Who loves the Postman?

I DO!!

The goodies from Emirates Air arrived today (Monday Feb 28)! The umbrella is surprisingly cool, but the highlight is definitely the two iPod Shuffles!

I showed my pop how to set his up and reviewed playlist creation best practices – manual and “smart”.

I went through the same thing with mine and tested it out on a dog walk. So far mixed feelings about the “voice over” feature. I guess tech has to start somewhere and it can’t know the names of all my playlists, but having a computer say to me “playlist 1, playlist 2…” and so forth, was less than helpful. This is my first iPod that does not have a visual interface for data selection, and I imagine that this “voice control” is the first way that “works” that they came up with to help you have any navigation options at all. I will probably stick with one giant “running” playlist and leave it on shuffle.

Dog walk you say? I could not let that stand. I went for a dark and damp run about 9 pm. Sweats, light rain jacket, headband thingy and headlamp – and the new shuffle.

The thing is so tiny you forget it is there.  Once you get used to how to attach it to your clothes without mashing all the buttons, it is simple to use. Running hands-free was great and eliminated any unwanted cord movement problems as well. I really enjoyed this vs carrying my iPod classic. I got hit with a little Sabbath during my stretches, Pixies, back-to-back Ratt, RPG, and Nirvana for the cool-down.

I made it back into the neighborhood and a little further than yesterday. I did feel like i could easily make it to 2 miles+, but i was beginning to have some heat in my legs and i decided to hold back.  Hopefully this means that tomorrow i will feel as awesome as i felt today and be able to run again instead of being laid out from overreaching…

1.89 miles, pace 9’12”

The Pretty Lil' Devil

Who Loves The Sandman? Me, me!

Lil’ Agnes (the new thermarest) is really super. I had some minor hesitation when i had to buy this instead of simply replacing Big Agnes. Yesterday before sleep-time i had a brief email chat with my dear bud (and personal AT through-hiker) Jake. Jake was excited that i was done with Big A and into the thermarest.  How much more of an endorsement do you need than a vote of confidence from someone who walks most of the AT every summer? How about a second commendation from a professional caver?! Rene gave thermarest the big thumbs up and praised its endurance.

I not only felt great stretched out on it for some pre-sleep reading, i had fantastic dreams and woke up refreshed and excited.

One more piece of the puzzle may be the addition of one of these bad boys. This product is so simple, but what an awesome idea!

If you have a sleeping pad, or other inflatable gear, watch this demo!

More Running and Gadgets!

Despite a return to colder weather and loads of wind, i nabbed another run late this afternoon.

1.7 miles – 9’15” pace

I did slow down going up the hill, but i made it up and made it almost back into the neighborhood.

While running, it was my breath that felt taxed near the end.  My legs felt great.  As soon as i switched to walking, my breath was fine and my legs began to burn a bit.  But the cool-down walk and then stretch session calmed that down.

It is early to speculate, but i think that having a more dedicated and slightly more rigorous program is helping this time around. I must say that the music is definitely helping as well.

I do not expect that this will have an impact, but i did set some goals inside the nike+ online thingy where your numbers go.  I just set the same goals there that i have in my head, but we’ll see.

The big reveal – i want to run at least every other day – so 14 times in 4 weeks.  I want to be running a minimum of two miles – so 30 miles in 4 weeks.  I want to run better than 9 minute miles – so 4 miles under 9 minute mile pace in 4 weeks.

Them’s the goals for now.

Back to the tunes. Today also started out with RPG “Right On”.  This is the first track on the running playlist, so each run starts with it before the shuffle thingy kicks in.  At least i think that is how it works, today is only the second time i have ever used shuffle.  But i am ok with that.  I love all the RPG songs, and this is one they played back in my era also.

I had to skip a few tracks (too slow – need to edit list) and then “Like Suicide” kicked in. Not just a good song, lots of great memories.  I went to a show at American University in DC during the Superunknown tour around 94(?) with one of my good friends/love interests. Let’s just call her Marie.  I was desperately hoping for them to play “4th of July”, which they did not but they did play “like suicide”.  The “sad” songs always call to me.  They do not make me feel sad, depressed, or suicidal or anything like that.  They just resonate better with me.  I think it may be similar to the Metal effect for me.  People used to ask if playing loud angry metal made me extra aggressive.  Truthfully it has the exact opposite effect on me.  I left all that at the show and got filled with peace. Anyway – it was a great show and has many great memories attached to it.

Earlier in the day, my dad told me about an email from Emirates Air.  He had qualified for one of a few free flights or some really nice upgrades, but they all expire on Feb 28th. The stuff on Emirates is all business related and we are partners and my pop is a nice guy, so we looked at the options together.  Neither of us can use this before the 28th so we looked at the other ways to spend the miles.  The cash equivalency is always poor, but you can get stuff you want for “free”. In 7-10 days, 2 iPod shuffles will arrive. My pop wants his for the gym and i will love to clip mine on for the running.  Thanks Emirates!

Doin' the Shuffle

PS – i highly recommend that you go back and re-listen to Ratt!  Both Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy really stand the test of time!

2011 Legs!

I had a great run today.  1.59 miles.  9’28” pace.  I felt like i could have gone further, but i made it up the hill without slowing down too much and decided to quit while i was ahead. Hopefully this will leave me cramp free tomorrow and ready to run again.

It was sunny and pleasant, about 60 degrees and i ran in shorts and a T.  There were several other runners out there doing it and not a few nice looking ladies. Given that this is a little college town, with a high school almost on the campus, it would be wise to verify whether or not these gals could even drive – but i have always been a fan of nice scenery on a run.

I made a change for this running season – headphones! No i did not buy any more equipment, i just used my gear to add music to the mix and i think that helped me out.  I stayed mentally loose instead of focusing only on the run and the pain and the pace.

I used my good ole (new-ish) Dr Dre in-ears. I slapped on my winter ear warmer thingy and that kept the gear secure.  Which looked something like this:

Fashercise!

I made a “running” playlist, loaded that onto the old 120 GB iPod classic and set out with that just in my hand.  About half a block in, i slipped the iPod down my shirt, and that worked great for cord management.  I had no cord or road or footstep noise. I also slapped on the super light Ironman sunglasses i got before Mexico. My Nike+ gear still works fine.

The whole package (but i only ran with one iPod)

Back to the mentality – I enjoyed the ‘now’ of the run and was not trying to escape the experience.  But having something else to help give my thoughts a nudge was nice.  I followed thoughts brought on by the changing tunes.  I am an album guy, but i did something i have never done before and would not ever do under other circumstances – i used “shuffle”.

So far, the “Running” playlist has albums by:

RPG – Ratt – Iron Maiden – Wolfmother (*Note – listen to “Dimension”) – the only two White Stripes tunes i like – T Rex – The Stooges – Soundgarden – Pixies – Nirvana – and Metallica

It kicked off with RPG “Right On”, then The Stooges “Gimme Danger”, into Nirvana’s “Nevermind”.  I had a lot of thoughts of Richmond and being on the road with RPG through the first two tracks and then – with just the first notes of Nevermind, into my head pops, “Because i am crippled and i wanna listen to Nirvana!” Which was interesting since i just re-loaded the first four seasons of Friday Night Lights onto my computer to begin a re-watch in preparation for April 15th, the NBC premiere date for the final season.

Good times!

*Note – we stay spoiler free over here at The Bone of Contention so keep your direct tv season 5 secrets to yourself – for now 😉

Time Out for – Materialism and Sounds!

Breaking tradition by not burying the lead – I splurged and bought the Dr. Dre Beats Tour in-ear headphones and I am quite pleased.

I believe I have mentioned that I tend to live in headphones while in the US.  For about 15 years I bought $20 Koss over the ear studio style cans and loved them.  The sound was decent, they were comfortable, they had a nice long cord with in-line volume control, and when I eventually broke them (about once or twice a year), they were not too expensive to replace.

This became problematic once I got the iPhone.  I did not want to have to carry multiple devices, or multiple headphones (and I cannot hold a phone to my face – I just can’t do it), so I started trying out in-ear phones with in-line mic and controls.  I have no idea if the standard Apple buds sound good or not because they will not stay in my ears for more than 3 seconds.  I got some Skull Candy Full Metal Jackets (FMJ) and I loved them.  They were super comfortable.  The braided cord inspired confidence in terms of longevity and lack of tangles.  The sound was very good as well – over a wide range of musical styles.  I let my dad try them and he also really liked them.

I gave him my pair before he left for a business trip and I got a new pair.  Without doing anything strange or pulling on the cord – one of the speakers was dead inside of 4 days.  When my dad got back from his trip, one of his speakers was dead also.  We got them both replaced and had the same problem inside of a week.  I then tried the 50/50s and got the Smokin’ Buds for my dad.  The 50/50s lasted about 3 weeks before one speaker went dead.  Just like the FMJs, the fit was nice and the sound was good, but they broke.

My dad’s Smokin’ Buds lasted about 5 weeks, and they were much less comfortable than the others.  They also did not sound as good.

I found a pair of Body Glove buds that sounded decent and were in between Smokin Buds and FMJs in terms of comfort – but the cord is weird.  It is much shorter on one side than the other which causes a lot of strange tension and pulling.

Then I found some really decent Sony’s.  Good comfort, decent price (about 30 bucks), reasonable sound.  I gave the Body Gloves to my dad.

I have been through 3 sets of the Sony’s – one I gave to my dad (he lost the Body Gloves), one broke when I stepped on them, and one I still have as a back-up set.

I decided to try something else and jump up a quality class because while the Sony’s are decent – they do not seem designed to handle a wide range of music. They have no low-end at all.  I am not a bass-a-holic, though I do listen to The Rap Music. But you do not have to listen to rap to both need low-end and miss it when it is absent.  I noticed the problem with the Sony’s while in Mexico listening to some of my favorite Cuban music.  Some of the low-end is bass and bass style traditional stringed instruments, and some is simply deep tones from hand-drums.  Similar problems arose listening to ‘Kind of Blue’, some of my Indian chant/mantra tunes, and even Gymnopedies 1-3.  (This is not the version I have but the closest I could find in terms of feel and tempo – though the tone is not as rich as the recording I use.)  On the lowest volume setting possible, the low tones were starting to make the speakers rattle in that “we will die if you keep this up” kinda way.  (I leave my EQ flat.)

After reading tons of reviews, and some in-store talks, I decided to give Dre a shot, partially because I really love the sound and comfort of the Beats Studio Cans.  (They are cheaper at apple – and to me the sound and comfort kicked the crap out of the V-Moda Crossfades – and I ain’t tryin’ no mo Skull Candy.)  I also still like Monster cables and most of my problems have involved crappy cables.  I was concerned about the negative side of the reviews of the Tours that reference the longer style of the buds and difficulty many people have with the fit and comfort.  But Apple gives you 2 weeks to return no questions asked, so I decided to check it out.

* The new Bose in-ears get high marks from everyone on sound and comfort.  I love Bose, but I decided not to try those because they are not “noise isolating”.  Part of the point of all of this for me is to build my own little cone of mobile privacy and silence.  So models that advertise that you can still hear your surroundings are not for me.*

I loved the sound right away.  I started with the standard medium tips.  I have tried every tip for every ear bud I have purchased and it is always the middle one that works best for me.  On the second day, I tried the rest of the tips, finally trying the smallest set.

The smallest set is the answer for me.  Reading the manual and learning the little trick to how to properly seat these in your ears to get a good seal also helped quite a lot.  (Online download version – despite all the crap in the case and a partial manual, the full instructions on how to put these beasts in your ears were not included.)

On about the 4th day, when I had the buds out of my ears, my ears were a little itchy.  I was conflicted because I was really enjoying the phones and they were comfortable while on, just uncomfortable when not on – oddly enough.  Since I had 2 weeks, I decided to stick with it, and try the Bose if that weird feeling did not go away.  The manual does say that there is a break-in period and that seems to be true.

After about 6 days, my ears felt normal and great with the buds in or out, and they sound even better now than they did before.

I have been trying to both be careful and use them normally.  So far, no problems.  I wear them on my dog walks through the streets and in the woods.  There is no ‘cord noise’ as you move.  Because of the way they make a seal over your ear canal, I can sorta hear/feel my footsteps in my head.  That has lessened over time as well.  I don’t know if it is getting better, or if I am getting used to it and just filtering it out.

Because of how they do fit in your ear, and the bud build design, they are definitely not for everyone, but if you need new ear buds with iPhone compatibility and in-line mic that treat your music right, and you are ready to drop some coin, and you can get them from a place with an ironclad trial period, check these out!

Rockin' the Tour Beats

* They may not work with all iPhone cases.  I am an Otter Box guy, and they do work with the Otter Box – provisionally.  Because of the design of the plug, you would only be able to have the cord extending out towards the back of the phone.  This may not mesh with how you use the phone clip and/or slip it into your pocket, bag, etc.  The flap that plugs the audio input hole on my Otter Box broke off many months ago so I have the option to have the cord extend to the front of the phone – which happens to mesh perfectly with how I use the clip and fit the phone in my pocket.  You would not be able to turn the cord to the side left or right with an Otter Box.  If you roll without a case, or use a much less substantial case, this may not impact your situation.  Also – I am on the iPhone 3GS – I don’t know how this would play out with an iPhone 4.

Yesterdays (in keeping with the recent Billie Holiday theme)

The past few days have been pretty weird.  There is a cloud of multi-flavored nostalgia following me around – sometimes it rains good memories, sometimes bad feelings, and not a few lightning storms of unresolved issues.

I sent two emails to family members to follow-up on some thanksgiving conversations.  One dealt with web design and made me think about my guys in India and my success and failures there.  Our corporate websites and domain names expired quite recently and were not renewed.  I have not really done much with any of those companies in two years, and the websites were not very good – they served more as examples of why I chose to leave than as examples to steer international customers to our shop – but it is still sad to see them go.  I do still talk with my partner Ram regularly and we still talk about and share business ideas, and I do still plan to start more companies outside the US, so you never know what may happen in the future.  The patient was on the table for a long time before anyone had the guts to call it, but the “death” of Red Bananas is still sad.

Me and RamKamal - family celebration at an employee's house
Me, Vijayraj, Ramkaml, and Govind - the birth of Red Bananas

I played some harmonica during thanksgiving which led to a discussion that revealed that a few folks did not know I played harmonica in a metal band for a few years.  So, I wrote a brief thing on being in a metal band and gave a link to the band’s MySpace page which has a few sample tracks, one of which has me playing harp. I had to find a very brief way to mention in the mail to my cousin that this MySpace site does not have my name anywhere.  Truthfully, I am not really sure why that is.  We had a very nice run together.  Things got a little tense between two of us towards the end of my run in the band, some of it musical/band related – some of it personal, but I don’t get it.  So, it just brought up memories of bad times a little more than good times trying to figure out something that I don’t think I ever could figure out.  I try to focus more on the good memories; touring, performing, bathing in creeks, cooking food in parking lots on camp-stoves, feeding XstraightXedgeX kids, coining the catchphrase we put on our business cards “…the straight edge metal band that drinks”, performing on the radio live, playing CBGB, getting to open for Sliang Laos!, and all the rest of the great shows and good times.

I have been thinking about a few cyber-reconnects with folks from the past recently.  Some are comical and fun and some can be confusing.  I have two cyber friends that one could qualify as long lost loves {the loved from afar, love your best friend, never really worked out kinda loves – not the other kind(s)}.  Sometimes it is a little tempting to drop the “so what the hell happened” bomb, but that is actually way more fun to think about (which is not a lot of fun) than it would be to do.  I have been on the other side of some somewhat similar coins, and have actually put some time into thinking how I might answer such a question as well as wondering if I should prepare and freely offer up this info, and the answers just are not fulfilling for the “injured” party.   What can anyone say: I just did not love you, I did not love you the way you loved me, I was a stupid kid and wanted some hot semi-random sex more than poetry and flowers, i did not know you cared, i did not know i was that important to you, your intensity scared me, I did not realize it was such a big deal for you, I know you think you loved me but you did not even know me, I was a big fat faker and did not really know who I was, you did not know who you were, seriously – how could you have loved me, you are great and I was in a terrible place, this is great but i learned i do not want it – take a few minutes and you can continue to fill in this list, none of the answers, even the deeply true ones, provide comfort or itch that place inside you that still needs scratching.

One of these lost loves was with a lady who did have some real problems and seems to be doing very well today.  It makes me really happy to see that, and it makes me want to say that, but I don’t have confidence that I can do it without in the end (or the middle, or near the beginning) turning it around and making it about me – or the me I was then, which by default, makes me try to make her into the her she was then, and that is (in simplistic terms) the person in the time that was having the troubles that I am supposedly so glad that they have overcome?!  And it all gets twisted and fracked up pretty quick.  So, I step away from the keyboard and just be happy from afar.

In part I bring up the “love stuff” because I did get that call recently – the “what in the hey-heck-ho-de-do happened” call and I am not entirely sure how to respond.  This kind of area is one of the only ones in which I have issues wrestling with “the truth”.  In almost every circumstance, I do believe that the truth is the best policy, if for no other reason than it gives you less stuff to remember.  But there is some distinction between leaving things out and lying, and I never know how to deal with this.  When I look back, it seems that all of my “high-minded” attempts to save someone’s feelings by hiding some of the truth did not work out too well.  But this is a different kind of thing.  I am not so much troubled by trying to obfuscate real issues to ease the blow, I am struggling to leave out stuff that is probably not useful or relevant but just hurtful (though entirely true) that I am tempted to say out of my hurt and anger.

And, I have not been in this situation for some time.  I have only really dated two people since about 2000 – one in 2006 for a few months, and one for about a year from 09-10.  There was also one brief fling in the early aughts, and one false start in a long line of false starts with a recurring love interest from high school in 04, and what could have been a complicated sticky international potentially un-requited love mash-up in 05, but – for once – I kept my mouth shut, silently loved from afar, and enjoyed the friendship.

All of these things are fogging up my brain and I am trying to figure out how to vacuum up the thoughts, send them to the right place and make room to get back to work at looking for work.  The situation is getting desperate now as I continue to run out of money and lose sanity living with my folks.  I am still on my most recently developed timetable and things can still fall in line if I manage to hold down my end and put forth appropriate effort, but like sands through the hourglass, these are the times that try men’s souls – or however that goes…

Digital Billie

My sister and my brother-in-law gave me an iTunes gift card!  I downloaded “Lady in Autumn“!  My ears are in a happy coma!

Hope you all had a nice holiday!

Lucas - just before leaving PA
Happy and Lucas

Billie Holiday

I have been saving this one for a little while.  About two weeks ago I had to go to the storage unit to look through my stuff in order to review my library to see what remains of my sci-fi section.  (I have always maintained a library but I tend to give a lot of books away.)  For personal and professional reasons I want to re-read the writings in Asimov’s Foundation Universe and the Dune series.  I did have all of the Asimov at one point but could only find the Foundation series minus book one – no Robot books.  I did find my special copy of Foundation and Earth.  It is thankfully back in print now, though it was out of print for years.  I picked up mine from my room in a hotel made famous by a former president.  They had not one, but three hardback copies on one of the four bookcases in the room. I liberated two and gave them both good homes.  I remember having four Dune books but I cannot remember them all.  I love the world of Dune and I did enjoy the first two or three books but I remember having trouble maintaining interest during God Emperor of Dune

I bought another copy of Foundation and began the re-read.  I started Foundation’s Edge last night.  I am really enjoying re-visiting this world.  Even though I know and remember and anticipate the major plot shifts, it is still a great ride.  My familiarity with the books makes the professional side of the re-read a bit easier.  I am paying attention to methods of character development, landscape descriptions, and descriptions of space travel, as well as keeping an open ear to how the broad spans of time are used, layered, and referenced.  The Dune re-read will have a similar focus.

While digging through paper bags, boxes, and suitcases full of books – I did come across a few other interesting items.  The find that beat all other finds probably ever in the history of my life – three cassette tapes.  I found more than three, but these three are special and magical.  This is really about one tape, the first tape, my first real exposure to Billie Holiday.

I cannot say for sure but I believe it was 1989 and i was 13 or 14.  I took German in high school and despite attending a gigantic school, language classes tended have smaller class sizes.  There were two German teachers and most people found one they liked and stuck with it.  I was a Frau Fredette (sp?) man and I had the same teacher and the same classmates for three years running.  One of my classmates who became one of my buddies was Jen.

I had just started my several year affair with the Beat Writers and was at that time still reading and studying On the Road.  Jen and I talked about this a little bit.  I don’t remember exactly how it came up, if it was me or her that brought it up, but we talked about the scene where Sal Paradise was driving away from his recent Mexican lover without any real goodbye or explanation and he is fantasizing about Lover Man and wishing that he could make someone feel like that someday.  Not necessarily make them feel that sadness, but feel that depth and intensity that would be the precursors for such a level of sadness.  It came up that I did not know this song, nor was I really familiar with Billie Holliday.

Some short period of time later, Jen brought me a mix tape.  Since I have it in my hand, allow me to quote the spine, “Billie Holliday – Live Recordings (Mostly)”.  This is an amazing collection of recordings.  Not only are they mostly live, they were taped from a collection of vinyl records (!) many of which were rare.  These are very raw and full of emotion (duh) but I say that to contrast to the bulk of the studio recordings that just don’t reach the same emotional level.  This set of live recordings has (to me) a really depressing (but beautiful) current.

I was instantly in love.  I would have fallen in love with Billie no matter what, no mater what I heard first, or how old I was or what I was reading.  But, I was 14 years old, in love with Kerouac, in the midst of discovering how to live the theory of excess in all things – that I of course thought I invented.  (Like most arrogant kids who read Blake, and love the Proverbs of Hell, I only had the limited wisdom to understand one interpretation of “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”.)  Over the next few months and years as I added Miller into the mix, I had predictable habits.

But the tape, I loved this tape.  I listened to it driving alone or with others.  I listened to it in the rain.  I listened to it while i read Important Books and had Big Thoughts.  I listened to it while I drank wine on the roof.  I also listened to it with many, many girls.  Probably the trappings had little to do with it for anyone else, but the basement, the fire in the fireplace, and the Billie on the high fi – quite a bit of magic happened.

The tape I found is not the original tape I was given.  It is at least a second generation tape of that tape – maybe further down the train.  It is still in good shape, and luckily i kept the original case and liner notes. Compared to the polished studio stuff, the degradation of the tape itself or issues brought on my multiple dubbings only add another layer of beautiful ambience to the existing hisses and pops of the vinyl from which it was taken.

I mentioned three tapes.  The other two are also Billie Holiday and they too fill me with joy.  My parents found these for me and what a happy accident this turned out to be.  They bought me the two cassette collection “lady in autumn: the best of the verve years” and this is definitely my favorite collection of Billie’s studio recordings.  I have owned others and heard others, but I got rid of them all because they did not capture what I love about Billie.  These verve recordings have a lot of live material and while they do have some velvety smooth studio cuts – they maintain the deep despair that I love in her tone and delivery.  I have not taken the plunge yet, but I did finally find this exact set of verve recordings available for download on iTunes (I had never found the cds before) – and it is not polished, it is just the same recordings in a different format and I could not be more grateful that they left them alone.

I used to listen to the verve tapes on my walkman riding a bicycle on the macadam paths through the farms outside Stuttgart with a little wine and/or beer flowing in the veins and thoughts of loves past, loves lost, and loves yet to be.

When I put a few extra coins together I must buy that verve download, but more importantly, I must find an audiophile to turn my original mix tape into digital files.  Now that I found it again, it must be preserved!  If you will excuse me, i am going to set something on fire, drink wine from the bottle and find some ladies…just as long as there is a tape player nearby.

*** Written after sleep – apparently someone at NPR was up late thinking about Billie also.  I found this today.

I was just a little bit older than this guy
But not as old as this guy
Jen has the shortish blond hair and glasses
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