Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I just got an e'mail saying that space opened up in the Saturday swing workshop, so I'm in! Yay! That will be fun. I can probably learn a lot from five hours of swing dancing classes.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

I just started reading both Darwin's Black Box and The Blind Watchmaker. Those should be nicely contradictory, so we'll see how that goes.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Well, I know it's time to take a break from my computer when I pick up my fiddle and find myself wondering if it will have a different interface or if it will just have to open in Classic :-) Luckily, I had such a break. Yesterday I drove up to Gold Country (over towards Yosemite area) to visit the Fletchers and a lot of Quena's family, who have all been working on a new home movie set in the Gold Rush era. They've been filming all week, and the clips I got to see were awesome. Jac plays the notorious poet-bandit Black Jack, who is staying at Miz. Evie's Grub and Flop House, under the name of Slim. Charlie and John Wesley play Billy Bob and Bob Billy, two miners who eventually capture Slim. They are absolutely hilarious in their enormous fake beards and old miner voices. Caroline, Catherine and Sarah play Caroline, Clementine and Nataline, and they're all pretty adorable, too. Then there's an evil banker, an arthritic, banjo-playing grandmother, a couple drunks and Cass explaining in Spanish how California is part of Mexico. And probably a lot of other stuff I didn't get to see.

This morning we filmed a few more scenes and Quena did the stunt riding for Jac (a Pony-Express rider). Then a bunch more people came over and we had the barn dance. Stump Tail Dog played for it, and we just did a few very simple contradances and waltzes, since most people there hadn't ever done anything like it before. Plus, since we were actually in a barn, the conditions were less than ideal, so it's just as well we kept it simple. My legs are pretty sore, just from a few dances. After the dancing, Tia Louie and I played some tunes with the band which got recorded for the sound track. Hopefully the mandolin doesn't come out too loud on that, though, since Oldtime isn't at all my style and I was learning most of the tunes on the spot. Oh, and we had a nice picnic, too (the rain last night had us worried but it was a gorgeous day today). So much fun was had by all.

I'm dying to see the whole movie, but apparently Cass is the designated editor and she's not going to have time to put it all together until the summer after next. Argh. Must have patience. But I got a few photos (I finally remembered to bring my camera somewhere again). Unfortunately, I didn't get any of the actually dancing, since I was always in it and we were being filmed, so I didn't really want to have another camera showing. But I got a few other good pictures.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Blogging is in slow-mode right now. I installed Mac OS X just the other day, so most of my computer time is being spent futzing with that. Fun, though.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

I tried to sign up for the Kevin and Carla swing workshop next weekend, but I found out today that I got waitlisted. They give preference to students and lots of people wanted to sign up. But I guess if I'm on the waitlist there's still a bit of a chance.

Heck, if I want to get better at swing, I should just start going to the Doghouse more often.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Our washing machine is screaming at us. This is not good. Daniel says he thinks he knows what part needs to be replaced, but I'm not ruling out demonic posession yet. You never can tell with washing machines....
Well, I've had a lovely Easter weekend. Lacey's actually been down from Oregon for a few days visiting Mom, so I went up to Berkeley to see them yesterday. We went out to see A Mighty Wind, which was absolutely hilarious. It's another Christopher Guest film, along the lines of Spinal Tap, and Best in Show, but this one's about folk music, so we were just dying to see it. And it certainly lived up to expectations. I even rather enjoyed some of the music, though Mom disagrees a bit on that point, since a lot of it was deliberately quite hokey, of course. A definite plus was that a lot of the cast seemed to be actual musicians. I had been a bit worried that it would be so obviously faked as to be distracting, but they were pretty good for the most part. Lots of fun.

We spent a lot of today at Rossmoor, with various relatives. I went along to church with the churching-types among us, before we got the Waldon-side together for brunch. This is not the sort of thing I usually do, so I may have more to say about it a bit later. It was certainly a delight to see Grandpa Marsh out of the wheelchair again. And he and Grandma Jackie already have another trip planned, which I think is wonderful. There's just no stopping them :-)

Ooh -- and Mom also gave me a huge box full of session tapes that she's getting rid of. There's all sorts of stuff in there. There are some Lark in the Morning tapes from as far back as 1982 at least (I haven't looked at everything in there yet). So I've got a fun project ahead of me. Most of them will probably be tossed eventually, but I'll want to listen to them all and see which ones are worth keeping. This will a fairly long-term project, I think.

Happy Easter, everybody!

Saturday, April 19, 2003

I learned Richard's new "Metamora" waltz last night at FNW. It's a pretty nice little choreography. It has several moves I don't generally do when waltzing freestyle, and you get to think a little bit more than in Congress of Vienna, but nothing in it is actually difficult, and it's pretty much all leadable. So it was good. I'm a bit iffy about the music, though. It's certainly a pretty tune, but it's somewhat indistinct. It's not the sort of thing you can go home whistling, and there's not a lot of contrast between the parts to make the choreography changes clear. So I probably wouldn't have chosen it. But it is the sort of thing people will at least recognize, I think, and it hasn't really been played before, so there are no past associations with it, which is good. So it'll be alright.

There weren't as many people I knew there last night as usual. Good Friday, Passover and significant others seemed to be taking their toll in the Stanford Dance community, not to mention the fact that this was the East Bay FNW, so it was farther away. But that's not entirely bad, since it gets me dancing with more new people. I did have to lead all my swings, though :-)

I also got a chance to talk a little bit with someone I know there who teaches piano. I'm trying to gradually do a bit of research into eventually getting piano lessons. She seems like she might be a good person to learn from, except for the fact that she teaches in Alameda. But anway, I'm just collecting options right now. Of course, there's always the problem that the more time I have for practicing and lessons (like now) the less money I have to spend on them. Oh well.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Another good dance class tonight. I've actually been surprised at how much I've been learning, even in the cross-step class. I already know a lot of what Richard's teaching, but it's nice to see that he's still got a lot up his sleeves. I'm looking forward to learning his new choreography at FNW tomorrow, too.

Oh, and I got a brief spotlight tonight. After last class I had showed Richard how I liked to chain together a couple of the cross-step waltz moves he taught, in a somewhat elegant way. Then in tonight's class he told everyone I had come up with a new variation and asked me to demo it with Angela, which I did. I was a bit surprised, since I hadn't realized it was that cool, but it was somewhat gratifying as well.
The Menlo Park library is now charging a fee to check out DVDs. Just to check them out -- that's not counting the late fees. That's horrible. This is a library, for goodness' sake, not a Blockbusters. I suppose it's cheaper than a Blockbusters, but still... grrr. I wonder if the Palo Alto library is doing this, too? I hope not.

Okay, that's my rant for the day. I'll stop now.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Okay, so I was a dope and completely forgot to take my camera up to Oregon. Boo to me. We got a few pictures on Lacey's camera yesterday, so maybe eventually I'll get copies and scan them in to post or something. We'll see.

I got into Portland Friday afternoon and was met at the airport by Lacey, Hugo and Ellie (Hugo's older daughter). We went to hear Jez Lowe at a house concert that evening, which was much fun. He's got a lot of good songs that we were all humming, whistling or singing for the rest of the weekend (still are, actually). We had lots of music at the apartment, too. Hugo keeps all his instruments out of their cases and in a stand, so we could just pick them up and play every time we walked past them. So I played a lot more mandolin this weekend than I had for a while. And Lacey's even learning a little bit of mandolin! Yay! I played a couple Morris tunes with her and taught her half of an Irish tune.

On Saturday night we were going to try to go swing dancing and we found a place Lacey hadn't been before. But when we showed up we found out that they do almost all West Coast swing there, which none of us can really do. I suppose we would have learned a bit if we had stayed but we figured we'd really rather just get a lot of fun dancing time than get confused about learning stuff, so we just high-tailed it out to the contra. I really enjoy contradancing in Portland. Lots of good dancers, more young people, and bands I've never heard before. Also, I think somehow I feel like a better dancer when I'm in a new place with new people. Probably just because it was contradancing, which I am more confident about than most things. The swing dance would probably not have had the same effect, even if it hadn't been West Coast.

Yesterday we took a little trip out to Multnomah Falls, which was an absolutely beautiful place up near Washington (where we went for lunch). The waterfall there is something like 600 feet high and there's a mile-long trail that zig-zags up to the top of it. I love all the wonderful trees and rocks up there, and the general greenness of it all.

Hugo was coming down here on a business trip this week and managed to get himself on the same flight as me, which was nice because it meant I got company for the trip and didn't have to take buses and trains. Thanks, Hugo! And thanks to both Lacey and Hugo for all their hospitality and a lovely weekend.

Friday, April 11, 2003

I'm off! I'll be back Monday afternoon.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Dance class was fun again tonight. Plus, I was watching the beginning of the waltz class and Richard came up to me and asked if I wanted to join it, since they needed more leads. So I got to waltz, too. Yay!

Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to this month's Jammix, which is tomorrow night, because I'll be in Oregon. Phooey. But Jammices happen more often than Lacey-visits these days, so at least I'm missing it for a good reason.
Oh man, Dani's funny sometimes. She's six years old and was very pleased with my Zoot Seuss Riot shirt I'm wearing today. For some reason, she decided to start finding rhymes for "riot." All we could come up with, though, was "diet" and "quiet." Then she sat down at one of the computers and opened Internet Explorer, so I figured she had just gotten bored with the whole rhyming thing. But then I looked over and saw that she was very laboriously typing in "" into the address bar. I found that hilarious. Kids these days are definately growing up with a different approach to problem solving. Anyway, it didn't work so I helped her find an actual rhyming dictionary online and she had fun with that.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

First day at work today. I started a couple hours early, since I didn't work yesterday. Working into the evening will take a bit of getting used to, but it's not too bad. Little Dani was there for the last couple hours, too, and she's always amusing.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

I have a job again! Yay! I filled out the paperwork at the library this afternoon, and I also had to go to the police station and get finger-printed. Apparently the city of Menlo Park cares about that sort of thing with their part-time library assistants. And I have to watch a 2-hour video on sexual harrassment, but the good news about that is they let me take it home to watch, plus I get paid for that time. So that's kind of cool. I'm going to start tomorrow, and I'll put in a couple extra hours then and on Thursday, so I'll still have most of my hours for the week, even though I'm starting late. In general, my hours are going to be T,W,TH from 2pm to 8 or 9. Maybe after I get back from Portland I'll see about getting other temp jobs for Mondays and Fridays, I don't know how easy that would be. Or maybe I'll wait a bit on that. I certainly have enough other stuff to do in free time.

Monday, April 07, 2003

So that CD I got yesterday I mostly got because it had Nuvoletta on it, but I've been listening to the rest of it to see what other sort of songs Barber wrote. There are some others on it that I like, but it's also got me thinking about why it is that I usually don't care for the "art song" sort of music (I think that's what to call it) like this or like the recital the other day. I think it mostly just has to do with the human voice and the way it's used. It doesn't matter if I understand the language or not. The sound of the voice just has a couple decades worth of non-musical meaning already built up in my brain, so I'm much more accutely conscious of enunciation, vibrato, register, volume and dissonance that I am with instruments. Or maybe "conscious" isn't the right word, but I have different associations with all those qualities in a voice and they distract me from the music. Also, they tend to sound very affected to me, whereas with folk or pop music or something singers are more likely to sound more natural. So in that sense it's sort of related to my feelings about fiddle vs. violin music, though that's not as severe a disparity, since it doesn't have the non-musical aspect to it so much. Anyway, I can hardly fault the composers for writing such vocal pieces, since they're just trying to make the most of the instrument to express the text, which is exactly what they should do. It's more an issue in my own brain. Oh well. Maybe I should just listen to some more of this stuff and learn more about it.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

I went up to Berkeley to visit Mom today and we spent a while on Telegraph Avenue, wandering through various wonderful used-book and -music stores. I ended up with a recording of the Barber songs I mentioned yesterday and a book called A Generative Theory of Tonal Music, which looks like it might be quite interesting, in a music-geeky sort of way. It's actually quite a Symbolic-Systems-y book, since it works from the perspective of linguistics and cognitive science. I'm also hoping it will help me think about some vague ideas I have about composing. I'll write more about that later, maybe.

Mom also taught me a Yiddish word which she learned recently and which I quite liked: verplotchket. It refers to something that has been broken as a result of an attempt to fix it. Quite a useful word, I think.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

I went to a student vocal recital tonight. Not the sort of thing I usually go to, but it was fun. I especially liked the two Samuel Barber songs, on excerpts from Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. I had heard the one called Nuvoletta a couple of years ago in a music class, but it was neat to hear it again after having actually read some Joyce. That's a great song. The last song of the program was Frühlingsstimmen, which was interesting because I'm so used to dancing to the orchestral version of it.
Friday Night Waltz was much fun. Joan taught a one-step class beforehand and included a double-time grapevine move, Fred & Ginger style. Wow that was good! That's going to be my favorite trick for a while. I managed to follow 2.5 of my 3 swing dances, thanks to Kim, Kari and George. Annaka and I kept up our tradition of waltzing in time to the finale of the super fast Strauss waltz. Bob and I made a cha-cha into a polka, which sort of worked. Oh, and I even had a good tango, with Jennifer. I was surprised at myself -- I don't often do tango and it is generally rather difficult for me. I was also watching my partner-picking habits, in light of my last post. I did dance a lot with the friends I usually dance with, so no surprise there. I also managed a few dances with people I know but somehow don't end up dancing with very often (there are always people like that -- I don't know how it happens). And I even danced with a few people I didn't know very well or at all, though not as many as maybe I should have. It occurs to me that when you're finding new people to dance with, it's kind of nice to actually do a few dances with them over the course of an evening, if possible. You can only get a sense of a person so much from just one dance. I think only one stranger asked me to dance. Anyway, it was all a very fun evening, though I am a bit sore and it's bed time now.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Here's a question Brian posted (from Kari). As another blogging dancer, I thought I'd add my two cents in here.

"If you were at a dance event, would you rather have awesome dances the entire time, dancing with experienced leads or follows that you didn't know? Or, would you rather have some pretty good dances while dancing the entire time with your friends?"

What I'd like to point out is that I don't divide the world up into these two categories at all. In my experience, any dance that has ever fallen under the heading of "awesome" has been with a friend. I think that, no matter how good a dancer is, if I don't have some sort of personal connection with them then there's just something missing (though the dance may still be quite good). Something I learned in my first or second social dance class ever was that technical ability is only the second best predictor of how much I enjoy dancing with someone. How comfortable I am with the person is the most important part, because I can relax more and have more fun. I'm lucky in that many of my friends are also excellent dancers, so I guess I don't feel like I have to choose between the two much, though I realize there are also lots of good dancers out there who I don't dance with because I don't really know them. I worry a bit sometimes about turning into a "dance snob," as Richard would put it, so I do try to dance some with people I don't know, though it's difficult sometimes, being shy and whatnot. I will almost always dance with any stranger who asks me (though Latin dances and tangos are iffy). And I actually enjoy dancing with beginners and helping them out, so I try to make a point of dancing with a newbie periodically -- which, if I don't know the person, wouldn't fall into either of the categories mentioned in the question. So anyway, if I had to arrange my ideal dance event, I would have the majority of dances be with my friends, a few dances teaching/helping beginners, and a few dances with completely random people I don't know but who might become friends, whether or not they're good dancers. And that's roughly what I do most of the time, though I should work more on the dancing-with-strangers bit.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

I went to the first two-step class tonight. I've missed taking dance classes, so it was nice to go do that. I think it will be a very good class for me, too. I've already learned several new things, and it will probably go a long way towards getting me to enjoy two-step more. It's not a difficult dance, but something about it never quite clicked for me. I'm hoping that after five classes of it I'll be happier with it. Plus, it will be a good thing to get me out and being more social and meeting more people. That's something that I often let slip a bit too much. It was a bit sad, though, coming back from dancing and realizing I hadn't done a single waltz. Sigh. But I'll get a good fix of that tomorrow at FNW.

The library is still being slow so I called my temp agency today to ask them if they could find me a few little things to keep me busy next week. The time off has been fun, but making a bit of money is good to do once in a while. I'm still hoping the library thing will work out, though.

I've been watching a bit of the stuff on the news about SARS. There had better not be anyone breathing that stuff around at the San Jose airport next weekend. I'm still excited about visiting Lacey, though!
¡Felíz Cumpleaños Quenita! If anyone's interested in hearing the tune I wrote for this occasion three years ago, you can download this mp3 (1.5 MB): The Third of April.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

We just had our first official house meeting, at least since I've lived here. It was interesting partly just because we so rarely have all of us together at the same time. We should have gotten a photograph. There's only five of us right now, of course, since we still haven't gotten someone new for Niels' room. Anyway, we were mostly talking about what to do with the common areas to make them more usable. Don't scoff -- the general consensus is that it might not be entirely hopeless. Mostly we need to set up some sort of electronics workshop for Daniel, since he's got the dining room taken over (did anyone even know we had a dining room? no, because you can't tell) and then that sort of overflows into other areas of the house. Then Cheryl and Sarah are going to be in charge of reorganizing the kitchen and even making some of it look nice. Micheal and I will provide slave labor as needed in the various endeavors. We've got some good plans, so we'll see how it all works out. It will probably be a pretty gradual process, though.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Apparently the library director has more pressing things to be doing right now than letting us know if I can work there or not. Grr. Right now I'm just trying to make good use of all my time off, but tomorrow when I go in for my usual evening time I'll probably let them know that I need to start making money again by next week. So if nothing is happening with them, I'll need to go back to my temp agencies.

Happy Apple Fruits Day!