Monday, May 30, 2005

Goodbye Fred

Fred has been sold. I ended up getting rather less than I had (optimistically) hoped for, but it's all worked out now at least. It's kind of sad to have him gone, since he was a good car for me for the last 5 and a half years, and I was very attached to him, in spite of occasional break downs and repairs and everything. But I suppose there are times to anthropomophize one's cars and times to just let them go. And I have lovely little Gloria to drive now, so that's good. Most importantly, after my DMV appointment on Thursday, I will have no further pressing car issues on my mind for the first time in a while. I'm definitely ready for that.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Eddie in Berkeley

I got to see Eddie From Ohio perform live for the first time last night, at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. They are a ton of fun, and I was very pleased that they did almost all of my favorite songs (though I would have been happy if they had also managed to squeeze in 5th of July, or Candido & America). One slightly weird bit was that I had somehow misread the pictures on their CD liner notes and had Robbie and Eddie switched in my mind. So for the whole first half of the show I was trying to get used to seeing them on guitar and drums, respsectively. But I managed. :-)

Oh, and they had these great shirts for sale there. ("This is Me" is the title of their latest album, and I think it makes a wonderful shirt slogan.) Unfortunately, the size I got looked okay but fits oddly. They must have strangely shaped medium people where they come from.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Weekend in San Francisco

Sunset in San Francisco Antonia and I took this weekend to go on a mini-vacation in San Francisco. We took the train up and stayed at the Adelaide Hostel, where we periodically got to explain to people from the other side of the world that really, we actually only came from about 30 miles away. From there, we spent the rest of the weekend just exploring the city on foot. My feet are complaining a bit, but it was quite fun. Some of the highlights:

Grace Cathedral. We walked the labyrinths and were even lucky enough to have an organist playing when we went inside.

Chinatown. We walked past an open door to a little gym, where west coast swing was playing. Inside were a half dozen little old Chinese couples doing WCS. It was very cute. We danced outside, briefly. Dinner at the Lucky Creation vegetarian asian restaurant, which included a "mixed vegetable" place with a lot of really wacky mushrooms.

The Musee Mecanique which had tons of old carnival games, of the insert-quarter-and-watch-something-happen type. A lot were bizarrely morbid, like the Opium Den one. I liked the player pianos they had, though.

Fort Mason park was a nice little place, and included such interesting things as an unclimbable statue, a wonderfully twisty tree, and a segway parade.

We found a great picnic spot at the Exploratorium.

Swing dancing at The Doghouse. It was kind of a small night there, and I didn't last very long because of all the day's walking, but it was fun anyway.

Sunday morning we went to the early service at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church and got to listen to their awesome gospel choir. We had heard that Rev. Cecil Williams had retired, which was too bad, but luck was on our side: the new pastor was away this week and Cecil Williams was back giving the sermon today. He was great.

More parks. I loved climbing up and up through Buena Vista park. We just stuck our noses in Golden Gate park, to listen to some of the drumming and go on the carousel (I got to ride the ostrich).

Haight Street. Lots of amusing stuff along there, including a shop that almost made me wish I smoked pot just so I could have an excuse to collect all their beautiful pipes.

And for now, a little vegging out time before going to bed early. (I was going to wait and write about everything later when I was more coherent, but I figured I may not get to it if I do that.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fred for Sale

Fred, Front Fred, Front Seats Fred, Side

The time has come. I have a new car and dear old Fred needs a new home. Click the pictures for full-size versions. Read on for details. Email me if you're interested.

Basics: 1989 Honda Accord LX 4-door sedan, red. About 205,000 miles. 5-speed manual transmission.

Pluses: A/C, cassette/radio, power steering/locks/windows. Recently replaced battery and alternator, various other repairs (full list available). Runs great.

Minuses: Dent on left back door. Front passenger door handle coming loose. Cruise control doesn't work. Needs some repairs to pass smog check (this can be subsidized by the state, since they required a test-only smog check).

Price: $1,500.

[Cross-posted to Craigslist.]

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Big Danceyland

Lacey drove down from Portland yesterday and picked up Quena on the way so they could come to Big Dance, and we all fortified ourselves beforehand with many fine yummies, courtesy of Antonia's culinary wonderfulness. We ended up being somewhat late to the dance, but given that it was an all-night affair, that's not so bad as it could be.

I arrived just in time to see the performance of Kari's new choreography, which was fantastic. It was a 3 girls & 1 guy swing dance to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and I think I actually like that song a lot more than I used to after having seen that dance. Well done, Kari!

Lacey and I entered the helium balloon cross-step waltz race, which involved holding a balloon between the partners' bodies without popping it or letting it go, while trying to cross-step faster than the other couples. We took third place (again, this seems to be my usual designated place in dance competitions) and won Big Dance T-Shirts, which was a good prize since we probably would have been buying them anyway. My favorite competition of the night though, was the swing dance. It started out looking normal, with couples just swing dancing and getting eliminated down to five finalists. But then for the finals, each couple had to draw a card out of a hat, which assigned them a prop they had to incorporate in their dance. That was brilliant. The couple with the pool noodle won, followed by the couple with the umbrella. Lacey and I thought it would have been hilarious if Neal had been listed as one of the props, but he wasn't.

Around midnight in the dance studio there was as special guest performance by Vienna Teng, which was neat because she's a Stanford alum and has a pretty good fan base there. She's not really used to playing for dances, I think, but she got enough danceable songs together and it was fun to have here there. There ought to be a tradition of getting her back for Big Dance every year.

At the top of the list of memorable dances, I'd have to single out the polka I did with Eric, to Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy. That's a fun polka any time, but dancing it with Eric and and getting to sing along with him completely unleashing that awesome voice of his was just incredible. That was around 4 AM or so and I probably lasted the last two hours of the dance with a lot more energy because of it. Heck, I'm still a little buzzed, just thinking about it.

On a slight tangent: I've noticed something recently about my dance preferences. I would still say that waltz (particularly cross-step) is my favorite dance, with swing rising rapidly these days as I get better at it. But it seems that a lot of the most memorable dances these days, the ones that really make me go "wow!" are polkas. Maybe that's just because so much energy can be packed into them. To really do it properly can take a lot out of me sometimes, so even if they were played more frequently, I wouldn't dance them all. But that does mean you can get a lot of bang for your buck on the good ones.

But there were a lot of good, non-polka dances last night as well. It was fun to dance with Quena and Lacey, which I don't get to do very often. I had a lot of fun swing dancing, and there were also a few excellent waltzes. I also got several compliments on the musicality of my leading, which was very nice. I don't think I've been doing anything different than usual, but people seem to be noticing more recently for some reason. Regardless, it's gratifying.

I got to sleep a little after 7 this morning, but only managed about four and a half hours before I woke up, though I napped for an hour later on. And now it's bedtime.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Swingout Variations Your Mama Never Taught You

I started a new series of swing lessons last night, taught by some folks named Todd and Dorota, who are apparently American Lindy Hop Champions. I'm taking both the class with the above title and the one on "Wraps, Twists, Turns, & Traps." Both are pretty fun so far, and I like the pace. We got two really good moves in each of the classes, which was a bit challenging (I didn't entirely get the last one) but gave me a lot to work with. So it should be a fun few weeks. My brain might get full and start leaking, but I'd rather be taught more than I can absorb than not get enough to fill me up.

And speaking of dancing, Big Dance is coming up this Friday/Saturday. Nine solid hours of dancing fun. Yay! If I make it all night, this will be my sixth year in a row.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Glad I Don't Live There

I've been insurance shopping recently, in preparation for getting Gloria this Friday. I was very perplexed at the quote from AAA, though, since it was so much higher than all the others. After going through my settings an extra three times, I finally caught a single mistyped digit in my zip code. It turns out that living in Oakland would more than double my car insurance. Wow. Anyway, that's all sorted out now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Red Hot Skillet Licking

Last night was Kevin & Carla's two-year anniversary at Swing Central, and they had Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers playing for the celebration (my photos are here). They were a lot of fun, though I have to say that one of my favorite moments was when the trombonist got up and sang a number. He was great, with just the right sort of a growly voice for the blues song he was singing.

There were a lot of people out for this dance, and the Lindy Hop competition was fantastic to watch. (For the record, I had pegged the winning couple before the competition even started. He was the guy I most wanted to dance like.) A couple groups did performances, too. I stayed until after midnight, which was good because it was a fun dance, but bad for waking up this morning.

The swing lesson series I was in also finished up last night, and Kevin & Carla are going to Europe for a bit, so there's a mini series of lessons being taught by some other people for the next few weeks. I ended up signing up for two of those classes. When K&C come back, I'll probably take the same series I just did again. The next level up (which I was thinking about trying) looks like it's going to be very performance-oriented, which isn't really what I want.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Don't Panic

I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy today. It was definitely good, and I enjoyed it, though I don't think it was quite as good as I had expected/hoped. Visually, it was great. The Vogons, for instance, were wonderfully Vogonic, and the inside of Magrathea was fantastic. And even the parts that didn't look quite right to me at first ended up working out quite well, e.g. Marvin, Ford, and Zaphod's extra appendages. The main issue I had was that none of the voices were right (though Alan Rickman as Marvin's voice was pretty close) and none of the lines were really delivered in quite the way they deserve to be. Admittedly though, I've always had very specific, detailed opinions on how the whole book should sound, so I'm pretty picky in that department.

Lots of stuff was cropped, of course, but I think all the important points from the book were covered. And there were some added scenes which were kind of interesting, too. The cool thing about it all is that Douglas Adams actually wrote a lot, or most, of the screenplay before he died (I think it was an ongoing project ever since the book first came out in 1979). So all the major changes like that were actually his idea. That means I'm a lot more forgiving than I usually am of movies made from books, since we're basically getting more stuff straight from the author.