Saturday, December 31, 2005

Top 50 Albums of 2005

BIG thanks to Crystal who helped me produce this list.

50 - Minus Story – “No Rest For Ghosts” – Drawn out songs are featured on this album from Oklahomans, the Minus Story. Ghosts is patient and calm with haunting vocals.
Track to try: “Hold On”

49 - Youth Group – Skeleton Jar - There is a lot of buzz from indie recording artists like Ben Gibbard over Skeleton Jar. At times the hype is justified, but overall this record lacks the consistency required to call is a great album. Certainly worthy of a listen, but hopefully the glimpses of brilliance are signs of things to come and we can expect some solid work from these guys in the future.
Track to Try: “Shadowland”

48 - Tullycraft - Disenchanted Hearts Unite - Disenchanted Hearts Unite is fun, fast paced, instantly catchy pop music from the UK.
Track to try: “Every Little Thing”

47 - Sigur Ros – Takk - More of the same from the Icelandic band. If you like them a whole lot, you’re probably going to like this a whole lot. If you think they’re kinda boring you’ll probably think the same here. If you’re like me and like them, but not as much as everyone else likes them, well you get the picture.
Track to try: “Glosoli”

46 - Doves – Some Cities - The Doves mix samples and rock music on this their third full length studio recording. Fans of Coldplay might like this if they are looking for something a little less boring.
Track to try: “Walk in Fire”

45 - Black Mountain - Black Mountain - A mix of classic and modern rock, Black Mountain uses big scaled sound and a good blend of fast and slow to fill their debut album.
Track to try: “Don't Run Our Hearts Around”

44 - The Fiery Furnaces - EP - Though Rehearsing My Choir disappointed many fans, EP was released in early 2005 filled with more of what has made the Fiery Furnaces a success up to this point. And at over 40 minutes it’s longer than most LP’s.
Track to try: “Single Again”

43 - Wolf Parade – Apologies to Queen Mary - One of the most hyped albums of the past year. Although this is a good album, with talk of it being the album of the year this could just have easily been called Apologies to Those Who Bought the Hype.
Track to try: “Modern World”

42 – Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins - Weird as always, Of Montreal play psychedelic Beatles-esque pop music. So if you’re into that sort of thing you’ll probably like this album.
Track to try: “Wraith Pinned to the Mist”

41 - Radar Brothers - The Fallen Leaf Pages - The Radar Brothers are a poor mans Grandaddy, complete with electronic accompaniments with acoustic rhythms.
Track to try: “Papillion”

40 - 13 & God - 13 & God - A collaboration between indie rock band the Notwist and hip hop artists Themselves. 13 & God blend both genres together to make an album fans of either can enjoy.
Track to try: “Ghostwork”

39 – Cocorosie - Open Season - Female freak folk sisters enlist the help of Devandra Banhart and Antony of Antony and the Johnsons to make this their second album. Noah’s arc is filled with the sisters’ eerie vocals and more than a few oddly selected samples.
Track to try: “South 2Nd”

38 – Angels of Light – Sings Other People - One of two releases this year for Michael Gira’s post-Swans band, the Angels of Light. Gira’s Johnny Cash like voice is enough to warrant a listen to this.
Track to try: “Lena’s Song”

37 - Electrelane – Axes - Some of the songs on Axes feature vocals by their female lead singer, while most are purely instrumentals. I prefer the instrumental tracks, while the singing, and the girls voice I cold do without.
Track to try: “Two For Joy”

36 - Stars - Set Yourself on Fire - This has been a good year for this Canadian pop band. They’ve gained popularity in both indie and mainstream media outlets with this solid release.
Track to try: “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”

35 - New Pornographers - Twin Cinema - A.C. Newman follows up his 2004 solo album with another record from the New Pornographers. Most of the stuff on here sounds just like the stuff on his solo album, but that’s not at all a bad thing.
Track to try: “Use It”

34 - Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene - In the past I’ve been somewhat critical of BSS, but I find this album to be very original and entertaining. I still can’t say I enjoy their live show though.
Track to try: “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)”

33 - Head of Femur - Hysterical Stars - Chicago based Head of Femur use guitars, strings, and horns to make their brand of cut and paste music, though not necessarily in that order.
Track to try: “Manhattan”

32 – British Sea Power – Open Season - On The Decline Of, British Sea Powers debut album, I thought they did a good job of borrowing the Pixies sound and putting their own spin on it. On Open Season they’ve changed gears to a calmer more retro brand of indie rock.
Track to try: “Please Stand Up”

31 - Matt Pond PA - Several Arrows Later - The PA stands for Pennsylvania in case you were wondering. I know I was. Matt Pond is beat up pretty ruthlessly by a lot of indie fans. Personally I find his brand of acoustic pop pretty entertaining.
Track to try: “Halloween”

30 - Deerhoof - The Runners Four - Deerhoof can be a hard listen to over extended periods of time. Their arrangements are often abrasive and Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals are less than conventional. However, Runners Four is easily their catchiest and most accessible album to date.
Track to try: “Twin Killers”

29 - Iron & Wine and Calexico - In the Reins EP / Iron & Wine – Woman King EP - So Sam Beam walks into a bar and the bartender asks him, “Why the long beard?” Bad indie jokes aside these are two great EPs from Beam and together I say they’re enough to qualify for this list. Both are much more dynamic and up beat than Iron and Wine’s past endeavors.
Track to try: “16, Maybe Less”

28 - Amandine – This is Where Our Hearts Collide - Who says that Americana music has to come from America? This Swedish band plays it to perfection on their debut.
Track to try: “For All The Marbles”

27 - Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness - A year after being forced to change his name due to copyright infringement, the artist formally known as Manitoba is back with what I consider to be the electronica album of the year.
Track to try: “Yeti”

26 - Konono No. 1 - Congotronics - Originating somewhere between between Congo and Angola, Konono use homemade instruments from car parts and microphones from magnets to give us an album that ends up sounding something like modern electronic music. Probably the most unlikely album of the year.
Track to try: “Masikulu”

25 - Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger - Sounds a lot like Franz Fernidad but maybe a little more retro and little less dancy. A very solid debut effort.
Track to try: “Apply Some Pressure”

24 - Shining - In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster - Norwegian big band jazz, Shining uses a surprisingly small number of instrumentals to create their huge sound. This is one of the most original albums of the year.
Track to try: “Goretex Weather Report”

23 - The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree - This is my first experience with this band and I like what I hear. The Mountain Goats tell tales of broken people, violence, anger and fear. One of the most intriguing albums of 2005.
Track to try: “This Year”

22 - Fruit Bats - Spelled in Bones - Acoustic driven pop music from Chicago natives the Fruit Bats. Be careful though, fruit bats have been known to carry the Ebola virus.
Track to try: “The Earthquake of ‘73”

21 – Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll - It's tough to be funny in music without being labeled a parody act. Ben Folds does it, and now Art Brut does it too. I've laughed out loud at least once in every song on this album I think. I'm certainly not a big fan of this type of music but this album is just too good to ignore.
Track to try: “Good Weekend”

20 – Akron/Family – Akron/Family - Akron/Family are my favorite new band of the year. They like to use everything they can get their hands on to make music and seem to have a lot of fun in the process.
Track to try: “On the Water”

19 - The Decemberists - Picaresque - The Decemberists exploded into the mainstream in 2005 behind the strength of Picaresque, easily their most complete album.
Track to try: “We Both Go Down Together”

18 - The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers - Four piece UK band featuring a pair of brother/sister duets. The Magic Numbers are a beautiful blend of 60’s rock, vocal harmonies, and modern pop.
Track to try: “Mornings Eleven”

17 - Stephen Malkmus - Face the Truth - Former Pavement front man and sometimes member of the Silver Jews (including guitar on Tanglewood Numbers) returns with his best solo album yet. Lots of squishy keyboards and over drive guitars. Yum(?)
Track to try: “Pencil Rot”

16 - Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers - The first Silver Jews release since David Berman’s attempted suicide last year. Tanglewood Numbers is maybe a step down for some fans who expect deep lyrics from Berman, but the music in these songs does a great job framing Berman’s voice.
Track to try: “I'm Getting Back (into Getting Back into You)”

15 - The Boy Least Likely To - The Best Part Ever - Debut album from UK base The Boy Least Likely To is also the first released on the bands own label. In other words, it’s been a busy year for the band. The Best Part Ever is unique and fun pop music for people who like such things.
Track to try: “I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star”

14 - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Pitchfork’s darlings of 2005 are indeed good, but in all honesty I have a hard time enduring this guy’s voice for extended periods of time. Still, it’s a good album and worthy of a large portion of the praise it’s received.
Track to try: “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”

13 - Aqueduct - I Sold Gold - Seattle based David Terry makes homemade songs with keyboards and a drum machine saturated with catchy melodies and clever lyrics. If your drunken college roommate made an album it might sound something like this, only good. (This blog does not condone under aged drinking)
Track to try: “Frantic”

12 - Broken Family Band - Welcome Home Loser - It’s hard to imagine British alt-country getting any better than this. This album fits perfectly in an Arkansas trailer park, or for when you’re feeling a little less than clean.
Track to try: “Where the Hell is My Baby”

11 – Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning - Say what you want about Oberst’s past, I’ll probably even agree with you. But Wide Awake is his most complete album to date, and catapulted him into mainstream media play lists.
Track to try: “At The Bottom Of Everything”

10 – Spoon – Gimmie Fiction Probably the most surprising record of the year for me, not being a fan of Spoon or their brand of guitar rock. But Gimmie Fiction brings me back to Being There era Wilco and attempts to restore my faith in indie rock.
Track to try: “Sister Jack”

9 – M. Ward - Transistor Radio - There’s a soothing effect in M. Ward’s voice that blends to perfection with his finger picked guitar arrangements. Transistor Radio is Ward’s fourth full length studio recording, and also his best yet.
Track to try: “Big Boat”

8 – Animal Collective – Feels - Everybody’s favorite reason to hate me is back with a great new album nobody will get. Just ->_<- that much less good than Sung Tongs for those of you keeping score at home.
Track to try: “Purple Bottle”

7 – Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners - I cast this album aside almost instantly as run of the mill indie pop college radio fodder. However, after a few listens I learned it was actually really, really, really good indie pop college radio fodder. The Lucksmiths feature a drummer who sings, and who doesn’t like a drummer who sings really?
Track to try: “The Music From Next Door”

6 - Akron/Family & Angels of Light - Akron/Family & Angels of Light split LP - As a general rule I wouldn’t include a split album this high on an album of the year list, but the fact is that I’ve enjoyed this as much as any album this year. Akron offers a melting pot of sounds blended into a group of songs that flow almost seamlessly from one to the next, and Angels of Light do more of what they always do; write great songs and allow you to listen to Michael Gira’s voice. What more could you ask for?
Track to try: Akron: “Moment”
Track to try: Angels: “I Pity the Poor Imigrant”

5 – Dr. Dog - Easy Beats - Easy Beats earned Dr. Dog a contract with Rough Trade and the reasons are obvious. Hook after hook and oodles of harmonized vocals fill there tracks, and combined with it’s low-fi sound give it a classic rock feel without the bitter after taste.
Track to try: “The Pretender”

4 - Architecture in Helsinki - In Case we Die - Fiery Furnaces style cut and paste songs with more pop and less pretense. Easily the most fun album of the year, but the short attention span does tend to annoy some people I guess. Still I like them though so there. (and OMG two Australian bands in the top ten?)
Track to try: “It's 5!”

3 - Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy - It appears Will Sheff’s voice is probably just put offish enough to keep them from diving into the mainstream as other indie artists have plunged in the last few years. However, Black Sheep Boy is complete with the knock your feet from under you, have you curled up in the corner before tearing your heart out lyrics Okkervil’s dedicated fan base has come to expect from the band.
Track to try: “Black”

2- Andrew Bird – Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs - The fact that this album couldn’t crack Pitchfork’s top 50 is just plain stupid. One of the most quotable albums of the year, packed with Bird’s sweet violin skills and the best whistler you may ever here. Bird does a fantastic job of leaving the concepts on this album open, allowing it’s interpretation open for unpacking months after the first listen.
Track to try: “Fake Palindrones”

1 - Sufjan Steven - Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come on Feel the Illinoise! - The most obvious selection for Album of the Year since Wilco’s YHF. In a sub par year for albums overall Stevens makes an epic track list that stands head and (broad) shoulders above everything else. File this under instant classic.
Track to try: “Come on Feel the Ilinoise!”

Friday, December 23, 2005

Need I say more?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Does the Fun Never End?

I returned home from work Tuesday nite to find my nice new shiny pump installed and ready to go. I could barely wait to try it out, but first I had to fill up all my pipes and the tank with water since I drained it all out last nite. I opened up the valve for the city water and was immediately disheartened to find a pretty heavy leak in an old flex pipe line.

Will the madness never end?

Argh! Well I called up Mr. Plumber Man and asked him (kindly) what kind of job is it where you leave the job site with a leaking pipe? Admittedly, the pipe was ripe for a leak being as it’s old and corroded, but how about a phone call asking if I’d like to pay the 50 dollars to fix it instead of just leaving it for a customer to come home to! He told me that his guy hadn’t mentioned it to him, but that the guy only took an hour and a half to install the pump, and replace the drain valve that was stuck so he was sending me a $55 refund check.

Well that was all well and good but here I was with a significant leak in my system which was going to prevent me from getting enough pressure in my system to heat my home. According to Steve (My HVAC guy) I didn’t need this line that was leaking. It was just a bypass line to transfer water from the drain to the intake. Most systems, he told me, have this line turned off. So I decided to take one final trip to the Home Depot to get a couple of 1/2” pipe plugs. I picked them up for 77 cents each and brought them home to close off the lines and seal my system once again.

To get things started I drained the tank again. This time I had the luxury of using the drain valve that the plumber so kindly installed for me. The flex line kind of broke in two as I unscrewed each end. It really was a decroded piece of crap, to quote my good friend Napoleon.

A new working pump is a nice thing to come home to!

A leaking flex pipe is a terrible thing to come home to!!!

Not so bad though, a quick trip to Home Depot for a couple of plugs and that problem is solved.

What good is a broken pipe? No good at all!

So anyway, did the madness ever end? Was my family ever reunited?

Yes. Yes we were. (Though it’s still pretty cold in here. These pipes take a while to heat up this big old house!)

Merry Christmas Everybody! Or something.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Almost There

Well, I've figured out everything that's wrong with our boiler. As I showed in my last post I changed the pressure relief valve, which sealed my system. That allowed me to further diagnosis what the problem was. After I turned on the boiler the tank started to heat up just as it's suppose to, so I knew the burner and tank were all doing their jobs. It took about 10 minutes for the temperature in the tank to reach a toasty 190 degrees. I thought everything was running smooth, and mostly it was. I went upstairs to check the radiators and found that they were still cold; this was pretty understandable though since it takes a while for all the water in the system to heat up. I decided to bleed the radiators upstairs to make sure they weren't filled with air, blocking the hot water from getting upstairs.

Sure enough, probably because of the work I was doing downstairs, the radiators were pretty full of air. I went back downstairs to check how the boiler was doing. Everything was stable, temperature at about 190, pressure at about 14 lbs. One thing I noticed though was that the pipes about 8 feet away from the boiler were still very cold. This had me somewhat concerned because I already had concerns that the circulation pump was broken. Sure enough, it didn't take long for the boiler to start to overheat. At about 200 degrees the new relief valve I just put in started to open up and drip out. Then at about 205 it started to gush hot steaming water until I turned the boiler off.

This told me two things. First, my aquastat is shot. The aquastat is the little dial that sets the temperature on your hot water heater, or in this case my boiler. If it was doing it's job, it would have shut off the burner on my boiler when it started to get too hot, say about 190 degrees. However, mine just kept on firing up the burners, heating up the water more and more until the relief valve had to open up to keep the water from getting too hot and ruining the boiler.

Second, and most importantly, the reason the water in the tank kept getting hotter and hotter is because the pump was, sadly, broken. This was preventing the hot water in the tank from getting pumped out into my pipes, which ultimately heat my house.

So I decided to turn to my good friend Internet for help. I googled the part number I found stamped on the side of the aquastat, and to my surprise one entry came up on Google. That was for a auction out of Rhode Island that was selling a new, out of the box aquastat that I needed. One that hasn’t been made in years. Apparently the guy is a gas technician who just has a bunch of old parts lying around. I grabbed that right away and turned my sights on the pump.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any type of part number on the pump, let alone a manufacturer. The only thing I could think of doing is posting a picture on the heating forum I had joined to see if one of their pros could identify it. Sure enough one of them came back and informed me that I have a B & G 100 series pump. They’re easy to find, too. A quick search on Google and I found that I could get the motor and the bearing assembly for about $240.00.

Not too bad, but I was a little weary of spending that much money without getting a professional to look at the system and see if that was really what was wrong. So Monday morning I called Tessendorf Mechanical and asked them to take a look at the boiler. The service tech came out early Monday and called me after looking at the system. He agreed that the pump was bad, and gave me a price of $400 dollars to change it. The price included all of the parts and 2 hours labor. I asked him if I could save myself some money if I drained the system myself and removed the old pump.

The deal we came up with is that I would leave him a check in the morning for the 400 dollars. Then, depending on how long it actually took his guy to replace the pump, he would send me a credit check. I accepted the offer in good faith and set out tonite to make the service techs job as easy as possible.

First I isolated the boiler by shutting off all of the valves I could find leading up to the tank. There were some pipes that didn’t have shut off valves, so I knew I would have to drain them as well. After I drained the expansion tank I hooked up a hose on the boiler drain and tried to open it up. Unfortunately, the drain hadn’t been opened since Jimmy Carter was President, and it was stuck. I pulled out a pipe wrench and tried to turn the dial with that. It worked, but the dial just spun and no water came out. The drain was busted.

Our busted boiler drain valve. Doesn’t anything work on this boiler?!?!

This was terribly disappointing because not only because I couldn’t drain the system, but now I needed to replace the drain. And since the guy was coming tomorrow morning and needed the system drained to do his job, I would have to pay him to do both! Frantically, Crystal and I jumped in the car looking for a Home Depot or Lowes that was open past 9pm. Thankfully we found a Lowes in Algonquin that was still open. I picked up a 1” ball valve and headed back.

I took off the old valve and water started gushing out. As quickly as possible, I tried to put the new valve on so I would have control of the water flow. But, the valve didn’t fit. They were both 1”, but apparently they didn’t use the same threads in 1975 when my boiler was built. So we had to quickly come up with a new plan. I decided to just run the shop-vac hose right under the open drain and suck all the water right into the shop-vac. This worked quite well and we were able to drain the system with a pretty minimal mess of water on the floor.

Then I turned my sights on the pump:

This is the old pump still in place.

The first step was to disconnect to wring that powered the pump.

A couple of screws and a couple of wire nuts and the power is off.

Next were the four bolts that held the motor to the return pipe.

Other than a reaching around some tight corners, these bolts came off with ease.

And with that the motor was free.

This is the source of all my problems. It’s a heavy guy, too.

The last step was to support the pipe that was now hanging with the motor removed. I cut a 2x4 to the length I needed and propped it between the pipes to support the upper one.

A completed removal ready for the professional to come in and do his job quickly.

Given how easy it was to remove the motor, I almost wish I had done the installation myself. But, the fact is that I miss my family and I wouldn’t be able to get a motor until Friday at the earliest and Tessondorf will be able to install his in morning.

Total cost up till now: $11
New aquastat (yet to be installed but not necessary to get heat: $18
New pump, installed: $400 (minus credit for the time I saved)

By Tuesday nite, I should have heat.

And a family again.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pressure Relief Valve

Everything I'd done up until this morning had just been bleeding the lines and messing with shut off valves in the system. Today I performed my first operation on the boiler itself. Since I was able to regulate the pressure and temp of the water yesterday, I set out this morning to fix the leak in the system. Water was coming out of the relief valve at a drip rate, even with no pressure in the system, so I knew the valve was bad.

The pressure relief valve is the thingie on the right with the 'L' shaped pipe sticking out of it. Notice the bucket under the pipe? That's what I've been dumping every hour and a half.

I had to use a pipe wrench with a pipe attached to it to get enough torque to pry the pipe off of the valve. Once that was off the valve itself came off pretty easy. Even though I had isolated the boiler and relieved all of the pressure in the tank, a lot of water still came gushing out when I got the valve off. I quickly grabbed the new one and screwed it on to cap that off.

This is the old valve. Bad valve! Bad!

The new valve doing it's job. Thank you very much.

I suppose I could have replaced the little "L" pipe that the valve lets out to seeing as it's all cruddy, but given out current financial situation and the fact that I don't know how much I'll have to spend to get everything running I'm just going to use the old one.

So that's it. Pressure relief valve is replaced and I now have a nice "tight" system. No leaks. Time to fill up the system with water and turn the boiler back on. Cross your fingers!

Success! Notice the bucket is now gone.

Total cost so far to fix boiler: $11

4 8 15 16 23 42

Last night I had to set my alarm every 90 minutes to wake up and dump out the bucket of water that my releif valve is draining to. It was kinda like Lost, except I wasn't on an island. And I didn't actually have to put a code in a computer. And it's cold. There's probably some other things it wasn't as well, but I think you get the point.

So? What's going on with the heat you ask!

Well, I've had the boiler on since last nite around 6pm. It's not fixed though, not by any stretch of the imagination. For one thing it's still leaking a gallon of water an hour. For another, and this is probably the most important thing, the house is still cold. Really cold, actually. Since it's been on the temperature in the house has gone from 53 to 60 degrees. This is nice, but I think it's actually colder than that upstairs because the radiators up there are still ice cold. Which makes me think the circulation pump is busted something bad, but I'm not a service tech so that's just a silly guess.

I did get a reply on the heating forum I posted on yesterday:

I'll try to start at the beginning......

you must have a tight system, so replace the water that is being lost and correct the leak. I believe that the pressure relief has failed since it has not stopped dripping. So you need a new one. Also, I really don't believe your pressure gauge is accurate anymore due to the extreme difference in pressures that you related. So, you need a new one. These two things will allow you to start to find out "What happened?". Since you have drained the expansion tank twice and it refilled and caused the relief to pop it's leaking and is bad. So you need a new one. This may be the cause of all of the trouble. Replace it with a diaphram type tank. Then begin with filling the system to 12# cold, vent the upper floor radiators and start up the boiler. Check for water flow from the pump by noting any temperature rise thru the boiler and system. The pressure should raise to 18-22 # at 190 and you may still have to bleed the areas that don't warm up, making sure to maintain water pressure at the correct coresponding temperature. If the pump is not working the temp will rise in the boiler rapidly but the aquastat should trip it out before the relief valve will open. If not, you will need a new one. I'm at a loss to explain why you would have full city water pressure on the system before, but it must be regulated down or turned off and filled manualy. I found one like this last month the gauge was spun around, the safety did not work and the old hydralic gas valve was stuck and the house was at 90 degrees! I told them..... you guessed it.... you need a new one! I hope this helps. You don't need a complete new one but you need some good maintenance, bad.Best Regards

I really don't understand a lot of the the things he said, but the gist of it is that I'm screwed I think. Not totally screwed though, just mostly screwed. So kewl!

I'm going to change the releif valve this morning because I'm pretty sure it needs to be done and if a guy comes out to fix the boiler he'll probably charge me $150 just to change that, in addition to whatever repairs need to be done, and I think I saw them at Home Depot for 30 bucks or so. He also wants me to replace the pressure gauge, but I don't know where to get one of those yet. I'll have to check with my friend Internet, he knows where to get everything.

The good news is that my bedroom is heated to a nice toasty 80 degrees or so, some yay! for me!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winter Wonder Land

I posted this on a heating forum I joined yesterday:

I have hot water heat with a boiler, base board heaters, and a few old radiators. Yesterday, my wife called me and told me there was a bunch of water all over our basement floor and the boiler was banging. I told her to turn off the boiler and I left work. When I got home, I found that the pressure relief valve was dripping, but there was a LOT of water on the floor, more than from just a few drops.

I switched on the boiler and right away the banging started. About three loud knocks, coming directly from the boiler. I checked the pressure guage it was at about 14/lbs. The water temp was cold since the boiler had been off for a few hours. I let the system start to heat up, and as the water temp reached about 190, the relief valve really opened up, and hot steaming water started poring out instead of dripping. All this time the knocking persisted about every 4-5 minutes.

I shut the boiler off and went upstairs and opened each of the radiators and baseboard vents. There was a small amount of air in each one, but nothing major. Went back down and switched the boiler back on and it got up to 190 and started pouring out water again. Keep in mind the pressure had been at 14-15/lbs. steadily.

Next I isolated the expansion tank and drained it completely. It was full at about 30 gallons, with out a lot of pressure. When it was drained I opened the tank up again and the pressure instantly dropped to about 6/lbs. I thought I had solved my problem and that the tank was just water logged. I turned the boiler back on, hoping everything was okay, but I noticed that the relief valve was still dripping despite the drop in pressure and the cold water. The temp and pressure built in the system until it got to 190 degrees and 14-15/lbs again and the steaming water started pouring out again.

Pretty frustrated I shut the system down for the night and sent my wife and kids to sleep at the in=laws (It's about 5 degrees at night here). After work today, I went to Home Depot and the guy there thought the over heating of the system was caused by the excessive pressure and that I needed to get my pressure down to about 10-12/lbs. He gave me a feed pressure regulator, thinking mine was broken. When I got home I went to look for my existing regulator and found that I don't have one. So I brought that back, thinking that if the system didn't need one up till now then that's not what's causing my problem.

The Home Depot guy agreed with that assessment and gave me some other advice. He told me to again drain the expansion tank, after the tank was empty I was to open it up again and wait for the pressure to start rising. When the pressure got to about 9/lbs. he wanted me to shut off the expansion tank and let the system run cold without the tank to see if the pressure stabilizes.

I did all this, and shut off the tank when it got to about 9/lbs, which took about 10 minutes. However, the second I turned off the tank, the pressure started to shoot up very quickly. When it got to about 14/lbs. again I opened the expansion tank back up and the pressure quickly dropped back down to about 9/lbs. I also noticed when the tank was closed I could hear the city water flowing into the system. This gave me the idea to turn off the cold water intake, so I did.

I've been running the system now for about a half an hour with the intake turned off. The water is no longer boiling out the relief valve because the temp has stabilized at about 185. The pressure is stable at about 10/lbs. However, the relief valve is still dripping. It drips slowly while the water is at about 180, and when it gets to about 185 it pours a little quicker until it cools back down a tad.

The pipes are slowly warming up, and I mean SLOWLY.

A couple of questions:

1) How long can my system run without the city water coming in? It's still leaking from the valve, so I've been opening up the city water as I empty out the bucket to replace what I loose. But I'm not going to let it stay open because then the pressure gets back up to 14-15/lbs.

2) Why is my valve still leaking even if the water temp is 60 degrees and the pressure is at 6/lbs? Do I probably need a new valve?

3) Any idea why this may have happened all of a sudden?

4) What's with the banging coming from the boiler?

5) The pipes on the second floor are still ice cold. Is 10/lbs. of pressure enough to get hot water up there?

6) Could this be a problem with the circulation pump? The banging seams to be coming from it's vicinity, but it's hard to tell.

Yeah, I know that's a lot, but it's been a pretty stressful and scary couple of days. We just got this house about a year and a half a go. The boiler worked fine last winter, now this winter (after the warranty ran out) it's killing me. I have no money, so replacing it is a pretty scary thought, considering I've heard they cost like 5 grand to get done. That would take me months to save.

I really know NOTHING about plumbing/heating. Everything I just typed I wouldn't be able to yesterday morning, but I've been reading like crazy on here and similar forums trying to learn. I'm usually a pretty quick study and I'm not afraid to try and fix things I know nothing about.

So... any ideas?



It's cold in here.

Friday, November 04, 2005


I done been tagged by that ol' scoundrel D Brown. Until tonite I've been putting off my response, but procrastination has met it's end!

20 Random Things About Scott:

1) I had my first run in with the law at the age of 7 when I was arrested for violent acts performed with a conduit pipe.

2) I walked into a Starbucks for the very first time in the summer of 2005.

3) I adore music more than about 99.5% of everything else in this world. Probably too much.

4) When I was a freshman in high school I opened my locker one morning to find it had been broken into and swedish meatballs were left covering my books.

5) I wasn't very popular in high school. Or middle school. I think I did okay in elementary school from what I remember.

6) I wish I was a better writer.

7) I wish I was a better singer.

8) I have a tendency to offend people whom I consider to be my friends.

9) I am a libertarian christian. No, that is not an oxymoron.

10) I was born in the seventies.

11) Two people have asked me why my blog is called Tomato.

12) I do not have cable, an antenna, or a satellite. I prefer the Internet over television actually.

13) I generally don't consider what I think to be all that important to other people, though sometimes I tell them anyway.

14) Most of the time I'd rather be doing something else.

15) I'm a sucker for a good PT Anderson film.

16) I don't post in this blog enough for my lovely little wife's tastes.

17) I'm in desperate need of an iPod.

18) I've never understood why the masses worship mediocrity.

19) I average 4-5 hours of sleep per night.

20) I truly love, respect, and look up to my mother.

I don't know enough peeps to have a list of persons to tag so basically if you're reading this and feel like making a list of your own, do it.

New song posted in Songs to Love at the right.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox won the World Series.

After being up and out late last night and getting up early this morning to get to work there hasn't been a lot of time to stop and let this soak in. Now it's quiet, and there is time to relax a bit.

In one of the top three most dominate single season performances ever, the White Sox have captured their first championship in 88 years. I've spent the better part of this evening reading the thoughts of Chicago's columnists and watching various news clips covering the celebrations. This column stood out to me over all the others and actually put tears in my eyes.

Ironically it's written by the Tribune's Pulitzer Prize winning cultural critic.

Baseball, in its glory
Savoring summer's game on a cool autumn evening

By Julia Keller
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 27, 2005

It rose in the autumn sky like a South Side Stonehenge, looking ancient and gray and invincible against the late-afternoon twilight.

This was not where the action was. The action was 1,180 miles away in Houston, where a few hours later the Chicago White Sox would finish off the Houston Astros with a 1-0 victory.

But to drive past U.S. Cellular Field on the same day the Sox won the World Series--to see the ballpark squaring itself pugnaciously against a mud-colored and cloud-clotted horizon, to see it proud and lonely--was to get a sharp chill of insight:

It's over now.

Because even before the game was played, you knew. Your friends knew, too.

The whole city knew. The Sox had it in the bag. They were too good, too poised, too lucky. They were too good to disappoint the city whose name they wear across the fronts of their jerseys, the city that's now second to nobody, thanks to these first-class athletes.

You knew they were going to sweep. You knew Juan Uribe would somehow have that foul ball when he surfaced from the sea of Houston fans in the seats during the climactic ninth inning.

And while knowing it didn't take the edge off--heavens, nothing could do that--you also realized the astonishing, unbelievable 2005 season is history.

History. As in something you study, something preserved under glass.

You're happy--who wouldn't be?--but maybe a little sad, too, ever so slightly. "Aye, in the very temple of Delight/Veiled Melancholy has her sovereign shrine," wrote John Keats in his poem "Ode on Melancholy."

He never saw the Sox play, but he wrote as if he did.

Baseball ends in autumn. The World Series is played on days when the sun slips away earlier and earlier, when by 5 p.m. the sky in places such as Chicago is the color of iron filings, when the air is getting cold enough to pinch.

The World Series wraps up, that is, at a time of year when endings are what we're thinking about. Endings, not beginnings. And what gives the Sox victory Wednesday night itspoignant perfection is the fact it won't ever happen again.

Oh, yes, the team might win again next year. But it won't be the same team.

It won't be the same way. It won't be these guys and those games and this vivid assemblage of plays.

Those pure moments: Joe Crede's fielding, in which the glove interrupts the ball's trajectory like a new law of physics, one that insists that balls can't cross a plane inhabited by the leather on Crede's left wrist. Bobby Jenks' sizzling set-down of Astros batters in Games 1 and 4, when the sight of the pitcher's broad back as he fell forward to throw was as reassuring as watching the bodaciously thick door of a bank vault swing shut. And the home runs, of course, such as Geoff Blum's blistering blast in the 14th inning of Game 3, as most of the nation slept.

Baseball is played in the summer but ends in the autumn, when the light starts to fail and kids are called inside early, taken reluctantly from their games in vacant lots and dead-end streets. The moments are precious because they perish. The joy is special because it's temporary. "Death is the mother of beauty," wrote Wallace Stevens. What makes today so amazing--the first full day after the Sox victory--is that it is unique in the history of the world. And will remain so. Cherish it, because it is moving steadily out of your reach.

Does that mean we shouldn't celebrate, shouldn't revel? Of course not. A South Sider who also happened to be one of the greatest of 20th Century poets--the late Gwendolyn Brooks--had some advice on that point. "Exhaust the little moment./Soon it dies./And be it gash or gold/It will not come again/In this identical disguise." That would be Brooks' eloquent way of saying: Party, people. But know that the sun goes down and the day ends, all the same.

Brendan Boyd's novel "Blue Ruin" (1991), a tragi-comical tale about the 1919 Series, has been mentioned before in these pages during this great Sox run, but it's good enough for another go-round. When Arnold Rothstein, the gambler who bankrolled the sorry deal, runs into the kid who dreamed up the fix, Rothstein is rueful. "If you pull this off," Rothstein says, "your life will be over. You'll have gotten exactly what you wanted."

A city that can never quite figure out where it belongs in the world is now sitting on top of it. A city that gets tired of apologizing for not being New York or Los Angeles suddenly doesn't have to apologize for anything. It's a great and glorious moment, and yes, it will pass, superseded by other moments.

Like U.S. Cellular Field, that even now is hunkering down like a big iron barrel stave, waiting for the return of spring, it's enough that this day is what it is. We know what we have. We know who we are: Winners, for the blink of an eye, for the length of a lifetime.

Tonight it hit me what happened. My team won the World Series. Something that, at times, I never thought would happen. Hope? Hope is for Red Sox fans and Cubs fans. This is the second team in the Second City. A team picked to finish third or even fourth in their own division at the beginning of this year. A team that was featured in the lowest rated World Series ever.

Nobody watched, and I couldn’t care less. My team won the World Series.

Baseball truly is the greatest game ever played; and for this year at least, the Chicago White Sox played it better than anyone else in the world.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I was wrong

The World Series is coming to Chicago.

I can't believe I just typed that. It's even harder to fathom that it's actually true. I know they have to win one more game, but this series is as good as over. No curses. No goats. No Bartman.

The White Sox flat out own the Angels.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

We All Know What's Coming

This is so weird.

I've been a Sox fan since the 6th grade. I was there in '93 for the now forgotten 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays in the ALCS. I stood by in disbelief and watched Kelly Wunsh give up a game tying single to the Mariners late in the first game of the 2000 Divisional Series. An event that seemed set the tone for the rest of that short lived series.

And so, as Sox fans, we've learned are place in baseball. We're here for the rest of the American League to beat up on.

Unlike Cubs fans, we've grown rather accustomed to this position. And so, every spring when the Cubs fans are chirping how this is "their year," we Sox fans sit by silently and wait for the inevitable. Defeat. Oh sure, we'll make the playoffs every 5 or 6 years, whether we need it or not. But early exits and, well, not so much as a single home victory since 1959 has taught us well to reserve our hopes. After all better to downplay any success than to get your hopes up only to have them crushed by reality. See 2000. See 1993. See 1994 for that matter. See 1983. The list goes on.

But then there is this. And this is bizarre.

This is two overly impressive wins against the World Series champs. This is a game one slaughter matched only three times in play off history. This is a game two come back when their "big game" pitcher was practically perfect through 5. Easily the most exciting home run in my life as a White Sox fan. This is looking at the face of the other teams big sticks and striking them out in key situations. This is capitalizing on other teams mistakes. This is clutch hitting when we need it, and shut down pitching and defense against the most potent offense in the AL.

This is gut wrenching. This is tense. This is thrilling. This is exciting. This is fun.

This is not White Sox baseball.

And so, I will continue to not believe. I will continue to expect defeat. After all, this is the White Sox, the doormat of the American League. And they're the Red Sox. Proven champions. Manny Ramirez. Big Poppy. All Stars. Cy Young winners. There's just no way to beat them, and even if they do, what's next? The Yankees? The Angels? Both World Series champs in the last 5 years.

Winners, as in the opposite of the White Sox.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tag or Die

Hmmm, I've apparently been tagged by the C.G.P. This means I must now post 5 songs I like and, in turn, tag 5 other individuals to do the same. If I tag you, my most sincere apologies for the inconvenience, but it appears that this "tagging" ritual carries with it some sort of curse that inflicts great pain on he who fails to heed it's rules.

What are those rules you ask?

THE RULES: List five songs that you are currently loving. It doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the songs in your blog. Then tag five other friends to see what they're listening to.

Yes, so here we go.

"A Favor" by Okkervil River
"The Pretender" by Dr. Dog
"Manhattan" by Head of Femur
"Uh-Oh, It's Morning Time Again" by Mount Eerie
"I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star" by The Boy Least Likely To

Well I guess that pretty much wraps that up, excepting the fact that I need to tag five other unsuspecting individuals, which I'll get to momentarily. First, you'll notice I made all those songs up there click-able, so you can click them. Go ahead now, put your little mousy right over one of them and click it. That'll give you the opportunity to download any one of them and enjoy it for yourself. Now, if'n you do so, please be so kind as to let me know what you think. Danke.

Since I'm in such a musical mood (and because I haven't done it in forever) I've decided to put up a new song in the Songs to Love section at the right. Enjoy it, it's Animal Collective, they're bizarre.

Right, so on to tagging. Hmmm, well of course I'll have to reach out and touch Crystal. So four more... let's go with Drew, Kim, Mike Moore, and as a peace offering, Brandon.

Good. So have at it then.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


For those of you who were wondering why Duncan Avenue was shut down yesterday...

Body found along bike path
DUNDEE TOWNSHIP — Several passersby discovered a dead man along the Fox River Trail Monday afternoon, prompting closure of section of the bike path and nearby Duncan Avenue just north of Elgin's Trout Park.

The man was a probable murder victim, police said. Officials did not disclose the man's identity as of 8:45 p.m. pending notification of family members, police said.

Police were dispatched to the spot where the body was found around 2 p.m. and quickly cordoned off a small, wooded area just east of the Fox River between Covey Street to the north and the Interstate 90 overpass to the south in unincorporated Kane County. The location was yards away from the border between Elgin and Dundee Township, and fell within the Kane County Sheriff's jurisdiction.

Police widened the closed-off area to Trout Park Boulevard.

The people who found the body, two men and one woman, remained on the scene. The Polish speakers did not communicate in English.

This is about a mile from my house. I was actually fishing right were this happened last week. On the way home today a noticed a Latino family putting a large cross up on the side of the road. My guess is the crime occurred elsewhere and the body was dropped off here. However, that is just speculation.



Sunday, September 04, 2005

Setting the record straight

It has come to my attention that since I did not blame George Bush for the tragedy that is Katrina's rescue effort, I am a "spewing partisan rhetorical mis-information." Since I am not a Republican this is really disturbing to me. So in an effort to distance myself from the Bush administration I will use this post to point out some obvious truths about the man, George Bush:

George Bush actually caused hurricane Katrina. Well, not so much caused it but at least empowered it by planting underwater heaters beneath the Gulf of Mexico to make sure any hurricane that was there would definitely become a cat5 storm that would hit New Orleans.

Why would George Bush be against New Orleans?

Obviously because New Orleans voted 77% for Kerry. For sure he'd be mad at them and want to spite them. He could have, for instance, NOT put billions of dollars into the war with Iraq, and instead built a super flood protection center for the poor. Then they would be safe. But no, because George Bush hates poor people and everyone knows that poor people vote for Democrats. So Bush had to destroy them.

He's also a dirty capitalist who supports businesses who are in the business of greenhouse gas production. Because only greedy corporations create greenhouse gasses. Certainly not volcanoes or even super rich liberal movie stars and greedy musicians like the Bono who only use giant SUV's and planes with ozone friendly exhausts.

On second thought I probably shouldn't blame the underwater heaters on Bush because I read somewhere that was Karl Rove's idea. Of course Karl is Bush's right hand man so he's probably just as guilty. Hmmmm.

It's just too bad John Kerry isn't president because there is just no way he would have let the hurricane happen, let alone destroy New Orleans. Because Jon Kerry loves the black people!

Also, thanks to a tip from my ultra-liberal (and therefore intelligent) Mother, I now have information that proves that George Bush assassinated William Rehnquist so that he could appoint one of his own evil neo-con judges of doom! OF DOOM I TELL YOU!

Now to complete my anti-republican post I will post the mandatory liberal pictures of George Bush.







Friday, September 02, 2005


A particularly offensive article was posted on CNN tonite.

If it's alright with you I'll quote the parts that I find particularly disgusting.

Black lawmakers angry about federal response to Katrina

At a news conference Friday, black members of Congress were critical of the relief effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Black members of Congress expressed anger Friday at what they said was a slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

"It looks dysfunctional to me right now," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-California.

She and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with members of the Black Leadership Forum, National Conference of State Legislators, National Urban League and the NAACP, held a news conference and charged that the response was slow because those most affected are poor.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Illinois, said too much focus has been placed on the looting, taking away from what should be the priority: getting food, water and stability to the tens of thousands of displaced victims.

It's hard to know where to start.

It's pretty apparent at this point that the man responsible for most of the terrible things you have seen in the past few days is going to go unpunished. In fact, it appears that this man will go on to appear a victim in this tragedy. I've read countless blogs, some blaming the President for lack of concern, some blaming FEMA for lack of response, many blaming the rich for not caring for the poor. However, I've yet to see a single blog or media story call out the man who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians.

That man is NOT George Bush.

That man IS Ray Nagin.

A cat5 storm hit his town and Ray Nagin did nothing. Looters began taking food that was not theirs to take, and Ray Nagin did nothing. Looters began stealing guns, and Ray Nagin did nothing. Looters began breaking into medical facilities and pharmacies to steal narcotics and Ray Nagin did nothing. Looters turned to assailants, attacking rescuers attempting to airlift stranded individuals and Ray Nagin did nothing. Assailants turned to sexual predators as men attacked, raped, and murdered women and children and Ray Nagin did nothing. One particularly disturbing account of such activities reads as such:

Sitting with her daughter and other relatives, Trolkyn Joseph, 37, said men had wandered the cavernous convention center in recent nights raping and murdering children.

She said she found a dead 14-year old girl at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, four hours after the young girl went missing from her parents inside the convention center.

"She was raped for four hours until she was dead," Joseph said through tears. "Another child, a seven-year old boy was found raped and murdered in the kitchen freezer last night."

What could Ray Nagin have done? Well the easy answer to that is, of course, something. He could have properly planned and trained his local law enforcement to handle a catastrophe such as this. He could have, once the hurricane hit and passed seized and secured the local grocery stores and used the food and supplies to feed the survivors. He could have seized and secured the local gun retailers to prevent them from falling into the hands of looters. He could have seized and secured the local pharmacies and hospitals so that they could be used to treat the wounded and sick. He could have taken serious steps to stop looting at the first signs to send a message to others that it would not be tolerated.

He could have preserved order.

Instead he promoted lawlessness and disorder. He sent thousands of refugees to the local convention center and did NOT alert FEMA. In fact, FEMA officials learned of this decision from watching CNN's coverage. The result was thousands of people packed into a small space with nobody in charge. No authority whatsoever. That's why you have men raping children to death in public. That's why people are starving to death.

And this man has the nerve to get on the air and blast the Feds for not doing enough to help. Yes, it's true that FEMA could have done more, but at least they did something.

Tell me again how President Bush doesn't like black people.

Tell me again how FEMA's response is inadequate.

Tell me again how it's rich America's fault that poor people in New Orleans are dying.

Heck, even Mayor Nagin has some blame to pass around:

“I don’t know if it’s the governor’s problem [Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco] or if it’s the president’s problem but they need to get their asses on a plane and sit down the two of them and figure this out right now.”

Everyone's problem except yours, eh Mr. Nagin?

Monday, July 25, 2005


Doing laundry tonite at the Three Seven Coin Laundry in East Dundee. I was hoping to watch the Sox game on one of the televisions here, but it appears Spanish soap operas are the programming of choice for the evening. I fear for the life of any man who might dare to turn off one of these shows, so instead I write.

I'm quite happy to see the end of the Tour de France. Even more so, the end of Lance Armstrong's career. With his retirement comes the end of the yearly media blitz attempting to persuade us all into believing what a terrific human being he is. I wonder if anyone else finds it coincidental that he is deciding to retire now after questions of his steroid use are heating up. I'd also say most "terrific" men I know don't ditch their wives right after having three kids with them. Yeah, it's true he overcame great odds in winning race after race after a battle with cancer. Still, I have to wonder if such a struggle might have been avoidable if, say, he hadn't been injecting himself with liquid muscle in the first place.

I wonder if men cry this much on English speaking soap operas. These guys on El Cuerpo del Deseo sure are weepy.

Can we put an end to calling the Decemberists an original band? I know the kids get all excited over the use of an accordion, but really they aren't at all an original sounding band. I'll admit that Picaresque is a moderately decent album, and even confessing to being rather fond of We Both Go Down Together, but calling the Decemberists anything more than a Neutral Milk Hotel cover band is really overstating things.

On the topic of music, 2005 has been overwhelmingly disappointing. At present I can really only think of 4 albums I could confidently recommend to people, despite already listening to probably twice as many albums as last year. In order they are:

Sufjan Stevens Invites You to Come on Feel the Illinoise:
Rolling Stone magazine actually featured this album in their last issues reviews, and rightly so gave it 4 out of 4 stars. Look for his popularity to grow and grow over the next few months as this album starts to sink in with casual music fans.

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy:
Complete with the knock your feet from under you, have you curled up in the corner before tearing your heart out lyrics rabid fans have come to expect out of Will Sheff.

Architecture in Helsinki - In Case we Die:
This my be the funnest album since the Unicorns (a moment of silence for the Unicorns please) made Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone. Quite a good live performance as well, you Chicago kids can look forward to them coming back this way in the Fall.

Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs:
This one is still growing on me. I'm not sure who Bird reminds me of (I think maybe Rufus Wainwright, OH NOS!) but he's quite the musician, as it turns out quite the whistler as well.

Folding laundry must the most boring endeavor man can commit himself to.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A New Project

I've started a new blog, which is not really a blog at all. It's more of a project that will probably take years to finish, if I ever finish it at all.

Intrigued? Don't be, it's really nothing special. Click here to check out the details of The Principle Driven Life.

I've added a new song that's a must have for all old school 8-bit Nintendo players. It's an old Jellyfish song sung from the point of view of King Bowser of Super Mario Bros. fame. Even if you're unfamiliar with video games you should really check it out, as it's an amazing pop song anyone could enjoy. As always you'll find it in the Songs to Love section to the right.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Silly Games

Which twentieth century philosophical novelist are you?

You are Ayn Rand!

Okay, so I didn't really get that from one of those silly web quizzes, and truth be told I pretty much loathe those things. But I have been reading The Passion of Ayn Rand, and I must say I've been shocked by some of the similarities in our personalities. Well, we're not that similar I suppose; she's an atheist, I'm a Christian, she was born in Russia, I in America, Ayn was a genius and I'm... well not, and of course she is, after all, a she.

Still, there have been some uncanny moments of, "Goodness, that's me," in reading this biography. Maybe the most obvious example is this one:

"Throughout her high school days, Ayn continued to be very vocal about ideas that were important to her. "I argued at the slightest provocation, whether people did or not want to hear. I criticized myself for this. I was very aware they didn't want to talk, and I was forcing the conversation. I knew it was wrong." Her passion for ideas, her conviction that they were of paramount importance, led Ayn, all her life, to "force conversations." One might make the mildest of off-hand comments - and suddenly find oneself engaged in an all night philosophical conversation about the wider meaning and implications of one's comment."

I don't know why it is I insist on "forcing conversations." I often find myself getting into uncomfortable situations with co-workers or friends after they say something trivial and I over react because it violates even the smallest of my principles. I can see it in the eyes of my victim friends. They really have no desire to talk about whatever subject is at hand, yet I continue driving my points home, in an oft times overbearing fashion.

I don't typically come out of these arguments conversations feeling too well about them. I can't say I usually make my point, or make them come around to my way of thinking. I do honestly try and hear other peoples opinions though, and then proceed to annoyingly force them to prove their points ad nauseam. I've learned people are more than happy to have their own opinions and not really know why they have them, or how to defend them. I have not learned to shut up and keep mine to myself.

I suppose it boils down to my desire to be right. I don't know.

Well, that's all for now, I've got important things to do. Thanks to Lauren, I've got a little game that I've become obsessed with.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Short Play Showing the Effects of the UN's Condemnation of Terrorist Actions

"Hmm, I think I will blow something up today, and kill several innocent people."



The UN security council reacts to the attack...



Friday, July 08, 2005

An Invitation

Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come on! Feel the Illinoise!

Back in 2001 John Linnel of They Might Be Giants fame released his first and only solo project. Entitled State Songs it consisted of 16 songs about various states. Leading off the play list was Illinois, and while State Songs was filled to the brim with the clever lyrics and catchy hooks that made They Might Be Giants great, Illinois was a major disappointment. A simple organ solo with no lyrics, it served as a mere primer to the rest of the greatness on that album. My home state got screwed. My civic pride was in shambles. My fellow statesmen weeped and tore their clothes. Until, that is, hope was restored in the form of news about Sufjan Steven's second installment to his 50 states project: Sufjan Stevens Invites You to Come on Feel the Illinoise! Would the Land of Lincoln finally get the homage she so richly deserves?

I remember the first time I heard Sufjan's first album (first state album that is) Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State. A friend of mine had given it to me, telling me "it's about Michigan." "Great." I thought, "it must be fascinating." I loaded it up in my media player, grabbed my headphones and to my shock was immediately mesmerized. Over the next few weeks I couldn't get Sufjan's unique arrangements out of my head. And his writing? Well, having grown up in Michigan, Stevens wrote songs about his memories associated with the state, no so much the state itself. The results were some of the most emotionally moving songs of 2003.

Stevens' 2004 follow-up, Seven Swans, was some what of a drop off from Michigan though his writing was still solid, he moved away from the orchestral accompaniments and odd time signatures that helped make Michigan my pick for 2003's album of the year. Based on this, it was easy to assume Stevens would continue this acoustic trend on Illinois. Turns out this isn't the case.

Illinoise starts out with a piano solo much like Michigan does with one of the quieter tracks on the album. It follows with one of the many instrumental interludes before bursting into the title track, Come on Feel the Illinoise!, Stevens' most robust and compelling song to date. Seeing as Sufjan grew up in Michigan, not Illinois, it may be unfair to expect as much emotion out of this album as Greetings From Michigan, though songs like John Wayne Gacy, Palisades, and Casimir Pulaski Day are certainly touching to say the least. Still, whatever emotion is lost from Michigan is more than made up for with Illinoise's, in-depth compositions and improved production.

It's probably unfair to compare the two albums at all as Illinoise is more than good enough to stand independent of his first work. This album is gorgeous, nothing less. An impressive composition of songs packed with strings and horns interwoven with simple, yet still beautiful, folk songs. Rarely does Illinoise let up or drop your interest, despite its length. Each song has its own uniqueness, much the way Michigan did, only better. Sporting over 20 instruments and several back up vocalists, Stevens does everything big with Illinoise. From the 74+ minute play list, to what I have to assume is a purposely pretentious and obnoxious track list as follows:

1 - Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL
2 - The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience But You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, "I have fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!"
3 - Come on! Feel the Illinoise!
-Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition
-Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream
4 - John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
5 - Jacksonville
6 - A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But for Very Good Reasons
7 - Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!
8 - One Last "Woo-hoo!" for the Pullman
9 - Chicago
10 - Casimir Pulaski Day
11 - To the Workers of the Rockford River Valley Region, I have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament, and it involves shoe string, a lavender garland, and twelve strong women
12 - The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
13 - Prairie Fire That Wanders About
14 - A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze
15 - The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!
16 - They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhhh!
17 - Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All the Way Out in Bushnell
18 - In This Temple, as in the Hearts of Man, for Whom He Saved the Earth
19 - The Seer's Tower
20 - The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders
-Part I: The Great Frontier
-Part II: Come to Me Only With Playthings Now
21 - Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name a Few
22 - Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I shake the dirt from my sandals as I run

Though it looks daunting, only 13 of the 22 tracks are what would be considered full songs with lyrics and all, while 6 of them are less than a minute and consist of music only, (or less in the case of One Last Woo Hoo). The connections to Illinois are broad. From Come on Feel, which is a 2 part song about Chicago's Worlds Fair and Illinois' own Carl Sandburg. Decatur taps into Macon County's Civil War history while pleading for sympathy for stepmothers. Two of the albums most emotional songs, Casmir Pulaski Day and John Wayne Gacy both deal in death. The former talks about a man of faith wrestling with God over the death of a loved one and in the latter Stevens confesses, "In my best behavior, I am really just like him."

I could go on and bore you to death with a song by song recount of how great this album is, but such things get old. Obviously it's impossible to say whether or not a better album than Illinoise will come out in 2005, but I very highly doubt a more beautiful sounding one will. And even if this doesn't finish the year as my favorite, it's easy to call Sufjan Stevens one of the best song writers currently creating music. Maybe the best. Seriously. I am anxious to see where the next stop in the 50 States project will take us (current rumors say Oregon) until then it's nice to know Illinois wasn't forsaken.

Rating: 9.65/10

Monday, June 27, 2005

I Love These Men

Who are they? The creators of my new favorite restaurant, Cereality.

Not that I've ever been there, but I intend to make my first pilgrimage sooner, rather than later. The idea is simple enough. 33 different cereals, 34 different toppings, some milk and a trendy looking bowl. It's like Cold Stone for cereal.
Honestly, what could be better? If they opened a cafe in East Dundee, I think I'd go for every meal, every day. Come to think of it, I wonder how much it would cost to become a franchisee. Think about it, free cereal for life.


With that combination of cereals and toppings, there are easily over a thousand combinations of heaven to enjoy. They even have soy milk for certain types of people.

Anyway, despite these goofs I've put up a new song by Andrew Bird.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Hottest Topic on the Planet

Fresh off a discussion on Kay-do regarding the G8's decision to eliminate the debt of several African countries, World Magazine has published an article with some thoughts on the possible effects of such actions.

Whose jubilee?
COVER STORY: Powerful names in Christendom join music moguls to mount a seductive campaign to cancel poor-nation debt—a plan more likely to benefit oppressors of the poor than the truly impoverished by Mindy Belz

What common cause could unite Pink Floyd and Rick Warren?

Meet Live8, ONE, Make Poverty History, and the Long Walk To Justice, all part of the latest gizmo-laden, concert-driven, wristband-toting, venue-hopping extravaganza powered by aging rockers and their fans in search of—and perhaps sincerely committed to—a cause. more...

Of course I have thoughts on the article, and for lack of a better topic of discussion and simply for the fact that I'm bored, I'll share them with you.

Yet the United States gives the highest absolute amount in foreign aid of any country—in 2003, more than $16 billion, according to Hudson Institute senior fellow Carol Adelman. Hudson Institute research indicates private charity totaled over $35 billion for 2000, the last year such figures were tabulated—or three and one-half times U.S. government aid for that year. Those figures do not include giving by local U.S. churches.

This really shocked me. $35 billion in 2000 from private organization? That much money going to Africa in one year, and apparently making so little difference, is a very discouraging thought. Is simply pumping more money into this continent going to make any difference at all? Before you get all huffy and yell at me for not caring, let me just say I'm not suggesting putting an end to all monetary aid, I guess I'm just overwhelmed by the lack of progress that's been made in decades of efforts to alleviate the suffering of these people.

But offstage a band of leading economists and scholars says the G8 plan is not only misguided but harmful, particularly for church-based poverty-fighting efforts. "Debt forgiveness rewards the corruption and inefficiency of governments who have mishandled loaned funds," writes the editorial board of the Kairos Journal in a letter sent June 6 to Mr. Warren and Mr. Stott, along with others. "In forgiving the debt of poor nations, we're not forgiving the debts of those nation's poor; we're merely enabling bureaucratic perfidy and incompetence."

Here lies my greatest objection to the One campaign's thought process. With all of the relief going to the government and leaders of these countries, rather than their citizens, we have no guarantee that this money will help those who are in need at all. While it's easy enough to say at this point that the budgets of these countries will be transparent and monitored, who will be designated to enforce any infractions against the agreed upon budgets?

Furthermore, even if money is going to the poor and those who need it in the form of education and health care, isn't this just creating a pattern of governmental dependency rather than creating opportunities for these people to make their own situations better?

Beyond that, the poorest nations should look to Southeast Asia and India, where once-stricken economies are trading their way out of poverty.


Looking at recent success stories from other countries and learning how they got themselves out of trouble certainly seems like a better idea than returning down a path that has a known destination of failure.

Debt elimination would have a chilling effect on credit. "If it becomes clear that debt will be written off in the future, then it is no longer a loan but a gift," said Mr. Thornbury. He believes that will be a deterrent for both public and commercial lenders. "Why would you invest in something on which you would not have a return?" he asked.

While I do think Mr. Thornbury is overstating the effects debt relief would have on the global lending market, I also think it's important to realize no country is going to make an investment like debt relief and expect nothing in return. In having their debts dissolved, each country that partakes is sacrificing a piece of it's sovereignty. The United States is already a country that likes to force it's politics and will upon others, and donating billions to a few countries is going to give the US a greater sense of entitlement than ever.

"The problem is a problem that has to be solved not by governments but by people—people giving to people,"

This is where the story starts to contradict its self a tad bit. In the beginning, it was lauding the amount of money being poured into Africa from private charity groups. Now it's saying that the solution to the problem is not government intervention but private citizens. While I agree that bureaucratic influence alone is not enough to meet the needs of Africa, it is clear given the immense amount of money already going there via private donations, that some help from those in power is needed.

I'm not pretending to know the solution to these issues. I know it's easy to sit at my desk and pontificate and criticize those whose intentions are well meant, and I don't want to be one who stands in the way of progress just asking questions and not lifting a finger to help. But I also would like to stand behind a solution I truly believe in, and I'm asking a lot of these questions because I really don't know the answers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A New Feature Added to Tomato

You'll see it over the the right side there, it's called 'Songs to love.' Each week (or so) I'll post a new song for you to download and try out. If I feel like people enjoy it I'll keep it going. Due to limited server size I'm only going to keep one song posted at a time for now.

The current selection is a song from the oddest family in the church, the Danielson Famile. Click the band name to get some information about them, click the song title to download the song.

Like I said, I'll do this as long as there seems to be some interest, or until the RIAA breaks down my door. (HAHA@ME!!!)

Oh, one more thing, if one of you can test to make sure the link works just so I know I set this up right, that'd be swell.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A peculiar occurrence at the grocery store

Today while getting the weeks supplies at the local supermarket, I noticed a preponderance of tables set up with samples. You know the kinds, crackers in the snack isle, ice cream in the freezer section, and little sausages in the deli. Normal stuff. That is until I reached the end of the store. The section they keep the non-grocery items at. Medicine, magazines, soaps, shampoos, that type of thing. Oh, and alcohol. It was there where I stumbled upon a table with a middle aged woman standing behind it. I was so shocked by the samples she was offering I simply stood there in awe. I think my mouth might have been hanging open. She must have noticed me staring, because she kindly offered, "Would you like a sample?"

There on the table before me stood several bottles. Next to them were little plastic shot glasses. I'm not a drinker, not even beer, but the labels were familiar enough to me. Jim Beam. Absolut. A few others I didn't recognize.

I finally came to, smiled, and politely turned her down. Turning, I walked away shaking my head, more in shock and disbelief than in disapproval.

I'll not make any social commentary on this other than to say I thought it quite odd.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Canadian Health Care

Maybe you've heard, over the past few years, the outcry from the left to emulate Canada's health care system. Maybe you, yourself, have considered what it would be like for the government to take care of all of your medical bills and procedures. Well the Canadian Supreme Court has considered it as well, and their conclusions are surprising.

I'll go eat some cereal while you read.

Health-care ruling called 'stinging indictment'

CBC News

Some of the country's largest medical groups call Thursday's Supreme Court of Canada ruling allowing private health insurance in Quebec a "historic" decision, but Prime Minister Paul Martin is downplaying its significance.

In a 4-3 decision, the country's top court said Quebec patients should be allowed to buy insurance to cover medical treatments already provided by medicare, citing the physical and psychological suffering caused by long waits for services in the publicly funded system. more...

It's amazing that it took seven years for the court to hear this case. How many people have died because of inadequate health care during that time? So many in this country continue to pine for a socialist based health care plan. Starting with classic democrats, and recently a new wave of Christian thinking that focuses on social responsibility. Maybe this ruling from the Supreme Court will dissuade some of those thoughts, but I doubt anyone will pay much attention.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


First I'd just like to get this out of the way because I thought this picture was hilarious.

I'm extremely anxious to post my review of Come on Feel the Illlinoise!, but patience is the order of the day.

The trip to Arkansas was a success I suppose since no one was lost or injured. I think everyone had a good time, we did a lot of swimming. I must say, having spent the vast majority of my life north of the Mason-Dixon line, I was some what thrown by the lack of haste in the service at some of the establishments we visited. Heh, well I don't know what else to say about it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hey Jon, I found him....

And for the rest of you, I took the time the other day to fix my brakes because the rotors were warped like crazy and the whole van was shaking. I'm sure you've been there and know how it is. Anyway, I was pleased to see the pads and two rotors to do the whole front end were only 70 bucks. I'm thinking that saved me a few hundred.

While I tinkered with the brakes I got to listen to Sufjan Steven's forthcoming album, Illinois. I must tell you, this album is... oh wait, better just wait until I post the review when it comes out.

Other than that, nothing new really. Crystal and I are going to see Architecture in Helsinki tonight.

Excitement is ours.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Trip to the Theatre

A Small Play Based on Chad's Comment to my last post.

Staring (in alphabetical order)
Madison Kunze ... as herself
Chad Pilcher ... as himself
Scott Kunze ... as himself, and narrator

And Introducing
Buzz Lightyear ... as himself

Act I
(In which Chad first lets known his desire to punch Madison)

"It all started when me and Madison were trimming some bushes and Chad wandered by"

"It sure is a nice day for trimming lilac bushes."

"Oh, hello Chad, I had not noticed you wandering by. What do you think of babies Chad?"

"They go around in their little cases, looking so smug...I just wanna punch 'em in the face!!!"

"Oh No!!"

"OH NOS!!!11"


Act II
(Later that night, when Chad returns to prey upon his victim)

"I will get her when she sleeps! look at her now, she grows weary for the day is long and her activities are many!"

"i wuv mi mommy"

"Watch as I slowly climb up the stairs towards her room and.... what's this?"


"A small kitten has made it's resting place upon these steps. Nice kitty... nice kitty...."


"OH NO!"

(Baby Madison sleeps safe tonite)

(In which Chad follows Madison to a secret unknown location)

"i wuv mi mommy"

"I have followed their car to the perimeter of this secret compound."

(Outside the compound)

"Barbed wire is no match for my ability to crawl through it!"

10 minutes later....

"Ouch! Next time I will use wire cutters!"

"I have finally gained access to the secret compound!"

(Inside the secret compound)

"OH NOS!! The secret compound is Willow Creek!! It's ventilation system is laced with poisonous gas, and it is infested with W.A.S.P.s!!!"

The End(?)

Legal disclaimer for the criminally dumb.