Saturday, May 31, 2003

Yay for Tina and Kari for coming to the contra with me! And yay for having Bob around when there aren't enough women to dance with. We spent one dance switching off lead/follow every time through. That was entertaining.
Another good piano recital this afternoon. I was particularly glad to hear Schubert's Moments Musicaux, two of which I actually play. It's not often I hear my own repertoire in a performance, plus it's nice to hear it played by somebody else (not to mention played well) for a change. Then there was a fun dance concert, featuring Swingtime and other groups. Meg and Dave -- the sibling partners -- are always highly amusing to me. And pretty soon I'm heading off to the contradance. Busy day.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Life is confusing sometimes, but you know things can't be all bad when there are Asterix t-shirts to be found online. That brightened my day yesterday.

Music is good, too. This week I get to go to free concerts four days in a row. It's end of the year recital time at Stanford, so there's all sorts of good music to be heard. Last night I got to hear a former TA of mine playing a few pieces of recently composed music, which was interesting though not entirely comprehensible. But I consider that pretty good for "new" music. Speaking of comprehensibility, though, I tend to be frustrated with my ability to comprehend even more traditional, classical music sometimes. I think a lot of it may be a scale thing. My musical brain was raised on 32 bar folk tunes, so keeping track of what's going on in, say, a half-hour Beethoven sonata is difficult for me. I often find that while I enjoy the music moment by moment, I have trouble getting a good sense of the piece as a whole. But I also find that I understand things much better once I can play them, so I think the problem is also in my ear. Going back to folk music again, I think that though I was generally learning things by ear, I was in effect learning a fiddle style really well, more than training my ear skills, so it actually doesn't seem to apply very readily to other forms of music. Also, my ear trained a lot on much simpler music than the sort of stuff I want to understand these days. Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, I bring all this up because I had a somewhat different experience at the piano recital I went to this afternoon. The first piece was one of those half-hour Beethoven sonatas, number 15 in D major. But for some reason, I felt like I got a much better sense of coherence and meaning out of it than I ever do with pieces of that size. Not only within movements but I even felt connections between movements to some extent. I don't know if it was just a particularly accessible sonata, a particularly good performance, or a particularly good day for my brain, but it was fascinating. My mind didn't even wander at all, which generally happens somewhat no matter how good my intentions. It's sort of hard to describe really how I felt. Of course, I didn't understand it all the way someone would who's been studying this stuff for years and years, but it was a significant difference from how I usually hear things, so I thought that was rather interesting. I wonder if I can get it to happen again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Grandpa Marsh passed away last night. I'm very sad and I miss him, but I'm also glad that he's not laying around anymore being paralyzed and unable to speak. He could have lingered for a long time being utterly miserable at not being able to do anything. Thank you to everyone who has prayed and vistited and called over the past week -- that's been really important to both him and Grandma Jackie. That's about all I'm going to manage to write for now, I think.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

I went over to the hospital again today to see Grandma Jackie and Grandpa Marsh. He's had some more complications since I saw him last, and had just had a dose of morphine before I came, so I didn't really get much of a response out of him. But I was able to talk to Grandma Jackie for a little while, which was nice. She is certainly amazing in the way she can maintain her love and cheerfulness through anything.

I also had a nice visit with Mom for awhile in the afternoon and evening. This included doing laundry, which is a more notable event in my life these days, since our washing machine at home has gone from screaming at us to emitting smoke.
Happy Birthday, Paul!

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Good contradance tonight. Several invited friends opted not to come, which was too bad, but on the other hand I met several nice new dancers, plus I had a very pleasant surprise when Jim's sister Ellen showed up. That was quite unexpected, but it was nice to see her again briefly. Anyway, good music, good dancing, happy Graham. I needed a good contradance fix.

Friday, May 23, 2003

So it seems that I get to be on Richard's team of helpers for Waltz Week next month. This means that whenever I'm not at work I get to help run things, and whenever I'm not doing that I get to take dance classes for free. That will be a fun week.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

One of the tutors from Project Read just called me up asking for a private lesson on using the internet and e'mail. It's the sort of thing I'm happy to help anyone with at work in the computer lab, but she wants to pay me to come over and teach her on her own computer at home. So that's kind of cool. I'll be doing that tomorrow afternoon.
There hasn't been a whole lot of change with Grandpa Marsh over the last few days. It turns out though, he's not actually swallowing -- it just looked like it. So that's not great. But he and Grandma Jackie are holding up well, with lots of support from family, friends and church. They know that they are loved and that whatever needs to happen will happen. Thank you to everyone who has been visiting them, thinking of them and praying for them.

And indeed, the prayers just seem to by flying left and right these days. There's been a lot of drama going on recently, in various ways, and a lot of people looking for guidance and strength. So I'm hoping we will all find it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I taught my first computer class tonight. Unfortunately, attendance was less than overwhelming, so it ended up being less like a class and more like a small number of private lessons taught by me and Georgina. I feel like I actually teach better one-on-one, but it was a bit disappointing that more people didn't show up. I think we need a different approach to recruiting people. We basically just sent out flyers to all our students and tutors, letting them know this was happening, but the flyers really weren't very descriptive. I expect most of the tutors saw it and assumed they didn't need the class (which most of them don't) and most of the students saw it and didn't understand it, or didn't want to come alone or whatever. What we ought to do next time is to talk to the tutors directly, and convince them to bring their students. I think that would work a bit better. We should talk to the students who come into the lab, too, but they're less likely to need a class (seeing as how they're already using the computers). It's trickier to bring in the people who don't use computers at all. In hindsight, this is all fairly obvious, but at the time we were too busy creating flyers and lesson plans to realize it.

Anyway, this was a pretty basic class, but it went okay. The woman I spent the most time with still seems a bit tense around the computer, but she seemed to be getting a decent understanding of things like opening folders, clicking vs. double-clicking, getting CDs in and out of the computer, etc. Just those basic things people need to know to use our programs. (That probably sounds insanely basic to most of you, but it's been an interesting change of perspective to work with people who literally don't know any of this stuff.) I do hope to teach something a little more interesting at some point, like an internet or word processing class, but first priority is still probably just getting more people to learn the basics. Maybe later we can get some more advanced people together for a different class.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Two free chamber music concerts today: St. Lawrence String Quartet and a bunch of student groups. Not a bad deal. It finished off just a little while ago with Shostakovitch's String Quartet #8. Wow.

Also, I can see my comments from home again. Yay!
Happy Birthday, Dad!

Saturday, May 17, 2003

I spent a couple hours out at the hospital today, along with Dad, Grandma Jackie, Aprill and August. It seems a bit strange to say that Grandpa Marsh is doing well, but considering he's just had a major stroke, he's doing pretty well. He can't move much or speak, but he can hold our hands, understand us, and smile at us. Swallowing is the most important thing for him to be able to do right now, since a lot will depend on that. He couldn't at all yesterday, but today we could see him working on it and he actually managed a few times. It's really kind of amazing to watch him. No matter what comes his way, he seems to find a way to tackle it piece by piece. Wow.
The Testimony show last night was excellent. Good job everybody!

In less excellent news, Grandpa Marsh had another stroke yesterday. I'm going to go out to John Muir Hospital this afternoon to see him.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I couldn't see the eclipse on my way home from work (too many trees and buildings), but when I got back I went out into the street with a few of my housemates and we found a spot where we could see the moon just starting to come out of the shadow. We admired it for a few minutes but then became moderately alarmed when we realized that the moon was travelling left to right, but it was the left side of the moon that was coming out of the shadow. It was Daniel (junior astronomer extraordinaire) who figured it out. The moon appears to move left to right, due to the rotation of the Earth. However, its actual movement relative to the Earth is right to left (he deduced this from the fact that the moon rises an hour later each day). During an eclipse we are able to see both kinds of movement at once. Very cool.
Dani ran into the library today, delighted to tell me about how planets rotate around the sun. So I expanded on that and explained to her how eclipses work. There's going to be a total lunar eclipse tonight. 8:40 pm is the middle of it, at least in California. Maybe I'll see some of it on my way home from work.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

My comments here have been very annoying. Hmm. That's not quite what I mean. What I'm trying to say is that when I try to look at my blog at home, it takes forever to connect to (my commenting service), then it fails, then it shows the blog without any comment links. That's what's annoying. I can't get to directly, either. I can reach it from a computer at work, but not from home. From what I've heard, my blog has been behaving normally for other people, but let me know if you have any problems seeing the comments. It might help get the problem figured out. Very strange.

I'm still gradually working on finding piano lessons. I contacted a past music professor of mine (Prof. Barth) a little while ago, asking if he could recommend anyone. He had me come in and play for him the other day so he could see where I'm at, and then said he'd pass my name on to some old students of his who might be looking for students of their own. It was a little stressful playing for him, just because it's been a while since I've played in front of an authority figure, and I was always a little bit nervous going in to lessons with my old teacher anyway. It's funny how I get much more nervous about playing the piano than anything else. It sort of makes sense, since I'm more of a beginner at it than other instruments, but I would also have thought that stage-fright type feelings would be somewhat instrument-independent. Oh well. I did okay. He also said that a student of his has a friend who wants to learn to play mandolin. So my e'mail address will travel through a small chain of people and I may end up with a music student again. Most of the students I had a couple months ago gradually faded away for various reasons, and I've been busy enough to not feel like actively searching out new ones. But one mandolin student might be fun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

For some much better Big Dance pictures, check out Brian Lee's album. I wish I could take photos like that. Someday I'll have to go and actually learn something about photography.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Well that was a fairly busy weekend I just had. Let's see what I can catch up on.

Big Dance was a lot of fun. Most of my photos didn't come out too well, but I posted a few of them anyway. There were some amazing performances this year. Some of the highlights were Big Air II (dancers flying through the air), a martial arts tango (two guys and Katie), and Swingtime (Go Kari! :-). Tina and I competed in the role-reversal swing competition but got tapped out right before the finals. Phooey. I also entered the polka relay race with Quetzal, where we had to use one of those large, noodle pool toys as a baton, but we couldn't use our hands. Our team got third place in that. Those noodles pretty soon led to all sorts of craziness. I spent one tango with Rebecca wrestling a noodle from Ben and Tracy who were going around whacking people with it. That was a moderately traumatizing dance. But there were a lot of good dances too, and I had a very good time. I was sure ready for bed by the time I got home at 7 am, though.

So I slept a few hours Saturday morning and then went to the Bridge Fair with Lacey and Hugo and Mom and Tina. And then I pretty much just collapsed in the evening, so that was that.

Yesterday we went up to Rossmoor for Mother's Day get-togethers. I didn't even bring my camera there, so I can't show you all how adorable Gia (my little step-niece) was. But it was fun to see everybody and Hugo got to meet a lot of our family all at once, so that was nice.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Okay, Big Dance is starting in about an hour. Lacey got here safe and sound, and she's napping right now in preparation. We'll see if she makes it until dawn. I figure I'll probably do it. Yay dancing!

Thursday, May 08, 2003

I spent a couple hours tonight going through Project Read's old computer junk that's been stashed on shelves and under desks for a long time. I was just generally clearing things out and organizing but it was like a small archaeological expedition. There was some really old, useless stuff in there. Manuals for software we don't have, equipment that we can't connect to any of our computers, and even things I couldn't really identify. It was kind of interesting, though. And now we have several boxes of stuff to get donated or, more likely, recycled. The stuff we could ever conceivably use now takes up about one shelf.

In about a week and a half I'm going to teach my first computer workshop. So I've been preparing for that a bit, and I've got bilingual handouts and everything (though Georgina will probably do any on-the-spot translating that's needed). It's a little hard to anticipate what it will be like, though, since we don't really know who's going to show up. I'm figuring on having this lesson be absolute basics -- as in "this is how you turn it on," "this is a mouse, it doesn't bite," etc. -- since we know there are plenty of people who need that. But if a lot of people show up already knowing the basics, I need to be prepared to teach more. That shouldn't be too hard, though. And then after this lesson, we'll decide if we need to do more like it or move on to more intermediate things, like word processing or using the internet.

I'm looking forward to teaching the class. Being the computer lab volunteer (and now, part-time staff) has kept me a little more involved with the computers than the actual students. I knew that when I took the job, of course. The tutors are the ones who spend the most time actually teaching and I do a lot of computer and software setup and maintenance. It's been good, though, because I feel like I've really done a lot to make everything more manageable -- we don't have as many problems as we used to, and it will be easier to maintain even after I'm gone. But it is nice to do some teaching, too.

Speaking of teaching, though -- it's harder in Spanish. Thelma always helps me practice my Spanish when she's in here, but today I was trying to explain things about Microsoft Word and saving files. That's not the sort of thing I learned in highschool :-)

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

I just saw a list of money-saving changes the library is considering. It's scary how bad things are getting, budget-wise. They're already pretty minimally staffed here and now more jobs are going to be going away. The library might even start closing at 5 pm on some weekdays, as well as all day one day a week. The director is staffing the reference desk and Project Read people might have to start shelving books. They're already charging for DVD checkouts, like I mentioned before. Sad.
Happy Birthday, Lacey! Yay for my wonderful sister!

Monday, May 05, 2003

Happy Birthday, Eric!

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Ooh golly, my brain is fried right now. The swing workshop was good, but I think it was a bit much for me. It felt like we didn't learn a whole lot of actual stuff, but what we did was very difficult because we were trying to do it with this whole counter-balancing thing. So it was confusing and four hours of it after being tired from all the dancing last night was a bit much. But maybe it will all sort of settle down in my brain if I go take a nap now.

Friday, May 02, 2003

My last Thursday night two-step and cross-step classes were last night. I must say that my two-step experiment was a resounding success. I definitely feel much more competent at it now, and I'm enjoying it a lot more. It's still a bit tricky, but it's certainly more fun. Since that worked, next I ought to try Latin. Joan is teaching a Latin class starting next week, but I don't think I can take it with my work schedule. It's on Tuesday nights, and in a couple weeks I'm going to be doing some computer workshops on Tuesday nights. But I might be able to take her later class on Ragtime era dances. We'll see.

One amusing thing from the classes last night: In two-step we switching into waltz time for awhile, doing all of our two-step moves in 3. Then in the cross-step class we did cross-step foxtrot, stretching the waltz moves out into 4. And we had the same song each time. Very silly :-)

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Happy May Day! And to all the crazy people out there dancing at dawn -- thanks for making the sun come up. :-) I was asleep.