About Steve

Steve is way into…

  • His wife, and his dog Rufus
  • Shallow, rocky creeks of the Appalachians; hollows; towns built on the side of mountains; abandoned roads, bridges, railways, and stairways.
  • Building web sites, apps, and frameworks with TypeScript, Node, React, GraphQL, and some PHP
  • Indiepop, dreampop, yacht rock, disco beats, 60’s pop, classic hip hop, Stereolab, Broadcast, ABBA, Deerhoof, Zombies, Innocence Mission…
  • Playing piano, guitar, bass, and drums if anyone will let him
  • Transcribing song chords
  • Nudging songwriters to embrace a wider view of harmony
  • Building little apps to share chords and keyboard snippets
  • Moose’s album Live a Little Love a Lot (all time)
  • Jorge Elbrecht’s album Here Lies (last decade)

github | threads | instagram

Stereolab “Baby Lulu” Chords


i           subV  i          subV  V/bVI   iv
Gm (maj11)  Ab7   Gm (maj7)  Ab7    Bb7   Cm9 (#11)

Gm  Ab13#11  Gm  Ab13#11  Bb13  Cm9


i          V/bVI     bVI     subV
Gm  Gm7  Bb13(11)/F  Ebmaj7  Ab7

i   Db: I      v    IV    Bb: I  bVII
Gm    Dbmaj7  Abm7  Gbmaj7    Bb  Ab

Bridge (Really starts on Fm9)

          f: i    IV    i
Gm  Bb13/F  Fm9   Bb7  Fm9

C Cmaj7 (C lydian melody: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 5)

Gb7 (C altered melody: b7 1 b9 #9 3 #4 3)

I         bV
E6 Emaj7  Bb7

I        IV    Db:  I      v       IV
      g: subV i                Bb: bVI    I  bVII
Ebmaj7   Ab7  Gm  Dbmaj7  Abm7    Gbmaj7  Bb  Ab  -> verse


                    bVI bVII I
Bb  Ab  Bb  Ab  Bb  Gb   Ab  Bb

President Trump’s actions after the 2020 election were reckless and immoral.

It deserves much repeating this year that–as admitted on Congressional record by the Republican leader of the Senate–the 2024 GOP presidential candidate was “practically and morally responsible” for provoking an attack on the U.S. Capitol and our representatives. And worse, while he remained in office, sworn to protect the United States, he didn’t lift a finger to stop the attack for hours, and by accounts from his own staff was pleased and hoping his mob of fans could help him overturn an election that had already been legally contested, investigated, recounted, and certified in every state. The will of the people had been counted and recounted and he didn’t like it.

The Capitol attack and dereliction of duty of the President as it unfolded was a national embarrassment watched by millions live, and he’s not only unrepentant but continues to lie and even lionizes and promises to pardon the criminal attackers. The only punishment has been of his post-election team, as they lose enormous defamation cases and their freedoms, with courts being one of the few places where baseless, fantastical lies aren’t permitted as part of the game of politics.

No conservative should be expected to vote for a Democrat, but consider writing in a conservative who will stand by election outcomes and protect the U.S. when it’s attacked. These are low bars and we should demand Presidential candidates step over them.

(McConnell’s speech from the Senate floor, emphasis mine)

January 6th was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of domestic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President. They did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. The House accused the former President of quote “Incitement”. That is a specific term from the criminal law. Let me just put that aside for a moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago. There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.

The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the President’s intemperate language on January 6th. It is not just his endorsement of remarks in which an associate urged, quote, “trial by combat”. It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe. The increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen. Some secret coup by our now President.

Now I defended the President’s right to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke, the electoral college spoke. As I stood up and said, clearly at that time, the election was settled. It was over, but that just really opened a new chapter of even wilder and more unfounded claims. The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things. I and sadly many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally, but that was different. That’s different from what we saw. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out. The unconscionable behavior did not end when the violence actually began.

Whatever our ex-President claims he thought might happen that day, whatever right reaction he’s says he meant to produce by that afternoon, we know he was watching the same live television as the rest of us. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name, these criminals who are carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. He was the only one who could. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the administration. The President did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No, instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election. Now, even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger–even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters–their President sent a further tweet, attacking his own Vice President.

Now predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as a further inspiration to lawlessness and violence not surprisingly. Later, even when the President did halfheartedly began calling for peace, he didn’t call right away for the riot to end. He did not tell the mob to depart until even later. And even then with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals. In recent weeks, our ex-President’s associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to reelect him as a kind of human shield against criticism. Anyone who decries his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions of voters. That’s an absurd deflection. 74 million Americans did not invade the Capitol, hundreds of rioters did. 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did, just one.

Make America a better place to raise kids

Except for the upper class, parents in the U.S. have it very, very hard. Today’s generation sees the lack of mandated parental leave and work benefits compared to every other wealthy nation, and they know the underlying costs don’t justify the enormous rent increases squeezing them of every penny. We are radicalizing a generation to see capitalism as a tool for the wealthy to hoard wealth and for previous generations who enjoyed decades of housing appreciation to pull the ladder up behind them.

Demand that Congress guarantee some parental, sick, and vacation benefits to all workers.

Demand that corporate landlords provide transparency of their costs if they impose large rent increases.

Demand that your city legalize the construction of higher density housing.

Start paying attention to what works in other countries.

You can split a 6″ cake only 112 times.


Here WolframAlpha helpfully calculates that if you double the Planck length 113 times you’ll get just over 6″. Hence, if you start slicing a 6″ cake in half, around cut 112 you’ll end up with slices just above the Planck length and which cannot be sliced further.

So you won’t actually need infinite icing to cover it, but yeah it’ll be a lot.

Songbooks are great

If you have interests in songwriting I highly recommend songbook collections for the Beatles, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel, Elton John, David Bowie, and Nat King Cole or Christmas ballads for dipping a toe into postwar jazz harmony. Formal textbooks are just not going to have perfect and complete songs with adventurous chord progressions and memorable melodies.

The Beatles don’t have my favorite songs but arguably every vital lesson is somewhere in their 1964 to 1967 output. If these aren’t cool, hide them under your bed or discard as completed homework.

After a few months of digesting songs, build a habit of figuring out the key of each section, writing the chords using Roman numeral analysis, and maybe writing the melodies using scale degrees. Like, Happy Birthday ends with:

       I            IV           I        V  I
Happy birthday dear David. Happy birthday to you.
5  5  ↑5   3   1    7 6    ↑4 4  3    1   2  1

The goal is to think relatively to allow combining techniques (stealing) from any key and to be able to learn something from every song you hear.

I   vi    iii         V7/IV IV        I6
Somewhere over the rainbow  skies are blue.
1   ↑1    7 5  6   7   1    ↓1    ↑6  5
I      bVII V/ii                 ii
3  ↓5       6  #1 3   ↑6  5   3  4   6
Crazy.      Crazy for feeling so lonely.

We’re all being cooked

I believe nearly every American who follows politics or has political opinions at all is being “cooked” by a set of pressures caused by the media, social media, and bad voting systems; and it’s all making us a little weirder and way more tribal than we arguably should be under more natural conditions.

If you need to solve a thorny problem outside of American politics, I think you can take ten people almost at random, put them in a private room with a good lunch and basic rules, and end up with a solution that’s far better than nothing. Some days will have more contentious and heated debate, but lunch will come, they’ll at least bite at the sides of the problem if they can’t tackle it all, and they’re not going to spend their time being righteous in front of cameras.

Instead, legislatures are arenas for grandstanding, insults, owns, and walking out with glaring problems unfixed, with most everyone likely to be re-elected to do it all over again. One side can on occasion become dominant enough to get everything they want, but it will swing back and forth to please one side and anger the other. Hard problems—that only Congress can fix—don’t get addressed at all. “We’ll get everything we want next time, you have to vote harder!” What Congress really agrees on is hollowing out the legislative calendar so they don’t have to be around one another. Some of them can barely hide their disdain for Americans who think differently.

We’re putting the wrong people there and giving them bad incentives, and their behavior in the Capitol and in the media is routinely unreasonable if not loathsome, and it’s driving partisanship through the roof.

Reforming media and social media, even if we could, wouldn’t fix this. I believe there’s one path with the fewest barriers: Voting reform to get rid of First-past-the-post voting.

“You have to vote for the lesser of two evils because otherwise you’ll throw your vote away” is only true under this crummy system, which is why it’s proven to be terrible at capturing the will of voters. And, worse, it delivers candidates who don’t have to think about their duty to represent everyone in their district. So they don’t.

That system and the politics it’s created over decades has made most of us feel like we’re going crazy: Both sides are yelling “all the extremists are on the other side and how can they not see it?!”

We’re all being cooked—the people, the politicians, the media—and without powerful forces to reduce tribalism, it’s going to keep delivering more extreme, combative politicians; to keep distorting our perceptions of politicians, the media, our neighbors, and family members; to keep pushing us to pick a side on virtually everything; to keep compelling us to defend everything our team says and does.

I hold on to hope that most of the reasons we find to despise each other are caused by these forces, and that fixing voting systems can put in place some good incentives to mitigate those forces.

Let’s try that, please.

Voting Reform: The only fix I see for rising partisanship

The first-past-the-post voting systems we’ve been stuck with for too long create very bad incentives for politicians, even if they were “good people” that got into politics for all “right reasons”:

  • In negotiation, giving even an inch to the other party offers ammunition to your primary opponents, even if an available compromise would please the vast majority of citizens.
  • If your party’s base is strong enough in your district, you’ve little incentive to be nice to the other team when interacting with the media. Bad-mouthing the other team might even make you more-liked by your base.
  • The same goes for interacting with more fringe/partisan media outlets. Why not go onto some podcast or radio show that regularly demonizes the other side? The most partisan of your base will really love it.
  • Once you’ve alienated the other party’s voters completely, you need your base fired up hot to remain in office. Solving big problems does not fire up a base.
  • Your mantra eventually leads toward, “the other guys blocked us because they’re awful, but I’ll fight even harder next time!” and your base will keep sending you back.

All the above feed on each other, fooling voters into believing, “we can get everything we want once we finally demolish our opponents” instead of wondering about what could be achieved if negotiation were possible.

If any organization outside politics proposed problem-solving in a way that ran all negotiations into the ground with everyone left despising each other, it would seem absurd. That is what first-past-the-post voting yields.

One reform of many fine options is Approval Voting. The idea and implementation is simple: Same ballot, but you can vote for any and all candidates. The candidate with most votes still wins, but you no longer have to fear your vote “going to waste”. Every vote for every candidate counts.

Of course there are other solutions to reduce partisan animosity, but every other one I see faces extreme headwinds while alternatives to FPTP voting are gaining popularity. I think people are sick of choosing the lesser of two evils and ending up with someone in office that adopts more extreme measures that they’d like, or gets nothing fixed.

Really whether you can put in place Approval or STAR or Ranked Choice voting, any of these free voters to much better express their true preferences without fear, and they heavily incentivize a corner of politics to be less caustic and held hostage by extreme partisans and stalemates.

“God Only Knows” is less weird than it seems

This song’s strange chords become easier to make sense of if you keep in mind a few things:

  1. Brian leans hard on inversions to confuse us, and tricks learned from 40s jazz and classical.
  2. The key is E major, but the verses begin “in the ii key”.
  3. The whole instrumental vocal section is just transposed up to A major.

The intro ends with a taste of the chorus.

IV  I     ii    IV
A   E/G#  F#m7  A/E

Brian then slides this A/E up to D/A, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in E major; he’s heading to the ii key (F# minor).

He starts with b6, 2, 1 in F# minor, then he returns to the home key of E major with a more standard jazz ii – V – I, but with more inversions to make unusual bass voice leading:

f#: bVI    ii        i
                  E: ii     V       I
    D/A    G#ø7/B    F#m    B7/A    E/B

Those inversions are key here to keeping up a bit of tension, and he won’t release that tension with a root-position chord until the chorus. Let’s carry on:

I    vii       I    vi
E/B  D#dim7/C  E/B  C#m/A#

Almost everyone calls this second chord “Cdim7” but really this is the leading tone °7 chord of E with notes D# F# A C. Mostly diatonic to E major. Even though the bass rises, the harmony is really dipping down into the vii° and back to the tonic.

(Now consider “Cdim7”. It has the notes C Eb Gb Bbb because it’s the vii of the nasty key Db minor (Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bbb Cb). All the flats alone should be a clue this doesn’t make sense in a sharps key like E major. I’ve found naming dim7 chords correctly has helped my understanding of them greatly. YMMV.)

That last chord is sometimes written “A#ø7”, but here it’s not really functioning as A# half-diminished, which would move to D#7 – G#m. This is really just a C#m chord with the bass on the 6th to give it extra flavor (hear C#m – A – E vs C#m/A# – A – E). This 6th-in-the-bass is done all the time on minor chords in 1940s standards to add tension that can then be released, just as Brian does when A# falls to A for the chorus.

The verse repeat is followed by a full transposition up a 4th, playing the whole verse and chorus in A:

B: bVI  ii       i                                       
              A: ii  V     I    vii       I    
   G/D  C#ø7/E   Bm  E7/D  A/E  G#dim7/F  A/E 

A: vi      IV  I     ii     IV
                        F#: bVI  ii
   F#m/D#  D   A/C#  Bm7    D/A  G#ø7/B ...

Notice when Brian ends up at D/A, he seizes the opportunity to jump right back into the original F# minor bit of the verse. That’s how he manages to end the song in E major.

Crunchiest Steely Dan chord? “Fire in the Hole”

The pre-chorus is in, well, we can say 3 flats. First there’s an Ab Eb/G resolving to Bb (which sounds like the tonic), then a little Abmaj7/C Bb/C Cm build up that ends with Abmaj7 Ebmaj7/G Ab (the key sounds more like Eb here). Then things get weird.

Ab is followed by Ab7/Gb, but while it sounds like the bass is heading down toward a Db/F chord, at 0:42 the bass jumps back up into into this striking Ab13#11 with no 3rd.

Piano chord with Ab, Gb, Bb, D, and F

The melody is also great here; just chord tones. It resolves to G7sus G7 Cm.

This Ab13 is basically a tritone sub for D7, but the 9th and #11 decorations also evoke the sound of a bVII dom7 “backdoor” chord in Bb. The key briefly sounded like Bb in the pre-chorus, so I think that resemblance isn’t accidental, but anyway… This was a tough one to figure out by ear. I could hear the embedded aug triad, but the recording is right in the cracks making playing along basically impossible. I had to retune an acoustic guitar with ancient, very dead strings.

The time is right for Annual Leave reform

The United States is, save a few tiny islands, the only place in the world where employees have no guaranteed paid vacation or holidays, and there’s simply no great excuse.

The effect of this gigantic hole in our labor policy is that about 23% of Americans–over 30 million–work some of the hardest jobs without any paid time off, 1 in 3 have no paid sick leave, and the bar remains low for employers who do offer PTO. For people on their feet in waste and food service jobs, the access to PTO is abysmal.

I think most of us don’t realize what a scandal this is, and it’s the right time to fix it.

  • Unlike extremely hard problems like reforming our healthcare system or finding the ideal minimum wage in a nation of wide-ranging costs of living, this is an easy one with 187 existing plans to choose from. Canadians are guaranteed 16-30 days off a year. The British 28. Germans 29. Russians 33. Chinese 16-26. Japanese 10-20. Indians 24. The French 36. Brazilians 24. Italians 32. These are just the big economies. If Congress is concerned about the disruption, phase it in one day per year.
  • We haven’t had a significant labor reform in generations and polling shows this has wide bipartisan support. If Congress wants to really improve the lives of millions of Americans and be heralded for their efforts for decades to come, this is low-hanging fruit. Americans desperately need a reason to come together and this is one will benefit Americans across the political spectrum.
  • For the first time in their lives many millions of Americans will take vacations and get to travel the country they love. Americans already having PTO will benefit by many employers raising benefits to compete, and just through the new chances to join more friends and relatives on holidays and vacations.

This reform isn’t sexy but is super pragmatic, and as much as hardworking Americans deserve the benefit, we could use a national cause to celebrate.