Monday, December 22, 2008

Why Dogs Become Killers

Some of my friends have a little taste for the gothic and grotesque. But I wonder, are their stomachs strong enough for this?

These women are lucky to still have their trachea. See even more here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Customized Google map!

Here's a little test of a relatively obscure feature in Google Maps: you can mark them up yourself, and save them! Just right for when Google doesn't have something placed quite right, or (rare) not at all. You can draw roads, shapes, put placemarks, write descriptions, it's all pretty cool. Then you can embed the live map, not just a static image, right into your email. Helpful for your Christmas parties!

This is a live map showing the correct location and entrance to Elevation Chophouse & Skybar. You can drag the map around right where it is, or click to see a larger version of the map. Click the blue items and see what happens.

View Larger Map
In other news, I've learned that I'm playing two shows with Heaven Davis on New Year's Eve: first is an early slot at the Peach Drop event downtown (around 7pm), then out to Elevation for the main event.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Santa vid & pix

Hi friends, I just wanted to share some new things with you.

First, this shot from Alpharetta Athletic Club's annual Santa event, shot by Ellen Nolen of event photographers. I had a great time at this shoot, the photo crew was great to work with, the kids were adorable, and I hope to get clearance from the parents to post their photos soon. (click photo to enlarge, as usual)

Then from Elevation comes this cool little video Christmas card:

Also from Elevation is this slide show, mostly taken from an office party on Dec. 4th (which was when the video above was shot). Thanks and Happy Holidays to Vascular Surgical Associates.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Watta Weekend!

Things started cooking on Thursday afternoon, when I met up with a client at the local Target/Starbucks for briefing on a Santa home visit. She had photos of the key family members, with their names on the back, for me to memorize. She had written detailed staging instructions, schedule, and directions to her house that she says is too new for GPS or Google Maps. She asked if I had a Santa bag, because she had "a few toys" for me to hand out - turned out to be a LOT of bulky stuff that I spent a half-hour trying to find a way to fit into my big bag, popping a few stitches, and almost too heavy for me to carry.

When that was done, I came home and caught a brief nap before heading out to Elevation in Kennesaw where I needed to set up the bandstand early, then go into hiding and become Santa for shmoozing a party of doctors at Elevation at 6:30, followed by the band show at 7:00. Michael, the manager at Elevation, had a videographer shooting me (in HD no less!) partying with and playing for the crowd; by Saturday, he had put together a cute little video montage to use as a Christmas card. I'll post the link as soon as I get it.

Friday, I went to Norcross to teach the students I had to reschedule from Thursday, then back to Elevation for the Friday night show which was monopolized by a company party that makes furnishings for McDonald's (they distinguished themselves by leaving zero in tips).

Saturday I had cleared my day of students; got up way too early and drove down to Newnan for a neighborhood Santa show there. Adorable kids, and an elf who had driven 2 hours from Gainesville to help entertain them. No pro photographer, every parent (and grandparent) had their own camera, so lots of comedy there. Back to Roswell in time for late lunch, then up to Ducktown for the home visit (the one with the big bag and Mission Impossible planning). Hid my car, snuck in through the kitchen, then down the stairs to the family room where everyone was gathered (but only my client and her husband were expecting me). Passed out the gifts, gathered the small kids for a reading of Night Before Christmas, then made my sneaky exit. Got home for a nap and a breather before heading out to Elevation for the evening show. Saw some old friends and their wives, an unexpected pleasure, and my granddaughter Lauren made a rare appearance with her friend Claudia.

The coolest thing (by far!) of the evening for me was the liquid nitrogen margarita, pictured here. Amazing, with the fog erupting up out of the mixing bowl, just like one of Mr. Wizard's most spectacular demonstrations! And dangerously good too; if they make a pina colada like that, you better just call me a cab right now.

Sunday was the Santa show I had been most looking forward to, as I had booked it back around August; a Santa sitting at Alpharetta Country Club, shot by EagleShots Photography. The kids were adorable and some of the photos look good enough for magazines; as soon as we secure rights from the parents, I'll put some up. After that, home for an afternoon nap and a long day of hanging out with Barbara, catching up on TiVo and playing her favorite non-golf activity, Rummicube.

So, it's been a good weekend; tiring, productive, satisfying. I hope I can keep on suffering like this for the rest of the month.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gigs this weekend 12/4-6, and beyond

This is a quick one to tell you about a public Santa visit and gig, combined! I'll be appearing as Santa George this Thursday at 6:30 at Elevation Chophouse & Skybar (link below), at McCollum Field (Kennesaw airport). This is a nice place; the food reminds me of Little Alley, but it's much roomier and has a raised stage. They even have this extra spectacular dessert, ice cream made at your table with liquid nitrogen. Showy! Then I'll be playing with my trio from 7 to 10, doing the smooth music early on and getting to the party music as the night progresses. The management and staff are very pleasant, equal to the excellent food & drink; you'll like this place.

Then we're playing most Fridays and Saturdays in December there; Dec. 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20. The hours then will be more like 8:30-11:30.

Elevation is located on Chastain Rd (McCollum Pkwy NW), west of Kennesaw State University (tell your KSU friends there's some live music nearby!) and just east of Hwy 41. Turn in on Cessna Lane and you'll come right to it.

I still have a few timeslots available for Santa visits. You can check out my Santa photos at my Santa website, and call or email me anytime.

One last thing - if you're getting my emails at your work email address, I urge you to get a personal account and use that instead. I recommend Yahoo mail or Gmail rather than an ISP based account like Charter or Comcast. Especially in this gloomy economy, companies monitor your email and that's one of the first things they'll use against you when they want to get rid of you. Also, I don't make it past some corporate spam filters. And another last thing, I've been having trouble getting emails sent from Bellsouth internet customers, so if you get no response or a bounce from me, leave a message on ReverbNation.

See you soon, and I'll have some funny Santa stories to tell. Here's one right now: last Saturday I did a photo shoot for Roswell Neighbor newspaper. Today the paper came out, and there's a huge color photo of me right on the front page, with a cute little 3-year-old on my lap. She got her name in the paper, I didn't. Who's more famous now? *chuckle*

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bailouts costing more than NASA's lifetime budget, New Deal, Marshall Plan, other wars, COMBINED

The Internet just keeps amazing me. I'm actually finding posts about books that haven't even been written yet. Here's one I ran across on The Big Picture, about a new book called Bailout Nation by Barry Ritholtz:

"In doing the research for the "Bailout Nation" book, I needed a way to put the dollar amounts into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars! So far.

People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion!

"If they are too big to fail, make them smaller."
-former Nixon Treasury Secretary George Shultz, said about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

I like this website in general, explore it for yourself:

Monday, November 24, 2008


I've always loved random acts of non sequitur creativity. Here's a good one: someone left a perfectly good piano and bench, ready to play, beside a walking path in the woods. I would so love to be hiking with my sweetie, come across this, and sit down to play "Love Is Where You Find It"... or "Ohhh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found youuuu..."

"Discovered by a woman who was walking a trail, the Baldwin Acrosonic piano, model number 987, is intact -- and, apparently, in tune.

The piano was at the end of a dirt road, near a walking path to a footbridge in the middle of conservation land near the Cape."

Homeland Security has not yet issued any statement. Read the whole story, including the obligatory bad musical puns. What would you like me to play? I'm taking requests. Mystery Piano found in woods

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How cheap is your life?

Pretty cheap, as it turns out. This is from an article in about the amazing sophistication and depth of computer crime. This part of the article talks about how they're getting so efficient that the price of the product is way down - the Wal-Mart of crime.

Given this level of sophistication, do we have any sense of the value of our information? I do, and it isn't hopeful. In fact, it doesn't make me wonder that there is a growing trend to market infrastructure to harvest this information. While it is precious to you and I, this report from FraudArena tells me how little my personal information is worth. I'll give you a high-level look, but check the site.
  • $1.50 credit card number, cvv2
  • $5-$50 stolen medical ID card
  • $6-$18 basic identity information
  • $6 British passport number and bank details
  • $7 hijacked PayPal account with credentials
  • $14-16 fulls" are a complete set of data identifiers, i.e. name, address social security number, bank account, and mothers maiden name
  • $30 Passwords and codes to access consumer credit reports
  • $30-$300 immigration papers with a social security card

Your personal identification is not terribly valuable (except to YOU) and can now be harvested by criminals with an infrastructure as sophisticated as the company you work for — and, in some cases, more sophisticated. This should be at least a wake up call for anyone with a laissez-faire attitude about their personal security.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Halcyon Way blew me away!

I saw metal band Halcyon Way do a Halloween show (thanx to Reverend Su) in 2007, and was very impressed. Their sound is described on CD Baby as "combining the heaviness of bands like Slayer, the technical prowess of Dream Theater, and with vocal melodies reminding you of Ronnie James Dio's best work", and I think that's pretty accurate. Besides being very competent musicians, they put on a good stage show and were even in costume. Beyond that they were funny - my favorite thing in a live performance, which is part of why I love The Tubes. But the mix was muddy, and though I could see guitarist Jon Bodan's fingers moving I could barely hear him. (Too bad, as the trained eye can clearly see how disciplined and educated his playing is, whether you hear him or not)

Sometime in 2008 I saw them again, opening for Circle II Circle, at the same venue. Again the performance was good, had even improved, but the mix was still muddy. When Circle II Circle came on, they put their own guy on the mixer and it cleaned right up.

Last night I attended their CD Release Party (Nightmare Records) at 3 Bears in Marietta, a much better venue, and the sound was much better. This performance was stunning! I saw what appeared to be an arena-level act, complete with wardrobe and synchronized video, crammed into a local-level stage. I got myself a seat directly on-axis with Jon's amp, near the sound booth, where the sound is always best. And I enjoyed the best show I've seen in ages. The sound was deep and ballsy (they tune to drop-C#) but full spectrum and amazingly good, making the other local acts on the bill sound like a wagonload of pots & pans on a rough road by comparison. I suspect they reinforce their sound with some studio tracks, but because they play so tightly it's not obvious, it's just very very rich.

I highly recommend this band and their new album, "A Manifesto For Domination" which you can preorder now on Or, apparently cheaper at CD Baby. Or you can go buy a CD, shirt, and other merch at an actual Halcyon Way show which I'm sure you'll enjoy. You can find some sound samples on their MySpace page and probably on the CD sites soon.

Oh, and in the process of interviewing Jon Bodan on my radio show (hear it here), I got to know that he's very into science fiction books, and enjoys all things steampunk. And that, for some reason, he wants to hire midgets, which we learned you can do at Who knew?

Friday, October 17, 2008

uh-oh, Little Alley gig is over.

Well folks, it's been a good long run but my band is no longer playing at Little Alley. 80 weeks, nearly two years, and there have been some wonderful memories there. Please stay tuned and I'll keep you informed where to find us. That will be made much easier if you'll please click the widget up at the top of the page for ReverbNation, which will put you on my opt-in email list so I can take good care of you. I also maintain a schedule there. Thanks!

Oh, and remember to book me (as Santa, or musician, or both) for your holiday parties ASAP!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Music Report for October 16, 2008

Welcome back my friends, to the blog that never ends.

This week will see me playing my usual Friday night show at Little Alley, 7:30 to 11:30, with the Chosen Ones (Jon Schwenke, John McKnight). Hey, that's not a bad band name! And to think I was going to go with Persons Of Interest... Anyway, you already know the food is great and the drinks are great and the musicians are great, ya can't lose.

The next morning, I'll have the honor of taking Jon & John, plus Mike LeVasseur on keys, to play for Matt Mason's wedding. Matt is a former bass student of mine, a talented amateur (who ought to be getting gigs) and a gentleman; he also has a good stage name. Congratulations Matt, and best wishes to a happy life with your new bride, you have chosen wisely.

Saturday night I'll be fronting a great team at the Hard Rock Cafe down on Peachtree. Greg High, Spencer Kirkpatrick, and a drummer I haven't met yet but he's got to be good or Greg wouldn't have called him. That show is 10PM to 1AM, and is certain to "kick many buttocks" (in my best Borat accent).

So remember, folks, live people need live music. See you out there!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wow, I used to be famous!

This is mildly interesting - I was on the amazing Internet Archive website looking for some of my uploaded tunes, pictures and such to do a bit of reorganizing, when I spotted a song I didn't remember uploading. I clicked it, and it's a recording of "Barney Google" from 1923 - I don't recall doing much studio work in 1923, so I looked further into it and found out that Georgie Price (aka George E. Price, which is even my correct middle initial) was a pretty big star in the '20s. See for yourself, right here - the relevant stuff is about 1/3 the way down. Add that to my resume as National Hero of Belize, a longtime cartoonist at The New Yorker, the very last soldier killed in World War I, a famously inventive locksmith, and a particularly loathesome wife-murderer in the 18th century. (Ironically, also a murder victim with a loving widow and, even stranger, a child also named George). I've been around.

UPDATE: It turns out I also played french horn with Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention. Wish I remembered that.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I have an idea for you. Read this story, and imagine it as a movie.
There are some really, really stunning things in there, along with personal dramas and plot twists. Some key words: plastic explosives, murder, Iran, infiltration... there's plenty here to make a good movie. I'm thinking Billy Bob Thornton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Wilford Brimley, Nick Nolte and of course Tina Fey. Too bad Paul Newman couldn't be in it.

If you know how to write in screenplay format (I don't), this could be your big ticket. If Diablo Cody could do it, so can you. Remember me when you're rich & famous. A lot, please.

Repetition equals truth

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Double-barrel Fun!

This Friday was extra cool at Little Alley. I had my A-Team of Jon Schwenke and John McKnight, so things are already off to a great start. Then Marlyn Campbell joined us for several songs, that's always a treat. Then Heaven Davis came in and sang with us too, alongside Marlyn, but unfortunately couldn't stay long. Dang I love my job!

Red Salt is still cookin' along too, massively popular and often full. But don't stop trying to get in, you know it's worth it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Deregulation" - not working out as promised

Well, this is joy. My natural gas bill is way up, my investments are way down, and I'm learning that this is because of "deregulation". Eliminate the rules on how to treat customers and how to structure deals, and those wonderful CEOs and corporations will make life wonderful for everyone. Yeah, that's not such a good idea, is it?

As it turns out, voluntary self-regulation is about as effective as voluntary taxes or voluntary speed limits. Most especially for CEOs and other such entities, who are literally required by their job (if not their personality) to make as much profit as possible by any means they can get away with. Remember that key phrase - any means they can get away with. If it isn't explicitly illegal, they consider it OK. If it is illegal, they have to be really careful.

And yet there are still some people who just don't get it, still parroting the party line that deregulation is good. In addition, they actually want to put our Social Security into the stock market! Yeah, the stock market is a great "safety net", isn't it? I've lost about $20,000 in the last week alone, and I'm told it will get much worse.

Remember everything that's happening right now. The next time someone talks about how much we need deregulation, you should immediately realize that either he's an idiot, or he's hoping you are. Or both.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Palin Debate Prep Flowchart

I know that a lot of you out there have had actual training in Logic, so I present to you this flowchart (minus the usual symbols) representing Palin's "debating" technique (you know, where she ignores the moderator's question and talks about whatever she wants to). It's simple enough for her to understand it, so you can too. Enjoy.
(courtesy of

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Feeling GREAT! bzzzzzz

What a nice surprise - Greg High called today and invited me to come do his gig at Dailey's downtown tonight. Playing with Greg is always treat enough, but we were also joined by Sean O'Rourke and Spencer Kirkpatrick, so this was a night to remember. The song choices went all the way from the usual Van Morrison and SRV covers to much more unusual territory. I used my Variax's tricks to give "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" a banjo (which Spencer ripped up with traditional bluegrass and Nashville guitar chops), and a nice sitar for "Norwegian Wood". We got multiple requests for Jeff Beck (helzyeah!) so we did "Know What I Mean" and "Ended As Lovers". We hit a way uptempo version of "Moondance", and something else we did somehow morphed into Weather Report's "Birdland" except it was a bit confusing because we were in A instead of G at the time. Santana's "Oye Como Va" was a big crowd pleaser - Sean got a whole lotta Latin out of his drums, sounded like a whole barrio full of percussionists and my tone was, to me at least, exactly what I hoped for which brought out the best of my playing. Later, when we also did "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen", Sean did even more - I mean, DA-yum! When I cut him loose on the hogwild percussion section at the end, he was so complex and energetic and amazing that I could only hang on with Greg the best I could on our unison line and hope that I was on the beat I intended, because I was lost and not hearing anything I could pin down. Sean was like some multi-armed Hindu god. I was in way over my head. But when it was time to come out, everyone hit everything hit precisely where it was supposed to be, and sounded massive! Wow!

There was so much more - the "Secret Agent" medley, "Higher Ground", "No Matter What" and other fun & unusual diversions. My absolute favorite though, and I only ever get to do this with Greg, was when he asked me to do Deep Purple's "Highway Star". OK, if you're sure... We started together and, as it had been all night, sounded like a band that had been together for years. My voice felt strong, I liked my tone, and Spencer knew all of his parts too. I had that rascal pegged as a Nashville type, but he knows his rock. DAMN that felt good! If you haven't heard "Highway Star" lately, crank it up and imagine it with modern tones. It rocked the world in 1971, and it sounds even better with today's guitar tones. There were a bunch of Germans there (Dailey's is largely patronized by conventioneers) and they absolutely loved it. (Deep Purple are like gods to the Germans, maybe even more than David Hasselhoff).

Greg has played with me a few dozen times, and knows my material and mannerisms. He's a master on bass, and I think he kicks my ass on guitar too but he denies it. Sean is bigtime (toured with Sugarland for three years, been featured in Modern Drummer Magazine five times). I've only played with Sean a couple other times - a half night I sat in with him and Tak Nakazawa on Kathy Carllile's show at Fuzzy's, and a tasty but sedate New Orleans style jazz brunch with Greg Barrett at Copelands, so this is the first time he's really worked with *me*. And work he did. But the real gem of this show, to me, was Spencer - I'd never heard of him, we barely met, then started playing, and he was stuck to me like glue all night, never missing a thing that I could tell, even on my originals. We will meet again.

All in all, a night to remember. So I'm writing all this not just to share with you, but so that months or years from now I can read back over it and feel like this again. Tired, exhilarated, victorious. It should've been in front of thousands of fans.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Getting Gas

It's about 3AM, and I just returned from a trip to the gas station. I happen to have the luxury of living a half-mile from a QT, so I took this opportunity to avoid the lines and chaos of the same station during daylight hours. I only got about seven gallons, at these prices I don't want to pay for gas I don't need, and we all know we need to ration ourselves so there'll be enough gas for the buttheads driving Hummers and Suburbans and Escalades who do more than their fair share in the battle of supply and demand.

The herd hysteria has been amazing, even worse than the way Atlantans get when there's a possibility of snow and proceed to mob the grocery stores. (Oddly, they make a run on anything white - milk, eggs, white bread, etc) We're told that the current gas shortage is caused by panic that there might be a gas shortage. So do we drive less? Apparently not. Do we respond to a shortage of gas by sitting in lines, running our engines? Ayup. Does this make sense? *shrug*

I'm reminded of FDR who said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself". The logical responses to this shortage are crowded out of our brains. We should be staying off the roads, making other plans, changing our behavior patterns until we get this under control.

Hmm, something else from those days: the billboards and posters that said "Is this trip really necessary?" would seem to be ripe for a comeback. Above is a shot of the poster version. Here is another, that could easily be updated.

I also noticed this gem of history on the Georgia Secretary of State website while researching voter stuff:

This Week in Georgia History:

On September 22, 1918:

In an effort to save fuel for use in World War I, Atlanta’s city gasoline administrator prohibited driving on Sundays, except for emergency vehicles. There were no criminal penalties, but police officers were asked to keep track of Sunday motorists and newspapers printed the names for public ridicule.

So, just some snacks for thought. Please, everyone, no matter how the rightwingers snicker at you, remember to check your tire pressure, clean junk out of your car, don't drive 80, and most of all don't make trips you don't need. There's a thousand other things you can do too. Our addiction cannot be solved just by throwing more oil at the supply side, we have to trim down on the demand side. Or else.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shock Doctrine

My friend Dick Wooley (head of King Mojo Records) sent me a very interesting link to a short film based on the idea that nothing changes without a shock. There are definitely people who use this doctrine to their advantage. One of the best ways to render it ineffective is to understand what's being done to you and why. So, I urge you all to watch this short clip.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oh my! Time to book Santa

Just a reminder, the holidays are now comin' atcha at full speed and will be upon you like lobbyists on a senator before you know it. Now is the time to get your bookings in order for Santa and holiday music (and I just happen to provide both). You can see my Santa photos on my website at Everyone asks me what mall I sit in; I don't have a mall job booked yet, so far, all my bookings this year are private functions such as country clubs and home visits. I probably will, though, and you can see my calendar of public appearances on my website.

I'm also eager to build relationships with photographers, advertisers, event planners and such. I'd greatly appreciate any such referrals, and few things in life are better than a grateful Santa.

Lest we forget, the holidays tend to distract us from booking a band for New Years Eve. By the time you remember, the good bands are already taken. So here's a hint: BOOK US NOW and I can promise you a show you won't forget.

Red Salt finally open

It's finally here, and the critics and patrons love it. Last Friday, while I was at Little Alley, there were (according to the fabulous Natasha), about 120 to 140 people there, pretty impressive considering it seats 67. Every time I've driven by since then, it's never looked less than half full.

The Sept. 10th issue of North Fulton Neighbor gives a glowing 3/4 page review, with nice color photos of the food. Food critic Joan Durbin used plenty of superlatives to describe the food and her reactions to it. No real surprise there, as I've told you before, Chef Richard rocks the house.

So, my congratulations to Hicham and Fix and the Little Alley family for the arrival of this little bundle of joy. Also, congrats to Roswell for attracting another restaurant good enough to make an evening in Roswell a worthwhile destination. In fact, there are a few B&Bs within walking distance, and I suggest you come make a weekend of it some time.

Red Salt is open for lunch Monday through Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Dinner 5 to 10pm Monday to Thursday, 5 to 11pm Friday and Saturday, 5 to 9pm Sunday. A limited menu is available in between lunch and dinner, and late nights after dinner until closing. 770-998-4850

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Food testing prohibited?!?

Barbara told me this, but I didn't believe she heard right. Now that I see it, it's worse than she said.

You may recall that about a year ago, we buried her sister who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a close cousin of Mad Cow Disease. They both turn your brain into swiss cheese, which is why they are classed as a "transmissable spongiform encephalopathy". We also personally knew a woman in our neighborhood, the mother of Barbara's son's ex-girlfriend, who died some years back from the actual Mad Cow Disease (she picked it up in England). These diseases are caused by inanimate proteins called prions, which never die and cannot be sterilized; once they're in the world, all they do is spread by turning other proteins they touch into more prions. Since then, we've seen the whistleblower videos of cattle too sick to walk being physically dragged into the slaughterhouse to become part of our food supply. As I previously reported, we don't eat beef around here anymore.

So imagine my surprise when Barbara told me the current administration's USDA has decided that beef doesn't have to be inspected. Actually, it's far worse. They actually *blocked* one beef exporter (Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef exporters) who wanted to test all their beef, on the grounds that:
Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.
Creekstone spent about a half-million dollars to build the testing lab, and hired the staff. In 2004, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which controls the sale of testing kits, refused to sell Creekstone enough to test all of its cows. Naturally after all that investment, and with righteous conviction, Creekstone took the USDA to court, but a US federal appeals court ruled that the USDA has the authority to stop meatpackers from testing more than 1% of its cattle. And remember, many other nations around the world refuse to buy American beef because they see our food safety standards about the same way we see China's. Creekstone actually tried to test all their beef before selling it, helping to restore confidence in American exports (not to mention helping safeguard American lives), and rather than being helped, they were blocked.

The president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association told the Washington Post that "If testing is allowed at Creekstone, we think it would become the international standard and the domestic standard, too." Creekstone Farms says tests cost about $20 per animal, increasing the cost of beef by about 10 cents per pound. (a price I'd gladly pay, given the chance)

What possible conclusions can we draw from this disgrace? I've drawn mine, let's hear yours.

Links: AP Reuters Slashdot Google

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Red Salt almost open!

I stopped by Red Salt today to see how they're doing. It's in old Roswell at the corner of Canton St. and Webb St., just a few doors north Fratelli di Napoli and Pastis, just south of what used to be Peachtree Salvage. (click the photo to enlarge)

Here's a map:
and this is where I got the cool aerial photo, which is rotatable and done from low enough altitude to be usable:

The paper covering the front windows had been torn away, and there was work going on. A man was painting some details on the outside; I recognized him as a regular (possibly a family member) of Little Alley, and he recognized me, so I stepped in for a look around. There was still power tools and sawdust and such inside, but it looked like most of the lighting and other decor was in place. The design is interesting and beautiful, it's going to be great! My guess (just a guess) is that it'll be open within two weeks, from the look of it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Comment

This was referenced on BoingBoing, so I looked. Laughed my guts out. Other than that, I have no comment, but I'd love to hear yours.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RAND Corp report: To destory al Qa'ida, quit shooting them.

The RAND Corporation (Research ANd Development) was set up by the United States Army Air Forces in 1946. It is known for rigorous, often-quantitative, and non-partisan analysis and policy recommendations (says Wikipedia). However, not everyone agrees that RAND is politically neutral; they have even been called hawkish to the point of being "America's University of Imperialism". Either way, it is full of very smart people (lots of Nobel laureates) doing very smart research. And they have a new report that concludes military force is a very ineffective way to deal with terror groups. I quote from, which includes a link to the actual report.

To destroy Al Qaeda, we must end the war on terror: Rand Corporation

A new Rand Corporation report comprehensively surveys the ways that terrorist groups have been disbanded in the past: "Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended." Instead, historic wars on terror have been won with policing and settlements. Rand's conclusion? To defeat Al Qaeda, we need to end the war on terror.
A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.
Terrorism’s End: Jon Taplin
How Terrorist Groups End: Rand Corporation

And now I quote from RAND's summary:
These findings suggest that the U.S. approach to countering al Qa'ida has focused far too much on the use of military force. Instead, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts.
So, while we shouldn't just give up, our "war on terror" (is that a contradiction, or just a redundancy?) needs to change from a shooting war to a smart war. I hope someone in Washington begins listening to the smartest people in town.

You can read the actual report yourself right here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wow! Check out Seeqpod

Some of you know I've been having funky fun on Sunday evenings with Beau Hall, John McKnight and Kirk Plunkett (@ Nik's in Marietta, 6-10PM, outdoors, weather permitting).

The other day Beau hipped me to Seeqpod, an impressive website that seeks out music on a variety of websites, and plays it for you. On the left you'll see an apparently random scrolling list of audio & video clips, and if you like something you see there, you can add it to your playlist on the right side. I've plucked some ripe old plums from this random list: Ohio Players, Nina Simone, The Tubes, Brothers Johnson, Robin Trower, Gene Krupa, Clarence Carter (Patches, not tired old Strokin'), Tom Waits, and They Might Be Giants among others. I also discovered some interesting stuff, new to me, such as Beatallica's "And Justice For All My Loving".

Oh, here's a neat trick, I think I can embed the song & player right here!

Hmm, it actually embedded all of what I had in my current play list. OK, cool anyway. I haven't heard much of this yet myself; maybe you'll enjoy. I should warn you that the first track, the Bon Jovi, sounds awful - as if someone recorded it with a cassette recorder in front of a record player (not even a hi-fi) from the 1960s, not that I'd have any reason to know exactly how that sounds *ahem*. But, that's global diversity for ya.

Or, you can type in an artist to search for, and get that artist and some similar artists to try. I just ran a few names through: Ike Stubblefield, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Dave Kilminster, Guthrie Govan, and found interesting hits on all, much of it video. No hits on George Price yet.

Dave Kilminster is Pink Floyd's new guitarist, by the way - a gross underuse of his amazing prowess, as you'll see if you check out the Favorite Licks clip which I recognize from an amazing DVD that came with Guitar Techniques magazine a couple years ago. On the other hand, when you check the clip of him playing onstage with PF doing the "Time" solo, you have to be impressed with how perfectly he nails every note and tiniest nuance of the original recorded solo.

So, there you have it, a new toy for you. Make yourself a playlist for a rainy day, an intimate evening, a party, or just for exploration. Then you can save, or email, or even blog your playlist. Suddenly, you own a radio station!

Friday, July 25, 2008


I was intrigued by the ad I've seen on TV lately (see it here), oil man T. Boone Pickens describing the horrible situation our dependence on foreign oil has put America in. Of course, the numbers vary according to who you listen to, but this oil man marks these as the main points:
  • America has gone from importing 24% of our oil in 1970, to almost 70% today (and rising).
  • $700 BILLION per year we're paying to foreign nations for oil (four times the cost of the Iraqi war, so far)
  • He multiplies that out 10 years to get $7 TRILLION, and that doesn't account for growth or price raises at all. (He doesn't say it, but just think about the mostly awful people that money goes to, and how the money gets used then)
The largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. Add in all the money we're borrowing from China, Japan, and other people we have even less reason to trust, and surely you can see what a mess we're buying for ourselves.

It's really hard to believe that my party (Republican, supposedly the party that understands finance) has done so little to mitigate this problem - in fact, has done so much to encourage it and block progress toward getting our addiction under control. The very same people who clamp all sorts of restrictions on our American freedoms, and carve away our rights to privacy and due process of law in the name of Patriotism and Security, are more than happy to keep sending gigabucks to the very nations that funded the terrorist attacks against us (I'm looking at YOU, Dick Cheney). In fact, our government is cutting funding for alternative energy research by about 25% this year. (There's some finger-pointing about who caused the cut, but the bottom line is still a cut) Why the continued reluctance to curb our money flow to troublesome nations? Is it that we can't live without the oil, or is it that so many American businessmen get a fat slice of the outgoing money, which they put into campaign contributions for the politicians who keep this process in place?

So what is his plan? Really, he tells it better than me, see the video. Is his plan workable, will we get as much benefit as he promises? I don't know, but I know it has 0% chance if we don't try, and at the very least it will be steps in the right direction. His plan seems to address more supply, without doing much on the other side of the equation, reducing demand. (Many of us have yet to do our duty on this; I still have friends who haven't even replaced their old tungsten light bulbs with modern CFLs yet. And did you know, the CFL itself was invented in response to the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973?) Anyway, Pickens at least has a plan. It's a grandiose plan, just like going to the moon was. We have only general ideas how to do it, but far more than we had when we committed to the space program. We can do this, or at least something like it. We must.
I've been an oil man my whole life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of. - T. Boone Pickens
(This opinion differs from the one you hear from our President. I suggest you remember that, unlike our President, Pickens was a very successful businessman who knows what he's talking about.)

I urge you to watch the short video above, then go to and see the slightly longer one that gets into the specifics. You might be one of the few humans left who has an attention span; if so, you'll find more videos there, including Pickens' congressional testimony, and a former CIA director talking about how important alternative energy is to our national security. If you're not one of those who just sits back and complains, then go ahead and join the group, and let's make things happen. I joined, and will be doing what I can.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bella Bocca shut down, and other news

(originally posted at Ellen Hamby's Come On In My Kitchen blues group, Jul 24, 2008 2:30 pm)

To those of you who may have intended to catch my show with Larry Griffith at Bella Bocca, you may want to revisit your plans. Our weekly Thursday shows there have ended - I was notified yesterday that they're shut down. Poor location, tucked away in a blind shopping center, invisible from the street, finally did them in. To those who did come out and party with us, thanks.

At this point I'm down to one regular weekly show, Fridays at Little Alley in Roswell. I highly recommend this music & dining experience. The food is tip-tops, the music is pretty good (my usual band is Jon Schwenke on bass and John McKnight on drums, we all sing), it's a fairly early show (7:30-11:30), and you'll be spruced up at the door with an electric nipple buffer. Best of all, everything but that last part is true.

Oh, a fun experience at Little Alley recently; one of my guitar students, 16 years old, asked if he could bring his date to my show. I called to make sure, and then asked Natasha to arrange the royal treatment for him so he looks really cool for his date. She did, and from the moment he arrived Mr. Ortega and date were well taken care of. It was fun for all involved, and dare I say, "cute". Later I realized his parents were also in the house, staying just out of sight. Perfect.

This Saturday, I'll be at Johnny McCracken's in Mayretta with Larry Griffith Band, 9PM-1AM.

Sunday evenings are, weather permitting, Bike Night at Nik's. If the weather is non-threatening, I'll be doing my best to hang with Beau Hall, John McKnight and Kirk Plunkett out on the front deck. As Beau says, bring your Harley, or Huffy, or Vespa, or whatever, just bring it.

Tuesday I had fun at Montana's open jam (north Alpharetta), then went to Londzell's to catch the last set with Andrew Black, John McKnight, and Dustin Sargent. Got to play with them some too, including a lush version of Purple Rain. That felt great - I think my best musical work was my years with Andrew, especially the duo work, and hearing him cut loose on Prince just... well, it's hard describe the rush you get from being musically moved, but you know the feeling or you
wouldn't be here.

Last night at Nik's was pretty !@#! good - Mike Martin, John McKnight, Kirk Plunkett, Charlie Wooton (yes two bassists), Louie on sax, and Terry Bradley hosted. Our own Polish ambassador Leszek Wawer, a jam scene regular until he moved to Chicago a few years ago, was back in
town and playing well. Other guests included Sid Wolf, Jim, Ken, Jarrod, Lefty (a guitarist who plays very well without benefit of a right hand), Drew Blood (I never remember his real last name), and some others I'd name if I knew. Rat Rod was presented with a new Epiphone Les Paul gold-top by Dirty South TV and Sam Ash Music; I don't know the story behind this, but it was cool. Coulda used more bassists and drummers. I think Martin will be hosting for the next
few weeks, if I overheard correctly.

My radio show guests lately have included Grant Green Jr. and Ike Stubblefield. It's a safe bet that you have some Ike in your record collection from his works with Eric Clapton and The Eagles, among many many others.

Remember, live people need live music.
See you out there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Spooky Alien Goo

Here's a cool bit of science for you. Cornstarch and water make a paste (called "oobleck") that falls into the class of "non-Newtonian" substances that have unexpected properties. Here's a bit of oobleck in a pizza pan, sitting on a booming subwoofer, doing the funny things that stuff from alternate dimensions should do.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fuzzy Logic

I just learned some things from Ted Koppel, who spent a lot of research time in China for his 4-part TV series on Discovery Channel, "The People's Republic of Capitalism". Consider this:

Our current wars are the first in our history that were not paid for with an increase in taxes. Instead, we've taken out mind-blowingly huge loans. We've borrowed between $600B and $1T from China, and even more from Japan. The interest payments alone on this kind of debt could keep a million Paris Hiltons partying in grand style, but what really concerns me is what happens when China and Japan (among others) come to collect, or take their collateral. Our government has decided to spend us into a black hole of debt, while trying to cut accounts receivable. We have, quite literally, been sold out. And in the process, the value of our dollar has been drained down, part of the reason oil costs so much (Clark Howard says without this mismanagement (his words) oil would only cost us about $80/barrel).

Which is why, for some reason, the current tax cuts must be made permanent, because they're obviously working so well.

If this makes sense to you, please contact me about investing in my business ventures, because I can happily work that way too.

You can see Koppel stating all this during his brief visit on The Daily Show, which you can see right here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Three things you must do

Hi friends - well, last night at Two Monkies was smokin' goodness, thanx to John McKnight and Steve Mays. Too bad very few saw it due to competition from other holiday events, my mistake for accepting that night instead of one of the other Saturdays.

One of the interesting things I learn from (which I use to monitor my blog and my Santa website) is the distribution of web browsers people use to visit me. I don't consider it good news that so many of you are still using Internet Explorer. IE is rife with security weaknesses, and way behind the innovation curve. You can be safer, faster, and happier by installing Firefox, which is available FREE right here. And if you're running Linux or Mac, there's a Firefox for you too.

"You might not believe this, little fella, but it'll cure your asthma too." Frank Zappa

After basking in the warm glow of installation (which makes migration from IE painless, and doesn't mess with your IE if you ever want to use it again) for a while, you'll find there's a huge selection of snazzy free add-ons. I highly recommend FoxyTunes, a tool that does so many things for music and video I can't tell you. Get it. Got it? Good.

Now open the FoxyTunes Portal. You'll see their default welcome screen, which pertains to Nirvana, and some similar bands you'd like if you're a Nirvana fan. Now search on Guthrie Govan, and you'll see this. Check out the videos, especially Bullet Blues. I want to play like him when I grow up.

So, there's your three things. Go do them and be happy.

PS, the folks at Mozilla (makers of Firefox) make an equally important replacement to the nasty Outlook Express called Thunderbird. Get it too, and your email will be much safer, run faster, have less spam, and smell minty fresh.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Alerts for This Weekend

Well folks, a few odd things this weekend.

First, I guess I didn't warn you, but our Wednesday nights at Bella Bocca are now Thursdays (8-11) and my Wednesdays are open. Maybe back at Joel's when the Life University next door comes back in session.

Later this morning (July 4th) I'll be doing a freakin' 5-hour outdoor show (11AM-4PM) with Jon Schwenke, Larry Griffith and Laura Simon at TAP in Buckhead. Bring your sunscreen.

I just learned tonight that although Little Alley didn't warn us, they are closing for the evening of the 4th, so no LA gig this weekend. I'm glad Jon called me tonight to call them and make sure, or we would've gone to a locked club. I'm just a bit steamed about this myself, so believe me I'm sincerely sorry if any of you find your date night derailed tonight.

Saturday night I'll have John McKnight and Steve Mays doing the GP Trio show with me at Two Monkies in Marietta (688 Whitlock, across the street from Nik's) from 9PM to 1AM. This will be a rockin' show, much stronger stuff than what you hear from us in the restaurant gig.

Sundays, I've been working with a great crew at the "Bike Day" events at Nik's. Beau Hall, John McKnight, Kirk Plunkett, and li'l ol' me - hijinx will ensue. 6-10PM on the front deck. Weather permitting, of course - last week we got about two songs into the first set, and a nasty storm blew in hard. Nik decided to scratch the gig, and not pay us. Hopefully this will not happen again this week, or ever again, because the combination of great performers really works well and I'd hate to miss any opportunity to hear more.

That about does it - have a good 4th. Remember how precious your liberties (the ones you still have left) are, and how many lives have been dedicated to gaining and protecting our freedom. Remember that each of us must still be vigilant, and watch for enemies not just outside our borders, but inside as well. For instance, Prescott (Dubya's grandpappy) Bush's failed right-wing coup to overthrow or assassinate FDR in 1933, and turn the USA into a fascist state run in the same style as Hitler (who Bush helped finance) and Mussolini. Here's a link to the BBC documentary about this coup, and here's Prescott Bush in general. It's our duty, not just our right, to be cautious or even skeptical of our elected government. It's also our duty to actively participate in steering our nation to fit our overall needs, or others will steer it to fit theirs. If it ain't of the people and by the people, it sure won't be for the people.

That reminds me of a quote I only partially remember, something to the effect that when the next real threat to American freedom comes along, it will be carrying a cross and wrapped in an American flag (probably not literally). Does anyone have the actual quote?

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, Dead at 71

The great, and lately late, comedian and genius George Carlin has left us. He died of heart failure yesterday (June 22) at the age of 71. I could go on and on about how much he influenced modern comedy, even influencing (via his "Seven Words" bit) the legal history of free speech vs. broadcasting in the United States. What matters is that he was a true thinker who made us think, and by making us laugh, kept us thinking.

A few things you rarely hear about: Carlin was present at Lenny Bruce's arrest for obscenity. According to legend the police began attempting to detain members of the audience for questioning, and asked Carlin for his identification. Telling the police he did not believe in government issued IDs, he was arrested and taken to jail with Bruce in the same vehicle. He was the very first host of Saturday Night Live. And oh by the way, he still holds the highest score ever recorded for his exams as an electronic technician at the Air Force Academy in the 1950s.

Of course you'll want to hit his website, which has the best intro I've seen. You might want to read what he has to say about all the "crap" (his word) emails that have been sent around attributed to him (Andy Rooney has the same problem). And really, his whole website, because there are some real gems in there (well duhhh, it's Carlin!).

In some ways, he reminds me of another influential thinker, sci-fi master Robert A. Heinlein. Both were obviously Mensa material. Both made profound impacts on their fields. Both were a bit crusty and cranky, but would've been amazing dinner guests. But dear God, the fireworks that would've ensued if they were both dining together! Politically, socially, quite opposite on a lot of things - then again, quite similar in their views of rugged individualism, and their disregard for the lives of idiots.

(Unrelated side note: did you know there's a half-million-dollar Heinlein Prize for "practical accomplishments in the field of commercial space activities"?)

I'm really sorry to see George go, but I'm sure glad he was here. Generations of sharp-witted observational comics like Lewis Black and Carlos Mencia are his legacy, as are The Daily Show and Colbert Report. He taught (some of) us the nearly forgotten skills of critical thinking, and examination from several angles, and by making us laugh, will keep us thinking for years to come.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Gay bomb"? You're kidding, right?

"One thing leads to another" - the Fixx

I was cruising my favorite blog (yes, it's today, and saw a link to the 2008 Emergency Response Guide, the book (and software) that decodes all those hazardous materials numbers you see on various trucks on the road. I spend a fair bit of time on the highways, and I've always been a bit curious about the numbers, placards and symbols, so I went to get a copy. Browsing through it, I ran across a jillion things I never wanted to think might be rolling down the freeway right in front of me. One that puzzled me was #2810, Lewisite. I'd never heard of this, so I googled it. Bad move, now I'm probably on some Homeland Security moron's watchlist, because it is a chemical warfare agent (obsolete, but still nasty). But in reading about that, and other chemical agents, I ran across a reference to "gay bomb". Say what? Those are two words I never saw together. I was already under surveillance anyway, so I clicked.

It was as I suspected, sorta. The U.S. Air Force actually speculated on producing a bomb containing a chemical that turned the enemy irresistably gay, making them too busy doing each other to do much fighting. (Could this be another argument for a mixed-gender military?) There was a problem though, no such chemical existed. I don't see whether money was earmarked for research to find one. And if it was produced, it's interesting to speculate on the consequences. Who would handle the ordinance? What if there was a leak at home base, or on the aircraft carrier (keep your Navy jokes to yourself, please)? How long would it take for someone to steal a bit and play pranks with it? Or, to claim someone else had used it on them, as a legal defense?

Other interesting items were discussed, such as a bomb that gives the enemy bad breath and body odor (demoralizes them, and makes them easy to sniff out). Or, hiding beehives in the combat area, then spraying the enemy with bee pheremones.

This is where your tax money goes, folks. But to help pay for it, we're scheduled for a 27% cut in spending for alternative energy research next year. Or at least so says a very detailed chart called "Death and Taxes" of US incomes and outgoes that you can see here, I have yet to find a confirming source for this (but if I do, I'm gonna raise hell on and urge you to do the same).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sean Costello - it's official

The officials have released the final ruling on Sean's cause of death, and I'm afraid it is as bad as I had been hearing from his friends. See it here if you like.

My friend Andy Martin is, besides being an outstanding pro bassist, a certified counselor for addiction and substance abuse problems. He invites you to call him if you or someone in your life has issues that need addressing, and I urge you to do so. He'll be happy to chat with you and determine what needs to be done next. Such problems don't usually sort themselves out without help, so make the call. Keep the number in your phone and wallet.
Andy Martin 770-335-5380

Thursday, June 05, 2008

This Week in Music

Quickie post. Wednesdays @ Bella Bocca gig with Larry Griffith is slowly building, thanks to you friends & fans who come out and party with us. Thursdays at Joel's Tavern also coming along nicely - they've built us a much better stage, and hopefully real lights soon. Fridays I'm at Little Alley, and I hope to be at their new Red Salt location soon. This Saturday at 8PM I've got the George Price Trio doing more of a rock show at Two Monkies, which is on Whitlock in Marietta, across the street from Nik's.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

McCain will continue illegal wiretaps - would Obama?

So, the inevitable President Mrs. Clinton has finally come in second. I'm sure glad that's over, and we can get down to comparing and contrasting the two parties' candidates and agendas. Here's one I find disturbing, from

John McCain vows to continue Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping program

John McCain has changed his position on illegal warrantless wiretapping: he used to think that the President had to uphold the nation's laws. Now he says that the Constitution is subordinate to the all-powerful executive order.

My favorite line on this comes from the chickenhawks who say that the Fourth Amendment was written before the All Powerful Threat of Terrorism. Sure thing. Ben Franklin and his pals couldn't possibly have foreseen a world in which the very idea of America was under some kind of military threat. Those candyasses didn't understand what war was about. They were armchair theorists, civilians who'd never anticipated foreign soldiers on American soil -- surely if they'd known that America might some day face an actual existential risk, they would have put a little asterisk next to each clause of the Bill of Rights leading to a footnote that said, "Unless the king president really, really needs to do it."

This is the relevant quote, plus a link to see the real source:

[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. [...]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.


At this time I don't have a quote from the Obama camp stating his intentions on this matter.

It seems that if you're a terrorist who "hates America because they have freedom", your most efficient action would be to give America one good scare and they'll take their own freedoms away for you, calling themselves patriotic for doing so.

Or maybe, just maybe, the ghost of Prescott Bush is still working his plan, using the (admittedly real) terrorist threats to complete his attempted coup to turn America into a fascist state, but this time without the need to use American military troops against Americans.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Think, the noun

This morning Clark Howard's website had a tiny video blurb about a Norwegian electric car that Clark thought would be just great, coming to America in 2009. Well, I have an aging car that will need replacing someday, and with gas teetering on $4 a gallon as I write this (and no evidence the oil companies would want to bring their prices & record profits back down anytime soon) this caught my attention. Clark's video didn't give me much to go on, not even a link, but a Google on "norwegian electric car" was all it took.

Most of the hits from that query were dated 2007, but then again they were mostly still news to me. Quick recap: Ford bought a company called Pivco back in 1999, pumped $150M into it and put it up for sale a few years later when it looked like the car companies were going to kill the California legislation that made electric cars so important in California. A Norwegian smart guy named Willums (who made a fortune investing in solar power) bought the whole company, factory and inventory for $15M. The hard part about electric cars has always been the battery pack, and Willums has forged a deal with the Tesla car people to get those. He now has an electric car called Think City ready to go, and has been showing models around.

As you can see, it's not exactly a babe magnet, unless you like smart & practical babes (I do). It has a range of over 100 miles, at speeds up to 65MPH, for (according to Clark) about 2 cents per mile, and is expected to sticker-price at $25K. Let's assume the usual manufacturer BS and double that to 4 cents, that's still pretty sweet. But this car has some other cool innovations: it's web and wi-fi enabled, and the company is open to new software from other developers, opening up lots of cool possibilities (Norway is the home of Nokia, remember). The car can feed power back into the electric grid on demand. The batteries might be leased, rather than purchased, with the option to buy. Used batteries have a market, they can go onto the grid or be used in buildings as power backup. Dean Kamen is adding on a Stirling heat engine that will extend the City's capabilities tremendously, and "can tap almost any fuel source, from restaurant grease to cow dung", with exhaust pollution so low it "will meet indoor air-quality standards". That would also make every car a portable generator to feed anything from a small rural village (imagine a few of these used as vehicles or power sources somewhere in India, running on whatever awful stuff is around) to a backwoods kegger. The car is to be made in local factories, from modular parts, and will be ordered online and built to order like Dell computers.

Now, if I can just get this in a shape about like a Chevy HHR or Camry wagon so that I can haul my music gear, I'd be all set. Think has a prototype of a model called Ox that looks like just the thing, especially if I can easily remove the rear seats. I wannit!

Here are a few links to get you into this story, and a lot more:
Think's website
Business 2.0 article I based this on
Engadget article, with comments

Researching this article also brought me to these very interesting links:
Go Green, Get Rich
Google's thinktank

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Highly Incompatible

Today I drove to Fry's to take advantage of what seemed like a deal: a $70 wireless print server for only $20. When I got my AirLink101 model AMPS240W home and carefully followed nearly all the instructions for setup, I couldn't make it connect wirelessly with my good ol' Linksys WRT54G router. (The one instruction I didn't follow was to run another CAT-5 cable line from the wireless router into the printer room to connect to the wireless print server, which seems like a pretty pointless requirement) After doggedly following their "troubleshooting" advice of individually setting the router to each of the 11 possible channels, then unplugging and replugging the print server to see if it would connect (it wouldn't, from 3 feet away) I gave up and called Tech Support.

I joyfully listened to them tell me for about 10 minutes how important my call was to them (not important enough to staff up for it, though) before the phone connection died. So I called again, this time only had to wait about 7 minutes before someone called "Sam" answered. Judging by his accent, he didn't get this name in Cleveland; just call it a hunch that his real name might be Samir. He requires all my personal info before he'll consider my problems, of course. Finally he's got all he wanted, and consents to let me take a turn getting questions answered.

I told him about having tried all the channels. He didn't ask, but I would also have told him I turned off all firewalls and security. He didn't ask because it turns out that he not only considers the cable from my wireless router to the wireless print server to be a necessity (huh?!?), but he also points out that the installation guide says:
Note: ... Make sure that you are able to print, scan, and fax from each with your muti-functional printer directly connected to your computer(s).
So, part of the installation process of this wireless device, according to page 1 of the Quick Installation Guide, is to drag a USB wire from the printer directly to each computer to verify that each combination works. Or, more likely, pick up the printer and carry it into each room of my multi-room network, get all local drivers installed, hook up and test. Imagine my joy. Naturally I had decided not to do any of this until I could see a wireless connection from router to PS.

Suddenly, my brain clicks on something he says about "compatible printer". I ask what printer might be incompatible, if this print server follows the usual USB standards. He says, "What have you got?" I say, "Epson Stylus CX3810" (I hate this printer, it's terribly slow and has a real drinking problem, but that's off the point) and he says, of course, "That printer isn't compatible". After listening to me express my admiration for a bit, he points out that on the bottom edge of the bottom of the box in blazing 5-point type is the following:

Printer server may not support all printers. Please check our website to view the printer compatibility list.

Silly me, since I don't have portable Internet (and had neglected to use my Super Microscopic Vision to scrutinize for disclaiming fine print) I had not checked this while on the store floor. It was obviously all my fault. But after summarizing and triple confirming that this "wireless" unit will not talk unless it is wired (no usable connection on the front door), and will not talk to my Epson, my HP, my Lexmark or my Brother printers (no usable connection on the back door), we closed the support call.

So I got on the web and went hunting for this sacred list of the Blessed Ones. It was not easy to find, but I eventually did find it, and get this: when you do open the list of "compatible printers", that list which tells you what printers this device will actually work with... it's blank! Yup, blank - so, apparently, your chances of success (emphasis on the "suck") are zero. See for yourself!

Okay, to be fair, there was another downloadable version of the list nearby that did actually contain some printers, though none were mine. This was just another example of my whole experience with AirLink101, a company I will highly recommend to anyone I don't like.

So now I get to drive back to Fry's and try to return my "bargain", while absorbing the losses in fuel and time as a lesson to always buy defensively! It also reminded me that I haven't performed my song "Tech Support Blues" in a while.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Amazing Egg Creamer

Via - this incredible bit of engineering you just have to see for yourself, probably more than once. All this to smash those leftover Cadbury Cream Eggs you had laying around. Well worth it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New gigs, new name, a pretty good night

Many of you know that a few years ago Larry Griffith got inspired somehow to introduce me onstage as King George, and through repeated use that name has stuck. I wasn't crazy about it at first, after all King George was the main reason we Americans got fed up enough to have a revolution; he was insane with syphilis, and according to some accounts he wasn't even sure where America was on the globe and didn't really care as long as we paid our escalating taxes. But I digress. By now I rather enjoy the regal fun of it all, and Larry has just started billing the band that includes me (he has several lineups) as Larry Griffith and The King's Court. Thanks, Sir Larry, you may rise.

Wednesday nights continue to grow at Bella Bocca in Marietta. It's a sweet little venue, but hard to see from the street. Just go west from the Marietta square about 1.5 miles on Whitlock. When you see Burnt Hickory Road fork off to the right, you'll see the Clock Tower strip mall (no strippers there, for some reason) on the left. Turn in, and Bella Bocca is in the anchor position in the upper corner. We start there at 8PM.

One patron/fan, Matt Chaney (no relation to the Dick) turned out to be a pretty decent bedroom guitarist, but with no stage experience. We talked guitar for a while, and he emailed me his YouTube links of himself playing along with a few popular records. I told him it's easy to get on stage, just bring a guitar and we'll go to Nik's after work at Bella Bocca. This week he did, we did, and Aaron was nice enough to put us onstage together. Matt performed more than adequately, and I consider him ready to start working in bands. I'm just sorry his sweetie Jessica wasn't there quite soon enough to see it, but she did see the backslapping and feel the nearly-sexual buzz that a musician gets from a group performance he's really proud of. Next time we'll time it better, Matt.

Which brings me to this: Folks, if you want to perform onstage, it's not hard to get started. Talk to me, and I'll arrange it. I have years of jam experience, hosting and playing, and I can give you lots of tips, or even private lessons to prepare. One of the best uses of the jams are as a farm system, to bring in new talent and keep our beloved music nourished and refreshed (so we don't just become a world of non-playing non-singing rappers). When it's done right, it's the best drug there is, and with none of the terrible side effects of other addictions. In fact, it can be healthy for you, like sex, as it stimulates many of the same chemical systems and can be quite physical. So, let's play.

The last couple of Thursday nights I've been performing with Larry at Joel's Tavern, and this is a venue I like. Right at the east entrance to Life University (Hwy 41 & Barclay) they draw a young crowd that has really responded well to our blend of classic rock, Motown and classic R&B. They built us a nice new stage, and have capacity for a couple hundred happy people. Thanks to my old pal Heather from Darwin's for hooking us up. South of the 120 Loop about 0.7 miles, turn at the big yellow Waffle House. We start there at 9PM.

I've had some pretty good radio shows lately too - in recent shows I've had Radio Cult (a very fun show band), Barry Richman, Chris Duarte, Gwen Hughes, and more. You can download my shows free here at Radio Sandy Springs.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Red Salt update

My friends at Little Alley have given me a time frame of 4 to 6 weeks until the opening of their second location, Red Salt, in old Roswell. The location is on the corner next to the old Peachtree Salvage, a few doors north of Pastis. Chef Richard tells me he'll be moving over, having thoroughly trained the Little Alley kitchen. I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Darth Feels Blue

You will click this video! Use the mouse, Luke!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Uh-oh, Troubling News in the Music Business

A couple quick items I found on tonight's edition of

House passes bill that will let the RIAA take away your home for downloading music

The poster notes:
This isn't a judgment on my part as to whether piracy is good or bad (I think copyright deserves to be protected through reasonable methods), but I am always horrified when civil enforcement morphs into criminal enforcement. Conservatives and liberals should be up in arms alike that local prosecutors and/or police could intervene as they desire in essentially a private affair arranged by the RIAA, and permanently seize thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in private property in addition to any civil penalties.
Oh goody. The RIAA greases the right palms in Washington, and they get to use our cops to bust in our doors. There's more good info at the link.

RIAA says DRM is coming back -- in the future, you won't own music

Oh, this is nice. The music you "buy" will not actually be yours. There was a recent case with Microsoft that should tell you how this will turn out. Microsoft sold (or licensed, if you prefer - in any case they took money) music that carried a bit of code that checked with Microsoft to be sure it was legal before allowing the music to play. OK, whatever, people paid up and rocked out. Then the decision was made to close down that enterprise, and the server that granted the play permissions was turned off. Now, none of that paid-for music will play. (If you buy iTunes music, it's encrypted to only work on iPods, right? What happens when Apple stops making iPods? When yours dies, what happens to the music you paid for?)

As a non-lawyer, I look at stuff like this and think they can't possibly be serious, that no judge would go along with it, and surely no lawmaker would pass such a law. Are our "representatives" actually under the impression that they are creating good laws? Or am I simply not squinting just the right way to see how good this is?

On a different front, songwriters and composers are urged by ASCAP to sign this "Bill Of Rights":

But what will it really mean? I've seen too many examples of people being asked to sign on to something that has vast consequences that were never explained up front. Careful with that pen, Eugene!

One thing that even I can see in this "Bill of Rights" is some declarations of worthless rights, such as the "right to decline participation in business models that require us to relinquish all or part of our creative rights" (which artists already have, but like "right to work" it really means the right to not do business with the music business, which is to say, the right to starve) and "the right to advocate for strong laws" which of course all Americans have had for at least a couple centuries. But item 4 is the real meat of it, basically an authorization (or at least an endorsement) of aggressive legal action against "pirates" which, in America, where ASCAP has any jurisdiction, means downloaders. The real pirate operations are in the other countries like China where ASCAP is nothing but a distant noise. So, coupled with the new HR 4279 mentioned above, it looks like the music industry wants to grind non-buyers into the dust (in fact, music buyers won't even own what they buy), to the point of taking away their computers or even their houses, and they want the artists to say we think that's great. Well I do not. And if you look at the lessons learned when Metallica pissed off (or on) millions of fans over downloading, no sane artist would want anything to do with the image, however improbable, of storm troopers bashing in citizen's doors in search of that kid who's been downloading music. (By the way, rent the video "Some Kind of Monster" to see inside the Metallica organization, and watch Lars lament what a fool he was in this matter)

I, as a songwriter and improvisational performer, want my joyful noises heard and hopefully enjoyed by the largest number of people for the longest time possible. That's why I've granted The Internet Archive, and my listeners, blanket permission to record my shows and post them, exchange them, or wear them as a hat if they want, until further notice. With the stipulation that nobody gets the right to do so for money without my written permission (which I probably will grant for a written check).

It's been said that in recent decades the music industry "has consumed itself". So I wonder, when the last gullible musician has been ripped off by sleazy contracts, and the last shred of creativity has been starved out for not being "commercial", what will we have in the future instead of music? Who will play the music at music's funeral? Fortunately, we won't have to face a world without song because the RIAA's devil is our savior; the Internet will be where new art is found and purchased. Or, not purchased. Help yourself to LOTS of free legitimate media here.

I may be mistaken about parts of this. Oh Lordy, I sure hope I am. If so, please tell me.

UPDATE: It pays to watch your web tracker. I use StatCounter (an excellent freebie) and it spotted a reader in California who had just come from a website called OpenCongress, which looks really impressive! Check out what they show for HR 4278 as discussed above.