SH Sean Harding/blog
Facing the fear (and the music)
Friday, December 1st, 2006

It’s no secret that for many people, improv involves facing certain fears and insecurities. I created my “just do it” rule to force me to act before insecurity has a chance to take hold. It’s been very effective for me. But there is one aspect of improv that still brings me fear: music.

I’ve always liked a variety of creative pursuits. When I was a child, I loved to draw pictures of anything and everything. I didn’t like coloring very much because it stifled my creativity. I’ve been a photographer for years, and I love making videos. I enjoy writing about lots of things. I really like making up stories, and of course I’m totally into improv. Music, however, is one form of creativity with which I have not yet made peace. I do love music. I have tons of CDs, I’ve gone to a lot of concerts and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on the iTunes store. Yes, I’m a real music lover. Unfortunately, I’m not a very confident music maker.

When I was three or four years old, I had a little ukulele I loved to play with. Later, I got a child-sized guitar. In elementary school, I briefly tried to play the trumpet. And just a few years ago, I took piano lessons. None of it has really stuck, though. Despite having played with all of those instruments, I can’t actually play any of them now. Even though I know what (most of) the notation on sheet music means, I can’t really translate it into sound. And above all else, I’m a terrible singer. The truth is that I probably allow myself to get discouraged too easily with music. In all of my attempts, I’ve never given it the full dedication it deserves. Yes, I know that I can only blame myself for my musical shortcomings. That doesn’t make me any more confident, though.

So far, I’ve skated through improv with only the tiniest bit of exposure to music. We’ve done “lounge lizards” a few times in Playground, and it was a lot of fun, but that has been about it. Not for long. Last night in class, I learned that we’re going to be working on music every week. And this isn’t just lounge lizards (which is pretty easy even for me). I’m going to have to improvise songs, going along with improvised music. This is as far out of my comfort zone as I’ve ever been in improv. By a long shot. My first reaction was sheer terror, to be honest. But the terror tells me something. It tells me that this is something I really need to work on and conquer.

I still have a bit of fear pulsing through my veins, but traveling along with it is a good dose of excitement. I’m extremely excited to work on improving my musical skills, and I’m making a promise to myself that I will remain dedicated. I will give it all the attention it needs. This is the time. I will prevail!

The commute from hell
Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

If you’re in the Seattle area, you already know what I’m talking about. Last night’s commute will live in infamy. It was the worst I’ve ever seen, and I sincerely hope it’s the worst I will ever see.

The truth is, I had it easy. Monday Night Football was in town last night. The stadium is right across the street from my office building, so we got kicked out of the parking garage at 3:30 (I could have stayed if I wanted to pay the $30 football parking fee, but I passed on that). The roads were clear and dry when I left the office. The throngs of football fans converging on Qwest Field had traffic truly jammed, so it took me about 20 minutes to make it the four blocks from my office to the I-90 onramp. Just as I was getting onto 90, it started hailing or snowing or some combination — I’m not quite sure. Whatever it was, it didn’t last long. After a minute or two, it stopped and I thought I was home free. I-90 was wide open, and it was looking like I was going to have a record fast commute home. It was 3:55 PM.

By about 4:10, I’d made it onto I-405 and all the way through Bellevue. I was thrilled at how fast I was getting home. Then it suddenly started snowing. As much as I hate winter weather, a little snow doesn’t really bother me much from a driving perspective. I learned to drive in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, where it’s snowy and icy for much of the winter. I’m pretty experienced with winter driving. That doesn’t mean I like it, but I can handle it. The rest of the Seattle area drivers, however, can not. Within 90 seconds of the snow starting, with no visible accumulation on the road surface, we’d slowed from 60 mph to 30. Less than five minutes later, we were down to 5 mph. We crawled the last four miles at speeds ranging from two to ten miles per hour. I finally got home just before 4:45. My normal commute takes about 45 minutes, and it took me an hour and fifteen minutes last night. Pretty bad, right?

Not really. My poor wife had a meeting in Bellevue (about ten miles south of home) at 5:30 PM. By then, the snow was definitely coming down, but the roads still didn’t look that bad. The meeting got done a little after 6, and by 6:20 she was on the road to get home. I don’t remember exactly when she first called me, but at some point it became clear that it was going to take her a really long time to get home. I started listening to news radio, and all they were running was traffic reports and phone calls from people stuck in traffic. Some of the stories were truly scary. There were articulated buses and semis crashed all over the place, blocking multiple lanes at a time. A few major highways were closed for the first time in over a decade. Yes, it was going to take Becky an extremely long time to get home. How long is an extremely long time? Remember, she only had to travel ten miles. It was all on one freeway. How long could that possibly take? An hour? Two hours? Two and a half?

Try five. FIVE HOURS! She averaged two miles per hour for ten miles. She got home at 11:20 PM. We normally go to bed at ten, so you can imagine how tired she was. Not only was it almost an hour and a half after bedtime (and many hours after dinner time), but she’d been on the road for five hours straight. This must be some kind of record.

The sad thing is, according to the news reports, her commute wasn’t the longest. Apparently there were people out there all night long. Some people abandoned their cars on the road (I imagine some ran out of gas — when you think you only have to go a few miles, you might not be prepared for an all night trip). Many of the bus routes just stopped running, so people who use mass transit weren’t much better off. In fact, on the news this morning, the main bus routes downtown stopped running before the football game was over, effectively stranding anyone who had ridden the bus to the game.

Today, we’re staying home.

The weather is spiting me
Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

This is not what I wanted to see when I looked out my window this morning.

Yeah, I know it’s not a lot, but it’s way too much for my tastes. I hate snow. HATE! I got all the snow I need for the rest of my life when I lived in Wyoming and Lake Tahoe. I’d be happy if I never saw another flake of snow again.

Is this Mother Nature’s idea of an early holiday gift? I wonder what the return policy is…

Shopping without dropping
Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Now the meal is in your stomach and the leftovers are in the fridge. After a little rest and maybe some pie, it’ll be time to get on with what this season is really about: shopping! If you celebrate Christmas or any other gift-giving December holiday, it’s time to get with the program.

I’d like to offer the one most valuable piece of advice anyone can give you: do all of your shopping online! That’s right. Forget the Friday morning sales, avoid the malls and put the enormous crowds out of your mind. You don’t have to deal with full parking lots or grumpy cashiers. All of the things you want to buy for everyone on your list is available on the web.

Do you want Mrs. Ball’s Original Chutney? Not a problem. How about a Steiner Velvet Shield Welding Blanket? Piece of cake. Perhaps you’re looking for the SmellKiller 90000 Fish Slayer. It’s there! I’m sure there’s someone on your list who would like a Hohner D40 Concertina, and if all of the shopping makes you tired, you can pick up a Manhattan Chocolate Platform Bed.

See? It’s easy! Just point, click and buy!

I know that some of you may not have used your accounts in a while. If you need a practice run, please feel free to buy things for me from my wishlist.

Have fun!

Oh, I almost forgot! I know a number of you are probably looking for red hats. Here are some excellent options:

Shiny Vinyl Bucket Rain Hat
Fishing Hat
Bucket Fishing Hat
Reversible Fleece Bucket Hat
Burberry Women’s Canvas Bucket Hat
Leather Bucket Hat
Angora Bucket Hat

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