Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Musicians are born to practice as the sparks fly upward

Continuing our obsession with practice and all of its ugly ramifications, I wish today to offer this paradoxical thought.

I have spent years engaged in the science and/or art of practice. The study of how to practice is in its own way rewarding, and it is certainly a profitable enterprise. Anyone who wants to master their instrument needs to know how to practice well. That doesn't just mean practicing a lot. It means spending that time wisely and well. It is directed effort, not simply effort.

When I was growing up studies kept coming out about how Japanese kids were eating American kids' lunches with regard to math. And the typical response from American legislators and policy crafters was "we need more math class." It was not, as it should have been, "we need better math instruction," because that would have required that we put a lot more effort into how we went about the business of this important branch of human knowledge. It is also unnecessary to add that nobody (among the politicians) bothered to explore the symbiotic relationship between the arts upon which Japan also placed a great deal of importance and those math classes which, in the U.S., were being added in place of all of those arts classes that were being cut to make way for them.

The simplistic approach to any problem is simply "more, more, more." Which is why I sometimes get tired of hearing music teachers telling their charges to practice--without telling them how. Of course, much of this is context driven. If most kids aren't even spending time with their instrument to begin with, then it is a victory simply to get them to practice at all. This is unfortunately where the battle line is drawn much of the time. Good practice is apparently a pie in the sky luxury. But if you are bothering to read this at all let's assume you are one of those relative few who want to do more than simply put in your time.

And the paradox comes in when we realize that, if we are engaged, or better yet, engrossed in what we are doing we may lose track of time altogether and not experience it as tedium. When we are really about this business of practice it isn't a drudgery in which the passage of time seems to slow to a crawl and we spend 90% of the time wishing it would be over. Instead, with every technique we learn, every trick, every diagnostic tool, every internalized habit from our teachers, when in effect each practice is a lesson in which we are both teacher and student and are so full of desire to get the piece learnt well that it is a pleasure instead of a burden to take that piece in our metaphorical teeth and thrash it around like a cat does with a cardboard box (thanks, Rosie, for providing that illustration), our whole relationship with practice changes and we are not suffering any longer.

Under that rubric the teachers who simply send you out into the word after a weekly lesson and tell you to practice are sending you to suffer and the ones who teach you how are showing you how to actually make it fun. Promises like that certainly ought to get a few students to read blogs like these, no?

Here is the problem with that, however. As much as we would all love to enjoy what we are spending so much time doing, I don't know anybody, doing anything, who has never had days when it seemed like a drudgery. You could be a major league baseball player, playing a game you love for a living, and I can guarantee that, being required to play 162 games every year, whenever they are scheduled, sometimes on little sleep, or after long travels, to a high standard, is going to mean sometimes you really don't feel like it. Now imagine any other job in the world that is less glamorous. But I'm sure you don't have to because you have one. And if it's school you probably don't love every minute of that, either. Do you love both math and gym? How about social studies and English? What about the cafeteria food?

None of us can escape having to do things that are not fun. Life is endless, uninterrupted bliss for no one. Discipline is just that.

Effective practice, once achieved, has the pleasant side effect of cutting down on that. But it can never kill it completely. Sooner or later, you just won't be having fun. And it is a vitally important skill to be able to deal with that head on and keep going when it is difficult. This is a skill that you develop by doing it often and by being able to deal with not enjoying yourself at the time. You learn to suffer. And keep suffering. And be able to suffer longer, and harder.

Some music teachers online have been trying to get their students to simply practice. They don't say anything more than that. It is easy advice for them to give. It is also easy to want to step into the void and try to flesh out how when so many don't seem to know (including younger versions of myself).

But it is also important to simply show up and do it. And if it is hard, so be it. It is going to be hard. This is a test of your character. Can you do it even though you thought it would be fun and now it isn't? This is when many people quit. What do you have in you? Can you keep going?

If you want to get there from here, you are going to have to. There is no other way.

Deal with it.

Monday, January 28, 2019


No matter how famous a particular artist gets there is always some small sliver or their work that is almost universally recognized among the general public. The rest simply doesn't make the cut.

For Beethoven, one of those famous bits is the first movement of the so-called "Moonlight" Sonata. It is possible for amateurs to play, which is one major reason for its success. It also provides a strong dose of atmosphere to the generations of young romantics that have abused its steady triplet pulse ever since, and that same predictable rhythmic writing has not only made it manageable for the fingers but easy on the mind. Not to mention the cache of a thrilling nickname and programmatic whispers of thwarted love (he did, after all, dedicate the Sonata to a female).

But the Sonata is in three parts, and those of us who desire to see things whole would not willingly let things stand as they did last week with but one of those parts completed. And so, dear listener, I offer you the second part. It is in the style of a dance, faster than the first, and rather too full of day-lit jubilation to fit well with the appellation "Moonlight."

It is also a bit harder for the young ones to play.

Oh well. Perhaps it will not change your life. But it is short, and I think it is the perfect interlude between what was and is to come. Beethoven took the unusual step of instructing the pianist to "attack" this second movement without pausing at the end of the first. So imagine that this has been a very short week and that this week's offering comes right on the heels of the last.


[listen to the 2nd movement: Scherzo from "Moonlight Sonata" by Ludwig van Beethoven]

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


I was trying to get myself out the door on a cold, grey, January morning. It wasn't easy. I didn't feel like going anywhere or doing anything. But I've still got things to do.

Look, you wrote a nice little piece of music yesterday, and now if you go to church you can make a recording of it and share it with people in only a small amount of time. Plus there is a nice Steinway that needs company and a large organ, and a beautiful space and great people. It certainly beats staying home and being depressed because of the cloud cover. 

It can be easy to succumb to negative thoughts at times. The trick is to turn them around, and if there are no external stimuli acting on you to do it, you have to make the decision to do it yourself.

Wednesdays this semester we are going to be talking a lot about practicing. And it occurs to me that an awful lot of it is simply psychological. That, before worrying about technique, we have to get ourselves there, and we know it will be a challenge, but the question is whether the result will be worth it. And that question depends largely on how we frame it. What is going on in our heads? Is it sufficiently positive to get us to work? How about, incentive driven with a dash of realism and humor? That's my formula. It works for me, most times. And not just at the piano.

It's the same thing I do when I'm running. Come on, this is the last hill! Or, after this admittedly steep hill, you've got an entire mile of down hill running coming up. Or, you can think about it all you want, but this is where you really earn the chance to run marathons. Right now. And you. Will. Do it!

One of my most remembered pep talks occurred when I was a finalist in a concerto competition some 25 years ago, and was trying to psyche myself up for the finals, which were right after dinner and only a few minutes after we found out who made the cut. You spend how many hours sleeping, or eating, or standing in line, or going grocery shopping, or I don't know what? And how many minutes out of all of that routine do you get the opportunity to go out on a stage and play this fabulous music in front of a live crowd, and just knock em out? Right now. That's when. Go for it. These next 15 minutes are your 15 minutes. They're rare. They are wonderful. You get to really live now. Be alive! Do it!

Or something like that.

My internal coach has given a lot of great speeches over the years. And I'm sure it's made a lot of difference. Some people may not have one. But I haven't got the money to pay somebody else to do it. Though at various times I may get encouragement from someone else, there are times when nobody else is around and you just have to soldier on yourself. Or not. And the difference might just be the quality of the coaching. So I take justifiable pride in some of the great speeches I've given myself over the years. Not least because it gives me something to concentrate on besides how hard it is to do the thing I'm trying to do.

Of course, like anything, it improves with practice. The more you do it, the better you do it.

So....get out there and...psyche yourself up!

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Super Blood Wolf Blog Entry

Did you see the Super Blood Wolf Moon last night?

I've gotten fairly blase in regards to special celestial occurrences, having already seen a Super Moon (pretty cool actually), and a blood moon (which looked strangely radioactive), and I'm not even sure what constitutes a Wolf Moon. But to mash them all up together made it sound like Hollywood was in on it, and maybe Anthony Hopkins was going to be playing the moon.

Anyhow, I fell asleep before the midnight showing. They never ask me what time is good before scheduling these lunar eclipses. I'm still sore about the solar eclipse that was supposed to happen when I was five, but, due to an unusually perfectly normal bout of cloud cover, was not visible in my home town. No worries, they said. The next one is due in 35 years.

I have a recital this afternoon, and I thought, for the sake of current events, I would try to play something special for the occasion. The most obvious choice for a classically trained pianist is to play the Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven didn't actually call it that. He called it a "sonata like a fantasy" which is basically like saying that it is a piece with a carefully designed plan which sounds like a piece without a carefully designed plan. It is a novel in stream of consciousness form, a building that doesn't seem like it could stand up, one genre pretending to be another.

His friends apparently did not appreciate the subtlety of the title anymore than the rest of you probably don't. One of them decided it reminded him of the moonlight over a particular lake. And since atmosphere sells better than architecture, not only did the title stick, it has become one of Beethoven's most popular pieces of music. It doesn't hurt that it is one of the few that amateurs can play. Well, the first part, anyway.

The music sold pretty well, but imagine if somebody had had the foresight to call it the "super blood wolf moonlight sonata."

I'll play it for you now, and, if it seems a little fast, remember that Beethoven wrote it in just two beats to a bar, not four, and that adagio was probably not so slow in those days. It does not, as one commentator put it, need to sound like a funeral march. And notice that the melody, the true melody, is still actually quite slow, and that the inexorable triplets at the start (and throughout) are only accompaniment, not the strokes of Big Ben.

The piece is, for all of Beethoven's chagrin at how popular it became, one of his unique achievements.

Listen to the first movement of the "Moonlight Sonata."

Friday, January 18, 2019

And a very merry Christmas to you at last!

This year, I've observed to persons in my immediate environment, has been probably the greenest Christmas in my life.  In addition to not snowing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the white stuff seems to have avoided the season completely. To the best of my recollection it snowed in Pittsburgh a few times in November, accumulating nicely, and remaining on the rooftops of the neighboring houses for a couple of weeks, and possibly as late as the first week of December. Then, nothing. From the time we put up our tree on the 6th of December, until the day before we took it down on January 12th, there wasn't a bit of snow.

Winter has returned this week, and we may even be due for a foot of snow this weekend.* This may partially account for the strange occurrence of my being able to write Christmas music in the off season. There have been several years when I vowed to finished pieces I hadn't managed to get written during the busy time of December and once the demands of the new year came these projects got squeezed out. But this time, somehow, a few things have gotten created. I have to work in between the cracks of other, more pressing projects, but as I have often noted, a multiplicity of things to do doesn't just make it hard to focus. It can also be imperative. The most important and deadline sensitive things I have going on these days wouldn't be possible to finish on time if I hadn't spent time and effort in earlier days getting some of the work done before I knew how important it would be later.

This is particularly true of composition, which, among many favorite similes, is a bit like fishing. You can't catch fish on demand. You can set yourself up for success by finding places the fish like to be, showing up at the right time, using a good lure, asking people where they've had success, even using a fish finder. But that's no guarantee that a particular cast will catch anything. So when, through a series of events, I slept poorly, and woke with the genesis of a piece of piano music in my head, I thought I'd better catch it while I could. It will come in handy next year when I need something to play for a particular occasion and it is already in my boat, waiting.

Since it is snowing outside I thought you might be in the mood for a little bit of Christmas music, if it is snowing where you are, and if you've also had to wait a month for it to do so. I don't normally share pieces I've written yesterday--this is the beta version, and I don't guarantee there won't be revisions, but it was easy to write down and so easy to play that I got it recorded quickly, before the storm that is on its way.

Enjoy. Or should I say, Rejoice!

[listen to "In Sweet Rejoicing"]   

*as of Saturday afternoon, the snow has entirely dropped from the forecast in favor of rain which has not been seen so far, either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Smart practice: observation

My running route took me by the church one afternoon and I stopped in to get a drink from the fountain, and to rest. Someone was practicing in the social hall, and while I sat on the bench outside, I couldn't help but hear the old familiar patterns:

They were playing the entire piece all the way through each time. a few measures in, they kept making the same mistake in the melody line. I'm not sure they noticed. Five repetitions later it was still wrong.

A few minutes later there was a new mistake. One the opening left hand arpeggio, which had now become minor instead of major. It was early and obvious. I'll bet what was going through the person's head at that point was along the lines of #$@#%! Why Can't I get anything Right!!!!!! Unfortunately, that kind of emotional surge does exactly what we don't want it to do: burns the mistake into memory, as strong emotional states, whether positive or negative, tend to do. This time they backed up and started over. If you'd been there I'd have bet you a five that they would make the same mistake and you would be out five dollars.

I didn't say anything, of course, but I'm saying this to you in case you are a practitioner of the art of piano.  There are ways to vastly improve the way you practice. And since you obviously have to spend a lot of time doing it, wouldn't you rather be better at it? To achieve better results and to enjoy the time spent? I knew you would.

There was one thing that was admirable about this person and their practice. They were putting in the time. Nothing would have happened otherwise. But within that time many things happen. And I think for many practice time is experienced as a long drudgery, as simply playing the piece many times until the timer goes off and you can quit. Paradoxically, if you are able to get more mentally involved in the specifics of your practice, while you will be more tired more quickly, you also will spend less time wondering when it will be over. It is even possible, occasionally, to approach a state of fun, while practicing. Really!

Happy practicing. See you back here next week.

Monday, January 14, 2019

anonymous, or teacher's revenge

There was the time when my teacher wanted me to listen to a recording of a piece I was working on. I did, and at the next lesson he asked about it. Who was the pianist? I couldn't remember. He told me that he hoped that some day I made a recording and nobody could remember my name.

I think it is fair to say he has been avenged many times over by my freshman neglect. There is probably somebody somewhere in the world right now listening to me play the piano who has no idea who I am and does not care. Or  have an uphill battle to find out even if they did.

Back in the halcyon days before Google bought out Webalyzer, I could find out who in the world was listening to my music, what country they were from, what they listened to, how much of it they listened to, and whether or not they ever visited my web site.

The last part may seem like a bit of a head scratcher, until I explain that there are many services on the web which serve to connect listeners with whatever they want to listen to, without themselves providing any of the content. If somebody types in "Schubert," they provide lots of links to recordings of something by Schubert from all over the web. Hot links, we call them. This is because you can then listen to those files without ever leaving the host's website. You can then play the content from the site you--er, borrowed the content from, such as pianonoise, and never actually visit the site itself. They don't ask the webmasters' permission to include the files, they just gather them from all over the internet. I don't consider that particularly ethical, especially if they don't mention their source and give the listener at least a fair chance to go to that site if they liked the content, but it would be an entirely new epoch in human history if most people didn't do whatever they could get away with for their own benefit. 

At any rate, the bulk of my listeners come through these mega-sites, which, considering the recordings are free anyway, does at least mean my music is being shared with a larger public than I could get it to myself. And quite a few of these people might never be able to communicate with my written words anyway because they aren't from English speaking countries. For some reason, I noticed several years ago, I seem to be fairly popular in China.

At least, that is the way it was. Now that Google has taken over everything, I no longer have the ability to measure some of these things, and have a lot fuzzier idea about who is listening and to what. It is only when I go and look at the daily log files (which is a pain in the butt and is the reason there are analytics programs that are supposed to summarize all the information in easy chart form) that I get an idea that I might still have thousands of listeners after all. No idea where they are from anymore. Or whether they liked anything.

A lot has changed since the nineties, but much has not. Most human communication is still relatively anonymous. Of all the persons of history, few even have names. Most have their stories misrepresented, or told for the benefit of the tellers. Most authors never meet their readers, nor do their readers know anything about them. The bulk of the music on this site was written by people I'll never meet because they are dead. And although I am the odd fish who generally does some research to find out who these people were (and with age have developed a better capacity to store, and know about, the various names and biographies of the persons who bring the music to me), some of them still elude my sleuthing and remain anonymous. 

For example, who wrote this number, one of the oldest pieces on the site, composed around 1360, for the organ? None of us will ever know, though I'm glad they did. 

listen to Estampie from the Robertsbridge Codex by anonymous

If you haven't had your Monday morning coffee yet, you might be also.

Friday, January 11, 2019

You know, it, and stuff

I played something by George Muffat on the organ last weekend.

If you're curious, the piece was the sixth Toccata in F Major from his Apparatus Musicus, which despite the title, does not require the flexibility of a gymnast, but is a good group of pieces nonetheless. I played it a few years ago also, when I made this recording, and while it may not be the finest piece in the organ literature (despite what the editor of my edition may think) I can think of worse ways to spend nine minutes.


Generally, I do a certain amount of research into a composer and their works, particularly if I am writing program notes to go with the performance, but also because I am a curious person. Not that the research is always that scholarly: sometimes I haunt the library for books and articles, or go to the Grove Dictionary online, or....

I just went to Wikipedia, ok?

It's what I found there that was interesting. As of the 3rd of January, this is how the article opened:

Georg Muffat (1 June 1653 – 23 February 1704) was a Baroque composer and organist. He is most well known for the remarkably articulate and informative performance directions printed along with his collections of string pieces Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum (First and Second Bouquets) in 1695 and 1698.

Did you get that? He is best known, says the author, for his performance instructions! Not his music, or his organ playing, but instructions to performers. I hope he isn't taking it too hard.

While that may seem trivial, I imagine there are a lot of string players in particular who are in his debt. A lot of composers tend to write the notes, and just assume the people around them will know how to play them. This is a relatively safe assumption. But suppose your music survives into another century, or travels to different countries where knowledge about the customary ways to approach music in your culture, or in your particular philosophical approach are not known. In that case, it really isn't a bad idea to have a detailed set of instructions, at least for those who want to play the music the way the composer intended, rather than just assuming they (the players) know that they are doing.

I've written about performance instructions before. Composers like Erik Satie, in the 20th century, often wrote whimsical instructions that often don't seem to make any sense. Before him, composers were sometimes making statements of nationalist pride simply by writing tempo markings and expression markings in their own languages instead of inclining to Italian.

In the baroque era, however, there were not that many detailed instructions to begin with. Bach often didn't leave any. Even his teaching method breaks off after a few pages and he remarks that the rest "can be transmitted orally."

It can't now, can it?

Muffat, on the other hand, may or may not have studied under the famous Jean-Baptist Lully, and must have taken really good notes, so that when it came time for his own compositions, he could give us a rather unique insight into an important corner of the literature that is too far removed from our own practices to safely assume we don't need the help.

So I take my metaphorical hat off to Mr. Muffat, one of a few outliers on whom musicologists can rely for useful information about the past, that foreign country where, we are told, people do things so differently.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Come on! You've got this!

You can do it! Keep it up! You've got this! Go for it! Chase that dream!

It's a little odd how our species is capable of offering generic advice that can travel the world and be seen by other members who are completely unknown to the person giving the advice; as is the time of day, the circumstances of their day, and their mental state at the time.

But heck, a lot of people make a good living offering positive, affirming support to people they barely know, and presumably those folks are grateful for it. And now, in the middle of January, seems as good a time as ever to be putting it out there.

That's because I assume many of you made resolutions to practice the piano more this year, and, let's face it, right about now, that moment of euphoria when you made the decision and thought about how wonderful it would be when the results poured in, is probably wearing off, and the road is getting a little rough. Your schedule is probably not helping, and if you haven't got a long history of practice, so is your resolve.

So I say: keep going! Tough it out! You can do it, unknown person!

Sure, there's a little bit of humor in it: people who gather at the roadsides for marathons with those encouraging signs sometimes put on them "Go, random stranger!" which may or may not be all that helpful, but a little silliness helps sometimes, too.

I can tell you this, however. It's bound to get hard. And you are most definitely going to have to work harder than you thought you would to get the results you want. You will have to repeat that first measure many more times than you think anybody should have too. And you will think you must be stupid for not getting it sooner. Unless I'm the only one.

I doubt it. And since I'm a professional pianist and have the results of all that work to prove it, I'm not so embarrassed to say that today, tomorrow, and every day I practice (which is nearly every day and for several hours) I never get things learned and fluid as fast as I would like.

So swallow that pride and keep working. And when you skip a day because you thought you'd practice EVERY day but you just couldn't that one day, dust yourself off, and keep going. Because if you really want it, you're going to fail, a lot. And you have to get tough. And when it isn't that much fun, you have to learn to tolerate that, work through it, and flex those muscles, because eventually you will learn to be able to practice longer and harder, but only if you condition those mental muscles of yours to accept the pain of trying hard to do something that is just out of your reach.

Ultimately, you'll need to learn to practice smarter, too, not just forever. That's where teachers help. Also, this blog will visit that question many times in the coming months.

But for now, it's kick in the pants time!

So stop wasting time reading this and get back to Chopin! (or whomever).

I'll be here later. But for now, get practicing!

Monday, January 7, 2019

moving on

I'm going to throw a few more words at Christmas.

It ends tonight for me. Epiphany was yesterday, and I like to keep my cyber-decorations and music up until the sanctified end. Also, there are some persons of my acquaintance who are Orthodox, and their Christmas is in January 7th, so I leave them up another 24 hours because, why not?

The tree and the decorations in the house may or may not have made it that long, the cookies may have long since been digested, the work week has long since resumed, but I can do what I wish with my digital address, and I choose this way.

There is some anxiety to what happens after the festive season disappears. Some people I've talked to consider the holiday a series of obligations, and a rush to fulfill them all. They are glad to just have the whole thing over with. Some years, as a musician at Christmas, I could understand that.

It's still unfortunate, though, and says something about the nature of our celebrating. Like, maybe we aren't doing it right? Too much work, too little reflection, too much cynicism, that sort of thing? Too much gulping, not enough chewing?

When the decorations are gone the place usually looks bare. And then we have the Narnia effect, which is what happens when you have to face a world that is cold, and dark, and overcast, and often brutal, and there are no lights and songs and cookies. That's a world in which it seems like it is "always winter, and never Christmas." I've often said that I which Christmas would come later, more in the middle of winter, for that reason. But as society rushes things more and more, it just gets earlier. The carols and the lights go up before there is a need in the northern hemisphere to even light your way.

But the way we treat the holiday itself reminds me of a piano teacher who reminded me (as all teachers remind their young students) that once I'd crescendoed to the climax, not to come off it too early. Stay there, I was told. You worked hard to get there. Revel in it for a moment. Don't just evaporate right away.

So I've been spending some time on top of that seasonal mountain we've all been trying to get to for so long. The difficult part is over. Sit and soak. Look at the tree. Enjoy some more cocoa. Ponder.

Eventually, though, it is time to move on. And that time is tonight.
this means you have a few more hours to listen to the Christmastide program on PianonoiseRadio. I'll take it down around 10 p.m., after I get home from the organist's guild post-Christmas party. If you missed it, there will be a pleasant hour of piano music in its place for January.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Snow on the mountain

Over the holidays, I had a performance in a neighboring state, and a lady came up afterward to say nice things. 

She was impressed that I had "snow on the mountain."

To persons of my generation this sounds like a maneuver from "the Karate Kid" but it actually refers to the fine art of curving one's fingers. A piano teacher of hers from decades past had told her that her hand ought to be sufficiently posed so that snow could accumulate on the back of the hand, thus "snow on the mountain."

I've not heard this one before. And I spent enough time studying with persons from the Fleischer school (like Fleischer) or other Americans (like the Serkin branch) who maintain that the fingers should be relatively (though not completely) flat (that is, only a slight curve), that it was a little bit of a surprise. Not completely. I realize my fingers are still somewhat curved. In years past (pre-college) they were probably more curved than they are now, but that was owing partially to my study with a Chinese student who stressed the curvation. 

In any case, it works. I find myself less strict on doctrine these days and more interested in what works. I find it difficult to imagine that one can get by without a certain amount of snow accumulating on the hands, but I would not set a minimum recommended snow accumulation there.

It is interesting what persons will pick up on. One person many years ago commented in an amateur setting that they could tell I knew what I was doing as soon as I put my hands on the keys, before I even played a note.

That should tell us something. And what it should tell us is that there is a reason we pay our teachers money to teach us. Some of these things don't come naturally, though they feel natural after the fact. 

At any rate, this is my first, re-gifted advice for the new year.

Remember to make sure you have "snow on the mountain."

And don't make too loud a noise while it is up there! You don't want to start an avalanche.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

bla-bla-bla-bla-blaaa bla bla bla blaaaa! (to the tune of Deck the Halls)

It's a Christmas trogladition.

You fellow cavers know what I mean. The rush is over, the stress is over, the holiday season is (mostly) over, and...whew! Let's all retreat into our caves and just sit and think. Or just sit.

I'll start things off with a momentous pronouncement....

I think I ate too much fudge.

We have a seven-person staff at Third Church (at least) and I decided to make peanut-butter fudge for them all for Christmas, deposited in pretty little colored bags in the church kitchen. Well, you have to taste each batch to make sure it came out all right. That is called quality control.

I think my clothes still fit.

And the way I make fudge is not an exact science. I don't necessarily put in a known quantity of each item. I simply dump some in until it tastes right. That is what is known as "fudging."

You've just learned something etymologically profound.

You can see how, under such a scheme, it would be completely necessary to do a lot of tasting. And if it turned out that you had made a little too much, that has to end up in your refrigerator as well, and, well, you can't just throw it out. so...

There was also the raisin wine at the party, which was quite good, and of which I only had enough to make my cat slightly drunk.* On me, though, it produced a strong headache the next day.

We went home to the relatives after Christmas, and practice the art of decimation on the cookie population. In the less strict sense of the word, of course. I did not only eat one in every ten cookies and leave the rest. But who is keeping statistics?

Well, for reasons of diet or stress release, or just that the good holiday vibes have finally kicked in a little late, or because it's frickin cold outside, I'm not inclined to do much of anythin
g today. So, Hyber-Nation, let's all retreat to our caves and...

You say you have to work today?

That's too bad. I usually write these blogs about a week in advance, and today is the day after Christmas and I'm more than a little listless, but I suppose future me will have managed to dust himself off and leave the cave and get to work, too. There is something nice about a fresh start.

Let's keep telling ourselves that.
*hypothetically, of course.