March 3, 2021

Metal Memories: The Best Cassette Tape Ever

Are cassette tapes really coming back? I doubt it, but some seem to think they might. Besides, I'll be the first to admit I would not have anticipated vinyl coming back the way it has. Reading that post made me think back to the days of the cassette tape, so I figured I'd write about the one that stands out as my all-time favorite.

Back in the day, my preferred format for buying music was the cassette tape. I'm old enough to remember 8-tracks, but they were on the way out so that vinyl and cassettes were our choices. As much as I appreciated vinyl for the cover art, the record player was the weak link in my cheap audio system. Store-bought cassette tapes sounded better, were far more portable, could be played in my car (which is one of the few places I could count on listening in peace), and were much easier to conceal from my parents. That last one is a sad commentary on the state of even liberal Christianity in the 1980s, but it has to be mentioned. When they got their hands on a record and discovered the lyrics printed on the liner, I was going to catch hell.

The way most cassettes were produced in those days was by copying the design of the vinyl album. That is, the first side of the tape would contain the first side of the vinyl album, and the second side would be found on the other side of the tape. Cassette players quickly evolved to include an auto-reverse feature that would begin playing side 2 of the tape when side 1 ended without needing to be ejected, flipped, and reinserted. This was a nice idea but suffered from at least one problem. The length of the sides was rarely the same, and it was common for side 1 to contain a long tail (i.e., silence after the music had ended). One could either sit through it and wait for the auto-reverse to do its thing or fast forward to the end.

February 28, 2021

Not Everyone Who Disagrees with Me is Irrational

Most of us would probably acknowledge that not everyone who disagrees with us is necessarily irrational for doing so. At least, I think most of us would probably acknowledge this if we paused long enough to give it some thought.

Not only could we be wrong, but the person who disagrees with us could have reached a different position than ours through rational means. Thus, both of us could have been rational and still arrived at different positions. And depending on the specific issues involved, it is possible that both of us arrived at our positions through rational means and neither of us is wrong. Many political positions fall into this category because they reflect preferences about the sort of world we'd like to inhabit and are not the thing that can be true or false in any meaningful sense.

February 25, 2021

Visiting the DMV: American Efficiency in the Age of COVID-19

cars on the road

My driver's license was about to expire, and Mississippi's online renewal system requires that each online renewal is interspersed with an in-person renewal. Since I used the online renewal last time, I'd have no choice but to brave the DMV in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I probably would have waited and let my license expire if I thought I had any chance of receiving two doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the next couple months, but I don't.

The ordeal began by attempting to navigate a poorly constructed website to determine where I was supposed to go. The main branch in town was listed as "closed due to COVID-19" on some pages but not others. I found a small branch much closer to me that looked like it might be open, but this was also inconsistent. Of course, there were no phone numbers. I finally found a page that encouraged me to schedule an appointment online. "Skip the line" was what it advertised. I scheduled an appointment and wrote down the address, noticing that the address seemed incomplete. I recognized the street address as being the street on which our town's main shopping mall is located. That told me I was likely to need extra time to find it.

February 20, 2021

What is a Shithole, and Is the United States Becoming One?

winter storm

When it comes to towns, cities, states, or even countries, what exactly qualifies as a "shithole?" I realize the term is most often used to refer to somewhere the speaker does not want to live. That's obviously not objective in any way and varies wildly depending on the speaker. Your shithole might be my paradise and vice-versa. But what if there was some more objective standard that might be applied? What might it be?

I'm just thinking aloud here, but I find myself wondering if a shithole town, city, state, or country might be one where many of the people living there do not have access to things they should be able to take for granted. Examples that come to mind include "luxuries" like the sort of healthy food one should expect to be able to reliably find at one's local grocery store, safe drinking water, adequate shelter, reliable electricity and whatever other fuel might be needed for heating and cooling systems to function properly, and access for affordable healthcare, just to name a few. Sadly, there are many parts of the United States where we cannot take these things for granted.