Book 5 (of 52) – The IT Girl

The IT Girl – Ruth Ware

When the man convicted of killing her college roommate dies in prison, a pregnant woman starts to question whether things happened as she thought they did years ago.  She starts reaching out to old friends and returns to her old stomping grounds in an effort to prove, one way or the other, what really happened that night.  The only question is can she do so while keeping herself and her family safe?

I was a little down on Ruth Ware’s latest, The It Girl, in the early going.  The big bad seemed patently obvious, and I had a hard time getting in to the story.  Eventually, though, I got through it and became engrossed as the story progressed.  The obvious big bad ended up being a red herring, but there was some shaky, out of character behavior that was never explained to point arrows in his direction.  If you’re going to make someone act like the bad guy to throw the reader a curveball, you should circle back and explain why he acted that way when he turns out not to be the bad guy.  Aside from that, this turned out to be another enjoyable work from Ware.

Yet Another Mix Tape Monday – Volume 4

33 years ago, during my sophomore year of high school, I put together the first of what would eventually become a nearly 20 volume collection of mix tapes, containing my favorite songs that I had gathered either from the radio, a cassette tape, or (eventually) CD.  Today, we revisit those mix tapes for the fourth time and see how, or if, the soundtrack of my youth still resonates in today’s digital world and how much has changed over the past four years.

Volume 4 places us smack dab in the middle of my junior year of high school, from late 1990 and into 1991, and, quite possibly, the worst entry in this series.  There are 20 cassettes in this series, comprised of 287 songs.  Nearly 25% of them has been performed by a band I have seen in concert.  In fact, ever single entry contains at least one song by a band I have seen live.  Except this one.

Five of the songs here are older hits that weren’t current during my junior year.  Six of the songs come from just two bands: Poison and Roxette.  Judging solely from songs contained on this tape, you would have a hard time believing that Nirvana’s Nevermind would be released later that year and that the music industry would sound completely different a year later.

Side A

Damn Yankees – High Enough
iTunes stats: 15 plays, most recently on 7/28/2022

Peaking at #3 on the Billboard charts, the one big hit from the supergroup featuring right-wing douchenozzle Ted Nugent added only five new plays since 2017.

Sweet Sensation – If Wishes Came True
iTunes stats: 16 plays, most recently on 12/20/2021

The #25 hit of 1990 added three additional listens over the past four years.

Poison – Fallen Angel
iTunes stats: 28 plays, most recently on 11/10/2022

Poison’s hit from 1988, the only single from Open Up and Say… Ahh! not to crack the top 10, got six additional listens over the past four years.

Simpsons – Do The Bartman
iTunes stats: 15 plays, most recently on 3/23/2022

The first hit from the animated TV family, which went to #1 in five countries but wasn’t officially released as a single in the US, added seven new listens since 2019.

Roxette – The Look
iTunes stats: 20 plays, most recently on 12/22/2022

Ranked as the #17 single of 1989, the hit for the Swedish duo gained nine new spins over the past four years.

Poison – I Won’t Forget You
iTunes stats: 13 plays, most recently on 12/12/2021

The fourth single from Poison’s debut album, originally taped off a mixtape I “borrowed” from my friend Mike’s sister, managed just four additional plays since 2019.

Side B

Continue reading →

Travelling The 50 States – New York

Over my 48 years, I’ve done my fair share of travelling across these United States.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment go look back at those trips to each of the 31 states I have visited (62% isn’t bad, is it?) and see if, and when, I may be returning.  Working in alphabetical order, we continue today with the 11th state to be added to the Union: New York.

State: New York
Joined the Union: 1788
Visits: 3

I’ve made three visits to the Empire State, two to New York City and one upstate.

My first visit to New York came in March of 2003, when the Cubs were scheduled to open their season in Queens against the Mets.  After arriving at our Newark hotel, we took the train into Manhattan, meeting up with a friend of my traveling companion and grabbing a late dinner at the Tick Tock Diner across the street from Madison Square Garden.  During the meal, plans were made to meet up again the following day for a tour of the city.

After a morning in Jersey, it was back to Manhattan, where we ditched the rental car at a church and headed out on foot for a tour of the city.  Our first stop was Ground Zero, where we saw what remained of the World Trade Center a year and a half after 9/11.  From there, we headed to Chinatown, where we hooked up with our friend from the night before, who scored box seats for Monday’s opening day tilt from the nuns that lived in her building, a welcome upgrade from the upper-level tix we had scored on eBay prior to leaving home.  The rest of the day was spent walking around and seeing the sites, including a trip to St. Mark’s Comics.  Eventually, we found our way back to the car and headed back to the hotel.

Monday morning was the big day and meant traveling from New Jersey across Manhattan, and then onto Long Island and into Queens to get to Shea Stadium.  We listened to Howard Stern on his flagship station while working through traffic.  Eventually, we arrived at Shea Stadium, where the newly acquired Tom Glavine, a future Hall of Famer, was on the mound for the Mets.  He made it through 2 pitches before the crowd turned on him.  Things quickly turned south for the Mets as the Cubs scored 4 runs in the top of the first on their way to a 15-2 victory, behind two home runs from Corey Patterson.

Following the game, it was time for the long drive home.  Unfortunately, we were stuck in Queens and had to work our way west again with the afternoon’s traffic at its peak.  We passed through the Bronx and Yankee Stadium as the hosts on sports radio WFAN were discussing the new YES network and the attempts to get picked up by cable networks in New York before the Yankees opened their season the next day.  Eventually, we made it out of New York and were on our way back to Illinois.

My second trip to the state of New York came in 2015 as part of my vacation to Toronto.  After a morning jaunt along Niagra Falls, my travelling companion and I headed back to the good old US of A, towards Cooperstown, NY, where the Baseball Hall of Fame beckoned.  After heading to the center of town and parking at fabled Doubleday Field, we entered the museum.  There aren’t enough words to describe all that was seen at the Hall of Fame.  All of the baseball history you could shake a stick at, except for the portion covering the 70s through the current day, which had closed down for renovations that very day.  Finally, we entered the Hall of Fame Gallery, housing the plaques honoring each player voted into the Hall.  My first destination, after the centrally located first class, was the previous year’s electees, where I found both Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux. Continue reading →

Tean Stats: Games Per Team

Today, we wrap up our look at the all-time rankings for all iterations of the current 30 teams for the 1040 games I’ve identified that I have attended.  Opening Day is just under two months away and spring training camps are getting ready to roll in just a week or two, so let’s finish things off with the total number of games per team.

With the newly unbalanced schedule starting this year, the Central Division in each league will not score as heavily going forward.  In fact, you have to drop down to seventh place in the current rankings to find a team not in the Central Division and to tenth place to find the first team that was never in the Central.  The addition of expanded interleague play should also shake things up a bit moving forward.

Games Per Team

Team Name Total Games
Chicago White Sox 672
Chicago Cubs 437
Minnesota Twins 68
Kansas City Royals 62
Detroit Tigers 59
Cleveland Indians 58
Houston Astros 49
Pittsburgh Pirates 46
Milwaukee Brewers 41
Seattle Mariners 40
Cincinnati Reds 40
Texas Rangers 39
Baltimore Orioles 36
Los Angeles Angels 35
St. Louis Cardinals Continue reading →

Fitbit IX – Week 1

A disappointing start to my ninth year using the Fitbit.  The week got off to a slow start on Sunday, as birthday celebrations for my mom left me with just 2500 steps.  Monday saw a bit of a bounce back, pushing me all the way up to 3700 steps.  Tuesday dropped back down again, as I just managed to surpass 2800 steps.  The high point of the week turned out to be Wednesday, coming in with just over 3800 steps.  Thursday was just a tad lower, with 3600 steps.  Friday saw a bigger drop-off, going down to 3200 steps.  Saturday netted me just 2200 steps.

Total steps: 22,017

Daily average: 3145.3

Fitbit Year 8

year ago, I set a goal of 2,730,000 steps, an average of 7500 steps per day. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic and a summer where I did very little to take advantage of no longer having to go to work, I fell quite a bit short of my challenge, finishing more than a million steps behind with only 1,663,7491, the fourth straight year I’ve failed to surpass my yearly goal and the only times I’ve failed aside from 2014 under the old GlobalFit program.  My average step total per week was 31,995.98, which comes out to about 4570.9 steps per day. The median weekly step total was 30,221.  My best week was Week 2, where my vacation in Hawaii led to seven straight 10,000 step days, propelling me over to 77,000 steps for the week.  My worst week was Week 49, although that was caused more by my Fitbit dying an unexpected death and needing a few days to acquire a new one.

For the upcoming year, I’m going to keep things as is, in the hopes that I can finally reverse this downward trend. I am leaving my goal for steps per day at 7500, which would again bring me to a yearly total of 2,730,000 steps. Hopefully this fifth attempt, now that I’ve got this WFH thing down pat, is the one that sticks.

FB8 – Week 52

My eighth year using a Fitbit comes to an end with a slight bounce back after the disappointment of last week.  The week started off on a bad foot on Sunday, needing 4 additional steps just to get to 3700.  Monday saw a slight increase, rising up to 3800 steps.  Tuesday was even better, coming just 8 steps shy of 4200.  A big decline on Wednesday pushed me back down to 2700 steps.  Thursday jumped back up to 3800 steps.  Another disappointing day on Friday as I dropped down to 3200 steps.  Saturday was a bit of a bummer, finishing with just 2800 steps.

Total steps: 24,299

Daily average: 3471.3

Yet Another Mix Tape Monday – Volume 3

33 years ago, during my sophomore year of high school, I put together the first of what would eventually become a nearly 20 volume collection of mix tapes, containing my favorite songs that I had gathered either from the radio, a cassette tape, or (eventually) CD.  Today, we revisit those mix tapes for the fourth time and see how, or if, the soundtrack of my youth still resonates in today’s digital world and how much has changed over the past 3 years.

Poison was supposed to be my first concert.  Hold on, I know you’ve heard that before, but this story is completely different.  In July of 1990, Poison released their third studio album, Flesh & Blood.  A world tour followed soon, with a date in Chicago some time in 1991.  One afternoon, Hot 94.7, a local radio station, was giving away tickets to the tenth caller.  I called in and, after a “game” where I had to say hot over and over again, I won and the tickets would be on their way.  But, once again, fate interfered.

Poison’s bassist, Bobby Dall, broke his hand and the upcoming tour dates needed to be cancelled.  To be fair to the radio station, they tried to make up for it by sending me a cassette version of Firehouse’s self-titled debut album.  All these years later, I never did end up seeing Poison live.  Maybe someday.

Volume 3 picks up in mid-summer 1990 and takes us through late 1990 and into my junior year of high school.  Featuring another steady stream of hair metal, with small selections of pop, rap, R&B, and dance thrown in for good measure, volume 3 also overlaps with the start of my relationship with my first “real” girlfriend.

Side A

2 Live Crew – Banned In The USA
iTunes stats: 23 plays, most recently on 11/12/2019

The first song (as I recall) recorded off of B96, this protest anthem from 2 Live Crew, recorded after their previous album was declared obscene by a federal judge, somehow increased its play total by eight despite not being heard since 2019.

Poison – Unskinny Bop
iTunes stats: 19 plays, most recently on 11/10/2022

The first single from Flesh & Blood , which peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts, managed to earn eight additional plays since last time we did this check.

Poison – Nothin’ But A Good Time
iTunes stats: 27 plays, most recently on 7/28/2022

Most likely originally recorded from The Blaze, the debut single from Poison’s previous album and arguably their second biggest hit, picked up an impressive ten new listens over the past four years.

MC Hammer – Have You Seen Her
iTunes stats: 17 plays, most recently on 11/10/2022

This unlikely cover of the 1971 hit by The Chi-Lites more than doubled up its number of plays over the since my 43rd birthday.

Cheap Trick – Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love
iTunes stats: 26 plays, most recently on 8/24/2022

Cheap Trick’s last single to hit the Top 40, the first release from their 11th studio album, which became “our song” between my first girlfriend and me, had a healthy increase of six listens over the last few years.

Nelson – (Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection
iTunes stats: 12 plays, most recently on 8/23/2019

Matthew and Gunnar’s big hit, which topped the Billboard charts, added a single new play and has not been heard since well before the start of the pandemic.

Warrant – Cherry Pie
iTunes stats: 34 plays, most recently on 11/1/2022

A mere three new plays for the lead single from the band’s sophomore album, which was allegedly written in fifteen minutes on the inside of a pizza box that is currently on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Destin, Florida.

Johnny Gill – Rub You The Right Way
iTunes stats: 19 plays, most recently on 12/8/2022

The solo debut from the New Edition alumnus, ranked as the 23rd biggest hit of 1990, picked up three additional plats in the last four years.

Side B

Continue reading →

Travelling The 50 States – New Jersey

Over my 48 years, I’ve done my fair share of travelling across these United States.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment go look back at those trips to each of the 31 states I have visited (62% isn’t bad, is it?) and see if, and when, I may be returning.  Working in alphabetical order, we continue today with the 3rd state to be added to the Union: New Jersey

State: New Jersey
Joined the Union: 1787
Visits: 1

I made my first, and only, visit to the Garden State back in 2003, as the base of operations for my opening day trip to New York.

A long drive on a Saturday in late March of 2003 dropped us in Newark, at the Howard Johnson near the airport.  After getting settled, we opted for a brief nap and a few episodes of the Chappelle Show, before trying to head into Manhattan for the evening.  Despite an airport shuttle claiming to stop at the hotel every 15-20 minutes, we waited for over an hour before catching a ride to the Newark airport, where we were finally able to take the train into New York City!  After catching the last train back to New Jersey, we made it back to hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday morning started with a trip out to Red Bank, New Jersey for a trip to Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the comic book store owned by Kevin Smith.  We were a little early, so we went down the block to the Broadway Diner, where I enjoyed a pretty decent breakfast of strawberry and banana pancakes. Once the Stash opened, we looked around for a bit, made our purchases, and then headed out for another trip into Manhattan.

We checked out the next morning before heading to Queens for exciting Mets (and Cubs) baseball.

Will I return?  Maybe?  Nothing is currently drawing me there, but nothing is keeping me away either.