Sunday, May 8, 2022

Bells of Venice, Latent Strategist, Too Far In

Thanks to “Range,” the book I reviewed in last week’s post, I recently made the astonishing discovery that in 18th century Venice, there was a famous orphanage called the Ospedale della Pietà (Orphanage of Pity) that became known for producing some of the world’s most accomplished female musicians. For some reason, I was captivated by the detail that outside of the orphanage, there was a stand of drawers. If a baby was small enough to fit into a drawer, it could be left there, and when the drawer was closed, a bell would go off and one of the nuns would come and collect the baby. Many of the babies left there were born of ladies of ill repute, but some were illegitimate children born to members of royal families. The story of how the orphanage developed their young musicians is fascinating, but not as interesting to me as pondering how many times a day that bell rang. I imagine early-morning misty Venetian skies, the mournful sound of the bell, and the mother scuttling furtively away, her figure hidden in a bonnet and voluminous skirt. There is a whole other story to be told there aside from the virtuoso musicians.

Along with reading “Range,” I also took a test. I’ve take many a “personality test” before, mostly work-related and many of them quite pricey and elaborate affairs with dubious results. This latest test/survey/analysis was the CliftonStrengths assessment, which reveals your top five strengths. I found the assessment itself quite stressful because it’s timed, and many of the statements you are supposed to “agree” or “disagree” with require a lot of thought and processing, but you only have twenty seconds to make a decision on each one. I suppose that makes sense, since they don’t want you endlessly prevaricating, but it really put the pressure on. I wasn’t super-surprised at most of my results: Empathy, Connectedness, Developer, Adaptability—all of which fall into the Relationship Building category—but I was quite surprised to find that “Strategic” came up in my top five. I’m still puzzling my way through that one. I have never thought of myself as particularly strategic. I think ahead, but I have always felt that is based more on anxiety than any innate chess-champion-like instincts. (In fact, I hate chess and have a whole story about when I worked for a chess company once and had to fake passion for it for a year and half.) But maybe I’m selling myself short and I could have a second career as a brilliant strategist, creating...strategies, or whatever it is they do.

Speaking of strategies, I am inching ever-closer to that elusive pull-up by getting uber-agressive with the assisted pull-up machine, lowering the assist weight further and further each time and holding myself in place when I can’t pull myself up any further. I’m about 30-35 pounds away from a single pull-up. It’s disheartening that it’s taking forever to get there, but I have also gained a fair bit of muscle in my legs, making them heavier, and have put on a little more weight after upping my calories, which I need to increase even more to keep up with all of the weight lifting. It’s like a dog chasing its tail at this point, but I’m in too far now to give up. The day will come, my chickadees, I have no doubt of it.

Last week’s video featured Vivaldi, who was a fixture at the Ospedale della Pietà, teaching violin and writing many pieces for their orchestra. Here’s some more Vivaldi to tickle your ears:

 --Kristen McHenry


Dale said...

The pull up will come!

Dale said...

I hate chess too, although I like most games. I think if you get really good at it there's strategy to it, but I've never gotten past the dreary tactics of long chains of "suppose I do this then he does that then I do this then he does that..." which is all just tactics, the dreariest sort of tactics: bottom-up thinking. Top-down thinking is a totally different thing: what's the gestalt here? What pattern is emerging? What's the *important* thing? That's strategy. I bet you're great at that.

The Good Typist said...

Thank you for the encouragement, Dale! I agree, I find chess really tedious and brain-hurting. I'm glad I'm no the only one! said...

A very interesting and entertaining post! :--)