Month: November 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Holiday Weekend Notes

Well, today begins a new phase in our home’s daily rhythms. C and L are now eLearning through at least mid-January, joining M who has been home for two weeks. Hopefully the expensive Internet access we pay for holds up; our signal likes to drop in the middle of the day which should make for interesting moments when three girls are all in virtual classes.

When I picked C and L up from their final day of classes last Tuesday, L said it felt like the beginning of Christmas vacation. In a way I guess it is. Seems like things have gone fairly well with M’s eLearning. We are hoping that St P’s has used the past five or six months to have a good plan in place and the next five-ish weeks of class can be fairly normal.

It was a long holiday weekend. Let’s get caught up.


Smart devices

I’ve long been intrigued by smart hubs, plugs, lights, etc. But I always held off because I both didn’t see their utility beyond the fun factor, and with a wife who isn’t super tech-savvy, I feared the moments when the devices didn’t work properly and I wasn’t around to troubleshoot.

I knew the new Amazon Echo devices would get a price cut last week, and the moment they dropped, I ordered both an Echo with premium sound and an Echo Dot.

The Dot came first, on Tuesday, and I got it working in the office. I also ordered some smart plugs and got my reading lamp working via Alexa voice controls. The Echo came on Wednesday and…was a royal pain in the ass to get working. While the Dot connected to our home network easily, the Echo struggled. I spent a few hours Wednesday resetting things, moving them around, trying to tweak our network, etc to get it to work. Finally I was successful but it seems like it doesn’t love its network connection.

So I now have the Echo in the office for better sound and to control the lamp. I have our Christmas tree on a smart plug that we use Alexa to turn on and off. And I have the Dot in storage for future use.


Thanksgiving

Our Turkey Day was normal, but different.

The past several years we’ve participated in a huge Drumstick Dash, walking as a family with about 10,000 other people.[1] We had no interest in doing that this year, so instead joined some of S’s high school friends and their families as the walked through their neighborhood. It was a nice way to socially distantly see some friends and burn a few calories.

After that we hosted most of our in-town family, 15 in total. We lucked out with the weather. It was dreary and occasionally a little misty, but it was also about 50 with little-to-no wind. We had our outdoor fireplace and a fire pit lit, with seating areas for all. As our guests arrived we opened all the windows in the main floor of the house to keep the air moving. Between the ovens and stove and the people, our house stayed very toasty. And it was just warm enough outside so we could all eat al fresco without our food getting cold.

Now I guess we wait and see if anyone gets sick over the next two weeks to see if this was a success or a disaster.

I’ll tell you what was a success, though: my bird. I cooked the hell out of it this year. I was on the verge of overcooking but got it out at the perfect moment when it smelled and tasted awesome. Between that and the fires outside, it smelled like I had cooked it on the grill. Really, all credit goes to Whole Foods, where I got this year’s bird. It was the first time I got a brined turkey and I think that will become my routine.


High School Football

We made it through a full season of high school football in Indiana. The state title games were on Friday and Saturday. Saturday were the more important ones to us. BCHS played for the 3A title game in the afternoon, with several St P’s kids playing important roles. M laughed when she saw several of her classmates on the sidelines and getting their championship medals after the game.

The last game of the year was the one we cared about most: Cathedral vs 7–5 ZHS, a school that got hot at the right time and ripped through the top half of the north bracket. CHS had been beating the snot out of people all year. They only had one loss, by four points, to the undefeated team that won the 6A title Friday. Their only close win was a three-point victory over the team that won the Ohio large class title game 44–3. We figured the championship game would be another blowout.

It was, then it wasn’t, then it was.

CHS got up 22–0 without looking very good, but then ZHS worked their way back into it. They cut it to seven and had the ball a couple times but could never get the tying score. In the third quarter the Irish got a 75 yard touchdown pass, a stop, then another quick score and put the game away, winning their 13th state title 46–28.

M chose not to go; none of her friends were going and fans were limited to sitting in small groups of reserved seats, so there wouldn’t have been a proper student section. Instead she sat on the couch and watched with us, telling us which players were nice and which ones were quiet and which ones were dating which girls. That was almost an entertaining as the game.

C did go with a friend. The highlight for her was seeing two freshman girls get in a fight over a boy. She and her friend got bored and left early. She walked in our door just as the game was ending, which was kind of funny.

M was excited that she gets to buy some state champions shirts now, so she understands the true meaning of being a sports fan. She was also bummed that it happened in a year when she was only able to to go two games. Most of the fall she sat in her room while I listened to the games and texted her scoring updates. Another thing Covid has ruined.

Still, good ending to a great year. Last fall I went to almost every game, driving M and her friends around the metro area. This fall my routine was to listen to the games on the radio as I hit golf balls in the yard or dicked around on the Internet. I guess I need to find a new Friday pastime now.


Decorating

As is our tradition, all the holiday decorations went up Thursday. The girls did most of the tree decorating, which was a nice change of pace.

S and I had put the lights on our outdoor trees three weeks ago, on a Sunday when it was nearly 80. With the little nephews around on Thanksgiving, we decided to turn those on Thursday. The four-year-olds did a countdown and I flipped the switch, much to their delight.


KU Hoops

The KU-Gonzaga game was right during our meal prep and eating time, so I recorded it to watch later. When I saw the final score and read a summary I decided not to just delete it. But I was encouraged by what I read later in the evening. Everyone said that while KU struggled on defense, their offense showed some signs of real potential. Lots of parts that would likely fit together better after several weeks of games. Oh, and Gonzaga is really freaking good. Their game with Baylor Saturday is going to be a must-watch.

I did watch the St. Joe’s game Friday. And I was super-frustrated through the first 30 minutes. As you would expect from a team that has so many newcomers and no true point guard, KU just could not get into a flow on offense. And defensively the looked totally lost.

Until Bill Self put in redshirt freshman Dajuan Harris for the first time midway through the second half. He’s skinny, not super tall, and hardly a burner bringing the ball up. But the moment he stepped on the court, the game changed. He made a couple great defensive plays. He made a couple terrific passes. He got Marcus Garrett off the ball. Everything was smoother with him in the game. It went from a frustrating, one-possession game to a blowout in about five minutes.

KU plays Kentucky here in Indy tomorrow night. Well, they are scheduled to play. Both Gonzaga and St. Joe’s have reported positive Covid tests since they played KU. So we’ll see. More KU hoops thoughts later in the week.


That’s about it for our holiday weekend. It is spitting snow this morning and the windchill is supposed to be in the 20s all day. The girls are all in front of their devices getting educated. It’s not the worst day to stay inside.

Hope all of you were able to celebrate the holiday in a safe and healthy manner.


  1. This year’s race was first broken up into smaller waves that left at hour-intervals and eventually cancelled.  ↩

Reader’s Notebook, 11/24/20

The Wolf Wants In – Laura McHugh
I saw this book described as being for fans of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and/or season three of True Detective. I loved Sharp Objects; I’ve never watched True Detective but have always heard good things. That was enough to get me to pick this up. It also help that someone I used to be friends with blurbed the book and served as a mentor to McHugh.[1]

And it was worth it. This was a really well written, entertaining, and interesting mystery.

It is told from the perspective of two women on different sides of a death in a small Kansas town. One, the sister of the man who died, shares most of her story after his death, as she searches for clues into the truth of his final days. The other, a cousin of the deceased’s wife, shares her story from before his death. Through her story we slowly see exactly how the man’s death came about.

That truth of the death is well unspooled even if there isn’t much surprise in what actually happened.

But the stories of those two women are where the real meat of the book is. They both face struggles and use immense inner strength to overcome them. They refuse to accept the narratives forced upon them by a small town and its history. If I’m not mistaken McHugh uses one of these characters for her next book.

I will definitely be reading that, as well as some of McHugh’s earlier work.


The Plotters – Un-su Kim

This book follows Reseng, a Korean assassin, as he begins to realizes the life he has chosen is terrible.

In the book, Korea is run by corrupt politicians who maintain power through the use of “plotters”: unnamed and unknown people who send Reseng and other groups of assassins to dispatch those who run afoul of their rules.

Reseng, though, begins to question how this system works. After he finds a small bomb hidden in his bathroom he sets out on a search for who is trying to kill him. That leads him to a group of women who are trying to blow the entire system apart. He joins them and does as much as he can to help them toward their goal.

What makes this book so much fun is the dialogue and overall tone. It is light, sarcastic, and hip. Reseng hints at a Korean Vincent Vega or Jules Winfield. In the West we are often presented with a view of Asian cultures that are strict and joyless. Un-su Kim’s Korea is hilarious and violent and seems like a lot of fun.

The book was translated from Korean. That also made me think about how difficult to can be for translators to ensure that tone and meaning are consistent on both sides of the translation. I’m sure this was close to the original. For a moment, though, I laughed thinking what if the translator had completely changed the book’s atmosphere by making it more sarcastic in English that it was in Korean.


August Snow – Stephen Mack Jones

I love reading first novels in a series when you can tell, very early on, that this is a character you want to spend more time with.

August Snow is a former Marine and Detroit police officer. He was a rising star in the DPD, son of an immensely respected officer. But when he pointed out some corruption in the department he was fired. In turn he sued the force and city, won a $12 million verdict, and fled to Europe and Asia to drink away his guilt and mixed feelings.

Now he has returned home, and not everyone is pleased. Including a lot of cops who view him as a Judas. Soon after his return, a former client pitches a potential investigatory job to him. A few days later she is dead, of a suspicious suicide, and Snow jumps into the case.

Stephen Mack Jones was a poet and playwright before he began cranking out crime novels. You feel that background in his language. While the story is tough and gritty, like you want a good crime story to be, it is also sharp and literate. Jones gives Snow a mixed heritage – his father was Black, his mother Mexican, and he grew up in Detroit’s Mexicantown neighborhood – and the way he layers these influences is nicely done. The moments are violence are extremely violent, but they also pass quickly. The dialogue is terrific. Jones hits all the checkmarks you want to hit in a book like this while also making it feel fresh and new.

Jones seems like a fine, Midwestern counterpoint to someone like George Pelecanos. There are two more August Snow novels. I’ll be checking them out soon.


The Ghost at the Table – Suzanne Berne

It seems like books that take place at Thanksgiving are always about some kind of familial disaster. Bingo for this one, which is about an absolute meltdown of a Thanksgiving.

Berne tells the story of Cynthia, a writer from San Francisco who visits her sister in New England over the holiday. They pick up their invalid father, from whom Cynthia has long been estranged, from his home with plans to drop him at an assisted living center. But those plans are thwarted and set off a series of unexpected events and encounters that turn this Thanksgiving into a disaster.

It’s a good enough book. There was a moment when it seemed poised to veer into farce, and holiday farce is the best kind of farce. Unfortunately Berne directed the story another way and it became awfully dark and I didn’t really like any of the characters by the end.

As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about our family holidays. The book is centered on relationships between two different groups of sisters. My first thought was of how S and her sisters interact when they all get together. Most gatherings are fine, but there are the ones when at least one person is in a mood (sometimes it’s a sister, sometimes a brother, sometimes a spouse/partner) and years of family history come roaring back.

But I also realized I’m old enough where I can’t just sympathize with Cynthia and her sister, adults with older parents. I kept thinking a few decades ahead in time, when S and I will be the older parents and our girls will be the adults, weighed down by decades of their own issues. That was sobering in many, many ways. Hopefully our girls treat us better than the two sisters at the center of The Ghost at the Table treated their parents.


  1. I say “used to” simply because I have not seen her nor her husband in probably 15 or 16 years. We were once in the same circle that spent many happy hours, house parties, and Royals tailgates together.  ↩

A Different Kind of Season

Usually I’m giddy right about now. Thanksgiving is a few days away. We’ll bust out the holiday decorations, crank up the Christmas music, and put the tree up Friday. The most wonderful time of year has arrived!

But it’s fucking 2020, which means we can’t have nice things. Yes, we’ll be eating turkey Thursday and the tree will go up on Friday, but so many other things that make this time of year the best are either being cancelled or greatly modified.

I’m fine with all of that. I can deal with a muted holiday season because the point of that is to get us to 2021 and to the time when most of the general population can get a Covid vaccination and only then can we start thinking about life getting somewhat back to where it was a year ago. I. Can. Deal.

What is going to make this season tough is that it’s going to be really fucking tough. Our current infection rate is frightening, and it’s going to get worse. Our current death rate is staggering, and it’s going to get much worse. I’m starting to get nervous about interactions that have become routine since we emerged from our shelter-in-place orders back in May. I’m worried about S, who is seeing more and more positive patients and families in her practice. I worry about our girls and their ability to get through this time if we have to lock them in the house for a couple months. A couple cold, dark months when they can’t go outside and get a break from their rooms.

I’m worried about our collective mental health, too. I don’t think you could call us a mentally healthy country to begin with. I fear we’re could soon begin a spiral to an even worse place, and I’m genuinely concerned about what kind of country this is going to be in a year, or five, or ten because of all the damage we are doing to it right now. I worry that between the strain of the pandemic and the emotion of the election, we are on the verge of a very dangerous time. Maybe that just means government at the highest levels ceases to function normally. Maybe it means we sink into an era of politically motivated violence. Maybe folks who suffered great economic pain during the pandemic start taking things away from those who did not.

I hope I’m wrong and we find a way to regain at least some of our national sanity by next spring/summer. When I look around, though, I see lots of warning signs that just because we might be get Covid under control as vaccines roll out does not mean people won’t still find reasons to hate total strangers.

Friday Playlist

A slow music week for me, so this week’s list will be more oldies than…uh, newies?

“let down” – Paris Jackson
When I first heard this I had no idea who Paris Jackson was. Or, more correctly, I did not remember. Then I heard it again and the DJ on SiriusXM noted she was Michael’s daughter. Mind blown. Not what I would have expected from The King of Pop’s kid. Maybe it is just sharing a title with a track off of OK Computer, but I hear a definite Radiohead vibe to the music that backs her up, which really makes this track work for me.

“All Around You” – Joensuu 1685
More great space rock from Finland.

“Everybody Everybody” – Black Box
I read this review of the horrible way the music industry treated Martha Walsh this week. C+C was pretty good, but this was always my favorite Walsh-fronted track from the early ’90s.

“Don’t Let Him Know” – Prism
This has been kicking around in my potential Friday Playlist songs list for months, and I kind of forget why. I know it showed up in either the extras or the comments of a The Number Ones post at some point. Pretty sure that was because it was written and produced by Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams, before they became a songwriting tour de force a few years later. It’s a pretty solid song, perfect for where pop-rock was in 1981.

“Red Eyes – Live” – The War on Drugs
TWOD released their first-ever live album, Live Drugs, today. It focuses on songs from their past two albums, so I picked the one that was my favorite song of the 2010s to share with you. More importantly, it sounds like they are well into their next studio album and there’s a decent chance we will get it sometime in 2021.

“Rock With You” – Michael Jackson
We’ve got his daughter, might as well play one of Michael’s songs, too. One of my brothers in music, E-bro in ATX, shared a little thought experiment he did with his wife and his adult daughter. They discussed what if, because Michael was likely a horrible person who did horrible things to children, you could only listen to three songs from his catalog again? Pick three and discard everything else he recorded.

He shared this with me over a year ago, and I’m still struggling with it. “Billie Jean” or “Beat It”? Or both and cut “The Way You Make Me Feel”? Do I pick a Jackson 5 track instead of a solo track?

And which song from Off the Wall do I choose? Most days I think I would pick this, which is Michael and his purest and happiest and most normal, which would help to tamp down the knowledge of who he became. This is also one of the greatest videos ever.

Some Sports Takes

The Masters

Like most golf fans I was realllllly looking forward to the fall Masters. Seeing Augusta National under different conditions than we’ve ever seen it before and without any fans was a dazzling concept. And in practice it turned out to be pretty damn cool.

I was surprised, though, that I didn’t get fully immersed in the tournament. Sure, I had it on a lot, but I wasn’t glued to the screen the way I would have been in April. I watched plenty of golf, but I can’t recount tons of details the way I can with, say, the 2019 tournament because my attention was always divided or I was taking breaks to go knock out errands (or buy a car or coach a game).

I wonder if some of that disconnect is because the Masters falling in early April is always a sign that spring is about to arrive. It’s a gift for surviving winter and starts to awaken thoughts of what activities warmer weather will allow.

Last weekend, while it was great to have the Masters, it was also a reminder that we’re about to go inside for several months. That the pandemic is getting worse every day. That our distractions from the generally awful state of the world are disappearing. This Masters was the last moment of a probably too-open fall before we slide into a locked-down winter.

I was glad Dustin Johnson finally put a great weekend together at a major again. DJ is probably the professional golfer that most hacks would aspire to be. He makes the game look so damn easy with his beautiful, powerful, easy swing. He no doubt has the coolest walk in all of sports. And the off-the-course stuff isn’t bad, with Paulina Gretzky as his partner and a huge house with a bunch of toys. His life isn’t perfect, witness his not a suspension suspension a few years back for allegedly failing multiple drug tests.

DJ has that classic “He makes it look easy so he must not really be trying” aura about him. When you add in a few huge meltdowns that have cost him majors, his career is viewed by many to be disappointing. Doesn’t matter that he’s playing in, arguably, the most competitive time ever in the PGA. Or that he’s won 26 total tournaments and over $70 million. A guy that good should have won more, right? Since he is so laid back and not the most eloquent guy in the world, he’s viewed as a bit of a failure.

Which is insane. Look at those numbers again. Twenty-six wins, SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS. I’m sure he’d like to have a couple of those Sunday rounds at majors back. But that’s still a great career even before adding his second major at Augusta.

The beauty of DJ is I don’t think he cares all that much. Yes, he wants to win, and those losses hurt. But from all accounts by those close to him, he has a very Zen outlook on life and doesn’t get hung up on either the highs or the lows.

I’m hoping this win frees him up a little and he can go on a nice run the next few years and nab 2–4 more majors before his game begins to fade. Now if we could just get Rory McIlroy contending in a major again…


Wichita State

So the Shockers and coach Gregg Marshall agreed to part ways yesterday after a series of reports detailed a long history of Marshall physically and verbally abusing players, his staff, and other Wichita State athletes.

Marshall always seemed like an absolute dick. I’ve heard stories from people who know people who would know that he’s an even bigger dick than his public persona suggests. These stories just confirm all of that.

I’m trying really hard to understand how he gets to walk away with $7.75 million. I know lawyers were involved, and someone on the WSU side decided letting him leave with that payout was better than getting into a legal battle. I’m wondering where those lawyers were when WSU was drawing up a contract that didn’t allow them to fire a guy for punching a player. Seems like someone missed a very important clause somewhere.

Just further proof of how messed up college sports are. I know athletics and academics are two different financial silos, but I’m sure those $7.75 million could have been spent much better ways around the WSU campus.

Someone pointed out how when UConn fired Kevin Ollie a few years back, he didn’t get a big, fat payout like Marshall did. That was because Ollie broke some NCAA recruiting rules and got the program placed on probation. So apparently physically assaulting people is just fine since it won’t launch an NCAA investigation.

The sad part is that Gregg Marshall is going to take his $7.75 million, disappear for awhile, and when his agreement allows, emerge having “done some soul searching” with a “fresh new perspective” and some desperate school is going to offer him another truckload of cash to turn their program around.

It’s really a shame he didn’t take the Texas job a few years ago and really mess them up instead of poor Wichita State.

Excellence in Journalism

This is just incredible. Not just the story, but also how it was reported. This is A+++ journalism of a style that, sadly, just doesn’t exist anymore.

I have no memory of this, but apparently this story was a bit of a sensation in the 1990s, one of the first viral events on the Internet. It must not have trickled down to those of us who relied on AOL to be our gateway to the World Wide Web back then.

Weekend Notes

Several significant events in our house over the past few days. Let’s get caught up.


School

When I picked M up from school last Wednesday she had a weird look on her face. “Everyone says school is shutting down after this week,” she exclaimed. Apparently each day a few more kids were not showing up to class either because they were Covid positive or were quarantining because of close contact with a positive person. At least one teacher had tested positive as well.

Thursday the mayor and county health commissioner had their weekly Covid press conference. Numbers were rising at an alarming rate. What was most concerning was that the age group with the highest positivity rate was high schoolers. Because of that, all Marion County schools, public and private, were being ordered to move to virtual schooling no later than November 30 and to remain virtual until at least January 15. This makes sense given the numbers, although pretty much everyone agrees kids aren’t getting sick because of what is going on at school, but what they are doing outside of school.

S is home on Thursdays and we speculated how long each school would last.

St P’s answered first: they are going to try to make it to November 24. However, since that announcement two of our basketball teams have had to drop out of the city tournament because a fifth grade player and her dad that coaches the eighth graders were both positive. Luckily C wasn’t deemed to have close contact with the girls on the 8th grade team so she can remain in school. We’ve heard of several other St P’s students and a teacher who have tested positive since then. Not sure the odds are great we make it to Nov. 24.

CHS was quicker. Right after dismissal Thursday they announced that Friday would be their last day of in-person classes.

Our girls have mixed feelings about this. M was the most bummed, primarily because she is the most social and has a need to see her friends face-to-face. I think C and L are kind of excited about getting out of school for awhile and a little fearful about getting sick, so they were generally ok with it. Until they realized this wipes out all the in-school Christmas traditions. I didn’t mention to C that I’m starting to worry about whether her class will be able to take their trip to Washington, D.C. in the spring, too.

Strangely some of the schools in surrounding counties with much higher positive rates than Marion County are staying in session for the time being. I figured the freshly re-elected governor would start cranking down restrictions and guidelines again, especially since this outbreak seems much more widespread than the first two. It’s not just big, urban counties that are struggling this time, but counties all over the state. He seems to have caved, though, to the nut jobs on the right who think that asking people to wear masks is some massive intrusion on their rights. He has yet to announce any new guidelines for schools outside of Marion County.

So, M is home today and will be for at least two months. Hopefully C and L can get through seven more days before they are stuck at home with me through the holidays.


Automobiles

After last week’s car shopping catastrophe, S spent the week looking online for a new Jeep Cherokee. She did some back-and-forth with a sales guy all week before she locked in on the one she wanted Saturday. A few more emails back-and-forth and we went over at 4:30 that afternoon to pick up her new ride.

It was, by far, our easiest car buying experience ever. Neither one of us likes all the rigamarole that goes into purchasing a car, but she has even less tolerance for all that BS than I do. Saturday we walked into the dealership, waited about 30 seconds, were escorted back to the office, she signed paperwork for five minutes, and we walked out with the keys. Since she has had two Jeeps in the past they didn’t even have to show us how the car worked. They just waved goodbye and sent us on our way.

Perfect!

So now we have three cars. I guess since M won’t leave the house to go to school for two months we don’t have to worry about a school parking pass just yet.


Kid Hoops

Sunday L’s team played their opening game in the city basketball tournament. We were playing the team with the giant that beat us two weeks ago by 16. We spent an entire practice Tuesday working on a special defense to counter a press-break play they used against us the first time. At practice Thursday we had our tallest girls guard me so we could teach them how to deny the post on the 6-footer. We worked on shots that would be open in their zone. We felt prepared and ready.

Then about an hour before the game we found out on of our three tall girls would miss the game because her brother was sick.

Great. None of our girls are anywhere near as big as the giant, but losing a body hurt.

We started out down 7–0 and the head coach and I were both muttering under our breath on the bench. We started down 12–0 the first time and sure seemed to be on that track again.

But our girls got their shit together and clawed back into it. We were down three at halftime. We cut it to one twice in the third quarter, but St L kept stretching it out to +5.

As we began the fourth quarter we told the girls that they were playing great and made a small adjustment on defense. We preached to them that if they kept being aggressive we could win the game.

Our girls played their best quarter of the year. They were flying around on defense. We were actually making smart, quick passes on offense. We were looking to take shots even when the big girl was blocking them. We even hit a few of them. We made it a one-point game three times but could not get over the hump.

We were down three with about forty-five seconds left and had our best player going to the line for two shots. We called a time out because she looked wiped out. We made another change to our defense and our head coach did the perfect thing. She said, “After M makes both free throws, here’s how we’re going to guard them…” This was HUGE because W was something like 1–12 from the line up to that point. No exaggeration: she had missed at least 10 free throws.

After the time out she went out and knocked them both down and we were down one.

They broke our press and we realized we needed to start fouling and fouling often, because we only had three team fouls. As we were yelling at our girls to foul, St L threw a bad pass, our best player grabbed it, went full court, and actually made a freaking lay-up to give us our first lead. The greatly reduced crowd was going nuts. L was on the bench – because we had sat her to rest and everyone was playing awesome – and she was going nuts.

St L called a timeout with 15 seconds left, inbounding in front of their bench. We told our girls to stay back, force them to shoot jumpers, do not let the big girl roll to the basket. Naturally in the crush of bodies the big girl got a little daylight, they tossed the ball to her, and she banked one in with 10 seconds left. We got the ball up court but lost it out of bounds. We couldn’t get a steal on the inbound pass and the game was over.

So close!

Our girl who missed all the free throws was in tears. But the rest of the team all had excited looks on their faces. They knew they had played their asses off and played really well. “If we had a seven footer, too,” yes, she said seven footer, “we would have won that game!” the head coach told them. They all laughed. We told them that was the best they had ever played and that we were super proud of them. Even though we lost, it was a highly satisfying end to a season in which we had played really poorly over our last three games.

One other funny note from the game.

We have a dad who is very loud. He is a real pain in the ass. He’s had a few issues in the past and is not allowed to coach at St P’s teams anymore. His voice stands out in a normal gym. In a lightly-filled Covid gym you hear everything he says.

During a timeout early in the fourth quarter one of the refs tapped me on the shoulder and motioned me away from our huddle. “Oh shit,” I thought, “he’s going to ask me to go tell Loud Dad to pipe down.” That’s the last thing I wanted to do in the closing moments of a tight game.

But he surprised me. “Hey, what kind of shoes are those?” He asked nodding toward my shoes. I was wearing Adidas spikeless golf shoes that are my every day shoes. I told him what they were and where I got them. “I wear these everywhere, they’re super comfortable.”

“All right, I’m going to check those out, thanks.”

I told him I thought he had heard me say something on the bench and was telling me to pipe down. We both laughed.

That, my friends, was a first.

Friday Playlist

I will warn you the first song in today’s playlist is filled with NOT SAFE FOR WORK language. Play cautiously. That’s appropriate for today as yesterday came word that schools in Indianapolis will be required to go virtual again by the end of the month. More about that next week, though. On to the music…

“JU$T” – Run the Jewels with Zach De La Rocha and Pharrell Williams
LOOK AT ALL THESE SLAVE MASTERS POSIN’ ON YOUR DOLLARS

“Play (On My Mind)” – The Boys with the Perpetual Nervousness
Man, how about this song? As the days get colder and darker this adds a nice touch of light and brightness. Their band name, from a song by The Feelies, is a little much, though.

“Faith Healer” – Julien Baker
This song has a very Frightened Rabbit feel to it, at least musically. I completely approve.

“The Modern Leper” – Julien Baker
There is a connection. From last year’s Tiny Changes cover album of FR’s The Midnight Organ Fight.

“Valley” Kevin Morby
My favorite song off of his Sundowner album.

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – Gordon Lightfoot
Forty-five years ago this week.

“She Sells Sanctuary” – The Cult
We need more ass-kicking rock ‘n’ roll music like this in the world today.

In The Market

Yesterday we got our updated car insurance policy, listing M as an insured driver. The addition to our premium was a nice way to start the holiday season.

She’s been hassling us about a car for weeks. I believe I already shared that CHS only gives parking passes to sophomores if there are exceptional reasons that require one. She’s told us several times that we need to come up with something and send the email. We just give her a blank look and then suggest she assist us rather than give us orders. She and one of her St P’s buddies who also just got her license cased the junior parking lot this week during their photography class and insist there are at least 20 open spots.

Of course, she doesn’t have a car yet. But we’re working on that.

We’ve kicked around a few ideas on how to give our precious daughter her own vehicle.[1] The original plan was that, since she learned how to drive in S’s Mazda CX–5, we would look for a used version of that. However, S crunched the numbers and weighed the troubles that can come with a used car and decided it made more sense to lease another Mazda. I can’t say I was totally onboard with this, but I’ve also learned in our 17 years of marriage than when S gets a plan in her head regarding finances or cash outlays, it’s best just to go along with her.

I mentioned that if we are going to become a three-car family, that really eliminated the need to drive a Large Vehicle. I drove a Suburban for nearly three years and am into my third year in a Tahoe. While I’ve enjoyed both of those vehicles and they have been tremendously useful, I’m also ready to drive something not so large and unwieldy.

A couple weeks ago S came up with a new plan: pass her Mazda down to M, S takes my Tahoe, and I get something new now. That would give her until July, when the Tahoe lease is up, to figure out what she wants. I told her that idea was stupid since she hates driving the Tahoe. She told me to shut up and look for a new car.

We are both big fans of the the Kia Tellurides. They look great and get fantastic reviews. They are supposed to be an amazing bargain compared to Tahoes and other similar vehicles.

Last week, in between election coverage, I did some scanning of the local Kia dealership inventory. I had a couple picked out I liked and Saturday we went to test drive.

Man, they are awesome! Super nice, ride well, lots of space, while not being nearly as massive as a Tahoe.

One problem, though: apparently they are super popular right now. So popular, in fact, that the dealer added a $12,000 “market adjustment” to the sticker. They literally wrote it on the sticker in Sharpie. They also added the extra pain sealers and coatings that no one ever buys. Apparently you can do this shit when you get a trailer with seven on a Friday and sell four before close that night.[2]

It sure would have been nice if that price had been reflected online. That extra $14+K eliminated the price advantage over my Tahoe. We literally did not know what to say to our salesman who he showed us the updated price. We just stood there, staring at the sticker in silence.

Some Bullshit
Some Bullshit

Fortunately, he was very young and kind of shitty as a salesman, so he didn’t push us at all. Or maybe he’s just smarter than he let on and could read the looks on our faces as those of the unmotivated buyers. And knew there were a few other suckers right behind us who would be just fine with the “market adjustment.”

We hopped in the Tahoe and started to drive home. A thought struck me. I asked S, “You loved your Jeep, right?” When she got her Mazda back in January it came after she had leased two different Jeep Cherokees over a six-year span.

“Yeah, I really did,” she responded.

“OK, let’s get you a new one then. You don’t have to test drive and you know exactly what you want, it will be easy.”

We went home, she pulled up the Jeep dealership’s site, found a couple she liked, and fired off an email. I would imagine she’ll have a new one very soon.

All this car talk got me a little hot and bothered. I spent hours Saturday and Sunday looking at various smaller SUVs. I still need some space and at least all wheel drive, just in a less behemoth-sized package. I have a short list of 3–4 pretty solid cars I’m interested in that are both smaller and cheaper than the Tahoe. The only catch is that lease has seven months left on it. Like most people these days, I’m not very good with delayed gratification: I want that shiny, new car now! Still, this gives me plenty of time to read tons of reviews, casually take test drives, and order exactly what I want when the time comes.

Until S comes up with another one of her plans and tells me to do something different.[3]


  1. Neither S nor I had a vehicle that was our own until our early 20s.  ↩
  2. Or so they claimed.  ↩
  3. I say that with much love!  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 50

Chart Week: October 27, 1984
Song: “Purple Rain” – Prince & The Revolution
Chart Position: #4, 4th week on the chart. Peaked at #2 for two weeks in November.

(This ended up being a big coincidence, but not a bad choice for the 50th entry in this series!)

One of my favorite things about listening to old AT40’s is when they cause me to pour through old charts to examine the movement of various songs. I’m fascinated equally by songs that rocketed up the charts quickly, songs that hung around for months and months and months, and songs that had a brief moment on the charts before disappearing. It’s not just the trivia surrounding those songs I enjoy, but also thinking back to that time and remembering how (sometimes if) those songs penetrated the culture of the moment.

“Purple Rain” is a great example of a song with a chart history that gets my mental music memory neurons firing.

“Purple Rain” was the third single Prince released from the Purple Rain soundtrack. By then he was pretty much king of the world. Both “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” had topped the charts. Purple Rain was, briefly, the number one movie in the country, in a summer that was loaded with great movies. And the Purple Rain soundtrack had been the number one album for months.

It seemed like a sure thing that “Purple Rain” would also reach number one and serve as a cherry on the top of a magnificent year for Prince.

Nothing about the song’s chart rise put that into question. In four quick weeks it was already at #4. It was just a matter of time, right?

The song moved up to #3 its fifth week on the chart, sitting behind “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” and “Caribbean Queen.” All three songs held those spots the following week.

The week of November 17, “Purple Rain” climbed one more spot to #2. But it was leapfrogged by the song that ended up blocking it from #1. “Purple Rain” remained at #2 for two weeks before it began a rapid descent. By the last chart of the year, covering the week of December 22, “Purple Rain” had slipped from the Top 40 to #54.

The song that kept it from topping the Billboard Hot 100? Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which held the top spot for three weeks. I hated that song when it came out. There was something in its bouncy optimism that seemed fake and forced to me. Perhaps because we were getting into the deep fall, when the sunlight disappears and we start to come to terms with spending months inside “Purple Rain” seemed much more appropriate to the moment.

While I came to eventually like some of Wham’s songs, I still hate that one. The crime of keeping “Purple Rain,” one of the greatest songs ever, out of the top slot is one that can not be forgiven.

There was never an official video for “Purple Rain.” I wonder if that affected its chart success in some, small way? Here is Prince and the Revolution’s performance in Syracuse, NY on March 30, 1985.

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