Wednesday, April 22, 2009


My short-lived blog renaissance has run into a roadblock in the form of a dead computer. It appears we had a power surge in the night, according to the tale told by the oven clock. It's really dead - no response at all from depressing the power button. Hopefully that means that the power supply bore the brunt of the damage, as it seems to me I'd get power up if I had "only" fried the motherboard. I happen to have a spare power supply sitting around, waiting to be transplanted into the computer that died a year and a half ago. That one can probably wait a little longer.

In the meantime, I am typing this last post on DH's tiny laptop. The font is so small that I can barely see it even with maximal squinting. It may be awhile until I try this again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The hive

The kittens are thriving. You can see a couple of them more clearly here, with Mama in milk bar-up position. That was the first afternoon, when they were just a few hours old.

The second pic is a mere 72 hours later. It appears the volume of kittens is about equal to the volume of Mama, who quickly regained her svelte pre-pregnancy figure.

We are so grateful that this is an experienced Mama (though it will be her last experience) and that all her milk stations appear to be functional, with a goodly supply of product. When we visit the nursery there is generally a pile of sleepy babies with big round bellies, and a rumbling purr emanating from Mama. D- likens it to the buzzing of a bee hive, with a surrounding swarm of kittens, so has decided on a bee theme for names. Mama will henceforth be known as Queenie Black, and we'll be choosing names that start with B as soon as we can reliably tell them apart and determine genders.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I wonder where they were before?

Life wastes nothing. Over and over again every molecule that has ever been is gathered up by the hand of life to be reshaped into yet another form. The molecules in you and me and indeed in everyone are secondhand, borrowed for the occasion and returned when outgrown.

My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging (Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, 2000) p 259

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Yesterday DH stopped by for lunch. Yes, stopped by on the way from Phoenix to DC. He had just left to return to the airport when the phone rang.

"I just saw a wild turkey across the street."

"Really? OK, I'll go check."

Not sure about the wild part, as I walked to about 8 feet away. I know it's not as unusual as a moose, but here in the metro area you take whatever Nature you can get.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Little brothers (and sisters?)

On Tuesday, during the hunt for Big Brother, we briefly considered taking his Mama downstairs to use as "bait." Considered very briefly, and rejected that option as being too stressful for this little girl, who was as big as a house and due anytime.

Anytime turned out to be less than two days later. On Thursday I got an 8am wake-up call, and the report that Mama had been birthing since about 4am. D- was concerned that, while everything appeared to be going well, the babies were ice cold and Mama wasn't keeping up with the cleaning, so I packed up one of my portable radiators and hurried over.

There were eight (8!) babies! The last one still had an intact umbilical cord, and the placenta had been delivered, so I cut the cord (with rather blunt scissors - probably more effective that way, anyway) and we discarded the last placenta. She had already eaten seven, and I don't think she could take another bite. In fact, she didn't eat again until late that evening. We helped dry the kittens who were still damp, D- heated some gel packs and placed them, well wrapped, around the periphery of the storage box (she had already moved them off the middle of the bathroom floor, where all the action had taken place), and I cranked up the radiator.

Mama spent the rest of the day lazing around on her back (hah!) so all the kittens could find nipples, being an absolutely perfect mother. Completely unlike our last, Marmee, who had to be taught what feeding and cleaning were all about. I will never forget Laurie running around the tub screaming that he was hungry.

Not these kittens. So far, utter contentment.

This is the sight that greeted me when I finally came downstairs. Aunt Layla and the uncles were calmly sitting in the waiting room. They knew what was up, being experienced foster home assistants.

BTW, did you guess what colors they are? Only 6 are black, with two brown tabbies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tactile intonation

I think I might have had a breakthrough at my lesson last night. I was playing the g minor scale, and we had stopped to work out the intonation of the IIF# to IIIEb. After trying it a couple of ways involving different combinations of fingers and strings, T- asked me to feel with the bow whether the note was in tune. A bit of Zen Cello. To my amazement, I caught the gist of of what seemed to me a ridiculous directive, and played with that concept through the rest of my evening activities (Irish fiddling and cello quartet).

I am totally psyched. I think I have finally opened the conduit so my energy gets all the way from my back down my arms into my fingertips and to the bow.

That was the best kind of day - but you have to wait until tomorrow for a kitten update (Mama and all 8 babies are doing well).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Big Brother

This is my new cello coach, Big Brother.

Big Brother to whom? Why, to Angelina and Brad, of course. Didn't you notice the family resemblance? Angelina, Brad, Big Brother, and their very pregnant Mama came into foster care together - we won't go into the details of why they were surrendered. Angelina, Brad, and BB stayed with me for awhile, while Mama is confined at D-'s, waiting for those babies to pop.

Last Thursday A, B, and BB went back to D-'s house as well. Angelina and Brad were adopted on Saturday (yay!) and about the same time Brother disappeared. I was on kitten watch Sunday, and poked around the house very thoroughly without spotting him. On Tuesday I went over in spelunking clothes, flashlight in hand, and D- and I started systematically dismantling her basement.

I was very afraid we were going to find him here, where the spaces between the rafters reach 10 feet over top the next room. That was quite a trick, to get my head up between the HVAC and the wall to peer down the chute.

This is where we finally found him. This little alley had been partitioned off with a sideways piece of paneling, precisely because this is a tough place from which to extract fugitives. What, you don't see him?

Try tilting the door the other way. Yup, that's him at the end.

I was able to squeeze down the tunnel, pick him up, trembling, and back slowly out without squishing him. He went into a carrier without much fight (to our relief) and we brought him back to my house - where he promptly made himself at home, much to the displeasure of The Ladies.

Why did he have such a reaction at D-s house? Our hypothesis is that he was very bonded to his (female) former owner and had transfered that close attachment to me. He was very distressed when he lost two people in the course of a week. He's a complete doll, and very affectionate. Stay tuned while we figure out how we are going to transition him to a permanent home.

In the meantime, he has work to do.

Late-breaking news - kittens this morning! Guess what color?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

State of the Bow Hold, 2009

It occurred to me that it's been a year since I recorded what my bow hold looks like, a year of steady focus and (I hope) change. I asked DH to help me record another few clips, so I can take stock and figure out where I'm going from here.

For comparison, this is last year's video:

I am very pleased to see my thumb nicely curving and extending - much better than the locked out version last year. I think my down bow motion is actually a little sloppy - perhaps my finger tips are a little too loose? And I can finally see an up-bow motion that is happening in response to the bow change, rather than because the bow is slipping within my hand in anticipation of the change.

I also suspect the motions are a little exaggerated because I am playing an open string and can thus concentrate on making my bow hand as relaxed as possible. It will be interesting to see what that hand is doing when my left hand and brain are also occupied. Partially to that end, I filmed some "cello trial" clips, since I switched out one loaner cello for the other this week. As I post those you can see my bow hand in action while helping me to decide which cello to keep.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Looks like...

One of the traditional Easter dishes in my family is called... well, I don't know how to spell it, but it's pronounced look-sha. It's not a very complex dish - or at least, it looked simple when my grandmother made it. White yeast dough is rolled into 2-foot long snakes, which are placed on a baking sheet, brushed with egg, and sliced into 1-inch pieces. The bread is baked, then put into a bowl and drenched in honey, water, and poppy seeds. It's basically bread and water. Sweet, soggy bread. Ick. The Aunts loved it, but I ate as little as possible.

The day before Easter I found myself with a half loaf of very hard, stale, whole-grain, seedy bread. I sawed it into pieces and soaked it in custard (3 eggs, 3 cups milk which turned out to be 1 cup reconstituted goats milk, 1.5 cups 1 %, and 1/2 cup half-n-half, because that's what I had in the fridge, a pinch of salt and a slurp of sugar), topped with melted sweet butter and a thick sprinkle of black sesame seeds, and baked at 325 F for an hour, more or less. (Yeah, that's what most of my recipes look like.)

I ended up with a chewy, custardy bread pudding, slightly under-sweetened, and improved it with a glop of honey on top.

Amazingly, it looked and tasted like look-sha. Except good. I had it for Easter breakfast.

Where do you suppose that inspiration came from?

(Thanks, Grandma!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cognitively complex

"...whatever it is that an IQ test measures, it is not the ability to engage in cognitively complex forms of multivariate reasoning." That last phrase is not one that most of us use very often, but it's actually a very good description of what most of us do every day in our working [and cello-playing] lives, and what the best performers do extremely well. You just don't have to be especially "smart," as traditionally defined, to do it.

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin, 2008)
p. 44

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I see it's been almost a month since I last posted. Where has the time gone?

My friend D- knew I was still missing Frankie, so she kindly lent me these two four-month-old monsters to occupy the void in my heart for a week or two. That's laid-back Brad on my left and squirmy little Angelina on my right. She has the barest of white tippy toes on the left side, along with one white whisker and one white chin hair. Adorable.

And I have another loaner in the house today - a cello. In the continuing saga of the exploding cello from last winter, my new replacement cello developed a crack in the top of the top just as I was getting ready to take it in to have a new bridge made and some adjustments done in the hopes of making the playability more to my liking. I have been more and more disappointed, because this wasn't the cello I would have bought if it had been one of the candidates in my search.

Though the shop that I bought the cello from won't simply refund the money (which I completely understand), they have always been willing to trade the cello at the original purchase price for another cello. So that's what I'm (finally) doing. And I must say, even though I don't need another cello at this moment, having two perfectly good ones (and two cello-shaped objects, CSO's), it is always exciting to try new cellos.

But that's all I'm going to write about that now, because I want to go practice some more.