Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, or the First Day of Christmas, Followed by Five Days of Anticlimax, Then New Year's Eve, and Concluding with Five Days of Disappointment...

In societies with the big holiday shopping season (after Halloween through Christmas Eve), in which the pop culture is intertwined with the three-act dramatic structure, Christmas culminates on Christmas morning, when people open their gifts.  The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has been rewritten as follows:

On the first day of Christmas, my friends and family gave to me:  A lot of stuff!  On the second day of...ah, screw it:  Five days anticlimactic -- then New Year's Eve!  Five days of resolution, before I give up!  (...or something like that.)

Anyhow, I'd like to post the past couple of years' worth of holiday music I've recorded and produced.  Depending on your time zone and holiday habits (if any), many of you have already opened your presents and the big Christmas build-up is over.  For some of you who haven't opened your presents yet, and for those who are fortunate enough to celebrate 12 days of non-anticlimactic Christmas, here are the mp3s (right-click and save as...):

We Three Kings (whose day happens on the 13th day of Christmas, if I remember correctly)
O Christmas Tree
Jingle Bells
It Came upon the Midnight Clear
O Holy Night
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen

Tracks other than holiday music can be found at my other site, DeRamos Music.  Cheers, Merry Christmas, and, in case I don't blog here for a while, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Note to Self: Blog.

...and thus fulfills my self-ordained monthly obligation to post something on this blog.  But seriously, one of my potential New Year's resolutions is to write more on this site (or any of the others, really).

Well, that's it for now.  Here's to the impending month of December...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Arrigo Pola and the Family Pipes

Several decades ago, when my dad was a child, his father -- my grandfather, of course -- was cast in a production of Il trovatore at the regional opera house.  Although many of the details have been obscured by the passage of time, my dad remembers that he played with my grandfather's prop sword, which seemed to be a real sword, whenever my grandfather came home from rehearsal.  My dad also remembers his father practicing at home, singing with an otherworldly set of operatic pipes this side of Luciano Pavarotti (more on him later).

After many weeks of rehearsal, the night at the opera arrived.  Of all the siblings in the household, my dad was chosen to go with his mother -- my grandmother, naturally -- to watch my grandfather perform in the opera.

Before the show started, my dad heard a voice warming up from behind the curtain.  In his mind, my dad knew that this was his father's loud and clear singing voice.  When they raised the curtain, however, the voice was not my grandfather's, but that of Arrigo Pola, the star of this production of Il trovatore.  Please take a listen to Pola's rendition of "Ah! si ben mio," which is from the aforementioned opera:



A few years later, Pola would transform a young singer named Luciano Pavarotti into the legendary tenor.  This pupil that would outshine his teacher so much, that you can't really find a clear photo of Pola on the Internet.  You would also be hard-pressed to find recordings of Pola, other than 11 tracks on YouTube and a single audio interview.  It would be just my luck that this blog entry would be up there in the few searches for Arrigo Pola!

As for my grandfather -- several decades later, his wife would sit at the piano, while he would sing in a clear, albeit less powerful, tenor voice.  I was less than a year old when my grandfather passed away, so I can't recall his beautiful tenor.  In any case, from the moment Il trovatore opened that night, my dad would associate Arrigo Pola's voice with his father's.  Recently, my brother found the few Pola recordings on YouTube, and he shared them with our dad.  Sure enough, my dad heard his father through those recordings.

Would you care to listen to another recording of my grandfather, I mean, Arrigo Pola?  This one's from the sad clown opera, Pagliacci:




As for me, I am on a quest to find the family pipes.  I doubt I inherited these particular set of vocal cords, even though I inherited the desire to attempt at some sort of singing. Strangely enough, in 2004, there was a really good operatic singer who sang at a college commencement ceremony that I attended.  The singer had long hair, and I had long hair (I still do).  The punchline being sort of obvious:  Lots of people complimented me for that singer's performance.  I gladly accepted the compliments, on his behalf, of course.

As for the photo to the left -- that's as close to the sad clown as I'll get, in all likelihood.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot:  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Can't a Dog Get a License in This Town?

To protect all innocent parties, and to make this post even more ridiculous, let's call the town in question:  The City of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" by Michael Bolton, or How Am I Supposed to Live Without You for short.

After my puppy Kate received her rabies vaccination a couple of weeks ago, the quest to finally get her license from the city began.  In this day and age, the first place to go to would be the official website of the city where Kate resides.  The county, which covers all unincorporated areas and a couple of stray cities, has a very detailed and helpful website when it comes to licensing dogs and cats.

Unfortunately, the official website of How Am I Supposed to Live Without You wasn't very helpful regarding dog licenses.  A Google search of the website (I typed in "site:URL-in-question dog license") revealed only one bit of slightly useful information:  A number of years ago, a city-wide audit revealed that How Am I Supposed to Live Without You charged, at least at the time, the lowest fee for dog licenses, compared to neighboring cities.

Great.  Other than giving me hope of saving a few dollars here and there, I still didn't know where exactly to spend those dollars to get a dog license for Kate. I had to downgrade my use of technology and use a telephone, but who could I call?

Fortunately, the City of How Am I Supposed to Live Without You has its own police department and its own animal control division.  The dog catcher would know where to get a dog license!  After searching for numbers listed on their website, I called How Am I Supposed to Live Without You's animal control, and they didn't give me any information, like pricing or whatever.  Instead, they forwarded me to the finance department's phone line, which had an automated menu (Press 1, Press 2, etc.), which led me to their voicemail.   No matter what sequence of numbers I pressed, I got their voicemail.  Apparently the finance department seemed to be perpetually at lunch, and I didn't have the time to wait around for a return call.

Thanks so far, How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.  (I was being sarcastic.)  It was time to formulate a new plan:  Actually go to City Hall and demand some freakin' information!  My taxes pay for this information, information to allow me to pay more city fees!

A day or so later, last Friday, my brother and I went on an adventure to the downtown section of How Am I Supposed to Live Without You, possibly to break through the City Council's chamber doors and interrupt a meeting of the finance department -- to get a dog-gone dog license.  I rarely go downtown.  The last time I did was to apply for a business license some years back.  Unlike dog licenses, the city's website was pretty comprehensive when it came to business licenses.  The area around City Hall is probably the oldest part of town.  It had a sense of history, unlike the organized suburban tract sprawl in newer parts of the city.  I think Huell Howser should pay a visit to How Am I Supposed to Live Without You's downtown area, if he hadn't already.

Appropriately approaching the status of shaggy dog story, we discovered that City Hall closed on Fridays.  I'm guessing this is because of the sad economic state of pretty much everything these days.

And so the Fellowship of the Dog License, my brother and I, returned on Monday to City Hall.  We went to the police department headquarters, which is inside City Hall, and the lone officer (not to be confused with a loan officer -- okay, there is no time for puns within a parenthetical) inside told us to go to the long line nearby to the cashier.

Most of the people in this line were probably paying a late electric bill or something to that effect.  Anyhow, this was the correct place to purchase a dog license.  The cashier was helpful, and the license cost $9 -- probably the lowest in the county -- yes, $9 and about a week's worth of sleuthing, err, bumbling.

The moral of the story goes to cities with websites:  Fill your website with some relevant information.  You don't have to put everything in it, just some information relevant to a sizable portion of your population.  I'm pretty sure that households with dogs (and cats) make up a sizable portion of the City of How Am I Supposed to Live Without You, so I hope they will update their website accordingly.

Otherwise I would have to run for mayor, and no one wants that -- especially me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Can't Remember 10 Hours Ago, Let Alone 10 Years Ago (But I'll Try)

To sort of understand the little nuances of this flawed recollection of September the 11th, 2001, we'll have to jump further back to late February of that year.  I was in college.  Around that time, on a whim, I had signed up to be an ordained minister -- via the Internet, which was accessed through dial-up America Online at home.  Back in those days, I lived my life as arbitrary and "for the hell of it" as possible (perhaps I still do).

After class one day in late February -- a Tuesday or a Wednesday -- there was a Red Cross van, accepting blood donations.  So I thought, "Why the hell not?" and went for the free juice and cookie.  I felt pretty good about donating blood, and I probably went to another class later that afternoon.

I essentially forgot about the whole blood-letting ordeal until I received a letter from the Red Cross months later, explaining that they had to reject my donation of red blood cells because there was some weird stuff floating around in it.  (Seriously.  WTF?)  Not wanting to have the reputation of literal bad blood -- and confident of my own blood's awesomeness -- I made an appointment to go to one of the Red Cross' special buildings to have my blood tested (and vindicated!).

The appointment was for Tuesday, September the 11th, sometime during the day.  Anyway, let's backtrack for a bit to August the 11th.  I had invited some of my closest friends from high school to my house for some pizza, soda (as we were in that lame adult limbo between 18 and 21 at the time), and general mellow merriment.  I guess I had to mention that bit of the summer because the date just sticks out in my head.

The fall quarter at my university hadn't started yet, so early September was still prime vacation time.  I don't remember what I did on Monday, September the 10th, but I must have had a late night (early 11th) because I slept in.  I think I woke up to the sound of my answering machine picking up a message, or from a family member (my mom or my brother) telling me that there was a voicemail for me on the answering machine.  It was an employee from the Red Cross informing me that we should probably cancel postpone the blood test, due to -- and I can confidently quote this from memory -- "the bombings on the East Coast."

She said bombings.  No one really knew was was going on exactly at the time this Red Cross employee called my home.  Well, you probably know the story from there.  I think I called or used America Online to make sure my friends were OK.  Some of them travel a lot, and at least one of them studied on the East Coast at the time.

Well, if you were wondering, my blood did have its judgment day at the Red Cross.  I also wrote a decent check (for a starving college student) to donate to the Red Cross.  Anyhow, the results came in weeks later, and my blood was good to go -- at least it was good to go, ten years ago.  (I'm fairly confident it's good these days as well -- fairly confident.)

Sometime between September and November of 2001, my family got our first DVD player.  On November 11th, I got ridiculously sick from a bad cold or flu.  I remember this because on that day, I -- arbitrarily, for the hell of it, of course -- vowed to no longer use over-the-counter medicine whenever I got sick or got allergies.  I essentially gave myself medical hell for no good reason, yes, for the hell of it.  (Fast-forward to 2004, I had enough of my drug boycott and took a Sudafed.  It was a freakin' relief.)

I remember I proto-blogged (wrote and manually published HTML web pages) about my thoughts and feelings for several months after September 11th, 2001.  These thoughts from a 19 or 20 year old might be floating somewhere in cyberspace and/or in my CD-R/DVD+R/external hard drive, data-hoarding archives.  But that's it, I guess.

Now I have to get back doing what I do -- maybe not "best" -- but I sure like it.  I'm making music.  Right.  About.  Now.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August: A Month in Mundane Review

Another month has passed me by, and I have very little to show in the realm of blogging about it.  However, judging from various Twitter tweets, Facebook status updates, Google+ re-postings of the tweets and updates, and some random notebook entries -- it seems that I have filled this month with a lot of mundane (with random bursts of awesome)...living.

In August 2011, I --

Made enchiladas.  Baked a chocolate cake.  Went to the Post Office.  Shopped at Target.  Ate at Souplantation.  Bought groceries at Stater Bros.  Purchased a lot of Ensure drinks at Rite-Aid.  Watched a Harry Potter movie marathon over the course of a week or so (spoiler alert:  Neville Longbottom is the hero of the story).  Had my one and only nosebleed of the summer thus far.  Attempted to learn how to illustrate.  Sketched and colored the above illustration of myself.  Tried my best to deal with a puppy suffering from massive diarrhea (Kate eventually got better).  Made various grilled sandwiches.  Dealt with contractors.  Bought chicken at El Pollo Loco.  Bought a laser pointer.  Watched my puppy Kate chase the laser.  Bought 20 pieces of fried chicken at Popeye's (it was their two pieces for a dollar on Tuesday deal, but that's no excuse for gluttony).  Took Kate to yet another veterinarian check-up.  Bought 24 soft tacos at Del Taco (seriously, am I like a Conehead or something?).  Jammed with Seven Minute Silence.  Went to the 99¢ Store.  Bought Chinese food at Panda Express.  Watched The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which was a letdown after the Harry Potter marathon.  Did some moderate couponing (not quite extreme couponing) at Target.  Went to the bank.  Was strangely complimented for my penmanship of numbers on my deposit slip.  Went to Petco.  Made scrambled eggs.  Fried bologna (but there's no way to make bologna taste good).  Made omelets.  Made a hamburger pie (the only recipe from a Bisquick box worth making).  Watched Marley & Me with Kate.  Ordered lots of stuff at Amazon.com.  Fiddled with guitar effects.  Began to search for a better dog harness, since Kate chewed through hers (naughty puppy!).

Of course there are more things that I didn't bother to record for posterity, most likely equally trivial, but there you have it -- the majority of one month, with one day to go.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where Has the Month of July Gone?

Last month, the month of June, went by super-slowly.  In my perception of time, last month was a crawl.  This month -- as I type during the last moments of July -- has gone by way too fast for my liking.  Anyhow, I'd like to take this opportunity to state some of my blogging goals for next month.  I've already re-booted my FoodBoozeTunes blog, so I hope it will eventually become an interesting foodie/booze-hound/recipe/review website, with several readers (perhaps).

As for here at DeRamos.org, I have several topics lined up, and hopefully I can put my fingers a-clackin' on my keyboard and create some ridiculous, yet hopefully interesting, blog posts.  I like writing, and I am determined to try to attempt to find the time to write more often...

...but I'd rather play with my puppy Kate instead.  (OK, I'll try to make time for writing!)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On Domesticated Animal Ancestry

About a week ago, I adopted a puppy, who eventually came to be known as Kate.


She's likely a Spanador -- part Labrador Retriever, part Cocker Spaniel.  As with all domesticated dogs, she's descended from the gray wolf, so she definitely has badass flowing through her veins.

 While Kate is definitely an adorable puppy, this is really not the point of this blog post.  Since dogs came from wolves, I was hoping that domesticated cats came from an equally badass ancestor, like a tiger.

I was a bit disappointed to learn that the common ancestor to all housecats is a wildcat that looks like a housecat, but with pointy ears -- the African Wildcat.

African Wild Cat, photographed, by Sonelle, at the Johannesburg Zoo, South Africa.
You'd probably have to go back further in time for the common ancestor for both big cats and the aforementioned wild tabby.  Well...tough break, kitty.  (Then again, pointy wild kitty is probably a badass, too.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visit My Posterous Site: http://ryanderamos.com

In the interest of separating all my varying interests, I've made my two-year old Posterous blog into a photo-blog of sorts.  It will be a random assortment of crisp digital photos and pixelated cell phone uploads.

OK, maybe it won't be that random.  Check out some hummingbird shots from last weekend:



We're still developing the previously-mentioned Tumblr site, A Terrible Realm, into a sort of storytelling site with macro photography (and LEGO bricks!).

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Check Out My Tumblr Blog

http://aterriblerealm.com - The new blog is called A Terrible Realm.  I have this big, overarching (and perhaps overwhelming) plan for A Terrible Realm, but let's not get into that right here.  For now, I am using that Tumblr-powered blog to publicly test if my set building, photography, video editing, score composition, and storytelling skills are up to par.  Also, I have to somehow reacquire the imagination and playtime skills that were perfected when I was around eight years old.

Yes, my friends -- I have to somehow regain, for lack of a better word, magic.  Wish me luck!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review of Heart's 'Night at Sky Church'

<meta> I usually don't write reviews at this particular blog (not recently, anyway).  My friend Rama writes film reviews frequently (more frequently than humanly possible), so it came as a surprise that the production company behind the band Heart's concert film Night at Sky Church contacted me to watch and review a DVD of the aforementioned concert film.

Maybe it wasn't a surprise.  In February, I recorded a rather gluttonous and drunken (and perhaps sexist...in a good way) podcast while listening to a Heart greatest hits compilation album.  That whole mess of a podcast can be found at FoodBoozeTunes, which is a blog about gluttonous, drunken awesomeness (but I digress).  I think that podcast is somehow related to this new and exciting opportunity.

In any case, I agreed to review the film, and Miles High Productions sent me a DVD.  I watched the DVD, and following is my review of Heart's Night at Sky Church. </meta>

This particular concert was recorded in 2010 at the Sky Church venue at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle.  The performance by Heart -- led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson -- was excellent.  I daresay they were as spot-on as in the 1970s and 1980s.  It would be rather impolite to reveal the Wilson sisters' ages at the time of this performance (Google it!), but Ann still has the pipes that can out-Plant Robert Plant and Nancy can do some crazy high kicks (take that, osteoporosis!) while strumming the guitar.  The kids in popular music today, who are half or even a third of their age, probably can do neither.  And yes, the rest of the band was really good, too.  Guest performer Alison Krauss (who has, appropriately enough, collaborated with Robert Plant, or as I like to call him:  Dude Ann Wilson) helped out the band for three songs in the middle of the show.

My only complaint about the performance is a facetious one:  Ann Wilson should have played a crazy flute solo at some point during the concert.

The setlist was a mix of badass '70s Heart (i.e., "Crazy on You") and sappy '80s Heart (i.e., "These Dreams"), as well as some of their more recent material.  Two songs from the performance were cut from the main concert film.  They can be found in the DVD's bonus material section.  I guess the producers cut those songs to make the show a good length for television broadcasts, like on PBS or wherever.  It was a good show, and it seems that the venue is a good venue.  (I'll have to make a visit to Sky Church one of these days.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I am the Eggman / They are the Eggmen / I am the...Calculus?

This page of notes is from September 8th, 1999.  Fast-forward to the present day, I can't tell you one lick of calculus (perhaps a refresher course might help), but the lyrics of "I Am the Walrus" still remain in my brain.





Goo goo g'joob.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Semantics

So I've spent all night installing various production programs and plug-ins, and soon this new Death Star (computer) will be fully operational!  (As long as Lando Calrissian and Admiral Ackbar don't blow it up.)

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Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Possibly Fix Your Computer, Part Two


The solution to the problem of the non-booting computer either had to do with two bad RAM modules or two bad RAM slots (and thus a very unhealthy, yet miraculously still working, motherboard).  Sometime later I will determine whether it's a RAM stick or a slot/motherboard problem, but I'm glad the old computer is working again.  (The installed Firewire card doesn't work either, so this might be a sign of an ailing motherboard.)

In any case, replacing the power supply unit (PSU) with a new one from CPUtopia, in my opinion, contributed to the ultimate diagnosis and solution.  Replacing the hard drive's PCB (see Part One) cost about $40, and replacing the computer's PSU cost about $25.  In the end, along with partly dealing with the RAM issue, I retrieved some irreplaceable data for about $65 in supplies (and a priceless amount of effort, research, experience, elbow grease, trial, and error).

Right now, I'm getting situated on a new machine.  It's taking some time to make it like my trusty (now ailing) computer, but it's getting there -- and hopefully this setup will be an improvement.  Okay, it is an improvement.  I'm using my studio monitors to listen to iTunes mp3s, instead of using some tinny and tiny computer speakers -- so it's fantastic already!

So -- if you don't want to strain your eyes to read my poor penmanship -- the following non-exhaustive list could be the cause of a non-working, yet salvageable, computer:

February Flu and Files

That's my excuse; what's yours?

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How to Possibly Fix Your Computer, Part One


I've spent a great deal of the month of February resurrecting an otherwise dead computer.  Earlier this month, my desktop computer just refused to boot.  The monitor had no display.  I really needed the recent files stored in that computer (I hadn't backed up the hard drive in a couple of months), so this was a really frustrating time of trial and error.

In the scanned image above, I've jotted down a couple of hints, tips, and lessons I've learned about fixing non-booting computers and seemingly dead hard drives, since around 2006 (if not before).  Anyhow, I'd like to give a shout out to the helpful folks at PCB Solution.  Replacing the hard drive's printed circuit board (PCB) didn't fix the non-booting issue, but I'd like to think a new PCB contributed to the solution.

Stay tuned for more possible solutions to fix a dead computer/hard drive.  And please pardon my ugly penmanship, which is a lot sloppier than before.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Future, Conan?


I apologize for this long period of non-blogging, but I have been working on some super-secret awesome stuff as of late.  Okay, I don't want to oversell it, so I have been working on some super-secret regular stuff as of late.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Dad List


Okay, for the most part, the above list reads like a correspondence school commercial starring Sally Struthers, minus the bookkeeping and TV/VCR repair courses.




Back to the handwritten blog, above:  Writing the more mythic (if not 100% factual, the Truth is in there) parts of The Dad List, it occurred to me that my dad is like The Most Interesting Man in the World, but ironically doesn't like Dos Equis beer.  He likes other beer of arguably higher caliber.  I should know; I'm his son.

Anyhow, Happy Birthday to my dad!

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

(Transmitido en español por SAP)


This is essentially Webcomic #21a, but in Spanish.  Google Translate translated the first two panels.  The combination of partially-remembered high school Spanish from last century and an intro Pimsleur course I took in 2009 enabled me to write the last two panels.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Diachronism: Time Management






This was more-or-less a stream-of-consciousness rant I wrote early this morning (late last night).  Okay, I mostly strung together a bunch of self-truisms and some absurdities for which even I can't vouch.  Maybe that means that I should add prophet to my list of skills and qualifications, but I'd rather stay in the present tense than predict the future.

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Perfect Answer


Remember, kids:  Anything more than perfect...is imperfect.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Diachronism





Hold on a minute:  Handwritten manifesto + brainwashy Crystal Pepsi commercial = Did I just start a cult?

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Webcomic Format!


We'll see if this new DeRamos.org Webcomic format, as a four-panel comic strip, is any better (not to be confused with Eddie Vedder).  This is just a preview of #021; we'll be back with some random-topic speech bubbles in the near future.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hypothetically Good Phonorecords


If I actually practice what I preach, you'll hear the results at my band the Society of Gloves' website.  Thanks to the TuneUp app, you can read what I've been listening to lately (in iTunes only) at the Twitter profile for FoodBoozeTunes.  I recently bought a lot of nine-volt batteries for our effects pedals; I think that's a good start.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Venn Diagram: Narcissism


I don't quite remember what I was trying to get at when I first wrote this in my notebook, on December 17th of last year.  Basically, I think I'm (sarcastically? facetiously?) accusing everyone with any sense of self (an "ego") of being a narcissist.  Those who are aware of their narcissism are dubbed meta-narcissists.  Perhaps a meta-narcissist who is kind to others does so because he/she feels superior to others (or so the silly logic goes).

Also, you can wear this Venn diagram:


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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Subconscious Superpowers


If I get my act together, maybe my animated-self can give tutorials how to achieve superhuman status in (more-or-less) lucid dreams, at Videramos.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Currently on My iPod Shuffle


I'll probably type, edit, and elaborate (i.e., "Jimmy Chamberlin's drums for the win!") sometime soon at FoodBoozeTunes.

What albums and/or songs would you choose to fill one gigabyte of space?  (That's about 13 single-disc albums' worth [or so] of mp3s.)

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!!


Yes, instead of epic and legendary, I'll use the adjective mythic (or mythical or mythological).

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