Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 333)

Reader’s Notebook + Thoughts On Cassettes


High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape – Marc Masters
A single-book focus for this entry, less because of the book’s quality than what it got me thinking about.

The book itself wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. Masters begins by laying out the history of the cassette tape and tape players. Then he dives into areas of music that were most affected by the popularity of the cassette: underground genres that found traction thanks the the easy production and distribution of tapes; copying and sharing licensed music; recording and collecting live performances; international music; and, of course, the mixtape. He closes by looking at the various cassette revivals of the past couple decades.

That was all fine, but the chapters often seemed repetitive as examples within each section were similar stories from different sources.

While I wasn’t enraptured by the content on my Kindle screen, my brain was working the entire time I was reading it.

I bought my first cassette in the summer of 1983, Def Leppard’s Pyromania. A lot of you know this story: I bought it on my annual visit to my grandparents’ homes in central Kansas, at the Wal-Mart in Great Bend. However, neither set of grandparents owned a tape player so I had to wait three weeks until I got home to listen to my purchase on my mom’s stereo. I had a knock-off Walkman that summer, but it was one of the models that only had a radio, not a tape player. Yet it was the same size as a Sony Walkman. What a weird product! I wonder what the price difference between it and one with a tape player was. I got my first boombox for Christmas later in 1983, but I don’t think I had a proper portable cassette player until 1985 or ’86.

I got my first CD player for Christmas in 1990. In those six-and-a-half years in between, there’s no telling how many cassette tapes I went through. I had a huge library of purchased cassettes, hundreds I would guess. I likely went through as many blank cassettes over that same period, recording music and shows off the radio, dubbing albums from friends, making mixtapes for myself and girls who weren’t as interested in me as I was in them, and even recording strange sounds found on my shortwave radio. If I did an Every Day Carry video in the mid–80s, there’s no doubt a key piece of my kit would have been a stack of blank tapes.

If you are a child of the Eighties, there are songs you can still hear today and remember where you cut off the beginning because you pressed the Pause button a moment too late when trying to record it from the radio, or recall the snippet of the song, DJ chatter, or commercial that came after when you were tardy ending the recording.

I remember wishing you could somehow peel back the layers of music on a tape to find the previous content you had recorded onto them. With music captured off the radio, this would be a time capsule for what I was listening to the fall of my freshman year, or whenever. With mixtapes you later recorded over, it would be fun to recall why you chose certain songs in certain spots.

I also wonder how many of those mixtapes I scattered into the world those girls hung onto. Even if they weren’t interested in me, did they like the music I sent them and let it become part of their lives for months or years down the line? “I should have dated D back in 1990. He had really good taste in music.” Or did they pitch them, or immediately record their own mixes over mine?

I’ve never got the cassette nostalgia trip because, to me, our fond memories are more about what we put on those tapes than the tapes themselves. Cassettes were cool in the Eighties. You could carry your newest one around in your pocket. But there was nothing special about the medium itself. Cassettes were prone to get stressed from too much rewinding and fast-forwarding, the young music fan quickly learning how to use a pencil to return it to its proper tension. Occasionally your player would eat the tape, and you hoped you caught it soon enough to carefully wind it back onto the spools, praying it wasn’t damaged in the middle of your favorite song. There was the ever-present hiss, that depending on the quality of the tape and your player could make it seem like you were listening to AM radio rather than FM. And plenty of other technological faults. Digital music, first on CDs and later on MP3’s, may have been sterile, but also had a much higher threshold for failure.

No, we don’t long for the cassette itself. There are no arguments that cassette music sounds better like there are with vinyl.[1] What we long for are all the memories on those old tapes.

Our relationship with music was definitely different in the era of the cassette. Some of that came with just being a kid. Unless you had a massive allowance, there was a limit to how many tapes you owned, or at least how many current ones. Until I got a job and went crazy buying tapes in 1987, I generally had a rotation of 2–4 current tapes that I would cycle through. When I bought the Miami Vice soundtrack, as one example, I listened to side one, flipped it to side two, then flipped it back and started again. For weeks at a time. Even when I’m really looking forward to a new album in the digital age, I find I listen to it far less frequently, even in the first few days it is out. And, of course, in the digital age with the limitless catalog of music to select from, we hit that moment of paralysis of trying to figure out what to listen to next. In the Eighties, if I got sick of the Miami Vice soundtrack, I only had so many other options.

Digital music doesn’t come with lyric sheets, either. With a tape, and later with CDs, part of the early listening process was pulling out the J-card and reading through the lyrics as you played the tape. It was always fun digging through the liner notes for hidden meanings and information about the band.

I never really thought about this until reading High Bias, but I think one way digital music can’t match cassettes is because tapes required a tangible device to be played on. You had to physically put the cassette into the player and press play. Until Auto Reverse came along you had to go change it to the other side 20–40 minutes later. When you wanted to change albums, it again took a physical effort. And you could sit and stare at your stereo, watching the spools turn, the tape pass the over magnetic head, and on some stereos the needle on the noise level gauge bouncing around.

Today, how many people still own a stereo? Modern “stereos” are most likely laptops and iPhones that send the sound to smart speakers or headphones/ear buds. I most often play music on my crappy little MacBook Air speakers. You find a file on your device, click a digital play button that gives no tactile feedback, and then the music app fades into the background. Maybe you listen while making dinner or doing housework. More likely when Spotify or Apple Music gets minimized, your attention moves to your email client, Twitter, or whatever work applications you are focused on. There is no direct physical connection to your music. You can’t feel the motors turning in the tape player, hear the whine of an aging player or tape that had been left in a hot car too long, no warmth from the tape deck.

None of these observations are offered with any judgement. There’s no real way to quantify what music medium is best. You can’t divorce their relative positives and negatives from the broader contexts that came with the ages of their primes.

Cassettes were more limited and may have forged a stronger connection with the music on them because of those restrictions. Counter that with the ability to play literally millions of songs at a moments notice on a device that isn’t much bigger than a cassette tape.

I haven’t owned a tape player since we sold the lake house six years ago. Even that one was messed up and I tossed my two large boxes of cassettes since it couldn’t play them properly. I can find just about every one of those albums on Spotify, and can play them at a moment’s notice.

It is the mixtapes I held onto for nearly 30 years that I miss. I still remember one I got from a friend sometime in 1988, filled with a DJ selection of all kinds of remixed hip-hop tracks strung together in a perfect, 30-minute show. It had been copied multiple times, and you had to crank the volume way up and battle serious tape noise to enjoy the tracks. I can’t even remember what most of those songs were. Even if I could, those remixes are probably lost forever, never having made it to the digital age.

I’m not one of those music fans that would dive into the cassette revival. But that era gave me too many wonderful musical memories to judge anyone who chooses to.


  1. An argument which is based purely on subjective qualities.  ↩

Tuesday Link

I spent much of the afternoon working through a long read that is probably best shared on its own.

I’m not sure when I first came across Maciej Cegłowski’s work. I know I used his Pinboard bookmarking service a several times, although never as a primary collection tool. At some point I discovered his writing, which is often amazing. I kicked in a few bucks for his Antarctic adventure, too.

He doesn’t write often – his most recent post before the one I’m sharing was 17 months ago – but when he does, you can guarantee it will be worth the considerable effort it takes to read it. His site features the tag line of “Brevity is for the weak,” which should be a warning for readers with short attention spans.

His new post is a scathing takedown of the current NASA/private partnership to return US astronauts to the moon. I don’t know shit about the science of space travel, but if even some of what Cegłowski writes is true, I struggle to believe that we’ll put a human on the moon anywhere close to the current timetable.

While this piece is deep, heavy on science, and long, Cegłowski fills it with sly, hilarious lines like these. He is a master of the simile.

Flying SLS is like owning a classic car—everything is hand built, the components cost a fortune, and when you finally get the thing out of the shop, you find yourself constantly overtaken by younger rivals.

What NASA is doing is like an office worker blowing half their salary on lottery tickets while putting the other half in a pension fund. If the lottery money comes through, then there was really no need for the pension fund. But without the lottery win, there’s not enough money in the pension account to retire on. The two strategies don’t make sense together.

So, like an aging crooner transposing old hits into an easier key, the agency has worked to find a ‘lunar-adjacent’ destination that its hardware can get to.

He can be funny without using similes, too.

And SLS is a “one and done” rocket, artisanally hand-crafted by a workforce that likes to get home before traffic gets bad.

The Lunacy of Artemis

Weekend Notes

Lots of notes from the past several days.


Travel Hoops

Pretty good weekend of hoops in Louisville. For the first time ever, we went 3–0 in pool play at a national event. We won our first game Friday by 11. It was a very tough, defensive contest that we controlled pretty much from the opening tip. However we only scored 28 points for the game, so it wasn’t the smoothest of performances. Giving up only 17 is decent, though.

Saturday we had two games, eight hours apart, which was not ideal for planning the day. We won game one by 10. Again controlled it pretty much the entire time. Our final game we won by 19, but led by just five early in the second half before we finally got things figured out. Both games we were in the mid–40s so a little more typical performances.

None of these teams were great, but we also could have lost any of those games just a year ago. It helps having some more size and for our returning girls to really be locked in.

Sunday morning we had a semifinal game against a team from Southeast Missouri. We watched part of one of their games Saturday and knew they were basically one girl on offense and really tough, pressure D. We figured it would be a good game we could win if we handled the pressure.

That was exactly how it worked out. We did not handle their pressure for about a five minute stretch in the first half and they ran out to an 11-point lead. On consecutive possessions we turned it over in the backcourt and they scored, which is just a killer.

Their one girl was exactly what we thought. She’s probably 6’1” but super fast. Most of her game is just grabbing a rebound and taking off, daring anyone to stop her. She killed us either beating our defense up the court, overwhelming whoever was guarding her, or making a great move to get by the primary defender and then no one was there to help. She hit one three and a couple free throws, but everything else was on a drive to the basket.

We were down nine at the half. Midway through the second half we finally started getting some stops. We got it the lead down to four points three times, but kept stalling there. Then L hit a 3 to bring us to within three. In the final 90 seconds L scored three times – once on a drive when she was also fouled but didn’t get the call,[1] once on a long two, and once when she hit two free throws after her shot barely rimmed out – to cut it to one. But each time we either gave up a basket or they hit two free throws when we fouled to put them on the line. We never had the ball down one or two.

Their best player hit a free throw with one second left to put them up two, then intentionally missed her second attempt. L got the rebound and made a full-court heave that only went about 60 feet. Worth noting we were playing on a college court, which is 10 feet longer than where the girls normally play. So her shot would have only been 20 feet short had we been on a high school court.

Bummer to lose, but a really good game. If we could have just weathered those five minutes – L was on the bench for that entire stretch, by the way – it could have been a different result.

Playing for the championship at a national tournament would have been cool,[2] but it was nice to leave Louisville at 10:00 AM and not have to hang around for a 1:00 game.

LB was fantastic all weekend. It was the best she’s ever played over multiple games. Friday she only scored four points, but finally hit a 3, her first in a real game since December! Seriously, it had been since before Christmas, nearly five full months. Sure, there weren’t any games from the last week of January until the first week of April, but you figure she would have made one in there somewhere.

She scored 12 and 11 on Saturday, hitting another 3 in each game. Then she had 14 on Sunday, hitting two threes and both of her free throws while getting three rebounds, two assists, and three steals. I was pumped afterwards, she was pissed that they lost. Perfect.

Overall she was 16–31 from the field, 5–12 from 3, 4–6 from the line. Again, likely the best she’s ever shot.

She had told me she thought the training she’s doing three nights a week had been helping, making her both stronger and more confident. For this weekend, at least, that seemed to be absolutely true.

Now travel takes a pause for a month, although she still has a week or two of training left. High school ball will start the first week of June. Right now it looks like they’ll lift weights 2–3 times a week, have one basketball workout, then, assuming she gets pulled into the varsity group for summer, play two nights a week in different leagues. I think it’s a good assumption she will be varsity for the summer since A) she deserves it and B) one of the varsity starting guards is a D1 soccer recruit and is usually traveling for soccer and skips basketball over the summer. Then two more out-of-town tournaments in July before this travel cycle wraps up.


Louisville

A few non-hoops stories from the weekend.

We stayed at an Econo Lodge downtown. This was again a tournament where you are required to stay at an “approved” hotel. And the PGA Championship was also in Louisville. So pickins was slim. I read good reviews of the Econo Lodge and figured it was better to take a chance, be downtown for activities, and less than ten minutes from the Expo Center as opposed to staying 30–40 minutes away as a lot of other teams were doing.

They must have paid someone to do those reviews because they were not accurate.

Our hotel was old, it smelled, and it was surrounded by homeless people. Our room smelled like people had been smoking weed in it for years. Friday night starting around 11–11:30 a bunch of kids showed up for what seems to have been a post-party. They ran around screaming and yelling for hours. I guess the cops finally came flying into the parking lot at 3:00 AM and cleared them all out. I think I had finally passed out about 2:45 so missed that excitement. I had Sentry Mode engaged on my Tesla and never got any alerts, so hoped all was well. Some of our other families said they saw kids taking pictures around it. I haven’t gone back to review the footage yet, mostly because I can’t figure out how to pull it up, but there weren’t any scratches, dents, or dings, so I figured it’s all good. I’m glad I could contribute to their fun.

Despite the smell, our room seemed clean, which is more important than dodging homeless men and dealing with hours of teenage noise. The AC worked sporadically so I went from sweaty to freezing every 30 minutes or so as it debated what temperature air to pump out.

So qualified success? We have some good stories!

There was actually a good pizza place across the street. We went there Friday after our game to eat and watch the Pacers game.

A bonus of the PGA being in town was the parking for that event was at the Expo center, too. Thus, for some reason, they weren’t charging parking. Two years ago when we played in the same event it was $35 to park for the weekend. I’m sure they’ll get us when we go back in July. It was $70 to get in the door for the weekend, though.

We had a very bougey breakfast Saturday. L and I grabbed some Starbucks and ate/drank it while charging the Tesla.

That evening we had a good team dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place. Not sure how, but they brought meals for 19 people out at the same time. A team of French Canadian girls rolled in while we were eating. One of their coaches saw our shirts and asked if we knew Jennifer Mathurin, sister of injured Pacer Bennedict Mathurin. She has done some work with girls youth programs in Indy, but isn’t directly associated with ours. He said she had played in his program when she was growing up in Montreal. Nice coincidence.


The Dreaded Procedure

I kicked off the weekend Thursday by having my second colonoscopy, seven years after #1. I put off the second because I’m lazy, justifying it by thinking since I was a little early with the first, I could be late with the second. All seems to have gone well. They did remove a couple polyps, like last time. Thankfully the biopsies came back clean.

The prep always sucks. I don’t mind the “stool time,” for lack of a better phrase. It’s the hunger and headaches that come with that bother me. Wednesday kind of sucked as I dealt with that. But Thursday was fine. Pro tip: pick a flavor of Gatorade you can tolerate but don’t love for your Metamucil dosing. After you suck down those two 32 ounce servings the night before and morning of, the taste is kind of disgusting. You don’t want to ruin your preference for a good flavor.

After my first scope, it took me hours to shake the anesthesia. I only vaguely remember leaving the facility and riding home. My first real memory was saying something at the dinner table and everyone laughing at me because it was, apparently, the third time I had said the same thing.

This time I bounced back pretty quickly. There were some hazy moments in the recovery room, but I clearly remember it being like someone flipped a switch and I was suddenly awake and talking to my nurse. We had a real good conversation, as I recall. It didn’t hurt that she was nice to look at.[3] But later I realized I have no memory of getting dressed. I’m pretty sure I did it on my own. If a pretty nurse helped me get dressed I sure hope I would remember it. Don’t tell S.

Before my scope seven years ago, a friend who had already been through it told me to plan on stopping for some kind of good food on my way home to reward myself for two days of fasting. Which I obviously couldn’t do since I was still sleepy. Thursday, though, I was wide awake, ordered Culver’s from my phone and had S stop there on the way home to pick up a shake, burger, and fries. Which tasted amazing!

I took a couple brief naps in the afternoon but otherwise seemed pretty normal. I slept like a baby Thursday night and was pretty much normal again on Friday for the drive south.

When I weighed in before we left for the surgery center, I was down six pounds! Just in time for pool season!


PACERS!!!!!!!

I’ll admit, I was totally prepared to be let down Sunday. Especially since we made it home in time to watch Pacers-Knicks game seven. Even when the Pacers jumped out to an early lead, shooting nearly 80% in the first quarter, I figured it wouldn’t last. Surely they would start tossing up bricks, Jalen Brunson would score 50, every close call would go against the Pacers, the Nova Knicks would shove with impunity, and the Pacers would slink back home for the off-season.

I was kind of right: the Pacers cooled off to shoot just 67.1% for the game, an NBA Playoffs record. They answered every Knicks run. Tyrese Haliburton turned into the Hali from before his January injuries. The bench was gigantic. The Knicks ran out of steam, other than Donte DiVincenzo, and Brunson’s body finally let him down, his left hand breaking when he tried to prevent a Haliburton break-away layup.

Massive win for the Pacers. This was supposed to be a year to just get back into the playoffs. Instead they are four wins from the NBA Finals. The #1 seed Boston Celtics block their path. It feels like a Celtics in five pick. However, a non-Pacers friend texted me Sunday evening saying he fully expects whatever voodoo magic the Pacers are working with to cause Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown to get hurt in the next week. Giannis didn’t play in round one and Dame missed two games. The Knicks started the series with a ton of injuries and seemingly added another each game along the way. I would be worried if I was a Celtics fan.

I felt terrible for Brunson. You can’t help but respect that dude, even with all his flopping. He works so damn hard and takes on such a huge role for that team, and makes tough bucket after tough bucket. And as much as I hate Jason Hart and DiVincenzo, I give them grudging respect for how hard they play. Granted, they foul on every possession and somehow never get called for it. This series generated flashbacks to the KU-Villanova Elite 8 game I went to in, coincidentally, Louisville, when the Wildcats somehow ran through every KU screen and were never called for a foul. It’s like the refs let it go the first time because they can’t believe anyone would be so brazen, then realize they can’t call it later in the game because they didn’t in the first half. Not that I’m still bitter about a game that was eight years ago…[4]

And how about Minnesota ripping off a 54–24 run in the second half to come from 20 down to knock out the defending champs? I never expect the Nuggets to be the team to fall apart in their season’s biggest moments.


PGA

I guess it was a good tournament. I saw bits and pieces here and there over the weekend. It was a little weird to be so close to the tournament without seeing much of it.

But, HOLY SHIT, the Scottie Scheffler kerfuffle! Obviously this in no way compares to another Louisville Police Department fuck up. Or others if you want to dig into their history. Still, what an absolute shit-show. Saturday when we were navigating to the parking lot there were a bunch of LPD officers directing traffic. You can be damn-sure I followed their instructions to the letter.

Obviously this is going to get “fixed” soon. Major props to Scheffler for handling it with absolute aplomb. Shooting a 65 after spending a few hours in jail is one of the most impressive things he’s ever done. He fell apart Saturday and you have to wonder if the stress of Friday caught up with him. He finished eight shots behind winner Xander Schauffele, so I doubt it cost him the tournament. But you never know how things would have turned out if he had been in the final group, or simply closer to Schauffele, and able to put pressure on him Sunday.

I also had to laugh at how many people were screaming “Free Scottie!” Friday who probably have performative Blue Lives Matter stickers on their vehicles, think George Floyd got what he deserved, and that Black Lives Matters is a terrorist group without legitimate complaints. And how a lot of these people suddenly took eye witness accounts that were completely different than the official police report very seriously when an affluent, white golfer was involved. America, baby!


  1. One of our other parents got a video and you can hear me yelling “AND ONE!!!” I’m generally more laid back at games than I have been in recent years, but for a moment I was That Dad again.  ↩
  2. That sounds cooler than it actually is. There are literally hundreds of teams in every age group at these tournaments. To win the “championship,” L’s team had to win their pool, win a semifinal game against another pool winner, then beat a team that won their semifinal. So this represented just four pools out of eight. And this was just in our division within the 2027 age bracket. There were four different ’27 divisions. I’m not sure if all the others had eight pools but assuming they did, that means there were eight champions just for current freshmen this weekend. I think there are even more teams in the middle school divisions. Wild.  ↩
  3. I’m sorry.  ↩
  4. As you well know I can get all fired up about games from way longer ago than eight years.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 100

Chart Week: May 15, 1987
Song: “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – Crowded House
Chart Position: #15, 18th week on the chart. Peaked at #2 for one week in April.

A few months ago, as I moved into posts 90-plus in this series, I considered whether I should do something special for number 100. Then I realized that since these entries are pretty sporadic, there was no way to predict where in the calendar we would be until we got to Volume 100.

Amazingly, organically, without any effort on my part – I swear! – it coincides with me hearing a couple countdowns from the spring of 1987. Both of which featured my all-time favorite song at or near its peak.

You may laugh when I reference the Music Gods. They are real, though, and they are mighty.

I’ve written about how much “Don’t Dream It’s Over” means to me several times over the years. A quick refresher: it arrived on the radio shortly after I started classes at my new high school in the Bay Area. I struggled to make friends right away, and I was bummed that all my California dreams had not come true the instant I set foot in the Golden State. As this record climbed the Hot 100 that spring, Neil Finn’s bittersweet lyrics and music resonated with me.

What struck me most was how the song addressed the loneliness and disappointment inside me, while also serving as a guide for climbing out of that depression. Even when Finn is singing about being overwhelmed and let down, there is a strong thread of resilience and even defiance in his music. If you can just hang on through the bad times, he seemed to be saying, better ones are sure to come.

Finn is one of the greatest pop songwriters of any era, and he packs so many wonderful elements into “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” There’s his opening riff, which sets the tone for the bumpy ride that is ahead, descending notes immediately followed by ascending ones. There is the way his vocals convey emotion, sounding weary and resigned in the first two verses, then strong and hopeful in the choruses and final verse. Mitchell Froom’s melancholic organ solo is countered by Finn’s bright, optimistic guitar. There’s the single-beat pause in the final verse, a simple yet brilliant choice. As the tune slowly fades, Finn and the backing vocals are lifting you up while Froom’s organ is again in opposition. Finn is economical, yet loads each lyric with great meaning.

Ironically, for as much as I love “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” and as much as it has meant to me for the last 37 years, I’m having a hard time writing about it. That’s probably for the best. No one needs me breaking it down, line by line, throwing all that accumulated history at each of Finn’s words.

Neil Finn is one of the most important artists in my musical life. I adore so much of what he’s done in his career, from the songs he wrote as a teenager for his big brother Tim’s band Split Enz,[1] to the three eras of Crowded House, then again with Tim as The Finn Brothers, to his excellent solo work, to the 7 Worlds Collide project.[2] My own Neil Finn Greatest Hits collection would stretch for 30 tracks? Forty? More?

In a career filled with magnificent, perfect, pop tunes, this is his crown jewel.

Hey now, hey now, it is a 10/10.

As a bonus, this is the final time the band’s original members performed the song together, closing their Farewell to the World concert in 1996 in front of a quarter million fans at the Sydney Opera House.


  1. “I Got You,” and “History Never Repeats” being the best.  ↩
  2. Can’t say I’ve paid much attention to whatever he’s done with Fleetwood Mac.  ↩

Wednesday Links

Several car articles, since I’m still in that mode. I’ll slip those stories to the bottom if you aren’t super interested in them.


I’m not a government hater, but shit like this makes me furious. You would think the possibility of preventing the most prevalent forms of cancer would get all our branches of government to move quicker.

The Food and Drug Administration’s ability to approve the chemical filters in sunscreens that are sold in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and France is hamstrung by a 1938 U.S. law that requires sunscreens to be tested on animals and classified as drugs, rather than as cosmetics as they are in much of the world.

When Will America Get Better Sunscreens?


I don’t really get the whole Drake-Kendrick Lamar thing because I am old. But I enjoyed reading about the 30-or-so percent of these that I know.

The Greatest Diss Tracks of All Time, Ranked


Spotify’s recommendation engine has seemed off to me for several months. I’m not quite ready to go down this route, but I’m glad there are still options if you want to find curated music.

Why the Radio Is Still Better Than the Spotify Algorithm


I might dive into this the next time my periodic insomnia pops up.

The Northwoods Baseball Radio Network
Is On The Air.


I don’t love this writer’s style, and it seems like it could have used a pass from a better editor. I also think he undersells the role of the Chinese government in propping up their auto industry. But he makes some provocative and, I think, quite fair points about how the US is falling behind China in EVs, and how our only strategy to compete is by taxing the hell out of Chinese cars to protect our market.

Instead of competing, they’d rather just shut out competition entirely. The concerns about cybersecurity don’t address the elephant in the room here: Your product sucks, compared to what China is putting out now. It doesn’t go as far. It’s not as well-made. It’s not as nice. It’s not as connected.

I Went To China And Drove A Dozen Electric Cars. Western Automakers Are Cooked


Short sighted, fear mongering assholes.

Republicans are pulling out all the stops to reverse EV adoption


This is really dumb on multiple levels. Someone made a mistake, and Hertz refuses to do the human thing and fix it. Between this and Hertz’s issues trying to get customers arrested for not turning in cars that had, indeed, been turned in, I think I’ll avoid them the next time I rent a car.

A rare article when it is worth reading the comments, especially the one from the guy who Hertz screwed over.

UPDATE: Hertz is allegedly working to fix this. But IT SHOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED!!!

Hertz Charges Tesla Model 3 Renter $277 Fee for Gas, Won’t Back Down

Reader’s Notebook, 5/14/24


Reckless – Chrissie Hynde
While doing my research for the recent RFTS post about The Pretenders, I came across several references to Hynde’s memoir. As soon as I completed that post, I checked and, LO!, the ebook was available at the library. I got it onto my Kindle and knocked it out over the next 36 hours.

It is a great, if limited where it really counts, rock memoir. Hynde shares pretty much everything she experienced in life, good and bad. From her traditional childhood in Ohio to her discovery of music and the alternative lifestyles available on college campuses in the early Seventies. I’m not sure I knew she was a student at Kent State and one of her friends was among those killed when Ohio National Guard troops fired on students during Vietnam protests. She shares her discovery of drugs and sex, and how there wasn’t much in those realms that she didn’t dabble in. She never asks for the reader’s forgiveness or expresses much regret about her actions, even those that seem pretty harrowing in retrospect. It was just the journey she was on and those experiences are what turned her into the woman and artist she became.

I say the book is limited because it takes her a long time to get to her actual career as a musician. There are lots of starts and stops in that aspect of her life, especially when she moves to England and works with a number of artists who go onto create legendary bands of the punk area right after they stop working with her. The Clash. The Sex Pistols. The Damned. The Slits. Chrissie Hynde worked with members of each group before they became the bands who became famous.

Finally, in the last quarter of the book, she finds three musical partners in crime and forms The Pretenders. Their success is quick but the lifespan of the core four is brief. She basically ends the book after the band fires Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott dies. The Pretenders had most of their biggest hits after the summer of 1982, but she glosses over everything that came after those terrible days in July.

Hynde has been through a lot. There is a Keith Richards quality to her life. After learning the details, you wonder how the hell she is still alive to tell her story and continue singing her songs. Her frankness and acceptance of all that she has been through make this a compelling read.



Crooked Seeds – Karen Jennings
My latest “Critically Acclaimed Book I Didn’t Quite Get.” There might be a reason I’ve never been in a book club…

This book centers on a disabled woman in modern South Africa struggling to get through her daily life. Police show up and begin asking questions about her past and force her to confront some ugly truths about her family’s history at the end of the Apartheid era. Along the way we learn how she became disabled, and how that is tied to an extremely problematic episode in that family timeline.

I know Jennings was making some broad statements about the ugliness of both the Apartheid era and how the promise of the New South Africa got trampled upon pretty quickly. I just didn’t find any of the characters to be interesting. I kept searching for ways to be sympathetic, especially to the main character, but never could connect with her.



The Bitter Past – Bruce Borgos
As with Crooked Seeds, this tells a story from two different time perspectives. The first is a modern investigation into a brutal murder of a retired FBI agent in rural Nevada. It soon becomes apparent that the murder was done by a Russian agent searching for a turned Soviet spy from the 1950s. The local sheriff, who had served as an Army intelligence officer and did a tour in Russia, with assistance from an FBI agent, is tasked with finding the modern Russian before they can kill again.

In parallel we are told the story of the 1950s Soviet agent, who infiltrates the US nuclear testing program in Nevada with the goal of creating an accident that kills thousands of civilians and turns the American public against the nuclear weapons program. This may surprise you, but he has misgivings. And, obviously, he is still alive in 21st Century Nevada so something happened to keep him in the States.

A few of Borgos’ plot elements are pretty clumsy. Their clumsiness makes the twists in the final quarter of the book apparent from a long way away. Yet it’s still an interesting story, and I read most of it near the pool over the weekend, so I didn’t mind that clumsiness. It was just fine for sitting in the sun and turning virtual pages without having to remember too many details.

Weekend Notes

A nice weekend here in Indy. I know eventually it will come back to bite us in the ass, but this is like the fifth or sixth straight season here that has been terrific. It got warm early but didn’t turn into summer in April. We’ve had a few cooldowns but none of those surprise weeks when you go from shorts and tees to coats and hats again. All that after a mild winter, a normal fall, a terrific summer, another nice spring, and I believe a relatively warm winter a year ago. Mother Nature is loading up for something big.

The pool has been open since Monday and by Friday the water was both warm and filtered enough to get in. L had friends over Friday night, and after spending the night they hung around to swim Saturday. We hosted S’s dad and stepmom for dinner Saturday night. Sunday we hung out around the pool, with two of the local nephews coming over to get their first swims of the year in.


Kid Props

I mentioned Friday that I had to attend a function Friday morning. I went into school early with L to attend the Blessed Basil Moreau awards ceremony. We knew she would receive an award. We were not told what it was for or who had nominated her when we got the invitation.

When we arrived her religion teacher, Mrs. K, strolled over and sat with us. She had both M and C in her classes, so we chatted a bit about them.

The ceremony began and Mrs. K went to the podium and asked L to join her. She said a series of nice things about L’s attitude, leadership, and dedication. She said L was the kind of kid you wished you had 24 more of in class. She then shared a specific example of L’s behavior.

One day L saw one of her friends getting picked on in class. L didn’t think that was right, so she went and sat with her friend, calmed her down, got her back on track, and after class let Mrs. K know about the situation.

That all sounded pretty good.

After the ceremony I asked for the whole story.

“It was T,” she said, referring to a basketball teammate who is autistic and has been targeted by a few mean girls this year. “This little bitch was picking on her because she knows T won’t say anything back to her. So I went over and shut that shit down.”

Even prouder, especially for how she related what happened! Of course, if Mrs. K had heard that version she might not have nominated L for the award!

Now L is a part of the Holy Cross council at CHS. Not sure exactly what that entails but she acted mock put out about it. “More meetings,” she sighed.

As a parent you hope that your kids have a strong set of core values and that they will speak up when those values are violated. One of the things I am most proud of is that our girls do exactly that. When they see friends in need, they help them. They all, to a certain extent, are wiling to confront people who they think are being assholes.

It’s one thing to convey these lessons to your kids. It’s another for them to have the strength to stand up for their values when presented with an opportunity. Our girls aren’t perfect, but it gives me immense satisfaction that my primary job for the last 20 years has not been in vain.


Pacers

I was pretty pissed after the first two games of the Pacers-Knicks series. Yes, there were a lot of bad calls, most of which seemed to go against the Pacers. I mean, how do referees get kicked ball calls wrong against the same team, in clutch moments, in two straight games? And how do they claim they can’t correct an incorrect call one night, when it goes against the Pacers, then stop the game to huddle up and correct an incorrect call two nights later when it allows the Knicks to keep the ball in the final two minutes of a close game?

But, let’s be honest: bad calls or not, the Pacers lost the first two games because they couldn’t block out on the boards or stay in front of anyone on defense. They reverted to December Pacers ball, thinking they could just score 150 and win by two. That shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. At least not usually.

After two games in Indy, though?

WHOOOOO DOCTOR, WE’VE GOT A SERIES!!!!

An incredibly frustrating and tense game Friday, with the Pacers jumping out early, giving the lead up, getting another cushion just after halftime, then not only blowing that but finding themselves down nine points with nine minutes to play. Were they going to get swept? They righted the ship, made some big plays, and Andrew Nembhard threw in a prayer of a 3 with 17 seconds left to break the final tie.

The Knicks are about as banged up as you can be so there was no reason for this game to be close. Yet the Pacers’ refusal to even pretend to play defense killed them.

Sunday all that switched. The Knicks looked injured, tired, and short-handed. The Pacers defense was nearly as good as their offense. The lead was 20 points in the first quarter. It was around 40 points much of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen in the NBA: both teams cleared their benches early and just let those cats roll for 12 minutes. It was not scintillating basketball. Pacers fans didn’t care.

Two-two, going back to New York.

You figure there’s going to be a huge swing after game four. The Knicks can’t play that poorly again, can they? The Pacers can’t play that good on the road, right? It feels like this series is going seven, unless either Tyrese Haliburton’s or Jalen Brunson’s bodies completely fail on them and their teams are forced to play without them.


Northern Lights

We missed them here. Friday evening it was mostly cloudy in our part of Indy. I walked outside several times between 10 and midnight but never had a clear view of the sky. Where the low level clouds had gaps, higher clouds were reflecting the ground light and preventing any glimpses of the colors. I saw great pictures that people got not too far from our home, so had I hopped in the car and driven even 20 minutes I could have seen the spectacular views on my own.

But it was late, I was fired up after the Pacers game, and had drank a beer. Bad combos for an old man. Probably best to stay at home.

Saturday our skies were crystal clear but the lights weren’t as intense in our part of the state. Again, I could have taken a drive but M and one of her friends tried that without success so I stayed home.

Bummer. I’ve never seen the Northern Lights in person and this weekend’s show seems like it was one of the best in memory. Seeing them would have been a nice companion to watching the eclipse last month.

Blog Archives

For some reason I got out of my routine of reading through my posts from 20 years ago in February. This weekend I caught up on three months of blogging from 2004. It was fun to read through a lot of pregnancy posts. I was surprised how much I wrote about American Idol and The Bachelor. That was the one spring I watched both of those shows.

Anyway, if you’re ever really bored, a reminder that I have nearly 21 years of archives you can read through. Could be good for nights you can’t sleep. Probably better than white noise for easing you into a slumber.

Car Notes

I could write about the Pacers-Knicks series today. But given how the first two games have left me royally pissed off, I think you all would rather read more car content rather than me bitching about the referees or the Nova Knicks or how the Pacers refuse to play defense or block out guys four inches shorter than them.


Another Addition

For roughly 60 hours we were a five-car family.

Saturday S and I were browsing through the options for M and we found a Mazda CX-5 that checked almost every box at the CarMax in Cincinnati. That made us laugh. It was listed as a free shipping option so after double-checking its inspection and vehicle history reports, I put in for it to be shipped to Indy.

It left Cincy at 9:00 Monday morning. I test drove it at 3:30 that afternoon. M drove it home around 5:30.

It is a year newer than the CX–5 she drive for two years and that C drives now. It is listed as the same trim level but is missing a few features that C’s has. It seems like it is in great shape. You wouldn’t guess it was a rental for nearly 30,000 miles from its exterior or interior appearance.

I tried to surprise M. She was doing some work for an aunt and when she got home I told her I needed her help with an errand. I tried to hide my checkbook but she saw it, and when I told her to bring her purse she said, “Are we getting a car?”

So she wasn’t surprised but she is happy. Now she needs to get a job that is more regular and pays better than occasionally helping family and friends do things around the house.


Adios, Audi

We took my Q5 back to the dealer this morning, putting us back at four cars. My favorite car I’ve ever had, and it treated me pretty well over the past three years.

I drove it a lot this week, because M accidentally filled it almost all the way up when she put gas in it last week and I wanted to use as much of the fuel I paid for as possible. Still fun to drive, but after driving a Tesla for three weeks, the transmission lags are even more noticeable and frustrating.

While we were waiting on the dealer to check the odometer and finish the paperwork I looked at a nice Q8 that was in the showroom. It will only set you back $90,000!

When I pulled into a parking spot there was a white Q5 in the next spot that had the exact same KU license plate holder. I think it was in for service, because I didn’t see anyone lingering around so couldn’t talk Jayhawk hoops or realignment rumors with its owner.


Tesla Updates

More notes from the new car.

Charging has been super easy. I used the Supercharger around the corner once, before my home charger arrived. Then I used them each time I’ve been to Cincinnati. That could not be simpler. At home I’m keeping the battery charged between 20–80%, which is supposed to be ideal for normal use. So far that’s meant plugging in about once a week, a little more often when L has basketball games over the weekend. My app tells me that at roughly 1400 miles, I’ve saved about $150 compared to gas.

I dig being able to control the climate system from my phone. At basketball last week I got warnings that the interior temperature had surpassed 100 and the fans had kicked on. When L’s games ended, I turned on the AC from inside the gym. In the five minutes it took to walk to the car, the climate system had cooled it to a pleasant 71 degrees inside.

One big annoyance is Tesla’s reliance on Google Maps. Remember when Google Maps were so much better than Apple’s? But years of a bazillion people using iPhones has shifted that. The traffic conditions color coding on Google Maps never seems right. Sunday we pulled into a lengthy slowdown on the interstate. Google gave no warning and showed traffic speeds as normal. Other times I’ll approach an area that shows lots of reds and oranges, indicating slowdowns only to find normal traffic when I pass through. Not sure where they get their info from, but it always seems to be wrong.

I used to laugh when Apple Maps would show heavy traffic in the neighborhood around St. P’s before pickup. It was just dozens of parents parked on the side streets, waiting for the lot to open, scrolling through Twitter on their iPhones that created those “traffic jams.”

One of the many rabbit holes I fell into during my car search was watching car wash videos. I’m not sure how I landed there, but through the process I bought a foam cannon, some microfiber towels, and some good car soap. After both Cincinnati trips I washed the Tesla in the driveway. I wouldn’t say the job was perfect, but the car looked pretty damn good when I was done!

What’s funny about me turning into a Home Car Wash Guy is that a Crew Carwash opened up three blocks from our house in April. It is safe take Teslas through automatic washes; there’s even a special Car Wash Mode to make it easier. I think I’ll save that for the winter, though, and keep doing the driveway thing for now. It takes maybe 15 minutes and is kind of relaxing.

Dark Matter

We are nearly three weeks out from the release of Pearl Jam’s Dark Matter. As an OG PJ head, I should probably do a review. Especially since I’ve been listening to it daily over that entire stretch.[1]

title

That last sentence could be the entire review. For the first time since 2006’s self-titled album, a Pearl Jam disk has stuck with me for more than just the few days after its release. As much as the band has meant to me over the past 30+ years, I haven’t had much patience for their post–2006 albums. They each featured one or two songs I liked but little about the entire works made me want to play them on repeat.

That is very different with Dark Matter.

In his review, Steven Hyden made a great point. For a band that is, arguably, the best live group in the business, their recent albums have lacked the spark and sense of fun and community that characterizes their concerts. It wasn’t just that the songs weren’t as good as the ones from their Nineties heyday. It also seemed like the band was trying too hard to force too many ideas into each one, and that weight kept the albums from being very engaging.

Producer Andrew Watt fixed that, though. He produced Eddie Vedder’s 2022 solo album, a collection of songs that was shockingly good and enjoyable. While recording, Vedder realized he had tapped into something special, and invited his PJ bandmates into the studio to catch the vibe. When it came time to record their next album, they agreed to bring Watt in for assistance.

Watt kept them on a tight schedule. He wanted to capture that spirit of the live shows. Instead of taking months or even years to make the album, as has been the case over the past decade, he and the band cranked out Dark Matter in just three weeks.

Even if the songs weren’t good, you hear that kinetic force throughout the album, setting it apart from their last three disks.

That’s the thing, though. There are a lot of really good songs on Dark Matter.

I’ve already shared my love for “Wreckage” and “Waiting For Stevie” in recent Friday Playlists. Those are two of the best songs they’ve ever done, let alone in the back half of their career.

Lead single “Dark Matter” was the rare “old band trying to prove they can still rock” track that actually worked.

Opener “Scared of Fear,” while ostensibly about someone who is drifting away because of addiction or maybe just indifference, features a chorus that is a perfect statement for a band full of guys who are nearing 60 but once defined a generation:

We used to laugh, we used to sing
We used to dance, we had our own theme

We used to laugh, we used to sing
We used to dance, we used to believe

The chorus is anchored by a classic Jeff Ament pop-punk bass riff, with Stone Gossard roaring in to match him.

Matt Cameron’s drumming sounds better than it’s ever sounded.[2] Mike McCready’s solos remind you of all the great ones from the hits, without being derivative.

I’ve watched a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm over the past few months, and I can’t help but channel Leon Black when describing the music on Dark Matter: these cats are locked the fuck in.

Eddie Vedder sounds great, too. The best he’s sounded in years. His songs are a little more universal than they used to be, which means a critical reading of his lyrics shows they may not match his best from the first few albums. But they work. And his voice and music more than make up for any lyrical flaws.

“Got To Give” and “Won’t Tell” are poppy tracks refined enough they would likely be big radio hits if rock music still had a home on radio.

The album ends with “Setting Sun,” a track that begins as a gentle, fireside ballad and grows into a soaring affirmation of life and loyalty to each other.

I love thinking about last tracks from the perspective of “If this was the band’s last album, how would this hold up?” Thinking, mostly, of the close of Abbey Road with its melody that leads up to “The End.” That was quite a way to go out.

I don’t think Pearl Jam is going anywhere any time soon. But were this to be their final album, “Setting Sun” would be a fitting way to say goodbye, especially with Eddie repeating “Let us not fade…” as the song ends.

From start-to-finish the band sounds as energized and connected as they have in years. Or, more properly, as energized and connected in the studio as they have for years. Watt got them to relax and stop worrying about Making Statements with their songs and, instead, just discover some good grooves and melodies and turn those into great songs.

Dark Matter won’t have the cultural impact of Pearl Jam’s first three albums, nor will it sell as many copies. But it is their most accessible and satisfying album of the 2000s. It is an album made to satisfy both the long time fans who followed them through the many twists and turns of their career and also those who stopped paying attention around Vitalogy and have longed for good songs that rock and hit you in the heart since 1994.[3]


  1. According to Last.fm, I’m approaching 200 Pearl Jam tracks listened to over that span. Some of those are legacy tracks Spotify is spitting at me, but most are from Dark Matter.  ↩
  2. Not a drumming expert, but I’ve always found his style to be a little clinical and sterile. This is the first time since he joined Pearl Jam that he feels massive and on the verge of being unhinged. Which is a very good thing.  ↩
  3. I have a buddy who is far more into heavier rock that I ever have been. He loved the first two PJ albums but never had time for their politics or their various artistic diversions over the years. Out of the blue he texted me over the weekend with this: “New Pearl Jam is pretty good.”  ↩

Weekend Notes

Kid Hoops

Teenagers are funny. One day they are on top of the world, the next everything is shit.

That might be a little dramatic but it kind of sums up the weekend for L’s travel team. Saturday they played great, winning their two games by a combined 22 points. They should have one the first by 20+ – they got to a running clock midway through the second half – but turned sloppy and let the lead slip to single digits before stretching it out in the end. We had a girl score 22 points in this game.

In the second game was the third against this team this season. Game one was a one-point win. Game two was a two-point loss. Saturday our gurls controlled most of the game. They had a 10-point lead midway through the second half. Again, they got sloppy and let the other team come all the way back to tie. But then we controlled the last 3–4 minutes of the game to win comfortably by eight.

Things were clicking Saturday. L wasn’t great scoring – 0 in the first game, 4 in the second – but had four rebounds and three assists in game one despite battling some light headedness that caused her to miss much of the second half. In game two she played great defense, was getting to the rim, and was a little unlucky to miss two makable layups while making two tough ones.

Then, Sunday, in the game to make bracket play, our girls just looked lost. We played another slow-ish, patient, tough defensive team. And we shrunk from the challenge. They let the other team get soooo many rebounds and loose balls. We got a tough whistle in the first half and it seemed to make about half the team afraid to dig in on defense.

We trailed by ten about five minutes into the second half. Each time we tried to mount a comeback it was undone by a missed blockout, a failure to get back on the break, or a missed layup. We strung a few shots together and finally got a real rally together, getting it to four with the ball with about 5:00 left. Then we fell apart, losing by 14. In the closing minutes we gave up at four completely uncontested layups when they broke our pressure and the girls who were playing the back line didn’t stop the ball.

On the ride home L was pissed. I saw her yelling at people after one of those unguarded layups. She said she was mad because only four or five girls play hard on every play. She was mad because we have two or three girls who are almost guaranteed to turn the ball over if they end up with it. And she was mad that our tall girls don’t rebound. “That’s the only reason they are on the team and they just stand there and watch.”

It was kind of awesome. She had a decent game, scoring six but not doing anything else in the boxscore. She played really good defense, again, and was solid when she was running the offense. I think she was also frustrated because she knows if she scored 10–15 points, she could really lay into people.

Weird that they were so good Saturday, and so bad Sunday. I know the other team had something to do with it but our girls just did not seem engaged or willing to fight. Again, teenagers.


Kid Tennis

C got to play her three matches of the high school tennis season over the past 10 days. They went about as well as you would expect for a kid who never practices.

They lost match one a week ago, 6–1, and I have no idea how they won that single game. The other team must have felt bad and given them a game on the scorecard because I don’t remember them dropping one. Then she played two matches last Wednesday at the school across the street from us. These were eight game, single set matches and she and her teammate lost 8–3 and 8–6. They should have won that second match but C’s partner seemed checked out, totally ignoring balls that were hit right at her. I was ready to yell at her but since it is JV tennis just quietly fumed and asked C, “What was up her ass?” when we got home.

Oh well. Not sure C enjoys it as much as M, but I’m glad her back condition has improved enough where she can get out and move around without complaining about pain.


Pacers

Hey, they did it! After dropping a massive turd in game five – getting crushed by the Bucks who were playing without Dame and Giannis – the Pacers controlled almost all of game six, blowing out the Bucks in the last 14 minutes or so of the game, to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time in six years.

Kind of crazy how consistently good the Pacers were the first 10–12 years I lived here, brawl years excepted, and then how mediocre they’ve been since that. Nice to have them winning playoff series again. The Knicks aren’t in the best of health, which makes them a decent matchup if the Pacers remember to play defense.

I missed almost all of game six, although I was about a mile from Gainbridge Fieldhouse. We went to a fundraiser for a program a friend of ours is on the board for, hosted at Victory Field during an Indianapolis Indians game. We were up in a terrace, so spent more time socializing and eating than watching baseball. That was a bummer because it was a nearly perfect night for baseball. We also missed the top pitching prospect in the minors by two nights.

I did try to keep my eye on the big TV out in the lobby that showed the Pacers game. It got a little awkward when they brought all the attendees into the lobby to hear the spiel for the program, which supports a trio of Catholic schools that serve kids from some of the worst economic parts of the city, and the muted TV was directly behind all the speakers. You could tell who the hoops fans were by how we shifted our bodies to follow the action.


A Trip to Miami

M and two of her high school friends jumped in a car and traveled to Oxford, OH to visit two of their buddies who attend Miami. Miami still has another week of school, so it was the perfect chance for people to visit. M said she saw several friends from high and middle school who were also visiting Miami pals.

She had fun. She still thinks Oxford is too small. But she was impressed with how it has more bars than the area of Cincinnati around UC. Glad she’s focused on the important things.


Pool

Our pool is scheduled to be opened today. Probably two weeks too late given how the weather has been. We’ll see if the heavy rain holds off long enough for our guys to show up and get it cranking.

I did the second power wash of the season to get all the pollen and crap off of the cover yesterday. The water didn’t seem super cold, so I’ll be interested to see what the temperature starts at when they turn the heater on. Last year it was 57. As warm as it’s been lately, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s in the mid–60s. Which means the heater might get the water to a swimmable temperature before the filter cleans out all the crap that has settled into the water over the winter.

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