This day was set on Shuffle. Sunny and cold in September: bad. Gloomy and cold: worse. Overcast and warm: reassuring, somehow, and that’s what we had. The sun blared out around 3, all Mahlerian brass; rain returned at five. At nine PM we heard fireworks from the Lake Harriet 9/11 Tribute – that’s what they call it – and that added a summertime note. Oh, it’s all a mess. After the rain stopped this evening I heard someone fire up a lawn mower. The cicadas came out with the sun, buzzing with peculiar fury. If they never come out again this year I won’t miss them, and won’t think of them until they appear next July. But that’s how fall works – ambient sounds decrease in variety, you spend more time inside, and you forget how the world sounded on a summer night. Even if it’s silent, it’s the silence of a great open-air amphitheater. Winter silence is the sound of an abandoned cathedral.

All I ask is that one perfect afternoon described in the second movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, and I’ll go willingly into the freezer.

Work? Yes, a bit. Wrote a column, tore it up for being stupid, wrote another. Did the Thursday Lance Lawson at, where I am slowly reacquainting myself to daily work. Around 3 PM the stove repairman showed up to fix an usual problem. The two left burners don’t light. The igniter snap on and off repeatedly, but nothing happens. When you use one of the two right burners, the burner you’re not using turns on its igniter as well, AND turns on the other two igniters. If you wish you boil water for pasta it means 20 minutes of three burners snapping on and off in sync, like robots imitating the opening sequence of “West Side Story.”

He suspected the problem was with the igniters.

And so it came to pass that he judged both the igniters and the simmer-controls and found them wanting, and yea, the manual was sought so he might find the Serial and Model Numbers, since Thermidor saith not if they have the part lest they have the number of the Model, and the number shall be of nine digits. The manual could not be found, and there was great lamentation, and it came to pass that the whole Biblical style thing was dropped before it became too labored, and I said “can’t you call Thermidor, give them the year of manufacture, describe the unit and let them narrow it down?”

“You’d think so,” he said. Apparently Thermidor doesn’t care whether you get spare parts or not. Why don’t you just get a new one?  Or are you one of those penny-pinchers who changes the oil inside of just driving the car until it smokes?

In any case, I now feel less stupid for giving the utility company a few bucks a month for a service plan that covers the major appliances. (Minor appliances, like the ambergris-separator, are not included.) It would have cost $250 just for the repairman to cast his gaze on the unit. The parts have to come from Australia, and there’s the expense of shipping them via ‘roo pouch, apparently.

Pictures from last week’s party arrived today. Left to right: Crazy Uke, Hugh Hewitt, your host, the Giant Swede, Wesley the Filmmaker.


Speaking of cigars: Ron White was arrested for reefer & papers, which I’m sure will yield a good routine. He’s one of the few people on the naughty XM comedy channel I enjoy. The other is Mitch Hedberg. I learned from a Strib story today that he usually looked at the floor while performing, which changes my mental image – I figured he had gawky stage presence, but I figured he’d be somewhat, er, defiantly jerky, as if channeling perfectly absurd punchlines through his sternum. Well, my mental image of Ron White came from a DVD cover glimpsed at the video store. Turns out he got winged with a troll gun between then and now.

Some technical notes:  The new iTunes program is designed specifically to annoy detail-oriented people. (I prefer that term to “anal retentive.” Everyone uses the term without knowing exactly what it means. You could use a synonym - Oh, he’s such a rectal hoarder – and you’d just get blank looks.) The new iTunes has a grid window that lets you see all your album art in groups of several dozen, and that shows which albums don’t have album art. GOD FORBID you don’t have album art.  But it also has a new feature: Genre View. This demonstrates how many stupidly named duplicative genres you have. Rock. Rock’n’Roll. Rock & Roll. R ‘n’ R, R & R, R&R.  I tend to group everything by decades, since that’s how I see music. Era is more important than Genre. It’s an artificial distinction – the music of 1948 belongs to 1951 more than it belongs to 1940 – but we see the past in terms of decades, even if we know how much ideas and trends overlap and slosh around. My least favorite Genre: “Instrumental.” Yes, when it comes to music, that certainly narrows it down.

The worst part about tidying up your collection is realizing how little you listen to most of it. But that doesn’t stop you from buying a 120 GB iPod so you can carry it all around and not listen to it elsewhere. It’s possible there’s one song buried in the collection   I’ve never heard all the way through, and it’s been on every iPod I’ve ever owned, and will migrate to every machine and MP3 player like a piece of inert DNA.

What do I listen to the most? Odd: late 30s pop. It’s easiest to write and work to music from the 30s these days, simply because it’s not intended to be scrutinized. That was another gift of the Boomers: you couldn’t just hear pop music, you had to really listen to it, because it was important.  In the 30s, a good piece of dance music was something that went along with moving your feet and holding your partner and getting a whiff of perfume or shampoo. After the 60s, you had to immerse yourself in the experience – comfy chair, lights just right, album in your lap so you could study the totally amazing Roger Dean art,  or follow the lyrics – because these guys were, like, poets.

As Ron White might say, I speak from experience.

The Genre Problem, however, pales, comared to the matter of the
Logitech Harmony Remote, which I got to unify all my remotes under one easy-to-operate touchpad. It had two features I liked: individual icons for favorite channels, and a screensaver. Oooh. A remote with a screensaver. You know what that means, don’t you? Of course: custom images from favorite TV shows running in rotation while the remote’s on idle. Cool! Two problems:

1. The screensaver only seems to kick in when the remote is being charged, and even so, the effect of six rotating images is less thrilling than expected, and

2. The individual-icons-for-favorite-channels feature doesn’t seem to exist. It wasn’t in the set-up process. I googled some tech-help pages, and I seem to recall that my confusion was mirrored by many, but I don’t recall the solutions. In short: without something in the set-up program that said INSTALL CUSTOM ICONS, I can’t be arsed. To hell with it. But that’s not what prompts this entry. The remote is supposed to run every item in your system, and indeed it does. Let’s show how it works:

Press “activities” button. You get the screen for AppleTV, DVD, or DirecTV. (I could customize the names, which was nice.) Press DirecTV. The remote turns on the TV, sets the amp to the DBS/CBL setting – pronounced dibbus-kibble – and sets the TV to “HDMI1.” Which is unfortunate, since you want DBS. No worries: press help! The remote screen says it’s attempting to fix the problem. There – did that help? If not, press no.


Is the DVR on? YES.

Is the receiver on? YES.

Is the receiver set to DBS/CBL? YES.

Is the TV on? YES.

Do you have popcorn? YES.

Is it getting cold while you perform this procedure? YES.

Is the TV set to DBS? NO.

Attempting to fix the problem . . . (you see the TV menu pop up, and the HDMI1 option is changed to HDMI2.) Did that solve the problem? NO. Attempting to fix the problem . . . Did that solve the problem? NO. And so on, until it finally gets to the proper channel.  This happens every time, and it’s unavoidable. There’s no way for it to know the TV’s input setting, so it just turns it on and hopes it’s right. If it remembered your previous session, it would have a clue, but it doesn’t. End result: the remote that was supposed to eliminate all the other remotes ends up adding to the pile of remotes, and is seldom used. Except by Natalie. She has that thing down cold.

New Diner! It’s here, or it’s here in MP3 form. Good to be back at the long boomerang-patterned Formica counter; Fall should see many more. New column up at as well. See you at Have a grand weekend.