Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mixed Merry-Go-Round Metaphors

Six months ago, I was sitting in my office, seriously depressed, wondering if there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Six weeks ago, I was sitting in my office, barely able to work, anxiously anticipating my last day on the job.

I didn't talk about my job much while blogging from work, obviously. And I'm not going to talk about it now, or ever, on this blog. All I'll say is this: I often likened software documentation at that particular company to trying to draw a still life of a merry-go-round on speed. The image (i.e., the software) changed so much, and so often without warning, that I was often tempted to throw my brush (or keyboard) into the air and give up.

So I spent a lot of time torn between these two questions: Do I just document this stuff, knowing it's going to change? Or do I just blog, research interesting things like caterpillars and composers, take walks, go practice piano at the church across the street, and basically sit here and collect a paycheck until the end of time?

I did a little bit of both--enough work that I didn't feel like I was cheating the company, but not so much that I had too much invested in the documentation (all 600+ pages of it) whenever I learned of (surprise!) new changes.

It was a pretty direct ticket to madness. There was no base, no solid ground. There was never a single, solid build of the software that was the "final release build." Things kept changing, and kept changing, and kept changing. There wasn't a shred of certainty in the process. I like uncertainty in some situations, but not when it costs me (and the company) literally months of wasted effort.

If I were the Outer Life guy, I'd be able to write about that often meaningless job with humor and aplomb. But I'm Waterfall, and all I can say is I'm glad to have left Cubicle Land behind.

As I practiced the piano this afternoon (this afternoon! From 1:00 to 2:30! When, normally, I'd be tearing my hair out and grinding my teeth from boredom in Cubicle Land!), I had the most wonderful sense of not skimping. For once, piano wasn't something I squeezed into what was left of my schedule after my job and commute had bitten off their 10+ hour quota of my daily life. It was such a delicious, expansive feeling.

There was a sense of expectation as well, though. You know: "Waterfall dear, now that you have time to practice piano, you don't have any excuses for playing poorly ..." Yeah, whatever. I honestly believe my playing is going to improve significantly this summer--funny how increased practice time can do that. But I also have to make sure I don't keep holding myself up to the impossible standard of what I consider "good enough.

If I do that, then piano will become just another fast-forwarding merry-go-round that I can't quite catch sight of. "Good enough" will keep shifting just a little further out of reach.

It's a balance--having an admirable "good enough" goal in mind, yet being satisfied with the process, too. It'll be something I learn more about, firsthand, this summer.

Have I mentioned that I'm really happy to have escaped Cubicle Land? I'm sure it is merely the initial thrill of freedom, the calm before the storm when I'll realize and remember what it's like to be a truly broke freelancer. But I'm going to enjoy the thrill while it lasts.

Back to work ... I have a freelance-writing deadline tomorrow and lots to write before I finally turn it in!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Herbologizing

Herbologizing? Herbalizing? Herbizing? Herbonomics? Potting herbs?

Whatever it's called, it's what I did today. In addition to writing a whopping five pages of the novel and spending an hour on piano, that is.

I got a bit wild at the garden store. It must be something they put into the soil.

I know next to nothing about gardening. Why should I? I've never lived in a place long enough to actually garden, and even if I'd wanted to garden, I worked such long hours that I wouldn't have been able to devote adequate time to it.

See, if I'm going to do something, I want to do it right. I want to give it 100 percent. I hate just halfway-doing something. Know what I mean? So I never started gardening because I didn't want to do a 50% job of it.

But now I'm gainfully, blissfully unemployed! So, I allowed myself an Herb Day (kind of like a "Me Day," only different). Hubster and I grew some herbs last summer with some success, so I was ambitious today. While Hubster went to Asheville with our friend, The Artful Dodger, I potted marjoram, thyme, rosemary, parsley, spearmint, garlic chives, oregano, cilantro and sage, along with non-herbs such as cherry tomatoes and bellpeppers.

Oh, and I potted some catnip. How could I forget the catnip? We may not have any left tomorrow, but the $2.99 I spent on the starter catnip was well worth the entertainment we got out of it.



The best part was when we caught Beau red-pawed, his face ridden with guilt.

The spearmint went into some iced tea I made tonight, and the rosemary went into a yummy chicken dish that included a sauce I made from crushed grapes, onion, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and a few other yummies in addition to rosemary. Then I made a warm strawberry sauce and dumped it on some vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. Mmm. Decorated it with sprigs of mint.

Enough Martha-Stewarting for me. This is definitely not typical Waterfall behavior. Maybe my real self will be back tomorrow.

Until then, I'm enjoying the remainder of Herb Day. I don't know what I've enjoyed more--the mint sprig-garnished ice cream, or the catnip.

The catnip. Definitely the catnip.

Have You Practiced?



Yes, friends, it's time to start posting those practice minutes again. I have a piano lesson on Wednesday and will somehow fit in a few practice sessions between now and then.

I actually played a few times on the trail. The Dancing Bear B&B in Damascus (VA), the Sunnybank Inn in Hot Springs (NC), and the Duckett House in Hot Springs all had pianos. I'm happy to be back with George, though.

I have much to write, but not a lot of time at the moment. I promised myself that, once I was officially back home and not working, I would spend three hours a day on my novel. So that's where I'm headed, folks: to my office, my notebook, and a great, big tale that's been collecting in my mind for several months now.

More later. Musicians, feel free to post your practice hours in the comments to this post.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Return of the Queen!

Hallelujah! The Queen is back. Or she will be soon. No, I will not be diving off any cliffs in a blaze of glory. I will wink and leave as promised.

I hope that Waterfall's readership has not suffered too greatly in her absence. I hope that you suffered just enough to be ridiculously happy now that she's home. I, for one, can't wait to read some new posts from the Queen.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity to post some of my thoughts; it was fun. Maybe one of these days I'll get my own address in the blogosphere and see what happens. Till then, I just regulate myself to being a comment junkie.

Later everyone! Just don't tell Waterfall how late I let you stay up while blogsitting!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

No Patience for Puritans?

I have read Waterfall shamelessly plug her affection for old composers here many times. So, I thought maybe I would take a moment to plug my affection for some long-since deceased fellows as well. We know them as "Puritans."

Sadly, the picture that most people get when they think of Puritans is some sort of celestial killjoy. They imagine stern-faced men and nunnish looking women who are perpetually bored. Or, at worst, they imagine zealous weirdos who, after listening to maddened children, run about the country burning men and women at the stake for witchcraft. *sigh*

This stereo-type is only reinforced by the literary caricature one of my personal favorites, Jonathan Edwards. Nestled inside your beloved Norton Anthology of Early American Literature is a snippet his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". I say snippet because the sermon is incomplete. It only contains the bad news in that part of the sermon. They did not bother to let him move on to grace that delivers us from the wrath the must soon come. This is entirely why the Puritans are so misunderstood and what I find particularly frustrating. Judging Edwards by that sermon is like judging Jesus for what He said to the Pharisees.

I will admit to you that they are serious minded people. Flippancy is a virtue in our culture. These people viewed life as something precious. They viewed spirituality as something to be cultivated. They diligently worked in the garden of the soul by plowing, weeding, pruning, watering, and gleaning. If they were serious and stern, then I think that it was warranted.

Think of it. If heaven and hell are real and last an eternity, if every person you meet is heading for one of these destinations at the speed of life, and if God is truly the only One who can bring lasting joy, peace, and satisfaction to the world weary soul, then all things trivial begin to fade to into the background. If you become convinced about the truth of God in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to Himself through His death and resurrection, and if this is truly the only medicine with the power to heal the darkened heart, then it would seem logical to live like God's thoughts and ways are important.

I also have one sort of aside that particularly aggravates me. The Puritans are often viewed as sexual prudes. Nothing could be more ridiculous. They wrote about sex and they had lots of it. Each of them had about 10 children apiece. After all, if you are reading this, then it is likely that some Puritan somewhere in your background was happily obedient to the command to "be fruitful and multiply." If it is prudish to reserve yourself for one true and magnificent love (that is Christ) and then to express this love lavishly to one person for the rest of one's life, then count me prude. I find that noble.

I also love the Puritans because they attempted to answer questions that few today even have the moral and spiritual fortitude to address. In truth, we do not even think in the categories that they wrestled with. Destiny is limited to the realm of Sci-Fi. Justification, Sanctification, imputation, the Trinity, suffering, and atonement are all big words that have, for the most part, lost all significance to the average Church member. We are only concerned with blessing, leaving our theologies woefully inadequate to deal with the realities of grief, depression, and suffering in the normal Christian life.

So, I encourage you to read some of these great folks. Pick up some Jonathan Edwards, John Owens, John Bunyan, or John Calvin, Richard Baxter, or Samuel Bolton. (My first name is John, too. Seems to have been a popular Puritanesque name!) It will not be easy. These folks were serious thinkers. I compare it to running a marathon. It isn't easy, but afterwards you have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and know that you learned much from the experience. You may not understand all, and they will bore you at times, but you will grow taller by walking with giants. (By the way, if you want a good laugh, read some Martin Luther. If you're Catholic, at least you'll understand why he and the Pope did not get along very well. And, he'll probably make you mad. But you'll benefit from it anyway.)

There, in a nutshell, is my short ode to the Puritans. The serious, wonderful Puritans. I wonder what they would think if they read the selection of books in our average Christian bookstore. I believe that they would probably be greatly saddened at our lack of seriousness for learning about ourselves and our God who so loves us.

I have written more at length for my gratitude for these men in an article at www.thirstysoul.org entitled "My Gratitude for Spirit-Filled Teachers" if you are interested in seeing how they have personally affected me. (I figured that I'd give myself at least a little publicity.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Experiencing Blogger Guilt

I am experiencing a new emotion lately. It's a term that I shall call, "Blogger Guilt." I am afraid that I actually have a two-fold case of it. It would be one thing if it where my blog, but it's quite another when you are blogsitting.

It begins by my imagining all of you in bloggerland clicking on Waterfall's blog, only to see the same old post that you read three days ago. Nothing new there, not even a new witty comment. Then, throughout your workday, you obsessively and compusively click on this "favorite", hoping for something new to read, but alas, it is the same stuff as before.

The reason that I say obsessive and compulsive is because this actually describes me. I am an addicted blogreader. I have several which I go to everyday, several times a day, even knowing that nothing new will be there. Sometimes I even leave comments. Those days are the worst. Then, I return fifty times to see if someone responds to my response. Sometimes, I'm overjoyed with, "Oh my gosh! JollyBlogger noticed my comment!" Isn't that sort of sad?

Maybe this post really isn't so much about my blogger guilt. I really wanted to write something good this weekend, but I was slamming busy. Now, I will have a little more mercy when all of my favorite blogs are not fresh and exciting. I mean, these people have other lives, too. What was I thinking?

So, today I will rest a little easier my friends. Today, when you click on Waterfall's blog, there will be another new post there. Joy! Rapture! Something to read!

I think that bloggers are just insatiable readers. When you guys were kids, did you read the cereal box while eating your cereal. I am always in need of things to read! And blogwriters are, in general, far more creative than the nutritional information on the back of a cereal box.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Update from Waterfall

Hi all,

I am writing from a hostel somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, just about halfway through my two-week hike. I spent the first week with my friend Isis, then she had to head back to Maine. Starting today, I'll be hiking with the Hubster that we all know and love.

It's been a great hike so far: mostly good weather, and a terrific thunderstorm that we got to watch from a shelter with a view. I got a bad sunburn early in the hike, along with lots of blisters on my feet (due to the heat). But most of that is healing by now, and I'm looking forward to another great week on the trail.

Hope everyone is doing well. Wish I had time to visit other blogs, but to be honest, I have a fifteen-minute online limit here, and I don't even have time to read Thirsty Soul's entries (hope he's doing okay!).

Take care, all. I'll be back a-blogging next Sunday or Monday.

--Waterfall

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Short Journal of Today

Since the cardinal sin of a blog is not boredom, I decided I had better get busy writing something. (And this may well test that theory, by the way.) I was told that the worst sin committed in the kingdom of blog was a stale blogsite.

I don't know. A stale blog still sits like a landmark on some long, lonely highway in Kansas that marks the spot where some settlers lived once upon a time. It sort of stirs those who stop long enough to wonder what happened.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you in on what I did on my "off day." Actually, it wasn't much of an offday. I had to do a funeral today. Believe it or not, funerals can sometimes be joyful events, and sometimes they can be horrible. This one was somewhere in between. I think maybe I'll have to dedicate a future post on the pastoral perspective of funerals.

But now, I'm over at my brother-in-law's house preparing for boy's night out. The girls are at their scrapbooking hobby thing till the wee hours of the morning, and we'll be murdering one another on the XBox playing Halo2 and hopefully eating gobs of pizza. Tomorrow, I'm going to buy a new pair of running shoes because mine are worn out. (From cutting grass, not from running.)

So, there was my day in a nutshell. There's nothing like blowing the dust off a blog with the wind of mediocrity.:)

Later!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Gift of Amen

I wanted to return to this whole topic of "amening." (Should that be two "n's"?) I have analyzed this phenomena quite a bit, and I have developed a sort of theory about it, which, of course, I will now share.

First of all, let me make it clear that I love amens. They can be extremely encouraging to a pastor. Further, it is a Biblical practice. Paul himself must have gotten a few amens because he mentions the practice (cf. 1 Cor. 14:16). Therefore I conclude that amens are a good thing.

However, I have noticed that there are bad amens as well as good ones. This is a fairly subjective observation, but if you've ever heard one, then you know what I am talking about. First, they are off in timing. I don't know how you measure this, but it's just off. It's like listening to a song that is somehow a half a beat off. It's distracting.

Secondly, there is the, "Why in the world did that guy amen that?" amen. I many have just said that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, and some guy says amen. That's odd. It's like the old chatty Cathy doll, I somehow, inadvertently, pulled the string.

Third, there's the self-conscious amen. This is the amen that someone gives, but they are a little shy about giving it because someone may hear it. It's sort of like when a little boy says a word that he knows is forbidden, and even though he is brave enough to say it, it still sort of slurs out, as if he is afraid that mom will magically appear with a bar of soap to wash his mouth out.

Then, there is the obvious, "I want to be heard" amen. It's the person with a sort of amen agenda. Maybe they have a pet doctrine or something and everytime it's mentioned they say amen really loud. (Am I the only one who notices this stuff?)

Yes, I know that this critique of the amen may sound harsh, but it is reality. That is why I say that it must be a gift. Some people selflessly, spontaneously, and with perfect timing and volume give amens. They are extremely valuable to the preacher. Oh how a timely amen can lift the spirit! Further, when you have a bunch of good ameners, it sort of brings the bad ameners to a higher level. It's like being in a choir full of good, loud singers. Even the poor singers can belt it out with no fear of being annoying. In an odd way, this sort of adds to the beauty of the song. Plus, the shy, good singers can sing without fear of being noticed.

Well, there are some of my thoughts on the gift of amen. It is both a true and good gift to the amener and to the congregation in which he or she so happily serves. So, if you've got it, let'er rip. Your pastor and the congregation will certainly appreciate it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Monday is Music Day

Monday is a hard day. Mostly, it is because Monday always follows Sunday. Yes, that is a fairly obvious point, but for a pastor, Monday is sort of a regrouping day. All week long I prepare for Sunday. I pour out my heart and soul in that day. I believe with all of my heart that the most significant thing about you is what comes into your mind when when think about God. This singular aspect, whether we are aware of it or not, shapes our decisions in every aspect of life.

My life is dedicated to telling people of the greatness and majesty and wonder that I have seen in Jesus Christ. Yet, I labor under the awareness that I can not possibly do Him justice. Such is the glory of God in Christ.

So, on Monday, I play the piano. I enjoy trying to peck out songs on the piano in our sanctuary when there is no one there but me. Sometimes, I even string together some correct notes. It's a great relaxation and quite the worshipful experience. After I've tried to play the song, I sit at the piano and sing it. (Did I mention that I make certain that no one else is around?)

I am not certain what it is about this that soothes me so. I am quite an awful pianist. (That's not modesty, I am pretty bad.) I think that it is the knowledge that, though I cannot do the song justice, the memory of the melodies and words are in my heart. I am trying to mimic a genius that I myself have not attained.

And that brings me back to Sunday. On Sunday I stand and declare things too wonderful to express. It is the echo of the song of joy that the Spirit plays in my heart. On Monday, it is easy to be saddened by the inability to communicate perfectly such wonderful truths. But, like my piano playing, I am making marked improvement. The song is still in my heart, and next Sunday, I will get another chance to play it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Pressure of Blogsitting

Is Waterfall gone? I really tried to play it cool when she asked if I'd like to Blogsit for her. The reason is because I truly wanted to give blogging a go. However, I have zero references, no experience, and I am not certified in Blog CPR.

I don't know how this can possibly be a winning situation. If I am a good blogsitter, then I will feed you all pizza until you are stuffed and let you stay up past bedtime. Then you'll be sort of sad when mom comes home because the "cool" blogsitter will have exited with a wink.

However, if I stink at blogging, then Waterfall's loyal readership may dwindle due to her poor choice of a blogsitter. (No reference check, even? What was she thinking? This guy is seriously boring!) Since I am not trained in blog CPR, and since I am new to the World of Blog, I won't know what sort of posts will keep this alive for two weeks if I start flopping big time. I am seriously breaking into a sweat.

Waterfall has talent and creativity. This much is obvious to everyone who reads her blog. Me, I am still learning how to download and post pictures to the web. Pitiful! Further, I can hardly bang out a note on the piano or any other instrument. (Though I can fake G, C, and D well enough on the guitar to get through some songs. But I quickly make a discreet exit after showing my three tricks.) Hopefully, I will be able to come up with enough creative thought to keep you, her loyal readers, interested until she returns.

So, I only ask that you bear with me until she returns. For my part, I promise to be a loyal Steward until the greatly anticipated Return of the Queen. I will attempt to be creative and not boring for the next two weeks. (The cardinal sin of blogging is, of course, being boring.)

There, I feel much better having gotten all of that out. One final word of confession before I go. I wanted to post this yesterday, but Waterfall would have seen it. Further, I could not figure out how to actually put my post up and I was too embarrassed to ask for directions. Until later friends....

AThirstySoul

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Savannah

Life may be wonderful for me, but it isn't for everyone. After posting my euphoric last post, I got a notice about Savannah, a little girl in North Carolina with a failing liver, and the niece of a blogosphere friend. You can read more about Savannah here. I know there are a million people asking for money for a million causes out there, but please consider doing what little you can to help this little girl and her family.

If you can't send anything, and you pray, please remember these folks in your prayers.

I'm Free!

I'm free! I'm free! No longer am I a squinting, mouse-clicking, depressed cubicle dweller! No longer am I required to be at work at 8:00! No longer! For I am now gainfully unemployed until August! Woo hoo! Hiking trails, here I come! George, here I come! Relaxation, here I come!

Stuff I've done since leaving work today:

- Used the nice gift card to Malaprop's that my co-workers gave me (bought Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver)
- Got in my car to drive home, and immediately my favorite "freedom" song, "Me & Bobby" McGee (Janis Joplin version) came on the radio
- Went shopping for last-minute hiking supplies (for the fourth time in three days)
- Stopped by the library to return some books
- Had a celebratory glass of Merlot
- Played piano for two glorious hours

Tonight, we're picking up our friend Dodger, a hiker from Oklahoma, at the airport.

Tomorrow after music theory, we're heading to Damascus for Trail Days, which is basically an annual festival for Appalachian-Trail dorks (kind of like Miata dorks, Jeanette, only a lot slower-moving).

At Trail Days, I'll see my friends Isis and Jackrabbit, a.k.a. The Barefoot Sisters, for lots of laughter, fun, trail memories, singing, and ivory-tickling (Jackrabbit is a pianist and composer, and she and Isis wrote that great hiking song, "Dig a Hole, Dump Your Load").

Then I'm a-going hiking. And I won't stop for two wonderful weeks. At least.

Woo hoo! Wee hee! I'm a happy girlie, I am!

Have a fun couple of weeks, y'all. And be sure to check back every now and then; ThirstySoul should start posting soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Shakespeare Meme!

I found this at Girl Detective, via Mental Multivitamin, both of which reference Kiernan Ryan's Guardian article on Shakespeare.

1. Name the first five lines of Shakespeare that come into your head. (Don’t cheat–write the first five that you think of, then check for accuracy later.)

Get ready for a veritable carnival of misquotations ...

"If music be the food of love, play on!" -- from Twelfth Night

"O brave new world, that has such people in't!" --from The Tempest

"Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray undo this button. Thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there! She dies."
-- From King Lear

'Tis very midsummer madness! --from Twelfth Night

"My large kingdom for a little grave,
A little, little grave--an obscure grave. --from Richard II

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle ..." --from Richard II

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio." --from Hamlet

Oops. That's seven, isn't it.

2. The last Shakespeare play you went to see on stage.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

3. The last Shakespeare film homage or adaptation you watched at home or at the movies.

Shakespeare in Love

4. What Shakespeare homage/adaptation/plays are on your to be read/to be seen list?

Some of my favorites that I've read but haven't seen are Othello, The Tempest, and King Lear. I saw Richard II performed once and was disappointed (it's one of my favorites to read), so I wouldn't mind seeing a different performance of that one.

5. Name a favorite Shakespeare-inspired work.

There are so many to choose from, and I'm drawing a complete blank. Maybe West Side Story? Maybe not. I have no clue. Maybe Mendelssohn's Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream? I just realized that I've never seen any of the operas that are based on Shakespeare plays. I'll have to think about this one. There's always the castaways' version of Hamlet in the Gilligan's Island episode ... just kidding, of course. :)

6. Why do you think Shakespeare's plays are still popular?

Because they are wonderful. Why else? (That said, I must agree with Mental Multivitamin, who says, "I'm not so sure the plays are, as you say, "popular" -- they are essential.")

Shakespeare just enlarges my whole understanding of things. More than any other literary figure, he makes me realize that people never change, have never changed, will never change. I don't mean that in a good way or a bad way. Just a way. And that understanding gives me perspective on things. How that for an amorphous answer? :)

The Blogsitter

Maybe it's my blogaddiction thing. I'll be gone for two weeks, but I can't stand the thought of poor Blog sitting idly by, just because no Waterfall is available to post things.

I'm not sure why this is. It's not a concern about losing readers. It's not a concern about getting kicked off blogrolls. It's just that ... this Blog is my baby. It needs a babysitter. A blogsitter, so to speak.

So I'm going to do the TT/OGIC thing, the 2Blowhards guestblogger thing, the ... ThirstySoul thing.

My friend Brad (you may have noticed his comments here and there on this blog), a.k.a. ThirstySoul, is going to try his hand at blogging here at A Sort of Notebook for the two weeks that I'm away. A preacher, English major, husband, dad, admirer of C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, closet piano-learner, hymn-lover, voracious reader, poetry enthusiast, thinker, and admitted voice-blogger, ThirstySoul will, I'm sure, write on topics that are much more interesting and thought-provoking than that of my sore thumb.

ThirstySoul's website, thirstysoul.org, includes theological reflections and a link to pictures of his little baby, Ethan. His most recent "reflections" include "The Great Burden of Wisdom" (on the Puritans), and "The Reality of Spiritual Battle and the Necessity of Preparation," and "Your Problem is not your Self-Esteem."

So, be sure to keep checking A Sort of Notebook. Our blogsitter will start posting tomorrow or soon thereafter. Welcome aboard, ThirstySoul!

Christian Carnival is Up

Sherry at Semicolon is this week's Christian Carnival host and has done an amazing job of sorting out the 60 entries for this week.

Out of Steam

If you visit this blog regularly, you'll notice that I've been blog-bingeing more than usual. Or blog-vomiting. I can't seem to stop writing post after post after post, no matter how bland or boring the topic.

This is partly because my morning writing sessions have become nearly non-existent. See, I have to write in the mornings so I can purge my brain of Random Thoughts and make way for Interesting (i.e., shareworthy) Thoughts. The Random Thoughts I should have "released" get too crowded in my brain, particularly once the Interesting Thoughts try to move in. Finally, when my pea-brain can't take it anymore (usually around 9:00 a.m.), the thoughts all burst forth like a giant Conglomerated-Thought-zit and end up sliming all over my computer keyboard and into the blog. It makes a horrible mess. And the Interesting Thoughts are all but lost in all the muck.

Why am I not writing in the morning? It's because I can't wake up. Why? Because I am so burned out on the drudgery of my job and this corporate-commuting life that leaving my bed, my Hubster, and my kitties nearly takes an act of God each day. My last day at this job (tomorrow!) cannot get here soon enough.

I'm not burned out on blogging, though (obviously!). But I'll admit that I need a break. I spend entirely too much time on it. I spend too much time on Sitemeter, on Haloscan, on other blogs, on e-mail even.

Part of the purpose of my hike is to forcibly remove myself from the e-world. When driving to work in the morning, I hear stories on NPR about how we're bombarded with subtle marketing tactics, how our cell phones are becoming multipurpose entertainment units, and how we'll soon be able to access our favorite technology gadgets (TV shows, games, etc.) while driving.

(begin "Twilight Zone" music here ...)

I feel like the invisible grime of some Elusive, Sinister Other is seeping unbidden into my very pores.

I just want to get away!! Away from It.

(Insert sound of hideous laughter. End "Twilight Zone" music.)

Three days from today, I'll be on the trail. No depressing NPR stories about how technology and marketing are eating away at our souls (we're told we're consumers, but we're really being consumed, aren't we?). No ranting talk-show hosts. No voice-blogging colleagues. No buzzing cell phones (hopefully). No "ding!" when e-mail arrives. No cubicles. Just me, and the birds, and the flowers, and the rain, and open spaces, and the dirt, and the critters, and God. And the occasional hiking companion. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Stay tuned ... I'll post a couple more times before I leave on Friday. Don't think I've gotten the blog-bingeing bug out of my system yet! :)

Update: Unbeknownst to me, Paula of Listen In wrote on a similar topic today in Blogaddicted. She's an INFP like me, so maybe it's an INFP-o-sphere thing going on ...

Love for Dappled Things

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins (poem first published in 1918)

This poem makes me think of my beautiful crazy-quilt calico cat, Hideaway, who seems to be having small, seizure-like episodes and is going to the vet today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Last Piano Lesson of the Season

Yesterday was my last piano lesson of the season. We "finished up" the Mozart (meaning that, even though I'll still play it all the time, I'm no longer officially working on it as part of my lessons), and I've made good strides on the Dett. Most importantly and funly (funly??), we decided what I'd work on this summer!! And the winners are ... [drumroll ...]

Chopin, Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major
J.S. "My Beloved, Bejowled, and Bewigged" Bach, Sinfonia No. 15 in B minor (in preparation for a Prelude & Fugue)
Dett, Juba (continued)

I'm so very happy! So much wonderful music to learn this summer! And I have so much uninterrupted practice time just waiting for me when I get back from my hike!

Life is good!

(Thumb update: It's still not in great shape, but it's getting better. And I think it'll be a lot better after a two-week hiatus from the computer keyboard.)

Wandering Aimlessly

Now that there are only two days left of this lovely job, things have become unbelievably busy. Between cleaning out my files (erasing the evidence!), tying up loose ends in all of my projects from the last six months, and packing up my stuff, I barely know which way is up. Sadly, I haven't had much leisure to surf my favorite blogs, so I'm trying to do a bit of that now.

Diane of A Circle of Quiet is back from her stomach-virus hiatus. Welcome back, Diane! You have been missed. For those who haven't read her blog, I recommend it highly. She has a sensitive, thoughtful, and poetic writing style that I love. Plus, she posts poems and snippets from children's books. :)

Catez at Allthings2all is collecting posts written on the genocide issue in Darfur. I knew that horrible things were going on over there, but her posts (and she ones she's linked) really opened my eyes to it. If you or anyone you know has posted on the situation in Darfur, Catez is welcoming submissions for The Darfur Collection. See her post for information on submission and format guidelines.

Her previous post, Babes in Arms: The Children of Darfur is heartbreaking but a must-read.

Brandywine Books writes Learning to Love Rejection, about how aspiring writers need to become thick-skinned if they're going to be writers. I think technical writing has helped me to become thick-skinned. When you never get credit for your work, and your writing is changed and twisted and turned upside-down by the tech people, you learn not to attach yourself to it too much. And my editor for 50 Hikes in Louisiana only marked typos, so I didn't experience seeing my beloved manuscript all marked up and in need of a rewrite. I'm sure that day will come, however ...

Lutheran blogger Bunnie Diehl posts a somewhat interesting quiz on morality. I scored in the lower right-hand corner (not sure what that means, exactly), and compared to the average test taker, scored as follows:

Moralizing Quotient: 0.33 (less permissive than average)
Interference Factor: 0.00 (less likely to recommend societal interference than average)
Universalizing Factor: 0.67 (more likely than average to see moral wrongdoing in universal (i.e., not cultural) terms)

Rebecca Writes has a fun post on Words We Love and invites submissions. (I submitted several words, including "gnu.")

Songbird left her husband and my Y2K hiking friend, Pure Luck, at the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail yesterday and writes a very sweet post about it.

Sparrow muses on Christianity and wealth, and Kim wonders if she (Kim) is too serious (I really don't think she is).

There are so many good things to read out there today. I still haven't hit all the ones in my blogroll yet ... and won't until this afternoon. Back to work for now.

Getting Ready to Hike

Note to Readers: Please let me know if you are unable to see the photos in this post.


Making sure I know how to set up Hubster's tent
(Usually, when we hike together, I'm in charge of fetching water while he sets up the tent, so I've rarely set it up on my own. I sold my two one-woman tents last year, so I have to use Hubster's.) (Yes, that is the view from our yard. Nice, huh?)



Practicing sitting in the tent. :-D
(As you can see, I'm also practicing my signature hiker hair-do.)



Wearing my house on my back
Now, is this a happy camper, or what? I don't believe I've smiled this big in a year.

Monday, May 9, 2005

Dietrich Buxtehude, 1637-1707



Danish organist Dietrich Buxtehude was born in 1637 and was among the most influential composers of this time. He primarily wrote for organ; his compositions included twenty preludes and fugues/fugal works, fantasias, and choral preludes. In addition, Buxtehude wrote chamber music, motets, and over a hundred cantatas.

As a youth, he studied music with his organist father. In 1688, the 51-year-old Buxtehude became the organist of St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, Germany, where would remain for the rest of his life. While there, Buxtehude became quite famous as both an organist and composer. North German musicians traveled many miles to see and hear the great master--among them Handel, and later the young J.S. Bach, who walked more than 200 miles from Arnstadt in order to hear, meet, and study with Buxtehude for several months. You may remember that the students of Moravian College recently "reenacted" that walk last March in celebration of Bach's birthday.

At Goldberg Web, I found the following:

Having been born half a century after Heinrich Schütz, the 'father of German musicians', and a little less than half a century before J. S. Bach , Dietrich Buxtehude ... was placed in the unique position of being a living link between the founder of Protestant Baroque music and its greatest master.

Goldberg Web also tells us that, although he was a famous organist, Buxtehude (unlike Bach) never actually served as cantor of a church, so he wasn't required to write sacred vocal music as part of his official duties. His many sacred vocal compositions were then likely "expressions of spontaneous emotion," using scriptures, church hymns, and poetry as textual sources.

Buxtehude died 298 years ago today in Lübeck.

Read more on Buxtehude here. Listen to some of his organ music here.

The Double Bassists Beat Us Again



OK, fellow pianists and oboist, if this were a competition, we would be losing. Big time. Practicing pact results for this week:

Em (double bass) logged a whopping 345 minutes.
Pei Yun (double bass) was second at 280 minutes
Kim (piano) came in third with 160 minutes.

Sparrow, Hilda, and Waterfall were close behind Kim. Dulciana is still trying to get settled in, and Fran and Little Princess didn't log any minutes, even though I'm sure this was because they were too busy practicing! :)

I'm leaving on Friday and won't be back until, oh, May 30 or so. So, unless someone else would like to host the Practicing Pact at their blog for a couple of weeks, the Pact will be on sabbatical until I get back.

Congrats, all! It's hard to find practice time at this time of year (especially for you mommies!), so congrats on finding time and still getting a few minutes in here and there.

George versus Gear

A battle rages in the Inner Sanctum: a battle between George and Gear. These two mighty opponents are warring over boundaries, space, and ... well, Waterfall's attention. Gear is currently on the offensive, though George is valiantly standing strong, unmoving, and confident that Gear will not ultimately overcome.

For you new readers, the Inner Sanctum is our piano room (which also happens to be the guest room, the library (in part), and the gear closet). George is my piano. He has an army of keys, pedals, sheet music, and the maddening, murderous metronome. Gear's army is a vast host of backpacking gear.

For the last year and a half, the Inner Sanctum's gear contingent has pretty much remained in its dark little closet. (I say "pretty much" because we have a lot of gear, and it tends to overflow into the hallway.) George, with his army of keys, pedals, and sheet music marching in time to the heartless metronome, has gotten all of the attention. Even with my sore thumb, George still gets plenty of focus in the way of theory/comp exercises and some practicing of actual piano pieces.

For a year and a half, George has been King of the Inner Sanctum. He has ruled it. Gear has remained hidden, silenced, marginalized in the Inner Sanctum's darkest corners.

Why? Because I've been in Piano Mode. Although my ultimate goal is balance, I've spent my life careering from Piano Mode to Writing Mode, back to Piano Mode, and then to Hiking Mode, with a few modes in between. Sometimes I think life would be easier (though less interesting) if I only had one passion.

Anyway, sadly for Gear, this lover of hiking and the woods (a.k.a. Waterfall) has set nary a foot on a hiking trail for some time, other than for the occasional day hike and writing assignment. I spend even the most gorgeous Saturdays inside, practicing, so enamored with music that I almost forget there's an "outside" out there.

Naturally, George likes this arrangement. Gear hates it. Gear has had enough and is now in a full-fledged rebellion. Gear has marched its troops out of the closet and has set up camps throughout the Inner Sanctum. Backpacks are guarding the treasured prisoner (George), and trail maps have camped out on George's bench. Armor of capilene and Coolmax has taken over the floor at George's feet. I can barely make it through the mighty synthetic, weather-proof ramparts in order to practice Chopin. Oh friends, my beloved George is being held hostage.



Poor George. He is quite unhappy about this situation.

I'm here to say, George, that this Gear occupation isn't such a bad thing for you. Even though it's going to take your favorite person (Waterfall) hostage and send me to wilderness lands (not really) for two weeks. Even though it's going to take your favorite blogger (Waterfall) away from the computer, rendering her unable to blog about you until the end of May. Even though you'll probably be ignored for a fortnight by our non-piano-playing house-sitters. They may even use your bench as a luggage rest.

George, this is a good thing. It'll really be better in the long run. You'll be lonesome for a few weeks, but guess what? When I get back from my stint in the woods, I'm going to be so much more relaxed. I'm not going to bang on you when you refuse to cooperate (you're a lovable but stubborn piano, you are). I'll be on "summer vacation" (we teachers get that!), so I'll be spending gobs of quality time with you all summer. We're going to make beautiful music together, I promise. And you'll get lots of blog attention: I'll certainly bore my readers with stories of you, and of the great composers who wrote music for you. And guess what! You and I going to play BACH all summer! Can you imagine a greater, more wonderful fate?

So, hang in there, George. Soon, soon, your moment in the sun will come once again.

But you're going to have to share it with Gear. Sorry about that, George. I really do love you. I love both of you.

Mrs. Gwen's Mother's Day Present

Dear Mrs. Gwen,

We didn't mail your Mother's Day present because we were scared it would break. Besides, we want you to be able to use it when you're here in North Carolina. So, when you come up here in May, you'll get to see your present in person.



It's (obviously) a teacup and saucer, along with a little bowl that you can use for your teabag, or whatever. Your non-artistic daughter (a.k.a. Waterfall) painted it all. It's never seemed to bother you that your kids aren't artistic (case in point: your annual use of those mostly-awful Christmas plates we painted you in grade school), so I hope you'll enjoy using these.

Hope you had a happy Mother's Day, even though your children and grand-cats are scattered from sea to shining sea.

Speaking of sea, we'll "sea" you soon!

Your loving daughter, son-in-law, and grand-cats,

Waterfall, Hubster, Hideaway, and Beau

Tar Heel Tavern is Up!

This week, Bora Zivkovic of Chapel Hill brings us the Derby Edition of the Tar Heel Tavern. The Tar Heel Tavern is a weekly "carnival" for North Carolina bloggers. Check it out when you get a chance.

Friday, May 6, 2005

"China Mommy"

This is really touching: an essay by an adoptive mom about "China Mommy"--the unknown birthmother of her adopted daughter.

Here is my own birthmother's story.

Gulp!

I promise, Mr. Goldblatt, that I'll be a really good writing teacher!

Voice Bloggers

I know it's a misnomer. "Voice blogging" has nothing whatsoever to do with the keeping of a weblog. But it's a convenient term, and one that makes sense to me.

What do we do when we blog? We write stuff. Mostly we write stuff that is somehow about ourselves. If it's not an out-and-out navel-gaze, we're at least writing about our families, our interests, our beliefs, causes we feel strongly about, news items that interest us, or whatever. The pictures we post (particularly us "personal bloggers") are of our kids, our cats, our flowers, our news items of interest, and such. Nothing wrong with that at all, in my opinion. Particularly if the things we write about have some significance in the great scheme of things.

This is one reason I think blogs are good. They allow us to write all this stuff, and to put it out there for people to read ... if they want to. Nobody has to read it. Uninterested readers can just move on to another blog. Meanwhile, those who find our ramblings, our philosophizing, our cat pictures, and our profound wisdom interesting, who approve of our good taste in linking ... well, they'll stick around. They may even become genuine blogfriends. They'll read and comment on our most mundane posts, even the upteenth one on our sore thumbs and our boring jobs (ahem...).

That's just so cool, the way we can pick and choose which posts to read. You can skip over my piano-practicing posts, or you can read only the piano-related posts. Either way is fine with me. 'Tis good for the ego, it's true, to have readers, but it's also nice to feel like you're actually communicating with people, like there are others out there to whom you can connect on some level, however obscure. And most of us want to connect with others, to some degree.

Now. About those voice bloggers.

Voice bloggers blog aloud. In other words, like us webloggers, they share a wealth of information about their interests, their family, their philosophies, and themselves (including their sore thumbs), only they do it ALOUD and IN PERSON. The trouble with voice blogging is that, when a voice blogger begins a one-sided ramble you find uninteresting, you can't just click the next link in your blogroll. Voice bloggers are also fond of tangents (voice-links). Unlike with a regular weblog, you have no choice but to go on that tangent with the voice blogger, who, more often-than not, has the voice-comments turned off, so it's fruitless to try to change the subject.

We had dinner with a voice-blogger last Saturday night. "Ned" is a lonely old man in our town, and he asked us to dinner, so we went. He voice-blogged for two and a half hours about how much he hated (1) women, (2) southerners, (3) cats, (4) those "godless liberals," and (5) the Navy. His voice blogging was peppered with sailor-like cursing (despite his professed dislike of the Navy). We felt bad for him, being a lonely old man and all, so we smiled and nodded and thanked him for a nice dinner when we finally parted at 9:45 p.m.

Now, we all want to connect, and we all talk about ourselves from time to time in hopes that we'll find something in common with others, but Ned's one-sided voice-blogging post went on far too long. He took us to every voice-link (links we would never have clicked, were they on a weblog), and he often linked the same things two or three times, which had us revisiting the same tangents several times throughout the evening. When we tried to politely insert voice-comments, they were either ignored or disputed. Clearly, this was a guy whose voice-comment feature was turned off.

I have a voice-blogging acquaintance, "Bernice," whose ponderous voice-posts are rife with unrelated links. Bernice begins on a topic that I'd probably skip, were it titled on an actual weblog. But I sit, smiling and nodding dumbly, as she clicks voice-link after voice-link, taking me on a real-life journey to all different voice-blogs that do not interest me, and sometimes clicking those voice-links. Talk about tangents! Bernice's voice-comments feature is also in the off position. Poor Bernice rarely remembers what her original voice-post was about, so she'll occasionally turn the voice-comments feature back on to allow her listener to provide the original title of her voice-post. Once her memory is jogged, the comments feature goes back off.

This is why I like weblogging. I can write paragraph after paragraph about piano-practicing, or my cat, or J.S. Bach, and no one has to sit through it if they don't want to. I can provide links, but no one has to follow them if they don't want to. It's the ultimate freedom. When I blog, I try to make some sort of a point, even if that "point" is merely the cheap entertainment of my unsuspecting audience. But I'm perfectly aware that many of my own posts are pointless to all but a very select few. :)

If your voice-blog has a point and welcomes voice-comments, it's one thing. But I have little patience for lengthy, pointless voice-blogging in which voice-comments are ignored or are not encouraged.

Do I feel this way because I'm a curmudgeonly introvert? Is it my Scrooge-style personality that makes me wish the voice bloggers in my life would renounce their voice blogging altogether and just get a weblog already? I do wonder.

Getting Your Airness



Tonight is the Southeast Regional Air Guitar Competition at Westville Pub in Asheville. When I first heard about it a few weeks ago, I thought it was a joke. But this is real, man. The winner gets to go to the national championship in L.A., and then possibly on to the international championship in Finland. And if he or she wins that ... they get a REAL guitar. Whether or not they'll actually play it will remain to be seen. :-)

How does it work? The air roadies load the air-guitarist's equipment on the stage. Then the air guitarist straps on an invisible guitar and plays (or wails) for 60 seconds of whatever song they choose. The finalists have to play a "surprise" solo. All proceeds go to the American Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

There is a great article on air guitar in this weeks edition of Asheville's Mountain Xpress. A couple of air guitarists, in explaining the appeal of air-guitaring, say the following:

"It's the sense in which you're no longer air-guitaring," [last year's world champ] Miri Park told Conan O'Brien, explaining this crucial quality on which contestants are judged. "You've transcended all that and it's an art form all on its own ... it's a very Zen-like place."

[Air-guitarist and Asheville competition organizer Walter] Aderhold embellishes, "If people actually think you're holding a guitar, then you have it. That's getting your airness."

(quoted from Mountain Xpress)
This could actually be fun to watch. My very own Hubster is quite the accomplished air-guitarist (though, hiker that he is, he plays best when he can use his Leki hiking poles as an air-guitar substitute). I've always found it strange, though, that, as much as he loves to play air guitar, he has never been interested in actually learning to play a real guitar. What's with that, dear Hubster?

Anyway, here's comprehensive and very funny piece (with a helpful diagram!) on the ever-elusive air guitar. And you can find last year's winner's performance on Conan O'Brien here.

I'm not much of an air guitarist myself, though I do play tennis racket and can play a pretty mean air-drum. I've played air-keyboard, too. I'm just wondering when the Air Cliburn piano competition is going to be ... I think I'll play the Goldberg Variations, or maybe Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata. If I ever play either of those, it will definitely be the air-piano variety!

Anyone up for an air-orchestra? Air opera? Air ... oh, I guess I'd better get back to work now.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

They Offered Me the Job ...

and I accepted. :-)

Cold Feet?

Update: My favorite cool New Yorker cousin, LaVronica, has converted the song file to a .wma, which should be much easier to download. Thanks, LaVronica!

I just got a very pointed but sweet and encouraging e-mail from a dear friend, saying that I am being a super-sensitive silly goose with cold feet and that I should re-post the link to "Logan's Song" so my dear blogospheric friends can listen if they want. So here is a re-post of yesterday's de-posted post.

********************
Thank you, Cuz'n LaVronica, for giving me some space on fwapah! to store my little song. It's called "Logan's Song" and is a 4.5-minute piano-pop song (music only). It takes forever to download, but boy, is it worth the wait (ha ha). Seriously, for those of you who want to listen and have the patience to wait a couple of minutes for the download, I do hope you enjoy it. I wrote it about 25 years ago, and I still like to play it.

Exhausted, and All Peopled-Out

I think I'm exhausted.

It's exhausting to be bored out of one's mind for ten hours a day, is it not? I'm working--I have plenty of work to do--but it is the most boring work in the world. What's really sad is that you must be specially educated to be good at this work. It seems weird, though, to go through all of that schooling, just to be able to stay inside and do really boring things all day for a little bit of money.

This is why I'm hoping I get the teaching job. I'm meeting with the personnel committee this afternoon. I'm not all that nervous about it; I figure one of several things will happen.

1) They'll be so thrilled that an educated, passionate writer like me is willing to work for a private-school teacher salary, and they'll hire me on the spot.

2) They'll be disappointed at my lukewarm references, my lack of teaching experience, my previous job-hopping, and my penchant for growing enormous zits once a month that they'll say they don't want me after all. (I'll be sporting an impressively mountainous zit for the interview.)

3) They'll tell me that they're truly sorry, but they've decided not to have the position for which I'm applying.

4) They'll interview me and say, "We'll let you know in a few weeks."

Whatever happens, happens. I just hope to know the answer, whether it's yes or no, sooner rather than later.

Back to being exhausted. I'm all peopled-out. Every night for the last couple of weeks, I've had people-related things to do. Some of them were enjoyable, but I am sorely needing some alone-time. And it doesn't look like I'm going to get any until I set foot on a hiking trail in a week and a half. The prospect of no alone time until then ... well, it is very draining if I think about it. I'm actually thinking of cancelling music theory, piano, get-togethers with friends, and volunteer work until after my two-week hike. I feel like I'm really running on empty.

My active social life (how did an introvert like me manage to get an active social life?!?) has also kept me away from my true loves: piano, composition, and writing. Those are the things that renew me, and I haven't had any renewing sessions worth mentioning in some time.

I have to work in some alone time between now and the hike. I look at my Palm Pilot and cannot believe how "booked" I am. I hate this. I like being busy and active, but I hate being booked!!

When I get home at night, after the social stuff, I just veg and maybe read three pages of a book before dropping off to sleep. I know I'm not eating right, and that probably isn't helping my feeling of exhaustion. I'm planning a good workout after the interview this afternoon, so hopefully that'll help.

Sorry to expose everyone to this mindless ramble. This is what happens when I sleep late and don't have time to do "Morning Pages" in my journal before work!

Song Ambivalence

Yesterday I posted a link to a 25-year-old piano-pop song, one of the (Waterfall-composed) songs I recorded this weekend that has now been burned to my very own CD. After I posted it, no one visited, and no one visited, and no one visited. I took this as a sign from God, saying, "You silly girl, you're going to embarrass yourself if you keep that trite excuse for music up. I'm doing you a favor by keeping the visitors away." (Not that God would say that, of course.)

So I took it down.

If anyone is interested in hearing it (it's about 4 1/2 minutes and takes a few minutes to download), please let me know, and I'll e-mail you or something. Because I would like to share it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival for this week is up at Kentucky Packrat. Lots of good reads there. I never get to read everything, but I'm the theology and debate posts in particular always get me thinking.

Immortalizing the Apple

(No, this is not a post about "man's first disobedience.")

Since I'm meeting with the school's personnel committee tomorrow (remember, I'm applying for a job teaching writing), I thought I'd dig out some of my old notes from grad school, just to jog my brain a bit in what I've learned about the teaching of writing. It was a very beneficial activity. I laughed until midnight. I didn't like many of the exercises in the textbook (they were too humorlessly politically correct), so I'd made up a bunch of my own. I'll shed modesty for a moment and say that some of my exercises were laugh-out-loud silly.

At LSU, all new teaching assistants (TAs) had to take a semester-long practicum called "Analysis and Evaluation of Expository Writing." Other classes were for the reading of theory; this one was hands-on. Not only did we learn to write goals and lesson plans, run a well-organized class, and assign and grade papers, but we got to work through some of the very exercises that we'd assign our freshmen.

One such exercise was The Apple Exercise, which focused on teaching the student to use vivid descriptions in writing.

We were all assigned to get an apple (Red Delicious variety) and write a short description of it. We all brought our apples to class and put them in a big pile on a table in the middle of the room. Then, we each read our descriptions to the class ... and the class had to select our respective apples from the twenty-odd other apples on the table.

My apple description was buried in all of my practicum notes. Here's what I wrote:

As I traveled the long, bumpy journey from Washington to the Perkins Road Bet-R in Baton Rouge, I was feeling pretty blue. I know it sounds strange that a bright, shiny, red-and-yellow apple like me should feel blue, but consider my circumstances: I had been prematurely wrenched from my apple tree mother, and the other apples made fun of me because I was smaller, harder, and more lopsided than the rest of them. They laughed at the garish yellow streak that runs diagonally up my side, and they humiliated me further by tattooing it with five tiny black dots. They ridiculed the faint yellow check mark to the left of that yellow streak, and they made fun of the little hole between the two yellow marks, where a tiny bug had chewed its way into me. They opined that the yellow marks close to my stem are even more offensive than my other blemishes.

Ah, my stem--my most embarrassing attribute, to be sure. An unsightly growth covers the bottom third, and the stem itself is lazy and malformed, leaning almost on its side. The other apples, all bright red and fully ripe, told me horrible stories about how blemished, ugly, hard apples just get hidden under the other apples and then thrown away when nobody buys them. I think I would have cried apple juice tears all the way to Baton Rouge if Granny Smith hadn't heard my whimpers.

Granny, a very old and wise apple from a very old tree, took me aside and emphasized that my blemishes made me distinctive rather than ugly.

"See that hole where the bug chewed you?" she said as I turned an even deeper shade of red. "That's a mark of survival. It shows that you won't be hurt by some silly little bug. And those bright yellow 'blemishes' you hate are just birthmarks; some humans even call them beauty marks. See that yellow streak across your cheek? Why, it looks like a comet among stars in a shiny red galaxy, and that faint check mark may as well be a brilliant shooting star. And your stem? It looks like a snail with a beautiful long neck and a tiny shell, crawling out to see the world! And beneath its head is a lovely yellow light, as if your very stem had a golden aura of its own! And your lopsidedness--well, kid, it gives you character.

"Trust me," Granny said, "You'll be the most distinctive apple in Baton Rouge. Who knows--maybe some thoughtful graduate student will dig you out from all the other apples someday and write immortal words about you!"

I don't know. I think Granny was just trying to make me feel better. But we'll see.



So, there it is. No use writing immortal words about an apple if no one gets to read it. So I've blogged these immortal words to be read by all. Hee hee.

Now, back to the wonderful world of technical writing. I'd rather write things from the point of view of an apple. Wouldn't you?

Top Four Personality Scores

Blogthings can now give you up to five "top scores" for your Myers-Briggs Type. Of course, this quiz isn't the most scientific thing in the world, so if your top score doesn't seem to fit you, maybe the second-highest one will.



Your #1 Match: INFP



The Idealist

You are creative with a great imagination, living in your own inner world.
Open minded and accepting, you strive for harmony in your important relationships.
It takes a long time for people to get to know you. You are hesitant to let people get close.
But once you care for someone, you do everything you can to help them grow and develop.

You would make an excellent writer, psychologist, or artist.

Your #2 Match: ENFP



The Inspirer

You love being around people, and you are deeply committed to your friends.
You are also unconventional, irreverant, and unimpressed by authority and rules.
Incredibly perceptive, you can usually sense if someone has hidden motives.
You use lots of colorful language and expressions. You're qutie the storyteller!

You would make an excellent entrepreneur, politician, or journalist.

Your #3 Match: INTP



The Thinker

You are analytical and logical - and on a quest to learn everything you can.
Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge.
Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat.
A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.

You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

Your #4 Match: INFJ


The Protector

You live your life with integrity, originality, vision, and creativity.
Independent and stubborn, you rarely stray from your vision - no matter what it is.
You are an excellent listener, with almost infinite patience.
You have complex, deep feelings, and you take great care to express them.

You would make a great photographer, alternative medicine guru, or teacher.




I first saw this quiz at Typeblogs. Also, Lora has a brief explanation about personality types, plus links to more scientific tests for it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

More "Where I Am From" Poems

Much to my delight, it seems like others are also following the lead provided at Pratie Place and Fragments from Floyd and writing their own "Where I Am From" poems. Catez posted hers a couple of days ago, and Sherry at Semicolon posted hers tonight. Both are beautiful and evocative--go read.

At the risk of sounding like the writing teacher I dream of becoming, I encourage y'all to try this exercise; the template is at Fragments from Floyd. It's a lot of fun (even if parts of it make you sad), it will bring back memories, and it can be a real gift for those you love.

Update: dulciana has posted her poem here.

D2 Rolling Stone Interview

Looks like my old flames are all reunited and touring, and talking about how evil our government is. Rolling Stone interviews Duran Duran in their current issue online. In a "fifteen-minute rant about the U.S. government, apropos of nothing," the brilliant political commentator/guitarist Andy Taylor says, "I tell you, they're going to change the American Constitution to let an Austrian Nazi who's admitted using steroids become president ..."

Yeah, whatever. I like what Alice Cooper said about pop-star political views.

Still, the article is a fun read, partcularly if you're a child of the '80s and an ex-Duranie like me. This cracked me up: Simon LeBon "offers his wrist to smell. 'Do you like my cologne? It's called Farts-A-Lot.'"

Ah, but it was that charm, that irresistible charm, not the cologne (or the political commentary!), that won me over to the Fab Five when I was 14!

On Poetry

"You cannot get the news from poems, yet men die every day for lack of what is found there."

– William Carlos Williams

Lucky Hubster

The Hubster says he is lucky because he gets to sleep with these two beautiful women every night.



Silly Hubster!

Tip for Bloggers: Always have cute cat pictures handy for those days when you're too busy to blog anything original.

Monday, May 2, 2005

Practicing Pact, Week 5



Time to start a new week and a new month of practicing. To review the "rules" (as if you can really call them "rules"!) ...

1. The only real purpose to the "practicing pact" is a establish some sort of accountability for those of us who are non-professional musicians and sometimes have trouble making time for music. You don't have to play any instrument in particular; in fact, in the last month, we've had cellists, double bassists, oboists, a trumpeter, and a guitarist, in addition to the pianists.

2. Just enter your practice time in minutes each day in the comments for this post. Be sure and let me know the dates of your practices, and also what you're working on.

3. Since I blog a lot, this post will get buried beneath a lot of newer posts. To get to it easily, click the link below the "piano keys" toward the top of my sidebar.

4. Practice! :-)

5. If you get a chance, check out this article by Matthew Harre, "The Baggage Fossils Bring to their Lessons," about adult music students, our expectations, our struggles, and our strengths. As with other music articles I've linked here, it's primarily concerned with piano students, but will be of interest to adult music students in general.

Practicing Pact Totals



Congratulations to Pei Yun, the top practicer for April 2005! She logged 1,105 minutes of practice--waaay more than the rest of us--on the double bass.



Pei Yun recently wrote about her experience playing at a masterclass given by Rinat Ibragimov, Principal Double Bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra. It's an enjoyable read. She finishes the post: "Meantime, I am wondering how on earth I had mustered such courage to play in front of so many folks this afternoon. Come to think of it, it didn't kill to play in front of so many people. At least, I managed to survive afterall."

**************************

Monthly practice totals for the rest of us are as follows:

Hilda: 690 minutes
Waterfall: 675 minutes
Little Princess: 570 minutes
Sparrow: 550 minutes
Kim in ON: 540 minutes
Dulciana: 492 minutes
Fran (new to the pact): 90 minutes

Congrats to all of us!

Most of us met the challenge for 150 minutes in Week 4, and I vote for having that same challenge for this week, too. Here are last week's totals (my math is not perfect, so please forgive any errors in addition!):


First place for this past week was Hilda, who logged 235 minutes on her beloved oboe.
In second place was Pei Yun on the double bass, with 230 minutes.

Tied for third, with 165 minutes each on the piano, are sparrow and Kim. Sparrow is working on pieces by Chopin and Kuhlau, and Kim just started learning Mendelssohn's "Venetian Boat Song."



Great job, everyone! I'll provide a "Week 5 Minutes" post before long.

P.S. For you piano students and teachers: Brad is interested in learning to play piano again after not having studied it since childhood, and he's looking for suggestions and advice. See his comment to this post.

Tar Heel Tavern is Up

The Tar Heel Tavern is the blog carnival for North Carolina bloggers. Tar Heel Tavern #10, which is hosted by Pratie Place this time around, is up and running. Go check it out!

My Rockin' & Rollin' Recordin' Session

Yes, friends, Yours Truly had a real, live recording session this weekend. My friends Kent and Linda have a basement studio, Kent being a guitarist and singer who regularly makes CDs of his band's songs.

So, I have some songs that I've actually completed (amazing, since I'm not good at finishing anything I start) and thought it would be fun to record some of them "professionally," so I'd have a CD that I could copy for friends. I arranged with Kent to meet with him one Saturday and record these little piano-pop songs I've been carrying around in my head for 20 years.

This weekend was the weekend. The studio had a bunch of recording equipment, plus a bunch of electric guitars, a drum set, and other rockin' & rollin'-looking things. It felt a little strange; not that I don't like rockin' & rollin' stuff, but I was just there to play some piano songs. Because there was no piano in the studio, Kent got a nice-sized keyboard from a musician friend. Sure, a piano or clavinova would've been better, but I'm not one to complain. It took me three hours to record several takes each of three different songs. The third time seemed to be the charm; I played each song twice before I finally got a version that I liked.

Then, I shocked and amazed myself. Kent was telling me about a friend of his who sings, and I was saying I wish I could sing. My songs all have words, but no one would ever know it because I can't carry a tune.

"You know, I could make your voice sound good," Kent said.

"How?"

"I can adjust the pitch with this equipment. If you're a little flat, or off key, I can change that on the recording."

I didn't believe it. I've been told repeatedly that I can't carry a tune in a bucket. At church, in youth, I was told to quit singing, that I shouldn't sing with the youth choir, that I should just stick to playing the piano. My dear brother told me repeatedly how bad my voice was. It saddened me because I love to sing. The only time I sing, usually, is when I know that nobody is listening.

Here's where I shocked myself: I told Kent, "Let me sing 'Logan's Song' (one of my songs I'd recorded), and you tell me if you think my voice is artificially salvageable."

"OK. I'll set up the mike."

"No!" I protested. "Just play the recording, and I'll sit here and sing a few lines."

"Nope. If someone sings in this studio, they have to stand up and sing into the mike."

Here's where I shocked myself again: I said, "okay."

So he set up the mike and I stood in front of it, wearing headphones, feeling infinitely stupidly rockin' rolley, like I was in the "We Are the World" video, and sang "Logan's Song." The whole thing. I could hear my voice quavering at times, which made me feel infinitely stupider, if that is possible. Oh well, at least I warned Kent that he wasn't in for a great display of vocal talent.

Then he wanted to play "Logan's Song" with me singing it. Yes, he'd recorded it.

I cringed as he hit PLAY. I really, truly didn't want to hear this.

My voice came in, quavery and a little off-key as I'd expected. But that was just for the first few bars. It wasn't great, but it really didn't sound half as bad as I'd thought it would. About halfway through the song, a metaphorical lightbulb appeared over Kent's head.

"It's your breathin'!" he exclaimed. "You have a sweet voice, but your breathin' is all wrong."

"What do you mean?"

"You have to sing from down here," he said, indicating his chest and stomach. "You're not gettin' enough air in your lungs. There's nothing wrong with your voice, though. You're hittin' the notes fine."

And you know what? Much to my surprise, other than the off-key-ness at the beginning, I mostly was hitting the notes fine. There were a couple of places where it actually sounded good.

--Childish Rant Mode ON--

So. No thank you, stupid brother who repeatedly told me with such arrogant confidence what a horrible voice I had. No thank you, stupid youth choir director-people who supposedly knew what you were talking about when you repeatedly told me I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and that I should just stick with piano and not sing in the choir as I wanted to do. Thanks to you, and others like you, I've always been self-conscious about my own singing. You idiots have no clue how your words can sting and scar insecure pre-teens for years to follow. And here I find out, at age 35, that I can carry a tune, and that I would probably have an okay singing voice if I just took some lessons. I have no singing-dreams, other than being able to sing my own songs when I'm at the piano, and maybe to sing them on the CD that I make for close friends. But you helped to stunt even those modest aspirations. Poo on you. Ththbfbfbfbfbf.

--Childish Rant Mode OFF--

I'm not typically bitter about things that happened in the past, but it saddens me whenever I realize that others' past actions kept me from trying new things and taking advantage of opportunites for years afterward.

So now I have a CD. It's not rockin' or rollin', but it's fun to listen to. And it's mine.

Next goal: Take voice lessons. Learn to breathe. Make CD where I sing the words to my own songs and the result is not laughable.

It's good to be able to dream.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Did You Practice This Weekend?

If you did, don't forget to log your practice minutes (just click the link below the piano keys in my sidebar). The "pact" has gone on for just about a month, so it'll be interesting to see who has the most practice hours for the month.