Friday, September 25, 2009

Best of three falls?

*OOF* *THUD* *clatterclatterclatter*

There, I've done it. The two largest unwanted items in Astrejurhof -- The five-foot-long worktable from My study, and the weight bench in the basement -- Have now duly been dragged to the curb in preparation for the grand Give Your Stuff Away weekend.

I still have a handful of smaller items to put out, including an extremely lightweight 6' stepladder. I just didn't feel like rifling through My own garage at 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night.

Especially not after dealing with the weight bench.

The table was relatively straightforward. I cleared it off, washed the top, and set it up on one end; then I wiggled it out through the doorway and eased it down the stairs, whereupon Red helped Me carry it the rest of the way.

The bench, on the other hand, was right nasty. All those gazillions of articulating parts and knobs and hooks made it somewhat akin to carrying a garbage bag full of water.

Speaking of water, the leg press attachment somehow managed to pick up an empty 18-litre water jug on the way up the basement stairs. One of the plate-holding rods wedged itself into the handle, and when I arrived at the first floor it was still there.

On the way out the front door, one of the bench's feet hooked under the door jamb for the screen door, and ripped it right off the porch floor. (writes "new sill plate" on Her shopping list for Saturday)

Amidst all the bangs and crashes and swearing, the support bar for the bench pad kept falling off and getting lost. The last time this happened was on the final stretch from the house to the curb. I had to go back into the house, get our emergency lantern, and search the garden. The bar finally surfaced halfway between a bittersweet nightshade bush and the Nanking cherry tree.

So I'm done for tonight. If I haven't gone completely insane by the time morning rolls around, I'll go get that ladder out of the garage and start ridding Myself of the smaller stuff.

And hope that the bench is already gone, so I don't have to look at it again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still a bit wobbly on that 'neat and tidy' concept.

This weekend marks the inaugural session of Winnipeg's "give away stuff you don't need" event. (Think "garage sale without a cash box" and you'll get the general idea.)

I have a number of projects on the go, but precious little free space in which to do the actual work. For instance, about ten feet away from Me is a long, thin commercial-grade table which at one time served as My computer desk. Currently it's piled high with boxes of old diskettes and sundry tools and materials, and taking up Entirely Too Much Room. In fact, it's standing on a section of floor that I would like to work on; and that only because I moved it off a different section of floor that I recently completed. Just the other night, in fact, I had to nudge the table a couple of inches to the north to make room for a shelf that I was assembling.

And yet, giving away the table is not going to be painless. In a previous version of Astrejurhof, the table held a place of honour as the computer station in My workroom. I fixed computers there, played multi-player StarCraft there, even used it as My base (are belong to Us) when teaching Windows NT and A+ Service Technician over the Internet.

Nonetheless... Out it goes.

Along with anything else I happen to stub My toe upon in the next 36 hours.

(carefully puts away nearly-full bottle of Glenfiddich so that She doesn't accidentally stub Her toe on it)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I should buy 'Happy belated spring' cards by the truckload.

(comes jogging across the Australian outback with a one-litre carton of Canadian Cabernet-Merlot tucked under Her arm)

*pant* *wheeze* *ACHOO*

Sorry I'm late, folks... I took a couple of wrong turns out there somewhere in this razzafracking dust storm. Best of the Vernal Equinox to everyone south of the equator.

(hands over the wine, scarfs down a Tim-Tam and a couple of canapés, then grabs a broom to help clean up all the dust)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whatever you do, don't blame the equipment.

As I sit here trying to get some consistent sounds out of My clarinet, I am reminded that music-making is My responsibility, *not* the responsibility of the instrument. It does help to have a good-quality piece of musical gear; but ultimately, I'm the one who has to place My fingers and blow into the horn in just the right way.

This all came to mind this evening as I was working on a Mozart piece still fairly new to Me, while struggling with a fresh #3 Vandoren reed. Obviously (I thought to Myself), there are people out there who use much harder reeds, right out of the box. At some point in their practice, they build up the muscle memory and embouchure strength, and the notes just flow out.

I'm not quite there yet.

But I'm closer than I've ever been. Just the other night, I started to feel what 'breath support' actually means when playing a piece. I really have to concentrate on keeping the airflow going in some passages, but when I do the pitch rings true and, ironically, I don't run out of breath as soon.

I'm still trying to negotiate the release of My tongue, however. It's been taken hostage by the infamous Langenus Page 22. (picks a few splinters out of Her tongue and starts working on that infamous, galloping staccato exercise)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Once a geek, always a geek.

It's been a mostly-typical Saturday night at Astrejurhof, except for something that I rarely do nowadays: I cleaned up and optimized a friend's laptop computer.

Although I've been playing with computers since that FORTRAN program I coded in 1968, and although My first computer was one of these*...

...I still hearken to the words of B.J., My first professional IT instructor: "Everyone has holes in their knowledge."

And I keep thinking that I'm going to spring a leak, and all those obscure bits of computer trivia will leak out. (This, despite the fact that I know My age in hexadecimal, can tell My ASCII from My elbow, and still clearly remember what the command -G=C800:5 does.)

In 2005, in My last months as an IT professional, the doubts did get the better of Me. It became a chore to go to work in the morning, partially because I was working in a mould-contaminated building, but also because a massive and thoroughly demented bureaucracy had insinuated itself between Me and work that I love to do. The combination left Me both depressed and physically ill, and in the end I gave notice and got out of there. Six months later, with My health mostly back online, I started My new career as a Typist of Terrifyingly Complicated Medical Terminology.

I would not go back to being a professional geek, mainly because I enjoy medical transcription so much. The lesson I would take home from this is to distinguish between the work you do and the environment in which you do it. Be prepared to walk away from bad gigs so that you can continue to do that work in a better place. Life is much too short for anything less.

* Digi-Comp I computer, distributed by Edmund Scientific. It could only count to 111 in binary, and was programmed with little plastic tubes. I discovered today that a new version of this cute little computer has been produced. (writes 'Digi-Comp kit' at the very top of Her 2009 Jól list)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Arrr. Pass the cognac, matey!

Avast, ye scurvy dogs! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I raise a glass of grog to ye.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh no, not another fad diet!

Yup. But this time, it's My very own fad diet.

At coffee break this afternoon, as I sat drinking a small decaf and nibbling on a piece of cheddar, it occurred to Me that diets would be a whole lot more effective if they tasted better.

So, this is what I'm going to try:
  • Cut back on fat, but not too much.
  • Cut back on sugar, as much as you can stand to cut.
  • Likewise for salt. Ixnay on the odium-say oride-chlay.
  • Ease off on the starch, particularly the heavily processed ones.
  • Lots of whole grains.
  • All The Vegetables There Are.
  • Count calories if it helps.
  • For snacks, go for small amounts of really, really strong-tasting things. Garlic hummus. Five-year-old white cheddar. A square of 99% cocoa dark chocolate. The strongest triple espresso they've got in the coffee bar.
That's it: The Springy G Intense Flavour diet. Low (but not *that* low) carb, fat, and calories. With chocolate as an essential ingredient.

And if it actually works... Bonus.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Awright, summer vacation is officially over.

Today marks the start of another year of clarinet lessons, and the run-up to My Grade VI Royal Conservatory clarinet exam.

On this fine September day, I thought I would take a moment to outline a few goals for the next nine months or so.
  • Improve finger rhythm.
  • Get breathing deeper, faster, and more consistent.
  • Continue to make improvements on tempo and rhythm.
  • Work on sight-reading dynamics and articulations.
Ah, articulations! I think I'm finally starting to get the idea. I'm still experimenting a bit with tongue positions and syllables, trying to get a smaller and more elegant movement that allows Me to play faster, cleaner notes.

But the #1 goal for the 2009-2010 melodious tootling season is... Wait for it...

...Practice, practice, and yet more practice.

At least 500% more than I did last summer.

(starts clearing Her music stand to make room for all those new pieces and studies)