Phone it in Friday XXVII: Virtual Learning Hurricane Holiday

Hurricane Ian has been battering Florida, and South Carolina should be experiencing the effects of said battering today, albeit to a vastly diminished degree.  The weather is calling for high winds and lots of rain, but nothing that seems (to me, anyway) particularly dangerous.  I just wouldn’t recommend hanging out underneath any old trees.

Naturally, the slightest degree of inclemency prompts the shuttering of all operations for those of us in the cushier fields like education.  Fear of the “L Word”—Liability—means my administration has opted to close the school today, lest some witless teen driver find himself, wheels spinning, in a watery ditch.

Of course, in this post-The Virus era—here in The Days After The Age of The Virus—there are no longer inclement weather “holidays,” as there were in The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago.  Now we can hop seamlessly online, teaching and learning from the comfort of our couches.

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TBT: Counting Blessings

In searching through some old blog posts recently, I stumbled upon one from April 2020 about being thankful for the blessings in our lives.  The day before I’d written what I thought at the time was a doom-and-gloom post, but reading it now, it wasn’t too bad.  I do seem to remember being in an exasperated mood when I wrote it, so that probably explains, in part, the sense of contrition I experienced after writing it.

Regardless, it yielded “Counting Blessings,” a post giving thanks for God’s many blessings in my life.  It’s rather serendipitous that I stumbled upon this post again the other day, because the theme of counting one’s blessings is one I’ve been contemplating quite a bit lately.

Life is going well enough for yours portly (I’d better not say that too loudly!).  Work is clipping along and I’m hustling big time with lessons.  I have a great (and godly) girlfriend, dog, and house, and a supportive family.  Things could be worse.

With that here is 29 April 2022’s “Counting Blessings“:

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Phone it in Friday XXI: Gratuitous Back-to-Work Self-Promotion Bonanza!

Well, it’s not Bandcamp Friday, but it is the first Friday of the month, and my first day back to work.  Why not celebrate both “occasions” with some shameless self-promotion?

You might say, “Well, because no one wants to read an ad,” but all I hear is, “Take my money, Portly—please!”

Here are the goods:

If enough of y’all buy my stuff, I might be able to retire… or just not have to work quite so much.

Eh, who am I kidding?  I’ll still do that.

Thank you for your support!

—TPP

TBT: Disincentives to Work

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom this week, but it sure feels like things are falling apart all around us:  food shortages, rising unemployment, riots.  I think we’re in for a really nasty summer, but I hope I’m wrong.

We’ve been muddling through longer than we realize.  While gas prices have only shot up in the past five months, people have been dropping out of the workforce for a good while now.  Back in the Obama years, conservatives used to mock (rightly) the government’s unemployment figures for leaving out the labor force participation rate, which was pretty paltry back then (something like only 60-70% of working aged people were actually actively looking for work; the unemployment rate was based off that portion, rather than all working aged adults).

Now we’re in the midst of what the mainstream media is calling “The Great Resignation,” with millions of Americans quitting their jobs.  That’s due in part, I believe, to the generous government largesse during The Age of The Virus.  We’ve all gotten a taste of easy money—inflation be damned!—and now we want the gravy train to keep on rollin’.

But I think it goes deeper than that.  My generation in particular—prone to wokery, alas—legitimately has gotten the short end of the economic stick, entering the workforce during a recession, saddled with billions in student loans and overcredentialed.  Granted, some of those problems were our fault—we fell for the siren song of expensive degrees—but we were largely following the advice that had worked for our parents’ generation.

Understandably, many of my peers did not want to go back to waiting tables and pouring coffee for strangers—or going back to other thankless jobs.  Not all of those folks are deadbeats or mooches—some of them are just worn out.

Regardless, the government’s sticky hands are in all of this mess (for example, college tuition is so astronomically high because the government will keep extending loans to anybody to get them to go to college, even if that person isn’t going to earn much with his degree).  Work is annoying, stressful, and demanding—but doing it makes us better people.

With that, here is 26 May 2021’s “Disincentives to Work“:

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Beethoven’s Routine

Long-time readers know that I love Beethoven (particularly his Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral”).

Readers also might know that I keep a fairly busy schedule.  Doing so requires sticking to routine, but that’s not always my strong suit.  My mind tends to jump from one task to another, but I find that writing out a detailed “to-do” list and crossing it off helps me to focus in on a task for extended periods of time.

When I really get into something—working on a new collection of piano miniatures, grading papers, or writing blog posts—I can focus in for hours, and often do that.  But working into that flow state takes time and, more importantly, motivation.  It’s the latter that I have been lacking the past week, a combination of end-of-the-school-year exhaustion and a renewed interest in Civilization VI.

So I thought it’d be interesting during this winding down season—when my own routine is about to change to the more leisurely pace of summertime—to look at Beethoven’s daily routine, care of YouTube channel Inside the Score.

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TBT: Heavy is the Head

Over at her blog Words on the Word, Audre Myers posted a piece yesterday entitled, simply, “Life.”  It’s a succinct and effective little piece about how Life often disrupts our, well, lives, and how our best-laid plans are often thrown out the minute Life demands our immediate attention.

The past several weeks have been full of Life for yours portly; indeed, this school year—which seems to be dragging endlessly onward—has been one of the toughest of my career.  It got me thinking about this post from last May about the difficulties and joys of responsibility.

We all find ourselves busy at times, and I imagine many of us dream of shirking our responsibilities.  The sad fact is, many Americans do—the moment anything becomes inconvenient, or no longer offers the fun thrill it initially did, we move on to something else new and exciting.  There’s an inherent restlesness in that lifestyle, a lifestyle of constant pacing and chasing.

That’s the child’s response to responsibility and difficulty.  As adults, we should adapt to difficulties, and bear our responsibilities cheerfully, even when they are more burdensome than usually—perhaps especially so at those times.

As I noted last year, most of our perceived problems either dissipate into mootness or are otherwise resolved before they truly become problems that need addressing.  Case in point:  I was slated to teach an online class this summer.  That’s not a problem so much as an opportunity, but it was going to require a good bit of legwork this week to get the course ready to launch Monday.

I got home Tuesday evening to take a look at the course, and realized it had either been purged (due to low enrollment) or given to another instructor (likely a full-timer who needed to make his hours).  While I’m a tad disappointed about losing out on some relatively easy money, it’s also “solved” a problem for me—finding the time to put that course together during yet another busy week.

Again, another problem resolved before requiring any real effort on my part—perhaps not on anyone’s.

With that, here is 5 May 2021’s “Heavy is the Head“:

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TBT: Memorable Monday II: Monday Steakhouse Blues

As I wrote yesterday, today I’m taking my students to a music festival, where they will play and sing solo selections for judges.  They get a score based on their performance, as well as useful feedback from the judges about tone, pitch, articulation, musicality, and the rest.  It’s a very fun day, but also a very busy one.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, it always seems to coincide with one of the busiest seasons of the year, when time constrains are at their most stringent and intense.  Almost everyone reading this blog understands there is an ebbing and flowing to life:  you might enjoy one (even two!) weeks of routine, maybe even a bit of a lighter schedule than usual.

Then—BAM!—everything comes due, breaks, and goes haywire at once.  As my friend and regular reader Barnard Fife once told me, “trouble is like grapes:  it comes in bunches.”  Amen, BF.

The original post behind this threat, “Monday Steakhouse Blues,” was written at a particularly tough time for yours portly.  I found myself without Internet and putting in very long hours (and this was well before I had twenty-ish students for private lessons).  I spent a weary Monday evening eating steak at Western Sizzlin’ and writing a blog post on my phone.  The steak was good, but everything else at the time was pretty miserable.

Thank God for better organization, a greater sense of perspective (this is just life, and it will pass), and for 10 milligrams of citalopram every morning.  Gotta be thankful for the little things.

The “Memorable Monday” version of this post, which I have also reblogged below, went live the week before everything in South Carolina shut down due to the dawning of The Age of The Virus.  In other words, it was the last week of The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago.  There are many things I miss about The Before Times, but a silver-lining of The Age of The Virus was that it saved me from the intense burnout I was experiencing at the time.

With that, here is 9 March 2020’s “Memorable Monday II: Monday Steakhouse Blues” (on a Thursday!):

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Retro Tuesday: Christmas Break Begins!

Yesterday marked the true “beginning of my glorious, two-week Christmas break.”  It’s been a busy break so far, with a very productive Town Council work session last night, and a meeting with our new Mayor-Elect this morning.  I’m also meeting with a parent later in the day to sign some paperwork for a program for her daughter.

That’s a breakneck pace compared to past Christmas breaks, but it’s nothing too daunting.  I’m looking forward to some time with my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, niece, and nephews soon, not to mention other family members.

It’s a lazy time of year for the blog, too:  not much is happening in the news, and everyone is settling in for a long winter’s nap.  I will have a guest contribution from 39 Pontiac Dreamer tomorrow—a review of a video game series—and some other goodies after Christmas.  Otherwise, look for a lot of re-runs from yours portly this week.

That said, the topic of this post from last Christmas Break—the need for some time off at Christmas for everyone, not just those of us in the cushy education racket—is still relevant.  Granted, some workers have decided to take the entire year off, it seems, enjoying generous federal unemployment and other kickbacks from The Age of The Virus, rather than return to their honest, albeit grueling, jobs.  Maybe let’s shoot for something a bit more balanced, yeah?

Still, work, while ennobling and healthy, can easily become overtaxing and detrimental.  There are diminishing returns, too:  after too many hours and too much effort, both mental and physical, we all start to get sloppy.  Some folks are built with the drive and energy to go nonstop, but I suspect most of us appreciate having a little downtime here and there.

With that, here is 21 December 2021’s “Christmas Break Begins!“:

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