Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pictures from Japan -- One Year Later

A little over a year ago, I traveled to Japan and enjoyed my first ever visit to this remarkable country. I realized recently that I never shared any photos from that trip, and I wanted to rectify that omission.

This post mostly features pictures from my visit to Kamakura. I'll follow up with a second entry with pictures of my trip into Tokyo.

During my visit, I stayed in Yokahama. Here's a picture from our hotel.

Below are pictures from Kamakura, including many shots of the Great Buddha.

A Song for Every Year


Changed song for 1974, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" by Elton John (from Caribou) to "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley (from Natty Dread)

Changed song for 1976, "Hitch A Ride" by Boston (from Boston) to "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult (from Agents of Fortune)

Added song for 2009, "3000 Miles Away" by Star Fucking Hipsters (from Never Rest in Peace)

Changed song for 2008, "Everybody Knows" by John Legend (from Evolver) to "Sober" by Pink (from Funhouse)

    Just for kicks, I recently made a playlist featuring a song for each year that I've been alive.

    Of course, with any playlist that spans one's childhood year, I wasn't listening to all these songs when they were originally released, so there's some built-in retrofitting.

    A couple of caveats:
    • This type of playlist was interesting to put together, but it was hard to pick one song for some years, particularly in years when there were several great songs to choose from (like in 1975, the year of release for not only Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road", but also Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"). In the end, I opted not to do ties and just picked songs that had the greatest influence on me.

    • I listened and exposed myself to a lot more music in the 80s and 90s that I did from 2000 on, and this probably shows in the selections from those later years. I'm beginning to listen to new music a lot more frequently now, so I plan to update some of the selections as I discover better songs.
    Anyway, without further preamble, here's the list:

    1971 - "Baba O'Riley" by The Who (from
    Who's Next)
    1972 - "Rocket Man" by Elton John (from
    Honky Chateau)
    1973 - "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye (from
    Let's Get It On)
    1974 -
    "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley (from Natty Dread)
    1975 - "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen (from Born To Run)
    1976 -
    "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult (from Agents of Fortune)
    1977 - "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel (from
    Peter Gabriel 'Car')
    1978 - "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" by Van Halen (from
    Van Halen)
    1979 - "Message in a Bottle" by The Police (from
    Reggatta De Blanc)
    1980 - "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne (from
    Blizzard of Ozz)
    1981 - "Under Pressure" by Queen (from
    Hot Space)
    1982 - "Jack and Diane" by John Mellencamp (from
    American Fool)
    1983 - "New Year's Day" by U2 (from
    1984 - "Bad" by U2 (from
    The Unforgettable Fire)
    1985 - "No One Is to Blame" by Howard Jones (from
    Dream Into Action)
    1986 - "Master of Puppets" by Metallica (from
    Master of Puppets)
    1987 - "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N Roses (from
    Appetite for Destruction)
    1988 - "Suedehead" by Morrissey (from
    Viva Hate)
    1989 - "Closer to Fine" by Indigo Girls (from
    The Indigo Girls)
    1990 - "Home for a Rest" by Spirit of the West (from
    Save This House)
    1991 - "Black" by Pearl Jam (from
    1992 - "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M. (from
    Automatic for the People)
    1993 - "Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (from
    Facing Future)
    1994 - "Nautical Disaster" by Tragically Hip (from
    Day for Night)
    1995 - "1979" by Smashing Pumpkins (from
    Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness)
    1996 - "The Old Apartment" by Barenaked Ladies (from
    Born on a Pirate Ship)
    1997 - "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day (from
    1998 - "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" by Lauryn Hill (from
    The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill)
    1999 - "What's My Age Again?" by Blink 182 (from
    Enema for the State)
    2000 - "Stan" by Eminem (from
    Marshall Mathers LP)
    2001 - "Running" by No Doubt (from
    Rock Steady)
    2002 - "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen (from
    The Rising)
    2003 - "Where Is the Love?" by Black Eyed Peas (from
    2004 - "Jesus of Suburbia" by Green Day (from
    American Idiot)
    2005 - "How to Save a Life" by The Fray (from
    How to Save a Life)
    2006 - "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse (from
    Back To Black)
    2007 - "Big Casino" by Jimmy Eat World (from
    Chase This Light)
    2008 - "Sober" by Pink (from
    2009 - "3000 Miles Away" by Star Fucking Hipsters (from Never Rest in Peace)

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Lush Life by Richard Price (Book Review)

    Lush Life is a gritty police procedural novel set in New York's Lower East Side.

    However, that capsule summary doesn't nearly do the book justice, for the murder investigation and detective plot elements, while essential to the novel, are merely the underpins from which the author is able to evoke a fully realized tale of how a singular, even random event -- in this case a robbery that unexpectedly results in murder -- reverberates far beyond the immediate characters involved, to their families and friends, to the police working the investigation, to the nearby shopkeepers and merchants, and ultimately through the whole neighborhood and community.

    The text is further distinguished by outstanding characterization and crisp, authentic dialogue.

    Highly recommended.

    Note - It was only after I was finishing this post that I stumbled across this Slate piece that mentioned that Lush Life is on President Obama's Summer Reading List. I guess the secret is out, but I'd be happy to send him more recommendations!

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    20 Year High School Reunion

    My 20 year high school reunion was held this past weekend. Though unfortunately I didn't learn of the reunion until just last week, I was able to attend one of the three weekend events.

    I went to the Friday night icebreaker at a local restaurant-bar, and I'm glad I went. It was great seeing so many faces and talking to people from my formative years. What's more, most of my former classmates looked great, appeared to be in good health, and were very friendly. I talked not only with people I knew well in high school, but also some people I knew of. It was that kind of night. People were happy and really open to the event.

    I did attend my 10 year reunion as well, but that seems like a lifetime ago, as so much has changed in my life since then (wife, house, baby).

    Anyway, if anyone is oscillating about attending an upcoming reunion, I would encourage that you go. Of course, in my case, I neither loved nor hated high school and I had only a few close friends (although I was friendly at an acquaintance level with many other people), so I recognize that it was a very low risk, high reward proposition for me. Others with deep emotional scars from high school might not want to dredge up those memories.

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Electric Snow Blower?

    UPDATE - 12/15/2009

    After some back and forth, we went with the Snow Joe Ultra 622U1 13 Amp Electric Snow Thrower. I'll be commenting about its performance as the winter progresses and we use it regularly, but we already had a chance to try it last Thursday (12/10), when the first big Lake Effect snow of the season dumped more than a foot of snow on us here just south of Buffalo.

    Based on the test run, the Snow Joe performed admirably, handling the one foot high snow in our driveway without issue and essentially doing everything I expected of a powerful torque but lightweight snow thrower.

    ORIGINAL POST - 8/17/2009

    I know it's only August, but I live in Buffalo, and you always need to think ahead about snow. The last two winters, we went without any snow removal machinery, and it hasn't been fun. The first winter I just shoveled, and the second we hired a plowing service. The plow service was better than shoveling all the time, but there were still too many times when it snowed at inopportune times and I had to shovel so we could get out or in the driveway.

    I'm determined that it'll be different this year. I've been looking for a low emission, quiet snow blower, and I came across a manufacturer (appropriately named Snow Joe) that purportedly offers an electric snow thrower that's as powerful as a gas-powered model.

    The product is the Snow Joe Ultra 622U1 13 Amp Electric Snow Thrower, and its makers promise that it delivers "the power of a gas machine with the convenience of an electric unit".

    I'm interested, tempted even. Naysayers?

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (Book Review)

    In Defense of Food is one of those books that right away makes you pay attention and assess your life and diet based on its message.

    The book's conceit and overt motto is elegantly simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    What this translates to is a call to replace much of the standard, additive rich fare in the Western Diet with real, traditional food, grown naturally and purchased locally if possible. In addition to converting to organic or natural food, the author suggests investing more time and resources into meal planning and eating, and consuming more vegetables (especially greens).

    It's hard to conceive of a reason not to read this book, unless you're someone who's already digested the message or, perhaps, you have a vested interest in the continued dominion of agribusiness.