Florence + The Machine has been a staple of my music since last summer and her albums more or less define the first few months of my experience living in California. No song does a better job at flying me west to San Francisco than “Hurricane Drunk” from Lungs, and its because of this ability that it’s become my most frequently played F+TM song (and possibly my favorite).
It reminds me of the second day I ever spent in San Francisco: July 17, 2011. The opening harp sounds have become to me synonymous with the sun setting on the Golden Gate bridge, the chorus brings back the smell of coastal flowers in the air and the view of the city skyline in the distance. Sixteen months later, the feeling is just as strong as if I were back there at this moment.
Curiously, the lyrics describe something completely opposite from how I feel whenever I hear the song. I guess music is just extraordinary like that.
Three months ago I wrote a post concerning just what I’d be doing with all of my free time during the NHL offseason. This post was supposed to be an update of how I did with my offseason goals I wrote about then, but it’s a bit more than that since as of midnight tonight there will be an indefinite work stoppage in the NHL, the second lockout in seven years and third in eighteen. A guy’s dreams are shattered.
I paid little attention to the lockout in 2004-05. I was in the middle of high school and the Sabres had spent the last few years toiling in mediocrity, so they were only in the back of my mind. My understanding of the game was limited; I knew very little about the “dead-puck Era,” about how New Jersey won three Stanley Cups playing the trap, about the violent rivalry between Colorado and Detroit, about how the newest expansion teams (Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota and Columbus) performed (or rather failed to)… I didn’t even know that the Phoenix Coyotes scrapped their green uniforms, changed their logo and moved into a new arena.
Now, seven years removed from those days, I know more than I should about the wonderful sport of professional ice hockey, yet the reasons behind the lockout remain elusive to me. I (think I) understand that owners are upset with receiving just 43% of hockey related revenue (which is in the billions, with a ‘b’, by the way.) and they also want to add several years onto entry-level contracts, but that’s about as deep as I go. Words like ‘escrow’ float around in my head, but mean nothing to me. Since the current collective bargaining agreement established in 2005 expires tonight, the players are being locked out until a new one can be reached.
Almost one year ago, San Jose Sharks regular season tickets went on sale. I grabbed one to a Vancouver Canucks game in November and three for the only Buffalo Sabres game in town that season, which was in March. This year, not only are tickets not going to be going on sale next week, but the league is most likely going to begin cancelling games instead. On the 2012-13 NHL schedule, the Sabres are in town in November. I can pretty much cross that off my calendar at this point. All signs are showing a shortened season, starting no earlier than Christmas, but the way things have been going between the league and the NHLPA, that seems optimistic.
So, back in June I faced the prospect of three months without hockey and a load of new found free time. Three months later, it’s very much the same situation. Time for some updated goals, eh? Here’s what I said I do in June; let’s see how I actually did, shall we?
Books: I finished “A Storm of Swords” a few weeks into June and it. was. amazing. So much so that I did indeed take almost two months before I got into “A Feast of Crows.” Crows was of course not nearly as exciting, especially considering it left out nearly half of the principle characters and introduced a number of viewpoints not seen in the first three books. It was slow and unfamiliar, but somehow came together at the end to set up what could be a brilliant sixth book. Soon I’ll begin reading “A Dance With Dragons,” which tells the parallel story of the characters not included in Crows. I know absolutely nothing about this book, so I’m sure every chapter will at least be an exciting journey into the unknown (or something). Once I conclude the current catalog of “A Song of Ice and Fire” I’m going to read “The Hobbit.” I read The Lord of the Rings over ten years ago when the movies came out, but for some reason never read The Hobbit. With the first of three (!) movies coming out in December, I’m sure as hell going to read the book first. I could not be more excited for another Peter Jackson Middle-Earth trilogy. Perhaps I’ll marathon The Lord of the Rings trilogy again this winter.
TV: The first half of the final season of Breaking Bad ended two weeks ago. While not totally-off-the-wall insane, it did a magnificent job of moving the chess pieces and setting up a totally-off-the-wall insane second half. I still can’t believe I have to wait until next July to see how “the revelation” plays out. In other news, network TV returns next week, and Dexter and Homeland follow shortly after that. Soon my Sunday nights won’t be so devoid of awesome TV. (I miss you Vince Gilligan!)
Music: My guitars have unfortunately been neglected, with my acoustic sitting in a strange tuning which I have been unwilling to fix for no reason, though I did attempt to learn a Tool song on bass recently, to mixed results. My drumming is getting better all the time though, and I find my limbs growing more independent of each other every day. Lately I’ve been on a bit of a Ben Folds Five kick since their amazing new album was just released; at the moment I’ve got my Whatever & Ever Amen songbook propped open on my keyboard and I’ve been relearning old favorites like “Kate” and “Song For The Dumped,” which I haven’t played since freshman year of college. Hopefully soon I’ll find sheet music for “The Sound of the Life of the Mind.” Then I’ll be able to play stuff like this:
Art: In June I mentioned that my photo collection for 2012 was somewhat small compared to my previous years’ efforts. A several trips to San Francisco and a week in New Hampshire reversed that situation pretty quickly. At the moment I’m actually working on processing some photos I took last weekend to post in my Picasa galleries. They’ll be up this weekend, maybe. At the end of the year I’ll most likely be putting together a gallery of my favorites from 2012, as I did 2011 recently. I also still have that blank canvas on my wall looking for paint.
Exercise: My running became much less regular once the oppressive heat of summer kicked in in May. In July I was stricken by a number of ailments that proceeded to limit my ability to exercise. In August, I decided that swimming was fun and since then I’ve been hitting the pool regularly. I can’t believe how much better I’ve gotten in the last two months, and how awesome of a workout it really is. Maybe it’s time to buy a bike and train for a triathlon?
Learning: As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts, I’m studying for the FE Exam this fall. With 42 days left before the exam, I’m well more than half-way through my review book and I’m looking to start getting into the specific discipline the second half of the exam entails: Electrical Engineering. At this point, I’m knee-deep in Thermodynamics and quickly losing motivation. After all, I know very little about the subject and in total there might be 8-9 questions on the exam about it. Is it really worth the effort? Yes, of course. I’m also still on my way to being at least semi-fluent in German. Duolingo has gotten wicked hard (with obscure adjectives and too much repetition of basic material) and I’m spending less time on it, waiting a bit for the design team to improve its flaws. I’ve since turned more toward looking at German Wikipedia, and I’ve also changed the language on Team Fortress 2 so that the announcer and players all speak German as well. The latter has definitely helped, but the vocabulary is somewhat limited and I’m running out.
I’ve also been writing, obviously. My inspiration has been somewhat limited lately, but maybe something will happen that’s exciting soon! Who knows? All I know is, right now I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made and the goals I’ve achieved this year, especially a few awesome special projects I’ve done recently (including one of I what I consider the most awesome things I’ve ever done 😀 ). Successful me is happy me. 🙂
And now for something completely different: these are what I consider to be the thirty-three best photos I took in 2011. They were taken all over the United States, many of them on the same days during trips to Death Valley, Las Vegas, San Francisco and the Bay Area, and Seattle, as well as a few from my summer at home in Western New York and other spots back east.