The Ten-Album Meme

This meme ran around Facebook for a while, and it was so popular even I saw it. If this list looks familiar to you, it’s because I’ve already posted a version over there. It was a fun exercise, though, and worth expanding a bit and sharing in more intimate environs. After some thought I’d probably change some of these, but it’s not just a list of albums, it’s a list of memories, of little stories set in a time long ago.

The challenge was, without too much thought, to list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. But “teenage” spans an enormous amount of time in terms of changes to who you are. In those few years I changed more than in all the years since. So I limited myself to my first teen phase: The time when I got my first radio and my first record albums, but before I traveled to England for a year — which was an entire phase of my teen life all by itself.

So here’s the list I came up with over in Facebook land:

Pink Floyd, The Wall — I’ve come to like other Pink Floyd albums much more, but this was was a gigantic concept album that told a story. Isn’t this where we came in?

Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue — A big, ambitious album that needed the double-LP-sized canvas to carry its imagery. Kids these days don’t get the experience of opening up that super-glossy double album to see neon spaceships. Night in the City (oh, oh, oh) Madness at midnight.

BTO, Four Wheel Drive — Fuck yeah. This album spanned my various teens and carried me into adulthood. In a car, loud.

Steve Miller Band, Book of Dreams — I still had dreams of making my own synthesizers when that came out. While my friends were all about “Fly Like an Eagle”, this is the album that did it for me.

Eagles, Best Of (So Far) — That record belonged to my sister, and for a while it was the only pop album in the house, permanently installed on her clamshell record player. (By the end of that album’s life, there were two pennies taped to the tonearm of the record player.) You might think that such repetition would scar a guy, but honestly, while the world seems intent on hating the Eagles these days, I think they wrote some pretty good songs.

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors — More storytelling. I had no idea at the time what disfunction in the band created this magic, but this was the second pop album in the house, followed immediately by the Record Club Deluge. When Tusk came out I was dismayed, as was the world, but historians will revere the latter over the former. Yet the album was not just beautiful music, it was well-constructed, gently moving your mood from one place to another.

Kiss, the album with “Detroit, Rock City” on it — Pompous, giant guitars, the first album that got mom to tell me to turn it down. “Beth” was also there, but come on. If I had this in my digital library I’d listen to it right now.

Robin Trower, Bridge of Sighs — Memorex sponsored the “Blank Tape Special” once a week, playing an entire album starting with “hit the record button… now” followed by a pause to give time for the leader to pass over the heads. (Can you imagine that happening today?) Late at night, headphones on, half asleep in a beanbag chair, letting that bass do its magic. The next morning I wasn’t sure just what I’d heard, but I knew it was great. It took a long time for me to actually hear the music. I kind of went into a trance whenever I put it on.

Boston, Boston — The solid wall of sound. I still hum those tunes. I met a girl named Mary Ann in Wallingford, and that song became the story of my life.

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks — I save this for last, but of all these albums it had the greatest impact. At a party in West Hagbourne the album came out and they thought it would blow me away, but it was already part of my vocabulary. This album changed me almost as much as it did the recording industry. Of the ten listed here, this one shaped my view of the world the most. After Punk went mainstream (*ahemRancidahem*) I turned to Riot Grrl for my musical anger.

There you have it.

I have subsequently thought of many albums that could arguably be on the above list, albums I listened to many times, from ABBA to ZZ-Top. But these are the ones that came to mind first, so I’m riding with them.


Young Writer Looking for Opportunity

Recently I got this email:


My name is Cliff and as I’m sure you’re busy, I’ll be brief. I’m a young writer trying to gain recognition for myself. Having recently started a sports blog called [redacted because this is probably spam] with a group of like-minded friends from college, I personally aspire to write about more than just sports.

That said, I would love an opportunity to contribute some of my own work for Muddled Ramblings in a non-paid role, as I think I can provide some great work for you and hope there is an opportunity for me to do so. Hopefully you can use someone with my particular set of skills on your team, as I’m willing to jump in wherever I can help out. I’m a pro with WordPress and blogging and a quick study when it comes to content management systems.

Here is a more recent piece I wrote on the USSSM:

[redacted because this was probably spam]

I can write about absolutely anything and would greatly appreciate the chance to work with you. I am eager to expand my topical range and make new connections.

If you’re the wrong person to speak with, I apologize and would appreciate you forwarding along my information to the right person.



I get these from time to time, and because they are so misplaced, sometimes I reply. I always hope that somewhere on the other end there is someone who appreciates the answer, even if it does them no good. I fervently hope that someday I’ll even get a response. Maybe this will be the time. Anyway, here’s what I wrote, complete with grammatical errors:

Hi Cliff,

OK, maybe.

I get offers like your from time to time, offers that make me wonder if there is a “Cliff” or a “Betsy” or whoever. Offers from people (or perhaps robots) who have clearly not visited Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. People (or robots) who probably haven’t even read the name of the blog, since they still think I’m interested in, as you put it, “great work.” There is damn little great work here.

Also, your ability to be brief is not really a plus.

But I sense something different about you, Cliff. Something I can’t put my finger on, but I think the heart of the connection comes from your use of “college” and “sports”. Muddled Ramblings is no more about College or Sports than it is about anything else, but someone interested in sports who also went to college probably wrote more than one term paper in the small hours of the morning after doing keg stands and playing the travesty of a game kids are calling “beer pong” these days.

When I was a kid, beer pong included paddles.

I’m not interested in the term paper that scored you the ‘A’, that’s for Mainstream Media and big-money prima donnas. I want to hear about that time you were hammered and still wrote an essay that the professor had to confess was based on an “interesting idea”, and for that reason alone you got a ‘B’. Hell, even as I write this I’m partaking in blended Scotch Whiskey (I call it my “gluggin’ scotch” to differentiate it from actual sippin’ Scotch Whiskey, which is always single-malt. Don’t tell me how much you paid for the Johnnie Walker Ultraviolet Label; it’s still a blend, buckaroo), and you can bet these words will appear on Muddled Ramblings.

Truth be told, I’m often sober when I post to MR&HBI, but the spirit is always there.

So Cliff, if there is a Cliff, I’d be curious to see if you could share a bit of work in the “Muddled Style”. It probably won’t make your robot overlords happy writing something for such a small audience without links to their shit in the text, but hell, the robot overlords will have to get over it.

Just so you know going in, the revenue stream at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas is zero. Nil, nada, nix. I pay more than I should to keep it running for one simple reason: I love doing it. If you want to participate, you have to write for the same reason. For the love.

Can you do that, Cliff?



Knives Exclusive Patron Content (hopefully) Simplified

If you are one of my treasured patrons and you have mentioned in the past that you cannot access the TOP SECRET super-awesome patron-only content, you should have received and email from me. If you are unable to access the special content, but didn’t get an email, please let me know.

The system is much simpler, but at this time it is not overly tested. Please let me know if you have any trouble.

Knives Episode 27 Released

Actually I hit the “publish” button a few days ago, but never got the announcement out. Whups.

In this episode the group, now one larger, returns to the ruin to get the thing that’s under all the bodies. Whatever is is. We learn a little more about the woman who lends her name to the title of this episode, and a little of Bags’ history as well.

Speaking of Bags’ history, I’m giving up on the Patreon plugin for WordPress that is supposed to “simplify” the process of allowing patrons to see content others can’t. It’s just not very good, and I simply don’t have enough patrons to warrant trying to fix it. This weekend I’ll set up a simpler, manual system to allow my bestest friends in the whole world to see the backstories without the current malarkey. I look forward to the day that manually granting access is overwhelming.

Also, I’ll be posting the last, sloppiest, part of Bags’ history, so I can get to the job of posting Kat’s backstory. Once I get that out I’ll start twisting arms again to get people to spread the word so we can cross the next backstory threshold.

Read the episode!


That Tingly, Geeky Feeling

My day job is building Web applications you will never see. That is by design; my apps deal with SECRET STUFF.

The first aside about failure: My first Internet application is also one you will also never see, not because of secrecy, but because it failed. We made an immersive app with a rich graphical interface that allowed people to share photos and messages with a select group of friends. The core app acted as an operating system, able to discover compatible services to provide data. It flopped. A few years later MySpace and Facebook provided crappy platforms that allowed the world to shout at each other. In retrospect my biggest mistake (among many) was assuming people valued privacy.

ANYWAY, I build Web applications. But I come from a background of developing desktop apps, and let me tell you, even now the world of Web app development is ridiculously painful. Slowly, slowly, software design principles worked out decades ago are finding their way to the Web.

Another aside about a failure: A while back I created a framework that allowed the UI (still running in a dang browser after all this time) to connect to the server with such efficiency that when anyone anywhere made a change, everyone saw it immediately. In geek terms, I created an MVC system where the central model was shared by all clients in real time. It also allowed anyone to track the entire history of every value in the system. I had a great 3D interface for that I never got to implement. The system worked so well I still get misty thinking about it. It was (still is) marketable. That project was shit-canned for reasons I could have managed better that had nothing to do with the technology.

But goddammit, I’ll fail shooting for making something great over succeeding at the mediocre, and I’ve got the track record to prove it.

I may have that chance again. I can’t be too specific (sorry for the tease), but I’m pretty excited. So this afternoon I snuck out of work early to go and… work. But fun work. Perhaps a chance to take my failures and put them together into a game-changer. I’ve come close before.



She lay her head down on the table, wild dark hair soaking up spilled beer and mingling with the guacamole. “The problem with places that never close,” she said, her airy voice barely audible over the driving ranchero music of the cantina, “is that you can never go home.”


2017: Here we go!

I don’t usually resolve things, but last year I let some good habits slip away, and this year I want them back. So by publicly declaring them here, maybe I improve my chances.

  • Writing:
    • Write SOMETHING (almost) every day
    • More detailed character descriptions
    • Settings are characters
    • It ain’t worth squat if nobody reads it
  • Health:
    • Bicycle more miles than I drive (road trips excluded)
    • Improve commute pace by 3mph
    • Resume the no-beer-until-weekly-weight-target-reached regime (starting tomorrow)
  • Life:
    • Productive procrastination — use idle time better

The health ones are all things I have done well in the past. I didn’t have to wait for the new year to restart them, except that having a week off from work and being surrounded by excellent cooks would have doomed any attempt. Bicycling was improving in December, now I have to regain that momentum.

My average-speed-during-commute goal would put me back to about the speed I was going when I was in a state the fitness experts call “not potato”.

“Use of idle time” includes fixing the terrible Patreon plugin for WordPress, continuing to improve my Swift skills (especially on Linux), coming up to speed on photo editing and workflow options to replace Aperture, and keeping the Honey Do list short. The list of “productive” things will of course change over time.

But right now, I need to go play a game on my phone.

Edit to add:

Starting numbers for mileage challenge:
Bike: 7740 miles
Car A: 151968 miles
Car B (driven by two people): 6099