15 albums in 15 minutes

I got tagged to do this on Facebook, but I mostly use Facebook just to spy on my kids, so I’ll do it here.

The idea is to list 15 albums that have been meaningful to you for whatever reason without wasting too much time on the exercise.

1. Paul Revere and the Raiders – the one with the guys sitting on the tank. First album I ever bought.

2. Neil Diamond – Some Neil Diamond album. Oh, yeah: Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Part of a set of what, a dozen? albums received at considerable discount from Columbia House, if you know what I mean. If not for this album, the next album would be the most embarrassing album I ever bought.

3. Elton John – Goodby Yellow Brick Road. This got a lot of play. And yet, my parents didn’t beat me to death. Why not, I will never know.

4. Ramones – Ramones. Thank God for punk music. 1976 was a good year. I found out about the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and Bob Marley.

5. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks.

6. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Rastaman Vibration

7. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

8. Jimi Hendrix – I never owned a Hendrix album when I was a kid, for some reason. And whenever I hear the Doors “Rider on the Storm” I think about picking raspberries one rainy day (one of my first jobs), when that song was on the radio. Funny how the memory works.

9. Devo – Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo!

10. Kraftwerk – Autobahn I don’t think I owned this album, but it was a big deal

11. Led Zeppelin – Houses Of The Holy

12. Elvis Costello – My Aim is True. I saw Mr. MacManus in concert for a buck in Seattle back in college and he was great.

13. Sigur Rós – Saeglopur (or any other album of theirs)

14. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers This also brings back memories.

15. Stephen Isserlis – Bach Cello Suites

Boy, any list of 15 isn’t going to do it, is it?


The captain of the Titanic wipes his lips on the sleeve of his uniform and places the flask of whiskey back into his breast pocket. He looks out into the darkness and sighs an enigmatic sigh.

He stares out into the darkness, listens to the creaking and rumbling of his ship and tries to figure out what he might have meant by the sigh. He decides it means, this whiskey is not so bad.

The little bell rings that indicates that someone wants to talk to him through the speaking tube. He removes the speaking tube – a flexible black tube with brass fittings – from its brass holder on the polished mahogany wall of the bridge.

Ahoy, says the captain of the Titanic.

Ahoy, answers the captain of the Andrea Doria. Because this is not your average speaking tube (AKA voicepipe). This speaking tube does not simply run down into the engine room or galley or something. It connects the Titanic and the Andrea Doria across time and distance.

It is a wormhole, of sorts. A living ship’s captain can’t pass through it physically, just voices. Still, better than nothing.

How goes it, says the captain of the Titanic.

The captain of the Andrea Doria relates a dream. A good dream. The captain of the Titanic stares out into the darkness and sees only his reflection on the window. He closes his eyes and tries to imagine the dream, but sees only more darkness.

I haven’t remembered a dream in ages, he says.

They talk about books for a while.

Somewhere, a bell rings. Gotta go, says the captain of the Titanic.

Seen any icebergs lately, says the captain of the Andrea Doria.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled, says the captain of the Titanic. Careful out there in the fog yourself, he says.

Aye-aye, says the captain of the Andrea Doria.


I read somewhere this morning that wireless devices result in too little downtime for our brains.

Somewhere. I say somewhere. On the crapper on my laptop is where.

The human brain, according to my research, (brain taken here to mean the whole shebang, heart, soul etc) does need downtime. Staring into space time.

Best is actual staring into space, except for the falling asleep on the picnic table while falling stars light up the sky above you part. Second best is walking. Driving isn’t bad but you might be someone who prefers to concentrate while driving.

Meditating is good, but that’s already getting a little too organized for me.

As if I knew.

Some people are better at embracing downtime than others. The others call those who are good at it “lazy” and yell at them for not helping with the housework, according to a recent study I performed last night.


There is a German word, Muße, or Musse if your monitor can’t handle the double-S character that looks like a B, that is translated as leisure but has, for me, a far more delicious nuance of just goofing off, walking around, staring into space from a hammock, aimlessly doing nothing, whereas leisure is scheduled and organized and ambitious unless you are talking about a person of leisure or something.

Who would have thought there was such a word in the German language?

And yet, there it is.



I barbecued various meats and vegetables this weekend, including various peppers that I bought at the store, and a couple of my own. Mine were spicy red ones that I grew this summer, turned out great, I can barely eat them. The box from the store had a diagram explaining the relative hotness levels of the ones that came in said box. On a scale of 0-10, the ones like the ones from my garden were a 5. The little orange ones were a 0. The slightly bigger orange ones, jalapenos apparently, were 10s.

So of course when a relative came out to our place on his bike, a cousin who is spending the summer in Vienna with an enigmatic organization (not my enigmatic organization, another one) I offered him one. I didn’t even have to insist, he cut off a piece and ate it up.

Him: Wow!

Him: Hyyrrp!

Me: Heh, that’s what everyone does on the youtube videos of people eating jalapenos! The jalapeno hiccup!

Him: Hyyrp!

Me: [Eat a piece] Hyyrp!

Him: Hyyrp! Hyyrp!

Me: Hyyrp! Hyyrp! Hyyrp!

It was like listening to a conversation from Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” machine-translated into Icelandic.

Jalapenos are hot!

Apparently ghost peppers are much hotter, but I won’t be eating one of those anytime soon, not on purpose.

I gave the left over jalapenos to my daughter for her boyfriend.

Beta. She brought me some extra-hot sambal from Indonesia. When I cut my pork cutlet with the knife I had used to cut the jalapeno, the meat was spicier than when I put the sambal on it.

We don’t eat a lot of spicy food around our house, but I think now that the kids are bigger, it wouldn’t hurt to up the piquancy a little.

Three things to do right now, if it’s dark outside.

  1. Go outside and look at the Perseids.
  2. Go outside and look at the Perseids.
  3. Go outside and look at the Perseids.

Actually, I think last night was supposed to be the high point, right? We had good conditions – no moon, clear skies, dark.

I made Alpha and Gamma go into the back yard and look at the sky. Since it was my idea, I let them have the lawn chairs (due to factors including rusty structural elements and slapstick we currently only have two) and myself reclined seductively on the picnic table to stare at the sky.

I even saw one, better than anything Disney ever did.

“Did you see that?” Gamma said, “the way the tail glittered afterwards?”

Indeed I did.

Later, something something, stars, sky, dark, zzz.

“No, he’s not,” said Gamma.

“He is. I think he is. Go see,” said Alpha.

“Dad, are you asleep?” said Gamma.

Indeed I was.

Paris, France

My apologies in advance for the ugly way the text wraps in this post, and doesn’t align with the pictures the way I want it too, but I can’t figure out how to stop it from doing that. Thanks to Bran for fixing my CSS.


I woke up this morning at four. I was too sad to sleep so I got up. I don’t know why I was sad, everything has been fine lately.

I didn’t get up immediately. I prayed to a benevolent deity in my non-theistic universe for everyone to be okay. I kept thinking of more people I wanted to be okay. Then I got up, before my vibes could wake my wife.

This first picture I took by accident when Alpha and I went to Paris a couple weeks ago. It is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. All of my favorite pictures are the ones I took by accident. Not only from that trip. You would think that I didn’t try to take composed pictures anymore, but I still do.


We saw this hotel on our first night wandering around Paris, I guess. We didn’t look inside. It didn’t even occur to us to look inside. We stayed in another hotel with a balcony and a ceiling fan on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter.

“Just walk around” is the best advice re: what to do in Paris. Thanks, Ian. Although, you’ll sometimes want to take the subway, since Paris is really big. The subways are okay. They ran often, we never had to wait long when we took one.


Here is our balcony. Good call on the hotel, that was more good advice. Latin Quarter = good neighborhood to stay. Some nice sidewalk cafes, restaurants etc. but not too many tourists in general.

We had a couple guide books, but we used them sparingly. We bought chocolates at a place my book recommended, once, and went to a department store that was a must, apparently, and so on. But more enjoyable was just going into restaurants that looked good and eating, and that sort of thing.

One advantage of doing that is you avoid masses of tourists and can convince yourself you’re having a more authentic experience. Not speaking French was no real problem. Everyone we encountered was helpful and friendly.

One disadvantage of choosing restaurants that way – just walking in – is that you don’t always end up eating in a good restaurant. Turns out the Phuc Yieu Vietnamese restaurant (name changed) where I had the Bouef avec ecoli was not only empty of tourists, it was pretty empty of non-tourists as well, and for a reason. The Moroccan place we ate at was so-so.


Here is Notre Dame. It was, more or less, across the Seine from our hotel, so we walked past it a lot. We also went inside once and looked around. There was no line when we went, but there was every other time we went past.

It is covered with gargoyles and saints. It looks too delicate to stand, but it stands.


Here is the Seine. I was standing on a bridge when I took the picture. It was evening. What were we doing? I don’t remember. Walking around being romantic, perhaps. On our way back from the Moulin Rouge, maybe, although I think it was darker when that was over.

The Moulin Rouge convinced me of several things. First, that I need an appointment for new glasses. We had dinner there, during which instead of women dancing around on stage there is a lounge act, a man and a woman singing, and a trio (drums, bass, keyboards, sax, guitar, quintette I guess) playing.

And it’s very well-done lounge music, but lounge music, right? The male singer had something on his head. What the hell does he have on his head, I asked Alpha.

His hair, she replied. Apparently he had a little Afro.

The Moulin Rouge was very good, I highly recommend it, it does a great job of being what it is. The waiters are extremely efficient and professional, the food is okay, but the audience was the usual mix of okay and rubes. Also too many brought their small children (WTF?).


Here we are under a bridge. On our last day in Paris we had lunch on a bench near this bridge and observed a middle-aged couple kissing. They leaned up against the wall and kissed passionately. I figured they weren’t married to each other. My wife figured the woman was the man’s wife’s best friend.


I like it when you can see the moon during the day.


The front of Notre Dame.


The Eiffel Tower is awesome. But the lines are really long, so we didn’t go inside.


The Louvre is also awesome. Long lines, too. By the time we got there (it was a hot day and we were tired from walking, or at least I was) I wasn’t up to dealing with lines so we just looked at it from outside and underneath. Underneath, above where Mary is interred in the DaVinci Code, is a Starbucks.


See? There is also a McDonalds.


One of the best things we did while we were in Paris, besides walk around, was have dinner on a boat going around on the Seine one evening. It was romantic. We had a good table. The food was good. It was expensive, but so what. Not that expensive.


The Eiffel Tower is awesome.


Here are some gargoyles on the Notre Dame.


Shakespeare and Company was smaller than I had expected, although I had expected it to be small. Still, it was nice to see it. Across the street is the Seine. There are lots of stands along the wall by the Seine, green stands selling postcards and souvenirs and books and so on. I got Gamma a snowglobe with an Eiffel Tower in it, and some postcards.


There is a church next to the Ministry of Justice. To get there you have to pass through a metal detector and let your bag be x-rayed. Inside the church are many stained glass windows. Please note that there is an upstairs and most of the coolest windows are up there. We didn’t realize that and nearly left. This window here is something-something Apocalypse, so I took a picture of it.


I took this picture by accident too, because I liked the light so much.

The Holy Grail

I took a bunch of blurry pictures in Paris and still intend to write a post about our visit, but I’m too lazy today, plus I have to clean the oven while my wife and Gamma are in Carinthia hiking with visiting friends and relatives.

Also vacuum the house. So maybe later.

BUT I have to tell you that I have attained my latest Holy Grail, baking a high-rising fluffy loaf of sourdough bread without adding any yeast. Here is what i did differently than previous times:

  • Kneaded the dough longer. This is said to something something gluten and so on, enabling more rising action.
  • Instead of using 5 cups of all-purpose flour, I used 4 cups plus one of Lancelot flour, from the King Arthur Flour company, that my cousin Lisa gave me.
  • I also added a tablespoon of gluten powder to the mix when making the dough.
  • I let the dough rise until doubled, as always, about 4 hours, then divided it into two loaves, as always. But then I let the loaves, which I put into forms, rise pretty long, about 5-6 hours, but not so long that they would dry out (i.e not overnight, as I did last time).
  • Then I asked my wife to bake them, as I was away from the house and couldn’t get back in time.

Here is what my wife did differently while baking, which I think also had a lot to do with getting a soft-crusted loaf rather than loaves with a crust that makes your gums bleed:

  • She sprinkled the loaves liberally with water (which I usually did).
  • She put a dish of water into the oven while baking (which I never did).
  • She turned the heat down from 220 C to 200 C because the bread seemed to be browning too fast.
  • She let the loaves get good and cool before covering them, then covered them with a Tupperware cake cover rather than popping them into a plastic bag like I always did.

The result was 2 loaves of tangy sourdough bread with the consistency of, very nearly, Wonderbread. Just a little easier to slice, not quite as soft.  I just had a slice with ham, and two more slices with half an avocado each. Tasty stuff. I’d post photos, but I’m lazy, also one of our cameras is currently in Carinthia, the other is in Indonesia.

Now I need a new Holy Grail. Learn the Star Spangled Banner on the electric musical saw, perhaps.