Relearning How to Play the Piano

I can’t remem­ber whether or not I bur­bled about this already, but if this is a repeat you can get extra hugs the next time I see you or some­thing. We have a work­ing, mar­velous, beau­ti­ful piano! It’s the freecy­cled Korg 88-key dig­i­tal that I men­tioned way back in Novem­ber, all clean and func­tion­al thanks to my sweet Sam. It sounds so good! It even feels right, unlike any elec­tron­ic key­board I’ve ever tried to play. I learned to play on an acoustic piano, and the feel is just dif­fer­ent. This piano has nice­ly weight­ed keys to help old­sters like me, and they’re even touch-sen­si­tive, like a “real” (acoustic) piano. And it has two ped­als! (There’s a pic­ture of a sim­i­lar mod­el down there under the “read more” link.)

It won’t go out of tune. We can record any­thing that’s played on it. There are not one, but two head­jack ports, so that, say, a teacher and stu­dent could hear the stu­den­t’s attempts with­out both­er­ing any­one else in the household. 

Yes, I like!
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Relearn­ing How to Play the Piano”

Is There A NaNoReMo?

I think I want a Nation­al Nov­el Read­ing Month. I could do a nov­el a day (as long as I chose the right nov­els, of course). I’m behind on writ­ing reviews, but I’m wal­low­ing unabashed­ly in the num­ber of good reads avail­able to me right now. I’ve tweaked the Now Read­ing wid­get to show up to ten cur­rent books instead of just five. 

I total­ly flubbed NaNoW­riMo. No, I don’t wan­na talk word count. Ugh. I have, how­ev­er, man­aged to keep up with NaBloPo­Mo. so far, and there’s only one day to go! Data­base prob­lems have giv­en me some trou­ble with get­ting the posts to the pub­lic at some points, but I’ve writ­ten an entry every sin­gle day, and I think all of them are even show­ing up now. (The auto­post­ed Tweets for the day don’t count, of course.)

TodayOn Thurs­day, Katie and I drove all over the place, as she had an orth­don­tic appoint­ment and I fool­ish­ly chose to com­bine that with oth­er errands. Dri­ving = can’t take usu­al pain meds. I came home and col­lapsed with a fever. Now it’s the nor­mal time to sleep, and I’m in too much pain to go lay down. (Actu­al­ly, I was so fog­gy that I for­got to hit the “Pub­lish” but­ton last night!)

But, thanks to a freecy­cler, we now own a Korg 88-key elec­tric piano. The catch: It’s tak­en apart. Com­plete­ly. I’ve nev­er seen the innards of such a thing before!

Why did the pre­vi­ous own­ers take it apart, then give it away? Their tod­dler spilled paint on the keys. The donor could­n’t remem­ber if it was fab­ric paint or acrylic paint, but it isn’t water-sol­u­ble, in any case. For­tu­nate­ly, the paint did not get into the elec­tron­ics! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it did stick a few keys togeth­er. So the man of the house took it apart, intend­ing to clean it up—then stuck it in the garage, where it has lan­guished for two years. In a clean­ing fit this week, he decid­ed to toss it out and just get a new one. Hap­pi­ly for me, his wife per­suad­ed him to give her a week to offer it on freecy­cle instead, and now it’s ours!

I’m encour­aged by the fact that every­thing worked before it was tak­en apart (oth­er than the stuck keys). I’m excit­ed about hav­ing a piano. Now I have to fig­ure out what to use to gen­tly clean said keys, then fig­ure out how to reassem­ble the whole thing. I con­sid­ered just tak­ing it to the near­est autho­rized repair cen­ter, but I want to see if we can do it first, as their quot­ed labor rate of $70/hour would add up very quick­ly. This is a $1,000 instru­ment, so it’s worth putting some mon­ey into mak­ing it work. Hav­ing the mon­ey, as usu­al, is the problem.

It came with its nice stand, which is inte­gral to the piano, as it has the ped­als on it. I’ll still need a bench, but I’ll deal with that after I have it working.

A repair man­u­al would be very use­ful. The instru­ment man­u­al can be down­loaded from the Korg web site, but since these things aren’t con­sid­ered user ser­vice­able, it does­n’t show how to take the piano apart and put it back togeth­er. If I can get it cleaned up, though, I can prob­a­bly ask Dad­dy for assem­bly help. My Dad­dy can fix any­thing.1 He’s much bet­ter with things than with people.

I’m total­ly open to sug­ges­tions for gen­tle sol­vents.2 I’m fig­ur­ing non-ace­tone nail pol­ish remover might do it, but will it dam­age the keys?

Of course, if any of you fine folks hap­pen to have expe­ri­ence with tak­ing elec­tric pianos apart and reassem­bling them, by all means, please speak up! (Hey, a girl can hope, can’t she?)


1 Yes, I am 41 years old, and he’ll always be Dad­dy, and I’ll always believe in his mirac­u­lous fix-it-ability

2 Yes, that’s some­thing of an oxymoron.

More Fun Reading from Carrie Vaughn

I real­ly need­ed anoth­er fic­tion author to fol­low, right? But I’ve seen this series of books about a were­wolf named Kit­ty, and I final­ly got a chance to read them. I fin­ished the first, Kit­ty and the Mid­night Hour, today and jumped right into Kit­ty Goes to Wash­ing­ton. I have Kit­ty Takes a Hol­i­day all lined up and ready to go, but I’m already wish­ing that I had the next vol­ume, Kit­ty and the Sil­ver Bul­let. And that, my dears, is a sign of a fine author spin­ning a very good yarn, con­sid­er­ing all the oth­er books wait­ing and ready on my shelf.

The library has the books labeled as hor­ror, but I’d put them in the para­nor­mal romance/dark fan­ta­sy cat­e­go­ry. Hap­pi­ly, the “romance” part isn’t the most sig­nif­i­cant one, and does­n’t get in the way of good plot. There was a moment today when I won­dered if “>Vaughn and Kim Har­ri­son had shared a brain to a small extent, but they’ve dealt with a super­fi­cial­ly sim­i­lar issue in very dif­fer­ent ways.

If it weren’t for the fact that I just final­ly got done with my school assign­ments for the week, and must get up when Sam does in the morn­ing, I’d prob­a­bly be sit­ting up reading!

Now I real­ly need to find a source for these short sto­ries, though. Any of you have the rel­e­vant mag­a­zine issues?

  • “Kit­ty Los­es Her Faith” Weird Tales, #333, Fall 2003
  • “Kit­ty and the Mosh Pit of the Damned” Weird Tales #338, Jan-Feb 2006
  • “Look­ing After Fam­i­ly” Realms of Fan­ta­sy, Feb­ru­ary 2007
  • “Kit­ty’s Zom­bie New Year” Weird Tales #345

Reading

So, the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas want me to talk about what read­ing means to me or my child. How about both?
Katie reading
You might have noticed that I talk, a lot, about read­ing. I think Now Read­ing shows at least four five of the books that I’m read­ing right now, and that’s a fair­ly nor­mal num­ber. I don’t include my text­books, because they’d be there too long!

Read­ing is one of the things that I can still do, most of the time, despite the fibro and oth­er crap. I can’t always man­age to read on a screen, or fol­low some­thing like a text­book. For­tu­nate­ly, though, fic­tion by some of my favorite authors—especially an old favorite nov­el, like Part­ners in Necessity—is eas­i­er, and is a very good way to dis­tract myself from the pain for a while.

I haven’t talked about it much, but Katie has had increas­ing health prob­lems over the last year. Her migraines are no longer man­aged, despite tak­ing high lev­els of pre­ven­tive med­ica­tions. The res­cue med­ica­tions aren’t work­ing well because she has to take them too often. She had anoth­er round of sleep stud­ies, too, and a new neu­rol­o­gist has been try­ing dif­fer­ent med­ica­tions to help her get a decent night’s sleep (which should help the migraines and oth­er prob­lems). So far, any­thing that helps her sleep despite severe rest­less leg syn­drome leaves her zomb­i­fied the rest of the time. Provig­il, even tak­en twice a day, can’t keep her awake and aware enough to func­tion in school. She’s lit­er­al­ly sleep­ing like a cat, 14–18 or hours a day, just nev­er deeply. Her dark cir­cles have cir­cles, now.

But she can still read, too. Slow­ly, some days, and going back to re-read some pages, but she gets the same com­fort from it as I do. You know she’s mine when you real­ize that she’s nev­er with­out at least one, and often two, books in her purse.

I start­ed read­ing to her dur­ing my preg­nan­cy, along with talk­ing and singing and play­ing music for her. I read out loud to her from her first week out of the womb, too, some­times while breast­feed­ing, oth­er times while just being with her. She talked at an ear­ly age, and was very clear. She learned to read quick­ly, too, and has always been very opin­ion­at­ed (where did she get that?) about her choice of read­ing mat­ter. One of her favorite things about leav­ing the pub­lic school sys­tem was being free of that damned Accel­er­at­ed Read­er pro­gram and its ridicu­lous restrictions!

It’s no sur­prise that I hope my nephews and niece are read­ers, too—although that’s far less like­ly, since their par­ents aren’t, real­ly. My broth­er used to brag that he’d nev­er read any whole book, even those assigned for class­es. (I nev­er under­stood that being a point of pride, even if he did get good grades.) My sis­ter has nev­er read any­thing that was­n’t required. I don’t know their spous­es very well, but I’m fair­ly sure they aren’t recre­ation­al read­ers, either. At least the grand­ba­bies have our moth­er (their Nana), who got me start­ed read­ing, and will sit for hours with any child, read­ing book after book (or the same book, over and over) patient­ly.1 I’m not close to my sib­lings, geo­graph­i­cal­ly or oth­er­wise, so I don’t have many chances to influ­ence the babies. I can give them books, though, and hope to catch their fan­cy so they ask to have them read!

Being a flu­ent read­er gives one more of an advan­tage that any oth­er skill you can give your child. Read­ers can use that skill to learn absolute­ly any­thing else. They can explore math, sci­ence, crit­i­cal think­ing, his­to­ry, cur­rent events, art—you name it. If you teach them to read, get them in the habit of doing so, and teach them to judge their sources well, you’ve giv­en them an incred­i­ble start on life.


1 Mom (and I!) did read to my sib­lings, but nei­ther of them ever want­ed to sit still long.

It Was a Lovely Day

Please note: Yes, I am refer­ring to today, the 12th, which is my birth­day. Those close to me know that I gen­er­al­ly hate my birth­day, as it’s a reminder of mul­ti­ple mis­car­riages and oth­er nasty things hap­pen­ing around this time sev­er­al years in a row.

Sam and Katie man­aged to make #41 very nice, though. 

Quotable Mug With Osho QuoteSam and I went out Sat­ur­day evening to Barnes & Noble, but I just could­n’t make a deci­sion. So many choic­es! We went over to Out­Write, too, which is always fun. I saw lots of adorable trin­kets there, and plen­ty of inter­est­ing read­ing and lis­ten­ing mate­r­i­al, but still could­n’t make a choice. I real­ly liked this mug, and it felt great in my hand, but I could­n’t find out if it’s microwave safe. (My favorite cof­fee cup was bro­ken recent­ly, vic­tim of my unre­li­able grip. Thank you, fibro/arthritis/CMP!) Have any of you tried a Quotable mug? How did it hold up?

Oh! On the way home, we start­ed to dri­ve past Krispy Kreme and Sam had a sud­den need for donuts, so we popped in there to sat­is­fy that. I’ve nev­er done the dri­ve-through there before, but things were real­ly crowd­ed in the store. The car line was long, too, but we had the advan­tage of pri­va­cy and good com­pa­ny while wait­ing in it.

We enjoyed being out, but I came home with­out hav­ing cho­sen any­thing but donut fill­ings. Sam threat­ened to pick for me if I did­n’t make a choice on Sun­day. I have a lot of trou­ble spend­ing any mon­ey on myself, or ask­ing for presents, and he thought that’s why I had­n’t cho­sen anything.

So we went out again on Sunday—leaving the house two days in a row is very unusu­al for me any more! I had final­ly decid­ed on exact­ly what I want­ed, and we tried to go get it, but found the place closed for Vet­er­an’s Day. My man insist­ed on tak­ing me to Bor­ders and buy­ing Kim Har­rison’s A Few Demons More, promis­ing that we’d also go to The Place again on Mon­day. Then he took me to Steak & Shake for din­ner, because when I saw the sign I had a seri­ous crav­ing for their mush­room-swiss burg­er. (Don’t both­er with the new Por­to­bel­lo mush­room burg­er, as you get far few­er mush­rooms that way!)

Katie and I (she’s home from school, sick) had a very nice, low-key day Mon­day, and Sam and I set out again after he got home. This time, success!

I asked for some­thing that prob­a­bly seems odd to most people—a non-res­i­dent library card so I can access the best library sys­tem in Geor­gia, Gwin­nett Coun­ty Pub­lic Libraries. But I’d checked, and they have 95% of the books I’m real­ly want­i­ng to read, and past expe­ri­ence says they’ll con­tin­ue to car­ry the fan­ta­sy and sci­ence fic­tion I love. They have a far bet­ter selec­tion of every­thing than Dekalb, where we live. (Okay, Gwin­nett has stopped car­ry­ing music CDs, because so many went miss­ing. Big deal.)

I want­ed the card instead of a few books, because this way I can read all of them! And, in fact, we came home with nine books that have all been on my wish list for some time, and two or three graph­ic nov­els for Sam.

Now I have a whole pile of new-to-me books, and A Few Demons More! They’re all way too tempt­ing to a girl who still has home­work to do, includ­ing a SWOT analy­sis that’s due for my man­age­ment class this week.

Thanks to all of you for the birth­day wish­es via Face­book, email, Twit­ter, LJ, etc. 🙂

TechShop, Photography Advice, Postsingular, NoDryClean, and Verizon FIOS Danger


Dis­parate thoughts from a very low ener­gy day. In fact, it was so low-ener­gy that I thought I post­ed this entry last night, and nev­er did.

I has a fever. Do Not Want. Blah. Can’t brain. Short atten­tion span means you just get links and such. Good links, but links.
Con­tin­ue read­ing “TechShop, Pho­tog­ra­phy Advice, Postsin­gu­lar, NoDryClean, and Ver­i­zon FIOS Dan­ger”

R.I.P. Madeleine L’Engle

I start­ed this post on Sep­tem­ber 7, the day after the grand lady moved on to find out what’s next. I find myself cer­tain that she was­n’t afraid, that she looked for­ward to a reunion with her hus­band Hugh and oth­ers who had gone before. And yet I, who nev­er even met her in per­son, was too upset to fin­ish the post or even look at it again for two months. Con­tin­ue read­ing “R.I.P. Madeleine L’Engle”

Review: A Lick of Frost, Laurell K. Hamilton

I hon­est­ly did­n’t think Lau­rell K. Hamil­ton had it in her, but A Lick of Frost moved me to tears in spots. She man­aged real romance. I don’t even like read­ing romances, and I real­ly hate cry­ing, but I could­n’t help it. I even found a quote to keep.

A Lick of FrostI don’t want to give out any spoil­ers, espe­cial­ly since it’s quite new, but this nov­el could rea­son­ably be seen as the end to the Mer­ry Gen­try series. I believe Hamil­ton will write at least one more book, to tie up some details and bring the series to sev­en vol­umes. All of the vol­umes have been fair­ly slen­der, and Hamil­ton is a guar­an­teed cash cow, so who knows how many books there will actu­al­ly be? I could, how­ev­er, stop read­ing now.

This series is not one to start if, like me, you don’t like wait­ing for anoth­er book in order to know “what hap­pens next.” Gen­er­al­ly, I try to wait until a series is fin­ished before I begin to read it, in case it isn’t ever fin­ished. I detest cliffhang­ers, most espe­cial­ly, and Hamil­ton has indulged in several. 

Unlike most, the Mer­ry Gen­try series is good enough that I keep read­ing despite my per­son­al pref­er­ence. I’ve nev­er lost track of any impor­tant details between books, which is also strik­ing. I’d actu­al­ly like to have copies of this series to keep, as I might re-read them. In con­trast, I stopped buy­ing the Ani­ta Blake books years ago, although I would con­sid­er pick­ing up used paper­backs to accom­pa­ny those I already own just because Katie has expressed inter­est in them.

Sam is total­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed in just about any­thing hav­ing to do with vam­pires, were­wolves, or any­thing else that is too sim­i­lar to World of Dark­ness. I think it’s a reac­tion to hav­ing been so immersed in research and devel­op­ment when he worked for White Wolf, but I’ll leave him to explain it if we wish­es. He does tend to scoff at any­thing too far off the “canon,” as it were.

Since he was involved in Changeling (his favorite), I would have thought the same applied to urban fan­ta­sy con­cern­ing faery. That’s true, usu­al­ly, but he’s been drawn into the Mer­ry Gen­try books once or twice, and that’s say­ing some­thing (if only for the qual­i­ty of some sex scenes).

I know that one rea­son the Blake series has got­ten so tire­some is that sex has tak­en them over, but Hamil­ton’s attempts to make the sex part of the plot fall flat. An even big­ger one is Ani­ta’s angst over the species and num­bers of her loves and sex part­ners. While she occa­sion­al­ly men­tions her reli­gious upbring­ing as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, as an ani­ma­tor (one who rais­es zom­bies) she left the safe­ty of the Catholic church behind years ago. One could argue that its the­ol­o­gy left real­i­ty behind, but in any case, her life is per­me­at­ed by and depends on mag­ic that is bound up in reli­gion, but her overt reli­gious beliefs no longer match her real­i­ty or how she’s tru­ly living. 

I don’t even like to include the books in that short list of those that tru­ly deal with polyamory, due to the fact that Ani­ta has been so guilt-rid­den and unhap­py (until the last book or two), while con­tin­u­ing to fol­low her crotch (okay, the mag­ic, if you believe Hamil­ton, but seriously…).

Mered­ith Gen­try nev­er has that prob­lem. It is unfor­tu­nate that Hamil­ton has to reach into an imag­i­nary cul­ture to depict peo­ple who are com­fort­able with their sex­u­al­i­ty, includ­ing mul­ti­ple sex­u­al part­ners, but at least she has done so. There is still an annoy­ing “I must pick only one!” theme, but it is made clear that Mer­ry is being forced into such a choice by rel­a­tive­ly recent Sid­he custom—not her heart or her con­science. She repeat­ed­ly stress­es, in her inter­ac­tions with humans, that she has absolute­ly no shame about her lifestyle, and that the Sid­he have very dif­fer­ent ideas about such things than humans do.

I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­ate the repeat­ed theme of accept­ing diver­si­ty and appre­ci­at­ing beau­ty in every­one. “Every­one” nev­er goes to far as to includ­ing, for instance, fat peo­ple, but there don’t seem to be any of those in fairy. Her lovers are all ter­ri­bly beau­ti­ful, even the half-Gob­lin and half-Slu­agh, but she express­ly does not reject those who are scarred or “dif­fer­ent” because of their her­itage or expe­ri­ences. There is over­much atten­tion to descrip­tion of appear­ances for my tastes, espe­cial­ly details of every char­ac­ter’s cloth­ing, but that seems to be all too com­mon in any­thing with any focus on rela­tion­ships these days (or I’m just notic­ing it more—was it always there?)

While there’s still a lot of sex, the rea­sons for the abun­dance of sex and vari­ety of part­ners has been inte­grat­ed into the Gen­try plot from square one. Despite that, it does­n’t feel like the sex scenes take over the books. Any­one with the least bit of prud­ery should still stay away from the series com­plete­ly, of course, but that’s made clear on the cov­ers and in the excerpts on the book flaps. Nobody who has ever picked up a Lau­rell K. Hamil­ton book in the last five years, at least, has any excuse for claim­ing naÏveté if he finds the con­tent too racy!