Friday, January 30, 2015


I’ve written before about passwords and choosing yours wisely. I know everyone is aware of the danger of “hacking.” That is when unauthorized people access a supposedly secure computer system such as the corporate servers at company XYZ or your own personal computer.

There are many ways these criminals and people who consider computers a sort of puzzle attack computer systems. One is called “phishing” with the funny spelling. (Don’t ask me why, I only report these things, I don’t invent them.)

To quote Wikipedia: “Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.” Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofing or instant messaging. That is, the attacker pretends to be someone they are not. Perhaps that is someone or some site you trust.

It often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users, and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies. The social engineering part refers to statements in the message that would encourage you to accept or download or click or whatever.

Gone are those days of the email from Nigeria with the poor grammar and spelling. Hackers today have got the form and content down to a science. As far as exploiting the technology, that’s one good reason to keep your software updated. Be sure the automatic update feature is turned on in Windows and Mac to get the latest operating software updates. Don’t ignore other weak areas of your computer. If the hacker can’t get in the front door (OS) they may try the back door or a window. That would be programs like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Office, two common entry points. So keep those updated too.

A focused variety of phishing is called “spear phishing.” Spear phishing is an email that appears to be from an individual or business that you know. But it isn't. It's from the same criminal hackers who want your credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, and the financial information on your PC. Maybe you think this email is from your boss or your aunt Matilda. In fact, it may be. They could have been hacked and are now the source of the contagion.

The spear phisher thrives on familiarity. He knows your name, your email address, and at least a little about you. The salutation on the email message is likely to be personalized: "Hi Bob" instead of "Dear Sir." The email may make reference to a "mutual friend." Or to a recent online purchase you've made. Because the email seems to come from someone you know, you may be less vigilant and give them the information they ask for. And when it's a company you know asking for urgent action, you may be tempted to act before thinking.

I know the email says your account is about to be closed or locked or erased if you don't respond immediately, but stop and think about that. In fact, do you believe that the bank would contact you via email for such an important communications? Uncle Sam still carries letters, and that is the common way your bank, or your broker, or your credit card company will communicate with you. And when Microsoft calls to tell you that you have a problem, do you ever wonder how MS got your phone number? Now you're getting smart.

A lot of successful hacks start out as corporate emails that you think came from your boss or the HR department and so you open them up, click where you are directed, enter information where you are told, and so forth … just like a good employee should. Right?

Well, here’s where a suspicious nature would benefit you. I remember an email I got directed at “mickeya,” “mickeyb,” mickeyc,” etc. at I assume there was another email sent out to “mickey1,” “mickey2,” “mickey3” and so forth. Get the idea? Pay attention to the entire email from the “to” address to the “from” address to the subject and the contents. If you’re not sure, ask. Ask your boss or your aunt Matilda. But don’t reply, use another method of communications. If someone says they are your bank and gives you a URL or a phone number to call, don’t do that. Look up the bank and go to their posted URL or email their posted contact address or call their posted phone number.

By the way, that also works with phone calls. When you receive a call and they say they are the bank, you can tell them you’ll call back, but call the number in the phone book, on your statement, or the one you google for the bank. I trust people when I phone them at a known number. I don’t trust anyone who phones me!

I could go on and on about private information that should be kept private. (How many people know your mother’s maiden name? Especially since you posted it on Facebook.) How about keeping your software updated and patches applied. How about secure and effective passwords and not using the same password for several accounts. You see, hackers may break into one account, steal their password file, and then spend all the time in the world breaking the encryption and figuring out all the passwords. They then try them on other banks or credit card companies, etc.

You need to be smart. It’s like walking in a bad neighborhood. Keep your wits about you and keep on the lookout. A little paranoia isn’t a bad thing when people really are out to get you. A well selected and long password is important. Use of more than just lower case letters is essential, and don’t just capitalize the first letter and add a number on the end. The hackers know about that. Start with a number. Put the capital letters in the middle with numbers. You can use any key on the keyboard. Don’t just use @ and # and $. Use { and ~ and > and = and ; in your passwords. Make them fairly long. At least 8 characters, I suggest more, 10 or 11.

You may have to write them down to remember them, but that’s better than using your dogs name with the number 1 at the end. After all, everyone in your neighborhood knows your dog’s name from you shouting out “here Fido.” Besides, you are always posting about your dog on Twitter. “Fido’s such a good boy … yes he is!”

Good computer security is like good home security. Don’t keep the key under the mat and don’t leave the backdoor unlocked in case you forget the key and don’t leave home on vacation and let newspapers pile up on your doorstep. I know it is hard to be suspicious of your computer when you hardly know how it works. But you are an expert at how it works every day. If something changes or something doesn’t seem right, you may have been hacked.

I won’t even mention not having a good antivirus program. If you aren’t running an antivirus, then you might as well leave the front door wide open and stick a few yard signs out front with “Please rob me” on them. ‘Nuff said. Get smart.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How you feeling?

I was reminded this morning, through a long chain of events and thoughts, of the song by Dave Mason called “Feeling Alright.” I described it as an “upbeat tune.” Well, the tempo is upbeat, but the feelings behind the words are decidedly down.

There’s quite a history to the hit song which has been covered by many other artists. My friends over at Song Facts explore that in detail.

Dave Mason wrote this song and recorded it with the group Traffic in 1968. Included on their self-titled second album, it was released as a single but barely nicked the charts, bubbling under at #123 in America and not placing at all in the UK. The following year, Joe Cocker recorded what has become the most popular version of the song, taking it to #69 in the US with a more upbeat rendition.

Many of Cocker's hits were covers, including "With A Little Help From My Friends," "The Letter," and "You Are So Beautiful." He made a career out of soulful interpretations of other people's songs.

This is one of those songs where the title belies the meaning. The singer is tormented by a breakup and asking "Are you feeling alright," with the retort, "I'm not feelin' too good myself."

In an interview with Dave Mason, he explained: "It's just a song about a girl. It's just another relationship gone bad."

Mason titled his song "Not Feelin' Too Good Myself," which is more accurate in terms of the song's meaning, but less marketable. The original Traffic version of the song, filled with the corresponding melancholy, was issued as "Feelin' Alright?" — the question mark providing a vital clue to the content.

Joe Cocker's version scrapped the punctuation and was issued as "Feeling Alright," which is how it was listed on most subsequent covers.

The song was written while Mason was visiting the Greek island of Hydra. "I was trying to write the simplest thing I could come up with," he explained. "Two chords was it."

Mason had left the band when he wrote the song (he split before their first album was released), but when he returned to New York after his time in Hydra, he ran into his bandmates, who were working on the group's second album. They reached an accord, and Mason came back into the fold, contributing this song and "You Can All Join In," as well as "Vagabond Virgin," which he wrote with the band's drummer Jim Capaldi.

Soon after the album was released in October 1968, Mason once again left the band, and a month later they broke up, with Winwood forming Blind Faith. In 1969, a third Traffic album called Last Exit was cobbled together from live recordings and unused studio tracks.

Traffic lead singer Steve Winwood played on Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends album, but not on his cover of this song. Cocker's version featured the ace Los Angeles bass player Carol Kaye, Paul Humphrey on drums, Artie Butler on piano, and percussion from David Cohen and Laudir de Oliveira.

A distinguishing feature of Cocker's cover is the female backing vocals, which were comprised of three of the most powerful Soul singers of the era: Brenda Holloway, Merry Clayton, and Patrice Holloway. Clayton can also be heard on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."

At least 45 different acts have recorded this song. Mongo Santamaria took it to #96 US in 1969, and Grand Funk Railroad made #54 with their 1971 version. Other artists to record it include Three Dog Night, Lou Rawls, The 5th Dimension, Rare Earth, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Paul Weller, The Jackson 5, Maceo Parker, and Isaac Hayes.

In 1976, Cocker performed the song on Saturday Night Live. John Belushi joined him on stage doing his famous impersonation of Cocker's spastic stage movements. Cocker didn't know Belushi was going to come on stage, but wondered what was going on when John asked him before the show what he would be wearing during the performance.

The song found a good home on the various FM rock formats of the early '70s, and Joe Cocker's version later became a classic rock staple. In 1972, after Grand Funk Railroad charted with the song, Cocker's was re-released, this time making #33 US.

Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Keith Richards, Kid Rock, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and music director Paul Shaffer performed it at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The Jackson 5 performed part of this song on a 1971 TV special hosted by Diana Ross. Nine years later, Michael Jackson sang on Dave Mason's track "Save Me.” What comes around, goes around.

Whether it was upbeat of not isn’t really the issue. My recollection is a happy memory. Perhaps I’m mixing the song in my muddled mind with “Celebrate.”

"Celebrate" was on Suitable for Framing, the second studio album by Three Dog Night. The album was released in June 1969.

This album contains the top 20 hit singles "Easy to Be Hard,” "Eli's Coming,” as well as “Celebrate;" the latter of which (along with the album's opening track "Feeling Alright" … the connections continue) featured the Chicago horn section. It is also notable for being the first album by Three Dog Night to include songs written by band members Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, and Cory Wells, and for its inclusion of the Elton John song "Lady Samantha," as John would not become widely known in the United States for another year.

Now “Celebrate” is a happy song … a song to dance to … “Dance to the music,” and dancing is always happy — right? And I'm an upbeat guy. So it is natural I'd remember this song. Or do I?

Or maybe I recall “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. “Celebration” reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February, 1981, and held that position for two weeks. It's the band's only no. 1 hit. By late 1980, the song had also reached no. 1 on both the Billboard Dance and R&B charts. The song featured heavily on the radio for nearly the entire year and is still heard today at weddings and parties, and is a popular anthem for sporting events.

"Celebration" was played to help welcome home the 52 freed American hostages from Iran in 1981. Three years later in 1984 it was played to hail presidential candidate Walter Mondale's nomination at the Democratic convention.

It was also an international hit, reaching no. 7 in the United Kingdom in 1980, overall spending 13 weeks in the chart.

I guess my head is so full of songs that they all run together like water colors in the rain. My backward glances may be blurry, but at least I can remember something. I even think I can remember the '60s, but we all know that can't be true.

That should make you feel alright.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Broncos Two

Now that the NFL playoffs are over … at least for me with the Bronco’s humiliating defeat by the Colts last night … it’s time to recollect better days and possible tomorrows. Just wait until next year! For what? What will Denver — or Manning do now??

Anyone notice that the Broncos have not beat the Colts ever since they drafted Luck and dropped Manning? I think we’ve lost the last 4 or 5 games with them.

As great as Manning has been, and he has been great, taking the Broncos all the way to the big dance last year, although he has also been “one and done” a lot in recent playoff history, I didn’t come to bury him, but to praise him — and the Denver Broncos.

I’m not laying the blame for the loss just on Manning. Most of the time, none of the Broncos showed any shine last night, and the Colts deserved the win. They had figured out Manning, adequately defending the short tosses and most of his other tricks, and just out-played us. Numbers show that Manning has had problems the entire second half of this season, and the team has not shown the sharpness they previously displayed, regardless of the win/loss record for the year.

I also have to admit I didn’t give the Broncos much of a chance in Foxboro next week anyway. We can and have beat the Pats, but at home. But even if we had defeated the Colts at the home-team friendly Mile High Stadium (I refuse to call it anything else), they would have a tough row to hoe in New England.

Any-who, now that my homer team has lost, I’m free to prognosticate with some level of credibility and lack of bias. I am writing this from a desk near Portland, Oregon, so I’m sure that there will be more Seahawks flags out than other teams in the neighborhood, although I gotta say this neighborhood is more anxious about tonight’s big college game. Here in Oregon you either see green or you see orange. It is like being in Ireland. What a great thing it would be if the Ducks win the first ever “play off” college title. Oh, and the Blazers are playing pretty strong too. It’s good to be in the Northwest!

Can the Seahawks win two in a row? That is the question. I think the smart money is on the Hawks, but they’ve still got to get to the big game and Green Bay is not a pushover (although we beat them once!)

The newscast during the game Saturday was filled with the fact that no Super Bowl champ has even made it this far the year after for a decade. So just how often does a team win two-in-a-row Super Bowls?

Well, Green Bay started off that way, winning both Super Bowl I and II in 67 and 68. The Dolphins repeated the feat in VII and VIII, 73 and 74. Then the Steelers with victories in IX and X and then again in XIII and XIV. For those that are roman numeral challenged that’s 9, 10, 13, and 14 from 1975 through 1980.

Guess who? The Broncos were in two in a row, XXI and XXII back in 87 and 88 with Elway under center. Lost both — to the Giants and the Redskins.

The 49ers have their 2-peat with the next two bowls in 89 and 90. Dallas follows up with wins in 93 and 94, Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII. The Broncos round out the century with back to back appearances in XXXII and XXXIII which were played in 98 and 99. This time they won them both. That’s right, the Broncos are in the 2-peat club.

That just leaves the Patriots who have won both XXXVIII and XXXIX (thoroughly x-ing out the competition) in 04 and 05. That was the start of the drought that all the newscasters were referring to.

Now, with a win in XLVIII last year and a possible revisit to the big one for XLIX, who knows how it will turn out.

XLIX! You have my permission to have some fun with that acronym. The best one wins tickets to the Super Bowl. Just send you entries to “Tough Luck Charlie” at the tuna fish address.

Notice the trend of dominance? Two teams have played in 8 Super Bowls. Pittsburg won 6 of their 8 and Dallas won 5 of their octet. The Broncos have been to 7, but only won two and the Pats have also played 7 times with 3 wins. This year may change their statistic too.

Just to be fair to the current combatants, Green Bay has a 4 and 1 record, with their only loss to Denver and the Colts are two and two in Super Bowls if you count both Baltimore and Indianapolis.

So let the battles begin — or continue. Two more will be eliminated next weekend and then we wait for the big one. Who’s your favorite? All time fav? Home team?

It’s root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s a drag.

(And did you notice the tickets in the window? $1200 bucks a seat, in Indianapolis. Who’s going?)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Going Skiing

Our niece and her husband spent an outdoor weekend at Chinna Hot Springs in Alaska. They live nearby in North Pole, which is close to Fairbanks. We’ve visited our family in AK a lot, but only in the summer. I’m not sure how well I would do in the frozen north during the long, dark winter.

We like to go to Chinna for the hot water, not the cold snow. Among other activities they did some cross country skiing. Alaska does have a very nice ski resort, but it is down south, below Anchorage. It is near the town of Girdwood, called Alyeska Resort. We’ve been there, but, again, only in the summer.

The pictures of bundled up skiers and their long skis and poles reminded me of our adventures on a snow packed mountain side. When I first moved to Colorado, I didn’t go skiing. However, I did a lot of motorcycle riding. We rode our bikes up to Vail and Aspen, but never in the winter.

After Linda and I were married and started raising our family, we decided there was no point living in Colorado if you didn’t ski. Back then I worked in downtown Denver at an electronics school a couple of blocks off Broadway and near a place called the Sports Castle. I think it might have been part of Gart Brothers sporting goods stores, although I don’t recall for certain if that was their name. In any case, it was famous for its ski bargains. Gart Brothers went out of business in the 90s and was replaced by Sports Authority.

The distinctive Sports Castle at 10th & Broadway was never a stranger to bargains. The building served as a car dealership in the 1920s, and the inside ramps allowed easy access for automobiles instead of skiers. It was a five floor (or maybe more) building on Broadway. You didn’t take an elevator to get up or down in the building, but you rode on golf carts that navigated the ramps between floors. On the top floor were tennis courts where you could play high above the city traffic.

On Labor Day the Sports Castle would hold a giant ski sale they called "Sniagrab," which is “bargains” spelled backwards. I guess “sni” was close enough to “ski” to make the connection. People from all over Denver and Colorado and, I suppose, the surrounding states would come to load up on ski equipment in preparation for the season.

2015 is their 55th or 60th anniversary of the on-going event. I understand that there was also a "Sniagrab" in the pacific northwest, Seattle and elsewhere. Apparently that one no longer exists.

So, getting back to the family story, I visited the Castle after work and outfitted the family with ski gear, some rented and some purchased. At that time my youngest boy was only around 4 and the older brother was 10 or 11. Good ages to start skiing.

Our first Skifahren adventure was at a little ski slope above Estes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Back then it was called “Hidden Valley” and was located on a sharp bend in the road climbing up Trail Ridge. The lodge was at 9,400 feet and the vertical was 2,000 feet to the top. The lift didn’t go all the way up. To get to the 11,400 foot summit, you would take a bus up the twisting mountain road. At that point in my skiing career, I kept to the lower slopes and never took the bus. My oldest, always one for adventure, went all the way to the top the first day.

One event I vividly recall was while I was changing clothes in the locker room. I overheard a guy about my age. (And I mean my age now … or maybe he was just fifty. People seemed older to me back then.) He was explaining to his friend who was skiing for the first time. He got out a flask and poured two small plastic glasses of wine. He told his companion that that was a tradition he and his wife had started many years before; to toast the first day of skiing. Since it was a men’s locker room, I don’t know if his wife was with him, but I thought Linda and I should start such a tradition; but we never did.

Linda had skied a bit as a kid in Colorado, but I had never skied as a young lad. Montana had skiing when I was growing up, but no big name resorts and the local hills were rather primitively equipped. In any case, I had not skied before that day. So, being the sensible guy that I am (and no cracks from the peanut gallery), I signed up for beginners lessons, the bunny slope, learning to snow plow.

The lessons went pretty well until the instructor told the class to ski down to a small stand of trees and wait there. I was about the last one to go and, as I approached the crowd at the trees, neatly lined up in a row, I forgot how to stop and ran into the first one in line who crashed down the bunch like a set of dominoes. I’m not always clumsy, but when I am I drink the same beer the most interesting man in the world drinks. Anyway, everyone laughed and no-one threatened me for dumping them into the snow bank, so I guess it was all fun.

Somehow I finished the lesson that morning, and — by afternoon — I was skiing hand-in-hand with my darling. Well, at least we were side by side. She was, is, and shall probably always be a better athlete than me, so I had to learn to parallel ski on my own to catch up with her.

Things went pretty well that first day after the snow plow and domino trick, although I did have a bit of a mishap one time getting off the chair lift and loosing my balance and skiing down the small hill backwards. Don’t worry, no injuries that a little time in a hospital bed in traction won’t cure.

So I ended the day, a bit wobbly, but anxious for another trip. Later the ski area changed its name to "Ski Estes Park," but it was never very successful and eventually closed. That happened to a lot of the small resorts in CO.

In the beginning, we enjoyed the nearby ski resorts mostly, Hidden Valley and one above Boulder called “Eldora Mountain.” Eldora was a bit more challenging than the trip up to Estes, however it was often very windy and icy. But there was more area for skiing and a nicer lodge and it was even closer to home, only about a 30 minute drive. You could also take a bus from Boulder. I think some of the nephews from Alaska took that bus with our son for some skiing once while visiting us.

One problem with skiing is that you have to drive into the mountains on the worse time of the year to be driving in the mountains what with the ice and snow and blizzards and snow plows. Eldora was at the top of a long hill that was very challenging. One time, as we left when the skiing closed at 4:00 PM, I was headed down that hill in heavy traffic going about 5 mph when I realized I could not stop. I didn’t worry about going over the side, but I didn’t want to hit the car in front. I got just enough traction finally to prevent a slow motion collision, but it was nerve wracking.

As the boys grew older, skiing with mom and dad became a welcome event. In fact, going skiing was about the only thing that the boys would commit to doing with us seeing as how were were adults and not hip. But skiing with mom and dad was OK, as long as they paid for everything.

Skiing is expensive. There’s the equipment and the cost of the lift tickets, the resort and meals. We would take hot chocolate and coffee and sandwiches and snacks and try to not frequent the expensive lunch counters, but it was still a stiff price for a day of skiing. As I alluded to earlier, most day resorts closed at around 4 PM, although Nederland had night skiing with torches and everything.

We soon found ourselves traveling deeper into the Colorado Rockies as we started skiing at Copper Mountain, Loveland, and Winter Park. When we could, we stayed overnight in a lodge so the day wasn’t spent entirely with white knuckles trying to keep the car out of a snowbank on the way up and then a few hours later on the way down. Copper was nice and we went to Vail a few times (but never Aspen). Vail was very crowded back then before Beaver Creek opened, and Aspen was almost clear to Utah … and very pricy.

I think Winter Park was our favorite. It is actually a Denver City Park, if you can imagine that. There is a ski train out of Denver that goes through a tunnel and we always wanted to take that … but never did.

One time my sister and her boys came down and we spent a couple of days at Winter Park staying in the “Locomotive Inn” or the “Steam Engine Inn” or something to do with trains. It was a wonderful hotel and I remember the swimming pool was half inside and half outside. There were clear plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling at the transition from indoor to outdoor, and I’d always dive under the plastic and come up outside. Our boys and Barbie’s boys had a great time throwing snowballs in the hot tub and just enjoying the alpine experience.

I still consider that weekend with my sister and my wife and the kids one of the greatest times of my life. I’ve been to a lot of places in the US and worldwide, but none seem to compare to our own back yard and fun with the family.

Linda’s dad had a friend at his work that had a nice ski cabin in Breckenridge. We’d rent that and spend the weekend in the mountains. Linda’s parents didn’t ski, but we did. Breckenridge is one of those resorts where you can ski down to the bottom and be in town. So we’d ski down the hill, and then go visit with Bob and Bea, and then catch the next lift back up.

The first night we were there, I got into my swim suit and went out on the back deck for the hot tub. It had a big insulation cover and I was walking in the snow in my bare feet and I about froze before I could get into the tub. Once you are in that 100° plus water, the snow and the ice and the cold don’t bother you. You can rub the snow on your bare chest and just laugh at old man winter. Linda stood in the doorway, on the wrong side of the sliding glass, and refused to come out. She’s rather sensitive to the cold and, on that night, she was a big chicken.

We finally talked her into joining us and she had a great time, but then she was afraid to get out and take the short walk across the deck to the fireplace warmed inner sanctum. So she stayed in the tub until she was wrinkled like a prune and she was the last one out.

I had learned my lesson, so the next night I went out in my clothes and coat and removed the cover from the hot tub. I then changed into my suit and ran out and jumped into the tub. It was freezing!! Apparently the heater had failed and the water was only lukewarm. Not a hot tube but a warm tub. Not cool … in fact, rather cold.

I was out of that tub and back into the house in a flash, all shivers and burrrrs. So there was no hot tubbing on the second night, but the skiing was good.

One year I took the whole family up to the Copper Mountain Resort because I had a library conference there. I was the chairman of the Longmont Public Library Board, and I attended a conference at Copper on libraries and boards and what not. Linda and the kids spent two days skiing while I attended the conference.

On Sunday, after the end of the meetings, we headed for home, but it turned out the hill to the Eisenhower Tunnel was closed to traffic due to road conditions. This rarely happens, but it did this time. The Interstate was closed.

We headed back to Copper, re-rented our rooms (although this time I would have to pay for them since the city had paid for the weekend conference), called work on Monday to tell them I was trapped in the mountains, and spent two more days. I rented some skis and we had a nice family time. Finally we had to head for home and work and school, but it was fun playing hookie.

Since the kids have grown up and Linda and I have grown old, we don’t go skiing any more. Brittle bones and Medicare, you know. The boys still ski a lot and Mark often gets an annual pass. Linda and I still skate. In fact, with a budding hockey star for a grandson, we end up at the ice rink almost every week. It’s cold, and you still fall down, but at least we don’t have to navigate those frozen mountain roads.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Maps are one of my favorite things. Since retirement, I’ve made maps the central object to my travels. I call these adventures “voyages of the blue bus.” That’s the Ford Flex we bought to enjoy our travel years. With over 120,000 miles in the four years we’ve been retired, we have seen a lot of country. I keep track of our voyages on a road atlas where I mark each route with a blue line in recognition of the color of our vehicle. This atlas has two or more pages for most states, and it is a bit hard to visualize the breadth of the journeys when you have to keep turning the page.

So, a few months back, I bought a large map of the US with most of the highways on it. (It is missing some of the minor roads that are a favorite target of our trips, but I’ll be able to add those in.) I plan to hang it on the wall. It is quite large, about four feet tall by six feet wide. I haven’t found a mounting place yet, but there is some bare space in the garage that might be very appropriate.

I spend a lot of time looking at maps and planning the next journey. I like the off-the-beaten-path routes and picturesque destinations. The bus does well on the Interstate, but it is the less traveled back roads that I seek out for adventure. From the little town of Lincoln we discovered on a short cut from Missoula to Great Falls to the tiny hamlet of Alpine on the Idaho / Wyoming border, not in the plan, but definitely in our memories.

Maps are very important to the military. They have a lot of sayings regarding maps such as “the map isn't the territory” and “when the map and the territory don’t agree, trust the territory.” Yes, maps can be wrong. I read somewhere, long ago, back when maps were free at the local gas station, that each brand would purposely add a fictitious town to their charts. That way they could prove in court that some other company plagiarized their map.

Maps aren’t just about terra firma. In mathematics they are very important. We call any function a mapping and used terms like “one-to-one” and “onto” to classify these functional mappings. Perhaps it is a remnant of the original geometry that lies at the root of all mathematical thought that leads to such nomenclature. Mapping of data is an essential part of computer science and all software engineers have dozens of algorithms and data structures that they use to perform this mapping and data manipulation.

I like to sit down with a highway map and plan out my next journey. Recently I was attracted to US Highway 12. It takes an interesting route across Washington, Idaho, and Montana over Lolo pass. Part of the Montana / Idaho route was followed by Robert Pirsig. But the road goes on into the Dakotas, across Wisconsin and Illinois, and ends up in Detroit, Michigan. All along this old highway there appear to be wonders of scenery and little towns and famous cities. I think I'll take it.

I am eagerly awaiting the moment when I can add a blue line to my memory map along this storied route. And there are others. Planning any vacation often means getting out the map, even if you intend to fly on commercial air lines. It is still useful to map out the territory and consider the possible side-trips.

Whole books have been written about journies and “on the road” is a common theme for literature. There are differences, however, between the map and the journey. The map assist in the plan of the journey and can be useful along the way. The map can help one anticipate the events and plan the itinerary and stopping points. But the actual journey can deviate from the map. It is something different.

This dual characteristic between the map and the journey is just what those military axioms were getting at. The map isn’t the territory. When an activity has this dual character, it can happen that the lived-through character of the experience so dominates its planned-through character that you hardly notice the extrinsic goal that your activity facilitates. This is especially true of many of my journeys were the trip is the goal, not the destination. That reverses the purpose in a way that is quite pleasurable. Suddenly agendas and timetables take a back seat to the new spot in the road you’ve just discovered.

There are so many of those experiences in my journeys over the last four years. Your attention becomes riveted on the intrinsic goal — the mapping itself. The previously planned and expected events unfold in a different and interesting, as well as surprising way. I find that the two events, the planned-through and the seen-through take on some sort of dynamic equilibrium. I pass back and forth between a state in which I am impressed by the present moment’s own worth and a state in which I am driven on by the anticipated future.

Maps that indicate “scenic routes” are often a case in point. Sometimes the “scenic” nature is so self evident as it is substantiated by forests and mountain passes with dramatic views of river and rock and far-off valleys. But sometimes the map maker’s intention is captured by rolling grasslands and blue skies. Scenic is as scenic does — to the heart and soul.

This applies to more than just mapping in the narrowest sense. As I explained earlier, “mapping” is used in many instances and can describe the connections between any two entities in mathematics and data processing and in other parts of life.

Symbolic activities such as the writing I am doing right now and the reading that you are doing in a different “now” have particular value of their own simply in their very performance. To be sure, writing is a difficult activity, but the difficultly cannot obliterate the delight to be found in the exploration of another person’s images and ideas. Moreover, the activities of writing and reading have utility as well as intrinsic worth.

My writing activity, for example, is useful in that it leads to the production of words on paper or screen. However much I am centered on the internal exploration of certain questions and ideas, I also have an eye toward the external product. I realize that the product can by no means replace or wholly contain the inner process that leads to it — the external word is not the thinking process; the map is not the territory — however, the external word can extend the utility value of the thinking process by adding the dimension of portability. Since that portability has been exploited to the point where you are now reading my words, you are perhaps getting a sense of some of the things that I, the writer, am thinking about (journeys, maps, kinds of value, symbolic activity), and you may be finding this somewhat interesting.

In addition, your reading may be useful in that it leads to your taking some further intellectual trips of your own. Perhaps one or more such trips will result in external words, written or spoken, which in turn will function as probable see-through devices to help others not only get a sense of our inner journey but also initiate or continue inner journeys of their own. And so on.

And so we arrive at the rich genre of literature, the road tale, the travelogue. It’s a theme as ancient as writing itself, the Canterbury Tales were a road trip adventure as old as the English language, as much a part of classical literature as hip culture. On-the-road is a frequent location for a story of many types.

Without symbolic activities such as writing and reading, speaking and listening, there could be no sharing of our inner journeys. Without symbolic activities such as imagining and thinking, there could be no inner journeys in the first place. By “imagining,” I mean the formation of internal pictures, whether still shots or motion pictures. By “thinking,” I mean an internal process that includes such mental operations as wondering and expressing my wonder in specific questions, enjoying insights that meet those questions, and expressing these insights in internal words, wondering about the validity of my insights and expressing this wonder in further, reflective questions. I cannot imagine or think of an inner journey that would not be constituted by some blend of imagining and thinking.

Our thoughts are bent by our experiences. The territory becomes the map. I’m reminded of my German exchange student that told me, after a year in America, that he now thought in English. Years later, when we spoke, he said he now thought in German and had to translate to communicate with me. As I’ve struggled with advanced topics from mathematics to physics, I’ve ofter tried to think in a different language. Rather than mapping the concepts, I tried to understand them in their native tongue. I succeeded on occasion. An example is that I learned formulas by derivation, rather than memorization. I would create the formula on demand by connecting the propositions using the rules I had learned and adding constants to match the base units. Assistance such as "unit algebra" became my lingua franca, and I could reproduce certain equations without requiring memorization of letters. But so often the thoughts were beyond my grasp and I was forced into mapping them into more familiar concepts.

I was and am a constant note taker. I think that putting the lecture words down on a more permanent medium helps me to concentrate on the speaker's message. I don’t necessarily use the notes later. Just the act of recording helps me organize the message. Sometimes that works much better than other times. I haven't figured out why … yet. But I am thinking about it.

Perhaps this desire to express myself in a permanent and portable medium is the driving force behind this blog. I don’t know for sure, and I’ve done enough thinking for today.

No, I think it is time to get out a map and prepare a journey. What will I find on those pages? What wiggly line or notation will catch my fancy? That I don’t know yet. It is the undiscovered territory. But that journey keeps me young at heart and thinking. Surprises are always fun, and expectations can be met or exceeded. Time is on my side and life is about the journey.

So travel on my friend, travel on. Perhaps you can send me a letter from the future and tell me all about it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

It's Déjà vu All Over Again

As the saying goes, it is obvious to the most casual observer that science fiction movies are doing well. Ever since 2001 kicked off the genre of great special effects and Star Wars followed up on that opening, we’ve seen blockbuster after blockbuster cash in on what was once the geeky genre of SciFi.

As anyone who has read anything I’ve ever written, heard anything I’ve ever said, or seen any of the books in my library can testify, I’m one SciFi geek. I’ve written before about the first science fiction book I read, “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” by Robert A. Heinlein, and that I’ve been a huge fan of his speculative fiction ever since.

One of my favorite writers, Philip K. Dick, has had more than his share of movies based on his plots and ideas from Blade Runner ("Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep") to Total Recall ("We Can Remember It for You for Wholesale") to Minority Report ("Minority Report").

In the recent (out next week) movie based on Heinlein’s “All You Zombies,” my first author finds his simple book plot on the big screen. Called Predestination, and, regardless of some additional adventure writing to hold the audience spellbound, it holds pretty true to Heinlein’s story about a Time Cop named Ethan Hawke.

The original story was written in one day by Robert L. as an experiment in time travel and possible paradoxes. I don’t want to give away the story, as the movie is actually quite faithful to the book, so I’ll just give the hint that the “Temporal Corps” organization’s logo is a serpent eating its own tail.

If you examine the symbol for infinity you may notice it has no beginning or end. Now take that to the ultimate conclusion, especially with the possibility of time travel, and you’ll arrive at the same interesting twist that Heinlein used.

Written back in 1958, the story involves a number of paradoxes caused by time travel. Talk about lifting yourself by your bootstraps!.

The title of the story,  “—All You Zombies—“ which includes both the quotation marks and dashes, is actually a quote from a sentence near the end of the story itself (taken from the middle of the sentence, hence the dashes indicating edited text before and after the title). In this way it mirrors the life of the protagonist, whose life is a "quotation" from itself. If you’re really curious, he said, “I know where I came from—but where did all you zombies come from?”

So if you’re into time travel and paradoxes, Heinlein goes way beyond the idea of going back in time and killing your own grandpa. But I’ve said enough. I don’t want to spoil the ending.

Let me know how you liked Predestination. It will be playing at theaters near you … soon. Don’t miss it, or you’ll have to “go back” to see it … again??

I don’t think Heinlein felt this was his best work. It was just a fun play on words. I understand the movie even includes his Women's Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen, which probably wasn’t necessary. You don’t have to stick to the book every time. People will start thinking that we pimple faced sci-fi fans have nothing on our minds but Singularly Exceptional Xerox machines.

Just remember these simple rules of time travel and you too can be recruited into the Temporal Corps:

Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow.
If at Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion.
A Paradox May be Paradoctored.
It is Earlier When You Think.
Ancestors Are Just People.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Winter Ride

Many riders put their bikes away for the cold months. That’s understandable. Motorcycles don’t do well at all in the ice and snow and riders are subjected to 45-65 mph wind chill which makes even a relatively pleasant winter day a cold, cold adventure on a motorcycle.

This winter hiatus is just one of several reasons that many used motorcycles have quite low mileage compared to their four-wheeled counterparts. I’m always looking for vintage bikes, those that are twenty or thirty or even forty years old. Even though low mileage … sometimes crazy low like a forty year old bike with less than 10,000 miles … the age alone takes quite a toll. My most recent purchase was a 1970 model Honda that had just over 1,000 miles. Can you imagine that? Barely broken in.

Many people garage their bikes for the colder months, saving riding for Spring or even Summer. My brother, who is a very serious rider, only takes his Harley for road trips. He doesn’t ride around town or commute to work on his bike at all. In the last 15 years,he’s put over 30,000 miles on three different big hogs, but when he’s not on a vacation, the bike stays in the garage.

Out of necessity and caution, as well as just learning the hard way, most riders have figured out how to winterize our bikes for a long period of storage. Some riders are very thorough, changing the oil, washing the bike, and taking a lot of precautions before putting the bike away including sealing up the mufflers with plastic and rubber bands to keep out moisture and rust and even to discourage tiny critters from finding a home.

Since I have several bikes, these winter prep chores are quite familiar to me. I think a bike (or a car for that matter) should be run at least once a month. This means getting it out on the road and up to full operating temperature to burn out all the moisture and get the battery a full charge. Thirty minutes, an hour, that’s what it takes. Not just idling the engine in the garage. I have four cars and trucks, so even when I’m home, keeping them regularly run is a task.

When I was home in November, I took all the bikes out for a good ride. Colorado has plenty of good riding days, even in the winter. I do keep all the bikes and the unused cars on battery minders, those smart chargers designed to over-winter your lead-acid battery. Some advise removing the battery and putting it on a charger, but this new generation of small battery minders do such a good job that many dealerships put the connection on all new bikes sold. I even put a small minder on my wife’s Camry just to keep everything copacetic. It just takes a trickle charge to keep the batteries up to snuff.

Since the Miata has a battery in the trunk, and opening the trunk turns on a light, it is a bit of a problem in the winter. Some battery minders come with cigarette lighter plugins so you can charge the battery through that port. However, the Miata turns the cigarette lighter plug off when the ignition is off, so that doesn’t work. I have yet to solve that conundrum. As a result, I’ve had to replace the Miata battery a couple of times. I suppose I should just take it out of the car in the winter, but I didn’t this year (like last). I had better just go home and drive it. I keep in in my son’s garage under a car cover. I’m NOT going to ask him to drive it. Nope, wasn’t born yesterday. I’ll just keep shelling out for new batteries. He drives the truck to keep it charged, and I’ve got the Blue Bus here with me.

But back to winterizing your bikes. I recommend filling the gas tank up before storage. It is the dead air space in the tank that encourages gas tank rust, a common problem on old, even little ridden bikes. You can add a gas stabilizer too just to be on the safe side. I use STA-BIL® on my bikes and even my lawn mower over the winter.

For motorcycles with carburetors, you don’t want evaporated junk in the carb and particularly in the float area. I shut off the fuel at the tank and run the engine dry. Some recommend removing the spark plugs and adding oil to the top end. The procedure is somewhat complicated, and I’ve never bothered with that step. Still it is a very good idea. Several methods are suggested. A half ounce through the spark plug hole and then turn over the engine a few times to spread it down to the rings. Easy to do with a bike, especially if it has a kick starter. But be sure and put the spark plug back in. Don’t leave the top end open to the elements … and get out the torque wrench. Specifications are there for a reason, and the hard steel spark plug in the soft aluminum head is something that requires extra care when performing motorcycle maintenance.

Meanwhile, here in Oregon, the rain every-single-day during the winter sort of reduces the riding of all but the most extreme with good rain gear. I only slightly exaggerate. We had two weeks of light rain every … single … day. It can drive a sunshine loving guy like myself slowly mad!

Last week we had a few days of brilliant sunshine, but the temperatures never were above 38°. I went for some short hops around town to test out my cold weather gear and preparation. I have a very good riding jacket. It is actually a summer jacket design called a “mesh” jacket with armor on the elbows, shoulders, and back. It has a rain proof (resistant if not “proof”) insert that serves double duty blocking the wind. I add a couple of layers of sweaters or sweat shirts and I have a very warm winter coat. It is black with lots of Day-Glo yellow panels. You want to be seen, summer or winter, but especially in the early darkness of the shortest days.

My brother gave me an old pair of “gauntlet” gloves that he didn’t like … and with his full fairing, didn’t need as much as me anyway. Did I mention that none of my bikes have any fairing or windshield? I know, dumb is as dumb does. Unfortunately, this bike has no bags either. Not really a touring motorcycle as it is set up. I have several pairs of gloves here, but the full gauntlet seemed a great idea to keep the cold out of the cuffs and blowing up the sleeves, even though the jacket had the usual velcro wrist bands. Cold has a way of slipping inside of your clothes.

I have heavy boots and a variety of helmets from half to three-quarters to full. My favorite, summer or winter, is a good old 3/4 helmet, and I add a face shield for winter. Covers the ears, muffles the noise, and works well with a complete face shield. Not quite as claustrophobic as a full helmet, and — I think a little less prone to fogging. My trial runs last week quickly proved the weak point in my winter armer wasn’t the elbows, but the neck. I froze my chin and neck in short order. I found myself riding with my left hand around my throat, as if to throttle myself for being so foolish.

A quick trip to, and I had a good winter sports neck scarf. It closed in the back with a velcro and could go all the way up to the nose. I roll it down a bit because I found that the full "bank robber" look also sent my breath upwards increasing the fog effect.

I also needed some navigational help on the country roads around here, so I purchased a weather proof case for my GPS and added that to the bike. I ran power up under the tank to the handlebars to plug in the GPS and mounted it. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, this bike has no bags, so I chose a few essentials for the trip, including a nice tool kit in case it was needed. My tool kit has the essential metric tools, and also some odds and ends like some wire and plastic cable ties. Just the things you need when stranded on the side of the road.

I wrapped the tools and other things in a large towel that I attached to the rear seat with a couple of bungee cords. One thing that engineers always do a lot of, is preparation. I thought I had everything ready and prepared for a successful winter trip. All contingencies had been planned for, and mitigation plans were in place if needed.

Considering myself now ready for a road trip, I planed a ride down to Salem, a 120 mile, round-trip jaunt, and a visit with an old Navy buddy that lives there. The weatherman promised temperatures in the 50s for the midweek, and I made arrangements with my friend for a visit and lunch. Tuesday dawned with a great fog, and I hoped that the planned Wednesday would be sunny. Unfortunately, the weather man didn’t keep his promise and the temperature was only 40° when I left home at 10:30. Yet the weather was clear here in the Portland area. However, around here, micro weather can change in just a dozen miles.

First a little Oregon geography lesson. I-5 runs north and south in Oregon, starting at the Washington state line across the river from Portland, it runs down south to California about 60 or so miles east of the Pacific Ocean the whole way. This keeps it on this side of the coastal range. Hillsboro is about 20 miles west of Portland and Salem is south about 50 miles and on I-5.

Motorcycles and freeways aren’t a good combination. The speeds are too high, there are too many cars, and there are no bends in the road to require a little leaning. Very boring. Avoid when possible. So riders like myself prefer the “back roads.” Those are the little country lanes and state highways that, although slower, are much more pleasant for a ride. Twisty and curvy adds fun to the adventure and keeps the mind clear.

So I started out planning to ride down to McMinnville and then head east to Salem. I took a very “back” road from my dad’s over to Cornelius where I stopped to fill the tank and put some air in the back tire. Expecting warmer weather, I had put the neck scarf in the towel wrap. Realizing my error, I quickly removed that during my stop and bundled up with a hot cup of coffee for good measure. Unrolling the towel to get the neck scarf and then re-doing it on my seat was a lot harder than when I had prepared the bundle on the bed. So it was’t as neatly rolled, but still adequate for a ride behind me. I did find myself feeling back there periodically to make sure it was still there.

The ride was quite cold. I appreciated slowing down when I went through the little towns as that gave me some respite from the wind chill. My legs, cased only in Levi blue jeans were cold. (Note to self, add long johns or rain pants to winter riding gear.) As I approached schools, the speed limit was often 20 even if no kids were in evidence. That was OK with me! Once, in Salem, I rode past a school with flashing speed limit signs and there was a motorcycle cop sitting on the corner ready to hand out tickets. I waved as we were brother bikers. He just scowled. Maybe he was cold too.

On some of the long stretches at 55 - 60, the ends of my fingers got cold. My main body was fine. Feet stayed warm; arms and body quite comfortable; ears out of the wind. I had pulled the neck scarf down a bit to clear the helmet of my hot breath, and my chin and cheeks were a bit cold, but not painful.

As I started out from Cornelius, southwest on state route 47, I rode some nicely twisty roads through the valleys south of Gaston. As I entered more open country, before the little town of Yamhill, there were low lying clouds covering the slight hills off to the left. Wished I had one of those “GO-PRO” cameras on my helmet to permanently grab the scene. By the time I got to Carlton, those clouds had descended down to ground level, and I was riding through a moderately dense fog.

Winter riding is always a bit bothered by your face shield fogging if you are not careful to breath out through your nose. The 100% relative humidity in the fog increased the fogging considerably. Then the dense fog started to condense on the outside of the shield. Visibility became severely limited. This is a big problem for a rider because excellent visibility is one key asset of motorcycle safety.

When I finally got to 99W, just east of McMinnville, I could barely see to cross onto the busy divided highway from the stop sign. The neck scarf limited my head swiveling, and I could only see out of a small section of the face shield. I had pulled over twice to clean the shield inside and out, but it quickly fogged over again. Using more of my sense of hearing than sight, I entered onto the four-lane, median separated 99W and got back up to speed.

Turning onto 221, I headed south, but I was still on the wrong side of the Willamette River. The fog had cleared up a bit and visibility had returned. There were several bridges to chose from for a crossing, and I thought I would cross at Salem. At one point the GPS directed me down a little country road to the Wheatland Ferry.

This is a cable ferry that connects Marion County and Yamhill County across the Willamette. The ferry travels approximately 600 feet across the river, depending on the height of the water, and is powered by two electric motors connected to an on-board diesel generator. The ferry is supported by two steel cables, one under water on the downriver side, and one overhead on the upriver side. The ferry also uses the overhead cable for steering.

The tiny boat was just loading as I arrived, and I paid $1 for the ride. Continuing on south, I arrived at my friends home just after noon where I enjoyed a clam chowder lunch with homemade rolls and fresh fruit and great conversation with my old buddy Mac and his wife No’el.

He rides too, but currently he is bike-less. He had a Victory V-twin (and a Corvette) but both have been sold to purchase a small motorhome. Dan said the motorhome hasn’t worked out so well, and he’s back in the market for another fun ride.

He’s looked at the new Polaris (maker of the Victory and the Indian line of bikes) “Sling Shot." It is quite an interesting vehicle, three wheels, side-by-side seating, a steering wheel, and engineered lean in the corners — really just a three wheeled car. I said as much and he replied that maybe he’d just get another Corvette. His wife likes the Can-Am and we talked about Gold Wing and Harley trikes. Good choices once you no longer feel comfortable on a two wheel conveyance. Dan didn't like the geometry of a trike in a tight turn and explained to me how the two-wheels in front designs handle curves better. It is obvious he has done a lot of research on this subject.

I rode a Harley Servi-Car three-wheel trike and also a BMW with a sidecar while I was stationed in Norfolk, so I understood some of what he was referring to.

I didn’t want to stay too late because of the impending darkness, so after a short visit, I was back on the road again around 3 PM. This time I took the “River Road,” a main street in Salem and the suburb Keizer that becomes a nice country road up to Newberg and 219. North out of Newberg, on 219, is a wonderful, twisty mountain road over “Old Baldy.” Many of the hairpin curves on the climb up have a maximum speed of 20 mph, even though the highway speed limit is a double-nickel.

Those could be fun. However, the road had been extensively repaired. There were new strips of asphalt in the two “tire tracks” of the road, although the center of the lane was untouched. These repairs left slight bumps that act as edge traps to a narrow motorcycle tire. There was a “rough road” warning sign that showed a motorcycle. The message was clear. Bad news for two wheelers.

But I was committed to this path and didn’t want to take the long way around. As I climbed the clouds and fog completely surrounded me and soon I couldn’t see more than 30 feet. My bike was hopping and jumping as I was all over the lane and the road was wet from the fog. My bike kept falling into and out of the ruts and I was lucky to just keep it between the lines, never mind choosing the surface best to ride on.

I took most of the 20 mph turns at even slower speed, much to the chagrin of the cars behind me. At least they weren’t tailgating me. Visibility was so poor I couldn’t even find a pull off. I didn’t have enough lead time to pull over when I did spot a shoulder wide enough to permit it. I made it to the top and then pulled onto a shoulder turn-off and the two cars behind me sped on. It was only a ten or twelve minute ride up the mountain, but they were very nerve wracking minutes. I stopped and cleaned my face shield and started down the mountain.

The good news is that, on the far side, it was sunny and warm and the fog completely disappeared. I nearly caught up with those two cars as the road was still a bit twisty, but nowhere as tight as the south side of the mountain. With good visibility I could pick my lines through the curves and my speed increased with my vision and confidence.

As I hit the long straight away on the valley floor, the air temperature jumped ten or twenty degrees and my helmet fogging was no longer an issue. I warmed up considerably, and finished the ride just before dark. Following 219 into Hillsboro takes me right to the turn-off to my dad’s neighborhood. Soon I was inside, shedding layers of clothing and telling dad and my wife about the trip. I left out some of the dangerous parts. Since I had survived, no reason to scare them.

My various preparations for a long winter ride had served me well, but I don’t know what to do to prevent the bad shield fogging that occurred. My shield is treated with an anti fog, but I didn’t have any additional spray with me. I also lacked more than my pocket handkerchief to clean the plastic. That worked, but I am adding a good microfiber cloth to my pack.

I think the two times that my vision was limited, especially over Bald Mountain, were quite hazardous, and I was not comfortable during those times. My safety is a concern, and I couldn’t even see the roadway in front of me to chose my line through curves up on the mountain. I was focused entirely on the road ahead and the sharp turns. One misstep could have been my last. I don’t enjoy that, but caution saved the day. It wasn't all that dangerous since my speed was never much more than 25 mph, so I could stop or even handle going off the road. As long as no car hit me, I was relatively safe.

On the trip down to Salem via McMinnville, even in a dense fog, it was a straight road mostly when visibility was impaired. So that wasn’t as terrifying. I could even clean my shield while riding using my left hand and hanky. Still, I’m not comfortable when I can’t keep a good eye on all around me from the road ahead to the cars behind and the side road traffic too.

Despite the very uncomfortable trip over the mountains and the earlier part of the ride where fogging was a buzz kill, most of the ride was quite enjoyable. It wasn’t hard to ignore the few parts of my body that were chilled and the scenery, as usual, made it worth the trip. At one point I approached a flat field on a straight stretch of roadway when, suddenly, a black cloud launched off the field to the right and filled the highway ahead. It took me a moment to realize it was a large flock of some black birds … not necessarily “Black Birds” but some bird with dark feathers. I guess there were upwards of 300 to 500 and my motor sounds must have startled them into flight. Magnificent! Made my heart quicken.

Oregon is very green, even in the winter. After all, the local McDonalds has several palm trees out front. They’re wrapped in plastic for the winter since this isn’t exactly the banana belt, but you don’t see those reminders of tropical climes in Colorado. As I rode through the verdant countryside of rolling hills, mature trees, and hedges of green, I thought how beautiful nature can be. Various bodies of water from lakes to rivers and even a water filled ditch reminded me of the contrast with the dry climate of Colorado. It is easy to understand how our pioneer forebears were willing to make the struggle across the continent in covered wagons to reach these green pastures and rich volcanic farm lands.

My struggles with the chilling cold and fog seemed tame compared to what they went through. I do it for fun. They did it for real. This paradise at the end of their journey was definitely worth it. That part of the trip, as usual, was good for body and soul.

As I rode past farms and villages, I appreciated the rural setting and the bountiful harvest it represented. Fields strung with post and wire to support grapes or beans. A host of wineries where the black volcanic earth has been turned into a nectar truly fit for the gods. Yes, this is God’s country and, even when little uncomfortable due to temperatures, I was filled with awe at the natural beauty. Along the way were empty fields with tractors and plows taking advantage of the respite from rain, and big trucks filled with harvest. An inspiring ride. Sure a warm summer’s day would have been better, but I did pass a couple of other bikes (and one bicycle rider), proving I wasn’t the only maniacidiot … enthusiast out on the road.

I’m ready for another winter ride, if you can call temps in the 40s and no snow, “winter.” But I need to find a solution to the face shield fogging. Any ideas?

I have looked at expensive helmets that have special visors called Pinlock anti-fog visors. These European inventions add a second layer to the plastic, sort of like a dual-pain storm window. According to the sales literature, "Pinlock® lenses are created out of a moisture absorbing plastic. The silicone seal on the lens creates an airtight pocket between the shield and lens. The lens is placed between two adjustable eccentric pins, making it easy to install or switch lenses as weather conditions change." They are supposed to be fog free. Maybe I'll give that a try.

If anyone has experience with the Pinlock system or other ideas to prevent fogging when the temperature drops below 40°, I'd love to hear from you. Just add your comments in the space below.

Monday, January 5, 2015


I stopped collecting records and moved to CDs at some point in the 80s. I hate to admit it, but the reasoning was how convenient the CDs were in their smaller jewel cases and the fact that I could load several CDs into my new Pioneer player and listen and listen and listen without the interruption of flipping or changing the record every twenty minutes.

I admit it. I’m always looking for creature comfort, even at the expense of sonic quality.

Then, around ten or fifteen years later, along came computer music. I started with a player on my PC called WinAmp. I think it is probably still around. I wasn’t buying music online, but I was able to slowly “record” all my CDs onto my computer. Now I didn’t need to get off the couch even to put a bunch of CDs in my player. Plus I could count and sort and locate all my music with a few clicks on the keyboard.

Eventually my brother-in-law Chuck talked me into using iTunes. Shortly after that I got my first iPod. As the saying goes, it was all downhill from there. Today I can travel with my entire music library, consisting of 1326 albums by 739 artists, on the hard disk in the Blue Bus.

"Play artist Rolling Stones." "Yes, master."

I can’t say how many songs because the latest version of iTunes no longer shows the song count on the bottom of the screen. (Why do they keep “improving??” these programs?).

I haven’t bought many albums since that initial switch to CDs. A few dozen on eBay as I completed my collection of Casey Anderson music. I recorded Casey during the last few years of his career, and I wanted to have everything he had ever published. I bought a few other albums on eBay and a few at used record stores, but now my collection is focused on digital copies.

I have 13 large cases, each with 60-70 albums, stored away under the stairs. Included in this vinyl collection are several DOUBLE ALBUMS. I got them out when I was home in November while getting all the Christmas decorations. I didn't spend a lot of time digging into the albums, but I found several old double albums and that got me thinking.

Way back, when music was just born, and mostly performed by cave men … you know: 1960. For you TV Babies (that’s anyone born after 1963) albums used to just be a hit song or two and the rest was filler. That’s just how the hit single marketplace was … well … marketed. Even when folks from England started making record albums, it didn’t change much.

Then those four Liverpool lads started creating albums that were filled with good music. Who knew that would work. (My theory is that all they produced is good music, so naturally the albums were full, not filled.)

Up until that time, typically, albums had a high percentage of filler. After all, odds were two or three to one. One hit song … a whole side of filler.

This was also the era of the 3 minute (if not shorter) song. People thought that was the only length appropriate for radio play. But this idea began to change with the advent of FM radio and soon whole album sides were being played on the air. Before you knew it, bands started putting lots of good songs on albums. And the songs got longer. Before you could say "top forty," they started to run out of room on the time-limited platters.

There were other things cool about albums that 45 rpm singles didn't share. Besides their better sonic qualities, albums also had wonderful art work and liner notes. Some albums opened like a book. There was only one disc, but there were two "pages." Now you could really add the art, graphics, and liner notes. A whole industry was born with albums coming with posters and song books and picture books and just about anything you or the musicians could imagine.

Of course, the American music scene being what it is, you know that, before you could snap your fingers, someone figured out the “double album.” Now you really got a work of art. Four whole sides of music. (Sometimes even more.) And all that wonderful real estate to put pictures and graphics and even books. At first it was just an accident … too much music to fit, so they added a second disc. Then it became purposeful as the artists learned to tell stories and the "concept album" was born.

In the mid 1960s the idea of a double album was seen as groundbreaking, a landmark recording. However, since the introduction of the CD, the double album has become the norm; the norm in the sense that 2 vinyl albums ran to about 80 minutes on average. In many cases the filling of a CD with close to a double album’s worth of material has produced too many albums that are more "filler than killer" once again.

Here I am in Oregon with nothing but my digital music collection. That is one advantage, bits travel well. Nonetheless, I’m thinking about that vinyl collection under the stairs back home. Particularly I’m thinking about my double albums. A quick sort by release date and I had a complete chronology of the ground breaking double albums.

I’ve written before about the magic sixties decade of music. A period of ten years that has never been seen before or since. As I described, more accurately, the period of maximum goodness was from about 1963 to 1973, still a decade, just not very “powers of ten-ish.” These double albums I am thinking about trailed that period by about five years. There is some deep cosmic meaning there, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

While I try to invent my personal music history chronology, here is the dated sequence. These are the greatest double vinyl albums of all time (IMHO), and interesting to find a comparable large release on CD. No, just as video killed the radio song, CDs really killed the Double Album. Now they’re all too long with too many songs, and it just isn’t like it used to be. A lot of filler and not much killer.

Here’s my list. What would you add or subtract? Do you agree? Which ones do you consider the greatest double albums of all time?

July 1966

Blonde on Blonde by Bob (Robert) Dylan. Blonde on Blonde is the seventh studio album by the singer-songwriter, released on May 16, 1966 on Columbia Records. Recorded in New York and then Nashville … and then Nashville again.

Recording sessions began in New York in October 1965 with numerous backing musicians, including members of Dylan's live backing band, The Hawks. Though sessions continued until January 1966, they yielded only one track that made it onto the final album — "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)." At producer Bob Johnston's suggestion, Dylan, keyboardist Al Kooper, and guitarist Robbie Robertson moved to the CBS studios in Nashville, Tennessee. These sessions, augmented by some of Nashville's top session musicians, were more fruitful, and in February and March all the remaining songs for the album were recorded.

The album peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart in the USA, where it eventually went double-platinum, and reached No. 3 in the UK.

Dylan mixed the album in Los Angeles in early April, before he departed on the Australian leg of his 1966 world tour. As author Sean Wilentz writes in Bob Dylan in America, it was at this point it became "obvious that the riches of the Nashville sessions could not fit onto a single LP," and they had "produced enough solid material to demand an oddly configured double album, the first of its kind in contemporary popular music." According to producer Steve Berkowitz, who supervised the reissue of Dylan's LPs in mono as The Original Mono Recordings in 2010, Johnston told him that they carefully worked on the mono mix for about three or four days whereas the stereo mix was finished in about four hours. This was typical of the age when AM radio play was the focus, and the stereo mix was often just left to the engineers!

The cover photo of Blonde on Blonde shows a 12-by-12 inch close-up portrait of Dylan. The double album gatefold sleeve opens to form a 12-by-26 inch photo of the artist, at three quarter length. The artist's name and the album's title only appear on the spine. A sticker was applied to the shrink wrap to promote the release's two hit singles, "I Want You" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35."

Side one

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"
"Pledging My Time"
"Visions of Johanna"
"One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)"

Side two

"I Want You"
"Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again"
"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"
"Just Like a Woman"

Side three

"Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)”
"Temporary Like Achilles"
"Absolutely Sweet Marie"
"4th Time Around"
"Obviously 5 Believers"

Side four

"Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"

July 1968

Next on my list is Cream’s Wheels of Fire. This band didn’t put out a lot of albums, so a double is twice as nice. It consists of a studio and a live record. It reached #3 in the United Kingdom and #1 in the United States, becoming the first platinum-selling double album.

Cream's third album was planned to be a double album on which Atco Records' producer Felix Pappalardi and the group would include several live performances. The group and producer Felix had, in July and August 1967, recorded studio material at IBC Studios in London, and at Atlantic Studios in New York City during September and October of the same year. Additional studio material was recorded at Atlantic Studios in January and February 1968, during a break from the band's heavy touring.

The following month, Pappalardi ordered a mobile recording studio in Los Angeles to be shipped to the Fillmore auditorium and the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Six shows were recorded in San Francisco by Pappalardi and recording engineer Bill Halverson, and extra performances not included on Wheels of Fire ended up on Live Cream, and Live Cream Volume II.

In an oddity, even for rock and roll, the album was also released as two, single albums, one with the live music and one with the studio tracks.

Disc one: In the Studio

Side one

"White Room 3"
"Sitting on Top of the World"
"Passing the Time 1 3"
"As You Said”

Side 2

"Pressed Rat and Warthog"
"Politician 3"
"Those Were the Days 3"
"Born Under a Bad Sign 3"
"Deserted Cities of the Heart 2 3"

Disc two: Live at the Fillmore

Side three


Side 4

"Traintime 4"

October 1968

Electric Ladyland is the third and final studio album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in October 1968 by Reprise Records. The double album was the only record from the band produced by Jimi. By mid-November, it had charted at number one in the United States, where it spent two weeks at the top spot. Electric Ladyland was the Experience's most commercially successful release and their only number one album. It peaked at number six in the UK, where it spent 12 weeks on the chart.

Electric Ladyland included a cover of the Bob Dylan song, "All Along the Watchtower," which became the Experience's highest-selling single and their only top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 20; the single reached number five in the UK.

Although it confounded critics upon its release, Ladyland has since been viewed as Hendrix's best work and one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Recorded in London and New York at the newly opened Record Plant Studios, with Chas Chandler as producer and engineers Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren. As recording progressed, Chandler became increasingly frustrated with Hendrix's perfectionism and his demands for repeated takes. Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell recorded well over 50 takes of "Gypsy Eyes" over three sessions. Hendrix allowed numerous friends and guests to join them in the studio, which contributed to a chaotic and crowded environment in the control room and led Chandler to sever his professional relationship with Hendrix.

Besides the Experience regulars, Mitchell and Redding, the album included Jack Cassady, Steve Winwood on organ, and B.B. King, Al Kooper, and Elvin Bishop.

Side one

"…And the Gods Made Love"
"Have You Ever Been"
"Crosstown Traffic"
"Voodoo Chile”

Side two

"Little Miss Strange"
"Long Hot Summer Night"
"Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)"
"Gypsy Eyes"
"Burning of the Midnight Lamp”

Side three

"Rainy Day, Dream Away"
“1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)"
"Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away”

Side four

"Still Raining, Still Dreaming"
"House Burning Down"
"All Along the Watchtower"
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"

November 1968

The self titled The Beatles is the ninth studio album by the English rock group. It is a double album and commonly known as the White Album, as it has no graphics or text other than the band's name embossed (and, on the early LP and CD releases, a serial number) on its plain white sleeve.

Most of the songs on the album were written during early 1968 at a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India. Although the group's experience of the course was mixed, the lack of external influences and drugs sparked the band's creativity and they returned to England with around 40 new songs.

They regrouped at George Harrison's house, Kinfauns, in May and recorded demos of 26 songs, enough for a double album. The group returned to Abbey Road Studios to record the new material, with sessions lasting through to mid October, but their experiences in Rishikesh did not help motivate them in the studio. Because the Beatles had unlimited recording time, there was little attempt to rehearse anything as a group, so everything was captured on tape, after which they would overdub voices and additional instruments.

Arguments broke out between the Beatles, and people in the studio saw John Lennon and Paul McCartney quarrel with one another repeatedly. The feuds intensified when Lennon's new partner, Yoko Ono, started attending the sessions. In addition, McCartney was not happy about the avant-garde piece "Revolution 9," while Lennon disliked several of McCartney's songs.

After a series of problems, including producer George Martin taking a sudden leave of absence and engineer Geoff Emerick quitting, Ringo Starr left the band briefly in August, and consequently did not play on some tracks. The same tensions continued throughout the following year, leading to the group's eventual disbandment in April 1970.

Around the same time, the group's self-belief that they could do anything led to the formation of a new multimedia business corporation Apple Corps, an enterprise that drained the group financially with a series of financially unsuccessful projects. The open-ended studio time led to a new way of working out songs. Instead of tightly rehearsing a backing track, as had happened in previous sessions, the group would simply record all the rehearsals and jamming onto tape, then select which performance had been best to overdub. Harrison's song "Not Guilty" was left off the album despite recording 102 takes.

Side one

"Back in the U.S.S.R."
"Dear Prudence"
"Glass Onion"
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
"Wild Honey Pie"
"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
"Happiness Is a Warm Gun”

Side two

"Martha My Dear"
"I'm So Tired"
"Rocky Raccoon"
"Don't Pass Me By"
"Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"
"I Will"

Side three

"Yer Blues"
"Mother Nature's Son"
"Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"
"Sexy Sadie"
"Helter Skelter"
"Long, Long, Long”

Side four

"Revolution 1"
"Honey Pie"
"Savoy Truffle"
"Cry Baby Cry"
"Revolution 9"
"Good Night"

Eric Clapton played the lead on Harrison’s composition, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and Yoko did backup vocals on two tracks.

It was The Beatles first studio album in almost eighteen months and the album achieved huge commercial success. Capitol Records sold over 3.3 million copies of the White Album to stores within the first four days of the album's release.

April 1969

Chicago Transit Authority is the self-titled debut album by the Chicago-based rock band Chicago Transit Authority, later known simply as Chicago.

At the band's 1967 inception, it was initially called "The Missing Links." Then, according to Robert Lamm on an episode of In the Studio with Redbeard devoted to the making of the album, the name was changed to "The Big Thing" (occasionally performed in areas outside Chicago and Milwaukee as "The Big Sounds" due to some venues complaining about the double entendre that the name "The Big Thing" also alluded to), before adopting the name The Chicago Transit Authority when the producer James William Guercio took them on in 1968. Their trademark was fusing brass and jazz with a soulful rock and roll feel and Guercio instinctively felt that this would prove successful, lobbying for his label to give them a try.

The Chicago Transit Authority band were signed to Columbia Records late that year and recorded their first album in late January. While Guercio had recently produced Blood, Sweat & Tears' second album (which proved to be a huge smash), he did so to raise capital for his band. By the end of The Chicago Transit Authority's sessions, it was clear that the album would have to be a double. Very skeptical, seeing as the band had no track record, Columbia only agreed to the concept if the group would take a royalty cut.

In 1974 The album was also mixed in quadraphonic sound and released on SQ encoded LP and Dolby Quadraphonic 8-Track. In 2010 Rhino Handmade re-released the original quadraphonic mix of the album on a limited edition DTS DVD.

Side one

"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

Side two

"Questions 67 and 68"
"Poem 58”

Side three

"Free Form Guitar"
"South California Purples"
"I'm a Man”

Side four

"Prologue, August 29, 1968"

Released in April 1969, The Chicago Transit Authority (sometimes informally referred to simply as "CTA") proved to be an immediate hit, reaching #17 in the US and #9 in the UK. While critical reaction was also strong, the album initially failed to produce any hit singles, with the group seen as an album-oriented collective.

May 1969

Tommy is the fourth studio album by the English rock band The Who, a double album first released in May 1969. The album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend as a rock opera that tells the story about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy, including his experiences with life and the relationship with his family.

Townshend came up with the concept of Tommy after being introduced to the work of Meher Baba, and attempted to translate Baba's teachings into music. Recording on the album began in September 1968, but took six months to complete as material needed to be arranged and re-recorded in the studio. Tommy was acclaimed upon its release by critics, who hailed it as the Who's breakthrough, although its critical standing diminished slightly in later years. Nonetheless, it has since been viewed by several writers as an important and influential rock album.

The album was recorded onto eight track tape, which allowed various instruments to be overdubbed. Townshend used several guitars in the studio, but made particular use of the Gibson J-200 acoustic and the Gibson SG. As well as their usual instruments, Townshend played piano and organ and bassist John Entwistle doubled on french horn. Keith Moon used a new double bass drum kit owned by roadie Tony Haslam after Premier had refused to loan him any more equipment due to continual abuse.

Though Townshend wrote the majority of the material, the arrangements came from the entire band. Singer Roger Daltrey later said that Townshend often came in with a half-finished demo recording, adding "we probably did as much talking as we did recording, sorting out arrangements and things." Townshend asked Entwistle to write two songs ("Cousin Kevin" and "Fiddle About") that covered the darker themes of bullying and abuse. "Tommy's Holiday Camp" was Moon's suggestion of what religious movement Tommy could lead. Moon got the songwriting credit for suggesting the idea, though the music was composed and played by Townshend. A significant amount of material had a lighter style than earlier recordings, with greater prominence put on the vocals. Moon later said, "It was, at the time, very un-Wholike. A lot of the songs were soft. We never played like that.”

The album was commercially successful, reaching No. 2 in the UK album charts, and No. 4 in the US.

Side one

"Overture" "It's a Boy!"
"Amazing Journey"
"The Hawker"

Side two

"Cousin Kevin"
"The Acid Queen"

Side three

"Do You Think It's Alright?"
"Fiddle About"
"Pinball Wizard"
"There's a Doctor"
"Go to the Mirror!"
"Tommy Can You Hear Me?"
"Smash the Mirror"

Side four

"Miracle Cure"
"Sally Simpson"
"I'm Free"
"Tommy's Holiday Camp"
"We're Not Gonna Take It”

Though later released as a single, "See Me, Feel Me" was not a track in its own right on the original album, and is included as the latter half of "We're not Gonna Take It".

November 1970

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the only studio album by blues rock band Derek and the Dominos. Released in November 1970, it is best known for its title track, "Layla." The album is often regarded as Eric Clapton's greatest musical achievement. The other band members were Bobby Whitlock on keyboards and vocals, Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Radle on bass, and special guest performer Duane Allman on lead and slide guitar on 11 of the 14 songs.

The collaboration that created Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek and the Dominos, grew out of Eric Clapton's frustration with the hype associated with the supergroups Cream and the short-lived Blind Faith. Following the latter's dissolution, he joined Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, whom he had come to know while they were the opening act on Blind Faith's US tour in the summer of 1969.

A serendipitous event brought Clapton and guitarist Duane Allman together shortly after the Dominos had begun recording at Criteria Studios in August 1970. Veteran producer Tom Dowd was working on the Allman Brothers second album, Idlewild South, when the studio received a phone call that Clapton was bringing the Dominos to Miami to record. Upon hearing this, Allman indicated that he would love to drop by and watch, if Clapton approved.

After the show, Allman asked if he could come by the studio to watch some recording sessions, but Clapton invited him there directly, saying: "Bring your guitar; you got to play!" Overnight, the two bonded; Dowd reported that they "were trading licks, they were swapping guitars, they were talking shop and information and having a ball — no holds barred, just admiration for each other's technique and facility." Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Allman were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Allman as the "musical brother I'd never had but wished I did.”

Atco Records issued Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs in November 1970 in the United States, with a UK release following in December, on Polydor. The album failed to chart in the United Kingdom, while in the US, it peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Top LPs chart.

Side one

"I Looked Away"
"Bell Bottom Blues"
"Keep On Growing"
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"

Side two

"I Am Yours"
"Key to the Highway"

Side three

"Tell the Truth"
"Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”
"Have You Ever Loved a Woman"

Side four

"Little Wing"
"It's Too Late"
"Thorn Tree in the Garden"

July 1971

At Fillmore East is the first live album by the Allman Brothers Band, and their third release overall. Produced by Tom Dowd, the album was released in July 1971 in the United States by Capricorn Records. As the title suggests, the recording took place at New York City's music venue Fillmore East, run by concert promoter Bill Graham. It was recorded over the course of three nights in March 1971 and features the band performing extended jam versions of songs such as "Whipping Post" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." When first commercially released, it was issued as a double LP with just seven songs comprising four vinyl sides.

At Fillmore East was the band's artistic and commercial breakthrough, and has been considered by some critics to be one of the greatest live albums in rock music; certainly one of the greatest live albums.

The Allman Brothers Band had first played Fillmore East in December 1969, opening for Blood, Sweat & Tears for three nights. Promoter Bill Graham enjoyed the band and promised to have them back soon. In January 1970, the band opened for Buddy Guy and B.B. King at San Francisco's Fillmore West, and one month later at Fillmore East supporting the Grateful Dead. In 1970, Duane Allman told disc jockey Ed Shane, "You know, we get kind of frustrated doing the [studio] records, and I think, consequently, our next album will be … a live recording, to get some of that natural fire on it." "We were not intentionally trying to buck the system, but keeping each song down to 3:14 just didn't work for us," remembered vocalist Gregg Allman. "And we realized that the audience was a big part of what we did, which couldn't be duplicated in a studio. A lightbulb finally went off; we needed to make a live album.”

On June 27, the Fillmore East closed, and the band were invited to play a final invitation-only concert, along with Edgar Winter, the Beach Boys and Country Joe McDonald. The Beach Boys initially refused on performing unless they headlined the event, but Graham refused, telling them that the Allman Brothers would be closing the show, and they were free to leave if they disagreed.

At Fillmore East peaked at number thirteen on Billboard'​s Top Pop Albums chart,

Side one

"Statesboro Blues"
"Done Somebody Wrong"
"Stormy Monday"

Side two

"You Don't Love Me"

Side three

"Hot 'Lanta"
"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"

Side four

"Whipping Post”

May 1972

Exile on Main St is a double album by English rock band The Rolling Stones. It was released on May 12, 1972 by Rolling Stones Records. The album's music incorporates rock and roll, blues, soul, country, and gospel genres.

Even though the album is often described as being Richards' finest moment, as Exile is often thought to reflect his vision for a raw, rootsy rock sound, Jagger was already expressing his boredom with rock and roll in several interviews at the time of the album's release. With Richards' effectiveness seriously undermined by his dependence on heroin, the group's subsequent 1970s releases — directed largely by Jagger — would experiment to varying degrees with other musical genres, moving away from the roots-based sound of Exile on Main St.

Preceded by the UK and US Top 10 hit "Tumbling Dice," Exile on Main St was released in May 1972. It was an immediate commercial success, reaching No. 1 worldwide just as the band embarked on their celebrated 1972 American Tour. Their first American tour in three years, it featured many songs from the new album. "Happy," sung by Richards, would be a Top 30 US hit later that summer.

Side one

"Rocks Off"
"Rip This Joint"
"Shake Your Hips"
"Casino Boogie"
"Tumbling Dice"

Side two

"Sweet Virginia"
"Torn and Frayed"
"Sweet Black Angel"
"Loving Cup"

Side three

"Turd on the Run"
"Ventilator Blues"
"I Just Want to See His Face"
"Let It Loose"

Side four

"All Down the Line"
"Stop Breaking Down"
"Shine a Light"
"Soul Survivor"

October 1973

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the seventh studio album by singer-songwriter Elton John. Released in 1973, it has come to be regarded as one of his best and most popular albums.

Recorded at the Château d'Hérouville, the double album contains the Marilyn Monroe tribute "Candle in the Wind" as well as three other successful singles: "Bennie and the Jets," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.”

Under the working titles of Vodka and Tonics and Silent Movies, Talking Pictures, Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics in two and a half weeks, with John composing most of the music in three days while staying at the Pink Flamingo Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.

According to the album's producer, Gus Dudgeon, the album was not planned as a two-record collection. In total, John and Taupin composed 22 tracks for the album, of which 18 (counting "Funeral for a Friend" and "Love Lies Bleeding" as two discrete tracks) were used, enough that it was released as a double album, John's first (three more such albums followed up to 2011). The songs, mostly around the theme of nostalgia for a more humble childhood and an older American culture as seen through eyes of the movies, included "Bennie and the Jets," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," the latter based on memories of a pub Taupin frequented when younger.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has come to be regarded as John's best and most popular album, and is his best selling studio album. It has also been seen as one of the most influential albums in music.

Side one

"Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding"
"Candle in the Wind"
"Bennie and the Jets"

Side two

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
"This Song Has No Title"
"Grey Seal"
"Jamaica Jerk-Off"
"I've Seen That Movie Too"

Side three

"Sweet Painted Lady"
"The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)"
"Dirty Little Girl"
"All the Girls Love Alice"

Side four

"Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll)"
"Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting"
"Roy Rogers"
"Social Disease"

November 1974

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (often shortened to The Lamb) is a double concept album recorded and released in 1974 by the British progressive rock band Genesis. It was their sixth studio album, and the last to feature original singer and frontman Peter Gabriel.

The album tells the surreal story of a half Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent named Rael living in New York City, who is swept underground to face bizarre creatures and nightmarish dangers to rescue his brother John. Several of the story's occurrences and places were derived from Peter Gabriel's dreams, and the protagonist's name is a play on his surname (Rael = Gabriel). In reference to the live performance of "it" (where Gabriel appears onstage with an identically dressed mannequin), Phil Collins remarked that the entire concept was about split personality.

Following their Selling England by the Pound tour, the band went on retreat to Headley Grange to write and develop their next album. Used previously by Bad Company and Led Zeppelin, this was where the band hoped living together away from other distractions would help inspire creativity and develop unity between the members. The house, however, was in poor condition and infested by rats. Several band members had difficulty sleeping, believing the house was haunted

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway reached number 10 in the UK, and number 15 in Canada, while nearly cracking the US Top 40, reaching number 41 and eventually going Gold, although it met with mixed reviews.

The release of the album was accompanied by a very elaborate tour that reenacted the album's story. There were a lot of technical errors and the tour was very frustrating for the entire band. For example, some of the stage costumes that Gabriel wore prevented proper miking and there were issues with the slide photographs played in the background. At one point, an over enthusiastic explosion literally stopped the performance. The band was frustrated that the reviews focused on the stage show instead of the music performance … always a problem with complex tour designs. No complete performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was recorded, although several pieces were filmed, including some bootleg footage taken by audience members.

Disc 1

Side one

"The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway"
"Fly on a Windshield"
"Broadway Melody of 1974"
"Cuckoo Cocoon"
"In the Cage"
"The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging"

Side two

"Back in N.Y.C."
"Hairless Heart"
"Counting Out Time"
"The Carpet Crawlers"
"The Chamber of 32 Doors"

Disc 2

Side one

"Lilywhite Lilith"
"The Waiting Room"
"Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist"
"The Lamia"
"Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats"

Side two

"The Colony of Slippermen"
    a)  "The Arrival"
    b)  "A Visit to the Doktor"
    c)  "Raven"
"The Light Dies Down on Broadway"
"Riding the Scree"
"In the Rapids"

February 1975

Physical Graffiti is the sixth studio album by rock band Led Zeppelin, released on February 24, 1975 as a double album two years after their previous studio album. The band wrote and recorded eight songs at Headley Grange; these eight songs stretched beyond the typical length of an LP. The band decided to make Physical Graffiti a double album by including unreleased tracks from earlier recording sessions: one outtake from Led Zeppelin III; three from Led Zeppelin IV; and three from Houses of the Holy including its unused title track.

The first attempt to record songs for Physical Graffiti took place in November 1973. The recording equipment consisted of Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio. However, these sessions came to a halt quickly and the studio time was turned over to the band Bad Company, who used it to record songs for their self-titled debut album.

Spanning several years of recording, the album featured forays into a range of musical styles, including hard rock ("Custard Pie," "The Rover," "The Wanton Song," "Night Flight," "Sick Again," "Houses of the Holy"), eastern-influenced orchestral rock ("Kashmir"), progressive rock ("In the Light"), driving funk ("Trampled Under Foot"), acoustic rock and roll ("Boogie with Stu," "Black Country Woman"), love ballad ("Ten Years Gone"), blues rock ("In My Time of Dying"), soft rock ("Down by the Seaside"), and acoustic guitar instrumental ("Bron-Yr-Aur"). The wide range of Physical Graffiti is also underlined by the fact that it contains both the longest and shortest studio recordings by Led Zeppelin. "In My Time of Dying" clocks in at eleven minutes and five seconds, and "Bron-Yr-Aur" is two minutes and six seconds. With the exception of "The Battle of Evermore" on their fourth album, it is also the only Led Zeppelin album to feature John Paul Jones playing additional guitar on some tracks.

The album's sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, with interchanging window illustrations. The two five-story buildings photographed for the album cover are located at 96 and 98 St. Mark's Place in New York City. The original photograph underwent a number of tweaks to arrive at the final image. The fifth floor of the building had to be cropped out to fit the square album cover format.

Physical Graffiti was the band's first release on their own Swan Song Records label, which had been launched in May 1974. Until this point, all of Led Zeppelin's albums had been released on Atlantic Records. The album was a commercial and critical success, having built up a huge advance order, and when eventually released it reached No. 1 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart.

Side one

"Custard Pie"
"The Rover"
"In My Time of Dying"

Side two

“Houses of the Holy"
"Trampled Under Foot"

Side three

"In the Light"
"Down by the Seaside"
"Ten Years Gone"

Side four

"Night Flight"
"The Wanton Song"
"Boogie with Stu"
"Black Country Woman"
"Sick Again"

January 1976

Frampton Comes Alive! is a double live album by Peter Frampton released in 1976, and one of the best-selling live albums in the United States. Following four solo albums with little commercial success, Frampton Comes Alive! was a breakthrough for the artist.

The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 the week ending April 10, 1976, and was in the top spot for a total of 10 weeks. It was the best-selling album of 1976, selling over 6 million copies in the US and becoming one of the best-selling live albums to date, with estimated sales of 11 million worldwide.

The album was recorded in summer and fall 1975, primarily at Winterland in San Francisco and the Long Island Arena in Commack, New York, as well as a concert on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus in Plattsburgh, New York. The Winterland recordings were recorded on a 24 track master recorder. Other concerts were recorded on a 16 track recorder.

Side one

"Introduction / Something's Happening"
"Doobie Wah"
"Show Me the Way"
"It's a Plain Shame"

Side two

"All I Want to Be (Is by Your Side)"
"Wind of Change"
"Baby, I Love Your Way"
"I Wanna Go to the Sun"

Side three

"Penny for Your Thoughts"
"(I'll Give You) Money"
"Shine On"
"Jumpin' Jack Flash"

Side four

"Lines on My Face"
"Do You Feel Like We Do”

September 1976

Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth album by recording artist Stevie Wonder, released on September 28, 1976, by Motown Records. It was the culmination of his “classic period” albums. The album was recorded primarily at Crystal Sounds studio in Hollywood, with some sessions recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood, the Record Plant in Sausalito, and The Hit Factory in New York City.

An ambitious double LP with a four-song bonus EP, Songs in the Key of Life became among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed albums of his career.

A total of 130 musicians were on the album, but Wonder’s preeminence was evident. Among the people present during the sessions, there were legendary figures of R&B, soul, and jazz music — Herbie Hancock played Fender Rhodes on “As,” George Benson played electric guitar on “Another Star,” and Minnie Riperton and Deniece Williams added backing vocals on “Ordinary Pain.”

Highly anticipated, the album surpassed all commercial expectations. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart on October 8, 1976, becoming only the third album in history to achieve that feat and the first by an American artist (after British singer/composer Elton John’s albums.) Songs in the Key of Life became the second best-selling album of 1977 in the US, only behind Fleetwood Mac’s blockbuster Rumours, and was certified as a diamond album by the RIAA for sales of ten million copies in the US alone.

Side one

“Love's in Need of Love Today”
“Have a Talk with God”
“Village Ghetto Land”
“Sir Duke”

Side two

“I Wish”
“Knocks Me Off My Feet”
“Pastime Paradise”
“Summer Soft”
“Ordinary Pain”

Side three

“Isn't She Lovely”
“Joy Inside My Tears”
“Black Man”

Side four

“Ngiculela –—Es Una Historia —– I Am Singing”
“If It's Magic”
“Another Star”

The A Something's Extra 7" EP was included with the special-edition version of the original LP.

Side one

“Ebony Eyes”

Side two

“All Day Sucker”
“Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)”

December 1978

Here, My Dear is the fifteenth studio album by music artist Marvin Gaye, released December 15, 1978, on Motown subsidiary label Tamla Records. Recording sessions for the album took place between 1977 and 1978 at Gaye's personal studios, Marvin Gaye Studios in Los Angeles, California. The album was notable for its subject matter being dedicated to the fallout of Gaye's marriage to his first wife, Anna Gordy Gaye.

Marvin Gaye was going through a personal crisis in the summer of 1976. In November of 1975, Gaye's estranged first wife, Anna, sued Marvin for divorce, claiming irreconcilable differences and seeking money in palimony for support of their adopted son, Marvin Gaye III. After months of delays, in March of 1977, the singer's attorney Curtis Shaw wanted to end divorce proceedings and convinced Marvin to give up half of the percentage of album royalties he would earn from his next Motown album to Anna. The Gayes' divorce was finalized in June.

When Marvin set to start production on the record, he said he figured he just do a "quickie record — nothing heavy, nothing even good," stating, "why should I break my neck when Anna was going to wind up with the money anyway?" But as Gaye lived with the notion of doing an album, the more it fascinated him, stating he felt he "owed the public my best effort." Gaye stated he did the record "out of deep passion," noting he "sang and sang until I drained myself of everything I'd lived through." The record was completed in three months, but the singer held it back for over a year, scared of letting it be released.

When Here, My Dear was released in the end of 1978, it was panned by consumers and critics alike, who called the album "bizarre" and “un-commercial." The album's lack of success angered Gaye to the point that he refused to promote it any further. In 1994, the album was re-released due to increased attention on Marvin's life to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the singer's untimely death, and reached number-one on Billboard's R&B catalog chart. The original album peaked at number four R&B and number twenty-six pop, becoming Gaye's lowest-charting studio album of the 1970s.

I’m not sure what the self-requested album front photo of Marvin in a toga means. I’m no Sigmund Freud. But the collapsing temple labeled “Matrimony” on the back side is easy to decode. I’ll leave you readers to search the used record bins for a copy and check out the large inner album art work. Marvin was in a confused state of mind, as it is readily apparent in all aspects of this album.

Now, some thirty plus years later, this album has finally received the respect and placement that I thought it deserved originally. It is now listed in many top 500 albums of all time, and, to quote Dave Ritz on the liner notes, “Soul music doesn't get any deep, darker, or more personal than this.” He goes on to say that it is at once, "self-serving, self-justifying, [and] self-pitying.”

Side one

"Here, My Dear"
"I Met a Little Girl"
"When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You"

Side two

"Is That Enough"
"Everybody Needs Love"
"Time to Get It Together"

Side three

"Anna's Song"
"When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Instrumental)"

Side four

"A Funky Space Reincarnation"
"You Can Leave, but It's Going to Cost You"
"Falling in Love Again"
"When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Reprise)”

November 1979

The Wall is the eleventh studio album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd. It is the last studio album released with the classic lineup of Gilmour, Waters, Wright, and Mason before keyboardist Richard Wright left the band and the Gilmour / Waters feud began. Released as a double album on November 30, 1979, it was supported by a tour with elaborate theatrical effects, and adapted into a 1982 feature film, Pink Floyd — The Wall.

The Wall is a concept album and explores themes of abandonment and personal isolation. The album is a rock opera that follows Pink, a character whom bassist and lyricist Roger Waters modeled after himself and the band's original leader, Syd Barrett. Pink's life begins with the loss of his father during the Second World War and continues with abuse from his schoolteachers, an overprotective mother, and the breakdown of his marriage; all contribute to his eventual self-imposed isolation from society, represented by a metaphorical wall.

The album was recorded in several locations. In France, Super Bear Studios was used between January and July 1979, with Waters recording his vocals at the nearby Studio Miraval. Michael Kamen supervised the orchestral arrangements at CBS Studios in New York, in September. Over the next two months the band used Cherokee Studios and The Village Recorder in Los Angeles. A plan to work with the Beach Boys at the Sundance Productions studio in Los Angeles was cancelled. For a week in November they worked at the Producers Workshop, also in Los Angeles.

This hectic change in locations and geography combined with issues with producers, including a short period where keyboardist Richard Wright produced, added to the friction within the band. Waters's relationship with Wright broke down. Ultimately, Wright left the band — or was fired depending on the account. He was hired back as a salaried musician for the tour following the release of the album. Due to the large cost of the complicated stage production, everyone lost money except for Wright who was on salary.

That relationship wasn’t the only one strained by this epic album. David Gilmour later stated, “I think things like ‘Comfortably Numb’ were the last embers of mine and Roger's ability to work collaboratively together.”

Despite the friction and cost overruns of the tour, the album The Wall was released in the UK on November 30, 1979, and about a week later in the US. Coinciding with its release Waters was interviewed by veteran DJ Tommy Vance, who played the album in its entirety on BBC Radio 1.

Critical opinion of its content ranged from The Village Voice critic Robert Christgau's "too-kitschy minimal maximalism with sound effects and speech fragments” and Rolling Stone writer Kurt Loder's "a stunning synthesis of Waters's by now familiar thematic obsessions,” to Melody Maker's "I'm not sure whether it's brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling." Nevertheless the album topped the Billboard charts for 15 weeks, and in 1999 was certified 23x platinum. It remains one of the best-selling albums of all time in the US, between 1979 and 1990 selling over 19 million copies worldwide. These results place it second only to the phenomenal success of Dark Side of the Moon.

Side one

“In the Flesh?"
"The Thin Ice"
“Another Brick in the Wall (Part I)"
"The Happiest Days of Our Lives"
"Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)"

Side two

"Goodbye Blue Sky"
"Empty Spaces"
"Young Lust"
"One of My Turns"
"Don't Leave Me Now"
"Another Brick in the Wall (Part III)"
"Goodbye Cruel World"

Side three

"Hey You"
"Is There Anybody Out There?"
"Nobody Home"
"Bring the Boys Back Home"
"Comfortably Numb"

Side four

"The Show Must Go On"
"In the Flesh"
"Run Like Hell"
"Waiting for the Worms"
"The Trial"
"Outside the Wall”