Locked out on ice

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Nothing like -5c outside and being locked out of a place in the middle of the night. Luckily my car is equipped with blankets and extra coats and all, but still, it was, let’s say… an irritation.

I like driving at night, quite the opposite of daytime driving, which I hate more than anything. At night, there are seldom any other cars. Just darkness and an occasional wild animal springing into the road. I stopped for petrol (and yogurt) at 3:30 and a man came in and seriously ordered a hot dog. Firewall and I once went to this very same petrol station (in one of its bathroom stalls it even has a rectangular metal plate on the back of the toilet, which looks like it’s been set up for people to do cocaine or something. With the way the youth of today hang out at this place on weekend nights – don’t ask me why – maybe there’s more to that theory than I’d have imagined), and he ordered one of these dubious dogs and spent the next 36 hours miserably ill. Even the woman working there asked him, with great concern creeping over her face, “Are you sure? These are kind of old.” No such caution in tonight’s transaction. Just a man who seemed like maybe he eats these gas station hot dogs all the time.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life… and I was locked out.

“You will always be a loser…”: A ballad of users and takers

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Heading into a new phase, discarding and changing.

Ages ago I bought a cheap-as-hell blender so I could blend fruit and veg on the road (in my long commute days). I never took it out of the box until now. I’m all about the spinach and kiwi gorilla juice. Or some knockoff gazpacho made of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. This cheap little blender works – improbably – better than my relatively expensive KitchenAid blender ever did. Sometimes paying more is not better. But the trick is learning when it matters and when it doesn’t. This is true for things you purchase and for the people you let into your life. How much can you really spend on someone else before you’re running on empty?

But the concept of spending anything is so remote… I’ve spent so much time, so much money, so much patience, so much care, so much compassion, so much understanding, so much love, so much tongue-biting frustration, so much support, so much much much much much that was all for nothing. I am numb – what is it in my karmaorwhateveritis that makes the people who get close to me so damaged, petty, troubled and such users and takers? Sometimes it’s narcissism. Sometimes it is a weird brand of self-hate. You know the self-haters who have to be as cruel as shit to you to take you down with them, right?

For a couple of days, while shedding stuff and moving forward in a real way like I haven’t in years, I’ve been crying – a lot. Improbable things set me off. Like at the end of the latest season of Orange is the New Black, suddenly the cheesy Foreigner tune “I Want to Know What Love Is” played over the end credits; soon tears are shooting out of my eyes like arrows. Sometimes I cried out of anger and sadness but sometimes just because it felt cathartic to shed tears in the same way I could shed a tattered sweater or a pair of tights with a hole in the heel.

Decayed Decade of Random Gum (2004-2014) + Part Past Part Fiction 2015

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Forty songs for my forty years of life (in June). And ten years of the Random Gum mix (2004-2014).

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Random Gum, I have selected songs from the mixes of the last ten years to include on this year-end mix as well as a couple of discoveries to usher in 2015. Everything is as random and impossible to plan as ever.

The whole playlist in Spotify (minus those songs not available on Spotify)…

1. The The – “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)”
A driving, prescient song with a message truer now than when it originally came out in the late 80s. Valid during the hubbub after the Danish cartoon incident several years ago and valid anew after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris

2. Dolly Parton – “Love and Learn”…each new love I find/turns out to be the wrong kind…
Not sure when I will ever learn – this song has been lingering in my head since 2nd grade (Dolly obsession era)

3. Kishi Bashi – “Manchester” …My favorite part’s when I die, in your arms like a movie…
The beauty of recommending music to people that they fall in love with. Here’s to Dr Ross

4. The Dø – “Stay (Just a Little Bit More)”
Perfect anthem for all the wasted years dealing with the Married Idiot. “He was a bore, a true chore, and I still wonder why I ever wanted to see him more…”

5. Melody Gardot – “Pretend I Don’t Exist
For Alex, someone from long ago but who was there when most desperately needed

6. The Aislers Set – “Jaime’s Song
Always true: “You get who you play for, not who you wait for”

7. Wilco – “How to Fight Loneliness”
The ultimate pretending. For S: “And the first thing that you want will be the last thing you ever need”

8. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – “Lovesick”

9. The Fall – “Cheetham Hill”
Nothing is complete without the indestructible sound of The Fall – it will make you drive more aggressively

10. The Jack Rubies – “Be With You”
One of those songs that remains a favorite (since 1989?) even if it’s rather silly

11. Circuit Object – “Voices Fill My Head”
Reminiscent of boundless but unfulfilled talent

12. Serge Gainsbourg – “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’En Vais”
Memory of driving Hwy 18 with my old friend, Mike. It’s like we were in another life; I was another person

13. Rodriguez – “Crucify Your Mind”
RIP Malik Bendjelloul

14. Glasvegas – “Fuck You, It’s Over”
Again, those Scottish vowels. For a while I got to hear those vowels every day, as I used to dream of…

15. The Chills – “Part Past Part Fiction”
“You cannot drive and stare rear view.” Good advice

16. Foxygen – “San Francisco”
“My brother is a soldier now…”. A song for Annette; a song for Kyle

17. Diana Ross & the Supremes – “Remove This Doubt”
All those times when doubt is all there is

18. Simple Minds – “Don’t You Forget About Me”
Timeless classic – recently watched The Breakfast Club again (hard to hear this and not connect the two)

19. Tori Amos – “Strange”
“Woke up to a world that I am not a part except when I can play its stranger…”. The pain still rings true

20. Bertrand Belin – “La perdue”

21. Tatsuya Ogino and the Bunnies – “My Sweet and Bitter Days”
The Friday song – the good old days at Opera. Happened to hear on the Friday when I finally put this all together. Love to Janne, Lauren, Annette, Jennifer and everyone from the good old days

22. Sam Phillips – “Love Changes Everything” …I’m not sorry we loved, but I hope I didn’t keep you too long…
When things crashed before finally changing the trajectory of everything: “We can’t fix what’s broken, so let’s leave it here, and walk on – I’ll be right behind you”

23. John Grant – “Queen of Denmark” …I hope you know that all I want from you is sex, to be with someone who looks smashing in athletic wear, and if you’re haircut isn’t right you’ll be dismissed…
More reflection on wasted time with Married Idiot

24. Portishead – “The Rip” … and the tenderness I feel will send the dark underneath/will I follow?…
Feels like the painful but transformative spring of 2008

25. Crowded House – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” …there is freedom within, there is freedom without – try to catch the deluge in a paper cup…
This one never gets old.

26. Martha Wainwright – “Far Away”
Heartbreaking sentiment: “I have no children/I have no husband/I have no reason to be alive/oh, give me one”

27. Lia Ices – “Little Marriage” …I started minding not having it all/one little marriage or big love…
For Jane, for Lóa and everyone who has been enveloped by the lush, layered sounds of Lia Ices

28. Joan Armatrading – “Save Me” … immune or evasive – throw me a lifeline – save me…

29. Low – “Closer”
Being enveloped in something that makes you feel more remote and distant than ever and needing escape

30. The Magnetic Fields – “My Sentimental Melody” …cool and unfazed, you’re always amazed when someone gets hurt…
Used to love this song but now it seems whiny self-victimization now that there’s some backstory.

31. Arik Einstein – “Ro’eh Atzuv
Seltjarnarnes early 2000s, Israeli MTV commercials, marshmallow couches and taking years to identify Arik Einstein, who recently died. Love to Sarah and the old days in Iceland

32. Kristin Hersh – “Quick”
Cancer song; the recurring feeling like nothing will ever be solid or trustworthy again

33. Amalia Rodrigues – “Povo Que Lavas No Rio”
Ache. Somehow now makes me think of Kristie – who supplied me with Halloween goodies!

34. O + S – “The Fox”
The formidable, tricky fox is always making an appearance

35. Kazim Koyuncu – “Ben Seni Sevdugumi”
For Roxane, for all my Turkish friends, for Jill

36. Hector Zazou feat Björk – “Visur vatnsenda rosu”
Iceland, of course, and all my beloved friends there.

37. Pulp – “Roadkill”
The early and unfortunate Berlin visits and always painful trips to and from airports and little reminders that trigger memories

38. Roberta Flack – “To Love Somebody”

39. Cowboy Junkies – “200 More Miles”
The first feeling of real heartbreak, 1989

40. Blondie – “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game”

2015 – Part Past Part Fiction

41. Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Trick Pony”
For Martina – more dog and pony shows, one trick ponies and all the rest.

42. Tomten – “You Won’t Be On My Mind”
Hometown Seattle music. Always lovely. How I wish I’d have my 40th birthday in Seattle this year featuring both Tomten and Tom Skerritt reading a poem! And here’s to all my beloved Seattle friends and acquaintances!

43. Lia Ices – “Magick
For Jane; layered bliss

44. Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”
For long lost Terra, and our secret love for GNR. Duff! Duff! Duff!

45. The Association – “Never My Love”
I just like the sound

46. Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
For S and spontaneous, passionate renditions of this ridiculous song

47. Bryan Ferry – “This is Tomorrow” … Suddenly a voice I’m hearing/Sweet to my ear/This is tomorrow callin’/Wishin’ you were here…
For S, if only it could be yesterday or tomorrow and not a return to the darkest days

48. The Primitives – “Way Behind Me” …all those lies inside your head/took my hand and led me blindly…
For who I was in the 1980s – and all the people I knew then, and the continued need to know when to walk away. “I’m gonna try my best move/I’m gonna leave you way behind me”

49. Cameo – “Word Up”
For Tomislav; for S and his dancing career/codpiece uniform (ha!)

50. Teenage Fanclub – “Alcoholiday”… Went to bed but I’m not ready/Baby I’ve been fucked already/Falling into line but I’m doing nothing/We’ve got nothing worth discussing./Went to go but it’s all hazy/People say I’m going crazy…
S – the brief time between dark days turned out to be just an “alcoholiday” – never a more fitting song for almost anything. Never knowing what you’ve got til you’ve fucked it up for good. And now it remains to be seen whether the end is Leaving Las Vegas or Edgar Allan Poe

51. Mega Bog – “Aurora/99”
More Seattle gems. For Kyle, Naomi: “Goddammit, don’t take 99!”

52. Cate Le Bon – “I Think I Knew”
Thanks to Aurélien for the lovely recommendation, as always

53. St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse”
Hard decisions that may close the door forever- a kind of birth in reverse. Love for Annette.

54. Sister Sledge – “Lost in Music” …responsibility to me is a tragedy/I’ll get a job some other time…
Get a job, you fucking disco cokeheads! For S

55. Laura Veirs – “Sun Song”
An Aurélien recommendation – thinking fondly of Malin (because of course I’m the sunshine of her work day!)

56. Jeff Beck – “Morning Dew”
Just has a cool sound

57. The Beatles – “Real Love”

58. The Preatures – “It Gets Better” … And all the times I had you near, through my fingers disappear/I see all that it could be, and it’s better than it ever could be…
S: “Only lonely in your arms again/I know you’re see-through but can we just pretend”

59. Tiny Ruins – “Night Owl”

60. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – “Xanadu” …she’s a lipstick anarchist…

61. Melody’s Echo Chamber – “Shirim”

62. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness” …digital witnesses/what’s the point of even sleeping?/if I can’t show it, you can’t see me/what’s the point of doing anything?…
For Martina and Jennie – the word “digital” is forever tainted for me.

63. Cyndi Lauper – “I Drove All Night”
Always stuck driving all night, through all kinds of treacherous conditions

64. The Dø – “Sparks”
“If someone comes & shows up at the door/No one will be there to answer anymore/We have it all on tape now”

65. Oyama – “Old Snow”
Iceland – represent

66. Mitski – “Texas Reznikoff”
Another one that makes me think of Jane

67. First Aid Kit – “Shattered & Hollow”

68. EMA – “So Blonde”

69. Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
Jesus, this cynical song makes me ache. “Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways/I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades/I suspect you feel the same/When I was young I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate”

70. TOPS – “All the People Sleep”

71. Al Green – “Tired of Being Alone”
Can’t just be with someone because you’re tired of being alone. For S

72. Tom Waits – “Ruby’s Arms”
“Jesus Christ this goddamn rain, will someone put me on a train/I’ll never kiss your lips again, or break your heart/as I say goodbye I’ll say goodbye, say goodbye to Ruby’s arms”

Holding pattern – Flying blind

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Feeling half-blind after a completely sleepless 24 hours (I tried) and driving three hours in the darkness, encountering a few timid deer and one idiot riding a bicycle on a winding country road at 2 a.m. (no lights, no reflectors, dark clothing – death wish!), I can only think of a poem I have cited before. I feel like one of these “between-creatures” myself.

Evolution
Marin Sorescu (Romania)
It is time to learn from the bats
The between-creatures
Who can home in the dark.

Learn flying blind.
Dispense with the sun.
The future is dark.

The changing workscape: Flex-work options – What if we’re just not doing it right?

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Working in an environment that does not invite or encourage an ethos of working where and how one is most productive, it can be difficult to believe that there are companies with flexibility in their DNA. Leaving the flex nature of the small- to medium-size tech enterprises, it did not seem like it would be that vast a cultural chasm to cross because we’re all working in this fast-paced, tech-driven world, aren’t we?

Truth is – no, we aren’t. Tech companies live and die by the technology. A conservative, traditional company operating in selling commodities does not believe it needs to be on the fast-track to digital change (either in how it does business/sells or in how it works internally). For all the grandiose, pie-in-the-sky talk about embracing technology, change and finding new ways of working, leaving that comfortable zone where one has “always had success” doing business is still how things are plugging along. Fundamentally, there is a disparity between the talk of change and innovation and the walk of eschewing change, putting up obstacles and viewing flexibility with suspicion.

It comes down to communication, on some level – first, a company (whatever its size, business or take on flex work) needs to go beyond lip services regardless of what they want. If they want employees to innovate and work where they feel best or chained to their desks 8 to 5, they need to make that clear in an honest and clear way. And employees need to make their needs known as well. Many companies have flex-work policies on the books, but people are afraid to take advantage, fearing being perceived as “not dedicated to their work”.

But, as a Virgin/YouGov survey predicts, we may be moving close to the almost office-free world in the next 20 years. It would be better and easier to start confronting the challenges and barriers now. Starting with the aforementioned and all-important practice of communication. Can we not shake off the stigma of flexible work and be clear about what “flexible work” means and what employers and employees expect of it?

The partial answer, at least for today, is: We’re not there yet. An apt answer for flex and telework (as well as for relationships in the undefined, “budding” stage!).

As with most things, I could ask whether there is actually a right or wrong way to introduce and undertake some of the flexible work options that are out there. Are we doing it right? No, probably not yet. As stated, we’re not there yet in terms of every company jumping on board looking for options – but we are at a stage that most companies have some of their workforce that could be offered flexible options – and the benefits go both ways.

“Flexible work” could mean a host of different things. Telecommuting, near and dear to my heart, alone has tremendous potential for changing the workscape as we know it today. A couple of ZDNet articles grabbed my attention for their focus on bigger societal benefits (not emphasizing the benefits to the individual or even the economic benefits to the companies taking advantage of remote or virtual work). One article made the point: Working at home is going green. The commute is reduced/eliminated – the environmental impact of that could be huge. Right now there are well over 200 million Americans making a daily commute. The second article discussed how policy-level decisions to support telecommuting would incentivize business growth. In this era of lost jobs and economic uncertainty, it does seem like policy change (especially with regard to making taxation more transparent and easy to handle for small home-based businesses, as an example – or making clear deductions possible for those who work from home offices and forgo the commute) would go a long way toward changing the dialogue and figuring out how to get flexwork going  — the right way and for real.

The changing workscape: Don’t miss the boat on remote

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Even my colleagues are in on it.

My penchant for writing about – and practically agitating for – remote work has even influenced some colleagues. One sent me a link to an article about surprising remote work possibilities and jokingly suggested I may have a future as a remote sports psychologist. Ha!

I don’t know that I got a lot of value from the article – nothing I did not already know. But it reminded me that sometimes the route to work-from-home possibilities is winding and indirect. Considerable creativity and thought can chart the course before you hit smooth sailing waters. Not many jobs are advertised or designed as remote-work friendly – but there is a lot of room in many jobs for negotiation. I recently negotiated for more work-at-home time, which comes none too soon for my sanity, productivity and the horrors of long-distance winter commuting.

And telecommuting makes sense. Another (former) colleague sent me an article about what differences telecommuting may make in the future of transportation and traffic.

“Telecommuting is occurring everywhere in metropolitan areas, from dense cities to their far-flung suburbs. The rise of the Internet is producing more at-home work, but not just, as once believed, by people who want to live far from their workplaces. Many telecommuters are likely only a few miles from their potential offices. What’s happening across the country that may explain these changes?”

One of the best parts of writing on this subject is many acquaintances jumping in and contributing bits of information and evidence. I love it.

Commute Hell – Missing Snow Days

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I live three hours from where I work. On a good day. Today was not a good day, and I knew it when I set out. I cleared my car of the piles of snow about an hour before I decided to leave (at the ungodly hour of 1:00 a.m.). It was already covered again, as was the path to the car I had shoveled twice already during the weekend. As I have said before, winter came very late to Sweden, but it came with a vengeance. Other people are very happy with this virtual avalanche; I hate it. I especially hate driving in it – which is why I set out so ridiculously early. I knew that the normal roads I drive would be covered in thick snow and that I would want to take the motorway, which takes me an hour west of where I really want to go. The trip took just over four hours, but it was mostly clear on the E18 and E6 roadways, which is more than I can say for the other roads I drove on.

There was one point that the road near my house was just bad enough that I considered turning around and going home. I held out hope amidst the fear that was driving my driving, so to speak, that the bigger roads would be clearer (they were) and that the route to Gothenburg would not be quite so treacherous.

Snow showers continue to be the forecast for the rest of the week. If ever I wished I lived somewhere else, this drive was it.

Bright side – I finished putting together my anti-Valentine soundtrack mix, so I had something to listen to and assess all the way here.

Seahawks + Dodging Deer = Another Commute

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This morning/middle of the night made for an awful commute. During the first third of the drive, the roads were clear, but every kilometer or so, I encountered big groups of deer playing in the road. I must have seen 100 deer in about 100 kilometers. I also saw a rabbit, which I have never seen around here, and two foxes. This winter, strangely, has been mostly devoid of moose. It occurred to me that my driving amounted to little more than dodging deer, which would not be a bad name for a video game. I got to use the whole road, just as the Seattle-based 1990s comedy sketch show, Almost Live encouraged Ballard drivers to do. You pay taxes on the whole thing – randomly weave all over the road!

On the second third of the road, most of it was covered with ice that had been covered over by snow. So many cars were off the road and so many tow trucks were pulling the cars out. The whole thing made me not only not want to drive but made me think seriously about the merits of living somewhere warmer – Hawai’i once more? Australia (perhaps much too warm)? Uruguay?

Thanks to the middle-of-night driving, I did not get to see my Seattle Seahawks win against the San Francisco 49s in their playoff game. It sounds like the Seahawks did not play at their best in the first half, so I know I would just have been getting angry and sick watching it anyway. By the time I was done driving the first two-thirds of the seemingly interminable three-hour commute and stopped off at a petrol station in Uddevalla, the Seahawks had claimed their place in the Super Bowl (versus the Denver Broncos). All kinds of mentions of it are going around the internet already – but it seems funny that the two places in the entire US to pass laws making recreational marijuana legal are the two places that send their football teams to the Super Bowl.

Music falling on the spooky, dark, winter-wonderland drive

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I arrived home after three+ hours of driving to trudge through ankle-deep snow – snow is everywhere. No big surprise. I cannot complain – winter did not come until late this year.

To get here to this calm, quiet, still cottage in the woods, I drove through some unpleasant conditions. All day in Gothenburg the temperature hovered around 0C while a snowy-sleet fell all day, creating a dubious, slick concoction on the road. It was a harrowing, treacherous drive at various points.

I actually break the trip into thirds. The first third is all motorway, which was largely clear – but it was extremely windy, trafficky and the further north I drove, the thicker the snow that started to fall (and the thicker the layer that already covered the ground).

The second of the three parts of my trip starts to become more winding and rural but is still not the worst part. There were a few blinding snow flurries, and the wind, particularly when crossing large open fields, blew mountains of snow up from the roadway into the line of vision.

By the final leg of the trip, which consists of considerably more rugged roads, winding, hilly and unkept, snow and wind were whirling, mildly blizzard-like, the roads were covered – no lines visible at all. The two vehicles that got behind me expressed their displeasure and impatience with my caution with some angry tailgating. My caution was warranted – in three different spots on the road, large groups of deer were just standing in the road. If I had not been going as slowly as I was, we’d have just plowed right into them.

There was a time, long ago, that driving in these kinds of conditions would have scared the hell out of me. I have let go of the fear and nervousness and embraced a healthy respect for the force of weather and just moved forward. Good advice for most things.

Yo – here’s another little piece of advice…Reggie Watts – “Fuck Shit Stack

Advice: “Sing your life – any fool can think of words that rhyme

I ask virtually every person I meet to sing for me. Mostly to see what their reaction will be. I like to know what people will do in that kind of unexpected situation. Most people are pretty shy and won’t just break into song. Some need coaxing, such as the shy boy from Karlstad who eventually sang – and once he started could not stop, with lovely patriotic songs about Värmland. Some, like an old ex, would never do it at all. Others burst into enthusiastic singing immediately, such as an Egyptian doctor I once met who sang a long and mournful-sounding song in Arabic; my lovely French friend who regaled me with a most rousing version of one of the worst songs I have ever heard, “Mon fils ma bataille” while waiting on the train platform at Aulnay-sous-Bois after he misguided us and put us on the wrong train to the airport, and then the people who are musicians already – they are always ready to go with a song.

Of late I got to hear the most intentionally whiny, horrible version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. I can’t stop thinking about it and laughing. It is especially good because the guy singing it to me is Scottish, and he is snide and sneering about it and puts a special emphasis on the word “world” – making it sound like it has a whole lot more syllables in it than it actually does. My god, I love it.

Hesitation and Doing

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On the first commute of 2014 back to Gothenburg I encountered no wild animals at all unless we count the scattered, scrambled, sparse remains of an unidentified animal on the roadway not far from a car that was flipped upside-down in the trees next to the road. I did, however, encounter a ridiculously high number of cars on the road for it being the middle of the night. I am not sure if it is because it is the first day back for a lot of people after a long holiday break or just because it was a Sunday – and Monday is a first day back in general – or perhaps if the fact that I left 15 minutes earlier than usual somehow contributed to the difference in traffic.

Making this long drive again and facing the same patterns from last year that led me to such restlessness and, dare I even say, depression, I know that change has to happen. I have to make it happen. Sometimes even when you know what to do, have decided to do it, it’s still very hard to pull the trigger.