When I was a kid, we were always forced to try new things. The rule of thumb was, “try it, if you don’t like it, you can spit it in a napkin.” It wasn’t always thrilling, but on occasion I’d come across something great. The goal of that exercise was to expand our palettes. I believe we should do the same thing with music. IMHO, a life without music is like a life without color, taste, texture, and smell.
Years ago, my oldest daughter Beth began to work on helping me expand my musical palette. She started by teaching me the difference between Rap and Hip-Hop. Kanye West was the first Hip-Hop artist she shared with me. She also turned me on to Norah Jones and John Mayer. Beth’s cousin, Tim Walsh, introduced me to the Utah Saints and Moby. This has gone on for years (although I have not, much to my sorrow, heard from Tim in a long while). I chew on offerings from Beth, some I enjoy and others, I spit out. It has gotten to the point where I even introduce her to stuff, although 80% of the time she tells me, “Dad, I’ve been listening to that for years.” Her other response is “Dad, you wouldn’t let me listen to that when I was a kid and now you like it?”
Something else that Beth turned me on to is Pandora. There are plenty of Internet radio stations out there, but Pandora does something better than I have seen others do. Like other stations, you can give it an artist and it will build a radio station for you. Pandora’s selections are great and unlike their competitors, Pandora dips into some really old and obscure material. It is not unusual to hear a scratchy vinyl record that has been digitized for Internet play. Pandora also has this thing it calls “The Music Genome Project.” If you look at the track information panel in Pandora, it will tell you why, according to the Music Genome Project, the track is in your mix.
Pandora also provides a way for me to expand my own palette. I create a channel with an artist I like and then I listen to the associated artists. When I hear an artist I like, I make a station for that artist and repeat the process. Each new station introduces me to artists I have never heard. I started this process with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and it has introduced me to artists like Ben Harper, G. Love, Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Adele, The Black Keys, the White Stripes, and Sara Bareilles to name a few. I am an old-time techno-guy, having started with listening to Kraftwerk in the 1970’s. That led to my affinity for the Blue Man Group. I made a Blue Man Group station and through that I discovered The Yoshida Brothers, The Crystal Method, and a host of others. You can go on this palette expanding journey and never get to the end.
The best thing is, you can have Pandora for free. It runs on everything I own including my Blu-Ray player, my iPhone, my Kronos Android tablet, and my various Windows-based computers. If you like it and you don’t like the commercials, shell out $36 a year and get commercial-free radio.
I take several medications. I was ordering a refill from my local pharmacy when I noticed there was a medication that was ready for pickup. The only problem was that I had no idea what it was. I called the pharmacy to have them check. It turned out the pharmacy tech miskeyed a prescription name. This is not the first time I have seen this happen. With meds, just like any other aspect of healthcare, we must be our own advocates.
Another place I encourage you to take ownership of is drug interactions. Although the pharmacy is supposed to check for these, sometimes they don’t. Sites like WebMD (www.webmd.com) and Drugs.com (www.drugs.com) are excellent resources. I particularly like the one on Drugs.com. If you look on the left side of the home page, under “Featured Services,” you will find the “Interactions Checker.” Another great feature on Drugs.com is the “Pill Idenifier.” If you ever come across a pill that you are unsure of, you can enter things like the pill’s shape, color, and imprint.
If you have ever wondered about the value of the Internet you need to check out the Khan Academy. Salman Khan presents, free of charge, lessons in mathematics, economics, history, and other topics. His lessons are used in schoolrooms around the world. My goal in life is to be a professor. Not only is Khan a professor, he has built an entire learning institution. If there was such a thing as a Nobel Prize in education, Khan would be my nominee.
Mignon Fogarty, a/k/a Grammar Girl, makes English grammar attainable and fun. Through her wit and dry sense of humor, Mignon conveys knowledge that, in my opinion, the majority of Americans do not have. Communication skills are the great equalizer. My grandfather, who never saw college, always taught me that if I was clear in my communications, I would overcome all sorts of obstacles that those lacking the same skills would face every day. Grammar Girl provides a great service to the English-speaking world. She is also an amazing entrepreneur.