Running on empty

I take the bus to work every day. When we run out of bread or milk, I usually ride my bike up to the Kroger that’s three blocks away. I also bike or walk to the library and church when the weather is nice. So I’m in a car a lot less than most folks. Yet somehow, someway, every time I get into one of our cars, here’s what I see:

I’m convinced that my wife and my 17-year-old son have no idea what that yellow light icon means, and couldn’t find the gas cap if you gave them a map. How they manage to stick me with the refueling chore (and bill) every time is a modern wonder, a sleight of hand called “now you see the wallet, now you don’t.”

I think they’re conspiring against me – when they know I have to take another kid to soccer or swim practice, they make sure they leave the “empty” car in the pole position in our driveway. My wife even jokes about it:

Then again, Tina could turn the tables and say that I have no idea what this means:

But that’s not true – I know exactly what a sink full of dirty dishes means… time to switch to paper plates!

 

The Dü, finally getting their due… but losing Hart

In the late 70s and early 80s, the frozen tundra of Minneapolis was a hotbed of musical innovation. The Replacements brought the raucous rock, Prince brought the funk, and Hüsker Dü brought the punk.

Now, hot on the heels of the release of a remastered box set of Hüsker Dü’s early recordings comes word that drummer Grant Hart has passed away at the age of 56.

Jon Wurster, the drummer for Superchunk who also mans the drum kit for The Mountain Goats and former Dü member Bob Mould, wrote a great tribute to Grant on Rolling Stone’s website.

And at the center of the sonic hurricane was Grant Hart, arms flailing, feet flying, laying waste to every drum and cymbal in his path. 

His drumming alone is enough to secure Grant Hart a place in the alt-rock history books, but that’s only part of his story. Grant was a top-shelf songwriter, penning and handling lead vocals on Hüsker Dü classics like “Terms of Psychic Warfare,” “Diane,” “Green Eyes” and “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill.” 

And what a voice. His was arguably the best to come out of the post-punk/hardcore/alternative scene: sweet and angelic one minute, menacing the next. Grant also handled much of the band’s visual side, designing Hüsker Dü’s album covers and helping other bands with theirs, most notably the Replacements’ 1983 LP, Hootenanny.

My favorite Grant Hart tune is the lead track off his first post-Dü release, “2541”… and I’m not alone. This Minneapolis writer feels the same way.

R.I.P. Grant, and thanks for the great music.

You know your area has a bad problem when…

… the local newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, has a reporter like this:

Yes, sad but true, her only beat is reporting about the scourge of heroin. Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have been hit hard. According to the CDC: In 2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000).

Cincinnati is in Hamilton County, and the ‘burbs are Butler and Warren counties. All of those counties make this chart from a June NY Times article.

Where’s the miracle solution? There isn’t one. But this article has some good suggestions about stopping the cycle. And this one has some for reducing overdose deaths. Gotta start somewhere.

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more

My daughter Leah wants to be a farmer – she thinks it’ll be fun. I could probably find dozens of local farmers who could disabuse her of that notion faster than you can say “sunk costs and unpredictable weather.” Actually, I could only find a handful of local farmers these days – there aren’t nearly as many of them as they used to be. To rework the old joke about the music business:

Q. How do you make a million dollars in farming? 

A. It’s easy – just start with two million dollars. 

But no, in this case, Dear Old Dad (emphasis on the “Old”) isn’t going to be the dreamcrusher.

After all, she already has her plans drawn up:

Looks a whole lot better than an office cubicle, doesn’t it? Perhaps I can join Leah on her farm… be the Eb to her Mr. Douglas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover…

… but you can judge a LinkedIn request by looking at the profile summary. Here’s an easy “accept” one:

Executive recruiter from Columbus? Sure, why not? I’ve never met him, don’t know him from Adam, but my LinkedIn bar is very low (it’s like Facebook “friends” but without the cute baby pictures). Maybe he can help me land my dream job (replacing Alex Trebek as host of Jeopardy. Buy American!)

Whereas this one is a no-go:

I appreciate the e.e. cummings lowercase style of the name. Thanks to my company’s Diversity & Inclusion training, I have a much better understanding of — and appreciation for — the fact that different cultures and backgrounds have different societal norms. Perhaps in Brazil it is customary for professors to wear clothes that in the U.S. would be considered “sleazy nightclub” outfits. But my gut is telling me no, unless I want to wind up becoming the plot of a Lifetime movie (working title: Extra Credit: The Abduction and Kidney Harvesting of Dubbatrubba) or a Van Halen video.

 

 

 

 

Here comes the sun… and the savings will follow

We had 23 solar panels installed on our roof this past week.

I’ve always been a tree-hugger, but I’m also a cheapskate. Thanks to a federal tax credit, I can deduct 30% of the cost from this year’s tax bill. Thanks to the state of Ohio’s ECO-Link program, I was able to knock 3% off the loan rate, so my loan percentage is lower than most 12-month CD rates. And the way our house is positioned, the panels are on the back part of our roof and can barely been seen from our backyard, so the missus is OK with the lack of aesthetic appeal. Besides, Elon Musk’s solar shingles are several years away from getting to the Midwest.

My electric bills will go down immediately. Conservative estimates show the system paying for itself within eight years. After that, it’s all gravy.

23 panels aren’t going to clean up all the dirty air that coal-loving Duke Energy is spewing into the Cincinnati area… but you gotta start somewhere.

If Germany can get 7% of their energy from solar and 35% of their energy from renewables, why can’t we?

Unanswered prayers

Saw this poor critter while waiting for the bus last week:

Looks like his prayers went unanswered, unless his request was to die on the streets of downtown Cincinnati.

Naturally I immediately thought of Don Dixon’s song “Praying Mantis.” You’ve likely never heard the song, and perhaps you’ve never even heard of Don Dixon. All he did was co-produce Murmur and Reckoning by R.E.M., as well as albums by The Smithereens, Marshall Crenshaw and Guadalcanal Diary. Jangle pop wouldn’t exist without him.

Please look beyond the bad hairstyle and appreciate the tune.

Since 1988, Don has been married to the equally talented and equally underappreciated Marti Jones. They live in Canton, Ohio and still tour occasionally. Here’s a nice interview with them.

 

 

When did pop songs become clown cars?

I know I run the risk of sounding like Grandpa Simpson or SNL’s “Grumpy Old Man”….

… but when did every pop song become a clown car, where you cram in as many artists as you can? “Back in my day” there were solo artists (we miss you John Denver), bands (hello Pablo Cruise) and the occasional duet (Kenny/Dolly or Kenny/Sheena or Kenny/Kim, whichever you prefer). But now it seems like there is some sort of rule (actually “formula” might be more apropos) that a single can’t be released unless it has at least three of the following:

  1. A DJ
  2. A rapper
  3. a pop singer known more for their looks than their pipes
  4. A Disney/Nickelodeon kid show star
  5. Rihanna

Ryan Seacrest must get laryngitis every week just announcing the names of the Top 40. It’s like a music version of The Love Boat.

I think Rihanna just lives in some giant recording studio complex – she steps into Studio A, sings a hook, moves on to Studio B, then C, D, and E… and by the time she gets back to Studio A there’s another disposable band in place working on a song that she can “feature” on. (And I’m using the term “band” very loosely. Most times it’s probably a 22-year old with a laptop.)

More doesn’t always equal better, and the sum is not always greater than the parts. I don’t know how bands and artists can establish any sort of staying power when their identity is based mostly on a Lazy Susan of condiment guest stars. (DJ Khaled, you’re the spicy mustard. Lil’ Wayne, you’re the Dave’s Insanity hot sauce. Biebs, you’re the fat-free mayo.)

Maybe instead of breaking up, the Beatles could’ve just become Lennon & McCartney with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, featuring Yoko Ono and Billy Preston. And they could’ve done the theme song for Matlock. That’s music to my ears.

 

It’s floodin’ down in Texas…

I never officially lived in Houston, but I spent roughly two years residing there, one summer at a time. When I was a wee lad (back in the Stone Age), our widowed dad used to ship us down from Arkansas to stay with our aunt, uncle and cousins just about every summer. Back then, a heavy rainstorm would leave a few inches of water on the street for a couple of hours, and my brother, sister and cousin would have a blast riding Schwinns through it.

But this is serious business. Looks like my aunt and uncle’s former home is in one of the flooded areas:

And if you want to help, the old standby of donating to the American Red Cross may not be the best use of your charity dollars.  Even more reassuring (he said sarcastically), is knowing that the tax dollars used to rebuild the infrastructure may get washed away again next time, thanks to your president trying to curry favor with the climate-change deniers. (Two excerpts from the linked story are below.)

Ten days before Hurricane Harvey descended upon Texas on Friday, wreaking havoc and causing widespread flooding, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking a set of regulations that would have made federally funded infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding.

The Obama-era rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required the federal government to take into account the risk of flooding and sea-level rise as a result of climate change when constructing new infrastructure and rebuilding after disasters….

“This executive order is not fiscally conservative,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, said in a statement. “It’s irresponsible, and it will lead to taxpayer dollars being wasted on projects that may not be built to endure the flooding we are already seeing and know is only going to get worse.”

The Obama administration estimated the regulations would increase building costs by 0.25% to 1.25% but save taxpayers significant money in the future. Studies have found that for every $1 spent on disaster mitigation, the government will save $4 on post-disaster aid.

50 inches of rain from an “unusually warm” Gulf of Mexico yet there’s no such thing as climate change? That’s a bit hard to fathom.

 

My 17-year-old son has a sweet new alarm clock

Pretty cool, huh? It doesn’t consume any electricity, never needs any batteries, and it’s very easy to reset the alarm time on it.

Patent pending.

(And yes, I did wake him at 8 this morning. Then again at 8:15. And 8:25. Snooze option sold separately.)