Category Archives: Blogging

The l o v e project

It is the last Friday of June, which means that it is time for the We Are the World Blogfest or #WATWB. This is the first #WATWB that I have participated in for almost a year and I am glad to see the blog hop is still going strong. Now more than ever we need stories of love and connection.

Professional musicians are one of the groups hardest hit by the pandemic. This article was written back in March, but 3 months later, not much has changed: Classical Musicians Say Coronavirus Cancellations are Financially Catastrophic. With live concerts still being cancelled for safety reasons, musicians have lost most of their paying gigs. Teaching is still happening, and a bright spot is the rising of online music ensembles.

The L O V E Project 2020 stands for “Liquid Open Viral Ensemble.” It is the world’s largest online symphony orchestra. I found out about it on Facebook about a month ago. Their goal is to have 1000 musicians playing Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture. As their website says,

[O]nce there was a quarantined violist from COVID-19! . . . The violist begins to wonder how music could go on in these conditions; and in these conditions he thinks of an idea to let the music start again while the whole world is waiting. 

I especially love that it started with a quarantined violist. We violists do tend to think outside the box! It sounds a little like a viola joke gone right for a change. My own community orchestra has also been doing some of these types of videos, (as I blogged about in April) so I already knew how to make a video of myself playing the viola part while watching the conductor and listening to a track on earbuds.

It’s really hard to get such a video perfect, though, especially for a piece that is over 7 minutes long. After practicing several days, I did 4 or 5 takes, and they all ended up with different mistakes. I finally submitted one with 2 mistakes. The mistakes are in places where the viola part is in the background, either scrubbing away with repeated 16th notes to add some drive, or drowned out by the winds. It’ll add authenticity–live performances are rarely perfect anyway. And with 999 other musicians (139 other violists), I’m sure I’m not the only one.

When I submitted my music video I was also asked to make this invitation video. It felt a little cringey to record it at first, but I found I really enjoyed watching everyone else’s, which you can find on this YouTube Channel, so it was worth getting over that self-conscious feeling.

They have started putting the videos they have together, but they haven’t received all 1000 yet. There are already musicians from around the world: Italy, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Monaco, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, China, Malaysia, Japan, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, and all over the USA including here in Silicon Valley. They still need string players, especially violin IIs. So there is still time to send in your video!

There is something amazing about all of these musicians, young and old, amateur and professional, coming together to play this masterwork of Mozart’s.

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
― Kahlil Gibran

We Are the World Blogfest,” posted around the last Friday of each month, seeks to promote positive news. There are many oases of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

We are the World Logo

Co-hosts for this month’s #WATWB are: Sylvia McGrath, Susan Scott , Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, and Sylvia McGrath, Susan Scott , Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, and Belinda Witzenhausen. Please stop by their blogs and say hello!

Thursday doors: if it’s not a door, what is it?

I have to give this homeowner credit for a sense of humor.

Walking to my car from the CalTrain station in Mountain View I came upon this door. Or at least it looks like a door: it has a handle, steps leading up to it, and a small roof to keep you dry if 1. you were knocking at this non-door, and 2. it was actually raining here in droughty California.

A door this is not

Other people must have thought so too, or the owners wouldn’t have had to paint those words on it. I wonder what is behind the door to make them take it out of commission.

You can find the real door–same design, same color scheme–a bit to the right.

The real door

I don’t know these people–I was just walking home from my train–but I really like the color scheme they chose. The contrast between the door and the surrounding wall is satisfying. It blended in very nicely with the setting sun.

I’m also using the process of editing this simple post to learn how to use the WordPress block editor. I failed at this last week and went back to Classic, because I couldn’t find the menu that would let me add my featured image and tags. It’s surprisingly non-intuitive. The internet told me that if you just opened up and edited a post you would get that menu. But you actually have to click the settings icon to see it, or at least I did. And then you have to click the jetpack icon to see how to share the post on your social media accounts.

These aren’t that difficult of tasks in and of themselves, but every new step is a stumbling block at first. I hope that eventually getting familiar with the block editor will make blogging easier again!

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog

Thursday Doors: The Garage

I have to hand it to Norm 2.0. During my whole almost-year off blogging he kept the Thursday Doors challenge going every week, through a quarantine and a pandemic. As I watched the emails come and go, I wondered if Thursday Doors would go the way of some of the other blogging challenges I’ve participated in. But no, here it is, right on schedule, like a long-lost friend. Only I was the one who went away.

Like everyone else’s, my traveling has come to a screeching halt, but I still have many unused door photos. I have so many unused door photos in fact that I am not sure anymore which ones I have blogged about and which ones I haven’t. So rather than try to deal with that hot mess, I am going to celebrate something that has been an unexpected pleasure: my new garage doors.

BelmontGarageSnow
Our snowy garage in Belmont MA

Our old house in Boston had a little “one-car” garage that we used as a garden shed and a place to store bicycles and toys and hide the garbage cans from the yard critters. It was separate from the house, too, so there was no way to just come inside directly after your harrowing drive through the snowy wasteland. The garage door pictured here is “new” as well; the one that came with that house was painted black and made of particle board. By the time we replaced it it had rotted through in the bottom panels and probably was not even good for keeping the garbage cans safe from the raccoons. And even on the new metal door, there was no opener–there were no cars in there, so why would we need one?

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The original CA garage doors, from the Zillow listing for the house we bought

When we moved here to CA five years ago, not one but two garage doors with openers came with the house. After years of parking our cars behind each other in the driveway and arguing about whose turn it was to be first, having a 3-car garage was an almost embarrassing luxury. And then we promptly filled up even that garage with stuff. It turns out that California houses don’t have basements, so the stuff has got to go somewhere! However, when I got my electric car (not a Tesla, a VW Egolf), I needed to park it in the garage to charge it, and we found a way.

GarageJunk
Junque

Then one night I was coming home from a rehearsal while my husband was away on business. I pushed the button, as usual, and not as usual, nothing happened. I drove closer and pushed the button again. I saw that something was happening; the light was on, and there were some noises coming from the garage, but the door wasn’t rising.

I parked in the driveway and looked closer. The garage door was about halfway up, and it was stuck. I couldn’t really move it one way or the other. My teenage son who had been home at the time said that he had heard a noise coming from the garage while he was making his dinner. He had gone out into the garage at the time but not seen anything. Then he pointed out that the spring on one side looked different from the spring on the other side. It was broken.

Together, my son and I tried to close the garage door so as not to leave it open overnight. As we pushed something cracked. The door split where the opener was attached, but we finally got it down, and it looked normal from the outside.

BrokenDoor
The broken door. Crack . . . craaaaack

I checked google to see what my options were. My son had been doing this too while I was gone and we determined that it was a good thing we hadn’t been there when the spring failed. We didn’t think we wanted to touch it again. We wanted to call someone who knew what they were doing.

The next morning I did that. The business owner came quickly and analyzed it. He said even if it could be fixed, we should replace this door with something more current, and safer. The old door was one big piece, and as it opened it jutted out into the driveway. We had learned to park our cars a certain distance from the door. Because of this opening method, it could injure someone when it opens, even if it was in perfect working order. He hauled it away on the top of his truck.

HaulingDoorAway

And, in just one day, he installed the new ones. They are quiet, safer, and even have windows. They are sealed at the bottom so dirt and leaves aren’t always blowing in. We probably should have replaced the old doors when we moved in.

 

 

NewDoorsFeatured

Better late than never.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog.

Blogging Break

It’s September 1 and looking back, I see I haven’t blogged for an entire month, since August 1. I have started a new teaching job and it is taking all of my time right now.

I heartily dislike being this busy and I’m hoping things will settle down as I find a groove.

But until then I’m taking a hiatus from blogging. I estimate it will last about a month, and I will revisit in October. Enjoy the fall, it is one of my favorite times of year, and I hope the season brings you much happiness!

Leavesinthepark
A walk to the Underwood Playground

 

Thursday Doors: More Little Free Libraries

Since putting up my own Little Free Library a few months ago, I have made it a project to visit others, both local and out of town.

My library has a geocache, and this month I have gotten extra visitors looking for clues for the geocaching “Mystery at the Museum” puzzle. I also put a geocache in a local friend’s Library that she made out of an old newspaper box. Here’s the door to that one:

01TakeaBookLeaveaBook

I started inline skating again recently. I originally learned to use inline skates in graduate school, the last time I lived in California, and I dug my old roller blades out of the garage with the intent of getting some exercise around the neighborhood and reliving old times. Those skates were unfortunately so old that the plastic cracked and the skates were unusable. Undaunted, I bought new ones and went out skating several days last week. While skating, I found another neighborhood LFL with nice blue doors. You can see my shadow taking the picture in the lower left corner.

 

Some LFLs are close to elementary schools and are well-stocked with kids’ books behind their doors (or not):

 

And some LFL Stewards really go all out, decorating not just their libraries but the areas around them. There are benches, chairs, solar panels, statues, flowers, signs, and paths around these libraries.

San Jose has some other great LFLs too:

 

This last one doesn’t have a door at all, but I’m adding it into this post anyway because I think it’s a cool idea. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton airport has its own book exchange too, where you can pick up a book for the upcoming flight, or leave one that you’ve finished reading.

ABEAirport

I’ve used LFLs for Thursday Doors before–LFL Stewards are very creative!

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog.

Qigong

I did qigong for the first time last night. I have made Tuesday my reblog day, using this day to explore other blogs and discover something new. So this next morning after the class, I went out and searched for blogs about qigong–and there are a lot. I chose this one to reblog because 1. it’s not a video and 2. the images and words evoked what I experienced. Looking forward to the fall, and towards the need for self-care as a first year teacher, I think there is a place for qigong practice in my life.

Writing into the Light

stagnant energy
accumulated in excess
breathed out as gray smoke

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July #WATWB: American Heroes

We are the World LogoThe “We Are the World Blogfest,” posted on or around the last Friday of each month, seeks to promote positive news. There are many oases of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

I have not managed to do a #WATWB post for two months, but this month’s was easy. It is a straightforward story of 4 heroic young American men, who saved a child’s life. The story appeared in the Washington Post as “A 6-year-old was swept out to sea, and a group of brothers dove in after her.” The unfortunate girl was riding a pink flamingo raft, and no lifeguard responded to her father’s cries when he saw her being swept out to sea. The father then put on a life vest and swam out after her himself, but was not a strong enough swimmer. Four visiting American young men effected a rescue, swimming out to save the girl first, and then her father.

I rode a raft in the ocean on the Outer Banks of North Carolina when I was about 10. I was a decent swimmer for my age, but reading the story, I realized this could have happened to me. And I especially felt for the poor father, who was in danger of losing his daughter, and tried his best to go after her, but his best wasn’t good enough. If not for the heroic American tourists, the day could have ended in a double tragedy.

Every year in the summer, this message bears repeating: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning. Familiarize yourself with water safety and with the real symptoms of drowning. My daughter saved her little brother in a pool when she was about 8 and he was about 4. I was on the other side of the pool from them, and he slipped off a ledge where he had been standing and went under. She reached down and pulled him out.

Sign up to join us and be visited on the last weekend of the month when you post your article. Click here to enter your link on this Linky Tools list. #WATWB cohosts for this month are:  Shilpa GargSimon Falk , Damyanti BiswasLizbeth Hartz and Eric Lahti. Please link to them in your WATWB posts and go say hi!

Plastic-Free Life Redux: A Story of Independence

For my reblog Tuesday, I’m sharing this blog from Pam Lazos, author, lawyer, and environmentalist, about her efforts to reduce plastic in her life. Wegman’s deserves kudos for what they are doing; hopefully other store chains will follow suit!

Green Life Blue Water

[4th of July fireworks over Lancaster]

Plastic-Free Life Redux: A Story of Independence

A couple months ago I sent a letter to the four biggest local grocery stores in my area, espousing the benefits of removing single-use plastic packaging from their myriad array of fresh vegetables. I wasn’t asking them to literally change their whole operating strategy, but to just quit wrapping things that don’t need it in plastic, and to provide reusable bags for the veggies we may want to buy loose, but not too loose; we don’t want them rolling around in our carts and we don’t want to have to put them in paper and contribute to further deforestation of the planet since decimating old growth forests may be even worse than disposing of single-use plastics.

Before I tell you what happened, let me just say that I read a completely unnerving statistic the other day, that…

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Our brains appear uniquely tuned for musical pitch

The human brain appears to be unique in how its auditory cortex responds to musical pitch. I’d be curious to see how other animals, not just monkeys, respond to music. Like, why does my cat always run out of the room when she sees the violin being taken out of the case?

Scents of Science

In the eternal search for understanding what makes us human, scientists found that our brains are more sensitive to pitch, the harmonic sounds we hear when listening to music, than our evolutionary relative the macaque monkey. The study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, highlights the promise of Sound Health, a joint project between the NIH and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that aims to understand the role of music in health.

“We found that a certain region of our brains has a stronger preference for sounds with pitch than macaque monkey brains,” said Bevil Conway, Ph.D., investigator in the NIH’s Intramural Research Program and a senior author of the study published in Nature Neuroscience. “The results raise the possibility that these sounds, which are embedded in speech and music, may have shaped the basic organization of the human brain.”

The study started…

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Thursday Doors on Saturday: St Petersburg

I’ve been working on an old scrapbook. It is a record of a trip we took in 2016 to the Baltic Sea. This was really a nice trip, and I’ve had the scrapbook materials, including pictures, sitting around for a couple of years in the living room on the bottom shelf of the coffee table. In a push to organize the house and get rid of piles and extraneous junk, I’ve decided to complete the book. And since we’re not going anywhere fancy in person this summer (unless you count my upcoming teacher training in Chandler Arizona), it’s been nice to relive this previous trip through pictures.

I did blog about the trip a little bit, and I even did what you’re supposed to do in the blogosphere: let people know that I was away (hey, I was new). But it took place before I was participating in Thursday Doors, so I didn’t take any pictures of doors specifically for this challenge. Still, this is the trip that got me my very first Thursday Door. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were others.

I’ll start here with the city of St. Petersburg. The stop in St. Petersburg was my first and only time in Russia so far. And the city seemed too good to be real. It was kind of like a Disney city, complete with opening the door to Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage

Cinderella

And to the ballroom where she met the prince.

CatherineInside

Behind the gates of an enormous palace!

CatherineGate

The churches and cathedrals also have doors.

Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood:

SpilledBloodStP

St. Isaac’s Cathedral:

StIsaac

And, of course, the Hermitage museum:

There were also familiar sites, in Russian. Over the door of the Nevsky Inn, does this logo look familiar?

SubwayStP

In this case I’ve limited my pictures to those with doors, but even then there’s a good sampling. Doors make good subjects!

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments at Norm’s blog.