We got a new car.

Well, we’re married, two kids, and we road trip with two dogs… so it’s more accurate to say we got a new vehicle.  Except it wasn’t new new, just new-to-us-new.

It’s a minivan, a 2011 Nissan Quest (I’ve already made the, “A Van Called Quest” joke).  Previous owner was a “fleet”, less than 8,000 miles on it, so basically a new van that’s had an oil change.  Ah!  But!

The new van comes with some gadgets.

Me, I’m a “if it’s a powered gadget implanted in a vehicle, it costs 4x what it should to fix it” guy.  I’m not big on gadgets, as selling points.  But when your sticker price is less than the comparable next van without the gadgets, and you come with leather, and 8 speakers instead of 6, and per-person climate zones (this last one is a biggie), I’m not going to turn you down.

The wrinkle, with the stereo setup, is that you can play the radio, or a traditional CD, or you can stick a CD filled with Emptyfree files on it into it and play that, or you can hook up an iPod (which I don’t have), or you can hook any old device up via the Aux port (which I’m happy about)…. OR

You can stick a USB key into the center console and play Emptyfree files off of *that*.


Apparently the stereo system isn’t smart enough to read NTFS or EXT4 or even exFAT formatted USB sticks, and/or there’s a number of sectors that the stereo caps out at being able to read (some googling suggests the limit is under 10GB).  This kind of sucks, because I have a 128GB USB stick upon which I could put the entire music selection, but the file system browsing capabilities of the stereo are almost nonexistent anyway, so you’re stuck skipping ahead or back by single tracks… so 10k+ tracks would be annoying.


Eventually I’ll just either buy an iPod or hook some sort of gadget like a tablet up via the Aux port up for the long road trips.


For now, I’ve got an 8GB MS-DOS FAT32 formatted USB stick that I can use to make a decently long “road trip” compilation, and have it handy for whenever.  All my .mp3 files were hand-ripped at VBR capped at 384 bit rate, so the file size averages somewhere around the 8 MB range.  This gives me room for about a thousand songs.


I enlist you, Mindless Diversioners, to provide me a list of songs, and why they should be on the stick.  There are five folders to fill, suggestions welcome!



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.


  1. Kid-Friendly is always been hard for me to identify because my parents were not censorous when it came to music at any point in my life. They also loathed music for kids like Raffi and just listened to rock, jazz, and classical.

    I’m good for the obvious stuff but not so good about other things.

    • Obviously “She Shock Me Up All Night Long” by AC/DC is not child-friendly but I grew up listening to Paul Simon, the Beatles (including their druggie songs), the Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jazz (usually no vocals but complicated musically), etc.

    • I might define kid-friendly as “loud enough that the kids can’t hear each other arguing”…

  2. Kid Friendly: They Might Be Giants, storyteller songs from the 70’s (Kenny Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot, would Arlo Guthrie be appropriate? I can never tell…, Weird Al)

    Drive Faster: Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine, Fatboy Slim

    Stuck In Traffic: clever groups like Bare Naked Ladies or Crash Test Dummies

    Mellow Out: Pink Floyd. (Remember when you could just say “Pink” and someone else would say “Floyd”? Now you say “Pink” and people start singing that pop singer’s stuff.) Dead Can Dance. Bob Marley.

    Sing Along: Ironically, Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” belongs here rather than in the “Drive Faster” category. Most of the fun 70’s and 80’s songs go here, I reckon. Van Hagar, Boston, Twisted Sister… anything from Glee.

    • Oh, and “Moodswings” for Mellow Out too. I’ve been rocking that, for some reason, lately.

    • For STUCK IN TRAFFIC, I recommend a really great audiobook.

  3. Drive Faster: Superchunk

    Stuck in Traffic/Mellow Out: Dave Brubeck, Mozart, Ravel, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, The Magnetic Fields

    • And not just any Superchunk, but this on-point one.

      (The thought of Patrick rockin’ this in the Quest is making me laugh pretty hard).

      My 4 year old likes the Ramones, B-52’s – anything fast, so these can serve dual purpose.

      Kids also like ska, in my experience.

  4. Digable Planets (could go on both stuck in traffic and mellow out).

    I stuck the 5 best songs from Reachin’ on either side of Blowout Comb and now it is almost all I listen to.

    Other than Bastille. Been listening to a lot of Bastille lately. Not sure where I would file them though. Probably also under stuck in traffic, though I certainly DO sing along… Here, have a listen.

  5. KID-FRIENDLY – people will tell you that tmbg are good. they are not. but they are popular with the yunguns. i hates thems i do. i’ve always hated them and always will, wbut. i mostly try to play instrumental stuff or metal that he can’t understand the lyrics to, but i often don’t think about it too much. also fela kuti.

    DRIVE FASTER – early slayer, lightning swords of death, dawnbringer, kode9’s dj mixes, speedy j, genghis tron, muslimgauze, LIGHTNING BOLT.

    STUCK IN TRAFFIC – brian eno (ambient stuff only). it will probably not help. low is really nice too. clark. maybe vatican shadows?

    MELLOW OUT – also brian eno (ambient stuff only). andy stott. low. labradford.

    SING ALONG – slayer. play angel of death and get a history lesson in there.

  6. People might tell you that They Might Be Giants are *NOT* good. Do not listen to these people!

    • Not sure if they are Good, or not; but they might be one of those Dumb Things You Gotta Do.


      • I think there’s a DSM-V listing for not wanting to sing along to “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”

        • dhex-Man, dhex-Man
          dhex-Man hates TMBG-Man
          They have a fight, TMBG-Man wins

          • sometimes you gotta stand athwart bad music yelling “oh man! that sucks!”

  7. KID-FRIENDLY: In my experience, kids, especially young kids, love funky stuff (60s and 70s soul and funk is perfect) and heavily electronic stuff (Gramatik and The Knife will work).

    DRIVE FASTER: Jay’s right, Rage Against the Machine will definitely make you want to drive faster. Ministry works too. Chad Vangaalen works too, I think, and some Jane’s Addiction.

    STUCK IN TRAFFIC: This depends, are you looking for calm, or are you looking to fan the flames of impatient anger? If it’s the latter, just stick with the “DRIVE FASTER” stuff. If it’s the former, I would say The Decemberists just to piss dhex off, but really I would go with something mellow like Pink Floyd (Dark Side and Wish You Were Here are perfect for just sitting around), Hem, Nina Simone, The Band, maybe some blues (Robert Johnson, say).

    SING ALONG: Anything by Journey. Lauryn Hill. Umm… I dunno, I’ll sing along to anything.

  8. Kid Friendly: My kids (4/5-year-olds) love Michael Jackson (mostly the old stuff), Bob Marley, and James Taylor. They also love Raffi, though that can be a bit grating after a while. Jack Johnson did the soundtrack for “Curious George”, which kids love and if you tune out some of the sillier lyrics, is still very listenable for adults if you generally like his style.

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