Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Iceman Cameth. And Then He Lefteth...

If you haven't been able to get enough of my ongoing efforts to bring ice into our home in the form of the ice and water dispenser built into our refrigerator, I have an update.

Recall from my August 8 post that Jillfoil and I have been living happily ice-free for four years now. Our guests however, have not been so happy. Especially at cocktail hour.

So we had a plumber come over to hook up the water to the refrigerator. $245 later, he told us that the water was connected but the dispenser was broken.

A week later, the appliance guy came and told us that the pfetzer unit was broken. He took a $100 deposit for the part and drove away. Just this past week he returned with a new pfetzer unit, installed it and told me that in 12 hours we would have ice.

And now, for your arithemetic pleasure, I will recount the total cost of this modern convenience:

$245 Plumbing and installation of water source
$100 Deposit for the purchase of pfetzer unit
$160 Balance on pfetzer unit
$125 Appliance guy labor

I keep rubbing my eyes and hoping that the numbers change. But they don’t. $630.

And while $630 for the convenience of automatic ice surpasses the cost of a brand new refrigerator, at least I can serve my father his favorite beverage and offer him his choice of crushed or cubed ice.

Only I can’t. 12 hours passed and no ice. 24 hours passed. It’s been four days now and every morning I rush to the ice maker like a kid at Christmas. And every morning I find the ice bin filled with metaphorical coal.

Look at all the metaphorical coal.

And what do I do now? Just forget about it and move on? Stop throwing good money after bad and chalk this up as a $630 learning experience?

I mean, what is the effing lesson here?

Or do I call the appliance guy back? If I’m just $50 away from making this right, I’d be a fool not to finish it off and give my dad a god-damned glass of ice water right? But on the other hand, what if it’s going to take $250 more dollars? I mean, COME ON. When does it end?

And so I was wedged in tight and stuck. I couldn’t decide what my next move should be.

But there’s this blog. And it’s hungry for content. And I’m planning on launching this thing publicly in the next day or two. And then the pressure for content really mounts. And if I decide to cut my losses and live the rest of my life without automatic ice, then this topic will be closed and there will be nothing more to say or post about it.

But if I call the appliance guy and bring him back…

It’s thin logic. It’s no way to make a decision but it’s what I’m going to do. I’m calling the guy back. That will give me at least one more post and maybe, just maybe, a cool, refreshing iced beverage just in time for the summer to officially end.

More to follow…

Great Headline Over at The Onion...

Michael Phelps Returns To His Tank At Sea World

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Everything that Happens will Happen Today

In 1981, David Byrne and Brian Eno put out a crazy-good record called “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.”

Now that I think about it, that record might have been the first of many good recommendations over the years from my friend Nick.

The record has since been lauded as a wildly influential precursor to electronica, world music and sampling. I know…world music. Not my thing either but this is a great record. That it was produced before digital technology makes it even more remarkable.

I even remember that Oliver Stone used some of it in “Wall Street.”

Anyway, Eno and Byrne have just released a new record called “Everything that Happens will Happen Today” and they’re streaming it for free on the website

It sounds really good.

Here is what Byrne has to say on the website:

Brian Eno and I recently finished our first collaboration in about 30 years. The name of the new record is Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. For the most part, Brian did the music and I wrote some tunes, words and sang. It's familiar but completely new as well. We're pretty excited.

The album is available exclusively from this Web site. You can stream all of the songs for free and purchase it in a variety of digital and physical formats, including a limited edition Deluxe Package designed by Sagmeister Inc. All formats can be downloaded immediately and physical CDs will be shipped in the Fall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You sir! You look like a strong young man...

For 141 years, our town has hosted a fair. And it’s a classic. 4H exhibits, rides, a midway, fried dough, live music, corn dogs, agricultural exhibits, even modified lawnmower races and a demolition derby.

And carnies! If I had any gumption at all, I would present to you a photo gallery of carnies from the fair but I simply couldn’t do it. I’m too intimidated.

I just know that every carnie in the place has more fist-fight experience than I do and I get the very real sense that they’d enjoy throwing down with a rube like me.

(For some reason I've always remembered a line from the Bill Murray stinker “Larger Than Life” where Murray’s character’s father was a carnie who offered this sage piece of advice: “Son, there’s two kinds of people in this world, carnies’ and rubes. Don’t be a rube.”)

But there was still a lot to see…and all of it was electric-thrill-neon-overload. Win this prize! Dare to ride! Eat! Show your strength! Test your courage! Suspend your disbelief! Witness! Marvel!

And if you ever sense that you’re falling into a rut where you live in a kind of insular world and see the same kind of people day-in and day-out, take yourself down to the fair. Where does the guy with the tank top and pock-marked shoulder blades come from? Where does he work? Why doesn’t he wash his pants?

What about the enormous fat guy who decided, fuck it all, to go to the fair without a shirt?

And how on earth can that lady be walking around in bare feet?

The looming presidential election makes me think that there is some kind of lesson to be learned here. This is America and these are Americans. Their tank-tops and t-shirts say it loud and clear.

So do the framed mirrors with eagles clutching American flags in their talons…and you can take one home if your aim is good.

C’mon fella, just knock all three down and win a prize for your girlie…

Monday, August 25, 2008


Vacations take on a different meaning when you put the word “family” in front of them. I’m sure my mother and father could have told me that.

As a vigorous and vibrant young man, I might have passed a week on a lake in Maine by sleeping off a hangover on the beach, water skiing, napping on a hammock, taking midnight cocktail cruises on the boat or heading into town for some alcohol fueled “locals vs. tourists” action at the pub.

(Mainers will describe visitors by simply saying that they are “from away”. They have also been known to use a term which seems to describe visitors from my home state but can actually apply to any tourist - Masshole.

As a Massachusettsian myself who married into a family of Mainers, I walk a very fine line on this issue. So far I have stayed out of trouble by joining with the Mainers in a common disdain for New Yorkers. Especially Yankee fans.)

Getting back to my point about the fun that a young man might have on a Maine vacation, the list of available activities shortens up dramatically when you add a 2 ½ year-old to the mix. Or rather, the list changes.

Sleeping-in is out. Getting up early and swimming in glass-smooth water is in.

Water skiing is out. Kite-flying is in.

Midnight boat rides are severely curtailed but mid-afternoon floats on an inner-tube with Littlefoil are in. Totally in.

Drinking is actually still in.

Sleeping away a hangover on the hammock is out. Rocking in the hammock with Littlefoil while he shakes off the sleepies from his nap is in.

There was skinny dipping and trips to the ice cream shop and in many ways it was the kind of wholesome summer vacation that you feel lucky to be able to provide for a kid.

No one knows how long we’ll be able to keep coming back to the camp on the lake but I hope and hope and hope that Littlefoil will remember something about this trip. Even a little something like the acorns he collected all week. He’s been hiding them around the house. So far I’ve found one in my shoe and two in our bed. I hope we keep finding them all winter long.

Sunscreen is a must...

Frog catching. I mean c'mon! Frog catching!

The Foil Fleet.

If it's slimy or slippery, Littlefoil loves it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Family Vacation!

This is me swimming in Maine. Or rather, this is me just a half second before I began swimming. That’s Lucy with me – one of the all-time great dogs.

Lucy isn’t with us anymore but Ruby has joined the family and is currently working her way up to “most favored dog status.”

On Friday, we're loading up the family truckster and Ruby, Jillfoil, Littlefoil and I are going back to the lake for a week of swimming and hiking and biking and camp-firing.

Wholesome as all get out.

I'm hoping to keep work distractions to a minimum...but you know how that goes.

No blogging either. But I promise pictures and stories when I get back.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

El Rey

On Monday night I piled my suburban self into the car with my suburban friend and headed into the big city for a rock show.

The last show I saw downstairs at The Middle East was The Dismemberment Plan. Last night it was El Vez.

How to describe El Vez…he refers to himself as the “Mexican Elvis” but that leaves too much unsaid.

He’s a showman. A kind of gay-cabaret, show-tune, Elvis-camp, rock-o-Latino showman - prone to flamboyant costumes, visuals and props. He performs in front of a crack band and beside the El-Vettes who play the role of back-up singers and go-go dancers.

It’s a chaotic mash-up of pop-culture with liberal amounts of Elvis and a sprinkle of Latino politics thrown in. puts it this way:

El Vez, aka Robert Lopez, has been kicking around the L.A. underground music
scene for nearly twenty years. While his records are excellent documents of the
El Vez phenomenon, the only way to get the full El Vez experience is to see his
live shows.

The best cultural reference points to help describe an El Vez show are the Ike and Tina Turner Review, a Tom Jones Las Vegas gig, the LSD episode of Dragnet, and Elvis Presley's '68 comeback special. Listening to El Vez is akin to hearing the live-band equivalent of sampling. An audience on any given night can be treated to half a dozen costume changes and might hear bits and pieces of at least 200 songs - not all of them Elvis recordings.

And that’s so true. At one point last night I texted myself so I could remember the three songs that made up one particularly audacious number – Elvis’ “In The Ghetto”, The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” and Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova.”

And it totally worked. The show was a blast.

I’m not sure that I would sit and listen to El Vez records for hours on end, but having seen him a couple years ago during the “Merry Mex-mas” tour and at last night’s “El Vez for Prez” show, I am highly recommending that you check out to find out when he’s coming to your town.

Better yet, don’t bother. I’ll save you the click!

8/12/08 Hoboken - Maxwells
8/13/08 New York - Le Poisson Rouge
8/14/08 Philadelphia - Johnny Brenda’s
8/15/08 Washington DC - Black Cat
8/16/08 Atlanta = Variety Playhouse (Elvis Death Day Show)
8/17/08 New Orleans - Parish
8/19/08 Houston - Continental Club
8/20/08 Austin - Continental Club
8/23/08 Los Angeles - Key Club
8/24/08 San Diego - Casbah

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hot Buttered Memories

My parents used to have a stereo in our living room. It was an all-in-one unit – a Magnavox I think - with a turntable built on top of an AM/FM receiver. The turntable had a kind of smoky brown translucent dust cover.

It was one of those turntables with a tall spindle that allowed you to stack records so you could hear them consecutively without interruption.

While one record was playing, the next-in-line kind of hovered above it. At the end of the last song, the tone-arm would automatically lift and move out of the way and the next album would plop down.

It sounds so silly today but if you purchased a double album set back then, you would notice that one record would have sides 1 and 3 on it and the second record would have sides 2 and 4. That way, if you were stacking your records on a spindle, you could hear the songs in the order that the artist intended!

You would stack it so that side 1 would drop first and then the second record would drop to play side two. When that was over you just picked up both records at once, flipped them over, put them back on the spindle and you’d be treated to sides 3 and 4 in the right order.

Laugh if you must but if you wanted to recreate the concert experience of say, Paul McCartney and the Wings, then you wanted to hear "Wings Over America" in the right order. It would feel weird to hear “Magneto and Titanium Man” before “Picasso’s Last Words”, right?

Same with Kiss Alive II, Neil Young’s Live Rust and Jethro Tull’s Intensity in Ten Cities…

My parent’s record collection sat on shelves below the stereo and I remember sifting through those albums and just…looking at them. It used to be cool to look at records…the artwork and the liner notes. Liner notes! I remember picking out records to read while eating cereal in the morning.

The double-album set for ELO’s “Out of the Blue” sticks in my mind as being particularly beautiful to my young eyes.

The front cover featured a kind of giant, multi-colored spaceship.

It was a “mother ship” of sorts with a smaller craft landing in one of the bay doors.

(That it looked like the electronic memory game Simon didn’t take away from its appeal to me at all!)

And the inside cover was even more amazing. It featured what must have been the command and control center for the mother ship. It was an expansive deck with energy orbs, all kinds of high-tech consoles and people manning various stations. It was done in the same high-contrast, high gloss style as the front cover of the album. Super cool.

But getting back to my parent’s collection, there are two albums in particular that I remember having a tremendous influence on me. The first, for obvious reasons, was Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights.”

Imagine the effect of that cover on a 13 year old boy with an active imagination…

The other one that stuck with me was Isaac Hayes’ “Hot Buttered Soul.” Shirtless, hairless and wearing a gold chain as big as…well, an actual chain, Hayes looked...gigantic. And he didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard.

The songs were long. “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” which was one of two songs on the album that I knew from the Glen Campbell version that I heard on the radio, clocked in at 18:42! And the first 8:34 were just talking! What? The other song I knew was “Walk On By” because I had a cassette with that song performed by The Association. Needless to say, the interpretations were quite different.

Another song on the album was “Hyperbolicsyllablecsesquedalymistic” which clocked in at a concise 9:39. That was my favorite song on the album but, you know, you don’t jump on the school bus at 13 years old and start chatting up the other kids about Isaac Hayes and your favorite song “Hyperbolicsyllablecsesquedalymistic."

Which leads me to the purpose of this post in the first place. Isaac Hayes died this weekend at his home in Memphis. He was 65.

You can read about “Shaft” and “South Park” and how he was a crazy Scientologist somewhere else. Here, you’ll just have to settle for my memories of his gigantic bald head and my parent’s dusty old stereo.

Friday, August 8, 2008

For the love of ice…

Four years ago Jillfoil and I bought a new refrigerator. A side-by-side beauty with an ice and water dispenser built right into the door!

For some reason, now lost to the mists of time, we never had a water source connected to it.

It didn’t bother Jillfoil or me because, it turns out, we’re not really ice people. Neither of us are big cocktail drinkers – we do mostly beer and wine – and Jill likes her drinking water to be room temperature anyway. So we never thought twice about it.

But my father, who likes the occasional cocktail, and my brother, who just likes ice in his drinks, have always teased us because we don’t even have ice trays. It’s become kind of an in-family joke that whenever they come over, someone has to stop at the store and buy a bag of ice.

And then one day, our kitchen faucet started dripping and I couldn’t fix it. So I called a plumber who had lots of more complicated and profitable jobs to do before he could get to us.

Weeks passed.

One morning, as I watched the water drip out of the faucet, I decided that I would up the ante and offer the plumber the opportunity to run the water supply to our refrigerator. And sure enough, he was in our kitchen four days later.

He fixed the faucet, ran a copper tube behind our cabinets, connected the water, charged me $245 and informed me that the ice and water dispenser still didn’t work. There was no power getting to it.

Water was getting to it though, and as a plumber, that was all he cared about. His work was done.

Mmmmph. I had plans! I was going to invite the family over for iced drinks! It was going to be a big surprise and the end of the “bagged ice” jokes!

Now I was $245 into this deal...and somehow, having ice became important to me so I called an appliance repair guy. Jillfoil astutely noted that if we hooked up the water when we bought the refrigerator in the first place, we might have discovered the broken dispenser while it was still under warranty.


So the appliance guy was here this morning. He spent seven minutes with it and told me that some kind of “unit” was broken and needed replacing. He would order the part for me but he needed a $100 deposit.

The good news is that his best guess was that the part “shouldn’t cost more than $250.”
That puts our total spend at $495…assuming that his “best guess” includes his labor and time. Which you know it won’t.

That means that I will have spent about $500 for the joy of offering my dad a drink with my very own ice.


More fun with eights...

Just saw a post on Mental Floss that adds even more intrigue to today's date...

The Independent is reporting that 08/08/08 is a big day in China because of the opening of the Olympics but also because the number 8 is a homophone for "wealth." (A homophone is a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air.)

It is reported that all 200 beds in Beijing's main maternity ward are full of women who have scheduled caesarean deliveries on this date so that they can "ensure that most auspicious and treasured of babies - an Olympic baby."

Other cities are reporting scheduled births today at five times the normal number.

They also report that an estimated 16,000 couples will be married today.

So apparently the Chinese people are not quite as skeptical as the staff here at TMUOTF...


Hey, I just realized that it's August 8, 2008. Or 08/08/08. Or, as the Europeans do it, 08/08/08!

(As good skeptics, "we" here at TMUOTF recognize that numerology is, of course, bunk. But we also like to find humor and delight in even the smallest things. And, just like it's fun to watch your odometer click over to 100,000 miles, it's fun to write 08/08/08.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Timeline issues...

I know that some of the links on the timeline posted earlier today aren't working.

I checked out the original site and those same links seem to be broken there as well.

My only guess is that since BK G has opened it up to the public to add events, some of those additions have been improperly uploaded.

But what the hell do I know really? At least this hypothesis allows me to skirt blame and to stop trying to fix it!

Still, the links that do work are fun to follow...and maybe the broken ones will be fixed as time goes by. Just not by me!

Speaking of timeliness...

Via Neatorama via Charles Arthur's technology blog at

This is a Meme Timeline (a meme being a "unit of thinking" that spreads through a population) created by BK G and posted at

Say, for example, that you can't remember when the OK Go treadmill video came out...

or when Bush started referring to "the internets" or "the Google"...

or when the SNL "Cowbell" clip went viral...

or when people started mixing Diet Coke and Mentos...

The timeline will tell you. And every item links to the meme - whether it's a video or an image or a website - and gives a brief description.

So if you've heard of "The Evolution of Dance" but never seen it, look no further!

BK G also had the super-cool notion that anyone could contribute an entry by going to the host site ( and clicking on "Add an Event"

As time killers go, this one is huge!

Dr. Horrible Part Three

And now, the final installment.

Or is it?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dr. Horrible Part Two

As promised (and agonized over) yesterday, here is Part Two of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

And it's been driving me crazy...

After finding those perspective-jogging parking lot images, I was trying to remember something similar but I couldn't quite get it and it was driving me crazy.

Something about art or perspective or chalk drawings...was it chalk? Not chalk but something like...was it sidewalk art?

Hmmm...let's just Google "sidewalk art perspective" and see...

And yes! Craving satisfied! I remember now! I had these images on a work computer from a job about two jobs ago...Now I remember!

The guy is Julian Beever and he is a an English chalk artist who's famous for his art on the sidewalks of England, France, Germany, Australia and Belgium.

His art deforms into incredible "3D perspectives" when viewed from the correct angles. The drawings below (often with Beever posing) are a small sampling of his work.

The image above was shot from the wrong perspective or position. But stand at the right spot and it becomes this!

Yes? Yes!!!


From by way of Boing Boing…

Axel Peemoller is apparently a designer and one of his gigs was designing a signage system for a parking lot in Australia. He calls it a “way finding system for a carpark.” (!!)

Anyway, he’s painted directions on walls and floors that look abstract unless you’re positioned just the right way in front of them.

Think my explanation is hard to understand? Try his!

“In Melbourne I developed a way-finding-system for the Eureka Tower Carpark. The distored letters on the wall can be read perfectly when standing at the right position. This project won several international design awards.”

The pictures do a better job than either of us…

Dr. Horrible

It’s still early in my career (!) as a blogger and one of the things that I’m curious about is the relative value of posting personal stories, notes and images versus posting interesting things that I find elsewhere.

Ultimately I’m talking about creating content as opposed to sharing it. Or stealing it if you want to take that view.

For example, the post about our trip to Block Island and the post about astronaut flight suits both give a glimpse into personal thoughts and interests while the Bloody Table is something I just found on Boing Boing. I suppose that the things that I decide to share are also reflective of personal tastes but it sometimes feels a bit like cheating.

That said, coming up with deep, revealing posts every day isn’t something I can manage while living up to my responsibilities at home and at work. It requires time that I don’t always have and so I think that sharing things helps keep the blog breathing. And frankly, when I see something neat, I like to share.

So for now, my mindset is that posting personal items is great and when I have the time and inspiration, that’s what I’m going to do. I am also going to share stuff that I discover and will always try to be honest and credit the source.

But there’s one more angle to the sharing bit – timeliness. For example, I posted the “Dancing” video from because it was great content and it made me feel good. But by the time I posted it, it was already all over the web and even received a blurb in Newsweek. It seems kind of silly to use the instantaneous medium that is the internet to post things already covered by “old media.”

And this is the dilemma that I face today. For some time I’ve been hearing about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, a three part musical written by Joss Whedon of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame staring Neal Patrick Harris of “Doogie Howser” and “How I Met Your Mother Fame.” Teri Gross recently interviewed Harris about it on “Fresh Air” and it’s been mentioned in Time Magazine and who knows how many other places.

Yesterday I finally watched the first episode and I really liked it. It’s on which makes it easy to embed videos and the quality is excellent. And I liked it. So I want to post it but I don’t want readers (of which there are currently none) to think that The Many Uses of Tim Foil is weeks or months behind the times.

There is pressure to keep posting – one day, after all, I’m going to announce this blog – but I don’t want that pressure to turn this into a place to go see what was happening six weeks ago.

On the other hand, I do want compelling stuff on the blog and Dr. Horrible is certainly that.

So I’ve decided to post the series in three parts over three days. Primarily because I like it. Secondarily because it will provide content for three days and thirdly because, you know, screw you! It’s my blog! Just because you knew about it first doesn’t mean that everyone has as much time to spend surfing the web for minutia!

Until further notice then, the approach will be to post whatever tickles my fancy. I’ll try to err on the side of “newness” but will not discount content just because I didn’t discover it before anyone else.

And so, without further delay, (Cripes! Just play the thing already!) I present Neal Patrick Harris in Part One of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two and the day after that for Part Three…

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dayvan Cowboy

I don’t really have the notion that this blog will be about space all the time, but I am fascinated by space stuff.

And, while I don’t have anything bursting out of me that demands publishing, I do feel a kind of obligation to keep putting interesting things up here as often as possible – even though I haven’t yet told a single soul about this blog except for Jillfoil.

That’s right. Completely whistling in the dark. (And that’s the nicest thing I can think to say about it.)

So due to my sense of obligation and due to my fascination with space and due to the fact that I don’t want this blog to be ALL about space, I am posting something today and it is only tangentially related to space.

But if you like music or music videos or surfing or skydiving, then you might like this. And even if you don't have any particular interest in any of these things, I still think that this is compelling stuff.

To begin, check out this video for “Dayvan Cowboy” from the EP “Trans Canada Highway” by Boards of Canada who are, all appearances to the contrary, from Scotland.

Very compelling tune and the ocean and surfing shots are very cool. But for me, the first half of the video absolutely blows my mind. The footage comes from the military archives of Project Excelsior. This project was concerned with the effects and survivability of high-altitude bailouts from an aircraft (and is helpful also if, perhaps, you have a space program in mind for longer term goals).

It was late in the 1950’s and man had yet to break the sound barrier but advances in technology, pushed by the burgeoning cold war, made it inevitable that aircraft would be taking men higher and faster than ever before.

So high in fact, that the challenges of ejecting from an aircraft at such extreme conditions became important to understand.

Colonel Joseph Kittinger had been a member of the US Air Force since 1950 where he distinguished himself with, among other things, the balloon altitude record of 96,760 feet in 1957. This experience led to his work with Project Excelsior where he made a series of three parachute jumps wearing a pressurized suit, from a helium balloon with an open gondola.

The first jump, from 76,400 feet in November, 1959 was a near tragedy when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness. Only the automatic parachute saved him (he went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of 120 rpm; the g-force at his extremities was calculated to be over 22 times that of gravity, setting another record). Three weeks later he jumped again from 74,700 feet.

On August 16, 1960 he made the final jump from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet. Towing a small drogue chute for stabilization, he fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet. He set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (4 min), and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere.

Fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere. I can’t tell you how much I wish that I could tell people at cocktail parties that I hold that record.

The footage of that jump speaks to me in the very same way that our early manned space program did. The sense of vastness, of insignificance, of space and of void stirs fascination and awe in me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Spotnicks...

Unrepentantly stolen from Boing Boing...

From 1962, performing "The Rocket Man", please welcome, The Spotnicks!

Dig their fantastic record cover...and these guys are STILL PLAYING! Check out if you can't stand it any longer!