Thursday, October 20, 2011
I'm a geek, I have always been a geek, and I have to say I like the state of geekhood. If you are one of the people in the world who calls someone a geek as an insult (of course you aren't), just know that a true geek will take that as a compliment so your insult is completely wasted on us.
That being said, I have a sudoku app and a Bananagrams app on my iPod and I like to tweak my brain with each. One thing the apps do that paper sudoku and Bananagram tiles don't, is time you. It is partly my brain, and partly my fingers, but I am not fast. Accurate, but not fast.
Skip to my guitar class. Fernando is impressed with both my technique and my inflection, and keeps giving me harder and harder technical skills to work on. Two weeks ago, however, he said that we had to get my speed on my tremolo significantly increased. I was glad he had some ideas for me because my inability to bring my tremolo up to speed while staying crisp and even has been a great frustration to me.
That week's lesson was to practice my tremolo with a metronome, which I would never have thought of because my tremolo is very even. But wait... the metronome, it turns out, is my new guitar 'fitness coach'. The trick was to start at a tempo I could practice in a controlled and even tremolo, then I was to move the tempo up by 5s, practice out of my comfort zone increasing speed until I reached a point that I couldn't keep up while keeping me tremolo even.
I swore under my breath at Fernando each practice session for about 3 days. I was dismayed at how slowly I had to start out and how slow my progress was. After the 4th day I noticed a big improvement in speed... still slow but faster than it had been.
Last week, my assignment was to do the same thing with my arpeggios - use the metronome to bring up the speed. I keep a practice journal and in my usual geekish way, I started a double bar graph of my progress, recording my top speed where I could maintain evenness and control for both my tremolo and arpeggios each day. It is gratifying to not only hear my progress, but to see it charted out. It is like seeing the food tracker chart; a clear record of measurement.
I have stopped hating that task master, Maestro Metronome, and have resumed being totally in love with Fernando.
But there was an interesting side effect, other than sore and tired fingers. One evening I pulled out my iPod after practice and played a round of sudoku. After the first game, I was astounded to see the time and the fact that I had scored in the top percentile for speed. I took on a harder level, and had the same outcome.
As an experiment, I tried playing my sudoku app before practice the next day. I was back to my same results of being in the middle percentile for speed. After practice, back in the top percentile. The results have remained consistent.
Okay, we've all heard of the Mozart Effect, which has some proponents as well as some critics. I do believe there is a strong correlation between math and music, and there is definitely a pattern recognition correlation. Never before have I seen such a clear demonstration on an instant gratification level. Some of this is working up finger speed, but my brain synapses are going a mile a minute, too.
I am loving my breakthroughs on my music; these particular ones have been resistant to other practice habits. And the increase of speed in sudoku is an interesting side effect of building speed into my daily practice.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The news of the wild animal escape from a farm in Ohio has saddened me on many levels. Apparently, the owner deliberately set them free, then committed suicide.
It is sad that people keep wild animals. Those animals have a need to run free in their own environments... they have not been domesticated over many years to adapt to living with humans, and in the majority of cases, these situations are at the very least less than optimal for the animals.
It is sad that the animals, through no fault of their own other than being large carnivores that had been kept in a less than desirable living situation, had to be killed because they were loose. There is a great deal of rationalization for this. I was not in charge of keeping the town safe, and if I had been, I might have made the same decision. I wish that there had been an option to use tranquilizer darts, but there wasn't.
It is sad that it is reported that no one in the area feels badly for the man who committed suicide. He was not liked, he did much to antagonize his neighbors apparently, and had recently been released from jail. I'm not saying he wasn't an unpleasant human being. I never met him. But it is sad when someone opts for suicide and sadder still when no one really cares.
Just my thoughts over the course of the day.
These are a few of the news stories about it:
Apparently there are still a few of the animals loose.
Do not concern yourself with Miss Stella. She is in more danger of being attacked by coyotes than a stray tiger. And of course, we take precautions to keep her safe.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Today is going to be cold and rainy all day and into the night. There is a fall chill in the air, and the damp makes my hip ache. So, it is very nice to have something to look forward to in addition to work.
The opera guild offers young people the opportunity to get exposure to the opera by offering them a chance to go to the dress rehearsal of the first opera of the season. When I first found out about this 20 years ago, I called to arrange for my students to attend. When they discovered that I taught 4th - 6th grade children, they told me that it was for middle school and high school; my students were too young to participate.
For those of you who know me, I don't take no for an answer when it comes to educational opportunities for my students. I told them that my students were very musically inclined and well behaved, and that we would love the chance to see the opera and show that they can do it. The opera guild relented and permitted us to come. I took 14 students that year, they loved it, and one of them even went on to study operatic voice in college.
I have taken groups of children and their parents almost every year since then. It is a wonderful way for them to experience opera. The dress rehearsals are usually at least as good as the opening night performances, with all of the glory of costume, scenery, and music. Usually the performance is not stopped for director instructions, but on the evenings when it has been, it added another element of interest.
Tonight I am taking children, their parents, and some of their siblings, plus one of my graduates from last year, to see La Boheme. On their packing list; hankies.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Life has been pretty good so far this school year. As usual, I have a hard time finding balance in my time. Work is very time demanding, so my 'Chris' time is, by necessity, dramatically reduced. However, since I made such a concerted effort to get my exercise routine back on track this past summer, and since my hip and back pain have been much more under control, my energy levels have stayed up. I cannot get the same amount of exercise in as I did during the summer when I was an exercising fool, but I am continuing an exercise program that so far seems to be working.
One of the things I am really enjoying this school year is taking the class out for a two hour class once a week that combines hiking, science, art, and creative writing. The science teacher and I planned it into this year's curriculum because of the high ratio of children who need to move to learn. As a side benefit, I get in a good hike as well and a chance to take in this scrumptious fall, too. And yes, we will be hiking in the winter as well, although our hikes may be a bit shorter when the weather gets really cold.
I am in love with texture and made the texture of wood my personal theme of this hike.
The children call this the 'Love Tree' because of the heart shape between the break in the trunk.
Another beautiful, mellow autumn day!
I have several gratitudes today.
I am grateful to enjoy my work and know that the hours I spend at work are valuable ones.
I am grateful to live in a place of great and subtle beauty.
I am grateful to have the kind of energy I need to be a cheerful and effective teacher.
Have a gorgeous Tuesday!
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