Things I would not expect in late October

  • So much sunshine (not a complaint)
  • Being able to walk comfortably outside wearing only a t-shirt (well, and pants, too)
  • Flowers still in bloom (I never paid much attention to their seasonality until I started taking pictures this year)
  • Snow (I’m not expecting any to happen this October, though I remember at least one Halloween with a few idle flakes falling on the trick or treaters)
  • Valentine’s Day promotions (still hasn’t happened–yet)

It’s October, the Octoberiest month of the year

It’s time for a list, specifically an October list! More specifically, several October lists!

What I expect in October:

  • 31 days
  • 31 nights
  • Temperatures to be on average cooler at the end of the month than at the start
  • Many leaves on the ground
  • Rain
  • Air conditioners put away until next June or thereabouts
  • Halloween
  • Halloween candy
  • Halloween candy to share shelf space with Christmas candy
  • Thanksgiving
  • A pseudo-turkey (a real one doesn’t work well with only two people to eat it, unless you really, really like turkey leftovers

What I have planned in October:

  • To maybe drop below 160 pounds for real
  • Don’t laugh, I’m serious
  • To avoid all Halloween candy
  • To also avoid the Christmas candy
  • To probably avoid fudge
  • Mmm, fudge
  • To pick my NaNoWriMo 2018 novel and outline it in preparation for the glory of NaNoWriMo in November
  • To finally settle on what I’ll be using for writing the above-mentioned masterpiece. Still leaning toward WriteMonkey.
  • To run at least on weekends, no matter what the weather
  • To take more pictures, especially of trees and their leaves
  • To continue spring cleaning four months after spring ended

Weird rain

Weird in that today is the first time in a long while that we have had fairly steady rain during the day.

School kids were probably fuming. This is the first weekend since classes started.

Other signs of impending fall:

  • The swimming pool at Hume Park is closed for the season, and has been drained. The slide is still in place, so if someone really wanted to, they could climb up it and slide down into a nearly four foot deep concrete hole. Probably not recommended.
  • Likewise, the bubble over the tennis courts at the Burnaby Tennis Club (which I can see on my runs at Burnaby Lake) has been put back in place. It looks like a big oval marshmallow. Mmm. marshmallows. People would have been able to play tennis today because it’s up, so good timing there.
  • The sunset tonight was at 7:37 p.m. The post-dinner walks are going to be spooky pretty soon.
  • It never got past 20ºC today. In fact I don’t think it got past 16. Brr, relatively speaking.

I’m not complaining about the change in weather, mind you, as we need the rain and despite a slow start in July, the summer has been pretty dry overall. Still, I always lament this season’s passing. The world just feels so alive and vibrant in the summer.

I will now count the days until next summer. Actually, thanks to a Google search, I now know it’s 265 days. I’m undecided on whether this precise level of knowledge is a good or bad thing.

A list of failure, a list of hope

Here’s a list of things I have tried and failed to do (or didn’t do enough) that I’m thinking of trying again:

  • Typing. I mean, I can type, I just don’t touch-type, and while I’m reasonably fast for someone who uses three fingers instead of ten, I know I could be a lot faster. However, past attempts have not gone well. Still, enough time has passed that I think I’m ready to give this another shot. I may not choose Mavis as my guide this time, though. Sorry, Mavis!
  • Swimming. I live on the coast. Knowing how to swim is a good thing. As with typing, previous attempts did not end with great success. I can at least go into this knowing that I have a fear of water to overcome. Or maybe more precisely, a fear of drowning, which technically requires water (yes, I could also drown in a giant vat of chicken broth, but I’m more likely to go swimming in water than chicken broth).
  • Programming. Just kidding. This is one area where I’ve made peace with my mind just not being suited for this kind of task. I’m okay with that. I like to think I’ve helped someone else gain employment as a programmer through my diligent avoidance of programming.
  • Drawing. I am not bad at drawing, though I’m not good, either. I’d like to dabble in this more as a kind of therapy or meditation. I find doodling soothing and relaxing.
  • Stretching. I just need to do this. I used to stretch before runs, then got paranoid that I’d injure myself. Then I injured myself anyway, probably because I wasn’t stretching. So I plan to start stretching. Then I can say I have a stretch goal. Thank you, I am here all night.

Things we’ll all laugh about in the future: A list

Things we’ll look back on and have a good chuckle about:

  • Facebook
  • Democracy
  • Stable climate
  • Florida
  • Internet-connected anything
  • Fossil fuels

Well, that was kind of depressing. But let me try to expand a bit on each.

Facebook. From a simple way to see what’s happening with your friends and family, no matter where they are, to a complicit force in the spread of conspiracy theories, hate speech and the undermining of democratic governments, Facebook is easily the #1 tech-based scourge. I do not believe its absence would make the world worse in any way, and would really like to see a competitor try to recapture what it originally was. But it may be too big to stop now.

Democracy. The last few years have demonstrated how fragile democracy is. It’s also shown how bonkers the U.S. system of government is. It is something of a miracle that it has stood for so long (that whole civil war notwithstanding). I don’t know what the next few years will bring, but if someone got kidnapped by Bigfoot and was never seen again, like some American president, for example, the world would be better off.

Stable climate. Here’s the thing: the climate on Earth is always changing. Just look up “snowball Earth” to see. But while the climate is changing now and for the worse (as far as human habitation goes), our blundering, polluting ways are making the changes happen faster and with more severe consequences. Short of aliens with superior technology stepping in and saying, “Okay, you dumb Earthlings, you’ve screwed up enough” I don’t think we’re going to see much improvement here.

Florida. Related to the above. It’s not a question of if Florida will be submerged under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, but when. I wonder if there’s a plan to relocate Walt Disney World?

Internet-connected anything. It’s all a bit silly now, but I have to admit, I still enjoy barking at Google Maps on my phone to “take me home” and getting real-time directions, or using Siri to start a run, add items to a list, or even just record a random thought or idea. Maybe we won’t laugh about this in the future.

Fossil fuels. Unless we learn how to make new dinosaurs and accelerate the millions of years it takes to turn them into oil, fossil fuels are as doomed as Florida. We’ll laugh because of how crude (not an oil joke. Really.) fossil fuels will seem as we jet around in fusion-powered flying cars. Assuming we haven’t nuked the world, of course.

I like lists (of old songs)

As expected, my three month trial of Apple Music has turned into a giant Music Nostalgia Machine.

I’ve been adding songs to a playlist cleverly called Pop Stuff. If I Think of a song, I add it. Most of them were songs I liked but not enough to buy the albums they were on because I was cheap and/or picky.

Here’s the list so far because, as has been established, I like lists. The songs are in the order I added them, which is random.

Save a Prayer. Duran Duran’s weirdly soothing mix of synths and guitars is both very 80s and yet timeless.
Don’t You Want Me. This was notable in being the first all-synth song to go #1. That seems positively quaint today, but in 1981 it was the first taste of what was to come.
The Safety Dance. The video is silly, the song is silly, the name of the band is silly, but it’s just so catchy. Also, synths because the 80s.
Ray of Light. From 1998, this may be Madonna’s best song. Effervescent, propulsive and vocally exciting.
Got to Get You Into My Life. I always liked this Beatles song. I think the brassy horns did it because as a kid I didn’t know what brassy horns were, I just knew I liked them.
Something About You. What lifts this song is both the soaring falsetto of keyboardist Mike Lindup and the funky bass of Mark King. The video features King as this weird pantomime character that turns seriously creepy toward the end of the song. I have no idea what they were going for.
Beat It. Never had enough interest in Jackson to commit to his albums, but really liked “Beat It.” The start of his vocal tics doesn’t diminish it.
Billie Jean. More tics and as David Letterman pointed out in 1982, he totally says “chair” instead of “child.”
Voices Carry. This song doesn’t hold up as well as I thought it would, but the chorus is still sweetly sung.
Radio Ga Ga. A guilty pleasure of sorts. The video, which intercuts clips from Metropolis, doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s fun to watch, especially the bits with the band in the flying car. Most of them look vaguely uncomfortable.
Under Pressure. This song is a lot weirder than you probably remember. Freddie Mercury vamps it up while Bowie treats it Very Seriously.
We Will Rock You. Queen enters arena mode. And it works.
We Are the Champions. Arena mode, but quieter.
We Belong. Pat Benatar turns nice and this is a nice song.
White Rabbit. Amusingly subversive, the way Grace Slick’s vocals build to a crescendo is still really effective.
I Want You to Want Me. A fellow student was constantly playing Cheap Trick in Drawing & Painting class, so I pretty much knew their first two albums by heart. This song is even slighter than I remembered. Surrender is better.
Heat of the Moment. Asia was one of those “supergroups” that had the unfortunate luck of peaking with their debut, making everything after a bit of a disappointment. This song is still catchy and serves as a kind of template for what some call the widescreen music of the 80s.
Beds are Burning. Peter Garret has a weird voice and dances like a chicken, but this song delivers its message about the plight of Australian aboriginals in a slick package. Also the other band members were all really hot. I’m just sayin’.
A Horse With No Name. The lyrics are silly (“the heat was hot”) but the layered vocals are as smooth now as they were in 1971.
The Reason. The jewel robbery of the video bears no relation to the content of the song, but that’s okay. There’s nothing outstanding here, but it all fits together so well it doesn’t matter. Plus more hot band members. Just sayin’.
She Loves Everybody. One of the newer songs on the list. I don’t recall how I came across Chester French, the short-lived duo, but this song (and video) are amusing and catchy. I like catchy music. I need to find a synonym for “catchy.”
Skyfall. As Bond themes go, this is one of the best. It’s theatrical, Adele’s vocals lend it the proper gravitas, and the orchestration works perfectly. The lyrics range from opaque to silly, fitting with Bond, really.
Empty Garden. Elton John’s tribute to John Lennon. This one really takes me back to 1981.
(Just Like) Starting Over. The above inspired me to get this, Lennon’s fun take on renewal, which gleefully changes style throughout, not to mention Lennon’s occasional riffs on Elvis. Enough time has elapsed that listening to it no longer makes me feel sad.
9 to 5. Short, catchy and perfectly calibrated to the movie that it served as the theme for. In the 1980s Dolly Parton could do no wrong.
Can’t Smile Without You. Barry Manilow came out as gay at the age of 73. I hate to tell you this, Barry, but we kind of knew. This is classic Manilow–big, schmaltzy, but also kind of irresistible.
Waiting for a Girl Like You. My favorite Foreigner song. I love the icy keyboards.
Can’t Fight This Feeling. Another guilty pleasure. A bit too slick for its own good, this REO Speedwagon hit is terrific in small does.
Angel of the Morning. I love the brief martial drum in Juice Newton’s cover.
Africa. I know there’s some Toto song I really liked back when they were big (around the time of Toto IV). I thought this was it, but listening to it, I’m not so sure. Maybe it was Rosanna?
Take On Me. Everyone remembers the video, but I’m still impressed at how lead vocalist Morten Harket climbs through the octaves during the chorus.
Hold Me Now. Not sure if guilty pleasure. But dare I say it–catchy? The Thompson Twins also serve as an early example of inclusiveness.
Some Like It Hot. Power Station was another supergroup that debuted big, then disappeared (they did do a second album about a decade later). The song opens with big, crunchy percussion and Robert Palmer growls and croons his way through this with aplomb.
Sledgehammer. Everyone remembers the video, but the song itself is an amusing delight all on its own.

Three things I like right now

Time to put a more positive spin on..a couple of things.

  • my legs are still sexy, albeit with less tone than a few months ago. But still sexy.
  • I lost almost four pounds during my kidney infection. Sure, not the best way to lose weight, but a nice (if unintended) boost to my weight loss plan. It’s also helped to steer me away from snacks or at least blatantly calorie-rich ones. I actually bought apples!
  • still no nuclear war

Not the greatest list, but good enough for now. I’ll gussy it up later. I probably won’t, actually, but wanted to use the word “gussy.”

April, the shortest month of the year (when it comes to blog posts)

April was a bad month. Let me make a list:

  • I bombed out on a relatively easy goal for Camp NaNoWriMo 2018
  • I had to visit the emergency room after two days of throbbing pain in my mouth
  • I had to visit the dentist due to the above and get a semi-tooth yoinked due to infection
  • I had to take antibiotics due to the above which have fun side effects like diahhrea
  • I barely ran at all due to weather, my suddenly sore knees and general ennui
  • I gained 1.1 pounds (I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more)
  • I felt like no progress was made in work-related matters (this may change)
  • I wrote almost no fiction at all
  • My one-post-per-day blog rule fell to dust (this is post #21 and I’m pretty sure I’m not cranking out nine more tonight)
  • Other stuff

There were also some good things and I am more hopeful for May. If nothing else the weather should be better.

Also I’m going to start the 21-day complaint-free challenge again. I feel like I went from being super-observant in watching what I was saying (ie. complaining) to just opening my mouth and spewing rants almost randomly. I need to get back on track and find my inner teddy bear.

The spring list

Things to do, things to suffer through, things that just happen. This is spring.

  • warmer weather, yay
  • allergy season, boo
  • bees are back. As long as they are not killer bees, yay
  • still kind of rainy, boo
  • but now the sun feels warm again, yay
  • it’s still light after dinner, yay
  • still dark early in the morning, boo. But it’s early in the morning, so not a big boo.
  • next season is summer, yay
  • Easter weekend has two stat holidays, yay
  • Easter eggs, yay

On balance, spring is a pretty good season.

The Obsolete List: 1964 Edition

Technology always marches forward, except for things like the Dark Ages and I guess World War III. But generally, it marches forward. The pace of change can sometimes be startling, while in other cases it feels like it’s taking a lot longer to progress for unspecified reasons (example: car technology has improved but not substantially changed at a mass production level in over a hundred years. The majority of vehicles are still fueled by gasoline that powers an internal combustion engine. Sure, whizzy electric cars and hybrids have gained, but they’ve yet to take over on a mass scale).

I was born in 1964, the same year a bunch of stuff happened. The Beatles were pretty popular. The American space program was in full swing and only five years away from a moon landing. And cars ran on gasoline that powered internal combustion engines.

But what technology over the past 50+ years has become obsolete or so little-used that it’s effectively obsolete? Most of it is stuff I grew up with. Do I yearn for any of this bygone technology? Let’s have a look at The Obsolete List and find out!

  • Rotary dial telephones. People often still refer to “dialing a number” but no one actually does it anymore. I remember back in Duncan you only had to dial the last five numbers instead of all seven and at the time it made dialing bearable, though you still hoped people had numbers like 222-1111. By the time the proliferation of phone numbers required you to enter all seven digits, plus the area code, we had moved on to push button phones and it was inconvenient but not the utter madness that it would have been on a rotary phone. Do I miss these devices? No. There is no nostalgia value in having to wait for a rotary dial to finish turning before you can enter the next number.
  • 8-track tapes. I’ve discussed these before and the short answer is no: digital music does everything an 8-track tape did, without all the weirdness of putting songs out of order, duplicating tracks, splitting them in two and not to mention the inevitable tape-eating that happened. These had one minor convenience over cassette tape, in that you didn’t have to flip the tape over (if you were one of those poor sods that didn’t have a tape deck that could play both sides automatically). Speaking of…
  • Side A and Side B. Okay, this isn’t technology, strictly speaking, it’s more about how albums were always split into two halves before the Compact Disc (see below) took over. While this allowed some bands to experiment by doing different things on each side, I think the benefit of having a single cohesive whole makes for better albums overall.
  • Cassette tapes. These are still around, so like vinyl, technically not dead, but it’s very much a niche product. While more compact than vinyl, durability was always iffy, with tapes unceremoniously unspooling and getting eaten in the tape deck. You also ended up with the degraded tape exhibiting a lot of pops, cracks and other un-musical sounds. May casette tapes rest in pieces, I say.
  • Floppy disks. No one in their right mind would miss these. Everything now is better. I still have a box of them dating back to the mid 90s. I wonder if they would be readable today? (I checked and you can get a USB floppy disk drive for $30. I’m not sure it’s worth $30 to find out.)
  • Compact Disc (CD). Officially introduced to the world in 1993, they became the dominant music format by the end of the decade. Now, with digital music and especially with the rise of streaming music, the CD is not dead but is on life support. It had a few advantages over vinyl: better audio quality (provided the recording was managed properly–vinyl aficionados will always argue that records offer a “warmer” sound than CD), a more, ahem, compact format, the ability to hold more music (about 75 minutes, where vinyl was pushing it at 48-50 minutes) and because the disc was read by a laser, you no longer had to worry about a needle scratching across your record when you bumped the player. Instead you had to worry about the laser blinding you. Do I miss CDs? Really, no. They were better than vinyl and tape, but ultimately they now look like more of a stopgap on the way to digital music. And they could still get scratched and have playback suffer. Plus the album art was hard to make out.
  • Compact Disc-Recordable (CD-R). These were discs you could record to (multiple times in the case of CD-RW) and they allowed for early mass backup/storage. But they were slow, prone to errors and clunky to use. DVD-Rs were not much better, just higher capacity. I do not miss these. As with floppy disks, everything now is better.
  • Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs and monitors. You know, the big, boxy things that you could warm your cat on and weighed between 50 and 1000 pounds. While the cats probably miss them–LCD monitors and TVs offer little room to accommodate sleeping felines–the only aspect I miss about CRT monitors is how blacks were much..blacker. This is offset today by OLED technology, but OLED hasn’t really percolated into widespread use, apart from some TVs, smartphones and laptops, because it’s still really expensive. I don’t miss the weight, energy cost, blurry text or industrial beige styling of most CRT monitors, though.
  • Digital watches. OK, these aren’t obsolete, but with watches now being more fashion statements than actual timepieces, who would still wear one? Anything a digital watch can do can be done better on a smartphone, or even a smartwatch. Still, I kind of miss that Casio I had back around 1978 or so. It could play 12 songs for no real reason and it was cool to set alarms. It felt like being in the future. As digital watches go, it wasn’t hideously ugly, either. At least that’s the way I remember it.
  • Mimeograph machines. I remember these from elementary school, circa 1971-1977. They produced weird purple text and the ink smelled strange and alien. Smudges abounded. It felt like 1850s technology that somehow lasted into the 1970s. I don’t miss them. I suspect teachers may have paid for the privilege of smashing these machines when photocopies and printers replaced them. Speaking of…
  • Dot matrix printers. These are still used in some places where multi-part forms are needed and the people there haven’t figured out how to load a tray with three different kinds of paper at once. They were noisy, slow, pretty bad at graphics, did I mention noisy, required ribbons you had to wind and worst of all, they would go haywire as soon as you turned your back to them. It was like they knew and waited to misfeed the paper. Again, I don’t miss these. Ink jet printers are better in all ways, save for ink drying out if not used for long periods of time, but that’s easily solved by getting a laser printer instead. Or just go paperless, like we were supposed to 40 years ago.
  • Microfiche. This was very cool in the early 80s. It’s been superseded by, well, computers, and the ability to digitize content. Back in the olden days you had to load a negative from, say, a newspaper, into a microfiche reader, then zoom in and pan around like you were using a microscope, except instead of bacteria, you were examining old news stories. I actually do kind of miss this. Looking back on the times I used them, it felt like I was doing real research and making real discoveries instead of just typing something into Google’s search box and getting 10 million results. The latter is still better, mind you.

More to come as I think of them.

Things I do for rings

Things I have done to complete all three activity rings on my Apple Watch:

  • paced quickly back and forth in the living room
  • gone for a spontaneous six block walk
  • walk to the grocery store to buy several non-essential items
  • jumping jacks without the jumping
  • running on the spot (this can actually get your heart rate up pretty quickly, just like running where you actually move forward)
  • hung my arm down at my side (to get a Stand goal during a meeting. It’s a cheat but it totally works and beats suddenly standing up in a meeting and staying like that for a minute while everyone stares at you)
  • gotten up to use the washroom (also for the Stand goal; this is one of those win-win situations, killing two birds and all that)
  • reduced the Move goal for the day (when I’ve been sick. Since getting the watch this has worked every time I’ve fallen ill except one day when I was too weak and just laid like a lump and broke my streak)

The reason I’ve done all the above is to maintain a streak, because streaks create a positive feedback loop and you don’t want to break them. Breaking them is where the donut-eating starts. And Apple doesn’t allow for mulligans, so you can’t take a day off due to illness/accident/utter laziness.

It’s worked pretty well so far. I did four of these just today (I am unwell). I prefer hitting the goals all legit-like, though, because it means I’m healthy and stuff.

New Year Resolutions 2018: I should stick to these because we’re still here

Of the ten resolutions I made this year, I hit four of them and failed on six. Not exactly inspiring, but then this year has been bleak in an existential sort of way that hasn’t happened in a long time, thanks to the appalling spectacle of Trump’s breathtakingly corrupt and inept presidency, which easily eclipsed my absolute worst expectations.

But enough of that. The world didn’t blow up in 2017, so there is a small glimmer it will make it through 2018, too. Therefore, my resolutions.

My theme for 2018 is “Be realistic” so my goals are more modest than in years past.

  • Drop to 150 pounds. I got as low as 153 this year, but climbed back up in the last few months to 161.6 today. I’m ready to redouble my efforts, which leads to…
  • 100% donut-free. Yes, no donuts all year, no matter what. If someone offers me a free donut I will spurn it and cast aspersions upon the giver (“Are you trying to kill me slowly? What cruel sort are you?”) Well, maybe not so much the casting aspersions but no donuts–yes!
  • No farmers tan. I got close this year, next year I’ll do it! Stretch goal: full upper body tan. This also provides incentive for resolution #1.
  • Write 250 words of fiction per day. I bombed out on my goal of 1,000 per day this year and originally was going to aim for 500 next year, but instead settled on the even more modest 250 words per day. I can always up the number from there.
  • Run at least three times a week. Should be doable, barring injury. Alternate goal: any type of exercise at least three times a week. In case of weather or something, where I would use an elliptical instead of running, for example.
  • Read at least 32 books. Unchanged from this year, should be doable.
  • One drawing per week. To help nurture my creative side. It can be anything, in any format. Stick men? Sure. A circle with two dots in it representing a mouth-less face? Why not!
  • Win the lottery. Repeating this. I’ll use the money wisely, I swear!
  • Eat better. This ties in with going 100% donut-free and involves drastically cutting back on all snacking. Snacking is bad. Healthy snacking is hard, so it’s probably better to just avoid altogether.
  • Curb my web surfing and put my WoW sub on hold. These are time sinks that take away from other things I could be doing that would be more productive and probably more enjoyable, too.

Bonus resolution:

  • Continue to spurn social media, especially Facebook. This one is easy because I don’t have to change a thing!