It was the strangest day this weekend

The twisted bad dreams certainly didn’t help. They weren’t the usual nightmares, with the obvious fears and the inability to run; they were really twisted combinations of fears. This made for a fine if slightly unsettled morning, meaning I was late as I was…

Driving down Rt. 2, the forest of left-merging brake lights ahead of me made me question my sanity: could it still be Friday? Traffic is only like this at rush hour, and I was pretty sure today was Saturday… Oh, I see. An accident – one that just happened, judging from how quickly the brake lights appeared, and from the wide swath of ex-car parts littering the roadway, and the dazed look as people got out of their now ex-car.

Are we predestined to wonder about fate at moments like that; thinking that if I hadn’t had bad dreams, I might have been on the highway just 30 seconds earlier? Or is it free will that makes us wonder what parts of life we choose to do versus which parts are done to us.

In any case, the day got a lot better as we took a family drive in the beautiful weather, shopping in Nashua. We browsed all the applicable models, checking out each one – it was quite the surreal showroom with all the models standing side by side, in the back room, and even in a basement room. After serious comparisons back and forth, we finally made a decision to buy right then and there.

I bought a piano!

Now while piano purchases aren’t an everyday occurrence, it may not seem that strange – but, oh, it certainly is! I have almost zero musical ability, and while part of my vague “you’ve won a billion dollars” fantasy includes a piano somewhere in the mansion, I certainly can’t play at all, and never could have imagined actually having a piano. But we have a daughter who is pretty good, and more to the point is motivated to practice with the true piano feel (it’s a Yamaha B3), an improvement over the electric keyboard she’s used for years. Of course, now the question is, where the heck will it fit in our small house (and what will the cats think of it?)

In any case, it was quite the strange lunch out afterwards, treating to a Bloomin’ Onion, with the handwritten receipt for a somewhat large purchase price for a piano – a piano!- sitting with us.

In any case, bear with me for a moment, and revel in us enjoying the odd feeling of having just bought a piano: a good day to be sure, but a little strange. We arrive home, and start planning where the piano will go, as we also enjoy our mostly clean living room rug. See, my wife treated me as an early birthday present to a little robotic vacuum, which we had left to run while we were out.

It will be nice to keep the cat hair down with less effort, although it has only done part of the living room so far, it seems, and…

Uh, where is the vacuum?

No, seriously: where is the robot vacuum that was RIGHT HERE WHEN WE LEFT? You did leave it on, right? Yes, it started right there, and it’s not here – not in the kitchen – door is closed, couldn’t have gone down the stairs…

“I for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.”

P.S. it had gotten stuck under the back of the couch, when an errant sheet of tissue paper got folded up over it’s sensors. It’s working fine now, and it’s staying right where it’s put.

I think it might be watching me.

Ripping vinyl

Now there’s a phrase I presume most of my readers will understand, that was almost unimagined just a few years ago.

I’m getting tired of late night DJ’ing and wanting to listen (right now!) to all those hits I remember from, er, younger days. Although I’ve ripped my CD’s, I’m still not used to hitting the spacebar instead of pressing the eject button on my trusty Pioneer PD-M700. Surfing iTunes, I realize that many of the songs I want to hear again, I already have on vinyl. Being a sentimental type, I still have every record and 45 I’ve bought; it’s not a huge collection, just three boxes. But priceless nonetheless.

So – how should I rip my vinyl? Not only do I want to be cheap, and avoid spending all those 99 cents to re-purchase my own dreams, but many of them are songs that I’d rather have old skool sound with scratches and all. They just sound better that way to my brain.

I’ve got a Technics SL-L3 turntable in good shape, and both a Mac and a ThinkPad. What next for a reasonably simple and reliable way to rip my vinyl into my iTunes? Links to sites with instructions you’ve followed are appreciated too.

Ahhh, my beloved PD-M700 6 disc changer from college. Man, we had some good times together. Along with various late nights, parties, and studying, there was one all-nighter during which I wrote a term paper and listened to every single song on all 6 discs nonstop. Actually; I’m being misleading: that particular night was being played on my roommate’s PD-M700, since I was wearing headphones and typing at his PC/AT while everyone else was alseep.

Another notable PD-M700 memory includes the nuclear-powered remote. Along with being gigantic and having the programming power of some contemporary TI calculators, it also had a hugely powerful infrared transmitter. We enjoyed many a breakfast in our apartment’s kitchen, DJ’ing our own mixes by shooting the remote over our shoulder, down the hall, and bouncing it off a mirror on the shelves in front of the CD player. You had to aim carefully, but it worked. Oh, and I was a mighty quick draw on switching the 6 discs out. You line up the new discs to swap in on the right staggered, and simultaneously open each CD case with your right hand while using your left to flip the drawers out, and toss the old CD’s on the desk in front of you. Practice makes perfect; I could do it easily in the time of a single commercial.

Tonight’s Music: I’d say I was listening to I Burn For You, but that was earlier; right now I’ve stepped back a couple of years to an earlier best friend and am listening to Purple Rain

Merry Christmas, Belmont!

At least that’s what I’ve been thinking to myself, driving through downtown Belmont this week. What with the lovely greenery and wreaths strung across Leonard St. downtown. Very tasteful, and the central wreath includes a nice set of three giant candles, which I presume are lit at night. They’re very green and simple, not at all flashy like the nets of lights making holiday pictures that Cambridge strings across the street. Not that I don’t love the annual Harvard Square lights; they just wouldn’t fit in a quiet and sleepy downtown as Belmont.

What? Did you say something about November? I thought it was almost Christmas time?

Sorry? Are you sure? I’ve been traveling recently, so I may have mixed up which week it is.

Really? You don’t say. You mean I haven’t already had my Thanksgiving dinner? I thought I had eaten too much turkey and forgotten about it in all the napping after the big meal.

Seriously? I don’t believe you – Belmont’s got their decorations up already! Let me look at a calendar…

Wow! They put decorations up around about Veteran’s Day! That’s just crazy!

Personally, I am a big fan of holiday decorations and music, in my case, especially certain kinds of Christmas music. But I can definitely see how not everyone appreciates them, either at all, or more to the point quite so early. Stores are one thing; that’s capitalism. Radio stations are fine; it’s easy to switch the station (or, not listen to my Frank Sinatra Christmas Dreaming on my car radio, since my windows are closed!)

But town holiday decorations are something you can’t avoid, and should have a touch more propriety than to put them up as early as Veteran’s Day, something we should perhaps be celebrating with greenery or flowers for the veterans, not for the upcoming winter holidays.

Lexington has done a nice job decorating downtown, and nicely they waited until after Thanksgiving.

Internet killed the radio star

Hey, do you have a radio station in a box?

Well, you’d better let it out!

Seriously – how many radio stations in a box do you have in your market? The first one in the Boston area was kind of exciting, and it had great and just perfectly snarky precanned announcers and station ID’s. But with the slow crawl of automation across the spectrum it gets pretty tiresome. It was especially galling for the one station that did the deed over a period of months: you could imagine the despair in the remaining DJ’s faces as they went to their two or one shift per day, as more and more of the day was programmed by CPU. I stopped listening to that station, just out of spite for the owners.

I’m sure in many circumstances it can be a profitable business decision to cut the lease on your office space and rent some rack space. I do wonder how ad revenues change when they make the programming switch – I suppose there may be significant differences during drive time, given that the various local DJ chatter is likely a significant factor in listener behavior. But obviously dropping virtually all staff expenses has got to be a huge savings.

My question is: does this serve the public as well? How can the same set of music, but with only pre-recorded announcers voices instead of live, knowledgeable human conversation, possibly be a better value to the public? I don’t see it.

The issue is the old fashioned idea that the airwaves belong to the public. The FCC manages them for us all: with mixed results perhaps. But if the airwaves are licensed for the public good, how can we allow all these stations to replace their blood with electrons? I can’t see how losing the experience; the traffic and local news blurbs; the chance to call in, or have fresh and locally accented commentary, or even just plain human contact during your commute? Music is a given (in most stations that is); the fact that perhaps a box station has a few more minutes of music doesn’t count for much public good. But the loss of the more responsive and human content to the station really feels like a significant loss to me.

Seriously: is the station format any portion of the FCC’s licensing decisions? I somehow doubt it, but I am kind of curious. Even though I will admit that I do listen to the MIKE-FM box, although only because I don’t yet have an MP3 radio installed in my car yet.

My punishing musical entitlements

You’ll never guess where I thought of these: yes, driving in my car with the CD player going.

Do you lock up your Police discs at night?

Do you ever want to listen to the diVinyls in the original format?

Do you get a rush from listening to them?

Does listening to too much Jimmy Buffett make you full?

Does AC/DC just plain make your head hurt thinking of the load on the circuits?

Does listening to Ice Cube just make you cold?

Is it hard to figure out exactly who’s signing on Various Artists?

If people were fighting over the latest Fray album, would you jump in?

Do you only listen to Dire Straits last?

The entitlement is free speech. A weak title, I realize, but it’s been a hard morning so far.