Weekly media report

Books:
- The Queen's Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England, by John Cooper. This book turns out to cover a lot more aspects of Elizabethan government than I expected. If you didn't have a starting sense of Elizabethan history, it might be a bit overwhelming, but not too much for a lay reader of English history.
- Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times, by Lucy Lethbridge. Not quite as Downton-pandering as the book dressing suggests so far, but I'm only 50 pages in.

Movies/TV
- Arrow, Season Two, Episode 19. Shit continues to be real here. We hit the bottom of the arc last episode and things are only slightly starting to swing up. I suspect we'll resolve one or two of the threads/plots at a time until the final confrontation as Ollie fixes his folks and does damage to Slade and his team. At the same time, they're working on the Flash intro in ways that doesn't disrupt their plot. And holy crap, what a stinger!
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Season One, Episodes 10-11. The mysteries were all right, but it's mostly interesting to see how the business with the sister is now being rolled into the existing stories. I'm pretty sure that we haven't seen the last of this plot.
- Orphan Black, Season Two, Episode 1. Every time you think you know what's going on, the writers throw you a loop. I'm completely re-hooked.
- Transcendence. Gorgeous but disappointing film about achieving human-machine consciousness that was torn between horror and heavy-handed Jesus allegory. A great cast was wasted in this film.

Music:
- Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. The guest list for this is fantastic but the performances are, as is generally the case with tributes, mixed.
- Poor Man's Fortune, Bayou Curious. Bayou-inflected Celtic with a strong Breton influence. This is another one of those things we got because we know the band. Which isn't to say it's bad, but it's not judged on entirely the same standard. It's not bad, but it's also the kind of thing I'd enjoy more in person than on CD.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1766681.html. Comment here or there.

Accounting is long...

Finished my latest test, 4 chapters, 50 questions, each one a particular fetish of pain.

On to the next thing.

C

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My tweets

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Art: Sully and Indiana

Finishing up the things I should have already posted about, we visited the McNay and the San Antonio Museum of Art last weekend.

Robert Indiana, Thomas Sully, and more.Collapse )

All in all a good day, in which we saw a lot of interesting art.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1766415.html. Comment here or there.

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pretty spring eggs!

for probably only the 2nd or 3rd time since my grandfather died in 1997, i dyed spring eggs (easter isn't my holiday, but same idea). it was one of those "our things" to do together, since neither my mother more my grandmother really enjoyed it, and we did it well into my 30s.

i wanted to try for a marbled and/or watercoloured effect, and i'm so pleased how they came out!

pic back hereCollapse )

Dump run...

Took two loads of junk to the dump today. Some of it was stuff from the shed, old boxes and crud, but I also finally got rid of an old gas tank I had from a Porsche 914. Why I had this I can not tell you, but there it was, and into the dumpster it went.

So now I have a fair bit less stuff. Which is good, I have too many things in life anyway. Next step will be to get rid of some of these old computer manuals and the like...

One step at a time, one at a time.

C

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Pet Shop Boys at ACL Live

Pet Shop Boys. ACL Moody Theater. April 16, 2013.

I think we would have had more fun with this show, which was clearly designed for a proscenium rather than a thrust stage, if we'd been sitting in front of the stage. Then again, missing the projections on the upright beds was compensated for by the fact that I wasn't blinded by the strobes.

This was a real production job with dancers and costume changes. It reminded me of the David Byrne show we saw with dancers several years ago, but obviously with more of the Pet Shop Boys frenetic style than Byrne's more relaxed approach. Tennant and Lowe were very on and very professional, which became important later in the show. I wasn't always sure what was going on, but the music and visuals (at least the ones I could see) were fantastic.

Sound was good up until it cut out during the fire alarm. Some of the engineering choices were suboptimal (reverb during the announcement of the names: not good) and the vocals were too low in the mix, but I complain about that every time. And about that fire alarm: the smoke machine appears to have set it off, cutting off sound and power. After a few minutes, the band was able to come back and proceed with the next song, but they had less smoke (they'd had too much before in my opinion, even before the problem with the alarm).

The set list included both songs from the current album and PSB hits. I should spend more time with their music: it's right up my alley both musically and lyrically. I'm glad I went, even if I did have to hike down the stairs from the balcony afterwards.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1766368.html. Comment here or there.

My tweets

  • Fri, 02:08: @dennysdiner worst dennys exp ever. Bad service, mischarges on check, didn't eat slimy fruit, still vomited on drive home. #Houston

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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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'stina

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

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