Monthly Archives: June 2013

If I Were Better, I’d Be Good

As I put my pipes away from this morning’s practice, feeling wrung-out and self-critical, I panted, “Well, if I didn’t suck I’d be pretty good!”

I thought about all the evenings when the Badb had been skimming through her viola practice, not really paying attention to her playing just in a rush to get it done. We’d tell her to stop, go back and play the tune’s properly. She didn’t get to be done until she’d played at least one of them right. She’d sulk and then, obediently, go back and play it again with intention and get it right. She feels proud of her playing ability now, and I am proud of her for doing the work. She has every reason to feel proud of herself.

Whenever I play, I’m trying to listen to what I’m actually playing and compare it to what I want to be playing. Sometimes I have these flashes where the tune I wish I were playing is note-for-note superimposed on the tune I’m actually playing and it feels amazing. Today, though, I was a long way off from that. I need to do a lot of work with the chanter and playing carefully and with intention. The really hard part is that after half an hour of steady blowing I feel dizzy. I want to go back and play the tunes properly but I just can’t drive the reeds. I’m falling short.

I’ve got to walk a line between being too easy on myself and being unreasonably hard. Sure, I need to take better care of myself. Yes, I have a lot going on here, and yes, only an hour ago I was so hungry I was prepared to eat tortilla chips and dirt for breakfast (I made a big sandwich instead, don’t worry). So, okay, I was practicing with probably really low blood sugar and energy reserves, but still. I aspire to be able to pick up the pipes, tune them, and be able to deliver my competition tunes in a passable rendition even if I’ve only just gotten out of the car after a two hour drive, having gotten up an hour early. I had to do that once last year, and I’d like to be able to acquit myself well if the need should arise again. Emergency bagpiping is a thing.

So, after knocking out a few urgent chores, I’m going to have to spend some more time on the big pipes and at least an hour on the practice chanter. In this family, we try to have some compassion for failure but we don’t lower our standards.

Lesson Learned

This morning I competed at the Santa Cruz Scottish Festival and placed quite well. This despite what I felt to be grave problems with my performances, which goes a long way in support of the advice, “No matter what happens, keep playing!”

My mind and fingers went completely blank midway into my first tune but I flapped around for a bar and came back in. Piobaireachd to the rescue! In my second tune I was so focused on being in the moment that I don’t have a clear memory of the performance. At the time I was convinced that I’d made a complete hash of the first two parts but the judge didn’t seem to think so (and she’s heard me play that tune several times).

I kept playing and kept the beat and tried to maintain steady pressure, conceding nothing. It paid off!

Nothing New under the Gubmint

So, this week people are getting pretty exercised about how the NSA, in some super secret operation code named “PRISM,” has been watching everything people are looking at on the web and keeping track of what phone calls are being made and received. Wil Wheaton posted on Google+ that he’s gonna cancel all his Verizon phone lines. Lemme know how that works out for you, Wil, I wanna know what company you’re going to find that isn’t going to turn their data over to the NSA.

I am an old fogey, apparently. I remember when folks on alt.cypherpunks were all exercised about the NSA monitoring Internet traffic back in the late 1980s. Back then, people were talking about using crypto to hide the contents of their email, using steganography to hide messages in images, and even more stuff. Now people try to use TOR to hide the endpoints of their web surfing. But here’s the deal: back then, crypto only worked for making the contents of the email opaque. The surveillance being done under PRISM isn’t concerned with content; it’s looking at the fact that a message was sent from one person to another. This isn’t new. That doesn’t make it okay — I still think it’s creepy — but I’m kind of surprised that people are surprised that this information is being gathered and looked at.

We’ve already got this notion of contagion in American law: if you live with or associate with a person who’s a gang member, you’re a gang member according to the police. I don’t know for sure but it’s not too big a stretch for me to imagine some creative DA making the step from “gang contagion” to “terrorism contagion.” Given how the politicians are all beating the terrorism drum, I see this as a natural move.

Bottom line: Edward Snowden was not wrong when he talked about the security apparatus being the Panopticon. What are you gonna do about it? Gonna stop making and receiving telephone calls, gonna stop sending and receiving email, gonna stop using the Internet? Gonna go completely off the online grid?