Author: DB (Page 2 of 341)

Reader’s Notebook, 11/7/23

The Kennedy Men – Laurence Leamer
After about a month of reading, split into sections, I knocked out my Big Book for the fall.

A neighbor passed this to me over the summer. We were sitting on the porch having some drinks and somehow books or the Kennedys or something along those lines came up and she mentioned she had read this book and loved it. She offered it to me. I’m not one to turn down a book so I happily accepted. I was in the midst of a run of reserved library books coming in, so I let it sit on my bookshelf figuring I’d get to it eventually.

The book is subtitled “1901–1963: The Laws of the Father.” The first section was the hardest to get through, as it focused on the Kennedy family’s early history in America and then Joseph Kennedy’s childhood and rise to power. It was hard to get too interested in that part when I knew that there was much bigger stuff coming. It took me over a week to get through Book One, then I set it aside to knock out another book to reset my mind.

Section two begins just after Joe Kennedy Jr. is killed in World War II, with the family, especially his younger brothers, struggling to cope with their loss. John F. Kennedy was thrust into the role as anointed child, the one expected to fulfill all of Joseph’s grand plans. That section takes us through his first run for congress, election to the senate, and finally winning the presidency in 1960. Brothers Bobby and Ted are also covered, if not as in-depth as the future president.

Finally, section three is about the Kennedy presidency, with much time spent on the administration’s various battles over and with Cuba, and JFK and RFK’s uncomfortable relationship with the civil rights movement.

I feel like I know a lot about the Kennedys, so not much here was a true revelation. It was rather shocking, though, to see just how poor JFK’s health was his entire life, and how compromised he was in his final years. I knew he was a womanizer, as well, but the sheer number of women he “entertained” was pretty staggering. I mean, Bill Clinton got impeached over a relationship with one woman. JFK would have laughed at that had he still been alive in 1998.

All that underscored my biggest takeaway, which is you can’t hide anything anymore. JFK was a serial philanderer, suffered from a number of significant health issues, and was under the care of several doctors who used treatments and drugs that the Leader of the Free World probably should not have been using in the nuclear age. But the pubic knew very little about that, and the press, which did know, chose not to publicize it.

Compare that to today when we probably know far too much about our political leaders.

It was also fascinating to read about JFK’s leadership style. In college I learned all about his collegial method of coming to decisions. He believed that you surround yourself with the smartest people you can find, talk issues through from every angle, and then arrive at a decision. I knew less about what a pragmatic, centralist he was. He was suspicious of every political extreme, and worked hard to minimize both those on the far left and far right. That practical style of leadership may have prevented him from accomplishing more in his nearly three years in office. But it also likely was the key factor in avoiding nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Like politicians of today, he always had his eye on the next election. But he also had a special gift for seeing through the emotions of a moment and identifying pitfalls others couldn’t see, as well as paths towards compromise that would neuter his opponents in the process.

The book was a bit of a chore to get through, more because of Leamer’s writing style, than its length. I’m guessing his technique was typical of how some biographies used to be written (this was published in 2001). He had a tendency to overwrite, with most sentences stuffed with too many $1000 words. Here are a couple examples that I noted.

“Kennedy treated gossip like chocolate bonbons, a pleasant little addiction he enjoyed tasting several times a day.”
“The youths dressed up in ersatz adulthood on their forays into the Manhattan nightlife, acting with the nonchalance of the regular habitués.”
He also referred to cheating men like JFK as “swordsmen” far too often. That term has always given me the creeps for some reason.

Anyway, the Kennedys are endlessly fascinating, so while this sucked up most of a month of reading time, it was not a waste even with some stylistic hurdles along the way.

Weekend Notes

Not a bad weekend at all. The weather was wonderful, and looks to remain that way for a few more days, then seasonably warm after that. Changing the clocks always sucks. And plenty of football, of course.

HS Football

The Cathedral game was on TV so we were able to watch them get a relatively easy 20–3 sectional championship win over Lawrence North. Their defense was great and their running back went for over 260 yards.

On to regionals, where they will play Ben Davis, ranked #3 in the media poll but #1 in the computer poll. (CHS is #7 and #4 respectively.)

The win also clinched CHS staying in Class 6A for two more years. Which should be really interesting since, as of now, they don’t have a quarterback on the roster who is on the level of the three guys who have held that spot down for the past six years. I would imagine they will find a way to remedy that situation.

College Football

What a day! Well, that’s what I hear. We spent much of the beautiful day outside trimming plants for the winter and putting away the last of the outdoor furniture that was still on the pool deck. Then I took a nap. And in the evening I watched the KU game, so missed much of the other many great games that took place.

Hey, how about them Jayhawks??? 7–2, bitches, after a tough win on the road at Iowa State. A couple huge plays, a handful of long drives, and one of the better defensive performances of the year keyed a start-to-finish win. That was just a good, well-played, evenly-matched game.

Here’s a fun stat: from 2008, when KU won in Ames,[1] until 2020, the Jayhawks had one Big 12 road win. They now have three in three years. That doesn’t sound like much, but winning on the road is hard even for decent teams. If you can grab one or two a year, that is generally the difference in making a bowl for mid-tier teams.

Jason Bean was actually quite solid. He didn’t do anything spectacular, other than run a couple well-designed plays to perfection in key moments. It still feels like he’s not taking full advantage of his speed, and I’m not convinced he ever looks at anyone other than his primary receiver. But, fuck it, he’s responsible for four of KU’s seven wins and deserves all the props. Great job by the coaching staff to tweak the offense to account for the differences between what he can do and what Daniels can do.

Someone on Twitter called him Football David McCormack, which is hilarious, if unfair. McCormack was a high school All American who exuded potential and drove KU fans crazy for four years with his uneven play. Bean was a transfer KU took very late in the process who only started his first year on campus because Jalon Daniels was, stop me if you’ve heard this before, injured. Bean was going to transfer last summer but I don’t think anyone wanted him other than KU, so he came back for his sixth year. He’s been a wild-mood swing of a player his three years on campus. Like McCormack, it seems like he’s saving his best games for the end of his career. Which will likely wrap up with him starting in a bowl game.

I’m not sure what to say about Daniels anymore. There are so many rumors and idle speculation that I’ve tried to tune it all out. He is KU’s first experience with the negative side of NIL, with random KU “fans” suggesting he owes the school and supporters to play no matter what his injury is since he’s getting paid. There are lots of people who claim he’s just sitting out so he can transfer, which doesn’t make much sense. These people don’t know shit about what is really going on, but that doesn’t stop them from posting online.

I’ve reached the point where I don’t expect him back this season and am absolutely fine continuing with Bean at QB. I just wish KU and/or Daniels would share more about what’s going on. We don’t need to know the entire story. But tell us if there’s a legit chance that he’ll play again this year, or even next, or if it will take a miracle for that to happen and we should stop asking about it/hoping for it. Or say, “We have tried everything and his back isn’t getting better and we are flummoxed at what to try next. We have no idea.” Stop with the “Well, he practiced Tuesday and seemed better,” only for him not to travel for the game on Saturday.

For all the good around the KU program, it sucks that we still have a mediocre kicker. Or kickers, I should say, since two guys have got chances in recent games. During the Iowa State game some of my text buddies and I were trying to remember when the last good KU kicker was. I’m sure there were a few over the years, but I jokingly said Dan Eichloff, who played when we were in school. Turns out he still owns pretty much every KU kicking record. He even punted, which was pretty sweet. Anyway, might be time to put a priority on finding a decent place kicker. The kicking game was a factor in the Oklahoma State loss, and was damn close to being a factor Saturday.

The Jayhawks won. The Hoosiers got their first Big 10 win of the year. Only the poor Bearcats amongst our household’s schools lost, falling to UCF on homecoming weekend. M was at the game. I heard a lot of boos on TV when I had it on. Not sure if she knows enough about football to understand why the UC fans were jeering their own team. I wonder if she joined in anyway.


I watched most of the Colts game. Awesome day for Kenny Moore II, becoming the first Colt to ever have two pick-sixes in one game. In front of four of his sisters, no less. Their celebrations were fantastic.

It struck me yesterday, as CJ Stroud was tearing up the Tampa Bay defense, that the AFC South could be on the verge of a terrific set of quarterback rivalries. Jacksonville has Trevor Lawrence, who seems on the way to being an above average QB. Stroud has ranged from solid to exceptional through his first eight games. Will Levis elevating to starter should give the Titans hope. And if Anthony Richardson can get healthy, he’ll have the Colts in the mix.

Since I have lived in Indy the division has almost always been a Two Good, Two Bad group, often based on who had the best quarterbacks at the time. If those four guys continue to develop and the teams are smart in how they build around them, the next decade could be incredible to watch for AFC South fans.

  1. The day after L was born, by the way.  ↩

Friday Playlist

An extra-stuffed playlist this week, heavy on tracks from albums I have previously shared songs from. Also, a heads up that there may be no playlist next week. I will be traveling for a couple days and may leave the playlist machine at home. Then again, maybe I’ll whip something together before we depart. It will be a surprise for us all!

“Now And Then” – The Beatles
Let’s get the biggest song in the world (for the moment) out of the way first. Surely you know the story behind this. It is…fine. A bit melancholy and cold, to me it sounds more like something that would have been on a Lennon solo album than made by the Beatles. It’s hard to make a true comparison since the vocals are over 50 years old, but I would much rather listen to one of the new Rolling Stones songs than this.

“Guard Stick” – Golden Apples
I didn’t know anything about this band until a few weeks ago. Their full album came out last Friday and it’s been on high rotation – whatever that is these days – ever since. If you like this track, you’ll enjoy the entire disk.

“CANDU” – The Rural Alberta Advantage
Speaking of good albums, TRAA’s latest blew me away. I’ve been listening to it a ton over the past few weeks. Maybe the perfect fall album.

“I Can’t Keep My Eyes Open” – Cory Hanson
Another scorcher from Hanson, this one with a much better title than the last of his tracks I shared.

“ARE YOU GONNA RUN?” – Low Cut Connie
This sounds like Adam Duritz singing a Springsteen song.

“Lucifer’s Glory” – The Natvral
The previous song I shared from their album was a Country or Not entry. This one is more of a classic rock banger.

“Spider Bites” – The Gaslight Anthem
The fourth song I’ve shared from TGA’s comeback album History Books, which got its full release last week. It slows down a bit on the back half, but on balance it is one of the best return to form albums in recent memory. Props to those guys for getting back together and rediscovering what made them great.

“Hourglass” – CIVIC
I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in my life, but this song makes me want to borrow my brother-in-law’s Harley and take a spin around the block.

“103” – The Kills
It has been over seven years since The Kills put out a proper album. They broke that slump last week. I haven’t listened to the entire album but dig this lead single.

“Paralyzed” – Honduras
The Spotify machine spit this out twice in the past week. It is from 2015, or thereabouts. Not sure I had heard it anytime in the last five years. Good track. Kids, stay away from heroin.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 92

Chart Week: October 30, 1982
Song: “I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)” – Donald Fagen
Chart Position: #36, 4th week on the chart, debut week in the Top 40. Peaked at #26 for three weeks in November and December.

Pop music tends to be pretty limited thematically. Amongst the bazillion or so songs about love, lust, and heartbreak, occasionally one will emerge from left field about a topic that makes no sense as the basis for a radio hit.

The first single of Donald Fagen’s solo career, “I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)” was inspired by the International Geophysical Year, an 18-month event that stretched across 1957–58. It brought together scientists from both sides of the Cold War divide with the hope of leading the world forward to a more connected and peaceful future.

Nothing says rock ’n’ roll like scientific discovery, amiright?

When “I.G.Y.” was released, my limited knowledge of the Fifties was based solely upon watching Leave It To Beaver re-runs and old sci-fi flicks on late-night TV, hardly a comprehensive source of Eisenhower-era knowledge. Whatever view I had of that decade, the images this song inspired fit right into it.

I suppose my attraction to “I.G.Y.” was because it is full of bright-eyed optimism about the prospect of an amazing, space-age future. Since I was into computers and other cool Eighties electronic stuff, I, too, envisioned an improved world thanks to technological advancement. In my 11-year-old mind, if Atari ran the world there would be no Cold War. And what a beautiful world it would be if my mom somehow scraped together the money to buy me an Apple II computer!

Listening to the song as an adult, I wonder if I got it all wrong.

In 1982 I didn’t know a thing about Donald Fagen. Certainly not that the songs he wrote with Walter Becker for Steely Dan were noted for their ironic, cynical lyrics. An approach that was the exact opposite of the warm, nostalgic trip I assumed “I.G.Y.” to be.

For a moment I wondered if this song wasn’t, instead, taking a shot at the late Fifties. Was Fagen mocking the naive belief that science could solve all our problems? Was he pointing out all the ways that the best intentions of that time had failed? Was he critiquing the view that the world would be a better place if everyone just followed America’s twin pillars of Christianity and Capitalism?

I was leaning that way until I listened to the song a few more times. I was again struck by the music. Those clear tones in the horns. The whimsical qualities of the keyboards and harmonica. The little blips and blurps sprinkled throughout. Those elements combine to build a futuristic soundscape that wouldn’t be out of place in one of those Fifties sci-fi movies.

Yes, there are some scathing lyrics, mostly aimed at the American First viewpoint that was prominent at the time. Fagen has said that he discovered pretty quickly that the idillic depiction of the Fifties was a sham, crafted to hide things like racism, sexism, inequality, and fear of nuclear war.

Still, I do think that Fagen was looking back fondly to his childhood. It was an opportunity for him to recall the days before his cynical gene presented itself, when he viewed the world around him, and the future, with wonder rather than skepticism.

I would liken that to our generation looking back to the early days of the Internet, when there seemed to be limitless possibilities for how it would enhance our lives. A computer and modem in every home was the 2000s version of Fagen’s spandex jackets for everyone. A quarter-century down the road we see how the Internet has been as destructive as additive to our lives. But it is still fun to recall the excitement of your first time dialing up and logging on.

I was too young to understand that battle between cynicism and optimism when this song was climbing the chart. Perhaps it is that juxtaposition that has made it stand up over the years to me. It is a reminder that miracle cures sometimes have unintended consequences. And also to never forget the innocence and hopefulness that characterized our younger days. 7/10

October Media

I’m clearly not wasting enough time watching TV or stuff on my computer as this month’s list is again rather lean. Don’t worry, with colder weather arriving and the holiday TV season beginning, I expect to get this back where it should be soon.

Movies, Shows, etc

Halloween Baking Championship
It’s holiday baking show season, bitches! The kids don’t watch anymore, but S does. And I’ve cut Halloween Wars from the rotation so start with just this. From the first episode I was sure Ryan would win. He slipped up in the finale and Hollie was a worthy champion.


Searching for Italy, season two
It’s a damn shame CNN decided not to do a season three, because this was one of the best things on TV. It made us want to go back to Italy soon.


Ed, season one.
See here.


Seinfeld, random episodes
I hit a streak where I watched at least one episode each weekday for something like two weeks straight. There’s not a bad season, but when they are in the midst of seasons two-through-four, just about every episode is terrific.


The Big Short
Another film that I, inexplicably, had not seen. I’ve reached the age where I get suspicious of any traditional motion picture that attempts to explain some cultural, political, or economic phenomenon via drama, even if I agree with its perspective. At least in how I evaluate it as an “explanation” for said event. But you can’t argue that this isn’t a compelling movie to watch. I love all the little sly notes throughout that remind the viewer that the people who are ostensibly the Good Guys of the film are, with one or two notable exceptions, not really worthy of our admiration. They still profited massively off the economic meltdown that ruined so many regular people’s lives.


Pearl Jam – Ten Revisited (2009 TV Special)
Love both the interviews and live performances from the band’s early days.


Stranger Things, season one
For some reason this jumped into my mind a couple weeks ago. It is my favorite season of the show, and the finale is one of my favorite single episodes ever. It takes place around Halloween, might as well watch it again!

Only my memory was wrong. Season one begins on November 3, 1983. It is season two that takes place over Halloween. Oh well. It was worth the re-watch for the fall, Indiana vibes alone.


American Experience War of the Worlds
It had been a couple years since I logged a Halloween-time listen to Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. After I knocked it out on Halloween day I came across this PBS documentary about the alleged panic it caused. I found it interesting that this counters the widely accepted argument that very few people were actually fooled by the broadcast. Which is kind of fun. I like there being some mystery and/or controversy about what really happened. I think Welles would approve.


Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Tiny Desk Concert
First off, Nile Rodgers is an American treasure. Second, this is one of the most delightful, joyous, magical performances you will ever watch. There is a massive surprise in the middle.


Shorts, YouTubes, etc

A 20 Mile Backpacking Trip to the Heart of the Cascade Mountains
It’s been awhile since I’ve watched one of these hiking+photography videos.

The Inconvenient Podcast
Beau Miles gets asked to appear on a podcast about parenting. So of course he turns it into an adventure for both him and his daughter and the podcast host and his kids.

Best of Colin and Che “OFFENSIVE JOKES”
Sometimes you have to watch what the algorithm spits out to you.


Plain English with Derek Thompson
I’ve blurbed this show before. Thompson’s current series about the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been excellent. As an American, liberal Jew, he has mixed feelings about the situation. I really appreciate how he and his guests do their best to examine events with as little emotion and as much respect for the people directly affected as is possible.

Weekend Notes

What a weekend, filled with swings of mood and weather.


Kansas 38, Oklahoma 33. LET’S GOOOOOO!!!!!

One of the biggest wins in program history. That alone would make Saturday’s win over the #6 Sooners memorable. It just had so much of…everything, I guess, that no KU fan who watched it will ever forget it.

This feels like a game that could easily turn into a 5000 word account. So I’ll try to keep it brief(-ish) by just bullet-pointing how bizarre it was.

  • KU jumps out to a quick lead with a pick six on OU’s first possession. Apparently my cable feed was working on a 20 second delay because I saw four tweets about Mello Dotson putting KU up 7–0 before I saw the play. At first I thought it was a joke because my TV was lagging so much.
  • KU went up 14–0 and then were the victims of the worst personal foul penalty in the history of college football, Craig Young flagged for a late hit when he neither shoved nor tackled Drake Stoops, and Stoops head butted him TWICE after the play was over. KU fans were quick with “Dollar Signs” memes.
  • After Oklahoma scored and got the ball back, the game was stopped for an hour because of lightning. On a day when the temps were in the 30s. Midwest weather remains undefeated.
  • After the delay Oklahoma took approximately nine seconds to tie the game. Then KU fumbled the kickoff and OU immediately took the lead. I started having vibes of the 1991 Nebraska game when KU lead 17–0 after the first quarter and we were all losing our minds then we still managed to lose 59–23. Calvin fucking Jones.
  • Much maligned quarterback Jason Bean missed WIDE OPEN receivers in the end zone on two straight plays and KU settled for a field goal before halftime. You can’t miss opportunities like that and hope to beat OU.
  • KU forced a fumble and then Bean ran it in from 39 yards out on the next play. Only for him to short hop a ball to an uncovered receiver on the two-point attempt. KU was 0–3 on two point attempts for the day.
  • On third and goal early in the fourth quarter Bean scrambled and rather than diving into the end zone, slid, his knee touching just short of the goal line. Just a horrible, horrible mistake. KU Twitter was in full meltdown mode until we noticed the flag on the field. Fortunately Bean was bailed out by a personal foul on OU and Daniel Hishaw gave KU the lead on the next play.
  • On the ensuing kick, KU booted it short, OU fumbled, and the Jayhawks recovered. Hishaw went 20 yards on the first snap to extend the lead, literally high-stepping the last five yards. It was this game’s Monte Cozzens moment. Somewhere in the student section a kid who shares my name was nearly passing out like I did on that day in 1992. Only KU was called for holding. Three plays later came a badly missed field goal. Instead of being up 12, it was still just a five-point game, and OU seemed to have snatched back the momentum.
  • Literally seconds after Fox’s Jason Benetti said that Bean had avoided the mistakes that plagued him in big moments, he threw an interception deep in KU territory. It wasn’t entirely his fault – the ball went through a receiver’s hands – but it was a poor throw. OU took the lead a couple plays later.
  • On the next possession Bean threw a terrible ball for another pick. The game was over, as OU was inside the KU 40 with 2:52 left. I was literally throwing things and cussing. Luckily C and L were gone and S was upstairs getting ready for the party we were going to so I was the only witness.
  • Only in what may be the biggest upset of the day, the Jayhawks had all three timeouts. KANSAS FOOTBALL, which has been taking timeouts at all the wrong times for 15 years, had all three time outs late in a close game. Unbelievable. The defense got two-straight tackles for losses and held on third down. When OU lined up to go for it, a wide receiver – A WIDE RECEIVER – got called for a false start. OU punted.
  • KU had about 2:00 to go 80 yards.
  • After getting two first downs the Jayhawks faced a 4th and 6. Lawrence Arnold got open, hauled in a perfect strike from Bean, and raced 37 yards for the first down. Again, KANSAS FOOTBALL got 37 yards on a fourth down that meant the game against a Top 10 Oklahoma team. Wacky, wild shit.
  • One play later Devon Neal nearly fumbled behind the line but scampered in for the go-ahead score with 52 seconds remaining.
  • Dillon Gabriel had done this shit against Texas earlier in October. I doubt any KU fans were super confident he wouldn’t do it again. I feared the worst. Gabriel completed a 40 yard pass to get in range to take a shot at the end zone on the game’s final play. KU broke up the pass and mayhem ensued. Although even that play was a mess. Instead of knocking the ball down, Kwinton Lassiter tried to pick it off. Which he did out of bounds, but he also gave the OU receivers a shot at the ball. Never easy with this program.
  • Finally, the field was rushed and the goalposts came down.

Whew! What a fucking game. Not sure it was healthy for my heart but the result made it all worth it.

The first KU win over a Top 10 team since the 2008 Orange Bowl.
The first win over Oklahoma since 1997.
The first win at home over a Top 10 team since 1984.
Lance Leipold became the first KU coach to beat both Oklahoma and Texas since the 1930s. Granted, KU and Texas didn’t play for a long, long time. Still he did in three seasons what about 100 other KU coaches couldn’t do in nearly a century.

And the added bonus that the Fox crew was in town for their pregame show. Although no one really watches that, but, still. Urban Meyer said nice things about Kansas, Lawrence, and the program. I know most Americans find him to be of the highest character and his opinions to be unassailable, so you can’t put a dollar value on how much that helps KU going forward.

Oh, and KU will go to a bowl game in consecutive years for the second time in program history.

Pretty fucking cool way to spend four and a half hours of my Saturday.

So, where does this win rank all time?

It is certainly one of the three biggest wins of my life, right up there with winning the Orange Bowl in 2008 and beating Nebraska by 1000 points in 2007.

Honestly, if the team lays a big, fat turd in the last month of the season, much of the luster of this win gets wiped away. But grab two, three, even four more wins and this has a legitimate claim to the #1 spot on that list.

Rock Chalk, bitches.

KU Hoops


A seven-point loss at Illinois in an exhibition game. Illinois controlled most of the game on both ends. KU’s offense was pretty bad. I’ll chalk some of that up to not running anything super complex. But the absolute lack of outside shooting is a major concern because it confirms the biggest fear about this team.

You can’t overreact to an exhibition game, so I won’t. But my go-to complaint all year is going to be wasting a scholarship on a player who arrived with a domestic assault charge and was kicked off the team when he was charged with rape, instead of filling the clear hole that the team had. You can never, ever have too much shooting.

In super exciting news for all college hoops fans, there are now apparently more plays that can be reviewed. Which is awesome! We need to make games last longer because all action stops while the referees stare at a TV screen and try to decide if they want to overrule themselves or not. Based on the reviews in the KU game, referees still can’t figure out how to not spend three minutes reviewing a play that takes the announcers and TV audience no longer than five seconds to see a clear decision. Either go to limited coach’s challenges or just get rid of replay. It is literally the worst.

Did I mention that we beat Oklahoma in football?


Looks like the Colts are shitty again.

And I guess the Ravens are indeed the best team in the NFL for the moment. Or maybe the Bengals? But probably the Eagles. Sorry for the jinx last week, Chiefs fans.

Other Shit

Cathedral won their football sectional opener 42–2 Friday night. They will have a tougher game this week.

S and I went to dinner Friday with the families we hung out with most over spring break, the first time we had all been together since graduation party season. It was a gorgeous night and we were able to sit outside.

Meanwhile I wore a coat this morning when I took L to school.

The Cathedral boys lost in the state soccer final Saturday, 2–0 to the, now, three-time defending champs.

L’s team had a scrimmage Thursday night. She played about 19 minutes, all in the second half, against a varsity team. She didn’t do much. 0–3 from the field. A rebound and a turnover. Offense was pretty ragged. Not sure she was on the court very much with the girls she’ll play with when the real games start. They have another week of practice to get ready for that.

We went to S’s sister’s house Saturday for their annual Halloween party. It was very odd going without any of our kids. S spent a lot of time on Pinterest coming up with our contribution to the spread.

Friday Playlist

I didn’t blast much new-ish music this week, so today’s playlist will skew in a slightly different direction than normal.

“Collect” – Torres
It’s been a couple years since we had new Torres music. That album landed not one but two tracks on my Favorite Songs of the Year list, so the pressure is high for 2024. This is a super-promising first peak at her next album.

“be okay” – Yumi Zouma
Some heavy Nineties overtones in this, from the crunchy guitars to the processed background screaming. Also a pretty heavy chorus featuring the lines “To introduce me to your fucking family, and you still treated me so fucking badly.”

“Lord of Shelves” – Wurld Series
Hey, the World Series starts tonight. I’m sure these guys are pumped. Oh, wait. Like Yumi Zouma they are from New Zealand. They probably have no idea what’s going on in American baseball. Probably explains why they spell their name that way, too.

“Getting Bitter” – Teenage Halloween
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a happier song about a family member suffering from addiction.

“October” – The Helio Sequence
Like most of 2023, this has been a relatively mild, quiet October. It looks like we are about to have a few blustery days, with winter-like temps as we move into November. Weather that suits the mood of this track.

“Halloween” – Phoebe Bridgers
Likely the only song to ever reference a fan getting beat to death at a Dodgers game.

“Halloween” – Siouxsie and the Banshees
I’d like to pretend I’ve known about this kick ass track for decades, but I only discovered it two weeks ago when I was searching for songs to play the Friday before Halloween.

Reader’s Notebook, 10/26/23

Tales from the Torrid Zone – Alexander Frater
I mentioned in my last entry that I was taking on a rather long book that seemed like it might be a chore to get through. With that in mind, I decided that since it is divided into three parts, I would take a break after each section and squeeze in another book. This was my choice for break number one.

Frater was the son of a Presbyterian minister who was based in the Pacific. He was born in the then New Hebrides islands in 1937, which eventually became the country of Vanuatu. Frater spent his adult life as a travel writer, employed by various British newspapers, magazines, and even the BBC.

This work is built on his explorations of the tropics, mostly in the Pacific. However, it isn’t a collection of the articles he published about those trips. Rather it is a new work that pulls together anecdotes those previous pieces were based on. Because of that, it lacked either a central thread that tied everything together, or hard breaks between each story that made them clearly distinct. It was one of the least rewarding travel books I’ve read, which was a big disappointment. His personality never really shined through, and I found his observations to be far less interesting than in other Pacific travelogues I’ve read. I bet if I had read Frater’s magazine work that was focused on a specific area, I would have enjoyed them a lot more.

Pro Sports Notes

Time for a few thoughts about the exciting world of professional sports.

MLB Playoffs

I have continued to watch the playoffs most nights. Maybe not as closely as I did a few years back, but I’ve had them on which is a big step for me. Since I’ve been checked out on baseball for the past two seasons, that has turned me into one of those viewers who is amazed by seeing players for the first time in October and probably infuriates people who give the game attention all season.

Thus I’ve been infatuated with Texas Ranger Adolis Garcia. That dude’s performance in the ALCS was legitimately legendary. I don’t have any great love the the Rangers – I’ve always found them to be kind of anonymous and generic – but since it is fun to hate on the Astros, I was all-in on the Rangers winning the battle of Texas. That made Garcia’s performance, especially in the final three games of the series, even more enthralling. Nothing like getting an entire city to hate you then just destroying their hopes in the biggest moments of the year.

The Rangers-Astros series was great not just because it went seven games and had many moments of terrific drama. It was also great because of the in-state rivalry angle. Especially in 2023, when it is much easier to get tickets as a fan of the road team. The large number Rangers fans in Houston and Astros fans in Arlington gave each game a little extra juice that made them even more interesting to watch.

That got me thinking about how the nature of crowds has changed so much in recent years. It’s an on-going joke in NFL discussions that the LA Chargers play 17 road games, since they have a tiny fanbase in LA and their fancy new stadium is often filled with many more visiting fans. The Rams have a larger home fanbase but still play in front of an audience that has a healthy portion of out-of-towners, witness the amazing games against San Francisco in recent years that seemed like college bowl games instead of NFL games. Same for the Raiders since they moved to Las Vegas.

You can watch about any NFL game these days, and there will be a lot of people in the crowd cheering for the visitors, making enough noise to be noticeable on TV.

Tickets cost a ton. Parking is like buying an extra seat inside the stadium. NFL stadiums are filled with drunk, angry people. The in-stadium experience pales in comparison to watching a game at home. And going to the stadium requires an investment of at least five hours. Throw in a lot of tickets being snatched up by businesses and handed out to folks who aren’t diehards for the local team, and the makeup of crowds is just different these days. Where Arrowhead was once 79,500 Chiefs fans and a few hundred visiting fans scattered around, now the colors of the other team stick out of the sea of red.

Another thing that has blown me away about watching baseball again is the realization that we have moved into the fourth generation of postseason records. The first generation was in the pre-division days, when everything was accomplished in the World Series. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Micky Mantle, etc all racked their numbers up in seven-game series. The second generation was from 1969 until the first Wild Card teams were added, which added the LCS. These were ruled by Joe Morgan, George Brett, etc. The third generation, when the first Wild Card teams were added, dudes like Manny Ramirez and Bernie Williams broke all the records set in the previous age thanks to the extra round of divisional play.

Finally, the current, fourth age brings in multiple Wild Card teams and the extra games associated with that expansion. It makes sense that Jose Altuve either holds or will soon nearly every postseason hitting record. Dude has been mashing in multiple series every year for nearly a decade, including four World Series appearances.

What blew me away, though, was learning that Kyle Schwarber now holds the record for most postseason homers by a left-handed batter. Kyle Schwarber?!?! I know he’s good, but it seemed crazy that he would own that record. The homers do add up pretty quick when you hit five, six, and five (and counting) homers in individual postseasons.

What was even more amazing was who held the record until last weekend: Reggie Jackson! If Kyle Schwarber breaks a record set in the Seventies and Eighties, it sure seems like someone else would have done so sooner. Surely there was a lefty in the Yankees Nineties dynasty who would have approached it. Or David Ortiz. Or Barry Bonds. But Big Papi ended his career with 17, matching Jim Thome one spot behind Mr. October’s record. Schwarber’s teammate Bryce Harper is at 16, so by the end of the month Reggie could, possibly, be in third place. Crazy.

I always hated Reggie, but I was equally fascinated by him. Props for setting a record that held up for 40-ish years.


I told you the NFL was crazy. The Niners have now lost two in a row after staking their claim as best team in the league. The Bills might be trash. Can you trust the Dolphins, Lions, or Jags?

That leaves the Chiefs, winners of six-straight, and the Ravens, who destroyed Detroit last week, as the teams of the moment. The Chiefs are incapable of losing to the Broncos, so I think they’re safe for a week. The Ravens go to Arizona this week, and it was the Cardinals who exposed the Cowboys a month ago, so you never know.

I’ll just repeat what I said last week: I’m glad I don’t gamble on the NFL, because I don’t understand how you make any sense of it.


I discovered over the summer that I’ve joined a particular demographic: middle aged white men who listen to tons of NBA podcasts but don’t watch many NBA games until the playoffs. I found out that’s a thing when the hosts of two non-hoops podcasts I listen to mentioned they fell into that category, and know lots of people like them. OK, then.

It is true, over the past year I’ve added a bunch of NBA pods into my regular rotation. I’ve been trying to figure out why this sub-group of like-minded people exists. I think it’s because you can talk about the NBA in a similar way to baseball, but analytics aren’t as prevalent (yet), so these conversations are based on people rather than numbers and remain accessible even to casual fans. Plus the NBA is a lot more fun than baseball, at least in the way it embraces drama and tension. The NBA embraces when there is beef while baseball goes totally off the rails when there is any controversy. Witness the whole Braves-Phillies stupidity earlier this month. And a single trade/free agent signing has a much bigger impact on an NBA team than an MLB one.

Anyway, the NBA begins tonight and I can’t wait to watch Victor Wembanyama play. His highlights from the preseason don’t seem like they could have been done by a human. If he can stay healthy, he is legit going to change the NBA.

Of greater interest to me is that the Pacers have the potential to be one of the most fun teams to watch. They will run like crazy. Tyrese Haliburton may lead the league in assists, and will do so with flair. Obi Toppin is a walking, talking Alley Oop. All the other parts are fast and young, and there is plenty of shooting to go around.

Now the defense is probably still going to be suspect again this year. But I’d much rather watch a mediocre team that scores the shit out of the ball than the one the Pacers ran out a few years back that struggled to score in the 90s.

A lot of NBA talking heads have fallen in love with the Pacers. Not as title contenders, let’s not be silly. But as a team that, health permitting, can easily win 45-ish games and sneak into the upper six of the Eastern Conference.

I feel like that might be a little over-optimistic, based on the one preseason game I watched. They are certainly capable of dropping 120+ points a night, but it puts a lot of stress on the team to have to do that because they can’t avoid giving up 115.

The Pacers have also had horrible injury luck in recent years. There’s no reason to expect that to suddenly end, and all it will take is Haliburton or Myles Turner or another starter missing 10–15 games to sink the season.

It is opening week, though, and time to push those concerns aside for the moment. I’m excited to watch what should be a highly entertaining team that has a great chance to make the postseason for the first time since 2020, maybe even winning a game for the first time since 2018.

Weekend Notes

It was a pretty good fall break/long weekend around our house. It included another trip to Cincinnati, a new family toy, and a variety of news on the high school sports front. Let’s dive into the details.

CHS Fall Break

C and L were off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for their fall break. L had basketball practice all three days and the weather was crappy, so we didn’t do much. Our pool guy was supposed to show up Thursday to close it for us, but it rained so much he didn’t make it. He’ll now be here Tuesday.

Aficionados of my fall break posts will not be surprised that we went up the block to Walgreens and got flu shots on Thursday, which is a bit of a tradition. The girls also ran around with their friends a little bit. L got to go the final Pacers preseason game of the year Friday, sitting in the front row behind the basket. She got pictures with Cavaliers Caris Levert and Donovan Mitchell after the game, which was pretty cool. One of her friends accidentally dumped a bottle of water on Levert when he slid into them during the game.

UC Family Weekend

We drove down to Cincinnati Saturday morning for Family Weekend. The Bearcats were taking on Baylor, but I doubted the girls would be interested in an entire game between two bad teams so we opted to let M do her greek life tailgating thing and picked her up right after kickoff.[1]

We headed to the Findlay Market area and ate some pretty solid barbecue. While we were eating I could see L whispering to her sisters and they were all laughing. When I asked what was so funny, so said, “This is way better than Oklahoma Joe’s.”


I mean, it was good barbecue, I won’t lie. But if she wasn’t just messing with me I may have to disown her.

While eating we ran into some Indy friends who sent kids to both St P’s and CHS. I’ve sat with the dad at multiple football games this year. Their oldest daughter is a senior at Xavier and it was her sorority’s parents weekend. Small world.

We went downtown to check into our hotel then walked down to the riverfront and visited the Underground Railroad Museum. It was fascinating. They suckered us into getting a membership since that is cheaper than five individual day passes. That’s cool because I definitely want to go back and spend more time there. Not going to name names,[2] but some folks in my family tend to breeze through museums where I like to take them in slowly and get into the details.

Back to the hotel for some down time. I watched football while all three girls took naps. Then we headed back to the dorm so M could change and grab her high school bud who was joining us for dinner. A’s parents couldn’t make it for the weekend so we made her an honorary B girl for the night. We went to Sacred Beast in the Over-The-Rhine district. It was quirky and good. And we sat in a booth next to another group of folks we know from St P’s and CHS. Twice in one day! So odd.

We dropped M, her friend, and C back at the dorm and returned to the hotel for the night. C was going to spend the night with M since her roommate was gone and get a taste of college life. Seems like that went ok, although C’s back was bothering her and M dropped C off after a couple parties, locked her in the room, and went back out. This might be the moment to point out that despite being sick for 87 consecutive weeks, M apparently doesn’t miss a chance to go out.

Sunday morning we got the girls then headed back downtown for breakfast at the tremendous Maplewood Kitchen. One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. And we got there just before the rush hit and were able to get a table without too long of a wait. By the time we left the line was out the door.

After eating it was back to campus so M could show us around. We got to see her sorority house and meet her pledge mom, J, who is awesome. M had told us a lot about her but meeting her made it all click. They are VERY similar, but in a good way where it works. We made a stop at a bookstore so both C and L could get some UC gear, ran into Target to get M a few things, then headed home. We were back in our house in time to see the second half of the Colts game.

Cincinnati is cool. I’ve been to one Reds game in my 20 years in Indy, and that was a quick in-and-out for a day game. I forget where but I had heard plenty over the years about the geography of the city, but until you see it, it doesn’t really make sense. It is a river town, like Kansas City and St. Louis, so all the roads are kind of fucked up based on that alone. Then it is built into some serious bluffs that rise straight up out of the Ohio. Parts of it look kind of California-like just because of the rapid increase in elevation. It is definitely more St. Louis than KC, as it feels a lot older than my hometown. Even then Cincy has a very distinct feel from the Lou. I imagine I’ll get to know the city even better over the next few years.

New Toy

We made the trip in S’s new vehicle, a Kia Telluride. It is very, very nice. Her lease doesn’t end on her Grand Cherokee for a few weeks, so we kept the Telluride in the garage for the first few days we owned it. She got it early specifically for this trip, so M could bring a friend (or two) if needed since we again have a seven-passenger vehicle. I drove the entire weekend and loved it. Between having a kid in college and another joining her in less than two years, when my Audi lease is up I’m going to have to do some serious financial downsizing. I dig the Telluride enough that a smaller Kia SUV will likely be in the running.

High School Hoops

I mentioned above that L had basketball practice last week. To answer the obvious question, yes, she seems to have recovered from her concussion.

Monday was the first official day of practice in Indiana, and she was cleared to return that day after taking a week off. Her coach did keep her out of scrimmages, though, just to avoid contact for a little longer. L said that made practice boring but I reminded her she didn’t need to get hurt again and then miss weeks of the season.

Wednesday was roster day, when the girls learned what team they would be on. We kind of knew what to expect, but it was still a little nerve-racking to drop her off, run to the grocery store to grab a couple things, then wait for her to come out.

Options were freshman, JV, varsity, freshman-JV double roster, or the JV-varsity double.

Each player had a one-on-one with the coach where they learned their fate. She texted me about 45 minutes in asking if I was there. I said yes, but she didn’t come out for another 20 minutes, which concerned me. But when she came out she was with a few older girls who I knew would make varsity, and they were all laughing.

She got in the car, I asked how it went, and she just said, “Fine.”

“Well…what did you get?!?!” Jesus, this kid.

She made the JV team, one of only three freshmen to make it. When I asked her what the coach said to her she said that L had done a great job in preseason camp, was already a leader in the program, and she expected that she would get some varsity minutes this year. So not double-rostered but the window is open to play up. My expectation/assumption is that she will be the starting point guard for JV. The head coach had the girl who will start as PG for varsity guard the hell out of L all preseason to get her toughened up for high school ball.

Pretty cool! I was pumped and told her I was proud of her. She kind of blew me off, because this is what she expected, but I think she was pleased on the inside.

Thursday night she had four of her friends over, all of whom made varsity. She knows how to get in good with the older girls.

The first game is November 7. Practice goes up to 2.5 hours this week, plus they have JV and varsity scrimmages against another school Wednesday.

Other CHS Sports

The football state tournament began last week. Class 6A gets a week off before their tournament begins, so no game for CHS. The Irish open sectionals against an 0–9 team this Friday.

CHS had three other teams playing Saturday, two of which could affect how quickly L gets to at least sit the bench in a varsity game.

The girls soccer team was playing in semi-state, a week after knocking off the #1 team in Indiana. Two varsity basketball starters are on the soccer team, and if they won and made it to State, those girls would not be eligible for the first two basketball games of the year.[3] The volleyball team was playing in the regional round, and if they advanced to semi-state next week that would knock another varsity basketball starter out for two games.

Unfortunately – except for basketball, I guess – both teams lost. Soccer lost 1–0 to the #11 team (CHS was ranked #6), and #4 volleyball lost in five sets to the #6 team (they would have played #5 Saturday night if they won the morning match). So bummers there.

Boys soccer balanced that a bit, getting a 2–1 win to advance to State. But our girls don’t really know any of those kids so would have much rather one of the girls teams won.


LOL. That was an insane game, and I missed the entire first half which was apparently totally off the rails. If I was fully invested I would be pissed about the second pass interference call on the Browns’ final drive of the game. I wonder what that Twitter user I mentioned last week, who likes re-tread white quarterbacks more than first round draft picks who happen to be Black, thought of Gardner Minshew turning the ball over four more times this week.

  1. (Speaking in a Troy Aikman voice) Folks, I gotta tell ya, the Bearcats might really stink. They may well be 2–9 when the Jayhawks roll into town Thanksgiving weekend. Which means I probably just jinxed KU into an L. Idiot.  ↩
  2. My wife.  ↩
  3. In Indiana you have to participate in ten practices before you can play in a high school game. Even if you are coming from another varsity sport, which is super dumb to me. Those kids are in shape.  ↩
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