Music and writing

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” – Charlie Parker

“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid” – Frank Zappa

“Playing the flute is like writing a book. You’re telling what’s in your heart…It’s easier to play if it’s right from your heart. You get the tone, and the fingers will follow.” – Eddie Cahill

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” – Aldous Huxley

I love music. I listen to music every day, and I can’t imagine not having some form of music in my life. I think it’s genetic. My grandfather, a farmer back in the day, would relax in the evenings by picking out tunes on the banjo; a banjo he traded a pig for by the way. He didn’t have Pandora, or iTunes, or MP3 players, but he still got his music fix. I read somewhere once that some paleontologists think that human speech developed first through group singing. I think I can picture that, actually it is highly reminiscent of a hipster concert. (Although the hipster concert would most certainly be hairier.)

My choices of music vary as to what task I’m performing. As a software designer by trade, I tend to listen to ambient, or other sorts of music whilst coding. If I listen to something like Nine Inch Nails, I tend to write mean code. None of us want mean code. If I’m cleaning the house… No honest I do. Sometimes. But if I’m cleaning the house, I like to listen to something a little more upbeat. For a long trip I love putting on a huge playlist of my most favorite songs, or maybe listen to a couple of comedy albums. Nothing like some Mitch Hedberg to get me through the doldrums of interstate whatever.

Now that I’m trying to write more, writing fiction or essays that is, I tend to be quite selective in the music to accompany the type of story I’m writing. For instance I’m writing a short story about a young man from a place in the south, who is on a bus ride back home to attend a funeral. I can’t listen to Bebel Gilberto, she’s much too worldly. No I choose something to put me in just that right mood. Maybe the soundtrack to True Blood, or maybe the Legendary Shack Shakers. I want something that gets me into that gritty ‘70s Burt Reynolds southern exploitation frame of mind. Shakey puddin’ anyone? Now when the  protagonists mother calls him an “ungrateful little shit”, I can really feel it. I hope all of you do too. Well, when you read it that is. And I hope it’ll be published sooner rather than later, I have a few thoughts for publishing, and I’ll keep you all in formed. (Had I been listening to some southern grit music: I’ll keep all y’all informed.)

Peace and love.

Marv

Huntsville, Alabama

I’m going to Huntsville! Yup. For five wonderful days. Umm Why am I going to Huntsville you ask? Well, let me tell you… I’m going to Huntsville to write. I have made a decision to write more, and you can’t write more without writing. So I’m trying to figure out just how I can create the right environment to encourage myself to sit and tap out those profound words that keep bubbling to the surface of my consciousness. Okay, it just so happens that I’m staying at a Hotel/Spa, so I’ll get a massage too. But writing, that’s why I’m going to Huntsville. I know from painful experience that it’s difficult for me to sit on the couch with the television and Netflix beckoning to me so raucously to think that I can just lounge on the couch and write. Wrapping my head around the word processor page is much more difficult than putting my fingers on the keys, but once I get in the flow I can churn out some Hemingwayesque prose. (Yeah only in my mind.) Okay fine,  the hotel has a Ruth’s Chris steak house in it, so a massage and a steak or two. But also writing. Yep that’s why I’m going to Huntsville. It’s not far from the house, and though I’m sure it’s a fun town, it’s not a beach town, and it’s not a huge tourist draw like New York City, or filled with tourist attractions such as Washington D.C. (I could spend five days just in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum.) I would like to find a couple of places to which I could flee for a few days, or maybe even a week,  every quarter or so. All part of my nefarious plan.

So after the massage, and a steak or two, and maybe just one visit to some of the NASA attractions nearby. Man I am gonna write!

Peace and love.

Marv

To Infinity… And Beyond!

“It calls back a time when there were flowers all over the Earth… and there were valleys. And there were plains of tall green grass that you could lie down in – you could go to sleep in. And there were blue skies, and there was fresh air… and there were things growing all over the place, not just in some domed enclosures blasted some millions of miles out in to space.” Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) Silent Running 1972

In a previous post, Message In A Bottle, I blogged about Voyager I on the cusp of leaving the solar system, and that it was inconclusive whether or not it had actually left yet. Unlike smaller things that we can see and touch, the boundaries of some things are very hard to determine. Probably one of the most difficult constituents of determining the boundary of something like our solar system, is actually defining what that boundary really is. Fortunately there are a lot of very smart people who have made all the technical decisions for us. And now it’s just the waiting game.

Well, the wait is over! According to this article, Voyager craft exits the Solar System, by Jonathan Amos, our baby is all grown up and has left the nest.

Confirmation of the probe’s exit from the heliosphere – the bubble of gas and magnetic fields originating from the Sun – was confirmed on Tuesday in a release by the American Geophysical Union

These are exciting times for space exploration, and in NASA‘s case, we accomplish so much with so very little. I am amazed by how much bang NASA can get for the half a penny per tax dollar. These women and men are doing wonderful things. Add to that the incredible accomplishments made by other folks such as SpaceX and we catch a glimmer of what our human minds are capable of. Me, I’d like to up that spending a bit, I would love to watch the first human walk on Mars.

However, hearkening back to Voyager I, I can’t help be feel a little melancholy at the thought of the solitude where she is at. It reminds me of the movie Silent Running, where a craft is sent off into the unknown. An unknown future with an unknown outcome. Voyager I could suffer from an incalculable number of deaths, yet for every second she lives on she is sending a message for us, “We are here, and we come in peace.” I hope we can live up to that. Now back to our regularly scheduled carnage at seemingly every location on the globe.

Peace and love.

Marv

The Franklin Planner: You’re A1 baby, A1.

“… It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look. And you look marvelous.” (Fernando) Billy Crystal

I recall working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, long before gmail, and outlook on the web; and phones were anything but smart. How in the world did any of us know where to be, when this meeting was, where that meeting will be? The answer is paper. The heady days of living on paper; and Franklin Planners were the king of paper organization. You weren’t anyone unless you had the familiar Franklin Planner tucked under your arm and were heading somewhere with purpose. Actually you didn’t even need a purpose, the Franklin Planner exuded purpose. The epitome of fashion over function. You didn’t need to be organized, you only had to look organized. Okay, showing up on time was a tad important too, but that’s trivial. I finally convinced my bosses that I really needed a Franklin Planner, and they finally gave in. Quitters.

Along with the Franklin Planner, I was also able to attend a half day seminar on using the it. One thing I specifically recall from the seminar was that the Franklin Planner system had certain methods for effective organization, the primary method was to rank every entry with a two character designation. This designation was designed to communicate how important this task was, and how you should prioritize it in your day. The components of the designation were a letter, and  a number. The first character, the letter, could be: ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’. The ‘A’ designation was for something extremely important; had to be completed as soon as possible, and had the most impact on your success. The ‘B’ designation was still important, but was not as earth shattering. Lastly, the ‘C’ designation was where all those things that weren’t so vitally important were relegated to languish and eventually die. The second character in the designation, the number, was used to prioritize items within the particular letter category that had been assigned. To truly prioritize things, you should have the numbers be unique; meaning there cannot be two A1 entries. However I recall no such limitation, so you could in fact have as many “1” priorities as you wanted.

A great system. On paper (pun definitely intended) it works like clockwork. Sadly, human nature creeps, very quickly I might add, into this process almost from the get go. First of all, if you are writing something down in a Franklin Planner, then it is obviously important.* Or rather… If it is part of your life, then by all that is holy it is obviously important. You do nothing trivial in your life, now do you? Sorry, rhetorical question. Of course it’s important. So when Jessica** wanted to have drinks with you, well hell that’s a ‘A’. What if Jessica sees your planner? Remember the speed dial incident? You know the one time when you stupidly wrote your speed dial list on that little paper card you stuck it in your phone handset? On second thought maybe that was a good thing, you haven’t gotten a fruit cake from your sister in how many years?! But I’m digressing here, of course Jessica is an ‘A’. But then so is your dental appointment, and that meeting with the department head, and… well you get the picture. The number part should be obvious, chronology should be one of the key elements in that decision, but alas the speed dial delimma rears its head again. So whether it really should be done first or not, you go by your gut. And what does your gut say? (see the sentence marked with a ‘*’)

Pretty soon, you have a task list littered with things all categorized as A1. Okay you might be that one person who was able to conjure up a ‘B’, or wonder of wonders and actual ‘C’, but really now, who really wants to empty the cat litter.

But man don’t you look good carrying that thing around?!

You’re all A1 to me!

Peace and love.

Marv

 

* The names have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and me.

To Be Or Not To Be

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

“On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

“[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

“There’s no greater sign of the failure of the American educational system than the extent to which Americans are distracted by the possibility that Earth might end on December 21, 2012. It’s a profound absence of awareness of the laws of physics and how nature works. So they’re missing some science classes in their training in high school or in college that would empower [them] to understand and to judge when someone else is basically just full of it. Science is like an inoculation against charlatans who would have you believe whatever it is they tell you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

We must explore.

It’s more than simple fear mongering; evolutionarily speaking, we are a wondering, and wandering species. But not without a reason it seems. Changing weather patterns, changing food supplies, just two of the many factors that would make our ancestors consider what was over that next ridge. They were ignorant. Ignorant of so many of the things that we take for granted today, the whys and hows of the things they faced were as foreign to them as exactly what is at the center of our galaxy is to us. They may have had in inkling of their situation, as we have an idea of that black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, but in no way did they know what to do. But things happened to make them realize they had to do something. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not wait until that planet-ending asteroid is hurtling towards our dear sweet mother earth to think, “well huh. Maybe we should have funded NASA a bit more.”

Sadly there is no reason to not spend money on extra-terrestrial exploration. So many of the detractors will cry foul that we should spend the money on different things. It’s like during the 2012 presidential when one of the candidates mentioned, as a talking point, that public television should be cut. This point raised during the debate of budget problems. Perhaps public television broadcasting isn’t something to fund with public money, that’s up for debate, no the problem is that as a talking point it was absurd. It was absurd because the amount of money, as compared to the budge deficit, let alone the budget en toto, is so minuscule. It is short-sighted thinkers who decide on government spending on space exploration; short-sighted, and not hind-sighted as so many advancements have come out of NASA research and development. Advancements that continually to affect the health and well-being of all of us.

Why spend the money on research? Well, there is a universe of reasons for space exploration. (Pun definitely intended.) Every problem we encounter in our endeavors in space can be translated into a useful something, or somethings, here in our every day life. And maybe, just maybe one day we can have a life raft that will take us off the planet before a catastrophe. Our one and only means of preserving and continuing our species. And if evolution has taught us anything, it’s that the driving force is the continuation of our species. Makes us really want to see what’s on the other side of the hill. I’d just rather not be driven by fear, but be compelled by wonder.

 

Peace and Love

Marv

Fire meet Iron, Iron I’d like to introduce you to Fire, you can join your friends there.

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’ t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” – Lucille Ball

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

“He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.” – Victor Hugo

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

In regards to my most recent post about getting organized, I’ve been thinking recently of one of my traits. I loathe sloth. Not sloths, they are odd looking but definitely ecologically necessary creatures; no, rather the act of doing nothing, wandering about, even whilst stationary, aimlessly and with little or no purpose. And just to let you know, if you ever see me sitting around doing nothing, you couldn’t be further from the truth; I am in deep, very deep, concentration, and most likely concentrating about something vitally important. No really, I am. Anyway, this trait that I am alluding to is that I tend to get many things going at one time. And typically these things are from a myriad of topics. I love this, and I love having so many different things going, but the problem is that I tend to fill myself up. And not just mostly full, but I tend to fill myself to the brim. You know how when you go to a coffee shop and get a delicious cuppa, and the server, oh excuse me, Barista, asks you: “room for cream?” Well, I tend to, more often than not, neglect to consider the need for room for cream in tasks and activities. So although I will consider just what I can pack into my schedule, I may not consider about the fact that I will need some downtime as well, but also I neglect to consider what about all the little surprises that the chaotic universe throws in our path. And this is what happens: my life machine is humming along at a nice pace, but something unplanned, but not necessarily unbelievable, happens and the whole thing comes crashing down. Imagine the breaking sound of all those formerly spinning plates crashing all about hapless little ol’ me. Don’t worry I’m not throwing a pity party, but believe me, you’ll all be invited.

Rather, and the point of this blog, is that I am trying to identify, and hopefully correct, just this one of my traits that are in dire need of the 120,000 mile maintenance. Though you wouldn’t know by looking at my desk, and my house, and my laundry room, and my car, I do enjoy organization and having things in a place. It’s just that my mind doesn’t instantly go to that organizational place. For years, I’ve developed a mindset that allows me to live in a “by the seat of my pants” sort of living. Such that I would tend to eschew putting things in order to experience the excitement of letting things happen. Because without keeping things straight, almost everything is a surprise. I’ve thought so many times that routine is deafeningly boring, and I would not want to have a “suburban” routine in my life for love nor money. But seriously, my lack of routine is really a routine if you think about. I tend to do the same things over and over, what I do when I get up, and what I do when I arrive at work are all consistent. And that my friends is a routine. And this is nothing to be ashamed of, we humans are creatures of habit, it’s all in our brain’s wiring. But I inherited the genetic “rebellious” trait from somebody. And in a way I’m glad I have it. It’ll tend to lead me to an exciting life.

Recognizing you have a problem is the first step to solving the problem. And the reason I have this problem, this “too many irons in the fire” problem is that I like having these diverse activities available to me. Reading Victor Hugo’s quote, and then John Lennon’s quote is a great dichotomy (or so it seems) of thoughts, but I don’t think so. I can plan and still allow life to happen. Sometimes I do like surprises. What do I do? I’ll tell you what I intend to do, I intend to continue enjoying my diverse interests, but I will strive to manage them, not allow them to manage me. So yeah, I’m going to organize that French Scrabble game on meetup.com, and am going to move forward with the writer’s group. I’m going to continue with my fitness goals, and my plans to move to a better place to live. But all with room for cream thank you very much.

Peace and love

Marv

Getting Organized

“Two minutes, get your sh*t together.” – George Carlin (on what if there were a two minute warning in life.)

I have so many aspects to my life, and only a portion of them are organized. My desk is a mess, my house is a mess, and although I do tend to get things done, it is most often haphazard. I haven’t learned everything in life, but I have learned a bit; one thing I’ve learned is that everything you do in life must be sustainable. Let me explain what I mean by sustainable. Consider the person who decides that he or she really needs to “get in shape”. So off to the gym we go. Of course, everyone knows “no pain, no gain” so this workout is excruciating; “pickin’ ’em up and puttin’ ’em down.” The interesting thing is that we all share the same response, our bodies (you know the out of shape thing that looks back at you in the mirror in the morning) do the work, but boy you know about it. So how does this work out? Well he or she may go to the gym a couple more times, but generally that’s about it. Too hard. However, if one makes a decision to get into better shape and then integrates new habits that are repeatable into his or her lifestyle, then success, though not guaranteed, will be much more likely.

This is the phase I’m in now, trying to get certain aspects of my life more in order. But I’m trying to do it in a sustainable way. We had a saying when I was growing up, sometimes someone would “flare up and flit out.” And that is what I don’t want to do; Flare up and flit out. I would like to change, subtly, some of the things about my life, and find my new normal baseline.

I may or may not keep you posted. Depends on my flare and flit factors.

Love.

Marv

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was” – Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

“We all want to break our orbits, float like a satellite gone wild in space, run the risk of disintegration. We all want to take our lives in our own hands and hurl them out among the stars.” – David Bottoms

 

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when the local gyms fill with folks who have promised to make that fresh start: to ‘get in shape’; to make a budget; to get out more; to stay in more. Usually the resolutions tend to reflect whatever was most pressing in their lives in the time leading up to the new year. And with the way we spend money and eat during Christmas time, I’m quite sure financial promises and exercise are topping the list. Honestly it would be more beneficial if we were to make a tradition of changing the batteries in our smoke detectors on this day rather than making hollow promises to the one person we fool most consistently; ourselves. The typical resolutions are remarkably similar to a recipe; if Dr. Frankenstein were jotting down notes about the form of his new creature I can imagine it would read something like a typical resolution list. A list of what you intend to do, and not do.

In point of fact, there is nothing different about January first of any year. The earth spun about its axis just like normal, its orbit about the sun continued the same as any other day of the year. It’s just that our calendar has been set up such that this day is a little different. When we used to buy wall calendars, it was a new calendar. When most of us wrote checks, remember how hard it was to write that new year on the check? Now it’s even less of a difference, we tend to pay our bills online; our calendar is on our computer and switches automatically. The recent hullaballoo about the Mayan calendar should have demonstrated how antiquated calendars can be. But antiquated or not, we celebrate this calendar event and a part of this tradition continues to be the resolutions.

But when the ball drops, we are the same person we were moments before. And most of us are quite exceptional people. We do some rather awesome things if you stop and think about it. We have jobs, we have families, and we go out into the world and make it a place worth living. This fabricated ‘new year’ is nothing new in life. We have the same baggage we had moments before, but we also have the same strengths. This is what we should all focus on. But still, our lives should be an almost continuous self-assessment; this is how we move forward, not with hastily, and typically drunkenly, mumbled resolutions. We should almost always be asking, “Who am I now, and who, or what, do I want to become?” Am I unhealthy? If I am, then what do I need to do to correct that? If I smoke, then I certainly need to stop. So I stop; If can’t stop, then I seek assistance in stopping. Resolutions are nothing more than half-made decisions with absolutely nothing to back them up; emotional checks that will bounce because they are written on an account lacking actual resolve. But if you take the “you” of you, or rather I should say the “me” of me, and use this momentum we have called life, and apply small corrections… Then we will have something. Then we will get somewhere.

Happy New Year folks, now let’s continue be the awesome people we truly are!

I love you all.

Marv

Message In A Bottle

 “…Take me out to the black.
Tell ’em I ain’t comin’ back.
Burn the land And boil the sea.
You can’t take the sky from me.” – Theme song from Firefly

“The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.” – Robert Heinlein

“In my own view, the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.” – Neil Armstrong

Voyager 1 is having a hard time letting go. Launched in 1977, the NASA space probe’s mission was to study the outer solar system. Yet that mission was complete by 1980, and has since been on extended mission. Currently Voyager 1 is 123 AU from earth; an AU is an Astronomical Unit, and is an approximate average distance from the earth to the sun. Which makes Voyager 1 the furthest manmade object in space, and the reason I’m writing this blog entry is that, even as I type, it may officially be outside our solar system. I suppose at the outset this may not seem like much, or depending on the reader, nothing at all. But for me, and I would hope most folks, with a little reflection and thought this is pretty amazing. I enjoy hiking, and when I set out for a good exercise hike, I’m looking at five miles, maybe six if I’m feeling up to it. Voyager 1 is eleven billion miles from earth. Not only this, but Voyager 1 is traveling at 10.5 miles per second; pretty staggering really. That is almost too much to wrap your head around. Actually it is too much; I can’t even begin to honestly realize just how far away, and how fast that really is. I think the technical term is “a long damn way, and pretty damn fast”. But here’s where all the space opera movies, and TV shows start kicking in for me… I like to imagine how it would feel to be out there. Our sun would just be a really bright star, and I would, of course, be frozen instantly. Imagine the cold and desolation of being that separated from all that you’ve ever known. Imagine that one day our descendants will most likely be journeying along that trek.

Currently Voyager 1 is still operating, and recently completed a complicated maneuver. We are still able to communicate with Voyager 1, though a one-way message takes sixteen hours to travel between her and earth. When Voyager 1 was launched, the three radioisotope thermocouple generators (RTGs), powered by Plutonium-238, were producing 470 watts of power. That’s very little power to do all the amazing things Voyager 1 has done; like sending us the “pale blue dot” photograph that Carl Sagan spoke of. But this power won’t last, as the radioactive elements comprising the RTGs drops by half about every eighty-eight years. By the year 2025, the power will have dropped to the point that most of the systems will have to be turned off. At this point Voyager 1, our workhorse of a space probe, our stalwart gatherer of scientific data in our solar neighborhood will become a “message in a bottle” from us to whomever may scoop it out of the cosmic tidal froth. Who knows who may listen to the “golden record”, if anyone. But I can sure imagine it.

“Captain, we have something on our scanners.”

“Put it on the screen Spock.”

“Scanners have detected etchings of a certain pattern that appear to be able to be translated to audio. It appears to be a message from a ‘Johnny B. Goode’. Fascinating.”