Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Waited Just Long Enough For This to be Irrelevant

I wanted, as best I could, to give my take on the Joe Paterno thing after a little time has passed, because I think that public opinion suffers from heat-of-the-moment passions; the Great Unwashed does not think straight when emotion clouds their view.

Just about everybody thought that firing Paterno was the right thing to do, because, as popular opinion went, the stakes were too high to just report an incident to one's superior.  It needed some sort of undefined, nebulous further follow-up, as if a phone call two weeks later would have magically checked the right boxes and Paterno could be said to have done the right thing.

Then when he died, most of those same Great Unwashed pronounced it a pity - even a shame - what happened to Paterno, that he was deprived of the only thing that kept him going, that he was scapegoated and railroaded, and that he died of a broken heart.  He did not die of a broken heart; he died of lung cancer, but I will re-visit that later in this post.

Now normally I'm one of the first kids on the block to spot and mock the ever-changing vicissitudes of the Great Unwashed, but this time, I'm going to give them a pass.  Because this time I understand why it went down the way it did.

I think that the world, or that part of the world that cared about this, was a little horrified at the callous, bureaucratic way that Paterno handled the situation.  The behavior was relayed to him; he notified a superior and let the matter drop. And that was deemed not enough, especially for someone who is charged with safeguarding children and shepherding them through the dark tunnel to adulthood.

This scumbag Sandusky was not only buggering young kids but was doing so while exploiting a position of authority and trust.  It made a heinous act absolutely demoniacal. And the Great Unwashed screamed for blood. And when the trustees of PSU fired Paterno, the general consensus was that it was a shame but it was the right thing to do.

Then came the diagnosis, and with shocking suddenness, the death watch.  And then, thanks to the lung on the right of the above picture, came the end, early in the morning on January 22. Joseph Vincent Paterno was 85.

Many, many things are forgiven in death.  It was said that, when John Wilkes Booth was shot and paralyzed by a Union soldier who was trying to roust him from a tobacco barn that was on fire, the other soldiers in the company comforted the dying Booth as best they could, speaking soothing words to him and promising him they'd deliver a message to his mother.

So it was with Paterno.  The prevailing opinion, overnight, from the Great Unwashed was that Paterno was scapegoated, that the wrong person was railroaded insofar as he immediately reported the activity in question to his nominal superior. He did the right thing and did it timely, and his reputation was unnecessarily tarnished.

And I get that too.  You don't speak ill of the dead.  This is a guy who not only touched the lives of thousands of kids, but who himself had a family, a son who loved him dear and a wife to whom he was devoted for over fifty years.

That's why I needed to cogitate on this one for a few days, to let his death sort of wear off.  Because I suspect the truth of the matter lay somewhere in the middle. Paterno did sort of take a detached, bureaucratic approach to reporting Sandusky's malfeasance, and should have done more.  The trustees did sort of make a knee-jerk decision regarding his firing, and should have done less. And he didn't die of a broken heart; he died of lung cancer, which would have happened no matter what his reaction to the crime, or the trustees' reaction to Paterno's reaction to the crime.

In the end, and from every angle, it's just a shame. Broken trust, resulting in kids in lifelong pain; an otherwise sterling legacy tarnished; a family bereft of husband and dad. The only character that did what  was expected of him, who did his job efficiently and thoroughly, was the fucking cancer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hopefully, Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

Running out to play poker @Very Josie's house, but I wanted to show you this.  What are the odds?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Final Life Lesson

The most recent kerfuffle between the TSA and a US Senator - in this case the very conservative Rand Paul (R-KY) - has brought up memories of the last time this happened to a sitting senator.

Longtime readers of this little chucklefest - bless both your little hearts - will know all about the passing of my dad, which Buddha help me, is now just a few months shy of four goddamn years ago. Relax - I'm not treading that ancient ground, although it's safe to say I'm still as broken as when I wrote about it the last time.  

He kept his marbles till the very end, despite having some curious low spots in his intelligence-map.  Not only was he the real word-man of the house (a voracious reader and completer of his daily crossword puzzle quite literally until the day he died), but he was a genius spatially, as well; was one of those guys who could take an elevation drawing and and draw a top-view, for example.  But ask him to cook 1 1/2 cups of rice by adapting a recipe for 1 cup and he'd be lost.

To paint an accurate picture of the man would require too much ink; suffice it to say that at the end of his life he was a sweet old man who delighted in seeing, and being seen by, his family, whom he loved beyond reason. 

He was also, in direct contrast with me, a gun-toting far righty ultra-conservative whose political ideals were the complete opposite of mine, though (of course) they were well thought-out and he kept his bullshit detector on with every politician, Democrat and Republican alike.

Because of Dad's delicate health, I made it a habit to head over to the house for dinner, which I did every Wednesday for eight years. It was dinner at, say, 6, and laughs and stories about the disappointing Red Sox before heading to poker night chez Très Josie, where I'd usually regale the table with stories about my mother.*

Well, one day, this was August of 2004, I found him in full rant mode about the terrorists and the new reality that they forced the US of A into.  I asked him what the matter was and he asked me, "Did you hear what happened to Senator Kennedy?  They turned him back from a flight - wouldn't let him board.  A United States Senator, for Christ's sake!  How dare they?"

"I thought you hated Ted Kennedy," I said, with a smile curling about my lips.

"This isn't about the man," he said.  "It's about the office. He's an elected official to the US Government and he deserves respect, especially from some shlemaz'l with a plastic badge.  Gary, this is an honest to God outrage.  He's one of the most powerful, highly-respected men in the entire country! I still can't believe it.  If I were his boss I'd have him fired so fast his water pistol would start leaking!"

And on and on and on.

And of course he was right.  And at the age of 71, and me at the age of almost 36, it would be, as memory serves me, the last big life lesson he would teach me. It's also why it doesn't matter that this guy's politics are antithetical to mine.  This is more than one man's politics and the endless game of "gotcha" that the two political parties and their adherents play ad nauseum. It's about respect for the office.  It's why I always called him "President Bush" when everyone else was calling him "Dubya" or something pejorative and demeaning.  Because one can - I believe that one must - respect the office and respect the man, even if you make no secret of your intention to vote for the other guy.

Don't get me wrong: a full-throated criticism of the party in power is the very lifeblood of a vibrant democracy. But you can do with with respect, and forcing a US Senator to succumb to a patdown is neither respectful nor honorable.  I mean, just from a pragmatic point of view, Senator Rand has been subject to background checks more comprehensive than "What's in your pockets, sir?"  My God, he walks the halls of the Senate every working day - crosses paths with the President dozens of times in a year. If he's been cleared to do that, you think there's any reason whatsoever that he shouldn't be cleared to fly a commercial airliner?  You're right, Dad - it's an outrage.

And thanks for the lesson.  And all the others. God dammit, I still miss you.

And the rest of you: thanks for listening, as always.


Maybe someday.  There are some real doozies.  Jo, if you're reading this, give me your two or three top stories and perhaps I'll start with them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Cruelty - and an emptying of the Brain Bag

Been thinking about cruelty lately. It's a funny trait in someone; it's one of the most base emotions there is, one that, as an adult, has to be un-learned, as opposed to learned.  Ever observe kids on a playground?  They don't need to be taught the finer points of cruelty.  Kids work in cruelty like Picasso worked in French mistresses.  Often they don't know they're being cruel; sometimes they know and don't care.  Either way, kids can be horribly cruel and never feel a single pang of regret.

Adults, though, are usually a different story.  Oh, sure, every so often you'll run across a J. R. Ewing type of cat (kids, look it up), who just delights in cruelty, but I submit that when adults are cruel to another it's an aberration; that it's not part of someone's normal personality.  Cruelty, one adult to another, usually takes place because of one of two different reasons: one, you're a passive-aggressive sort who chooses to be cruel because of some half-imagined slight to your wonderfulness on the part of the person who you're cruel to, or you said something more by accident than on purpose that, halfway out of your mouth, you realize was cruel but it's too late.

Either way, though, when you do or say something that's cruel, and you don't apologize for it, then you're just one of those people who don't mind being cruel.  And that makes you a bad person.

And now, some random cranial events:

*  What a beat-down on the Broncos by the Patriots.  At the poker game Saturday I made it clear that I thought the Pats would not only win but also cover the 13 1/2 points they were giving up.  Belly chick is just too good a game planner to not issue a beatdown to a team that relies on gimmickry that he's seen twice in five weeks.

*   If you're hungry and feel like some fast food, but don't want to foist any huge indignity onto your body, go to Dunkin Donuts and get a chicken salad sandwich on a croissant.  It's real food, it's always fresh, it's not expensive, and it goes down real good with an iced coffee. And it won't give you the grumbellies like a quarter-pounder with cheese will.

*  Lightning and I have been engaging in a mammoth Beatles trivia contest with ultra-hard questions.  Sample question that Lightning got right: What splendid gesture did Paul make that was repaid by John crediting Give Peace A Chance to Lennon/McCartney? (Answer: recording Ballad of John and Yoko with John in a single day when George and Ringo were otherwise occupied).  Sample question that I got right: What is the significance of the song Not a Second Time? (answer: first song that was recorded without all four Beatles - just John and Ringo, with George Martin providing a piano solo).  I still think I'm better at Beatles trivia than he, but Lightning acquitted himself well and proved he's worthy.  If anybody else wants in, no problem, as long as you adhere to one rule:  Don't look anything up.  This is an honor thing.  Don't be a douchebag.  Email me and I'll concoct some evil witch's brew of questions to test your mettle.

*  I have a new friend, Cranky, who is a caregiver to her wife who has MS.  I have some up-close experience with MS and what it can do - a really good friend of mine, whom I've known for 25 years, was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2000, and his life is a constant struggle against his own body, which fails him with regularity and repays him with more or less constant pain.  He's been going through some life crap lately too - he had to put down his dog this past Christmas, which was only minimized by the fact that his sainted mother passed away 24 hours later.  So Cranky, whereas I could never truthfully say that I know what you or Skip are going through, I have a shadow of knowledge along those lines. I'm guessing you have a decent support system around you but if it ever gets too heavy, I'm just an email away.

I guess that's all for now.  As Shakespeare said, "Prithee, remember the porter."

Monday, January 16, 2012

REVIEW: Kindle Fire, Amazon's Jewel

PROS: Huge functionality for the money, easy to use, a ton of content available, lots of free content
CONS: Backlit display might cause more eye strain than eInk or LCD; relatively short battery life; clumsy integration with cloud

My review of Amazon's Kindle Fire is perhaps best understood in the context of me being intimately familiar with the Kindle as an e-book reader.  As I mentioned recently I've had a Kindle for years; was indeed one of its earliest adopters. So in my opinion the product needs to be evaluated under two separate sets of criteria; namely, how it compares to previous incarnations of the Kindle, and secondarily how it performs as the more general entertainment/media servant that it has become.

The Fire is a little heavier than my old Kindle, and is just a little smaller, despite having a viewing area that is about 50% larger. While heavier, though, it would be difficult to conceive that the extra weight would cause any fatigue while reading.

The old Kindle's display was not backlit; it used an LCD display that required external light to work (later versions of the Kindle, including the current generation, use eInk technology that, while better than the LCD technology of the first-gen devices, still need an external light source). The Fire is of course backlit and shows deep, rich colors and the darkest blacks.  I was actually pleasantly surprised to see just how striking the display was, how rich the colors.  And reading text is soothing on the eyes due to adjustable brightness, the ability to adjust the font, size, and line spacing of the text, as well as the background: readers can choose white, sepia, or black (with white letters). You can find the most comfortable option for you which will cut down even further on viewing fatigue.

Any comparison of memory between old Kindle and the Fire is ridiculous.  The old Kindle had perhaps 128MB of RAM; the new one has 6GB.

However the Fire uses a lot of batter power, since it's so, well, powerful.  You can exhaust the Fire's battery power in less than a day, whereas the power requirements for an older Kindle are so low that you can read for days without having to charge, and go for weeks on standby. That's something to consider if attaching to house current is inconvenient or infrequent.

And don't discount the impact of the difference between LCD/eInk and a backlit display.  Some people think that the eInk is so much more natural on the eyes that it impacts their decision as to what they end up purchasing.  And if your eyes strain easily, or get tired after, say, staring for hours at a computer screen, and all you want to do is read books, you should consider at least looking at a standard Kindle.

But really, if you are anyone else, and you are replacing your Kindle, spend the little extra money and get the Fire.

As for comparisons against other products, there really are none:  There aren't really any other products in its class.  It's tough to call the Fire a tablet; the Fire would not stand up to any apples to apples comparison with an iPad.  From every perspective including its physical size, the Fire is less of a device than an iPad.  If your goal when you woke up this morning was to buy a tablet, you probably don't want a Fire.

But bring the realities of the physical world into play and things become less clear. The iPad starts off life at $500; options and extras move that number up over 800 bucks. Kindle Fire? $200, out the door. You might decide that getting 80% of the functionality of an iPad while paying 35% of what they want for one, consider a Fire.

So: now you've bought one.  First thing to do, before you want to set it up, is plug it in.  The Kindle comes partially charged but you want to charge it up all the way before you start configuring it.

Configuring it, by the way, is a very straightforward procedure.  You set up an (or link to an existing) Amazon account, give it a credit card number, and you can thenceforth buy and access content to your heart's delight.

In addition to buying content you can rent content as well, and not just books but TV shows and movies too. Instead of buying a movie for ten bucks, you can rent the content for 24 hours for two dollars or so. And all with two-click convenience.

One exciting plus when you buy a Fire is a 30-day membership to Amazon Prime.  Now I am already a member; Toots and I do enough business with Amazon that the free two-day shipping is worth it by itself. But when you are a member of Prime you have access to over 50,000 songs, TV episodes, and movies that you can watch for free.  Membership in Amazon prime is $80 a year, so if you buy a lot of stuff from Amazon and you have a Fire, it's a pretty compelling proposition.

The content, when it's presented to you, is flawless, with no pixellation, jumps, audio/video discordance, or any sort of digital noise. The volume is decent when turned up all the way but you're better off hooking up a set of headphones. A tap on the screen brings up a few options for tapping, like pausing, going back 10 seconds, etc., without stopping. A little icon of a cog in the upper right corner, when tapped, brings up configuration options like volume, brightness, and the wi-fi settings.  It's all very intuitive; interacting with the screen pretty much does what you'd expect it to do, which is the hallmark of a well-thought-out interface.

As nifty as this device is, there are things that the Kindle Fire is not good at.  As I've mentioned before, writing more than anything longer than a tweet is probably going to make you start to swear with frustration.  It is a tool for consumption of content, much more so than the creation of content.

Also it makes, in my opinion, clumsy use of the cloud.  It stores your content in the cloud and if you're going to be in a place where wi-fi is unavailable, like on an airplace, you have to download your content from the cloud to your Fire. If you forget, you're out of luck.  Also the device could stand to better integrate the cloud with the on-board memory; it thinks of the cloud as a separate entity and so it makes you think of it that way as well.  Hey, men and women of the Fire team:  work on that for the next-gen Fire, OK?

So, to sum up:  Amazon's Kindle Fire is an absolute gem of a product that has the potential to be so popular that it creates a whole new market segment: the, pardon the expression, mini-pad (we'll work on the name). Its tiny price tag leaves me slackjawed; I'm sure Amazon is betting that the content you buy will feather their nests sufficiently to make up for it. But a decent Kindle that doesn't blare commercials at you is $139.  To not pay the extra sixty bucks for a jillion dollars worth of better is just stupid. And for anyone who might want an iPad but can't justify the price, you now have a perfect product for you.

Run out, today, and buy a Kindle Fire.  You will be glad you did.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An Actual Poker Game!

Yesterday I played a tournament at a local club where Josie, FDD Spuds, and I have been playing for years.  The atmosphere is convivial and fun, if a little smoky (as a private club they are exempt from the anti-smoking laws).  Turnout was pretty poor this time around, which was a little disappointing, but with 10 runners  all crowded around one table, it was both empty and crowded at the same time.

OK, I didn't make it rain quite like this, but sometimes it feels that way

I chipped up early thanks largely to Josie.  Of the first ten hands I was dealt, perhaps seven were quality enough to open with, which can be very frustrating if they don't connect.  So when I looked down and saw pocket sixes, I once again raised to 3xBB and waited to see what happened.  

The flop came 4-4-9.  The guy to my right, the 24 year-old son of one of the older members of the club, had already started stepping on my bets when he perceived that I usually just folded post-flop when I didn't connect.  Sure enough, he bets out 300, which was about a 3/4-pot sized bet.  Thinking that he was just being an aggro douchebag (actually he's a good dude but whatever, he's the enemy), I raised to 800.  Josie snap-raises to 1500  (I'm pretty sure; J remembers it as being 2000 but I'm almost positive it was 15). That slowed me down, but after thinking a while I thought she probably didn't have it, and despite the fact that I couldn't technically justify it, I made the very loose call, thinking vaguely that I'd try to maybe take a stab at it on the turn.

The turn was a beautiful, sexy six.  Gin! Now I hoped that Josie DID have a third four.  Bet, raise, shove, call.  Josie turns over a four - she had it all along - thinking she was gonna win, but I turned over my sixes full and dragged a huge pot, leaving Josie with three chips, a paper clip and an old peppermint candy to her name.  

But I will say this:  Josie takes a beat with class.  She hates it when people bitch and moan about being sucked out on, or being victim to intemperate play, and so she almost never does it herself.  She took this beat, in which she lost over 90% of her stack, and didn't say a word about it, nor did she pout or mope; she took it, for lack of a more appropriate term, like a man.  

Anyway, right after that hand I won two more big pots in rapid succession.  Holding a suited A, after the flop I had a flush draw and an inside straight draw.  I bet the flop fairly big, hoping for folds, and indeed everyone folded except for seat 2. Turn comes a blank for me, I take a second shot at the pot, and get called again.  Uh-oh.  I whiff the riv and shut it down, figuring I had to be beat, but he checks too - and as it turns out my ace high was good!  I drag a giant pot holding - and having to show down - ace high.  Wow. You know, I've gotten so used to being fucked over by bad players...to be able to finally profit from stupid play was very cool.

Hand after that I looked down to find JJ, which held up - and the genius in seat 2 kept betting into me with pocket 3's.  Matt, I think his name was.   I hope he comes back next month, I'll tell you that.

With that kind of stake I was able to sort of coast my way into the money.  One other hand of note: i held A7 five-handed.  I was still thinking what to do with it - I was probably going to raise with it but hadn't officially decided - when Aggro young'un to my right, who was short, shoved for about 1/3 of my stack.  As I went in the tank I started trying to justify a call, out loud: "You could have A2 or something like that," I said.  "Or two decent cards...you're probably just shoving with the first halfway decent hand you got...[long pause] OK, I call."  And sure enough, he turns over A3! I called his hand almost perfectly and had him crushed in the bargain.  But the board came up with four diamonds and he backs into a flush. Taking my cue from Very Classy Josie, I didn't say anything much about it, just let it roll off my back.

Long story short, I knocked out third place which gave me the chip lead but offered the #2 guy - Aggro young'un, of all people - a split which he accepted.  We each pulled about 3 1/2 buy-ins, not bad for a few hours of fun. So now we have some folding money for a family trip to a local institution 'round these parts (Kowloon's on Route 1 for you locals).  

Monday's post will, as promised, have my Kindle Fire review, finally.  Until then, stay warm and enjoy the football today!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lots to Talk About, But in the Meantime...

I won (actually split with the 2nd-place guy) a small tournament today, details some time after the Patriots game or so.  But I did want to show you a text message that Lightning sent me.  Sorry for the lack of focus and such; it's tough to take a picture of a cell phone.  But here it is:

Busy weekend for the kid, but Monday will be a big post, with:

*   Details on today's tourney.  SPOILER: Very Josie lost.
*   A welcome to my two newest followers, Rob and Grrouchy.  Link love given if gotten, fellas.
*   As requested by Rob, my Kindle Fire review.  SPOILER: fucking awesome.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Worst Mistake I've Ever Made in My Life

Firstly, let me apologize in advance, to all of you, for what I've done.

Everyone makes mistakes, though, right? I mean, the last guy who was perfect ('tis said) had his moment of doubt and pain too. And hell, he cavorted with a hooker - had her get freaky with him and a jar of myrrh, whatever the fuck THAT is.

So: nobody's perfect, and there are those who are sure that I would lose, in a landslide, the Perfection Detection Election.  And I made a mistake.  And I'm sorry.  I'm so so sorry.

Here's what happened.  Well, actually, a bit of background first, if you'll indulge the storyteller in me:

You might not know this, and I hope I'm not telling tales out of school, but as regards Josie, it's safe to say that I Knew Her When.  She didn't have a blog. She didn't write anything. I had to cajole her to even try to put pen to paper, and when she did the only emotional impact her writing had was to drive the point home that she was a shitty writer.  This by the way is nothing I wouldn't tell her to her face; no secrets between we two.

But - and this was the important bit - she was always Very Josie.  She always had a certain nauseating self-confidence in her skills, even when her skills were sub-par.  And while I will grant that she's a decent poker player now, used to was, she had to rely on the overabundance of luck for which she is famous in certain circles.

And when she would win a hand - especially one that she did not deserve to win - she uttered a phrase of self-congratulation that hit my ears like an icepick.

She would...

She would...

She would snap her fingers (both hands) and in a lilting singsong voice, say "Snaps for Josie!" and haul in her chips.

Friends, you have absolutely NO IDEA how annoying that was.  One night, I swear I'll never forget it, she sucked out on me magnificently by drawing out to one card.  I think it was a six.  She gave her "Snaps for Josie" bit and then cackled like a witch at my misfortune, or her fortune.  I went ballistic, swearing at her and yelling that when she sucks out like a goddamn fucking fish she might want to take that Snaps for Josie business and jam it so far up her ass that when she farts it sounds like "Snaps for Josie" if the wind is right.

We did not talk for almost two weeks. And we're about as close to best friends as adults can get.

I hated "Snaps for Josie;" I really did.

Well, time passed, with many cares and many changes.  Josie started blogging, found her voice almost immediately, learned to use paragraphs reasonably well, and became a good writer right before my eyes.  She also became a good poker player, using the Sicilian gifts that she possesses to read people in a live setting frightfully well. She became just a little bit more deserving of the ridiculously high opinion she has of herself.

And best of all, she forgot about Snapping for Josie.  So did we all.

Until last night.

We were playing poker, and Jo won a hand, whose details alas have been lost to the four winds.  She expressed delight at dragging this particular pot, and before I knew it, I heard myself utter the words that she herself had forgotten.

Let the record bear the truth for all eternity:  'Twas I, of all people.  I, who suffered the greatest under the oppressive yoke of that vile expression, who resurrected its skeletal remains from long death and brought it, hale and well, back to vigorous life.

Yes: out of the clear blue sky, I uttered the words "Snaps for Josie!" in the same obnoxious singsongy voice that she used a thousand times, but not for years almost beyond count.

Her face lit up like the Griswold's house at Christmastime and I knew right then that I would be spending the rest of this decade enduring the almost unendurable "Snaps for Josie" bullshit that she had run on me for years.

She took a pad of paper on which she was doodling, drew a giant Lucy and Desi heart (kids, look it up), and inside it wrote that nightmare phrase as if to re-engrave it, indelibly this time, into her conscious mind.

So now, if any of you have the singular misfortune of playing poker with Very Josie, on-line or in person, and she drags a pot she has no business dragging - and she will - steel your nerves in advance because you are going to hear that phrase.  You will hear "Snaps for Josie."

And I just want to say, I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Crafty Southpaw's Mailbag

Recently I got perhaps the nicest comment that I've ever gotten on my site.  It was from a comparatively new member of this little corner of the Inter Tubes, brought to us from Very Yosie (I'm pronouncing it with a soft J today). It was Cranky, Caregiver and Storage Warrior, who read my most recent "The Beatles are Gods" post and said the following:

Cranky: Gary - great Beatles vignettes. I'm 55 and the Beatles were a very important part of my growing up which I think explains why I still love them. However, you look much younger than me in your photo. How is it you came to be such an emphatic fan?

Well Cranky, firstly thanks for reading and for your comment - welcome aboard and please feel free to comment at any time.  Secondly, you're correct in that I'm younger than you (and also younger than Yosie.  She's older than me, have I mentioned?).  I turned 43 this past September.  When I made my appearance, Hey Jude was the #1 song on the charts but that's not what did it.  It was actually two things.

The first thing was, of all things, the "Paul is dead" rumor that gripped soft minds in the early '70's.  One night, I couldn't have been more than 8 or 9, our friends from across the street, the Blackstones, were over our house and we scared ourselves silly with a bunch of Paul Is Dead palaver.  I remember it freaking us out to the extent that the Blackstones ran, not jogged, back home because it was dark and they were completely spooked.

Anyway, the next time I was at the music store I wanted to buy a Beatles album that had lots of P is D clues. Not having any idea what to buy I took a shot and bought Abbey Road.  I remember being disappointed that the album wasn't as clue-laden as I'd have liked.  But eventually I got around to playing the album and I remember never having heard anything like it before.  Song after song just blew me away.  Being young and susceptible to a catchy hook I gravitated a bit more towards the Paul tunes than the John ones but eventually, as I wore the grooves down on the album (kids, look it up), I grew to love the album as a whole.  I remember specifically how the Beatles made clever use of silence on each side of the album - how side one ended so abruptly, how side two gave us Her Majesty after almost 30 seconds of silence after the previous song. I was impressed.

The second thing was that my brother Ross, the idiot fucktard scumbag genius who beats me in Scrabble more often than I'm comfortable discussing, had a cassette of Sgt. Pepper and wouldn't let me listen to it.  So naturally I listened to it all the time, and heard an entirely different side of the Beatles - psychedelic, trippy, fun, four young men at the very height of their creative powers doing things that no-one had done before.

And after that - well, I just listened to nothing else.  My brother can attest, if he wishes, to the extent of my personal case of Beatlemania.  Posters on the wall, book covers, pretty much you name it, it was Beatles-themed.  I became their biggest fan, period.  When I heard of John Lennon's death I cried like I lost a member of my family, which in a way I guess I did

When I decide I like something, I really, REALLY like it.  And when I love something, that something occupies a place in my heart forever and ever. And I loved the Beatles. I committed every song to memory. I read book after book after book. I learned everything there was to know about them. And though in the years since I've opened up my musical horizons somewhat, I still haven't found a better band.

Cranky, I hope this answers your question.  And since fish gotta swim, I'll close with another little Beatles vignette:  In 1995, the Beatles released three, two-disc CD's of alternate takes and unreleased tunes, Anthology I, II, and III.  All three went to #1; before they were made available to iTunes, they had collectively sold 15,000,000 copies - of double albums.  A band having three double albums in a row going to number one had only happened once before, to Donna Summer in the '70s.

Thus 25 years after they played music together for the final time, the Beatles became the highest-selling musical group of 1995. Paul was quoted as saying "I always wondered what band would sell better than the Beatles.  Turns out it was the Beatles."

Yosie: you can wake up now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All This Talk of the Kindle Fire

Someone we know, whose name rhymes with Shmosie, just got herself a Kindle Fire for Decemberween. I spent a little time with it whilst setting it up so I'm a little bit familiar with it and what it does.

Before too much more time goes by you should know that I was like the seventh person to ever have a Kindle.  Tootsie gifted me a Kindle a-way back when, when it had enough memory for like 18 books and started with an engine crank on the side (and paid $400 for the privilege):

Awww, look at that stupid interface
What did I think of it?  Why, I thought it was the most awesome thing in all of awesome-land.  I really did.  Yes, of course the thing had its drawbacks: the position of holding it most comfortably put one's fingers right on the next page "button," for example. It had no real greyscale - the pixels were on, or off, or 50%, making images almost worthless. And its unfortunate lack of memory was an obvious ploy to add value to the next generation of devices.  But for all that I was just astounded:  Here wasn't a book, but dozens or hundreds of books, with a slick and convenient way of getting whichever book you wanted within 10 seconds of your initial urge to read.

For a fella like me, a technology wonk who loved to read and didn't do it enough, the Kindle was chock full of cool.

Well, after about four years of loyal service, my Kindle died.  Technically speaking, the screen lost its ability to un-paint a pixel; so turning a page basically layered one page on top of the other, and it eventually turned black and I was forced to say a few words over it and commit my Kindle (I named it Kindy) to Mother Earth, from whence it originally came.

I was resolved to buy another Kindle - and name it Kindy II - and was in the process of figgering out which one to get.  You could get one as cheaply as $80, if you wanted a unit with no keyboard and to see commercials instead of screen savers.  But the model I had settled on was $139, which was still a bargain, to my old eyes, especially given that my first one set me back four bills.

But then I saw that Kindle Fire, and I was captivated. For real.  This thing is so much more than a standard Kindle it's ridiculous.  So I thought I'd at least do some research and determine how much the Fire costs, and maybe see where it was, price- and feature-wise, up against similar devices like the iPad.  And that's when I was even more astounded.

iPad: $500 to start.

Kindle fire: $200, all bells and whistles inclusive.


Now look:  I might not recommend the Fire if you're looking for a full-featured tablet.  But the person who shells out $140 for a standard Kindle instead of the Fire is, there is no other way to put it, a god-damned fool.

It's got its issues, to be sure: its keyboard, so to speak, is a hassle and a half; writing this post on it would be an excruciating experience. A reviewer on Amazon said it best: it's a tool for consumption, not creation. Also the 6GB of memory shrinks up a bit considering it's also a video player. But as long as you keep that in mind, what you get for your money makes the Kindle Fire an absolute STEAL.  It's 90% of the functionality of the iPad or a good Android-based tablet at 40% of the cost.

And, thanks to Auntie Jo, I'm buying one this very day. When I get it, I'll dick around with it for a few days and produce a proper review. Watch this space.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

By Request

SOMEONE requested I post this.  This was a letter rack for Words with Friends two days ago or so:

Tee hee

Auld Lang Sausages with the Very Josies

Spent New Year's Eve with Very Josie & the contents of her house.  Ursa Sucrosum had a friend over, let's call him "Bailey," he had a perfect Justin Bieber do, so when I wasn't calling him "boy," I called him Justin. Jo told Tootsie and me to come hungry, so we did, and we weren't disappointed.  She put out a cold cut plate (with real deli meats like mortadella), the best sausage and peppers I've had in forever, and a dozen other snacky little this-n-that's that kept Toots and me grazing contentedly all night.

I set up her Kindle, which in truth was not a strenuous effort.  I suppose she coulda done it herself but I'm glad she didn't - being known as the resident technology wonk not only gives me a sense of worth, but also feeds me nicely. And really, it had been a month or more since I'd clapped eyes on Josie, so whereas it's not my favorite thing to be invited someplace just to work on someone's electronics, this one definitely worked in my favor; I spent maybe ten minutes working the Kindle groove and six hours eating, playing games, and laughing with Josie like I haven't laughed in a long time.  And yes, she really did get good and shnockered which made her laugh at my jokes even more.

We left around one, tired but well-fed. I was the designated driver so Toots got a little liquored up and - I swear to God - became the life of the party. She had everyone laughing, which I just cannot convey how unusual that is.

One of my resolutions is to maybe work a little harder on my relationships, especially with my best girl Josie. I get in these ruts where I just want to disconnect from the world and not care about anyone or anything, and after tonight I realize that the loss is mine, nobody else's.

Anyways, Happy New Year, everyone.  Thanks for reading me over the year. And here's hoping that 2012 is a damn sight better than 2011 was.