In 1997, while I was taking Comparative Civilizations 11 class at Stelly's Secondary School in Saanich, I chose to write a research paper on Stonehenge. I couldn't find enough on the topic at my school library, so I expanded my scope: I decided to visit UVic's McPherson Library instead. I distinctly remember searching for appropriate books on the computer and navigating the third floor mezzanine; I remember the old-paper smells, the stifling warmth, the entire atmosphere of that first-time library research experience.
After two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree that spread between 1998 and 2016, I've adapted to different library research processes. Through my undergrad, I used books and articles as much as possible; I'd spend hours in libraries, ordering the books in from other libraries, copying articles in the reading room, searching through microfiche, and now and then through JSTOR and other archives. I enjoyed this overall, perhaps because I got to spend so much time walking around, thinking, reading, assessing and whatnot. For my master's degree, between 2012-2016, however, I spent most of my research time in front of a computer, reading through pdfs of archived articles in various journals and ebook publications. I felt this wasn't quite as enjoyable, although this may have also been a matter of content.
In the classroom, I've noticed a similar process. Early in my teaching career, I developed some good research project assignments that gave students good research skills that they could apply to any library or resource. I had them use their school libraries as much as possible and they made some genuinely good assignments. Students got used to using tables of contents and indices, and got familiar with the ways we can find information in multiple places in a library. I enjoyed teaching this so much that I even made research projects with the students themselves.
But over the last few years, this has been distinctively more difficult and discouraging. Assignments intended to improve students' research skills, much like my own research project for my Master's, have moved largely online. And with that move, online problems have moved to the fore. The school library isn't being stocked in the ways I wish it was for their topics; instead, they're reading ebooks on a screen. This is their normal, so I can't complain too much. But it certainly seems problematic when I feel like they haven't learned the basics of how to assess whether a text is legitimate or not.
In light of the "fake news" phenomenon, there's something to be said about how easy it is to self-publish an ebook, post it to Google Books, and have it appear as a legitimate source. As much as I've tried to create assignments and ideas that help students sift through the legions of unedited sources out there, there's no easy answer for them.
I need to find ways to help them understand how to assess these sorts of books critically. I also, however, distinctly remember spending time in the public library myself, taking time at the end of the day to do the research work when the school library didn't make the cut. It's hard for me to sympathize fully with them when I know the work I would have done to make my own work... work. I like that the Internet has made so much information more accessible, but it's made people expect information to be at their fingertips. Even with access to the UVic libraries' database, I always was ready to look for physical books myself, to take a walk and search through the indices of a tangible book.
Ironically, there's a public library branch right next to the school where I work. I have feeling, however, that I use it far more than most of my students ever would. And as much as I know this is related to my upbringing and age, I find it sad that I can't seem to motivate students to check out the library themselves. I need to find a way to make that happen despite myself.
So how do I make visiting the library more appealing to my students?
A few months ago I wrote a little bit about trying to "get out there" and make friends. This is an enduring process and I can't say I've done much good at it so far. I've started being able to talk more to some people at karaoke; I'm still connected to some people from the play. This is all good. As the New York Times editorial says (embedded above), I find I "'take an extremely efficient approach and seek out like-minded folks to fill very specific needs.'" And I'd like to think that's OK.
For example, I find myself seeking musicians to play with. When I was younger, I basically gravitated towards other musicians and they gravitated towards me. It was astoundingly easy to find other musicians to play with. Today, however, i find myself far more picky; I play with musicians with high hopes, but don't seem to have the patience I once had with musicians who might not blend so well with me. But here I go, still seeking out some people to fill the "musician need" in my life.
Out of all this, I've grown far more aware of the importance of old friends, of those friendships I developed long before I got so picky. I've found myself reconnecting with them in the old ways: by telephone, by dropping in when I'm in the area. This has been good. I've been grateful for this because these people who've known me for the longest amount of time tend to know me best, because they can saw the good in me before I may have jaded them.
I still maintain connections with plenty of people I knew from University, church, summer camp, and high school. Facebook has helped me keep in touch with a few of them, even though I don't see them often. This is good too, I guess. I used to be cynical about the way Facebook seemed such a shallow gathering place, and I still am, but more importantly I use Messenger to say "Hello" to people when I'm in the area, when I feel like I might have the opportunity to drop by. This is good.
There's an irony in this: I used to feel pretty critical about how my parents seemed to maintain their friendships. Most of their friendships were based around church or my dad's old car club. However, now I find that I'm in the same boat, even though my activities are different. The greatest joy of doing those community theatre productions was their church-like atmosphere, the way adults from different corners of the community came together to put on a project that mattered to them. My parents' friendships, which seemed oft-fleeting and organization-based, are now part of my normal everyday interactions.
I'd still love to meet a really good friend nearby, but I feel like at this point they might not be close to my age. They might be a decade older or younger than me, 'cuz adults don't need those delineations.
And it's crazy how work can get in the way. This term, all of my socializing centred on the play. Beyond that, I simply didn't have the time to do anything but try to rest and get things done at home. When the semester turns over in a couple weeks, I hope to feel like I can hang out with people in the evenings again.
Adult friendships are hard. But I'd like to think I'm getting used to it.
So last night I took my recording stuff to my restaurant gig and recorded a couple videos. Here's what the shows are like.
Half of the recordings below are pretty loop-heavy. But most of last night was taken up playing requests from the audience, sans loops. I still need to get a couple good recordings of some of that sort of stuff.
I play covers at the restaurant because they keep the customers happy. But I hope to sneakily incorporate a few originals over the coming year as my confidence in my own work returns.
I've never taken New Year's resolutions very seriously. So I haven't really made any over the years.
This year might be a little different though.
For the drive to Smithers, I listened to most of Gary Taubes' The Case Against Sugar, which basically posits that sugar leads to most of the "Western diseases" that plague our society. In the end, Taubes does not offer much of a solution: he claims that there's no way to scientifically prove his point about sugar's toxicity, but that his correlation-causation conclusions should nonetheless be heeded, that there would be no way to narrow down the culprit to sugar for type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, specifically. I listened to another podcast on the way back from Smithers that featured The Science Moms who essentially debunked most of Taubes' points,
But perhaps this year I will aim to minimize sugar in my diet, if only to learn how to cook properly for myself. I'm a sucker for processed foods—in particular, cookies—and perhaps minimizing sugar would help me rely a little less on processed foods. I don't expect to go full sugar-free, but I'd like to get it back to the point where sugar is a bona fide treat.
Beyond that, though, I think it's time to focus on music again. I've written about this before, but it's been tough over the last few years to play music. My musical ego was slowly worn away over the decade since I made my first super-independent CD, and it even got to the point where I didn't want to play music barely at all anymore.
But over the last while, I've been able to get a bit of that mojo back. Regularly playing at that restaurant in Harrison Hot Springs has really helped me regain some of my footing as a performing musician, and those two community theatre performances helped me regain some of the pleasure of being on stage.
What I haven't been able to do, however, is sit down and write. I have a couple dozen extracts of songs sitting on paper, on the computer, on my phone, but I don't think I've completed a song for the last few years. There are numerous reasons for this lack of production, but if I write them down I'm sure they'll come off as excuses. So I won't write them down.
Instead, perhaps I can base a New Year's Resolution on this idea: Quantity over Quality.
Perhaps, if I commit to a certain number of blog posts or completed songs on a weekly basis or something, I'll get some good stuff out of it. Amongst all the quantity, some good quality, or quality practices at least, might emerge.
So here goes:
What I need to figure out is a system for keeping up with them. Perhaps a filing system? Perhaps a calendar?
And how will I keep myself accountable? Especially as separation stuff gets overwhelming?
I don't know yet, but I'll start by trying to post my status updates here.
So here goes?
Goodbye, 2017! And good riddance!
It was a rough year on all fronts, each front compiled online so thoroughly that I won't even seek out hyperlinks for them. The crazy thing for me is, however, how disconnected I was from it all. As much as I tried to keep up with BC politics, the #metoo campaign, Black Lives Matter, various Trump-related debacles and the gradual de-sheening of Justin Trudeau, the fact remains that I've been consistently distracted by my own life. 2017 will be remembered as the first year in the last decade where I was, well, essentially "separated." In fact, last night would have been our 11th anniversary, and here I am in Smithers, visiting my kids staying at my in-laws' place (which I am enormously grateful for). Needless to say, I've been one of the people who's felt too busy to be politically and socially active, and I find that a little disheartening. But necessary.
But what can I say for 2017? I can be grateful for a few things:
Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to write. My blog entries are still lacking in passion and order; my songs remain unfinished and without direction.. So, in those respects, the only direction I can go is up.
So here goes!
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
Amazon | DailyMotion
DeviantArt | Flickr | FVRL | Kik
LinkedIn | MeetUp | MySpace
Playstation | Reddit | Snapchat
Spotify | The Internet Archive
Tinder | Vimeo | VK | WattPad