Good Thoughts

August is here, and I’m particularly excited because July sucked.  Sure it’s an arbitrary delineation of time, but like a new year, a new month brings some hope and excitement.  With everything that went wrong in July, it was a bit of a struggle to stay upbeat.  During that time I couldn’t help but notice the negative influences on my life, and unfortunately, they’re everywhere.  I deal with most of them on a daily basis and for the most part they’re unavoidable.  In spite of these forces trying to pull me down, I’ve decided to write here about good stuff:  things I love and things that make me happy.  Where to begin?

California in the winter

There’s nothing quite like a sunset over the ocean.  One of my favorite places in the world is Hawk Hill in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  From there you can see a gorgeous 360 degree view of San Francisco, the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean, and Mt. Tamalpais among other sights.  From 800 feet up one can see almost 40 miles out over the ocean, beyond the Farallon Islands on a clear day.  I’ve been there on gorgeous clear days; I’ve been there when I couldn’t see 20 feet through the fog.  The first time was in May of 2011 after my job interview at my current employer.  I went to see the Golden Gate Bridge like any first-time visitor to San Francisco, and the view could not have been more perfect.  Since then I’ve gone there many times, often just to sit and read on a bench overlooking the ocean.  This is something I very much enjoy because all of the tourists are on the other side of the hill looking at the bridge and I’m left with a cool peaceful spot mostly to myself.  The whole area has a distinct floral smell and it makes my nostalgia sense go crazy every time it wafts into my nostrils.  I don’t anticipate going back any time soon, but it makes me happy to think that I can almost whenever I want to.

Music is wonderful, obviously.  I love the clean sound of a freshly strung guitar, the feeling of satisfaction I get from nailing a new drum fill, or the sense of accomplishment from learning a new song on the piano by ear (or by sheet music, for that matter).  I love how almost every song I hear is tied to some vivid memory (see: nostalgia) and that I can transport myself to another time just by hearing an ordered sequence of sound.  There’s also the simple act of playing music together.  One of my favorite college experiences was playing in a band with some guys from WRPI, the local college radio station of which I was a member.  We played one show for a party at a fraternity house, and half of the songs I wasn’t even much of a contributor (being the keyboardist in a five-piece band is rough :P) but we sounded awesome and the party-goers seemed really into it.  Never mind that sitting five feet from a crash symbol for three hours left me severely discombobulated the next day, it was still awesome.  I also can’t forget the musicians themselves.  Maybe I’m biased by who I know and who I like, but basically all of the people in my life with musical talent are incredible people.  Even those bands whom I’ve met in person seemed to be genuinely nice, warm, interesting folks, and I hope the future brings many more of these people into my life.

Sun in a glass ball

Sunny days are nice.  I’m solar-powered so it’s not hard to feel glum on a cloudy day.  Living in California, sunny days are abundant and it’s easy to take them for granted.  I spent four long winters in the dull gloom of Troy, New York but every spring when the sun started to stay out and the warmth returned it was like an epiphany or a revelation.  One time during the spring of my freshman year I spent one mid-afternoon in Commons eating by the south windows completely amazed at how good sunlight felt on my skin.  Now, being mid-summer in California, it’s just too darn hot outside and the sun is downright oppressive in this semi-arid Mediterranean climate.  Still, I wouldn’t trade it for overcast skies any day though I am looking forward to a little rain;  heaven knows we need some.

I love going places I’ve never been, adventures and whatnot.  I haven’t gone on a good adventure in quite some time which means I’m well overdue.  There’s a whole world out there I have yet to see (and in the next few days, I expect the one thing keeping me from leaving the country to arrive at my doorstep, finally).  Thankfully, I have a few trips scheduled in the near future and they could not come soon enough.  I’ve lived in California for almost a year and there’s at least 99% of the state I’ve yet to see.  Time to get on that…

Almost there!

In recent weeks, I haven’t been feeling very accomplished.  Accomplishments are like a drug to me;  I work hard to get something done and the feeling immediately after is a rush and a prolonged high of basking in what I’ve completed.  Then after that comes the crash, the withdrawal and self-loathing and the need for more.  In my line of work, not much gets done since I keep getting my tasks switched as more “important” things come up.  Therefore, I rely on my personal life to bring me this feeling of accomplishment.  I love setting personal records during workouts, especially when I can’t move the next day because I’m so freakin’ sore (and especially when I get a lot of points for it on Fitocracy! Yay arbitrary reward units!).  I also love, as I mentioned before, advancing my musical skill.  In addition, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I’m also studying for a licensing exam this fall, slowly working my way through a mammoth tome of engineering goodness.  For all of my recent lack of self-confidence in my engineering knowledge and the downtrodden feelings alongside that, there’s an equal and opposite (see what I did there?) feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when I discover that I actually still have all of this stuff locked up in that pesky brain of mine and I just needed a brief refresher to jog it out.

Finally, I’m making significant progress in my quest to conquer the German language, all thanks to a four-way tag-team of Rosetta Stone, Wiktionary, Google Translate, and most recently, Duolingo.  Each of these are flawed in their own way as far as language learning effectiveness, but together they’re an incredible resource.  Plus, Duolingo has arbitrary reward units and I can level up in my skill, which for some reason seems to keep me motivated to do incredibly mundane things (see also: Fitocracy and exercise).  I can feel my ability develop every day and I’m always eager to test myself by reading random German Wikipedia articles or exploring google.de.  Someday I’m going to have to adventure to central Europe and see how well I do there.  Now, who do I know in central Europe?

Treasure trove for the aspiring multi-linguist.

Obviously there are more things in my life that bring me happiness than these four, but I’ve gotta save something to write about later. 😉  As it is almost my one-year anniversary of living in California, I’ve got something planned for my next few posts. Happy reading!

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