Dylan, who is almost 4 years old, just rolled his eyes into the back of his head and said “I can see my brain!”
That’s my boy…
This is how I get Max to practice:
Get my bass and his violin out. Ask Max to help me learn his pieces on the bass (i.e. Suzuki book 1, ABCs of Violin, Fiddle Magic, etc…) Play the piece he’s working on and ask him to point out any mistakes. Intentionally make many mistakes. He points ’em out, with much giggling. Ask him to play it for me so I can hear it. And voilà – he’s playing it just fine. Repeat, simply making mistakes where he needs to work on it.
Bonus points: I get to work on my thumb position technique and treble clef reading at the same time.
I am overdue for posting anything about our Yosemite trip, especially so because we have just returned a month later from our trip to Disneyland. It was good to do two back-to-back vacations this year. I feel we’re getting back into the swing of having fun. Which reminds me: I can’t wait to finish my degree next June so that I can have my life back.
We went to Yosemite during the week of Thanksgiving. Going to Yosemite during the late autumn season has its pros and cons. The cons are not such a big deal though – Yosemite Falls is basically dry, and it gets really cold–especially at night. But the crowds are far smaller, and there are some fun seasonal things to do–especially in the Thanksgiving-season dining department. We were lucky in that the upper roads up to Glacier Point were still open.
On Day 1 we drove right in to Yosemite Valley and had lunch at the Yosemite Lodge. We had some fresh trout that was absolutely the best, and then went for a walk along the trails along the Merced River. We were staying at the Tenaya Lodge, which was kind of a trek from Yosemite Valley, so we set out a bit early towards the hotel.
Tenaya Lodge was very nice. Just outside the south entrance of the park, this hotel had a couple of nice restaurants both of which catered well to my gluten-free needs. All their pastas were gluten-free, not just something you request! That was cool, although of course I had to order a steak.
The next day was fun: We first did breakfast at the hotel, checked out the trickle that was Bridalveil Falls, then drove in for a hike up along the north side of Yosemite Valley. We had lunch along the riverbank and took pictures everywhere. We caught the afternoon bus tour and got a good description of the history and landmarks of Yosemite Valley. That night they had ice skating at our hotel and s’mores.
The final day started with an early morning ranger wildlife discussion for the kids at the Ahwahnee Hotel – a posh old-tyme establishment in a beautiful spot in Yosemite Valley, while I caught myself breakfast in their swank restaurant. Biggest ham and cheese omelette I ever saw – must have been like 14 eggs in there. We then drove up the still-open road to Glacier Point to get the amazing views from the top of the cliffs above Yosemite Valley. Amazing view up there. We drove back towards the south end of the park and had lunch at the Wawona Hotel – not much of a gluten-free selection but at least the waiter and chef were quite knowledgeable and made sure I had a decent and untainted meal. We wrapped it up at the Mariposa Grove and toured the giant redwood trees there before heading back to our hotel and crashing. We headed home first thing the next morning. Great trip – hadn’t been back there since I was a kid, and it was lots of fun this time around.
Some more photos:
My grandfather, the person whom I really consider like my father actually, passed away today. Below is the obituary I wrote:
Edwin Lee Ellis, longtime high school educator and former dean of students at The Athenian School in Danville, California, passed away early Friday, June 15. He was 90 years old. The cause was a combination of complications from stroke, prostate cancer, and pneumonia. As a former wrestler, it took three heavyweights to pin him down. His passing was as he wished: Peacefully, naturally, in his own home, and surrounded by his friends and loved ones.
Mr. Ellis was born to Dr. Wilder P. Ellis and Jessie Ellis in 1916 in Urumia, Persia. He came to live in the United States at 15 and attended the Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York. He earned his bachelors degree from Davidson College in 1939. He taught at the Chadwick School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California from 1939 to 1942, went back to teach at the Western Reserve Academy to coach wrestling in Hudson, Ohio from 1942 to 1949, and returned to Chadwick to be the dean of students and director of athletics there from 1949 to 1966.
In 1966, Mr. Ellis was invited by Dyke Brown to be dean of students at the newly founded Athenian School, nestled in the foothills of Mount Diablo. He and Mr. Brown built the school from the ground up, and Mr. Ellis particularly contributed to the development of Athenian���s facilities and sports programs.
In his retirement, Mr. Ellis remained very active with the alumni associations for all the schools that he taught at and attended, and was very highly regarded by the students whose lives he touched over his 68-year combined professional career and retirement. Mr. Ellis was always an example of strong moral character, loyalty, trust, dedication, and perseverance. He was a pillar in his community, and will always be remembered lovingly by his family, friends, students, and colleagues.
Many interesting coincidences occured surrounding this event.
When I got the call at about 1:30 AM that he had passed, I got in the car to go deal with the situation. It is no secret that Hindemith’s Trauermusik is one of my favorite compositions of all time, usually placed No.2 in my top 10 lists, right behind Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection.” No, I do not have some weird obsession with death – these are simply sublime, beautiful pieces of music. And so what was on the iPod randomness, cued up for me at 0:00, when I got in the car? Keep in mind I have about 17 GB of music on my iPod, and it would take about three weeks for it all to begin to repeat if played sequentially.
OK that is really no big deal to anyone except for me. I have a special connection with that piece, so it just made for a very reflective drive in the peace and quiet of the hours before dawn, when the streets are still and every star in the sky shines bright.
What was way weirder was the circumstances regarding Psalm 23:
This was read to my grandfather shortly before his passing, by my aunt. He was a very religious man, and that was one of his favorite prayers. That same night, my wife was rehearsing with the choir she plays piano for, and they were playing a work that used this text late the night before, just a couple of hours before his death. After running through that work, the power went out and my wife was complaining that this was some depressing funeral music – just kidding around to the conductor and the pastor. But then the pastor, who is at the very least an extremely intuitive person, began to pace and became overcome with a sense of anxiety. He said to my wife that he needed to go over to visit my grandfather that night, as in immediately after rehearsal, around 10:30 PM if they rushed over right after rehearsal. They called and I of course told him to go get some sleep and come over at a more reasonable hour the next afternoon. But he was right…
Finally, something poetic that was also read to him that night, from St. Therese of Lisieux, which my aunt wants to have read at his memorial service:
May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.
I am not myself a spiritual or religious person, but I do find these words and these occurences and these coincidences to be beautiful, and poetic, and memorable.
I can’t believe it is just hours away from 2006 already. Looking back, 2005 was one of the best. I spent my first year at my dream job, moved into my dream home, practiced a respectable amount of music, completed some study on CSS and PHP, and watched my kids grow up. Dylan began walking and talking, and is hitting his terrible twos a tad early, while Max has been progressing very well and enjoying his preschool activities. Yingwen is fully booked for piano teaching for 2006, and she has a waiting list. Not bad.
One of my long-term goals, and I’m talking decades at this point, was to get the notes for the G minor Violin Sonata by Bach under my fingers on the guitar (transcribed for the instrument in A minor). I found a Bach folio of lute works while browsing bins of old sheet music at Lark in the Morning in Mendocino, California (or were they in Fort Bragg then?) way back sometime in the mid-1980s. I never really got serious about playing classical guitar though until exactly one year ago when I finally went and purchased an instrument. After one year of having the guitar and practicing regularly, I have that piece memorized, as well as most of the Lute Suite No.1 in E minor learned.
I didn’t practice the double bass with as much consistency as I would have liked, although I did practice way more guitar than I expected, and to be fair I did practice the bass a lot in spurts. It is a less resistant path to pick up a guitar and start working on something while the baby sleeps, as opposed to picking up the bass and getting everything set with the music, bow, rosin, metronome, etc. So one goal for 2006 is to spend a little more practice time on the bass – If I can get in a consistent bass practice session in each night then I’ll be very happy. On top of that, I need to find some venues for performance. I have been playing a lot of music “in the lab”, relearning my instruments after a long break, and it’s time to take some of the theory to the real world. Public solo performance is a skill in itself.
Another 2006 goal is to continue the exercise thing that I started back in November, but again with more consistency. I have a treadmill now in my office, and it’s really easy to prop up my PowerBook on a music stand and start watching DVDs during the workout.
One goal that is a bit newer this year is to start with some serious composition and arranging. I’m about halfway done with the first movement of the Bottessini Concerto No.2 arrangement for guitar accompaniment, and have sketches going for a prelude for piano and a string quintet. My aim is to complete the above three items for 2006, and re-orchestrate the variations on a theme by Grieg that I did back in 1986 that won me the Dave Brubeck scholarship award.
Book-wise, I have on my stand three PHP books and one inspirational book written by an old friend (more on that one later.) I’m just about to finish one of the PHP books on security, and the other two are on more advanced concepts. Let’s call this goal “always have a book open”. I also want to try to read more non-geek material for a change. In ten years, I think I read only one book that wasn’t about code or computers, but I used to read tons of novels back in the day. That’s the thing with being an obsessive personality in a technology career: You always feel like you have to stay on top of the trends, and any new book on something interesting winds up in the queue on my nightstand. My thinking the past several years has been: “If it’s not going to help me with my career, then I don’t have time right now.” But now I think it’s time to introduce a little balance in my reading curriculum.
I think that should do it. A bit of playing music, some exercise, and four compositions. Let’s see how we do…