Brain Power.

I live by the philosophy that I should be always striving to improve myself in some way. Whether it’s listening to political radio or reading up on some random topic or even try adjusting my eating and exercise habits to find what works best for me at the particular moment, I always try to better myself.

Some of this is inspired by a secret desire to become some sort of superhero, I suppose. There’s always that kid in me that hopes that someday I’ll be struck by a lightning bolt and be turned into something beyond the ordinary. Other inspirations include movies such as “Limitless” or the movie coming out this weekend, “Lucy”. While I have no desire to be a ScarJo, the idea of unlocking secrets of the universe with an enhanced mind is compelling to me. And yes, I know that the “humans use only 10% of their brain” thing is an urban myth (as opposed to a rural myth?) but nevertheless the concepts in these two movies are, well, thought provoking.

Enter Lumosity. Now I routinely listen to Binaural Beats to relax or to nap or to better focus my attention while working, and these exercises work for me, but I haven’t found a way to improve my short term memory and the like. Lumosity is designed to help one exercise their brain. The brain is basically thought of as a muscle and with the proper workouts, it’ll function better, and Lumosity helps one reach that goal.

Now, usually I would jump into the full-blown, paid up plan offered by software such as this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use the free version of Lumosity starting today and through the end of August. If I find that I’m satisfied with my progress using the software, I may invest in the paid version, which helps exercise your brain in more ways.

I’m interested to see how this experiment goes.

Morning Inspiration.

So, to get my workday started on the right foot, every morning I listen to same playlist on Spotify. I call this playlist “Morning Inspiration” and it contains the following songs, which could probably be easily pushed right out of the nozzle of a Cheez-Whiz can:

“I’ll Be Around”, The Spinners
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, The Spinners
“Heartbreaker”, Dionne Warwick
“Islands In The Stream”, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
“Guilty”, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
“Emotion”, Samantha Sang
“The Main Event/Fight”, Barbra Streisand
“Lotta Love”, Nicolette Larson
“Lovelight”, ABBA
“It’s A Miracle”, Barry Manilow

… and then to regain my musicality sanity …

“It’s My Life”, No Doubt

I have no idea as to what motivated me to select these tracks for a morning kick, but it works and helps keep me focused.

I’m weird.

Photo on 4-1-14 at 9.30 AM #2

Memory.

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I think I have a better average memory. I have a hunch that I inherited this from my father, as a retailer, he could tell a customer that he hadn’t seen in 10 years that they had purchased a pound of 10-common nails a decade earlier. He had the entire inventory of the family business in his head.

While my memory kind of works like my dad’s, I don’t know that I remember the same things that he does. I got to thinking about my memory this morning while I was taking a shower and I decided that I am a very visual person. I have to see something to remember it. Writing it down and/or reading something helps me remember it better. Lately, when I’m told something, I don’t remember it that well. I don’t think this is unusual in any way.

The problem with my memory is that I remember dumb things. For example, in one of the applications I have written, I “salt” a user’s password by adding insignificant characters to it. This makes the password harder to decrypt. That’s good. The “salt” used is the SKU for a candy bar from Ames, followed by a dash, followed by the department # for a greeting card at Hills, followed by a colon, followed by the name of the department store on Arsenal Street in Watertown, New York before it was called Jamesway. I think the fact that I can remember all of these things several decades later makes me some sort of freak.

The good thing about having a good memory is that I remember lots of happy things and recalling happy moments makes me smile, even if I’m having a bad day. The bad thing about having a good memory is that I can also remember things that made me not-so-happy. These events, at key moments in my life, linger on later in life and probably contributed to a few of my idiosyncrasies. For example, I remember being told that I had to leave my fourth grade classroom for a new school program called “Enrichment”. It would be an exciting new program for all involved and I would be going twice a week. As a young lad that already felt different because of my gay wiring and all, it was kind of devastating to me that I had to leave the classroom, because I was the only one in the entire class that had been selected for this new program. All eyes were on me as I made my way from room 202 to room 210 (more random numbers I can remember). This reinforced a feeling of being different. Luckily the Enrichment teacher had a student teacher accompanying him that I found wicked dreamy so that made everything a little more manageable. In fifth grade, I remember being told that “I was a damn fool” by the teacher (ex-military from Yonkers) when I tried to leap off my chair like a superhero. I didn’t get hurt, no one got hurt, but she was cranky and somehow I filed away that taking risks could result in people with horrid accents yelling at you. She called quite a few students a “damn fool”. I don’t think she’s teaching anymore.

I’d be such a hoot in therapy.

While my memory is mostly visual, there’s a good helping of muscle memory in there too. All of my icons on my smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android device, have to be in the same place. I remember phone numbers by rapping my fingers on a flat service as if I was dialing a phone. I do the same with credit card numbers and the like.

As I mentioned before, I have a lot of junk in my head. Not only do I remember the license plate number of my Dad’s ’71 Heavy Chevy, I also remember the license plate numbers of that era of my grandparent’s car, my aunt and uncle’s car and my godparents’ car. Those old plates have been gone for at least 30 years but I still remember 819 OST. Useless fact.

I’m counting on the combination of muscle memory and visual memory being an asset as I become a pilot. I’m paying very close attention to what I’m learning and trying to do things the same way so that it becomes intuitive. If I’m ever in an emergency situation, it’ll be calming techniques and instinctive recall that will help get the plane to safety, so I guess when it all comes down to it, I’m blessed with having this sort of memory.

Image randomly selected from the Brain Excel website.

Structure.

So last night Earl and I got home from our ride (it took a full tank of gas for our “short ride”) and I promptly sat down at the computer and started writing some code. While we made our way down the darkened back roads, my mind wandered a little bit. This is a good thing.

One of the things I need to do to keep my life organized is maintain a ToDo list. I’ve tried several different programs over the years and have tried a different couple of approaches to maintaining a ToDo list and sometime last week I decided that I needed to Keep It Simple. I maintain my ToDo list in a flat text file that can be accessed by any computer or my iPhone. If I still had a tablet, I could get to it from there as well

The mechanics of my ToDo list are detailed on my geek blog. The reason I bring this is up here is because of the fact that I have to have a ToDo list to begin with.

As I get older, I find that I forget various things that I have to do. I can recite the name of every service area on the Thruway, in either direction, in order. I can tell you the SKU (inventory number) of a candy bar if purchased from the old department store chain, Ames, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the tasks I need to get done, especially when it comes to work stuff. I don’t know if it’s from the sheer volume of things that I need to do or some sort of disinterest in the whole ordeal (we’ll examine that at a later date), but the fact of the matter is, if I think of something, I need to write it down. Stat. Or else it’s going to be a long lost memory within 10 minutes.

Another reason for my ToDo list motivation. I need to have structure in my life. If I deviate from a routine (for example, the order of events in which I get ready to head for the office in the morning), it can end up in chaos. It makes me nervous. Structure is important to me, and achieving things that are done on a routine basis makes me feel better. For example, I have a couple of obvious “structure” based things on my electronic ToDo list:

Make the bed due:Daily +Structure
Shave due:daily +Structure
Find the humor in every situation due:Daily +Structure

The last one is courtesy of speaker Jeanne Robertson. She’s the humorist that was recently touted as “Grandma Goes Viral!”. Jeanne has been speaking at corporate gatherings and the like for years, telling very funny stories as a way to urge the audience to always find the humor in a situation. You’ll be much better for it if you do.

I need that reminder every day so I don’t get wrapped up in a negative frame of mind. It works well for me.

The other two on my list are purely structure things that help me stay on track for the day. I hate getting into an unmade bed at night. It’s not comfortable. It feels like an incomplete way to end the day. So the bed gets made every morning as soon as it’s empty and, barring any of the dozens of houseboys that pass through the doors of our house, I make the bed. I’ve done it for years. It’s the first sense of accomplishment I usually feel during the day and it’s a good way to get the day started on the right foot.

The task of “shave” every day is important to me. Shaving makes me feel good and “groomed”. I feel like I’m presenting my best look to the world when I’m cleaned up and ready to take on the events of the day. Even if I have a beard at the time, I still shave around it every day. This is my attempt to put my best face forward and it works. I think sticking to this has helped me with my recent weight loss. I feel better about myself and shaving and looking my best helps me want to feel even better about myself.

I’ve been focusing on this structured approach much more since my birthday in July and I feel that I am a better person for it. Now, this need for structure is definitely a part of my eccentric tendencies (which I think I’m going to start writing about more) but I think it’s a harmless need. It’s important that we all be who we are to the best of our ability.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Space.

Looking back on it, I can safely say that yesterday was a shitty day for me. I should probably use a classier word choice, truth be known, but that would just cover up the fact that it was just a shitty day. That whole lipstick-pig thing. I call it like I see it.

I was so unfocused yesterday. I don’t feel like I accomplished much. I was cranky. Irritable. It’s that whole expectations thing I was talking about in one of my blog entries yesterday; I have expectations, they’re not met, and then I’m cranky when in all truth of the matter I really don’t have a reason to be cranky because they’re my expectations. Someday I’ll learn.

What’s more important is that today is a much better day.

I did discover that one thing that was making me cranky was working on my work MacBook Pro from home yesterday. It’s a 15-inch display but it feels so cramped when I’m working. Like most folks I multi-task a lot, and when I have five windows open on one window and I have four different desktops that I am flinging back and forth on my screen, the 15-inch screen feels a bit cramped for serious work. That size of a display works great when you’re focused on one task, much like when you’re working on an iPad (or other tablet), but when there’s a lot going on in your work life you need to have a lot of space to manage it all. The other frustrating part of it all is that I have a 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display for my personal Mac Mini that won’t work with my mid-2010 MacBook Pro from work. The port looks the same. The plug from the monitor plugs into the port, but nothing happens, because apparently there’s one wire difference in the way the connector works.

That’s just silly. It’s even more irritating. You’d think that Apple would make an adapter but they didn’t.

So I’m trying to figure out how I can get my work computer on a bigger monitor without breaking any budgets. I think I’m going to end up selling three computers to buy one robust computer and then I’ll buy one monitor and call it a day.

I just need more elbow room.

I guess it’s little things that make me cranky.

The Conversation Spin Agitation.

“The washer isn’t spinning!” Some would claim that I sounded hysterical, I but was just yelling over the sound of the washing machine endlessly tumbling our bed linens (doesn’t the song go, “I’m not talking about the linens and I don’t want to change your life”) while the display had showed 0:08 remaining for the past 35 minutes.

Our new washing machine has a bit of a feisty streak. In order to show off his full 1200 RPMs when he’s doing his spinning thing, things have to be perfectly aligned and balanced. And in this world of chaos, this last year of the Mayan calendar, apparently finding the perfect alignment and balance of two sheets, two pillow cases and a blanket is a very difficult thing to do. So instead of tweeting, beeping or sending a smoke signal (we didn’t go with the high end model of the washer), the washer just sits there tumbling at random speeds trying to shuffle the contents of the tub around until balance perfection can be achieved.

Perhaps we need to shove all of the politicians into a Speed Queen and push a button to restore balance inside the Beltway.

I digress.

Ok, perhaps I was slightly hysterical when I loudly declared (I don’t have all the options either) that the washer was stuck on 0:08 again. But the thing is, it’s my bed time. And in order for the bed sheets to be dry at a reasonable time, the washer has to fling them around at its full 1200 RPM in order for them to dry in the dryer at a reasonable speed. You see, I refuse to sleep in the cat’s discarded cat bed again. And we don’t talk about the litter box incident in our house.

After hauling the wet clothes out of the washer, rearranging them, waving some crystals in the direction of this tower of laundry apparatus and then doing a rapid hula dance as I pushed some buttons and made some encouraging whirring noises, I begged the washer to spin at high speed so Daddy could get some sleep. Because I can speak “washer”, the door locked, unlocked, locked, unlocked and then locked again before the tub spun counter clockwise, clockwise and then ramped up to 500 RPM. This showed encouragement. The counter finally dropped itself down to 0:07 and we hit medium speed 800 RPM. If there was a clutch pedal I would have popped it into sixth because it was less than a minute later that we reached high speed goodness and the washer kicked into high. We had full 1200 RPM, baby, and to prove this the dryer that is perched on top of the washer wagged a little dance back and forth and the cat shot into his litter box, flung some litter around and then went tearing down the hallway to tell the Papa Bear.

Life is good when your sheets are clean. They’re not only good, they’re hysterically good.

Exercise.

I was walking up to my favorite Dunkin’ Donuts when the voice in my head started in on me.

“Remember that dream you had the other night where you were running so fast that you were running in slow motion?”

“Yeah, what about it,” my curious side asked.

“Remember how good you felt when you were running so fast that you were running in slow motion. Remember how streamlined and how healthy you felt when you heard those ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch sounds in your head?”

“Yes,” I confessed. I didn’t want to pursue the conversation any longer because the fact that I was running in slow motion and hearing ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch sounds at 43 years old was a little disconcerting.

“You should skip the cookie today, just like you did yesterday.”

“But yesterday after skipping the cookie at Dunkin’ Donuts I ended up eating pistachios at my desk and they were really good,” I countered.

“You should skip the pistachios, too.”

“I want to ride my bike but it’s not bike riding season yet,” I silently remarked, using whatever telepathic means was necessary to shut the voice up inside my head. I don’t like it when that voice reminds me of ch-ch-ch-ch and healthy eating.

“Riding your bike will be much easier this spring if you watch what you eat during hibernation season.”

“I want to sleep if it’s hibernation season,” was my simple reply.

“You can’t. There’s too much to do. Why don’t you ride the exercise bike tonight as a way to celebrate the fact that you’re not going to order a cookie when you get to the counter?”

I was entering the front door of Dunkin’ Donuts when I muttered out loud, “Fine.” I wonder if people think I have tourettes.

I didn’t have to place an order for the unsweetened iced tea because the order was already in the process of being assembled. Yesterday I had encountered a new person behind the register and she asked what I wanted as the other person behind the counter handed me my already assembled beverage of choice.

“I’m predictable, I guess,” I remarked to the new person behind the register. Apparently this translated to “my UFO has cruise control” because she gave me a look like I was an alien.

I started my journey back to the Jeep to write this blog entry when the voice started up again.

“See, you did it, no cookie today. You’ll thank me for it later on.”

I better find a way to make the ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch sound.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Ritual.

My iced tea was ready and waiting when I walked in the door of Dunkin’ Donuts. One of the friendly clerks behind the counter had a smile.

“Since it’s a holiday week – do you want your cookie today or tomorrow?”

Wow, I am freakin’ predictable.

The cookie was good. Nom nom nom. I think I’ll have another one tomorrow.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Reconnected.

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It was back in January that I mentioned that I was contemplating buying a new vehicle, after sliding off the road in my beloved Acura RSX Type S. I decided that it was time to be sensible and to invest in a vehicle that I could drive year ’round.

How silly of me.

I don’t need to buy a new vehicle at all, but rather, I just need to make a small investment into the vehicle I have so that it can be driven year ’round.

I noticed that Pep Boys was having a sale on tires; buy three tires and get the fourth tire free. Since the car I have has four tires it only makes sense that I would leap at such a deal, and since the Acura’s current tires were way beyond their prime, perhaps we needed to make the investment to find the enjoyment of exploring the roads again.

The Acura was grinning wildly as we left the Pep Boys parking lot this morning. My smile was even bigger. The tires feel sticky and make my baby feel like he’s a brand new car again. He’s boasting a brand new NYSDMV inspection sticker, didn’t need any anticipated brake work (yay!) and doesn’t sound like he’s running with bad wheel bearings, because it was the old tires that were so loud.

We kept it under the speed limit, barely, but we handled the curves like the way an orchestra handles the sweetest of symphonies. One of my favorite driving tunes, “Hello Piano” by Inkfish and David West, could be played at an aggressive, yet not overpowering level because I didn’t need to drown out the noise of the bad tires. My Acura and I reconnected again and after a well needed bath, we are ready for summer again.

And I’m ready to live out the dream of driving him across the salt flats of Utah. Why investment money in something I don’t need, when I already have motoring perfection.

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Bald.

I have a question for the bald men and their admirers. Do the cool kids still shave their head or has that been relegated to old farts and the younger, balding guys now go with the shadow buzzed look. Though I am never fashion conscious (Earl made me throw out my International Male parachute pants just last week), I am age conscious and while I am determined to age gracefully and without impediment, I don’t want to look older than I am. I have accepted the fact that my hair has gone from ginger to cinnamon and sugar and that the right side of my mustache is downright gray, but if I’m starting to look like an old fart before my time something has to be done.

I’m never going to comb over and I’m certainly never going to wear the high and tight flattop I had so long ago, but if I can save the minutes in the morning in an effort to look a little younger I’m going to do it.