I've enjoyed freestyle rapping since I was a young kid growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida. I also loved to write poetry and I believe that makes it easier for me to improv rhyme. Most of my rap songs start as freestyle that I write down and then work on the parts that feel awkward until they don't. Sometimes I embrace the awkward. In my latest song I was trying to do an old school-style rhyme by throwing shade. It starts out:
You shakin'? I'm steady. Unprepared? I'm ready.
The next phrase that came out was, "You got beef?" as in "You wanna fight?" It struck me as hilarious that the word "beef" can be used that way, so I leaned on my plant-based nutrition focus for the next verse.
Got beef? I got tofu with zucchini spaghetti.
I do my best to throw in puns and complex lines that often take me off the main beat. Instead of rewriting them to flow better, I prefer the challenge of getting back into the main song flow without losing my place in the overall song. For example, this verse falls off with a pause after "Bose" but then uses the awkward acknowledgement of broken meters to fix them:
Betting beats like a Betty, slicing rhymes like machete Propose all pros and cons but confetti Compose the prose to profess to pros the pose Known to expose the beat through the Bose No mistake was taken 'cos there's no take on this token Of rhymes being spoken even with meters broken
I'm no musician, nor am I a magician, so I used pretty primitive methods for music. In my previous rap videos, I either grabbed a free beat track from YouTube or worked with someone who knows what they're doing to create the music. I wanted this one to be a completely self-directed effort, so I hummed and beatboxed my way through the audio tracks and used a variety of short videos I've recorded over the years for the visual track.
Don't worry, I have no plans to quit my day job, but if you're interested, this is "No time."
Don't be fooled though. No time? I don't believe it for a second. I have yet to meet anyone who really has a time problem. Most of the time it's a priority problem. If I really look at my day, I have plenty of time to do the things asked of me and the things I want do, but it's easier to procrastinate a little instead. Exercise and even these blog posts fall squarely under the category of things I nudge myself to get done but only accomplish when I'm willing to compromise and prioritize.
Me and Parkinson's Disease
That's right. I broke the grammar rules and put "me" first. PD and I are not getting along, but it's my fault. After I cut short the burpee challenge due to issues with my feet, I never did regain the momentum to continue training regularly. That will, of course, be addressed. I'll start with more calisthenics and VR boxing, then am considering signing up for the local 5am CrossFit bootcamp. I'm an early morning person anyway.
My symptoms have increased significantly. I wake up incredibly stiff and sore each day. I'll address that by reinstating my daily Jangle. My hand increasingly refuses to type well, so I find myself relying more on text-to-speech. My left foot continues to cramp really bad in the evenings (dystonia) but I'm also experiencing it on the right side. Normally my tremor doesn't bother me, but lately it goes nonstop and just wears me out. I'm having difficulty twisting off caps (I used to be Doreen's go-to). I also consistently hit a wall at around 1 - 2 pm every day and suddenly feel like I can't stay awake. Regardless of whether I nap or push through, I'm usually fine by 3pm.
The other fun side effect from my medication is nausea. I get waves of it randomly. It always passes (which is the little comfort I get when it happens) and I've never (knock on hardwood floor) actually gotten sick, but it's not fun. It typically goes away in just 10-15 minutes, but I had an episode on the island that lasted an hour.
Island? What island?
Some very close friends of ours invite us on occasion to join them on vacation trips to places like Italy (where we celebrated our 20-year anniversary) and the Cayman Islands. This trip was special for several reasons. Not only was it Doreen's birthday, but our friends and hosts were celebrating their anniversary and their 300th dive together. It was amazing to be a part of that milestone in their lives.
Traveling with PD was a non-issue. I was able to consistently take my medications and because of the relaxing environment on the island, I was able to relax and for the most part did not struggle with my symptoms. The biggest exception to this was our first night out for dinner when I was hit with a wave of nausea that lasted all dinner. I was able to pick at my food but spent most of the evening with my head on my arms laying down on the table. By the time we got back to the place we were staying, I felt fine.
I had a lot of amazing moments on the island. I photographed a sunburst.
From the same ocean front bar, I set my camera for a long exposure to see what stars I might capture. I had no idea it would transform the water and reveal the ghostly white boats drifting in the horizon.
The next evening, I photographed our friends on their 294th dive. I was just trying to expose the water but was delighted to see it picked up not just stars, but a section of the Milky Way. The blue in the water is from our friends' dive lights.
Intrigued, I decided to prop my camera up using a stack of lens caps (I didn't have my tripod with me) and aim it at the sky. I took several 20-second exposures. Sure enough, as I was looking up, the Milky Way was looking back at me.
Using just a camera and a tripod, I was able to capture several pictures of the night sky outside the place we stayed at. Here is one of my favorites from a timelapse I ran all evening to capture the Orionid meteor shower. I managed to catch two meteors.
I also had the chance to test my new portable astronomy setup. I purchased a lightweight mount called the Sky Watcher Star Adventurer GTi that I was able to pack along with my tripod. I captured several images with the mount, including M33: The Triangulum Galaxy and
M31: The Andromeda Galaxy.
Needless to say, the tests went well. Here's a video montage of the entire trip.
What a grand experience!
Microsoft adaptive accessories
Before I left for the island, I was interviewed by a journalist covering the story of Microsoft's adaptive hardware. I was an early tester, and the story focuses on the impact these devices have along with the inspiration behind their creation. The article was finished when I returned, and I thought turned out fantastic. If you're interested, you can read it yourself:
New mix-and-match computer accessories give people with disabilities easier ways to work and create - Stories (microsoft.com)
I was only home a few weeks when it was time to head back to the airport. This time, I flew to Washington, D.C. Let me back up a year. Near the end of 2021, I had a nagging feeling I wasn't doing enough for PD awareness. I was fundraising through the Michael J. Fox foundation, but I wanted something more "hands on." I mentioned something to my wife and prayed about it, and one week later received a call from Anna Grill, found of the Young Onset Parkinson's Network.
YOPN was launched to fulfill a need felt by anyone diagnosed with PD that is young and still actively in a career, otherwise known as Young Onset Parkinson's Disease (YOPD). Traditionally a disease that is diagnosed in older people, most of the materials and support groups cater to the elderly and retired. Anna hired a firm to conduct market research for YOPN and I was someone who answered the survey and gave permission to reach out. When she invited me to sit on the Board of Directors as technical advisor, I had no hesitation in saying, "Yes." OK, I slept on the decision and discussed it with my wife, but I knew I was "all in."
One year later we decided to have our annual board meeting in person. It was great because not only did I get to meet the amazing people on the board who are all connected to PD in some way (either by having it or knowing a close friend or family member diagnosed with it) but we had an incredibly productive session. For those of you with YOPD, we want to be that first resource you see that connects you with information, people, and community. Imagine having a directory specifically of YOPD support groups and watching interviews with and learning tips from others who have lived with it for years! 2023 will be exciting.
If you have Young Onset Parkinson's Disease or are the primary caregiver for someone else who has it, please consider joining our community and let us know if and how we can better serve you!
I got in early, and Anna had tickets to an exhibit by Yayoi Kusama. This is us having a blast in one of the "infinity" rooms (OK, so it's me being "artsy" with my photograph, too).
We had our board meeting and then went on a "foodie tour" of Georgetown which was awesome! I really enjoyed the itinerary our guide from Mangia put together. Later that night I decided I would take my camera gear and head to the monuments for some nighttime photography. Fellow board member Mark joined me and was patient while I explained what I was doing with each shot - framing, setting exposure and ISO, taking multiple shots, etc. For example, this photograph combines a fast exposure to capture the building's details in bright lights with a slow exposure to grab details of the landscape and night sky.
I really wanted to take a picture with the Washington Monument, Mars, and the Moon all in the same frame. Whenever Mars slipped out from behind the clouds, the moon disappeared, and vice versa. I did get this moment with the moon shining brightly next to the monument.
A few days after we got back, I was taking images of Mt. Rainier when I came across this unusual phenomenon. If you zoom into the picture, you'll see a red plume on the side of the mountain. Any thoughts around what it is? My guess is sunlight reflecting from a condensation trail made by an airplane.
The mystery may never be solved.
Open for business
I had a really great fall for astrophotography. One of my favorite shots I've taken since I started this hobby is this one of the Rosette Nebula:
I have an exhibition of my space art in a local physical therapy office and decided to donate a piece to auction for charity. My employer matches the winning bid. The winner not only chose my large Andromeda Galaxy piece, but also purchased a piece with phases of the moon. I've had other people ask about purchasing pieces, so I finally put together an online shop. Check out the Deep Sky Workflows portfolio and if there is something you're interested in that I have uploaded to the shop yet, let me know!