Sunday, December 31

End of the Year Wrap-Up

So this has been quite the year.

Some time ago, I wrote about Melissa, our bad-tempered calico, who's got a cancerous tumor which has invaded her lymph nodes. At the time I wrote it, I didn't think she'd still be around by this point but, surprisingly, she's not only around, but she's still her usual self-- eating not as much as she used to and sleeping a lot, but still interested in food, and still interested in waking us up at 3am to get pet.

So, it continues, and we're exactly where we were a few months ago-- she may live another day, another week, another month or two, and the only thing to do is to enjoy the time we have left. So I'm doing my best to do this without breaking into tears from time to time, which of course I do every time I talk or write about this, but eventually I get past it and I figure everything is okay for now, which is pretty much the best any of us can hope for.

So it goes on, this day-to-day living with this ongoing illness. It's strange that I feel so much more strongly about this with respect to animals than I do about humans. I've known humans who were slowly dying, and I've had friends who have died suddenly and without explanation and I don't really cry for them the way I do about pets. I think there's something about being human that I know -understands- this. We all know we're going to die eventually and we all cope with that in our own way, I don't know whether or not animals understand this, and I just wish that I could know what they actually want. I've been through this with three different pets in my adult life where I have had to personally pay someone to kill them and while, intellectually, I know it's the right thing, emotionally, I still have trouble with it.

And so it continues. One more cat that's dying slowly but living comfortably for the moment, and I guess that whether or not I'm okay with that, there's nothing left to do but make sure she remains comfortable and happy and gets food she likes and has Sebastian (insane manic kittenish cat who, as I write this, wonders why he hasn't been fed yet (though that could apply to any moment, including the ten minutes it takes him to figure out that he -has- been fed) to keep her company when we're not around.

In the meantime, our winter resident red-tailed red-shouldered (I had this one misidentified for over a year--oops) hawk is a constant source of yard drama. Shown above is picture I took yesterday, as either I or the blue jays were pissing it off. You can find a larger version at:

I got to watch it fly from tree to tree as it screeched its -very- loud sound. (There's a blue-jay picture there, too).

I haven't been doing as much photography as of late (less time for birding, plus not as much variety in the winter-- it's always a slower season), so I've been experimenting with black and white renderings of older photographs-- I've posted some of those as well-- the thumbnails are shown below the picture.

The other day, I got a microphone attachment for my iPod which I'm thinking will be fun to use. It turns my iPod into a very small stereo field recorder. I tried using it to record a piece of music the other day and I came up with this very cool rendering of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. It's available for download at:

I like the way it sounds-- it's not what I would call top professional quality, but it works well for what it is, and will allow me to record concerts and jam sessions without having to bring my gigantic mixer along. I may also use it as a field recorder when out birding-- I've been thinking for awhile of mixing bird sounds into some of my own music so I may do some experiments with that down the line. I'd love to get the sound of the red-tail screeching and use it as a baseline for a piece of music. This may be a whole new area for me to explore.

I'm still thinking that even if I do record a whole album, I'm more likely to do it through digital distribution with a very small run of physical CDs, but I'm getting some nice ideas for pieces to perform. I'm thinking specifically of doing a run of pieces inspired by classical guitar music I used to play, like the Jesu piece I just referenced. I've been working on a Bethoven theme, and would love to do a version of Debussey's "Claire De Lune" which features banjo as its primary instrument, though it may be awhile.

In short, I'm in no rush to do anything new right now, but I'm thinking about it and exploring ideas, etc. Now that I have the iPod microphone, podcasts may become more frequent as well. We'll see where it all goes.

I'm going to mention two more things before I wrap up-- first, I just want to say how amazed I am by what we managed to accomplish in November with respect to rejecting the completely insane rightwing agenda that's controlled our legislature for the last few years and I can only say "more, more, more." Honestly, this group makes me miss the days when Republicans were primarily about screwing the poor and waging war. Goldwater, by today's standards, looks almost leftwing compared to this group of religious zealots.

In Vermont, we actually got even -more- Republicans booted out and a recent statewide recount switched our auditor results from the Republican to the Democrat. I met Randy Brock (the Republican who just lost) and I don't think I've ever met anyone else whose entire demeanor better suggested "middle management at a used car dealership." There's something about him I found inherently untrustworthy, so I'm glad to see him go for that, and a variety of other more specifically political reasons: his office blew me off on an audit request until someone asked about it in one of the political debates and suddenly he was all interested in it, but still delayed any report until after the election. I don't know how much of that was just slowness of process and how much was evasion of the issue, but either way, an audit request in early September shouldn't take until mid-December to resolve when it's an extremely simple piece of information I'm looking for. So yeah, one less Republican in control of an important state office pleases me.

The last thing I'll mention is that this "winter" we're having is scaring me, in a serious way. It's been unseasonably warm here, which happens sometimes, but the behavior of the animals is just really different and suggests, to me, not just local unusual weather, but something more global. Migration patterns seem to have shifted considerably this year-- a lot of birds still around that are constantly surprising me and, scariest of all, bears not -hibernating-.

So one of my goals for this year is to figure out new ways to affect my energy usage and waste and keep it lower than it's been. Having bought a Prius is good. Composting all our food waste is good. If I could carpool with people, I would, but I don't see it working given the sort of driving I do (commuting 200+ miles on various days from week to week don't make for good carpool companions). But I can, at least, try to work something out with my students, or other people teaching that night, this Spring-- see if I can can arrange a carpool with three of them for the consistent ride to teach, and encourage them to do the same. Anyway, this whole thing wants me to figure out how to change how I use energy-- investigate solar panels to supplement the power-- I can't imagine a windmill working on our small amount of land, but the solar panels make perfect sense, and there are plenty of other options.

It's just got me thinking-- I don't see how we'll fix this without finding creative ways to approach things.

That's it-- much longer than I expected. Be well, everybody and have a good new year.

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