Weekly media report

Books:
- Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in England, by Sarah Wise. I gave this three stars on Goodreads because it was a slow read, but it's quite fascinating in its own way, particularly following The Century of the Self. The process of getting people declared mad and then declared sane and the politics of the Lunacy Commission were something else. I also really now want the "another book" suggested in the epilogue about the history of scientific commitment and eugenics in the twentieth century, which might make the history of the Victorian commitments look kind and gentle if the examples and history cited are even vaguely accurate.
- The Queen's Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England, by John Cooper. Biography of Walsingham with a surprising emphasis on his religion compared to the nominal subject of the book, at least in the first third.

Movies/TV
- Downton Abbey, Season Three, Episodes 1-3. I can see why people say the series jumped the shark in S3 (not unlike Sherlock). I'm not done yet, but I'm not sure I'm going to continue with the series much further, because it's just not as fun as it was in S1 and S2 and I hear S4 is even worse.
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Season One, Episode 9. This episode gets into the seamier side of the book series, which the show has normally shied away from a little. I can't say I enjoyed seeing some of the things from the books brought to the screen, but given how the series has elided some of the more challenging points of the books, I wasn't sorry to see them take a stab at it.

Music:
- Thievery Corporation, Saudade. Lovely trip-hop, kicking back to more trip and less hop.
- Celtic Fiddle Festival, 20th Anniversary: Live in Brittany. Excellent fiddling, as always, but I am old and will never ever not miss Johnny Cunningham.
- Blancmange, Happy Families Too. Already discussed this elsewhere, but I do like it.
- Reverend Horton Heat, Rev. I think this is supposed to be their "get back to rockabilly" album, and there's definitely some rockabilly freakouts, but the Reverend is a little too old for the full-bore long-term freakouts he used to do (so am I). This is not a bad thing, and I do like the rest of it, but it's not entirely what I expected and certainly not quite as driving, though the playing compensates.
- Arc Iris, Arc Iris. Bought their album on the basis of their excellent SXSW show. It's kind of a cabaret thing in the Katzenjammer/Spankers area of the map. The music is good, but the performance adds a lot to the songs that isn't there for the album. I may warm to it on repeated listening, though.
- Agnes Obel, Philharmonics. Piano and ladyvocals, absolutely gorgeous, though it only grabbed me by sound and not by lyrics the way her more recent album did.
- Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual: 30th Anniversary Edition. Bought this because Michael likes her a lot (in part because of her work with the Hooters, I think)--not that I object to her! She just wasn't my thing. I'm familiar with the hits and like them. The album cuts are different to the hits, just sort of broadly different to each other as well in that 80s way. The Time After Time remixes don't really add anything to the song.
- Feathers, If All Here Now. Another one of the SXSW albums from the Moog showcase. Ladyvocals and electronica. I can certainly hear the Depeche Mode influences (apparently they opened for them). Apparently they're local; I'd like to see them at a better venue with sound for listening, not dancing.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1765668.html. Comment here or there.

Cold.

And it's 30 degrees tonight, 30mph winds, and was snowing earlier. I brought in some logs and made a big fire in the fireplace insert, it's warm inside. Too bad I moved some of the bitcoin miners to the shed. And I really, really hope the chestnut trees I planted survive, of course it was 80 this weekend, 70 this morning, and now freezing. I'd put tarps over them but there is this tiny 30mph wind problem....

Stupid weather.

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Error already?

Found an error in my return. Apparently TurboTax didn't think to ask if my HSA was for a HDHP which is what Allegis has. So as a result it threw the whole $630 part year employer contribution as taxable income when it should be tax free.

*grumble* So now I have to do an ammendment. $250 in cash is $250 in cash, but it is annoying it didn't get caught. Glad I hand-read my printouts this evening.

I need an accountant. Wait, I am an accountant. *ug*

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Taxes done....

Finally done with my 2013 taxes. As usual I waited till the end to file, and things overall are good.

Small problems: With the new job I am now making a fair bit more money and some of the tax advantaged things I had at AAAS (the insane 403b match and the commuting credit) went away, but overall I am spending a lot less money at Allegis so it's a net positive.

However I got *slammed* due to the vacation money all being paid out along with the concept of a lump sum bonus. Pushed my income into very different places, which wound up screwing with my key item: the child tax credit. It's $1,000 per kid and I basically lost it this year. Normally I put about 3-4k into Alex's IRA at this time, get back about 30% of that money. This year I did the calculations and found out that if I put in the full 5500 I would get back literally an extra $1,200 for the extra $1,500.

Yes, the Govt was giving me 100% free money. Reason being that deduction and one's 401k is the *only* deductions that affect the child tax credit. So by dropping that amount it multiplied the partial credit times three kids.

What a hot, steaming mess. Apparently I am making enough money to be "rich" and take a more serious tax hit. This has been coming over the past few years, I'm paying more in Taxes because of Obama, the repeal of the Bush Tax credits for high income earners, and so forth.

And you know what? I'm ok with this. I'm ok with paying more since I have money to burn, and I'm ok with the fact that this is reducing the deficit. I'm proud to pay more in taxes, it shows how successful and cool I am.

However I will be taking max tax breaks in 2014. With the addition of CrystelCom, my bitcoin mining, and miner repairs (all started in 2014) I am going to have a fair bit of extra income and expenses coming in. As it does I'll boost my 401k contributions to max levels, and pay the taxes as needed.

2014 is going to be one hell of a year. :-)

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101 in 1001

Hey, I actually knocked off an item this time! And not a simple one-off either.

List under the cut.Collapse )

The item I knocked off was the 100 happy days photo project, which I finished yesterday. I have all 100 photos in a flickr set. That was fun, but a bit difficult given that I spent a lot of time indoors since the beginning of the year. I have found I'm taking more pictures, so I'm happy with the overall outcome.

We've also started to work on the house stuff, like clearing out the dining room. The list of honey-dos is long but once we knock it off, that's also an item. I think we'll hit a lot of the one-offs this summer, assuming my health remains good. That's certainly my intention now that the actual end of grad school is in sight.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1765586.html. Comment here or there.

Omaha steaks=yuck

That was interesting: We got some Omaha steaks a few months back to try out. Six hot dogs, six patties, two small fillet steaks. Cooked them up this evening because they were taking up a lot of space in the freezer and of course it's going to snow tomorrow. Besides the kids wanted them and all that.

Alex made a delicious set of side dishes, asparagus, potato, rolls, things like that. Slicked up strawberries, and I went out to grill this stuff.

In a word: Yuck. The hamburger patties basically were like pink extruded meat product. The thought "pink slime" pressed into patty form came to mind. Oddly enough the hot dogs looked exactly the same, just in hot dog shape. The patties cooked up well enough bit rare on the inside, the hot dogs were too thick and burned to a crisp on the outside without cooking on the inside.

Didn't really taste the steak things, as the kids ate it all. Had a bit, didn't taste special.

Overall, if that's the best meat people get then I really feel sorry for the USA. A triumph of marketing over quality but I guess that's what it's all about.

Blah.

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Weird.

Dreamed I was in Sr. Brendans' for Christmas mass. All dark lights came on at midnight. Was wearing hacker T shuty but ran back and got changed. Weird female priest but Paige was there in audience. And they wanted Dylan to be in the choir for a song with a canfle but he wasn;t there. How weird. Kissed Paige and priest woman was not happy about that.

As I walked out of the service with a monocle the kids all gathered around and told me it was cool I was the new outreach cooerdiantor. Don't remember being that.
How odd....

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Morning thoughts

Weird dreams last night, easy to understand in context, but odd. Here's the raw dump:

grandpas house sewer leak at hotel with family blk hair girl from past wanted sleeep with me trying to get a rooom but big line little girl in another room coming over had to take her back instead cuz im good dad.

Grandpa's house was in reference to going to see Ann Davis, Bob's mom. Sewer leak was related to infrastructure problems which was the traffic tie-up I was stuck in with Alex last night near Arundel Mills Casino. The black hair girl from the past was triggered from that movie trailer for the cheating husband film, which sounds like something I need to see with Alex and Bec. The little girl was related to the 4 year old who kept looking at me during dinner at the Indian restaurant last night (cute!). Because I am a good dad.

Dreams are odd, they're our mind's representations of events that happened recently as we try to make sense of them in fragments to the overall "story". Interesting stuff.

C

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Divergent

Went to see that Divergent movie the other day. Some interesting thoughts from my point of view.

First, I can see why they tried to kill her and all the other divergents: They were the ultimate threat to that systems way of life. If you have a system where power and responsibility is segmented by group, then any individual that can work between groups is a massive threat. Because they can bring groups together against other groups and totally unbalance the system.

Second this points out that the leaders of the Science group were divergents. They had to be in order to reach beyond knowledge for power. It's the only way they could betray their order.

Third, the leaders of Dauntless were divergent. Otherwise they would never treat their people like pawns, leave them in the streets dead, or do the things they were doing to the new recruits that were "different". Also they would have to be divergent to see beyond protect the public into grab for power.

Fourth the leaders of the monastic group were divergent. The decision to feed and love the people who didn't fit in was amazing, That is the group of divergents that you're supposed to kill, and instead they were feeding them? Where did that idea come from? A divergent mind.

So the leaders of the major groups in the film were all divergent. And thus they banded together and caused the whole system to collapse. The founders knew this, THAT is why they took such massive amounts of effort to find and kill divergent types.

Then you were little you were watched. If you didn't fit in you were probably killed.

Second the choosing ceremony. 95% of people stayed in their group. The 5% that didn't needed to be watched. That's why they were segmented out in training, you need to find the ones that truly don't fit and cast them out.

Third the brain scan thing: If they find you're a divergent they probably just kill you. You're a big threat, that is why they are putting so much effort into this.

And fourth: Clan before blood. Because parents and loved ones would try to protect you as a divergent because they love you and all that. Technically you need to die, but human nature would block this.

However divergents make great leaders. So the ones who survive get to high levels. They should have had a "shoot the leaders" a lot.

All this could be kept in check by external forces like invaders. But from the looks of it the invaders died out generations ago. So things start to turn inward as the leaders get bored.

There you go. Maybe it was time for the city to disband; it had outlived its usefulness, and it was time to go. And before you think that Dauntless and the brains would clean up, remember that the farmers are the ones who um... feed everyone. They withhold support and you have a big problem as everyone else starves. If you think you can take the food by force, those fun loving nature hippies have very sharp hoes, exceptional strength, and farmer tools that can bury you.

Likewise the monks: That guy was able to kill so many Dauntless guards because he sacrificed himself willingly. Think terrorists are bad and scary, imagine a million monks coming after you for a cause they believe in.

The truth tellers would be the key, wonder how they would work. They would probably die to a person rather than submit to something unjust.

So there you go. Kill the girl and everything continues. Don't, and understand that is why everything is where it is in the movie.

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Bats are back...

Just checked the attic; the bats are back. Bunch of them clustered near the top of the gable vent on the side I cleaned out, one on the other side where it is still the mosquito mesh. Looks like the new steel mesh isn't bothering them too much, which is good.

So no more attic work till late summer when the babies are grown.

C

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Comments on Happy Families Too

Happy Families Too is an updated and remixed version of Blancmange's first full album. It's interesting to me to hear new versions of the tracks of songs from an album I'm intimately familiar with because I've been listening to it regularly for 30 years now. I like the new versions, and I don't think Neil Arthur's voice has degraded with age, but there's something a bit off about the Too versions. It may be the bits and bleeps and bloops, which are sort of the George Lucas-ing of the production.

I have a hard time not comparing this effort to the Regeneration series of EPs/albums that Styx did, which are similar but to an entirely different purpose. They want people who use their songs to use the new versions because the royalties will be split differently, and presumably also because the new versions feature their now-longtime current vocalist (Lawrence Gowan, who's a more than adequate replacement for Dennis DeYoung in concert).

But Styx has done almost note-for-note retakes of their classic songs so the replacements can be slotted in where people might have listened to the original. Blancmange is making new versions of the original songs, and including a number of new remixes.

Aside: In the old days, the remixes would have been on the 12" singles, but now you just get them on the CD/playlist.

The Styx project derives from nostalgia. Styx's album of new material came out in 2005 and it was all covers. Their last album of their own material came out in 2003. You can't say there's no nostalgia involved in remaking a 30-year-old album, but Blancmange is at least trying to do something new. They also put a new album out last year.

I don't have any conclusions here except that I'm glad Blancmange is both creatively engaged in their old music and putting out new music. Oh, and I wish they'd tour the US because I'm going when they do.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1765248.html. Comment here or there.

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Century of the Self

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Weekly media report

Books:
- Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in England, by Sarah Wise. Still slowly working on this. It's sad and scary to read about the family conflicts that lead to people being locked away.

Movies/TV
- Arrow, Season Two, Episode 18. Now we're down to it. Ollie is supposed to be sort of Batman-like, but he keeps screwing up that part. Basically he keeps thinking with his emotions. He's not going to win until he gets his zen detachment back. And the rededicating himself to getting Slade with the stripped down team is then undermined with the stinger. Nicely done.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I liked the SHIELD half of the movie as long as I suspended my disbelief that nobody noticed the major shipments of arms to build the helicarriers or the major assassinations in DC. I liked the Captain America stuff when he related to other people. Sebastian Stan bored me and I don't care about Bucky, which killed a lot of emotional heft from the movie.
- Century of the Self. Four-part documentary on how Freud's theories have influenced how businesses and politicians have manipulated people. Fascinating and depressing, and a bit dated now (it was made in early 2002). Its biggest weakness was a lack of intersectional approaches.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel. Slapstick comedy about the concierge who inherits a painting and the ensuing trouble. I see now why they call Wes Anderson twee, though in this case his reverence for the older films he's pastiching helps.

Music:
- Fishtank Ensemble, Edge of the World. Bought this on a pledge site, and it's about a year late, but I love these guys and am glad I waited. It's more of the same Eastern European-inflected tunes and occasional slinky vocals. I hope they come to town now that it's out.
- Mø, No Mythologies to Follow. Originally billed to me as a class S Scandanavian pop girl, she turns out to have a harder or at least hip-hoppier edge than I expected on some of the songs. It was kind of all over the place stylistically, but I liked it all right.
- Jessy Lanza, Pull My Hair Back. Saw her at SXSW and enjoyed her but had a lot of trouble catching the lyrics. I liked the album and it reminds me that in my Copious Spare Time, I need to listen to the Junior Boys more.
- Phantogram, Voices. I was kind of bored with them, but the previews of this album blew me away. The rough edges of their previous sound have been sanded away and the guitars are neither too harsh nor too pretty. A bunch of the songs went into active rotation immediately.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1764669.html. Comment here or there.

My tweets

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Various and sundry TV things

I've been meaning to write about the TV series I've been watching for a while now. This seems like a good moment. In no particular order.

Spoilers, sweetieCollapse )

Not mentioned: Orphan Black, which I'm really excited for, and Doctor Who, which is on hold until a long time from now. Also Sherlock and its shark-jump.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1764425.html. Comment here or there.

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5am thoughts...

Awake for a little bit at 5:30am. Thoughts: Really should have the kids rooms painted, not sure why I always put this off. Spring is coming and house is a mess. What am I doing in life? Went to see Bob's mom today, she is old but her brain still works.

People change when a virus is talking in their brains. It is possible to reengage their brain though. Complex stuff, has it always been like that?

Cosmos was incredible again. The history stuff is a good way to explain extremely complex stuff actually....

bedtime again.

C

Gig List - April 2014

Most of what we did last month was SXSW though I ended up missing Ellie Goulding due to illness. Health, you suck.

List under the cutCollapse )

This month there's a huge swathe of music between the 16th and the 26th that will keep us really busy. Also, we have tickets to Tom Jones in May and Fleetwood Mac in December. It's finally hitting me that we're really buying tickets for a time when there is no more school and we can do what we want. That's a great feeling.

One lesson we did learn si to pass on shows that look like they're not as fun for us. DEVO is a bit more hardcore than we're interested in being, so we're likely to pass on that. We also have the chamber music festival in July, which I need to add to the calendar and buy tickets for this month. But we're only going to the ones we're really interested in, either for bands we know we love, or new things that seem reasonable for us to like.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1764187.html. Comment here or there.

marty magic comet ear wrap for sale

i have a marty macklin/marty magic comet ear wrap for sale. it's in new condition except for needing to be polished.

it was my mother's, bought for her in the early 80s at a local wine and art fair and never worn because she found it too heavy. she died in 1990 and it's been in a jewelry box ever since (i'm reactive to silver).

it does badly need polishing, which i can't do (i have severe mcs and react to polishes).

i wrote to marty, who wrote back that it was valued at $145; it's sterling silver.

photo behind the cut: Read more...Collapse )

i'm raising money to get an autism assessment, hence the sale. if you're interested, please make me an offer. payment via paypal only.

i'm happy to post extra pics if desired.

~chris

'stina

'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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