christmas cards!

All right, so I have purchased some Christmas Cards, and am now setting out to send out 35 cards over the course of 7 days. I originally planned on sending mailing five a day, but seeing as Sunday is a no-mail day and I’m busy with final exams & such this week, that doesn’t quite make sense. As such, I will just work towards the overall goal of 35…or more (I have 48 cards total).

I’m excited about this. I’ve exchanged a couple Christmas Cards in the past (with my atheist and Jewish friends?), but usually just in passing. This year, I plan on integrating myself into that “adult” world which exchanges holiday cards regularly — I remember watching Mom & Dad write out Christmas cards in the evenings when I was younger, and I always thought it some antiquated ritual I’d never really have enough friends / addresses for. I guess we all grow up some time?

One set of cards I bought! The others feature Curious George.

Start Date: 30 November 2010

End Date: 6 December 2010.

Challenges: I am going to need more stamps…

If you want a Christmas Card, you should probably email me your address ASAP!

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Words of Wisdom: Twelve Ways to Practice by Wynton Marsalis

This was posted by a blog I follow (see here), and I found it interesting; thus, a need to re-post.

***

WYNTONʼS 12 WAYS TO PRACTICE, FROM MUSIC TO SCHOOLWORK

PUBLISHED IN THE EDUCATION DIGEST

September 1996

AS A BOY GROWING UP IN NEW ORLEANS, I remember my father, Ellis, a pianist, and his friends talking about “sheddinʼ.”  When they got together, theyʼd say, “Man, you need to go shed,” or “Iʼve been sheddinʼ hard.” When I was around 11, I realized that sheddinʼ meant getting to the woodshed – practicing.  By the age of 16, I understood what the shed was really about – hard, concentrated work. When my brother Branford and I auditioned for our high school band, the instructor, who knew my father, was excited about Ellisʼ sons coming to the band.  But my audition was so pitiful he said, “Are you sure youʼre Ellisʼ son?”

At the time, his comment didnʼt bother me because I was more interested in basketball than band.  Over the next several years, however, I began practicing seriously. Practice is essential to learning music – and anything else, for that matter.  I like to say that the time spent practicing is the true sign of virtue in a musician.  When you practice, it means you are willing to sacrifice to sound good.

Even if practice is so important, kids find it very hard to do because there are so many distractions.  Thatʼs why I always encourage them to practice and explain how to do it. Iʼve developed what I call “Wyntonʼs 12 Ways to Practice.”  These will work for almost every activity – from music to schoolwork to sports.

1. Seek out instruction: Find an experienced teacher who knows what you should be doing.  A good teacher will help you understand the purpose of practicing and can teach you ways to make practicing easier and more productive.

2. Write out a schedule: A schedule helps you organize your time.  Be sure to allow time to review the fundamentals because they are the foundation of all the complicated things that come later.  If you are practicing basketball, for example, be sure to put time in your schedule to practice free throws.

3. Set goals: Like a schedule, goals help you organize your time and chart your progress.  Goals also act as a challenge: something to strive for in a specific period of time.  If a certain task turns out to be really difficult, relax your goals: practice doesnʼt have to be painful to achieve results.

4. Concentrate: You can do more in 10 minutes of focused practice than in an hour of sighing and moaning.  This means no video games, no television, no radio, just sitting still and working.  Start by concentrating for a few minutes at a time and work up to longer periods gradually. Concentrated effort takes practice too, especially for young people.

5. Relax and practice slowly: Take your time; donʼt rush through things.  Whenever you set out to learn something new – practicing scales, multiplication tables, verb tenses in Spanish – you need to start slowly and build up speed.

6. Practice hard things longer: Donʼt be afraid of confronting your inadequacies; spend more time practicing what you canʼt do.  Adjust your schedule to reflect your strengths and weaknesses.  Donʼt spend too much time doing what comes easily.  Successful practice means coming face to face with your shortcomings.  Donʼt be discouraged; youʼll get it eventually.

7. Practice with expression: Every day you walk around making yourself into “you,” so do everything with the proper attitude.  Put all of yourself into participating and try to do your best, no matter how insignificant the task may seem.  Express your “style” through how you do what you do.

8. Learn from your mistakes: None of us are perfect, but donʼt be too hard on yourself.  If you drop a touchdown pass, or strike out to end the game, itʼs not the end of the world.  Pick yourself up, analyze what went wrong and keep going.  Most people work in groups or as part of teams.  If you focus on your contributions to the overall effort, your personal mistakes wonʼt seem so terrible.

9. Donʼt show off: Itʼs hard to resist showing off when you can do something well.  In high school, I learned a breathing technique so I could play a continuous trumpet solo for 10 minutes without stopping for a breath.  But my father told me, “Son, those who play for applause, thatʼs all they get.” When you get caught up in doing the tricky stuff, youʼre just cheating yourself and your audience.

10. Think for yourself: Your success or failure at anything ultimately depends on your ability to solve problems, so donʼt become a robot. Think about Dick Fosbury, who invented the Fosbury Flop for the high jump.  Everyone used to run up to the bar and jump over it forwards.  Then Fosbury came along and jumped over the bar backwards, because he could go higher that way. Thinking for yourself helps develop your powers of judgment.  Sometimes you may judge wrong and pay the price; but when you judge right you reap the rewards.

11. Be optimistic: How you feel about the world expresses who you are.  When you are optimistic, things are either wonderful or becoming wonderful.  Optimism helps you get over your mistakes and go on to do better.  It also gives you endurance because having a positive attitude makes you feel that something great is always about to happen.

12. Look for connections: No matter what you practice, youʼll find that practicing itself relates to everything else.  It takes practice to learn a language, cook good meals or get along well with people. If you develop the discipline it takes to become good at something, that discipline will help you in whatever else you do. Itʼs important to understand that kind of connection.  The more you discover the relationships between things that at first seem different, the larger your world becomes.  In other words, the woodshed can open up a whole world of possibilities.

letters: a little more effort

When was the last time you sent or received a letter?

The only letter I can really remember receiving was from Lang, who was dating my little brother at the time — and let me tell you, I was so beyond excited! It was written in blue ink during classes, with little drawings sketched in the margins. Other than that, I’d received a couple cards from friends — one or two birthday cards, and I think a single Christmas cards. But letters? They’ve a thing of the past.

When I was discussing the effort which is shown with writing and sending a letter, he commented that letters became obsolete with emails, and emails became obsolete with text messages and wall posts…and now? Now it’s pressing the “like” button on Facebook. The expression of affection has been reduced to pressing that little button, saying with minimal effort — “oh, that was kind of funny,” or “congrats on that thing you’ve just accomplished!” When put that way, it’s almost sad how little effort we put into keeping up with friends and family.

In contrast, I recently started dating a boy who practically refuses to communicate through text messages, Facebook, or even email — instead, he writes letters to friends and family, because he appreciates the effort that is put into writing and mailing them. In fact, he has become so invested in letters that he writes on vellum with a quill and in calligraphy, and mails his letters folded up — without an envelope — and sealed with wax. He writes in the abbreviated Roman Epistolary form, which I’ve found has three main components: a greeting (usually in the form of a blessing), the body of the letter (discussing recent events and topics of interest), and a second greeting / farewell (where one sends regards to and from people of mutual acquaintance).

For a Seven Day Challenge, both Lang and Alex suggested writing and mailing a letter a day to various individuals of my acquaintance — a way to send a little love through the mail, in effect. And, between the recent conversation and the boy I started dating, I figured now would be a good time to check that one off my list. And let me tell you — I learned a lot.

First, I had to buy envelopes and stamps. That wasn’t so hard, though — fifty envelopes for a dollar at Kroger, and a few stamps from the post office on campus.

Second, I realized I only had four addresses, which would clearly fell short of a week-long goal — so the first step was to get a bunch of addresses. I realized I’ve never even started an address book, and I figured I could use this as an impetus to start one. I emailed almost forty friends, and about thirty responded with their addresses and birthdays (which I’d also asked for). I updated these in my gmail address book, which also syncs with my phone — something I find immensely cool, because it would allow me to navigate to their homes through the GPS built in my smartphone.

Third and most challenging, I didn’t really know what to write about. In fact, I’ve found it’s immensely challenging to start a written exchange without sounding entirely full of yourself. Without anything to respond to from prior correspondence, you can really only ramble about your own recent events and thoughts. At the end, you write a couple questions inquiring about the person you are writing in the vain hope that the expression of interest somehow dims the bright fluorescent light of your own narcissism.

So that’s about it. I did not manage to send the last three letters on time, though I did write them all on time. All in all, I learned a lot…and I look forward to maybe getting some responses?

And in case you’re curious, those who received letters were: Lang, Alex, Jena (with Max included), Beth and Breanna (one letter), Chris Truelove, Danielle Beardsley, and Rachael Karr. I think it was in that order, too? If you feel left out, let me know, and I’ll make it up to you.

Personal Success Rating: 8/10. One point off for not sending the last three letters on time, and one point off for writing some pretty narcissistic letters.

Conclusion: I love writing letters! It’s fun, personal, and unique. However, I think it’s hard to find someone with which to create a letter exchange, which is really what would be desired, right?

Follow up challenge: In the spirit of the season, I think some Christmas Cards should be mailed! Thus, a Christmas card challenge! Five letters a day for seven days, I think — it’ll about use up all the addresses I have, anyways! Keep an eye out for your card!

PS — sorry it took me so long to update — but Thanksgiving was a blast!

clean: fail. moving on (for now).

What do I have to say for myself, you ask?

I say that my car was in the shop again. And a paper was due. And I was writing letters (well, one letter).

I did manage to clean my room, my car (again), and my purse (which, let’s be honest, was only a half-assed attempt). So, since I have now failed at this challenge twice, I think I will move on to a new challenge and revisit this at another time.

The challenge for this week is to write (and mail) a letter every day. The challenging part about this challenge is gathering enough mailing addresses…and buying envelopes/stamps. As such, I will be gathering addresses and buying envelopes today, and I will start the challenge on Monday.

My current list of people to write to are:

Home
Lang
Alex
Andy
Beth/Breanna

Which leaves two more addresses to find. If you want to be in the pot, email me your address at abinikai@gmail.com. In the meantime, I’ll be emailing some friends and getting their addresses. And if you leave me your address, I promise I’ll get around to writing you, even if it isn’t this week!

I feel obligated to mention that this challenge was suggested by both Alex and Lang. I also feel obligated to mention that this challenge is made possible by Andy, who writes letters on vellum and in calligraphy. I have no aspirations to be as truly unique and anachronistic as Andy…but letters are still pretty cool and out-dated in and of themselves, so this should be interesting.

And for the record. Just because it’s a “challenge” for me doesn’t mean I don’t want a response! Write me back!!!

Start date: Monday, 15 November 2010.
End date: Sunday, 21 November 2010.

learning experiences: judge judy, two moose, and a gay bar

Let me tell you something about learning experiences. On the surface: they suck. Underneath…well, at least you’ve learned something new! …Right?

Buckle your seat belts. It’s quite an involved story…

***

Some background: On Sunday, I woke up to find that my car battery was dead. Swollen, dead. That’s a whole different story, let me tell you – suffice to say, my mom came to the rescue. And I met John, the guy who doesn’t actually work for Autozone but does various minor repairs for Autozone customers. Very interesting character. Anyways, I replaced my battery. And I drove away, oblivious to the impending troubles involving my car…

Tuesday, 8am. North Decatur Road. What is going on with my radio?

The first sign of disaster as it strikes is my radio. It flickers on and off, and I feel my stomach drop – because as I push the power button to the radio on and off again, my car begins to slow. It’s gradual at first, just barely not accelerating as I pass through a flat stretch. But as I start up a small hill, the slowing is more obvious, and I realize that no matter how much I push the gas, my car will not speed up. I try to calm my breathing as I put on my flashers and pull to the side, just in time for my car to roll to a stop.

I put on my flashers. Only one works, and just barely – and then it dies. It’s 8am, and the morning traffic is rushing by on North Decatur Road. My car has stalled.

My Crazy-Ass Roommate and the Fearless Israeli Tow-Truck-Driver named Ronnie.

Stranded on the side of the road, I call my roommate, Shelby, in the hopes that miracles really do happen and maybe, if she jumps it, everything will be magically fixed. She races towards me and defies a few traffic laws to pull up in front of me. But…the car would not start. Surprised? Not so much. So, I call a tow truck.

An hour later, Ronnie pulls up. He is short, rotund, and greying at the temples…but he is fearless. He runs out into traffic and opens my door to shift the car in neutral, roll it up to his truck, and attach it to the wheel lifts – all in the face of morning traffic, with cars swerving out of the way and honking angrily as they pass.

Hometown Mechanics and a multitude of Judge Judy Shows.

At Five Star One (the auto repair shop), there is news: it’s the alternator! And, of course, the alternator has drained my brand new battery. The men at the repair shop explain that the battery is shot, and that one of the cells is probably damaged. I protest – I’ve just bought this battery! But they insist that the battery is bad, and that I will need to replace it. Never fear, though – they will loan me a battery to drive to Autozone to replace my (brand new) destroyed battery, which shouldn’t cost me anything since the battery is under warranty and it’s only two days old. I just have to get the alternator fixed first: a repair which will cost a grand total of $500.

This is when I call my hometown mechanic, Matt. What would we do without Matt? I explain the situation and what the mechanics have said, and he does a price check on the cost of the alternator repair. Everything seems fine, so I sit down to wait.

And boy, do I wait. First, I watch some Judge Judy knock-off shows. Then, I finish the novel Falling Man by Don DeLillo. Then I watch some more Judge Judy knock-off shows.

Then, I call into my second job and let Knight-in-Eternally-Shining-Armor-Andy(not the dog) know that I won’t be making it in to work. Of course, as a Knight-in-Eternatlly-Shining-Armor, he volunteers to skip class to cover for me. He also offers his truck in case I need it, but I dismiss the offer – secure that my car will soon be fixed. A little overconfident, maybe.

And then…I watch some more Judge Judy knock-off shows! By the time the alternator is fixed and I’m ready to go to Autozone, I’ve watched more TV than I’ve watched in the past month. And let me tell you…it was some bad TV.

Autozone – wait, what?

I drive down to Autozone and bring my battery in; when I explain that I want a replacement, however, they explain that company policy requires them to test the battery. And when they test the battery, the Spiffy Little Computer tells them to just charge the battery and put it back in. I protest slightly – but they insist that it is company policy, and so I agree. Moreover, they offer to test my alternator with their spiffy little computer to make sure it works – and seeing as I’ve been through the ringer with cars and auto repairmen before, I agree. A test would be nice.

So, they charge my battery, replace it, and test my alternator. And they tell me that my alternator is damaged.

What?

That’s right. My alternator is damaged. You know — that one I just replaced? Which cost $500? And my entire morning?

I drive back to Five Star One.

It’s the Battery! No, the Alternator! No, the TV!

Five Star One explains that Autozone is crazy. And to prove their point, they show me a voltage meter — they show me the voltage reading of my battery (in the red zone), and the voltage reading of a new battery (in the green zone).

In short: the Spiffy Little Computer was wrong.

Moreover, the damaged battery has now actually damaged my new alternator. So, while the new alternator was not damaged when I drove it down to Autozone to replace the battery, the very act of testing the alternator using the old battery (which Autozone volunteered to do to check on the validity of the replacement alternator) has destroyed my new alternator.

Incredulous, I call Matt (trusty local small-town mechanic!), and he confirms that the story does not sound fishy and is, in fact, a likely chain of events. My new alternator is damaged. And I’m back to square one.

I sit down in the lobby to wait on the second replacement alternator. Meanwhile, a TV repair man from Comcast has come to test the receiver, which seems to not work on the upper channels. He claims, however, that the TV is bad, and not the receiver box. The owner of the auto repair shop, however, insists that the TV is fine and it must be the receiver. Do I hear an echo? Wait, we were talking about my alternator, right?

Moose. The Tow-Truck-Driving one.

It is now 3:30pm, and I am in danger of missing my third (and final) shift of work for the day, so I call Autozone in an attempt to ensure that when I arrive again, they will merely hand me a (new) battery and take my old one, no argument. Five Star One, being made of stand-up citizens, has lied to the parts provider to get a second alternator for free – but I doubt they’d be so kind a second time if I returned with a twice-damaged alternator. However, Autozone insists on following the same protocol as the first time, and when I protest…they hang up on me.

Enter Moose. Not the dancer/DJ moose whom we all know and love, and not a furry creature with large antlers. No, this is the Tow-Truck-Driving Moose from northeast Georgia who has a serious penchant for “pritty” girls (no shit, that’s how he spelled it).

Moose spends the next hour and a half posing as my husband and fighting with Autozone about my alternator and battery. And over the course of this hour and a half, he manages to convince Autozone to not only replace my battery without question, but to pay for the replacement of my second alternator. But, if you remember, Five Star One already got that for me for free…so Moose has, effectively, scored me a free alternator.

But wait! There’s still a Gay Bar!

By 4:45pm, the (second) new alternator still had not arrived. Closing was in 15 minutes. And I was without a car. So, I call the Andy (also known as the Stupidly-Fantastic-Knight-In-Shining-Armor-who-Should-Learn-to-Have-Flaws), and I try not to bite my tongue as I ask him to not only loan me the truck he offered, but also to pick me up because I am stranded.

He googles a nearby bar and tells me he’ll meet me there as soon as his roommate is out of class. So I grab my purse and my coat, and I walk down the road.

I walk into Tripps and order a coke. The bartender looks at me –

Just a coke?
Yeah. Just a coke. It’s been a shitty day.
Wouldn’t that mean you want alcohol, if it’s been a shitty day?
I don’t drink.
Why are you in a bar, then?
Car is dead, sitting in the auto repair shop. Waiting for my friend to pick me up.
You do know this is a gay bar, right?
…Well, that explains a lot.

By 6pm, Andy and his roommate Josh finally show up to the rescue. I take them to the Rusty Nail, get a good hug from Don Crawley, and buy dinner for the two awesome guys who rescued me. We then drive back to Andy’s place, and he hands me the keys to his truck.

In Conclusion:

Learning experiences suck. But look at the adventure I’ve had today! Still – regardless of the overall positive end to my long stressful day, I think I’ve had enough learning experiences for now…

***

A special thanks to DJ Moose, John from Autozone, Israeli Tow-Truck-Driving Ronnie, Stephanie, Johnny from Five Star One, small-town-mechanic Matt, Tow-Truck Moose, and SFKiSA Andy. They have all been beyond nice and helpful and awesome, despite the fact that none of them were ever obligated to go out of their way for me. And an especially grand special thanks to my Mom and Shelby, who also went above and beyond, just because they love me…and because I called in a panic.

clean: fail

I failed this challenge. I cleaned Thursday, Friday, and Saturday…and I cleaned my car out on Sunday, but then dealt with everything else. And this just fell to the back burner. And by the time November 3rd rolled around, it was almost the weekend and I just let this slide for a couple more days. In all, I would give myself a 3/10 for this, because cleaning my car was necessary from its being busted up, and thus never really fulfilled the challenge requirements.

And now, I shall start this challenge over today. Whoopee!

Start date: November 6th
End date: November 12th

Goal: to clean a space every single day. It doesn’t matter the size or the focus of my cleaning — just that some part of my daily space feels a little bit…better.