Father, Musician, Uncategorized

Metallica

I am not a heavy metal fan.  I rank it just above gangsta rap and country music in my mental list of “least favorite music genres.”  I tend to dismiss the songs as so much noise, much as a connoisseur on the other side of the spectrum would be dismissive of an operatic aria.

Perversely, my 13yo son is now a huge Metallica fan.

It’d be too easy to slip into the role of doddering father, shaking my cane and muttering “turn that crap down” and “kids these days” and “back in my day”, even though technically I’m pretty sure Metallica was “back in my day.” I’ve been humoring his excited explanations of why he liked certain songs. I’ve marveled at his ability during drum practice to capture the patterns of some of his favorites. I’ve been perplexed at his recall of song names, albums, lyrics, band member names as they’ve come and gone… these are from the 80s.  I guess it’s the equivalent of if I had been a teenage fan of alternative 50s music — not Elvis Presley, but perhaps Tony Bennett or Mitch Miller.

(Of course, play a symphonic piece and I can almost certainly name whether it’s from 100, 200, or 300 years ago, if not the composer and the piece itself, but I digress…)

Today he played me “Spit Out the Bone” on the way home from soccer practice.  As I was adjusting to the percussive assault on my brain, he explained the lyrics and the post-apocalyptic man vs robot setting.  He pointed out how Lars Ulrich is achieving those sounds from the drum set, and the different “fills” involved. He mentioned it’s from a recent album rather than something from the 80s.  He noted the patterns and rhythm and how there’s actually some music and chord structure going on. That evening I read up more on the song.  I learned about the philosophy of transhumanism which is, to some degree, advocated by the song’s narrator, implying criticism by the band given that said narrator is trying to convince humans to give themselves over to technology and essentially commit suicide.  It’s commentary on our smart watches and faces buried in iPhones and desire to stay plugged in all the time.  Given that context, the music makes sense, and I understand the emotion behind it.  And suddenly I have a glimpse as to what a lot of heavy metal is about, and why it’s music, and why he likes it.

In short, I got a music lesson from my son.  That was awesome.

Marketer

Copy editing

“You’re gonna come crawling back to the humanities,” said Mrs. Thomas, my 12th grade English teacher, as I headed off to get my engineering degree.

How did she know that years later, I’d take joy one evening in going through a draft of a marketing datasheet, and…

  • Replacing passive voice with active
  • Making sure bullet points follow parallelism
  • Killing unimaginative verbs like leveraging, enabling, and allowing
  • Removing first person
  • Cutting up long sentences into shorter, clearer ones
  • Ditching a comma splice
  • Adjusting product names to comply with trademark guidelines
  • Cutting redundancies like “new and emerging”
  • Fixing hyphens: no in “frequently changing,” yes in “hands-free”

And enjoying it the whole time? Programming in English is something I enjoy doing. Mrs. Thomas knew it but it took me many years to figure it out for myself.

Uncategorized

Coming back from the hiatus

First there’s one distraction. Then another. Maybe an excuse. Perhaps a legitimate reason to deprioritize. Suddenly the personal project that started off as urgent and important, became less urgent but still important, until it slipped into that nice-to-have bucket that means it’s on the backlog of activities that will never really get done.

Fortunately, we reassess. We recognize what was lost. We remember why it was important even if not always urgent. And we bring it back to the forefront.

This time it’ll be better. This time we know what to avoid. This time we won’t lose sight of the role it plays.

Ehhhh, who are we foolin’? Yeah, maybe we will still lose it in the shuffle again. But there’s joy in trying to keep it back on top.