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.