Facebook is Tralfamadore

"The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever."

Ten years ago

It was a Tuesday. I had taken the Monday and Tuesday of that week off from work--it was a good time to take personal days, after the always crazy start of the semester. I had house projects to do, and on Tuesday I was going to treat myself to a trip to Vintage Vinyl to get the new Ben Folds and They Might Be Giants albums that were released that day.

My wife had gone to work early--she was teaching a Rutgers class in the morning and was doing grad school. I stayed in bed but was up about 8:30. I made some coffee and, really, just on a lark, turned on the TV, where I saw the damage from the first plane. At that point they were still speculating it was some sort of explosion, or maybe a plane, but there was no doubt something was very wrong when the second plane hit, and our TV went out. Curiosity turned to fear, and I couldn't get in touch with my wife, since she didn't have a cell phone. I tried to get onto the Internet and watched as the CNN homepage wouldn't load. Eventually, they figured out how to put up static content that could handle the then massive amount of traffic. I also then figured out Channel 13 was still broadcasting, and turned to that to get updates. I watched the towers fall on TV.

Eventually my wife called in, and I asked her to come home as soon as possible. We had no idea was was happening or would happen, and I thought it was just best we were together. She came home and like many people that day, we just watched the TV, listening to each moment.

I went to work the next day, and everyone at Drew was basically in shock. We were fortunate that there were no student programs in the city, and everyone affiliated with the university was accounted for. We also were fortunate that none of our friends or family, or friends of friends or family were affected. Any pain I felt seemed insignificant to what so many others were going through those first few days.

We didn't have cable, so our only viewing choices were Channel 13 rebroadcasting ABC's news coverage or Telemundo. After a few days we started watching Mexican telenovelas just to get something besides the nonstop coverage.

On Saturday that week I went to Vintage Vinyl and bought my CDs. I figured trying to live my life was the best I could do. That feeling of suspended animation those first few weeks as we gradually got things moving again was incredibly strange, and every step towards normalcy was incredibly precious to me.

A few months later I developed a roll of film. It had pictures of the WTC from the ferry during an August visit to the city (we also went to a Yankee game with my inlaws) and immediately after that pictures of the impromptu memorials all over Washington Rock a few days after the 11th. You could see the towers from the overlook. I had thought about going up there at the time but didn't want to leave home.

Ten years later, so much has gone on in my life since then. I've had times of personal tragedy that have hit me harder than the towers going down, and some of the happiest times of my life too. I feel our country still has a lot of healing to do, and while we need to have resolve and strength, that we can move beyond fear and hatred. And we need to remember and honor those who we lost, and honor their loved ones for whom this very public day is very personal.

Well, that explains everything.

We usually buy bread from "The Baker", which used to be really good, wholesome bread baked in Hunterdon County. Lately, I've noticed it's been not as good, and they stopped making it with organic ingredients. And the loaves had gotten smaller for the same price.

Looking at the bags, I also realized it's not even being made in NJ anymore (at least not the loaves we've been buying from Whole Foods). Sometimes it's made in Vermont, sometimes in Connecticut.

If you go to The Baker's web site, it links to a bakery in Colorado called Charter Baking.

A Google search turns up this article from Baking Management magazine, describing what happened. Basically, four independent organic and natural bakeries got bought by a private equity group, and they're, somewhat cynically, marketing these bakeries products as interchangeable brand identities in a faceless conglomerate. Pretty much all the bread at Whole Foods (except what they bake on site, and probably the store brand) is from Charter Baking.

I'd be happy to find a good, local, organic baker for my sliced bread. Guess I'll keep looking.

Carvel sprinkles

I need help, Internetz.

When I was a kid, one of the most amazing times we had was going to the Carvel near our house. Sometimes my grandpa would take us and buy Lollapaloozas or Flying Saucers, or some such. But my favorite (as it is today) was the simple chocolate frozen custard cone with chocolate sprinkles.

Carvel sprinkles, however, were sublime. The sprinkles you get today in most places are rather thick and nubby. Carvel sprinkles were thin--about 1/3 or 1/2 the thickness if my memory serves, and just as long. The tactile experience in your mouth was completely different--little exploding crunchies as you licked or bit the cone.

I never liked anyone else's sprinkles (or "jimmies") nearly as much. The last time I went to Carvel however they had the same sprinkles everyone else had. I was disappointed.

So, does anyone else remember Carvel sprinkles from the 1970s? Would some Carvels still have these sprinkles, perhaps based on what franchisee owns them? Is there any place where I could buy them and have them myself?

Prog rock lives

The band Transatlantic--a prog rock supergroup containing members of Marillion, Dream Theatre, The Flower Kings, and Neal Morse, formerly of Spock's Beard--are releasing their first album in nearly 9 years.

It has one song on it.

That one song is 77 minutes long.

Oooh, yeah.

The only remaining question is how much will it cost on iTunes?

(Actually, there's a 2-disc special addition with 8 additional songs--including a cover of Genesis' "Return of the Giant Hogweed"--but the one-disc version is the one song.)

Things that will never happen to me

I've always dreamed about finding an amazing Hammond Organ at a garage sale, for a discount price, and fixing it up nice and good.

But now, that dream is cast aside for the dream of finding a Hammond Novachord.

I saw this and thought, hey, it'd be cool to do that. But then I realized this guy is a professional analog synth restorer and modder, and it's likely way out of my league. Which means there's no way you could afford a restored one. And used ones, well it sounds like that after 70 years the electrolytic capacitors leak PCBs all over the place and basically make the things toxic as well as unplayable (whereas an old Hammond Organ usually just needs a good cleaning and lubrication and the tonewheels will still work.)

But still, wow. The thing sounds cool. And it'd look great in the living room.

Breaking Bad Season Two

Oh my.

This is one brilliant piece of TV. Bryan Cranston is a national treasure. So is Vince Gilligan.

I just saw the season finale, and I don't want to give anything away, but the way everything was woven together was frustrating and satisfying all at once.

They'll probably start rerunning them on AMC. If you missed it the first time, watch it. I don't know if I've ever seen a TV drama that is as intense.