Going Around The Rocks

Go Around The Rocks (© 2017, F. P. Dorchak)

Go Around The Rocks (© 2017, F. P. Dorchak)

I borrowed this phrase from the Seth material, written by Jane Roberts and Rob Butts, and it is one of my favorite Life Quotes. I use it a lot. And I’ve got to follow it myself, now…not that I never have. Obviously, at my age, I’ve been around quite a few rocks, indeed. But I’ve not-so-tritely mentioned it to others who were having difficulty of one kind or another. If you’re having issues with something, try to go around the difficulties, you know, if possible. Follow Life’s river waters around the rocks, instead of focusing on the rocks themselves. It doesn’t mean to ignore your problems, but more that you don’t overly focus on the problems in your life. I feel it’s a good motto to live by, and have applied it to my life in many situations, as I’m sure we all have. It’s nothing new, really, just a cool phrase.

But I bring it up because I’m working on my newest novel, which I’ll call “NOL,” and I’m in a bit of a jam. My latest completed manuscript, call that one “APOS,” with my agent, is also at a traditional publishing house awaiting review and comment, was—and most surprisingly so—not a hard write! It came out rather easy, as most of my novels have. I did NOL a tad differently. I wrote up a synopsis “first.” “First,” in that I’d actually already started NOL before APOS, back in 2018. APOS went easily, structured vignettes throughout the novel. For NOL, I’d written about 43K words when APOS really grabbed my attention and I decided to run with it, instead. It was such a fun write.

Once APOS was turned in I went back into NOL. A month ago, I had an idea: why not write up a synopsis to give my agent for when asked what I’m working on now. So, I wrote one up for NOL. We all know that doing such things means the actually written book may change from the expected synopsis, but that’s okay. But now, as I dig into NOL, I’m finding myself severely bogged down in the opening pages (don’t say it, writers, don’t even think it…)! These pages are critical to the rest of the story. I know where I want it to go, but I just don’t seem to be able to put down what I want in the way that I want. Now, in my above parenthetical that means that perhaps I don’t need to start at the beginning, and, in fact, begin the novel “later” in the pages I have, and that is a legit argument, however, the content in those initial pages is what I need somewhere in that book. Yes, well aware of this. But whether in the first pages or later, I still need that material. I’ve been trying to muscle through it, but it’s just not working.

Then yesterday I decided to write up the ending. And I did.

This is me going around the rocks: I’m having issues on one part of the novel, so I’m working on another part of it, instead. I love the ending, it’s not expected—even by me! It’s such a cool ending.

After shoveling snow this afternoon, I sat outside to enjoy the still falling flurries, and let my mind drift, and thought, heck, why not just move on from those first pages even more. Just go to the next chapter and get going. I can always come back. And while thinking about that I came up with another cool scene to incorporate into the novel, as well, one that also further advances the story. I can’t wait to get back in there and start writing that up, so I guess I better get going….

Hope you enjoyed this post! Please pass it on if you did!

Posted in Books, To Be Human, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Whole Space [Re]Exploration Thing

We Need To Trash Our Way of Thinking. (Command Module Trash Can, Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. © February 15, 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

We Need To Trash Our Way of Thinking. (Command Module Trash Can, Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. © February 15, 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

It’s not that I’m so much against space exploration or going to other planets in and of itself, or because there are problems here on Earth (but that does factor in in my reasoning)…it’s that I’m against people thinking that going to other planets will solve all of Humanity’s issues.

That’s what I have a problem with.

Everyone talks about the excitement of planetary exploration, of going to Mars and living there, and what I see and hear (once you get past the “superficial exploration” part) between the lines is exactly that. That going to Mars will [eventually] solve Humanity’s overpopulation and declining environmental issues. Bring us together as a Race in something good and uniting. Something we can all have a stake in. That it is in the Human DNA to reach out, branch out, seek the unknown, et cetera x 2. And while I don’t have issues with all that on the surface, I do have issues with going elsewhere when we can’t even play nice with each other here. Because I just don’t see us playing nice on Mars. Or anywhere else at the present level of “development” we’re presently at.

Just don’t see it.

And I don’t see spreading our noxious pollution to other worlds.

Elon Musk feels it will save humanity (it’s at the very end of this article; search for “Which brings us to the great irony of Elon Musk and his endless missions.”). Myself and others feel the exactly the opposite: “But when we eventually end up on another planet, humanity is most likely to do there what we’ve done here: destroy whatever wonder we have built.

Not to mention the gigantic financial expenditure! Yes, that bugs me. We have far too much that needs an infusion of financial resources here that needs to be placed before literally throwing it out into space. I have zero issues with doing some exploration, like space probes and all, the space station, but when you start talking ungodly amounts of resources thrown into re-oxygenating a long-dead planet and going full-tilt Ray Bradbury on a new planet that already lost one atmosphere for UNKNOWN reasons, then, hell ya, I have to call shenanigans!

(Really? We go to Mars…set up shop. Re-oxygenate the atmosphere…then most likely lose it all again?! If we don’t have enough iron in the Martian planetary core are we gonna reinstall that, too?!)

I’ve worked in technology my entire adult life. Launched and maintained on-orbit satellites. Been part of the military. Are you kidding? I know space. I know people. Yes, there are well-meaning individuals out there with noble goals, but I also know there are ill-meaning people out there with far more ways and means to corrupt noble goals. To seduce/”mole” others to be inserted into any planetary exploration to be their eyes and ears and fists there. To do whatever nefarious activity they are commanded to do in the name of money, power, and

  • Collusion
  • Complicity
  • Connivance
  • Manipulation
  • Subterfuge
  • Chicanery
  • Duplicity
  • ….

That’s what those in charge of Humanity are doing right now. Look at our own government as an example. And we’re supposed to be the good guys.

Until we can get our collective acts together and truly work as one (I know, we can’t get 100% of Humanity to “play nice,” but we really need to get the majority in place, and if not, then I have zero issues with never branching out to other planets), we aren’t ready for another world.

THIS is our world.

We need to have respect for it and its inhabitants, and not be so all-fired ready to trash it for something perceived as “bright and shiny.” Because it isn’t bright and shiny out there. It’s an alien world with extreme, harsh conditions, and in order to live there you need (among other things) supreme logistical operations to support your breathing, eating, and shitting, forget about building stuff. If we cannot respect and nurture our own world, how in the hell can we nurture another one?

No, I’m not against exploration in and of itself…I’m against the mindsets that appear to be driving all this right now (Really? One-way trips excite people?), and, yes, when I see the time, money, and effort better spent on making Earth a better place to live first, which you can clearly see has been not been the case since the first naysaying bell ringers against the earlier space efforts of the 50’s – 70’s, I do not see spending more resources on something when we’re already HOW much in debt as a nation?!

But I get it. We have NASA. They do space. It’s in their corporate DNA to reach farther into space. I can’t stop that. Don’t want to. I just want us to be caring, responsible ADULTS when and if we finally do go to other planets. I want us to understand that going elsewhere is not a cure-all for what ails us.

WE ail us.

And we simply cannot outrun that.

 

Posted in Space, Technology, To Be Human | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

A New and Better Internet?

Yes!

Check out this article that my brother, Chris, sent me (thanks, bro!):

The Guy Who Built The World Wide Web Is Building A ‘New Internet’, Where You Control Your Data

This would be SO nice.

Posted in Technology, To Be Human | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Is This What We Want to Become?

The events of yesterday are absolutely heinous. That individual in the Presidential office makes it difficult to remain quiet…and to remain quiet in this case is dangerous. He has given apparent legitimacy and voice to those who shouldn’t have had either. While we are all allowed our beliefs and lifestyles, that has been predicated in this country upon allowing others to do the same and live in peace. When those beliefs instead cause bloodshed and unnecessary strife they should be reexamined. The incumbent has caused this rift in our country in so many ways, as he has done so throughout the entirety of his life. His White House residency has been all about strife and loyalty to him, not the Constitution.

I am an independent and have voted for whomever I feel is the lesser of evils. I didn’t vote for the incumbent and I’m sad to say that I feel he needs to be removed from office before the end of his term.

Who, as leader of a country, tells the group of rioters that caused the deaths of four individuals that should never have happened that “we love you” and that they’re “very special”?!

Is this what we want to become?

The individual, and those who have enabled his criminal behavior, are dangerous and need to answer to their actions.

Posted in News, To Be Human | Tagged | 3 Comments

Relearning German (Or Die Frau, Der Mann, Der Junge, und Das Mädchen)

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen!

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen!

I have a minor in German from, well, many, many years ago, let’s just say. And it keeps getting longerer ago. By the day. But I’m relearning my German, and have been for a couple of years now (I have a couple of years of French in high school and really want to get back into that in the near future, and also want to learn Spanish). I began by subscribing to Rosetta Stone (they’re offering some pretty good deals here, as I write this, so I might end up going back to them and rechecking them out…), but I’m nowing use Duolingo

Der Mann!

Die Frau!

Der Junge!

Und das Mädchen!

Sorry, pardon me. I don’t know what came over me—

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen!

Dang it, there I goes again.

Two years ago I researching into witch learning platforming (die Frau…) might be the bettered one (der Junge…) to learn from, and I initially decided on Rosetta Stone (which I paved for), but also loaded the free Duolingo (das Mädchen, dammit, das MÄDCHEN!). I did Rosetta Stoned for twoing years, but it got a bit pricey at about $180 per yearling and I decideds that I needed to relearns my German grammar—Rosetta Stone doesn’t do too well in that department. But, now I’m on (der Junge!) Duolingo, and paid for the “plus” version, with no ads. It’s over half as muched (currently that means $79.99 for a year). As I’m back on Duolingo, I’ve deciding none of these programs are really gooder about teachering grammar…they just show the forms of the words, but don’t tell you how to get there, though they try to illustrate what they’re doing. Butt you can learning through examples, and messing up a definite or indefinite article, using an incorrect word know and than, oar a plural-vices-singular won’t be killing you in trying to speaking the language abroad. But I really want to relearned my German grammar, so went back to my college textbooks. It’s still a bit hardering without the instructor, but I’m finding other reference books I still have that do seem to help, and as I do so, I remembering some of it as I reading it. It is pretty intricateness—German is a bit “grammary.” Quite a bit so, actually.

DAS MÄDCHEN!

Sooo…as I’m oning Duolingo, I’m finding it just repeating repeating repeating one set of words words words over and over and OVER again. Can you guesses witch ones?

Yup, so I now knowing how to speaking “the woman, the man, the boy, and the girl!

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen!

Yes, and apparently now you do, too!

Congratulations, apparently this is all you need to know to get around in Germany, according to Duolingo. To speaking its native tongue, Ja (sorry “Ja” wasn’t in the lesson plan…)? So far this is all Duolingo keeps shoving in front of my eyes, even when it asks me if I want to “CLEP out” of the hardest lessons in a section—

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen!

So, now you also knowing how to speaking German, two!

Apparently it only and completely consists of one versioned or the othering of the followering (whether or not I’m translating English two German oar German two English, in one order or another). So, if you can master the followering, Duolingo can promise you that you will have absolutely no problemering get around ing in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland:

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen

Das Mädchen, Die Frau, der Junge, und der Mann

Der Mann, das Mädchen, die Frau, und der Junge

Man, leave it to the Germans! Only they wood reduce the language to it’s absolute earssentials. They are SO technically and efficient in all that their do! However, in all faringness, I should ad one more thing you knead to know before you are home fries in the Germanics:

“und” = “and”

They’re! Now your golden!

You and your…

Die Frau, der Mann, der Junge, und das Mädchen.

Posted in Languages, Leisure, To Be Human | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

This is my rendering of “The First Noel,” on my faux-Stradivarious. As I’ve previously stated, I’ve only been taking lessons since June 4, 2020. I recorded this version on December 6, 2020.

From Wikipedia I found that “The First Nowell” is of Cornish origin, and the version we’re all familiar with was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833). Both of these were edited by William Sandys and arranged, edited, and had extra lyrics added by Davies Gilbert for Hymns and Carols of God.

Nowell is an Early Modern English synonym of “Christmas” from the French “Noël.” The melody is unusual for English folk melodies, because it consists of one musical phrase twice repeated…then followed by a refrain that is a variation on that phrase. Because of this and other musical specifics (e.g., all three phrases end on the third of the scale, church notes, etc), it has been speculated that the tune may have originated as a treble part to another carol, “Hark, hark what news the angels bring.” It is thought that the treble part might have been passed down orally and was later remembered as a melody rather than a harmony. A reconstruction of this earlier version can be found in the New Oxford Book of Carols. Today, “The First Nowell” is usually performed in a four-part hymn arrangement.

Merry Christmas to all!

 

Posted in Fun, Music, To Be Human | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Paint Mines, Calhan, Colorado

On December 9th my wife and I decided to get out of the house and enjoy some sixty-degree weather in December. We’ve been wanting to check out the Paint Mines, which are out in Calhan, Colorado. On the east side of the town, past the fair grounds. There was some construction going on, which closed off one parking lot (the first one), but many parked along the main (dirt) road’s sides. At the next parking lot, we did, however, get there early enough to grab a spot inside one it (and it is small).

The Paint Mine clay deposits are over 55 million years old, and show evidence of human life back 9,000 years. The clay is colored white, gray, purple, brown, and orange…unless what I saw as “orange” is actually brown. Or yellow. But I saw orange. Orange, I say.

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Oranges, and Grays, and Purples, Oh My! (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

We got there kinda early, late morning, and on a mid-week day it was like we almost had the entire park to ourselves. It was great! We’d be wandering around many of the formations and not see anyone. But the longer we were there, the more people filtered in…but it still wasn’t al that terrible. By ourselves, we weaseled in and around many of the nooks and crannies—I even found a dead rabbit carcass in one shadow-filled area. There were so many places to meander and explore without climbing the rocks….

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

It was quite…Twilight Zone like….

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

These rocks are cool! They look neat, and just cry out to me to climb all over them (I love climbing around rocks), but there are signs here and there that, in one form or another, declare:

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Yet there are many out there who feel these signs are for other people. After we’d been there for a couple of hours, and the masses began flooding the park, yeah, many were climbing around on the rocks. But after witnessing the behavior of the past ten months, nothing surprises me. It just saddens me.

That notwithstanding, this place is absolutely incredible. The rock formations, the hoodoos, the caves, all of it are simply jaw dropping. And when we got to the top of the hills and could take it all in all at once, awe inspiring. Pictures don’t do it justice, at least not mine (I forgot to bring my 35mm and had to use my smartphone). But it looked like you were on another world.

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

The place talks about “interpretive centers,” but we never found any…then as we left the place, we saw that is appeared one was in the process of being built, in that first parking lot that was closed because of construction. By the way, it was this lot that has the restroom: a singular one, with a door that does NOT lock. So you could easily be in there…employing its facilities, say…and someone whips open that door to find you with your pants down. So you might wanna post someone there while using it.

Paint Mines Map (My image of it © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Paint Mines Map (My image of it © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

I’m thinking that the Paint Mines wasn’t used to all the attention it got this year, so it wasn’t well populated with restrooms and interpretive centers, but with everyone working from home and all, word spread fast. It did for us. I’ve been here since 1985 and never heard of it, but a client of my wife’s, then later, a friend of mine on Facebook, both mentioned it. We heard that in the heat of summer it was brutal among the rocks, and so many people just flooded the place (again, according to park enforcement, many not wearing face barriers and many not social distancing) to make it not quite as fun as it could be. So we decided to wait it out. Glad we did.

The address for the park is:

29950 Paint Mines Road
Calhan, CO 80808

And when you input this address into GPS, it puts you at a “Y” in the main dirt road, a bit up from the two-mentioned parking lots, but don’t worry. Just turn around and go back if you overshoot the signs at the first and second parking lots. And if you continue up past this point, taking the left of the “Y,” and got up another snaking stretch that levels out up a hill, where you can see windmills and straight dirt road out ahead of you, you’ll find a third parking lot to your left.

Windmills, Wind-Swept Fields, and Blowing Dirt (Paint Mines Map (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Windmills, Wind-Swept Fields, and Blowing Dirt (Paint Mines Map (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

This one looks like you’re just walking out into a prairie, and you kinds are, but when you follow the trial, it takes you down into the Paint Mines proper. It’s just a longer trial. We saw the trail from the other direction, when we were down in it, but turned around.

Welcome to the Paint Mines (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Welcome to the Paint Mines (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Paint Mine Park Rules (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Paint Mine Park Rules (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Calhan Area Windmills Windmills (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Calhan Area Windmills Windmills (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

There’s a lot of walking/hiking,even places requiring use of your hands as you maneuver about the rock—and these are the places you’re allowed to go—but you don’t have to get into those places if you don’t want to. But this one area of a cave is really cool, and you do have to do some hand-and-foot maneuvering to get in there, so if you can, do it, but be mindful of your own capabilities!

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

To The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

To The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

To The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

To The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

To The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

To The Cave Entrance (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

None Shall Pass! The Cave. (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

None Shall Pass! The Cave. (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

That's my wife, waaay down toward the center of this image. (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

That’s my wife, waaay down toward the center of this image. (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Cave Boulder. Directly Overhead. Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Cave Boulder. Directly Overhead. Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak

Farthest Most Reach of the Cave (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Farthest Most Reach of the Cave (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

See the Cave Boulder wedged in up there? (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

See the Cave Boulder wedged in up there? (Image © 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Hope y’all get a chance to check these rocks out…and get to enjoy the beauty that these Twilight Zone-like rocks have to offer!

Your Intrepid Journalist (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

Your Intrepid Journalist (© 2020 F. P. Dorchak)

 

Posted in Fun, Nature, To Be Human | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Is The Violin So Hard To Learn?

The violin is hard.

It is one of the hardest instruments to learn to play, and many say it is the hardest.

Why is that?

Here’s one article, but, let me list off a few things from my own, direct, experience:

  • You have to be able to read music
  • Instrument placement (between your chin and shoulder)
  • You need to use a bow to play it
    • You need to do the following when “bowing”:
      • Keeping the bow perpendicular to each string
      • You need to properly hold the bow:
        • Need to place your thumb just right
        • Need to place your index finger just right
        • Need to place your middle finger just right
        • Need to place your pinky just right
      • Need to properly keep the bow appropriately “in its lane” between the violin’s fingerboard and the bridge
      • Need to not unintentionally drag the bow across the strings
      • Need to not unintentionally slide the bow along the strings
      • Need to apply just the right amount of pressure to the strings
        • Need to do this at each part of the three parts of the bow
      • Need to draw the bow at the proper speed
      • To be really good you need to do all of the above without looking at the bow
  • You need to properly position your arms:
    • Including your forearm-to-wrist angle when “fingering” the strings
    • Including lifting your arm the proper amount for each string when bowing
    • To be really good you need to do this without looking at your arm
  • You need to properly place your hand on the violin
  • You need to properly position the hand while playing the strings
    • The wrist angle
    • Finger positions
  • All of the strings are quite close together, and that means:
    • You need to be able to hit the strings without looking at them to be good
  • There are no markers for the notes on the fingerboard
    • Need to be able to hit those notes without looking at them to be good
  • You have to have quite nimble fingers!!!
    • Need to be able to use them without looking at them to be good
  • Some strings need to be held down while playing other strings…and those fingers already holding down (or “stopping”) said strings easily get in the way, dulling the nearby, untouched string, so:
    • Need to be able to play notes really close together on the strings that are already in play
  • Strings need to be finely tuned
  • To be really good you need to do all of the above without looking at the bow or the violin

And to further add to this, if you play in a group or orchestra (or recitals, which I hope to do one day)—or even just performing duets with your instructor—you have to do all of the above while also:

  • Reading notes
  • Watching a conductor
  • Watching other players
  • Matching intonation
  • Matching musical rhythm
  • Matching musical expression
  • Matching musical interpretation

I took up this instrument for the very first time six months ago. And in just those six months, I can honestly say that, yes, I have gotten better. I am not in the least bragging (as you can see by my video), but it just goes to show you that there is hope for people like me, who’ve exhibited no musical talent whatsoever, and even further, have picked up instruction late in life! It’s a slow, long-haul journey, but I’m loving it. I find I do better in my own practice at home than in front of my instructor. It’s quite weird. I am used to being up in front of and speaking before people. I have spoken to a crowd of over 300 at one writers’ conference, but, apparently, performing for my lone instructor is some-kinda-too much. I haven’t totally figured it out, but she says it’s quite typical for all students, including everyone from pilots to surgeons to hardened business people. As she has reminded me more than once:

Autumn: Remember…the violin is the most difficult instrument to learn.”

Me: “Right, bu—”

Autumn: The violin is the most difficult instrument to learn.”

She goes on to say that most/all performers lose about 30% of their effectiveness when performing in public, which also translates to students-to-teachers. She said that when she was learning the rule of thumb was to therefore be 130% prepared! Most can hide any nervousness, but it’s hard to do so with the violin (or similar instruments) because it’s so sensitive and it just doesn’t take much to “be off.” Add to that that as an adult it’s also harder to learn things (not impossible, just requires a little more effort), and most adults at my level have been doing “more right than wrong” at their jobs, have been really good at their careers…and being put back into the student role (Square One!) again is a bit, I don’t know, awkward? Stressful? We lump all kinds of pressure onto ourselves, because we’re not used to not being good at something we’re doing.

I can attest to that.

I want to be perfect.

Now.

But I’m willing to earn that perfection.

That said, no I am not in any hurry! I am truly enjoying this journey. I have always been an aficionado of all kinds of music, and to now be able to actually string together a few notes by my own hands, is, well, nothing short of amazing. Our family never really exhibited any musical inclinations, but just this week my brother, Chris, told me he’s been learning the piano (which my Dad has told me he’d always had an interest in learning, but never got around to)! So. There’s that.

Now, let’s talk about caffeine: you may not be prone to the shakes, but if you have “too much” more than what you consider normal (or even just your normal amount of caffeine) your extremely minor “caffeine hands” can, indeed, affect your play.

It just doesn’t take much, the strings are that sensitive.

Many musicians actually avoid caffeine the day of a performance.

But it’s not just caffeine. If something is exciting or negatively affecting you, it will show. You’ll see.

When I first began playing Autumn kept telling me that I was using too much pressure. Kept asking me if I felt tense. I always said no, I wasn’t tense, but what I believe I’ve discerned over these six months is that all my life has been oriented toward physical fitness and doing things that have created a powerful grip and powerful, forceful movement. Heck, my wife has even occasionally told me that I’ve crushed her hands while holding them. I do think that has played into my bow-to-violin pressure, and once I’d assimilated that issue, I have been able to “bow” a little bit better.

Arguably.

Who knows…I could be totally wrong.

….SCREEEECH….

I will also note that when I have a little extra time I practice the following: I run my bow over the strings in an extremely focused manner. Not necessarily slow…I just bow with my eyes closed, periodically opening them to make sure I’m properly performing. In doing so, I try to maintain all of the above as I bow: staying in the lane, not sliding, not dragging, keeping parallel to the strings, et cetera. Listen for the proper resonance. But there is also another exercise I do that I haven’t been instructed in (if I have still more time available to me): I do this with my eyes closed. I used to do similar when I studied martial arts: I’d kick and punch the heavy bag with my eyes closed.

I was never instructed to do this, either now or back when I was studying marital arts, but, among other things (including “things-Zen”) it allows one to learn the proper muscle movements without the sense of sight. If you can do “it” with your eyes closed, you know you may well be on your way to mastering whatever it is you’re doing, since “it” becomes deeply ingrained and assimilated into far more “deeper levels,” as in automatic muscle learning. And as I pointed out above, doing all of the above with your eyes closed is a sign one is starting to become really good at playing the violin. You know, provided you’re doing everything else correctly. Any old goof can otherwise run a bow over steel or sinew.

As you go about your learning, you do find many areas to fine tune, because there is so much going on at once. Playing the violin is the epitome of multi-tasking, and this, as the above article had stated, is the very heart of why learning this instrument is so danged (but enjoyably so!) difficult.

In my above video I’m using a Stradivarius reproduction, Model V110, crafted by Angel Taylor at the Century Strings workshop. It was brand new (2020) when I got it, but is considered a “learner’s violin.” Professional violins (not the rare ones from waaay back) are on the order of $12,000.  The one I’m using is under $600 (those who craft violins are called Luthiers). The above tune I’m trying to play is called “Long, Long Ago,” by Thomas Haynes Bayly, or T. H. Bayly, and was written in 1833.

By the way, here’s the way my above effort is supposed to sound like (I love this guy’s intensity!):

Previous Violin Posts

Musicians of Colorado Springs Philharmonic – Virtual Concert Ep.1: Tchaikovsky Serenade, Valse

Violin Lessons II – July 6, 2020

Violin Lessons – June 1, 2020

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Musicians of Colorado Springs Philharmonic – Virtual Concert Ep. 1: Tchaikovsky Serenade, Valse

The Colorado Springs Philharmonic players’ contracts were canceled this year. Here’s the initial article.

Here is the latest on the Colorado Springs Philharmonic (CSPhil).  This is where I found the above video. Apparently Philharmonic President and CEO Nathan Newbrough says that the board is now ready to reenter negotiations as soon as musicians lift their legal threat that’s been in place since August.

But, for  now, enjoy the beauty of the CSPhil’s Serenade for Strings!

Previous Violin Posts

Violin Lessons II – July 6, 2020

Violin Lessons – June 1, 2020

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Knee and THR Surgeries—An Update

Disclaimer

My successes and issues are not your success and issues. We are ALL different, have different body types, different mindsets, different healing rates, as well as different journeys…so all results are individually based. And I am NOT a medical professional, so always consult your medical and PT personnel for advice and direction when in doubt, and do not base your decisions on my words alone. I give you my words and experience as “data points” to incorporate into your decision making. I have been trying to properly document my journey through my THR rehabilition.

***

Knee Surgery

In September of 2019 I had a torn meniscus flap removed from my left knee. I began some physical therapy, but then went into my THR the following month. What this meant was that my knee’s PT inadvertently got the short shrift.

In the year since then, I’ve noticed that knee to be not quite as strong as it should be. Nothing to be worried about in the course of an average day, but when I work out at the gym, that’s when I noticed it. For the continued strength training for my THR leg, I was given various exercises to do, and one of them was one-legged squats using a squat machine (I didn’t get these right off the bat! It was near the end of my PT). It was here that my left knee area began to continually get annoyed every time I did those exercises, no matter how light. So, since it hasn’t gone away I finally paid some visits to the physical therapists. I was told that it wasn’t a strength issue, but a “form” issue, in that I had to work out some “kinks.” So, for the past three months or so, I’ve been doing these exercises faithfully and yes, the “kinks” are being worked out. Still not sure what the kinks were, but it seems like just being cut open and sewed back up causes trauma in and of itself and that might be the case, because I’m sore where nothing was done to me! As I’ve mentioned in the past, it doesn’t take much to traumatize the body…just cutting into it is enough.

But I should caution anyone who’s going to get two surgeries back-to-back: don’t, if you don’t have to. Even if the surgeons say it’s okay…unless there are extenuating circumstances (again, I am NOT a doctor). I would recommend giving each surgery two to three months each (depending on how your body is handling the PT; also keep your age in mind…if you’re younger and/or heal quickly, you probably could get away with back-to-back surgeries), to allow you to get some good PT and healing under your belt. I’ve always been a fast healer, but this time around, I just don’t think I got the proper recuperation period needed before doing the THR.

So, I continue to do the PT for the knee and things are continuing to get much better!

Total Hip Replacement

I had my year-later check up and everything is doing excellently! I am “set free” and only need every other year checkups, so 2022 is the next one.  It’s been an utter success…and most of the time I actually (yes, it’s true) forget I even had the surgery, it’s that good. That is the way it should be. Just can’t jump, run, or do splits of any variety. Well, I ain’t in my twenties or thirties anymore, so no big deal!

This is my final documentation for my THR. I wish all who go through this the best, and hopefully, a similar outcome. Remember, we’re all different, so just because something worked for me…it does not mean it will necessarily work the same for anyone else out there. I just wanted to document in as much detail as possible what to expect.

Total Hip Replacement Surgery Links

Total Hip Replacement – Four Months

Total hip replacement surgery, October 23, 2019

What A Spazz, November 24, 2019

Total Hip Replacement Update 8 1/2 Weeks, December 21, 2019

Shoulder Surgery Posts Links

Shoulder Surgery, August 29, 2018

Post Shoulder Surgery, 2018

Knee Surgery Post Links

Knee Surgery – Meniscus Flap Tear

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