Monday, January 30, 2012

Pasta and Piano


Recently I bought three boxes of pasta, along with over a hundred dollars of other foods from the grocery store, but I forgot to buy tomato sauce. Well, it's time to go grocery shopping again, but I hate seeing uneaten food in the kitchen when I am buying new groceries. Those three pasta boxes on the kitchen counter are tormenting me.

Tonight, I made a special trip to a local convenience store and bought a bottle of sauce just so I could finally cook some pasta. Not hard at all, just boil 4 quarts of water, and throw the pasta in for 8 minutes, and your done. You also should heat up the sauce a bit. A pound of pasta is a lot of food, so next time I think I am going to aim for 1/4 pound instead.

After I ate, I turned to the piano and practiced a couple songs. Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonate Op.27-2 "Moonlight" 1st Movement (Moonlight Sonata,) and Inventio 13 BMV 784 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The first classical piece I taught myself on piano was Moonlight Sonata, although I learned it by ear.


My parents bought me an electric Yamaha keyboard when I was very young, and paid for piano lessons which were taught at a real piano at a friend's house. I used to think it was boring to play songs which were handed to me by teachers, or my parents, since they were always either standards, or songs that they liked, instead of songs "I" liked. Later in my life, probably around when I was 16 years old, when I had some cash of my own, I bought a real keyboard: Roland D-50 linear synthesizer. The sounds that keyboard made were ten times more powerful and interesting than the old Yamaha keyboard I had, and I finally became addicted to playing a musical instrument. Not much later I learned how to play alto saxophone, and even played in a High School Jazz Band, which was a lot of fun, but the keyboard was the most addicting to play. I used to sit in my room with the headphones on and just make up songs everyday. Never wrote any notes down, except when I was trying to learn a complicated Pink Floyd or Doors piece. The D-50 keyboard had a lot of sounds, but the best sounds were the strings and pianos.

After listening to my CD collection of Mahler, Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, I zeroed in on Moonlight Sonata after hearing it, and have never let go of it. For me, Moonlight Sonata was one of those songs that is so hauntingly beautiful it never gets old, especially when I am playing it, instead of just listening to it. Learning Moonlight Sonata by listening to the CD, and then playing it on the keyboard, was like a game to me. Figuring out chords, and notes, by how they sound when played, and by using my memory, seems to be easier for me than literal objective musical theory. When I finally read the sheet music at my girlfriend's house many years later I realized that I played the song wrong in some parts. I decided to go out and buy a copy of the sheet music back then, and sit down and pick over the score to relearn how to play it. The sheet music was lost in a house fire over a decade ago, and I never bought a new copy.

When I was in college I also learned how to play classical guitar. It was a small intimate class of half a dozen musicians who all knew how to play electric guitar, or keyboard, or some other instrument, so the class moved fast and before the first course was over we were all playing advanced pieces. When I went back for the next semester, we formed duets, and really pushed our abilities. This was a wonderful time for me, since it was the first time that I felt like I had a close relationship with my teacher and students. Small class size really does matter.

I used to love to jam with other musicians, and record it. Later we would chop it up and make a song that sounded decent. Unfortunately, about eight years ago the band I made the best music with broke up, and I lost interest in music completely after that since I didn't have anyone else to play music with, and I even gave away my keyboard I had at the time which was a Roland XP-30. Since then, I have played guitar off and on, but stopped playing piano. However, recently I have been feeling drawn to playing music again.

I have been saving money for a while, and decided to spend a little on a new Casio PX-130 Privia digital piano, and don't regret it at all. This device is amazingly similar to a real piano, both in sound and feel. I also have a Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos Mod E classical guitar that I dug out of my closet and cleaned up. Both have a hidden universe in them that is limitless once you relax and let the notes play themselves. This concept also works for any artform, such as drawing, painting, dancing, singing, etc..

The Privia came with a book that contains 60 classical scored pieces, and in addition to that the keyboard contains recordings of each one, so you can compare your playing to the recorded work. Very cool concept. I also downloaded some sheet music from musicnotes.com and now own the guitar scores for Classical Gas by Mason Williams and Kiss the Rain by Yiruma. For the past week I have been hammering away on the keys, and plucking the strings with my filed nails, and man I am feeling sore! But, eventually my muscles will adapt to playing again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Getting Outside


I have noticed many of the people I know spend most of their lives indoors, and rarely get out and enjoy the sunshine. Even though it is winter at the moment, and the sun stays a bit lower on the horizon, Southern California weather seems to find a way to stay relatively warm when compared to other states. In an effort to get out more, and get some exercise, I made a decision to walk to work.




It is only a 1.3 mile walk one way, and takes less than half an hour usually. My dog Misty always seems to side track me though, so it can take up to 45 minutes. But it's not about the destination, it's about the journey, right? Meeting people along the way, and seeing the buildings I drive by with more detail, makes me feel like I am more a part of the community. Today I burned around 300 calories and barely broke a sweat. I also use this time to catch up on the daily events by listening to Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.


I tried my hand at baking tonight, by mixing the ingredients to the right per a granola bar recipe, and then baking the mixture for 25 minutes. The pan I had was bigger than the one they told me to use in the recipe, and I didn't feel like buying a new pan, so the mixture was fairly thin when I spread it all out in the baking pan. It turned out like cookies, and tasted really good.

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Day, First Meals





Breakfast
Usually I would start the day by snacking on some left overs in the fridge, but instead I decided to put a little more effort into it. Four bagel thins with Benecol, and some soy milk. Benecol has Plant Sterols added to it, which lowers cholesterol naturally.

On a molecular level, sterols and stanols look a lot like cholesterol. So when they travel through your digestive tract, they get in the way. They can prevent real cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Instead of clogging up your arteries, the cholesterol just goes out with the waste. - WebMD


The soy milk I chose has 50% more calcium that dairy milk, and has less calories and less cholesterol than dairy milk. I like how you can track where the soy milk you are drinking comes from by going to http://silksoymilk.com/traceit/ and entering the manufacturing plant code on the carton.


Snacks
Instead of only eating a couple 500 calorie meals during the day, I plan on three meals a day and also eating apples, bananas, and pears. Currently, my daily calorie intake is below 1200, and I always feel tired. If I can get my calories up around 1800, I am hoping my energy level improves.


Lunch
Some Wheat Thins and Hummus. I just realized that the carbs, fat, and sodium in Wheat Thins is extremely high. The main reason I purchased Nabisco Wheat Thins was that they had 100% Whole Grain. Lesson learned. Next time will substitute a cracker with less sodium. This meal was about 1200 Calories, 170g Carbs, 50g Fat, 30g Protein, and 1947g Sodium.

Throughout the day I read news reports, and studied various spiritual ideas, then posted about them on my other two blogs: The Mystical and Fool Me Twice. I ended the day with a cup of jasmine tea and an open faced sandwich. All-in-all I feel positive about the coming week, and if I stay focused will maintain this lifestyle of eating intelligently.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012

I know everyone makes New Years resolutions, and usually they include: loosing weight, getting out more, saving money, buying a house, etc.. My resolution is simply to change. The areas of my life where I would want to venture deeper would be physical well being, psychological stability, and spiritual contentment.

In 2012 I plan on exercising, meditating, and enjoying nature more. My physical and psychological well being is very important to me, however the last couple years I have settled into the usual routines of life that unfortunately do not aid, but harm my physical body and mind. Some examples are sitting at my office desk a bit too long at work, exercising only occasionally, dwelling on the plight of people in war zones and starving countries, feeling betrayed by politicians I help elect, rarely performing yoga, and eating poor quality food.

I decided to set some goals for myself:
Eat foods with lower cholesterol
Exercise regularly
Perform Yoga every day
Loose some weight

If I can get into a routine in 2012, and make these goals merely habits, mentally it will be effortless, and they will cease being goals, and instead a lifestyle. Perhaps then I will be able to add more goals to attain spiritual contentment and psychological stability.