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Macklemore

by on Mar.27, 2013, under money, music, philosophy, politics

It started with silence, empty air. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the radio in the car even though I still appreciate new music. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, so my morning and afternoon commutes became a vehicle to slake that thirst. I can certainly bore you with the details of my podcast consumption habits that formed from there, but that isn’t really the point of this story. The point is that with the recurring set of shows I had come to listen to, I had gotten ahead of my supply with plenty of road ahead of me. So, recalling hearing good things about The Nerdist from somewhere, I queued up the latest episode and was instantly hooked.

Two weeks later (late last week), I’m listening to Chris Hardwick chatting with this YouTube Rap/HipHop artist named Macklemore. It was a compellingly interesting episode, but without clips of his songs my curiosity was only mildly piqued. But over the weekend, on an evening after the kids were in bed, I sought out his supposed breakout hit, and here is what I found:

Say what you like, but this thing is hilarious, catchy, clearly not kid friendly (glad I listened after bedtime), fun and light, and also has a message nested in there.

Jump to today – there has been a bit of a Facebook movement where people are changing their profile pics to red squares with pink equal signs on them (or some variant thereof). This is in support of marriage equality and coincides with the Supreme Court’s initiation of hearing arguments about California’s Proposition 8. I’ve read the arguments that this is a weak move and that a stronger action would be to donate money to causes, etc. I don’t care – I partook and I stand by the sentiment that it stands for – we all deserve to live and love equally.

So this evening as I’ve relaxing (once again having gotten the kids settled for the night) and perusing the musings on Facebook when an inkling tickles the back of my brain from that Nerdist episode – Macklemore also spoke of another song he did that got some mixed reaction called Same Love:

I watched this and got goosebumps and nearly cried, emotions swelled – a mix of pride and hope as well as shame and sorrow. Watch it, and you will get it (or you won’t, you are entitled I guess). This is more than just a music video – it is a short film as well as an anthem for the marriage equality and gay rights movement. I immediately posted it to Facebook.

The point that I’m getting to here is this: I could sit here right now and write entire blog posts about each of these videos. And if I did, the Venn diagram of their traits would be a small sliver of awesome. The one – a serious and moving story and diatribe about the plight of a yet oppressed minority within our nation and world, the other – a light, pompous romp about making fashion gold out of Goodwill fare (with an unveiled jab at the fashion/consumerist establishment). Together, these songs (and many others) paint the picture of a complex, intelligent individual who has a decided talent for expression through verse – one whom I now have a great appreciation and respect for and had otherwise no knowledge of two weeks ago.

Am I about to start clothes shopping at thrift stores now? Not likely. Am I gearing up to march on Washington over political issues? Not this week, but I wouldn’t rule it out. What I’ve really learned from this is two things: First, never underestimate a medium – I was never a big fan of HipHop and mostly dismissed it as the messages were all gold, guns, and girls, but here I was proven wrong. Second, labels don’t always fit – Macklemore doesn’t get much radio airplay as he is unsigned and pretty much a YouTube artist. But Billboard is starting to get where the audience is, and as such, he made it on the charts AS an unsigned YouTube artist and has since been on SNL and various other gigs (again, I could likely do a whole blog post on this topic as well).

The bottom line is that if I can still have my mind opened further at the age of 37, we all can if we let it happen. If it’s from this, you’re welcome. If it is from something else, that’s great too. But the moment you close out new experiences you stop living in the world, and the world is a variegated and interesting place.

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Happy Holidays!

by on Dec.27, 2010, under family, health, home & stuff, money, technology

Clearly I need to improve upon my time management – the fact that I’m writing a Christmas-related post 2 days after the holiday notwithstanding, it has been over 6 weeks since my last post.  I know this without checking because my last post was about my kidney stone removal and I had my 6-week follow-up appointment last week.  I’m fully aware of the negative impact this inconsistency may have on what little audience this site has, and I’ll have to live with it.  This blog is more of a personal journal or online diary than any pertinent subject-matter forum.  And I’m happy with it being so, readers or not.  But for those readers still interested, here is how my holiday season has been panning out.

To be honest, the sprint to Christmas has been mostly a blur with a few incidents of note spattered among a long grind of work and preparations (with any gaps remaining filled with sigh-filled collapsing on the couch/bed/floor).  Since I mentioned my kidney stone, I guess I should touch on it.  After readjusting to not having any foreign objects within or protruding from my body, things have been pretty smooth.  I haven’t had pain in my back since the week after all was removed.  I did my follow-up tests of getting another x-ray and collecting my pee in a jug for a day, and the result seems to be that while there is no longer a big bad stag-horn lurking in my gut, there are numerous tiny candidates waiting in the wings if I don’t make some adjustments.  Luckily for me those adjustments are small and non-dietary in nature – I just need to drink more fluids and take a few supplements (my citrate and magnesium levels are apparently low).  So I have another 6 weeks to follow those instructions before redoing the pee test, getting another x-ray, and taking another hour-long drive to see where things stand (if this becomes an on-going thing, I may need to move).  Unfortunately even these small accommodations have proven to be difficult as my pharmacy has been unable to fill one of my prescriptions for over a week.  Supposedly they should be able to work things out today with my doctor – we’ll see.

Speaking of health matters, my wife has since been on her own medical roller coaster – specifically of the dental variety.  After having numerous visits with a dentist who arguably seemed to be doing a variety of unnecessary procedures in her mouth, she ended up needing extensive work done in her mouth – specifically a few root canals, some new crowns, and at least one possible extraction.  And it seems that despite going back to this guy 4 or 5 times in 2 weeks due to increasing amounts of pain, he seemed to miss the fact that she had multiple abscesses around some of the teeth he had been treating (diagnosed by an endodontist not 2 hours after leaving his office with a diagnosis of ‘I don’t see anything that would be causing such pain’).  After a couple weeks of antibiotics, more methodical work on her problem teeth by the endodontist and a more trustworthy dentist, she is gradually getting to a better state (no thanks to our crappy dental coverage – any work from here to May will be out-of-pocket).

As for the holidays, we seem to have been spoiled both by ourselves and others.  For one, my mother has been especially generous this year (I’m guessing only having one house to pay for has left my parents in a more financially solvent position) – she bought us an early Christmas present (and by early I mean when she visited in October) of a 88-key, fully-weighted electronic keyboard.  With that I expected little else from my parents, but then when my mom came to visit again this month, not only did she have a suitcase full of gifts for all, but on an outing intended for me to finish our shopping agenda she buys us an area rug for our living room.  All I can say is thank you and hope that at some point we’ll have the opportunity to return the favor somehow.

While she is visiting, we get side-swiped by a visit by a long-time family friend (hence the last-minute shopping trip previously noted) who also seems to have found his pockets deep and his funds semi-combustible.  While I know we got him and his sister and niece some decent gifts that they will enjoy, I know that dollar for dollar we ended up and the favorable end of things.  But it isn’t really a contest, and if it were I’d settle for losing because I’ve got bigger bills to pay – literally.

Speaking of which, we somewhat spoiled the kids this year (though surprisingly frugally).  Each of them got 6 big presents and stockings stuffed to the brim – all toys and games that were hot on their wishlists – and all for easily less than $100 a piece.  My wife and I had considerably less spoils under the tree (by design), each with only 2 gifts and modestly filled stockings.  And while the $700 new laptop she got trumps the $50 worth of stuff I ended up with, I ended up with just what I wanted and cannot complain in the least.  Besides, I also now get the gift of not hearing any more complaining about computer problems (at least for a while) – and that is a gift that keeps on giving.

My only complaint that I can offer regarding this holiday season (which I feel is a legitimate complaint, albeit to whom I cannot say) is spending most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bowing to the porcelain gods.  I don’t know if it was something I ate or a bug that had been going around, but for about 24 hours – with exception to about an hour where I was able to keep it together enough to watch the kids open gifts – I was in no position to be jolly.  After making it through the kids unwrapping things (which was I believe all complete before 9AM), I spent most of the rest of the day in bed occasionally interrupted by kids fighting over their new toys and games.

But now the holiday is behind us, our living room has mostly recovered from the carnage, and our children are gradually coming down from their candy cane-induced sugar high to resume semi-normal behavior (though now it seems being pent up due to snow is re-contributing to their vigor – luckily they have plenty to entertain them).  And tomorrow I’ll return to the slightly less sophomoric environment of the office and back into the swing of all the things that keep me from finding the time to do things like write on my blog.  I’ve considered using my commuting time to dictate posts, but I fear they would end up even more tangential than usual and much more heavily riddled with expletives.

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Travel Epilogue

by on Jun.21, 2010, under career, family, money, video games

11 cents.  That’s how much cash was left in my pocket after two weeks on the road.  I honestly only used cash for minimal incidental expenses that required it (e.g., train & bus fares, items from convenience stores and news stands) and I only started with a little over $100.  I just find it funny how closely my funds matched my needs.

Anyway, I’m glad to be gradually returning to normalcy.  Though while Saturday with the family went smoothly, Sunday my children did their best to remind me of what I didn’t miss while I was gone.  Grasshopper seems to be going through that phase in life where he is realizing that he is not in charge and is fighting that reality tooth and nail.  And Cricket seems to be giving us a preview of her teenage drama queen years to come.  All upon the backdrop of dinner with the in-laws – their older cousin got fed up with the behavior and I’m sure the parents of their younger cousin were not thrilled with the image of their possible future.  It seems my wife and I have some work to do with them.

On a good note, there were some positive aspects of Father’s Day this year.  My family made me French toast in bed, got me a nice geeky card, and got me Super Mario Galaxy 2 (which the kids proceeded to watch me play for hours).  The game is a good continuation of the series in that it keeps some continuity with the previous installment.  But it is also an improvement – the level layout is much more sensible and enjoyable.  In the first you had this huge “ship” with various rooms to navigate to find the levels of play.  In the new version you steer the ship (which is smaller and simpler) to the various worlds which are all laid out on an easy to navigate map (more similar to games like Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3).  And they brought back Yoshi which adds a fun new variation on the game play (plus the kids love to watch me make him eat things).

Anyway, now that my travels are done, I must return to reality and be a productive member of society.  I look forward to getting back into more interactive tasks than just sitting still and listening all day.  I look forward to getting to go home every day and enjoying some time with my family (maybe a bit less of it like this weekend panned out).  And I look forward to getting refunded all of my travel expenses so that I have more than a dime and a penny to line my pockets.

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Travelogue – a Side Track

by on Jun.16, 2010, under career, money, philosophy

As exciting as I’m sure my daily chronicles of travel have been, I’m going to take a day off from it to write about something else.  This concept was something I discussed with a colleague last week at the conference in San Francisco and got to talking about again with another colleague this week in NYC.  After chatting about it, we dug up this link and made some popcorn.  The below video is a condensed version of a longer talk – the longer talk is good to, but doesn’t include the awesome whiteboard work demonstrated in the video below.

In watching this, as baffled as the results seem to be to a number of experts apparently, to me this seems akin to common sense.  While money can be a decent incentive, it is not the great incentivizer.  If it was, then rich executives would be the hardest working people in the world (while a handful of them might argue that they are, most of them are far from it).  The interesting coincidence of this topic is that in the discussion, the company that is used as an example of a different way of thinking about incentivization is the very one that sponsored the conference I attended last week.

I am very tempted to send this video to the top executive team at my company and see how willing they may be to adopt some of the habits of it.  I’m sure they will really love the full-length version as it seems to suggest that the sales commission model may be flawed as well (well the CEO and COO would like it, sales maybe less so).  What is important to glean from this, though, isn’t that monetary incentives like bonuses don’t work (though apparently they don’t), but that what does work is to pay people what they need and deserve (so that money is not an issue) and motivate people through personal challenge and growth, a level of autonomy, and a sense of purpose.

I am also motivated to consider the lessons of this set of studies in the context of parenting.  Obviously children aren’t motivated by money (at least not most kids) and material rewards and punishments have limited results. But perhaps more intrinsically valued rewards may be more motivating.  If I have any luck with it, I’ll post an update on the matter.

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Have Funds, Will Travel

by on May.30, 2010, under career, family, money, technology

I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten into a habit of writing nothing but book reviews lately.  That is mostly because I’ve been doing little else but reading in my spare time.  I’m sure there may have been other things to write about in the meantime, but a lot of that writing time I’ve been, well, reading.  So today I will break that trend (and then tomorrow I’ll likely write another book review).

It seems that June is going to be a stressful month in many ways – some positive, some negative, and most of it stemming from a confluence of just a couple of events.  My company is sending me to two conferences that take me in opposite parts of the country.  Also my wife will be managing a farmers’ market launch and juggling a few photo shoots including a wedding.

I’m both excited and nervous about the conferences.  While they will be fun and positive experiences and allow me to see some new sites (one is in SF, the other in NYC), and it is great that the company is willing to pay my way (it seems the worst of the effects of the recent economic downturn have passed – at least for us), but it is a long time to be away from my family and it is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time between food and lodging.  I don’t envy my wife’s role in this – a 3-year-old and 6 year-old all day every day for 2 weeks without reprieve is a test of anyone’s patience.

Additionally, the second conference will bring the added pleasure of traveling, rooming, and spending most of my time with a colleague who has a rare talent of pushing my buttons (he knows it too).  Professionally, I can respect his talent and appreciate his contributions.  But personally, he can drive me crazy sometimes.  I’d be remiss to say that his affect on me hasn’t had an upside – his insistence on challenging my ideas has drawn me to rethink some and become more confident in others.  And I’d like to think that I’ve helped steer him towards being an improved version of himself (you can never be sure how much is your influence and how much will stick).  But while we’d learned to worked well together, lately we’ve been pushing each other’s buttons more than we intend to and I worry that this conference could bring the straw that breaks one of our backs.  Most likely he will push my buttons, but I’ll roll with it, stew over some of it for a few days after, and then flow back into our regular routine.

Anyway, two weeks of conferences with travel should be fun.  But I know that tensions from my absence from family and/or work will build up.  I’ll likely have to work on both while I’m away.  Still looking forward to it, though.  I just have to remember to pick up some books to read on the planes.

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