Flotsam

Maybe another half marathon?

Many moons ago I ran a half marathon.  I think I want to try it again.  I’m back up to 3/3/3/4 miles a week.  Granted, my running is still pretty slow.  However, it was slow the last time I did it, and I eventually got my speed up to something reasonable.  The thing I like the most about doing it is my brain is pretty much 95% endorphins all the time.  The thing I dislike is the amount of time it takes.  I have to be strict with myself, and run whether I feel it or not.

I’ve booked the first week schedule starting for next week.

It’s time to farm

This year I’m going to scale it back a bit and stick with what is successful:  Kale, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers.  I’m also going to get more berry bushes.  I may or may not try basil again.  I’ve only ever once managed to get it to grow successfully.  I think I found the right place for it this time, but I don’t think the ground was kind to it.  So I’m going to try the same spot again, but stick with pots.

I’m hoping the apple trees make it.  They are starting to bud, right on time for the next freeze.

Flat Pianos

This is more of a gripe, really. Let me tell you a story about the oboe.  Unlike most other instruments, you cant just “pull out” things to make it flatter.  Oh sure, I remember my band teachers telling me to pull out my reed.  When I grew up I learned that makes hardly a dent in the pitch.  The oboe is so dependent on the reed that all the wishing in the world won’t make it play in tune unless you make it to play in tune.

I make my reeds at A-440.  There’s some range in there – I can usually pull it 15 cents in either direction with my embouchure when required (and believe me, it’s required when the trumpet section gets excited and goes sharp).  But there’s a limit, and I hit that like a brick wall this week.  I’m doing a gig with a choir in Tahoe.  It’s actually a lot of fun – we’re playing Puccini.  It’s not a full orchestra, so it’s being supplemented by the piano.  . And the piano is about 18-20 cents flat.  I’m not sure if it hasn’t been tuned, or if it was tuned by someone that forgot to reset the tuner calibration.

Point is, I came in with my nice A-440 reeds and I was ridiculously sharp compared to everyone else.  I wound up gutting my reed mid-rehearsal to drop the pitch down to painful levels.  So, I did finally manage to flatten the reed enough to make it work, and in the process I may have killed it.  I give it two practice sessions tops before it curls up and dies on me.

Moar Concertos

I get to do the Bach duet again (the one I did with Elizabeth) in June.  This time with Josue Casillas covering the violin part on flute.  Finally, a chance to take another stab at that long and meandering second movement I didn’t get quite right in January.

And to make it all more amusing, we’ll be doing a piece by Fasch.  Flute and oboe duet.  Except I’ll be playing the flute part on that one.  I am on board with this idea because this has some tricky work in the upper register, and it will give me a chance to give it a workout.

I’m going to have to practice a lot to pull all of this off!

Cruise

I’m going on another one, YAY!  I wanted to go to Greece.  However, scheduling and timing failed me, so I’ll be hitting Spain, France, and southern Italy.  I’m sure I’ll see a few of the required sights, but quite frankly I just want to be chill, enjoy some of the luxury, eat too much food, and fly home so fat that they charge me an extra baggage fee for my ass.

Games

I don’t have much time nowadays to burn on games, but now and then I give them a whirl if they are interesting enough.  I have a pal that had pestered me (forever) to play Bioshock.  Then he gifted me the games – Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite.  I tried to play Bioshock, but it was so spooky I couldn’t get past the first few levels.  A few weeks ago I was bored.  House was super clean. I had nowhere to be, and I wanted to do something fun.  So I opened up Bioshock Infinite.  And started playing.  It wasn’t scary at first – and by the time the blood and gore started I was so hooked I couldn’t stop playing.  I’ve played a good chunk of the game to date, and I’m really enjoying it.  And once it’s done I’ll probably go back to Bioshock and try that again.  It’s really nice finding a new game to enjoy.  It’s been a while.

Solitude

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the general quietness of my life.  It’s been around 3 months that I’ve been on my own again.  I’m still talking to my therapist.  I’m slowly but surely finding myself and the things I like to do again.  Finding new hobbies.  Finding new things to do.  Taking care of little projects I’ve missed out on over the last year when I was more or less broken.

I do feel lonely sometimes.  I feel regret that things turned out the way they did, and I feel sad for what I’ve lost.  And I am also extremely grateful that it all happened this way so I could have my own personal spring.

That’s all I have to say about what’s floating around in my head.

 

Holy Shit Snacks

Now that I’m digging out of my personal well of misery, I’m actually able to focus on some of the insanity that can be called our Presidential Election.  Summary:  OMGWTFBBQ.  Logically, I know there are limits to presidential power.  Our country is supposed to be equally balanced between executive, legislative, and judicial.  One cannot do things without the other.  You want change? Uproot congress.  Hate on him/her all you want, but remember: the President has a great deal of power and is our spokesperson, but the President does not decide how everything works.  It’s like a coach in a basketball game.  The President can strategize and push initiatives, but cannot control every movement of our government.  That said, it’s somewhat scary to know the likely nominees aren’t people of good character, and if one of them gets his way I could be lumped in with the rest of the the immigrants and booted out.  So for now I’m going to hold to the idea that while we may elect an idiot to office (okay, I’ll concede:  when don’t we do that), overall s/he’ll have a congress to contend with and probably won’t get to do much other than embarrass us.  A lot.

Our town was visited recently by a couple of Republican nominees who both held rallies a couple of blocks from my house.  One filled up the streets.  The other didn’t.   I didn’t mind the rallies at all.  It’s expression, support, and a way to hear what someone has to say.  The thing I did mind the most was the absolute hatred surrounding them.   I was out walking one of those afternoons and passed by a small group of supporters talking about the rally.  They weren’t talking action, phone calls, or door-to-door campaigning.  They were talking about how they felt the election should end with certain democrat candidate in a wheelchair, in jail, or dead.  How can you wish another human being dead or injured just because you don’t agree with their politics?  How can you encourage beating up the opponent’s supporters?  Oh, right.  Let me go look at all the wars going on in the world.

It’s just gross.  And sad.  On to slightly less gross and sad things.

Running is still going great.  In fact, it’s getting much easier.  My last post was about my fight with my brain when I go and do this.  I can now say the fight has diminished, and I’m finding some peace with it. I still undergo the first stage:  Convincing brain I should go run when the alarm goes off.  Beyond that, once I’m out the door it’s just time to pound pavement and think.  I can toss off 3+ miles without stress or misery, which for me seems like a miracle.  I thought about going 4 miles today, but I had a meeting to get back to and needed the time to wind down.  Trust me, I’m a total spaz post-run, and if I don’t decompress a bit I sound crazy.  My next goal will be five miles.  When I hit that, I’m going to start in on half marathon training.  I don’t have a particular one in mind yet, but I’ll find one and get it done.  Because why not?  And because I can.

We got through the storm.  It dumped a ton of snow on the mountains, but we mostly dealt with super gusty wind and rain.  I did have the pleasure (pfft) of driving up through said snow to Incline on Sunday for a rehearsal.  Very wet snow, so the roads weren’t too terrible.  I have a violinist friend, Trudy, that is nice enough to accompany me on those drives so I’m not going it alone in a white-knuckled panic attack.  Honestly, I like driving.  I don’t mind inclement weather.  The part that kills me is anxiety.  I pretty much run through every worst case scenario in my head.  Oh no, I never think things are fine.  I pack for every contingency.  I am one of those people with the emergency water, flares, chains, food, blankets, and cell phone chargers in their car.  It makes me feel better.  Now apply this type of thinking to the rest of my life and you can see why I’m a mess most of the time.

We’re doing St. Matthew Passion in orchestra right now.  It’s an amazing and beautiful piece of music.  It is also a huge pain in the ass to play.  I have to swap through all three instruments (oboe, oboe d’amore, and English Horn).  The parts I play are long and never let you breathe.  When I finish the bass aria near the end, I’m positive I want to lay down and pass out.  Can’t do that, I have to pick up my oboe and do the finale.  I am allowed to pass out when it’s over.  I think.  Still, it’s my third year playing it, and it really is a good experience that lets me build some super chops and exercise all of my oboe kids.

Until next time!

Playing With a Famous Violinist

When I dusted off my oboe several years ago after a 7 year hiatus from playing, the most I had really hoped for was to play in a local community orchestra with the occasional solo and to not suck while doing it.  So I worked at it.  A lot.  And miracle of miracles, the oboe skills returned, and I gained some tricks along the way.

I play now with Toccata-Tahoe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and have had several opportunities to perform concerti with the orchestra.  In addition to that, we’ve been fortunate to be part of the orchestra playing with classical violinist and Red Stradivarius owner Elizabeth Pitcairn twice a year.  I’ve learned a lot from her, even sitting back there in the woodwind section.  She’s very detailed when explaining the intent, themes, and even sub-themes within the concerti she performs with us.  I have yet to walk away from a performance series with her without having strong knowledge of the piece we played.

A few weeks ago I received an email from our Maestro, James.  Elizabeth was coming to play with us in a few weeks for the next series, and she was wondering if I’d be willing to perform a Bach double concerto for oboe and violin (BWV 1060) with her at the private soirees to help her practice for her upcoming performance.

HELL YEAH.  I squealed like a girl.  Oh wait, I am a girl.  Me, of all people, being handed this kind of opportunity.  That was followed by “omg omg omg <potty words> omg omg omg”.  Then that was followed by “Oh god I’m not nearly good enough”.  Then that was followed by “I’m gonna do this.  I CAN DO THIS.”.

So I spent 2.5 weeks stuffing Bach into my brain.  I was told we were only performing the first movement, but we (Elizabeth, me, and Donna, our orchestra-pianist) managed to have the other two down well enough that we voted to do the whole thing.  I can play Bach.  I can do it well.  But that doesn’t mean I know everything, and above all I really don’t know how to be a graceful, cool as a cucumber player like Elizabeth.  Therefore, I went in prepared and ready to absorb what she does.  And after a few rehearsals and performances with her I have learned these things

Appear Cool When Performing.  I have no doubt she has her own set of stresses and fears.  I’m positive things don’t always go perfectly every time she plays.  Sometimes things grind to a halt mid rehearsal.  She never displays a sign of panic or upset, just indicates where to pick up and keeps going without a big to-do. This is a huge one for me.  I’ve finally gotten to the point where I don’t completely fall apart when things go wrong for me, but recovering is a hard one.  I had a mild moment of panic during our first performance of the duet, and it took me almost 15 measures to recover.  I need to be better at saying “well, that wasn’t great” and just keep pressing on.  And stop making faces.  You aren’t supposed to make faces when you screw up in a performance.

Knowledge is Power.  Honestly, this was something I had a hard time with when I was younger, and could never understand why it mattered that Schumann was between mental breakdowns when he wrote X piece.  But it does matter.  It matters to know the origins of what you are playing.  A small fact could change your entire approach to a piece.  Over time I’ve done light homework on some of the solo pieces I’ve played, but after watching Elizabeth dispensing information like a Knowledge Candy Machine I am resolved to be better at really absorbing the history and themes of the piece I’m doing so I know where it’s all coming from.  As opposed to relying entirely on my ears to tell me.

How to Act When It’s Over.  I am absolutely not a graceful person.  I wear nerd t-shirts and Doc Martens and my hair is blue.  When I find myself in the limelight, I tend to react as well, me.  I can still be me.  An excited nerd.  I want to learn how to be more professional when performing, and above that more professional after solo performances.  How to convey to the audience my appreciation for listening to me, even when I’m completely out of breath because Bach refuses to let you breathe at all ever in your life. How did none of his performers die, this I want to know.

Know the Material.  Since I thought we’d only be playing the first movement, I burned the biggest chunk of my time on it. I had it down.  I had it 90% memorized.  Since my fingers were on auto pilot I was able to tune my ears on the violin and hear what she was doing, and mimicking it as needed.  The second and third have been rougher for me.  It was only our last go-round that I was able to relax my omg-what-note-is-next panic and start listening for phrasing and overlapping lines.  I have a few days before our last performance, and you bet your hiny I’m going to be beating movements 2 & 3 with a small bat until I have it cold.  Point is, if you are too busy worrying about notes and fingerings, you are too busy to make actual music out of the piece in front of you.

Always Do Your Best.  I am not nearly on the same playing level as she is.  That does not negate my responsibility to perform to the top of my ability, even if it’s not the same as hers.  I do not get a free pass because I am not as good as her.  What I should do is perform the absolute best I can and not have excuses for when things go wrong.  If they go wrong, fix them.  Do better the next time.  And better the time after that.

This will be one of those things I’ll carry with me for years.  These are lessons that I will apply to my playing for the rest of my life.  They are good lessons that will carry on into my work life and personal life, and I’m glad I’m still open enough to learn them.

Crap, it’s April

Well, the idea of posting at least once a month (that I wasn’t doing so great at) isn’t going so well, as evidenced by the ginormous gap for the last few months.  Summary?  Sure.

 

Farming

Last summer the backyard was torn up so they could replace the bushes/chain link fence with a brick wall to block us off from a new parking lot.  So the back half of the yard is about 80% dirt right now with a few spindly new bushes.  I decided to plant everything and anything I could think of in that dirt this summer.  So the last few weeks have involved days ripping up weeds, piling in soil and prepping for planting.  I have no clue how the crop is going to go.  With luck it won’t be demolished.  For the first time in years I’m planting things in the ground.  Neat.

Back on the running wagon

After many months not running, I decided start running again.  I’m working through the Couch to 5k.  I’m hoping to get up to a 5k in time for the Carson Valley Days run in June.  It’s just been nice to be outside, away from technology, and exploring this neighborhood on foot.

Played a Concerto

Bucket list, check.  Last September I talked to the conductor of a local orchestra and asked if I could play a concerto with the group.  And last weekend I did!  I had originally intended on just playing one movement of a Mozart oboe concerto, but a month ago I was challenged (dared?) to play the third movement, so in four weeks I got that up to a presentable state.  Overall the concert went great.  No major tragedies.  Couple of hiccups here and there.  I kept my composure, got through it, and overall didn’t damage anyone’s ears.  Yay!

Signed up for Italy

Another orchestra I’m currently playing with is going to Italy next spring.  I have signed up to go.  I’m not sure if it’s a done deal yet, but I’m excited.  It’s a 10 day trip, and we are doing several concerts in a number of old cathedrals.  I should learn some Italian.

Quit an orchestra

I was burning the candle at both ends.  My free time had vanished.  I was just working and playing the oboe nonstop.  I was tired.  My patience was shot with one of the three orchestras I had been playing with, so I cut one out.  Now I have tons of free time on my hands, and it’s just fine with me.

Job is still awesome

I roped one of my old UT2K4 buddies to come and work with me at SitePen.  I got a promotion (well, as much of a promotion as you can call it when you work for a company that has a flat management structure).  I’m still having a great time.  Love the people I work with.  So very glad I decided to stick it out and see if it would work.  Because it did.

Not so great stuff

My favorite uncle passed away in December.  It was quick.  Within a few weeks of finding out he had cancer, he was gone.  Just like that.  I am still really not ready to delve into it.  Let’s just say Tio Pablo was awesome and I still miss him.

Things I learned recently

Two cats + 1 dog = no room on the couch for humans

I am very out of practice tweaking English Horn reeds

I’m am very out of practice with the English Horn, in general

I can play a concerto, in front of an audience, and not fall to pieces

It’s hard to get jalapeños to sprout

Fangirl

October was a complete whirlwind.  I just watched that month sail by, and boy was I busy.

Most significant event was when I crammed a concert, business trip, and vacation into 9 solid days of awesome.  One of my latest projects had a request our team fly out to their headquarters for a week.  Scheduling four of us to go out to Canada at the last minute was a lot of fun.  Once we settled on a week, I wound up with the most interesting schedule.  I played my concert on Sunday afternoon, picked up my stuff, went and stayed in Reno on Sunday night, woke up at 3:00 AM Monday morning, flew to Vancouver, BC (Reno to San Francisco to Vancouver), then went on site for meetings.  For a solid week.  On Friday I left after lunch, took a taxi to the airport, and flew to Elko.

To start with, my concert went great. The Carson City Symphony is an all-volunteer group, mostly amateur.  I enjoy playing because we cover a wide range of music and in general I’m rarely bored.  Usually it sounds pretty good.  This particular concert, I was very impressed with the group as a whole.  Everyone practiced, had their parts down, and for a small-city orchestra it was a fantastic effort.

Oh, and I didn’t screw up any of my solos.

So when we got the news we were going to Vancouver, I was super thrilled because I’d heard all these great stories about Vancouver and all the places to see.  Yeah, we didn’t wind up in Vancouver.  We were in Burnaby.  Considering the meetings and focus required each day, none of us was too keen on driving into the city for a night on the town, so all of our activities were centered around the area we stayed at.  That said, I happened to take a look at my twitter feed and found The Oatmeal had a book signing at the mall right next to our hotel!  Fangirl mode was immediately activated (for the record, I own a signed Gatling Kitty print).  I dragged all the guys down to stand in line for the book signing with me.  Two of them gave up and went to have dinner, but one stayed behind with me and we got our signed copies of his latest book.

BOOYAH

2013-10-22 22.31.45

The other cool part of the trip was getting to meet two of my coworkers in person for the first time, and the third for the second time.  The sad part about working from home is that you don’t often get to meet your co-workers in person.  The best part is when you do, it’s always an event to remember.  Brandon, Bryan, and Ed are really cool guys, and we had a great time.  I think they were ready to take my phone away because I documented the whole trip with endless pictures.

Before this whole trip happened, I had planned on going to Elko, NV to spend the weekend and attend the annual Halloween Party at Stockmen’s casino.  Costume was ordered and the whole nine yards.  When doing trip planning with our master trip planner Aimee, I found out they have a regional airport with Delta service. My company booked my flight back directly to Elko.  Imagine that.  Then I found out I was flying into Elko on a prop plane.  TERRIFYING.  I don’t like flying, and generally I’m a nervous wreck the whole time.  Getting on YET ANOTHER plane with propellors?  I think it’s my lot in life.  First Monterey, then Seattle, and now Elko.  Fortunately, beverage service included wine, so I chugged a glass and tried not to stress too much.

As you can tell, I made it to Elko safely.  Wore a cheerleader costume.  No, you don’t get pictures.  After 10 days of galavanting about North America, I finally headed home.

I’d like to say I’m going to stay put for a while, but I won’t.  Next trip up is a week in St. Louis.

Things I learned this month

Ketchup chips taste like salt & vinegar chips with an aftertaste of cinnamon toast crunch

Jack likes staying with Marlisa and Joe when I’m out of town.  I think the girl dog there is his main reason

Pom poms rule