Month: May 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Vid

“She’s Not Me” – Jenny Lewis

How many of you remember the 1989 movie Troop Beverly Hills? I’m 99% sure I never saw it, although I do remember the name. It was a Shelly Long vehicle, which right there should be enough to let you know it was terrible. It also was the feature film debut of the wonderful Carla Gugino. And it was the second big-screen appearance by a youngster named Jenny Lewis, who had done TV for several years, and would continue to act into the 1990s before forming the band Rilo Kiley with her then-boyfriend Blake Sennett. Today, she’s awesome on her own.

Going meta on us, Jenny plumbs the depths of Troop for the visuals in her latest video.

You’re On Your Own

It’s a tent-pole requirement of parenting to always be comparing the lives of your kids to your own childhood.

We point out the ways our children are more fortunate than us: “I didn’t get to go to Florida until I was 31. You’ve been there three times before you turned 9. Stop complaining!”

We observe the changes in how parents monitor their children today. For example, it seems like most of my generation had free reign to play wherever they wanted for as long as they wanted. We’d leave the house, wander the neighborhood, and check-in at home for a snack or lunch or to grab a required toy then take off again. My mom had no idea where I was about 90% of the time. Today, we put strict limits on our kids. “OK, you can ride down to the W’s mailbox, but no further. And you better stay where I can see you from the front window.”

I was thinking about situations like these last night as I drove to cover a high school baseball game. Why then? I was leaving the girls behind, on their own, for more than just a few minutes for the first time ever. They had roughly 90 minutes between when I left and when S. would get home.[1] I fed them snacks before I departed, leaving strict instructions not to eat anything else until their mom got home. They knew not to answer the door if the bell rang, and to stay inside unless there was an emergency. They understood that they could text/FaceTime me, or another family member, if there was an emergency. But they also knew not to text me that a sister was bugging them. And so on.

Of course, they did fine. They’ve had a few shorter periods home alone over the past eight months or so, thus we weren’t jumping into the deep end on our first attempt.

Still, I was nervous leaving them. Which seemed really weird because I began coming home from school and staying home alone for hours when I was seven. Yes, I was a Latchkey Kid. I never burned the house down or suffered any serious injuries while unsupervised. But I also didn’t have two siblings that could lead me into trouble. I was reasonably responsible and generally was a rule follower, so I avoided situations where major trouble was a possibility.

As I drove, I thought of all the things that could go wrong. I was less worried about general nonsense that resulted in injury than some kind of fluke event that the girls would not know how to handle.

There were no panicked texts, no angry phone calls when the spouse arrived home. When I returned around 9:00, the house was still standing and all the girls were either safely asleep or winding down in their rooms.

This was kind of a big window to leave them alone. I’d prefer not to have to do that again right away. But it is also nice to have a little bit of trust in them, allowing us the freedom to let them stay home while we run to the store or other errands, go exercise, or just need to take something to a family member across town.

  1. 5:30 first pitch 45 minutes from home required an early departure.  ↩

⦿ Tuesday Links

Good grief. Busy-ness (as opposed to business), laziness, a holiday weekend, and a general late-school year malaise have me well behind in sharing links. This period of inattention just happened to coincide with a flood of great things to share.

So brace yourself, grab a beverage, shut your office door (or send the kids to bed if the hour is appropriate), and take a deep breath before diving into these.

To begin, two fantastic pieces by men who worked for David Letterman. Bill Scheft wrote for Letterman for 22 years. Daniel Kellison filled a a variety of roles on The Late Show. Scheft focuses on preparing last week’s final episode while Kellison shares his memories from joining the staff to dealing with some of the biggest names to appear as guests while he was there.

(Final) Show Diary of Stuff Noteworthy Only to Me, Day 28 (End of Daves)…

My Letterman Years

Bill Simmons is not in David Letterman’s league in terms of influence on our culture, nor is he retiring. But his forced departure from ESPN is a big deal. And Will Leitch penned one of the best accounting’s of Simmons’ influence on sports journalism.

Simmons Will Be Missed At ESPN

I don’t have any fancy or clever ways of naming my hard drives. The main drive on my computer is always named Raven, which is how the last name my ancestors brought over from Wales translates to English. And my external and backup drives have a clear reference to their function (Raven Back Up, Pictures, etc.) so I know exactly what I need to do when I plug them in.

But I’ve always had a quiet admiration for people who come up with complex naming schemes for their hard drives. Tim Carmody walks us through the evolution of his naming convention, and the payoff is freaking fantastic for those of us who loved a certain critically-lauded by barely-watched HBO show that was set in Baltimore.

Falling In Love With A Hard Drive or, How To Name Your Computer
and Other Machines

When I wrote about Steph Curry a couple weeks back I thought about, but did not share, my memories of his final college basketball game. The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd looked back on that game, and how it ended.

It was just a couple months back that I finally, after nearly seven full years, went back and watched the final seven or eight minutes of that game. Friends and family may recall that I had to flee my house during that game. I was entirely too stressed out – even with S. and the kids having left the house for the afternoon – and jumped into my car and drove around for 45 minutes or so, listening to music and waiting until I thought the game was over to return home. I taped a note to the door onto which I scribbled, “Couldn’t take it. Left.” Fortunately S. missed the note when she came back, and there was no misunderstanding as to what it was I could not take. When I began getting giddy texts from fellow Jayhawks, I knew it was safe to head back.

Anyway, I had watched the final possession several times. But this was my first time to ever watch KU wipe out the Davidson lead, build a six-point lead with under a minute to play, do their best to blow it all, and then make a phenomenal stand on the final possession to earn a trip to San Antonio.[1] Even knowing the outcome, and what happened a week later in the Final Four, my stomach knotted up and my pulse raced. Hell, thinking about it right now makes me a little queasy.

Dodd, who is the KU beat writer, does a fine job talking to the Davidson folks for their view of that game and how it ended. How different would things be for both schools had either Jason Richards’ shot gone in, or if Curry had been the one to take, and make, the potential game-winner? Gus Williams would have exploded if Davidson won that game at the buzzer, right?

Stephen Curry is a NBA shot-making wizard, but what about the biggest one he never took?

I loved this look inside BBC Radio soccer (err, football) commentator Nick Barnes’ notebooks he prepares for each game he broadcasts. As someone who frantically scribbles down notes before and during games I write about, I love the time and detail he puts into his notes. They are works of art, not mere tools for a broadcaster.


Lastly, a couple music links.

Well, plenty to argue about in here, Spin magazine’s list of the 300 best albums since it began publication in 1985. I have a hard time critiquing much of the list because my hip-hop interest largely ended in the mid–90s. I think there are a few too many songs from recent years high on the list. To me there are a few albums that absolutely should be in here that are missing. And I think Nevermind is just a little over-rated. But music lists are made to provoke discussion and this is sure to.

Worth noting that my Top 10 Favorite albums that are eligible check in at 17, 36, 37, 113, and 144.

The 300 Best Albums Of the Past 30 Years

I admit, for all my hipster music preferences, I still have a soft spot in my heart for many cheesy songs from my youth in the 1980s. For example, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News. Those songs that were ubiquitous in the summers of your teenage years are hard to shake.

Thus, I loved this deep dive on the history of the song that appeared at the AV Club today.

“The Power Of Love” gave Huey Lewis And The News pop culture immortality

  1. Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins both made perfect, fundamentally sound, and massive switches to keep Curry from getting a look.  ↩

Friday Vid

“Constructive Summer” – The Hold Steady

A GREAT fan-made video that takes the words of a song and uses them in an unexpected way. Charming, funny, and inventive.

Oh, and the perfect song for the unofficial start of summer. Let’s build something this summer!


As you know, I dig series finales. I love it when a show that has been on for years, and has built a loyal audience and deep back-story, closes everything out with one last episode and goodbye.

But when it’s a person who is leaving air rather than a show, and 33 years of history rather than just a solid 5–7 year sit-com/drama run, it’s a little different. It’s tougher to draw a straight line and connect all the dots between the first episode and last when you’re dealing with over three decades and two different networks. And when you’re dealing with one man and his idea of humor and entertainment as opposed to a cast of fictional characters.[1]

Letterman was never appointment television for me. His NBC show was on too late for me to watch live, except in the summer. When he moved to CBS, and up an hour, I did watch more often than I ever had before. But still it was not an every-night event for me. When his fastball got wonky and his audiences more adoring than critical, much of the magic of the first 15 years of his show(s) was gone. Some nights were still great, but others lacked the energy and spark that made Letterman such a comedic genius.

Fortunately, he got that fastball back. He may not have been able to throw 95 at the knees, but he could still bring it when he needed it. For people my age, who grew up idolizing him, it was fantastic to tune in occasionally and be greeted by that wacky, odd personality who helped to form our comedic preferences when we were kids.

Here’s my favorite random Dave moment: This is from an early 1980s episode that I saw about 10 years ago when some minor cable network briefly re-aired shows from the early Late Night years. Billy Crystal was a guest, but this was before he had been on Saturday Night Live or starred in movies or hosted the Oscars or done all the other things that made him one of the biggest stars of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was just a guy who had been on that weird Soap show a few years back.

Anyway, Billy tells this story about something that happened on a recent airline flight. The audience was absolutely not getting the jokes. Sweat and worry appeared on Crystal’s forehead as he frantically worked to make the bit work. He delivered lines that he clearly expected to get laughter, only to be greeted by awkward silence. He nervously looked from the crowd to Dave and back.

And Dave LOVED this! He roared, not just because he got what Billy was trying to say and it amused him, but also because he loved seeing Billy suffer. He was the only one enjoying the interview, and it was obviously the highlight of his day.

That discomfort was the key to Letterman’s specific brand of comedy.

In his best years, the crowd was always a little on edge. Dave would tell jokes that fell flat, or do rehearsed bits that did not quite work. And while some in the crowd got the joke immediately, other in those early crowds would squirm in their seats or chuckle nervously, uncertain of how to respond. He was always pushing forward and forcing the audience to go new places. It didn’t always work in the moment, but Dave always knew that the payoff would come. Perhaps years later, but it would come.

Which brings me to the biggest reason I stopped watching Dave. The young people who adopted his show in its early years began reaching middle age. Going to see Dave was no longer a chance to see cutting-edge comedy, but rather a chance to worship at the altar of a comedy legend. To be part of an Event. Where awkward reactions were once the norm, the audiences showed wild enthusiasm for even the least well-crafted jokes. The applause was often way out of proportion with the effort put into delivery.

That wasn’t Dave’s fault. That was the fault of his audience, and also an influence from Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, where the audience was encouraged to behave in that manner. Where once there was a risk in late night comedy, now the studio audience had become Pavlovian, laughing and applauding on cue rather than because of genuine emotional response.

I think that took a little away from Dave, and contributed to the loss of his heater.

As I said, fortunately he got it back. But the audience was still annoying and made me cringe when I watched on nights Dave wasn’t locked in. In recent years I pretty much only set the DVR to record when I band I liked was on, and for Darlene Love’s annual December appearance. Luckily, the show and CBS embraced YouTube and have been putting the best performances and clips from interviews online, so I’ve probably watched more Letterman in the past three years, in that format, than I had watched since we moved to Indiana and I had to live with the Eastern time zone TV schedule.

Last night I set the DVR and as soon as I got back from dropping the girls off at school this morning, landed on the couch and hit play. It was a rather excellent final episode. The Top Ten was fantastic.[2] The “Kids Love Me” highlight package was great. And then, in the midst of Dave thanking the staff that has worked for him over the years, the DVR cut off. So I did not get to hear his final words, nor see the Foo Fighters send him off.

Given my periodic viewing of the show over the years, that was somehow appropriate. Were I a devoted fan, I would have been apoplectic.[3] But Dave entertained me one last time and his closing words really weren’t that important.

So long, Dave. And thanks.

I found it interesting to look back on how late night television has changed. For so long it was just Johnny Carson. Letterman backed him up, appealing to a younger, hipper, more cynical generation. When Carson retired we were left with Leno vs. Letterman. Choice, but still a binary one. You either got Dave and watched The Late Show, or you didn’t and watched Leno’s more middle-of-the-road show. A decade later Jon Stewart added a third voice to the mix, and cracked things open so when Leno (first) retired, things quickly disintegrated. Until yesterday we had Stewart (for now), Fallon, Kimmel, Conan, and Dave.

Like so many other aspects of our society, that singular voice that guides our nation discussions is long gone. Now you have at least five choices if you want humor, interviews, and music after your late local news. If you make the wrong choice, or just go to bed, and hear about something amazing happening on another show when you go into work the next morning, you simply fire up your browser and watch the clip of what you missed.

As with everything that’s changed because of technology in recent years, I can’t say if that is good or bad. I do know that no one will influence people the way David Letterman influenced all of us who were growing up and coming of age in the 1980s.

  1. Although, of course, there were many fictional and quasi-fictional characters in Dave’s world over the years.  ↩
  2. As an aside, I am trying not to write 1500 words about how Julia Louis-Dreyfus has aged better than any woman in TV history.  ↩
  3. I also probably would have stayed up to watch live and thus not had this problem.  ↩

Kid Notes

Some assorted Kid Notes that have been jotted down in recent weeks.

This is totally unofficial, and I base it without knowing anything about the rest of the school, but I’m declaring my girls the Reading Champions of St. P’s.

Second graders are given reading wheels during second semester they are required to complete. They contain 12 categories, with the entries each, that the kids have to read a book for. For example, two mysteries, two animal books, two books of poetry, and so on. C. was the first kid in her grade to complete hers and earn a week free from homework.

Next, the entire school had a reading challenge in March. Each day you wrote down how much you read and at the end of the month, you tallied it up and turned it in. For some reason it took over a month to get the results, but both M. and L. were winners for their classes. Each girl got their name announced to the entire school, got an out-of-uniform day, and earned ice cream at lunch.

C. did a fine job there as well, but unfortunately (for her) a girl in her class read almost as much as M. and kind of blew the rest of the second grade away.

The best part about the reading challenge was that L. called her shot. When the explanatory sheet came home in late February, she announced, “I’m going to win it!” It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.

I hope L. keeps her love of all things school-related going forward. A mom from her class told me one day that, when the kindergarteners received an assignment that was supposed to be done over a week, her son said, “L.’s probably going to have it done before the weekend is over.” The mom also said that her son is always talking about smart L. is.

Oh, she did have that project done before the weekend was over.

One more reading note. L. and I read together most nights before bed. Some nights she reads to me. But we’ve been getting into longer chapter books and I’ve been reading to her again when we work through those. We’re three books into the Ivy and Bean series, which we are both enjoying.

In one of the books, Bean is talking about her big sister, who is always bossing her around and meddling in her fun. L. leaned over to me, put her hand to my ear, and whispered, “I know how that feels!” then looked at me with a crazy grin. I tried not to react, but in seconds we were both laughing. M. was sitting a few feet away from us. She generally thinks you’re talking about her even if you’re not, so she immediately began whining that we were making fun of her.

“We’re not!” I lied as I tried to control my laughter.

“Then what are you laughing about?” she shrieked.

“Oh…just that crazy Bean!”

L. and I looked at each other and lost it again.

I mentioned in my post for C.’s birthday how sweet she can be. L. has a sweet side, too. Recently M. completed a big social studies project with three classmates. It involved about three weeks of work and two get-togethers outside of school to assemble the materials. The girls got a perfect score for their research and presentation.

The evening the grading sheet came home, I found a dollar sitting next to it on the kitchen counter. When I asked who the dollar belonged to, L. said, “I gave it to M. for doing such a good job on her project!”

Now, I think that’s just L. being sweet. But there is a small part of me that thought, “I wonder if M. heard that kids in her class get monetary rewards for good grades and told L. to give her a dollar so maybe S. and I would start giving them money when they bring home A’s.” I wouldn’t put it past them.

OK, these are turning out to be mostly about L.. Oh well.

I may have mentioned this one before, but back when M. was still playing volleyball, we were sitting in the school lobby one afternoon waiting for practice to start. That was also the first day of track practice, and those kids – fourth graders and up – were in the gym going through workouts. The gym teacher walked by us, looked at L., and said, “L., why aren’t you in there with them?”

She just grinned.

The kid’s built quite the reputation already.

C. and L. are still in the midst of their sports seasons. Both continue to do well. C. is in a four-game run where she has not made an out[1] and L. is scoring goals at will.

But kickball ended two weeks ago. St. P’s ended the season with a game against St. B’s, the school that had beat them 27–2 earlier in the year. If that wasn’t a tough enough match-up, had our girls somehow pulled out the win, they would have to play St. B’s again the next day to break a first-place tie to determine who went to the tournament.

St. P’s got St. B’s out 1–2–3 in the first, then scored three runs in the bottom of the inning. Much better start than the first game, when no one reached safely until the third inning.

But it didn’t last. Those St. B’s girls are damn good and won 19–6. The St. B’s mom who kept score with me said that grade is filled with super athletic girls. Funny how talent sometimes pools like that. Our girls have a handful of good athletes, some that are ok, and some that are just out there. But the grade behind them is crazy athletic. Apparently they went through their kickball season not only undefeated, but with most games ended early because of the run rule. I’ve seen those girls in the library and some of them tower above M. and some of her classmates.

Anyway, we’ll see if this is M.’s final year of kickball. She wants to run cross country in the fall, which will require some work in the summer. She’s never run more than around the block, so I’m not convinced A) she knows what she’s getting into and B) she’s capable of running that far yet.

This was also, likely, the last time this group of girls will play together. Fifth and sixth graders play together, and the best girls are often grouped together. We’ve reached the point where talent is going to start moving girls in different directions.

Big, fat, daddy jinx for tomorrow’s game right there!  ↩

Nine (The Second Time)

What birthday summed you up the best? I’m not saying your best birthday, or the most memorable one. I’m saying, which of your birthdays contained all the elements that, combined, explained the person you were/are?

I ask that question because I believe yesterday was the most C. birthday of C.’s life. She was happy, crazy, giggly, and excited. She also had three meltdowns, got in trouble and sent to her room, and had some of her favorite toys taken away because she was fighting over them with one of her sisters.

That, in a nutshell, is C., our wild-mood-swing of a daughter.

With a weekend birthday, things got stretched out.

Friday, her grandmother picked her up after school and took her out for a shopping trip and dinner. Saturday, sadly, her softball game got rained out, denying her the opportunity to go 5–5 with a bunch of RBIs and runs scored on her birthday.[1] That evening, since S. was out watching Pitch Perfect 2 with two of her sisters, I let C. and her sisters pick a movie to rent. So we watched the latest version of Annie, which they all loved and I kind of hated.[2]

And then on her actual birthday, we made French Toast for breakfast, ordered Chinese food for dinner, and she helped make her cake (white cake with strawberry mist frosting). Another unplanned highlight was FaceTiming with her week-old cousin in Boston, which was fun. Gifts? Some new Legos. All kinds of Justice stuff, both crafty things and some new gear for pool/lake season. A Beados set, which I really don’t understand. And a new set of paints that is sure to cause parental consternation at some point.

So, C. at nine. She said she doesn’t feel any different, and I don’t know that she’s changed much. That whole wild mood swing thing has always been a challenge for us. I still remember her very first, epic meltdown. It was Christmas-time and she was 18 or 19 months old. She didn’t like what we served for dinner so she threw herself on the floor and screamed-and-wailed. Showing patience and restraint I’ve rarely shown since, I left her on the floor to do her thing. And after about 20 minutes she passed out. I left her there, under the kitchen table, for at least another half hour, worried that moving her would kick things off again.

Her meltdowns might transpire a little differently now, but they are still quick to appear. C. simply does not have a poker face. If she’s disappointed, you’ll know it right away. Unfortunately that disappointment all-too-often turns into tears and emotions that don’t match the level of disappointment. Or at least to S. and me.

The thing is, though, that she’s also super sweet and finds delight in simple things. I think she’s a really caring and giving friend. As tough as it is to deal with as a parent sometimes, her reality is that she’s a person who is always going to hit the extremes of emotional reactions. I wish we could lock her in a little better at the steady middle. But I also really enjoy those moments when she’s giggling crazily about something that is only mildly amusing to the rest of us.

She does well in school. Other kids seem to really like her. And she often has a rather sunny outlook on things. That, and more, makes it worth finding a way to weather the times when dark clouds appear and Hurricane C. roars in.

I remember having an awesome game on my birthday the year I turned 13. I was a little too pumped up, as I recall. In the first I singled, stole second, stole third, and then tried to steal home. After drawing a throw from the catcher the third baseman gunned me down at the plate. I had Bryce Harper levels of confidence that night!  ↩

A) I hate musicals. B) I hated the original Annie, which we watched not too long ago. C) A lot of poor wrtiting and acting. Quvenzhané Wallis was cute, though. And I enjoyed pretty much everything Rose Byrne did.  ↩

Friday Vid

“True Trans Soul Rebel” – Laura Jane Grace with Miley Cyrus
Miley is doing some interesting things these days. I can’t say I’m on-board with, or understand, many of them. But her Happy Hippy Backyard Sessions are often fantastic. I highly recommend checking out the other performances.

Here, she joins Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace for one of the best songs off one of the best albums of 2014, Transexual Dysphoria Blues. As I wrote last year, there haven’t been many more compelling or emotional albums in recent years than Grace’s coming out story.

New Tricks For An Old Dog

I hinted last week that I had made a purchase that would require a lengthy post. I’m sure some of you immediately thought, “That glorious bastard bought an Apple Watch!”


My feelings about the Apple Watch are pretty similar to how I viewed the initial iPhone back in 2007: cool gadget, but I don’t see the need for one in my life. I think we’ll all be wearing some kind of connected watch in the relatively near future.[1] I’m just not ready to jump in yet.

So, what did I buy? Read on!

Each November I sit down and go through the pictures I’ve taken over the past year and build a photo calendar that we print three copies of: one for ourselves, one for my step-dad, and one for my father- and mother-in-law. It’s always fun to look back on the previous year, pick out the best shots of our favorite moments, and arrange them in a way that fits the natural rhythms of the year.

Over the past couple years, though, I’ve noticed my pool of pics from which I can select has gotten slimmer and slimmer. Like a lot of parents, my photography went through the roof with the birth of each kid, but has slowly tapered off since. Thanks to our iPhones, we rarely take out our Canon point-and-shoot anymore. When we do, I’m frustrated by its slow speed and limited abilities. And while the iPhones take good-enough pictures for small screen viewing or printing for school projects, many of its photos look very noisy or lose their focus when blown up to calendar size.

One saving grace is that I have a sister-in-law who is very into photography and owns a high-end Nikon DSLR with a good assortment of lenses. She’s always there to take pics at family gatherings or when we need a quick, high quality photo.

At C.’s First Communion I got out the Canon to try to get a couple better-than-iPhone pics. It/they sucked. I had already been toying with the idea of upgrading our camera, but that day pushed me into the mode of serious research.

Or into Obsessionville, I should admit. Over the next couple weeks I spent most waking hours when I wasn’t at, or traveling to-or-from, a sporting event researching cameras. I began with articles aimed at folks like myself, looking to get into more serious photography and away from smartphones and point-and-shoots, but not looking to spend a mortgage payment on gear. From these overviews, I drilled down and bookmarked dozens of reviews of individual cameras which I skimmed through. Next I built a list of contenders which I carefully cross-referenced against the best body + lens deals available on Amazon.

My big discovery in this research is that most photo experts no longer recommend jumping into the DSLR realm when moving from low-end cameras. The mirrorless category of cameras has matured enough that most recommend starting there. Which was perfect to me, as I loved the looks and size of most of the mirrorless cameras I was considering. My worry, though, was that the quicker speeds of DSLRs are better suited to sports photography than mirrorless cameras.

Thus I hit my conundrum: speed for sports in a larger package vs. a smaller, more stylish body that still takes great pics but may lag in the speed + distance area.

Two weeks ago I had my list narrowed down to two cameras: the mirrorless Sony a5000 and the Nikon D3300 DSLR. The a5000 was listed by some as the best beginner’s mirrorless camera, and Amazon offered a nice deal that included both a 50mm prime lens and a 16–55mm zoom lens for a hair over my preferred entry cost. The D3300 is considered by just about everyone the very best entry-level DSLR, would allow me to borrow lenses from my sister-in-law, and for a little less than the a5000 package I could get two zoom lenses and a bag.

For the next 48 hours I was maniacal about reading about each camera. Comparing specs. Finding flaws and deciding whether they were deal-breakers. Reevaluating my wish list. Finding similar cameras that I threw into the mix, only to later delete them. It got a little ridiculous.

I had each camera in my Amazon cart at least twice, but then went through one last check of details that made me change my mind.

By two Saturdays ago I had reached an impasse. I could not make a decision. I went back to my first thoughts: I wanted something that was relatively small, at a decent price, but which a) still took great pictures and b) gave me access to good quality glass for building a lens collection.

While at one of C.’s softball games, something tickled the back of my brain and I made a mental note. When we got home, I went to two different websites I read for non-photography reasons, remembering some camera discussion in the past. I found the two posts I was looking for, read through them, then spent the entire evening on a crash course learning about mystery camera #3.

At roughly 11:30 pm, I clicked Place Your Order. There was no going back.

Although I had selected regular delivery, at about 5:30 pm Sunday, our doorbell rang and a small package was sitting there when the girls opened the door. I was officially the owner of an Olympus OM-D E-M10.

Why the change from the Sony or Nikon? The E-M10 is mirrorless, and part of the Micro Four Thirds family of cameras that use common lenses. Olympus makes great glass, and any Panasonic or other manufacturer’s MFT lens will fit it. The E-M10 is roughly the same price as the Sony, but a much better camera. In fact, it’s not far off in performance from its big brothers, the E-M5, which is several hundred dollars more, or the E-M5 Mark II, which will set you back over a grand for the body alone.

In short, it’s a small, good looking camera that captures great images and gives you high level performance for a relatively modest price. It ticks just about every box I was looking for.

My entire life I’ve been a point-and-shoot photographer. I will occasionally use my sister-in-law’s Nikon, but almost exclusively in full auto mode. I don’t know anything about shutter speeds or aperture sizes or ISO. Since the camera arrived I’ve been reading books and websites to try to figure out how to use it in more than just Auto or Program mode. I still need to do some review to make sure I have the concepts straight in my head, and the controls on the camera figured out, but I think I’m going to go and and do some shooting in full Manual mode this week. If you’ve got the tools, you have to know how to use them.

So far I’ve only taken a few pics, mostly of the girls. As my policy is not to post pics of them here, I don’t have any early examples of my efforts. Hopefully I can get some decent non-kid shots to share here soon. L. and I are headed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a field trip Friday. That seems like a perfect spot to start.

It’s been fun to read and learn about photography. I’m looking forward to using the camera and being able to actually use real photography terms in conversation. While I’ve only done limited shooting, I like the way the camera feels and works. I’m excited to gain more control of it as my knowledge expands.

And, like any good, adult hobby, I’ve discovered that photography can be a real money pit. Sure, you go buy a body and lens to start off with. But you need a bag to protect the camera and glass.[2] And you need a cool strap to replace the crappy one included in the box. And then there is the lure of better lenses, many of which can match or exceed the original cost of the camera body. As I’ve quickly learned, there is no such thing as a cheap accessory in the photography equipment section.

So that’s my latest purchase and my newest hobby. You’ll be hearing more about it.

Pre-teens walk around with smartphones now. Technology is unrelenting and undeniable.  ↩

I ended up just buying a small insert I can use in bags I already own.  ↩

⦿ Monday Links

We have a truck-load of mulch being delivered shortly,[1] so some links to help you pass the time while I try to beat the rain.

We’ll begin with basketball. This article is a year old, but got passed around again after the player who it focuses on, Cheick Diallo, committed to play his one year of college basketball at Kansas two weeks ago. Interesting how, at least when it comes to college choice, the headline was 100 percent accurate.

Side note, I feel just fine about the state of college basketball right now.

In Search of the Next Andrew Wiggins

On to baseball, with two articles about a couple of the best players to ever take the field.

Pedro Martinez’s memoir just got published. And based on the two summaries I’ve read of it, it is exactly what you would expect from one of the most thoughtful and interesting guys of the modern era. There really hasn’t been anyone quite like him.

The Funky Mental Garden of Pedro Martinez

The Royals have played the Detroit Tigers the past two weekends, winning four of the seven games to open up a 1.5 game lead in the division. At the center of each series were key at bats by Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. Like Pedro, he’s a guy I can’t help but love, even when he’s destroying my team.

He had some great moments of give-and-take with Royals players both weekends. And it was all good, clean, fun. No jawing, no posturing. Just faking running on Alex Gordon then shaking his head and smiling back to Gordon. Or grinning and nodding at Kelvin Herrera following a huge strikeout in the 8th inning a week ago. Or last night’s silliness with Salvador Perez. Where I think they were messing around.

Anyway, I love Miggy. So long as he doesn’t get big hits in big moments against the Royals.

The new Miguel Cabrera is just like the old one: hitting and having way too much fun

Last week C. asked me if I could get “…some of that gum, that looks like worms, and comes in the envelope you put in your pocket?” S. had no idea what she was talking about. I knew right away.

I remember the first pouch of Big League Chew I ever bought. Late summer of 1980. I crammed my mouth full, stashed the pouch in my back pocket, and pretended to be George Brett. Before that we had been mixing gum with Tootsie Rolls so we could spit brown like baseball players who chewed tobacco. As this look back at how Big League Chew came about shows, that brown spit was also a driving force for the earliest prototypes of the gum.

Hard to believe that it’s still around. I expected it to go the way of candy cigarettes.

Big League Chew: An Oral History

Feel good story of the day: A 90-year-old tortoise rides around on wheels after losing its legs

These are great times we live in, my friends.

I like websites that explain what they are about very clearly and literally.

Drawing Shit Every Day

Finally, the trailer for the new Vacation movie. Expectations are low, and I fear every good bit is in this trailer. But with Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, it has a chance.


  1. Well, half a truck load. We’re splitting a whole load with our neighbors. I don’t want to take credit for spreading it all.  ↩
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