Music Notation that Tells You All You Need to Know About Modern Pop


My post yesterday was a bit heavy – and the comments were AWESOME! But what I had scheduled for today was ALSO heavy … so I decided to step back and set that one up for Monday and put something a bit lighter up instead.

Do you have friends who can’t just enjoy something as entertainment? You know what I mean – because of what they study and how they look at things, they immediately dissect things in that area and can’t help saying it out loud, robbing you of your ability to just ‘think it was fun’? Maybe it is movies, or books or architecture or pizza or whatever … chances you know someone like that.

Well, despite a lifetime of trying NOT to be … that is me when it comes to music. I hear music with a dissecting ear – when a new song comes on (say, as we listened to the new Taylor Swift album, for example) I immediately hear the way that the rhythm section was construction, the way the beats and baselines were shaped according to what will sound familiar but not immediately reductive … the way that the harmonic structure borrows enough from existing Top 40 and something from the 80s to tweak that part of your brain that says “I like this, but I don’t know why”.

Through the years it might seem to an observer that I have gotten better about this, that I am not the music snob that I was in high school and college. That would be untrue, but two things HAVE happened:
– I have learned to let those voices have their chats inside my head since almost no one really wants to hear about it.
– Most music is really meant to just be entertainment, and so I have become much better at discussing highlighting little elements of familiarity (something like “hear how that line kinda sounds like that Police song?”), which is a much more fun discussion.

ANYWAY … I found this little comic amusing!

Happy Friday – and thanks again so much for the incredible insights and comments on yesterday’s post!


Tunes Tuesday – Pop Music Snobbery


I am going to admit something that will be of no surprise to anyone who has known me since high school or college – I am a musical snob. An elitist. Opinionated and condescending and with little time or patience for ‘generic pop trash’ that is foisted on the public by an industry obsessed with making money by manipulating purchases rather than providing quality product. Yikes … did I just say that out loud?

For me music is something I take seriously … think about drinking good coffee, then having a cup of instant coffee; or drinking really good wine then going back to screw-top Riunite or something like that. It isn’t that I inherently dislike pop music – it is that I find most pop music ‘harmonically unsatisfying’ … like comparing your favorite dinner to, well, something like cotton candy.

Here are what I see as my three main roadblocks to enjoying pop music:
– I consider music an entirely audio medium, so anything that is related to visuals (music videos, stage shows, dancing, or an artist’s appearance) is totally lost on me and I consider it inconsequential.
– I don’t care about lyrics. That doesn’t mean I don’t know the words to thousands of songs, just that I really don’t care. I won’t listen to music I don’t like because of lyrics, nor will I turn off music I do like due to the lyrics.
– I need some ‘meat’ to my music. Great pop songs – ‘I Will Always Love You’ popularized by Whitney Houston, ‘Time After Time’ by Cindy Lauper, ‘Borderline’ or ‘Vogue’ by Madonna, tons of Prince stuff, etc – all have more than just a ‘catchy tune’. They are well constructed songs that stand out across the decades. Most pop .. doesn’t – I remember first seeing the ‘California Gurls / Tik Tok’ mashup showing they were essentially the same song (same team wrote them, no surprise), and then more and more and more.

But the reality is that even within the pop music world there is some absolutely incredible music that is made … though honestly when it comes to songs that hit the ‘top of the pops these days’ there is precious little quality or creativity. Which is sad, really – because I know the talent is out there, it just isn’t getting heard.

Going back through the decades it is fairly easy to pluck out top selling songs that are incredibly artistic and inventive and original. I decided to only pick from the pre-sample and pre-auto-tune era, as a simple dividing point (meaning pre-1990). So I decided to do a ‘Top 20’ … but then realized I had 23 so I threaded the rest in with others. Oh well. Enjoy!

1. Bee Gees – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

The Bee Gees are forever tied to the disco era and therefore dismissed … but they had a bunch of huge hits before Saturday Night Fever, and this song is just amazing. Deep and complex and with a tremendous sense of building urgency.

2. Joni Mitchell – Hejira

Joni Mitchell transitioned from writing songs for others to becoming a master folk singer to a pop star and then … this. She kept progressing musically with alternate tuning structures, using her voice as if it was a jazz saxophone. Yet it remains beautiful and haunting.

3. Stevie Wonder – Overjoyed

Sure I could have plucked from Stevie’s ‘golden era’, songs like ‘I Wish’, ‘Higher Ground’ and so on, but this classic from a decade later reminds us WHY he is more than just a pop star, he is a pure musical genius.

Jazz saxophonist Richie Cole did a great cover version, but the CD is out of print and never was released digitally (I have way too many CDs from the mid-late 80s like that!)

4. Dionne Warwick – Say a Little Prayer

You would never guess that the verse is in 10/4 time and the chorus in 11/4 time, very complex meters for such an accessible song.

Blind Avant-garde multi-saxophonist Roland Kirk did a cover a year later that brought in the civil rights aspects … seriously, check this one out:

5. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John and Stevie Wonder are two of the main reason pop and rock was incredible in the 70s. This isn’t just stuff to listen to and sing, it merits actual study:

And “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”.

6. Neil Diamond – I Am, I Said

Like Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond started off writing songs for others, including “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees. Soon enough he was singing and performing his own music, like this classic anthem.

8. The Rolling Stones – Under My Thumb

While most people think of Jagger & Richards as the keys to the Stones, every major melody that was a hit in the early years was composed by Brian Jones – including this jazzy syncopated tune with vibes added to the mix.

9. The Cars – Drive

I like the anthemic feel that was their sort of swan song, but it also embodies the modal harmonies from Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’.

10. The Police – Darkness

The Police were masters of expanded harmonies, advanced rhythms and other things you simply don’t get in pop music. This is my favorite song of theirs, as there are multiple rhythms playing against each other.

11. The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows

Picking a great Beatles song is easy, so I wanted to do something less well known but that shows off their musical creativity and also their studio wizardry.

12. The Yardbirds – Shapes of Things

The same year as the last song, The Yardbirds were advancing ‘hard rock’ in a way that was melodic yet in-your-face. Jeff Beck’s early solo albums would introduce heavy metal before Led Zepplin and others arrived.

13. Mary Ford & Les Paul – How High the Moon

Going back to the #1 song of 1951, this is a reminder of how pop songs were always pop – but at one time there was a genuine requirement to be able to sing and play instruments.

14. Simon & Garfunkel – Scarborough Fair / Canticle

Not an original melody, but shows an amazing example of taking an centuries-old classic and reworking it for the modern era!

15. Bridge over troubled Water

Paul Simon has an incredible library of deceptively complex songs that are memorable and instantly recognizable. With an over-the-top dense production and wearing its heart on its sleeve, this remains an iconic piece of pop art nearly 45 years after release.

16. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye was an incredible vocalist, and this song just rips at your heart and soul … and much of that has to do with the movement within the harmonic structure. A good song can ‘play you’ emotionally even without words, and that is what happens here – the vocals just add even more pull.

17. Blondie – Rapture

The first bit hit for rap, and the first one to get any play on MTV … and just an insanely catchy song that remains interesting and worth listening to while thousands of other rap songs fall to the wayside.

18. Michael Jackson – Thriller

The reason Thriller works so well (the album as well as the song) has to do with the full orchestration of Quincy Jones as much as the great songs themselves. These are essentially big band songs for the modern day, with pop instrumentation supplanting horn sections. And it completely works.

19. 10cc – I’m Not In Love

It is hard to hear this song and not feel like you are floating on air; like so many on this list, this song brings me back … this one to AM radio and getting ready for school in he 70s.

Also check out this Buzzfeed post about the making of the song.

20. Steely Dan – Peg

Aside from writing great songs, Steely Dan enlisted some of the greatest studio musicians and perfectly crafted their sound while having others playing the instruments. The results were always interesting.

There are many more I could have chosen – I didn’t touch Queen or the people I mentioned before like Madonna or Prince. There is an incredible library of popular music out there – I just got and am listening to an upcoming release by the jazz group ‘Thrasher Dream Trio’ of popular R&B songs such as ‘Where is the love’ and others.

So what are some of your favorite ‘not musically trivial’ pop songs? Or do you just hate me now?

My Son’s First Single it Out on iTunes!

Spindell Funk Loop

Spindell Funk Loop

I am not planning to be online much this weekend – as I mentioned, Lisa is off all weekend and frankly … that is a rare thing and I plan to enjoy it! Being offline and present is a great practice that I keep advocating … now I need to do it!

Anyway, my reason for posting is that my younger son Chris has released a single and it is up on iTunes! It is ‘electronic dance music’ and in my unbiased (:) ) opinion it is lots of fun! Check it out here.

You can also check it out on:

Here is an early mix to preview:

Hope everyone has a great Saturday!

Tuesday Thoughts – Junk Miles, a Request and My ‘Two Songs’


Day 2 of Megan’s Abs Challenge – Complete!

We are getting to the end of my 10 Days You list, and as I keep saying I have enjoyed this more than I expected and learned a lot along the way. The comments have been amazing, and I have added stuff to my various watch and wish lists as a result – thanks to all for sharing! Today along with the second-to-last day, I have a couple of other quick topics, so here we go!

No Such Thing as Junk Miles

The concept of ‘junk miles’ is one that fascinates me, and Carson at Running Southern mentioned it in her latest post, in the context of taking charge of her busy life and ditching ‘junk’ miles that don’t get her anywhere in her fitness. I am not bringing her up to disagree or criticize – I support her choice, and if you read her post you will see it makes perfect sense for her.

So what ARE these junk miles? The term ‘junk miles’ came as part of the ‘run less, run faster’ fad, which many have picked up and some have had great success improving their times and staying injury-free. But are they right? Can runners simply cut miles, run some more speed work and end up better for it? Um … maybe, maybe not.

From Competitor:

So who’s right? Science offers no clear answer. On the one hand, studies that have looked at various training variables in groups of runners competing in the same race and compared these variables against their finishing times have found that weekly running mileage is usually the best predictor of performance. In other words, those who run the most tend to achieve the lowest finishing times in races.

On the other hand, numerous prospective studies have shown that runners can achieve large improvements in performance without increasing their mileage by replacing some of their slow running with faster running.

When you look up and down the running literature there is evidence to support either side – and also to debunk either side. Bottom line – there is no absolute definition of junk miles.

But what matters more is looking at how and why you are doing workouts. Are you training for a marathon? If so, those long runs are contributing to your endurance, as well as your recovery. Or maybe you are using them for ‘active meditation’, stress relief, hanging out with friends, or some other non-training purpose. Again, in that case they are NOT junk.

Image Source

The common context applied seems to be that miles – or workouts in general – are junk when you are in the midst of a training cycle and that specific workout contributes nothing to your training.

There are also three REALLY good reasons to focus on maximizing your training efficiency in fewer miles : injury, burnout and frustration.

If you are injury prone, or recovering while training for a new event, every mile can make you more prone to getting injured. And if you are getting stuck in a rut of doing the same thing again and again, chances are you aren’t improving and might be getting burned out and lose interest in your training. None of this is good.

So my advice would be to ditch someone else’s definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ miles, figure out based on your own personal experience what YOUR balance of ‘quality vs. quantity’, and develop your own optimal training plan … regardless of how someone else would judge it.

A Quick Request

I am fortunate to not have been in a position to ask for money for a very long time other than for charitable support, and as a result I try to support charities for others when I can. This weekend I got a request from Ann Brennan, the blogger at Ann’s Running Commentary. Ann’s site was one of the first I found when I started tracking blogs through a guest post she did. Eventually I did a guest post for her, and she remains a good blog friend. Here is what she is asking:

This year I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon for the 7th time. But this year is different. This year I will be running with my dear friend Jeff Prs who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Please help me by donating and/or sharing this link on your page. Jeff is an incredible man and does so much for so many. Raising money and awareness for prostate cancer is the very least I can do.

Check out her donation site, and thanks in advance if you can do anything at all to help.

10 Day You Challenge

OK, so now I am up to Day 9, and the theme is Two Songs. Wait … what?!?! TWO … W.T.F. Anyone who knows me knows that music is a HUGE thing for me, so picking just TWO songs is impossible. So I chose to do something different … I chose one song for myself and one that has special meaning in my life. And once I made that choice – the two songs were immediately chosen and I am satisfied. So let’s go!

Day Nine: Two Songs

1. ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis – I have written about this song here and here, saying:

within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

And it really is one of the singular pieces of modern music, featuring a double quartet (two drums, two basses and two keyboards) as well as multiple ‘world music’ influences and contributions from rock and classical and funk music. Yet it has a harder edge than so much ‘free jazz’ of the period while remaining harmonically tethered and loose all at once. The musicians were young and dynamic, and so while they had no preconceived ideas of what was happening … once the recording started they let loose with some of the greatest music of the last century.

Here is a live version from the Tanglewood Jazz Festival (in Western Massachusetts):

And here is the original album version … all 27 glorious minutes …

2. ‘Skywriting’ by The Bible – Music is important to both Lisa and I, and we have shared music back and forth through the years. I lent her tapes of Pat Metheny and Miles Davis, and she gave me late-80s British new wave stuff like The Lilac Time and The Bible. We really enjoyed listening to why the other one liked certain things, and over time The Bible’s album ‘Eureka’ became ‘ours’ … and the lead song ‘Skywriting’ became our song, played as our first dance by the band at our wedding. Traditional? No … but who the F cares?!? 🙂

The song tells the story of a young couple trying to succeed against the odds and opinions of others. While I was already employed as an engineer (i.e. not broke), just as we fell in love Lisa moved to Albany for a year of graduate school in medical technology. So we had the long distance thing going – and plenty of people ready to cast doom upon us.

Now Lisa only had this on tape, and it was out of print (this was 1990-91), pre-internet, MP3 or YouTube, so it wasn’t something easy to get. But I did some poking around record stores in Boston and was able to special order an import CD through one of those shops – and ‘our songs’ were safe.

We still listen to this CD all the time, and it remains a special part of our life and our family. Here is a live version circa 1990:

What do you think about ‘junk miles’? Have you ever run for a cause? And what are YOUR two top songs – and why?

Thinking Out Loud – Sixteen Candles, Americans Hate Jazz and More


After some heavy stuff recently, a nice casual romp sounded like a fun idea. A few quick things that are not related to anything particularly serious. So let’s jump into it!

1. Awesome Wife is Awesome

This week in our house has been largely dominated by Advanced Placement and antibiotics! Advanced Placement courses with proficiency tests at the end have been around for a long time (I took them ages ago) and promise to dress up your college applications and possibly earn you college credit (my AP tests meant not needing to take any humanity courses at all!). Both of my boys had tests this week – Danny had American History yesterday and Chris has World History today. These are challenging, multi-hour tests that do not replace the final exam for the course (or even the Regents exam in New York). So final study and prep has loomed over the house for the past few weeks.

At the same time Danny has been fighting a cold, had one sick day and ended up in the ‘walk-in care’ doctor’s office on Tuesday with a sinus infection – meaning he took a 5 hour AP test 24-hours into anti-biotics! Yay, fun!

Then yesterday morning we really were worried about our older terrier Rosie – she is 10, has some heart issues and we really feel she is headed towards congestive heart failure. But two days ago she started ‘hacking’ and wheezing and had some rough breathing, and it was even worse yesterday morning – so we got an early vet appointment. Fortunately it turned out she had a small infection, and her trachea was irritated and inflamed, and her lungs were clear and heart sounded good! Whew – just antibiotics and a cough suppressant. Today she is already clearly starting to feel better!

After I headed to work yesterday Lisa got in her workout – after I gave the dogs breakfast Rosie normally lays down in bed with Lisa while I go for my run. But she sounded so bad that Lisa was freaking out (her words) and I abandoned my run so we could sit together. It was a long day, and after dinner Lisa was exhausted and just wanted to relax, do her nails and get ready for a work trip today and watch a bad Lifetime movie. She encouraged me to head out for a run, knowing that I am always better with a run and had missed my morning run, filling the space with loads of stress instead! It was awesome … and I really appreciated it! The picture at top is from after my shower …

It reminded me of the post on SuzLyfe about her relationship with her husband and the challenges and how sometimes the best thing to do is to push your spouse to do what is right for them even if they won’t ask for it themselves.

2. Sixteen Candles Turns 30

The fact that I not only saw this in theaters but also paid my own way and drove there along with friends tells me something – I’m old! Haha …

Sixteen Candles is a classic 80’s John Hughes film, with Molly Ringwald as the lead character whose birthday is forgotten in the frenzy surrounding her sister’s wedding. Anthony Michael Hall is perfect as ‘The Geek’, and even John Cusack has a minor role. This is one of those movies I have always loved and seen a million times, and falls in with my favorites of the era – Real Genius, Better Off Dead, Revenge of the Nerds, War Games, etc – as a great ‘must watch’ movie loaded with memorable quotes and moments.

Here is a classic scene with Gedde Watanabe as Long Duk Dong:

Have you ever seen Sixteen Candles? It is one of those that seems to come and go from Amazon Prime and Netflix (rental-only on Amazon now, DVD-only on Netflix).

3. Acclimating to Heat & Humidity

The other day Sara posted on Instagram talking about not being used to the heat, and I snarkily chided her that she wasn’t allowed to complain after the winter we just had! But the reality is that there IS an acclimation period when the temperature shifts very quickly – which is exactly what we’ve seen!

Abby posted a link to an article looking at what happens as you get used to the heat.

Some of the changes that occur during heat acclimatization include:

– Decreased heart rate, skin and body temperature for a given exercise level
– Blood plasma volume increases, keeping core temperature lower
– Rating of perceived exertion decreases
– Electrolyte concentration in sweat decreases
– Sweat rate increases, allowing more effective cooling
– Renal (kidney) electrolyte concentration decreases, preserving electrolyte levels
– Cutaneous (skin) blood flow improves
– Blood pressure stability improves
– Circulation of blood to muscles improves
– The threshold for sweating decreases and evaporative cooling begins earlier in exercise
– Less reliance on carbohydrate catabolism during exercise

How do YOU deal with it when the temperature suddenly jumps?

4. Why American’s Hate Jazz

I have shared my love for jazz here before – and in particular my love to so-called ‘avant garde’ jazz, stuff that unlike the great Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ (which is both great art and highly accessible) will not simply sit in the background. In college one of the guys in my fraternity drew a picture of a saxophone being tortured which was hilarious. It is my type of music, not for everyone … and I am decades past worrying if anyone else likes it, or debating the merits of the art.

But the fact that jazz accounts for about 3% of total sales means that this great American art form is being practiced by people who need to be willing to trade off money for art. An article over at delves into why Americans (in specific) dislike jazz and improvised instrumental music, with a number of things that are likely to tick some people off … which doesn’t mean they aren’t true. Here is one:

To be able to enjoy instrumental music, you must be able to appreciate abstract art, and that requires a certain amount of effort. Just mindlessly drinking wine, for instance, would not make you a wine connoisseur. Mindlessly looking at colors (which we all do every day) would not make you a color expert either. Great art demands much more from the audience than the popular art does.

He goes on to discuss how the limited musical scope of most popular music of the last 50 years has slowly eroded the ability of an audience to frame an emotional context around non-lyric-based music. Here is one thing he says:

The same happens to instrumental music. If there are no lyrics, that is, if there is nothing for the minds to interpret, projecting of any emotional values becomes rather difficult. As soon as the lyrics speak of love, sex, racism, evil corporations, loneliness, cops, etc., all sorts of emotions swell up. Jazz to most people is like a color on a wall; unless you hung something on it, they don’t even notice it.

I have all sorts of music on my iTunes collection, from jazz to classical to pop and rock and death metal to rap and hip-hop and funk and R&B and folk and electronic and on and on. And I definitely notice that particularly current pop modern hip-hop has shrunk the musical vocabulary to a fairly extreme extent. Generally you can think of it this way – in the past you could play multiple parts of a song (rhythm, two or more harmony patrs, melody) on a piano and have it recognized. Now rhythms are very common and very often replicated from song to song, same for harmonies – and often hip-hop songs are nearly devoid of a core harmonic structure, and that leaves the melody (or key guitar riff in a song like the Stones’ Satisfaction).

The issue isn’t about something being ‘better’, but rather about the potential musical implications of an entire culture eschewing complexity and depth of musical structures. Does it matter? Who knows … all I know is I like what I like, and respect that everyone has their own tastes. So check out the article, or dismiss it as yet more alarmist elitism. 🙂

5. Random Cool Videos

By now many people have seen the ‘cat saves kid’ video, but I’ll share it because it is cool. Basically something is wrong with this dog who works around a minivan and leaps and attacks and drags a kid off his tricycle, only to have the most amazing ninja cat came to the rescue! Check it out:

Another fun one is more of a commercial for the GoPro action camera, but it is so sweet I really don’t care!

Any cool videos
6. More ‘Make You Feel Old’ Stuff

My older son’s girlfriend is a high school senior, headed to Cornell in the fall as part of the college class of 2018. My boys are high school class of 2015 and 2016, and every year there are a number of ‘stuff kids entering high school will never know’ articles.

Buzzfeed looked at “58 Extremely Disappointing Facts About The Class Of 2018”. As always, most of the references are to either outdated technology or forgotten pop culture things that mean something to their parents (or the 20-somethings running Buzzfeed … most of the stuff wouldn’t mean anything to the parents of the class of 2018 either). Anyway, here aer a couple of my favorites:

“Roll down your window” has no meaning.
34. Neither does “don’t touch that dial.”

7. The ‘Outlet Mall’ Ripoff

I think most of us who have shopped at outlet stores for more than a couple decades have seen the changes from when they were messy side-rooms off of a main location where a company could sell off ‘second quality’ or unsold merchandise at a huge discount that would otherwise end up as trash.

The changes I see is the use of ‘outlet malls’ as a secondary retail space – you go to the stores, see many full-price items, some clearance, and some things that SAY they are mark-downs but don’t seem like a great deal.

Over at BuzzFeed they look at the trend of outlets using ‘look-alikes’ – in other words, knock-offs – of their own stuff that they sell at a seemingly low price with a high MSRP that would reflect the first quality goods when originally made.

Here is a quote:

J.Crew, like many other retailers, notes in filings that it sells “a specific line of merchandise” through J.Crew Factory that’s “based on (full-price) products sold in previous seasons” — in other words, it’s kind of a knockoff of itself.

Have you noticed this trend? Do you shop outlets, and if so how do you discern a good deal?


Since I’ve been rambling, I will link up with Amanda for a ‘Thinking Out Loud’!

Bonus #1: Infographics That Promote Reading!

I love reading – though not to the extent of what Laura was tackling earlier this week – and think that things that promote reading are great. Ebookfriendly rounded up seven infographics that promote reading. Here is one:


Bonus #2: More Jazz for You to Hate!

Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity (no live recording available, sadly)

Derek Bailey – a fave of mine, abandons precepts of rhythm and tonality.

Anthony Braxton – ‘structured freedom’, based on logical and mathmatical concepts.

Peter Brotzman – raw power and emotion, totally visceral stuff.

Sam Newsome – more solo stuff, love all of his recent albums.

Mary Halvorson – my favorite young guitarist, really enjoy her concepts

So what is wandering through YOUR mind today?

Award Post Part 2 – Even More Stuff (you didn’t care to know) About ME!


OK, I am a total slacker … over the last month I have been nominated for SIX Liebster and other blog awards, and been meaning to do a post about it ever since the first one from Running Boston and Beyond. My initial problem was that I did one of these posts back in February, and felt like I was spent in terms of personal reveals … but now I am ready to give it a go – and these nominations each have plenty of interesting questions so you can learn even MORE stuff you didn’t care about!

Running Boston and Beyond

Let’s start with Kelli from Running Boston and Beyond (and yes, she did run Boston in 2014)! She is a 40-something wife and mom who loves running and her family and has a great blog – definitely check her out!

1.How did you choose your blog name?

I initially had a blog since ~2006 called ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ where I wrote about stuff I couldn’t post on any of the game review sites I wrote for … and had basically zero readers. So when I got serious about running went beyond what I could comfortably write about for Gear Diary, I needed a new outlet. I was getting older but not ‘over the hill’, and my new focus on ‘serious’ running was a different take on a familiar habit – so not really ‘turning the corner’ or ‘changing course’. So more “Running Around the Bend” … and I landed on WordPress rather than Blogger (where I also have an account) because that name was in use on Blogger.

2.What is your favorite thing to write about?

If you read my post ‘mostly the miles are boring’ you know that running isn’t my favorite topic; nor is cooking and eating – again, because I eat pretty much the same things for 12 or so meals every week (breakfasts and weekday lunches).

But if you read this blog even occasionally you know my favorite things in the world are my wife and kids … so writing about stuff we do together is my fave thing in the world.

3.Why did you start blogging?

I started doing ‘game reviews’ back on USENET in the 80s before the web, then started writing for early websites – again gaming opinions. Then as time went on I started writing editorials and other opinion-based stuff – and from there I found the limits and needed to express myself more. Like I said, at first I was basically writing for myself, and left it behind for a few years.

But last year, after ‘becoming a runner’, and having gone through a long running streak, and done it all mostly posting to Facebook with some stuff written for ‘official posts’, I again found the limits (or rather, they were pointed out to me). So I kicked back into my blog, started using that in my comments … and just over 7 months later here we are!

4.What kind of workout makes you feel the best after it is all over?

Running … is there another kind?

5.What is your favorite post workout recovery food?

Smoothies! Seriously – in the cold weather I like water and later some coffee, in the warmth it is water and then something cold like a smoothie. Or homemade peanut butter ‘fudge’ (melt a bit of butter, stir in peanut butter, add some confectionary sugar and chocolate syrup and stick it in the freezer!)

6.What motivates you?


Sounds odd, but love for my wife, for my kids, for my friends, and for myself is what motivates me.

7.What is your “A” race or biggest fitness goal for 2014?

I still want to run an Ultra … but aside from that just PR everything I do (no biggie, right?). But really – if I am still running 5+ miles 5+ days a week by the end of the year I will be incredibly happy.

8.What is your favorite motivational song?

Maybe it is because I saw it in theaters in 1976 when I was 10 … but Bill Conti’s ‘Rocky’ theme still gives me chills. I don’t use music for workouts, though.

9.What is your favorite “fun” thing to do besides run/train/work out?

Aside from stuff with my family (already mentioned), I would say music. I am still finishing setting up my old studio again and re-adapting my song files to the new configuration (which is simultaneously fun and annoying) … but eventually I will share stuff here.

10.If you could give your 16-year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Focus more on being happy, and stop caring what other people (including your family) thinks.

11.Are you going to pass on the torch and nominate 11 fellow bloggers?

Can I ignore this one? Seriously I am not going to for one main reason – I already skipped out on it last time because everyone else had already been nominated. Still true.


The Gluten Free Treadmill

Next we move on to Laura from The Gluten Free Treadmill. Now I am going to embarass Laura by saying that she is absolutely one of the most wonderful people I’ve met since blogging and a truly treasured ‘internet friend’. She writes about powerful and important stuff and we share loads of common thoughts on things. I have loved seeing her site continue to gain traction and followers – well deserved!

1) What is your spirit animal and why?

I have always been the ‘bear’. Solid, strong, even-tempered and ready. I had a teddy bear from when I was in the hospital at 4, and later on Lisa gave me one for when I was traveling. Even though my size is no longer ‘bear-like’, I will always be the bear.

2) What is your happy place?

On the couch with Lisa, drinking coffee or wine. My ‘personal’ place would be out on a run.

3) What is your favorite ethnic cuisine?

Chinese food of all types, from junk at the mall food court to gourmet stuff in a big city to more exotic stuff to things we make at home. Love the flavor profiles and ingredients and pretty much everything about it.

4) What was your favorite food as a kid?

Steak, from an early age.

5) What is your favorite food today?

Hmmm … would have to choose between sweet potato and … yeah, steak.

6) What are you typically doing on a Wednesday at 11:30 AM?

Something related to work … specific to most of the last two months or so on my new project, either at my desk or in our development clean room … likely thinking about lunch!

7) Why do you blog?

Because I have felt the need to express myself in the digital world ever since that was a possibility. I have always found writing a cathartic outlet, yet never had an interest in pursuing it professionally (to the chagrin of my AP English teacher in high school) … so for me blogging was a natural. And more recently I have found less of a desire to do reviews and more desire to ‘do my own thing’.

8) What do you do when not blogging?

Well, my job at Corning keeps me busy about 50 hours per week, and I have a very busy life with Lisa and the boys and the dogs and the cats. Music, video games, house-related stuff and so on take up the rest.

9) What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned to date about nutrition/food/health?

Food is fuel. Get rid of the good / bad labels, the ‘meat is murder’ mentality, and just figure out what best fuels the life you want to lead … and stop judging yourself and others.

10) What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned to date about something other than nutrition/food/health?

Honest, open communications is the key to everything – it is more important than talent, intelligence, or looks.


Life Between the Miles

Then I was nominated by one of my more recent blog discoveries, Sara from Life Between the Miles. She is from Massachusetts, recently ran the Boston marathon, is married with a cute little boy, and writes a fun and honest blog I look forward to reading all the time.

1. If you could spend the day with one famous person, who would it be and why?

On the one hand, I would love to get the chance to talk to a whole variety of historical leaders, freedom pioneers, artists and musicians and ground-breaking scientists … but on the other hand I can never choose just one because what I would ultimately want is to understand the person behind the story. I place very little value on ‘fame’ or ‘wealth’ and even less on pure ‘celebrity’, so spending time with a person because they are ‘famous’ has no draw for me.

2. What is an attribute you admire in others?

Honesty. In crowded engineering fields, saying ‘I don’t know’ can be seen as weakness, so people will sometimes pretend to know things they don’t. In my personal life I’ve had many people say things for no reason that are clearly not true (why?). Yeah, for me it all starts with honesty.

3. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the 3 things you would take with you?

OK, I am assuming Lisa, Danny and Chris is cheating?

4. If money was no object, what would you choose as your career?

I would still be working, but would push the measurement science side harder. When I was younger I thought music store or studio, or book store, or teacher or something … but none of those really appeal to me enough to mitigate the downsides.

5. What is YOUR greatest achievement?

While professionally my direct contributions to the first 1GHz microprocessor technology, or significant work in the development of the technique of Scatterometry for sub-100nm semiconductor measurements are probably my ‘biggies’ … for me it is marrying Lisa, as even having our boys stems from that.

6. Why did you decide to start blogging? *answered in the first group*

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?

People who have no regard for others.

8.What is your favorite pizza toppings?

When I was young I used to get onion, pepper, hamburg and linguica … now I would say just cheese.

9. What is the theme song of your life?

Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew – within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

10. If you had $1,000 that you could spend on anything, what would you spend it on?

Funny thing that as such a techie I am also not very materialistic … so I don’t immediately think about some new gadget. Instead I think about paying off things like the one car payment or working down the mortgage so she the kids are done with college we will be more free to choose our path forward.

But since I should really choose stuff … I would get Lisa some Hoka One Ones to support her ankle and redo her Pandora bracelet so it fit better … and myself some running gear, and the rest for some clothes and shoes for the boys.


She’s Going the Distance

Next the hilarious and sarcastic dude Cori from She’s Going the Distance (yes, like that Cake song). Both she and her fiance Cameron have great blogs I enjoy, and I look forward to reading about their wedding later this year (yes, I am a total sappy romantic type):

1. Do you have a night before or race day ritual that you HAVE to do?

Nothing on the creepy superstitious level, just make sure my crap is ready and try to get some sleep.

2. Do you love your job?

Yes I do … like the line in Real Genius ‘I love solving problems’. Today I helped a young engineer figure out a critical experimenal problem on her project, taught her some statistics and more details about some software. She was super happy and grateful … which makes it all worthwhile!

3. Why did you start blogging? *answered in the first group*

4. What is your favorite running shoe brand?

Right now I am loving Saucony – I’m on Virratas now, but I just saw Amazon clearanced the Kinvara 4s as they prep for the 5! Might have to grab a pair cheap!

5. Ice cream, popsicles or milkshakes?


6. Where’s the last place you traveled?

Glorious Troy, NY! The trip to RPI and my fraternity was worth enduring Troy, as I wrote about the other day!

7. Power song to run or train to?

Music for running?

8. Beach or Mountains?

Beach! We watched one of those ‘house hunter’ shows the other night just because it was all beach houses!

9. Are you afraid of heights?

Not at all – I seek out heights and rollar coasters.

10. Favorite show on tv currently?

I tend to ‘lose track’ of shows fairly easily, so for me it has to be something we all can enjoy. Right now we’re doing Grimm, Castle, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock and Hannibal. The BBC shows are less frequent, and the others we watch on Hulu more often than not due to schedules.

Last 2014 Cold Selfie1

Run Salt Sun
Next came Lauren from Run Salt Sun … or just #mamaSalt, who has gained quite a bit of success both as a speedy runner and a ‘mommy blogger’ – though she is not typical of that breed (thankfully). She has an adorable little girl, and a husband who loves her in spite of her running ‘problem’ 🙂

1) Who is your favorite Sesame Street character?

The Count! I was just 3 when Sesame Street launched on PBS (when there were all of a half dozen stations between UHF/VHF), so I mostly know Big Bird, Kermit, etc. But the Count was always a fave.

2) How do you feel about treadmills?

Aren’t those the things they make lab rats run on for experiments?

3) Are you good at math?

My job is as a statistician and metrology (measurement) engineer. Does that answer the question? Ask my family … I torment them with math,

4) What is your favorite brand of running shoe?
5) Coolest celebrity you’ve met?

For me the coolest thing was riding the elevator with jazz guitar legend John Scofield in the late 80s – I was going to see him play that night, so it was cool to chat in the elevator and he was awesome.

Also, at a wedding of one of Lisa’s friends we got to see Chet & Nat – two Boston news icons.

6) What is your dream job?

You know … I really have no idea. I am pretty happy where I am, no desire to move, and get to spend enough time with my family. Seeing so many people try small businesses has shown me that is NOT what I want … and really most of my hobbies I am happy with as hobbies.

7) What is your favorite kind of pie?

Lisa makes a killer apple pie (yes, despite being allergic) with a sugar cookie top-crust. Yeah, probably that.
8) How many brothers and sisters do you have?

I have one of each and I am the middle child (explains a lot, really). Both of my siblings are divorced at this point (within the last few years), and each has had significant heart issues. My brother lives in NJ and my sister in MA.

9) Why did you start blogging? *answered in the first group*

10) Do you take selfies at races?

Sometimes afterwards, but generally I have some part of my crew so they take pictures of me.

Vacation 20023


And finally Abby from thesecretlifecoachofdc, who is a fun and energetic young blogger with a great philosophy that “all aspects of a healthy lifestyle (fitness, nutrition, social, mental, sleep, etc) are intertwined”. All about balance!

My Questions for My Nominees

1. What are your three favorite things to do in your down time?

– Spend time with my wife and boys.
– Go for a run.
– Make music

2. What is your life motto?

I had one ‘find excess within moderation’ that I liked a lot when I was younger … and while I haven’t ever really been a ‘live by a motto’ person, I still like it.

3. What is your dream job? *answered in the previous group*

4. If you described yourself as a color, what color would you be and why?

A bright vibrant blue … because it is my favorite color, shows energy with a certain coolness, and has higher photon energy than all of those ‘warmer’ colors!

5. If someone wrote a book about your life up until now, what would the title be?

“Why the heck are you contemplating buying this boring story about a happily married, well employed middle-aged family man with no addictions or tragic flaws?”

6. Who would you choose to play you in a movie?

Another weird one – and again no clue. Many people I might have chosen ages ago I feel have aged poorly (James Spader), or are too good looking (George Clooney) and would seem arrogant. I dunno – who would YOU think?

7. If you could be a professional athlete, what sport would you choose to be a pro at?

Running for sure – it used to be basketball but that has lost its allure to me, whereas I would be fine being a pro runner, traveling around meeting other runners, and getting to enjoy all of the incredible races.

8. Who do you look up to the most in life right now?

My wife – she has had to go through many things in her life, yet she approaches every day with bright eyes and an open and loving heart.

9. What is your favorite thing about blogging?

The people – definitely the people. Sure I like writing and reading stories and perspectives and all that – but ultimately it is the people BEHIND the blogs that I find intriguing.

10. What stores do you frequent the most (online or in-person)?

Online I am very much an Amazon person for … well, everything. In the real world I would love to say it was someplace more glamorous or gourmet … but it is Walmart. Because it is close, convenient, and cheap.

11. Favorite book right now?

Fave is always tough … but I am re-reading the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. They are translated from Russian and a decent fantasy series. I started re-reading it because the English translation of the latest book is coming out later this year.

Though if I had to choose a singular favorite it would be ‘Cat’s Cradle’ by Kurt Vonnegut. It is a book that I read and re-read, and it always either shows me something different or strikes me differently.


My Final Thoughts

As I finish this I realize how much more useless crap I could talk about – so I started a ‘random facts’ post that I will do some time in the future.

I mentioned that I wasn’t going to nominate anyone – since this cycle started a few months ago I have been reading about all of these different cool things about bloggers. Pretty much everyone has had at least one Liebster post, so I couldn’t find anyone to nominate!

But – if you are reading this and have not done a Liebster post, or you want to do another one … consider THIS your invitation. Here are the rules:
– Pick 10 questions from the ones above.
– Answer them.
– Link back to this post so I can see you’re post.
– Nominate someone if you want.

And that is it! Happy Thursday everyone … we’re getting close to the weekend!

Motivation Monday – Stuff to Do In Your 30s, Merrell Preview, and Monday Mixtape

Danny Chris1

I can’t believe how exhausting this weekend was – or how fast it went by! Everything went better than we could have expected – and the cold weather and snow even pushed off a day so the kids had mid-40s and sun for the prom pictures! The image at top is both boys at the hair salon – each got a pretty radical cut, and I just love this picture! This week promises to be every bit as much of a blur as last week, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts my blogging schedule!

This past week I was reading ’10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s’, which is a result of a survey conducted by the author was just turning 30 who asked his subscribers aged 37 and older to give advice to their 30-year-old selves. The results – well, to me anyway – are not particularly surprising – ‘save more money now’ is the mantra no matter where you look.

In my estimation you would largely get the same answers if you asked 50 year olds to advise their 40-year old selves, and so on. But that doesn’t make things any less true or interesting. Here are five pieces of advice, with my thoughts:

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

“Your mind’s acceptance of age is 10 to 15 years behind your body’s aging. Your health will go faster than you think but it will be very hard to notice, not the least because you don’t want it to happen.” (Tom, 55)

While it is true that it is never too late to get in shape, eat right, start exercising and so on – the longer you wait the more of an impact it will have on your day to day life. There are people in my life who never did that – and you can see the difference between them and their healthier siblings who struggled with the same risk factors but came through their 30s in much better shape.

By making choices to take care of yourself, you are investing in your own future – saving money is great, but if you are unable to enjoy it there is little point. None of us can guarantee our future, but why not set ourselves up for the best possible chance of being able to do the things you want when you finally have the time to do them?

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

OK, I have written about this more than once at this point, but it is such an important point I will continue to drum away.

As Sartre said, ‘hell is … other people’. At the same time, I also think heaven is other people – and one of the key things in life is discovering the difference.

One thing worth noting in the comments for my ‘healthy boundary’ post? That older commenters (sorry!) had great confidence in their ability to do this. In your 30s you are in between the point when you are still attached to your parents and siblings from your childhood roots, and then when you seek to appreciate whatever time is left as parents and relatives age and die. So your 30s and 40s are the time to make the most of these relationships – or eliminate them if they are toxic.

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

This is the flip-side of the last one – surround yourself with people who are good to you and build up your strengths. That isn’t to say you should be surrounded by ‘yes men’ – something I see too often in the blogging world where 99% of comments are affirmations rather than critical questions.

Too often I see people become fixated on the one person who doesn’t like them rather than the 9 who do. This is the time to realize that those other 9 people also have other friends, are developing their own lives and interests, and that when you realize you have been wasting your time chasing the one who doesn’t like you … the other 9 are gone.

Realize that friendship is a two way street, that all relationships ebb and flow, and that no matter what you might think, many of the friends from your 20s won’t be there in your 40s … so just enjoy all of your friends and celebrate life.

5. You can’t have everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

“Everything in life is a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another and you can’t have it all. Accept that.” (Eldri, 60)

I love this quote. And while it might sound cynical, I eye-roll when I see those ‘you can be anything’ motivational posters.

Sorry to burst your bubble with a truth bomb … but you really do need to make some choices, and once you do it becomes harder – but not impossible – to un-make the choices. It is like the fork in the road – sometimes there are ways to cross between forks, but often you have to go all the way back and then start down the other path.

Oh – and by its very nature you cannot simultaneously be on BOTH forks simultaneously.

But rather than get stressed or down, instead use this time to focus on your passion and skill-set and make the most of things. If you are in a very specialized area it will take more effort. But I have friends who have gone from engineering to health and fitness instructors, real estate, and so on.

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

When most people are coming to the end of undergraduate school, a division happens – some go on to graduate school, others head for jobs. Those heading to jobs are often ‘done’ with school and are not looking for more classes. By the time they are ready to start seeking more training they might be married, maybe own a house, some pets and possibly kids on the way … it gets hard to find the time and focus.

The same is true with exercise and healthy eating – jobs, family, limited time … all of these end up making it increasingly difficult for you to focus on maintaining and improving yourself. There is always the thought – when I have more time.

Guess what? It doesn’t happen. You will always have things in the way, but need to make continuous education and focus on health a priority or it just won’t happen.

10. Be kind to yourself, respect yourself

Here is the thing – if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else really will. It isn’t that others won’t do nice things for you, but ultimately you need to make sure that not only your needs are met, but that you ensure that you connect with yourself at a very deep level.

For me, running and music and technology provide that connection, and my family makes sure I have the space to explore those things.

So What is the Motivation?

The great thing about this article is that it is both an inspiration and a ‘warning shot’. It is too easy to lose track of time and priorities, especially in your 20s when you feel invincible and immortal.

By the time you are in your 40s chances are you know more than a couple of people who have died of ‘old people diseases’.

The challenge is to look into the future and see the person you want to be 10 or 20 years from now, and start being that person NOW.

I didn’t realize that was exactly what I was doing in my 20s … but it was. I lost more than 175lbs, focused on positive relationships, sought education to broaden my technical focus to include statistics as well we engineering and optical physics, and chose a path that would mean less money but more time with family and closer connection to things I enjoyed working on.

And as I have entered my ‘second running chapter’, I can see the results from that – I look and feel younger than I have in years.

Merrell AllOut Rush Preview

I have been checking out the Merrell AllOut Rush, which are 6mm drop trail running shoes with 5mm lugs that protect you without picking up rocks. This shoe is intended as a protective, dedicated trail running shoe with a very solid feeling rock plate. I recorded a quick preview after taking a 15 mile run in them, and will do a full review when I get more time on the trails. For more info head to Merrell:

Monday MixTape!

This past week as I was changing up my iPod contents I came across a recording I had bought on an Amazon sale last year but really hadn’t listened to – ‘Liquid Spirit’ by Gregory Porter. This is a highly acclaimed recording that won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album this year, and upon giving it a solid listen, I can see it deserves all of the accolades. I am a huge jazz fan, but not so much into vocal jazz. But I wanted to highlight a few great jazz vocalists whose stuff I love:

1. Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit – this is a fantastic recording that mixes soul and jazz and funk and standards. The silky smooth vocals nuance through the lyrics and offer a compelling listen.

2. Esperanza Spalding – Black Gold – the wunderkind who beat Justin Bieber for best new artist took a more commercial turn with her most recent recording, and although I preferred her previous album, solid offerings like Black Gold show off the depth and breadth of her skills.

3. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit – You really can’t get through the history of female vocalists without Billie Holiday. I chose this one because it is very late in her life, as years of drugs and alcohol and ‘hard living’ have taken their toll but she remains an incredibly gifted interpreter of song.

4. Joni Mitchell – The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines – While Joni isn’t really a jazz singer, her work with jazz composer/bassist Charles Mingus at the end of his life in the mid-70s remains some of her greatest work. She had alreday been exploring innovative harmonic spaces and intervallic leaps, and bringing together a group of young jazz talents produced an incredible set of recordings.

5. Ella Fitzgerald – One note Samba – there are few vocalists who possess the skills of Ella, and this recording of her working her instrument is just incredible to behold. Even much later in her life when I saw her live she was just amazing.

6. Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane – Lush Life – I have had this CD for ages, and it is one of those things like ‘Kind of Blue’ or ‘Time Out’ you can put on and everyone will love it, it can sit in the background or hold up to intensive study. The contrast of Hartman and Coltrane shouldn’t work … but instead it is stunning.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Or, if you are 37 or older, what advice would you give 30-year old you? Also, what is spinning on your iPod today>

Wandering Through Thursday – Throwback, MiMM, Thoughts and Tasty Tunes!


Wow … holy ‘what happened to Wednesday’, Batman!?! Actually I know EXACTLY what happened … and it is a good thing. Aside from craziness at work, three areas I have talked about addressing – dawdling before my run, doing bodyweight exercises, and no computer in bed – have all been going well, and that immediately cuts into the time I would use for blogging.

So Wednesday’s post had already been changed around (hopefully all these changes means next week will be smoother), but I never finished it and ran out of time, so today I have a whole bunch of stuff crammed together – so let’s get to it!

Throwback Thursday


This isn’t too old – just last year. We brought Danny to East Stroudburg University for the American Music Abroad program, and before they headed to Europe they had a few days of intense rehearsals. That left Lisa, Chris and I to do things for a few days. One thing we wanted to to was hit NYC for the day … and while the weather was pretty miseable, we had a blast.

Going to a music store if you are a non-musician is boring at best, but for musicians Guitar Center is a blast! The Boston store is better than the one in NYC, but they are both loads of fun. Since I play guitar, bass and keyboards and have a digital music studio … I could lose myself for the day if I wasn’t painfully aware of how awful it is for Lisa. But apparently I lost myself enough while noodling on a cool semi-hollow jazz guitar that Lisa grabbed this picture of me. Chris was in his element working the CDJ-2000! If only he had a spare $10k it would have been his!

New York City is one of the places we are considering for vacation this summer, because we have never all gone together, and there are colleges both kids want to visit – which is a key element to our vacation plans. I’m sure we’ll find a bit of Guitar Center time in there as well!

Hurray for Spring!

I was so thrilled Tuesday morning when I woke up before my alarm and was ready to head out on my run. It was made better because the temperature hadn’t dropped close to zero as was predicted, and was 19F with light winds when I started out. That was still cold, but rather than worrying so much about being warm enough, I could just toss on a pretty standard outfit and go!

Wednesday was an odd one because the thermometer read 39, but it was windy … and the wind was quite chilly, making it feel more like 25. Still … 25F is pretty nice running weather! The issue is always getting too warm when the wind is blocked and then chilled when the wind kicks up.

And for the first day of spring? Again it was 39, but the wind was much warmer, and it was just a glorious day for running!

Oh, and how I talked about ‘working my plan’? By Thursday most weeks I would have about 26 miles done (not counting Sunday) … this week? 35 miles Monday – Thursday! And still home by 6AM every day! Sorry I’m not sorry that has messed up my blogging and writing for other sites!

Marvelous in My Monday Wednesday

On Monday I whined talked about dealing with the winter blahs … but what that really meant for me was how to get the weather out of the way so I could enjoy my run. Apparently expecting -2F and getting +20F was JUST the thing! So suddenly things went from ‘blah’ to … marvelous!


And as I thought about it, another draft-in-progress got kicked to next week, as I decided a hybrid of sorts was in order – my normal ‘thinking out loud’ along with a ‘marvelous in my Monday’. I loved Arman’s take this week, and want to link up for MiMM with … so here goes:

Danny Tux

Marvelous is – a picture of my older son in his tux at a fitting, seeing how much he has grown into a young man and how great he looks.

Chris Mens Wearhouse

Marvelous is – a selfie from my younger son from the same location, just hanging out being him.
Marvelous is – practicing ballroom dancing with Lisa, not being very good, but laughing and banging into each other and other things and getting the dogs all riled up.

Marvelous is – my running. I am not the fastest or best by any stretch. I am me … and that is good enough.

Marvelous is – reading. I had really wanted a minimum of a book a month, but haven’t finished ANY yet; with my Lenten commitment to keeping the computer away, I have been SO much better, and am nearly finished with ‘Night Watch’. Will I re-read the full series before the new one? Who knows … but at least I have a good start!

Marvelous is – my ability to get up tomorrow and run. I never take it for granted. I am not yet old, but certainly not young … and I know too many people who cannot do it.

Marvelous is – Food. In every sense. I talk about my disordered dealings with food, and it is a constant challenge for me. I am happy with how I am balancing fueling and control … I am not gorging myself, nor am I denying myself or restricting. Balance.

Marvelous is – my marriage. For whatever reason, yesterday we each had people at work remarking positively on our relationship, which always feels good – after so many years we don’t need external validation … but hearing that those feelings shine outside of ourselves is pretty cool.

Marvelous is – my wife, who makes me proud and happy and giddy all the time.

Marvelous is – our dogs, who are so full of love and joy and spirit.

Marvelous is – our 13-year old ‘cancer kitty’ Leo, who we decided not to have treated two years ago … and he is still happily tormenting the neighbrhood!

Marvelous is – Dolly, the 9 or 10 year old cat we have been ‘cat sitting’ for three years …

Marvelous is – music; I wish there was more time for me to work on playing and writing music … but what time I DO get fills my heart with joy.

Marvelous is – reading all of the awesome race summaries from last weekend. There were great reads from Cori, Hollie, Lisa and Lauren among others. Each has loads of interesting insights and details. It is a reminder that no two races are the same … which is true even when it is the same race.

A few other things (since this is a Wednesday):
The Post-Google Post-Buzzfeed World
We all see the headlines like ‘5 Power Mega Super Marathon Tips You MUST DO NOW’ … and of course the article tells you ‘hydrate, build mileage, fuel, practice race pace, and taper’. Um, yeah thanks.

The reality is that bloggers live in a world where Google’s page rank dominates search traffic and makes people use SEO as a guiding light of life. The result is that more and more blogs look like Buzzfeed (or Upworthy) with a bunch of over-blown titles that claim the universe.

Depending on who is reading this, there might be one or two recent articles that come to mind. I am not singling anyone out – because it is much more of a cumulative problem!

I was cleaning out my various feeds – Feedly, email subscriptions, Bloglovin and WordPress – and I have a HUGE number of feeds in differemnt areas. I track stuff from running, health, music, technology, video games, gadgets, deals, statistics, science, humor and offbeat stuff, and so on. And guess what – ALL of those areas are moving to the SEO-centric view.

The problem when you are confronted with dozens of titles with ‘Must Read’ or ‘Ultimate’ or ‘Essential’ or whatever other hyperbolic terms you can imagine? They stop being eye-catching and become annoying. And when I start to feel like I am being ‘gamed’, I bristle. I had friends at blogs in the past who I have stopped following and commenting … and when they asked why I would say ‘when you stop with 300 iPhone link-bait posts during the pre-announcement cycle I will come back’.

Fortunately there were very few of my running/health blogs falling into that category … and those that are, I am willing to cut some slack for a bit …

The Power of Optimized Mediocrity

I love this article called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Mediocre People”, on accepting that most of us are not the whiz-kid billionaire types, but still want to do well and make a good life.

As far as I can tell, Larry Page has never failed. He went straight from graduate school to billions. Ditto for Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and a few others. But again, by definition, most of us are pretty mediocre. We can strive for greatness but we will never hit it. So it means we will often fail. Not always fail. But often.

I often read there motivational images about ‘being anything you want’. That is a nice aspiration, but the reality is you should focus on figuring out who you are and becoming the best version of that!

Totally NOT Marvelous Race Reports

As much as I love reading a great race report, there was also some tough news out of this weekend.

At the Shamrock, 16-year old Cameron Gallagher collapsed seconds after finishing and never regained a heart beat. It is a sad and tragic story …

But according to Runner’s World not the only one. In the UK at the Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon, an unidentified 40+ year old man collapsed and died near the end of the race.

And at the NYC half-marathon, a runner collapsed but was resuscitated quickly.

It is a sad reminder of the risks associated with any physical exertion – and that a half marathon is not a trivial challenge.

Still not sure about the ‘student athlete’

Because we are plunging into ‘March Madness’, it is time once again to remind ourselves that these kids are supposedly ‘students’. Of course, most are SINO (students in name only), having been recruited based on non-scholastic skills, put into ‘academic’ programs designed around the athletic department, and so on. Realistically, these kids are pro athletes, in the business of playing a sport for a school rather than a city.

I think my biggest problem is the distinction between ‘pros in college’ and ‘student athletes’. When I was at RPI the hockey team won the national championship and was a major powerhouse. The school also gave scholarships for other sports, but it was different. The hockey players had their own housing, whereas my first roommate was on the basketball team. Hockey players were almost all in the same academic program, basketball players were accepted into the school and THEN given scholarships.
Of course even hockey players were not all the same – there were some ‘pucks’ as we called them who had little academic skill to offer, others who might not have made it in without hockey, and still others who were both smart AND good players.

Lauren at WillRunForBoston talked about it recently, about how “In college, running wasn’t a hobby. I was on scholarship at a Division I team and I had to give cross country and track 110%.”

But I also draw a distinction between a more ‘pure’ athletic pursuit like track, and the ‘road to pro’ sports such as football and basketball. Think about it – I remember that Larry Bird went to Indiana State and Magic Johnson went to Michigan State … and those schools use that information to get more money for everything they do.

How You Game vs. How You Work

While my constant chatter on video games gives some a case of MEGO, there is a lot that can be learned about people by how they play games. This study just came up again, and talks about different types of video games and how the players approach work and other problems.

I was going to talk about this for Friday, but it really isn’t worth it … I am an engineer and statistician, whose life every day includes planning experiments, analyzing results, and so on. It is not surprising that strategic games or number-heavy role-playing games are most interesting to me, as well as story-centric action games.

And for this totally random brain-dump I’m linking up with Amanda once again. I have really enjoyed doing this, if you can’t tell …


This week’s JAM is Jack DeJohnette ‘Special Edition’ box set

This isn’t really new, but is one of those things that I never gave proper attention when it came out a couple of years ago – it is a remastered box set and I own two of the albums already. But rather than immerse myself, I just listened to the new versions of what I already owned and then moved on.

Last week I had the song ‘Third World Anthem’ in my head, so I pulled out my CD of ‘Irresistable Forces’, from the 1987 incarnation of Jack Dejohnette’s Special Edition. The CD is out of print, so when I left it in my car but wanted to hear it in the house I realized I hadn’t imported it into iTunes … and that the version from ‘Album Album’ WAS on my iTunes. So suddenly I was listening to this amazing four album set …

Here is the press info:

Special Edition – a band with revolving membership and an incredible cast of soloists including David Murray, Arthur Blythe and Chico Freeman – was one of the most sophisticated vehicles for Jack DeJohnette’s all-around talents. This set brings together the albums Special Edition (ECM 1152), Tin Can Alley (ECM 1189), Inflation Blues (ECM 1244) and Album Album (ECM 1280), underscoring the excitement of invention and possibility one can hear in this era of DeJohnette’s career. The recordings reveal him as an artist in touch with tradition even as he sought the cutting edge of the day, paying homage to his jazz heroes yet experimenting with new sounds. There are echoes of old New Orleans grooves and Swing-era big bands in this collection, as well as material crafted with the techniques of ’80s pop singles; there are ambitious suite-like compositions, and there is spontaneously lowdown rhythm & blues.
Recorded 1979-1984 and remastered from original tapes for ECM’s Old & New Masters series.

Across the four albums we hear the following musicians:

Jack DeJohnette on drums, piano, organ, congas, timpani, melodica, vocals; David Murray on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Arthur Blythe on alto saxophone; Chico Freeman on soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, bass clarinet; John Purcell on alto and baritone saxophones, flutes, alto clarinet; Rufus Reid on bass, electric bass; Peter Warren on double bass, cello; Baikida Carroll on trumpet.

What I love about ‘Special Edition’ is that it is a free jazz group working in a highly composed environment and led by one of the great drummers of jazz. DeJohnette played with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and On The Corner amongst others – he could play straight jazz, fusion, funk and free.

The rest of the group is like a who’s who of the late-70s free jazz movement, so if you look up any of them on AllMusic and look at their output you will find some real gems. Rufus Read is responsible for one of the ‘must have’ books for bass players (The Evolving Bassist) … and all of that knowledge just spills out on these recordings.

Ultimately ‘Album Album’ remains my favorite recording from this collection, but that is largely because of ‘Third World Anthem’. Check it out below!

The albums are available on ECM Records for 19.90 Euros (converted)and Amazon for $28.49.

Here is a live recording of the 1988 band playing Third World Anthem:

So … what is running through YOUR mind this Thursday?

Motivation Monday – Break Through the Winter ‘Blahs’, Also My ‘Monday Mixtape’

Motivation Monday

Happy Monday and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone had a great weekend and it didn’t zoom by TOO fast! As I write this I have no idea what will wear to work as I own very little green outside of a couple of tech shirts, and that won’t work! I’m sure I’ll find something!

True confession time – despite coming through a winter of record cold temperatures, we are entering the hardest motivational part of the year for me. I know it might seem counter-intuitive, but someone at work said ‘you must be thrilled’, and while I said ‘yes it is great that it isn’t so cold, that is only half true. While it is great not dealing with such brutal cold, these bitter months have presented challenges – challenges that mostly disappear at ‘normal winter’ temperatures. Here are a few thoughts on why this transition period challenges me:

– Running at -20F is a ‘test of wills’. For internal contests, I win those. It is how I lost almost 200 lbs at 23 and more than 100 lbs in 2012.
– When people learn I regularly run in sub-zero temperatures, they generally think I am nuts, but the conversation (like the comments here) are motivational – they encourage me to get up on the next sub-zero morning.
– No one really wants to hear you whine about running in 20F weather.
– 40F in the afternoon means <20F when I run, and with winds it generally means 10-15F wind chills.
– That means I still am wearing ~80% of what I do at -20F. And it is still cold.
– By now I have run my ‘winter preset’ course pretty much every weekday for several months with only minor variations.

I noticed it last week, and pushed HARD to get through it. The thing that concerns me is, as anyone knows, you can only push for so long. I worry that winning the ‘battle of wills’ all winter has worn me down. What I really need is something to bridge the gap between ‘totally sucks’ and ‘totally awesome’ … which for me seems to be more than 40F at 4AM.

So here are some thoughts I have had about motivation when you are bogged down with the ‘winter blahs’:

1. Change Up Your Route

This weekend I had to wedge my runs into a very busy schedule, so Saturday was a ‘standard’ run … but on Sunday I needed something different. So I ran a route I hadn’t used since the fall. It makes sense WHY I avoid it – it is dark, with uneven areas, and I have seen too many skunks on it.

Until it starts getting light earlier I can’t use that route – but going out late Sunday morning was perfect. I ran faster and more spirited than I had in a while, and although I only ran 10.75 miles, I felt it later on! It was an entirely positive experience – even though it was 21F and 11F with wind chill.

2. Force Yourself Back into Challenges

When the temperature dropped, I abandoned a real ‘training routine’ and instead just did one ‘run with purpose’ each week … which was almost always ‘long distance’. Gone were tempo, fartleks or other pacing runs. And for the depths of winter that is great – but now the prospects of running the same route the same way feels like drudgery.

So now it is time to bring back the challenges – to work on my pace and consistency, and really re-establish my feel. I ended last year really strong with my final half-marathon in November … I want another good year! So as the morning temperatures later this week will be in the upper 20s, I will bring back the challenges!

3. Get the Pre-Run Routine Under Control

The thing is, once I am dressing for slightly warmer temperatures, I shouldn’t be limiting myself to the same routes anymore. I should be pushing my mileage a bit, and also getting in some bodyweight exercise more frequently.

Truth is I get into full-on dawdle mode in the late winter, and I don’t want that to dominate as we move towards spring … so I need to pur some discipline around how I conduct my mornings!

4. Rewards, Rewards, Rewards!

This is one that seems great but I can’t visualize now. I really don’t spend much money on myself in any way, so I am thinking this could be a great way to step outside the box and figure out some rewards to work towards. For me it is not about money or material things or junk food, but rather something that would give me incentive to get out and challenge myself. Given how much I am packing into a day … time seems to be a great area to work with.

If anyone has thoughts specific to me – or themselves – I would love to hear them!

5. Find Other Things to Worry About

This weekend I was doing a ‘shoe check’, in which I confirmed that my Saucony Kinvara 4s with more than 1300 miles are in better shape than the 600 mile New Balance Minimus. I started that on Friday and used Saturday and Sunday to confirm. Now I will be rotating them until I really need to get something new … I might be better about buying good shoes now, but I am still not in a rush to spend the money!

Also, as I alluded to before, in February an update to Garmin Connect killed 3rd party uploads … which means I haven’t been able to upload my Magellan Echo data in weeks! So I decided to go back to using the Nike+ site, but need to remember my password, then upload all of my old data, and so on. It will be a bit of a project, so I will also investigate other tracking sites that I can use directly from the Wahoo Fitness app. My thought? Motivation through accountability.

Apparently It Is Not Just Me!

There are apparently plenty of others who deal with the ‘winter blahs’, as evidences by these article on Curing The Winter Blahs, Staying Active to Cure the Winter Blahs, 10 Cool Ways to Beat the Winter Blues, and 5 Intentions To Set This Spring

I love the 5 Intentions To Set This Spring post, as it talks about looking forward and setting yourself up to power into Spring! Here is a snip:

4. Embrace your passion.

Whether it’s a hobby you’ve loved for all of your life, or something new that makes your heart thump a little harder, embrace something that ignites a flame within you. Set aside time — even if it’s just once a week — and, during that time, focus all of your energy on whatever your passion may be. In the craziness of life, it’s not uncommon that we neglect a hobby we love due to other obligations. But passion is what makes us feel alive. Passion is what fills us with positive energy, flowing from one person through to the next. Passion fuels more passion, making this life a happy one to live. All we have to do is set an intention to embrace it.

Monday MixTape!

This week we get the release of ‘Recess’ from Skrillex, currently streaming on iTunes ‘First Play’. You should check it out if you haven’t, especially while you can still stream it free! To celebrate the release of new material from one of my son’t favorite artists, here are five songs that step us through some of the coolest electronic music in my iTunes collection!

1. Skrillex – Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites – this is the most famous Skrillex song, and makes me think of seeing Skrillex Live with my younger son who is a huge fan. I can tell he doesn’t like this new album as much, but that is as much about evolving tastes as anything else.

2. Deadmau5 – Sofi Needs a Ladder – While Skrillex is very ‘song-oriented’, Deadmau5 falls somewhere between the pop side of things and the more experimental world of electronic music.

3. Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster – After nearly a decade of low output, Daft Punk broke out again in 2013. But they have always been about a good jam.

4. Kraftwerk – The Robots – hard to place this in 1978, as it was so ahead of its time. The US version is played at a faster tempo, but the original contains everything you need to know. Kraftwerk were incredible visionaries, and all of electronica owes them a considerable debt.

5. Bill Laswell – Iron Cross – Bill Laswell is a bassist, but has been involved as a producer all the way back to Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit‘, and for many years was as likely to release albums of dub, ambient, or other electronic stuff (not to mention being part of the epic ‘Dark Side of the Moog’ series). This album remains my favorite.

So do you get the ‘winter blahs’ ? If so, how do you get past them? Also, what is spinning on your iPod today>

Monday Mixtape – Rock, Pop & Hip-Hop Collection

Monday Mixtape

Monday Mixtape

If you follow my ‘What I’m Listening to Wednesday’ series, you know I gravitate towards ‘out there’ jazz’. But as much as anything, I am a total consumer of music, and I tend to go on ‘listening tangents’ – one song suggests another and another and then I have no idea where I might end up! Not sure if this will go anywhere, but for today I am going to list out 10 songs that have been spinning in my head this week!

So let’s get to it – and see if you like any of these jams!

A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour (from Midnight Marauders) – I have always liked funky music, going back to Sly & The Family Stone. I got Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Low End Theory’ soon after it came out, and have always been a fan. I introduced my son, and he is now a huge fan. I have this song on ‘Anthology’, but we were digging the whole album.

Living Colour – Cult of Personality – He got his start in avant grade jazz with Ornette Coleman, and I saw Vernon Reid live with Ronald Shannon and the Decoding Society, but he hit it big as guitarist for Living Colour. They hit and were gone very quickly it seemed. Reid continues to cross-over between rock and jazz regularly.

Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World – I mentioned on Facebook that we watched the entirety of ‘Breakfast Club’ for the first time in years, and whenever I watch an 80s movie I go back to my faves, like ‘Better Off Dead’ and ‘Real Genius’ … so I was listening to a ‘Best of Tears for Fears’ album on Rdio.

Digable Planets ‘Reachin’ – Really the whole ‘Reachin’ album is pretty excellent, but it is Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That) that exemplified the album, band and movement.

Capital Cities – Safe and Sound – This has been one of Chris’ jams for quite a while, and it came on someone’s radio when I was at work on Friday … so I pulled it up this weekend.

Kirill Pokrovsky – Flags of Freedom – Now bear with me, but the reason Capital Cities stuck with me is that the trumpet sound is nearly identical to one from the video game Divine Divinity. (sorry for the MEGO, Megan) Check it out and see what you think:

Bloodlines – Genitorturers – Lecher Bitch) – and once I started with video games, well … I was immediately drawn back to one of my favorite games and favorite soundtracks: Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. And this song … well, not ‘easy listening’! 🙂 This branch of my music library, as well as ‘brutal death metal’ like Diftery – is a place no one in my family likes to venture!

Stevie Wonder – I Wish – I wanted to hear this song, and pulled up a ‘best of’ collection on Rdio, and as I listened I was struck once again at just how amazing Stevie is as a composer, performer, and artist. His time from the late 60s to early 80s produced some of the most amazing pop music ever made.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground – because my older son’s group plays a couple of Chili Peppers songs, there are always right there in my mind, and I love their take on this Stevie Wonder classic!

The Bangles – Eternal Flame – last weekend Lisa had a Bangles song stuck in her head, and while it was “If She Knew What She Wants” … we went through a number of songs, and it was this one that stuck with me all week!

Michael Jackson – Beat It (live from Motown 25) – and finally, this weekend I was looking to listen to Prince, and only have a limited selection on my iTunes (we have more on vinyl, but never imported), and so I drifted to Michael Jackson. I ended up listening to the Thriller album because it is pretty awesome, but when I came to do a YouTube link, this was the first one. And frankly, even though he is blatantly lip-syncing most of the song, if you aren’t moved by the dance moves he puts together … time to check your pulse!

So what is on YOUR ‘mixtape’ this Monday?