Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Month: March 2008

Got rhythm?

Today at work I was listening to some Beatles tunes and gave pause to a certain one: “She said she said” from Revolver (their best album IMO). I was really getting into it, but wasn’t exactly sure why; the lyrics are kinda cryptic (supposedly it’s about an acid trip) and the guitar parts aren’t really that unique. After a little introspection it came to me: drums! Ringo’s drum part is one of the most interesting of any of their songs; it doesn’t really follow any other instrument but complements them all beautifully while driving the song forward.

Ok, so this isn’t really a relevation. I have known for years how much I dig a sweet beat, even going so far as to remark “rhythm’s in my veins, baby” to some girl at one point on a dance floor somewhere (Europe, probably). It’s why I’ve gone through so many different genres in my many musical phases over the years, from the insane electronic percussion of Aphex Twin’s Drukqs to the polyrhythms of Tool’s Lateralus to John McEntire’s orchestrated genius in Tortoise.

I’ve never really acted on it, though. A couple months ago I was playing Rock Band at a friend’s place and picked the drumset as my instrument. After starting on medium difficulty it only took a few songs to advance to hard, where the drum part is only slightly different than the actual song. Sure, the movement’s not quite the same, but you do have four toms and a kick drum so any deficit in coordination will hurt. It was pretty fluid and oh so much fun. Well damn, I thought, why not pick up a drumset myself?

I would, actually, if I hadn’t just bought a new guitar (no, it wasn’t that expensive). My roommate plays drums but I’ve been unsuccessful in coercing him to bring it out from Colorado. I’m not even concerned about the usual annoyances of owning a drumset:

  1. Space. My room is massive and could easily accommodate a drumset.
  2. Noise. I live in a college neighborhood, they’re all noisy punks anyway.

The only concern is annoying people with my suck-ness for the first few weeks. Oh, and money, which hopefully my tax refund will take care of!

It’s time to stop getting down to the beat and start laying down the beat. You know what I’m talking about.

Takin’ er Easy

Or not. I have been using my still-broken clavicle as an excuse to get back into some activities I’ve been neglecting lately, mainly mountaineering and snowshoeing. From the second weekend after the accident I’ve been out in the mountains in some form on a weekly basis. I started slowly, peddling around Ferguson and Mill Creek Canyons but have been steadily stepping up to longer, more strenuous days in the mountains.

My weeks are still pretty boring since I can’t night ski or climb at the gym, but I have been making up for it each weekend in spades. This past weekend I put in about 20 miles in the mountains with ascents of Mt. Olympus (a walk-up except for a short steep stretch at the end) and a long tour six miles into the backcountry in Mill Creek Canyon. The latter was awesome; the first bona-fide backcountry day in the finest deep powder Utah has to offer. Over the next couple of months I’ll be focusing more and more on the mountaineering aspect as the avalanche danger subsides and my shoulder gets stronger. For now I’m happy going on long tours (with one ski pole..) until I have built up some strength in both arms to use ice tools or do some scrambling.

My shoulder has gotten remarkably stronger over the past few weeks, which has made life much more pleasant and allowed me to resume right-handedness. The climbing will come back with time; otherwise things are pretty much back to normal.

Photos from my weekend jaunts will be up soon…

Kicking Ass

I have been fortunate today to stumble across a few fantastic articles today concerning a variety of subjects. All were inspiring, but none to the extent of Kathy Sierra’s blog post on how to become an expert in anything.

The first graph really sums it up nicely, and while I’m definitely not the drop-out type I seem to always stagnate in the amateur zone. While there are many things I am quite good at, very few of them I would call myself an expert in.

Two personal hobbies came to mind immediately while absorbing the article: Programming and playing guitar. Constantly working on the small things really is the key to becoming kick-ass, and all it takes is dedication. I have always been motivated to play guitar, but ‘practicing’ for me is usually just learning someone else’s song or improvising along with something. I could sit down and learn scales, memorize chord positions up and down the neck, and practice double-picking to be able to play 14 notes a second, but I don’t, because it’s boring. However, I know exactly what I need to work on to reach that next level, it’s just a matter of enduring some struggling to get there.

You already know your strengths and weaknesses. Change your course of action to become awesome.

Phone, Meet Train

A rather unfortunate yet hilarious thing happened to me yesterday evening. It was a typical Monday night; I was walking from work to the TRAX station at Gallivan plaza to take the light rail home. I have gotten into the habit of calling people after work to make the half-hour wait/ride/walk a little less painful, and was this time chatting with an old buddy from college. It just happened that I was a few minutes late for the 6:21 train and saw it approach the station as I turned the corner. Figuring I had missed it, I kept strolling along to the station. When I got closer the train wasn’t moving yet, so I jogged over to try and jump on before it took off.

Mind you, I’m still a gimp, and had one arm snugly tucked in a sling beneath my coat while the other held my phone. As I’ve done many times before, I went to cradle the phone with my (good) shoulder while I pushed the button on the train to open the door. This time, though, I was a bit hasty; my phone careened off my shoulder, bounced off the curb of the train platform, and skidded to a rest directly beneath the train’s wheel. Wtf? I thought, peering down at my still open phone lying benignly on the rail. A dude about my age happened to be standing there laughing, “Oh man you couldn’t have dropped that in a worse place! Don’t reach under there bro!” This was immediately after considering reaching under there quickly and nabbing it, or at least moving it from the rail. Then I pictured the train taking off with my arm attached and thought better of it. “Get a stick or something, dude!” Already I was chuckling at the sheer absurdity of the situation, but decided that the only safe option was to try and hold up the train. So I took off in a sprint towards the front of the train to try and wave the conductor down. Of course, right when I approached the cab the thousand-ton electronics compactor begin to move, barreling down the street leaving a trail of dust and transistors.

Immediately I knew my phone was toast and pictured in my mind the mangled piece of silicon and plastic I had recently been using to have a pleasant conversation. I walked back sheepishly to where the dude had been watching the whole debacle and saw him standing there holding it.

“I used to work at a cell phone retail store, and there’s no fixing that!” he managed to get out in between fits of laughter. I accepted my $250 communications device-turned-paperweight with a chuckle.

“Yyyeaaa,” I agreed without inflection.

“Hahaha, sorry man it’s not that funny!”

“Actually, it’s pretty funny,” I remarked frankly before turning around to catch a train going the other direction to the nearest Verizon store.

Luckily, my old phone is still intact and seems to work fine. The only issues were the battery, which I replaced today, and some missing contacts, which were re-synced using Verizon’s excellent Backup Assistant program.

Like all my deceased personal electronics, the freak show of a phone has made its way to the wall of my bedroom. Oh well.

Injury Update

Well it’s been over three weeks since my accident. How am I doing? Alright I guess, my life has taken a turn for the boring but it isn’t really all that different. Let’s go through the upsides and downsides:

I broke my collarbone! Yeeeeeeee-haaa!!!

  • Plenty of time to watch movies. I’m catching up on about three years of movies I’ve been wanting to see. Blockbuster has never loved me more.
  • I’ve been doing tons of cooking, and discovered some awesome recipes. It’s a bit of a struggle but at least I’m eating well.
  • Finishing old projects. As I’m writing this I’m converting all my old typepad photos over to my new photos site. It’s kind of boring but needs to be done.
  • Booze! I’ve been buying a ton of wine to complement my cooking, and because I love it!
  • Getting back in aerobic shape. I’ve been snowshoeing every weekend and my legs are really feeling it.

Alec, what the hell did you do?

  • A near-useless right arm. I can type with it, but that’s about it. I won’t get into details (there are soooo many), but life sucks when you have one arm.
  • Not climbing, skiing, or playing guitar. These activities took up just about all of my leisure time, and they’re all wicked fun. Unfortunately this trumps every bullet point combined in the other section. Bleh.
  • Driving is a pain in the ass. Shifting with your left hand sucks. However, this is forcing me to take TRAX to work, which is cool.

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. I will be making a few changes to the blog in the near future, so stay tuned…

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