Monday, November 15, 2021

Travel Win -- Toiletries

When I'm flying for a long trip in the US, I sometimes don't pack the toiletries I need up front. Instead, I put in an order at the local WalMart for pickup, and just get it when I get there. (This is especially true when I fly to Chicago for work.) It saves me from packing or especially flying with liquids.

I knew that Scotland would be a different matter. My skin and hair are particular about what products I use, and my scalp especially will break out if I use a bad shampoo. A lot of hotels and hostels provide a generic body wash and shampoo, but I didn't want to trust them.

The first thing I bought was a cheap generic travel pack. I threw mine away in Scotland after emptying them (to save every ounce in Chicago), but you can usually wash them out and bring them home if you wish. The ones I bought aren't sold any more, but for now here is an equivalent pack:

Here's what I packed:

  • One pump bottle of Nutragena T-Gel coal-tar shampoo
  • Two regular bottles of clear laundry detergent
  • Two of the makeup powder bottles full of toothpaste
I should have packed a second bottle of shampoo (I almost ran out). If the hotel or hostel provides laundry detergent, then 2 bottles is overkill. However, you will want one for handwashing clothes, or two if the hostel washer under-soaps (like the Glasgow hostel did). A bottle of Tide stain remover or Shout wipes would have been useful for patching stains or drips. I'd recommend packing an unused toothbrush, but I forgot mine and had to buy one there.

You'll notice that I didn't mention liquid soap. Bars of soap do not count for liquids, so you want a bar soap. I recommend plain or lightly scented bars of Castile soap, because Castile soap will safely wash just about anything. I am a big fan of Kroger's Simple Truth Honey Almond Castile Soap bars, and bought 6 or 8 of them on sale one time. Pack 2 in your luggage, and security won't care. They will clean you (you can even use them as shampoo in a pinch), and they will clean your clothes too. (More on this upcoming.)

For packing or storing a wet bar of soap, purchase this carrier from PORTINEER off Amazon. It has a good reputation because it's designed to let you close the wet bar of soap in the box. Then you can pour off the remaining water, and the bar will dry without turning to goo inside the box. I just pulled the second bar of soap I took out of mine 3 weeks later, and it was dry as a bone with no mold or problems at all. (I put the bar in my bathroom for handwashing, and washed the container for the next trip.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Travel Win -- Euro Hostel Glasgow

I checked out hotel rooms for Glasgow, and I knew that I didn't want to pay full price for a traditional hotel room. I was going to be in the room a lot, but I wanted to be able to afford stuff outside the room. I considered a traditional hostel room, but I didn't want to share a room the entire time. If nothing else, I was afraid I'd snore too much, and my roommates would waterboard me to try to get me to stop...

Euro Hostel Glasgow was well rated, and appeared to be right in the middle of everything in Glasgow. (More on that in a minute.) They also have single-person and dual-person individual rooms with their own showers. I snapped one of those rooms up for my entire trip.

The hotel is nice. The room was clean and well kept, and the bed was livable for the bottom bunk of a bunk bed. The pillow was mediocre, but that's why I brought my own (see yesterday's post). They even included a towel for each bed, which was nice because I didn't like the microfibre towel I bought. There was even a TV in the room, which I eventually used on sleep mode for an 80s music channel.

The hostel arranged my Discover Scotland trip (a previous win), and tried to arrange a walking tour that fell through (that I didn't really miss). They had a warm breakfast buffet that was decent Scottish fare that I ate several times (and probably will again), but I wouldn't pre-pay for them for each day. Eventually, you'll get tired and grab something else on the go (or make a power breakfast out of the dark chocolate digestive buscuits... yum).

The biggest negative to the room was the shower. It was tiny. COVID has not treated me well weight-wise, but even at my thinnest, I would have considered the shower tiny. If you are bigger-boned, or have trouble bending over, spring for a hotel room with a real shower or slum it in the multi-bed rooms that usually have a bigger shower.

I want to go back to Scotland eventually. When I do, I don't intend to just stay in the cities. However, I know a trip to Glasgow will happen for at least one night. When it does, I will be quite tempted to stay at Euro Hostel Glasgow again.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Travel Win -- City Sightseeing Glasgow

When Paula and I went to New York City the last time, we made a strange "investment" for the trip: a three-day pass on the sightseeing busses for the city. The first day, we rode the bus around the whole of Manhattan, just checking out the tour. Then, we used the other 2 days as public transit, resting on the bus if we needed a seat and using the bus to go from place to place.

In Glasgow, I did the very same thing with City Sightseeing Glasgow. I bought a two-day pass (for 1 pound more than one day). Day one, I caught 2 different tour busses (one before lunch, one after), so I could see the sights and catch stuff I missed the first time. Then day 2, I used the bus to get to places like the Transit Museum and the Cathedral that are out of walking distance from the city center and/or hard to get to with public transit.

I had a really nice lady the first time I rode all the way around, and the second time was a nice fellow who could have been Craig Ferguson's younger (and slightly less funny) brother. Just be warned, the script doesn't change much between trips....

Friday, November 5, 2021

Travel Win (and Life Win) -- Pocket Card Holders

Well before the trip, I decided to switch from a larger wallet to smaller front-pocket pocket card holders. For the trip, I purchased another of what I already had: a Buffway Slim Men's Wallet off Amazon:

Buffway Slim Minimalist Front Pocket RFID Blocking Leather ...

I love this wallet. I loaded up two credit cards, my debit card, my insurance card, a driver's license card, and my US Passport Card (as a second ID). It even has a pocket to hold a small number of bills, which I used for the trip when getting cash from the ATM.

After the trip, I've discovered a new toy: AirTags. I almost lost my AirPod Pros one day in my bedroom, and I'm always misplacing my wallet. So, I went and got this:

This wallet holds just as much as the Buffway, but also includes space for an AirTag. Now, if I misplace my wallet, I can make it beep or search it out. Very useful with my levels of forgetfulness.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Travel Win -- Discover Scotland

The hostel I stayed in in Glasgow advertised a linked one-day tour of Loch Ness, so I bought it. I figured that I'd want to get out of town one day, and if I liked them, I'd see what other tours they had. I ended up booked with Discover Scotland Tours, on their one day Loch Ness and Glencoe tour. I consider Glencoe the highlight of my trip, and I want to go to Perthshire with more of an appetite. Perthshire also has a not-shlock tartan and kilt shop that closes at 6PM that I didn't discover until 6:05PM, so I want to see it again too.

Next trip through, I will either take the 4 day Isle of Skye tour or the 6 day Isle of Mull and Skyetours.

I consider Discover Scotland a complete and utter win.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

It was a Travel Win -- Tortuga Setout Backpack

I knew that I would be in Dublin for about 23 hours, and walking a lot in Glasgow as well. I decided that I would attempt to do a one bag trip. I didn't quite make it (I made it one bag and a laptop bag), but it was generally successful. I purchased a Tortuga Setout Backpack and used it for the trip. I was generally happy with the bag, and I consider the one bag challenge a success.

I was going to share a lot more about how to buy the Setout, but Tortuga has discontinued both it and its accessories. I will try to find a second set of packing cubes eventually, but I am very glad that I bought the rain shield ahead of time. Without Tortuga selling new rainshields, I can't recommend the Setout to anyone since it's not waterproof.

Instead, I'll make my suggestions for what I liked about the Setout, and then you can look for a backpack that meets your needs from what else is on the market:

  • Get a 35L backpack. International flights and US crop dusters usually can't fit 45L bags, so you have to gate check them (or worse, for international, check period). The Setout will fit into a small overhead bin without trouble, and will go under a seat if pushed.
  • Go for a rectangular, single pocket bag (like you would for a wheeled carry-on), rather than something rounded or multi-pocket. The rounded corners of a traditional backpack prevent you from filling that space, and a divider just makes things less flexible.
  • Lots of places rain a lot. You need some way to make the backpack waterproof. Built-in waterproofing is better, a rain shield is a needed backup plan. (The Setout has the rain shield sold extra; I knew enough to buy it.)
  • Make sure there's a separate laptop section, and use it for your electronics. Two separate sections are even better; I put the drugs and travel liquids up front in the front pouch, and the laptop in the back pouch.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Travel Wins -- Solo Duane Laptop Briefcase/Backpack Hybrid


 

I walked past this laptop bag in WalMart earlier this year, and had to have it. I've always been a big fan of the SwissGear Laptop backpack that Sams Club sells, and have both owned several myself and had work buy some. However, I had been wanting something a little lighter and less bulky, and the Solo bag was perfect. I use it every time I travel back and forth to work.

I didn't have to take my laptop with me on the trip, but my manager approved me doing so in case I got quarantined at the end of the trip, and wasn't allowed back into the US. In that case, I had to pack a small amount of work gear to be able to survive 10 days working from a hotel room in Glasgow (or somewhere else in the UK). I could have packed the laptop in my backpack though; this bag was to be my day pack (my man purse, if you will).

On the way through the airports, the Solo bag acted as a traditional laptop bag. I packed all my electronics (the chargers, battery pack, etc.) in it, and it comfortably fit under the seat in front of me, allowing me plenty of room to put my feet in too. Packing it over my shoulder along with the backpack was a bit of an annoyance, but I often switched to just carrying it like a briefcase.

When I got to the hostel in Glasgow, I transitioned the Solo pack to a day pack. The laptop, etc. was all unpacked and left locked in the room. The Solo bag carried my iPad for any notetaking, snacks or a water bottle if I was thirsty, my raincoat and umbrella for rain, and my Anker PowerCore if it wasn't in my pocket. If I bought something on the way, in the pack it went. Since Scotish grocery stores were charging for each plastic bag used, I could throw small purchases directly down in the Solo bag.

This bag was worth every cent I paid for it now. It's available at WalMart.com or most WalMarts.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Travel Mehs -- iPhone SE 2020

I have never been a fan of a big phone. I tried using Paula's big iPhone 8 Plus, but it always felt too awkward and clumsy, even in my massive mits. I liked the original iPhone SE, and then moved up to the iPhone SE 2020 when the original SE's battery started dying on me. I've loved this phone since. It was Good Enough (TM) for me.

Then I went to Glasgow. I believe that Scotland must have fewer cell towers at a lower power than US cities. Also, I was taking more pictures, and using the cell radio for more time when it was trying to get data (thanks to the artificial data caps). I don't remember a day when I didn't have to drag out the battery pack for a recharge.

When I got back to the US, I decided I was going to upgrade eventually, and Wesley was due an upgrade, so I could give her my phone. The only limitation: the iPhone 12 mini was expensive, and notorious for not making it a whole day on its battery for most people. I wasn't interested, and I wasn't going to use a bigger phone.

Then the iPhone 13 mini came out. A few people who use their phones all day still couldn't get a full day, but most users were getting the day and more. I also took the plunge and bought a Product Red one. I can't stand Bono, and (Red)'s overhead is (allegedly) so high it qualifies as a keep-work project rather than a charity, but I love the color. I make no claims to having done a good thing by buying the phone; I just bought a pretty phone.

The camera is better, but I'm not one to push a camera anyway. The screen is nicer, and I like FaceID when it works. The phone is slightly smaller than the iPhone SE 2020, but the screen is bigger and brighter. I like that combination.

Most of all, it just works the way the rest of the Apple products I own just work, and that's all I can ask for.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Travel Mehs -- Cellular Coverage

 

I love the slang term "meh", even if I try my best to not actually use it in conversations. Sometimes, you just need a word for "not good, but not bad either", all in one. Kinda like Goldilocks' "just right" porriage; just right unflavored oatmeal seems to be "meh" to me. T-Mobile's international roaming was one such 'meh'.

I have Sprint, transitioning to T-Mobile. I had to make a couple of calls over to Scotland to clean up my hostel reservations. That cost me significantly. Sprint/T-Mobile also has Global Roaming, where one can get free texts and free 2G-equivalent data. You can make this work for texts and Emails, but trying to pull up an interactive website or Maps wasn't fun.

All modern phones have nano-SIM chip cards in them with the information needed to connect you to your cellular network. Since the iPhone XR and XS, iPhones (and most new Androids) support eSIMs, which are virtual SIM cards stored in the phone itself. This lets these newer phones have 2 cellular connections, for example one US carrier and one UK carrier. A good document for iPhones is here on Apple's site. If your phone is unlocked (or unlocked for foreign cell providers), you can have a primary and a secondary service.

When I bought my iPhone 13 mini (more next post about that), Sprint/TMobile put their service on an eSIM. Since I bought it from Apple, it's unlocked. Before the next trip out, I will go buy a physical SIM card or an eSIM one-month plan from some network provider, and activate it before I need to make any phone calls for the trip. When I get over the ocean, I'll turn the UK plan to primary for data and phone, so I can make phone calls if needed and can have 5G data. However, the US number can stay active for texts and emergency phone calls as needed. When I get back, I delete the eSIM and discontinue the plan.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Travel Wins -- Charging and Power

I carried 2 items that proved themselves essential, and 1 item that I wish I had had. Let's start with the most important:

The ANKER PowerCore 3 10k:

This little box is magic. You charge it by plugging one of the USB ports on the bottom (in the blue), and let it fill up. Then, you can either plug a USB cable into either of the two ports, or you can charge your wireless phone by hitting the round button and resting it against the charger:

I regularly had the charge drop below 50%, but then I'd start the battery pack to charging, and put both the phone and the charger in my pocket. In a few minutes, I'd usually have gained 10% charge or so.

More importantly, you can charge the battery pack and the phone at the same time, and still plug one other USB device to pull power out of the battery. This let me leave one of my wireless charging pads at home permanently. Every ounce saved, and all....


The PlugBug


I had to carry my work Apple laptop with me, and I have a 87W Apple USB-C charger for it. That was more than enough power to charge everything, but I needed the cord ends for the UK and Ireland, and Apple wants $35 for a pack of them. I caught the PlugBug half-off, so it was an easy purchase. If you have an Apple laptop, this is an essential accessory that makes 2 plug-ins into 1. 

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Twelve-South-PlugBug-Charger-MacBook/dp/B07GN6Z5KV but sometimes it's cheaper at their site: https://www.twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug-duo


Alternate Choice: If you don't have an Apple charger or a laptop, try out a charger like the KKM USB-C Charger Adapter. It has plenty of charge for an iPad or the PowerCore above, and could slow-charge a turned-off laptop in a pinch. However, it's probably cheap, so you're going to test it well pre-trip.

Alternate 2: Wait until you get there, and buy a 18W to 30W USB charger in an airport shop or a local computer shop, or buy one from Amazon and have it waiting for you at the hotel/hostel.


Wish list: Short Apple Watch chargers


I have a cellular Apple Watch, and I used a lot of battery life on the plane listening to music. I ended up trying to charge my watch using the battery and my long charger cable. That night, I searched these chargers out and ordered one with delayed shipping so it'd be at the house when I got here.

A two pack of Apple Watch chargers at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09BJ9XKHS/ would have been useful. You could plug this into the top of the PowerCore to charge the watch as well, or into the PlugBug to charge the watch overnight.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Travel Wins -- United Explorer Mileage Plus and Global Entry

While planning the trip to Scotland, Delta had discontinued enough of its flights from Lexington to Chicago (ORD) that I was better off using United. I'm not a huge fan of airline credit cards, because the miles you get are usually worth less than the dollars you get from other credit cards. However, United was offering a lot of bonus miles to apply, and enough perks to tempt me towards their card. The features that drew me in:
  • One free checked bag for each ticket purchased, when flying with the card holder. I don't like checking bags for most trips, but sometimes one has to do so (carrying tools for work, etc.). One bag each way on a return flight almost pays for the card by itself.
  • 2 United Club Passes a year. COVID has made this less useful, but most airports still have United Clubs (or generic clubs) where members can relax, get some free junk food, and a much more comfortable chair. I didn't end up using the club on the Scotland/Ireland trip because I didn't have any layovers worth it, but I have used it on a business trip in the past and will again.
  • Global Entry. The card will pay you back for the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every 4 years.

Global Entry is essentially the Customs versions of TSA PreCheck; you pre-register and pass a background check with Customs, and then you have to go in and let them take pictures of your face for biometrics and scan your fingerprints. I ended up flying out to Mobile (as part of a trip to Gulf Shores) to register, since the Covington office was booked solid for months (and I was going that way anyway). On the other hand, you also get for free, and Global Entry lasts for 5 years betweeen renewals.

I thought TSA Pre-Check was nice, where we could skip the lines and not take off shoes. Then I actually used Global Entry. To check in at Customs, you walk up into the kiosk, and show it your face. If you're lucky, then it gives you a slip of paper with your name that lets you skip the customs line and leave security (which I did get). If you're not lucky, you still get to skip most of the line and step to the front for talking with the nice customs people. I managed to get out of Customs in O'Hare in Chicago in 15 minutes coming back from Scotland, and would have made 5 had I known what I was doing.

I had been using the Delta card when Paula and I were flying to Houston, because Delta has a direct flight from LEX to Houston. However, with them pulling out of trips to ORD, I haven't used it enough the last year to justify the costs. I'm going to cut it off and fly United as exclusively as I can.

I don't get sponsored, and in general I don't do affiliate links, but I will admit that I'm going to give you a referral link. If you're interested in applying for the United Explorer Mileage card, and you use this link, I get free miles.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Talking about Travel -- Sorta about Music

In April or May of 2020, I decided that I wanted to do something I've never gotten to do, and really only had one chance left to do: I wanted to see Genesis live. They'd announced the "Last Domino?" tour, and I was taking the Last part rather serious. (Yes, it's the name of a song, but still....) At the time, they had only announced tour dates in the British Isles (England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland). Ireland was tempting, but the tour date in Glasgow called out to me.

I put together the trip for the original date, with an incredible plane ticket price from IcelandAir. Then Genesis had to reschedule, and a few weeks later, IcelandAir cancelled my ticket. At least this let me reschedule my entire trip for the new time. I was going to end up in New York City for a day for Clannad (that's now rescheduled to 2022, but that's a different story), Reykavik for two days, and then Glasgow for 7. Everything seems set.

Fast forward to September 2021. The concert's still on, and I've seen footage of the crew practicing for the gig; they sound good. Then 9/1/2021, IcelandAir cancels my ticket, and all their flights to Glasgow for the forseeable future. If I knew then what I know now, I would have flown into Manchester or London, and then caught a train to Glasgow. Instead, I ask for a refund, and schedule a United flight to Glasgow. (This will come up again.)

United has several options to make the trip, but the two easiest is a 23 hour layover in Dublin and a 16ish hour layover in Frankfurt. Germany has never held any interest to me, so a day in Dublin was on. However, I'd have hours in Dublin with no hotel, as I would with Glasgow (theoretically), and lots of walking both places. This drove me to decide I was going to travel with one carry-on side backpack only, so I could use it as a day pack too. (I cheated here, but back to that in a post or two.) This drove a lot of choices about weight, what to take, etc. I also decided to go with a hostel in both cities; Dublin was an 8 person room, Glasgow a private room. I was hoping that I could meet people that way.

In case you didn't see my pictures, go see them on iCloud. I am not Rick Steves, and I have little to add to the beauty of the places themselves. Instead, I want to make a few comments about the equipment I used and the choices I made, what went right and what I'd do differently.

Stick around for the tour.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Even If -- Mercy Me

I discovered this song in 2019, while Paula was sick. It expressed everything I felt then, and everything I feel now. Listen to it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Breaking Find -- Way Less Sad -- AJR

Finally, an absolutely true breaking find, because it just came out today!

I like how this works for the last year and for COVID-19: No, I'm not quite happy yet, but I'm way less sad. I like that expression. I've had days like that this last year, and I think that's my goal for 2021: if I can't be happy on any specific day, I can at least be Way Less Sad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Kokomo - The Beach Boys

I went looking for a winter song in my playlists, but for some odd reason, I don't have one. Instead is this hit from 1988, with the Beach Boys. The song was originally written by John Phillips (of the Mamas and Papas) and Scott McKensie, and recorded (but not released) for a new touring version of the Mamas and Papas. The Beach Boys needed a song for the movie Cocktail, and Phillips pulled this out. Mike Love and Terry Melcher get writing credits for some of the changes the Beach Boys did for their version.

As much as Brian Wilson tried to give the Beach Boys depth, most of their hits are light, airy compositions with minimal depth. This one is a flashback to those early hits. (It's appropriate, as Brian Wilson wasn't able to participate in the recording because of health issues.). It's a neat song that appears on both Best Of and Worst Of lists.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Breaking Find -- No Hole In My Head -- Tom Jones

YouTube for the win again. It decided to suggest this newly released song by Tom Jones, and it's good. First, it's impressive that he's still releasing powerful songs like this into his 80s, and has kept his voice in as good a shape as he has.

Second, this song is as appropriate as ever. It seems the world is rejecting truth and wanting to substitute their own reality, and we need to resist that push.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Your Woman -- White Town

One day, I went into Kroger after work to pick up the van and talk to Paula for a couple of minutes, and I heard this song on the in-store music channel. I put it in my favorites list quickly, but Paula refused to hear it any more. It was a neat music channel for us shoppers, but those who worked at the store were suffering. They played the same 15 to 20 songs over and over again on a loop for 2 or 3 days straight. Shoppers just thought they were neat 80s one hit wonders, but they were instruments of torture to the staff.

This is one of the first techno songs I ever liked, and I was intrigued by the androdynous nature of the person singing. Ends up that it's a guy singing, but he's not directly trying to play a gay man. (It's really a panache of lots of women singing a song where the lead character is clearly a man. In this case, it's a man singing a woman's song.)

Fair warning, the video's weirder than the song. I'm not even going to try on that one.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Overland - I'm With Her

It took us a while to realize who I'm With Her even was. It's a "superband" with Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O'Donovan, all incredible up-and-coming bluegrass singer-songwriters in their own rights. They started playing and writing songs together as the three worked their way through the bluegrass festival circuits, and it led to putting together a band.

Overland is a neat "newgrass" folk song about a person who's decided to leave Chicago to try their fortune in San Francisco. It's an excellent song.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

One and One - Robert Miles

Paula and I bought this album around the same time Bo was born, and we often listened to it when we brought him back from the hospital. I remember that either Paula or I asked her mother Myrtle (who stayed with us a while to help with Bo) if she liked the album. "It's not much."

Even so, I always loved this song. One and One still is One. It is an incredibly romantic example of "dream house" techno/dance music of the 90s. It features Robert Miles on the music, with Maria Nayler on vocals.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Butterfly -- Christa Wells

I got this song from NoiseTrade as an artist sampler for Escape to the Lake. It's an amazing, beautiful song that struck me about letting people grow up and do their own path; letting them be their butterfly. I'm having to let one go to Louisville and set up life there, and the other is mentioning the M word and discussing graduate schools.

Here's the song:

And here's Christa' own description of her ideas for the song (and it is about your kids growing up):

Monday, February 8, 2021

Power Windows - Billy Falcon

This is a definite "Paula" song. This came out before we were dating, but it reminded her of the white Pontiac I had that had 100k miles and parts falling off. Since then, I've had a lot of cars that had a lot of miles and not a lot of luxuries, but it was OK because Paula was with me.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Harvest Moon -- Neil Young

Recently, YouTube has been getting stale on their recommendations, nothing new has popped up. Until I managed to happen across this old gem.

This song was written and recorded in 1992 for Neil's wife "Pegi", and is an incredible song. I can't believe I had forgotten about it of late. I am correcting that mistake of course, having added it into the Favorites playlist for replay.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Still Not Dead -- Willie Nelson

Every so often, I start making ambitious plans. I'll go visit some foreign country. I'll get rich on some amazing stock buy. I'll write the Great American Novel.

2021 hit, and this song sumarizes my mood exactly: I woke up Still Not Dead Again today. Good enough.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

I Got You Babe -- Sonny and Cher

There is of course only one song that can be put on for Groundhog Day: I Got You Babe. This is a great romantic song, and sappy sweet.

The association with February Second is from the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. He woke up throughout the movie (every 2/2) to the same song, I Got You Babe.

(Don't go to YouTube or the Internets to find out how many days Bill Murray's character probably lived through. That'll make about the whole day disappear...)

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I Got You Babe -- Sonny and Cher

There is of course only one song that can be put on for Groundhog Day: I Got You Babe. This is a great romantic song, and sappy sweet.

The association with February Second is from the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. He woke up throughout the movie (every 2/2) to the same song, I Got You Babe.

(Don't go to YouTube or the Internets to find out how many days Bill Murray's character probably lived through. That'll make about the whole day disappear...)

Monday, February 1, 2021

It's All Going To Pot -- Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

When I first heard this song, I thought about a certain great uncle of mine who was sure that civilization was going to end, just after he died. He was predicting oil shortages just as the US started pumping more oil than we ever had in history, so you can't take him as a prophet. He'd appreciate the overt subject Willie is claiming here.

Of course, one could accuse Willie and Merle of talking about something else than the end of the world. I can't imagine why one would think that....

Friday, January 29, 2021

I Will Find You -- Clannad

When I first started working as a co-op at Ashland Oil, one of the managers (I believe his name was Austin) had either a tape player or CD player where he would play this wonderful album, and the last song on this album had this angel of heaven singing "I will Find You". I finally had to ask him what the album was, and he showed me it was "The Last of the Mohicans" soundtrack. It is one of my "listen to a bunch" albums, and I'll turn it on in a few minutes and listen to the whole thing again.

Later, I found that angel was Maire Brennan (later to be re-Anglicized Moya Brennan), lead singer of Clannad and cousin to the rest of the band. I started picking up their music, Moya's music, and then her sister Enya's. That has been quite a rabbit hole.

One of the Clannad members has passed, and the rest are above 70 and tired of touring, so they've declared the 2021 tour their last. I bought tickets to a show in Minneapolis that they just cancelled, so the Scotland trip is getting detoured to a trip to NYC for that concert. If I can score a Dead Man Fall show while I'm in Glasgow, I'll have at least 3 concerts in 2 weeks.

Hearing Ms. Brennan in person will be worth it.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Crazy As A Loon -- John Prine

Again in honor of the weaponized autistics who are trying to take on the Hedge Funds, I present a John Prine "classic" from 2005.

It's hard to pick just one song off of Fair and Square. Eventually I'll be able to talk about Long Monday publically. Glory of True Love is glorious, and Some Humans Ain't Human is just too true.

Today, we'll talk about Crazy As A Loon. When I hear this song, I think about the character Hap Shaugnessy on Red Green, a person who knows a lot and has done everything, especially things that just can't be. We all know a Hap somewhere in our lives, and the author of Crazy As A Loon seems to be just like that. There's no way one man could have done these things, but you wish you knew him anyway.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Money for Nothing -- Dire Straits

With the directed action that people on the message board Reddit are taking against the hedge funds shorting GameStop, I couldn't help but think about this song. There are a lot of people making a lot of money for nothing by buying a stock being taken into a deliberate bubble.

On one hand, this song is heavily anacronistic. MTV is long gone. The appliance store that Knoffler was in is probably closed as well, because the chains all but own the field.

On the other, the basic principle's still the same. I've heard many a working class person exclaim similar ideas about those of the "non-productive" classes. The idea will generally be eternal.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Hit The Spot - Leslie Mendelson

I love this light, breezy, happy song of Leslie Mendelson's debut album. This is another of my free songs that I collected in 2009, and it's stayed in my free collection.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Sixteen Tons -- Tennessee Ernie Ford

While this song was written and recorded by Merle Travis, the most famous recording is by Tennessee Ernie Ford, who took the song to number one in the US and multiple other nations. The concept that "I owe my soul to the company store" can still strike those of us who aren't independently wealthy and have a job to attend. I've loved this song since I was quite young, and it was one of the first songs in my favorites list.

When I got my first MP3 players and even my first small iPod, they barely held anything. I figured out that most songs could compress down to a bitrate of 32 kbps, and I couldn't tell the difference with the cheap earbuds I had. However, this song couldn't compress that low, so I had to keep it bigger. Now phones are big, and I can have a full-bitrate version of the song with me at all times.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Conga -- Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine

Rather than one favorites playlist, I have two: the main list I listen to normally, and an Exercise list reserved for higher energy songs that make one go just a bit faster at the work. This song is the first song in that playlist.

This was the English breakout hit for the Miami Sound Machine, before they "just" became Gloria Estefan's backup band. I love the upbeat song, and Gloria Estefan is one of the best singers of the 80s and 90s.

I dare you to try to listen to this song without wanting to dance.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cheeseburger in Paradise -- Jimmy Buffett

This is of course the ultimate dieter's song. After a week or two of calorie depravation, that cheeseburger (or much of anything else non-diet) looks really good.

This song is based on how hard and how expensive cheeseburgers are in the islands. Beef and cheese have to be flown in frozen, and that's expensive. One time Paula went with her niece to one of the Islands, and the four of them decided to get a pizza. It ended up being $50 in the 90s.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Non-Music Post -- Either Let Statcounter work or comment here.

I mentioned this on Facebook, but I'll mention it here for anyone who is reading the blog directly:

I've turned Statcounter on so I can try to figure out if anyone is reading this blog. I used to get a lot of numbers, but I don't know if people started ignoring me on Facebook (or I entered Facebook jail). If I can't tell that anyone's reading the blog, I'm stopping.

I either need for you to let Statcounter work, or to comment on this blog post. If you comment here, I will count the comment and then delete it, so you don't have to worry about someone picking it up to spam, etc.

However, I'd really like to be able to count people long-term. If you don't know how to block counters, the rest of this paragraph doesn't apply to you. If you do, please turn off the blocker for this site only.

I've turned off all the ads because no one bought anything. Without any money coming in, the only incentive left is views. If I can't see views, then I have no incentive to keep going.

Nobody - Casting Crowns Featuring Matthew West

I can't remember who recommended Nobody now (it may have been Eric Vanover...), but whomever it is, thank you. I absolutely LOVE this song. It's easy to think that something in one's life can't happen because one is Important. It's good to remember that we're just a Nobody who wants to tell about Somebody who can save their soul.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New Soul -- Yael Naim and David Donatien

I've had minor reoccurring insomnia most of my life. When I was in college, it led to a night owl lifestyle. When the kids were born and I went to full-time work, that lessened, but IBM often had me up at random times in the night. When I switched to UK, my nights got more stable, so I would occasionally wake up randomly at night or in the early morning.

By the time New Soul came out, MTV and VH1 had abandoned playing actual music except during the very early morning hours. One day, I was up, and heard this song. It never hit the radio, and I had a hard time finding the album (I finally found it during my bargain hunting years later).

I love the innocence, the "stranger in a strange land" that the song portraits. Yael has a beautiful voice. The video is also inventive.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Missing (Todd Terry Remix) -- Everything But The Girl

There are actually two versions of this song, the jazz-ish original (released in 1994), and the (IMHO) vastly superior electronica-dance remix by Todd Terry in late 1995. I thought I understood loneliness in 1994, having had some relationships but nothing stable then, so I thought this song spoke to me.

I didn't have a clue.

I still adore this song for Tracey Thorn's voice. EBTG has been on hiatus way too long.

Bonus fact: the band is "Everything But The Girl" because of a department store near where Ben Watt lived, who advertised that they sold everything a man needed to set up perfect housekeeping, "everything but the girl".

Bonus Fact 2: Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, the two in EBTG, were in a "committed relationship" for years before finally registering in 2009, and as best I can tell are still married.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Just Breathe -- Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

This is a breaking find because I didn't know how well Lukas Nelson could sing. I'm going to spend the weekend listening to his stuff.

Again, another cover. Unlike Johnny Cash, Willie isn't guaranteed to take a song by singing it. I like Willie's take on Gravedigger (even if it's not better than Dave Matthews), but Come On Up To the House (off Heroes) shouldn't have happened. This song is another excellent cover. I had never heard Pearl Jam's version of this song until just now.

As I've said before, a cover must improve on the original or take it somewhere new. Here, it's the presence of Lukas, and the love the two have for each other. Also, this song (and several others) show an awareness of Willie's own mortality (he was having lung problems that were helped by stem-cell therapy in 2015).

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Skylar Grey - Stand By Me

Yet another breaking of my rule about covers, but I don't care. This lady is good, and so is this song. I'm marking it as a breaking find, because I just found the song and the video today. It's an excellent deconstructed yet complex version of the song. The video is also a beautiful statement about helping people in hurricane territory.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Comedians - Roy Orbison

Elvis Costello rewrote his song The Comedians for Roy Orbison's comeback (and last) album, Mystery Girl. It deserved to be a hit, but it got overshadowed by You Got It (which was worthy itself) and the Traveling Wilburys' songs. The video below is from the Roy Orbison and Friends concert "A Night in Black and White". This really shows off the power of this song.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Roll Me Up -- Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson, and Jamey Johnson

I could call this a breaking find, because I just heard about it, but Willie put this album out in 2012. I've tried a couple of times to describe how awesome this song is. There is only one way: Jamey Johnson, Kris Kristofferson, and Snoop Dogg are singing with Willie about smoking, and it's not tobacco. And it works.

You really just have to listen to it. I haven't laughed this hard for months.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Walk of Life — Dire Straits

The video for this song is an MTV staple, from when MTV actually meant Music Television. I love the imposition of the sports footage into an excellent song. It's still on my favorites list.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Revolution - Alice Cooper ft. Johnny Depp

With the politics abounding this week, I had to break out the Beatles standard, but I had to go find a cover.

Someone wanted a Color Revolution in the USA this election, and they've tried their best to get it. However, like John said, "We all want to change your head". Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

On to the song. I am a heretic; I don't like listening to the Beatles. I like a lot of their music when someone else does it, breaking my general "no cover" rule. When I wanted to put this one up, I searched YouTube and up popped both Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp. I just couldn't resist. It's pretty good.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A Change Would Do You Good -- Sheryl Crow

This is definitely not a Better In the Video song. I love this song by Sheryl Crow, and I know a lot of people who would benefit from a change. However, the official video is bad, so you're getting the plain version.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

My Silver Lining - First Aid Kit

This was a free Amazon song I downloaded in 2014. This song is by a pair of sisters who (with their parents' support) quit high school to enter the music scene early. I adore this song and the message the girls sing in it.

As the song says:

Something good comes with the bad
A song's never just sad
There's hope, there's a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

Monday, January 4, 2021

Breaking Find -- Dust In The Wind -- Caroline Jones

I am not fond of covers in general. They had a bigger place in music history when the original might have been in a different genre, or was no longer in print or easy to find. In the modern era, you really need to bring something different to a song to make it worth skipping the original and listening to your version.

I think Caroline Jones has managed to do it. I love Kansas' Dust In The Wind, but Ms. Jones has managed to provide a fresh, simple (almost acoustic) interpretation of the song.

(I know it's not very new, but I found it last weekend.)