Friday, October 31, 2003

Happy birthday Monee! And happy Hallowe'en, everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Organic Structures

Writing Creative Nonfiction has actually been a very interesting book. Again, it's the sort of thing I wish I had found more interesting freshman year in college. Along with other recent books I've read, it's making me think more about the writing I'm reading, and appreciate better what's going on in it.

Probably the most interesting chapter for me was the chapter on Structure. That's always something I'm curious about in a work of art: how it's put together. It also tends to be the aspect that's most mysterious to me, and the one I wish I knew more about. I particularly apply this to music. From all my music classes, I've managed to get Sonata Allegro form down pretty well, but I'm still pretty vague about anything else. (Whether this is my fault or that of the classes, I'm not sure. If I could, I'd take the classes again to find out.) Whenever I'm in a compositional mood, what I most want to find is an interesting structure, but I don't know how to go about creating one.

Part of the Structure chapter in this book was on "Organic Structure." Based on the name, this is the sort of structure I tend to be looking for. I've had those keywords knocking around in my head for a long time. I like the idea of a piece that seems to have evolved naturally somehow, with the interconnectedness of a living organism, and without blatant marks of human creativity upon it. I've even drawn some things that somewhat approach what I'm thinking of, but I don't know how to translate that sort of idea into music. The mention of Organic Structure in this book got me excited, since it seems that getting this sort of structure in writing would relate to music in it's linearity, which to me is the trickiest thing about it. Unfortunately, this section of the chapter was the least understandable to me. After a few readings, I think I'm starting to understand how it works in his specific example (somebody writing about glacier formation) but it's still hard to make it into a more general idea. But it'll give me some stuff to think about at least.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Happy birthday, Tracy!


Just to try it out, I went and set myself up a photoblog at Buzznet. Not that I've been taking lots of pictures recently, of course, but maybe this will remind me to carry my camera around and use it more often. A camera phone would help, but that's still pretty low on the priority list of things to get. So anyway, check it out, maybe it'll get updated once in awhile. If it does, I'll put the little latest-picture sort of thing up on here somewhere to tie it in better.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Harmonic Anticipation

I filled out my registration for Camp Harmony today. However, the usual joy this brings is rather marred by the knowledge that Lacey will not be attending this year. It's going to be positively disorienting not to have her there. The traditional formation (Me, Quena, Lacey, Jac) will be completely disrupted. But I suppose we'll muddle Laceylessly along somehow. I'm thinking I'll teach my music theory series again, though I should start thinking about that a little bit ahead of time, since I haven't done any lessons recently. And cross-step waltz has been a pretty big hit the last couple years, so I'll probably do that again, too. And then of course there are all the tunes to play and songs to sing and dances to dance. Ooh, and I wonder if I can find anyone there who can do Tuvan throat singing. I'm still working on that (and getting it a little bit) and it would be fun to find someone who can help me out. So much stuff to look forward to.
Happy Birthday, Pa!

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Hallowe'en Contra

My plan with the candy corn costume was to not tell anybody what it was, as an experiment in seeing how many people think like I do. Only one person guessed it right away, a few got it pretty quickly, and some never figured it out (though I told them at the end of the dance). The erroneous guesses were headed collectively by pumpkins and several varieties of squash, with an escaped convict as a close second, and construction workers and garbage men bringing up the rear. Oh well.

This being my first time at the Hallowe'en contra, I was introduced to the traditional Ron Award for best costume. I had heard of this award but I never knew the reason for its name, which is that Ron wins it hands down every year. This year his costume was a skeleton that was about 10 or 11 feet tall. Ron wore a large frame strapped to his back that supported the rib cage of the skeleton, and attached the oversized hands to his own to control them. The bones were foam, I think, to make it lighter and more dance-friendly, but he hung wood chimes inside the rib cage to make it rattle. The head tilted down a little bit and rotated around as he moved, which during the dances gave it the look of a somewhat bemused giant among midgets. It was wonderful.

The Hillbillies from Mars played a bunch of great music, as usual. The unquestionable highlight, though, was the polka they played right before the last waltz: the theme from Indiana Jones. It made an amazing polka, but the hemiolas in the A part confused the heck out of me until I realized we could do a fast zweifacher to it. It was waltz-waltz-pivot all through the A part and then all polkas for the B part. Wow. I have got to dance to that again sometime.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Candy Corn

I'm not big on costumes. I enjoy seeing them on other people, but I don't care for putting in the effort to get them together and actually wear them myself. For some reason, it's a form of creativity that has never quite appealed to me very much. This tends to be a problem around Hallowe'en, when it results in me feeling abnormally unfestive. It's more of a problem when I want to go to a costume ball, like the Hallowe'en Contradance tonight. (This will be my first time going to this dance -- in the past I've generally gone to the Hallowe'en Gaskells, which is always the same night.) I could probably just go without a costume, if I wanted, but that seems rather unsporting of me. So I was wandering around a couple stores this morning, trying to have an inspired idea for a clever costume that I could also dance in (this includes being able to wear my glasses with it, so no masks).

I was inspired by, of all things, candy corn. I was near a WalMart at the time, so I headed in there. The orange shirt was the first thing I found. It even had the added benefit of saying "This is my costume" across the front of it, which I figured would come in handy if I couldn't find the rest of the stuff I needed. The hat that I found next was perfect in that it's white and pulls down snugly over my head. It's less than perfect in that it's a warm, woolen hat, which will be less than fun for dancing in. Oh well. The yellow pants were the hard part. Just as I was about to despair of my plan, I found them. The boys section had a couple pairs of very yellow athletic pants, and the largest size (for ages 12-14) turned out to fit me perfectly. There are advantages to being small sometimes. Everything turned out to be on sale, too, which was pretty cool.

So now I have an outfit that looks pretty much exactly like something I would never wear in real life, and it should even work fine for dancing (I'll take off the hat if I start to get heatstroke). It even looks remotely like candy corn. It'll be interesting to see how many people get it. It should be fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

It's fun having a piano

I've managed to play some piano every day now since I got it. I know that's not very many days, but this is still an increase of about infinity percent over most days recently. This is good. So far I've mostly been resurrecting the pieces I used to play. I'm used to being out of practice, but it was a little scary to not even remember parts of things I used to know really well. (Perhaps this is a result of letting muscle memory take over too much in the memorization process?) It's nice to see them coming back a bit now. I'm going to start working on sight-reading again, and it'll be fun to look for something new to learn, too. Any suggestions?

The digital-ness of this piano is taking a little bit of getting used to. I found out how to change the resonance of the damper pedal though, and that helped the sound a bit. The "key touch" setting is also variable, but doesn't seem to make a huge difference. Regardless of the setting, it's a lot more sensitive than I'm used to. For instance, the notes that my thumbs play stick out a lot more than they used to. I'm hoping this will train me to have better control over the consistency of my touch, but I'm also hoping it won't mess me up too much when I play real pianos, since the overall resistance is so much less on the digital one. But if I keep in practice on this, I'll probably seek out real pianos more often as well, and that should help the balance.

Sunday, October 19, 2003


Carnes Piano Co. was having a sale this weekend so I stopped by yesterday just for fun, to look around. I was rather impressed with how small some of the digital pianos were while still having a full-size keyboard. So much so, in fact, that I came home and started measuring space in my room and shifting furniture. It turned out that I didn't have to move things too much to make it fit. So after debating a bit about money (and deciding I could just delay the new laptop I've been thinking about getting) I went back today and got a piano. It's a Roland HP-1 and it fits snugly into the corner of my room between the dresser and the TV. It was a bit of a job getting it home and assembled, so I haven't even really played it much yet, but it's got 65 demo songs on it to entertain me while I rest for a bit and blog about it. It'll be really nice to start playing again. I haven't really done anything since June, and I just can't get myself over to the rooms at Stanford after work regularly anymore. This way I can practice as much or as little as I like, without the overhead of bike rides back and forth to campus. The headphones are a huge plus, too. So I'm really hoping to get into practice again and start learning some new pieces. It's exciting.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Masochism A Cappella

There was another a cappella concert at Stanford tonight, this time for Alumni Weekend. There were lots of great songs, as usual, but I have to say that Fleet Street really stole the show this time around. First off, they sang Everybody Pees in the Shower, which was just plain silly, and more so since it was new to me. But the real kicker was when they sang Tom Lehrer's Masochism Tango. The soloist did a very convincing job of being completely and utterly mad, slinking and crawling around the stage, shrieking and shouting at the audience, and just generally being an insane masochist. The people in the front row were probably freaking out being right next to him like that. I would have been. It was really cool, though. I think it's wonderful that there's a group like Fleet Street around that can get away with songs like these.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

And now, we wait....

I had my second round of interviews today. Now there will be evaluations, a hiring meeting, and who knows what else. Eventually, a decision. Afterwards, much rejoicing.

In other exciting news, Apple released iTunes for Windows today. Very cool. No more of this Windows Media Player nonsense for me. There was a bit of cognitive dissonance seeing a favorite Mac program on my PC, but I'm glad enough to have it that I got over that pretty quickly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Tuva or Bust!

I found a new commute project — learning Tuvan Throat Singing. I actually got started on that by listening to the Baby Gramps CD last night. He actually does some Tuvanesque stuff along with all his other "vocalisthenics." (Incidentally, Baby Gramps actually stayed over in our guest room last night — Daniel was thrilled. He was in too late and I was out too early, though, for me to meet him.)

I found out last night that it's not actually too hard to whistle and hum at the same time. I can't vary the notes independantly or do anything very complex with them, but it's still kind of cool. I also found some articles to read about singing in harmonics. Then in the car today, I was experimenting with droning on a low note and changing the shape of my mouth and the position of my tongue to try and bring out higher harmonics. I thought I could hear something working once or twice, but it wasn't very strong. I should try taping myself to see how much it's audible outside of my own head. But I at least felt like I was getting an idea of how it might work once I get better at it. It's pretty neat.

For the reader who wants to follow along at home, try this: Sing as low a note as is reasonably comfortable. While singing, and without changing the note you're generating in your throat, put the tip of your tongue against the backs of your upper teeth. Now press the sides of your tongue against your molars. Experiment with slight adjustments of your mouth, lips and tongue to see if you can get high, whistling harmonics to come out above the drone. It's hard. I think there are lots of other ways to do it, too, so if anyone figures out anything else, let me know.

I think there's also a throat singing technique that helps you sing notes lower than your normal range, sort of like subharmonics on a violin. That would be really neat, too, though I don't know how much it would help in making me a bass for shape note singing. Now that I think about it, it would be cool to try learning to play subharmonics, too. I never got very far when I tried it a couple years ago.

Anyway, the throat singing stuff make a good car project. Almost makes me wish I had a longer commute. (Well, not really.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Interviews, again

I got my second round of interviews scheduled for Thursday afternoon, 3-4:30. I think this will be the last specific thing they'll have to evaluate me on before making a decision. Exciting. I'm glad it's all moving along fairly quickly.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Sugar-coated Butterlumps — with Egg!

I had another visit with Miriam yesterday before she takes off for New York again tomorrow. Among other amusing things, we made cookies. They weren't quite the way I usually make them, and they had us moderately alarmed for a little bit, but they actually turned out okay. So I'm glad for that, even though we didn't get to use the new name we were preparing for them.

We also played a bit of piano, which was fun, though I am woefully out of practice, not having played since early summer. It's pitiful. Still, I managed to play some accompaniment to go with a story Miriam was telling me, and that turned out to be rather more entertaining than I would have expected. We managed to make a tale of buying pencils into a very dramatic adventure. Music is great.

Mom is coming to visit for lunch at Google today. Yay! We will probably get something much better than sugar-coated butterlumps.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

All Danced Out

Jammix last night was a lot of fun, especially with Miriam making a surprise appearance from New York. There were two excellent performances: Swing Time (yay Kari!) and a three person version of the hustle performance I saw at Waltz Week (wow). I also realized that I have to get used to steering through Jammix-style crowds again. It seemed overly difficult last night, perhaps because I hadn't done anything that challenging over the summer.

This morning was the second Opening Committee audition, and then a meeting afterwards to help discuss the auditionees. I enjoyed helping, though it was a long morning and I was pretty tired and hungry by the end. When I finally got home around 2, it was a close race between lunch and a nap, but I managed both.

I had been planning on going to the contra dance tonight, and I suppose that technically I still could, but I don't think it's going to happen at this point. It would be fun, but I'm still tired, and there are still other things I want to do with my weekend.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Reading About Writing, and Vice Versa

Recently I've found myself starting to read more about writing, and also being more aware of writing in general as writing, rather than as pure story or information. The most recent book on this subject for me is Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, which at first glance seems rather textbookish. And I suppose it is, though I think it could actually be quite interesting. It seems to be aimed not so much at teaching arbitrary grammar rules as at really getting to the concepts behind what makes writing good or bad, clear or unclear, and how to switch from one to the other. To me, that sounds rather intriguing. I'd really like to understand language better, and feel like I have better control over it. I think most of my writing ability now comes from what I've absorbed from so much reading over the years, but that's all subconscious and undependable. I'd like to feel like I've deliberately learned something about it as well. It's a pity I wasn't interested in all this when I was still taking English classes. I probably could have gotten a lot more out of freshman WCT if I had been.

This current interest probably just stems from the fact that writing is feeling like a fairly large part of my life right now. A ton of what I do at work is just writing. Granted, that's mostly just bite-sized bits rather than large tracts of prose, but it's challenging sometimes to find the clearest way to convey information. I'm also a lot more conscious of my blogging these days, and probably writing more here than I used to. So writing in general has just been a prominent subject in my awareness recently.

So far in this book, I've only read the introduction and a "Short History of Bad Writing," so I haven't really gotten into the meat of it yet. I liked the description of influences on English from other languages, though. The author took one of his own paragraphs from that chapter and rewrote it as it might have been, had the Normans not won the Battle of Hastings. Very interesting.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


Today's interviews went pretty well. The next round will probably be in a week or two. Further updates as events warrant.

Monday, October 06, 2003


Today I got scheduled for the first of two more rounds of interviews on the way to becoming an actual, honest-to-goodness, permanent employee. This first batch will be on Wednesday, 10-11:30 am, and it will be with people I actually work with here on the Blogger team. After that is the round with the more managerial types, time TBD. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Blog Design Part III

Okay, I'm taking the easy way on this right now. I definitely wanted to switch to this layout, but I'm still going to sit down and think about colors again sometime. This is good for now, though.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

One Dance, Two Dance, Borrowed Dance, Blue Dance

Friday Night Waltz was last night. Unfortunately, the Swing Kids dance decided to be at the same time, which was a bit annoying (since it took people away from waltzing, and since I couldn't go to both), but FNW was still fun. One interesting moment of the evening was doing the Metamora waltz with Tina. Apparently no one remembers how it goes, and everyone decided they should try to follow us, which was moderately disconcerting. I sure showed them, though -- I made mistakes. Ha! That'll teach everyone to follow me. Of course, Tina mostly managed to prevent or fix my mistakes, so we actually did pretty well.

This morning I helped out at Opening auditions, along with a number of other people, dancing with the auditionees so we can help TKJ choose people later. It was interesting to be on that side of auditions for a change. I had a little notebook in my pocket so I could jot down notes on who was who, and anything in particular I noticed about their dancing. Hopefully I didn't make people too nervous by scribbling mysteriously after I danced with them. We're fairly short on guys so far, unfortunately, though not surprisingly. Strange how there are so often extra guys at the social dance events, but far more women at auditions. I wonder if other dance groups find that at their auditions?

This evening was Jim and Laura's wedding, complete with bagpipes, alpenhorn, contra dancing, couple dancing and chicken dancing. Moving Cloud played for the contras, and Joan DJ'd the other stuff. It was really quite a lot of fun. I like it when dancing friends have weddings. Even a fair number of their non-dancing (or less-dancing) friends and relatives joined in the dancing, including the kids, one or two of whom just took to it like ducks to water. That's always wonderful to see. (Dodging the non-dancing kids made for an amusing challenge all evening, as well.) I had a lovely waltz and swing with the lovely bride, an interesting partner-switching tango, and a surprise-polka-swing and a really beautiful cross-step waltz, both with Tina. Overall, it was exactly the way I like weddings to be. A short-n-sweet ceremony followed by good music and fun and happy dancing. Best wishes to Jim and Laura as they start their new life together!

So yes, it's been a very dancy weekend so far. Fun, but I think I will maybe not dance tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

A boy...

One of our computer programs at Project Read is called Rosetta Stone, and one of the activities on it lets students hear and read words or phrases, then match them from a selection of pictures. We've used it on the Macs for a while, but it's supposed to work on PCs, too. So tonight we were trying it out on our new PC ("new" according to the amount it's been used, not the amount of time we've had it). The first round on level one had four pictures: a boy, a girl, a dog, and a cat.

Computer types: a boy. Computer says: a boy. I click: a boy. Ding! Life is good and I move on.

Computer types: a dog. Computer says: a boy. Uh oh! Panic situation! I click the boy. Nope. The dog. Yep.

Computer types: a girl. Computer says: a boy. The girl wins.

And so on. At this point, were I trying to learn English, this would seem to me like a very cruel joke. Luckily, this was just a test drive, so I just found it funny. It was even worse when I set it to the mode that only spoke the words, and didn't display them. Spot checking the rest of the CD showed a red car, a horse jumping over a fence, and the number six, a man brushing a woman's hair, and two different kinds of fish. All were referred to as "a boy."

I think I'll just stick with the Macs, thank-you-very-much.