Saturday, July 20, 2013

10000 Times: Want to know what I think about most things? Here you go.

Although I haven't listened to The Song lately -- it's been about 3 weeks since I last played it, that doesn't mean that I've completely forgotten about my quest to listen to it 10,000 times in my life, as I have several ways to be reminded.

[75 times; 915 on April 20]

The first is that I have this little "reminder" pop-up app on my phone, and I can put a note in there and have it pop up at a given time and date to remind me of the thing that I wanted to do.  Sometimes these reminders are things like "get stuff to make a flat garden" which is another project I'm working on that is going pretty well but isn't the subject of this post, so I'm not going to get into it, and sometimes they are reminders to do some more reading of The Brothers Karamazov, which I read a chapter of every couple of days now (okay, it's like every week or 2 but I intend to read them every couple of days.)

There are also all kinds of reminders for stories I had ideas for and things I want to do at work and days off and the like, and so these things pop up all the time, and one of them is a pop up that says, simply, 

"10000 times."

[76 Times 12;12 pm April 20.]

You'd think a quest wouldn't need remindering, but this isn't the kind of quest where you climb into a wagon on a foggy morning with the ingredients for a loaf of bread, mix the first two steps together, and then have exactly one year to get to the king's palace, which is about a year's travel away, and which is coincidentally the same length of time it takes this particular bread to go from the first step (mixing those two ingredients) to the last (cooling enough after baking to be ready to eat), which is coincidentally the plot of a story I thought up long ago: It's called "One-Year Bread," and that is the story: a baker has a wonderful bread which takes a year to bake a loaf of (through some process I haven't thought through) and the King hears about it on his birthday and orders that the man bake him a loaf of the bread for his next birthday, and so he has to travel from his remote village through a magical landscape, etc., all while protecting the bread.  The opening line is:

"This is not a story of the most important quest ever.  This is, possibly,  the 705th least important quest ever undertaken by any man.  Unless one counts the time that Milton... but let's not get into that."
I haven't written that story yet because I haven't written most of my stories yet.  I have written perhaps 1% of the total ideas for stories I've had in my lifetime.  Ever look at a bookstore and see all those books and think "Boy, I wish I had enough time to read all of these?"  First of all, so have a lot of people:

including me, but forget it, because it's nonsense.  The odds are you wouldn't really WANT to read all those books.  The odds are that 99% of those books are awful, or at least uninteresting to you.  I can say that because there are 328,259 books published annually in the United States, which means that there have been 14,443,396 books published in my lifetime alone, (assuming constant publication since 1969 etc. etc. ) which tells you that there cannot possibly be that many books -- 14,443,396 -- that are good and which would be interesting to me and which are worth reading.   How do I know that?

Because most things suck.

I don't say that to be mean.  I say that as a fact.  Look at any category of things, which I will list a few of for you:

[82 times: 4 21 on the way to the park 6 times]

Categories of things:


television shows
candy bars (I know that's two foods but it's morning and I haven't eaten breakfast yet and Sweetie bought me a Zero bar yesterday but it was in the refrigerator so I couldn't eat it, which actually was the point: I had her put it into the refrigerator so that it would be too cold to eat, which is my way of not snacking on things like Zero bars.)

In any category of those things, most of the things in the category suck.  Food? Broccoli, brussels sprouts, (Am I spelling that right? I don't care.)  Almost every vegetable, for that matter.  Plus lots of cheeses, and that frozen ice milk that they sell for some reason. I could go on.   

Even with living things, like animals, most of the things in the category are awful.  Most animals are bugs, or worse.*


So why would it be any different with books? Answer: It's not.  Most books are terrible, and you shouldn't feel awful that you don't get a chance to read them (or experience some other form of culture) because you're not missing out on anything.

Anyway, what I was going to say was that is how I sometimes feel -- that feeling that I'll never have enough time to get it all in -- when I think about all the stories I think about, but the main reason that I don't get them all written is not just because I have to work and oftentimes at my work I am not actually free to be just secretly writing a story about a guy baking bread, but also because when I am free I don't want to spend all my time writing stuff, as I also want to read and play with the boys and go on dates to see movies like The Conjuring with Sweetie or learning to cook pretzels or inventing flat gardens or planning to grow a banana tree in my living room, or stuff.

If anything, I'm more distressed that I won't have time to do all those other things, too, which is why I so rarely am just sitting around doing nothing.  Which is another project of mine: learn to do nothing, sometimes.

So that's one way I remember to listen to the song -- my little daily pop-up reminder.  But life has other ways of reminding me, too, like the song cropping up in two commercials so far, so that while I am watching TV at night, sometimes, The Song comes on, as it did recently on not one but TWO commercials, for a company called "Shoedazzle," I think?

and on a commercial for the movie "Grown-Ups 2," which, even though the latter movie is annoying, either way, when I noticed the commercial used The Song, I felt a weird sort of pride, like I had done that: I had made The Song get featured in a commercial, TWO commercials, because of my quest.

(This is how I operate. I take credit for stuff.)

Then I began to wonder: did I have something to do with that? I mean, it seems a bit coincidental, doesn't it, that I announce my quest to listen to The Song 10,000 times in my lifetime and suddenly there it is, on commercials being beamed into my living room even though I'd never heard the song before, and I realized as I thought that, that The Song was also being played on the radio a bit more often than I'd thought -- I know this because it comes on when we're in Sweetie's car, which is the only place I listen to "radio" anymore because what am I, Marconi? Who listens to radio?

So I read about The Song, and as I did my research (reading one Wikipedia page about it) I at first got excited:

"I Love It" is a song by Swedish synthpop duo Icona Pop featuring British recording artist Charli XCX. It was released in May 2012 as a digital download in Sweden. The song was added to their debut studio album Icona Pop, as well as their EP Iconic. The song entered the Swedish Singles Chart at number 48 and has peaked to number 2.

because The Song had come out over a year ago, so why would it be featured now unless it had something to do with me, 

But then I read on and learned that people had loved the song around the world when it came out -- it peaked at #7 in the US, which seems pretty good except that I know a certain portion of you just thought "#7? That's not so hot," because here in the United States, we place so much emphasis on being FIRST, on being #1, that finishing behind that is seen as awful, as worse than not even trying.  This happens mostly in sports, where the team that wins the championship is the "world champion" and the team that loses the championship is seen as a joke (Buffalo Bills? Remembered as four-time losers) but it also happens elsewhere, including the pop charts, where nobody gets remembered for having the most #2 Singles of All Time.

(Incidentally, the current Billboard record for most weeks at number 2 without hitting number one, in the US, was set by "Waiting For A Girl Like You" by Foreigner, in 1981, and tied by Missy Elliott's "Work It" in 2002: 10 weeks.)

(The songs that Foreigner couldn't beat? "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John, for 9 weeks, and then "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" by Hall & Oates.  I like the inclusion of the parenthetical phrase in that last title. People don't say "No Can Do" enough anymore.)

According to Wikipedia, The Song then became a number one hit in the UK in July 2013, which until I typed that I didn't realize is right now, and has been featured in other ads, and movie promos, and games since its release, 

Also, Wikipedia doesn't give me credit for introducing the song to America:

The song first gained attention in the United States as the theme song for the MTV Jersey Shore spinoff, Snooki & JWoww.

Well. You can't choose your neighbors.  

The Song also was featured on Girls and an episode of Glee, both of which I figure are past being noticed by critics, don't you think? I know Girls made enough of a splash that Lena Dunham both got to be asked about every woman's issue that came up and got offered a bajillion dollars for a book that will easily fall into that 99% category you should not worry about not reading, but that's over now, right? That was only actually a thing because Mad Men, another television show I don't watch, wasn't back from hiatus yet, right?

I find it funny that Lena Dunham and J-Woww both like the same song. Gives them something to talk about when they meet at parties, each wondering why the other is there.

I'm listening to the Glee version of the song as I write this, and it's okay.  (I listened to the origianal three times already while writing this, and now the Glee cover. Also, I ate a piece of leftover pizza, in case you were wondering why I'm no longer mentioning that Zero bar.)

To say that I haven't been listening to the song much in the last three weeks isn't to say that I haven't listened to it at all since I last wrote -- when I go walking and jogging, which I am doing less and less of these days...

...that's neither here nor there, and maybe not factually true, either...

and so I listened to it while jogging three times while jogging, so that's 

[85 Times]

And it came on 

[86 times 5/27 came on z100 while driving to Walgreens memorial day]

at other times, and one of the nice things about this quest is that by noting each time I listen to the song, I can (so far) remember most, if not all, of the times -- I can remember that drive to Walgreen's on Memorial Day, for example, the boys in the car, the first hint of summer in the air.

The song comes on the radio, as I said, quite a bit:

[87 times 6/5 came on driving to pool with boys]

but again, the radio is only when I am driving Sweetie's car.  (As a side note, Sweetie has started listening to Z100, a station out of New York.  She has XM radio in her car, a perk that came with it when she bought the car and which she liked enough that I said we could renew it this year.  It costs something like $200 per year to get XM radio, but I don't mind letting Sweetie have it because Sweetie didn't used to listen to the radio at all when she drove.  When she told me that, that she drove without a radio, at all, it made me feel a little insane.

"You don't listen to the radio?" I asked her.

"No," she said.

"Not even on long drives?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"What do you do?" I wanted to know.

"Mostly, I think," Sweetie said back, which (A) Mostly? What about the times when she's neither thinking nor listening to anything, and (B) OH MAN just thinking about sitting alone in a silent car makes me feel itchy.  Seriously, it does. I'm picturing it right now and I feel a little nauseated.  Whatever it is my subconscious doesn't want me delving into, whatever it is that makes me have constant background noise and sometimes two or three sources of it, it's a doozy.  And I am content leaving it unknown.

Sweetie also gets an LA radio station that I sometimes like to listen to because I like to imagine it still being light, and sunny and warm, when it is dark here -- I'll drive somewhere at 8 p.m., Wisconsin time, and listen to the LA DJ talking and think "Boy, those LA people get to still have sunshine, along with their beautiful weather and the ocean nearby."  It makes me feel like people in California get extra daytime, which I know is irrational but if I stopped believing everything that I know is irrational, I'd have very few beliefs.

Sweetie and I also disagree on whether it's fun to hear traffic reports and news from strange cities.  I love it.  People in cities other than mine: your news is weird!  You're always talking about things that seem familiar like maybe someone got into a bad accident, but then you go and talk about how it happened on 'The 409' or in the "Tenderloin District," and then you go to the scene and it's got strange roadsigns and weird houses in the background.  Listening to news from another city is like letting your mind take a minivacation.

[88 times 6/24 while waiting to go into court eau claire]

Eau Claire is a three-hour (one way) drive from my office, and I remember this day, as well, as I get to Eau Claire only about 5-6 times per year, which actually is a pretty high number of times given that it's 3 hours away.  I credit that to knowing a well-known lawyer in that city who refer cases to me, so about every other month I have a day in which I get up at 5 a.m. and drive three hours and then have a hearing or something and then talk to my client for a while and then I drive three hours back and then my day is over, so 66% of my day is spent alone in a car, listening to podcasts and audiobooks and the like.  I have a great job, even if that level of driving makes me nervous, sometimes, because back when I was stung by all those bees and then spent the week nearly dying, in 2010, one of the things I did when not in the hospital and/or nearly dying was drive to Eau Claire for a hearing (which we won) and then back and the next day was when a blood clot got away from wherever it had been and got into a vein in my heart and I nearly died, and I've never stopped wondering if that blood clot was caused in part by sitting in a car for 6+ hours in a given day, so now when I drive to Eau Claire I leave lots of extra time so that I can stop midway through and stretch my legs, and when I get there I can walk a bit before court, which is how I happened to listen to The Song that morning: I was early enough to put on the Star Wars backpack I use to carry my files in, and walk a bit before court.

(I still remember that day in Eau Claire, too -- I can remember the hearing, and the fact that when I got done it was lunchtime, more or less, and I had a lunch with me so I ate my lunch sitting in the parking lot of a Walgreen's, where I'd gone to buy a soda that was cold.  I had cold pizza and read a book on my Kindle, and it was a July day, almost probably exactly three years ago as I write this, and hot and sunny the way July can be: strong but not oppressive, still alive with summer rather than dying and mopey like how August can be.  

I don't remember what book I read on the Kindle.

But all of those times pale in comparison to a day I skipped over to make it the final part of this part:  April 27, which was a Saturday.  I got up that morning and I thought:

I should listen to The Song as much as humanly possible today.

So I tried that.  That day, I brought my iPod with me and listened to The Song over and over, on at least one headphone whenever I could, or in the car, or at the office, and I tallied each listen and took pictures whenever I reached a milestone.  

And here are those pictures. (The xx's are Roman numerals, put into the list to help me keep track of where I was.  Only the letter i's are numbers.)

[89-109 ]


*I know the count wasn't how many times I'd listened to The Song as of that day, but I wanted to keep the numbering consecutive, even though I'm reporting the days out of order for artistic purposes,

Iiiii L 

This is Mr F, jumping on his exercise trampoline.  That's why the photo is blurry.  In real life, Mr F isn't actually blurry, although he usually does have a fine dusting of cheese puff powder.

Iiiii Lx

Here's the thing: although I remember the day and what we did and how I tallied them, this is nearly 3 months ago and I do not remember if I was taking pictures at SONG intervals or at HOURLY or half-hourly intervals.  I thought it was song intervals...

...but it's pretty obviously not, because what happened in those pictures took place over many hours, but I only have a certain number of song intervals.  So I thought I took a picture every 20 plays or 10 plays or something but I think now that I was doing it every half-hour.

April 27 was an otherwise unremarkable Saturday -- as the pictures show, me and the boys got up, went to the office, got Middle Daughter (who works for me now) some food and dropped it off, did some work and some blogging (for some reason the pictures are also out of order), used the restroom, 

and drove around.  I didn't otherwise do much that day at all, but because of this quest, and The Song, that day is forever burned into my brain as the day I tried to listen to a song as much as humanly possible...

..and now I've used that expression twice, and I wonder why I say it that way? Why anyone says it that way?  I suppose it's because there are ways of doing things where the animaly way or the mineraly way would be different than how humans can do it, so you might want to, for example, say "I wish my kids would sit still as much as is mineraly possible," because that would certainly be better sitting still than anything humans can accomplish, as most rocks move very little at all, especially continents, so you might want to let your kids sit as still as continentally possible, so they can fidget a little: about 0.0001 inches per century.

And my secret goal that day was to see if I could listen to The Song 100 times in one day.  I thought that would be possible.  After all, The Song is only about 3 minutes long, which is only 300 minutes, or five hours total in a day, and after giving it the old college try, by which I mean giving up around 2 in the afternoon because I found it awkward to walk around the house listening to my iPod, I reached a total of 


Sixty-five repetitions.

I may try again to see whether I can top that in the future.  

But I've listened to the song four times while writing this, so today's tally ends at:

[157 times]

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Context is meaningless; Or, have I already written about this before? (15,842 New Words Word 3)

When I originally started this series of posts, I was going to look in a dictionary from time to time and find the next word, going alphabetically, that I didn't know.

But recently, reading Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World (which instantly made it into my Top 5 books EVER as a book that was so awesome [as my review pointed out] that it made me laugh out loud with how great it was) and I had to stop occasionally and look up a word that I didn't know --

-- which, by the way,  people including Grant Snider, who is a person, is one reason why e-readers are superior to books.

Grant Snider recently drew this:

which is from his site and also which bemoans the loss of "books," which is kind of ridiculous, to me, because 99% of books are about the content, not the packaging, which although nice sometimes (I am actually planning on when I get around to it repackaging some of my ebooks into a large bound volume like a desktop book) isn't the book, it'sjust what the book came in, and old-style paper books cannot compete with new-style ebooks, which not only get delivered instantly even if you are sitting in a doctor's office waiting for a stress test and knowing you're going to be there all day, but which also let you look up words instantly just by tapping them, so that you need not rely solely on figuring out a word from the context.

I think I forgot I was in a parentheses again. Here we go:)

Anyway, figuring out a word from the context is all well and good -- or at least one of those -- but it's not always perfect.  Also, I'm pretty sure it's not even a thing any more. I'm about 91% sure they don't teach phonics or figuring things out from the context anymore in schools, probably because of communism or something, but that's okay because even though I am supposed to say that however I learned things was the best way to learn things, it pretty obviously wasn't the best way, or at least wasn't automatically the best way.

The point is to me that education is supposed to teach you how to think about things, and how to reason out or find the answer.  My rule, for example, for people who want to ask me questions at work are that they are to have thought up an answer first, before they ask me the question.  Very often, people will forget that and they will come and ask me a question, and I will respond to them with my own question.

"What do you think we should do about " some problem, they will ask me, and I ask them right back what they suggest I do about it.

There are various reasons why I do that, the number one reason being that I don't want people who simply push their problems onto someone else, and especially not to push them on to me.  If you have a problem and you simply ask me how to solve it, you've just made your problem into my problem, and not only does that create more trouble for me, but it doesn't help you become a better problem-solver.

You know the old saying: Give a man a fish, and he will ask you why we can't have hamburger for dinner instead because fish is gross; teach a man to fish, and he will wonder why anyone would do this as a hobby.  I mean, it requires that you sit on the side of a lake, or river, and wait and wait and wait and nothing ever happens, really, but then when something does happen, it's over in minutes and then you've got this slimy fish, and what are you going to do with that? Eat it? I don't think so. So you're just going to throw it back? Why bother catching it in the first place, then?  Fishing is dumb.

That old saying.

"Figuring things out from the context" is only one way to think about things or solve problems, and often not the best way. Take, for example, today's new word, which is what this post was about (remember?) now that I'm doing these posts about words I come across in my reading and don't know.

Here's the quote from which I took today's word:

The car is not a street racer...It is a muted maroon colour, and it is as dignified as it is powerful.   It looks distinctly bulletproof and the glass windows are smoked, but even so, it's possible to see that this car has curtains. It also has a silver angel on the front end and the kind of engine they used to put in small planes.  Quite possibly it will catch up with the front runners before it has to change gear.  It is unmistakably a Rolls-Royce, but it is a Rolls-Royce the way Koh-i-noor is a diamond.

So, going from context I can tell... that the Koh-i-noor is a diamond. Some kind of spectacular diamond,  I suppose, but you can't always tell, with diamonds, which sounds stupid to say, but have you ever seen the Hope Diamond? I have.  Or maybe I haven't.  I'm not entirely sure that I was looking at the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian.

I did see the Hope Diamond, I think, but I'm not sure, as I sit here today, because I saw (I think) the Hope Diamond back in 1994, but years later when I wrote about seeing the Hope Diamond I realized that maybe my memory was not as great as it should be. Or perhaps I had been the victim of a ruse, the way I suspected I was recently when Sweetie and the boys and I were driving down to State Street on Sunday to visit "The Castle," a university building Mr Bunches likes because it looks exactly like a castle, and to eat lunch, and we got to this part of University Drive that was down to one, rather than 2, lanes, and we had this conversation:

ME:  What is this?

SWEETIE:  What is what?

ME: This. This lane closing. When did this happen?

SWEETIE:  This has been this way all summer.  We have driven through it at least five times.  You always complain about it.

Sweetie maintains that's the truth, even now, three days later, when it would be easy enough for her to admit she was just having some fun with me because the alternative is that an entire section of my memory -- albeit a small section, maybe? -- is gone, the part that holds onto the memory that University Drive is one lane has disappeared, and while that's not alarming (I don't drive it every day) on it's own, it is alarming because if that just up and disappeared:

1.  What else might have disappeared, too? Recipes? Song lyrics? The meeting I'm supposed to have today that I won't remember? My PIN number for my ATM card? No, that's still there. and

2.  Why? Why did it go?

(In retrospect, #2 is probably more important.)

So maybe one time I knew what the Koh-i-noor was? I doubt it.  But I do now, because "Koh-i-noor" became the first of my new method of learning 15,842 new words, and the 3rd on that list, and here's what I know about it now:

"Koh-i-noor" is the name of a 186 1/6 carat diamond that is currently part of the "Crown Jewels," held by Queen of England; she got it when the British East India Company stole it from the previous owner when India came under British rule.   Since its discovery in 1526 (or earlier) it has been stolen,  seized, and coveted by a variety of rulers.  While it's valued in carats, now, it was once valued in this colorful way:

The valuation of the Koh-i Noor is given in the legend that one of Nādir Shāh's consorts supposedly said, "If a strong man should take five stones, and throw one north, one south, one east, and one west, and the last straight up into the air, and the space between filled with gold and gems, that would equal the value of the Koh-i Noor." 

The diamond was demanded not as a gift, but a spoil of war, for symbolic purposes after England seized India, and the Koh-i-noor comes with a curse:

He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.
Knowing all that, as opposed to what I could figure out from the context is like... well, it's like knowing the difference between a diamond and the Koh-i-noor.  When I read the book, I was able to deduce that the Koh-i-noor is some kind of fabulous diamond, which in my mind I equated with the Hope Diamond (which of course I do not equate with fabulousity at all, but rather with disappointment and possible memory troubles, but that's just me), only it's not like the Hope Diamond because this is a diamond that is a spoil of war, that has a long and tortured history,  and which promises that it's owner will "own the world" but "will also know its misfortunes," which in the context of the owner of that Rolls-Royce in the book actually makes perfect sense, because that is almost exactly what happens to the man who turns out to own that Rolls-Royce.

PS: I have long had a debate running about whether "looking something up" is as good as "knowing something," and while I take the stance that nothing is either always good or always better than something else, this is a strong argument in favor of looking something up taking this round.