Saturday, May 31, 2008
So Cindy's been preparing the summer schedule for the daycare, and they're going to have a GREAT summer! Each week is a different theme, there are field trips and activities planned for every week - if I was a first-through-fifth grader, I would TOTALLY want to be a Puddle Jumper!
One of her theme weeks is "Fun With Food". Naturally, one of the field trips she wanted to pull off for that week was a trip to, and tour of, Mad Jack's! If you don't know what Mad Jack's is, you obviously haven't read this blog for very long. Mad Jack's is our local ice cream shop, everything is homemade, we've gotten to be friends with the owners, I won 2nd place in last year's "Create A Flavor" contest... They even have my entry, "Peanut Butter S'mores" in the store right now!
Anyway, Cindy called today to arrange the field trip. And was told that they wouldn't be able to do it, because the shop... is... *GASP* ...closing... like, forever... on June 21. We knew that they'd been looking for someone to buy the shop, and had said that if they didn't get a buyer they would close up in a couple years. But this -- this is a shock to the delicate balance of my universe!!
The good news is that I found out NOW, rather than say, AFTER they'd closed up. That gives me the opportunity to buy more ice cream, more fudge, more ice cream sandwiches made with two homemade gourmet cookies the size of a Whopper...
More good news is that they will still make and sell their fudge, at conventions and food shows around the northwest. And, I confirmed today, they are keeping the ice cream machine, so as long as I keep in touch, I just may be able to still get my Peanut Butter S'mores fix.
Now I pass the torch on to all of you reading this in the greater Tacoma area. If you've never gone in to Mad Jack's, NOW IS THE TIME! If you've been there before but it's been a while, NOW IS THE TIME! If you're a regular, GREAT! But go in again and thank them for their time, their ice cream, their fudge, and the warm, friendly atmosphere that they've cultivated over the last few years. I plan to do all of the above. And I'm gonna stock up on their Hot Cocoa too, it'll be mighty scarce by the time winter comes around and I really want some.
Farewell, Mad Jack's. I'll be missing you!
Friday, May 30, 2008
This post is inspired by our good friend Brandel, who yesterday left this comment:
Brandel, like many people, doesn't have a "Blogger" account... But even people who do have them, sometimes find that on the comment page their login doesn't work. It's happened to both Cindy and me, and I figure if it happens to us, it can happen to anyone. But that doesn't relegate you to anonymous status... and I will now show you a better way!
After you type up your witty, heartfelt comment, you come across this screen:
If you select Anonymous, your comment will show up as just that. However, if you choose "Name/URL," you'll have the option to enter your name, and a URL (that's a fancy way of asking for your webpage address) which is optional. So for example, my niece Heidi didn't fill out the URL section, just the name, when she entered:
Thursday, May 29, 2008
So it was understandable that when Monday evening came, Cindy and I were good 'n' tired, thoroughly exhausted from our three day weekend. And when Tuesday's alarm went off (remember, on Tuesdays I get up at 4:30 to play racketball) I was so completely zombified that I could barely even reach up and turn off the alarm to go back to sleep. When the second alarm went off (at 5:55) I still could barely force my eyes to open, and Cindy felt the same. We did eventually get up, but were unbelievably tired all day... Decided that we'd need to get to bed on time that night. And we pretty much did!
But then yesterday morning, the same thing happened. I had a hard time believing that I was still recovering from a very full weekend, because generally when I'm that active, it INCREASES my energy, rather than sucking it away completely. Yesterday at work, I fought to keep my eyes open, couldn't stop yawning during a meeting with the boss, and when I finally got home, the LAST thing I wanted to do was cook dinner. So Cindy and I told the kids to have a "make your own dinner night" and we went out to eat. Turns out she was also still tired to the point of barely functioning. (Dinner was yummy, we split a Pizza at Bella Nina's)
As we were walking out to the car, an idea forced its way past the fog, into the conscious part of my brain... But first, a little back story:
I have HORRIBLE allergies. Back in the old days, I had to take two Dimetapp pills per day from April to August, or else I paid dearly. Even with that, there was generally one day per summer (far too often, on July 4th) when I would be completely decommissioned by a hay fever attack. My nose would run like a faucet - literally like a faucet, never stopping for 24 hours or so... Over the course of that day I'd rub all the skin off the end of my nose, usually couldn't sleep, it was completely miserable. I had tried some of the fancy new prescription allergy medications available, but nothing worked as well as my beloved Dimetapp. And if things got REALLY bad, I'd just take an Actifed or Benadryl and it would clear up my nose, but also knock me unconscious so I couldn't appreciate the lack of symptoms. One day I mentioned this to my doctor, and he informed me that the new generation of meds should be taken every day, whether you need them or not, so they build up in your system to prevent attacks before they start. Ohhhhhhh, I get it! I'd been treating Claritin, Allegra and Seldane as if they were "take on demand" meds, which is why they didn't work. So for the last several years, I've taken a Claritin a day, and for the most part, have been freed from the allergy prison of my youth. As an added bonus, Claritin was truly Non Drowsy, which had always been an issue with effective treatment before.
Last week I noticed that my Claritin supply was down to less than five, so it was time to get more. We needed to go to Costco for BBQ supplies anyway, so we headed down the allergy aisle, looking for their "Aller-Clear" generic version. What did I see next to it? A new, over the counter, generic version of Zyrtec! I'd never actually tried Zyrtec, but its proud claims of protecting against Indoor as well as Outdoor allergens was intriguing. Plus, it has a Z in the name! (I'm ALMOST embarrassed to say that was a factor, but come on... be honest... A brand name bold enough to use not just a Z, but a Z followed by a Y is COOL!!!) It cost a few bucks more than the Claritin, but the exciting letters in the name convinced us to go for it. Plus, in case Cindy's new guinea pig started to shed, it would be good to have protection against that.
Monday morning I left a few Claritins in the bottle and entered the bold new day of Zyrtec!
And Monday was the first day that I really felt exhausted. But did I see a connection? NO! I was exhausted because of all the physical exertion I'd exerted over the past three days!
Tuesday's daily routine included Zyrtec #2, and I think I mentioned above how that day went. (I'm PRETTY sure I did, but I'm too tired to go look and see)
Wednesday (which I think was yesterday) I took it again, and I KNOW I mentioned that, because it ended with Cindy and me going out to dinner.
So as we're walking to the car, this realization of what was different in my life that coincided with being so completely tired all the time came to me. And thus, I did say to my beloved wife, "I wonder if Zyrtec causes drowsiness?" She agreed that there was compelling evidence to suggest that it did, so when we got home I grabbed the bottle and there it was: "May Cause Drowsiness," followed by the even more forboding "Do not operate a motor vehicle or other equipment while taking this medication."
Well, well, well... That's quite a price to pay for protection against Indoor Allergens. Especially since I haven't even really had any issues with Indoor Allergens.
So this morning, Cindy and I took the last two Claritins, and she's going to go attempt to return the Zyrtec (along with its sexy name) and get another bottle of Claritin. I still feel groggy, but I took yesterday's Zyrtec at 10am, so hopefully it'll wear off in another hour or so. I certainly got enough sleep last night, we crashed - and I do mean CRASHED - at about 8:30... and I slept through another morning of racketball.
Finally, a question to my fellow allergy-sufferers: Have any of you encountered the wrath of Zyrtec? Is there anything on the over-the-counter market to topple Claritin from its throne of excellence and non-drowsiness? (And by "Claritin," I really mean "Loratadine," its active ingredient... so no fair citing Alavert, Aller-Clear, Wal-itin or any of the hundreds of other generic forms)
Let me know! Hopefully I'll be awake enough to coherently read the comments!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
So Glad You Asked!!
Instead of a bag, this time the crappy items came in a limited edition (only 2000 made) Woot! Bucket! I got #1849, which matches the last part of Cindy's cell number, so that will do for me!
Next up, a First Class Toiletries Tin from Delta Airlines! It contains a pair of socks, a toothbrush, lotion, chapstick, mouthwash, little pouch of tic-tacs, a pen, and a coupon for the Hard Rock Cafe, celebrating their 30th anniversary. Which was in 2001. Which makes all this fine hygiene gear about 7 years old. I'm tempted to use the mouthwash tomorrow so that I can know what it was like to fly 1st Class in 2001. Or maybe not.
Up next on the Crapstakes, a GE Portable Digital Weather Station. You know, for when I want to know what the weather's doing, but for some reason need that knowledge in a portable, digital format. A need I never knew I had, but I bet I'll be a believer in no time!!
BLING!! Yes, BLING!! That's 300 pieces of Bling, just waiting to enhance the self-image of the gadget of my choice. My boring, grey, corporate BlackBerry? May not be so boring if it's BLING'd out with genuine pink artificial gemstones! Or maybe my black matte Zune... so non-shiny on its own, could certainly be bling'd into Fabulosity...
And a Bag of Crap tradition, "How Many Bags of Texas Air Did I Get?"
I got 17 bags, and all of them still have air! One of these days, we'll really get luxurious and breathe in that southern atmosphere.
Considering I paid $8.00, and would have willingly paid more than that just for the bucket, it was a total score!! Of course, there WAS a guy this time around that got a 61" TV in his... but Woot's "Holy Crap Commandments" forbid coveting thy neighbor's crap... They also say "Thou Shalt Not Get the Crap Thou Want, Rather, Want The Crap Thy Get." So I'm wanting this crap. It's good! And maybe my 3rd Bag o' Crap will land me a TV!
Oh, and the Crap arrived Tuesday, May 27. Alicia had picked the 28th, which is the closest guess, though not exact. So Alicia, you and Daniel are invited over for a BBQ and some Mad Jack's goodness! Let's pick a time and do it!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
When we woke up this morning, I hit the radio to see what the verdict on the weather was, and it was bad news... They said it would be "mostly cloudy" and that there was a chance of showers, especially this evening. Made me sad...
But we got up, and things didn't look TOO bad, so we carried on with our day. Went to the Y and did a family workout for a couple hours (Cardio, Weights, Stretching, Good Times!) and when we got home, our friend Chris Cohoe (aka Mr. Cho) and his family came over for a barbecue. We grilled up burgers (Cindy and I had GardenBurgers, so as not to make our workout in vain) and had watermelon, lemonade, potato salad, and a new concoction Cindy picked up from Weight Watchers, called "Fluff." Fluff is GOOD stuff!! Light, fruity, dessert-like, and yes, FLUFFY!!
After the BBQ, we all went bowling, where Cindy and I both rolled more strikes and spares than would be considered normal, so the good times just kept right on rolling!
When we got home, it was so sunny and warm that Andy and Tyler wanted to go down to the pool. (the girls aren't home this weekend, otherwise they would have wanted to go to the pool too!) We walked down the hill (Yay Fitness!) and bought season passes for all the kids, then went in to watch them swim. While there, we heard about a big pool party going on tonight, to celebrate the start of the season. The weather looked so perfect, we decided that we would come back and check it out!
But as we were heading back up the hill to our house, we ran into the lady who was organizing the party, and she asked me if I would be willing to DJ it... her alternative was her own home stereo speakers and her friend playing music on her laptop. There was a brief moment of dillemma because we HAD agreed to go out and crash our friend Winnie's family campout (SMORES!!) but this sounded like lots of fun, plus it would help the community event committee.
So I had about 30 minutes to load up the equipment, freshen the music on the laptop and head down to the pool. Oh yeah, and I hadn't had a shower yet today! ACK! Loaded up, everything was pretty much ready, took a speedshower, and got set up before the gates opened. Cindy was VERY helpful, and is officially the best DJ's Assistant EVER! (She even connected the speaker wires - a huge help!)
For the first few minutes, people were showing up, but the pool wasn't open yet. There was a special ribbon that the Mayor was going to cut to officially get the party started.
Then the ribbon was cut, I kicked off the party with "Let's Get It Started" by the Black-Eyed Peas, and for the next three hours, this was what I saw before me:
A few highlights - The Hokey Pokey done in a pool was amusing to watch... And there was this guy with three girls who were undoubtedly having more fun than most. They started making crazy requests (NSync, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, etc) and had really perfected the art of pool dancing. When they were getting ready to leave they asked if they could have a picture with me, which was a totally fun request. Cindy got to take the picture, so I'm trusting that she got my good side...
Now the sun has gone down, my equipment is safely back in the garage, and Cindy's gently sleeping on my shoulder as I type. Time to put this day to bed... And rejoice in the fact that it's a Three Day Weekend, and there will hopefully be two more just like this!
Friday, May 23, 2008
Look back in time to the Christmas season of 2006. Within days of each other in November, both Nintendo and Sony introduced their new-generation video game consoles, at very different price points. The Wii came out at $250 and instantly sold out, and remained sold out not only through the season, but pretty much through Memorial Day 2008, with not too many signs of slowing down. The PlayStation 3, in $500 and $600 flavors, sold out at launch, and was somewhat scarce throughout the holiday season. But it never seemed to have the difficulty staying on shelves as Nintendo's entry did.
On December 22, 2006, the mighty Woot got their hands on 80 of the low-end PS3s, and made them their item of the day. Sure, they sold out in 4 minutes... But it certainly wasn't due to Woot's marketing efforts! This is what their writeup started with:
Looks nice enough, they were doing overnight shipping with Saturday delivery to make sure you got it in time for Christmas... Oh, but look underneath the picture of the console - a clever little text bit hinting that Woot may not be 100% behind their product.
Right below the picture, as always, lies their description.
(you'll probably need to click it to read it full size)
Okay, so that in itself is one of the funniest things I've seen on Woot, or anywhere else. But the real punch line is if you clicked the image of the PS3 at the top of their page, instead of a large, detailed image, you got this:
And that, dear reader(s?), is why I love Woot!
(the original Woot listing is still available here)
Thursday, May 22, 2008
We picked up Wii Fit yesterday, and I'll be writing up a comprehensive review after we've had a few days with it. So far, I am 100% impressed with it! Last night Cindy, Kaylee and I set up profiles and did a few balance and yoga games. If you don't even know what I'm talking about, just check back in a couple days and all will be clear.
In the meantime, here's what just might be the next must-have game for the Wii...
Monday, May 19, 2008
First off, the new treat that I was most excited about. Hershey's has been gently expanding the Whoppers line over the last couple years, starting with the Strawberry Milkshake whoppers that showed up a couple years ago. Well, the other night after an otherwise fail-filled trip to WalMart (which I hate, but they were rumoured to have a clearance deal on Wii Points cards... which were all sold out by the time I got there, hence the fail) I saw a display with this amazing new entry to the Whoppers family:
No, it's not a crafty photoshop job, there really ARE Peanut Butter Whoppers now!! I suppose it's possible that some of you don't know about me and Peanut Butter... I LOVE PEANUT BUTTER!! There aren't many snack foods that can't be improved by adding some... My sister Janice helped awaken my love of Peanut Butter when we were kids, by teaching me the simple, yet amazingly good trick of taking 1/2 spoonful of Peanut Butter, filling the rest of the spoon with Hershey's Syrup, and topping it off with a squirt of whipped cream. It is heaven on a spoon, my friends! If you were to ask my wife, she'd say my love of Peanut Butter borders on the un-natural. In fact, she'd probably describe me as something like this:
While I don't think I'm THAT bad, the most sure way to get me to try a new snack item is to add Peanut Butter. (White Chocolate is a close second, making the White Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups an all-time favorite!)
Sooooo, I got home and tried the PB Whoppers and my mouth began a celebration. They're nearly perfect, and I like them BETTER than the classic chocolate ones. I think mixing the two in a candy dish would make for snack nirvana, or maybe mix in the strawberry ones for a PB&J Whopper experience.
VERDICT: BUY LOTS!!
Next up is another variation on a candy classic, only this time it fared about as well as my WalMart Bargain Hunt. How would you promote the highly anticipated fourth Indiana Jones movie?? By creating a (thankfully) limited edition Snickers bar, of course!! And what special add-in would make each bite resonate with a sense of adventure, exploration and Spielbergian magic?
If you answered "Coconut," you're WRONG!!
Unfortunately, that's what the people at M&M's/Mars answered too. It must be a trick question. Or maybe it actually IS the right answer, but their execution was too weak to pull it off. Either way, each bite of my "Snickers Adventure Bar" was disappointing. Probably because I REALLY wanted to like it! For example, a few months ago while trolling Target's snack clearance section, I saw Kraft Toasted Coconut Marshmallows. At only 79 cents, I bought a couple bags, thinking even if they weren't good, they'd make a good white elephant gift at Christmas time. It is now safe to say that nobody will be getting Toasted Coconut Marshmallows from the Brinkerhoffs for Christmas, because I loved them!
Based on that experience, I was excited to see how chocolate, peanuts, caramel and nougat worked together with toasted coconut. But they didn't work together. I think maybe there was just too much stuff crammed into that bar, because NOTHING really stood out. It probably could use MORE coconut to make a statement - I mean, it's an ADVENTURE BAR!! Let's get ADVENTUROUS!! As I consumed the bar, with each bite I anticipated that THIS one would be the payoff, where all the ingredients combined to make me glad I dropped the 75 cents. Nope. Didn't happen. I'd say I had buyer's remorse, but if I hadn't bought it, I'd keep wondering if it was any good, so the peace of mind of knowing I never want to buy one again was well worth the three quarters.
VERDICT: SEE THE MOVIE INSTEAD (even if the movie isn't as great as everyone hopes, it'll still be better than this candy bar)
Clearly, those first two items aren't exactly compatible with my fitness program, so even though I love the PB Whoppers, I don't anticipate eating them more than a few times a year. I'm okay with that - I just hope enough of YOU buy them often enough that they keep making them, so that the next time I DO want some, I can find them. Do we have a deal??
Getting back in line with my health plan, I tried something yesterday that two days ago I didn't even know existed.
Again, there's no photoshopping going on there, that really does say "Cashew Juice". I love cashew nuts, but NEVER knew that they grew at the end of a fruit. And I certainly didn't know that the fruit they grow on is sweet 'n' tasty, but doesn't travel well so it hasn't made it to mass markets outside of the tropical region where it grows.
But learning these things made me curious, so I gave it a try. The box says it's a slightly sweet tropical flavor with less acid than orange juice. Considering that I hate orange juice as much as I love peanut butter, that sounded like a good thing, although I was a little concerned that they'd make such a comparison, hoping it wouldn't taste like OJ.
I was VERY pleasantly surprised that it did not taste like OJ at all, but was, as promised, a sweet tropical flavor that was very enjoyable! I've never been much of a juice drinker - I love grape juice, but never cared much for apple or most other juices. But this is one that I would happily drink any time. I think I may have to pick up a few boxes to keep on hand for when I would otherwise grab a pop but want to choose healthier.
And that wraps up my first foray into food blogging (flogging??) and I hope that maybe it inspired you to try something new! I'll revisit this concept whenever I come across fun new foods!
I can't believe I neglected to mention it in the last Music Monday post, but in addition to Mon-Fri at AEI, and Friday Nights at C-89, I spent the 3rd and 4th Saturday nights each month DJing church youth dances! And also, during the Summers of '97 and '98, The Friday Night PartyZone was broadcasting live from nightclubs in Seattle... The summer of '97, in particular, was an extremely busy time. I worked 6:00 am to 2:30 pm at AEI Music, and on Fridays, around 6:30 pm I would pack up my car with music and head up to Seattle for my night at Club F/X, where I'd DJ my heart out from 8 to 2:00 am. Then I'd drive home, sleep, and on Saturday between 5 and 6, load up again with music and equipment to head up to either Bellevue or Redmond for a stake dance. Thankfully, they got over at 11, so I got to go to bed at a semi-human hour those nights.
You'd think that schedule would wear you down, and I'm sure that physically it probably did, but the music and crowd interaction was so completely euphoric that it generated all the energy I needed to keep going and going and going.
I DJ'd my first dance when I was 14. I was so excited to finally be old enough to go to the church dances, but I got there and was faced with epic disappointment. Lame music, no atmosphere whatsoever, and nobody was dancing. I went a few times, then lost interest... But knew that I could make it better someday!
Around the same time, an older friend called and said he'd gotten the opportunity to DJ a young adult dance, and could I help him out. He didn't have to ask me twice! Not only was it my first shot at actually DJing a dance, it was the annual Seattle Aquarium dance, and we were setting up in the underwater dome. Goodbye disappointment, hello EPIC COOLNESS!! It went off as well as I'd hoped, and I had been bit by the DJ bug. From that somewhat thrown-together event, I gradually gained experience through a wedding reception here, another young adult dance there, but never lost sight of my goal to DJ the youth dances.
My first taste of doing a youth dance was in the spring of 1985. I'd moved to Bellevue by then, but was still in touch with the same friend who originally got the Aquarium dance. He called me up and asked if I'd like to do a Video dance for the Seattle stake youth. WOAH! VIDEO DANCE?? AWE YEAH!!! One of the guys in the stake owned a video store - and this is back when video stores carried VCRs and TVs too. He loaned me a Hi-Fi VCR a couple weeks before the dance, so I could record all the top videos from MTV. Then the night of the dance came, and we had three or four big screen (like 48") projection TVs set up around the room, and played something like one video for every three or four non-video songs. It was a huge hit, and at the end of the night the guy who owned all the equipment asked me if I'd consider Video DJing weekly teen dances on Vashon Island. WOW!! A regular, paying DJ job! He perma-loaned me the Hi-Fi VCR, and every day after school I would record videos, keeping a log of what was recorded on every tape. The goal for these dances was to be ALL video, so I needed a complete current library.
I was so completely nervous the first afternoon when I went to catch the ferry to Vashon! I checked and re-checked the trunk of my car a half-dozen times to make sure I didn't forget anything, because Vashon was (and probably still is) quite isolated on its own... I wasn't confident that I could make up for forgetting anything. Setup took around two hours - and that was WITH my friend Scott helping out! We'd never hooked up so many TVs before! The venue was a large reception hall, and we had TVs in every corner, plus one on each side of my table. Finally, 8:00 came, and kids started showing up. These kids were starved for FUN entertainment that was ON the island. They were one of the most enthusiastic crowds I've ever played for! The dances went on all summer long, with takedown being a frantic race against the ferry schedule. One time, I took a little too long, and pulled into the dock right as the last boat home was sailing off. Even though it was summer, it was a VERY cold night there on the terminal... I'm sure my parents were at least a little concerned when I called and said I would be spending the night on the dock, but there wasn't anything either of us could do, so I just hunkered down in my little Mazda 808 and wished I could sleep. I was never quite so happy to hear the loud horn of an early morning ferry before!
After that summer, the video club never returned... and things slowed down while I finished school. I did manage to DJ one dance at my own high school (Go Interlake!) and also one at Bellevue High, where I spent two hours each day in the radio broadcasting class.
After graduation, I finally made the right contacts to get a trial shot at the Bellevue stake youth dances. I thought things went exceptionally well, and obviously they did too, because they contracted me to keep doing them! That first night in December of 1987, maybe 50-75 kids showed up. About four months later, that had more than doubled. By the early '90s, these dances were legendary, with kids driving from as far away as Olympia each month. I had started calling it Club Bellevue, and promoted the dances to the kids as THE place to be on the 3rd Saturday of the month. There was a group of girls who always danced right up front by the stage, and I nicknamed them the Club Bellevue Solid Gold Dancers. After a few months of giving them shoutouts, they all showed up wearing matching T-Shirts that said "CLUB BELLEVUE SOLID GOLD DANCERS". Those dances were insanely fun times for the kids, for the chaperons, and for me. There was enough longevity that I'd seen the same kids go from 14, awkward and shy, to 18 and bound for college. The rapport was something that I know I'll never encounter again, and is one of my treasured memories.
At the height of the Club Bellevue years, neighboring Redmond stake called and asked me to DJ their dances on the 4th Saturday. I agreed, and was shocked the first time, to see only about 30 kids. But those 30 kids had fun, and the next month I told Club Bellevue to come to Redmond next week, and the Redmond kids who had been there all brought friends, and within a few months Redmond was nearly up to Bellevue levels of awesome.
For a couple years, my posse and I rocked the dances of Bellevue and Redmond, and gave countless kids an incredibly fun, safe environment to be crazy in.
Then there was a change in the stake youth leadership in both stakes.
Almost overnight, I was getting phone calls nitpicking about this, that and the other thing. I kept smoothing things out, believing that in time the leadership would relax and let the good times roll.
Both stakes decided that things were bad enough that they got together and hired a "church dance expert" from Ricks college - now BYU Idaho - to teach me how to properly put on a dance. This guy was pushing 70, had an unnatural fascination with line dancing, and badmouthed every single aspect of DJing that I had used to make these dances so phenomenal. This was an all day session, with the normal Bellevue stake dance at the end of the night. Hundreds of unsuspecting kids showed up expecting Club Bellevue, and instead got "Line Dancing with Mr. Geriatric". They were running up to me asking why I wasn't up there, and what was going on... It was like those recent Burger King ads where they told people that the Whopper had been discontinued!
Finally, I was told that I had to sign a new contract stating that I would follow all 27 of his "pointers" or I wouldn't be welcomed back. I didn't even consider it, I quit on the spot. Never heard from Bellevue again about it, but Redmond still felt the need to call me THE DAY OF THEIR NEXT DANCE and tell me that they wouldn't be requiring my services that night. I told them that was good, because in case they had forgotten, I quit and wasn't going to be there anyway. Bleah!
So that was the end of my church dance career. Bellevue provided around ten years of good times and good money (I was making $350 per night by the end of it, possibly why they wanted to get rid of me) and Redmond was two or three years. But the memories are priceless, and will last a lifetime.
Other than a few wedding receptions each year, and the Whittier Elementary Harvest Hop (aka Halloween Dance) I haven't done much live DJing in the 21st century. The last actual recurring gig I had was as the opening week DJ at The Loft, a then-brand new club in downtown Tacoma. They had wanted me to be their full time resident DJ, and the club was supposed to open in August of 2000. But delays pushed it back a few weeks at a time, with the actual grand opening happening the week between Christmas and New Years. By that time, my interest had faded (see last week's column for an understanding on how I could get burned out on music) and I ended up only doing the first week. There were some good times there, but it was clear to me that the thrill was gone...
Of course, now that I make my living doing boring computer stuff all day long, the prospect of getting paid for music services sounds pretty good again... Anyone wanna hire a DJ?
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
As we enter the second half of May, I've got the urge to give some more Mad Jack's Fudge away! And this time, you don't need to have superior musical knowledge to win. See what I did there? I just broke out of a self-imposed mold and did something bold and new! Go Me!!
Anyway, pictured above is my beloved Bag o' Crap strapped to the back of a FedEx SmartPost snail inching its way from Texas to Fircrest. Its journey began yesterday afternoon, and as you can see from FedEx's tracking center, it is currently being sortated.
Some people say that "Sortated" isn't a word. Those people have never waited for a package sent by FedEx SmartPost. SmartPost combines the worst of FedEx with the worst of the U.S. Postal Service for a new record in slow (and presumably cheap?) package delivery.
So how does this equate to a contest? Well, it's just like that "Cow Pie Bingo" game where people divide a field into squares, and everyone claims a square or two, then they release a cow onto the field and wherever it poops first, the person who claimed that square wins.
This is JUST like that, except that the "cow" is the above-pictured snail, and the "poop" is my Bag o' Crap. See?? It's a FLAWLESS analogy!
To play, just guess when my BoC will arrive! And since this isn't like a secret scavenger hunt, go ahead and put your answers in the comments. If more than one person picks the correct day, we'll do a drawing and I'll TRY to keep Kaylee from hijacking the process again...
In the meantime, this is me:
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I certainly don't need to tell any of you who are local to Western Washington (aka the wet side) that 2008's weather thus far has been dismal... But a few days ago, the weather guys started talkin' jibba jabba about hitting the '80s by the end of this week. The kickoff of this kinder, warmer weather was to be today, and sure enough, when I got up at Ridiculous O'Clock (aka 4:30am) to play Racketball, I noticed that it was already 54 degrees. That was the high a couple days ago. Good sign!
By the time I got home from the YMCA, a thick cloud cover had settled in, and it felt like it would take lots of hope, faith and prayers to bring out the sun. And then about 11:30 it happened - seemingly out of nowhere, the sky turned blue! And I'm talking REALLY blue! No clouds at all! I'm not sure what Mr. Sun did to them, but he disposed of them very handily.
And the timing couldn't have been better for the gorgeous weather, because today was the first day of the 2008 Tacoma Farmer's Market,
which is just a couple blocks from my office. It's been a favorite tradition for the past 3 years, and I was glad to have nice weather to walk up there. But that wasn't the BEST part...
The BEST part was that Cindy called me right as the skies were clearing, and asked if I'd like her and Andy to join me for lunch! So we had a nice little outing to the market, and my favorite food vendor was back for another year... Chef Todd Riski's Teriyaki Steak Sandwiches are every bit as mouth-wateringly delicious as they have been the previous two summers.
Thursday will, once again, be my favorite day of the work-week!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
First off, you need to know what Woot is. I've mentioned Woot a few times before, and always said that someday I'd do a proper introduction. Looks like today's the day!
First off, Woot can be found at (shock!) woot.com. Each day they have ONE item for sale, usually at a ridiculously low price, and always with $5.00 shipping. Doesn't matter if it's an mp3 player or a mobility scooter, the shipping is $5.00. If you were to go there today, here's what you'd see:
And if anyone has gutters that need cleaning and hates actually DOING the cleaning, you'd be smart to pick up this iRobot Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot. iRobot makes a vacuuming robot called Roomba, and Cindy has two of them. They're great! They roam the house in search of dirty floors and tirelessly suck up all the filth until the floors are clean and/or their batteries are dying, at which time they re-dock themselves to charge up for next time. The Looj is kind of the same thing, except you put it in your gutter rather than on your floor. And getting it for $74.99 after shipping is quite a deal!
So if you wanted one, you'd (again - shock!) click the "I want one!" button. If you DON'T want one however, there's nothing you can do about it, other than wait until Midnight Texas Time (10:00 PM here in the civilized world) and see what the next day's item is. And if they should sell out of their stock of Looj before midnight, then the "I want one!" button turns into a "Sold Out!" sign and again, you're waiting until midnight to see what comes next. That's how it works, day in and day out.
Except, for the total pandemonium that is the Woot-Off. Occasionally, maybe like every other month or so, they throw this model out the window, and get rid of the leftovers that didn't sell, smaller quantities of products that couldn't justify a full day on the site, and they generally top it off with either custom Woot screaming, flying monkeys with capes and helmets or a Bag o' Crap.
By their own admission, the Bag o' Crap is Crap. The people who write the product descriptions at Woot have WAY too much fun describing gadgets (just go to the site and read whatever's there right now - you'll see what I mean), but they really hit their peak with the Bag o' Crap, officially known as "Random Crap". One recent offering, which I failed to get in on, said something like "Don't even click that 'I Want One!' button. You'd be better off going down to the local dollar store, putting a blindfold on, spinning around and then buying the first three things you touch." And often, it is dollar store quality crap, sometimes it's a step down from dollar store quality crap.
But just to make things interesting, once in a while, Woot throws in nice things like a Tivo, a Digital Camera, or even a large flat panel TV. This leads to a communal "unboxing" of the Crap in the Woot forum pages, with those living near Woot's Texas headquarters getting theirs first, and posting pictures and descriptions for all to see. Because the crap is so random, it really is kind of like playing the lottery. Except that you always get SOMETHING, as opposed to a worthless piece of paper and silver gunk under your fingernails.
With all of this in mind, during a Woot-Off, every new item that comes on is eagerly anticipated, and the forums are full of people encouraging everyone to buy lots of them, so we can get to the Crap. When it finally shows up, it's like a nuclear bomb went off on the Internet. As I mentioned last Friday, they sold 4,500 items in less than 2 minutes. Really, it was probably less than a minute. This was my second victory, and every other time, I never even saw the option to buy. Trying to load the page gets a "Server Too Busy" error... And so you try again, and again, and suddenly it's "Sold Out". And you're like "Wha-wha-whaaaa??" The aftermath is usually something that they have lots and lots of, and isn't very exciting, and it feels like the calm after a hurricane.
There are a couple other cool Woot features. They started a t-shirt site last year, at shirt.woot.com - with a new t-shirt every day, for $10 including shipping. And a few months ago they partnered with Yahoo for "Woot Sellout". If you go to shopping.yahoo.com and look down to the middle of the page, you'll see the "Deal of the Day, Powered by Woot!" So there are three Woot sites to check every night at bedtime... It's kind of a fun ritual that Cindy and I enjoy... And we've made quite a few purchases from the Woot empire. Just look!
Yep, everything from Roombas to Leakfrogs to Zunes and many different T-Shirts... We Love Woot!
Monday, May 12, 2008
As I've read his tales of employment I've reflected upon my own... Specifically, the period between June 15 1992 and August 31 2001, the AEI Music Years.
This was about as close to a dream job as I'll ever have. I got paid to create four hour mix-tapes that were played in businesses all over the country - and occasionally the world! While I worked there I produced music specifically for NikeTown, Williams-Sonoma, Bennigan's and Steak & Ale Restaurants, Lane Bryant, Rave, Avenue clothing stores and many others, as well as programs that went into a general catalog that any of AEI's customers could pick from. One of the highlights of my career there came at the Red Robin in Kennewick, when I realized that they were playing one of my dance-mix programs! I slyly thanked the manager for playing such great music, and he said that it was his favorite mix out of their whole library. After that I couldn't keep quiet - I told him I'd made it, and gave him one of my business cards. It was pretty much a rockstar moment, and I went back to work the next week all fired up to keep giving the customers more of what they want.
I don't remember exactly when that encounter took place, but it had to be somewhere fairly early in my career with AEI. See, although the company was founded by music lovers in 1971 who decided to do something to combat the horrible Muzak that was being piped in to businesses, by the time I got there in the '90s it was all about the bottom line, and the nonstop cashflow express. The founder and several long term employees were still there, but had grown so distant from the music itself that they were unable to think in terms of what it really takes to make a great program. All they cared about was how many programs can you churn out in a week. Now, I admit that when I first started there, I couldn't imagine that would even be a problem. I mean, how long can it take to put together a four hour mixtape? Maybe six hours if you include time to put all your CDs away when you're done??
But there were other factors that made it slightly more difficult. For starters, once we used a song, we weren't able to repeat it on another program for 12 months. That meant that when you were assigned a new program, the first thing you had to do was run a report of all the songs used in that category program for the last year. Talk about limiting your choices!! Most formats received a new entry every month, and with 40ish songs per program, that was nearly 500 songs on the blacklist.
Luckily, one of the things that got me the job over the 150 other applicants (you can imagine how many people wanted to do this for a living) was my broad and deep personal knowledge of many genres of music. So my first couple times around the programming carousel were mostly easy, breezy, beautiful. Then I too started struggling. It wasn't actually BAD mind you, I was still getting paid to sit in a studio with what was billed as "the world's largest privately held music library" at my disposal. It made finding those gems that hadn't already been exploited much easier. Also the fact that I didn't have a uniform or a name tag helped put things in perspective whenever they did get rough.
But remember how earlier I said that the management had shifted from a musical focus to a financial focus? Well that was NOTHING compared to what our contacts at the stores cared about. In general we worked with Directors of Visual Merchandising or some such title. The Visual in their titles is there for a reason... These people could design a menu, or store layout, or catalog layout with one hand while heavily sedated. They truly had a gift. And the price for their visual excellence was that they didn't (in general) GET music. Part of the process of custom programming was to send off a demo of what we'd like to use in this month's programming. Ideally, my contact would listen to the demo, call me back, say something like what the Kennewick Red Robin manager had said, and I'd run off the final program and be done for the month.
What actually happened was quite different though. I'd send off a demo, and wait for the phone call. Then I'd call and leave messages... Finally I'd get a call back that sorry, they hadn't listened to it yet, but would right away and call back. Then the call would come and I was always amazed at the need these people had to throw their weight around... Usually the demo was pretty much on the mark, but they always felt the need to say "I don't really like this song here..." and I'd then have to send another demo, of alternate songs. Often the songs that were rejected one month would be approved without incident the next month. One contact was notorious for HATING a song one month, then a few months later I'd slip it in again, and she'd say "You know what song I really liked on this month's tape?" Yep. That one. They rarely actually listened with a mindset of "will people dining/shopping in my establishment enjoy this?" It was something that they didn't really like doing, so they figured they had to at least make it feel like work for me too.
So you can see how with all of that going on week after week, music began to be a chore rather than the passionate hobby it had always been.
I found an outlet a year or so after starting at AEI when I landed the Friday night shift at KNHC, Seattle's C-89.5 FM.
The good times just got better and better up through sometime in 2000. Station politics started to get ugly, and I was no longer considered one of the cool kids at the station. Since I kept moving further and further south, and the drive was getting really long, I stepped down from the PartyZone in early 2001.
Meanwhile, AEI "merged with" (aka got bought by) DMX Music in April 2001, and I was informed that my position was duplicated. They kept me on until the end of August to help the transition my functions to the "non-duplicated" people. Between the C-89 nonsense and the AEI nonsense, I was burning out hard on music. In my car it was almost exclusively talk radio. By the time August came to an end and I found myself unemployed (just prior to 9/11, no less), I just wanted to let music become a fun hobby again. And slowly but surely, it has become just that.
In the nearly seven years since I started using my other skill (really - I only have two!) to make a living, my musical self has had a reawakening... I still maintain a small production studio downstairs (in the "cave") where I record the kids playing their instruments for band tests, voiceovers for church productions, and the occasional new dance mix CD for the car. Just did one of those this past weekend in fact! It was the first time in three years that I'd done a new mix, and it was SUCH a therapeutic experience. With all the home/yard repairs and work we've been doing, do take a couple hours and thoroughly get lost in music was like medicine to my soul. I did a retro mix, made up of some of the PartyZone's greatest hits. Nothing newer than 2001. Recapturing my glory days. And it worked... When I let the last note of the last song die off, I felt a sence of creative satisfaction - and as I've listened to it in the car, it's brought a smile to my face. I think it's safe to say that I'm back to having a passionate love for music!
(oh, and if you want to hear my new retro mix, just click here!)
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Friday, May 09, 2008
But now... NOW!!!
It's Friday afternoon, and I JUST SCORED A LEGENDARY BAG O' CRAP FROM WOOT!!!
Now I just have to sit back and wait and fantasize about what kind of consumer flotsam will drift my way. This is my second time successfully getting a bag of crap, and the excitement is pretty hard to describe. To put it in perspective, they sold 4,500 of them in under 2 minutes. Then they were sold out (as the picture indicates) and some boring remote control went up for sale.
BUT I GOT MY CRAP!!
It'll be a good weekend.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Many people consider one of the little perks of a job, being able to listen to the radio at work. I had that “perk” when I worked at Pizza Hut, but my following jobs in the music field supplied their own soundtracks, and then my first couple I.T. jobs were in offices where there was no music of any kind piped in, but I was always able to listen to my own music so it worked out great. Then I landed at my current job, and we actually have a pretty respectable office sound system! Woo! The default station was KPLZ, aka Star 101.5, playing “the best mix of everything”. For the first month or so this worked out okay. I had been somewhat out of touch with mainstream radio so it was actually kind of refreshing to let someone else do the driving and just listen.
Well, in all honesty, it was nice for about a week.
I started this job in September of 2006. One of the first things I noticed after a few days of listening to the radio, was that “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield was played 3 to 4 times during each and every workday. This was puzzling to me, because I remembered seeing her perform it on the Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005. Turns out the song was actually released in July 2005. Yet to the overlords at Star, it was still one of Today’s Hottest Hits! As of a month ago when I was finally successful in lobbying for a station change, it was still being played, on average, three times between 8am and 5pm. They may have slowed it down for a few weeks, to only playing once or twice per day, but it has been in constant rotation for what is now approaching three years. This is just one of the less annoying examples. Those complete wastes of airwaves, Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape” and “Hollaback Girl” are truly painful to listen to even once. Drill them in to someone 4 times a day (each) for 9 months, and the idea of taking a shotgun to the overhead speaker was getting very tempting. It actually got so bad that I kept a log for a week of what they played, and it was very eye-opening to me and others in the office. Apparently the other had kinda noticed that they played lots of repetition but hadn’t actually realized that it was
ROTTING THEIR BRAINS AWAY FROM THE INSIDE OUT painfully annoying.
Luckily, thanks to my educational efforts, one day about a month ago, our HR manager came over and asked me if I’d go switch it to Jack because she couldn’t handle being tortured by Gwen Stefani (it was really hard to show her the respect of capitalizing her name) any more. At the end of the day, everyone agreed that it was a switch for the better, and we’ve been Jacked at work ever since. Just as I’m typing this, they just went from The Blues Brothers to Def Leppard, and we haven’t had a song repeat during the same day since we started listening. It would be just about perfect if only…
…if only they handled their ads the same way they handle their music!
I know that they need to play the ads to get the revenue to keep playing what they want. That’s fine. My real problem lies with the advertisers themselves, who seem to take the Star philosophy to heart, and hammer us over the heads with the most brainless advertisements imaginable. Sadly, this trend also built over the 18 months of pre-Jack listening. Before I go into the ad that’s really under my skin (like those alien take-over-til-you-die worms from the X-Files) I’ll say that I am VERY happy that Jack has mostly different ad clients than Star did. But they have one prominent one in common: Weisfield Jewelers.
For many years, Weisfield had pretty decent ads… Classic jingle-based ads that were actually pretty decent stand-alone tunes. Then a year or two ago, they decided that they didn’t want people singing their jingle, they wanted people cursing their very presence on the Earth. And they produced a series of ads where a girl named “Lisa” is gushing to her girlfriend about her amazing new Earrings/Necklace/Bracelet/Ring. (fyi, it JUST came on right now…) As soon as Lisa’s friend says she can’t believe how gorgeous this jewelry is, Lisa says “I Know!” and then we cut to her husband Brian, who is in a bowling alley with his guy friend, telling him about how Lisa was speechless when he gave her the Weisfield jewels. It cuts back and forth with Lisa telling her girlfriend all about how she received her amazing gift. Inevitably, she says something like “as soon as I saw the Weisfield box…” at which time she is interrupted by the girlfriend who demands to know, “How did he know about Weisfield?” Then it cuts to the bowling alley, where Brian tell his good friend that his Dad told him about Weisfield. Or rather his mom told his dad to tell him. We men couldn’t be trusted to find our way to Weisfield without our mommy’s help. Ya know, because, like there isn't a Weisfield in EVERY SINGLE MALL IN THE NORTHWEST...
Then he – right there in the bowling alley – tells his manly chum that after Lisa was speechless, she “started getting all teary-eyed, and I’m thinking thank you Dad, for recommending Weisfield.” Not only is that a completely ridiculous line for two guys out bowling, he says it with such a phony smiley smarminess that it comes off sounding completely, uncomfortably, undeniably, GAY. To top that off, Lisa’s girlfriend says “I still can’t imagine YOU being speechless…” and Lisa says “well just look at the earrings (or) necklace (or) bracelet (or) ring!” To which the girlfriend does the audio-equivalent of melting into a puddle of plumbing sludge and says “Yeaahhhh…”
If you haven’t gone off to vomit yet, thanks for staying with me. This ad constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. With Mother’s Day only days away, it’s in heavy rotation all over the radio dial. They always ramp up the airtime when there’s a gift-giving event aimed at women coming up. Hopefully after this weekend they’ll give it a rest for a while.
But on the music side, things are great! Just heard Nirvana, Supertramp, and now Genesis. Haven’t heard Natasha or Gwen all week, and I’m not missing them one bit!
Monday, May 05, 2008
The relic pictured above represents one of the pivotal moments on my path of musical discovery.
It's a K-Tel compilation album called "The Beat: Sound Wave of the '80s" and yes, I had it on 8-Track! I got it for either my birthday or Christmas 1982 - it was near the top of my wish-list that year because it had a few cutting edge songs that I'd been exposed to by MTV. MTV in 1982 was like a radio station on TV. They played music videos all the time, with music news once or twice an hour. No "shows", just music. Hosted by VJs, which were just DJs that you could see. And since many artists hadn't embraced the "Video Revolution" yet, MTV seemed to play pretty much anything that had a video. Thankfully, a lot of the New Wave bands were quick to pick up on this, and there were always many Wave videos in heavy rotation on MTV. At the time I asked for The Beat, it was primarily because it had "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls and "Hot in the City" by Billy Idol. When I peeled the shrink wrap off and plugged the cartridge into the slot, I was treated to 40-ish minutes of excellent early '80s New Wave from several bands I'd never heard of yet, but would soon be hitting it big. The complete tracklisting was:
- A Flock of Seagulls - I Ran
- Kim Wilde - Kids in America
- Haircut 100 - Love Plus One
- Sparks - I Predict
- Thompson Twins - In The Name Of Love
- Graham Parker - You Hit The Spot
- The Waitresses - I Know What Boys Like
- The Go-Go's - We Got The Beat
- Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy
- Duran Duran - Girls on Film
- Split Enz - I Got You
- Depeche Mode - Dreaming of Me
- Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark - Joan of Arc
- Billy Idol - Hot in the City
See what I mean?? Looking back on that from 2008, only the Graham Parker song stands out as filler. Everything else was at least 90% Gold!
As a result of that one tape, I sought out more music from Depeche Mode, who went on to be a firm favorite of mine right up through their undeniable peak with 1990's Violator album. I also further pursued Duran Duran and OMD (though I wouldn't submit to abreviating their name for years), Haircut 100 and their leader, Nick Heyward's solo career, and earned the right to be smug when Billy Idol became a pop-rock superstar, because I knew him back when he was REALLY cool...
But more than any one artist, it was that feeling of discovery, of knowing and loving music long before the "unwashed masses" that I quickly became addicted to. It led to years of trolling through import record stores looking for the next big thing. It led to great success with my radio show, the Friday Night PartyZone when I would ravenously devour new music from around the globe and serve it up to eager listeners who shared the passion for all things new - and GOOD. I've discovered more new fresh garbage than I ever imagined existed over the years, but stubbornly refused to succumb to it.
Now, in the age of digital downloading, I still keep looking for new, fresh, good music. I've discovered several gems, lots of garbage, and my search shows no signs of ending. There will always be a new "next big thing" and I intend to be in on it before the rest of the world!