Tag Archives: Thoughts

Nothing Is Permanently Retired

At about one minute fifty-five seconds and without any jam, a fairly faithful replication of an album version of a song shouldn’t be a setlist standout. But, by many accounts, the 12/31/09 offering of “Demand” is a notable and curious point in a long setlist. It’s notable not because it was flawlessly performed (although it was inarguably done justice), not because it contained inspired playing (but fun, sure), but rather, because it hasn’t been performed since November 1996, over 13 years ago. Having been shelved for so long – and very likely to be stashed away again for some time – makes the performance special. But why? Why does it matter, why do we enjoy ourselves so much if Phish plays one of their rarer songs rather a well-jammed version of than one of their more common songs?

At heart, I’m a stats geek. Maybe not like Zzyzx, but certainly I’m interested in the stats. I’m incredibly interested in Phish setlist construction, and hope that one day I find myself in a situation where I can interview Trey about it. “Why,” I would ask, “does a song like, say, Camel Walk, only appear every 50-some-odd shows? Is that intentional? Why premiere Glide II only to drop it seemingly forever? Are there ever permanently retired songs, like, perhaps, No Dogs Allowed, Dear Mrs Reagan, and Jennifer Dances? Can we ever expect to see Eliza again?” I would assume that, like most musicians, Phish collectively enjoys playing some songs more than others, but is that reflected in the setlist? If they don’t like a song, why would they play it at all… or write or perform it at all? Maybe it’s purposeful that they “create” rarities? I wonder, do they maybe love playing Harpua, but intentionally not overuse it so that its appearance heralds a special show? Why not just unleash a hose of rarities during a tour knowing it would make fans very happy[1]? Unless these some songs are purposely rarities? Will Alumni Blues ever rejoin the setlist as anything other than a super-rarity?

What about common songs? Is Trey aware that AC/DC Bag has opened no fewer than SIX shows since November 1? Did Phish decide to showcase Kill Devil Falls more times than any other song off of Joy because they feel it’s the best song, or was that just coincidence? Are they purposely playing songs like Llama less frequently, or are they simply not remembering it during on-stage setlist construction? Will Time Turns Elastic get its due, in time, when it is a rarity?

In the end, the whole debate is, at the same time, pointless and essential; it is, one on hand, irrelvent, and on the other, the heart of what makes Phish so interesting. If they played rarities all the time, they wouldn’t be rarities and a large part of the fun of Phish shows might be lost. But we all go to see them play, and even songs of which I’ve personally grown a bit tired, such as Stash, still manage to steal the set from time to time, most notably night one of Festival 8. It’s not so much what they play as much as how they play it. I’ve learned that even Character Zero, once you get past the lyrics, can be just as interesting a jam vehicle as Mike’s, YEM, Jim, or Bowie. And yet, I’m still kind of hoping for a bust-out. Despite that, certain songs – for me, Moma, for example – are a bit of a letdown, because I’d rather hear something else I like better. I suppose if I have to hear a jam, I’d rather that jam stem from a song I’ve yet to hear live than a song I’ve heard 10+ times before.

When I look at the NYE setlist, I think the highlights, musically, were Ghost, Rock and Roll, and Piper, three fairly common songs. I also think Demand was awesome (mostly given the infrequency of its appearance?), and Swept Away into the most uncommonly jammed Steep I’ve ever heard is a high point, largely because it was an especially unique performance. So it’s a mix of both quality jams, song frequency, and performance uniqueness that made this fun. A prior night of the run included Gotta Jibboo > Wilson -> Gotta Jibboo, again, two fairly common songs that provided a notable highlight as well. It’s not just about rarities, that much is certain.

But why should we care about stats, right? What good are stats anyway? All they do, one might argue, is allow you to measure your own satisfaction comparatively, an expressly non-Phishy attitude. What good is seeing Buffalo Bill or Brother if you don’t like those songs as much as, say, Divided Sky or Possum except that one can say they’ve seen a rare song?

I think the conclusion is that it’s a mix of all of that: great jams, cool people, uniqueness of an individual performance, and the fact that the setlist remains an unknown all provide a different dimension of interest, and it’s all of that that can make a Phish concert so fun. It’s not about comparison to others’ shows, but rather, a comparison to my own show history: a re-affirmation of the fact that I can keep seeing the same band without ever tiring of the process. As much as I love the great jam, there’s still a moment in between songs when I’m jumping out of my seat with excitement that the next song could be something crazy.

[1] I realize that there were scores of rarities this tour, but I’m talking a total blow-out, something like “Set 1: Brother, Alumni Blues, Dog Log, Glide, Anarchy, In a Hole, She Caught the Katy, Sparkle[2], Have Mercy, Harpua > Buffalo Bill“.

[2] …Just seeing if you were paying attention.

This post originally appeared on the phish.net blog.

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A Thought

As a parent, you reach a certain point where you find yourself, mid-work-day, shopping online for “Ni-Hao Kai Lan” pajamas and “Wow Wow Wubbzy!” shirts and begin to appreciate some of the kooky shit your parents did for you as a kid.

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It’s Not a Spoiler, Bub

I think once something airs on TV, it’s no longer a spoiler.  It’s just what happened.

It’s courtesy to wait a bit for the West Coast, but if they’re bright enough, they’ll know to tread cautiously online until they’ve watched something big.  I’m thinking Lost, House, ER finale, etc.

I think it’s fair to wait until a movie is available on DVD for a bit before assuming everyone who wants to watch it has. I think it’s proper to say “Spoiler Alert” when talking about a movie twist.

I think twist endings in books should always be properly notated.  Books don’t generally have must-see-it-now appeal, so it’s always a potential spoiler.

It’s unfair to force people to not discuss something fun and current, like “last night’s Lost,” simply because you were too tired to watch it.  Yes, it will ruin the surprise.  If it’s important to you, either watch it or remove yourself from the conversation.

It’s not a spoiler once it aired. It’s just what happened.

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Old Stickers

Why do people still have their McCain/Palin stickers on their cars? Is it to protest Obama? Is it to assure us that they are proud republicans? Is it in protest to this administration, which has barely had 30 days in power? I don’t get it.  All it reminds us of, in my humble opinion, is that you supported the loser that most people didn’t want in power.  In other words, most people think you’re wrong.

Incidentally, I would be saying the same thing if things went the other way.

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Criteria By Which You Can Judge A Public Restroom

Overall cleanliness
I’m talking overall. Is there nasty paper towels thrown about? Are there available trash bins?

Tightness of the TP holder
Does the toilet tissue roll easily or is it tight? When you pull it, does it break before it rolls?

Are There Seat Covers?
These days, it’s commonplace to have toilet seat shaped tissue that cover the potentially offending public lid. I think most appreciate that as an option.

Is the Floor Dry?
Is the floor wet and nasty? Or is it dry and shiny? A wet floor – not wet from mopping, which is also bad, but wet from… uh… general use – is disgusting. Dry floor is always best.

Noise Level/Fan Presence
All bathrooms should have ambient noise. A small fan provides a level of discretion for any given stallman seeking to expel a standard dose of flatulence. Silence in a toilet is horrible for a stall-goer with company by the urinal. I can only imagine this is ten times worse in the ladies’ room.

Paper or Dryer?
Are there paper towels or an air dryer? Ideally, there should be both. Some prefer one or the other. Although air is cleaner (or so “they” say), I prefer a paper towel, which is faster and more effective at actually drying. I do not like ritzy cloth towels.

Paper Ply
Simply: one ply or two. I can live with 1 ply, but 2 is always superior for a proper and effective cleansing.

Number of Stalls
A single stall is a cardinal sin. Should one visitor have a bout with his bowels that requires an extended stay of several minutes – or, God help him, hours – the next guy is screwed and had better be well practiced in “holding it.” No eatery should ever be permitted to host only a single stall.

Space in Stall
If my knees hit the door whilst seated, or if when closing the door, I have to inhale and press myself against the other wall, or if the fronts of my shoes prtrude past the virtual extension of the door to the floor, the stall is just plain too small. A decent stall has enough room to comfortably close and open the door and doesn’t force the user to contort himself to fit.

Number of Sinks
A sink in the stall is always a bonus, but any restroom that isn’t a single unit should have at least 2 sinks. No one wants to wait for the big dude in front of him to finish, but more importantly, no one wants to use a nasty sink that has been filled with wet paper towels or other backwash. In the event of an “out of order,” a backup should be present.

Does the Autoflush Spray Ass or Seat?
If you have an autoflush mechanism, particularly an overeager one that likes to flush should one lean forward in the slightest manner, does it spray either ass or seat? A wet ass is an absolute no-no, and a flusher that douses the seat is equally annoying.

Ease of Access
A bathroom placed by a very public area where other visitors can measure your visit in time and number is an immediate negative point.

Can it Handle a Crowd?
If there are several people in the restroom, how does it fare? Space outside the stall is good too.

Space Between the Door and the Hinge
If the gap between the door and the hinge is too great, passers-by can have a gander and check out your sitting session. It seems a lot of public restrooms have this problem, where you feel the need to patrol the line of light that permits strangers to view your most intimate of activities. All stall makers should go to great lengths to assure that the door affords no more than 1/8th of an inch of view-space. If that’s not possible, get as close as you can.

Amount of TP
There should always be a backup roll, no question. If it’s not a commercial stall with a multi-roll holder that either has two side by side or one above the other, there ought be a small stash nestled behind the bowl or beneath the tank.

Does the Door Lock Easily/Properly?
If I have to apply some sort of special force, such as lifting the door with my foot or pushing down in order to lock a door, the bathroom is a fail. A stall – in my mind – is unusable without a proper lock.

Flush Power
One flush ought to clear the bowl, even for a most powerful excretion. Nobody – and I say nobody pretty firmly – wants to be greeted by a stranger’s turd crumbs, plain and simple. If you employ a standard gravity swirl flush rather than a commercial-like pressure assist, you should be wary. The standard “flush, whirpool, siphon” toilet, based largely on gravitational force, is demonstrably not as effective as removing offensive fecal bits that give public restrooms a bad image as the more powerful alternative. A single pressure assist jet will usually clean up a bowl, but a residential WC may require a bit more work. Sad for the small Mom-and-Pop restaurant, to be sure.

Well, that about does it. Those are the criteria by which I’d judge any public restroom.

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Yesarooni Positooni

I have no real reason to be excited for the weekend, but I’ve been really looking forward to it since Wednesday. I think the idea of going home, relaxing, and spending some time with the baby is really appetizing right now. The kid was really good last night, she was sitting on the spare bed while I was fooling around on the computer. The dog got on the bed — he’s great with her, because he really has a huge amount of patience with her. She smacks him, pulls his facial hair, punches him, and he just takes it. The only problem is that sometimes he just tries kissing all over her face and she’s clearly annoyed and can’t escape him.

Either way, somehow, he laid down and she reached over, so he put his front leg across her legs. She was sitting on her butt playing with his leg – drumming on it, petting it, etc, and he actually closed his eyes and let her just tap away. It was pretty amazing, given that he’s rarely that relaxed around Jenn and me and she’s so innocently rough with him.

Every time the dog pisses me off – which is often, since the big galoot is usually following us around and thus generally “in the way” – I remember how incredible he is with baby and how great it will be when she’s old enough to consider him a friend. I can sense he’s going to be fiercely loyal to her and she’s going to be really affectionate with him. The seed is already planted.

The entire scene just made me really long to spend some quality time at home with them, maybe let Jenn sleep late and pack up the baby and the dog for a good walk or something.

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On Fatherhood

They tell mothers-to-be that they may not feel that motherly attachment to their baby the minute the baby is born. It has a lot to do with hormones, societal expectations, and culture. But they do tell them that the baby may seem foreign and unfamiliar at first, and it may take as long as two weeks or more to become familiar with this new life.

I didn’t take to fatherhood at first. I guess that’s unfair, I took to it just fine, but the minute Jillian was born, I was much more concerned about my wife who had just had a C-section than I was about the little baby. After all, if something happened to the baby, I’d still have Jenn and life would go on, albeit tragically. But if something happened to Jenn, I’d be crushed; devastated without direction.

I guess I could say I loved Jillian on day 1, but the truth is it took a few days to warm up to her. Babies really aren’t much – they don’t really tell you this – but they don’t do anything. They just lay around, sleep, cry, crap, and occasionally feed. They don’t smile, focus, laugh, or express any emotion. They mainly sleep and cry.

As time went on, each day, I’d find myself a little more enamored with baby. Each day, really around 2 months, she started becoming more and more a real person. She started smiling. She stopped crying all the time. She started expressing preference for one person over another. And I realized that I had a nice emotional bond with her.

Around 3 months, she started to actually develop some muscle and was able to hold her own weight on her knees if you balanced her. She chortled her first laughs and started being more comfortable in her own skin. She began to understand diaper changing and bottle preperation.

She just turned 6 months, now entering her 7th, and I just realized – I am paralyzed by how much I love my daughter. Now she sits up and rolls over. She communicates with us in so many ways and understands her surroundings like I never anticpated. She likes playing with the dog. She focuses on the TV and even prefers certain shows. She’s a full fledged person – she’s graduated from baby to infant.

As a new parent, you’re pre-conditioned to think you will love your child in a magical way. But I’m not sure people are capable of turning love on and off like that. Maybe mothers, who have a different kind of bond with an in utero child, but certain fathers are challenged to go from 0-60 on day 1. But the truth is, it doesn’t take long before you are won over by the absolute magic that is parenthood.

I can’t imagine life without my baby girl, and, as a parent, I worry about things that never would have crossed my mind. I spend time daydreaming during the day about hanging out with my kid and think about how much fun we’ll have when she’s just a little older. The other day I literally broke down in unexpected tears listening to the Beatles’ Golden Slumbers thinking about her, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I cried.

Being a parent subjects you to strong emotion and deep love in a manner I’m not certain one can truly understand until they experience it themselves. The idea that a piece of you is alive in this person, this person you have to strain to see as anything but perfect, it’s overwhelming. And it’s absolutely, positively wonderful.

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The Equal Accessibility Paradox

Whilst reading Bruce Byfield’s “Divining from the Entrails of Ubuntu’s Gutsy Gibbon” today, I began pondering the evolution of Ubuntu. Ubuntu began live as Warty Warthog back in 2004, and rose quickly to fame. Its biggest selling point was that it was user friendly Linux, the best, most accessible Linux distribution to date. Now, just a few short years later, Ubuntu has truly conquered the Linux market with an estimated 30% of the field, and suddenly, there is some pushback.

I’ve seen a project take this path before, but project was Mozilla Firefox. The Firefox devs suddenly turned their back on their userbase in favor of catering to a wider audience. As a result, I – an obsessively dedicated Firefox user since at least Phoenix 0.2 – have sworn off the software completely.

Enter the “equal accessibility paradox.” I see this often with software projects especially, but it exists in all sorts of arenas, from websites to cell phones, cameras to iPods, from cars to TVs, even in restaurants and stores. The problem exists as such: you have two distinct groups of customers, one who prefers additional options or features even if it introduces complexity; and another, possibly larger, audience who prefers elegant simplicity at the expense of features. The goal is to provide everyone with the options and abilities they expect without overwhelming them. Can a new, non-savvy user control the product to do what they want equally as well as an advanced user can configure the product to do what he wants?

The problem comes from the fact that all too often, like with both Ubuntu and Firefox, you begin to favor one community over the other. I believe the Mozilla Foundation, at least in the provided example, unfortunately decided to cater to a wider audience by making decisions at the expense of its current users. They have made decisions that have cost them at least one user. Ubuntu, if the article is to be believed, has provided plenty of advanced options but over-simplified the non-advanced procedures. In short, if you aren’t a complete novice, you’re an expert. Thus the paradox takes shape: the gap between your two user groups becomes greater. Hopefully, along the way, you don’t so aggravate your most vigilant supporters so that they abandon you.

I’m positive I haven’t best expressed what I intended to say, but I think there’s a theory in there. As your userbase grows, the gap between your two user-types widens, and your target generally becomes one or the other.

As Apple grows and branches out from the Macintosh computer line, I can only hope they don’t cater to new users to a degree that forsakes the current users who kept them afloat for so long. As Microsoft has grown, they have taken more and more steps to frustrate the people who best support their products, so much so that my business now uses Linux on web servers and PHP for programming and I always recommend Macs and Linux to my friends and colleagues. As Firefox grew, I felt they left users like me behind. As Ubuntu grows, I hope they can control the divide before they find themselves head-to-head with the “equal accessibility paradox.”

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