1979 was a good year. On the radio, Bob Dylan was mumbling "It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody." It was the one and only year there was a Grammy award for Best Disco Recording (bonus points for anyone who knows the winning song). My parents record player - and 8 track player - was dominated by artists like Chicago, ABBA, and The Carpenters. And, most importantly, 1979 is the year I entered the scene... if you ask my mom she'll tell you I came out looking for a party.

My parents were in their 20s through most of the 70s; they married early in the decade. My dad graduated from college in 1979. The music of the 70s should have been their soundtrack - but I sometimes feel like I know this generation of music better than they do. During the 80s (and most of the 90s), my parents mostly listened to oldies and contemporary Christian radio. I can only remember my dad listening to classic rock on a couple occasions - but by then I was out of high school. That being said, most of my favorite albums from the year of my birth was not music my parents listened to - it was music I discovered on my own.

#5 Supertramp - Breakfast in America: Over the years, Supertramp has released some infectious music and their 1979 release is no exception. It's not their best album, but Breakfast in America is their best selling album. There are a couple of gems in there - my favorites: The Logical Song (with it's creative sound effects) and Take the Long Way Home.

#4 Amy Grant - My Father's Eyes: This is one of the few of my mom's favorite artists that I can listen to without wanting to throw my head through a brick wall. Amy Grant is one of those singers that I like to listen to help me relax. And this album is full of songs that are easy on the ears.

#3 The Police - Reggatta De Blanc: While the album is led by the chipper (and well known) track Message in a Bottle, Reggatta is a fairly somber album. While The Police try to capitalize on the 'less is more' way of thinking, there is a subtle genius simmering underneath the sparse instrumentation. Individually, Sting, Stuart Copeland, and Andy Summers are some of the greatest musicians to ever record music. This is music that every musician should take lessons from this album. Songs like Bring on the Night and Walking on the Moon are some of the best examples of band dynamics you'll ever find.

#2 The Clash - London Calling: I love The Clash. You can hear their influence in a wide rage of artists from punk to country. London Calling is the pinnacle of 70s era of punk music. Hateful, Lost in the Supermarket, Train in Vain... through and through - it's a great album.

#1 Michael Jackson - Off the Wall: I often wish I could seperate the music from the person who made the music. Michael Jackson has created some great songs but he (outside of music) is as strange as they come. But... Off the Wall is before Michael became known as Wacko Jacko. These are the days before he became a creepy white (alleged) pedophile. Off the Wall set the standard for what pop music should be. Sadly, songs like Rock With You and Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough have aged better than the man that recorded them. It is in this album that we find a fresh out of the Jackson 5 20 something artist full of potential. When you listen to this album you can't help but wonder what Michael could have accomplished if he hadn't gone crazy.


Why is it...

... we spend two years teaching our kids to walk and talk, but once they've accomplished those feats we spend the rest of our lives telling them to sit down and shut up?

30 years of music

There is a meme floating around the web... one where you pick your favorite album for each year you've been alive. One album per year - and it had to have been released in that year. Joel at Crummy Church signs has a great example of this meme on his blog (even if he broke it up into two separate posts). My sister-in-law put her own spin to the meme; she is posting books instead of albums... and she dedicated a single blog to that effort.

I've always wanted to do this meme myself. And every time I see some one else complete the meme, a couple of albums come to mind that must be on my list. In an instant, I think of Steve Taylor's I Predict 1990 from 1987, or Smashing Pumpkins' 1995 release Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. And, as I'm turning 30 in a couple of months, I thought this meme would be a great way to celebrate my age. Thirty years - thirty albums.

Two problems. The first is also the most obvious. I am music obsessive-compulsive. I don't think it's possible to pick one (and only one) album for most years - especially my high school years. So if I put together a list of my favorite albums for each year that I've been alive, it most likely would end up a top five or top ten for every year (plus a couple of honorable mentions). A list of the top 5 to ten albums for every year since 1979 would end up to be a very long (150 - 300) list. No one wants to wade through that mess.

I'd have to break it up. One post per year. And this is where the second problem exists. I suck at series. Not that the ideas I have for series are bad ideas, I just fail at follow through. There are two series on this blog that I started and never completed: in July of 2005 (shortly after I started this blog) I was going to pick apart Spin's list of the 100 greatest albums of the last 20 years but I stopped after two posts, and in August of 2007 I started a series of my favorite places in Western Washington but I only completed the first post.* And it's not just this blog. On What's Inside, I've only completed the first two (out of four) posts in my Far From God series. The good news on What's Inside is the one and only series that I've completed - How to Live in Four Easy Steps. One out of four - 25% completion rate... not a great track record.

Alas, I can't resist. But oi... 30 posts... I shake my head in peril. That's a lot of posts. But if I complete it I'll bring my completion rate up to 40% - so, that'd be a good thing, right?

Worst case scenario, you'll read along and think - "oh yeah... I like that album too." Best case, I introduce you to some great music that you've never heard before. And if you're not that into music or don't care much for my taste in music, keep checking back. I'm too ADD to stick with a single topic for too long, and there is plenty of blog fodder stewing in my noggin to keep me writing for a while.


Pearl Jam & rock star dreams

Yesterday, Pearl Jam began celebrating their 20th anniversary two years early by re-releasing their debut album Ten. It has the original recording, remastered versions of the whole album, and a few bonus tracks. In honor of this release, I'm taking a minute to share a few thoughts.

A good band can sell records and concert tickets; t-shirts, posters, and various other band related merch; swag and memorabilia. Even not-so-good bands can sell all that stuff (I won't mention the Jonas Brothers).

It's easy to differentiate what separates the good from bad... mostly talent and/or years of hard work. But what is it that separates good from great. Remember, good bands can be successful and immensely popular. Sadly, some great bands are often overshadowed by lesser bands. So what makes a great band?


Who influences whom? Many credit Kurt Cobain and Nirvana for the viral spread of the grunge genre, but fail to recognize The Melvins or the Pixies - two of Kurt's biggest influences. And while Nirvana's Nevermind album is lauded for the birth of grunge, many forget that Pearl Jam's Ten was released a month earlier.

Between the two, which band holds more influence. Pearl Jam, or Nirvana? Nevermind outsold Ten, but sales is not the tell tale sign of greatness. Pearl Jam is still recording new music, and Kurt's career was cut short (by drugs, depression, and a shotgun). But a lasting career vs suicide can't determine who's more influential. Both bands have been cited as influences from a wide range of acts from Christian one-hit-wonders The Normals, to neo-butt rockers Nicklebck.

I honestly don't think I can give a final definitive answer. I can only speak for myself (and a few others).

In eighth grade, my friend Matt asked me to write a song for his band (he was in a grunge band of his own). I'd never written a song before, but he said it was easy. Influenced by Pearl Jam's track listings, Matt told me "All you have to do is pick one word for your title, and write something that fits that title." I still have the lyrics to that first song I wrote (Reach) around somewhere.

My friend Tommy was a junior high student when Ten first came out. He - like many others our age - identified with this new musical movement. But Tommy was special... naturally musically gifted. After watching Pearl Jam's 1992 MTV Unplugged performance, Tommy bought a guitar, and taught himself how to play every song on Ten. Listening to Tommy's music now, you don't hear a shred of anything resembling Pearl Jam, but without their inspiration, Tommy might not be playing the guitar today (17 years later).

In 2002, Tommy and I (and a few other friends) took a road trip from Boise to Seattle for Poor Old Lu's reunion concert. Three guitars, a snare drum sized practice drum pad, a handful of drumsticks, and a Danelectro Honeytone Mini Amp rode along with us in Steve's Suburu GL station wagon. During that long boring stretch across Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, Tommy plugged his guitar into the travel amp and started playing some Pearl Jam tunes. So, while Steve drove across the barren scab-lands, Nate kept beat on his practice pad and I sang along. We held our own personal concert inside Steve's GL. Our set list: Once, Corduroy, Alive, Wishlist, Betterman.

It's on that road trip that I finally lived out a part of my boyhood dreams. This may or may not be a well known factoid, but the kid in me has always wanted to be a rock star. From hanging out in my friend Willie's bedroom as a 6th grader playing other people's songs on his Casio keyboard, to writing my first song for Matt's band in 8th grade. From running sound at dozens of coffeehouse concerts to hanging out with P.O.D. at Tomfest. That's been the person I've always wished I could be. I can sing and play guitar. But I'm not that good. I enjoy being on stage, but I'm not charismatic enough to captivate thousands.

But when I was singing those Pearl Jam songs with Nate, Tommy, and Steve... I felt for the first time like I could actually be a rock star. My voice fit those songs. And I was making music with three of the best friends I've ever had. Somewhere along that lonesome highway between Ontario Oregon and Yakima Washington, I had one of those perfect moments - that experience where time is suspended and you know that life is as it should be.

We had an amazing weekend hanging out in Seattle. We went home. Tommy, Nate, and Steve started a band and I helped manage them for a while. My moment as a rock star passed but I still sing along with the radio and sing lullabies to my kids. Most days I realize that the quality of my singing restricts me to performing only for an audience of One. Except when a Pearl Jam song is played. When I'm singing along with Pearl Jam, I still feel that roadside feeling I first discovered seven years ago.

So, I may not be able to settle the Pearl Jam vs Nirvana dispute, but I will testify on Pearl Jam's behalf. As far as I am concerned, Nirvana was a good band... Pearl Jam is a great band.



... the newest member of our family.
Help us (officially) welcome Chloe Lucile to the family.

Thank you for all of your love and support over the last two years. Feel free to leave a note for Chloe in the comments section.


Tuckered out

Christian hasn't been feeling well this past week. Here's the proof.

Wednesday evening: Falling asleep at the dinner table

Friday afternoon: Zoned out on the stairs
Saturday morning: Sleeping in the recliner by the fireplace

Is it mean of me that I almost prefer him when he's sick? I feel bad that he's under the weather, but he's so much more docile and compliant.

Anyways... Enjoy the double dose of Christian. On Monday we are finalizing our daughter's adoption so the next few days are all about his little sister.

My one picture from blogfest

The batteries in my camera died after taking this picture. I drove to Super 1 to buy another pack, but the pack that I bought was also dead. So... I didn't take as many pictures as I had hoped. But I got this one. My goofy son.


The unexpected side effects of inhaling Cascade dishwasher detergent*

The good: Cleared sinuses
The bad: Non-stop sneezing for the next 20 minutes

The good: Alert and hypersensitive to my surroundings
The bad: Massive headache

Undetermined: Uncontrollable fits of laughter for no apparent reason
Undetermined: Vertigo
Undetermined: Warped vision

Bad… but amusing: Hallucinations

*Disclosure: Pure accident. In no way did I intend on snorting dishwasher soap.


When toddlers argue about food

3 year old: Nic? What are we having for dinner?

Me: Spaghetti.

3 year old: Bughetti? I love Bughetti!

4 year old: NO - not bughetti... it's pasketti.


A little bit of this, and a little bit of that (AKA: It's like this and like that)

I apologize for the long title. But that's the way my brain works.

No, my brain doesn't work like long titles... It works like this and like that - especially when trying to describe things. Confused? Let me give you a couple of examples.

When attempting to describe LOST to the rare few that have never heard of the show, I say "It's like Gilligan's Island meets the X-Files."

After seeing Cloverfield, I told people, "It's like Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla."

When Creed first came out I described Scott Stapps vocals as "Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland, and James Hetfeild got thrown in a blender with a little bit of Jesus for good measure - but not the kind of Jesus that makes you praise God, but the kind of Jesus that makes you do and say crazy stuff."

OK, I usually stopped after "a little bit of Jesus" on that last one, so I embellished a smidge. Besides, Scott Stapp didn't go crazy until Creed's second album. But that is way off topic.

THAT is how my mind works. I always try to compare one thing in perspective of other things that shares a common feature. It's like I'm attempting Venn diagrams for pop-culture. I see things as a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It's a habit I can't break. Does anyone else have this problem?

One more for good measure: the movie Fireproof is like James Dobson's marriage counseling meets an After-School special.


Naked baby photos

I don't blame you if you forget that I have more than one blog. Like you, I often forget about he other blogs. So it's not your fault. That's why I feel it's my duty to inform you of when I do update one of my secondary blogs - and that is what I'm doing right now.

If you check out the newest post on My Life in Music, you can check out one of my naked* baby photos.

* OK, I'm not really naked, and I'm a bit older than a baby, but it's still what my parents would call cute.

Mistaken Identity

As I pulled into the Taco Bell parking lot last night, I thought to myself, "wouldn't it be funny if the drive-through employee thought my name was Preferred Customer? I wonder if I can get them to say 'thanks for your business Mr. Customer.'"

There is a sound rationale for that thought. When our bank issued our debit card, they issued a generic card with the name Preferred Customer printed on the front. We've never felt a need to get permanent cards, since we try not to use the debit card. So, random retail workers and fast food employees thinking my real name is what is printed on the card is completely in the realm of possibility.

A girl's voice came through the squawk box and took my order. I pulled up to the first window and a chunky 18 year old boy (maybe 19 if I'm generous) opened the window and I handed him my debit card. He swiped my card through his machine, bobbing his head with the music coming from the iPod he had hidden in his uniform. As the receipt printed, he looked at my card and cocked his head to the side like a confused puppy.

"Is you're last name really Customer?" He asked.

"Yes," I said without hesitation, "I had cruel parents."

He looked at me with a bewildered expression then looked back at my card. "Oh," he said as he chuckled nervously. "I just noticed it says your first name is Preferred. Hehe."

He handed the card back to me and apologized. "Sorry dude, I'm really tired."

I drove up to the next window to get my food, and I internally marveled at my brief and instantly fulfilled prophesy.


definitely defiant


“I definitely spell definitely wrong. In fact, my spelling is so wrong that spell checker automatically changes my spelling of definitely to defiantly.”


The answer is...

Coworker 1: (Sits on my desk to ask me a question) So…

Supervisor: (walking by) No. The answer is no.

Me: My answer is 37.

Coworker 2: Wisconsin.

Coworker 1: (to coworker 2) You’re the closest without going over.

We’ve all lost our minds.


In pursuit of liturgy

The church I grew up in was overbearingly liturgical. Granted, overbearing is a personal opinion but it is one I will defend. I know there are other churches with more rote or ritual, but for a small Nazarene church, we had a stagnant order of worship.

It wasn’t the most liturgical church on the face of the planet, but there was enough routine to be predictable. I could tell you when our worship leader would ask the congregation to stand, and when he would tell us “you may be seated" before either order was given. I knew when a certain pastor preached we would get a lesson in church history and Greek vocabulary. To this day, I can still recite the exact order of worship for both the Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship services – from the choir’s song to the closing prayer. I could still show you the spot our lead pastor would stand to greet people after the service. I can still identify which instruments were used in the morning services and who played the instruments. And I could still point out where the youth group sat, and who usually sat next to whom.

Don't get me wrong, these are people I dearly love. And anytime I’m in town, I stop by to visit. I’m not writing this to mock the church I grew up in but to make an observation. When you grow up in an environment like that, one of two things happen: you either cling to the ritual or run from it. I did the latter.

By the time I moved away from home, liturgy was the last thing I wanted. I associated with people who shunned repetition. I took a different route home from work everyday. I was drawn to non-liturgical churches. I craved disorder. I thrived in chaos.

It’s funny how things change. 10 years later, I still prefer non-liturgical churches. There is a certain order of worship at my church… but it’s more of a rough outline than a strict dictated guideline. I still find myself challenged and fascinated by people who are seeking out new things with a passion I wish I possessed. Yet, I’m tired of chaos. I find myself longing for a routine. My recent switch into a new department at work came with new stresses, but it came peppered with relief of a constant schedule - the first I've had a set schedule after four years of teaching. I am slowly developing my own routines and rituals… my own personal liturgy. Not doing anything in the morning until I see the weather forecast. My shortcut through the Albertsons parking lot while walking to work. My bedtime talks with Christian, tickle fights with Zu when I should be getting her into her jammies. All in pursuit of a liturgy I once avoided.

It’s funny how things change.


la vida loca de matemáticas

Conversation between Bekah and I after church this evening...

Bekah: I'm going to go get the threes.
Me: I'm going to go get the twos.

The irony of those statements is that the threes are two. And the twos are three and four (and yet the threes and twos equal five... or thirteen, depending on how you add them up). If that math makes any sense to you, you know how crazy our lives are right now.



siedbar (n)

1. What happens when nic's spell check doesn't catch a typo.

I hope it goes without saying... siedbar = sidebar. There is a spell check built into Mozilla Firefox that comes in handy when posting comments on other people's blogs. It is even helpful when writing for my own blog (in worst case scenarios, there's even a spell check in Blogger). However, in the application I was using to create the survey, the Firefox spell check didn't work. As for Blogger, the post is nothing more than a bunch of HTML code... nothing to spell check.

Kudos to my father for pointing out the error in my spelling ways.

I mention all this for two reasons. (Well, three if you include my natural bent for self deprecation, and four if you include the fact that I'm short on ideas for blogging.)

First: I am a horrible speller. If you want any inclination of how well I performed in elementary school spelling bees, I provide you "siedbar" as an example. Not to mention, in my attempts to type faster, I type one key prematurely as if one finger is thinking faster than another (ala the e before d in siedbar or the e before h in teh). As bad of a speller as I think I am, I'm always surprised when I see someone who spells worse than me.

Second: I have a minor learning disability called dyspraxia. For the most part, I've learned to cope with it. However, it still effects me in areas of writing. It is to blame for my excessively sloppy handwriting, and my slower than normal writing speed. It also contributes to my knack for poor spelling. While typing, I will invert letters (similar to a dyslexic). But when writing, I leave letters out of words - most frequently off the end. Due to dyspraxia, I tend not to notice, even when rereading, without someone pointing it out to me. (Thanks Dad!) To further complicate things, I also exhibit symptoms similar to dysgraphia. And I'm ADD (hence the random nature of this blog).

All things considered, I find it amazing that I'm able to write with any semblance of legibility. I consider it a miracle that I'm able to organize a cohesive thought, or express myself through writing. Through out elementary school and junior high, I loathed writing (and reading) because of my disabilities. I find a bit of divine irony in overcoming these neurological disorders - where something that should hinder my ability to read and write would ultimately lead me into two of my most passionate hobbies.

I still read slow. And write slow. And I'm not worth my weight in spelling. By these principles, I am living out the message of the demotivational poster I have as my desktop background on my work computer. Under a picture of a penguin waddling up a snowbank, it reads: AMBITION You'll never know have far you can walk until you spread your wings.

Go for it - spread you wings. It's working for me so far.


nic's dictionary

Filarious: adj
(fill - AIR - ee - yus)

From the root words *expletive deleted* and hilarious.

1. when something is (expletive)ing hilarious
exp: my daughter thinks she's filarious when she's acting naughty.

See also: fugly


Status Report: Life @ RR&RT

If you remember, about a month ago I mentioned I had high hopes for February. Well, the month of love did not disappoint. Not only did I end the month with both above average UV's (165) and PV's (692),* I also maintained higher traffic than in January. Not a single day in February had less than 10 visits - a feat I've not been able to accomplish since I started the blog in June '03. I know that's not a huge milestone when compared to some other high-traffic blogs... but it's big for me. I am (however) a bit surprised that traffic survived so well. At the end of January, I imported this blog into facebook so that my posts would automatically post into facebook's notes application and I could stop posting links into my status updates. That resulted in a loss of traffic from facebook - and yet traffic stayed strong. Like I mentioned a month ago: I must be doing something right.

I don't intend to brag, so why do I mention all of this?

Well if you remember my 1/31/09 post, I said I would be trying an experiment in February. I didn't elaborate then what the experiment was, so I shall do so now.

Beyond the tweaks (there are a couple of new items in the side bars and new links in the blogroll), I set a personal goal to post something everyday.

I failed my post-per-day experiment, but not all was fruitless. Final tally gives me 22 posts in 28 days (+ 1 on a secondary blog) - that's the most prolific I've ever been. So, while I missed my goal - I feel positive that I might be able to complete that task in NaBloPoMo** this coming November. On a side note, I would have posted yesterday, but after hanging out at Moon Dollars for a couple of hours for Blogfest, I returned home to get ready for the couple's dinner at church. After dinner (and getting the kids in bed) Bekah and I settled in for a movie. Alas... no post to close the month.

As for the future of Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts - I can never guess. I've got a million ideas, but as a WOW*** person, only an (estimated) 1% of those ideas will come to fruition. So, while ideas are bouncing around my head like conspiracy theories on the OpenCDA blog, I will keep them to myself for now. You may see one of those ideas someday.

UV = Unique Views, PV = Page Views

** NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month... and for those budding authors out there, I know that NaBloPoMo coincides with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

*** In a post about divorce on Stuff Christians Like, Jon says there's a "how person" and a "wow person" in most relationships. The WOW always comes up with wild and crazy ideas, and the HOW asks how those ideas are remotely possible. He goes on to say, "
the reality is that the wow person is going to execute maybe 1 out of 100 of the ideas and just wants to share the overflow of ideas with his wife." In all honesty, I'm WOW and Bakeh is HOW.