Sunday, March 31, 2019

Week 46/66: Two Thirds Through

I've been absent from the blog for a while.  I doubt many folks are reading these days; heck, why would they?  I think the blog thing is mostly done, no?

Blogs were great for folks who were doing something new and challenging: grad school, new faculty, new jobs, new positions, new hobbies, and so on.  The day to day of most peoples' lives, once they've gotten pretty good at whatever they're doing, is less interesting to write about and read about, both.  There's less to process day to day, and often, more mundane stuff keeping one busier.

I think as I come off sabbatical, I'll be learning a lot about teaching again, so hopefully, I'll have something worth writing about.

In the meanwhile, I wrote my SAA paper and am looking forward to SAA.

I took a class at the local nature center on bird banding, and have gone to two sessions.  In order to be able to do the actual banding, you have to take the class, and then go to many sessions and gain skills.  So mostly at the sessions, I've been observing, and then acting as scribe, writing the coded notes about the birds we're banding (while someone else does measurements and the banding).  I've released a bird, and learned and practiced the two basic ways of holding small birds, the bander's grip (you put your fore and second finger on either side of the bird's neck and use the other fingers to hold and manipulate the body), and the photographer's grip (you put your fore and second finger in front of and behind both legs above the ankle at the calf.  Birds' legs are sort of like a dog's hind legs in that the long bone just up from the foot is actually part of what's foot bone for humans, and the joint is the ankle, while the actual knee is quite close to the body.)

I've really enjoyed doing the scribing and observing.

Spring has hit here in a big way; we've got major melt, and I've even taken my first bike ride of the season.  At that point, I realized that my bike's shifting was really sloppy, so I took it in to the shop for a long-overdue tuneup.  That was last week, and I haven't been out again yet, but maybe today.  I got a new cassette and chain, which makes sense, since the old one had about 5k miles on it.

I went to an Alexander Technique session, and learned some helpful stuff.  I'm thinking of signing up for a summer session that's a week long.  I took in a section I really have trouble with because I'm holding my left hand too tightly.  The first time through, I played it so horribly (I'm very nervous playing in front of people, even my teacher), I was really ashamed.  But the teacher was helpful and kind, and I played it better after that; she gave me some help that loosened my hand up by loosening my back up.

I think I've mentioned viola studio before.  Basically, at the university, the students studying a given instrument (or voice students generally) meet as a group with their lesson teacher and do something together for an hour.  Often, a student will play a piece they're working on and the group will give them feedback, telling them what they're doing well, and what needs work.  As I understand it (and it makes sense, given that they're all studying with the same teacher who has a given focus), usually the comments reinforce what the teacher's been saying.  So if the teacher really focuses on, say, bowing, the students will all have learned to focus on bowing, and that will come out in the comments.  For students preparing for a recital or auditions for grad programs, playing in front of a small group also works as a dry run and helps with nerves and such.

At the last couple of studio sessions, Strings had her students make videos of themselves practicing, and Strings also made a video of herself practicing.  HOLY COW, she's really amazingly disciplined!  She was starting to learn a really difficult piece, and started off with a few notes, like a set of triplets, and turned on a metronome and played them oh so slowly, several times, until she could play them well 5 times.  Then she clicked up the metronome 5 steps and did it again, and so on, until she was playing it fairly fast.  And then she put the metronome all the way down, and started with the second set of triplets.  When she got them at that speed and clicked up, she added the first set and played them together.  And as she clicked up, every other time, she'd add the first set again.

For the third set of triplets, she started with just them, clicked up and added the second ones, and on the third click up, she added the first ones, too.  She followed that pattern all the way up.  By the end of a few minutes, she was playing several sets of triplets at high speed.  (These were in a piece of very contemporary music, and so, as seems usual with contemporary music, very difficult, widely spaced with string crossings and shifts.)

In addition to Vivaldi's A Minor violin concerto in the Suzuki book, I'm still working through the Rieding concerto, which I blogged about back in January, when I was first starting it.  Strings checked me off on the second movement, so I've started on the third movement, and this week, I've been using Strings' practice method, since this movement is pretty hard, with some fast bits.

I haven't practiced enough (I really, really have to get my mojo back in several ways, and part of why I'm blogging again is hoping it will help with that).  But, what I've done, so far, seems to be very slow but effective.  What I mean is, it takes me FOREVER to get a bit so I can play it well 5 times in a row at each metronome setting, and there's a definite limit to my speed for some parts, but once I've worked through to that limit, I can pretty much play with pretty good accuracy consistently.  But, yeah, it takes me forever to slowly click up.

In other news, I joined a weight loss app thing on February 23rd.  I've lost about 4 pounds, but it's very slow, and I'm frustrated.  Still, I REALLY need to get to a healthier weight and be more active, so I'm trying this.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

That's about all the new stuff.  I don't know what to say about the admissions scandal that hit last week about folks with money bribing to get their kids into elite schools.  Okay, I do have a few things to say.  Really rich people have been doing this totally legally since elite schools began.  The thing is, most of the people caught up in this scam weren't really rich, but rather pretty high earners.  They may have incomes that are pretty high, but they don't have the sort of money that buys new buildings or adds wings to hospitals.  Really rich and important people don't have to bribe anyone or even make actual donations.  If Malia Obama applies to school X, the admissions folks recognize her name and she's in.  Same thing happens with George Bush's kids (either George Bush, since the elder was the ambassador to the United Nations and then head of the CIA when the younger generation was heading into college and such.  Admissions folks at elite universities know those names.  If you're important enough, you don't have to tell anyone who you are because they know.

But these folks, these folks weren't that important or rich; they were well off enough to pay some bribes.  It sucks, and it's wrong and unethical and so forth.

I don't buy for a moment that the kids weren't aware.  If you're suddenly getting a diagnosis that means you get longer to take a test or someone's coaching you about the answers, and you're a minimally smart 17 year old, you know.  If your parents are pulling that sort of BS, you know, because they've done it before.  That doesn't mean that at 17 you'd feel like you have a way to stop it even if you wanted to, of course.

And the false diagnosis thing is the part I actually hate most.  They took a system that's really important for people who actually have a disability or problem and need to take tests in a quiet room or with more time, and made people trust the system a whole lot less.  And the people who actually need accommodations are working against difficulties and disadvantages, and now these semi-rich people have made their lives more difficult.

I'm also irritated that they've claimed the bribes as donations on their taxes because it means the rest of us are helping pay for their dishonesty.  Or were.  (And I'm sure what the feds found is just the tip of the iceberg.)  But then, really rich folks do that all the time, too.

So, that's where things are.  I'm going to try posting at least twice a week for a while.  Good to be back, I hope!