Bumper cars

I’ve owned this green Mini Cooper S for about six months now, and I’m more convinced than ever that someone’s trying to kill me while I’m in it.

This was not a side effect I considered when my wife and I agreed to own a vehicle this small. It’s a tremendous city car and a rocket on the highway, but its diminutive size and British green color appear to help make it invisible in a lot of circumstances.

Other cars swerve into my lane, come to a screeching halt behind me when traffic stops and otherwise appear to have no concept of my existence. I’ve been in at least a half-dozen near-accidents since buying the Mini; none of them involve me doing anything stupid; they all involve vehicles apparently not seeing my car at all.

In at least once case, I avoided imminent doom by just mashing the accelerator and sending the car rocketing out of the space the minivan that had been in the lane next to me suddenly decided to occupy. A couple of buses have also made this sort of occupational demand on my space without notice; in one case, I avoided a smacking by hitting the brakes, which almost caused the car behind me to rear-end me instead.

All of this has happened even though I’ve only driven the car about 4,000 miles in six months (I take the Metro to work, although I drive about five miles to the station). That’s a lot of near-death activity for such a small amount of driving. But I do love the car — even though it’s so small that a guitar won’t fit in the trunk space — and I guess I’ll just have to keep that Potential Death Radar running at all times when I’m in it.

A new phone

My old cell phone disappeared Friday. I mean that quite literally: One minute I had it in my car, and when I went to look for it a half-hour later, it was gone.

I speculate that I left it on the roof of the car and drove off. It was an older mid-level phone anyway, so I basically ended up getting a replacement a few months early and there wasn’t a lot of drama to this episode. Also, I don’t buy expensive “flagship” phones for the same reason I don’t buy their computer bretheren: That last 10% of power will cost you double the price and provide you with muscle you probably don’t need. I also like to replace my phones every couple of years, and I’ll never allow myself to be locked into a contract again, so all of this meant I needed to look for a mid-level unlocked phone.

zenfoneI settled on an Asus Zenfone 2 Laser. It packs a large, sharp screen, an octo-core processor and 32 gigs of internal memory into its unit for less than $200. It also has a memory card slot and dual SIM slots — rare in a phone at this price point. It also feels a little cheap and flimsy (except for the Gorilla Glass screen), but that might be expected, given everything it’s packed into the hardware. A case takes care of that issue.

I use Cricket as my provider and have few complaints. However, I got involved with Cricket’s “legendary” (for the wrong reasons) customer service humans when I tried to activate this phone and a new SIM, both of which I bought from Amazon. Two of these outsourced folks failed to activate the new phone and SIM card. I dug around and finally found the right page on Cricket’s site to do this myself. Once I found that, it took all of 30 seconds to get things working.

My early observations about this phone are positive. It replaced a LG G2, and this phone has a larger, sharper screen and is clearly more powerful. It still uses Android 5.1, but there is a bump-up to 6.0 being released and I’ll hopefully get that soon. I miss LG’s rocker-and-button control combo on the back of the phone — the Asus has a rocker but the power button is on top, like most Android units. The phone was loaded up with bloatware but I deleted what I could and disabled the rest. All of the apps I had on the G2 were backed up on my Google Drive and got dragged into the Asus with little effort on my part. In short, so far, so good.

The one who likes all the pretty songs

Sturgill Simpson is living on his own plane. That should have been obvious from his last (and breakthrough) album, the utterly brilliant Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, and his new album makes an even stronger case for this claim.

A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” has something to annoy/please pretty much everyone, often within a few bars of music. Gone, for the most part, are the generally sparse and somewhat old-school country sounds that marked Metamodern. In their place are heavy classical strings, along with horns from the Dap-Kings. Over that, Simpson has constructed a song cycle that focuses on his newborn son. In the middle of it, he drops in a genuinely WTF-inducing cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” (but hey, you can understand the lyrics):

It took Metamodern a while to grow on me, and then I became obsessed with it for several months. Simpson’s earned a lot of cred, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m inclined to give this album some time to work any presumptive magic it might have. Still, I’m not sure Simpson’s new work will ever really move me, but you can admire art that aims high even when you think it misses.

That last sentence is where I stand with “A Sailor’s Guide” for now. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Breaking an obsolete habit

I have subscribed to one paper or another since I moved out of my house in 1978, and my parents subscribed to two dailies before that. Every day — sometimes twice a day — a paper would show up on my doorstep or dorm mailbox. I even had my hometown paper mailed to me when I spent a summer in Vermont as a college kid, working in a summer camp. I’ve never lived without a daily, print newspaper, even though I’ve worked in digital media for more than 20 years.

Today I canceled my weekday print subscription to The Washington Post. For a few years now, weekday papers have been little more than recycling fodder for me — I read the paper online, but my wife has preferred the physical newspaper. But even her habits have changed — and that, combined with the Post’s escalating costs, pushed us to make this decision.

It’s odd for me. I’ll have a digital subscription so I’m still helping to pay for the journalism I’m reading. I still enjoy the casualness of reading a weekend paper, so I’m keeping the Saturdays and Sundays as well (and the Sunday New York Times).

But this still feels like a little betrayal. From the time I was in kindergarten until the time my computer hobby became a viable career, all I wanted to do was work for a newspaper. I got that experience for 14 years, and in that time I covered everything from night cops to the White House — with a stint of editing mixed in.

But I changed, and my reading habits changed long ago. I’ve never been one for nostalgia, which too often feels like the banana peel in front of the grave, and I’m not going to get all nostalgic about this decision. It’s a practical one.