Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Darren Danger's computer has a bad video card and has been sent off by Best Buy to who knows where so it can be repaired.  Please stay tuned.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Season 2010

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that your New Years will be even better!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Columbian Building

With an address of 112-114 W 6th St., the Columbian Building is a fine Victorian-era office building in downtown Topeka.  Designed by Seymour Davis in the Romanesque-Prairie architectural style, it was built in 1888 and opened in 1889 as the United States Savings Bank.  Projected to cost $50,000 to build, the final total ended up closer to $75,000.  It's original name was the William C. Knox Building.  Mr. Knox was the founder of the U.S. Savings Bank.  Unfortunately, the bank closed in less than five years during a depression in the early 1890's. 

Since then, many owners and tenants have come and gone.  From 1902-1907 the U.S. Weather Bureau had it's offices on the top floor.   One of the most colorful moments in the building's history occurred in 1901.  At that time the Anti-Saloon League, the leading Prohibition organization in the United States, had an office in the building.  Carrie Nation, Anti-Saloon League member and famous for taking her hatchet and vandalizing bars in the name of temperance, attempted to visit her attorney in the Columbian building.  An angry mob followed her there.  They eventually forced their way into the building and began searching for her.  She was led down a back way into a basement boiler room, and eventually out the back door to safety and freedom.

The building wasn't called the Columbian Building until 1920.  The former Columbian Bank in Topeka was started in this building before relocating to 8th and Kansas.  A fire in 1937 did major damage to the top two floors.  Renovations in the late 1970's and early 2000's have kept the building looking nice.  It has been on the National Historic Register since 1977.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lyrics for Sale

Bob Dylan's original hand-written lyrics to "The Times They Are A-Changing" sold at an auction in New York on Friday for $422,500.  The sheet of lyrics, pictured above, were projected to sell for $200,00 to $300,000. 

It is thought that Dylan wrote these lyrics in September and October, 1963.  It was recorded at Columbia studios on October 24, 1963.  He was deliberately trying to write an anthem, a "big song" as he put it.  I would say "The Times They Are A-Changing" pretty much defines the term "protest song."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Not To Repair A Lawnmower

One wonder of the internet is the ability to read local newspapers from practically any town of any size anywhere in the U.S. (or world, for that matter).  If you browse through a lot of them, or do specific kinds of internet searches, you can find a lot of interesting articles about some really kooky people doing some really silly things. 

After reading enough of these you can really tell that for every few thousand normal people, there is one person who does things that are particularly unpredictable, strange, or just plain stupid.  I love reading about people who attempt not so well planned crimes, or, as in the case with this first story, have accidents as a result of poorly thought out schemes.

I look for headlines like this one from the St. Louis Today webpage about a story that took place in St. Joseph, Mo:

Missouri Home Damaged by Lawnmower Fire in Bedroom

It turns out a man was "smoking a cigarette while working on  his lawnmower Monday in the bedroom of his home."  Presumably his ciggie ignited some fuel.  The house was a total loss, and he had to go to the hospital with injuries.  They say he's going to live, so I'm going to bookmark this website to watch for his next mention.  A woman in the home was not injured.  I wonder if she knew he was working on his lawnmower in the bedroom?  Did she barely notice because he fixed the transmission of his Taurus in there last month?  Maybe she is the one who suggested he do it there in the first place. 

Not surprisingly, many of the people doing crazy things are intoxicated.  There are plenty of people who, once they booze it up, completely lose control of common sense.  Take this headline, from the Morning Call webpage, which covers news in the Philadelphia area:

Intoxicated Man Fights With Police at Perkasie Tree-Lighting Ceremony

You know, it's like clockwork.  Every year at this time I start thinking about the Christmases of my life, I get a little misty-eyed, a little emotional.  That's when I slam about 10 beers and make a beeline for the local downtown tree-lighting ceremony and start picking fights with cops.  In this particular case a drunk 66 year-old man lost track of his son at the tree-lighting festivities, then fought with the officers who were helping look for him.  Nothing says "please  help me" like a staggering drunk throwing a right cross at you.

The police reports articles in the local papers are always a treasure trove of people doing strange things.  Some really small towns print just about anything as news, just to fill some space.  Just casually browsing the web sitting here I came up with these news stories:

La Grange, IL- A woman saw two boys carrying several cartons of eggs toward Ogden Avenue School. She asked them what they were planning to do with all those eggs. They informed her they planned to bake a cake.

Gurnee, IL-  A Wildwood woman, 32, was charged with retail theft at Wal-Mart, 6590 Route 132, accused of stealing $44 worth of tampons and screwdrivers.

New Haven, CT- Police say a 25 year old man was shot twice after buying a sandwich at a deli, then went home and ate his lunch before going to the hospital. 
Vancouver, Canada- An intoxicated 22-year-old suspect was not seriously injured when he suffered stab wounds to his abdomen after falling on the blade of his own butcher knife during what appeared to be a robbery around 2 a.m.

South Bend, IN-  WSBT Chief Meteorologist Rick Mecklenburg was booked on two misdemeanor preliminary charges of false reporting. Police say Mecklenburg called them to his home, saying police hit his car and were firing shots at him. Police say there was no evidence either of those were true.

New Sharon, ME- Bob Neal, a turkey farmer, said he was shocked to find out that a state health inspector had written an employee up for not wearing a hair net, especially because the man had no hair. "Here it was, two demerits for a bald man not wearing a hair restraint," he said."

I could go on forever writing out funny news stories like this.  But I'm sleepy, so I'm going to stop now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

30 Years Gone

Thirty years ago, December 8, 1980, John Lennon was killed. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Come On, Get Happy

"I Think I Love You" single sleeve

Forty years ago today, November 21 1970, the Partridge Family started a three-week run at number one on the Billboard charts with "I Think I Love You".  This was about two years before I started buying my own records, so I never owned this one, but I definitely remember hearing it on the radio.   

The Partridge Family started life as a television series on ABC.  On the show, widow Shirley Partridge and her children were a musical group.  The stories revolved around their adventures and experiences with being on the road in their Mondrian-inspired bus and recording albums, mixed in with the regular home life of school, friends, and growing up.  Mrs. Partridge tried to have them be normal kids as much as possible.  The show ran from September 25, 1970 to August 31, 1974.  I don't think we really watched it much at my house on it's initial run, but I saw in many times through the seventies on reruns.  I remember how even as kids it was obvious to us they weren't really playing the music during the concert scenes.

I wish these fashions would come back 

The Partridge Family was partly based upon a real-life musical group, the Cowsills.  The Cowsills were a family affair, with young brothers playing most of the instruments, sister and mom helping out on the singing, and another brother the manager.  On the Partridge Family there was the mother, played by singer/actress Shirley Jones, her high school-aged son Keith, slightly younger daughter Laurie, younger son Danny, and two much smaller kids, Chris and Tracy.   

Keith was played by actor David Cassidy, who was in real life the stepson of Shirley Jones.  Although hired for the part of Keith mostly because he had the right look, it turned out he was actually a good singer.  They ended up using Cassidy's vocals on all the music that represented what the Partridge Family was supposedly singing during the tv episodes.  ABC hired professional songwrites and musicians to create the music, and Shirley Jones and David Cassidy would provide most of the vocals.  A total of 10 Partridge Family albums were released, and David Cassidy had a solo recording career as well.

David Cassidy performs in front of 40,000 women that want him- now

Cassidy became a big singing star, and spent a few years drawing tremendous crowds to his concerts.  In 1972 he sold out the Houston Astrodome two days in a row at 56,000 seats each show.  He would easily sell out shows at Madison Square Garden and Wembly Arena. Riots and hysteria were common, and in 1974 a girl was crushed to death at one of his concerts in London.  As the seventies wore on, he fell out of favor and eventually moved on to doing more theatrical work.  He still releases the occasional album, most recently in 2007.

So anyway, forty years ago right now, the whole country was eating up "I Think I Love You".  It was written by songwriter Tony Romeo, who wrote a number of lesser hits in the 1960's and 1970's, as well as a lot of music for television. 
"I Think I Love You" and the Bell label

All the Partridge Family albums and singles were released on the Bell Records label.  Bell Records was named after singer and songwriter Benny Bell.  Bell was born in New York city in 1906, son of a Jewish immigrant family.  Drawn to vaudeville as a child, he wrote hundreds of songs in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.  Many of them were so-called "blue" songs, risque tunes to be played on jukeboxes in bars.  His biggest hit came in 1946 with one of these types of songs, innocently named "Shaving Cream".  The lyrics in this song lead you to believe the singer is about to say a naughty word.  Imagine the blushes amongst the ladies when some devious scoundrel put his nickel in the jukebox and this song fills the bar:

"I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of ...shhhhh . . . aving cream,
be nice and clean. . . .
Shave ev'ry day and you'll always look keen."

Benny Bell started up the Bell label to distribute novelty records by himself and others.  He sold the label in 1952, and by the mid-1960's the new owners of Bell records began to offer recordings by contemporary artists.  They distributed the Partridge Family recordings starting in 1970.
Sound Machine, #9 album in 1971

The early Partridge Family albums were all quite popular.  The first three made it to #4, #3, and #9 on the Billboard charts.  Their 1971 "A Partridge Family Christmas Card" album was the top selling Christmas album that year. 
The Partridge Family tv show never was a ratings powerhouse, and it only lasted three seasons.  That was just long enough to have enough episodes that it ended up in regular daytime tv rotation for years.  That is when I became familiar with it.  We never owned any of the Partridge records.  Bell records had it's final number one song in 1975- Barry Manilow's "Mandy".  Shortly after that Bell records was absorbed into the Arista label and the name was retired.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween Show

On Saturday October 30th my band (still unnamed, we have yet to settle on anything) played at a Halloween costume party.  I had a great time and it was a lot of fun.  The party was at a house near Auburn, surrounded by big trees, a creek, and farmland.  We played inside a garage, with the partygoers just outside with a big overhead tent awning providing cover.  It was fairly chilly, only about 50 degrees. Everyone in the band was in costume, as was just about everybody watching us.  That provided for an almost guaranteed good night, and the audience danced and gave us a great response after every song.  Someone set up a fog machine and I kept activating it as we played, turning the garage into London. 

I got a good audio recording of the show, but the videocamera only captured the first 25 minutes and then the hard drive was full.  Very amateurish preparation on my part.  I told Lyndy she didn't have to spend the whole show shooting photos, she could just watch this time, so she only shot 16 pictures.  I am posting a few of the better ones here.

We played 25 songs, including Monster Mash in honor of the Halloween party occasion.  We had rehearsed that song during the two weeks leading up to the show.  The crowd chanted for two encores.  We were beginning to run out of songs we have rehearsed recently.    Click on these photos to enlarge.

The view from the entrance to the garage.  Fog in foreground.

Some of these are pretty dark.  This is closer to the actual lighting.

Josh and Jordan

Darren and Jarod

Ghoul Rock

Friday, October 15, 2010

Top Tours of 2010

There is a company out there called Pollstar, and they track information that has to do with touring artists, concert schedules, concert revenue, that sort of thing.  They are a member of the Associated Press, and are usually the source for news items concerning concert information.  Periodically they release data that tracks the ticket sales for the top 100 concert tours, and I happen to have a copy of their latest list.  The list covers all touring entertainment performance acts worldwide, so it tracks everything from rock and country concert tours to the ice capades. 

I will now go over the top 10 on the list, offer some compelling commentary about each, and mention a few others that made the top 100.  Keep in mind a couple of things:  the list covers ticket sales from January 1st, 2010 through September 30, 2010.  Therefore, if your favorite group did not make the cut, or some of the top 10 seem impossible, don't freak out.  It could just mean that during this nine month period your favorite band wasn't on tour for as many dates as other bands were. The list is based on a count of total tickets sold, not ticket dollars. 

10.  The first artist on the list, coming in with a total of 747,905 tickets sold, is Lady Gaga.  I have not yet made up my mind about her.  People who's opinion I value have tried to convince me she is a great talent.  My own opinion on her is still being formed.  When I hear her she sounds to me just like any other diva singer like Whitney Houston, Beyonce, or Mariah Carey.  To me her songs are catchy, but in kind of an annoying way.  Like a stupid song that you can't get out of your head.

Lady GaGa

I have read about her a fair amount and from what I gather she is a serious artist, obviously a bit self-absorbed, but apparently also rather generous and perhaps a bit less snobbish than a lot of the diva singers.  But I always cast a wary eye toward any artist who's primary notoriety is built around constantly trying to shock people.  Are you listening, Marilyn Manson?

9.  Next on our top 10 list, at number 9 with 774,613 tickets sold, is World Wrestling Entertainment.  The WWE.  Operated by pro wrestling top dog Vince McMahon, the WWE is a huge conglomo of touring and televised pro wrestling, as well as interests in music, film, video sales, product licensing, etc.  It has been around since 1952 when it was known as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation.  Did you know the WWE is a publicly traded corporation?  That's right, you can own stock in a pro rasslin' company.

WWE Logo

Not to demean those who are into wrestling, but I can't stand to watch it for even five minutes.  I never have been able to get into it.  I don't find anything about it compelling, not even for laughs.  I remember in the late 1980's it was really popular.  There were several competing leagues, and it was on tv all the time.  I never watched it.  None of those 774,613 tickets sold were mine.

8.  Country singer Brad Paisley is next, selling 789,887 tickets.  I've heard of Brad Paisley, but I am not into country music, so I  have never heard any of his songs.  His bio says he had 10 consecutive songs reach number 1 on the country charts, an impressive feat.  It also says he has a lot of humor in his songs.  With that many hits and what sounds like an approachable personality, no wonder he's sold so many tickets.

Brad Paisley

He was born in 1972 in West Virginia, and was something of a kid wonder, making a living as a musician by the time he was in junior high school.  But who cares?  It's country music. 

7.  With a total of 856,568 tickets told, number 7 on the list is Michael Buble'.  He is like a modern day Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin type.  I happen to be a huge fan of both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and their whole genre of music. I have quite a lot of music from both on my iPod, as well as Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby, and Tony Bennett, and others.  I suppose I should listen to Michael Buble' more than I have.  I had one of his cds from the library once, and he is pretty good.  But when I'm in the mood for some good old 1950's ring-a-ding-ding music, I tend to pull out the classic artists. 

Michael Buble'

Buble' is keeping alive the "singer out in front of a big band thing", and I approve.  He is Canadian, and like all those Frostbacks, he's a big hockey fan.  In his touring rider he has a requirement that in his dressing room the local concert promotors are to provide a logo hockey puck of whatever hockey team resides in that town.  If he's sold nearly 900,000 tickets, that's a lot of cities, so he must have a lot of  hockey pucks.  Don Rickles must love him.

6.  We are inching ever closer to the top.  At number 6, selling 878,939 tickets is another of them "kountry sangers"- Tim McGraw.  His name makes me think of some sort of Irish cowboy- Quick Draw Tim McGraw or something.  Like Brad Paisley, I've heard of this dude too.  I just haven't ever heard one of his songs.  Like all country artists, I'm sure he sings about his dog, his heartache, his former hobo lifestyle, pickin' and grinnin', and that sort of thing, right? 

Tim McGraw

Mcgraw is a little older than Paisley, he's 43.  He also seems to have an aversion to buttoning his shirts.  Almost every photo I found of him he is posing as in the picture above, like some sort of throwback to an old Burt Reynolds photo.  He's trying too hard to look cool, which makes me suspicious of his music.  I will try to not be too snarky, 878,939 drunk country fans will kick my ass.

5.   We have made it to the TOP FIVE!  Landing in that legendary spot on our countdown with 942,277 tickets sold are the Black Eyed Peas.  These hip hop heavyweights have been popular since 2003 when they released their breakthrough album Elephunk.  We have that and one or two others of their cds here at home, though I don't have any on my iPod.  Sadly for the Black Eyed Peas, anybody that is not on my iPod I am not listening to.  That's just the way I roll. 

Black Eyed Peas

My first exposure to the Black Eyed Peas was in 2004, when Lyndy, Evan and I went to Colorado on vacation.  We spent a week at a cabin on a mountain lake near Durango.  There was a small television in the room, but in our remote location, without cable, it only pulled in a few stations.  Luckily, two of them nightly carried the NHL Stanley Cup and the NBA basketball finals, so I was able to get my daily sports fill.  During the NBA games, every time they went to a commercial they played "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas.  Later I learned that the song was originally "Let's Get Retarded", and they re-recorded the lyrics to make it a little less offensive.  I should hope so.

4.  I feel like Casey Kasem as I move on to number 4.  A total of 1,070,024 misguided souls bought tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band.  I know, I know, he's incredibly popular.  To me, though, he's incredibly unlikeable.  I find his singing to be whiny, his music doesn't touch my soul in any way, though it does give me a touch of nausea.  He is the musical equivalent of a chick flick. 

Dave Matthews

Dave was actually born in South Africa, but to our chagrin his parents moved to the U.S. when he was two.  He hit his musical stride in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the campus of the University of Virginia.  I have walked around in that city and on that campus, and it is a really cool place.  I'm trying not to hold his connection to Charlottesville against it. 

3. The tension is building as we near the top spot. At number 3 on the countdown is something called "Walking With Dinosaurs". What? Hey, don't laugh, those dinosaurs sold 1,115,098 tickets.  Those of you who stick to the science channels on tv, like I usually do, are already familiar with the Walking With Dinosaurs tv series that ran on the Discovery Channel in the early 2000's.  Well, "Walking With Dinosaurs- The Arena Spectacular" (that's it's full name) is a touring collection of animatronic and costumed dinosaurs, accompanied by music, lights, and narration by a paleontologist.   

Walking With Dinosaurs- The Arena Spectacular

The dinosaur arena spectacular show started in Australia, has been touring the U.S. since 2007, and is headed to Europe next.  This is a tour we should all get behind.  If they sell enough tickets they promise to let the dinosaurs eat Dave Matthews.

2.  The Count from Sesame Street was supposed to be here to present number 2 on the list.  He promised me, and his agent promised me, so where is he?  I guess I'll have to do it.  With a shocking 1,368,734 tickets sold, may I present the overrated and underwhelming Bon Jovi.  It's shocking because if you bought one of those tickets, you need shock treatment.  I just don't get it how anybody can listen to this guy.  I can write a concise review of him in just two words- He sucks.  Every time I see him he looks so fake and it causes me to make a fist. Every time I hear his music I drop immediately onto the floor into a fetal position and cry out for Dr. Kavorkian.

Jon Bon Jovi

Reluctantly researching him a little, I noticed his 2007 tour was called the "Lost  Highway" tour.  Dude, he lost the highway from the moment he first started up his car.  His album from 1986, when I first heard of him, was called "Slippery When Wet".  Ewww.  He's owner of an Indoor League football team and hangs around with Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots.  Yeah, well they suck, too. 

1.  Cue the lights, we have reached number 1 on our list.  With a whopping 1,820,962 tickets sold, it's the headbangingest band of them all, AC/DC.  Yes that's right, the darlings of 1980 are still selling out arenas and stadiums big time 30 years later.  It's kind of hard to believe in a way, you'd think a more current artist would be the biggest draw.  But the comfort of 5 rocking Australians playing the same song over and over is a powerful attraction and guaranteed good time for millions of people in their forties and fifties who go to one concert a year.  This band can tour just about any country in the world and draw a big crowd.


In 1980 everyone (including me) bought their Back in Black album.  It is undeniably a great hard rock album, with nearly every song being played on the radio to this day.  Unfortunately AC/DC have used that same cookie cutter too many times for me, and I haven't stayed with them over the years.  I am glad they continue to have success, I'm just not really along for the ride. Obviously Angus Young will go down as one of the greatest of the hard rock guitarists, and I've always been a big fan of Brian Johnson, the lead vocalist.  I never saw AC/DC live, and probably I should have, but I doubt I ever will.   So take a shot of whiskey to honor AC/DC, champs of the ticket sales for 2010 (to date).  They have such a big lead they can probably take the rest of the year off to count their money and still win.  Rock on!

So there you have it, the top 10 ticket selling touring live acts during the first 9 months of 2010.  Now get out there and Support Live Music.

Here are a few of the more interesting (to me) acts rounding out the top 100:

15.  James Taylor/Carole King  Singer-Songwriter extrordinaires
17.  John Mayer *Barf*
23.  The Eagles  Hell is still frozen over
26.  Paul McCartney  The workaholic of the music world
33.  Rush  The only act of the top 100 I saw this year
44.  Eric Clapton  The vintage acts never go out of style
48.  Rod Stewart  See #44
53.  Star Wars: In Concert  Grab your lightsaber
61.  Foreigner/Styx  Classic rock combo tour
65.  Cliff Richard and the Shadows  Going waaay back
69.  Tom Petty  Perhaps the coolest rocker in the world
75.  Cher  Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves
86.  Elton John  King of the Seventies
93.  The Cranberries  They are still together?
100. Bryan Adams  Summer of '69 all over again

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Concert at Tom's

Last night my band played a show at the birthday party of my friend of the past 30 years, Tom.  We took the musical gear over to his house in the early afternoon and set it up in his basement.  Returning in the evening we hung out with the party guests for a while, then the band and everyone else gathered in the basement for the big show.  I thought we played well, and we got a good reaction from everybody.  Lyndy shot a bunch of photos, and I present a collection of them here.  Click on them to enlarge.

The view from front row center

Darren and Jordan expressing themselves

Jarod don't need no stinking karaoke

Jordan approves of Josh's drumming

Darren Danger- your blogging guitarist

Darren, Josh, Jarod, and Jordan

Agressive guitar playing

Josh, our legendary drummer

Jarod and Jordan- focused, professional

Rock and Roll- actual photo

After the show everyone went outside and we all sat around a campfire for a couple of hours.  Despite it being October 9th, it was quite pleasant to sit outside without a jacket.  Jupiter and the stars were bright overhead, s'mores were being prepared, laughter filled the air, and my ears were still ringing from Josh's cymbal crashes.  All in all a great day.

The Rocky Horror Show

Last Friday night Lyndy, Evan and I went to the Topeka Civic Theatre to see a performance of "The Rocky Horror Show".  Playing the part of Riff Raff was Lyndy's nephew Les.  I have been a big fan of all things Rocky Horror since I was in high school.  Like most people, I am familiar primarily with the movie, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".  The movie has long been a popular midnight movie, and arguably the biggest cult film of all.  Many aren't aware of the fact that before there was a movie, Rocky Horror started out as a musical theatrical play  in London.

Actor Richard O'Brien was part of a British production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" when he met Jim Sharman, Australian theater director.  O'Brien shared with Sharman his draft for a new musical he had been writing, then called "They Came From Denton High".  Working together they developed it into a full production, and it opened in London on June 19, 1973.  Gradually moving to bigger and bigger theaters, "The Rocky Horror Show" had an initial run of 2,960 performances.  It first played in the U.S. in 1974, where it flopped after only 45 performances.  Despite that, in late 1974 the musical was turned into the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", relased in 1975.  The movie was a flop, too, until it started catching on in midnight movie showings at the Waverly Theatre in New York City in 1976.  The rest is cult movie history.

After seeing the movie so many times, both in theatres and on the DVD we own, it was really interesting to see it performed in person by actors.  There are two stages at the Topeka Civic Theater, and this played in a the smaller, more intimate one that only holds about 100 in the audience.  As a result we were only about 25 feet from the stage.  When we entered we each picked up a sack containing a water gun, cards, bubbles (substituting for rice), noise makers etc., the same kind of stuff we used to sneak into the movie theatre.  They encouraged the audience to yell out all the commentary as done when attending the movie.  This created a unique situation because about the last thing you'd normally want someone in the audience to do during a play is to shout something out.  I'm sure it was difficult for the actors to keep focused on their lines with all the distractions, but they all took it in stride and often made very funny ad-libs based upon things the audience shouted at them. 

So all in all a very fun night at a performance I'll never forget.  If you ever get a chance to see Rocky Horror as a musical I strongly recommend it.  It is not, however, recommended for the prude or for those with closed minds.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Almost Back In Business

The great relocation of 2010 is almost over.  Soon I will be posting new articles.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moving Again

We are getting ready to move out of our house into an apartment.  Our plan is to pay off bills and make preparations to buy our own house.  For the last three weeks I have been going through every item I own and sorting it all into three piles- keep to put in the apartment, keep to put in the storage garage we rented, or throw it away.  We are slowly building a giant stack of boxes in one of the rooms of our house, waiting for the big move.  My body has been sore for days from all the stooping, bending, lifting, hoisting, and straining.  I've sneezed about a million times from dusty old boxes.  We are down to one week to go, so it will all be over soon. 

Nobody is a fan of moving.  Relocating to a new residence can often be fun, but the logistics of actually moving have almost no redeeming value other than giving you a chance to get rid of things you really don't need.  Moving used to be a pretty simple process for me.  I remember being able to put everything I owned in the back of a friend's pickup and doing the whole thing in about an hour.  I  have accumulated quite a bit more stuff though, so it's not so simple now.  A couple nights ago I was thinking about all the times I've moved and all the places I've lived.  I got a piece of paper and made a list of every house or apartment I've ever called home.  Here is the list:

1963-c.1964        2200 block NE Thomas St in Oakland (Where I lived when born)

c. 1964-c.1968    900 block? NE Oakland St in Oakland

1968-1974           829 SW 31st (1st street south of Holiday Square shopping center)

1974-1982           R 1 Lecompton (actually in Big Springs, KS)

1982-1984           829 SW 31st (here again, on my own for the first time)

1984-1985          1014 Poplar in Oakland (lived with my grandmother for a few months)

1985-1986          1040 NE Michigan in Oakland (house with two roomates)

1986-1987          1215 SW Polk (Capital Square Apartments)

1987-1988          1014 Poplar in Oakland (back with grandmother a few months again)

1988-1989          305? SW 4th St (a cool old brick building near downtown Topeka)

1989-1991          Meadowbrook Apartments in Lawrence, KS

1991-1992          15?? Lynch Ct (a studio apartment in Lawrence)

1992-1995          3000 block SE Michigan in Topeka (My mom's house at the time)

1995-1996          2900 block SW 31st Court (La Casa Grande Apartments)

1996-2001          2100 block SE Carnahan (a garlow house above a garage)

2001-2005          2100 block SE Carnahan (a cabin on the same property)

2005-2010          1605 SW 27th (the house we are in now, the best place I've ever lived)

That's 15 different houses and apartments (and a trailer, when we lived in Big Springs), two of which I lived in twice.  I think I probably lived in at least one or two other places the first few years of my life, I'm not sure.  I lived in a house in Lawrence for about three days, but I hated it so much I moved right out again.  I didn't count it here, though. 

If you made a list like this, what would it look like?  Can you remember everywhere you have ever lived?  Would you want to go back and live again in any of the homes from your past?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Get Well Jim

My very, very good friend Jim, who lives in Oklahoma City, and whom I've known since 1974, is dealing with some serious health issues that have him in the hospital, presently in intensive care.  Please take a moment to telepathically wish him and his family a quick return to good health.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We'll Be Right Back

Announcement:  The Darren Danger family is moving, on October 1st.  As a result I have been very busy working on the preparations for that and haven't had time to write any new articles.  Please keep checking back, I'll still be adding entries, just at a slower pace for a while.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

High Powered Entertainment

Evan fishing in the rapidly fading daylight.

Last evening Evan, Lyndy, and I went to the State Lake for a few hours.  We were going to have a campfire, but there are only a few places they are allowing fires due to the dry conditions.  Unfortunately all of them were taken by campers.  As a consolation prize we did find us a nice spot that was very shady and had a dock.  We ate dinner and Lyndy played her iPod over the portable stereo.  Evan and I did some fishing.  I caught a pretty nice largemouth bass.  I took my telescope along and set it up just before dark. We all looked at Venus, and later, just before I dismantled it, I got a view of Mars.

I have had my telescope since 1989.  I placed it on layaway at Wolfe's Camera downtown and made payments on it for nearly a year before I finally paid it off and got to take it home.  My telescope is a design called a Schmidt-Cassegrain, and the company that made it is called Celestron.  Schmidt-Cassegrains are a type of catadioptric telescope, a fancy word that just means it combines mirrors and lenses with spherical surfaces.  The primary mirror on my telescope is 8 inches in diameter.  Schmidt-Cassegrains work very well for looking at deep sky objects like star clusters, nebula, and galaxies.  On a telescope like mine, you swap out different lenses to pick and choose the magnification you want.

All in all a pleasant evening combining the outdoors, fishing, food, and science.

Ready for the stars.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bicycles in Europe

In 2003, Lyndy and I flew to Amsterdam and spent 5 or 6 days in Europe.  We rented a car (actually more of a European-style minivan) and drove about 900 miles through Holland, Germany, and France.  Our trip began and ended in Amsterdam.  The city is built in what was originally the ocean before the dikes were built to increase the available land.  Even with the dikes though, water containment was a problem.  So, in the 1600's, they got busy and channeled all the remaining water into rings of canals surrounding the city center.  This helped them to control the water and provided land to build upon.  As you walk through Amsterdam it alternates- street, canal, street, canal.  There are 1,900 bridges in this one city!

In the photo above I am standing on one of the bridges looking down the channel of one of the larger canals.  Because of it's location Amsterdam is very flat.  The only hills of any kind are the slopes up and down getting on and off the bridges.  As a result, there are thousands of people riding bikes.  I'm sure that's also partly due to the fact that it's an ancient place with narrow streets not designed with cars in mind.  But also, with it so flat, it's very easy to ride around town.  As you might imagine, with so many bicycles in use, they are parked everywhere. You can see several of them alongside me here as I stare pensively into the middle distance.

I believe most of the bikes in the photo above are in long-term parking, probably by people working all day in nearby stores.  I say that because these bikes appear to all have bike locks on them.  However, we noticed that when people are just jumping off their bike and going into a store or a restaurant, they don't lock them.  They just put them on the kickstand in front of a store and go in.  There's no need to worry.  They don't get stolen.  People didn't seem the slightest bit worried about someone taking them because nobody is going to steal your bike.  Well I come from a place where bikes do get stolen, so I didn't let their quaint notions hold me back.  Though after I had stolen about 7 of them I had to admit to myself that it was just too easy to be really much of a thrill after all.

OK, I was kidding at the end there, but I wasn't kidding about bikes not being locked.  Here are some parked in front of a store in Amsterdam.  You'll note that few, if any, have locks.  You'll also note a McDonald's, something we saw in all three countries.  What we did not see were many mountain bikes.  Most all looked like what everyone around here was riding in the 1950's.  I guess simple, sturdy, and reliable is what they want, though on those cobblestone streets I think I'd still want my GT Palomar.

 In this action photo a couple chicks are riding their bikes through town, heading to work or maybe college.  On the far left a woman is bicycling along one-handed while deftly carrying an armload of shopping.  On the right, leaning against the greengrocer, is a parked, unlocked bike, which I later stole. 

Bicycles for transportation are very common in Europe.  We saw them in abundance everywhere we went.  As a parting shot, here's a sight you just don't see in the U.S.  Check out this bicycle parking lot I photographed in Heidelberg, Germany:

Click to enlarge & guess the number of bikes. Winner gets a new car.