Media Favorites

I was in the mood to make lists, for some reason. I stuck to only three of each thing, as to not get overwhelming.

Authors
Mary Roach (everything)
Alex Bellos (math books only)
Bill Bryson (history and science books only)

Podcasts
Lore
Sawbones
History is Gay

Classical (or Related) Pieces
Cello Fury – “Nightfall”
Max Richter – “On the Nature of Daylight”
Mozart – Requiem (especially “Dies Irae”)
Bonus entry: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is terribly overplayed, but I have a soft spot for it, especially the second movement of “Summer”

Albums
The Cure – Disintegration
Covenant – Northern Lights
REM – Green

Currently on Heavy Rotation
VNV Nation – “Sentinel”
Nicki Minaj – “Good Form”
Boy Harsher – “Pain”

Female Singers (because I mostly listen to male voices; I’m a sucker for baritones)
Peggy Lee
Florence & the Machine (first two albums only)
Siouxsie Sioux (especially Peepshow)

Movies (I rarely watch them, but hey)
Moon
The Princess Bride
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover
Bonus entry: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, because when I was a kid I desperately wanted to be Maleficent, and no I haven’t seen the live-action films)

Musicals
My Fair Lady
Sweeney Todd
The Book of Mormon (which I saw live with the Broadway cast and it was amazing)

That’s it. Tell me your faves! I’m in the mood for nonfiction books and music. (I’ll warn you now that telling me to watch a movie is like telling my cat to write a novel. Ain’t gonna happen.)

Back to school

I’m registered for two classes this fall at the community college: trigonometry, and pre-calculus. My goal is twofold.

One, for years I’ve wanted to learn vector calculus just for fun. There’s something awesome about the idea of plotting spaceship trajectories, even though I’ll never go to space.

Two, grad school. For over a decade, ever since I took an intro to statistics class for my undergrad degree, I’ve been wanting to get a PhD in stats. I loved that class, and it was ridiculously easy for me. My two upper-level classes on experiment design also used stats, and those were equally fun. My local university has a pretty good stats program, but I need to get through calc 3 just to apply to it.

I love math. But I didn’t learn to enjoy it until I was an adult. As a kid, math was boring and I dreaded it. Which is annoying now, because it means my arithmetic skills aren’t that sharp. I rely on a calculator more than I’d like to, just because certain elementary skills aren’t ingrained.

I blame my teachers. Math classes were always dull. My high school geometry teacher, for example, had us spend half of each class period copying proofs into our notebooks, and we barely used the proofs. But the notebook was a huge part of our grade. She spent very little time teaching, and I dreaded that class all year.

So I am at a disadvantage compared to those who were taught to like math as young people. But I’m not going to let that stop me. If I suck at calculus when I take it in spring, I’ll go to grad school for something else. But I hope I’m good enough at it to get into the stats program. Because statistics are amazing.

Right now I’m doing the algebra course on Khan Academy, because it’s been ages since I took a math class and I want it all fresh in my head when the semester starts. I am enjoying it immensely. I do at least a little every day, and it’s a rush when I solve something correctly. Like, for a brief second, everything in the universe is just right.

It’s a nice feeling.

Cello lesson #3

I’m a little bleary, having not slept since I woke up early yesterday morning. But I powered through a cello lesson anyway with encouragement from Luna.

(I think I’m mildly hypomanic, despite taking my meds regularly. Hopefully it’s a fluke. Staying up *checks clock* going on 30 hours is never a good idea. And I’m still wide awake.)

Anyway. Right before the lesson I sat down to tune my baby. I happened to be sitting on the edge of my chair instead of all the way on it and leaning against the backrest. And holy hell, I sounded better.

I mentioned this to Luna as soon as the call got going, and she looked gobsmacked. “I didn’t teach you that? Why didn’t I teach you that?”

Glad I figured it out. Made the whole lesson better. More comfortable.

I played the “Long, Long Ago” variation, and then it was on to Mozart’s “May Song.” The rhythm is weird, but it’s a lot of fun. Very whimsical. I enjoyed it.

Because I picked it up quickly, she started me on Bach’s “Minuet No. 1”. This is a big deal, because it’s the first time I’ve shifted my fingering hand. I started learning to go from first to second position and back. I did a decent job sight-reading the bulk of the piece, which felt good.

We also spent a few minutes with the Vivaldi. I was getting worn out by that point, I’ve got to admit.

So my homework is practicing scales (and Luna is having me purchase a scales book), the Mozart, the Minuet (with emphasis on the shifting parts), the first eight notes of Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1” (continuing from last lesson), and playing the Vivaldi with a metronome at assigned speeds. It’s a lot, yeah, but I’m happy for it. I have two weeks before my next lesson, and I enjoy having a wide range of things to work on. Keeps me from getting bored.

(I still can’t believe I’ve been sitting wrong this whole time. Sigh.)

Cello lesson #2

I am officially done with Bach’s Minuet in C, which I feel a little weird about because it doesn’t sound perfect yet, but I have to remind myself that perfect is not a thing. Especially for novices.

I am now on “Long Long Ago” in C (hey, it’s Suzuki Book #2, exciting!) and its variation. The variation requires a lot of string changes, but as Luna plans to make me do part of Bach’s Cello Suite #1 soon, I need the practice.

We also worked on Vivaldi’s “Spring”, the dumbed-down violin part converted to cello here. Luna had me put in a bunch of bowing on the sheet music, and I’m doing some fingering notations on my own (wherever I slow down). I can sight-read this piece pretty well, since I’ve been listening to Vivaldi since I was tiny, but baroque bowing is hard so I’m getting distracted by trying to emulate Luna.

So I have tons to practice, which makes me happy.

She said my bowing elbow is doing better, by the way. So yay.

A very spiteful kitty

My cat, Eris, seems to understand the concept of revenge. To wit:

Last night I forgot to put the bag of cat treats back in the cabinet. I laid down to sleep, and heard crinkling. I know that sound well, so I went to the kitchen and took the bag — which he hadn’t managed to chew through yet — away, and put it back in the cabinet.

I got in bed. Closed my eyes. Suddenly there was a crash as he knocked almost everything off my nightstand. I growled at him. He went away.

I heard a strange noise from the bathroom. Since it wasn’t the sound of anything landing in the toilet, I decided not to investigate.

This morning he had somehow removed the toilet seat from the toilet.

I’m not joking. It was laying tilted, one side resting on the floor between toilet and bathtub.

I used that toilet last night, and that seat was firmly on there. I swear it.

What the fuck, cat. What the ever-loving fuck.

Rage

I am furious. Furious with Republicans, willing to exchange human lives to line their pocketbooks during a fucking pandemic. Furious that I have to vote for a rapist as president to keep another rapist from completely destroying my country.

I want to march in the streets with other furious people. Tear down the homes of the one percent. Show these callous, greedy, bigoted pigs that the people are stronger than them. Worth more.

2020 is turning me into a radical. And it’s not the pandemic, it’s the people.

Every day, Trump does or says something even worse than what’s come before. Every day, we slide further into a hell of the wealthy’s creation.

I have had it. I don’t know what to do about it, but if I find people I can ally myself with I am happy to march with them.

Fuck the Right.

Cello update

I’ve been practicing almost every day since my lesson. I missed two days because the antibiotics for a sinus infection were making me exhausted, but as soon as I finished the bottle my energy came back and I got back to practicing.

I’ve been very concerned about how my body is when I play, and I had a breakthrough tonight. If I hold my cello about 3″ higher on my chest, with the top of the body sitting about where the button of an open-collared shirt sits, everything feels more natural and comfortable. I wish I’d known this years ago. In this new position, it’s easier to keep my shoulders relaxed and my left wrist level. It’s also easier for bowing from the elbow and not the right shoulder.

I feel stupid for not figuring this out years ago, and mildly annoyed at my teacher for not helping me get it right back then. Ah well. Better late than never, and better now when I’m relearning muscle movement than after it got ingrained again.

I sound so, so much better with the cello repositioned, too. Less like I’m strangling a large furry mammal. Yay for practicing.

The app for sight reading is fun. I didn’t use it tonight, as I was focused on mechanics, but it scores me wrong if I don’t get the pitch right on the cello. So it encourages not only sight reading skills, but good fingering. Yay.

By the time I quit tonight, the Minuet in C sounded like a song. Kind of gritty, still, but more like music than hamfisted sawing.

(By the way: yesterday Mom slept through my cello practices. Both of them. Napping in her recliner, six feet away from me, as I played. I was shocked. And no, she wasn’t dead, I checked.)

Recently I started listening to some Romany music, and the violins are just, yum. Since I already enjoy doing Irish music on cello, I want to do Romany violin parts too. Because why not? Maybe Gogol Bordello will hire me. (Kidding, kidding. I doubt I’d ever be good enough, even if I wanted to be in a punk band.)

Ooooh. Pogues songs. Yes. I want to play Gogol Bordello and Pogues songs. Folk punk cello.

It’s good to have goals. Even strange ones.

Gray areas

There is basically no area in my life where I am binary. I’m pansexual, genderqueer, didicoy, ambidextrous, schizoaffective. I am a creature of borders. Which is normally okay with me, but sometimes I wish I had a tribe of my own. I have tried joining groups based on identity, but there is always something about me that doesn’t quite fit.

Again, usually this is fine. I have good friends, many of whom I’ve known more than twenty years. I have friends I would trust with my life, and I am close to a couple of my family members. I have people I love and who love me back.

But every once in a while I wonder, “wouldn’t it be neat to meet others more like me?” But I believe most people want that, at some point.

Just thinking.

First cello lesson in 4 years

Cello lesson was great! Wow I need to work on my mechanics. Turns out I’ve been bowing wrong for years, so it’s maybe a good thing that I stopped playing for awhile and am restarting. Teacher certainly thinks so. By the end of the lesson I sounded a million times better (although still objectively terrible) and I’m committed to working on my bowing style daily. (Subject to health changes, naturally, but if I’m capable I’m going to do it.) I have muscle memory in both hands/arms to build up before I feel comfortable doing anything fun, which is fine with me.

Amusingly, my mom slept through the lesson, in her bedroom with the door mostly closed. When I went to let her know I was finished she was snoring. And here I was worried about annoying her…

So my homework for the next two weeks is lots of bowing practice, some fingering drills, and a bit of Minuet in C if I feel like it. But mostly it’s about the mechanics.

I also found an app that helps with sight reading, which lets you play the notes on your instrument itself. The app hears you and tracks your score. I’m going to play with it a little, but again, my focus is getting my body moving the right way.

I’m glad I’ve restarted lessons. This is good for me.

Genealogy Deep-Dive

I always get bored reading other people’s posts about their family census data and whatever, so I won’t get into it much here. But it was pretty cool seeing pictures of ancestors, and figuring out that my grandfather was probably the result of an affair my great-grandmother had, and reading documents in old-timey handwriting.

It annoys me greatly that my father is not an honest person. He probably knows more about his father’s past than I can find out from the internet, but I can’t trust a word he says.

I told Mom about all this, and she’s been telling me more about my dad’s father. She liked him a lot, and he apparently doted on her and on me when I was little. He would take two-year-old me for walks while Mom was pregnant with my younger sister, bring me toys… She says he was exceptionally well-read and one of the smartest men she’s ever known, even though he wasn’t formally educated. He worked in the boiler room of the local mental hospital. Grandma was a nurse there. Before that he was a coal miner, and I think she was a seamstress? They both did a lot of different things.

Grandma could knit, crochet, quilt… She made all her children’s clothes when they were growing up. She taught me to knit when I was about nine, and made me dolls. But I was always closer to Grandpa. (Physically as well as emotionally — Grandma had this horrible little dog that would bite me if I got too close to her.) When I went to visit them I would look through Grandpa’s piles of books to find something to read, and I remember us sitting on the porch lost in our respective novels, usually after he made me a cup of tea. I felt terribly mature, drinking tea and reading with him.

Happy memories. I wish I’d gotten to know him as an adult. I think we would have gotten along well…