08 May 2011

Ten of the Many Things My Mother Has Taught Me

1) Never pull open the giant M&M bag

2) No matter how shocking the situation is, keep your mouth closed when an alien explodes

3) Always get challenge details in writing.

4) Always keep euros on your person; you never know when you'll end up in Europe.

5) Protect you laptop from change.
These do not make your computer's disc drive happy.
6) Very little beats meandering conversations over tea.

7) The Beatles are fantastic.

8) Listen to people when they tell you not to freak out.

9) Spoons are great and wonderful things.

10) It's never too late to get the band back together.

Happy Mother's Day

05 October 2010

Will Minus Intellect

Maybe it's because I'm new--uninitiated, green, no0bish, however you want to describe my ignorance of how things work around here--but I don't completely understand this publication's tagline: "Crisp, clean, an hard-hitting since 2005".  The "crisp" and "hard hitting" I understand: I've only ever read two editions of this fine publication, and even I can see that very few people beat around the bush with their opinions in these articles. Personally I love knowing this is a forum for candid, and sometimes brutal, honesty.

      What I don't get is the "clean" part.

I imagine it's an adjective applied to the direct, frank commentary contained within these eighteen-or-so pages.  I know for a fact, though, it's not used to describe some of its article's language.

Look, I understand people have the right to use whatever language they wish to make their point.  Others are entitled to that right as much as I am. That said, I've noticed that some of my peers--not just the other authors within martini, all over--have the tendency to use expletives when talking about a particularly strong opinion or passionate argument, with the intention of emphasizing that passion.

Personally, big fan of the passion.
Not so much of the expletives.

Call me nerdy or old-fashioned (or both), but there are certainly better words than oft-used modifiers than, say, one that starts with f and rhymes with "ducking" or another that starts with "sh" and sounds like "fit".  That's why there are unfathomable volumes of words in this English language: to express thoughts concisely and exactly, and especially in writing for a publication show that the writer put at least a little thought into the words on the page.  It also shows creativity to use verbiage that's equally strong as, perhaps even stronger than, words that are censored from network prime-time.

I don't know about other people, but I for one appreciate a solid, well-composed, passionate argument.  Somebody may present their opinion on a subject, and I may agree with the person on every point, but if it's presented with every couple of words scooped out of the gutter, to me it's a much less credible argument. However, if someone else presents an opinion with which I disagree completely and wholeheartedly--perhaps even find offensive--but it's devoid of foul language, that strikes me as the stronger argument.

Yes, the crux of any argument or opinion is its content, how well it's backed up.  Equally important, though, is its word choice, how it's presented.  If nothing else it show that you, as the author, respect your readers enough not to inundate them with filth.  I couldn't care less if you, the reader, completely disagree with me on this topic; you're entitled to your opinion as much as I am to mine.  I do respect you enough not to swear every three lines.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Original appearance:
g-squared.  "Will Minus Intellect", Martini.  29 September 2010: 16. Print.

02 October 2010

don't forget to be awesome

I discovered the awesomeness that are the Vlogbrothers on YouTube (nutshell: Hank and John Green exchanging videoblogs since 2007) this summer, and in discovering the videos, I've discovered the community that has generated from it, of which I consider myself a part.  We call ourselves nerdfighters; by definition we are made, instead of bones and tissues, of awesome, and we fight the forces of worldsuck (this being the amount of suck in the world) with our collective awesome might.
This is one representation of Nerdfighteria which, at the very least, hints at many of the things in the Nerdfighter-Vlogbrothers canon:
One of the things in this canon is the phrase "don't forget to be awesome", often shortened to "d. f. t. b. a."  I think we all need to remind ourselves not to forget to be awesome, even in little ways.  It's important to be awesome.
A little while ago I discovered that the first vlogbrothers use of d.f.t.b.a. was in John's October 2nd, 2007 video:

I thought to myself: it'd be great to have a nerdfighter observance.  There're plenty of nerdy holidays--May the 4th, Towel Day (which also falls on Geek Pride Day)--but there didn't seem to be one just for nerdfighters.
I thought: why not stick it on the anniversary of the first use of d.f.t.b.a.?
So I started to tell people about it: DFTBA Day, 2nd of October.  Observe it as a day to be particularly awesome.  One of my writing friends was particularly enthusiastic about it on her blog.
For myself, today was a pretty awesome day.  I specifically wore a shirt of mine that, by its purchase, helped to decrease worldsuck in the Sudan; I adventured a little bit with some friends this morning; we put some stuff on our heads; we watched Doctor Who; and, even though schoolwork thwarted the attendance of the event, we planned on going to a dinner supported by the Latin American Organization on campus that was raising money for charity (even though we couldn't make it we're planning on donating some money anyway).
Reflecting on today, I thought, maybe we should do this next year, see if we can't get more people to observe DFTBA Day, and see how much we can lower worldsuck.  Folks could do stuff as big as getting  a group together to pitch in on a volunteer project in their town or raising money for a national or international volunteer project, or as small as taking some time out to catch up with friends and enjoy each other's awesomeness.  Anything to be awesome and decrease worldsuck.
Consider it, and spread the word.  I think it could be good.
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(note: for the heck of it I googled "day for awesome", and as it turns out there's an International Day of Awesomeness, proposed by none other than Kevin Lawver, the guy behind ficlets (que disfrute en paz) and ficly.)
For more info on Nerdfighters, check out this video, or any of the Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube.

16 September 2010

Tango Training

So, in my first few chaotic weeks, I've found a sort of solace in two things.
The first is practice.
The chapel where I've been practicing is a pretty little Tudor-style chapel, with an absolutely gorgeous German piano.  I've already named this one: Ernst Sergei Blüthner.
Hey, it's a German piano, may as well have a German name.
I like my new teacher; does things differently than my other teacher back home, which is expected.  But, we get along, I understand what he's telling me and I'm doing as best as I can to do what he's telling me, so I think once we really get into a rhythm it should be fantastic.
The second is tango.

One of the clubs I discovered even before coming to campus was a group for learning Argentine tango.  I liked ballroom when we did it in gym class, plus I figured it'd be fun, so naturally I signed up.
Definitely living up to expectations.  It's tough, but it's a whole lot of fun.
Not only that, but I think it'll be good for my paranoia.
I usually blame that on physics.
I discovered very early on when taking physics that it makes me think (and therefore freak out) about the universe in general, which has in turn spiked my paranoia.  As much as I love physics, I think that's been the one slight drawback.
With tango, I've discovered very, very quickly that the follow really has to follow the lead closely, and to really trust the lead to, say, not run you into a wall.  This is very tough for me, partly because some of the paranoia makes it tough for me to trust folks sometimes, but mostly because I'm stubborn.
I've been stubborn in some capacity for as long as I can remember.  I like to anticipate, I like to know what's going to happen, and what's happening.  It's not that I need to have control, per se, but I do at least like being in the metaphorical loop.
When you're following in tango, though, you really can't control what your partner does.
And unless you learn to lead there's not a thing you can do about it.
I know I'm brand-new at this, but it's already been observed that I "back-lead", I wrongly anticipate what the lead's going to do.  For most people first learning tango the remedy for this is to close their eyes.
I already have my eyes glued shut.
I just have trouble letting loose that restraint, that want to be in some sort of control.  I think once I get over that hump, along with the leads correcting me in my back-leading tendencies, it'll get easier.  Besides, I've seen how cool tango can be.  It's fun, I like it, and I'm willing to work at it.
It's like a card my brother sent to me over the weekend: 

08 September 2010

Short Postcards

Dearest Time,
Why must you be so limited?  Why must you go by so fast?
Sincerely, me.

To Mr. William Smith:
Thank you for helping to start a fantastic college.  It's only been two weeks and I absolutely adore it.
~ member of WS Class of 2014
ps- your statue on The Hill is quite stately, I must say.

Queridas Señoras W.,
Tengo que decirse: ¡Encontré a una amiga con ganas para español!  Tiene muchas ganas, y creo que les gusta a ella.  Está loca en las mejoras maneras posibles, y es divina.  Debemos conocernos, creo, cenamos juntos o algo así.
¡Y!  ¡Hay club de tango argentino!  ¡Es fantástico!
~ graciela

To: Time
From: Me
Where have you gone, you slippery demon?  What the heck??

Only Human

Last summer, a local chamber music festival hosted master classes for music students in the area.  My teacher and I decided it would be good performance experience, so I signed up and set to readying some pieces for critique.

            I put in the necessary work, so naturally I felt prepared.  I was confident; playing in front of people wasn’t something I found nerve-wracking anymore.  I did my usual warm-up beforehand, a slow run-through of the three pieces I had prepared.  Environment shock wasn’t a worry; I had played in the space before.  Everything felt normal.

            By my calculations it should’ve gone well.

Preparation can only take you so far, though.

            About two or three beginner students were queued up to play before me.  As it usually happens, the professor running the class overestimated how much time he had with the younger students, and took longer to get to me than I had expected.  I had played with long stretches between my warm-up and performance before, I wasn’t too worried about the lapse.  When it got to be my turn I mounted the stage, sat before the piano, and started to play the Bach I had prepared.

            Sometimes one tiny hitch throws everything else off kilter.

            I barely made it through the piece, having stumbled more times than I cared to count and in spots that should’ve been fine.  The teacher gave some feedback, as expected in a master class, but most of it was basic stuff that would’ve normally appeared in the piece had I played it normally.

He then glanced at his watch and informed me we only had time for one other piece.  This further upset my inner balance: I had prepared to play two other pieces, not to choose between them on the spot.  Throw that on top of my mediocre performance and I was positively frazzled, I couldn’t focus.  The second piece suffered the consequences.

By anyone’s standards, it was a disaster.

I’d never performed so poorly before. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, it just wasn’t.  I felt terrible.  Students are encouraged to stay for the entire class, but I was so disgusted I excused myself early and walked home.  As I walked barefoot through my backyard I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself.  How could I’ve screwed up, and so badly? I picked my way up the driveway, trying to scrape some consolation together with little success.  As I unlocked the back door music met my ears; we must’ve left the CD player on when we left.  It was almost like somebody changed the track on purpose:

We’re only human, yes we are, only human so far…

11 August 2010


From the (new!) title of this blog one can surmise my primary instrument.  But, after my mother recently half-jokingly suggested my brother or I pick up the ukulele, I've been googling how-to-play and tab sites, and seriously considering giving the ukulele a shot.  It's a perky little instrument, it's kind of unusual, it's certainly easier to transport the instrument than transporting my current one, and from what I've been reading it's not all that hard to learn.  Plus, I think it'd just be fun to try.

Two main roadblocks stand between me and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", however.  The first is that I don't have a ukulele as of yet.  It probably goes without saying that learning to play an instrument without actually possessing that instrument is just a little bit difficult.

The second thing is that such instruments are completely and totally foreign to me.

Here's the thing: I'm a classically-trained pianist with about ten years experience.  I can play the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin.  When somebody sticks sheet music up for something jazzy or more of a popular song, though, it feels awkward for me to play, even after I look over the music and play through it a bunch of times.  I know absolutely nothing about playing the ukulele, guitar, or anything remotely similar to these instruments.  Hopefully it won't be too much trouble, though.
Impediments aside, though, I've been tracking down songs to learn at some point, including bits from…

April Smith and the Great Picture Show

Jason Mraz

Charlie McDonnell
(aka charlieissocoollike)

And, it's probably mandatory that I learn this at some point.

Hopefully it'll work out so I can play at least play a little something.  We'll see how that goes.

(EDIT: I wrote this post 27/7/10... since then I've received a uke for an early birthday present, and I can play a handful of chords and a couple tunes!  Woo!!)