Sunday, September 14, 2014
You knew that sooner or later this day would come. Over nine months of radio silence is over, as not unlike Mr. Ed, I have something to say. Today's blog-worthy topic is workout music. (Yes, those of you who remember me from the olden days when Sparky was but a toddler, know that workout music was an oft-visited blog topic. And for those of you who only wish to read about successes and failures of the eternal Battle of the Bulge, skip, move on, complain to Sparky, delete me as a Spark Friend already for crying out loud.
For the rest of you, fasten your seat belts, for here goes nine months of pent-up blogginess:
Shamed by Thing Two who accuses me of being anti-technological and thus aging rapidly before his very eyes, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of 21st century digital music. But first, some historical perspective is on order:
In high school I was the guy with the most records (albums and 45s) and a fast-growing collection of custom mix-tapes. In college I was the guy with the biggest speakers in the dorm windows and the electronic muscle to pump my (stuck in the late 70s to early 80s) musical taste into the quad. Mix tapes were a specialty and a road trip necessity; I was the only person I knew with two ultra-expensive cassette decks, for their (relatively effortless at the time) preparation.
At summer camp I was the DJ (so to speak) for Saturday night dances, more often than not. My car stereo similarly was a source of (irrational) pride and expenditure. When Elvis Costello sang "Radio, Radio", he was targeting me.
The radio was my best friend, and often the only constant in my life that regularly warped out of orbit, from high school, to college, to graduate school with various far-flung summer experiences between.
Video came along to kill the radio star. I eschewed MTV (other than Martha Quinn); I liked the music more before I knew what the artists looked like.
Times changed again, and (after missing the Kazaa and Napster revolution entirely because of priorities on a career, dating, marriage, and fatherhood) ultimately I found my way to subscription music downloaded from the internet.
I was an early adopter of Yahoo Music, later purchased by Rhapsody and its go-anywhere music, played on special (if really poorly engineered) mp3 players that could handle this weird take on limited digital rights music. Again I was on the vanguard, or so I thought.
Around then I also became an early Pandora user (way before everyone and his brother heard of it), and still have close to 100 personally-planned stations there, all the while my musical tastes evolved but at a much slower pace than the technology.
These days the large speakers no longer are in the windows, and the wattage of my receiver has given way to more sophisticated devices. Music is more of a personal experience and not so much a communal one.
I relish my headphones for the gym, and my waterproof mp3 player for the pool. The music is for me and less for everyone else within earshot. They have their music and their incorrect tastes in songs and artists. Live and let live; I'm not going to change them and have given up trying.
For the moment, my amazing new headphones (light weight, washable, gym-worthy and amazingly tuneful) still are connected to my Rhapsody DRM-compliant mp3 player when walking or working out. However, my Smartphone is fast being discovered as an entertainment device, already being relied on to deliver me Orioles games on the radio anywhere.
Now a new music technology is here for my Smartphone, beckoning with its power and simplicity to abandon all what has come before. It's called Spotify and its revolutionizing all that came before, yet again. At least this time I'm not quite the very last person to have heard of it or used it.
I downloaded the Spotify app and I see its power, simplicity and to put it bluntly, its inevitability. If only I was not so invested in other, aging technologies and platforms.
I have not brought myself to cough up the $10 a month for a fully-enabled, ad-free Spotify subscription, but I suppose that too is inevitable.
PS - For anyone who elects to be snarky about a broken New Year's Resolution here in mid September, my Spark Friends list is in front of me, and my hair-trigger finger is on the delete key. We don't want things to come to that, do we?
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
You knew this day was coming,. It is here. And you will be just fine.
The ladies who sit in the front row of the Caravan - I call them collectively the Sisterhood - and they know full well who they are - worry about me. They think I need to blog for my psychological well being, and to stop cold turkey will work about as well as stopping cold turkey does with anything else. I tell them not to worry and that I am fine. They do not believe me.
Those of you with whom I have been connected for a year or more, sit in the middle row of the Caravan. You have witnessed the rise - and fall - of my Sparky popularity. Just like the pretty girl who achieved the pinnacle of her life, socially, in Junior High School, or like the grand finale on the Fourth of July, a brilliant display and then nothingness, all too soon. After the fireworks on the 4th, you sit in traffic and ultimately get home with your sunburn intact. Well, I still have my belly, ill-deserved Sparky popularity or not.
For those of you with whom I connected more recently, there was room in the back row of the Caravan for you. There was a time before me and there will be an even more pleasant time in the future. What will you do with the time recovered from having been wasted reading and commenting on my blogs? Track food more carefully? Another lap around the gym? You will be fine.
It is possible that one or more of you still may inspire me to blog on rare occasion. Solstices, equinoxes, the loss of 10 pounds, constitutional conventions, Orioles World Series appearances - something now-and-then like that. Nothing like the pace it has been. I need my time back, and I need my Sparky energy to focus on the humdrum of daily tracking and even doing a better job of interacting in a more meaningful way with you.
My 2014 Sparky resolutions (other than not to blog):
1. Lose 1.5 lbs a week, all year long.
2. Track everything. Put Sparky back in detailed quantitative control. WATERMELLEN and many others of you are right - you can't out-exercise a poor diet.
3. Drink the water. A lot of it. No, more than that. No, even more than that much. Yes, I will Spark from inside the bathroom, a lot.
4. Use the Sparky Activity Tracker. It should arrive any day.
5. Use the space limited by status updates to opine on Sparky things I wish to share. Like Twitter, it forces one to be concise.
My parting thought is this: We are are headed down the weight loss escalator together. Some of us got on it sooner, and some got on it later. Some stand on the escalator, and some march down the steps with decided purpose for awhile. Some of us even reverse course and endeavor to walk back up, involuntarily or otherwise. A growing number get to the bottom, and may or may not stay there. Some get off on an intermediate landing for awhile, voluntarily or otherwise.
However, we're all on the escalator. We're in this together. Blogging, or otherwise. Think about Aretha Franklin in her iconic song Think: "... You need me... I need you..." All of us. Together. Strength and safety in numbers. I'm still here; i assure you I'm going no place. Talk to me and I will respond appropriately. Meanwhile, thanks for reading the blogs and Happy New Year one and all.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
As I close my failed experiment with blogging here (yes, ECOAGE, yet another farewell), I've reflected back on the odd, humorous, pointless and occasionally poignant missives with which I may have wasted your time. One of my most heartfelt was September 23 of this year, when I explained the challenges (and my permanent anger) that a lifetime of obesity have meant for me, socially. If you missed it (or are too new a Sparkfriend), here you go:
Yesterday evening I had an odd almost deja-vu experience with respect to the profound dating challenges of my teens and young adulthood. By now you have been introduced through cyberspace, in various blogs, in my photos and in my statuses to Thing One and Thing Two. Both now teenagers, sometimes its hard to watch, with bitten lip, just how they navigate the perils of that age that I myself handled so dramatically poorly.
Thing Two avoids dances and the like as though they were the plague. No amount of me saying (in whatever words I choose), "You may come to regret the fun you are choosing to miss" changes his preferences to while away his Saturday evenings in cyberspace combat with online gaming enemies and/or to put new dents in our large collection of ping pong balls with yours truly.
Thing One differs. She is a 17-year old social butterfly and Hilary Clinton wannabe. Like Hilary, she is driven and articulate but sometimes is too much like her Type-A parents for the typical dating prospect to appreciate. More commonly, she holds them to standards of behavior (mine?) that they are ill-equipped to achieve. There have been occasional dates, and even the occasional boyfriend. These fledgling relationships, few and far between, seem to last a few weeks, if that. She badly wants a more vibrant dating life, as her Mom certainly had enjoyed. (I was the [chubby] ping pong kid at home - see above).
A week ago I got to transport six giggly girls to a high school dance. While the non-communicative "It was OK" was the answer I got to my query as to how the dance was, yesterday and as an outcome of the dance, Thing One had a date with someone new. A first date. In the modern era, seemingly first dates are at Starbucks (or at the Mall) and not uncommonly in the daytime.
1. Took Thing One on her date, with the boy who shall remain nameless. Thing One does not yet drive.
2. Cooled my jets in a local bookstore, while Thing One and the boy who shall remain nameless, shared a romantic Java Chip at the Starbucks across the parking lot.
3. Received a text from Thing One, 45 minutes later, that she was ready to come home. She broke the date, in mid-date.
4. Childhood remains firmly intact. Adulthood will wait a few more hours, and the boy shall remain nameless (and de-friended on Facebook apparently - the ultimate act of social rejection) forevermore.
On the way home, her suspicion that he is highly-functioning Asperger's or similarly challenged was explained, as was the lisp, his unfiltered brutal honesty, etc. Recalling all the times I was rejected based on superficiality (i.e., weight) I felt bad for him. To a point. Thing One is my daughter and is entitled to feel as she does. Or, more accurately, NOT to feel as she does.
The young woman I drove to the date vanished. The little girl I have known for the last 17 years, happily returned home, chatting with me all the way. I was happy. To a point.
Thing is, I related to the unfriended boy (he of no name, whom I will never meet), who was dismissed by the smart and pretty girl for reasons that are, at the end of the day, beyond his immediate control to resolve. I don't mean to equate Asperger's Syndrome and obesity, except that one generation apart, they both were criteria used by the smart, pretty girl to reject the awkward and socially inexperienced boy.
I was that boy, in a way.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
With just a few days to go until the no-blogging resolution takes hold, nothing like going out with a bang, huh?
The most thought-provoking and conversation-elucidating Star Trek episode all time, by far, was a story from Season Five of "The Next Generation" called Darmok. Our intrepid Space-farers, living in a future where there simply was no obesity (see it's a Spark blog) encounter a powerful alien species and endeavor to communicate. The aliens are chatty enough (they have have not gone Sparky incognito - see previous blog) but what they have to say is completely nonsensical. You see, they speak in metaphors.
Metaphors, all the time. Nothing but metaphors. With the TV audience as bewildered as the crew, one astute cast member remarks that the alien conversation is as though when meaning "romance", the words used would be "Juliet on the balcony." A grounding in the culture and history of the alien world would be necessary for comprehension, even if the words themselves could be translated (and in the Star Trek world, a universal translator exists).
Even the metaphors, used frequently enough, were shortened to the first word. Much like the court case that established the rights of the excused being called Miranda. Out of context and without cultural references, Miranda means nothing. Try "tea party" - a political effort to reign in excessive government spending and its manifestation of taxation. Not obvious, from the words.
Ultimately, through trial and error with the TV audience learning right along with the crew-members, some halting basis of communication was achieved and a potential war was diffused and the credits rolled.
So let's try this means of communication out in the World of Spark:
1. Hindenburg - I hate so much I feel I could explode.
2. Richard Simmons wear - tight, fitting, shiny spandex gym clothes
3. Perrier Poisoning - Overdoing the Sparky water
4. Bugs' Plate - lots of raw veggies, like Bug Bunny would have eaten
5. Jake and Elwood - Four whole fried chickens and dry white toast
Bonus entry - "All the calories she had had had had no effect on her effortless attainment of her Sparky weight loss goal."
Now you try it. Do better than me. Be metaphorical, alliterative, or grammatically accurate if in a most incongruous way!
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Ever peruse your own list of Spark Friends? Ever see that some people are not clickable, and that you cannot view their page as you once have? This is because they have taken their pages private, which is their prerogative and also is yours. Many people opt for the social media side of Sparkpeople, but also many do not. Increasingly, some play with the social media side for awhile, tire of it or come to be creeped out by people like me, and elect to adjust their settings and privatize.
People who have elected to take their SparkPages private have effectively ended their communication with you, unless its via a shared team or via Spark Mail. In most circumstances and possibly in all, you have no continuing, effective means of communicating with them. They don't elect to share the Sparky experience with you any more, or vice-versa.
As a consequence and over the course of time, you can wind up with some former Sparkfriends who appear on your Sparkpage but are not clickable. If you are like me, over time you might end up with a lot of such former SparkFriends. Maybe they are still actively Sparking and maybe not. The point is, you cannot tell and their continuing presence on your page is neither harmful nor (and here's the point) is it beneficial.
If you are like me (and I feel sorry for you, if you are), you might endeavor to delete such a SparkFriend from your page. Because their page no longer is a live hyperlink, you cannot get to the "Remove as SparkFriend" option on their page. Despair not, for there is a workaround. Here goes:
Step One: Navigate to Start
Step Two: Scroll down to the third part, and click where it says "View My Spark Page"
Step Three: Navigate to near the top right, where it says "edit my Spark page"
Step Four: Navigate to the middle part, and click on the hyperlink where it says "Add/Remove/See Spark friends"
Step Five: When the box pops up, each and every Spark friend, even the subterranean ones, have a helpful "remove" under their icon.
Hope this helps. And may all your SparkFriends be active ones.
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