Bruce Hornsby

Everybody remembers “That’s Just The Way It Is”. It was a huge Pop hit, not the deepest musical composition perhaps, but reasonably complex little tune with simple sounding, but relatively tricky piano lick. For all the years that followed, Hornsby kept at it, releasing new albums every few years but increasingly staying of the Pop radar.

Bruce Hornsby – Absolute Zero

In 2019 he released “Absolute Zero” and it has become my favorite album of the last 10 years. In a time when, at the same time Pop music has become more and more predictable and all bets are off on Youtube and the internet, here is a true work of art. The first time I listened to the whole thing on the way to my regular Friday Pip’s gig I had tears in my eyes for half the tunes! Seriously, the creativity and originality are off the charts on this one. If features all kinds of guests, from none other than Jack DeJohnette on drums to guys from Bon Iver. Sometimes it gets downright funky, then completely weird and wacky. The piano playing is wonderful, and highly complex sometimes, the singing full of character, the lyrics deep and meaningful, without being pretentious.

All in all, it’s not an album for everyone I guess, and sonically it’s not fantastic, but anyone looking for something truly creative and unique will NOT be disappointed.

“Survey”

Nobody, I mean NOBODY wants to be interrupted by advertisements, right? Sure, there are some who actually look forward to seeing those special sales pitches all your favorite companies come up with during the Super Bowl. I’m not one of them as anybody who reads these pages knows, but some even prefer the commercials to the game!

For the past 6 months or so I’ve been clicking away “sponsored” Facebook posts, marking them as irrelevant to me, and then selecting the presented option to never show ads from that particular business again. Unfortunately the well is endless so they keep coming. But today, FB tried something new on me: it asked me if I’d be interested in doing a survey. Hilariously, it consisted of a series of potential promotion, and the question :”How much would you want to see this in your News Feed?”

Let me get this straight: are they suggesting there are those who want to see ads? The options are standard, guess what I picked for 10 out of 10!

The Great “Hiding Facebook Ads” Experiment

Who loves ads? Nobody, right? Well, I guess people making money from the business (for example actors, producers, composers) might have some appreciation for it, but more like how one loves a sugar daddy than a soulmate. Now, on Facebook there’s a mechanism to stop any particular advertisement from showing again.

It works like this: if you see one you want to permanently ban, click on “Hide Ad” in the … menu.

First off, after confirming it’s gone FB will ask you why you don’t want to see it anymore!

If you click “irrelevant” and “done” you get the next screen; click “Hide all ads from…” and you will never get another one from this particular company!

My big question was: if you keep doing this, and doing this, and doing this, will Facebook run out of ads to show you? I’ve done it a couple of times now, and I can tell you: it IS possible to make it run out, but it takes MANY, MANY clicks. I’ve sat there for 2 hours removing one after another and eventually the well did run dry. The weirdest side effect was that at that point my timeline would only show 5 or 6 posts MAX! Scrolling down more would not even work!

Bugs in your fruit

It’s almost too perfect, the way this is playing out! If you’d go back and read my previous posts about Apple and especially its software development, you can see I predicted this all along: the Big Fruit’s software is seriously flawed, both on MacOS and iOS. It’s happened before, as OS 9 at the end of its life span was perhaps the most crashing Operating System ever, only to be ‘fixed’ by wiping the slate completely clean and breaking all backwards compatibility with OSX. Not only that, but even its usually flawless hardware has been deteriorating. MacBooks are more unreliable than ever, not not too mention the complete disaster that has been the keyboards on them…. pff, top dollar for what exactly?

What really prompted me to write this is the following article on ZDNET: https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-i-may-dump-apple-in-2020-and-why-you-should-consider-it-too/

The title is pretty clear, but when you read the article you realize it’s coming from someone who was quite a fan of the Big Fruit. “But now that ethos of “it just works” has been lost. Now the ecosystem is fragmented, buggy, and on the whole frustrating to use. ” he writes! Ouch, that doesn’t sound good, does it? He goes on:

OK, first off, software means bugs. That’s inevitable. But Apple’s is increasingly drowning in bugs. I’ve written at length about how buggy the iOS 13 release has been. In fact, it’s been so buggy that Apple is planning to change its internal development process. Problem is, Apple had a plan in place to make iOS 12 better, a plan that resulted in iOS releases that were plagued by some really nasty bugs.

And it seems that Apple knew how awful iOS 13 was, and yet went ahead and released it anyway. iOS is getting crappier and crappier.

I’ve seen it first-hand many times, and written about it here. It doesn’t “just work” anymore. With the exceptions of the ultra simple stuff, as long as you follow Apple’s way of doing things, you’re probably ok, but want to get a PDF from your iPad to someone else device? Good luck! Exactly as expected, in order to keep up with the competition Apple has had to add things on to their OS that where not intended. The perfect example is a file system to iOS. You were not supposed to have access to that stuff! Steve Jobs made that decision, just like that computers don’t need a touch screen. But now that more and more people are trying to replace their computers with Apple gadgets, one needs to be able to handle documents on an iPad too! Android had full support for all of that from the beginning. ALL apps can handle files, not through some mickey moused on BS which causes nothing but problems and instability. Oh the audacity of users expecting to be able to plug a USB thumbdrive into their $1000 iPad pro!

In the meantime the Surface Pro gets better and better. Want to do a quick Pro Tools edit on the fly? No problem! Plug it into a digital mixer and record multi-track? Go for it! No exact perfect set of circumstances and conditions necessary, it’s just another computer. Wanna offload that 10GB video from your phone to the guy who recorded the audio so he can mix it and make a concert video? Just plug in your phone with a USB cable and do it! As long as it’s not an iPhone of course…

I’m starting to see cracks in the blind loyalty, but it’s surprisingly slow to happen and as time goes on folks are stuck deeper and deeper in the Fruit’s web. The simple color in iMessage you’re represented by seems to be a big deal 😉 The smoke screen keeps you from knowing too much about the ‘other’ camp.

Also, don’t forget that most Apple users believe that their camp is “more expensive but worth it”, which is kind of nonsense. I’ve had this same conversation many times now. Let’s look at this: the most expensive Surface Pro is $3000, the priciest iPad Pro is not even $2000! You can buy Dell laptops that are TWICE as expensive as the top of the line MacBook Pro, and the big daddy iPhone is certainly not as much as top models from other manufacturers. Of course there are cheaper options as well, and that’s the truth. Windows is not cheaper than MacOS, it has more options, below AND above. You have the choice of getting a beautiful aluminum Dell XPS at the same cost as that Mac or you can get a system just as fast that’s a little fatter and made of plastic for half the price, which incidentally is easier to fix and upgrade too by the way! Sometimes being fancy is a deficit 😉

So here we are, in 2019, with so many of my friends running ANCIENT Macs, wanting to get a new studio machine to replace their cheese grater, but wondering if they will get a Mini or an iMac because the only “pro” machine starts at $6000. Mind you, that low end Mac Pro will not be any faster than a high end Mac Mini! I know hardcore fans that are telling me the new MacBook Pro’s are “horrible”, planning to keep buying 7 year old laptops! It’s crazy….

Love thy neighbor…

It’s getting worse….and worse…and worse in this neighborhood of mine. Plenty of blame going around: “Democratic government is the problem!”, “These people did it to themselves, bums!”, “It’s the fault of the drug companies and their opioids!” Still, some of these comments, many of them, come from folks who call themselves good Christians, supposedly followers of the One who said to love thy neighbor like you love yourself, no?

So how does this kind of rhetoric fit in? Found this on NextDoor this morning:

We need to get angry and demand change” it says. OK, angry at whom exactly? Perhaps at ourselves for letting it get to this point? Unfortunately, I think the poster means at the “authorities” who are not making sure we don’t have to see this. The phrase “50 feet from..” kinda gives it away doesn’t it?

Here’s the first comment posted by one of my neighbors: “Given the fact that these campers may get run over by cars, I would try the police on this one. Although it is clear that our governments does not care about the tax-paying citizen’s rights, it won’t want the liability of a run-over homeless. Additionally, it is clear that the rights of the homeless are considered more important than ours, so surely an agency will care if they get run-over.

Our governments does not care..“, are you kidding me? Hilariously bad grammar of more than half of the posters on NextDoor aside, it really exposes the enormity of the pickle we’re in here. The question of why SO MANY are ending up like this is never, ever addressed; all that is discussed is last resort ‘solutions’ to this ‘problem’, particularly to make sure that those who can afford that 2 million dollar house don’t have to see it. Shelters? Not in my backyard!

Typical homeless encampment under freeway overpass in SFV.

Here’s another comment that just came in: ” Well, our homeless people know they can do anything they want without repercussions and we are all expected to live with this. ” The shortsightedness of these folks is what gets me; they act like children. “They get to poop on the street, but when I do it I get in trouble!)

Let’s face it, these here United States have more people in jail than even China which has 4 times the population. Besides, it costs $40-50K per year to put a person behind bars, far more than giving them welfare. This is something we can not, SHOULD not arrest our way out of. You have to give people a reason to WANT to participate in society. We HAVE to help those who cannot help themselves, it’s the only humane thing to do.

We can NEVER, I repeat NEVER judge all the homeless as one homogeneous group. They are NOT. I’ve heard multiple friends and neighbors tell me a similar story over the years. You know, about when they were young and gave a homeless person a sandwich, he threw it on the ground, saying “I want money! For Booze!” How convenient, now you can write off all vagrants for the rest of your life.

11 Pro Max

What exactly did I just watch? Was it riveting? Not really. Why don’t they just call it the iCamera and be done with it? Is that all we need, even MORE detail in those Instagram shots and longer battery life to keep us from interacting with those, you know, “humans” that are directly around us? Oh yeah, of course, it’s faster so we don’t have to wait all those endless milliseconds that our current devices take to display the next useless post we’re being served by our social networks. There goes another $1099 that could’ve gone into yourretirment or child’s education….

American Factory

It’s not a surprise. Or at least it shouldn’t come as a surprise. What did we think was going to happen with all those dollars we sent to China to satisfy our endless desire for the next gadget, for bigger and bigger TVs? You see, when you have a trade deficit, more of your currency goes to them then theirs goes to you. In our specific case, because international trade is usually Dollar denominated, China has been collecting huge amounts of Greenbacks, one iPhone’s worth at a time. Some of that money is given back in exchange for Levi’s, Coca Cola and other stuff made here, but what happens to the rest?

Well, an amazing scenario plays out in the new documentary “American Factory” on Netflix. You see, money wants to make money and these days putting it in the bank yields virtually nothing, so investing it in something is the modus operandi. The Chinese have been buying American real estate, driving up rents and home prices in many places; sometimes not even for actually living in it, or even renting it out, but just to keep the dough safe! What’s more scary is what can happen when they invest in business over here, as evidenced in Dayton, OH when a glass company takes over a shuttered GM plant and promises to bring jobs back to the region and build a real “American” company. Trust me, it isn’t pretty, and in my opinion everyone, EVERYONE, should see this documentary. It gives a priceless insight in both cultures when it comes to work and life; it gives a pretty damn unbiased look at what it would mean for us to have to abide by the Chinese way, what that would really mean for our middle class way of life.

Our trade deficit is quite dangerous, and in effect we’re slowly but steadily eroding our own wealth, giving it away in exchange for what? More plastic crap? Yet another slightly improved cell phone? You’ve got to be kidding me!

The age of decline

It was bound to happen, I always knew that. It’s been a great run, 49 years without any real problems with my body. Other than when I broke my ankle in high school and a couple of crowns, I’ve always been able to rely on it to come through. No matter how much I punished it with alcohol or the foods you’re not supposed to eat, there were never any problems. Never been particularly fat, although for a little while after moving to the US I did gain a lot of weight; a combination of not riding a bike anymore like back in the homeland and the constant availability of food, in copious amounts of course, led to me packing on 35 extra pounds in three years or so. A couple of adjustments brought me right back to where I should be, without the need for any more exercise than what one gets from just walking to the store instead of biking and being active in general.

As I’m approaching 50, even my vision has remained quite good, as most of my peers have had to resort to lenses or glasses. I sleep well, and my weight is still not a problem, my blood pressure is good, heart and lungs in great shape (even after all the pot smoking I’ve partaken in) and my endurance excellent. Unfortunately, last Tuesday I found out that in one way, but body has now broken down in a way that can never get better. My right leg had been feeling different for a few months; it wasn’t hurting exactly, but it just felt a little achy, even when I woke up in the morning. Also, a couple of veins on the inside had become blue and visible, clearly different than in my left leg. Sometimes, I’d feel a burning sensation all the way along what I now know is called the “Great Saphenous Vein”. If you’re above 50, you’ve probably already guessed it: varicose veins, but let’s back up.

A good friend of mine, 62 in excellent shape by the way, called me a few weeks ago to tell me he had just had quintuple bypass surgery. It scared the shit out of me, so I scheduled an appointment for a physical, which I hadn’t had in 5 years, right away. I figured I’d ask the doc about my leg too, especially since after all I’d been reading it had become clear that there was a real possibility that my vein issue could have been caused by Thrombosis, a blood clot somewhere in my leg, especially since it was only in one leg. I’d talked to a nurse at Kaiser Permanente on the phone and she assured me that, because I had to real pain or swelling, it was not a blood clot. Now, according to just about everything I’d read, up to 50% of people with DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) have NO symptoms, so it seemed really weird for her to brush it off that easily. At the same time, because my symptoms were so mild, I figured it probably wasn’t completely urgent so that the doctor would order a true exam after seeing me, so we could know what exactly was going on.

So, I go in for my physical and the doctor takes a look at my leg: there are no veins popping out, none of those crazy huge twisted veins you always see in the pix, but he says: yep, varicose veins. OK, but no clot? “Any swelling?” he asks, “Redness along the vein?”. There wasn’t so with that it’s case closed apparently! When asked what he suggests he says: “Compression stockings”. I fully expected him to order an ultrasound examination but he doesn’t! And boom, I get spit out again by the system. Mind you, if you have a clot in a deep vein and it travels to your lungs you get what’s called a Pulmonary Embolism, which can literally kill you!

It just blew my mind how easily he dismissed me, so I decide to see what it would cost to get a second opinion, and lo and behold, there’s a vein clinic 3 miles from my house which will do a full ultrasound for $200. So much for health insurance I guess, it’s worth it for me to know what exactly is going on. Even though I only thought I’d get one leg checked out, the do both for $200 and the doctor takes a lot of time to sit with me and explain everything found. He was excellent actually, going through it all, without talking down to me. When he realizes I did my research he doesn’t waste time explaining stuff I clearly understand already. It turns out I do NOT have a Thrombus which is excellent news, but I do have “venous insufficiency” in a few veins. Mostly in my symptomatic right leg, but even in the Short Saphenous Vein in my left leg too!

In the weeks leading up to this, I had been reading a LOT about all of this stuff; it’s quite fascinating how it all works. Perhaps I’ll write a post about all of it in the future, but the short of it is that, unlike the arterial system which brings oxygenated blood from your heart to your body under pressure, the venous system works under low pressure with a system of one-way valves to prevent de-oxygenated blood from moving in the wrong direction. Your calf muscle pumps towards your heart for instance, but when the valves stop working properly, usually because the veins get stretched too wide for them to close fully, you get pooling in your legs. This causes the veins to be under more pressure and they get stretched even wider. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually leads to those tortuous enormous monstrosities on the inside of your leg.

In my right leg, both the Great and the Short Saphenous Veins are incompetent, as are a couple of so-called “perforator veins” which connect to the deep system, which thankfully is still working properly. The doctor told me that the one at Kaiser was crazy not to order an ultrasound examination and I have to say I agree with him; I’m quite disappointed at the lack of proper examination before treatment. Going forward, I’m gonna have to make some changes in my lifestyle I guess, which will be the topic for my next post…. in the meantime it’s time to accept the fact that I’m not 25 anymore and that the inevitable decline of my body has now undeniably commenced!

What would Jesus do?

Boca Raton, Florida, pretty decent hotel…. earlier we saw two school buses parked out front with the name of some Christian church right on the side. It was a school trip for about 60 14 or 15 year-olds. We saw them the day before and they were pretty well behaved, sitting in groups talking, adults praying here and there. You catch my drift. Good kids! Full of energy of course, but not drinking or misbehaving!

Friday night was fine, after the show we went out for a drink or two, and by the time we got back to our rooms at 2AM things were quiet. Saturday turned out a little differently! We got back to the hotel at midnight and had a 5:40AM lobby call the next morning. At this point a about twenty of them were sitting in a circle just talking, but as soon as I got to my room, the first one on the second floor, they started. First, SLAM, the door to the hallway (remember, I’m in the very first room!), running running, SLAM door to a room. They kept coming, and going and coming, giggle giggle, stomp stomp, SLAM. At first I thought: “How long can this keep going?” Surely someone will complain and make them stop. Nope! 3,4 5 times a minute, SLAM!

At this point I feel that resentment that most of us humans are so capable of. These damn kids! Don’t we all go through this in our head? What can I say to them that’ll make them stop? Shall I call the lobby? I put a second pillow on top of my head. Wait? Has it been a minute since the last door? SLAM! Multiple times a minute, running, slamming. I start going through the process of understanding, of forgiveness inside my head. “Come on man! We were all 14 at some point!” Reasoning doesn’t work with kids that age, does it? I’m literally acting out what I could  say to them in my mind. “Is that what Jesus would do? Slam the door all night long?” The silliness of that thought brings on a little peace.

All of a sudden an adult: “NOW EVERYBODY IN THEIR ROOMS!”, running running running SLAM SLAM SLAM SLAM SLAM! Visions of going to Rome in high school, sneaking around in the middle of the night trying to evade the teachers. Four minutes of silence until it starts again. The adult came out two more times before it finally stopped at 1:30AM; or maybe I just fell asleep, because forgiveness is peace, know what I’m saying?

The next day our tour manager told me he went down to the front desk twice to complain! He was still mad, and there’s few better ways to ruin a half night’s sleep than by being angry. Meanwhile I got a pretty solid 4 hours and another 4 on the flight back to L.A. That’s what Jesus would do, get over it!

The price of fear

What is the price we pay for our irrational fear? If I had a dollar for everytime someone that came over immediately locks my front door, I’d be a rich man. Most of my life I hear “Safety First!” everywhere; how can that be a bad thing? Well, last night it cost me $5 for a tip and about an hour of my time. Let me explain.

One of the things that drive me nuts about modern cars ( and I rent one almost every weekend) is that they lock their doors automatically every chance they get.  I understand that it can be advantageous, a locked door won’t swing open as easily in a big crash and if you walk a way and forget to press that button on the remote the car is “smart enough” to know you’re not coming back and might prevent coming back to a ransacked automobile. At the same time, I move fast, faster than the car, resulting in endless trying to open the door and having to unlock it again, and again, and again. Last night it got much worse.

It was going to be a rainy night here in Los Angeles and when we got done with our weekly gig at Pip’s I wanted to load up the car with all my gear as quickly as possible. It wasn’t as cold as I had expected so after doing the first two loads I took off my coat with the key fob in it and put it in the car. Normally any car with remote unlock will have tiny little buttons on the door handle that allow you to activate the mechanism if the fob is close by without having to touch it. I put stuff in the trunk, close it and walk back to get the last two thing. Mind you, at this point the car is unlocked! When I return 2 minutes later with the final load, the door is locked again; “no problem” I think to myself, but guess what: the little button on the passenger door does nothing. Wow, is it really gonna make me do this on the driver’s side? Nope, nothing there either!

At this point, I still believe this can’t be true! You mean, the car knows the fob is close, but inside the car? Why in the world won’t it let me unlock? I ask the valet guys and they explain that this does happen once in a while and that there is no other way than to get someone to break into the car! AAA to the rescue; in literally less than a minute the guy that came opened the car, and not with some kind of master remote which is what I expected. Instead he had a kind of inflatable airbag that he wedged in the door jam, and then inflated until the gap was big enough to get the end of a long flexible stick with a ‘finger’ at the end inside to press the unlock button! That goes to show you how silly we are in thinking we can keep out anyone with the intention to get into your car by locking it, although I guess it might have some deterrent effect on someone looking for only the easiest targets.

One big question remains though: why in the world  would it be a good idea to automatically lock the car with the key INSIDE? This is not a rhetorical question. The only answer I can come up with is fear of the outside world. The only scenario I can imagine is if YOU are inside the vehicle and someone is trying to get to you, perhaps to rob you or do a car jack, and you don’t want him to be able to unlock it by the normal method of touching the little button. What other reason could there be? It’s absolutely throwing out the baby with the bathwater isn’t it?

So there it is: defeated by a damn Chevy Cruze and a Western world of snowflakes!