Fifteenkey

A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

Author: fifteenkey (page 1 of 89)

Hope the High Road

Not much commentary on this one, except to say I’m looking forward to my first Jason Isbell show of 2017!

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in

– Jason Isbell

She’s Not Lying

Meditating this morning in the kitchen…

This was written weeks ago, but ended up as a “page,” and not a “post.” Anyway…

I was familiar with the name of novelist, Mary Karr when I decided to tune into her episode on the 10% Happier podcast with Dan Harris. She’s best known for the three-part memoir, “Cherry,” “The Liars’ Club,” and “Lit.” Right now, I don’t have any interest in reading any of them. She struck me as cold for most of the interview, but warmed up once she started talking about meditation and her latest book, ”The Art of Memoir.”  Maybe I’ll read that. She did say this:

“It works, and all you have to do is do it.
You don’t even have to do it well, or do it right.”
– Mary Karr on meditation

On that I agree 100%.

Affirmation Addiction

“Where I was taken to, brothers, was like no cine I’d been in before. I was bound up in a straight-jacket and my gulliver was strapped to a headrest with like wires running away from it. Then they clamped like lidlocks on my eyes so I could not shut them no matter how hard I tried. It seemed a bit crazy to me, but I let them get on with what they wanted to get on with. If I was to be a free young malchick in a fortnight’s time, I would put up with much in the meantime, my brothers.” – A Clockwork Orange, written by Stanley Kubrick

I could not stomach the ultraviolence in the first part of the film, so I have never actually seen the famous scene depicted here. I thought of it, though, while I watched this “60 Minutes” segment on “Brain Hacking,” the programming technique that app developers like Facebook use to keep us hooked into staring at their (our) content. You know, like “hooked on drugs.” Picking up your phone every two minutes like Pavlov’s dog is no different than reaching for your next hit off a crack pipe or a syringe.

All the likes, winks, hearts, emoji’s, follows, and comments each deliver a little rush of dopamine, just like drugs do. And when we can’t pick up our phone to breathe in those affirmations? Cortisol seeps into our blood to make us anxious. That’s right. We need our fix.

You’ve heard the saying, “the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” I know I do. On April 1, I deactivated the F-word of social media addictions. I’m not missing it too much, not even the pointless political arguments. Still, I’m picking up the phone an average of 66 times a day, clicking on 187 apps like Outlook, Gmail, LinkedIn, Instagram, News, Messenger, Podcast Addict, Salesforce, Camera, Phone, Spotify, Sonos, Pictures, Yelp, Ticketmaster, Sleepbot, and Google Keep, and spending 2:54 in them…

I’m using an Android app called Quality Time to help keep me sober. If you Jones for an iPhone, In the Moment can be your sponsor…

Or maybe you just need space. This little app for iOS or Android “loads a Moments of Zen before apps you need space from.” I’m going to give it a try.

Speaking of Zen, here’s a way to be more mindful about using your phone, and maybe we should pay more attention to how our kids are being sucked into the borg

It must be weird if you just read this on your phone…

Dreamer in my Dreams

Vivid dreams two nights in a row got me thinking about the song title from Wilco’s 1996 “Being There.” It’s been a while since I streamed those zeroes and ones. Seems so Far, Far Away.

My dreamy double-feature began Monday night when I had a customer on the phone seeking a warranty replacement for a printer he bought as part of a “Ready to Run” program I ran, oh, about ten years ago.

Dreamy Me: “Sir, how long did you expect this printer to last?”
Customer: “Seriously? Seriously?”

Being quite serious, I responded affirmatively. The customer went on to suggest a MTBF* of 60,000 hours. I couldn’t do math in my dream-head, but it comes out to just under 7 years. At that point, I dreamt to myself that I was in a customer-service nightmare, and didn’t have to provide the printer. Note: We didn’t sell printers as part of the program…

Tuesday evening put me in a bar/restaurant with my dearly departed best friend, Michael Gonnella. He was stirring up some dream trouble (absolutely not like him) at the bar, to the point the local Dream Police were called, and we were asked to leave. Suddenly, we were sitting at a table, where I asked, “What is the point you are trying to make here?” He didn’t answer, so I suggested we leave to avoid the lucid law enforcement on the way. I attempted to pay our tab at a host/hostess stand, but the man there said, “We’re way past that now.” In the next dream sequence, Dillard and I were running in the dark from the howl sirens. Again, I realized it was unlikely I was fleeing the law on foot with my dead best friend, so I woke up. Still, it was good to see him.

What will I dream up tonight?

* Mean Time Between Failure

Life Without Music?

The ends of my 2 driveways looked something like this…

This week’s snowstorm ranks up in my top 3 worst evah for snow removal. About 15 inches of damp damnation fell here in the snowbelt, followed by a mercury nosedive. I initiated round 2 of operation “#hatesnow” at 8PM, and by then there was a mountainous 18 degrees of separation between me and a clear driveway. The wet snow on the roads turned to dense clumps from cars and trucks passing, so by the time plows uh, plowed it in front of my driveway, it was in the form of snow boulders. Frozen snow boulders. Above the din of music coming from my earbuds, strings of creative profanity filled the air as I struggled to push my snow blower through the frozen barrier. I even cursed Esla, the Ice Queen at her ill-timed suggestion that I “let it go.” As I slammed my right hip up against the heavy machinery, the music died. Ah. With phone in right pocket, the audio jack must have popped out. No. The audio jack was bent, but of course I could shove it back in, right? Wrong. It broke off in the socket. Deep. Irretrievable.

At this point, you may be thinking tweezers, needle-nose pliers, super-glue, or even the old bic pen trick… Did I mention irretrievable?

So, this is a problem. Not only could I not plug headphones into the phone any longer, but with the jack stuck in the phone, it would not deliver sound. At all. That meant no phone calls, no viral videos, and no tunes. Unacceptable.

To make a long blog post short… The solution:

  • The Android app Soundabout – bypasses the headphone jack so sound will work normally, including to Bluetooth sources, like…
  • SENSO ActivBuds S-250 – Wireless Bluetooth Headphones – an absolute steal at 36 bucks.

Let there be Rock.

“No… no… no… no, now wait a minute, here!”

This week, the current occupant of our Oval Office showed the discipline to read from a teleprompter for an hour before congress and the American people. That amazing achievement had pundits declaring he had finally acted “presidential,” and his supporters in my social network called it “great,” and implored me to “give him a chance.” Of course, our previous president was pilloried by these same folks for teleprompter use, but that’s a story for another post.

I thought about it. For about a minute. Then I thought about a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life” when a desperate George Bailey was on the verge of accepting a business proposition from Mr. Potter, a despicable character who spent his life taking advantage of others with his enormous wealth.

Looks just like 45 without the rug…

The scene went something like this for me:

Me: [shaking Trump’s hand] Okay, Mr. Trump. [drops Trump’s tiny hand after realizing the twisted orange man was never going to change from the small, vulgar man he’s always been] No… no… no… no, now wait a minute, here! I don’t have to talk to anybody! I know right now, and the answer is no! NO! Doggone it! You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Trump! In the… in the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider. You… [to Trumps’s assistant, Steve Bannon] And that goes for you too! [to Kellyanne Conway] And it goes for you too!

Just no.

Improvement on many Levels

With the year winding down I took a (short) stroll down (play)blog memory lane to see what I’ve been compelled to write about, and I found the pursuit of happiness has been the year’s theme. That mind-bending effort began in January, followed by body-bending a millimeter at a time in March. Improvements have been slow but steady for both and seem more sustainable because of the gradual pacing. In hindsight I should have added weight-loss to the mix, but as the Meat sang, “two out of three ain’t bad.”

Looking back, 2016 has been a year of overcoming disappointments, welcoming opportunities, and continuously working on improving at this thing called life. I’m happy with the progress and will just keep swimming.

Peace, Love and Death

Yesterday was as relaxing a day as I’ve had in a long time. Not an email was stirring, that needed my mouse. The children were also tucked away for the day with a relation, and I was free to do whatever I wanted. So naturally I went to the liquor store. Well wait. I went there to buy wine to bring to a friend’s house and a nice port to bring to a Christmas party today, although I may audible at the line of scrimmage into a nice Chardonnay.

Anyway, the relaxation was assisted by a quiet morning sit (look it up), some yoga for my old back and hips, and a trip to the gym where the Black Card I got to take Kyle with me also entitles a “massage chair” which is better than a not massage chair.

I’m jumping around, but as I was reminded in “Arrival,” time is relative. That’s a fine film by the way with a cool twist on time and the old cinematic technique of the flashback. That’s all I’m going to say, but one exchange that is sticking with me is:

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams): “If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?”
Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner): “Maybe I would say what I felt more often. I don’t know.”

Going back in time, morning shower time had a Band of Horses mix from Spotify as a soundtrack, including The Funeral. Shortly after the music died down and I was ready to go out, I received an email from an old friend titled “mom.” That’s all I needed to read to understand the sadness inside.

Thankfully Behind the Waterfall

behind-the-waterfall“You should try meditation.” That statement is usually met with a hesitant acknowledgement, and I can tell the receiver is dismissing the idea. For most, meditation is somewhere in the mental card catalog between LSD and “Séance.” It’s too “out there” and something only weirdos do. I wish Donald Trump would meditate. If he did, he wouldn’t be sending out angry tweets at 3AM.

My journey for the last year or so has been toward “happiness.” Well, that’s what I set the GPS for, but getting to a place of contentment isn’t via highway, it’s typically found with the setting that avoids interstates and tolls. It’s a slower, rural route, but the scenery is beautiful. That’s the point. How many times have you driven somewhere and not really “seen” anything on the trip? How about every day commuting? How much of our lives are spent completely unaware of what’s happening right in front of us? Our minds take over with a torrent of thoughts either reliving the past (depression) or worrying about the future (anxiety). Meanwhile whatever peace and beauty might be in the present moment is swept away by the tsunami of thought.

Meditation is like going to the gym for your mind. It’s training that helps you recognize when the waterfall of thoughts is flowing so you can simply acknowledge them and step back into a quieter space. This training pays off when life’s adversity hits. It could be in work, in personal relationships, or in traffic when somebody cuts you off. Instead of reacting from the sudden rush of emotional water, you can step back to the calmer place, take a breath and respond. Not always, of course. After all, we’re human and who the hell does that guy thing he is?!

Anyway, here’s a great 2-minute primer if you’d like to try meditation. I promise you, a year from now you’ll be thankful you did.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Can You Hear Me Now?

You really can’t hear the voices of most people until they vote. This election is a perfect example. What I (and obviously millions of others) didn’t hear from the electorate that became Trump voters were stories like, “I lost my job in the (pick one – auto plant, coal mine, appliance factory) in (pick one – 1984, 1992, 2009) because of (pick one – offshoring, regulation, automation) and in the years since, politicians from both parties have promised to help me, but no one ever has.”

Those voters spoke loudly on Tuesday night. They certainly weren’t all racists, xenophobes, or misogynists. I believe most were not any of those things. I have to believe that. I have friends and family that supported Mr. Trump. If you supported Mrs. Clinton, you likely have those friends and family too. Speaking of Mrs. Clinton, I think she would have made a fine president, and I do believe she got badly slandered by the right-wing press, but ultimately her “qualifications” were a turnoff to Trump voters. She’s been a “Washington politician” for 25 years, and a big majority of Trump voters see politicians as a group that did not hear them or help them. The Democratic Party had a candidate with a message to help many of the very same people who voted for Donald Trump. Bernie was my candidate, but the DNC denied him. How’d that work out?

On election night, well, morning really around 4:30AM, after seeing the supposed “blue wall” of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin crumble red, I realized that I didn’t know anything about those “disaffected voters” that elected Donald Trump. I’m a white (somewhat) educated male living in Massachusetts who has enjoyed almost 33 consecutive years of career progress and great jobs in high-tech. I’ve been lucky and very fortunate to have no idea what financial pain and insecurity and hopelessness is all about.

Those good people in the “rust belt” – by the way, do you think they like that quaint name? It comes from the image of empty factories literally rusting away in their towns, a reminder of a past when America was great for them. Many of them have little left and less hope. “Hope and change” sounded great to me, but what real change did it deliver to them?

So along came Donald Trump. They knew him from TV. He was a billionaire and he promised to “Make America Great Again.” He told them he’d change the trade deals and get tough with Mexico and China. He promised to bring those jobs back. Those people aren’t stupid. They’ve heard the jobs promises from candidates over the years, but maybe this time would be different. Donald Trump had many successful businesses and he wasn’t a politician. He wasn’t taking donations from big donors and corporations, either. Just small ones from people like them.

On Tuesday, these people who worked hard until the work was denied them walked into polling places all over the country and they spoke. They didn’t like his behavior toward women or his mistreatment of that Muslim Gold Star family or his making fun of a handicapped man, but they saw him as their last chance to have a voice so they held their noses and cast their votes. And they were heard.

I don’t think Donald Trump is nearly as bad as the liberal press makes him out to be. Yeah, he’s a chauvinist and being inarticulate has got him in some trouble, especially when insensitive comments are amplified through the liberal echo chamber. I know. I’m in it. The problems he faces are complex and won’t be solved with slogans. “Repeal Obamacare?” Good luck telling those health insurance companies you’re ripping millions of customers from their income statements. None of it is going to be easy.

Finally, I’ve witnessed a real freak out from some of my fellow liberals who came out on the losing end in the election. Please, as Samuel L. Jackson might say, “calm the fuck down.” “If you supported Trump, please defriend me?” C’mon! (Full disclosure – a Facebook friend – more of an acquaintance came at me gloating Tuesday night… Poof.) Hey, our system of democracy worked and our girl lost. Get a grip. Plus, I don’t think Mr. Trump really has passion for the social issues like some of the social conservative nuts in the Republican party. I know… Mike Pence is pretty whacked out on choice and LGBT rights, but those things have already been sustained through a conservative Supreme Court, and again, I just don’t think Trump’s agenda is social. All that said, if some crazy shit gets proposed, and it will – we fight it.

My hope is that the president-elect stays true to his promise to help the middle-class people who got him elected. If he does, we’ll all benefit.  In the meantime, I think my liberal friends should walk the talk of peace, love, tolerance and acceptance.

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