Dear lord, algorithms are ruining music, too

From the Pitchfork review of the new album from Greta Van Fleet…

“They are a new kind of vampiric band who’s there to catch the runoff of original classic rock using streaming services’ data-driven business model. Greta Van Fleet exist to be swallowed into the algorithm’s churn and rack up plays, of which they already have hundreds of millions.”

The penny never really dropped until I read that just how big the incentive is these days for a band to closely mimic a major act. I mean, there have always been copycats, but these days with recommendation engines driving so many automated streaming music systems like Spotify, the closer you come to sounding like a major classic act, the better the chances the algorithms will find you and add you into a recommended mix on those services. Don’t be original, you will never be heard. Sound like these big huge acts of old, and the good old magic Spotify algorithm will do its part to make sure you get discovered.

If you are not familiar with Led Greta…

 

 

Testing Webmention to EdTechFactotum site

I am playing around with some Indieweb plugins, so this is just a test post to see if, by adding a link to a post on my EdTechFacotum site appears in the comments as a webmention. How much of this post gets pulled back? Or maybe I am thinking of webmention too much like a trackback/pingback. Maybe it works a bit differently? Well, let’s hit the publish button and see what happens.

If you are playing along at home and this works like I think it is supposed to work, you should see this blog post appear as a comment on this post at the EdTechFactotum site.

 

Europe bound

Well to say I am excited would be an understatement. An opportunity arose through my work to attend a conference in England and I was able to convince my family to come along for the ride.

It is a quick trip. 2 1/2 days in London, 3 in Manchester and 3 in Paris. First time for all of us in England and France.

It took a bit of convincing for my daughter, who will be in her second week of high school at the time. There has been some stress about going to high school, mostly around social stuff. She’s a strong student so I have no doubt that she’ll be able to catch up on a week of missed school. And a trip to France for a kid who is heading into her 9th year of French immersion will be a learning experience all on its own. She’ll be the one who this anglophone will be relying on in Paris.

In the end, it was her friends who convinced her that Europe was the better option than high school. She has good friends who understand the bigger picture. Not always easy to find with high school girls. I can’t wait for her to see the Eiffel Tower, something she has dreamed of since she was wee. To cross something off your bucket list at 14 is a special thing.

The day we arrive in London is the day that England plays Spain at Wembley stadium. I’m a soccer nut, and we somehow managed to snag tickets to the inaugural UEFA Nations League game. We’ll be exhausted having just done an overnight flight from the west coast of Canada and arriving in London that morning. But it will be worth it.  So worth it to attend a European soccer game with my son, who is almost as big of a fan as I am. Almost.

Truth told, I’m a bit of a nervous mess about the whole thing. My son’s allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) weigh on our mind whenever we travel. We have our foods and routines that we know are safe. But traveling to other countries – especially a country where we don’t know the language – is still a stress inducing affair. We do our research as best we can, but we don’t have the flexibility to just pop in anywhere whenever we get hungry, or grab any old snack food when we feel the hangry’s coming on. So, that is a complication. But one that is fairly easy to manage.

I worry about things I cannot control. I live a privileged life in the safety of a small city on the west coast of Canada. My kids and I know nothing but safety at the most basic level. Foreign to us are the threat that someone could drive a car into a crowd at any given moment.  But threats like that are real, watching the news a week ago of a car driving into a crowd just a few blocks from where we will be staying in London.

I fret over how much to share with my kids. Do I tell them that our government says that travelers in the UK and France should “exercise a high degree of caution traveling in both countries? I don’t even know how to prepare for that. What does “exercise a high degree of caution” even mean to a family that has known nothing but safety and security? Do I tell my son that we need to be even more vigilant when attending high profile sporting events? Of all the places I have wanted to travel in the world, I never thought I would feel anxious about traveling to England and France.

It’s likely the Dad in me, worrying more than necessary about remote things. Because, despite the warnings, these do remain extremely remote possibilities. And while I do fret, I also struggle to contain my enthusiasm and excitement at the opportunity. Honestly, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. We Gen X’ers are not supposed to get enthused quite this much.

Sometimes my small northern Alberta roots really show through. I’m still just a smalltown boy with big city dreams at heart. I always said I wanted my kids to have a different life than I did growing up. This is exactly what I meant. I don’t want London or Paris to be some mythical place in their imagination that they only hear about/dream about like I did as a kid. I want them to have opportunities I never had as a kid. To experience life. And have the opportunity to cross things off their bucket list at 14 that it has taken me 51 years to do.

 

2017 the good

Trying to put the suckitude of 2017 behind me and compile a list of things that made me happy in 2017.

Watching/listening my kids doing things they love brought me a lot of joy this year.

This year, my daughter stepped waaaaaay out of her comfort zone and played organized basketball for the first time.

 

She continues to dance (ballet and Jazz), play music (piano and, this year, flute in her school band), and take photos. Two of my faves from her.

 

 

 

And bake. Oh man, can she bake.

My son loves soccer and excels at it. I love watching him play.

He showed his determination and grit this year mastering some pretty killer freestyle bike moves.

 

He also spent a lot of time at the skatepark perfecting tail whips, and on the trampoline prepping for his future parkour career. The things he can get his body to do never cease to amaze me. He also picked up illustration in a big way this year and has been churning out some fabulous pieces.

In August, I rode in my first cycling event. 45k in the annual Tour de Victoria.

 

I taught my first course in the RRU Masters of Learning & Technology program.

Visited Toronto for a couple of events this year and loved spending time in the city. Been close to 20 years since I was last in TO and that was an overnight trip. This time I felt like I got a chance to see a bit of the city, caught a Jays game with friends during the CC Global Summit, and spent a day wandering like a tourist. I got to hang out at the CBC and down by the Henry Moore.

My son and I rode Test of Humanity, a great cross country bike trail in Summerland BC.

I bought a rowing machine.

Saw Chicago with my daughter.

 

Took in CrankWorx at Whistler where my son met some of his mountain bike heroes.

 

Running into Martyn & Blake from @globalmountainbikenetwork capped a great day at #crankworx 🚴🤘 #onehappykid #meetingyourheroes

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Reno’d the upstairs bedrooms. Ripped out a whack of gross old carpet and repainted three rooms. A task that we have wanted to tackle for a long time.

Discovered a bunch of tasty new local beers, including 2 of my new faves Phillips Short Wave and Driftwoods Raised by Wolves. Also got gifted a nice Arizona IPA from Alan appropriately named Road Rash .

 

Rediscovered my turntable.

 

 

Came back from my brother-in-laws Okanogan farm with boxes of fresh cherries.

 

 

Built a grind box with my son.

 

 

One grind box complete

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Became friends with both my kids on social media for the first time & witness how deftly they are maneuvering their way through their connected social world. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how they continually use these platforms as learning tools to find and follow their passions, from cooking and baking, to illustration and biking.

Witnessed one of the best Gold Cups that Canada has had in a decade, and the emergence of an exciting young Canadian soccer talent in Alphonso Davies.
Also watched the Whitecaps do their deepest playoff run in their short MLS history.

 

They take soccer security seriously in Houston

 

And saw Canada mount a joint World Cup bid with the US and Mexico. Crazy to imagine that there may be a World Cup game in my neck of the woods in my lifetime.

The Oilers playoff run in the spring gave me hope for the hockey future. Of course, that has been dashed this fall…but hey! Still the best Oilers team in many many years.

Improved the backyard chillaxing space with the purchase of an outdoor firepit & a new BBQ.

Refurbished a BMX bike with my son.

 

Bought a new XC mountain bike. 29-er that has me floating over the west coast roots.

Made music with many friends.

Hung out with my Dad.

Started curling.

Celebrated 14 wonderful years walking down the path with my wife.

2017 wasn’t nearly as sucky as I thought.

 

 

Finding zen on ice

So, just to follow-up on my last post, I’m ok.

The symptoms I described to my Dr. are pretty classic stress and anxiety, so we’re going with that. We’re still awaiting a final diagnosis on my Dad’s dementia, but once we have that then my Dr. and I will get together and come up with a game plan in case there are preventative measures I can take now that could help mitigate me developing whatever it is he has in the future.

This is not my first dance with anxiety to the point where it negatively impacts my life. I had a wake up call about 5 years ago when I mistook a panic attack for a heart attack and ended up in the Emergency department. Thinking it’s a heart attack didn’t help. Still, I now know what a panic attack feels like and, because of that, I can recognize when it starts and often breath and talk myself through the episode.

Anyway, after that incident, I made some changes. Regular exercise, better diet. Mindfulness. I’m adding a new one this time around. Curling.

It has been a long time since I curled. 1984 to be exact when I curled in a high school bonspiel. Yeah, I grew up in a part of the world where the social highlight of the high school year was a 48 hour all-weekend curling bonspiel. Of course, for a rowdy bunch of 17 year olds in Northern Alberta, the curling took a backseat to the underage binge-drinking at 2am Saturday.

All in all, it’s been great fun. The other guys I am curling with have either never played, or, like me, haven’t curled in years. So we are all playing and learning together. And the opposing teams we have played have been great giving us advice and helping us learn the finer points of the game.

Yeah, there are other things I am doing to get back on track. I’m saying no to a lot of stuff right now, as those of you who subscribed to my recently launched newsletter have likely discovered. And I am trying hard to get back into a normal routine, including back on my bike(s) which have been gathering dust in the garage since I rode the Tour de Victoria in August. And yeah that newsletter thing. But right now the thing that has been most effective in snapping me out of my anxiety induced funk is curling.

Ok, Ok. The post-game beer helps, too.

 

In a world completely possessed by the human mind

My Dad spent 20 years teaching math for trades prep at a community college. So when the geriatric neurologist asked, “what is 100 minus 7?” and he answered “97”, I knew something was not right.

My Dad loves math. As a mason, he lived and breathed applied math constructing and building impressive stone and brick structures to within a fraction of an inch.

I wasn’t at the appointment. My sister relayed the results of the cognitive quiz to close family members via Facebook Messenger. That in itself was its own source of cognitive dissonance for me. What fresh hell was going to await me in my Facebook feed when the algorithms mined this trove of personal information?

“Where are you?”

“At the doctor.”

“In what city?”

“Saskatoon.”

“In what province?”

Silence.

A week later I am driving my father and his girlfriend through the scrubby brushland of northern Saskatchewan. The part of the province where the prairies give way to the trees. The liminal forest. We drive past the remains of a small prairie hamlet; a single lonely grain elevator surrounded by a handful of mostly abandoned pre-war houses. Like most small prairie outposts in Saskatchewan, a cemetery marks the past of what was a once vibrant farming community. It is the cemetery where my grandfather is buried.

“Dad, do you mind if we stop at Grandpa’s grave?”

“Sure.”

I pull the truck over and get out at the small cemetery containing a few dozen markers memorials and headstones. The grasshoppers pop like popcorn around my feet as I walk to where my grandfathers grave is. I look at the headstone.

I have one incredibly vivid memory of my grandfather passing away in 1974. I am sitting in my Dad’s lap in a chair in the living room of our house in Regina. I am snuggled into my Dad, his arms wrapped around me. He is crying. It is the first time I recall seeing my Dad cry. The next time I would have that vivid a memory of my Dad crying would be almost 40 years later when my Mom passed away.

“Dad, when did grandpa die?”

“Oh, must be 14 or 15 years ago now”

I think I misheard. He must have said 40 or 50 years ago, right?

“When?”

“I think it was 14 years ago.”

14. I heard it that time, clear as a bell.

His dementia has yet to be diagnosed. We’re in the stages of that now. There is clearly something happening.

I saw signs he was slipping when I was visiting him in Thunder Bay in the spring, but my Dad, like most Dads I suspect, has his share of odd and idiosyncratic behaviors and I, playing the antagonists part in a Harry Chapin song, glossed over what should have not been glossed over. I got irritated when I should have been concerned by his repeated questions of