“False Hope” – Laura Marling
If the year ended today, this would be in my top 10 for songs of the year. Possibly top 5.
“False Hope” – Laura Marling
If the year ended today, this would be in my top 10 for songs of the year. Possibly top 5.
A week or so behind, and a lot of long reads to share. Thus I’m going to split the offerings into two posts. The longer articles will be listed below. The rest will be shared tomorrow or Friday.
First, Maciej Ceglowski wraps up his tales of traveling through the New Madrid earthquake zone.
Keeping it in the earthquake genre, Kathryn Schulz wrote this frightening accounting of how devastating a Big One in the Pacific Northwest could be.
Speaking of frightening, a lot of very smart people think that the US and Russia could be closer to overt war than they have been since the mid–1980s. This is a very detailed look at the issues between the countries. I tend to think cooler heads will prevail, but this certainly makes some of the recent encounters between Russia and the rest of the world seem like more than simple saber-rattling.
Lighter in tone, but no less important, here is a profile of legendary MC’s Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and how they’ve adjusted to the opportunities available to hip hop’s first generation of super stars.
Finally, this absolutely wonderful interview with Paul McCartney.
Normally this time of year, Royals fans are begging general manager Dayton Moore to sell off the team’s most valuable free-agent-to-be to bring in more prospects for the future. Two years ago, it was Ervin Santana. The Royals kept him and went on a tear through August and September that saw them fall just short of making the playoffs.
Last year it was James Shields. A week after the All-Star break the Royals were floundering and it seemed like the smart move to sell Shields and hope 2015 might finally be the year. Moore stood pat and, well, the next three months was one of the best stretches in my life of loving sports.
But this year the Royals are in a completely different place. Best record in the American League. Las Vegas’ favorite to win the World Series. There would be no selling this year. The question was how aggressive would Moore be in bolstering his team for the stretch run. A utility player or two who could provide defense and better hitting options that the current backups? A bold move to replace Alex Rios or Omar Infante? Or another arm for the beleaguered rotation?
There had been rumors aplenty that the Royals were seriously looking into acquiring Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto. I discounted them quickly. That was too big a move for the Royals to make. No way would Moore package the two or three high-end prospects needed for two (hopefully three) months of Cueto. More likely he’d go after someone like Cueto’s teammate Mike Leake, a good, sometimes very good, pitcher who can also be mediocre and would slot into the back of the rotation. Moore needed another pitcher, but he wasn’t going to blow up the minor league system for a late-summer rental.
But holy shit he pulled it off!
I LOVE this trade. Freaking love it. If as much for the symbolism of the move than the actual exchange of talent. The Royals are all-in for 2015! Sure, Brandon Finnegan might figure out his mechanics and find the right role and be a stud. Sure John Lamb might remain healthy and turn into a solid, middle of the rotation starter for a decade. Sure prospect Cody Reed might blossom and turn into the best arm in the deal. But all of that is future and unknown. Cueto is now and real.
Flags fly forever, or so the saying goes. Johnny Cueto’s presence guarantees nothing for the Royals. As the Royals learned last year, when they came from behind to beat Oakland, you want nothing to do with the Wild Card game. While the Royals have the best record in the AL now, who knows what will happen over the next nine weeks. Even if Cueto isn’t great, maybe he’s good enough to get one or two more wins that Chris Young or Joe Blanton or, ahem, John Lamb would have earned over the same stretch and can keep the Royals in one of the top two playoff spots.
And then he’s as good as any #1 starter the Royals might see in game one of the ALDS or ALCS. Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy, and Yordano Ventura? Hell yes I’ll go to battle in the playoffs with that rotation!
I’d still love the Royals to grab another bat. But the way guys like Paulo Orlando and Cheslor Cuthbert keep providing hits in huge moments, I almost wonder if the Royals can stand pat and hope Alex Gordon comes back 100% healthy in another month. Still, I would not be disappointed if Moore could find a way to snag Ben Zobrist, or someone else who can play multiple spots and provide good at-bats in big situations.
What a time to be a Royals fan! There was last October. Now we have the team with the American League’s best record and biggest divisional lead. And they’re making one of the biggest splashes in acquiring talent for the final third of the season. Black is white, up is down, dogs and cats living together.
Eleven years ago Saturday, we welcomed our first daughter into our family.
Which is totally an amazeballs thing to say. Eleven freaking years. Seriously? How in the hell did that happen?
M. celebrated in a very M. way: stretching it out and keeping as much attention on herself as possible. Now that’s not exactly fair. She didn’t ask to have her birthday celebration span three days (with more to come today). Rather it was family circumstance that necessitated it.
She got things started Thursday, getting a gift from her buddy next door since the neighbors were leaving town Friday afternoon.
Friday my step-dad came to town and my in-laws joined us for dinner. Since it still was not officially her birthday, we had angel food cake and strawberries for dessert. And some more presents.
Then on her birthday proper, we headed to the lake with our friends the H’s. She got some more gifts from them, and as is tradition when a birthday is celebrated at the lake house, a Dairy Queen ice cream cake.
Later today she is headed out for a special lunch with her Mimi. And some time this week we’re going to take her to open her first savings account, complete with a rather nice deposit from us to get her started on the path to paying her own way through college! Well, we’re giving her $100. I guess at today’s interest rates it’s going to take an awful lot of babysitting and after-school jobs in high school to get us off the hook for four years (plus?) of tuition.
It’s been a rough year for M. and I. No, it’s probably been longer than that. I can’t deny it: we battle each other a lot. I’m really tough on her because A) she’s our oldest and I expect her to always be leading the way in good behavior and B) her bossy big sister-ness drives me insane and just as she can’t help herself from correcting or otherwise talking down to her sisters, I can’t help myself from jumping in and telling her to knock it off.
And then there’s the arguing. She and I argue about a lot of stuff. I’d say roughly 90% of our conversations are arguments.
S. saw the root of this long before I did: M. and I have the same personality. Which, at first, I thought was ludicrous. I was a male, only child who was fairly introverted. How could a girl with siblings who enjoys attention be anything like me? Bu the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When I stop and listen to her, often times I can hear a younger me in her words and tone. I may not have had anyone to boss around at home when I was a kid, but I sure as hell had the tools to do so. I was never shy about correcting kids at school who said things that contradicted my understandings of the world, flawed as though they might be. That’s exactly the shit M. does to her sisters.
So I guess she comes by it honestly. Which kind of horrifies me. And exasperates S. when the two of us start arguing about our interpretations of some meaningless event.
Anyway, I’ve been working lately to step back and let her go. To attempt to help her channel her personality in productive directions when I can find a way. To allow her sisters to defend themselevs. And when she gets on some long-winded explanation of something she’s learned that seems like it will last forever and lost its narrative moorings long ago, I try to nod my head, smile, and hope that if/when she comes to the end, I can find a way to engage with her and reward her enthusiasm.
Here’s the thing: if it’s just her and me, she’s awesome and we get along great. When she’s around her school friends, she’s awesome and I love watching her hang out with them at kickball, volleyball, or other school-centered activities. But add a sister to the equation, and sooner or later M. and I are going to butt heads big time.
Man the teenage years are going to be fun!
My favorite things about M.: Her absolute enthusiasm for learning and discovering new things. Her delight in the simple pleasures of every day life. How she still gasps when something grabs her attention. I think she’s a very good friend and it seems like most girls at school like her. And for a girl who is the classic first-born and often reluctant to try new things, I’m so proud of how she is absolutely fearless at the lake. She loves to go fast in a tube behind the boat, hopping waves and remaining calm when she’s floating in water that can be over 100 feet deep. This from the same girl who would not put her head under water when she first took swimming lessons when she was 5.
She is smart, passionate, eager to learn, and kind. Well kind to everyone but her sisters. None of us are perfect. I think she’s pretty well equipped for what life is going to throw at her in the next few years. If she and her old man can just get on the same page!
“(Gasp) Oh my gosh! Look at that dog!” “(Gasp) Oh my gosh, it’s a brand new Austin and Ally!” “(Gasp) We’re going to the farmers market this weekend!” ↩
“Cuts You Up” – Peter Murphy
When seminal Goth band Bauhaus broke up in the early 80s, its members went two ways. Daniel Ash, David J, and Keith Haskins went mainstream with their new band Love and Rockets. But former lead singer Peter Murphy continued to make darker music that, while not pure Goth, certainly was aimed more at the college/alternative/modern rock audience.
This single, released in early 1990, was Murphy’s biggest solo hit. It spent a then-record seven weeks on top of the Modern Rock chart, knocking Love and Rockets’ “So Alive” from #1 in the process. But it had a certain crossover appeal as well. I remember the local station where I went to school – which was part of an automated, satellite network and two years away from going to local DJs and a Modern Rock play list – squeezing it in often between Richard Marx, Madonna, and the B–52s. I’m glad they did. It’s a great song I likely would have missed since I was still listening mostly to Top 40 and New Jack Swing-era R&B at the time.
Some catch up on general summer notes.
Monday was our annual trip to the 4H fair where the girls’ cousin shows pigs every year. As usual, they had fun walking through the buildings and viewing the pigs, cows, goats, sheep, and rabbits. No poultry this year because of the avian flu thing and the horses were not shown on Monday, so it wasn’t quite as comprehensive a view of farm animals as in the past. We laughed because we clearly look like city people. As we walked through the stalls, kids would come over to our girls and ask, “Do you want to pet them?” and open the gate to their pen so the girls could get right in with the animals.
M. also had her annual visit with Megan the goat, who we first saw as a baby four years ago and is now a momma goat.
Their cousin earned first and third place ribbons before we got there, and when we saw him in the Showmanship part of the day, he advanced to the finals.
The girls also got their picture taken with the Fair Queen. A girl my sister-in-law watches who hung out with the girls went running over to the Queen because “I know her!” When the Queen had a break in her ribbon handing out activities, she posed for a picture with the girls. M. and C. were kind of starstruck, not because she was a “queen,” but rather because she was really pretty and had very distinctive, pale blue eyes. “Did you see her eyes? They were so pretty!” L. wasn’t as awed but just thought it was cool the Queen took time to say hi to them.
Our last swim meet was two weeks ago, but the season officially wrapped up last week with the awards banquet. We nearly skipped it, as that was the night of our backyard campout. We were glad we went, though. After final ribbons and team pictures were handed out, there were a few awards for each age group. M. won Most Improved Swimmer for the girls 9–10 group. She was pretty proud, as was I. She really worked hard this summer, which I hope is a good thing. She isn’t always one to rise to an athletic challenge but certainly did so this summer. One of my highlights of the break was seeing her win an individual heat back in June.
The girls came up with their first grand plan of the summer over the weekend.
They were playing with the neighbors when a dog from a block away wandered into our yard. The group grabbed a leash and walked it back home. By the time they had returned, the five of them had cooked up quite a plan: they were going to start a dog walking business and donate the proceeds to charity. Not just that, though. In order to raise funds for the supplies they would need to walk dogs, they were going to set up a lemonade stand.
Neighbor dad and I opened another beer and began peppering them with questions. How much did they need to earn to start the dog walking service? How much would lemonade supplies cost? How much would they sell the lemonade for? What charity would they donate the money to? How long would each dog walk last? Who were their potential clients? And so on.
None of the questions phased the girls. Rather, they just got more excited. By the end of the evening they had found ways to trim their opening capital needs and ditched the idea of financing it through a lemonade stand. They had printed up a flyer, come up with a name for their business (which has already changed twice), and decided their charity would be the local Humane Society.
We’ve been in a holding pattern since then. So we’ll see.
M. assumed the role of treasurer and brought home a box of change they all contributed to the cause. She counts the money twice a day and records it on a ledger, just to make sure it’s all there.
Finally, perhaps my favorite moment of the summer so far. There’s a cool park in our general vicinity we hit a few times each break. It has a small splash park, a decent-sized playground, football fields, a long trail, and a Frisbee golf course. It’s a great spot to go without plans and see what the girls want to do.
Anyway, last month we were there and I noticed a boy was throwing the football around with his mom. Not something you see everyday, but alone not worth mentioning. As I was keeping an eye on my girls, I thought I saw something odd, though, from the mom. So I kept my eyes on her. Sure enough, every few throws, she’d lick her fingers before she threw another ball, just like Dan Marino. And she had a pretty good arm too. Each throw was a perfect spiral with some heat on it.
I just thought the finger-licking thing was great. You don’t see many dads licking their fingers before each throw when they’re just tossing the ball around with their kids. I loved that there was a mom who wasn’t satisfied with just lobbing easy balls for her eight-year-old to catch. She needed some grip so she could fire that sucker!
Along those lines, after going on one, short run through the neighborhood with me last week, she decided she had no interest in cross country this fall. So we signed her up for kickball for the fall. ↩
Turns out we did have some storm damage after all.
We arrived at the LVS Saturday, ready to greet 12 friends for 26-ish hours of fun, and our power was still performing erratically. Some circuits worked, some did not. Those that worked seemed to be humming along at half-voltage. The fridge was running, but not cooling at all. I plugged in the blower to clean up leaves and twigs and could barely get any juice.
S. immediately called the power company and logged an outage in their system, while I called a friend who has some electrical expertise. He suggested that one of the two lines that come into the house had been damaged. Looking at our outside lines, the telephone line was hanging very low across our street. The power line seemed normal, though. We walked back into the wooded area where our line connects with the main line and, sure enough, there were several large branches and assorted small limbs laying across it.
When our friends showed up, one of them took a look at the utility pole outside our house and said, “Well there’s your problem.” We looked up and, just like my phone consult had suggested, where the braided main line separated into two sections, one had come apart at the connecting point to the house feed line.
So S. called back, updated our outage status as having a disconnected line, and we waited for a crew to arrive. They did around 1:30, quickly cleaned up the debris on the line, spliced in some new wire to replace the damaged line, and hooked us back up. In less than an hour, the fridge was blowing cool air, the AC was on, and every circuit in the house was operating on full voltage.
I talked to one of the repairmen for a few minutes as they were wrapping up. I asked how many hours he had put in over the past week. He shook his head and said, “A shitload, man.” He said they had just reconnected all the lines blown out during the previous Saturday’s tornado when Monday’s storm blew through, knocking almost all those repaired lines out again, and knocking out most of the lake area as well. When I jokingly asked him if he knew it was Saturday, he laughed and said, “Honestly, I had to think about what day it was when I got up this morning.” Kudos to all the crews who worked their asses off over the past week.
I also asked if they could do diagnostic tests from the main office to see what houses were without power. He said yes, but since we only had a partial disconnection, our house would show up as working properly in those checks. That’s why no one had been out to fix it already. “It’s a smart system, but it’s not that smart,” he said.
Unfortunately the lake’s water level was still high enough that boats were limited to idle speed all weekend. So we did some (very) slow tubing with the kids. We saw quite a few trees on top of boat houses and docks, but in the area we checked, no serious damage to anything other than landscaping.
Hopefully we don’t have any more torrential rains or heavy winds for awhile.
As I mentioned in my camping/All Star game post, the girls and I had to make a trip Thursday morning. It was a trip that began with a tremendous amount of stress and worry but ended up being only mildly annoying.
We headed down to the LVS. Not to boat or swim. Or even meet a contractor to do something cool to the house. Rather we were checking on it to make sure it was ok. Huge storms ripped through the area Saturday night/Sunday morning and then again Monday night.
The first night a small tornado hit just north of the lake, causing a lot of damage in the small town that our lake uses for postal needs. While the lake missed the tornado, there were still winds well over 60 MPH. That storm knocked out power and, thus, the pump for the water station, causing boil order to go into effect. And with the torrential rains on top of six weeks of heavy rain, the lake’s water level was high enough that boating activity was limited to idle speed only.
Then Monday evening came along and an even bigger storm did its best to wipe out the area. This time winds over 70 MPH battered the area off-and-on for nearly an hour. In that span, between four and five more inches of rain fell. When I went to bed that night, I was very nervous that I would be getting a call the next morning from the conservancy that I needed to come check out some damage to our property.
That call did not come, but I was not able to relax. That’s because all the phone lines were down, the cell tower was off-line, and pretty much the entire area was without power. They couldn’t call me if they needed to. From a local realtor’s blog, papers in that area, and Facebook I learned that there were trees down everywhere, many lying on top of houses, boat houses, and boats themselves. Water service was completely interrupted for a while. Electrical crews couldn’t even get to the lake to repair lines because all the major roads into the area were blocked by fallen trees and debris.
Wednesday I saw a picture of the lake patrol boat nearly sitting on top of its dock because the lake’s water level was so high. In the background, the small beach area was almost completely covered by water. So, in addition to worrying about all our trees – most of which are between 30 and 50 feet tall – falling on our house, or someone else’s, I was also worried about our boat somehow getting loose if the lines securing it to our dock failed.
From what I read Wednesday night, the roads were all open, power was slowly coming back on, and it seemed safe to go take a look. On our drive down Thursday, my palms were sweaty, my stomach flipped and flopped, and I kept getting mental pictures of trees crashed down on our house and the homes around us with power lines still on the ground blocking our path. About ten minutes from our house we started seeing damage. A huge tree ripped up by its roots here, limbs that had been cut by the power company bundled there. When we pulled into the lake community proper, suddenly the damage was more common. Every few feet there was another completely destroyed tree. More horrible scenarios rushed through my head.
So there was massive relief when we drove up and, at first glance, all seemed well. Lots of limbs, large and small, scattered about. The gravel walkway through the backyard was completely washed away. From the house, we could see our boat still in the dock, although sitting higher than we’ve ever seen it. As we walked down, I looked deeper into our cove, and yelled, “Holy crap, girls! Look at that!” Three houses down, two large trees, well over 30 feet tall each, had splintered near their bases and fallen into the lake. They took out part of boat house steps on the way down, and were effectively blocking any residents on the other side from getting their boats into the main part of the lake. Which wasn’t a concern at the moment, since the lake had been shut down for all boating activity.
The water level was over a foot higher than I’ve ever seen it, touching the lower framing of our dock. The boat was well secured but sitting well above the dock floor rather than even with it. I didn’t pull the cover to investigate the interior, but hopefully the battery is still in good shape. I imagine the automatic bilge pump had to do some work over the past few days.
Power was on intermittently while we were there, the refrigerator occasionally kicking on then back off again. Luckily we don’t keep too may perishables inside when we leave. There was melted ice in the bucket and some ice cream that leaked only a tiny bit. Some cheese and hotdogs got pitched.
I cleaned out the fridge and freezer, we spent a few minutes gathering up limbs and throwing them by the fire pit, and then we headed out. We drove by the beach, which was still mostly under water. We saw trucks and trailers full of trimmed limbs heading to an emergency drop off spot. Then we decided to drive out to town to see if we could find any tornado damage. We got stuck behind a line of electrical trucks that were headed there too, so we decided to skip the sight seeing. But we did come across several places where, based on the sawdust, limbs, and visible trunks, the roads had likely been completely blocked a day or two earlier.
And then we headed home. I was immensely relieved and thrilled I didn’t have to call the insurance claims number I had scribbled down before we left. Many people have significant damage that is going to take a long time to fix. We were very, very lucky. By Thursday evening it appears that the entire area has power again. Some houses went nearly 72 hours without any. Thank goodness for the people who live down there full-time it hasn’t been too hot and humid.
We’re heading back down this weekend with three families from St. P’s. It’s supposed to be hotter than it has been in nearly two years. We’re hoping the electrical grid holds and the AC is working. And while it would be great if the lake was open for boating again, at least we can swim.
A couple more Song of the Summer contenders this week.
Whooo boy! I’ve never been a huge Beck fan but this song grabbed me the first time I heard it and refuses to let go. And in typical Beck fashion, it’s just quirky enough to make it stand out.
In the absence of an official video, this oddball collection of clips from the 1970s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader movie seems perfect. The moves these ladies used are pretty similar to how I dance around when I hear this song.
“Feeling OK” – Best Coast
Bethany and Bob plumb the 1980s fitness craze for their visual inspiration here. The opening track off California Nights, this absolutely shimmers and soars. The album is the perfect summer road trip disk. If you’re young and take long drives with your friends rather than middle aged with a car full of kids, that is.
Normally this time of year, I’m sharing my thoughts on the MLB All Star game. In fact, it’s kind of a tradition. You can look it up in the archives, even!
This year I was really looking forward to the All Star game, what with Royals fans highjacking the voting and sending four starters and Mike Moustakas to Cincinnati. Throw in Ned Yost and his coaching staff, plus Yost’s picks Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, and it was going to be a night to celebrate the Royals’ fantastic October run and terrific first half on the national stage.
Except kids got in the way.
We had been planning a backyard campout with our neighbors for a couple weeks. Wednesday night was supposed to be the night. But when the neighbors’ grandparents decided to make a last-second trip to visit beginning Wednesday afternoon, we had to scramble. The campout got moved to Tuesday night. So after the girls swim team awards banquet, rather than racing home and putting the game on the TV, we raced home and began setting up tents.
It ended up being a pretty great night.
After two weeks of stormy weather, a little front moved through Tuesday afternoon that chased away the storms, the humidity, and the heat. As we began setting up camp around 7:30, it was breezy and gorgeous, sitting in the mid–70s but seeming cooler. It felt more like a September evening than a night in the middle of July. Which is perfect if you’re going to be in a nylon tent all night.
Our group was made up of three families, so three dads and seven girls ranging from 6 to 14. And one mutt of a dog to keep us company. We had two backpacking tents, one large tent, and the neighbors’ pop-up camper set up in the space between our homes. We immediately made a joke about how property values on our side of the neighborhood were plummeting. The girls brought out their bikes and scooters, soccer balls and stuffed animals. The dads passed around a few growlers of fine local ale and prepped a Dutch oven to make campfire cobbler. The girls played, the dads drank and chatted, and we enjoyed the lovely evening. When it got dark enough, we pulled out the cauldron and lit a big fire to scare away any mosquitos that the winds weren’t pushing away. I’d check the All Star game every now and then on my phone, but mostly sat around and socialized.
With no swim practice, school, or other activities on the girls’ schedules for Wednesday, the girls got a very long leash on bedtime. I think we finally got the last ones into their sleeping bags and quiet right around midnight. The dads followed soon after and we hoped that the good weather would hold.
It did. It dipped into the low 60s, which was a little cool for me in my child-sized sleeping bag, but it wasn’t intolerable. And it stayed dry. There was no screaming, no disoriented girls looking for a bathroom at 3:00 AM, or nonsense by any of our local raccoons. I slept fitfully, but made it until about 7:10, when I heard my garage door open and S. back out on her way to work. All the girls were up moments later and the dads went to work making pancakes and bacon for our morning feast. After breakfast, we broke everything down, collected the scatterings left over from the previous evening, and I sat in the morning sun finishing off my current book. The girls showed no signs of being tired. In fact, my girls and the neighbors played non-stop until lunch, started again right after eating, and carried it through a trip to a local splash park together in the late afternoon.
When we got home, around 5:00, there was one meltdown and another girl was passed out in her bed about 15 minutes later. I’m shocked they lasted that long. In the evening, everyone was a little grumpy, but two of them held out on going to bed until after 9:00. I imagine I’ll have to wake them up tomorrow, as we have to make a trip south fairly early in the day. But more on that later.
Anyway, I was bummed I missed the All Star game. Especially on a night that the Royals were more present than they had ever been, and made a big impact on the final outcome. I checked the score just after Lorenzo Cain’s RBI double and was able to fire off a text to some friends about it. But that’s about all I got out of this year’s ASG.
I think it was a decent trade-off.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were over five inches below normal precipitation for the year. We’ve already doubled our normal July rain and have like half our normal annual rain over the past six weeks. ↩
A dad and I shared the large tent, me sleeping on an air mattress with one of my girls’ sleeping bags. C. and L. were in the pop up with two other girls, and M. was in one of the backpacking tents with her best friend. ↩
Man, we have a shitload of raccoons. At least one living under our deck. One living under the deck of some folks behind us, who loves to break into our neighbors’ trash dumpster. And a momma with 3–4 babies living under another deck in our cul-de-sac. Million dollar idea: figure out a way to drive these beasts away for good. ↩