Friday, July 23, 2021

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

It’s Tuesday July 20th and It’s Foggy ... Which Is Never Ideal

That means the dew point is higher than (or equal to) the air termperature ... which means it’s humid.

But then you knew that already ... because it’s foggy. 

Anyhoo yesterday was Boat Day which is always fun but we had a bit of rain mid-day so we had to dock the boat for two hours and wait it out. Some days are like that. 

By 7pm it was perfect evening boating weather, calm waters and ideal temperatures and very little wind, but we had to race back to return the rental by 8pm. Some days are like that, too. 

Today is chock full of leisure time activities like sitting by the pool sipping cold beverages, with some driving range mixed in there somewhere. 

Tough gig but someonne’s gotta do it. Pray for us. 

[update] 

Turns out it was not humidity at all but haze from smoke drifting aloft. Kinda gross. Smells like there’s a campfire everywhere. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday Art and Music

Edward Hopper, New York Movie, 1939



I like the way Hopper uses bold colors with lots of contrast. Visually very appealing regardless of subject.


Hopper, Cape Cod Afternoon, 1936




31 Songs Based on Classical Music



I’m no expert on classical music nor do I listen to it much, but I always like any story about the creative process behind any song I already know from popular music.


14 Songs That “Rip Off” Classical Music 



Both videos from YouTube channel David Bennett Piano which looks pretty interesting and is very informative.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Eating and One Simple Way to Do Less of It

Years and years of trial and error have demonstrated for me the best ways to control my weight and eat for better health and nutrition.

So recently while reading Maggie’s Farm I posted my brief summary of what I have learned (with minor edits from original):

Any method of eating for weight loss and better health and nutrition can work but it always amounts to eating less in a week (daily consumption can vary and is not that important) along with seriously limiting terrible nutritional garbage
Finding the right system that fits your personality preferences and energy needs is the key. Personally I like two systems: 1) eat disciplined M-F and eat what you like on weekends and 2) eat disciplined for any 2 of 3 (or 3 of 4 etc) daily meals. “Disciplined” means small portions (more like snacks) but the type of food can vary depending on energy needs during the day. Both are easy to adapt to mentally since they fit other daily/weekly patterns we already live and they both accomplish a big reduction in weekly food intake just like fasting for 18 hours a day, which is another system that can work for some people (not me).

The highlighted and italicized portions are the most important pieces to internalize. 

Most people use “what” they eat to accomplish the goal of reducing food intake. These are two different things, and there are other — possibly better and definitely simpler — ways to reduce food intake. The “what” is still important obviously but that is primarily about health and nutrition, not weight loss (even though you can still lose weight with that dietary change)

And at least for me, reducing food intake as a weekly (rather than daily) goal is far simpler and easier to stick with, because it allows me to enjoy a few treats of my choosing each week — but just a few — that keep me from going insane without impacting the long term goal too much. It’s more practical and sustainable. 

And it works. It has to, if you make meaningful reductions weekly, say 20-40%. For each of us, there is some level of weekly food intake below which we will lose weight, regardless of other factors. 

Finding that level can be tricky — that’s why the two simple systems above remove a lot of the guesswork by dividing the days and weeks into chunks of time where we do different things based on time of day or day of week. You’re already doing that, right? Of course you are, because everyone does. 

This reduces food intake by dividing up your time into chunks we will call “highly disciplined” and “some treats allowed”. 

Make the “highly disciplined” chunk around 75-80% of your week, either M-F or 2-of-3 (or 3-of-4) daily meals. During this time, limit meals severely, say 300 - 400 calories, and limit carbs severely too.

The “some treats allowed” chunk allows somewhat more calories and more carbs, maybe 500 - 1000 calories depending on exercise and energy needs and to feel satiated. Remember this is only about 20-25% of your waking life, so live a little. It’s okay. 

It works and is a hell of a lot easier than counting calories, and more practical and sustainable. 

The other piece of the equation here of course is what to eat. The what is primarily (not completely though) about energy and health, not so much about losing weight. Another topic for another day. 

Pictured at right: evil evil carbs in our own pantry. Watch these like a hawk.

I am not a nutritionist, I’m just a guy who tries things to see what works best — so this is not advice. I’m not telling you what you should do, just detailing what I have had success with, based on my own personal preferences, and therefore it’s logical to assume it might work for others too. 

If what you’ve tried before hasn’t worked, it just means you haven’t found the right system for you yet. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Halifax Explosion of 1917

The Halifax Explosion of 1917, A Short Documentary

 


1600 killed instantly — and that was before the fires and tsunami. And the blizzard the next day that dropped 4 feet of snow paralyzing all rescue efforts and supply routes. 

Every single structure flattened for more than a mile in every direction. 

All because a ship’s captain ignored navigation rules through a narrow channel.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Van Gogh, “Starry Night Over the Rhone”, 1888



Sometimes I wonder what the world looked like to painters of this era “Post Impressionism” — especially those suffering emotional and mental health issues like Van Gogh who suffered from depression for years but created a tremendous number of classic and endurable artworks in the last two years of his life

All of his art strikes me as incredibly beautiful and pleasing to the eye, especially his bold and dramatic use of color and his rendering of familiar objects in slightly “off” ways that are still quite recognizable. 

Friday, July 09, 2021

It’s Friday Peeps

Let’s Catch Up on TV Viewing

We finished watching The Kominsky Method this week so now there is a hole in our TV schedule that is shaped a lot like this show. 

Unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time with very likable characters — we’re all imperfect, let’s not forget — and excellent storytelling with a perfect blend of funny and touching that strikes all the right notes. 

Funny sometimes, touching and emotional sometimes, always believable. 

Comedy and tragedy. A lot like real life.

This is a difficult balance to achieve and as a result most shows and movies don’t even aim for it. This show aims for it and hits it, dead center.

At the same time I don’t want to undersell the comedy, or Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, who are both terrific, as always. Two old pros — Arkin turned 87 in March and he could easily pass for someone 25 years younger, Douglas is 77 later this year — together on screen a lot. The show is worth watching for that alone (although Arkin is in seasons 1 and 2 only).

Paul Reiser is also very good as an aging hippie retired teacher and love interest of Sandy’s daughter, 30 years her senior. He plays Paul Reiser, bascially, but for me that’s usually pretty good in small doses. He also achieves the tricky comedy/tragedy balance and does it well.

The full cast is here and also includes Jane Seymour, Emily and Haley Joel Osment, Lisa Edelstein, and many other recognizable names.

You could easily binge-watch the entire series, 22 episodes, in a weekend or two, but this show is good enough you could also spread it out over a few months by watching just 2 or 3 episodes per week. It’s more impactful that way, at least for me. 

As for other shows we were watching, we’ve kind of checked out on those. Fargo ... eh, it’s a bit too murdery and dark for summertime viewing. I did watch a couple more episodes of Formula 1: Drive to Survive the other night and have completed season 1. Other than that, a lot of sports including of course Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Enjoy the weekend — it’s starting off cool for us and for a July 9 I will take that every time.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Top 7 Reasons to Check Out Mike Rowe’s Podcast “The Way I Heard It”

  • Highly skilled writer and storyteller who knows how to both write and read out loud for dramatic effect 
  • Great chemistry with his producer and longtime friend Chuck
  • Absolutely fascinating life story — you probably didn’t know sang in barbershop quartets, or in the opera, or that he became a millionaire and lost it all over 20 years ago in a Ponzi scheme
  • His personal fictional hero is Travis McGee from the John D. McDonald book series
  • Cool parents with their own interesting stories and Mike talks about them and their influences on him growing up, and has had them on the show, and his mom just wrote a bestselling book in her 80s
  • He started it as an homage to Paul Harvey’s legendary radio series The Rest of The Story
  • Aesthetically pleasing voice and let’s face it, that makes podcasts more compelling 

But wait, there’s more:  he started the Mike Rowe Works Foundation over ten years ago to award $1M in scholarships annually to students seeking skilled trades careers, and over that time he has “written extensively about the country’s relationship with work, the widening skills gap, offshore manufacturing, infrastructure decline, currency devaluation and several other topics for which he has no actual credentials.” 

In short he is one of the most interesting people in 21st century America, and actively working to make it better.

But mainly: interesting. 

One thing to note:  the first couple years and 150+ episodes are short form storytelling, typically 5-8 minutes in length, and then somewhere around episode 180 they started doing chapters from Mike’s book “The Way I Heard It” with Chuck. Those are much longer, around an hour and sometimes more. 

Go to mikerowe.com/podcast/ or your favorite podcast app and try a couple of episodes. 

Podcast tip:  I always listen to podcasts when I’m on the move, either walking or biking, freeing my mind to go wherever the podcast wishes to take it. In the car would also work, I just don’t get much time there.


Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Hey it’s July 7 and that’s 7/7 so that must mean something to somebody somewhere

Not sure what — but there you go

Where? There. Back to 1977. 

Back to 7/7/77 in particular which I clearly remember as some kind of big deal “date palindrome”. 

It looked and felt just like every other day to me, but what do I know? 

To me 7/7/77 was another in a string of days notable mainly because it was almost smack in the middle of the time between my graduation from high school and going off to college. 

I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening:  counting down the days to moving out of the home I grew up in (mostly, since age 10), with minor stops back home for holidays and a Summer or two. 

There’s a lot wrapped up in there. It’s much more than just a physical move from one place to another, it’s also transitioning every detail of your everyday life: the space you sleep in, the hallways you walk, the outdoors you walk, the people you see every day, the things you do with your time, the choices you have in front of you every second of every day. 

Everything is suddenly not just different but the sense of freedom and infinite choices is right in front of you, all the time. It’s exhilirating, and some of us do better than others with infinite choces. And this is completely separate from the college experience itself, and everything that entails.

I loved it. The freedom, much more than the college experience, at least that first year. Later on the college experience caught up with the freedom side of it.

The reasons I was ready for unlimited freedom are probably worth exploring, but that’s for another day.

So I guess 7/7/77 does have some sort of meaning for me after all, after thinking about this for a bit. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

In Case You Were Wondering How I Spent My Three-Day Weekend

I started our Independence Day weekend the right way on Friday — accidentally — by happening upon 2,000 American flags at a local park in tribute to the individual memories of 2,000 who have perished serving our country in wartime. See video here: Happy Birthday America

Long holiday weekend here in the U.S. but now that’s over and real life intervenes. Fortunately family vacation time is not far off — July is meant for slow-rolling, right?

But it allowed me to spend some of it re-watching “Band of Brothers” which everyone should watch at least once, in part because you will learn a lot about pivotal battles in WWII like D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge, in part because nothing brings historical events to life like putting them on screen, and in part because it’s just very well done in every way, from performances to story-telling to the “you are there” realism. 

There are also unexpected poignant moments like after liberating Eindhoven (Netherlands) two soldiers discover a family that has been living in the cellar for 5 years. One of the soldiers gives the young son a chocolate bar which he starts to devour without saying a word — and then the father says his son has never tasted chocolate. 

This scene, whether strictly 100% true or not, represents all of the sacrifices made by hundreds of millions of civilians around the world for years, things that people today cannot even conceive of. The show is worth watching for that scene alone, if one allows the power of that idea to penetrate one’s brain. 

This trailer includes a piece of that scene about 2/3 of the way through.


Wasted several hours watching the Cubs play, and lose, 3 more games in a row, with the losing streak up to 10 now. The pitching has been mostly okay, not great, but the offense has been horrific:  too many strikeouts, not enough contact, too many guys trying to hit 6-run homers with nobody on base. Whatever, I turned it off last night in the 5th inning after they fell behind again. I will not torture myself watching shitty baseball. This streak greatly increases the chances they will dump several potential free agents before the trade deadline July 31, marking the end of an era and saying goodbye to several key players from the 2016 championship team. It is what it is.

Watched the Austrian Grand Prix Sunday morning, won by — guess who — Max Verstappen for his third win in a row, and by a lot. The battles for position behind him were the only drama in the race. Here’s a really good video explaining why his racing technique is so solid.

Also watched a bit of UEFA soccer tournament play, it’s down to Italy vs. Spain (today) and England vs. Denmark (tomorrow) to go to the final.

Enjoy your Tuesday ... 

Friday, July 02, 2021

Friday Photos and Videos

One day a couple of weeks ago, I got into my car and looked up through the sunroof window quickly and noticed this ...


About a week ago on a long walk after a rainy couple of days I encountered this unfortunate flooding situation ... 

Bridges don’t work too well when the nearby trail sits lower than the bridge so that floodwaters cover it. 


Our cat Simba in the bright sun on a blue chair ... 


... and sitting in a little box on a messy desk ... one of his favorite things to do 😂 


Last one is a vehicle I was sitting behind in traffic ... LOL 


All these photos are mine, copyright applies, etc.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Unbelievable Goal

Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Lighting vs. Canadiens ... check out this beautiful steal by #19 Barclay Goodrow and great pass to his teammate Blake Coleman who dives to score with 0.3 seconds left in period 2.

Simply unbelievable. Game 3 Friday, Tampa Bay up 2-0, going back to Montreal.

Coleman has a few of these diving goals the last couple of years.

This Week in History: The Berlin Airlift, 1948

The First Major Battle of The Cold War

Most people have either never heard of the Berlin Airlift or have no idea what it is and why it matters.

BerlinerBlockadeLuftwege.png
By Leerlaufprozess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

This past weekend (June 26) marked the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Berlin Airlift when American and British aircraft dropped supplies of food, water, fuel, and other essential goods into West Berlin for 11 months.

The Allies that controlled the western section of Germany (Great Britain, France, and the U.S.) after WWII — there was no official “West German” state yet — had introduced a new currency (the Deutsche Mark) to promote economic development in the region.

In retaliation the Soviets cut off land, sea, and canal trade routes into West Berlin (the Berlin Blockade). This move created substantial pressure on the Allies to counter militarily, but President Truman decided on a humanitarian move instead. 

It was the first major battle of Cold War and the scale of this 11 month operation makes that clear:

Over the next 11 months, American and British pilots ferried some 2.3 million tons of supplies into West Berlin on a total of 277,500 flights, in what would be the largest air relief operation in history. Though it began slowly, the Berlin Airlift grew more and more efficient. At its height, in the spring of 1949, an Allied aircraft landed at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport every 45 seconds. The planes carried everything from food stuffs and medical supplies to coal and machinery, all vital to the survival of West Berliners who were hungry, scared and still reeling from the wounds inflicted during World War II. One of the airlift’s best-known heroes, U.S. pilot Gail S. Halvorsen, dropped parcels of candy, chewing gum and other sweets for the city’s children, earning the nickname “Candy Bomber.”

Berlin was the front line of the Cold War from 1948-1961:  after the Berlin Airlift, the Soviets erected a series of barriers to keep East Germans from escaping to freedom, starting with the entire border between East and West Germany in 1952 and then finally the Berlin Wall in 1961. Even so, 2.5 million people escaped from 1949-1961.

The blockade and resulting airlift rescue mission resulted in two major historical Cold War developments: NATO was created, the West German state was officially established.

This entire set of events set the stage for much of what followed over the next 40 years of the Cold War; it was the starting point, with the ending point the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 followed soon after by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

From the link above: 

The crisis over Berlin in 1948-49 had cemented the division of Europe into communist and anti-communist states, and transformed the German capital, previously identified with Nazism and Hitler, into a Cold War era symbol of democracy and freedom. For West Germans, the Berlin Airlift would instill an enduring sense of gratitude toward the United States and Britain, their former enemies who had refused to allow them to be swallowed up into the communist regime, and had helped them when they needed it most.

The whole story is not just interesting and important in 20th century history, but provides missing context for much of what followed. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Tuesday 31, Jeff 0

A Bigger Waste of Time and Fuel is Hard to Imagine 

In my attempt to get some long-awaited tasks done yesterday morning, I got completely shut out. An epic fail, even, in the sense that some extra things happened that were distinct negatives, which I won’t get into. 

A big and obvious clue to how my next two hours were going to go:  the very first thing I noticed when I got to the Secretary of State’s office was a line that stretched out the door and around the entire outdoor mall.

But! There was also a much shorter line that went the other direction. 

So I was hopeful as I approached the last guy in that shorter line: “can you tell me what this line is for?”

“Plates”.

Drat. That is the only thing I do *not* need. Well, I do need them, but not today. 

A great example of how the next 2 hours were going to go, in microcosm, involving a trip to a distant suburb interrupted by emergency bathroom needs, only to be turned away by some giant armed cop when I finally arrived, then an impromptu attempt to get an emissions test done since I was “in the area” (not really but I was desperate to accomplish something) only to encounter a traffic jam due to an accident, causing me to bail on that too, so I gave up on the entire trip and headed to McDonald’s for a breakfast sandwich, only to find that I had missed the breakfast-ordering window by 10 minutes. 

Whatever. I guess next time I need to get there before they open, as I kinda figured from the start. But I can only be in one line at a time so multiply this secnario out by several days.

Waiting in lines of any kind is stress-inducing for me — so here’s a random work of art to calm myself, and maybe you too.

Pissarro, Street of the Citadelle, Pontoise, 1873

Camille Pissarro, via Twitter, believe it or not. I have discovered several artists there, and it substantially improves my feed. More on that later.

Have a blessed Wednesday — it pretty much has to be better than my Tuesday! 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

It’s Tuesday, Seems Like a Good Day to Go to the DMV and Wait in Several Lines for Several Hours

Wish me luck! 

As it turns out, when you as an Illinois resident buy out your leased vehicle, it creates this complicated and opaque logisitical process between you, your old bank, your new bank, and the state which of course wants its tax revenue.

  1. You apply for bank loan fron new bank
  2. New bank issues check for payoff amount
  3. You mail check to old bank
  4. Old bank sends confusing letter plus updated title to you, not to new bank, because now you — as a chump who still lives in Illinois for some inexplicable reason — have to hike your sorry self over to the DMV and wait in long lines with a bunch of sweaty disgusting losers for the privilege of writing some sizable check to the State of Illinois for purchasing the vehicle you have already been driving for 4 years

Why couldn’t this be a paper bill so you can mail the check somewhere, and then the state can send the title to the new bank?

You know, like normal, rational, non-insane people would do it? 

I don’t know but I suspect it has something to do with the state assuming you will ignore it or defraud them somehow. Which I still don’t get because this genius process:

  • Requires me to go somewhere and wait in line, quite a disincentive in itself, *much* worse than just mailing some sizable check that I already don’t want to write, and 
  • Actually sends *me* the title and while I am not in the business of defrauding the state and courting prison time, there are people who think that is a fine idea — maybe even a business model — and *those* people might view the idea of having the title in their possession as a good start

Like I said, wish me luck. Also: it’s raining. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

F1 Styrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring, Spielberg Austria

Red Bull Wins at Red Bull Ring

Edited version of original photo at formula1.com 

Max Verstappen led start to finish for his fourth win of the year followed by Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) in second place and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) in third.

The order of the first 2 finishers was reversed from last week’s French Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez (Red Bull) finished fourth just ½ second behind Bottas (at least in part due to a 2 second delay removing his left rear tire in his only pit stop).

Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) explains many of the buttons and knobs on those unbelievably complicated high-tech steering wheels ... 

A similar video - Formula 1 steering wheel video (non-embeddable)




Friday, June 25, 2021

Friday Art & Music for the Last Friday in June

 Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins “Instrumental Medley”



Masters at work. They made an excellent album together, “Neck and Neck”, worth checking out if you like the above. Here’s the cover art.


Here’s their version of “Just One Time”, a Don Gibson classic.


Don Gibson’s version.



I know that I also had Chet Atkins in last week’s Friday Art & Music but it’s not because I’m senile — not yet anyway. 


Hopper, Read Pavillon de Flore, 1909



Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942



Hopper, Adobe Houses, 1925




Let’s Look at the Weather 

Rainy today, although that big moisture system at lower left might miss us later ... let’s hope, I wanted to do some walking and maybe stadium stairs in late afternoon ... 

This is from Weather Underground, the best weather app I have tried yet. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Tommy Lasorda Quote on Your Feelings and How Many People Care About Them

Hint: That Number is Zero

Eighty percent of the people who hear about your troubles don't care, and the other twenty percent are glad you're having them.

Very similar to a quote I often use:  nobody cares about your feelings.

Of course neither one is 100% true but that doesn’t obscure the message, which seems to need reinforcing more and more.

Your feelings, thoughts, inner struggles, emotions, whether you are offended by something or not — those things are yours and nobody else’s. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

June 23 Already?!

WTF

July 4 is less than two weeks away, our regular July vacation less than two weeks after that — and then it’s August, which nobody really likes because it has zero holidays and the whole month is about counting down the last days of summer and a return to school.

They call it “the dog days of August” for a reason, you know. What that is, I’m not sure, but it sounds lazy and a little depressed, doesn’t it?

So Summer ‘21 feels kinda half over, already.

One thing I am thankful for this year — at least it’s not “LOCK YOUR DOORS AND STAY INSIDE, THE VIRUS IS ON THE LOOSE!!!” 

The summer of ‘20 — the Lockdown Summer — was awful, and nobody in our family even caught the virus. An entire summer with nowhere to go and nothing to do. As it turns out, leaving the house to congregate in public with others, where you can eat and drink and enjoy life away from the crushing grind for just a few hours, is an essential part of life just like breathing. Who knew?! 

Well, I did, for starters,  and I assumed everyone else understood it too. Apparently it was less well understood than I’d realized.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Two Versions of “Summer Breeze”

Seals and Crofts “Summer Breeze”

Their first big hit of many — both the single and the album went gold. 

The bridge is what really cranks this up to 11 — the lyrics:

Sweet days of summer
The jasmine's in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune
And I come home from a hard day's work
And you're waiting there
Not a care in the world

It’s slightly past halfway through the video above.

These lyrics aren’t exactly poetry but they do paint a nice visual image in your mind, by far the most important attribute of good lyrics.

Isley Brothers version

A very different version, slightly superior in my book, due to the amazing vocals and beautiful electric guitar from Ernie Isley. That 2 minute guitar outro is amazing.  

More on this classic Isley Brothers album “3 + 3” in a future post — one of the best albums released in the 70s. They caught lightning in a bottle with that one.

Both versions are great and they aim for and accomplish different things, and I will turn up either version loud on the car radio. 

Back to Seals and Crofts for a very good live version. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

It Was a Grand Prix Sunday

Watching Formula 1 Grand Prix auto racing is a great way to start any day of the week, and on Father’s Day it feels like a present from someone I don’t even know. 

Sunday was the French Grand Prix and I knew this because just this week I started watching “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” on Netflix and now I am certifiably hooked on this show — it’s an excellent primer for watching the sport, introducing the drivers and racing teams and then roping you in with exhilirating racecam footage from inside the cars.

I was quite pleased to discover that ESPN carried it live. Highlight video and story here (or click image)

Congrats to winner Max Verstappen (who overtook leader Lewis Hamilton with 2 laps to go) and 3rd place finisher Sergio Perez of Red Bull Racing — that team’s third win in a row. 

Later I watched the Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin — a personal favorite weekend-getaway destination of ours in recent years. Alex Palou won it with two laps to go when leader Josef Newgarden suddenly lost power coming out of the yellow caution flag. 

I believe I have found a new sport to follow. Then it was time for the U.S. Open, and after that, U.S. Olympic Team qualifying for Track and Field. More on those tomorrow. 

Upcoming races:


Sunday, June 20, 2021

U. S. Open 2021

Leaderboard at 3pm Central


6pm


One hour later ... congrats to Jon Rahm on his first major win.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Art and Music

Chet Atkins, “Superpickers”

Entire album here (in a playlist). It’s Chet Atkins plus the “Nashville A-Team” of legendary session musicians. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s the first tune, “Paramirabo”


“Canadian Pacific”


“City of New Orleans”


Chet Atkins Wikipedia, discography 

Art

Pissarro, Rue de l'epicerie at Rouen, on a Grey Morning, 1898


... Enjoy your Friday ... 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

30th Anniversary of Mt Pinatubo Eruption

This past Saturday June 12 was the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Phillipines, the second largest eruption in the 20th century

It started with earthquakes in April and then an initial explosion on June 7 followed on June 12 by this ash plume reaching 28 miles (40km) into the sky. The “cataclysmic” explosion occurred on June 15-16. 



Here’s Clark Air Base afterward, covered with ash inches thick.


The atmospheric dust cloud as seen from space that cooled the planet by 1° C for a year or more. 


There’s a photo at this article in a Manila newspaper marking the anniversary that you do not want to miss.

(These photos are not mine and I do not claim copyright on them, click the photos for the original sources)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Boz Scaggs “Pearl of the Quarter”

A solid version of this tough-to-beat Steely Dan classic.

From a 2013 album recorded in Memphis with legendary session musicians like Ray Parker, Jr (who likely plays the excellent guitar fills on the above song), Spooner Oldham, Charlie Musselwhite, Eddie Willis of The Funk Brothers (the Motown house band) along with many others, plus a guest appearance by Keb’ Mo’. 

There’s alot to like here — I especially like “Love on a Two Way Street” and “Can I Change My Mind”. The musicians and arrangements are spot-on throughout and Scaggs sounds as good as ever at 69 years old (now 77). 

There’s more to discover here. More later.

Love on a Two Way Street


Can I Change My Mind



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Someone You Should Know Better: Tony Conigliaro

During the Cubs vs. Mets game last night they showed the ugly replay from last month of Kevin Pillar getting hit in the face by a pitch. 

He came back quickly though — he even wanted to get back into game after bleeding all over the field — and now wears a mask for protection.

He’s very, very lucky, because I remember a player who was not so lucky. His name was Tony Conigliaro. 

He was a rising young star with the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s. His rookie year in 1964 at just 19 years of age he hit 24 home runs, an all time record for a teenager that still stands today. The next year he led the entire American League in home runs with 32, at age 20. 

In 1967 he hit home run number 100 for his career at age 22, the youngest American Leaguer ever to reach that milestone. That same year he was selected for the All-Star team — one wonders what took so long, but back then it took longer for young players to break into “the club” because the selection process was different (no fans). 

Already an established star and on pace to hit a very large number of home runs in his career — until tragedy struck on Aug 18, 1967, when he was hit in the eye by a pitch, suffering severe damage to his retina along with facial fractures and a dislocated jaw. 


A famous Sports Illustrated cover shows the damage.

The Red Sox would go on to win the American League pennant despite the loss of Conigliaro, but lost the World Series to the St Louis Cardinals — one suspects that his presence could have made the difference.

He came back in 1969 and won Comeback Player of the Year, and had another good year in 1970 with a career high in homers, but his vision continued to decline and that was essentially the end of his career, at just 25 years old.

Unfortunately further tragedies awaited him in his life after baseball. In 1982 he interviewed to become the Red Sox broadcaster — replacing Hawk Harrelson who the Red Sox had acquired as a player to replace Conigliaro after the injury — but 2 days later suffered a heart attack and a stroke which left him in need of constant care. 

He passed away in 1990 at age 45. To honor him, and to recognize the players who overcome big challenges, the Red Sox that year started an annual Tony Conigliaro Award chosen by the media, commissioner’s office, and the two league presidents. 

A great career cut short, and then his life cut short too. Makes you wonder what might have been, except for that one awful moment.

Links 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

French Open


We enter the final weekend of the French Open at Roland Garros and the final singles matches are 

  • Ladies - Barbora Krejcikova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
  • Men - Djokovic vs. Stefano Tsitsipas

No, I never heard of the two women players either. That’s a lot of syllables.

In the Men’s semifinal Djokific defeated Rafael Nadal in 4 sets, despite falling behind 5-0 to start the first set.

Nadal’s French Open record is so completely dominant it’s hard to fully comprehend it:  he was riding a 35 match winning streak, his overall record is 105-3, and has won the tournament 13 times. 

Thirteen French Open titles!

Dkojokic said it was one of his top three matches of his entire career. Win a title win Sunday he could become the first player of the Open Era to win all 4 major titles multiple  times — the fact that none of the greats of the last 50+ years have done this is amazing to me. 

Both Nadal and Djokovic have always struck me as very likable, along with Federer. Men’s tennis has been lucky to have them as leaders — one wonders who is in line to carry that torch going forward.

Will update with results for both matches over the weekend ... the ladies’ match is ongoing as I type this.

[...]

Krejcikova wins - first Czech to win ladies singles title since 1981.

[...]

Dkokovic wins - becomes “first man in the Open Era to win the four majors twice and to have come from two sets down twice en route to a Grand Slam title".

Congrats to both champions.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday Art and Music

The O’Jays “Live From Daryl’s House”


It’s the O’Jays, it’s Daryl Hall and his band, and it’s live from Daryl’s house. 

Any questions? Should be self-explanatory. 

The Ventures, “Perfidia”, 1960


Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before ... this band is amazing. “Perfidia” was written in 1939, a hit in 1940 by Xavier Cugat, and then the Ventures version in 1960 made the Top 20 nationwide — and remember, this is three years before the Beatles. The Ventures were blazing their own trail for years before the British Invastion. That’s not nothing. 


Cezanne, Bibemus Quarry, 1898



Link

Le Fauconnier, Figures, 1913



Happy Friday friends. 

Link to this post

Thursday, June 10, 2021

It’s Hot Outside So ...

Sly and the Family Stone, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, 1969

The original. This was blasting from everyone’s AM radios in 1969, in the car, on portable radios, it was part of the fabric of popular culture. 

There are no words good enough to describe this incredible band. Simply in a league by themselves. 

Here’s a live version from some TV show, and it’s an actual performance, not lip-synced, believe it or not.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Pretty nice summer weather this weekend around these parts, highs around 90 Friday through Sunday but the humidity was fairly low — so while it was definitely warm it was not oppressive. At least your sweat has a chance to evaporate to cool your body. 

I took advantage of this opportunity and got out on the bike both weekend days. My goal every summer is to ride 3-4 days per week for a total of about 3 hours — this year I’m adding stadium stairs 2x per week, plus a 20-30 minute walk 2-3x per week for some variety and a mental break from high exertion activity. 

Sounds like a lot sweating and it is — but not doing it is even worse.

Most people think about only the physical and health benefits of exercise, but I find that my overall attitude and sense of “drive” are better with a consistent level of these kinds of activities, especially biking. 

Experience has taught me that it’s about emotional mood management almost as much as physical health:  something amazing goes on inside your body and brain with steady state aerobic activity, and it stays with you all day. Endorphins, increased oxygen in your blood, etc., it’s a miracle cure for a lot of ills.

When the weather gets really hot, say 90s and humid, everyone knows that the coolest time for biking and running is in the early morning, before 7am. However this involves way too much waking up at 4:30 and sweating by 5:15 — I’m more of a “wake up when I wake up and have some coffee and do some reading and writing” type of guy — but I can probably aim for 7:30 though on those really hot days.

Quick music notes: Late last week I discovered a good jazz/pop singer by the name of Laura Fygi — pronounced “fee-gee” — so over the weekend I listened to a lot of her music. The three albums that really caught my attention so far: “Introducing” her first album in 1991, “Change” from 2001, and “At Ronnie Scott’s” a live album from 2003. Her version of “Dream a Little Dream” is outstanding.

Link to this post 


Monday, June 07, 2021

Someone You Should Know More About: Gen. Chuck Yeager

One of the most amazing life stories you will ever read is Gen. Chuck Yeager’s biography “Yeager”. 

His fascinating life story filled with adventure and great risk to accomplish great things would make an incredible movie — and if we lived in a country that still celebrated its heroes, that movie should have been made in the 1980s on the tails of the tremendously successful “The Right Stuff” and “Apollo 13”, when his name was already in the news.

In fact his story of relentless confidence and courage in the face of daily risk of death would have been a perfect counterweight to the oppressive gloom and loss of national confidence after the horrific Challenger explosion in 1986. Gen. Yeager was even on the investigating commission to look into it, along with another personal hero of mine, Prof. Richard Feynman.

Yeager accomplished many things, but the most famous by far was becoming the first human to break the sound barrier — on Oct 14, 1947, with two broken ribs — and if you don’t understand what that is or why it matters or how dangerous it was, here’s why

On October 14 Air Force Capt. Charles E. (“Chuck”) Yeager, flying a Bell X-I, became the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Today, with supersonic flight routine, the sound barrier seems an arbitrary figure, like a .300 batting average. But during and immediately after World War II it was real—and frightening. As planes of that era approached the speed of sound, cockpit controls would lock up and massive, uncontrollable turbulence would batter the airframe.

The X-I was designed for breaking the sound barrier and nothing else. It was tiny (Yeager had been chosen in part for his small stature), and its fuselage was shaped like a .50-caliber bullet, because bullets were known to achieve supersonic speeds. Its wings were swept back in a V shape to move the center of gravity toward the rear. Since jets were still in their early stages, the X-I had a rocket engine that ran on diluted ethyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. It provided two and a half minutes of extremely powerful thrust.

To break the barrier, the X-I was loaded into the bomb bay of a B-29 and released at twenty-five thousand feet with Yeager in the cockpit. He climbed to forty-two thousand feet on two of the engine’s four chambers, then switched on a third and watched his speed indicator zoom to seven hundred miles per hour, 1.06 times the speed of sound at that altitude. Observers on the ground heard a sonic boom, a sound that would become familiar in years to come. Yeager shot upward until his fuel was exhausted and then glided to a landing at Muroc Army Air Field in California. The Air Force did not officially announce the achievement until June 1948, though Aviation Week magazine had leaked word the previous December.

It was all experimentation all the time, and every test pilot that wedged themselves into any of these experimental aircraft to go faster and higher than anyone had every flown, into the upper reaches of our atmosphere, almost into space, was risking death at any moment. 

The Bell X-1 had no ejection capability, and exiting through the side door was a sure decapitation via the wing. You were trapped in an experimental aircraft. Good luck!

They did this every day. That was the job. Some of their test pilot friends did not make it due to the daily risk of “augering in” or crashing into the desert. 

The whole idea seemed crazy to many experts at the time — nobody knew what would happen if an aircraft tried to break Mach I. Would it explode? Would it shake violently apart? Who knows? From this history.com article:

For years, many aviators believed that man was not meant to fly faster than the speed of sound, theorizing that transonic drag rise would tear any aircraft apart.

And yet a group of courageous test pilots including Yeager were determined to resolve this question, at risk of violent death. Several of them paid that price.

But that’s not all. As Chuck himself says in “Yeager”, they spent many nights out carousing at a local watering hole named Pancho’s — the owner was also a pilot and promised a free steak dinner (!) to the first pilot to break the sound barrier — and then getting up before the crack of dawn to get into a test aircraft and risk their lives again.

That my friends is Living On The Edge. But nobody knows about all this unless they happened to read “Yeager”. This is dumbfounding to me — his life story is one of the most remarkable true life adventure stories anyone could ever imagine, but there’s no movie version!?! 

Here he is with the test aircraft Bell X-1 he named “Glamourous Glennis” to honor his wife:



The aircraft is shaped like a .50 caliber bullet because that shape was known to go supersonic without doing strange and unpredictable things in the air. 

Before his test pilot days, he flew fighters like the P-51 Mustang in WWII over Europe, 61 missions in all, with 13 kills, including making “ace in a day” with 5 in one mission. Shot down on March 5, 1944, he was sheltered by the French Underground and helped them build bombs until they helped him escape to Spain a few weeks later. The D-Day invasion would follow a few weeks after, helping him get back into the cockpit when the French Underground membership came out of hiding after liberation by the Allies, removing extra security risk from pilots getting shot down again. 

There’s much more in “Yeager” — his childhood alone would make a fascinating adventure book for boys, about growing up in rural West Virginia, hunting and exploring with his friends — and I highly recommend reading this book to anyone who loves adventure and values courage and leadership. In fact I would recommend that every American child should read this book by 7th grade, it’s that important to our national story to understand his life and how it helps define America in the 20th century.

Other interesting links:

Saturday, June 05, 2021

On June 5, 1968

... Robert F Kennedy is assassinated — just two months after Martin Luther King Jr — in Los Angeles after winning the California primary and clearly on a path to a potential U.S. presidential election win in November.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Tribute to Billy Joe (B. J.) Thomas

Friday Music

Legendary singer B. J. Thomas passed away on May 29 at 78. 

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was of course a giant hit in 1969, when I was 10 years old, and I absolutely loved that song. I still like it today.

But for my money that is nowhere close to his best song. And most people had no idea that he also ranged into country, gospel, and even Latin Jazz in later years.

Here are my top 5 — your list is probably different, and that’s okay.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Updates on My Leisure Time Activities 

Video/TV

Our video streaming has dropped off lately — it is summer, so we all have better things to do — but one show we really like is season two of Fargo. The series is about a turf war between crime families, supposedly a true story. Jeffrey Donovan of “Burn Notice” (one of my favorite shows from the last 20 years) plays a true scumbag. Patrick Wilson as the state cop is very good, as are Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons as the hapless local couple that gets caught up in the turf war. Great music, too. An old FX series available now on Hulu. 

The other main show we are currently enjoying is The Kominsky Method, mid-way through season 2 now (and season 3 just released last week). Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas and Nancy Travis are such professionals and a pleasure to watch, but I could live without the actress playing Kominsky’s daughter ... she is not interesting or compelling and lacks human warmth, and brings down every scene she’s in because she’s not in the same league as Arkin, Douglas or Travis. Do the producers think I’m the only one to notice that? What are they doing? Anyhoo, good performances all around and the overall tone of the show walks that fine line between funny and serious very effectively, which bonds you to the characters since that’s more like real life, and credit for that goes to the producer and writer, Chuck Lorre. 

Mainly we’ve been watching a lot of Cubs baseball. They had an amazing month of May, we’ll see if they can keep that up. Update: they just swept the Padres 3 straight: 7-2, 4-3, 6-1.   

Podcasts

Good podcasts — no, make that excellent podcasts — from the last week: 

  • Upstream: How Men Can Finish Life Well - Interview with Robert Wolgemuth discussing his book “The Gun Lap: Staying in the Race with Purpose” (Spotify
  • Mike Rowe: The Way I Heard It: Episode 202 The Leaf Blower Stays In (Spotify
  • Rhino Records: Interview with John Densmore (drummer of The Doors) who is a very interesting guy (Spotify)

The “Gun Lap” episode hits on a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. Men are happy to allow their careers to define them, probably a lttle too much, but here we are. Retirement does not appeal to me all that much — but there’s also more to life than working full time and devoting your best hours of every day to that. I should write some more on that soon. 

Music

Musically I’ve listened to mostly The Ventures as noted last week. Completely blown away by this band, I literally had no idea how much great music they had put out, and how innovative they were. In a league of their own. 

Also listening to the Latin Jazz playlist and Emilie-Claire Barlow Radio. I find Latin Jazz very enticing, the kind of thing that can both be relaxing when you’re stressed and energetic when you’re down. Lots more space between the notes than other kinds of music.

RIP BJ Thomas — more about him tomorrow.  

Beer

Discovered Boathouse Reserve, an excellent local microbrew Imperial Stout from Crystal Lake Brewing. Frankly it’s a little too delicious because at 10.5% ABV — even in those “little” glasses — two of them is bordering on too much. Beer Advocate reviews here — although there are apparently two versions (Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged vs. Barrel Aged) and I’m not sure which one I had because it was on tap. They also have an Oatmeal Stout I need to try.


Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Be Careful Out There

One day last week on an absolutely beautiul late Spring day —  low humidity, temperature around 80, sunny — I started on a bike ride. 

Then I nearly crashed in the first 50 feet, just steps from my driveway.

Trying to get your shoes seated into those cages on the pedals is a little tricky, you see, especially with biking shoes. And sometimes while you are focused on that you might not pay attention to which direction you’re going and you know ... end up in the ditch. Right in front of your neighbor’s house.

I stayed upright fortunately, so no real harm done, but was immediately reminded of that time way back in, let’s see ... probably 1972, when I was around 13, and I had just bought and installed a cool new speedometer on my bike. 

I was *so* excited about this thing, admiring it while riding home from my friend’s house.

In fact I admired it so much that as I rounded a corner I hit a parked car and launched myself onto the trunk. Right in front of my neighbor’s house.

Rounding corners with your head down is *not* a good idea, as it turns out.

This neighbor happened to be in his driveway and then crash! 

Not one of my finer moments. I had a couple scrapes and bruises but nothing serious. The bike however now had a bent fork, and so I was reminded of this incident every time I rode that bike forevermore, since it pulled left.

Too bad I didn’t pull off this move — impressive!


But back to this century, and last week’s ride ... after that initial mishap I also almost hit a street sign and almost ran off the edge of the path. Almost. Good times.

So my advice to you is keep your head up, eyes forward, when riding a bike. Sounds simple, but every 50 years or so, you might forget. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

The Thinks You Definitely Should NOT Think at 2AM

Saturday night I fell asleep pretty quickly but then at 2AM I found myself awake, too warm, needing to go to the bathroom, etc.

Actually it might have been 1AM, or 12:32, or 3:15, I don’t really know, because I didn’t look at the time. In fact I *never* look at the time in the middle of the night. 

I stopped doing that years ago when I realized a) it does not matter what time it is and b) all it does is annoy me and get my brain going. 

Checking the time is a pretty silly idea, when you think about it. You got somewhere to go at 2:30? You got plans? Who cares whether it’s 12:28 or 4:45? What possible value does this have for you? 

Here’s what matters: you’re awake and you want to get back to sleep very soon. That’s it. 

Don’t do things that complicate that process like check the time and then now your brain gets all “oh, great, it’s 1:37, why am I awake, and I need to get up in ... (engage math brain) let’s see 4 hours would be 5:37 and my alarm is set for 6:15 so that’s ... 4 hours plus 30-something minutes, that’s just great, now I’m going to be tired tomorrow and I’ve got this thing I need to do and that’s going to be harder now, and then ... (blah blah blah your brain is completely awake now)”.

Will this help you get to sleep? No it will not.

It’s essential to find some mental trick to keep your brain from engaging on such craziness. I learned to focus on regulating my breathing — neither all the way in nor all the way out, and very steady — but anything calming could probably work, like counting sheep or saying the Lord’s Prayer several times or picturing your happy place such as waves rolling in on the beach or a green meadow with a deep blue sky or a snow-capped mountain range or flying in a hang glider. 

Sometimes if I feel physically restless I have even visualized some kind of invisible force — something like a gyroscope — moving around through my arms and legs actually releasing tension and causing me to relax. 

These tricks are especially important to avoid things like worry or anxiety about the future, or regret about the past. Been there, done that, it’s a terrible idea, pointless at any time of day, and doing it while you could be getting back to sleep is costing you in two different ways and compounding the sleep issue. 

But for some reason our brains like to torture us with these stupid games in the middle of the night, so you need to find some tricks to keep it from sabotaging your sleep and even sometimes your mental and physical health.

It’s your brain, and you have control over how you use it.

But when all else fails, one thing you should *not* do is keep lying there, awake for an hour or more, increasingly frustrated and annoyed. I like to get out of bed and go lay on the couch and watch some TV, especially a movie or a re-broadcast of some sports event. One of two things will happen, either you still won’t get to sleep but at least you distracted yourself and maybe even saw a decent movie at 3-4AM — this has happened for me more than once — or your eyes get tired and you fall asleep. Either way it’s better than lying in bed awake.