Tag Archives: featured

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?

OriginalGarageDoorspng
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.

My 4000th Find

I started this blog in Belmont MA more than 5 years ago, around the time of my 1000th geocache find. You can read more about that here.

Soon after, we moved to California  and I embarked on a geocaching streak at the end of 2015 that ended up lasting for 1111 consecutive days. Those days included my 2000th find (which I didn’t notice or remark upon) and my 3000th find (which I did).

I ended the streak at 1111 days because of my new full-time job as a middle school science teacher. One night a few hardy souls and I gathered at Donut Wheel in Cupertino to eat some donuts and talk about streaks and caches we had found. I brought Hallie, the doll I won for liking and following a geocaching “cozy mystery” author’s Facebook page.

EndOf StreakEvent

I was sad to see the streak end, but it was necessary. I reaped the first-year teacher whirlwind, and later that busy-ness was amplified by the COVID-19 quarantine and a full-scale shift to distance learning for me and 212 6th and 7th graders.

Last year was also almost the end of my blogging too, but I’m hoping to change that this summer. That is, if I can figure out the Gutenberg block editor on Word Press. So far my attempts at using it have not been promising. In fact, this afternoon for this post I gave up and am writing with the classic editor again. But, in the past 3 months I have of necessity learned how to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams. How bad can it be?

Okay, enough complaining about the block editor. What about my 4000th find?

By now I had had let my premium membership lapse, but my husband still had his. He was working on a series called the “100-mile hike” and he needed one that was accessible from a back entrance to the park it was in.

TheHills

It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot, and you almost wanted to be singing that “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” We passed some cow gates and climbed a short distance. We mostly didn’t see other people and with those whom we did see it was easy to keep a safe social distance. I found 7 of the 8 I needed in this park and its immediate surroundings.

One of them, in the rocks at the base of a lonely tree, was hidden by my husband a few weeks ago, and I didn’t realize it until I had the cache in my hand.

LonelyTree

For the 4000th, we went back to an old cache I hadn’t found the first time. This was a cool cache because it asked you to triangulate with ropes in order the find the exact location of the container. This is kind of the way GPS technology works too, combining the signals from at least 2 satellites. The container was right there where the two ropes met, and and it was a quick find on a quiet suburban trail.

4000FindsCoin

I bought this coin for my husband quite a few years ago now, when we still lived in Massachusetts, and now it applies to me too.

Karenview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Long Time

It’s been a long time since I have blogged. This past year I have been teaching grades 6 and 7 Biology at a private STEM-oriented school in Silicon Valley. It’s my first year teaching full-time and often it feels like I have 2 jobs, not one, and hardly any time for orchestra, let alone blogging.  I had started to feel like I was barely keeping my head above water, technique-wise, and I wondered, am I going to have to quit playing altogether again, at least for a while, to make this job work?

But now, my school, like all the others in Santa Clara county California, has been closed for almost 4 weeks, and we teachers and our students are slowly adjusting to distance learning, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, Zoom Zoom.

TheMask

I am privileged to still have a job and roof over my head. And I have a box of masks left over from the CA wildfires last year–not sure whether I can call that lucky, but I do have them. Introvert that I am, I may not be minding the current situation as much socially as some folks are. I need quite a bit of alone time, and I remember many long days of childhood spent at home with only books, dolls, and imaginary friends. In some ways, I’ve been doing this before it was cool. Or necessary. I even have a husband who shops and cooks, so I don’t have to!

But one aspect of this quarantine that has bothered me and made me disappointed and sad even more than I expected was the complete loss of my musical outlets and opportunities. First it was my remaining chamber group: no, we can’t go to the organizer’s house this week. He and his partner are in the high-risk age group. Then it was the South Bay Philharmonic concert that got cancelled. In honor of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, we had planned to play Beethoven’s 4th, one of two Beethoven symphonies (#4 and 8) that I need for my bucket list. We had been through all the rehearsals but the dress, and then the news came: no gatherings of more than 250 people allowed.

Things moved quickly after that: I went home from school for a short March break and haven’t been back since. My son’s high school closed too; my Googler husband is working from home.

And here we are.

ViolaHanger

For some reason when I finally did pick up the viola to play again, I felt the need to go back to my viola roots, to the basics. When I first started playing the viola, switching from violin around 14 years ago, that meant Bach suites. I played the Courante from #1, which had been my favorite back then, and the Allemande. Then I found suite #2, with its D-minor prelude. It seemed darker and more serious than suite #1. That was when I really started feeling like I had gone over to the “dark side,” the viola, and there was no turning back.

Instead of putting my viola back in its case after that, I put it on a hanger in my spare bedroom/office. I started taking “Bach breaks” from online teaching or lesson planning. I would just run through something, work on a little bit here or there . . . and then something else occurred to me. My daughter stayed in Oregon, where she attends Willamette University, because she lives off-campus and dorm closures didn’t affect her. Her room, sitting empty, has a balcony, which is why she claimed that room when we moved here in 2015.

Inspired by the quarantined Italians I had seen singing from their balconies, I stepped out from my daughter’s room with my viola. Would this work, or would I look ridiculous? A few joggers and dog walkers went by, and I brought out my music stand and played some Bach.

Later I set up my phone and livestreamed it on Facebook. I think I had a larger audience on Facebook than I did live on my small, quiet street, but that may have been for the best. If a real crowd had gathered I might not have had the courage to continue.

That balcony session led to some surprising and delightful responses. One was the reaction of my new friends and colleagues at school. I decided to go out on a limb and share it with my fellow teachers and my students in our online platform. They were very sweet–“that sounded awesome!” said one. The video got shared in our school newsletter too. And then there were the oranges. One of my neighbors left some oranges on our front porch from a tree in their yard, with a nice Thank You card for the “beautiful music while working in the garden.” I eat one orange every morning for breakfast, and I still don’t know who it is!

I’ve also had a Skype lesson with my viola teacher. We worked on Bach–the prelude from the 3rd suite now–and also on Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, which I think might be my next project. The lesson worked quite well and I think I’d like to continue this type of lesson with my teacher even when the quarantine is lifted. Not having to drive to Palo Alto and back saves me almost an hour, and might enable me to fit more lessons back into my regular schedule, even when school starts again.

And, I’ve played some fiddle tunes in what I’ll call “Zoom church.” It is the UU Fellowship of Sunnyvale’s answer to having to close down live services. Instead, we have Sunday services on Zoom, with everyone calling in from home. At this point I’m still not a pro with Zoom by any means (just ask my students) but any squeamishness I may have felt about being recorded on video is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

But, what about orchestra? I still miss it terribly. When I moved to CA, orchestra was both my greatest loss for what I left behind in MA, and my best source of new friends and experiences in CA. But I’m no longer just finding my way in these orchestras. I’ve been here a long time. It surprises me and brings me up a little short that now, here, I’m at the point of grieving another musical loss rather than exploring something new and exciting.

I’ve seen many wonderful videos of orchestras playing together at a distance, some of them on violinist.com. George Yefchak, our conductor at the SBP, had the idea to do a video like this as well, using the Scherzo from Beethoven’s 4th that we were going to play in the concert. He had the vision and did a heroic collecting and editing job to make that vision a reality. I’m there in the third row on the left, wearing an alto clef T-shirt. Fellow violinist.commer Gene Huang, the SBP concertmaster, is up in the top left corner too.

It’s not the whole symphony, and my sympathies go out to Roger, our horn soloist, whose concerto had to be postponed. But I’m still going to count it for my bucket list. Only Symphony #8 to go!

I know this quarantine has been a disaster for many professional musicians who live from gig to gig. I appreciate every one of them who has been sharing their talents with the rest of us to inspire hope and help us get through this difficult time. This is also a time when some of those distinctions start to fall away–professional, amateur, rich, poor, famous, ordinary, even young and old–the virus, and the need for human contact and hope, don’t know these distinctions. We may be here a long time, and we can all share with each other, and need each other. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang the best.

Redwoods

 

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.

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!

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.

Decline, declined

orchids.jpg
April 2017

My orchid plant has been blooming for more than 3 months now. I received it at a housewarming party in 2015 not long after we moved to CA. After the party it lost its flowers and didn’t bloom again for almost 2 years.

After those flowers were lost, I discovered that orchids without flowers can get pretty funny-looking. So I almost threw it out. Again.

And again, another 2 years later, I was suddenly surprised with a richness of blooms. I didn’t use the support sticks this time. By the time I realized that the blooms were happening, it was too late.

AprilOrchid
April 2019

And then, as July 4th rolled around, I saw this. First to bloom, first to wilt.

Orchid
July 2019

At the same time, I saw this article: Your Professional Decline is Coming (Much) Sooner than You Think, by Arthur C Brooks.  It’s making the rounds.

I’m starting a new career, back to work full-time this year, headed to teacher training in a couple of weeks. This is not the kind of thing I want to be reading. Cue the curmudgeonly grumbles about annoying clickbait headlines . . . But in fact, this article is worth reading in spite of the incendiary headline. Reading it was almost a relief: a rehash of an old, tired narrative, narrowly focused on a narrow skill set and narrow demographic.

Back when I was in graduate school this crap was what young male physicists liked to torture themselves with: if they hadn’t made their Nobel-winning discovery by the time they were 30, they were washed up and might as well throw in the towel. And sure, I guess privileged white extroverted males who have a certain type of high-profile executive career in western neoliberal economies may often follow such a life trajectory. But I think it can be different, and more complicated, for other types of people and other types of careers and economies.

Let’s take science, since there seems to be a lot of fretting about it among graduate students (who really have other things to fret about). I have been fortunate to know and know of some wonderful woman scientists. For 6 years I worked as a project manager for Dr. Susan Lindquist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge. She was one of the most creative and collaborative scientists of her generation, and a winner of the National Medal of Science. Somewhat famously absent-minded, she was more famously able to see patterns and make connections that others could not. She established new fields of inquiry in her 50s and was in the prime of her career, running a lab the size of a small biotech company, when she passed away from cancer in 2016. At the time many people remarked that she was “too young” to have passed away, and that her life was too short. I understand and agree with these sentiments, yet Lindquist was 67 when she died, well into Brooks’ alleged “decline” phase. 

Or, let’s consider Rita Levi-Montalcini, discoverer of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a molecule that I did my PhD thesis on. Born in Turin Italy in 1909 and having spent her young adulthood fleeing Nazi persecution, Levi-Montalcini did her seminal work on NGF in her 40s, with Viktor Hamburger. She won a Nobel Prize in 1986, founded the European Brain Research Institute in 2002 and went on to serve as Senator for Life in the Italian government until she passed away at the youthful age of 103. We are all fortunate that these scientists didn’t give up when they hadn’t made it at 30. At the very least, maybe the the lives of women scientists, like the lives women authors, need to be written differently.

I’m not the only one to have found this part of Brooks’ article’s scope and message irritating and limited. For an alternate view, check out Chris Farrell’s article in Forbes. Instead, I think the “decline” that Brooks writes about is more an indictment of our values as a society and of the way it is set up than a real decline in anything that is actually important in people themselves. Brooks himself makes a big deal about processing speed. He says: “if your profession requires mental processing speed or significant analytic capabilities—the kind of profession most college graduates occupy—noticeable decline is probably going to set in earlier than you imagine.” 

When I read that, I had a lot of questions, the main ones being:  “what kind of analytical capabilities are we talking about here?” and “do *most* professions really require this, or is that some kind of bias on the part of the author?”

I will admit here that  I am biased. I’ve had slow, or at least inconsistent, processing speed all my life, and have suffered for it at the hands of perfectionists and their expectations. Particularly in social situations and with things I only hear rather than see, it has always taken me time to understand what I am taking in. I fit the definition of introvert that is in vogue these days: an observer who needs to think before acting.  But it’s not, and never has been, age-related.

And happily, it’s not worse for me in middle-age, because now more people seem to be in the same boat. Introverts are having a Quiet Revolution. Other people are finally admitting out-loud the value of electronic reminders, habits, routines, and other coping strategies. Other people are having to give up a dangerous over-reliance on working memory to run their lives. Other people are acknowledging the costs of toxic perfectionism. To them I say, come in, the water’s fine. It’s really quite freeing to not have your ego so completely tied up in your ability to rattle off random factoids from memory or to quickly process a complicated schedule without looking at a calendar. We all benefit from slowing down and reflecting, and there is more than one Quiet Revolution underway.

That said, I thought the advice Brooks gives in his article about teaching, sharing knowledge, and lifting other people up, was pretty good. Rather than a “decline,” I think what he is writing about is a shift in values as we get older towards a more sustainable and livable way of life. And you don’t have to be older to behave that way. Some younger people figure it out sooner–young people can make great teachers too. 

MayOrchid
May 2019

And as for the orchid: when these blooms are gone, there is no way I’m throwing it out. I know better now.

montalcini

It is imperfection – not perfection – that is the end result of the program written into that formidably complex engine that is the human brain
Rita Levi-Montalcini