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New Car Chronicles

Today marks two weeks in as an Audi owner. I owe you faithful readers of this series some thoughts.

The honeymoon is not over; I still love, love, love my Q5. It is pretty much everything I was looking for in a replacement for my Big Chevys.[1] Nimble, quick, comfortable. It has just enough sportiness to make it fun while remaining just big enough to have use as a family utility vehicle. All five of us rode in it to C’s graduation Wednesday and there were no complaints from the girls as they sat three across in the backseat.

It is far from a small car, but after six years in the Big Chevys, it feels tiny to me. According to my handy-dandy car research spreadsheet, the Q5 is 20 inches shorter in length, six inches narrower, and nine inches shorter in height compared to the Tahoe. I knew these numbers. But they really hit me the first time I walked into the garage and could actually see S’s Grand Cherokee on the far side. The Tahoe completely blocked her car from view. I should have taken a Before picture so you could see the difference, too.

Suddenly there’s a lot more space in our garage!

The Q5 is fun to drive. It accelerates like a whisper. Somewhere in my research I read that you have to be careful because it is very easy to be traveling faster than you think you are. Sure enough, I’ve caught myself cruising along thinking I was going right around the speed limit when I was actually beating it by 10–15 MPH. Unless you really stomp on the gas, it is a quiet, smooth trip through the gears to get up to speed.

The only minor driving quibble is how the engine can be a bit sluggish after it shuts down at a red light. There is a noticeable lag in acceleration as the systems come back up. I believe this is a common issue with most cars that have the Auto Stop function enabled. In comparison, however, S’s Grand Cherokee seems to return to full power much quicker when you step off the brake.

While the driving experience is important, it’s all the bells and whistles that make getting a new car fun.

My sales guy took me on an orientation drive so he could show me how the adaptive cruise control and driver’s assist technologies operate. Under the right conditions they bring the car really damn close to being self-driving. With him in the driver’s seat and all the features engaged, we travelled for several miles, in traffic, with him barely having to use his feet or hands. The forward cameras locked onto the car ahead of us and accelerated or braked to keep us following at a safe margin. The side cameras kept us in our lane by nudging the steering wheel. He did have to take control when we came to a curve or intersection but otherwise he let the car do almost all the driving. At one point he even turned his body completely around like he was getting something out of the backseat and we kept cruising along at 45 with cars all around us.

I did not like this at all! I’m a pretty controlling driver and all of this trust of the car’s systems was too much for me. He asked me if I wanted to give it a shot and I politely declined.

I have used a subset of these features, Traffic Jam Assist. The main road we take to St. P’s every day is under major construction, reducing it from three lanes to a single one and turning what was normally a seven minute drive into closer to 15 minutes of stop-and-go traffic. I’ve used TJA to control the car at these low speeds. I keep my hands on the wheel but the Q5 brakes and accelerates on its own as the traffic crawls forward. Although a little unnerving the first time it eases the brakes on, I can deal with this at 15 MPH and slower.

Like most modern cars the Audi has a robust back-up camera and warning system. Where my Tahoe only had sensors on the front end, the Q5 has a forward-facing camera as well, which makes it much easier to pull into the garage without bumping into golf clubs, bikes, or walls.

It also has a top view camera system, which combines all the car’s various cameras and sensors to form a computer approximation of what your position looks like from above. It’s crazy! And super useful. The girls very much enjoy how the wide angle cameras on the sides of the car make objects directly to your right and left look 10 feet tall as it distorts them. This is a great aid for getting into and out of tight parking spots.

As soon as I got the car our weather turned hot. Which made me glad I sprung for the sports seats with ventilation. I’ve always been a fan of ass warmers in the winter. Now I have an ass cooler, too!

I love having wireless Apple CarPlay, although sometimes it can be a little wonky.

The Q5 also came with three months of free SiriusXM All Access service. I already pay for the lowest tier of SiriusXM, so it is nice to have all the channels for awhile. I’ve had the Pearl Jam station on a lot through the first two weeks. Sirius did mess up switching my account over and I had to spend an hour on their support chat line getting the trial re-started after they wiped it out. That’s a ding to Sirius, not Audi. This is at least the second time they’ve messed up moving our subscription from one car to another. You’d think it wouldn’t be so difficult.

This is our sixth car that came with a SiriusXM trial, and the Q5 is the first to come with the Tune Start feature. It’s pretty dope. Once your car has been running for a few minutes and everything gets loaded, each time you switch to one of your favorite stations, the station will back up to the beginning of the current song so you can hear the entire thing. Because what is worse than switching to a station and hearing the last 10 seconds of your favorite song?

I did not expect to enjoy the panoramic sunroof as much as I do. Normally I hate having sun shine directly down into my old man eyes while I drive, even with sunglasses on. However, the tint on the Q5’s glass seems to be a shade or two darker than the Tahoe’s, making it much more tolerable to drive with the sun shade open.

I knew there would be a large difference in cargo space. I was surprised in how those differences presented themselves.

To take full advantage of the Tahoe’s back end, you had to drop the third row. If you had more than four passengers, you really did not have much cargo space. From a fully capacity passenger aspect, the Q5 actually beats the Tahoe. Of course, if you dropped both back rows in the Tahoe you could buy enough supplies at Costco to last you a year and still have room to spare.

What I did not expect was the difference in cargo space in the main cabin. There are a few nooks and crannies to stash small items in the Q5. But the space beneath the center console is maybe a quarter the size of the Tahoe’s. I used to joke Chevy needed to put a drain in the Tahoe’s center console so you could fill it with ice and cold drinks for long drives. That huge space meant I crammed way too much crap into it, so it was good to reduce the clutter. I do have to be much more choosey in what I stash under my elbow in the Audi. I can squeeze in some Kleenex, glasses cleaner, car wash tickets, a few masks, and the phone of one kid and that’s about it.

Another slight bummer that I was fully aware of going in is the fuel situation. I am getting much better mileage, between 5–7 more miles per gallon at this point. However, a turbocharged German engine requires premium fuel. Which ain’t cheap. I refuse to crunch the numbers to see if the better efficiency is saving me enough to balance the higher cost of the fancy gas. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

My Q5 came with crossbars you can attach to the roof rack. I waited a week to put them on, keeping a careful eye on other Q5s I saw on the road to decide if I liked them better with or without the crossbars. I think the car definitely looks cooler with them on, but unfortunately they cause quite a noticeable whistling sound when you get above 40 MPH.

Nice crossbars, bro.

Those are my assorted thoughts after two weeks in my new car. There will always be minor annoyances that rub up against your personal quirks. I’ve found those to be rather few so far. I’m sure had I gone with the Mercedes GLC–300, or eventually test driven and picked the BMW X3 or Volvo XC60, I would be saying similar things. But the Audi Q5 is nice enough that I have zero regrets about jumping on the chance to get into one when I did.

  1. I kept an eye on our old Tahoe once it hit the dealer’s used lot. They sold it in five days. I was a little surprised they didn’t list it for slightly higher than they did, but I’m sure they still made money in the whole process.  ↩

On Heroes, Villains, and Uncomfortable Decisions in Sports

We had great weather all weekend, and a ton of activities (L and I went to watch Indy 500 qualifying, C had her birthday dinner out with friends, and we hosted a nephew birthday party), so I did not sit and watch endless hours of coverage of the PGA Championship. I saw enough to get the vibe of the tournament, though, including roughly the last hour of Phil Mickelson’s win.

I had mixed feelings about the result.

I was never a Phil fan, for a variety of reasons. The biggest was that I was a Tiger fan and never understood how you could root for Phil over him. I get that Tiger’s game wasn’t always very sexy after 2001: he became the greatest course manager in the history of the game, jumping out to leads early in tournaments and then cruising home with cautious golf while his competitors faded. Phil countered that by always going for it. But what’s fun about watching the guy that goes for it but always seemed to make the worst possible mistake in the biggest possible moment?

Then again, I think I would have rooted for Arnold Palmer over Jack Nicklaus, so I’m not exactly consistent here.

There were plenty of other problematic things about Phil over the years. They aren’t worth rehashing. You can search for them if you need the background.

I have softened towards Phil in recent years, though. He’s been very adept at transitioning to the social media age. He often seems genuinely funny rather than the older guy who tries too hard. He makes fun of himself. He skewers people who are dumb on Twitter.

Yet there are always the missteps that kept from making me a true Phil fan. Most recently there has been his very public interest in the rumored Saudi-financed competitor to the PGA. In the abstract I think a competitor to the PGA is fine. Like many, though, taking tons of money from the leadership of Saudi Arabia to undercut the tour that made you a star seems like an especially tone-deaf choice. Especially for a guy who has always let you know he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room.

There have long been rumors that Mickelson has financial issues, and that his interest in a Saudi-backed tour is purely to dig himself out of that hole. If that’s true, I would think a golfer of his status would have endless possibilities to earn as much money as he wanted without having to take blood money from Saudi royalty.

Despite all those negative or neutral feelings towards Phil, I couldn’t help but admire his play this weekend. He struggled to begin his round Thursday. Then something switched and he was, by far, the best golfer the rest of the weekend. He held off Brooks Koepka, normally a killer in the majors. He built up a large lead on a day when almost nobody was going low. When the inevitable mistakes popped up late, he never compounded them and instead made a series of terrific recoveries to keep those errors from turning into round ruiners.

This was not a fluke caused by crazy weather conditions or an insane round that can’t be explained. It was 63 holes of terrific golf against one of the best fields of the season. The fact Phil is about to turn 51 just makes it more admirable.

In the reaction podcasts and articles I’ve reviewed, almost everyone eventually asked the question: can he still take that Saudi money after this?

I think the answer is clearly yes. PGA golfers rarely display any great commitment to doing the right thing when the opposite choice involves a huge pile of cash. Time and again Phil has shown he is as driven by money as any other golfer.

I think every athlete has the right to chase as much money as they can. For every Phil who has managed to hang around for 30 years, there are dozens of golfers who get their card for one or two seasons and then slip back into the oblivion of the feeder tours. Get that money while you can, son.

It seems like Phil should be different, though. And not just because he loves to tell people he voted for Obama and has a few progressive political views. Even if gambling and bad investments and government fines have eaten away at his nest egg, he’s still made an insane amount of money in his life as a golfer. If he truly faces financial difficulties, winning the PGA at 50 should give him more than enough new revenue streams to refill the family coffers without stooping to taking the massive cash the Saudis are throwing around in their attempts to cover up the brutality of their regime.

End of the School Year

We have reached the final week of the 2020–21 academic year. It’s kind of hard to believe the year was as “normal” as it was.

To be very clear, it was not normal. There were all kinds of mandates and limits and headaches compared to what our girls had done every year before Covid hit. There were lots of bumps along with way, especially with C’s grade at St P’s. As we are almost done I won’t get into the details of those, but it’s the first time we’ve had any serious problems with school administrators. And, of course, the county sent everyone home for the final month of classes of 2020 as Covid rates were skyrocketing.

Even with all of that, though, it feels like the girls had a fairly normal academic year. I don’t know that they got everything out of the year they would have gotten if schools had operated under 2019 conditions. But I also don’t think any of them are going to be lost next fall when they advance to the next year’s worth of course material.

C’s final day of 8th grade is tomorrow, with graduation slated for Wednesday.

L’s final day is Thursday.

M begins finals tomorrow and will have half days of exams through Friday.

It is Awards SZN at schools. C will learn if she was nominated for and receive any awards at graduation.

M earned an award for the most outstanding AP chemistry student. We don’t really know if that means just in the four classes her teacher has, or across all sophomore AP chem courses. Regardless, she and her teacher FaceTimed me last week so they could share the news with me. That was fun.

She also got notified a week ago that her PSAT score qualified her for a recognition program. She asked for help going through the paperwork to apply for it, and as I was reading through I noticed something odd about the language. In the first paragraph, it mentioned that it was intended for Hispanic students. Later on it stated that the award was specifically designed to highlight students from underserved communities. We were pretty sure the white girl who drives a new car should not be up for this award.

We had her check with the sponsoring teacher the next day, who confirmed this was a mistake. We are guessing M got confused by some of those demographic boxes as she registered and clicked White-Hispanic rather than White-Not Hispanic.

What really made us laugh, though, was that an hour or two after it was confirmed that she was not eligible, she got a message from her counselor praising her for her accomplishment and offering to help her if she needed any assistance completing the application. Right in the subject line of her message it mentioned the name of the award: College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program. We don’t know if that means the counselor didn’t read the restrictions for the award, or just assumed that maybe M is a super pale Hispanic girl and didn’t want to question things.

Oh well, her PSAT score was still pretty good.

L won the girls Leader in Me award for her grade last week. Parents were notified if their kid was going to win something, so I was able to attend the ceremony. She was surprised when she saw me sitting in church as her class filed in. It’s always fun to surprise your kid that way.

C’s class got robbed of their traditional trip to Washington, D.C. A few schools in our area still went to DC, but St P’s pulled the plug fairly early due to uncertainty about what would be open.

Instead the plan was to go to Cleveland and visit the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, spend a night at the Kalahari water resort, then a day at Cedar Point. C was pretty ok with this, as she loves amusement parks and roller coasters.

However, for some reason the Cleveland stuff got cancelled because of some weird Covid restrictions. We really don’t understand why, but the Hall of Fame and other sites in Cleveland that were used for the NFL Draft were put into a three week shut down and made unavailable to visiting groups. C’s class would have visited over two weeks after the draft so everything should have been thoroughly sanitized by then. Very strange.

The day in Cleveland was replaced with a morning at the US Air Force museum in Dayton then the trip up to Sandusky for the water park and Cedar Point.

C had a good time. She said the museum was kind of boring, and the parks mega crowded. She had to borrow money from a friend to fully fund a fast pass so she didn’t spend the entire day in line.

At least they got to go somewhere.

C gets a whole week off before starting her freshman year with summer school gym next Wednesday. She’ll be up bright-and-early for the 8:00 session for most of June. She will then get six weeks of sleeping in before high school really starts.

Summer is coming up quick. Our pool house was (finally) completed a little over a week ago and the landscaping installed last week. We’ve already had a couple small pool gatherings and anticipate this summer being a lot busier than last since we are comfortable inviting more than one family of guests at a time. I’d better start getting those summer playlists updated.

Friday Playlist

“Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head” – TORRES
Mackenzie Scott has been making critically acclaimed, ground-breaking music for going on a decade now. This might be my favorite thing she’s ever done.

“Heavy Glow” – The Glow
I always think it’s kind of cool when bands have song titles that include their name. Like it’s some kind of cheesy wink to the audience. Anyway, this song is a heavier take on traditional dream pop, and I like it.

“Light Year” – Adam Melchor featuring Lennon Stella
A nice palate cleanser, and a perfect song for the hot, muggy spell we suddenly find ourselves in.

“Mollyduker” – Good Morning
I was reading up on this Australian duo and found that they have been influenced by Jeff Tweedy. You 100% hear that in this track. Not Tweedy’s solo stuff, but more his early ’00s, experimental Wilco music.

“Transmission” – Joy Division
At least once a year I have to punish my eardrums and listen to this at maximum volume. “DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, DANCE TO THE RADIO!”

“Brothers in Arms” – Dire Straits
I watched a movie last weekend that included a few seconds of this. Which made me go back and watch the scene from Miami Vice when it was used. Which made me listen to the entire song a few times. Such a terrific piece of music. This is the edited down version. I suggest listening to the entire album cut.

Hoaxes and the Search for “Truth”

Remember the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can? Leonardo DiCaprio starred as Frank W. Abagnale Jr., a man who fooled people into thinking he was an airline pilot, among other things, to live a jet-setting, check-forging, stewardess-banging life.

The movie was wonderful, as I recall. It had just the right breezy tone to fit the times it was set in and dispensed with looking too deeply into the truth of Abagnale’s story in favor of a couple hours of enjoyable entertainment.

Turns out Abagnale’s story was, most likely, not true at all. And people were blowing it apart back in the late 1970s.

This revelation, the subject of a new book, demonstrates both how the world has both changed dramatically and stayed the same in the past 40 years. The reporters who dug into Abagnale’s past in the ‘70s couldn’t get in front of his story because they worked for small, local papers. Well before the Internet, their investigations could not find traction nationally.

And yet, as we see every single day, even with the Internet, it is getting harder and harder to pin down what the truth of any story is.

A prime example of that is what has been occurring in the halls of Congress the past few months, as Republicans continue to reframe the events of January 6 to deny and bury the truth of that day.

Repeat a story often enough, into the official record of the US Congress no less, and you can rewrite history before its first draft is even dry.

The Greatest Hoax on Earth

Jayhawk Talk

Some thoughts on the latest goings on with University of Kansas athletics.

KU football

I mostly sat out the search for the latest KU football coach. I was aware of the biggest names that were getting thrown around – Buffalo’s Lance Leipold and Army’s Jeff Monken – but I refused to invest much time or emotional energy into following the process.

I assumed whoever KU hired, it would be the wrong choice.

Thus, when KU announced Leipold as the man, I immediately texted some friends saying, “Should have hired the Army guy.”

Because odds are no matter how different this search was to the previous four, KU will still have managed to make the wrong choice, right? They were too cautious. Or too daring. Went too old. Or too young. Too much experience at the wrong level, or not enough experience period. Chose the offensive guy when they should have picked the defensive savant. Or vice versa. After ten years of always making the wrong choice, it’s hard to have any faith that this time will be any different.

Football people seem to think it was a good choice. Leipold isn’t flashy, but insiders say he possesses the traits needed to tackle the most difficult public school, Power 5 job in the country. He’s won by tweaking his offensive schemes to match his talent. He was immensely successful at lower levels of college football, and his process seemed to translate to a MAC school. The several million dollar question is can it translate to Kansas, where football coaches go to die?

There was a part of me that leaned towards Monken simply because he would, even if it wasn’t the full triple option he runs at Army, implement a run-first offense. I’ve long been a proponent of not using the same offensive concepts most of the Big 12 runs with the 10th best talent. Monken also, reportedly, had been planning explicitly for the KU job for several years.

A friend pointed out that going to a pure running offense immediately could destroy all the hard work that had gone into rebuilding the scholarship numbers, since most of the offense was recruited to run a passing system. KU has already lost some players to the portal since Leipold was announced, ironically most on the defensive side of the ball. Who knows if hiring Monken really would have created a mass exodus on offense, but from purely a roster retention standpoint, Leipold may have been the smarter choice.

Even if Leipold is 100% the right guy, any enthusiasm for his hire is tempered by knowing it will still take a lot of extremely hard work to generate even the smallest glimmer of hope for the program. It’s been a long 11 years. A lot of Saturdays of KU grads standing on soccer pitches, cross country courses, and other kid events, checking our phones and sighing as we see yet another blow-out loss in progress. A lot of weeks of putting the game on the TV and then switching to another one before the first quarter ends.

I just hope Leipold isn’t another total disaster, the latest in a long series. I want to believe he was the right hire. But it’s going to take more than some expert analysts lauding his track record to get me to think there’s any light at the end of the KU football tunnel.

KU Hoops

We knew this was going to be a crazy-ass off season for every college hoops program, but I’m not sure I was prepared for what has gone on in Lawrence since the blow-out loss to USC.

Five players transferred out of the program.
Marcus Garrett passed on a fifth year of eligibility.
Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson are exploring their draft options. Initial expectation was that both would be back, but I’ve heard rumblings and sense some vibes on my own that at least one of them will not be back.
And then 190 new players have committed to play for KU next year. Or eight. Three of those kids were committed from the fall, four were new commits or transfers in the spring, and the eighth was a 2022 commit who decided to reclassify and come to Lawrence this summer.
KU also chased at least 10 other significant transfers or high school recruits who backed out on their initial commitments.
And in today’s KC Star, Bill Self said he could still add another player or two before next season.

It has been a dizzying two months.

The biggest addition came Monday when Arizona State’s Remy Martin – the most excellent name in college basketball! – announced that if he does not get drafted, he will play at KU next fall. Remy is a straight bucket getter, and exactly what KU needs. He’s not big, but is still an exceptional athlete and has four years of experience. Assuming he meshes with Self’s system and coaching and the personnel around him, he has the potential to make a solid KU team great.

Drake transfer Joesph Yesufu, another crazily athletic little guard, should also make a difference. Those go a long way toward meeting Self’s post-USC game goal of getting faster and more athletic. Best case is they are a smaller version of the Frank Mason III – Devonté Graham backcourt that was pretty good together.

As for the other transfers and incoming freshmen, well, I’m glad I’m not Self. I honestly don’t see how he manages the minutes to keep everyone happy next year. It’s sad when a national writer, while going through KU’s roster, already identifies two players as potential transfer candidates for next summer, and wonders if a third would join them if he doesn’t redshirt.

I get what Self is doing at the highest level: he’s trying to make next year’s team as competitive as possible. I think he hopes the freshmen who get pushed out of the rotation will take the long view and see that waiting one year to play sets them up for better success beyond that.

Self has always been relatively laid back about kids who don’t think they fit into the program leaving. It seems like he would rather them depart than become problems and relishes the challenge of trying to fill holes that open up late in the recruiting game. In other words, he’s won a lot more games than I have, so I’ll trust that he is prepared to deal with the headaches that will come with having so many talented players, plus some young players who need minutes to develop.

I struggle with this a little. I want KU to contend every season. The fluctuation in rosters is not just a KU thing this year. Recruiting has not been great the past three years due to the cloud of the NCAA investigation, and this has given Self and his staff a chance to make up for some misses.

If all these late additions don’t work out next year, though, I wonder if they were worth potentially sacrificing what was a very good freshman class and its success over the next 2–3 years. Perhaps bigger, if Self had been content to just add more freshmen and young transfers like Yesufu, he had set the program up nicely to deal with sanctions, if the NCAA ever gets around to resolving their case against KU. Now, if say a group of kids leave this time next year, that could really compound any scholarship and postseason restrictions that KU may have to deal with beyond 2022.

I have a few friends who are more perturbed by the craziness of this off-season. I get that. This feels more like the NBA free agency that what we expect from college hoops. I hope it is just a function of this one-off change in the transfer rules. However, transfer numbers have been going up for years. I think this is just what college sports are becoming, with kids committing earlier and earlier, then deciding to bail quicker and quicker when they don’t have a perfect experience once they get to campus.

At KU, Final Four banners are the standard for turning a good season into a great one. I think adding Remy, Yesufu, etc. put KU in a better position to add another banner in 2022. I hope that doesn’t set us back for 2023 and beyond.

Well, that was quick. Not too long after I first posted this, Iowa State senior Jalen Coleman-Lands announced he is transferring to KU. Which should likely ice Ochai Agbaji not returning. It could be Jalen Wilson (or both), but as Coleman-Lands is the same size as Ochai, that swap makes the most sense.

That’s a bummer from the Ochai perspective because I don’t think he’s anywhere close to being an NBA player, and it sucks for a local kid who seems like a terrific person to leave before his four years are up. But if his goal is to play in the NBA, he must have decided the best path to that is getting paid to play in the G-League, in Australia, or in Europe and not have to share the ball and go to class at KU. I hope things turn out well for him.

Speaking of swaps, I suppose this means KU traded one year of Coleman-Lands for three of Tristan Enaruna, who will be a Cyclone next year.

From my family’s perspective, the biggest part of this news is that Coleman-Lands played two years at Cathedral High School before transferring to La Lumiere Academy in LaPorte, leading the Irish to a state runner-up finish his sophomore year. I should get M and C jerseys to wear on college days next year!

He is also a year older than Svi Mykhailiuk, who just finished his third year in the NBA. Weird ass times.

Car Shopping Chronicles, Part 7

If you’ve read my blog entries over the years, you know I can often be a little wordy with the background before I get to my point. I believe context is important and want to fully inform my readers.

However, sometimes it is best to cut to the chase. So…

Yep, I am now the proud lessee of a 2021 Audi Q5.

It’s pretty fucking sweet.

We picked it up Thursday, so it is still early days. I’m pretty sure I’m totally in love with it. I’ve also been listening to Zooropa a lot.[1]

For today’s entry I suppose I need to explain how I went from looking to lease a new car in July to actually driving one on May 13.

While my plan was to ride out the final months of our Tahoe lease, in the back of my mind I was hoping that, at some point in the process, a dealer would make me an offer to end that lease early. The Acura sales dude made some noise about that after I drove the RDX. But since I didn’t love that car, I didn’t press the issue.

As we chatted after my Q5 test drive, the Audi salesman said there were options for getting me out of my lease. For the next couple days we went back and forth via phone, text, and email to clarify some questions and lock in a few details. Once I identified the exact car I wanted, I told him we were ready to move forward if he could deliver on helping with the Chevy lease.

Long story short, my sales guy was formerly employed by the Chevy dealership I leased it from. Although Audi did not want to take the Tahoe as a trade in, he worked his old buddies to get them aligned with our interests. His efforts included tracking down his closest friend at the Chevy dealership on a beach in Florida to kick off the process, making multiple calls to find the right guy to deal with here in Indy, then clearing the path so I could show up at the Chevy dealership and walk out with an agreement for them to buy me out of the lease.

I was kind of shocked at how easy it was. Chevy wiped out our last two payments while Audi was giving us credit for one of those payments toward the Q5 price. Chevy wasn’t making me replace the tires, which were on their last legs. Or fix the scrapes and dings and scratches on the body. Or make the car go through the normal post-lease inspection process. That saved us a lot of money, and helped to make up for the extra dough we’ll be paying Audi since they don’t subsidize their leases as much as Chevy does.

I’m don’t know if the Chevy dealership was willing to work with us because they owed my salesman a huge favor, because their inventory of both new and used cars is so lean at the moment, or just because the patron saint of auto leases was looking out for us. Whatever the explanation, everything sure lined up exactly right over the past week.

Regardless of how it came to be, my life as a Tahoe owner is over and I am now zipping around in a fine German automobile.

And so my search for a new car ends a couple months earlier than expected. This series isn’t over yet, though! I figure I owe you one or two posts on life as an Audi owner. Be looking for those soon.

  1. Vorsprung durch technik.  ↩

Middle School Spring Sports Wrap Up

After six weeks of action, we are done with spring sports. At least at the middle school level.

We had a little scare before the week’s events began. L had knee issues last fall and winter, a combination of growing pains and Osgood-Schlatter disease. They largely went away after the winter basketball season ended and never popped up again this spring.

Until Monday, when she could barely walk.

We got her a crash physical therapy course (thanks to a pediatrician she knows well and some Googling), a heavy regimen of Ibuprofen, and a lot of Icy-Hot before activity. Tuesday she was better and it didn’t seem to affect her performance, which was a huge relief. It did make me want to puke for awhile, though.


L’s team played their City kickball semifinal. They faced a team from a school, St N’s, that is known for being kick ass at kickball, but we thought it was the weaker of their two teams. That got confirmed pretty quickly. St N’s kicked first, and their lead-off kicker got on base and scored. I knew their team was mostly fifth graders but this was not a good start.

Thankfully they didn’t score again for three innings as we run-ruled them 27–2 in five innings. L went 5–5 with two home runs and four runs scored. She and her teammates played their best defensive game of the year.


City track finals. L ran the 50, 100, and 200, and C the 100 plus a medley relay.

The good news for L was that she ran her fastest times of the year in all three races. The bad news was the defending champion in all three races ran faster. L finished second in both the 50 and 100 and fourth in the 200. We were hoping L could push the champ, but the margins were fairly comfortable.

L beat a girl from St S for second in both the 50 and 100. In the 100 they were just 0.04 apart and it took a long, long time for the judges to look at the video and post the times. After both races the girls ran to each other with big grins on their faces and slapped hands. I loved that they were pushing each other hard but their first thought after the finish was to congratulate each other

I wanted to hate the girl who won each race. She’s from Terre Haute so I made a few quiet, sarcastic comments about how L was the real City champ in the 50 and 100. But afterwards L said the girl is super nice and goofed around with them before and after races. You can’t hate a nice kid, even when they beat yours.

L racked up 16 very important points for St P’s in the team competition. A pretty solid season for a kid who had never ran track before. She’s already making plans for what she will run in high school.

C qualified sixth for the 100. In the final she started slow and struggled to keep up. Where every other finalist ran faster than Saturday’s prelims, she was a hair slower and finished 8th. She was not happy afterward. I reminded her A) she was a finalist and B) there were something like 30 other girls who would have loved to finish last in the championship heat, but instead were in the stands watching her. I don’t know if that helped in the moment but it will sink in eventually.

Fortunately she shook it off and ran a really nice second 100 in the medley relay. She got the baton with a narrow lead and passed it off with a bigger lead. I didn’t clock it but it looked like the best she ran all year.

Sadly our 400 runner was going against the girl who finished second in both the 800 and 1600. She caught and passed us quickly. There were two heats and our girls’ time was only good enough for fourth overall.

I think C was disappointed in her year. She was a 2x City finalist two years ago and blew away her competitors in the 200 leg of the medley relay. She’s aware enough to see other girls her age have gone through physical changes and run slower and/or differently than they did two years ago. But it was still frustrating for her to not be as successful as she was as a sixth grader.

I’m not sure exactly how all the team titles shake out. Team scores are posted for each age group, but not for an overall champion. I’ve seen other schools wear shirts that say City Track Champions and have all grades on them, though.

We for sure know that L and her 5th–6th grade teammates won the girls title. It was close for a good portion of the night but all their field points from Friday and two great relays allowed them to win by 20 points over the second-place squad. Along with three race ribbons, L will get a City Champs t-shirt.

The coaches said all the St P’s girls – fourth through eighth grades – combined to score more points than any other collective girls team. We don’t know if that’s an official championship or not. I think we should just claim it so that C can end her CYO career with a City Champs shirt of her own.


Back to the diamond for the last kickball game of the year. This time we were playing the better team from St N. Ironically, this was exactly two years to the day since we lost to them for the fourth grade City championship. Our girls have all gotten bigger, but they look like sixth graders. St N had three girls that were bigger than anyone on C’s team. Seriously, one girl could have posted me up and scored at will. And probably tell me how soft I am the whole time.

We somehow got out of the first inning only down 8–3 but never got closer. They were an incredible team, catching everything, always making the right throw, and had a perfect blend of strong kickers, bunters, and aggressive base running on offense. Our girls held on as long as they could but eventually got run-ruled 36–9 in six innings. We did not help our cause by playing one of our worst defensive games of the year. That just meant we missed out on losing by slightly fewer runs in seven innings.

None of our girls were super upset. I think they realized pretty quickly that as good as they were, St N’s was at a different level.

L went 2–3. She crushed two balls. One was right at a girl who somehow held onto it for a very loud out. Another was to deep right, but St N’s made a great throw and got the ball back in just before L hit the hash mark between third and home and was sent back. She was piiiiiiiiised, which made me laugh. It was a good call although she insisted the umps missed it.[1]

The ending aside, a terrific season for our girls, finishing 8–1. Because I kept score at every game this year I was able to run some stats for L. She kicked 47–57 with 22 home runs. Pretty sure she would make first team All City if there was such a thing.

The loss made our family 0–4 in kickball City championship games. Throw in semifinals and we are 1–5. L’s team needs to arrange for a series of rainouts if they make it again and claim a split title like M’s team did in seventh grade.

Now the girls can rest a little and we can get back to not eating out 3–4 times a week because we’re constantly running around. I probably just jinxed us and M will make the travel list for three tennis meets next week.

  1. For you kickball neophytes, there are hash marks halfway between each base. If a runner is past that line when the pitcher gets control of the ball in the middle circle, they are awarded the next base. If they are short, they are sent back. Tons of umps miss this call which causes a lot of complaining, but the call was correct last night: she was one step short of getting to the line.  ↩

Friday Playlist

Happy Friday! The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the mini-chill that has dominated the first half of May seems to be moving out. Please enjoy this hand-crafted playlist.

“Misandrist to Most” – Lady Dan
We’ve been trying to teach our girls since they were born to be strong and independent. Tyler Dozier, aka Lady Dan, has provided this fine anthem for independent women of all ages.

“Palo Alto” – Jack River
I spend so much time reviewing tracks I find either on various music sites or via Spotify’s curated playlists that I rarely turn Spotify loose to recommend music organically by just playing things similar to what I recently listened to. Recently I was listening to something Australian – Middle Kids or Alex Lahey, most likely – and afterward Spotify played a series of other Aussie artists. This track popped up and I loved it right away. Well done, Spotify!

“My Brother” – ISLAND
Maybe it’s just my ears but I hear a dramatic scene from a 1980s movie when I listen to this.

“I Was Wrong” – Social Distortion
Crank this fucker up.

“Head Rolls Off” – Frightened Rabbit
Your annual reminder to make tiny changes.

“Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake
RIP Tawny Kitaen. She was something else.

Reader’s Notebook, 5/12/21

Time for some book chat.

The Marsh King’s Daughter – Karen Dionne
I hate it when books that come highly recommended don’t hit me with the same impact they hit others. I found this book on some “best new thrillers” list, and its jacket featured some positive blurbs from other authors I’ve enjoyed. But the story just didn’t work for me.

It tells the story of Helena, a woman in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who was raised in captivity. Her father kidnapped her mother when she was 14 and kept her and Helena hidden in a swamp from the world until Helena herself was 14 and the women managed to escape.

One half of the story takes place in the present, with Helena’s father escaped from prison and setting a trail for her to follow. The other half tells the story of her childhood, when she worshipped her father as he taught her his Native American ways and how to live on what the land gave her.

All of that was interesting and well-done. It all hit a little harder because there are some moments of stark violence, and Dionne’s author pic in the back jacket shows her to be a friendly, gray-haired (likely) grandmother. Not the author I expected to write this story!

However, Dionne uses a literary trick to help explain how Helena solves the problem of escaping in her childhood and surviving in her adulthood that I simply did not buy. It drug down what was otherwise a pretty solid story.

The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season – Barry Svrluga
There’s maybe no better trick if you want to write about sports than using an entire season to dive into all the little details of a sport/team/athlete. John Feinstein has made a career out of this. Daniel Okrent’s Nine Innings is one of my absolute favorite sports books ever. Michael Lewis’ Money Ball is another terrific example.

Here Svrluga writes about the 2014 Washington Nationals, for which he was the beat writer for The Washington Post. Rather than a deep dive into all the nitty gritty of a baseball season, this is more of a high-level view. Svrluga selects a few topics and uses them to illuminate how the length and intensity of a baseball season affects those involved. He looks at a veteran player, a scout, the GM, a starting pitcher, a player’s wife, and so on.

The book suffers some in comparison to the classics from Okrent and Lewis as Svrluga is more concerned with painting these brief sketches than digging into all the ebbs and flows of a baseball season. I’ve read both Nine Innings and Money Ball multiple times because, even though they are now dated, they are so good at showing you these deep details of baseball in the moments they were written.

The Grind feels more like a series of Sunday profiles for the paper. Which makes sense since Svrluga was still a beat writer at the time and not on hiatus to do an authoritative accounting of the 2014 season. The result is a nice, quick read for any baseball fan, but not one that reaches the level of the classics.

The Cold Millions – Jess Walter
I did not realize the labor wars of the West Coast mining industry in the early 1920s would make for such a compelling story. This was a terrific read.

Gig and Rye Dolan are orphaned brothers who have landed in Spokane after searching throughout the west for work. Gig is the older, wiser, and more charismatic brother. When he is arrested at a labor rally, 16-year-old Rye immediately jumps into the fray and is quickly arrested as well. As a minor, his cause gets taken up by labor attorneys who have come in from the Midwest and East coast to fight for the miners’ rights. Rye soon becomes an integral part of their strategy, traveling around the west with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a (real) firebrand of the labor movement through much of the 20th century.

There are double-crosses, unfortunate alliances, and in the end a tragic event that separates the brothers permanently. There is also a large swath of tremendous supporting characters.

The idea of a labor war seems quant in 2021. But a century ago they were common, often violent, efforts to somewhat lessen the difference between the haves and have-nots. While all of that is interesting, what truly carries the book is the love between the Dolan brothers, Rye’s innocent desire to follow anyone he trusts, and the final steps the brothers take to protect each other.

The Last Days of John Lennon – James Patterson with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge
The title is a lie: this is not just about John Lennon’s final days in 1980 before he was murdered by Mark David Chapman. Although there is plenty about that, especially Chapman’s activities leading up to the murder.

But the bulk of the book is a breezy history of both the Beatles and Lennon’s life between the band’s breakup and his death.

I’ve read at least three books about the Beatles and/or Lennon, but it’s been awhile. This book was a good refresher for someone with my reading history. If you’ve never read a Beatles book, this can be an excellent jumping-in point.

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