Monday, August 29, 2005

Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak

I try not to buy CDs from bands I've only heard one song by. It usually ends in pain and heartache, and I've sold many a CD to CD Warehouse as a result. There have been exceptions, of course: my obsession with the Barenaked Ladies was derived entirely from the song "One Week;" I bought the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots on the strength of "Fight Test" alone; I started listening to the Old 97s because of a song I heard from their frontman's solo work. But those are the exceptions, not the rules. Let us not forget the pain The Strokes caused me when I tried to listen to one of their CDs (I only managed to ever listen to it all the way through once...God, that was a terrible album).

So I probably shouldn't have gone and bought the Kings of Leon's Aha Shake Heartbreak just because I liked "Four Kicks." Sure, it's a fun song, with a great beat and a pulse-pounding guitar, but that doesn't always mean the rest of the album will be that quality. As it turns out, the album is hit-and-miss, sometimes scoring a direct hit (with tracks such as the aforementioned "Four Kicks") and sometimes going so wide of the target that it's painful.

The biggest issue I have with the album is the singer's voice. The affectation and vocal histronics are a bit much for me. He sounds like he's trying to do some sort of David Byrne via Bob Dylan thing, and it doesn't always work. It's an acquired taste, I guess, and one that grows easier to listen to with each spin of the disc (c'mon, I'm the guy who listens to Dylan and the Flaming Lips and Neil Young; bad voices don't necessarily put me off too much). Musically, it's a very strong record. The band consists of only four guys: a singer, a guitarist, a bass player, and a drummer. They manage to make a lot of noise anyway.

Really, they sound like southern rock stripped of the country influences that usually implies. There's plenty of crunchy guitar riffs, thumping basslines, and gut-stomping drums. They're fond of changing tempos mid-song, shifting gears in a heartbeat and bringing the energy up another notch. It's southern rock for the new millenium, filtered through the twenty-odd years of musical styles that have existed since the Allman Brothers and Lynard Skynard ruled the roost.

Lyrically, the Kings of Leon are a mixed bag. Some of their tunes are wildly inventive--"Four Kicks," for example, is about cock fighting (y'know, like with the birds? Pervert)--but some are too abstracted to really make any sense. With the singer's vocal affectations, the lyrics are really nothing more than a way to add a shade of texture or emotion to the music, just another instrument in their arsenal. And these guys treat music like a weapon, cutting and hacking their way through each song as though glory lay on the other side of a three minute track.

Overall, Aha Shake Heartbreak is a fairly strong album with a minimum of filler. The Kings of Leon are making music by their own rules, bizarre and incomprehensible as those rules may sometimes seem to the listener. It's a grower, and if you give the album a chance, it'll hook you.


Song of the Moment: Kings of Leon, "Four Kicks"

"They Took A Clean-Cut Kid"

Got two more kids to tutor this morning. A pair of brothers. I've got all (three now) of my first appointments set up for next Wednesday, the day after classes start. All three are needing the same thing: educational coaching, or organizational and study skills help. The more I think about it, the more I realize taking that one little boring workshop a couple of weeks ago was a brilliant idea that made me much more marketable.

I wanted to do laundry today, but Wen still has stuff in the washer and the dryer, so that's right out. I've still got plenty of clothes I can wear, but my laundry basket has reached that overflow point. Wee.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Trust Yourself"

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"For There Were Many Things I Didn't Know"

Talked with the mother of my first tutoring student this evening. I start to tutor the guy on the 7th. They want two sessions a week, so that's $50 a week. If I can get at least one more student who wants to meet twice a week, that's over $100 per week. That coupled with my work at Huntington ought to be sufficient to pay rent and the like.

The job at Huntington is getting better. Now that I'm actually working with students, I find the job fairly rewarding. The bureaucratic junk still annoys me, but I can see why we have most of it. I think my favorite part is the one-on-one sessions. I actually get to work with a single student for an hour or two at a shot and have a positive impact on his or her work. It's great.

Went and saw The Brothers Grimm last night with Wendy, Tim, Wen's college friend Meg (whom I've met several times previously and is still one of the craziest people I've ever met), and Meg's brother Steve. The flick was great, though there were a few gaping plotholes that I'd have liked to have seen filled with, I dunno, plot. But it was still a fun movie and had some nice elements. Terry Gilliam definitely has a strong sense of style, and if that style sometimes overwhelmed the story, it was still really good style.

I'm on the Huntington schedule this week for almost 20 hours, which is great. I should be getting paid by them soon (God, I hope so), so my bank account shouldn't be quite so empty and feeble by the end of next week or the beginning of the following week. At least, that's my hope.


Song of the Moment: Ben Folds, "Late"

Friday, August 26, 2005

"She Says She Talks To Angels"

Things are looking okay on the job front. The job at Huntington--hereafter referred to as "Tutoring Job A"--proceeds well. I have to go in for a couple of hours at midday tomorrow, but hey, that's just more money in the bank as far as I'm concerned. The job in Vienna--hereafter "Tutoring Job B"--has finally contacted me about a few students, so I could start making money through them as soon as next week. This would be fantastic. These two jobs, coupled with substituting at the very least, would leave me in a decent spot financially.

Other things are going not-so-well. My family has reached some sort of madness threshold and crossed in, spiraling down into a seemingly never-ending game of make the other person have a nervous breakdown. I'm not sure who's winning said game, or if a winner can even be said to exist for something like this, but I do know that it's made it tougher for me to sleep at night. All I know is that the number of instances of me wanting to throttle a member of my family into unconsciousness has risen to about thrice daily.

We're sorely tempted to go see The Brothers Grimm this weekend, though Wendy is apprehensive to throw down $10 on a movie that hasn't been getting stellar reviews. I can't say I totally disagree with her, though I know that Terry Gilliam does the most be possibly can with whatever movie he's working on. We'll just have to see what is decided.


Song of the Moment: Black Crowes, "Hard to Handle"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"O.K. Computer"

Y'know, I always said it was nigh impossible to escape the clutches of AOL once you joined them, but I didn't know it was actually true. Crazy stuff, that.

Some exceptionally stupid crap going on in my life right now that I don't really want to talk about. Let's just say I haven't been sleeping well of late, and that's probably not going to change anytime soon.


Song of the Moment: Beck, "Golden Age"

Monday, August 22, 2005

"It's A War On War"

I'd like to call bullshit on this one.

The whole notion of the preemptive war that Bush has been pushing since 9/11 still sickens me. I mean, honestly, it's an absurd argument. It's like saying, oh look, that kid over there might grow up to be an evil man who kills people, so let's shoot him between the eyes right now.

Now let's expand that to an entire section of the world's population, go invade the Middle East one country at a time, and claim it was to "fight terrorism," a decidedly amorphous and ill-defined term in the first place.

This is not the way to win, folks. Israel tried it a few decades ago, attacking everyone before they had a chance to attack Israel. And Israel is one of the most-hated countries in the Middle East, aren't they? Suicide bombs and shootings and fights break out almost daily in the territories they occupy. Do we really think it'll be any different for us? "Oh, but we're giving them democracy and freedom," you might say. Let's get something clear, folks: some people do not want that. Some people have been programmed by their culture, or their family, or their religion, or by something to be unable to think in those terms. Democracy is not the end all, be all of government. There are other valid systems out there. It's actually, amusingly enough, very Marxist thought: Marx was convinced that the ultimate form of government was Communism, right? Thought all other forms of government were simply moving and progressing towards Communist socialism. Well, we in America have become convinced of the same thing with our democratic republicanism (republicanism as in the form of government, not the political party), and it's equally absurd to assume we were right instead of Marx. I'm not saying Communism is the best system of government, either, but maybe that what will work for one country will not work for others.

Bah. I'm just in a bad mood tonight. Come back tomorrow after I've worked all day to hear something potentially more interesting and less frustrated.


Song of the Moment: Old 97s, "W-I-F-E"

"Got A Bomb In My Temple"

So the guy who did the Olympic Bombing in Atlanta back in 1996 was sentenced to life without parole, apparently. Finally. This sorta confused me at first, because I thought that whole thing had been taken care of ages ago. Guess not.

The most interesting part of the whole thing is where the guy's being sent to serve his sentence: the maximum security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, where--according to the article--you've also got the Unabomber, the shoe bomb guy, and Terry Nichols of the infamous OKC Federal Building bombing. Anyone else see a pattern here? I mean, putting that many guys who have a tendency to blow stuff up together in the same is that prison still standing?

Wendy and Tim come home this evening. It'll be nice having people around again, though I should probably remember to put pants on before they arrive. Y'know, as a courtesy.


Song of the Moment: Uncle Tupelo, "Smoking Gun"

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bob Dylan - The 30th Anniversary Concert

Concerts where you gather together a "star-studded ensemble" to play a beloved musician's finest works are sketchy affairs at best, usually. I mean, the so-called stars are often third-rate hacks who've never had any hits themselves and aren't likely to if they only play someone else's songs for the rest of their lives. Or you get folks who are genuinely decent musicians turning out rote, boring renditions of well-known songs, the sort of versions that have no heart or imagination or energy.

The concert celebrating Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary of recording is not like that, though. The list of musicians covers an amazing spectrum of styles and voices. Some folks offer very faithful covers of Dylan songs, while some offer radical revisions of familiar and less-common tunes.

The concert begins with an excellent double-shot from John Mellencamp, who has the balls to cover "Like a Rolling Stone" (a song that fits him like a glove, especially with the help of Al Kooper--who played on the original studio version--on organ) and "Lepoard-Skin Pill-Box Hat." Mellencamp sticks to fairly faithful renditions, keeping the spirit and style close to the original tunes. Stevie Wonder's "Blowin' in the Wind" isn't quite so successful, mostly because he spends the first two and a half minutes of the track talking about the historical significance of the song and how its impact still matters today rather than just letting the song speak for itself. Once he gets down to brass tacks, though, it's a pretty successful soul reworking of the old acoustic protest song. Lou Reed provides an energetic if slightly stilted version of the unreleased "Foot of Pride," and Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam do a spine-tingling acoustic "Masters of War" (this was right after Pearl Jam hit it big in the early '90s, so this was the "hip" act of the show, and they provided one of the most faithful covers of the night). Tracy Chapman did a rousing acoustic cover of "The Times They are A'Changin'," followed by Johnny Cash and June Carter doing a stomping country version of "It Ain't Me, Babe" that really jumps. Willie Nelson's cover of "What was it you wanted?" isn't nearly as effective as Dylan's original, mostly due to his hurried vocal delivery. But Kris Kristofferson's "I'll be Your Baby Tonight" has the mirth that was too subdued in the original. Johnny Winter brings out the frenzied blues of "Highway 61 Revisited," and Ron Wood is almost a dead-ringer for Dylan in his cover of "Seven Days." Richie Havens totally desecrates "Just Like a Woman" by playing it at one speed and singing at a different speed that seems to have no connection to the actual tune. The Clancy Brothers provide a traditional Irish reading of the traditional "When the Ship Comes In," which Dylan covered on his first album. The first disc closes with Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Rosanne Cash, and Shawn Colvin trading verses on "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere."

Disc Two really builds up momentum and energy with two songs from Neil Young in typical fashion--"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and "All Along the Watchtower," and Young makes the songs sound like they were his all along. Chrissie Hynde follows with a beautiful reading of "I Shall be Released." She is quickly eclipsed, though, with Eric Clapton's blistering blues run of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," easily one of the best songs on the whole album. The O'Jays manage to take one of the slightest songs in Dylan's catalogue, "Emotionally Yours," and inject it with real emotion and heft in their soul-soaked version. The Band take a swing at "When I Paint my Masterpiece," and come close to matching the effectiveness of their original studio cover of the tune. George Harrison takes "Absolutely Sweet Marie" and treats it like it was his own, and it benefits from his slightly-strained vocals. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers take on two songs--"License to Kill" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"--and fit the tunes perfectly. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds turns in a dead-ringer for his band's original cover of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," that ringing twelve-string guitar solo sounding as beautiful and perfect as ever.

Then comes the man of the hour, Bob Dylan himself. He comes out with an acoustic guitar and harmonica and does a beautiful version of "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" by himself, and then the highlight of the evening: "My Back Pages," featuring McGuinn, Dylan, Petty, Harrison, Young, and Clapton trading verses and harmonizing like a choir of whiskey-soaked, cigarette-smoking angels on the chorus. Young and Clapton take the guitar solos, the rest providing rhythm for a tune that feels more like the Byrds version of the classic tune than Dylan's (complete with McGuinn's chiming twelve-string work to open the song). Then everyone joins the stage to do an uplifting "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," after which Dylan returns to the stage by himself for a meditative "Girl from the North Country."

Listing the songs and artists who took part in this concert does not do the actual event justice. Virtually everyone is in fine form, treating the material with reverence, love, and respect. Overall, this is one of the best celebration/benefit concerts I've ever heard. My one hope is that, by the time the 50th anniversary concert rolls around in 2012, Cross-Eyed Yeti is big enough to get a spot on the roster.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, George Harrison, & Eric Clapton, "My Back Pages (Live)"

"The Streets Of Baltimore"

Michelle and Cris came over last night to hang out. We went to this restaraunt called Chipotle, and I swear those were the biggest burritos known to man. It was the size of a small child. Even I couldn't finish mine. But it wasn't a real Mexican restaraunt in the way I'm used to. It was nicer than a fast food Mexican joint, but not exactly a sit-down place like Tarahumara's. You select your item--burrito, taco (soft or crunchy), or one of a couple other items, then select the ingredients you want in it. Interesting, but I still miss Tarahumara's.

After dinner, we came back and watched The Fisher King. Excellent flick. I'd actually never seen it before (yeah, I know, I'm woefully lacking when it comes to movies). Terry Gilliam owns my soul, though.

Wendy and Tim come home tomorrow evening, so my time alone in the apartment is reaching its end. I probably ought to do laundry and the dishes today sometime. I assume they were able to get all the stuff from my folks that I needed. That means I'll have more books tomorrow.


Song of the Moment: Gram Parsons, "Sin City"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Son Volt - Trace

Somewhere in the past four or five years, I became a sucker for country-rock and alt-country. I think it's Bob Dylan's fault, really. But it does mean I occasionally get to hear albums like Son Volt's first, Trace, and that makes listening to any number of the less-than-stellar albums of the genre worth it to find the masterpiece.

Son Volt is the band of former Uncle Tupelo member Jay Farrar. When Tupelo split, Farrar and Jeff Tweedy--the two creative forces behind the band--each formed new bands. Tweedy took the majority of the band from Tupelo's last album, Anodyne, and formed Wilco, while Farrar gathered some new musicians (including original Uncle Tupelo drummer Michael Heidorn and formed Son Volt.

Each band's initial outing picked up right where Anodyne left off. Wilco's AM was decent, though Tweedy clearly didn't have enough strong material on his own for a whole album yet. Son Volt released Trace, a clear stylistic follow-up to Anodyne.

Trace is an exceptionally strong collection of basic country-rock. You have strummed guitars, mournful pedal steel, songs of loss and regret and joy. There's an emotional depth to the music that's impressive; these are not all just tear-in-my-beer, woe-is-me bar tunes. There are sad songs, depressed and frustrated odes to love gone horribly awry, but there is also joy and hope. Farrar is an excellent songwriter, crafting three and a half minute sketches of the human condition in all its ups and downs. Farrar isn't trying to break down genre barriers on this record, he's simply making great music.

There's not a bad song on the album, and I never have to hit the "skip" button. That's about the highest praise I think you can give a record: every song is solid, every song is listenable. Album opener "Windfall" is a road song about the prospect of carrying on, of starting anew, of surviving to be reborn in a different place. The uplifting chorus starts with "may the wind take your troubles away," a sentiment that is reconfirmed throughout the record (even if it's not explicitly stated or couched in similar terms). There's a laid back, comfortable quality to these tracks, and you can tell Farrar not only believes in the music he's making, he's content with it.

Trace is one of the best country-rock albums out there. It's solid from start to finish, and when the disc finishes spinning, you've got the overwhelming urge to start it over from the beginning again. It doesn't get any better than that.


Song of the Moment: Son Volt, "Mystifies Me"

"In The Parking Lot, In The Headlights Of Cars"

So, the car that was blocking me in was still there this morning. Thankfully, I thought far enough ahead to wake up early (which was a bitch to pull off: I was dead tired 'cause I couldn't fall asleep last night) and leave early enough to walk to work (which takes less than twenty minutes, as it turns out, but it's not really something I want to do when it's so freakin' humid outside). Work itself was pretty good: I'm still doing training, but they actually let me interact with students today, and I think I did pretty well. I only have two more days of training (though the last one of those is just me acting as a "floater," moving from zone to zone and just helping any students with immediate needs; Monday's session is learning how to work in the math zone, and you know that if the kids have any serious math questions, I'm going to prove completely useless. But my boss knew my math skills were lacking from the outset, and I am there primarily as a reading and writing tutor, but she says I still need to at least see how the math system they use works).

This job is very different from my two previous tutoring jobs. Those were both based more on what I as a unique individual brought to the table: my ability with history, my personal relationship with the students I was tutoring, and (at Ozarks) more based on content knowledge than anything else. The Writing Center was built on the unique strengths of the individual writing consultants; what our specialties were (history, English, various other humanities, etc.) and how we brought our personal understanding of writing essays and research papers to bear on a particular student-athlete. Both jobs focused on flexibility: if one approach with a student didn't work, try something else. Approach each case individually, as something that very well might be totally different from what you just dealt with.

Huntington operates on a much different premise. With their cirricula programs, they strive to make the teachers almost interchangable. The idea is that any one of us could walk in without a moment's preparation and start helping a student with whatever they were working on. Who the tutor is doesn't matter so much, nor does the tutor's individual strengths or approaches. Everything is subsumed to the programs. I can see the sense in it: they deal with numerous students at very different skill levels all day long; they may not even see the same student from day to day, even if the student shows up several times in a row. I did actually get to bring my personal abilities into play at least once when helping a student understand why a certain answer she'd written down was incorrect. I got the chance to explain and ask her questions and help her see why what she'd chosen was not the best possible choice. That was good. And there will be more instances of that. But I don't feel the connection or devotion to this place that I felt to the Learning Center at Ozarks or the Writing Center at OU. The other teachers are, as far as I'm concerned, interchangable even to me. They all seem decent enough folks, but I don't know that I'll develop much of a connection with them. Certainly not as deep a connection as I had with my peers at the jobs at Ozarks or OU. But that's okay, since this job is just a bit of supplimentary income while I try to find a real job.

Which really segues quite nicely into the completion of the parking story. When I got home from work this afternoon, the van was no longer parked behind me. However, I saw the woman who drives the van pulling into a different driveway down the way. I thought nothing of this, though I made a pointed and obvious show of hitting the garage door opener I'd carried in my bag and standing in the driveway waiting for the door to go up.

Dismissing the woman from my mind, I walked up the stairs and into the apartment. After getting Obe off the top of the refridgerator (hey, it's the highest place in the room and he's not allowed to be up there, so of course he climbs up there at every available opportunity), someone knocked on the door. Slightly confused by this (my friends aren't supposed to arrive until this evening, after all, and I thought we'd got the air conditioning stuff all worked out by now), I open the door and see the woman who'd parked her van in my driveway. Turns out she and her husband are the building leaders, which is the apartment complex equivalent of dorm RAs (only without the enforcing curfew and no drinking policy crap and such not). She'd apparently been given permission from the woman who owns the condo that the garage is attached to to park in that driveway if she needed to, but hadn't realized that we'd since rented the garage from the owner. She apologized profusely (apparently firmly-worded-yet-polite notes under the windshield wiper are effective) and chatted with me briefly, discovering that I'm on the lookout for teaching jobs. Turns out she's a middle school art teacher at one of the local middle schools, and she offered to check with her principal on any history/social studies jobs at her school and put in a good word for me...and this is after she'd seen my annoyed note, mind you. So instead of having a tiff or an argument with this woman, I ended up making something of an ally and friend (which is really about as nice a conclusion to a frustrating situation as you could ask for). And on top of that, she's not gonna park in my driveway anymore.


Song of the Moment: Nirvana, "All Apologies"

Friday, August 19, 2005

"All Boxed In, No Way To Escape"

Okay, as I might have mentioned, one of the perks of the apartment we're living in is that the folks who own the garage connected to Wendy and Tim's garage doesn't use it, and we rent it from those people and I get to use it. This is fabulous, as it means I don't have to worry about my car getting broken into or being exposed to the elements all the time and whatnot.

The garage has a short driveway in front of it, as garages often do. This is great, because it means that if a friend comes over, they can just park right behind my car (Wendy parks her truck behind one of Tim's cars in their driveway; his other car--both are Camaros--is parked in a spot in the row of parking spots right across from our garage). Technically, no one who doesn't have one of the little parking tags hanging from their rearview mirror is allowed to park in the parking spots, but that rule isn't enforced in the garages or the driveways.

Sadly, this means that sometimes I'm going to have to deal with assholes I don't know parking behind me. That is currently the case. Usually, this wouldn't be a problem--I'd just get a ride from Wendy or Tim to go to the store and grab some food. But they're both currently still in Oklahoma, I don't know who is parked behind me, I don't know how long they're gonna be there, and if they're still there in the morning (when I have to go to work), I'm smashing their windshield in with a hammer and leaving a sternly-worded note on their driver's seat asking them not to park their damn minivan in a spot that prohibits others from actually being able to get out.


Song of the Moment: Nirvana, "Heart-Shaped Box"

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"In My Room"

I meant to upload these about a week or two ago, when I took them, but I've been lazy and stuff. So, without further ado, I present to you an in-depth look at my inner sanctum.

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That's an entertainment corner--the guitar, some CDs and DVDs, and the TV and DVD/VCR. The door leads to my closet, which is actually the size of some dorm rooms.

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The bed, covered in the quilt my great-grandmother made. Also, the bookcase that serves as DVD container and nightstand (and cat playhouse, as far as those two are concerned).

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Computer! Yeah, there's a lot of clutter there, but that's cleaner than it is now. The stack of books there on the end are my "required reading" from Wendy.

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The amp I salvaged from Wen's classroom. In perfect working order and stuff, though I'm not sure I'll ever need it (not like I'm gonna be playing any shows for more than a couple of friends or myself anytime soon).

So yeah, that's my room. It's rather nice, and after this weekend, I'll have my other nightstand and hopefully another little bookcase to put in the closet to hold the boxes of books still sitting in there (though you'll notice that my Terry Pratchett collection is on display above the bed).


Song of the Moment: The Flaming Lips, "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain"

"Kicking TV"

So one of our cats, Obe (short for Oberon--guess who he's named for and who named him), has decided he is totally obsessed with my bathroom. Whenever I'm in there shaving and getting ready in the morning, I open the door to let some of the steam out. Obe always wanders in and starts alternately rubbing against my legs and attempting to gnaw the flesh from them. He apparently also climbs up into my sink when I'm not around and just hangs out in there, messing with all my stuff up there: most specifically, with my contact case. Since I leave the two little lids off so everything can dry during the day, he's discovered those're really fun toys. One of the lids is gone now, so I've had to switch to a new case...which is no big deal, in the grand scheme of things, but it all means I can't leave my bathroom door open anymore, 'cause Obe will just wander in there and start messing with stuff. I can only imagine what it'll be next--probably my toothbrush.

The job situation almost got a little too interesting today. See, Huntington has this non-competition agreement that all of their employees have to sign. It basically says that while I'm working for Huntington, I won't work for any competing companies. Only problem is that I took that other job at the same time. So I was up-front with my supervisor about having two jobs, and we discussed it, and the bottom line is that I get to keep both jobs as long as I don't mention one to the other. Seems easy enough to me.

Part of my training at Huntington was taking the Writing and Reading sections of the SAT yesterday morning. If I made over 80% on each section, I was eligible to tutor SAT prep stuff. Well, I got my results this afternoon while I was at work--I made a perfect on the Reading section and a 750 out of 800 on the Writing, which my supervisor said was near enough to perfect to count just as well. I even made a 260 on the Math section even though I didn't take it, which is actually probably better than I'd have done on it had I actually taken that section.

My two tutoring jobs seem a little more structured than my jobs at Ozarks and even OU were. Which makes sense, really, since I was tutoring college students and now I'm tutoring middle school and high school students. But I think I'm flexible to still do well, and I believe that I'm adaptable enough to really benefit the students, too.


Song of the Moment: Wallflowers, "From the Bottom of my Heart"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"You Play Your Fiddle, Baby, I'll Play Dumb"

So, we have air conditioning again, thank God. The same guy who came out last week and "fixed" it returned today, and actually did what he was supposed to do last time. We sucked all the excess water out of the thing, unclogged the condensation drain, and rewired the safety switch. It's nice having climate control going again, and it's a comfortable temperature in the apartment for the first time since Friday evening.

Did some SAT training at Huntington today, which basically amounted to taking the writing and reading sections of the SAT. Took about two hours or so, all told, which was actually pretty fast considering the fact that I had to do like six or seven sections of the reading stuff and write an essay. I'm pretty confident in how I did (I have to get at least an 80% on the thing to tutor in it), and tomorrow I start my regular training with Huntington. It's paid, too, I beleive. Woot.

Dad brought an interesting thing for the other job that I hadn't considered before and actually ended up playing a major part in my decision to take the job. Apparently since I'm self-employed, I can claim a few deductions for things like mileage accumulated when driving to and from tutoring sessions, any supplies (pens, paper, etc.) I purchase for use on the job, things like that. It's not much, but at least I'll get a little compensation to offset the extra taxes I'll have to pay. He's going to help me calculate how much I'll have to keep back from each paycheck to pay said taxes.

Admittedly, since I don't have any students yet, it's all pretty moot.


Song of the Moment: Kings of Leon, "Four Kicks"

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Workin' For A Living"

So, I've gone from unemployed to having two jobs, all since Friday. Crazy, huh?

I've decided to take the tutoring job in Vienna, 'cause it pays so damn well. Even if I only get, say, five hours a week, that's still another $140 a week, before I take out taxes (which, since it's self-employment, are done differently, but dad said he can help me figure that part out). An extra $560 a month? Yes, please.

I've also decided to take the job Huntington offered me this afternoon at the end of my interview there (which I was, again, in total control of...I swear, if I can just get an interview at a school for a teaching position, I'm totally in). The pay isn't as good--at best, $15 an hour, after I take a bit of training (paid training, though, which starts tomorrow)--but it's only right around the corner, and they said I can get at least 20 hours per week, easy. Between the two, my rent needs ought to be met, and the Huntington job has direct deposit (even to my poor Arvest account, God bless it).

So yeah, things are looking up on the employment front. The lady from the place in Vienna even found me another half dozen teaching jobs to apply to (and this was after I told her that I'd probably quit if I got a full-time teaching position...weird). All is good.

Well, if you don't count the air conditioning. The further adventures of our beleaguered climate control system go something like this: the condensation drain is full to overflowing, basically. That's all there is to it. I found this out today when I stuck the hose to a wet/dry vac down in the opening and siphoned out an entire shopvac's worth of water. And there's still more down there. Originally we weren't going to be able to get anyone out here until Wednesday morning at the earliest (and this was after I spent all morning contacting AC people about coming out to fix us up), but Wendy finally managed to get ahold of our landlord and he has some folks coming out tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, I feel safe enough (after sucking that water out of there with the shopvac) to run the AC a bit this afternoon to cool it down. I've actually put the cats outside for the time being because it is cooler out there than in here. I'll have to let them back in before I go to my workshop training thing in Vienna tonight, but for the time being, they're lounging on the balcony, drowsy and content.

Anyway, I'm gonna go shower...again. I mean, I've just been sitting in the apartment for awhile. I shouldn't be sweaty from that, but I am.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue"

Sunday, August 14, 2005

"Last Night I Live More Than 1,000 Lives/ Not One Of Them Survived"

So it's getting to the "sweltering" point in the apartment. I'm going to have to relocate the cats to their room and shut the door so I can open up the door to the hallway and let some cool air in. It'll probably be tomorrow at the earliest before they'll even send anyone out to look at the AC.

I'm also having some more doubts about the tutoring job in Vienna. I talked with dad, and the whole self-employed thing sounds iffy to him. Not to mention the fact that I'll be paying taxes out the ass. Apparently when you are someone's employee, they pay for half of your medicare/Social Security stuff, and you pay the other half (it's like 7.5%). So I'd be paying the full amount (like 15%) myself every year. So a $1000 paycheck would actually only be an $850 paycheck, I guess. Oh well--I'll decide after tomorrow's interview with Huntington. Besides, there are still plenty of tutoring jobs I haven't heard back from yet.

Found a wonderful new website today for guitar tabs. It's called Chordie, and the nice thing about it is that you can have it automatically change the key for you. So, say a song is in the key of A, for instance, but it contains chords you can't play. Well, you click a button, and it can change it to, say, G, where you probably do know all the chords. It's great. They also have a helluva nice selection, including a couple of songs I've been wanting to learn recently anyway. So yeah, nifty resource, really.

Well, back to fighting the heat. It's supposed to cool down tonight or early tomorrow, but I'll believe it when I see it.


Song of the Moment: The Wallflowers, "Nearly Beloved"

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"The Air Burns"

So we're without AC again. The folks below us came up earlier and said there was some sort of leak coming from one of their air conditioning vents, most likely as a result of something going wrong with our AC. So we've turned it off and called the folks who ought to be able to do something about it, though God knows when. All this on the eve of Wendy and Tim's trip to Oklahoma. Well, at least they'll be well out of it, and only I really have to deal with the annoyance of the lack of climate control.

I figured this was going to happen sooner or later. The guy who "fixed" our air conditioning on Monday really only did a temporary patch job, as it were, by rerouting a wire that was causing the AC not to work. I think it was probably some sort of safety cutoff switch to prevent things like leaks. Now we have to deal with the repurcussions of his lazy fix. Joy.

I've all but decided to take the tutoring job in Vienna. Twenty-eight bucks an hour is just too good to pass up. If I get that and a few hours at Huntington, I ought to be doing fairly well. Besides, I can always just quit if I get a full-time teaching job and decide I don't want to tutor.


Song of the Moment: CCR, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"

Friday, August 12, 2005

"I Had A Job In The Great North Woods"

Just got back from my first interview. I spent 45 minutes totally owning the thing, really. I was in complete control of that interview from the moment it started, and I have a job now if I want it.

I'm going to think about it over the weekend and let the people know Monday after my interview with Huntington. I have a couple of reservations about this particular job, most of them related to the uncertainty of hours and the fact that I have to travel to the individual students' homes to tutor them instead of a central location. On the positive side, the pay would be $28 an hour, and the people seem to be rather friendly. I'd techinically be self-employed, as this place is a placement center rather than a tutoring center, really (it's a placement service for tutors, I guess).

But I've got until Monday to decide, really, so I'll see how the interview with Huntington goes and decide from there. I mean, I don't have to take the first job offered to me.

Yesterday in Fredericksburg was fun. Got to see Cris, whom I haven't seen in ages (though, as she commented, despite having only really met me once, we really do know each other quite well in many regards). Also got to see Meg and Bob (Wendy's old housemates from her days in the F-burg) for a bit and Michelle again. Wen, Cris, and I went to Bangkok, this excellent little Thai restaraunt in Old Town Fredericksburg, for dinner, which was excellent. I also found a nice bottle of local wine in one of the stores to send home to the folks via Wendy. After dinner, Michelle and I basically sat around and chatted for a few hours while Wen and Cris got all girly and went shopping.

So all in all, it's been a productive and fun few days. By this time next week, I ought to be at employed at least part-time somewhere, which is always good.


Song of the Moment: Nickel Creek, "Tomorrow is a Long Time"

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Saints Don't Bother With The Tear-Stained Eye"

So, got a call from Huntington this morning, and I have an interview with them on Monday at noon. That means I have two interviews now, both with tutoring companies. It's not quite what I was hoping for (teaching, dammit, teaching!), but it'll be money. And I can still keep the tutoring job (assuming, of course, either of them wants to hire me...and I don't see why they wouldn't) if I get a teaching job, since the tutoring would be an after school thing.

Wen and I are going down to Fredricksburg this afternoon, hopefully. She's been kinda sick since yesteday, but Tim says she thinks she'll be well enough to go (she's still abed, trying to rest and save strength and all that). Looks like I'll probably be driving, just to be safe, but we'll be going nonetheless.

Well, hopefully I'll hear from some schools in the next few days, too. It'd be good to have a full-time job in the next few weeks to look forward to.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "All I Really Want To Do"

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"You Get What You Give"

Yesterday was all sorts productive. Wen, Tim, and I went to Wendy's classroom for more painting and moving excitement. Her room's almost ready for school, we think. We also had Panera for lunch, and that place kicks ass. Good food, good times.

I also got two (2) calls yesterday morning from potential employers. One was a tutoring place over in Vienna, the next town over, and the other was the Huntington Learning Center just around the corner from our apartment (like less than five minutes' drive from here. That's damn-near right next door in this town). I went to Huntington yesterday afternoon and filled out an application, and supposedly the woman who does the hiring and interviewing was going to call me today to set up an interview if they liked my stuff (and how could they not, given my background?). I have an interview with the place in Vienna Friday morning, which means I can't sleep until noon again.

Other than that, things have been going about the same around here. Tim's had at least one job offer, so the chances of everyone in the apartment being gainfully employed by the end of the week are actually quite good...which is nice, since Wen and Tim leave for Oklahoma Sunday afternoon. It'd be good for him to have a job to come home to, and it'd be good if I had some sort of work while they were away.

Tomorrow, Wen and I are going down to Fredricksburg for the day to visit a couple of friends. I think I've heard something about "shopping," which is a dangerous word to my masculinity, but it's suffered through worse.


Song of the Moment: New Radicals, "Crying Like a Church on Monday"

Monday, August 08, 2005

"Cool Blue Reason"

I've been all sorts productive today. First off, I finally went ahead and shaved my face clean. No more chin fuzz...for the moment, anyway. My chin looks sorta funny without it now. Guess you get used to something after two years.

I've also applied to several more jobs, including some teaching jobs in Prince William County (the next county over) and a bunch of tutoring jobs all over the place. Since these tutoring jobs pay something like $25-50 an hour (depending on the job and your experience), I'd be sitting pretty if I worked even five a day five days a week. The fact that I'd most likely couple such a job with substitute teaching only makes it even better.

We finally got the air conditioning working this afternoon. Some guy came out and fiddled with something and bypassed something else, and we've got sweet, sweet climate control once more. Which is good, since it was really too hot last night to tolerate easily, and I wasn't looking forward to yet another night of being too damn hot.

Still waiting to hear back from all the places I've already applied to. Hopefully I'll hear something in the next few days. This sitting around with nothing to do is great and all, but money would be nice, too.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Muzzle of Bees"

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"One Day In A Nuclear Age"

This article from the L.A. Times about the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima is interesting. I remember reading a book about the Enola Gay exhibit controversy for my Historiography class at Ozarks a few years ago, and it's amazing how much folks fight over whether or not to allow certain interpretations of information, especially if the information is being restricted because it's not patriotic or approved by the powers that be (yeah, I know the Enola Gay stuff was going on under Clinton. I didn't say I particularly liked Clinton, did I? No. But at least he spent all his stupidity in personal relationship crap, not getting the country dragged into wars).

I did find it interesting that folks objected to portraying the Japanese as victims. I thought that's what civilians who were obliterated without warning were, though maybe that's just my naivite coming through again.


Song of the Moment: Son Volt, "Tear-Stained Eye"

Friday, August 05, 2005

"The Rain's Been Comin' Down"

So it's currently pouring down rain in beautiful Fairfax, VA. We (Wen, Tim, and I) walked to Wegman's (the alpha and omega of grocery stores, which I've mentioned before) to grab a few necessary items (milk, cereal, ice cream) and got back to the apartment only a few minutes before the sky opened up.

Spent the day helping Wendy with stuff in her classroom--painting, moving things, stuff of that nature. Her classroom is really shaping up, and should be in fine form by the time school starts. She had an old amp that some student of hers had given her last year, and she gave it to me (saying "I don't have any use for it, I don't even know if it works"). So I now have an amp, which works just fine and has all the cables and everything. It looks like it might even be possible to have the guitar and a microphone plugged in at the same time, which would be great--I could be a little one-man band, do coffeehouse shows, whatever.

Anyway, Michelle and Cris are coming over tomorrow to hang out and such. I have to get up at a decent time tomorrow to clean before they arrive, then we just jive and rock and whatnot for as long as we damn-well please. I'm really looking forward to it.

Still no solid word on the job front, which is starting to frustrate me. Wen sent me a link to Prince William County Schools (the county right next to us away from DC, which is always a plus), and they've got something like 5 social studies positions open, but the link to their online application doesn't work. I think I'm going to just call them on Monday, maybe go down there in person and submit my stuff.

Well, I'm off. I want to turn off the computer so it doesn't get zapped if the power goes out (apparently that happens a lot in this area).


Song of the Moment: Sting, "They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)"

"Just Some Good Ol' Boys"

I must admit, I find Rolling Stone amusing. First, they give the movie The Dukes of Hazzard no stars in their movie review, but if you look up at the top of the site, you'll see an ad promoting The Dukes of Hazzard movie. The irony is so thick it's palpable here, folks.

Also, because Adam keeps requesting it:

Image hosted by


Song of the Moment: Robert Randolph and the Family Band, "Ted's Jam (Live)"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"When I Was Younger, So Much Younger Than Today"

First off, happy birthday to my dad, who's turned a whoppin' 52 today. I need to call here in a couple of hours and wish him well. He already got his present from me--the Doobie Brothers album Toulouse Street--but he still needs a birthday call.

Oh, and anyone who wants to get me these, I'll love you forever and have your babies. Honest. I'll find a way to alter my genetic structure to allow me to have kids. I'm not sure where they'll come out, mind you, but I'm sure I'll think of something.


Song of the Moment: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Red Right Hand"

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie"

Today's the first day I've had the apartment completely to myself. Wendy had a test this afternoon and then had to go babysit the twins overnight, and Tim has been at work (his old job asked him to come back for a couple of days to do some consulting work), and I've spent the day listening to Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam and reading the last third of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I rather liked the book, though the series just gets darker with each passing novel. I realize this is done on purpose, but it's kinda strange to see little teenage wizard angst nonetheless. I'm curious to see how she'll end the series, though (like many people) I suspect the titular character may not survive the final installment (I'd also like to see a bit of redemption for a certain character. I mean, if Dumbeldore had so much faith in the guy, there had to be a reason. Dumbeldore's no fool, after all).

Of course, in related news, I was rather amused at Terry Pratchett's taking J.K. Rowling to task for not realizing Harry Potter is fantasy. He also has a good point about the fact that fantasy is not just pseudo-medieval knights in shining armor slaying dragons to save princesses, etc., etc. I doubt it's ever really been that, to be honest. And Pratchett's work definitely subverts the genre and has for years--what else can you say about the Vimes novels, which are clearly detective novels set in a fantastical world? Granted, the only real requirement that I think fantasy stories need have is some element of the fantastical (thus, if someone wrote an alternate history of America wherein Bush was competent, that would be fantasy). The Harry Potter books are rife with elements of the fantastical, even if they're there only to make the telling of the story easier. Fantasy writers have used their settings and tropes for years to tell stories that, if we told them in present-day, reality-based settings, probably wouldn't be read because they were too boring. But throw in a bit of magic, and suddenly a story about coming of age and accepting responsibility and learning about one's place in society (which is, ultimately, what the Harry Potter books are about) is much more interesting, and yet the readers can still identify with the characters.

But yeah, I'm curious about how the final book will go, I admit. Even if the angsty emo index has been cranked up a few notches, the novels are still interesting, and most of the characters are compelling enough that you actually care for them. That's a rarity in fiction regardless of the genre.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"Just Shake Your Hips"

Today was a busy day for one in which I got nothing really accomplished. We all woke up late this morning and decided to go swimming (there's a pool in the complex). It wasn't too crowded yet, thankfully, so we had plenty of space to goof around and relax in. After the pool, we made a trip to Target (where I purchased some much-needed rechargable batteries for both the wireless mouse and the digital camera) and Best Buy (where I picked up the Robert Randolph album Live at Wetlands, even though I really don't have all that much money to just spend). We then proceeded to a Thai restaurant to celebrate Tim's birthday. I had some excellent curry (though Wen didn't care much for her salad--the chicken was apparently too spicy for her, and I will admit it was pretty spicy), and a splendid time was generally had by all. We returned to the apartment for some relaxation, and this evening went to the Sprint Store (so Wen and Tim could get new phones) and to the mall to get some Coldstone ice cream (I had this thing called a Mud Pie Mojo...dear God, it was like ice cream nirvana). The rest of the evening was spent sitting around relaxing, rubbing full and content bellies, and generally doing a whole lot of nothing (well, I did get tomorrow's comic drawn).

Of interest, though, was something I did to truly personalize my cellphone. See, it has these little inserts you can put in it to create backgrounds for the body of the phone. It comes with three or four pre-made ones and a handful of blank white inserts that you can draw or write on as you please. I took one of the blank inserts and did a drawing of the main cast of Crooked Halo. I'm rather pleased with the way it turned out, and it looks neat in the phone. I may try to take pictures of it to post later if anyone's interested.

Of final note is that Michelle and Cris are coming to visit this weekend. They're two girls I met here in Virginia through Wendy the first time I came to visit (way back in spring of 2000), and we've kept in touch on and off since then. It'll be neat to see them after five years, and nice to know there are even more people around here I already know. We're gonna watch some Ren & Stimpy, because we all agree that Ren & Stimpy is comedic genius...though speaking of comedic genius, Wen told me Tim has never seen anything done by Monty Python. This disturbed me greatly, and I plan to remedy that tomorrow night by showing him Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I mean, the guy must've led an even more sheltered life than I did if he doesn't know about Monty Python. It's not like he's lived under a rock or something, after all. Hell, I was in Oklahoma, and I knew about Monty Python.


Song of the Moment: Robert Randolph, "Shake Your Hips (Live)"

Monday, August 01, 2005

"August And Everything After"

Had a busy, busy weekend. Friday was spent applying for another half dozen teaching jobs (I've only heard back from one so far, and they said the position has already been filled. Ah well--it was a middle school job anyway). I'm hoping to have some interviews this week, and maybe--God willing--a job sometime the week or so after that.

Saturday was spent babysitting with Wendy. She babysits for a pair of twins for whom she was a nanny (back before she got her teaching job), and she asked me to come along Saturday to meet the kids and their parents and to possibly set me up as a substitute for her when she can't babysit. Made almost $100 for my troubles, which is damn good money when you consider all I did was play with little kids and keep them from getting into too much trouble. After that, we went to Alexandria to have dinner (at a little place called Bread and Chocolate. They do chocolate fondu there...damn, is that stuff good) and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (somehow oddly appropriate). The movie was good. Very Tim Burton in terms of style. Some of it was a little forced and off, and some of it was there just because it looked neat (even if it didn't quite fit), but overall a worthwhile flick.

Sunday, we went to church over in Alexandria. Wendy sings in the choir there, so Tim and I sat out in the pews while she practiced and then sat through the service, which was a little strange (mostly because the pastor was out of town, so members of the congregation got up between songs and told quick little life stories. It was fairly interesting). I rather liked the church (which is Methodist, which is sorta the split between my usual Presbyterian and the Baptists, I guess); it was probably the first place where I felt more comfortable around here. It was a very small church, probably about the size of my church back in Shawnee (and same general makeup of the congregation, too--mostly old people who've been there for decades). Folks actually smiled and were friendly and said hello even though they didn't know me. It was comforting, really, after a week that's sorta tested my abilities to cope with a bigger city.

The rest of Sunday was given over to laundry and napping (the weekend featured two very early mornings, so I think I can be forgiven for that). We had Boston Market for dinner, which was rather tasty (but who the hell puts coleslaw on a barbeque sandwich? I mean, as a side, sure, I can understand that, but on the actual sandwich? It makes no sense). The evening was spent doing more job hunting (found another dozen or so places to apply to), drawing today's comic, and general relaxing.

The only thing to do now is wait for schools to contact me. Hopefully I'll hear some good news in the next few days.


Song of the Moment: Sting, "Inside"