Monthly Archives: December 2017

Playlists

I walk. It’s one of the few healthy things I do. At the moment. I have plans to change that.

For now, I walk. Over 5,000,000 steps in 2017.

IMG_6750.jpgAfter some trial and error and more trials and even more errors, I discovered that what inspires me best when I walk, and in those moments when I jog or run at a speed that challenges a sundial to measure, is music. Which leads to the topic of playlists.

At first I tried using my iTunes on shuffle. The challenge involved tempo. Many songs on my iTunes are too slow for walking, let alone for those moments when jogging/running at a speed that threatens to leave banana slugs in the dust.

Playlists became my solution: selecting the songs that I want to listen to each day. I create daily playlists that are about 1 hour long.

Of playlist types, there are four (at the moment):

Memorial playlists. Often, but not every time, when an artist dies, I create a playlist of songs by that artist. Sometimes I will include covers of the artist’s songs as well. At times this means purchasing songs to build, or supplement, the playlist; other times I have the needed songs.

Special day playlists. For days that have speak to me in a special way, I create playlists. These are days I choose to commemorate. Usually I have songs that fit the day; occasionally songs are added to supplement what is already in my iTunes library. Examples are: Roberto Clemente’s birthday, my birthday and anniversary, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,  Human Rights Day, the Winter Solstice, and Women’s Day.

Seasonal playlists. Current playlists mark two seasons. During Advent and Christmas, playlists are built of Advent and Christmas songs on the Sundays and then from December 24 through January 6, Christmas songs fill the playlists. The week or two before and after St. Patrick’s Day bring playlists of Irish and Irish-American music. Fitzgerald on my mother’s side. Playlists created during each season follow, as far as possible, the rules of regular playlists and involve the creation of Christmas and Irish source playlists.

Regular playlists. I create a playlist folder in iTunes with all the songs in the library except for Christmas. This becomes the master playlist with the incredibly creative name of “Gym.”  A playlist folder for each day is then created: “Gym 02 November” for example. I then go back into the master playlist, set it on shuffle, and start a song. I don’t use that song, but do a fast-forward to the next song. If the tempo is right, I add it to the daily playlist and then delete it from the master playlist and then repeat the process. If the tempo is too slow, it is simply deleted and the fast-forward takes place. This continues for about 7 or 8 songs which is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. At that point, I look at the playlist in terms of diversity of the artists. The remaining songs are chosen using the fast-forward shuffle to ensure that there is a measure of diversity (gender and race) in the list. Two additional rules: only one song per artist per playlist (which is waived if an artist was a member of multiple groups) and no repeats of the same song even by different artists. Songs that are not included because they do not fit the rules at the moment remain in the list. Only slow songs and used songs are deleted. Should it reach the point where all the songs have been used or deleted, then the “Gym” master playlist would be rebuilt.

One potential tweak lies ahead. I have purchased the 2018 Peace Calendar from the Syracuse Cultural Workers. In addition to being a source for special day playlists, it may well allow the addition of a song or two on appropriate days.

Creating playlists consumes time. It often happens late at night with a mindless movie on the television. And I have come to realize that this is a discipline that feeds me in some way I cannot describe. And that is good.

See you along the Trail.

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Purple, not flowers, gecko

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A portrait of the puppy
with his (purple) gecko
26 December 2017
Solon, Ohio

 

 

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Purple, not flowers, spider

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23 December 2017
Wild Lights, Detroit Zoo
Detroit, Michigan

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Purple, not flowers, lights

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23 December 2017
Wild Lights, Detroit Zoo
Detroit, Michigan

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I saw joy

I was feeling grumpy.

OK, I was feeling grumpy-er. Always play to one’s strengths.

IMG-6692I was walking down Fifth Avenue, heading to Rockefeller Center.

Visitors to New York filled the sidewalk. They stopped in the middle and made quick turns. They abruptly countermarched, heading back uptown without warning.

My blood pressure rose. My ire increased. And then I saw her.

She sat in a wheel chair, looking at the lights and the sights.

I do not know her name and never learned her story. It was inappropriate to ask. But I wondered.

Was this her first time in New York – the culmination of a long-time dream?

Was she a long-time city resident?

Was this an annual visit?

In the end, the reason mattered not. All that mattered was her face.

She glowed. Amazement. Wonder. Delight. Many words could describe her face and bearing. But the one that works best for me, is joy. Simple joy. Pure joy. Unabashed joy. I have not seen such joy often, but I have seen it enough that I recognize it when I do.

I saw joy that day and I carried it in my heart to Rockefeller Center. I hope it showed, just a little, on my face.

See you along the trail.

P.S. – the photo was taken inside the Time Warner Center on the same day. I did not get any photos at Rockefeller Center. I will be back.

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Cooking #1

Kitchens challenge me. Making toast can be a problem. Hint: make sure the toaster is plugged in.

But I am trying. Tonight’s effort – cheesy jalapeño chicken.

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Not bad. It’s a start.

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Five years

Five years. The vagaries of time make it feel like yesterday and like a lifetime ago, all in the same moment.

Ruling Elder Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died on 12-12-12 in the afternoon. This post was written on that day at a time before I knew of her death. For a number of reasons, it seems worth sharing again and remembering this amazing woman and beloved child of God.

I did something today I have never done before.

I stood in silence for five minutes.

I am not big on pomp and circumstance and formality. A South African friend once observed that I can be a bit “cheeky” to those in authority. For some reason everyone who has heard that assessment has agreed with it. Go figure.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

The tradition in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is to stand when the General Assembly moderator enters the room. Almost every moderator in my memory has encouraged people not to do so. Most of the time most of them meant it. Yet the tradition persists – in honor of the person and even more so in respect of the office. And while it is not my favorite thing, I take part.

Today, without being asked, without being prompted, I chose to stand in silence for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach – moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010).

I watched her election from the back of the auditorium in Minneapolis. My son Sean and I leaned against the wall.

A period of questions and answers precedes the voting. Commissioners (the folks with the votes) pose questions and the individuals standing (we’re Presbyterian, we don’t run) respond. The questions deal with theology, issues before the church, and issues in the world.

At one point, a question was posed along the lines of: “What would happen to the church, if you were not elected and one of the other candidates were?”

One by one the candidates offered replies praising the others and noting that the church did not depend on their election. Then Cindy Bolbach stepped to the mike. I do not remember her exact words, but the essence was:

There will be utter chaos.

The Assembly erupted in laughter. Sean turned to me and said, “She just won, didn’t she?”

The Assembly still had to vote. But Cindy did win. And I believe her sparkling humor that bristles with wisdom played a key role.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

Cindy is a woman of incredible faith, deep love, amazing grace, and an incredible wit. She lives daily her commitment to Christ, to the Church, to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) , to all people, and to God’s world. She mixes simplicity and profound sincerity with a capability to navigate complexity and controversy. I am privileged to know her. The Church (in all its manifestations) is blessed by her presence.

For most of this year, Cindy has struggled against cancer. The struggle cut short her ability to attend events but it never dampened her spirits (at least in public). She wore a fedora to the 220th General Assembly (2012) and she wore it well.

This morning came the news that Cindy has entered hospice care. And I stood for five minutes in her honor.

But in the silence it came to me that another way – a better way – to honor Cindy Bolbach – is to give thanks to God for Cindy – to entrust Cindy to God’s merciful care – to pray for her without ceasing – then to get back about the business of ministry. I am pretty sure that is what she would want. So it is what I have done.

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, I will shed more tears. But I will also proclaim “Alleluia.”

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, there will be utter chaos. But in the chaos there will be love and there will be grace and there will be God. And all will be well for Cindy. And all will be well for us. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

See you along the Trail.

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