Woke up this morning

Back to the Left Coast today, just in time for a Biblical heat wave. Bad timing, kind of normal for me.

Next week we’re off to Alaska for what should be a relaxing cruise. I plan to spend the time becoming the only person in history to lose weight on a cruise ship. I *do* enjoy walking round and round the ship, watching the scenery go by.

By the time I get back to KY, Fall will have begun if not in full swing. I hope for some colorful leaves and a successful UK football season. And of course it’s only 2 months and two weeks until the first official UK hoops game. So there’s a lot to look forward to.

With Dad now respectfully buried, I think it’s now OK to note that I share John Prine’s sentiments about burial.

Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen and died
And oh what a feeling!
When my soul
Went thru the ceiling
And on up into heaven I did ride
When I got there they did say
John, it happened this way
You slipped upon the floor
And hit your head
And all the angels say
Just before you passed away
These were the very last words
That you said:

Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
No, I’d druther have “em” cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size
Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer
Put my socks in a cedar box
Just get “em” out of here
Venus de Milo can have my arms
Look out! I’ve got your nose
Sell my heart to the junkman
And give my love to Rose

Repeat Chorus

Give my feet to the footloose
Careless, fancy free
Give my knees to the needy
Don’t pull that stuff on me
Hand me down my walking cane
It’s a sin to tell a lie
Send my mouth way down south
And kiss my ass goodbye

Repeat Chorus

John Prine, Please Don’t Bury Me, from the Sweet Revenge album, 1973

I do love me some JP.

Life goes on

What a weekend…visitation and funeral services for Dad, a few big family meals, long drives to and from Ashland, sleepless nights, too-tight clothes and hot humid days. I’m exhausted, but satisfied that we did everything we could (and should) to honor Dad and that it all went well. I was a little worried about delivering the eulogy at the funeral, but even that went well. I think Dad would have been proud of all of us.

Meanwhile, all kinds of things happened in the world. NASA’s Artemis launch got postponed. Rory McIlroy (one of the good guys in golf) won the big prize at the end of the golf season. And these guys went to their first day of school for the 2022 year.

Life goes on. Experiencing a funeral of a close friend or family member just underscores how important it is that we enjoy that life while we have it. I plan to do that just as soon as I get some rest.

Last days

Here we are, in eastern KY again. Been here more this year than in many years. Today we get to gather together in a funeral home “lounge” and greet however else comes by to pay respects to Dad and his family. I’m sure I’ll see quite a few folks who I will never see again.

The highlight, such as it is, of the last few days was putting picture collages together with my daughter. Pictures of Dad’s family ranged back to 1900, so it was quite a journey through time. The collages turned out well, and that should give the visitors and family something to look at while they wait to shake a hand or two.

Dad’s generation held these somber, quiet “visitation” events in addition to a religion-led funeral. We’re honoring that tradition today and tomorrow. I, on the other hand, plan to request a noisy, raucous wake with food and rock music. And maybe a memorial golf outing. I hope people have good memories of me, but even if they don’t we can show them a good time.


The student loan forgiveness thing is a divisive topic. My take is that the whole student loan system was a hot mess, and anything that can be done to help students is a good thing. There’s a lot of hypocrisy from folks who are outraged that some students get debts forgiven and others don’t. From Heather Cox Richardson’s blog today:

First, after a day of Republican congress members railing against yesterday’s educational loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for others, the White House tweeted a thread of those members alongside the amount of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money those individuals were forgiven. 

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said: “For our government just to say ok your debt is completely forgiven.. it’s completely unfair.” Greene had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven.

Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) said: “Biden’s reckless, unilateral student loan giveaway is unfair to the 87 percent of Americans without student loan debt and those who played by the rules.” Buchanan had more than $2.3 million in PPP loans forgiven.

Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) said: “We do not need farmers and ranchers, small business owners, and teachers in Oklahoma paying the debts of Ivy League lawyers and doctors across the U.S.” Mullin had more than $1.4 million in PPP loans forgiven.

Representative Kevin Hern (R-OK) said: “To recap, in the last two weeks, the ‘Party of the People’ has supercharged the IRS to go after working-class Americans, raised their taxes, and forced them to pay for other people’s college degrees.” Hern had more than $1 million in PPP loans forgiven.

Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) said: “Asking plumbers and carpenters to pay off the loans of Wall Street advisors and lawyers isn’t just unfair. It’s also bad policy.” Kelly had $987,237 in PPP loans forgiven.

Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said: Everyone knows that in a $60 Billion+ European land war, it’s always the last $3 Billion that kicks in the door….” Gaetz had $482,321 in PPP loans forgiven. 

From Letters From an American

So it’s OK for Congresscritters to get loans, big loans, from the Gubmint and have them forgiven. But heaven help us when students catch a small break.

That little lesson in hypocrisy is about all the energy I have for today. I plan a day of rest, getting ready for a difficult weekend.

Rest in peace, Dad

The last couple of days have been a blur. Tuesday I was in San Diego attending an afternoon Board meeting when I received the call informing me that my Dad had passed away. Even though I knew it was coming, it rocked my world. Ten hours later I was in Louisville, and after a short rest took off with my brothers for the three hour journey to Ashland, Dad’s home. Yesterday we worked through a detailed checklist and made all the arrangements for what should be a traditional, respectful set of memorial services. Today is the first time I’ve had to sit quietly and think about it all. Just hard to believe that he’s gone. Here’s the obituary I wrote for him – it will be published in the Ashland Daily Independent on Friday. The picture above is Dad and his four sons at Dad and Phyllis’ wedding in 1999.


Donald Eugene Nichols

1935 – 2022

Donald Eugene Nichols of Ashland, Kentucky, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed peacefully on the 23rd day of August 2022. He will be missed and remembered.

Born in Ashland, KY on July 26, 1935, Don was the youngest child of the late John Nichols and Vada McPeek Nichols, who were married in 1908. John and Vada resided in a flood-prone area of east Ashland between the railroad and the Ohio River for over 75 years and raised eight children. Don was the last of his siblings to pass on.

Don is survived by his wife Phyllis A. Nichols of Russell KY, and four sons: Jeff (Kathryn) Nichols of Fallbrook, CA; Donald (Jill) Nichols Jr. of Cleveland, TN; John Michael Nichols of Lexington, KY; and Mark (Deeanne) Nichols of Louisville, KY. He is also preceded in death by his beloved first wife Susan Bates Nichols.

He was the proud grandparent of seven grandchildren, Emily (Greg) Monsma of Louisville, KY; Chase (Katie) Nichols of Lexington, KY; Corey (Mary) Nichols of Frankfort, KY; Steven Nichols of Pleasant View, TN; Ben (Nicole) Nichols of Palm Harbor, FL; Matt Maher of Atlanta, GA; and Brian Nichols of Cleveland, TN.

Don was also the loving grandfather of seven great-grandchildren: Hudson and Jessamine Monsma, Emerson Nichols, Isabell Burkybile, Kendall Nichols, and Asher and Silas Nichols. Additionally, he is survived by a host of nieces and nephews. 

Don started working to support himself at the age of twelve. Hard work and self-sufficiency were central to Don’s life and values. He was a graduate of Paul Blazer High School and went immediately from there to a mechanic’s job at Armco Steel in Ashland, a job he would hold for 30 years. He worked two or three jobs simultaneously during much of the 1970s and 1980s to support his family. One of his second jobs became his second career, a real estate agent and realtor. He loved selling real estate and became successful in that career.

He and his wife Susan (Susie) Bates Nichols were married in 1955, shortly after Susie’s high school graduation. During the next 27 years he and Susie would raise and support four sons from their home in Boyd County. Susie died at the young age of forty-six after a long illness, a great loss to Don, the family, and the community. Don and Susie were faithful members of the Rose Hill Baptist church in Ashland, where Don was a deacon and a pillar of the church, serving in many capacities.

After the death of his wife Susie in 1982, Don spent some years in California with his sons Jeff and Mark. In California he worked as a mechanic for General Dynamics – hard work was always his trademark. In 1996, he returned to Ashland and later met Phyllis Dials, a high-school classmate who, like Don, had lost a spouse prematurely. Don and Phyllis were married in 1999 and lived happily in Coal Grove, OH until 2020, and then at Morningpointe assisted living in Russell, KY. During their marriage Don and Phyllis were able to travel to places including Hawaii, England, Scotland, and visit their relatives in many states.

Don’s great passions in life were his family, his work, Kentucky basketball, collecting coins, and his Christian faith. He was an avid reader and was infinitely curious about the world around him. Even at the end of his life, he would talk with his sons about the mysteries and beauty of this world.

Visitation will be held at Steen Funeral Homes 13th Street Chapel located at 3409 13th Street in Ashland, KY on Sunday, August 28th from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM.

Funeral services will be held at the First Baptist Church of Russell on Monday August 29th at 1:00 PM, with the Reverend Ken Gowin officiating. Burial will follow at Golden Oaks Memorial Park in Ashland, KY. 

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made in Don’s memory to the American Cancer Society. 

Online condolences may be sent to www.steenfuneralhome.com.

A quick scan of what’s happened lately

Well, this is discouraging. How in the world does someone smart enough and lucky enough to become a billionaire decide to donate most of it to a far, far right-wing organization dedicated to sending the US back to the 1880s? $1.6 billion to the Federalist Society? The Federalist Society has always been a keystone of the conservative movement’s long game, a strategic force. With this kind of backing, they can wreak havoc for another 50 years. Sigh.


NPR reports that “House of the Dragon’ is the most watched premiere in HBO history“. I watched it, and…meh. I think we may have hit Peak Dragon.


The BBC coins a term – presenteeism. Yet another micro-aggression, I suppose.


More politics. Here’s a cringeworthy advertisement from Florida’s asshat Governor. Hard to believe people actually vote for this guy.


From the Max Planck Institute – OUR BRAIN IS A PREDICTION MACHINE THAT IS ALWAYS ACTIVE. No wonder I’m tired a lot. But this is seriously interesting.

Our brain works a bit like the autocomplete function on your phone – it is constantly trying to guess the next word when we are listening to a book, reading or conducting a conversation. Contrary to speech recognition computers, our brains are constantly making predictions at different levels, from meaning and grammar to specific speech sounds. This is what researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University’s Donders Institute discovered in a new study. Their findings are published in PNAS.


Finally today, insights from the Grand Old Man of cybersecurity, Bruce Schneier – at least one of NIST’s final four new post-quantum encryption techniques is tragically broken.

One of the most popular algorithms, Rainbow, was found to be completely broken. Not that it could theoretically be broken with a quantum computer, but that it can be broken today—with an off-the-shelf laptop in just over two days. Three other finalists, Kyber, Saber, and Dilithium, were weakened with new techniques that will probably work against some of the other algorithms as well. (Fun fact: Those three algorithms were broken by the Center of Encryption and Information Security, part of the Israeli Defense Force. This represents the first time a national intelligence organization has published a cryptanalysis result in the open literature. And they had a lot of trouble publishing, as the authors wanted to remain anonymous.

Post-quantum refers to a time when we actually have quantum computers that can be used for breaking encryption. We’re not there yet, but criminals and governments (is there a difference?) are quite concerned that all their secrets will be revealed if/when someone builds a viable quantum computer. This is fascinating stuff, and there’s no one better than Schneier to give you the straight story.

Monday minutiae

Solved today’s Wordle with only two guesses. I guess I’m not totally dim.

Back on Socal freeways today going to and from an office. Massive traffic on I-15S this morning…I sure don’t miss that. But I took backroads and made it to my appointments with minutes to spare, and not too stressed out.

I’m having a hard time understanding this. There are a lot of places I might want to be an expat, but Mexico City isn’t one of them. I’ve been there – it’s a gigantic, dynamic and (in places) dangerous city. I just don’t get it. Your money goes just as far in many, many more desirable places. Go figure.

Seven to eleven inches of rain last night in the Dallas area – amazing! Please send about one-third of that our way in Socal.

Audio journey

I haven’t listened to my big audio system in a while. Not sure why, just couldn’t get motivated – too much else going on to really settle in and listen. This afternoon I decided I wanted to listen to Tame Impala on a real system, so I pulled off the dust covers and fired things up.

But no. Turns out there’s some kind of software problem blocking any new digital music via the combination of my Elac music server, Roon and Tidal. Shit. That led me to poke around a lot troubleshooting, and I realized I’ve never really documented this system, so here goes.

This is a system that’s been many years in the making. It’s a group of components that aren’t necessarily optimal together, but I like them individually. Here’s a picture (a kind of crummy one), and a listing of what’s here. I’ll figure our the digital music software problem later. I think it’s a cross authentication problem between Roon and Tidal, but who knows? Meanwhile I can listen to old-school CDs.

Power: A concert-class piece of gear, a Furman Elite power conditioner and distribution box.

Interconnects: Mostly Anticable. A few random though good quality cables.


(1) An Elac Music Discovery Server running Roon software. Hardware includes Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC’s (192kHz 24-Bit) and Burr Brown op-amps. Mass storage courtesy of a tiny Western Digital solid state drive, USB connected.

(2) Tidal lossless music service, served up via the Elac and Roon.

(3) Marantz CD6006 single disc player. The DACs in the Marantz aren’t as good as in the Elac, but…we’ll fix that in the future.

Preamp: A vintage Dared MC-7P tube preamp running EL-34 tubes. Love the look and sound.

Amps: A pair of Wyred 4 Sound mAmp Class D monoblocs, 250 watts into 8 ohms and 430! watts into 4 ohms (yikes!). Ugly little bastards, but they’re powerful and clean.

Speakers: The mighty Spatial Audio M3s – those 2001 Space Odyssey-looking monoliths on each side in the picture. You can’t see the dual 15-inch drivers in this bad photo. Open baffle speakers with a punch. As it turns out, I don’t need the massive power of the monoblocs with the Spatials’ 92 db sensitivity, but what the hell. I can play music at concert-level volumes, and sometimes do. Sue me.

My listening room configuration is…weird. Lots of glass and stone, furniture in the way, and a high ceiling with lots of acute angles. I end up listening to the Spatials in a near-field mode, which doesn’t really do them justice. They need a BIG room.

OK, back to the software problem. The Elac server works – I can play ripped discs stored on it, and I can play streamed radio. Right now listening to Louisville’s 91.9 station. So the problem is most likely Tidal.

Hello left coast

Back in Socal. Hot and a little humid – not what you want from a place that excuses every price and cultural excess as a “sunshine tax”. A little too much sunshine and too little precipitation these days. The tax is noticeable.

We dodged the big security shutdown at San Diego airport today by minutes. We bugged out of there about 15 minutes before they shut the place down. Thank Dog.

I’ve got a week to get my sh*t together and get ready for another trip back to eastern KY to see Dad. Should be fine, and should sleep like a bear in hibernation tonight.

Nashville drive-by

Ahhh, Nashville. We barely knew ye. Flying nonstop from here to San Diego in a bit. We met some old friends for a nice dinner at Connors Seafood and Steak last night. Great meal (I would eat there again), great company (thanks, T&J), but a little bit of stress getting there. Five PM traffic, and somehow I had two different nav systems barking conflicting orders at me while driving. Confusing. And, during all that, I noticed that we were almost out of gas – 9 miles left, according to the car’s computer. But I made the exit, got some gas, shut down both of the chatty nav systems and made it to the restaurant only a little late. Wine was required, stat.

So much going on in the world, but it’s hard for me to focus on anything beyond my family’s drama and my own attempt to cope with it all. Spending a few days back in Socal will be good, and we’ve left a great system of caregivers in place to make sure Dad is as OK as he can be. Right now I’m in a kind of dislocation confusion – days in hotels in Ashland, then at the house in Louisville, then back to Ashland hotels, Louisville again, and now a night somewhere near the airport in Nashville. I’m a veteran traveler, but this is a bit much.

I’m looking forward to enjoying our new pure and expensive well water. And sitting in one place for a few days.