Throughout my life I have been pulled back and forth between passions for music and science. Each has been a distraction to the other and yet each has reinforced my capabilities to improve my knowledge and functionality in the other.
For example, when I would become very frustrated from focusing on math, computer programming or trouble shooting hardware or software or financial problems I found that enough of the right kind of music and volume would restore my sensibilities about whatever it was that I was fumbling with and give me a second wind, if you will, to start making progress. I played Trumpet for 6 years during jr. and Sr. high school and tried to head towards a professional music career at one point but my love of electronics and all things mechanical overtook that direction.
At present, I have just gotten the drawings and CAD files for the Smart Car bed to be built on Clifford. I have been waiting for years (no lie) to get to this point in our progress to full timing. Now that we are here I am so stopped up with information, details and pending things to do that I can’t seem to get anything started. Each thing I think of to work on has dependencies that I have to resolve before I can actually begin that specific work.
The CAD drawings are perfect but I have to reinstall my CAD program before I can use them. Unfortunately, my laptop is about 2 Windows platforms (Vista and Windows 7) beyond what it was engineered to run. It has a memory limit of 1.2 Gigabytes which, on Windows XP was a pretty good sized RAM resource. I did have a few other desktop systems that could have held more memory but had weak processing power. Moot point, anyway, since most of them have been cannibalized to solve problems in other family systems.
So here I am with a powerful program needing to run on a powerful and current operating system (Windows 7) but its not possible to make the hardware resources available to it so that it will perform as well as I need. So this is not unlike sitting down at the computer in Late March to get started on preparing my taxes and discovering that I am getting blue screen errors occasionally. Sure, it will run but if it crashes at the wrong time it could take out the Hard drive and not only lose my data but be unbootable.
To forge ahead without fixing this problem would just be stupid. I would not be able to stay focused on getting the taxes done because of this distraction and that would cause me to make errors in the process even if the system never crashed. Its like trying not to flinch when you fire a 45 caliber hand gun the second time.
For the past weeks I have been preparing for this day but have had so much that is unfinished at the moment that I am just stuck trying to get going on any one thing. Basically, I am mentally constipated and the backup is impacting my body, mind and spirit.
Here is where the music comes in. I really need to give that part of my brain a little vacation and the only way to do that is to immerse myself in something that will engage and hold my focus in another, more rested part of it. It seems that music does that for me when I have been ignoring it for awhile. However, I can’t just sit and listen to it. That will just make me antsy to get going on my problem. While listening I have to be physically engaged in something bland that takes no analytical effort but which holds my attention.
Writing this blog tonight is one such activity. The type of music that I listen to is also very important to this process. Highly complex music like a symphony, lively jazz and most music with vocals in it will keep agitating the part of my brain that needs the break so simple smoothly soft jazz such as some Bobby Hackett, Beegie Adair or Andre Previn is good brain vacation landscape. Dave Brubeck, George Shearing or Peter Nero is not helpful no matter how much I like them.Also, there needs to be a minimum of strings and/or saxophone solos. Those are often as agitating as vocals. Using Sirius Satellite Radio or XM Radio gives me some of these genre choices but I have to take what it delivers. I probably listen to XM Escape (channel 28 right now) more than all other channels combined.
However, there is another great source of new music on the Pandora.com website. It is free and there are genres of music already catalogued or I can make my own. I can setup a channel, like for Beegie Adair, and then it will pick music, some of it hers and some of other artists that fit her general style and makeup. If it plays something I especially like I can give it a thumbs-up and it will strengthen the preference for that type of sound. If I give something a thumbs-down it will bias Pandora to shy away from other selections that are too similar to that one.
One other thing I have found for those times when I really am too spent to even do mindless stuff like this blog and just want to sit and listen is to play a slideshow of great landscape pictures on the monitor or TV. I have found that SmugMug has a lot of high quality pictures of great places to soothe my nerves. I can search for a particular place, like Lassen National Park, Grand Teton National Park and other such grand places I love to see and I don’t have to just watch the same tired photos I have already run dozens of times.
This combination of music and visual arts seems to do a great job of disengaging my “working” mind and giving it a break. Writing the blog or other such journaling activity also helps when feel like it. It keeps my hands busy so I don’t pick at my cuticles or bite my nails (yeah, I have that habit, too, but at least I don’t smoke).