Neil Peart died of cancer last week, and because of a site meltdown here at Idiot Central, I was distracted. But what I saw around the internet surprised me.  I don’t know if it was a reflection of the algorithms knowing I am a fan, but it seemed like there were tributes to him, and to Rush, on every site I visited—most notably the hipster music sites that traditionally frown on prog rock. I was happy to see so many artists from such a wide range of genres pay their respects.

I’ve mentioned the band here in the past, but having reviewed their catalog in depth this past week, I should restate how big an influence they were on me at a crucial point in my life. I was learning how to play bass when we moved to New York at age 13, and struggling to find new friends in a town that was radically different from the upper-class Connecticut town I’d come from. When I met some people in the music department and bonded over shared interests—and a burning desire to play the bass parts on the first side of Moving Pictures perfectly—I felt like I was accepted and belonged somewhere, which was a huge deal for me.

We spent hours sitting on amps playing their albums over and over, trying to get the fills and grooves right. We piled five guys into a car to drive to the mall in order to buy Power Windows the day it came out, and begged our parents to go see the concert at the Meadowlands when the tour came through our area.

As I got older, my tastes expanded to more esoteric music, and by the time I headed off to college I was still enjoying their music but not keeping up with it. I think Roll the Bones was the last album I bought, and while my college roommate and I saw them live in ’92, my interest faded. Years later, when I read they were doing their farewell tour, I looked into tickets and was interested in seeing them live one last time, but wasn’t able to put it together.

I’ve been listening to their late 70’s to mid-80’s discography (Hemipsheres to Power Windows, roughly) all this week. There’s an urgency and a groove behind their best stuff, and it’s the same thing that makes us music nerds bust out the air drums whenever YYZ or Subdivisions comes on. It makes me feel like I’m 15 again, sitting on a shitty amp in someone’s room, trying to get the bass riffs down, and nailing one for the first time.

Farewell, Neil.

Date posted: January 18, 2020 | Filed under life, music | Leave a Comment »



I read with a heavy heart this afternoon that Nine-O-Nine, the Collings Foundation’s B-17, crashed due to engine failure at Bradley Airport in Connecticut. Details are sketchy, but from what I’ve read there are several dead and several more injured. I’ve seen Nine-O-Nine up close (we crawled through the bomb bay back in 2007) and it was a beautiful airplane.

Date posted: October 2, 2019 | Filed under life, photo | Leave a Comment »

I don’t have much to write about right now. This week has been a grind for various reasons, and I’m looking forward to the weekend so that I can keep making progress on the house.

  • The dog is still in a holding pattern. We’ve got an appointment with an outside trainer who will come to the house and train us how to live with Hazel. Hopefully he can help us find a way for the five of us to coexist.
  • I’m about to pull the trigger on having our driveway dug up and paved properly. It currently looks like shit. It was last paved around the Eisenhower administration so there are vestiges of asphalt under the grass and weeds, and now there’s a huge pile of mulch in the back half where the tree used to be. I found a company who will set up a diagonal drain to guide the runoff down into the neighbor’s yard (the lowest spot in the area) instead of directly into our garage. It’s not cheap but it will drastically improve the curb appeal of our house. They will also widen the entry so that it’s a proper two-lane driveway, which will make jockeying cars much easier.
  • Windows are in but the front pair still needs insulation and final touches on the outside, and I can call that project done for now. Paint and final touches can come later.
  • I’m headed to Easton on Sunday to help Karean with a pile of IT issues—she has an old Mac that contains her picture archives and a bunch of other hardware that needs service, so I’m going to pack up a toolbox and see if I can’t solve a bunch of problems for her. If the weather is nice I might drive the Scout over there.
Date posted: September 26, 2019 | Filed under life, list | Leave a Comment »


Jen got a text yesterday from our neighbors, who told her there was an attempted robbery at their house that afternoon. A group of boys walked up their driveway at about 5:30, went in their open garage, and stole a bicycle. Then they came back about 15 minutes later to see what else was there. At this point my neighbor saw them and chased them back down the driveway, briefly grabbing one of them, who twisted away. They fled down the street while his wife called 911. Five minutes later they were sitting on the curb in front of the Baptist church and a squad car while the police sorted things out. I was driving home and stopped by on my way to the grocery store, and was able to watch the surveillance camera footage (they have a Nest camera mounted above the garage) which was hilarious. When it became clear they’d stolen his bike—which was not a cheap bike—the beef got escalated to B&E, grand theft, and trespassing. The kicker: the youngest boy in the group was 9 years old.

Date posted: August 2, 2019 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

I spent most of Saturday grading student work at the dining room table, attempting to ignore my stomach. I was able to get through eight resubmissions of the first project, six of the second, and about six final projects by noon on Sunday. It’s been somewhat faster going than previous years because I’m taking advantage of the Mac’s dictation feature, which does a reasonableJob of understanding. What I am talkingAbout (real-world results). Still, it’s faster than pecking out a bunch of feedback and I can do it stream-of-consciousness style which means I’m not stopping and starting my thoughts. What the hell was I just saying?

* * *

The Elimination Diet has been going OK, if not a bit challenging. Breakfast is the worst time of day because the smoothies we’re drinking are delicious but fuel me for about seven minutes and then I’m back to BACON EGG AND CHEESE HANGRY. We’re usually having leftovers of some kind for lunch and then we make something new for dinner so there is some variety; we got beef back yesterday and I am here for it. Because I’m generally grazing lightly during the day, it’s the 10-12AM and 3-5PM hours that are the hardest. There is nothing I’m allowed to snack on other than carrots and air, and air holds me longer than carrots do.

Next up we get pork, which will be nice, but we don’t get bacon back until we can have sugar (nitrates are verboten but there are some brands that are cured with sugars) and that’s after three long weeks of various nuts. I’ll tell you this: when I get cashews and almonds back, I’m going to eat a dump truck full of those fuckers.

* * *

I dropped a pile of stuff off at the Goodwill this afternoon, some stuff that made me sad to leave behind: My old Nikon D70, battered and scratched but still able to take pictures at 2004-era quality, the old IKEA dishes I had in my house in Baltimore, and the Onkyo receiver Renie gifted me around the same era, sadly retired for want of HDMI inputs.

Speaking of that, I brought Dad’s big Denon head unit home and set that up a couple of weeks ago, then reconfigured the entire A/V setup in the den to work with it. The results are stunning. I mentioned setting up his center channel speaker earlier, but I really noticed the difference when Finn and I were watching Isle of Dogs this past week: in a section of the movie the characters walk from left to right and the sound followed them across the speakers. It almost makes me want to have rear-channel sp…never mind. 

Date posted: May 19, 2019 | Filed under life, teaching | Leave a Comment »

Procrastination is a perfect example of present bias, our hard-wired tendency to prioritize short-term needs ahead of long-term ones.

This. Also:

Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.

As I write this, I’m procrastinating. (NYT paywall link)

Date posted: March 25, 2019 | Filed under life, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Waaaay back in July of last year I wrote about abruptly losing my sunglasses. I scoured the house, the yard, the garage, our vehicles–anyplace I remembered having them. But there was no sign of them, so I sourced a pair of identical frames and had lenses cut for them. This morning I was meeting a guy to sell a radio off of Craigslist and figured he might be interested in two others I’ve had sitting in the basement for 15 years: a Philco tombstone I bought in my bakelite collecting days, and a giant hulking Emerson set that my aunt and uncle saved for me years ago. I moved them out into the open of the ice room and shot some pictures, and what was hiding behind the big Emerson? My sunglasses, a little dusty but otherwise perfectly fine! I cleaned them off and wore them to the meet. I miss the amber lenses in the old pair–my new pair are just darkened, which is fine, but the amber tends to brighten and amplify things in my vision. I’d always thought they were heavier and more solidly built than the new black pair I’d bought, but they feel exactly the same. So now I’ve got two pair of sunglasses; I truly am living my authentic lifestyle.

As for the radios, I offered them to the buyer this morning, and we settled on a price (a little low, but what the hell, it’s a buyers market). I haven’t had time to work on them, they’re really too big to display in the house, and I have too much stuff. I’m going to meet back up with him next weekend and get them out of here.

Date posted: February 9, 2019 | Filed under life, radios | Leave a Comment »

Mr. Boh

Well, I made it all the way to 47 before being called up for jury duty. Next month I’ve got to hump all the way up to Towson to (possibly) be part of a trial of some kind. The last time I was in a court was when I thought I was going to have to testify against a schizophrenic who stole an iPod out of my car; that was an enlightening but ultimately useless experience. 

We are due to get our first snow of 2019 this weekend; weather forecasting is spotty due to the government shutdown (turns out lots of meteorologists are federal employees, go figure) but they think we’ll get 2-3″ of snow over Saturday into Sunday. I would have preferred it during the week, but hell, I’ll take it. And I need to be in Baltimore on Monday morning for my 1-year oncological checkup on time, so I’d rather we get the roads cleared Sunday so there’s no traffic.   

Date posted: January 11, 2019 | Filed under life | 2 Comments »

Jesus, everything I’m reading in the news today is depressing. Every goddamn thing. I need a stiff drink and a good night’s sleep.

Date posted: December 4, 2018 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Tuesday I got up with Finn at 6:15 and took her on my morning walk through the neighborhood. I’m trying to do about a mile and a half every day to strengthen my legs and get some cardio going, and so far I’ve stuck with it for a couple of weeks. Usually Jen is with me but she had a terrible night’s sleep and elected to stay in bed. I can’t blame her. The heat has been brutal this week and we actually had a brief outage yesterday afternoon.

From there I hustled to the train and joined the morning mob into D.C. Work is good busy and there’s a lot of projects to keep me focused, as well as an intern I’m sharing with another director, so my days are stacked with meetings.

On the way to the train I stopped and grabbed a bite to eat so that I’d be ready to change as soon as I got home and take Finn out to the soccer field across the street for an hour of fundamentals. We sweated out in the sun and worked on ball control, dribbling, and some basic shooting. I wrapped it up with about 10 minutes of fast passing back and forth to try and work some of her shooting hesitation out. She’s doing better with it and I saw that she’s beginning to understand and follow the advice I’m giving her. At the end of an hour we walked back home and I shared half a chocolate cookie with her before she jumped in the shower.

While she was doing that I ran out back to check on my plants and gave them a good watering. It’s been unbearably hot the last couple of days and they were looking wilty so I doused them good and brought in a lovely ripe orange Oaxaca for tasting. Then I dragged our handcart inside to assist in swapping out a balky air conditioner from Jen’s room for the spare on the front porch. As it happened, we just carried it up the stairs together, and between the two of us it wasn’t bad at all.

By the time 9:00 rolled around, Finn was in bed and we were exhausted. I sat on the couch for about 45 minutes with Trixie nestled beside me and read quietly before heading up to pass out in bed.

Date posted: August 30, 2018 | Filed under finn, life | Leave a Comment »