The smallest of Surlywood's three bedrooms has become, for lack of a better description, my office: it contains my desk, a couple of computers, another desk used solely for storage, a bookshelf that reaches nearly to the ceiling, and about a hundred and twenty thousand assorted pieces of paper, some of which I can locate on a moment's notice, others I may never see again even though they're technically well within reach. And in that room is a Teac GF-350 shelf system with a turntable and a CD recorder, a Cambridge SoundWorks Model 88 table radio with a CD player, and, if I ever find enough AC outlets (this room is awash in power strips), a pretty decent cassette deck. On the desktop computer, there are rather a lot of music files; in the next room, there's a wall full of LP records and a rack of 45s, plus various unsorted vinyl oddities and a couple boxes of tapes.

So what's playing right now?

Nothing.

And this is more the rule than the exception these days. While I have some sort of sound equipment practically everywhere — the "big" stereo is in the living room; there's another Model 88 in the bedroom, along with a clock-radio that plays CDs; there's a JBL Harmony by my desk at work; Bose supplies the sound for the inside of my car; there's even a portable radio on top of the fridge — as I get older, things seem to get quieter around here.

Since I don't generally refrain from cranking it up at work or while driving, it's got to have something to do with being at home. And after pondering it for more minutes than