How to rip CDs (and a new picture)

A couple of people who saw my post about digitizing my CDs were interested in doing the same with their CDs. Great idea! I’ll tell you how I did it and you can decide if you want to go ahead and try doing the same.

But before I do that, I want to post a picture of the CDs I’m actually getting rid of. The graphic I put up was just one I found on the internet, but people were asking questions about the CDs in the stacks! This is a real picture:


Not only is it more true (“more true”? really?), but the stacks are neater.

LEGAL NOTICE (just cuz): make sure you are ripping only your own CDs so you don’t get in trouble for pirating and I don’t get in trouble for telling you how to do it.

OK, so. Some notes on how I did it:

First off, think about this as a background task. I didn’t sit at my machine for dozens of hours ripping CDs. I’d start the process, go do something else, then come back in 10-15 mintues when it was finished. Do it while reading email or doing the dishes or exercising or practicing the guitar. This is one of the few times when multi-tasking actually works.

Second, you need a CD reader. Some of the new machines don’t have a CD drive, so you might have to buy an external reader that plugs into USB. If you do buy an external drive, consider whether you want it to also read DVDs and whether you want to write CDs and DVDs. The price difference isn’t that huge.

Finally, pick your software. I use iTunes. I’ve used Audacity, but iTunes has the advantage of downloading the cover graphic, song names, and (if you pick the right settings) organizing your music library automatically (by genre, artist, album).

That’s really it.

One option you should think about is whether you want to save the files as MP3. Assuming you’re using iTunes, the default file format is not MP3. I’m not going to get into a debate about which file format to use. If you are tekkie enough to know that there’s more than one, you probably already have your favorite. I chose MP3 for 2 reasons:

  1. By going to digital instead of analog, I’ve already conceded that portability has won out over Sound Quality.
  2. It seems to me like the most portable format.

If you want iTunes to save your files in MP3 format, you’ll have to change that setting. Here’s how:

STEP 1: launch iTunes.

STEP 2: click Edit->Preferences


STEP 3: 1) Make sure you are in the “General tab”, 2) set “When you insert a CD”, select “Ask to Import CD” (this lets you verify the CD title with the tracks listing database), 3) click Import Settings.


STEP 4: Choose the MP3 encoder.


Now, you’re ready to go.

To rip a CD:

STEP 1: launch i Tunes.

STEP 2: put a CD in the drive. In a few seconds (assuming you’re connected to the Internet), you should see something like this:


NOTE: The album title and artist will probably be different but I suggest everyone go out and buy this CD. It’s my favorite of a whole lot of excellent music by Bruce Cockburn.

I will admit I’m not quite sure why there are often multiple entries in this dialog. I’ve always just taken the first one (unless it was obviously wrong). It’s a hassle trying to pick a different one if the one you picked is wrong for some reason. Sorry, I don’t have a good answer for “what to do then?”

STEP 3: click OK. You’ll get something like this:


Here, you can verify it the track listings look right. If the genre is wrong (e.g., not what you prefer), you can change it later by selecting all the tracks and using “Get Info.”

STEP 4: If you’ve already imported the CD, you’ll be notified:


You can decide what to do. I generally “Don’t Replace” then go back and manually clean up duplicates.  Not the most efficient. Your choice, really.

STEP 5: let ‘er rip. (Yeah, I know…)

As iTune is copying the files to your machine, you can watch for 3 indicators:

1 – the green checkmark means “track has been copied”

2 – the spinning wheel means “copying”

3 – the status will show which track is being copied and an estimate of how long it will take to copy that track.


STEP 6: when all tracks are finished, iTunes will “ding.” Remove the CD and move on to the next one.

The beauty of using iTunes is you don’t have to worry about setting the volume level or normalizing the track after it’s copied or really much of anything else. It’s just “there.”

There are all kinds of other things you can do (assign genre, rate it, make playlists, etc) but that’s not what this post is about. There’s a million resources out there for that and it’s all very personal anyway, so I’m going to leave that to you.

I hope this was useful.





























FOOTNOTE 1: …and by “couple of” I don’t mean “exactly two.” I love reading about this and origins of “couple of” to mean “few.” I can’t find the original article, but basically, it said that informal usage like (maybe “couple-a”) allows “few.” Even the Cambridge Dictionary says “two or a few things that are similar or the same, or two or a few people who are in some way connected.”
FOOTNOTE 2: I say “something like” because Apple (as all software vendors) will no doubt change the interface in future releases. It’s something we software types just feel the need to do. I guess.

Progress Report on Digitizing my Media

I may be more excited about this than I need to be, but here goes…



As of last night, I’ve completed the second phase of my “thin out the recording gear” project. I’ve digitized almost all of my CDs. I am getting rid of 224 that are going to go to my mom’s for next summer’s garage sale season. If I get $2 each, that’s a nice return – even at 50c I’ll be happy.

I am keeping 57, which is a 4-to-1 ration. I’m quite proud of that. OK, to be completely honest, there are more, but I didn’t count CDs by friends (Hali Hammer, Katie Geddes, Mark Brokaw, Dave Elder, or any CD on which I played).

Most of what I kept will be pretty obvious to people who know me:

  • Beatles, all
  • Bruce Cockburn, all
  • George Harrison, all
  • Neil Young, all
  • Leon Russell, all (!)
  • favorites by Dylan, Chet Atkins, Dire Straits, Sly and the Family Stone, Paul Simon, etc.

This probably explains why I had no idea who Dave Grohl was. (Background: I took a Facebook Quiz “Which Rock Star Are You?”. I expected to come up with Paul Simon or some such, and I got Dave Grohl. I now know who he is and I am very happy with the result.)

Last week, I finished digitizing ALL of my open reel tapes. They date back to the early 70s – tapes of me, Tom, Paul, Elise, Henry, Frank, and others playing our little hearts out – to a 3 hour jam at our “Leaving Detroit” party (March, 1981) – with some really good but unknown musicians – to the Cy Udall’s United Way Benefit with Frank Udall, Joe Ortega, John Groh, Paul Overgaard(?) and possibly others I’ve forgotten (my apologies). I’m going to post some of those songs online just because I think this kind of thing is important.

I’ll be saying goodbye to my old TEAC stereo reel-to-reel once I go through the basement and make SURE there are no tapes down there I missed. Another era passes.

Next on my list is to go through the VHS library. Some will be copied to CD, some will be digitized, and some (hopefully, quite a few) will be thrown out. I have hours and hours of Cheers and M*A*S*H, plus about 30 Bogart movies I captured from TV. (Background: I’d embarked on a project once to collect all of his movies, but have since decided to settle for Treasure of the Sierra Madrea, Casablanca, and a few more, including a little-known favorite Conflict.)

I feel somewhat confident I will be able to get rid of quite a lot of them. It’s still not easy but it’s getting easier. Little by little…

Peer Support Group for Couples is Near!

For the last few years, I’ve been involved with the Ambassador’s group inside ADDA (the Attention Deficit Disorder Association). Our mission is to foster communication among members of ADDA. We phone new members to welcome them to the group, host informal get-togethers at conferences, and have recently set up some weekly peer-support phone calls.

One of the areas in which I’m particularly interested is relationships: how does ADHD impact what’s going on between us and our partners?


Over the last few years, I’ve gathered together information from dozens of sources, including those who specialize in relationships (like Melissa Orlov), those who write more generally about ADHD (Ned Hallowell and Russell Barkley), and even writers who look more at the social context and the way neurodiverse people are viewed and treated. I’ve interviewed several couples and had the great fortune to be part of a long-range couples group in Ann Arbor.

At this point, I’ve got an opportunity to share what I’ve learned (both from research and first hand) with the ADDA community. Starting this week (Thursday, Feb 4), I’ll be hosting a 3-session mini-workshop on ADHD and Relationships. The sessions will be done over the telephone with no visual (this time!) and will run from 8p.m.-9 p.m. EST.

Most everyone connected with ADDA should have received an email in the last few days inviting you to the sessions. If you haven’t, please contact us by emailing to Please send the names of both partners in the couple, your email address, and a telephone number.

Here’s a link to my webpage, I’ve got more to upload there, but it will give you the basics: Feb 2016 couples group

I’m really looking forward to this. I’m sure I’ll learn as much as I share!

ADHD Accountability Group

From about September through December last year, I signed up for Eric Tivers ADHD Coaching and Accountability Group. It was a great experience. Eric’s exactly the right kind of guy to be running a group like this. He knows a lot, he’s an experienced coach and therapist, and, significantly, he’s very, very clear that he’s on the journey too. He isn’t the expert handing down wisdom from on high, he’s the guide who’s a few clicks out in front of us, surveying the landscape, sifting and sorting through all the data (and apps!), and then living into and through it.


There were a dozen or us. We met between two and four times a week, depending on what was going on. Typically, we’d meet on Monday to set goals for the week and to get insight some aspect of goal setting and time management. Then, on Friday, we’d meet to see how we did and, always, talk about what worked. That’s one of the things I really liked – being pushed to review “what worked” – though I admit I sometimes found it hard to do. I had (and still have) difficulty believing I will take those successes and learnings and implement them in the long term. Reality argues against it – I’m continuing several of the things I learned – but the fear is still there.

One key learning for me was to really embrace the category: “things I’m not doing any time soon” and even “things I may never get to.” Over the last year (and probably longer), I’ve spent a lot of time culling my “to do” list. At one point, I was averaging at least an hour a day on this. It was insane but I was trapped in my model. (I was using a modified version of SCRUM [a software development methodolody] and did have the categories of “active work” and “backlog” [my terms, not theirs], but even at that, my “active work” list contained dozens and dozens of items.)

I hate walking away from any of my ideas. I feel like I’m abandoning them. I love the idea of “things I am not getting to soon”. It’s very helpful – I don’t feel like I’ve orphaned good ideas or like the ideas were bad. They are all good, I just can’t do them all. (Right now.)

Getting the backlog out of my head and on paper has side benefits: it both frees up bandwidth for you to think about other things, and it can transform what seems like an infinite swirl of ideas into a finite number.

The other thing Eric introduced was the mind map. (I use the desktop version of Simple Mind, though I’m not recommending it over others, I haven’t used many others. There is also a free app that does an excellent job.)

When Eric introduced the idea, I was reluctant. I already had everything dumped and organzied in Wunderlist (a tool I also love and recommend) and I didn’t want to go through a data transfer. By hand.

On the other hand, I wanted to really engage in the class, do the work, not resist. So I gritted my teeth and went for it. And it turned out I liked it. It’s a nice way to see everything at a glance, a lot better than my “pages of Post-it notes” approach.

The biggest benefit to me was having everyone visible at once – I’ve heard that from others too. A big side benefit was that I dropped a lot of the backlog, which reduced my workload by about 30%. I just printed out those lists. I wasn’t going to manually input things I may never get to.

I’m on-and-off about working with Star Charts. I understand the benefit and I’ve done it a few times (in fact, I’m doing it this week), but I don’t think it’ll last forever. I’m good with a checklist I have embedded in my day planning sheet. I’ll put up a post on that later, someone might find it helpful.

The other facet I wanted to mention was the people – the other folks enrolled in the group. There’s more I want to say, but this entry is getting long, so I’ll just say that it’s always a treat meeting people who are facing some simliar issues and all of us working through them together.

And, circling back to something I said earlier, I think this is one of the strongest things Eric brings to the experience: a very clear sense that we’re all going through this together.

That’s very important to me, knowing I am not alone.

Physical / Tactile / Nostalgic / Beneficial?

IMG_3240I’m still working my way through digitizing all of my old reel-to-reel tapes but I noticed something today. I’m going to miss the feeling of threading the tape through the transports and onto the take-up reel. I remembered how much I liked threading the 8mm film through the projector or even crawling under an old beater car to wire the muffler and tailpipe back to the frame to save a few dollars on repairs (my cars never lasted more than a few years anyway).

Naturally, that got thinking…

There’s been a lot written over the years about the value of engaging with the physical world. One of the earliest I remember is the book “Chop Wood, Carry Water” (the title comes from a Zen quote “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water”). I’ve seen articles about how kids are being affected by being distanced from nature, whether it’s urban/suburban living or the X-box (etc, etc). The topic is even subtext for movies like “The Matrix” or “Surrogates” (a truly creepy movie).

In ADHD world, I’ve seen it mentioned in a few places. For example, an article on kids and gardening in ADDitude Magazine or a study from University of Illinois about how walking can help with ADHD symptoms.

I think a lot of us have experienced this. And if not, why not give it a try?

If you  hit the wall on a problem, get up and take a walk around the office or around the house. If you feel some frustration coming on with the task you’re doing, stand up and take a few breaths or stretch.

Make sure you spend some time during the day doing something physical. Maybe not “build a playhouse in the backyard”, but sit down and doodle or color a few pages (all the rage these days). If you have kids, play a little catch or take a bike ride. (OK, I know I’m writing this in January, but you get my point.) If you have a pet, play with it.

If all else fails, you can try to use this as a positive motivation to go do the laundry.



Yearly Interview Questions

For the last many, many years, I’ve tried to do a yearly interview with our daughters Amy and Lisa. I have one of those dad fantasies that Lisa will find them fascinating  to watch when she gets older (and that Amy would have).

These two pictures are scans of the list of questions I’ve been using. The list has evolved over the years and I don’t always keep to the script, but I think they’re a good jumping-off point.

I’m posting them because some new friends asked me about them and I said I would. I’m hoping they will spark some other parents to do something similar for their kids. I’d love to know what other kinds of questions you come up with – let me know.

I’ve often thought about rewriting them, cleaning them up, but there’s something nostalgic for me about working off the original list…

The first image is my list of questions – along with notes I’ve added over the years.


The second image is a list Lisa generated some years ago. I think she was about 9 or 10. We have a lot of fun with this list – though often she won’t answer all of them.


I hope you enjoy these and that you think about doing this with your own kids. Or maybe with yourself?