Sunday, July 7, 2024

Whither the CD player?

I'm going to take a break from current events this week and talk about another facet of our late-stage capitalist dystopia: electronics. Specifically CD players.

While I'm a progressive politically, I'm old, so I'm a Luddite when it comes to certain things. I admit freely that I have not yet embraced the digital age 100 percent. Yes, I publish my books as ebooks; yes, I own a Kindle; yes, I have a smartphone and a laptop (and a several-generations-old iPad that has sat unused in a desk drawer since I moved here four years ago). But I have not yet succumbed to digitizing my music collection. Strike that: At one point I spent hours over several days uploading a bunch of my CDs to Apple Music on my laptop. Then I got a new laptop. Everything made the migration to the new machine except my CDs; the album cover images that I'd painstakingly uploaded made it, and I think maybe the playlists, but not the actual songs. Then I learned that Apple uses a proprietary format for music files, and there was probably no way to get those songs to transfer from my old machine to the new one.

What I took away from the experience is that uploading stuff to the cloud gives the cloud owner the rights to your stuff, and they may or may not let you keep it. Which I already knew from a debacle many years ago involving ebook files that disappeared from users' devices because reasons. Hence, I have not given up my actual, tangible CDs.

The challenge these days is to find something to play them on. For maybe a couple of decades, I owned a Bose Wave music system with the add-on CD changer. It looked like this: 

Stolen from the internet
It was hella expensive. I used to get really nice holiday gift cards from my bosses at the law firm, and one year I used my gift card to buy this system. It worked great for many years. But then, as Facebook reminded me earlier today, the changer started giving me error messages on various CDs and finally refused to play any of them. When I got hold of someone at Bose customer service, I was told it was a known issue, and they recommended that I unplug the changer or it might mess up my main unit. Reluctantly, I did. 

That was four years ago. The main CD/radio soldiered on for another couple of years, but then the CD player in it started to die, too. So a few months back, I started looking for a replacement. Of course Bose doesn't make Wave radios anymore; you can get a rebuilt one in random places, but they're super expensive, and I'm not getting those really nice gift cards anymore. So I looked for something less bougie.

My options were pretty limited: either I could go back to the component setup that I'd ditched in favor of the Wave or buy a glorified boom box. I settled on this: an AIWA Exos Home Speaker. (Note that it's marketed as an external speaker that just happens to include a CD player; this is where we are, kids.) I figured that AIWA used to be a decent brand and the unit would probably have acceptable sound quality.

When it arrived, I pulled it out of the box and set it up. I put a CD in the slot and tried to get the drawer to retract. Didn't work. Shoved it shut with my hand. Of course then it wouldn't open again and it wouldn't play.

AIWA customer service was very nice about it. The unit was clearly still under warranty -- I'd just bought it! -- and the rep told me to pack it up and send it to them on their dime, and they'd send me a replacement. He also assured me that I'd get my CD back.

So I sent the broken machine back, and in the fullness of time, the replacement arrived. And it works! But then I tried putting it in the space where the Wave radio used to live. Of course it's about a quarter of an inch too tall. 

The Wave radio fit on the shelf under the TV. The AIWA does not.
Lynne Cantwell 2024
But I can play my CDs again. The sound quality isn't as good as the old Bose, but I didn't expect it to be, and part of the problem might be my hearing issue. 

Did I get my CD back? Of course not. Is it worth calling AIWA again? Not to me!

But now I'm tempted to replace my TV stand so that the CD player will fit. In fact, a full entertainment center would look great on that wall. I could use more bookshelf space, as well as more storage space for my DVDs and Blu-Rays (which I am also hanging onto, thank you very much).

The answer to every problem in our late-stage capitalist dystopia is to spend more money, right?

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The hearing issue: I can't remember whether I've mentioned this here before, but I have an acoustic neuroma in my left ear that has been affecting my hearing for the past four years. It's to the point now where we need to do something about it, so I'm going in next month for a "gamma knife" radiation treatment. It will be a couple of years before we find out whether the treatment is effective, and I won't get my hearing back regardless. But I'm hoping that it's successful, as the other treatment option is brain surgery. Which I would rather, y'know, avoid.

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These moments of bloggy retro consumerism have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Sturm und drang, presidential debate edition.

inueng | Deposit Photos

Let's just start off with the obvious, shall we? The debate Thursday night between President Joe Biden and former president and convicted felon Donald Trump was, for anyone with a grain of sensitivity, painful to watch. Biden was off his game, for whatever reason (I've seen several theories, ranging from "he's 81 and tired" to "he has a cold" to "maybe the Trump team slipped him a mickey" -- yes, I really did see that one, although not in exactly those words). Biden dropped the rhetorical ball a couple of times. His "I can't believe the bullshit coming out of this guy's mouth" expression -- I assume that's what he was going for -- came off as slack-jawed, but not in a good way. 

About an hour after it was over, when I finally shook off my shock and disbelief, all I could say to myself was: "That was bad."

Indeed, the performance handed all the pundits who have never liked Biden the ammunition they've been looking for. He's lost it, they said, some muttering amongst themselves and some aloud; he should step aside and let somebody else run, they said. The New York Times editorial board agreed, and went so far as to publish it.* 

Never mind how something like that would throw the electoral process into chaos. What about all the voters who have already cast their primary ballots for Biden? Wouldn't that disenfranchise us?

And never mind how things turned out when President Lyndon Johnson pulled out of his primary race for a second term in 1968. Chaos ensued. The Democratic Party ended up nominating Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey -- who lost to Richard Nixon.

Historian Allan Lichtman has correctly predicted the winner of nine out of the past ten presidential elections.** He has no time for the pundits who want to kick Biden to the curb right now; debates don't matter, he told CNN. Lichtman has developed 13 keys to determine which candidate will win, and even after Thursday's debate, his system is still leaning toward a Biden win in the fall.

Another historian, Heather Cox Richardson, who blogs at Substack, has pointed out that Trump used a technique called a Gish gallop during the debate: "It's a rhetorical technique in which someone throws out a fast string of lies, non-sequiturs, and specious arguments, so many that it is impossible to fact-check or rebut them in the amount of time it took to say them. Trying to figure out how to respond makes the opponent look confused, because they don't know where to start grappling with the flood that has just hit them. It is a form of gaslighting, and it is especially effective on someone with a stutter, as Biden has."

The editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer saw through Trump's bullshit. In an editorial this weekend, the board said it was Trump who should drop out of the race. The editorial recapped Trump's greatest hits, among them his 31 felony convictions and three additional felony trials to come, and his bombastic rhetoric about how awful everything in America is: "Throughout the debate, Trump repeatedly said we are a 'failing' country. He called the United States a 'third world nation.' He said, 'we're living in hell' and 'very close to World War III.'

"'People are dying all over the place,' Trump said, later adding 'we're literally an uncivilized country now.'" Trump, the editorial goes on to note, told 30 lies during the 90-minute debate. There's more -- read it yourself at the link -- but it wraps up with, "There was only one person at the debate who does not deserve to be running for president. The sooner Trump exits the stage, the better off the country will be."

I could not agree more. 

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*That editorial was the last straw for me. I've finally canceled my NYT subscription.

**The only election out of the past ten that Lichtman's system didn't get right is Bush vs. Gore in 2000. He said Gore would win. Given that the Supreme Court had to decide the winner, I think we can give him a pass on that one.

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These moments of decisive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get out and vote!

Sunday, June 23, 2024

How to get rid of a boss: a case study.

So let's say that at your latest staff meeting at work, the Big Boss tells everybody on your team that you're getting a new supervisor. Oh, and by the way, your old supervisor was offered a brand-new position in the organization, but instead of taking it, she quit.

Now, you and your colleagues have heard some things about this new supervisor, none of them good. He has some sketchy behavior in his past -- unethical and possibly even illegal. You also know that he's a crony of the Big Boss, and that B.B. has been padding the C-suite with several of his cronies over the past few months -- in an effort, B.B. says, to make the company more profitable. But your company is no stranger to putting principles ahead of money; that's the way it has done business over many decades. And you and your colleagues sure as hell don't want to work for this sketchy new supervisor. So what do you do?

Welp, if you're the Washington Post newsroom, you assign an investigative team to run a bunch of stories about the shenanigans in your new supervisor's past so that he'll quit before he even starts the job. 

And it worked! On Friday, it was announced that Robert Winnett would not be joining the Post as its executive editor, after all. 

As a former journalist, I've been bemused by watching this unfold. Winnett was hired away from the London Daily Telegram by the Post's new chief executive officer and publisher, William Lewis. Both Lewis and Winnett are British. Both are White. They had worked together in the past, at the London Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times.

But British newspapers have been known to play fast-and-loose with certain practices that are considered highly unethical to American journalists. From the link above, here, in a nutshell, is the dirt on these two guys:

A Post investigation published Sunday revealed Winnett's connections to a confessed con artist turned whistleblower who has admitted to using illegal methods to gain information for stories in Britain's Sunday Times...

The New York Times also reported that Winnett and Lewis had based some stories on stolen records, and raised new questions about a payment made to obtain information that led to a 2009 investigation into government corruption, which shook the British political establishment and led to several officials' resignations.

The Post story goes on to note, "Paying sources for information is considered unethical in most American newsrooms. So is representing oneself as anything other than a journalist to gain confidential information as part of newsgathering..."  

The way Winnett's predecessor was shown the door also rankled among the newsroom staff. Sally Buzbee was the first woman hired as executive editor at the paper, which won three Pulitzer Prizes this year. But Lewis decided she had to go anyway. He offered her a position heading up a brand-new division at the Post covering service news and social media -- which, to be honest, sounds a lot like kicking the little lady out of a man's job and sending her back to editing the women's page. Instead, she quit. 

And now Winnett isn't coming. But it's okay -- Winnett wasn't supposed to transition into the job until after the election this fall, anyway. In the interim, Lewis had hired Matt Murray, a former Wall Street Journal editor, to run the newsroom, and then helm the new division when Winnett came on board. Now I guess Murray will be the executive editor for the forseeable future. 

But never mind that. Don't you wish you had the power at your job to publicly embarrass your incoming supervisor and his boss by publicizing their sketchy pasts?

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These moments of bloggy just deserts have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Jimmy Mender: the denouement.

Back in February, I wrote a post about a friend and fellow indie author, Leland Dirks, who had died shortly before. Leland was a special guy. He lived in southeastern Colorado, way out in the sticks, with an assortment of dogs in a house he built himself. He was also gay. And he made no secret of it -- not in his public persona and not in his writings. Everyone who knew him, loved him.

But there's a dark undercurrent running through Leland's work. He talked about growing up in a fundamendalist Christian family where he was not accepted for who he was. During Pride Month 2017, he wrote this on his Facebook page. I'm not going to include a link to his page, for reasons that I'll address below.

What I am proud of first is that I have survived. I did not kill myself, as far too many young people have. Which is not to say that I did not try.... 

I am proud that in the face of hatred and purposeful misunderstanding, even by close family members, I did not deny or lie about a part of who I am.

I am proud that I, like many young boys and girls, survived sexual abuse. I am proud that I sought help in overcoming the damage that left behind. 

Not long after Leland died, I ran across a Facebook post by one of his nephews, announcing his death. On that post, his brother commented with a hateful screed laced with biblical references, condemning Leland's "lifestyle". I don't think he explicitly said that he believed Leland would go to hell, but for sure that was the implication. The nephew claimed the brother's comments were made "out of love." 

I kept my mouth shut. But what I wanted to say was, "If that's what passes for love in your family, no wonder your uncle moved to the back of beyond."

Shortly after that, the brother got into Leland's Kindle Direct Publishing account and rewrote his About section. Here's a link. You can read it yourself, if you have the stomach for it. 

All of Leland's Kindle titles have been unpublished. His paperbacks are still listed, but most are "currently unavailable". His YouTube channel is void of content. His Facebook and Twitter accounts are gone. Someone else is using his Tumblr account. The only place online where I could still find his writing is his author page on Facebook, which I am not going to link to because I don't want his family to be aware of its existence.

I try really, really, really hard to avoid trashing other people's religions. But I cannot understand how followers of a religion that preaches love and forgiveness can sit in righteous judgment of their fellow humans. Isn't that the job of their god? And if Jehovah made everyone in his image, as they claim to believe, then how can they condemn any part of his creation? "Hate the sin but love the sinner" just doesn't cut it for me; it strikes me as mental gymnastics to justify the treatment of other people as less than human.

In that 2017 post, Leland also wrote:

I am proud that I read the book that people used to tell me that I was going to hell and found instead the story of David and Jonathan, the story of the Centurion who asked Jesus to heal the young man he loved, the story of Ruth and Naomi, whose words are often used in many weddings of all sorts.

He got it. I'm sad that his brother hasn't. 

To that man, the brother who is intent on trashing Leland's legacy to "save souls", I say this: I hope that when you get to the afterlife and see Leland again, you will realize the error of your ways. May he be kinder to you than you have been to him. 

Netrun78 | Deposit Photos
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Several years ago, Leland messaged a few of his indie author friends, including me, and suggested that we promise each other to be the protectors of each other's writings. We all agreed. But as far as I know, when Leland knew he was dying, he never followed up with any of us. 

Creative friends, consider this a cautionary tale. If you have an inkling that your heirs will not respect and protect your work after you're gone, please, please make provisions to hand over the reins to someone who will. Do it today.

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These moments of sad and angry blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Happy Pride Month, y'all, and remember: LOVE WINS.