Playlist: I Love Being Here With You

Continuing on with our exploration of the best playlist ever, let’s have a listen to a song called I Love Being Here With You, recorded by Queen Latifah:

You may recall that the overarching theme of the playlist is anachronism. And this song has that in spades. Here we have a song written by Peggy Lee (and some dude you’ve never heard of) way back in 1960, being sung by a modern diva. She has a big band accompaniment, straight out of the swing era.

When I think of Queen Latifah, I always think of her as a rapper. But of course she it multi-talented and does actual singing and acting and TV hosting and all sorts of stuff. But she was a rapper first, so I think it’s pretty fun to hear her singing this kind of music. And she does a bang-up job. The album this song is on was nominated for a Grammy and spent some time at the top of the Billboard Jazz charts.

Her voice reminds me a lot of Diana Krall. Similar range and inflections. Similar choices of songs (Diana has a recording of this song as well, although she takes it in a completely different direction; turning it into a much faster straight ahead jazz piece showing off her phenomenal piano skills).

Back when I wrote about Mambo Italiano, I cautioned that you shouldn’t prejudge a song by the versions you have heard before. This song proves a similar point: you shouldn’t prejudge a singer by the rapping she has done before. People can surprise you.

Best of Alfageeek: Geekpolitik

The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared that schools need to start later. You can read an article here. My poor daughter is going into seventh grade, which means she will be going to the middle school for the first time (elementary is K-6 here), and that means her school starts at 7:15am. Which means getting on a bus at 6:15, which means getting up at 5:30. That is simply too early! Researchers have known this for years, and now yet another professional organization is adding its voice to the fray.

So I’ve decided I’m going to start making some noise. I’m sure it’s too late to do anything about the schedule this year. But next year they could absolutely fix this mess. In our regional district, they simply need to start middle/high school two hours later, and start the elementary a half-hour earlier, and there should be no transportation cost impact at all.

I know, you are thinking “Good luck.” But I have some experience in these matters. And you can read about that in today’s best-of, Geekpolitik.

Best of Alfageeek: Back Roads

I have houseguests, so there really hasn’t been much time to write. Well, that’s bullshit, actually. There has been plenty of time to write, but for some reason it’s okay to consume media in the presence of others, but not to produce media in said presence. Not sure why that is. Science should look into that.

While we wait for the peer review process to give us a definitive answer to that mystery, you can read about the back roads of Michigan, which the WordPress stats say pretty much nobody read the first time around. Enjoy!

Scrambled Eggs

There is a social convention that we should tell people we like the food they cook, even if we don’t. It’s pervasive, and it calls into question the whole natural selection theory. Could it really be sexually advantageous to train potential mates to prepare bad food? It’s kind of counterintuitive. But then, so is general relativity.

You seriously expect us to believe this nonsense? Next thing you'll be telling us E=MC²

You seriously expect us to believe this nonsense? Next thing you’ll be telling us E=MC². SMDH.

I mean, think about it. Here you have this patent examiner with a bad haircut who decides that the speed of light must be constant. So if you are moving really fast, time must slow down so that light emitted by you can’t go any faster than normal. Have you ever had any dealings with patent examiners? They are idiots. Why on earth would we believe this guy? The whole thing sounds completely crazy. However, if you wear a really accurate watch on a fast-moving airplane on a long flight, you will indeed be a second or two behind when you get where you are going. So he was right.

Just because something doesn’t make any sense,  it isn’t necessarily wrong. Let’s give this food thing a chance, and just assume that for some reason being polite is more important than having food you like. Because really, when it comes to sexual advantage, who wants to take any chances? Better safe than horny, I always say.

So I, and almost every other adult, live by this rule. If someone says, “how are the eggs?” you say “Great!” Even if they are awful. And that’s just the way things are. So you may make terrible eggs your whole life and you’ll just never know.

This is what all food critics look like.

This is what all food critics look like. (Except my son. He’s super adorable.)

Except. That select handful of people with a genetic defect or something that violate this rule. They will tell you if your eggs are bad. We call these people “food critics” and we don’t like them. We need them. We appreciate them. But we don’t like them. Kind of like lawyers.

My son is a food critic.

Like his dear old dad, he lacks any interest in the social graces. However, unlike his dear old dad, he hasn’t figured out the importance of sexual advantage and natural selection and stuff. (Which is good. He’s TEN.) So if you ask him how the food is, he’ll tell you the truth. And if you don’t ask him, he’ll probably tell you anyway. Much to the consternation of his mother.

My son says I make the best scrambled eggs. So unlike all of you, I actually have a high degree of confidence that I truly do make great scrambled eggs.

I tweeted that and somebody asked me to expand on it. So welcome to my kitchen; it’s recipe time.

My scrambled egg recipe is ridiculously simple. Many times, that’s the case with great recipes. However, you have to do it just exactly right or it won’t work. As is usually the case with great recipes. You need:

  • (1) Teflon-coated pan
  • (1) Spatula (the kind you can use with a teflon-coated pan)
  • (?) Eggs
  • (Some) Cream (or half and half, or milk, but preferably cream)

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the pan. This does not work unless the pan is non-stick. This recipe works for an arbitrarily large number of eggs, as long as they fit in the pan. For two eggs, you want to use about the smallest amount of cream you can pour out of the carton. Like maybe half an ounce (one tablespoon). Scale it up from there if you add more eggs. If you are using milk instead of cream, use a little more. Accuracy in the proportions is not really all that important here. The really important part is how you cook them.

Mix the eggs and cream in a bowl with a fork. Just integrate everything, no need to whip or do anything fancy.

Start heating the pan. I use gas and turn it to medium. Wait a little bit, 20 seconds or so, so the pan is hot. Dump the eggs into the pan, and start scraping with the spatula. This is the key thing! You must never stop scraping the eggs until they are done. Do not let them sit for one second. You are constantly scraping them off the bottom, and off the sides of the pan. Constantly. Keep scraping. After a bit, you will see that some parts are still really wet, and other parts are looking ready. That’s when you start flipping stuff over. Also, chopping with the tip of the spatula is good. Scrape. Flip. Chop. Scrape. Flip. Chop.

When they look almost ready, turn off the heat and continue to scrape, flip, chop until they look perfect. Then get them out of the pan! Get them onto a plate, and cover them if you still have to make the bacon or whatever.

My son likes a little cheese on his eggs. We use that shredded “Mexican mix” you can get in a big bag. Sprinkle that over the top once it is on the plate, and cover it. The heat of the eggs will melt the cheese enough. Cooking the cheese into the eggs is silly. Don’t do that. Just put it on top at the end.

That’s it. The easiest scrambled egg recipe ever. And it makes the best scrambled eggs ever. I know this, because my food critic told me so.

Playlist: The Naughty Bits

Over the past month I’ve been exploring a playlist that I put together for a charity gig a couple years ago. These are the songs that played during dinner, and when the band took a break between sets. The audience is exactly what you would expect at a library fundraiser—mostly old people. So when I was choosing the songs, I had a penchant for picking ones that, if they could actually hear them, the audience would be scandalized by. We jazz musicians like to play little jokes like that.

We already covered one of these songs, in which a Canadian teenager sang about her vagina. That one was kind of subtle, I’ll admit. The next two songs we will explore are far less so. They come from Annie Sellick, who we already met singing the bejeezus out of an old mafia novelty song. The first naughty song is about wanting a man who can cum more than once, apparently:

2. Do It Again (4:33)

This is the first time I haven’t been able to find a youtube link to a playlist song. So I hope that link works for you. There is also a sample on the Street of Dreams page at iTunes.

I particularly like the part of the song where she and the bass are singing exactly the same notes. It reminds me a little of what George Benson used to do with his guitar. Or maybe one of those Lambert, Hendricks & Ross songs where they sing words to a bebop solo.

The other song is exploring the difference between men who know how to make a woman cum, and those who do not:

6. Some Cats Know (4:26)

Same deal with this link. Same album and everything.

Again, there is a lot of singing with just the bass, which is something you may notice I’m partial to as you go through the playlist.

Here is a short sample of the lyrics:

some cats know
how to stir up feeling
they keep foolin’ around
till they’re half way through the ceiling
some cats know
how to keep your honey flowin’
but if a cat don’t know
a cat don’t know

Unlike the Canadian teenager song, this one really doesn’t need any explanation.

This particular song inspired a tweet, and I’ll end with that:

Best of Alfageeek: Inchworm

We were talking at dinner tonight about how, although I can be social, my ability to remain social has an expiration date. My wife estimates it at about 3 hours. At that point, I’m pretty much social-ed out and I need to either leave or retreat. And I read my kids a tweet about that, and that reminded me that I used that tweet at the end of a post a while back. So that brings us to today’s best-of: Inchworm. Enjoy!

Hard Tweets Explained: One Shift Two Shift Red Shift Blue Shift

I’m not sure if this is really a hard tweet. My editor, who never gets any of my math or physics jokes, actually got this one. And it’s doing a little better in the stars than my usual hard tweets. But I think it’s worthy of explanation anyway, because it’s such a cool topic.

You are all familiar with Doppler Shift. That’s when the ambulance coming toward you sounds like, “nee-ner, nee-ner, nee-ner” and after it runs you over, it sounds like “noo-ner, noo-ner, noo-ner.” That is, higher pitch coming toward you, and lower pitch going away from you. The reason this happens is because sound travels in waves. Think of those waves like a spring. When the sound source is coming toward you the spring gets squished. And when the sound source is going away, the spring gets stretched out.

Squishing waves brings them closer together. And that means that the number hitting over a period of time is going to be higher. You will be hit with waves more frequently. So we say the wave has a higher frequency. Cool, right? Higher frequency gives higher pitch. So that’s why the sound is higher when it comes at you.

The opposite happens when it moves away. The waves get stretched out, so you are hit at a lower frequency, and hence lower pitch.

But you knew all that, right? Well, the same thing happens with light! If you think about how fast light moves (really fucking fast) relative to the light source (not really all that fast, here on earth), the amount of that Doppler shift in the light isn’t going to be much at all. But if the object is moving close to the speed of light, it can make a big difference.

When you increase the frequency of light, it moves toward the blue range. So bluer is the light equivalent of higher pitch. When you reduce the frequency of light, it moves toward the red range, so redder is the light equivalent of lower pitch.

So if an ambulance was coming toward you near the speed of light, it would look bluish. And then after it passed you, it would look reddish.

Of course, you wouldn’t get to see any of this because it would happen too fast, and ambulances traveling near the speed of light leave a horrific wake of devastation in their path. So you’ll just have to trust me on this.

So, knowing all this, we can return to our tweet. Two otherwise identical cars, blue in front, and red behind. As they approach, it looks like a blue car, after it passes, it looks like a red car. It appears as though it was just a gray car that passed you at nearly the speed of light.

Homework: Step out of the way the next time an ambulance comes toward you at a speed significantly less than the speed of light (no point worrying about those near-speed-of-light ones).


My parents invented the staycation. It was the 1970s, and my father hated to travel (I’m right there with you, Dad), but it was summer and my parents were both in education, so it really seemed like vacation was the thing to do. My mother suggested that perhaps we could do everything we usually do on a vacation, except for the travel part. Dad was down with that. And the staycation was born.

Before I can get into the details, I need to explain the house where I grew up. Because it. was. weird.

Right around 1970, my folks bought a big hunk of land with forests and ponds and cabins on it. Well, not cabins exactly. But really tiny houses. And they set about turning it into this magical oasis, which took years. But they totally did, and it’s now an absolutely amazing place. Anyway, the cabins were much too small for our family of 6, so they built a new house between two of the cabins, and connected everything together. But there was actually a pretty big elevation difference between the two cabins, so my house had three levels and the square footage of a typical 5 bedroom house. Instead of it being three floors stacked on top of each other, they formed a long line. With stairs. And more stairs. And then more stairs.

Each cabin was a complete house to begin with, so we kind of had two of everything. Two kitchens. Two master bedrooms. Two living rooms. This was actually pretty awesome for my parents, because their end of the house was so fucking far away that we never bothered to go bug them. Seriously, the walk from our living room to their bedroom was like half an hour. (Although it was downhill, so that was nice.)

Alright, so back to the staycation. We packed. There was no going to your room during staycation. We slept in the playroom, which was what we called the messy living room that us kids used on the higher-elevation end of the house. Pretty sure we didn’t watch TV, since we were on vacation, and we watched TV pretty much non-stop during regular life.

Wood paneling, because nature.

Wood paneling, because nature.

We piled into the Ford LTD II main battle tank and rode into town for breakfast and dinner. Not sure what we did for lunch. Probably made due on whatever we could scrounge in the woods, like sassafras leaves and poison sumac berries and dirt.

But since we were on vacation, there were activities! My folks asked, “what would people do if they were coming here on vacation?” This was before Yelp. So “just keep on driving, don’t slow down, full steam ahead” wasn’t the obvious answer then that it is now. We did those things that they thought they might find entertaining if we visited our hometown. This included piling onto a train (!) and going to Battle Creek Michigan (!!) to take a tour of the Kellogg’s Cereal Factory (!!!) at the end of which we all got a six-pack of the mini-cereals that you can cut just so and pour milk right into the box(!!!!). So that solved the lunch problem, anyway.

This vehicle would have been so much cooler with wood paneling.

This vehicle would have been so much cooler with wood paneling.

I think we also maybe went to the movies. Probably saw Escape to Witch Mountain, or Return from Witch Mountain, or some other movie about Witch Mountain. True fact: all movies in the 1970s were about Witch Mountain.

I’m not sure what else we did. We might have gone to Boblo Island, which was this half-assed amusement park in the middle of the Detroit River. It was the place you went when your parents just weren’t up for the drive to Cedar Point, which was all the way down in Ohio, and was fucking awesome. The highlight of a trip to Boblo island was driving by the giant tire with a nail in it on I-94. That tire was cool, and unlike everything else from my youth, it has not gotten smaller as I’ve gotten older. It’s still ridiculously, awesomely huge. I think that getting to see that tire now and then is pretty much the only  reason there are still people living in Michigan.

So that’s how one is supposed to do a staycation. Remember the key rules: no going to your room, no eating at home, no TV, find stuff to fill the days like you would have to if you were on a real vacation. A staycation, if done properly, will be just as exhausting and expensive as a real vacation. However, you will not have to drive anywhere new, so that makes it infintely better.

Playlist: Bienvenue Dans Ma Vie

The next song on the playlist that we will be exploring is Bienvenue Dans Ma Vie, sung by Nikki Yanofsky. I tweeted that little joke about this song late last year. Nikki was 15 when she recorded this back in 2010. The same year she sang the Canadian national anthem at the Winter Olympics:

Not bad for a little kid. It gave me chills and I’m not even from Canadia. [Note to my editor: that’s not a typo, it’s a joke. Leave it the hell alone, dammit.]

But let’s look at the lyrics of the song we are supposed to be talking about:

Bienvenue dans ma vie
Tout est brillant ici
It’s warm inside
My door’s open wide
Don’t stand outside

Talk about double-entendre. First some French gobbledegook I don’t understand. Then warm inside. Yup, always is, in my experience. My door is open wide. Not something you usually brag about, but okay. It goes on:

You can see from far away
It’s a kind of place you’d like to stay,
Kick off your shoes,
Forget your strife

See from far away? Maybe a camel-toe reference. I dunno.

There’s a light on in the hall

Okay, well-lit is not a typical description. I’ll give you that. But hall? Yeah, hall is definitely carrying forth our metaphor.

Leading to a place
Where you can fall and rest your head

Rest your head. Right? Your head?

Close your eyes,
Welcome to my life.

I’m more of an eyes-open kind of guy. My life. Obvious metaphor for a vagina.

So this is clearly what we’re talking about, which is fine, except the girl is only 15! That’s just not right. I’m actually kind of surprised this isn’t labeled [explicit] in iTunes, and banned in Britain, and the national anthem of Japan.

Now that I’ve completely tainted the lyrics for you, here’s the song:

Nikki’s voice is still immature, so it is better suited to this song than it is to her Ella Fitzgerald covers, which have great technical accuracy, but lack any depth or soul whatsoever. She just hasn’t had enough heartache and pain in her short life to do justice to Ella’s songbook.

I like the French 1920’s jazz instrumentation of this song, but I’m a sucker for a good jazz accordion. That’s just a cross I must bear. Don’t worry, there aren’t any more accordion songs in the list. And there aren’t any more 15-year-olds singing about their naughty bits either.