Howdy Traipsers,

Recently, Chelsea watched me sketch some random bewigged composer. After a few minutes, she commented, “You know that’s eccentric, right?”

My takeaway: life partners, while occasionally rude, serve as handy reality checks.

Anyway... this week’s newsletter features:

Hearing colors, poorly pluralizing, (un)ordinary bicycling, productivity culture, and condors.




P.S. If you missed my piano practice routine blog last week, check it out.

Maybe right now I'm sketching composers, but winter will end soon enough and trails beckon.
(Chilcotin Mountains, B.C.)

What color is that note?

I’m reading the book Musicophilia by the inimitable Oliver Sacks. One delightful chapter talks about absolute pitch, the ability to hear a note and immediately recognize it. (Most people need to hear one note, then another one, to figure it out...or can't do it at all.)

Two tidbits that snagged my attention:

  • For people with absolute pitch, needing to hear a note like C in order to identify G is like needing to see red in order to identify blue. Some people with synesthesia even associate pitches with colors, say G as blue, with the relative minor (Em) as a different shade of blue, but C as green.

  • Absolutely pitch is incredibly infrequent in Western cultures where inflection doesn’t modify the meaning of a word. However, in countries with tonal languages (e.g. China, SE Asia), one study found that half of music students possess it. It’s at least partially a learned (or unlearned) skill.

Further proof that the human brain and all its variations are fascinating.

Plurals are the worst

My first date with Chelsea featured many long bus and train rides around Eastern Europe. (For newer readers, here’s the story.) No cell phones, no laptops…but we had an old iPod and the comedian Brian Regan to keep us company. So many hours cracking up while other passengers stared at us.


One quick sketch, Stupid in School (Spotify), discusses pluralizing words and evolved into an ongoing joke for us (boxen!). That said, the entire live album is hilarious. For those without Spotify, try this perfectly-illustrated YouTube video.


P.S. Not that I have a problem with swearing, but Brian Regan’s comedy is cussing-free. (And yet still hilarious.)

The Rider and the Wolf

Like bikes or counter-culture movements? The documentary The Rider and the Wolf features Penny Farthing bikes, early mountain biking culture in Colorado, a cameo from the eclectic Gary Fisher, and a mystery disappearance of the character involved in it all.


This documentary isn’t just about bikes: it’s also a story about independence, taking a different path, and the simple life. Oh, and the high-energy soundtrack is excellent too. Check out the flick on Vimeo!

The dark side of productivity culture

Culture Study by Anne Helen Peterson is some of my favorite online reading. Her latest piece, The Diminishing Returns of Productivity Culture, resonated with me (and likely any burnt-out Millennial/human reading this).

Two noteworthy paragraphs:

Productivity, in other words, doesn’t make the clerk’s job easier. It doesn’t give them more time to rest. It just sets new standards for the sheer amount of work they should be accomplishing in a given day.
This is the dystopian reality of productivity culture. Its mandate is never “You figured out how to do my tasks more efficiently, so you get to spend less time working.” It is always: “You figured out how to do your tasks more efficiency, so you must now do more tasks.” ... It’s not pleasurable or addictive. It’s just denying the most human parts of yourself in order to survive the economic moment.

Read the entire piece here.

From the archives

With over 200 posts kicking around Traipsing About, I’m going to start unearthing posts from the past. This blog had a few enthusiastic subscribers at the start (hi, mom! Hi, Chelsea’s parents!), but grew since then, so these will likely be new to many of you.

Kicking things off with a blog about California condors in Big Sur from seven years ago.

Condors rawk.

Thanks for stopping by. Around here, we're buckling up for single digit temps and serious snow. No matter - I shall listen to Beethoven's Pathetique (blue and green notes in it, perhaps?) and scheme bikepacking trips for when the snow melts!

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