The wrong side

I really do not like alarm clocks. Never have. At best they are an annoying necessity, at worst a harbinger of doom that reifies the unfortunate reality that someone else is dictating how you live your life. The saying, “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” does not really seem to fit when there is an alarm clock involved. Neither side is good when a mechanical device is pulling all the strings.

Way back in high school, while still living in the south suburbs of Chicago, I once acquired a new clock radio. Well, new to me anyway. It had several seemingly nifty options; a sleep timer and the means to set the alarm to turn the radio on at the allotted time rather than some hideous bell or buzzer or what-have-you. Funny though, no matter how you dress it up, it is still an evil device.


Anyways, I was trying to figure out all of the bells and whistles the first night that I got it. Somehow I did something wrong. Terribly wrong.

While I am not an only child per se, my siblings are considerably older than I and had moved away while I was still quite young so that most of my school years I was the only child in the house. I had my own room and the bed I slept in was in a corner with a small night stand next to it… actually it was an antique shoe shine stand which was really pretty cool, but that is beside the point. I wonder whatever happened to that thing?

Anyways, as I was trying to say, I had gotten this new clock radio. I liked to listen to the radio at night, but there is always that risk of falling asleep with the thing on and having it go all night. You never know what sort of nonsense you might inadvertently pick up in your sleep that way… but I digress.

I really dislike all manner of buzzing, beeping, ringing, etc., in most cases, but especially when employed as a means to wake me up. It is a miserable way to start one’s day. Part of that comes from my ass of a step-brother who used to torture me with his alarm clock… it had this terrible monotonous drone that would not wake him. He knew this and would set it to go off in the middle of the night. It would wake me… as if I ever really slept well in that house, and of course I was assigned the top bunk in my bi-monthly consigned “visit”. So there I am, lying awake in the dark, not wanting to get up, nor get down from the top bunk, while across the room there is this low, buzzing drone. Very welcoming.

But I digress… again, I was trying to talk about my clock radio.

So the bed I slept in, as I mentioned was in a corner and I always used to sleep curled up facing the corner. Thus, the aforementioned side table was behind me with a lamp on it, my glasses, and at this point the new clock radio.

I had been trying to figure out the sleep timer as I recall, perhaps concurrently with trying to set the alarm to go off at the pre-ordained time in the morning by playing the radio instead of some damn buzzer.

Apparently I did both wrong.

I never could get the sleep timer to work that night and eventually gave up, thinking that I had at least set the alarm correctly. It went off at the designated time alright, and the radio came on instead of the buzzer or whatever, BUT, apparently in fumbling about trying to get the sleep timer to work I had cranked the volume all the way up. SO, at 6-ass am or whatever suddenly there is “classic rock” blaring at me from roughly 3 feet behind my head. In jerking awake I smacked my face into the wall and in thrashing around trying to stop the cacophony I knocked my glasses across the room. In trying to stop their flight, I over-reached and fell out of bed.

So my mom then bursts in the room to find me writhing on the floor, one hand holding my bashed in face, while the other casts about the floor in search of my glasses, all the while the radio is still on full blast.

Wrong side of the bed indeed. Both were bad that morning.

This morning was nothing like that. Thankfully. The wife and I have one of those sunrise alarms that gradually get brighter and brighter to simulate a natural sunrise. There is also a radio alarm that accompanies this and it is also graduated in that it gets progressively louder. It is rather pleasant actually. Of course once either one of us stirs the crazy dog, who is not graduated in any way, starts jumping off and on the bed, but that is somewhat different.

No, this morning was much nicer and the story on the radio was actually quite interesting, something about a Welshman looking for unicorns in the mountains and trying to find some long lost connection with the Mandan nation of North Dakota… of course now that I type that I doubt my sanity.

Anyways, point is, sometimes there is no accounting for what happens when I get out of bed. By the time I had fumbled my way downstairs I was in a horribly foul mood. No reason whatsoever. Barked at the Wife, ignored the dog, scowled. No reason at all.

I hate these mornings, but unfortunately they happen. This is my version of depression at its worst. Granted I have been teetering on the out of sorts fence for days, again without much in the way of any obvious reason, but this morning it sort of came to a head… for no obvious reason, and that is generally the worst part. It is one thing to be frustrated with work, or not feel well physically, or be faced with a series of unfortunate events that make one feel put upon. Those are all somewhat viable reasons to be in a less than pleasant mood (yeah, yeah I know we are all the masters of our own moods and if we have a better outlook blah blah blah…).

Sometimes, there is no explanation. Sometimes everything is just wrong. I cannot explain it and can rarely control it. I do not understand it, cannot predict it, and have little understanding in regards to how it works, why it happens, nor how to make it go away.

Depression is sneaky and no mistake and all I really want to do is hide; find somewhere to be alone so I do not have to be accountable for not seeming to have any self-control. Because really, that is often the worst part. It is difficult to feel hopeless and not know why, but to have to pretend that everything is fine so that you do not have to try to explain it to others is truly exhausting. And here I need to say how much I absolutely love the Wife. She is concerned; she wants to make sure that I am ok first and second that I am not upset with her, which of course I am not… in either case really. Rather, I can say that no, I am out of sorts for no good reason and that I cannot explain it. I apologize and she says she loves me regardless. I know she worries but she trusts me, and our relationship, enough to let me be until I can address it on my own terms.

It could be so much worse. It has been so much worse.

So for now I try to turn it around. Try to write something funny to lighten the mood. Try to share what I am experiencing with others. I am not sure if I will ever understand it, but this helps.


With great power…

…comes great responsibility, or so the saying goes.

The trials and inevitable pitfalls of constructing an “instant record collection”.


So, I have offered to gift my nephew, well both of them really and thus by default, their parents as well, one of my old iPods. On the one hand this might seem completely banal. Take the thing, throw it in a box, and mail it off. In this case however, it is not nearly so straightforward.

What is an iPod really? Well, as designed it is miniature digital music library. Granted, there are now many different versions with different capabilities, but music is what they were designed for. And for music collectors, that is really cool. No more briefcases full of cassette tapes, no more cd wallets, full of scratched and mostly useless compact discs. Neither however is there a need for shelving units full of vinyl, which is actually a shame, but that is a different discussion. No, just gigabytes of digital “space” that one can fill up with digital files, thus allowing one to carry around all, most, or part of a “record” collection in a pocket. Pretty fabulous really.

However, the device requires certain infrastructure; as with many things. In this case, there is the music of course, but more importantly, there is the question of how to “transcribe”, as it were, said music from whatever pre-existing medium it currently exists in onto said iPod. This, though, is contingent on many things.

If one has primarily cd’s, or more likely of late digital music files (mp3, aac, etc.), then one can install iTunes (or something similar) on a computer, load the music into the digital library, plug in said iPod and off you go. However, if one’s music collection exists in a more esoteric medium such as cassettes or vinyl records, then, well, this requires significantly more elaborate technology. Again however, this is a different, albeit related, discussion that I will forego at the moment.

In the end, the most vital piece of infrastructure is some form of computer interface with an acceptable amount of digital storage and an appropriate operating system. This does not take into account the requirements for maintaining, nor updating, the iPod, which is another issue I will forego discussing at the moment. Why, you ask? This seems important you suggest? Well, back to the original subject at hand…

So, I have offered to gift my nephew… well, see above.

Without going into the details of other peoples’ lives, suffice to say I am gifting said iPod pre-loaded with music. An instant record collection if you will. This way, none of the prerequisite infrastructure is needed. Rather, all that is needed is said iPod and some means of listening to it (headphones, speaker dock, etc.). Well and some means to recharge the internal battery but that is simple. But, herein lies the complication that the title of this post alludes to.

A “typical” digital song requires roughly 2-3 megabytes (MB) per minute of music, or so says the interwebs… SO, given an average of 8 or so songs per album, each of which are roughly 4 or so minutes long (and I am being incredibly vague here on purpose or else this thing will never get written), a “typical” album runs roughly 32ish minutes long thus requiring 60 to 90ish MB of digital space.

iPods have varying digital capacities, measured in gigabytes (GB). 1 GB = 1000 MB and the iPod I am choosing to gift has a capacity of 16 GB (16000 MB). SO, forcing myself to do some more math here, if we round it out to say that an average album is an even 80 MB, I could fit 200 albums on said iPod.

A pretty tall order, in a sense.

BUT, here is the rub. My entire digital library is roughly 60 GB strong. SO, not only do I have to choose somewhere around 200 albums, I have to determine which 200 out of the many hundreds (I lost count a while back) of albums should go into this particular library… which, if you will recall is effectively for 4 different people.


BUT, that is not the real catch. No, the real catch is the power that is implied in this level of responsibility. My choices of music could potentially have some influence over the lives of others… and I know that sounds overly dramatic, but this comes from a person to whom music is a very powerful and important influencing factor in life. Making a “mix tape” is one thing. That is like sending a greeting card. This is more like giving someone a scholarship.

On the one hand I have to choose based on what I think he/they might like, but I also need to take into consideration elements such as age, personal life histories, interests, family activities, etc. I know something of the existing tastes of the family members (some more than others) so there is that factor, but there is also the question of how much to include music that I might want them to like… or feel it is very important that they at least have the opportunity to experience.