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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Velkommen Bienvenue Welcome

Checking in to announce that the move over to Wordpress is now complete. It's safe to go over there and play; I de-leaded the joint and everything. I mean, there's some carpenter ants around but we're having an exterminator over on Friday to take care of them, so don't fret. Plus, they like eating wood, not people. So go ahead and update your feed reader/bookmarks/etc. accordingly.

What art thou waiting for?
Please to visit Confounded Fret Buzz 2.0.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Making the Jump

I'm fully aware that I've gotten complacent in regards to good ol' CFB of late, so I figured that the blog would be best served by me either stopping it entirely (smells like defeat) or migrating it over the Wordpress (to shake things up, plus I've heard some good things). After some admittedly hasty deliberation I've decided that I'm going to bite the bullet and make a fresh start over on Wordpress, even though they just had an "epic" 110 minute service outage two days ago (hey, I work in IT, this stuff happens sometimes). Mostly, I'm just tired of wonky formatting things happening when I'm writing posts.

Depending on the number of inevitable snags I hit during the migration process, it'll probably take a week or two to get everything fully up and running over at I'm also presently digging through a backlog of new music to review so I'll be getting back to that when I have some reasonably free time.

[Resisted the urge to embed Van Halen's "Jump" music video here; it's so abhorrent that it goes far beyond ironic]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How Do We Jump This High? - Deep Stationary

Straight ahead punk-tinged rock that leans toward the mid-tempo. It's occasionally plodding, with sometimes emotive guitar picking. I wasn't a huge fan of the vocals. These guys sound sort of like an unhappy Latterman. This EP didn't quite click for me; but it was awful close to doing so. It's certainly worth a listen; someone with more refined tastes then mine would probably like it a lot.

I enjoyed the tracks that bookend the EP the most: "See Ya In The Funny Papers" and "Four Day Weekend."

Also, the cover art looks pretty delicious.

Available for free download on If You Make It.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Worcester Regional Transit

I recently took my first unaccompanied ride on a city bus (I'm pretty old at this point, it's not like a need a guardian, Rivers). Still, I had always been with wise compatriots who knew the routes, whether in New York or Boston or any number cities in France. I needed to do research for my honors thesis at the public library and given the hardscrabble stretch that lies between my apartment and the library, I figured I was better off not walking, especially after dark.

You may think it sad that it is only in the final semester of my four years at Clark that I am finally flying solo on the city buses. And you would, of course, be completely right. The first few years I spent at Clark I was pretty content to not go explore the wider world far beyond campus, with the exception of that hill over at Elm Park which is my favorite spot in the whole city. Living in Worcester last summer was a great experience, and the extra daylight gave me more time to get a better flavor of the city on foot. By and large, Worcester is delightfully sketchy apart from the happy shiny bubble of the university. Various attempts have been made at classing up blocks of desolation with the odd renovated structure that ends up creating a sort of combover effect--it doesn't make you look like a guy with more hair, it just makes you look like a guy with a combover. The problems of this over-the-hill city run too deep to be fixed by a few spruced-up buildings poking up from a sea of decay.

History lesson that ties in with my honors thesis (I will probably find a way to sneak this in, especially if the Worcester Regional Transit Authority was established in part with Federal dollars): The WRTA was founded in 1974, much to the benefit of those in the city who could not afford their own vehicle. Providing improved mobility for those of lesser means was a fairly egalitarian move that at least in theory allowed for wider job opportunities for these folks. Back around 1900 Worcester had a thriving trolley system, but that had long since been abandoned by mid-century.

My experience avec les buses: Half hour wait to hop on a bus downtown. Apparently by mid-afternoon the route schedule is pretty much shot to hell, which I suppose shouldn't have surprised me, but I was just a bit irked. It was a nice enough day, but it's February so that's all relative. I don't deal well with waiting for long periods for stuff (I eschew lines), so this was difficult, even if I was texting people most of the time. After three hours of feverish research at the public library, I only had a ten minute wait to hop on a bus back to campus. Total cost three dollars. Pretty reasonable, especially compared to the cost of a cab or getting jumped. Seating was surprisingly ample and the cabin was well-heated, which was really all I could have asked for.

I can tell this is the start of what will be a long and dysfunctional relationship.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Collegiate Cuisine, Volume Two: Faux-Meaty Burrito

Sometimes, I'm not so desperate for supplies that I have to break down and make the aforementioned Broke Toast. It is at these rare times of plenty that I am apt to make my standby manna, which left to my own devices I will consume on a daily basis. It's meaty and substantial, but also vegetarian friendly, for those of you who lean that way.

What You're Going to Need:
  • a tortilla (the bigger the better, you're going to want to stuff this until it's practically bursting; also, you can go the whole wheat route if you want to be a touch healthier and add some extra flavor)
  • fake meat crumbles
  • black bean and corn salsa (Newman's Own is pretty good. It's not the cheapest but they give their profits to charity, though I'm pretty sure you can't use the salsa as a tax deduction.)
  • shredded cheese (I prefer Mexican blend or Cheddar; be sure to buy the two-pound store brand bags, because that will save you a ton of money in the long run, as well as allow you to be very generous with the addition of cheese)
  • a piece of paper towel
  • a microwave
  • about 5 minutes of prep, 3 minutes of patiently waiting
Step One: Pour out a hamburger patty-sized amount of crumbles onto a plate with a piece of paper towel on it. Nuke 'em for about 45 seconds. If you do it for much longer than that, they'll start exploding and just generally make a mess of your microwave, and you don't want that.

Step Two: Lift up the paper towel with the crumbles on top from two ends. Slide tortilla underneath. Pour crumbles onto center of tortilla. You'll probably have some stragglers that stick to the paper towel, but since being poor AND wasteful is a dangerous combination, be sure to get as much of those crumbles off the paper towel and onto the tortilla (or alternatively, you could just pick them off the paper towel and eat them to tide you over).

Step Three: Pour a generous amount of salsa on top of the crumbles. If you want to get fancy you can use a tablespoon to dish it out in dollops, but you should just pour it out of the jar liberally. Salsa is really a miracle food. It's not all that bad for you and you can even count it as a serving of produce that helps stave off the scurvy.

Step Four: Throw at least two good handfuls of cheese on top. Really go to town with it. However, you should be mindful that you want to be able to fold this burrito up eventually, unless you're into consuming the south-of-the-border cousin of the open-faced sandwich (if you have any common sense at all, you'll fold that thing up and save your microwave from becoming a shrine to filth). [Bonus points if you throw in sauteed peppers and onions, but who are we kidding, if you're reading this recipe you're probably not going to go to that kind of trouble.]

Step Five: Fold that tortilla up. Pull two sides towards each other, with one folding over the other (make sure there's at least a solid inch of overlap, or this burrito is going to fall apart very, very quickly). Then fold each remaining end so that there's at least an inch and a half or two inches of overlap. Flip burrito over while grasping the ends so that it doesn't fall apart. If the burrito is as stuffed with fillings as it rightly should, this should be a delicate, borderline arduous process.

Step Six: Almost there, slugger! Microwave for around a minute, especially if the salsa was in the fridge. If it wasn't, you probably won't have to microwave it for nearly so long. Keep in mind that the longer you microwave the burrito, the hotter it's going to be when it comes time to eat it.

Step Seven: Give that thing a few minutes to cool off, or you're going to burn the bejeezus out of your mouth. And neither of us wants that, right?

Step Eight: Dig in. If you didn't follow my instructions well enough and the burrito falls apart mid-consumption, use a fork to salvage the remains. But you should be striving to keep the plate as clean as possible. It's a labor-saving policy, really.

Buen apetito!

Rumbleseat - California Burritos

Friday, January 29, 2010

Some Dreams

I don't really get to sleep in very often anymore. Even when I would very much like to sleep in, I tend to wake up a lot earlier than I intended. But when Saturn is in retrograde and Betelgeuse finds that special spot on the galactic plane, I still manage to catch some bonus shut-eye. The thing about sleeping in is that it pretty much ensures strange dreams--it's those little windows of sleep that occur after that initial morning flirtation with consciousness that help open your mind to intriguingly implausible scenarios cobbled together in large part from life experiences. This morning, I dreamt about one of my past college history professors attempting to put out an electrical fire started by a vacuum cleaner in my hometown library, which after much excitement I eventually ended up dousing with some sort of lemon-lime soda. My professor's hair was on fire but he didn't notice until I pointed it out to him, at which point he said that the cranial flames had already been doused, which was true, as his scalp was now merely smoldering. My undersized hometown library was saved, and I was the hero. But my soda was tragically lost in the process and I was upset about it.

Things faded to black before the next inexplicable episode began. This time, I proceeded to explain John Darnielle's songwriting method in the first two tracks from All Hail West Texas to my parents in great detail. My dad apparently enjoyed the football allusions in "Fall of the Star High School Running Back," but he had a hilariously difficult time remembering the lyrics to "Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton." This dream seems fairly close to reality, but the chances of it ever actually occurring are about as slim as the library dream.

Some people read a lot into dreams and think we can learn more about ourselves. While I'm going to go ahead and posit that they're not much more then our brains trying to file away memories, a pleasant (unless you're prone to night terrors) diversion from the quiet void (unless you're prone to snoring) of normal sleep (unless you're an incurable insomniac). A third of your life is spent sleeping, so having crazy dreams is sort of a way of getting some of that essentially wasted time back, especially if you  can actually remember them the next day. I would love to figure out how to do some lucid dreaming so I could reclaim more of my sleeping hours from empty idleness and dreams that just don't pan out like they could have. If anyone is knowledgeable in these matters, let me know.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Collegiate Cuisine, Volume One: Broke Toast

As a college student living off the meal plan, and with dwindling food stores at the old apartment, I am sometimes driven to innovation. This recipe doesn't just work for broke college students, either. You could simply be traditionally broke.

What You're Going to Need:
  • 2 slices white bread (from the freezer)
  • olive oil
  • pepper
  • shredded cheese (cheddar if possible)
  • a toaster
  • a microwave
  • about 5 minutes

Step One: Toast the bread. My toaster is not very good, so that means toast it once on full power, then toast the bread again at half power. Your experience will probably vary.

Step Two: Pour some of that olive oil on the toast. As much as you want. I don't recommend drowning the toast in a sea of oil, but to each his own. It's probably the healthiest part of the whole recipe, so don't skimp on it, at least.

Step Three: Throw some pepper on your olive oil-soaked toast to give that stuff some flavor. Or it's going to be bland, trust me.

Step Four: Generously distribute shredded cheese over top. Leave a little uncovered toast on each end if you want to go for the pseudo-pizza crust effect.

Step Five: Throw some more pepper on top. It's for your own good. Europeans would have killed for it 500 years ago, so consider yourself lucky. Relish the pepper. Never take it for granted.

Step Six: Microwave the concoction for around 45 seconds. I prefer 38 seconds, but I also have this OCD thing where I don't like to microwave stuff (or set my alarm) for traditional times.

Step Seven: Enjoy. It may well be the very best part of your impoverished day.