Archive for the 'ETC' Category

My “Top Music of 2013” List

Without any further explanation or unnecessary chit-chat, here are my TOP ALBUMS OF 2013:

ImageArcade Fire, Reflektor
Any follow-up to an “album of the year” release, such as Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” a few years ago, is likely to face either overwhelming praise, or more likely undue criticism.  Showing their mettle, however, Arcade Fire did what any great band ought to do: release an album that they enjoy.  They’re clearly in this as musicians and artists first — not for gaining notoriety, fame, and so forth.  It begs the question, though….is Reflektor as good as their last album?  Probably not.  But there are a lot of great songs on this record, and it is very clearly an Arcade Fire album.  They made the record that they wanted to, and I applaud them for that.  Notable favorite tracks:  Reflektor and We Exist

ImageThe Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
Another band following-up an incredible smash-hit album, The Civil Wars hit some interesting speed bumps.  Although the full story is not really known, there has evidently been some disagreement between Joy and John Paul.  They speak to each other rarely, if at all, which casts an interesting cloud over this entire album.  It feels sad.  Even the more upbeat songs feel somewhat forced, and it has a way of breaking your heart when you listen to it.  I’d be curious to know if folks who do not know the backstory get the same vibe.  I’m guessing they would.  Regardless, this album is wonderfully and beautifully made.  Compared to their last album, it feels less “catchy” from beginning to end, if you ask me, but is *technically* even more mature and fascinating.  Notable favorite tracks:  Dust To Dust and From This Valley.

ImageThe Dear Hunter, Migrant
This band continues to live under the radar, as far as I can tell, and I’m not really sure why.  My wife and I saw them open for one of our favorite bands, mewithoutYou, a few years ago, and we were blown away.  I had to grab their album.  Since that time, they’ve released a handful of records, including Migrant earlier this year.  It sounds less like a stage musical than my previous favorite of theirs, Act III, but there is a genius to this album that shows how talented their primary singer/songwriter really is.  They manage to write songs with an undeniable maturity, including lyrics that come across as meaningful without being preachy.  I love to see some real success happen for this band.  Notable favorite tracks: Whisper and Shame.

ImageEditors, The Weight Of Your Love
Given their last album, that I absolutely loathed, I was about ready to write these guys off.  Maybe a lot of folks felt that way, or maybe they got the hint that their last album was lacking in a number of ways, but the Editors of old have returned with “The Weight Of Your Love”, and it sounds great.  Evidently the line-up of the band has changed since their last release, but I’m not sure I would’ve noticed.  The lead singer’s voice is so unique, I think a backing polka band would still sound like an Editors album.  I mean that in a good way.  Whatever the recipe is, I hope it continues.  This is a great album.  Notable favorite tracks: Sugar and The Phone Book.

ImageLorde, Pure Heroine
I’m reluctant to admit that I only found this album about two weeks ago, but whatever……I really like it a lot.  I also can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I enjoy so much.  It feels a void, I suppose, of artists like Lana Del Rey (whom I also enjoy) that tend toward a style of music that I really don’t listen to.  It feels like hip-pop, but with a dark alternative twist.  Regardless, there is a simplicity to this album that I respect.  The music seems to fill only 40% of the speakers, but wonderful melodies fill up the rest.  It’s catchy, enjoyable, and even fun.  I don’t lyrically relate to a teenager from New Zealand, but she writes better than many artists I’ve heard.  Notable favorite tracks: Ribs and Buzzcut Season.

ImageThe National, Trouble Will Find Me
Although I was looking forward to a new album from The National, my expectations were fairly low.  Sure it’d be good, but it would par-for-the-course for this great band.  I was both wrong and right.  “Trouble Will Find Me” took me by surprise by being immediately incredible, and has since then continued to grow on me even more.  It’s at times heart-wrenching, haunting, foot-tapping, and even laughable.  For an even better experience, put on a pair of good headphones and enjoy the sonic bliss.  Want higher praise that that?  My Mom has since declared this as a “second favorite album of all time” for her — just after U2’s “The Joshua Tree”.  High praise indeed!  Notable favorite tracks:  Demons and Don’t Swallow The Cap.

Normally I’d write a small something for each of these albums, but I can lump them all together, in this case.  Each of these releases was highly anticipated for me, and instead became a huge let down.  Are they horrible?  No, not really, but they’re not very good either. 

The Head And The Heart, Let’s Be Still

Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You

Phoenix, Bankrupt!


My “Top Music of 2012” List

Here it is…my top music list for 2012.  Enjoy!

Of Monsters And Men, My Head Is An Animal
I really wish I could remember how I heard about this band.  I don’t listen to the radio, watch MTV (as if it even had music), and I don’t use radio-like services such as Spotify, Pandora, etc..  It must’ve been word of mouth, I guess, but I’m glad it happened!  They strike me as a cross between the Sugarcubes (do all Icelandic females sing like that?) and Mumford & Sons.  It’s peppy, fun, artistic, clean, and just very enjoyable.  Definitely one of my top albums for the year.

Lana Del Rey, Born To Die
So…why on earth is Lana Del Rey on my top music list for 2012?  What can I say – I like this album.  I knew nothing about her when I saw this album advertised in the window of my local Easy Street Records shop.  The cover intrigued me, and I definitely expected something…well…different, which it certainly is.  But I liked what I heard, I enjoy her voice, and it was a nice segue from my usual musical tastes.  It was a couple of weeks later that I heard gripes about her as a person, about her boring performances, and so on.  No matter.  I was sticking to my guns, and it is definitely a favorite of mine album for this year. 
(NOTE: this is not a “clean” album, for those who care)

Metric, Synthetica
This is one of those artists that I’ve listened to from the sidelines.  I’m neither disinterested, nor am I a rabid fan.  I like their music, and Synthetica continues that trend for me.  It doesn’t sound as ‘genius’ as their previous release, Fantasies, but others may disagree.  They simply put out solid music, and I wonder why this band isn’t a worldwide phenomena.

mewithoutYou, Ten Stories
It was with some trepidation that I awaited the release of mewithoutYou’s newest album, Ten Stories.  Although I enjoyed much of their previous album, It’s All Crazy!, it felt like a step backward to me – and I do consider myself to be a fairly rabid fan of this band.  Ten Stories doesn’t quite harken back to their 2nd and 3rd albums (my favorites), but it does showcase how talented this band is – both as a group, and as individual musicians.  In some ways, this may be their most “commercially plausible” album, but as always it will be heard by far too few.

Mumford & Sons, Babel
It’s no secret that Mumford & Sons’ previous release, Sigh No More, was a surprise commercial smash hit.  Although their sound is polarizing to some, this group appeared to be able to do no wrong.  That usually makes for a worrisome sophomore release, which often makes or breaks a band.  When I heard the first single from Babel, I wasn’t sure what to think: it sounded good, but it sounded “safe” – just more of the same.  Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Truth be told, if you didn’t like Mumford before this latest album, this one isn’t going to sway you.  If you were already a fan, however, you’ll find new genius with Babel.  It’s just a tremendous album from a very talented group of guys.

Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Woods
Very few bands had as high of expectations with me as did the Silversun Pickups.  Their previous release, Swoon, wasn’t just a favorite from that release year, it was actually a favorite of mine for that decade.  Yeah…a lot to live up to.  Thankfully, Neck of the Woods does not fail to impress.  It’s definitely the signature Silversun Pickups sound, but with a darker (perhaps more electronic) flavor.  If Swoon was an instant classic to my ears, then Neck of the Woods was a bit of a slow burn that eventually flared up.  Seeing them in concert earlier this year was just icing on the cake!

The Shins, Port of Morrow
I don’t necessarily set out to have an “album of the year”, per se, but the thought crosses my mind.  Some years, such as last year’s favorite Love & War & the Sea Inbetween by Josh Garrels, are obvious choices for me.  Other years are more difficult.  This year, however, I think I can honestly say that Port of Morrow by The Shins is my absolute top pick for the year.  Having already perused several “top albums of the year” lists for 2012, I’ve already seen this album on many of them.  It’s just very, very good.  But it was also a bit of an unknown quantity upon initial release, seeing as this is a completely new line-up of musicians, save for the primary singer/songwriter, James Mercer.  Their previous release, Wincing The Night Away, is another favorite album of mine, but fans of that album may not necessarily enjoy this one in the same way.  Port of Morrow is decidedly less strange, less experimental-sounding, and (in many ways) more commercially acceptable – but not in a “these guys sold out” sort of way.  Not at all.  It’s just great song writing, and the track “Bait & Switch” is probably one of my favorite Shins songs ever.  What really put it over the top for me, though, was a realization that I felt happy after listening to it – almost like slipping on a favorite sweatshirt or pair of slippers.  It has a vibe that’s difficult to find these days.  Great work!

                                           – HONORABLE MENTIONS - 

Starflyer 59, IAMACEO
Nothing ground-breaking here.  Just classic, very good Starflyer, though I probably prefer My Island or Changing Of The Guard a bit more.

Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel
As a self-proclaimed Fiona Apple fan, I was anxiously awaiting her new album, and I was not disappointed.  I also wasn’t totally blown away either.  The Idler Wheel is probably her strangest song writing to date, but there’s a lot to enjoy on this release.

Atlas Genius, Through the Glass (EP)
We first heard about these guys as they were opening up for Silversun Pickups during their most recent tour through Seattle.  But we really liked what we heard, and subsequently grabbed their EP, Through The Glass.  Definitely anxious to hear their full release, whenever that comes out.

Josh Garrels, Love & War – B Sides and Remixes
I can’t say that remixes and b-sides typically excite me much, but Love & War & the Sea Inbetween was such a powerful album for me last year, I jumped at the chance to grab more of this material.  What can I say?  The remixes are great, and the b-sides – songs left off of last year’s album – are as powerful as ever.   Will it make new Josh Garrels fans?  Probably not, but it certainly rewards the fan base he already has.

Thanks for reading.

My “Top Music of 2011” List

Here you are: my list of the Top Music of 2011…and in no particular order, save for one.  You’ll know it when you get there.

The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
This album came completely out of left field for me.  Someone (somewhere) mentioned it — probably on Facebook — and the “duet” factor sounded interesting.  I listened to an early release of the title track, Barton Hollow, and it sounded great to me, so I waited patiently for the full release.  Strangely enough, the title track (and first single) is not necessarily representative of the rest of the album, which may put some folks off.  In fact, the remainder of the album is considerably more mellow.  That said, this is a great album if you’ll give it some time.  Would I like to hear more of their upbeat stuff?  Sure.  Maybe next time.  But this is definitely one of the best albums to have been released this year.

Death Cab For Cutie, Codes & Keys
Let me be clear on this point: I’m not really a fan of Death Cab For Cutie.  I have nothing against them, of course, I’m just not part of their fan base.  Still, I heard the first single from this album, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I decided that the rest of the album needed a good listen-thru, and I’m glad I did.  It just sounds like typical “Death Cab” stuff, if you ask me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.  Is it ground-breaking?  Not really.  But it is very good.  Funny thing is… I don’t feel like Death Cab ever really writes any choruses into their songs – it’s just one verse after another.  Good stuff, though, and very enjoyable to listen to.

The Decemberists, The King Is Dead
This album was released very early in 2011, so it’s likely to be overlooked by some.  That said, it was also the first album of the year to truly capture my attention – and I’m not necessarily a long-time listener of The Decemberists.  What can I really say about this album, though?  It’s just a strong release thru and thru.  Some favorites include: “Dear Avery” and “This Is Why We Fight”.

Jane’s Addiction
, The Great Escape Artist

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be including a Jane’s Addiction album on my Top Music of 2011 list.  It seemed impossible, but here it is.  For some background, I’ve been a long-time Jane’s Addiction fan – dating back to their “Nothing’s Shocking” release – but their most recent releases have not necessarily captivated me.  Good?  Yes.  Great?  Not necessarily.  So, it was with some skepticism that I grabbed The Great Escape Artist and gave it a listen.  (I’m so happy for subscription music services!)  Quite simply, I was blown away.  Perry Farrell sounds great, the songwriting is top-notch, and (surprisingly) the album is very clean.  On the downside?  It’s probably one of the worst album covers I’ve seen in a long, long time…

Manchester Orchestra, Simple Math
Having arrived late-to-the-game with Manchester Orchestra, I was very much looking forward to their latest release, Simple Math, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I easily consider this to be their strongest album yet.  It seems that Manchester Orchestra is growing up in many ways: lyrically, most of all, but also musically.  There is still an experimental/indie vibe to their songwriting, but it totally works.  Some personal favorite tracks include: “Simple Math”, “Apprehension” and “April Fool”.  Just a solid album.

Josh Garrels, Love & War & The Sea In Between
I wouldn’t normally choose a “best album of the year”, but in this case I feel absolutely compelled to name one: Josh Garrels’ “Love & War & The Sea In Between”.  There is no doubt in my mind.  What started as a mere suggestion from a friend of mine (thanks, Tim!) was followed up by an email from with a link to this album.  I figured that I might as well.  The first song caught me off-guard.  It was more haunting and mellow that I figured it would be.  It also sounded a lot like Damien Jurado, which wasn’t a bad thing in my book – but could certainly be polarizing to some.  By the end of the third song, I was absolutely sold…and hooked.  This is not only the most solid album I’ve heard all year, it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever heard.  Seriously.  Even better?  You fall in love with the first half of the album, and then quickly realize you’ve only partially tapped the beauty of this release.  Your favorite tracks shift on a daily or weekly basis.  But nothing has struck me more about this album than the lyrics have.  Beautiful.  Challenging.  Heart-wrenching.  Encouraging.  And everything in-between.  If you’re still reading this paragraph and have not yet downloaded this album, then do yourself a favor: head over to and download it for free.  You can thank me later.  And thank you, Josh Garrels, for what is easily the best album I’ve heard in years…


Mutemath, Odd Soul
A very solid release from Mutemath, and I definitely prefer this to their last one.  Still, not as strong as their self-titled album.  I’d like to see the old spark rekindled with these guys.

The Dear Hunter, The Color Spectrum
Having first heard them when I saw them open for mewithoutYou, I was very impressed.  Their last album, Act III, is one of my recent favorites.  Still, this latest release is actually a combination of nine EPs that they released in 2011.  It may be a great album, but I just can’t make it thru it the entire way…

Switchfoot, Vice Verses
Just a great album all-around.  Not mind-blowing, necessarily, but very good.


Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
I’m actually a bit of a Coldplay fan, so I was very much looking forward to their latest release, Mylo Xyloto.  I heard a few early tracks and I began to get concerned.  Then I heard the full-release, and…well…I basically had no desire to listen through it again.  That’s a bad sign.  Perhaps in a few months it’ll “click” with me, but I doubt it.  I don’t know what happened here…

My “Top Music of 2010” List

It seems to me that 2010 was an interesting year for music – at least as far as my (personal) musical tastes are concerned.  This year felt more “tame”, if you will, as compared to the very powerful albums that were released in 2009 – including Silversun Pickups’ “Swoon” and Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone”.  Perhaps more interesting is the fact that several new-to-me artists are on this year’s list.

Having said that, here is my Top Music of 2010 list, in no particular order.


Jakob Dylan, Women + Country
I confess that I would never have grabbed this album if it hadn’t been for the mention of Neko Case as part of the project.  In fact, the earliest accounts of this album sounded like a collaboration between Jakob and Neko, but that wasn’t the case.  Instead, we have a very Jakob-focused album with Neko (and her backup band, it seems) providing most everything else.  The result, it turns out, is really quite fabulous.  With the infamous T Bone Burnett at the production helm, Jakob has released a collection of songs that is arguably the strongest we’ve seen since the first Wallflowers release – and perhaps even stronger.   The “twang factor” is very high with this album, but that’s bothering me less and less these days, it seems.  All in all, a wonderful release.

Broken Bells, Broken Bells
Evidently The Shins are on an extended hiatus since releasing their last (and very successful) album, Wincing The Night Away.  In the meantime, front man, James Mercer, has fruitfully collaborated with producer Dangermouse to release a surprisingly non-Shins and yet very entertaining album under the name Broken Bells.  Mercer’s unmistakable vocal-style mixed with the slightly hip-hop-flavored undertones of Dangermouse’s production, Broken Bells is at times sparse, electronic, spacey, and moody.  Quite honestly, I love it.

New Pornographers, Together
I’ve had very little time to enjoy this album, thanks to the lack of accessibility via the Zune Pass after the album’s initial release, but as you already know, anything involving Neko Case is probably ok with me.  I’ll confess, though, that the band name has been a turn off for me (and likely others, I would assume), but there’s no denying that this is a powerful release from a talented group of individuals. Pop-inspired folk tunes, is probably the best way to describe it.  Favorite tracks include “Crash Years” and “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”.

Starflyer 59, The Changing Of The Guard
Although I’ve listened to Starflyer 59 off and on since the mid-90s, I wouldn’t have considered myself a “fan” until recently.  In fact, it was probably their My Island album that I fully enticed me to embrace their impressive catalog of  work.  Having said that, I find that their more recent work appeals to me much more than their earlier stuff, which is likely quite opposite of the long time Starflyer fans, of which there are many.  In any event, The Changing Of The Guard is probably my favorite release from Starflyer, with the incredible track, Cry Me A River, as one of my favorite songs of theirs.  I’m sure that this album is not shoegazer-ish enough for the hardcore fans, but a release this strong may just usher in a whole new era of Starflyer fans.  If you haven’t already, give it a listen.

Interpol, Interpol
In my opinion, Interpol has been releasing stronger and stronger albums with each release – and this album is no exception.  Although I still consider this band to be an ‘acquired taste’ – primarily due to the droning vocal style – this may be their most commercially acceptable release yet.  Interpol remains, as always, moody and melancholy, but they have a very ‘indie’ feel about them that I really enjoy.  “Always Malaise” and “Memory Serves” are among my favorite tracks.

Spoon, Transference
How do you follow up an excellent previous album?  Well, if you’re Spoon, then you probably attempt to alienate a portion of your new found fan base with an album that is at times genius, eccentric, and (perhaps) entirely purposeful.  I say that because I get the feeling that Spoon intentionally held back on this album – perhaps in an attempt to not dig too deeply into the Top 40 lists – and in the process limited their commercial appeal with Transference.  Don’t’ get me wrong: there is some absolutely genius material on this album, but it never seems to reach the magnitude of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.  Maybe that’s exactly what they were hoping for…… or maybe this album just isn’t as good.  I don’t really know, but I still like it.

The National, High Violet
My good friend, Ken, recommended The National to me a couple of years ago.  Again, due to inaccessibility via the Zune Pass *and* my lack of interest from the 30 second audio clips of the album, I passed on this band time and time again.  For whatever reason, though, when I saw that High Violet was available, I snatched it up like a Christmas morning toy.  I’ve not been disappointed.  I would definitely consider The National to be an acquired taste, mainly due to the melancholy overtones and uber-low vocals, but for fans of Editors, Joy Division, or Interpol, this album is likely to hit the spot.  Bloodbuzz Ohio is definitely one of my favorite tracks.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Strangely, previous releases from Arcade Fire did little to excite me.  I enjoyed the song Keep The Car Running just fine, but the rest of the album felt pretty lackluster to me – and certainly not worthy of the hype that it received.  Just my opinion, of course.  I wanted to like Arcade Fire, but it just didn’t do it for me.  The Suburbs, then, was met with fairly reserved expectations, but there was an undeniable sparkle to this album.  I’ve found it engrossing, artistic, and challenging.  Quite honestly, this is a very good album.  The biggest surprise to me?  The fact that this artistic, quirky band receives so much commercial success.  Most of the “good” music goes largely unnoticed by the general public.  Anyhow, this album is well-worth your time.

Over The Rhine
, The Long Surrender
As my wife recently reminded me, the very first music I ever played for her (aside from my own music, of course) was Over The Rhine’s Patience.  Needless to say, I’ve been listening to this band for a long, long time.  Not only that, but I considered their album, Ohio, as my top album of the decade for 2000 – 2009.  I like this band a lot.  I will confess, though, that as they’ve moved toward a more “jazzy” sound, I’ve probably been less enthused with their releases – the difference being “really good” vs. “incredible”, in my opinion.  We had the opportunity to download The Long Surrender as part of a pre-release purchase, which is why I’m including this album in my 2010 list, even though the general release is set for early 2011.  In any event, this album is probably closer to their last release, The Trumpet Child, than any previous release – and that’s exactly what you’d expect.  Having said that, The Long Surrender is slightly less jazzy than their last, and has all of the genius elements that you expect from Over The Rhine.  My wife and I were also fortunate to have seen them “live” very recently, which featured much of their newest album, so we feel more intimately acquainted with this release and the stories of the songs it contains.  Not my favorite OtR album, but a very good album nonetheless.


As always, thanks for reading.

When Pigs Fly! (The iPhone Experience: Day 1)

Don't do it... it's poisoned! JUST TELL US HOW YOU FEEL
Before we get going here, let me make something very clear:  I hate Apple.  I’ve hated them for years.  I hate seeing those cheap white ear buds in people’s ears.  I hate seeing that glowing piece of fruit on laptop lids.  I hate seeing people standing on the street corner petting their iPhone as if it brought some sort of pleasure (and maybe it does).  I hate iTunes.  I hate hearing the words “MacBook Pro”, “iPod” or “iMac”.  In fact, I’m beginning to hate any reference to a lowercase letter “i”.  I hate it when Apple is successful.  I hate seeing their billboards or tv commercials.  I hate seeing that purple, “spacey” default background in OSX.  I strongly dislike Steve Jobs (I try not to *hate* people) and generally think he’s a pompous egomaniac.  In fact, I generally view Apple Computers as a marketing powerhouse that bends nearly every word they say, and with little-to-no recourse.  Sometimes I wish the company would just go away, like they nearly did over a decade ago.

That’s how I feel.  Deal with it.

Before you write me off as a complete freak of nature, though, let me explain some of my background with technology and computer companies.  You see, when I was still in grade school, my parents owned a small computer store in Anchorage, Alaska.  They sold IBM PCs, PC JRs, Vic 20s, and Commodore 64s.  Those were real computers.  I grew up using tape drives, dot matrix printers, BASIC, and DOS.  It was gritty, exclusive, and geeky.  I loved it.  Still, back in those days Apple Computer had a very strong foothold in the home and business markets.  Like most every other kid, I used them in school for programming, reports, playing Oregon Trail, and whatever else.  Apple and IBM lived in a 50/50 type of market, depending upon which year you were looking at.

Ahh, Windows 3.1 In the late 80s and early 90s, however, a little product called Microsoft Windows started to make some serious headway.  Neither technically superior nor particularly impressive, Windows began replacing DOS on PCs as the interface of choice.  Sure it wasn’t gritty and grubby like the command line stuff, but it was “PC”.  It seemed like the right thing to do, and so I stuck with it.

Shortly before I was married, the next big iteration of Windows – Windows 95 – sprung onto the scene.  More important than any technological advances was the market saturation.  Microsoft, not the PC market as a whole, had shifted the tide from a strong Apple influence to the Windows world.  In the years that would follow, Microsoft Windows would find itself with over 90% market share.  At that same time, I was getting into building, fixing, and selling computers for a living.  Shortly thereafter, I began work as a “systems administrator” and have been working in this same field ever since.  What types of computers have I been working on for most of these years?  Why Windows systems, of course – servers, desktops, laptops, phones, and so forth.  Microsoft has, in a matter of speaking, kept me employed for many years.

I say all of this to somehow explain how and why I could’ve come to having such a hatred of Apple Computers and their products.  They have been a threat to my very livelihood, or at least that has been my perception.  As they’ve become more and more successful over this past decade, I’ve seen my relevance waning somewhat.  As with most threatening situations, the “fight or flight” response kicks in, and neither choice is especially pretty.  It certainly hasn’t been with me.

Not really how I feel... I guess I should’ve seen the signs several years ago.  My good friend and long-time PC buddy, Andy, decided to get a MacBook.  No warning, no discussion – he just bought it.  I actually found out from a mutual friend who told me, “Andy said not to tell Scott”.  For some strange reason, it was a blow to me.  I wasn’t angry at my friend, of course, but rather I felt threatened by the tide of users starting to reconsider Apple once again.  Not too long after, a co-worker purchased an iPhone with a similar caveat — “don’t tell Scott”.  This same sentence has been uttered probably half a dozen times.  Evidently, and without my even knowing it, I became the anti-Apple guy.  Rather than shrug it off, however, I dug in, squared my shoulders, and began to fight.  Here’s the deal with starting a fight, though: you gotta know what the victory, if it ever comes, will look like.  Otherwise, you just end up swinging your arms ad infinitem with no end in sight.

I’ve never been much of a fast learner.

A few weeks ago, after repeated frustration with my Android phone (MyTouch 3G… more on that in another posting), I decided that something had to give.  I had to get a phone that I could live with.  Unfortunately, my choices were fairly limited, seeing as how I *had to have* full Exchange sync support, ability to use the phone with T-Mobile, and a smattering of other “must have” and “would really like to have” requirements.  Then it dawned on me: perhaps I could start to tame this hatred of Apple by forcing myself to use their product.  Not only that, but the iPhone – aside from being an Apple product – fit nearly every criteria that I had for a workable phone solution.

I swallowed my pride and set out to get my hands on one.

Yesterday, March 15th, 2010, I received an iPhone 3GS (16GB).  Not my first Apple product, mind you, but the first that I’ve purposely intended to use – and to a great extent.  Also, the irony of me (ME… of all people!) using an iPhone has not been lost on my family, many of my friends, and especially my co-workers.  It’s both a complete non-event (cosmically speaking) and a radical quantum shift — all at the same time.

So, here we are.  I have an iPhone.  I’m using it.  I make phone calls on it, browse the web, take pictures, and so forth.  I still don’t really like Apple, but maybe that’ll change.

That all-to-familiar unlock screenStrangely enough, I’m ok with myself and this decision.  That may seem like a dumb thing to say – it is a computer company, after all, and just some stupid technology – but you don’t know my brain.  It was a difficult decision to make, but I’m alright with it at this point.  Some of my PC/Windows-lovin’ buddies may call me a turncoat, but that’s ok.  I’m really not.  I will gladly toss this iPhone off of a tall bridge when the next Windows Phone Series devices come out – assuming that they’re as good as they look – but that may still be awhile.  I would also rather use Windows 7 than anything else.  I know my roots, and those are hard to dig up without some very considerable effort.  If some of those roots are as “angry” and “hate-filled” as my first paragraph of this post, however, then I’m happy to be rid Yeah...I covered the back with a picture of Ronald Reagan!  So sue me!!!of them.  Life is too short for those kinds of words and emotions.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be blogging about my experience with the iPhone – both the technology at hand (see what I did there?!) and the changes in me.  It’ll either be extremely exciting or excruciatingly boring.

Like you really have anything better to do than read my blog.

Comcast puts up a fight

Actually, the funny thing is how little of a fight this was.

So, I found out last night that our $19.99/month Comcast High-Speed Internet was increasing to $42.99/month.  Yikes!  Double-the-cost for the same service.  No thank you.  I decided to ‘chat’ with Comcast and either “lower my cost” (most desirable), “lower my service”, or “change service altogether” (least desirable).  All that said, I was not going to pay almost $50/month, after taxes, for just my Internet connection.  That was not an option.

To that end, I started a ‘chat’ session with Comcast customer service to see what options I had.  I was fully expecting some wrangling back and forth.  Instead, here’s what actually happened (with names, etc. changed to protect the innocent):

user Guest_ has entered room

Guest(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:40:56 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Order Information
analyst ComcastDude007 has entered room

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:41:07 GMT-0800)>

Hello Guest_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. 
My name is ComcastDude007. 
Please give me one moment to review your information.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:41:10 GMT-0800)>

Hi! You can call me 007.
I hope you're doing great today!

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:41:10 GMT-0800)>

Do you have an ACTIVE Comcast account/service
in your new OR current address?

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:41:25 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Yes, we have an active account.

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:41:34 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>


ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:41:50 GMT-0800)>


ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:41:52 GMT-0800)>

My apologies for the typo.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:41:54 GMT-0800)>

Awesome! Thank you very much for your continued patronage and loyalty to us. We really appreciate it.

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:42:08 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>


ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:42:07 GMT-0800)>

I understand that you are interested to order -Internet $19.99 for 6 months- Am I correct?

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:42:27 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Actually, I need to see about our current pricing.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:42:37 GMT-0800)>

You're most welcome!

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:42:38 GMT-0800 )>

Sure thing.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:42:40 GMT-0800)>

Please let me take care of that for you.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:42:59 GMT-0800)>

You may visit to check for our promotions as well

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:43:10 GMT-0800)>

To ensure integrity in your account, please verify your account number OR the last FOUR digits of your SSN.

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:43:40 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Actually, we are currently a Comcast customer.  I need to figure out what we're CURRENTLY paying for our service.  I think it just increased quite a bit.

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:44:00 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Last 4 of my SS are... XXXX

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:44:11 GMT-0800)>

Thank you for verifying.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:44:46 GMT-0800)>

Yes, your paying $54.95/mo but I can lower it to $19.99 for 6 months. Shall we go ahead?

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:45:05 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

That would be *perfect*.  Yes, please!

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:45:22 GMT-0800)>

Sure thing.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:45:27 GMT-0800)>

Great news! I am proud to offer our next 
generation Triple Play with FREE HD! It 
includes cable, internet, and phone 
for just one low price. Get yourself and 
your family an entertainment-filled home now!

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:45:49 GMT-0800)>

Please wait one moment while I process your order/request.

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:46:06 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Thanks, 007 smile

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:46:36 GMT-0800)>

You're welcome, Guest

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:09 GMT-0800)>

Thank you for waiting.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:13 GMT-0800)>

Account: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Order: 1000xxxxxxx
Succeeding Monthly Fee w/ tax and modem rent:$25.47

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:16 GMT-0800)>

Congratulations! You are all set.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:16 GMT-0800 )>

Before you go, have I resolved and answered 
your reason for chatting today in my end?

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:47:40 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Yep!  Everything resolved. Thanks again.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:56 GMT-0800)>


ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:57 GMT-0800)>

Thank you.

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:58 GMT-0800)>

You're most welcome!

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:47:59 GMT-0800)>

It's a pleasure to serve our most valued customer
such as you. Hope to hear from you again soon!

ComcastDude007(Thu Dec 17 2009 13:48:01 GMT-0800)>

Have a good one. Cheers! smile

Guest_(Thu Dec 17 2009 10:48:03 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

You too.


What I find most humorous is that I never actually requested a reduced monthly price.  It was pretty obvious, I suppose, when I mentioned that our “current monthly bill had just increased quite a bit”, but after that the rep just gave in.  No fight necessary.

Perhaps the goal is to make the customer feel “in control”, which is fairly effective.  Whatever the deal, I like the fact that I’m getting our Comcast service for $19.99/month again.

Hmmm.  Maybe I should’ve requested that pricing for the next 12 months…

Hey! This is serious. (1st-Person Shooter Disease)

I feel for these guys.  I really do 😦

My Vehicle History… a visual walkthrough

For whatever reason, I began thinking about all the vehicles I’ve owned since learning to drive almost 20 years ago… and there have been plenty!  Two wheelers, four wheelers, awesome ones, lame ones, and most everything in-between.

Wanna see the progression?  Feel free to scroll down and follow along…

HONDA ELITE 150 DELUXE (Nickname: The Foxmobile)

HondaElite My very first ride was a hand-me down Honda scooter.  It wasn’t just any scooter, mind you, it was the ‘Honda Elite 150 Deluxe’!  This sucker was so futuristic looking in its day, and really still does.  “Spacey” – like something out of a bad sci-fi film.  The “150”, of course, denoted the displacement of the sweet, 1-cylinder engine.  What a powerhouse!  The “deluxe” was in reference to the awesome pop-up headlight (where have all those gone?!), the digital speedometer, and, uhhh… that’s about it.

Sporting a top speed of just about 63mph (tail wind, downhill), it wasn’t really enough to get me into trouble – especially since I was a brand-new, 16-year-old driver.  I did take it on the freeway a few times, which proved to be both dumb and extremely frightening.  I could take a passenger with me, but at the expense of about 10mph top speed.  It was pretty hilarious to honk at ‘the ladies’ when I would have a passenger with me.  How enticing is it to see two big guys crammed onto a tiny scooter?

Notable Memory: While giving the ol’ ride a good scrub down, I decided to Armor All the seat and make it look supremely-awesome.  Guess how the first corner felt when I took it for a spin?  Wheeee!  Sliding around on the seat of a two-wheeled vehicle isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.  It also dawned on me that I had Armor All’ed the tires.  So dumb… 😦

Eventually, I got into a small fender-bender, broke the grill, and sold it off to a friend of a friend for a few hundred bucks.

YAMAHA MAXIM 550 (Nickname: The Village Cruiser)

My second vehicle was a Yamaha Maxim 550.  A sleek, black machine that was miles ahead of the Honda scooter I’d been used to.  My brother was driving a Yamaha 650 Special at the time, so I wanted a black Yamaha motorcycle as well – and I got one.  In fact, a lot of my vehicle purchases over the years really paralleled what my brother was driving.  I guess it’s the “look up to your brother” syndrome that so many kids face.  It’s funny, actually, because the Maxim didn’t really look a whole lot like my brother’s bike, but “close enough for government work”, as they say!  (I love that phrase.)  It needed a little bit of love and elbow grease to begin with, but otherwise shined up well and impressed my friends.  I had a real-deal motorcycle!  Man… I was cool.

maximSide note… I come from a motorcycling family.  My great-grandfather rode, my grandpa rode, and my dad handed down the “disease” as well.  I remember him having a Suzuki GS750 for years!  Nasty lookin’ bike, but whatever it takes to get out on the road, ya know?  Both my brothers had motorcycles as their “first vehicle”, so it wasn’t strange for me to follow suit.  The scooter hardly counted, so the Yamaha Maxim finally brought me ‘into the club’.

I’m guessing that I didn’t have this bike for that long, because my memories of it are fairly limited.  We had a nickname, I’m sure, but I can’t remember it.  What I do remember is that this baby could haul butt, if you wanted it too, and passengers were no longer a problem.  The rear seat was stepped up a tad, which can be unnerving for inexperienced passengers, but otherwise pretty comfy.

The name?  Well… my buddies and I used to frequent the Value Village quite often, so this motorcycle was thusly dubbed “The Village Cruiser” 🙂

Notable Memory:  Since I passed my first motorcycle test on a Honda 150, I was only endorsed to ride bikes with smaller engines.  That’s how it works.  When I got the Yamaha 550, then, I had to retake the driving test to get my endorsement for higher displacement engines.  Truth be told, I failed my first attempt (downed it!), but vowed to take it again a week later!  I drove myself (on my motorcycle… I know, I know) to the testing place every day and practiced with pop cans as cones.  Needless to say, I passed that sucker with flying colors the following Saturday!  Awesome.

If my memory serves, I ended up selling that bike to my friend, Jon.  It was a good machine and served me well.

YAMAHA 750 SPECIAL (Nickname: Reggie)

So… my third vehicle came onto the scene as I entered my college years.  After selling the Yamaha 550, I was on the hunt for an even more awesome riding machine.  An ad in the local paper brought my friend and me down to a public storage facility where some guy had been housing his red Yamaha 750 Special.  Remember how my brother was driving a Yamaha 650 Special?  Well, I wanted something similar… and here it was.  In retrospect, I never should have purchased this bike.  It had a hole in the left-hand exhaust pipe, the electric starter didn’t work, and it was generally a basket case.  Still, I tossed my inhibitions aside and purchased it.

2 The initial impressions weren’t very positive.  It stalled several times on the return trip, and I was fuming with anger by the time I arrived home.  I wanted to sue that guy for everything!  (Ahh, youth.)  After calming down, the guy gave me some pointers and I resigned myself to “just deal with it”.  Eventually I had a shop weld a metal patch over the tail pipe hole, I slapped some ‘non-ape hanger’ handle bars on there, and lived life.  In the back of my mind, though, was an insatiable desire to be rid of this motorcycle.  I loved the look of it, but not the “issues”.  I sold if off after a few months.

Notable Memory: One guy (with his brother in tow) came to look the bike over while I was trying to sell it.  I thought for sure that the “knowledgeable brother” would dismiss this lemon outright, but instead he gave it a thumbs up.  After a quick cash payment, the new owner (who didn’t ride, by the way) was ready to leave for home on his new, two-wheeled monster.  As he was heading from the curb, he dumped the bike on it’s side.  Gas began pouring from the air box, which was an issue I had failed to mention.  I made up some excuse and sent him on his way… just happy to be rid of the thing.

Not one of my shining moments. 😦

DODGE DART SWINGER (Nickname: The Gobstopper)

After the debacle with the Yamaha 750 Special, I decided to head toward the 4-wheeled vehicle route.  You know… doors, steering wheel, etc..  Once again, the local paper led me to a seller promising fame and fortune with my new dream ride.  This time, I was sitting in the seat of a bright blue ‘73 Dodge Dart Swinger.  The test drive went well, and my brother and mother (who tagged along) both gave me a thumbs up, so I went for it.  Thankfully, I jammed the key in the ignition before heading off to grab the cash.  My brother had to fix that while I was gone (thanks, bro!).

big_1973 Dodge Dart Swinger01 The Swinger received the name “The Gobstopper” pretty early on.  As you can see in the picture (not actually mine, but just like it), the color was a bright blue – very much like the blue Gobstopper candies.  The name was good, and it stuck.  It wasn’t just the color, though – everything about this car screamed for your attention:  white wall tires, idiot lights, bright white top vinyl, 30’ long hood, and a weight that was just shy of 18 tons.  Not quite, but it seemed that way.

Notable Memory: My friend and I were out cruising with my brother and his roommate.  Sunny day, nothing much to worry about, and it was time to get some chow.  We pull into the local drive-in burger joint and prepare to feast.  Upon backing into the parking spot (evidently that was really important to me), I heard a loud scrape that was obviously me hitting the curb.  Oops!  I pulled forward slightly and turned the car off.  As our lunch winded down, I started the Gob up once again. But what’s that LOUD noise?  Who is that?  Oh, dang… it’s me… with a newly formed hole in the muffler.  Dang.  It wasn’t a “cool, gruff, manly sound” like you might hope.  It sounded broken, which it was.  Getting home was a bit embarrassing.

Anyhow, this car had it all — including a now new muffler.  Power steering that was like UberEasy(TM) and could be driven with your pinky, if you wanted.  The stereo was sweet, mono AM-radio goodness.  The vinyl bench seats – front and back – let you cozy up right nice like.  The slant 6 engine had a good amount of power, and didn’t gulp gas like similar cars of that era.  It was the Swinger, man, and it was good.

Until the wife-to-be came in to the picture.

My wife and I still go ‘round about this conversation, but here’s how I remember it.  We’re talking about our future life together, where we’ll live, working conditions, etc., and I make some comment about the Gobstopper.  “I’m not driving that thing”, she says.  My heart drops.  Whatever the rest of the conversation was, one thing was clear: the Gob was gonna have to go.  A sad day indeed.  I sold it off to a pimply-faced teen co-worker who couldn’t have appreciated the real gem he was getting.

Oh, well.  I *did* get the girl 🙂

YAMAHA 750 STANDARD (Nickname: Glenn)

If anything good came from selling off the Gobstopper (ok… aside from the “wife” thing), it was that I found and purchased what would long be my favorite motorcycle.

After the Gobstopper found a new home, I was on the hunt for a new two-wheeled machine.  My wife-to-be already had a car, so a motorcycle was a welcome fit once again.  I found another Yamaha (see a trend?) east of the Seattle area, and it had a lot of what I was looking for: decent engine displacement, a rare “3 cylinder layout”,  low miles, good condition, and best of all… it was available!  I drove it home that afternoon.  In fact, I ended up taking that sucker to 105mph on the way home, which wasn’t in any way, shape or form very smart.

Actual Photo! “Glenn” (source of this nickname is thus far unknown), as it would later be named, cleaned up well.  Once again, the ape-hanger handlebars had to go.  The new, straighter bars worked great with bar-end mirrors – a very Brit look, which I loved.  It came with a nasty touring seat, which I promptly replaced.  Most notably, the stock 3-into-2 exhaust had been replaced with a (more sensible) 3-into-1 pipe that had been custom modded with a glass pack.  I kid you not.  The weld job was good enough that I really didn’t even notice it for quite some time, but it gave the bike a gutteral sound that most Japanese street bikes didn’t have at the time.  The pipes had a bit of surface rust, so I removed them and brought them to a local shop to be “aluminized”.  Essentially, the pipes were power-coated with aluminum, which, of course, doesn’t rust.  The downside?  Those suckers ended up a bright white color, which I didn’t expect.  I eventually used flat-black, high-temp barbecue paint to make them less noticeable, and it (mostly) did the trick.  It sounds ghetto, but looked pretty good, if you ask me.

Notable Memory: Shortly after getting the pipes back to a normal color, two of my good friends and I decided to take a road trip down the Washington coast.  I was riding the Yamaha 750, of course, and my buddies were riding a BMW 650 and Honda 400, respectively.  Somewhere along the way, we pulled off the road to get a bite to eat.  Whatever small town we were in had something going on, so we cut across a parking lot to beat the traffic.  As we pulled back out into the street, we noticed that everyone is driving pretty slowly – including the ice cream truck, fire engine, etc..  Not only that, but a bunch of people were waving from the curb!  Oh, man… we had popped ourselves smack dab into the middle of a parade!!  Rather than panic, we just played it up.  We stood on our foot pegs, waved to the crowd, and tried to act innocent.  We only stayed in the parade for a few blocks, but the memory lives on.  Classic stuff!

“Glenn” continued on as part of the family for nearly 11 years.  During that time, I put less than 10k on the odometer, and rarely had to do anything to keep it running – save for an occasional new battery, oil change, and tires.  It was a good machine.  When it came down to it, though, I was riding less and less.  My wife wasn’t very comfortable with the thought of me on a motorcycle any longer, and I had become the quintessential “fair-weather rider”.  I put him up for sale, and he sold very quickly.  Sadly, just a couple of months later, I noticed a very similar bike on Craigslist that “wasn’t running and needed major valve work”.  Could this be Glenn?  Indeed it was.  Made me kinda angry, to be honest – like I let a good friend down.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Also shortly before getting married, my wife-to-be got into a little “fender bender” and we had to purchase her a new car.  Honda Accords were known to be reliable, so we purchased one.

Uhh.  Wow?

First of all, never shop for cars at night.  We went to check this car out one evening, and thoroughly missed a lot of the “finer” points of the vehicle – like the faded paint on the top, general lackluster exterior, and really how boring this vehicle was.  We more or less agreed to purchase the vehicle that evening (secured by a small down deposit), with a strong case of buyer’s remorse when we came to pick it up the next day.  Oh, well.  Live and learn.

Secondly, there really wasn’t anything wrong with the car, but there wasn’t anything to write home about either.  Burgundy, 4-doors, very little power, and nothing to distinguish it from a million other Accords on the road.

Notable Memory: Nothing.  Na-da.  Zip.

We sold that sucker.


My brother and I have worked together at four different jobs thus far.  Seriously.  We’re 4 1/2 years apart in age, but we’ve always gotten along very well.  So far, that is 🙂

In one particular instance, I helped him get a job at the place where I was working.  Since we lived not too far from one another and were going to the same destination, it made sense to commute together.  Enter the faded-yellowNot my car.  Mine was a lot worse looking. Datsun B210 wagon, that I (somehow) procured for a paltry $50.  Oh, yeah.  Fifty.

While my wife was driving the (aforementioned) Honda Accord, my brother and I would cruise with real style in the B210 Wagon.  The picture I have here makes it look pretty sweet, in a retro sort of way, but that’s not an actual photo of the vehicle I owned.  Ours was a $50 piece of junk that was worth every penny.  Getting the vehicle started was a crap shoot, and keeping it running was even more so.

Notable Memory: We paid about $350 for a carb-rebuild service on that sucker.  Not only did the service not help whatsoever, it actually made the vehicle worse.  I protested, contested the charge (via our credit card company), and eventually they “fixed” their repair job.  Still, you can at best shine a pile of crap to a dull luster.

I think we sold it back to the original owner after a few months.  Pretty sad saga.


There’s nothing quite so classic as the hand-me down family car.  In this case, we ditched the Honda Accord and landed the light blue, 1985 Toyota Camry that my wife’s grandparents had just upgraded from.

camryThat’s right, we got their hand-me-down car.

What can be said about the ‘85 Camry that isn’t readily apparent by looking at the photo?  It was squarish, fairly small, ugly, and generally did what it was supposed to do.  It had some very strange things, too.  The gas gauge was… wacky.  It worked fine, mind you, but looked odd.  The ‘85 Camry also featured the straight-cut rear wheel wells, which are so popular with, err… ugly cars.

Notable Memory:  More of a quirk with this car, to be honest, but the Camry had a nasty habit of stalling on steep hills.  It stalled often, but not always.  We would get going on a hill and begin moving our heads back and forth (like a pigeon) as if we could give it the momentum it needed to keep going and get us up the hill.  Ahh, the memories.

To be fair, I can’t ding the Camry for too much.  It helped us bring home our first born child, and served us well during it’s tour of duty.  Eventually, though, we found something newer and better to take its place…


For some reason, we got a wild hare one Saturday and decided to go “car shopping”.  It was ‘used car shopping’, to be perfectly honest, and we weren’t even looking for something bigger, faster, or (particularly) more reliable.  The Toyota Camry did have the “stall” issue, so maybe we were making that into our “molehill” that needed to be conquered.  I don’t know.

So we end up at this Enterprise used car sale.  That’s right, not just a “used car”, but a “used rental car”.  In our minds, that meant ‘probably mostly freeway miles’ and, thus, a better vehicle.  Folks can reason away any decision they want to make.

98_dodge_neon One of the cars that hit our fancy (my fancy, actually… I don’t know why) was a 1998 Dodge Neon – in white.  They were relatively new at the time, and I liked the “cute” look of them.  Now that I type this out, it’s really a bit embarrassing.  What’s done is done, though.  We bought the car for too much money and drove it home.

In all fairness, I’m not sure that the Neon ever really had any issues that we had to repair.  Sure it was gutless, but it got us from A to B with relative ease.  It was the newest vehicle we had ever owned, so it felt pretty fancy to us.

That said, I doubt I’ll ever want to own a “white” car again.  It gets dirty and stays dirty.  Also, I’ve come to find out after the fact that the early Dodge Neons faired very poorly in crash tests.  That’s not cool.

No notable memories to speak of.  It served us well for a few years, and eventually made room for our first mini van.


Another family hand-me-down vehicle?  You betcha.  Coming from my wife’s other grandparents this time, the ‘82 Chevy Citation came into our family to be my day-to-day vehicle, and the story is pretty awesome.

You see, my wife’s grandmother had purchased this car brand-new in 1982.  When we bought it from her 19 years later, it had only 24,000 miles on the odometer.  I kid you not.  Just over 1,000 miles each year for its 19 year lifespan, thus far.  Although I was not too enthused with the “ghetto” factor of this car, I couldn’t deny the charm of such a low-mileage, unique, and well taken care of vehicle.  Plus, it was helping her grandmother out, since she needed the money.

Driving the Citation had a certain allure to it.  I both loved and loathed that car.  I always wanted to get it painted, add some fancy wheels, or do ANYTHING to make me not quite so embarrassed to be seen in it.  On the other hand, many of my friends thought it was awesome, and in those (rare) occasions, I felt pretty good.

Do not covet. The car itself held up quite well.  Based upon the “X-body platform” from GM, it actually had a number of siblings that looked/performed similarly, for whatever that’s worth.  Its “Iron Duke” 4 cylinder engine got pretty good gas mileage and was rock solid.  The car featured a state-of-the-art, 1982, vertically-mounted AM/FM radio, and could hold quite a bit of luggage, if you needed.  It was also quite unique, if that’s worth anything.

Notable Memory: Shortly after moving into our first house, I drove to downtown Seattle to retrieve my car.  On the way home, it stalled and began to run strangely for the remainder of the trip.  I took it to a repair shop which quoted my $700 for a carb rebuild.  Funny thing is… the Citation had a throttle-body setup, not a carb.  That’s one reason I hate most repair shops.  Anyhow, I struggled with that silly car for over a year in that condition – using two feet to drive at slow speeds, adding octane boosters (I thought it would help), and other voodoo-like rituals that ultimately did nothing.  When I finally wised-up and brought it to my mechanic friend, he replaced a $75 part that fixed it for good.  Geez… 😦

At around the 40,000 mile mark, we finally sold the car off to my co-worker’s son-in-law.  He also took my awesome sound system upgrade which featured a cigarette lighter power inverter, computer speakers (sub-woofer included), and a mini-jack plug for your favorite MP3 player.  It was totally ghetto, but actually sounded pretty good.  I think I won him over when I played Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” on the hi-fi system.  Who could resist that?


Yet another hand-me-down car, but this time from my parents.  We scored the sweet-as-nectar ‘97 Ford Aerostar shortly after we moved into our first house.  They no longer needed the van, and we were quickly approaching the time for our third child to be born.  You can hate mini-vans all you like, but there just aren’t that many options for a family of five – especially if kid’s car seats are involved.

1FMCA11UXPZC14965-1 For those of you who aren’t “in the know”, the Aerostar van is based upon the Ford F-series truck chassis.  What does that mean?  It means that this van drives more like a truck than it does a car – complete with rear-wheel drive and spartan interiors.  Ugly as it was, the Aerostar was a welcome addition to our driveway – primarily because you could get kids (and groceries!) in and out without breaking your back.  It had truck-like gas mileage, which wasn’t great, and wasn’t nearly as schwanky as the competition.  Bucket seats?  Nah.  Fancy stereo?  Hardly.  Tinted windows?  Not on this baby.  It got us where we needed to go, though, and for that we’re thankful.  Besides, the price was right: free.

Notable Memory: On the way home from the hospital – shortly after our third child was born — our daughter decided to throw up.  Not “spit up”, mind you, but the real deal spew.  It went everywhere, and it was nasty.  It took months to get that smell out of the car.

So… we finally sold the Aerostar off to our friends.  They needed a car, and we were moving on to better pastures.

JEEP CHEROKEE CHIEF (Nickname: The Chief)

Hold the phone!  After we sold the Citation, but before we sold the Aerostar, the Cherokee Chief did reigneth in our driveway.  It was a very sweet ride, and one of the few vehicles I truly miss.

Sweet Chief!

Let’s back up, though.

I used to take morning walks around my neighborhood.  Fresh air, prayer time, exercise, and so on.  For months I passed this awesome Jeep Cherokee that was a lot like the one my folks had growing up – but more awesome.  Strangely, I never saw that thing move.  One day I mustered up the courage to leave a note on their door.  “Wanna sell you Jeep?  Call me.”  You get the picture.  A week later or so, the owner contacted me and we had a chit-chat.  As it turns out, this 1978 Jeep Cherokee Chief was all that and more.  Just shy of 80k on the odometer, two owners, burly tires, awesome grill, and about as manly of a car I could ever dream of owning.  I had to drive it.

The test drive itself didn’t go very well, but despite that we agreed upon a price and it was mine.  I guess I felt like I could handle whatever issue(s) it had, and there were several.  First of all, not all of the spark plug wires were connected, which (after reconnecting) helped it run considerably better, and it needed some basic maintenance.  Also, I was under the impression that the engine was significantly smaller than what it was.  I ended up with a (much sought after) 401-CID V8 engine that used about a gallon of gas just to roll the windows down!  I don’t think that Jeep ever got more than 12mpg, and that was freeway miles.  Yeah.  Seriously.

I have a lot to be thankful for with the ol’ Jeep, though.  Not only did it look really awesome, but I learned a whole lot about cars with this sucker.  You could park a VW Bug in the engine bay, which meant there was plenty of room to work and get your hands dirty.  I (helped) install a 4-barrel carb on there, dropped the transmission pan, upgraded the ignition setup, installed an entirely new audio system, fixed the cruise control, and a whole lot more.  I took pride in that vehicle, and I loved working on it.

Notable Memory: I was driving home one day and noticed that the Jeep wasn’t slowing quite as abruptly as I would’ve liked.  In fact, it wasn’t slowing much at all.  I jammed the car into neutral and the engine screamed like a banshee!  I limped home, and discovered that the throttle cable would get stuck “on”.  How NOT awesome is that?  It had an involuntary cruise control where you could move along at about 20mph without having your foot on the gas.  Pretty scary stuff, actually, and was the driving force behind sourcing a new-to-me carburetor.  It didn’t happen again after that, but the memory (read: fear) lingers on.

When it all comes down to it, the Jeep would still be in my driveway if it hadn’t been for the extremely poor gas mileage.  Toward the end of our ownership, gas prices were creeping toward $4/gallon.  A commute to work and back cost me nearly $12 in that car.  I kid you not.  It was a bit much to stomach, so the car had to go, but not before breaking my heart.  My whole family has fond memories of that baby, but eventually the budget (and common sense) win out.  Thankfully, I sold it off to a fellow Jeep enthusiast who I knew would treat ‘er well.


During the Jeep-era, we came into some inheritance money that enabled us to buy a better mini-van.  Less “trucky” and more “nice” was the goal, I believe.  We kicked around what model to purchase, but eventually settled upon a very decisive bit of criteria: could the van hold our youngest son’s wheelchair?  Surprisingly, several mini-vans could not, thus whittling down the ‘possibles’ to just a few.  Among them, of course, the Toyota Sienna.

2002-toyota-sienna1 Never one of our favorite looking mini-vans, we eventually settled on a used 2002 model in “silver” that seemed to look less bad than the rest.  Over time the styling has grown on us.  In most other ways, though, the Sienna has been a welcome upgrade from the Aerostar days.  Tinted windows, decent stereo, plush seating, and a nice ride.  True to the Toyota nameplate, we haven’t had to do anything with this van – save for new tires, oil changes, and the like.  It starts, it goes, it turns off – and usually does all of those things when you expect it to.  It also rattles a bit – especially in the dash – and the front doors make a horrific squeak when you open and close them.  WD40 didn’t fix it, so we just deal with it.  Although I’m willing to dig in and fix my own car, I’m less willing to do so with my wife’s vehicles.  Just the way it is.

Notable Memory: Oh, man.  So we somehow managed to spill an entire half-gallon of milk just behind the front passenger seat.  You can only move so fast, so a bunch of it soaked into the carpet and padding.  Rotten milk smell, anyone?  We had it professionally cleaned a couple of times, but we still smell it when the weather is “just right”.  Usually on colder days, strangely enough.

So… the Sienna is still in our driveway.  It’s certainly a bit more worn, but has a lot of life still left in ‘er.  We’ll certainly have to look for a better solution if/when our son’s wheelchair gets any bigger, but until then it’s quite sufficient to cart us, our kids, one wheelchair, and the (occasional) golden retriever around.


Finally we arrive at my “current ride” – the 1992 Saab 900 Turbo.  After selling the Jeep (sniff!), I really flip-flopped and purchased a vehicle that was about as different as you could get.  14 years newer, ABS, airbag, fast, sporty, good gas mileage, and somewhat unmanly, if you will.

cleanSaab1I found the Saab on Craigslist, and really didn’t know much about these cars before going to take a look at it.  I consider myself to be very fortunate, since I found a late-model (classic) Saab with low miles, few issues, and got it at a good price.  It had some issues that needed dealing with, but the previous owner had also paid for over $6k in repairs on this baby – in just under 3 years!  He was a single guy with a good job, what did he care?  I liked the fully-upgraded stereo system, new headliner (a common issue on these), newer tires + shocks, and the fact that he wouldn’t even change a wiper blade without taking it to a local Saab shop.  His expense, my gain!

Notable Memory: The previous owner, albeit a bit “naive”, was really a nice guy.  My wife and I dropped by to take it for a test drive, and he suggested that we just take it overnight.  “You can’t really get to know a car in 10 minutes.  Why don’t you just keep it overnight and bring it back tomorrow?”, he said.  In retrospect, it was pretty dumb of us to do that.  Did he have drugs in the car?  Was it stolen?  Was it safe?  Caution to the wind, we took the bait and drove it home.  It was fun, quirky, fast, and I liked it.  I bought it a day or two later.

cleanSaab4 I don’t see myself getting rid of the Saab anytime soon.  It runs very well (just over 130k on the odo), gets good gas mileage, and is relatively light on repairs.  I’ve really enjoyed working on it (plugs, wires, oil changes, and so on), and parts are still quite readily available for it.  It’s also built like a friggin’ tank, which is nice for the “safety factor”.  Lastly, the ‘turbo’ is nothing short of amazing – especially when it spools up and lets loose.  This 17-year-old car can really scoot, when it comes down to it. 🙂

Best of all, I suppose, is the Saab community that I’ve found.  Friendly guys that are willing to help you diagnose, install, soup-up, or whatever else you need.  Saab owners have a camaraderie that I’ve not seen since my motorcycle days, and that’s pretty cool.  I dig it.

Long live the Saab!


There you have it, folks – my “vehicles over the years” tour.

What really stuck out to me while writing this is how very fortunate we’ve been to have our family bless us with cars.  They’ve rarely been “incredible”, but always timely and a huge help to us – both physically and financially.  Perhaps my brother-in-law would like to “gift” us their Mini Cooper? 😉

Hope you enjoyed it.

Catfight! (hee hee)

I know I’m childish, but this picture just makes me giggle. 🙂


You know what? That’s a little creepy.


I couldn’t even tell what I was looking at when I first saw this.  Is it ‘half of a person’?  What’s going on here?

Oh.  It’s the Hug Me Pillow.

Looks creepy to me.