What's All This Obsession Stuff, Anyhow?

June 8, 1998
Anybody who has seen my nation-wide lecture knows that, at the start of my lecture, just after I ask a couple mathematical questions, I ask the audience, "How many of you wake up in the morning...

Anybody who has seen my nation-wide lecture knows that, at the start of my lecture, just after I ask a couple mathematical questions, I ask the audience, "How many of you wake up in the morning with a song going around in your head?" Last night when I asked this question, only two guys out of 40 held up their hands. But often, one-quarter of the audience holds up their hands. As I mentioned in my "Aptitudes Stuff" (see Electronic Design, Nov. 3, 1997, p. 219), I have a good "memory for pitch." I can still remember the first three songs I ever learned in the third grade. Soprano AND alto parts. But maybe not all the words.

A few years ago, for a whole month, I woke up in the morning with Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" in my head. I really didn't need that in my head, but that's not a bad song. I recall that it was written about the reunion of a chicken and an egg, in a chicken omelette. It's a catchy song with catchy rhythms— Caribbean or Calypso beat.

One time I was backpacking up at Snow Mountain, Calif. I woke up with a bad headache, plus the James Brown song, "I Feel Good" going around in my head. I definitely did NOT feel good, and I knew that song, which I had heard the previous day on the radio, was going to be stuck in my head for hours. Boy, I felt awful.

But fortunately, within an hour, a miraculous shift happened, and "The Big Brass Band From Brazil" came into my head, replacing the other song. I felt a lot better. "Oh, they practiced all night long, But they only knew one song. That was all they ever played, In 87 different ways. Oom-pa-pa, figaroo, the Big Brass Band From Brazil." The third line is probably wrong, but I remember the other lines perfectly after 40 years; I did NOT hear or learn this recently. Anyhow, now, whenever "I Feel Good" comes on the radio, I turn it off promptly, so it does not get stuck in my head.

Right now, there is a song going around in my head. I will NOT tell you exactly which one it is. I'll let you figure out which one you like, from this selection.

I was asked to attend a little performance, in Felton, Calif., about a year ago, by my previous roommate (from 1960, the year before I got married). One of his kids was singing in a group. I drove down to Felton, open-minded. Might be good, might be—who knows?

Now, there is some music that "grows on you;" some music is just like that. If you hear it several times, and you do not like it much, but then—after several hearings—you might decide you like it. The first 12 times I listened to the album, "Fleetwood Mac," back in '76, I was not impressed. Finally I figured out that I liked "I'm So Afraid." To get to this song, I had to listen to all the rest of the record, and I got to like the other songs, too. A lot. But the first 15 times I heard them, most of them were not my idea of fun.

But, when I first heard the group, Babes With Axes, I was instantly impressed, "knocked out." Some of their songs made me laugh—right away. Some of their songs made me cry—right away. No long break-in period. I bought a couple of their CDs. I listened to them many times, and I still like their music. I don't think you will have to listen to their songs 10 or 20 times to find that you like them. And, after you listen 10 or 20 times, I don't think you will decide that you do not like them.

So now I am going to recommend to you to buy their CD, "Live Axe." If you just send $15.00 to the Babes With Axes (BWA), you can get their CD. I am recommending to every one of my readers, that you start throwing dollars into an envelope marked: BWA LIVE AXE, P. O. Box 12178, Eugene, OR, 97440. When the money gets up to $15.00, send the money (or check) to the band. Make out the check to Debbie Diedrich.

When it arrives, listen to the CD. Yes, I know, a CD uses digital technology (more on this another day). Yeah, I know, I am a big skeptic of digital stuff, but it is OK. Really. Trust me on this. You may not be impressed with every song, but you'll find some that you like a lot.

Why BWA? I don't know, but these four women—Laura Kemp, Debbie Diedrich, Katie Henry, and T. R. Kelley—write all their own songs, and they sing and play all kinds of guitars (in the music business, a guitar is an axe). And, they are a little crazy, and their music is quite enjoyable. Besides, this music has been running around in my head for many months, and I have to recommend it.

Who should NOT buy this CD? People who don't have a CD player. Do they sell a tape of this? No. If you really cannot stand any guitar music, I'll let you pass. They have a couple other tapes or CDs, and they have a web site. If you can hear audio from your computer (I cannot) there are a few minutes of good audio that you can access there: http://www.efn.org/~gordon_k/babes.html.

I think we should encourage a LOT of young women (and men) to take up music, seriously, just in case some of them might turn out as talented as the Babes With Axes.

Have I ever told you the milk-bottle story? In my office I keep an old-fashioned glass milk bottle. It's only half full of tears. Whenever anybody comes and tells me some kind of a sad story, I pass them the milk-bottle, and tell them, "When you fill up this bottle with your tears, come back and tell me." My milk-bottle at home is half-full from tears, listening to the songs on BWA's "Live Axe."

By the way, I just tidied up the big stack of Electronic Design magazines that extends from my very first column that began in September 1990, to now, in my back room. The stack of 187 magazines is 54-in. wide. And it weighs 139.5 lbs. I'm impressed. Can I carry 139.5 lbs? Yes, probably. But, not very far.

I received some good video footage that my friend John Cordes took, on our recent trek. I tried to pick up a porter's load of about 80 lb. John had his camcorder running, and he was saying, "Bob is going nowhere"—that load is too heavy for this mere gringo to pick up. But I got the load onto my back, using just the standard tump-line, and stood up. I carried that load, and walked a few hundred yards down the hill, which astounded all the trekkers. And, I impressed the porters, too. They said, "Wa, wa, wa..."

Did I pick up this 80-lb load unassisted? Not quite. In that case, the tape shows that the porters did help a little. But their help was not really necessary. How much of load can I pick up, unassisted? Over 90 lb? Sure. I'll prove it, one of these days. Can I carry 139 lb? Safely? Sure. No problem. I'm not sure I could get it off the ground, but we shall see.

The picture of RAP at the front end of each column, has been printed about 33 million times. If an optimistic 9% of you readers have saved my columns, then my picture has been trashed 30 million times. How many of you have had a picture of your mug, thrown away 30 million times?

But, don't just sit there. Go over and get a 32-cent stamp, and put it on that envelope, and put on that address, BWA, P.O. Box 12178, Eugene, OR 97440.

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

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