Monthly Archives: May 2016

Blacklist 

Mom and I have been binge-watching Blacklist on Netflix. The stories are ridiculously improbable sometimes, to the point of occasionally causing me to cackle and mock the writers, but James Spader is so much fun to watch in this that I don’t care about suspending my disbelief. Also, the plots usually aren’t terrible, just silly at times, and a couple of the ongoing storylines are gripping enough that Mom and I go to bed late because “just one more episode…”  I definitely recommend it as excellent brain candy. 

Sleeeeeeeep

Sleep is a beautiful thing. My cold still hasn’t gone away completely — it’s been what, three weeks? But since Friday my sinuses have been clear enough I’ve been able to sleep with my CPAP mask on. Ohmygod it’s so wonderful. To give you an idea as to the difference, my Fitbit tracks sleep, and during the worst of my cold it wasn’t even registering more than two hours total asleep because I was sleeping so badly. Now I’ve been registering ~8 hours a night and it’s been blissful. Even if the Fitbit isn’t accurate, you can still get that there’s a massive difference.  I haven’t needed to nap, either.  Mmmm sleep.

Practicing cello technique

I practiced cello three times today, about 20 minutes each time.  That’s about how long my left hand could take before it gave up.  As I said in my last post, I’m working on first-position extensions.  All my practices today were focused on that.  No trying to play music, just pure technical work.  Scales, over and over, D and A.  Focusing on posture, breathing, exactly where I’m putting my fingers (as my pinky has a tendency to splay out flat instead of landing on its tip on the string), making sure the bow is in the right place.  Paying attention to what my left shoulder’s doing and what it ought to be doing.  I even wrote down a list of what movements to focus on.

It was sort of Zen after a while and I enjoyed it more than I used to.  For a long time now “practice” has meant “playing the piece I’m learning until it sounds better,” when I should have been doing more for my muscle memory.  I think over the course of the day my left handspan has felt a little wider — the extensions feel a bit easier, and when I spread my hand out it feels nice and stretchy.

I think maybe the break from lessons has been weirdly good for me, because I’m regaining my commitment to playing now that the break is over with.  I want to get better, not just be able to play the assigned pieces.  I want to sound better, have a better form, really dig into it.  I hope this desire lasts and isn’t killed off by depression again.  I’ve been less depressed the last couple of weeks, and I hope that lasts too.

Cello lessons have resumed.

Today I had my first cello lesson since April 5th.  Yeah, seven weeks and two days.  And it felt so, so good to have a lesson again.  I’ve been practicing more lately, but it’s much easier to push myself with my teacher sitting right there. The last time I saw Luna she’d arranged Pachelbel’s Canon in D as a cello duet.  That day she had me play the bass part.  Today she started me on the melody.  It’s tricky, because I only just started learning first position extensions, and there are a lot of those in the melody.  But it’s great fun, and definitely more interesting than playing the bass part (eight notes that repeat over and over for the whole piece).  We’re doing that as my etude for a few weeks.  And then we went over the last piece in the Suzuki Book One, and then she had me play the entire book as review.  I am done with book one!  At last!

Next lesson, two weeks from now: proving that I can do the D scale in two octaves (as assigned this week); more Canon; and the first piece in Book Two.  AWESOME!

Experiencing the SJW label

When it comes to the label of “Social Justice Warrior,” most of my friends are like, “Fuck yeah, social justice is awesome.” The big exceptions are the friends whose SJW experience involves college-age kids and/or Tumblr. It seems to be a purely generational divide, at least in my limited experience.  People willing to accept the SJW label who are 30+ seem to be a much different crowd than the younger generation.  I personally would be amused if some fedora-wearing asshat called me one, and pleased that I’d caused that reaction.

I think the difference in the young adults and teenagers calling themselves SJWs is a combination of the oneupmanship that happens to a lot of kids, with the group polarization effect making people become extremists.  Almost every young person wants to be special in some way, competing with their peers to be the best at something: the biggest fan of their favorite band, the best football player, the best singer in school choir.  It even applies to the dark side of young adulthood: which anorexic is the best at avoiding food, which mentally ill person is the “craziest,” and so forth.  (I’ve seen these two examples in young adults I know personally, so I’m not just pulling them out of thin air.)

Group polarization is the tendency for a group of people to become more extreme in their views.  If you get a bunch of people together who mildly dislike bananas and ask them to meet regularly to discuss bananas, the group will (most likely) truly hate bananas after a few meetings.  The group feeds off its members, causing extremism.

So you get a bunch of young people who all want to be the greatest, purest SJW, and then stick them in a group — Tumblr, in this case — and what you get is people policing each other’s words in a totalitarian fashion.  Extremists.  Zealots, even.  That’s what my friends who see SJWs as a product of youth are seeing.  Those of us who stay away from that community don’t have those thought-police connotations to the label, so we’re cool with it.  I don’t think any of us have our identities wrapped up in the term like some young people do, but we’ll roll with it if it applies.

I’d be interested in feedback from people in both camps.  What’s your impression of SJWs, and why?

Update: a friend just said this:

My opinion on the SJW label is fairly negative, due to the Tumblr aspect of it. Those whom I would truly consider social justice warriors are far more about action than words and don’t see the need to affix a label to what they consider a perfectly reasonable way of behaving.

This.  Nobody I know personally goes “Hi, I’m –name– and I’m an SJW.” It’s not a primary identifier. More like, “hey, those douchebags are calling me an SJW! That means I did good!”

Cello practice: back on track?

I used to have cello lessons on Tuesdays at 4pm.  My teacher, Luna, got a summer gig playing on Tuesdays, so she wanted to change me to Thursdays.  It took a little while to get that straightened out, and I’d already missed a couple of lessons before that due to either depression (mine) or gigs (hers), so it’s been like 6 weeks since I’ve had a lesson.  I was supposed to start again today, but I’ve got a chest cold and am exhausted.

But!  I just practiced my cello for the first time in like a month, between the depression and illness and discouragement over the change in my lesson schedule.  It felt really good, and I actually sounded reasonably good. Well, good for me. Good for an amateur student at the end of Suzuki book one.  I was pretty happy with my playing.  My right thumb got a bit tired, having not held a bow in a while, but I think my intonation is better than it used to be?  I used to not press too hard and be timid about it, whereas I’m supposed to be playing louder and with confidence.  I did that today.  For several minutes I just did all the scales I know (C, G, D, A), and then worked my way through the Suzuki book from the beginning to piece #14, at which point my right thumb announced that it wanted to stop bowing for a spell.  There are only 17 pieces in the book, so not bad.  (Understand that all the pieces in the book are under a minute long, so it’s not like I was playing for hours.  Half an hour total, maybe, including the scales.)

Sometimes practices feel like they’re working, and some days it feels like everything’s wrong.  This was a good one.  I’m happy.

Civil War thoughts (no spoilers)

I had heard really good things about Captain America: Civil War.  Some of my friends said it was the second-best Marvel movie thus far and everybody was Team Cap and… I have to disagree with, like, everybody.  I was disappointed in it.  It wasn’t terrible, but I feel like the plot was an excuse to have fights, rather than the fights enhancing the story.  Don’t get me wrong, the fights were cool and had some great lines, but for the most part I wanted to send them to group therapy because seriously, why do all superheroes prefer to hit things rather than talk like adults?  I mean, yes, people don’t want to see Marvel movies that are just talking, and I don’t want that either, but it would be nice if they at least tried to settle things without violence sometimes.

Also, I am not Team Cap and never have been.  I think Rogers’ continuing belief that his morals trump everyone else’s is self-serving and stupid.  Cap is more arrogant than Stark in some respects, because he’s always so certain that he’s doing the right thing and he should follow his heart/instincts.  I think the Avengers going into other countries without permission in search of bad guys (like in Age of Ultron) is wrong, especially when people die and damage is done.  The Avengers shouldn’t get a free pass because “oops, they messed up.”

I’m not saying Stark was completely right, either, but I found myself understanding his point of view far more than Cap’s.  Really, though?  I’m Team Black Panther.  Because T’Challa was the best character in the whole damn movie and I loved him so very much.  He neeeeeeds a solo movie.  Like, yesterday.

My daily walks

Every day, twice a day, I walk the same route down a street near my house.  It’s a fairly busy two-lane road, but there are some beautiful forested areas on the north side of the road — the side with the walking/biking path on it.  And two creeks.  And a cute footbridge.  So this morning I took some pictures.  The full photoset is here.

Morning WalkMorning Walk

Morning Walk

A few days ago I installed the Fitbit app, curious about how many steps I take on my walks and eager for my actual Fitbit to come in this week.  (It shipped yesterday.)  Turns out that a 5-mile walk, for me, is about 14,000 – 15,000 steps (variation is because the app is not quite accurate).  So I’m near 30K per day, which is kinda cool.  Also cool is getting the “Marathon” badge (logging more than 26.2mi, naturally) in less than a week.  I walk regardless of the numbers, but I get a kick out of seeing the data.  And hey, badges!  Because who doesn’t like unlocking cheevos?

Devil’s Millhopper: first trip

I say “first” because I will definitely be going back.  Soon.

Devil’s Millhopper (link goes to office state park site) is a sinkhole.  An ancient, gorgeous sinkhole.  There are 232 steps to the bottom, and a half-mile nature trail around the top edge (although the path is far back enough from the edge that you can only see forest from the trail, not the sinkhole itself).  It’s beautiful outside today — 78 and breezy.  The park is completely shady, and it was perfect.  There were a fair amount of people there, but not so much that it felt crowded.  I went down the stairs, back up, walked the trail, then went back down and up the stairs.  I was amazed I was able to do it twice.  I confess that near the top on my second trip up, I thought for a moment that I was going to have a heart attack.  I had to stop, take a drink of water, and stare at the pretty scenery while I waited for my heart to slow down.  I may walk a hell of a lot on flat paths (including 5 miles this morning), but I am completely unaccustomed to stairs.  Especially that many stairs.  464 each trip up and down, so 928 total.  I am suddenly impressed with myself…  As I left the park I sat on a picnic table for 10 minutes or so and just enjoyed the beauty of the place.

I got my digital camera is yesterday’s mail, and I am delighted to report that it takes amazingly good photos.  I highly recommend it.  (It’s a Canon Coolpix s33.)  I took 47 photos and only a few of them sucked. I also took a video of the waterfall by the stairway, and it’s 1080p and stunningly beautiful.  (It’s the camera and the scenery, not any talent of mine!)  Everything’s in a Flickr album, but here are a few of my favorites as well as the video.

Devil's MillhopperDevil's Millhopper

Devil's Millhopper

And the video…

Devil's Millhopper

Exercise gear

Exercise gear is evil. As in, I am buying some. Some of it will come in very handy for my daily walks: a small hydration backpack, a sun hat, and some new socks because I’ve worn through the six-pack I bought in January. Seriously, they all have holes now. Because I’ve walked like 700 miles since then. (I average 200 a month, but April saw me sick for two weeks.)

Also, if you need a Fitbit, for the love of Bob buy it off Ebay. Sooooo many people sell them off after their initial fitness kick passes. You can get them half price if you can handle a small amount of cosmetic wear, and the bands are cheap to replace if necessary.

The thing I didn’t need… well, depending on the definition of “need”… The whole time I was taking photos of the gorge I was terrified I was going to drop my iPhone off the side. So I bought a cheap digital camera. And it happens to be waterproof, because future hikes will include watery places. It too was bought off eBay.

I spent a couple of hours today organizing my digital photos. I had a shitload that were unorganized. Some will be going on Flickr. All of them are stashed in my Dropbox account now. Go me.  I posted the best of my hiking photos to a Flickr album. Got some really good shots!