The New Tenant

logos.png A short while ago, Jo-Ann moved from its location near Planet Fitness to the former location of Old Navy, right between Hobby Lobby and Michaels. They’ve started construction on what will replace the old Jo-Ann, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating, hoping for a new restaurant, or perhaps a Trader Joe’s.

Yesterday, I saw a sign in front of the new construction announcing the new tenant! New restaurant? Maybe the Old Spaghetti Factory that I’ve been waiting for? Or a Green Tomato? Veggie Grill? Nope. Hoag Medical Center. Boo!

Obviously, they need the new medical center to treat all those housewives who have developed carpal tunnel from too much crafting.

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Tidying Report or: Does Vinyl Still Spark Joy?

I’ve been on a tidying kick for quite some time. Today I won a major victory by getting my daughter to join in. She went through her bathroom and filled up two bags of stuff to be discarded. Yay!

Tonight, while sitting in my entertainment room after watching a movie, I glanced at my vinyl collection. I wondered if it was time to do something bold: Get rid of all my records.

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I know how audiophiles always say that the sound from vinyl is superior. So I decided to do a scientific test to help me make my decision. I would listen to one of my favorite songs on vinyl, then on compact disc. If the vinyl version sounded far superior, I might want to keep my records. If I couldn’t tell the difference, or if the CD sounded better, then yay, lots of records to discard.

I had to select the right song for the test. I didn’t think about it too much, and I chose “Here Comes the Sun”, by The Beatles. I have this song on both vinyl and CD versions of the album called “1967-1970”, also commonly known as “The Blue Album”.

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I decided to listen to the version on vinyl first. Of course, I had to go through all of the ritual. First, I took out the album from the shelf. I pulled out the sleeve, and the record slipped out, because the paper had come apart. Yeah, I remember that. The record sleeve is far from indestructible.

I put the record on the turntable, cued up the tone arm, used my velvet dust brush to make sure the record was pristine, and finally lowered the tone arm onto the record. I noticed that the strobe indicator showed that the speed was off. The record was going a bit too slow. So I adjusted it until the speed was exactly 33 ⅓ revolutions per minute. Or as close to it as I could get.

Now it was time to listen. The record sounded OK. Back in the early 1980s I had played this record a lot, and as happens with vinyl, the grooves had worn down and the sound was a bit flat. But it still sounded good. No crackling or skipping. I had taken good care of my records.

Next it was time to listen to the CD. I had to remind myself how to use the CD player. I hadn’t used it for a long time. There was a way to select a single track and optionally tell it to repeat. I didn’t quite remember how to do that, so I just decided to select the track and hit play. First, I had to look at the CD box to find out what the correct track number was. Eight. The track number on the Blue Album CD for “Here Comes the Sun” is eight. On disc number two.

Just a few seconds into listening to the CD version was enough to convince me what I needed to do. To my non-audiophile ears, the CD sounds was far superior to the vinyl sounds. Goodbye records!

Then something happened. About a quarter way through the song, the CD player started playing “Come Together”, the next track. Track number nine. What happened? I thought maybe I stepped down on the floor to hard and caused the CD to skip, so I tried again, restarting “Here Comes the Sun”, track eight. And it happened again! I realized that it would be impossible for me to listen to the entire song on the CD. The CD was not scratched or anything, Just by sitting on the shelf all these years, the CD had deteriorated to the point of making it unplayable.

Boo. It seemed that all the money that I invested over the years in CDs was now sunk. I didn’t even want to try listening to any of my other CDs, for fear of being disappointed again.

Apparently, CDs are an inferior technology. A record could get scratched, maybe crackle a little, but at least, unless you really abuse it and scratch it deeply, the whole record will play. My father has old 78 rpm records from almost 100 years ago, and they still play (if you can find a turntable that plays that speed). But a CD, just because of its age, becomes a circular brick. It seems that entropy is not kind to CDs.

So, I think I won’t be discarding my vinyl collection just yet. Or maybe the answer is to dump all of the physical discs, both vinyl and compact, and just stream my music. Alexa, play “Here Comes the Sun”.

Alexa > Siri

I got some bad news today, and I needed cheering up. After work, I got into my car, put my phone in the dashboard holster, and started to drive home.

“Hey Siri, listen to happy music.”

Siri thought about it for less than a second and said, “To do that, you’ll need an Apple Music subscription.”

Boo. Not helpful. So I tried something else.

“Hey Siri, start Amazon Music.”

Amazon music started. Good.

“Alexa, listen to happy music.”

Alexa: “Here’s a playlist for happy music. Feel-good classic soul, on Amazon Music.”

A song called “Barefootin”, by Rufus Thomas came on. Not bad, but I don’t know the song. I needed something familiar to cheer me up.

“Alexa, listen to different happy music.”

Alexa: “Here’s a playlist for happy music. Happy modern pop, on Amazon Music.”

Before the song by Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa even started, I knew what I had to do to get her to play something familiar.

“Alexa, listen to happy music from the 1970s.”

Alexa: “Here’s a playlist for happy music. Happy hits from the 70s, on Amazon Music.”

🎶

“Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk

I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk

Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around

Since I was born

And now it’s alright, it’s okay

🎵

Okay. The Bee Gees weren’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was cool. And it got better. The next song was “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, and then “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen. I was starting to feel better.

I think it’s just a matter of time until Apple takes away the ability to channel Alexa from Siri.

A Single Man Has No Use For a Fireplace

Yesterday, I was on a hike with a friend when she mentioned that she would like a house with a fireplace. I replied that I have a fireplace and I don’t use it. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time I used it. It’s been years. All I remember about the last time I used the fireplace is that I was in a relationship at the time and using the fireplace was the woman’s idea.

My friend asked if I wouldn’t like to curl up in front of the fireplace on a cold day. Perhaps to read a book. And I said no, if I get cold I’ll turn up the heat. And I wouldn’t even have to do that, because I have a smart thermostat that already knows how warm I like it. She said that’s such a man’s mentality!

I have to agree. Someone at work this week mentioned over lunch that most of the new homes these days don’t come standard with a fireplace. You can order one as an option, but a lot of people choose not to. In fact, someone he knows bought an older house and removed the fireplace, because the extra wall space was more valuable. I can imagine a young couple buying their first house and arguing over whether there should be a fireplace or a wall.

I can think of lots of things I could do with the extra wall space that would be more useful than a fireplace. A larger TV. A better sound system. More speakers to go with the new sound system. More seating so more friends could watch the big TV. Add-ons to my Beatles Rock Band. The list is endless.

Dateless at Penn

I went through four years at the University of Pennsylvania without a date.

I’m not saying that I didn’t date at all between 1979 and 1983. When I went home for the weekends, I would sometimes go out with my sister’s friends. I even got an invitation to the junior prom, and I have the photos to prove it! And on one weekend back home, I had a date with a girl I went to high school with.

But nothing on campus. No dates with anyone I met in college. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Zip. Diddly squat.

It wasn’t completely my fault. Back in those days, the male-to-female ratio at Penn was 2 to 1. That’s for the whole school, which included all the English majors and Psych majors. In Computer Science, I think the ratio was more like 30 to 1.

I did come close to having a date once. In my first week of college as a freshman, there was a girl in the computer lab, We were both working on our programming assignments. Back then, you didn’t have your own laptop in your room. You had to reserve a terminal at the computer lab, and once you got it, you wouldn’t want to give it up until you were done. I was done at a reasonable time, maybe 9 or 10 pm. But she was having trouble and asked me for help. So I helped her, and we talked (I think), and before I knew it, it was 2 am.

It was time to go back to our dorms, and I asked for her phone number. She wrote it down on a little white piece of paper, along with her name (which I did not know up to that point). Becky Chang. I was so young, only seventeen. I didn’t even know yet that I liked Asian women.

I was happy when I got back to my room in High Rise South, about six blocks from the Moore School Building that housed the computer lab. Or was it the Towne Building? Yeah, I think it was the Towne Building. The classes were in the Moore School Building, but the computer terminals were in the Towne Building, along with ENIAC. Doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I never called Becky.

I know what you’re thinking, Go ahead and say it. Loser!

I wonder what happened to Becky Chang. Who knows, maybe she’s single. It would be next to impossible to find her though. I probably wouldn’t even recognize her if I did.

I don’t think I kept that slip of paper that she wrote her name and phone number on all those years ago. On the other hand, I don’t remember throwing it away. If I didn’t throw away my class notes from college, maybe I still have that paper in one of the boxes. This gives me a bit of incentive to continue on with my home tidying project. If I find that slip of paper, it will be sure to spark joy.

The One With Alan Brady’s Hair

Sally: Where’s Laura?

Rob: She’s at home.

Sally: No she’s not, she’s here. I saw her get into the elevator.

Rob: The elevator?

Sally: Yeah, you know, that little room in the lobby that goes up and down.

This is from S5E1 of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, from 1965. Fifteen years before Leslie Nielsen told us in “Airplane!” that a hospital is a big building with patients.

But that’s not important right now.

The Star Trek Years

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Last night, a friend told me he was rewatching all the episodes of the original Star Trek series on Prime. Star Trek is something that I think all of my friends have watched, but I’ve managed to mostly avoid my whole life.

I have early memories of Star Trek when my father was watching it on our black and white Zenith TV. All I remember is that I was afraid of the man with the pointy ears. Star Trek originally ran from 1966 to 1969, so I would have been between four and seven years old when I was frightened by the Vulcan ears.

Starting in junior high and continuing through college and work, friends have continually raved about Star Trek. I remember when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, my freshman year in college. It was a big thing, and everyone was talking about it. But I had no desire to see it. I would occasionally try to watch an episode on TV, as it was shown in syndication, but it never held my attention long enough to watch a complete episode. I thought it was campy.

I finally succumbed in 1986 when the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out. A group of colleagues at work were going to see it, and they invited me. This is the movie where the crew travels back in time to 1986 San Francisco. To save the whales! Since this was soon after I had seen another time travel movie, Back to the Future, which I liked a lot, I decided to go with them to see it.

Side note. I was working at Unisys, in Santa Monica, at the time. The movie was playing in Westwood. Maybe six to eight of us went to see it. We didn’t carpool. Rather, each of us drove separately from the office to Westwood, in our own cars. Someone commented that was the Southern California way.

Back to Star Trek. I really enjoyed the movie. Seeing the crew in 1986 San Francisco was cool. And the movie was funny, though I understood that the comedy was a bit of an aberration for Star Trek. I had to smile when I saw Mr. Scott pick up the mouse and said “Hello computer.”

After the movie, someone commented that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was also good. And it had Mr. Roarke in it! So sometime later I went over to Wherehouse to rent Star Trek II on Betamax.

Star Trek II was OK. But I was not hooked. It was not until 1989, when I had a girlfriend who was a Trekkie, that I watched Star Trek again. The new movie was coming out, and she was really looking forward to seeing it. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. So, we went to see it. I think we saw it on the day it came out. At a movie theater in Encino.

Although the movie was forgettable, I remember that I enjoyed the experience. It made my girlfriend happy, and I was in love. So it made me happy.

Fast forward to 2019. No Star Trek watching during all these years. I was intrigued that my friend was rewatching the series. And it’s been remastered and can be watched without commercials on Prime. So I tuned in to Prime and started watching S1E1.

My first thought was, “Wow, that’s a pretty good hairpiece on William Shatner, for 1966.” And my second thought, because I sometimes have a hard time single tasking and paying attention to something I am watching on TV, was all of the above. So five minutes and four seconds into episode 1, I had to pick up my phone and thumb type my newest blog post. I hope it was entertaining!

Maybe I’ll go back sometime and see if I can sit through all of the first episode.