Posts Tagged ‘piano’

When I was recovering from a serious coding binge back in Iceland, long walks along the seashore and playing the piano were the two things that saved me. Since then, I’ve tried to lead a more balanced life: no coding after sundown, a mix of activities — reading, walking, seeing friends, hanging out at the neighborhood bar, cooking, playing music. The point is to do several things, not just one — one terrible thing that swallows up both the day and the night, demanding your full attention for five, ten, fifteen, twenty hours at a stretch until you finally lie exhausted, shipwrecked in the dawn, clinging to the foot of the bed as if it were a lifeboat, the mess of dishes and books piled high, crowding the sacred space before the altar of the computer.

I’ve tried to keep this healthy routine, part of which is to meet with friends every Thursday to play music. We are so-so amateur musicians, but we have a lot of fun, and also a new “activity:” each of us brings an original composition to play, either individually, or as a group. Well, at the beginning we were pretty bad, but we have learned a lot, and we have had a lot of good times. One of the house rules is that after a piece is played, we all have to improvise on it. This way we all share in the embarrassment, the good musical moments, as well as the beer! I promise to post something of my own soon, since the last person to do so has to buy food and drink for the whole group. I am, however, taking the liberty of linking to a piece by one of the other players:

short piece for solo cello

There is more … this is just the first line of the piece:-)


Read Full Post »


Well, the software project has been all-consuming of late. No posts to the blog. No walks along the Charles River, either early morning or late at night. No more than a few minutes a day to touch the piano, to let her know, yes, I remember you, you are still part of my life, please bear with me – soon we will make music again till the wee hours of the morning. Nonetheless, I did have time for one indulgence: an iPad, ordered by mail, to avoid the crowds. Despite the scorn of my fellow geeks, it is a wonderful device. Indeed, magical! No doubt I am too close to the reality-distortion field emanating from its A4 processor – an undocumented feature of this piece of electronics:-)

What is the iPad for – for m? So far just a very few things, but important ones. (1) Rereading Moby Dick. I had forgotten a detail of the book: an emphatically stated (and oft-repeated) message of racial and religious tolerance. Remarkable considering its 1851 publication date. (2) Watching a film on the Netflix app with a friend. Japanese film, Departures. Sad, moving. iPad is fine for an audience of one or (better) two. (3) Best of all: the art apps. Below are some samples, not intended to show off any great artistic qualities, but just to show what is possible in a few minutes of finger-painting. As for content creation versus consumption, this is an absurd debate. The creators need the consumers and vice versa. In any case, fingerpainting is fun, whether it is an act of creation or (for adults) evasion of reality.


Read Full Post »

next: action on the home front

At university in Iceland, I studied physics, literature, and graphics design. After graduation, I found work at an advertising agency as a designer. The creative side of the job, especially the art, suited me, but the office chit-chat and politics clashed with my taciturn nature. Frustrated by my square-peg-in-round-hole status, I went back to university, obtaining a masters degree in mathematics after more than the usual number of years. Student life was the perfect arena for the exercise of one of my character disorders: following the interest-of-the-moment rather than doing what I should. The damage done by weeks of inattention to my classes could be repaired by a three-day binge of studying. Yes! I could out-concentrate the most obsessive of the obsessed among my fellow students, even Harald Haraldsson himself!! Out in the real world once again, I found a series of odd jobs, few lasting for more than a year. Waiter at a local restaurant, copy editor for a newspaper, writer of advertising copy, web design. Etc.

It was in the web design job that I learned about programming. For extra money and as a kind of challenge, I started writing software. Creating and shaping code soon morphed from a pastime into a monster that devoured both day and night. I would wake up on the living room couch, exhausted from a three-day binge in a labyrinth of logic, data structures, and context-free grammars, unable to stand the sunlight streaming in from the windows that looked out onto the sea, books, papers, and dinner plates scattered across the room in revolting disorder.

The beast was destroying me. Alcohol could not have been worse, though I barely touched it. A year ago I went cold turkey, writing no software for eight months. A small inheritance helped me to survive during this period, though the money did not go far. I played the piano, tried to compose music, and took long walks by the sea to calm my nerves.

Then, partly due to the economic crisis in Iceland, I decided to come to the US. I needed work, and one of the few options open to me was to resume software development. I am giving it a try, but this time under strict guidelines: I write code only during daylight hours, and preferably in latitudes where neither day nor night last too long, where the Earth itself lives from season to season with less dramatic swings of mood. The hours of darkness are reserved for music and a long-delayed writing project.

So far the experiment has worked. A few dollars are flowing in, and the old obsession seems to have been tamed for now. I live, as always, a somewhat reclusive life. I prefer it that way.

– HH

Read Full Post »