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

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Rocky Mountain High

Come on. If you’re a baby boomer, you’ve badly sung along to John Denver’s ode. Let’s do it together:

“Rocky mountain high-iiiiiiiiiii Col-o-ra-do”

Nice. You should check out the lyrics. It’s not about smoking a doob.

Regardless, I will be exploring all that Colorado has to offer during my pilgrimage to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Psyched! Yeah, I was hemming and hawing about the trip until I heard my mom say, “Just go. Isn’t it you who always tells me you only live once?” OK, Mom. I still have some details to work out with Billy Shatner (is he still at Priceline?) regarding wheels and a couple nights in the Mile High City. Oh, and bakeries. I want to bring some fresh baked goods when I go for a mini-reunion with some college friends in Breckenridge.

While scanning the calendar it occurred to me that our reunion will commence on our mutual friend, Mike G’s 60th birthday. Sixty… Dude, you’re old. Anyway, I’m looking forward to catching up with Heide and “Krak” on high in the Rockies. We’ll celebrate our dear friend.

Back to the Music. This will be my second JI show in 2017 after a trifecta the year before. The Red Rocks thing has been on my “bucket list” for years. I didcough up the cake for “VIP” seating in the sound booth area, but hey, we only live once, right Mom? Speaking of bucket lists… Other than going into space, I’m not sure there’s anything else on mine. Actually, there are a few other experiences closer to home that would be on the list if one existed… Italy, Greece, the jungle in Peru, Barre, MA for ten days… Oh, and the Louvre. Yeah, that would be cool.

Oh, the music. Yeah, I was teetering… The June show at whatever that tent place is now called on Boston Harbor was a bit underwhelming due to sky high expectations, but then last week after falling asleep to a live stream of Isbell’s “Austin City Limits” taping, I was jarred awake when YouTube then played a full February 2014 show from the House of Blues in Boston. Pal Jeff and I were there. You can be, too. Laying awake being blown away by song after song, I thought, “I have to go.” Here you go.

Tossing off the Baggage

As adults, we’re supposedly all responsible for behaviors that impact our (or others) physical and/or mental health. Some of those behaviors include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Using Drugs (legal and illegal)
  • Making poor food choices and/or overeating
  • Inactivity
  • Engaging in unsafe sex
  • Engaging in bad relationships
  • Engaging in risky or unsafe behavior
  • Trying to rationalize the election of Donald Trump…

I’m sure there are more. Participation in fundamentalist religions comes to mind. I’m just listing those off the top of my head that I’m guilty of. Often these behaviors occur when we’re young, before our frontal cortex is fully matured to temper rash decision-making. Our tendency toward or away from these behaviors are influenced by nurture and nature:

  • Genetics
  • Our socio-economic conditions
  • Cultural influences
  • Mommy/Daddy issues
  • Past experiences
  • Future expectations

All you have to do is open your eyes and look around to realize this life can be hard. Given the huge role of genetics in this, do any of us really have a choice in our behaviors or are we somehow biologically and systematically pre-disposed to them? I think it’s both, and they all can be difficult to overcome. In the recent past, we’ve seen “successful” people like Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, and Robin Williams take their own lives while battling mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. And those are just the suicides that make the news. Tens of thousands more don’t. A 2016 New York Times article indicated US suicide rates reached an all-time high with 42,773 recorded in 2014. It’s estimated that 90% of these individuals had a treatable mental illness… Statistically, your personal orbit is likely filled with people suffering from anxiety, bi-polar, depression, PTSD, and many more.

Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers wrote a song about the struggle with depression and about Mr. Williams. I’m sure many can relate to it. I know I can. Especially the last line about luck…

Tossing off the baggage that is pulling down on me
Toss it in the river and be free
Move so close together, only inches separate
you from all the darkness in me
I’m not seeking explanations for this thing that you did
a thin line separates the laughter from despair
I’ve had my own depression since I was just a kid
but been blessed with the means to repair

Spring Cleaning Random Thoughts

Yeah, It’s actually Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, but I’ve been busy.

A real Spring cleaning needs to happen here. I’ve now got two empty bedrooms to do something with. My girls moved out a couple weeks ago. I miss them, but they’re close and seem very happy as they embark with Mike and Aza on a family journey of their own.

I can never fully immerse myself in a record until I’ve listened with headphones, ideally while doing nothing else or performing a mindless task like weeding. Last weekend while ripping grimy green growths, I mainlined the Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and experienced an even deeper appreciation of the new record. After his last two gems of storytelling, “Southeastern,” and “Something More than Free,” I think the Boston Globe captured my view:

“So even if the album is not as consistently transcendent as the last two, that’s a high bar — and nothing here will harm Isbell’s soaring reputation.”

Listening on headphones delivers nuance that’s often missed listening in the car or while around the house. On “Anxiety,” this line hovered between my ears:

“It’s the weight of the world
But it’s nothing at all”

It’s a song that will likely resonate with many who suffer from it. From what I’ve learned, anxiety is ruminating about the future, depression dwelling on the past. In either case, it’s just your thoughts – nothing at all.  There are ways to better control those thoughts. Figure it out.

Speaking of happiness, I’m off Facebook nearly 3 months and off politics since gerrymandering put a narcissistic adolescent in the Oval Office. I’d rather not be intimate with how he and Republicans work to complete the hollowing out of the middle class that could destroy the country.  Wow, that’s a downer. It is. There are times that out of nowhere, my mind will remind me, “Donald Trump is the President of the United States.” What a nightmare.

Anyway, work is good, albeit intense. A community of over 27,000 customers and partners will keep you busy. On Monday, I hop a downbound train to NYC for a “Customer Advisory Board” meeting with Salesforce, our community platform provider. I’ve had a great experience with them, but the meeting that was scheduled to end at 3 on Tuesday, now goes till 6. Not for me. I have tickets to see the aforementioned Mr. Isbell Tuesday night in Boston and if the Acela runs on time, I’ll just make it.

Well, that’s enough for now and takes us full swing back to where we started. Even though I’m concerned about the future for my kids and grand-kids, I’m trying to Hope the High Road and hang on to some faith. Why?

“I still have faith, but I don’t know why
Maybe it’s the fire in my little girl’s eyes”
White Man’s World – Jason Isbell

Buying Prescription Glasses Online aka Pupillary Distance

Not happy that I lost my sunglasses!

Sometime between dinner at Les Zygomytes and the walk back to the parking garage after “Wicked,” your friendly blogger lost his sunglasses. Yes, I wear sunglasses at night. Anyway, the research and replacement process took place today. This post may help you, and it will be my reference for next time…

If you’ve ever purchased prescription glasses, you know there’s quite a bit of measuring that goes on just above your nose. What’s being measured there is “Pupillary Distance” (PD), the distance in millimeters between your pupils. If you are buying progressive lenses to compensate for near and far-sightedness, you’ll also need the “Near” PD because the pupillary distance shortens (like going crosseyed) when you’re looking at something close to you like a book.

Anyway, my PD measurements were not on my prescription, but I measured it using a nifty online tool.  Once I had the PD (63), I used an optometrist community to learn that 94-95% of your PD will be your “Near PD,” depending on the size of your head. I went with “bulbous” and used the 94% calculation (59). With my prescription and fresh PD numbers I was able to easily order new peeps from (there are others) with a 25% off coupon I found here.

Oh, and don’t forget to use your Health Savings Account (HSA) credit card!

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
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.

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