Bootcamp Day 22 — Radio Disney

Today was a hellishly busy day at work, leaving me no time to listen to XM. So it’s just as well that today’s Bootcamp assignment was Radio Disney.

I listened for a short while at home this morning, until my son demanded I turn it off — a demand to which I was quite happy to agree. In the short time we listened, I heard more about Hillary Duff than I needed to know, as well as being treated to a McDonald’s commercial and some vaguely music-like noises.

Even though I don’t have XM in the car, I got more Bootcamp time on the way to work by listening to the local Radio Disney AM affiliate, KMKY/1310. Again, I was treated to more information about Hillary Duff, including her sister’s name (which I promptly forgot, and which turns out to be more difficult to find via Google than I would have expected (for those of you who are curious, it’s Haylie). And one of the songs I heard appeared to be the theme of a program I’d seen in the TV listings for the Disney Channel.

I decided that I didn’t need to try to work to the sounds of Radio Disney, and as it turned out, my day didn’t even make that an option. But I did tune in one more time to KMKY/1310 on the drive home — and they were having some sort of contest, and pushing yet another Disney product.

I have a friend who has two daughters, 11 and 13, and he says that they listen to Radio Disney frequently, as well as watching shows on the Disney Channel. I guess boys and girls are different, because the only Disney demand in our household is for trips to Disneyland. And I’m pleased about that.

I am grateful about one aspect of my Radio Disney experience: they didn’t play “It’s a Small World” during the time I was listening. I don’t think I’m going to give them another chance.

Shabbat Shalom!

Bootcamp Day 21 — XM Pops

XM Pops has been the most-listened channel in our house since we got XM in early December. Its goal is to play the basic repertoire, and it succeeds admirably in that goal. When we tune in, there’s always something familiar, and it’s always enjoyable.

There are times when I’d like a bit more humanness on the channel, giving a bit more information about the music, but otherwise, it’s just fine. And when I want to hear something more adventuresome…well, that’s why Bootcamp has been so educational.

Bootcamp Day 20 — Deep Tracks

Back on January 13th, when Bootcamp visited the 70’s, I wondered where all of the music I’d listened to during that decade had gone.

Today, that question was answered as Bootcamp moved on to Deep Tracks. This was yet another channel which I hadn’t had a chance to listen to at any length, but which I expected to like when I got around to it, and today was my chance.

I awaken most mornings to KDFC/102.1, which I usually turn off immediately, and that’s it until it’s nearly time to leave for work. But this morning, I prevailed on Jeff and Diane to let me turn on the XM radio right after breakfast so I could get started with Deep Tracks. And I wasn’t disappointed — my instant reaction was, “I haven’t heard that song for a long time”. Unfortunately, the song in question was The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Rain on the Roof”, which was never one of my favorites, but it did set the mood of rediscovery for the day.

I had to go back to FM for the drive to work — I used to like the Greg Kihn show on KUFX/98.5, but the music/talk ratio has been deteriorating for a long time, and today was no exception. And, of course, they tend to play the same few hundred songs all the time — Boston’s “Just Another Band from Boston” was the only song I heard during my drive (I gave up and went back to KCBS/740 for news).

When I got to my office, I fired up the XMPCR to continue listening to Deep Tracks, and decided I’d see if I could get a request onto their queue. The DJ (I think it was Earle, but I’m not sure) answered right away, and we chatted for a bit (including a discussion of Bootcamp and of this weblog). I had two requests in mind — I wanted to hear pretty much anything by Quicksilver Messenger Service, but he’d just played something by them, so we moved on to my second request, “The Intro and the Outro” by the Bonzo Dog Band. I was afraid he’d tell me it belonged on Special X, but he didn’t — instead, he said he’d play it in six minutes. And he did, just in time for me to hear it before my first conference call of the day.

I kept listening, albeit usually as background music, all day, and enjoyed it immensely. I must admit to tuning away when the Grateful Dead Hour started, though — I do have my limits.

I’ll be back to Deep Tracks frequently. Strongly recommended!

Bootcamp Day 19 — Real Jazz

One of the nice things about living in the Bay Area is having a full-time jazz station, KCSM/91.1; I’m a member, and it’s been one of the presets on my car radio for a number of years. But they talk a lot. Sometimes, it’s good, when they’re talking about the music; other times, it’s not so good, when they’re going through the Jazz Datebook or asking for support (I know that they have to run pledge drives — that’s how they got me to join in the first place — but I don’t have to like them). And reception could be better in a lot of places. But still, it’s one of the FM stations I listen to most often.

So I expected to enjoy today’s Bootcamp channel, Real Jazz. And I was not disappointed. I’ve enjoyed almost everything I’ve heard today, whether I was using it as background or foreground listening (more background than foreground, I’m afraid). The only real problem was a timing problem — today is also Mozart’s birthday, and I’d also like to be listening to the All-Mozart day on XM Classics. But it’s ok — I’m sure we’ll be listening to Mozart at home.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep listening to jazz at work — definitely worth a preset!

Bootcamp Day 18 — Discovery Radio

I hadn’t gotten around to listening to Discovery Radio before today — for that matter, I haven’t watched much on Discovery TV even though I’ve had it on cable and satellite for many years. Both the radio and TV stations are loaded with interesting shows about various topics (I’m listening to one on synthetic memories now). But they require one to pay attention to get any value out of the time, and it’s hard to pay attention to the radio while doing the kind of work IBM wants me to do.

I could definitely enjoy listening to this channel on a plane, or at the gym, or even while driving — but it’s not something I can deal with at my desk. I’m giving it a “B” despite being unable to listen to it here, because what I did hear was very good.

Save Special X!

Today is a special, and sad, day at XM Bootcamp. XM announced changes to their channel lineup at CES; those changes take effect on February 1. Four channels got the axe — three which were sourced from Univision and played Latin music, and one XM original: Special X.

Special X plays anything and everything, starting with the weird and getting stranger from there. Of course they play traditional odd stuff, like Weird Al Yankovic, Tiny Tim, and Mrs. Miller, and they play the Dr. Demento show frequently — but you can hear that on the regular radio dial if you look carefully. Special X goes farther: they have a six-hour surf music extravaganza (“Wax My Woody”); there’s the weekly Polka Party; I just listened to “Sci Fi Hi Fi”, which is just what you’re afraid it is; they feature cartoon music on “Wabbit Tracks”, and they can get even stranger — I survived an episode of “The Fabulous World of Parrot Training Records” earlier this morning.

No, it’s not a channel which appeals to everyone; it’s not even a channel which appeals to me all of the time — and I don’t think it would make good background music at work. But it’s a channel which makes XM special, and I will be very sorry to see it go dark next weekend.

But the badges WERE stinkin'!

We’re just back from the first BADGES (Bay Area Dining and Geocaching Enthusiasts Society) dinner, where I picked up Cassie, my first travel bug. Now I have not only to get her to France (that’s easy), but I have to find a cache big enough in which to leave her (and that may be tricky).

Cassie the Travel Bug: On her way to France...maybe. It was good being able to put faces to names (or aliases), but there was one small problem with the event — if you used the marker the hosts provided for the name tags, you wound up with, very literally, a stinking badge.

Bootcamp Day 16 — America

When I was growing up, I claimed to like almost all kinds of music — the only kind I was sure I didn’t like was country.

Of course, when I was growing up, there weren’t as many different sources of music as there are today — the idea of 60 channels of music, each playing a somewhat different variety, was as wild an impossibility as being able to choose between more than three TV shows would have been.

So the only country music I was ever exposed to was whatever was being broadcast on WXGI/950 — and I definitely didn’t like it. As far as I could tell, it was all the same song, twangy and irritating.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that there are many more kinds of music than I heard as a kid, and I’ve learned that I like many of them — not all, by any means, as the “F”s on my Bootcamp Scorecard show. But I have rarely gone back to a variety that I decided I disliked.

So I thought I was being generous when I predicted a “C” for today’s Bootcamp channel, America. And when I first tuned in this morning, my initial reaction wasn’t very favorable — the music was twangy and irritating.

But then Larry Gatlin’s “She Used to Be Somebody’s Baby” came on, and I realized that there was more to country music than I had known. I would have thought I was listening to gospel music, except that there was a bit of a twang in the voices.

I kept listening for a while and enjoyed most of what I heard; then I turned it off and went to work. I set the XMPCR back up, and tuned in, and again, I liked most of what I heard. There were even some songs which I knew and liked, such as Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — I just hadn’t thought of those songs as being “country”.

Hey, there’s another familiar song on right now — Alison Krause’s “Man of Constant Sorrow” — I know the song (if not this performance) from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?“, a movie I really liked (especially for its music).

Today’s Bootcamp experience was a pleasant surprise, and I’ll be back for more (though I can’t decide between giving it a “B+” or an “A-“). Definitely a solid end to the week, and a huge improvement over the last couple of days.

Shabbat Shalom!

Bootcamp Day 15 — SquiZZ

After yesterday’s experience with The Rhyme, I was confident that SquiZZ would be a significant improvement in my XM diet. But I didn’t have high hopes (as you can tell from my expected rating of “C”).

I was pleasantly surprised when I tuned in — the music was a bit harder-edged than most of what I like to listen to, but not so hard-edged as to irritate me. And when I listened this afternoon, I enjoyed Grant, the announcer. But I wasn’t crazy about the lyrics of a lot of the songs — it wasn’t as bad as on The Rhyme (and I dread the day Bootcamp visits Raw), but there were still more Strong Words than I like to hear in my music.

I can see coming back to listen again from time to time, but I don’t think SquiZZ will earn a preset from me.

I guess it was random!

I flew home from Tucson today; unlike Monday, I didn’t have to go through secondary security screening. *whew*

The flight (on Horizon) was very nice — in other words, I had an empty seat next to me and no one in front of me reclining the seat. It was too early in the day to have a beer (Bert Grant’s Deep Powder Winter Ale, from the Yakima Brewing and Malting Company), but I did give it careful consideration, because it had been quite tasty on Monday afternoon.

Perhaps the best part of the flight, though, was the time. My meeting wrapped up last night, so I changed my reservations and took an 11:10am flight out of Tucson (we actually were “wheels up” at 11:07!) and was home well before 2pm. And so I’ll be having dinner at home with my family instead of at an airport — much nicer!

XM Bootcamp II Schedule and Scorecard

For each channel, I’ve included a link to its home page on XM’s site; I’ve also predicted the grade I’ll give to each channel; I updated each channel’s listing after I visited it with my actual grade and with a link to my discussion of the channel in my blog. I’ve also written a Bootcamp Retrospective, complete with awards.

Date Channel Channel
Name and Home Page
Category Expected
Grade
Actual Grade and Blog Link
1/6/2004 4 The 40s Decades C B
1/7/2004 5 The 50s Decades B- C
1/8/2004 6 The 60s Decades B- A
1/9/2004 151 Laugh USA Comedy B B
1/10/2004 121 Fox News News    
1/12/2004 28 On Broadway Hits B- B
1/13/2004 7 The 70s Decades B C
1/14/2004 22 The Mix Hits D- C
1/15/2004 9 The 90s Decades D- F
1/16/2004 21 KISS XM Hits F F
1/17/2004 122 CNN News    
1/18/2004   Aguila (90)/Vibra(92)/Tejano (93)** Latin    
1/19/2004 169 The Power Talk & Variety D D
1/20/2004 74 Bluesville Jazz & Blues C B+
1/21/2004 65 The Rhyme Urban F F
1/22/2004 48 SquiZZ Rock C C+
1/23/2004 10 America Country C B+
1/24/2004 123 CNN Headline News    
1/25/2004 30** Special X Hits   B
1/26/2004 161 Discovery Radio Talk & Variety C B
1/27/2004 70 Real Jazz Jazz & Blues B A-
1/28/2004 40 Deep Tracks Rock A A
1/29/2004 113 XM Pops Classical A A
1/30/2004 115 Radio Disney Kids C D
1/31/2004 124 ABC News & Talk News    
2/2/2004 16 Highway 16 Country C C
2/3/2004 25 The Blend Hits C B-
2/4/2004 53 Fungus Rock C+ C
2/5/2004 54 Lucy Rock C+ B-
2/6/2004 101 The Joint World C C+
2/7/2004 125 Weather Channel News    
2/9/2004 162 E! Talk & Variety D F
2/10/2004 13 Hank’s Place Country C B+
2/11/2004 73 Frank’s Place Jazz & Blues C+ B+
2/12/2004 91 Caricia Latin C C
2/13/2004 23 The Heart Hits C C
2/14/2004 127 CNBC News    
2/16/2004 52 Unsigned Rock C- C+
2/17/2004 61 The Flow Urban D C
2/18/2004 8 The 80s Decades C- B+
2/19/2004 82 The System Dance D B-
2/20/2004 20 Top 20 On 20 Hits F F
2/21/2004 129 Bloomberg News News    
2/23/2004 165 Ask! Talk & Variety D F
2/24/2004 50 The Loft Rock B B+
2/25/2004 31 The Torch Christian F F
2/26/2004 60 Soul Street Urban C B
2/27/2004 51 XM Music Lab Rock C B-
2/28/2004 130 MSNBC News    
3/1/2004 166 Buzz XM Talk & Variety D F
3/2/2004 14 Bluegrass Junction Country C A-
3/3/2004 67 The City Urban D D
3/4/2004 80 The Move Dance D D+
3/5/2004 156 VH-1 Radio Talk & Variety D C-
3/6/2004 131 BBC World Service News    
3/8/2004 163 Sonic Theater Talk & Variety C I
3/9/2004 44 Fred Rock C B-
3/10/2004 64 The Groove Urban D C-
3/11/2004 12 X Country Country C B-
3/12/2004 32 The Fish Christian F F
3/13/2004 132 C-Span News    
3/15/2004 27 Cinemagic Hits B B
3/16/2004 72 Beyond Jazz Jazz & Blues B B-
3/17/2004 15 The Village Country A A
3/18/2004 116 XM Kids Kids C C+
3/19/2004 24 Sunny Hits C D
3/20/2004 134 CNN en Espanol News    
3/22/2004 164 Radio Classics Talk & Variety C I
3/23/2004 110 XM Classics Classical A A
3/24/2004 49 Fine Tuning Rock A A
3/25/2004 83 Chrome Dance D C+
3/26/2004 45 XM Cafe Rock C+ B
3/27/2004 140 ESPN Radio Sports    
3/29/2004 152 Extreme XM Talk & Variety D F
3/30/2004 47 Ethel Rock C C-
3/31/2004 66 Raw Urban F F
4/1/2004 150 XM Comedy Comedy C D
4/2/2004 42 XM Liquid Metal Rock D F
4/3/2004 141 ESPNews Sports    
4/5/2004 171 Open Road Talk & Variety D D-
4/6/2004 41 Boneyard Rock C C-
4/7/2004 71 Watercolors Jazz & Blues B B
4/8/2004 94 Caliente Latin C C+
4/9/2004 170 Family Talk Talk & Variety D F
4/10/2004 142 Fox Sports Sports    
4/12/2004 33 Spirit Urban F C-
4/13/2004 102 Ngoma World D C
4/14/2004 76 On The Rocks Jazz & Blues C+ B+
4/15/2004 46 Top Tracks Rock B+ B+
4/16/2004 11 Nashville! Country C C
4/17/2004 143 Sporting News Sports    
4/19/2004 103 Audio Visions World B B-
4/20/2004 81 BPM Dance D B-
4/21/2004 29 U-Pop Hits C C-
4/22/2004 100 World Zone World C A-
4/23/2004 112 Vox! Classical B- C
4/24/2004 144 NASCAR Sports    
4/26/2004 155 MTV Radio Talk & Variety D D
4/27/2004 62 Suite 62 Urban D B-
4/28/2004 75 Luna Jazz & Blues C A
4/29/2004 43 XMU Rock C B-
4/30/2004 26 XM Live Hits C+ B-

** Channels removed 1 February 2004

Bootcamp Day 14 — The Rhyme

When Shibby set up the bootcamp, he gave us advice:

How can I listen to a channel I know already I won’t be able to stand?

Well, of course, you can simply avoid the channel. Short of that, here’s some tips that may help you survive a day you think is going to be hell:

  • Go in with a good attitude, or at least no attitude. If you are convinced that you absolutely cannot stand a certain type of music, there’s not going to be much room for discovery. Keep an open mind.
  • Turn the volume down. Sometimes, allowing the music to fade into the background brought me good results. If you focus on something other than the music that’s playing, you just might find yourself tapping your foot to the beat to a type of music you thought you couldn’t stand. For me, this was particularly useful during the Country and Urban categories.

When I read that advice, I knew that it would apply very directly to today’s channel, The Rhyme.

I tried. I listened in my hotel room, with the volume down and the air conditioning up. And, if I couldn’t hear any of the words, it wasn’t totally intolerable most of the time. But when I got close to the speakers, or when the air conditioning stopped, and the words became clear, I was not a happy camper.

I think I’ll listen to other channels when I get back to the hotel.

Bootcamp Day 13 — Bluesville

Bluesville is one of the channels I thought I’d enjoy, but that I hadn’t gotten around to actually spending time with — a perfect candidate for Bootcamp.

I took advantage of timezone slippage again, and started listening soon after midnight Eastern (which was late last night, Arizona time). I’d had a good evening visiting with family, but nonetheless, I was sitting in a hotel room, 700 miles away from home, so it was a good environment for the blues. And I liked the music, even though it suffered from the laptop speaker blues.

I kept on listening this morning, but I didn’t find the music as compelling or suited to my mood (I like upbeat music in the morning, and “upbeat blues” is not a phrase which comes trippingly to the tongue). When I get back to the hotel, I’ll give it another shot, but it’s pretty clear to me that this is a channel that I’ll want to listen to more at some times than others. I might give this channel a preset at home or work, but probably not in the car.

And now I’m back in the hotel after dinner, listening to Bluesville again — the more I listen, the more I enjoy it. I don’t know if that’s because blues fit my evening mood better than my morning mood, if the selection’s different, or just because — but I’ll definitely come back for more.

Hotel Recommendation – Hilton Tucson East

I’m in Tucson, Arizona, at the IBM Academy of Technology‘s Technology Council meeting. They selected the Hilton Tucson East as the hotel, even though it’s 20 minutes away from the meeting site.

I think they made a good choice; the hotel has been very accomodating and friendly, and there’s a reasonable choice of restaurants in the area. They add lots of nice amenities for Gold members (including cookies and water delivered to the room, as well as chocolate on arrival and bonus Hilton points), too. And they even gave me a room with a southern exposure, so I can listen to XM (though that was a random deal — I didn’t ask for it).

I would happily stay there again, though given my rate of visits to Tucson, that may not happen for a long time (my last visit was 20 years ago).

The wrong kind of elite security line…

I have a 1:25pm flight today to Tucson. I’m paranoid, so I left the house at 10:25am. There wasn’t much traffic on the roads, so it didn’t take me very long to get to the airport; in fact, I had returned the car and was in the terminal at 11:25.

That gave me plenty of time for a leisurely lunch (I hit Burger Joint in the International Terminal — it’s good, but I could have found something healthier). Then I walked over to Terminal 1 and the line for security screening.

I usually fly American; I’m an AAdvantage Platinum customer, so I get to use the express entry to the security line. Every time I fly another airline, I remember how much time being an elite member saves me, so I wasn’t looking forward to the long line here. I was pleasantly surprised when they looked at my boarding pass and ushered me over to a shorter line — I thought that the Alaska/American frequent flyer deal was paying off for me.

The pleasantness of the surprise didn’t last long. The TSA agent asked me if I was familiar with the secondary screening process; I wasn’t. So he explained it; I had to take off my shoes, jacket, empty my pockets, and wait for an agent who could wand me down and do a hand-check of my baggage. Fortunately, I hadn’t over-packed, so I wasn’t worried about being unable to get my stuff back into the bag without extreme measures. And I still had plenty of time, so I wasn’t worrying about missing my flight.

The process didn’t take much longer than normal screening — I was finished in less than ten minutes, and I’m pretty sure I missed at least five minutes of standing in line. But on the whole, I’d be happy not to be given this kind of special treatment.

Bootcamp Day 12 — The Power

The Power is a talk radio station, and talk radio is very low on my list of things to listen to, so it’s not too surprising that I haven’t found this channel very interesting and won’t be spending much time on it. I expect to have the same reaction to the other talk channels — there will probably be a few which I’ll like even less, in fact.

The ads for weight-reduction products and tax-reduction schemes don’t improve my reaction to this channel, either.

I’m going back to Special X, rejoining Magical Misery Tour, which is already in progress.

A Surprise Geocaching Convention

Today was Book Group day at Shir Hadash (Diane’s the coordinator); we discussed Everything Is Illuminated, a very interesting and worthwhile book. After lunch, we wanted to get some exercise, and Diane was going to go to the Y while Jeff and I were ready to walk to Jamba Juice — and then I noticed that our friend Sam had called and wanted me to call his cellphone.

So I did; he and his family were in Belgatos Park, geocaching, and wanted to know if we were interested in joining them. We were, and caught up with them in the parking lot. They had done two caches and were ready to drive to the other side of the park for a few more, but were willing to wait so we could pick up the caches.

The first one, Tarmac Trail, was only a few hundred feet away and took only a couple of minutes to bag. For the second one, Forest Stump, we had to get across a little creek (we took a route which was muddier than required…I didn’t realize there were two bridges within a three minute walk!) and then climb up a trail and around a few switchbacks. As we neared what we thought was the site, we noticed a few other people with GPSes in hand — two other geocaching groups were out on this beautiful Sunday, too. So we all logged the cache and chatted for a while (and our friends joined us while we were talking). The other groups had been on the other side of Belgatos Park and warned us that there was no parking available, so we had to decide: walk about a mile (plus about 400 feet of vertical gain) and return before it got dark in an hour, or do something else.

We chose to do something else, and picked up the first part of a multi-step cache, The Harry Surprise. By that time, it was getting a little dark, so we decided to call it an afternoon and went home.

There will be a Geocaching Dinner next weekend, and we plan to be there. It should be easy to find.

Day 10 — Kiss this one off, too…

Today’s Bootcamp stop was KISS XM, which is described as:

a maximum music, 100% Pop Hits channel focusing on today’s mega-songs, as well as the biggest songs from the past few years. With Rick Dees in the Morning, KISS XM is a powerhouse of blockbuster songs…one after another.

I gave it a shot for an hour this afternoon; maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have a subwoofer for my speakers. But I do, so there was a constant thump-thump-thump coming from the mega-songs, and that’s not what I want to hear — one hour was plenty.

I may not be able to keep up with Bootcamp next week, since I’ll be travelling and don’t know if I’ll have XM; if not, I’ll catch up later on.

Shabbat Shalom!

Day 9 — Not the way I remember the 90s!

Bootcamp moved along again today — we spent the day in the 90’s. I have to confess that music wasn’t my highest priority during the 90’s; Jeff was born on February 1, 1990, and, as everyone says, having a child will change your life.

We never stopped listening to classical music, but we did play a lot of other music, espcially during the first half of the decade. Raffi was popular for a short time, but Jeff outgrew him quickly (whew). We watched a lot of Sesame Street, which brought along some fun music (I still like “Put Down The Ducky”, in fact). But the favorite in our household was Sharon, Lois, and Bram. We discovered them one day on Nickelodeon — eventually, we had many tapes of the Elephant Show. Like Sesame Street, the show had enough subtle humor for adults to enjoy (though it was aimed squarely at pre-schooler), and the music was enjoyable even if your age was in double digits. We even went to Great America to see them live.

But once Jeff started school, he outgrew Sharon, Lois, and Bram. And there wasn’t a replacement; instead, we went back to listening to classical music.

But while we weren’t looking, the Bay Area had lost one of its two classical stations. KKHI/95.7 was sold to Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1994; Westinghouse immediately changed its format to all-news. But it wasn’t a respectable all-news station like KCBS/740 — instead, it focussed its attention on the hot story of the day, the OJ Trial. All OJ, all the time — just what I didn’t need.

So I started listening to KDFC/102.1. When we first moved to the Bay Area, KDFC was a very sedate station; it played all classical music (as it still does today), but there were no live announcers. Instead, it was all automated; each piece was introduced by a very quiet announcement giving the composer, title, year, and performer. And the commercials were few, far between, and equally quiet — in particular, there was no music on the commercials. So it was a great place for music, but in a boring way.

That changed over the years, especially after KDFC was sold to Bonneville International. Announcers (many of them refugees from KKHI) came on board, the commercial load increased, and the days of screening the commercials so they were in keeping with the music ended.

But it was the only game in town for classical music, so we kept listening.

In the meantime, the popular music of the 90’s kept going without us. Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice, Ricky Martin, Bon Jovi…I heard of them all without hearing them.

And now that I’ve spent a while listening to 90’s on 9, I can say that I don’t think I missed a lot. I heard a couple of pleasant tunes during the short time I was able to listen this afternoon (about 1pm Pacific), but there was a lot of other music I didn’t like. It also didn’t seem to be a great choice to use as background, especially during a conference call, so I turned it off and resolved to tune in again at home.

Which I did; the mix of music seems to be a little different than it was this afternoon — significantly harder-edged, and I can’t say I’ve heard any songs that I’d want to hear again.

So it’s back to XM Pops for the rest of the evening — Diane and Jeff will be relieved, too.

Day 8 — a pleasant surprise at the Mix

I don’t listen to very much of today’s popular music, at least not intentionally — I do find it being inflicted on me in various shops and from cars waiting at stoplights, and I generally don’t like it. So I didn’t have high hopes for today’s Bootcamp stop, the Mix, XM Channel 22. In fact, I chose to wait until I got to the office to start listening, rather than turning it on while we got ready for work and school, as I’ve done for most Bootcamp days.

But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve heard so far. Many of the tunes were familiar, and I’ve enjoyed the music much more than I expected. The music has been mostly upbeat and energizing, but not so much so that I can’t use it as background while I work. And there hasn’t been anything which has really turned me off, unlike yesterday’s visit to the 70’s.

As I type this, I’m listening to OutKast’s “Hey Ya”, which Brad Kava described in his Murky Nooz column today as “sort of the Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ of its day”. I’d never heard it before (though I gather it’s very popular :-)), and I wouldn’t compare it to “Good Vibrations”, but I enjoyed discovering it.

Will I come back to the Mix on a regular basis? Probably not often, but it’ll be worth an occasional visit.

Sheltered from the worst of the 70s….

I started college in September, 1971, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Soon after arriving, I got interested in the campus radio station, WRPI 91.5.

I started out wanting to be a news announcer; WRPI had a small news department, and they were happy to have me join them. Well, I think they were happy — when I first auditioned, the News Director gave me a hard time about my Southern accent. He was probably joking, but somehow I managed to lose the accent within a couple of weeks (I have no idea how I did it), and I became a regular news announcer.

Or, to be more accurate, a news reader. We were urged to avoid Rip’n’Read newscasts, but our sole source of news was the AP teletype, and there wasn’t much room for creativity there. I did learn the secret news-only phone number for the Weather Service at the Albany Airport, and I got pretty good at copying down data from them very quickly, but that was about the limit.

So I decided to broaden my horizons and got involved in both the engineering and the programming sides of the station. I didn’t get deeply involved in engineering (that would have required learning how to solder, among other things), but I did get my FCC Third Class Radiotelephone License with Broadcast Endorsement, making me legally qualified to run the station. I also went through the internal qualification process to take an airshift, first as an engineer for another announcer, and then as my own engineer. So I had my Very Own Show on WRPI, late in the afternoon. I got to choose the music, run the station, and respond to the audience (well, that last didn’t take much time…it wasn’t exactly prime shift).

WRPI had two classes of announcers: Format and Non-Format. The Format was the master list of songs which were available for use, printed fresh every week — when you played a song, you crossed it off, so that it wouldn’t be overused. The Format also dictated the rotation between classes of music; we were heavy on “Folk Rock” (groups like Steeleye Span, Pentangle, and Fairport Convention) and “Progressive Rock” (groups like Yes, Genesis, and Jade Warrior), with the odd bit of “other” (including the fourth movement of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, which I played fairly often). Although I had qualified as a Non-Format announcer, my show was during Format hours, and I stuck pretty much to the guidelines of the Format. The evening was Non-Format time, and some of those announcers could get fairly esoteric — here’s a promo for a Saturday Night Special featuring the Mothers of Invention.

When I wasn’t working at the station, I was usually listening to it (and if I wasn’t listening to WRPI, I was listening to the classical stations in the area, WAMC and WMHT).

After leaving school, moving to Florida, going to work, and getting married, music played less of a role in my life; if the radio was on at home, it was usually on WTMI, the Miami-based classical station. I’d sometimes listen to WSHE, which was the local progressive rock station, but not all that often.

There was a perennial controversy during my years at WRPI — the staff and volunteers wanted to play Good Stuff, and the student government (which funded us) wanted us to play the same music they could hear on WTRY, the local Top 40 outlet. We won the battle, and so WRPI presented a choice, not an echo.

And now that I’ve been listening to the 70’s on 7 as today’s XM Bootcamp exercise, I’m very glad that we won — because this is definitely not the music I want to remember from the 70’s!

I knew it was going to be bad last night, actually. Just before going to bed, I tuned the radio to Channel 7 so I’d be ready — and I was immediately greeted by “Stayin’ Alive” (which I’ve heard again today). Today started off in the same vein: Donna Summer’s version of “MacArthur Park” was part of my complete breakfast. And I’d managed to forget “I’ve Got A Brand New Pair Of Roller Skates (You’ve Got A Brand New Key” until today. Sure, there have been a few good songs (but I can’t remember any at the moment), but the balance is definitely on the side of dross.

And now that I’ve looked at the channel’s home page, I think I’d better turn it off NOW, before they live up to their threats and play Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun”!

Bootcamp Day 6 — On Broadway

I spent the day On Broadway. I enjoy listening to show tunes, and so I expected to enjoy today’s bootcamp experience, and I wasn’t disappointed. The channel has a live announcer in the morning and is automated the rest of the day — I was happy with both modes of operation.

The main problem with this channel, like many others, is trying to use it as background music while working. I kept finding myself wanting to listen to the music, and even turning up the volume from time to time — which didn’t work out well when I had to be on the phone. This would be a great channel to listen to in the car, though!

Tomorrow, it’s the 70’s; I’m planning to work from home and I don’t have many conference calls, so I may be able to turn it up a bit…which I’ll probably regret when they start playing disco!

A quiet weekend

It was a mostly relaxing weekend, which was a Good Thing between busy weeks at work. No major purchases to report, either, though I do want to find a dealer with silver and red ’04 Priuses sometime so I can see what those colors actually look like. Not that I have any imminent plans requiring that knowledge or anything like that.

We did make a quick trip to Costco and bought a blister pack full of phones to replace our existing cordless and answering machine; the old cordless had a wonderful “out of range alarm” feature which beeped if you walked far enough from the base unit for the remote to lose signal. Unfortunately, the alarm also sounded if the base unit lost power, which was not a good thing at 3am. The new cordless units put a message on their display if you try to use them and they don’t have a signal — that seems to be more reasonable behavior to me.

Wrapping up the week

I finally made it home — then we made Shabbat and had dinner — and now I’m sitting in front of the computer reflecting for a few minutes before shutting down and relaxing.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been back at work for a week — vacation seems like it was a long time ago. It’s almost as hard to believe that Monday was a quiet day, and Tuesday wasn’t really busy…because it’s been run, run, run full out since then!

XM Bootcamp has been interesting, too; I was surprised by how much I liked the 60’s on 6 and the 40’s on 4. I expected to enjoy the 50’s on 5 more than I did; Laugh USA didn’t surprise me at all.

Now, it’s time to turn to other pursuits; tomorrow, we start Torah study again (Proverbs, which should be interesting) after a one-week break while the Rabbi was out of town (we finished the Twelve Minor Prophets just before the end of the year — we really zoomed through Joel, too!). Sunday morning is busy, too. And we have some paperwork to get done before Sunday. But other than that, this should be a quiet weekend — and I’m quite ready for it!

Too busy to laugh….or sweat

Today, XM Bootcamp visited Laugh USA, XM’s family-friendly comedy channel. Jeff and I listened to a bit of it this morning during breakfast, but once I got to work, I didn’t even try — listening to comedy requires paying attention, and my attention was otherwise required by work.

In fact, work required so much of my attention and time that my firm resolve to leave early and go to the YMCA fell victim to the “needs of the business”; instead, I was hard at work when it came time to leave. I can’t say I’m hard at work at this particular moment, typing this blog entry, but I’m not quite finished for the day yet, either…just one more paper to read….

Next week’s revised Bootcamp schedule starts out promising with On Broadway on Monday [was Cinemagic when I first wrote this item] and the 70’s on Tuesday; I’m not as enthusiastic about the rest of the week, though. But that’s all next week’s problem — for now, let me wish you all a Shabbat Shalom.

We have a winner!

I kept my receiver glued to the 60’s on 6 most of the day, even though it was somewhat distracting at times, especially during CQ USA when I was trying to call in to make my request (it’s hard to type and dial the phone at the same time!). I remembered almost all of the songs I heard during the day, but there were a few I don’t recall, which was a pleasant surprise.

Not everything I heard was high-quality music (I’m thinking especially of Mrs. Miller’s rendering of Downtown) [RealAudio from Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits, courtesy of Frank’s Vinyl Museum]), but it all made me feel good.

Tomorrow, it’s clean comedy from Laugh USA — yet another channel which probably doesn’t mix well with doing work.

I guess I need to figure out the best way of putting XM in my car…that’ll be my fourth XM receiver. I got notification today that the rebate for my second receiver (a Sony PnP, which they’ve discontinued for good reason) will be processed in due time — I’ll have to remember to check with them if I don’t get it in another five weeks. If I do get the rebate, the receiver will have turned out to be free (actually, I’ll make a small profit on it)…but rebates are notorious for problems.

Bootcamp Day 3 — 60's on 6

I’m cheating a bit so I can talk about the 60’s on
6
now instead of waiting for morning — tomorrow is going to be a
busy day at work. So I’ve reconfigured my settings to pretend that I’m
in the Eastern Time Zone (the official time zone of both XM Bootcamp and IBM) — but in a way,
that’s appropriate, because I am pretty sure that I spent the
entire decade of the 60’s in the Eastern Time Zone.

It was
during the 60’s that I really started to listen to radio — the main
station I listened to was WLEE, 1480 on your radio dial, in Richmond,
Virginia. In some ways, I didn’t have any choice about listening to
them — not only did they have the best music of the day, and some of
the best jocks (I remember Shane quite well), but they beamed their
awesome 5 kilowatt signal right at my house, so they leaked in when I
was trying to listen to other stations, too!

And I did try to listen
to other stations back then — my mother bought me an old Hallicrafters
SX-25
, which I used until its very longwire antenna got hit by
lightning and a bunch of smoke came out, ruining the receiver. But by
then, I’d gotten interested in broadcast band DXing, using a mighty
Radio Shack TRF — it worked pretty darn well, too. Eventually, I
joined the International Radio Club of
America
, and even almost bid to hold its national convention (but
was talked out of it at the last minute, which hindsight shows was a
Good Thing…I guess, though, that that was my first touch of smoffing).

But when I wasn’t DXing, I was listening for the music — not just
to WLEE, but also to classic rockers like WABC, New York (it came in
just fine in the evenings, and I even tried to listen during the
daytime), enjoying (if that’s the word) Cousin Brucie. I remember the
jingles well.

So listening to the 60’s on 6 is definitely a trip
down Memory Lane for me — the songs are all familiar; the announcer has
the right sound; even the jingles are right. I’m waiting for the
all-request show later on to see how much it feels like WLEE’s
“Soundwave” — I remember many evenings when I’d dial the first six
digits of their request line, then dial the last digit but not release
the dial so that I’d be able to be the first caller when they opened up
the line. That just doesn’t work with Touch-Tone phones!

And, of
course, the radio dial in Richmond has
changed over the years — the WLEE call is still there, but on a
different frequency (990 — when I was growing up, that was WANT, the
soul station), and with different programming and ownership. And the
WLEE towers are gone — I bet I’d have an easier time DXing from my old
house these days.

As Shane would say when signing off…[drop voice
three octaves here:] “HEAVY!”

XM Bootcamp Day 2 — 50's on 5

Today’s episode of XM Bootcamp takes us to a decade with music I remember — the ’50s. I’ve only been listening for a few minutes, and I’ve already heard songs on both sides of the Rock&Roll divide (Frank Sinatra’s “The Lady is a Tramp” was the first song I heard; Freddy “Boom-Boom” Cannon’s “Palisades Park” was the second) — to my ears, there’s a lot more variety here than there was while I was listening yesterday.

And the announcers are more visible (I guess that should be audible, shouldn’t it?) than on the ’40s channel — it reminds me of listening to WLEE when I was in elementary school.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of teleconferences and meetings today, so I won’t be able to listen as much as I did yesterday (and ’50s music isn’t quite as easy for me to use as background music as ’40s was), but this is a channel I was already visiting from time to time anyway.

[Later…]

Yep, I was right about ’50s not being work-friendly — I eventually turned it off so I could concentrate. The music kept drawing me in; it’s going to be worse tomorrow when Bootcamp moves on to the ’60s (just in time for Elvis’s birthday, too).

Playing with Manila

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get Trackbacks to work, with some success, but now I have a mysterious “paramTable” at the top of my page. Maybe posting a second item will solve that problem…we’ll see.

Nope.

Time to try a Google search, or to learn to live with it.

Ha — found it! The &123;newsTitle&125; macro in the NewsDay template on the Advanced Prefs page was the culprit. I removed it, and away went “paramTable”.

At bootcamp (Day 1 — the 40s)

It’s been a long time since I updated my blog — work has been keeping me very busy, and it will probably continue to do so for the forseeable future (which, when you think of it, beats the hell out of most of the alternatives).

But I’m going to try to get back into the blogging habit this year, if for no other reason than to have a place to write about interesting books, wines, and so forth.

So I’ll start by talking about the latest toy I picked up —
XM Satellite Radio. Actually, three of them — two for the house and one for the office (and I hope to put one in my car some time, though I may wait for my next car, which I hope won’t be an imminent purchase). It’s much more pleasant than any of the local AM or FM stations — for two reasons so far: there’s a greater variety of music, and there isn’t a deluge of commercials (many of the channels I listen to are commercial-free, in fact).

There is, of course, an active fan site, and I’ve been spending time there; currently, they are encouraging listeners to take part in
XM Bootcamp II, sampling all of the channels over the next few months. I’ve signed up and am currently listening to today’s offering, the 40’s on 4. And I’m enjoying it — mostly upbeat music, not so intrusive as to keep me from being able to work while listening. It’s not just one song after another — they also give occasional news reports from the 40’s, and other announcements to give you the feeling that you are listening to real radio from the 40’s. Fun!

I don’t expect to listen to every day’s choice (I have no interest in the Christian channels, for example, and some of the rap and rock channels are not suitable for an office environment), but so far, so good.

At Bootcamp…

It’s been a long time since I updated my blog — work has been keeping me very busy, and it will probably continue to do so for the forseeable future (which, when you think of it, beats the hell out of most of the alternatives).

But I’m going to try to get back into the blogging habit this year, if for no other reason than to have a place to write about interesting books, wines, and so forth.

So I’ll start by talking about the latest toy I picked up — XM Satellite Radio. Actually, three of them — two for the house and one for the office (and I hope to put one in my car some time, though I may wait for my next car, which I hope won’t be an imminent purchase). It’s much more pleasant than any of the local AM or FM stations — for two reasons so far: there’s a greater variety of music, and there isn’t a deluge of commercials (many of the channels I listen to are commercial-free, in fact).

There is, of course, an active fan site, and I’ve been spending time there; currently, they are encouraging listeners to take part in XM Bootcamp II, sampling all of the channels over the next few months. I’ve signed up and am currently listening to today’s offering, the 40’s on 4. And I’m enjoying it — mostly upbeat music, not so intrusive as to keep me from being able to work while listening. It’s not just one song after another — they also give occasional news reports from the 40’s, and other announcements to give you the feeling that you are listening to real radio from the 40’s. Fun!

I don’t expect to listen to every day’s choice (I have no interest in the Christian channels, for example, and some of the rap and rock channels are not suitable for an office environment), but so far, so good.