Feelings of Digital Abandonment


This is not a post to pick on Apple, though the image above might suggest that. Instead I’m going to lump them all in one demonic basket: Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. All because they’re alienating hardcore music listeners and audiophiles:


And also because none of these bastards can be trusted.

Every tech giant wants you to use The Cloud. The Cloud is the future. The Cloud will bless us with a flood of entertainment, streaming into our devices like a perpetual well of digital goodness. In fact, they’ve pretty much won the battle. Many aren’t buying music anymore, they’re streaming it. This pretty much sucks for the artists who receive but a pittance for their work, but hey, it’s convenient. It also sucks to listen to.

I shut off my iPhone and iPad’s connection to Apple Music immediately, before that service replaced everything in my library with crap (see link above) but also because I hate streaming. Depending on something to be streamed in the very rural area I live in is like depending on a windbreaker to get you through the North Dakota winter. It just isn’t going to happen.

I’ve seen the numbers crunched on the quality of signal you’re getting from streaming at best is 320Kbps. That’s comparable to a good MP3. OK, that will be acceptable in a car or maybe over low-grade headphones but on any decent gear it comes off as rather thin. The only time I listen to MP3s is when I’m forced to listen to what on my phone or iPad, usually if I am somewhere waiting. Otherwise it’s lossless digital files, CDs, and vinyl. There’s at least 10K lossless songs sitting on my PC right now with another 20K residing in the hard drive. As my friend (and Apple employee) Jambo has pointed out, I’m not exactly the ideal customer for this sort of audio service.

But you all should be questioning this gravitation to The Cloud. It’s depriving artists of a decent income. It’s putting control in the hands of tech giants whose sense of benevolence and fair play are often limited. It’s trusting your data to companies who have been hacked again and again. It’s relinquishing control to a higher power that may not have your best interests at heart. Ask yourself again, at what price is the convenience of The Cloud?


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Caturday – House Arrest



It’s a lovely late fall day. In the thirties but the sun is shining and the cats have been going in and out. It’s been a pretty seasonable fall for them and they’ve been making the best of it. They run out, they run in, they sun themselves, they cavort in the long shadows of late afternoon, and they always come in when it gets too cold or too late. Except Sansa.

Sansa, seen above, is under house arrest. Grounded for life. Banned from the Great Outdoors. A few days after her last great adventure that I posted about, she went missing again for about eighteen hours. That was the final straw. Since then she has not gone outside at all. She pines at the door. She screams and bitches. She races around the house and swats with great anger at her toys. And then she falls asleep, forgetting about her wretched existence, living only to cuddle and purr. Until she wakes up again.

I don’t know how long we can keep this up. She is a clever and willful beast. We have a pocket door between our laundry room and the kitchen. Faced with this door closed the cats flail away, unable to do more than rattle and shake this unholy barrier. Sansa can open it in about five seconds flat. She is an escape artist without peer and she knows damn well it’s just a matter of time. So we watch, wait, and stand guard.

Soon enough winter will hit and her need to roam will be curtailed by a dislike of snow and wind but winter is taking its time getting here. We took the dogs to the farm and they were overjoyed, stomping around and peeing everywhere. A couple of the cats are outside and the rest are asleep, recovering from their brief time out in the brisk air. And Sansa waits, and waits…

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A Friday Night in Paris

Originally posted on Ram On:

“This is an enemy for life, as well as an enemy of life.”
– Christopher Hitchens

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Wanna Be a Rock n’ Roll Star


My wife has been known to accuse me of acting like a crabby old man or at least driving like one. Well, when you’re driving a Mercury Land Yacht it’s not exactly like you have the acceleration she used to experience when we had a Passat. But once in a while when I’m acting crotchety or just a stick-in-the-mud she’ll ask aloud, “what happened to you, what happened to Mr. Rock n Roll?” Well that’s just unfair.

In college I had somewhat of a reputation as being passionate about rock music. Posters of British guitar gods plastered on the walls, one guitar-driven record after another cranked on my stereo, and there was that time I accused a guy on my floor once of being “mellow” because he started the morning playing Boston (actually he agreed but his roommate was horrified – now that guy was MELLOW). My then girlfriend/now wife was used to hearing a caterwauling din upon entering my room, my car, or just my general vicinity. I was once chewed out by a property manager for playing the Who at what I thought was a reasonable volume. For the Who.

But see, I’ve never really had much of a rock star attitude. I am generally polite. I am aggressive only in a Scandinavian passive/aggressive sense. I may have been a type A driver at times but living in a major metropolitan area will do that to you.  I might have had some swagger in my youth but that youth is a long ways in the rear view mirror. I am a giant nerd, which definitely doesn’t make one Keith Richards or Jimmy Page. I have not gotten into a fight since childhood and generally avoid confrontation. I’m a fat, middle-aged man. I still can’t play guitar worth a damn but that’s because life and procrastination gets in the way of practice. Sometimes I can get a little hot under the collar but that’s just being an asshole, not a rock star.

But lately I’m finding a little more swagger. Part of it is because I’m slowly getting back into shape and I just don’t limp as much any more. Another part maybe because my wife is gone a few evenings a week with something she’s working on and that leaves me alone. With the stereo. With a couple thousand CDs and several hundred LPs, many of which beg to be played loud. The dogs hate that, especially the chihuahua.

I suspect the swagger just comes from feeling good after a bad stretch these last couple years. I still have certain issues hanging overhead: my wife’s health is poor, there’s always some uncertainty with our finances, my insomnia is a constant issue as is my ADHD, and I’m a long, long ways from being in my fighting trim. But I somehow feel better, stronger, a little more full of it. And some nights now I pick up that guitar and sometimes those chords sound good. Rock on.

[This piece was written with Bruce Springsteen Live at the Nassau Coliseum playing in the background. Playing LOUD. Not a good night for the chihuahua.]

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Star Trek Returns to TV…Kinda


CBS has announced that is is booting up a new Star Trek series and for us nerds, that’s great news. There’s so much potential, so many ways this could be cast, and so many worlds left to explore. Sites like Nerdist, Metafilter, and IO9 are tripping out over the possibilities.


But there’s a big but in all of this and trust me, this but is the size of an asteroid. CBS will broadcast the pilot on network TV and then move the series to its new subscriber service, CBS All Access. And there’s the rub.

Television networks like CBS are scared shitless of streaming media and like most old school media conglomerates, have no idea how to cope with it. Kids these days, cutting cords, going without cable, making with the Netflix and the Amazon and the Apple TV and the torrents and goddammit, get off our manicured Greenwich lawns. Next thing you know we won’t be able to afford to live in Greenwich and that just won’t do.

So the plan for CBS is simple. Create their own Netflix. Pack it full of CBS shows and to lead the nerd demographic in, toss them one of their favorite bones (which will no doubt be drained of its marrow by producer Kurtzman, a talent-deficient ghoul if there ever was one). Then the network doesn’t have to cut a deal with the big boys of streaming. Nope, they’ll just collect that monthly subscription and still be able to live in upscale Connecticut, or the Hamptons, or wherever. Silly network.

Here’s how this is going to shake out. Some geeks will subscribe. And give out their passwords. Or even more likely, subscribe and then figure out how to download. Then upload. Torrent until seasoned. Torrent until the cows come home because who the hell wants to bother with another subscription service just for one stinking series.

I’ve been over this before but it bears repeating because the Old Guard of Content keeps stepping on the rake while they’re chasing kids off the lawn. These futile efforts to supplant existing subscription services won’t work. We’re locked in to a couple of the big ones now and trying to get anyone sane to spend just shy of a hundred bucks a year for another one is not going to work. People are too lazy and too cheap to add another leech to their credit card.

I do agree that content providers should be compensated fairly for their work. If CBS resurrects Star Trek for TV and it’s good, they should make money off of it. But to try to use that shiny new content to make an end run around a streaming/content provider that got there first is only going to annoy that valuable demographic you’re trying to attract. This is the Kobayashi Maru for TV executives and none of them are James T. Kirk. And if you don’t get that reference you probably work for a TV network.

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As God is My Witness, I Never Touched the Catnip

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In Hopes the Drama Eases Up


I was going to get more posts in this week but circumstances and drama got the better of me. Our 36th wedding anniversary was Tuesday and we spent a rainy afternoon watching the still-brilliant film Now, Yoyager. Since then we’ve had medical crises for both humans and animals. Out of town guests may stop in this weekend so there’s some cleaning up to do. I have a work project that is just not getting the time it deserves. And despite the fact that the beer fridge has been replenished, I’ve had very little chance to enjoy it let alone post about it. I didn’t even get to watch the last game of the World Series.

So I’m going into the weekend with a hope of the drama lessening and the intake of hops increasing. My wife will surely have other plans, like watching one of her craptastic movies instead of the shows piling up on our DVR. If that’s the case I suspect I might even consume more beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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