1.30.2010

Reminds me... looking back with music

Don't get me wrong... there is some great music out there today. There are artists that are forging their own way or perfecting the craft of another's creation. Bands like LCD Soundsystem, Lady Antebellum, Paramore, The Flowbots, and Death Cab for Cutie that are releasing some fantastic tunes. But no matter how good their music, it is still a pale comparison to the mid-90s.

Say what you want about your high school days, loved it/hated it/somewhat indifferent to it... the music from your days of youth angst will probably be the most important music you will ever listen to. It might not be the best to ever be recorded. But they hold a special place in your heart. Years later, when you hear that song... it reminds you of trying to find your classes on the first day of school, or to remember your locker combination on the second day. Or it brings you back to those days when you were walking across campus in the rain. Or maybe a team or club you were apart of.

That being said, I present to you (with as much fanfare as possible in a blog format) the songs that most remind me of high school. Warning: some cheesiness to follow along with some heartfelt longing of days gone by and some genuinely great songs. Also be prepared for some musical whiplash. Links lead to the songs' videos and other bits of related goodness.

The Offspring: Come Out and Play
Ah... the first entry to my list. A song sung by a guy named Dexter and his friend named Noodles. I wish I was kidding. Toward the end of my freshman year, the grunge movement was dwindling in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Punk seemed to be the newest hippest trend. At camp one summer, that dude with the guitar told me that no one knows how to play the guitar unless they know how to play Greenday's song Basket Case. But Come Out and Play was the forefront of the punk popularity, and by the beginning of my sophomore year it seemed like everyone knew this song (or at least the line "you gotta keep 'em separated"). I remember standing outside the forestry classroom while a classmate told me this was the greatest song ever recorded.

Counting Crows: Mr. Jones
Mr. Jones was another song that came into popularity around the same time that Cobain died. It's a fantastic carefree and whimsical sing-along that propelled Adam Duritz and his band into the spotlight. But it has a deeper significance for me. My friend Jeff and I tried our hardest to live this song. He'd be Mr. Jones (or maybe that was me). We would go out people watching - a couple of mall rats. We'd "tell each other fairy tales and look at the beautiful women" and we'd have that conversation: "she's lookin' at you - I don't think so, she's lookin' at me." Then we would conduct mentally stimulating late night philosophical conversations, but no one can talk about the most important questions beguiling humanity for long. So our chats would eventually turn to one (or both) of our biggest interests - girls or music. Mr. Jones captured both those ideals. We'd dream of someday being "big big stars" and of a future where everybody loved us. To this day I still "want to buy myself a gray guitar and play."

Stone Temple Pilots: Interstate Love Song
This song was pure escapism for me. It made me daydream of running off to some place that was infinitely cooler than Marysville Washington. I didn't know what that place was (although I seem to have found it now) but I knew I wanted out. That line "leaving on a southern train" rang true for me. And while my life has more-so been an eastern migration, this song still takes me back to a time when I longed for something better than what I possessed.

MxPx: Want Ad
Another song out of the pop-punk explosion, this is MxPx at their sloppiest. Want Ad came off of MxPx's first album and when that album came out, I latched on to this song. For several years I carried this song as the standard for what I wanted out of my dream girl. Talks to Jesus, buys me coke, likes to wear my clothes. And for the most part... I got that list in Bekah (except she doesn't write me songs)

Korn: Blind
Jonathan Davis asked "Are you ready." And as he growled those lyrics at the beginning of Blind, the answer to that question was a resounding no. No we were not ready. Korn started a new genre that took a few years to gain momentum. Yet, when this song hit radio like blunt force trauma, Korn quickly became popular with many of my peers. I must clarify, I'm not a Korn fan (although, Brian Welch's conversion of faith is quite an interesting story). But Blind was one of those songs that took a crowbar to your head and stayed there. It was the song that was playing though my head while walking around in the darkness backstage on opening night just before showtime. Moments before the stage lights when up, I was (internally) asking "are you ready?"

Pearl Jam: Betterman
As Jeff's and my conversations inevitably descended into the topic of girls or music or girls and music, the subject matter of Betterman was a frequent point of discussion. We would talk about girls that we knew that were dating scumbags and we were convinced we were better men. This song reminds me of those many talks under the stars or driving around - often listening to Pearl Jam - wondering when the girls in our lives would realize that we were better than the guys they were dating. Of course we weren't better men, we just thought we were.

Robert Preston: Trouble (from The Music Man)
I realize this song was out long before I was in high school (not to mention predating my birth by a couple decades), but our drama club produced The Music Man as our spring musical my sophomore year. I was a part of Tommy's gang and I broke the Wells Fargo Wagon on closing night. So why am I including this song out of the many from the show? Because I can not play a game of pool without hearing those words "trouble with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Pool" inside my head (one of the voices inside my head pretends to be a Broadway star).

Seal: Kiss From a Rose
The bus driver that drove me to school kept the radio tuned to a station that played the same five songs over and over again. This is one of those songs. This song also reminds me of hanging out backstage in the prop room with Mike, Stephanie, and Sarah. Although... I don't know why that's the predominant memory.

Grammatrain: Believe
This is the first of three songs released at roughly the same time that made a change in the Christian music world. It was music that the mainstream started taking seriously. It was Christian music that was relevant to secular consumers. This was exciting for me as non-Christian music was discouraged in my house; this was something that I could listen to at home, getting my inner-grunge baby on with approval from my parental units.

Johnny Q Public: Preacher's Kid
Song two out of three... On a lyrical level, this song was somewhat autobiographical for me. Aaron and I were PKs (all though, dad left the ministry when I was fairly young). I was insecure and hurt. I had lots of questions with no answers. And basketball was on our TV - a lot. I wanted to dream and often wondered "does anybody love me?"

Jars of Clay: Flood
And song three of three. When I heard this song played on mainstream radio for the first time, I was convinced the world was about to change. Every night, I would lay in bead and listen to 107.7 the End as they played the 10 most requested songs of the day, and I was so excited that I could have peed myself when Flood hit #1. A Christian band being the most requested song on the hippest alternative music station in Seattle? Inconceivable! On the downside, the local church bands started emulating the Jars of Clay sound. By the time I graduated high school, if you were in a Christian band (in the SnoCo area) and did not sound like Jars of Clay, you were ignored (with the lone ska band from Oak Harbor being the only exception). A good friend of mine played in a band with the lyrical content and musical influence of Jars with Rage Against the Machine styled vocals. While Jars' mainstream attention was short lived, their impact in Christian music was (and still is) pervasive.

Smashing Pumpkins: Bullet With Butterfly Wings
This is the song that really got me in to alternative music. My dad didn't like Smashing Pumpkins, but I was drawn to their music like a moth hopelessly in love with an out door lamp. Billy Corgan is one of the most influential artists in my own work. There was a stretch of time that I was inspired to write any time I heard a Smashing Pumpkins song. Corgan is much my doppelganger: he's got crooked teeth, I've got crooked teeth. He's not a great singer, neither am I. He's not particularly attractive, I'm not much of a looker either. If I shaved my head, dressed glam, and lost 20 pounds, I could look like him. But I clearly remember sitting in American Lit, with this song running laps in my head. "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage." Who comes up with stuff like that? Genius...

Coolio: Gangsters Paradise (And to a lesser extent, Weird Al's parody - Amish Paradise)
Gangster's Paradise was one of the other songs in permanent rotation on the morning school bus ride. (TLC's Waterfalls was the only other song that I remember). The song sounded so cool back then. It has not aged well. (Although the Weird Al version is still hilarious.)

Everclear: Santa Monica
This, (much like STP's Interstate Love Song) was another tune that I'd crank up while dreaming of getting away. And Santa Monica seemed far more fantastic than Marysville. Living beside the ocean? Can't get any better than that. Santa Monica was one of those songs that could make me happy no matter how foul my mood. It is also unique in the fact that it is the one and only song I've ever sung in karaoke. (Shh... don't tell anyone)

Rancid: Ruby Soho
Ruby Soho was pure shameless fun. The album (...And Out Come the Wolves) that birthed it is easily one of the greatest punk albums of all time. This was one of my good times songs that I liked to listen to when I was in a cheerful mood. As for the video, I'm not sure which was a stranger sight: the freaky mohawks and plaid pants or the guy with the mohawk in plaid pants petting a cat while singing "ruby ruby ruby soho." This song also hinted at the upcoming ska explosion (more on that later). Perhaps the biggest oddity with this song is the cheerleader in my history class that liked it. It was the first time I considered the possibility that cheerleaders might sometimes listen to the same kind of music that I enjoyed.

Rage Against the Machine: Bulls on Parade
I emceed for the homecoming assembly my senior year - announcing the underclassman royalty. Before the assembly, as we were prepping the gymnasium, the band was doing their sound checks. The guitarist (a student who was probably the closest I've ever had to an arch-nemesis) was playing the main guitar riff to Bulls on Parade. I was running mic cords at the time and he heard me rapping along to his playing. He was impressed that I knew the lyrics. I am fairly certain that he still despises me - 13 years later - but I gained some respect points that day. (And if you think the Jars of Clay/RATM blend was strange, this kid - my rival - was in a band that sounded like a mix of Dave Matthews and 311.) I must specify that I do not like most of Rage's music. I disagree with the majority of their politics. However, one thing is indisputable: the way Tom Morello manipulated his guitar to get the sounds that he culled from his axe is nothing less than legendary.

Alice in Chains: Heaven Beside You
During our productions of Rumors in my junior year and Into the Woods a year later, one of the most common backstage activities before the show (and sometimes in the middle of the show) was to sit around in a circle with a guitar and play some songs. Heaven Beside You was one that was most frequented (along with Nirvana's Lithium and Come as You Are). Whoever wielded the guitar dictated who sang, and depending on who played I was an occasional vocalist. The most awkward of moment came when one of the girls that went to my church shot me a peculiar stare while I was singing this song. This is also a testament to the culture of our drama club... the girls passed time singing show tunes while the guys sang the best that grunge music had to offer.

Dave Matthews Band: Too Much
I have mentioned before how Dave Matthews has had a significant impact in my musical history. Too Much was my introduction to the band and I could not resist the infectious glee their music spawned. But I have a secret for you all. Ever since high school, I've wanted to dance like Dave Matthews. I've given up trying to play the guitar like him... but I'm still trying to master that spastic leg twitchy seizure like groove.

311: Down
When I first heard Down, I thought the world was changing. I know, I said that about Flood... but I could say the same for most of the songs in this list. However, with Down, the world was changing (the music world at least). The lines between genres were blurring. Suddenly the way we classified music didn't matter. Rap... rock... same thing. It's just music. I'd hear this song on the radio in between classes and think this is where the music industry as a whole is going. And to some extent that's true. Several years later, look at where we're at. Rock, rap, county, jazz are all bleeding into one another. Artists of disparate styles are collaborating. Now if only our political leaders could learn that lesson.

Duncan Sheik: Barely Breathing
This song was a permanent part of the soundtrack to my senior year. It was playing on every road trip. It was always on the radio. But beyond the music, I wanted to be Duncan Sheik. I wanted his fashion sense (all though, I dress more like that now than I did in high school). I wanted his tall dark and handsome looks. I wished I had his silky voice. Surely, if I looked like him and sang like him, I would have had better luck with the ladies. Right?

Plankeye: B.C.
My brother gave me the Commonwealth album for Christmas my senior year, and I listened to that album more than any other through the rest of my time in high school. I loved that album like a fat kid loves cake. I played it every chance possible (I managed to slip it into my set list while DJing at a skate park). Even today I can remember the lyrics to every song regardless of how long it's been since I last listened to it. B.C. is such an energetic song - it's always made me want to get up and do something active.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The Impression That I Get
This is ska. The Bosstones helped launch the third wave, and launched my two year dive that made ska one of my primary listening habits. Ska reminds me of summer and I still need to listen to the album that contains The Impression That I Get at least once each year between June and August. But the song itself reminds me of all night set building parties and rehearsals for Into the Woods. It also reminds me of a girl I dated after graduating... but that's a whole different story.

Aerosmith: Taste of India
The CAD club took a road trip to EWU during the spring of my senior year for a technology conference. There are two things I remember from that trip, goofing off in the hotel room in Cheney and the charter bus ride over Snoqualmie and back. I do not remember anything of the actual conference or competitions. The trip over the pass is memorable for a few reasons. getting lucky with McDonald's Monopoly (it was the first year they did the game) at the McD's in North Bend on the way over. Picking up and carrying the fat kid across the parking lot at the pass in front of our school's band and choir who were both returning from road trips that weekend (to my credit, he'd been pestering me since we left Marysville). And Taste of India. That song was played on the radio no less than thirty times in the two days that we were gone.

QueensrĂ¿che: Sign of the Times
There were two songs that played in repetitious form on that road trip to EWU. The first was Taste of India; the other was Sign of the Times. Both songs are still in my road trip playlist and both were in the mix tapes I listened to while driving alone from Sioux Falls to Coeur d'Alene. Sign of the Times is the superior song and is still culturally relevant (maybe more relevant today than when it was released in '97). "Would someone please let me know how we have spun out of control? Has the captain let go of the wheel? Or could we please try to find a way to be a bit more kind?" Again, if only our leaders would take a lesson our artists learned years ago.

The Verve Pipe: The Freshman
Released at the tail end of my high school career, The Freshman captured a feeling that many of us experienced facing our impending graduation and potential freshman year of college. We know nothing but think we know everything. Oh how reality set in. This is one of the songs that motivated me to learn how to play the guitar (yet the full story there is one that deserves it's own blog post).

Third Eye Blind: Semi-Charmed Life
We had just graduated and this song was suddenly all over the radio. Jeff and I spent the rest of the summer trying to figure out the lyrics. What we discovered: it is dirtier and more somber than the music sounds. You'd think it's a happy song. It is also (like The Freshman) one of the songs that inspired me to buy a guitar and learn to play. Two things - 1) I know the lyrics by heart, 2) it is ridiculously fun to play. "The four right chords could make me cry." So true. And logical in a song that only has four chords.

Switchfoot: Chem 6A
One week after graduation, I bought an album from a new and unheard of band on the day the album was released. That album was called Legend of Chin. I took it home, listened to it and something happened that has never happened to me before. Each song from start to finish reflected my life. I could relate every song to something very specific, from a girl that I was interested in (Concrete Girl, Might Have Ben Hur) to my spiritual searching (Home, Don't Be There). That album was my life. And Chem 6A represented that longing to get away that I've mentioned twice now. Later that summer, while driving around town with my dad, we were listening to The Legend of Chin. I told my dad that if I was ever in a band, that was the type of music I wanted to play. Another funny thing... that unknown band was Switchfoot. They're kinda big now. (and HAH! I liked them before you did)




Thanks for humoring me and looking back at the songs that carried me through high school. And I apologize for the long post. It's been a while since I last blogged, so I may be making up for missed webspace.

1.25.2010

Breakfast at Tiffany's

My wife knows I have a general distaste for movies older than I am. So imagine her surprise to see me yesterday afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard on the TV. Holly Golightly had just snuck into Paul Varjak's apartment and I was laughing as Ms. Golightly poured her glass of wine into some potted plants.

"What is this?" Bekah asked.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's."
"Since when did you watch these kind of movies?"
"I love this movie!"

Within minutes, Bekah posted the following as her facebook status: "Hmm ya learn something new every day... Nic is watching Breakfast at Tiffany's Me: 'didn't know 'you liked that movie?" Him: 'I LOVE this movie!' Hmm married almost seven years and I am still finding new things out :)"

I do love that movie - especially the final scene where Varjak tells Ms. Golightly "You know what's wrong with you?" I have always wanted to say that to a girl and get away with it.

1.23.2010

Bad day, bad daddy

Yesterday was a sad day. I got a phone call mid morning from Bekah about Tuba (the hamster Christian got for his birthday last September). It appears that our babysitter didn't entirely shut the door to Tuba's cage after she finished playing with her on Thursday night. Tuba escaped and was devoured by the cats.

Christian cried for 20 minutes when he heard the news. He loved that rodent.

And by the time Bekah called, I was all ready getting a rough start to a long day. I'm adjusting to some additional duties at work and was just starting to realize that I was inheriting a mess. In a bad mood to begin with, Bekah's announcement did nothing to brighten my day.

Later in the day and further behind in my work, I got another call from Bekah. Christian wanted to talk about Tuba. I didn't have the time. I was half way though my day but had a full day's worth of work to accomplish. But I conceded. My wife passed off the phone and the next thing I heard was my son's sobs. I couldn't fully understand what he was saying. I caught a few words: Tuba, Lizzie, cat... not much more. I told him I was sorry and he handed the phone back to Bekah. Christian didn't think I heard him so Bekah was about to give him the phone to retell his story.

Then it happened. I had my bad daddy moment.

I told Bekah that I had to work and was out of time. Then I hung up.

Have you ever had those moments? Those times where you said or did the wrong thing and you realize it the instant the deed is done? There are no take backs, no do overs. Just a big oops moment and the understanding that you're a bigger jerk than you'd like to admit.

I don't know about you, but that's how I felt. I'm not sure what is sadder - my son mourning the loss of his first pet, or how I did nothing to help him feel better.

All is better now. Mostly. I bought christian McDonald's last night and the two of us spent some time talking about death and his feelings. This morning, Bekah and I took him out to breakfast and to the pet store to get a new hamster. He picked the one with the lighter colored fur because the other one looked too much like Tuba.

And now Bob is home. Bob is the new hamster. Christian misses Tuba, but he feels better now. On the ride back home, Christian talked to Bob. He told Bob the story of Tuba's death and how important it was to stay in it's cage.

That made the whole experience worth it - to hear my five year old boy explaining the facts of life and dying and predatory cats to a hamster. After a tiring week, that brought a much needed smile to my face.

1.18.2010

Movie Review & the munchies

We went out to see Book of Eli on Saturday night. While there, Zu, Christian and the Tank were at a babysitter's. Zu (the food thief), snuck into our friends kitchen, grabbed a bag of potato chips off the counter, and went to hide. Our friend found her in a closet munching from a big bag of Lays. Now we all know she can't eat just one.

Anyways, the review is up (finally) one Movie Night with the Casey's.

1.14.2010

perspective

The nation of Haiti is roughly equal to an area stretching from Sandpoint south to Moscow/Pullman and from Spokane east to the Silver Valley. Within that small land mass, their population is just over 10 million. (For perspective, the estimated population of the Inland Empire is 728 thousand.)

From Bonner County to Latah County – including Spokane and Whitman Counties, our headcount is roughly 7% of Haiti’s – in approximately the same amount of space. Where we have 80 people per square mile, Haiti has 930 people per square mile.

Haiti’s president has estimated a death toll of 30 - 50 thousand. That would be equal to 4 - 7% of the population in our area. The Red Cross is estimating that three million are injured or homeless – a greater number of people than the population of Idaho.

And for my left coast friends… the land mass of Haiti is nearly equal to an area stretching from Bellingham to Tacoma and from the Cascade crest to the Sound. The total population of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties is a little more than one third the population of Haiti.

I don’t know if it is possible for us in the Northwest to fully understand the scope of the calamity facing the Haitian people.

I can’t help but think how we would cope if faced with a comparable disaster. What if the earthquake prone Seattle area was struck with a tremor that killed 18 thousand (half of one percent of the eastern Puget Sound population) and left 121 thousand (one third the population) injured or homeless?

What if that size of catastrophe crippled the Inland Northwest – killing one half of one percent and leaving one third of our population homeless? (3600 dead and 24,000 without shelter)

How would we survive?

A good friend from high school grew up in Haiti. He came to the states, graduated from high school, (fantastic soccer player), and went to college on a political science major in hopes that he could one day return to his home and make Haiti a better place. I haven’t seen him in several years. I don’t know if he is still in the US, or if he returned to Haiti. Where ever he is, I know he’s hurting. He was proud of his homeland and his heritage. My heart is broken for him, and I can only hope that he is safe.

This is a massive human tragedy. Please keep Haiti in your thoughts and prayers.

If you want more information on work going on in Haiti, or would like to help...
Yele Haiti
Hands and Feet Project
Red Cross



And, for those of you who want to see the demographics for yourself...

Haiti -
population: 10,033,000
area: 10,714 sq mi

N Idaho/Eastern WA -
total population: 728,124
total area: 9056 sq miles
Bonner County - population: 41,050 - area: 1,920 sq mi
Kootenai County - population: 137,475 - area: 1,316 sq mi
Benewah County - population: 9,352 - area: 784 sq mi
Latah County - population: 35,906 - area: 1,077 sq mi
Spokane County - population: 462,677 - area: 1,781 sq mi
Whitman County - population: 41,664 - area: 2,178 sq mi

western Washington -
total population: 3,659,342
total area: 10,733 sq miles
Whatcom County - population: 196,529 - area: 2,504 sq mi
Skagit County - population: 118,000 - area: 1,920 sq mi
Snohomish County - population: 683,655 - area: 2,196 sq mi
King County - population: 1,875,519 - area: 2,307 sq mi
Pierce County - population: 785,639 - area: 1,806 sq mi

1.13.2010

Today on What's Inside

My blog post today is on one of my secondary blogs... all about lessons learned from breaking guitar strings and how that relates to problems in our lives.

Broken Guitar Strings

1.10.2010

Movies!

I am the perfect movie goer. I have this innate ability to suspend disbelief regardless of how implausible the plot. Even weak stories are manageable if the action keeps me engaged. There are exceptions to the rule. Transformers 2 was such a geographical fail, I couldn't get past the atrocious story. (Petra, the Pyramids at Giza, and the Valley of the Kings are within walking distance of each other? Really?)

Beside the point. I like movies. I like watching movies. I can only think of one time I ever walked out of a theater because the movie was so bad (Summer of Sam). Did I mention I like movies?

So um... (shuffles feet)... I've started a new blog. Again.

But this one is solely dedicated to movie reviews. It's still under construction, so it might look a little rough around the sidebars. But check it out... let me know what ya'll think. There's two new posts (and one more coming soon) plus two reviews I've previously posted here. Hopefully, this will also give you a chance to hear from my wife and eldest child.

Check it out, bookmark it, or not. If you want you can mock it (just don't tell me if you do). Movie Night with the Caseys.

1.08.2010

Found it on Craigslist

This is just too good. Pay attention to the parts in BOLD text.

Vocalist

I am a 26 yr old vocalist who is looking for some people to jam with. I am pretty good at the style I do. I am looking to possibly get a death metal band started up. I am a growler and yes I can do the soft stuff, but I won't. Soft is not who I am for I am Death. I do have some demo type stuff, but you will have to contact me if you are interested. I just want to go out and have some fun with music to start out, than see where things go. I have my own equipment(and it is kick a$$) and transport. If interested call or text Jxx at (208)###-####, or send me an email. I am also a writter* of lyrics and poetry.


*yes, that is how the author spelled "writer"

You can't make up bits like this... well one person could. But the rest of us?

NUMB3R5, d474, bR41N5

My boss gave me a special project a couple of days ago. As I sat with him and his boss in their office, they detailed the specifics of what data they’re looking for and how they want it formatted. In all of those instructions they made it sound complex and time consuming. My boss’s boss told me that he didn’t want me to work late that day and that I could pick up where I left off the next morning.

I went back to my desk and begin to sort through pages and pages of work orders and spreadsheets filled with historical data. If I’m being honest, I must say that I was a slightly intimidated – like a wounded rabbit invited to a tea party with a pack of wolves.

Open Excel, format my table, begin my research, analyze the trends. A half hour later, my work was completed. It was as easy as slicing jello with a steak knife. No scary monsters lurking in the volumes of data. No fatal errors. No blue screen of death. I saved my spreadsheet and sent the attachment to my boss and his boss with the following message: “Done, let me know if you need me to tweak anything.”

Minutes later, I passed by my superior in our lobby.

“Is it done?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“All ready?”

“Either I’m missing something or it was easier than you made it sound.” I replied.

My boss gazed into nothingness with a vacant expression on his face. Silence. Awkward silence. Finally, he responded, “No, I guess that was pretty easy. Ready to start forecasting?”

No, my day was almost done. And I still had much (normal routine) left to accomplish. Forecasting became my project for the next day (yesterday).

Forecasting was the scary monster. The beast. If data mining and trend analysis was effortless like drinking coffee through a straw, predicting a new forecast was like sucking calamari through a straw.

I started with a week by week comparison of the past couple months to the year previous to predict next month. That didn’t work. Then I tried forecasting on six month historical average volume modified by the six month average percentage of change. Then the six month historical average volume modified by the six month average percentage of change modified by two year historical seasonal changes. Then the six month historical average volume modified by the six month percentage of change averaged with the two year historical seasonal changes. Then I tried weighted averages. And modified weighted averages.

I was trying to forecast the previous four months (pretending I did not know how we performed over the last four months) to test the accuracy of my formulas before applying that estimation to the next 90 days. After all was said and done, I had seven different methods to calculate forecasts giving me 28 different guestimations* to check against actual performance.

And I found one model that worked… with a 2% to 10% margin of error (my boss strives for 80% accuracy).

So I deleted all of the failed equations, applied the working prediction to the next three months, cleaned up the spreadsheet, and forwarded it to my boss and his boss so that they could include it in a report they were sending to our corporate office.

When asked how I came up with the forecast, I gave my boss’s boss the best description I could think of in that moment.

“I used a super-ghetto weighted average.” Knowing my forecast was going to be scrutinized by our CEO and other top level executives, that probably was not the best way to depict my methods. But, at least I was honest.


Last night I dreamed of immense numbers, outlying figures, mystifying data, and intricate formulas… all inside a crystal ball.



* guestimation: (noun) An educated guess. A combination of a guess and an estimation. See also guestimate, guestimating, guestimator, and guestimated.

1.07.2010

Defeating the Purpose

On our way to work this morning, my mother-in-law and I spotted a generic bumper sticker on a car stopped in front of us. Beside the picture of a silhouette of an ultralight, it read, “I’d rather be soaring.”

The red light changed to green and traffic began to move. The car turned at the next light and we went straight.

I looked at my mother-in-law and said, “I’m waiting for someone to get a bumper sticker that says ‘I’d rather be driving.’”

“That’s pointless,” she said. “You’re all ready driving.”

“Hence, the irony.”

The joy of Walmart

We’ve all heard the joke about Walmart. (and by we all – I can only speak for myself. You may have heard it.) I don’t remember it word for word, and it has a vague Jeff Foxworthy feel to it: If the biggest city you have ever visited is a Walmart… you might be a redneck.

There’s truth in that gag. The people of Walmart frighten me. If you need evidence to validate my trepidation, check out the People of Walmart website. (link in the sidebar to your right)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all of Walmart’s clientele are maniacal fashion deficient socially awkward hillbillies that got hit with both the stupid and the ugly sticks. I know these miscreants are a marginal representation of our population. The scary people at Walmart are much like crooked cops, and TEA Party enthusiasts; they are not the status quo. Yet they are the most noticeable - a vocal (albeit occasionally entertaining) minority.

On that note, I have a confession. I love the sweet & sour meatballs at the Walmart deli.

I don’t often get to eat them as I rarely visit Walmart. Part of my reasoning is the distance from my house to Wallyworld; it is not worth the drive for $2 worth of meaty goodness. The other part is my paranoid fear that I may be sucked in to the black hole that is the plumber’s crack of the frumpy guy in the checkout line before me – transporting me to a parallel universe of bright lights and automatic doors where half of the population wears blue vests and the other half like to buy their anti-depressants at the same place that they purchase their firearms.

If only there was somewhere else I could get those meatballs.

1.06.2010

My 2010 predictions

January - The American Academy of Arts & Sciences will announce the prevalent lesson learned from James Cameron’s epic Avatar. Even 144 years in the future we do not have universal health care.

FebruaryAl Gore will claim he invented Valentine’s Day. Shortly after his proclamation, Al and his wife commit another awkward public display of affection.

March - In the ongoing battle over right to life versus right to choose, the state of South Dakota will make it illegal to be Tom Daschle.

April - NASA will discover Spencer Pratt’s ego can be seen from space.

May - LOST creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams will receive hundreds of stuffed polar bears from LOST fans who do not want the series to end. In the series finale, Jorge Garcia’s character, Hurley, chants “four more years!” giving enthusiasts hope that the series may continue.

June - Lady Gaga will admit she’s not a she.

July - God will send a prophet to Washington DC to speak out against the government. Congress will laugh at him (or her). The earth will then open up and swallow the capital building.

August - President Obama will go Pentecostal. He vows to veto any bill that has not been sanctified. He will also announce his intentions to run in 2012 as the Republican candidate for US President. Subsequently, Sarah Palin’s head will explode. When asked about Sarah’s cranial detonation, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin replies “I can see Alaska from here.”

September - Retail stores will begin playing Christmas music the day after Labor Day.

October - Chuck Norris will release a Christmas album. Songs include A Roundhouse Kick for Rudolph (How He got His Red Nose), Frosty: Arctic Ranger, and I Gave Jesus the Gift of Beard. Chuck will then announce CBS's plans to revive his hit show Walker, Texas Ranger. CBS is not aware of those plans but they conceed to Chuck's wishes out of fear of his left and right fists.

November - Florida’s ballot initiative to secede from the Union will be passed. Perplexed Florida residents declare they did not vote to become an independent nation and claim the ballot was ambiguous. They thought they were voting for immigration reform. A massive recount will follow.

December - On the 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, Paul McCartney announces The Beatles will be reuniting for a world tour. When told that it would be impossible for The Beatles to get back together because Lennon and Harrison are not alive, Paul responds “The Rolling Stones have been dead for years and they continue to tour. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

1.03.2010

Pop Quiz

Question: What is The Itchy & Scratchy Show?

a) The cheesy cartoon within a cartoon watched by characters on The Simpsons
b) The current status of my voice and esophagus

1.01.2010

Under the Quandary

A couple of new books for Christmas - including Steven King's new novel Under the Dome. The book is a mystery - and I'm not talking about genre. No short description on the back cover or the inside flap like most book consumers have come to expect. Nothing. The contents of the book are a complete mystery until you read it (or someone tells you).

I'm just getting it started, but it's intimidating. It's a beast.* If I average 3 pages a day (starting today) I'll finish the book on Christmas. (of 2010)

Luckily I've all ready delved into the first handful of pages. I'm a slow reader, so it will take me a while. And I have ADD so I can't just read one book at a time. I'm also working my way through A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle of the American West (another book of equally epic proportions), Jules Verne's classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the third book in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series. (I hope to finish one of them soon)

Back to the king of horror. In the first few pages, a plane crashes into an invisible wall - bursting into flames and a woodchuck is chopped in half. A few more pages in and an old man breaks his nose after sprinting into the same invisible wall, a gardener loses her hand while her husband listens to LCD Soundsystem, a deer's head is separated from it's body, and a logging truck slams into the invisible barrier at highway speeds - spewing it's load of logs (one of which almost lands on the old guy who broke his nose). So much carnage in such a short amount of time. And I still have no idea what is going on.

I'm sure Mr. King intended it to be like that.

* Even Steven King admits it's a beast. In the author's note** he writes that his editor helped trim "the book down from the original dinosaur to a beast of slightly more manageable size."

** Also in the author's note, King admits that part of why it took him so long to finish writing this book (he started in 1976) was that he was "terrified of screwing it up." As an aspiring writer, I find that encouraging. As the fear of screwing up my own story is my greatest hindrance in writing fiction. Thanks Mr. King for the motivating kick in the pants. Hopefully it doesn't take me 33 years to write my first book.

The 1st day: happy new year

Good morning. In case you've not yet spoken to another soul, let me be the first to wish you a happy New Year. If I'm not the first, let me be the funniest (does the truffle shuffle).

For the final song in my holiday series, I give you one of the greatest bands to ever put words to music and music to record.

Song: New Years Day
Artist: U2
Album: War

I was intending on posting a video for Dan Wilson's What a Year for a New Year, because 2010 is indeed a year we need a new year. However, that song does not exist on YouTube. Shame. It's a good song. You should look it up.

But I digress.

U2's classic is probably more fitting. In my younger days there were two songs that one of my best friends and I listened to every New Year's Eve. this song from U2 and Iron Maiden's 2 Minutes to Midnight (Quiet possibly the only Iron Maiden song I can listen to without wanting to stab my eardrums with a turkey baster).

And now we're in a new year. The old is gone the new has come. A world in white gets underway. So I say "cheers!" (this is me being optimistic... that's my resolution, less pessimism.)