Sunday, February 28, 2010

To Download or Not To Download

That is the question … do you download music? Or do you buy music on soon-to-be-old-fashioned CDs?

Here are some more deeply personal questions: do you own cassettes? And a cassette player? Eight-track tapes? Records? Something to play them on?

For me, the answer is “all of the above except eight-track tape,” but Compact Discs are the media that contain most of my music collection. CDs have been around since the mid 1980s and it seemed like they would never go away. But downloading music is rapidly taking over and I have to admit that I now buy music this way about twenty percent of the time.

I heard a new Bon Jovi song on the radio tonight and wanted to buy it. Music stores are closed, Wal-Mart was the other direction from where I was going and I only wanted that one song. I got home, tapped a few keys and I’m listening to it right now as I write this. iTunes tagging makes this even easier; on certain types of radios, you hit a button when you want to buy the song you’re listening to and the song is there next time you sync. I don’t have that kind of radio yet, but I’m sure I will one day.

Downloading is not new but for Boomer-aged people this probably is still not the norm. I’ve been shopping on line for years, but I only downloaded music for the first time six months ago. And I ultimately burn those songs to CDs for use on my commute. I have an iPod but not a direct connection to my car’s sound system, so CDs are still the only way to hear my own music on the ride home each day.

The thing that amuses me most about this is the cycle of patterns. In the early Boomer era, the most popular songs were sold one at a time as singles. In rock, the album took hold for a couple of decades; music enthusiasts wanted to hear all the songs, not just the ones on the radio. The cycle is trending back to single songs again and downloading makes it easy. You can download an entire album, but I bet you’re more inclined to pick just the individual songs you want. In my case, if I want the whole album, I just order the CD.

I embrace technology but I am not an early adopter. I have yet to download a book or a movie, but I’m sure I will some day. This year? Maybe.

What’s your take on this?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Got Me Some Culture

I went to the symphony last night for the first time in more than fifteen years. Blues, country and rock are my usual favorite genres but I like classical music too.

This performance was not by just any ordinary orchestra. It was the National Symphony Orchestra performing at the world-famous Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.

The first half of the program began with Requiem for Icarus, a contemporary composition by Lera Auerbach.

The reason I chose this night was next: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. My friend Eliz got me interested in this work and when I saw it on the schedule I knew I had to see it live. I wish I could have shared this with her. Maybe next time.

Pianist Denis Matsuev was incredible. He got a long standing ovation, came back to take a bow 3 times, then did an encore (I think it was Marriage of Figaro) and received another standing ovation and returned for bows two more times.

I learned later that Rachmaninoff himself perform this work with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1940, thirty-nine years after he composed it and three years before his death.

The second half of the program was Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 in F Minor. I must know more about classical music than I thought because I recognized this as soon as it began. Another powerful performance!! Bravo!

This was my fourth visit to the Kennedy Center in the 26 years I’ve lived around here but the first time I paid attention to the incredible acoustics. I am used to hearing music by way of microphones, amplifiers and speakers. As far as I could tell, this was totally real, unamplified, unprocessed, beautiful sound.

The whole Kennedy Center experience is wonderful. There is a Concert Hall, an Opera House and at least two other performing spaces, and something was scheduled in each last night. Yet it never felt crowded. There are two restaurants and a bar on the rooftop and several bar stations in the enormous lobby. An exterior plaza running the length of the building overlooks the Potomac River and even on a cold night with snow still lining the edges, it was still worth walking outside and taking in the view.

I will not wait another fifteen years to have a night like this again. Mozart, my favorite, is on the bill next week. Hmmm.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

And the Award Goes To …

The Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series goes to … Tiger Woods!

(insert polite PGA-style applause here)

“But most of all I’d like to thank my acting coach and marketing director for helping me rehearse this speech. I look forward to getting all of this behind me so I can get my balls out of storage and my putter back into action. What?! Golf balls! Putter, as in golf club, you know, that thing with a long shaft that I used for a hole in one … oh, c’mon people, you’ve all seen me play. I’m determined to reach all my goals and to get what I want. My actions are inspired by my name.”


“No, Tiger.”

How does an obviously talented sports figure with a great personality, a good look and an inspiring life story get to the point where he is in the spotlight for behavior that brings embarrassment to his family and shows a side of his persona that completely contradicts his positive image as a role model? We have already learned a valuable lesson from him that someone can achieve excellence in a craft from persistence and determination. Another lesson seems to be that there is a huge potentially negative side to fame and talented would-be athletes can learn from this and guard against it happening to them. Or would-be athletes can learn that fame results in some amazing opportunities, wink wink.

More questions come to mind: do we really have to be exposed to this much of a celebrity’s personal life? Is it any of our business? Isn’t this an issue between him and his wife and not us? Does an athlete really have to be a role model?

He is not the first athlete to cheat on his wife. Back in medieval times (twenty years ago) the media would have ignored most of this. Now it’s the lead story. Is it the media’s fault or is the media just satisfying our own voyeuristic curiosity? Now that you mention it, just how many women did he have? What do they look like? Older? Younger? Anyone famous? Anyone from the LPGA?

“No, really, I am sorry. Can’t you tell by my body language? Look, I’m holding on to this podium for dear life. Hey, they told me I have to do this. It’s Step 4. Or maybe 5. How many are there again? Twelve!!! Sheesh!!”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Am I Forgetting Something?

Every year around this time I start to think I’m forgetting something. Doesn’t this part of February mean something?

This year Mardi Gras happened this week, but no, that’s not it. There’s Valentine’s Day but that’s not it either; I’m a hopeless romantic so I always remember that day.

Oh yeah, I know. My Dad’s birthday is/was this week. Even though he died eight years ago I still think about him around his birthday. In fact I remember it better now than when he was alive. It seems I always got cards and presents to him late. A few years ago I found the card I meant to send him on what turned out to be his last birthday.

There are reminders of him all over my house and my life. I have a few pictures of him on bookshelves. My garage is filled with many of the tools and tool boxes he always intended for me to have after he died. Some of those tools are gifts I gave him on various birthdays.

I am reminded of my Dad every time I look in the mirror. I have his mouth and his eyes and sometimes his attitude. I have his problem-solving mentality and occasionally I have his judgmental approach to things. I don’t like that last one but the rest of that is fine.

Fortunately I am way past the point of trying to seek his approval of things. I still felt that way sometimes for a few more years after he died. I know he did not approve of major parts of my life and I was OK with that because I felt that he respected me for charting my own path. He knew I analyzed things the same way he did but I came to different conclusions.

Maybe I’ll buy a cake Friday and sing Happy Birthday to him.

(He was in his 30s when this picture was taken)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Mardi Gras seems to go on forever, partly because it does. In New Orleans is lasts for several weeks and this year it was even crazier than usual because the New Orleans Saints won their first ever appearance in the Super Bowl right in the middle of this year's Mardi Gras season.

But the actual Mardi Gras DAY is TODAY. It varies each year because it is always the day before Ash Wednesday.

Check out these links for a little more info and flavor:

Watch live streaming video from mymardigrasexperience at

The New Orleans Site

Mardi Gras Parade Cam

Bourbon Street Cam (this one might not be active till the evening)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Excitement, Stability and Bicycles

For a shy Catholic school kid from the south, I’ve led a pretty exciting and charmed life so far. Yet a conversation with two high school buddies last summer provided an interesting perspective on how unpredictable life can be.

Here is a glimpse of my life to this point: I’ve lived in five states, worked at nine radio stations and an international radio network, been self-employed twice, met numerous celebrities, rock stars and country singers, interviewed CEOs, Senators, an astronaut and Bill Clinton’s press secretary in her office in the West Wing, emceed concerts in front of thousands of fans, narrated a skydiving show in front of 40,000 spectators in Cotton Bowl Stadium, flew as a passenger in a hot air balloon race, did a few traffic reports from a helicopter, took four cross-country train trips, served in the Army, had more girlfriends than I could possibly have imagined and married three of them, helped organize a record-setting blood drive, gave a speech at a hospice event that made people cry, owned four homes, helped a friend kick a cocaine habit and on and on and on.

I’m not bragging or exaggerating, I’m just listing things here. It all seems normal to me. No big deal, really. I’m in the media so I have access and opportunities and over the years have learned how to take advantage of some of them.

My two high school buddies I hadn’t seen since college were nearly awestruck by some of what I’ve done. They were amazed at the life I’ve led.

Here is a glimpse of their lives: One has three degrees in engineering and has worked for the Corp of Engineers since shortly after college. He is a project manager and will retire soon. The other friend is a doctor and a partner in his own practice. Both are still happily married to their college sweethearts. They have each lived their whole lives in their home state, each has raised a family and each loves their lives.

I’m quite awestruck by how their lives turned out. They are jealous of the exciting life I’ve had and I am jealous of their stability. Is one better than the other? No. Would they trade their lives for mine? No. Would I trade mine for theirs? No.

Could we have imagined how our lives would turn out? Hell no.

The three of us were pretty invisible in high school and maybe that’s why we became friends. All three of us played in the band but I’m sure we never had a solo during a concert. We were shy and I believe each of us didn’t have our first dates till we were seniors.

Some factors that guided our future were random and some were planned. But I am sure we had no clue what was ahead in our lives when we’d ride our bikes on the Lake Pontchartrain levee during Easter break. We were just looking ahead far enough to avoid getting a flat tire.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blizzard Perspective

Dealing with back-to-back blizzards provides some interesting perspective on life, nature and human behavior.

As humans, we think we can control everything. We dam rivers, kill weeds and cure diseases yet we can’t stop blizzards. Meteorological science enables us to predict potentially disastrous weather and psychological observation allows us to predict our reaction, but the weather keeps a comin’.

We watch the snow fall and fall and fall and accumulate and pile up. We break out the shovels and snow blowers and try to clear paths for cars and feet. Wind whips across open fields and between buildings, blowing snow back across the paths. The cycle continues but the only real progress occurs when the wind stops and the temperature rises. Mother Nature wins the Super Bowl ring every time.

After several years of little or no snow in the Mid-Atlantic we became complacent. Oh, it won’t snow much. We don’t need extra water, food or firewood. We don’t have to plan ahead in case we can’t get to work or home from work. Then this past December we experienced one day of record snow amounts. Then it happened again the first weekend of February and again four days later.

I tend to be an over-prepared guy but I still wasn’t really ready for the psychological impact of multiple snowstorms.

During that last one I stayed in a hotel next door to work for three nights. The first night was a party with twenty co-workers. All of them were still there the second night but only a few were in the bar drinking. Those of us who were still there on the third night stayed in our rooms; I know because I checked and saw no one I knew at the bar. The adventure wore thin. We started to feel stuck and unsettled. The word from home was that I might not even be able to get there and might need yet another night at the hotel.

Staying in a hotel instead of home means a major change in routine. Eating every meal in a restaurant gets expensive. Clothes get dirty, the room gets claustrophobic and access to activities is limited by where you dare to travel on snow-covered streets and sidewalks. The work routine includes trying to cover for those trying to work from home; technology makes telecommuting easier but it’s still not like actually being there.

Finally it is time to head home and the next level of reality kicks in: rude drivers with cabin fever, rushing to get where they’re going even though the incomplete snow removal efforts have left disappearing lanes and extended rush hours. And my ride home was made more frustrating with the realization that I hadn’t had to deal with my long commute for three days. Sometimes reality sucks.

This story has a semi-happy ending. Generous caring neighbors cleared my driveway, two days of above-freezing temperatures have helped start the snow melting process and this afternoon cloudy skies made way for bright sunshine.

And if you can look past the frustration and lack of control that a blizzard brings, you might see a little natural beauty dancing across the mountains of snow to the tune of some interesting perspective.

Think Warm, part 2

This video says it all, doesn't it? ...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Think Warm

I have a lot to say about these back to back blizzards, but for this post I'll let this picture be worth a thousand words. The statue wearing the baseball cap is me in Hawaii in January 1996, days after another record-setting DC-area blizzard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow .... oh shut up!

Two feet of snow last weekend, two more feet this week. Time to stop!!

This is me standing in the driveway in front of where I work.

Can you figure out what this is?

Here I am with some work friends ... doing shots! I never do shots. But we were all at the hotel next door to work because we couldn't get home and I didn't have to drive anywhere, soooo...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another One Is Coming

I'm still digging out of the record-setting weekend snowstorm and now another one is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I like snow but this is ridiculous. It isn't usually this bad. In fact, I haven't seen any snow falls of more than 4 or 5 inches in several years, which is why I keep putting off buying a snow blower.

Maybe it's time to visit my friends in Hawaii. The last time I saw them was just days after a blizzard. Great seasonal therapy then, would be again.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

They Did It!

The New Orleans Saints WON the Super Bowl. Here is a picture of a celebration in the streets in New Orleans.

OK, I'm Ready

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saints Snowman

I should call him Drew Freeze.

Two In One Season

We're in the middle of the second record-setting snowstorm of this season. As of 9:00 this morning, it has been snowing for twenty hours. The prediction is for at least six more hours and 4 to 8 more inches of snow. I'm glad I don't have to be anywhere today or tomorrow.

A view from my front door:

Clearing a path in the back for the dogs:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Saints and Snow

While I'm waiting for more snow to fall, let's get back to the New Orleans Saints for a minute. They're in the Super Bowl for the first time in their 40-plus year history.

Here is something a co-worker with New Orleans connections sent me. It's a little "fun" game that might enhance your enjoyment of tasty adult beverages during the Super Bowl.


The New Orleans Saints Superbowl Drinking Game

1. Every time they mention hurricane Katrina, drink 1
2. If they show pictures of the City of New Orleans right
after Katrina, drink 1
3. Every time they say how much the Saints mean to the City
of New Orleans , drink 1
4. Every time the words "tragedy", "flood", or
"devastation" are used, drink 1
5. Every time they talk about how good Reggie Bush was in
college, drink 3
6. If they show Kim Kardashian in the stands, drink 5
7. Every time they show a picture of Reggie Bush with a bat
or say "bringing the wood" drink for 5 seconds.
8. Every time Reggie Bush gets negative yardage trying to
run around in the backfield a bunch and outrun the defense, drink 1
and turn to the person next to you and say "I told you Vince Young
should have won the Heisman"
9. Every time Reggie Bush gets up and flexes his arms in
that pose he likes to do, drink 1
10. If they mention Tim Tebow for any reason, funnel a beer
11. Every time they say that "it's destiny for the Saints
to win" drink 1
12. If they show footage of Katrina survivors at the
Superdome, take a shot of cheap liquor
13. If they call Saints fans the most passionate fans in
football, drink 1
14. If they say that the Saints, Saints fans, or the City
of New Orleans "deserve" a Superbowl victory, drink 1
15. Every time they say how good of a story the Saints are,
drink 1
16. If Jeremy Shockey pretends to be hurt after dropping a
pass, drink 2
17. If they mention the Saints beating the Falcons in 2006
in the first game after Katrina in the Superdome, drink 5 and
remember that we are still a better football team with better fans.
18. Every time they compare hurricane Katrina to the Haiti
earthquake, funnel a beer and yell "bullshit!"
19. Every time they mention Drew Brees as the Mardi Gras
king, drink 1
20. Every time they show Archie Manning, drink 1, and
mention how bad he sucked. If they show old footage of him on the Saints,
drink 5. If they mention how tough of a decision it was for him
as for whom to cheer for, drink 10.
21. Every time they show a saints fan yelling "Who dat!" Or
a sign/shirt saying the same, drink 1.
22. If they show Chris Paul at the game, drink 1 and
mention to someone how much better he is than Devon Williams.
23. If they show former Mayor Ray Nagin, drink 5 and then
punch someone in the face

MORE Snow Coming

This is the snowiest (is that a word?) winter I've seen in Maryland in a long time. A huge snowstorm is coming tonight. Light snow started falling a few hours ago but the heavy stuff is due within the next few hours.

I like snow, but NOT this much.

Stay tuned for pictures ... if I don't lose power or internet.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sloppy Gloppy Snow

Last night's snowfall consisted of wet snow. It's a little sloppy but still beautiful. This is the view from my sunroom, which I should rename 'snowview room'.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Finding Your Nietzsche

I heard this thought-provoking quote at the end of a TV show tonight:

When you look long into the abyss the abyss also looks into you.

I have heard of Friedrich Nietzsche, knew he was a philosopher, did not know any of his famous quotes. So I Googled him. Here are a few more. Interesting stuff.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.

I would not know what the spirit of a philosopher might wish more to be than a good dancer.

What does not kill me makes me stronger.