The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Among Others by Jo Watson
100 Birds and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells
iPhone: Fully Loaded by Andy Ihnatko
Death Without Tenure by Joanne Dobson
The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson
A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (reread)
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (reread)
Beacon Street Mourning by Dianne Day (reread)
Death Train to Boston by Dianne Day (reread)
Emperor Norton’s Ghost by Dianne Day (reread)
Bohemian Murders by Dianne Day (reread)
Fire and Fog by Dianne Day (reread)
The Strange Files of Fremont Jones by Dianne Day (reread)
Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Among Others was really, really good. It’s very subtle, assumes the reader can think and construct necessary backstory from clues within the narrative, and has two or three of the best descriptions and comments about magic that I’ve ever read.
I was slightly disappointed in Death Without Tenure. It didn’t feel as tight as the earlier books in the series.
The Lost Hero was great; The Red Pyramid felt slow till the last quarter.
I am obviously pulling out old favourite mystery series set in historical eras and doing some serious comfort reading. Stupid winter.
The big standouts this weekend: The boy’s first cello lesson, his first at-home practise on Sunday evening, and the arrival of new spinning equipment.
If you hit the previous post or the RSS feed early on Friday afternoon, you may have missed the two small updates to it, including photos.
The biggest obstacle to the lessons may be the travel time. Forty-five minutes, while fine for me because it’s roughly the length of a cello concerto so I get a sense of completion, is long for a squirmy boy in a snowsuit in the back. We’ll have to figure out a way to keep him busy.
Otherwise, the lesson went really well. There was lots of information that an adult would absorb almost immediately about how to sit and how to hold the cello, but the boy had to be talked through it. It was really fascinating to watch the Suzuki method being enacted with someone of the age for whom it was originally developed. He adores his tuning song ( “Ants, Ants, Ants, Digging in the Dirt, Dirt, Dirt, Going under Ground, Ground, Ground, All the way to China, China, China” for the four strings, ADGC), loves the “catapult” exercise where he holds his cello hand out to the side, palm up and hand slightly cupped, then bends the elbow and the hand is “released,” catapult-like, to land on the fingerboard. His teacher lent him her completely adorable Twinkle Bow to use for the week (because the bow that came with the cello set is a 1/2 bow, so it’s extremely unwieldy for (a) the 1/4 cello and (b) the child who needs the 1/8 cello), and put two tiny frog stickers on it so he had a visual reference for mid-point and balance point when he does his bowing exercise (which, he will discover, is the rhythm variation A of Twinkle). He was very proud of showing her that my luthier taught him how to make a bunny shape with the fingers of his right hand, then the bunny opens its mouth a bit and slides over the frog of the bow, teeth and ears kept long:
Not only is the bow two inches too long for the cello it came with (and therefore probably three to four inches too long for the boy), the 1/4 cello is unwieldy; we’ll be needing the 1/8. At the proper angles, his endpin is only extended two inches and his reach around the upper bouts is limited; he can’t get the bow down between the fingerboard and the bridge. The oversized instrument may have been a contributing factor in the slight mishap that occurred about three-quarters of the way through the lesson, when he twisted an odd way without holding onto the neck and the cello slipped off his body and fell to the ground. I thought my heart was going to stop. We all froze, our teacher picked it up and examined it, and all seemed to be well… but it could have gone very, very wrong. She asked him to apologise to me, then taught him about the three points of contact (knees, chest, floor) and the correct way to stand up and sit down with the cello so that he’d have a better understanding of the mechanics.
He’d drawn a picture for her (unprompted) that he gave to her at the end of the lesson, which she put up on her fridge. When we pulled out of her driveway, he sighed deeply and said, “I’m going to miss my cello teacher.” So I think it went well. She made quite an impression on him.
When I got home from my (quite excellent) ensemble lesson on Sunday, we set up his little chair and his endpin plank for his first at-home practice. This little cello doesn’t keep its tuning very well at all. I don’t know if that’s a commonality to all fractional celli or an idiosyncrasy of this one, or even because it’s literally newly set up and the pegs might not fully fit the pegholes properly. I may put a drop of peg dope on the pegs to keep them from slipping as badly as they’ve been doing. Anyway, after I wrestled with the pegs for a bit he got to sing his tuning song about the ants, practised his catapult, did his pizzicato rhythm practice, then again with what he and his teacher call “the magic bow”, and finally with fingers 1 and 2 of the left hand in prep for fingering. He loved it, and I did, too. I wish my practice sessions could be that fun.
In completely unrelated news, this arrived on Friday morning just as the boy and I were walking down the driveway to go to the bus stop:
I had a noon deadline, so I exerted magnificent self-control and didn’t open it until after I’d handed my project in and had made myself lunch:
I love that the maker signed the bottom of the table:
I bought walnut-coloured stain, tack cloths, foam brushes, and fine sandpaper on Saturday morning. HRH will borrow one of the tins of wood wax from work once I get to that point in a week or so. Once it’s all stained and waxed, we’ll assemble it. I figure it will be functional by mid-February (coincidentally, my next big deadline, so it’s probably a good thing it won’t be ready before that).
And two days before, this arrived in the mail:
As I was on deadline I didn’t try it out right away, but I did sit down Friday evening to test-spin some… vitamin cotton. Yes, I was crazy enough to have saved the cotton stuffing from the last few vitamin bottles, and I fluffed it up and used it to test this new Spinner’s Lair reclaimed walnut and oak spindle that weighs in at 0.88 oz. And you know what? Using a good-quality handmade spindle beats using a heavy, mass-produced, beginner’s spindle, hands-down.
If I can spin vitamin cotton on this thing, I can spin anything. I no longer hate spindles.
In other non-related news, I’m getting used to the iPhone. The headphone jack is on top instead of the bottom as well as being on the left instead of the right, which is now my most commonly enacted mistake. It annoys me that when I pull it out of a pocket I have to flip the thing around to access the home button and iPod controls, unlike my Touch, which had the headphone jack on the bottom so it went into a pocket upside-down with the controls easily accessible if I put my hand in my pocket. I need to work on focusing the photos I take with it, too, as you can see from some of the recent images here. It eats battery charge, something I have learned is a common weakness of the 3G series; to partially combat this one must be careful to close apps before putting it into sleep mode. Figuring I had nothing to lose because there was nothing on the iPhone yet and therefore a factory restore wouldn’t kill anything, I updated the iOS to 4, and all was well. I figured if Apple had to have fixed whatever killed most 3Gs back when the iOS4 was released last fall in the last two updates, and I seem to have been right. Now I can run my more current purchased apps like Toodledo and so forth.
My mouse is being annoying, sluggish and recalcitrant even though I just changed its battery and cleaned off the optic sensor, the ungrateful thing. I’m going to go back to working on the bird book.
So not long ago, I reported that the boy had decided upon the instrument he was going to learn to play, and that contrary to what he’d been discussing for the past year, it was the cello. I called the luthier and requested that they set up both a 1/4 and 1/8 size rental cello for him to try, because he was in that weird crossover space between the two sizes according to all the tables and lists we could find. My luthier said that they had both sizes in stock; they just needed to set them up. The boy bought his first music book and was very excited to start. That was three weeks ago. I set up his first lesson for the 22nd, thinking that two weeks would be more than adequate.
When I’d heard nothing from the luthier for those two weeks after my initial contact with them, I called my teacher on Friday the 21st to cancel the next day’s lesson and tentative confirm the following Saturday instead. Now, my local luthier is actually a satellite branch of a major luthier in town, and is only open three days a week. That means that two weeks translates to six working days. I understand that. I also know that they have a lot of open work orders, and it’s hard to fit everything in when you’re only open three days a week.
They phoned that Saturday morning, and I called them back after missing the call. The 1/4 was ready, they said, although they were having problems with the 1/8’s bridge and were waiting for a new part; it might be another two weeks for that size. No problem, I said! Could we come try the 1/4? If that fit, then they wouldn’t have to pursue the 1/8 setup. Sure, they said! Come by any time this afternoon!
The boy got very excited, and we planned to head over right after lunch. Well, as lunch was winding up, the luthier called again. Um, we’re so very sorry, they said; the rental 1/4 isn’t completely ready after all. We mixed up two different work orders.
Would it be ready by next Thursday, I asked? Maybe; they’d have to call me to confirm that the following week, they said.
The boy was crushed. So was I, in a different way. I was trying to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak; I didn’t want his enthusiasm to lose momentum. That night he asked if he could practice the cello he had, so I got the viola out and taught him the names of the strings, and we worked on the Twinkle rhythm, and he learned how to sing the note names of the first two bars, and put on a little concert for HRH. It was awesome. At orchestra on Wednesday I asked my teacher what else we could do, and she reminded me of all the early bow exercises like windshield wipers, the tree frog climbing up and down the stick, and so forth.
This morning I noticed that someone had pencilled the word ‘hope’ in lowercase letters across the bottom of the printout of the group cello class schedule that sits on my music stand. It just about broke my heart. So, it being Friday, three weeks after my initial request, and not having heard anything from the luthier, I called them early this afternoon to see what the status of everything was. They made sure to check by talking to the workshop guys to be absolutely certain of their answer, and lo and behold, the rental 1/4 is ready! So today, I will meet the boy at the bus stop after school, and I will be able to tell him that yes, we will be going to the cello store to try a cello, and if it fits we will definitely rent it and bring it home, and he can have his very first cello lesson tomorrow. He will be over the moon.
A couple of people have asked me what the fuss is about trying both the 1/8 and the 1/4, and why we aren’t just buying him a secondhand instrument. It’s like this: We want to buy him a secondhand instrument, absolutely, because renting one for a year would work out to the equivalent of buying a used one from the parent of another small cellist anyway. Problem is, if the 1/8 is what fits him right now, it certainly won’t fit him for very long, and we’d have to sell a secondhand 1/8 to upgrade to the 1/4 size in the near future anyway. If we’re renting, then I know we can upsize the 1/8 as necessary. Then, once he’s firmly in the 1/4 size and will be there for a couple of years, then we can buy him a used cello. If he fits the 1/4 right off the bat, then we’ll rent for the minimum three months and buy a used 1/4 at the end of it. Also, there are the is-he-ready-for-this and is-this-really-for-him issues. Three months will give me, his teacher, and him all a good idea of if this is going to work or not. If it’s not, we drop it after the three months, and try again later. If it works, then we can buy with confidence.
Cross your fingers for us, gentle readers. We really want that 1/4 at the luthier to be the right size. I think it will be, but there’s always that uncertainty.
I am going to need a new icon of him playing the cello. This one of him at twenty-two months old, while thematically appropriate, is woefully out of date.
LATER: Gentle readers, we have achieved cello:
The luthier and I think the 1/4 is a smidge large, but we’ve got it until the bridge for the new 1/8 comes in and gets shaped. If my teacher is fine with this, then the 1/4 it is.
SATURDAY: Yeeeeeah. We definitely need the 1/8; the 1/4 is just a bit too much to handle. Also, we need the proper size bow; the set came with a 1/2 size bow, for some reason. My teacher sent him home with her Twinkle Bow for the week to work with, a fully functional 10″-long miniature bow used to teach children how to hold a bow properly and use the proper wrist and elbow motions.
The boy, leaving his first lesson in the car: “Sigh. I will miss my cello teacher.”
Today, I have:
- Finished my copyediting project and handed it in, right on time
- Called the luthier to ascertain that the 1/4 size cello is finally ready for the boy to try (more on that later, it deserves its own post)
- Unpacked the spinning wheel that arrived this morning (more on that later, too)
- Finally gone to the post office to mail out two packages and a letter that have been sitting here since Monday
- Bought various pharmacy things like vitamins, etc.
- Gone to the library to pick up the books on hold for me (and also scored the new Alexander McCall Smith book in the Isabel Dalhousie series from the New Releases shelf)
- Finally gone to the bank to deposit the three (!) freelance paycheques that I’d been carrying in my wallet for over a week
- Paid bills; we are now totally up to date on utilities (in fact, I overpaid one, I think)
I’m catching up on what didn’t get done because I knocked myself out last weekend and Monday. Still taking it ve-e-e-e-ry carefully, and turning down new commitments and outings or evaluating already-scheduled ones as they come, though. I have the rest of the winter to get through, after all. I have been reminding myself to breathe all week, and it seems to have worked.
I did something not-very-bright yesterday. I made bad decisions, and I’m paying for them today.
The fibro is bad. The cold snap makes it worse. Struggling with heavy winter clothing is exhausting. Driving in the winter is draining, draining, draining. As an added bonus, I have a head cold, which on its own would be enough to put me on the chesterfield at this time of year with the fibro.
I don’t look sick. However, I am sick, with a chronic illness that is kicking my butt right now, like it does every winter; I just somehow forget how bad it gets.
I cancelled cello today. I am declaring a moratorium on all social events for the next two or three weeks except Tarasmas (unless I am literally unable to get out of bed that night). Regularly or already scheduled stuff will have to be evaluated as it comes. Work (sigh) and the basics like staying upright and remembering to eat have to come first.
In completely unrelated news, I have a new-to-me iPhone 3G. It is heavier than my first-gen Touch, and the on/off button is on the top right instead of the top left. These two things alone are throwing me off. There is a camera to play with (Cricket had the honour of being the first thing I photographed), and an interesting-sounding voice memo function that I can’t figure out yet. I have to go to the library to find a book on how to use an iPhone. Yes, I am that lame. I have the basics down — it’s essentially a more complex Touch, after all — but I’m going to need to know the why and how of things. At some point I will need to upgrade the iOS to the current version, and eventually initialise the actual phone part, too.