what?

Well, I guess I should introduce the new look and the new subject matter-
My name is Patrick and I am currently studying to be a teacher. I am in one of those fast-track masters programs, where I have a BA in the subject matter (in this case, History) and I go to school all summer to learn how to make lesson plans and how to do grades and that sort of thing.

I have been observing classes for the past two weeks as the kids get ready to get out for summer. It’s been interesting.

I am aware that some of the teachers that are in the schools already (that spent four years in college and ran up great big student loan debts) kind of resent those of us that are coming in with the crash course program. They call us “Microwave Teachers.” I hope to do well enough to dispell some of their concerns when I get there.

I will be recording some of my impressions here about the process and about teaching when I (hopefully) get there in the Fall.

Comments are welcome!

Oh, thank god….

I have been so anxious, sad and lonlely, and I didn’t have any idea what to do about it. Fortunately, I was in the grocery store yesterday and happened to notice the cover of this little magazine.

I hadn’t realized it, but now I know that I just wasn’t watching enough television!

In a Van Again?

Damnedest things can happen when you think you know what you are doing… I was visiting family just outside Washington, DC when my cell phone rang at 11:00pm to tell me that I had a message. The number on the caller ID was familiar but from a long time ago.

Adam Musick, from the band Southern Bitch had called me. When I called him he told me that the drummer that had replaced me in the band had been out drinking, come home, laid down on the couch and died. A sweet, sweet guy, apparently he had made some sort of miscalculation about tolerances and his heart had stopped. The band had initially cancelled their shows that they had booked, but one of them was a showcase at the world famous music conference South By Southwest, and they were wondering- could I come and do their Texas shows?

I haven’t been out on the road with a band in years. But for the better part of the 1990s, I was in a band called Five-Eight and we used to do about 200 shows a year or thereabouts. It was a hell of a life- I was always broke, usually fighting some kind of cold or something, always tired, on the bad side of most of my family and completely unable to point at anything in my life and say “I own that and no one can take it away from me.” Do I want to go back to that?

“Sure,” I said, “when are we leaving?”

Southern Bitch is a southern rock band, in the style of the new wave of southern rock bands- The Drive-By Truckers, Slobberbone, Uncle Tupelo and their various offspring, the Bottle Rockets, there are mess of these bands out there right now. What sets Southern Bitch apart is their incredible musicianship. They are a truly smoking band,

In the years since I left the band they have been traveling the country and playing a bunch of the same dives that Five-Eight used to play. They even found some of the same restaurants that we used to eat at.

I drove home and picked up my dog at the kennel. My only stipulation on jumping into the van and hitting the road with these guys was that they let me load up my chow and bring him along, because kennel life is no kind of life for a dog.

We had one practice the next day in Athens and we loaded up the van with our ears still ringing. We have been driving towards Texas ever since.

Thoughts on getting back out on the road:
Man, it does feel good to be back on the road. Last night I looked out through the windshield into the hazy black velour in front of us, the smooth seam of asphalt slipping away beneath our wheels, Up ahead there was a steamy pool of light where the state of Mississippi had put up a stand of streetlights to illuminate a bridge shaped like a turtle’s back. We had the windows open because it was a cool night. Five-Eight used to ride these Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas backroads to scratch out some rent money. It’s like coming home.

On the other hand, the sunglasses in my pocket and the cowboy boots I am wearing cost me more together than I made in a month when I was touring full time. There’s no money in this life, but it made me pretty happy.

We slept in Shreveport last night, Buddha and I crashed in the van because there’s no dogs allowed in the hotel. We each had a bench seat, though I woke up at 5:30 with him lying on top of me. He’s scared of thunderstorms and one rolled through around then. I finally wrestled him off of me around 6:00. (H’e about 80 lbs.)

We crossed the state line into Texas before 10:30, these guys are blasting the Black Crowes. The thunderstorm washed the air clean and the sun is shining brightly, though the March morning is cool. I have been trying to sip a hot cup of coffee as we bounce down the concrete Texas highway. There is a little taste of diesel in the air. In every direction the green fields of East Texas stretch to the horizon.

Welcome to Airstrip One

This is so brilliant that I felt like I needed to reproduce it in its entirety on my own weblog, but let me give credit where it is due- It is lifted verbatim from my favorite weblog, Scary Duck, winner of the Best British Weblog 2001, as decided by the readers of the Machester Guardian. Read this, then go read more.

“Welcome to Airstrip One”

George Orwell was surprisingly on the button. OK, so he was the best part of twenty years out, but his nightmare vision for society of 1984 is just about upon us. Government, if they really wanted to, can follow your every move through TV cameras, logging credit card purchases, tapping your mobile phone and filtering your e-mail.

Life is reduced to a uniform mediocrity of work, drive, TV with a compliant media to feed you what they want you to hear. In America in particular, where the major TV networks and newspaper owners give money to both the major parties, no-one dares ask questions. There is no new Bernstein and Woodward to question the motives and actions of those in power because if Watergate happened now, the story would be ruthlessly spiked. It took foreign media to expose Jeb Bush’s election-winning vote-rigging in Florida, and by then nobody cared, and if the story made the papers, it was on page 32, just next to the funnies.

But where Orwell really got it right was on Big Brother’s need for war. In 1984, The Party knew that Oceania had to be at war permanently, with either Eurasia or Eastasia to keep the proles’ minds off what is going on around them. Bush knows this, so does the Prime Minister of Airstrip One. The war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the war to finish what Daddy started, it’s been non-stop, while at home governments have been passing laws to restrict civil liberties under the banner of “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.” How long until we get the compulsory Two Minutes Hate and the “Big Brother is Watching You” posters? Are we all the victims of the most outrageous con-trick of all time? Funny how the bad guys always seem to get away…”

Country Life

First lesson of life lived in a cabin: Well pumps break. Especially when the temperature gets down around 5Ð. Then stuff freezes, and the well pump breaks. I was had a real Green Acres moment when my girlfriend got out of bed on an ice cold morning and said to me, “The toilet won’t flush.”

I spent the day today patching the PVC around the pump that had cracked in the cold. Went to a hardware store in the nearest town. I needed some PVC connectors. They were sold out. I asked when they would have some in and the guy said “The truck comes in on Monday. I can have him bring you some fittins then.” I was thinking “There are some turds that need to go away before Monday…” What I said was “You don’t have a pet pig, do you?”

Went to the hardware store in the next town over. I pulled in around 1:30 pm. There was a sign on the door, “Open until 5:30 every day,” then in smaller type, “Except Thursday. We close at 1:00pm Thursdays.”

Got lucky in the next town and found an Ace Hardware full of guys immune to the Friends Haircut Syndrome. Interesting thing about country folk- they still smoke cigarettes. If you’re an urban smoker feeling persecuted, move to the country. There are squadrons of guys with nicotine stained hats with cryptic numbers on them just puffing away.

Got back and wrestled the pump housing apart and started putting stuff back together. Spent about an hour working on it before I looked behind the pump, and found a pair of tiny dark eyes staring intently up at me. Apparently, in taking the well house apart, I disturbed a field mouse’s afternoon idle. He had been huddled in the back of the well house hoping that I wouldn’t snatch him up and dispatch him. When I finished fixing the pump, I pieced the well house back together and left him there. If he wants to live in the pump house, fine. If he tries to live in one of the cereal boxes in the cabin, then we are going to have to have a little talk.

Also living in the pump house was a pair of honest-to-god black widow spiders. Note to self: “Don’t reach into the pump house in the dark…”

we made it

Well, we made it out of the cold, treacherous city that we were living in. Our plan was to get out of there sometime the afternoon of December 31st, but we spent more time packing than we expected and ended up driving out of the city as the fireworks were bursting in the sky over Lake Michigan. As we pulled through the toll booths on the south side, we could hear the guys out firing their guns into the air to celebrate. (You know about this, right? It’s a little tradition where handguns are more common than cars that run well enough to drive to places where fireworks are legal and available to buy- at the stroke of midnight one pulls out one’s gat and fires it into the air.)(buck-buck like you just don’t care….)

We’re living in the middle of the country now, pictures here. We’re about five miles from the nearest gas pump, twenty miles from hot pizza, don’t know how far from a shopping center. We went for a hike on the land the first morning there and we found a ton of coyote sign. There are some guys that run horses and dogs on the land, and they told us that they have seen panther sign near the swamp. Pretty excited about that. Not so excited about the coyotes. But you gotta take the bitter with the sweet. The coyotes raise some serious hell at night. It’s something to hear. I may try to tape it and stream it from the site so everyone can hear it.

Anyway, we’re here for a while it feels pretty good to wake up see herons in the lake and hawks in the trees. I may have to change the name of the weblog….

-p

eFax and Me

I sent this email:

Dear Customer Support-
There seems to be some sort of problem with the sign up page for the eFax free service. I have been trying to sign up for the free service, but I keep getting sent back to the sign up page by the confirmation email that I am receiving.

But the link sends me back to the sign up page, where I am asked to re-enter the exact same information that I have already entered. I enter all the same info again, then I receive a confirmation email, sending me right back to the same page.

Please let me know where I can go to get my eFax phone number, as this is not working.

thanks,

-patrick ferguson
patrick@devjunky.com

They responded:

Hello Patrick,

Thank you for contacting eFax.com Support.

Based on the information you provided, it appears that you do not have an active eFax account. If you signed up using a different e-mail address, let us know so we can revise our database search. Otherwise, it is likely that your order was not processed, and we recommend that you sign up again.

To sign up for eFax Free, please visit http://www.efax.com/signup/free/page1.asp. (for those of you watching from home, please note that this link does not function, due to the period at the end of the URL. Cutting the period out takes one back to the by now sickeningly familiar eFax sign up page.)

If you are still unable to sign up online, please email us the following details. We shall sign up for an account and send your the efax number and PIN to you.

1) Full Name to be registered.
2) Email address to be registered for the account.
3) Postal Address with ZIP CODE.
4) Work and home phone number.
5) The Operating System that you use.

Please visit our Help section at http://efax.com/help if you have any additional questions.

Thank you for contacting eFax.com. For any future correspondence regarding this issue, please reference this case ID in your message: 2348142.

Sincerely,

-(name deleted for fear of legal action)
eFax.com Customer Service
**********************************************

I responded:

Still having the same loopback problem that I have been having with your signup for free service. I go the sign up page, fill out the form, submit it and I get an email asking me to go the sign up page, fill out the form and submit it. Please try this yourself so you can appreciate how much fun this is. (here is the link, in case you need it- http://www.efax.com/signup/free/page1.asp ) I have done this about seven or so times now.

You’d think I would have stopped about the third time, but I wanted to make sure that the same annoying functionality was consistent from browser to browser, platform to platform. So far, your website fails to allow me to sign up from Internet Explorer 5.5 on Mac OS X, Netscape 6 on Mac OS X, Chimera on OS X, IE 5.0 on Mac OS 9.2, Netscape 4.5 on Windows 98, Internet Explorer 5.5 on Windows 98, and finally, Mozilla on Red Hat 7. If your goal is *not* to allow people to sign up for the free service, then you have done a *truly FANTASTIC* job. I applaud your thoroughness. The sign up page is a complete success (on every platform! and in every browser!) at preventing someone from signing up for eFax. Of course I am tempted to sign up for the premium service if I can expect the same kind of seamless cross-platform functionality that I have seen so far. Please find the info that you requested below:

(personal info deleted for obvious reasons.)

Can’t wait to see how this turns out…..

UPDATE! 30 Dec 2002 17:11 CST


They sent me a fax number. Hell, they sent me five fax numbers, apparently. Here is a snapshot of my inbox. All joking aside, eFax can be a cool service. And now you can fax me at 253.295.4151, or any of four other fax numbers!

not everybody loves the guy-

Recently, I wrote in this space how much I enjoyed recording with Steve Albini and I sang the praises of his work style and his studio. Turns out there are some different opinions of the guy and his operation out there. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I am printing excerpts from an email I received from a friend that recorded with Albini a year or two ago. Here is another perspective:

“…music raises goosebumps on people’s arms because they love it…that is why
we make music…because for some unknown reason, we love it and it gives us
chills and makes us feel good (in some relative sense)…

And this “good” feeling we get from music doesn’t come from a microphone, or
a tuned drum, or an adobe brick, or a piece of magnetic tape. These are
cool elements that are fun to talk about and learn about, but truthfully
lay-people (i.e. listeners) care quite little about these things…and,
surprise, I’m making music in hopes that “listeners” will enjoy it…I’m not
making music for the small minority of studio tech geeks..

which brings me to my point…

the most important thing that goes on in a studio is the artist’s
performance…all that other shit adds up to a fraction of a percent when
you compare it to the importance of the music that’s being made…

I mean who gives a fuck about recording quality…not my friends…they
couldn’t tell tape from digital if somone had a gun to their head.

Which bring me to my point about why Albini isn’t for me…

He’s a stifling figure….he’s snobbish, elitist, bitter, negative, and flat
out up tight…not mellow, not flexible….he’s rigid…and flat in terms of
his dynamics as a person…he’s unrelatable, humorless, and a
little…well…just sort of silly….he’s more like a caricature than a
man…

so in the end…all his intimate knowledge about recording adds up to squat
when the tape starts rolling and the artist feels totally stifled by his
overbearing negativity…

I’m not happy with the way my recordings from his studio sound anyway….I asked something warm, fuzzy and retro….but his drums are all panned and
articulate…the bass is boomy…the whole thing sounds way too clear….but
again I was too stifled by his bitterness at the end of my project to really want to try and work with him on the mix…

so I went and recut the vocals and guitar with another producer and
remixed everything else

all in all…he’s just helped me re-learn a lesson I should have learned a
long time ago…

celebrity is not a euphemism accomplishment…”

Well, folks… Let the flame war begin, I guess. the “comments” sections in open to all.

-p

Recording with Steve Albini

Ended up recording a session yesterday with the infamous producer, Steve Albini. Revered by some, reviled by others, the man and his studio are an interesting realization of a set of DIY ideals.

Interesting things about the Steve Albini recording experience:
1. The studio is fucking amazing. And in there it’s always 1975, technology-wise. There are dozens and dozens of those microphones that engineers like to hold up to people like me and say “Hey, this microphone is just like the one that John Lennon sang into at Abbey Road. And it costs more than your house.” All I know about that is that the mics that look old and expensive always are, and they do sound better. They have no digital gear onsite, except for a few workstations so that they can browse the web do email and bookkeeping. If a client wants to bring in a workstation and use Pro Tools, that’s doable, but then Albini’s staff doesn’t have to support it when it crashes. There are two studios, an A and a B room. The B room is nicer than 90% of the studios I have recorded in. (We were in too much of a hurry to get into the A room and look around, plus there was some other band in there.) The ceiling is an easy 30 ft, all the interior walls are adobe, because adobe sounds completely different than brick. (I had no idea, but when Albini took out a key and tapped one of each in different walls, the adobe was much warmer and flatter sounding. You learn something new every day.)

2. They have several dorm-style rooms there so that bands that are recording there can stay there while they record. I have been in that sort of situation before on the first five-eight record and I would say that can be good and bad, IMHO. If the session is going well, a band can increase its productive time by half again, I think, if they are all onsite. There won’t be any “Well, we were going to start at noon, but the guitar player isn’t here yet.” At Electrical (the name of the studio), it’s “Run upstairs and ROLL THAT WANKER OUT OF BED!” There is a rather large television, with just about every movie you could think of on VHS. There’s a full kitchen that the guys that work there seem to keep pretty stocked and it’s significantly more inviting than any studio kitchen I have ever seen. There is an electrical repair shop onsite and a guy named Rob (I think) that emanates the vibe that he can fix anything. In the short day that I was there, I saw him running electrical conduit, rewiring something, and I am pretty sure that we was making some sort of repair to a piece of tube-amp mayhem of some sort. He has that Mad Scientist vibe. Just give him a soldering iron and some space, y’know, and he’ll put it right, whatever it is. Also onsite are ‹geekspeak› ethernet jacks in every room with dynamically assigned IPs so that all you have to do is plug in your laptop and take an IP from the server and you are hooked into their wireless(!!) T1 connection(!!).‹/geekspeak› This courtesy of another staff mad scientist named Russ- a guy who is going to need an extra head soon because his brain is so damn big. (I am sure that he’ll work out something with firewire and a fan-cooled external enclosure.) Keeping things lively is the bookkeeper, planner, schedule master, and stand-up comedian (no, seriously…) named John. I thought he was kind of a hostile asshole at first, then as the day wore on, I found out that he is actually a quite friendly and personable asshole. There was another guy on staff that was wandering around-I am pretty sure that he is an engineer- cradling this tiny Italian greyhound. I am ashamed to admit that I have forgotten the guy’s name, but his dog was named Eupheetsis. (Spelling is approximate, but it was “Feet” for short.) Interestingly, this engineer and his dog kind of had the same build- they were both illustrations of what zero body fat looks like.
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