Thursday, August 26, 2004

We Made It

Our flights yesterday were uneventful and we got here safely. The taxis and buses still weren't running, but at least they were no longer barricading the roads, so we managed to get back to Quena's house with the help of her tía who gave us all a ride. The house has a family of four, plus three students and a guest, and then us, so it's all very communal and friendly. There is also a very silly little dog. Today we're going to see Quena's school and some of San José, and then go bailando tonight. This weekend we'll probably take a trip out to Tortuguero to see the sea turtle nesting grounds. So anyway, not much to tell about yet, but we had to make a stop by an Internet Cafe this morning anyway, so I figured I'd put in a note. I will say, though, that I am uncommonly amused to see things like stop signs that say "Alto" and web browsers with buttons like "Atrás" and "Búsqueda." It's also interesting getting used to a slightly different keyboard. It even has a "ñ" key. Fun. Plus, of course, it's just exciting to be in a new country. But more stories about everything later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I Know Where My Towel Is

I'm off for Costa Rica! I'll be back late in the evening on September 5th. I may possibly post some updates or photos during the trip, but if nothing else, look for some stories here on the 6th.

Quena actually called last night to inform us that there is currently a bus and taxi strike down there. She has still promised to meet us at the airport, but we may just get to have our first adventure in the process of getting back to her house. But I'm sure it will all work out somehow. I've packed my towel.*

Sunday, August 22, 2004

We're Taking American Airlines This Time

Less than three days now until I leave for Costa Rica. This is exciting. I've only ever been out of the country once before, and that was 11 years ago, when Lacey and I went on the K.A.R.E. trip to Peru. (A bunch of middle-school students spent the year raising money so we could go study rain-forests for a week.) I pulled out an old journal of mine the other day and read through everything I had written about that trip, and the Amazon and the rain-forests. One of the most dramatic parts, though, was simply getting there:
6/26/93 - 8:05 pm
Today we had to get up at 3:30 am in order to get to San Francisco for our first plane. We took Delta to Dallas, TX then to Miami, FL. Right now we’re on a Faucett plane to Iquitos, Peru. We’ll probably get there at 11:30 tonight. When we got on, there was some confusion about the teachers’ tickets. N. (sitting next to me) was sure the plane would take off without them and we’d all die in Peru, but they got on.
6/27/93 - 1:44 am
Tonight we’re staying in El Hotel Riande Continental in Panama! All but one of the engines on our plane stopped and one wing was on fire for a little while. We’re going on to Iquitos tomorrow. Everyone was getting freaked out, N. kept saying “we’re gonna die” and everyone was reading the saftey manuals and getting really nervous. Everyone cheered when we landed here.
Reading this now, I'm sort of surprised that I wrote that little about it, given how exciting (read "scary") it was. I didn't mention the thunderstorm in the Gulf of Mexico that we were flying over at the time, or the fact that I couldn't find my inflatable life vest. Then, of course, we eventually had to head home from Peru, at which time we found ourselves on the exact same plane (#290) that had broken down on the first trip. But apart from scaring the willies out of us, it didn't have any more problems. I have never encountered Faucett airlines since then, which has been fine with me. We're taking American this time around.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Google Picnic

Google had its annual company picnic today in Charleston Park, and it was exceedingly fun. "Picnic" is actually a bit of a misnomer, since I pretty much just gobbled a hamburger right away so I could forget about food and just run around doing the fun stuff. And boy, was there a lot to choose from.

I played a game of Human Foosball with some of the Blogger team, and that was awesome. Everybody gets strapped to a rope crossing the court and then you play a crazy, two-ball game of soccer like that. I'd never encountered that before, but I loved it. I went on a large, bouncy slide, too, but I didn't have the patience to stand in line for the rock climbing or the water balloon slingshot.

A number of the dancing folks coalesced near the triple-accordion rock band, and Tracy and I actually had a fairly successful polka on the grass. We moved to the fountain, though, which was excellent for not only wading, but dancing as well (the salsa band was the one we could hear from there).

Over near the juggling corner, we had some exciting wrestling matches with an inflatable T-Rex, and then came up with a great juggling-ball game. With about 8 of us in a circle, one person tossed a ball to another, then on to another and so on until everybody had gotten it once and it came back to the first person. Then, keeping that pattern, it started again, and a new ball got added each round until we had as many going as we could find. (I could never actually tell how many, but it got going pretty fast.) Just to spice it up a bit, we picked a few balls of a different color and turned them into "salmon balls," swimming upstream, in the reverse pattern of all the others. This was incredibly entertaining for a long time.

I'm a tad sore right now (not to mention sun burned) from traipsing around the park all afternoon, so dancing might be short for me tonight. Fun day, though.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Use This in a Sentence

I got to see Dani at the library tonight, for the first time in a very long while. Unsurprisingly, I also got to help her with her homework. For a fairly bright little girl, she goes to great lengths sometimes in order to have trouble on her homework. One thing she was working on tonight was using vocabulary words in sentences. One of her sentences was: "I really really really don't know what shot means." While this managed to exceed the minimum length, it happened to be false, and I suggested that she change it. Once we got that worked out, we went on to the next one, where she had written "I have no idea what crop means." This was at least true, but we still managed to fix it up a bit. Things went uphill from there, thankfully.

It reminds me, though, of one of my favorite Rhymes With Orange cartoons. A student is taking a similar test, and hits the word iconoclast. "'Hello,' said I. 'Hello,' replied the iconoclast."

Monday, August 16, 2004

TMBG at the Catalyst

I got to see They Might Be Giants at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz last night. It was actually the first live show of theirs I've been to. Generally, that's not my sort of scene, getting packed like sardines into a nightclub and having to wear ear plugs (yes, I brought ear plugs, and I'm very glad I did). But it was definitely fun to get to see TMBG perform, so it was all worth it.

A guy called Corn Mo did the opening act, and he was pretty amusing. For one guy with one accordion (and one stick strapped to his foot for whacking a cymbal) he really had a heck of a sound. He came out again later in the show to do an accordion duet with Linnell on Particle Man (here's a video of it from another show).

I managed to have a really good spot, about 10 feet from the stage, Linnell-side. That's a good side to be, I think, given the difference between Linnell and Flansburgh. Flans is the showman, he sings to the crowd. You can watch him from anywhere. Linnell sings to you. Plus, I'm just more of a Linnell fan anyway. Oh, and it was a decent vantage point for some (kinda blurry) pictures.

One of my favorite songs from the evening was Doctor Worm. I really liked the arrangement they did for it, with the shifted voice/rhythm offset thing near the end. Plus, they let off the confetti cannons at the end of the "Rabbi Vole" solo, which was a perfect place for them, especially since most people probably expected them to be saved for James K. Polk.

A fairly new, unreleased (and unrehearsed) song they did was called Fake Believe. They said it's one they're working on for their next children's project. It was kind of a fun song, though like most of their stuff, I'd need to hear it a couple more times to get a better sense of it. They weren't sure if they were going to be including it on the live shows download page or not, but I hope they do. (By the way, they're making recordings of every show on this tour available for mp3 download, $10/show. I think that's very cool.) And speaking of new songs, they also sang one they wrote especially for the Catalyst show. That's just another reason I think these guys are awesome -- they're writing a song for every single venue they play at on this tour. They're not all going to be great songs, of course, but I think it's wonderful that they're doing it.

A funny comment that I liked: For Stalk of Wheat, Dan Miller got out the Flexitone, which has a small, red ball or circle or something on it. One of the Johns said something about it adding some red into the scene, to go with Flans' maracas, I think. Flans pointed out, though, that it was only a very small amount, sort of a "homeopathic dose of red," at which there was a fair amount of laughter from the crowd. Then Linnell pointed out that they "really couldn't make that kind of a joke in New York -- no one would get it." Yay for us hippie Californians.

So anyway, it was a good show. Lots of fun all around.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Harry and the Potters

I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Harry and the Potters is a group formed by two brothers who dress up as Harry Potter and sing bad rock songs recounting the events of the various books. It's the sort of thing that's bad enough to be funny, though, so go to their website and check out some of their sample mp3s. (Warning: there will be spoilers here if you haven't read all the books. Yes, there are still some silly people out there who haven't read them all.)

You really do have to listen to them to get the full effect, but here are some of the lyrics that particularly made me laugh. First of all, for sheer simplicity, we have the chorus to "Stick it to Dolores":
Oh my god, you look like a frog [4x]
Umbridge, you're going down [4x]

Then the awkwardly-unmusical-lyrics award goes to "Wizard Chess", which is about Christmas activities and presents:
I got a mysterious gift from my dead dad
It was an invisibility cloak -- how rad
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh
We'll spend our Christmas being invisible
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh
We'll be invisible this Christmas

"The Human Hosepipe" was probably the one that made me laugh the most, though. Selected excerpts:
So we sat there with all the couples kissing
and soon things began deteriorating
and you began turning into the human hosepipe
Cho Chang, what have I done?
I don't care where you and Cedric were snogging
Cho Chang, what have I done?
I just want to replay this Valentine's day.
Well, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Hermione
And maybe you shouldn't have brought up Cedric Diggory
Because I'd rather not talk about your dead ex-boyfriends over coffee

My goodness, that was hilarious. Musical quality regardless, props to these guys for starting the band and making me laugh.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Practicando Español

In preparation for going to Costa Rica in less than three weeks, I've been trying to start practicing my Spanish more. Yes, I should have started a while ago, but I'll take what I can get at this point. I finished the fifth Harry Potter book in Spanish but reading is really about the easiest thing to do, so it's not the best way to practice. Looking for something more challenging, I got Cielos de la Tierra for my next audio book, and found myself way out of my depth. I'm catching a fair number of words and phrases, but I really have no clue about the overall story line. That's a pity, since it's kind of a waste of what looks like a very interesting book. But hopefully my Spanish will continue to improve and I'll be able to come back to it again some day and understand more of it.

At Project Read last week, Alice recommended the Destinos video series for learning Spanish, so I checked out some of those. They seem really well done, but the ones I got were far too basic to be useful to me. I'll try some later ones next week, to see how those are, though that would mean jumping into the middle of the detective story that spans all 30-something episodes. In the meantime, I think I'm probably better off just watching the Spanish channel on TV. This weekend I've watched some news programs and soap operas, from which I learned, respectively, such useful phrases as "George W. Bush" and "I'm pregnant with your brother's child." I'm sure that will come in handy sometime.

Of course, what I really need to work on most is speaking. I'm really slow when it comes to actually generating any Spanish, as opposed to just understanding it. It's harder to practice that, though.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Contra Polka

We had a very successful Gorilla [sic] contra during one of the polkas at Friday Night Waltz last night. Bob walked us through it earlier in the evening and then we agreed to meet in the middle of the floor at the next polka. Later on, I had finished a waltz and Rebecca had asked me for the next dance. I said yes and started to take her hand when the music started. Suddenly, in an apparent panic, I dashed off going "Ack! It's the polka!" leaving Rebecca behind, bewildered yet amused. She figured it out, though, and was kind enough to give me a different dance later.

I got in place in time to start the contra and it was quite successful. We had four couples and it went a lot smoother than our previous attempts at this kind of thing. I had two people afterwards tell me they wanted to come to the next contra dance, and one of them even specifically said how much fun it looked when we were dancing in the middle of the polka.

Overall, it was a very good evening. I had a good West Coast with Susanna, a fun Chim Chim Cheree waltz with Maya, and the triple-exclamation-point waltz with Annaka. The Hamster Dance polka at the end with Saryn almost killed me, but only because it was so enegetic and exciting (the really good ones always leave me completely wiped out for a few minutes). I also got several dances with Tina, which was fun since I hadn't gotten to dance with her for a long time. And I found out that Mike and Lily are engaged! (It would have been considerably more surprising to find out that they weren't engaged, but still -- yay!)

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Continuing Choices

The Stanford Continuing Studies catalog arrived in the mail the other day. Always a sucker for course catalogs, I've been browsing happily through it, trying to decide what to take next quarter. Here are some of the ones that look fun so far:
Right now the Bach class is looking like the most likely one, though Travel Narratives is close, as is Voice and Speech. I wish I could take them all, but I can think about it for a few weeks before registration at least.

Unfortunately, scheduling enters into the equation, too. If I get a class on Monday nights, then I'll have to miss West Coast Swing for a quarter. Thursday nights are tricky because of Irish sessions and because I don't know if Richard's going to teach an evening dance class I'll want to take. Wednesdays and Tuesdays are better, because I can put my Project Read nights on either one, but that would mean that I couldn't go to other things like Irish dances or Swing Central on Tuesdays, or (more likely) take an evening off. So I'll have to think about how I want it to all work out.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Blogful Googly Year

One year ago today, Kimmy and I showed up at Google for our first day of working for Blogger. Hard to believe it's been that long already. I think I need to start changing my conception of time. This is the first job that I've had for more than a summer or a few months of temping, and even in school classes would change every quarter, so it's very different to think that I've been doing the same thing for an entire year. It's been a good year for me, though, so I'm happy.