Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ahh, Depression, My Old Friend, Welcome Back

My depression is probably not the same as clinical depression.  I have some of the symptoms, I’m sure, but I am not in therapy (although it probably would help) and I’m not on any drugs.  My life is generally awesome, I am generally happier than I’ve been in years, yet there are days like today during which I feel depressed.  My idealistic view of the world collides with disappointing reality and I fall into an emotional slump.

I encounter this scenario a few times a year.  I hike through the valley for the better part of a day, then return to the mountain top.
Sometimes this feeling occurs as the sum of several small factors that on their own merits would not bother me, but when combined, lead to depression.  Unexplained health issues + unfair divorce-related issues + a cluttered apartment = today’s depression.

Simple, right?
The solution? I’m getting more medical tests this week that might lead to explanations.  I’m using my usual positive attitude to deal with the divorce situation, including emails to the ex.  I started to straighten out my apartment.  I feel better tonight than I did through most of the day.  A good night’s sleep will help too.

The clash between my idealism and my reality are regularly a source of depression for me.  I am an idealist, I believe things should be a certain, positive way.  Reality dictates that this will not always happen. 
Like I said, I’ll feel fine after a good night’s sleep.  Just wanted to write about this.  It helps me get through it.  Thanks for visiting.  Good night.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fundamental Irony

A Montana State Representative recently introduced a bill that would change the state’s indecent exposure laws to ban yoga pants in public, among other things.  The law would regulate various types of clothing, mostly women’s clothing, but would also ban men from showing their nipples … in other words, men would have to wear t-shirts at the pool.  This proposed law would, as I understand it, give police the power to arrest women and men for violating certain clothing regulations, and not just for nudity or skimpy thong type clothing.  People who violate the law would be subject to fines of up to $10,000 and life imprisonment after a third offense.  Wow!!  Sounds a little like the Middle Eastern laws we regularly ridicule.  I thought Republicans stood for less government interference in our personal lives.  This particular Republican seems to want his state to mimic some Islamic countries.  Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

 Another irony that bothers the hell out of me … gun-toting bible thumpers.  A relative of a close friend recently posted something on Facebook that basically said we should start bombing people because of the ISIS killing of an American aid worker last week.  The wording went something like “start bombing and let Allah sort it out.”  I do believe ISIS needs to pay dearly for killing the American.  But exactly WHO should we be bombing?  The implication in that Facebook comment is we should bomb everybody in the Middle East, all Muslims.  The person who wrote that comment is a devout Christian who wears t-shirts bearing Bible verses.  Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?  I have chosen, for the moment, to not comment on the comments in person, but that is only because the commenter is in my social circle.  I hope I am never drawn into a conversation with her about this topic.  People are entitled to their opinions in this country, but I am entitled to vehemently disagree and to point out the irony and inconsistency. 
Do you remember all the new coverage of then President Clinton’s affair back in the 1990s?  There was such moral outrage.  One of the most outspoken people ridiculing Clinton then was Congressman Newt Gingrich.  Years later we learn that Gingrich was having an affair at the very same time.  Irony?

There are some fundamental beliefs about morality and right and wrong that transcend formal religious structures.  We are all taught it is wrong to kill, for example.  And many religious traditions claim that their belief is the only correct one.  If all religions claim to be the ‘only’ one, then which one truly is the only one?  Whose morality is the right morality?  Whose laws and beliefs supersede other’s laws and beliefs?

I would not be surprised of that Montana congressman has something to hide.  I would urge the ‘bomb them’ acquaintance to rethink that statement through a conversation with her minister.  And I guess this post indicates that I am sometimes judgmental about judgmental people.  Another fundamental irony?

Friday, February 13, 2015

No, I Didn't

Oh well, I did not win Power Ball.  You didn't either?  The odds were against us anyway.  In fact, here are five things that are more likely to happen than winning Power Ball ...

Dying from being struck by lightning
Being attacked by a shark
Becoming President of the United States
Being crushed and killed by a vending machine
Hitting a hole-in-one on two consecutive, par-3 holes

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I’ve Got Two Words For You

Two words … Power Ball.
The 3rd largest Power Ball jackpot amount is on the line in tonight’s drawing … an estimated $500 million.  The cash lump sum payout for a single winner is around $337 million.  The odds of winning are 175 million to 1, but who’s counting?

Five hundred million dollars.
Three hundred thirty seven million dollars.

Nice numbers, right?  And the ticket is only TWO dollars.
Two questions:  Did you buy a ticket today?  What would you do if you won the jackpot?

My answers … Yes, I bought a ticket.  Actually, I bought two tickets, one for me and one for a friend.
What would I do?  I’ve actually thought about this a lot, even though the odds are against winning.  As soon as the check cleared, I’d pay down all of my debt, all of my sister’s debt and all the debt of my two closest friends.  I’d contribute money to many of my favorite charities.  Then I’d buy a car … I know, everybody says that.  Ultimately I’d buy a few properties in places I enjoy visiting, but I might stay in my current apartment development for my primary residence.  I would NOT quit my job, at least not soon.  And I’d look into starting a charitable foundation.

What would you do?  Think about it.  The drawing is only a few hours away.

Monday, February 9, 2015


A question for boomers: Have you kept up with technology?  If you’re reading this, you’ve heard of the internet.  Smirk.  Are you on Facebook?  Twitter?  Instagram?  Snapchat?  How do you hear your music?  Movies?  Where do you get your news?

Adjusting to technology is a daily thing for me because I edit and produce audio for a living.  By my observation, I am ahead of the curve in boomer circles but barely keeping up when compared to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials.  How about you?

This topic hit me as I was making a playlist on iTunes.  This particular 12-song list includes everything from Frankie Valli to Blake Shelton to Bruno Mars, a very small representation of my diverse music tastes.  What hit me, however, are the adjustments I’ve made in how I hear recorded music.  Thanks to my sister, who is even more of a pack rat than I am, I still own the very first record I ever had.  It’s a kid song on red vinyl and if I had a 50-year old turntable with the 78 rpm speed option, I could play it.  I don’t. 

Vinyl was the only form of recorded music in my youth and the most popular format was the 45 rpm single, that seven inch diameter record with the large hole in it, requiring an adapter to play it on a typical turntables of the era that could play that speed and 33 1/3.  If you know what those numbers mean, you’re probably a boomer or a history major; if you don’t, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

During my college years and at the beginning of my 40-year radio career, I amassed a vinyl record collection numbering several hundred albums and a few hundred 45s.  The heavy duty shelves on which these gems were displayed covered an entire wall of the living room of every place I lived.  I moved many times, which meant transporting this collection was more challenging than moving my furniture.  At some point I began buying music on cassettes, mostly skipping the 8-track years.  Switching to cassettes resulted in re-buying many albums and the corresponding technology on which to play them, but the portability was worth it.  And I kept the albums and turntables.
Then came CDs, those wonderful, allegedly indestructible discs with perfect sound.  No more pops and scratches, no more wearing out albums, no tangled tape.  Of course, that meant buying some albums for the third time, or 4th or 5th in the case of those I wore out, like Carol King’s “Tapestry,” the Fleetwood Mac album and the Rolling Stones Greatest Hits.  My CD collection grew to more than 500.

Fast forward to 2015.  Do you know the derivation of the term ‘fast forward’?  Just wondering.  My vinyl collection went from 600 or more in the late 70s to 10 today, my cassette collection shrunk from 200 to 0 and my CD collection is probably down to 200.  But I still have plenty of music.  And the music I listen to the most fits in my pocket!  How’s that for an adjustment?  My iTunes library currently contains 1337 songs.  They are all on my phone and also on the laptop computer I’m using to write this post.
If the average album contains twelve songs, a 500-CD library has about 6000 songs.  The average hit album of most popular genres spawns two or three ‘good’ songs and many impulsively purchases albums end up with one good song that you tire of listening to within a few months.  Hence the trend back to the ‘single’.  I think most music bought online these days is done one song at a time.  “Uptown Funk” is this month’s most popular pop song; can you name another song on that album?  All of this means that the 1337 songs on my phone are nearly all the songs I want from my 200 CDs anyway.  Time to ditch those too.  All but 150 of the 1337 songs were imported from those CDs.  By the way, I think I regularly listen to fewer than 250 of those songs, but sometimes I really am in the mood for Mozart … or Van Halen… and those songs are there when I want them, without an exhaustive search for a CD.

I recently reconnected with an old high school friend, asking him for an update on retired life.  In my email correspondence I also asked him if he was on Facebook and if he was aware of the iHeart Radio or Pandora apps.  He said he heard of al that but didn’t have any interest in any of it and the only reason he even has a cell phone (an old flip phone, by the way) is so his wife wouldn’t worry about him when he was out on long bicycle rides.  His adjustment to technology is to stay away from most of it.  I will not criticize his choices because simplifying life can be a very positive was to age.  I could learn something from that.  I’m glad he has email, otherwise we’d never be in touch; I don’t remember the last time I wrote and mailed a letter.  Do you?
Facebook has been a remarkable method of finding old friends and relatives and I am grateful for that aspect of it.  I have Twitter and Instagram accounts so I know what my coworkers are talking about, but they are not especially useful to me.  I love the potential of technology but I am not compelled to have the latest and greatest.  My iPhone 4 is fine for now and I can’t quite justify spending hundreds of dollars on a tablet.  Yet.  And what the hell was wrong with Windows 7?  This laptop has 8.1, which has numerous features I don’t like or use; and it seems they were hell bent on fixing problems that didn’t exist.

I have adjusted to technology just fine.  It is the speed and sometimes uselessness of ‘technological advances’ I am having trouble adjusting to.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Boomer Blues Man and the Learning Curve

I’ve been taking guitar lessons for just over a year.  I still don’t play very well and I struggle to find time to practice, but I enjoy it and I am starting to make progress.  I have learned some things about music and about myself.

One thing I already knew before beginning this musical journey is that older people learn differently than younger people.  We process things in a different way.  Our brains run a little slower, of course, but I think we also learn in smaller bits of information at a time and we often over think things.  Or maybe that last part is just me.
There are many components to learning guitar, especially if you want to read music as well as play it: where individual notes are on the instrument, where they are on the sheet music, what each is called, how to play chords, what each of those is called, tempo, technique, etc.  My brain can absorb a couple of those things at a time, but not all.  I think that is partly due to aging.  The second-guessing and over thinking part results in being afraid to make a mistake; I know what the song is supposed to sound like and I cringe when I play a wrong note.

Mistakes are how we learn, however.  Given that, I should be a musical genius by now. 
My first guitar teacher last year is around 40 years old and my current one is under 30.  Both are talented and patient.  The first one was more academic in his approach and that helped me start to relearn reading music (I played music in high school).  But I thought I was progressing slowly, although it was mostly because my brain struggles to process all of those things at one time.  That teacher’s schedule changed and I was briefly concerned that my new guy’s youth would be a problem; but I am actually having more fun with him, in part because I’m spending more time learning songs and technique.  Both showed me some interesting scales and chord progressions.  Both of them have suggested methods for me to get more comfortable with guitar and both taught me ways to play more and think less.  Just play!  There is time to ‘get it right’.  Have fun with it.

My favorite music is blues and I have discovered that the rock music I loved in my youth was actually blues.  Some of those Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton songs are famous blues standards and many others written by those artists are rooted in traditional blues.  I’ve also been a Stevie Ray Vaughn fan since my days living in Dallas in the 1980s, when I actually saw him play in a bar there.  So far this year I’ve been learning Crossfire (a Stevie song) and Spoonful (a late-60s Clapton song that is actually a Willie Dixon song from the early 60s based on a Charlie Patton song from the 1920s.).  Some new chords and blues scales I learned today can also be found in music by Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix.
And today I played an electric guitar for the first time in my life.  My guitar is an acoustic but my teacher has a nice Fender Stratocaster electric.  We switched instruments for a few minutes.  OMG!  Electric guitar is much more suitable for blues.  I might just have to get one.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to carve out more practice time and work hard to learn the music part and the fun part.  And I seem to play better when wearing a hat.

Here are a couple of songs I’d like to learn:

“Crossfire” – Stevie Ray Vaughn

“Stormy Monday” - Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana and Barbara Morrison from "Carlos Santana presents Blues at Montreux 2004” (I’ll never be able to play it like this, but it’s an incredible version of my favorite blues song)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

How Do They Know or Do They?

When an elderly person dies, do they know it's coming?  I don’t mean that they are old and know they will die some day; I mean do they sense the end within a few weeks or hours before it happens?

Two relatives of a close friend have died within the past two months.  One of them, a 96-year old woman, was in frail physical health but incredible mental health.  She was smart, aware and communicative right up till 15 minutes before taking her last breath.  Of course she knew she would die one day, but she seemed to be wrapping up her life during her last few days.  My friend called her to say she’d be over to visit one afternoon and the woman told her she had really done plenty and she should take time for herself that evening.  The woman died the next day.  It was as if she knew the end was about to happen and wanted my friend to remember her the way she had last seen her a few days earlier.
One month later, this friend’s ex-husband sounded very sick during a phone conversation.  The friend urged him to call the doctor but he said he was feeling better and refused to make the call.  He was found dead in his kitchen the next day.  Did he know the end was coming?  Had he lost the will to live and decided to not take any action that could keep him alive?

I’ve been wondering this kind of stuff ever since my dad died a decade ago.  I watched him take his last breath.  Parkinson’s disease had robbed him of mobility and eventually communication.  He was unable to talk during his last week and it was difficult to tell if he realized what was going on around him.  My sister, mother and I were in his nursing home room when he passed away.  It was as if he saw we were all there, he knew we were all in good hands and he decided ‘OK, I’m done’.
Do they know?  I think in some cosmic way, they probably do know.  Some would say God tells them.  I am a bit skeptical about that, but maybe it’s true.  Or maybe the evidence is so obvious at times that a dying person would naturally come to the realization that the end is here.  

I guess I won’t really know till that time comes for me.  My own strong premonition is that I will live to be 100 and will die a few days after that birthday party.  If I’m still writing this blog then, I’ll let you know.