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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
It’s probably way overkill, but my hosting provider for this blog offers a free SSL cert for one subdomain, so I made the switch and put this site on a secure server. Not that you’re putting any information into this site… but I am. A lot. And though I’ve got three layers of security keeping the never-ending barrage of hacker attempts at bay, and they haven’t even breached the first layer, this plugs a few holes for my efforts. I only mention it because a lot of this site has been hand-coded across many years and you’re bound to stumble across something that doesn’t quite load right because I missed updating it. A font or a script or an image. Feel free to ignore it or let me know. Whatever. It’ll get cleaned up either way in the coming weeks.
Even Karin seemed impressed. I’d been in the basement playing the same six bars of music over and over and over and over for half an hour, and she peeked over my shoulder and said something like “wow, that is pretty technical, isn’t it?” I was practicing my song, Gavotte from “Mignon” by Thomas as played by this dude, who is not me, on YouTube. It’s my “Cold Winter” project: learn to play this two page technical beast. Lots of fancy little frills to make me a better player (not that it’s a particularly high bar at the moment) like switching between strings and staccato, trills, tenuto, and some pizzicato. I guess what I’d say: if you want to know what it’s like to learn the violin, watch the YouTube video from 0:09 seconds through 0:26 seconds over, and over, and over, about a hundred times, and then imagine that among those hundred times, imagine that it sounds good approximately once. Then repeat the next night, and the night after that and the night after that… and then realize that you love every minute of it.
Yes, I hate the carbon tax, too. Am I happy that our society has reached this point where we need to put a price on our own wastefulness? Hardly. Is it the best option? No. Is it going to hurt? Yeah. Will it disrupt the way our lives go forward for here? That’s kinda the point. Will that be uncomfortable? No shit, Sherlock. But is it the right thing to do? Probably. Am I willing to chip in a little bit more on that gamble if it’s really meant to improve the future of our society? Well, until someone comes up with a better idea, and since I don’t qualify for the rebate, I suppose I’m going to do just that. Everything has a cost to something, someone, somewhere. You may not feel that cost. You may never pay it. But someone, somewhere pays for your cheap gas, your plastic toys, and your discount t-shirts. That cost may be money, time, or the health of people or our environment. And we’ve been deferring, offsetting, skipping out on the bill as it grows and looms and grows some more over future generations. You don’t have to understand it or agree with it: but pretending that it’s a lie or a conspiracy makes you into the fool. So, drive a 4% less, eat a few less calories, put on a sweater and some cozy wool socks and turn the heat down a degree or two, and maybe stop buying so much junk: we’ve been trying that for years, and it isn’t as painful as you imagine. Really.
December 25 It’s shortly before 6am on Christmas morning and I’m wide awake. Am I excited about gifts? Well, who isn’t? But no. It’s being in a strange house filled with people and noises. It was sleeping in a strange bed in a room with smells that kept pulling me awake. I’m sitting at the kitchen table on my own because no one else will get up for hours. One of the house cat’s is sitting there meowing at me: I don’t know what you want! And looking out the window from here I can see a couple dozen dark houses, soft puffs of exhaust billowing from their chimneys as they struggle to keep their interiors warm and cozy for the celebrations that are likely due in just a few minutes or hours. In the time it took to write the last sentence, the cat jumped up on the table and is looking at me expectantly. She remembers Sparkle, or at least in my head she does, and somewhere in that little walnut brain is wondering where I’m hiding my dog. Now I think she just wants something to eat because a human shape isn’t in bed on this quiet morning so… feed me. I’d go sit on a couch, but they are covered in filled stockings or sleeping kids. I’d go climb back into bed but it seems like I’d just wake else someone up. I’d make coffee, but it’s dark and mostly quiet and that seems like it would draw a crowd who wouldn’t be quite as poetic about the early wake up call as I seem to be. It’s too early on Christmas morning. I hope you enjoy yours.
December 21 I don’t want to make a big deal about it quite yet because there is still a lot to do before the project can be considered finished, done, and final. But a milestone today: we have water. Heaps of work, a deconstruction, mending walls, replacing floors, and then watching the cabinets assemble into something that finally got topped with a beautiful slab of stone that is now my countertop. And then today, as if just to insist progress is being made, Leon’s friend the plumber patched in a new drain and water line, connecting the sink into a glorious circuit of aquatic wonder. You take these things for granted, and then one day you remove it and… well, it seems like a big step to be able to wash dishes in our kitchen once again. Still so much fiddly work: more cabinetry, a backsplash, and hundreds of five minute jobs to finalize and complete the work… but it’s getting there.
December 20 While I’ve definitely made a lot of minor tweaks to this blog’s look-and-style in times passed, I realized the other day that I’ve been using basically the same design template for the last four and a half years. For a guy who used to update and change the look of this thing every couple months, that’s a long stretch without much more than some gentle nudging. I don’t think I’m ready to completely overhaul it at this point, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t given some thought to how I would do that — and if I would do that. I mean, this blog is going to turn 16 next year. It will be old enough to drive. I almost feel like it has hit a kind of classic maturity (at least in design) and I’m not sure I ever really want to mess with it any more than at the gentle nudging and tweaking level. That said, there are so many new design paradigms out there that I’m locked out of using because I’ve painted myself into a metaphorical corner. Ahhhh! It will be a tough call, but maybe I’ll think of something wild and crazy to work towards — a BIG tweak — for the fifth anniversary of this template.