Monday, February 28, 2011

Fulfilling expectations vs. mastery

After my last guitar class I remember why I finally got out of school: after a point a class doesn't make you better at something but encourages mediocrity. Passing a class means doing enough to get a C. Or in my case, I'd always fulfill the teacher's expectations to the letter and get an A. In this case, that means doing the blues scale at a slow tempo with the rest of the class. Passable in the teacher's eyes and technically correct, but very boring and not something most people want to hear.

Fulfilling the teacher's expectations and truly mastering something are usually two very different things. Mastery is playing every note with emotion and precision, and having people actually want to hear you play instead of covering their ears. Mastery takes struggle, time and practice, finding mentors to challenge you at every point to be better, and not settling for mediocrity. I have fulfilled many teachers' expectations but there have been very few disciplines I've cared about deeply enough to try to master. Writing is probably the one I've struggled with longest, though "mastery" is not the word I'd use for the point I'm at with it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's during the night that I think about dying. I've written about this before, that I sometimes think about God and/or the supernatural when I wake up during the middle of the night, involuntarily. I wonder what the mystery of death is, why we are alive at all, what these years on earth and this experience means.

Maybe I wake up thinking about this because I don't think about it much during the day, when I'm tasked with so many things, or would rather watch reality TV than contemplate more profound matters. Even if I do think about these things during the day, it is so much more immediate during the night, like death is right there waiting, it's just time that separates us.

I think about losing people and what that would mean. It's such a difficult thing to think about. My parents, what would I do if they weren't around?

I hope I won't have to contemplate my own death in an imminent way for a very long time, but there are cancers and heart attacks, car accidents, etc. What will I go to my death bed regretting?

Morning person

So I challenged myself to wake up 20 minutes earlier every day this week. This has predictably made me feel more tired in the evenings. By 9 p.m. I'm struggling to stay awake. On the other hand, I feel way more productive. Traffic isn't as bothersome in the mornings and I get to work earlier. I can have 20 minutes to myself in the morning where I don't feel panicked and the TV isn't blaring the headlines five minutes after I wake up. Time in the mornings is such a valuable commodity. It's like every minute between 5 and 8 a.m. is worth 5 minutes in other parts of the day. Does this mean I'm turning into a morning person?
The last in a great series on NPR titled "Women in War." Army Brig. Gen. Heidi Brown describes what happened after nine soldiers under her command were killed:
"I had my driver drive me over to him, and we just bear-hugged one another and he wept. And I let him, and I just bit my lip because I knew that I needed to be strong. Did I want to? You bet I wanted to cry," Brown says.

But as a woman, she felt that she couldn't.
The audio is better at conveying the emotion, of course. Oh, and coincidentally Heidi Brown is from El Paso.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vacation days

One of the best parts of my vacation was getting to read Just Kids straight through for hours in the car from Del Rio to Alpine. Speeding by seemingly endless hills of yellow grass and scrubby bushes under blue skies and sunshine. So far from Patti Smith's NYC but I was transported. I want to be an artist, too...don't we all?

Maybe in 30 years I can be that honest about what happened in my 20s. But I think I might not even remember by then.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What is Toronto????

Watching Watson defeat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! was depressing (not to mention boring). Geez, what a know it all. A human would at least let them have a couple right so as not humiliate them. Yeah, it's just a game and Watson is just a computer program but I was delighted when Watson got Final Jeopardy wrong. Yay for the humans.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Item discussed and agreed upon at the coffee shop yesterday: Everyone has about three friends they can depend on.

The dreaded V Day

So Valentine's Day is coming up and I made my coworkers laugh when I said it was my least favorite holiday. Would my attitude change if I weren't facing another V Day alone? Probably. A few things occurred to me this week:

1) I am skeptical about relationships working out, probably because my parents' failed. I don't really have an up-close model for a healthy relationship. My parents were possibly unsuited for each other from the beginning but somehow stayed married and had three kids and then split up in a horrible way. I'm terrified that's the way it'll be with me. I tend to remember the awfulness of the end, not the good parts.

2) I wonder if a relationship is something you should try to make happen, or just let things happen by chance, or fate, or whatever. I'm going to be 29. I feel this sort of urgency, like if something doesn't change in my life fairly soon maybe I will *never* find the right person. That wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen, I suppose, but it's a scenario I'm pondering more often now.

3) Does every relationship have to have "forever" as its goal? I would say I'm into commitment but forever is scary even for me.
Water pipe is finally getting fixed. Yay!

Friday, February 11, 2011

- I don't know how I ended up being shipped "Disturbia" and "Dawn of the Dead" in my Netflix. Really, that's what comes up when I don't update the queue?

- I could probably write 10 pages on why I'm not happy right now. But I feel like I should be happy: the power's back on, the pipes aren't frozen, the house is warm and cozy. Maybe if I keep counting my blessings it will bring me out of this foul mood.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

So I went to sleep with my contact lens still in my right eye. I couldn't find it anywhere in the bathroom and also couldn't find it in my eye. I assumed it fell down the drain. Well, I woke up in the middle of the night and dragged myself into the bathroom and saw the contact lens tucked in near my tear duct. Very disgusting.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Notes from the cold, part 4

- Today's weather seemed downright balmy compared to last week. Sunshine, warmth and clear blue skies, that is the El Paso I know and love. That frozen, icy landscape of last week, NO, that isn't my city.

- Water service is fine now, but the part to repair the backyard pipe is out of stock in every store. So we're still turning off all the water to the house most of the time to avoid a possible disaster.

- No more water restrictions at 10 p.m. tonight, but I feel bad thinking that is a license to start wasting resources as usual. Wouldn't the world be better off if we all took a 5-minute shower every other day instead of a 15-minute one every single day?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Notes from the cold, part 3

Not so cold today but El Paso residents are being told not to take showers, do laundry, wash dishes, etc. because of a shortage caused by the cold weather. Apparently the water utility "may have to resort to enforcing the restrictions through law enforcement," according to the linked article. Wow.
Somewhat surprising quote from an interview with Oprah in (where else?) O Magazine:
In recent years I started to feel that, Gee, television has lost its mind ... Television doesn't make me feel good. There's nothing about it that makes me feel good. I literally do not have it on at any time in my personal space, be it in the office, be it in my makeup room. If I walk in and it's on, I will say, "Turn it off," unless it's something I need to know or need to hear.
Which is why she decided to start her own network, of course. And I'm sure her current talk show is also an exception to this, right?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Here's a great song I heard on oldies radio last week. The announcer said it was written by Neil Young, which I never knew before. Nicolette Larson does look like she's having a lotta fun singing it:

Notes from the cold, part 2

- The power is back on, no more rolling outages. The last one was Friday morning.
- No water at the house since Thursday presumably because the pipes are frozen. I fear the ice in the pipes melting because I think we are likely to have a pipe burst.
- The sun is out but I'm still not too eager to venture outside. Today's high is supposed to be 46 degrees.
- Update: The water is back on but the bad news is that the backyard sprinkler pipe broke. Our yard maintenance guy put a temporary cap on it, allowing for a hot shower and load of laundry before tonight, when another freeze might pop it off and we're back without water. Woo hoo for a shower, though, and more good news is that there don't appear to be any other leaks.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Notes from the cold

- 7 degrees today. WHOA, THAT IS COLD. Cold even by northern standards.
- My car's engine hesitated in a scary way I've never heard before it started up.
- Slow ride to work this morning. I occasionally got slightly tripped up on ice at stoplights but my car didn't go into a tailspin at any point, thank God.
- Just want to remind some drivers: a stoplight that has stopped working means you treat it like a four-way stop NOT drive right through like it's green.
- Rolling blackouts are not fun.
- I don't know when I've seen this town so deserted at 5 p.m. The drive home during the usual rush hour seemed more like a drive home at midnight.
- This weather makes me appreciate creature comforts. Electricity is the life-blood of our comfortable lives - cable TV, thermostat-controlled heat, refrigerated food, the Internet, microwaves, hair dryers. I miss that stuff when it's gone.
- 7 degree weather + no electricity = dangerous combination.