words from the "asides & shorts" desk

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Mario Meets Zelda

After two months of mashing at Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve made pretty good progress… but I still have plenty of work to do to finish the game. Sixty six shrines complete. Two sub-bosses subdued and two more on the verge of confrontation. Many of the sub-quests quashed. Master Sword owned. Wardrobe polished (though not quite maxed.) And of course the entire map unlocked. I’m going to keep pushing, of course, because it’s truly one of the most amazing video games I’ve ever played. But two things: spring might actually be here (fingers crossed) and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch comes out this weekend… so… there will be some hard choice to be made.

28 Apr 02017 | asides & shorts | gamer
Even Split

Did I mention that I’m keeping track of my practice? Ridiculous track. Obsessive track. I’m treating my violining like I treat my running. Log everything. Track everything. Math it up in ways never before seen in the history of mathing things. (Well, maybe not that nuts.) So, I just thought I’d make a note about some random stat. It’s truly meaningless for anyone but me, but it is an odd sort of confluence of numbers. As of today, I have logged exactly 140 hours and 20 minutes of violin practice since starting in September: 70 hours and 10 minutes of that was in 2016, and 70 hours and 10 minutes of that was in 2017. Even split. See… I warned you it was pretty meaningless.

28 Apr 02017 | asides & shorts | musician
Summer Versus Violin

I’m not sure if my lessons stop when the summer rolls round. (You’d think I’d ask someone about that important little scheduling point.) But if they do, it’s probably a good thing. Not that I want to cut out my practice when the weather turns more hospitable to evenings outside, but I can already see that hiding in the basement playing mediocre fiddle tunes is going have some stiff competition from bike rides and long runs and mowing the grass and walks in the wilderness. Either that or I’ll need to find a way to combine the two: sit on the front porch a play some Bach for the neighbours? That might be interesting.

11 Apr 02017 | asides & shorts | musician
Two Strides Forward… One Back

Things were going pretty good for a week there. I fit in six runs over eight days. I pulled off a couple solo jaunts. I did a nice long fifteen klick tour with the crew. And I even did another (more) successful tempo. And then my sinuses decided that they hadn’t been infected in a while so promptly filled up with snot and left me in a cottonheaded daze on the couch for four days. Day five I played it safe and took an extra day of “I don’t trust you sinuses” rest, and now on day six I’m hoping I strong enough to get back into the rhythm. Lost… almost a whole week of training on a short schedule. Drat!

29 Mar 02017 | asides & shorts | running
Decaffeinated

Every couple of years I do a coffee reset: I go cold turkey for a month or so and forego my ritualistic morning beverage, limit my caffeine to light teas, and struggle back to a baseline in an attempt to whatever levels help to de-jitter, de-stimulate my brain. It’s not anything magical: it’s just a biological balancing that I do when I hit a threshold of some personal bar of too-much-daily-intake. It’s been thirteen days as of today. And what I’ve learned in the last twenty-four hours is that a coffee reset and a daylight saving time switch do not mix. Glaaaaaaah!

Fiddler on the Living Room Rug

I’ve started to mentally categorize my efforts to learn the violin into four groupings of music: (1) the student music, including all those short little foundational pieces that I play because they are part of my lessons and because they teach me technique. (2) the popular music, including the random “101 Disney Hits” and the “Film Songbook” sheet music collections that I play because they have piano accompaniment or because they are fairly simple and impress people who are eavesdropping on me practice. (3) the advanced violin music, like the Paganini Caprices which I’ve seen in these thick wads of paper that are more notes than white-space but which I haven’t bothered even thinking about yet. (4) the fiddle music which is on a equally technical but alternative fork from the advanced violin music, but which has some naturally built-in flexibility allowing for some leeway in the skill level required to make it sound passable. I’ve been letting my attention sway into the fiddle music zone lately, if only because it seems like the ultimate path I’m aiming for with this instrument. It also seems as though the type of thing where a handful of memorized songs, played modestly well, could fill a half an hour, give or take, of air time if I’m ever in one of those situations where, violin in hand someone says… “Well, then? Go on. Play.” In that vibe, I spent a few good hours memorizing some fiddle riffs over the last weeks.

21 Feb 02017 | asides & shorts | musician
Mom-bie?

Drew Barrymore is headlining this new Netflix horror-comedy series called “Santa Clarita Diet” and while I wouldn’t normally plug a tv show on this blog, I figure she was probably filming this a few weeks or months before the NYC marathon time frame and that’s just cool from an I’m-not-going-to-namedrop-too-much-more-about-actresses-i-met-in-central-park-really-honestly perspective. The show caught my eye in the sense that Netflix pushed it into my face enough times that I watched the pre-release trailer, and so because I’ve recently gained a newfound respect for my now-fav actress I gave the show an above average shot… and it’s actually pretty funny. I mean, it’s crude and there is excessive gore, but it’s a weird comedy suburban family take on a light zombie crossover thing. I don’t even know how to describe it. But I did watch three episodes back-to-back. Karin just hid her eyes from the blood spatter.

Switching Things Up

We’ve had a bit of a trial-by-frustration in the video game console department lately. A few months ago our Wii broke. Well, the optical disc broke. And since we have a nice little stack of games for it we decided to upgrade with a Wii U console so that we could play our games again… because it was backwards compatible. But then, apparently, Wii U has been discontinued and even tho I spent hours surfing online stores and cruising electronics stores, I wasn’t able to find a Wii U for sale. So, instead, I ordered a refurbished Wii (the original one) from eBay. Which arrived, and it it kinda works, but it’s old and Nintendo has always been locked down so now basically we have two Wiis hooked up: one to play stuff we downloaded and one to play discs. I’d given up on anything newer because when I went to check out the Switch it had sold out online in about twenty seconds and pre-orders were neigh-impossible to find in real life… and I’ve never been much of an early adopter anyhow. Except… by some odd confluence of chance and opportunity I found myself in a line up one morning while out on my coffee break –queued up in front of a we’re-not-doing-the-early-thing late-opening store in the downtown core– a few hours after writing this post about giving up on next gen consoles. Twenty minutes later I had a receipt in my wallet for a pre-order on a new Switch console. So, that happened. And of course Claire is giddy with anticipation. So… did anyone else jump into the latest Nintendo fray? Or am I the only sucker out there?

21 Jan 02017 | asides & shorts | gamer

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