FTT #78

Tina the three-year-old gets more three-years-old with time.  She looks for excuses to insist on having her way.  One recent trend has been to insist that one particular fork is her “salad fork” and therefore cannot be used for main dishes.  (We have never made such a distinction at our dinner table, so I have no idea where she is getting this.)  Whenever Jacinta makes a salad for herself, Tina will shout, “I’m getting my salad fork!”

Yesterday, Jacinta made herself some eggs for breakfast.  As usual, Tina wanted to partake of the bounty, and went to get a fork.  “This is my egg fork!” she announced–and ever since she has refused to use that fork for anything but eggs.

Happily, we already have one fork identified as the “dinner fork,” so we don’t have to go buy a potato fork, a meat fork, an asparagus fork, and so on.

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FTT #77

Yesterday, Teresa the five-year-old went on a brief kick of identifying eye colors.  “My eyes are brown!” she announced, and then, looking at me, “Your eyes are blue!”

Tina the three-year-old could not be left out.  Staring intently into Jacinta’s eyes, she exclaimed, “Your eyes are … white!”

Then, looking at me, “Your eyes are … white!”

Jacinta asked, “What color are your eyes, Tina?”  “Um … white!”

I suppose it’s a hard concept to grasp:  why we call my eyes blue and Jacinta’s eyes brown when there is so much–well, white in there.

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Arvo Part, revisited

Following up on my previous post about Arvo Part, I should report that I have listened through his “Passio” a couple of times now.  It is a setting of the passion story from John’s Gospel.  So here’s where I am as of this moment (no doubt it will be different next week):

1. The music hangs around the words very much like Gregorian chant with a kind of organic incorporation of instruments, which strikes me as an attractive thing.

2. The general tone of the whole thing is brooding and sad, but yields to a brilliant major chord at the end, which emphasizes the joy of the resurrection.  That’s a nice effect.

3. The entire piece avoids the tonic until the end.  While other voices go various places, the voice of Jesus almost always begins and ends on the same note, namely the fifth above the tonic.  This keeps up until the very end, when the the voice of Jesus descends to the tonic at the words “It is finished.”  Very, very nice effect.

4. It is a monotonous piece.  I think it would take a long time to be able to hear a snatch and know instantly from the music (as opposed to the words) what part was playing.  Put another way, Part’s setting does not make it so that when I read a certain part of the passion a particular musical memory comes to mind.  The tone and melody and so on do not change from scene to scene; there are occasional variations in motif, but they are very occasional and I have not been able to tell that they are related to the meaning of the text.

A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that Arvo’s setting of the passion just didn’t “stick” for him.  “No, it sticks,” I responded, “that is, in my throat.”  And that’s no longer true.  I don’t find it offensive; it is nice in many ways.  I am not yet at the point of thinking it brilliant.  But I can keep listening to it for Holy Week without reluctance.

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More cerebral observation

Adding to my previous observations about my brain:  I can’t abide sans-serif fonts.  That is, they’re OK for two-word billboards (“Got Milk?”), but for document length reading they are intolerable.  The fact that Microsoft made Calibri the default font in Word seems to me insanity.

But I’ve come to realize that most of the world is OK with sans-serif fonts.  So I begin to wonder whether it is rooted in whatever causes my inability to handle small print.

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FTT #76

Well, I’ve really fallen off the blogwagon recently.  I’m trying to reform my ways for Holy Week, though, so here’s a post for today.

The College has a committee in charge of communications which we call “the Communications Group.”  We were supposed to have a meeting today, so I showed up, only to find out that the meeting had been cancelled.

Seems that cancellation was not effectively…communicated.

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FTT #75

Yesterday I put in a telephone call to a priest, and as it turned out I called his cell phone while he was celebrating Mass.  Luckily he had it set to vibrate!

When he called back, he set me at ease about the timing of the call:  “It was good–I was getting a buzz during consecration!”

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FTT #74

Yesterday, Teresa the five-year-old asked whether men grow beards when they are old or when they are young.  About to reply, “When they are older,” Jacinta suddenly thought to inquire about how old old might be.  “Is Uncle Robert older or younger?” she asked.

Teresa laughed.  “He’s older than Papa!  Because he’s bigger!”

Robert is more than a decade younger than I am, but I have to admit that he’s bigger.

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FTT #73

Last night I was talking with Emily Tonkowich, who serves–among other things–as the dance teacher for our little community.  This year some of the college students asked if she would teach them the tango.

She gladly obliged, of course, but had an interesting time teaching them to move their hips.  It’s an awkward thing to begin with, you know, telling someone to move those hips more, but there was always at least one guy who would protest:

“I don’t have hips!”

Um, the fact that they don’t curve and all that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Hmm.

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Observations about my brain

For a variety of converging reasons, I have been reflecting lately about how my brain works.  And to some degree, I have been coming to terms with long-resisted realities.  For example:

1. I just don’t “do” small print–not even slightly small.  There are countless books on my shelves that I have intended to read and finally realized that I never will, simply because the print is slightly small.  Recently I carried a book around for three days, fooling myself that I would read it, but the print was just slightly small.  The funny thing is that it is not a problem with my vision, because even with a perfectly fresh prescription for my glasses I have trouble with small print; the problem is not that I can’t see the letters.  I can, quite clearly.  Conclusion:  The problem is in the way that my brain processes visual information.  Practical conclusion:  I have given myself permission to buy Kindle books.

2. I can’t remember dates.  I have made a number of attempts in recent years to learn history, but I find that important dates just keep slipping.  In Biblical history, which should be my specialization, I eventually just required two dates of my students, namely the dates of the exiles of the kingdoms of Israel:  587 for the south and, um, 722 or something like that for the north–I can’t even retain both of these important dates, it seems.  I don’t know the birthdays of my siblings; I have to think hard to pull up birthdays of my own kids, and I’m rarely confident about it; just tonight I was wrong about my wife’s birthday.  (She, on the other hand, instantly knew the saint whose feast is celebrated on the day that I wrongly stated as her birthday–and she reminds me about my siblings’ birthdays.)  Conclusion:  The problem is not that I never studied the dates, but that my brain does not handle dates well.  Practical conclusion:  I need to “encode” dates in some other form that I tend to remember better.  (For example, I can remember what people wear, how they sit, their facial expressions, and so on, but my wife can’t remember any of those things.)

3. I don’t handle little details well.  After joining the Board of Directors for my place of employ, I have many times studied a financial spreadsheet, but I can never make sense of it.  In fact, my brain “crashes” and I need to look out a window and breath deeply after even looking at all those numbers in rows and columns.  (That’s not because of how our finances are doing–in case you wondered!)  The multitude of e-mails I receive frequently overwhelms me, because it requires handling lots of small details–including details about dates (see the above).  If I could have a secretary to do one thing, it would be this:  he would look through my e-mails to pull out the agenda items and important dates and put them in lists for me.  I have a wonderful routine that helps me get through it, but even so I can sometimes put it off for days because it is so stressful.  I can never remember what month something happened, even if it was important–when we moved, when a family member died, etc.–I can’t even remember what year things happened.  (I ask my wife.)  I worry about offending people, so I try to hide it.  Conclusion:  My brain works very well in big-picture mode and in seeing causal connections, and even when it comes to details of an argument, but my brain does not handle temporal-spatial detail well.  Practical conclusion:  I rely without guilt on others who do these things well, and I wish I could have more help.

Hypothesis:  Could the above be connected?  Could the central thread be a problem with processing physical detail?

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FTT #72

In the midst of an imaginary game in which Tina the three-year-old pronounced herself “a princess,” she also proclaimed herself a “Halloweena.”

This had us stumped for a few minutes until she returned to the theme and restated the word as “ballerina.”  Ah–and yes, she’s dancing at the time.  OK.  My guess is that Halloween is when little girls dress up all pretty, and little girls dress up all pretty for ballet, so….

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