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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dream of "Instructions for Living"

In this dream I was with the Friday night dinner group. We were at some kind of park or campground. Someone asked me to write a text similar to what I had done the week before, something like "Instructions of Living."  Apparently it had contributed to the success of someone's political campaign and had been a huge hit. Someone gave me instructions about including well wishes for a particular football team as well. I was handed a small piece of paper. I tried to find someplace to sit, but everyone was smoking and I had to go to the edge of the park. My daughter had written some notes on the paper like "do the right thing" and "prefer peace to war," but I couldn't remember how to write the particular kind of text that I was being asked to write.  


Earlier in the night I was with Ray Charles, and he was explaining his vocal technique, saying that in whatever he sang there was a "buzz." My daughter had had a traumatic incident that had shaken her confidence to the core. I was trying to figure out what it was in order to help her recover he otherwise unshakable resilience. It came out that there had been an incident of gender discrimination against her. I worked hard to bolster her confidence again.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Dream of Cummings Rebus

In this dream I carefully deciphered a rebus-poem by E.E. Cummings. The message was written in the form of a clock, so to say, for example, hate you would put an h in front of a clock hand pointing to 8:00. The message was "I hate Miami, I love New Orleans." I wanted to show a friend of mine what I had done but he had just gotten out of the shower and wasn't interested. I was surprised that I had been reading this poem all my life, but had never bothered to look at it closely enough to see what it meant.

Friday, September 6, 2019

No magic number

How many miles should you run every day?  Probably the answer will be "it depends." Who are you, why are you running, what do you hope to get out of the run? What are you training for? For me, it will be not running at all (a recovery day) or 3 miles, or 1-2 miles. Or a longer run / walk of 4 miles. Each of these runs has its particular purpose, but the larger purpose is to be a runner, in other words, to establish that as a habit.

In the same way, the idea of every day writing the same number of words is a bit arbitrary. If you asked me how many words you should write a day, I would first ask what your project is, when you want to finish it, what research you've already done, and what you want to do in a particular session of writing. For me, it will be between 0 and 700 words. If I really sit down to write for an hour and a half (not revise something already written), I will do about 500 words.  But there is no magic number here. What is important is the continuity of effort over a long stretch of time in pursuit of a tangible goal.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Self Improvement

Fairly soon after I started running, I ran in a 5k and recorded a decent time for a guy my age. Yesterday I came up with a chord progression of some sophistication, but I realized I was using similar ideas shortly after I started writing songs in the first place. Once I started doing these things, I was simply doing them and haven't necessarily improved much since. So, too, with meditation: I probably won't be all that much "better" at it in five years than I am now. That's ok, though. Establishing the habit is the thing, not necessarily improving it every year.

There are improvements too. For example, I can now play piano a bit better, even if my songs are basically of the same quality. I'll take those, but I think the main thing is just doing it in the first place.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

4 years

All my running and piano playing, choral singing, has been since 2015. I guess I didn't have as many hobbies before. I've made good progress, running a 5k charity event this morning on my birthday in 31:27. I was faster in 2015 but I've only restarted running this summer, and I've only lost a minute and a half since I was 55, so that's not too bad. I would probably have to train just to keep under 35 minutes looking ahead to my sixties.

All my scholarly interest in music dates only to 2018. I've only played classical since fall of 2017. I'm thinking late 50s, early 60s can be a good age with good physical and mental health.

I've only meditated daily starting this summer, too. Once a habit becomes permanent, it seems like it has been in place longer than it really has. There was a time four years ago I didn't run, meditate, play piano, or sing in the choir.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I had a moment of happiness yesterday, which is not common for me. Not that I am unhappy, but this was almost euphoria. I had done my running and meditation in the morning, after returning at midnight the night before on the train from Chicago. I had some good ideas about the preface to the Lorca and music book, and started in on that in an extremely good mood. The combination of having had a good visit with my daughter in Chicago, the runner's high, and a clear mind from meditating made me approach my work with enthusiasm.

Today, of course, I am not euphoric, but I still feel pretty good.


I have an ivy-league tenure case to do.  They gave the candidate until last week to turn in materials, but expect me to get my letter in at the beginning of October. They ask for a comparison with three specific individuals at other places, so I have to look those people up too. Luckily I have already read this person's book, but I would have preferred to get this out of the way before the semester started.  I have three trips coming up soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Some meditation lessons

It is important to know when you are not enjoying yourself and to ask yourself why. Something you generally enjoy can be unpleasant in certain circumstances. It could be the voice of the inner critic, or something that causes frustration or physical discomfort. Yesterday I felt frustrated running uphill, because I have mostly been training on the flat. Running is something that is generally nice to do, for me, but it also has a whole slew of potentially unpleasant aspects to it. So the inner critic was saying "you aren't much of a runner" while the legs were saying, "that hurts." A "mindful" approach to this, if I am understanding this right, would be just to say "Oh, that's inner critic again" and move on. Or to say, yes, "running uphill does hurt a bit."  


During meditation, I felt hungry. Once again, the approach to take is to ask what that is. Is it a physical sensation?  How intense or painful is it?  Is it a craving for food in general, a simple arousal of appetite? A feeling of weakness or loss of energy? What other emotions go along with the hunger? Irritation? Anger? Frustration? Or is it just a physical sensation with no strong emotion attached, like your nose itching.

The hunger doesn't go away by answering these questions, but it is less "I am hungry" than "Oh, that appetite is building," which can be a pleasurable sensation in a way, or a realization that the hunger pangs are of somewhat low intensity.  Just framing it in these ways is helpful.

I often get itches all over while meditating. It is natural because more attention is focused on the body. One itch will arise, be present, then subside. It is really no big deal. I learn to enjoy, not the itching itself, but the ability to see what it feels like and rise above it a bit.