Sunday, October 30, 2011

Power Outage Randomness

Heavy wet snow from a rare October storm accumulated on tree limbs and power lines Saturday, leading to a power outage in parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeast, including my part of Maryland. I began writing this post three hours into the outage and here are my random thoughts, roughly in a timeline starting late Saturday afternoon.

- Every time I walk into another room this evening, I automatically flip a light switch, even though no lights are on.

- Cable and internet were out earlier in the day. Thirty minutes after they came back on the power went out. But my iPhone still connects to the internet.

- I am writing a draft of this with pen and paper. How odd.

- The outside temperature is in the 30s. It was 72 inside before the power went out and not it’s in the low 60s. I’m lucky to have a fireplace. I might be sleeping on my sofa tonight.

- Dinner tonight: cold jambalaya.

- Hmmm, I think I now know why farmers in the pre-electricity days went to bed so early. And why they had so many children.

- Drinking merlot by the dim glow of a battery lantern.

- I tried sleeping on the sofa in front of the fire. Probably slept in 20-minute segments. Just when I was finally sleeping deeply the lights came on. Now I’m wide awake at 2 a.m., but grateful the power is on again.

The 8 ½-hour power outage on my street was a major nuisance, but probably not any person’s fault. The cause was likely weather-related. The chilling thought in my head right now, however, is this: What would life be like for days or weeks if terrorists knocked out a regional power grid? We take abundant electricity on-demand for granted and we’re pissed off when it takes hours to restore power when it goes out. Eight hours in the dark should remind us how lucky we are to have what we have.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Totally Random 7.1

Usually the vacation effect takes weeks to wear off but this week it only took a day. I’m ready for my next vacay already.

Aging isn’t for the young. I don’t think they could handle it well. They’re just not strong enough.

I like the new Coldplay CD. The new Toby Keith CD is sitting on my desk waiting for my ears. Bet I like that one too.

Snow is predicted this weekend in my part of Maryland. It’s still October!! Mother Nature, what’s the hurry?

I’m never sick, but this summer I had two colds and skin cancer surgery. Today I tripped in a parking lot and bruised my knee. And I need eye surgery. None of this is unusual but it is way off the chart for me.

Favorite line in a current country music hit by Alan Jackson: “I’ve got a bug in my margarita; seems bad luck won’t leave me alone.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laughable

Don't read anything into this one way or the other, just laugh if you think it's funny.  I don't have anything else tonight anyway.  More L.A. stuff coming soon.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Travel Randomness

I'm sitting in an airport, bored and inspired to write. Here are a few random thoughts:

My vision is a bit challenged at the moment but I'm happy to report that I can see the Starbucks logo from six gates away.

Dulles Airport is surprisingly empty.

This airport is also bigger than I remember it from the last time I flew from here. They've done plenty of remodeling since 1996.

Welcome to my first post written on my iPhone.

To my friend 'Eliz': I found the bar but decided 10 am was a little too early to utilize their facility. I'll be sampling plenty of adult beverages this weekend.

Hard to believe I'm going all the way from the east coast to the west coast just for the weekend. I should have added some days.

Traffic I'd so unpredictable in DC that I allow hours for problems. There were none ... no traffic jams, no wrong turns, no long lines at security. I still prefer being ridiculously early than missing a flight like I did a few years ago because of a 3-hour traffic tie up.

OK, that's enough randomness for now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Duran x 2

I like 1980s rock but I don’t really know why. Favorite music is often associated with a person’s developmental years or through some other emotional connection. My emotional development decade was the 70s and most of the 80s music I like I first discovered in the 90s or early 2000s. Maybe there was an emotional connection because of the awesome DJ job I had in the early 90s in which I played some of that 80s music too or maybe it’s just great music that I finally found.

Duran Duran is one of those bands I ‘discovered’ in the 1990s. I especially like their 80s music, which I don’t really remember from the 80s. They are touring this year in support of their new music and I saw them a few nights ago at Constitution Hall in Washington DC.

I took 25 pictures and a few short videos with my new phone but all were deleted with a software upgrade the next day. Wow, remember when phones were for making phone calls? Anyway I retrieved one 50-second video (further below) and this one picture of a friend I met at the show. There were supposed to be three of us but the third dropped out at the last minute. We sent her this picture; our hands are where she would have been in the picture.



Here is my little video.  Scroll all the way down this post to see a real video of one of my favorite DD songs.



Monday, October 17, 2011

Phone Randomness

I work around technology all day, mostly audio editing software and digital cameras. I am comfortable with tech stuff but I am not an early adopter. I prefer to let other people work out the bugs. I also want to see if the devices or formats will still be around in a few years … remember beta video recorders? 8 track tapes? One day we’ll add Blackberry to that list. But over the weekend I upgraded my cell phone from this 3-year-old flip phone ….



… to this iPhone 4:



Random thoughts:

- It’s not the brand new iPhone 4s, it’s “merely” the iPhone 4 that’s been on the market since February.

- When I first decided to get a smart phone, which was almost a year ago, I thought I’d get a Blackberry because they were dirt cheap with a 2-year renewal. My procrastination led to choosing a Droid (four months ago). After spending a week with a fancy new iPod, a gift from my employer, I decided to get the iPhone.

- The iPhone is basically an iPod that makes calls too.

- I can put the 1300 songs that are on the iPod onto this phone, take pictures and videos, surf the web, text … I’m not sure I”ll have time to actually make calls on it.

- No, this is not a commercial for my new phone. I’m just sharing my surprise at how much I like the device so far.

- At least 15 of my co-workers already have iPhones and they will laugh at me and congratulate me at the sme time for finally leaping into the 21st Century.

- This is the first cell phone I’ve paid for since 1996. All the others were free with a 2-year renewal. And this one was significantly discounted because the new version just came out and because my company has an even greater discount.

You should not feel guilty or in any way inferior if you do not have one of these. Even the most basic contemporary cell phone does what it is supposed to: make calls, keep you in touch with people and help in an emergency. The rest of this can be helpful but it is almost overkill.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So True

Saw this on a friend's Facebook page.  Thought I'd share.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A General Observation

Just a general observation to my friends:

Email and Facebook are great if that's the only way to keep in touch, and sometimes it is.  I have been able to keep many friendships alive over time and distance using these digital tools.

But I'd prefer to be sitting next to you sharing a glass of wine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Two Doctors and the Blues

High Laurie, who plays Dr. House on the TV show House, is a musician. Who knew? And his new album includes this song with legendary New Orleans performer Dr. John singing. Two ‘doctors’ singing the blues!! Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Quote

This made me think about an old friend who is going through a rough patch right now.  I love the sentiment, although it won't help me any more.

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.


~ Anne Taylor Fleming

Monday, October 10, 2011

A High Price

Most Americans believe we are the greatest country in the world. Even citizens of many other countries feel that way about us. But there is one undeniable sad bit of irony behind how we got our start, stated succinctly in this image:


There are times when certain actions or series of actions that seem, when isolated and taken out of a broader context, unfair or even barbaric, result in something good, in this case the United States of America.

I celebrate the great freedoms of our country in my own way every day, but I am uncomfortable celebrating Columbus and his “discovery” of a land that already had a population in excess of a million people. His actions began a series of actions that led to the annihilation of an entire native population and the elimination of numerous long-standing cultures. A new culture grew from that and we in that culture have plenty to be proud of.

Most of what I celebrate each year on this federal holiday is the reduced traffic in the Washington DC area because so many people are off work. I’ll celebrate our nation and it’s freedoms on Independence Day.

I’ll leave you with one more cynical thought borrowed from a friend’s Facebook page this morning: Happy European Interlopers Sneezing on Aboriginal Peoples, Spreading Unknown Viruses and Annihilating Them Day!

We’re a great country but don’t forget that at times in our history we paid dearly for the great result.

Pink Month

I am not a fan of the color pink and I don’t go out of my way to wear it during October, breast cancer awareness month. Honestly, I don’t need a pink ribbon to make me aware of breast cancer. The reminders are all around me all year.

A small fitness room at my office is named for a co-worker who is a two-time breast cancer survivor.

Every summer I get a text from a high school friend who is also a breast cancer survivor telling me the results of her annual tests. I get texts from her every week, but the summer one stands out. It usually reads “I get to live another year.”

Nearly every room in my house has furniture or housewares that belonged to a family friend who lost her battle with breast cancer earlier this year.

I remember in my own way. I am aware in my own way. I spread awareness to you and others through this blog, personal conversations and one of my radio interview shows. Be aware, talk about it, get tested. Wear the pink ribbons if that works for you. Don’t feel bad if you chose not to wear the pink.

The main point of this month is to set a calendar appointment to focus on breast cancer awareness. But be aware all year. Breast cancer does not have a calendar.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Not Ready Yet

By October 9th fall is usually well underway here in Maryland. There is a chill in the air, furnaces are on some nights, leaves are starting to turn and we’re packing our shorts and flip flops till spring or till a winter vacation to warmer climates. However, the predicted high here today is 84 and I took these shorts and flip flops out of my “to be packed away” stack and put them on me, maybe for the last time this season.

I love fall but I am still not ready to give up the end of summer. There were many active, fun times during my summer, which helped offset greater-than-usual stress levels. Some highlights: Toby Keith concert, Tim McGraw concert, U2 concert, hiking in North Carolina. I wrote more posts than normal on this blog. Read a couple of books. Spent some nice one-on-one time with a few friends at the concerts, on the hike and during a few dinners. Made some progress on a lingering personal matter. Took a lot of pictures. Got some high-level praise for a company project.

With all of that, is it any wonder why I don’t want to let summer go?

But fall has always been my favorite. I love the color and the obvious actions of Mother Nature. I love the real and symbolic ‘renewal’ aspects of the season. We slow down a little, sort of like animals who hibernate. The change of pace can give us time to look ahead, to regroup, to shed away some things in preparation for emerging next spring with renewed spirit.

All of those things are good, but I am grateful for one more day of warm weather and exposed skin.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Boomer Randomness

This blog and this post are both called Boomer Randomness. My point is to share random thoughts from the perspective of someone in the baby boom age range. Some of the thoughts are about being this age, some are merely observations. All of it is pretty random, which may be the least random aspect of this blog.

- Demographers usually define boomers as those born post World War II, in the years between 1946 and 1964. That means we are currently in the 47 to 65 year-old range.

- You know you’re probably a boomer if you’re the only person in line at the pharmacy who pays in cash. In our youth we never thought a small plastic card would serve the same role as coins and bills.

- Some older boomers, especially men, dreamed of having a juke box in their den one day. They’d be able to play dozens of songs in a row from a selection of 100 (50 “records” with a song on each side). Now we have a juke box in our pocket, often in our pocket-sized phone, with playlists generated from a selection of more than a thousand songs.

- Some boomers hate ear buds. I’m one of them.

- We may briefly celebrate at the gas pump when we see the price down to $3.34/gallon this week. Then we either laugh or cry upon remembering that it was less than $1.00/gallon when we first started driving.

- The youngest boomers were 16 years old when MTV began. They were awestruck by the sight of their favorite bands performing songs or acting out story lines based on the song lyrics. They always knew at least one person in their circle of friends who “had cable” and they could go to that friend’s house to watch the videos. Now the videos are available on the same iPod or cell phone that all their other music is on.

- Older boomers never knew a time when women held a significant number of management positions in business. Older boomers’ children hopefully never knew a time when that wasn’t the case.

- My damn ear bud fell out again. My right ear just doesn’t like these things. And the wires are in the way. My new Bluetooth wireless headset is still charging. C’mon, hurry up, will ya?

- I am a photography enthusiast who prefers my digital Nikon SLR to smaller, easier-to-use digital cameras. But I took the pictures that accompanies this post on my new iPod Touch and used that same device to email it to myself.

- Older boomers might not realize film is hard to find.

That’s enough boomer randomness for today. Looking back every now and then is a good exercise in perspective, but in case you think I’m getting old or feeling old, remember that my favorite mantra is “the past is a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rockin Blues

I like all genres of music but I claim blues as my favorite. And country. And rock. And, well you get the idea: all of it. Check out this video of Joe Walsh performing at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, Cotton Bowl Stadium in 2004, an every-now-and-then fundraiser organized by Eric Clapton. The song starts as an awesome blues song and morphs into a kickass version of one of his well-known rock songs.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Visionary Is Gone

Steve Jobs died today at age 56.  Whether you know who he is or not, he was part of your life.  He co-founded Apple, is largely responsible for personal computers, the mouse, iPods, iPads and iPhones.

What impressed me most about him is that he was a visionary.  This is my favorite of his quotes:

‎"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fears and Doubts

Even the most confident among us have fears and doubts at times and how they handle those situations serve as behaviors to model. I study this as a hobby. I am especially interested in how confident managers handle occasional insecurity and self-doubt.

I often wonder but rarely ask where they go to find strength before, during or more importantly after making an unpopular decision. What things deep inside enable them to do that, and then effortlessly justify their actions in the face of criticism?

Today I am a confident man in most aspects of my life but as a percentage of my whole life that confidence is relatively small. I have fears and doubts but I accept that as natural. A helpful statement I repeat in my head whenever I have doubts is a line from one of the Dirty Harry movies: “A man has got to know his limitations.” Silly in some ways, profound in others. Basically it means accept that you’re not perfect.

When I see a manager make decisions with great confidence over and over again, especially if it is somebody I know well, I look for evidence of insecurities. Nobody is always confident. Nobody is always fearless and doubt-free. I can accept decisions I don’t like much more readily if I know that the decision-maker had at least a little self-doubt while contemplating those decisions. That tells me they are confident but not arrogant. They know there is a chance their decision is wrong, but they weighed the evidence, considered the factors (including the ones I might not know about) and made their decision.

Analyzing how they deal with doubt helps me learn how to deal with my own. Management decisions in business are not the same as personal decisions but the process is much the same. I learn a lot by studying my managers at work and it turns out they sometimes learn from me too. I have their confidence and they have mine.

Seems like I should have a profound close here but I don’t. Just wanted to share an observation.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Totally Random 7.0

One of my dogs farts … big, silent, stinky ones. Then he looks around the room with the “it’s not me” look in his eyes.

I never get sick, but I’m in the middle of my second cold in three months. Should have bought stock in Nyquil.

The Dick Van Dyke show is 50 years old. Some boomers might cringe at that thought.

I have a week-long vacation coming soon. Should be a relaxing time, although it’ll be busy at both ends. Two concerts the weekend it starts, dentist appointment and some other errands in the middle, a long catch-up dinner with a friend near the end and a semi-business weekend trip to Los Angeles at the end with a return flight at midnight on the last day. I used to be so good at planning. What happened?

I want a new ride but I haven’t finished paying for my current one. In my twenties I changed cars every 18 to 24 months. In my forties the pattern changed to every five or six years. I’m just over three years into this one and I’m getting restless. No chance for another one any time soon but I’m ready now.

My favorite NASCAR driver is Jimmie Johnson, who holds the record for consecutive years as points champ. When he won it for the 5th time last year everybody assumed that would be it for the streak. Right now, closing in on the end of the season, he is in 5th place, but only thirteen points from the top out of more than 2,000 total points. He could actually do it again.

My home office looks like a paper bomb explosion. I spent four hours organizing it yesterday and barely scratched the surface. I can actually see my desk now. Gotta start somewhere, right? More organizing as soon as I post this.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Drunk Dialing an Old Flame

Did you ever pick up your phone at 1 in the morning, drunk, and call a former lover? You were alone, thinking about her or him and alcohol loosened inhibitions. That old flame might be asleep; or maybe awake but with somebody else. For that one moment, you didn’t care. You dialed the number and said something like, “I need you. Now.”

I don’t think I’ve ever done that but when I first heard Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” the thought instantly resonated with me. I must have considered it at some point in my life. I know that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about somebody from my past. It’s not always the same somebody (my apologies to any old flame who might read this). Often I awake in the middle of a dream about a past girlfriend, but usually the characters in my dreams are a hybrid of more than one person.

The brain is such an odd computing device, isn’t it? Especially while asleep. Random thoughts from your lifetime pop up when you least expect them. You might forget where you put your keys but you vividly remember a first kiss from twenty years ago. You can’t find your car in the mall parking lot but you remember a conversation you had with Mom at age 10.

You might be alone in the middle of the night, lips sipping a fourth glass of merlot, wishing you were sharing that moment with someone who might have stopped you after the second glass with a suggestion for something else your lips could be doing.

As further evidence of how random the brain can be, this post was inspired by a TV feature story this morning, narrated by that old Sunday morning news anchor guy whose name I can’t remember who wears a bowtie. I hope I never wake up at 1 in the morning thinking about him!

-------------------

By the way, here is that song, just in case you never heard it when two-thirds of the radio stations in America were playing it every other hour earlier this year. I’m tired of it but I still think it’s a good song.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Vehicular Therapy

I grew up at the end of the era of the “Sunday drive.” Nearly every Sunday, my Dad would take Mom, my sister and me on a ride somewhere after lunch. Some of these drives would be to check out a structure his company was working on, some would be out in the country to a nearby town or historic site. One educational Sunday drive I remember took us all the way to Baton Rouge, 90 miles from our home in New Orleans, to visit the State Capitol building.

I’m not sure my Dad thought of these excursions as therapeutic but I do know they were a break from his same-ole-same-old routine. That era (the 1960s and 70s) was the beginning of a transition from simpler times to the hectic, stressful, over-scheduled lives we lead now. Funny how what passed for stress then might be called a vacation now. But there were times when his work was stressful and these drives would calm him down.

Nearly every American kid who grew up in that era is attached to cars. Another transition of the time was from mass transit to individualistic movement. My family had three drivers but only one car; we took the bus a lot. Now a family with three drivers would have three or even four cars.

The “Sunday drive” tradition instilled in me a love of driving for relaxation. My friends and I would roll down some back road, just to see where it went; just to cover distance and do something that wasn’t school or work. College was very stressful for me and I also remember cruising alone on Lakeshore Drive many times. As the name implies this four-lane curvy street hugs the shore of a lake, in this case Lake Pontchartrain, the 10th largest lake in the U.S. You can’t see the other side, so this body of water is more like a calm ocean. Most of the access is seawall rather than beach but it is still possible to stop and put your feet in the water while contemplating the vista view. It is very relaxing; very therapeutic.

For fourteen of the past twenty years I have grown to associate driving with traffic, road rage, potholes, gas-brake-gas-brake and a generally high degree of stress. Six years ago a stressful situation (helping my sister escape from Hurricane Katrina) re-introduced me to the potential relaxation of driving. I have taken several road trips since then and now look forward to those long stretches of driving. They are often therapeutic for me. Sometimes I take the Interstate highways, sometimes I take the manicured back roads like Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Outside of crowded cities, all have therapeutic qualities.



I was thinking about this yesterday because a friend of mine who grew up in a slightly later era also seeks vehicular therapy. She texted me about a clear-the-head drive she took along a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway near her home in North Carolina.

As I re-read what I wrote so far it occurred to me that my weekend will be filled with stressful, personal activities and maybe, just maybe, I should plan to take a short “therapeutic” drive somewhere. The predicted cool, crisp air might do me some good.