Music Mondays

April 21, 2014

I’m switching gears a bit this week, but the focus will still be on music. This past weekend was Record Store Day (RSD). Being new to the vinyl & vintage audio scene, I really wanted to get into the spirit.

This year, RSD landed it squarely in the middle of a long weekend – an added bonus. The Record Centre is in my ‘hood, but I wanted to make it extra special and decided a trip south of the border was in order. I’m not talking a long road trip, more like an afternoon excursion to the border towns of Massena and Potsdam, NY.

I figured what better way to experience RSD than to visit small town America, after-all RSD has it’s genesis in celebrating and supporting small independent record stores. I imagined walking into an ageless record store, hearing the sounds of Bob Dylan or Neil Young blasting from a pair of vintage speakers and talking with a time-weathered music aficionado about the must have records and the latest releases.

High on my list was the latest offering (posthumously) from Johnny Cash, Neil Young’s surprise release of an album of covers and some older releases from the Drive-By Truckers.

I seemingly forgot about some of the messages often heard in the sounds of Cash, Young and the Drive-By Truckers – hard times continue to cripple small town America. Although I asked – there were no longer such places of musical escapism in either town. The last one shuttered its doors over two years ago. I was too late.

Dejected and feeling a little guilty (Catholic guilt I suppose) for not supporting RSD earlier, I pointed the car north and headed back home.

Notwithstanding this disappointment, I made a mental note to follow through on an idea that has been percolating in the back corners of my mind – more on that in a later post.

Fueled by disappointment I ventured into the basement of the in-laws to paw my way through their aging collection of vinyl. I managed to find some some albums which fit squarely within my musical leanings and some I am interested in learning more about. I have already managed to listen to Black Uhuru and some Mississippi John Hurt.

Later today, I will put on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA‘, U2′s ‘Rattle and Hum‘ and Bob Marley & the Wailers’ 1973 release, ‘Catch a Fire‘. Am looking forward this journey back into our musical past.

Monday’s drawing to a close and so is this post. Before I head back home, I’ll take a stroll up to The Record Centre and say hello to John!

Take care and happy listening.

The Personal Day

April 16, 2014

It was only two weeks ago I decided to take the ‘Personal Day’ afforded to me under my collective agreement. In years past, I usually coupled this day with the ‘Volunteer Leave’ and spent a long weekend with the Alumni Association of Lakehead University‘ either helping with Convocation or with its yearly strategic planning session.

This year was different. I wanted to take a day with no real plans and no real commitments. I wanted to take the time to let this day happen and it unrolled wonderfully.

I’m not saying it wasn’t filled with some mundane, but required tasks, but those took all of about 60 minutes of my day. The rest of my day included a lunch with friends, followed by an afternoon nap and a chance to get caught up on Lilyhammer.

Later in the evening, I enjoyed a fine dinner out & the chance to share stories with my Mom. I returned home and finished my day with a movie.

Nothing earth shattering or very introspective, but rather a day that focused on what I wanted to do. No schedules. No rules. Just personal.

What’s your ‘Personal Day’ story?

New Music Mondays

April 7, 2014

When it comes to finding new music, we look to our friends, we explore our local music scene & there may be a chance we find something on our local radio station.

For me I have relied heavily on CBC’s Radio 2, and the focus of this post NoiseTrade.

With NoiseTrade, you have access to thousands of songs, thousands of albums. It’s free (sort of. there is value in your personal information) and it’s legal. In exchange for your email address and your postal code, you can find your next favourite artist, the next emerging big hit or that gem that you’ll want to keep to yourself.

So how does this all work? Artists can upload an entire album, live recordings, b-sides and other rarities. Instantly their music becomes available, ready to be explored and enjoyed.

Like what you hear? Well you can leave a ‘tip’ for the artist. There are examples where artists have released an entire album and through the ‘tips’ raised money for a variety of causes. From where I am listening, it’s a win-win-win!

Like the Blues, Country, Folk or Indie Rock? You can search by genre. Have you heard a new artist and want to check them out? You can see if they have posted any additional music.

Frequently there are collaborations and great samplers that are offered. These samplers are a wonderful way of being introduced to new music. Someone has taken the time to put together the ultimate mixed-taped for your listening pleasure.

So – the next time you are feeling a bit tired of the radio or your own personal music collection, go check out NoiseTrade. If you find an artist you like, please share it!

Happy Listening!


New Music Mondays

March 31, 2014

This past weekend, my music library tipped over the 28,000 songs mark. Admittedly there are songs on there that I haven’t listened to in a long while, and there are compilations that I revisit frequently.

This week, I wanted to share with you an album that will (already has) been getting some having playing time. And like with any good music, it often comes on a referral. This referral comes from @strombo and his radio show from March 16.

Rita Chiarelli’s ‘Rest My Bones’, complete with back-up vocals from some of the prison’s talented singers, draws you back to the genesis of the blues and provides a suitable backdrop for the spirit of the blues. This isn’t surprising given that Lead Belly spent some time there and was visited by Alan Lomax, a collector of early American Folk Music.

After hearing that song, I went out and picked up Music from the Big House. I wasn’t disappointed. There’s such a raw energy and feel to the music, so much so, I can’t wait for the DVD to arrive. Other highlights for me include ‘Don’t Let Him Catch You’, ‘Rain On Me’ and ‘Midnight Special’.

I recognize that this isn’t a new soundtrack, but it’s new to me and just may be to you. If you are a fan of the blues, or early American folk music, you’ll appreciate this soundtrack. Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts.

Simply put

December 9, 2013

The goal is 185!

Taking time…

December 6, 2013

It’s been just over a week since I pushed back from my desk and take time to regroup and readjust. First things first, to those who reached out, read my words, and offered an ear, a heart felt thank you.

I am not naive enough to believe that the my world can right itself in 9 days, but I do believe that the time afforded me, has yielded some tangible benefits. I took care of the ‘small things’ that have been neglected and acted as a constant reminder that I wasn’t taking care of my space.

My living room is now a room where I can sit back, turn on the radio, curl up in a chair and read 7 chapters of a book. This was a big win. There is no longer a TV in the living room. There is more open space, space I soon to have filled with friends and colleagues, as we listen to and share an appreciation for music and its vinyl incarnations.

I also spent some time putting together my wall of fame and honour. This wall serves as an homage to the personalities that I admire, that I have learnt from and that I respect. With yesterday’s news, there will soon be another photo to hang on the wall. No doubt my son will ask me questions about why this person and that person, and I can use this as an opportunity to share with him.

Speaking of family, there was the always uncomfortableness of a funeral, the stress, the questions and the tears it brings, last Friday. It serves as a reminder of the fragility of life and the need to nurture those familial relationships. In fact, I remember apologizing to my Mom for a remark I made on Saturday afternoon. She too apologized for her reaction. It was strange feeling, but it opened up a door for a deeper conversation about the importance and the need to deal with issues as they present themselves and not let them fester.

A special thank you to the friend who shared with me an article from George McKeown, ‘Reduce Your Stress in 2 Minutes a Day.’ If you have the time, or the inclination, please take the time to read this. The message and the suggestions provided are simple and reinforced one of the readings (‘‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’) I did while I was in Thailand. It’s amazing how quickly we can get out of rythm, out of practice and as a result out of balance.

One of the easy things that fell-off was my commitment to running. It was easy to make excuses. I was too busy. It was too late. You need to get to work early. However, they were simply roadblocks I had put in place. Thankfully, I have returned to running. I hold no illusions, and know it will take some time to get back into the habit of running, but it is something I know that I need to do. More running to come and I am looking forward to it.

My initial plan was to return to work on Monday, but a conversation with someone I respect, suggested that it takes a full week to decompress and another week to put in place a strategy, for how you will return to work. At first, this caught me off guard and I wasn’t quite sure how to react to the suggestion to take additional time. After a conversation with a good friend, over coffee, the more it made sense. There needs to be a plan in place.

One lesson that I will bring back with me, one that my friend shared with me a few years ago, is to ‘accomplish one thing for yourself each day.’ These need not be monumental accomplishments. The mundane and the pragmatic accomplishments can also work. I believe this can apply equally to both one’s personal and professional lives.

My friend also gave some sage advice as to handle some of the professional challenges. His advice, a different way of looking at my role, as a manager within the public service, provided a fresh outlook and an opportunity for me to not only question my role and my reactions, but also change the way in which I approach and address issues. Like with any skill, this will take continual practice, but I am looking forward to learning.

Looking forward to the week ahead, I will be focusing my thoughts on what I can do as a manager to better support my team. One of them is to be present, which ties in with the messages of Greg McKeown and Robin Sharma. I need to be there and being there is part of being successful.

Regroup and Readjust

November 27, 2013

I made a decision at work.  For some it came as a surprise, for me, it has been brewing for some time now.  Admittedly, I am one that naturally avoids conflict, one that is more likely to listen than to talk, one that generally provides advice, but fails to listen to my own words.  

Today, out of the blue for most, I decided to step back, regroup and readjust.  The decision to step away from the office, for an indefinite period of time, seems rash.  As I sit here and type this, I question my own strength, my own resilience, and my own value.  

With every fibre of my being, I truly believe in the honour and the humility that comes with being a public servant.  This sentiment is echoed even more loudly as a manger within the public service.  As a manager we have a duty to care, to nurture and to deliver.  

For me, and I recognize this reflection comes mere hours after making the decision, I may just have taken on too much.  By taking on too much, I let my team down, I let my department down and I let my family down.

Earlier today, I moderated a discussion between a group of young public servants and a senior leader within the organization.  This senior leader shared some sage advice.  He mentioned that you need to take chances, you need to be true to yourself – in effect, ‘you only live once’, but you have got to live it right.

His words gave me pause for reflection, coupled with the tragic loss of a family member on Sunday night, I realized that i needed to step back.  I needed to regroup and readjust.  

I had a conversation with two of my colleagues – two trusted friends – and let them know that I was going to take some time.  They were supportive. And while they said they understood, I can’t help but feel I am taking the easy road out.  

But at the end of the day, I know the work will go and we will deliver like we always do.  During my conversation with my two friends, one of them remarked, ‘perhaps you care too much.’  Those words too gave me pause to look inside.  

I understand and appreciate the sentiment  As a public servant, and as a manager, I am not sure we can ever care enough.  

There is a bigger lesson in here and it will take some time to uncover and learn from it, but for now, the decision to take some time away has been made. 

Over the coming days, I will focus on these 3 small words: ‘Regroup and Readjust.’ If you have insight, I’d welcome the opportunity to listen…and to talk.


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