Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nebraska

On the drive to California, Nebraska was stormy and dark. Today was my first time seeing Nebraska in the light. It was beautiful!









Thursday, July 14, 2011

Packing and Shipping

I spent the morning shipping thirteen heavy boxes of books to Syracuse. I had to take them in three separate trips with my small and somewhat awkward rolling cart down a very steep hill and along streets laced with potholes. My post office is only four blocks away, but it wasn't fun and I'm very glad it's over. But wait... it's not over. There's more! I actually have a lot more to pack and send. But, luckily I think the heaviest part is over.

In other news, I really enjoyed an article I read this morning about creativity. It's called Why It's Better To Be Better Than Different and I highly recommend it.

Have a lovely!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Songwriting

I've written a song every day for the last six days and find that when I'm in the groove like this, it's actually not difficult at all to come up with material. What is difficult for me, though, is knowing how to refine and improve my product (and having the patience to do so). Since I've never had private lessons in this area and don't really know what I'm doing, I try to learn by listening to songs I like, teaching myself to play/sing those songs, and analyzing the details of what I think makes them good. But, that only goes so far and there is a lot I haven't figured out yet. I have never had this much time to devote to songwriting. Now that I do, I see how much work and time it takes to do it well. I can't even imagine how much work it would take to write a symphony. It seems like it would totally take over your life. You'd probably never go out of the house or ever talk to anyone.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Heart New York

People always misunderstand when I say I am from my home state. It is as though if you told someone you were from Mexico they would just assume you were from Mexico City without considering the entire country with that name. When I tell people I am moving back to New York, of course they imagine New York City, a place I have much affection for, but have never lived. They would have a hard time imagining the rolling hills and farms of Onondaga County, the mountains of Lake Placid, the still lakes near Old Forge, the picturesque valley of Binghamton, the ferry ride across Lake Champlain, the gorges of Ithaca. For much of my life this has bothered me. I recall especially a time as a teenager attending a summer program in the midwest the difficulty I had explaining to some classmates that my hometown was not a dangerous place. I tried to explain that New York City is to New York State as Chicago is to Illinois, but they just couldn't make the leap. Now, having spent most of the last four years in California, I can understand better how easy it is to misunderstand a place you've never been that is far from home. When people think of California, they think of the stereotypical Barbies and Kens running along the beach and the hippies playing guitar in their tie dyed shirts. They are less likely to think of the myriad farmers in the vast Central Valley, the slow, quiet lives of regular working folk in California's numerous small towns. So, now when I think of home and the things about it I love: the trees, the parks, the wildlife, its quiet beauty, I appreciate also that it is mine to enjoy without millions of tourists vying to take a picture of it.

Google+ vs Facebook

Last week I was invited to join Google+, the new social networking tool from Google that looks to pose a pretty decent threat to the giant Facebook. It's been interesting to see what the differences are between the two sites, what might be incentives for switching over completely to Google+, and what reasons might keep some users from discovering it at all*.

At this point, there is not much going on in my Google+ stream yet. I am seeing less than five new posts a day from others. That could be because not all of the people who have added me are posting in a place that is visible to me. With Google+ it is much easier to post something so that just one person or only a certain group (circle) of people can see it. Some of the people who are my "Friends" on Facebook might only consider me an "Acquaintance" on Google+, for example. It might also be because most people who have joined Google+ are still on Facebook and don't want to bother posting the same things twice, knowing that most of their friends are still on Facebook. [Though the most obvious reason is because I only have 20 friends on Google+ vs 540 on Facebook. Duh...]

Posting pictures and videos is actually much easier on Google+. I am unfortunately not able to post any images from the internet on Facebook at this point, probably because they have such a problem with spam and have needed to tighten controls. Also, Google+ could almost get rid of my need to blog, since you are allowed to post there with seemingly no character limit. Facebook limits your post length to 420 characters, which I guess is better than Twitter's 140 character limit. I am less interested in the fact that I can chat with people on Google+, since I usually have G-Chat open when I'm on the internet anyway, but the "Hangout" group video chatting sounds kind of cool.

Most of the people I know who have joined Google+ at this point are people who have some connection to the Bay Area tech community, are people who have major gripes against Facebook, or who like the idea of getting invited to an exclusive club (or all three). In time, my guess is that most people will only slowly move over to Google+ as their friends do, but probably feel no major inclination to leave Facebook. For many of those who are not tech savvy, it is a big deal that they have managed to figure out Facebook at all (and some actually haven't even done that). They probably won't like the idea of learning to navigate a new site.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold. It does seem like the users who have tried Google+ are very happy with it, so it could completely replace Facebook in the way that Facebook replaced Friendster (what's Friendster, you ask?!) not that long ago. But, you never know what might happen. Google is aggressively monopolizing many areas of the cloud. Can they keep it up?

*The hover text is very important in this link.

UPDATE: I just discovered another cool thing about Google+. You can EDIT posts instead of having to delete and re-post if you discover a typo. That is awesome.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Perfectionism vs Creativity

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. I mean, it's good to have high standards and be able to criticize your work, but it's no use being critical when you're in the midst of writing. I wonder if it makes sense to have two hats. The blue hat is the one you wear while being creative. While wearing it, you are free to express whatever you want, however silly, crazy, or useless it may end up being to your project's end goal. The red hat is the one you wear while editing. While wearing it, you are a grammar dictator, a counterpoint fiend, an expert surveyor of the latest market trends, and the harshest devil's advocate. The catch is, you can't wear both hats at the same time. In fact, the other hat can't even be in the same room.

Red Exes

I had lunch with an old friend yesterday who told me about a new motivational technique he's using. He's always been big into goals and strategic planning and has been very successful in his efforts, so I'm always interested to hear what he has to say, since that is something that also interests me.

So, here it goes:

1. Pick something you want to accomplish (ex.: to write a good song)
2. Designate a plan for what you'll need to do every day to accomplish your goal
(ex.: write a song = [Q])
3. Get a calendar and post it on the wall. On every day that you [Q], mark that date with a big red X.
4. Don't break the chain.

I like it. It's a very minimalistic and straightforward system and seems like it would work well.

Update:

Day One: Complete!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Internets

Yesterday I was informed that Facebook is not cool anymore. I had a feeling I was getting a little too big headed by thinking that having 541 Facebook friends all over the world who I regularly engage in witty banter with was a sign of social success. But, here I am in the center of the high tech universe where trends come and go. And, I'm always curious to try new things, so while I have no intention of quitting Facebook anytime soon, yesterday I joined Google+ and Twitter. Ha! Look at me! I'm getting all up to speed on my social networking.

But, that was really just an act of procrastination. Yesterday I managed to successfully divide all of my books into either boxes for shipping or bags for selling/giving away. Then, last night I spent quite a while organizing my CDs, as many of them were in loose piles. I considered importing all of them into my computer, which would be the ultimate act of space saving, but in the end only imported a handful (for complex reasons). This morning I had hoped that going through my sheet music would result in a smaller amount that needs to be shipped, but instead, I find that I really don't want to part with much of any of it. There are maybe 2 or 3 folios I would consider ditching.


There are, however, a lot of old opera scores and a couple of hymnals that I might need to part with.


:-( Or not... I guess I need more boxes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Instructional

How to Roll on the Floor Laughing:

Lots and Lots of Books

For the last couple of days I have been sorting through books. When I came to California, I had very few with me, but over the almost four years I have been living here, my mom and dad have both sent me a number of boxes of them, and I have purchased piles of them herein. I am awfully sentimental about printed words. Over the years I have forced myself to get rid of novels and nonfiction texts on many occasions, but I still always end up with my bookcases full. I'm a book magnet, a book fetishist, a book collector... whatever you want to call it. There are books I actually need and use regularly (language dictionaries, pedagogy textbooks, other reference texts), novels I have read and loved and can't seem to part with or think I might want to lend to someone else some day, volumes other people have given me that I feel guilty getting rid of even though I haven't read them and they aren't high on my reading list, editions I feel like I should read, paperbacks I am part way through but haven't finished, and books I would really like to read sometime soon (when I get the chance). Additionally, I have tons of sheet music, some that I regularly use with students, some that I have sung and loved and might like to sing again, some that I have never sung but might like to sing someday, some that was written for me or given to me by a composer friend, and some that just feels hard to get rid of since it is classic repertoire, even though neither I nor any of my students will probably ever sing it. I have filled three very large Whole Foods reusable bags with items to take/sell to Green Apple Books. And, I fear at some point I will feel sad at the loss of some of them. Most of what I'm getting rid of are things newly purchased and most of what I think I should keep are the things I have the deepest sentimental attachment to. But, maybe it's time to get rid of more old books. Why hang on so tightly to the past? Sigh...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Limbo Land

So, Saturday morning, after my landlord showed about a dozen eager people my apartment, I had coffee with a visiting singer friend from Boston and then taught voice lessons for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Sunday morning I sang the 8:30 mass bright and early and then took a leisurely walk and ended up at my favorite San Franciscan bookstore, Green Apple Books, where I purchased two DVDs, *Les Parapluies de Cherbourg* and *Take the Money and Run*, with a gift card my father gave me for my birthday. While I was there, I ran into two friends of a friend who were headed to Golden Gate Park and asked if I would like to join them. For the first time in a really long time, I couldn't think of a single reason why not (yay!), so I did. We road a surrey with a fringe on top (no lie), loafed on a blanket in the sun for a long while, and then made and ate southwestern pumpkin veggie burgers (which were delicious) and watched *Mad Men*. It was a really relaxing and fun day. Monday morning I felt like I should start packing, but I felt really, really tired and very lightheaded (probably because of the sun and alcohol from the day before) and wasn't able to generate enough energy to do anything but watch about a dozen episodes of *30 Rock*.

This morning I feel acutely aware that this is the first official work day on which I will not be going to my old office, nor need any excuse as to why I'm not going to the office, in over three and a half years. I have found myself several times this past weekend wondering things like, "Did I remember to tell them about X?" or "Did I remember to put Y back in the right folder?". I suppose in time I'll be able to let go of my connection to the job and feelings of responsibility and worry, but it hasn't happened yet.

This transition time is proving to be a little more challenging than I had expected it to be. My plan right now is to move to Syracuse for a while, check in on how things are going with my mom and see if I can help out in any way, and in a matter of one month or two make the decision to stay in Syracuse or move to Boston or New York City so I can live close enough to home to visit with some regularity. But, instead of packing, I've found myself burning for more certainty about what I'm going to actually do exactly. Shouldn't I maybe just put my belongings into a storage unit in San Francisco until I figure out what I'm doing? No. Shouldn't I start looking for an office job in Boston and at least rent out a sublet for the month of August? No. Shouldn't I make appointments with some choral contractors in New York City? Maybe... No. Not yet. Shouldn't I start thinking about going back to school to finish my DMA? I don't know... I am feeling very uncertain about everything, but why should that stop me from packing up my things?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cleaning

I'm taking a little break from cleaning my apartment. My landlord is showing the place in a couple of hours and I'm trying to make it look as nice as I can. This is a beautiful studio apartment. Not only do I have a really lovely southern view of the city and beyond, but I have shiny hardwood floors, a high moulded ceiling, a small extra room between the main room and the kitchen, two big closets, a murphy bed hidden by a french door with a glass doorknob, and built in bookshelves with glass doors. It's been perfect for teaching, since I can easily hide my bed, and is in a really great location, close to great restaurants, bars, cafes, historic sites, public transportation, and the office where I've been working is only a fifteen minute walk away. I have never in my life paid so much money in rent, but I don't regret having had the opportunity to enjoy this absolutely charming and delightful living space. I feel blessed to have lived here.

Yesterday I had my last day at the office. My co-workers took me out for a really nice lunch and gave me some really nice presents and cards. It was really sweet. We did a lot of hugging and saying mushy things. :-) So now, until I leave town, I will just be teaching voice lessons and have about eight services (rehearsals/performances) combined for a church and professional choir. I have a lot of work to do in the area of cleaning, packing, and still some more planning to do to get ready for the move, too. I expect to be pretty busy.