Technology

Whatever Happened To (or How Did We All Turn Out)

Posted on

The digital age has enabled us to stay connected with people much easier, or being able to re-connect with someone from your past.  In the dark ages (pre-digital), if you had a friend that moved away (especially as a kid) you probably never saw them again.  You might get a letter or two,  but after a while your life moved on and they began a new one.  In grade school I had a best friend and we swore we would always be friends.  One summer I went away to camp and when I returned found out his family had moved out of town.  That was it.  Friendship over.  The comet has left the solar system.

Today, if someone you know moves away,  or changes jobs, or if you are a kid and make a friend at camp, you can still make instant contact with that person anytime. You can stay in the orbits of each other’s lives, and thanks to social media can passively keep track of each other, wish each other happy birthdays, hook up at a concert, etc.  Basically, still be a part of the other person and their life.

Facebook is the great contributor to this new phenomenon.  Today, you don’t have to wonder about that old high-school friend and how they turned out.  You can check if the girl you had a crush on in 10th grade is still hot, or if the jock who bullied you got fat and now drives a truck.  Thanks to Facebook, you can be “friends” with people that you grew up with that you never thought you would see again.  And the irony of it now is that most of the people who didn’t like you or vice-versa, are actually pretty nice to be friends with.  You share stories online, comment on each other’s family pictures, wish each other happy birthday, etc., something that would have been unheard of when you were growing up.

Some mysteries have been solved, thanks to Facebook and other forms of communication in our digital age.  I may not actually SEE the people I grew up with, but we are now back within each other’s orbits and it has helped complete our lives.  Perhaps we will get together again, and actually witness in person how we all turned out.  Or maybe we will keep our distance, continuing with our current lives, content in the knowledge that not only did we turn out ok, but everyone else did as well.

It’s ok to look back, but don’t stare.  The past is always back there, keeping a step or two behind.

Advertisements

How We Listen To And Discover Music Has Changed

Posted on Updated on

Lately I have been reading a bit about the Grateful Dead final Fare Thee Well performances this summer in the Bay area and Chicago’s Soldier Field.  Rather than continue to fade away, they are ending with the remaining four members and help from some great friends.

I remember the first time I truly listened to their music and finally became a fan.  It was the fall of 1977, my freshman year at college, and I was partying with another guy down the hall and he played side four of their Skulls and Roses (informal name) album.  Warf Rat is first, which I thought was pretty cool, but then comes the Not Fade Away/Going Down The Road combo with the jam in the middle.  I was blown away.  I had never before heard such intricate guitar interplay and call and response work between Garcia and Weir,  and this converted me from a casual to a real fan of their music.

Thinking back to my high school and college days, it was easy to find other music geeks like myself just by keeping your ears open.  The size of your record (or tape) collection did matter in those days.  When you went into someone’s dorm room or apartment, you would immediately know if they were like you or not based on the number of albums they had.  You could search through someone’s collection and talk about different groups, liner notes, band evolutions, etc, because it was easy to find a common ground of communication.  And, instead of doing five other things at once, we actually sat down together and LISTENED to music without doing anything else.

Enter the digital age, and now everyone has a better music collection than the one I carefully and painstakingly cultivated and built over 40 years of listening to all kinds of amazing (and sometimes horrible) music.  The playing field is level now.   My music collection is no longer a badge of honor.  The good news is that you can find pretty much any selection of music ever made with a few clicks of a mouse or a few swipes on a phone.  The bad news is that we have lost a way of identifying ourselves by the music we listen to, and separating the music lovers from the casual listeners.  We have no way of recognizing one another because we all share the same generic easy to find music collection.  We cannot flip through a collection and instantly bond with the guy who lives down the hall from us.

The good news is that it is easy to find and discover new music.  The bad news is we have taken people out of the equation.  Sure, we can all write online reviews, and we can click to find “if you liked band x, check out band y” recommendations.  But who doesn’t remember the joy of telling a new friend “hey, check this out” while you put another record on the turntable or a tape in the player, and the two of you immediately bonded over the thrill of a musical introduction.

I am not sure which time of music collection and listening was better.  Sure, it is easy now, and connecting with others is still possible, but I think it is more sterile.  It is online, through screen names and user names, etc, and rarely do we ever meet in real life, and when we do those meetings are awkwardly uncomfortable as some people want to retreat back behind the safety of their keyboards and put their earbuds back on.  Consuming music has always been a central part of my being, and helped shape me to who I am today.   I very much enjoy the ability to quickly find music to listen to, and the portability of it is beyond the wildest dreams of anyone from 20 or 30 years ago, but I miss the old social aspect and personal touch of listening to and finding new music.  It may be easier to find and listen to music today, and easier to socially connect, but are these connections real or are they an illusion.  Time will tell.

In the meantime, love live rock.

Reading, The Old Fashioned Way

Posted on

A book, with paper pages dog-eared, words underlined to look up later, and a cover. A book sits with other books on a shelf, or is waiting on a nightstand or a table, ready to be picked up so the reader can re-enter that unique world.

Despite being a ‘techie’, I do not own a Kindle or a Nook. I prefer my reading the old fashioned way, with a book on my lap. I don’t need any of the distractions that technology brings. I just want the book and nothing else. I use my Ipad as a computer alternative for quick lookups, email, video, shopping, maps, etc. For me, reading on the Ipad is like reading a magazine article, quick and informative, as opposed to immersing myself into the world of a book.

A few weeks ago I was having a quick solo dinner at Panera Bread, a friendly place like a Starbucks for people to eat, read, meet with friends and use their free Wi-Fi. Many of the people eating by themselves had some type of an electronic reader. I was one of the few people there who was reading an actual book, and was actually not envious that they had their shiny electronic device to use while I had an old-fashioned book.

Yes, I know, having an electronic reader has many advantages. They are often lighter than many books, and you can have more than one title at your fingertips (even though you can only read one book at a time). You can also use most readers as a tablet as well. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection.

But a book, oh for me there are so many advantages to having an actual book, and it is often more than just the joy of reading. I know what I am reading just by glancing at it, and others know what I am reading as well. A book is a great conversation starter, and at this Panera I had two conversations with people about books. The first was with the cashier who saw the book I was holding (The Leftovers) and asked if I had read any other books by the author (Tom Perrotta). We had a great conversation about similar authors and recommended to each other additional books to read. Then, while getting up to leave I had an excellent conversation with the older gentleman sitting at the next table about the book he was reading, which I had finished a few months previous (Stephen King’s 11/22/63).

I am a “people person”. I love talking with others, even complete strangers in a public place, often to the chagrin of my family (“there he goes again, talking to strangers”). Having a book, as opposed to an electronic reader, is a natural ice-breaker and an easy way to make a connection with someone else. You may consider this nosey, but I want to know what others are reading and if they like it. I may want to read that book one day!

I Love Evernote, and Dropbox as well

Posted on

My first “techie-light” post.

I love Evernote. Do you use it, and if you don’t, you really should!

Do you make lists? Do you like to save snippets of information you just read or found out? Do you need to see this information on multiple devices (ie phone, pad, various computers)?

Use Evernote! Seriously. I’m not kidding right now.

It is easy to use to add or edit notes. It syncs between multiple devices as easy as clicking a button. What you just added or changed then syncs among all of the devices you use. I have it on my phone, Ipad, laptop and desktop machines.

It is a cross-platform app. It is a digital file cabinet. A quick and easy way to save some important information on the fly, to jot down things I want to remember and save as opposed to writing it down on a piece of paper, and then wonder where that piece of paper ended up. Anything you need to store and save you can keep it in one place, and access from anywhere.

Did I mention it is free?

But what about Dropbox you may ask?
Well, the short answer is, I use them both, but I use them both for different things.

DROPBOX
Dropbox is a file storage tool. It is great for storing larger, more conventional files that you would see on your computer: PDF’s, Word, Excel, Music, Video, Photos. My Dropbox folder has files such as my resume, photos, multi-page notes, spreadsheets, etc. Unlike Evernote, you can’t open a Dropbox window and type a few lines of text. In order to place a to-do list or reminder in Dropbox, you save the content in a traditional file (ie Word, Excel, txt, etc). Dropbox is in short just a folder on your computer that you can use to house files of any type. I use Dropbox for what Dropbox is good for: storing larger files in the cloud so I can get to them wherever I am (my phone, Ipad, and various PC devices).

EVERNOTE
This is where I store the “post it notes” of my life. It’s great for keeping track of A LOT of small pieces of information. The information is in the form of notes that have a title and then the content. You can then organize this data into different notebooks, and easily scroll through the notes like reviewing pages in a book. Plus, it has a powerful search feature. I use it to post writing ideas, web page and online clippings that I want to view later, notes and quotes from books I have recently read, lists of books to buy/research, music to buy/research, sites to revisit.…I could go on forever. The point is, these are things that would be an absolute nightmare to find if I saved them all in just a regular old folder on my computer. With Evernote I am able to find things fast and easy, and it is everywhere I go.

So, which one should you use? How about both! There really are no definitive rules here. It really is up to you. For me though, I’ve come up with my own solution that works pretty well:

Evernote is for all of the little bits of information I need or want to save, while I use Dropbox to house the larger files I need to get to. Evernote is the stack of Post-It notes on my desk or in my pocket, while Dropbox is my storage box (or in the ‘old’ days the thumb drive I used to carry around).

Go for it. Try Evernote out. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and if you need help, let me know.

Theme change, maybe or maybe not

Posted on Updated on

I’m not overly thrilled with this theme.  It’s b&w and simple and doesn’t have many fancy colors, which is what I want.  I want my pages to be able to load quickly in any browser, pad, and phone.  Having many colors and various ‘things’ to load will only frustrate people, so the simpler the better.

However, I am not thrilled with some of the aspects such as the colors of the links, recent posts, blogs I am starting to ‘officially’ follow via my WP account  (as opposed to viewing them every once in awhile).  I’ve tooled around with the theme and am not finding many things I can modify.

So…..the question now becomes Which Theme Do A Change To, and advancing that to another degree, Do I Stay With A Free Theme Or Do I Pay For One?

The good news with all of this experimentation is that I AM learning the WP interface.

Stay tuned and rock on.

Welcome to A Beautiful Thud

Posted on Updated on

Welcome to my new blog, A Beautiful Thud, where I will share my view on life, music, media, technology, my writing,  and whatever else crosses my path.

In the daily adventures of my normal life I am always listening to music, using technology and learning about the world around me. I hope that sharing these aspects of my life, what I see, and what I think,  will help and inspire others (and myself) to explore new ways to do things, find new music to enjoy, and use the tools that are at our disposal to educate and mold our lives.  My plan is for this to be dynamic, change through time, and possibly morph into something thing else entirely.  Time will tell.

“…..a beautiful thud” is the end of a line from the third and final verse of Bruce Springsteen’s Lost in the Flood (from his 1973 debut album Greetings From Asbury Park N.J.).   Lost in the Flood is one of my top 10 favorite Springsteen songs, both from a lyrical and musical standpoint.  It is a sparse piano-driven song that builds in intensity throughout the three verses.  Like Dylan’s Desolation Row, Lost in the Flood tells us about characters that are lost in their life, whether they are a victim of their own circumstances or stuck in a life that they can’t get out of (U2 song reference unintentional).  With intricate detail, strong emotions, and memorable characters, this is one of the first Springsteen songs that hit me hard from the start, and shows that everything in life will work out fine.
As Lost in the Flood almost comes to a close, the line  “Hey, man, did you see that?  His body hit the street with a beautiful thud.”

reminds me that while life can be tough, sometimes the most awful things lead to something great and beautiful.  In this song, when the body hits the street all those that are lost can now find themselves as they are now free.  One can only hope.

Enjoy all of this and check back here often. If you see something you like here feel free to share it with others.