Thursday, August 30, 2007

I know, I know

I haven't blogged in an epoch because I've been trying to learn the meaning of justiciability (as well as how to say it!) and about a thousand other things that are hard to say and harder to understand. Someday I'll get back to blogging, but I'll be less interesting. That is a disturbing consideration for people who have read my blogs previously because they obviously aren't page-turners.
Despite what it may be doing to my sense of humor (and my psyche) I like law school. It's fun in a way most people would consider totally not fun.
I'll try to blog now and then about topics wholly unrelated to law school because no one wants to read about me rambling around in the darkness. But right now I have no other thoughts outside of law school, so you'll have to content yourself with this. Sorry.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer of Jeffrey comes to an end

As I type this it is my final day of non-law school freedom. I'm both excited and mortified about getting started. I've had a good summer and appreciate Kat for allowing me to live the life of the idle rich at least for awhile.

All the preparations have been made for law school - tuition paid for, laptop bought, books purchased, loans in arrears, fingernails nonexistent, fears in overdrive. I busted out my old laptop today as sort of a bridge to when I was last in school. I played some of my old mp3s (sadly trapped on the antiquated machine because it crashes if I try to use the disk drive), played a few games of Minesweeper and thought about what I liked about school in the first place.

I've written in this space and others about this matter for quite some time, and I think everyone is quite bored with it. It appears that it is time for me to put up or shut up. I'll let you know which way it goes.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Adventures in Computer Purchasing

(Note appended after I was done writing: This is long. It is in the spirit of "The Worst Thanksgiving in the History of the World Ever," which was a family favorite, although I can find no proof of it online. Also, there is a point made at the end that some may find poignant or at least not totally horrible. If you like, you can just skip down to there and read that.)

I am a rube.

And apparently, employees of electronics superstores can sense this. That, and my constant bad lucks, are the only explanations for what I've been through over the last few days. I was finally ready to buy a new laptop computer for law school. My trusty Compaq Presario (purchased in the summer of 1999 at Circuit City, I believe) still works, although there is only one hamster still alive and he is now very aged. But I'm impressed that it can still even turn on eight years after the fact. But obviously, that computer is not good enough. And Kat would like to retain control of her IBM Thinkpad because, after all, it is hers and I don't have a great track record in protecting her computers (no link available but it involved a sweet MacBook now theoretically being used by a Northwest Airlines baggage handler).

So it was clear that I needed a new unit. I checked out Circuit City and Best Buy and liked the prices, but the good prices are for computers that don't have enough memory to actually run Windows Vista at the same time as doing much else. So I had to bump up to 2 gigs of RAM and I wanted the Intel Core Duo processor for the speed as well as a CrystalBrite screen and, of course, at least a 2 MB L2 cache. (I stopped knowing what I was writing about a few sentences ago if that wasn't abundantly clear).

And therein lies my problem, I couldn't really justify why I wanted what I wanted, but Kat sought out the opinion of her father, who actually knows things. I would have liked to have asked The Smartest Man I Know but I couldn't really reach him. So rather than going to Best Buy or Circuit City, I decided to make the purchase at Play It Again Sports. Now most people would think that would be a terrible place to buy a laptop - and they would be right. At Play It Again I got a sweet dartboard with darts for only $11.98. Then I went home, grabbed the BB and CC circulars (which are actually rectangular, but stay with me) and reared back and fired.
The lucky computer was the Aspire 5630 by Acer. Maybe you have never heard of this computer or computer company, but I had little choice. I had to trust the darts.

The next morning I tromped to CC and stood in front of my chosen notebook PC. And stood there and stood there. They must not be working on commission at CC or else I had achieved my goal of becoming invisible. (However, if I became invisible, the computer department of CC would not be one of the first 333,000 places I would go). Finally, I had to loudly say "Sir," to a man who did not deserve to be called "Sir." He deigned to look up from his MySpace page long enough to say he'd "Be right there." He wasn't. Finally, he sauntered over and I said "I'll take this one." He said "I'll see if we have it in stock." I knew they did because I had looked online. At this point, after 10 minutes of research, I was smarter than most actual employees of CC. When he said "We do have it," I pretended to be surprised and happy. (I didn't do a very good job of it.) We wandered over to his work kiosk, which appeared to be a Commodore 64 that had been poorly taken care of.

And this is where the story starts getting really sad. The employee asked me, in what I considered a rather accusatory tone, "Why are you going with the Acer?" This was the last thing I wanted, to be forced to justify my purchase. I had plenty of answers I could give: "It's not for me," "Silence, plebe," or "My father-in-law said it was good, and I'd be crazy to disagree with him, for obvious reasons." Instead as I almost always do, I went the meek, frightened route. I said, "Acer is a good brand, it's just that not a lot of people know much about it." The employee said "Oh yeah, it's a good computer." I could sense he did not know what he was talking about because he sounded like me when I talk about computers.

Since new PCs come loaded with Vista but not Microsoft Office, I purchased the Office Home and Student 2007 and just went ahead and had the CC retreads install the software because I didn't really want to. (In the olden times, like when I bought that Presario, it came loaded with Office 97, and we liked it that way!) So I left at 11 a.m. and came back at 2:30 p.m. to pick up my computer. I drove home excited to jump right in and see what great graphics changes Microsoft had made to Freecell in Vista.

For the next three hours I customized the computer to my liking, got only the gadgets I liked, downloaded a few programs and set up Windows Calendar. It was a rather enjoyable afternoon. The computer was working quite well. I even sent a celebratory e-mail from the new machine. My horrible CC experience was in the rear-view and things were looking up. But then Kat came home.

She came in the house and put her phone on the table. She recently purchased a Bluetooth headset to try to simplify things when she is driving and talking. The new computer is set up to communicate with Bluetooth devices, although I don't really have need for it at this point. But this is when the story gets murky. I was looking at my computer screen when her phone rang (it was her Mom calling) and the screen started to bounce rather crazily in rhythm with the rings. That continued until the screen was nothing but stripes. I said it looked like one of M.C. Escher's nightmares, and I even took a photo in case that would be needed later (see, thinking like a lawyer, maybe I'll just take the bar now and skip that school part).

We restarted the computer but the screen didn't improve. We could vaguely see some icons, but this was no way to use a computer. Since I had only had the computer for about three and a half hours, we decided to schlep back to CC and show them. In CC's defense, I will say they were nice enough to say "Yeah, that thing is totally screwed up, we'll just give you another one." So we went up to the front and they brought out another Acer. However, the employee who brought the computer out to the front was tapping out some rhythms on the box right in front of me. "I wanted to say 'Hey buddy, this is not CC Music Factory, how 'bout you cool it with the McFerrin on my $700 purchase, eh broheems?" Instead, I went the "meek, frightened route" as is my wont and leaned over to Kat and whisperingly referred to him as "Ricky Retardo." Now, I know that's harsh, but no one heard it. Also, I stole that line from The Film Crew's riffing on Hollywood After Dark - now available on NetFlix instant viewing!

So after they handed me my new bass drum, I mean, computer, I took it back to the tech guys to install Office again. Kat and I went shopping and had a bite to eat, came back, picked it up and went home. I was too afraid to deal with more problems, so I waited until the next day. Everything has been good with the computer and I'm typing this on it now.

To return to what caused the first computer to freak out, I don't know if it was Bluetooth, simply the phone creating interference or if it was completely a coincidence. I think there was a bad connection somewhere that made the screen prone to problems. If The Smartest Man I Know has some time, he could "diagnose" what happened and then fill me in. I hope that everything works out with the new computer. As long as it can dutifully save Word documents I think it should be fine.

Whenever I have a bad experience akin to this, which is regularly to my dismay, I ask "Why does this happen to me?" When I was in my formative years, I had a T-shirt that said "If I didn't have back luck, I'd have no luck at all." I think it was a gift because it wasn't the sort of thing I'd ask for. But looking back on it, it was rather fitting (literally and figuratively). Because the bad luck (and it wasn't all bad, obviously) made me who I was. While bad luck can be difficult as it is happening, it's always worth a laugh later. The shirt should have said, "If I didn't have back luck, I'd have no stories at all." And that's how I feel. Nothing is better than looking back and telling a humorous tale of woe from a happier spot. And that's what I've enjoyed writing this. Now I realize, no one will have read this far, but it was worth it anyway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

That's it ... That's the list

I wanted to create a list of the 10 (or some other arbitrary figure) greatest long, huge, rambling album-closing songs of all time. But since I don't have the expertise or musical chops for that, instead I present an arbitrary number of my favorite long, huge, rambling album-closing songs from my music collection

Cursive "Staying Alive" - It's a truly fierce race for number one, but in the end I think this is the best song of the lot because of the mantra-like finish of intoning "The worst is over." It definitely beats jai ya and is something I tell myself regularly.

Bright Eyes "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to be Loved)" - A truly great song both lyrically and musically. This is the standard bearer for enormousness from the opening timpani roll to the hoots of applause at the close of the song and the array of sounds that comes after it.

Black Star "Twice Inna Lifetime" - While not as large as some of the others, this song includes Mos Def and Kweli along with Jane Doe, Punchline and the criminally underrated Wordsworth, whose puns earn this song a spot by themselves. At only 5:38, this is about the shortest that a rambling album-closer can be.

The Decemberists "California One Youth and Beauty Brigade" - The closer to Castaways and Cutouts is 9:50 long. It evokes wine, sea winds and sunny afternoons. After a listen, everyone will want to join the youth and beauty brigade.

My Morning Jacket "Dondante" - There's a lot going on here, like there is for many of the songs by this jam band. While it is more about the music than the lyrics, the closer "You had me worried, so worried that this would last, but now I'm learning that this will pass," works very well as a mantra.

Honorable mention for songs that would have been in this list if they had been album-closers rather than in the middle of the album includes "Inmates" by The Good Life and two by Death Cab for Cutie: "Transatlanticism" and "Different Names for the Same Thing." I think "Transatlanticism" is the best example of what I mean when I'm talking about these types of songs. Never have the words "Come On" been so meaningful.

I decided to create this list because A) it was one of the few lists that VH1 hasn't already done and B) there is a song I've been spinnin' that I thought could have made this list, but in the end didn't. That song is "In Our Bedroom After the War" off the new Stars album of the same name. Briefly, I enjoy the album but they obviously had a tough task ahead of them because "Set Yourself on Fire" is so good. The album closer was good, but not great. But I still recommend the album. My favorites are "The Night Starts Here," "Take Me to the Riot" and "Personal." While I'm not a huge fan of "Barricade," it did take me directly back to seeing Les Miserables in the Lied Center with my mom. If that's what you want, I'd suggest picking it up. This album is available digitally but not in stores because Stars released it for purchase after it was leaked. I'll be interested to see if they're actually able to sell many albums in stores in September when the disc is released.

Also, I've been enjoying the album "Cookies" by 1990s, especially "Cult Status" and "Situation." This Scottish rock band veers more toward the short songs than long, rambling, opuses, so no additions to the list to be found there.

I'm sure the long, rambling album-closer has been a musical staple for years, but I just don't have the knowledge to know. It seems like Saddle Creek bands enjoy making those songs, which is great since I enjoy listening to them. Anyone with additions to the list from recent records or even albums from the past are encouraged to add them in the comments. While I think most people scan right through a gigantic 10-minute song at the end of the album, it's what I enjoy. I like nothing better than getting to that song and listening as I move on down the road for the next 8 to 10 miles as the music rises and falls, changes and then closes with a repeating whispered refrain.