The Swedish Girl

I watched a Danish series on Netflix a while back – The Rain – and noticed that the lead actress, Alba August, vaguely reminds me of someone from my past.

Alba August
(Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

The Swedish Girl moved in to my neighborhood the summer between junior and senior year. She was 15½, and thus needed rides to and from school until she could get her license. Since she was cool and lived just down the street, I offered.

And that’s what our relationship was: I picked her up (some mornings) and brought her home (most afternoons). For several weeks. That’s about it.

Now I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t have any feelings for this girl. But here’s the thing: for one, she was younger, 15½ and still firmly in school, while I was about to graduate. We lived in the same neighborhood, so there was the possibility of post-break-up awkwardness . And, to be honest, I was sick of the Duluth High School drama by that point: why date someone at your school and deal with the 90210 bullshit when you can avoid it entirely by dating someone from a different school?

Having said that, I loved every second I spent with The Swedish Girl. I took her to school and brought her home, and we made each other laugh and listened to cool tunes along the way. Sometimes she’d draw me pictures as a thank you for toting her. It was probably the sweetest, most innocent relationship I’ve ever had: a cute Swedish Girl was drawing pictures for me and it was fucking adorable.

But then I did something – insulted a friend of a friend of The Swedish Girl. I think? I never really knew, which is kinda what pissed me off so much when she dumped me as a friend: I never knew why it had to end.

My last interaction with The Swedish Girl came a year or two later.

It was a Saturday, and my friend Jamie and I had gone to Little Five Points for lunch and to check out the action. Heading back to Gwinnett, we got on the Downtown Connector northbound at Boulevard. I got over a couple lanes, then had to brake for traffic. I looked over at the car to my right, only to see The Swedish Girl. She pulled down her sunglasses and raised her eyebrows a couple times in a faux flirt. I, amazed by the coincidence,  just smiled at her like a moron. The Swedish Girl then gestured at the traffic ahead and mouthed the words “Wanna race?”

Still stuck in idiot mode, I nodded.

So The Swedish Girl just floored it. She had one of those nicer Accords – the “sporty one” is, I believe the correct Man Term for it. Within seconds, she was off like a rocket, weaving through traffic. It took my Jetta a bit to catch up, but when I finally did, it was neck and neck.

Up the Connector.

Past North Druid Hills Road.

Past Clairmont Road.

Past Shallowford Road.

Doing 90+ mph through it all, dodging cars like they were asteroids in a video game.

The Swedish Girl and I would sometimes look at each other as we passed the other, sometimes smiling, sometimes smirking. It was like a really, really bizarre type of flirting:

Troy Weirdest Boner

It was also one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in a car. And I’m not proud of it now. I coulda killed someone. But hey, at the time, it was just Saturday fun.

Fun, that is, until I finally came to my senses sometime after 285 but before Jimmy Carter Boulevard. There was a bottleneck in traffic, and The Swedish Girl and I had to pass a car. She broke right, while I broke left around the car. But I chose incorrectly: traffic in that lane had slowed considerably, with no way to switch lanes. I was boxed in and could only watch while The Swedish Girl sliced through traffic ahead. She was soon gone from my sight completely.

Which was fine, actually. I remember turning to Jamie, my heart pounding a hundred miles an hour, and saying something like “Oh my God! What did we just do? Man, if the cops had caught us I woulda been screwed. What the hell was I thinking?”

So that’s that. I saw The Swedish Girl turning into, or out of, my neighborhood from time to time, but that was all. If The Swedish Girl ever stumbles across these words, I genuinely hope you’ve had a wonderful life. Because, for a couple months in 1988 you were the coolest.

Creepy

There was a resort in the north Georgia mountains my family used to go to when I was a kid. The resort eventually went bankrupt. My dad’s best friend was friends with the caretaker, so after the resort closed, my dad and his friend would sometimes slide the guy a couple hundred bucks to let us stay for a weekend.

It wasn’t too strange at first. It was the same old resort… just with my family and our family friends being the only people there. But as time went on, it got creepy: the golf course, once so carefully maintained, went to seed. The tennis courts started to crack, and weeds started poking up through them. The water in the swimming pool, once an inviting shade of blue, slowly turned a sickening green.

To my young self, the creepiest thing of all was the resort’s dining room. Like a failing restaurant, the resort shut down without warning, so that employees couldn’t make off with cases of Scotch and lobster. So the dining room sat – perfectly preserved, as if ready to serve dinner that night – for years. There were bread plates, water glasses, silverware, ash trays and cloth napkins, carefully fanned into peacock shapes, on every table. Silk flowers sat in vases frozen in time. The dining room bar remained perfectly stocked with whiskey, gin and vodka.

The (golf) pro shop was the same: perfectly still, with boxes of golf balls and sets of clubs sitting patiently on the shelf, awaiting purchase by people who would never come. And, by the cash register, a stack of scorecards and an acrylic box full of those tiny pencils – still carefully arranged vertically, point side down – as if the club pro had simply stepped away for a few minutes.

I was probably 3 or 4 when we started going there and maybe 6 or 7 when the club shut down. We went 4-5 times after that, when I was 8-10. And yes, I did walk around the resort by myself, pretending some disaster had happened, and I was trying to find a safe hide-out. Walking Dead-style. Still, I’ll never forget looking in that dining room. The doors were locked, of course, so I had to stand on my tip-toes to see inside through the wall of windows that faced the 18th green. And the windows got grimy with time, so even the ghostly dining room itself eventually faded from view.

I’m Back!

Hi Folks!

My apologies if you tried accessing this site in the past week. There was some… unpleasantness between myself and my former host. So after 16 years I ditched them for a new one! But since my former host also has a separate registrar, I thought it best (not to mention cheaper) to move my domain to Namecheap. My former host (and registrar) held on to the domain name to the very last second before releasing it… which finally happened in the wee hours this morning. So now I’m back… “from outer space!”

I hope you like the new look! When moving the site, I was much more concerned about technical stuff. When all that went off without a hitch, I suddenly realized this was a semi-creative endeavor, too. So at worst I’d have to recreate the theme of the old site. Come to find out, I went with the Twenty Seventeen default instead. I’m easy like that. Expect a few tweaks in the next couple weeks, though.

ONE BIG CHANGE: Please update your RSS feeds if you’re one of the 7 people who actually get feeds from this site! Also, my old site was in a subdirectory (jimcofer.com/personal), while the new site is not. If you have trouble with the site, make sure it’s not going to the old address. UPDATE: I added a server-side redirect, so if autocomplete takes you to /personal, you’ll be 301’d to the new site.

Thanks!

Jim

A Random Memory

Back in the 80s, some time after my family moved from one end of a suburban Atlanta county to another, a married couple moved in a few houses down. The husband was, I think, a former big wig in the Air Force. He’d retired and moved to Atlanta for a new job. Somewhere between 6 months to a year after they moved in, their youngest son failed out of college and moved back in with his parents.

I worshiped this guy. I was a 14 year-old dork, and he was a cool 20 year old guy who’d been away… in college! He liked all the cool bands, movies and art. Cool literally oozed out of this guy. And he especially dressed cool – I started wearing a single rubber bracelet – yes, the same ones Madonna would wear 20 per wrist back in the 80s… just ‘cos this guy did, too.

Now, I’m not gonna lie and say we were friends. He didn’t know anyone in Atlanta when he first moved there, and I was “the kid down the street who liked Bauhaus too, and was good for a laugh on a Tuesday night”. Still, we hung out fairly often, at least for a few months until he got connections to people his age in the city.

And so: in 1985, when I was 14, this dude invited me to see Love and Rockets with him. He bought me a few beers – another cool thing about the guy was that he’d been grandfathered into the drinking age hike, so could buy beer at 20. And I, being 14 and with little alcohol experience, got blitzed.

The venue was a “cinema & drafthouse” that was converting to live music, so security was kind of lax. About halfway through the show, I drunkenly crawled up on stage and propped myself up against the speaker next to David J. He looked down at me, but did nothing. Since I – 5’9″ and 117 lbs soaking wet – didn’t seem like a threat, neither did security. So that’s where I sat for about half the show.

Afterwards, my friend, who’d brought his fancy 35mm camera, magically convinced the back doorman that we were from Creative Loafing, the city’s alt-weekly. We got backstage and hung out for a bit, which was cool. But then the party moved to the Winnebago the band had rented. After a while inside, I realized wasn’t feeling so hot, alcohol-wise. So I stepped out of the RV for some fresh air. While standing there, I got the idea of doodling on the side of the RV with a Sharpie I’d brought. A few minutes later, Daniel Ash poked his head out the door. Instead of getting angry, Ash laughed, came outside and drew on the RV for several minutes with me before they left.

Somewhere I have a fuzzy, black & white photo of our “artwork” on the side of the Winnebago.

I finally left Virgin Mobile!

Ah, the ZTE Max XL… the phone they should have named the “ZTE Max RD”, ‘cos you need to reboot it daily! Gather ‘round children, and let me tell you the story of the phone that was so bad it finally made me quit Virgin Mobile!

I got the ZTE Max XL last Christmas. And it seemed pretty awesome at the time – a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 octa-core processor, a 6” 1080×1920 screen, a 13 MP camera, a 3990 mAh battery, a fingerprint sensor on the back, all wrapped up in some Nougat 7.1 deliciousness! And the thing was only $125 on Virgin’s site! Sounds killer, right? What’s not to like?

ZTE Max XL
(pic via Virgin Mobile)

Well, plenty.

For one thing, the screen is glitchy. Do you remember when a VGA cable would get loose or start to die, and if you brushed against it with your foot, you’d get weird streaks or other artifacts on the screen for a second or two? Yeah, the ZTE Max would often do that when playing YouTube videos, or when I’d play my slot machine games. It wasn’t especially bad – maybe 1 or 2 very short glitches during 30 minutes of game play or video watching – but it was certainly enough to make me worry.

And speaking of “worry”, the entire time I owned this phone I worried constantly about the battery. I’ve never owned a device that ate battery quite like this phone. After charging overnight on my nightstand, I’d wake up, unplug it and spend 15 minutes or so checking my email, catching up on headlines, and seeing what was going on with Reddit. And it wasn’t uncommon for that short usage to drain the phone to 92% or so. Yes, the phone used 8% of a charge just by using Outlook for Android, Google News and Weather and Relay for Reddit for 15 minutes. But that’s better than what I got doing chores: I like listening to music while doing dishes, and 35 minutes of Spotify + Bluetooth headphones could easily eat 20% of a charge. It got to the point where I’d eat dinner and let the phone charge back up to 100%. Then I’d do the dishes, only to watch the battery drain from 100% to 79% in a mere 35-45 minutes. It also didn’t help that the phone had the battery percentage RIGHT THERE on the notification bar, with no obvious way to disable that feature. It was almost like it was taunting me: “You want to listen to the new Sylvan Esso album? Hahaha! That’ll cost you 10% of this charge!”

You might have noticed I said “Outlook for Android” in the previous paragraph. That’s because almost anything Google-related on the ZTE Max did not work once the phone reached a certain amount of uptime.

Continue reading “I finally left Virgin Mobile!”

NICE SERVICE: USPS Informed Delivery

To me, one of the “genius” things about technology is when it fixes a problem you didn’t even know you had. Several years ago, my cable company started offering an Android app that lets you schedule DVR recordings remotely. That might sound kinda pointless at first, but I never realized how often I’d be outside my home – at a family gathering, or at the pub with friends – and someone would mention a show they thought we might be interested in. With the app, I can just whip out my phone, and with a few taps set up a recording. Or – and I know this has happened to most guys at least a few times – you’d be out running  few errands with the missus before a big football game… the one that she promised you’d be home in time to watch. But you’re running behind, and there’s no way you’ll make it home before kickoff. No worries – just use the app to record the game, and marital bliss continues!

Well, there’s a free service from the United States Post Office that’s the same level of genius: it’s called Informed Delivery. Once you sign up for the service, you’ll start receiving daily emails that contain scans of the mail that will be delivered to your home that day (if you don’t want emails, you can log in to the USPS site, or use the Android or iOS app). Here’s a screen cap from their website:

USPS Informed Delivery
(click to enlarge)

Informed Delivery also automatically keeps track of packages headed to your home, and you can use the service to leave directions for the driver (“leave at neighbor’s house”, if you’ll be out of town, for example). You can also use it to reschedule delivery of any missed packages.

There are a few caveats, though. Informed Delivery only tracks “letter-sized” items; it only scans larger items like magazines and catalogs if the sender pays extra for it (and few do). It also only scans mail with your name on it (letters addressed to “Resident” or “Occupant” aren’t scanned). It also doesn’t scan the weekly bundles of ads, like the Red Plum ads we get every week. And while package tracking is automatic, it’s only for packages with a USPS tracking number or Indicia ID; packages from overseas, for instance, aren’t tracked. On the plus side, creating an Informed Delivery account also creates a regular USPS account in your name too, so if you’ve been meaning to set up a USPS account to buy stamps or set up online shipping, you now have one more reason to do so.

In any case, Informed Delivery won’t change your life, but it does make things just a tiny bit easier. For one thing, I live in a townhome that has a “community mailbox”. If I don’t get the daily email from the USPS, I know there’s no mail, so no need to walk to the mailbox. And there have been times (when I had a horrible cold, for one) where I saw that that day’s mail was mostly junk, so skipped getting it that day. And there was one time recently where my missus was looking for something important in the mail, and it was late… to the point where she was thinking of calling the company. I saw what looked like the item in my daily USPS email and forwarded it to her – she was relieved that the item had arrived, and wouldn’t have to spend an hour on hold with the company.

Lastly, let me address (hah!) one thing. I learned about Informed Delivery from one of the message boards I frequent. It seemed like half the posters thought the idea was cool, while the other half thought it was crazy to opt into, since “Homeland Security will know what mail I’m getting!”

Well, first of all, if you’re the type of person who would be of interest to Homeland Security, they’re probably already looking at your mail anyway. Secondly, while I don’t know this for a fact, I’d be surprised if the USPS wasn’t already scanning the mail anyway. The USPS has been scanning the mail for ages – you didn’t think the post office sorted 506 million pieces of mail every day by hand, did you? In other words, I think with Informed Delivery you’re just getting access to the scanned images they already use internally; it’s not like they’re only scanning the mail of Informed Delivery users.

At least, I’m 99.2% sure that’s the case.

Small World

In my senior year of high school, a girl – let’s call her “Karen” – transferred to my school. She and I liked the same music and movies, had similar senses of humor, and got along well together. We became instant friends. But she was wild. Like, “on a first name basis with everyone at the local Department of Family Services office” wild.

Karen eventually got thrown out of her grandma’s house. She moved in with a friend in midtown Atlanta. She lived there for six weeks before stealing all her roommate’s cash and weed and running up a $600 phone bill. Karen then took off to Pensacola and repeated the process – lived with someone for six weeks before stealing all their cash and weed and running up a giant phone bill. She then took off to New Orleans and did it to someone else. She’d then come back to her grandma’s house in Atlanta, totally penitent, begging for “another chance”. I called this “Karen’s Triangle of Terror”, and she repeated this cycle at least 3-4 times.

At one point, Karen’s grandma became so desperate for her to stay in school that she promised Karen a brand-new BMW 325 convertible if she got her high school diploma. Karen actually responded to this, and for 8-10 weeks she stayed in school, actually went to class, kept her partying to a minimum, and generally seemed to have her shit together. So much so that her grandma allowed one of her Pensacola friends – let’s call her “Jennifer” – to come for a visit.

Jennifer was one of the most “inadvertently awful” people I’ve ever met. She didn’t mean to be terrible, she just was. I drove Karen and Jennifer to a party one night, and Jennifer passed out drunk on the way home and put two giant cigarette burns in my backseat (oh, and my car had less than 1,000 miles on it at the time). A couple days later they went to a party at another friend’s house. This friend only had one rule: her mom treasured this 200+ year old Persian rug. DO NOT GET ANYTHING ON THE RUG! Jennifer puked on it. A couple days after that, Jennifer was introduced to someone in my social circle and was like “Oh, Stacey! You’re the one who had to get an abortion ‘cos she was raped by her uncle, right?”

Jennifer (thankfully) went back to Pensacola, and I eventually lost track of Karen ‘cos of her many moves.

* * *

A couple years later I was at work, listening to local consumer expert Clark Howard on my headphones. He mentioned that US Air was going to run an unprecedented sale: $298 round-trip flights from Atlanta to Frankfurt! I called a bunch of friends and actually found one who: a) had a passport; b) had the money; and c) was excited as hell to go.

We didn’t do much in the way of trip planning. I got us a rental car and hotel room for the first night… and that was it. My Let’s Go guidebook would take us the rest of the way. So we landed in Frankfurt, got the rental car and drove to Stuttgart, where the hotel was. We saw some sites, had a few beers and some laughs, and went back to the room.

The next day we explored Stuttgart in the morning, then decided to head to Munich around lunchtime. We got about halfway there – my friend was driving this leg – and he mentioned that we didn’t have any accommodations yet. I got out the Let’s Go and went through a list of hostels and pensions in Munich; we agreed on one place because Let’s Go said it was “the preferred stop for aspiring young models”.

So we arrived at the pension and got a room. It was around 6PM by this point – it wasn’t “late”, but it was a snowy, rainy December day and the sun had gone down a couple hours before. So it felt a lot later than it was. My friend and I ate at a nearby restaurant, hit a bar next door for a couple hours, then came back to the room and crashed.

The next day we hit a bunch of places – the Marienplatz, some Christmas markets, the Alte Pinakothek… ya know, tourist stuff. We decided to go back to the room and chill for a bit before going back out that night. As we climbed the stairs to our room, we saw that the door to the room next to ours was open, and two cute(-ish) girls were inside. Before we could unlock our door, one of the girls called out, asking if we had a cigarette. We said we did, and invited her in to our room (door open, of course).

The girl introduced herself, and I immediately asked if she was from Pensacola:

“Like, ohmygawd, like, how did you know?”

Pensacola girls in the late 80s\early 90s had this particular accent, kind of a “Southern Valley Girl” thing that was quite distinctive… especially in that they could condense “Pensacola”, normally a four syllable word, into something like one and a half syllables.

I explained that I once had a good friend who would get kicked out of her grandma’s house in Atlanta and go to Pensacola quite often. I then said that this girl – the one in front of me, here in Germany – sounded just like this girl Jennifer, one of my friend’s friends from there.

The girl suddenly went pale.

“Wait, is your friend named Karen?”

“Yes.”

“Does she have a Mickey…”

“… Mouse tattoo on her…”

“upper left arm?”

“Yes!”

The girl spun around and ran back to her room. She returned with her wallet… which she opened to reveal several pictures of herself and Jennifer. She was, apparently, Jennifer’s best friend from childhood.

My friend and I had booked the trip thanks to a tip from a guy on the radio. We’d planned almost nothing about the trip. We’d picked this pension almost at random from a list in a guidebook. We hadn’t requested any particular room… and just next door was someone who knew one of my former best friends.

Small world.

Brainiac Musicians

In this post from 2013 I talked about the hottest brainiacs – that is, female academics and engineers who just happened to be pretty in addition to being smart as a whip. In this post, I want to talk about musicians who are surprisingly smart. Let’s do this:

Amelia Fletcher is a British singer and songwriter, known for being in a string of bands in the 90s, including Talulah Gosh, Marine Research, Tender Trap and (most famously) Heavenly. Looking at it from afar, you might wonder why Fletcher was in so many bands, or why she seemed to quit one as soon as the band started getting famous. That’s because Fletcher was getting a doctorate in economics from Oxford, and could only be in a band as time permitted. In 2001 she was named chief economist at the Office of Fair Trading, roughly analogous to America’s Federal Trade Commission. In 2013 she was named “Professor of Competition Policy” at the University of East Anglia.

Like Fletcher, Ladytron’s Mira Aroyo also studied for her doctorate at Oxford. Unlike Fletcher, Aroyo quit after deciding that the lab work needed to get a doctorate in genetics was much less fun than being in a band. Rumors persist in some circles that she’s still in school, or that she went back and got her doctorate, but these are untrue. In an interview with The Sunday Mail she said “I was a geneticist doing a PhD and realizing lab work wasn’t for me. We were doing Ladytron at the same time and I was enjoying it more. It was easier and more fun”.

After being unceremoniously dumped by British New Wave band Japan, guitarist Rob Dean tried forming a few bands with limited success, including “Illustrated Man”, with Gang of Four’s former drummer, Hugo Burnham. Dean played on a couple famous albums, including Gary Numan’s 1981 album Dance and Sinéad O’Connor’s debut The Lion and the Cobra in 1987. Not getting anywhere in the music industry, Dean left the UK and moved to Central America where, as “Robert Dean”, he has become one of the leading experts on local birds. In 2007 he illustrated The Birds Of Costa Rica: A Field Guide, and in 2010 he illustrated The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide.

The early 80s British “swing revival” band Roman Holliday is mostly known in the UK for their Top 20 hit “Don’t Try to Stop It”. In the US they’re known for their song “Stand By”: although it only reached #54 on the Billboard charts, the music video was played heavily on MTV in 1983. The band’s guitar player, Brian Bonhomme, is now a professor of Russian history at Youngstown State University in Ohio.

Like most parents, Lauren Mayberry’s folks insisted that she get a college degree as something to fall back on if her music career didn’t pan out. Mayberry didn’t just get one, she got two: a bachelor of laws degree and a masters in journalism. She even won an award in 2010 from the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland for an article she wrote about body piercing safety practices. Not that she needed to: her band, CHVRCHES, is doing quite well, thanks! [NOTE: in most English-speaking countries outside the United States, one can get a “bachelor of laws” degree which, with passing the bar, is all one needs to become a lawyer.]

Lastly, Dan Spitz – lead guitarist and songwriter for Anthrax – left the band in 1995 to pursue an education and career in… watchmaking. He attended the prestigious Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP) on a full scholarship, where he was awarded the title of “Master Watchmaker of Mechanical Complications Specialist”. This is serious business: we’re not talking about Spitz being able to assemble a watch from a kit: he can design (and build) highly precise mechanical watches from scratch! Neat, huh?

The World of Sid and Marty Krofft

If you grew up in the late 60s or early 70s, you probably remember the names Sid and Marty Krofft. The Canadian brothers created a ton of iconic kids programs such as The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, H.R. Pufnstuf, and Land of the Lost. They were behind a few variety shows including Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters and Donny & Marie, too.

So it was huge news when it was announced that a Krofft-themed amusement park was going to open inside the Omni Complex in downtown Atlanta. An indoor amusement park… with H.R. Pufnstuf? OMG! OMG! OMG! Sign me up!

The park opened on May 26, 1976… and closed less than six months later, on November 10, 1976. And here’s the thing: for decades, the narrative was that the park’s failure was due to Atlanta’s high crime rate in the 1970s. I’m not gonna lie – crime was an issue back then. My dad had Hawks season tickets in the 70s, so I was down there all the time. It was a bit scary, and dad made sure to never let me out of his sight, even for a second. But while that was an issue, the park did itself no favors.

For one thing, The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft was designed so that a visit would last three hours. That’s it: three hours. If you showed up when the park opened at 10AM, you’d be done by 1PM.

But few visitors actually stayed that long, because the park only had two rides: the Crystal Carousel and the pinball ride. The Crystal Carousel, a giant merry go round made out of clear acrylic, was kinda cool to me, a little boy… but was probably considered pretty lame by anyone over the age of 10. And the pinball ride was incredibly lame, even by my five year-old standards. You sat inside a large silver “ball” which ran on a track and “crashed” into flippers and bumpers and such. It sounds cool, but the ride was so slow and the mechanics were so loud there was just no element of danger or fun. It was like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World with all the effects turned off. Aside from those two rides, the park was mostly a mish-mash of carnival performers (I remember a sword swallower), live shows, shops and restaurant.

What’s more, the park was designed to lead visitors in a specific path. You’d take the World’s Longest Freestanding Escalator to the top floor of the park, then work your way down to the bottom floor. There was nothing stopping you from going back and experiencing something again… except all human traffic you’d have to walk against. For people who specialized in “imagination”, the park sure lacked it.

Lastly – and I can’t stress this enough – The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft was the MOST EXPENSIVE ATTRACTION in the Atlanta area at the time. Adult admission was $5.75 per person ($24.63 in 2016 dollars). Kid’s tickets were $4.75 ($20.35). Contrast this with Six Flags, where adult tickets were $5.00 ($21.42) and kid’s tickets were $3.50 ($14.99). But it wasn’t just about the money: Six Flags could easily be an all-day adventure, as opposed to the three hours (max) at The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft. And at Six Flags you were free to wander around the park at your leisure, riding the dozen (or more) rides in any order you chose. When it came to “bang for the buck”, Six Flags coaxed The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft down a dark alley and beat the everlovin’ snot out of it.

If your parents were cheapskates, you could go to Stone Mountain Park (one-day car pass: $2) and climb the mountain (free), have a picnic (free-ish) and play miniature golf (like, 50¢ per game per person, or go to the water slides (around $2 for 2-3 hours).

And THAT was the real problem The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft faced: ALMOST ANYTHING was cheaper and more fun than the park.

An Open Letter to Spotify

Dear Spotify:

You know how some families have two children, and one child is a straight-A student who gets in to Stanford… while the other child is a ne’er do well who’s been to jail at least once and still lives at home… yet, paradoxically, the parents are always riding the successful kid’s ass?

You, Spotify, are that successful kid. You’ve grown from nothing to become the most successful music streaming service in the world. You’ve literally changed the way I consume music, and – in a very real sense – you’ve changed my life. You’re standing at the precipice of greatness.

But you’re not perfect. Nothing ever is, really. Which is why I’m constantly complaining about you. Not because you’re awful… but because you’re so close to becoming The One True Music Service. It’s like you have victory inches from your grasp, and you don’t even see it.

So here’s a laundry list of things you could do to to become truly great:

For starters, get rid of the 10,000 song limit. If you’re not familiar with how Spotify works, there’s a “Your Music” section of the app which lets you “save” albums and singles to your account. So instead of having to search for an album every time you want to hear it, you can “save” it to an easily-accessible list of albums in your account. I keep putting “save” in quotes because the app isn’t really saving anything: it just creates a shortcut to the album in your account, not unlike a browser bookmark. Spotify limits the total number of songs in “Your Music” to 10,000 for some reason (Apple Music’s limit is 100,000). There’s no engineering or data storage reason why Spotify can’t allow you to save 100,000 songs to your account, too. And, if you think about it, it actually makes sense for Spotify to raise the limit: the more music you have in your account, the more invested in Spotify you become, and the less likely you are to switch to a competing service.

Secondly, Spotify should really consider a cloud storage option. No music service has everything. Some artists sign exclusive agreements with one service. Some artists, like Peter Gabriel and Prince, eschew streaming completely. A few albums temporarily disappear while the service renegotiates its contract with a record label, much like how TV channels can disappear from cable lineups while networks and cable companies argue over carriage fees. Some albums were put out by labels that have since gone out of business, and the rights holders can’t be easily found. And most music fans have at least some music that’s “too obscure” or “too sketchy” for a streaming service. I’m not just talking about my treasured MP3s of 86, an Atlanta post-rock band from the 80s that no one remembers – I’m also talking about live bootlegs, demo tapes, etc.

Apple Music and Google Play Music both have apps that scan your local music and upload any songs missing from their catalogs. That way, all the music you’ve collected over the years – the bootlegs, the rare remixes, the fan club singles, the vinyl rips of albums that never made it to CD, much less streaming – becomes part of Apple or Google’s cloud. You can stream it to any device at any time. From the end user’s point of view, it becomes part of Apple Music or Google Play Music’s catalog.

Spotify’s solution to the problem is much less elegant. You can integrate local files into the desktop app, and you can add local files to playlists. If you sync that playlist to a mobile device – but only on the same Wi-Fi network as the desktop app – the local files will be copied to your device. So if you create a playlist which contains 2GB of local files, that playlist will take up 2GB of storage space on your device… which defeats the entire purpose of a “streaming service”. With Google Play Music – which allows you to upload up to 50,000 local songs – those files would take up zero space, ‘cos Google’s streaming it to you from the cloud.

Even worse – and this is something Redditors at /r/Spotify just don’t seem to get – once you leave your Wi-Fi network, that music is simply inaccessible. Example: my all-time favorite version of The Cure’s “A Forest” is from The Cure in Orange concert. I have In Orange on Laserdisc, and ripped that track to mp3 years ago. The song has been uploaded to my Google Play Music account. So if I’m at a friend’s house, and we’re sitting around listening to music via Bluetooth speaker and we get a random urge to hear it, I just open GPM and stream it. With Spotify, I could add it to a playlist and listen at a friend’s house… but only if I had the foresight to sync it to my phone before I left. Otherwise I’m just out of luck. I don’t know how much it would cost for Spotify to add the ability to upload 20,000 or 50,000 songs, but they need to do it. Every time I exit Spotify and open GPM just to play one song is a chance Google has to get me to switch. But if Spotify goes public sometime soon, that sweet, sweet IPO money could get something like this going.

While I’m here, Spotify please don’t stratify your accounts. If you do get around to adding cloud storage, don’t create a new “$14.99/month Spotify + Cloud” plan. Either figure out a way to include it in the $9.99/month Premium plan or increase the cost of Premium to $12.99/month. Or whatever you have to do. My point is, don’t make it more complicated. I wasn’t a paying customer when you had Free, Unlimited and Premium plans, but every time I read about it my head hurts. And I still don’t really know the difference between “Free on Mobile Phones” vs. “Free on Tablets and Other Devices” accounts. It doesn’t really matter, since I’ve got Premium… but just… keep it simple.

Speaking of “simple”, could you please post changelogs somewhere? Like any app, Spotify has bugs. It also gets new features. It sure would be nice if you published lists of bug fixes and new features with every version of the app so end users could know if that weird bug has finally been fixed. Spotify sometimes changes the way things work, and it sure would be nice to be able to go to the app’s page on Google Play and to get confirmation that yes, something has changed, and here’s how it works now.

Next, you guys should fix the apps. On paper, Spotify’s apps are great, and work on multiple platforms, like Windows, Mac, Android, Roku and more. But each has its own share of bugs and quirks. There was a 2-3 month stretch where Spotify’s Android app would take forever to start up on Wi-Fi. It was fine over LTE, and the bug affected all my Android devices, not just my phone. And we’ve got a 200Mbps connection with a decent router that can stream multiple Netflix HD feeds over Wi-Fi no problem. The problem seemed to go away for a while, but still comes back from time to time. The Roku app still can’t scrobble. The Windows app has always taken forever to start (although I disabled the Friends pane, which speeds it up some). Just sit down with your developers and figure out a way to make them faster and more reliable. If that means a new development environment, so be it.

And lastly, a personal beef: the gift card situation in the United States. Some people prefer not using credit cards online if they don’t have to. I’ve paid for my phone service with Virgin Mobile Top-Up cards for almost 8 years, and it works because Virgin cards are available everywhere: Walmart, Target, Publix, Bi-Lo, CVS, Walgreens, Lowe’s, QuikTrip and more. There’s a 99% chance I’ll go to one of those stores at least once a month, so it’s no problem to pick one up. However, finding Spotify gift cards is almost impossible. Best Buy is the only B&M store I know of that sells them, so I have to make a special trip to buy a card. This is especially galling for two reasons: 1) Spotify cards are sold everywhere in Europe; and 2) Shops like CVS carry all sorts of “marginal” online cards. Are people still buying Facebook Game cards? Are Groupon cards a big seller? Is the Nintendo Network a big seller? If not, why aren’t Spotify cards replacing them? Again, you should be making it easier for your customers, not harder. And having options is a good thing, especially since you already have the tech on your site to redeem gift cards.

I didn’t quite say this in my opening, Spotify, so I’ll say it now: I love you. I love you with all my heart. It’s a rare day that I don’t open Spotify and listen to some tunes while running errands, or doing household chores or writing articles like these. I want you to succeed. You’re the best app that ever happened to me! I just wish you’d pay a little attention to some of the points I’ve raised. You’re a sexy supermodel, Spotify… but you’re a sexy supermodel who chews with her mouth open.

Sincerely,

Jim Cofer