Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Off to Harmony

The last week has been pretty busy, what with various Chanukah, birthday, Christmas, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Eve Eve celebrations. Now, with barely a rest from all that, Lacey and I are getting ready to head out to Camp Harmony for the rest of the year. So I'll be out of all contact unless you want to send owls to the Santa Cruz mountains. I got a flu shot this year to hopefully avoid last year's ickiness and survive all the way to January. Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Last Waltzes

As much as I like The Corrs' rendition of Erin's Shore (and as rarely as I stay late enough to dance to it) I still think that the last dance of an evening should be a cross-step waltz. Fast waltzes are fun and everything, but there's nothing like a really nice cross-step to just make me absolutely, contentedly melt. That's when I feel most complete, satisfied, and relaxed (the perfect time to go home and go to bed:-). Case in point: two heavenly waltzes with Jessica, who happened to be in town this weekend, at FNW last night. That's what makes cross-step one of my favorite dances.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Funniest

I can blame Jen for leading me to my newest source of continual amusement. is a web-based voting project to find the funniest image in the world. The more you vote, the more of the pictures you get to see, and some of them have gotten me laughing pretty hard (some favorites include the monorail cat, the pirate keyboard and "receive bacon"). You can see the current top winners here.

(And by the way, this project is run by the guy who does xkcd, which is itself full of wonderfully funny things.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Where Is Your Christmas Money Going?

I like what the Seva Foundation is doing with their gifts of service. You make a donation to provide a poor family in South America with clean water in their home, or to get eye surgery for a blind person in Tibet to see again, or one of many other options. Then Seva provides a gift card that you can give to your recipient. Now granted, you could always donate to any charity in honor of somebody else, so it seems that all Seva is really adding here is the card. But it's the decision to frame the donations this way that is so brilliant, and it brings philanthropy into an entirely different realm of spending, putting it (hopefully) more in view of some people who might ordinarily spend much more on a batch of Christmas gifts than on donations to charities. Any amount of money that can be diverted from ravenous December purchasing to creating serious quality of life improvements in less fortunate communities is money well repurposed in my book.

So I'm just going to put this out there as an option for anyone who hasn't yet spent all of their Christmas budget. I realize there are still lots of very useful, meaningful, traditional gifts to give to your friends and family, and I also realize that it's just plain old fun to do that sometimes. But consider adding in some gifts of service, from Seva or from any other organization that's significant to you. Maybe for the person who has everything and is impossible to shop for. Maybe for someone who's made an important difference in your life, to show them you're passing on the positive influences in the world. Whatever the case, you know it's a gift that will be put to good use.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


One of the ironic things about working at Blogger is that I had to wait an awful long time to get to switch to beta, because I've got an unusually large number of blogs of various types that weren't all supported initially. I just now got to convert everything, though, and I'm pretty excited. First off, I'm going to mess with the template a bit to get it converted over to Layouts. So if things start looking a bit different, that's why. I'm going to mostly just reproduce the same design for now, but I'll probably get around to doing more interesting stuff later.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Apple Cinnamon Pomegranate Cookies

At the farmers market yesterday morning I picked up a pomegranate, just because I felt like it, and because pomegranates are cool. Then in the afternoon I was baking some apple cookies and I had an idea. I was using this recipe which has optional nuts and raisins, which I didn't really want to bother with. But I thought, why not toss in a bunch of pomeganate seeds instead? Would that even work? I didn't really know what would happen to pomegranate seeds if you baked them, and a quick bit of googling didn't turn up any existing cookie recipes that used them. So unfortunately I chickened out and just stuck some seeds into the last few cookies of the batch. I say "unfortunately" because it turned out to be awesome. The pomegranate seeds stay pretty much unchanged in the cookies, and give you blasts of juicy flavor when you hit one, like little pome-grenades. The next batch I do is going to have pomegranates all the way through.

Another thing I did put in this batch was a bunch of cinnamon chips that Lacey gave me last weekend. They're like mini chocolate chips, but cinnamon. And I love cinnamon. Unfortunately, while you can't go wrong with a cinnamon-apple combination, the chips sort of got lost among everything else. They're really small, plus the nutmeg, cloves, and apple chunks pretty much took over the flavor department. I think I'll cut back on nutmeg and cloves next time, too.

Still, all in all: Yummy!

Update: I had one experiment left over to today, and it turns out that the pomegranate seeds are really best when the cookies are right out of the oven. They dry up a bit by the next day, so you don't get such a shot of juice. Maybe that's why they're not so much used like raisins, which last relatively unchanged.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On Dizziness

It's been quite a while since I've gotten really, properly dizzy. Too much waltzing really makes you less susceptible to it. FNW last night was fun, though. First of all, Richard played a hyperspeed waltz that was actually hyperspeed, rather than the merely fast stuff that usually goes under that heading. Dancing with Annaka, it takes a lot to make it feel like we're really pushing our speed, but this one was fun. Something like 240 bpm? I can't remember exactly. It was a legitimate challenge, though, which was fun (but still doable). And it gave me a little bit of a dizzy wobble (that's fun to say) coming out of it, but not too much.

I got my real dizziness on a polka, though (and again, with the indefatigable Annaka). It was a fastish polka, and somewhere midway through it, I guess I just started feeling like pivots were more fun or easier than actual polka steps. So we did nearly the last half of the song entirely in pivots, which probably got us two or three time around the room. Steering actually worked reasonably well. I could distinguish different colored blurs in my field of vision, representing open floor, other dancers, and walls, and we usually seemed to have enough of the first to be able to aim for it and avoid the second and third. And taking that very macro sort of view is probably what kept me from getting too dizzy while we were actually dancing. (If I hadn't had to steer, of course, there would have been no problem.) It was after we stopped that things got really crazy.

Somewhere in one of my cognitive psych classes, I learned about what happens if you get glasses or contact lenses that flip your field of vision upside down. If you wear them long enough (I forget how long) your brain actually flips the image back for you, so it can make better sense of what it's seeing. The problem then is when you take the lenses off, but your brain is still doing the flippy thing. Then you're seeing things upside down all by yourself, which, I have to imagine, could be a bit creepy. Well, when you spend a full minute or so just pivoting and then stop, you get a similar effect. I think my brain was automatically counter-spinning what I was seeing to some extent, to try to get the visual signals into a form it could parse. So when we stopped, it was still trying to compensate, which makes the room appear to spin even while your body is holding still, which creates the cognitive dissonance that makes you dizzy. Wheeee!

And from there, of course, there's not much to do except enjoy it. :-)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Portland Plantland

I got back last night from a few days up in Portland visiting Lacey. She and John have a lovely apartment that I particularly liked (among many other reasons) because it's chock full of happy plants. I made an official count at once point, and came up with 70 distinct plants, just indoors and not counting everything they've got growing in the community garden nearby. By the time I left, it had already increased to 71, because it turns out that Lacey can't even walk into a music store without someone there giving her a plant to take home with her. It all made me want to start getting more greenery around my apartment. I've currently got a wandering jew and a spider plant, both doing decently well, but I've got a lot of space on my balcony that I'm not doing anything with, so it would be fun to get some stuff growing out there. I think Lacey inherited both of Mom's green thumbs, but I'll see what I can do.

Other fun stuff from the weekend:
  • Dad and Betty Lue also visiting, and all of us going over to John's parents' house for a big family Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Beating everyone at Scrabble.
  • Spinning Alice (the cat) around on the hardwood floor.
  • Watching Ice Age II.
  • Hazelnut pancakes with pumpkin butter.
  • Butter sculpting with John (not with the pumpkin butter, though).
  • The Portland Farmer's Market, literally right outside their building.
  • Going to Powell's (of course).
I had a remarkably easy time at the airports on both ends of the trip, perhaps because I flew on Thursday and Saturday, rather than, say, Wednesday and Sunday. On the way back, though, the woman sitting next to me clearly did not like being in planes. She spent half the time drinking a series of Bloody Marys (picking the ice out and hiding it in her doggie bag), then the rest of the time moaning drunkenly and talking to herself about how she "can't stand it," and then, mercifully, falling asleep. I'm glad it was a short flight.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Carbon Offsets

I'm flying up to Portland this weekend to visit Lacey, along with Dad and Betty Lue. Thanks to Sustainable Travel International I learned that my personal share of this flight will create about 0.37 tons of CO2 emissions. But for less than $7.00, I can offset that through their MyClimate program, which invests in climate protection projects around the world. Not as good as avoiding the pollution in the first place, of course, but a heck of a lot better than nothing. In addition to air travel, there's a calculator to figure out carbon offsets for other things, like driving and home energy. There are other companies out there that offer other sorts of offset programs as well, some approaching it more along the lines of planting a certain number of trees, if you prefer that sort of thing. So if you're traveling this holiday season (or anytime, really) consider chipping in a few extra dollars at one of these places and help clean up a little bit of this mess we're all making.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I recently finished reading (well, listening to) The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. The dilemma in question is that, unlike a cow which will generally just eat grass and not worry about it, omnivores can eat nearly anything, and thus have to constantly decide which of the available anythings they should eat. As human beings, we've complicated this even beyond the mere question of whether something will poison or nourish us. With the immense industrial systems we've set up to produce and deliver our food, we also have to (or should) consider the effect our food has on our planet, the morality of how we're treating the animals, and more. As Pollan says throughout, food has to be not only good to eat, but good to think. We should be able to know exactly what went into our meals and still be okay with eating them.

The book is subtitled "A Natural History of Four Meals." The meals in question are "industrial" (most of what we typically buy in the stores these days), two kinds of organic, and directly hunted/grown/foraged (mostly for comparative purposes). The industrial part was the scariest. I hadn't realized what a huge part of our food system is completely based on corn. Corn has basically gotten itself into a symbiotic relationship with human beings, where we help it reproduce and grow as a species far more than it could have managed on its own, all the while scrambling to find more ways to use it all up, and get people to consume more. It was giving me serious flashbacks to Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide (augmented by the fact that this book has one of the same narrators from those). Add to that the mega-corporations running the stuff, not to mention the government subsidies that dig us farther into the corn hole, and the whole thing just looks like an unstoppable behemoth.

In terms of organic, it turns out that industrial organic (e.g. Whole Foods kind of stuff) is nearly as bad. They eschew a lot of the chemicals regular industrial systems use, but since they don't practice any other sustainable techniques, that just makes it harder to protect crops from disease, keep the livestock healthy, etc. There's also a lot of deception, e.g. with "free range" chickens, that basically just have a small door to a bare patch of ground that they never venture into in their few short weeks of life. Plus there's still the issue of transporting all this food around the country or around the world, which adds the same environmental and health costs as hauling around the industrial food.

Pollan's biggest strength, I think, is his ability to convey complete systems in his writing, giving us vivid, and detailed yet panoramic views of how so many pieces are interwoven to make a functional whole. Or, in the case of the industrial food system, a dysfunctional whole. The meat-raising division is completely cut off from the agricultural, and both get heavy doses of chemicals thrown in. Both systems create enormous amounts of toxic waste that would otherwise, in nature, have been recycled to nourish other parts of the ecosystem. One of the book's most memorable moments is when he points out that we've basically used all our wonderful technology and ingenuity to split one simple, elegant solution into multiple complex problems. The best example of the alternative -- that is, keeping a simple, integrated solution in the context of organized farming -- is in his "beyond organic" example, the second of the two organics, after the industrial variety. The farm he describes is completely self-sustaining. The chickens and pigs and cows and grass and trees and everything else are balanced absolutely perfectly, so that every part of the puzzle is beneficial to every other part. It's really beautiful how it all works. The farm also does strictly local business, and refuses to ship its food anywhere it can't easily drive a van around to.

Anyway, the whole thing is rather eye-opening. I highly recommend reading it and considering whether your food is good to eat or good to think, or neither or both.

Friday, November 03, 2006


If any of you have been wondering where the November flood of fiction is, I'm sorry. No Nanowrimo for me this year. The last two years were fun, but this time I'm just not feeling up to it in terms of time, energy or ideas. I still have mixed feelings about not doing it, though. On the one hand it was a definite relief to make that decision, but on the other, writing entire novels is really cool and it's a lot of fun to have done once it's over. Oh well. It would be nice to find some other creative project to work on, though. ("How about making an elemeter baromophant?" I hear you suggest. Good idea, but I've already got one.)

If nothing else, I should at least post to my blog more often. (NaBloPoMo, anyone?)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Adaptation Jones

Last night, I got to go to a private screening at Google of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (info here and here). This movie is absolutely incredible, and I wish I could tell you all to go see it, but unfortunately that's easier said than done since it's not generally available. There is a short trailer you can watch, though.

Here's the deal: In 1982, a few 12-year-old kids in Mississippi get together and decide they're going to remake the entire Raiders of the Lost Ark movie themselves, scene for scene, shot by shot, line for line. And over the course of the next six years, they actually do it, pulling in friends for various roles, piecing together sets and costumes and props from whatever they can find, and doing all their own stunts and special effects. The result is completely delightful and inspiring. A couple of decades after they finished, it was somehow resurrected and shown at a film festival, where it just blew everyone away. As one review put it, it's like "seeing [the movie] again literally for the first time."

Some of my favorite things, from both the film and Q&A with the (now grown up) masterminds behind it:
  • The scene where the bar is set on fire was done in one of their mom's kitchen, pouring rubbing alcohol over things and actually setting them on fire.
  • With spider monkeys not generally available in Mississippi, they used the lead actor's (very patient) medium-small dog to carry around and drape over their shoulders for the monkey scenes.
  • For the fight on the truck, they had a truck with no engine that was either pushed or pulled (depending on the camera angle) by people off-camera to give the illusion of driving. (It looked a little slow, but other than that, I couldn't tell they weren't actually driving.)
  • The-kid-who-played-Indy had his first ever real kiss in the "where doesn't it hurt" scene.
  • The ship rats appeared to be somebody's pet gerbils.
Anyway, the whole thing was immense fun, and if you ever come across an opportunity to see it, I highly recommend doing so.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Riddle Cemetery

Ashes We had a family trip up to Riddle, Oregon this weekend. Uncle Jim had been keeping Grandma Jackie and Grandpa Marsh's ashes for three months and three years, respectively, and it was time to get everyone together with the two of them one more time. Jackie was a Riddle before she was a Waldon, and it was her family who founded the tiny (pop. 145) town of Riddle several generations previously. The cemetery there is full of Riddle headstones, and Jackie and Marsh's was waiting for them, next to Jude and Bob's, her father and brother. Jim brought the shovels, and we dug them a cozy little space, sang and prayed a bit, and said goodbye. We've had a Celebration of Life for each of them already, so this last little bit with just the family around was a good way to complete things. Those of us who weren't able to get up to Oregon were there in spirit.

The rest of the trip, though brief, was also good. I was glad to get to spend a lot of time with Dad (and a bit with Lacey) on the drives up and down. The whole family had dinner Saturday night at Wiley's World in Ashland, which I highly recommend to anyone who happens to be around there. The highlight there was the marionberry cobbler, made with berries from a bush right behind the restaurant, with homemade ice cream. Everything was fantastic, though, and I was waddling my way out when we were done. We also went to the Oregon Cabaret Theatre to see a show called Return to Planet Lisa. Lisa Koch has a pretty funny music/comedy act, which she performs in a variety of different personas. And Riddle even made an appearance in a song (to the tune of My Favorite Things) about small southern Oregon towns no one has heard of. That amused me.

Friday, October 06, 2006

1.93 Books Per Day

In approximately the last month, I've acquired 58 books. This is wonderful. The major sources have been the Menlo Park Library book sale,*, and Mom downsizing her library. Luckily, I also picked up a new bookcase left on the sidewalk. Still, I should probably slow down a bit soon. Yes, I'm a bookaholic.

* Technically, I've also given away a dozen books on BookMooch, which would affect the overall change in my library size. Still.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Swing Central's SYTYCD

Swing Central has started up a So You Think You Can PARTNER Dance competition this month (info here), as a take-off on the TV show. It started last night, and before you all start wondering, no, I'm not in it. I was having partner-finding difficulties for a while, then I did too many redowas last week and got unhappy shins and ankles. So at that point I just got kind of frustrated with the whole thing and wrote it off. (My dancing parts are feeling mostly better now, though I was dancing rather gingerly last night.) But I will be going to Swing Central every Tuesday this month to watch the contest, at least.

Last night they started things off by playing a series of different dances (swing, waltz, tango, salsa, cha cha, polka, hustle) for the contestants to dance to. They had the option to dance to anything they wanted, as long as they did at least three of them. In future weeks, they'll have fewer dances, with one particular style each week being required. As the competition gets narrowed down, the couples will also start getting to dance one at a time, rather than all at once, which will make it easier to be a spectator/voter. There were definitely some people I watched more than others when they all danced together, though that probably bodes well for them anyway, if they can hold attention like that.

Anyway, I'm not going to publicly post my prediction for who will win this, since I know too many of the people involved. It'll be fun to watch, though. I encourage everyone to come by for some swing dancing and spectating. (The competition happens in the middle of the regular Swing Central dance, so there's still lots of just regular dancing.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Synergy is my new X-Tunes

When I got my new MacBook, I lamented the fact that I couldn't get X-Tunes to work on it. But thanks to Case I recently discovered Synergy, which seems to be just what I needed. It took a bit of configuring to get it the way I wanted, and I can't get the keyboard shortcuts to precisely match what I was used to, but I'm liking it nonetheless. This kind of thing is practically essential if I want to listen to music at work. I don't like leave my music playing while I'm not listening to it, but I also need to be able to turn it off at a moment's notice to pay attention to folks asking me questions and whatnot. With some quick keyboard shortcuts, it's a snap. I'm using Cmd+Opt as the modifier keys, with Return and the arrows, for pause/play, volume and track skipping. My main feature request is to show the amount of time elapsed or remaining on the current track when you're viewing the floater display. There are probably some other niggly little things I'd enjoy, but that's what I most miss.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

WCS Mondays

The last few Mondays I've been goin to Steppin' Out for some West Coast Swing, and so far I've tried both the beginning and intermediate classes. Richard (K.) was the guy I took classes from before, so I knew he was good. The intermediate class he teaches is a decent pace and seemed to be stuff I could basically manage. I opted to start out with a few weeks of Stephanie's beginning class, though. It's much slower, but I think it's good for me to slow down and concentrate on the basics for a bit so I can maybe do them right. And she's just a hoot as a teacher, too. The #1 rule in her class is "Fake enthusiasm!" (which ends up keeping everyone energized with real enthusiasm). And whenever you learn a particular new rhythm or step or term, you have to pinch yourself somewhere, to add it in to physical memory (and to make Stephanie laugh). It's fun.

Another thing I like about the lessons in general there is that between the 7:00 and 8:00 classes, Richard and Stephanie do a dance together for everyone to watch. I think it's good for students to get that shot of really good dancing each week, to stay inspired. Plus, I just love watching them. I've noticed this about Richard before in particular, that even though it's not inherently a funny dance, I'll sometimes just laugh in delight when I'm watching, just because it's so cool.

So anyway, between that and Blues, I'm definitely in a different sort of dance phase right now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tuesday Bluesday

Friday Night Waltz was having a Tuesday Night Blues thing last night, so I went to check that out, not ever having really learned Blues before. And I ended up enjoying it more than I expected to. The class seemed to start out slow and I was skeptical at first, but I was surprised at how much we were doing by the end that really felt like Blues. What frustrated me initially was how little Mihai taught in the way of explicit steps, since I usually like things very cut and dried when I'm beginning. But I eventually figured out how we were basically elevating the partner connection to the status of "steps." The concept of "micro blues" really helped in that respect: shrinking your motions until they're so small that an outside observer would hardly think you're dancing at all, but at which point you can lead literally with just a breath, or a twitch of a muscle. Absolutely fascinating.

Mihai also integrated musicality into the lesson right from the beginning, which I appreciate, coming from the musician perspective. A lot of teachers will cover the topic of musicality at some point, but often it's in a separate class of its own, or mentioned in bits and pieces every once in a while, as opposed to being woven into the dance inseparably. Since a lot of what dancing is to me is another way of being a musician, I think this is a great approach. (In spite of the fact that more actual "steps" instruction might have benefited me more, personally, since I do the musicality thing naturally anyway.)

One final interesting concept from the lesson had to do with the frame in the "pointy end" hands (i.e. lead's left, follow's right). I have the firm waltz frame so thoroughly ingrained that the idea of having loose arms moving around for non-leading purposes is tricky to get used to. The way I understand the concept is that you kind of have noodle arms, but they're still holding themselves up, not dragging like deadweight on your partner. So they're like "live noodle arms" or something. That allows for some flexibility so the leader can move the joined hands around as an additional dimension for expressing the music.

Anyway, it was all pretty neat. There's a Sunday night blues dance series (re)starting in Campbell this weekend, so I'm thinking I'll go to that, too.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Musical Stress Responses

At some point in college, I don't remember exactly when, I noticed something that happened every dead week and finals week. I would consistently get the song "Everything You Know Is Wrong" by Weird Al stuck in my head, overriding my usual daily earworms. Kind of ironic for final exams, but luckily I managed to pass everything anyway.

A few weeks ago -- just before, during and after launching Blogger in beta -- I found the same thing happening. I guess something about stress and time pressure just automatically triggered the song. It certainly wasn't deliberate, especially since it took me a minute to get the connection after I started whistling it to myself.

My last few weeks have been exceedingly busy and tiring, and last week in particular was the longest short week I can remember having. Then yesterday I had to get up early again to go help Mom move, which made for a long and physcially tiring day. Somewhere in the middle of it I got the back of my thumb sliced open by a large piece of broken glass falling out a picture frame. And while I'm staunching the flow of blood, guess what pops into my head? Part of the first verse of that song, " I'm laying bleeding there on the asphalt...." So that's stuck for the rest of the day again.

It's a good song, at least. It has a very good, continuous flow to it, and I love the way the rhythm changes and pushes everything along. I just hope I don't eventually get too many bad associations with it and stop liking it as a song.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Accented Historians

I recently finished listening to The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, which was a very enjoyable 30 hours. I got Mom started on the deadtree version of it as well, and tonight read a few chapters aloud to her while she did some packing for her impending move. The chapters I read mostly took place in Istanbul, so I got a considerable amount of practice doing a Turkish accent, as well as a bit of Romanian for one of the main characters. Not something I'd ever tried before, but I had the characters' voices in my head from Paul Michael's excellent narration, so that helped. I love how some of those accents really roll the syllables around so thoroughly while they're still way back in the throat. The back of my tongue is actually kind of tired from it. Fun, though.

While I'm talking about this book, I'd like to say that the title and cover could both really have been chosen much better. As it is, it actually took me a long time before I realized this was something I actually wanted to read. First of all, I don't know what that weird cover design is all about, with a sideways slice of someone's head spliced on top of a curtain or something. (The back cover is actually kind of cool, though.) And "The Historian" isn't much of a title (though it eventually turns out to be kind of interesting to see exactly who all the historians are in the story). Something like "The Book of Drakulya" or even just "Drakulya" would have worked and been more interesting, I think. Though perhaps it doesn't quite catch the right feel of the overall book. Maybe "Drakulya's Historian" as a compromise.

Good book overall, though, and I thought it was neat following multiple generations of the storyline at once. You have to be kind of willing to be a vicarious historian yourself to read it, though, as there is much more historicizing than actual action, and it could get to be a long slog if you're not into reading letters from medieval monks or whatever. Heh, so maybe it is an appropriate title afterall. It's more interesting than it sounds, though.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Idle What Now?

I took Mom on a belated-birthday movie outing today, and since we both wanted to see a dancey sort of movie, it was a toss-up between Idlewild and Step Up. We didn't really know much about either one, except that they're supposedly hip hop plus swing and hip hop plus ballet, respectively. So we went with Idlewild. Turns out neither of us is much into gangster movies. Mom said it reminded her of the time years ago when she accidentally went to see Poltergeist instead of E.T. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Did I Call That Or What?

Benji won! (Just like I thought he would.) I must say, though, that they could have organized that last show much better. Eliminating the two girls and then pulling the envelope on Benji and saying "I'm sorry... but you'll have to wait until after the break," -- that was just cruel. And then when he won they went almost instantly to the credits. No final dance, no look back at his auditions, no nothing. I feel very incomplete. They should have cut out those extra hip hop guest performances, which were boring anyway, and left more time at the end.

However, I did like all the repeat performances from the top 20 competitors, with each of the top four doing their favorite couple dance and a solo, and each of the judges picking a favorite. I got to see most of my own favorites again that way, though I really would have liked a repeat of Ivan and Allison's tango and second contemporary piece. Those two as a couple had some of the best choreographies (including their first contemporary, which they did do tonight), even though I still think Benji was the individual dancer who most deserved to win. So much fun to watch. I wish I could see him actually do some west coast swing, though.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


So far this weekend I've had at least three separate people come up and express to me how sad they are that I'm moving to Seattle. Unfortunately, no one has yet been able to tell me when I'm moving, which is a bit worrisome, since I haven't started packing. I'm still trying to track down a decent "why," as well as the "when," but all we really seem to have so far is the "who" and the "where." If anyone has any further details, please let me know. Luckily, Tracey has offered to put the entire dancing population of the bay area in a bus and haul everyone up to Seattle with me if I move there, which is nice, since I don't really want to leave here anyway.

Note: If anyone wants to help spread the alternative rumor, the story is that I married a biker chick, moved to Seattle to practice underwater welding, opened a motorcycle repair shop that went bust, and now am actually moving back to the bay area. Thanks to Lisa for helping sort this all out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


This is a cool idea: It's a points-based book trading system. You can list books you own and want to give away, then when someone requests one, you send it and earn a point. With each point, you can request someone else to send you a book. The only cost is the postage. If you sign up and list 10 books to give away, you get a starter point to get you going before you even have to send anything out. Should be good, assuming they get enough people and books in there to have a decent amount of interesting things available. I'm going to try it out.
[via Lifehacker]

Update: Within a day of signing up, I sent off one book, got credits for two more, and requested one to be sent to me. Good start!

P.S. You can view my wishlist if you want to send me something, or see the books I have available to trade in my inventory.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Newport Redowas

I came up with a couple clevernesses at Friday Night Waltz last night. First of all, I realized that you could do cross-step hemiola pivots, but starting on the 4 instead of the 1. Same concept, but very different feel, at least for the lead (I haven't tried following it yet). Doing the waterfall cross behind thing on the crosses helps, too, I think. That one was pretty straightforward.

The other invention was mothered by necessity, since there were a number of waltzes last night at awkward tempos, either slow rotaries or fast cross-steps. This idea works best for that in-between tempo, preferably with some good percussion or something to keep the energy up and make the music seem faster than it is. You start off by doing Newports, which I know as part of the Bronco schottische, but which I tend to forget are actually waltz steps. For those who don't know it, you basically do rotary waltz steps, but add in extra "ands": 1-and-2-and-3, 4-and-5-and-6. You're just kind of barely pushing off on the "ands," not making real steps, so it makes it bouncier even though it's slower than a regular rotary. Now, if you want to kick it up one more notch, you start doing redowas on top of the Newports. I haven't thought of a good way to really describe this, other than "think redowa and stretch it out more." But anyway, it works and it's great because you can match redowa energy in the music, even if the tempo wouldn't ordinarily support it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More Rejuvenile

Hey, so if the author of a book wants to leave a comment on my blog I'm more than willing to write a bit more about it. Plus, the subjective temperature of my brain has dropped back below 150° again, which helps.

One of the main reasons Rejuvenile was so fun is that I firmly identify myself as one of the title characters. I like seeing a quality that I take as an important part of myself newly elevated to the status of book-worthy. Also, in exploring all the different varieties of rejuveniles and kidults, it made me think more about how much of this trend I really see around me. In a way I suppose that makes it lose a bit of its "specialness," but I think it's worth it, since it's a happy thing to be aware of in the world.

It's also good for those of us rejuveniles who occasionally feel a bit of a nagging worry or guilt about when they might feel like a "real" adult. (And c'mon, it happens to all of us at least sometimes, right?) I think its success in this area is primarily due to the sense of modularity with which it describes the various lifestyle choices. For instance, you might be someone who takes their job responsibilities very seriously, gives regularly to charity and invests sensibly in mutual funds, but then also goes nuts over Harry Potter books and can spend hours playing Legos with a toddler. Other people may swap out the Harry Potter for skateboarding, and not know anything about investing but be a dedicated parent. Or whatever the case may be. Presented this way, it has less a feeling of someone lacking the maturity to grow out of their childhood habits, and more a sense of people deliberately maintaining the most meaningful aspects of their lives and integrating them with the normal growth process. Obviously, there are people who become rejuveniles merely by remaining childish, rather than deliberately being childlike, and those can often be more on the dysfunctional side. But overall, the emphasis is on the positive.

One question I would like to pose, though, is one of terminology. I'd say a lot of the people I know in my age range (say the 20's generally) are rejuveniles of some sort, whether in terms of activities, sense of humor, or whatever. And the man/boy, woman/girl sets of words seem to bookend these sorts of people without really applying quite correctly. On the male side, referring to someone as a "guy" is a nice easy way to get around this, but I have more trouble on the female side, since "gal," the obvious "guy" equivalent, isn't really used as commonly or in the same way. If someone is a very silly, fun-loving individual, it might seem overly formal or old-sounding to call her a "woman," but if she's say, 28, I'd also wonder if that really counts as a "girl" anymore, on a purely numerical basis. What's the appropriate age-range for those terms? Of course, now that I think about it some more, it occurs to me that a nice way around it is to just call them a "friend." Works for a lot of situations, at least.

Anyway, fun book, I recommend it. Amazon's little "better together" deals should pair it up with some Harry Potter books or something. Or maybe some coloring books. That would be funny.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


"Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them."
- Dr. Seuss

That quote cracks me up. It's the opening of a book called Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up, by Christopher Noxon. A very good book about being a childlike (but not childish) adult and just generally having fun however you want to grow up. If it weren't too hot to think right now, I might write more about it. :-/

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So I Think I'll Predict a Winner

Okay, so I feel like a total dweeb blogging about who I think is going to win a reality show, but I have to admit that So You Think You Can Dance really does have me hooked. I also think it's been interesting to watch the contrast of Dimitry and Benji through the show. Dimitry has the sort of traditionally gorgeous, muscular, chest-baring look that would stereotypically make women swoon, but his dancing never really seems to quite work for me, and I get tired of watching him. Whereas Benji is the geeky, goofy one, but my god he can move like nobody's business. I love watching him dance, and I really like seeing the sort of support he's getting from the audience. It gives hope to those of us who are decidedly non-Dimitrys. :-) I'm going to go ahead and peg him now for the overall winner, though I really wish there could be a winner from each gender, so Donyelle could win also. Short term, I think Ryan and Martha are the next to be eliminated (but Dimitry's next after Ryan).

As long as I'm here, I'll also mention that I've been really surprised at how much I've enjoyed the "contemporary" routines so far. That's a pretty generic category that I never really had a concept of before, and didn't really expect to like. But Ivan/Allison last week and Travis/Heidi this week both had incredible dances in that style. They're in that weird category of dances I really enjoyed watching but didn't have any urge to actually do myself.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Musical Snapshot

Every once in a while I fire up and see what it has to offer in terms of new musical recommendations. It tends to be pretty hit and miss, with rather more misses than hits, but it does occasionally come up with some good ones. The three memorable ones this time around were:
  • Hank Williams, Sr. - Honky Tonk Blues
  • Reel Big Fish - She Has a Girlfriend Now
  • The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again
Their choruses have been vying with each other for the title of Alpha Earworm for the last few days, which is kind of a weird sensation, since they're all pretty different. The other-worldly female vocal line in Bigmouth may be pushing that one into first place, but the one yodel in Honky Tonk sounds pretty funny interrupting it periodically.

Anyway, that's what the inside of my head sounds like right now. Anyone else have some other recommendations they want to throw my way?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

So I Went Dancing

A couple of very good dances this weekend. First was FNW, with Anne teaching a tango class beforehand. I went to that and mostly got a review of a few things I learned when I took Argentine Tango a few years ago, but it was good to get it back into the front of my brain again. The rest of the evening had some fun dances, including a doozy of a polka with Eric and Bob swapping the lead but me having to follow all the time. Eric and I had some of the most ground-covering redowas ever at the end there, and I was about to keel over afterwards, but it was worth it. I gotta get better at omni-position polka, though, not to mention transition via genuflection.

Last night, Footloose (from North Carolina) was playing at the Palo Alto contra, so I went there for the first time in a while. Good to be back contradancing again, and with a really good crowd. Great music, too -- the wa-wa pedal on the fiddle was especially mind-blowing. I want one of those to play with. And I had a couple of excellent waltzes with Tracey. In the first one, rotary tempo, we did a combination of canter-pivots and underarm-turns, all while doing a left-turn waltz. I've been leading that a lot recently in right-turn, but Tracey was following so well that I didn't realize it might be harder going left until it was already done (and easily, too, I might add). I think we were going around a corner at the time too, so we got about the maximum amount of turning possible. Good stuff.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So You Think You Can Dance

Mom got me started watching So You Think You Can Dance last week. I love watching great dancers learn new styles and perform in them every week; it just seems like so much fun. The pace of the show is driving me crazy, though. I wish they'd trim the shows down to about half the time. Cut out all the bits about reshowing and insulting the people who didn't make it on to the show, and heck, I wouldn't even mind skipping the judges a lot of the time. Then the elimination show just drags on forever. Argh. I just want to watch them all learning and performing. Oh well.

I don't know quite what I thought of the Viennese Waltz and West Coast Swing routines last night. Maybe that's what those dances are like in competitive ballroom, but it didn't really seem natural to me. But still, everything was fun to watch, and it's incredible what these people manage to do with just a week of preparation.

And speaking of learning new dances, I just signed myself up for a few hip hop lessons, starting next Friday. We'll see how silly I can make myself look with that. Should be interesting.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I walked to work today

I should really start doing that more often. On a related note, I saw An Inconvenient Truth yesterday. If you haven't been to that already, go see it. Pretty incredible, scary stuff.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lots of Stuff

If you look up "packrat" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of my Grandma Jackie. Her two-bedroom apartment was stuffed to the gills, basically just leaving linear paths to move around in, with no actual space. Now that she's gone, my dad's family gets to go through and figure out what to do with it all. I spent all weekend and also yesterday evening up there, along with Dad, all of his siblings, and varying numbers of cousins. So at any given time there were usually 6-9 of us trying to maneuver around in this little space, preferrably without breaking anything.

A lot of the stuff, of course, is getting divvied up between family members, based on either sentimental or practical desires. Even more of it is getting donated to the local hospice thrift shop. We started by filling the bed of a pickup truck with garbage bags filled with clothes. There's still another batch of those to go, too, I think. And then the books. After we had each taken a box or a few for ourselves, and Aprill and Lamar had gotten several boxes of books on Christianity for their church's library, there were still 34 boxes left to get donated. Then a few more of music and videos and such. Plus trinkets, figurines and knicknacks up the wazoo (the raccoons alone took up a box of their own). And there was plenty of pure junk as well. I lost track of how many boxes of stuff I threw away. And even after all of this, there's probably still more stuff in that apartment than I own myself, but progress is definitely visible.

The very sentimental stuff is getting handled more carefully, of course. The evolving method is to pick an item type (e.g. pictures on the walls) and then have people take turns choosing what they want to take, working through a hierarchy of siblings by age, and then into the second generation (mine) when the first has the most important stuff, and occasionally into the third, since Kathy's granddaughter Jessie was there last night as well. Anything left over after that is up for grabs until it gets packed away.

Anyway, it's been a really interesting few days. I think it's been good to have so much of the family together and working on a big project together like this. There's a huge mix of personality types in the group, but on some level there's definitely something that we all "get" about Jackie and her passing. We can all miss her and love her while still laughing at her eccentricities and her ability to just "keep on giving." So it's been good.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Grandma Jackie

Grandma Jackie Grandma Jackie passed away this morning. For 16 years various doctors have been telling her that her time was nearly up, but she just kept trucking along, traveling the world, being active in her church community, and just generally loving everyone who came within reach. When she had an accident last month and was hospitalized for a week, though, even she started admitting it was probably the beginning of the end. But she was ready, and was happy with her life, and it gave the family all time to get together and prepare. On Monday I was up visiting her and got a chance to record her talking about her life, and about Grandpa Marsh, and her brother Bob, and the places she had traveled, and other memories. Dad said it was one of the last few real conversations anyone got to have with her, since she spent the last few days heavily medicated and just generally fading out. So I feel very blessed to have gotten to do that. She died this morning with Aunt Pat, and I think it was all pretty easy and peaceful.

As I've thought about all this, both today and in anticipation over the last few weeks, I've realized that Grandma Jackie was not only a good role model for living, but also a good role model for dying. That sounds odd to say, but I think it's an important thing that isn't thought about often enough. She lived her life (and more of it than anyone had expected) doing everything she thought was important and meaningful, and she was happy with it, and at peace, and ready for the transition. She made sure to get visits from everyone she could towards the end, and she had her children with her in shifts constantly for the last few weeks. Uncle Jim and Lacey also both made it down from Oregon just the other day, and I was up again last night with Lacey, Aprill & Lamar, Dad and all three of his siblings, so it was a really good gathering. We all got to spend some time with each other and with Jackie, and to talk to her. She wasn't really able to respond much, but I think it was really good for her to have so much family love around her during the final stages. I couldn't have asked for things to have gone much better than that.

I'm heading up to Rossmoor tonight to be with family, and I'll probably be up there most of the weekend.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Indistinguishable From Magic

A while back I mentioned that I would post more about my theories on magic, and I still intend to. It will probably just come in bits and pieces, though, especially since my ideas on the subject are under constant development. Anyway, here's one more bit of it, to expand on some of my recent comments on Tarot cards. One thing I said there was that I don't explicitly look for anything magical to come out of a Tarot reading (or any other sort of divination system for that matter). However, I do believe there is a form of magic involved.

A favorite quote of mine is from a book called Why Be Jewish?, by David J. Wolpe: "Prophets do not foretell the future; rather, they see deeply into the present." This is more or less what I mean when I say I use tools like the Tarot, Medicine Cards, whatever, as thinking aids. By using them to focus my attention in certain areas, I can see more deeply into the present and learn why I think, feel or act the way I do. The better I do at this, the better idea I have of where things are going, since the future flows from the present. I'm not saying this in a completely deterministic way, though, as if we have no free will. This would merely be an indication of where things are going given the conditions that currently exist. If you don't like what you see, then you will hopefully also be having some insight on what you need to do to change it.

Now, one can imagine a person developing such skill at this sort of thing that they really do appear to be literally seeing into the future, or "fortune telling" in a stereotypical view of Tarot. Like Arthur C. Clarke's famous quote about "any sufficiently advanced technology," this person's skill would be indistinguishable from magic. And this is what I'm aiming at in my general theory of magic: that it is based in reality and therefore, in some degree, accessible to us without requiring supernatural or fictional powers. I'm certainly only a novice wizard, if you want to think of it that way, since my insights in Tarot readings are probably relatively minor as these things go. And I can really only do this for myself -- I don't think I could properly interpret cards for someone else. But the interesting point is that this is something I can do, and therefore something I can get better at. Which is why I think magic is possible.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Year of the Cubed Slip Jig

Twenty-seven is an interesting number, since being 3 x 3 x 3 makes it not only a cube but a slip jig. Also, slip jigs often make good cross-step waltzes, which is another reason this is a good number. It also reminds me somewhat of 25, in being very pointed, though I think it has more motion and less stability to it. But all the nines involved make it also very secretive.

On a final note, apparently I share a birthday with Scott Adams.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Tarot Clustering

I tend to approach Tarot (and other related things, like Angel Cards or Medicine Cards) similar to the way I think about dream interpretation. I don't necessarily look for it to be magical -- though "uncannily accurate" tends to happen a lot -- but it provides a very interesting way to think about things and focus the concentration. One thing I like to do is the "pathway" spread that I learned from my set of Medicine Cards, even though I currently prefer to use Tarot cards for it. I also like the idea of looking at cards' proximity to each other in a shuffled deck, which direction they're facing, etc., for additional interpretations or influences on meaning.

Anyway, based on that latter concept, I had what I thought was an interesting idea for a very large-scale, all-encompassing Tarot spread. Shuffle the deck as desired and then spread the whole thing out on the floor, with all the cards showing face up. Then group them all into clusters based on their proximity to certain predetermined, significant cards. E.g. if you're into this kind of stuff, you may have a card in mind that best represents you personally, so use that as one of them. The Lovers could represent your current romantic relationship, something like (just off the top of my head) the 10 of Cups could be family, somethings else for career, etc. Alternatively, you could choose to group cards around all the Major Arcana. Either way, the remaining cards could reveal influences on all those areas based on where they fall in which clusters. The central "point" cards wouldn't be entirely excluded from influencing others, since you could look at where they all fall in relation to each other. I think this would make for a fascinating interpretation project, though it would obviously require a good chunk of time, involving the entire deck like this.

By the way, if anyone's interested, I love the Robin Wood Tarot deck. (Thanks, Antonia!)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sirius Black and X-Tunes

I got my new MacBook last weekend. I'd been waiting very patiently for the MacBook Pros to come out in something smaller than 15" and the un-pro-ified MacBooks are still a tad bigger than my old 12" Powerbook, but close enough. I went with the black version rather than the white, though I'm bummed they don't have these in titanium. The white ones look a little too Fisher-Pricey for my taste, but the black is kind of cool. And that means I can name it Sirius Black. (Naming is always a very important part of getting a new computer.) Also, the two partitions on my external hard drive are now called Padfoot and Prongs. (Yeah, I'm a Harry Potter geek. So sue me.)

The overall transition has been pretty easy and painless, and I love having a zippy new machine with fewer problems. The only thing I'm really missing that I can't get to work is X-Tunes. That's a little iTunes controller that lets you just hit a key combination and then use Return and the arrow keys to play, pause, skip and change the volume on iTunes tracks. It's absolutely fantastic, but doesn't appear to work on the new Intel Mac system. Not only that, but the email address on the site bounces, so I can't contact the guy who developed it. Phooey. Anybody else know any cool little iTunes controllers like this? I was just going to use the Dashboard widget, but that doesn't accept keyboard commands, which is really the important part.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Alright, just because I haven't posted for a while. Did you know that my full name can be rearranged to spell "slosh a warm dragon"? Or "oh, worms as garland." Or, perhaps best of all, "world has an orgasm." Wow. I knew I was put here on Earth to do big things, but... gee golly.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Speed Waltzing

Yesterday I was trying to describe what it was like doing the speed waltzing competition at Big Dance, since it was pretty interesting (to me, anyway). In fact, I kind of wanted to do it again, even after two rounds at hyper-speed. What I started doing was consciously moving all the energy and activity as far down in my body as I could. I relaxed my head and shoulders, and my arms and torso, while still keeping a good frame, of course. And I watched my breath to keep it calm and even. Then I even pushed all the energy in my legs farther and farther down until it felt as though only my feet were moving, like the roadrunner whose feet spin into a blur as he just leans his body away from Wile. E. Coyote and zips off. It was kind of like when I've been running for a while and then decide to speed up for a little bit, and just magically fling my feet out farther, extending my stride, so all of a sudden I'm going faster with (temporarily) no (apparent) extra exertion of energy. It's really a fun feeling, and in a waltz that's constantly speeding up it just gets you spinning around like crazy until the rest of the dance floor blurs into nothing. I don't know how Lacey was doing it, but she can zip around like nobody's business somehow or other, so she was an excellent partner. (Yay Lacey!) And if I hadn't been starting to tire, I would have caught that last tempo change a measure or two sooner. :-)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Big Dance in Disguise

The theme this year was "Masquerade: Big Dance in Disguise," which was appropriate, given that holding it in Arrillaga rather than Roble made the whole thing very different from usual. Especially with only having one room for everything. But it was still fun. The performances were all very good, especially Swingtime and Decadance. I want to make sure to go to their spring shows this year. Lacey and I almost won the speed waltzing competition, but got tagged out for being just slightly too slow to catch one of the very last tempo changes. Phooey. Lacey also ended up sitting out a lot of the night later on because of her ankle, but I did get to dance a lot with Quena who came down from Davis, and that was fun. I had many other lovely dances with various people as well, including some folks I hadn't gotten to dance with for a long time. After learning the dawn mazurka last week, I never got around to reviewing it, so I snagged Eric's notes around 5 AM and tried to remember how it all went. I got through it by the skin of my teeth and thanks to various helpful set-mates. (There were 10 mazurka sets, a new record I think.) For the last waltz, Quena and I did a basket chair sort of thing with our arms and carried Lacey through the dance, which really worked surprisingly well. We did both right and left turn waltz, some lifts (bouncing Lacey up in the air a little bit), and even a very clumsy, lumpy jumping sort of thing for the redowa part of Erin's Shore. And we only had a few slight bumps with other people, probably no more than we would have had waltzing normally in that crowd. So it was moderately ridiculous but made us all happy. 212 people made it all the way through to 6 AM, and for me it was my 7th year in a row. We eventually got home and went to bed around the time my alarm would normally wake me up on weekdays. I eventually staggered awake around 2:30 this afternoon, and I'm going to take it pretty easy for what's left of the day.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Be Ridiculous

How to Exercise an Open Mind: "Simply put, all one needs to grow his or her brain is to do unique, random, different, and ridiculous things as often as possible."

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Walls, Drawings and Adverbs

Living Room Wall Update After the initial flurry of activity, progress on the living room wall art project has slowed a bit, but it's definitely still going. I did some more work on it this weekend (compare with the previous update). I also got some unexpected assistance with it from a complete stranger who found my blog and decided to email me scans of six lovely little watercolors, which I printed out and added to the design. I was pretty tickled at that, since I figured at most a small handful of people I know would actually contribute. (Side note: This is actually the only contribution I've gotten so far, so all friends, family and acquaintances are hereby given a friendly poke in the ribs.)

As I was drawing, cutting and pasting this weekend, I also watched MirrorMask, which I now have a DVD of. I rarely buy DVDs, so take this as a very strong recommendation. I love the movie as much as the book and it relates a lot to this art project. Helena draws entire worlds from her imagination and plasters them all over her walls, and then all her adventures seem to take place inside them. The whole thing is a wonderful celebration of creativity and imagination, which is what I always want to have more of in my life.

And while we're on the subject of relating books to walls, I'll mention that I just finished reading (listening to, actually) Adverbs, by Daniel Handler. It was an interesting book, though I'd have to say that I wasn't so much in ecstasies with it to the extent that I was with Watch Your Mouth or The Basic Eight. But what I liked about it was that it was a series of short stories (all titled with an adverb intended to modify the verb "love") but they were all still connected into a unified whole. This is a general theme of things I like across various art forms. Another excellent example of it in literature would be Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. In art, perhaps Kandinsky's Small Worlds, which I saw at the NY MOMA. In music (and art) there's something like Satie's Sports et Divertissements. And in my house, there are dozens of miniature drawings, paintings, photographs, limericks, quotes and other designs all forming a mosaic on my wall. Fun stuff.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ready for Dawn

Richard taught the dawn mazurka tonight, the first time he's taught that in ages around here (as opposed to, say, in Prague). So if I can remember any of the choreography next week at 5 AM after Big Dance, I'll be able to do it. My shins are really feeling the effects of 2.5 hours of redowas, pas de basques and heel clicks right now, though. Time for more ankle rotations.


BBC NEWS | UK | England | Nottinghamshire | City's group hug in name of art
I think this is wonderful. The world needs more hugging.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Back from New York

I had an excellent time in New York. I'm somewhat on the tired side just now though, so I think what we're going to get here will just be a nice little list of cool things from the trip.

- Central Park was much warmer and more pleasant than when I was there in February a few years ago.

- I'm bummed that you can't tour the stock exchanges since 9/11 but I had a fun, financial-geeky time in the Museum of American Financial History.

- The World Financial Center has a lot of things besides finance in it, including a wonderful exhibit on African puppets.

- Miriam and I went to a swing dance, but it was the first night there after my red-eye flight, so I didn't last too long. Still fun, though.

- I visited the shoe store where Miriam works and got some nice Moda Lanzo shoes, which will be a nice occasional alternative to dance sneakers.

- Food: Some very good Turkish, Indian and Moroccan restaurants. Also a shakshouka-making experiment with Dan and Roseanne, (and with tech support by phone from Miriam's dad).

- The NY library had a beautiful antique maps exhibit that unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photographs of. Fascinating to look at, though.

- There's a section of the Berlin wall on 53rd street. For some reason, though, they had to let some artist loose on it, and it looks like it's covered with graffiti, even though it's intentionally that way.

- Miriam magically got some free tickets to a piano recital at Carnegie Hall (well, actually the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie). Very nice program of Bach, Brahms, Liszt and Ravel.

- The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are lovely, and have some wonderful flowering cherry trees right now.

- The Children of Uganda show had some fantastic music, drumming, singing and dancing. The youngest kid there was 6, and had both singing and dancing solos, and she was incredible.

- The Natural History Museum requires at least two days to see properly, I think. Half a day per floor. As it was, we were pretty rushed by the time we got to the dinosaurs. Should have started with them.

- The MOMA also could have used some more time, but since modern art is much more hit-and-miss with me, my approach there is to sweep through everything quickly first, and then decide what to go back to.

- I wanted to see Spamalot, but the show times all conflicted with other things that were already planned. I got to see Rent, though, which I hadn't ever seen before, and I enjoyed it.

- I seemed to encounter an inordinate number of books I wanted to read during this trip, even considering the way I usually am with books. I have several sheets of notepaper now that I've been carried around and covering with titles.

- Coming home on the 100th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake was creepy. I was temporarily freaked out when I saw the newspapers reprinting original headlines like "Earthquake and fires leave San Francisco in ruins."

- Photos of the trip are here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm on Vacation!

And I've been needing one recently. I'm taking a red-eye flight to New York tonight and I'll be back next week, hopefully with some interesting pictures and stories to share here. Yay!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Voice Lessons in Your Car

Driving home tonight in singing mode, it occurred to me that someone should make a really good set of voice lessons on CD, like what Pimsleur has for learning languages. They could be for Tenor, Baritone, Bass, etc., instead of Spanish, French and all those. I'm sure I'm improving a little bit just by singing along with my favorite songs on my iPod, but any actual progress is probably minimal. So it would be good to have some sort of instruction/direction, and lessons/exercises that would specifically improve different aspects of my singing. That would be a great use of 20-30 minutes of commute time a day. I did a quick search on Amazon just now, and saw a few individual CD things, but nothing that looked really worthwhile. I'm imagining a full-sized course, with 20 CDs or something. Anybody know if something like this exists already?

Friday, March 31, 2006

Klezmer and Cookies

A good way to spend a cozy Friday night after a long, tiring and damp week. Baking chocolate chip cookies (with a few butterscotch chips thrown in) and listening to some good Klezmer music. Mmmm.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

They Might Be Podcasting

Okay yeah, that was the obvious title for this post. Whatever. Anyway, I haven't really gotten into the whole podcasting thing much, but I have been listening to the one from They Might Be Giants and it's been a lot of fun. Check it out. Plenty of it I've heard before, though some of it is new versions of old songs. But I really enjoy all the brand new songs they're sharing there. Miniature Sidewalk Whirlwind for starters was great, and It Never Fails, with that double-Flansburgh stuff going on, was a kick. In the latest one, I really like Diving Board, about the relationship between a swimming pool and its diving board. The made-up language lesson was pretty funny, too. Lots of good stuff.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Punxatawny Graham

I poked my nose outside my apartment this weekend, saw my shadow, and decided it was springtime. And you know what that means. Yep. Short hair again.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick: Patron Saint of Decision Makers?

This is one of those very annoyingly scheduled days, or evenings at least, where there are too many good things to do. Being a third Friday, there's a Friday Night Waltz, for starters. Then because Roble dance studio was booked last week, Jammix was moved to tonight also. Plus, it's Saint Patrick's day so of course there needs to be some music and partying for that. After a bit of debate, my plan is to make do with two of my top three. I'll go to Patrick's (appropriately enough) to play some tunes for a while after work, then leave at 9 or so for Jammix. FNW isn't going to make the cut, I'm afraid. Of course, I'm not entirely sure how Jammix will go for me, either. I woke up yesterday with an unhappy knee from too many shorty georges at Steppin' Out the night before. (St. George the Short: patron saint of knee injuries?) It's a bit better today, though, so hopefully it will be alright for some dancing tonight. But if we do the Jitterbug Stroll, I'm going to fake the shorty georges.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Living Room Wall, Stage II

On the Wall Since my last post on the subject, I've made about 60 of the little tiles (shown here) to go into the mosaic on my wall. I figured that was about enough to start actually putting them up, so I did. It was just about enough to sketch out the main arcs of the pattern, so there's lots of space still to fill in. I've only put green tiles up so far. I've got a few blue ones as well, but I'm undecided about how those will fit in. Also, the curve of the smallest arc probably needs adjusting. But anyway, stuff is up and it's looking good so far.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Here leezard, leezard, leezard....

Here's a funny drawing of mine I found, from back in high school. Lacey and I were working at Moss Landing Marine Labs at the time, on a big project involving legless lizards. One of the ladies at the lab had a pet chihuahua named (I think) Sergio, who was sort of a little mascot for us. We wanted to train him to be a lizard hound and help us track and catch the little critters, but no luck. I did, however, have fun drawing him as such. The lizards weren't really quite that big, but some of them could probably still have put up a good fight against little Sergio.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Living Room Wall

When I posted those last pictures of my apartment, I noted that the living room wall was likely to be turned into an art project of some sort. Well, here's the plan for it. It's sort of a multi-level thing, so I'll try to describe it bottom-up.

Start with many (dozens of) small pictures, about 2x2 inches square. Each picture can be anything at all: probably lots of drawings, also quotes or other bits of text, printed-out photos or other images, etc. Then put each picture on a slightly larger (3x3) square of colored paper for a frame. I'm going to go for mostly a medium-dark green, with some occasional dark blues thrown in. Maybe other colors later. Then take all of those and put them up making large patterns across the whole wall. The individual tiles will look like this. The overall pattern I'm thinking of will start out something like this and expand.

The idea is that the wall as a whole will have the appearance of a large tapestry or mural or something, and everything will be tied together by the common colors on the paper backing. But when you zoom in closer, there are many many more fascinating little details. Plus, it can be an ongoing project, so it can just grow organically for as long as I want to keep it up.

"But why," I hear you ask, "should you have all the fun, Graham?" Excellent question. And in fact, if any of you are feeling artsy and want to play along at home, I will happily take contributions. Just create something 2x2 inches square (3x3 if you really must have more space, but I'm trying to keep it small), and send it to me. I'll put it on the colored paper to match everything else and find it a place on the wall. As for what to put on it, just be creative. If you think there's a remote possibility that I'll like it or find it interesting, then it's fair game.

So that's the plan. I'll post more pictures as it goes along.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Interior Pictures

So I decided my apartment was finally in good enough shape to start sharing more pictures of it, for you curious ones out there. It still needs a lot in the way of decorations, but at least all the furniture and stuff is taken care of. Also, it's not quite as tidy as it might appear here, since I was running around ahead of myself the whole time to move various bits of junk behind me for the pictures. (And that's quite a trick, let me tell you, running ahead of and behind myself at once.)

You can look at the whole set of the pictures here. My bedroom layout is working okay as it is this way, and the new bed is nice. I'll might want some small rugs for the extra floor space, and I definitely need something nice to cover the vast expanse of empty wall. Ditto for the main living room wall, but I'm thinking some large-scale, ongoing art project for that. That could be fun. In the living room, I put the TV, rug and couch all on a diagonal, which I think looks neat, though it's hard to tell in the photo. Kind of marks it out as a separate space from my little "office" area in the nook behind it, too.

Anyway, it's all coming together nicely, and it's definitely feeling like home. I like it a lot.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Singing! Dancing! Playing!

Gary had his 70th birthday party yesterday and it was fantastic. It was at Etz Chayim (née Palo Alto YWCA) and tons of people completely filled the building with music and dancing for the entire afternoon and evening. It was really nice to get a good fix of some things I haven't really done much of for a couple months (or longer): shape note singing, irish tunes, and contra dancing. I need to try to start doing some of that stuff in the normal course of life again soon. All very fun.

I also saw Galt and Janet again for the first time in years, which was nice, and met their 10-month old son Connell, who I absolutely adore. He seemed like the happiest little baby I've ever seen, just toddling around smiling at people and trying to get a hold of any musical instrument he could see. He's definitely got music ingrained in him already. And when his daddy starts playing, he just doesn't have eyes for anything else. It's wonderful.

Friday, February 17, 2006

An Interesting Space Problem

Things are coming together nicely here, though I'm still stalling on unpacking all the books until I have my bookcases positioned in my bedroom correctly. The main problem right now is one I've never encountered before: too much space. Ideally, I want my bed on the back wall, facing the window. The other primary things to include are the dresser and two bookcases. Given the closet on one wall and the window and heater on another, that leaves pretty much just one wall to put them against. However, that leaves a completely empty area about 8 x 8 feet that you walk into in the entrance, which feels enormous. All that open space sort of decreases the coziness quotient that I'd like to have in a bedroom, so I'm trying to figure out what to do with it. The bed is already sticking out into the room, rather than being long-ways against the wall. I'm considering moving it against the other wall, sticking in from the side to divide the room more in half, then putting the bookcases against the back wall. The downside to that is that the bed is more in a line with the door and also has me facing the closet and bathroom, rather than the window. I'd just as soon take some of the extra space and put it in the living room if I could. Anyway, this is all very tricky. I often have a very definite feeling for where things belong in a room, but this particular room is being difficult. Interesting problem, though.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Everything went quite well on Saturday, thanks to everyone who came to help me move. There was a bit of a worry early on when the Uhaul place told me they had never heard of my reservation (Greg tells me this is business as usual for Uhaul) but luckily enough they had something available and it worked out. It took under four hours to load everything up (including disassembling some furniture), drive it down to the Live Light Ward, and unload/reassemble it all. Unpacking the many boxes stacked up around here will still take awhile, but the essentials are done and what little furniture I have is up and situated. There are a number of things I'll need to buy, but it's at least somewhat resembling a home, rather than a storage area. All this space is still a little mind-boggling: a bedroom AND a living room AND a kitchen! It's the first time I've lived anywhere with more than one room to call my own, and just deciding what room things go in is an unexpected challenge. Fun, though, and I'm definitely liking it here so far.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Big Lindy

I made it back to Steppin' Out for some lindy hopping last night, after missing it for a month or so. Trevor and Megan's current lesson series sounds like something that should be in my spam folder ("Increase the size of your lindy in just four weeks!") but it's fun. There are a few muscles complaining right now about this drop move we did, but at least I know what to stretch next week.

Richard Kear performed a fantastic West Coast Swing routine there, too, and it's made me want to start taking his lessons again. I love it when a dance(r) is just so delightful that it makes me laugh out loud. The music isn't funny, the dance isn't funny, but they just fit together so perfectly that the sudden jolt of happiness needs to come out as a laugh.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


I found a few old photos I took of my room here back when I first moved in, almost four years ago. Interesting to see what changed and what stayed the same. So I took some more pictures for comparison. To be fair, I didn't clean anything up for the photos. And to be doubly fair, I can't even blame the messiness on getting ready to move (I haven't done all that much yet, actually). That's just how it's gotten recently. Partly just because I've been outgrowing this space, I guess.


One week from today I'll be moving! Very exciting. The packing will begin this weekend.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Washington with a Mustache

After a recent spate of Marx-Brothers-movie-watching, I went and found Monkey Business, by Simon Louvish to read more about them. Fascinating. I had never even realized there was a fifth brother, Gummo Marx, who never went so far in show biz with the others. The most fun bit, though, may be reading bits of scripts that never made it into movies. I especially loved this quote, from a show called "On the Balcony" in the '20's, before their movie days. Groucho is trying to get some musicians to stand in for his unmusical sons, for reasons hopefully relevant to the plot:
Groucho (on the telephone): Hello, Gumchewer, give me two wrong numbers, then give me the Musicians' Union. "Union," u-n-u-n. Hello Une. Say, have you got a couple of men who are out of work? Oh, they're all out of work? Oh, it's a union. Well, send me a couple of men who look like me. What do I look like? Did you ever see Lincoln without a beard? Well, I look like Washington with a mustache.

(Quoted in Monkey Business, pg. 126)
Good stuff.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Caught One!

Alright, so events warranted, and here's the update to follow that last post. I was out apartment hunting in Mountain View this weekend and I found a bunch of not-quites and so-sos, but one just-right baby-bear apartment nicely located between work and downtown. After a quick evening of debating with myself (with help from Mom) I submitted an application, which was approved today. So in February, I will -- finally -- be moving out of the Chateau de Weird an into a "real" place of my own. After nearly four years here, this will be a very exciting change. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

The name of the apartment complex, as has been noted by several people already, is a little ridiculous, due to its silly juxtaposition of an Italian word with an Old English street name. I will therefore refrain from using it here, and simply refer to it by its anagram, the Live Light Ward. It may also simply be known as "the Villa" (as a nice contrast to "the Hotel," which I'm moving out of). If you're curious about my actual address, the specific apartment is numerologically represented by Temperance / The Heirophant in a Tarot deck, and when added to the street address, results in the year beginning the War of Jenkins' Ear, between Great Britain and Spain. So it's easy to remember. As of February, please address all written communications there.

As a corollary to all this, of course, a room will be opening up here if anyone wants a cheap place close to Stanford. Let me know. It takes a certain kind of tolerance to live here, but it's got some good points to it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Apartment Hunting

Each time I start getting into this, I get a little farther along. This time, it looks like something might actually happen. Further details as events warrant.