Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Undiscovered gem song of the week: "Opposite Day"

I got home this morning with the sun right in my eyes
There was no warning as it took me by surprise
Hit me like an act of god causing my alarm
That I’d not become a cephalopod
I still had legs and arms
Still had legs and arms

And today was supposed to be the day
Molecules decided to change their form
The laws of physics lose their sway
Youthful indiscretion is
Suddenly the norm with the good kids sprouting horns

And today was supposed to be
Not just another day
Today was supposed to be
Opposite day

And those who can’t quite function in society at large
Are gonna wake up on this morning
And find that they’re in charge
While those the world is set up for who are really doing quite well
Gonna wake up in institutions in prison or in hell
And today was supposed to be
Opposite day

But if you think there’s something else…
well you’re right there is something else
But if you think I’m gonna tell you
Think again, why should I think of telling you what there is?
Because silence is knowledge and knowledge is power
I’m under explicit orders to dare not speak its name

No I dare not speak its name
I just work here
No I dare not speak its name

“Opposite Day”
by Andrew Bird 2005

This is a wry, sarcastic song about the absurdity of life, or something like that. Get the clever Kafka reference in the first verse? Andrew Bird has come a very long way from Squirrel Nut Zippers. This song is from his lovely latest record "The Mysterious Production of Eggs". The odd melody breaks into a uniquely Bird-ian chorus. His expressively virtuosic fiddle playing is in abundance. His melancholy, yet witty and comforting voice seems to ponder the words as he sings them. The album is his strongest and most unique yet -- I think he's found his voice.

Friday, May 26, 2006

It's real

We move on. By now, if you've read Wendi's blog you know that we've decided to live together again. I think I can speak for us both when I say thank you all for the love all of yo have shown us for the past difficult year.

We are hoping to learn to live together again and be happy like we used to be. That we love each other has never really been in doubt over the past year. Right honey? ;-)

We've leased a two bedroom apartment, one whole block (9th and Corona) from my current place, from the same company that I rent from now. It was the only way that I could get out of my current lease with a minimum of pain, and it's not like I'm crazy about my current apartment.

The blinds are cheap and fall apart at the slightest touch. The kitchen is cheap and small. The management company is run by incompetent airheads and overbearing husky men. Neither of us are crazy about Cornerstoned Apartments. The new apartment does not have A/C. So, this move is not without its dark corners. But the upshot is that we signed the lease today and it is a done deal

We do like the new apartment. It has a large kitchen and dining area, hardwood floors and several closets. Closets are good. So is having a dishwasher for the first time in a year :-) And the blinds, while no less cheap, are somewhat sturdier.

I am typing this from Wendi's place. We have been spending almost every night together since skool ended two weeks ago. Our new apartment will be more convenient for both of us, but the move is coming suddenly. We have to move in two weeks (June 10th). Mark, who is facing a move of his own at the end of next month, has graciously agreed to help with ours. Can you guess why?

We have also enlisted a couple of friends with promises of pizza and beer afterwards. Really good pizza.

I'm listening to a 40 year old ska song right now called "It's Real" by the Silvertones. This is vintage, first-wave ska of the first order -- like most of the Jamaican ska "groups" of the early/mid 1960's it consists of an anonymous studio band and some soulful singers. It's got some of the most insanely infectious interplay between the lead and backing vocals I've ever head. It sounds joyous and makes me feel good.

I danced to "It's Real" a moment ago and made Wendi laugh. Hopefully not only at me. She has a nice laugh. Love you girl...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Maxwell's little family

Salutations and congratulations to Tylee-Mike and Danalin on their new progeny, Maxwell! May all of you live long and Foster!

That was bad I know. Just being dumb and happy 'cuz I am overjoyed with the little bundle, and I haven't even met him yet.

And to claim my throne: I have been checking the fosterblogs for nearly 2 days and have not seen anyone else offer many happy returns... am I the first? So be it.

Of course, I know -- new parents. They've got enough to worry about up Seattle way -- without making a fuss in the electroether. Just wanted to offer my good vibes :-)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Kool song of the week: Einsturzende Neubauten

You will find me if you want me
In the garden
Unless it's pouring down with rain...

You will find me waiting for the spring and summer
You will find me waiting for the fall
You will find me waiting for the apples to ripen
You will find me waiting for them to fall
You will find me waiting by the banks of all four rivers
You will find me by the spring of consciousness

You will find me if you want me
In the garden
Unless it's pouring down with rain...

"The Garden"
Einsturzende Neubauten - 1996

This eerie song is from their 1996 album Ende Neu. These are the lyrics in their entirety... excluding the many times he repeats the title phrase. Which Blixa supposedly wrote after over hearing a conversation between elderly women in a supermarket. An insistant glissando bass thumps in time with a single note on an electric piano flows into a cascade of descending strings like cobwebs in in the full moonlight. Einsturzende Neubauten is best when they go for atmosphere like this --some of their songs are full of bellowing Germans and crashing trashcan lids. Hey you know, if yer into that sorta thing.

Trouble, trouble, oil and trouble...

Yes, the price of oil keeps going up, gas is at about $3 a gallon and the politicians are afraid. They're in a tizzy because they think they'll be next as the bloodthirsty cries of the unwashed masses echo to the sky ever louder in a rising chorus of outrage and despair: "Bring us the head of ExxonMobil!!!!!!!"

But it may surprise you that the big oil companies are not laughing all the way to the bank.... ok, well maybe they're chuckling a little, but there are dark clouds on the horizon for Big Oil. I came across this article on BusinessWeek's website which explains it pretty well.

These problems are well known in the industry, and those of us who work in it are bemused when politicians and refuseniks blame fuzzy concepts like "greed" and "price gouging" for the price of oil. Yes, both of these reprehensible things exist, but it all depends on the thresholds that we're willing as a society to tolerate. Nobody was calling for oil executives' heads when gas was $.89 a gallon in 1991, were they?

Trust me, as an unashamed enviromental conservationist liberal, I am no fan of Big Oil or our country's addiction to it (even though I work in the industry :-) How's that for 'perspective'). The BusinessWeek article's boo-hoo tone is fairly sympathetic to the industry -- no surprise there, though from my perspective they are crocodile tears. It's par for the course -- the article's in a business magazine after all. And as a business major I like to read about issues such as this one from a business perspective, expecially since the issue of oil dependence is so divisive right now. I just can't feel sorry for ExxonMobil, whatever troubles they may have in the future. Among oil companies they in particular have been instrumental in blocking progress re: CO2 emissions and regulations to protect the environment, as well as stumping hard for opening ANWR to exploitation. Cry us a river, ExxonMobil.

But people who blame the oil companies miss the point -- the problem is built-in, systemic greed in petroleum markets, the world's escalating demand, diminishing supplies, flat refining capacity, and certain cartels and unsavory countries which have found our Achilles heel and are using it to their advantage. I could go on to say that the root of the problem is a blind adherence to a free-market, capitalist ideology that is inappropriate and destructive for an irreplacable and finite resource such as petroleum/fossil fuels, but I think you get my point.

I admit I do take a certain bitter pleasure in watching the Republicans try to squirm out of this, because there is nothing they can do about it. NOTHING. And they're the ones who are supposed to understand the underlying principles of free markets so well. The "solutions" they've proposed would be ineffectual at best and more likely will only exacerbate the problem in one way or another.

$100 one-time tax rebates? *guffaw* That was pretty funny. Hooboy... who says Republicans don't have a sense of humor?

Suspend the national gas tax? Nice try. They (or the Democrats) may even try it for short-term political gain, but it doesn't matter -- any price reduction will be temporary if it happens at all. Suspending the gas tax would also cut off a vital source of funding that governments use to maintain their highways and infrastructure, and that would cause its own problems.

Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? That won't work either except to temporarily alleviate some of Big Oil's worries (elucidated in the article) about replenishing their proven reserves. Drilling in ANWR won't reduce the price of gas, no matter how much the Republicans talk of "secure oil supplies."

Even the Democrats' idea of a "windfall tax" on oil companies, while slightly more rational from a macroeconomic viewpoint, will indeed decrease investment in oil exploration and production (known as 'E&P' in the industry) -- just as the oil companies say. And E&P is about the only segment of the industry enjoying fat profit margins these days. As the petroleum supply moves "downstream" the margin gets as thin as a razor, especially at the wholesale level -- my company TransMontaigne's segment.

So go ahead Republicrats -- try all of the above! Knock us all out. Keep the half-baked schemes coming! None of them will work and some of these options will cause shortages in supply, which will make the pain even worse. Face it people, we are in for prolonged economic pain and it is directly due to the lack of attention that has been paid to reducing our oil dependence for the past 30 -40 years.

There is no easy solution to this one and the problem goes deep -- far beyond one focus-grouped, sound-bitten, negative-ad, god-fearing election cycle. Our elected leaders' inability to speak the truth about our country's long-term problems represents a profound failure in our democracy.

Anybody have an opinion on this that is not totally clouded by rigid free-market ideology? Let me know.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Suckcess can be yours :-)

Finally, I have it!!!!!!!

The time is close to finals, attention to which consumes a lot of my time. Many of you have discovered this truth when I've buttonholed and bored you with arcane arcane accounting concepts. To avoid my responsibilities, I made a list while procrastinating my studies tonight.

Matt's 5-Step Formula to College Suckcess

1. Resign yourself to having no life for several months. Repeat next semester.

You don't need friends when you're trying to get a problem right involving the "Percentage-completion Revenue Recognition Method" and attempting to complete an income statement. You think those T-accounts will just analyze themselves?!? Make some time during the weekends to have fun. Don't blow that precious 15 minutes between getting off 8 hours' work and opening the squeaky classroom door. You might be able to... I dunno, sleep on the bus or something. Slacker!!!!!

2. Talk negatively about the teacher behind his/her back.

Admit it -- skool sucks, and the last thing you need is somebody imposing arbitrary rules on crap on which you spent your best effort. Students know a good teacher when they have one, and will go out of their way to kick ass. Students with a bad teacher will talk and gossip. If you are unfortunate enough to have a bad teacher, go out of your way to seek out other students of similar mind. I guarantee you that you are not alone. Gossip! Slander! Let the obscenities fly! It won't improve your grade, but it might give you some fleeting satisfaction. And fleeting satisfaction is all you will get by passing the class, anyway :-)

3. Shameless groveling is a virtue.

OK, you just put it off and didn't think about the assignment until it was far too late. You lost it and your dog ate it. These things happen, don't you understand? Your spleen had to be removed from your nose, or perhaps you secretly nurse a grudge against a teammate from that dumb group project. Get over it and eat crow like a... um, crow. Your goal is to maximize the extenuating circumstances that prevented you from using maximum effort while simultaneously minimizing the effort it was possible for you to give. This is circular logic, but we're all adults here, aren't we?

4. Classroom "participation"

The class is boring, the teacher obtuse and the material is impenetrable by both. Why not go with the flow? The teacher probably knows little more than yourself, so feel free to expound upon his/her thoughts while subtly undermining them, and even boldly point out some logical errors. At the very least the teacher will remember you as being absent far less than you actually were. If you're in a bad mood, don't be afraid to get mean. Take the teacher's side when delivering withering criticism against a fellow student. It never fails to satisfy, and might endear you to this "teacher" also. A possible bump to the next letter-grade?

5. Attitude, attitude, attitude

Don't think of a college degree as the key to success, or as an indicator of your intelligence. It are not. Only your own ruthless attention to your GPA and mastering the subject of the next test will make any difference in your grades. Even in the end, if you put them on your resume, potential employers won't check them for veracity. I'm sorry, but there are plenty of people out there who can calculate a statement of cash flows from an income statment and information changes in balance sheet accounts. You think you're so special.