Friday, January 29, 2010

You Get What You Prepay For

Up until a few days ago, Melanie and I had been Sprint cell phone customers for several years. Initially, we both had cell phones, but after moving to Atlanta, we dropped down to one. We kept to a fairly minimal plan, one that allowed for unlimited nights and weekends as well as unlimited calls to other Sprint customers (all of which is pretty standard nowadays). That allowed us to keep in touch with our families and friends back in Utah (and elsewhere) without worrying much about minutes. After moving to Tallahassee, however, we got set up with Comcast’s Internet and home phone service, the latter of which includes unlimited long distance. This significantly reduced the need for our lone cell phone, and over the past several months, it has become increasingly clear that spending nearly $50 a month for me to have the ability to call Melanie three or four times a week and tell her I’m on my way home from school is rather stupid. Sparingly is the cell phone otherwise used. And so, as happy as we were with Sprint’s service over the years (and we were), we decided to call it quits.

Not feeling completely ready to abandon the notion of having a cell phone, Melanie and I have now become part of the prepaid cell phone service community. For about the price of one month of cell phone service with Sprint, Melanie and I have both received new cell phones, complete with accessory kits that include car chargers, and, between us, well over seven hours of talk time. That may not sound like a lot, but seven hours could easily last us a month or two. And having prepaid cell phone service should prove much cheaper in the long run. I’m estimating that, even when we have to start buying additional minutes, we’ll be spending less than half of what we were spending per month for one phone with Sprint, and yet we’ll both have cell phones. That should be true even despite the fact that you have to pay not only for minutes, but to keep your service active. (Every time you purchase minutes, you also add 90 days to your service period. If you don’t use all your minutes within 90 days, you still have to add minutes to keep your phone active. However, if you use all your minutes within, say, 30 days, then when you buy more minutes, you’ll be extending your original 90-day service period another three months into the future, thereby having five months of service remaining. You follow?) The only thing I’m worried about is the quality of service. So far, it’s been great, but that’s based solely on my making calls in Tallahassee to other people in Tallahassee. I’m not sure how great the coverage will be if we’re ever on a road trip. That could be worrisome. But not worrisome enough to stop us from making the change.

Here are some additional cool things about us making the switch to prepaid service. First, due to what I presume is a glitch involving minutes and time rolling over from inactive accounts, when I activated my phone, I was told my initial service period would end October 31, 2014 (rather than in 30 days, as was promised). In other words, I won’t have to worry much about adding minutes to my phone in order to keep my service going. I can use them at my leisure. (Melanie also received more time than promised, though only 60 days. We both received at least ten times more introductory minutes than promised.) Second, sending or receiving an individual text message deducts only .33 minutes from your account. If I want to tell Melanie something as simple as “I’m on my way home,” I can just send her a text, thereby using one-third of a minute (rather than a full minute for a voice call). In theory, that means I can use as little as one minute per week without dramatically affecting the purpose for which I use a cell phone. And finally, simply getting newer phones is cool. Our Sprint phone was several years old and starting to act up. Our new phones are sleeker, although not quite as user-friendly. For the first time, we have cell phone cameras—which, judging by the quality of pictures they take, is almost worthless. But you never know when you’ll see a UFO and be happy you’ve got some kind of photographic apparatus on your person.

For anyone who’s interested, we got our new cell phones from TracFone, directly from their website. (They are also available from Wal-Mart, and I think I’ve even seen them in Circle K. As I said, there are reasons to feel less than 100% confident in the quality of service we’ll be getting.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Potpourri No. 27

My 27th potpourri post, for this, the 27th day of January…

It’s That Time of the Month
Yesterday, I woke up with a very sore throat. Today, it doesn’t feel quite as sore, but it feels more irritated—scratchy and somewhat congested and swollen. Sickness seems to be a monthly ritual for the members of my family, each of us taking turns, but each of us generally being sick at least once every 30 days. Or so it seems. What I didn’t realize is that my body is so diligent in keeping to the 30-day schedule. Out of curiosity, I looked back at the last several posts I’ve written that include the tag “health.” Granted, I haven’t written a monthly post about being sick, but if you look at the posts in which I do mention being sick, a startling pattern emerges—I wrote about being sick on September 27, 2008; I wrote about being sick on October 26, 2009; I wrote about being sick on November 28, 2009. And now I’m writing about being sick on January 27, 2010. Very interesting…

Shuffle, Shuffle, Shuffle
It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote about loading up my iPod Shuffle. That means I’ve had two more weeks’ experience using it. I love it. And, I’m excited to report, I miscalculated just how much music my iPod could hold. The last time I wrote about it, I said I had loaded the iPod with 500 songs, but I expected that it could fit another six or seven songs. Well, I somehow was multiplying things by ten that I shouldn’t have been. As it turns out, I’ve put another 57 songs on my iPod, and there’s still some room on there. That’s right—I have a grand total of 557 songs on my iPod, which amounts to roughly 31 hours of music. Given that I only really listen to my iPod when I’m busing to and from school, I wonder which will come first: earning my Ph.D. or listening to everything on my iPod.

Free Pumpkins
Speaking of music, for those who might be interested and aren’t aware, The Smashing Pumpkins (which at this point is primarily just Billy Corgan) are releasing a free album, one song at a time, downloadable from their website. If that weren’t enough, the album will ultimately consist of 44 songs. That’s a lot of free music! From the sound of it, these aren’t throw-away songs, either. Having listened to the first (and thus far only) two songs to have been released, I can say that the Pumpkins are keeping things as lush as they have done on their previous, more traditional releases. (The first of the Internet songs, “A Song for a Son,” reminds me of material found on the Pumpkins’ lavishly produced third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.) If nothing else, you have to admit that making such a grandiose project freely available to the public is a fascinating move. You can read more about the work-in-progress album, titled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, on Wikipedia.

American Idle
Speaking of music, I’ve never watched the hit reality TV program American Idol until this season. After the many years of hype, hubbub, and hullabaloo, Melanie and I thought we’d give it a shot. We haven’t been diligent about watching it—after all, it’s on twice a week, and in its first week or two, each episode is two hours long—but we have invested a few hours into it at this point. The verdict? A little too early to say, though I admit it is thus far more entertaining than not. The style of singing to which the show caters is, in my opinion, often times rather dull. Sometimes I think a person auditioning sounds just as good as another contestant whom the judges have praised, but they proceed to tell the person that he/she is too boring. Then there are times when I think a person sounds very dull and generic, and the judges are quite enthusiastic about that person’s “talent.” So, you can’t always tell, I guess. Maybe if you were much more into pop music (of this sort) than I am. I’ll be curious to see where the show goes once we get past the initial auditioning stage. Melanie and I were all the more interested in trying out the show when it was announced that Ellen DeGeneres would replace Paula Abdul as a judge. However, DeGeneres doesn’t join the panel until after the auditions are complete, which is yet to occur. So we’ll see how that goes.

Finger-Pickin’ Good
Speaking of music, I’ve continued playing guitar for 30-40 minutes a day, having missed only a few days since the beginning of the year. It continues to feel great. The fingers on my left hand are getting all their old calluses back, and I simply feel like my strumming and singing are more solid than they were even a few weeks ago. My point is, even with this little step forward, I see recognizable differences and improvements, and that’s exciting. I’ve even written a couple of new songs, to a much more complete degree than a lot of things I’ve written in the past. One song, “The Bug Song,” was written impromptu at the request of Edison, who asked me one day while I was playing guitar to sing a song about bugs. Accordingly, it might best be labeled a children’s song. I’m toying with the idea of video-recording it and posting it to my blog sometime in the near future. Perhaps I will do so. Perhaps.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


For the past three nights, Melanie and I have been sleeping on the floor. Well, okay, not exactly on the floor. But after months upon months upon months upon months of having an increasingly and unbelievably noisy box spring, we decided we’d see what it was like to move our mattress directly to the floor. On Monday night, I removed the box spring and the frame out from under our mattress, and we’ve been sleeping low to the ground ever since.

The verdict? Not too bad, really. I don’t feel like the change is all that noticeable, comfort-wise. Audibly, of course, it’s a dream come true. The sheer fact that I can turn this way or that without being assaulted by a cacophony of creaking and groaning is absolutely awesome. I was worried I’d be off-put by being so close to the ground, like I’d feel dirty or susceptible to bugs or something. Luckily, I haven’t felt those ways. It almost seems fun—for now, at least. Kind of like camping, but much more comfortable. And having the mattress low to the ground makes our bedroom look bigger, both when you’re just in the room (because there’s not as much bed taking up space) and when you’re sleeping in it (the ceiling is so far away!). I’m sure the novelty of it all will wear off sooner than later, at which point we’ll be forced to buy a new box spring … or a whole new bed altogether. But for now, I’m surprisingly pleased with the results of our experiment. I think I’m even waking up less in the night, which makes sense given the drastic reduction in noise. That’s worth a change in hypnoidal elevation, wouldn’t you say?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fully Loaded (Musically Speaking)

Two days ago, I finally cracked the seal on my iPod Shuffle, hooked it up to my computer, and loaded it with tunes. 500 tunes, to be exact. I didn’t try to be so precise, but that’s what happened. There’s probably room for a half dozen more songs, but I got the stuff on there that I knew I wanted on there, so I feel really good about my selection. I’ve got Pearl Jam, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Culture Club, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, and more—over 24 hours of music, if I remember correctly. I’ve got the music divided into three separate playlists—Punk, Rock, and New Wave. You can listen to an individual playlist, or you can listen to everything that’s been put onto the iPod. Additionally, you can listen to songs in shuffle mode, which randomizes the order of play, or you can listen to songs in order. So far, I’ve only listened to it on shuffle mode, and not from a particular playlist. It’s rifling through everything, which has been great. I can fully understand why someone might be interested in getting a high capacity iPod that can hold several thousand songs. It’d be cool to diversify even more—to have some jazz selections for when you’re studying in the school library, for example. (Not that I myself am ever in the school library, but you get my point.) I’ve got a collection of music I love on my iPod, but it’s almost all high energy and/or cheerfully upbeat. If I’m ever in the mood for something more sedate, I’ll be out of luck.

I’ve had to get used to using earphones—the little, bulb-shaped kind that you tuck into your ears. I’ve never been a fan of those. I’ve always preferred old-school headphones that wrap over the top of your head and simply rest against your ears like a pair of earmuffs. That isn’t an option with the iPod Shuffle, however, because in order to facilitate the iPod’s diminutive size, the playback controls are relegated to a three-button keypad located on the wires of the earphones that come with and are designed specifically for the iPod. Earphones have always felt uncomfortable to me, but even in my short experience of using my iPod, I can now see their advantage. As I move about, the earphones are much more secure than headphones would be. And, thankfully, the iPod earphones are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. The only slightly annoying thing is that my ears apparently don’t match, so the left earphone fits more loosely in my ear than the right earphone does. This means that external sounds aren’t blocked out by the left earphone as well as they are blocked out by the right earphone, which in turn creates the illusion that my right ear is “clogged,” like the hearing is going out and I need to chew some gum to pop it or something. (The disproportion of my ears is one reason I’ve never liked earphones, which have often felt uncomfortably large—painful even—in my right ear.) But, to digress, another benefit of using earphones is that they are less likely to bother others. That is, I believe other people can hear the music you’re listening to less easily with earphones than with the older-style headphones. That too makes me feel better about the earphones.

More for my own sake than anything, I thought it might be interesting to look back one day on what my first iPod playlist looked like. So, I now present (to anyone who wishes to read it) the music that is loaded onto my iPod, including the playlists into which it has been divided. Italicized titles refer to albums while titles in quotations refer to individual songs. Unless otherwise noted, albums were included in their entirety. The list has been arranged alphabetically by playlist, then by artist, then by album title.

New Wave
  • A-ha, Hunting High and Low
  • Billy Idol – “Dancing With Myself”
  • The Cars, Greatest Hits (plus “Hello Again” from Heartbeat City)
  • Culture Club, Colour by Numbers
  • Culture Club, Kissing to Be Clever
  • Culture Club, Waking Up with the House on Fire
  • The Cure – “Boys Don’t Cry”
  • Depeche Mode – “Just Can’t Get Enough”
  • Duran Duran – selections from various albums
  • Men at Work – selections from Contraband: The Best of Men at Work
  • Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance”
  • New Order – “Bizarre Love Triangle”
  • Tears for Fears – selections from various albums
  • Buzzcocks, A Different Kind of Tension (excluding several demo and live tracks)
  • Dag Nasty – entire discography
  • Descendents – entire discography, excluding four tracks that aren’t really songs
  • Hüsker Dü, Candy Apple Grey
  • Hüsker Dü, Zen Arcade
  • Mission of Burma, Calls, Signals, and Marches
  • Mission of Burma, Innermost (a two-song EP)
  • Mission of Burma, The Sound the Speed the Light
  • Mission of Burma, Vs.
  • Nada Surf, High/Low
  • Nirvana, Bleach
  • The Sex Pistols – selections from Never Mind the Bollocks…
  • SNFU – selections from If You Swear, You’ll Catch No Fish
  • Selections from the punk compilation Faster & Louder: Hardcore Punk, Vol. 1
  • AC/DC – “Who Made Who” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”
  • Bob Mould, District Line
  • Bob Mould, Life and Times
  • Deep Purple – “Hush” and “Woman from Tokyo”
  • The Doors – “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” and “Light My Fire”
  • The Guess Who – selections from Greatest Hits
  • INXS – four songs (“Devil Inside,” “Listen Like Thieves,” “Need You Tonight,” and “Suicide Blonde”)
  • Led Zeppelin, I
  • Led Zeppelin, IV
  • Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York
  • Pearl Jam, Backspacer
  • Pearl Jam, Rearviewmirror: Greatest Hits 1991-2003
  • Queen, Classic Queen
  • Queen, The Game
  • The Rolling Stones – selections from Hot Rocks 1964-1971 and Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones 1971-1993
  • Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun”
  • Temple of the Dog – “Hunger Strike” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Refugee”
  • The White Stripes, Elephant

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let's Get This Party Started!

The new semester has barely begun and already life feels quite different from what it was even half a week ago. I haven’t even had a graduate class yet, since my first Thursday class was canceled due to the instructor being out of town for a conference. All I’ve had to do is attend the first meeting of the class for which I’ll be a TA. But that hasn’t stopped me from suddenly being busy. Both of my grad classes sent out reading assignments via email, so though I’ve yet to receive a syllabus for either class, the work has begun. And that means I’m keeping myself locked away all day, trying to get things done. The change feels abrupt. For the past month, I’ve more than not been involved with my family’s day-to-day activities, and now I’m veering back toward my normal quasi-estranged status. It’s a somewhat lonely feeling. And you’d think it would make me appreciate the times when I do see my family, such as dinnertime. But, curse those old habits, I find myself feeling somewhat anxious when I am just hanging out, like I should be hurrying up and getting back to the grindstone. The transitional stage is always hard. Soon enough, being busy with schoolwork won’t seem so bleak, and I’ll handle it better. But after a month of being spoiled, this feels kind of crappy.

For anyone who cares about the details of my life, I’m TA-ing for the exact same class and instructor for which I TA’d last semester. There are pros and cons to this. During the first several class meetings last semester, I found the class absolutely tedious. The instructor doesn’t do anything more than type up PowerPoint slides that regurgitate every little detail the students should have read in their texts. The instructor then reads the slides to the class, repeating each point a few times, occasionally saying things in a slightly different way and only rarely expounding on anything. That’s basically what the class is. Fortunately, I got used to it, or I’d probably want to shoot myself for having to sit through it for another semester. I’m even able to look on the bright side of receiving the same assignment two semesters in a row; because all of the material will be fairly fresh on mind, I probably won’t have to do much in the way of prepping for the class, including reading anything. The class is also located only about 15-20 seconds away—literally!—from my office in the philosophy department. I can slip out of my office door, go down a hall, out a back door, and I’m basically facing the door that leads into the auditorium where the class is taught. It’s quite a perk not to have to walk back and forth across campus, especially given the extreme weather we’re having now (it’s quite chilly here lately!) and the highs we’ll be getting come April and May. (It’s not so good news for my health, I suppose, given that walking around campus is, or was, my primary source of exercise. I better start figuring out how I’m going to compensate.) Bearing these benefits in mind, I’m actually quite content with my current TA assignment. The only scary thing is that the class is even larger than it was last semester, and all of the essays that get turned in will have to be graded by me and just one other TA. That will be very time consuming when the time comes. But I expect I’ll gripe about that soon enough. So, until then…

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


The spring semester starts today. Because I don’t have any Wednesday classes, I won’t be starting until tomorrow. I’ve been spending the last few days trying to get better prepared. For example, I’ve organized our home office, since I’ll be spending a lot of time in here. It’s nice to feel much less cluttered, to be able to look at the computer screen without looking over a pile of books and papers, etc. Another thing I’ve been working on is familiarizing myself with iTunes. Without my knowing it, Melanie gave Santa the idea of putting an iPod in my stocking, so I’ve now officially joined the iPod generation. I’m the proud owner of a 2GB iPod Shuffle, which is the “cheap” version of an iPod but is exactly what I would want. It’s tiny—the size of a flash drive (which, for those who don’t know, is comparable in size to a cigarette lighter, though probably a smidgen smaller)—so it doesn’t have a screen on which to watch videos or visually navigate through one’s music collection. The screen might be convenient for the latter reason, but I wouldn’t have any interest in utilizing an iPod for video purposes. So, as long as it plays music, that is all I could hope for. And that it does.

Of course, I’m not quite to the fun stage of using the iPod just yet. There’s a learning curve, and that’s before you even open your iPod (which, as I’m writing this, I still haven’t done). For the moment, I’m still trying to figure out how iTunes works. Again, for those as naïve as myself, iTunes is the computer program that, for all intents and purposes, acts as the liaison between your computer and your iPod. You needn’t own an iPod to use iTunes—iTunes can be used as a general media player, to listen to music or watch video on your computer, for instance. But, if you own an iPod, you cannot load it with music without going through the iTunes program. Because I’ve never used iTunes, it’s all new to me, and not everything about the program is as intuitive or as obvious as I wish it were. Still, I’m getting there. The first step, which was a rather big one, was reformatting the massive amount of music that I have on my computer. iTunes, and hence iPods, do not recognize certain file types (just as a DVD player cannot play a Blu-Ray disc). The overwhelming majority of music on my computer was in a file format that is incompatible with iTunes. So, I had to tell iTunes to go through the music on my computer and reformat it, turning all of my music files into the widely-recognized MP3 format. Because I have so much music on my computer, it took roughly 10-12 hours for this reformatting to occur. Now it’s just a matter of deciding which of the 8,182 songs listed in my iTunes library I want to put on my iPod, since I’ll be lucky to get even 500 of them on there. (The iPod website suggests my particular player should hold approximately 500 tunes, but that might be at a lower audio quality than I’d like. We’ll see.) I admit, it makes me somewhat giddy to see that I have over 8,000 songs on my computer. According to iTunes, I have 21.9 days worth of music on my hard drive. That’s something like 526 hours of digital music! Pretty awesome!

I’ll let you know how things turn out—because, you know, I’m sure you’re in great suspense about it.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Resolutions, or Not

With the ushering in of a new year and a new decade—unless you want to be anal and view 2011 as the start of the new decade—I haven’t thought that much about resolutions, at least compared to years past. I’m still doing arguably lame things like keeping track of how many pages of books I read in a given year, but I no longer feel all that driven to aspire to any particular goal concerning how much I read. A year and a day ago, I announced a goal of reading between 8,000 and 10,000 pages during 2009. Instead, I read 6,017, though that fails to take into account the hundreds upon hundreds of pages I read of academic journals, etc. Keeping track of how much you read is a simultaneously very picky and very imprecise endeavor, so it seems pointless to set a goal concerning it. I know I’ll read a lot this year—it goes with the territory of being a Ph.D. student, in philosophy no less. I’m satisfied to let my reading goal this year consist of the following: read a lot of good stuff, and don’t forget to make time for the stuff I’m not assigned to read. Good enough, I’d say.

I might sound ho-hum about making resolutions, but I’m not. I’m just more focused, and less inclined to make silly goals that are first and foremost quantitative in nature. That being said, I do harbor a secret desire to write 100 blog posts this year. Not so much because hitting the number 100 is important, but because I sometimes forget how important taking the time to write about one’s thoughts and feelings—about one’s life and one’s self—can be. Hopefully I’ll also write a few journal entries that aren’t made public. Those are a completely different breed, and I rarely invest time into those nowadays. That’s a shame. I hope that will change. Even if I just write some of my day-to-day experiences and thoughts, I think it will prove very worthwhile. Sometimes it’s in the mundane details that we get the best glimpses of who we are (or were) and where we are (or were) in life. Jotting a few thoughts about your day, every day, may yield a greater journalistic treasure than you’d ever expect.

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you can probably guess that one of my primary resolutions this year is to grow musically. I want music to have a greater presence in my life. I already do a pretty good job of listening to it, but even that is something I’d like to cultivate. By that, I mean that I would like to spend more focused time listening to music. Good music. There’s so much of it. I want to be very attentive as I listen to it. And I want to listen to more of the music I own—rediscover some of it, more fully familiarize myself with some of it that perhaps has never been given sufficient attention, etc. I’ve got a great collection, and it’s only gotten better over the years as I’ve become—well, financially been forced to be, really—much more selective about what I purchase. I feel like I’ve been musically revitalized lately. It might sound silly, but I trace it back to purchasing Pearl Jam’s Backspacer, which was released in September. It’s such a solid album, and it somehow refreshed and rejuvenated me. It made me miss the emotional energy that music used to bring to my life. In turn, I searched out other music that, in many instances, was equally refreshing and inspiring. This led to an increased desire to start playing my own music again. Then Melanie had my guitars all tuned up for Christmas, and I’ve been playing them regularly since. It truly feels like I’m being musically reborn, and I love it. I hope to look back on this time as a significant turning point, not just another upswing in a series of lows and highs. Of course, that’s entirely up to me. So, as vague as it is for the moment, here is another goal I have for 2009: be passionate about music, and play guitar so often that a guitar in my hands is an incredibly familiar, comfortable, and self-expressive feeling.

I guess that’s all I have to say. So there.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Life Lessons, Guitar Lessons

With a couple of exceptions, I have played guitar for at least 20-30 minutes each day since Christmas. Not a lot for some folks, but a whole lot for me. It feels so good. Inspiring, in many ways, but also a bit sad, just because it stirs up feelings of what could have been and what might not ever be. I don’t often think about it—sometimes by conscious choice—but I’ve long been haunted by thoughts of what potential I might have lost as a musician. If I look at the heart-wrenching numbers, I’ve played guitar for almost 20 years. I say that’s heart-wrenching because, in many respects, I play with all the skill of a beginning guitar student. I didn’t do enough with it when I was younger. What I should have done was immerse myself in it—surround myself with guitar players much, much, much better than myself and learned from them. According to the most recent book I’ve read on intuition, experts often learn things tacitly, simply by observing those who are superior in talent and, without conscious effort, absorbing bits of intuitive know-how. That’s what I didn’t do. Where would I be now if I had? It’s not the kind of question you should get hung up on, but music is the one area where I sometimes fall prey to asking myself this question, with sincere remorse. (For the record, I did very briefly take guitar lessons from a very talented musician, but they didn’t prove overly fruitful for, I think, two reasons: (1) I took this approach too late—several years after I started playing guitar, and (2) I took this approach too early—before I had the discipline to make the most of it.)

What can be done at this stage? I don’t know. As a grad student, I don’t really have time (or money) for professional lessons. I really don’t think I do, anyway. But does that mean I’m just stuck? You read about plenty of musicians being self-taught, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best method for everyone (nor do you know what these musicians would have become had they taken lessons too!). I need to do something. As I play through some of my old songs, I find myself invigorated by the potential I believe some of them have. Really, I think I might be better at crafting these songs into something really cool now that I’m older. I can hear the directions some of these songs might go, and I want to take them there. But it’s hard when you don’t have the technical prowess to do much other than strum and move some basic chord shapes around the neck. And another travesty of not having played much over the last several years—I feel like I can’t sing anymore. Even my own songs. For the life of me, I can’t help but start off either too high or too low. Clearly, the notes I’m supposed to be hitting fall somewhere in the middle, but I can’t find them! I think part of it is that I hold back—I try to sing quietly because I’m shy, and I’ve learned that trying to sing quietly makes a huge difference as to what your voice can do. I’d like to try just belting things out and seeing if I can find the right notes that way, but I worry that if I take this approach, I’ll open my mouth and let out a shriek that sounds something like a tomcat getting neutered by a blind veterinarian. I’m not sure where the notes are I’m trying to hit, so how dare I belt them out? It’s a conundrum, to be sure, because I think belting them out might be the only route to success, yet I don’t feel confident enough to take that route. Imagine that you really could fly so long as you really believed you could fly—would that make it any easier to jump off a cliff? Exactly.