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Portrait of guitar with human

Where'd I go? I dunno. I haven't even been reading my friends list much this past week. Sorry about that. I have a lot to catch up with, actually.

Today was a pretty day, though a little chilly, and I decided to take some self-pix that were suitable for that music thing I do. This one is probably the best of the set:

Oct. 19, 2014 (2)

There are three others, which you can see (if you dare!) by clicking on the above photo and going to Flickr, or if you're on Facebook they're all there.

I have some music News of a Strange and Wonderful Nature that will be imparted when the time is right. No, I haven't been asked to tour with Steve Earle in the All-Beard Review (yet).

Another CD on Bandcamp

I've just put my second CD, Another Road, on Bandcamp! Streaming is free and downloads are cheap.
Another Road
This one features John Finan (aka jjfmi) on a whole lot of instruments and vocals, plus Leslie Frederick and Matt Merta. Arrangements are a little more involved than on my first CD, but not outrageously so.

It's actually an abridged CD. The original had two songs by other songwriters on it, for which I paid the required license. But that was back before digital streaming and downloads were everywhere, and I would have to jump through some more hoops to put those tracks on the Bandcamp CD. So I'm just focusing on the ones I wrote.

That's pretty much everything I've released so far. Maybe it's time to record some more.... no promises, though.


More family

I met my brother, finally, a week ago. Half-brother, technically: my father's son by a different mother, nine years older than I. I've known of him since I was a kid, but neither of my parents wanted to talk about him, or bring him into our lives, I guess. Or maybe the relatives he lived with didn't want that. A couple of years ago, his son got in touch with me via Facebook, and after a long time of me hemming and hawing, I met my nephew and then, finally, my sister and I went to dinner to meet our brother, along with his son, his son's wife, and their son. (Six people in a booth at a family restaurant. Cozy.) Brother is a nice guy, they're all cool people from what I can tell. Conversation had awkward moments and earnest moments. I have to say that in situations like this, having a 7-year-old around helps because you can always let him distract you. (Cute kid, he is.) Where things go from here, I don't know. We don't actually have much of a shared past, so we have to build something going forward. I hope it's more than additional Christmas cards in December.
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TBT: Taughannock Falls, 25 years ago

At Taughannock Falls

I did a Throwback Thursday on Twitter and Facebook today for the first time in a long time. This was taken by the Ott Lake Rambler or maybe his wife at Taughannock Falls, which is near Ithaca, New York in October 1989 (he was at Cornell that year). It was a little cool, but mostly it was drizzly, so that's why I had the jacket and my Seattle Sombrero from REI (which I still have!). Taughannock Falls is one of the prettiest places I've been to, and the drizzle saturated the colors of the trees and rocks.
Taughannock Falls, autumn

I visited Ithaca twice, once by plane via Pittsburgh and once by driving. I can say I never really figured out driving in Ithaca. There are about six state highways that go through the city, but they come in from one direction and leave through a completely unexpected direction, so I was always turned around. Fortunately I didn't have to navigate to the falls by myself. I thought Ithaca was a cozy little town, though. I suppose the fact that it was autumn was a big part of that. Mr. and Mrs. Rambler had an apartment I really liked.

I can't believe it's been 25 years since these photos were taken, a quarter century since I was there. This whole passage of time thing is really making my head spin.

(hey look, he's back again!)

I have this hankering to go book shopping. Used book shopping, that is. Specifically, I'm ready for a trip to the really big store, John K. King Used and Rare Books in downtown Detroit. This ain't full of them newfangled eee-lectronic book readers and freshly printed popular tomes. Nope, it's four floors of previously read editions on tall, close-packed hand-made shelves in any subject you can think of and probably some you can't.* I suspect it's the environment I'm after, in large part. There are books, authors, subjects and genres that I'm always happy to go look for. Sometimes, it's just about hanging around the books, especially older ones. Maybe it's the smell, I dunno.

Mind, I don't really need more books. I have lots of books that I haven't read yet. I bought some just last month, in fact; they look interesting and I look forward to reading them. It's just that, well, I'm a collector, I guess. I come by it honestly; my parents had their own stashes of stuff kept around just because. I managed to abscond with some of their book holdings over the years when they were moving and downsizing. Someone had to save these treasures!

I have a lot of older books, but not a lot of what would be considered really old, books printed, say, 75 or more years ago. I have an encyclopedia set, all ten volumes in reasonably good shape, which was published in 1929. Somewhere in a box, I have a very worn manual of the Detroit City Council for the year 1906. Most of the volumes on my shelves date from the 1970s or later. I doubt anything I have is worth much money at all on the used book market. It's just, y'know, nice to have them around.

I tell you what I really need: Bookshelves. Bet I'm not the only one, huh? Maybe I should buy an old factory and line it with bookshelves....

* Plus extra space for ephemera and such, if you are lucky enough to be allowed to see it.
** The quote in the title is from Erasmus (


Who do I think I am?

It's been a quiet week and I haven't had much to say. Sorry about that. (Or maybe I should not be sorry, since I haven't cluttered your friends list with nonsense.)

I saw a couple of episodes of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? last week, and as a result I've started poking around at genealogy again. I've run into an obstacle, though. What do I actually want to accomplish next? Genealogy often means "let's see how far back I can trace my ancestors," and that's one possibility, but there are other potential goals. For instance, my nephew's wife's name is very similar to my mom's, so my niece's father and I want to find out where the two lines merge. It's possible my nephew and his wife are like Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, fifth cousins or something. And we only have to go to Québec to find out! Parlez-vous français? Anyway, the point is, I have to figure out what I want to do, and then focus on that with a plan. Or else I'll keep frittering around the edges of the family tree, which is what I've been doing this weekend, and not really getting anywhere.

I loved the bit in the one episode of WDYTYA?, which featured actress Minnie Driver. She's over in England, working with a professional genealogist, and they discover an aunt of her father's, I think it was. So Minnie says "Can we call her up?" and in the next scene she's on the phone talking with this elderly person she didn't know. In the next scene, they have a lovely visit. (Well, who WOULDN'T have a lovely visit with Minnie Driver?) I admit that this is a huge obstacle to me. I can't imagine calling up someone and saying "I believe I'm your great-nephew, may we talk for a little while?" Yet at some point you have to do this to get anywhere, unless it's too late and you can no longer speak with the person ... which is pretty much the case with all eleven of my dad's half-siblings and many of their children.*

Genealogy seems easy at first, especially now when you can go to and look at all the records they have. But there's much more to it than a few web searches. My next task is to figure out exactly what bit of the process to do next. And if that step involves picking up the telephone... well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

* It's that 28-year age difference between my mom and my dad, see.


Fred Ruffner

The founder of the company that employs me, Fred Ruffner, passed away this month. He built the company from one desk and an idea in 1954 into something with 400 employees and a large range of vital library references that he sold in 1985 for $66 million. He then started another publishing company, along with a few other library and book organizations. Library Journal had a fine obit for him.

His tenure and mine overlapped for just a short while. I started about six months after the big sale, and he stayed on as president for a year or two after the sale. Of course, since I was a measly assistant editor, our paths did not cross. His influence still impressed me, though. My favorite bits were the odd things he did with the company, such as the reprint business — rescuing long out-of-print reference works across many different subjects (which Gale no longer does). He also purchased artifacts, such as The Bookworm that was mentioned in the LJ article, or the Cotgreave Library Indicator that I photographed last year. People who have been at Gale longer than I have tell fascinating stories about Fred. It certainly is a different company these days, that's for sure.


Aug. 19th, 2014

What a week — I mean last week; I'm a bit late, here. Monday is what really set it off. MOST of the day was all right, but at around 6:30 p.m. I got in my car.

First, I heard the news about Robin Williams from the car radio. It was as if someone cracked a two-by-four across my chest. I didn't realize I felt as much affection and admiration for him as I apparently do. I don't have anything more to say, especially nothing that hasn't already been said. Just ... damn.

And then I started driving. It had rained all day, already, but the heaviest part of the storm was in full swing. I avoided the freeway because the traffic reporters said parts were flooding already, but the surface streets were no better. At one point, one very long, long point, I circled Ferndale repeatedly trying to avoid huge expanses of standing water on the streets. Finally there was nothing to do except drive through some of these expanses. (Well, I could've gone back to Java Hutt and stayed for hours and hours of coffee.) At one point my car was floating, and I passed a stalled commuter bus. It took 4 1/2 hours to get home — it usually takes only 25-30 minutes.

Most of the freeways were closed well into Tuesday. The interchange of I-75 and I-696 didn't open until Thursday, and there is still damage to be repaired in that area. And there are many, many streets lined with furniture, boxes, and carpeting that had been in basements that flooded. Some wag, invoking the huge hurricane of 2005, called this storm Latrina because of the basement flooding. Fortunately, my neighborhood was in between two significant floods and was relatively dry. It helps that I have no basement.

Then add all the other things going on: the civic violence in Ferguson, Missouri, the campaign against ISIL in Iraq, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the conflict between Hamas and Israel... it was a rough week and I wasn't even involved in any of that stuff.

A big improvement came with the weekend, though. Dave came up and we went to the Woodward Dream Cruise. This was the 20th annual event, and you would expect photos here, except... well, I do have some. We cruised in my silly modern car on Friday, and on Saturday we parked and walked around Woodward between 12 Mile and 13 Mile Roads. It was fun and I didn't even think about how sucky the world is for minutes at a time.

Neil Young's Letter Home

Neil Young had a new album out. I'd barely heard anything about it when I was in Best Buy looking at the ever-dwindling CD selection, but I grabbed it. It's called A Letter Home and is a collection of songs from other writers that he finds significant. It includes a couple of classic Gordon Lightfoot songs, Phil Ochs, Bert Jansch, Willie Nelson (two from him), etc. It took me a couple of weeks to listen to it, but I popped it into my car's CD player on a trip from Dave's through Ohio. What surprised me first was how lo-fi it was. Turns out it was recorded in a restored Voice-O-Graph booth at Jack White's Third Man operation in Nashville. This particular machine dates back to 1947 and allows one to record direct-to-vinyl, analog of course. It sounds rough, and it sounds authentic. The performances are minimal (there's only so much this machine can do) which is perfect for these songs. There are spoken word bits by Neil, as if he's narrating a letter to his late mother. That just adds to the winsomeness of the whole thing.

My first thought was, if someone like Neil was just starting out, maybe he has a couple of songs of his own but he's mostly performing covers, this is the demo he'd do. There are a couple of songs that, even if he loves them, he probably would've been advised to choose differently. But actually I wouldn't change a thing. This is Neil not just honoring his heroes, and not just celebrating the past. He's creating something that a lot of us can relate to, those of us who think that not everything has to be so goddamn digitally perfect in every bit and byte. There's lots to admire in that.


Aug. 3rd, 2014

It's been a rough month, even considering there was a folk festival up north in the middle of it. I've been sick with what has turned out to be an upper respiratory infection since the Independence Day weekend. What has been really odd about this is, it started out with vaguely cardiac symptoms (!), including tachycardia and headaches and light-headedness. So the first trip to the doctor led to a new blood pressure medication and a bunch of tests. Unfortunately, this was the day before the gunk started settling into my chest and the coughing started. I do wish the doctor had seen that before he sent me off for a stress test.

Fortunately, I was still able to go to the Hiawatha Music Festival to hang out with my friends and listen & play some music. Unfortunately, I already couldn't sing much, but we mostly play instrumentals anyway. This was just days after a vaunted "polar vortex" invaded. Its P.R. overstated things and it actually got too hot, for once. But it was a great time and I was very glad to see my Marquette friends.

Then I got home and the sickness doubled down. Maybe I had fever before I actually got the thermometer out, but I definitely did after I remembered I owned one. (Note: I'm not very good at this sick thing.) Finally, last Monday, I went back to the doctor, saw the nurse practitioner, who gave me an antibiotic and three days of steroids and an antihistamine. I went home, slept all afternoon, and the fever broke that very day.

Now I just sound like a tubercular patient, but really I feel better, unless I have to walk a lot and cough at the same time. My stamina really sucks right now. But I do believe I'm getting better. It just seems this version of the bug takes a while to depart completely. As it turns out, my sister had the exact same thing, a week earlier than I did, with the exact same introduction. My niece, on the other hand, started her version of this out with pancreatitis (right in the middle of her family moving house). If I was a physician, I would be fascinated with the epidemiology of this.

Speaking of the cardiac things, I do have two more tests coming up this month. I guess it's good to be careful about these things, but I wonder if my doctor is actually considering that it was all from the infection in the first place, and I don't have more heart disease than I started out with. I guess I'll know by the end of the month.

ANYWAY... all of this has made me really quiet and inactive here on LJ. I hate doing "I'm sick" posts, but then I'd procrastinate on any other subject. I was having problems staying awake enough to read things, even. Since I'm getting better overall, maybe I'll be able to get back to reading and writing here again. I hope so, since my paid account renewed itself since I last posted.

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