Saturday, May 29, 2010


On Ian's bike ride tonight, he
A) was hit in the face by (20/min*45 min) 900 bugs, at least one of which was swallowed and several others of which came close to going up his nose and down his throat.
B) realized what a weakling he is and resolved to join the gym posthaste.
C) saw a deer (boy, did he see it!  It was on the bike trail, and he got within a few feet before it leaped off)
D) forgot the helmet which he specifically went to Wal-Mart to buy not half an hour before said ride
E) all of the above

English title: Bikes are fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I promised Britny I would tell her how the Hamelin concert was, so here goes...

To begin with, the orchestra played Strauss' Don Juan.  I loved the program notes' description of the text Strauss used when he was writing it, because he captured every moment so clearly, right down to each love theme and Don Juan putting his sword down at the end to be stabbed through the heart.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The conductor was intensely experiencing every moment, but he also displayed some humor - every time the slightly frivolous adventure theme for Don Juan came back, he kind of smiled to himself.

Next was Hamelin!  He played the Ravel left-handed concerto first.  I think I've listened to it once before, but hearing it in person was a completely different experience.  For about half of the piece, I didn't think it was very technically difficult, but I realized upon trying to visualize the music in my head that it was probably incredibly challenging and it was only Hamelin's skill that made it look easy.  Two things stood out: his melodies came out in sharp relief against the rest of the notes, amazing when the hand was whirling all around the keyboard and only stopping occasionally to continue the line.  The other was his absolute control of the tone quality.  When he wanted the piano to sound like a harp, it did.  Each and every note was placed perfectly, with just the right amount of emphasis, and he masterfully backed off and let the orchestra take charge, then swelled to prominence again, doubly impressive while only playing with one hand.  The ending took me off guard, because I was so entranced.

After the intermission he played the Strauss Burleske.  The comments for the Ravel apply here as well, except playing with two hands he was twice as impressive, naturally.  Again he made it appear effortless.  The whole time he was on stage it looked as if his hands were the most natural thing in the world, as if the only thing they were meant to do was what they were at present doing, and it was impossible to imagine them hitting a stray key or causing a note to stick out.  If there were a physical manifestation of elegance commingled with strength, it would be Marc-Andre Hamelin's hands.

The audience applauded for so long afterwards that he reluctantly played an encore, the Chopin Nocturne #8 in D flat.  If I was entranced by his playing before, now I was off in nirvana somewhere!  I don't think my mind came back down to earth until the next day.  It was as smooth as glass, and the melody was breathtakingly beautiful.  The two previous pieces exhibited Hamelin's virtuosity, but this one took all of his emotional depth and threw it out into the concert hall.  If I could play like that, I would sit down and play Chopin for hours on end.

As soon as the applause began, I raced for the stage door around the side of the building to perhaps meet Mr. Hamelin (the concert had one piece left, but I wasn't sure if he would stay for that or leave before it ended).  The security guard checked with her supervisor and then said (all in a half-bored tone that was slightly incredulous at my ardor) that Mr. Hamelin would be signing afterwards and I could meet him then.  I said, "But I'd really like to meet him..." in a hopeful tone, glancing towards backstage in an attempt to persuade her to let me in anyway.  She didn't, so I ended up going back inside and sitting on the floor right outside of the hall to listen to the rest of Ravel's La Valse.  It was great from where I was sitting, so I can only assume the experience was fantastic inside the concert hall, but I can't speak from experience.  After that was over I went to the table to meet Mr. Hamelin first.  He came out, spoke to a few people, and then the moment arrived.  I handed him my program and told him I was a piano major about to begin my senior year and was choosing pieces for my senior recital.  We shook hands (!) and he said, "Courage, and good luck to you!"  And that was that.

It wasn't until I had been driving for 15 minutes that I realized I hadn't gotten a picture with him...bother.

Saturday I went to a Presbyterian church to practice their carillon (I'm playing a concert there this coming Sunday), attended a YSA activity, and made Thai food for my aunt and uncle, cousins, Dakin and John and their kids (Dakin is another cousin of mine), and the elders.  It was really good to see Dakin - I hadn't even met her two youngest kids, Zachary and Elizabeth, because I hadn't seen her for five years!  They're heading to Warwick, England, because John just got his PhD in mathematical economics and was offered a professorship at the University of Warwick.  Their kids were so cute; now I want to go to grad school in England a little bit more just so I can see them once in a while!

Yesterday was also good; I spent the morning preparing a talk and then gave it in sacrament meeting.  Everyone said it went really well, so I guess it went really well.  Other than that, not too much has happened over the last few days, but I'm liking Minnesota more and more.  Although it was 93 degrees and really humid today...ick.  Maybe I take that back.  Better than snow in May, however.  Anyway, there's a recap of the concert and the attending weekend.  I'm up half an hour past my bedtime, but this burden is off my chest and I can thus sleep with a clean conscience.

English title: Glorious music!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Tomorrow night = Marc-Andre Hamelin!  See you on the other side.  'Nuff said.

English title: Unbelievable!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


One down, four to go!  I'm sorry, that was facetious and ill-mannered, but Buddy the gerbil is gone, and now there are only four pets left in the Fjeldsted home.  I guess he was old, but he was there this morning and gone when I got home from work.  Time to shift my voodoo to the rabbit...

Actually, I mostly feel sorry for the rabbit.  She rarely gets let out of her cage, and it's so small relative to her size!  Still, she probably wouldn't know what to do in the wild, so there's not really another option.

I'm 80 pages into Ben Zander's book; it's pretty much just a fleshing out of his presentation yesterday, but it will be extremely helpful in remembering what I learned.  Like any helpful/transformational philosophy, so much of it coincides with the gospel, which is nice for streamlining one's philosophical idiom.

I discovered a really cool composer today!  It's amazing how many of them still lie in obscurity.  Michael Tippett (1) wrote four piano sonatas, and his first one is seriously in the running now with Prokofiev 6 for my senior recital.  A plus is that it's ten minutes shorter, meaning I can play something else as well, maybe Debussy or Dohnanyi.

Now go listen to some Tippett!

English title: One Little Indian...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

新觀點, 完美的生活

The only picture I got was on my phone.  Follow up on my last post: Ben Zander's presentation changed my life!  I love life!  It was 2.5 hours long and felt like half an hour, and so many things he said were the kind of things you want to write down and repeat to yourself for a week straight.  I can't even explain it, but everyone in the room was smiling afterwards because they were happy and full of potential.  He had us all sing Ode to Joy at the end in German.  A couple notes to myself, because I can't explain them fully, but hopefully you glean something from these.  When you make a mistake (in music, in life, anything), throw your arms up in the air, smile, and shout, "That's fascinating!"  What assumptions are you operating under that you don't even know you're making?  One example I thought of afterwards was the sons of Mosiah versus the rest of the Nephites.  They assumed that the Lamanites were wicked and irredeemable, and that informed their world view and influenced their actions.  The sons of Mosiah recognized the prevailing assumption, and then realized that it was false, and they went out to change the world.  Give everyone an A, because you interact differently with people to whom you give A's.  Life is made of downward (and upward) spirals - make it about vision and potential instead.  Success and failure are two sides of the same coin - focus on contributing instead of success at the expense of someone who did not succeed.  You know you're a good leader (anyone can be a leader - a parent, a conductor, a regular person) when the people you lead have shining eyes because they see the vision you espouse.  It's all invented!  The system, everything.  Play a different game from the rest of the world - the voice in your head telling you you can't succeed is in an entirely wrong paradigm.  If the people you lead don't have shining eyes, move the goal posts.  Have a perfect life!  Everyone can love classical music!  All it takes is explaining.  I got his book (they gave one to everyone who came to the meeting) and he signed it for me, so I'm sure I will post more as I read it.  Whoever you are reading this, I love you!  You get an A in my book for everything you do, and I appreciate your impact on my life.  Have a great night.

English title: New Perspective, Perfect Life


Brother Ostvig pulled me aside into an empty room before sacrament meeting on Sunday, and I had absolutely no idea what he could possibly want with me, but I soon found out.  "Brother McKinley, we'd like to give you another calling."  Okay, I thought, round 3, what'll it be?  "We'd like to call you to be our priesthood pianist."

 Go figure; I've had that calling, officially or not, for the last several years, so we might as well add it to the list.  I played last week anyway, and if it's official I might get more blessings out of it for magnifying my calling.  Or maybe I would have gotten more blessings for being anxiously engaged in a good cause and playing of my own free will.  Who knows?  So now I'm called to be a ward choir member (I played the piano for that yesterday too; maybe a fourth calling is in the works?), FHE dad, and priesthood pianist.  I felt like I fit in a little better this week, and the rest of the summer should be good as far as church goes.  In other news, I knew someone at church!  I showed up the first week half expecting to see someone I knew, only because the church is so small and coincidences like that happen all the time, but I didn't know anyone.  However, this week Sarah Metzger from my BYU ward showed up!  It turns out she's from here, but I had no idea, and she didn't know I was going to be here over the summer.  Funny how that happens wherever you go.

I finally got to ride my bike yesterday (we went mini golfing on Saturday evening right after I bought it, and then it was Sunday).  My derrière is now rather spoiled, this bike having much nicer shocks than my previous one.  It's still slightly sore, not being accustomed to the hard seat, but the bumps in the road were hardly noticeable!  I'll have to go on a longer ride on Saturday.  Minneapolis is, by some standards, the city with the most commuting bikers, and there are trails everywhere!  I could bike practically downtown and back without leaving a bike trail, there are trails along the Mississippi, and there are hundreds of parks and lakes with trails.  I'll definitely miss that part of being here when I leave.

I get to attend a meeting this afternoon with Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and member of the NEC faculty for 43 years!  He gives guest speeches on occasion, and he's speaking to the senior leadership at Medtronic, but the guy who hired me for this internship invited me to come along, so it will be him, the company bigwigs, and me.  Slightly intimidating.  I'll probably post something later today on his presentation.  He's one of the most acclaimed interpreters of Mahler, and some critics have even said his interpretations represent the pinnacle of late Romantic/early 20th century orchestral music (1).

English title: Third calling!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

滑溜溜的錢 。。。

Today was awesome!  It's really the first time I've had any fun since I got here, and it lasted all day long.  This morning started bright and early at 9:00 am.  Wait, I was supposed to leave at 8:15 for a YSA flower planting service project at the temple!  Whoops.  So my morning was a little more leisurely than it should have been.  However, that ended up being a good thing because it meant I had time to practice.  Almost done learning my Scarlatti, and I think I've finalized the choices on my Albeniz.  Now I really have to decide on the Prokofiev.  To play the 6th Sonata, or to spend my life wishing I had?  That is the question.

About 11:15, I decided to go out on the town, so I plunked down on the couch and looked at what there is to do in Minneapolis.  I found a neat modern art museum, the Walker, and five minutes later discovered that I could get $20 student tickets for CATS if I bought them an hour before the 2:00 matinee!  With that, I zoomed out the door around 11:40.  It only takes 20 minutes to get downtown from here, which is practically around the corner, and the freeway goes everywhere in the Twin Cities so everything's really convenient.  The Walker was neat - mostly modern, and one exhibit entitled 1964 where everything was originally created/painted/sculpted 1963-1965, mostly in 1964.  A lot of it centered around the Kennedy assassination, and there was some Warhol and Jasper Johns (one of his American flags and a few other things).  One of the photographs in the museum from about ten years ago had a really cool concept.  It was of a Japanese woman in her living room looking out the window into the night.  This Japanese photographer went around and put notices in people's mailboxes asking them to stand in their living room during a specified interval one night with all the lights on and the curtains drawn so she could photograph them anonymously.  She never met them, but she just went to the house and if they were standing there looking out she took the picture.  Interesting, huh?  Anonymous portraiture.

The Walker also had a nice sculpture garden just outside, the coolest sculpture being a giant cherry on top of a spoon bridging a pond!  No climbing, unfortunately.  The cherry stem sprayed water.  The sculpture garden must be popular around here - a wedding party and a group of high school prom kids were taking pictures with the spoon and cherry while I was there.  I would prefer pictures with the temple, thank you!

From there it was a mile to downtown, so I walked to the theater and bought my ticket, then had lunch at a cafe called Cosi.  Was its inspiration Cozy or Cosi Fan Tutte?  Who knows?  It was tasty, though.  A few thoughts on CATS: it was entertaining.  It was more of a production than a traditional musical, meaning it relies more on special effects and big dance numbers than plot or character development/solo numbers, but you take that for what it's worth and it's still a good show.  I'd never seen it before, but the singing was decent for this production of it, and the dancing was excellent.  I probably won't see it again live, but it was definitely well worth my student ticket!  My seat was in the main orchestra, about a third of the way back in the center section, so also pretty good.  My favorite cat?  Mefistofelees; he didn't sing at all, but his dancing skills were fantastic.  He twirled on one foot for a good minute, and his costume was all black glitter.  Nice.

The show being over, it was time to head home, with one stop along the way.  My last bike was stolen before my mission, and I've really missed having one this year, so I tried some out at a bike shop last Saturday, and I found one I liked but had to think about it for a week, being a large purchase etc.  I think the beautiful weather today (70's, breezy, sunny, couple clouds here and there) convinced me that buying a bicycle is definitely a smart move, so I stopped on the way back and took a chunk out of my bank account.  It's gold, like the Golden Nugget!  Talk about coordination there.  I justify it by saying it's my birthday present to myself (3+ weeks early!).

But the fun doesn't end there!  As soon as I got back, Matt and the kids started clamoring to do something fun, so we ended up going to this mini golf place half an hour away 15 minutes after I got home.  I got second place, but only by one stroke!  Curses.  Ice cream after that (mint chocolate chip, chocolate brownie chunk, hot fudge, whipped cream), and that brings me to the present.  Not quite...a game of Ticket to Ride found its way in after mini golf, in which I soundly defeated my opponents with my Emden to Osterreich strategy (those passengers really make a difference, if you know what I mean).

Too much fun for one day?  No, it should keep me sane for the week ahead.

English title: Slippery money...

Friday, May 14, 2010


I went out with the missionaries two nights ago - the investigator we were going to see was sick, but we visited a less-active member of the YSA and drove around a bit, and it was fun.  On my way home, I couldn't resist taking this beautiful picture of downtown Minneapolis at 70 mph:
Going around a curve, no less, and on a freeway I had never driven on, at night.  Don't try that at home! In other news, it's been raining for a week straight, and the basement pump finally gave out.  Thus, the basement floor was flooded when I came home from work yesterday.  I spent an hour moving things and acquiring a shop-vac, then the rest of the evening helping to wring out the carpet and shop-vac it.  As of this writing, Uncle Matt's still downstairs with the vacuum getting the last of the water out.  The heat is turned all the way up and we have dehumidifiers and fans going like crazy.  I already fear the worst for tonight - sleeping with the heat blasting will be less than pleasurable.  Maybe I'll go donate some plasma and treat myself to a hotel room for the night...

Today, however, the sun is shining and spring is in full force!  Minnesota really is beautiful; lots of trees and even more lakes!  Everywhere you drive you see at least two or three.  I didn't believe it was the land of 10,000 lakes before I got here, but now I'm convinced.

I promised some pictures of my workplace, so here they are!  This is Medtronic World Headquarters, home of the largest medical technology company in the world.  Here it is from the front; there's a few buildings not shown here, and in the Twin Cities there are another 15 or 20 Medtronic offices and buildings.  Next is a view of the central building where I work with the company logo, "Humanity Rising".  It symbolizes restoring people to full health, part of the Mission of Medtronic.  Medtronic really has a sense of core values and is driven by its mission, which makes it a great place to work, because everything's about making people's lives better as opposed to making a profit.

Here's me with the logo; you can see my Medtronic name badge hanging from my belt loop.  Everyone (even the CEO) has to wear their name badge visibly whenever they're in the building...tight security.  We also have to swipe as we come in every morning.  There's a gruff German guard who says good morning to me every day.  I don't know if he gets tired of it, but he seems happy to be there, so I say hello back.

My legs almost didn't work today, due to running yesterday and then spending hours bent over like a contortionist with the vacuum in the basement, but I forced myself to climb the stairs at work and I might go hobbling later on (as opposed to jogging or running).  I should start a club - you want to go hobbling with me?  I should practice first, though.  Five more minutes on the computer.  It's a luxury staying in the home of a piano teacher (my aunt), because you can practice as long as you want and whenever you want and no one cares!  At home, my family complains if I practice for any length of time when they're watching TV or doing just about anything, but here I can practice at 10 pm if I want, even if everyone's in bed!  I don't, but Jakob does, and no one seems to mind.  Hurrah for practicing!  With that rousing battle-cry, it's time to go get the best of Albeniz.

English title: Water, Water Everywhere!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I wish I had taken this picture of the Mississippi:

but that would be a lie.  However, I do get to cross the fourth-largest and tenth-most powerful river in the world (1) twice every day on my way to and from work!  I never thought that would be true about myself.  It's rather normal-looking up here in Minneapolis, much narrower than I remember it from crossing into Illinois, but then again that's 400 miles downriver from here.  I'll get a picture of it sometime, but for now I prefer to keep my eyes on the freeway rather than gyrating wildly with my hands out the window on the off chance that I take a prize-winning snapshot at 70 miles an hour.

Here are some that I did take:

They lived in Japan for a while, and their decor reflects it:

There's much more where that came from.  My uncle served his mission in South Korea, but he also speaks Japanese like a native (he studied linguistics and Japanese in college).

More later...

English title: Mississippi River

Friday, May 7, 2010


Duke (aka Terry) took a little longer to cooperate with pictures - Sammy (new names from here on out) kept pushing him out of the way so she could be in the picture!  Here's a couple, though.  So cute!  We had a sheltie until she died a few years ago, and Terry acts just like her in so many ways and looks like her too.  It's like having my old dog back!

English title: cute dog!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


A few thoughts to start with: this is my second attempt at a blog.  The first had its IPO about four years ago, but since the mission it has been taken private again and serves as my journal.  Lately I've felt the need to reach out to a larger audience, hence Blog 2.0.

For those of you who don't read Chinese, the title roughly reads "Child of the Year of the Dragon, Full of Noble Aspiration".  I don't redefine myself very often, but this seemed to fit.  This picture took forever to load, but it was cool enough to be worth it.  If there's Chinese you don't understand on here, ask and I may tell you what it means.  好不好?

To jump right in, I'm in Maple Grove, MN, living with my aunt and uncle and company and working for Medtronic.  I left Provo last Friday morning bright and early and drove here with my sister Hannah, arriving Saturday evening.  The highlight of the drive was probably visiting the Winter Quarters Temple in Omaha, Nebraska.  If Hannah sends me the pictures she took, I may post some of them here.  It was so peaceful and quiet, and I felt that the pioneers who had sacrificed so much had hallowed the ground so that a temple could be erected in their honor.  Neat to have a temple next to a graveyard, contemplating the connections.

Maple Grove is a brand spanking new suburb about 20 minutes outside of Minneapolis, home of the world's largest Target (enormous) and a large new Hindu temple servicing worshippers throughout the Midwest (also enormous - you'd think I'm in Texas!).  Queensland Lane, in particular, is home to an aunt and uncle, four cousins, two dogs, a rabbit, a gerbil, a hamster, and me.  The dogs are awesomely fun, albeit allergy-inducing; I may have to take Claritin for the first time in my life living with them.

This is Haley (aka Sammy), dog #1.  Dog number two is an awesome Sheltie named Duke (aka Terry).  I've taken it upon myself to rename all their animals so as to cause mass confusion and terror (parenthetical names are the new ones).  Don't you think she looks more like a Sammy than a Haley?  Anyway, it started when I called the rabbit Ferguson (or Fergie) because I couldn't remember her name (still can't, for that matter), and then it dawned on me that they all had the wrong names!

So I show up at church for the first time on Sunday, and by the third hour I've met with the bishop and been given a calling - member of the ward choir.  I would have gone to choir anyway, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.  Break the fast happened was after church, and lo and behold I was whisked away to meet with another member of the bishopric and given calling number two, family home evening dad!  Guess they do things quickly out here.  I was pondering checking out the other YSA ward this week, but with two callings now, it's safe to say I've been headed off at the pass!

Work is pretty good; there'll probably be another post along those lines soon, but for now it's bedtime.  Minneapolis takes the injunction "early to bed, early to rise" seriously - I get up at 6 every day to make it to work by 7:45 at the latest!  Who knew I would get up earlier every day this summer than I have for months?

English title: beginning