Saturday, April 30, 2005

10.4, 10.4, Burning Bright

I installed Tiger, the new version of Mac OS X, last night. I had just enough time to glance over it and drool a bit before I went to Friday Night Waltz (an extra one for National Dance Week) but I've gotten to play with it a bit more today. I'm definitely liking it so far. I'm completely sold on Spotlight as a Launchbar replacement. And having Spotlight in along with the new Smart Mailboxes seems like you could get it to behave a little more Gmaily, which would be cool. (Still, it's not quite the same as having labels, though. Too bad.)

For sheer, widgety fun though, the Dashboard is the most addictive new toy. It's full of customizable (not to mention very pretty) little mini-applications that popup and disappear at just the touch of a key. Some of the defaults are very useful (like weather forecast, dictionary lookup, stock prices, phone book, etc.) but there are also lots of extras you can download. Some of the ones I like are a lookup, and a mini-wiki, which is like sticky notes on steroids. There's also, of course, DashBlog for posting to your Blogger blog. No fancy stuff at all, but very quick and easy for short posts, if you do a lot of that kind of thing. I was a little bit bummed about the default iTunes widget, since you can't control it from the keyboard, so I'm not quite ready to give up X-Tunes for that yet. But all in all, I could probably spend ages playing with the Dashboard and all the possible widgets. It's just fun that way.

Some things I haven't gotten around to yet but that look like fun: Creating new Dashboard widgets. Writing Automator scripts (maybe there's a good way to get all of my old archived email from to Gmail). Safari RSS (not that I need another feed reader, but it's cool to see a browser-intergrated approach to it). And probably lots of other things that I'll continue to discover as I play with it more.

Friday, April 29, 2005

In Excelsis Deo

Gloria Lacey has decided that she doesn't need a car anymore, and so Gloria went up for sale. And as much as I love my Fred, Gloria would be a welcome upgrade for a very good price. So what it all works out to is that I'll have a new car in a couple weeks, when Lacey drives her down for Big Dance. Yay! Which also means that I'll be looking for someone interested in getting a trusty old Honda from me. I'll probably put up a more detailed ad here at some point.

It'll be fun having a car that comes with her own theme song, too. Glo- o-o-o-o-ooooh- o-o-o-o-ooooh-... etc. etc.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Arrogant Worms

My latest fun band discovery that I have to share with everybody is The Arrogant Worms. They're a Canadian band with some really hilarious songs, like "I'm the Only Gay Eskimo," which was my introduction to them (though I found out later that I had danced to "Carrot Juice is Murder" at the April Fool's Waltz a few weeks ago). A lot of the songs would probably be even funnier if I got more of the Canada jokes. The one that's made me laugh the hardest so far, though, is probably "Gaelic Song," which is a parody of various things Celtic including a pseudo-Gaelic chorus and a hideous pennywhistle solo. It's great.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Prayer for Owen Meany

A couple weeks ago, Antonia gave me a copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, on the highest possible recommendation. I just finished reading it tonight, and saying that it was truly incredible doesn't begin to capture the experience of this book. I was hooked right from the opening:
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God....
How could I put down something like that?

The way the story unfolds is fascinating. At each point in the linear chronology of the story the main line was interwoven with scenes from points in the future and past and yet there were still such amazing things to discover all the way up to the end. It is so rich and detailed -- one of those books you can just live inside of as you read, and probably the most complete-feeling book I can think of. As Antonia put it, you could read this book once a month for the rest of your life and get something different out of it each time.

I wish I could give more specifics and fewer gushing generalities, but I do hate spoilers and there are way too many people I want to recommend this book to right now, so I'll keep quiet. Go read the book, though.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Oh My Aching Legs

We had a team outing today at work and played dodge-ball. I hadn't played that since elementary school, and it was a blast. Of course, it was rather different than the simple circle game I remember doing back then, since we did the kind with two teams on opposite sides of a basketball court, trying to knock each other out. More fun this way, I think. I can't throw worth beans, unfortunately, but I like the running and dodging parts. (Most of the times I got out it was because of someone catching my poor throw, rather than getting hit.) I didn't get very winded, but I do have some pretty sore muscles. Mostly in my legs, since they had more constant exertion/impact, but I think my right arm will be doing stuff to me tomorrow. Coming back and sitting at work for the rest of the afternoon didn't help either. I could hardly get down the stairs to come home, I was so stiff. Urrrrgh. It was worth it, though.

Update from Tuesday night: Swing dancing with such sore legs can kind of work. But an hour-long charleston lesson... not so much.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Art of Pilgrimage

I've been doing a lot of reading prep for the Britain trip this summer, just because that's the kind of thing I do. So far it's taking two forms: British literature (hence the recent Austen and Dickens in my reading list) and books about travel in general. One of the latter that I finished recently was The Art of Pilgrimage, by Phil Cousineau.

Cousineau has a lot of good thoughts about travel, and how to really make it meaningful and get the most out of it. I like this because I do think that travel is as important for the change and effect it has on me as for the simple enjoyment of seeing new and interesting things.

One chapter I particularly liked was about seeing, and how it is affected by photography. Lots of tourists these days let their cameras do their seeing for them. You have a very different experience of a place if you set your camera aside and sit down to draw or paint the scene yourself. It makes you look at it and consider it and relate to it in a very different way. One quote I liked was:
If there is a trick to soulful travel, it is learning to see for yourself. To do this takes practice and a belief that it matters. The difference between pilgrim and tourist is the intention of attention, the quality of the curiosity.
Intention of attention... I like the mindfulness of that.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


After many iterations and permutations, Miriam and I finally have the basic shape of our Britain trip figured out. Here's more or less what it looks like:
  • 6/23-26: London.
  • 6/27-29: Bath (plus Salisbury, Stonehenge, Glastonbury).
  • 6/29-7/1: York.
  • 7/1-4: Edinburgh.
  • 7/4-5: Back in London, with a day trip to somewhere.
  • 7/6-8: Fly back to U.S. and hang out in Philadelphia for a couple days.
We've even got most of the accommodations figured out, so that's good. If anyone has any suggestions for things to do in any of these places though, feel free to leave a comment or send an email.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lindy Lessons

So I did sign up for some of Kevin & Carla's classes at Swing Central, and the beginning/intermediate lindy hop series started tonight. I opted for that one rather than intermediate/advanced since I think they've got a rather different style than I'm used to, so I wanted to try to get a better intro to that. We didn't actually do much lindy hop tonight, but just dived right into charleston stuff. I don't know if that's going to be a theme for this series or not (each time through the series is different) but I hope we get to other types of stuff too. Kevin and Carla are fun teachers. I don't know if Carla had been drinking a lot of coffee beforehand or if she's always like that, but she was zippy. And they're both funny.

I didn't stick around for the dance after the class tonight, which is kind of too bad because there's a live band tonight. But I'm just too tired. It's been a long day, and the morning alone was a day in itself, involving car repairs, paying lots of money for car repairs, navigating bus routes to work, escaping from disguised buses that changed their numbers when I wasn't looking and took me to the wrong place, and eventually walking the last mile or two to work. Argh. So I'm going to bed early tonight.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Friday Fool's Waltz

The April Fool's dance for Friday Night Waltz last night was a lot of fun. Almost every single dance, aside from the Congresses of Vienna, was silly. (And we really need to get Brave Combo to record a version of Congress of Vienna, so that can be silly, too.) Silly songs are not always the most danceable, but some of them are, and the rest were worth it just to have a fun, unusual evening.

I was extremely happy to get to waltz to Faraway Cookies with Jean, swing to Tutti Fruitti with Kari, and sing along to Under the Sea with Eric. Other good songs I hadn't heard before included In the Mood, sung entirely by squawking chickens, and the Safe Sex Waltz (extolling the virtues of chocolate). The Hamster Dance polka at the end with Eric was also great -- I can't remember the last time I flew that fast around a dance floor.

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fool's Roundup

Some of my favorites from the April Fool's Day amusements so far:
  • BoringBoring, a hilarious parody of BoingBoing, even down to the ads.
  • GoogleGulp, an okay concept but the FAQ was what really made it funny.
  • A new set of "life hacks" from 43 Folders.
  • Yahoo! Slacker, "unless [they] don't finish it in time...."
  • Scientific American gives up and goes with creationism.
  • This wrench I found hiding under my windshield wipers. Probably not an April Fool's prank (more likely left behind accidentally after the last time in the shop) but randomly amusing just the same. You could only see it if you looked in at just the right angle, which is why I hadn't noticed it before.
Tonight is Friday Night Waltz, which will supposedly have many silly songs to be danced to. That should be fun.


I've had my next monthly resolution in mind for a little while now. This month I'm going to try to draw something every day. It can be anything, big or small, from observation or imagination. Preferably in pen, since I want to get better at that, but whatever, as long as I do something recognizable as some sort of a deliberate drawing. I just want to get in the habit of it, so I feel comfortable with it again, like I used to years ago. Part of the motivation for this is because I want to draw in my journal as well as write in it when I go to England in June. The other part is just that drawing is neat and I miss it.