Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stop already!

Look, I know this means little to the rest of the world, but I really just have to practice.

I've got this show coming up where I have to *not* suck. It's kind of a big deal to me. You see, it isn't that everyone's problems/issues/gripes/paranoias are unimportant. It's just that I can't fix them all RIGHT THIS MINUTE, okay?

I just need to practice. Only for an hour or two. Without the urgent phone calls and e-mails telling me that all hell is breaking loose. Okay? PLEASE?!?!?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Spent the morning playing a Memorial Day tribute at a nearby park. One of the speakers commented on the number of townspeople who died in WWII, to the effect that we should be proud of the relative size of our city's sacrifice. It got me thinking about the slippery slope of martyrdom; where, exactly, do we draw the line between self-sacrifice for the values we hold as a nation, and the glorification of these lives lost without an equally critical examination of that expense to our country?

On one point I will agree: these men and women deserve to be remembered for their nobility in ensuring our country's security. However, we owe these most loyal of patriots owe the duty of ensuring that failed policies are acknowledged and changed before more legions of their peers are lost, and before "victory" becomes something that can only be effected by spin doctoring.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Where's the "pause" button?

I need one on my life.

Today was a drag. This is the part of the academic quarter when everything shifts into overdrive. The strategy classes turn in term papers and are doing three-a-day decisions, the Principles of Management class is getting ready for final exams and presentations, and everyone is wiped out from the combination of stress and exhaustion. My final exams are pretty much ready to go, but 2/3 of the term papers I've been expecting just landed on my desk, and it's freaking me out just to see the size of the pile sitting there, knowing that I'll be getting forty more tomorrow. And today is Monday, so I had the six-hour lecture gauntlet to run, which was made immeasurably worse by technological glitches. How can I possibly have tech problems in a classroom setting, you ask? Well, in a 21st-century college of business, it's assumed that we will teach our graduates to use (and stay abreast of) current technology, and as such we try to integrate it in our classes. Trouble is, there's a point at which technology is so much a part of your methods that it's indispensible, and then when you arrive at a classroom to find that the faculty workstation you use for lectures and/or simulation just bought the farm, it can be dammed difficult to improvise something on the spot. This happened to me not once, but TWICE today. It's especially maddening when you see evidence that the system is in the process of being worked on (like, it's in pieces), but nobody thought to warn the professors who were going to have to actually *teach a class* in that room today. Even with a heads-up it still would have sucked, but a few minutes' warning is still better than nothing.

I'm sure anyone who teaches in a K-12 classroom probably rolls their eyes when I rant about stuff like this. And there used to be a time (in my previous life as a corporate drone) when I would have had backups at the ready in case something like this happened. But there's a big difference between putting on a few presentations a year and doing several longer ones each week... I just don't have the time to plan for every contingency like this. Especially when I'm in the last part of the academic term, where there's no room for schedule adjustments. Argh.

I wish I could say that music was going swimmingly by contrast, but it seems that the overload just seems to screw that up, too. This became apparent at last week's lesson, when I just couldn't demonstrate any noticeable progress on some of the things I was working on. Clearly, I just haven't had the kind of practice time I had in previous months, and although the results were certainly predictable, that doesn't make me any less frustrated about the situation. Put simply, I'm burned out, and it's spilling over into EVERYTHING.

But enough of the self-pity, since it's just an unproductive use of even more time I can't spare. There was a Twilight Zone episode once where a guy had a stopwatch that would stop time when he pressed the right button. I used to wonder what I'd do if I had a watch like that. Now I just wonder if I'd have the energy to do anything at all...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Random thoughts on a Friday afternoon...

In no particular order...

1. Contrary to popular opinion, the folks at the IRS really *are* a bunch of ill-mannered thugs who attempt to bluff taxpayers into bending over upon demand (nice try, a$$holes).

2. Auto insurance companies are pretty much in the same league as the IRS, except they use their incompetence as their modus operandi, figuring if they ignore/frustrate you long enough, you'll forget they haven't paid your claim.

3. Friday traffic sucks, especially headed eastbound from LA/Pasadena. And I have to play in Glendora tonight. :(

4. It's the time of year again when working dogs shed the heavy undercoat they've been cultivating all winter. I vacuumed yesterday, and the living room already looks like a raccoon exploded in it.

5. Students never read the syllabi and class schedules provided by their well-meaning-but-hopelessly-unrealistic professors each quarter. And while acceptance of this fundamental truth *should* save me a lot of gray hair and gnashing of teeth when I get the e-mails, it never seems to work out that way.

6. A flat indoor surface exerts a substantially stronger gravitational pull on dust particles than on any other object. Conversely, that same surface tends to repel objects containing high concentrations of sugar, alcohol, tomato sauce, or fragile glass.

Did I mention that Friday afternoon traffic sucks?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The calm before the storm...

This has been sort of a light week. Got through Monday-afternoon-hell, got through Tuesday morning, and got all the online assignments wrapped up by Wednesday afternoon. That leaves prep for next week, which I'll probably get going on tomorrow. I should also work ahead a bit, since the next three weeks are going to be packed. Next week: extended office hourse to work with students on term papers. The following two weeks: grading said term papers (12 pages times 110 students... I don't even want to think about it). After that, final exams and project grading. Maybe I'll be able to sleep again sometime in June...

One of the things I'm using the extra time for is to evaluate new strategic management simulation programs. The one I've been using is buggy and, well.... WAY outdated. So much so that I find myself coming up with ways to incorporate its obsolescence into assignments. Given that technology is a cornerstone of strategy, it's kind of embarrassing--but fortunately, I've been given the green light to adopt another if I choose. Yeah, it's a giant hassle to switch, but I'll live. The other thing I'm doing this week is practicing as much as I can. I probably won't have much time for it in the next couple of weeks, so I'm gonna make some hay while there are still weeds to cut. :-)

Speaking of time management, my iPod has turned out to be a valuable tool in that area, since it helps me be productive during the hour-long (each way) commute to work. Things I wouldn't otherwise do as well as I should--like keep up with news--are easier now since I just download the stuff as podcasts and take 'em on the road. With that in mind, here are a few more reviews/recommendations:

Manager Tools - This podcast by Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne covers a lot of the things young managers probably wish they knew more about, but were afraid to ask. Great listening material for my survey class.

NPR: Car Talk - Finally, the entire show is available by podcast. Yeahh!

NBC Meet the Press - The entire show, in the form of a videocast. Great way to keep up with current events in idle moments.

Science Friday: Making Science Radioactive - Useful science news, some of which has to do with environment and policy. Good stuff.

BusinessWeek Global Outlook: Keeps me well-informed on, well... global business issues.

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Current events having to do with foreign affairs. Very provacative.

... and in the area of disappointments... Video Podcast - For some reason, the black humor that works well in the posters doesn't appear to translate well to video. Probably not worth the download time.

Geek Girl TV - Being one myself, I *really* tried to like this. But after two tries, I can't get through a single episode. Sorry.

All are available on iTunes. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wow... what a week.

There are weeks when you conquer, and others in which you are happy to survive. This turned out to be the latter, but it's Thursday night with a weekend of playing lined up, so all is well. Tomorrow night Chadwick Williams (my R&B group) is playing at the Derby, then Saturday and Sunday I'm playing in the San Diego area with the LAPD Concert Band. That's legit stuff, but it's fun and a good workout for the flute and piccolo chops.

Had a great lesson this morning--went over a couple of uptempo tunes, trying now to apply some of the altered and extended chords I've been working on. It was good to get back to playing tunes--the drills are very useful, but sometimes you just gotta blow. I've also been working a bit on some Bob Mintzer funk etudes--they're challenging, but a lot of fun to play. After getting my tenor worked on and finding a setup that plays well for me I'm starting to get some mojo happening on that horn, so I've been practicing it more these days. It's really cool that all of a sudden, these other things are falling into place so readily. It makes me think the practicing is paying off.

Work is exhausting, but I'm done for the week and in too good a mood to worry much about it. I've been contacted about classes for next quarter, so it would seem that things are going well. If they don't, it won't be for lack of effort on my part...

For now, though, I'm fading fast and need some sleep. Rehearsal tomorrow morning for the shows this weekend... not a bad way to kick 'em off.