Dubai, the beginning

It has been one week since my wife and I arrived in Dubai. The sites are grand and we are slowly acclimating to our new home. If only our household shipment would arrive. Having some of the comforts that are in our shipment would make all so much better. While I know a simple vegetable peeler or juicer I is not a necessity, they do make things simpler and more normal.

We have been enjoying several of the local sites and the cuisine. The most recognizable is the Burj Khalifa and the water fountain show, as well as some shopping. All quite amazing.

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This is just the beginning of our life here in Dubai. So looking forward to all in this interesting, and rapidly growing city.

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Boats, rain and trekking

My view of the back of the bus drivers head did finally end. I will admit that my view turned into a view of my eyelids during a short nap.

After arriving at LaVie Vu Linh Ecolodge we had a wonderful lunch followed by a drizzling trek through the area.

LaVie Vu Linh Ecolodge is a project in creation and bringing back sustainable living and agriculture. You can read about the project at the website.

The kids were able to enjoy a boat ride and a wonderful trek through the commune. Along the trek were eucalyptus trees, fragrant cinnamon trees, a visit with a sustainable farmer, and a small boat builder.

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Now it is time for some rest. Cool breeze, but lovely place to rest. More tomorrow and happy wishes to all from LaVie Vu Linh.

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My View

Today begins a short trip with 14 middle school students graded 6 and 7. We are traveling to LaVie Ecolodge, which is about two hours northwest of Hanoi, Vietnam.

The students began this trip yesterday with basic training in rock climbing. They learned to tie basic knots, fit their harness, and various aspects if climbing at VietClimb in Hanoi.

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Now the fun part of the trip. LaVie Ecolodge while inly two hours from Hanoi takes about five hours by bus. There is not any major highway between the two locations. So, for the next five hours this is my view.

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More as the trip continues. Happy day to all.

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Lather, Rinse and Repeat

A conversation on Twitter today has brought up the topic of practice. For musicians practice can be a bane to ones life. We practice, prepare, exercise, drill, study, recite, rehearse and a multitude of other synonyms to do that which we love, and that is to perform music. By definition “Practice” is the act of rehearsing a behavior or engaging in an activity over and over to improve. Practice is not a method by which one improves as practice is a method of reinforcement of actions that generate an outcome. With that, Does practice make one improve or make one perfect as stated in the old adage that “Practice makes perfect”? I think not.

Most individuals go to the practice room, take our their instrument and begin what they believe is practice. This is not a good way to learn. One needs to have a plan, a guide, or some sort of organized structure to get through and accomplish the many tasks a musician needs to accomplish in a single, or multiple practice session.

Practicing is much like studying. So often individuals are not taught how to study in school, just as most young musicians are not taught how to practice. It is so much more than opening a book, reading, or putting horn to lips and blowing. There are some simple steps one can take to become better at the art of practicing. Yes, I said art, as practicing is a learned skill and an art in itself.

Below is a list of a few items one can do to aid in become better at the art of practice:

  • Schedule your practice time and meet your schedule.
  • Log your practice.
  • Take notes during your practice time and during lessons.
  • Review your notes after a practice session and after lessons.
  • List goals for the week, month, year, and your long-term goals such as auditions, etc.
  • Review your goals and see if you are meeting your expectations.
  • Adjust your goals periodically.
  • Warm up – this is not practice time and never let a warmup become practice.
  • Stay focused on your schedule.
  • Remember the practice room is for practice and to learn.

Below is a simple sample practice routine and should vary depending on one’s ability. This is not the end all and many will have other thoughts:

  • Warm up – This is a warmup and not time to practice. Breathing exercises and time to get the lips going with easy long tones in the middle and lower register.
  • Flexibility exercises – Scales in thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, etc., as well as wide slurs.
  • Scales and arpeggios – These are key to flexibility and learning how to play music.
  • Lip Trills.
  • Work the extremes of the horn range.
  • Now time to settle in on etudes, excerpts, solos, etc.

The above items are just simple thoughts, but if put into place in ones daily life improvement can be great. It is YOU that does the work and not the equipment. Fancy lead pipes, mouthpieces, and more are not what makes a great player as a great player is a player that is disciplined and works hard to learn, and to practice. Setting a schedule, meeting that schedule, making notes, reviewing those notes are so important to being successful in any career. You setup your schedule based upon class schedule, ensembles and other events out of your control and you need to meet the times you setup. Do not be over zealous, but set reasonable times for success. Remember that you set your times and set them for you to be successful in all that you do.

One needs to remember that the practice room is for practicing. Do not sit and play the things that you know so that others can hear you play well. Practice time is the time to practice, learn, improve, and most importantly to make mistakes. Learn from the mistakes but do not learn the mistakes. Practice will never make one perfect if one continually practices the mistakes. Of course, mistakes happen in performance and one cannot stop, but in the practice room it is time to assess and review why you made the mistake. Ask yourself questions. Be bold, be blunt about your playing. Assess, evaluate, find the solution, test the solution, re-evaluate, and test another solution if the first did not work. Take your time … Lather, rinse and repeat.

Yes, those words taken from the directions found on bottles of shampoo are important. Lather, rinse and repeat or play, review and evaluate, and repeat this cycle. It is a cycle or circle that never ends. Play through a simple etude then review and evaluate your performance. If you made a mistake think why you made the mistake. Find a correction, make a change, and use your mind to come up with a solution. Then you start over with the solution in place. The solution could be a simple fingering change, or change to your airstream, where you breath, what you are thinking while playing, and so many other options. Lather, rinse and repeat.

From my past, my mentor made me play through excerpts a minimum of ten times without any mistakes. If a mistake occurred I would have to start over at the first play through. So, playing the opening to Till Eulenspiegal’s Merry Pranks I would play through one time, then two, then three and if I made a mistake it was back to playing it the first time. Never continue practicing when a mistake is made, as one will only learn the mistake. Then that mistake becomes learned and when it comes time to perform it is likely that mistake will happen in performance. Be bold, use your mind, learn, practice in the practice room, perform and perform well because you learned to practice perfectly. Lather, rinse and repeat … It is not drudgery, but fun to learn, and fun to perform well. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Please feel free to ask me questions. I am always so happy to try and help in any way that I can. These thoughts are mine are will be different for each individual. Fine tuning to find what works best for you is an important aspect of learning. Just because one person can play a high c by puffing their cheeks, a squeezing their eyes closed does not mean it will work for you. Happy day to all. Lather, rinse and repeat.

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Summer of New Journeys

What an amazing Summer I have experienced. It is difficult to know where to begin, but to say WOW!!

I met an incredible woman last Winter and this was just the first of many wonderful New Journeys. A lifetime past, but now a lifetime together has given a bright light in my life. Jennifer and I were married on 11 July 2011 and have made the start of our life together with a huge move to Hanoi, Vietnam. I cannot express the excitement that is ever present in each day, hour, and minute as we explore our new lives together here in Hanoi.

Panoramic Image of My Neighborhood in Hanoi, Vietnam

Panoramic of My Neighborhood

Hanoi and the people of Vietnam are incredible. I am so enjoying meeting and learning from every person I come in contact with each day. All have been so helpful to me. This is especially true since my skills in the Vietnamese language are nil. I have learned a few words and am able to greet others, give some basic directions, and a a couple of weather terms. Ah, yes it is a joy to try and learn these few words, and one day I will be able to converse in some basic manner.

I have great respect for all people here on our incredible planet, and feel it is important to respect the culture, society, to try and learn the language, and embrace all that is Vietnam. Thus, I am trying new words, walking up to people asking questions, and being what my Twitter profile states, “…all around good guy with an inquisitive mind”.

Each day this journey has new paths that are unveiled. Choosing a path, has nothing to do with worrying about whether the path chosen is correct, but that one makes a choice and learns. Each path brings about new people, thoughts, sights, sounds, and so many different things that I cannot list in this post. A path is about exploring and I am doing so every chance that comes about. Even the most simple path of acclimating my body to the heat and humidity of Hanoi can be daunting, but to get my running game back on track I must chose that path and learn. The same goes for anything we do in life … a bit of reinventing … never think that one knows all that is on any particular item as all in life is ever-changing, ever-growing, and truly a journey along the many paths of life.

This Summer of New Journeys has been a grand experience with my marriage to Jennifer, the move to Hanoi, and sharing ones life with all in the world. This short post is the beginning of what I hope will be many posts about the many experiences in Hanoi, the wonderful people of Vietnam, and all that exists in this grand world of ours.

Keep checking back for new posts as this is going to be a joyous ride. Also, keep up with me on the various social networking sites as I write, tweet, post about life, share photos of all that I see through the camera lens, and meet new friends around the world.

Cyclist

Early Morning Cyclist

Gardner taking care of the roundabout

Gardner

Vietnamese woman walking on streets of Ciputra, Hanoi, Vietnam

Walker

 

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Found on Facebook – Pillsbury Dough Boy

Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71. Pillsbury DougboyDoughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

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Chillaxin – First Race in the Books

Where does one begin when writing about their first running race experience? All race reports seem to be from the same breath with listings of finish times, course terrain, weather, and swag bags. I will let you taste a small report of that which is the norm, but have other thoughts about the race, and in a later blog post thoughts and conversations with the people I met on the course.

Boomtown Days Half Marathon 2010

Saturday, June 11, 2010 I ran my first race at the Boomtown Days Celebration. The race was a half marathon which totals 13.1 miles of glorious running. I know. You are thinking about that word glorious. Well, running is glorious, fun, thrilling, and can be so enjoyable when one properly prepares. Before I go further let me get to the little devil of my results from my first marathon, and first race to ever participate.

Boomtown Run Finishers Medal

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Finishers Medal

I completed the half marathon (13.1 miles) in 2 hours 17 minutes 16 seconds placing 145th out of 850 runners that checked in Saturday morning. My time put me 12th in the male 45-49 age group. Those numbers have made me so happy. For my first race and training to tackle a half marathon a 2:17 run is very good. Just sheer joy. While some may not see the joy in this time let me say that completing any endurance race is a a trial of fortitude, will, and training. For me, once weighing 358lbs, this 1/2 marathon is a grand success (See previous blog post: Grunt… Groan… Pant… ).

Thoughts on the Race Course (Course Map & Elevation Graphics)

While I have no other race to compare the Boomtown Half Marathon to I will say this course seemed to be one long uphill run. The course started at 1008ft above sea level, reaches 1070ft at the highest point, and the lowest point is 883ft above sea level. As one can see from the below elevation graphic there were many ups and downs, but a couple a quick downs with a long uphill between miles 4.5 and 7.

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Elevation Graphic

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Elevation (click graphic for full view)

Throughout the race I heard individuals commenting about the many long hills. I must admit that I also felt those hills, but tried to get up on the ball of the foot, shorten my stride and keep the pace I had without burning the legs up. Seemed to work well for me, or at least I thought. Upon viewing my lap data I see that all those ups and downs took their toll quickly around mile five slowly my average pace by about 30 seconds to one minute. Not a lot of time, but adds up quickly.

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Course Map

Course Map (click graphic to see full view)

Lap data showing average running pace at each mile

Average Lap Data for each mile (click graphic to see full view)

Another aspect of the 1/2 marathon was the humidity. Southwest Missouri is well known for its humidity. The last several weeks we have seen temperatures in the low to mid 90’s Fahrenheit and humidity between 70 and 90%. Sure adds to that hot feeling when out running an asphalt race course. I know, a ton of numbers, but as I examine and learn to better interpret it will all help my running. This is especially true since keeping my pace has been one item of difficulty. So much to learn both mentally and physically, but so much fun.

Ending Thoughts ~ It is about being healthy, training smart, and having fun

Many who follow me on Twitter know that I am a happy person. Many may be tired of my “Enjoy all that is” or “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” statements, but that is me. Not much gets me down, and while I am competitive it is competition with myself and no one else. I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. This run was just one more in my journey to being and doing all I can to be healthy, fit and happy.

Time for a few random thoughts I had during the race:

  • I am a long way from the start. How did all those people get in front of me.
  • My Garmin keeps beeping and asking if I want to connect to the footpod.
  • No, I don’t want to connect to that unknown footpod.
  • Said outloud: Hi, my name is Michael. How are you doing? Person I spoke to gave me a stern glare. Silent thought to self: Just saying hi not hitting on you. Happy day.  :-)
  • Feeling great! Having fun. Whoa!! What is that in the road. That was a shoe and is someone running with one shoe now?
  • Styrofoam cups suck!! They crack every time I pinch to try and drink. Next time just drink.
  • Okay, drinking from the styrofoam cup without pinching not good. More air than water. Burp!!
  • My Garmin is beeping again. Message reads: Connect to Footpod? No, I told you before not to connect. Someone must be following me.
  • Man my shoes feel great! Yes they do! Could running shoes feel any better? No!
  • Said to self so as to not get the death stare: WOot!!! Hi!! Who are you!!?
  • Okay Garmin you have been told twice to stop it. Now stop!
  • Hill!!
  • Hill!!
  • Hill!!!

I felt great through the entire 1/2 marathon. Yes, some tired moments, silly thoughts, but smiles all the way. Okay, maybe not smiles, but after seeing some photos I had a grin a mile wide. You may ask why the grin. That grin was due to the fact that I had trained well for this run. All the training was from my wonderful coach Jeff Kline of PRSFit. Wonderful person and so helpful. Coach Jeff’s training is all about “being healthy, training smart, and having fun”. I so agree. This is how I live each and every day.

Just approaching the finish line

Almost finished (click graphic for full view)

Slowing down after the Finish Line

Slowing down after crossing the finish line (click graphic for full view)

Eating a Banana

Time for a Banana, but not a flattering photo (click graphic for full view)

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