Category Archives: Personal Experience


I started playing violin when I was five years old.  There was a tradition in my town where all the students would come together and perform a concert.  The most advanced student would perform a solo, then the next advanced would join them and they’d play a duet, and so on until everyone was on stage.  To top it all, every song had to memorized, making it a rather difficult competition (if you were up first, you had a lot of songs to remember).  When I was about seven or eight, I decided I wanted to be number one.  So I practiced and practiced.  And I didn’t get it, but I was like number two or three…I was really high up.  To say the least, I was pretty excited.

There I was the night of the concert, waiting for the soloist to finish to join her on stage to play our duet.  I waited, my teacher introduced me, and I made my way to the steps to the stage.  And I promptly tripped and fell.  My violin shot out of my arms and shattered. In front of the whole friggin town.


My teacher ran up to me to make sure I was okay, and I very clearly remember her telling me I could sit the concert out.  I just stared at her on the verge of bursting into tears and said “No, but I don’t have a violin.”  She handed me her violin and I played the concert.


Flash forward thirteen or so years to my senior of high school.  In that time I had started playing the cello, guitar, and dabbled in piano.  My teacher back then was (and I think still is) the orchestra conductor for the elementary, middle, and high school…basically I studied with her for thirteen years.  It was the night of our last orchestra concert before I was graduating and going to college.  Our orchestra was making our way up on to the stage and she was sitting back stage collecting herself (she gave a rather emotional speech when she introduced us…she was losing a lot of students who she knew since a really young age).  I was last in line, carrying my cello.  Just as I was walking up the stairs, I tripped just like so many years ago.  This time, however, she caught me.  She  then chuckled and said “careful, you wouldn’t want to trip.”

It’s just funny that my whole music career with her basically started and ended with a trip.


My Experiment with Apple’s New Wireless Headphones

There I was, my phone charging but in need to listen to music.  Obviously I didn’t just want to sit there with the headphones strapped in, but I did get a pair of the new wireless headphones Apple is rolling out to replace the white earbuds we’ve all got used to.  So, I decide to test them out.


The new “wireless” headphones

First, they’re not really that glamorous looking…I’m almost certain in a year or two, we’ll look back at these as though they’re prehistoric…kind of like the first cell phones.  They also moved the volume/pause button from the right to left ear bud, which is kind of annoying (unless I have the earbuds in backwards, which would be awkward).

But I have to say the sound quality is not that bad…when you’re in range.  I figured while my phone was charging in my bedroom, I could go outside and do various activities (e.g. doing cartwheels without worrying that my phone will fall out of my pocket…although, I’ve never actually done a cartwheel successfully, so I guess that point is mute).  I managed to get downstairs and perfectly hear the music just fine.  My evil plan was working (muhaha).


Then I made my way outside.  It started to get choppy.  So I stopped moving, figuring the waves had to catch up with me (because I obviously move faster than the speed of light), and the sound came in better.  I started to move again, no problem…I must’ve fixed the problem.  I made it all the way to my car to get something, and had no real issue…I could pause it and play the music, it was awesome.  There were some choppiness, but it wasn’t bad, it was kind of like listening to the radio going in and out.  Then I made my way to the backyard to visualize myself doing the hypothetical cartwheels, and the choppiness grew.  I noticed if I stood still, the sound came in better.  If I was moving, the music would stop.


So now I’m laying in my bed next to my charging phone, writing this and listening to music with the wireless headphones…which kind of defeats the purpose since I could just use the wired phones…

I guess the moral of the story: you need to have your phone in your pocket to use wireless headphones.


10 Days

I didn’t realize it’s been almost ten days since I last posted, but things have been incredibly busy for me.  sistersWe  actually lost power a couple days ago and it took them six hours to come out to our neighborhood to realize a transformer blew up.  So they had to send more crews out.  I’m not kidding, the street was lined with utility trucks.  Finally, at 10pm they seemed to be done, and then we heard roughly four mini explosions and it turned out they blew out all of the transistors/transformers/whatever they’re called on our street.  So they continued to work through the night…at one point they left (we think to get supplies or something) but they left their trucks on, rumbling at 2 a.m.  I have no idea when they finished, but it wasn’t a particularly fun evening, especially since the only two candles we had in the house were “Hot Apple Pie” and “Scents of Beach,” which are two smells that should not mix.  It’s like a warm cinnamon stick dipped in sun screen

Anyway, I’ve been listening to some cools stuff…hopefully I’ll find the time to write about it.

Oh, also, does anyone know how to get groundhogs to stay out of your garden/yard without actually killing or trapping them?  They keep eating our vegetables and I’m tired of chasing them and I don’t have the stomach to kill them.  If you have any suggestions, please tweet me (@phillipjspencer).  Thanks!

Top 13

My friend and I are both music lovers, but the funny thing is we have almost the exact opposite taste in music.    For almost ten years I’ve tried to understand what he likes to listen to, and I’m sure he’s been doing the same.  We got to talking recently and thought perhaps the best way of understanding what the other likes would be to create a playlist of our favorite songs or songs that demonstrate our music taste the best.  The caveat is the playlist has to be thirteen songs.  So it’d be the length of a decent album.  It’s quite exciting.

The problem: I currently have eighty-seven songs in my playlist.  And I can’t get rid of one song…they all feel so essential.

So you can imagine how my evening is going.

I’m Back!

I finally got my new computer.  Took long enough, but now I’m in the process of setting it up and getting things rolling.  It’s amazing how fast it is, compared to my old one.  Anyway…just an update…

I leave you with this video of Zoe Lister-Jones on The Tonight Show, her story of meeting Jimmy Fallon is hilarious.

The Transcendental Experience

Being computer-less is odd.  I mean, my phone still works, so I can still get the necessary things done – and when I say necessary, I mean checking in on Facebook and Twitter (even so, I do that less since I’m more of a fan of the desktop version of those platforms).  But I haven’t checked my email in like two weeks, so I must have hundreds of missed messages by now.  But in all honesty, 99% of it is usually spam, so I don’t think I’m missing much.  And it’s great not to have to look at or delete some ads from Target about a deal I don’t care about.

I’m probably going to be without a computer for another few weeks…I heard the new Mac is coming out at the end of this month.  Why buy a computer this week when next week it will be obsolete? (I suppose the same will be true then, but at least I’ll have a solid six months of saying I have the latest Mac – as opposed to two weeks – before the another one comes along).  I thought it would be hard to go a month without a computer, but it’s been quite easy.

This is the point of the story where I go into having a transcendental experience and realizing the beauty of nature.  While that is probably true, I’ve just really embraced watching tv on my phone and getting used to using the tiny keyboard.

I’m joking (partly).  Actually, being without a computer has given me more time to do things that I thought I didn’t have time to do.  For instance, I’ve been writing songs since I was fifteen, and as I got older and had more obligations, I’ve had less time to pick up the guitar and write songs.  Sure, I always keep a notebook on me to scribble out ideas thoughout my day, but it’s been a while since I wrote a complete song start to finish.  And it’s really started making me get back into it and making me excited about making music again.

So perhaps I am having a transcendental experience.  Or I’m finally being able to find myself without being distracted by some update or alert.  It’s kind of exciting.

I do apologize for the lack updates, but as I said in the last update post, I can only do it when I borrow someone’s computer…so…I’m doing my best here.

Tricking Him into 1989

I have this friend who I think is the only person who is unaware of Taylor Swift’s record breaking album 1989, which officially spent a complete year in the top ten of the the Billboard 200.  He prefers more indie folk/jazz music, particularly if it’s rather unknown, so he doesn’t listen to pop radio or follow artists like Taylor Swift.  No judgement.  We all have different tastes in music.  I’m entitled to listen to T. Swift just like he’s entitled not to.  However, for years he would moan how she’s too “mainstream” and basically wouldn’t give her a chance.  I would tell him he might like one of her songs, but he never gave her a fair shot (in my opinion).

When Ryan Adams released his cover of 1989, naturally I listened to it and enjoyed it (I particularly like his cover of “All You Had to Do was Stay”).  Adams completely took Swift’s album and made it his own, but he made it a completely different genre and made it sound like something from the early nineties.  I knew my friend would like it.  So I sent it to him.

Yesterday we were talking about Ryan Adams and my friend was telling me all about how he listened to the album and actually liked it.  Turns out some of the songs were catchy to him and intrigued him.  Then I told him how Ryan Adams covered the whole album.  That in fact Taylor Swift created the original album  and had written the entire album.  Boy, was he shocked.

True, the performance styles between Taylor Swift and Ryan Adams are different and my friend probably responded to the more folksy sound of Ryan Adams than the bubbly pop of Taylor Swift, but the fact remains you cannot perform a song in any style without it being well written (or written at all).  And the fact Swift’s songs could stand up and still shine through Adams covers shows her incredible songwriting ability.  This is not to say Ryan Adams is not a quality musician – it takes great talent to do what he did.  My point is that instead of my friend writing off Taylor Swift as untalented or lackluster, he should have actually just listened to one of her albums before saying she was a waste of time.  Because whether or not he wants to admit, I know he liked an album Taylor Swift wrote.  And he can never take that away from me.

A Different Kind of Turtle

Growing up, my mom would take me to the library a lot.  She had this huge bag and would bring us into the Children’s room and let my siblings and I fill up the bag with any books we wanted.  Needless to say, growing up in libraries has made me a man who frequents his local library…a lot.

A couple years ago, my library got a pet turtle for their Children’s room.  When they originally got him, they read that his type of turtle prefers to eat lettuce, snails, and little fish, which they added to the tank.  Except our turtle won’t eat the snails or the fish, just the lettuce.  In fact, the fish got so big, the librarians had to give it away as a pet to someone because it was getting too big for the tank (I learned that they eventually released the fish back into the wild).

On top of that, he’s grown accustom to rearranging his tank.  At first, we weren’t sure what was happening.  The books said to put a dock in the corner of  the tank for him to climb up on and bask under a lamp.  Over time, we’d notice the dock would slightly drift away from the corner.  Each time the dock moved, the librarians would put it back right under the lamp because it was “supposed to be” that way.  One time, I thought he went missing, but I found him squished in between the glass and the dock, pushing it away.

Then, the other day, they had a new lamp which seemed to have a lower wattage, and I saw the turtle laying on his dock with the expression that just said “everything is finally right in the world.”

They’re Finding Nemo (Literally)

I was out the other night, running a simple errand, when I drove past a big sign that caught my attention.  It was announcing that a family had lost their cat and they were looking for him.  I then noticed his name is Nemo.

I took notice of the picture of the cat in case I saw him, and went on my way.  Then it occurred to me that the family was looking for Nemo.  They were, quite literally, finding Nemo (like the 2003 animated movie Finding Nemo).

Hopefully the find him soon!

Senator For a Day

Today I went to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, which is basically a museum in Boston in honor of the late Senator Ted Kennedy to educate the public about the Senate and how it runs, and I got to say I rather enjoyed it.  The museum itself stands next to Kennedy’s brother’s Presidential Library, the JFK Library, and it has it’s own replica of the Senate chamber (which is so cool).

buttonWhen you walk in, they give you a button that reads “Senator-For-A-Day” and a tablet and send you to an “orientation,” which I thought was a little strange, but rather necessary.  In your “orientation,” they give you a little background on the Senate (i.e. how it was formed) and they give you a tutorial on how to use your tablet within the exhibits.  They always refer to you as “Senator,” which is kind of funny, and tell you to create a profile on your tablet.  So you choose your political party and state you want to represent (I was Senator Spencer from Massachusetts, and thusly referred to myself as such for the rest of the day).  As you go through the exhibits, you can use the tablet to vote in debates and act like a senator.  While I learned a lot of this stuff in high school, I still found it enlightening and great for kids.

There was one exhibit where you have to vote on your tablet with the people around you to pass a made-up law, the Ice Cream Sundae Act (which I was in full support of).  The issue of debate was which two topping should be required in the amendments (I’m not making this up).  I lobbied hard for peanut butter cups, which made it through along with gummy bears to be voted on by Congress.  Congress came back with raisins and orange slices to be the toppings (I know, ew.  Who put’s raisins on ice cream?)  So we, the Senate, had to vote again.  Gummy bears seemed to take the majority, so I voted against the bill because it left out my precious peanut butter cups (I love peanut butter and chocolate), and I like to think it was my vote that made the bill fail.

My view from the Senate Chamber replica.  It was so beautiful.

My view from the Senate Chamber replica. It was so beautiful.

The best part of this whole trip was the replica of the Senate.  It was amazingly beautiful.  You get to sit in the chairs and pretend you’re a senator, and they hire actors to play real senators from history.  Then they have an issue that the Senate is currently debating (ours was whether the police should wear body cameras), and they open it up to all the “senators” in the room, so you can stand up and pretend you’re an elected official.  Some people really got into it, and were like “Thank you Mr. Speaker” and went into these really formal speeches.  I mean, one guy was actually quoting Roosevelt and had statistics ready, and I was just sitting there taking selfies for my new Facebook profile.

I did overhear one of the people working there say that they do programs for schools where they bring the kids into the replica Senate room and have a similar debate, but they get more in depth and form subcommittees for the kids to discuss further and actually vote like senators.  I kind of wish this was around when I was in school…it would’ve been rather fun field trip…

I know I may have come off a little dorky to find this history and politics stuff fun and “cool,” but you really don’t need to be a nerd to enjoy it.  I mean, I must admit I wasn’t thrilled about the idea going to it mostly because I didn’t know what to expect.  I just figured it would be another boring museum where you’d go and stare at things in cases and read little plaques (which I slightly enjoy, but find tiring sometimes).  But the EMK Institute had my attention the whole time, and I wouldn’t mind going back.