December 15 You know Dasher and Dancer and… well… all the rest… and really just that classic holiday claymation standard tv show, the one called Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. You’ve heard of it? Yes? It’s the disconnected, nonsense tale of a elf and his obsession with orthodontics, who flees from his indentured servitude at the north pole and falls into league with a runaway deer, a juvenile mutant of a subspecies of the caribou family. It is the timeless tale of how society only really, truly accepts weirdos when they become useful to the normals. That television classic of the season… Claire thinks it’s disturbing. She refused to watch it tonight. “Dad! That show is so creepy!” Uh. Kids these days.
December 10 What do we do when the weather turns REALLY FREAKING COLD? We hide in the house, stay in our pajamas until well after noon, play a lot of video games, do a few chores, poke at some of the leftover renovation tasks, paint a bit, read a bit, work on a jigsaw puzzle while we listen to the radio and drink hot coffee, and then curl up on the couch and fall asleep watching holiday movies. The thermometer dropped into the nearly minus thirty range, and the windchill made it essentially unbearable to even step outside to grab the newspaper. Tomorrow is supposed to be even worse: it makes me glad that I’m no longer training for a race… I might just sleep in.
It occurs to me just now, as December lurks just over the horizon, that usually, generally, traditionally (as much as that’s actually a thing on a 15 year old blog) I make a honest effort in the final month of each year to write at least one blog post every day. That might be a serious, long post about something significant. It might be a photo with some text (because you already knew that if you clicked on the pictures they had a post behind them, right?) or they might just be a quick, little aside-style post such as this one you’re reading now. I’m going to promise big and go for gold. And I guess we’ll see how it all pans out, y’know, between finishing the home renovations, getting back into post-marathon running of some sort, scratching out some violin practice and hopefully squeezing in some holiday cheer. No pressure, right?
I’ll be taking a few days off. My body has finally given up: I pushed myself a little too far while doing some of the renovation work over the weekend and despite running a full and a half marathon, travelling to both ends of the continent, fighting off numerous proto-infections that threatened to derail everything, and doing dozens of hours of manual labour over the last two weeks while never taking a single minute more off of work, that part where I reached above the stove to adjust some venting was the metaphorical straw that broke… well, actually MY back. I’ve been sidelined and I think it’s my cue to take some down time for a couple weeks. When I can actually walk again without slouching in subtle pain, maybe I’ll do some short, slow runs, but until then…
If you don’t see me posting on the socials for a while, don’t be too alarmed. We’ve had a falling out, social media and I. I don’t want to be one of those guys who stomps his feet, picks up the ball and storms off saying that I don’t want to play anymore. (I guess one can’t help appearing that way.) But as I slouch into my 40s I get that feeling like Facebook and Twitter and all their ilk are like great lumbering beasts sharting out great hypnotizing clouds of faux news and belching giant isolating thought bubbles and that every time I visit, every time I post, every interaction I have with one of those services I’m feeding that damn beast, shoving bits of undeserved food into their maws while the world suffers through misinformation and sinks deeper into that brave new world, a soma-coma of rot, of feelings overtaking truths, perceptions overpowering evidence. It’s left me feeling sad and overwhelmed, like trying to hold back a tsunami with a little plastic pail on the beach. So, my little vacations over and lacking anything more interesting to share with you there for a while, instead I’m going to focus on a social media thought machine I can control: this blog. I’ll lurk on the other sites, a little, but don’t expect much else more me for a while.
The great home renovation project of 2016 has met another milestone: we’re now waiting. Waiting for cabinet doors. Waiting for quartz. Waiting for things to happen that are pretty much out of our control. We did the last big project on Saturday, the part where I drill a six-inch-wide hole in the side of our house because the existing vent for the fume hood was much too low for either usability or legality. I installed a brand new vent nearly a foot higher on the wall and then patched up the old vent because, well, it was no longer required. We started doing some cleanup, too, and we’ve effectively moved back into the dining room and the living room and it only partially feels like a construction zone in the house these days. Leon’s eyes got really wide when Karin told him that she’d invited friends over for New Years Eve: yeah, we should be done, probably, mostly, yeah, you can host a party here… there will be a few things to do, but good enough to have people over. I think that as long as we have a sink, that should do nicely.
I was a little worried. We’ve been on vacation for about two weeks and (obviously) I was not bringing along my violin. Someday, maybe, when the purpose of travel is a little more musical or when we go to some European villa and I can sit on the veranda playing, but for a hurried pair of trips through two major US cities… no. I packed up my violin in its case the evening we left for New York and there is stayed until I pulled it out last night. And, I was a little worried. Worried that all my practicing would be for nothing. Worried that I would be like a noob beginner again. Worried that it would be more scratching than music. But no. My fingers remembered where they were supposed to touch the strings and my arm remembered how to move the bow, and if anything using my legs to run marathons gave my digits the rest they needed to make some very lovely sounding practice in the basement as life spins back to regularly scheduled programming.
I don’t particularly want to wade into this US election debate (I really do) but something has been driving me nuts for weeks & any time anyone brings up the whole “Clinton email scandal” bullshit. Knowing what I know about the technical architecture of email servers, blah-blah-blah, the whole question of who-had-private what-and-what is really the wrong question. I see it more one of three realistic scenarios: (a) the emails were encrypted, which they should have been because email is literally the least secure of all internet protocols and no one should ever send anything over any email that you wouldn’t write on the back of a postcard and send through snailmail, and this whole thing is complete MOOT and shut up about it or (b) the US government is IGNORANTLY using non-encrypted email to send classified information, in which case they should all be fired for gross incompetence and Clinton should more be likely lauded for (accidentally) using a private server that was probably and statistically MORE secure due simply to security-by-obscurity or (c) the emails were STRATEGICALLY non-encrypted, in which case Trump is a dumb-ass for shining a light on a tool that was probably acting as a false information channel as part of a vastly more complex security operation… and by the way, smooth move dip-shit. Go read about Alan Turing and the Enigma code dilemma to save me writing a whole essay about meta-information. Either way, if you’re angry about it, you’re almost certainly angry for the wrong reasons, so can we stop talking about it now?
I’m not exactly flaunting it, but every Thursday I’ve been carrying my violin case downtown to the office so that I have it for my after-work lesson. I don’t exactly want to leave it in my truck all day. The weather might damage it or theft might cause it to grow legs. It’s not a subtle thing. It’s a large, raspberry-red instrument case: violin-shaped but with four inches of padding. And every Thursday, without fail, it has sparked a random conversation as I’ve toted it between home and work. A co-worker in the office wondering “what’s that red case for?” Another passenger in the train asking what kind of violin I have. A person who I’ve passed in the mall multiple times per week for six years who’s never said a word but suddenly is curious about what I’ve got slung over my shoulder today. The barista girls at the Second Cup suggesting I could set up in the corner and perform. In a way it reminds me of having a dog: most people ignore it but every time you go out, inevitably, someone wants to satisfy their curiosity.
Miss C, needing to practice for twenty! whole! minutes! on her piano, is off on her own tickling the keys for variable-minute segments of quasi-quality practice from inside the office where the piano now lives. These short stints of focused repetition of her music is punctuated by a short pause, wherein she traipses out to the living room to ask, “has it been twenty minutes yet?” This is followed by a sigh and a grumbling return to the keyboard when it is revealed that, no, it’s only been eleven minutes, go finish your practice! On the other hand, her father picks up his (still newish and novel) violin and retreats to the basement. There he opens a computer, his phone, and two music books onto various surfaces. Violin propped to his shoulder he promptly loses track of the time for nearly two hours as he tries to get some random music he downloaded from the internet to sound vaguely how it should actually sound. There is something to be said for impassioned curiosity to succeed, I guess.
I’ve settled on my fuel plan for New York. I’ve been training with this product called Infinit Nutrition, trying out a couple of their sport drink blends on my longer runs (which are now consistently up in the high twenties for distance.) My completely unscientific assessment is that (a) I’m feeling better between runs (recovery) than I remember feeling between runs last time and (b) they don’t give me the gurgles in my tum-tum. On that anecdotal evidence alone, I ordered a customized formula from their website, tweaking the mix to what I think I need to balance out the last few nagging doubts in my training for the home stretch, and bring it home to the NYC finish line in November. The only thing that’s got me worried now is what kind of documentation I might need to carry a small bag of white powder across the border later this year. It’s sports drink. No… really.
You’ll need to excuse me for a few weeks while I get the new-giddy-excitement of starting a new instrument out of my system. I should really be writing about the New York Marathon in less than seven weeks –and I will– but I’ve now officially distracted myself with an expensive piece of wood and string. Less than twenty-four hours later I realize that my first big challenge isn’t going to be reading music (which I can do) or finding notes (which is going to be tough, but mentally) but instead manipulating my 40-year-old digits into new and convoluted positions. I picked up a grip & hand exercising gadget at lunch, so with a mouse in one hand and my Grip Master TM in my other, hopefully I’ll speed up my ability to actually manipulate my fingers across the strings.