It’s not you it’s me.

I’ve changed. I’ve grown as a person and this is just not working for me anymore.

We’re on two different paths right now.

Maybe we can just keep it casual – not like a regular thing.

I’m going to have to start listening to something else.

Boston radio, I’m moving on to audiobooks.

You know how things change in such incremental ways over time? So slowly, that you might not notice? Like a child who gets taller every day, but it’s only when you’ve not seen that child for a while that you realize he’s a full two inches taller than before.

That’s how I feel about Boston radio. The changes have been so slow, so incremental, that I didn’t notice what rubbish I have been listening too until I stepped back and took a break.

For two years, I had a daily 2-to-3 hour commute. When I started, I promised myself I’d make good use of the time. I’ve always enjoyed audiobooks, so I decided to invest that time in listening to books that I’d probably never have time to actually read. For two years, I averaged 30+ books a year in the car.  $_32

Now, I have a more normal commute and I can’t stand what I’m hearing. I took a break, stepped back from Boston radio and its like a pre-teen’s growth spurt, but backwards.

I’ve had three go-to stations on my radio presets for decades. WRKO – talk radio, WEEI – sports talk, and WXRV – the River (my source for new music).

WRKO

When I think back to the heyday of WRKO – with Clapprood and Whitley, Gene Burns and Gerry Williams I am appalled at the dribble that is broadcast today. It’s been a long decline – ’RKO lost their news staff about ten years ago and they went to a traffic reporting service instead of having their own people. On-air hosts left and were replaced by people who were less talented or just cast in the wrong roles. Then, those people left and were replaced with even less talented or even worse fits than the folks they replaced.

WRKO’s last big star was Howie Carr. From his days as a guest on the Jerry Williams show – the Governors, to his man-on-the-street interviews “Hi Cap’n,”  to his legendary death pool, I have always found him funny and entertaining. Now, I can’t even listen to him anymore – it’s like going to a Donald Trump rally every single day.

The long decline of talk radio has hit bottom. It’s so disappointing.

WEEI

I’ve been listening to WEEI since they were at 590am. I listened through the change to 850am. I was there, in the car when they gave a play-by-play of Nancy Kerrigan’s Olympic skating performance (Really, Dale Arnold doing figure skating play-by-play over the radio). The Quality Hang with Steve Buckley was appointment listening on weekend mornings as long as it lasted. I suffered through The Big Show shouting matches that sounded a lot like the platform at the Park Street Station at rush hour. I remember fist-pumping the news of Eddie Andelman’s departure from the station.

(BTW: Eddie Andelman was a guy who looked down on every other person he ever met. He always seemed to think he was the smartest guy in the room. He hated when people would talk to him at the station. When I worked at Entercom (2000-2003) I used to give Eddie a big, bright and cheerful “Hello Eddie!” every time I saw him, just to force him to grunt an acknowledgement of another human being).

Dennis & Callahan eventually inherited the morning show. I never cared for the show – I never cared for the hosts. I have never met two people who were more full of themselves than John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. I knew it from my own interactions with them (Ugh) and it came across loud and clear on the air. Now that Dennis has shot his way off the station, the show has morphed into a calamity of inside jokes, bickering, trash-talking the competition pile of stinking dung I can not stomach anymore – not even for short stretches (Like when WBZ is airing commercials).

WXRV – The River

I’de be willing to bet most River listeners can’t remember the call sign of their favorite station. They just call it The River. This is my go-to station for music. I love what they play. I love the unpredictability of the playlist – although I think its a lot more predictable now than it was, say ten years ago.

What I can’t stand is Dana Marshall in the mornings. Okay, I can’t stand her on Sunday mornings or even when she did mid-days. It’s her voice. Have you ever met someone who is working sooooo hard to sound nice and kind and sweet that it comes across as an off-brand of artificial sweetener? It’s not just that it sound like Sweet ’n Low, but it sounds like the off-brand in the pink packets some restaurants hope you will mistake as the real thing. i.e. Fake artificial sweetener.

That’s Dana. I’ve been listening to her for a long time – on-and-off as she’s moved from DJ to program director/DJ, then off the air for a long time, and now back again.  I just can’t take the fake artificial sweetener anymore.

Last week, I started listening to audiobooks again. I’ve already finished one and am hunting for my next book. It’s just a better listening experience than my old standby radio stations.


We’ve whipped around the sun again and it’s time to take stock of my reading for 2016.

I start each year with several goals:

  • Read a minimum of 20 books,
  • Read at least one classic,
  • Read one book about baseball.

Because I stopped doing my stupidly long commute, my total is significantly down from 2015.

My classics were limited to the sci-fi genre: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I found The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to be silly and weird but, for 410bnolmnol-_sx331_bo1204203200_some reason, my mind keeps wandering back to it. Maybe that’s part of what makes it a classic. More about The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress below.

I never got around to reading a book about baseball. I guess nothing struck me as a must-read. I’ll have to make up for that in 2017. I did gift two baseball books to family members: Zim: A Baseball Life and Shoeless Joe (the book Field of Dreams is based on) because both are excellent and are must-reads for baseball fans.

This was my year of reading books about astronauts. I read three: A Journal for Christa: Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe. I didn’t intend to read three astronaut biographies, it just happened that way.

I read A Journal for Christa beacuse, working at Christa McAuliffe Charter School I felt I needed to know more about this remarkable woman. It’s not great, but I think it ought to be required reading for staff at the school. The books about Sally Ride and Mike Massimino were excellent.

I had the unique experience of reading a book that was, in small part, about me or, more accurately, about some work I did in the 1990’s. I had known Shadow Divers Exposed: The Real Saga of the U-869 existed, but had always assumed it was sour grapes from one wreck 41qpc6chpal-_sx301_bo1204203200_diver about the work, and media success, of another diver. I was wrong. It was really about setting the recored straight about who should have been given credit for uncovering the identity of a World War II German U-boat that was discovered off the coast of New Jersey. As it turns out, I assisted significantly in that effort but was not given credit. Who knew?

The best books I read in 2016?

Both were fiction: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War. These were both outstanding. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress provides ample evidence that Robert A. Heinlein was a master of the sci-fi genre. It was an absolute joy to read and I 51hayo7qynlthink about it surprisingly often. I read and enjoyed Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising about World War III in the 1980’s. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War is the 21st century version of that novel. It takes place 20 to 30 years from now is about a geopolitical showdown between China and Russia one one side and the United States on the other side. Lots of ships and marines – it was great – and scary.

This was also my year to reach out to authors and have them respond. I tweeted to Lynn Sherr author of Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space and she tweeted back to me.

I contacted Andy Weir who wrote The Martian and Sam Kean author of The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. Both of the writers agreed to sign my copies of their amazing books. There are days, I love the internet.

Here’s my complete list of the books I read in 2016:

Time’s Eye (Time Odyssey) (Audiobook)

Great Classic Science Fiction: Eight Unabridged Stories (Audiobook)

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Audiobook)

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi (Audiobook)

Scared to Death: Do it Anyway

Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

A Journal for Christa: Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space

A Cruise Ship Primer: History & Operations

The Darkest Hour: A Novel

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files)

Red Desert – Point of No Return

Where Divers Dare: The Hunt for the Last U-Boat

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Shadow Divers Exposed: The Real Saga of the U-869

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space51bvtanlvil

Stories of Your Life and Others

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Voyeur’s Motel

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War


I feel like I’ve seen more than the 72 artists and groups perform live, but these are the ones I can recall. From my first – Bachman-Turner Overdrive, to my most recent – Paul McCartney, I’ve have some wonderful and amazing evenings experiencing live music.

A few of my favorite concerts would include seeing BB King at his prime in 1976, Seeing Blue Oyster Cult open for J. Geils Band on Halloween in 1978 and Springsteen each of the three times I’ve seen him.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing major artists perform for very small audiences at The River Music Hall. These artists include Jason Mraz, David Crosby & Graham Nash, and Alanis Morissette among others. There is nothing like going seeing an artist perform with just 25 or 30 other people – it’s a very personal experience.

I’ve seen Azetc Two-Step maybe ten times. I’ve seen them in Newport, at colleges, in tiny little venues and big rooms too. They are always a favorite. My son, David, even arranged for Rex Fowler to call me one year and wish me a Happy Birthday. So Cool.

I guess that’s what the live performance is all about – the personal connection between artist and spectator. And really, when watching live music, you’re not as much a spectator as a participant. The artist’s emotional energy is cycled through you, the listener, and reflected back to the performer and then right back to you.

“With so many ways to communicate at our disposal, we must not forget the transformative power of a live music experience and genuine human exchange” Jon Batiste

Still on my list to see are Billy Joel and Paul Simon- maybe in 2017. Feel free to comment and add your own list.

Aztec Two-Step *

Aerosmith

J. Geils Band *

B. B. King*Version 4

Doobie Brothers

Beach Boys

Bruce Springsteen*

Paul McCartney

Buddy Guy

Papa John Creach

Steve Miller Band

Barry Manilow*

Linda Ronstadt

Blue Oyster Cult

Donny Osmond *

Donnie and Marie

Shaun Cassidy

David Cassidy

Art Garfunkel

Cat Stevens

Poco

Seals and Crofts

Logins and Messina

Chicago

Neil Diamond

Boston Pops *

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Electric Light Orchestra

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Jason Mraz *20759802-mmmain

Pat Benatar

Neil Sedaka *

David Crosby

Graham Nash

Neil Young

Coco Montoya

Raul Midon

Chris Isaak

Wiz Khalifa

G Love and Special Sauceimg042

James Taylor *

The Crusaders

The Wallflowers

Trace Adkins

Suzanne Vega

Styx

Pousette Dart Band *

Marc Broussard

Laura Branigan

Jill Sobule

Jethro Tull

Jackson Brown

The Fray

Don McLean *

Carbon Leaf *

Boston

America

Ryan Montblau Band

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Joe Cocker

Smokey Robinsonmarkmrazandfish

Bruce Hornsby

Minnie Driver

Bob Weir

Carly Simon

Todd Rundgren

Kings of Leon

John Sebastian

The Carpenters

Temptations

Alanis Morissette

Virgin


My Protest Vote

18Oct16

This November marks the tenth time I have had the opportunity to cast a ballot for the office of President of the United States. It is a responsibility I take seriously, a right I cherish and, this time, a choice I cannot make. I am not “ undecided;” I have decided I cannot support any of the candidates on this ballot.

I am dismayed, disgusted and deeply disappointed by these candidates. None of them are fit to lead this country and, sadly, one of them will.

Gary Johnson succeeded in blowing up his candidacy by fumbling two pretty easy foreign policy questions. Foreign policy is a pretty big part of the job and, at this point, he is clearly not ready for prime time.

Donald Trump is an ignorant, narcissistic, blow-hard. I have seen no evidence that he has the interest or the intellect to actually do the job. His plans and positions are vague, amateurish and shallow. It’s all about “The Donald” all the time. He is intellectually, temperamentally and morally unfit to serve.

Hillary Clinton is highly qualified for the job. Former first lady, senator and secretary of state – she knows the job, knows the players and knows how to get things done. Unfortunately, she is completely untrustworthy. She will say and do anything to achieve her goals. She lies, even when she doesn’t have to. You never get the whole truth when she’s on the hot seat – you get a version of truth that is carefully parsed to do the least damage to her image. Character is the first requirement for a leader and she is completely lacking in this department.

I refuse to engage in the “lesser of two evils” politics. I’ve done it before and I’ll never do it again. As an electorate, we need to aim for loftier goals than this one’s less awful than the other one.  We need presidential candidates who raise the level of debate in this 1235px-flag_of_the_united_statescountry – not ones who debase it. We need candidates we can enthusiastically support – not ones that force us to hold our collective nose as we enter the voting booth.

So, what am I to do?

I’ve been batting this around in my head for months. I’ve talked to republicans, democrats, independents and libertarians. I refuse to support these candidates and I need to find a way to express my disgust and outrage.

Finally, I’ve decided what to do.

I’m voting.

I’m voting for the kind of leader we need. A leader who is smart, politically savvy, even-measured, unflappable, honorable and intellectually up to the challenge.

I’m writing in Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and I urge my friends to do the same. I’m not suggesting Charlie should be president, but he’s the kind of candidate we need on a national level.

His positions mirror the majority of Americans: pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage and he’s a fiscal conservative. When faced with a looming budget deficit, his first act was to make government smaller – not raise taxes and fees. He’s proven he can lead in a crisis (think back two winters ago when the MBTA stopped working). He’s fired people from his own administration (members of his own political party) when they misused their power for personal aggrandizement and punished those who have undercut the public trust.

Please consider joining me in my protest vote. Write in Charlie Baker – send a message to both parties about the kind of candidates we need. Maybe next time, we’ll have candidates we can get excited about, be proud of and who are truly fit to serve.


I can’t take it any more. The alerts, the interruptions to programming, the weather updates crawling along the bottom of the screen are too much for me. The StormTeam-Extreme-Weather-First-Alert-StormTracker-Breaking-News folks are driving me nuts.

Weather is big news. It’s become the biggest part of local news. If you watch WCVB, my station of choice, the weather leads the news, then gets a nice 5-minute chunk in the middle, and then, just before they end the broadcast, the weather guy gives us a summary of the forecast. During the Noon broadcast, they don’t even do sports…they just do more weather.

Heaven forbid there be thunderstorms within 200 miles of Boston and the weather geeks go all in for updates, the “Get our Weather Alert app” appeals begin and the incessant crawl along the bottom of the screen starts.

Ya know, we don’t live in tornado alley. I don’t need a notification on my phone that a tropical storm just off the coast of Africa, that has virtually no chance of ever reaching Boston, has been given a name. Nope, not information I need immediately.

And it’s not just local news, the national news outlets are doing the same thing. Every night, they talk about extreme weather, super storms, tornado clusters and the like. The Weather Channel has started naming storms – not hurricanes, just regular winter storms.

A temperature of ninety-six degrees is not enough, now meteorologists need to talk about the heat index, so they can flash 101 degrees on the screen – three digits are infinitely more dramatic than two. In February, they’ll be doing the same thing, instead of 12 degrees we’ll be hearing about wind-chill – “but it feels like 134 degrees below zero.”  It’s all so dramatic and over-the-topIMG_3056 (1)

It’s like grade inflation but with weather. Everyone got used to hurricanes, so now they’re “super storms.” It’s not a blizzard, it’s “Juggernaut Juno.” It’s not a thunderstorm, it’s “severe weather.”

It used to be the weather guys ’n gals would get all geared up for snow storms. They’d put their flannel shirts on, fire up the Winter Weather Storm Force graphics package, and shove some poor part-time reporter out into the storm. But now, it’s everything. They gear up for soaking rains, severe drought, a beautiful sunset, you name it and they’re in overdrive. The tone is earnest, the updates incessant and the weather radar in the corner is continual.

Harvey Leonard, I love you but take a breath. Relax. I know it’s New England and things happen fast…but, really, you’ve got to tone it down a little. A line of thunderstorms falling apart as they move easterly through New York state is not a big deal. There’s no reason to get all amped up about it.

I’m sorry weather folks, I refuse to be scared of all the weather all the time.


Oh, the things you’ll see. Look up. Look up and you’ll see such amazing things.

Planets – Tomorrow is August 1, 2016. Look up at the night sky and Mars hangs in the blackness of space, big and bold and oh, so red. To it’s upper left, is the second largest planet; a dim, yellow Saturn.

Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are visible at dusk. I’ve always found Mercury to be a challenge  to see regularly. It never gets far from the setting or rising Sun, but we can use the moonWEBvic16_Aug04ev to help find it on August 4th. The crescent moon will be right next to little Mercury on the 4th – see the diagram from Sky and Telescope.

That’s all five planets visible to the naked eye – and you can find them all on the same night if you look.

ISS – We’re also in a nice time-frame to see the International Space Station. In August, it is making passes over the region in both morning and evening times. Visit Nasa’s website, Spot the Station, to see exact days and times for your location. There is a crew of six living and working on the station right now, so when it passes overhead, wave.

Meteor Shower – Later this month, the Perseid meteor shower peaks on the morning of August 12th. Get up early, about 2 to 3am, and lay on the grass or a lawn chair and just look up. You’ll see scores of meteors every hour. What you’ll be seeing are tiny bits of comet Swift-Tuttle’s debris tail as Earth crosses it’s orbit.

Eclipse – Next year, on August 21st, the United States will see a total eclipse of the sun. The Moons shadow will trace a thin line from Oregon to South Carolina. People within that 635925186082143379-AP-Australia-Solar-Eclipseline will see a total eclipse of the sun. The rest of the country, including New England, will see a partial eclipse.

None of these amazing sights require anything other then your eyes. Just tilt your head back…steady yourself so you don’t topple over and look up. The things you’ll see…so amazing.

If you enjoy reading about space, check out these other posts:Pizza, Pizza Guys Get It Wrong, Wrong,  It’s All About ScaleThe Day I Met An Astronaut


It happened by accident – a happy accident, to be sure. My friends at school have known and at least one chided me about “taking advantage.”  But, now the truth can be told. I can get it off my chest and ‘fess up about the sweetest deal I had going at the expense of one of America’s corporate giants.

It’s all about my insatiable need for massive and regular infusions of caffeine. My preferred delivery method was the Grande Pike Place with room for cream at the local Starbucks. It became a daily ritual with the 8th grade team at my school – so routine that we’d just ask, “Are you going?” We all knew where we were going…to Target and, more specifically, the Starbucks just inside the door.

Now, this is not an inexpensive habit on a teacher’s salary – $2.14 a hit, five times a week (sometimes more) starts to become a noticeable expense. Think about it: one coffee per day for 180 days is almost $400. gty_starbucks_cup_111207_wmain

This is where the accident comes in to play. Every day I’d leave the house with a 22 oz, Starbucks travel mug full of caffeine, err coffee. Later, I’d bring my mug to Starbucks and have the lovely baristas fill it up again. They’d charge me $2.14 and off I’d go.

One day I said the magic word – “refill.”

When they rang up my coffee it was 53¢.

Yes, 53¢. They were charging me the same rate they charge for that second cup after you sit in the store and drink your first cup ‘o joe.

I said it again the next day, “refill”  – Bam, 53¢.

I said it the next and the next…it was always the same. I felt as if trumpets from upon high should have been blaring. What an absolute miracle. I had accidentally stumbled upon the magic word.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received $35 in Starbucks gift cards at Christmas. I loaded them onto my Starbucks app and started paying with my phone.

Guess what? They discount their price 10¢ if you bring your own cup, so then my coffee was just 43¢ a “refill.”

Glory be – I was set. I had $35 in gift cards to play with and I made it last the whole rest of the school year.IMG_2805

At one point I realized I could actually make money from this sweet deal. Mind you, it was just a thought. I never took it this far, but I could have.

My chosen artificial sweeter is Splenda. At home, we usually buy the small 50-count box for about $2. That means the unit price of a Splenda packet is 4¢.

One day while I was waiting for one of my colleagues to receive her five-dollar, whipped-cream-topped, chocolate-drizzled frappawhatever (let’s just call this a dessert, shall we?) it occurred to me if I stuffed 11 extra Splenda packets into my pocket, at 4¢ each – I would be making a penny each time I bought a coffee.

Like I said, I never did it. Okay, maybe a couple of times, but just so I’d have a few extra packets in the car.

But, think about it, I could have made money each time I bought coffee.

Turning Starbucks into a profit center? Sweeeeeeet.