June 29, 2011


Ok...I promised to make this short, but I just have to brag a little about my very cool boyfriend. There's a new numerical relativity textbook that's just been published and some of the papers he's worked on were cited within.

Rob always makes fun of me when I open up his books and ogle the intimidating equations that appear on nearly every page, but I can't help but be impressed that there are people in the world who can look at stuff like this and use it to explain many complex and beautiful aspects of our universe. In fact, to those versed in the language, such equations and the ideas behind them can be molded like a piece of clay into a physical or mathematical idea that possesses beauty and elegance analogous to any of the greatest works of art by Leonardo Da Vinci or Auguste Rodin. Here is a link to an enlightening essay on the topic by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. I wish I'd read something like this in high school before I got scared away from mathematics.

Here's one of the citations...pretty cool eh:)

June 27, 2011

Sacred Grove

So I'm back in Ithaca visiting Rob for a couple weeks before heading off to Austria for the AIMS Festival, and today (after I got a good warm up in at Ithaca College) we visited Buttermilk Falls State Park for some fresh air and a good stretch of the legs.

The hike (though pretty steep for the first 1/2 mile or so) was truly spectacular. It was easy to be swept away by the grande staircase of waterfalls as we ascended the narrow gorge...

...and peered into the crystal depths of little pools cut from the otherwise flat slabs of shale for no other purpose than to entice passers by into their cool (well...probably more like freeeezing) embrace...

There were a few waders along the trail, but all the signs said "no swimming or wading," so of course I (being the rule-following-stick-in-the-mud that I am) never once considered even just removing my shoes and socks to dip in a toe...well maybe I thought about it...briefly...how could I not? I mean just look at this place!

My eyes were also drawn to the miniature communities of mosses, liverworts, and mushrooms that carpeted the dripping shale walls edging the trail. The closer I'd observe the more details would appear and I felt I could've spent hours exploring these near-microscopic worlds...

I'm guessing these coral-esque plant-thingies are some kind of fungus, but I wasn't able to find anything that even sort of resembled them when I searched online at home later...

Rob has this app on his phone called "google goggles" that compares images you take with your own mobile device to images on the web and tries to help you identify whatever's in your picture. It's most typically used to identify famous landmarks, commercial products, and to translate signs in another language, but wikipedia notes that "google is currently working to make the system able to recognize different plants and leaves, which can aid curious persons, those wishing to avoid toxic plants, and botanists and environmentalists searching for rare plants." So Rob took a picture of my picture, sent it in to google goggles and came back with...

Hmmm...looks like there's still a good bit of work to be done.

The second half of the trail continued beyond the gorge and wandered underneath a lush forest canopy. Here and there spotlights of golden sunshine beamed down through the shadows to illuminate patches of ground and I was reminded of paintings I'd seen in my younger years of Joseph Smith's first vision...

Coincidentally, I'd heard on the radio just this morning that today is the anniversary of Smith's brutal martyrdom and later I remembered that one of Rob's ancestors, A. C. Smythe, was the composer of the music to the popular mormon hymn "Joseph Smith's First Prayer." Wandering through these woods it is easy to imagine how one might experience such a place as holy. We certainly didn't see any angels along our way (which Rob says is probably just because we're heathens), but I'm contented enough to gaze at the patterns of illuminated green against the shadows, listen to the echoing calls of songbirds, and wonder at the comical dancing of daddy long legs basking upon broad leaves and call it all good...

June 23, 2011

Lake Michigan

Right now I'm sitting in the lounge flipping through my iphoto folders and have found that there are a good number of nice pictures I haven't yet shared with anyone. Most of you will not be surprised to hear that the vast majority of them depict what may be the single greatest muse I've had in all my life: Lake Michigan. It never ceases to amaze me how many different moods, colors, and textures she displays from one hour to the next, and even though I deeply miss the mountain and desert wildernesses of my Utah home, Lake Michigan has nourished my soul in new ways I could have never anticipated.

Also Though I love the large sunrise photo I've featured on my blog for the last few months...

...I think it's about time I change it up. So here's my new featured sunrise pic...which I took a couple of months ago, but didn't take the initiative to post it in the moment (I was probably insanely busy with class and performance responsibilities at the time).

And as a sort of homage to the friend I'll be missing for the next couple of months as I travel to NY and Austria for the summer, here are some snapshots that I hope will illustrate why it's been so easy to fall in love with my watery neighbor.

One of the creatures that arrived at the lake in late spring and has entertained me ever since is the tern. They wheel and hover above the water scanning for small fish and then dive bomb their aquatic victims with a purposeful grace that puts the comparative awkwardness of their seagull cousins to shame. The one pictured here is a Caspian tern: the largest variety...

...and here--about to plunge headfirst into the water--is the smaller and more delicate common tern...

I've tried time and again to capture the instant at which one of these birds hits the water, and this is about the closest I've come.

In this moment, the tern has already captured its prey and is on its way back up. The fact that the birds actually emerge from the water while the spray from their initial splash is still hovering in the air above them is a testament to their deftness and speed.

I hope all of this hasn't been too tedious for anyone. When I started this blog I expected I'd be maintaining a regular account of what it was like to be an aspiring professional trumpet player learning the tricks of the trade as a part one of the nation's premier university studios. What I've found instead is that it has become a means of escape from the daily struggles I endure. It does me good to share what I'm still able to see as beautiful in the world around me. It reminds me to be grateful and it helps me to wonder.

June 22, 2011

Mind Games

What could be better than a large enclosed space where everyone is free to run, chase, and sniff their neighbors butts unassailed? A large enclosed space where you can do all that...and THEN jump into the water! Welcome to Dog Beach: the urban canine's paradise. I love walking past this place and watching the antics of dogs as they frolic in the waves, run along the sand dripping wet, and then walk right up to their owners and exuberantly shake themselves dry...or rather: redistribute the moisture from their sloppy hides to the clothes of their humans.

This morning the place was crowded, but my attention was drawn to one couple in particular who were evidently having some communication issues. Ms. Owner was standing in front of her happy-go-lucky companion holding a tennis ball in one of those fluorescent launchers that can extend the range of each throw to olympic proportions. Fido was prancing around in front of her with that "gimmie the ball! gimmie the ball!" look plastered all over his face. Ms. Owner stood by unperturbed and pointed commandingly to the south--indicating that she planned to fling the ball far down the beach and parallel to the water line. Assuming Fido had received and processed that message she wound up and threw! Upon seeing that beloved of all movements: the release of energy that unequivocally means the object of play has been released into the universe, Fido bounded away from his owner...and gleefully jumped straight into the water following a path precisely perpendicular to where the ball had been thrown.

Ms. Owner cocked a hip and looked on with exasperation as Fido realized he'd missed the ball and paddled back to shore.

My step-dad Rod believes that dogs communicate with each other telepathically and that they try to do the same with their humans. You know what I mean. Like those times the family's sitting down for a meal and Rusty walks politely up to someone, cocks his head, and with a tiny flick of his little pink tongue sits back on his haunches to beg. According to Rod he's attempting to place this thought in the head of his human: "Hey lady...I ain't e't in days...please gimmie just a little somethin' would ya?"

So on the beach this morning one of three things could've happened to create the drama I witnessed:

1. Ms. Owner had assumed she'd read Fido's message clearly and simply as: "gimmie the ball! gimmie the ball!" but had instead missed the full intent of his communication which was rather: "gimmie the ball in the water! I wanna get wet!"

2. Ms. Owner had indeed understood that Fido wanted to jump in the water again, but was determined to make him follow her instructions rather than his own inclinations. Though she physically gestured her intent properly, she neglected the necessary telepathic reinforcement of the idea--causing her well meaning Fido to misread orders.

3. Fido knew exactly what Ms. Owner was asking of him, but thought to himself, "Why in the world would you EVER not want to throw the ball into the water? I mean, that's way more fun than just chasing it on the sand?" So Fido then decided he'd remind Ms. Owner of the only reasonable direction for a ball to go when it's thrown from Dog Beach...what could be more obvious?

Let's hope this pair eventually reaches an understanding.

June 21, 2011

Overdue #1

I'd promised you all that I'd eventually get to the backlog of news that has been piling up in my memory, and also share some of the photos that have been accumulating in my iphoto folder, but even though my days have been almost blissfully serene for the last week or so, I've found myself becoming even more of a procrastinator.

So...let's see if I can give you the short 'n' sweet of it all...

Over Memorial Day weekend (yup, I really do have to go back that far) I performed in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble's final concert for the 2010-2011 school year. It was held at Millennium Park in the heart of downtown Chicago and featured a stellar compilation of many pieces we'd already performed on our 2 previous concerts earlier in the quarter, in addition to the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto featuring NU alumnus and current principal trumpeter of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Colin Oldberg.

I was nervously excited as I had some demanding parts with which I'd struggled all quarter, but I'd had a terrific lesson with professor Barbara Butler a few days previous that had injected some badly needed spark into my playing and I felt ready to take on the challenge. To top it all off, Rob had flown in for the weekend and proceeded to spoil me rotten with his affections...what could be better?

This is a view shot from the stage of the Pritzker Pavillion: the park's amazing concert venue designed in the late 1990s by architect Frank Gehry...

...and whose distinctive style is more apparent when viewing the stage from the audience's perspective...

To give you an idea of scale, to the right is a shot of some of my colleagues taking a break in between our rehearsal and the show. It's incredible to think about what must have taken place during the construction of such a building, and interesting to go behind its imposing facade to examine some of the supports that keep this wild explosion of a structure firmly in place.

It was actually something of a miracle that the concert took place at all. During our drive downtown Rob and I were pummeled with curtains of falling water and had to take special care to avoid the many lakes that had suddenly appeared along the sides of the road. Lightning and thunder was near constant and my stomach churned as I imagined being on stage surrounded by a mess of exposed electronics. As the afternoon progressed however the weather slowly improved...

...and by the time we finished rehearsing and broke for dinner there was hardly even a threat drizzle. To pass the time Rob and I took the opportunity to wander a bit--checking out some of the numerous works of art that inhabit the park and its surrounding neighborhoods.

By the time SWE took the stage and opened the evening's entertainment with Shostakovich's Festive Overture, the sun was almost peeking through the increasingly patchy clouds and a small crowd had begun to accumulate around the edges of the park. After the Overture, we played a wind ensemble adaptation of a Shostakovich piano prelude, the trumpet concerto, music from Wagner's Meistersinger, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and (one of my personal favorites) the Symphonic Metamorphosis of Hindemith. The concert was a rousing success. I played better than I had in months--able to find a brilliance and spin in my sound that had been lacking since my embouchure alteration in January--and the rest of the ensemble sparkled with the thrill of performing together in such a fantastic setting.

The rest of the weekend was hot and muggy-mug-muggy! Rob was the best of sports to accompany me to the year end trumpet party hosted by professors Geyer and Butler at their home in the "woods." I bruised up my arms playing volleyball and he got a vicious sunburn on his head, but we were served some hearty chili (yes, that's right...HOT chili...outside...in blistering sunshiney weather), got to play with Charlie's conure (a medium size parrot), and had a generally agreeable time.

I said this was gonna be short...but...well I guess I'll just have to continue with the remaining updates tomorrow. In a moment I'll be heading over to the music building to play some duets/orchestral excerpts with my long-suffering duet buddy Rick, and then I hope to squeeze in another evening stroll along the lake shore before I finally settle into bed with an exhilarating summer read: Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass (the 3rd book of the trilogy His Dark Materials which I'm desperately trying to finish before I leave town and have to return my library books!). Selfish and lazy? Mmmmm...so what...it's my first summer off in 8 years and I DESERVE IT!

June 18, 2011

Mmmm...(nearly) Summer

The last couple of days here have been nothing short of idyllic. It's been humid enough to make distant views hazy...

...but not hot enough to be stifling. Cool breezes have kept the air fresh, but have refrained from growing into the more typical merciless gales that almost unceasingly blast in from the lake. The overwhelming crowds that surged outdoors on the first anomalous warm days of spring have thinned a bit as locals have relaxed into the idea that the sun really is going to stick around for a while this time.

It's the kind of weather that compels trombonists to the lake shore for a good open-chested warm up...

...while keeping his neighbors sufficiently lulled to prevent any conflict over an excess of noise.

Butterflies flit contentedly from flower to flower...

...and allow me to get so amazingly close I can almost see my face reflected in their tiny eyeballs. This little guy couldn't have been much more than a half of an inch tall. He settled in atop a blade of grass and seemed to watch me and my camera lens with some bemusement as I slid in ever closer for a good view. When was the last time you got to look right into the face of a butterfly like this?

The fish in the "river" (it's so short--maybe 50 feet long--that I hesitate to give it such a label) that runs between the campus pond and Lake Michigan crowd its banks and jostle for the best spots in the current, while fisherman just a few feet offshore hope to hook a big one...

While everyone else seems to be taking a load off, a mother dove is still working hard to keep her nearly mature chicks fed and happy. When I encountered this trio the two chicks had their faces shoved way up inside the mother's beak and both were aggressively thrusting further and further against her as she presumably regurgitated some nutritious snacks for them to munch on...yumm?

And overlooking it all, a row of barn swallows rest comfortably in their penthouse suites and survey the landscape. (nearly) Summertime and the livin' is easy...