Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alison Scott is a Class Act

I've told you about Alison Scott before and I will continue to do so because the more I listen to her music, the better I like it.

Ali's latest album, Chinese Whispers, came out in September, 2010. I was planning on going to the CD release party at the Fitzgerald Theater in St Paul, but I had a philosophical disagreement with Ticketmaster - they wanted me to pay some exorbitant handling fees; I did not.

Instead of picking up the CD at the release party I skipped, I ordered it from Alison's web site. I figured I would put the greatest amount of cash in the artist's pocket by buying directly from the artist. I bought her previous two CDs from her in person and she was nice enough to autograph those CDs. Had trouble getting the wrappers off but was very nice.

For Chinese Whispers, there was a comment box on the on-line order form. Since she signed the other CDs, I thought she might sign this one as well, so I entered a comment, "Would it be possible to get this CD autographed? Alas, when it arrived a week later, it was still in the shrink wrap, unsigned. That's fine. I figured she might be using a fulfillment house that made signed CDs impossible, or maybe did them only in person, or charged extra, or some completely innocent and understandable reason. I took no offense and I loved the album.

A few weeks ago, I pick up the mail and see a craft-paper media mailer package in the midst of my junk mail. Curious. I had no unaccounted for on-line orders. I looked at the addressing. To: Me. From: Alison Scott. Curiouser. She doesn't have a new CD out and when she has songs to promote, she sends MP3 attachments to her mailing list people (like me). Why would she send something through the mail to me? And the mailer was filled out by Alison herself - I look at two of her autographed CDs every day and recognize her handwriting. Curious.

Once I was back in the house, I opened the package. Out slides a Chinese Whispers CD with a sticky note attached.

"Hey Patrick

We were recently analyzing our 2010 online sales. I noticed that you had sent me a note asking me to sign your CD. Nobody ever attached a note to their order before, so I've never looked for one.

I feel terrible that I may have appeared to ignore your request. Sorry for the delay. Better late than never I suppose.


I peeled off the sticky note to reveal a personally signed CD of Chinese Whispers.

She needn't have worried; it didn't bother me at all. Taking care of a single fan's inconsequential request a year after a CD purchase makes me appreciate the gesture even more.

Alison Scott is a class act.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Volume 3

Welcome to The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Volume 3. Volumes 1 and 2 are this blog's most popular posts by far, so I hope many, many of you enjoy this list.

The first two lists were designed to introduce my sister to a wider variety of good music. Volume 3 is designed to appeal to anyone on the internet who stumbles by.  I realize that some of you will recognize a few of the songs or at least a few of the artists, but I hope there are enough obscure tunes and musicians in here to expand every reader's horizons several times.

Without further ado, hear are The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Volume 3.

Mother's Finest - Baby Love (1978)
writer: Joyce Kennedy, Glenn Murdock, Jerry Seay, Barry Borden, Gary Moore, Martin Keck
album: Another Mother Further

This is not a cover of the Supremes' 'Baby Love.' It's better. Well, you decide. Mother's Finest was from Georgia and 'Baby Love' was a regional hit way back when. When I lived in Atlanta in the 90s, people would start dancing in their chairs the moment the opening notes came from the jukebox. It's a rocking, soulful blast of adrenaline that deserves to be played loudly and often.

Boz Scaggs - You Got My Letter (1994)
writer: Boz Scaggs
album: Some Change

Boz Scaggs has always been hard to pin down. Even his three biggest hits, 'Lowdown,' 'Lido Shuffle,' and 'Look What You've Done to Me' don't even share a common genre (Jazz-Blues, Power Pop and Ballad, respectively). He continued that trend with his 1994 album Some Change. 'You Got My Letter' has a country feel to the rhythm section but the instruments are jazzy while the vocals are pure blues.

Like I said, Boz is hard to pin down but he's made some great music over the last 40 years and 'You Got My Letter' is right up there, with a great beat and that unmistakable voice. I get the feeling that if played live, his band would just want to keep playing the song for 20 minutes or so. And I'd let them.

Bering Strait - Porushka-Paranya (2003)
writer: traditional
album: Bering Strait

I dare you to not get up and dance or at least tap your foot when listening to 'Porushka-Paranya.' It's like hoe-down music on speed. It's also in Russian, a duet between the two female voices of the now defunct band Bering Strait. The first voice you hear is Lydia Salnikova, who is one of my Facebook friends. Really. The other is Natasha Borzilova, and both are currently trying for solo careers in English-language music. Neither is being terribly successful, which I do not understand at all. Their music is country-tinged and very good, but not selling great guns. Except to me.

'Porushka-Paranya' may be in Russian, a language I do not speak, but is really in the universal language of bluegrass. And fun. And joy. And as weak as my description of 'Porushka-Paranya' is, I really wish I could play a sample to convince you right now. Hi, Lydia!

Sonny Landreth - Bad Weather (1992)
writer: Sonny Landreth
album: Outward Bound

Sonny Landreth is a blues musician from Louisiana. He has a unique style, both in his singing and the way he plays his axe. He uses a slide on his left hand but also finger-picks with his right. Its's probably trippy to watch him play and it's certainly a joy to listen to.

From early in his career, 'Bad Weather' is a good example of Landreth's talent with some wild guitar, great beat and infectious lyrics. And if you can tell the caliber of a musician by the company he keeps, you will occasionally see the name Mark Knopfler listed in the credits of Sonny's albums as a BACK UP musician.

As a Louisiana resident, Landreth had to record a song about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Check out his 2008 song, 'Blue Tarp Blues,' perhaps the definitive song on the subject.

Jon Astley - Jane's Getting Serious (1987)
writer: Jon Astley
album: Everybody Loves the Pilot (Except the Crew)

Jon Astley doesn't even qualify for one-hit wonder status as 'Jane's Getting Serious' - his most successful release - didn't hit the top 40 at all but it did get a lot of play on rock stations. You can, I suppose, guess the subject of the song. It's layered with some funky percussion and a cool vocal arrangement that reinforces the bewilderment of the singer.

Winifred Shaw - The Lullaby of Broadway (1935)
writer: Harry Warren, Al Dubin
As shown in Gold Diggers of 1935

Oh, you've heard 'The Lullaby of Broadway' before, but never the original version. Written for the Busby Berkely movie, Gold Diggers of 1935, it must have been racy in its day, lauding Manhattan babies that party all night and sleep all day, and have sugar daddies buy their favors. How scandalous!

In the movie, the song is used to introduce one of Berkeley's patented musical numbers. The stage curtain opens. An up-tempo, full orchestra tune - the one you recognize - plays. A small white disc appears at the extreme rear of the stage. The singer, not yet visible, begins singing the lyrics that will become iconic. The disc becomes larger. After about half a minute, you realize the growing disc is actually the singer's face, and the camera is dollying in towards her. By the time the song ends - it's barely two minutes long - the singer's face fills the screen, and she sings the last part in extreme - extreme - close up. The movie then goes off on an extended production number that is as complex as Shaw's song was simple, at one point having hundreds of dancers synchronized inside a restaurant, and tap dancers viewed from underneath a glass stage.

Many people have sung 'The Lullaby of Broadway,' but only Shaw really captured it - the only one that could call it original. The fidelity is a bit thin for the modern ear, but it's a wonderful throwback.

Pink Martini - Lilly (2004)
writer: China Forbes, Thomas Lauderdale

First, my history with Pink Martini. Until I heard 'Lilly' in the background of a movie a while back, I had none. No history. Never heard of them. I downloaded 'Lilly,' then used Wikipedia to see who they were. Pink Martini's genre is World Music. I guess that means they have a brass section, extra percussion and occassionally sing in languages other than English. Lead singer China Forbes is in my music collection with exactly one other song - the pop-kitsch theme to the 1996 movie Clueless.

A few months ago, Scott Simon interviewed the band on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday, and introduced them by saying that regular WESAT listeners need no introduction to Pink Martini. Waitaminute. I listen to Weekend Edition every Saturday and have for over a decade. Either Mr Simon was exagerating or I'm just not retaining information in my old age.

'Lilly' is arranged in a 1940s-era saloon style, rhythmic, silky-smooth and brassy. I can picture it being sung in a smoky Rick's Cafe Americain by a band in tuxedos. Lilly is a bad girl - a classic and beloved temptress. Witness the opening lyrics:

"Lilly comes when you stop to call her
Lilly runs when you look away
Lilly leaves kisses on your collar
Lilly, Lilly, Lilly, Lilly, stay!"

I've had a few Lilly's in my life. I could use another one once in a while. The song - unlike the titular babe - is a keeper.

Quarterflash - Crazy Quilt (2008)
writer: Marv Ross
album: Goodbye Uncle Buzz

I put Quarterflash songs in the previous volumes of The Best Songs You've Never Heard and I did it for a reason. They're very good. For the past 30 years I have not been able to understand why the band never caught on with the pop music public. In 2008, the leaders of Quarterflash put out a solo album and slapped a disclaimer on the label admitting that they were the only members of Quarterflash to appear on the record. A classy thing to do.

The melody of 'Crazy Quilt' caught my ear first. It's bouncy and kind of happy. Rindy Ross' vocals are unmistakable. It starts out with the singer telling us that she's worried about her friend, a quilter, who obsesses over her quilts, driving herself crazy trying to make them perfect. In the third verse, the singer tells us about herself and uses the same words to describe how she obsesses over the songs she writes. In other words, we're all part of the same crazy quilt.

Unlike most Quarterflash songs, where the instrumental break features a saxophone solo, 'Crazy Quilt' uses what I believe to be a flute, probably played by Rindy Ross. It's melodic and very soothing. 'Crazy Quilt' would fit right in with the music on any Adult Contemporary radio station.

My sister-in-law CJ is a quilter. Unlike the crazy quilter in the song, CJ makes quilts in copious quantities - she doesn't have time to obsess, and they all look fine to me. After I discovered 'Crazy Quilt,' I gave her a copy to see if she'd enjoy a cute and melodic song about her hobby/lifestyle. When she gave it back, she just shrugged. We don't talk about music anymore.

Henry Lee Summer - Hey Baby (1989)
album: I've Got Everything

'Hey Baby' is the only song in my collection by Henry Lee Summer. It hit number 18 on the pop charts so some of you may have heard it. 'Hey Baby' is your basic three-chord uptempo rocker about, what else, trying to land a babe. It could easily be mistaken for a Bryan Adams or John Mellencamp song, in the best possible way.

Ellen Reid - Anybody Will Do (2001)
writer: Ellen Reid, Greg Wells
album: Cinderellen

Ellen Reid is usually the back-up singer for Crash Test Dummies, a band I find unlistenable unless Ellen is singing lead. 'Anybody Will Do' is from her only solo album to date, and the only song from that album I've been able to find. Ellen has a great style and voice, and I would love to have more of her in my collection.

Deadeye Dick - Marguerite (1994)
writer: Caleb Guillotte
album: A Different Story

Like many people, I thought Deadeye Dick recorded only one song, the gimmick-laden but totally wonderful 'New Age Girl.' Nine years ago, I was perusing my buddy Joel's CD collection and saw that he had the album where 'New Age Girl' came from. I decided to rip a high-quality version of 'New Age Girl,' and, since it required no extra effort, ripped a copy of the full album and boy am I glad I did. The entire album is superb.

Deadeye Dick is a remarkably tight band and Caleb Guillotte is a fantastic singer and songwriter. 'Marguerite' is an uptempo pop song with great lyrics and wonderful harmonies. I relistened just prior to sitting down to write this and I'll be dog-goned if the song isn't about missing a woman who died. Even without that extra meaning, perhaps in spite of the morose undertone, it's still a great, catchy tune.

Kathy Mattea - Quarter Moon (1991)
writer: Bob Millard
album: Time Passes By

Unlike Pink Martini, Kathy Mattea truly needs no introduction. Time Passes By was her sixth LP, going top 10 on the country charts and top 100 pop, but who really listened to little old track 7? 'Quarter Moon' doesn't fit within the rest of the Mattea canon - it's a bluesy, soulful tune about someone with nothing to lose.

"Quarter Moon better than none when you travel the night road
Quarter Moon better than none when you carry a light load"

Kathy's never been shy about branching out from country but this is her only dive into the blues pool that I'm aware of. I kind of wish there were more. In 'Quarter Moon,' her powerful voice is subdued and she uses just a simple accoustic arrangement for the music. Simple, elegant and fantastic.

India Arie - Ghetto (2009)
writer: Branden Burch, India Arie Simpson
accoustic version as aired on NPR, recorded in Studio 4A

India Arie needs no promotion from me. She's had four top ten albums and is no stranger to the R&B singles chart. Yet, when she was promoting Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics on Weekend Edition Sunday in 2009, I had never heard of her. As part of the interview, she did a live version of 'Ghetto,' a song on the album that wasn't released as a single. With just a rhythm guitar for backing, her soulful delivery blew me away. It's a very politically astute song as well, making the statement that the impoverished areas of the third world look an awfully lot like the ghettos and slums of the United States.

To find this version, go to Search with these keywords: India.Arie: 'Love And Politics,' Live In Studio. Watch the performance of 'Ghetto' recorded March 8, 2009, and/or listen to the whole interview.

Alison Scott - Crazy Game (2007)
writer: Alison Scott
album: Wish on the Moon

I've mentioned Alison Scott before, but for those too lazy to follow this link, she's a Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter working in any number of styles. I thought she did blues at first, then jazz, then pop, then who knows what. She even insists on rapping sometimes. No matter what style we call it, she plays catchy, soulful stuff that is downright irresistable.

'Crazy Game' was the first Ali song I heard and it's still my favorite. I could have picked any number of songs for this list from her latest LP, Chinese Whispers, such as 'So Why?,' 'All the Good's Gone,' 'Long Way Down' or 'When the Needle Hits the Groove,' but for today, 'Crazy Game' is the one. Anyone who has ever heard a good song, and if you're reading this you obviously have, then you'll recognize Alison Scott's 'Crazy Game' as an immediately memorable, great song.

Steve Lukather - Stab in the Back (2008)
writer: Steve Lukather, Randy Goodrum
album: Ever Changing Times

I've pledged to write up this song without going off on a tangent about how Steve Lukather is one of the best guitarists in the history of the instrument, so give me a minute.

OK. Luke, as he is known to his fans, was the lead guitarist for Toto and started releasing solo work starting in the late 1980s, during his Toto downtime. Fast forward to 2008, when he releases his first solo album in ten years. Its style is all over the road, something Luke fans seem to appreciate. The song that grabbed my ear first was 'Stab in the Back.' It's an allegory for music deals where the artist gets screwed but more importantly, it's a chance for a couple of patented Luke solos. The man can play.

'Stab in the Back' is a very jazzy tune, with melodic vocals and some almost whimsical guitar licks. If the lyrics didn't contain mentions of cell phones and voice mail, you'd think it was a song off a Steely Dan album from the 1970s. It's that good.

Susanna Hoffs - So Much for Love [edit] (1991)
writer: John Hanes, Patricia Gilbert, Peter Dunne, Hilary Hanes
album: When You're a Boy

In the Summer of 2008, I decided to flesh out my collection of artists that I appreciated but didn't possess their entire discography. Susanna Hoffs was one of those. You may know her as one of the Bangles. I picked up her 1991 album cheap - it may have been a penny - and loaded it on my music player. It's a fairly funky album but on my first listen-to, I wasn't impressed. On the second listen, though, something clicked.

At that time I was living in a sub-let apartment in a should-have-been condemned building/slum across the street from my office. It was literally a three-minute cube-to-hovel walk. On a hot June or July day, walking back to the office from lunch, cut 7 from When You're a Boy started playing. The third verse caught my attention.

"I got a contract to protect my labor
I got it worded so it always works out in my favor
Got no loose ends to untangle
I got a written guarantee that covers every angle
So much, so much for love"

Until you listen for yourself, you have to imagine those words being sung by the voice that sang 'Manic Monday,' 'Eternal Flame' and the last verse of 'Walk Like an Egyptian.' It's very cynical, very funky and very fun. I think Susanna's record company missed out by not releasing 'So Much for Love' as a single 20 years ago.

You may have noticed the word "edit" in the title above. After maybe a dozen listens, I realized the song was broken. Like many pop songs, 'So Much for Love' was arranged in the format of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus. I used my WAV editor, found a couple of natural edit points and killed the first chorus, changing v-c-v-c-v-c to v-v-c-v-c. The song flows better and builds up more musical tension this way, but if you don't have the ability to edit music files, hey, the stock version is still a great song.

Kay Hanley - Satellite (2002)
writer: Kay Hanley
album: Cherry Marmalade

I love Kay Hanley's voice. It hits a resonate frequency deep within and brings me great joy. I don't always love her song selection and her propensity to drop the F-bomb makes me a little uneasy, but what can you do? Instinct tells me to put my favorite Kay song on this list, but the purpose of The Best Songs You've Never Heard is to expose you to great songs, not force you to like my favorites, even if they are sometimes one in the same. Having given it that much thought, I have chosen a Kay Hanley song that demonstrates her amazing singing and songwriting ability, even if it's not quite my actual favorite Kay song.

Which brings us to 'Satellite,' from her first solo LP. She sings in a straight-forward pop style, with easy to understand lyrics and a chorus that is catchier than chicken pox at day care. I picked 'Satellite' in part because it uses overdubbing both to give her voice depth and so she can sing harmony-back up vocals herself. Those harmonies pop 'Satellite' up to a whole 'nother level of pop song.

The song is a fairly opaque look at a break-up, one with dumper's remorse, I guess. The second thoughts allow Kay to sing with a little more emotion than on many of her songs, yet 'Satellite' is ultimately a happy sounding, up-tempo song. And you just have to love a song where the lyrics rhyme "black coat" with "Veuve Cliquot." I had to look it up - Veuve Cliquot is a brand of champagne. No, I have no idea what the word Satellite means in the context of the lyrics - it sounds like a person's name. No, she doesn't drop the F-bomb in this song.

Joan Osborne - What Becomes of the Brokenhearted? (2007)
writer: William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, James Dean
album: Breakfast in Bed
DVD: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

You've obviously heard the song 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?' This cover version was created for the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the story of the musicians behind the incredible success of Motown Records in the 1960s. The musicians playing on this cover are (mostly) the same ones that played on Jimmy Ruffin's original version in 1966. Who woulda thought that Joan Osborne had so much soul?

I recommend watching the whole movie Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but at the very least, check out Joan's version of 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?' beginning at the 1:11 point in the movie. It's better than the original.

Steve Forbert - On the Streets of This Town (1988)
writer: Steve Forbert

Everybody has heard Forbert's 'Romeo's Tune,' with its infectious piano and his sandpaper voice, but 'On the Streets of This Town' is a better song. It's a simple moving-on ballad with a sparse four-part arrangement that makes the most of that rough voice.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Everybody Gets the Blues (1995)
writer: Angel Michael
album: Ledbetter Heights

I'll close with one of the best feel-good songs in the history of recorded music. It's from Kenny Wayne Shepherd's early, hit-making days, but 'Everybody Gets the Blues' was not released as a single. It's a powerful, fast, exciting song that is a celebration. If something's got you down, it won't seem so bad after you listen to 'Everybody Gets the Blues.'

And that concludes volume 3. I won't promise a volume 4, certainly not anytime soon. I will make an offer to burn a CD of this list for those of you who know me personally. For the rest, you will have to seek out the music through regular channels. I guarantee that many, no, most, no, ALL of the songs here are worth seeking out.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let's Let Apple Be the Change We Want to See

I read that Apple Inc is sitting on $76 billion in cash. Good for them. Apple puts out products that people want to buy and they make a profit on it. Fine by me.

$76 billion is more than the annual GDP of over half of the countries in the world. Granted, some of the countries are pretty small but Apple is just one company in one industry. We can conclude that Apple is successful and profitable.

Yet, this all-American company, selling phones, computers and music players to Americans, doesn't build anything in America. Everything they make is outsourced to Mexico or China. I understand that business is cyclical and that bad times will surely follow good, but with a $76 billion cushion, shouldn't Apple move all of their manufacturing back to the United States? Most companies will say that they outsource to save a few percentage points on manufacturing costs, but when your profits are so huge that you have more cash on hand than the United States treasury, can we let Apple use that excuse? Shouldn't we, the American consumer, insist that they become an all-American company?

Hey, guy who replaced Steve Jobs as Apple CEO - Time to open some factories in the United States, dude. Now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Who is Kim Kardashian?

And why should I care that she got married this last weekend?

Don't actually tell me, I don't really want to know. Just stop putting her picture on the front page of every web site I visit.

Whoever this woman is, there have got to be many, many, many more legitimate news stories to lead with. How about the need for a trillion-dollar stimulus to get the economy going again? Famine and genocide in Africa? Kim Kardashian is more important than genocide, famine and joblessness?


Sunday, June 19, 2011

And the Hits Don't Stop Until We Get to the Top

In addition to my regularly posted glance at 10 songs that my music player played sequentially on Friday, let's analyze what are my de facto favorite songs.

First, the random songs from Friday past:

Pat Benatar - Its a Tuff Life
Joni Mitchell - You Turn Me on I'm a Radio
Fats Domino - I Hear You Knocking
Pink Floyd - The Dogs of War
Dana Glover - It is You (I Have Loved)
    From the harsh, operatic Pink Floyd tune to Glover's super-syrupy ballad.  Jolting on paper.  Harder on the ears.
Kathy Mattea - Give It Away
Bangles - Stealing Rosemary
George Benson - Jamaica
Charley Pride - Is Anyone Going to San Antone?
Reba McEntire - I'm Not That Lonely Yet

I built a new computer two years ago this week.  I loaded a fresh version of iTunes and imported all my music with playcounts of 0.  Most of the time, I listen to a playlist that plays songs at random, excluding songs that have been played in the past four months or so.  To listen  to a song again, I would have to play it as part of an album, select it manually or drop it into a special playlist. Manual is work - I select songs to replay  infrequently.  Most songs in my collection have 4 or 5 plays.  You can see which songs I've chosen to listen to manually because they have higher counts and sometimes quite a bit higher.  Now, two years later, we can see some definite trends about what I like to listen to based on playcounts above the random baseline.   And I'm surprised by the results - no Beatles, no Rolling Stones, no Boston, nothing that would be considered "classic."

Four songs tied for 13th place with 13 plays.
Bering Strait - Porushka-Paranya
Natasha Borzilova - Real Fight
   Natasha was one of the two singers for Bering Strait.  Just a coincidence that she has two songs back to back.
Pink Martini - Lilly
Shannon Curfman with Joe Bonamassa - The Core
   I've mentioned Shannon before.  This is a remake of the 1977 Eric Clapton - Marcy Levy song.

Two songs tied at 11th place with 14 plays.
Jim Capaldi - Love Hurts
Sarah Shannon - What's Mine
   Every song I have of Sarah's has a higher-than-average play count.  I wish I had more of her than just 24 songs.

Two songs with 15 plays come in at number 9.
Debbie Gibson - Only in My Dreams
The Jayhawks - Save it for a Rainy Day
   The Jayhawks are from Minnesota.  I also have an acoustic version of Save it for a Rainy Day with four plays, so maybe they get extra credit.

Another pair tied for 7th with 16 plays.
Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
  Another Minnesota band
Kay Hanley - Satellite
   I've also mentioned Kay before.  Her voice is amazing.  Of the 16 plays for Satellite in the past two years, probably 12 came in the past 12 days.  I remember listening passively at work about two weeks ago and hearing a really fabulous song.  When I got home, I played Satellite again and realized I had never really listened to the song before, not fully.  I don't understand how that one got by me - I've had the album for over three years - but now that I'm aware of it and truly appreciating it, I'm going to listen to it over and over and over.

6th place, 17 plays
Amanda Abizaid - A Place in Time
   This is the theme song to the TV show The 4400.  It's only one minute long but it's pretty much perfect.  It's just over too soon.

In 5th place with 19 plays...
Alison Scott - Smash and Grab
   From Ali's most recent album, which I bought on September 1, 2010.

4th place, 21 plays
Jim Capaldi - That's Love
   This was my most listened to song before I built the new computer.

3rd place, 23 plays
Alison Scott - Crazy Game
   One year ago, I had not heard of Alison Scott.  In the past 360 days, I've met her, purchased all of her music, and spent many hours enjoying listening.  Crazy Game is the first song of hers that I heard and still my favorite, if I had to choose.

2nd place, 31 plays
Kay Hanley - Mean Streak (Do You Miss Me, Too?)
   Plus two live versions with a combined 12 plays.  That pushes Mean Streak up to 43 total plays, but not quite enough to hit number 1...

1st place, 44 plays
Kay Hanley - Tell Him No
   Last year, when I did a one-year update, these two songs were also 1-2, and by about the same ratio.  Again, I'm being consistent.  I will ponder to myself whether I'm too consistent.  I just love Kay's voice and her phrasing.  I don't love every song of hers but isn't that how it goes with art?

I find it interesting that only four of the 16 songs mentioned ever hit the Top 40 and only one was a top 10 hit.  Don't know what it means but I find it interesting.

Now that I've got this post out of the way, I wonder what I should do with the rest of the day?  Maybe I'll listen to some music.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

Although the year of release of these songs is across the board, eight of the ten are big acts from the 1970s.

Highway 101 - Who's Lonely Now?
Joni Mitchell - Help Me
Alison Scott - Rock Me Sweetly
Boston - What's Your Name?
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band - You'll Accompany Me
Donnie Iris - She's So Wild
Jackson Browne - Hold Out
Dire Straits - Iron Hand
Steve Miller Band - Space Intro + Fly Like An Eagle
Lynyrd Skynyrd - That Smell

Friday, June 3, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

No post last week, as I took Friday off of work and listened to podcasts all day. Today I worked and listened to 88 tunes. Here are a random ten:

Chynna Phillips - Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me
Eddie Money - Give Me Some Water
Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar on Me
     A serendipitous pairing.  Give Me Some Water, then Pour Some Sugar on Me. Sounds like someone wants to be covered in a simple syrup.
Little River Band - Lonesome Loser
Kathy Mattea - Guns of Love
Doobie Brothers - Echoes of Love
     Another serendiptous pairing. Of course, the sounds that Guns of Love make would be Echoes of Love. Duh.
Susan Tedeschi - Back to the River
Sweet Sensation - Sad, Sweet Dreamer
Gerry Rafferty - Right Down the Line
Daryl Hall and John Oates - Getaway Car

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bon Voyage, Liane Hansen

Yesterday was the last broadcast of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday with Liane Hansen.  Liane has been with NPR for 35 years and host of WESUN for over 20, so no one will begrudge her retiring.  Yet it's a little sad to see her go.

I've been listening to WESUN regularly since 1999, and since I installed a client in my computer to record off the radio, I haven't missed a single program in ages (circa 2003).  Liane has introduced me to hundreds of newsmakers, entertainers, analysts and other notables.  Organizing my Sunday morning around the 7:00-9:00 AM block has kept me informed, entertained and well rounded for over a decade.

My first real memory of Weekend Edition Sunday, of course, had to do with listening to the Sunday puzzle and enjoying it so much I sought out the program the next week.  And the next.  And the next.  The Sunday puzzle is run by Will Shortz, the New York Times crossword editor.  I, and several million regular WESUN listeners got to know Will before he got all famous starting it 2005 or so.  The genuine friendship between Liane and Will comes across on the radio.  Will's puzzle segment will be continuing post Liane.

It was a Sunday puzzle where I first heard the name Britney Spears (What entertainer's name can be anagrammed "Presbyterian?").  Being well rounded doesn't necessarily mean having one's finger on the pulse of pop culture, don't ya know, as Britney had been around for several years prior to that puzzle.  Ironically, it was fill-in host Lynn Neary who had the biggest influence on my musical world when she interviewed singer Sarah Shannon in April, 2002.  I immediately fell in love with her voice and still listen to Sarah as often as I can.  Hey, a song of hers just popped up on my random playlist as I wrote this.

Liane Hansen has been that friendly voice on the other side of the radio for over a decade but a lifetime ago, I used to be a person inside the radio.  I know my impression of her is not reflective of reality - people are never exactly who they appear to be in the media - but it's hard not to get attached to someone whom you bring into your home week after week, is very professional and just so nice.  So off to retirement Liane, whoever you really are.  I have enjoyed having you in my life for the past twelve years.

Liane will be replaced on a permanent basis by Audie Cornish, an NPR reporter and fill-in host.  I've heard Audie file lots of stories and appear on WESUN several times.  About the time I first became aware of Audie, I also saw a movie with actress Abbie Cornish, so my brain cross-wired them.  This is  my mental image of Audie Cornish:

I don't ever need to know what Audie really looks like.  I'm quite content thinking she looks like Abbie.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

Walter Egan - The Blonde in the Blue T-Bird
Van Morrison - The Lion This Time
Pretenders - Jealous Dogs
Susan Tedeschi - Gonna Move (live)
    From her 2004 album Live in Austin. I like the studio version better but this one's OK.
Kylie Minogue - Stars
    It's been a while since I've loved a Kylie song but I just can't stop listening.
Chicago - Hot Streets
Karen Mok - Candy Kisses
    Karen is a movie star and singer based in Hong Kong. Candy Kisses is in both English and Chinese.
The Mamas and the Papas - Creeque Alley
    If you listen to the second verse closely, you'll hear that Cass Elliot attended Swarthmore College.
The Police - Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
Carla Thomas - Something Good (is Going to Happen to You)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Take a Look at This

I upgraded a monitor a little while ago. The price of large monitors came down to a reasonable point, so I decided to replace a fully functional 19" LCD with someting larger. I went with a 28" I-Inc. Yes, I said 28" diagonal measurement. No, I had never heard of I-Inc, either, but it's working just fine.

Here is a before and after comparison. Yes, my computer desk exists in a constant state of clutter.

To give you an idea of of the scale, that poster of Ramona and Beezus is 27" wide. Oh, and the scrumptious young lady in the background picture on the new monitor is Eve Myles, in a promo picture from the BBC series Torchwood.

So you're wondering why the monitor on the right is sideways. It's because web sites are taller than they are wide, like a sheet of paper. When you view web sites on a conventionally-oriented widescreen monitor, you have a bunch of unused space on the right side and you have to scroll down numerous times to get to the bottom of the page. By flipping the monitor, most web pages fit perfectally side-by-side, and I don't have to scroll as often as you do to get to the bottom of the page. It's not just web pages, some spreadsheets, word docs, programs and pictures like to be vertical, so I like to have one horizontal and one vertical monitor.

With the new and exciting, however, comes some downsides. The new monitor's native resolution is 1920x1080 with 32-bit color. However, my computer wll only support 1920x1080 at 16-bits. That may not sound like much of a difference, but it's huge. Colors turn grainy and are generally unviewable, so I've opted to run the monitor at a resolution of 1680x1050. That doesn't give me the real estate I'd hoped for but at least the colors aren't headache-inducing. I could get a new video card that would support a higher resolution but that increases the overall cost of the project and, most importantly, it's one more decision to make so I haven't done anything about it yet.

Another downside is realizing that the vertical monitor is a piece of garbage. When I got it in 2007, it was fairly expensive, and as a Samsung 23", it was considered top of the line. Right from out of the box, I thought it looked no better than the generic 19" next to it. The Samsung also wasn't very bright, but I just went with it. Then the power switch broke. You can't turn it on or off with the power switch anymore, but by using the menu or auto buttons on the bottom. The problem with the menu button reassigning itself as a power button is that I can no longer adjust the brightness. Now sitting side-by-side with a very bright 28" monitor, the Samsung looks remarkably dim. To sum up this downside, the new monitor has shown me that I really need to upgrade the tall monitor as well, which would, by definition, double the cost of the upgrade project. Another decision I don't want to make.

I'll leave you with the full image of the Ramona and Beezus poster, in case you aren't familiar with it and, really, just because it's cute.

10 Random Songs on Friday

Friday the 13th? Not so scary.

Nu Shooz - Point of No Return
Steely Dan - Got the News
The Clovers - Love Potion Number Nine
Joey Scarbury - Theme from 'Greatest American Hero'
INXS - What You Need
Deadstar - Don't Leave
Bruce Springsteen - Terry's Song
Martha Davis - Don't Tell Me the Time
David Gates - Love is Always Seventeen

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flying or Falling wth Style?

This guy appeared above my neighborhood last Saturday evening. At first I thought it was a loud motorcycle driving on a nearby street, but it neither shifted nor crashed, leading me to look to the sky.

I'm not sure what you call this contraption but it looks both interesting and frightening at the same time. Sure, he's suspended in the air by a parachute, which is generally desirable, but dang, the parachute is the only thing that's holding him up. What if it rips?

The guy did a couple of lazy turns over my neighborhood then headed back to whence he came. While I'm intrigued by the idea of personal flying machines as anyone - hey, who doesn't want a jet pack? - I'm not even going to bother seeing what that machine is really called or how it works.

Monday, May 9, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

A forty-year span in this week's selection.  In fact, five songs released from 1962-1965, which is fairly meaningless because these came from a random playlist.

Berlin - Will I Ever Understand You?
Def Leppard - Photograph
Supertramp - Goodbye Stranger
Bobby Vee - Take Good Care of My Baby
Eddy Raven - Solo Sometimes
Dean Martin - Everybody Loves Somebody
The Beatles - Eight Days a Week
Sarah Shannon - Dark End of the Street          (2002)
Martha and the Vandellas - Nowhere to Run
Roy Orbison - The Crowd                     (1962)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

With some comments today.

The Beatles - Paperback Writer
Laura Branigan - Take Me
     I sometimes feel sad when I listen to Laura Branigan because she died so young (47) and had such great talent. Yesterday was one of those days.
The Runaways - Hollywood
Brewer and Shipley - One Toke Over the Line
New Radicals - Mother, We Can't Just Get Enough
Yes - Big Generator
Led Zeppelin - You Shook Me
Kathy Mattea - Taking the Giving Away
Rodney Crowell - Baby, Better Start Turning 'em Down
Quarterflash - Crazy Quilt
     You'll see Crazy Quilt in The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Volume 3, if I ever finish the text.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nuclear Incident

I heard on the news this morning - several times - that today is the 25th anniversary of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. It was described as the worst nuclear incident in history.


First, the incident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan requires the modifier "yet" to be included when discussing the relative degrees of meltdowns. But aren't the newspeople forgetting something?

The intentional release of nuclear energy in the form of bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 still have to be considered the worst "nuclear incidents" in human history. No matter how bad it gets at Fukushima, and it could get very, very bad, it'll be tough to exceed the damage done at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No matter that Harry Truman ended World War II by nuking civilians, it was still a pretty rotten thing to do and no power plant meltdown could ever be a worse "incident."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

Debbie Gibson - In the Still of the Night
Billy Williams - I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
Rodney Crowell - It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
Sonny Landreth - South of I-10
Edgar Winter Group - Frankenstein
Blues Traveler - Hook
Bobby Hebb - Sunny
Four Non Blondes - What's Going On?
Shannon Curfman - What You're Getting Into
Quarterflash - One Less Lie

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wait, Wait, Don’t Bill Me

So, do you want a way to get your heart started in the morning?  Notice I didn’t say "good way."
I checked my e-mail this morning and found this (usually) routine e-mail.

Notice the dollar amount.  My bill is always around $40.
Many a calamitous possibility ran through my mind as I scrambled to log into the Verizon portal to look at the details on the bill.  What could they have done to make my bill be five times larger than normal and how long will it take me in Customer Service hell to get out of it?
Wait, I don’t see a new bill.  My previous bills were all dated the 20th, not the 18th.  Huh.
Oh, there it is.  My account number doesn’t end with 0675-00001.  I see what happened.  They sent me someone else’s notice.  Well, that’s not so bad – for me.  Isn’t it crazy, though, that they’d send the ready-notice for someone else to me?  That just doesn’t inspire confidence.

Monday, April 18, 2011

10 Random Songs on Friday

I stumbled across the blog of a woman who publishes a post every week with ten songs that played at random that day on her iPod. She calls it the Friday iPod Random Ten and has been doing it since at least January 2005. Knowing a good idea when I see one, I'm going to steal this idea from her. My sister-in-law CJ posts five things she's thankful for every Friday, so this can be similar to that and a lot less work.

Every week, when I remember, I will select ten songs that my iPod played that Friday (or iTunes, if I worked from home that day). The only rule will be that they played consecutively in the order listed. The list will be presented without comment except when I feel like commenting. I will title each post 10 Random Songs on Friday.  Let the new tradition begin.

Here are 10 random songs that I listened to on April 15.

Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing
Bruce Springsteen - My Lucky Day
The Cars - Victim of Love
Aretha Franklin - Rock Steady
Burton Cummings - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
Toto - Home of the Brave
Traffic - (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired
Linda Ronstadt - Simple Man, Simple Dream
10,000 Maniacs - What's the Matter Here?
Kansas - Nobody's Home

Saturday, April 9, 2011


It may not surprise you that I am sartorially challenged. From my perspective, I am clothingly oblivious, but still. Clothing is strictly functional as far as I'm concerned. It provides insulation, pockets to hold stuff and keeps private parts private. Everything else is just waste.

I don't understand the reasoning when I hear people say, "Nice Blouse," or "Cute shoes." I rarely hear a complement about my clothing and I wouldn't know how to take it if I did as I put in almost no effort to dress myself. I'm immediately suspicious of people who think I look nice because on most days, I look nothing short of generic. And I don't get clashing. What's wrong with stripes and plaids? The guy has a shirt and pants on. Isn't that enough?

I work in an office with a moderately nice dress code. Jeans and decent shirts seem to rule. Jeans are easy; I have three types: dark blue, faded blue and black. Easy. Shirts are another story. There are two types, as best as I can figure, polo and button-down. We can draw another distinction. I only wear short-sleeve shirts. When I find myself possessing long-sleeve shirts, I take them to a tailor and have them converted to short-sleeve. Otherwise, I might as well throw them out.

Due to wear & tear and the advancement of my waistline, I occasionally find myself in the market for new shirts. I usually shop by cruising the discount racks of Target or Shopko. The last three or four shirts purchased that way, however, turned out to require ironing after every wash. It shouldn't surprise you that I don't like ironing, either. I put my not inconsiderable intellect into solving a problem I didn't quite understand. How to buy new shirts that truly do not require any maintenance?

I started by paying attention to my existing wardrobe. Some shirts could get hung up after the wash with no wrinkles and some always wrinkled. It seems the ones that were 100% cotton wrinkled. OK, no more buying 100% cotton. Next, I noticed that some shirts that didn't wrinkle also didn't get worn very often. A look at the label showed that those were 100% polyester. They're awfully lightweight and feel kind of clingy. No more 100% polyester.

The shirts that worked best were a blend, 60% cotton and 40% poly. I have two shirts of that ilk, purchased on the same day from Kohl's Department Store. It was my first and only trip to Kohl's, and it was about a decade ago. These shirts are sweet. The material is a little heavy, they never wrinkle and have a subtle stripe pattern that matches whichever type of jeans I happen to wear. They're the Kohl's store brand, so I decided to go back to Kohl's to see if lightning would strike twice.

It did. They have a great selection of short-sleeve shirts and they just happened to be having a sale. Yay! Sales! I grabbed eight shirts matching my criteria and marched out with a wallet $178 lighter. $22 per shirt and I don't have to go shirt shopping for another decade? I shoulda bought more.

When I got home, I entered my credit card receipt into Quicken and got curious about when exactly I bought those two wonderful shirts I mentioned before. Yesterday was April 8, 2011. Quicken's search function pulled up the previous transaction, which happened on...

Huh. That's odd.

April 9, 2000. 11 years ago today.

I am, apparently, a creature of habit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Turnabout is Fair Play

Starting in early 2005, I started seeing bumper stickers that encouraged people to party like it was 1/20/09, a not-at-all veiled reference that the war criminal illegally occupying the White House at that time would be out and replaced by a Democrat. Well, it was not a sure thing that he'd be replaced by a Democrat, but that was the jab and it worked out that way. And there was no shortage of partying on 1/20/09.

I parked next to a pick-up at the office today that had a bumper sticker with just five characters on top of a stars & stripes background. "1/20/13." I'll assume it's a jab and why not? It's only fair. But I wouldn't count my chickens before the eggs have hatched. A lot can happen in the next 19 months, but sweeping Barack Obama out of office? Not gonna be as easy as it sounds. First of all, they need a candidate. Don't seem to be any real ones right now.

In the meantime, every time I park near that pick-up, I'm going to smile as I think, "Excellent. He's celebrating the beginning of President Obama's second term. It's good to plan ahead."

Friday, March 18, 2011


Things that should be Auto-Tuned:
The News

Things that should not be Auto-Tuned:
Songs that reach my ears

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dave Brubeck

As I went to bed the other night, I heard an interview on CBC's As It Happens with a gravel-voiced musician. I couldn't tell who it wasbut I knew he was important, so I listened intently until the end, where the host thanked Dave Brubeck for talking with her.

Dave Brubeck! Isn't he dead? No, very much alive. I probably confused him with John Coltrane. Still - Dave Brubeck is alive, giving interviews and rehearsing at age 90. Wowsers.

If you've ever intended to listen to Brubeck but never got around to it (like me), now is the time because one day he won't be around anymore and you'll feel guilty for not listening when he was alive. I don't want to have that on my conscience, so tonight I'm picking up his seminal 1959 LP, Time Out. After that, who knows?

Brubeck. Still alive. Good for him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wait, Wait, Don't Mock Me!

I read a column by conservative pundit-tool Cal Thomas this morning where he rationalized hatred for National Public Radio. He used three examples to make his case. The first was a single incident of a Capital beat reporter quoting but not attributing a source. Although he twisted his interpretation of what actually happened, Thomas called the tactic the reporter used the "some people say" or strawman method. Exactly what his beloved Fox News channel does constantly. I guess it's OK if you're a republican.

Then, he made a point about bias by calling Nina Totenberg "reliably liberal." Really? No specifics? Hmm. I listen to Nina every day she's on and I have no idea what her politics are. I guess calling her a name makes it so to Cal Thomas.

Finally, he mentioned that Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! made fun of Dubya. Poor baby. Yes, they did, and it's so outrageous because they would never mock Obama, Biden, Emanuel, Daley, Pelosi, Dean, Kucinich, Kennedy, H Clinton, B Clinton, Blagojovich, Reid, Rangel, Goolsby, Geithner or Bo the Dog. Humor has an obvious liberal bias.

If you're using Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! as evidence of anything other than the fastest hour of the week, you don't have a case.

Monday, February 7, 2011

According to My Dictionary, Letters and Numbers are Alphanumeric Characters

When creating an on-line account this afternoon, I ran into this gem:

Your Password must be a combination of both letters and numbers.
Your Password should not contain any spaces or other characters.

First of all, there was no reason to capitalize "password."

Darned if I can figure out how to make a password with letters and numbers but not any characters. I think they meant to say "other special characters." I hope that's what they meant.

Don't tell anyone, but I found this on a Fortune 500 company's web site. A large financial firm beginning with "V" and ending in "isa."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

When 2% is a Big Deal

Have you increased your retirement savings by 2% of your income yet? What are you waiting for?

Effective with the first check of 2011, employers are withholding 2% less in FICA taxes from your paycheck. Depending on your state and local tax brackets, this is adding 2.5-3.5% to your take-home pay. Since it's essentially free money, why not increase your deposits into your 401(k) or IRA?

Here's the logic: With the exception of some lower-income people who will need to spend this windfall on luxuries like food and shelter, we were getting along just fine with FICA, also known as Social Security, at 6%. We now have an unexpected and temporary tax cut dropping FICA to 4%. If you spend the extra money, you've got nothing to show for it, but if you save it, especially in a painless and automatic 401(k) deposit, it goes to work for you right away and reinforces the savings habit. And who of us is truly saving enough for retirement? I'm putting almost 20% of my gross income into retirement accounts and I know for a fact it won't be enough. So go to your payroll administrator, which might even be as easy as logging on to a website, and ratchet up your contributions by 2%. It will be especially gratifying if you're turning a goose egg (0%) to a 2, but just as important to turn a 16 to an 18 or anything in between.

Now that you've increased your retirement savings and aren't going to waste that FICA tax cut (technically a one-year holiday), let me tell you a little about why it happened and why you need to protect that 2%.

Early in the 2000s, conservative congresses and White House gave low- and moderate-income people (you and me) itty-bitty tax cuts and gave huge-ass tax cuts to wealthy Americans. In order to sell these tax cuts, which added something like $8 trillion to the US national debt, congress made them temporary, expiring on December 31, 2010. They expected a republican congress and White House to exist at that time to extend the cuts, but the elections of 2006 and 2008 worked out for the benefit of the US populace, and the taxes for the rich were about to head back up to where they were during the red-hot economy of the late 1990s where everybody was fat and happy.

"Not so fast," said the senate republicans. They had just enough power, even being in the minority, to block all kinds of necessary legislation and were just sleazy enough to do it. They said that if the rich didn't keep their large tax breaks, the rest of us wouldn't get to keep our itty-bitty ones. We all know that income tax cuts aren't stimulative but in a recession, every bit counts. Taking a few hundred dollars a year away from a low income person would have ripple effects and would prolong the recession by months, maybe a year or more. The White House and congressional Democrats worked out a compromise. And a dangerous compromise at that.

The compromise was to extend the humongous tax cuts for the wealthy and give all wage earners a one-year 2% cut to FICA taxes. Where an income tax cut isn't stimulative, a payroll tax cut (FICA is a payroll tax, not income tax) is extremely stimulative due to the regressive nature of payroll taxes (regressive means they hit poor people harder because the taxes are a bigger percentage of a poor person's income than they are for a rich person). This 2% FICA holiday will be stimulative because the poor people who really need a few extra bucks will spend it. So far so good.

The conservatives, for reasons I will never understand, want to kill Social Security. They've been trying for almost two generations and will continue as long as people keep voting them into office (hint-hint: vote wisely). Despite what you've heard, there is no Social Security crisis. The Social Security Administration is sitting on a huge pile of cash and will have enough money pay out benefits until 2040 or thereabouts. At that point, they start spending a little more than they take in and will run out by 2080 or so, unless something is done. And the simplest, most pain-free thing to do is to raise the wage cap. Right now, if you make more than $106,000 a year, you only pay FICA on that first $106,000. If congress raises the cap, say to $200,000, Social Security will be able to pay out all benefits as currently scheduled indefinitely. Yes, I just said FOREVER.

Republicans want to kill Social Security. Under the guise of a compromise to help the rich, they decided to force a crisis. By reducing the amount of FICA taxes we pay, no matter how wonderful it sounds, it will drop Social Security's revenue for this year by 33% (6% down to 4% is a drop of one-third). That lowering of revenue, even for just a year, will make that 2040 benchmark arrive just a little sooner. And it will allow intellectually dishonest people to calculate new figures to make it look like a crisis where there is none. Which will allow conservative congresscritters to propose privatizing Social Security to address this nonexistent crisis. Oh, they'll call privatizing something else, but they want everyone's retirement savings to be in the stock market.

Why privatize? At its core, because it allows Wall Street firms to skim money off the top. Every mutual fund pays advisers something for running the fund. Most funds are in the 1-2% range, but some are much higher. Every dollar that they take, even if they are earning it by running the fund well, is money out of your pocket. And since the idea of investing is to get compound interest, it's not just a few hundred dollars a year for each taxpayer that they pilfer, it's tens of thousands over a lifetime. The conservatives will say privatizing Social Security is to make things better for you, but the real reason is to transfer trillions of dollars of assets to big banks and investment firms who will make hundreds of billions off of them. Period.

You can now see what you're up against. Remember that 2% that started this post? Put it into a retirement account. When the elected officials who are only looking out for your best interest are done, you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Refinancing Semi-Debacle

If I'd known how exciting it would be to refinance my mortgage, I would have blogged about it on a blow-by-blow basis. Before I tell you about today's nonsense, here are some lowlights.

I started the process in October, with advertised rates around 4.25%. I checked with my lender at the time to see if they have an adjustment program, as many lenders do, since their choice is to write down the loan or lose it entirely. They didn't reply to my inquiry but they took a third option. Two weeks after I contacted them, I got a letter telling me that my loan had been sold, effective December 1.

Fine, I've already chosen to refinance with the place where I have my checking account. The letter from the old lender says to make my December payment to the new servicer and provides an account number and mailing address. My credit union says they can't close by December 1, so I mail a payment.

Two weeks after I mail the payment, I get a letter from the new servicer telling me that due to the sale, I don't have to make a payment in December and no interest will accrue for the month. I find that both impossible to believe (what bank is going to foreswear interest) and aggravating, because the next day I receive a letter saying that my payment - the one I don't owe - was short by a penny. Where the old lender must have rounded down at some point in the amortization calculation, the new servicer rounded up. Fine. I am officially past due by $0.01.

Meanwhile, the credit union is trying to get a payoff statement from the new servicer, but they can't because the people who didn't want me to make a December payment but decided it was too small when I did claim that I'm not in their system. The credit union finally got the payoff the Monday after Christmas. We were scheduled to close tomorrow.

Somewhere in all this, the Federal Reserve decides that US interest rates are too low and begin some quantitative easing. I don't know what quantitative easing is, it could be qualitative wheezing for all I know, but it certainly raised interest rates in a hurry. I locked in north of 4.5%, about half a point higher than I would have had a month earlier. That's about $40 a month or $15,000 over the life of the mortgage. Curse you, Ben Bernanke!

Which brings us to today's adventure. A few hours after I confirm the appointment for tomorrow, my loan officer e-mails me that we have to delay closing for a week. They reviewed documentation, as they are wont to do, and discovered that the homeowners association fees have gone up since I filed the application. True enough, prices rise and are commonly adjusted in January. Here's where it gets insane: they have to wait seven days after notifying me of a change to association fees which I've known about since before Thanksgiving! The change in association fees doesn't affect my mortgage balance, interest rate or anything, and aren't even escrowed, but we still have to wait seven days.

And some more insanity. We have to wait an official sounding seven days but they were allowed to notify me by e-mail. No forms to fill out, nothing to sign, no way for anyone to prove that it was actually me replying to the e-mail, yet we still have to wait seven days.

Like I said, if I'd known that the refinance process would have been this painful/entertaining, I would have blogged about it sooner. I hope the next post about it is an end-of-process celebration. If not, enjoy my misery. Please - I'm paying a lot for it, both in time, money and frustration. Someone better enjoy it.

Note1: During the writing of this post, I was interrupted by a telemarketer call from the new servicer.

Note 2: The names of the moneygrubbing corporations ("old lender" and "new servicer") are being withheld until I'm sure they can no longer do me any fiscal harm. The name of my neighborhood credit union is being withheld for basic privacy and identity theft reasons.