Decluttering

Fear not, dear readers, I am still here! The past couple of weeks have been busy for me—we’re trying to wrap up the first stage of a project at work—and so I’ve been working and reading and working on a bit of fiction writing.

I’ve also been decluttering. Now, I don’t think I have that much stuff. Compared to a lot of my friends, I’m very decluttered indeed. But there are a fair amount of things I have that I’m not so sure I need anymore. (Did I ever need them in the first place? That is a good question.) As of late, my focus has been on decluttering papers. My papers are stacked in various places throughout my apartment. There are the financial papers on a shelf I use for office supplies and other stuff. There are the old notes I have in a cabinet. And there are the completely old and random papers in my closet.

A couple weeks ago, I found a bunch of old papers from high school in my closet. High school, you guys! I didn’t like high school and so I have no idea why I was even hanging onto these. I put them in the stack to be disposed of, along with some other things from my college graduation (I’ve saved some materials from that event, but I didn’t need three copies of the same exact document). I also found old sheet music I never play anymore, along with a few old music articles that I have no use for.

The biggest thing I decided to declutter, though, are my class notes. Longtime readers will know I was a history major back in the day. I loved my major. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a person who loved that major more than I did. I planned on teaching history and ended up saving a lot of my notes from various history classes.

Except then I left the field and found something else to do. Don’t get me wrong—I still love history. I read history books, both nonfiction and fiction, and would like to write some historical fiction of my own someday. But it’s been over five years since I last took a formal history class. Did I really need a bunch of old history class notes hanging around? For ages, I’ve thought the answer to that was yes, but today I realized the answer is probably no, so the old notes are in the to-be-disposed-of pile right now. I saved a few papers I wrote that made me happy, but that’s it. There’s no point in keeping some notes around that I haven’t read in nearly ten years.

This goes for electronic version of notes as well. During my freshman year in college, I typed all my notes. I switched to handwritten notes during sophomore year, but I still had old Word documents from freshman year sitting on my hard drive. Those are now in the trash on my computer. I hadn’t opened those since 2008 or 2009. Did I really need that? Obviously, the answer is no.

What I didn’t expect is how good I feel after deciding to get rid of all these papers (and computer files). I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much they were dragging me down until they, well, weren’t anymore. Seriously, the cathartic and therapeutic value of decluttering is seriously underrated. If you want a quick pick-me-up, go declutter something. It doesn’t have to take hours. I do it in fifteen to thirty minute spurts and I always feel great afterwards.

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Wednesday Music: Debussy’s ‘Suite Bergamasque’

I realized recently that I don’t think I’ve ever posted about a piece by French composer Claude Debussy. I don’t think I’ve played his work and I’m pretty sure he’s best known for his piano pieces (and I don’t play the piano). Nevertheless, his omission from Wednesday Music is a mistake that must be rectified. Therefore, today’s piece is Debussy’s Suite bergamasque. Here’s a bit about it.

  • The suite has four movements and even if you think you haven’t heard of it, you actually may have. The third movement is called “Clair de lune,” which is one of Debussy’s most famous pieces. I actually thought it was a single piece by itself—I didn’t realize it was part of a suite.
  • Debussy composed the suite around 1890, but revised it heavily before it was published in 1905. His revisions included changing the names of two of the movements. The fourth movement, “Passapied,” was originally called “Pavane.” The third movement, “Clair de lune,” was originally called “Promenade sentimentale.”
  • Musically, the style of “Clair de lune” (I actually wanted to make the post just about “Clair de lune” but then I discovered there are other movements, too) is French impressionism. I was unaware the was an impressionist movement in music too. I’ve only heard about it in the context of painting.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

A Labor Day Weekend in Bullet Points

  • I don’t feel like writing a traditional, proper posts with paragraphs because I’m tired, so I thought I’d use bullet points instead. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’ve been tired all day.
  • I didn’t really do anything for Labor Day Weekend and it was kind of glorious. I mainly lounged around and read. In fact, I binge-read a Michael Crichton book (Sphere) because I basically could not put it down. I also needed to vacuum but I didn’t get around to that, but it’s no big loss. 😉
  • The weather here has been gorgeous for the past several days. Very low humidity, which is amazing. I’m always surprised at how much humidity can ruin an otherwise nice day.
  • I went on a trip to Arizona recently (last weekend, including Monday and Tuesday as well, making it a long weekend). I was so tired that I slept for eleven hours on Friday night. I will post pictures at some point—I haven’t even gone through all the ones I took on my phone! But rest assured I plan to create a photo gallery.
  • I haven’t been writing fiction very much lately, so I’m going to go work on a novel after I type this post. I also have an idea for a historical fiction detective story that I’m eager to brainstorm and write. I always brainstorm with a pen and paper—because I’m old-fashioned like that—and it can be really relaxing to just sit and handwrite.

Wednesday Music: Mussorgsky’s ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’

Wednesday Music is back, everyone! Since the poll I conducted last week was overwhelmingly in favor of it—well, it’s here to stay, at least for a while.

This week’s piece is Modest Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.” Here’s a bit about it.

  • This piece is actually part of a larger work Mussorgsky wrote for piano called Pictures at an Exhibition. It is made up of ten movements and five promenades, for a total of fifteen parts.
  • The original name of this piece in Russian isn’t actually “The Great Gate of Kiev.” It’s usually translated into other languages that way—for example, in French, it’s called La grande porte de Kiev. The Russian title is Богатырские ворота (В стольном городе во Киеве). That more closely means “The bogatyrs’ gate in the capital city in Kiev.” A bit wordy, for sure!
  • Even though this piece was written for piano, the video I have embedded below is an arrangement for orchestra. I usually try to go with whatever the composer intended when I choose the videos—as in, if it was written for piano, I’ll find the piano version—but I really wanted to share an arrangement this time because I played this piece in youth orchestra years ago. I’ve actually never listened to the piano version.

Enjoy!

Click here to listen on YouTube.

When To Quit Reading A Book

At what point when you’re reading a book and not enjoying it do you call it quits?

When I was younger, I never quit books. Even if I despised them, I kept reading and stuck it through to the bitter end. This was pre-Goodreads days, so I didn’t even get to do any cathartic venting online when I didn’t like something.

After I started working and had limited time to read, I started being more picky about what I read through to the end. Plus, I enjoyed the freedom of not being in school anymore. In school, I had to read a lot of books, many of which I didn’t like. But they were required for class, so not reading them wasn’t really an option. (Unless I wanted a bad grade, which obviously I didn’t.)

Suddenly, after I started working, I realized there were a lot of books I just didn’t want to read. Moreover, I realized it wasn’t a bad thing that I didn’t want to read them. If I started something and just couldn’t get into it, I would dump it.

I still do this. My local library has a fantastic ebook collection and I’ve started many books that I didn’t end up finishing. It’s actually liberating because it means I have more time to read what I want. This doesn’t mean that I don’t force myself to read difficult books. I’m slowly working my way through Jane Austen’s works. I think they’re difficult reads, but I still enjoy reading them.

At least the cover is cool?

No, the type of books I’m talking about quitting are ones like Red Queen. Years ago, everyone was talking about this book. I decided to read it last year—only to put it down in disgust after a few chapters. I just couldn’t get into it. I figured it wasn’t for me.

Earlier this year, one of my coworkers said her sister recommended it to her. My coworker hasn’t read it, but said her sister loved it. I decided to try it again. I made it a bit further than last time, but I still didn’t get very far.

Last week, I saw that the library had the audiobook version of Red Queen available. I’ve been somewhat getting into audiobooks lately, so I thought I’d give this book yet another try. Third time’s the charm, right?

You’ve got to give me some credit: I made it over halfway through this time. I still ended up abandoning this book, though. I just don’t care for it. I think the plot is dumb and the characters are like cardboard. I know it sold well, so obviously I’m missing something here. I guess it’s just not my kind of book. And that’s okay because I will spend time reading books that are my kind of books.

When do you quit reading a book if you don’t like it? Have you read Red Queen? If you have and you liked it, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. When I look at good reviews of it online, I feel like everyone who wrote a good review read a different book than the one I did!

The Dark Ages

You guys, the unthinkable has happened: my microwave broke. It’s a GE, so that’s no surprise. A part in the door cracked and the door rattled when I closed it. Then I opened it and closed it and the entire door broke. The glass front part of the door slipped down and the door won’t shut.

The good news is my apartment complex is going to replace it for free. The bad news is they don’t have any in storage, so they’ll have to order one and that’ll take several days to come in.

Sigh. I’m stuck back in the dark ages now, everyone. I have to use my stove or the oven to heat up things. The horror! 😉

The Eclipse! An Update.

Okay, people, I’ve just got to say that the eclipse was a big fat disappointment, at least in my town! It barely even got dark! Actually, it didn’t get dark at all. The sun was noticeably dimmer, so I guess I had my experience of what it would be like to live on a different planet further away from the sun (which is pretty cool, since living on different planets is a common theme in science fiction). But as I said, it wasn’t even dark!

I did get a cool picture of the shadows of leaves as the eclipse was taking place.

Click to see larger

Apparently that crescent shape only happens during an eclipse. I didn’t even realize it at the time—I just thought it looked cool.

And no, I did not look up at the sun. A lot of my coworkers had those eclipse glasses, but, like I said before, I just didn’t trust them. (The glasses, I mean, not my coworkers.) The only way I would look directly at an eclipse is if I had access to a telescope in an astronomy department of a university. I’d trust that to be properly shielded.

Meanwhile, my best friend went to a town that was in the path of the total eclipse. This is what she saw.

Click to see larger

Now that I think about it, it was still a pretty cool experience. Practically everyone working in the part of town where my office is turned out to see it and that was neat.