Tuesday, November 29, 2005

 

Second day with my cello and my finger hurts even worse


This morning I started playing my cello early, but had to stop after an hour and a half because the tip of my left forefinger was pretty sore. I tried one of my wife's leather thimbles over my fingertip, but I couldn't produce a good clear note with it. This afternoon, I bought a different type of leather thimble that I'll try tomorrow. I'm thinking I might need one of those rubber finger cots they used to use at the post office for hand sorting mail - I'll probably have to go to an office supply store for that. I spent the time working on bowing and timing, staying with the basic open strings and first finger notes. Tomorrow, if my new thimble helps, I'll work on the other fingers with the bowing.

Every once in a while, I'll get a clear, sustained, resonant sound that tells me that I really will be able to pull this off...

More thoughts on buying a cello:
Prices for laminated celli seem to be in the mid- to high hundred dollar range. There doesn't seem to be any dominant brand - in fact, there are dozens and dozens of brands out there. Engelhardt supplies a lot of celli to students, and seems reliable. Upgrading to a higher quality carved cello will cost $1500 or more. Again, brands are varied and numerous. How to choose? In the past, the Chinese-manufactured celli had a deservedly bad reputation. Reportedly, there are now many higher quality instruments coming from China for a reasonable price. There are comments on the internet that Korean celli also can be quite good. It seems though, that in general European celli are still the best (according to a majority of the postings and blogs about this issue). But beware the ebay descriptions... For those who are fortunate enough to play well enough, upgrades are available for tens of thousands. Quality, of course, costs.

While stringed instruments tend to improve with age, it's important to remember the importance of proper care - low humidity, physical mistreatment, and freezing all take their toll. I think it would probably be a mistake to consider paying more for an older instrument just because it's old; unless you are an accomplished cellist and you have some assurance the older instrument was appropriately cared for.

Every time I open the case and see my cello laying there, waiting to be stroked, I can't believe that I finally have one. There are no excuses, now.

Last night, I thought up a long list of things to rant about on this blog - I guess I should have gotten up and written them all down...

On Retirement
Today, I spent almost 3 hours at the bank cashing in my old savings bonds. Harrumph! What a pain that was! You'd think they'd come up with a simpler system for cashing them in. I felt sorry for the teller. I finally faced up to the fact that they were no longer worth holding onto. I'm depositing the cash into my brokerage account and will put it into some conservative investments. Since I'm retired, I'm going to start needing the cash pretty soon, and this way, I'll pay taxes on the savings bonds' interest this year (which won't have much other income, and which has plenty of medical deductions). I started buying Savings Bonds in 1985 while Dilberting at Brand-X, using a payroll deduction. With each promotion, I increased the deduction. After 18 years, it had grown to a sizeable nest egg. It turns out that for a brief 2-1/2 year period after 1990, the Series EE bonds were paying almost 6% and will be tax-free if used for college - that means they are earning as much as 8-1/2%; better than most reasonably conservative securities. I'm going to hold onto this batch to help pay some of Z's college costs five years from now.

After several months of working the numbers (I tried out lots of online retirement calculators) and talking to various investment counselors, I've finally gotten comfortable with my retirement plan. Next month I'll get my lump sum pension from Brand-X (thankfully they didn't squander their pension fund like the airlines did, and even though the company has recently been fully swallowed up by one of the "giants", their pension fund remains solvent, and I'm going to net a sizeable amount). This, along with my fully-funded 401k account over all those years, will set us up quite comfortably, provide all the basic living expenses, and leave enough free to travel and buy more than a few non-essentials along the way.

It kind of makes all those years of drudgery at Brand-X worthwhile, after all. (I have to confess, that for about 14 of those 26 years, my job was the most exciting, challenging and rewarding job I could have asked for - I traveled regularly all over the country and occasionally overseas (China, Taiwan, Korea, Brazil, Argentina), all First Class; I worked with peers in the industry to lobby Congress and negotiate rules with various regulatory agencies; I made presentations at large meetings; I had the reputation of being one of the best supervisors at my office -ever. I had more work to do than I could imagine, and I seldom had to do the same thing twice. I loved it!! I thrived on it!! I'd do it all over again, if I could. That all came to a screeching halt when we got reorganized by one of those evil corporate destroyers [managment consultants] that have systematically ruined many of the major corporations in America.) I'll save this for a future rant.

Losing Weight
OK, I'll admit it, I've been a fan of the Biggest Loser since it first came on last year (tonite, I'm rooting for Matt). At first, I mocked the concept, but after seeing the dramatic physical and mental changes in almost every one of them, I began to think about the process. Losing weight and keeping it off is probably the hardest lifestyle challenge most of us will ever face. Quitting cigarettes or drugs is nothing compared to this. With tobacco and drugs, the solution is simple: Stop using and never use again! In 1982, after 15 years of smoking a pack a day, I quit smoking cold-turkey and vowed never to smoke again. 23 years later and I've kept that commitment. With eating, however, it is a different challenge. You can't, obviously, just stop eating and never eat again. So you have to learn to eat less, forever. Note that simply smoking less is not a realistic option for a tobacco addiction.

This show has been an inspiration for me. Since it first came on in September 2004, I've lost 65 pounds Egad - more than 25% of my starting weight. Watching the contestants work hard helped me to stick with my diet and exercise plan. I feel so much more alive at 185 that I KNOW I'll never let that weight come back. Besides, after all these months of slogging along on that !@#$%^&*() treadmill, it would be criminal to go back again. Some claim that weight gain is a symptom of self-loathing.

As I approach 55 fap and look back on my life, I see that I've had it quite good, with lots of opportunities, many successes, and a good marriage with three successful, happy sons. Any insecurities that might have dominated my earlier days is long gone and was apparently misplaced (at least from this perspective). Now I've got no excuse to get fat again...

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