February 13: Sharing an email about history

Today I got an email from a would-be client of mine.

I gave her an assignment a few weeks back with a two-week deadline.

Here’s her email:

Paul

I am so sorry that I have neither followed up (yet) on your wonderful suggestions not let you know. As soon as we’d spoken I did some research into the subject then got stuck with a project I need to finish ASAP. I have to make (within the next few weeks!!) enough content for one quarter from 3 or more text books on the infinite topic of History of Golf.

So, that’s what I’m killing myself doing, especially on weekends. During my work, I was so happy to come across a couple of paragraphs dedicated to your friend (thought to myself – hey I know this guy!!), and excited that it will go into my powerpoints:

In 1911, Johnny McDermott, a brash young pro from Philadelphia was addicted to gambling at golf, ended the foreign and foreign-born dominance of the U.S. Open by becoming the first American-born winner of the event. At age 19 years, 10 months, and 14 days, he is still the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Open and the second-youngest ever to win any of the four modern majors. Only Young Tom Morris, who won the British Open in 1868 at age 17, was younger. As if to prove that his victory in 1911 was no fluke, McDermott won the US Open again in 1912 at the Country Club of Buffalo, where he became the first player to shoot a sub-par score in the US Open. Unfortunately he disappeared from the golfing scene as quickly as he had appeared. In 1914, at age 23, he collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown in the clubhouse of the Atlantic City Country Club where he was the club pro. He never recovered from the incident and spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals, rest homes, and living with family members in Philadelphia, suffering from a mental illness.

Will follow-up on your ideas soon as this job is done.

Do you go to the Genesis Invitational?

Signed, Would-Be Client

And my reply:

Dear Client

You’re lucky. 

I was about to send you a friendly-reminder email.

Glad you’re busy, hoping you’re not too busy.

Yeah, I got some JJM bio stuff from the USGA’s head historian. Nice guy, tho I cannot recall his name. Oh, yeah, it’s Mike Trostel! Not all of my memory is gone, thank goodness.

What is most interesting about JJM is that there are  NO authoritative contemporaneous accounts of his decline. Some sources include what you have mentioned, others say bad financial decisions preceded his illness and still others point to the trauma of surviving a near-catastrophe at sea while sailing home  to the United States.

I guess this kind of vagueness is an omnipresent feature of most lives, even of some noteworthy folks like JJM. My mother was dead less than a week before her own daughter inadvertently misstated some well-known facts about my mother’s life during a eulogy.

In the back of the church I muttered to myself, “And we wonder why there are so many biographies of the same person.”

Anyway, it’s great to hear from you. 

Please keep in touch and be well!

Cheers.

Paul

The italicized paragraph is about John J. McDermott, a main character in my first novel. I was especially taken that my client presented what she did as authoritative. It may have been, but I doubt it. Whether it was JJM’s life or the life of my mother, people come and go and then we set about to say what happened in their lives. Sometimes we’re right. Other times, not so much. So, the word for the day is humble, as in be humble when citing facts about the lives of others, living or not.

John J. McDermott and one of his two U.S. Open trophies

Another LP is spinning for this evening’s writing soundtrack. It’s my single favorite solo guitar record ever. It’s by one or two-off virtuoso, George Cromarty and it’s called Wind In The Heather. It is a superb pressing with some of the best and best recorded acoustic guitar I have ever heard. I need to add Cromarty to my list of missing musicians.

This is also a rare flood survivor as the stained and damaged cover show. Happily, and I mean very happily, the record itself was spared. I never even had to clean it with the Nitty Gritty. I tried to get a little too arty with the processing on this, but what can you do other than try?

Anyway, thanks for reading.

February 13: Sharing an email about history

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

It’s true, pCloud is coming into the home stretch though I will remind you that the upload process has been very slow (but steady) at least after fooling around with the upload speeds in settings.

There were about 9,000 digital files to start. Owing to its unbelievable initial sluggishness I began to plot its progress to see if I had tossed $50 into the street (yet again).

8057 files were ready for upload on last Sunday:
7916 3:22pm Monday
7767 8:08pm Monday
6658 10:23am Tuesday
6582 2:38pm Tuesday
6442 11:57am Wednesday
6385 3:10pm Wednesday
6274 10:23am Thursday
3902 10:30am Friday
3026 11:09am Saturday
2024 12:04pm Sunday
1288 11:36pm Sunday
1018 11:19am Monday (today)

Right now, it has 50 files (6.33GB) to go but it’s stalled (which seems to happen a couple times a day). When I’m done with this post I will quit and restart which is the recipe to getting things flowing again. Check that; it’s uploading again…44 files remaining (5.87GB) estimated as an hour and thirty-seven minutes (I’m guessing around 12 hours of actual upload time).

Off and on I’ve taken look at the pCloud app, which looks like this on my iPhone:

The pCloud iOS app Home Screen

Now let me explain what I think (and I emphasize the word think) we’re looking at. First of all, the top three folders labeled My Music, My Pictures and My Videos have absolutely nothing in them. That explains why they’re at the top, doesn’t it? I am genuinely unsure if they’re intended to be placeholders or samples or just something to look at.

It’s very weird and significantly kludgy.

But wait, look below and you’ll see a green folder labeled pCloud backup. Now we’re cooking! That’s full of good stuff like what pCloud refers to both within the app and the desktop app as the MacMachine pCloud is Swiss, you know).

The whole deal looks like something AOL would have considered cutting-edge back in 2003.

As I mentioned before, once I’m done with the digital stuff I plan to add a folder called LPs to the upload. It’s good to know approximately where this will live once it’s on p’s cloud.

My hope remains that pCloud will do exactly what I want it to do when it’s all done, house my digital music in a non-Apple cloud as well as the AAC files of my LPs. I’m cautiously optimistic. If it works I’ll be more than happy to pay for a lifetime subscription which is something under $200. I’ll keep you posted.

My musical company this evening is Remembering Mountains sung by Sharon Van Etten from the 2015 record, Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton. Unheard indeed. The record has fewer reviews (18) at Amazon than my first novel (20).

Oh well, I’ll boost the count up to 19 once I’ve penned mine. The title song is fantastic and at least two others (Don’t Make It Easy and At Last the Night Has Ended) are very good. So, here I am listening to and buying songs by a songwriter I’ve never heard of until a couple weeks ago. Who said the internet wasn’t amazing (as well as occasionally horrible, intrusive and possessed of post-apocalyptic potential?). I’m going to try to read up on Dalton. Don’t surprised if you read more about her from me soon.

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

January 22: Hike early, music later

I went back onto the trail today. My goal was to find if it was better to start hiking at the end of Liberty Canyon rather than from Juan Batista de Anza park in Calabasas. It turns out that on both distance and time it’s about the same, though it’s easier to get to Liberty and the parking is better, especially on weekends.

Averaging 18,000 steps and around 40 floors climbed on each of my last three hikes I have concluded that I am in lousy shape. Everything held up Ok until today when my bad knee felt crappy by the time I got back to the car.

Hmmm…

If I’m going to do 15 miles in a day, let alone 30 over two days, I’ll have to be in better shape otherwise I’ll be hurting’ after such a fun couple of days.

Later, we went to a concert at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena. It was done by Pittance Chamber Society and featured music by Ingolf Dahl, Barbara Kolb and one of my favorite contemporary composers, Arvo Pärt. I hate to be biased, but the the piece by Pärt, Spiegel Im Spiegel was worth the price of admission all by itself. The acoustics at the church are marginal though it’s a lovely place to walk into. It was built in 1924, the same year as many of the larger churches in Pasadena. I have no idea what was special about churches and Pasadena in 1924. The room is slightly diffuse sounding. It’s very difficult to localize instrumental sounds and timbres tend to blend together in a less than pleasing way. I recall it was better for choral groups so perhaps the room simply needs more energy to really come alive. Anyway, it was a rare pleasure to actually attend a concert, any concert, with things as they are. I hope it’s a sign of more good things to come over 2022.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Tabula Rasa, by Arvo Pärt. It’s fantastic…

January 22: Hike early, music later

January 16: Sunday in Sacramento

Like I said, this has been a quick trip. Maybe too quick when you think about the numbers of miles to & fro but you know what they say about beggars.

Our Sunday started out slowly with breakfast at Cafe Bernardo’s-Pavillions. There are a couple others Bernardo’s in the chain but this location is my favorite, especially when it comes to their fantastic pancakes. Today’s were sublime; tender, good buttermilk flavor, not over or undercooked and the perfect thickness. I got by with one cake but I would have been able to devour four if self-preservation hadn’t gotten the better of me.

Later, we took a ride out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, in the same park as the Ancil Hoffman golf course I mentioned yesterday.

The nature center has a number of trails that meander along and around the American River. As on the golf course there are deer everywhere as well as wild turkeys. The air was just crisp enough to keep a jacket on even with the sun out.

Afterwards, I noticed a brewery in nearby Rancho Cordova that I wanted to check out called Fort Rock. Everything was just a little disappointing. It was too loud (the 49ers were playing Dallas), the tap list was a little blah as was the strip mall ish location. I tried the Lights Out IPA. It was Ok but far from soul-stirring. Maybe I was expecting too much or maybe the relentless din from the TVs and the football fans tweaked my tastebuds. I hate to scratch a brewery off the list after trying only one beer but I may have to in this case.

Ah, but dinner! Dinner was at Obo. Now why the hell can’t I have an Obo in Los Angeles? It’s Italian and it’s fantastic. I went all in with spaghetti & meat balls and it was good as it was last summer, the winter before that and so on. They also have a full bar, a small but well-curated tap list, and a $10 rye old fashioned.

Are you kidding me?

We were celebrating a birthday (not mine) so I had two old fashioneds and the three of us split a slice of cheesecake, chocolate mousse and a chocolate-dipped cupcake that took a ride home with the lucky birthday boy.

It’s HGTV again tonight as we wind down but least it’s Home Town and not the drivel I subjected myself to last night. Nope, I didn’t come up with any ideas for my next book. Maybe tomorrow. I’m not even any more relaxed than when we left Los Angeles but at least we had us some fun and were blessed with good company and a wonderful host.

Tomorrow will be 388 easy miles and a return to reality. I can’t say I’m looking forward to either but I’m glad we made the trip.

Thanks for reading.

January 16: Sunday in Sacramento

Something everyone (no one?) wants to read about: Microphonics in earbud cables…

People are always telling me that I should blog about things everyone wants to read about.

So, I thought about it and I came up with the subject of microphonics, so-called cable microphonics specifically. Those of you who read (over and over, I’m sure) Wires, Baby! know I’ve recently slipped the bounds of the 21st century and gone back to wired earbuds because for the most part they simply sound better.

Now, oddly, inexplicably I’ve found that a good number of wired earbuds suffer from what’s been called in many corners microphonics.

When people say this they referring to hearing extraneous bass coming through their earbuds, such as the sound of their own footsteps, as they walk.

It can be damned annoying and some decent buds are let down by this. The problem is that it’s not actually microphonics. As pretty much all of you know, microphonics are when a mechanical/acoustic object generates an unintended electrical signal that’s amplified and heard during playback.

The oldest example of this is in relatively high gain small signal phono tubes. The 12AU7/ECC82 was notorious for this, but any small-signal tube that is part of a circuit with enough gain could suffer from this effect. And, as an aside to you tube guys, the 12AU7 is really not appropriate for use in a phono circuit when there are so many dandy 12X7 and 6922s laying around.

Just saying.

A more recent example is the stylus/cartridge assembly of a turntable being excited by in-room low frequencies that looped those frequencies right back through the system with predictable non-musical results.

In contemporary parlance the word microphonics has been applied to the cables of IEMs and earbuds but that’s not truly what’s going on.

The thud effect is induced by at least these factors:

1 The profile of the cable, with so-called tangle-free cables (often those with a roughly rectangular cross sections) being especially likely to exacerbate the problem.

2) The durometer of the cable’s exterior jacket and to a lesser degree its dielectric (if it’s separate from the jacket, which it usually isn’t). Harder and stiffer make it worse where usually they make things better.

Go figure.

3) The degree of the acoustic seal that the earbud tips create within the ear and/or ear canal.

What this means is that what is heard is a simple drum effect, not actual microphonics. This can be proven quite easily. Simply tap on your earbud’s cables with your device on mute, or even turned off.

Yup, thud, thud, thud.

What’s interesting is that some brands (Apple) figured this out years ago. The cables on their modestly priced buds don’t suffer this kind of annoying drum effect at all. Other brands like Beats (one wonders why didn’t they just ring up their cousins over at Apple for help with this) and Skullcandy can’t be bothered to eliminate such a simple mechanical problem.

I also understand that Etymotic Research is plagued with this in their $300 ER4SR IEMs.

Come on, folks. You have the word research right in your name so go do some!

Look, personal audio has come very far very fast and we’re all loving it. But let’s not be so focused on making the world a better place that we miss fixing easy problems that ruin the music.

Something everyone (no one?) wants to read about: Microphonics in earbud cables…

Rosemark Neo & Wide Top putter grip review

I realize most people don’t get excited about putter grips.

But, I think they should, if they want to make a more consistent stroke while applying less grip pressure. Grips are the only point of contact a player has with the club and you need the very best connection with your putter, the ultimate scoring (or non-scoring) club.

The first time I tried a Rosemark grip four years ago I was hooked.

There was no adjustment period, nothing to get used to, the grip just felt better from the first moment I used it. My assumption was that I liked the material, especially the microfiber underlayment and the polymer nubs.

There are at least two secrets to Rosemark grips.

The first is shape. Mark Cokewell head honcho at Rosemark told me the cross-sectional shape of the grip is the result of mapping the hand’s points of contact with the grip. The other secret, especially on the older versions I have used for the last few years, is the combination of the microfiber foundation and the polymer nubs I mention above.

Rosemark

Mark Cokewell had this to say about his latest models.

“The Wide Top is a non taper non pistol hexagon grip that was designed around the contact points of the hands. It has a wider face thus the name Wide Top. We came out with the Wide Top early 2018 and it has won three times on the LPGA so far. Jasmine Sawannapura (Marathon Classic) and Brooke Henderson (Lotte in Hawaii and Meijer in Grand Rapids). All of our grips except the 7Teen are available in both MFS (Microfiber Silicon) with the beads AND Neo (Neoprene) smooth. The Neo grip material is super high tech and stays tacky when cold/wet or with sweaty hands. It won’t get slippery when dirty and it’s washable although it rarely needs to be cleaned. It will last at least twice as long as a PU material grip (SuperStroke). The MFS grip has a Microfiber base with silicon beads added to enhance feel and tackiness. The Microfiber wicks away moisture while the beads provide the tack. A synthetic breathable coating is applied last to enhance tackiness where the beads are sans. The areas of the grip void of beads are super receptor areas where the finger tips and thumbs make contact with the grip. This feature provides better tactile feedback of the ball coming off the face of the putter and aides the golfer to develop a better sense of pace on putts and also feel when putts are hit off center.”

Grips installed

Here are the original Rosemark designs on my gamers and two of their new designs.

The Neo is second from right and the MFS Wide Top is second from left. Me? I could make putts with any of them but I must say that the Neo is really growing on me. I thought I would miss the nubs (Mark Cokewell calls ’em beads, by the way) but I didn’t.

In the end, it may be that the overriding benefit of using Rosemark grips is the cross- sectional geometry that, for me, makes it not only easier to set my grip pressure and forget it but also to enjoy superior feel in all weather.

Still, I love the texture of all of the Rosemark grips, so I think that’s  huge issue, too. A grip that feels better will perform better in the same way that a club that looks better behind the ball is likely to result in better ball striking. The materials and designs employed by Rosemark allow their grips to convey a lot about the quality of the strike. And, the better the strike the more likely your putt is to stay on its line and roll the distance you need. I have not used any other grip that gives me the feel of a putt, whether long or short, anywhere near as well.

Why be uncomfortable when you can be so, so comfortable?

Go out there and make some putts!

https://www.rosemarkgrips.com

Rosemark Neo & Wide Top putter grip review

The Rosemarks are installed, so let’s talk about the thrilling topic of Grip Solvent!

Yes, they’re perfectly aligned.

Yes, they’re fully seated.

Yes, I am a little too precise with this regripping thing and I’m not sure why.

I’m not even going to burden you with a blow-by-blow account of my grip replacement protocol.

Instead, let’s talk about grip solvent. I know, that’s some nasty, boring stuff.

IMG_1622

For years, I’ve used the Clubmaker brand, though I always disliked the smell and its tendency to cling to my hands even after repeated washings. So, I decided to try Wedge Guys grip solvent. It was reputed to smell better or at least less bad.

It’s true. It doesn’t smell bad at all and the order doesn’t seem to linger in the air as long as Clubmaker.

But…

There’s a problem. It also isn’t quite as uniformly slick when you’re installing the grip, no matter how much is used. It’s like there are slick spots and sticky spots and this is no good especially when you’re installing expensive grips.

Also…

The stuff dries very slowly and, this is a weird one, stays a little slimy even after it’s been on a grip for weeks.

How do I know this?

I know because I removed a few grips weeks after I installed them and the grip caps were still slimy and almost damp. Remember, this is SoCal so it’s both hot and dry.

So, my experiment is over…I’m sticking with Clubmakers.

Sorry, Wedge Guys!

The Rosemarks are installed, so let’s talk about the thrilling topic of Grip Solvent!

The new Rosemark Grips have arrived!

Grips

Regular readers know I am a huge fan of Rosemark grips.

I have been a believer in Rosemark since 2016 and I use their grips in all my putters.

I am very excited to learn if these new grips can meet or possibly exceed the standard set by the original Rosemark designs that I’ve used with great success.

Only time will tell.

They new ones look great and I’ll be installing them pursuant to my usual obsessive-compulsive grip installation standards later this afternoon.

 

The new Rosemark Grips have arrived!

TRUE Linkswear Sensei: The Irreplaceable Golf Shoe

I have two pair of the the ugliest golf shoes ever made.

On the other hand, they’re also the best & most comfortable golf shoe ever made, at least for my feet.

It’s hard for me to imagine why TRUE Linkswear stopped making them, but they did.

So now what?

Well, anticipating the inevitable demise of my first pair I bought a second (used) pair on Ebay. Because the shoes have such low profile soles (perfect for SoCal golf and its typically dry conditions) they’re actually very durable. Heck, I drive to the course wearing them and keep them on right through dinner and the drive home. They take an occasional trip through the washer (medium water temp, air dry) and they seem to tolerate the procedure without injury.

Who cares how they look?

SnapseedCome on, they don’t look that bad!

I know. TRUE is still in the game but the Sensei are gone and I don’t know why.

I’m happy to try TRUE’s new offerings but I’ll be surprised if they measure up to these babies.

Sometimes progress isn’t progress.

Here’s hoping this time it is.

 

TRUE Linkswear Sensei: The Irreplaceable Golf Shoe

Is the Apple HomePod a genuine threat to high end audio?

Yes, it is.

No, it’s not a real high end product.

No, you won’t be replacing your real system, assuming you still have one, with a HomePod.

Yes, you will be impressed by how fundamentally musical it is.

HomePod

The Apple HomePod is the first mass-market product, designed by a company with real engineering wallop, that was actually designed by people who wanted it to sound good and that fact should put existential fear into every high end company that’s still on the right side of the grass.

Let’s talk about setup. It’s OK, but like all new Apple products it entails a few more steps than it should and Apple’s Home app is kludgy. Bummer, that, but once you’re done with it you’re done with it, or so it seems so far.

On the operational front I’ve observed that Pandora skips momentarily about every ten to fifteen minutes. The funny thing is that it never skips on my iPhone or when I’m using my Air Pods.

What the?

That problem gave me the chance to test Spotify.

Odd, no skipping whatsoever.

Who knows what’s up there but I’m willing to blame Pandora until and unless it starts to happen with other sources. Not surprisingly, playback from iTunes / Music is just dandy.

What the folks at Apple have done here is to swing a big, heavy hammer at what should be an easy target, and for them it was. The HomePod is a technically and acoustically complex product. They’ve crammed a bunch of drivers into that little pod. If a high end company, or a lesser tech company, tried to do what Apple has done the result would have been a sonic or functional mess and probably both.

The HomePod sounds remarkable coherent from top to bottom. Even though I’m using it as what would be regarded as a monophonic speaker the result is quite natural from a spatial perspective. Remember, stereo is a trick. This kind of mono is simply another kind of trick, and it works because Apple figured out how to make it work.

But wait, let me talk about why I felt I needed a better speaker in my office than my beloved Soundfreaq Sound Spot Wood + White. There are two reasons, really. The first is that I need a speaker in my bedroom, and the Sound Spot is perfect for that. The second and more important reason flows from the damn book I’m writing. This whole book-writing thing entails seemingly endless hours of ass sitting, which I already hate. I’m actually thinking of hiring a personal trainer so that all this extra time sitting doesn’t knock too much time off my life expectancy.

The HomePod’s fundamental listenability and (comparatively) full range presentation brings just enough music into my office that I’m not constantly driven to get up and change the record or put in another CD or whatever. I can turn it up to annoyingly high levels when the music or mood calls for it or turn it down to the edge of silence when I’m trying desperately to think and it stays musically convincing.

The Pod simply sounds good. Yes, it takes some liberties and creates a sould-warming upper-bass hump so you won’t notice the lack of mid and lower bass. And, yes, all those drivers lead to an occasional if surprisingly minor megaphone effect that’s especially noticeable on female vocals.

But then, something will come on that will catch your attention. Right now that’s Telegraph Road from Dire Straits. The cut has a lot of electronically generated space and a fairly high dynamic range for a rock recording. But, the Pod pulls it off. Somehow, especially at rational volumes, the musical presentation holds together is the exact way you need to draw your attention into the music.

Wow.

$250?

I cannot think of a $500 pair of stereo speakers from any high end manufacturer of any era that can match the Apple HomePod’s essential musicality.

That fact, all by itself, is why I regard the HomePod and all of the amazing stuff that will surely come after it such a threat to what’s left of the high end.

In closing, I’m trying to imagine what would be involved in streaming to the HomePod from an analog turntable. Obviously, a really good phono preamp (got one) and a really good DAC (ditto). Then, all I have to do is trick AirPlay2 into streaming the resulting data at full resolution to the HomePod.

Hmmm…

Who knows? Maybe this will be possible by the time I’m working on the sequel to the sequel.

All you high end audio folks should have heard this kind of product coming and from this kind of company because it’s already too late for you to get out of the way.

The Apple HomePod is simply good.

 

Is the Apple HomePod a genuine threat to high end audio?