Sunday, August 26, 2012

Music Organization Issues

Having mono and not being able to run or do much of anything else has given me the opportunity to address my iTunes Music Library issues. I've been meaning to tackle this project for a long time now, but I've never had the time. Just this weekend, I've spent over five hours doing this. Not to mention time spent in previous weekends.

The problem: I had a computer virus back in 2009, which caused me to lose a large chunk of my songs. Many were backed up to "the cloud" but many were not. The problem was identifying which ones were lost, if I had them backed up on data CD's anywhere (I used to play MP3 CD's in my car), or if I would need to re-download them. I have an iPod with most of the songs on it, but I have never been able to figure out how to transfer songs from an iPod back to a computer. So the process is going through the iPod, song by song, to see which ones are not on the computer.

To complicate matters, I got a new computer back in May and not all songs made the transfer. It took me several tries to get what I thought was all of them, but now I am noticing I am missing some songs that were on that old computer. It sounds straightforward-- just copy everything over. But for some reason, it just was not that easy. Part of the problem was that my music was stored all over the place, not just in "my music". I've been using my computer to store music since 1999, before iTunes and before computers were really setup that way. So stuff is scattered.

Another problem: I would really like my iTunes library to have the correct album and year for each song. The year is very important because songs represent eras in my life. I organize my physical CD collection by date, so it's like a timeline of my life. Related to this, I would like accurate play count data. The 2009 virus wiped out everything, so I had to start from scratch. But then for awhile I couldn't properly sync my iPods because they had pre-virus music on them, so no play counts were being recorded. Accurate play count data is important because it tells me how obsessed I was with each song. Unfortunately, the data has just started to become accurate this year as I begin to address these issues.

My time on this music project has been spent:

  • Going to Wikipedia to verify album title and release date
  • Entering that data into iTunes
  • Uploading songs from regular CD's and MP3 CD's 
  • Managing duplicates
  • Going through the iPod to see which songs are missing from the computer
  • Going to to purchase songs that are missing (and I have made the mistake twice of buying songs and then finding them just minutes later! Very frustrating.)
  • My music library is too large for my 16G Nano, and they don't make them larger, so figuring out what songs I want on the Nano.
Throughout this process I have run into so many iTunes problems like "you aren't authorized on this computer" for stuff I bought through iTunes years ago. I followed the directions on how to fix, and it didn't work. So I still have about 20 songs I can't play, even though I bought them. This is why I have been buying from for the past few years. Plus, it's less expensive.

My Favorite Songs
I'm going to guess that a lot of people have similar problems as their libraries have expanded, they have upgraded computers, they have moved from CD's to strictly digital, etc. I inspired Greg to get his library organized, and he's just in the early stages now. It's very addictive, especially if you are a perfectionist. Greg has been avoiding this for awhile, just listening to Pandora primarily and not downloading new music. But now he is realizing all the music he doesn't have that he wants to have.

As frustrating as this may sound, it's a fun project! I am really enjoying listening to everything, analyzing my music taste and trying to get as many stats on my music preference as possible. I'm not done yet, and I still have a list of about 20+ songs to download. But for now, here are the stats: 2,832 songs for 15.32 Gigs, or 8 Days worth of music. This does not include any of my Broadway collection, because I find I need to be in a particular mood for that, and I don't want those songs appearing in shuffle. Those are all on CDs still.

As a side project, I wanted to identify my all time favorite songs. Ever. This is tricky because songs I was obsessed with a long time ago aren't ones I am as in love with now. But I loved them so much then, I feel like they should be on the list. So, I made a playlist of all the songs that I really, really liked. I went through all 2,832 songs and pulled out each one. This list is 168 songs or 1 Gig. So about 6% of my songs are ones that  made the "all time favorites" list.

Within this list, I pulled out a few that are the timeless best songs ever. Songs that every time I hear them, I just want to play them over and over and marvel at how good they are. There are 35 songs that fall into this category. The top 1%. I used the rating feature to rate them 5 stars. Everything else on the list got 4 stars. Eventually I will go through the rest of the library and assign 3, 2, and 1 star songs. I do like most everything I have, so a rating of 2 or 3 isn't bad. It's just that the song isn't as amazing as the 4's or the 5's.

And then. . . I tried to infer my favorite all-time albums. That's a hard one because some albums have songs with lots of 4's, but no 5's. And some albums have two 5's, but no 4's. Hmmmm. Same problem with favorite artists. Take the Counting Crows, for example. They have 3 songs that I rated in that top 1%. But they don't have many others that I really like. Same with Coldplay. Neither of these bands have come out with anything good lately, so I certainly wouldn't call them my favorite bands.

I really wish iTunes would let you download to Excel for a thorough music analysis.

Most of the 35 songs are slow. Although I enjoy a mix of upbeat/fast and slow/ballad songs but I think that it's difficult for a fast/upbeat song to really tug at the heartstrings. And when I love a song, it's because it tugs at the heart strings. This list is NOT a good "sample" of my library. Most of the library is modern/alternative rock. I might go into serious depression if this was my whole library.

Without Further Ado, here are my top 35 songs:

Date ArtistTitleAlbum
 1993  Counting Crows Perfect Blue Buildings  August & Everything After 
 1993  Counting Crows Omaha August & Everything After
 1993  Duran Duran Ordinary World Duran Duran
 1993  Duran Duran Come Undone Duran Duran
 1994   Lauren Christy Vanessa's Father Lauren Christy
 1994  Stone Temple Pilots  Interstate Love Song Purple
 1994  Toad the Wet Sprocket  Something's Always Wrong  Dulcinea
 1995  Collective Soul The World I Know Collective Soul
 1996  Counting Crows A Long December Recovering The Satellites  
 1997  Live Gas Head Goes West Secret Samhadi
 1997  Live Lakini's Juice Secret Samhadi
 1998   Tori Amos Jackie's Strength From The Choirgirl Hotel
 1999   Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication Californication
 2000    Coldplay Spies Parachutes
 2000  Lifehouse Breathing No Name Face
 2001  Live Overcome V
 2001  Puddle of Mudd Blurry Come Clean
 2001  Tantric Mourning Tantric
 2002  David Gray The Other Side A New Day at Midnight
 2002  Dishwalla Somewhere In the Middle Opaline
 2002  Jason Mraz The Boy's Gone Waiting for My Rocket to Come 
 2002  Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way By The Way
 2002  Red Hot Chili Peppers Midnight By The Way
 2002  Tori Amos Sorta Fairytale Scarlet's Walk
 2003  Muse Hysteria Absolution
 2003  Tori Amos Angels Tales of a Librarian
 2004  Five For Fighting NYC Weather Report The Battle for Everything
 2004  Five For Fighting Devil in the Wishing Well The Battle for Everything
 2004  Keane Bedshaped Hopes and Fears
 2005  David Gray Nos Da Cariad Life In Slow Motion
 2005  Jason Mraz Plane Mr. A-Z
 2007  Fall Out Boy Fame < Infamy Infinity On a High
 2007  Foo Fighters The Pretender Echoes, Silence, Patience
 2007  Jimmy Eat World Dizzy Chase This Light
 2011  Red Hot Chili Peppers Even You, Brutus? I'm With You

One problem with this list is that some of these songs are actually the same. For example, the two Duran Duran songs off of the same album sound a lot alike. I can't decide which I like better. It's kind of like saying "I like Duran Duran's sound on these songs" versus two totally different songs. The same is true of the Five For Fighting songs. Those two are very similar, but it's impossible to pick which one I prefer. So they both make the list. On the other hand, the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and the Tori Amos songs are different from each other.

Anyway, I'm almost done with this project, but still very annoyed at the amount of music that disappeared that I have to purchase again. It's been extremely time consuming, but since I haven't been able to do much else with my mono, it's been a good thing.

The mono seems to be slowly getting better. I'm going to work, but minimizing anything else away from the house. I'm basically just slow and weak. I don't walk as fast as the average person and my head feels dizzy sometimes. But it is getting better. I just need to continue to be patient.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

6 Things I Learned From The Olympics

One of the few up sides of having mono is the opportunity to watch plenty of the Olympics. I've never been as engaged in the Olympics as I have been this year, and I've made some good observations.

I've been working with a sports psychologist and many of the things I'm learning from him have been demonstrated by these athletes. I doubt I would have picked up on any of these things without his guidance. But the fact that I did pick up on them shows that I am really beginning to evolve my thinking and attitude about my own running.

1. Don't compare yourself to others.
Kristian Ipsen and Troy Dumais
I would assume that all athletes are competitive by nature, so how do you not compare yourself to others? How do you stay focused on your own performance, your own training, and your own goals when the sport is, by nature, competitive? Surely once you get to the Olympic level you are comparing yourself to others constantly, right?  Wrong.

I was watching the men's synchronized diving, and there was an interview with one of the divers shortly after his dive. (I think it was Troy Dumais.) He said that usually once he finishes his dive, he doesn't watch the other people dive or watch for their scores. He just waits to see how things play out. He was just very focused on his own performance and not at all concerned with the other divers in the competition. I thought to myself, "What a healthy approach! If that were me, I would probably have my eyes glued to those diving boards and the divers' scores."

2. Focus on the race itself, not a time goal.
More generally speaking, focus on the process, not the outcome. One of the things I have been trying to overcome for years is focusing too much on my time goals. I've tried hard to not think about about time goals, but my sports psychologist says that that approach is just avoidance, without a real strategy for what else to focus on.

After one of the track semi-finals, a reporter was interviewing one of the runners. She said that his times were close enough to potentially beat the world record and was that something he was aiming for in the finals? His response was that he was not focused on beating on the world record, but just to run the best race that he could. (I forget who this was and if he did actually beat the world record, but regardless, he's very much on target with being focused on the process, not the outcome).

3. Your sport is not who you are. It's something you do.
It's plastered all over running magazines and Facebook walls: I AM A RUNNER! According to my sports psychologist, it's a much healthier attitude if your sport is not who you are, but rather something that you do. Separation. You cannot let your sport consume you and determine your mood 24 hours of the day. You focus on running when it's time to run or to work on a training plan. Otherwise, you should be focused on whatever else you are doing-- working, spending time with the family, relaxing, getting together with friends.

Nope. Running is something that I do, which is important to me.
I could write a whole blog post on this (and I will at some point) but for now I'll stick to the Olympics. If you're at that level, how can it not consume your whole life? I mean, what else is there if you are training 10 hours a day and are at the top of your sport!?

I saw some interviews with Katie Ledecky's friends in Bethesda, MD. For those of you who haven't been following the Olympics, Katie is a 15-year-old who won gold in the 800m freestyle. Her friends all said pretty much the same thing about her: "If you were talking to her, you wouldn't even know she was a swimmer. She's really down to earth and modest about it." It sounds like that when Katie is socializing with friends, she's focused on her friends and not telling them all about her swimming. I would guess she's done a great job at keeping her swimming life in the pool and other elements of her life separate.

4. If you look for failure, you will be sure to find it.
Very similar to "you can't please everyone all of the time." For some reason, people are so quick to judge these Olympic athletes. As a perfectionist, I hate the idea of anyone thinking that I did something wrong or that I failed at something. But the reality is that we can't control other people, and there will always be critics.

Gabby Douglas won the individual all-round gymnastics gold medal. And yet many people were criticizing her hair. I was shocked to learn this because a) who cares about her hair-- she's fantastic! And b) what's wrong with her hair? It's pulled back like everyone else's! Even if you win a gold medal at the Olympics, there will still be critics. External critics are a fact of life, we can't control them. But we can make sure that we aren't our own internal critics.

5. Performance is dynamic. You aren't a machine.
One of my largest frustrations as a runner (and I'm guessing most runners share this frustration) is when you run a race significantly slower than what you know you are capable of. You have an off day. I tend to really beat myself up when this happens, but my sports psychologist is constantly reminding me that performance is dynamic, I'm not a robot, and there are no guarantees that I will be able to perform at my peak on race day. In fact, he said that among the world's top marathoners, most of them say that only 1 out of every 5 marathons is a good race for them. Bottom line--  you cannot expect peak performance at every race, and sometimes it's just not there. No further explanation other than some days are simply better than others.

Gymnast McKayla Maroney performed a near perfect vault in the team competition and was expected to easily win gold in the individual vault competition. But she fell on her butt-- something that she had never done at a competition before. Does this mean McKayla suddenly became any less of a gymnast? Did her abilities disappear overnight? No. She just had an off day, and it's normal for something like that to happen. Of course the poor girl was a target for criticism and joking when she was seemingly unimpressed with her silver medal (okay, I had to laugh at this too), but at age 15, can we really expect her to just pretend like she's thrilled after such a disappointment? She learned the "performance is dynamic" lesson the hard way.

6. It's okay to wear Jewelry.
Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan wore earrings.
This is one that my sports psychologist did not point out to me in advance. Growing up as a dancer, you weren't supposed to wear jewelry. This translated into my opinion that jewelry interfered with performance and was really unnecessary. I would actually get a little annoyed with women who showed up to races with earrings, necklaces, bracelet, etc, thinking "it's not a fashion show, it's a race". But there I would be in my zebra print skirt and matching gloves, still insisting that it wasn't a fashion show!

Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher both wore earrings during the marathon. And nobody's arguing that they aren't "hard core". So I guess that means it's okay!

Even though I am not doing any physical training at the moment, I am certainly exercising my mental muscles by watching these athletes perform and listening to their interviews. I think it's going to be a long road back for me, so I need to keep all of these things in mind once I am able to train again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's STILL Mono!

I have turned into the biggest couch potato in the history of couches. And potatoes.

I have not left my house in over a week. (Actually, I tried to go to work last Thursday and was promptly driven home by co-workers). I have not done a single plank or lifted a single weight. I have not run a single step. The only walking I have been doing is from the couch to the bathroom to the bed to the fridge and back to the couch. And yet my appetite is completely intact, complete with cravings for foods that will do nothing to advance my recovery- particularly chocolate and ice cream.

A lot of people have been asking me if it's contagious. The answer is that Mono is spread through saliva, so you won't catch it unless you kiss someone with it or share food with them. Greg still does not have it and I really hope he doesn't get it. I have no clue how I got it because I don't know anyone with it. All I can think of is that I must have eaten food somewhere that someone coughed directly on. Ew. And then there are some people who come right up to me and hug me without thinking twice about if it's contagious!

I think my experience with Mono has been somewhat unique. It's gone through distinct phases, which I will outline for your reading pleasure.

Phase I: Textbook Mono (but I didn't know it)
This phase lasted for about two weeks: June 18-30. My main symptoms were a severe sore throat and swelling of the lymph notes. This was the worst sore throat I've had in my entire life, and I am really glad it seems to have gone for good. I went to the doctor and all of my tests were negative, including the mono spot test, so I figured it was just some nasty virus. I wrote extensively about this phase in my June 25 post

Phase II: The Glory Days
This phase lasted for about two and a half weeks (July 1-18). I thought I was 98% better. In fact, the only reason I knew I wasn't at 100% was that my runs were still extremely slow. But they felt good, so I wasn't really worried. I even ran a 13-miler one weekend, and then a 14-miler the following weekend. The 14 miler was a 9:24 pace, all in zone 2, so I figured that I must be getting back to 100%. But then the trip to Chicago really did me in and all my symptoms returned on July 19. I really think that if I hadn't gone to Chicago, I would have made a complete recovery within the next week!

Phase III: Ups and Downs
I returned to the doctor and got the Mono diagnosis. They said I was in the "convalescent" (recovering) stage, so I figured it shouldn't be too long before I was truly 100%. Greg and I thought "wouldn't it be great if this relapse just lasted a few days and then I went right back to where I was before the relapse!" I kind of told myself that's what would happen, so after taking just three days off of running, I made another attempt. I felt decent for three miles, but then when I turned around to come home, the last three miles felt tough. During the day, I felt off and on. I would feel great in the mornings, but when the afternoon hit, I would feel completely zonked, like I had to go to sleep instantly. I could barely hold my head up at work and had to leave early twice to go to sleep. 

Greg and I took our planned mini-vacation to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Toronto, which I knew would be an immune system buster. I felt great for parts of the trip, but not so good for others. I had plenty of energy for walking around Niagara falls, going bowling, and even some easy treadmill running. But I also would get tired very easily and took naps. This "ups and downs" phase lasted for nearly two weeks (July 20-31).

Phase IV: Lack of Energy, Strength and Balance
Zebras keep  me company in bed while I recover.
This is the phase I am currently in, and have been so for just over a week. The couch potato phase. When I am sitting down or laying down, I feel good. No sore throat (just an occasional cough) and relatively normal feeling. However, getting up and trying to walk around the house just feels completely off. I actually fell down while trying to do the laundry (and have since ceased trying to do any house work). I saw black spots in the shower. I am not sleepy or exhausted feeling like I was in Phase III. I am definitely more tired than I am when I'm healthy, but the tiredness is secondary to feeling completely spacey and off balance when I walk around. 

Also, I was able to do planks and other light strength training in the earlier phases. Now, I cannot do anything that is physically taxing. I feel too weak and spacey for that. I've been working from home for the past week and feeling alert while doing so, just as long as I stay seated. I get occasional dizzy spells, where I cannot look at the computer. I have an appointment with my sports medicine doctor on Tuesday. I am going to ask for more blood tests to see if my levels indicate that I am getting better. 

My biggest fear is that this is turning into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I've learned from Dr. Google that this can develop if you don't recover fully from mono. This lasts six months to a year. Whenever I have started to feel the slightest bit normal, I have tried going to work and running. And I've taken two trips. Obviously these were not smart choices but a) I didn't know I had mono for a lot of the time and b) I didn't really have a choice about the Chicago trip. There's no real test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you just get that diagnosis once everything else is ruled out.

I would just really like for this whole thing to be over and done with.