Thursday, March 26, 2015

That's not what I meant by 'spring'!

Last week it was shaping up to be a truly awesome Vernal Equinox (and, for our readers in the Southern Hemisphere, Autumnal Equinox).  After a couple of days of increased solar activity and some awesome auroras, I learned that some fortunate folks in Europe and northwest Atlantic would be seeing in the seasons with a total solar eclipse.

Little did I know that the universe had Other Plans.

I started to suspect something was up on the night of Wednesday the 18th, when the F/C key on the left side of the lower joint of My clarinet Clara III went dead.

A spring had come unsprung.

Quite obviously the universe has a sense of humour, although it isn't the kind of humour one appreciates when trying to play anything with a clarion-register E♭, as there's inevitably a left-sided C that goes along with it.  I took Clara III home that night, studied her with furrowed brow for a while, read the relevant pages in My clarinet manual, tinkered a bit with a small screwdriver (hiding the minuscule screws and pins in a suitably deep container to keep them away from the cats), and finally sighed heavily, put everything back together, and went looking for Clara II so that I would have an instrument for Thursday rehearsal.

I celebrated the equinox with a hot rum toddy, oohing and aahing at the eclipse pictures on the Internet, and then called it quits for the night.  Saturday morning I got up early -- That is, before noon -- and took Clara III in to have her repaired.  Fortunately nothing was actually broken, and I was out of there in half an hour.

And then, just as I was getting comfortable in the new season, it snowed again.

Happy spring to one and all!  I'm sure we'll get it right eventually.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Come to the Springy side. We definitely have cookies.

On the eve of the Northern hemisphere vernal equinox, it's My tradition to create various sweets to share with the folks in the household, with My co-workers, and with the members of the community bands I hang out with.

Accordingly, I walked in the door after work this afternoon with single-minded Purpose.  I have band practice this evening, and last Thursday I promised them cookies.  With about an hour and a half to spare before rushing out to rehearsal, I hung up My coat, washed My hands, and proceeded to keep My promise, because there's nothing sadder than 40 musicians with no cookies.

Especially the oboe player and the two chaps with the euphoniums.  I think they play that way on purpose.

4:25 PM:  Toss butter into large bowl.  Microwave for 28 seconds.

4:26 PM:  Start measuring out brown sugar and white sugar.  Cream slightly.  Throw in an egg and the rest of a bottle of vanilla.  Pause briefly to start the oven.

4:28 PM:  Batter is somewhat mixed.  Let Frey Kittehson out onto the front porch; wash hands again.  Measure out the flour, baking soda and salt.  Tumble in a bag of milk chocolate chips and mix up with a spoon.

4:31 PM:  Let Caramon Cat out the back door.  Crunch the last bits of brown sugar into the mixture in the first bowl, then dump in the contents of the second bowl.  Mix like crazy.

4:33 PM:  Check to see if Frey wants to come in.  He's quite content, but thanks for asking.  Roll up sleeves a bit more and wash hands for at least the fourth time in the past 10 minutes.  (Does Lady Macbeth have any good cookie recipes, perchance?)

4:36 PM:  Put a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and scoop out 12 lumps of batter.  Into the oven they go.  Find a second cookie sheet and start setting it up.

4:40 PM:  Second pan of cookies goes onto bottom rack.  Let Caramon Cat back in.  Wash hands and prepare the third and final cookie sheet.

4:47 PM:  Stove timer beeps. Cookies look a little pale; add 3 more minutes.  Get a cooling rack ready.

4:51 PM:  Finally, the first batch is out.  Third tray goes in.  Start washing up all the bowls and spoons and putting them away.

4:55 PM:  Second batch is done.  Somehow I make room for them on the rack.

4:56 PM:  Frey mews for ingress, and I stop rearranging cookies on the rack and go to let him in.

4:59 PM:  Start packing the first batch into a tin.  Step out onto the back landing to contemplate tree pruning.  Come back in and finish the dishes.

5:02 PM:  Listen to a couple of minutes of the evening news.

5:04 PM:  Put most of the second batch of cookies into the tin.

5:06 PM:  Third batch of cookies is done.  Turn off timer, oven, and oven light.

5:15 PM:  Add four more cookies to the tin and put it by the back door, ready to grab on My way out to the car in...

(Springy G glances at computer clock, which has just changed to 6:00 PM)

...about five minutes.  Gotta run!  (types in post tags, hits "Publish," grabs clarinet gear, and makes a break for it)

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Power of Meh

I've been on a bit of a personal development kick as of late -- Sorting through boxes of neurons to see what I've got, and trying on old ideas to see if they still fit.

I never realized I was such a creature of habit. Be it the passage of time or be it decades of denial finally wearing off, a few days ago I came to the conclusion that having stable routines actually decreases stress rather than increasing it.  Witness, for example, Springy G's weekday routine:
  • 6:40 - Clock radio comes on with local CBC Radio One morning show.  Acknowledge it begrudgingly but stay in bed, stretching legs and petting any cats who happen to be in the area.
  • 7:00 - Out of bed.  Really.  (If I'm really fast, I can hit the "off" button on the clock radio before hearing the obnoxious news theme.)  Straighten bedspread to keep pillowcases from getting totally obliterated by cat hair in My absence.  Head for bathroom, stopping at nightstand for glasses and the thong on which I wear My oath ring and Mjölnir, and turn on the stairway light.
  • 7:10 - Morning ablutions complete.  Am now dressed and headed downstairs, sometimes with a cat escort.  Fill tea kettle and turn on.  Scrape cats' food plate and put in sink to soak.  Turn on dining room light and turn off nightlight in living room.  Feed fish.  Raid fruit bowl in dining room  and select 1 or 2 pieces for coffee breaks and lunch.  Grab a can of soda for lunch as well.
  • 7:15 - Pour hot water for tea.  Finish washing and drying cats' plate, and serve up half a can, calling out "Food for the bay-bees!"  Get lunch bag from hook on back door; insert drinks and fruit; add other items from fridge (ideally, some leftovers packed the night before).  Put filled lunch bag in purse.
  • 7:20 - Breakfast, usually cereal, tea and milk.  Eat standing up at the kitchen counter.  Pause to put on shoes or boots, then finish eating.
  • 7:26 - Put on coat, grab purse, lock house, walk to bus stop.
It's appalling, it really is.  7:26?  Oddly enough, though, it works.  I don't have to rush around in the morning; I just toddle around from point A to point B in sequence, go for a short walk, make My bus connections, and arrive at work safely and on time, in proper business casual wear and carrying a homemade lunch.  Such is the power of *shudder* habit.

I didn't just wake up one Monday morning and decide that I had to do things in that order at those times, though.  This weekday routine got built up out of necessity, piece by piece, and I keep using it because it works extremely well.

Ironically, I never thought I would like having such a predictable, formal routine.  Its power, though, is undeniable.  That got Me thinking:  What else can I use habitual behaviours for?

Well, how about using a habit to break a habit?  Specifically, how about cultivating deliberate indifference to make one's cravings less alluring, and dreaded tasks less daunting?

"Want to go out for a burger?"

"It's 12:30 in the morning.  I'll just play one game of Spider solitaire and... Meh."

"Forecast is for rain this evening, and all day tomorrow.  I don't really want to mow the lawn, but... Meh."

Preliminary investigations indicate that raging apathy seems to work better than attempting to fight one's passions to the death.  In fact, I've found that the passions seem to naturally weaken through attrition -- If you don't entertain them, they'll eventually get bored and wander off all by themselves.

I could probably write a whole self-help book about this, but -- *Meh* Better just finish this post and get ready for bed.