Friday, March 28, 2008

Life's been good

Again, hardly anything scientific, just more weekend conversation fodder:

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

I attribute the "Love" score primarily to the luck of finding a wonderful spouse.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Water footprint

Those of you who have been around here a little bit know that I work in water treatment, therefore I take interest in issues relating to water use and conservation. Water seems to be in the news quite a bit lately, whether it's the drought in the Southeast affecting many of the region's lakes and reservoirs, or the recent news about pharmaceuticals being found in many cities' drinking water supplies. You may be curious about your own water use, and this is where the Water Calculator comes in.

You will probably be surprised by how much water you are responsible for using each day. From the website:

Using the Calculator lets you know what your “water footprint” is. In other words, it gives you an estimate of the total amount of water you use. Your water footprint takes into account not only the water used in your home, but also the water that is used to produce the food you choose to eat and the products you buy. Your water footprint also includes other factors such as the water used to cool the power plants that provide your electricity, and the water that it saved when you recycle. You may not drink, feel or see this water, but it makes up the large majority of your water footprint.

I found that I use 1158.44 gallons of water daily, slightly below the national average of 1190.5 gallons per day.

You can also find on the website tips for decreasing your water use, from installing water-saving shower heads, toilets and faucets to collecting rainwater for gardening. One of the biggest ways to save water is altering your diet. Modern agricultural practices use tremendous amounts of water. It takes 1500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and 287 gallons to produce one pound of chicken, if you take into account all the water used to grow the animal's feed and the water used in processing. When you also consider the pollution caused by pesticide and fertilizer runoff, you begin to notice the drawbacks of our factory farm system that has also pushed so many small farmers of the land. By eating less meat, and more fruits and vegetables, we not only benefit our health, we also use water more efficiently as well.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

I stopped off at Publix on the way home from work yesterday to pick up some groceries. The cashier mentioned that after she got home, she was going to start cooking for Easter dinner. She said, "I can't stay up too late, or else I'll be too tired in church tomorrow".

I said that I couldn't go to Easter services as I had to work.

"You do?", the cashier replied.

"Yeah, people expect water to come out when they turn the faucet on no matter what day it is, so somebody always has to be there", I said.

"You get holiday pay, don't you?"

"Nope. Easter isn't a holiday."

The cashier and the woman in line behind me were incredulous.

I suppose a lot of Christians presume that Easter is as important to everybody else as it is to us. Yet how difficult is it to understand that if government makes Easter a holiday, then they have to do the same with Yom Kippur, Ramadan, and whatever high holy days Wiccans celebrate? It never fails to amaze me that so many people don't seem to get that.

Incidentally, Publix closes on Easter Sunday.


If you're looking for more intellectual stimulation than what I've provided lately, this fine article by Biblical scholar Thomas Sheehan lays out some interesting theories about the origins of Easter. I actually used this article in one of my Bible classes. Those folks are a smart bunch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Album project: Tori Amos

Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes (1992): Amos' solo debut (she recorded with Y Kant Tori Read, a forgettable pop-metal outfit, in the late 80's) is an impressive set of piano-based compositions mostly drawn from personal experiences. Singer-songwriter confessionals had mostly fallen out of favor by the early 90's. Little Earthquakes stood out at the time due to the honesty of Amos' songwriting, as well as her expressive singing and virtuoso piano skills, and helped spur a resurgence of female singer-songwriters that lasted through the rest of the decade. Tracks like "Silent All These Years" and "Winter" sparkle in fragile beauty, while Amos fearlessly takes on organized religion in "Crucify". Perhaps best of all is "Me And A Gun", a harrowing a capella account of Amos' rape that still sends chills up my spine whenever I hear it.

Some noted that the cover art for Little Earthquakes bore a resemblance to Kate Bush's The Kick Inside disc. One might consider Amos to be the American Kate Bush in a way, although Bush tends to experiment a bit more musically, and most Americans have never heard of Bush.

Tori Amos, Winter (1992): Marketed as a maxi-single, Winter's five songs take up over twenty minutes of running time and the disc might best be considered an EP. The title track appeared on Little Earthquakes. Atlantic Records originally rejected "Sweet Dreams", "Take To The Sky", and "Upside Down", which led to their release on Winter following the success of Little Earthquakes. "Upside Down" is another of Amos' confessionals, while "Sweet Dreams" and "Take To The Sky" remain two of her strongest rockers. When I want to hear Tori Amos, this is the disc I usually put on.

Amos still performs "Take To The Sky" in concert frequently; when she does, it's always a highlight of her show.

Tori Amos, Under The Pink (1994): The most accessible of Amos' albums, Under The Pink is the one to have if one is all you need. "God" and "Cornflake Girl" to this day remain among her best songs. The former is another poke at religion, featuring biting skepticism, and a challenge:

God sometimes you just don't come through
Do you need a woman to look after you

"Cornflake Girl" takes on the subject of female circumcision; Amos had read Alice Walker's Possessing The Secret Of Joy and was angered that mothers would force their daughters to take part in such a barbaric ritual.

The rest of Under The Pink displays the full range of Amos' songwriting talents, from the cabaret of "The Wrong Band" to the epic grandeur of "Yes, Anastasia". Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor guests on "Past The Mission", and Amos even revives her hard-rock chick persona on "The Waitress", barely able to conceal her jealous rage as she screams "But I believe in peace, bitch".

Over the years, Amos continues to dabble in a wide variety of musical styles while becoming more and more lyrically inscrutable. Her early releases provided her the financial means to become artistically independent, at which point she seems to have started releasing music to please herself without much regard to the audience, a trait shared by many successful singer-songwriters. That's all well and good - problem is, that's when they start to bore me, and as a result I haven't seen fit to purchase any of Amos' releases after Under The Pink. If her style is your thing, there's a lot of likable music on all of Amos' latterday releases. Some of the covers on Strange Little Girls and the harder rock sound of Scarlett's Walk are the most interesting to me. She's also a dynamic and highly entertaining live performer; with her own compositions and expansive range of cover versions, and a penchant for ribald stage humor, one truly never knows what to expect at a Tori Amos concert.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday night quiz

Your Taste in Music:

Progressive Rock: Highest Influence

80's Rock: High Influence

90's Alternative: High Influence

Classic Rock: High Influence

Punk: High Influence

Not exactly scientific, but as far as blog filler goes, it's kinda neat. Check it out.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Suggestions from the Farmer

The Farmer dropped these off on the front porch late last night after he finished feeding the surrender monkeys. Mary Gauthier (pronounced GO-shay) is a Louisiana-born folk artist, one of those people who you encounter once you get off the beaten path and onto the back roads of American music. "Mercy Now" actually got some airplay on Nashville radio, one of the advantages of living in a town full of music freaks.

I hadn't heard "I Drink" until now. This track shows another side of Gauthier's songwriting talents:

Gauthier is currently residing and recording in Nashville; yet another example of what you find in this town when you dig below the surface of mainstream country and discover the multi-faceted music scene this town nurtures.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dr. S., heal thyself

I wish I knew how to better describe whatever this thing is that's hit me the last few days. This bug seems to have come with a little of everything - coughing, chest congestion, stuffed-up nose, the works. It makes my head hurt to even look at the monitor for more than a few minutes. Anyway, that's why there hasn't been much activity in these parts the last few days.

Mrs. S. has been keeping me in bed with plenty of orange juice, chicken noodle soup, and cold medicines. Fine with me. I don't feel like fighting her; I feel like all I want to do is sleep. Be good, kids, until I can get back in the game.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Nutrition for Baby

First it was Daddy, then we got Mommy. Now here's one for Baby, and a suggestion for mothers for when they run out of formula.

There was a guy I once worked with who called beer "liquid bread", and claimed his daily twelve-pack provided him all the nourishment he needed. He wound up taking disability, and he died a couple of years ago from cirrhosis of the liver.

Via Raincoaster at Teeny Manolo, for I am an equal opportunity thief.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Musicians in passing

A pair of notable musicians whose accomplishments deserve mention passed away during the previous week:

Buddy Miles, 60, drummer notable for his work with Jimi Hendrix and Santana. Miles began his recording career in 1967 with Electric Flag, and came to prominence as a member of Jimi Hendrix' short-lived Band Of Gypsies. His drumming style was aggressive and funky, and a fine compliment to Hendrix' guitar heroics. After the Band Of Gypsies, Miles recorder several solo LP's. His signature track, "Them Changes", was a FM rock radio staple during the 70's. Miles recorded a live album with Carlos Santana in 1972 feturing solid work from both musicians. He also worked with Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, and George Clinton, among many others, and in the 80's sang lead vocals on the California Raisins commercials.

Mike Smith, 64, lead vocalist and keyboards player of the Dave Clark Five. Dave Clark was the drummer; Mike Smith sang lead on most of the group's biggest hits. Smith met Clark when they were soccer teammates during their teens; when Clark's first singer quit he offered Smith the job. Smith's soulful shouting fit the DC5's percussive stomping style well. I've felt that the DC5 were a bit underrated; records like "Glad All Over" and "Bits And Pieces" were simple, righteous noise - rock 'n' roll in pure form. Their reputation suffered some as their style didn't adapt well to the more "progressive" sounds that British rock evolved into in the late 60's and 70's. After the run of hits ended, Smith was also successful as a record producer. Sadly, Smith died only two weeks before the Dave Clark Five's scheduled induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.