Monday, December 6, 2010


So if you get this before I post the video linking to it, congratulations, you dedicated blogospheric Limonshirian! And if you get this from my video... well... I suppose it's time to get to the bulk of the substance in this post.

According to the "my videos" page, the last time I posted a video was November 8, 2010. Holy smokes, that was a long time ago. Curiously enough, that video was on improper use of the word "random" and has inspired several people to let me know every time they adjust their syntax to incorporate a more accurate synonym for "random." It made me feel both that I knew what I was talking about and that people actually agree with me. That was pretty uplifting and humbling!

Anyway, this video was posted just two days before I took (and passed) my hearing for my senior recital. Essentially, this entailed my playing through specific, indicative portions of my senior recital for a panel of faculty members who decide whether or not they want to allow me to represent the school by performing my recital on stage. For those of you who don't know, every music undergraduate at my university has to give a senior recital of about 40 or 50 minutes, and performance majors have to give a junior recital as well. It's basically the biggest rite of passage for any music student, equivalent to a senior thesis or other such project.

Following this recital hearing, I had to turn in a 15-page music history research paper on the topic of my choosing (mine being a cultural analysis of a lute textbook from 1610.) On the same day, I had to turn in a music education take-home final, which also ended up being about 15 pages long for me. This final involved things like writing a handout explaining to high school students how to practice, writing a playing test for every instrument in the band on a specific piece of music (including a rubric for a performance assessment and a written test on theory, history, etc.), and writing out how I would go about teaching intermediate players how to improve their rhythm.

After this, I gave my senior recital, of which there IS video and audio which I am trying to prepare to upload on YouTube, but technology is not working with me! In any case, it was largely a success, though there was a sort of meager audience showing due to it being the weekend before Thanksgiving break.

Clearly, then, it would follow that I went on Thanksgiving break, where I was in a party house with my Dad's side of the family, including his seven siblings, their spouses and families, and of course the family matriarch. The spread for Thanksgivingdinner, according to my aunt's facebook status, was "4 kinds of brie, cowboy caviar, TWO turkeys, stuffing & gravy, sweet potato casserole, mashed potato casserole, creamed onions, mandarin green beans ... salad, frozen cranberry yum, apple bread, baguette flatbreads, and FIVE pies." Yes. It was tasty.

While walking on the beach, we saw a great deal of erosion which had caused several former beach-front houses to become beach-behind houses; most of them were only 25 or so years old. It was pretty dismal to be walking down this already-empty beach with the overcast skies and run into that many condemned houses. It was also incredibly tempting to break into them and have general shenanigans... but I was able to contain myself.

In any case, it was exactly the break I needed from what had turned out to be a VERY stressful few weeks. Now, last week was where things got a little hard to explain; I had few classes and not a lot of work, but somehow my time disappeared! I wasn't even being lazy for the most part. I just found ways to occupy myself with things I should have been doing other than making videos. There was one day when there was just too much background noise in my house to record a proper video, so I couldn't do it, but that was only Friday. Saturday and Sunday I was at work all day--Saturday, in fact, I went straight from noon to 10PM with no breaks. So at least I made bank in time for Christmas.

So that brings us up to today, when I did upload a video. Or at least I'm hoping so. As I write this, it's encoding on my computer and I plan on uploading it as soon as it's done, provided when I watch it I don't find any editing mistakes. Of which there were many. Something about the audio didn't record at the same rate as the video (I've taken to re-dubbing the audio with my good studio microphone) and so that took a lot of effort... so please don't get too upset if the video and audio aren't always perfectly aligned! But that's neither here nor there. Hopefully, at least for a while, there will not be as large of a gap between videos. See you soon!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reducing Stress in 5 Steps!

Now I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of an expert in being stressed out. Some of you may remember last October and November, and then again in March when anxiety problems got the best of me. I'm starting to feel a lot of the same symptoms again because of all of the crazy things that happen around midterm in my more-than-stupidly-busy schedule, but I'm so much more prepared this time because of my willingness to seek out help the last times it happened. I figured many people can relate, but don't exactly know where to start bettering their habits and moods, so I'm going to give a list of things I do to help with stress. I can promise you they work, too--this semester has had the most that is expected of me, and still I don't feel nearly as stressed as I did last fall or spring. So here goes!

1. Talk to people about your problems. Nothing puts things in perspective better than just hearing yourself articulate them, and the people who care about you can give you wonderful perspectives. Make sure that at least some of these people you actually meet with IRL--I know it's easy for us internet folk to stick to our computers in our room, but meeting with real people, hugging the stress out, all that cheesy stuff ACTUALLY WORKS!

2. Organize yourself. A little bit of planning, a little bit of a neater work environment, and attacking problems with a clear goal in mind can make a huge difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of getting lots of tasks done. This also means that you want to go at things one-at-a-time; you may think multitasking is efficient, but it's really just rationalized distraction! A good, focused, thoughtful approach to one task can get the task done better and faster.

3. Take breaks. I once timed my activities for the day and found out that I have a tendency to spend four to six hours a day being non-productively awake. However, upon further examination, I found out that several of those hours actually were productive, but in different ways--it takes time to wake up, to go to sleep (discussed later), to eat meals, etc., and those are important activities. After subtracting all of those, I found that I spent one hour being entirely unproductive (i.e., napping, on the internet, watching TV, etc.) I fully expected to convince myself that this hour needed to be filled with work because I have so much to do. This turned out to be the opposite of what actually happened--I realized that this hour is a pivotal one in which my brain recovers so as to be able to do the work it needs to do. So, let me reiterate: TAKE BREAKS. THEY ARE IMPORTANT.

4. This one's a biggie: get adequate sleep, and if this is difficult for you, adhere to a strict bedtime routine. I have the blessing and the curse of being a light sleeper; it means I have trouble going to sleep at night, but it also means that when my alarm goes off in the morning I can pop right out of bed. This resulted in a lot of early-morning work and a lot of mid-afternoon burnout. My bedtime routine saved my life. It is as follows:

a. Shower (usually starting between 10:00 and 10:30). For me, this is a great way to put a barrier between work and sleep--I make sure to check everything I need to on my computer before I shower, shut off my computer, and do not turn it back on until I wake up the following morning.

b. Journal. I keep a journal where I literally just purge my brain of everything running through it. This has several benefits: 1) I often end up working out things that have been bothering me, which means I don't toil over them as I go to sleep; 2) Anything I worry about remembering to do the next day comes to light, and I can add it to my planner; 3) I usually end up deciding that every day was a good day, no matter what happened, and that makes me go to sleep content--and trust me, I've had some pretty bad days.

c. Read. After journaling, getting engrossed in a book seals the deal of just turning my brain off to worries. I like to do this laying in my bed, so that I'm already beginning to doze off. A word to the wise, though: psychologists say that your bed should only be used for sleep and sex. If you find yourself awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something until you are tired enough to go to sleep. You want to classically condition yourself, essentially, to associate your bed only with what it's made for so that you can speed up the process of getting to sleep.

d. Sleep! It's that easy. I used to take forever to actually get to sleep, and now I hardly remember anything after I turn my light out and roll over. I generally need 7-8 hours to actually feel good the next day, but this can be different for everybody. I am dubious of anybody who says they can adequately run on six or fewer hours, though.

5. If something is really, really weighing on your mind, write a two lists: in one, write everything that worries about it; in the other, write what you can do about every point listed in the other. If the answer is "nothing," then what use is there in worrying about it? And if there is a solution, why not go and do something about it? The effort itself can relieve your stress.

And now I suppose I should get back to my 4,000 word research project due on Thursday. No wait! I shouldn't. It's bedtime!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


There's a guy in my music history class who's incredibly socially awkward and apparently quite bad with names. He was my partner for the first-day ice breaker exercise where we had to introduce ourselves to each other and then introduce each other to the class. I guess because of our connection through this exercise, he is extra-sure of himself, but strangely enough is entirely wrong: he thinks my name is Max.

Now, normally I would have corrected someone who has my name wrong early on in order to save them the embarrassment , but something stopped me this time.

It could have to do with the fact that when I was little, Max was among the top three coolest names in my head (the higher-up ones being Chris and Greg.) It could have to do with the fact that he's just so awkward that it's funny to have that moment with someone else when they get that look on their face like "What did he just call you?"

But honestly, I think it has more to do with the fact that when he calls me Max, I get to be, if only for a brief second, someone else. I get to be an idealized version of myself. I get to fabricate a life that helps me forget momentarily that I am human.

You see, Max wouldn't have the stresses that seem to be plaguing me. Max wouldn't worry that the money he's spending on the food he needs for the week would prevent him from buying the reeds he needs for the month. Max doesn't go to sleep at night feeling like the work that he's done that day is only a fraction of what he needs to have done when he wakes up. Max keeps in touch with his friends, no matter how much time it takes, because he realizes that they're more important than the facts he arbitrarily has to memorize. Max gets in the hour of exercise he needs to feel healthy. Max makes delicious meals quickly with fresh ingredients. Max is spontaneous and doesn't worry too much about the consequences of letting his hair down for a bit. Max is on top of all the paperwork he has to be doing. Max doesn't feel guilty for being the biggest expense to a family that's just run into some trouble. Max has a plan for next year and is taking steps toward it.

Unfortunately, Max isn't real. And the second someone says "Hey Steve!" they snap me back to reality, and I have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot say all that about myself. I have to accept the fact that I'm imperfect, that people expect more of me now than it's physically possible for me to supply. I have to face the world knowing that I'm entirely unprepared. Once I leave college, and most likely the country, I know that nothing I've done the last four years has actually prepared me for what I will experience, with the exception of how to do my job.

But maybe I'll take a page from Max's book and see it as an opportunity for adventure.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Not gonna lie, I'm not so sure about this commitment...

Yeah, so you may have noticed that over a week ago I recommitted to my routine. You also may have noticed that the blogs stopped happening and you lost all count of whether I was achieving my goals. That's because, in short, I wasn't achieving any of them.

I had this strange problem where I realized I couldn't meet my own ideals because they were... well... too idealistic. I thought I'd be able to bounce back with a few good nights of sleep after nearly two straight weeks of a complete lack of schedule. Crazy enough, it turns out I'm human. I know, right? Here I was thinking I was turning into an efficient machine, and lo and behold, I'm still a person.

I am, however, starting to feel like I'm ready to do my schedule again. The unfortunate thing is that I only have one more week of real summer--then I'm off to Tennessee to hang out with Joey (my best friend of 5 years) for his 21st birthday, which will be, of course, a week-long celebration. After that week, I'm heading back to Bloomington to get ready for school. It's scary, scary stuff.

As such, there are things I need to crack down on: 1. I want to finish the book I'm reading (and have been reading FOREVER because I never seem to be able to focus on books) and at least one more book, hopefully two; 2. I need, need, need to be practicing clarinet as much as possible. Really, everything else has to be secondary to those; however, I should still have time to do German and exercise.

Speaking of exercise, I am but TWO WEEKS away from ending the 100 push-up challenge, and it feels so strange. Suddenly, I'm able to crank out fivce sets of push-ups, each set with more than 20 reps. I started with only 17 push-ups. This just goes to show that anyone, and I mean anyone, can succeed at this challenge if they really want to.

One thing I've also noticed about exercise is that it's just too lofty a goal right now to wake up early to do aerobic exercise, and it's also difficult (but really pleasing when I do!) to take a night run. I'll see about changing this; fortunately, I'll be able to run most hours of the morning in Bloomington!

That's all I really have for today. I'm not sure I can do the daily thing at this point, but I'll definitely try to do it as often as possible!

Sleep: uh....
German: X
Clarinet: X
Reading: not yet... it's in the works.
Exercise: OOUF
Blogging: X

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another cold

This is the second time in two months I've been sick. I don't like it. I don't usually get sick this often... I don't think so, at least.

Anyway, as often happens when I get sick, I start to falter on my goals; I don't know what to think of it this time, because I'm trying to get back on track! I suppose the only thing I can do at the present is sleep, because that's what my body needs to get over this as quickly as possible.

What's most disappointing is that I actually did record music today, and I got a bunch done. I guess the best I can hope for is that I won't have a crackly or low voice tomorrow. It hasn't completely dropped yet, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and drink a lot of tea with honey.

On another note, I have just absolutely loved the response to my new video. I was worried whether people would interpret it as I intended, being mostly funny with a dash of hopeful, or as someone just being an attention whore. The fact that people still seem to understand that I'm just being myself makes me so much more comfortable in Limonshire (as if I wasn't comfortable enough already.)

At least I blogged today, no?

Sleep: X
Clarinet: O
German: O
Exercise: O
Reading: O
Blogging: X

Sunday, July 25, 2010


So it's been a while since I've blogged, and that's kind of brought on (and been brought on by) a wave of inconsistencies in my life. I went to VidCon, and just after somewhat recovering from that, I went to Erica's house for Paige's birthday, so needless to say, my body has been on vacation for about two weeks straight. With approximately one month left until going to school in which I am taking one more week of vacation, I have my work cut out for me.

I figure the best thing to do is to reassess what I am doing and what I want to do. The fact of the matter is that I want to continue all of the projects that I started earlier; clarinet is incredibly important now, exercise needs to be continued, I want to finish my course in German, I need to read a LOT more than I have, and sleep is the only way to get all these done. However, realizing that summer is drawing to a close, I also want to record all the music that I can while I still have access to the instruments at my house, as when I return to school, I will once again only have my clarinets and my piano, and probably no income to get the others. I could, of course, borrow instruments from friends, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

So what this means is that I need to reassess what I've been doing with my time, how to reschedule it without going insane (keeping in mind I *am* still on summer break!), and what goals are reasonable within the constraints I set.

One thing I have noticed is that when I exercise in the morning, it makes my day start so much better, so I am going to continue trying to get out before it's too hot outside for a jog. This is something I've been really slack on since vacation, so I already know I have to get somewhat back in shape. My goal is to also compress the activities into a shorter time span, as I have noticed I spend much of my exercise time lost in thought and not exercising. Hopefully this way I can open up some time for when my brain recovers.

I have also noticed a propensity for sitting mindlessly at the computer, not really watching any videos and not really participating in any community via skype--mostly just sitting. This is probably related to sleep, and I am much closer to being back on schedule, so I am really going to have to be strict again about my sleep schedule.

So what I need to do, basically, is really assess what I'm accomplishing at any given time. I also have to remember that relaxation can be a compliment, but I can only relax if I've done something. That being said, I think I need to be more aware that weekends still exist and I don't have to hold myself to the strictness of daily activities, as suggested by the 30-day numberless calendar.

So here's what I think I'm going to do for a few days: carry a moleskine around and record what I'm doing with starting time and end times. At the end of the day, when I blog, I'll assess (for my own good, not necessarily in the blog) what I spent too much time on and whether what I did was worthwhile. Hopefully this will shed some light on what I can do to get what I want done.

In the meantime, I have lunch to eat and music to record, so I'll catch you guys later!

Sleep: O -- but much closer to an X than in recent history!
Clarinet: once my fingers are tired of guitar
German: once my lips are tired of clarinet
Reading: once my brain is tired of German
Exercise: R
Blogging: X

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Florida Party.

Can't blog. Too much awesome. IRL YouTubers next to my face. Too much love. Good night.

Sleep: X
Reading: X
Exercise: OBLF
Blogging: X?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Steve Angry!

So last night I could not sleep and it was just terrible. I hope I'm still not on VidCon time a week after the fact. In any case, I may have to break down and take the evil Tylenol PM tonight to just force myself to sleep when my body doesn't want to.

Because I slept in, I had to run in the evening, and running has become more and more of a time for my brain to work in rapid-fire mode, and more and more this is where I get my video ideas. Today I just found myself getting angrier and angrier about the way politics are headed right now.

Some of you may not know this, but Florida right now has the worst campaign I have ever seen. I am not even exaggerating. I thought it was a tough choice between John Kerry and George Bush for who was the lesser of two evils, but this one really takes the cake. Unfortunately, I haven't really gathered my thoughts or done much research to be able to make a valid point, so I will not say much, but Rick Scott and Bill McCollum are both the very worst choices for Florida Governor I have ever seen. Fortunately they are both Republican, so I will only have to nix one in the final election. Come to think of it, I don't even know who's running for the Democratic party; all the focus has been on Scott vs. McCollum. See? I need to do my research.

Another issue that just gets my blood boiling is the Arizona Immigration Law. This is just such a clearly inhumane law that I cannot believe it was even considered, let alone passed. For those of you who are unaware, the law essentially states that the state government not only has a right to enforce immigration, but the way that it will do so is by requiring all immigrants to have their immigration papers on their person in order to surrender them should an officer be suspicious. First of all, the state does not have a right to do so. It is clearly stated in the constitution that only the federal government has the right and capacity to enforce international matters. Second of all, this is just straight-up racism and bigotry. What bothers me most is that these are the people who say they're protecting our freedoms and what not. Since when has it ever been protecting freedoms to require that anyone of a different skin color prove that they are, in fact, American? That's just awful.

Anyway, before I go on forever, I suppose I should gather my thoughts. Perhaps you'll see this again in video form. It just makes me want to punch someone in the face, that's all.

Sleep: INSOMNIA (that was for you, Ryan)
Clarinet: O
German: O
Exercise: The rare ABULF
Reading: O
Blogging: X

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Choir

So some of you may have noticed that I tweeted yesterday about watching The Choir on BBC America. I know for you British viewers, this show is old news, but it's just making its premiere in the US. I have to say, I don't expect it to be a raving success, but among the crowd of people who watch BBC, I suppose it will do well.

Anyway, this show is just absolutely wonderful for me. As a classical music student training to be a music teacher, I can relate a lot to what Gareth Malone does on the show. In fact, I see a lot of what I want to do in what Gareth does. He's kind of like a straight-haired me who sings instead of playing clarinet. But I can relate a great deal to his struggle--trying to bring classical music out of the bourgeoisie and into the public. He struggles to sell Vivaldi to R&B-loving secondary school students. Similarly, I have a series (which I've been meaning to pick back up) in which I teach the basics of listening to classical music to people who are not familiar with it.

I've been having philosophical struggles with studying classical music myself, and I've been planning on blogging about it, but it's one of those things that I want to do really well and only once, so it will take planning, and sometimes I'm just too lazy to do so. In any case, I do find it inspiring to know that teaching classical music is not a lost cause; you just need the right person and the right kind of personality. Watching Gareth teach, of course, and with how much I relate to him both in teaching style and in musical philosophy, I feel much more comfortable delving into the world of music education.

It's nice to know that watching television can be so inspiring.

Sleep: X
German: X (danke Anabelle!)
Clarinet: X
Exercise: O
Reading: O
Blogging: X

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The one about VidCon

Right, so I'm sure it doesn't need to be said, but VidCon was absolutely awesome and I can't wait for the next time it happens. I'm pretty sure this is the kind of thing I would spend way too much money on every time it happens because it was just that good. I'm not even sure where to start talking, and this isn't exactly planned, so I guess the best way is to go in chronological order with room for tangents.

So, for starters, after spending far too long on planes and in shuttles and what not, I got to the hotel at about 4:00 on Saturday. At this point, it felt like the entirety of the Internet was standing in the hotel lobby. I had literally about 15 minutes of complete overload. My thought process was literally like "Oh, look! Dan Brown. And who's that coming up to hug me? Jessica! OMG hi! Wait, is that a Paige I see over there? Let's creep on her for a minute." And so on and so forth. That night was really spent doing a variety of those kinds of things--fangirling, greeting, hugging, etc.

After meeting up with Rohan (RoboFillet), we heard a rumor of preregistration, so we went downstairs to wait in line, and suddenly I found myself in the mix with YouTubers I never thought I'd get more than ten seconds and a picture with--Strawburry17, YourTikken, tyleroakley, etc. This was about the point that I got over the shock of meeting a bunch of people who had been on my screen and realized that they're even cooler to hang out with than they are to watch. We ended up just sitting in line and chatting, especially because the line for over-21 was literally not moving. I like to think that I made some friends there, but I guess only time will tell.

So Friday had a lot of the events that I was interested in. It was centered around the community and the technology of YouTube, and what people have done with it. There were lots of talks about commenting and getting active involvement. I especially liked Buck's talk about how hate comments and praise comments are generally equally free of substance.

As far as our free time went, I generally found myself in a group with Paige, Rohan, Adam, Karen, Robyn (when she wasn't writing her novel...), Tyler, and Kayley. It was definitely strange for me, basically having the lowest profile of any of them, but I nonetheless had a blast and honestly can't wait until I get to meet every one of them again. I think that was the best part about VidCon; I really got to solidify my URL relationships as IRL relationships.

I did have one incredibly awkward fangirlish moment, I must admit, with Julia Nunes. I was buying a shirt for a friend to have Julia sign--it was awkward enough not buying something for myself--and I got a picture with her. Her booth was pretty empty, so in a fit of strange confidence, I just told her straight-up that I had a huge friend crush on her and asked her if we could be friends. Her response was pretty obviously confused, and she tried to play it off by saying "Sure..." but I knew I had killed any chance that I had. Oh well; maybe some day I'll write a song that gets popular on YouTube and she might see it and give me a second chance.

Now Saturday was when things got pretty strange and surreal for me. The group I was with generally agreed that we weren't interested in much of the programming; John described it well when he said that Friday was more for the Nerdfighter crowd and Saturday was more for the "autograph" crowd. The programming consisted of the likes of Shane Dawson, iJustine, ShayCarl, and the like; it's not that I don't think they're worthy or anything, but they are in a very different community with a very different mission than I tend to have, so I simply wasn't interested.

So in attending few of the events on Saturday, I somehow ended up all sorts of places I never expected. Kristina Horner came to hang out with us, which in itself wasn't too surprising since Kayley was, but she wasn't really someone I expected to meet. It also turns out I never introduced myself, and when I did, she said she recognized my username (which was flattering) and said that I seemed cool and most of her friends seemed to like me, so she just went with it.

We somehow ended up in Alex Day's hotel room. He was very confused as to where all these people came from, but didn't kick us out. Ah, well. In any case, as it was around dinner time, so Johnny ordered pizza and it was around that time that I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be around all of these people. I also reconfirmed that I wasn't happy because I was "schmoozing with the stars" but because these were genuinely nice people that I related to in many ways--hence why I watch their videos.

The concerts at night were equally interesting in their dichotomy. Friday night's concert was a ukulele- and nerd-ridden night, opening with Molly Lewis and moving on through most of the Sons of Admirals, Hank Green, and All Caps. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone, but that's the basic crowd. The next night featured many of the more popular musicians on YouTube, such as DaveDays, David Choi, Julia Nunes, etc. There was a hip-hop group for which the crowd kind of gave a collective shrug. It was a beautifully awkward moment in which Twitter exploded with people remarking both how strange the performers were and how interestingly Hank could dance.

That night probably had one of the most consummate moments of my weekend. It was just a strange, jam-packed experience. I was hanging out in the lobby after the concert and ran into John Green (who is incredibly kind and treated me like a friend; I've never known whether he actually watches my videos after subscribing, and I guess he does!) John was exhausted (with good reason) and decided that he wanted to go to the bar. The only people over 21 there were me, Emily, and Rohan, so we jumped on the opportunity. Eventually Cody and Eric showed up, and I had a lot of fun talking to those guys. Hopefully one day we'll all get to meet up again. Anyway, since the bar was closing, we had to leave, and I hung out in the lobby a little more after that. When I left the lobby and returned to my room, I fully expected Rohan and Adam to be asleep, but they most definitely were not. It turned out they had been hanging out with Tessa in my room; I was a little disappointed, honestly, because she was one of the people that had many fans coming up to interrupt her experience (and I didn't want to) but I wanted to be her friend. I introduced myself and she said to send her a message, which I did, so we'll see what comes of it.

Anyway, Sunday was equally fun, watching the World Cup final with John's commentary. He actually had the mic off, but he sat near us, so I got to hear it anyway! The rest of the day kind of turned sad though, as people were leaving and stuff to do got more and more scarce.

All in all, I'd say VidCon was a wonderful experience, and I hope this wasn't too lengthy for you, but I figured that people who were interested would read anyway. I hope that VidCon can happen again sometime soon, though I hear it may be at least two years, as LeakyCon is next year. We'll see. No matter when it happens, you can bet I'll do my best to get there.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: O
Exercise: ABUF
Reading: O
Blogging: X

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'm back!

So I'm back now. Did you miss me?

I had a lovely time at VidCon with lots of lovely people, but that's not what I'm going to talk about today, namely because I don't have the time right now to include everything I want to include, but I hope to get a real update in the near future. I also expect to be making a video on the subject, but you can plan on me being much more detailed and emotionally honest in blog form, so never you fear. I feel like my vlogs are generally for entertainment and discussion of specific topics, whereas my blogs here are more just me filling you in on my life.

What I really want to talk about though is my schedule and how it's been thrown off, and also how it's not really going to be getting any better until probably next Monday. You see, at VidCon I was almost never asleep, and then I left and took an all-night flight in which I probably slept a total of 1 hour. To make up for it, I slept all day yesterday and only had the strength of will to test my push-up endurance to begin week 3 of the push-up program, as I only missed one day therein. I had to bump myself back a week on squats because I missed two of the three days while at VidCon. I also realize this is a breach of contract, and I suppose I should pay a fine for it... any ideas?

Today it was a fight to push myself back on schedule, and I had to keep certain things in mind, such as the fact that after 5 days of no clarinet playing, I had to re-learn the instrument and couldn't practice as long. In addition, as I am still recovering from sleep deprivation, my attention span was quite near nothing--reading was nearly impossible (though I tried) and German was out of the question. I did, however, get in my BLF (didn't wake up early enough for A and it was raining this evening so I couldn't run late.)

In conclusion, I have to remember that it's not a failure to have trouble getting back into routine, and the important thing is that I am keeping my routine in mind and trying to get back into it. As for the present, I am going to finish this so that I can at least attempt to make my bedtime--though I may have to take an evil sleep aid again to make that happen!

Sleep: O
Clarinet: .5
German: O
Reading: .5
Exercise: OBLF
Blogging: X

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Awesome Eve

So, I'm not tired. I'm not going to lie. I'm never tired the day before I fly, and especially not when the place I'm flying to is the place where dreams come true.

I've been going back and forth between procrastinating and exhausting myself in preparation.

I have to be up at 5:30 in the morning.

Tonight's gonna suck.

Sleep: X (sort of... woke up by 10, so I was a little thrown off, but still met the letter of the law)
German: O
Clarinet: O
Reading: O (probably most of the night)
Exercise: ABUF
Blogging: X

PS--I'm not sure whether I'm going to blog while at VidCon, and won't count myself off for anything I miss, except that I will do my best to get at least my push-ups and squats in.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

VidCon Excitement

I know that at this point talk of VidCon is probably going to annoy anyone who is not going, as such a discussion is virtually impossible to avoid as the days draw nearer. However, please tolerate it from my end, because you have to understand: this is going to be the experience of a lifetime, and I would be lying to say that I am not excited.

Now, there are several reasons I am excited. The first, and by far most important, is that almost all of my YouTube friends will be in one place at one time. I get to meet them all in real life, to hug them, to laugh with them, and to just have an all-around good time with people who have become some of my very closest friends. Many of our plans center around this occasion; heck, I've even gotten myself into a dance-off, for which I have to make my entry in the first round tomorrow via video. I can not wait to just experience the love that we'll all be throwing back and forth at each other. I would honestly be unsurprised if someone were able to harness this energy and create the armies of puppy-sized elephants mentioned in my PSA.

However, I would be remiss not to mention that my versions of celebrities will be in my presence, and I will be fangirling over them to an extent. The wonderful thing about many of these people, however, is that the reason I fangirl is because I want so badly to be their friends, purely for the sake of friendship. Sure, I'd love to be popular on YouTube, but the way I'd measure that anyway is the love that I feel from my friends and viewers, not from the numbers of people who subscribe or watch, or what famous YouTubers are subscribed to me. Sure, it would make my life a lot easier to have an income from a YouTube partnership, but to make that a goal of mine would be compromising my values; I would not be opposed to getting money for YouTube, but I am quite opposed to doing YouTube for the money.

The reason I enjoy YouTube in the first place is the human, interactive aspect of it; celebrity worship gets under my skin more than many things on this earth. I don't love YouTubers because of their lavish lifestyles; I don't love YouTubers because of their ability to help me escape the world as it is. That is why people love "old media" celebrities. I love YouTubers because they see the world as it is and are members of it as it is--and, most of all, seek to make it all better in real life. I love them because they are real, they are complex, they are deeper than a small set of ideals. And that is why I am so looking forward to VidCon. It is not a magic fantasy world where gods walk the earth, but rather the most beautiful of realities. The love we have for each other is tangible and deep. And though it will only last three days in reality, I'm sure VidCon will only serve to deepen our friendships for life.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: /
Exercise: OBLF
Reading: X
Blogging: X

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sir with the American Flag

Dear Sir with the American Flag,

Every morning, I see you while I take my morning run. Every morning, you glare at me reprovingly as you hang your American flag proudly in front of your garage. Every morning, you avoid the friendly hello I want to give you because you are so preoccupied with your patriotic duty to raise the flag.

Now, I know there is no way for me to know what you actually think about me, but due to the way the scene always unfolds, I feel like you are judging me for not being as patriotic as you are. Perhaps you are concerned that I care less for the country and its ideals than you do. Perhaps you had a stint in the armed forces and feel that I am not dedicated enough to lay down my life for my country. Perhaps you are right.

You see, when someone dismisses me as you are for not vowing myself to a set of ideals, I am much less motivated to abide by the aforementioned ideals. Especially when these ideals that they promote are the opposite of the ideals they say they are promoting; Christian government leadership abolishes religious freedom, reduced taxes increases big business's control of the government, and "family values" threaten to tear apart the nuclear family as we know it. In addition, creating a set of ideals which separates itself from the people inherently dismisses the people as somehow less than human; it is a method by which governments gain more and more control over the lives of its citizens. By creating a set of ideals, you create a way by which we can deem who is "worthy" of calling themselves American--and I've always learned that America is a refuge for people considered unworthy by their own nations.

So pardon me for disapproving of your totalitarian agenda, disguised behind your mantra of freedom and liberty. Pardon me for thinking of my country as a beacon of hope for all of the oppressed citizens of the world. Pardon me for assuming that when the founding fathers set up our government, they meant for our government to represent its people, who all have different opinions and have a right to them.

Perhaps you want me to leave the country for thinking differently than you. Well, if this is the country you live in, so be it. And I hope you cling tightly to your American flag; soon, it may be all you have.

God bless America. We need it.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: after lunch
German: after lunch
Exercise: ABUF
Reading: Sometime...
Blogging: X

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tylenol PM

Last night, while having dinner with my cousins (my aunt and uncle like to be my surrogate parents when my parents are out of town) I mentioned my sleeping problem to my aunt (a pediatrician). She recommended that I take Tylenol PM to get to sleep. Now, I have taken Tylenol PM in the past, and when I take the recommended dosage, lots of bad things happen.

First of all, my brain goes nuts when I try to go to sleep--I start thinking all sorts of unexplainable, half-dream thoughts that in retrospect make no sense (i.e. "I have to sleep in this position, otherwise the music notes will be pushed off the edge of my bed and I'll have to clean them up in the morning.") I dream incredibly vividly (meaning I remember them clearer, and they're generally more fantastic.) Most of all, I am entirely incapable of waking up in the morning; I am not one to sleep in at all, but after taking Tylenol PM, I have slept in as late as 1:00 in the afternoon.

My mother has frequently recommended that I take only one dose of Tylenol PM, but usually when I take it, it is for to take care of symptoms I have, which means I want the full effect. So last night, when my only symptom was frequent insomnia, I only took one. Turns out the effect is no different!

So my question for you guys is: is there ANYTHING else I can take that will knock me out without destroying my sleep schedule?

Clarinet: X
German: X
Reading: O
Exercise: R
Blogging: X

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Clever title.

Hey, guess what, friends? I did everything I needed to today before 4:30 PM so that I could go hang with the cousins. I am a productivity maniac.

I honestly don't have much to talk about, though, because I'm so tired from insomnia last night, not to mention that I was up a little late uploading my video. Thank you, by the way, to everyone who tweeted or otherwise shared it; it never ceases to make me happy when I get that kind of appreciation, and the response has been really positive.

As you can probably guess, all I really can think about right now is VidCon and sleep, and I don't want to bore you to tears (nor prolong my wait for either), so I think I'm just going to turn in early. See you all tomorrow!

Sleep: O
German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: ABLF
Blogging: X

Friday, July 2, 2010


It's a new day!

And I did nothing in it except for my BUF. Hah.

Basically, I spent most of my morning working out VidCon logistics, which have turned out to be more complicated than expected. All should be well, though, and life will be wonderful once I'm in LA!

The afternoon was spent in video creation--and this video should be wonderful. It's exporting now. I'm excited.

And finally the evening was spent with cousins eating dinner.

But hey, after 30 days, I think I deserve a freebie. And I think you'll agree after seeing the video... once it's up.

Clarinet: O
German: O (except for random German videos and several renditions of Der Hölle Rache after coming across a terrible rock one...)
Exercise: OBUF
Blogging: X

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The 30th Day

Today was a massive success. And the point of my blog today is to review the successes and failures of the last month.

Let's start with the goals I've had the longest: blogging, sleeping, and clarinet-playing. The biggest success of those was blogging by a long shot--I only missed one day. Clarinet playing was the next, though I admit, there were some days when I only practiced 45 minutes or an hour, which may sound like a lot to you guys, but I promise that I need at LEAST two hours to play at the level I need to hold myself to. Finally, sleep, which failed on several occasions due to various physical and moral failures, was generally a success, but could be improved.

I realize that I still have a week left for my month of German, but this has definitely been what I have the most O's in by a LOT. It seems to have been generally put on the back burner, and the reason appears to be that to do the lessons, I need internet, and if I have internet, I also have YouTube, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and Dailybooth... a lot of distractions. I am not exactly sure how I can remove this temptation except for understanding it, expecting it, and taking preemptive action against it. I'll try setting up a rewards program for myself, such as, "When I finish the first vocabulary-building section, I may check Twitter ONCE or watch ONE YouTube video." This way, I still get what I am tempted to do instead of the lesson, but keep the lesson my focus.

Reading seems to be falling into the same kind of category--namely because when I read, my mind is still creatively churning and I can't focus on the book. I'm not entirely sure how to counteract this one, but I still have most of the next 30 days to figure it out!

Exercising I have also only just started, but my body is already quite used to it, craving it even (I did end up doing the extra set of push-ups and curl-ups yesterday). The magical thing I'm finding about the exercise is that it really gets my blood pumping, which makes my body want to do things. It makes me so much more conscious, and my brain starts firing ideas at me. It's wonderful.

Finally, one major pastime to which I lose the bulk of my motivation is watching 30 Rock. That brilliant, wonderful show just sucks me in and continues to make me laugh so embarrassingly loud as very little else can. Today, I noticed, I had so much more time to do things, having NOT watched ANY 30 Rock. Therefore, I will self-impose a limit of two episodes a day, which must be decidedly not in rapid succession--the temptation would be too great to continue the streak, and it would also not quench my thirst later on when I want to see it.

And it seems like the general notion is that I pose no nuisance in continuing my blogging, and generally have readers who desire to catch up--though I did only hear from two people, I'm assuming anyone who wanted me to stop would just end up ignoring my posts anyway. So I'm going to be blogging for the next 30 days, at least (with the exception of next Thursday to Sunday, when I'll be at VidCon.) See you all tomorrow!

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: X
Excercise: ABLF
Blogging: X

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brevity is the soul of... brevity.

Okay, I have to keep this brief because I am not done for the day and I have just over an hour to finish. I started off with a failure-to-launch day, and at 7:00, I just started CHURNING through everything I needed to finish. That's right, at 6:45 I noticed I had only done BUF today, and nothing more. From 7 to 8 I practiced clarinet, from 8 to 9 I reviewed German vocabulary, and at 9 I prepared for and executed my run (making today ABUF). That means all I have left to do is to blog (which I am clearly doing) and to read for an hour. This means I need to start reading if I still want to make my bedtime!

However, after finishing my jog, I found my body desiring to do more push-ups and curl-ups. So I just may do them.

But because of the brevity of this blog, and because of this being the 29th day of my 30-day blog challenge, I ask you: do you like the format of these blogs? Any constructive criticism? (in this regard, I'd recommend the criticism sandwich: something/some things you like, something/some things that can be improved, and something encouraging to round it off) I'm seriously considering doing another thirty days, and if you'll still read, then we're all in agreement; if you won't, however, I'll just keep my records to myself and blog less frequently.

As for now, I have precious little time left and I must get going!

Sleep: O (the reason behind the failure to launch)
German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: ABUF
Reading: now!
Blogging: X

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Confession

I spend a lot of my time on YouTube really reveling in the community, reading comments, leaving comments (so many that even though almost all of them are relevant, they generally get marked as spam), and getting on Skype with friends. I care a lot about friendships that I've made on YouTube and generally the community aspect. I really love that whole experience, and emphasize it for any friends who may be getting down about not getting recognized for what they do.

However, there is still a little part of me that notices and keeps track of the insignificant things like views, subscribers, and ratings. It has happened recently that regardless of the effort I put into my videos, they are only being watched by about 1/4 of my audience. I know it's frustrating and that everybody does it, but something about it is really starting to get me down. I think the difference is that I've been doing more music videos, which are really labor-intensive, but get less interactive comments--people say things like "this was really cute!" but nothing else, whereas when I vlog, I get a lot of constructive comments and perspectives. So even though my views haven't changed too much, although they are down a bit, I notice it even more because I don't get really valuable comments.

I suppose this means that, for my own sake and experience, I should probably alternate between vlogs and other types of videos, because I really like to interact with people. I also want to really foster a sense of community on my channel to increase the likelihood of this interaction.

You know, I was really feeling a little down at the beginning of this blog, but I'm already feeling better now that I've recognized what's really bothering me. I think this means I should keep this blogging thing up. Next 30 days? I guess I can do that :)

Sleep: X
German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: ABLF (I ran TWICE as far as I have been! I love victories.)
Reading: 30 min., next 30 min to be completed after this blog
Blogging: X

Monday, June 28, 2010

What You Don't See

I didn't feel like being inventive tonight, so you guys get a first peek at my next song which I can hopefully record live without much editing tomorrow!

by Stephen Johnson

I saw you at the coffee shop
Last Wednesday down on Main Street
With your hair up, you were studying with your friends

I thought I'd go say "Hi"
Or something inviting like "How've you been?"
But I knew it won't be long 'till I see you again

Because you're always there for me, I'm always there for you
And no one can can tear us apart
Our friendship can't be tainted by anyone at all

You light up my life
You don't know what you mean to me
It tears me up inside how wonderful you are.

I'm truly happy for you, to see you with him
To see your face light up
The second he's through the door

Because I know how it feels
To know someone so wonderful
But it hurts so much to know we could have more

You told me today
He left you in the cold last night
That he wouldn't answer the questions that you had

I don't know why
Anyone would leave you behind
But I know it was his loss to leave you there like that

Let's go out and get coffee
I'll buy you your favorite kind
I hope it helps to know that you've got friends who care

You know you don't deserve him
You deserve someone so much better
And you should know if you need me, I'll always be there

There's gotta be something
That he is missing out on
Something deep within you that he doesn't see

And I can relate
So much to what you're going through
Because I don't see what you don't see in me
No, I don't see what you don't see in me.

German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: ABUF
Blogging: X

Next project (starting tomorrow): 1 hr. daily reading

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trust them. They're experts.

It's something that we don't often think about others because of our own preoccupations, but most people are experts in something. I've spoken with my friend Karen Kavett a lot about our respective areas of expertise. We have a great deal in common, both being avid artists in our fields, but we also have a lot of stark differences, her being a graphic artist and me being a musician. It baffles me how much focus it takes to train one's eyes to be a good artist, how much finesse it takes to make a perfect brush stroke, and on the same token, she has mentioned how she just doesn't know where to start when listening to a piece of music.

So what occurs to me in all of these discussions is that people think as hard about other things as I think about music. When my mother watches HGTV, for example, it just astonishes me that Holmes on Homes knows so much about home inspection requirements, and I have to imagine the stacks and stacks of books he goes through in planning and understanding them. It also blows my mind when even he has to bring in experts to check his work, like his circuit breaker installation specialist--seriously, they seem simple, but if they need their own expert, they can NOT be simple!

I suppose what I'm saying is that for every field of expertise, there will, therefore, be an expert. Sounds crazy, I know! The tough thing that we have to accept, though, is that most of the time, we do have to trust them.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: X
Exercise: R (Sunday is my designated day of rest from exercise)
Blogging: X

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Failure to Launch

I first heard this phrase in the movie by the same name, which I did, unfortunately, see. I'm not personally one for trite romantic comedies--though I will readily admit to enjoying the good ones, ladies--but I feel like the meaning of the phrase identifies concisely what happens on days like today.

I slept very lightly last night, for unexplained reasons. The only reasoning that seems consistent is that it is hard to sleep during a full moon, though I hardly desire to give that any credence. Somehow, though, I do always end up losing sleep on a full moon (or really any very bright moon phase.) My hypothesis is that the moon seems to shine straight on my face through my bedroom window, as if to spite me, or to inspire a vampire to stalk me--I'm not entirely sure which.

In any case, as I have said earlier, lack of sleep causes me to lose any motivation. I had trouble waking up at the proper hour this morning, which made it so that I could not run, as the air was very nearly drinkable by the time I was conscious. As a result, I really had nothing to do until lunchtime, at which point my brother left for university (he's growing up!) and I had the house to myself until 9:00 PM when my parents returned.

As a result, the only thing my brain wanted to focus on was getting a song recorded for prompt release on YouTube (probably doing the video tomorrow.) This means that I had no will power to practice clarinet or to do my German lesson. I fully intended to exercise after the sun went down, as well, but failed to remember that Doctor Who aired at 9:00, and that show has become sacred family time.

So the point of this blog was not to make excuses, but it certainly was to try and explain what happened. Only through understanding our failures can we find our way to success. My question for you folk, however, is whether I should be ashamed of having accomplished nothing today. After all, I did produce something--I was not spending the whole day twiddling my thumbs on the internet. I also technically did not breach my exercise contract, as I have exercised 4 out of 7 days this week. However, I did not complete my 30-day goals, with the exception of this lone blog. Is this something I should fret over, or should I write it off as taking a weekend break? If I choose the "weekend break" option, is that really a reason or an excuse? My Catholic guilt is starting to show...

Sleep: O
Clarinet: O
German: O
Exercise: O
Blogging: X

Friday, June 25, 2010

Serving Up a Slice of Humble Pie

I had a conversation today with a good friend of mine (won't mention whom) about what, exactly, arrogance is. You see, this particular friend of mine has gotten to be accomplished and recognized in his field, which also happens to be a field I am pursuing. Now, he and I have remained in very close contact and I consider him one of my best friends, so needless to say, I am honored to be among the "inner circle" (and, of course, I am not terribly far behind, myself.)

In our conversation today, however, the topic arose about whether his mentioning his achievements is actually arrogant. Surely we can all think of examples of what is definitely arrogance and what is definitely not, but there is a lot of grey area in between to be discussed (incidentally, the computer from which I am typing prefers "gray" to "grey," but I refuse to change!) If someone asks, for example, whether I am a very good musician, I am not sure of the most appropriate way to respond; I go to a highly renowned school, I place among the top 50% in auditions there, and earn myself top grades in most classes I take, but is it okay for me to call myself "very good?" I feel like there's something to be said for the bible verse which reads "He who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

However, there is also a false humility, which can be almost as dangerous as arrogance. Not recognizing one's accomplishments, in a sense, is not accepting oneself for what one is; whatever makes one unusual should generally be celebrated and be incorporated into one's life in a healthy manner. It is self-deprecating to intentionally deny oneself of the recognition and/or praise one deserves, almost as if believing one does not actually deserve it at all.

Still, there is a lot to be accounted for in "the eye of the beholder." People make various assumptions about others, whether founded or not. I can think of an example from my senior year of high school, in which my band played Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli, which features a clarinet solo in the style of Benny Goodman toward the end. My band director held auditions for the solo, and I won the spot. In performance, he also followed a common tradition for the piece, in which the clarinet soloist stands up and plays in front of the band. Rumors spread like wildfire that I was arrogant for having taken the spot and that I thought I was better than the rest of the band, when, in fact, I had only been asked to do so by the band director (though, of course, I was not going to refuse the opportunity!) Do these assumptions, therefore, mean that I am arrogant? Certainly not, or at least I would not say so. However, they do make me arrogant in the eyes of those people, which is just as bad to them, whether I really am or not.

So just what is arrogance? I suppose the best answer is that one can only know what is on one's conscience, and at the end of the day, that is what matters. I suppose the best way to summarize it is to borrow from many a celebrity and say "keep it real."

Sleep: X
German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: ABUF
Blogging: X

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A (Top Secret) Letter to Mozart

Dear Mozart,

I respect you ever so much as a musician. You have turned out some of the best music in our tradition. Your name is recognizable to even the least educated musician, at least in the Western Hemisphere. Your achievements are numerous: writing an overture the night before the opening of the opera to which it belonged (and this was long before the advent of computer notation), writing the current record-holder for most lines able to be used in invertible counterpoint (5 lines total!), six hundred and twenty-five pieces to your name, and above all that, you proved to all musicians that we can do that on the free market rather than having to find a rich aristocrat to fund our lifestyle.

That being said, I do have a bone to pick with you. With musical talent at such a premium these days, it leads me to wonder whether you were a little... overzealous, perhaps, with your use of "the muse." Now, few people know this, but the muse will come to us musicians at unexpected times and grant us certain amounts of inspiration. I am a little suspicious of how very much "the muse" gave to you, seeing as no one before or after has been quite so prodigious OR impeccable in their music creation. This, therefore has led me to the following conclusion:

You bribed the muse. It's the only explanation. I cannot figure out how or when, but you have to have trapped her and coerced her into bestowing upon you such a spontaneous creative ability. This is reinforced by the fact that you had no other real competition at the time other than Haydn (who was very mechanical in his treatment of music) and Salieri (who was clearly uninspired). I suspect that what you did was to distract either them or the muse herself when she was bestowing her gifts so as to take their rations for yourself. I'm on to you, Wolfy!

This is what I propose, therefore. Seeing as your music at the time of your death was even more inspired than the music of your early years, there was surely an increasing supply, causing a surplus, of the muse's gifts. All I ask is that you tell us classically trained musicians where your stock is so that we can distribute it evenly among deserving musicians everywhere. Or, if you want to keep this quiet, drop an extra life's worth of muse in that box on the corner--you know the one. I'll keep my lips sealed as long as I get my share. I look forward to your response.

Yours musically,
Stephen Johnson

Sleep: X
German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: OBLF (I realized I wasn't taking account of flexibility training, so I'm adding that as "F")
Blogging: X

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So, there's this brand-new invention that has simultaneously increased awesome and decreased productivity. It is a great new way to meet new people, connect in real time with online friends, and, best of all, have trolls come by who clearly have nothin' on you. This wonderful site is called TinyChat.

Tiny Chat is a great site in which up to 12 people can chat in real time on webcams and many more can participate in a text-based chatroom occurring below the video. But what's so wonderful about it is that it's making all of our YouTube friends ever so close. These guys are seriously turning into my best friends. We sit and chat and the hours FLY by. Seriously. I was on for almost four hours today and it seemed like nothing at all.

The best thing about the relationships I'm forming is how supportive they are. The followers of this blog are largely the people who go to TinyChat, and they'll often remind me of the goals I set forth herein and hold me to it. People today even reminded me of my 11:00 deadline... which I'm only sort-of making in posting this, but it's a HUGE step!

I guess I should just wrap this up by saying TinyChat is awesome, and any of you are welcome to come by. We really let pretty much anyone in, even subscribers who don't make videos and just like us. We've made friends with people who only watch our videos, even, and some people who just randomly stop by our rooms. It's an awesome place and I feel so blessed to be able to use it. I love, love, love my friends!

Sleep: X
German: /
Clarinet: X
Excercise: ABU
Blogging: X
So, there's this brand-new invention that has simultaneously increased awesome and decreased productivity. It is a great new way to meet new people, connect in real time with online friends, and, best of all, have trolls come by who clearly have nothin' on you. This wonderful site is called TinyChat.

Tiny Chat is a great site in which up to 12 people can chat in real time on webcams and many more can participate in a text-based chatroom occurring below the video. But what's so wonderful about it is that it's making all of our YouTube friends ever so close. These guys are seriously turning into my best friends. We sit and chat and the hours FLY by. Seriously. I was on for almost four hours today and it seemed like nothing at all.

The best thing about the relationships I'm forming is how supportive they are. The followers of this blog are largely the people who go to TinyChat, and they'll often remind me of the goals I set forth herein and hold me to it. People today even reminded me of my 11:00 deadline... which I'm only sort-of making in posting this, but it's a HUGE step!

I guess I should just wrap this up by saying TinyChat is awesome, and any of you are welcome to come by. We really let pretty much anyone in, even subscribers who don't make videos and just like us. We've made friends with people who only watch our videos, even, and some people who just randomly stop by our rooms. It's an awesome place and I feel so blessed to be able to use it. I love, love, love my friends!

Sleep: X
German: /
Clarinet: X
Excercise: ABU
Blogging: X

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wiped out

I'm sore. Ever so sore. Strangely enough, though, I can still totally move. I wonder if that's the flexibility training kicking in. Anyway, today I ran an embarrassingly short distance (0.4 miles) in the burning, awful heat of the tropical sun. I wasn't lying when I said I'd need to learn how to wake up closer to dawn. It is RIDICULOUS how hot it gets here.

However, upon returning to the house, I drank a boatload of water--probably half a gallon over the course of the next 15 minutes or so--and continued my exercise within the hour as per my contract with my body. I was able to squeeze out 22 squats for the initial test of the 200 squat challenge, which is in the range of "poor" but still on the third column. I also did my ab work out then, but it wasn't as intense as yesterday because my body gave out.

After that, however, my body said "no more of ANYTHING!" and I had to listen to it because this has been such a big change. I ate my breakfast, watched some TV, ate a big lunch, and then took a nap until guests showed up for dinner. And now I am completely spent and should go to bed soon... because I have to do it all again tomorrow! Hopefully including my German and clarinet, too, this time.

Sleep: X
German: O
Clarinet: O
Exercise: ABL
Blogging: X

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Contract

So I just finished mowing the lawn. Nothing lets me think like a good bit of exercise. Now I'm all warmed up for the real exercise... the initial test of the 100 Push-Up Challenge. This is always the embarrassing part. I haven't done the test yet, of course, so I'm thinking I'll just make an addendum to this blog later today. I haven't even done any of my other goals yet, so I'll have to update those too. I just came up with this idea while mowing the lawn, so I of course had to act.

Exercise has been something I've done on and off for most of my adolescent life, and I always feel really, really good when I'm in the habit of doing it. It's something that you basically have to re-commit yourself to all the time, something you have to reinvigorate frequently, and most of all, something that you have to do anything it takes to keep up. It's really not easy for most of us to keep the habit up because we get tired, but like everything else, there will be ups and downs.

So, for now, I've decided to write myself a contract--a living document to be updated and changed as I see necessary.


On this day, June the Twenty-First of the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Ten, I, Stephen Johnson, do hereby agree to the following:

1. Aerobic exercise
a. Henceforth defined as "physical exercise that intends to improve the oxygen system" (courtesy of
b. To be executed a majority of days a week, preferably 5-6 days a week, for at least 20 minutes.
c. In order to accommodate the incredible temperatures of your locality, aerobic exercise should most likely occur early in the morning, as close to dawn as possible (around 6:30 AM) for best likelihood of success. Thus, it will require a commitment to going to sleep at an early hour. As this is not yet a habit, begin with committing to waking up at 8:00 AM and set the alarm for five minutes earlier every subsequent morning.

2. Anaerobic exercise
a. Henceforth defined as "exercise intense enough to trigger anaerobic metabolism." (courtesy of
b. The frequency of execution shall be divided into two categories:
(1) Upper Body/Lower Body Strength: to be executed on alternating days, 2-3 days a week each
(2) Abdominal Strength: to be executed daily, a majority of days a week
c. For the purpose of minimizing personal hygiene needs such as showering and laundry, this shall be executed within 1 hour of aerobic exercise.

3. Flexibility training
a. Henceforth defined as exercise intended to "improve the range of motion in muscles and joints" (courtesy of
b. To be executed before and after any exercise session, especially focusing on the muscles which will be or have been exercised.

4. Other requirements
a. Extenuating circumstances
(1) I hereby agree that I will accept few excuses not to exercise and will make it my priority to vacate promptly my nocturnal furniture in the morning in order to do so.
(2) Excuses shall be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but should not include lack of desire or of motivation.
(3) I will make it my firm purpose to accomplish that which I can within my surroundings should I be somewhere other than my residence, including, but not limited to, hotels, conventions, or friends' residences.
b. Recording
(1) Blog
(i) Since recording results in blog form will be lengthy and frequently redundant, a shorthand will be used to record results: Aerobic exercise will be marked with an "A," abdominal with a "B," Upper body with a "U," and Lower body with an "L."
(ii) Examination results from programs such as the 100 push-up challenge which involve occasional tests to show progress will be recorded in a postscript format.
(2) A personal, handwritten notebook will be kept for the sole purpose of recording daily progress
(3) The 30-day calendar will be kept using the shorthand of the blog for the initial 30 days of the program.
c. Addenda and adjustments will be made as either contract holder sees fit. Health, personal abilities, and desires will all be taken into account therein.

With my signature, I do hereby swear my commitment to the execution of this contract and will, to the best of my abilities, follow all requirements therein.

Stephen Johnson, 6/21/2010
Stephen Johnson's body, 6/21/2010

Sleep: O (gosh darn tinychat. I broke my 11:00 promise because of peer pressure. Not gonna happen again.)
German: X
Clarinet: X
Exercise: If mowing the lawn counts as A, ABU
Blogging: X

Push-ups completed: 17. I surprised myself with this one, especially because I'm a real stickler for doing them right. This puts me in category 3 of the push-up challenge. Yesss!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Music Videos

Few people know this without experiencing it, but music videos are some of the most rewarding videos there can be to put out, at least as far as I'm concerned. Nothing gets me happier than putting out a good song and having people enjoy it. It's probably the most "real" I can get with my audience--it's the most honest way for me to express any feelings at all.

However, music videos are thus the most frustrating and time-consuming videos that have ever been known to man. Seriously. When I make a vlog, I probably take about 10 minutes planning, 10 minutes filming, and then an hour or so editing. Music videos have got to be ten times harder; not only do you have to film yourself playing every instrument (or arrange for whatever story you want to tell like Alex Day) and edit that all together, you also have to separately edit all the sound bits together. If you go the instrument route--which I generally choose to, because I care more that people hear the instruments than enjoy my pretty face--you generally have about 2 hours or so of footage because each take for each little phrase adds up, especially if you're not entirely skilled on the instruments you're playing.

Plus, with the added weight of the extreme vulnerability I feel in putting my art out there (the most exposed I've ever felt) I really try quite hard to get everything perfect.

This is my way of saying I'm working on a few videos, but they take TIME! Hopefully they'll pay off :D

Sleep: X
German: X
Clarinet: X
Blogging: X

Also, I realize that I have not added a new goal in a while. I think it's time I try to get an exercise regimen in. Specifically that dang 100 Push-Up Challenge I never finished last year! Anyone wanna do it with me?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ohrwürmer (Earworms)

I figured I'd at least give a German title to this blog, seeing as I'm getting more and more people commenting in German, which I find AWESOME. Few things get me happier than understanding other languages.

Today, I was highly productive--I did my German before lunch, even, and got in a good hour or so of practicing before the house was raided by my brother's recently graduated high school friends. They just left, which is why I am clearly not done with the computer before 11 (as I try ever so hard to be).

But on to the topic of the night! One thing that people don't know about me is that I always have a song stuck in my head. Music is always, and I mean always, on my mind. This gets particularly annoying when I hear a song that is conducive to getting stuck in one's head--an earworm. Today's earworm is "99 Luftballons" by Nena. I listened to it originally because I thought to myself "This will help you improve your German!" and little did I know I'd be memorizing a lot of the text just because I had it stuck in my head and kept listening to it.

Some artists are very talented at writing earworms: Lady Gaga, Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel, heck, most of my YouTube friends--they're all earworm factories. I did a bit of thinking on the topic and came up with a few of the typical characteristics of a good earworm:

1. Diatonicism: This is just smart people talk for the general notion of it not sounding weird and being generally easy to sing. "Diatonic" literally refers to its being based on one of the six most common modes (ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian), the very most common of which are major (ionian) and minor (aeolian).

2. Repetition: This is one key aspect of earworms. You have to drive your point home with something repetitive in rhythm, pitch, and especially motive. Some good examples of this: "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga repeats the same rhythm and pitch for the "baa-baa-rap-baa-baa" that everybody remembers. Rick Astley's "Never gonna give you up" uses one rhythm and motive, moving it down the scale each time--"Never gonna give you up [down a step] never gonna let you down [down even further] never gonna run around [closing the idea] and hurt you" and then just repeats it again. This is the way to get something stuck in someone's head.

The key is not to make it annoyingly repetitive--you want them to enjoy its persistence. For example, Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away" is IRRITATING to listen to because there's no variation at all. On the other hand, his "American Woman" (which, admittedly, is not originally his) has just the right balance of repetition and change.

3. Suggested participation: things that people are invited to join just stick with them better as experiences. Therefore, what you want to write as a song is one which makes your audience want to participate in the performance (i.e. sing along or dance). Therefore, it has to be easy to learn--not too complicated rhythmically, not too strenuous in vocal range, with lyrics they can easily pick up--and exciting to the audience, usually through exciting rhythm and loud singing.

A good rule of thumb to meet these three characteristics is to ask yourself when writing a song: "Can I imagine a teenage girl at a stop light unabashedly singing along and doing a stupid car dance?" If the answer is yes, you have a smash hit on your hands.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: X
Blogging: X

Friday, June 18, 2010

Planning Ahead

It's something I'm good at. I basically can't do anything without thinking about it first. It's almost a fault.

I was just reminded of this because I have had a few conversations with my brother recently about things that I like doing that he wishes he were good at--namely doing well in Sim City and Risk. I've noticed that the fatal errors he tends to make are those of impulsive decisions--when you think "Man, it would be AWESOME to have this sports stadium in my city!" you have to remember that the traffic will back up around it and that you'll have to pay money to control it, that the rich snobs whose houses are right across from it will want to move out, and that it also costs a good deal of money to maintain. In the same way, if you just got a cannon on Indonesia and it's the only thing protecting your continent of Australia, you shouldn't go straight into Siam or India.

In the same way, I plan out other aspects of my life; I know where I want to look for jobs next year, what videos I want to do coming up, what I should be practicing to get my auditions going, and some goals I have that I want to work on. However, I am acutely aware that things can and will go their own directions against the plan, and I think this is what separates me from many people. When something breaks the pattern of events I have planned, I get excited. I love working new things into my life. I get my variety, I accept the change, and most of all, I get to make newer plans.

I think this is what people mean when they say to take life by the horns. To a certain extent, you know exactly what you need to do to stay on the bull, but at the end of the day, you need to enjoy the ride.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: O
Blogging: X

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The magical productivity elixir

Seriously, kids. I have been preaching this gospel ever since it was preached to me way back in November. Sleep is the key to happiness in life. And I'm not talking the lazy college student can't-get-himself-to-sleep-at-night-so-he-sleeps-in-until-the-afternoon sleep. I'm talking a healthy, consistent sleep.

That's right, I went straight to sleep last night after posting my blog, and it worked wonders. I woke up and only spent an hour or so in my morning routine. I then got straight into recording music on my computer (none of which was worth keeping, but it's the thought that counts!), ate lunch while talking on skype, and was able to remove myself from skype because I was so excited to record more. I successfully recorded a polka rendition of my friend Justin's theme song and then practiced my clarinet.

And this wasn't just any practice. No, friends. I practiced for 45 or so minutes before taking a break. This break was mostly comprised of listening to the ridiculous orchestra excerpts I have to play (seriously, these are hard excerpts) while discussing music nerdy things with my certified English friend Fraser. Then I went back to practice for another half hour or so before dinner. After dinner, I practiced for over an hour. I was on fire. And then I realized I still had to do my German lesson for the day, which I have just spent an hour and a half completing. Hopefully I'll be able to keep all the cases and adjective endings correct -__-

So, what I'm saying is, the key to a productive day is a healthy sleep that suits your circadian rhythms. Seriously. Try it. As for me, I have to post the Pun of the Day before going to sleep myself. Speaking of which, if anyone reading this wants to film a week of puns they can e-mail to (don't forget the "365" in it would be GREATLY appreciated! Individual days are fine, too, but weeks are not only fashionable--they make my life easier!

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: X
Blogging: X