September 30, 2003
Let's See About This Ham

The Interpol show last night was...interesting.

The first band was called Ratatat (formerly Cherry). The only way I could figure out how to describe them was by referencing other bands: Ratatat is like a mixture of Boards of Canada, Mogwai, and Def Leppard. Two guys with guitars stand on stage while a drum machine / sampler lulls the audience with something straight out of Twoism. Suddenly you notice that one of the guitarists is playing some sort of melody. As it gets louder, it unmistakenly becomes an 80s power-riff. But it keeps getting louder until it resembles the now-stereotypical post-rock apocalyptic crescendo. And then it fades back into BoC. Did I mention the slow-motion distorted 80s nature documentary footage playing in the background? Because if that's not BoC, I don't know what is...

The second band was terrible. I never did hear their name, and I'm glad I didn't. During the show they mentioned being banned from all other clubs in San Francisco. Possibly it's because they sucked so bad.
The first thing to note was their volume. As in, they took up a lot of space.
One heckler in the audience screamed "Two drummers!!!!!" during the silence between two songs, helpfully informing the band that they had accidentally put two drummers on stage and had forgotten to instruct them to play different things. But the band probably just didn't want to look silly by having a redundant drummer leave during the show, and so the synchronized rock-beat-robo-drummers played on. The woman-playing-keyboards-who-starts-the-song-with-tambourine really blew me away. Thank god every single musical space was filled, even if it was with something as insipid as a mindless tambourine jangle. I really hate juxtaposed silence in my music. The inclusion of four guitarists really cinched the whole deal. If there had only been three guitars, I think the sound would have been a little anemic. But the last guitar playing the same thing as the other three kept the sound nice and tight. On a more serious note, I'm guessing that the genesis of the band was as follows: one guy figures out some way to turn a band into a tax refuge. "Man, I've got to tell all of my friends about this! They'll want in on some of this money-making action!" And thus, a gigantic Band Machine was born.
The music itself was so absolutely terrible that words fail me. It wasn't just bad....I could have lived with bad. But it was boring. Hideously, terribly, mind-numbingly boring. Perhaps Jason can come up with a better description, but that's all I've got for you.

And now I'm so worn out from haranguing the terrible band that I don't have the energy to talk about Interpol.

update: The 2nd opening band was called The Warlocks. And, oddly enough, people seem to like them. In fact, one reviewer said they were "channeling a fever-soaked Velvet Underground". That actually sounds awfully cool, but it's certainly not an accurate description of the train wreck I witnessed.

Posted on 10:44 AM
September 27, 2003
Oughta Leave Ya

I'm finally starting to get nervous about my qualifying exams. I haven't even chosen a an exam committee yet, and already I'm worrying about how little I know. For those now in the know, we Berkeley MCB students don't defend our theses at the end of our 6 years. Instead we have a qualifying exam at the end of our second year. During the exam the student (that's me!) gives two talks on the research he or she might do during a thesis. These talks themselves are supposed to be designed to last half an hour each. But the exam usually ends up last 4-6 hours, since your qualifying committee tries to trip you up with question after question after question. Once dust has cleared, the student leaves the room for twenty minutes. When he or she returns, the student is told whether or not they passed.

If you fail twice, you have to leave Berkeley.


Posted on 01:02 PM
September 12, 2003

Want to get really mad?
Check out the 2001 Fellowship Baptist Creation Science Fair.

Here's an excerpt:

2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"
Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

Posted on 09:52 AM
September 11, 2003
Christmas Steps

Both Mogwai and Gotan Project will be playing at The Fillmore in late September / early October. Mogwai is Monday, September 22nd ($18.50) and Gotan Project is Friday, October 17th ($25.00). Would anyone like to go to either or both shows with me?

PS - Jason, I think you'd really like Gotan Project.

Posted on 10:22 PM

Everyone should read the Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2002-2003. Frightening stuff.

Posted on 02:52 PM
September 08, 2003

I filled up on homemade pea soup for dinner. Then ate a bunch of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey. But just before bed I still ate a leftover Will to Power Bar.
will to power bar

I'm not quite sure why I stuffed myself with that last item. Perhaps it was because it was "Chocolatey beyond good and evil". My stomach is not the stomach of the overman right now. Ooooog.

Posted on 12:43 AM
September 07, 2003
Jink and Jurt

I taught myself a valuable lesson today. The day started off well, with the promise of Le Market du Farmers and a hearty breakfast. But before I had breakfast, I needed to take some plates out of the incubator at the lab. So, thinking that it would be a five minute stop, I drove up to campus. It turned out that there was a football game starting later in the day, but I made it down the little side road where I double-park for these quick lab errands just before they closed to road to incoming traffic. Once I had done my business and come back downstairs, I hopped into the car and tried to start it. Tried being the operative word.

I attempted to jump start from another car, but that didn't seem to do the job. So I borrowed someone's cell phone for the afternoon and called AAA. The plan was that I would keep the phone until my car was either operational or being towed, then run back upstairs and leave the phone on the person's desk. Unfortunately, when my car was finally on its way to a repair shop, campus security showed up and told me that, since people were showing up for the game with more frequency, I needed to move everything now. As in, they wouldn't even let me go back upstairs with the phone. (the fuckers!)

So, feeling mighty angry and rather frustrated, I drove off campus with the intent to park the car and walk back to return the phone. That's when I realized that 1) there was no place to park because of the game and 2) I couldn't turn off my car, since I wasn't sure it would start again.

Now, feeling very frustrated, I drove to an auto shop, told them the problem, and then walked away to wait for them to fix it. Since I hadn't eaten yet (it was now 2:30pm), I stopped by an Indian restaurant and was delighted to find the absolute best naan I'd ever eaten (including the naan at Gateway to India). After gorging myself, I still had some time to kill, so I walked down the street to a coffee shop.

That was where I discovered the best cappucino I've had since moving to California. I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the sun, reading various newspapers and drinking coffee/tea. And as the day wore on, I really didn't care much about my car anymore.
So where does the valuable lesson come in? Well, as many of you probably know, I can worry and stress about the littlest thing. But I think today was a excellent demonstration of a simple principle: "If you don't want it to bother you, it won't." I was having an absolutely shitty day until I sat down in front of that coffee shop. After a few sips of creamy and delicious cappucino, I was able to think, "Awwww fuck it" and enjoy myself. Which is a rare thing!

In other news, today we also bought a Salvador Dali jigsaw puzzle for the house to complete. I haven't worked on a puzzle in years, so I'm shivering with antici............pation.

Posted on 01:18 AM
September 02, 2003

I really dislike having to give out valid email addresses, even junk spam-only ones, for online services. Wading into the spam-heavy throw away accounts to look for that critical download location or activation code is always a pain in the ass.

In that vein, I think Mailinator might be the best thing ever. If you ever need an email address, just make one up with as the domain name. The account is created as it receives the email you need, you then check that address at the Mailinator site, and then forget about it. Mailinator deletes the address "a few hours" later.

Plus, the FAQ contains gems like

This sounds pretty insecure. What if I send important emails with sensitive super-secret information in them to mailinator?
Then you are a stupid-head. That isn't what this is for. is mailinator going to make money?
It probably won't. It does offer advertising for reasonable rates. Don't worry, we don't need this to make money to eat. We make our real money driving tugboats. (toot! toot!)"


Posted on 11:06 PM
September 01, 2003

Here's a synopsis of a news story I read today:

A pizza delivery driver named Douglas Wells walks into a bank in Erie, PA and hands them an "extensive note" that both demands money and informs the teller that he has a bomb strapped to his chest. Police capture him in a parking lot a few minutes later. While Wells is handcuffed in the police station, he tells them that he was forced to rob the bank, and that the bomb under his shirt was placed there by someone else. He begins to become frantic and begs the police to remove the bomb. Before the bomb squad can arrive, it explodes and Wells is killed. Investigators describe the bomb as "remarkably sophisticated".

The police then contact the pizza restaurant's manager, who confirms that he did get a call for a pizza delivery to a location he did not recognize. The manager gave the phone to Wells, who left to deliver the pizza and never returned. The delivery address that Wells was sent to turns out to a gravel road that leads to a television transmission tower.

Why the fuck is Laci Peterson plastered all over the front page for days on end, when stuff like this is a quarter-page hidden between ads for Volvos and The Home Depot!?! Truth is stranger than fiction, especially when the truth sounds like something out of a psycho-horror movie.

Posted on 05:37 PM