Wednesday, August 26, 2009

R.I.P. Senator Ted Kennedy

Note: this comic isn't coming out right for the way my blog is formatted. Please click on it to see the full image. It brought tears to my eyes.

As Joe Biden said, he was a man who restored our sense of idealism. He was one of the greatest politicians I ever saw, a true public servant. Vision. Persistence. Passion. He was one of the greats. Rest in peace, Senator. You've earned it.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Got a Job!!!!!

It's over.  At long last, it's over.  

I filed for unemployment for 27 weeks.

I submitted applications for 94 different jobs.

I was invited to interviews with no less than sixteen different organizations.  

Seven second interviews.  I made the final cut in seven different job searches.  Seven times, I got close enough that they called my references, asked me questions like whether I would commute or drive, what days I'd prefer to work, whether I could start right away or if I need a week or two.

And six times - six stomach-churning times - I had to get the "sorry, we've decided to go in another direction" phone calls.  I told you about one particularly crappy rejection in an earlier post.

No, wait, change that.  I only got the call five times.  One organization didn't even have the guts to call me to say they hired somebody else.  They just politely forgot about me, didn't return my calls, discreetly took the job posting off their website.  

But it's over.  A few weeks ago, someone said yes.  I am officially employed again. 

We did the dance, just like with other companies.   They asked me if I'd do a phone interview and I said yes.  I did the phone interview on my cell phone, standing in my kitchen, a cup of coffee nearby.  My resume, cover letter, and some hastily scribbled notes were spread out on a counter where I could glance at them easily.  

The phone interview went very well.  They called me back in a couple of days and asked me if I'd come for an in-person interview, and I said yes.  I dusted off my suit, ironed a crease into my pants, asked Mrs. B to iron a shirt.  (She does a better job on shirts than I do, and we both know it.)   I picked out a tie and spent entirely much time thinking about it.  

The interview went well, sure, but I'd had other interviews that went well before.  They asked me for references, and I emailed them to the person in charge.  And waited.  

Two days letter, my references reported that they had been called.  And that the person seemed to really like me.

And a few days later, I got the call.  

I took a day to think about it.  Mrs. B and I sat down to talk it over.  The pay scale wasn't ideal, but the hours are great.  I liked the people I met.  I thought the job would be a good next job for my career ladder.  (Thank goodness for that - I'd applied to several jobs that would have been a step backward, and would have gladly taken them if the price was right.)  

I called them back and told them I'd accept the job.

The person on the other phone went "Yayyyyyyy!"  It was the sound you make when you're ten, and your dad just told you that you're going out for ice cream.

It was the perfect sound to end this soul-crushing, never-ending, gut-wrenching job search.  I was not only the best candidate, but they wanted me.  They wanted ME.   

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going back to work.  

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Skinny Jeans

I had a skinny-jeans moment the other day.

I have this pair of Levi's. I bought them, thought they looked good in the store, and then realized that there was an unfortunate reason that I couldn't wear them. My spare tire, um, was pushing the jeans down my body so they hung at around my hip bones. The result of which was that they were too long. I was mortified.

So they've lived in our basement for a couple of years. They lived the life of skinny jeans: designated to be forgotten until the wearer decides to challenge their self-esteem by trying them on. If they fit, joy and fireworks. If they don't, they go away again.

So I tried on my skinny jeans, not thinking of them in those terms at all. They were just those jeans that didn't fit. I was cleaning out the basement and came across them and thought, oh what the hell. And I tried them on and they fit like a glove.

I told Mrs. B about it. "Why did I think these pants didn't fit before? They look great now."

And she reminded me of the previous indignity. Apparently, my spare tire had shrunk - not disappeared, just shrunk - to the point where they sat properly on my waist. They fit now. I'm wearing them at this very moment. It's a small victory, but it's a victory.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The End of the Argument

Credit to Daily Kos' Suburban Blue for finding this golden nugget.

So some of you know that John Mackey, the CEO of WholeFoods, is getting the arugala kicked out of him because of a smarmy editorial he published in the Wall Street Journal about "ObamaCare" (his term of choice). Here's the editorial, if you haven't read it.

So in my opinion, it's disgusting. He starts off with a quote from Margaret Thatcher. He touts many favorite bumper-sticker conservative points: Health Savings Accounts as a solution to insurance, ending regulation of insurance companies, tort reform, blah bla blah dittohead blah. And the kicker of all kickers - he essentially suggests that anyone who gets sick only has themselves to blame, and that the secret to long life is, well, eating at WholeFoods.
Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

Health-care reform is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society.

It's become a sensation. There's a new Facebook group dedicated to boycotting WholeFoods because of Mackey's comments (I joined - it's over 5,700 members in less than two days.)

Now, as an attempted response, there's a new thread on the WholeFoods website forum wherein conservatives have apparently proclaimed Mackey their new anti-government savior. The dittohead Glenn Beck-worshiping lot are spouting the usual crap about government being evil, nothing good has ever come from government, etc.

In response to one of the pinheads, forum user MB Shopper posted this. The entire thing can be read here on the forum. I don't know if he is the original writer or if he just reposted it, but this is sheer brilliance.


This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issed by the Federal Reserve Bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to ny house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

The only reason government doesn't work is because conservative Republican administrations defunded and/or patronage staffed them with people with ties to special business interests: to wit the last FDA, Dept of Interior and Agriculture under Bush. No one seems to have a problem with pumping over $500Bil to the Defense Department which last I hear is a socialized entity.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Key to Unlocking Death Cab for Cutie

I've been watching Death Cab for Cutie on Soundstage. I was about to write a different post about the band, and then they began performing a song that completely changed my opinion of them.

I like Death Cab. I've seen them live here in town. I own one of their albums and would probably own more if I could just remember to buy them. They do the kind of songs that you always like when you hear them, but you never get crazy passionate about them. With one exception, I've never thought to myself, "boy, I've just gotta play that Death Cab song over and over again until it seeps into my bones."

I like several of their songs. Soul Meets Body. The New Year. The Sound of Settling. Crooked Teeth or whatever that song is called. I love their lyrics. They do a lot of great stuff. But their songs are always - again, with only one exception that I know of - a bit antiseptic, a bit distant. Ben Gibbard never screams. The guitars never wail. The drummer never goes wild and starts flailing like Keith Moon. They are a very literate, very restrained band of great precision. They don't rock out so much as they perform songs in the rock style, if you get my meaning.

I will say this, though - what an odd band to watch live. Most bands ramp up their energy for the live show. Their soft songs become a little more passionate, the harder songs get edgier. The guitars get louder. Not Death Cab. If anything, they get less edgy at their live show. They look awkward on stage. Ben Gibbard shakes his head back and forth in front of the microphone like he's trying to convince himself he has rhythm. Chris Walla bounces back and forth between keys and guitar, playing both without fanfare or showiness. He is an exacting artist. He does what is needed. At one point, they showed him sitting at the keyboard, cracking his knuckles, wating nervously for his part to begin. The drummer (Jason McGerr - I had to look it up) looks like he's teaching a class sometimes.

The bass player (Nick Harmer - had to look that up, too) is the only guy who looks like he plays in a rock band. Granted, he looks like he belongs in Journey circa 1984, but at least he's rocking out.

So I was watching the band, surfing the internet, halfway paying attention, thinking that this was one of the least dynamic performances I had ever seen. And then they started playing that song that I've made reference to several times. The song is a tidal wave called "I Will Possess Your Heart."

I love this song with an absolute fiery passion. It's terrifying, dark, and doesn't sound very much like anything they've done in the past. As soon as those first rumbling bass notes hit, you know that you're in a different world. The long version of this song - over eight minutes long - starts with three minutes of churning, driving instrumental music, during which the band locks into an enormous groove. It's their own type of groove, not the kind that a hard-rock band like Pearl Jam would unleash. There's some feedback, but it's whispering feedback, not roaring or screeching. The instruments are all precise, par usual, but this time, they're a little obsessively precise. The same piano melody plays over and over, nervously, as though it's trying to find something different every time. The sound of the bass guitar is huge. The drums are louder, and even though he's not doing much dramatically, he's playing his heart out. The entire sound is the sound of an obsessive going over the edge.

And then the lyrics start. In the album version, and on the Soundstage version, the music drops out almost completely when the vocals begin, and it's a stunning effect. Just a few seconds of nothing but Ben's voice, speaking the first words - "how I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me..." It gives you shivers.

And then the beat comes back in, and we're off galloping along with the lead character's crazy obsession, charging toward disaster, locked in that maniacally precise groove. It is the best thing this band has ever put to record, because it's so unlike them.

If Death Cab came out with some squealing guitar jam or some distortion-soaked freakout music, people wouldn't recognize them. This song is so great because it contains all the parts of the essential band - great musicianship, an eye toward perfection, carefully written and enunciated lyrics - turned up to the max. The precision turned to obsession, the enunciation turned into a crazy person shaking you by the lapels and whispering "you must listen to me, because what I have to say is very very important!" It is as if the band discovered another version of themselves, the funhouse mirror version.

Something happened to the band while they played this song. Ben Gibbard started shaking his head around, as though trying to break a spell, and sweat began to form on his brow. The guys seemed to lock into each other for the first time in the show, really following each other intently. And the music was stronger, because it was looser, edgier. They did the full instrumental lead-in for the song, and they tore into it with genuine fury. It's not a song that can be played gently, because there's so much fury in the music and so much underlying rage in the lyrics. It's an angry and a desperate song that has to be played all the way or not at all, the same way that I have to either turn up the radio when the song comes on or turn it off.

After that song, it was a different show. There was some feedback deployed. They got a little looser, a little bouncier. Ben's voice got a little louder and shakier. He sonded less constrained. They used some odd samples on the last song. Suddenly, the band seemed less like a dissertation and more like a rock band, playing for the joy of performing together on a stage.