Ahhhh, sweet vacation. For a while there, I wasn't sure I was going to make it this far. It's been deadline time at work, so for the past week-and-some I've been doing very little else except working. Up at 7, feed the animals, make the coffee, work, go to bed at midnight, start all over again the next day. It hasn't been much of an existence.
One thing I'll say for Hell Week is that the stress diet works every single time. You can live on coffee, Triscuits, and garlic-stuffed olives out of the jar and still lose weight. You can have anything you want, as long as your add a nice big old heaping helping of stress on top. This is one diet plan that the supermarket tabloids seem to keep missing, but it's a sure winner (if you survive). "I lost 287 pounds and my mind on the stress diet! You can too!"
Let's see... what did I miss while I was buried in work? Happy belated Canada Day to all my Canadian friends (and little Seamus, who is panting his way through his first summer south of the border). Happy Summer Solstice to everyone! Now that I'm on vacation, I plan to do as much Nothing as I can possibly cram into one small week.
Greg's on his way home from Oregon; he called from the Eugene airport just before his plane to SFO started boarding. From what he's related to me, the partings from the festival sounded much like the ones on the last day of summer camp. He's made some friends and a number of interesting acquaintances out there, and is already talking about submitting for next year so he can see them all again. He took Thursday off from the symposium (read: He cut class. What a reprobate!) and drove the 2.5 hours down to Crater Lake to hike, meditate, and take pictures. He returned with the seeds of another new piece. He'll have plenty of time on planes to work on it before he returns to Maine in the wee, wee, wee hours (I pick him up in Portland at 1:40-odd AM).
Yesterday he spent a long while with one of the choral conductors at the festival, the one who conducted the children's chorus in the Bach Christmas Oratorio that was performed there. The conductor was very interested in Greg's choral pieces and songs, and he was able to put together a collection of scores for her to read over and possibly perform and record. That could be exciting!
In addition, he and some of his composer friends spent a good long time talking with David Herrington of the Kronos Quartet. The Quartet has been looking to branch out into music that doesn't sound like "just another Kronos Quartet piece," and Greg and some of his fellow composers just might be able to get some works played. I like to think that the Quartet would love to play some of Greg's wild harmonies; they definitely wouldn't sound like "just another Kronos Quartet piece."
(I have to hand it to the Kronos Quartet. I don't absolutely love everything they do, but they're such an adventurous, forward-looking group, always interested in trying something new. No matter what Greg says about it, I still like their CD with Elvis Costello, The Juliet Letters. It isn't always pretty, but it is interesting to listen to -- in the good sense.)
It's been good for Greg to get out of Maine and away from his cozy little routine for a while. He needs to spend time talking with other composers and musicians, away from the "hothouse" atmosphere of grad school. The experience has had its ups and downs for him, but he'll return energized and with new ideas and opportunities for his composition.
Summer in the Sticks
The dragonflies have arrived! They whir around the backyard like a miniature recreation of the air traffic over O'Hare. A lot of people in this area buy dragonfly nymphs as defense against the Maine State Bird: the mosquito. I'm not sure whether the current group of visiting dragonflies grew up in our pond, or whether they've come over from other people's yards because our pond breeds the best-tasting mosquitoes. Anyway, I love watching them hunt. Between the dragonflies and the Mosquito Magnet, the backyard is significantly less buggy than it was.
The frogs have mostly quieted down, except for the lone bass frog still out in the pond. He sings day and night, no matter who else accompanies him. Every once in a while, the evening conditions are just right for another froggy hoedown, but they're much less rowdy now than they were in the spring.
Seamus made his social debut at the Minuteman Bearded Collie Club's summer Beardie Bounce last weekend (yes, I stole a few measly hours away from the job). Charlie had a magnificent time for himself, romping around with the other Beardies, investigating the whole yard, and belly-flopping in the two kiddie pools. It was brutal, stick-to-your-car-seat hot, but we humans all lolled in the shade and ate strawberry cake, and just enjoyed hanging out. The dogs did much the same as we did.
My personal prize for All-Time Best First Impression has been awarded to Roo, an adorable brown girl belonging to a nice woman from Albany, NY. While I sat underneath the big shade tree and caught up on the news with my doggy friends, Roo came over to me, lay down in my lap, and rolled over and looked up at me with a floppy-tongued Beardie grin. Of course, I was instantly smitten. It turns out that Roo is the daughter of my friend Cindy's brown girl Rorie. She comes by her charm naturally.
One of the folks who attended is a major competitor in obedience and agility, and is the obedience chair for this year's national specialty. Joanne graciously laid out a rally obedience course for the rest of us to try, and patiently guided each one of us through it, one by one. Seamus and I gave it a try when it came our turn. Seamus was a bit distracted by whatever Charlie was doing at the time we were on the course, but if he were concentrating, he could easily do the Novice exercises. His Canadian registration is still in the process of being changed, but as soon as I can register him with AKC, we're giving this sport a try.
Seamus maintains eye contact like no other dog I've ever had, not even Duncan (the Border Collie in a Beardie suit). When he's focused on an obedience exercise, his eyes never leave mine, and he smiles the entire time we're working as if to say "We're really doing great here, aren't we?". This little fellow could turn out to be a fabulous performance dog.
Knitting: the End is Near!
In spite of having been chained to my desk working for my every waking hour this week, I've managed to make significant progress on the Fletcher sweater. When I have a long compile/export process running, I can sneak in half an hour's worth of knitting before the computer demands my attention again. I've finished one sleeve, and am about one-third of the way up the other. The last major piece of this sweater is the smallest -- the hood -- and then I can assemble the whole piece! Wow... my first sweater. Maybe I should frame it or something.
Maybe it's because I've been diddling around with scarves for so long, but it still impresses me a little that I Can Make Sweaters. (Well, let me get through this one first.) I prefer gloves to mittens and baseball caps to knitted hats, so I haven't spent any time working on the other small items that a knitter could otherwise learn on -- why make stuff I won't wear? I can't wait to tackle socks next.
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