Wednesday, February 27, 2008


For the time being I seem to be logging, not blogging. Though, technically I suppose my practice log is on the web, and therefore qualifies as a blog. I have been logging teaching points and assignments from my cello lessons, piano classes, orchestra and vocal ensemble rehearsals with fair diligence for over a month now. Chamber music rehearsals haven't been added yet, but I may do so now that the basic stuff is a habit. Funny thing is, that takes so much effort that my inspiration for this blog is running dry.

I'll have to ponder that.

I have a new book this week, which is why I'm writing here, now. I was so excited to discover that Corky Watkins' book Rosindust: Teaching, Learning and Life from a Cellist's Perspective has finally been published. Corky (or Cornelia, as primly embossed on the cover), is a cello teacher in Texas, and has been writing a newsletter (called Rosindust) for her students and a small but growing mailing list. I became a fan (and "subscriber") after I read one of her articles on Burton Kaplan's Magic Mountain Music web site: On Shifting for All Strings.

Some of the material is familiar, from the newsletters, and some is new to me. Possibly because Corky writes from the perspective of one who has come back from a painful overuse injury that kept her from playing for more than a few months, I especially like pondering her perspective on the mechanics of playing the cello. Though the book is written primarily for cello teachers, there is a wealth of material that is well within the grasp of, and useful to, thoughtful intermediate amateur adult players.

So that's what I'm doing now instead of blogging. Practicing, practice logging, and reading. BTW, Gigi is still doing great in her new home. Here is a picture of her already snuggling with one new brother, Pierre. Isn't it perfect that Gigi now has a brother named Pierre? Oh, and that's Hudson, whom she is apparently keeping in line quite well. She's such a trooper.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gentleman killer

I was browsing through my photos last night, and ran across these kitten pictures while in search of other things. I had forgotten just how cute Gigi and her siblings were. I think these two demonstrate Gigi's approach to the guys quite well, and evidently she is busy wowing her new household. Witness, the progress report from this morning:

Gigi is definitely out and about and taking over the house! She's a talker, isn't she? She's decided the dogs are annoying but harmless. In fact, I think they're a little afraid of her.

The cats are still a little wary but are all hanging out in the same room. Felix and Gigi seem the closest to being comfortable with each other. It's kind of funny to watch. They get closer and closer before they growl. They'll get as close as nose to nose, sniff each other and then hiss. My biggest challenge is staying out of it and letting them work it out.

There is one really positive development from my point of view. Oliver was having a ball this morning playing with Gigi's mouse. That's the first time I've seen him play in a long time.

I've fallen for her. She reminds me of my Abby - the smallest, the most dominant and the most demanding of my attention. Abby used to sit in one place and squawk until I paid attention to her. Gigi follows me all over the house and meows.

That is very fast progress for less than 48 hours. I'm predicting that in a week or two Gigi will think she is in heaven, with three lovely mancats available for her napping pleasure, and one human and two beagles at her beck and call.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Five Plates

This morning I put out five plates for breakfast. That just feels wrong, after months and months of six. Gigi left us for a new home last night.

Now, don't get me wrong. Mostly I am very happy for Gigi and her new family, and it was my idea, anyway. We got a note looking for a perfect girlfriend for Oliver, an 8 year-old gray-and-white Meezer who recently lost his best (but older) girlfriend Abby (the tabby <g>). They were cuddlers, and he has been very lonely, all curled up by himself. He has two younger, bonded kitty "brothers" and two beagles, too, but they're just not the same. Well, I have been keeping my eye out for a lonely male for Gigi, who clearly missed her brothers and had been driving John crazy with her clinginess.

I sent these pictures to Oliver's Mom, and she came over to meet Gigi. Who could not love Gigi? So Gigi went home with her, and is reported to have spent most of the night in the closet, but to be purring and seeking attention this morning. I can't wait for the day when I get the report that she and Oliver have curled up for a snooze. But of course, we can't help missing her.

It always amazes me how a cat more or less really changes the dynamics of the group. Last night, instead of contorting myself like a pretzel to find room to sleep in my own bed, I was initially alone. I hadn't realized that Gigi was always the first one to bed, usually before me. Seri and Sharae eventually joined me, but Cricket boycotted so there was plenty of room.

Later this morning I was sitting at the computer and heard Seri making little purr grunts as she played with Madeleine, a little wrestling and chasing the ball together. You must understand, Madeleine never plays with anybody, though she has been hanging out on the bathroom counter while Seri curls up in the sink. D- says she is trying to act extra special so that she is not the next one to go!

I do wonder what they think, but I'm also confident that every cat adjusts well to a loving home. I'm looking forward to hearing Gigi stories as she adjusts to hers.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be Mine

Little Guy is not your average, well, little guy. He got into some kind of accident, maybe with a motor, and lost both of his back feet and part of his tail. It's funny how that's the last thing you notice, though, when you look at his bright little face. He's learned to get along quite well, thank you, and has developed a close friend and playmate in foster care, Groucho. Who's not a grouch at all, and has the cutest mustache, to boot.

If you happen to be located near the Twin Cities, and have room in your house and heart for a little special needs kitty and his chum, you can find them at Feline Rescue.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Purry pillow

I was going to write a bit more about practice journals today, but was inspired to post a video instead after seeing the photo of Thompson using Diego-san as a pillow on Cat's Eye this morning.

When I was in college, my friend had three cats who use to curl up together and sleep. I thought that was the most amazing thing. When I got older and had cats of my own, they might sleep near each other (or not), but they didn't curl up together. Cricket and John were the first, and I was delighted. I don't know why seeing cats curled up together sleeping is so comforting; I just like it.

Life couldn't be better now, with six cats sleeping their days away in pairs, trios, and sometimes piles. This is a typical daytime configuration in the middle of winter, far away from the drafty walls.

This is the video. You know that Gigi had to be purring to be breathing like this. Doesn't that look like just the best kind of pillow, with warm soft fur and a built-in white noise soundtrack?

I'm thinking an afternoon nap would be awfully nice. Too bad I need to finish my practice.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Puppy Cat

I'm not sure how Sharae got the nickname "Puppy Cat", but it stuck. She has an unusual body habitus for a cat - our vet called it a "disc body" in one of her notes. She's kind of thick and solid, and has very short and somewhat coarse hair, so she feels very much like a dog when you pet her. Her toes are very bony and not well padded, and her claws don't seem to retract entirely, so are more like doggie toenails. We tease her that she must be some sort of genetic anomaly, a rural cross-product between a dog and a cat. Fortunately, she doesn't seem to be offended.

She has dog-like behaviors, too. Wherever I go, Sharae goes. She follows me everywhere. She's here in the other office chair as I type. If anyone is going to curl up next to me to veg in front of the TV, it will be Sharae. And she does watch - her favorites are football and action movies, though she also likes an occasional musical and some animal shows. I watched The Three Lives of Thomasina the other night, and she sat, staring up at the screen, butt glued to the floor for a good part of it.

Then there's the sound she makes. I am pretty sure I have never heard her make a decent meow; instead she meeps. A rather small, bark-like sound. She rolls on her back to have her tummy rubbed, and when we oblige, she meeps. "Meep, meep," she says. "What's the matter, Sharae, is someone murdering you?," we respond. That's our inside joke.

Today I was working in the office and I heard meep meeping from somewhere out in the house. Thinking that a couple cats were playing too roughly, I went out searching. Not seeing anyone immediately, I called. "Sharae, where are you?" "Meep," she said again as she pranced out of the laundry room, carrying her pink foam soccer ball in her mouth. How many cats do you know that carry balls around the house? Sharae does.

Then, much to my amazement, she dropped the ball at my feet, sat down, and looked expectantly up at me. "Does she want to play catch?," I wondered. "Well, let's see." So I bounced the ball away several feet, and she chased it. Nothing amazing there. But I'll be darned if she didn't pick it up, carry it back, and drop it again at my feet. We had several good throw-and-retrieves, but when several others arrived, attracted by the sound of play, she stopped chasing the ball and plopped down on the floor.

"What, play fetch? Not me. Only dogs do that."
"Ho, hum."

See more kitties, and a few puppies, too, riding on the Friday Ark this week.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


The good news is that none of my nagging but quiescent overuse injuries have flared with the acute increase in my practice schedule. The bad news is that my fingertips are killing me.

So far today I've practiced one hour and had a cello lesson. I'm about to start a two hour orchestra rehearsal, then I go to the first rehearsal of my new cello trio - one hour.

I will withhold further comment until I know if I survive.

UPDATE: My fingers feel like hamburger but trio rehearsal was great. We read through several French baroque pieces - very relaxing and satisfying. I'll post the details of my day on my practice blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Practice update

There must be a bunch of immunologically non-overlapping viruses going around this winter. I feel like I've barely gotten over one when another knocks me flat. This last was especially bad - two whole weeks and I'm just returning to activities and I still have a snotty nose. Grumble.

I canceled a lesson last week, as well as orchestra and cello trio rehearsal and, well, pretty much everything else. I also took two days off from practicing, and would like to say I practiced lightly on many others but it was pretty much my usual. Lightness, that is.

For the past couple of days I'm trying a new approach - blocking out several hours in the morning, and doing all of my practicing in that time, with a few minutes break after each half hour. I had gotten into the bad habit of spreading things out over the day with other activities in between practice blocks, and the even worse habit of never getting back to practicing, or occasionally not starting at all.

With more actual practice happening, I have been changing up the order of things every day - I get too bored doing the same routine, day after day. I've also added something new to my scale practice. A few years ago I bought a Mel Bay book by Daniel Morganstern that talks about his technical development, and what he learned from Leonard Rose, Luigi Silva and Channing Robbins. Parts II and III (of VI) are about scale practice, and he lists a number of ways to practice, using the E Major scale as an example. You will remember that E is my main scale buddy, the first one I learned in order to apply the general fingering pattern 1x24 1x24 124 124 134 while avoiding open strings. (I call this the Duport fingering, since his was the first treatise to advocate its general use.)

The point of the exercise I added this week is to learn to do the (downward) shifts between strings as old finger, old string, old bow shifts, to counteract my natural tendency to do new finger, new string shifts. The resulting high-to-low mew is not what I want to hear. This is the section of the exercise notated as quarter notes:

It can be done as an acceleration exercise, starting with 2 half notes, then 4 quarter notes, then 8 eighth notes per bow as coordination improves. I'm encouraged by my progress this week, and hope I can keep this schedule up.