jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
It's snowing.

It snowed once last winter[1], about this time. Traces of white on the grass and sidewalks in the morning, all gone by lunchtime. I don't think there's actually been a winter without any snow at all yet but the past few have been about like that.

13/14 had a really good snow, and 11/12 had the snowfall where I got to play native guide for [livejournal.com profile] papersky and Z. 09/10 was DC's Snowpocalypse, season of my heart, a reprieve from all the personal horror of that winter and spring.

It wasn't snowing in New West, which is why I didn't wear my fuzzy black boots. I got to break out my most excellent winter coat, at least. (Nice heavy dark-grey wool. Near as I can tell it's mostly an Ulster coat, though without cuffs or patch pockets and with only a decorative half-belt.) I rode the skytrain in through occasional stops and starts, and got off at ComBroad to catch the #99 B-line, my usual bus.

The bus line wound back into and through the station.

"Guess I'll take the slower less-crowded #9," I said.

The line for that one was around the block.

I grumbled a bit and got in the 99 line. Stood there for about five minutes while it failed to move at all (unusual; there's usually a 99 every two or three minutes).

Eventually I got tired of waiting and turned to the girl[2] behind me. "Where are you headed?"

"Um, school. Arbutus and 10th."

"I'm going to Oak and 8th. Want a ride?"

"... Sure."

So we walked a couple of blocks to the nearest car2go. I could have done without the slush (blame the lack of boots) but there is something deeply intoxicating about walking through a snowfall in a good winter coat and a hat. We crossed the bridge over the lower half of the skytrain station and it was unspeakably beautiful. The old train depot in New West does this in the snow as well but that's, you know, brick and slate-looking roof and generally appealing architecture. I hadn't expected a transit station and train tracks to hit me like that. But there it was: gently arched glass, steel rails, and a tranquil fluff of white covering the whole.

The drive in was remarkably pleasant. At least at eight in the morning there weren't enough drivers to make for any kind of traffic, and Broadway's flat and straight for most of its length. I stayed cautious and alert and mostly (mostly) didn't spill my tea all over. At red lights I got to marvel at the small drifts and at how much happer I get when the city's half blanketed like this.

We passed more fire trucks than buses. I have no idea why so few of the buses were running.

And now I'm at work, with terrible tea. At least it's warm. At least I can still watch the snow falling outside.

[1] To the devil with your ridiculous astronomical seasons, beginning on the solstices/equinoxes. I am mostly on board with meterological seasons that start on the first of the month containing the solstice/equinox. Erin has been lobbying, unsuccessfully so far, for the cross-quarter seasons, so that Midwinter is actually, you know, in the middle of winter.

[2] I use the word "girl" advisedly. I would have bet cash money that she was at least a college student, but no; eleventh grade.


Nov. 4th, 2016 06:45 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Whee, been a week. Among other excitement: Taranis's wifi card has decided that intermittent faults are the hip new accessory, so I broke down and got an old new laptop. Same model as the one I experimented with last spring. Still not entirely convinced of the need for a new machine but a) I'll need one in the next couple of years for certain, and b) Macbook design is getting worse all the time. (Latest models removed the extraneous Eject/Power button. This wouldn't matter except that now I have nothing to map a proper Delete to, and I require both Backspace and Delete.)

ETA: The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin: "She had been mildly cheered up, she added, by following a Twitter feed with the hashtag #BundyEroticFanFic."

Litany, by Billy Collins. There are poems like "After the Pyre" that leave me ripped open and bleeding, and I understand why. Then there's this one. I don't understand in the slightest what it is that it does to me. (I also don't expect it to do that to anyone else; like Among Others, whatever it is feels too intensely personal to possibly affect the rest of the world.)

The Arches of The Little Prince: "Can you build an arch from a pole to the equator? Can you build an arch from the north pole to the south pole?" Which is all fascinating, but the thing that really caught me is the simple and obvious realisation that you can model arches upside-down with hanging chains.

Hipsterism and Cultural Appropriation: "So to make explicit what lies implicit: when hipsters 'ironically' don clothing associated with working class people, when hipsters 'ironically' profess tastes for products associated with working class people, they are communicating 'we all know I couldn't possibly actually like this, because we all know that this is unworthy and beneath us.'"

The Yale Record Does Not Endorse Hillary Clinton: "Because of unambiguous tax law, we do not encourage you to support the most qualified presidential candidate in modern American history, nor do we encourage all citizens to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all by electing Secretary Clinton on November 8."

Also, it's been ages since I paid any attention to my 101 in 1001 list.

101 in 1001 update )
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
One of the main goals I had when I started learning the viola was to be able to, oh, let's be honest, play in a music circle with PNH and Steve Brust and eBear. Or, more reasonably, Klagor and other Rainforest folks. (I have, in my head, most of an instrumental setting for Lorde's "Royals". Haven't tried it out yet; not even sure it's possible, the viola may not be deep enough.)

Tegen's remarkably accommodating of this desire. Starting last spring she's been trying to teach me some basic music theory, chords and intervals and all.

This is really hard for me. I can hear different intervals but I can't necessarily identify them, a fourth from a fifth (why is this hard? fifths are what my strings are tuned in, i've been listening to fifths for three decades) or a sixth from a third. And it's worse with chords, everything just muddles together and I can't hear what I'm even supposed to be listening for.

A couple of weeks ago she finally said "look, don't worry about hearing it, just /feel/ it. I is the root, V pulls back to I, IV ... doesn't, and vi is the only one of these that's a minor. We'll work with those." That helps. The minute I try to name the chord I lose it, it takes me several seconds to put a name to it and I'm wrong half the time, but I can feel where it is.

We've been doing some improv as well, "here are some chords, work out what notes are in them, then noodle around while i play the chord sequence on the piano." Results are variable, but it's fun.

On Tuesday night the improv /clicked/. I could know my own notes and feel the piano chords. By the end I could consciously try to make the one line up with the other while not, I don't know, degenerating into rote mechanics.

We got to the end and Tegen said "That was great! Do you have any questions?"

I needed three tries before I could say "Music makes me unable to word." It took another minute or so before I could explain more coherently that whatever I had been doing right then had turned off my access to words. Not just speech but words as a whole: I normally process the notes I'm playing in words, and in retrospect that ... wasn't what I was doing this time.

This is interesting. It's not "I have something important to say and I can't quite bear to get it out," it is literally I have no words. It's like the Ansel Adams exhibit years ago, only instead of passively experiencing I'm an active participant in the overwhelm.

I have no idea what it means but I suspect it's important.
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels’ Generous Offer: "January 7th, 1981. Lennon, Harrison and Starr attend the funeral of a New Yorker named Mark David Chapman, who committed suicide in mid-December and whose apartment, after the fact, was revealed to be a shrine to the Beatles." Bloody well amazing, and I should just start reading MGK on my own. [via Wunderland]

Feral houses. [via the whole world's only source for Fafblog.]

Liu Bolin. . . The Invisible Man: "He just paints himself." Amazing. [via [livejournal.com profile] matociquala]

Slumped Pizza: "[T]he pizza experienced a high-temperature, low-pressure event which has been theoretically located to the second rack of my oven, and then was broken into eight ~equal area terranes separated along a radial series of fractures."

Cat and Girl make Christmas cards.

But She Has 8 ranks in the "Bluff" Skill...: "All it is some woman whining about how everyone in her party wouldn't let her make any decisions, about how something called a Couric made her look like a complete idiot (I couldn't find it in the monster manual but, I'm guessing it must be like a Sphinx), and how her group leader McCain wouldn't let her be rogue enough."

Story in pictures: Eric. Has a bit of the same feel as "Owly." Wonderful.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
My favorite highway interchange: "There's even a train station in there somewhere."

Brown Out: the true story of Van Halen's "no brown M&Ms" clause. Absolutely bloody brilliant.

Via [livejournal.com profile] rislyn, Depression's Evolutionary Roots. I need to read this again before I can have anything coherent to say on it, I think. It's. . . thought-provoking.

"'The primary difference between these two subspecies of Formicidae is that the one on the left has longer legs and therefore a greater height from the ground,' Tom Swift said tolerantly." --[livejournal.com profile] xiphias

I had a really good time last weekend, for [livejournal.com profile] uilos-definitions of "weekend." Wednesday night I took her out to dinner at Kazan, where by sheerest coincidence we were joined by a dozen other cool people. Then we went back to the apartment for cake and games and "please take some of these books away now."

Thursday and Friday were slow, though I did get a decent bit of writing done. Satyrday we went out to Reston for some gaming, and also to retrieve an 8x8 pan that we'd left somewhere last October. (I know it was October because we also got a jar of roasted pumpkin seeds we'd forgotten we left, which she pronounced "stale, but edible.") Played a dogsled-racing game twice, which is good: the first time I thought it was great, the second I could see ways in which it irritated me, so now I won't need to pick up my own copy. And other good stuff as well, of course.

(Unfortunately I think that the intense climate changes between rooms in the house in Reston caused me to come down with a summer cold. The space under my eyes is filled with sand and I've been a little drifty the past couple days.)

Sunday continued the weekend's tradition of being pretty darn cool. We slept very late and lazed around a lot, and eventually made it out to Adams Morgan to meet [livejournal.com profile] tamnonlinear at DC Tribal Cafe. I'm a little surprised by how much I enjoy watching the dancers. Something about the flow of movement, and the energy, and the beat of the music. It's entrancing, and sexy in a way that's more "oh, nice" than "WANT," and it pulls me out of myself in a way that not much else does.

Also stopped in the used bookstore next door, which has some of the oddest stuff. I found an archy and mehitabel collection, and a volume of Piet Hein's Grooks, which always make me happy.

Last night we buried Keishi out in the woods. I haven't anything else to say about that, really, but it feels wrong to let it pass without notice.

Tomorrow I get on a plane to go spend a wonderful week with [livejournal.com profile] nixve, and then the weekend after I get back I'll be camping at Assateague. The back half of September, however, is suspiciously empty. For now.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
Bleh. The time I was going to spend writing things for LJ last week turned into work, and the parts that weren't work were a detailed mathy analysis of the ruby strategy in Scepter of Zavandor (because I needed to chew on something decidedly left-brain-y). Which means I failed to mention Wednesday gaming, Sunday brunch and housewarming, or Tuesday dinner and conversation.

Not that I've much to say about any of those. Other than that spending time with a few good people is Good, in almost exactly the way that spending time with lots of people I don't know well isn't.

Via Dr [livejournal.com profile] rivka, A Mathematician's Lament (warning: PDF), in which I discover that I should have been a mathematician.

To wit: on page 3 or 4, there's a picture of a triangle inside a rectangle, and the question: "how much of the rectangle does the triangle take up?" I looked at it for like five seconds and said "oh, that's easy, you just run a perpendicular line from the top of the triangle to the base, and you've got two rectangles, each half filled with a triangle. So the whole triangle takes up half the area of the whole box." Which, yeah, he goes on to explain that. Then a page later he rails against the fact that kids aren't taught that that process of discovery and problem-solving is math. Instead, math is plugging numbers into "A = 1/2*b*h".

And I got it. I understood, conceptually, why that's the area of a triangle, in a way I never had before. And it is simple and elegant and beautiful, and it took my breath away.

I love things like that. The moment of perfect clarity when something just makes sense, when the bits of a problem come together and fall into place. It's. . . euphoric. It's spellbinding in the same way the Ansel Adams exhibit had me transfixed, with the added bonus of: I did that.

Not that I had any idea that that was what math was really about. Sure, I read Martin Gardner and Douglas Hofstadter, and was on "the math team" in eighth grade, but. . . that was fun. Math was algebra and calculus and diffy-q, problem set after problem set and painstaking attention to every minute detail. Exactly the kind of thing I can't stand.

But, still. A triangle is half the size of the rectangle it fits into. Gorgeous.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
It is so very good to have my keyboard and trackball back. Have I mentioned that? It just is. Keys are where they ought to be. Typing's more accurate, and editing speed increases by, oh, about ten times.

I've more or less given up on ICQ and have switched over to gchat. I'm told that it interacts acceptably well with AIM/ICQ/what have you; haven't tried this myself. So, if you want to find me, it's jazzfishzen at EDITgoogle's mail service.

The Ansel Adams exhibit at the Corcoran was a delight and a revelation. I instinctively try to put my experiences into words, to name them and understand them and keep them with me. When I'm confronted by things that resist verbalization-- the Dale Chihuly sculptures or the Veiled Rebekah in Atlanta, a sunrise like a nosebleed, my first cup of really good tea-- I get overwhelmed pretty quickly. My brain keeps trying to assign meaning and comprehension to smaller parts of the whole until it shuts down altogether and I end up just kind of staring, trying to take it all in.

(Of course, if I'm in the right mood I can get lost admiring a wrought iron fence or a broken headstone. It's getting there that's the hard part.)

Much of the exhibit was like that. There was a particular print, of a pine tree in a light rain framed by Yosemite Valley, that I've not been able to find online but that utterly transfixed me. (It was right between two amazing lake-reflection shots, which didn't hurt.) Rose and Driftwood, too. Things like that. It's . . . disconcerting, to be that out of myself in the middle of a huge crowd.

Viewing the prints online there's a sense of coldness, of distance, that's not there in person. Or, it is, but it's not bitterly cold, nor unattainably distant. The photos take you with them, leaving everything else behind.

Also, damn that man knew his way around a darkroom.


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Tucker McKinnon


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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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