Allen Stone

Now here’s a guy who knows how to connect with an audience!  Last night at The Vic in Chicago, the band performed in front of around 800 people.  Awesome show, incredible bass solo!

Ryan Adams

A couple nights ago at the Riverside.  First, the guy is artistically brilliant.  Very tight band, amazing vocals, and when the band was performing, it was an awesome performance.

But the stuff that goes on between songs was pretty uncomfortable.  Ryan is exquisitely sensitive to stuff going on in the crowd, from people texting, to shouting out requests, to whatever.  It’s just not pleasant, because once you take that road and start engaging with the couple of wasted idiots in the audience, well, things can digress.  And digress they often did.  As it turns out, you Google Ryan and immediately discover that this uncomfortable banter is commonplace, it’s been going on for years; in fact, he had to go to therapy because he got so upset that fans were requesting songs by Bryan Adams.

Maybe a shrink tuneup would be a good idea, Ryan!

Deezer

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Just when you think you’ve got your home audio system slam-dunked with hip stuff - Sonos speakers synced with Spotify and your playlists as well as Pandora with your favorite radios stations - along comes something new that DRAMATICALLY increases your listening experience.  Welcome to Deezer.

Like Spotify, Deezer is from over the pond, and just entering the US market, in sort of stealth mode.  Launched in France in 2007, it has over 16 million users, almost all of them in Europe.  Like Spotify, it’s a subscription streaming-music service.

But here’s the BIG difference:

Spotify has to significantly compress the sound files due to storage and bandwidth limitations in the way their technology is set up.   Deezer’s new Elite technology, that just launched, is different:  As a result, Deezer is able to send the file digitally as the artist intended when they were in the recording studio.  Think of it as super hi-def; it’s also called digital lossless capture.  We are not talking about a minor improvement statistically speaking; we’re talking improving certain aspects of the fidelity on a metric of 5X or better.  

The sound is amazing.  Not that I was down on my current system, but seriously, it’s a noticeable, ‘wow’ kind of improvement. 

If you’ve got Sonos and want to check it out, go to the app on your phone and go to “Add Music Services” and slide down to Deezer, you can sign up for a 30 day free trial.

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And, if you end of really liking the new service, there are links online you can use to help transfer your Spotify playlists over to Deezer.

Tonight’s moonrise over Lake Michigan

Tonight’s moonrise over Lake Michigan

The Day of the Merlin! Are you looking at me?

With very strong westerly winds today, migrating raptors were pushed to the coast, with hundreds zooming overhead at speeds in excess of 60-70 mph.  Near impossible to photograph, with my fancy but super heavy telephoto lens sans tripod.  But I tried:

At least 70% of the migrating raptors were Merlin, a small, very fast, and fierce, falcon.  You see them approaching just above the tree line, and then they break out into the open above the yard and they’ve shooting over you like they have a jetpack attached to them!  It’s amazing!

Also interesting today which I’ve noticed in the last couple of years since I’ve really been getting into this:  a lot of these raptors that fly over have full gullets (the passage leading to the stomach), meaning that they have recently had meals:

A couple Peregrines. dozens of accipiters, TV’s, Red-tails, lots of Northern Kestrels and a couple other interesting birds overhead, but wow, today belonged to the Merlin!

From the roof deck, where the wind gusts today easily got over 40 mph:

And finally, was this Merlin actually looking at me?  Whoa!  I told you these guys take no prisoners!

So many choices, but whatever you do, choose ‘Transparent’

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In the old days, there were only a handful of ‘must-see’ TV shows and you could easily manage your viewing schedule.  For many of us, there were a few weekly shows like ‘60 Minutes’ that were watched with genuine anticipation - who was Mike Wallace going to get next!  

And then there was the occasional series that captured extraordinary national attention, viewed by a huge percentage of the television viewing audience that came to the office the next day ready to share and reflect on what they had seen the night before.  It dominated the discussion.  The miniseries ‘Roots’ was an example of such a show.

Today is so different.  So many choices.  So many GOOD choices.  You know my riff - Oh, to be a consumer!  Watching great content during this truly golden age of television with my honey on a big screen TV in high definition has become a highlight of my day, or my week, shall I say my current life?  Of late I’m big on having fun, and I gotta say, watching these shows are really enjoyable.  The content, the acting, the direction, the dialogue, the story lines, it’s all so impressive.

Top on the list:  True Detective, Breaking Bad, Top of the Lake, House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire; Modern Family, Alpha House, Mad Men.

Started off strong until they Jumped the Shark:  Homeland

And now:  Transparent, on Amazon Prime.  We just finished the 10 episodes of Season 1.  It is a ground-breaking show.  Highly recommended. 

A Wedding, A Pour, & Warbler Waves

Congrats to Gray and Laura: lots of laughs at the rehearsal dinner, and genuine joy during the ceremony:

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On a side note, Asheville is a great place; an oasis in the middle of it, if you know what I mean.

I mean, what’s not to like about Asheville?  Consider this.  For years, getting a drink at the club I belonged was always a treat when served by a bartender no longer working there.  What we called ‘Luther Pours’ were legendary, and were never matched anywhere on the planet!  No longer!  Here’s the Maker’s Mark ‘neat’ at the bar that I was served at a decidedly different lodge-themed Holiday Inn:

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I told you Asheville is really cool!  FYI, I never finished this.  

Back home, the past week has been great for birders; there have been some incredible warbler waves coming through.  In these trees, at one of the best places in Wisconsin to see Fall warblers, in Lake Park in Milwaukee, there were hundreds of warblers:  mostly Yellow-rumps, and Palms, but also another 8 species, including great looks of my favorite, a male Black-throated Blue.  Even today, close to 100 warblers in a couple of flocks around the house today (including what I’m quite sure was an Orange-crowned), and it’s October.  And the big raptor days are ahead of us.  Very cool.  It is beautiful in Wisconsin this time of year.

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And finally, who is that guy who was the very first to have carrot cake at the wedding?  I’m never going to lose that weight from the Europe trip…

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Should methane leaks be of greater concern than fracking?

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There is emerging evidence that the far more alarming issue around the natural gas boom in the country is less about fracking (yes, there was some contaminated ground water that you could ignite when it came out of the sink like in the documentary, but of late fracking wells are now constructed more safely, so the argument goes) and much more about methane leaks from the mining of natural gas.  Unburned methane that enters the atmosphere is far worse for global warming than carbon dioxide.  Very interesting article on this by 538: 

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-natural-gas-boom-could-accelerate-climate-change/

Before this Ryder Cup is over and forgotten…

Here is a photo of a ball Sergio Garcia threw to the crowd that I was fortunate to retrieve, after he won a match at the 2004 Ryder Cup competition at Oakland Hills Country Club, outside of Detroit; have no idea why he had a blue Smurf-like (or not) character stamped on both sides of his ball (now fading),

but saw the SAME imprint during a closeup of his ball on a putting green the next week during a PGA event on TV.  A curious thing!  I’ve always wondered about that imprint!  Can’t find anything on Google, other than Sergio now plays with balls made by TaylorMade.

Kinglets already?!

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The march of time just never lets up, does it?  And now, it’s heading into one of my favorite time/place combos on the planet: early Fall in the Great Lakes.  All the usual suspects have yet again arrived on the scene:  shorter days, cooler nights, Packers games, and the near constant presence of ‘migration’, whether it be Monarch butterflies, or dragonflies, including of course the arrival of certain birds — White-crowned Sparrow and Ruby-crowned Kinglet (yesterday, feeding in one of many awesome warbler flocks at Lake Park), for example — that remind me that yes, once again, we’re transitioning.  I must admit, there is a cadence and rhythm to this part of the seasonal cycle that I find very calming, on these days that start with often cloudless, clear skies and much more often than not end with brilliant, golden sunsets.  Sometimes for 8, 9, 10+ days in a row.

Yard Bird Summary - Our version of a bluebird trail had mixed results this year, no doubt hindered by the setting up of most posts and boxes in late May and early June, hardly ideal for optimal breeding success.  A couple of boxes had Eastern Bluebirds, a couple had Tree Swallows, but the big winners were the three boxes which had House Wrens, resulting in 5 or 6 successful broods.  I mean, by the end of the summer, House Wrens were everywhere!  The big box, set up in June hoping to attract the Kestrel that had previously hung out for a week hunting from the telephone line that crossed through the front field, instead was the summer home for House Sparrows.  Have high hopes for future years.  

Over a 24 hour period last week, we had three new yard birds, now at 154: a skulking Black-billed Cuckoo in a dogwood, American Black Duck (great look at dusk of three flying over the fields) and Great Egret (again, flying over the fields, in the bright morning sky).

 (Photo from Google Images)