They Might Be Trolls

I enjoy torturing innocent people.

One of my former students follows me on Twitter. They have a tendency to find music acts they love and absorb every little fact about them. I get that; I used to do the same thing with comic books (I still know more than I should about kryptonite).

Past obsessions include Simon & Garfunkel, The Monkees and Elton John. Their current primary focus seems to be They Might Be Giants (a favorite of mine as well).

The torture: posting fake TMBG albums on Twitter. Source albums and torture tools below.

Bonus irritation: right font, wrong word order.

Bonus Irritation: Changing the Band to The Monkees.
Bonus Irritation: That’s the name of Taylor Swift’s album.
NO IRRITATION REGISTERED. Even the “John Legend” thing didn’t bug them. Lesson: no more jazz albums!

I usually stuck these into real environments to make them more confusing.


Oh, no! MORE music stats? WHY?

Yesterday I wrote a long boring post no one will read about music I listened to in 2020. Everyone loves spreadsheets about music! Today I realized I forgot the thing I normally add: the iTunes list of most heard songs.

You'll always be iTunes in my heart. You play music. Tunes are music. YOU ARE ITUNES.

Here, another spreadsheet for you!

I’ve posted it in some form every year, and every year it grows more inaccurate at showing what I actually listened to during the year. The problem is that it doesn’t just include this year; it’s every play of every song in my library since I started counting. Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star” sits at number four even though I (probably) haven’t listened to it for a year.

Good song, though.

And right at the top is “He Will State The Obvious (Captain Obvious Theme Song)” That I originally found on the now-gone

Many years later I found Andrew Huang’s youtube channel and had no idea he was the songstowearpantsto guy, which is funny because his channel is named songstowearpantsto. I’m not smart.

At number 13 is everyone’s favorite song, “Track06.” I can’t find it online, but it’s a station ID from Oldies 103.3, a Boston oldies station (Los Angeles, think KRTH) that went off the air 8 years ago. It’s very short, so if it pops up on shuffle it almost always plays through.

According to this list I haven’t listened to The Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love” since July of 2019, but that’s a damned lie. I’ve listened to it a bunch because it’s one of the songs Spotify has decided to always play for me.

Stephin Merritt’s voice always sounds like it’s about to slide out of tune. Maybe the crazy deepness of it makes me notice the pitch more.

Number 44 is “hulk[1]”, a quote from the Incredible Hulk TV show.

Check out Bill Bixby’s sweet mom jeans!

Number 56 is Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar,” folled at number 57 by Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar.” Maybe they’re different versions; maybe they’re the same version on different albums. Who knows? If they’re the same one, then they win for most popular Luke song of all time, apparently.

Jonathan Richman’s “Miracles Will Start to Happen” would be next if you combine the 16 plays at numbers 135 & 136.

The most recently played song on the list is number 93, Adam & The Ants’ single version of “Cartrouble,” last heard on December 8th. The least recently heard is number 22, the Dead Kennedys cover of “Viva Las Vegas,” which played September 19, 2017.

So, two days of music stat posts. What have we learned?

Not much!


Too much about music stats

There’s a web page called How Bad Is Your Spotify? that looks at your Spotify playlists and listening habits and judges you like the record store guys in High Fidelity. You cannot win. If your tastes are too mainstream, you’re mocked for being a mindless drone. Too eclectic/obscure and you’re mocked for trying too hard. It’s amusing. My report started with:

Your spotify was heavy-eyeliner-post-punk-suburban-80s-nobody-puts-baby-in-a-corner bad.

Thank your obsessions with Talking Heads, new wave, and (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – From “Dirty Dancing” Soundtrack for that.

Mostly reasonable. I’m a 54 year old guy who grew up with KROQ as my background music, so new wave and Talking Heads fit pretty well. But I don’t remember the last time I listened to anything from Dirty Dancing.

Though I did make this last year.

Also, this comes up later:

You listen to these tracks too much:

  • Dress Sexy At My Funeral by Smog
  • Chelsea Hotel #2 by Leonard Cohen
  • Stella By Starlight by Miles Davis
  • Different Drum by Stone Poneys
  • These Things by Looper

And I do listen to most of those, but Chelsea Hotel #2 only comes up because Spotify has decided to add it to my Daily Drive mix, and apparently counts playing any part of it (even after I skip it) as a play.

This isn’t a complaint about the “How Bad” page; it’s using the only data available to it. But it highlights how inaccurate Spotify is at knowing what I want to hear, or even what I usually play. Most of my music is stuff I play from iTunes (or whatever Apple wants to call iTunes these days). I have tons of music that doesn’t exist on Spotify, and I usually let it play randomly. The problem is that iTunes/Apple Music only keeps two data points about a song: when you last played it, and how many times you’ve ever played it. I wanted to have a list of my most played music of 2020, but it can’t be done without an outside assist. I used and got this list of songs:

That’s better, but it makes it look like I’m a huge fan of White Hassle when it’s really the iTunes shuffle algorithm failing to effectively randomize stuff mixed with my letting music play in the background without paying attention to it.

The top artists list is slightly more reflective of what I listened to in 2020:

But that one has some issues as well. For one thing, slight name changes count as different artists; if you add Elvis Costello to Elvis Costello & The Attractions, they move to second place.

…and this still doesn’t really reflect my “shuffle ’em all and let the algorithm sort ’em out” listening. I mean look at this list of over 4500(!) songs I listened to exactly once in the last year:

So, what have we learned? My main takeaways:

  1. Music stats are difficult.
  2. I can write long and boring posts.

Better than here

If you’re looking for content…

I’ve actually been posting a lot lately, but not here. I’m riding to raise money to support people with HIV/AIDS, and making videos as I go. Since it was all about biking I decided to revive my dedicated bike blog. Check it out: – and donate!


Feels Good.

This joke makes a lot of sense.


New in package!


Cycling: Serious Business

Two pictures of me wearing cycling jerseys. One has Bert & Ernie from Sesame street. The other is a Waffle House Jersey with matching bike shorts.

Distance instruction, week one

Does it suck?

It sucks, but not as bad as I thought it would suck. The main thing I miss is the NOISE. My class is always noisy. Kids are making things, and they aren’t quiet about it. Now the main thing I hear all day is my own voice. When the kids are looking at me, I feel like they’re being forced to stare, like student zombies; when they look away, I worry that I’ve lost their attention.

And it’s not just my noise that’s missing. No one’s laughing and yelling in the halls. The bells aren’t ringing. And heaven help me, I miss staff meetings.

Working from…work

I’m working from my classroom, so I have all of my materials. My students don’t have access to everything they should, but for the most part we can fake it. I still don’t know how my digital media monkeys are going to make movies with low-powered school Chromebooks, or what exactly will end up in the yearbook, but my students are clever and creative; they’re going to make things that surprise and impress me, just like they always do.

Fighting the student zombie stare

I accidentally changed my teaching strategy a few days in. I recorded a live lesson I did with a couple of classes in case someone was absent. Then I realized that instead of giving the same lesson again I could share the video for the students to watch in their own time, which meant I could do less direct instruction and let more students present their work to the class. Much more interesting from my side, and I hope more engaging for my students. It also means students who miss something can rewatch until they get it, and students who already understand can skip ahead and go right to their projects.

I’ve heard of the strategy before – it’s called a flipped classroom – but I’ve avoided it up to this point because I don’t like assigning homework. Now EVERYTHING is homework- and all lessons are coming from a screen- so it feels a bit more natural.

Next week, things change again. We have no students on campus, but a student enrichment program is going to bring about two dozen kids back, a dozen each in two rooms. One of those rooms is right next to mine. I’ve been teaching with my doors open for maximum ventilation, but now that one will have to stay closed.


Also scheduled for next week: Back to School night. Teachers can either host a live Zoom/Meet or post videos for their classes. I was going to record my videos at work today, but I decided I should wait until I’m not wearing the shirt with the cartoon dumpster fire. It might send the wrong message.

Me wearing a shirt with a cartoon dumpster on fire saying "I'M FINE."

Honestly: I’m fine. My students are safe, this crisis will pass, and I feel like the challenges are giving me new skills as a teacher that will transfer to my future classes when we transition back to traditional instruction.

… or a new form of non-traditional instruction. Los Angeles County is starting to come close to the point that districts can apply for waivers to let students back on campus. If that happens, everything changes all over again, probably right when everyone has the rhythm of this system worked out. It will be an all-new struggle, but it will be worth it to have a noisy room again.


A Dad ramble.

Dad's razor.

Today I saw Dad’s face – his actual, physical face – for the last time. Dad wasn’t actually there. He’d left the day before, but his body got a little extra time to hang around.

I shaved before we left for the mortuary. A few years ago (or maybe ten) I had read a few things about how great old-school safety razors were and I wanted to try one. Dad had switched to disposables, so he gave me his. I don’t know why he stopped using it. It really is a more comfortable and cheaper way to shave. But it was a very Dad thing to give me something I wanted even if he had made a different choice.

It wasn’t a memorial; this was technically just the identification of the body. In the past there probably would have only been Mom and one of my siblings there, and an actual service would have happened later. But these are not normal times, and there’s no telling how long it will be before a memorial happens. My sister and one of my brothers live two states away; there was no way for them to be here.

The mortuary did its best to give us something for closure. They laid Dad’s body out in the chapel area and let our family say goodbye. They did a good job with his face, but as natural as it was he still looked like he had fallen asleep and a prankster beautician gave him a secret makeover.

Mom, Katherine, Me

I broke social distancing rules for the second time in two days. Both times it was to hug Mom. It was absolutely worth it.

Katherine took advantage of the moment to get in a photobomb. Dad would have liked that.


Dad was a funny guy. On the old version of this site I wrote about his accidental garden. He could find the dark cloud in any silver lining, but he also loved to laugh and joke. He could tell a two minute story in just under thirty minutes. He never met a chair he couldn’t sleep in. He loved a good loaf of bread. He would wear any t-shirt as long as he could reasonably fit into it, and the sillier it was the more likely he’d wear it. He was always organizing, and always making piles of random stuff. I missed the organization gene, but doubled down on the random piles to make up for it. His love for Mom, for all of us, was not a complicated thing. It was just there, and that was that.

Bike tire with a hole.

I was getting ready to ride my bike to visit Mom when I saw the message from Katherine, who was on her way to Yosemite for a few secluded days in a friend’s cabin.

Call me ASAP.

I knew exactly what that meant before I called her.

I decided I’d still ride over; the hour or so would be a good time to get my head together. I cued up “Rhapsody In Blue,” one of the few bits of music I knew Dad liked, or at least that I thought I remembered that he liked, and started my ride. I could hear why Dad would like it. Like him, it’s switches between structure and meandering all the time. That Gershwin guy has potential.

A bit after the music ended I got a flat. Then my pump screwed up my spare tube and I laughed, because of course it did. But it worked out, because Katherine had canceled her trip and come home so we could go over together. So: thank you, flat tire.

I was uncomfortable at the memorial-that-wasn’t-a-memorial. Seeing Dad’s body helped make Dad’s death real, and I was happy to be there to support Mom, but a lot of it felt like an attempt to Create A Special Moment, and special moments are hard to force. Afterward at the house, when we were just talking about whatever was on our minds, I relaxed. The special moments were here, in the house where I grew up, in the house where Dad lived for most of his life, not in the mortuary we had never been inside.

So long, Dad. I love you. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if I’m wrong I hope they’ve got lots of fresh bread and good mustard there for you.

That's my Dad.
That’s my Dad.
50ish Recent Songs

50ish Recent Tracks

Haven’t done one of these for a while. 50ish recent tracks, mostly picked by my phone.

Immigrant Song – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross Feat. Karen O
From the American film version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Turning of the Tide – Bob Mould
Let’s Go Slow (with Rob Shear) – Jules Shear
Morning Flowers – Wax Witches
It Tango – Laurie Anderson
Blues For Yesterday – Louis Armstrong

Whip It – Philip Steir and Ramin Sakurai Remix Devo

On Your Own – Blur
No More Kings – Pavement

An Ear for Baby – The Thermals

The Opposite Of Hallelujah – Jens Lekman
The Sheik of Araby – Edmond Hall Sextet
Feelings (ft. Maggy Lee) – Treasure
Stranded – Shawn Colvin
All I Wanna Do – Jakob Ogawa
Dead Finks Don’t Talk – Brian Eno
No Complaints – Beck

Still Not a Player – Incubus and Big Pun

Glad To Be Unhappy – The Mamas & The Papas
Waiting For The Sun – Powderfinger
Only Matters When – UV-TV
Slip Away – Clarence Carter
Rain King – Counting Crows
Navy Blue (Alt Tk Of Above) – Stan Getz
In The Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett

Lesson 3 – Double Dee + Steinski

Long Vermont Roads – The Magnetic Fields
Palm Of Your Hand – Cake
Truckdrivin Neighbors Downstairs – Beck
What To Say – Bill Nickson
Celebration – They Might Be Giants
Wouldn’t It Be Nice To See For Miles – The Who Boys
Don’t Ever Leave Me – Connie Francis
Paperbacks – Arlo Parks
Up The Morning – Babyshambles
No You Didn’t No You Don’t – The Courteeners
Get Me By – Boy Scout
Hawaiian War Chant – Billy Mure
The Distance – Cake

So It Goes – Nick Lowe

A Little More for Little You – The Hives
It Was a Good Day – Ice Cube
I Get A Kick – Jungle Brothers
Stupid Thumbs – Sugar John
Under Daisies – Monogold
Lightness – Dead Times
Daydream – Boy Romeo
Kiss the Devil – Eagles of Death Metal

My Philosophy – KRS-One

The Haunted Mansion: Grim Grinning Ghosts – Disney
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes