Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Has it Been a Whole Wide Week?

Oh, my. I forgot I had a blog. Can that happen? I guess I didn’t forget I had a blog. I just haven’t thought about posting since last Monday.

I’ve been slogging ever so doggedly, lost in a chalky fog of blogless days.

OK, I’ll stop waxing pseudo-poetic and being so asson-ine.

Have I been busy? Yes, mostly, but all in a “good-busy” way. I apologize (yet again) to those who are breathlessly awaiting my e-mail responses from a week or more ago. They keep me hoppin’ at this job. It’s a goodly job. I like it here. I could definitely stay here for a while. I’m actually looking forward to the “busy season,” which starts in about three months.

Here’s today’s Life Update …

Reading and Writing: I am reading about a million things. It doesn’t help that I bought 16 books (for $25!) at the library’s annual book sale last weekend. Also, I decided awhile back to study the entire Bible, really study it. So I’ve been on Philippians for a couple of weeks and started 1 Samuel (as part of a group) recently.

I’m having a blast. Few things make me happier than sitting in a circle of big, thick, musty old texts. (The Internet, much as I love it, just doesn’t compare.) Musty old books make me pine away for grad school, even though I didn’t really like grad school. At 5:00 this morning, my desk was overflowing with two Bible translations, a Bible dictionary, Strong’s Concordance, Greek translation notes, the American Heritage 3rd Edition, and, just for fun, an English etymological dictionary published in 1956 that I just bought at the library’s annual book sale. It’s the mustiest, fustiest, dustiest old thing, and I love it, love it, love it.

Then I stopped at 6:00 sharp and moved to the laptop to work on the structure revision of my novel. And that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Then I went to work. I got to conduct a meeting this morning. It was a good meeting. I was worried that I was going to hurt some feelings with what I had to say, but by the end of the meeting, we were all just bubbly with excitement about revision plans. I wonder if it helps that I do little Snoopy dances mid-meeting and exclaim, “See, that’s what’s so fun about a project like this!”

Maybe I’m just the most annoying tech writer alive. But my friend Weaz used to dance a happy dance whenever I would get assigned to a project he was working on, and it always made me more enthusiastic. So I don’t hold back when I get a hankerin’ to dance in the conference room. Maybe there is something to this corporate-dancing thing.

Writing and Editing: A few freelance editing jobs have trickled in, and Jan’s book is so very close to being ready to face the masses. I’m nervous for her, and for the little book—the sweet little book, so helpless and fragile, entering the big, bad world of book sales. Ah, but Jan’s had quite a boost lately that makes me wonder if she is destined for greatness: She’s now the star of a National Park Services A.T. Junior Ranger brochure. Go, Jan!

Running: Oh, my. Sadness. I have not been a good little runner of late. It’s all J.K. Rowling’s fault, I’m afraid. Oh, it’s a little bit my fault, too. It wasn’t smart of me to do a 9-mile long run last Sunday, then run again on Monday. I needed a few days off for rest and relaxation. But I am getting back to my training today. Fortunately I didn’t hurt a knee or anything like that. Now, if only the weather would cool down and dry up a bit.

Hubster: He comes home from summer camp this week. I can’t wait.

Piano: I couldn’t help but save the best for last. I can play the prelude and fugue. I can play them. At decent tempi, and with expression and with the little voices intertwining and everything. I can’t play them perfectly or anything … but I can play them well enough, and with enough confidence, that the experience of doing so is nothing short of transcendent. Liszt sounds great as well. Folks, I think I may be moving on to new pieces before much longer. Deborah is writing things like “Lovely!” and “Beautiful!” and “Very Good” in my notebook these days. That’s a good sign.

I’m no longer practicing on Thuddy Theodore. The folks at the church said to feel free to use the Steinway grand in the main sanctuary anytime. So now I need to think of a good name for the grand.

Today I worked on technique. Apparently my playing is too finger-y and not enough arm-y. I’m working on that. I think I’ve managed a few baby steps. I played the prelude rather arm-ily today, and I felt like I had lightning-bolt power coming out of my fingers. Kind of like the old Steinway and I were the Wonder Twins.

That’s it! I hereby christen the Steinway … (drum roll, please) … Zan the Grand!

Later, y’all!

Monday, July 23, 2007

HP and the Deathly Hallows: No Spoilers Here

I'm not going to write much because I don't want any spoilers to slip in.

I just love it when I expect a book to be really good, and then it goes and lives up to expectations. And then it goes on to surpass them in more ways than I can count.

I finished at 2:00 this morning. I love this book. I love J.K. Rowling. I entered another world for a good 10 hours this weekend (on and off), and the whole experience was richly satisfying.

There. That's all I'm gonna say.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled novel ...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Preface from Jan's Book Online!

You know that book I keep talking about--Jan's book? The one I had a hand in editing? Well, it's going to be out next week sometime. The short preface for it has been posted to the Long Trail Festival's website, since Jan will be reading there in August.

Once you get to the website, go to Program/Events in the right-hand column and click Ordinary Adventurer.

I Got My Harry Potter Book at 12:09 a.m.!

Reading and reading and reading she goes. When she will stop, nobody knows ...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Forgotten Music

I forgot my music this morning. Horror of horrors. I left Franzi and Sebastian and Robert (I'm learning a Schumann for my current intermediate piece) in a Lancome bag on my kitchen table. The poor fellows. They're probably breathing in humidity and cat dander as I type.

But I needed to play today. So I met up with Thuddy Theodore and played through some of the hymns in the piano edition of the Baptist Hymnal, which I assume is Theodore's favorite book because he always has it open, every single day.

[Note to anyone who plans on buying me a Christmas present this year: I would love my own copy of the piano edition of the Baptist Hymnal ...]

My, but hymns can sound really bad when the pianist has not practiced them in a while! But I played a few old favorites and it was like getting together with long-lost friends for a half-hour. Who knew that Thuddy Theodore was such good buddies with so many of my childhood companions?

OK, back to work. Goodbye, Thuddy Theodore! Goodbye, hymns! Goodbye, blog-readers! Goodbye, mush and that big lady rabbit whispering hush! So long and farewell!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thudding Theodore

I would like to tell you about my new friend. His name is Theodore.

Theodore is the chapel piano that I practice every day at lunch. I'm not sure what his real name is, or if he even has a real name. One can hardly go to the church office and ask the nice church lady what the chapel piano's first name is, and if it would prefer to be called, say, Robert or Bob. With my luck, the piano's name would be "Leslie" or "Dale" or "Pat," and I would then have to ask "Um ... is the chapel piano a boy or a girl?"

So, I must use my own powers of intuition. These things take time. Franzi, Sebastian, and I have spent more than a month getting to know the chapel piano. With their help, I've decided this piano would be called Theodore.

See, the chapel piano is a very muddy, thuddy, pluddy piano. Whenever I strike a key, it has a mudding, thudding, pludding kind of feeling, and the sound itself sounds kind of thunky and muffled. So I thought "Thuh ... thuh ... thuh ..." This piano need to have a "þ" name, also known as a "thorn" name. Or maybe it just needed an "ð" name.

So I thumbed through the baby-name databank that I've stored in my head since 1983. Went straight to the ð and þ sections, I did.

Well, Thelma wouldn't work, and neither would Theresa, Thomasina, or Thalia. I'd already decided this piano was a male, despite the lacy skirt-thing the church ladies have hung on the back of it.

I also decided against Thelonius, Theobald, Thomas, Thor, Theophilus, and Thurston (though Thelonius was a finalist, for obvious reasons). In the end, none of ðese sounded þuddy enough. None of ðem had the right ththth feel to it. Thubbaluffalus was a consideration, but no self-respecting piano would want to be called Thubbaluffalus. (Or am I wrong in this assmption?)

So I decided on Theodore. Perfect. A thuddy "thuh" name for a piano, and a noble-sounding name as well. A þ name if there ever was one. A perfect name for a muddy, thuddy, and pluddy piano.

A bit of etymology, anyone? "Theodore" means "Gift of God"--an appropriate name for a chapel piano that, mudding and thudding and pludding as it is, gives my spirit wings for an hour every day on my work break.

But should I spell his name Theodore or Þeodore?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boundingly Happy

I left for my piano/lunch hour in a subdued kind of mood; I was pretty focused on the finer points of document heading styles for much of the morning, and I had to drag myself away from my cubicle. I'm tired today. I really didn't want to punch out, losing a good hour of work time (thereby having to leave an hour later), just so I could get 30 minutes of practice in on the piano.

I worked mostly on the ending of the fugue. It's tricky, with the left hand's thumb and forefinger crawling over each other while the left hand's pinky holds down a note, and meanwhile the right hand is doing its own thing ... makes me want to yell, "Children, children! One at a time, now!"

So I focused very closely on just a couple of measures for a good 15 minutes. Then I thought, "I'm really tired. I'm just going to shoot through the (C#-major) prelude a couple of times, then call it a day.

Usually it is not a good idea to "shoot through" a piece at the end of a practice session, particularly when one is tired. It probably wasn't a good idea today.

But, oh ... the prelude has begun to gleam. I'm no longer just playing notes. I'm making music. From the first notes to the final majestic chords. "Gleam" is the word that keeps coming to mind. My rendition still isn't perfect (will it ever be?), but I am definitely seeing (hearing) shiny little bits and specks throughout the piece. More than that. It's started to gleam.

So I bounded back to work, opened the door, gave a great big "Hello!" to everyone in sight and am now sitting at my desk, huge smile plastered to my face, ready to get back to work.

Piano lunch hours + job with salary = something I've missed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hee hee hee!

I just got a free hardback copy of Strunk & White for my bookshelf at work. I could have brought my tattered paperback copy from home, or simply searched the databank of my own memory (I have no clue how many times I've read this book from start to finish), but when they offered me a brand-new hardback copy, I could hardly say no.

Yes, I'm still liking my job.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Missed My Running Anniversary

It really was just about a year ago that I started running.

Five Miles

I managed to run five miles on the treadmill today. I felt dead tired when I started and feared it would be another underwhelming experience of "just putting the miles in." But the moment I started running, I knew I would be OK, at least for a couple of miles.

It feels so good to run. I love feeling strong and healthy. I didn't get anything like a "runner's high" feeling today and haven't had one for some time, but it does feel good just to move, particularly after working a sedentary job all the livelong day.

I say I haven't had a "runner's high" feeling in a long time, but I need to add this: After being plagued with ongoing severe depressive episodes for the last 25 years, I can honestly say that, despite quite a few recent "life snags," I haven't experienced a single depressive funk since I started running last year. Only one other time have I gone a significant amount of time without getting significantly depressed: the six months I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail back in 2000.

Hubster observed recently that I'm nearly always happy. And I really don't think it's just the drugs, though they certainly help. It's just that I've been on the drugs before and still had the bad mood swings. I think the drugs, combined with running (and eating right) have had a big impact.

So I ran 2.5 miles this evening before I started feeling beat-up. I think the general humidity takes its toll, even though I've been mostly running inside. I took a potty break (you really didn't want to know that, did you?), then got back on the treadmill and felt strong for my final 1.5 miles ... then decided to run a cool-down mile, just because I felt like it. (My training had me running four miles today.)

So I ended up running five miles. Training for the Worldwide Half is going as planned. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Deep Thought of the Day

The word stifle is an anagram of itself.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Beat Up

I've been feeling really beat up during and after my runs lately. I'm not running long distances--4 miles for normal days, and only 6 miles for long runs. Not a big deal. But it's taking all I have just to go a few miles.

I think there are two reasons for this: diet and heat.

I'm not eating enough. Despite my first pig-out day in months this weekend, I'm failing to get even 1,200 calories in me most days. Not a good thing when one is training for a half-marathon. But I just haven't been hungry. It's so hard to eat when I'm not hungry. I do eat, but it's generally stuff like apples and bananas and raw broccoli spears and baby carrots. The last thing I want is a heaping bowl of pasta.

The other reason is the heat. Of course, I think the heat is part of what's making my appetite so small. It's not that hot here, but it's been really humid, and humidity is worse than heat for draining a body of energy.

I'm actually glad I waited until yesterday to do my long run. I took Friday and Saturday "off" from running, and I probably needed the rest. But I need to start eating more. It's a new week. Maybe this week will be better.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Confession

Yesterday was one of the unhealthiest days of my life. It's everybody else's fault.

First of all, I had to be at piano at 10:00 yesterday morning. I normally whip up a banana-pomegranate-etc. smoothie for breakfast, but we were out of bananas. This is because I had planned to have family over Thursday evening to celebrate my nephew's birthday. But then the Hubster asked if we could move it to Saturday. So I put off shopping until Saturday. So I had no food in the house Saturday morning. So I ate no breakfast.

I hadn't had dinner the night before, either.

Then I went to piano. Then to Greenlife Grocery. I bought lots of food. We would be celebrating Frankie's birthday, and my parents were coming to visit. My parents hadn't been in North Carolina since last summer and hadn't visited my house in nearly a year.

On the way home, I ate ginger snaps and tortilla chips. This is Frankie's fault because he asked for pumpkin pie for his birthday cake. The ginger snaps were to be part of the crust. Lucky for him I bought two bags. The tortilla chips were for appetizers, and for an excuse to use up some leftover salsa. If those folks at work had eaten all of the salsa, I wouldn't have had this problem.

Then I got home. My dad loves summer fruit desserts, so I felt obligated to make something in addition to pumpkin pie. I'd been eyeing a recipe for peach-molasses cake for weeks, so I decided to make that. Lucky for him the peaches were on sale.

Well, wouldn't you know, the recipe was for an 8.5 x 11 x 2 pan. Who keeps one of those on hand? Not me. So I decided to use two mini-loaf pans, and then make a few peach-molasses cupcakes as well. It worked. The molasses cupcakes were excellent. Lucky for everyone I saved some for them. I ate two cupcakes, and this of course is the fault of every one of my wedding guests from 2003 for not giving me an 8.5 x 11 x 2 pan. I'm sure it was in my registry somewhere.

Of course my dad loves fresh fruit more than anything. So I mixed up some blackberries, cantaloupe, honey, lemon juice, sugar, and fresh thyme, and let them sit for a couple of hours. I only want the best for my dad, so I of course had to taste things periodically. Lucky for him there was some left when he got here.

Then Frankie, of course, wanted pumpkin pie for his birthday cake. I needed to use a block of cream cheese, so I decided to make him a pumpkin-cheesecake pie instead. It is not my fault that it turned out to be the best pumpkin-cheesecake pie in the history of the world. It is God's fault for giving me such fine recipe-following abilities, and my mother's fault for giving me the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I did manage not to eat any pie before we cut it, though. I cannot say the same for picking at the pie crust.

And it's all Frankie's fault for demanding full-fat ice cream to accompany the pumpkin-cheesecake pie. (Vanilla ice cream is really good with a bit of cinnamon-sugar sprinkled over it.)

No one ate tortilla chips because they were so busy gobbling up fruit and peach-molasses cupcakes. Thus, it is the fault of all my guests that Hubster and I were forced to nibble on chips and salsa throughout a heated Scrabble game with Frankie last night.

And it's Hubster's fault for making all-beef hamburgers as the snack to be eaten in between the sugared fruit, the peach-molasses cupcakes, and the pumpkin-cheesecake pie.

And then--here's the real kicker--I didn't do my Saturday long run. That's Hubster's fault for demanding a Saturday birthday party for Frankie, and Deborah's fault for insisting on a Saturday piano lesson. And God's fault for making it rain cats and dogs. Not that I would have had time to run--I was so busy baking and nibbling. Thanks a lot, Frankie.

Well, today is another day. I'll return to my healthy ways. Lucky for me I sent the peach-molasses mini-loaves home with my parents to give to my respective siblings.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Informal Survey

I may do a more formal survey later. But for now, I'd like to know one thing:

Do you ever read the manual? Ever?

Do you read some manuals and not others? (Assuming that you're trying to learn how to do something. Only weirdos like me read manuals for fun.)

Have you ever thrown a manual up in the air and torn your hair out in frustration (figuratively speaking)? If so, why?

Are you more likely to read the manual if the information you're looking for is easy to find in the Table of Contents and/or index?

Would you be more likely to read a manual if it had pretty pictures to help you visualize the procedures? (I'm talking software manuals here!)

Are there any (software) manuals that you consult regularly, or have consulted regularly during the learning process of an application? If so, which ones? Were you happy with them? Do you ever think about whether or not you're happy with user manuals, or is that just something that weirdos like me do? (Ideally, I would think about them so you don't have to.)

Thanks for your responses! You can leave them in the comments or e-mail me at my gmail account (infpeace).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My Novel is Still Breathing, and a Dream

My novel had to get off the trail for a while as I adjusted to a new life with a new job. But I'm back. I was up at 5:00 this morning and managed to slog through 300 words of chapter 17.

I have a huge Excel file in which I've stored all kinds of data about the novel--plots and subplots, character information, timeline, my original outline, summaries of the draft chapters, a "What If" tab with the detailed outline, and a "Draft Word Count" chart.



The word count means almost nothing. This is a draft, and I've been a writer long enough to know that my drafts rarely resemble anything like the final product. But the chart is a good motivator. It helps me to visualize the progress I've made.



So, you see where I am in Chapter 17: at about 500 words. I'll get there one of these days.

And now, for my dream.

I dreamed the other night that I'd bought a horse and was neglecting it, even though I let it live in a pen in my bedroom. I kept forgetting to give it food and water, and for days at a time. Weeks, even. And it didn't make any noise or complaint; it just stayed in the shadows and looked sad and hungry each time I deigned to notice it was there.

I wasn't neglecting the horse on purpose; I was just so busy with other things that I kept forgetting about him. Finally, I said, "I really need to give this horse some water."

So I went to the kitchen to find a bucket, but all I could find was an empty Cool-Whip bowl. So I filled it with water and brought it to the horse. The horse was very thankful. Its tongue was all withered and dry from dehydration, but it was able to drink. Boy, was I relieved. Then I remembered, "Oh! I need to feed him, too. I wonder if I even have any horse food." So I went back to the kitchen, looked under the sink, and found a bag labeled "Horse Food." (Can you tell I've never been a horse person?)

After feeding the horse (from another small bowl), I found a larger bucket for water and filled it up and brought it back to the horse. I was so relieved that I hadn't let the horse die because of my negligence, but at the same time I felt very sad that I'd neglected it.

Then I thought, "I can't take care of this horse. I'll call my friend Jan (whose memoir I edited recently). She loves horses. Maybe she'll take it off my hands and make it into something."

So when I woke up, I thought, "That horse is either Jesus, or my novel."

Of the two, I have actually neglected my novel more in recent weeks (for once). And part of the reason I've neglected it is that I've put so much effort into Jan's book. So the thought of "Maybe I'll give this responsibility (of being a writer) to Jan, and let her make something of it (a published book)," makes sense.

So. I'm back on the novel. The horse is being fed. Even if all I can find for the moment is a little Cool-Whip bowl.

Still, it seems odd that I would keep a horse in a pen in my bedroom--and still keep forgetting that I had a horse.

Dreams are odd things. Humans are odd creatures. Houyhnhnms we are not.

Time to get ready for work.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Music for Tonight

Thanks to my friend the Opinionated Arpeggist, I've discovered the International Music Score Library Project. So, from now on, I can share bits and pieces of what I'm working on. Yee-hi!

So, tonight I'm going to focus on the following:



This little beauty is from my Bach Fugue in C# Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Vol. 1. I absolutely love the measure on the left. That natural B in the soprano voice just sounds ... divine. Transformational. Makes my heart do a little fillip.

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

Here's what I focused on in my earlier practice today:




These are the final measures of my C# Major Prelude. The circled measure is the one I focused on the most. There's nothing difficult about the notes in the measure, but my left hand has gotten lazy and I'm not playing the notes evenly enough once I exceed a certain tempo. Here's a close-up:





And here's a fun one:



I won't be working on this one tonight. I just thought I'd share with everyone the measure in the Liszt that continues to befuddle me. Nine against four. I can play it, but I never feel confident that I'm going to play it right. I generally do an okay job about half the time. I generally do a spot-on, perfect job about ... never. Not yet, anyway.