Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Swing Peripheral

I finally made it to Swing Central again tonight, but wasn't feeling too centralized. There were way too many extra guys, fewer people I knew, and my swing was just feeling a bit on the inadequate side. Oh well. Swing Central so far doesn't seem to inspire me to greater feats of swingingness in quite the same way the Doghouse does, but it still seems like a nice dance. I probably just need to get my swing in somewhat better shape.

Friday Night Waltz is coming up this week, though! Sure can't beat a night of waltzing.

Monday, September 29, 2003

More Design Stuff

I do agree with everybody that the two columns were a bit much. However, Hugo commented that " 'blogging' should not become 'webbing' as it surely will if double side-bar content also requires regular updates." That sort of indicates why I was considering making the side blogs more noticeable -- they've actually been there and been regularly updated since January. But that doesn't matter too much. I'll stick with the single sidebar.

For the people so far (Mom and Lacey) who like the original: I do think it's been a nice enough design for a little while, but it's just been feeling a bit too flat and dimensionless to me. I like the new designs because they have a bit more of a presence, and are less like a flat sheet of paper.

As for color: The addition of another background color goes along with the whole adding-dimension thing. The original color scheme was really sort of random when I chose it a year or so ago, though it seems to have worked out pretty well. So I kept some of the yellow and tried to work off of that. I would have thought making it more colorful would have increased the "friendliness," but maybe apparently some people see the blue differently. Here are a couple more modifications to the color, as suggested by Tina. I like them, but I think I'd be less inclined to actually use them.
Choice 5Choice 6[Back to original]
I'd be curious to know what colors people would actually associate with me, leaving aside the current state of the webpage. Tina and I were talking about this a bit tonight. We would both pick darker colors for me, but that makes web designing tricky because I prefer mostly light colors for webpages. Hmm.

Okay, I promise I'll just shut up and pick one soon enough. It's just fun to play designer a bit for a while, even if it's nothing really very fancy.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Blog Designs

I've been playing a bit with the design of my blog this weekend, and just to be interactive about the whole process (user-centered design and all that), I thought I'd put a few examples up here and ask for input. I'll leave the original page as it is here for comparison. There are two types of changes here. One thing I did was to put a side bar on each side. I liked that because it got more content up towards the top, but I think it might also make it look too crowded. The other thing I did was to change the color scheme a bit. Here are the pages, according to changes:

OriginalSame ColorsDifferent Colors
Two Side BarsChoice 1Choice 2
One Side BarChoice 3Choice 4

So anyway, there they are. Leave me a comment or send me an e'mail and let me know what you think. You can vote for one of those choices (or even for the original, I guess) or suggest other modifications to make to them. I'll also mention that I've tested these on three browsers so far, but only on Mac OS X. If something looks screwy on your computer/browser, let me know that, too.

Friday, September 26, 2003


The other day I had someone at Google come by my desk and set everything up so that it's all nicely ergonomic. We got the relative heights of everything adjusted nicely, and he even got me a Goldtouch keyboard and a vertical mouse. This is very cool. The only complaint I have about the vertical mouse is that there's no way to make it left-handed. I've gotten to rather like left-handed mousing recently. But it turns out I can leave my old mouse connected, too, and just keep one on each side and switch back and forth. It works pretty well for the most part, except for the times I get confused and reach for both at once. (Now it would be really cool if I got two pointers and could actually use them both at once. Though I'm not really sure what I would do with that.)
Happy Birthday, Jim!

Thursday, September 25, 2003


The Blogger team went on a field trip this afternoon to San Francisco. We started off by going bowling at Presidio Bowl. I was very inconsistent for a while -- spares alternating with absolute nothings. But by the end of the second game I felt noticeably better. I actually kind of wanted to keep going. It was really pretty fun. I don't think I had been bowling for at least 4 or 5 years.

After bowling we went to the Exploratorium. I had never actually been there before and it was awesome. We only had about 2 hours there, so we couldn't see everything but I just had a great time playing with the stuff we did get to. The sound section was pretty cool. They had a keyboard that you could switch to different types of scales and tuning systems. And there was a computer with headphones and a microphone that would play a tone for you to sing and provide a very precise chart of exactly how off and wavery you were (that was not an ego-booster for me). I was expecting to see some sort of Shepard tone illusion there, but couldn't find one. The animal section was neat, too. They had living chicken embryos that you could see, cow's eye dissections (we missed that, unfortunately) and a decomposition exhibit. (This was a little terrarium where they'd periodically toss in a dead animal, mark a date on the outside, and leave it there so we could watch bugs eat it up. Weird, but strangely interesting.) One of my favorite things overall, though, was probably the momentum machine, which basically just involved spinning around and getting really dizzy. I've been waltzing so much for the last five years that I don't get properly dizzy very often. This thing sure did the trick, though. It was great.

All that, and then a few hours of Irish tunes tonight. Long day, but fun.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Celestine Prophecy

A little while ago Eric C. mentioned to me that I ought to read The Celestine Prophecy, a book I had known vaguely about for a long time and had always figured I should eventually get around to reading. Apropos the subject of the book, it was a Wednesday (Project Read night) and that evening I happened to find three copies of it for sale in the library’s little bookstore. So I got one the and I just finished it tonight.

This was a good book, though I’d have to say that the story-telling of it felt a tad awkward at times. It seemed mostly that there was a lot of message to be conveyed and the story was sort of squeezed in around the corners and suffered a bit as a result. I couldn't help but wonder what someone like Richard Bach would have done with it. (I find it much easier with Illusions, for instance, to experience it as something that is actually happening, or has happened. Perhaps, though, that has to do with the fact that I know it so well that I hardly even have to read it anymore. I can just glance a few pages and have entire scenes in my head at once.)

But still, that being said, I really liked a lot of the concepts. The whole discussion of “energy” seemed sort of uncomfortably New-Agey sometimes (this is just a self-conscious hang-up of mine), but I do feel like I understand and can relate to the idea he’s referring to. I know that the more I focus and try to really be present with the people I interact with, the better the interaction goes, and the more I get distracted or otherwise distance myself, the more the interaction is weakened on both sides. The style of ideal conversation described in chapter 8 particularly resonated well for me. I also like how the whole book is a good exercise in looking at everything in your life as meaningful. That alone is a good thing to keep in mind.

One of my reactions to this book struck mnoticeablycably different than I think it would have been had I read it a few years ago. The talk of “energy” and “spiritual evolution” is all very good, but it’s lacking something. I think I feel more of a need now to see a specific God figure in the picture, something more coherent than the general concept of energy in the universe. Something to provide a frame of reference for the spiritual evolution. All my C.S. Lewis readings were probably a big influence on me in this respect, but also lots of other readings and thought-processes over the last year or so.

Whenever I read books like this I try to take important key points and just file them away in my consciousness somewhere. The idea is to have selections from a large portion of the world’s wisdom in there, from which I can guide and shape my life and personality to whatever extent I can manage it. It's a fairly cluttered place up there in my head, I think, but I hope that at some point it will achieve a good balance and sort itself out nicely.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


I went to O-Show tonight (a capella and dance groups performing for the incoming freshmen). I've been there more as a non-student now than I ever did when I was actually officially allowed to be there (not that anyone checks, of course). It was fun to hear Testimony sing again, though a bit sad to think that a lot of them are leaving the group this year and this was the last time I'd hear them performing together. It seems like it just won't be the same without Kari and Justin and Eric and the other people I've grown attached to. But I'm sure Tina will find a way to build up a strong, new group. Yay Testimony!

Someone decided to put Fleet Street first in the program this year, which I thought was a bit strange. Pray to the God of Partial Credit just seems like the best traditional ending song for this show, so it was weird to hear it first. Oh well.

I considered going to most of Swing Central after the show tonight, but gave up on that idea pretty quickly. I keep meaning to go back there. Next week, I guess. Hmm... this means that by the time Saturday's contradance rolls around, I'll have gone two weeks without dancing. That's a lot for me these days. But I'll be alright. :-)

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Bookaholics Anonymous

Mom and I had an excellent time at the library book sale this morning. We got there right when it started and spent about 2 1/2 hours there. Library sales are great because they're so much cheaper even than used book stores. I got 13 books for $8, including Letters of C.S. Lewis, Way of the Peaceful Warrior (which I used to have, and shouldn't have gotten rid of), a couple of the Provence books by Peter Mayle, an Edward Gorey book, and more. I wish they sold bookcases at these things, too. I'm definitely starting to need another one, even a small one. Mom got a pretty decent stack of books as well.

So after walking home, cooling down and having lunch, what did we decide to do? Go to Borders! Yes we're silly, but experienced bibliophiles can always cram more books into a day. The first book I picked up there cost three times as much as all 13 I had gotten this morning, but we had a nice time just browsing around for a bit without needing to buy any more.

I suppose I could squeeze in another bookstore or two today still, but for now I think I will content myself with looking at my new stack and feeling rich in books.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Shiny New Coldness

We have a new refrigerator now. Thanks go to Sarah, Cheryl and especially Arthur for making it happen. That makes two real ones, instead of one real one and two small, engery-guzzling frost machines. This is a good thing. Cheryl has been lobbying for this for years. She wanted to bring a good one with her when she moved in, but apparently it didn't "work" for Daniel "aesthetically." Those of you who have seen the common areas of our house will realize how funny that statement really is. Anyway, it's all set to go now except for the fact that the dinky little electrical cord won't reach the outlet. And you're not supposed to use an extension cord for it. Oh well. What's the worst that can happen?


Well, I take it back. That only took one day to get it working again. Yay!


Our DSL modem decided to completely stop working yesterday. Daniel was going to be spending some more time on tech support today to try to get it fixed, but given all the hoo-hah we had to go through with Earthlink just to get it working when we first got it, I'm not going to hold my breath. So anyway, if anybody sends me emails that I don't reply to, that's probably why.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Library Life

Coming into the library tonight I saw stacks upon stacks of boxes outside the main entrance -- all full of books, ready for the annual book sale this weekend. I find this very exciting. I love library book sales and I remember that Menlo Park's last year was a good one. Mom and I are going to be out here first thing Saturday morning. Bookwormness is definitely an inherited trait.

The computer lab here was absolutely packed for a while. We only have nine computers, but we don't usually have to use them all. Unfortunately, we're reminded on nights like tonight why we really need to replace a couple of the ones we don't generally use. The Power Mac 5200 is so old and slow that it's literally useless for a lot of our programs. So I spent a little while tonight just figuring out how best to arrange people between the slow Macs, the PC (which we don't have as many programs for) and the iMacs (which do pretty much what we want them to). By now a couple people have left and the rest are working happily so there's not much to do.

Our new local celebrity here is Georgina, who got interviewed for an article about East Palo Alto in the Palo Alto Weekly (she's in the last six or so paragraphs). There was even a picture of her, Dani, and her two other daughters, but that's not in the online version. The funniest part of the article was the last line. They spent an hour interviewing her and that was what they decided to use. That cracked us up. No, I'm not going to tell you what it was. You have to read the article.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Canon Inversus

This is so cool: one page of music by Mozart, written on one staff. You put it on a table between two violinists and they each play from the top of the page down. And it works. Wow. Thanks to Jim for giving me this, and to Tina for playing it with me.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Socio-musicology... or something

I went singing this morning and then to an Irish session this evening. In Los Gatos and San Jose, respectively, which made the driving a bit annoying. But other than that, it was a lot of fun. I was also thinking about how nice it is to be doing music socially again. Working on classical piano was great -- I love it and I do want to get back to it. But slogging away in a practice room for a couple hours is a far cry from going to a friendly group singing or session. So I'm glad I'm getting more of this sort of music back in my life again.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Bombarded by Guppies

The Guppies played for the contradance tonight. Fantastic, as usual. The high point for me was hearing Jim blast into that awesome Breton tune he plays on the Bombard. Wow. I also loved the occasional bits of Klezmer clarinet, and the triple-accordion hambo and all the other great stuff the Guppies do. Good stuff. Dancing was great, too, though I think every single dance had at least one or two allemands in it. But I still managed to take good care of my hands and wrists. Bob and I are getting better at the Bronco schottische step, so that was fun. I even managed to get two newbies to come, and that always makes me happy.

Hmm. I bet "Bombarded by Guppies" would be another good tune title.

Friday, September 12, 2003

What was the name of that tune?

Tonight at the Irish session, Ernest decided to make a list of all the titles that tunes ought to have. At times he amused himself so much that half of the session would collapse, and the rest of us would just barely finish the tune before demanding to know what was so funny. So now any of us who feel like composing have plenty of material to work from, including the following titles:

Why Do You Want to Know?
Does It Really Matter?
You Asked Me That Last Week
I Forget
It's in O'Neill's
They All Sound the Same to Me
If I Told You, You'd Just Forget It Again
Polkas Have Names?

Okay, so maybe that's mostly just funny to us, but we were all highly amused. Everything's funnier in the general silliness that periodically creeps over Patrick's sessions. I love it. Come to think of it, it's just been a good day today. Between the session, Stealth Disco, and Tina introducing me to ThingsMyGirlfriendAndIHaveArguedAbout.com, there has certainly been more than a usual portion of laughs. (That's another funny site, check it out.) Very good day indeed.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Stealth Disco

People dancing behind other people's backs. This is hilarious. Watch the "Best of" video. Thanks to Eric C. for the link.


For some reason recently I've been paying more attention to the subject of daydreams. By far the biggest imagination-topics for me are music and dance, though I suppose that's maybe no huge surprise. In my head I can evoke the entire range of human emotion on a huge selection of instruments. It reminds me a little of the pianist character in An American in Paris, and the daydream sequence to Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F. But it rarely involves pieces of music that I actually play, or even recognize. It's more frequently improvised magic that I would never be able to replicate in real life, which is probably why I have such a hard time composing. I can have a gorgeous feeling and concept in my head and yet have no clue how to translate it into actual notes. I suppose I need to get better at improvising in order to get better at composing. But that's a tangent.

And then there's dancing, which again involves music, of course. What makes my inner dancing so fascinating is not so much any particular moves so much as a complete and total integration with the music. It's as if the music and the dance are created in unison, from a single thought. Tango is excellent for this, though swing and waltz are right up there as well. Having a partner that I feel close to and connected with is also essential, and everything ultimately just ties into one beautiful, inextricable synthesis of people, music and motion. That's the ideal that I keep in my mind, and all the best dances of my life are ones that inch me a little bit closer to it.

If I extend the general theme of my daydreams, I see that really they are almost all about creativity. I've had far more ideas for drawings, paintings and craft projects than I will ever actually create, but it's fun sometimes just to be an artist in your mind, even if your creations are never brought to life. I also imagine myself writing long, thought-provoking, witty blog entries (I'll try to let you know if I come up with one), or even fiction, which is a much farther leap from reality for me. But music and dance are the big ones, the ones that can literally make my heart beat faster just from the magic I create in my head. It's the creative force behind it all that makes it magic.

In short -- concepts are good, but I'm still working on implementation. Probably always will be. :-)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003


Feeling rich from my new job a little while ago, I made my first ever donation to TSF. Not much, and apparently not enough to warrant a thank you letter from an actual student, but enough for them to send me a small TSF magnetic poetry kit. Interesting. I like the fact that three of the words on it are Viennese, Ball and Waltz.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Gender Balance

Welcome to our new housemate, Rebecca, self-described Japlady ( = Jewish American Princess & Japan-ophile). I have not yet discovered what that means in practical terms, but she seems nice enough so far. So we now have gender balance in this house for the first time since I threw it out of whack a year and a half ago. Good thing I know how to follow... not that that's really relevant, of course, since I'm the only dancer here anyway. Oh well. It's still somewhat comforting, after years of taking dance classes and signing people up for dance classes, to know that things are evened out at least in this little corner of the world.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

More Tunes

I visited another new (to me) Irish session today. I feel like I'm sort of doing research in the process of getting back into Irish again. I definitely want to keep going to Patrick's sessions, but I'm also just investigating other options that I haven't tried before. This session was in Cupertino, and it was a better size than the last one, but not necessarily the sort of thing that's going to draw me back too much, especially on Sunday evenings. But I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple familiar Santa Cruz faces (Galt and Mike) that I hadn't seen in a while. I didn't stay a super long time, though, because I'm sort of tired and I'm still trying to go easy on my hands.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

In Which I Make Valiant Progress in the Face of an Insurmountable Reading List

With a slight reading frenzy today I actually managed to finish two books that I've been working on. It feels like I've been too busy to do that very often these days. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was another exciting adventure, though Jules Verne left me frustrated about a few things. Obviously some of that was intentional, since Captain Nemo is supposed to be a very mysterious character, but one or two bits I thought really deserved some more follow-up. And the ending was a bit too quick and easy. But overall, it was fun. He didn't use the elaborate chapter titles like he did in Around the World, but his writing still makes me think of them (and they amuse me), so I used one here.

Messengers of God was excellent, though at times I had trouble deciding how to think about it. It's a book of Midrash, which is commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures using elaborations on and additions to the Biblical stories. (Somebody Jewish can feel free to correct me here -- I'm still a bit fuzzy on the exact use of this term.) It was really interesting to see some of this sort of thinking, but I get a bit confused about where certain concepts come from versus the stories that were created to explain them. Reading the Old Testament (at least most of what I've gotten through so far) is fairly straight-forward in that sense. People go about their lives, some of them interact with God in fairly direct ways, they pass information on to others, and it continues. The flow of information is easy to follow. But when Rabbis some centuries later start adding in more stories about other events, friends and relatives, angels and devils, it's harder to know what to make of that. Perhaps a story is a good explanation of an interpretation, but then where did that interpretation come from? It can't have come from the story if you admit to making it up. (Bear in mind, though, that I'm still unclear on how much of this is "made up" versus passed down orally through the generations along with the written scriptures.) Of course, this question doesn't only arise with Midrash. I tripped pretty heavily over it recently when I read Job, too. I guess, though, that whether or not we have explanatory stories made up for us, we inevitably develop stories of our own, simply because we need to interpret it all somehow. It's just easier to question explanations when they come from someone else.

So anyway, that all opens up the reading list a bit for something else. I'm not sure what's next, but at least I've always got lots of possibilities floating around.

Happy Blogday!

A year ago today was when I started my blog. And look where I am now. :-)

Friday, September 05, 2003

Left-Handed Mousing

That seems to help. Not quite as fast at first, but not too bad. And my right hand was having more trouble than my left, so it was good to go a bit easier on it. Maybe I should make a habit of switching my mouse from one side of the keyboard to the other every day. But anyway, tonight I can go out and exercise my podiatric extremities and let the manuals rest. Yay for dancing!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Pot Shots -- A Brilliant Idea

I recently discovered Ashleigh Brilliant's series of Pot-Shot postcards and ordered myself a small pile of them. He's got thousands of these, varying from silly to sweet to philosophical to cynical and more, and it's just delightful to look through them.

That's about all the blogging I'm up for right now. My hands have been complaining about working all day. Bleegh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A Moondance at Swing Central

I went to Swing Central for the first time tonight. It's not quite the same sort of scene as the Doghouse, but it was fun, and I was glad to have lots of Stanford friends there. A highlight of the evening was dancing to Moondance with Tina (thank you, Tina!). I'm gradually learning not to associate Van Morrison with house-cleaning (Mom and Lacey know what I'm talking about) and it was really cool to dance to a song I know really well but had never danced to before. For some reason it feels different from dancing to a song I know only through dance. Thanks also go to Quetzal for several fun dances; Neal, Eric, Thai, Donia and Tina for letting me practice following; and everyone else for everything else. I'm too sleepy now to do any better than that.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Darned Cross-Browser Compatibility

I've been having some fun playing web-designer today, but these browser issues just really bug me sometimes. I can get stuff that looks good in Safari and Mozilla, but then IE always just screws it all up. I'm trying to do it completely in CSS, so part of the problem may just be that there are things I don't know about that yet. But even when I know what I'm doing, the browsers just render things differently. The bane of every web-designer's existence, I guess. Sigh. But enough of that for now. I'll have plenty of time sitting in front of a computer when I go back to work tomorrow.