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. :-)