The Magic of Wind Chimes

Do You Hear Them?

Do you love the sound of wind chimes? Do they conjure up certain images in your mind? For many years, I’ve been fascinated with them. We’ve always had a set at the front of our house. There have been many varieties over the years, but each one eventually falls prey to the raging easterly wind and falls apart. However, for me, there are few sounds in this world as magical as a beautiful set of wind chimes. They always bring up thoughts of mysterious places in the far east. Or, maybe sitting on a sunny beach patio, listening to the waves roll in. Their relaxing, peaceful sound is always welcome after a stressful day.

There is something very soothing about that music as it reverberates through the house. On a hot summer day, it lets you know a nice breeze is on the way. Wind chimes produce what is known as chance-based music. As Forrest Gump would say, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” I have definitely found that to be true. Since the front of our house faces east, there are many breezy days that produce no sound at all. We’ve had a set of wind chimes in the backyard before, but the west wind ripped them to shreds.

Wind chimes are often associated with spa retreats and new age music. The random patterns produced by these percussion instruments are wonderful to behold. Since we are smack-dab in the middle of fall, it seems like the wind has been blowing nonstop. This resulted in having to retrieve our Halloween spinner from our neighbor’s lawn a couple of times. However, the wind chimes have held up well to the autumn winds, and are a constant reminder to get outside and rake some leaves. Soon, the chimes will be predicting easterly rain and snow storms. But for now, they just produce beautiful chance-based music, which has become a treasured part of our fall experience. There they go again, time to rake some leaves.  

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The Creative Process

Pulling Back the Curtain

Have you ever wondered how artists and songwriters come up with their ideas? How does an author turn a spark of inspiration into a runaway bestseller? What process do movie directors use to transform a screenplay into a box office smash? Just how does the creative process work? I’m not sure how it works for everyone else, but I do know how it works for me. Whenever I am struck with a story idea, I jot down a quick note.

Recently, I saw a documentary about the classic rock album Machine Head by Deep Purple. This epic record came out in March 1972, when I was still in elementary school. However, by the time I reached junior high, everyone was humming the opening bars of Smoke on the Water. How did lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore come up with such an iconic song? Turns out he was inspired by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and as he said, “I owe him a lot of money.” 

It seems like songwriters, and writers in general, are constantly being struck by inspiration. How do they keep track of all of these little brainstorms? Some keep song or story journals. In my case, I use Simplenote. Since it’s available on the web, I can write down quick story ideas on my PC, iPad, or phone. It might be a couple of words, or maybe a paragraph or two. Just something to get the ball rolling, when I’m ready to sit down and write the article. Although sometimes, I’ll look at a phrase and wonder, “What the heck is this supposed to mean?”

Just to be clear, I don’t consider myself a writer per se. I’m more of a thought collector. However, I do share a similar process with every author from William Shakespeare to Stephen King. Being able to access that vast warehouse of story ideas is an amazing and humbling experience. Receiving a spark of inspiration, and turning it into something worth reading, is very satisfying indeed.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading these articles as much as I have enjoyed writing them. As always, please forward any stories you find particularly interesting to your family and friends. Also, please continue to like and follow this blog. Thank you!

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What if . . . ?

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if The Beatles had never existed? A world without John, Paul, George, and Ringo? What if the Fab Four hadn’t sparked The British Invasion? What if iconic songs like Yesterday had never been written? Recently, I saw a movie that tries to answer those questions. I don’t normally do movie reviews, but I feel compelled to write one for this film.

Yesterday is about a struggling singer-songwriter named Jack. His biggest accomplishment so far has been writing a little ditty called “The Summer Song”. Then Jack has a bicycle accident. After he gets out of the hospital, his friends are blown away when he plays Yesterday for them. He is astonished to find out they have never heard it before. Then he discovers that the world has never heard of The Beatles, and realizes what it could do for his musical career.

It really makes you wonder what the world would look like without the musical influence of artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Chuck Berry. It would probably resemble a musical version of It’s A Wonderful Life. The effect of popular music on our culture cannot be denied. Without that influence, there’s no telling what our world would look like today. Maybe a Global Pottersville, who knows? 

No spoilers, but Yesterday has a few surprises along the way, along with a very nice ending. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, and like the characters in this movie, you feel like you’re hearing all these great Beatles tunes for the first time. I found myself singing along with many of the songs. Fortunately, I was watching Yesterday on an airplane, so my fellow passengers were spared my off-key warblings by the drone of the jet engines.

I always enjoy a good, “What if . . .” movie, and this one certainly delivers. It’s out now on Blu-ray, so stop by your local Redbox and check it out. It’s well worth your time. You might even say, “I believe in Yesterday”. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 

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Old Days

Everyone Has Them

Have you ever found yourself longing for the simpler days of your youth? Back when the biggest problems you faced were tiny by today’s standards? Getting home before the streetlights came on, or finishing up your homework before Batman aired on ABC. Or, how about calling that cute girl from school, without your brothers and sister finding out? Yep, those were the days. Needless to say, life has gotten a lot more complex since then.

I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, the song Old Days, by Chicago, hit the airwaves and it made me nostalgic for my elementary and junior high school days. I find that comical now, that a kid in high school can be moved by a sentimental song to pine for the Old Days. I guess it just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, we always tend to view the past fondly.

My wife and I used to crack up when our son Kevin would say, “Back in the day”, to describe something that happened when he was little. He was only ten years old at the time! We all have a tendency to look back fondly on the past, glossing over the crappier parts. I think that’s why pondering the future sometimes causes us a little trepidation. After all, we know what happened in the Old Days, but the future remains to be seen.

There are a lot of very old (at least in my book) gentlemen at our local community center gym. They referred to me as a kid, when I told them I just turned 60. I appreciate the thought guys. However, I know if I dared to break out the phrase, “Back in the day” it would be greeted with raucous laughter by these old farts. Everyone has their own definition of the Old Days. As we head into this holiday season, hopefully, it will stir up some fond memories of your Old Days. Happy reminiscing.

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Mac vs Windows

A Recovering Nerd Perspective

Have you ever thought about switching camps? Have you ever wondered if you’ve been using the wrong computer all along? Have you ever been curious about what the other side has to offer? Me too. For decades, I was firmly entrenched in the Windows camp. However, I have to say, I am starting to see the Apple Attraction. A great movie illustrates the path of both Apple and Microsoft from their infancy. Pirates of Silicon Valley came out in 1999, but it shows how these two companies have battled with each other to become today’s tech giants, even before the first iPhone hit the shelves.

My background is in IT, but I have always been anti-branding. Do you need a Kleenex? No, you need a tissue. Want to unwind in a Jacuzzi? Nope, you need a hot tub, and so on. When the first iPod came out. People would say, “I need an iPod!” No, I would say, “You need a media player!” I have always believed that there are plenty of low-cost alternatives in the world of tech. You don’t necessarily need to become a member of a cult.

That’s how I’ve always viewed Apple People. Just check out the line at the Apple Store when a new iPhone is released. Why don’t these people recognize they are being hoodwinked into a product lifestyle just by buying a phone? Then I got my first Apple, and I think I see the attraction. My son gave me his old 2007 iMac and it’s still running like a champ. I doubled the memory and it handles most of my work tasks easily. Unlike my 2015 Toshiba laptop, I am using right now. However, the latest version of Windows 10 has really helped speed up my boot time, so it’s not as bad as it used to be.

I was so impressed with my iMac, I decided to pick up another one for home use. This “new” computer is from 2009 and runs like I just picked it up from Best Buy. Since Apple People are obsessed with getting the latest and greatest Apple tech, there are plenty of used iPhones, iMacs, and Macbooks out there. Since Apple seems to build products that last (unlike the rest of the industry), there’s no point in blowing over $2,000 on a new Mac, when you can get a used one on Letgo for a fraction of that cost. Plus, Macs don’t nail you with a major update when you’re trying to boot up your computer for work. Getting hit with a mandatory Windows 10 update at the wrong time can be very frustrating.

So, if you are in the Windows World, you may want to give Mac a shot. There are some amazing deals on Letgo, so you can try one out for a song. One word of advice though. Pick up a wireless keyboard and mouse for Windows. In the Mac World, you use the Windows logo key for anything you used the Ctrl key for in Windows (Copy and Paste for example). There are plenty of YouTube videos and websites out there to help you learn the Mac basics.

There are still some things I haven’t figured out yet, but it doesn’t stop me from hopping on my iMac in a couple of seconds, instead of waiting around forever for my Windows PC to wake up. My wife has even used the iMac a couple of times, and that’s saying something. So give one a try. If nothing else, you can always re-sell it on Letgo and probably get what you paid for it! Happy Computing!   

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The Vacation Paradox

Can’t Wait to Go, Can’t Wait to Get Home

Have you ever gotten halfway through a vacation you’ve been anticipating for months, and suddenly find yourself pining for home? Why do you feel this way, once you’re finally on your dream trip? It just doesn’t make any sense. I’ve asked myself this question many times. Recently, my wife and I were on an extended journey to Las Vegas and Sedona. This vacation has been in the works for over a year and we were both eagerly looking forward to it. However, I started feeling a little homesick during the Sedona part of our holiday. What’s the matter with me?

My wife and I really needed this vacation. Between working two jobs, writing this blog, editing my website, and hitting the gym three days a week, I was burnt out and needed to recharge. That said, why did I feel like I wanted to catch the first available flight home? Apparently, it’s not just me. Recently, I read an article that explains this phenomenon and how to deal with it. Basically, the piece said to recognize why you chose to go on vacation. To relax, let yourself go, and try new things. So go ahead and do it!

In addition to daily hikes to Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Cathedral Rock, my wife and I took a tour of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Beautiful locations, but not for the faint of heart. It was quite a workout hiking to these beautiful spots, but well worth it. That’s part of the equation. Shake up your routine. Pig out a little, sleep in late, take a hike. Do stuff you wouldn’t normally do, and for God’s sake, stay away from the scale! I learned that lesson a long time ago.

Once we said goodbye to Vegas and Sedona, I was content when our plane touched down at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. My brain immediately shifted into Fall Mode as I went through my mental checklist of all of the tasks that still needed to be done before Halloween. And that’s okay. Getting back into your regular routine is normal. As I picked out a couple of pumpkins from our local fruit market, I relished the crisp fall temperature. I also noticed that the leaves had changed from drab green into bright red and gold while we were gone. Love it.

So I guess my advice to combat the Vacation Paradox is simple. Consider all the time you spent planning and preparing for your trip. Think about how nice it will be to get away from all of your responsibilities for a while. Then RELAX, and enjoy your vacation. You earned it! If you’re like me, it’ll be at least six months before the next one, so live it up! When you get back home, the gym and salad bar will be waiting. Happy Vacationing!

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Vegas Baby!

Sin City is Calling

When was the last time you and some friends hit Sin City? Was it a Bachelor or Bachelorette Party, New Years’ Eve, or maybe even the Superbowl? Las Vegas has a tendency to creep up on you. My wife and I started coming here back in the 90s and we swore it would only be every four years. Then, it became every other year, and now it’s an annual event. We are wrapping up our latest trip this morning and we tried to remember how many times we’ve been here. I know it was before digital cameras, I can tell you that!

What used to be great about Las Vegas was that there was always some new casino, hotel, or shopping center to check out. However, 2008 put an end to all of that. In 2007, my wife and I had bought a timeshare with Hilton Grand Vacations on the north end of the Strip. We were assured that stretch of Las Vegas Blvd was going to be the next big boom area of the city. Yeah, not so much.

After the crash, many vacant lots were filled with billboards of what was Coming Soon! Like I said, not so much. Two places, in particular, stand out. The Fontainebleau, Las Vegas was under construction directly across the street from our property. It promised luxurious accommodations, an amazing casino, and fabulous shops that were sure to make the north end of the Strip buzz. Nope. All work halted after the crash in 2008. Now it’s rumored that Wyndham has bought the property, and has plans for new construction in 2020. We’ll see.

The second project that was left in the lurch was Resort World. Apparently, the brainchild of a Chinese consortium that promised an Adult Epcot. However, they wanted to import workers from China to build this amazing project. You can guess how that went over with the Las Vegas labor unions. Anyway, there has been some progress there recently. A new hotel has sprung up on the property, so there is some hope. However, the building is using the same tinted glass as the Wynn and Encore hotels. Boom, lawsuit. Construction continues though, so we’ll see what happens there.

On our last night, we always like to head Downtown for what my wife likes to call, The Freak Show. Between the street performers, photo op hucksters, and live bands, it is indeed quite a show. Downtown is the preferred spot for the younger generation. Cheap, or free entertainment can be found everywhere. Some of these kids are as entertaining as the performers.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice on this trip is that the photo op girls are getting way out of hand. The tiniest of coverings on their boobs and butts, definitely make this an Adults Only street show. However, there were some families are interspersed through the crowd as well. Honestly, what’s the matter with these people? Disneyland and Universal are five hours west! 

Oh well Las Vegas, we look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next time. As we pack up this morning and start the next leg of our trip to Sedona, I’ll take one last look at Sin City in the rearview mirror. See you again soon!

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A Change in Perspective

A Different Point of View

Have you ever taken a different route home from work, and drove past that amazing restaurant everyone’s been talking about? Or, maybe you parked in a different spot at work, and ran into an old friend? I like to call these events A Change in Perspective. Things we do in life that take deliberate action but can lead to serendipitous results. 

This morning I am writing from a new position. No, not Blogger-in-Chief, although I do like the sound of that. Recently, I moved our sofa in front of the living room window. It has created a completely different feel to the room. As I sit in my recliner this morning, I’m enjoying a beautiful sunrise through the picture window to my right. Since my chair was moved to the south wall, I can now write with the blinds open, without the morning sun bouncing off my screen. It occurred to me that I could have been enjoying this wonderful view every morning. 

When I take my morning walk, I usually turn left out of my driveway. No particular reason, it was just something I got used to doing when I walked my dog every morning. Since I no longer have my pup with me, this morning I decided to turn right as I reached the end of my driveway. Normally, I avoid this route because my neighbor is always smoking by his truck and I generally don’t care for the guy. However he wasn’t out today, so I decided to turn right. 

As a result, I ran into one of my other neighbors, and we had a pleasant conversation. It occurred to me as I continued walking down the street, had I turned left, I would have missed her completely. Sometimes, if you break out of your routine, you’re rewarded with a nice chat or a beautiful sunrise. I resolve to shake up my routine a little more often. Maybe a multi-million dollar Powerball ticket could blow across my path if only I had turned right. I’ll never know unless I give it a try.

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Saturdays at The Big House

Let’s Go Blue!

Have you ever been to a college football game on a crisp autumn day? Been packed cheek-to-cheek with over 100,000 crazed fans inside a packed coliseum? Seen a marching band take the field with practiced precision? If so, then you are one of the thousands of college football fans who pack stadiums every weekend across America. I did not attend Michigan, but I have been a fan since the seventies. When a crazy guy named Bo used to prowl the sidelines screaming at the players, coaches, and refs. Good times. While I have become ambivalent about the team lately, there are a few things I enjoy more than the atmosphere surrounding college football. And nobody does it better than The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

After many years of trial and error, my wife and I have refined our system. Leave two hours before game time, catch the shuttle bus from the Wyndham to the stadium, bypassing all the traffic and parking frustration. However, there are pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side, you get to chit-chat with fellow Wolverines along the way. The down-side is that we’re packed in as tight as a sardines and we all explode out of it at Gate 2, like a paper snake out of a can. It’s all part of the experience. Hey, at least I didn’t have to negotiate all that traffic. Those bus drivers have it down to a science.

A B-52 Bomber does a flyover, scaring the crap out of anyone who doesn’t see it coming. All part of the show. A quick walk to Section 8 and we’re ready for some football. Despite the section number, I don’t think these fans are any crazier than the rest of The Big House crowd. Since the line to get in is rather long, we stop for pop and pizza before joining the mob. Our friend John’s seats are in the corner of the end zone, and we’re fortunate enough to see Michigan score on their first drive against Iowa. The place goes nuts. However, on this Saturday, Iowa was the favorite, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. UM wins 10-3! Go Blue!

Since it was Homecoming Weekend, the game had the added attraction of watching senior cheerleaders doing their thing. I’m not talking about the kids who are graduating this year, I’m referring to senior citizens in their seventies and eighties. They always do some sort of locomotive cheer I can never quite figure out. However, one old guy did a handstand and held it for what seemed like thirty seconds. Wow! After the game, the Iowa fans leave The Big House dejected, again. We hop on the bus Gus and head back to our car. All in all, it was another picture-perfect fall day, with another big win for the Wolverines. What could be better? Wait, is that some cider and donuts? 

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My Career as an Entrepreneur

Maybe It’s Something to Look Into

Have you ever thought about going it alone? Usually, on a Monday morning, after a way-too-short weekend? Or, maybe after the boss just tore you a new one in front of your co-workers? Recently, I read an article denouncing Multi-Level Marketing and other such companies as scams. While that may be true in some cases, I have always found that you get what you put into any opportunity. Often, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. That said, my experience with MLM and Entrepreneurship has been very hit or miss over the years. The biggest lures are time and money. Having more of each is something everyone dreams of. But is this the best way to get it?

Over the years, I have tried many businesses, from Government Auctions to Life Insurance. I wish I could say that each one was a success, but that would be a blatant lie. Most of the time, breaking even was cause for celebration. However, my motto has always been, “A dollar you earn working for yourself is worth a hundred dollars working for someone else!” I believed that, and I still do. However, it’s a tough road alone. These days, there are opportunities to “Partner” with existing businesses that can benefit you both. Keep an eye out for these, and you too might become a Partner-preneur

There’s a lot to be said for taking on a business associate, physical as well as virtual. During my stint with Government Auctions, I did all the transportation of inventory on my own. It’s a miracle I didn’t wind up flattened under a desk or filing cabinet. Having a beefy college kid to help me out might have been a smart move. Although, I have found you need to be careful who you partner with.

Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Shipt offer you the enticement of earning money on your own. However, the low pay and extra miles on your vehicle might derail your plans for financial independence. The one thing those companies do offer is the ability to set your own hours. That checks the time box mentioned earlier, however, the money factor is still lacking. Oh well, keep your eyes open and the right opportunity might find you. Stranger things have happened. 

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