Thursday, December 20, 2007

Procrastinator's Exercise

I found a longer version of this (from Susan) in my email inbox and thought I'd revive it just for you!

1. What's a word that rhymes with "MAIL"

2. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?

3. What shirt are you wearing?

4. What were you doing at 8:00pm last night?

5. What does the last text message on your phone say?

6. What was the last beverage you drank? Where did you get it?

7. What is your current desktop picture?

8. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?

9. Does anything hurt on your body right now?

10. Who is the last person you "chatted" with online?

(me: 1.kale; 2.ian; hoodie; 4.watching *enchanted* with ian; 5.*where you is?*; 6.chai tea from the office kitchen; 7.gwennie (annie's dog); 8.a black dress for a choral concert; 9.neck,back,shoulders; 10.janine)


I got a NEW JOB that I'll start on January 2nd. I'll tell you more about it later, but for now I'll just tell you about the part I'm looking forward to the most -- I will have a *much* shorter commute. Right now I have to leave the house at 6:45am in order to arrive at work on time (or nearly so). I work 8-5 (with a one-hour unpaid lunch break) and then don't arrive home until about 7:00pm. My new job is a 25 minute walk (or less - and perhaps a 10 minute bike ride) away from home! So, I will probably be able to leave home at 8:30am at the latest, work 9-5, and arrive home at 5:30pm. I can't tell you how excited I am about that!


Bad News for British Squirrels

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I was thinking and it occurred to me that there are really just two reasons a person might be cold. One is because s/he isn't dressed appropriately, which accounts for why a person might say s/he was cold even though it's 60 degrees out. The other is because s/he is wearing every piece of clothing s/he owns and because the weather is SO brutal, s/he is still cold. Most of my life I have lived in places where, during the winter, if I'm cold it's because of the latter explanation. But, the only reason I have ever been cold since moving to California is because I wasn't dressed warmly enough. (You might be in California, but that doesn't mean it's warm enough to wear flip flops and a t-shirt with no coat, dummy!) I don't think it has yet been colder than about 38 degrees here and usually the low temperature is more like 40 something. The climate is SO different here than anywhere else I've ever lived that it has taken a long time to figure out *how* to dress appropriately. In all of the cities I have lived in before now -- Syracuse, Rochester, Boston, and Madison -- at this time of year it is bitterly cold. There are no leaves on any of the deciduous trees. There is probably some combination of snow and ice on the ground. You wouldn't go outdoors without a hat, gloves, a scarf, boots with good traction -- the whole works. You wouldn't think of it -- unless you were trying to make yourself miserable. It's different here. There are still colored leaves on the deciduous trees. Autumn has extended into winter. The leaves are still falling. And, there are still flowers! There are flowering bushes in abundance. Flowers! Outside! And, the streets are dry -- unless it just rained. It *has* started to rain more frequently. And, it *does* seem colder when it rains, but so far I haven't experienced any of the extreme windiness I'm used to in winter that makes the precipitation so nasty. I haven't been wearing a hat or gloves. I've been wearing a moderately warm coat outdoors. I have been wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes. No more flip flops. Layers are essential in this weather, because you never know when you might go outside and find that the sun is shining so brightly and warmly, you have to take your coat off. But, even in August, I found that even when it's warm in the sun, it's often quite cool in the shade. Layers are necessary all year round, it seems.

I have to say, this change in climate makes for a really different experience of the holiday season, too. Sure, there are shoppers running around, colored lights and decorations, company parties, etc., but there is something missing. Not just the snow, although snow is definitely part of the visual experience of the warm, fuzzy Christmas I grew up with. Strangely, I think there is something about just being cold that has always completed my winter holiday experience -- being so cold that I can't wait to get indoors and warm myself by the fire (or radiator, or hot bath). There is something special about getting indoors after you've struggled with an icy sidewalk or driven through a blizzard -- something about being with friends that is even more special because you're so relieved to be out of the storm. There is something special about drinking hot cocoa or mulled apple cider, not just because it's delicious and festive, but because it makes you warm. I'm sure this change is something I can get used to. There are lots of nice things about living in a more temperate climate. But, as far as the holidays are concerned, I'm glad we're going to Lake Tahoe for Christmas (and I'll be in Denver for New Year's). I hear it's really cold there -- and they have plenty of snow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mastering Your Own Mind

I thought this was a good article, so I'm sharing it with you!

Oh -- This one is good, too!

Apparently, when you cry because of emotional stress, you really are crying out negative emotion. Pretty interesting...

From the article:

"Emotional tears were found to contain high levels of hormones and neurotransmitters associated with stress. They also led to lower blood pressure, pulse rate and more synchronised brain-wave patterns. Dr. Frey concluded that the purpose of emotional crying is to remove stress chemicals. He says the continued presence of these substances -- when you hold tears in -- would keep you in a needless state of tension. Your body would then be prone to the negative effects of anxiety, including weakened immunity, impaired memory and poor digestion."

So, what are you waiting for? Have a good cry!

Monday, December 17, 2007

What do you think of this?

"The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential."

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I'm having some trouble getting my thoughts clear enough to write a blog post, but I want to write a blog post, so I guess I'm just going to write down some of my incoherent thoughts and deal with the consequences later.

We saw I am legend this weekend. Interesting premise - a scientist develops a virus that cures cancer in 10,000 human subjects. All seems well until it mutates and wipes out the majority of the population. Before those with the virus die they become crazy rabid monsters. Good story.

What would happen if the world was actually rid of disease? What would happen if everyone on the planet had everything they needed to live well and achieve their own potential? Would people do more? or is adversity needed for great achievement? Just a few thoughts. Not related to the movie really...

Would Dennis Kucinich make a good president? Whenever I take those surveys to determine my ideal candidate, he always ends up on top. But, my question is, is he someone the American public could ever embrace? I mean, is he good looking enough to be our president? Just kidding. In all seriousness, though, it's a tricky business deciding who to vote for. You want to support the candidate who stands for what you believe in, but don't you also have to support someone who has a chance of winning? I dunno. And, what if there were a Republican candidate worth considering because he's anti-war? Would I vote for a Democrat who is pro-war just because s/he is a Democrat?

I am not such a good shopper and as far as Christmas shopping goes, I always wait until the last minute -- pretty much every year. The worst thing (in my mind) would be to get someone a gift they don't want, never use, and end up throwing out. Why bother getting them anything at all? But, what to give? Something personal... something unique... something everyone needs... something extremely usable... Still thinking...

I have this funny habit of referring to job interviews I go on as auditions... Sometimes it doesn't actually come out of my mouth that way, but that's only because my brain figures out it's the wrong word *before* it comes out.

I see more homeless people now that I'm living in California than I did in any other place I've ever lived. In San Francisco, I literally walk past dozens of folks sleeping on the sidewalk every day. And, even down here in the 'burbs, there are plenty of folks on the street looking for spare change. When I lived in Rochester, NY, during college one of my friends told me he discovered an underground city. It's true that there was a subway built that the city wasn't able to continue using, but I'm not sure how true the *city* part of my friend's story is. Obviously Rochester is a smaller city than San Francisco, but even in Boston I didn't see nearly as many people sleeping on the street. Do you suppose it's because California never gets so cold that people could die from living outdoors, so people live outdoors year round, whereas in the cold northeast folks live underground or more often in sheletered areas? Or, do you think it has something to do with state laws about where you can or can't sleep? At any rate, it's sad to see so many people who are living on so little. It's really quite amazing how they get by.

I dyed my hair this weekend. I was going for dark. I've never dyed my hair a really dark brown that didn't involve significant amounts of red, so I thought I'd give it a try. I have had hair of every shade from light blonde to dark reddish brown (other than non-standard hair colors, like green, blue, purple, and pink, which I have thought about, but have never gone through with) so I figured it was time to see what really dark brown looked like on me. Unfortunately (or not??) I ended up with black hair. Jet black. I didn't realize in proceeding from numbers 3 and 4 (or whatever they were) on the hair dye boxes that I was going from dark brown to black -- two *totally* different realms of color. My only concern is just that I don't think it looks particularly natural on me. I feel a little odd. But, I'll give myself some time to see if I get used to it. Both my Mom and her sister used to have black hair, so I suppose it isn't that far fetched. It's just a little bizarre at the moment...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Getting to Know You

1. What are the last three meals you made at home?

2. What are some of your favorite things to cook for dinner?

3. Do you plan meals ahead of time or just wing it?

4. How often do you eat out?

5. What was the last good meal you ate out?

6. What items do you buy at the grocery store every week (must you always have in the house)?

(me - 1. french toast, pancakes, spaghetti?; 2. indian biryani, pasta w/ marinara sauce; 3. i usually wing it; 4. it depends; 5. sushi a few weeks ago - it was yummy; 6. bread, eggs, skim milk, cheese)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Enjoy being unknown and regarded as nothing."

Sacred Space
(after you click, you may need to scroll down a bit)

I was thinking the other day about how, for me, solo singing is an addictive experience and, like any addiction, something I have a mad craving for when I'm around others doing it. In thinking about it further, I realized that what I really crave is the attention and the approval of others that happens when I sing well. I have a really strong need to know that I am doing something that is of value. I admit it -- I crave approval from others. I am motivated by the reactions I get from people when I do things that make them happy. I'm addicted to that kind of attention. Thinking about that got me thinking about what all of the things are in my life that I do in order to get attention -- negative and positive. I suppose we learn from infancy to do certain things that will get our parents' attention. We learn that certain things work and certain things don't work and we cultivate behaviors that will get us what we need -- both negative and positive*. We get ourselves in trouble emotionally when we maintain some of these faulty connections. How do I know that I'm doing ok, that I'm worthy of love, that I deserve to be happy if no one is clapping and saying 'Brava!'? If my boss doesn't look at my work and give me an 'A', how do I know I'm doing a good job? And, if I don't know if I'm doing a good job, how can I feel good about myself? How do I motivate myself to do my best when no one is watching, when no one will ever know what I've done? What do I do when the people around me don't say anything after I sing -- or after I perform *any* other act - trivial or otherwise? What do I do without feedback, without approval? Of course this is something I've had to think about before. One of the greatest things you can learn as a performer is how to filter the feedback that comes your way -- how to not let it be too important. But, I have never thought much about how I could possibly "enjoy being unknown and regarded as nothing." That could be a very interesting challenge.

*Here's a question... If our parents pay more attention to us when we get sick, do we get sick more often?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Do your worst

This article has some interesting points about perfectionism.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Quiz Time!

**Hints: 1. The answer makes no logical sense. 2. People have strange ideas. 3. People are fixated on celebrities.**

What do these 5 women have in common
(that has something, although not much, to do with me...)?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Singing with Suze Q

As you may recall, about 3 months ago Susan and I recorded some songs for her dissertation project. Today, I *finally* posted a few of them on my MySpace page. If you're interested, you can listen to four of the songs if you click here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Occam's razor

"All other things being equal, the simplest (and most logical) explanation is usually the best."

Ain't that the truth?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Place

This morning, Susan wrote an interesting post about meditation in which she describes her "happy place". I was thinking that would be a really good exercise to add to my list of things to do when I feel stressed and unhappy -- sit here in my chair with my eyes closed and imagine myself somewhere where I feel happy and content. I have done exercises in the past in which I tried to imagine the place I most wanted to be and in the past it usually was on a sunny beach. But Susan's post made me realize the beach isn't really my happy place at all. I think it's this:

I have just taken a hot bath and I am wrapped up in a large, soft blanket, lying in bed with my head propped up on a pillow. My kitty, Jezebel, is stretched out on my chest with her paws reaching towards my face. I am warm. I am comfortable. I feel happy. I drift off to sleep.

What's your happy place?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Therapist

Since I'm totally broke and can't afford to go to a regular therapist, I've decided to start getting much-needed advice and encouragement from ELIZA. I think she really knows what she's talking about! What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cure for a Bad Mood

This morning I'm in a really bad mood. I'm tired. I don't feel well. I don't want to be here. I'm mad at everyone. I want more sleep and I feel like telling everyone (including you!) who got more sleep than I did last night to go get stuffed. I need help.

I did a google search: [remedies "for a bad mood"] and here is a mish-mash compilation of the advice I found on many different web pages:

- Make a list of things you're thankful for
- Smile
- Do something nice for someone
- Listen to your favorite song and dance to it
- Eat chocolate
- Exercise
- Breathe deeply
- Take a nap
- Take a walk
- Sing a song
- Meditate on the suffering of others

Ok, so I'm feeling sorry for myself. There are lots of other people who are much worse off than I am - people who went to bed hungry or had to sleep outside on the sidewalk in the cold or who are grieving the loss of a loved one or who have a sick child or parent or friend. There are people who didn't get a good night sleep because they feared they were in danger or because they were up all night coughing or having trouble breathing or because someone they know is in danger and they are consumed by worry.

It's so easy for me to be overcome with emotion, particularly negative emotion, when I'm tired. I forget that my situation is temporary, that I can help myself feel better if I make an effort to do so - that eventually I will sleep comfortably and wake up feeling rested and refreshed. I just need to be patient. I just need to stop wallowing in self-pity.

So, maybe for now I should make that list of things I'm thankful for again. Maybe I should force myself to smile. Maybe I should play a favorite song in my head and do a little dance in my office chair. Maybe I ought to do deep breathing and stretches here in my chair. I can't take a nap, but I could close my eyes for a few minutes. I could do a loving-kindness meditation. I could pray for strength and courage -- for peace in my heart -- that love guide my every thought, word, and deed.

(Sorry about what I said before. I don't want you to get stuffed anymore.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Getting to Know You

1. What are you reading these days? &/or What's the last book you finished?

2. How many books do you typically read at once?

3. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

4. Do you tend towards any certain genres? (i.e. sci fi, mystery, victorian, etc.)

5. Do you like to browse around in bookstores? If so, what are your favorite bookstores?

6. Do you have a library card in the town you currently live in? If not, when's the last time you had a library card?

7. Are there any books you'd like to read that you don't have your hands on yet?

8. Do you like to get/give books as presents?

(Me: 1. I was reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, but put it down before/during the move and haven't resumed reading it yet; 2. I usually read one book at a time. I may glance through or read part of 20 others, but I only dedicate myself to finishing one book at a time; 3. I go through phases where I prefer one or the other; 4. i am more likely to tend towards certain authors and read most or all of their works if i like their style regardless of the genre; 5. yes yes yes! i admit i like the big chains because there are so many books to look at, but i prefer the indy chains, like trident and brookline booksmith in boston and a room of one's own in madison. i also like used book stores, like books & memories in syracuse and ravens books in cambridge; 6. no. brookline/boston; 7. yes - i'm looking forward to checking out oliver sacks's new book about music; 8. yes/yes.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oh, dearest piano...

How do I love thee?

Offending Musicians

Scott Adams wrote a really, really offensive post today that pretty much insults all musicians. I'm planning to write something in the comments, but I'm not sure where to begin. Just thought I'd point it out to you in case you are interested. I'm curious to know if you're as offended as I am.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
- Hafiz

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”
- Woody Allen

“Forever is composed of nows.”
- Emily Dickinson

“Loving a child doesn't mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.”
- Nadia Boulanger

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
“Man is a genius when he is dreaming.”
- Akira Kurosawa

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
- Ernest Hemingway

"Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change."
- Confucius

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
- Alan Kay

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”
- Ellen DeGeneres

“I think it's wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly.”
- Steven Wright

“Don't seek God in temples. He is close to you. He is within you. Only you should surrender to Him and you will rise above happiness and unhappiness.”
“If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”
“Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace”
- Leo Tolstoy

“Close the door. Write with _no one_ looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.”
- Barbara Kingsolver

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”
- Anne Lamott

“There's very little advice in men's magazines, because men don't think there's a lot they don't know. Women do. Women want to learn. Men think, "I know what I'm doing, just show me somebody naked."”
“To me, if life boils down to one thing, it's movement. To live is to keep moving.”
- Jerry Seinfeld

Happy Holly Days

Do you find the holidays stressful? If so, why? If not, why? Just curious. What do you look forward to the most? And, what do you dislike most about this time of year?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good-bye Subaru...

So, it seems that I must get rid of my car. The expense of keeping it in the city is just too great for my poor self. I would actually be saving money if I were to invest in a $200/mo parking space -- and that's just craziness. This city is making lots of bucks off car owners - from the 25c it costs for 5 minutes (or 10 minutes if you're lucky) of parking meter time, to the way inflated cost of car repair ($440 for new brake pads and rotors - just in front), to the $340 I was charged because I accidentally parked at a meter which is reserved specially for trucks on weekdays from 9-4 (that's for the towing "service" and the parking ticket combined). Add to that the very high price of gas (I think I paid $3.75/gallon last night?) and the hassle of myriad rules and regulations about where you can and can't park which leads inevitably to the occasional parking ticket ($40 x 3) and you've got the reason why I have to sell my car. My Dad gave me the car as a gift the summer after I graduated from New England Conservatory (2004). It's a green 1997 Subaru Impreza with some significant rust and a few dents where people crashed computer monitors into it :-). It originally belonged to my father's late wife, Joan, who died of cancer in 1999, so it has significant sentimental value. It's a good car. It runs well. It has served me quite well -- taking me safely on many long trips, including my most recent journey across the whole country. I hate to part with it. But, I think of all the good that will come from living without a car. More exercise, more money, less hassle... And, there's always ZipCar.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I am the Winnner

After reading this article (and Scott Adams's reference to it), I've decided to change my name to Pamela Winner. I think that should cover everything.

Or... Pamela Awesome (suggested by Ian)

Salt and Soda

More than 10 years ago, back in what seems like another life, a spiritual guru of sorts recommended to me that I take hot baths in a pound of sea salt and a pound of baking soda to cleanse my aura. I did this regularly and then occasionally for many years and when I did so, I found that these baths made me feel really, really relaxed, to the point that I would often fall right asleep afterwards and always wake up quite refreshed. The other day I was reading an article about homeopathy which talks about whether or not there is any science to support that homeopathy actually works. The article got me thinking about how many of the "remedies" I have tried over the years have actually worked and how many might, alternatively, have been cases of placebo effect. Is there reason to believe that taking a bath in such a large volume of salt and soda would have more of a healing effect on my body than just, say, taking a hot bath? And, is the fact that I knew I was trying to "cleanse my aura" and knew I would be allowing myself to take a nap after the bath most of the reason I found it so refreshing? (Or is there a valid chemical reason for this? I notice that salt baths of varying kinds are popular health store items.) Just thinking about how relaxed I felt after those baths makes me want to go buy some sea salt and baking soda so I can try it tonight... Ah...

I've had an interesting journey in terms of my experiences with western vs. alternative medicine. When I was in high school, my Mom got very interested in alternative therapies and as a result I was exposed to some things I most likely wouldn't have known about had I been another "regular" kid in my town. Yoga classes, massage, nutritional therapy, "touch for health", homeopathy, Bach flower remedies, and chiropractic were among the things I got to try out. These experiences were fun and interesting and opened my mind to different cultures and alternative medical traditions. My interactions with many of these practioners also often led me to a great distrust for western medicine and a hyperfocus on all that it lacks. After college (what seems a lifetime ago), I became a student of alternative medicine for a year. The school I went to taught a mix of a therapy akin to Reiki and required a great deal of deep personal process work of its students. Interestingly, the head of the program didn't discount western medicine entirely at all, but rather was very interested in her system of healing as a complementary therapy -- which made me think a lot about all the components that need to come together to make a whole/healthy person. I still believe there are many things which are often lacking in western traditional medicine -- like just warm, personal attention and a look at the whole picture as opposed to just the place where symptoms are most acute. But, I catch myself at times having to re-think why I might think an alternative therapy would be more effective than a traditional one. Is it because the idea of it gives me a warm fuzzy of some sort? Or, is it because it actually works? Or, is it partly just some residual fear of western medicine?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007


We got a piano!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Small Steps

I have been thinking this morning about some more good advice I have received. I think the best advice is simple advice and these two examples both fall in that category.

The first was something I read in one of Tony Robbins's books. I think (ironically) it was in Giant Steps, but I don't have the book anymore and can't be sure. He was talking about how to get out of being "stuck" and said that when you are feeling overwhelmed by all that you have to accomplish and that is causing you to be unproductive, the best thing to do is to just do something - anything - even something really small. So, you can't figure out which one of the eighty million things you have to do you should do first. Instead of sitting there thinking about it, wash the dishes or make the bed or brush your teeth or pick up the clothes on the floor -- or cut your toenails or do some stretches. By doing something active, you get into the mode of accomplishing things, which puts you in a more positive frame of mind and helps you get going with the rest of your list.

The second piece of advice came from my Mom. For a long time she has been interested in positive thinking and the movement around all of that. I think the best thing she has shared with me from her studies is that it's important, when you're thinking negatively, to find something - anything - positive to focus on. So, you're lying in bed and you're really, really tired and you really don't want to get up and you are totally miserable at the thought of going to work. But, what is good about that moment? The bed feels so nice under your body. Your body is really relaxed and comfortable. Your breathing is calm and deep. Your partner (or cat/dog) is there with you and it feels nice to be next to him/her. You can see outside and it looks like a beautiful day. Mmmm... that coffee you made in the automated coffee maker smells good. Ahhhh... the CD playing in your CD alarm clock sounds nice. Etc. etc. etc. If you just start the ball rolling with a few positive thoughts, it sets things up in your brain so that it's easier to keep thinking positively.

On a related note, I have started practicing the loving kindness meditation and so far it has been wonderful. By thinking about directing thoughts and feelings of love towards myself and others, I start to feel more at peace right away. I am a very emotional person and someone who can be totally overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions. It's hard sometimes to get to a state of mind in which I can even begin cultivating loving kindness, but I am trying and I'm going to keep trying. I can tell already that it's well worth the effort.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Deep Thought of the Day

"Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: Either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. It is only a matter of which occurs first."
- Goenka

Morning Choral Fantasy

Some days I get music stuck in my head and I just can't make it go away. Sometimes I don't want it to go away and I wish it would get louder and envelope me in its beauty.

This morning, these choral anthems have been running through my head:

"Totus Tuus sum, Maria, mater nostri Redemptoris,
Virgo Dei, Virgo pia, mater mundi Salvatoris."
(the Gorecki setting)

"Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear upon the earth.
The time of singing of birds is come.
Arise my love, my fair one, and come away."
(the Healey Willan setting)

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
There shall be no more death,
neither sorrow nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain.
For the former things are passed away."
(I can't remember who this anthem is by)

This morning all I want is to lie down with my eyes closed and listen to these anthems really loud. The music is SO beautiful. I wish I could describe it for you in some way. When I think of it, I think of total peace. When I sing these anthems, I feel at peace. The longing is so great. It almost hurts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Awake (A Mondacular Meditation)

What does it mean to be truly awake?

Some years ago (I honestly am not sure when it began), I started a phase of my life in which I feel sleepy much of the time. Sleepy because my contacts aren't quite right and my vision is rarely clear? Sleepy because I just actually haven't had enough sleep? Sleepy because I've had too much sleep? Sleepy because my body is sluggish -- maybe I have Epstein-Barr? Sleepy because I don't get enough exercise and therefore have bad circulation? Sleepy because I exercised too much? Sleepy because I have low metabolism? Hypothyroidism? Who knows? All of these are possibilities. But, none of these things is necessarily the cause.

The times when I have been clear really stand out to me. I was alert during conversation with someone. I was able to explain something interesting and complex -- how the vocal folds function or how we breathe, for example. I gave some good and much-needed advice. I made some important decisions that helped solve a tricky situation. I was there. I was awake. I was "on". I felt alive. The way I feel most of the rest of the time is like I'm in a fog. I feel like I'm covered in a kind of energetic goo - some sort of blanket that makes swift moving difficult - that makes it difficult to think and to act. I am slow. I mumble or make incoherent sentences. I can't remember things that have happened in the short term. I can't think of what I want to say.

What does it mean to be awake? (Does it mean I've just had a cup of coffee?) We all function at different levels. We all have different expectations of ourselves and how we'd like to fit into the world. I'm obviously still functioning in this world. I have a graduate degree, hold a job, have friends, get things done, etc. etc. I'm not in a mental institution. It's not like I have some sort of serious medical condition that is preventing me from living a normal life. So, perhaps the reason I feel I am not awake is because I know I can function at a higher level than I do and I really, really *want* to. I know I am capable of more and I won't ever be satisfied with less. Well, ok, and I'm sleepy a lot.

But again, what does it mean to be awake? Is it about being in synch with the pace of the busy city around me? Honestly, living in the city makes me feel much more alive than living in a smaller town. I wonder if the city itself helps bring my energy level higher? But, sitting on top of a mountain looking out at the valley below (or walking in the forest or standing by the ocean) makes me feel really alive, too, so then maybe it's just about being able to tune in and resonate with my surroundings. Is feeling awake about being aware -- being fully able to drink in my environment and interact with it (as opposed to just watching the world go by)? Is feeling awake about recognizing where I am in the universe -- being able to own my unique space in the cosmos and step out of the human routines that make me forget the larger picture? Is feeling awake about owning the choices I have made for my life and knowing that I'm free to continue making my own choices? Or, is it simply about following the proper formula? 8 hours of sleep + proper diet and exercise + Magic Pill = Awake

What does awake mean to you?

**PS - I just ran across an article about how napping can increase your longevity. I have often thought that taking a nap in the middle of the day would help me feel less sleepy. But, where do I take a nap in the middle of the day? Should I just spread out my sleeping bag on the floor of my cubicle? on the sidewalk? in the back seat of my car in the company parking garage? or just lay my head down on my desk? I've heard about places in Japan where you can rent a cot to take a nap in the middle of the day. As far as I know we have nothing like that here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Calm Mind and a Peaceful Heart

I have been thinking a lot about my post from the other day and what it means to be "more loving". I've been thinking about how to have a calm mind and a peaceful heart, how to be compassionate to myself and to others, and how to express what this means to me in words. Today I stumbled across a Wikipedia article about Loving-kindness that I thought I'd share with you because I think it summarizes some of how I think a person might go about becoming more loving -- and what a person might hope to attain by becoming more loving. The idea, I think, is that by meditating on feeling loving kindness towards yourself and then towards others in your life -- those who you have positive and negative feelings for -- and then gradually spreading that loving feeling towards all of the planet and then the universe, you will become more calm, peaceful, and loving. (Was that redundant?) Makes sense to me!

Here's a short excerpt from the article:

"The object of mettā meditation is to cultivate loving kindness (love without attachment, non-exclusive love) towards all sentient beings... It is a good way to calm down a distraught mind because it is an antidote to anger. Someone who has cultivated mettā will not be easily angered and can quickly subdue anger that arises. They will be more caring, more loving, and more likely to love unconditionally.

Buddhists believe that those who cultivate mettā will be at ease because they see no need to harbour ill will or hostility. Buddhist teachers may even recommend meditation on mettā as an antidote to insomnia and nightmares. It is generally felt that those around a mettā-ful person will feel more comfortable and happy too. Radiating mettā is thought to contribute to a world of love, peace and happiness...

Indeed, Mettā is a tool that permits one's generosity and kindness to be applied to all beings and, as a consequence, one finds true happiness in another person's happiness, no matter who the individual is."

The article goes on to say,

"The six stages of mettā bhāvanā meditation which are most commonly found involves cultivating loving-kindness towards:

1 - Yourself
2 - A good friend
3 - A 'neutral' person
4 - A difficult person
5 - All four
6 - and then gradually the entire universe"

I actually find undirected, free-form meditation very difficult and find that I am usually enormously unsuccessful at it. But, meditating or praying with specific thoughts in mind (or specific prayers) is something I find quite calming and wonderful. I wonder if there are other ways of doing this -- meditations or prayers similar to this with a similar intent, from this tradition or others. And, I wonder, how does one cultivate loving kindness?

58,000 gallons

As you probably heard, a container ship hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Wednesday dumping 58,000 gallons of heavy-duty bunker fuel oil into the bay. Reports say the cause of the accident is a mystery and that it's highly unusual, though also that the pilot of the ship has a record of other "incidents". Today, my heart goes out to the as yet unknown quantity of birds, fish, and marine mammals who have been coated in oil because of this accident and as a result are sick and/or dying. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Listening is an Act of Love

This morning on my way to work I had the radio tuned to NPR. Unfortunately, because of fatigue and road noise, I wasn't able to listen too carefully to the stories until I heard the announcer say, Listening is an act of love. It stuck out to me as though someone had hi-lighted it with a bright yellow marker. The rest of the story was faded and garbled to my ears, but every time the announcer said, Listening is an act of love, I was moved. It had it's own meaning to me -- one that might have been related to the story, but I don't know.

In reading Erich Fromm's book The Art of Loving, I became familiar with his idea that love is not an emotion or feeling that you fall in and out of, but rather love is "an interpersonal creative capacity" comprised of "care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge." Love is work. It takes discipline to love well. And, what is more loving than to listen with respect and empathy to someone you care for? And simultaneously, what can be more challenging at times? It's difficult when you try not only to hear what the person is saying, but also try to listen to what is beyond the words. What does this person need? And, more specifically, what do they want/need from me? I want to listen well, but it's not always easy for me. And, I think for some, it may be particularly hard with loved ones or others you see every day, because the times when you're trying to listen aren't usually special appointments meant specifically for having a conversation. It's not like those times when you haven't seen someone in a while -- when you are really, truly interested in catching up and learning about what the other has been doing since you last met. In many cases, it's easier to listen well to people you see less often. With those you see everyday (or regularly in some way), you've probably heard what they've said before. You may know already how they'll react if you say x or y, so you may not even try to give input. With people you're really close to, listening requires patience. It takes discipline. It's hard sometimes to want to make the effort to stop what you're doing, look the person in the eye, and listen. In this modern world of cell phones, text messaging, email, and chat, we may find that it's easier to communicate with others without eye contact -- that having multiple conversations alleviates the need to be patient with one particular person. And, with some, it may be possible to have a good relationship entirely devoid of physical proximity for a long time. Technology is opening up the possibilities of many diverse communication styles. And, I think there are good things about that. On that note, how *is* listening different when you're not in the same room with the person you're communicating with? Are you really able to communicate as intimately and as effectively when you're not physically together with someone? And, on that same note, what if you're together but not making eye contact, not paying attention? Is it the same as not being in the room at all? I have been thinking about how teaching has been a real challenge for my listening skills and patience. My ears are acutely tuned in for musical errors, but there is so much more to teaching lessons. Listening to students to accurately hear what their questions are, what their goals are, what their worries are, etc. takes much skill and effort. (Knowing what the answers are is another story!) I can easily diagnose a musical problem without looking into the eyes of my student, but I don't think I could ever understand the larger issues and what they really need if we didn't make eye contact.

Listening is an act of love because it requires discipline and takes effort. To really pay attention and really listen to someone is a rarity in this modern world. It could be the greatest gift you give to someone today.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I get really sad sometimes when I think about the family holiday traditions from my childhood that we are no longer able to keep on because of deaths, marriages, relocation, etc. As a child I spent every Thanksgiving either at my own house in Syracuse, NY or at my Aunt and Uncle's in Potsdam, NY. And, we all spent every Christmas at my Grandma and Grandpa's place in Galesburg, IL. (We drove there from Syracuse/Potsdam every year.) We were always together. Now we are all spread out -- in Florida, Virginia, New York, Michigan, Colorado, and California -- and the traditions we continued well past my college graduation have now become impossible to maintain. But, when I start getting all weepy and nostalgic about it, it occurs to me that perhaps I need to make an effort to let go of the past. So, I've decided it would be fun to dream up some new holiday traditions. Wanna help? What do you think would be a good holiday tradition to begin?

How about:

- Thanksgiving eve cinnamon toast party
- Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with lo-mein
- Sledding through the streets of SF (we don't need snow... we've got enough hills)
- Annual toothpaste smoke-a-thon
- Holiday caroling with tri-tone harmonies
- Advent wreath with sparklers
- Advent calendar -- shot of whisky a day
- Boxing Day pillow fight and jell-o wrestling

Do you have any favorite traditions?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I am a person prone to anxiety, to worry, and to paranoia. It runs in my family - particularly in the women on my mother's side. It's something I will probably always have to work on, because I have very high expectations of myself and am very critical of myself, and since I am also naturally a fairly low-energy, low-key person, I feel a great need to consume caffeine in order to be productive and energetic, which is the worst thing an anxiety-prone person can do. Finding a drug (or something else) that would allow me to be more alert, but which doesn't cause anxiety, (and which I could use on a regular basis) is a dream of mine.

In the meantime, I was thinking today about my anxiety and what I think might be some of the best advice I have ever received related to alleviating it. For people who are anxious, one of the hardest things to do (in my experience) is to keep things simple. We tend to overthink things and dwell on the negative. Thus, the following advice was much needed and extremely helpful to me perhaps partly just for it's lack of complexity. It came from a therapist I saw in Syracuse, who is a wonderful man I have much respect for. I don't recall exactly what I was talking about with him at the time, but I do remember that I was overwhelmed by some difficult decisions I was trying to make and by incessant negative thinking. I don't recall precisely all of what he said, but mostly just that he thought it would be helpful for me to breathe more deeply, to live in the moment, and to simplify my thoughts. I do remember clearly that he said,

"All you really need to do is just be loving and take care of yourself."

For months after the appointment, that phrase became a mantra for me. I would become anxious. I would be thinking too much. The thoughts were incessant, annoying, intense, critical, worrisome, leaving me paralyzed in a prison of self-pity and loathing...

What am I doing? Where am I going? What should I do? Why aren't I more attractive/lovable/talented/intelligent/successful/etc.etc.etc.? What if x,y,z happens? What if I never accomplish m,n,o,p?

But, then I would think of it:

"Just BE LOVING and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. That's *all* you need to do. It's ok. Everything is exactly as it should be."

And, suddenly I would relax. Suddenly, I would see the people around me as just humans, as flawed as I am -- not better or worse. I would appreciate them for all of their goodness and respect them for all of their struggles. And, I would think to myself,

"What do I really need to feel better right now?"

And then,

"How can I be more loving?"

It can be *so* helpful to simplify things. Most of the time I find it almost impossible to take life one step/one moment/one day at a time. I get overwhelmed thinking about everything at once. I get way ahead of myself in my thoughts and then make no progress at all because I can't see clearly where I am. I don't acknowledge what I am really doing with my time and energy -- the ways in which I *am* giving my heart and soul, the ways in which I *am* trying my best and doing a good job. I have a tendency to focus just on what I lack, on what I am not good at, on the ways in which I am failing. I have no concept at all of what the next step should be. I feel like I am in the midst of a tornado. It would be better to just hold on.

When I ask myself what I really need to feel better -- what I need to do to take care of myself, the answer is inevitably simple. It is often something related to my physical comfort, like adjusting how I am sitting, going for a walk, stretching, drinking tea or water, or taking a hot bath. Sometimes, I need to take care of my emotional well-being by reaching out to a friend or writing or talking through my feelings. Sometimes, I really, really just need to sing or listen to music.

And, it's only then, once I've taken care of my own needs, that I am really able to give anything of substance to another person (to people, to the world) -- to really be loving. And, perhaps this all means that love is the cure for anxiety and that anxiety indicates the absence of love. I don't know.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

- Rumi

Monday, November 05, 2007

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

Your thoughts?
Just for fun, I decided to go back and see what I had to say on this blog one year ago today.

It was pretty interesting.

(This link is actually for the whole week because I can't seem to change my archiving options anymore...)

I think maybe I'll go and look at all of your blogs now and see what you wrote about a year ago.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sometimes my best friend, Lara, and I like to reminisce about old times. We were roommates in college and did many, many very silly things together. One thing that still makes us laugh is remembering some of the pick-up lines guys tried on us at parties and such when we were in school.

Here are a few favorites:

"I've been dreaming about your feet for weeks."

"I like the way your hair just sets there."

"As far as I'm concerned, the night is still young."

"So, how long have you lived in Bethesda?"

(If you're reading this, Lara, please help me remember some more!)

Have any you'd like to share? What kinds of silliness do you like to remember from your past?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If You Had to Pick Nine Books...

"If you had to fill a box with nine books that everyone ought to have, what would they be? What if you had to pick just one work of literature?"
How has the internet changed your personal life? This article made me think much about the impact internet access has on the way we communicate with one another -- as individuals and as communities. As much as I think it's really wonderful that we can keep in touch and keep ourselves occupied through/with blogs like this one, email and chat, and various other online tools/resources, I think there are also important things we've lost along the way. Does that make me old fashioned? Maybe...

Monday, October 29, 2007

"There are lots of ways of being miserable, but there's only one way of being comfortable, and that is to stop running round after happiness. If you make up your mind not to be happy there's no reason why you shouldn't have a fairly good time."
- Edith Wharton

"Our happiness is proportional to our ability to tolerate imperfection."
(paraphrase from memory)
- Susan Thesenga

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way"
- Thich Nhat Hahn


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Every once in a while I am reminded how important it is to count your blessings. It is too easy sometimes to dwell on what is negative in your life and not be thankful for all the things you have. Good health, food, a warm and safe home, a family and friends who love you... all these are things some of us forget are not guaranteed in the daily life of everyone.

Today I thought I'd suggest that you -- if you'd like -- make a list of all the things in your life you're thankful for -- everything and everyone that you love and appreciate. And, think of someone in particular who you'd really like to thank for something -- and thank them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yesterday, as I was browsing the internet, I came across a link on the Franklin Covey website (you may know Steven Covey, who's famous for that book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that helps you build a Mission Statement. I decided to go ahead with the process and, though it wasn't *exactly* what I was looking for, it got me thinking about what my values are, what and who's important to me, how I want to be viewed by others, and what I really want to be doing with my life. Overall, it was a rewarding experience and it led me to look for other tools on the web that might be helpful in the same vein. Most of the links below are related to helping one find a suitable career path, but I think even if you know what your career path is and are on it, creating a mission statement could be helpful in clarifying in your mind *why* you do the work you do and could help to renew your enthusiasm for it.

Here are a few other resources:

Are You Living On Purpose?

Personal Mission Statement

Mission Statement Exercise

Best wishes!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I just found a fortune from a fortune cookie. It says,

"Sell your ideas -- they are totally acceptable."
Controversy of the day...

"If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience." - John Cage


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some words I hate:

human capital
data hygiene

Some words I love:

Fahrt (ein fahrt, bitte)

How 'bout you?
1. What is your middle name?

2. What is your quest?

3. What is your favorite cereal?

4. What is the square root of 9801?

5. Which would you rather have? A pet monkey? or a pet squirrel?

Monday, October 22, 2007

PS - GO SOX!!!

Did you see the game? Are you a baseball fan?
Getting To Know You

1. When's the last time you took a leisurely, recreational walk around the neighborhood where you live?

2. When's the last time you took a relaxing bath?

3. When's the last time you made rice crispy treats or cookies or some sort of treat just for fun?

4. When did you last spend time looking at the stars (either through a telescope or not)?

5. When's the last time you sat somewhere and watched the sun set or rise?

6. When is the last time you went on a hike in the woods?

7. When's the last time you went to the beach (or to some body of water)?

8. When's the last time you played with a child - blocks or legos or something?

9. When's the last time you actively played with a cat or dog -- like fetch or chase the string or something?

10. When is the last time you hugged somebody?

11. What refreshes you -- restores your energy -- helps you get rid of stress?

(me - 1. several weeks ago -- but it wasn't really technically my neighborhood...; 2. Friday; 3. sometime in April, I think; 4. in mid-August near Point Reyes, CA; 5. not sure; 6. in mid-August somewhere in CA; 7. October 6th in San Francisco; 8. in September in Madison, WI (Daniel!); 9. in September in Chicago, IL (Mochi!); 10. yesterday; 11. running)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I love San Francisco. It's awesome. Settled by the Spanish in 1776, it was named for St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of animals, birds, and the environment. He might be most widely remembered for his famous prayer:

Lord, make me a channel of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
and where there is darkness, light.

O, Divine Maker,
Help me seek not so much to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in death that we are born into eternal life.

I'll have to post some pictures of the pretty city soon!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Growing up I was always aware that my family had less money than other families in our area, but I was also led to believe that I had important things most of those other families didn't have -- music, culture, an appreciation for education and travel, etc. In my grown-up life I have come to appreciate that money *can* by happiness if it means the difference between having my basic needs met or not, but I believe that I can be happy with much less than many other people I know, because I don't put much value on stuff. There is a certain level of comfort that really, truly does make me feel more content. Worrying about whether or not I can pay the rent is *very* stressful and has *definitely* impacted the quality of my life at times. Since living in Palo Alto, I have become uncomfortably conscious of how poor I am -- of all the things I really can't afford that most of the others who live here can. It's hard not to notice just how beat-up and old my car is, my laptop, my clothing... how much nicer I would look if I could afford to spend some money attending to my appearance. Gosh - a new wardrobe, a smart hair cut and dye, a spray tan, liposuction, a facial, a manicure, waxing, a make-over - I'd be a new woman!! And frankly, it makes me *angry* that I've come to value any of those things or think they are in any way important. I *do* need to have my basic needs met. I *need* to be able to pay my bills on time and feed and clothe myself adequately. But, the things I value that I think make me happy are: good health, friendship and laughter, a strong connection with my family, and feeling a sense of purpose -- like I'm doing something in the world that makes a difference - that matters - (or at least is useful). It's easy to forget those things sometimes, but when I do think about it, I feel more clear about where I need to concentrate my energy.

What do you think? Can money buy happiness? What makes you happy?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

**PS: Nice to hear from you after all these years, Bill! I was suspicious that that last message was from you, since there weren't *too* many other people it could have been. Thanks for reading my blog! :-)**
Controversy Thursday!

Whatever happened to willpower?

Reading this article this morning made me think - not just about how fast food and a mostly sedentary lifestyle makes people fat - but also about how *because* we live in an impatient society full of people who can't wait for anything and who can't tolerate anything that's the least bit inconvenient, we have to fight to keep ourselves healthy - we have to fight extra hard against the powers of inertia - of laziness.

Since Ian broke his ankle on Sunday I have started thinking lots about how lucky I am to have two functioning legs to walk on -- and how grateful I am that I have the ability to live an active life. Walking on crutches for any sort of distance looks to be a major pain and I'm sure Ian would immediately attest to that. The other day when we went to choir rehearsal on campus at Stanford, we *really* could have used a wheelchair. The trip on crutches, which otherwise would have seemed fairly short, left Ian intensely sore under his arms, with bruises and very painful-looking chaffing scars.

So, here are my questions for you -- and I've made today a controversy day so that you can say things that aren't polite if you'd like - and to excuse myself for saying un-p.c. things :-) :

1. What do you think are the primary causes of obesity in this country?

2. If you had to give advice to the nation as a whole about how to live a healthy lifestyle, what would your major points be?

3. Does it bother you when you see other people doing things that you think are unhealthy?

4. What comes to mind when you see obese people riding around in motorized wheelchairs?

5. What things (related to your health) are you most grateful for?

6. In what ways do you find you are lazy about taking care of your health?

7. What things about our modern world do you have to fight against to stay healthy?

(me - 1. the fact that unhealthy food (fast food and prepackaged food) is much cheaper than healthy food - plus the fact that most of our jobs are not walking distance from where we live; 2. walk everywhere you can and limit or eliminate your consumption of meat, alcohol, and sugar - eat more fruits and vegetables - don't drink anything but water; 3. most of the time; 4. i feel really sorry for the person and wonder what has brought them to this point in their lives - wonder if there is some illness involved or what; 5. the wholeness of my physical body, the fact that i have no really bad habits - i'm not addicted to drugs or alcohol - i like to walk and do other exercise, etc.; 6. i am prone to laziness generally, which is just bad generally in all ways. plus, i have a sweet tooth.; 7. cars, fast and pre-packaged food, etc...)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

**Hmm... maybe you shouldn't answer this quiz... not that you were going to. I'm not collecting data or anything. I just couldn't think of any better questions.**

Getting to Know Some Very Trivial Things About You

1. What color is your hair?

2. Is your current color natural or dyed? Have you ever dyed your hair?

3. How are you wearing your hair right now?

4. What color are your eyes?

5. Are you wearing glasses?

6. What kind of shoes do you have on?

7. Are your toenails painted?

8. Do you have any piercings on your body?

9. Do you have any tattoos?

10. Do you have any interesting scars?

11. Are you wearing any jewelry?

12. What is the last beverage you drank?

(me - 1. brown; 2. natural(i think), yes - many, many times; 3. down, curly, back in a barrette; 4. blue; 5. no - contacts; 6. gold flats that look like ballet slippers; 7. yep; 8. yep - one hole in each of my earlobes; 9. nope; 10. i don't know about interesting, but i have a scar below the first knuckle on my right hand and one in the middle of the bottom of my left foot - both from glass cuts; 11. yep - 3 rings on my fingers, a watch, earrings; 12. water)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hey, blog readers! Good news!! Ian has officially released FiDough! Yay, Ian!

Click on the link below to try it out:


(The bad news is that he severely sprained his ankle yesterday and he's in lots of pain :-(. We were in the emergency room for a long time yesterday afternoon and evening, singing songs to pass the time, since we didn't think to bring books with us when we went to play frisbee in the Stanford oval. His ankle looked like it had grown a grapefruit on it and it seemed pretty likely that he broke it (especially since he heard two pops when he landed on it), but there were no obvious fractures on the x-ray, so they just but a brace on it and sent him home with some crutches. Ouch!!)
Well, Jake, it looks like you're the winner!! :-) For #2 I was actually looking for the term, frost wedging. And, #4 is an Intel Pentium Processor. #6 is C, but I was just looking for "computer programming language" really. CONGRATULATIONS!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's Quiz Friday!

1. What kind of tree is this?

2. What geological process caused these rocks to end up like this?

3. What kind of stone is this?

4. What's this?

5. What's this?

6. What's this?

7. What sort of language is this?

8. What kind of tree is this?

9. What's this? What's it for?

10. What is this person (err.. drawing of a person) doing?

(The winner still gets a prize -- I swear!! I promise I will get back with the program on this... I haven't used the post office yet since I've been out here... but I will! I promise!)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the last week and a half, Ian, the master planner, arranged for us to try out three different choirs at our local prestigious university. All choirs there but one are open to community members, which right away shows how different things are here than on the east coast. The experience of singing with and comparing choirs was interesting, though somewhat disappointing in ways, but overall pretty fun. There were great differences in the size of the choirs, their direction and the rehearsal process, the repertoire we sang, and the character of and general attitude of its members. We settled on the last choir we tried out, which was of the best quality, medium-sized, and the most fun. It is the group with the most student members, most who seemed to have good voices and pleasant attitudes. We were both quite surprised, however, in the difference in attitude of these students from what we were used to back east. Ian, I think noticed a particularly big difference, having come from a singing group at his ivy league alma mater which had a *very* serious attitude. At one point in our rehearsal last night the outgoing President of the choir was trying to recruit new officers for the year and *finally* managed to fill two of the positions after *much* pleading. Ian remarked that in his former choir people actually *campaigned* for those offices. I am also definitely used to being in choirs where people are serious about singing -- and where there is usually much enthusiasm for socializing.

This whole experience has mostly, however, got me to thinking about what it is that makes a good choir. It's obviously subjective, but what is it that *I* like to hear? I find it's very difficult to judge how good an ensemble is while singing *in* it. But there are three choirs I have had the opportunity to listen to from the audience (or congregation) that I really enjoyed and in retrospect I would say there is actually a common element in what I liked about them. Two are choirs I have sung with -- one, a church choir where I was a paid soloist and the other, a choir I sang with while in grad school in WI. The third is the choir Ian last sang with. I'm sure none of these choirs are good all of the time (in fact, the church choir varied greatly from week to week in its membership and went routinely from sounding awful to wonderful depending on who showed up and what we were singing). And, I'm sure much of the reason the performances I heard sounded good is because they were in flattering performance spaces. But, I also have no doubt that all of these directors were going for a particular kind of sound and frankly, now that I realize what that sound is, I am surprised at myself for liking it, precisely *because* of my training as a classical singer. That sound -- the sound I like -- is a very pure, light sound of mostly straight-tone singing -- not super straight tone, countertenor, hootiness, but a light, pretty tone without much vibrato in it. In fact, I remember in one rehearsal I listened to, noting that I could hear one particular female singer -- noting that her vibrato and her voice stood out and didn't blend with the group -- and that other than her, the group sounded good. I'm surprised at myself because as a classically trained singer I have learned to love the voice in its fullness -- and that I do -- as a *solo* voice. And, I have learned to dislike singing in a way that is constrained - that doesn't allow me the freedom to sing using my whole instrument, particularly when it means restricting my vibrato, which is fatiguing to the voice, as it requires going against my training -- against the joy of singing freely. But then *why *do I love mostly light, straight singing in choral music? Because I *love* to hear beautifully in-tune chords!! And... I don't know... I just do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Getting to Know You

1. Do you own a record player? If so, about how many LPs do you own? If not, have you ever owned one?

2. Do you own a tape player? Do you own any cassette tapes?

3. If you have a car, what kind of music system do you have in it?

4. Do you listen to the radio?

5. Is there any music playing where you are right now? If so, what? If not, what would you like to hear (if you had your druthers)?

(me - 1. i think there is a record player with my name on it in my dad's house somewhere... and probably a bunch of LPs... some joni mitchell, michael jackson's thriller, genesis-genesis, men at work...; 2. yes. yes, some books on tape.; 3. a crappy tape player, but i have an adapter so i can play CDs from my CD walkman.; 4. i like to listen to NPR when i have the opportunity. occasionally i surf through the stations for a good song and sometimes i listen to the opera.; 5. no. :-( a brahms symphony would be nice.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I often make the mistake when looking into the mirror of making excuses for what I see - or of fixating my thoughts on what I will look like someday after I have done a lot of vigorous exercise. I've been in shape before. I just don't seem to be able to stay in shape for any length of time. It might have something to do with my love of chocolate, pastries, and chocolate pastries. Or, perhaps it’s just due to lack of exercise. So, maybe instead of doing positive affirmations in front of the mirror where I try to love my body just as it is and spend time accepting myself and all of my imperfections, I should look in the mirror and say, "My butt is enormous. Holy crap. My butt is *huge*. How did my butt get *so* big?" (Uh... err... I guess that *is* what I say...) If only I could just even out the fat in my body so that it was more proportionately distributed! I know exercise would do me good, but I have a lot of trouble staying disciplined about it. In fact, discipline is *hard* for me. *Really* hard.

But, what good would it do me to, say, write 100 times on the blackboard, "I will not allow myself to slide into a den of sloth."? Or, sit at my desk with my head down thinking about what a bad person I am for not keeping good track of my finances? Or, make myself do 100 push-ups in a public place with a giant sign next to me that reads, "I am atoning for my sins. If you'd like to help, please sit on me."? Or, do 50 laps around my work building with a sign on my back that says, "Kick me - please!"? Discipline does not come naturally to me. I am prone to let inertia take over. I am predisposed to bouts of impulsivity.

Discipline is what makes you decide to ride your bike instead of drive your car. It is what makes you get up early to go for a run instead of sleeping in. It is what makes you decide you really can't spend money today, no matter how good that avocado sandwich looks. It is what makes you decide you need to wait and buy that book at the used bookstore -- or better yet, get it out of the library. Discipline helps you to hold your tongue - to think of the consequences of what you're saying. Discipline is what gets you to pay the bills, make that doctor's appointment, do your chores, change your oil, spend less time surfing the internet at work... Discipline is what gets you to be better at keeping in touch with your family and friends.

What does discipline mean to you?
Hi friends! I just want to let you know how much I enjoy reading all of your answers to my silly questions. It's so much fun!! Thanks!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Getting to Know You

1. What kind of computer are you using right now?
2. How many computers do you own? What kind are they?
3. Which do you prefer? Mac or PC?
4. What was the first computer you ever had?
5. When's the last time you played a video game? What was it?
6. What video game(s) do you remember liking as a kid (if any)?
7. Do you know any computer programming languages?
8a. Do you prefer Finale or Sibelius? (if applicable)
8b. If not, do you write snail mail letters?
9. Do you have a digital camera?
10. Do you have an iPod?

(me - 1.a Mac G3 Laptop; 2. just this one; 3.i like macs better because they have built-in speakers. i like PCs better because it's easier to hide and retrieve programs. i'm more used to using macs since that's mostly what i have owned, even though i have years of experience using PCs for work. oh, the other thing i like better about macs is that it's easier to type up program notes- song lyrics in other languages - because the shortcut keys are really easy to find/use.; 4. Atari 800 (It was my brother's)... Hmmm.. but now I'm confused - was that the video game system or the computer? Didn't we have an Apple Computer??; 5. I haven't played a proper video game in a while, but had fun playing "double wires" on the computer today; 6. ms.pacman, millipede, frogger, donkey kong, miner 2049er; 7. "know" is a strong word. i am familiar with html, css, javascript, and python.; 8. i've used both and don't have a preference at this point, so i'll answer the next question, too. yes; 9. no - i don't own one, but i'm borrowing my mom's.; 10. no)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Yesterday I went to Golden Gate Park with my awesome new friend, Emily. There is so much to explore there and we really only scratched the surface, so I can't wait to go back sometime and see more!

Here are some photos from the east side of the park:

(there was a path that went around a pond (where there were lots of ducks and some turtles sitting on logs) and then up a hill. there was a waterfall on the hill. there were some nice views from the top of the hill)


(turtle on log)

(pond where you can rent boats)

(view from top of hill)

Here are a few photos from the beach on the west side:

(the beach is on the far side of the park)

(you see the windmill when you look inland from the ocean)

(someone had built some really neat sand sculptures on the beach. this is just one of them. i do believe this is an alligator.)

(this is a jellyfish we ran across while walking on the beach.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

When I read *The Omnivore's Dilemma* by Michael Pollan, one thing that really struck me was the image of cows at factory farms chained to poles, standing in their own feces, which as I understand it (if I am remembering correctly) is how they spend several months of their lives before slaughter. I have not really been able to get that image out of my mind. If I recoil in disgust when I see someone eat beef (especially from a fast food chain, since you can be sure that's factory-farmed beef), it's only because I have a hard time getting that image out of my mind. Luckily, researchers are working on the problem of decontaminating beef carcasses, which should give beef eaters some sense of relief. Check out this abstract entitled Comparison of methods for contamination removal from beef carcass surfaces. You see the *problem* is not just that it's really disgusting to eat something that is or was covered in crap, but rather that beef can harbor the deadly germ e. coli, which is a major cause of serious food poisoning. Unfortunately, at the present time there is actually no way to prevent fecal contamination during slaughter. Ewwww!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

THIS is rather interesting!
Wow - I guess you never know what posts are going to interest people and which are going to spark a heated debate. That was *quite* a heated debate, I must say. Whew! I would have thought the post *before* the music education/performance post (which pointed to an article about the differences between women and men) would have ignited something, but perhaps it didn't because I didn't do a very good job setting it up. Or, maybe it's not as interesting as I thought it was.

Anyway, this morning about a half-hour or so before my alarm went off I noticed that one of my legs was completely asleep. I don't know how that happened. And then probably exactly one minute before it went off, I thought to myself "My alarm is going to go off in one minute". That is really strange. It's happened to me before, but still, it's pretty weird.

I am always in search of new funny things, because laughter is essential in my life. Here are a few things I think are funny: (I may add to this list...)

The Humans Are Dead
Basic Instructions
Mispelled Menus
Marty Kulp & Bobbi Mohan-Kulp
Bill Bryson

What do *you* think is funny?

**Oh - PS - Does anyone know what causes foot cramps? I keep getting them.**

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


1. How are you today?

2. Did you get a good night's sleep last night?

3. Do you remember any of your dreams? Care to share?

4. Did you eat breakfast this morning? If so, what did you eat?

5. Do you read the news on a daily basis? If so, where do you get your news?

6. Do you have any favorite websites you like to visit regularly?

7. What book(s) are you reading currently?

8. Do you subscribe to any magazines?

9. Have you had lunch yet? If you did, what did you eat? If not, what do you think you will eat?

10. Do you like learning about music history? If you feel like it, tell me some random tidbit you think is interesting about music history. If you don't feel like it, no sweat.

(me - 1.not bad; 2.yeah, pretty much; 3.i don't remember anything, although i think i was having some conversations that i thought were real. hopefully i wasn't talking in my sleep.; 4.yeah. yoghurt.; 5.i don't read the news with any particular regularity. i get my news from tidbits of the ny times, bbc, sfgate, and also places like yahoo and reddit.; 6.most are listed as links on my blog.; 7.*i'm a stranger here myself* by bill bryson; 8.yes - classical singer; 9.nope. maybe an avocado sandwich from le boulanger.; 10.yes! well, i've always been particularly interested in domestic music making or music making done in informal, social settings, so i find it very interesting to think about renaissance madrigal groups, hausmusik of the nineteenth century, or salon concerts given in the past or even today. we sometimes take recorded music and instant entertainment for granted and forget about the days when folks *had* to make music themselves in order to have any music at all. making music for fun is the best! so here's my tidbit... i suppose one of the first mediums for automating music was the player piano, which was invented in 1863 by Henri Fourneaux. The player piano "plays itself" using a piano roll. rolls in modern player pianos are activated by computer software, but in the old days they were often powered by a vacuum.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Josh has a very interesting post today about Music Education vs. Performance. Reading it made me think about our days back at Eastman. When we were in school, many of our fellow performance majors acted as though we were somehow superior to the education majors because of our musical gifts. ("Oh, you're an *education* major?" said in a snooty tone.) This stigma, I think, deterred many of us from learning more about teaching, which all of us have inevitably had to do in the long run. What silliness!! Why didn't I take some education classes? Why didn't I get certified to teach while I was at Eastman? It would be nice to at least have the *option* to teach public school music. Well, the truth is, I actually did approach the director of the Education department at Eastman shortly after graduation about getting certified and she was pretty nasty to me. In her eyes, being an education major was a life choice from the beginning. She didn't want performance majors getting certified just because of their financial anxiety. (Ithaca College has a similar policy.) You either go through the whole program or you don't. You don't just "get certified". As a result, graduates of the Eastman School of Music education program are highly sought after for teaching positions all over the country. *Sigh*
I started reading a book by Bill Bryson the other day, which I found very amusing until I realized about 100 pages in that every chapter is really a short news column which adheres to the same basic formula (as a catchy news column should), but which gets tiresome after a while. I definitely plan to finish the book, but I need a little break from his predictable catchy endings.

This morning I remembered that I used to really like reading Dave Barry's column, so I googled and found a link to his columns and his blog. The first column I read (and the only one I've read so far, as I should really start working...) was about a man doing a ridiculously crazy and stupid stunt, which reminded me of an article Ian pointed out to me yesterday that possibly explains why men do such stupid things sometimes. It's quite interesting actually. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you're interested in commenting on it.

**note: although this article is very thought provoking and has some definite truth to it, it bothers me for a number of reasons. i suppose as animals, our main purpose in life *is* in fact to reproduce - to replace ourselves before we die. i, however, have never viewed my life this way. perhaps i have been deluding myself. i have never considered before that the reason i'm not more successful in my field is because i'm not ambitious enough - that i'm not motivated enough to succeed because i essentially don't *need* to be successful in a career in order to reproduce (which is what i think the article suggests). as a woman, if my main goal is to reproduce and the best way for me to do that is to "play it safe", why on earth did i go to graduate school? why have i moved nine times in the last five years? what is with all this "risky" behavior on my part? am i confused? do i think i'm a man? i think the issues are much more complex than they are laid out in this article, though i understand that the article/his argument is successful in part because of its simplicity.**

Have you read any interesting articles lately you'd like to share?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Yesterday I took a little walk over to a place near my house called the bay lands. There's a bike path there.

On one side you can see mountains and a golf course:

On the other side you can see the houses of East Palo Alto (my neighborhood):

One of the things I really love about this area is that there are wild roses growing everywhere...