Renewing My Fitbit Vows (part 4 of 10)

OK, fact #1–I am overweight and badly need to lose many, many pounds. Fact #2–I love numbers. This combination of facts led me to purchasing a Fitbit a little more than a year ago. Before I did, I thought the concept of “wearable tech” was a stupid fad. However, my record of exercising has been spotty at best, and the idea of hitting a number on a daily basis appealed to me. Over the next twelve months, my Fitbit has pushed me to hit daily goals on a fairly regular basis. I even upped my thresholds from 10,000 steps to 11,000 steps and 5.0 miles to 5.5 miles daily. I was regularly hitting my exercise goals 5 to 6 times a week and even had 25+ day streaks on three occasions. My cardiac procedure in early April set me back a bit with the hospital time and the recovery, but I think I’m back in business, as yesterday was the fifth consecutive day I hit both step and mile goals.

I know the Fitbit and other wearable tech is not for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, I highly recommend it. There’s nothing more motivating to me than sitting on the couch at night, ready to veg in front of the TV, but looking at your step counter and seeing you’ve done fewer than 5,000 steps is a real call to action. Particularly if you add friends and family to your Friend list. It’s the reason I’d suggest Fitbit over the other wearable tech options–it has the biggest base of current members, so you can add people and then compete against them to see who can get the most steps in a day, work week, or weekend. So when I am nowhere near my goal, it pushes me because I want to do better than others and I am sure they are looking at my lack of activity and judging (which logically, I am sure no one is doing–but leave me to my self-centered paranoia, OK?)

Now the Fitbit isn’t perfect–for example, if the arm that the device is located on is locked, the steps don’t count. So if you are pushing a grocery cart around a store, it will not give you credit for your steps. You have to be moving arms and legs to increase the counter. So in my cart example, there are two workarounds. Push the cart with one hand while continuing to swing the other arm–don’t worry,  it doesn’t make you look like an idiot to all the other shoppers (actually, it does). It also makes steering the cart a bit of an adventure. That’s why the second solution, put the tracker in your pocket, a better workaround. This also works in other armlock situations, like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill (if you plan on holding the heart sensors for any length of time). Speaking of heart sensors, my Fitbit model does not include a heart monitor in it–that was the next model up. However, I heard from a cardiologist that he does not recommend getting an exercise tracker with heart monitor–he thinks people obsess too much about the pulse numbers. He did like the idea of an exercise tracker–so if you want to get onto the wearable tech craze–save yourself some money and get a model without heart rate checking. And let me know if you do–we can be Fitbit friends!

On to part 4 of my 100 favorite songs list. There are links to parts 1-3 at the end, but now that I’m walking more again, let’s look at the next 10 songs that come up when I listen to my top 100 playlist:

  • Welcome to the Terrordome–Public Enemy
  • Around the Dial–The Kinks
  • Eminence Front–The Who
  • Scar Tissue–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss–P.M. Dawn
  • Floating Vibes–Surfer Blood
  • You Can Call Me Al–Paul Simon
  • Invisible Sun–The Police
  • Your Love–The Outfield
  • New Year’s Day–U2

I will admit being late to appreciated the genius that is Public Enemy. I first heard them as part of the Do the Right Thing soundtrack. It was already a powerful film, but I got to see an advanced screening of it introduced by Spike Lee while I was at MIT. Of course, I was disappointed at how the Larry Bird Celtic jersey was used in the film, but the movie blew me away. A big part of that was “Fight the Power.” One can argue that with songs like it and “911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy was the most effective act to fix popular music and politics since the protest singers of the late 60’s. However, the Public Enemy song I enjoy the most was a different release from Fear of a Black Planet–“Welcome to the Terrordome.” All of their songs have such raw power and anger behind the lyrics, and this one is no different. I know that Flavor Flav has become a punchline in recent years, but his work on “Welcome to the Terrordome specifically and all of Public Enemy’s work in total is amazing.

As I said when I first started talking about my 100 list, I refused to place artificial constraints like one song per artist on the list, and a few artists have more than one song from the same album. One such album is Give The People What They Want by the Kinks. I remember my older sister listening to the cassette tape of the album all the time when she got a boom box for Christmas along with it, Working Class Dog, Escape, and Candy-O. I enjoyed all four albums, but the Kinks release was the best. A second song from the album cracks my top 10, but “Around the Dial” has always been a favorite, right from its radio-tuning opening. I’d argue that the message of the song–the corporatizing of radio stations–is more apt today in the Clear Channel era than it was at time of its release, although to make it more timely, we’d have to change the lyric “FM, AM, where are you?” to “FM, XM, where are you?” as you only find political, religious, and sports zealots on AM these days.

After two Who songs in the previous group of 10, they are right back with a third entry on my list. There were almost two versions of this song on the list, as a member of Sons of Sam Horn shared with us a mashup of “Eminence Front” and “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)” by Digable Planets. He called it “Cool Front” and it’s an amazing combination of two distinctly different tunes. I would recommend it, but I know it’s unavailable and I shouldn’t share it for copyright reasons. The Red Hot Chili Peppers then make their first, and only, appearance on the list with “Scar Tissue,” which like many songs by the Peppers effectively mixes rock and mourning.

Remember cass-singles? When I was carless in graduate school, I rode with a friend from Bloomington, Indiana to Tampa, Florida for holiday break. Three of those cass-singles dominated our listening time during the trip–“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature, and “Set Adrift in Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn. The new age-i-ness of the song always drew me in, although the song was almost permanently ruined by the parody of it done in Fear of a Black Hat. By the way, if you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it enough–it’s a rap version of This Is Spinal Tap, but it really nails the different song styles, the gangster culture, and more. The soundtrack is top notch and the parody/homage to the NWA Detroit situation portrayed in Straight Outta Compton is dead on. It’s a hard movie to find, but worth the effort.

I mentioned Sons of Sam Horn earlier, and for those that don’t know, it is a online community devoted to fans of the Boston Red Sox. However, the site is not limited to baseball talk or even just sports. The site has many members knowledgeable about a number of different topics, and thanks to some, I have received some great new music recommendations. It was on the site that I learned about an indie band named Surfer Blood. Looking at the name, I would have assumed they were some sort of heavy metal group, but their sound is more pop, more surf music than blood music. I’ve become a big fan, owning all three of their albums as well as their EP. I can listen to their music at any time, but “Floating Vibes” from their first album is still my favorite.

The list has multiple Simon & Garfunkel songs, but it also has a solo song from Paul Simon. Almost anything from Graceland could have made the list, but I chose the hit, “You Can Call Me Al” (with “Boy in the Bubble” being a close runner-up). Another 80’s group that could have had numerous songs on the list, but just got one, was the Police. I love their hits, but I seem to gravitate toward their odd, darker songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King of Pain.” I’d probably put “Synchronicity II” in that category as well. But the dystopian world presented in “Invisible Sun” takes it to the top for me.

The last two songs in this batch are also 80’s entries, and from opposite bands for a number of reasons. Most guys I know that went to high school in the 80’s loved the Outfield’s album Play Deep and their hit song “Your Love.” Unfortunately for the band, most guys I know did not buy any of their subsequent albums. However, their big hit has had a bit of a resurgence recently, as the Patriots play it in their stadium and the song was part of the soundtrack for Rock Band 4. That game also is the first game of its type to have U2 songs in it. Unfortunately, you can’t play “New Year’s Day” yet, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from the same album is available. This is the only U2 song on the top 100, a surprisingly small number, but when you’re this limited, you have to make some tough choices. Sorry “Grace”!

If you want to read any of the earlier parts of this series, the links are below:

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season (part 3 of 10)

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All “All…” Songs, All the Time

Here’s something you may have figured out by now; when your collection is more than 10,000 songs, there are certain starting words that you will be stuck in for some time in an alphabetical question. And I am smack dab in the middle of one right now, as through today, I have listened to more than 60 songs that begin with “All”, and I still have about 20 more to go. I feel confident that I’ll be on a new word before April hits!

March 27, 2012

3.10 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • All She Wants Is–Duran Duran
  • All She Wants To Do Is Dance–Don Henley
  • All She’s Got–Sum 41
  • All Shook Down–The Replacements
  • All Shook Up–Elvis Presley
  • All Shook Up–Ry Cooder
  • All Star–Smash Mouth
  • All Systems Go–Box Car Racer
  • All That Heaven Will Allow–Brice Springsteen
  • All That I’m Living For–Evanescence
  • All The Best–R.E.M.
  • All The Girls Love Alice–Elton John
  • All The Love–The Outfield
  • All The Right Reasons–The Jayhawks

In the mid-80’s I used to hate Duran Duran, and when you boil it down, it stemmed from one simple reason–my younger sister loved Duran Duran. From a logical standpoints, it’s an idiotic reason to dislike a band, but this is a typical sibling relationship. She loved everything they did, so I wouldn’t give them a second listen. With the possible exception of “New Moon on Monday”, I ignored all Duran Duran until “View to a Kill” until I was in college. Once I was on my own, I could go back and enjoy the pop-y goodness of the band, and I’m now (to my wife’s chagrin) a big fan.

It seemed like Joe Walsh was first out of the gate in the most successful solo Eagle competition, but then Miami Vice helped Glen Frey jump out in front. But there’s no contest in the long run–Don Henley trounced them all right? (Unless you count Timothy B. Schmidt’s five “Employee of the Month” awards at his local Kinkos.) Sum 41 is a bad that my son loves, although I heard of them first, as I remember “In Too Deep” being the closing party song in American Pie 2, a guilty pleasure movie franchise for me; and the answer is, yes, I will be seeing American Reunion on opening weekend, Easter weekend.  Box Car Racer, on the other hand, is all him. Maybe I’ll enjoy it; I haven’t really given it a chance yet.

It’s back to the Replacements and “All Shook Down” before we go in the opposite direction with the King, Elvis Presley and “All Shook Up.” Elvis was a perfect example of an artist that I’ve never owned any of his albums, but felt my library should have some representation of his work, and thanks to my local library I was able to get a selection of his history with a greatest hits CD. I did already own a cover of “All Shook Up” by Ry Cooder from the Cocktail soundtrack. In the coming months, I want to make sure this blog keeps things interesting, so I’m thinking of adding some features, like yesterday’s ultimate workout playlist. I’m also considering a “What Was I Thinking” CD review section where I talk about some of my more suspect album purchases. If I do this, the Cocktail soundtrack is a natural choice.

“All Star” will continue to be a societal guilty pleasure, a song no one want to admit liking.  Then, in a big upset, we get some more Bruce Springsteen, the sixth different song by the Boss since I’ve started this journey. Two of the next three songs make me think of my daughters. The first, the Evanescence song, makes me think of my youngest, as she loves Amy Lee and her group, and often adopts a similar singing style. The Elton John song obviously calls my oldest to mind, and I actually wonder if she’s ever heard the song. Just as she was predisposed to dislike anything by Alice in Chains, I’m thinking she’d already be liking this song. Squeezed in between is an R.E.M. song from their last album before they called it quits. While their later work was uneven, I still enjoyed it enough to be sad that they’re done as a group. I guess I can be optimistic and realize that there can’t be a reunion concert tour if they don’t first break up.

I used to talk a lot about The Outfield with colleagues at my first job. Almost all the guys that,like me, graduated from high school between 1985 and 1988, were big fans of Play Deep, and could name songs beyond “Your Love”. For me it was definitely a replacement CD (re-bought on CD to replace a tape or record). I can’t think of a better artist to hit my cool down period on the elliptical than the Jayhawks.  And that’s “All” for now.