Saturday, January 31, 2004

Crowded Bumper-Dancers

Toyon was packed last night for Bon-Bon Ball. It was amazing. Lots of new faces from the two Social Dance 1 classes this quarter. It's always good to see new dancers, of course, but it was scary trying to deal with crowds of that size, composed mostly of newbies. My steering skills have not had enough practice in that kind of situation recently. It was like bumper cars sometimes. I didn't actually see much of my partners, my head was spinning around so much trying to see and dodge the other couples. So I sat out and watched a fair amount, but it was still a fun evening. I was missing some people I was looking forward to seeing, but I also got to dance with several people I don't usually, so that was good.

I noticed that the crowd had an interesting effect on my perception of time. At first, I hadn't thought I would stay for the whole time, but I kept expecting that the floor would clear out after an hour or two, and we'd have some time for some dances with a decent amount of space. Never happened. A few people left towards the end but it was still decidedly full the entire time. Since I didn't have a watch on, that meant that I kept assuming we were only around the middle of the evening, so the end of the dance took me entirely by surprise.

Of course, Bon-Bon Ball has been reminding me that Viennese is coming up pretty soon. I still have to figure out what I'm doing about that. Not something I particularly feel like dealing with right now, though. Blah.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Mild Salsa

I went to a beginning salsa class tonight. Gavin's starting a series of free beginning and intermediate classes on campus on Monday nights for the rest of this quarter. So I thought it might be a good opportunity to dip my toes into the salsa waters a bit. For a while now, the latin stuff has been at the top of my list of things to get better at. The beginning class is pretty beginning, maybe more than I really need, but if I get bored I can just concentrate more on making my hips work. (Darn hips. Grr.) I considered sticking around to see what the intermediate class was like, since I could probably manage that too if I really wanted, but decided against it. Beginning level will be okay for a little while, and one hour of salsa at a time is enough for me. Maybe after a few weeks of this I'll see what the intermediate class is like.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Apparently, I Look Vegan

It was nice to go shape note singing again today, after having missed it since November or so (not counting Camp Harmony). Jeanette was kind enough to host it, and she even made a lovely dinner for us afterwards. But the poor dear was somehow convinced that I was vegan and had gone to great pains to make sure that she made enough vegan food. At first I just didn't know why she was so carefully describing the all food to me in particular, but then I figured it out, thanked her for her consideration, and ate a bit of everything.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Dude, Where Are My Stupid White Men?

My latest reading has been Michael Moore's Stupid White Men and Dude, Where's My Country? both from the Library of Awareness again, but this time on the political side of things. This has been good for me since in the past I have not only lacked any political awareness at all but postively recoiled from it. These books were a good way to start changing that. They're easy to read and humorous while still being packed with well-researched information. I think he went a bit over the top once it a while, so I'd sort of stop taking him seriously for a few pages, but overall I thought both books were really good. They started the process of making me want to be more informed, and even more importantly, they've made me want to continue it.

Last year I actually voted for the first time ever. I voted not because I really knew much about what was going on, but because if Arnold ended up winning, I wanted to be able to say "This wasn't my fault." Not the best reason, admittedly, but it was a start. I had planned at the very least to vote against Bush the same way this year. Now though, I'm getting more resolved to actually learn something about the different candidates and the details of what I'll be voting for and against. So that's a good thing.

As a side note, it's always fun to watch how my readings in different areas tie in with each other. The relation of these books to my fiction reading has been obvious, since the fiction recently has been Brave New World and 1984. Moore even quotes the latter in Dude. But I was also reminded a few times of Conversations with God. Moore makes clear the fact that we each have to take some sort of personal responsibility to make a democracy work and to elect leaders and create a country we can be proud of. To me that connects with the idea from Conversations that we create our own reality from our choices, but we can choose to do that consciously or unconsciously. For that matter, the thought to word to action progression from that book shows up in 1984 as well. I like it when things start fitting together like that.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Wired News: Gay Marriage Poll Gets Annulled: "The [American Family Association] supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, and it planned to forward to Congress the results of the poll, which it expected would support its position, as evidence of Americans' opposition to gay marriage." [via Blog Herald]

Unfortunately for the AFA, this didn't work, and the poll went 2-1 against them. So now they're taking it all back, since obviously the poll was leaked to "homosexual activist groups" who skewed the results by voting for what they believed in rather than what the AFA believes in.

Hmm. I guess that means I must be a homosexual activist, seeing as how I actually bothered to respond to this poll and I voted for gay marriage. Gee, and here I always thought I was just a normal guy with an opinion that would count as much as that of an AFA member. I suppose it would, though, if it matched the president's opinion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Acquiring Tastes

It's interesting sometimes to watch your perception of something change. For instance, I've been listening to a lot of They Might Be Giants songs this last week or two, and I've noticed that I like a lot more of them now than I did when I first heard them. With one song in particular, I happened to notice all the stages involved in this change. The first time I heard Ana Ng I don't think I liked it much at all. I just left it on the CD while I copied a bunch of others into iTunes (which is where I listen to most of my music). Then the other day I heard it again and just didn't particularly notice it one way or the other. But the next morning, I woke up with that melody buzzing through my mind.

I always have a first tune of the day. It's usually instantaneous -- I flip the alarm off and right away there's music in my head. Sometimes that tune sticks for the whole day, sometimes it only lasts through my shower, and then gets replaced by something else.

So anyway, there it is, stuck in my head. It takes me a little while to figure out what it is, since I still didn't have any words for it, but when I did I was a bit surprised, since I hadn't thought I'd liked it. So I went and found the song and listened to it a few more times and decided it was pretty good after all. Still had no clue what it was about. I'm horrible at following lyrics in songs. So I looked them up online. Here's the beginning:
Make a hole with a gun perpendicular
To the name of this town in a desktop globe
Exit wound in a foreign nation
Showing the home of the one this was written for

My apartment looks upside down from there
Water spirals the wrong way out the sink
And her voice is a backwards record
It's like a whirlpool, and it never ends

Ana Ng and I are getting old
and we still haven't walked in the glow
of each other's majestic presence
I really like the imagery used here. It says a lot about how we relate to people who are different from us. It has both perspectives in it: his apartment looks upside down, but her voice seems backwards. The gun imagery is a good metaphor for how we hurt ourselves by hurting other people. But the underlying assumption is that each person is a "majestic presence" in their own right, regardless of differences. Well written.

It's even better with music, of course. My favorite thing about the music is how the rhythm of the drum and electric guitar alternately match and complement the rhythm of the lyrics. That flat-III chord in the chorus is pretty cool, too.

So anyway, the upshot of all that is: I like the song now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Passport to Somewhere

Lacey's plans for going to France this summer have inspired me to finally get myself a new passport. I got my old one when I was 14, for the Peru trip, and it's long since expired. I don't yet have plans for going anywhere specific, but I'm starting to see possibilities manifesting. Having the actual passport ready to go seems like a good preparation, as well as good message to the Universe saying "hey -- I'm ready to travel somewhere cool." Lots of places I want to see someday.

The Mountain View post office is great, with 6 hours a day that you can do passport applications. So yesterday I went down there during my lunch break to get it done. Then I waited around for 10 minutes hoping someone would get back from their lunch break to help me out before I realized that it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Just because I was at work didn't mean everybody else was. Darn. So I did it today instead.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The ReReturn of the King

Mom and I went for our second viewing of Return of the King yesterday. It was fun seeing it on opening day a month ago with Google-folks, but I think I still needed to see it with Mom. It seems to count more this way, somehow. Her appreciation of it increases mine, I think. Plus, I saw the first two with her, so it was nice to finish off the set. When the entire extended DVD version of the series comes out, we're probably going to need to bring Lacey down for a weekend and have a Lord of the Rings marathon. I'm hoping the extended version shows what happened to the white orc, since they seemed to make him important enough to deserve to be specifically defeated, but we never saw it. Maybe they'll even explain where all the horses disappeared to just before the last battle. Probably not, though, since I don't think we were supposed to notice that.

Friday, January 16, 2004

More from Conversations with God

I finished book one of Conversations with God yesterday. Overall I thought it was really an excellent book. (Certainly good enough that I'll hopefully get around to reading the two that come after it.) I'd strongly recommend it. I thought it had some particularly good things to say on the subject of relationships:

"Relationships are constantly challenging; constantly calling you to create, express, and experience higher and higher aspects of yourself, grander and grander visions of yourself, ever more magnificent versions of yourself. Nowhere can you do this more immediately, impactfully, and immaculately than in relationships. In fact, without relationships, you cannot do it at all." (pg. 121)

A major point following this is very interesting because it seems counterintuitive at first but then makes sense. The advice given is not to focus on the other person in a relationship, but rather on your Self. Concentrate on being the best person you can be. Naturally, this will involve paying attention to the other person as well, but it keeps the focus where it will do the most good, because you can have a greater effect on yourself than on anyone else. See problems not as obstacles but as opportunities to express your highest Self. Instead of getting upset and disillusioned from the inevitable difficulties, find the best and highest way you can respond to them.

"Never do anything in a relationship out of a sense of obligation. Do whatever you do out of a sense of the glorious opportunity your relationship affords you to decide, and to be, Who You Really Are." (pg. 138)

This has been yet another case where I find myself reading or learning something I wish I had known two or three years ago. Oh well. I suppose I'm probably learning it better this way.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


I don't generally make New Year's resolutions. I'm just against the idea that there's a particular time of year for self-improvement, so I usually try to make my resolutions when I think of them, and then not really do anything different for New Year's. However, that also means that some of my resolutions do fall around New Year. Since this one is coinciding with the first paycheck of January, I guess it can be a New Year's resolution.

Having a steady paycheck is cool. The coolest thing about it, though, is finding good ways to give parts of it away. Towards the end of last year, I was starting to realize that I actually make enough money to do that now. So I did a few things like registering some shareware programs I've used a lot, making a small donation to The Stanford Fund, and buying a Christmas present for a needy child at

The New Year's resolution part comes in for making this sort of thing a habit. So I want to make a point of earmarking a certain amount from each paycheck for giving away. It's not going to be huge, since I'm still not super rich, but it will be something. is a site that I found that lists about 1,000 charities and non-profit organizations and lets you make donations to them online. It's a lot to sort through, but when you find ones you like, you can save them in a separate list on your account to come back to, so it's pretty handy. First one on the list for me will be the United Methodist Church of Walnut Creek, in memory of Grandpa Marsh.

[For being good influences on my consciousness, thanks go to Eric C., who tends to keep me aware of these sorts of things, and the Abundance angel card, which I drew on my birthday last June.]

Monday, January 12, 2004

Conversations with God

My current "Library of Awareness" reading is Conversations with God, by Neale Walsch. It's written entirely as a one-on-one dialogue between the author and God, with the former describing it literally as a transcription, rather than anything he deliberately created.

Naturally, the first issue addressed in this book is that of how to determine whether a thought, feeling, intuition, or voice actually comes from God or is a product of our own minds. This is vital not only because the validity of the whole book hinges on it, but because this is a constant question (or should be, I think) in our actual lives, even if God isn't dictating entire books to us. What I like about the answer given here is that it encourages us to trust our own highest personal feelings and experiences, rather than looking to religious authorities or scriptures for an explanation of how things are "supposed" to be. This isn't to say that those things are bad, but rather that God is constantly communicating with us every bit as much as he did with the writers of the Gospels, or with your favorite prophet, priest, rabbi or guru. We just need to recognize that and learn to listen.

This is important to me because it reflects a lot about how I try to approach this sort of thing. I've never yet (in my young life) been able to definitively say "I am of X religion," nor do I necessarily want to. What I want to do is to learn from all of them. Since most religions manage to disagree with or contradict most others in some way, this can be a little tricky. That's where the personal intuition comes in. I try to approach beliefs and traditions in such a way as to find the parts of them that resonate with me and my concept of God. I figure that there's no reason to restrict God to just one religion. He/She/It can, and probably does, use countless ways to communicate with me. The more of them I learn to listen to, the better. Of course, I realize that this is just my particular path at this particular stage. If a different course of action becomes more appropriate to my development in the future, I hope to notice God's prompts and follow them.

Of course, being a fallible human with conflicting thoughts and desires, just "trusting your intuition" is generally easier said than done. It could also seem rather self-serving, like it's giving us permission to take the easy way out and just do whatever we feel like. Here's what the book has to say about it (God speaking):

"Mine is always your Highest Thought, your Clearest Word, your Grandest Feeling. Anything less is from another source.... The Highest Thought is always that thought which contains joy. The Clearest Words are those words which contain truth. The Grandest Feeling is that feeling which you call love." (pg. 4-5)

The challenge, then, is to be constantly and honestly evaluating what we find in ourselves in these terms. I expect that it is this process as much as the specific result that is really important.

One other quote from the book I wanted to mention before I'm done here: "Every human thought, and every human action, is based in either love or fear. There is no other human motivation, and all other ideas are but derivatives of these two." (pg. 15)

This is a concept I've had as part of my consciousness for a long time. I don't even remember where I first got it. Probably from Dad. I was glad to see it dealt with in this book a bit, since I think it's an important one.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Moderately Less Blah

Sarah and Cheryl came up with the novel idea tonight of having all the housemates eat dinner together. Wow. We almost managed it, too. Only Todd was missing. Still, even getting five of us at once is quite remarkable. No, we didn't unearth the dining room table, but it turns out we can all fit cozily around the little kitchen table if we turn it diagonally. So that was sort of fun.

I'm still a bit sick, unfortunately. I may be working from home tomorrow. We'll see how I feel in the morning. I had a real blog post in the works, but I've been writing it in several separate bouts of varying coherence, so I think I had better wait and re-read it tomorrow before it goes up.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

More Blah

I've been a bit sick today. Nothing major, but still not fun. Just enough to keep me from going to the contra dance tonight. So I don't get to do the inaugural dance at the new hall, unfortunately. Since it's so close, though, I decided to at least walk over and poke my head in to see what it's like. I think it will be a good dancing spot. It's got a nice wood floor, a raised stage area for the band, and good lighting. I approve.

I will post something less blah tomorrow.

Friday, January 09, 2004


I was sort of tired and out-of-it all day today, but I really did want to go dancing. When I got home from work, I was pretty much at the point where Jammix would either energize me or totally wipe me out, so I gave it a shot. Didn't work. It's sad to not be able to do justice to a Jammix, especially since I'll be missing the next one, but oh well. Win some, lose some. I did have a couple nice swings and waltzes, at least, and even a good bit of schottisching (thanks Annaka). Going to bed now, though.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Library of Awareness

Eric has taken over some of the free desk space in our cubicle to create The Library of Awareness (Political and Otherwise). Excellent idea, I say. So far, it contains such books and DVDs as Dude Where's My Country, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, Autobiography of a Yogi, and Way of the Peaceful Warrior. I'm starting off with Bowling for Columbine, and Conversations with God. I only just started reading the latter, but I have a feeling it will require a blog entry of its own fairly soon.

Glancing through my bookshelves here at home for library contributions, I think I'll start by bringing in The Celestine Prophecy, Illusions, Your Money or Your Life, and Zen Speaks.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Fontifying Myself

Make your own font at (Thanks to Biz for the link.)
Download my font here: GrahamScript.ttf. (Works on Windows and Mac OS X.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Brain Capos

I was glancing through my journal from camp a year ago when I found something I came up with then that amused me. I had been explaining to my theory class some stuff about what theory actually is and I told them that if you learn a pattern like C - F - G - C, then you learn only one thing. But if you learn a pattern like I - IV - V - I, then you really learn 12 things, because now you can use that pattern in any key, not just C. So it's sort of like a capo for the brain. Hee hee. I just like the image of someone going "Uh oh! I need to play in C# -- better get out the capo!" and clamping some weird contraption onto their head instead of onto their guitar. I should have remembered that for this year's class.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Camp Harmony

I'm back. Got back early this afternoon, actually, but just gradually unpacking, washing clothes, and getting around to blogging. I've got a few pictures up on buzznet right now (more coming tomorrow, since there's a limit on daily uploads) but dotphoto is being funky and not letting me upload stuff, so I'm gong to try that again later. I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I should have, but there are still a couple good ones in there. [Update: dotphoto pictures are now up.]

Camp was really small this year, which was sort of sad. I especially missed Mom and Lacey -- it's just not quite the same without them. Luckily I love being around the rest of my extended camp family though.

At the beginning of the week, people were making all sorts of nervous noises about storms and flooding and whatnot, but the weather actually worked out pretty well. It rained all day on the second day, but cleared up beautifully after that. It's amazing watching the forest in rainy weather, though. Within just a few hours, paths and hillsides everywhere turn into little creeks and streams, all rushing down to the river. It's kind of a pain to wade around in, even with boots on, but Cass pointed out that it's really a beautifully efficient system. The whole forest just instantly mobilizes itself to get rid of all the excess water. It's great.

I taught a series of four music theory classes again this year, and I think they went pretty well, considering I hadn't prepared for them as much. They were pretty small, but it was a good little group of people. I had several repeat customers from last year, though, which worried me a bit, even though they were very enthusiastic about my teaching. So I tried to focus more on how to actually use music theory in practice, so maybe they'll get it to stick in their heads more during the upcoming year. That way, we could do some more interesting stuff next year.

I also ended up teaching a polka class with Quena, instead of the cross-step waltz I had done the last couple years. That was okay. I think I like teaching music more than dance at camp, though. We all did another iteration of our Stupid Human Tricks workshop, as well, which was a success again. Katie and Jessica brought us some new ones that involved falling through the floor and floating arms. Anselm showed us how to make a finger disappear. Quena and I also discovered how to get up out of the Crab Walk without just collapsing. Very cool.

Once again, I spent a lot more time dancing than playing music overall. The swing night was a really good one. It's usually kind of tricky dancing swing there, because most people don't know Lindy Hop, which is what I mostly do, but I think that was a good thing for this particular night. Not being able to just mindlessly do all my usual steps kept me really paying attention to my partners and also being more creative about figuring out new things that I could do. So that was pretty neat.

I should mention that during most of the dances, and a number of jam sessions as well, Steven (age 9) had his fiddle out and was playing along with the band. He doesn't know many tunes yet, but he'll just sit there and try to work out whatever they happen to be playing. Swing, contra, Balkan, anything. And he's really serious and intent on figuring things out, too -- he's not just goofing around. It's amazing. He still doesn't play anything very well (he's only 9, after all) but everyone is just so impressed that they let him join in and do whatever he can. At this rate, he's going to be a major prodigy very soon.

The contra dance on the last evening was a bit of a fiasco. It was supposed to start at 11:00, after the French dance, but the organizer didn't know he was supposed to be organizing it and we had no musicians. So for a while we had a bunch of dancers milling around on the floor for a while, and a bunch of kids playing out on the dance floor. Since it looked like nobody was going to show up, I finally went and got my mandolin, stood out in the middle of the floor so people could hear me, and played a jig for people to polka to. Then Steven got his fiddle and joined me to play a waltz. Then we got out some microphones, brought in Anselm with his bodhran, and did an actual contra. It's really hard to carry an entire contra just on mandolin (prodigy or no, I still have to block Steven out a bit to keep on the tune). But it was a short dance and we made it. Lani came in afterwards to help out on another contra, and we did a number of waltzes after that, so we did manage to salvage a bit of dancing out of the evening. Yay!

Other fun Harmony moments:
- Quena spiking her hair for New Year's Eve.
- Music jokes in the kitchen (three bags of lettuce going into two bowls: a salad hemiola!)
- David singing Christmas in the Trenches.
- Playing spoons (not quite as violently exciting as with the Dickersons, but still very fun).
- Getting worn out before a contra dance playing chase on an empty dance floor with Sophia and Jodie (both about 5 years old).
- Origami elephants and kissing penguins.
- Learning French Canadian tunes from Laurie.
- The Canote brothers singing very sillily.
- Charlie and Catherine reciting most of Finding Nemo over the course of a few different meals.
- Working on Cass' lunch shifts in the kitchen.
- Kitchen chanties.
- Lani's bagpipe song.
- Yael, in the first few hours of 2004: "This is a leap year -- so you know what we have to do now, right? Redowa!"
- All the New Year's waltzes, including Gary playing the waltz from Bread and Tulips and Jim playing the schottische-waltz.
- Bob Reid's Kid's Concert and the Bean Story.
- Getting to spend some time with Quena before she goes off to spend the entire year in Costa Rica (goodbyes were sad, though).

My angel card for this year is Faith. Last year at this time I got Joy, and 2003 did indeed turn out to be a far more joyful year than 2002 for me. Abundance, which I got on my birthday, has also been manifested in a lot of ways, not the least of which was getting my first full-time job. It will be interesting to see how Faith develops this year.