care about so much, someone you love more than just about anyone, does the one thing you never thought possible?

You try every single way you can think of to rationalize it. But ultimately, all you are is at a loss, just in a constant state of stunned. It gets to the point where you sometimes just wish they would tell you to drop dead and get lost because even as excruciatingly painful as that would be, at least there would be communication.

The missing is the hardest part.

Reclassification

About six or seven years ago I spent some time really taking a closer look at my job, what I do versus what my written job description indicates I do (or should do). At that time, I realize I really should be classified under a different job description that also exists within out union framework.

I had planned to petition for reclassification at that time and had the support of the then CIO but times were tumultuous and there was far more risk than potential reward in the process, so I let it slide and just kept on doing what I do,

All these years later, though financially, things at the college are tough, I feel that it is necessary to plea my case and file that petition. In the end, the worst case scenario simply leaves me with my current title and pay. I filed the paperwork after discussing my thoughts with my direct supervisor, who gave be his blessing and said he would support me.

This past Tuesday morning, I met with HR for an hour, as did he, later. A decision is pending, I am told one should be made by early next week. Keep a finger or two crossed for me.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Finger Bang

Get your head out of the gutter!

I was helping a friend move a few boxes and slipped a bit. In trying to catch myself so I wouldn't get hurt, I got hurt. The thumb on my right hand got pushed back against the wall - hurt mike a mother for a while. I basically ignored the pain initially and when I woke up the following day, I could hardly move my right hand.

I decided to put together a nice hot Epsom soak - after about ten minutes soaking, I was able to flex the hand a bit, though not completely pain free, significantly better than before - so I figured I would repeat the soaks and perhaps in time, the hand would get better. Again, lots of assuming going on here (you know where that often leads), that perhaps it was a nasty internal bruise or strain that would eventually heal.

The unfortunate event happened on Friday evening and as I type this very early on Tuesday morning - there is still a decent amount of pain and not enough mobility and I guess it might be time to seek medical advice. Of course the timing sucks beanbags as I am headed out of town next Monday for a week but I got to at least get it looked at, right?

Every time there is a thumb involved in anything, I can't help but think of this scene from "The Pope of Greenwich Village":

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Smashing Weekend

Today was a nice finish to a nice holiday weekend, despite the big hurricane/tropical storm thingie. I did get up early and shuffle off to pick up my kids and go to church - after we stopped for a simple breakfast knowing we had a bigger dinner planned.

Relaxed at home, I got a nice nap in and got some more kitchen unpacking done/three dishwasher loads. Realizing I need some more Container Store/Bed Bath an Beyond items for better organization.

For dinner, me and the kiddo met up with the Esposito's at Smashburger (their first time). After, I tried going to the container store but it was nearly 7pm and they closed at 6 - no big...a random delightful stop for froyo before heading back home and getting a bit more kitchen work done and just hanging with my kid.

Busy work week, start of the new summer session and prepping for Blackboard World next week. Off to bed now!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Hingham, Rhymes with Gingham

My cousins from NY were planning a trip up through New England with a stop at "Wahlburgers" in Hingham before dallying in Boston and then off to Hampton Beach tomorrow morning. My plan was to meet up with them in Hingham, at Wahlburgers.

I got there about a half hour or so before them, so I got to walk around the waterfront for a bit and went picture happy:

  

  

  

  

  

I can't even begin to describe how perfect the weather was but I wouldn't say it's a hesitation to say it was as perfect a weather day as there ever was. Just an extraordinarily beautiful day and getting to spend it with family I so rarely see was a special treat.

Here we all are at Wahlburgers:

Friday, July 04, 2014

Storm Front

Everything changed with the usual (world famous) 4th of July celebration in Boston, as well as most on the east coast as a result of a tropical storm/hurricane. Lots of cancellations of things and many shifted and rearranged into some form of what is normally is because of the threat of weather. Hey, such is life, not really all to big a deal, I mean, in some ways it is and can be, but it didn't affect me all that much.

I spent a nice day with my kid yesterday, today I wanted to get some shelf lining done, but overall - made no special plans - mostly considering the severe weather that would be expected. Around 2 pm, I'm on FB announcing my boring plans and next thing I knew, I was en-route to IKEA with the Esposito's. they had a game plan, me to, though mine was to just be silly and enjoy the ride. BTW, it seems lots of people like shopping for Swedish named items in the wake of a storm altering the birthday celebration of American Independence.

After adventures in IKEA, where I did a few magic tricks for kids, discussed the merits of Quartz over granite, had a 50 cent hotdog as an appetizer and pretended to open another register line - we drove back into our neck of the woods and stopped at an open restaurant for a bite to eat.

It was a pretty fun time and a nice surprise over what I expected the day to be.