Tug of war

Tug of war at Field Day
Kodak EasyShare Z730

When my older son was in the fifth grade, I think it was, his school held a Field Day and invited parents to come watch. I took the day off and went with a camera.

That’s my boy there in the orange shirt. That’s such a normal look on his face, when he was doing fun things with groups of kids — happy as a clam to be a part of the crowd! When he was smaller, I’d take him and his younger brother to the park to play. He was a surprising kind of leader at the park — he’d gather all of the other kids who happened to be there and get them to figure out a group activity, which he would then participate in as an equal with everybody else. He didn’t particularly want to lead the group, he just wanted there to be something fun to do with everyone and he could see it would be up to him to organize it!

He grew up to be as introverted as his dad; his favorite place to be is at home. But he still plays in groups, just online in MMOs and D&D games.

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single frame: Tug of war at Field Day

Tug of war on school grounds.


The Great Music Ripping Project

I finally ripped all of my CDs into my computer. And now I’m saying goodbye to them.

My Paul McCartney CDs stacked up while I ripped them

I used to listen to my CDs a lot, almost entirely in my car. But in 2013 I bought a used car with a broken in-dash CD player. That wouldn’t do, so I bought and installed a fancy new head unit. It had a USB port on it to connect to a music player. I sucked a bunch of music into my iPhone to try that out — and it was so great that I stuck with it. I’ve hardly used my CDs since.

I was content to keep my CDs, as they’re the original source for my music. But Margaret and I don’t have enough room for all of our stuff since we married and combined two households. It was easy enough to keep just one of our two toasters, but most of the rest has been more challenging to deal with. My CDs are one of those things. I have hundreds of them and they take up a lot of space. (Far less space than the hundreds of vinyl records I owned until I let those go in my mid 30s! I loved my records, but they were always in the way.)

I briefly considered signing up for Spotify and getting my music that way from now on. But I still like the idea of possessing the music I listen to. And what if an artist I like doesn’t release their music on Spotify? Also, I don’t want one more monthly fee.

I’d ripped a healthy portion of my CDs in the past, but not all of them. I’d ripped them at 128kbps, which is adequate for the speakers in my car and for my earpods. But if files on my computer were going to be my new original source, I wanted higher quality rips. I considered using a lossless format, but yikes the disk space that would take, even using a compressed lossless format like FLAC. I decided to rip my CDs as 320kbps MP3s, which is a good compromise between quality and disk space.

I worked on this project little by little at first. During the project my computer started showing signs of its very old age. I bought it new in 2011, with a Core i5 processor, 12 GB of RAM, and a 500 GB hard drive — a well-specified machine for its time. The hard drive failed in 2017, so I replaced it with a 1 TB hard drive. (I have good backups, so it was only a minor disruption.) But in the last year not only was some of the other hardware starting to act flaky, I assume due to old age, but also the latest versions of Photoshop wouldn’t run on the machine as it wasn’t powerful enough. I was stuck with a version from early 2020.

I bought a new computer. It’s a tiny thing, an Intel NUC, 4.5 inches square and 1.5 inches high. Instead of having a minitower under my desk limiting my legroom, this little guy sits on top of my desk out of the way. It has the latest Core i5 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB solid state drive. It’s a great little machine. I hope it’s as long-lived as the one it replaced. As you can see, it’s too small to have an onboard optical drive. But the USB DVD recorder I bought was inexpensive and works fine. Because of my good backups, I was able to install my apps and transfer my files in just a few hours. Photoshop, by the way, is lightning fast on this new machine!

During this time I was offered a great new job, so I gave notice where I was working. I wasn’t very busy during my last days there, so I used some of that time to finish ripping my CDs.

Then it was time to bring all of this music into iTunes, so I could bring it into my iPhone. Holy frijoles what a pain that turned out to be.

I decided to start from scratch, which meant blowing away my existing iTunes library. That’s simple enough: in your Music folder, open the iTunes folder and delete “iTunes Library.itl” and “iTunes Music Library.xml”. Then open the iTunes Music folder and delete everything inside except any files you’re using as ringtones. (Note that this destroys your playlists, too. I was okay with recreating mine from scratch; I had only a few and they weren’t complicated.) Then in iTunes you open the File menu, choose Add Folder to Library, and choose your Music folder. iTunes then brings in all of the music.

Trouble was, iTunes split many of my albums into two or more albums. Turns out iTunes uses MP3 metadata to decide which songs belong to which albums. If on an album the artist is “John Doe” on some tracks but “John Doe and His Band” on the rest, and there’s no value in the Album Artist metadata field, iTunes thinks that these are two albums. Also, some albums’ metadata was simply wrong, like one album where three songs were given the wrong names. This can all be fixed, but it requires tedious editing of the metadata in iTunes. I spent hours fixing it.

Moreover, iTunes couldn’t find cover art for more than half of my albums. Lacking cover art doesn’t affect iTunes’ ability to play the music, but dang it, I like having the cover art! So I copied cover art from Amazon and added it to iTunes one by one.

Also, a handful of albums had duplicated tracks. I had forgotten I owned the CDs and at some point bought the music again through iTunes. Despite blowing away my iTunes library and (I thought) deleting all the files, iTunes was finding those files somewhere. I gave up on trying to find them on my hard drive and just deleted the duplicates from my iTunes library.

Finally I recreated my playlists. I spent as much time getting things right in iTunes as I did ripping the CDs in the first place!

But the job is now done. All of my music is synced to my iPhone.

I’m going to keep 20 or so CDs, all special editions, imports, and rarities. My older son wants the rest. If he has the space to store them, he can have them!

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Rush Limbaugh has died. He was 70. Complications of advanced lung cancer took him.

I know Rush was a polarizing figure. If you fall on the side that reviled him, please don’t vent your venom in my comments. But I’m happy to have healthy discussions there.

I worked as a DJ in AM radio in 1990, at a “full service” station that played inoffensive music with happy DJs and news on the hour. That summer, we jettisoned our midday show and put in Rush.

At the Golden EIB Microphone

AM radio was in steep decline then. Through the 1970s and 1980s, music formats increasingly moved to FM, leaving AM to flounder and lose its identity and purpose. Rush’s compelling show brought large audiences back to AM and, for a long time, showed AM radio how it could remain relevant.

What an entertaining revelation Rush’s show was! While I’m sure he believed the core principles he spoke of and advocated for on his show, it was clear that the way he did it was a shtick. He even used to say it in those days: his job was to deliver a large audience to advertisers, and he was very good at it.

I was a young skull full of mush then, as Rush would say. What he said on his show largely resonated with me, and helped shape my political views. I leaned conservative anyway; he pushed me the rest of the way over.

As the years passed, I found his show to be less fun. His shtick had not only gone stale, it had turned foul. I found myself pushed away, and eventually I quit listening.

I don’t know whether I’ve moved to the center, or the Republican Party has moved farther to the right, or both. What I do know is that a couple years ago when I sampled Rush’s show again for a while, I found myself repelled by most of what he said. I guess I’ve moved on.

But I will always respect Rush as a broadcaster. He really did save AM radio, staying its death for a couple decades at least. Thanks for the memories, Rush, and may you rest well.

Remembering Rush Limbaugh

Big old house

Big old house
Canon PowerShot S95

Where Margaret and I will live next is a frequent topic of our conversation. We agree that it’s time to move on from this house. We’d stay in Zionsville if we could afford a house in the original town. It’s lovely and charming there, and a small but vibrant downtown is within walking distance.

Trouble is, homes here are among the most expensive in the state. The median list price for a home here is about $450,000. My neighborhood is the least expensive way to get a Zionsville address, but you can’t move in here for less than $200,000. I know that these prices may not shock you if you live on the coasts or in a major population center, but here in Indiana these prices are ridiculous. In Indianapolis, the median house list price is only $179,000. Outside of Indianapolis, it’s even lower than that!

We’d like to have a large home so we can host our seven kids, their partners, and their children. And our parents, while they’re still with us. This one would be a grand-slam home run for us with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Built in 1870, it oozes character.

Unfortunately, it’s listed at three quarters of a million dollars. A similar house in Indianapolis, even as well cared for as this one, couldn’t command anywhere near that. If it were in a desirable neighborhood, I’d say half a million tops. In an average neighborhood, even less.

I’m not willing to pay a half million, either. But man, this house would be a lovely place to live.

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single frame: Big old house

A grand old house in Zionsville.


In the last few years, my road-trip posts have increasingly relied on original research done by Richard M. Simpson, which he shared on his terrific Indiana Transportation History blog.

We lost Richard on Friday. I don’t know any details, but given that he posted in his blog and in the companion Indiana Transportation History Facebook group on Friday, I am guessing that his death was unexpected.

Richard’s wife contacted me to ask if I’d continue the Facebook group as admin, and take ownership of the blog to maintain and possibly continue it. I said yes, of course.

Richard devoted an enormous amount of his time and energy to the blog and group. I’m not sure I can do the same, but I can certainly make sure the vast amount of original research he did is maintained for others to find and enjoy.

Richard and I had agreed to do a road trip together, to explore Indiana’s State Road 67 from Indianapolis to its southern terminus at Vincennes. This road has a ton of great old alignments and we looked forward to exploring them all. We thought we’d do it as soon as the pandemic passed. I’m sad that we won’t get to make that trip together now.

Remembering Richard M. Simpson