Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween 2004

I've just finished writing my Monday newsletter and am off to dress up the house for Halloween. I believe that if you decorate too early, it takes away from the shock of it all. As I work on the set-up for this year, I decided to put some photos up from 2004.

On the left is a decapitated body. It worked really well except the kids wanted to look under the sheet to see the head. Have a great Halloween folks. Oh, that's how I answered the door that year. I'm sure that you are now happy you know what I look like. B) I'm a sick bastard.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

What Can Brown Do For You?

Many people know that I don't watch American Idol. I believe the reason for that is that I'm not really a fan of current pop music. There is something missing there. I tend to look back and think of the first search for musical talent instead... Star Search. As you can see in the picture, there's Ed McMahon. Sure, I don't think he knew much about music at the time (they did branch off into comedy, dancing and comedy with much success) but there sure were some amazing people that used that show as a stepping stone.

The show was a fixture in our household growing up and, for some reason, the winners seemed to be pretty obvious for awhile. It was almost like a Survivor talent show when there were people of equal talent. Sure, everyone knows about Britney Spears appearing on the show. Even Sinbad, Sam Harris, Dennis Miller, Drew Carey, Rosie O'Donnell, Alanis Morissette, Martin Lawrence, Justin Timberlake, Ray Romano, LeAnn Rimes and Christina Aguilera made decent careers for themselves after appearing on the show that ran from 1983 to 1995. But then, there was this 5-piece country band that was embraced by the studio and television audience that won the $100,000 grand prize on the show and got signed to a recording contract right afterwards named... Sawyer Brown.

Friday night was my first time seeing Sawyer Brown since I first watched them on Star Search. The band have been together now for more than 23 years, performed over 3500 shows and have collected many gold and platinum albums. I actually don't have any of their CDs (this will be remedied.) The show was phenomenal. Unexpected witty banter between the band members, great cover songs and a tight sound seem to be a staple of their shows from most of the crowd reaction. The energy of lead vocalist Mark Miller is astounding. Sure, he dances funny but after awhile you get past that. Keyboardist Gregg 'Hobie' Hubbard stands out though. He has an amazing ear for vocal harmony and plays the hell out of that Yamaha he has on stage. His vocal on their cover of Joe Walsh's "Life Is Good" had me floored. This isn't to say that the rest of the band were slouches. I'm just amazed that I might never have seen them if it weren't for the kindness of Dan and Robin offering the tickets. I'm very thankful. Now I need to find a good greatest hits collection for them. I'll work on that later. Gotta get ready for a Halloween party and maybe sneak a nap in.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


My website needs graphical help. So much so that I got ahold of that television series in Canada (Call For Help... I think I mentioned the show before.) I was able to get a copy of the episode online from when it aired in Canada and Australia before it airs here in the U.S. (kinda funny because it actually shows a photo of me.) Anyhow, one thing that they came up with was personalizing it with a mascot... me. So, what Amber there devised was a company called IconizeMe which makes caricatures from photos you provide them. I've looked at the samples (click that link and look to the right at what Jose' does) and found the artist and style that I want. Now I just need to sent the right photo. I really hate photos but I have a few that I took a bit ago that just need to be scanned and sent with my $50 payment and I'm on my way.

I've also been considering my idea of having crazed art pieces that I come up with adorn my walls. Many include using body parts and other things and well, someone might figure what they are out and that wouldn't be PG. I'm now thinking of having a blown up version of the caricature created for me put on canvas but then again... that could either be vain or self-deprecating.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Shortcuts Through The Maze

I know that you've been there. You got the wrong product, wanted to call about product availability, needed to know about your account, wished to make a payment... one way or another, we've all had to go through a silly menu to try to get somewhere. Depending on how that electronic phone menu is structured... you may be there awhile trying out different options. Heck, most often we are so distracted that by the time they mention what pressing 7 will do for you, you have forgotten what 1, 2, and 4 are.

As a business it only makes sense. If you can cut down on simple phone calls that can be answered with a quick message and hire less people, it's better to have a menu system. But, if it is something more pressing, having a person on the other end may ease your mind quickly. It used to be pretty easy to foil the system and just press zero but they seem to have caught on to that. That's why it may be handy for you to keep your Find-A-Human cheat sheet available for some of those calls. Here you can speed up the process (until they learn people know about the shortcut) and get difficult answers quicker instead of meandering through a maze of words in hopes of finding what you need.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Just Another Hair-brained MLM Scheme

The service industry is tough. Turning on a smile, dealing with upset customers, answering customer questions... keeping people happy is difficult. I actually enjoy meeting new people and believe that I learn something every day from the ones that I work for and around. But, sometimes the customer doesn't want to be a customer. That's right, you are being solicited.

When was the last time you went to a convenience store and told the clerk that their life is heading in the wrong direction? This seems to be happening more and more in what some call 'viral marketing.' Sure, there are companies out there that actively pursue employees as if they were a sale. I'd mention some names but I'd like to cut the lawsuits down to a minimum.

The last few days at work have been solicitation hell. I can't actually count on my fingers and toes how many times I've dealt with this. This one unnamed company is in our building holding sales conferences (I worry that what they are doing is trying to meet people on the street and ask catch them off guard.) As an employee serving a customer, you are pretty much trapped in conversation with them. The conversation usually makes a turn at "So, how long have you been working here." A simple and easy question but you know the follow-up of "How do you like it?" is just awaiting whatever response you have. Now you are trapped. No one likes to work. Everyone wants to be paid more. Everyone would love to have better days off (like football Sundays.) Any way you answer the question you will be given a card, asked for a card, be told about how you can make money in your spare time (I have spare time? Really? Someone drug test this person!) or how something can change your life. I'm devising a plan for the next couple days to combat the scenario without endangering the job but I wonder how often you've felt cornered in the same way?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It's Raining Again

For a lot of local Las Vegans, today and last night we had weather that many moved here to avoid. Yes, the dreaded thing called rainfall. Somewhere in this city, there are a bunch of pots and pans under leaks in the roof. There are people getting in car accidents because they can't drive. There are roads closed due to flooding (we don't actually have the best drainage.) There are people that can't work (outdoor jobs.) But, we are second to Arizona in getting the least rainfall so I find it hard to complain and I actually like it.

I don't know specifically why but there may be several reasons for it. My father teaches tennis. Having rainy days meant that he wouldn't be at work and we'd have him to ourselves. That could be a good one. It could be that amazing smell that comes before the rain here in Vegas. I've heard people talk about the smell after the rain but by that time the smell I notice is gone. I also like seeing empty streets in the middle of the day. It's a break from the hustle and bustle. Maybe it's even the feeling that the rain is washing away the impurities that have built up and is starting our town with a clean slate. What am I saying, it's Sin City. Heck, I've even thought of it as the Lord either urinating, spitting or crying at different times in my life, too.

Sometime after I graduated high school, I found an album that I've mentioned before called The Size Of Food by The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience. After becoming transfixed and sucked into their sound, I went looking for more. All I could find was an old vinyl album of theirs called Love Songs. That's where I found my favorite song, "I Like Rain," and for a few weeks I'll leave it up here (it's going to kill my website's bandwidth otherwise.) It takes repeated listenings but there is something about the cheesy keyboards, simple guitar picking, rollercoaster of melody and innocence... maybe even the falling notes. I also notice that some of my favorite songs are about rain: Jars Of Clay's "Flood," Supertramp's "It's Raining Again," the Eurythmics' "Here Comes The Rain Again," Depeche Mode's "Sun And The Rainfall," Cracker's "Another Song About The Rain," Eddie Rabbitt's "I Love A Rainy Night," New Edition's "Can You Stand The Rain?," The Everly Brother's "Crying In the Rain," The Cult's "Rain," The Jesus And Mary Chain's "Happy When It Rains"... let's just say there are a whole lot of them.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Thought Of The Day - 101705

The one song that is not expected to be played on New Orleans radio when it returns to the air: Katrina And The Waves' "Walking On Sunshine."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

So Much To Do With No Obvious Order

It seems like everything is going on at the same time right now. As I've mentioned previously, my Isuzu Rodeo was in an accident. The insurance company has decided it is a total loss. Meaning that I will receive around $3,000 minus the $500 deductible. The way the company works is that when they give you their offer, my car rental coverage stops. So, I have been thinking about what type of automobile to move to. It'll have to be cheap (within the money returned to me) because financing something right now will kill my home equity line of credit (HELOC) loan process. So, I've decided the next vehicle will be a 2-year deal. Essentially, I'm going to buy what I can, use the time to save on gas (that Rodeo had a drinking problem) and buy a newer vehicle 24 months later. I just need to find one by Tuesday. No sweat, right? So that is on my mind.

The loan process is important as I have a chance to start a new vocation in the next few weeks. If it doesn't happen then, it'll be about 18 months down the road and that 2-year car will become a 4-year deal. Once set in motion and secured, I'll be able to use my equity to help me make it through the tough couple years of internship. But, it also means leaving a job I've been at for almost 12 years (which is tough because I have a lot of good friends there.)

Then there is Nana. Her surgery on the tumor went alright. The only problem was when they went in and discovered cancer on her bladder. In some ways I'd think they'd just go in and take that then but to not lessen her chance of recovery, they stopped there -- she is 85. Mom said the thin and spirited little woman looks has been weakened dramatically but is fighting through it. I guess, cancer really starts spreading once it's being removed and she'll need all the strength she can by then. She's forefront of my addled mind. Having the transportation and the money to spend more time with her would be wonderful and are a few of the reasons why I'm making the changes but I need to also keep my thoughts and prayers (yes, be scared, I'm saying a few prayers for Nana) on her right now. I just think that if the Lord wanted to take a saint, he would have grabbed her long ago. So, I figure there are still things here for her to do.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

When Rumors Become Reality

It was the during the ESPY awards that I heard the wildest rumor. I don't know if you can call it a rumor if it came from the person that it was about. Anyhow, it was during a very bad year for the San Francisco 49ers. The only thing that legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice had to look forward to in February of 2000... a nomination as Male Athlete of the Decade. Rice had begun contract talks with the team after his first healthy season since he was a rookie that he had less than 1000 yards (830.) Talks about him going to other teams were circulating but easily dismissed.

Anyhow, a friend of mine named John that worked with me was able to assist Mr. Rice as he departed the premises. As they were walking, he asked him, "Any chance you might go play across the bay?" The future Hall Of Fame wide receiver stopped walking for a moment, turned and looked at him enthusiastically and replied, "You know... I'd love to catch balls with Tim Brown!" It was quick and positive, leaving John with the giddy feeling that next year, Jerry Rice would be an Oakland Raider. But, that didn't happen. Rice would have less receiving yards in 2000 with the team as teammate Terrell Owens would jump from 754 yards to 1451 yards and become the 'go-to-guy.'

Rice did wind up going to Oakland the next year after many believed he had 'lost a step' which upset many 49er fans that wanted him to retire with the team then. I was pretty astonished to think that maybe there was a little something in what he said to John that day about playing across the bay. Did something he said to Jerry create an intrigue into the idea? His career rebounded the next two seasons with 1139 yards and 1211 yards as he played along-side the player ranked right behind him in all-time receiving yards. Although he has retired, I still remember looking at John that day like he was on crack when he gave me what I expected was just another bad rumor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Night Of Keyboards

It was a great show on Saturday. Heck, both acts played with the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra (Ok, I know you are thrilled.) I didn't know how much longer it would go on but I was enjoying it and I do recall that I called in sick the next day because sleeping from 2 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. isn't really an option (I work early.)

First on was Alan Parsons Live Project. I had seen them live years ago and think that this was a better show. I went with Kerry, Dan, Robin and bumped into renown Las Vegas photo-journalist J. K. Hennessy (who provided the photo.) Parsons performed a few tracks from their latest album A Valid Path which is a lot heavier on the keyboards and at times very trance-like. Also notable is that each member of his band provide vocals. All but the backup keyboardist sang lead on songs during the performance. I'm still shocked at how well Parsons himself sounded on "Don't Answer Me." I wound up purchasing their live DVD and the previously-mentioned album after the show.

No, that's not Tony Bennett in the photo (we'll talk about him another time) this is Dennis DeYoung. He opened with his solo hit "Desert Moon" and then was very animated as he pointed and yelled at a few roadies (off microphone of course.) Come to find out that the roadies set up Alan Parsons' keyboard up where Dennis' was supposed to be. Since it was pre-loaded with songs for "Eye In The Sky" and all, it wouldn't work out. DeYoung admitted to being a little out-of-sorts not sitting behind his keyboard and this was noticeable as he played his piano on a few songs (possibly to replace the keyboard sound) but the volume wasn't there. His stage charisma was definitely boosted by his great sense of humor as he seemed to forget the keyboard mess after a few songs. It was an amazing performance as the hits he wrote for Styx were mixed with classical music interludes that fit the songs well. I'd tell you which classical pieces but I'm a mediocre 80's music authority not early classical. Overall, it was well worth the issues I'll have at work for calling-in.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Never Let Me Down?

There have been a few bands that have really influenced my musical appreciation over the years. Duran Duran would be a big one but when it comes to songwriting I've always cited Depeche Mode above all. So as you can expect, I sit eagerly awaiting every album and b-side of theirs. My favorite Depeche Mode song? That's a toss up between "But Not Tonight" and "Sea Of Sin." So for their 12th studio album, the band have made a subtle but important change.

When the band released their 1981 debut album, Speak And Spell, their sole songwriter was a man named Vince Clarke. He had been instrumental in convincing the band to perform entirely with keyboards. The album was very successful but Clarke decided to move on (forming Yazoo/Yaz and Erasure.) Bandmate Martin L. Gore successfully took over the songwriting on the following albums with only one or two compositions by Clarke's replacement on keyboards Alan Wilder. In 1989, Gore would release, Counterfeit, (a solo album of cover songs) and a Counterfeit2 in 2003. Somewhere along the way, vocalist Dave Gahan decided to try his hand more at writing. He had presented songs to the band before and been balked. In 2003, Gahan released a solo album, Paper Monsters, to modest reviews. He then reported that if he were to work on a follow-up to Depeche Mode's 2001 album, Exciter, he would have to be allowed to write some of the songs.

Fast-forward to 2005, I've picked up an early release of their new album Playing The Angel. Gahan has written 3 songs for the album ("I Want It All," "Suffer Well" and "Nothing Is Impossible") and Gore has gone through a recent divorce leading to a lyrically dark album. I'm impressed by the first single, "Precious," but can't find another song that jumps out at me. There seems to be more noise than actual hook in most of the songs. I can actually say that if I had to list my favorite albums by the band this would be right at the bottom. I remain hopeful that this disc will grow on me before the Oct. 18th release date but right now I'm suddenly finding their songwriting is letting me down.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My Share, Their Share, Their Math, My Butt

Nevada cities North Las Vegas and Henderson have been ranked #2 and #3 in the Top 5 fastest growing of the 1990s by the Census Bureau. The 2000 census report rated the Las Vegas metropolitan area as the #1 fastest growing area (83.3% to 1,563,282.) Between 2000 and 2002, Las Vegas gained 6%, North Las Vegas gained 17.7% and Henderson jumped 17.3%. From July 1, 2003 to July 1, 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked North Las Vegas as the #3 fastest growing city. Growth can be good and then it can bad as we are all facing pains in transportation but it seems that the police have been feeling the effects as well. Or have they?

By a narrow margin in 2004, the voters approved an initiative to raise the sales tax to 7.75% in order to hire and equip more police officers with another possible .25% increase possible in 2009. The initiative was later approved by state, county officials and signed into law by Governor Kenny Guinn earlier this year. This month, the new sales tax went into effect which raises the annual cost of living but for a good cause.

The Las Vegas area had 852,732 residents in 1990, nearly 1.6 million in 2000 and our current estimate is 1.8 million. My problem with this raise in tax is that the funds for the police already come from our state sales tax. This value climbs as our population does as more spending occurs exponentially with growth. If I was one of the 1 million people that moved to Las Vegas in the last 15 years, I probably went shopping to fill my home and taxes on those items filled state coffers. Yet, I have difficulty understanding how a .25% increase helps with growth when sales do that. I also find it intriguing that after this new tax went into place, a new contract proposal from Sheriff Bill Young to the police union assures most officers a 10% annual raise. Which instead of being used to hire new officers will deplete that tax increase faster than Courtney Love goes through needles.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Well, I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle... Again

Taking a photo of a photo in a frame is a pain in the tush. Glass glares and the focus is thrown off by the reflection but I wanted this picture in here without having to scan it. Pictured here are my sister and her husband with the twins (Olivia and Connor but I'm sure you've heard me talk about them before... there's even a photo or two up here.) After trying for years to get pregnant, Michelle and Cory did the whole medical route. After a lot of money and attempts, Olivia and Connor were born. They impress me every time I see them.

Recently, Cory has been to the doctor several times over an inner-ear issue that could affect his job if not treated. He is expected to have another surgery next month. With all the flu cases going around, Michelle has been under the weather... at least that's what we thought. It seems that I'm again going to be an uncle. It's rather unexpected for their family but both Connor and Olivia have mentioned wanting a baby. After all the issues that they've been working through, it's good to see something good happen naturally. So now, I'm looking at the picture and thinking of a third child (then again maybe two) in the middle somewhere.

The bad news is that my mother (who's birthday is tomorrow) is visiting Grandma Hennessy in the hospital in Sacramento. After the car accident, it seemed everything was going to be alright. A few nights later she awoke to blood on her sheets. She has a tumor on one of her kidneys. Surgery is expected to take place shortly. Mom has always had a very close bond with Nana (one that most would like to see in mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships) and I can see why she went there as soon as she could. We have our prayers with her as well as fingers crossed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Knit One, Pearl Two

It has been a great football weekend. This has got me thinking about football rivalries. Some people are just a bit more passionate about certain things and you can see that in the stands at some of these games. There are people that you just don't want to tell that you are a fan of a certain team because all you will hear from them in the future is about your team. Most of us actually like to have bigger conversations that "your defensive line couldn't fight it's way out of a paper bag" or "they have decided that your next pre-season will include a game with Bonanza High School, hope you don't lose that one" which are fighting words for any passionate fan. So, something about all this (which I see a lot at work) seemed familiar.

Politics. Partisan politics can bring out fighting words from anyone that is passionate about their views. Name-calling is nothing new but when you see one friend assaulting another over the 'war on terror' it's pretty bad. You hear the snide remarks in the news and can tell who not to talk about your political views with.

What I notice in common there are the fact that most often, these views are passed on from family. There are times when it will deviate on with both fandom and political leanings but most often these are learned practices. Dad is a fan of the Bills, Billy sits down and watches Daddy watching the Bills and is happy the Bills win because it makes Dad happy. The same thing often applies in families when a child hears that (insert party) is corrupt, evil or brain-dead. Impressions start young on both issues but it is interesting to see those that are obsessed with both football and politics... that's when you discuss knitting.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Maybe, It's Better To Sing In The Car

Feel free to officially call or visit Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong today and wake him up.

Today at the big green building we had many celebrities that are performing a benefit concert (Celine Dion, Usher, Mary J. Blige, the Eagles and Duran Duran.) I personally hold Duran Duran's first album (which is very underrated) responsible for my music development. So, I had one of their songs in my head and spent some time singing one of the album tracks, "Night Boat." Anyhow, I turned a corner heading back to the office and was still singing as I passed John Taylor. Eye contact was made but we kept walking by each other. A very weird moment, indeed.

I was given tickets to see the show a little bit later on today but I had plans to go to a wedding with my father and work 5 am to 1 pm tomorrow (so I'll be sleeping.) Gave the tickets to my little brother Michael who is in town from L.A. I then got home and thought about what I'd have to wear to the wedding. Sports coat is M.I.A. and really lacking clothes that would work well in a formal environment. So, I called Dad and let him know that I'm not going to the wedding. Heck, by the time I drove back, I really wouldn't have much time to sleep so it's probably better off this way. September really has ended.