Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My Playlists II

Over a year ago, I wrote a post called My Playlists that went on to describe my affinity for obsession with music playlists. After rereading the post, I thought I could add more to it in terms of what other kinds of playlists I have, and the reasons I created them. Since it’s for my Freedom Friday series, I might as well have some fun along the way.

Musical notes
Musical notes

In my original post, I talked about mixtapes and what made them so special back in the day when cassette tapes ruled media. A perfectly designed mixtape is a form of expression that captures the essence of a feeling or of a moment in time. Nowadays, the mixtape is a playlist on a music player tailored with songs that have a connection with each other. In other words, a playlist brings together songs that mean something to someone when played together in a certain order.

For instance, I have a playlist dedicated to my college years. These are songs I was listening to while in college that if I played them today would spark those memories of my trips in and out of class, the school library and study hall. I also have a playlist called High School that I love playing whenever I want to remember the times when I sat on the football field with my friends, looking at the sky while dreaming of who we wanted to be someday.

Recently, I’ve added a slew of new playlists to my collection that I could only describe as representing a feeling:

Lounge—A series of smooth jazz songs that transport me to a lounge at the top of a luxury hotel, minutes before midnight while I take in the sight of the city lights below. Yeah, pretty specific, huh?
Autumn—Songs that have a nostalgic, melancholy vibe that remind me of the reflection I go through when fall arrives. Whenever I find myself in this playlist, I’m instantly walking through the leaves as the rain pours.
Winter—I came up with this playlist as a way to enjoy the solitude of the season. Those cold winter days when the wind is blowing and no one’s around makes for a peaceful time. These songs bring those moments together in a way that enhances the frost of the season.
Love—Ah, yes. It’s all about love. My choice of songs vary, but the theme remains the same. On this playlist I’ve added songs for the tender heart.
Sports—Unlike the name of the playlist, the songs evoke inspiration. It’s the one playlist I can go to for a “You can do it!” jolt of adrenaline to spike my productivity.
Summer—Fun tunes featuring Beach Boys and anything with the word summer in its title. I’m playing this now as I write. They’re the songs that epitomize youth, fun in the sun, and explode with energy.
Power—This playlist features tunes with only one thing as its purpose—to blow away anything in its path. I mixed soundtrack songs from various superhero, car and summer blockbuster flicks in one neat little package that would evoke a big sense of adventure. I came up with this playlist as a way to kick me into action. A couple of these songs is all I need to press me to running with the bulls.

Anyway, I love my playlists. I really do. Whenever I need to focus on a certain period in my life or take an emotional journey, my music has been there for me, saving the day and pulling me to keep creating.

What about you? Do you have playlists that inspire you?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Do you create playlists? If so, what kind of playlists are they?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My iPod classic

I’m not sure how much interest this post will garner, especially knowing that some folks are not too keen on Apple these days. But I’ll write it from my perspective in order for you to understand where I’m coming from. This is my Freedom Friday post about my iPod classic.

My iPod classic
My iPod classic

First off, this is not an ad campaign for Apple. Nor is it a way for me to gain a following from all the audiophiles out there. Even more so, nor is it a plea for Apple to listen to its customers. I leave that fight to the activists, of which I’m in no way a part of.

Last month, Apple quietly discontinued the iPod classic, the company’s former highest capacity portable media device.

Yes, I did shed a figurative tear, in spite of the fact I saw it coming for a while now.

Let me make one thing clear. I don’t consider myself a die-hard Apple fan. I say this with the knowledge I’ve never stood in line for one of their products or sat in front of the computer waiting for the next iOS release. I’m one of those guys who buys stuff, regardless of company, for what that stuff represents in technological progress. If that stuff works and does what I want it to do, I will raise the praises no matter what anyone says to me.

Okay, now with that out of the way, my big confession is I love my iPod classic. I do. You’re reading those words from a guy who’s been around. I used to listen to music on vinyl, which, by the way, sounds amazing. I progressed to purchasing my very first Sony Walkman with its ability to carry a whole album on cassette tape. I then moved on to my first MP3 player called the RioVolt, a CD-based MP3 player featuring hundreds of songs at my auditory disposal. From there I graduated to an Apple shuffle—the original “white stick” version. I couldn’t believe I could finally carry a few more hundred songs with me.

Then the Apple iPod classic came. In 2007, I’d spent $350. I still can’t believe I’d spend that much for a device. Then again, for my RioVolt I’d spent $200 in the early 2000’s, so it goes without saying that if a device is worth it, I’ll buy it. That player lasted me a couple of years before it became obsolete.

My classic? It’s still going strong.

What do I love about it? Everything. I’m serious about this. Its ability to fit my entire song library, which is extensive, has me carrying my entire music collection with room to boot. That feature alone has me at the word go.

I’m also an avid playlist creator. I have over a hundred playlists for almost every mood I can think of. I even have playlists to remember specific events in my life. I’m a playlist maniac! The sweetest thing about the iPod classic is that it allows Smart Playlists to work as intended with Live Updating.

For all of you who are not familiar of the feature, Live Updating simply allows a playlist to populate dynamically without much interference from me. That means if I have a playlist with the criteria of picking rock songs I haven’t heard in the past two weeks, the playlist will rotate my library to do just that. Once a song finishes, the iPod classic kicks the song off the list and a new one then appears in its place. Live Updating is that amazing. The thing is it doesn’t work on the iPhone or any of the newest iPods. It does work on the iPod classic, and that’s all that matters to me.

The other great feature about my iPod classic is its ability to create Genius playlists on the fly. Let’s say I’m listening to a song I really love, I click on the center button, choose the Genius feature, and the iPod classic quickly creates a playlist with all the songs that work well with the song I’m listening to. The perfect mix. The feature works so well that I sometimes save the generated playlist for later use.

The iPod classic click wheel
The iPod classic click wheel

Last but the most important feature the iPod classic has that no other Apple device currently possesses is the click wheel. I suppose Apple thought this archaic functionality belonged in the past and decided music listeners didn’t need it. In reality, it’s the most useful feature for us folks who listen to music non-stop.

How does it work? If I slide my finger on the click wheel left, I’m turning the volume down. Go right, I’m turning it up. If I press the bottom of the wheel, I’m pausing the song. If I press right, it skips to the next song and vice versa when pressing left. The kicker? I can do it all without looking at the device. Try that with an iPhone where you have to look at the screen to perform the simple function of pausing the song.

Like I said, I love my iPod classic. I love it so much I bought two—the original 2007 and the 2009 versions. Both of them are still going strong. The 2007 version I have hooked up to a docking station in our bedroom where I turn on the music before going to bed. Although some may wonder how I can prepare for sleep if I have Blink 182 blasting on the speakers. Trust me—I sleep right through the night without any trouble. The 2009 version is with me all the time, cranking out the tunes.

Anyway, enough of my rambling.

The biggest drawback of the iPod classic is that it has a hard drive to hold its music. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple turns around one day to release another version of the device featuring a big fat solid-state drive.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What devices do you own? Are you someone who sports an attachment with a device?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My Playlists

Over the course of years, I’ve changed music players, I’ve changed computers, but I haven’t changed my playlists. If anything, I’ve created more. Under last count, I have fewer than one hundred playlists. Now, you might wonder what these playlists do. Come into my Freedom Friday parlor said the author to the reader.

Musical notes
Musical notes

For those who haven’t used playlists before, they provide a music enthusiast a means by which to create a song lineup. That’s it. Simple, don’t you think? Playlists are the digital equivalent of old-style mixtape. For those of us who remember mixtapes, much of their content depended on how much music we could fit in a small cassette tape. The typical size of these tapes ranged between sixty to ninety minutes in length. Many of the older vinyl albums the music corporations distributed had a typical running time of forty-five minutes.

A lot of folks back in the early days of portable players would copy their favorite album on tape and then carry around the tape to play in their car or on their Walkman. Yeah, we’re talking ancient history here. Others had more creativity in their bones and wanted to create their own tapes based on their taste in music. They scrounge from one album to the next to cherry-pick the song they always wanted to hear in a certain order. These tapes would then make the rounds among friends and become part of a community of enthusiasts appreciating each other’s work.

Fascinating stuff, huh?

Let’s get back to my playlists. When I first discovered I could create mixtapes on my music player—I mean, playlists—I went nuts. I chose my favorite artists and added them to their own playlists based on the chronological release date of their studio albums. I can’t tell you how much I had wanted to do that since the early days. I enjoy the continuity the playlists have and the vibe. After all, we’re talking about the artists’ discography presented in a way never dreamed of before by the record labels.

Musical staff
Musical staff

I next tackled mixtape playlists. I know what you’re thinking, “I thought you did that with the chronological ones, dude.” Well, I did, but I didn’t. Remember what I said about mixtapes? I picked a generous helping of songs with common themes. For instance, I created inspirational playlists, power playlists, college playlists. Each one reflecting what I felt at a certain time in my life. I’m proud of the college one the most since it contains modern instrumental pieces tailored after a sunrise/sunset vibe.

My absolute favorite playlist, and the one I took a long time to put together, is the oldies playlist. The songs come from a pool of 50’s and 60’s music put together to play at random on a Saturday night. When I first got married, a radio station in Toronto played nothing but oldies on a Saturday night. If I remember correctly, the show went by the name of Saturday Night Oldies. I think it’s still around, but I haven’t checked in a while. Anyway, I wanted to recreate that experience on my music player. Whenever I listen to the lineup on a Saturday night, all those memories flood my brain:

  • That night when we painted our new apartment before moving in
  • All the rides home alone after spending time together
  • Driving her home from the movies

I never tire by what music can do. A simple song can unlock a vast wealth of experiences we thought we’d forgotten. It can make us jump, it can make us cry. One thing’s for certain, it can take us right back to where we were the instant it played for the first time in our lives. That, in itself, is an amazing feat.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Have you created playlists for your music player? If not, have you ever tried online jukeboxes built on your song preferences?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

More Games I Love Playing

When I’m not writing, I have a number of hobbies to keep me entertained. I enjoy photography, and if you’ve been a regular reader of my site, then you’ll know I get a thrill telling you about my love affair with capturing the right moment. I also enjoy food. Being Italian, I’ve come to appreciate the big Sunday meals at an early age. In fact, I’ve shared those things with you many times. I can’t deny it is one of my favorite things to do as a way to bond the family. And, along with all the other hobbies I have, I love listening to music. There’s nothing quite like having a song appear on a playlist to take me by surprise and change my mood. Tell me the theme Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn’t make you want to jump on a horse and conquer the world. Yeah, music, there’s nothing like it.

But of all the hobbies I have, the one that excites me, and keeps me focused for hours, is playing games. One quick game of chess on my phone is a great way to distract me enough to feel refreshed and carry on with my day.

I have a number of new games I’ve been playing that I thought I would share with you. I enjoy getting lost in these games, so they may not be for you. I do find, however, they are entertaining enough for a mention.

SimCity BuildIt
SimCity BuildIt

SimCity BuildIt—I discovered this game one weekend while searching for something to do between eating lunch and going to my kid’s recital. If you haven’t played any of those time-sensitive games, where you’re creating a farm, a town, or in this case, a city, then take this as a lovely introduction. The first thing you’ll notice with SimCity BuildIt is its incredible attention to detail. Sometimes, I simply sit back and watch as the scene changes from day to night. The building model is quick. You have to zone areas for growth, add electricity, add water, and, if you really would like your citizens to be happy, a park or two. The economics are in perfect balance with player expectations. When you build a residential neighborhood, you don’t have to wait long to see growth. The added city that comes with the game is a pleasure to watch come alive. This is a great game to pick up for your phone or tablet.

Card Shark
Card Shark

Card Shark—I’ve played many Solitaire games, but none quite like Klondike in the Card Shark universe. The game has many other card games, such as DrawPoker and MemoryMatch, yet I really do enjoy having that quick game of Klondike when I travel. Even at home, it’s a wonderful app to play until dinner is ready. I think my favorite part about this app is all its options to customize the playing field. You can choose from a bevy of card decks to play, different backgrounds for the table, and even go so far as to choose if you you’d like uniform or messy stacks for the deal and discard piles. And to top it all off, the game looks great. I have yet to encounter an app with cards that look as realistic as those presented in Card Shark.

Action Movie FX
Action Movie FX

Action Movie FX—Okay, so this isn’t a game per se, but I can’t resist getting enough of this app. It’s a film studio on your phone, complete with real special effects from well-known movies. The most recent version I downloaded has the little robot from the new Star Wars movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens as one of the effects to use as part of a clip you can capture yourself. The way it works is you shoot a video with your camera or tablet, process the effect with the app and share it with all your friends. The app makes ordinary shots hilarious, and equally funny when sharing it with people you know. For instance, one morning I took a video of my wife sitting at the table having breakfast while she was reading. In the clip, I then added the Star Wars robot rolling into the scene and blasting her in her seat. We couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the scene. The app also has explosions, rocket and other robot effects to play with. I love this app so much that I do consider it a great way to spend a few minutes playing with it to see what else it can do.

I had a longer list of games to go through, but these are the one I like the most.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you play games? What games do you play, and which game would you recommend I should play next?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

What Excites You?

An article in Psychology Today eloquently titled What Excites You?—yes, you can smack me later for ripping off the title—states that the prevalent thought in psychology according to Silvan S. TomkinsAffect, Imagery, Consciousness is that humans have an inherent need to maximize positive and rewarding emotions while minimize negative ones.

Pizza with tons of toppings
Pizza with tons of toppings

Given it’s Freedom Friday, I figure the best way to maximize positive thought is to provide you a peek into what excites me. Later in the comments, you can tell me what excites you. How does that sound?

A Good Song: First up, nothing can really replace a good song. You know when it happens as soon as it hits your ears. Your feet begin to shuffle, your fingers begin to tap, and you’re off bobbing your head to the rhythm of the beat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lousy mood only to rise from the dumpster when one of my favorite songs is playing on my earbuds. My secret weapon for curing the blues is three hits of AC/DC, two chasers of Led Zeppelin and one shot of John Williams.

Good Food: How can I describe the feeling I get when sitting at the table anticipating my mom’s home-cooked meal? There’s a whole method to the act of patiently waiting. I’m Italian, so a meal doesn’t only consist of the main course but it includes the antipasto, the salad, dessert and other foods I can’t bare writing about without eating part of my anatomy. The whole experience is reminiscent of a grand opera served on a platter. Delicious.

Exercise
Exercise

Good Exercise: I love taking walks. I love doing my stretching exercises. I love physical activity outside. Actually, let me qualify that last bit. I love physical activity outside if there’s a goal to achieve. Cleaning up a garage is not my idea of a physical activity I like. I’ll do it, but it’s far and away not on my Top Ten list of things I love doing. Okay, back to my walks. When I go for a walk, I grab my phone, plug in my earphones and soak the tunes while I perform a half-hour jaunt around my neighborhood. The music helps me focus and my love for my neighborhood allows me the convenience to say hello to all my neighbors. The activity is also great on the heart.

Good Friends: Lastly, meeting with good friends over a meal or a ball game makes for one of the most wonderful times ever. I’ve known my best friends, those people who I can call on and say they are my friends, since I was a single. We go to each other’s houses, have BBQ’s, picnics, etc. and we simply enjoy each other’s company. What’s not to like? People change, but the friendship always remains. That time together will one day become a memory worth talking about.

These things excite me. They thrill me, lift me up and inspire me to do better in all that I do.

What excites you?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

What activities do you enjoy doing? What would recommend that I ought to try?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Today’s Technology

Here we are again, Freedom Friday. If you’re joining this series for the first time, you can search for all the posts by simply clicking on the Freedom Friday link above this post. For those who need a refresher, I use Freedom Friday to express my views about what’s current, what’s not or anything else that may trickle into this brain of mine at the time of writing.

27-Inch Hitachi Tube TV
27-Inch Hitachi Tube TV

At this moment, I’m thinking technology. In particular, I’m thinking about how far technology has come from the good ol’ days when a large 27-inch TV and a VCR dominated our entertainment centers. Anyone remember this? For some of us, we had two VCRs—one for recording and one to watch recordings. It made for a simplistic life, but much of what the 80’s had, delved on simplistic.

We cherished those cold, winter evenings when we got back home from work, prepared a warm soup for dinner and plopped on the couch to watch the latest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Let’s not forget those autumn Tuesday night comedies. How can I forget taping  episodes of Home Improvement so I can watch them later. Those episodes always shattered my funny bone for some reason.

Home Improvement
Home Improvement

So much has changed.

Today, we live as a traveling society. We bring our entertainment with us. We can download any episode of any series we’d like; plop it on our iPods, iPhones, Nexus 7’s, Samsung Galaxy Tab’s, whatever—and we can watch them on the go. Gone are the days where we sit in front of the TV as past generations. The media we consume, at the rate we consume it, is unbelievable to those who’d lived in the VCR age.

Take, for instance, music. I remember a time when I’d recorded my favorite tracks on a cassette tape in a specific order based on how the songs meshed. Then, when I traveled with my Sony Walkman, I could listen to them on the go.

Boy, that no longer happens. At least, I don’t think.

Mixtape
Mixtape

Today, I can carry my entire music library I had carefully culled over the period of decades on my iPod. I have mixtape playlists, compilation playlists and even live playlists (those used when rating songs during my travels).

Insane!

This is what our technology has brought us. We can carry our whole media library anywhere we go and consume it at a bus station, truck stop, library, museum, deli, newsstand, restaurant, friend’s house, wilderness, bus, train, woods, park, walking, hiking, boating, sailing, running, riding, traveling, etc. all in the confines of our realities.

I laugh. How did we do it back in the 80’s?

Anyone else notice how far technology has advanced? Anyone else have the same idea I have with the way we consume our media? What about books? Do you like hardcover books or do you read them on a Kindle or another reader?