Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quality is its own reward

At the behest of my clarinet teacher and my violin teacher, I recently made two small purchases (<$20CDN in total) with unexpectedly huge results.

Violin: After being informed that my E string probably needed replacing, I replaced it with a different type -- A wound E, not the plain E that I had been using since my first lesson in early 2003. This one is a D'Addario designed to cut down on "whistling" in the high registers, and Vilma is quite enjoying it.

Clarinet: I finally got the go-ahead to advance to a harder reed, having played 2½'s from the beginning of that course of studies. Picked up two #3 Vandoren "56 rue Lepic" reeds to try them out.

Results: An immediate, audible improvement in sound and control on both instruments.

Listen to your teachers. Buy the best parts and supplies you can afford. And, while you're at it, get the action and intonation fine-tuned on those guitars, too. Music is intense enough without making things harder for yourself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A blót to Dad & co. Just because.

(looks up from the "belated Equinox" section of the local card shoppe) Oh, hi. Something a little different tonight.

I dedicate this post to My Scandinavian ancestors, the folks who provided 50% of my genome.

And to the many people, places, things and ideas that they chose to honour.

(raises glass of brandy, but only because the mead won't be ready till Jól)

To the Æsir and Vanir and Jotnar: May you continue to inspire Me to be the best possible Me, and may all be well in your respective houses.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Damn, I'm popular...

...With the temp agency, at least.

I've been trying to get Stuff finished around the house before the next Winnipeg winter comes howling in past the Perimeter Highway. For me, this means working part-time rather than Monday to Friday, so I can have large stretches of daylight to do things like clamber up and down very tall ladders with brad nailers and levels and hammers and pieces of siding. Which was exactly what I did yesterday afternoon.

But it doesn't stop them from asking. I got a call today (several calls, actually) inquiring as to my availability for this afternoon and tomorrow all day. Said 'no' due to prior commitments: A planned excursion to various music stores today, and taking my mom shopping tomorrow. I've just returned from the former sortie with a Thumb Saver pad for my clarinet, a violin method book on order, and a report on a previously unknown coffee shop.

Complicating all this is a not-yet-signed contract for music teaching. I'm reluctant to put my X on the dotted line, mainly because I really do enjoy having my evenings back. I still see myself going to university this year, although I probably won't end up in the lecture hall before next January (Distance-Ed courses notwithstanding.)

Once in a while I do work full-time days... But it's no fun any more. I did two full weeks vacation relief this summer, felt rather drained afterwards. Last winter I did a three month FT stint, notable mainly for ever-increasing knee pain which I now recognize as patellofemoral syndrome complete with "theatre sign".

(pauses to unfold right knee to an oblique angle, stretch the hamstrings, and tootle melodiously on her clarinet)

My last full-time-permanent gig was as a computer tech. A few months into the position I discovered that I had replaced one full-time person plus a half-time person. And I had to work at four different locations. One of which was a mold-infested building that had been contaminated after a flooded basement in the spring of 1997. And I have a ++++ mold sensitivity. Amazingly, it took me over 16 months to crash and burn -- But, when I did, both the crash and the burn were spectacular.

And, apparently, permanent. I hung in there for another two and a half years as a part-timer, but things got so bad I finally just quit. I can no longer bring myself to work in basement offices; my chest tightens up at the very thought of it. This is partly due to poor air circulation in such areas, but an awful lot of it is psychological. I came out of that fiasco with lymphedema in my calves, plantar fasciitis, and whole-body fatigue and aching that, to this day, bears a chilling resemblance to fibromyalgia.

Which is why, when I saw the union president at the grocery store the other week, I ignored her look of recognition; walked past her; and muttered "Thanks for fucking nothing."

Things are better now. Much better. I can climb those ladders, spend Sunday afternoons laying bricks (arrgh! not more bricks!) and go to karate twice a week.

But... Work a full-time permanent office job? Not. On. Your. Life.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Weird Al's Evil Twin Sister Strikes Again

We don't need no edging pavers
We don't need that cordless phone
No light brown Dutchstone for the pattern
Hey! Mister! Leave them rocks alone
All in all it's just another brick in the walk
All in all it's just another brick in the walk


Eighty bricks, weighing six pounds apiece. About a quarter-ton of 'em.

Carried in the trunk of my small but rather determined car.

This afternoon, Red and I spent about five hours figuring out how paving stones work. Took a mattock and a shovel to part of my parents' front yard, then played around with twine and retaining strips and nails and lots and lots of sand and...

...Briiiicks! (said in the dulcet tones of the Crusading Chameleon immediately after he slammed into a wall face-first)

At nightfall we had six rows in place, tight and level and arranged in a rather nice pattern.

And then we went out and bought $45 worth of junk food.

We'll probably go back over to the parental units' place tomorrow afternoon, and spend Labour Day setting a few more rows of...