Music, Performing, Balancing Dreams

Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you about a performance I’ll be a part of today.  River City Swing will be performing at American River Brewing Company today, from 4PM to 6PM.  The address is:

11151 Trade Center Drive
Suite 104
Rancho Cordova, CA, 95670

Having said that, it brings me to the topic of this post: my music dreams are stepping on the toes of my writing dreams.

I’m a busy guy.

I’m busy at work, of course, and that’s generally a good thing.  I’m supporting my family through my job, and I’m working for a company that is making green energy more viable, especially in California.  Even when I complain about occasional long hours, I still like my job, and derive a great deal of satisfaction from it.  Whatever time work doesn’t consume is what I have to spend on my other dreams.

Let’s revisit my dreams for a moment.  When I was younger and first figuring out what I realistically wanted to do with my life, I narrowed it down to three things:

  1. Become a music teacher, or some kind of performer
  2. Become a writer
  3. “Something with computers”

Looking at the scoreboard, I can see that “something with computers” pulled way out in front, and has become my bread and butter.  I’ve been doing something with computers for a really long time now, and it’s pretty great.

The music and writing dreams have not been fully realized.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve put a lot of effort into writing for the last several years.  I don’t have a ton to show for it, but I’ve been improving.  I have an unfinished second draft to a decent novel.  I have a couple of short stories which are, according to my writing groups, competent, but not particularly special.  I have a scheduled, dedicating time to writing every week.  And I have this blog, where I share the details of my life along this writer’s journey.

What about music?  Obviously, I’m not going to be a music teacher, though I did get a small taste of what it might have been like a couple of years ago.  I don’t have the patience for it.  Also, I don’t have the education for it.  I’m not qualified to teach children music, and I don’t have the time or inclination to become qualified.

Performing is another matter.  When I joined River City Concert Band a couple of years ago, it was mostly because my daughter was playing with the band.  I wasn’t particularly passionate about it, and my involvement at the time didn’t satisfy me as a performer.  In fact, I felt superfluous.  I felt like I didn’t need to put much more than a B effort into the music.  When my daughter stopped, I nearly stopped as well.  For about a month, I felt like I was wasting my time.

Then something kind of strange happened.  One of the tenors paid me a compliment, about how I was picking up a difficult section of music very quickly, and I suddenly felt special again.  I started putting in a little more effort, and I started to feel like a musician again.

When I was asked to fill in for River City Swing, I was reluctant.  My confidence wasn’t particularly high, and I wasn’t sure if I had the time.  Then I played with them, and suddenly, I was feeling things I hadn’t felt since high school and college.

So now here we are, several months later, and I’m playing in two bands.  Mondays are completely full, Tuesdays are completely full, and we have performances every couple of weeks.  My family has invested money in my music, giving me a new alto and a new soprano.  I’m practicing more at home.  I am a performer.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about music.  I thought of a trick for transposing from E♭ to B♭, which I’m sure lots of musicians already know, but it only just occurred to me recently.  When you want to go from E♭ to B♭, you add a flat.  Or going the other way, you add a sharp.  For example, a concert B♭ is a G on the alto, and it’s a C on the soprano.  A G scale has one sharp.  A C scale has no sharps or flats.  If I’m playing a G on the alto, it’s going to be a C on the soprano.  Another example… a concert F is a D on the alto.  A D has two sharps.  Add a flat, you wind up with one sharp, which is a G.  So a D on the alto is a G on the soprano.  As long as you know your scales, it’s super easy to transpose between the E♭ and B♭ instruments.

If your eyes glazed over during that last paragraph, it’s okay.  Like I said, this is the stuff I was thinking while going to sleep.  So the next time you’re having trouble sleeping, just transpose some music in your head.  You can thank me later.

Music has become a bigger part of my life.  What does that mean?  Am I giving up on writing?  Is this blog just going to be more boring posts about transposing?

No.  I need to write.  When I’m not writing, I’m unhappy.  I have a novel that needs to be finished.  I will not be completely happy until I’m holding a printed copy in my hand, with my name on the cover.

Spending more time on music means it’s just harder to find time to write, but not impossible.  I read a recent post by Hugh Howey, which looks like it’s about KDP and self publishing, but it’s really about persevering as a writer.  I needed to read this.  It’s encouraging in the ways I needed encouragement.  If I turn off Scrivener to do something else 99 times, it just means I need to open it 100.

Last week, I skipped out on my Wednesday night writing because I stayed up all night working.  This week, I skipped out on my Wednesday night writing because I was feeling a little sick, and I wound up going to bed at 8PM.  I’ve missed a couple of weeks, but it’s not the end of the world.  It doesn’t mean that the journey is over.  It means I’m taking a detour.  I will get there.  It might take a little longer than I intended, but I will get there.


Fiction: Update Day

I’m trying something different with the beginning of my writing session tonight.  Tonight, to get the juices flowing, I’m going to grab a writing prompt, and write using that prompt for ten to fifteen minutes.

Tonight’s prompt comes reddit.  The prompt is:

One day everyone notices the words “Human Update 1.1 progress 1%” in the corner of their eye.


Daniel awoke slowly, the blare of the alarm clock loud in his ears. He lay on his back several moments, staring at the ceiling. He was having trouble finding the willpower to pull himself out of bed.

His bare feet touched the hardwood floor, and the chill of morning bit into his legs. He cursed, rubbing his eyes as he shambled across the room towards the alarm clock. His hand hovered over the snooze button before falling on the off switch. Silence replaced the cacophony. Daniel sighed and rubbed his eyes again.

As he teetered towards the bathroom, he raised his fists to rub his eyes yet again. He stopped, blinking. It wasn’t an eyelash or eye snot in his field of vision. White text in a tightly kerned font floated in the lower right corner of his field of vision.

“Human Update 1.1. Progress… 1%.”

Daniel blinked several times. The words were only visible while his eyes were open. He fidgeted with his hands. He pinched his forearm hard enough, and winced.

“Is this some kind of trick?” he said. He smiled and waited a moment before saying, “Okay, you’ve got me. I don’t know how you’re doing this, but it’s pretty clever!”

When no one responded, he hurried out to his living room and turned on the television. A man and a woman sitting behind a desk with a cityscape behind faced the camera. On the bottom of the screen, the same words floated in a banner.

“-not sure what it means,” the man was saying. Both reporters were frowning. The man gripped his papers in a white knuckled grip that he didn’t seem aware of. The woman sat with her hands clasped in front of her, as though to trap them in one place.

“Doctor Parks, a biology professor with the University of Illinois is on line one,” the male reporter said. “Doctor, you’re on the air.”

“Thank you,” a phone voice said. “While we still do not know the exact cause of the visual phenomena, the two prevailing theories are mass hallucination, and spontaneous genetic mutation. Indeed, the latter


And that’s all I have time for tonight.

The writing prompt made me think of Daneel Olivaw, for some reason, so I named the protagonist Daniel.

I’m not sure exactly where I was going to go with the story.  This was purely seat-of-the-pants writing.  There were a number of directions I could go.  I actually like the prompt for that reason, though it didn’t really fit with a 10 to 15 minute exercise.  I could probably spend a couple of days with that and write a full short story.

Before I could finish it, I would need to look at the human condition and determine the one thing I would change to make the race better.  Remove violence?  Replace selfishness with altruism?  I’m not sure.

Anyway, that was an enjoyable exercise.  If you liked it, let me know, and I’ll do it again.  If you hated it, let me know that as well.


The Actual Answer to Prejudice

This has bothered me for so long, and I’ve wanted to talk about it so much, that it has blocked me from writing other things.  Today, it’s come to a head.  Maybe because it is March.  Maybe it’s because of the rumor that Westboro Baptist Church will picket Leonard Nimoy’s funeral.  Whatever the reason, I want to talk about how to deal bigotry.

But first, here are two answers that do not work:

Do not White Knight

It’s noble to stand up for the little guy, and fight for people that cannot fight for themselves.  Unfortunately, that’s the message you’re sending when you soapbox for people of a different race, gender, or sexuality.  You’re saying that people X cannot stand on their own, that people X are weaker, and require assistance.

White Knighting is not the same as spreading awareness.  When one group of people are oppressing another group of people based on something as superficial as gender, race, or sexuality, we need to know.  But if you are fighting for a people not your own, because you think they need it, maybe you should examine the root of your motivation.

Do not Counterattack

Reverse discrimination comes in several flavors and names.  No matter the direction, it’s still discrimination, and will not make our society better.  Instead, it polarizes.  People stop thinking, and instead, just start fighting over bullshit.

White males have ruled the world for a long time.  I cannot and will not dispute that.  However, calling on people to marginalize or ignore an individual’s work because they are white or male is, in the long run, just going to create a new bigotry.  That’s not justice, anymore than punishing a child for the crimes of their parent is justice.


Now, here are the three things you can personally do to make the world a better place.

Start with The Golden Rule

As a reminder, it is this: treat people as you would want to be treated.  That is the rule in its simplest state.  Personally, I expand it to include treating people with love.

This is an ideal.  You will not always remember to do this.  Depending on what’s going on in your life, you may not even be capable of doing this.  However, like any skill, the more you practice, the easier it will become.

If you choose to treat other people the way you want to be treated, you will stop doing the first two things I listed.

Remember that Individuals are not People

At my most cynical, I think people are generally stupid.  Individuals, on the other hand, can be exceptional.  When dealing with an individual, remember that they are unique.  Do not unnecessarily burden a person with the history and stereotypes of the people that they look like.

You may have been raised in a household (or a church) where bigotry was part of the education.  You may have inside you some prejudices that you are unaware of.  If you remember that individuals are not people, and treat every person you meet on their own merits, you will start to free yourself of the ingrained prejudices that you were unfairly saddled with.

Stop Feeding the Bigots

If the first two directions were idealistic, this one is practical.  When you become aware of an organization or an individual acting on prejudice, do not support them.  But keep the first two rules in mind when you do this.

The best way I can explain this point is through two examples.

Example 1: Chick-fil-A

I enjoyed Chick-fil-A, until I found out that they were publicly spending money to fight gay marriage.  I tip my hat to them being brave enough to stand on their principles, but I will not give them anymore of my money.  And I tell people about this, as I’m telling you now.

Chick-fil-A made a huge profit after it became publicly known that they were spending money to suppress LGBT rights.  This is the opposite of what should hav happened.  If we want companies to stop acting on their prejudices, then we need to hit them in the pocket book.

Example 2: A Relative

I have a relative that loves Fox news.  For years, she has sent ridiculous items to her friends and family.  Being the asshole that I am, I would read her emails, go check the facts, then send her a reply (usually with a link to snopes) saying that she’s spreading misinformation.  I asked her often to stop, and she finally took me off her mailing list.

I still had her on Facebook, and she still posted some crazy stuff.  Occasionally, I’d refute the most egregious things she posted.  Finally, she posted something that was straight up racist, and I called her on it.  I told her that I cannot condone that, and now we’re no longer in contact.

This relative is an individual.  I treated her as I would want to be treated.  If I say something stupid and offensive, I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt, call me on it, and warn me.  I did this for her.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and now I’m not going to give her anymore of my time or energy.


I’m idealistic.  I cling to notions that make me seem naive.  However, I believe if we all did these three things, we would end racism, sexism, and mistreatment of people based on their sexuality.

Final thoughts:

It’s important to be ready to forgive.  If Chick-fil-A completely stops funding anti-LGBT stuff, I will consider eating their food again.  If the relative I mentioned ever approaches me to try to bridge the gap between us, I’ll listen to her.  This is all still part of the Golden Rule, really.  When I screw up, I want to be forgiven when I seek to make amends.

If I have missed anything, please let me know.  If I am mistaken, please let me know.  I want the world to be a better place for everyone, and not just for my children.