Mar 24

Videos of several sorts

Just kidding about the weekend being laid back. My lovely bride and I and my two god sisters in-law (just go with it) all drove down to Baltimore Saturday night.

(Baltimore. I know. Our streak continues. We weren’t even very far from that bridge and the horrible scene unfolding there.)

(And if you are about to say “Nothing bad has happened to central California, and you were just there. Give it a bit of time.)

Anyway, we crossed over another bridge, went downtown, had a sandwich at a conveniently located Shake Shack (because it is milkshake season) and then ran into this guy.

That’s Ryan Miller of Texas, Massachusetts (Tufts) and Vermont. And also of Guster. It just so happened that we were there to see Guster play. And he was out wandering around, looking for all the world panicked about where he should be before his stage call.

“Cutting it a little close,” he said to us.

They’re not starting without you, so it’ll be fine, I said.

We asked to take a photo with him. He said sure, but only if we did it in the crosswalk. Because it was him, you see, that was cutting it close.

I was just glad I got my phone back before he dashed off. So this is our crosswalk shot.

It’s like Abbey Road, but it is President Street.

It’s a good reference since I’ve been saying, since it was released in 2019, that Guster’s most recent record, Look Alive, is a Beatles album. If the Beatles were making music in the 21st century, it wouldn’t be far off that.

And Guster has a new album due out this May. So they’re on tour, and we saw them Saturday. Here are some clips.


I’ve seen Guster now in four or five states over three decades. It is still a lot of fun. I am lobbying to catch one more show later this year.

Here’s some more video from California. We have weeks of this. This is a slow motion wave crashing video from Spooner’s Cove in Los Osos. We’d climbed up the big rock that sits in the middle of the cove, we must have been 15-20 feet off the ground. My lovely bride had very patiently waited to capture a big wave in the slow motion style. Took a while. I got this one on my first try. She was not jealous or anything.


What aggravated her was that, as I stood there, I got good wave after good wave for slow motion video purposes. I’ll share those as we go along these next few days, too.

For now, here’s the day’s peaceful shot of sand and sea.


Relax. Enjoy. Repeat.

And come back tomorrow. There’ll be more videos to share then, too.

Mar 24

You will get teary-eyed by the end of this post

We’ve come to the part of the week where I wonder if I could be doing more, right now, to help future me. Future me is the me of next week. And the answer is, no, I can’t do a lot more next week. I could do more. We all could, but where’s the fun in that. But for the version of me that will be task oriented and checking things off lists next week, I can’t help that guy yet. The To Do must still be formulated. The lists are just big piles of things to grade.

And so I wait. And rest. Next week, there will be around 100-140 things to grade. That is not an exaggeration. Seventeen of them will be easy to work through. Another 40 or so can be evaluated rather painlessly. But there will be 40 or so items that will require time and care and repetition. And that’s three days, easy.

There is a valuable lesson in this for me. The next time I build a multi-class semester, there will be flow charts, fact sheets, multiphasic slide decks and calendar overlays, just so that I can make sure key assignments are staggered for everyone.

And by everyone I, of course, mean me.

But you can’t do the work on Thursday that will be turned in Saturday through Monday. And so earlier this week I felt like the carefree grasshopper. By tomorrow, it could be the neurotic ant who is waiting for the other boot to land on his exoskeleton.

That’s probably one of my best remembered fable from Aesop. That and the boy who cried wolf and the lesser known The Writer and Public Domain.

Why hasn’t someone reworked these for a cynical, metal audience? Do you mean to tell me that the world isn’t ready for a version of The Crab and the Fox where the crab wanders into that meadow and doesn’t get eaten by the fox because, I dunno, global warming hardened her shell, or she’s got crrrrrrab power or is about to persuade the fox to leave her alone, big, stupid fox, thereby subverting the patriarchal paradigm of knowing one’s role and overcoming caste systems inherent and explicit while on the way across that meadow and into Red Lobster for a crowd pleasing plate of cheese biscuits, which signifies our consumerist society and a heavy dose of postmodern irony through a crustaceanist lens?

We could churn these out in a few days, get a clever artist to illustrate the thing and be on the late night talk shows by next week, is what I’m saying.

But I’ve got all of that grading to do. Good point.

It turns out we have not two, but four pear trees on our property. Two are well apart from one another. And this one, and its twin, were carefully planted close by one another.

Pear trees need to be in proximity to bear fruit. And, also, they need to be the right sort. Unfortunately, these aren’t the right sort.

Fruit-bearing pear trees would be awesome.

Never mind. I just looked it up and it takes three to five years for a tree to begin producing fruit, and there is an impressive amount of work in between. So while I can’t do next week me any favors today, I just did the me of 2025-2030 a huge solid.

I’ll just go buy pears from a produce store every once in a while.

I am enjoying the blooms on these trees, though. More trees and shrubs should be perpetually in bloom. It’s a cheery thing, really. Particularly right now.

We saw quite a few elephant seals in California last week. Here are some of them now. Hunted to the brink of extinction for oil by the end of the 19th century, their numbers have since recovered.

This beach does look like a nice place to nap. If your seal friends will leave you alone long enough.


These are northern elephant seals, and they grow large. Mature males weighing more than 8,000 pounds!

What do you suppose the largest one in that video weighs?

These guys spend their lives across North America’s Pacific coast. They breed annually and are seemingly habitual. Some of the older ones here have been visiting this beach for a while.

There is so much money involved, and the audience can be so stratified, that it makes sense to see an increasing number of analytics and metrics in play. Fox, Netflix quietly built sports ad deal that wasn’t based on TV ratings:

More advertisers are trying to tie their ads to so-called “business outcomes,” such as making a purchase, visiting a website or showroom, or asking for information to be sent about the product or service being pitched. The thinking on Madison Avenue is that knowing how many people watched an ad just isn’t enough; it’s better to understand how many people took an action that brought them closer to an actual sale. Interest has grown as the size of TV audiences has been cut down by the rise of streaming.

Creativity beats fascism.

To simplify, the Allies used signal counterintelligence, inflatable tanks, audio, and a bluff with Gen. George Patton to convince the Nazis that the 1,1000 members of the 23rd HQ Special Troops were actually two divisions, 30,000 men, massing to attack elsewhere. In more than a dozen engagements in 1944-1945, they feinted, disguised and distracted from actual assaults, tying down enemy units and, it is estimated, saved thousands of lives among Allied ranks in the process.After decades of secrecy, the ‘Ghost Army’ is honored for saving U.S. lives in WWII:

Present at Thursday’s event were: 100-year-old Bernard Bluestein, who joined the visual deception unit from the Cleveland Institute of Art and went on to pursue a career in industrial design; 99-year-old John Christman, who served as a demolition specialist and 100-year-old Seymour Nussenbaum, an avid stamp collector who joined the Army from the Pratt Institute. He helped make the counterfeit patches worn by the unit, and worked in package design for many years after the war.


“The Ghost Army’s tactics were meant to be invisible, but today their constructions will no longer remain unseen in the shadows,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., one of the bill’s two Senate sponsors. “Their weapons were unconventional, but their patriotism was unquestionable.”


While the Ghost Army helped liberate Europe and end the war, it wasn’t publicly given credit for another half a century.

“Following the war, the unit’s soldiers were sworn to secrecy, records were classified and equipment packed away,” says the National WWII Museum.

Wormuth said Thursday that immediately after the war, Ghost Army soldiers received a letter of thanks from then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, with a memorable P.S.: “If you tell anyone, I’ll see that you hang.”

Beyer told WUNC before the ceremony that the mission had been so deeply classified that the “Army basically lost it.”

“It kind of forgot about it until the late 80s, when they suddenly rediscovered this and started bringing Ghost Army soldiers to the Pentagon for briefings,” he explained.

I shared an obituary yesterday, and i have one more today, simply because this story should be told over and over and over and over again.

(Amnon) Weinstein was the founder of Violins of Hope, an organization that provides the violins he restored to orchestras for concerts and educational programs commemorating the Holocaust.


“Violins of Hope, it’s like a huge forest of sounds,” he said in a 2016 PBS documentary. “Each sound is standing for a boy, a girl and men and women that will never talk again. But the violins, when they are played on, will speak for them.”

There are more than 60 Holocaust-era violins in his collection.

Some belonged to Jews who carried them in suitcases to concentration camps, and who were then forced to play them in orchestras as prisoners marched to the gas chambers. Others were played to pass the time in Jewish ghettos. One was tossed from a train to a railway worker by a man who knew his fate.

“In the place where I now go, I don’t need a violin,” the man told the worker, in Mr. Weinstein’s telling. “Here, take my violin so it may live.”


One afternoon in the 1980s, a man with a prisoner identification tattoo on his arm arrived with a beaten up violin that had, like him, survived Auschwitz.

“The top of the violin was damaged from having been played in the rain and snow,” Mr. Grymes wrote in “Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust — Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour” (2014). “When Amnon took the instrument apart, he discovered ashes inside that he could only assume to be fallout from the crematoria at Auschwitz.”


During a radio interview, he asked listeners to bring him instruments connected to the Holocaust. Soon, families began showing up at his workshop with violins that had been stored away in attics and cellars, each with its own haunting story.

Mr. Weinstein was especially shaken by those recovered from concentration camps after the Allied invasion of Germany in 1945.

“This was the last human sound that all of those people heard, the violin,” he said in a 2016 radio interview on WKSU in Ohio. “You cannot use the name beauty. But this was the beauty of this time, these violins.”

A previous interview with the famed luthier.

And the concert in Cleveland where the Violins of Hope sang out again. They played Beethoven.


Feb 24

Just some more miles

Grading. Forever grading. What I’m poring over is a basic hard news story assignment. There’s only about 40 of these, and most of them from various school board and town council meetings. There are a few people who went to the same meetings, and that’s fine. The students found different angles to report on. But what’s most interesting, to me anyway, is the news they found.

Sadly, a lot of these meetings aren’t getting covered in the small towns because of the spiral the news industry is presently in. Some of the stories my students are writing about are absolutely worth the reporting. Some of the stories are quite good. I know I’ve learned a lot about some of the regional goings on from these stories. I hope my students are getting something out of the feedback. It’s a treat to write all of that feedback, but it can be time intensive — sometimes, I think they, are longer than the stories —

Me? Write long? Never.

Today’s bike ride was interesting. Let’s set the stage. A week ago, this month became my most productive bike riding month, in terms of miles. I’d put in more miles in 22 days than I have in any single month in the last 15 years. (This probably helps explain some aches and pains.)

Somewhere in this area on today’s ride, I eclipsed my first thousand miles of the year.

Definitely helps explain some of the aches and pains. And also the parts that feel pretty good. That’s probably not a lot, 1,000 miles in two months, but I’ve never even had one month with 500 miles or more, until this month.

Which is where this gets silly. I have a spreadsheet with all of these little cycling tidbits on it, you see. Because of that, I knew I could get over 1,000 miles today. And that seemed a great winter goal. Soon I’ll be riding outside again, but to have 1,000 miles as a base, in the basement? It was appealing.

So, when I opened the spreadsheet to add today’s totals to the ride, I looked at the page where I keep the month numbers and realized, if I did just 1.5 more miles, I would have a 600 mile February. Again, not that much, but it’s a lot to me.

So there I was, after dinner, getting back on the bike, just to get that extra 1.5 miles. I did this in jeans, and slowly, because this is silly. But it’s a goal to hit, even if I only just became aware of it.

So I did three miles.

February 2024 is a month that’ll be hard to top. And, since we’re at the end of the month, here’s the big chart.

The green line is a simple projection of where I’d be riding 10 miles per day. The red line reflects my 2023 mileage. The blue line is what I’ve done so far this year.

It’s been a big offseason. And, sometime soon, I’ll be back to riding outside once again.

There are a lot of roads to explore!

OK, I’m out of photographs. I’m going to share one more photograph next week, because it comes with one of my favorite stories of our New Year’s trip. I still have a lot of video to share, but I’m running low on the still images.

Here’s one of me with some grunts and other reef fish in the background. I can minimize my bubbles too!

And this is the saddest site in diving, when you’re back to being just below the surface, and the dive is over.

So, Monday, one fun story, and then a lot more videos in the days to follow.

I suppose I should get back to the Re-Listening project. This is the one where I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. I’ve been (intermittently) writing about them here to pad things out. These aren’t reviews, because who cares, but usually just memories and excuses to post some music. The problem is, where I am in my collection right now, there aren’t a lot of big, prominent memories attached to any of these.

I was in a burning discs phase, you see. A lot of fairly interesting things were getting slipped into my CD books, but none stayed in the stereo so long that I could tie a lot of experiences to them. This installment sees us in November of 2004. A colleague — who also left the newsroom and returned to a university campus, as a social media manager, where he seems to be doing well for himself — made a copy of U2’s “How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” for me. I can’t recall what I made for him in return. Hopefully it was decent. This is decent.

And so there’s the whole album, if you want to hear it. Nothing quite as iconic, perhaps, as their early stuff, but when I listen to it now, it sounds like U2, and that’s never a bad thing.

Except for the catorce in “Vertigo.” You can still roll your eyes at that.

Feb 24

Combien de temps?

It was 44 degrees and sunny outside today. And the days, as Wendy Waldman wrote, are getting longer. I’ll take that.

I talked to a former colleague today. He’s in Las Vegas working on Super Bowl productions. He said it was raining and cold. So maybe I have the better end of the deal today. Who can say.

Anyway, I have some writing to do and some grading to get to … so let’s work through a few things quickly here.

In class last night we talked about selected readings of Marshall McLuhan and Ibrham Kendi. This particular group seems unimpressed by McLuhan, which means I should have prefaced the assignment a bit better, but they were good sports about the reading, and several fine points were made in our discussion. I think I’ll show the class the first 90 seconds of this video next week. “And you … are numb to it.”

From Ibram Kendi, we discussed a chapter of the book that inspired this upcoming documentary.

The chapter that they read and talked about comes earlier, and focuses on Portugal, and Prince Henry, and an influential book. I think the assignment is powerful given the times and, sometimes, the personality of the class augments that. But the basis of the reading, for our purposes, is about the timing of the book written by Henry’s biographer, Gomes Zurara, and Portugal, and soon, Europe’s increased navigational skill. Circumstance meets opportunity, meets economics, basically. Or, at least, it seems so from way over here in the 21st century.

But if that is to be a documentary coming next fall, I wonder if this particular reading will stay in the syllabus for much longer after that.

When I taught this class last fall, the Kendi conversation was a bit different. So often these things just come down to the dynamic of the people in the room. I know that to be the case, and yet it always impresses me, one way or the other.

Just so you don’t think there were no photos of me diving in Cozumel, there were. Here’s me and Jennifer the turtle.

So we’re checking this turtle out, and she’s wedged herself into that little rock and coral formation pretty good, such that I wondered, for a moment, if she was stuck. You stay a reasonable distance away, because you’re not trying to harm or even spook the creatures. And after we’d been there a moment or two the turtle seemed to realize that we weren’t going to do her harm, and so just sat there, ignored us and allowed us to take pictures.

These are drift dives, and there are seven people in the water. But what a drift dive means is that not all seven people are in the same place. It’s hard to swim against these currents — more on that on another day — and so you c’est la vie in bubbles. You see this, you miss that. With Jennifer the turtle, then, was the local divemaster, me and my lovely bride. The dive master, at one point, takes his fin off to try to show a sense of scale, because that turtle was very large. We’re all moving around, taking turns giving the best views. At one point the dive master is just to my left and I hear him scream. Underwater, of course, that sounds like “RAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

Now, I know that only the three of us are here. I know where all three of us are in relation to one another. And I know it’s this guy, the professional. The first three synapses that fired were “The dive master is yelling,” and “It can’t be good that the dive master is yelling,” and “What will I need to do for this man, and then what?”

All of which happens, of course, in the moment it takes to turn my head to look at him, to my immediate left. I see him there, wide eyed, and he’s pointing back across me, to my right.

We’d been so focused on that turtle that we hadn’t seen the shark, sleeping just four feet away from us.

This was a nurse shark, and nothing to be scared of. The yell was more of an “OHMYGAH! LOOK WHAT WE ALMOST MISSED.”

This was funny because when we got back to the surface and he was telling the other four divers about it, he tried to tell the story like we had somehow missed it, but for his expert eye. Someone pointed out that he was the one making the “RAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” noise.

And that someone …

He also said, did the dive master, that believe it or not, he named that turtle. He was the pleasant jokester sort, and so I asked, with a big grin, if he meant right then. No no, he said, several years before. So that’s Jennifer the turtle, and it was lovely to meet her. And her shark neighbor.

Let us quickly return to the Re-Listening project. This is the one where I am playing all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. And today’s installment puts us in the late summer or early fall of 2004. It was a good time for music collection, if you were around people with musical tastes you liked, or if you had a good library close at hand. If you had one or both of those, and a CD burner, you could add to your collection quickly and inexpensively. Both of those two things will be the case in a few of these upcoming installments. The library, in this instance.

I borrowed from the local municipal lending institution, R.E.M.’s “Eponymous.” I did not own a copy of a single R.E.M. song at that point. Hadn’t needed to. But here was a greatest hits and here was the clean copy at the library and i had one of those giant cylinders of blank CD-R discs at the office.

And so …

Because this is a greatest hits — I think in the most artistic possible meaning, which is to say they wanted to fulfill their contract with I.R.S. and get onto their new deal at Warners, and a greatest hits record is a good way to check a box on a list — there’s not really a great point to dissecting this. And since it was a library addition, I always thought of it is a catalog addition, something to round out a corner and fill up a part of a CD book. It’s great, but I never listened to it all that much because, basically, most of these songs were always on the air somewhere, it seemed like.

I was struck, listening to this yesterday, though, how the tracks improve over the course of the CD. The instrumentation, the lyricism, the production values, all of it. The tracks were shared on “Eponymous” in chronological order, so that makes sense. And somewhere around “Driver 8,” which was off their third album, you can hear the full band understanding they were going to reach their real potential.

So that’s fun.

Also, and there’s no really good way to illustrate this, but while you’re basically listening to the first wave of modern rock music there (Remember, it’s the early 1980s and the boys from Athens are the absolute antithesis of everyone else playing anything at that moment. So we’re talking R.E.M., The Pixies, Camper van Beethoven and not much else.) you are also hearing the stuff that inspired the next 15 or 20 years of music.

They called it quits in 2011, of course. They’ve denied reunion rumors and said no in countless interviews in the years since. It’s easy to believe. And probably the right choice for everybody involved, but still a bit unfortunate for fans.

Update: And just a week later, this happened. There’s a touring act commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Murmur” and that show was in Athens and look who all got on stage. Reportedly, this was the first time they’d been together in 17 years.

Jan 24

Everything you want: food, meditative video, fish, music

I made a culinary innovation this morning, the likes of which will surely land me my own cooking show.

This would be my second cooking show pitch. The first one was, in my estimation, even better. The host is a character who plays an earnest, straight up sort, but he can’t cook. He’s also a bachelor. So the entire show is a dry humor examination of what that guy does to subsist, nutritionally. It’d be a short show, because he’s a bachelor who can’t cook, see. But there’s a lot of comedy in cold cuts and Hamburger Helper, I’m certain of it.

Today’s move — and if you happened to be in your kitchen at the same I was in mine and making this happen, you might have felt it too — isn’t earth shattering, but it is destined to change breakfast paradigms everywhere.

In an attempt to cut the taste of the maple syrup in the new granola, I did this.

Grapes! Dried raisins! The store-brand even!

It worked perfectly, HGTV. Now where do I sign?

If you’re wondering, this is the granola brand, which kicked off this new breakfast experiment yesterday. The serving sizes on the back of the bag aren’t for normal human beings, but there’s at least another day in here.

What I’m thinking of doing, because I bought four different varieties from three brands, is mixing the last ones together. That day, in a few weeks, some random Wednesday when I don’t see it coming, is when I’ll stumble on the perfect mixture. The flavor profile will send me to the studio to right songs about the experience, and I’ll spend the rest of my days chasing that mixture, the mad breakfast alchemist who can’t ever quite get it right again.

I forgot to include this here, but one of the big sheets of snow that slid off the roof was hanging at almost eye level over the back door. It was the perfect height to admire and fear. And so I give you 58 seconds of zen.


Even though it has warmed up and the snow is now all gone, it’ll be days before I can go out that door without thinking about an avalanche of mushy, days old snow landing on head, getting down my shirt, into my shoes.

Much better than that, picturing myself being underwater. When we were in Cozumel recently it was the low 80s every day. Just perfect.

Here’s my favorite fish.

It just occurred to me that these are the photos I like best, and I don’t take many of them. So I have to diving again. Drat!

You can’t see this ray, because this ray is hiding from you. Keep moving, stranger.

Here’s another shot of our old friend the black triggerfish. This fish is the pinstripe, skinny tie wearing fish of the sea, and you know it.

He might know it, too.

I don’t think we’ve seen the spotted trunkfish (Lactophrys bicaudalis), or boxfish, on this trip yet. If the triggerfish wears the fashionable suits, the trunkfish is the guy who really thinks he’s a hipster, but he’s trying too hard.

The trunkfish is a slow mover, owing to its size. It eats shrimp and mollusc and sea urchins and sea cucumbers. It has a toxin that is dangerous to ingest. The spots are actually a “stay away” warning for predators. Wikipedia tells me that predators as large as nurse sharks can die from eating a trunkfish.

Oh, look. A lobster. “Keep it moving,” he says with his antennae. Peering in at lobsters always feels intrusive, somehow, even moreso than just floating over his home, as we do.

No wonder they are always pointing the way toward the best currents. He does not want you to see what he’s warming up the butter for back there.

We haven’t visited the Re-Listening project in a while. This is where I’m playing all of my old CDs in the car, in the order of acquisition. These aren’t reviews, but ways to pad out the site with videos, and, occasionally, a trip down memory lane. The prevailing memory here is from the summer of 2004.

This song came on MTV or VH1 or whatever was on and within 60 seconds I realized I needed to buy the record.

And so I did. This is the only Keane CD I have, which is a shame. In terms of British fame it’s the Beatles, Oasis, Radiohead and Keane. This debut album was the eighth most sold of the oughts in the UK, where it lodged at number two on the year-ending charts. On the weekly charts here in the U.S., “Hopes and Fears” peaked at 45. The debut single didn’t chart here, apparently, but hit the top 10 in a half dozen other countries, and was certified double platinum in the U.K.

None of this seems to fit my memory, but the web isn’t wrong about things like this.

The second single’s video went minimalist. I’m sure this is the Beatles and Apple influence.

Anyway, it was good for car singing, and I don’t seem to have a lot of specific memories attached to it, otherwise. Other, that is, than the observation that pop music had (with the exception of Ben Folds) all but turned the piano into an exotic instrument by then. This is the alternate video for the fourth single, because labels were still doing that back then, and it is a study on the limitations of media technologies.

The last single on the record enjoyed a bit of success in the United States. “Bend and Break” landed at 20 on the alternative charts. And the video is enough to make me regret having never seen them live. It looks like it could be a good show.

Keane have released four more records over the years, three of which hit the top 20 in the US, and two in the top 10. The oversight of my not having them in the personal collection are mine alone.

And Keane are still going. This year they’re celebrating 20 years of this record, which is a thing bands must do now. They’re touring extensively across Europe for the first part of the year, but they’ll be visiting North America late in the summer. I could see them in September.

How many shows are too many shows in September, anyway?