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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I'm decidedly uninspired today. I'll admit it. I did nothing of my goals except waking up on time. And even that, that was only because we were supposed to be painting the house and so I knew my mother would wake me up. I simply knew it would be more pleasant for me to wake myself up on time rather than to listen to her wake me up. Not that she's unpleasant; it's just that nothing is pleasant when I want to be asleep.

I have a feeling that that is the biggest struggle right now. I have still been getting to sleep too late, even though I've been getting the right *amount* of sleep. So from now on, I have to swear off using my computer after 11:00. It's going to be difficult, as people meaning well will want to keep me on tinychat until I fall asleep at the keyboard, but I have to keep my health, sanity, and well-being in mind. I'm just not a night person.

So, in order to keep myself to that, I guess I just need to sign of and sleep. However, comments of encouragement are always appreciated!

I know I don't say this enough, but I do mean it--I thank you all for taking the time to make a difference in my life, and I also care about every single one of you. I hope you know what a profound difference the internet-folk have made on me. Thank you all.

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I don't like reality shows.

We all know the formula. Throw a group of ethnically diverse people together to do complete some unusual task and set them loose. Open up a video confessional where individuals admit that deep down they loathe each other and think they stand above all the rest. Dabble in a bit of editing to add tense music and to make everything bad seem even worse. What do you get? A primetime powerhouse. What else do you get? the most vile piece of rubbish ever to hit the screen.

You get a show that celebrates hate, that encourages overreacting, and that entices the audience to throw their dinnerware at their television sets. You get people who make downright fools of themselves on national television. Secretly, they know it will pay off when they get their huge check/attractive mate/desirable job. Secretly, we desire to add insult to injury by not only letting them be as obscene as possible for our benefit, but also giving them nothing in return except a kick in the butt.

I personally don't find any joy in this. Perhaps I'm too sympathetic; I get irritated at all the contestants for being so insolent. I get irritated at the commercials for prolonging the inevitable. I get irritated at the jerk who chose this channel in the first place, because somehow I can't take my eyes away.

I guess that's why I hate reality TV shows the most: no matter how much you try, you can't stop watching until you've seen that the most ludicrously awful person gets what's coming to them.

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

Debbie Downers.

They are ALL OVER THE PLACE. I was not entirely sure what I was going to blog about, but after reading some of the comments on my most recent video I can't help but be a little upset. People just choose to miss the point entirely.

I have a lot of comments already saying "Guinness is Irish. Gordon Ramsay is Scottish." I would really have loved to be sarcastic to them, but sarcasm just doesn't work in text form. I am well aware of the origin of both of these; I am also aware that they are each still quite popular in England. Plus, their arguments miss the entire point--I was praising their country's products, and people wanted to shoot me down, which really just blemishes their countries, anyway.

However, I know how to reply to such comments. With love. I defended my points respectfully, threw a few extra smileys in, and essentially said what I just outlined. Many of the people came around and ended up giving me smileys too, saying things like "See? You're much too nice to be English."

But I guess there's always something I'll be able to blame on my being the crazy foreigner :D

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
German: a bit... but not enough. O
Blogging: X

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Future is Scary.

As I'm coming to my last year of college, I realize more and more that I'm about to be a grown adult. I'm about to be the kind of person who pays his own bills in a house (or apartment) that belongs to him. I'm about to be the kind of person who goes grocery shopping for whatever he wants--at which point I will have to care about the quality, price, and nutritional value of what I purchase. I'm also about to be the kind of person who tries to do this in a new country, which just may be biting off more than I can chew.

I think what I find most scary about it is that I have to face a challenge that I don't really mention much: I am physically incapable of driving. I have a strange, yet-unexplained eye condition in which I see double out of each eye on its own, which, yes, means that I see four of everything. Now, I know what you're wondering, and I will answer all of the questions you have in the order that you will ask them: yes, right now; yes, four of YOU; I can't see your fingers, but I'm guessing you're holding up two or three; no, the glasses don't correct it.

I suppose what's scariest about it is that I've been so dependent on others driving me for things like groceries. I guess that's really the only thing I've ever needed a ride for, but for some reason, it worries me to think that I could be moving into an apartment and I have to get furniture delivered because I can't pick it up, I'll have to buy groceries in small bits and use public transportation, etc. I just don't ever like being dependent.

At the same time, I have a feeling I'll fit in beautifully as an Englishman. But I have a whole video to explain that coming up soon.

Sleep: O (never, ever drink soda with dinner if you're not used to it!)
Clarinet: X
German: X
Blogging: X

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Next-Gen. Nerds

Okay, I'm going to be the first to admit this wasn't my idea. The title, in fact, is stolen entirely from my English doppelgänger Will Dixon, who has written several blog posts on the topic himself. But it's something that I can't help but mention, especially in the month leading up to VidCon.

My YouTube friends and I have a wonderful community going and we really have a lot of potential in the vlogging community. There, I said it. I can see us taking over YouTube without breaking a sweat. If you think about it, we're like the Super Friends of vlogging: we have talented script writers, fantastic musicians, highly skilled (and accomplished!) artists, community leaders, community ralliers, and, best of all, good friends.

Let me emphasize that last part. We are all there for each other. We spend hours on end talking to each other on Skype, using Twitter like a chatroom (and that's a good thing, friends!), and we will TinyChat until the wee hours of the morning. We have so much fun with each other that it's contagious. And anytime something happens where one of us gains attention, we're all there to honestly celebrate and congratulate each other. Those of us who receive the benefit are always humble about it, too--we say things like "Well, this wouldn't have happened if so-and-so hadn't done such-and-such!"

What I'm noticing more and more, though, is that we're getting noticed again and again by the people up top who really hold some weight in the YouTube community. I mean, heck, Dan Brown is one step short of being another one of our best friends; Will is *currently* featured in Alex Day's other channels box; half of us are subscribed to by the Vlogbrothers. And in no way is this meant to brag--I'm more in awe of it all. It was just under a year ago that I was filming with my poor little Sony Cyber-Shot camera in the dorm room where I was counseling high schoolers on a summer camp, celebrating the landmark of 50 whole subscribers! It was a big deal to me that JB Dazen had subscribed to me for having done VAGED. Now, people make videos fangirling over me for subscribing to THEM. It blows my mind.

So what I'm really saying is that I think all of us who are friends should stay friends and enjoy the ride. We have a great thing going, and there's a lot of love being tossed around. Let's never, ever forget that, and most of all, let's share that with as many hackin' people as we can!

And yes, I just made a reference to Fred. Deal with it.

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

Friday, June 11, 2010


But that's not the end. I'm going to power through this. We can do it together, friends.

I don't know how many of you were aware of this, but I was up until 5 in the morning two nights in a row because of the cold medicine I took. It was a big mistake. Last night, however, I took the "drowsy" cold medicine and it knocked me out like nobody's business. Seriously--if you ask me how much it knocked me out, I'd just say, "Shut up. It's none of your business." Needless to say, I slept in today as a result.

On another note, though, I'm feeling WONDERFUL today and I even played my clarinet and did a German lesson. I learned about how to describe my family: Ich habe einen Bruder und eine Schwester. Mein Vater und meine Mutter sind sehr schön. I hope that was right.

Anyway, I've been on TinyChat, and can I just say how much I love that website? Seriously. All of my friends get to use videochats and we just hang out. It's a shame they only ever happen at times when we North Americans can talk. We should do one for the UK folk.

And this is my promise to you: starting tomorrow, I will be doing something of substance with this blog. Not sure what, but I don't want to just blab about my life anymore. Be warned!

Yesterday's tally:

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

Today's tally:

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Robitussin works better than Sudafed.

Now, I'm not one to let sickness beat me.

But today I am.

I made the mistake of taking a non-drowsy cold medicine last night which kept me awake until 5:15-ish AM. That means not enough sleep to qualify for the sleep requirement, because I woke up (after intentionally turning off my alarm around 3:00 AM) at 10:00 on the dot. Curse my sleep cycle.

I've been coughing and sneezing all day, so no clarinet.

My brain is so dead that I can't do any German.

As a result:

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

Knowing how colds tend to go with me, though, this one'll be pretty much done tomorrow and just hang around annoyingly for a week or so, but I'll be no longer incapacitated. Here's to hoping.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Colds SUCK.

I'm going to make this as not-whiny as possible, but colds SUCK when you're trying to be productive. Especially when you play a wind instrument. When I try and play my clarinet while sick, I feel like I'm risking an aneurysm. Not a risk I'm willing to take today. On the upside, I had a great excuse to stay in the most comfortable clothes that I could, was not obligated to help paint the house (though I kind of wanted to), and all-in-all vegged out for a day. I guess it was a somewhat needed break from... summer?

Anyway, I DID do a whole German lesson today which was sehr gut in that I was finally taught how to conjugate verbs, which I kind of intuited from my general understanding of foreign languages. I mean, heck, I'm already figuring out past tense. These online courses need to know how to keep up with ME.

I did get to play Settlers of Catan when my brother's friends came over for dinner, and I have to say, I'm already hooked. Too bad nobody's going to want to play when I'm back at school. If only the people of the Internet could be within traveling distance!

I also spent a good few hours video editing for this gosh darn YouTube Girls song, of which I did *not* get to re-record the vocals on account of my pre-pubescent crackly voice today. Hopefully I can finish that in the next hour or so... hopefully...

So I guess all in all I have a few clouds, but all of them have silver linings. And I swear I'm going to give my best shot at saying something of substance tomorrow, but I don't know--I kind of like just being personal. I've generally not done that much on my channel. Who knows?

Time to tally up:

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

Side note: I realized today while editing the video, the numbered calendars are conspicuously present in a few shots, and they are completely empty. I've only been keeping tallies here. I will proceed now to change that fact.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What a day.

I woke up this morning with major allergy issues. Or a cold. I hope it's allergies. Anyway, the sad thing was that the first thing in my head (besides, of course, "Where the heck is that snooze button?") was "Gosh darnit, I have to sing today!"

However, I made myself some tea with honey, did some vocal warm-ups and got to it. I have to say, instrumentally, at least, I'm very happy with the recording I got out. I'm going to try at the vocals again tomorrow to see if I can get a better result out, though, and the video is going to be a chore to edit. I do, however, think I'm going to win myself some lady-hearts with it.

As for other news, I've slowly started defeating the demon that is Capriccio Espagnol which is also quite good. But the rest of the orchestra rep for the audition is looking equally daunting. This will be an interesting season, for sure.

And I recall saying that I was going to assess my progress on Tuesday and assign more projects. Well, I just realized that I'll want to START the new projects tomorrow, and I have to say, a new project or two should be *quite* doable. So I'm going to assign one tonight: actually doing those German lessons I said I would do way back in January. Perhaps I can incorporate German into my blog, seeing as the only way to get better is to practice and generally fail. So here goes try number 1: Ich spreche zu wenig Deutsch. Ich versuche es zu lernen.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
Bloging: X

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Doot-doot-doo, bloggeroo!

So today I just feel like reviewing what I've done so far. I have some ideas for "good" blogs in the future, but hopefully this will become a more regular part of my life and I can save them for later. Some of them I may even work on and edit in advance. Kind of like the videos I'm working on right now... wait, what?

So today I definitely played my clarinet. I played it in church this morning, which is always a mix of emotions. Seeing as I have to be there at 8 in the morning to do the pre-church rehearsal, I'm obviously tired (even though I also got my allotted sleep time) and the music is... well, let's just say "well within my playing abilities." So when I play in church, I get this warm fuzzy feeling that I'm adding to the service with my talents, but I also wish I got to actually use them. Except then I wonder whether doing so would actually detract from the service, kind of like saying "Step aside, Jesus, I got a mean lick to play here!" But in any case, I played then, and I also spent an extra hour whittling away at orchestral excerpts for my fall ensemble audition.

Which, of course, was the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I mean, what kind of a sadistic jerk came up with Cappriccio Espagnol? Oh right... Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, one of the best known orchestrators of all time. I have to say, when it is played well on the clarinet, you can tell why it was written for the clarinet, but it's not exactly a walk in the park. It also doesn't help that it is echoed by the principal violin later, who literally just puts four fingers down on the strings and swings the bow between them. Probably still difficult for them, but it *looks* much easier. Anyway, I spent the full hour playing 8 measures at about 1/4 the tempo it's supposed to be. Yep, that's dedication.

Finally, I laid down a few tracks for my response to Paige's YouTube Boys Get Me Hot Video. It's going to be about 6 minutes long, which is sad, but I have a feeling that it will melt people's hearts. Not to toot my own horn or anything (toot-toot!) What I had the most fun with was making a drum track with zero percussion equipment. I just hit my chest like Tarzan for a bass drum part, snapped to resemble a rim shot, and sizzled the hi hat part with my tongue. Basically, it's going to be a fun song with only acoustic sounds, which is what I like.

Hope you all are well, and I'll try and get one of my "real" blog posts to you tomorrow!

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
Blogging: X

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Re: What's your favorite _________?

So, this blog thing just doesn't have a good way to carry on a conversation. I guess the best way is for me to make a whole post because I got such wonderful feedback!

In general, I think we agree that there is a lot of value in not picking favorites for some things, but there are others about which we think we should remain ignorant. Ute (scratchingcat), for example, pointed out that we should hopefully have a favorite significant other. I wholeheartedly agree with that--but I'd also argue that, as I pointed out, this is out of a conscious choice not to try out others anymore and see if there are more suitable ones out there. In this case, the ignorance is honorable.

Similarly, when it comes to investments, or things about which you must only pick one if you are sane, you must intentionally remain ignorant. Will brought up the notion of purchasing a guitar for himself. Having bought myself clarinets, I know the feeling--you have to try out lots and lots of instruments and only pick ONE. In my experience, something that makes this process much easier is, much like with choosing life partners, choosing to remain ignorant after a certain point. Sure, you try out all the possible ones you see, and you find out what you like and don't like, but eventually you must come to a decision, and once you have, you stop trying out others to see if it was the right decision until you are back on the market.

I was also not arguing against having preferences. It is a sign of good taste to have preferences--it means you are paying attention to differences in things and assessing them, which implies you are milking the experience at hand of all its worth. Preferences also help make decisions so that we don't spend our whole lives wandering aimlessly, avoiding any direction at all.

Some of you also brought up the idea of "temporary favorites" or "flexible favorites." I suppose this is simply a difference in definition; I was using the term "favorite" to imply a conscious choice that is much more permanent. The fact that you get excited about one thing for an amount of time, however brief, does not mean that you have chosen a favorite in my opinion, but rather are savoring something preferable. In such a situation, in my experience at least, I readily admit to myself that I will not unendingly find such fascination in whatever this may be. This willingness to admit that it will not always be your favorite is exactly the kind of healthy habit I was encouraging.

Finally, there's what I like to call the "soul mate" favorite. This is where you happen across something that becomes a favorite, leave it--possibly even several times--but somehow always end up coming back to it and rediscovering why you loved it so much. I'd say this is a healthy kind of favorite to have, because you have clearly not stopped searching and somehow remain drawn to it. What's important to remember about this, at least in my eyes, is that you do not judge other choices in comparison to it. Comparing other things to your soul mate favorite is still a type of chosen ignorance.

All that being said, I did want to make it a point to say that I loved all of your responses and I think it's lovely that we can have this discussion! It seems so nice to be able to calmly discuss things without having to take the hours I normally spend on videos. This is also going up unedited... so I hope it made sense :D


Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
Blogging: X

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bloggin' my words like yeah.

So today had one failure and two major successes, which I hate having to make excuses for. Alas, it is so. Today my brother graduated from high school, which, of course, necessitates a full day of family celebration and it would have been rude to leave the family to practice my silly little clarinet for such a monumental occasion. I also had to be up at a whopping seven in the morning, but I still had seven hours of sleep, so it's technically a success, though I still felt quite tired. I guess I'll give it a slash because it met the rule but not the spirit of the rule. And clearly I'm blogging, so you know, it's a win of sorts.

As for the ceremony, it was much easier than mine was from the same high school. It helped that his class was half the size of mine (the largest in my high school's history--856 students!) and it also helped that the valedictorian had an entertaining and BRIEF speech. Also the fact that their class song was Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus made for an entertaining graduation because I was sure half the class hated it or at least found it humorously ironic.

I'm not going to lie, when I saw my brother walk out toward the end of the first set of students, I was a bit seized by emotion. It was just strange to me to think that he's going off to college. Somehow, in my imagination, he has stayed a freshman in high school while I was off rising through the grades in college. On the contrary, he is going off to university in just over a month for summer classes. He's one of very few of my nearly 20 cousins not to major in the arts, which makes him a little... I don't know... untouchable. He and my Dad have spent the last few nights debating the physics of MythBusters or how to use the engineering of the refrigerator to get the perfectly soft ice cream. It's strange to me that now he knows lots of things I don't. I guess that's part of being an adult.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble. I guess I should wrap this thing up. My brother's a big boy and I'm proud of him, and realizing more and more that he's just as easy to envy as he claims I am. God, I love my family.

Clarinet: O
Sleep: /
Blogging: X

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What's Your Favorite _________?

Now, this is a question that bothers me on several levels. Many of you know from my videos that I have trouble picking favorites, and I have recently come to the conclusion as to why. Favorites are a sign of ignorance. I know this sounds harsh, so please allow me to explain.

People often ask me what my favorite song or composer is. This riles me up in several ways. First of all, there is an implication that they are actually looking for me to pass a judgement, based on my experience, of what is quality and what is not quality. I can understand this from one perspective, being that as somewhat of an expert I can offer some insight that they did not know about; I cannot understand, however, how they actually expect me to choose. When someone is as knowledgeable as I (and I am by no means the definitive scholar) in a field, they know a wide variety of examples of their art form in many different styles and can appreciate various aspects of them. It would be very easy for me, for example, to pick a favorite symphony if I only knew, say, Beethoven 9 and Schubert 1; Beethoven CLEARLY beats Schubert (in my opinion). When, however, I know dozens of symphonies by equally numerous composers, there are many more variables between which I cannot choose.

That is why I say favorites are a sign of ignorance. You can easily pick a preference between a handful of options, but when the options grow more numerous, it becomes more and more difficult to make a choice. I used to be able to pick a favorite food. I used to be able to give a favorite color. I used to be able to pick a favorite car. I no longer can because I know so many of each.

What also strikes me about picking a favorite is that it almost always prevents further research. If you have an old standby, why try something new? Humans are creatures of habit, and it is easy to fall into a rut doing the same things over and over again. It's comfortable, it's easy, and you only get more efficient at it. But I personally believe the old adage that variety is the spice of life.

That is why, from now on, if I find myself picking favorites, I will force myself to research more until I can no longer pick one. If I get a favorite tool, I will try others to see advantages and disadvantages. If I become complacent with my entertainment, whatever it may be, I will try and find something new. If I, heaven forbid, have a favorite child, I will do everything in my power to connect with and learn about the others so that I appreciate them equally.

So this is my plea to you, dearest reader: DO NOT allow yourself to pick favorites. Not having a favorite will make life much more fun.

Sleep: X
Clarinet: X
Blogging: X

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

30 Days of Summer

So... I've done it again. I'm a very driven and creative person, but I usually need reasons to do things, and during summer, they all go away and I only want to do the things that are most passively entertaining. Well, not entirely passive--I have yet to plant myself in front of the TV for more than an hour at a time, and never more than two hours a day. I have, however, been passive in comparison to what I usually am.

I started off the summer pretty excited for projects, and for a few weeks, I was even successful. I had successful creative ventures (of which my channel will be bearing fruit quite shortly) and was for the most part responsible. But I have recently fallen into the summer doldrums and choose now to pull myself out before it gets worse.

For this reason, I have decided to re-start my "30 days of" projects on which I fell behind, but this time, I will be held responsible by the internet (i.e. you) by having one of my numberless calendars be "30 days of blogging." Now I know that internet friends are notoriously bad at holding each other accountable for promises and, as a result, we're notoriously bad at keeping promises. This is one case in which I ask that you bother me if I am not up to snuff. It does kind of make me feel like I'm using you, but, you know, I'd return the favor any time. So please, please, bug me if I do not meet the goals I set forth.

That being said, these goals need to be fluid, not entirely strict, and this is where problems can arise. I do promise that I will admit when I have failed and will not change the rules to avoid having to admit it, but I must also say that if I find a goal unreasonable, I will change it.

So, you might be wondering: what are my other goals? I do not want to overload myself, and I am also aware of which ones I will do for fun and which I will need to set a goal to complete. As a result, I will only run three calendars this week and will reassess next Tuesday whether I may add more. The first, as previously stated, will be "30 days of blogging." The second will be "30 days of clarinet practice." I've had my clarinet break and I must now pick it back up. The third will be "30 days of proper sleep." This one was only defined as such because the true measurement would be too many words for that line, but I will define it clearly here: proper sleep, in my knowledge of my own habits, entails 7-8 hours of sleep and must include waking up between 8:00 and 10:00 AM. I know it sounds strange to many of you that someone would WANT to be awake that early, but I know myself well enough to realize that this is the only way I can make it through a day and accomplish things; sleeping in always makes me groggy and lazy.

Finally, as for the set-up of the blogs for thirty days, you can expect that I'll blog about everything from nothing to something (much like my videos) and they will vary in length from not much to long (but not too long). I will always end with my 30 day accomplishments, if they have been accomplished, and if they have not by the time I post, I will write when I plan to accomplish them. If it is something, like sleep, which cannot be accomplished if it has not already been accomplished, I will simply mark an "O" and cry a little inside. Similarly, if they have been accomplished, I'll mark an "X" and cheer a little inside. So! For the first day we have:

Blogging: X
Proper sleep: X
Clarinet: X

See you tomorrow!