The dark ages of music

No, this isn’t bitching about a genre, or a period of music per se, but instead it is a grumble at the practice of turning sub standard live recordings from the 70’s and 80’s into “new” albums. 

In this period, many bands began recording themselves at all their shows. The Live albums were a popular addition to the catalog, and let fans enjoy their music with some variances. Great live performers came alive, and delivered phenomenal renditions. The inevitable guitar solo (which I mostly like) and drum solos (which are lame, unless you are Carl Palmer or Neil Peart) were bonuses.

However, much of this recording was done on crappy analog tape, with piss poor microphones, and a shit-ton of muddle, and washed out highs and lows. Ugh.

There were some great recordings (Frampton Comes Alive is one such, as is UFO’s “Strangers in the Night”), a lot of mediocrity.

But all the good recordings from that era have all been made into records. 

But today, it seems that everytime a washed up group stumbles across some old tape, they feel compelled to turn it into an album and release it. 

Case in point: 

I have long been a fan of progressive rock, and Emerson Lake and Palmer were titans in the 70’s and early 80’s. One of the first “Super groups”, they had a fabulous live album, “Welcome back my Friends …”, a triple disc set that I wore out on my stereo before buying a CD of it.

In 2011, they found some moldy tapes (I am guessing here) of a concert they did in Montreal in 1977. It is available on Spotfy, and I have fired it up. 

Groan. It sounds like it was recorded on a $40 panasonic cassette recorder. If it was a bootleg, I would be satisfied, but this is the real deal. Suckage.

Please, regardless of how tempting it is to release new stuff 25 years after your band dissolved, DO NOT release crappy live recordings.  

The only thing positive about this is that I didn’t buy the CD.

Soccer Moms imperiling their kids

Quick post today. This morning, I almost got creamed by a soccer mom dropping her precious kid off at school. She ran a red light to “beat the rush” to enter the local Basis school.
Fortunately, I had anticipated the idiocy, and had my foot hovering on the brake.
Basis schools are charters, who are selective in their admissions, looking for the bright stars. And from what I know, they do well.
But the parents of those bright stars are pretty dim indeed in their driving.

Grocery Store Madness

Not going to complain about ghetto behavior at the grocery store (although there is plenty to comment on there).

One thing I miss about Tucson is the local Safeway store. Our local store had decent meats, a great deli, and a remarkably awesome wine selection. You could get some great splurge wines there (like Grgich Hills Chardonnay. Not cheap, but damn fine splurge).

We moved to Chandler a year ago. There wasn’t a Safeway close, so we started shopping at Frys. It is OK. Ok deli. Good beer selection, but the wines were a disaster. Only a couple of decent selections, and you really have to comb the shelves to find them.

However, on the way home from my office is a Safeway. Too far away to do our weekly shopping, but I figured I could swing by to get decent wine and meats. Alas, the quality inside, and the selection is as bad or dare I say it, WORSE than the local Fry’s. I was seriously bummed.  Of course, I found a good butcher, and not too far, so we can get excellent meats. But the rest of the package was blah.

Then today, I swung by a different Safeway to drop a check in their US Bank branch. Oh. My. God. I walked the store, and the meats were great, the deli was better stocked, and the wine collection, well, I have to go to Total Wines to do better.

Apparently, even 4 miles makes a huge difference in the quality of an in-chain grocery store. Who would have thought that the Chandler/Gilbert corridor would be so ghetto.

Finally getting hooked into the good stuff here in S Phoenix.

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Shopping observations: Coupons

A few weeks ago, it was a madhouse at the local Fry’s supermarket. Packed to the gills, and tons of rude people.

CouponingAlas, I stumbled across a woman doing extreme couponing. She had an expanding file folder that was literally stuffed with coupons, and a shopping cart full os odd items. This caused me to recall why I am not really a fan of coupons.

It is an American dream to get a good deal. Even more so than elsewhere in the world there is a desire to get a bargain. Coupons are an integral part of this phenomenon.

There are many reasons to issue coupons.  As a marketer, I know that they are a valuable tool to drive brand awareness, and to get early awareness of new products. If you introduce a new razor line, it is common that a promotional coupon to drive some early uptake in the market. But this often goes too far. Often people will only buy a product if there is a coupon. If that happens, then you haven’t increased market awareness or share, but instead you have created an expectation, lowering the reference price for the product or offering.

I remember from my restaurant days that we often had coupons to bring in customers. I recall that they did bring people in, but an observation was that the people it drew didn’t come back until there was another coupon. Which leads me to …

GroupOn, an online business that offers deals for people who prepay. The concept is solid, but in practice, it has had some issues. Either the business is swamped, impacting service and quality (too many deals sold), or it brings in people looking for a deal, but who don’t convert to repeat business. I signed up for a short time, but found that it was pretty much only offers for 50% off manicures, pedicures, or bowling lane time.

I am not really a user of the common coupon. Almost always they are targeted at products or brands that I am not interested in. If I am not likely to use Schick razors, it doesn’t matter how often I get coupons, even coupons for free blades, I am not going to switch from Gillette.

The only exception are the personalized coupons that are printed at the checkout register. If you are going to hand me a coupon for something that I am already buying, I will take advantage of it. They know that I buy a large number of Lean Cuisine meals, so $3 off when you buy 5 is a no brainer. Want me to try the fake bacon bits as salad toppers, and I am probably not going to bite.

Back to the store, the lady that had the file folder full of coupons, her cart was full of sports drink (not gatorade), canned beans, and an astounding amount of yogurt from the new Greek style yogurt. Perhaps that was what she needed, but I suspect that it wasn’t the top of her list.


Writer’s Block – groan

In my job, I often must write long, boring, detailed technical specifications for products under development.  A full set of requirements includes the up front market justification that is needed to “sell” the proposal, an accounting of the types of customers who will buy (buyer personas, user personas) and the actual requirements in excruciating detail.

It is not hard, once I get started, but getting started is like staring at a blank page. When I am running, cycling or hiking I often have inspiration, but I never seem to remember that when it is time to put the proverbial pen to paper.

Today, I have blank page syndrome. Fortunately with the holiday next week, it is remarkably quiet in the office, and will be all next week as well, so I will be able to avoid distractions, but getting in the groove is hard.

I might need to slip into a heavy metal playlist, and just zone out to get the juices flowing.


Touching a nerve

So, I have a regular blog where I talk about product management and other career-like things.  I get 20 or so visits a day, and I have some followers in the product management / product marketing world. I try to be a little bit of a balance against all the happy-feel-good self promoting blogs from the Product Management conslutants.

Some things I have noticed:

  • The greater the “snark” factor, the more visits. When I write something that is non-controversial, or informative on the role, I get far less of a response than I do when I go on a rant.
  • The oddest topics seem to resonate.
  • Some people just need to take a chill pill and relax.

Case in point. The second most viewed post was when I was ranting about LinkedIn. They are doing a lot of scummy things to try to bolster their database, and to make money. Can’t blame them, but it does get tiring (I should do a follow up, because it seems like every week, I get an entreaty from them to try the “Premium” service.) If you want to check it out, it is at this link.


Weight loss update, more on my quest to not be a Person of Walmart

Started the memorial day weekend well, took a couple extra days off, and haven’t wasted them.

I had a serious plateau at 220 and 219 #’s.  I was stuck there for almost week and half.  Nothing is more depressing than counting every calorie you consume, and every erg you expend in exercise to not see any movement of the scale.  Last time I did this, I had several plateaus and I know I was able to work through them, so I stuck with it (to be fair, my birthday was in the middle of this and I had a major splurge day. Gordon Birsch Czech Pilsner. Yummy.

Fortunately, I finally broke through my plateau, and I dropped almost overnight to 216#’s.  Back on the track of 3#’s a week of weight loss (that is fast enough that my diet tracker chastises me for losing too fast).

The real plus is that about a month ago, I got back on the bicycle.  There are some great loops near my house, and I have been exploring.  I have a couple of 25 mile loops, which equates to about 1700 calories burned in an hour and 40 minutes.

Weight loss update – My quest to not be a person of Walmart

Another boring post, but hey, it helps me keep track. In 3 & 1/2 weeks, I have lost 13+ pounds.  The ‘+’ means that I am oh so close to breaking through a plateau that I can hardly wait.

Plateaus are something that just happen, and anyone who has done serious dieting knows that they really suck. But today, I was flirting with 218#’s.  Woot!

The added bonus is that clothes that were comfortable 2 years ago are wearable again. It’s like getting a new wardrobe. Sadly, I have plenty in the closet to follow me back below 200#’s.

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Things I don’t need to be told

Number 1: I weigh too much and should lose some weight. Duh.

Number 2: I drink too much.

Time to do something about #1. #2 follows from #1. But first, why am I in condition #1? Well, simply, I like food, and I like to eat. Add to that that I am a stress eater (I fall back to comfort foods when I am highly stressed), and since I am a product manager, I am stressed pretty much 24-7-365.

Last time I got serious about this, I dropped from 260# to #180. I think at this point in my life, I would be satisfied with getting to the happy side of 200#.

Things are different this time:

  • Plantar Fasciitis limits the type and intensity of exercise. Not being able to consistently burn 1000+ calories a day exercising is a detriment, but not a roadblock.
  • I have to watch my sodium intake. Having coronary artery disease sucks, but it is a fact of life.
  • In line with the CAD above, I take fun medication that lowers my metabolism. Hence, I have a low rest metabolic rate. That makes it harder to burn the fat off.  Sigh, but I have to live with it.
  • I daily monitor my blood pressure, so I have one more input to deal with.

I already know the formula that is relevant:

(Calories Burned) – (Calories consumed) > 0

As long as I keep that equation true, I will lose weight.

The struggle is: convincing my body that 1400 calories a day is “good”. Teaching me to go to bed hungry. Control my portions. Don’t eat out too often. Exercise at lunch time (when I can). Measure my weight daily. Track it.

Fortunately, there is a great tool that I didn’t have last time, “Perfect Diet Tracker” is a great, cross platform application that if you use it right will keep you honest. It’s database is also pretty good about fiber and sodium, so I can be sure I don’t do too badly.

I can do this.