Finally got a smart phone, and started playing with apps and settings, and sapps and etchings.  Favorite of all is Pandora.  I’m sure I’m way behind the times, probably people have been using Pandora since cars had running boards, but it’s new to me, and I’m really enjoying it, although I’m getting a little more Bob Marley than I hoped for.   Here comes some now.

Just as a side note, Pandora is a great name.  In Greek mythology, Pandora was given a locked box with strict instructions never to open it.  (Sure. Give someone a gift and tell them to leave it alone.  Certainly worked for Adam and Eve.)

Sure enough, Pandora gets curious and opens the box and all the evils of the world fly out; poverty, illness, death, Newt Gingrich, taxes, reality TV, potholes, mosquitoes, acne, cholesterol, etc, ad infinitum.  The only thing left in the bottom of the box was :::::hope:::::.   Now, why would hope be at the bottom of a box with all this nasty stuff in the first place?  Those Greek myth masters, Hesiod and Homer, don’t tell us, but there it is.  An empty box with some hope in the bottom.

A few thousand years later, our Pandora shows up on the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android, Windows 8, laptops, tablets, desktops, car stereo systems, and probably soon on wristwatches, crock pots, nose rings, Panama hats and replacement hips.

The concept is fairly simple.  You pick a musical genre, or an artist that for you represents that genre, and Pandora will create a mix for you, one that probably includes something by Bob Marley.

I am still trying to work out how they choose songs to put together, but I imagine it employs the use of an algorithm.  The question you should be asking yourself at this point is ‘what’s an algorithm?’  Well, here is the simplest definition I could find:

A step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer.

Here’s a picture of an algorithm, I think.


 It’s math.  Math that builds and swirls and doubles back on itself and despite the name, algorithms ain’t got no rhythm.  But if you use a computer, or anything digital, you are swimming in algorithms.  Search engines use them, as does speech recognition, word prediction, Siri, Doctor Who, Hal, Jean-luc Picard, and if Pluto used algorithms it would still be a planet.

None of which is apparent, or important I suppose, in the actual use of Pandora.  You type in Elvis, and you’ll probably get something by Carl Perkins.  Type in the Beatles and eventually a Rolling Stones song will show up.

Judy Garland—Doris Day

Willie Nelson—Waylon Jennings.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than this.  After all, it uses algorithms.


Someday I will market an ‘Anti-Pandora’ app  (or maybe Pandora –Not!), just for the hell of it.  You put in an artist or a genre, and Anti-Pandora comes up with something the exact opposite.

Put in Ricky Nelson, and get something by Ted Nugent.

Ozzie Osborne— Perry Como

Frank Zappa—The Vienna Boys Choir.

Billy Holiday—The Backstreet Boys

Bob Marley — you still get Bob Marley

Mozart — John Tesh

Celine Dion—- (I don’t know, but someone good)


Kevin Ware

I couldn’t look either.

I got a quick glimpse of the top part of Kevin Ware’s leg pointing at an unnatural angle away from the bottom part, and I had to look away.  I am glad that CBS had the restraint to focus on other parts of that mad scene on the court.

I can remember a picture in Sports Illustrated, probably in the 60’s, of a baseball player, Gene Freese of the Cincinnati Reds, who broke his ankle rounding second base.  But he didn’t just break it.  The picture, and it may have been on the cover of SI, I’m not sure, showed Mr. Freese heading south, and his foot heading north.  He apparently got a spike stuck in the bag at second base, and his foot turned around a full 180 degrees.  I think that injury ended his career.

I took up basketball soon after that.


Gruesome as Kevin Ware’s injury is, my initial reaction was that it could have been worse.  With young athletic bodies flying at great heights, and with great force, head injuries are a constant danger.  A leg will heal in time.  A head is another story altogether.

I have worked with people with head injuries from various sources; fights, car accidents, bullet wounds, falls.  They can be devastating, and they can be subtle.  Vision, balance, focus, memory, coordination, hearing, perception can all be affected, even if the person looks fine.  The NFL is becoming aware of how insidious a head injury, or a series of them, can be, and both the NCAA and the NBA should also take heed.

So, Mr. Ware.  I’m sorry you won’t be competing in the Final Four, probably a long-term dream of yours.  You will need to watch it from the sidelines.  But take a moment to appreciate that you can still see it, and hear it, and understand what is going on.

Remote In Control

I have had this particular TV, cable company, DVR and remote combination for a few years now, and am finally learning to use it.  I had some down time, and dug out the directions for the remote (now called somewhat pompously, The Navigator), and started pressing the buttons in the order that they suggested.  I found a brave new world of entertainment choices.  I can, for example, record one show while watching another.  It’s pretty rare that there are two appealing shows on simultaneously, but hope springs eternal in the human breast, and if it ever happens, I’m ready.  It might come in handy during the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, when games are being broadcast on four different stations.  That was, oh yeah, last week.  My timing remains impeccable, as ever.

If I do happen to record something, I can fast forward through the commercials.  That in itself is worth the price of admission.  With some shows, I’m not sophisticated enough to know which ones yet, there is a feature called “On Demand”.  With that, it’s like the show was recorded, and I can fast forward through commercials.

I can hit a couple of buttons and find out just what shows are on tonight.  And in that vein, here’s a link to Springsteen’s “Fifty-seven Channels (And Nothin’ On).

‘nuff said.

I can pick a channel, and find out what’s on that channel next, next after that, next after that, etc, etc, etc.  I’m not sure if that goes on forever.  One day, when I’m reallyreallyreally bored, I’ll see if I can get it to tell me what’s on in the 22nd century.  It may be some sort of a hand-held time machine.  Sort of.

I can turn on the close captioning, and rant when it covers up that close play at second base.

I can choose favorite channels, which should represent a real challenge.

I can find channels in High Definition, and squint at them to see the difference between HD and regular definition.

I can watch movies.  Well, not current movies, but pretty current, for a reasonable price.  Since I never made it to see Lincoln, that’s something to look forward to, although someone told me he gets shot at the end.  Spoiled the whole thing for me.  A real shame too, I always liked the big galoot.

This remote has so many functions that the buttons must be coded.  They are coded by position, by color, and by shape.  I have yellow triangles, blue squares, red circles, green diamonds. I have arc shaped buttons, and oblong shaped buttons.  I have stars, I have black and gray rectangles, I have ovals, I have arrows and pound signs.

As I said, I have had this TV, cable company and remote for a few years.  Give me another six months of intensive study, and I may master it.

Car Names

I drive a fair amount for work, and lately I have begun to think about the possibility of considering giving serious consideration to perhaps making a plan to some day looking around for another car.  My Chevy van has negatives that are beginning to balance out with its positives.  In 10 years, it has terraformed nicely around my rear end, including my wallet, but it has 180,000 something miles on it.  I am not sure exactly how many, because I am afraid to look, and so I have been reading the nameplates on cars.  It hasn’t started to go ‘pocketa-pocketa-pocketa’ yet (thank you James Thurber), but it’s just a matter of time.

The names are intriguing.  I can easily understand those that refer to travel and adventure; Odyssey, Caravan, Voyager.  Or even names that suggest exotic places; The El Dorado or the LeMans or Malibu.  Certainly sounds better than driving a BRAND NEW EAST PODUNK!
I can see animal names, in order to bring out the more primitive and unrestrained nature in a car buyer: a Ram, a Phoenix, a Mustang.
But why a Forester?  It’s not like anyone will drive one through a forest.  And, if they limit sales to lumberjacks, they’ll be out of business soon.  (Here’s a little Monty Python, just for the heck of it.

The Civic—is it a duty to drive one?  Or would the etymologist deep within all of us crave a Civic just because it’s a palindrome?  “Able was I ere I saw civic.”  Or perhaps, you can only drive one in the city?

And what about those car names that have no real connection to this palpable corner of time and space that we think of as reality?  For example, what was the Prius named after?  The closest I can come up with is priapus, and I am too much of a gentleman to tell you what that means, but in this palpable corner of time and space, ‘You Could Look It Up’ (Thank you again, Mr. Thurber).

Or an Acura?  I suppose that is designed to get you exactly where you want to go.

How many college educated, English speaking automobile executives do you think it required   to come up with the name ‘Brat’?  Or ‘Rabbit’?  Or ‘Scamp’?

I would like to suggest a few names to the automobile and advertising execs of the world.  How about a 2013 ‘High Quality Fairly Priced’?

Or maybe a brand new ‘Doesn’t Have A Lot Of Silly Gadgets You Really Don’t Need’?  Or how about a ‘Starts Every Time And Gets You There Safely’?

Nah, probably not.  None of them have that certain something, that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that will motivate a modern consumer to sign that loan agreement.

So, when I do finally get another car, I think I will just ignore whatever is on the nameplate and christen it myself.  I’m thinking of calling it James Thurber.

Finally April

 Baseball is back.

Floodlights! Fireworks! Twenty-one gun salute! Parades! Speeches! Yipees! Free drinks! Hip-hip hoorays! Noisemakers! Silly hats!

Baseball is back!

The ending of the 2012 baseball season was a bit of a downer. The Tigers, a really good team with a really good manager, momentum, pitching, hitting, fielding, kismet, karma and destiny on their side, went down in four games to the SF Giants.  Their bellweather, star and Triple Crown winner watched a third strike sail unmolested over the plate in the ninth inning of that fourth game, and it was all over.  As that great baseball fan T.S. Eliot wrote, “This is the way the world (series) ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”

This year, all of the things that have remained the same look so very different.  The Houston Astros are in the American League.  Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox are being picked to win the AL East.  Baltimore and Toronto, never exactly considered to be powerhouses, are.  The LA Dodgers and the LA Angels have both spend wildly in the off season, and either can be thought of as the Yankees of the West.

There are 162 games to go, and right now, every team, even the Mets, is in first place.

Ahhhhh. Baseball.

To help get you in the mood,  here is Centerfield, by John Fogerty.