Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Umphrey's on a Stick"

Last night I went to the Minnesota State Fair for the second time this season. However, my reason was for music and hanging with a couple of friends, instead of eating a ton of food. (I did try the hotdish on a stick. Interesting and not too bad. B-)

I met my friends John and Tracy last year through a music social networking site, and our first concert together was Gov't Mule at the Minnesota Zoo. We went to a couple of others, including Umphrey's McGee. I knew little about them, except that they were part of the jam band scene. I didn't warm up to them at first, but I had a great time by the end of the show. They seemed a bit more calculating and orchestrated like Frank Zappa. One of my online buddies said it was like math being done on stage.

I haven't listened to any of their music since last year's show, but I was excited to see them play again. They played an hour-and-a-half of music. I was most impressed by one of the pieces that included four different modes of music, including a Particle-like movement, some jazz, and some progressive rock. (I don't know the names of any of their songs, so I have included the setlist below.)

I enjoy the fact that they are versatile musicians. It challenged me to listen carefully while having a good time dancing. John, Tracy, and I had a great time!

Umphrey's is playing two nights at the fair, including a second show tonight. Both are free shows at the Leinenkugel Leinie Lodge. I hadn't seen any shows at the fair before last night, but I liked this venue. Be prepared to have a good time, whether you have seen them before or not.

Set One:
Great American, Example 1, Liquid > Phil's Farm, Got Your Milk (Right Here), Uncle Wally > 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Morning Song, Hangover, Mullet (Over)

Let Me Go Home Whiskey > Miss Tinkle's Overture

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Sunday at the Minnesota State Fair

Yesterday we went to the fair for a late afternoon and early evening of live animals, dead animals (on sticks), and other assaults on our senses.

The Miracle of Birth barn is really cool. Baby pigs, sheep, chicks, and other animals have either been recently born or will be during the course of the twelve days of the fair. There were hundreds of people in here when we arrived. (After walking past a few cows, I whispered to my daughter that perhaps the cows were in charge and it was we humans who were on display.)

We split quite a bit of food, and here is my brief review of them.

I don't remember the name, but there was a sausage stand near the entrance. I enjoyed a bowl of "Chaurice" with wild rice, corn, and onions. After a few bites, I realized that "Chaurice = Chorizo." B+

The second round featured a roasted turkey leg that cost $7.50. This was one of the more expensive items, but it was quite tasty and was plenty to go around. A-

The fair french fries were a solid A.

The cheese curds were okay. Some may be aghast at that, but outside of the fair, I don't think I would eat them. C.

We walked around and burned off the equivalent of a few cheese curds, and then went into the butterfly house. If you are going to the fair, please check this out. It is on the corner of Dan Patch and Underwood. It is a $3 donation per person and well-worth it. We spent at least half an hour in there! It was beautiful and quite fun!

I had to try the spaghetti and meatball on a stick. It was basically a breaded-and-fried (what isn't at the fair) spicy meatball with a side of sauce. It was a solid food item, and I think this combined with some of the other protein-heavy dishes helped balance out feeling sick from too much fat and sugar. B+

We finished our trip to the fair with some desserts. My daughter had an ice cream cone that I merely scoffed at, as we adults had some fried Snickers on a stick. A couple asked me if they were good. I said that these are the epitome of the fair experience, and that you must love and hate them at the same time. They are a caloric nightmare and very sweet, but tasty and a state fair cultural treasure. A+


Friday, August 25, 2006

Too bad I didn't go to the fair last night!

Sonic Youth and The Flaming Lips played! I thought it was odd when I heard about it a couple of months ago.

Anyways, here is a local blogger with a recap.

I realize I haven't talked about much chess in my blog

With a few exceptions, I haven't spoken much about chess here. We've had a busy summer, and I haven't had much time to play, with the exception of a few games at the Chess Castle, a few online, and two games through the mail with my dad. Although I've played less often than usual, I've been happy with the frequency of my play.

I am, however, getting very excited for the 2006-07 season of the Twin Cities Chess League. I am the the captain of Tal Tales (please smirk if you get this)! It is an unrated team event played from September through March, seven games total. We started last year in round three, and we had a total of three draws out of five matches. This wasn't bad considering we had a low rating compared to most of the other teams.

Our first round is Friday, September 8. We have a full team with a few substitutes. I hope we improve scorewise over last year. Either way, it is one of the best events in Twin Cities chess.

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Great August weather!

Last evening I walked a few blocks to get a cup of coffee and to think about the job interview I had earlier in the day. As I was enjoying my cup of good, dark coffee, Melissa calls and warns me about an incoming thunderstorm. I told her I'd be careful, and I planned to wait it out.

However, it started raining heavily at a rate of four inches per hour, and it did not show any signs of stopping quickly. I nursed my coffee as long as possible, then decided to get home. My sandals and the bottom of my jeans got soaked, but it was a refreshing trip home. After the hot and humid spell we had here recently, it feels great to get all this rain!

The weekend weather is predicted to be sunny and in the low 80's, so we hope to get out to the state fair.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chris Mooney's blog

I just discovered Chris Mooney's blog through PZ Myers' Pharyngula. Chris is the author of The Republican War on Science. He has an excellent post about traveling carbon neutral. This article reminds me that I need to continually examine how my consumption choices add to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The current 4400 story line is an example of egalitarianism vs elitism

The 4400 is a sci-fi show on the USA Network. It is about a group of 4400 people who have been removed at various points in their lives, but all returned at the same moment. Some of them have developed special powers. The government wants them monitored and quarantined.

Without talking about the specifics of the current story line, to me it demonstrates the social conflict of egalitarianism versus elitism. Our country at the moment is plagued by the dynamics of one group of people who are elitists but claim they represent the common folk against another group of people who are also elites. Unfortunately, too many of us believe one side over the other, and some of our political and social situations suffer from rancor.

With that current mood in mind, I have been thinking about the 2006 and 2008 elections. I think that except for the politically partisan faithful, people are tired of this administration and want a change. I hope this actually occurs. I don't mean merely to replace Republicans with Democrats. I am hoping that we elect representatives that a larger majority of us can agree with.

I like President Bill Clinton. Watching Jon Stewart last night made me appreciate him just a bit more. Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen was Stewart's guest. I did not know before this that Cohen was a Republican, but I knew that President Clinton hired a few Republicans. Cohen commented that this is not happening today in Washington.

I hope that we can get back to an environment of governing and move away from an environment of political fighting. I would hate to see another Presidential election with one party receiving a narrow majority and everyone arguing over the results!

I think that we can move ourselves towards an egalitarian political system by making ourselves well-informed about issues and candidates. We can also move ourselves to be less partisan. For example, Andrew Sullivan's blog on Time includes a post today referencing Matt Welch's Farewell to Warblogging.

Note: The partisan mind works differently than the non-partisan mind, according to this story on MPR.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Making green CDs

I just finished reading this article about Earthology Records in my local paper. I wanted to share it because I'm impressed that they want to tackle the waste that is a big part of producing compact discs.

On a related note, I enjoy buying music and being able to hold and read through the artwork. However, I could not imagine not having that for Tool's 10,000 Days, an excellent mixture of artwork and music. On the other hand, I have also gotten used to playing music on my iPod and doing without the packaging.

Monday, August 21, 2006

One of my favorite shows starts its second season tonight!

I have watched a few good shows on Fox. I've been watching the outstanding 24 for many years, and last season a new show started--Prisonbreak. Like 24, it has a complicated story line, cliffhangers, and good character development. Tonight is the beginning of season two! I am happy that the season break between seasons one and two was short, unlike 24, in which we fans have to wait until January.

(For the record, I love these shows, but I think the Fox News Channel is full of asshats.)


Blogging and democracy

I watched one item and listened to another regarding the Internet and democracy in the last two days. Henry Rollins had an excellent commentary in his "Teeing Off" portion of episode twenty (the season finale) about freedom of speech, democracy, and questioning the supposed wisdom of our leaders. This morning's Future Tense show featured Iranian-born blogger Hossein Derakhshan and how fifty bloggers have been detained in Iran.

Both point to the idea that the uncensored Internet is fantastic and allows for the flourishing of free speech and democracy, but that this media is also unpopular by those who wish to control others.

(Here is part two of that interview.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


This last weekend was just wonderful! We flew to Ohio on Friday for my 20th high school reunion. We had events on both Friday and Saturday night, and those were enjoyable. However, Sunday was the big day!

My parents' 40th anniversary is a couple of weeks away. Given that, we figured on having a surprise party a few weeks early to catch them completely off guard! My cousin, Anna, was over in the early afternoon. I said, "Well, if we don't see you tomorrow, then we'll see you on our next trip." (We were holding back our laughs.)

She headed off to the restaurant to set up. We left about an hour later to "go out for lunch at the Tong Tong." My family has been going to Tong Tong for nearly the entire time it has been open--26 years. So throwing a party here did not raise any suspicions.

We arrived at the restaurant at 1:30. My mom and dad saw a couple of their friends go in a few dozen yards before us. They also happened to notice both one of my uncle's car and Anna's car. They thought it was a little odd, while I was thinking they were catching on (they weren't they told me later).

So we walk in the door and 41 of their family members and friends were there taking up the center part of the restaurant! They couldn't believe their eyes. Relatives came from out of state to surprise them! (About this I'm very happy! I'm given them some unpleasant surprises over the years, so it was fun to give them a joyous one!)

We had a feast! I always enjoy our meal there, but this one certainly was the best! (Thanks to the owner, Wendy, for accomodating our large group!)

We finished the meal with a cake that my aunt ordered!

My mom told me today that she is still processing this experience. This left them a bit in shock! :)

Wow! I forgot how great a band X really is!

I have seen X one other time, in 1994—well, technically twice, as I won tickets for a Cleveland radio station and got to see a noontime set earlier the same day.

On Wednesday August 9, my friend Carillon and I went downtown to see X with Rollins Band and the Riverboat Gamblers. The venue was moved from The Quest to The Fine Line Cafe. The last minute change caused us to walk in right at 8, at which time the Riverboat Gamblers took the stage.

I feel bad that we never saw them before, because apparently these guys from Denton, Texas play in the Twin Cities three or four times a year. After the show we bought their newest CD and talked to one of them. They have played at the Triple Rock Social Club among other venues.

These guys were energetic, fun, and played well! I was especially impressed with their story. Their van broke down in Vegas over a week ago, and unfortunately they missed almost a week worth of shows. They had just driven 29 hours from Vegas to Minneapolis, arriving an hour before show time to throw a great show!

Their energy was infectious! The lead singer loved to climb! He climbed on the speakers, up to the balcony, and jumped around in the audience. I did not know any of their songs, but I didn't need to. They had an old-school sound that was easy to listen to and made you want to move with them. They played a half-hour set that was over too quickly. Carillon and I had smiles on our faces and we relaxed before the Rollins set.

At 9 Rollins Band comes on stage. This is the Rollins Band from the 90's, with Melvin Gibbs on bass, Chris Haskett on guitar, and Sim Cain on drums. This band put out a few great records, especially The End of Silence and Weight. The last time I saw them was a free show at the Taste of Minnesota in front of the Capitol Building in the summer of 1996, my first summer in Minneapolis.

This is a great band! Melvin, Sim, and Chris play well together. Rollins, as you probably know, is an intense guy. He comes out with these loose fitting black shorts, barefoot, tensing up his muscles getting ready to unleash his verbal load on the audience. We've been there before eagerly awaiting for them to crush us with their sound.

They delivered! They played most of the songs from Weight, including the Sabbathesque Vol. 4, Liar, and Disconnect among other tunes. I was pleased to get such a good set, and then we had another short weight before X came out.

We got a spot right in front of Exene. Everyone cheered as they took the stage. Billy played guitar to our left, while John played bass to our right. DJ was in the back on drums.

The crowd got into it, including a bit of slam-dancing. I had to do my best to hold onto the rail and pogo up and down, as I didn't want to get into the mass of people behind me. Everyone was having a good time and digging the band's energy. I enjoyed most of the show, especially when they played Hungry Wolf. The rhythm in that song is a joy!

This band is like the Grateful Dead to me in that they have a sound that is definitely American. X has a rockabilly influence, the Dead has country and jazz. Both have a chemistry that is enjoyable and works to move an audience to dance!

(In case you are a fan of any of these bands or are curious, here is the list of the remaining dates.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bad BP!

In an earlier post, I had provided some praise of BP for their efforts with forward thinking towards the future of energy. I'm writing this brief post because I hope they are being genuine with that effort, but they need to be taking care of the nuts-and-bolts of their current business. Right now it looks like they are sucking in that regards! Grrrrrrr!

Amazing interview on the Henry Rollins show!

Last night we watched our last taped episode of Henry Rollins show on IFC. He was interviewing Stephen Gaghan, the writer and director of Traffic and most recently, Syriana. This interview just blew me away! He talked about the research he did for Syriana, and it was quite unlike most research (he ended up in Beirut with some crazy stories to tell)!

It was definitely eye-opening! (Syriana was based on Robert Baer's book, See No Evil. I went out and bought a copy this morning.)

Thanks to both Henry and Stephen!


Speaking of Henry, tonight I get to see the Rollins Band and X! I haven't seen either band in quite a few years, so I am quite excited!

Monday, August 07, 2006

New stupid commercial!

Thanks to Missy, my sense of inner peace went from

Dalai Lama--me----------------------------Lewis Black

to way past Lewis! She rewound the DVR to show me the last commercial, which featured toy Hummers in the Happy Meal at McDonald's. WTF?!!!!! (Mis knows how to push my buttons!!) I just couldn't stand to see the combination of the premier symbols of fast food and gas-guzzling vehicles together. In this age of global warming and high oil prices, I cannot think of less responsible advertising.

(My rant was pretty funny yesterday, but not so today. I'm posting it anyways to open it for commentary.)

However, please don't accuse me of moral superiority. I enjoy burgers, I should try biking more often, and one of the foods I enjoy, soy, is part of the deforestation equation.

Here is an article on SUV drivers. I am reposting this article from my friend Janet Cohen's blog that talks about culture code and products.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Love is...

...having your sweet wife make you a batch of much needed chocolate chip cookies after a really rough day!

Yesterday was one of the most draining days I had in a long time. I had too much incoming information, there was certainly not enough naptime for a little beloved one, and my energy and patience levels ran down to near zero by the time I saw Melissa yesterday afternoon.

I made plans to go to a Jerry Garcia tribute at the Cabooze last night. About half the time I go out by myself, and I normally enjoy myself. However, I wish that either I did not go out or a friend would have gone with me last night, because even listening to Grateful Dead music did little to cheer me up. After listening to a very good rendition of Terrapin Station by The Jones Gang, I left to catch the light rail home. I called Melissa before the train arrived and told her how I was feeling. I figured she was already headed to bed.

But I walk in the door, many lights were still on, and Melissa greets me and tells me she made a batch of cookies! I felt so happy to be back home and lucky to have such a great gal!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

If you don't want war, prepare for peace

These are my reflections on the Dennis Prager and Michael Lerner interview I watched on Larry King, as well as Jon Stewart's "This Week in God" on Monday night.

Dennis and Michael are both Jewish men who were weighing in and discussing the current Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah war. Dennis was advocating for a peace-through-superior-firepower solution, and Michael was advocating for a longer-term solution driven by Israelis and Palestinians respecting each others' humanity.

The Daily Show's "This Week in God" featured a video of three extreme examples of children being "educated" in Christian, Muslim, and Judaic cultures. The people who created the Left Behind series created a violent video game for children based on their books. The Hezbollah have a summer camp for youngsters with a militant theme (weapons-training included). Israeli children were shown writing on bombs that were going to be sent to destroy Hezbollah soldiers.

I was pretty much sickened by that dark humor. I have a difficult time accepting the violence as it exists, but even worse, I can't believe that adults are teaching their children hatred and violence. "Gee, war is such a great use of our time and energies, let's be sure to teach our kids."

Anyways, I thought about a good title for the blog entry this morning as I wanted to fold and spindle the old adage "If you want peace, you must prepare for war." We as humans have more than adequately prepared ourselves for war, but it sure seems that we really haven't done enough to prepare for peace. Finding real peace is difficult. I certainly am not a student of political science nor military policy, and I don't have any useful advice for the current situation.

I just feel the pain of the Israeli people defending themselves and both the Lebanese people and Israelis who have lost family members and friends to the violence. It greatly saddens me. I get angry at the Hezbollah who set up camp in Lebanese-civilian territories. They don't love the Israelis, and they certainly don't love the Lebanese people.

Peace is a state of being beyond ideology and politics. I don't go to peace rallies because I still see division driven by ideology. Rather, I find it more valuable to be communicating with people through blogging, listening to music together, playing chess, or one of my favorite activities, being with my wife and my sister- and brother-in-law watching South Park and being lovable idiots together. (Deb, Keith--you know I'm a drum-circle hippie and not a college know-it-all hippie!)