Monday, August 30, 2010

Placement Exams Finished!

I mentioned before that I would be taking placement exams during my first few days of graduate school orientation. Well, yesterday afternoon I was tested in ear training and four sections of music history to determine whether I'd need to take review courses in those subjects.

The ear training test involved identifying intervals, chord progressions and inversions, and rhythmic meters, and writing out a two-part musical example after hearing it three times as well as transcribing some rhythms. I felt like most of it was easy enough, except that I was probably terrible at the chord identification because I wasn't well prepared for that from my undergraduate studies in ear training.

The music history exam consisted of four sections (Medieval/Renaissance, 17th and 18th centuries, Beethoven to Debussy, and 20th Century) with thirty questions each, plus fifteen listening examples for which we were to identify the piece, the composer, and the era. The only part of this exam I had studied for at all, even a tiny bit, was the Medieval/Renaissance section, because I had heard rumors that you could retake the other sections later if you fail the first time. I figured I would fail some of the sections simply because I haven't studied those subjects in 6+ years - they are freshman/sophomore courses, and I've been out of school for four years now.

Well, here's the news that has had me ecstatic all evening: this afternoon I found out that I passed ear training and every section of music history! This is really good; it means I won't have to take any review courses and can jump right into the graduate level courses.

Considering my total lack of study time and preparation, I can only figure I must be a really good guesser.


This afternoon I sat through a mandatory meeting for graduate students which consisted of two conservatory staff members rambling about their life experiences. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.

The first guy that spoke to us talked primarily about how you never know where life will take you, or how your experiences will benefit you down the road. After he had been talking for about 20 minutes without really saying anything, he mentioned that he had originally planned to be a pastor.

Scott, a violist, leaned over and whispered, "That explains so much."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This Doesn't Bode Well

First day of grad school orientation.

I woke up with a sore throat.


Friday, August 27, 2010

90 Years Later

I have mixed thoughts about Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison's 'Reality Check' article on Newsweek today, commemorating 90 years since the 19th ammendment was ratified.

I'm sure a lot of the statistics they quote are true, and many of them are not encouraging. But as I read the sobering figures, I found myself wondering: are they the whole story?

Take this one, for example:

[A woman will] have to work harder if she wants to enter into politics, too. Sarah Palin may call herself a feminist, but women still hold just 16.8 percent of seats in Congress, and there are fewer than 20 female world leaders presently in power.

The implicit question is, I think, are there as many women as men wishing and vying for seats in Congress? I don't know the answer - and the article doesn't provide one.

In another statistic, the authors claim:

She’ll probably watch her mother spend just as much time at work as her father but make less money—no matter the field—and once she gets home, she'll do eight hours more housework a week than her husband.

The link about the wage gap is certainly interesting, and perhaps even alarming - it claims that the average female college graduate will earn $1.2 million less over her lifetime than her male college-educated peers. But the second link included above - the case against marriage - contradicts this assertion that women make less money:

Since the early 1900s, the driving force behind marriage, along with procreation, was that women couldn’t land well-paying jobs: we relied on our husbands to survive. [...] But today, we no longer need to "marry up": women are more educated (we make up nearly 60 percent of college graduates) and better compensated (urban women in their 20s actually outearn their male peers).

For me, the article, while interesting, offers as many questions as answers. So I wonder what the real story is?

I should probably wrap this post up by saying something thoughtful and conclusive, but grad school orientation starts tomorrow morning and I'm supposed to be studying for a music history exam right now.

Did I mention I'm going to grad school?

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

My brother-in-law Gabe has a good post up on casual evangelicalism, liturgy, and the majesty of God.

All of these things are grounded not in the details of a particular culture but in the details of human nature. To understand the wisdom of the liturgy is to understand that we are whole persons, that our bodies are part of us, and that what we do with them (kneeling, dressing them up, etc.) actually matters. It is to realize that the tradition and ritual of the church are grounded not in anachronistic legalisms but in living truths.

Read it.

Eat Your Veggies!

It's official: Men Hate Vegetables and Die Earlier.

Only 7 percent of men eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, while a full 11 percent of women do.

[Both those statistics seem pretty dismal to me.]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Emerging Adulthood"

Matt at Mere Orthodoxy recently pointed his readers to the New York Times article on "Emerging Adulthood" that's been making waves.

JEFFREY JENSEN ARNETT, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls "emerging adulthood." He says what is happening now is analogous to what happened a century ago, when social and economic changes helped create adolescence — a stage we take for granted but one that had to be recognized by psychologists, accepted by society and accommodated by institutions that served the young. Similar changes at the turn of the 21st century have laid the groundwork for another new stage, Arnett says, between the age of 18 and the late 20s.

This newly-defined life stage is characterized by "identity exploration, instability, self-focus," and other marvelous qualities to which we should all aspire. In other words, we happy 20-somethings need a decade or so of unstable navel-gazing while we prepare for the drudgery of real, down-to-earth adulthood.

Matt also linked to a clever response from Miss Self-Important, which happens to echo my own thoughts nicely - and states them far better than I could have done.

Emerging adulthood is good because freedom of the will is good, and so obviously constraint of the will by external necessity is bad. We know constraint is bad because if emerging adulthood was thought to be a product of new and different necessities, like the unavailability of jobs, or a fatal mismatch between educational preparation and employment qualifications, or a society in decline that no longer supports family and childrearing, then we would be fretting instead of celebrating our uniqueness. We would be feeling the despair of 1932 and not the euphoria of 2010.

One problem Arnett faces as he attempts to have the phase of "emerging adulthood" widely accepted is that it doesn't appear to be a universal phenomenon, but rather is found primarily in the West - and mostly in America. Miss Self-Important comments on Arnett's feeble resolution of this issue:

But in reality, the narrowness of observed emerging adulthood is no problem, since its premise is that all 20-somethings would behave this way if they could only be untethered from the grinding pressures that force them "to grow up fast." Underneath every seemingly grown up 20-something with a family and a steady job, a direction-less emerging adult is gasping to be released. Given freedom from economic want, social mores that encourage early marriage, and limits to college access, every poor Vietnamese rice farmer and rural Pakistani bride of an arranged marriage could be living in Greenpoint, going to yoga classes, and selling her handmade textiles on Etsy.

After reading the article in the Times, I find myself wondering why I'm starting graduate school, teaching almost 40 private students, conducting a children's orchestra, and running around from one gig to another to make a few bucks. Why am I paying a mortgage and even paying for my own health insurance? Instead, I should move in with my parents, take up meditation, and try my hand at "funemployment". Otherwise, one of these days I'm going to find that I'm 30 years old, living a stable life - and all having never completed my emergent journey to self-awareness.

On second thought, I can think of worse things.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Yours

Fans of Jason Mraz will appreciate this video, although even if you haven't tuned your radio to a pop station in the past few years, you might still get a kick out of it.

Which is more charming, the fact that he has pretty good chops on his ukelele, or that the "lyrics" are, while entirely indistinguishable (the boy speaks Japanese), still remarkably reminiscent of Mraz's singing?

If you've been living under a rock and haven't heard the original, check it out:

Now that I hear them back to back, I think I might like the kid's version better. There's something oddly wonderful about it - his pure enjoyment of music, the lyrics mangled yet still weirdly recognizable (it's not like Mraz's lyrics make sense, anyway), his flying little fingers and funny facial expressions.

Love it.

Placement Exams

I have placement exams during my grad school orientation, and the whole saga begins this coming weekend. I know I'll have to take exams in music history, music theory, and ear training - not to mention an audition for placement in large ensembles and chamber music groups.

But every time I crack a book, or look at the Hindemith and Debussy excerpts I'm supposed to be practicing, I suddenly think of so many more enjoyable things I could be doing - things like cleaning the toilet, or banging my head against a wall.

Or better yet, pulling out my sewing machine and altering old clothing for new and updated looks. Or making cookies, jams, and the most delicious homemade tomato sauce recipe imaginable with fresh tomatoes from my garden.

I met with a friend a few days ago to do some studying. Within five minutes of opening our textbooks she was popping Advil and I was wishing we had access to something even stronger.

One of these days I'll stop finding domestically rewarding ways to justify my procrastination from studying.

Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tone Colors

Introducing the use of the fourth finger to six-year-old student M today found us talking about tone colors. We observed how while the open E and the fourth finger E are the same note, the sound is slightly different. I demonstrated the open E sound and suggested that if it were a color it might be a bright yellow, to which M agreed. When I played the fourth finger E, she quickly blurted out, "That's a mustard yellow!"

A beginner who not only hears nuances in tone but also thinks outside the primary color scheme? M, you made my day.

"I'm wondering if you got your radio on..."

A recent post from Ashleigh resonated with me, as her thoughts often do. She wrote:

"Why when you hear a song on the radio that you could listen to whenever you would like at home on your stereo or computer does it suddenly become an emotional or nostalgic experience?"

Isn't that so true?

P.S. Who can name the song my post title refers to?


Lori at Fake Food Free recently pointed her readers to Waffleizer, a blog devoted to making anything and everything in a waffle iron - things like waffled soft pretzels, waffled chocolate chip cookies, and waffled paninis. (My friend Story used to make scrumptious paninis in her waffle iron, for lack of a panini press - although admittedly the deep frying step at waffleizer seems excessive to me!) There's also "s'moreffles," and even waffled pizza! (Nathan will either be ridiculously excited about this idea or alarmed by the irreverence of it; I can't decide which.) Arguably the most intriguing of all, there's waffled falafel. Waffled falafel! Say it and try not to smile. Don't you want to make it? I know I do.

The guy who writes Waffleizer has been featured in the Chicago Tribune for his waffleing endeavors. What seems to make bloggers successful, in the majority of cases, is finding a niche ranging from the merely unique to the fully bizarre, and going with it, be it cooking every one of Julia Child's recipes or making cheeseburgers in your waffle iron. I'm impressed by - and slightly jealous of - the people who think of these kinds of things and create their own blogging dynasties. I blog about nothing in particular - a friend even told me recently that I'm relegated to his "miscellaneous" category in Google Reader for lack of a defined subject matter - and that is why I'll never make a million dollars from this blog, however witty and charming my lucubrations may be.

Oh well. I'll comfort myself with making waffled falafel and enjoying the fruits of the success of others.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Few Links

Shannon from Shannon Makes Stuff has a great tutorial for making a thread spool holder out of a picture frame. I'm going to have to watch yard sales for old wooden frames and see if I can find a suitable one - the results are a cute way to store your thread and enjoy all the colors on display!

Jodie has a tutorial for a very cute one-hour bag sewing project - I'm hoping to find time this week to make one for myself.

Lori at Fake Food Free reviews the cookbook Canning For a New Generation, and includes a recipe! Her salsa looks phenomenal. Naturally, after my recent ventures in canning yielded such pretty and delicious results, this book is definitely on my wishlist!

Making Jam

My CSA share this summer includes fruit, which is really fun and decidedly more enjoyable than last summer's copious amounts of eggplant, eggplant, and more eggplant.

What's a girl to do with twenty peaches a week?

Make peach jam! And can it!

This was my second foray into the world of canning-without-actual-canning-equipment, and seems to have been as successful as the apple butter I made a couple of years ago. Canning is so fun and rewarding, I should really do it more often.

In fact, I became so convinced that I should do it more often that the day after I made peach jam, I decided to use my CSA plums to make plum jam, too.

I am eating some of it spread on toast right now. It is a beautiful color and tastes like all the things that are good about life.

Toast and jam for breakfast? I know! I'm usually a green smoothie type of girl! But grey skies and rainy mornings can make anyone crave toast, a cup of tea, and a good book.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Groupon Deal

For those not aleady in the know, today's Groupon deal is $50 to spend at GAP for only $25. It's like free money! If you shop at GAP, or wish you could afford to shop at GAP, or want to plan ahead and get your husband something handsome from GAP for his birthday, or want to go try on some dresses and see if you can find anything to wear to your friend's wedding next weekend that would magically make you look thinner and more successful, well, hypothetically, this Groupon deal is for you!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bach Concerto for Oboe and Violin

I have tentative plans to learn the Bach Concerto for Oboe and Violin with a friend this fall. In fact, we sight-read it together over the weekend and I was reminded of how much I really like this piece.

This recording by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert is lovely.

The second movement is particularly beautiful. (Although I must admit I love the second movement of his Concerto for Two Violins better... how could anyone not?)

The triplet-y bits in the third movement are as fun to play as they sound!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nickel Creek, in 1991 and 2007

This afternoon I stumbled across this video of Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, and Chris Thile playing together as young kids in 1991 - the early days of Nickel Creek. Sean is actually playing mandolin in this video, and Chris is on guitar. It's amazing how well these kids could play at such a young age!

One of my favorite songs by this group (in later years) is Doubting Thomas.

It's an honest sort of song - maybe not the kind of thing you'd want to hear in church on a Sunday morning - but...

"oh me of little faith"

...really gets me every time.

Also not to be missed is this video from their Farewell (For Now) tour of the group jamming I'll Fly Away with musical influences like Bela Fleck and Gillian Welch.

Oh Nickel Creek, I miss you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lewis on Church Music

My husband's job in the field of sacred music often gives me occasion to ponder the role of music in the church. I've always found C.S. Lewis's thoughts on the matter very interesting, and only recently re-discovered them in the wake of our own minor church drama surrounding the issue of music in worship.
"The first and most solid conclusion which (for me) emerges is that both musical parties, the High Brows and the Low, assume far too easily the spiritual value of the music they want. Neither the greatest excellence of a trained performance from the choir, nor the heartiest and most enthusiastic bellowing from the pews, must be taken to signify that any specifically religious activity is going on. It may be so, or it may not. Yet the main sense of Christendom, reformed and unreformed, would be against us if we tried to banish music from the Church. It remains to suggest, very tentatively, the ways in which it can really be pleasing to God or help to save the souls of men.

There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God. The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace: not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense. [Emphasis mine.] But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled with the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste–there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.

These highly general reflections will not, I fear, be of much practical use to any priest or organist in devising a working compromise for a particular church. The most they can hope to do is to suggest that the problem is never a merely musical one. Where both the choir and the congregation are spiritually on the right road no insurmountable difficulties will occur. Discrepancies of taste and capacity will, indeed, provide matter for mutual charity and humility."
(C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections: On Church Music)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Children and Learning

After mentioning the blog Nurtured by Love in a post last night, I wanted to direct interested readers towards a couple of her posts in particular that have struck me or given me food for thought over the past year.

Building Character

I think people become strong like plants become strong -- by starting with deep roots. I think that childhood is a time to grow deep roots. Later you can challenge the seedling with wind, drought, and deluge and it will probably do just fine because it will have the firm grounding necessary to weather the hardship.

The Role of Home Teacher

I think it's important to recognize that institutional schooling represents a sort of contracting out of the academic education portion of the responsibility for raising a child, and that this is a relatively recent practice in the scope of human history. The idea of having separate roles for "teacher" and "parent" is a little artificial.

I see the distinction between "being a mom" and "being a homeschool teacher" in a similar light. They're not separate roles. We tend to see them as separate because culturally we have made an artificial separation, assigning the roles to different people. If they're not going to different people, they don't need to be different.

Respect For Authority

I don't believe respect is a behaviour that is learned through repeated practice. I believe that respect is a moral understanding that springs from empathy. In other words it comes from a a strongly-rooted set of moral values, not repetitive behaviour. And strongly grounded values are of course best learned through consistent caring teaching within the family ... rather than the rather random, capricious examples set in institutional settings.

This unschooling mother of four thinks interesting thoughts, don't you think? And I find myself alternately marveling that her philosophy of education is wonderful and has clearly worked for her children, and then wondering how in the world something like this could possibly work when children (like adults) are, after all, imperfect and prone to laziness.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. Today, an adult, I am both a student and a teacher myself. I observe dozens of children each week in their interactions with me, with their parents, and with their peers. I hear the good, the bad, and the ugly of their school experiences. I see five-year-olds exhausted and emotionally on the brink of a meltdown after a day of school. I witness students who say they hate school, and other students whose eagerness to learn and grow is unstoppable. I observe their family, social, and school environments and wonder at the differences. And I find these thoughts from Miranda to be good things to ponder.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kindergarten at Home

My oldest nephew, Jonathan, will be embarking upon the great adventure of kindergarten this fall - with my sister Emily as his teacher, at home. Fittingly, after chatting with her on the phone this evening, I came across a relevant post, The importance of kindergarten teachers, on a blog I really enjoy reading.

Miranda writes,

"My take on it is this: Kindergarten is crucial because it's first the year we subject kids to the incredible stress of immersion in a peer-saturated, authority-driven environment, separation from home and family, academic rigors, achievement standards, and large-group learning. As a society we've decided that at age 4 or 5, children should leave loving homes during the majority of their waking hours and make their way in an institutional world separate from family and community. That crucial first year comes far too soon for the developmental capabilities of the vast majority of young children and is a poor educational fit for many."

If you haven't read Miranda's blog, you really should. Her posts always leave me contemplating childhood, education, people, and life. Another recent post, A good enough reason to homeschool?, said this:

"To me school isn't a default that a parent needs to come up with excuses to opt out of. Instead my default is home. I know my kids can thrive in an individualized learning environment staffed by people who know them inside and out and love them with all their hearts. I watched them thrive as little tykes. As they got close to "school age" I thought to myself "Kids should get an interesting, enjoyable, humane, meaningful and relevant education. Do mine need to go to school to get that?"

My answer was obviously no. Maybe yours is no too. I think that's good enough."

I think my nephew has an exciting school year ahead of him.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Love (III)

Since I first discovered the poetry of Herbert during my freshman year of college, I've had a particular affinity for Love (III). I had memorized it years ago, and it recently came back to my mind. When I got to the last bit, though, I suddenly found it humorous - since I'm now a vegetarian - that such a beloved poem should end with an invitation to eat meat.

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.


The orange cosmos in my backyard are so cheery looking. I'm not sure who loves them more - me or the bees.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bad Day For This Caterpillar

You may conclude from the flurry of posts this evening that either I finally uploaded a bunch of garden pictures from my phone to the computer, or that I'm avoiding studying for grad school placement exams.

Hmm - maybe a little of both.

While I was tending my tomato plants this afternoon, I found something that blew my mind. It's going to blow yours, too. (Unless everyone but myself is already familiar with this phenomenon!)

This delightful creature is commonly known as a "Tobacco Hornworm," (not to be confused with a tomato hornworm, which is pretty similar) although it's actually a caterpillar, not a worm.

The "horn" part of its name comes, no doubt, from the spike sticking out of its butt.

Oh, and those white things all over his body? Apparently (thanks, Google, for knowing what I meant when I typed in "caterpillar with white things on its back") they are the cocoons of tiny parasitoid wasps.

An adult female wasp uses her ovipositor to deposit her eggs under the skin of an unfortunate caterpillar. The eggs hatch, and the larvae feed off of the hornworm's body until they're ready to chew through the caterpillar's skin to the outside world. There, still attached to their host, they pupate, spinning the little cocoons you see that look like grains of rice. Soon after the grown wasps emerge from their cocoons, the hornworm - having been gradually eaten alive - will die.

So this caterpillar I found? He's had some bad luck lately.

I brought him inside and put him in a jar so I could watch the remainder of his demise with morbid curiosity - and a little bit of a sympathy. I figured being in a mason jar couldn't really be worse than being stung by a wasp, having eggs hatch inside his body, being eaten alive by larvae, being kept on as a host until no longer needed, and finally, being left to die.

Poor caterpillar. I actually feel sorry for him.

Sometimes nature is so weird and grotesque it really blows my mind.

Harvesting Potatoes

Over the past week, my potato plants have been dying back. Today, as I surveyed the fallen brown branches, I decided it was time to get my hands dirty and see what I discovered underground!

These were grown from the eyes of a few sprouting, past-their-prime, store-bought potatoes. What a fun project. I'm already wondering if I have time to start and grow another batch of potatoes before winter!

Vegetable Garden

Back at the end of June, my vegetable garden looked like this:

Today, it's a jungle! My zucchini, buttercup squash, and delicata squash are taking over, cucumbers are crawling all over the place, and my cherry tomato plants are outgrowing the nice wooden cages Nathan made for me.

I think next summer I'll try to expand my garden space by about 50%. If I'm able to do that, I probably won't even get a CSA share next year - I'll be able to grow so much a farm share would be redundant.

I've already harvested tons of zucchini, some delicious green beans (although next year I'm going with pole beans rather than bush beans, I think, for hopefully increased yield), okra, several varieties of tomatoes, dozens of cucumbers, quite a few green peppers, and herbs.

I have a total of twelve tomato plants: six heirloom plants I got from my CSA share, three cherry tomatoes, and three other varieties - an Early Girl, I think, a striped yellow tomato, and another kind I don't recall the name of.

My delicata squash seem to double in size every time I turn my back. I've never grown these squash before, so I'm not quite sure when to harvest them, but some of them are looking like they'll be ready soon!

I'm even growing watermelons, although these are actually planted outside of the garden, on a little slope alongside the house in the backyard.

My green peppers are crisp and delicious - next year I'll have to plant more than two!

If you've never tried okra, you're really missing out. I'm only growing four plants this year, and this is another crop I'd like to grow more of next summer. I like to include okra in my summer kebabs; it's really tasty grilled alongside zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

My broccoli plants are still in their early stages:

And growing around the fence outside of my garden I have beautiful nasturtiums my parents helped me plant when they were out visiting in the spring!

String Art

For the past few years I've been collecting old violin and viola strings - mine and those of my students. I even acquired an old bass string as well. I twisted them all together randomly and recently decided to frame it as "modern art." I found a 12x12 shadowbox frame at Target for $9.99 that fit the strings nicely. I think it turned out looking really cool, but maybe it's a violinist thing.