Sunday, February 08, 2015

I just emailed my advisor the prologue and finale of my opera.
That means that I have a full first draft of the piano/vocal version of my opera. I also have my edits for most of the other scenes, so that's my next step which is already quite well on it's way.

Part of me wants to post something excitedly about this accomplishment on facebook, but I also feel the tinge of shame for how long it's taken me... I'm just going to keep my nose to the grindstone and only announce really big accomplishments, like when it's edited and finished and/or ready to submit.

Anyway, since this is my quiet little unread place on the internet, I'm happy bragging about it here, haha!

Okay, time for bed... But I'm glad I stayed up tonight and got this done.
Sunshine and smiles here :)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

it was all lies...
it's February and I'm still not done.
Close, though...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I've been on a bit of a roll, and I actually see it as a possibility that I will finish the piano-vocal version (draft) of my opera this calendar year. I'm actually aiming for before we head to Winnipeg on the 24th, but that's a bit tight.

Don't get excited... there's still a lot of editing, orchestrating, more editing, and a paper to write before I'll be able to submit, but pulling the story and musical elements together into something cohesive will be an exciting accomplishment.

Speaking of that work, I'll go do it now :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'm gonna blame my return to blogging (though 1 post is hardly an official return to something that was a daily habit for years) for my recent return to my super late-night schedule. Last night I was up until 4am and woke at noon.

My schedule had been relatively normal, waking up in mornings on most days, but with 3 days in a row of not working until the evening, I'm back to my old ways ;)

The real reason I've been up so late is that I've been making real progress on my opera. I'll be honest, I've been stuck for about 6 months on how to END it. I'd worked all the other scenes, but I finally had nowhere else to go. All that time of thinking of possibilities and never being happy with them must have done some good, because now I'm excited about the ending. I'm moving things all around to make it work musically and have been really enjoying this work for the last 2 or 3 days. I'm sad to say that feeling (about the opera) had been missing for a while.

In any case, I'm excited about the work right now, so I won't waste any more time on here blogging, but I just wanted to let you know things are moving right along.

I dare say I might have the piano-vocal version done this calendar year. Seeing as that was once my plan for the summer (hey 4 months ago...), that would be mighty fine!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Michael Reviews Things: Life Since 2012

So, I'd pretty much given up on this blog.... and the only reason I qualify it with 'pretty much' is that every once in a while I'll use the search function at the top left to look up things and people from my past. Nice little jaunts down memory lane. Well, not always nice, but jaunty nonetheless.

So updates....

Health is okay - same as always. I've been having arm tension issues, which is nothing new, but they flared up intensely in the summer and I've been inspired to find new ways of dealing with the tension.
I could be a better diabetic, but I have no real complications and it doesn't interfere with my daily life, so that's a win. This last few years I've been swimming weekly, going to the gym somewhat regularly, and my husband is getting me to eat better.

oh ya...
So I don't even know if I came out online, but ya... super gay here :)
A few years ago, I met an amazing man named H├ęctor who loves me more than I could have ever imagined, inspires me to love more deeply than I could have.... yada yada yada, we got married in July, 2014. 4 months in - married life gets a top-notch review!

I'm still writing my opera.... go visit the website for some info if you don't know what I'm talking about. I'm in the 6th year of my DMA, so I need to get it done - and it will happen before the spring. Basically, I don't want to have to do more paperwork to file for an extension!
Also, reading my blog history about how much I talked about not getting stuff done, and procrastinating.... it reminded me that while I was writing about them... the stuff actually did get done - so maybe this blog will help inspire me!

The reasons I've slowed on my opera progress are because of my satisfying and sometimes exciting work life:
I'm teaching about 10 students, which is a good amount without being too much.
I'm playing piano for about 16 hours of ballet classes a week. The pay isn't glamourous, but it's idiomatic work for me. I think of it as my office job where I show up, do my work, and then go home. When the opera and other compositions invade my brain space all the rest of the time, it's nice to have some 'down' time. Also, it keeps me creative.
Art Song Lab is doing great. We're accepting applications for our 5th year right now, so go apply!
Aside from the ballet stuff, I also play a few concerts a year, so I'm becoming known as a performer in and around Vancouver.

Anyhoo, at the moment, I'm feeling like I'll start posting again with some mild-to-moderate regularity, so we'll see how long that lasts.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Michael Reviews Things: NovoRapid® FlexTouch®

It appears that Michael Reviews Things is one of my most successful ventures in my blogging career.  A little while back, I got a free product sent to me for review purposes. I'll get to that in the coming weeks, but for now, I want to review something else:

The NovoRapid® FlexTouch®

I've been back on insulin pens for a few months now and I'm generally pretty happy with it. I got the promo in the mail a while back and was intrigued. Not much has changed in the recent history of insulin pens, so let's see what's new.

OVERVIEW: lightweight, disposable - a sideways step in insulin pen technology.

The promotional material and main design feature seem to be most concerned with thumbs. The idea is that with most pens, like the NovoPen 4, the plunger pulls out very far and is hard work for our thumbs...?

A few precursors:
1) Who uses their thumbs to plunge?!? That is an epi-pen technique where you need the power of a strong jab, but I've always used my insulin pens like syringes: held between my thumb and middle finger, using index finger to plunge. This allows much more finesse and control, resulting in a better injection.

2) How many units are people really taking with insulin pens? The FlexTouch allows you to dose 80 units at a time, while the NovoPen4 allowed 60.... I'm a fat, insulin resistant diabetic and the largest injection I ever take is my 36 unit once-daily Lantus injection. Most people split their long acting insulin into two injections, so I am hard pressed to imagine anyone ever using the full dosage on an insulin pen!

Now, back to our poor thumbs..
To save us the hard work of thumb-plunging, the FlexTouch has a self-lancing system (I imagine all sorts of springs and levers inside...) so that your finger releases the system and it automatically injects the amount for you.
When I first injected, I was shocked at the speed with which it injected 13 units into my arm. First was the shock of, "that was fast and noisy," followed by the burning sensation from taking it all in right away (geez, buy a boy dinner first!).

One of the things I loved about the NovoPen 4 is the ability I have to control the speed of injection. I see what they were going for, but I see this as a big step backwards for the FlexTouch. I'd say that 8 units shot in quickly is manageable, but anything more should be slowed down. With the Flex touch, you can do it in little bursts, but you can't really control with any finesse. I really wonder how the FDA allowed them to make a product that could shoot out all 80 units in a matter of 3 or 4 seconds (it's really fast)! In addition to the lumps it would cause, and the pain, I can't imagine the absorption rate would be at all reliable.

For those of you thinking, 'Lay off, it's a new idea and there are bound to be some bumps to work out", shush, cause this isn't new. I remember using a similarly designed Lantus pen back when I lived in Ontario... 4 years ago. The technology hasn't really improved and the quality certainly hasn't either...
While I love technology innovations, I wasn't impressed then, and I'm not impressed now.

Before I finish, I should be objective as there are some benefits:
-The pen IS the cartridge, so you don't have to do any loading. Personally, this saves me all of 15 seconds that it takes to change and prime a new cartridge, but I can see it being helpful for children and the elderly.
-As a one-cartridge device, it's theoretically made to work for the length of one cartridge, so you don't have to worry about the eventual jamming that may happen if you have a long-term pen. (I experienced this only twice in the decade plus that I've been using insulin pens, covering tens of thousands of injections).
-Because they're not interchangeable, each pen is clearly labeled with the drug it contains. This can be incredibly helpful for those using multiple types of insulin.
-It is significantly lighter in weight than any other pen I've come across, and with the number of things a diabetic has to carry around on a daily basis, this is a big plus!

I'm glad I tried it, as it reminds me that there are many different ways of managing diabetes. Bottom line - this insulin pen does not fit MY diabetes management regime. It likely will not be the ideal fit for those taking moderate-to-large doses of insulin, but could be an ideal fit for children and the elderly who lack the dexterity for a traditional insulin pen plunger. Lastly, though light-weight, it worries me that the pen feels a little cheap...

Thanks for reading. As always, these are just my opinions. I am not offering medical advice, just patient feedback.

Up next for review... my old flame, the AccuChek Aviva.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pump Vacation

I had the realization today that I haven't taken a pump vacation in well over 2 years. For about 750 days in a row, I've had this thing tied to me:
usually out of sight, but never out of mind.

Sure, I take it off for showers, swimming, sex, but it only adds up to a few hours a month.
It may only weigh a few hundred grams, but my insulin pump is one of the weightiest parts of my life.

I feel like I'm speaking very dramatically about it, which is a sure-fire sign that it's time for a pump vacation!

As I may have mentioned in the past, my biggest struggle in life is with apathy. At certain points, I've worked hard to adjust levels on my pump, etc, but I could not be further away from that at the moment. Going back to Multiple Daily Injections (MDI) will be great for reminding myself of the benefits I get from the insulin pump.
Or, maybe not.

Either way, I'm looking forward to tomorrow - waking up naked, untethered: nothing but me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Michael Reviews Things!

This posts topic: Seattle, Washington.

After living in Vancouver for almost 3 years, I finally made my way down for a weekend trip to Seattle. I went with my lovely friend Michelle, and we had a thoroughly delightful time.

Blurry, but that's what you get when
I'm the photographer!
There are many things to review, so I'll just approach them haphazardly.

Boltbus: A new option for Vancouver-Seattle-Portland transportation at very low rates. The seats looked nice in black (faux)leather, but it was impossible to get comfortable. As a fat man on a bus, I'll take the blame on this. For each bus trip, they offer one 1$ fare, which my friend got. Otherwise, you can't complain at $10. Both directions, the bus was punctual down to a minute or two: incredibly impressive for international bus travel!

Singer, Jeannette d'Armand: A mutual friend connected us (both diabetic musicians) when she heard about my opera about diabetes. We had a great talk about diabetes, working as musicians, and life in general! In addition to being one of the awesomest people to drink whisky with, she's a phenomenal singer. If you haven't already browsed her website, do it, then check out her CD HERE.

The Whisky Bar: This is where the three of us went to chat. As you likely know, I love rye, so I was excited to see the decent selection of Canadian and non-Canadian ryes. Then I was sad...
After Michelle returned for the third time saying that they 'didn't have that rye available', I went in to chat with the barkeep. When I went in, he recommended a rye that was half the price of the ones I'd requested, and it was no better than any bar-rye you could get at any old bar in Canada. Certainly not sipping grade, I'll tell you.
Other points to note... there was no table service and no food. The patio was nice, and we got some great people watching done. The general atmosphere was something that I quite enjoyed: a specialty whisky bar without any pretensions.

US Liquor Prices: LIES! People have been telling me for years how cheap alcohol is in the states, but that was not my experience. Sure, you can buy cheap bottles and cans from the corner store, but bars in downtown Seattle did not offer the bargain-basement drinks I was expecting. In fact, they were about the same price as Vancouver bars!

The Space Needle: Oops, I forgot to care.

Gum Wall (aka Bubblegum alley, though not the original):
I can sorta see the appeal, and the shop that sells gum must make a killing, but really...?!?
I'm surprised they don't have spinoffs, like 'Used Condom Lane'...

Seattle Shopping: I suppose this is more a sign that Vancouver and Seattle are equivalently metropolitan, but there weren't really any stores that we don't have up here. I even spotted a Vancouver staple (John Fluevog Shoes) downtown!

We stayed at the Sixth Avenue Inn: It was decent, for an savings-oriented hotel. Pretty standard for a hotel, the beds were incredibly comfy upon first lay, but it didn't take long to realize that the beds were far too soft for a decent sleep. There was no pool, but we entertained ourselves by watching episodes of Frasier on TV - in real life, the Space Needle is off to the side of downtown Seattle. Some dumb-ass in the room above us overflowed their tub or something, so use of the toilet in a seated fashion gave us a gentle drip reminiscent of autumn rain... not able to offer a better room at 2am, they brought us extra towels and gave a slight discount at checkout.

I'll end with a rave review of the Belltown Pub: We attended both of their happy hours because... well, we ate and drank there for a very long time. The service was friendly, the drink and food prices were quite reasonable, and they atmosphere was great. Most tables had a random set of trivial pursuit cards, and some even had built in board games. Upstairs, they had shuffleboard, foosball, and pool. They had another lounge area with big leather couches and guitars on the wall that were for people to use.

Me with Connan. I promise you, he was
not nearly as frightened as it appears.
As I understand to be common in Seattle, they had a dog-friendly establishment; about a dozen dogs made their way in and out during our stay.
It was delightful!

With last call at about 1am, all the bars in Seattle kick everyone out precisely at 2am, so the streets fill up with drunks. I can't remember the last time I was in such a thick crowd of people. A little unnerving, it was also exhilarating. I didn't get to try one of Seattle's infamous cream cheese hot-dogs, but I'll try to get around to that next time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Superlatives All Around

I'm feeling a little hyperdramatic right now, probably because I just found out my summer travel to Europe is not happening.

So far this year has been the best and the worst, gah, mumbly!

a year ago, I'd accepted that due to time and budget, I was destined to not travel in the foreseeable future - when this free trip came into my life, I was overjoyed, now that it's slipped through my fingers, I'm back to where I started, only lower.
Free trip, my ass! With booking fees, reservation fees, taxes, and rail passes that are only partially refundable.. I'm taking a loss on this trip, even without going on it!

Speaking of taking a loss... this is the year of me getting financially screwed over. Lesson learned: never lend friends money unless you can survive without it - also, be realistic about how much money you're willing to throw into the garbage!

But it hasn't all been bad... earlier this year, I fell madly in love and was the happiest I'd ever been
for a while...
mumbly mumbly mumbly... heartbreak sucks

I feel like I really became a composer this year because I finally felt that twinge of hurt that comes when a performance of a piece you wrote is slaughtered. I won't name names, but I expected more; as I've learned many times this year, when you raise your hopes, you get to fall further... harder.

On the other hand, I've been fortunate to have some of the best performances of my works yet. Seeing performers take ownership not just of notes I've written, but the concept behind them has been beyond amazing!

Pianistically, things are going well - the entire month of August is full of paid piano gigs, and in the Fall, I'll be taking over someone's piano studio, teaching a few days a week, but enough to live meagerly off of - I'm finally joining the real world. 

Ok, I've rambled enough, though there is much more to rant AND rave about, but that's best saved for another day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Even busier than normal...

It seems like I'm always talking about how busy things are, but this 3-month hiatus from blogging is well-warranted.

The boyfriend thing didn't really work out, so I'm back on the market, haha!

The last few months have been mostly focused on my comprehensive examinations. For those of you not in academia, 'comps' are the last exams you take in a doctorate program before your thesis. They are meant to be grueling and stressful. The oral exam (which I passed 2 weeks ago) looked at 3 pieces of music. A panel of three composition professors were to ask me absolutely anything about those pieces. Additionally, they would also ask questions about context, and the repertoire and trends of classical music in the last 100 years. I took about 3 months to study for it. I was fairly dedicated for most of it, and it was really the only thing I did with my life for the entire month of April.
This week are my written comprehensive exams: today (or yesterday based on calendar), I did a 6-hour orchestration exam, where I orchestrated the opening 2 pages of a Debussy piano piece. Orchestration is not my strong point, and I used every minute of that time! I feel pretty good about it, so fingers crossed.
Tomorrow at 5pm, starts my 24-hour Sonata Exposition writing exam. I'm hoping I'll be less time-constrained, as I'll need to do some sleeping.

Anyhoo, last week, I spent writing my art song for Art Song Lab 2012. Despite submitting horrendously late, I'm still not the last composer to submit. I finished it with less than 12 hours before starting the orchestration exam.... Ah, the joys of tight deadlines!

In other news, I'll be traveling through Europe a little later this summer with my friend Janice. I'm super excited, and leaving things open for adventure!
In terms of work, I'll be a busy pianist this summer - playing for 2 different opera programs and a RAD teacher certification course.
In terms of summer writing, I have an opera libretto to finish (as well as music to start writing...) and 2 pieces to write: one for erhu and piano, or a Canada/China tour; and a song for tenor and guitar for a tour in the US.

Oh ya, in the last post, I mentioned some new pieces - both of which have since been performed. A recording of Compassion & Sacrifice can be found on my website, so check it out!

Alas, the sun has risen. That means, I need to sleep!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Oops, I missed a month...

Happy new year!

I'm not going to lie; life has been busy.

I just finished my orchestra piece (and parts) for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Jean Coulthard Reading Session. I'm also rehearsing madly for two upcoming concerts, both of which will feature my new piece Compassion & Sacrifice, a collaboration with Ray Hsu. I'm about to start a 3-month hiatus from composing (as much as possible...) in order to study for my comprehensive exam, though there is still much music to be written, haha!

A new development in 2012 is that I've found myself a boyfriend. I won't say much, because I've learned my lesson with public forums, but so far it's improved my sleep-schedule and been less susceptible to late-night boredom eating. The overall result has been good on my diabetes management. That improvement has disappeared since focusing on work/deadlines in place of boyfriend time this last week or so...
In conclusion, romance is good for blood sugars!

Earlier today, I realized that I had set up the email-retrieval for my website email address... As a result, I found emails from the past 2 years that I've missed! What I've learned is that there IS interest in this blog, so I'm back with a vengeance! Since most of that interest has been diabetes related, I'll bring that closer to the forefront of my blogging, uh... next time!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodbye Metformin!

[Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I am not offering medical advice in regards to Metformin. This is simply my own personal experience with the drug.]

Well, I lasted about a year on Metformin. In the end, the benefits may have outweighed the side effects, but in practice, the side effects were too much for me to handle - physically and mentally.

The benefits were clear: I lowered my Total Daily Dose by about 10 units/day. I also found that my sugars were much more responsive to dosing while I was on Metformin, which led to fewer corrections. Within the first month or two, I was down about 10 pounds, but this was mostly do to the gastro-intestinal discomfort it was causing. Eventually, I figured out how to keep things mostly in check. I was down to only once weekly feeling like I couldn't eat without knowing I was within a quick, unobstructed sprint to the bathroom. Of course, that was the best-case scenario: if I ate within 2 hours of taking the pills, I knew what was coming and if I missed a pill, the next one would have me going!

Maybe this is odd to say, and perhaps TMI, but I've always been very proud of my digestive system (pancreas excepted...) to the point that any change/problem in the bowl was an indicator that I needed to pay better attention to diet, life, etc. In that sense, this year on Metformin was somewhat depressing; based on my porcelain barometer, I felt like I was constantly under the weather.

After those first few months, my TDD and weight stayed even. I had originally intended to use the power of Metformin to lose weight and increase the power of my diet and workout regime... Who was I kidding?!?

A month or so ago, I missed two doses of Metformin in a row. Knowing the discomfort I would face with the next pill, I said, 'screw it!' and haven't looked back! Well, technically, I have looked 'back', but now I see a much happier, healthier future!

It turns out that the transition back, mixed with stress and holidays, was not ideal for timing: my time in Winnipeg for the holidays added a solid 20 units/day to my TDD, so I'm pretty much back to that starting weight too, haha! Now that I'm  back in Vancouver and getting back to my schedule and habits, I'm on the right track. I've also been much better at dosing before 20 minutes before I eat, which has helped immensely.

In conclusion, I feel much better! I really can't stress that enough.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Success in Pairing

I'm not a huge fan of bragging about myself.  I know I've made passing mention about a few projects in the last few years, but looking back, it's high time I take credit for some of the awesome things I've been responsible for creating.

It all started shortly after moving to Vancouver.  I had met an exciting poet, Ray Hsu and we started talking about potential projects.  We originally proposed a single project to the Vancouver International Song Institute, but that didn't initially fly. Eventually, the ideal was distilled - let's bring poets and composers together, perform their creations, and talk about the creative experience. That first year, we had a 2-hour afternoon workshop that was incredibly successful, so much so, that it was expanded into a week-long program with a professional concert at the end. Again, the program and concert garnered some serious attention from artists and granting organizations. Plans are in the works to make the VISI Art Song Lab 2012 even more exciting. To date, 15 new art songs have been written and premiered as part of our program!

While plans were in motion for that first Art Song Lab, I approached Corey Hamm (piano prof at UBC) about collaborating with his piano studio. With his support and excitement, we used the same paradigm: pairing pianists with composers this time. Yet again, the collaboration was a tremendous success resulting in the creation, in-depth study/rehearsal, and premiere of 10 brand new pieces for piano. The piece I wrote for this collaboration was particularly successful, receiving several repeat performances, and there are even talks of having it recorded.

Good things come in threes, of course, so I couldn't leave the pairing idea alone just yet; the most recent development is Analyze This: A Composer/Theorist Lecture Recital. I live with a music theorist, and many of my friends are of the analytical persuasion, so I've always seen it as a missed connection that there seems to be some kind of a divide between the two fields. After hosting a meet-and-greet last year, I played matchmaker with my composer and theorist friends.  In a few weeks, we'll have a lecture recital featuring the live performance and analysis of short pieces. Even before it's happened, I've been approached by a performing organization to have the whole event documented.

Of course, I'm also writing my own music and feeling pretty damned good about it, too! Long story short, I feel really good about career-type things right now, and I figured you'd enjoy reading something uplifting for a change...  Don't worry though, there'll be some rants and bitching soon enough!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

feeling jealous of older posts

To remind myself of my recent meanderings, I re-read some blog posts, particularly the one where I was raving about how great it felt to be a composer....
I wish I had that booming positivity right now.

I'm working towards a deadline that isn't really real, on a project that I don't really love, at least not in that way I feel about other projects right now.  It's my orchestra piece that I need to finish for my doctoral portfolio (a degree requirement).  I like the materials I'm using, but they don't have that freshness or excitement that I'd like.  I've been attempting to write this piece since last January.  Lesson learned: never take a step away from a project that NEEDS to get finished...

I hope to finish the piece by the end of the term, but I'm using Nov 4th as an interim deadline.  The Vancouver Symphony has a yearly reading session, and I plan to submit the last 5 minutes of my piece for that reading session.  I think it will be a good stepping stone for finishing the piece a month later, but it lacks that sense of completion that a deadline should bring... in a sense, I'm giving myself compositional blue balls!  Anyway, there's not much time left, I'll work my ass off until Friday, at which time I will hopefully have something to submit.  Worst case scenario, I don't, and that's not the end of the world.

Next week, I get to start on a real deadline - a piece I'm writing for Piano and Viola to be premiered at Michael Park & Friends 3 - Feb 15, 2012.  I'm giving myself a month to write that one, at the same time as I finish up my thesis proposal.  I'm VERY excited about that next piece, so, YAY!  It's a continuation of my work with having instrumentalists speak while playing, this time in a conversation context.

On the one hand, I feel like my priorities aren't exactly in the right place as I'm spending much of my time working on non-thesis activities, but based on every other grad student I've come across, doing exactly that puts me right on track!

I'm also looking forward to the new year.  With my thesis proposal submitted, I'll actually get to start on it!  As my comprehensive exams will be in March, I will also be focusing much of my attention on preparing for those. Of course, Michael Park & Friends will be exciting, I have a few other projects in the works, and before I know it, we'll be headed into the summer again, with another installment of the Art Song Lab!

Ok, this is getting long, and even though I started blogging with the intention of procrastinating, I'm starting to feel guilty!