Why I decided not to buy Sirius XM for my car

When I first got my new car, I got three months free of Sirius XM.  After some poking around, I determined that I found 3 channels worth listening to:  Broadway, Classical, and Opera.  These were great because I find listening to classical or opera to be soothing and during my commute times the local public radio station is playing news, which I do not at all find to be soothing.  Although there are multiple choices for creepy racist talk radio, there is only one option for each of these.  (There’s also a billion sports channels, but I don’t begrudge them that.)

And, after three months, I realized that they don’t have a big rotation list.  Or rather, they may rotate different versions of the same piece from different musicians, but they heavily play the most popular music.  (Or in the case of the Broadway channel, they heavily play music I’m not crazy about.)

If I stuck with Sirius XM, I would likely get sick of some of my favorite operas, especially Tosca which they seem to play at least 2x a week when I’m in the car, particularly the jail scene which is lovely but… I don’t need to hear it quite so often.  And I would DEFINITELY get sick of Carmen which I’m fine with but already wasn’t one of my favorites.  I think the full opera has been on twice during my commute and they often play assorted songs from it.  During the summer I was able to explain part of Carmen to DC1 in the morning on the way to camp as part of the full opera and another part on the way back as a one-off.  Die Meistersinger and Don Giovanni are also a couple that I like that seem to be in pretty heavy rotation.  And some other Wagner that I don’t like so I switch channels.

So, instead I’ve asked DH and the kids to rip all my cds to a flash drive so I can listen in the car.  It is true that I own a copy of Tosca, but I don’t have to listen to it if I don’t want to.  I’ve also been playing more podcasts on my commute (I went through the entire backlist of By the Book this summer).   I also need to remember to spend more time listening to the Mexican stations (there are several that we’re not *quite* in range for, but when the weather is good we can usually get one or two of them to work) para practicar.

If Sirius XM were free, I think I’d still listen to it from time to time.  I do like it more than the local top 40 station.  The lack of commercials is lovely.  But I’m not sure there’s an actual price point that I feel like it’s worth getting.  Especially since it also supports so many crappy crappy evil talk radio stations.

What do you listen to in the car, if anything?  What is your ideal thing to listen to?

Ask the grumpies: What music did you enjoy in high school

Leah asks:

In high school, what music did you enjoy?

I can answer this one for #2 too since she traumatized me with the NIN cd by letting me know she played it whenever she was feeling sexually frustrated.   On the other hand, she’s also responsible for my love of They Might Be Giants, which is a good thing.  And we both loved the spectacular girl bands of the time, with a special love for Salt n Pepa.

More seriously, like most kids growing up in the 1990s we were really into alternative.  #1 also really liked heavy metal because of an ex-boyfriend and musicals because she grew up with them and monty python from another ex-boyfriend, and opera from growing up, especially from the Romantic period.  Also classical music from the Romantic period more generally.

Most of #1’s music likes come from other people, either a roommate or an ex-boyfriend.  Seriously, I honestly disliked 70s music until I got a crush on a guy who loved it in college.  (He ended up dating one of my friends who shared his love from her own interests rather than his transferred interests.  He’s also the guy whose glass I accidentally broke with my wrist.)

Ugh, now I have the worst song from Pretty Hate Machine stuck in my head.  Why?  Why?  And it keeps interlacing with Wonderwall which one of my other high school roommates would play on repeat until I had no choice but to hate it.  All we need now is the base from Under the Bridge by RHCP which the upstairs people would blast every morning at some UNGODLY hour and we’ll have all my least favorite high school music associations combined.  Oh, except the next door neighbors one year who would crank up the base at like 6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings with their boombox next to our beds so the beds would shake us awake, but it wasn’t the same stuff each time.  We were the ones who got in trouble for retaliating when they didn’t stop after we’d asked them to politely multiple times (I believe we left a note under their door saying something to the effect of, “Jesus wouldn’t play His boombox so loud that it made his neighbors’ beds shake a 7am on a Sunday after repeatedly being asked not to”).  I hate fake Christians who are too selfish to be considerate of others’ sleep needs.  /end rant from being 17 years old  Man, I did not need that memory.  I’m *still* angry about it!  I bet she voted for Trump.

Here’s #2’s actual answer:

Music I liked in hs that I still like now:
Pretty Hate Machine by NIN
music from the Renaissance era
Baroque music
some Madonna
musical theater

Music from hs that I now can’t stand:
most of Red Hot Chili Peppers
Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
I was actually going to mention a whole album here that used to plague me, but to my delight, I have totally forgotten what it was. (#1 suspects it was wonderwall) (it actually wasn’t)

Ask the grumpies: What music do you enjoy?

Leah asks:

what music do you enjoy listening to? Do you like going to concerts?

#1: I sometimes like going to concerts, although I often find them more trouble than they’re worth. I have many and varied musical tastes.  Bagpipes are the best.  [Really, she loves bagpipe music.]

#2: I like pretty much all music EXCEPT techno and most country (though I’ve gotten better about hating country living in the South for more than a decade). I still really hate techno. Anything that is super repetitious without variation drives me crazy after a while. I just can’t handle it.

I do not like going to concerts where the audience spends a lot of time standing. That really gets up my fear of crowds. I find most orchestra concerts dull because music without word seems like background music to me. I like operatic concerts and enjoyed the Boston pops when they had a guest I liked.

#1: here’s an incomplete list of music I really like listening to:

  • ’90s hip-hop
  • Missy Elliott
  • Salt-n-Pepa
  • Jackson 5
  • Katy Perry
  • Beyonce
  • Rihanna
  • dubstep
  • One Republic
  • Hamilton mixtape
  • musicals (incomplete list:  A Little Night Music, the Music Man, Guys & Dolls, Tick Tick BOOM, The Secret Garden, City of Angels, Into the Woods)
  • Gilbert & Sullivan
  • Bagpipes
  • Hildegard von Bingen
  • Waverly Consort
  • Owl City
  • Lady Gaga
  • Michelle Branch
  • U2
  • Dr Dre
  • MC Frontalot
  • [Jonathan Couton, Paul & Storm, John Roderick and the Long Winters]
  • Blackstreet
  • Lindsey Stirling
  • Taylor Swift
  • Adele
  • Madonna
  • Nikki Minaj
  • No Doubt
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Handel
  • J. S. Bach
  • some of Mozart
  • anything sung by Bernadette Peters
  • Sondheim
  • Kanye West (don’t love him but he’s a very talented musician)
  • Metallica
  • almost all ’80s music
  • power ballads; hair bands
  • AC/DC
  • a capella music
  • Pentatonix
  • Straight No Chaser
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Apocalyptica
  • Def Leppard
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Angels & Airwaves
  • En Vogue
  • O.A.R
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • TMBG
  • madrigals
  • Renaissance music from all over the world
  • Naughty by Nature
  • The Corrs
  • The Scorpions
  • Flogging Molly
  • the Moana soundtrack
  • Tears for Fears

Driving douchy 1960s country songs out of my head with Anne Murray and Aretha Franklin

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of Little Green Apples or Gentle on my Mind?  They’re both about patriarchal douches asserting their male privilege on devoted wimmenfolk.  The Apples guy does these creepy power tricks to prove his wife’s devotion, calling her up specifically when he knows she’s busy because he loves seeing her drop everything for him and then he’s always late on purpose because he likes the proof that he can force her devotion.  He brags about how she loves him.  He doesn’t say anything about loving her and definitely doesn’t respect her time.  But that’s the ideal of womanhood– self-sacrificing.  What more could she want than to bear his children and take care of him with selfless devotion?  Similarly the Gentle on my Mind dude is all, I travel a lot and also cheat on you with young women who don’t know they’re being cheated on, but it’s ok because I always come back to you so you’re devoted to me.  Both these dudes make a big deal about how selfless unquestioning devotion eases their minds.  Of course, because they’re douches.

Unfortunately Little Green Apples has a really catchy chorus, and Gentle on my Mind shares enough chords with it that they both get stuck in my head.  And not even Yellow Submarine can drive them out because it’s not similar enough.  The 1960s sucked really hard for women.  It was the backlash before the storm that would be the 1970s.  And when you’ve got 1960s country stuck in your head, sometimes the best thing to drive it out is 1970s country.

We played Could I Have this Dance by Anne Murray at our wedding.  Very sweet song about joint love and devotion.  Catchy tune.  A reasonably good earworm.  And when you put it into youtube to listen to it, the next song that comes up is one that is strikingly similar to the sentiments behind Little Green Apples and Gentle on my Mind, but absent the douchiness, “You Needed Me,” which is an anthem to being loved… and loving in return.

you put me high upon a pedestal
so high I could almost see eternity
you needed me

I needed you
and you were there
and I’ll never leave
why should I leave I’d be a fool

And isn’t that a better kind of love?  One where both partners love and respect each other?  Not selfless devotion on one side and mildly appreciative power on the other.  And isn’t it better to love someone who loves you in return?  To love a person or a goddess and know your sentiments are returned in full?  Leave loyal devotion to your pets, not your partner.  And that’s the power of feminism– elevating love to love between consenting adults, not a jerk and the two-dimensional pet he doesn’t even respect.

Ask the grumpies: When to start music lessons?

Alyssa asks:

When is it age-appropriate to put children into music lessons (piano/guitar at this point)? Son is 5 and a bit, and he says he’s interested, but not sure if we should wait a bit more?

Five is a great age!  To be honest, I started at 6 and DC1 started at 6 because of laziness on the part of parents, but 5 would have been fine.  (DC1 did start swimming lessons a lot earlier.)  Most music teachers in our area start accepting students at age 5, and Suzuki teachers will often accept children as young as age 3.  A bunch of the internet suggests that starting music lessons before age 7 is best for various quasi-scientific reasons I’m not entirely convinced by but may be true.

And if it doesn’t work out, you can always take a break and try again later.

What’s on your iPod?

This video because I am a huge nerd.  Also this video (NSFW!) because it is the funniest thing in the whole world.  Kanye’s song Power.  Albums and songs by Monty Python, MC Frontalot (quite a lot of songs), U2, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (singing Handel), Kathleen Battle, Michelle Branch, OAR, old Madonna, TMBG, Jessie J, Jonathan Coulton, the Muppets, P!nk, the Police, the Lion King, and the complete soundtrack of Labyrinth.

Podcasts about books and video games and other nerdy stuff and general stuff (some from maximumfun.org).  A photo of my cat.  A photo of my coolest pair of shoes.  A cartoon.

#2 does not have an ipod.  It is very sad.  Hir DH mostly keeps audio books on his mp3, and the occasional wait wait don’t tell me podcast or splendid table podcast.  We outnerd #1.  NPR nerdz!

What about you?


We (satisficed and) bought a digital piano

We finally got around to signing DC1 up for piano lessons this past fall, about a year after we meant to.

Ze really really likes it.  The first things ze does when ze gets home is hir piano practicing, and sometimes if ze gets up early enough, ze’ll practice piano before going to school.

Unfortunately, the $100 keyboard hir grandparents got hir doesn’t have weighted keys, so you can’t do piano or forte, just one volume.  And there’s no pedals for sustained sound.  Since it seems like DC1 is going to stick with it, we really need to get hir a real piano to practice on.

Well, almost a real piano.

Looking up how to buy a used piano online is terrifying.  Page after page talking about how you need to have a trusted professional with you at point of purchase or you may end up with something that’s only good for hauling to the dump (something you will, of course, have to pay for yourself).  New pianos are confusing as well, though the only terrifying thing about them is the price point.

So… on the advice of one our readers (I think chacha, but maybe it was Ms. PoP), we looked into digital pianos.  They’re new and under warranty.  They don’t have to be tuned every year.  They cost a fraction of what a low grade real piano costs.  And… they don’t sound too bad.

After reading tons of reviews and scouring the piano forum, we decided to get a low-mid-level Casio for $1099. Specifically the Casio PX850 BK 88-Key Touch Sensitive Privia Digital Piano. This piano is on all of the top 10 digital piano lists that I found.  Although it was only #1 on one of those lists, the #1s on the other lists weren’t even listed on many of the lists (if that makes sense).  The only detracting thing on the Amazon reviews is that some people find that after several weeks of intense playing, the keys start to clack a little because the pads wear thin (they should be wool, complains one reviewer), but that seems to be a potential problem across our price range, and probably isn’t one our 7 year old will encounter for a few years.    The piano forums recommend this one as a good learning piano, and while some people have preferred digital pianos, nobody really says anything bad about this piano (while those “preferred” pianos all have detractors).  Everyone seems to agree that this piano is pretty good and is a good value.

We tried to find a place in town that carried it that we could listen and then buy from, but the place in town that said they had it turned out to be out of stock.  They did have the $1699 Yamaha that some people prefer to the Casio (and many people do not), and we weren’t that impressed with it.  We talked about trying to find a place in the city that has a bunch of pianos we could listen to, but it seems like all the shops in the city have a monopoly of one brand– they just carry Yamaha or just Roland etc.  And we didn’t really want to go into the city this weekend anyway.

So we ended up getting it without listening to it from Amazon.  I splurged and got the recommended bench for $44 instead of a slightly less expensive one because someone in the reviews said that one of the settings fit hir 4 year old.

The Casio came in less than a week.  DH spent the evening putting it together, mostly after DC1 slept.  At 10-something, he got DC2 and me to look at and listen to the finished product.  It’s beautiful.  It looks like a real piano, but it’s slimmer.  It feels like a real piano.  It sounds like a real piano.  Plus, unlike that $1700 Yamaha, it didn’t have tons of confusing controls.  Its controls are even more intuitive than the controls on DC1’s old $100 keyboard.  It probably has fewer features, but we don’t need a keyboard that can bark like a dog, we need a keyboard that mimics a regular piano.

We congratulated ourselves on doing a good job picking a piano out (and thanked our lucky stars), even if we weren’t able to check out the piano in person first.  It’s exactly what we need and it’s much nicer than the ones we saw at the local store, even the equally and more expensive ones.  So we’re very happy with our purchase.  DC1 loves it too.  It’s scary spending $1000+ on something you’re not sure about.  Getting it wrong is an expensive and/or annoying proposition (depending on if you return the purchase or not).

So yay for top 10 lists and yay for piano forums and amazon and satisficing.

Have you ever made a big purchase partly-blind like this?  How did it work out?  How do you decide on big purchases?

What’s your theme music?

My sister was recently maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding.

For the reception, they requested that she pick some music to introduce her before her speech or something.

“So, basically, they want you to pick your own theme music?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied.

“That seems like a trap!” I said.

“I know!  If it weren’t a wedding, I’d pick Don’t Rain on My Parade, but somehow it doesn’t seem fitting.  Or Loads of Lovely Love from No Strings.”

“You just want money, a nice position, and loads of lovely love?”

“Who doesn’t?” she asked.  “How about Side by Side by Side?”

“Company is so bittersweet.  Really anything Sondheim isn’t wedding appropriate.”

“Nope.  If I can’t think of anything good I’m defaulting to Dancing Queen, or maybe Good Morning Baltimore cause I used to wake [best friend] up to that.  Or maybe Come So Far to Go, but that might be insulting,” and then it was time for her to board the airplane.

So I asked around.  My partner suggested the Knight Rider theme song, or Magnum PI, but I think that we’re of a slightly different generation than she is.  My mom noted she probably shouldn’t do “Baby I Was Born This Way.”  No mom, she probably shouldn’t.

In the end, she went with “Friendship” from Anything Goes.  Which is a nice song (and better for a wedding than Bosom Buddies!), but maybe not so much of a theme song for an individual.

I have to admit, I’d be kind of stumped on this question if I were asked.  Maybe Loads of Lovely Love after all… she’s right– who doesn’t want money, a nice position, and loads of lovely love?

#2 says: I’ve always thought about what should be my theme music, but nothing seems great enough to truly capture me.

What’s your theme song?

If you were stranded on desert island…

And you were allowed the full library of only one band, what would you choose?

Partner and I were discussing this last night…

He asked if instead of a band, it could be a composer, and we decided that yes, that is allowed (though only original arrangements– so you could have the jazz version of Rhapsody in Blue and the classical version of Rhapsody in Blue, but not the Swingle Singers version).

He then pointed out that a classical composer is probably the way to go.  I agreed.  Someone very prolific who has a wide range of style and influence across the genre.  Probably also someone who wrote for piano, orchestra, and voice.  (Maybe someone who does movie soundtracks too?)

But who?

#2 picks J. S. Bach.  I love fugues and counterpoint, and he wrote a lot.  Love it!

So, if you were stranded on a desert island and had the full library of only one band or composer, who would be a good choice and why?

DCs’ favorite music


  • ABC song (especially Daddy’s)
  • Shiny Happy People (REM)
  • Stand (REM)
  • These boots were made for walking (Nancy Sinatra)
  • Love Shack (B52s)
  • Anything by the mamas and the papas


What do your children like to listen to?  What did you like to listen to as a child?