Month: April 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Playlist

“Keel Timing” – Manchester Orchestra
Their new album drops today, and it is getting excellent reviews. I’ve really liked each of the advance singles. Perhaps an early contender for album of the year? I will give it my first listen as soon as I post this.

“The Right Thing is Hard to Do” – Lightning Bug
I was reading a little about this band this morning. They were poised to have a breakthrough year in 2020 and then, well, you know… This is a lovely, majestic song that has me looking forward to what else they have to offer.

“Sea Life Sandwich Boy” – Horsegirl
These three ladies from Chicago have a pretty on-the-nose, mid-90s college radio thing going on here.

“Good Times” – INXS with Jimmy Barnes
File this under Songs I Had Completely Forgotten About. It got a brief play in a movie I watched last week – totally out context, BTW. The movie took place twelve or more years after this song was out and most of the movie included era-appropriate songs – and it floored me for a moment. From The Lost Boys soundtrack, this was big for a minute or two in the summer of 1987, then got forgotten when INXS’ Kick blew up later that year. Barnes was a big deal in his native Australia, but as far as I can tell, this was his only real international success. This song is a cover of an original written and performed by the 1960s Aussie band the Easybeats, who get a lot of credit for kicking off the rock scene Down Under.


“I See Red” – Betchadupa featuring Eddie Vedder & Tim Finn


“Take a Walk” – Neil Finn & Friends featuring Eddie Vedder


“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” – Neil Finn & Friends
Man, we just passed the 20th anniversary of the concert series I would pick first if I could go back in time and see any show in the history of rock: Neil Finn’s 7 Worlds Collide series. In late March 2001 he invited a bunch of musical friends to join him in his native New Zealand for a week of rehearsals followed by a week of shows. His guests included Eddie Vedder, obviously; Phil Selway and Ed O’Brien from Radiohead, Johnny Marr, most famously of The Smiths; Indiana’s Lisa Germano; Sebastian Steinberg of Soul Coughing; along with several Finn family members.

In these three videos we first have Neil’s son Liam and his then band Betchadupa covering one of Tim’s old Split Enz songs with Eddie and Tim providing vocals. Eddie is nicely glammed up to match the Split’s late ’70s image. Next, Neil and Eddie share vocals on a song from the final Split Enz album. Lastly, Neil takes lead vocals on a classic Smiths tune.

If you like these songs, you won’t be disappointed if you keep watching others from that week of shows.

Car Shopping Chronicles, Part 4

We’ve made it! After three entries of background bullshit about my search for a new car, we’ve finally arrived at my first test drive!

As previously noted, I am focusing on the luxury compact SUV class. While there are a ton of cars in this space, I have pretty much whittled it down to five I want to compare first hand:

  • Acura RDX
  • Audi Q5
  • BMW X3
  • Mercedes GLC300
  • Volvo XC60

Very imaginative names, no? I assure you that I’ve never gotten any of them confused or jumbled up.

Each of these gets very good reviews, always showing up at or near the top of the ratings for the class.[1] The consensus is you can’t go wrong picking any of them, but each has its own strengths and frustrations that need to be experienced first hand so you can determine what fits your tastes best.

Kind of like dating!

After we got home from spring break, I decided the Mercedes was the one I wanted to test drive first.

It helped that during one of my periodic checks of what was in stock, our local Mercedes dealer had a very sweet one on their lot. It was about as loaded as the base GLC gets before you start throwing really stupid money at one. Notably, it had the AMG-line trim flourishes without the AMG engine upgrade that adds about $20K to the price. It was a sexy damn car!


After some initial chitchat with the sales guy I had exchanged emails with, we hit the lot. The car that had caught my attention online was inside the showroom, so he was going to have me drive a slightly less specced-out model. I admired the confidence. Seems like you’d want to put your customer in the sweetest ride you have and hope they get blown away by the experience. He seemed to think any old GLC would do.

The model I drove was still pretty nice. After I gave its exterior a once-over and he had walked me through all the interior features and functions, he said, “Let’s drive. Go wherever you want. Ask me any questions you have.” Much different than test drives where they carefully direct your course or spend the entire time pushing information you haven’t asked for.

The ride? It was super nice. Much more comfortable than my Tahoe, which was to be expected. I was driving in pothole-free Carmel, which likely made a huge difference. A new car, that is tight and free of creaks and squeaks and rattles, will always sound better than one that’s been driven hard for a few years.

It was smooth, jumped when I hit the accelerator, and zipped between lanes and around curves with ease. It didn’t ride as high as my Tahoe but I was still elevated enough to have a good view of the road ahead. It very much had that combination of small SUV size plus a much more fun ride that I’m looking for.

I really liked it.

The weird thing about test drives is how overwhelming they are. You’re trying to get a feel for where everything is and how everything operates. You’re trying to compare the driving experience to what you’re used to. You have a salesperson next to you who you have to interact with. Oh, and you have to drive a strange car in traffic. I was just hoping I could remember the important details when I was done and not rear-end someone when I was trying to use the entertainment system screen.

After the drive we looked at the other GLC’s that were on the lot. My favorite was still the one inside. I told him that if I needed a car that day rather than in July, that’s the one we would be talking price on.

Which brings up an important point. Eighteen months ago their lot was filled with cars. But because of both higher demand and some constraints on production, their inventory is pretty tight. He said they are still getting new cars, just not nearly as many as in the past. People who order custom vehicles are having to wait much longer than normal to get them. However, he did say they pretty much spec all the GLC’s they order the same way, so other than paint colors and a few other options, most of the ones they receive between now and July will be very similar, and land in a fairly tight price range.

He also shared that they keep a decent inventory of former loaners that are available for purchase. These generally have around 3,000 miles on them, coming with a decent corresponding discount. That opens up an option both to work around the supply issue and push the lease price for a luxury compact SUV closer to that of a luxury subcompact SUV. You lose some the new car experience, which is balanced by a nice price reduction. That could weigh heavily on my decision since we are now making three car payments instead of two.

That was test drive number one. Since it was the first I have been kicking myself about questions I should have asked that didn’t occur to me while we were driving. I suppose that sets me up better for future test drives.

I loved the Mercedes GLC. It was exactly what I’m looking for, and is currently the top of my list. Of course, that may all change the moment I finish test drive number two.


  1. The one exception is the Acura. We’ll get more into that when I test drive it.  ↩

Mid-Week Kid Sports Notes

I mentioned that this would be a very busy kid sports week. That has proven to be true. As there were a couple big developments, I’m going to go ahead and get you caught up on what’s gone down the past two days.


Tennis

Monday M played her second tennis match. We never heard why, but they mixed up the partners and she played with one of her best friends. Just like her first match, she and her partner raced out to a 3–1 lead, then lost the fifth game. This time they held it together and won their one-set match 8–3. She and her partner – who lost 8–0 a week ago – were pretty pumped to get the win. It was extra fun since both S and I were able to watch her play.

Now I’m not going to blow any smoke up your collective asses and claim this was a high quality match. A lot of balls into the net or hit way long or wildly out-of-bounds. There were a few service games that were lost at love. But there were also a handful of decent rallies and M and her partner both had several decent winners.

I told M after she got home that my only piece of advice was to swing more confidently. She has a tendency to hit cautiously, with a weak arm, which sends the ball into the net (sometimes bouncing its way there). She rolled her eyes at me, but I reminded her that she’s had six months of lessons; she knows how to swing a racquet.

“I’m not saying you have to try to kill the ball,” I said. “I’m just saying you’ve had good lessons and you’ve worked hard. Take a confident swing each time and I guarantee you’ll have better results.”

In her defense, most of the JV girls have the exact same issue.

I was proud that after hitting several balls into the net, she looked like she wanted to throw her racquet. That is definitely a trait she picked up from me! Although I would have 100% tossed my racquet.

The weirdest thing about the match was it was my first trip to the CHS campus since November 13 when the school went virtual for the end of the fall semester. Crazy, huh?


Soccer

C had a soccer game last night. As it was both across the street from S’s office and L had a kickball game, she got a ride to the game with a friend knowing S could come over, watch the end, and bring her home.

We were a couple innings into kickball and I was standing in my normal scorekeeper’s spot behind third base. Suddenly my phone and watch started vibrating like crazy as a bunch of texts came in. I glanced to make sure the messages weren’t from M telling me the house was on fire, but after confirming they weren’t from M didn’t read any of them.

Between innings I unlocked my phone and reviewed what had come in.

“C just scored!”
“Are you at the game? She just scored!”
“OMG, C just scored a goal!”
“U owe a piercing!!!!”
“Guess who is getting her ears pierced???”

Alert readers may recall that at the beginning of the season S promised C that if she scored a goal this year, she could get her ear cartilage pierced. She had a chance two weeks ago but put the ball over the crossbar. Apparently she did not waste her second opportunity.

This was at the beginning of a defensive inning for L’s team, and she was playing third base. When she reached her spot I yelled out to her, “C scored a goal!” L’s eyes widened and she got a huge grin on her face, “Really?! WOW!!!”

When the game was over, a 3–1 win, C texted me:

“I scored a goal. Dubs.”

When she got home she broke down the play for me. It came on a throw-in deep in the offensive end of the field. The ball bounced through the defense, hit her arm, dropped directly in front of her, and she calmly put it away. I doubt there was anything calm about it but it sounds better that way. I didn’t point out that if the ref had been paying attention it should have been a handball since the ball hit her arm. He didn’t see it so the goal was 100% valid. I guess it was the same referee who screwed up the snow game last week, so he owed us one.

My kickball coaching partner texted me after the game that all the St P’s parents went nuts when the ball hit the back of the net.

I wish I could have seen it, but I’m very glad she was able to score. C has a tendency to let sports disappointments drag her mood down. This was a fine way to begin to close out her CYO sports career.

She has another game tonight – it will likely be her final game – so I’ve encouraged her to not be satisfied with one goal.

Oh, and it was sunny, breezy, and 84. A HUGE difference from last Tuesday night.


Kickball

A ho-hum night for L in kickball.

She kicked seven times.
She reached base safely seven times.
She kicked one double.
The other six kicks were all home runs, including one grand slam.

I’m honestly not sure what got into her: this was the hardest she’s ever kicked the ball. She had three home runs in the first two innings and each sailed over the deepest outfielder’s head. She could have walked in from second and still reached home safely.

The one time she kicked a double it was because the defense tried to get tricky. The opposing coach was one of her basketball coaches last winter. He was talking to me while he was trying to stack his left field with an extra defender and get them to back up. He got everyone situated how he wanted then looked at L and muttered to me, “Oh jeez, she’s going to kick it to right field, isn’t she?” Sure enough, L was angling her body to kick to right. She didn’t get 100% of this ball and sent it directly at the right fielder. As in youth baseball/softball, you usually hide your weakest fielder in right field in kickball. This girl wanted nothing to do with L’s line drive. I think she may have even closed her eyes. But she hung in there, the ball ricocheted off her legs back toward the infield, and L had to be content stopping at second.

Car Shopping Chronicles, Part 3

Crap. I realized in part two of this series, I left out one angle of my car search. It’s not terribly important to the big picture, but I figure if I’m writing about the process, and some of you are actually reading about it, I shouldn’t skip anything that happened along the way.

At the end of my last entry, I revealed that I had settled on a specific category of cars to focus on: luxury compact SUVs. While that is true, that was not my first choice.

Initially, seeking to go waaaaay smaller than my current ride and save more money, I had picked the luxury SUBcompact SUV class to investigate. Many of these vehicles are just barely SUVs. Actually, they are pretty damn close to being small station wagons as opposed to SUVs. They zip around pretty nicely, depending on the engine you get, and have fantastic mileage. They would be super easy to park in the garage, too.

So my initial list was:

  • BMW X1
  • Mercedes GLA
  • Volvo XC40
  • Audi Q3

However, when I showed this list to S, she scoffed. “Those are all too small.”

“Sure,” I said, “but, remember, we don’t need a huge car anymore.”

“I understand that, but I just think those are too small. You can barely get three kids in the back, and there’s not much room for cargo behind the second row if it’s full.

“You should look for something bigger.”

I don’t want to create the wrong impression here: I am allowed to make my own decisions. In fact, S has told me to pick whatever car I like the most and get it. Since she is the one who brings home the bacon and pays the bills, though, she does get some input. And when she tells me to look at bigger, nicer cars, I listen.

So THAT’S how I arrived at looking in the luxury compact SUV space, and next time we can finally get into my first test drive.

Weekend Kids Sports Notes

We are about to embark on our busiest week of the spring sports season: three tennis matches, four kickball games, one soccer game (two games missed because of kickball), and trying to squeeze in at least one track practice per girl before next weekend’s meet.

Here’s how they did last week.


Tennis

No tennis matches for M last week. She gets to play today in the first JV home meet of the year. Only 22 JV girls were selected (out of 40–50ish, we’re not sure how many girls have dropped since the initial rosters came out) and she and her partner made the list based on their play in practice. She’s pretty pumped. She has two whole-squad meets later this week.


Kickball

Last Monday L’s team played St B’s, their biggest rival within their division. Her team won a terrific game by six runs. The teams were very evenly matched. Both teams had 13-run innings on offense. Both teams had defensive innings where they gave up no runs. Our girls were a smidge better on defense and had only one bad inning kicking, and that was the difference. We went into the 7th up seven and only gave up one run, so didn’t have to kick in the bottom of the inning. It was the first time L’s class has beaten St. B’s in four tries, so there was a trip to Dairy Queen after the game.

L went 4–6 with two homers, including a grand slam.

Friday they run-ruled some girls 51–19. It should have been a five-inning game but we played awful defense in the bottom of the fifth and gave up just enough runs that we had to play one more inning. After the game I accused L of booting one ball on purpose so she could kick again. She didn’t deny it.

Her line for the night: 7–7 with two home runs and four triples. The other team could not catch but they were at least good enough to hold her to triples more often than not.

L’s squad has three games this week. Assuming they don’t lose two – and that seems highly unlikely – they will be division champs and advance to the City semifinals next week.

C’s team played their only game of the week Thursday. We were facing a team that was mostly seventh graders. We gave up 12 runs in the top of the first, scored none in the bottom, and our girls all mentally checked out. We lost 35–7 in five innings and I’m honestly not sure how we scored seven. Those seventh graders could all either blast the ball or place bunts perfectly and beat them out. Our girls couldn’t catch a thing, and acted only mildly interested in making plays on the bases. It was borderline embarrassing.

I don’t think we had a chance to beat those girls – in addition to kicking the crap out of the ball they caught anything in the air and always made the right play when throwing to bases – but it would have been nice if we competed. This was a clear indictment of our coaches (mostly the idiot third base coach).


Track

Track meet number two was yesterday. Another great day to run. Another day that L dominated.

It was a smaller meet so runners were only able to compete in two individual events.

L ran the 100 and 200, winning both. She beat her buddy in the 100 by 0.3. She won the 200 by over a second. She was pumped about that win because a girl was bragging in the lineup for the race about how fast she ran last week. L beat that girl by two full seconds. She knew her name, and the first thing she did when we got the final results was find the gap between their times. I like how she listens to other girls talk smack and then quietly goes out and beats them.

Her times were also fast enough to win both the 7th/8th grade girls races and the boys 5th/6th grade races.

I must say the times yesterday have an asterisk. The automatic timers were down most of the day, so most sprints were hand timed, which means the don’t count as PRs and you can’t really compare them across races.

C was supposed to run the 100 and 200 as well. She was struggling with some hip pain, though. In the 200 she was in good shape until the final 50 when you could see that pain really started to bother her. She faded to finish last in her heat and 9th overall. She was in tears afterward so S gave her some Motrin and she begged out of the 100, hoping she would be ready for the relay.

In the relays L ran in both the 4×100 and the medley. Her team smoked the 4×100, winning easily with her as the anchor.

The 7th/8th and 5th/6th medley relays were run together since neither age group had enough to fill all the lanes. That meant C and L would run the 200 legs in lanes next to each other. C was feeling better and laughing and bouncing around by the time the race began. There was a buzz among the St P’s parents when they saw our girls walking to turn three together. L has developed a little bit of a following the last two weeks, and the older parents remember how well C ran two years ago. Folks were watching S and I to see who we were pulling for.

The older girls had a decent lead when C got the baton. She took off and L waited and waited. When she finally got the stick C was 10–15 meters ahead. From our vantage point near the finish line we could see L closing, but couldn’t tell what the gap was when they exited turn four. They seemed awfully close, though. But then L drifted into C’s lane for several steps, realized her mistake, lost her rhythm, and jumped back in her proper lane. She never really got that rhythm back and handed off in second place. Her anchor quickly took the lead and the younger girls won the race.

In the city meet L’s team would have been disqualified, but in this one they still got the win. She said she looked up and saw two purple girls next to each other in the passing zone and got confused. Might have been ideal not to line the St P’s teams up in neighboring lanes, but that would have taken away the fun of the B girls running next to each other. Plus L learned a lesson in a race that doesn’t matter.

I think it was good for C to get the leg win over L. She’s been L’s biggest fan the past two weeks. It’s been fun to watch her find L after a race with a big grin on her face to congratulate her. After one race last week we could see her saying, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t know you were that fast!” But I know it bothers her some that her “little” sister – they are basically the same height now – is having success while she struggles (relatively speaking). I keep telling her the only reason she’s having a hard time is because she doesn’t have time to practice between kickball, soccer, and bad weather. I wish she would have two weeks to get a bunch of practices in before City, but this week is pretty much shot with other games. Hopefully we can get her stretched out and loosened up enough that she can run well in her relay(s) at City.

How did S and I react while C and L were racing each other? We took turns cheering for both. “Come on, C! Come on, L! Come on, B girls!” is what I said. S shouted “Faster, L, catch her! Faster, C, don’t let her catch you!” Good, clean family fun!

Friday Playlist

“How the Race is Done” – Smile
This feels straight out of some 1986 College Rock compilation tape. Mostly because of that Peter Buck-like jangly guitar, which recalls early R.E.M. (with a lot more energy than R.E.M., though.) It has nothing to do with ’80s college rock, but the bass sound and style reminds me of Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament. The real kicker: these kids are from Turin, Italy. Does that blow your mind?!?!

“All About You” – The Knocks featuring Foster the Kids
I guess this song has been around since last October, but I just heard it for the first time this week. Twenty-some years ago I had a mix tape a buddy made for me that was filled with various electronic artists, ranging from Fluke to Moby to the Chemical Brothers. This song would have fit perfectly on that tape.

“Banquet” – Bloc Party
Sixteen years ago this month I launched my music podcast (RIP). This was one of the songs I played on that first episode. I heard it the other day. The Music Gods were looking out for me.

“Heaven” – Eliza Shaddad
Two Friday PL’s back I shared Shaddad’s wonderful “Blossom,” which she wrote to honor her Sudanese heritage. This week she released the first proper single from her upcoming album. I wonder if she’s ever listened to the Australian band The Superjesus, because this reminds me of their 2000 track “Gravity.” Doesn’t matter whether she was influenced by them or it’s a coincidence, this song makes me happy either way.

“Empire Builder” – Typhoon
I’ve gone through a stretch lately where I’m not digging much of what the SiriusXM alternative stations are throwing down when it comes to new music. This one made my ears perk up, though. I wouldn’t say it sounds like much else I normally listen to, which may be its biggest selling point. “Everybody’s angry, everybody’s lonely.” Damn, that kind of sums up the past year or so, doesn’t it?

“Stacking Chairs” – Middle Kids
Another terrific song from MK’s latest album, a disk that requires patience and a few listenings to fully connect with. This song has been giving me all the feels lately. Singer Hannah Joy wrote it about her relationship with husband and bandmate Tim Fitz. It is a perfect distillation of the group’s bright, wide-eyed optimism. Something about the repeated phrase of “I will be there” at the end of each chorus feels magical to me.

“Back Where I Belong” – Dumptruck
My brother-in-music E$ mentioned he had been listening to this band recently. I kind of remembered the name, but couldn’t recall if I ever listened to them. They were a college rock buzz band in the ’80s, which was before I was at all interested in college rock. I spent most of a day diving into their back catalog, and really enjoyed a lot of their work.

“Doowutchyalike” – Digital Underground
More on this below…


“The Humpty Dance” – Digital Underground
Well, shit. Last night we lost Gregory Jacobs, AKA Shock G, AKA Humpty Hump. To honor the legend I listened to the DU album Sex Packets from start to finish last night. Probably the first time I had done that since 1990, 1991, somewhere in there. It was even funnier, more charming, and original than I remembered. DU hung around for a few years, but never again had the success they had when they first burst upon the scene. They packed a lot into that album.

It was their originality that set DU apart, and made their songs timeless. You hear plenty of late ’80s production tricks on Sex Packets. But they aren’t overwhelming. Jacobs’ lyrics and delivery were so unique that they still stand out. I laughed a lot while listening last night!

Sometime in the early ’00s I was in California on business, making a long drive from the Central Valley to the LA area. While scanning through the FM dial I found a hip-hop station that Shock G had called into. He gave a long, rambling, likely weed-influenced interview talking about his success with Digital Underground, the rise of his protege Tupac, and the whole early ’90s hip hop scene. It was an amazing interview, and made that long drive much more tolerable. Rest in peace, brother.

Mother Nature’s Fury

It was some 24 hours we experienced from roughly 5:00 pm Tuesday to 5:00 pm Wednesday.

On Tuesday we got hit by that freak, spring snowstorm that blew through the Midwest. Both C and L had kickball games scheduled, and both games were cancelled. C’s was actually cancelled on Monday night when their opponents all went into quarantine. With kickball out of the way, she decided to join her soccer team on Tuesday. I warned her that it was supposed to snow, be very windy, and very cold. She didn’t care, she was all in.

Wouldn’t you know it the worst of the storm hit right during her game. When we showed up the field was already covered, but the snow seemed to be stopping. As soon as the game began, the winds kicked up and started blowing heavy snow right into our faces. The players, at first, were having fun. But as soon as they all got soaked and chilled the fun ended. As the snow increased in intensity, it became almost impossible to control the ball. If you tried to dribble, the ball would either stick in the snow and go nowhere, or collect snow as it rolled like you were making a snowman. The best bet was to hit it long and hope someone could run onto it.

Soon kids started wiping out left and right. I have no idea why the coaches or referees allowed them to keep playing. In the midst of the slipping and sliding, our goalie got absolutely destroyed three times. The first two times the ref just signaled the kids to play on.

The third time, when our goalie was rolling around in the snow holding his head in pain, the ref finally relented and gave the attacking player a yellow card. The goalie’s dad is our head coach, and he was screaming at the ref, “THAT’S THREE TIMES, SIR!!!” I love how soccer coaches always say “Sir” to the refs. The ref didn’t like that. After he literally told our goalie to get up rather than check on him to see if he was ok, he walked the length of the field and gave our coach a yellow card for dissent.

My friend I was standing with has a very loud voice. He was getting super frustrated. He had cancelled the practices for his lacrosse teams, and his high school junior’s soccer practice had been cancelled. He thought it was ridiculous we were playing. He let it all out, “OH YEAH, GIVE HIM A YELLOW CARD BECAUSE YOU’VE TOTALLY LOST CONTROL OF THE GAME!!!” Everyone within a mile probably heard him.

The other dads and I were almost falling over laughing. After he finished with the coach the ref walked to us and said, “Which one of you has the big mouth?” Dave raised his hand and the ref said, “You’re out of here!” There was some back-and-forth before Dave slowly walked away, only to return two minutes later with a new coat on and an umbrella to cover his face. Hilarious!

It kept snowing harder. Despite wearing long underwear, snow pants, snow boots, a thick fleece hoodie, a down layer, a rain shell, and a stocking cap with the hoodie pulled over it, I was miserable. My glasses were totally wet, so I could barely tell when C was on the field. Every two minutes I had to brush the snow off my body because my clothes were completely covered.

On April freaking 20th!

This was the worst sports viewing experience of my life. It didn’t help that we lost 3–1. Although, to be honest, if we played that team in good weather it would have been 7–3 or worse. I hate that there are no requirements for how evenly balanced co-ed teams have to be in CYO. We were playing with mostly girls while the other team only had two girls on a team filled with really good male players.

Oh well. C was nearly frozen solid after the game. We sat in the car for at least 15 minutes, waiting for our bodies to warm and the windshield to defrost/defog. Once she stopping shivering she said, “Well, at least we had a memorable game!” I liked that attitude.

We ended up getting between two and three inches of thick, heavy snow. That was a problem.

I went to bed fairly early that night. I woke sometime around 11:30 and realized I wasn’t getting any airflow through my CPAP mask. I kept hitting the button on the machine to restart it, but nothing changed. After about five attempts I realized the power was off. That sucked! I tossed my mask aside and went back to sleep.

Fifteen minutes later C came into our room saying that something downstairs was beeping. I got out of bed, looked around, and finally found that the power supply our networking gear is plugged into had drained its battery and triggered its alarm. I flipped it off and went back to bed.

But this time I couldn’t sleep, so after tossing and turning for awhile, I got up, found my Kindle, and read for about an hour. I went back to bed around 2:00 and, after more tossing and turning, finally drifted off again.

Sometime after 3:00 I was again jolted awake by a loud noise. The smoke detectors were all ringing and the girls were wandering the hallway trying to figure out what was going on. S and I raced downstairs. Nothing on fire on the main floor. We went to the basement, where her parents were staying in our gust room. My eyes were blurry from sleep, but our flashlights seemed to show some smokey air as we rounded the corner. Her dad was walking towards us holding something that was giving off a cloud of smoke. Apparently he had woken up earlier, realized the power was off, and lit a couple small candles so he could see. One of them had nearly burned out and when it began to smoke, caused the smoke detectors to go off

We were all extremely thrilled by this development.

Once we got the air cleared and the alarms to stop ringing, it was back to bed. The rest of the night I woke each time I heard any traffic outside, thinking it might be the power trucks coming to fix whatever had caused the problem. It never was.

Finally morning arrived. Fortunately there was enough outside light that the girls could get ready without too much trouble. I found it odd that both of our neighbors seemed to have power. The neighbors to the north are on a different grid than we are, so it wasn’t unusual for one of our houses to have power when the other did not. But the house to the south was brightly lit, and I was sure we were on the same circuit. We don’t have any above-ground lines on our property that could have come down, so it didn’t make sense that only our house would be without power. The folks across the street seemed to have power as well.

I checked the power service website and it claimed 47 homes in our local area were without power, and nearly 2000 across the city. At least we weren’t alone, I guess.

I had no trouble getting the girls to school. All the traffic lights were working and the roads were clear. On the way I heard that we had set a record for both the most snow this late in the season, and the coldest day this late in April. It was a balmy 27 degrees.

I sat at home and waited for the power to come back on. And waited. And waited. I kept checking the power company’s site. Steadily the number of total outages dropped, but our little dot on the map remained. When I went to pick the girls up it was down to about 300 total homes without power, with our 47 all still dark.

By 5:00 everyone was getting antsy. The girls had homework to do and devices that required both Wifi access and charging. The house was getting cold. The food in our fridge had passed the point where it was safe to eat. I texted a sister-in-law to see if we could come over so the girls could do their schoolwork. She said of course and we began grabbing charging cables, devices, and materials needed to do their work and get everything powered for the night. I hoped we could take off for a few hours and come home to a lit and warm house. I had already warned S to do her charting at the office rather than save it for the evening.

We were seconds away from stepping outside when our electronic appliances began chiming. The internet gateway started its power-up cycle. The furnace woke and rumbled as it waited to fire. The one light that was switched on came to life. Nearly 18 hours after losing it, we had power!

We let out cheers, and the girls began debating what to order for dinner while I started throwing all the perishables from the fridge into the trash can.

I think this was a record for our longest-ever power outage. It could have been much worse. We have some friends who went a week without power two years ago. Still, 18 dark hours sucked.

The forecast says it is supposed to be close to 80 by Tuesday. Freaking Mother Nature…

Car Shopping Chronicles, Part 2

This is the second entry in my collection of observations as I search for a new car. In part one I listed every car I’ve owned. You can read it here.

Today, I’m going to set up some parameters for my next purchase.

If you look through that list of past cars, a trend is obvious: the last four were all selected based on the needs of our family. That’s not meant to be a complaint: two of those were pretty awesome rides that we were able to justify by saying “We need a big ass car to haul all our shit.” Still, buying for a family of five plus gear eliminated a lot of possibilities.

We remain a family of five, but the math has changed. M is driving, and has a car of her own. C will begin the driver’s education process this summer, and will ride to school with M in the fall. There are fewer and fewer occasions when we need a vehicle that can haul five-plus passengers. We don’t tow a boat anymore, nor do we go away for weekends that require room to pack in for groceries for 15–20 people.

Adding a third car also took up precious space in our garage. Where we once had a car’s worth of space to store bikes; golf clubs; baskets of balls and tennis racquets and other sports gear; lawnmower/pressure washer/snowblower; pool toys, furniture, and equipment; plus tools, ladders, etc., we’ve had to get creative about squeezing all that in since November. Which has made it very difficult to park the Tahoe.

We are fixing some of this problem soon. Our pool house is just about done, which will add a ton of storage space for the pool gear.

But, still, three cars take up more space than two, especially when one of those is huge.

I’ve been in a big Chevy SUV for nearly six years. Most of that time, I’ve loved them and they’ve definitely served their purpose. They drive like absolute tanks, though. They have tons of power but are sluggish to turn that into speed, not that it’s safe to drive them super fast. They lack any grace when carving through turns or switching lanes. As they hammer through the pothole-filled streets of Indianapolis, you feel every shockwave as they roll through the entire vehicle. They suck to park. And they get atrocious gas mileage.

I’m ready for something different.

Something smaller. Something more fuel efficient. Something that has at least a little quickness to it. Something a little more stylish. Although S has not put any budgetary restrictions on me, I would like to ratchet down the monthly payment a bit as well.

The catch is I still want to be in an SUV. I feel more comfortable being up and above the road. While I may not need to haul as much as in the past, I still need some space to throw crap. The backseat needs to be roomy enough so the girls can all sit back there for short jaunts around town.

After S got her Grand Cherokee in the fall I dove deeply into car research. I drove myself crazy comparing Car and Driver’s top X list to Motor Trend’s to Edmunds’ to US News’. I made spreadsheets that included all the cars I was interested in, breaking down their prices, mileage, sizes, cargo capacities, class rankings, and most notable features.

Until I began, I did not realize that there are a maddening number of sub-classes in the SUV world. Crossover. Compact Crossover. Compact. Mid-size. Full-size. Oh, and then there’s the Luxury kicker for each of those categories.

The most frustrating thing about this research is these silos seem pretty rigid on each rating site. For example, if vehicle A is the #3 ranked luxury mid-sized SUV and vehicle B is the #2 ranked standard full-size, there’s no master list where I can see how they actually match up against each other.

OK, so after about two months of research in late 2020, I locked in what category I was most interested: luxury compact SUVs. I still dabble looking outside that box, but most of my time over the past few months has been devoted to a small group of vehicles that fall within that sub-class.

That’s the general type of car I’m looking at. Next time, we’ll review into my first test drive.

Weekend Kid Sports Roundup

We have a very busy sports week ahead – weather permitting – and my plan was to hold off on another kid sports update. But it turned out to be a fairly significant sports weekend, so I’ll go ahead and share our girls’ latest accomplishments on the fields of athletic battle.


Friday was M’s first-ever tennis match. I had not seen her hit a tennis ball since last September, when we went to a local court to hit together. That day she complained that my soft hits back to her weren’t how her instructor hit the ball, and thus she would just stand there and refuse to return them back to me. As you might imagine this did not go well and ended in yelling from dad and tears from daughter. I’ve refused to hit with her since then.

Despite that, with six months of lessons in between, I was cautiously optimistic.

She was slated to play doubles with another sophomore who was also in her first-ever match. When their time to play came, I set up shop with my mother-in-law behind their court. I talked to a friend while they were warming up so I didn’t obsess over how she was hitting the ball. But when I glanced over, she seemed to be doing well.

She had the first service game of the match. She got her first serve in and won the point. It took her two serves to get one in from the Ad side, but they won that point. Then they won the third point. She lost her second Ad-side serve, but she closed out the game from the Deuce side to go up 1–0.

Pretty good start!

Then they broke in the second game to go up 2–0. Her teammate lost her first service game but they broke again to go up 3–1.

This was outstanding!

Because there were so many matches, all the JV contests were a single set, winner being the side that won eight games first. I started doing the math. If they could just break even on service games they would win the match!

Stupid dad.

M lost her second service game without winning a point. By the time she served again they were down 3–5. She got up 40–15 but couldn’t close it out and they lost that game, and then the next two to lose the match 8–3.

A very promising start but disappointing ending. It seemed like she got tired, because she was hitting her later serves from shoulder-height and away from her body rather than above her head and straight up. Both she and her partner put a ton of balls into the net.

But the result wasn’t really about how they played. Once their opponents settled in, they started ripping winners all over the place. They were just better and deserved to win.

It was fun to see the four girls get along. M, her teammate, and their two opponents thanked each other when they threw balls across the net, got together to discuss close calls or scoring questions, and were laughing most of the time. They banged racquets with smiles on their faces after the match. Apparently some of the other matches weren’t nearly as friendly.

A few of M’s friends lost their matches 0–8, so she was pleased they at least won a few games.

All-in-all, it was a good start. Because of the size of the team we’re not sure how often she will get to play. While most schools are keeping extra girls this year, there’s no guarantee that every duo of sophomores will get a match each time CHS plays. She’s having a lot of fun both playing and being part of the team.

Plus, she thinks the uniforms are super cute, which is a bonus.[1]


Sunday was C’s and L’s first track meet of the year. Which meant it was L’s first-ever track meet.

They got a perfect day to run: sunny, in the low 60s, no wind. And they were running on a good high school track so it was an ideal setting.

L ran the 50, 200, 100, and the opening leg of the medley relay. She won all three of her individual heats and her foursome won their relay. She didn’t just win, she won all of her heats fairly easily.

Although the heats were unseeded, she always ran in heat #1, and was usually against girls that were much taller than her. In the 50 she got a great start and was never threatened. In the 200, she was in third place coming out of the turn and then blew everyone away in the second 100. And in the 100, she was tight with two other girls in the opening 40–50 meters and then pulled away at the end.

It was impressive. She had been telling me how good she ran at practice, and I knew she was fast. But I wanted to reserve judgement until I saw her race other girls. She confirmed that she has some wheels.

Since the heats were unseeded, not every school had their best runner in the first heat. Her teammate A – one of her best friends – always ran in the second heat, and she won each of them. L is usually faster than A but it would have been fun to see them run against each other. Although this way they both got wins.[2] And there was a girl who won her heats in the 100 and 200 very easily. It’s obvious she was fast, but since she was running against slower girls it was hard to know if she was faster than L. They will run against each other eventually and we’ll find out, I guess.

After she won the 200, as I was walking down to the tent to find her, St P’s parents were coming over and tapping fists and congratulating me. Safe to say homegirl made an impression on folks. Which will do wonders for her ego. Her between-race strut got more pronounced after each win. She’s one of those kids who doesn’t just enjoy competing but also the attention that comes with it.

Oh, and L’s relay has a chance to be special. L ran the opening 100, A ran the 200, and a girl who knocked 45 seconds off the school record in the mile ran the anchor 400. The fourth girl who ran the second 100 has good speed, too. We had a lead through the first 150 meters, but were down about five seconds going into the anchor. No worries, our girl rocked it out and we won by 10 seconds. With three weeks to practice handoffs and maybe tweak the order a little, those girls could be a menace by the time City rolls around.

C has missed a ton of track practice because of kickball and soccer, so she only ran one individual race and in one relay. She ran the 200, which she finished second in at City two years ago, but was in a slow heat since she didn’t have a preliminary time from practice. She won it easily. Then she ran the 200 leg of the medley relay. She looked good in the opening 150, passing two girls in the turn, but faded in the last 50 and handed off in second. Her anchor bailed her out with a dominant 400 so C was perfect on the day, too. She’s still fast, she just needs to get in better track shape so she can sustain her speed more than running first-to-home in kickball.


Pretty good weekend for the B girls! L has a kickball game tonight that will likely determine who wins their division, then two more later in the week. C has two kickball games this week. There is a chance of snow – that’s right, snow! – in Indy tomorrow so we’ll see if the two games scheduled for that night get postponed to warmer days.


  1. I would laugh at her but I’m the kind of idiot who complains all season when KU has bad uniforms (like the past two years) and texts friends when I see a team wearing sweet duds.  ↩
  2. Looks like there are no official results, but the St P’s coaches are manually putting together results that compare times across heats that they will share later this week.  ↩

Friday Playlist

Another Friday, another list of fine musical products for your ears.

“Hot & Heavy” – Lucy Dacus
Dacus was responsible for my favorite song of 2018. She may have released my favorite song of 2021 this week. This is just so freaking good, and she is a total treasure.

“Complex” – Tristen
Tristen also had one of my favorite songs of 2018. She’s right in that indie/Americana/folk pocket that I can really get into.

“Why Don’t You Come Out Anymore” – The Natvral
I was a big fan of Kip Berman’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. For his latest project he has gone in a completely different direction, making big, warm, shaggy songs like this. His Tethers album has quite a few terrific tracks on it.

“Something New” – Melby
There are worse things to be called than Swedish Big Thief.

“Afrique Victime” – Mdou Moctar
You don’t have to speak French or Tamasheq to feel the power of this track, which focuses on atrocities the French colonialists committed as they raced through Africa, claiming territory in the 19th century.

“Distant Lullaby” – UV-TV
Absolutely nothing wrong with this.

“Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog
ToD released their only album 30 years ago today. It is, of course, one of the great moments of the grunge era. It is also part of one of the great ironies of the era: it came out four months before Pearl Jam’s Ten, which came out one month before Nirvana’s Nevermind. And then the albums/groups got successful in reverse order, with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” kicking the door open in late ’91, Pearl Jam ascending in the summer of ’92, and Temple of the Dog getting a second life in late ’92/early ’93 as the record companies attempted to capitalize on the explosive Seattle scene. It is completely nuts that Eddie Vedder sounded so confident here, when Pearl Jam had yet to release their own album. Chris Cornell had one of the all-time greatest voices, and wrote an amazing ode to his lost friend Andrew Wood. But it was when Eddie came in that this song turned into a stone, cold classic.

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