It’s fun to experiment with different kinds of music to use in the background while working. Most vocal music is too distracting, so I usually stick to instrumental music.
Today I gave “Epic Movie Soundtracks” a shot. This differs from other movie soundtracks in that it’s just instrumental music – usually Modern Classical – that creates mood behind the scenes. As opposed to Julie Andrews wailing on about how alive the hills are. But the operative word here is: MOOD. And in a big way…
During the first half hour it felt like I was being frantically chased. Very stressful. Heart rate increased. Paranoia off the charts.
The next seven minutes brought a general sense of impending doom. What colossal catastrophe happened in this movie? I was afraid to look out the window for fear that the city was gone.
The next four minutes had me wistfully gazing off the front of a large ship that was about to hit an iceberg. Possibly in the early 1900s. I knew what movie this was from, but that didn’t stop me from quietly reflecting on my life – because it was about to end. Abruptly. With a splash.
Well, needless to say I wasn’t getting any work done even though it felt like I’d been through the wringer.
Next up: Drums & Bass…
(Originally posted here for day 7 of the YourTurnChallenge)
Trash Transport Technology … or “T3″ as I call it.
Taking out the trash has always been a stereotypically male chore. So how is it that moving trash from the inside of the house to the outside of the house hasn’t been automated by some lazy inventor by now?
Air conditioning has been around since 1902. Automatic dishwashers since 1917. The first clothes washing device (the washboard) was invented in 1797! Maybe the key to making your own life easier is not necessarily to automate, but to first make sure your spouse is happy.
It wouldn’t require a complex system. I don’t have any da Vinci sketches to offer, but we’re really just talking about a horizontally oriented dumbwaiter. Something to move a small receptacle of items from point A to point B to point C.
What are the economics? Maybe there just aren’t any incentives. Or maybe such an invention would threaten Teamsters jobs, a boat that nobody in their right mind wants to rock.
Oh well. No flying car, and no automatic trash transport system.
(Originally posted here for day 1 of the YourTurnChallenge)
A good quote is a brief piece of free form poetry. I prefer abstraction and observation to inspiration and poignancy. I mostly value the wisdom and levity in quotes, and leave inspiration to be found in art and concepts.
This is the small collection of seemingly trivial quotes I travel with:
“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” – George Carlin
“Fate is the just the weight of circumstances.” – Neil Peart, Roll the Bones
“Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It’s a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.” – John Perry Barlow
“The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.” – Carl Sagan
“The connection economy multiplies the value of what is contributed to it. It’s based on abundance, not scarcity, and those that opt out, fall behind.” – Seth Godin
“The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” – Charles Darwin
“Never memorize what you can look up in books.” – Albert Einstein
“F*** Brad and everybody who looks like Brad.” – George Carlin, Complaints and Grievances
(Originally posted here for day 5 of the YourTurnChallenge)
In spite of Major League Soccer‘s impressive long-term growth strategy, it suffers from sterility. It’s not at all interesting on a human level.
There’s no arguing that Commissioner Don Garber’s plan of steady growth over the long haul seems to be working. Popular international players continue to join the league and the number of teams is expanding in a surprisingly stable way.
But sports are more than just stats and standings. It needs passion to thrive and entice people in. It needs personalities. It needs characters. The serial nature of ups and downs over the course of a sports season isn’t much unlike the drama provided by a movie franchise or a television series. It’s the original reality show, and MLS needs to embrace that.
Look at the NFL, the NBA, and the English Premier League. Some players always do the right thing, and others are just troubled at their core. Coaches are interesting and quirky, and team owners often grab headlines in strange ways. Obviously the coaches and players in the MLS have interesting lives too, I don’t think you need to manufacture that. Bring it to light. And not just the feel-good stuff. We need the bad with the good, the honest human condition. There have to be teams and players that we love to hate.
Sometimes I’ll hear current analyst and former player Alexi Lalas make a bold and controversial statement, and my first reaction is that he seems like a total drama queen. Then it occurs to me that he has the right idea. He knows that drudging this stuff up will only make the sport more intriguing.
It could simply be a chicken-or-egg problem. If there isn’t enough legitimate interest in the first place, maybe people won’t be interested in the behind-the-scenes stories. But it’s clear there has become more than just a little interest in American soccer, and I think if somebody digs up just a little dirt, it would go a long way.
(Originally posted here for day 4 of the YourTurnChallenge)
When I refer to “weather bias in the media” it isn’t about global warming, or climate change, or any politically charged debate. It’s about the indefatigable onslaught of adjectives used by TV meteorologists to characterize “warm and clear” as good, and “cold and cloudy” as bad. Big time important stuff.
It wouldn’t have occurred to me except that I’ve always preferred inclement weather. I like it chilly, cloudy, and rainy. I would take a little snow over a nasty blue summer sky any time. So call me neurotic, but when a meteorologist says, “The clouds will clear, it will warm up, and the rest of the day will be NICE,” it rents a lot of otherwise-empty space in my head.
Why the bias?
Maybe it’s because farming is so dependent on the right weather. It’s related to survival; evolutionary and deeply ingrained in our psyche. Can’t argue with that.
Or maybe it’s because driving to work in the rain is hard, and getting out of the car requires an awkwardly-deployed contraption to stay dry. But doesn’t all this concentration help keep us rooted in the present moment? And doesn’t doing the harder thing make us better people? Aren’t these good things? I think so.
It could be that there IS some kind of political motivation behind it that I simply haven’t uncovered yet. Some kind of financial gain for TV stations, or a political party, or (gasp) the Illuminati. Maybe a conspiracy created by the Florida Dept. of Tourism, or Speedo International.
Or perhaps I’m just a rebel. A weather rebel in squeaky galoshes and a bright red toboggan cap.
(Originally posted here for day 3 of the YourTurnChallenge)
I was looking for a new caffeine-tracking app to replace one that had recently stopped working with the latest version of iOS and stumbled onto an app called UP Coffee. Aside from doing an admirable job of tracking caffeine intake, I learned that it also syncs with the Jawbone UP app and wearable fitness devices. I wasn’t in the market for a fitness device and had never heard of Jawbone UP products before then, but the idea that simply tracking my steps might help with my sedentary lifestyle seemed intriguing enough to buy a Jawbone UP24.
The UP24 app has a useful timeline that makes it easy to track food intake, steps, exercise activity, and sleep. The sleep reporting is especially good, with delineation between light and sound sleep. But there is no web interface, and no alphanumeric display on the device itself, so reading and managing things can sometimes be cumbersome. Even so, before I knew it, I was doing “diet and exercise” because it was fun and easy, not because I had to.
After reading some positive Fitbit Charge reviews, I decided to try one of those and donate the UP24 to my wife instead. I like the Fitbit better in every aspect except sleep tracking. Hopefully they’ll improve sleep reporting to work more like the Jawbone in future versions. The Fitbit Charge’s LED display means that the status of activity is available at any time right on your wrist. It also functions as a watch, shows incoming calls from the iPhone, and makes tracking exercise much easier.
Discovering the MyFitnessPal.com web site was fortunate. The site does a much better job of tracking food than either device’s software, and it syncs equally well with both Jawbone and Fitbit. The free service includes the ability to store and recall meals as collections of food items, and the app has superior UPC detection. The Jawbone app’s UPC reader routinely stumbles with questionable lighting and focus, where MyFitnessPal’s app locks on quickly every time. The MyFitnessPal accompanying app does some things better than the web site, and vice versa, but between the two it all feels flexible and very well thought out. And the food database seems rather complete compared to Jawbone’s. I started using MyFitnessPal before switching from the UP24 to the Fitbit Charge, so I have yet to evaluate Fitbit’s food database.
I’d probably be happy with either device, but the Fitbit Charge is a clear winner to me at this point.
(Originally posted here for day 2 of the YourTurnChallenge)
I’m close to having a Standard Operating Procedure for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 3 AM without waking a dog, which then wakes a disgruntled wife. It involves air freshener, artificial sound disbursement, and event colocation.
Peanut butter and jelly was almost certainly created for the sole purpose of eating while watching “Welcome Back, Kotter” reruns on basic cable between 2 and 4 AM. This doesn’t seem like a bad thing on the surface, but – stay with me – peanut butter is gold to a dog. If a dog hears a peanut butter jar, much less catches a whiff, then a dog wakes up. And if a dog wakes up, the wife wakes up, and that’s a bad thing.
One dog would be a challenge. Two dogs is Mission Impossible.
Fortunately, our bathroom is located next to the kitchen and provides the sound and smell-proofing needed for a solution. A cutting board makes for a clean and solid surface. The bathroom fan serves double-duty to mask food preparation sounds and to help remove any trail of peanut butter. Cupboards, jars and silverware must be navigated with slow and quiet precision during sandwich assembly.
The big challenge is to inconspicuously transport the meal from bathroom to viewing area. The television volume must be set low enough to not rouse the wife, yet loud enough to keep a lid on any dog suspicion. But the real key here is the air freshener. It must be sprayed around the stairs and hallway, creating a virtual scent-wall between dog nose and peanut butter waft.
Sure, there are some bugs to work out. The air freshener obliterates the taste of the food, and the TV volume should probably be set before the food preparation. But that’s okay – I’m already working on a new version that features WD-40 and ventriloquism.
(Originally posted here for day 1 of the YourTurnChallenge)