Saturday, April 29, 2006

It Works Both Ways!


Mexico Considering Decriminalizing Personal Use of Pot, Cocaine, Other Drugs

This story is humorous to consider in the context of the U.S.-Mexico border wars currently occuring. In my mind's eye, I picture Mexican migrant workers crossing north, while American college students cross south.

Strange is the twist of fate that might allow these two groups to meet at the top while crawling over the fence.

This is essentially the idea I've seen espoused by some libertarian cantidates over the years. Now we'll have a social experiment in our neighbor's yard to watch.

I'm not quite sure where I stand on the issue of drug legality. On one hand, if we're banning drugs, why do we still have alcohol and cigarettes available? Two addictive, bodily corrosive substances that can be purchased off the shelves. Maybe we should just have medicinal vials of unflavored wine to get that health benefit everyone talks about.

But is it ethical to let anyone buy any drug? Even the ones that cause dangerous psychomorphic effects? It might save police costs for not busting everyone for using weed on the sidewalk, but wouldn't they have their hands full with people beating up their grandmothers while on PCP or methamphetimines?

I have no idea where to draw the line between these extreme positions.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Pretty Sneaky, Karma.

So, when I rant about musicians degenerating into children, the next day I get to listen to one of the best recitals I've ever heard, filled with musicians who performed exceptionally. Point taken!

It was an exceptional recital. Not just because I got fed afterwards, or got recognized from the stage. No, it got better than that! The soloist was good. The music served him, not the other way around. I felt that he had a great understanding of how the music on the page looked, and then enhanced it with his general musical feeling. It was an amazing recital.

That, and the subsequent brass quintet was praiseworthy. It was a pleasure to listen to them perform, even if they haven't figured out a catchy name yet. I did some coaching with them early on, but in the weeks since I've heard them, they added many interesting musical ideas. During every section, I was eager to hear the next, to see how they'd sound or if they'd changed anything.

And even though I didn't have the words to tell them, I am proud of them. That phrase gets over-used and I'm not sure it will have the full effect I intend, but I don't have any other words that communicate what I feel. Perhaps that explains my uncharacteristic enthusiasm for this performance. I don't care. What good is a blog if you can't have completely one-sided opinions?

Even though it sounds goofy, I'm proud of each one of the performers and the musical product they created.

Coincidently, it's almost a year to the day after another ensemble performance that had me angry. I can't recall ever being motivated to true anger (which is rare for me) by music. Yet it happened. I'll tell that story next time, because I want the last thought to be of admiration of tonight's soloist.

I'll break my own guideline to congratulate William Hess by name for an excellent show.

And good food.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Be Mature Enough to Know When to be Immature

R. Lee Ermey says: Where's your honor, dirtbag? You are an absolute disgrace!




In most cases, I have no problem with immaturity. In fact, I've been known to indulge in it a bit, here and there. Like obvious sarcasm, there are some cases when it's warranted, and some when it's actually funny.

But what fun would this be if I talked about those times? I become personally peeved when people don't act with maturity when it is asked of them. Standard disclaimer applies: This is my opinion. The people I'm frustrated with are acting against what *I* think should happen. Your mileage may vary. Follow-up disclaimer: I think I'm about to ramble. Some or all topics may not be related. Fasten safety belts.

Let's talk about college age people. By the time you're in college, I expect you to be able to known when to knuckle under and accept the things you can't change. As my father says, "Pick your battles." It honestly shocks me the way some people (whom I might call adults in regular circumstances) behave when things don't go their way. In cases like these, seeing people in their twenties behaving like children is disgusting.

I'm not trying to change what anyone thinks. The electrical impulses that form your opinions are entirely yours. It's not in my interest to prevent or enable you thinking that a flat tax is stupid, God is dead, or homosexuals make the best bank tellers. I'm sure you have reasons for thinking all of those things.

Let's talk about professional ethics. In a professional situation, as I mentioned above, it's not time or place to give voice to every opinion you have. It's CERTAINLY not the place to give voice to grudges. You are there to behave as a professional. In effect, you are being paid to make sure you can deal and cope with almost everything that comes your way.

There are some exceptions: harassment, bigotry, discrimination. You don't have to deal with those. Chances are good someone above you can. When I worked in food service, I instructed people on how to deal with adversarial customers. Andy's Golden Rule is: once they make a personal attack, the conversation is over. You no longer need to speak to them; go and get someone who's paid to deal with that.

But let's set aside the BIG 3. Once you're in a professional situation, you'd better behave like a professional. Know why? Because everyone is watching. Even people you think aren't paying attention will start paying attention if you make a big enough stink.

In my current line of study, there are lots of personality conflicts. Some people just plain don't like each other, but because some of it is news to me. Not because I'm not paying attention. It's because it stays out of the public eye, or at least so subtle it's easily missed.

On the other hand, I'm well aware of other situations. "Don't let those two sit next to each other. They're fighting." "Don't let that guy say anything. It's just going to piss people off and disrupt things." What the hell!

Drifting from topic slightly: Starting a few years ago, I was introduced to the idea that some people don't want anyone else to perceive they've been taken advantage of. Said another way, they don't want people to think that anyone gets the better of them. Every story they tell involves them striking back, coming out ahead while dusting their adversaries, or making someone look stupid while they stand triumphant. It's ugly.

I'm disappointed that I'm noticing it amongst musicians, too. I don't want everyone to be a doormat, but please balance indignation with resignation.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I am proud of myself.


So I managed to do something I didn't think I could. This morning, I was toying with the idea of making parts of my latest recital CD available to friends who live farther away than I care to drive. I tried emailing files last year, or hooking up with a temporary internet storage, but those things weren't what I was looking for. Surely, I could find what I want from the university, right?

Right. I managed to figure out how to "turn on" my web space. Now I had to figure out how to make it "go". Saying "go" didn't help. I was out of ideas.

Eventually, I manged to make an index file using my word processor, get it uploaded in the proper place (I hope it was the proper place), and have it viewable on the Internet. Score! I took my fledgling command of HTML and managed to code a bland page that pointed to a file. I even managed to upload the file into the university's file architechture. What's more, I received confirmation that someone actually GOT the file. How cool is that?

The answer is: it's pretty cool.

Point of interest-- The budda is a nod to someone actually referring to me as "like a garden budda". I fail to see the resemblence.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dulcinea! I see heaven when I'm with you, Dulcinea!


Evening Reading: articles on the Madonna/Whore complex.

An aspect of Freudian psychoanalysis found that can develop in men. The Madonna/Whore complex results when a man can only perceive of his romantic partner in pure, beautiful, and virginal terms (the Madonna). The Madonna can be protected, loved, and is most likely admired and respected by the man. The respect runs so deep that he considers it "improper" to consider her as a sexual object.

This displaced lust can be freely applied to other women. If the man experiences a visceral lust for a particular woman, he feels no qualms about treating her as the "whore", because she is completely different from the "Madonna". Extreme internal conflict can lead to frustration in not being able to find one woman to satisfy both of the paradoxically opposed categories, or of trying to consider a normal woman as both simultaneously. (For a popular culture application, see the "Roxanne" scene in Moulin Rouge.)

Of course, being Freudian, the complex also involves mothers and repressed sexual anxiety. But you all knew that already.

*** *** ***
"Hanging a Lantern On It"

I've heard the above expression most often applied to script-writing. When you've written yourself into a corner and can only do something illogical or stupid to extricate yourself, often times you'll call attention to it, simply to beat the audience to the joke. By hanging a lantern on it, you're calling attention to a weak area.

It seems to me that we do the same thing in conversation. Some people are extremely sensetive about aspects of their life, and they'll "hang a lantern" on the subject to prevent other people from possibly bringing it up. For example, people sensetive about their weight may respond to any sentence involving the word "heavy" with "Are you saying I'm fat?". Among friends, such a statement is usually said comically, but the fact it gets mentioned at all is extremely revealing.

I can't figure out if it's fishing for compliments or simply hypersenestivity to the subject. To me, it's like waving a big red flag with INSECURITY written on it, but maybe that's the point, too. I've been known to twist people's words into an age, weight, or hair loss joke.

But that's mainly to show how clever I think I am.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Out to the Cinema

I love watching movies. I have, ever since I can remember. It's not simply a diversion or entertainment. It's a way to experience places I haven't been and things I haven't done. And it's a way to revist them when I can't.

I usually end up getting totally immersed in whatever movie I'm watching. Whatever I'm supposed to be feeling, I do. I can't help it. It's a way to let go of emotions and get completely lost. It's almost like dreaming. My body shifts into neutral, allowing my brain to rev the engine as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, that leaves me in a bind as far as movie selections go. There are certain emotions I don't particularly care to revisit in my "relaxing" time. There are certain cathartic experiences that I simply can't go through again.

I've only seen Schindler's List once. It's a moving, disturbing, horrible and wonderful film. I don't need to see it again, yet it contains one of the most powerful displays of emotion I can think of. To identify with the scene is to comprehend more about myself. It only takes one time understanding why a man literally can't stay standing after realizing that by selling his lapel pin, a trinket he didn't even like, he could have saved one more life.

Or in O, the modern retelling of "Othello". It's not a spectacular film, but it contains the most intimate, brutal, and shocking murder I've ever seen on film. That scene has no blood, no guns, no swearing. It made me so psychologically uncomfortable I couldn't sleep. I tried to understand it! I would never wish to see it again, but it left its mark on my life.

I can't imagine not having seen these things. Because to me, it's more than just actors being paid to talk in front of a camera. So tonight, I watched a film because it was free from the library. I've only seen it once before, so it was still practically new to me. And aside from the drama itself, the film has happy memories attached to it. Memories which I honestly didn't remember until the movie finished.

And despite not even thinking about being in a bad mood, I was in a good mood by the time it ended. I guess I was right to put off watching it until after I finished my paper.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I shake my fist in anger at the Ouiji board!

I should have known that sudden irrational exuberance would need some sort of counter-balance. Not bad news, per se. Frustrating, though.

I had an interesting discussion with someone about patience. She explained that she wasn't very patient, as a rule. I explained that I tried to be, and that sometimes caused me frustration in dealing with people like her. She had a wonderful "Aha!" moment where she verbally progressed to the realization that frustration doesn't just come from being impatient. It can also come from being patient and dealing with someone who isn't. I was honored to be there while someone actually moved through a chain of logical reasoning and learned something about themselves. Even though it happens to me, it's fascinating to watch from the outside.

I'm a big believer in patience. Without thinking about it, there are some situations where I'm impatient, and as a long term self-improvement goal I've been trying to reduce the number.

One of the hardest things to deal with is smart people who don't feel well. Because they're intelligent, they have a tendency to see through encouraging words and comforting gestures to the bare truth: they're not feeling well. It's fantastically hard to convice some smart people of anything they don't want to believe. In that case, the route I usually have to take is to appeal to their emotions to make them understand.

Let me choose an example that's definitely not related to this issue: appearance. It can be extremely difficult to get people to admit they're attractive. We, in our culture, are hard-wired into humility from a very young age. Combine this with a negative self-image and we find that compliments have a lot of inertia to overcome. (I'm pretty sure I've messed up my Physics forces somewhere.)

If someone is smart, then you've got an even bigger uphill battle for one reason: they've probably done research. They've most likely got several reasons on hand for why it simply can't be true; they simply can't be attractive. As you may or may not know, it's pretty frustrating dealing with someone like this. It turns what should be an easy compliment into a qualifying exam for Defense on the Debate Team.

That's my dilemma: how do you convince someone you care about that their ideas are wrong? Through damned hard work and patience, I hope.


Post Script: For those of thinking this entry is about something else (i.e. Doctor Andy is in wuv), you're wrong. Every sentence in this entry is devoid of irony or duplicitous meaning (i.e. it's not about being attracted to anyone). If you were under this erroneous impression, please adjust your brain.
Thank you,
The Management

Turned a Corner


Well, my mid April blahs done been shook! At least, I'm on the upswing side of it, I think. Unpleasant news of a personal nature really bogs me down for protracted periods of time. One of the bad things about spending a lot of time ruminating is not being able to control what you dwell on! I finally surfaced to realize that most assignments are behind me and the end of school fast approaching. Zoom!

As part of the effort, I'm catching up on my correspondence. Letter to Germany, emails to old friends who've written recently, that sort of thing. I'm also finalizing a schedule for what I need to accomplish this summer, next fall, etc. Is Geman Language and Culture a summer or a fall thing?

*** *** ***

Everybody who's taken any motivational psychology knows about the stick and the carrot. The university sent me a nice letter in the mail about the carrot for staying next year. It's a nice carrot, really. But the letter makes no specific mention of the specific weight and length of the stick. Just a vague comment along the lines of "You may be asked to be hit with a stick later." Also, it makes no specific mention of the NUMBER of sticks I may be hit with. This confuses and frightens Dr. Andy.

The strange vagueness of the form letter gives me great hesitation about just mindlessly signing and returning it. I seem to recall from literature that when someone wants to take advantage of you, they make you sign for the carrot up front, fail to mention a stick (but also don't mention NOT having a stick), then show up after you've become a rock star with two mansions and take your soul.

Perhaps in addition to teaching a course on personal finance for musicians, I should include a sub-lecture on Contract Reading for Musicians and Other Dummies.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Psycho-babble

*Disclaimer* I am not a therapist, nor do I have a psychological background. All statements are opinions of the author, unless specifically attributed to a clinical source. This entry is a statement of opinion, not a source for diagnostic method or treatment confirmation, and especially not for scholarly research. Look elsewhere. For entertainment and external use only. Please consult your physician if death occurs. *End Disclaimer*

Let me get a little psychoanalytical. When speaking of how people perceive their own self-worth, you can generally classify people into two distinct groups: external or internal validation. Generally, I feel there is very little overlap. It's an interesting game to try and figure out who is who. But that's not what this is about.

This is about fashion. Some people like to look nice. Some people put effort into their physical presentation. It's amazing to me (someone who thinks fashion is the Nazi form of government) that some people look so good on a regular basis. It is as foreign to me as a different language.

I remember first having the pleasure of reading a fashion magazine, on a car trip across Missouri. It wasn't that long ago, perhaps in 2002. I remember the condescension I was treated to when I asked what the big deal was about hair products, why the need for multiple pairs of black shoes, who really buys skin-tightening lotion anyway, etc. I can remember my companion raising her eyebrow when I confessed that I just used a bar of soap in the shower.

"Don't you know what that does to your pores?" she asked, agog.
"Oh sure," I said. "That's why I make sure to rinse my hands thoroughly before using the beer pitcher."

Needless to say, I was deemed unworthy to discuss further matter on such a subject.

It's attractive to me, in a way. Not because they necessarily look attractive, but more like "Boy, you don't have any crap in your car trunk" sort of appreciation. I mean, I have no idea how long it takes them to get ready in the morning, or how many steps of preparation they have, or how many minutes it takes to put together an outfit. It's just amazing to me that some people spend a lot of time doing it, and I generally don't even think about it.

For me, putting effort into dressing involves finding where my keys are hiding, finding out if my chosen shirt has any holes, and finding two socks that have grey toes. It was nice to have a fashion consultant for a while, because while it made me feel more "put together", it also removed any blame I might have accrued from trying to wear the wrong shirt with the wrong tie.

Just to wrap it up, as you might expect, many people with an external sense of self-worth tend to spend a great deal of time with appearance, more likely to develop eating disorders, and have unrealistic expectations about their body (leading to body dysmorphic disorder, among other things). But don't think the internal people get off easy: they're prone to delusions, intractability, and anti-social tendencies such as not giving credence to other people's conflicting opinions.

So do the people who take care to dress fashionably have an external self-worth, meaning they're looking for the opinions of others to validate their own choices ("I wear this because it accentuates my good parts.")? Perhaps they dress nice FOR other people, knowing that someone appreciates that they take the time ("I wore white because I know you like it when I do."). Or do they feel internal self-worth, meaning the care of appearance is only because they like looking nice ("My day sucked, so I changed clothes and now I feel better."), and it doesn't really matter whether they're giving a speech or going to get the mail?

(P.S. How stereoypical is my mind that I can't write example sentences concerning "feelings" about clothes and make them gender neutral in my mind?)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Oh, what a beautiful morning!"

I can still remember one of the Boy Scout dads singing that long and loud over the noises of a camp waking up and shaking out stiff joints. Though, unless my memory fails me, I don't seem to remember him singing much further into the song.

I finished another paper last night, which may (or may not) explain my lack of updates. The writing of this paper didn't feel as much like pulling teeth, so I'll credit it to a modicum of outlining and freewriting that I did before hand. Or maybe it's just that the topic interested me more.

Today is all about perserverence. It's going to be a long day, with plenty of desire to fall asleep or escape through windows. Can't give in to that impulse, however. I wonder when our concert is? I should definitely think about that...

I was suddenly and inexplicably reminded of trying to buy a hot dog in Chicago with a $2 bill. The lady behind the counter looked at it, and said, "We don't accept money like this." I couldn't imagine what she meant. Sure, it was a little wrinkled from being in my pocket, but that's not hurting anybody. Can't accept it? It says right on it, "This Note Is Legal Tender". Poor Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps someone needs to try to start the phrase "all about the Jeffersons." But that might seem to indicate the sitcom couple who finally got a piece of the pie.

Upon further thought, if I were going to print a $497 bill and put Pee-Wee Herman on it, I'd make sure to identify the note as "Legal Tender", so I guess that's not a good argument.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Place Holder

I had promised someone that I would write something about love and affection. I can't do justice to it tonight. I still intend to on a different day, although it's more difficult to separate myself from a subject that is very personal. It's certainly intimidating: what can I say about love that hasn't already been said a hundred times over? Is there anything new, and if there is, do I know it?

I have thought myself in love several times over my life. Each time, it occurs to me that the previous time was like stumbling in a dark room and not realizing that I'm in a house. Each new love unfolds as a bigger canvas, that encompasses what I thought I felt and expands from there.

Odd for me to consider it, but in the moment, each relationship seemed to be all that I could give at that particular time. How amazing. It's like riding in an airplane and seeing the whole dimensions of the city I grew up in reduced to the view through a window, approximately one foot square.

Watching other people fall in love gradually is astounding. Often we can't see it in ourselves, because we're notoriously bad at examining our own feelings. But it can be quite apparent when viewing others. Seeing people feel good around each other and not know why; feeling people begin to understand and embrace (metaphysically and physically).

Many people don't appreciate that attraction is a risk: a big one. It is an unsupported supposition, at least until it's reciprocated. Then it no longer matters what you call it.

Man, I'm exhausted. Even my eyelids are tired.

Idiosyncratic

Based on some random thoughts while driving around today.

-I'm really only happy when driving the speed limit. Too slow or too fast makes me physically uncomfortable.

-I don't notice a difference between tap water, filtered, bottled, or spring. Only with well water do I notice.

-I'm no good at noticing changes in appearance. Strangely, I am good at noticing subtle changes in body language.

-I have a strict moral center when it comes to treating other people. I have an extremely low tolerance for abuse (in any form).

-Despite my best efforts, sometimes there are situations that I've only been able to "resolve" with physical violence.

-I never forget and never fully recover from making someone cry.

-At various times, I have anamolous sensory perceptions related to perceiving other people's emotions. It's a mild form of synesthesia, I guess. It does not help my composition skills.

-I have a box in my closet that I can not open. "Can not" in the metaphysical sense. Not because the lid is heavy.

-The only reason to pay attention to managing my money is so that I may eventually not need to think about it.

-State of mind must truly be chemically based, because I'm an optomist despite my best inclinations and perceptions.

-There are few things I admire more than deep, humble faith. Conversely, "fashionable" faith and worrying what other people are doing while you're being faithful is offensive. I'm a spiritual Groucho Marx: I wouldn't want to be a part of any religion that would try to get me as a member. If someone joins a faith for any reason other than believing, it is worthless.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"So you're the trombone player."

Easter Sunday.

Had a pleasant time at the Lutheran church today. The organist really knows his stuff, and there's something stirring about listening to the organ. Perhaps it's in my Protestant heritage. The pastor was an excellent orator and gave an interesting sermon. He was really good at using the pitch and volume of his voice to fill the space.

During the point in the service where they "Spread the Peace" or "Greet in Christ" or "Turn and Shake Someone's Hand", I had the misfortune to shake hands with a man who had an almost laughably bad hand shake. This guy apparently never read all the rules that are written down somewhere about how you shake hands with other men.

One: He approached me to shake my hand, but then kept his hand close to his side. To illustrate, place your wrist at your waist. Now point at the door handle in whatever room you're in. I wouldn't have even known he was going to shake my hand, except that he had his hand in the standard pre-shake orientation. Shameful. This forced me to reach almost to the extension of my arm OVER my music stand.

Two: Some men have strong handshakes grips; some have soft. Either is ok, depending on the familiarity and cirumstances. This fellow had no grip. He may as well have handed me a department-store dummy's hand. His fingers and thumb moved almost imperceptibly when I "slotted in". Let me tell you, nothing is stranger than getting a dead fish handshake.

Three: Eye contact. It's acceptible to look at your hand during the approach, to make sure that you aren't going to miss. But after you begin shaking, it's customary to look at the other person in the eyes, while saying something. This fellow wouldn't look at me, and barely mumbled something at me, which may very well have been the name of his favorite baseball team: I wouldn't know, because I couldn't decipher it. Part of the reason I couldn't was because the guy didn't look at me, even as I was shaking his hand. It wasn't because he was already looking at the next guy in line, either (seeing where he was headed next). He was looking at the floor or something in that vacinity.

Frustrating. If he didn't really wish to greet me, he should have just stuck to nodding his head at the other people in the choir loft.

My accompanist: now there's a good handshake. Perhaps it's because we're friends (and I pay him money), but he has an excellent handshake.

*** *** ***
Thirty seconds after walking in my door after the service, my doorbell rang. It was my downstairs neighbor. She wanted to know if I could talk to her grandson and family about music. "He has some questions for you."
Well, it turns out that he didn't have much to ask me. In fact, he may not have looked at me. He vehemently denied wanting to ask anything when prompted by his mother. But the four adults in the room were excited to hear me talk. I got to hear about how he plays 7 different instruments, but really appreciates the bassoon most. And how he's good at all of them. Did I mention he's in 7th grade?
Anyway, the parents got what they wanted out of my discussion: the name of the college bassoon instructor, the idea to insure instruments as a rider on home insurance, and the fact that someone in the states of Kansas or Missouri studies music. And likes it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

J'accuse!


I got called on my own self-aggrandizing the other day. It was great. No irony.

I always try to keep around the friends who keep my ego in check. I know the value of a good friend as one who has the courage to stand up to my bluster and make me see my own pomp. I know I have a tendency towards an .... arrogance. It's part of what makes me a good liar. It's also what makes me a good teacher. Sometimes, it makes me a bad friend.

I have no idea how this skill/fault developed. It's one of the dark corners of my personality. Usually, right when I need it, someone will take the time to look at me and say, "No. What you think? Yeah, it's wrong." Usually, I've gone out too far on a limb and rightly need to be brought back.

This time, though....it was something else. It's easy to feel sorry for yourself if things are going rough. But somehow, behaving with unintentional condescension came out, too. I was reminded that a friendship isn't something you endure; it's about giving. When you're extorting friendship, that's an ugly thing.

Luckily, it's still a small thing. If there was an expose being filmed about me, the circumstances of this incident would make even the most tenacious tabloid journalist give up. But what it represents in microcosm is a larger problem with my behavior.

I honestly don't know if my friend was purposefully upbraiding me, or if what was said just had significance for me alone. It's enough to say I felt contrition. Just like in a concert performance, I need to examine how I come off to other people, not just inside my own head.

Good think it's simple to practice.

"It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death..."

should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind."
--Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

In a paper left behind by a fellow student, I happened to notice the death announcement of a man I was only accquainted with. He was the father of a friend of youngest brother way back in elementary school. My first suprise was that his death warrented its own article, outside of the confines of the Obituary page. Also significant: he did not live here in Kansas City, so that implies a certain "famousness" for his death to appear as an article of news.

Is it because he was the first Asian American editor-in-chief of an American newspaper? Some obituaries around the country don't even mention it. But without that fact, what is nationally significant about a man who worked for a newspaper for 34 years, and moved to Palo Alto, CA to teach at Stanford? As it turns out, he received a degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked at the Kansas City Star for a few years early in his career. That may explain the Star having a significant article on him.

Strangely, few of the articles mention him as a family man, which is the only way I know him.

I'm impressed by this Information Age we're in. I'm sure I would have gone most of the rest of my life without thinking about this man. Thanks to the vastness of national news and the internet, I can learn something about his life in California without leaving my chair. It makes look back on previous scholarship and empathize with researchers who needed to search entire libraries to TRY to find information that might relate to their topic.

And as you might know, wisdom is an awareness of history. To be wise is to understand what happened "before", and how it impacts the "now" and the "will be".

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ketchup


All right.

Storm door installed? Check.
Recital completed? Check.
Tasty after-recital Meal? Check.
Company Departed Happy? Check.
Company Jokes About Me Doing Laundry? Check.
Updating to stop the Public Clamor? In-Progress.

I stopped in the bathroom on my way into the computer lab. In addition to the normal washroom sounds, like water running and paper towels tearing, I heard mumbling. After I wondered for a bit, it turns out that someone in one of the stalls was on his cell phone. At least, I hope he was.

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he received an incredibly important call. The high-powered lawfirm of Druskin, Apornekey, Jumalish, Dytrot, and Finkleheimerglastonduwirry was calling to let him know he'd been made partner. His mother on the line, letting him know that it turns out the tests were all negative, except for the one that wasn't. His agent, letting him know that the part he wanted went to Kevin Spacey instead. Something. Anything. Because during the day, I don't know what's so important that you can't wait until you have...ahem....washed your hands and returned to the common area.

*** *** ***
"I'm not a hockey player, but I do hit people."

Turns out I've got a lot of force. At least, force as defined as "mass x velocity". I was walking along the sidewalk today and three people were coming towards me, walking abreast. This formation took up the entire width of the sidewalk. Both groups noticed each other, and I assumed that was enough to prevent collision. Alas, no.

As we got closer and closer, I realized that the fellow on the end was walking straight down the path I was (i.e., the right edge of the sidewalk). I moved as far as possible to the side, without stepping into the grass. Then, for whatever reason, I just squared my shoulders and kept moving. He saw that we were headed straight for each other, but he didn't show any desire to give way and step slightly behind the two women he was walking with. Confident in my own right of way, we crashed into each other.

Well, "crash" is what would have happened if we were cars. It's a word that implies damage to both sides. Our "intersection" was more one-sided. I struck him like a large slab of beef (which I am). He ended up on the ground. I felt bad, but a fleeting bad. After all, if he'd only given way slightly, it never would have happened.

Of course, I could have ALSO, but I figure once out of every thousand times, it's time to check somebody. Plus, he was askin' fer it. My body in motion tends to stay in motion, I guess.

Physics is fun.

Monday, April 10, 2006

And I thought what *I* paid a month was bad...

Largest Phone Bill Ever

Short irreverent version: A man in Malaysia received a phone bill for approximately $216,000,000,000,000. Before being carted off to debtor's prison, he shouted he wanted to make "just a few more text messages".

Completely Unrelated News: A Malaysia telecomm company is anticipating record profits this quarter. Telekom Malaysia announces plans to purchase Malaysia and most of southeast Asia.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday morning ritual

I stocked up this morning on my typical Sunday morning feast of vituperation and invective. Nothing invigorates the blood like condeming those who don't think as you do. How fortunate to live in a part of the world where some thoughts can be expressed without (too much) fear of irrational violence.

While channel surfing, I was reminded of the Bande of Merrie Heathens. Soldier on in opposition, goodly men and ladies, for if you look for sense and pluralism pouring from Pastor J.'s mouth, ye shall inherit the dearth.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Annoying Technology Assimilated by Animals


On the way to rehearsal this afternoon, there was an extremely happy mockingbird outside the parking garage. No doubt the administration hires them because of the current student parking situation. Maybe because we're close to Finals.

Anyway, this jolly bird was singing his heart out, trying to do whatever it is that mockingbirds do. Only his calls were very un-natural. I distinctly heard the standard series of car alarm noises (that the most popular model must use) that often occurs during the brief time I spend in the garage. I also heard a laughably good version of a baby crying.

I would have tipped him, but I forget I'd taken all the birdseed out of my pockets.

It's a good thing I accidently get what I need...

...because I sure can't be relied upon to ask for it.

Moving around a lot today, so a quick entry. Imagine speed lines coming off of the text.

Intended to have an introspective lunch by myself. Managed to have excellent company, in spite of myself. Nothing suprises me as much as realizing how happy I was to see someone I didn't expect to see.

Gott sei Dank für gute Leute.

EDIT: "Thank God for good people."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Water Log


I spent over an hour in the shower this morning, and I have no idea where the time went. Believe me that my fingers were quite prune-like, and I'm sure I absorbed a significant amount of water. Realizing that you've killed quite a bit of time and fallen behind in your schedule is kind of maddening, especially when I've got nothing to show for it.

It happened again in rehearsal. There I was, waiting to play, and I just kept on waiting, even after my part came and went. It's not exactly a soft, relaxing piece, either. Percussive wood-block like the tick of a giant clock propels the piece forward. I confess I never even heard it start. If the guy next to me hadn't leaned over and tapped my music, I'm not sure when I would have snapped out of my "episode".

It's almost a guarantee that when you've got something on your mind, time reorganizes itself to give you more time to brood on it. My afternoon class cancelled because of incoming inclement weather, I had lots of time to kill. Being on campus with sudden free time will do that to you.

And now I can't type anything else. Not because I don't want to, but because I'm compositionally stuck in neutral. Even now, I realize I've been staring at the computer screen for 10 minutes without forward progress on this entry. Where does the time go? Maybe I can file a form with someone and get it back, when I need it. Like income tax.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hmm...

I stumbled across an interesting internet poll. It was all about whether or not the respondants had a secret that, if revealed, could potentially ruin their lives. There were four options.
  1. Yes, I have one or more such secrets.
  2. Yes, I have one or more secrets which will make my life uncomfortable, but not irrecoverable.
  3. Yes, I have one or more secrets of a mostly harmless but embarassing nature.
  4. No, my life is an open book. With clean pages.

The results were approximately 25% to each response, with No.1 being slightly less. Some people had further commented on what that secret was. Owing to the anonymity of the internet, I guess they felt no shame revealing it. Most of the most dire secrets had to do with either sexual preference or political leaning. Individuals were sure that revealing these would get them kicked out of wherever they lived, fired from their jobs, give their grandmothers' heart attacks, and other horrible things.

Now, listen carefully. I don't want ANYONE to comment about how they either have or do not have secrets. The last thing I need to have happen is people trying to guess what everyone else's secrets are. Even revealing yes or no could have repercussions. If you MUST say something, it's acceptible if you post anonymously. I can't track that and neither can anyone else.

I don't personally have secrets that would ruin my life. Trying to think what those secrets might be was an interesting mental exercise. It basically always came down to gross deception. If I had killed someone. Was a sexual predator. Had gender realignment and wasn't comfortable with anyone knowning. Had a famous (or infamous) family. Had been previously married. Those sort of things.

My personal secrets just seem very superficial: I like that girl, hate that person, dislike that teacher, etc. It would be embarassing to have them revealed, but it wouldn't change (much) how people perceived me.

All the juicy secrets I know belong to other people. I'm not sure I'm happy about that, or miffed at my own blandness.

Monday, April 03, 2006

"Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight:


always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?"
--J. M. Barrie, The Little White Bird, 1902

"Is it better to be needed or wanted?"

The above question comes from a journal entry of mine made almost eight years ago. I was browsing through my journal and came across it. I have no idea why it stuck so readily in my mind. It's the sort of question that only people who feel they are neither needed or wanted ask. In reality, at the time I was both wanted and needed, but people who are lovesick tend to ignore everything but their own "current" suffering. It is enough to say that with regards to my object, I was neither.

I remember sometime in the past asking a friend and getting a perfectly logical answer. "Wanted," he said, "obviously." To be wanted is to have someone showing a preference for you; the choice is available, and made in your favor. It involves no coercion of circumstance.

I remember thinking that being needed was much more "romantic". The unavoidability of it. A compulsion that has nothing to do with preference or fashion: only need. "I burn, I pine, I perish." [The Taming of the Shrew, Act I, scene i]

Now that I am both old and wise, I believe it's not a fair question. Want and need are not opposite ends of a hallway. It is perfectly possible to both want and need, or only one, or neither. Small was the experience of someone who would phrase it as a multiple choice.

So, neither can be better. Both are good, of course. Being wanted is good (unless you're a felon), and being needed is also good (unless they're after your kidney). Showing more kindness than necessary may result in being both desired and required.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Oh, I forgot.

Time is passing.

I've just had an email from an old friend, to announce her engagement to me. Ahem. To announce (to me) her engagement. She states something that she is very glad she waited until after her early 20's to get engaged, and that she knows so much more being older than 25 than she did at 21.

I get used to the idea that the passage of time means less and less as the years progress. The difference between a child of 1 and one of 6 is vast. Between the ages of 40 and 45, one may not even move houses, change jobs, or go on vacation. And between 98 and 103, the only difference may be that Williard Scott changes his description of you from "is a pistol" to "still handsome".

But time moves along. Can you think back to all the times in your life when you wondered, in the future, where you'd be? Now that you've arrived, were you correct? I doubt it. We all have a way of ending up far from where we started, even if we never leave home.

Some people have families; others never will. Friends I've known have already been engaged, married, happy, sad, divorced, and engaged again. In that order. Is it poor choice? Hardly. Nobody I know would make a bad choice on purpose. But time passes, and with it, people change.

None of the high school students I knew were ready to be married. But the adults they've become....

That's a different story.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cathartic Honesty and Honestly Cathartic


I've been trying to decide if honesty is really the best policy. This isn't about lying; that's not usually a good policy. This concerns withholding things that are true. "Lies of omission" as they're known in legal parlance.

Let me clarify something else. It's easy to say that it's not good policy to omit important details. Unlike the courtroom, however, in everyday life we aren't compelled to reveal everything we know. There are whole categories of things that are true, but don't need to be communicated. So, what qualifies something that does not need to be shared...and what is something that should be shared?

I am often told personal things in confidence. Some people add a redundant "and don't tell anyone". As a general rule, I don't go around spreading other people's business. I flatter myself that I have a good sense of what is public fodder and what is personal enough to lock down. Perhaps that's why people always consider me hard to read; personal details come in but seldom make it back out (black hole fashion).

That's complete garbage, of course. Part of my stand-offish behavior comes from my reluctance to partake in conversations that I don't know anything about. It allows me to be well-versed in the subjects I do engage in. In all honesty, that's not true, either.

Every once and a while, a strange cloud settles on me. While under this cloud, I share much more personal information than I ordinarily do. Luckily, this cloud doesn't involve alcohol. If anything, it involves a conversation with someone who has an interest in me. It's a rather unpredictable occurrence that must have something to do with "friendship". I'm sure there will be studies done in the future.

*** *** ***

I was discussing stress the other night. It seems that the catholic stress level among my acquaintances is rising. Everyone seems to be more on edge. Groups are fractioning into argument elements, individuals are finding it a terrible chore to be near specific people, and everyone's voice tends to get loud when they're talking about it.

It's a function of stress, we think. As it stands, I think "stress" is a nice catch all. But it's really only a general heading. The individual causes of stress are the true roots and lumping every motivation to stress does them a disservice. Conflict that has been brewing below the surface explodes out: histrionic fits seem to occur with frightening frequency. Suddenly, no one can hold their private grudges private; what good are they if no one knows about them? If they don't realize they're being excoriated, it's time to turn up the volume on the silent contempt!

Is it good that people keep their grudges from each other, if they just end up complaining to everyone around them? That places the listener in the not-so-nice position of having to choose sides.

Some people don't like it when their friends side with the opposition, even if there's a good reason to support it.

*** *** ***
Today's Fortune: If you're interested in getting opinions from someone, straightforwardly asking for them may find success. Lucky Numbers: 4, 25, 37, 41

Why?

I'm tired. I should be in bed. But driving home just now, the radio was playing Christmas music. The station advertised "the only station in Kansas City playing Christmas music year-round."

I like Christmas music. It's one of my favorite parts of the holidays. But it's over. It's now spring. Daylight saving starts tomorrow.

If everyday is Christmas, is it just routine? And more to the point, why are they only playing it at 3:00 in the morning? Is the third shift at UPS made up of seasonal department store Santas? These are the questions that put me to sleep at night. ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz