Saturday, March 31, 2007

Review: This American Life (Showtime)

"Best frackin' show ever." - Kara Thrace
From the producer's of "the most influential radio program of this generation [1]," comes ... a television version. Why would you care what I think about it? Watch the first episode for yourself, streamed free from Showtime.
"Ayo, you come at the king, you best not miss. This show didn't miss." - Omar
CH joined me in viewing the pilot episode, and quickly summed up the unease I had when Ira Glass's voiceover first came on: "I feel like I should cover my eyes and just listen." He also correctly called the name of the cloned bull, but in retrospect, I'm not sure why I didn't see it too. That's not fair; You get full credit, CH.
"This American Life is the sh*t!" - Vic Mackey
It was awesome, especially the second act, which covered Improv Everywhere. They opened with footage from Look Up More and No Pants, but not a whole lot of discussion. They focused mostly on Best Gig Ever. The Best Gig Ever discussion suffers without the radio episode's coverage of Ted's Birthday, so after watching the episode, I think it's worth listening to the radio version (Act 2). I really wanted to hear about The Moebius and perhaps Even Better Thans The Real Thing.
"I'd be Lost without This American Life!" - Sawyer
Second episode? Just as good. No full video, but you can see clips here.

It's a 30 minute show, so probably not worth getting Showtime for. What am I saying? Do what you need to do to watch this show! I wonder if you can buy it on iTunes?

[1] David Plotz in Slate's "The 1984 Political Gabfest"

Friday, March 30, 2007


I hate you MetaFilter.

Newest Blog I read:


Hot Popcorn

Dear Self,

Yes, popcorn is a neat food. Yes, butter flavor might be a little boring. Yes, you're an adventurous eater. But just because you see people at work eating popcorn with hot sauce all the time doesn't mean you should try it. And hearing the sizzle of Tabasco hitting popcorn sure is fun, but should also be a dead giveaway that nothing good could come of the experiment. I mean, the popcorn wasn't that hot. What was the sizzle from? That's right, it was the sound of evil!


P.S. A couple drops of hot sauce in scrambled eggs? Pure genius.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sustainable Agriculture

Last month, I read an article on Salon, Organic Farming: Not sustainable? which brings attention to the critique that organic farming might have a larger ecological footprint than conventional farming. It's frustrating in it's muddied viewpoint. In fact, I wonder if that's intentional.

Much clearer (including it's point of view) is Can Biodiverse Farming Feed The World?

I thought I'd point out some animal-agricultural partnerships which are worth thinking about.
Old, New 'Factory Farming' - The Food Programme - BBC - Radio 4

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, traditional, management-intensive fish farming in the Dombes region of France, Bob Orskov on rice/duck/fish farming in Vietnam. Yields are higher when incorporating animals.

More on rice/duck farming on BBC's Rice Bowl Tales. Instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the farmer uses ducks to do the same thing. So the rice is organic and the farmer doesn't have to buy the expensive inputs.

Strict Rotation

Dear Self,

What exactly is it that you hope to accomplish by making sure that the newly cleaned and dried dishes are put away beneath their peers in the cupboard? Does it important to spread out the wear and tear over your $0.50 IKEA collection? The same collection that you had to talk yourself into moving instead of throwing away and re-buying during the trek to the current apartment? You're wasting valuable time that could be spent doing productive things.

Thanks, and have a good week.


P.S. I heartily approve of your forks and spoons rotation. I mean, that just makes sense.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Costco Effect

Costco is cheaper than retail, for limited selection and wholesale quantities. I like cheap, I'm not that brand loyal, and I don't mind buying stuff in quantity, since I'll use it.

So when I found myself looking sadly at the not-my-brand gel deodorant at Costco, I had to laugh at myself. Not brand loyal? I guess it creeps up on me. I went to Target to buy a single-pack version of the same product to try out. At the same time, I figured I'd record the date I started using it to keep track of how long a singleton would last me. It works just as well as "my" brand, so when I noticed that I had about a fifth of the package left, I picked up the four-pack at Costco. And five-pack of Glide dental floss. Can't have too much dental floss, and I was down to using floss-picks from CVS.

When I got home, I remembered my date-first-used note, and checked on it. Three-and-a-half months ago. So I just bought over a year's worth of deodorant. As I stashed it and my new mega-pack of floss, I noticed the unopened mega-pack of floss already residing in my cupboard.

Damn. It must have been hidden by the 59 rolls of Costco toilet paper.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Team Player And The Firehose

Dance lessons have become a blur, even right after I take them.

Last Friday evening lesson series at the Atomic Ballroom:

6:15 Absolute Beginner Balboa
We go through some basic stuff and a Balboa circle. Aubrey taught us this pattern a couple weeks ago. Just realized I haven't seen her since.

The other two classes pass quickly, as nothing new (to me gets taught). I stay briefly for the St. Patty's day themed dance. Danced a few dances with students who showed up from the OC Swing Thursday night class, as well as ladies I met at the last couple AB classes of the evening. Lots of fun, but I have yet to be adventurous enough to dance "up."

I've decided to join the Atomic's Beginner level dance team, and I let Jerry know. He seems happy to have me on board, and I leave early enough to get to the practice the next morning.

[EDIT 20070702:
Lie! I left early because I was still intimidated by the more experienced dancers, unsure about my own dancing, and uncomfortable with just being a wallflower.]

Saturday morning: I have breakfast with CH at Mimi's Cafe (pan perdue, lovely), and make it to the AB Swing Team first meeting. It's a blur of choreography which I don't remember. Just flat out don't remember. Sad, really. Andrea mentions that we've talked on-line but I'm not sure from where. OC Swing forum? Scott, Gerald and I ask what classes we should take, and Jerry tells us to take his classes. Gulp. That's usually the level 2 classes. He even tells us to jump into the ongoing series classes. Gulp again.

Sunday is another blur of new material and choreography. I enrolled in three OC Swing classes: beginnner (again), Charleston Kicks for Lindy, and Intermediate. A blur, though I vaguely remember learning the cuddle variation of the swing out and a slightly more complex ramp-up in the intermediate class (adding a rock-step cross, rock-step cross).

After that, I went to the Atomic's 5:30 Swing 1 Series (Se Ya Later Alligator). Don't remember any of the choreography. Followed by a technique class, and Swing 2: Rip It Up. Again, no memory of any choreography! Scott was there when I walked in, but didn't stay for class. Gerald came for the 2nd and 3rd classes.

Tuesday Night:
Scott and Gerald both showed up for the classes. Nice. They remembered far more of the team choreography than I did.

6:15 Swing 1 Series Social Pattern
Scott, Gerald, and I were the only leads who showed up for the class. Crecia Krysia was the only follow at first, but we were joined by Jenny and Trish later on. Since we are all on the team, he decided to ditch the class topic and work on team choreography.

In Savoy Stying, I finally understood the rhythm of the Savoy Kick, but didn't do well past that point. Intro'd to the Minnie Dip, but don't remember much. Tweaked my left knee and had to sit out towards the end. Worried that it'll be an ongoing issue.

Oops, off to another Friday night at the Atomic. Have lost track of the hours for the month. That'll have to wait for another day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seven Hours

Ok, it's really seven and a half hours until This American Life's Showtime debut. The friends I've pinged about a viewing party have been unresponsive or busy. I admit to being giddy enough that I don't care.

Here's a review from Slate:

This American Life reviewed. - By Troy Patterson - Slate Magazine

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Hear What You're Saying And The Answer Is No

I thought this was Apple humor, and it does start out that way. But then it goes a slightly surprising direction.

Cable By Thursday

GEF has a cable modem, but no cable service.

And on Thursday, This American Life has it's pilot episode on Showtime.

So I asked him, "Can you get cable by Thursday?"

No response yet.

Here's the sneak peek from Slate:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Advanced Beginner

I'm having a crisis about how to proceed with learning swing. My status so far:

  • I'm solid in my East Coast, Charleston, and Lindy Swing Out Basics
  • I have trouble with 8-count footwork in real-life dances
  • I have trouble with both 6 and 8 count footwork at 138 bpm and faster
  • I lack a wide-range of moves to use during social dance
  • I lack the confidence to "dance up" with more skilled partners
Potential ways to proceed include taking the OC Swing Intermediate series on Sunday afternoon and Monday evenings, taking more Level 1 classes at Atomic Ballroom, joining a dance team at AB, taking some private lessons, or maybe finding someone in a similar situation who wants to do some one on one work. Posted to the socal swing forum to ask for advice.

The simple choice, the Atomic AB dance team has a first meeting this morning, so doing that seems like a decent way to proceed. Jerry admitted that the team environment is one in which he pushes the pace, which sounds like what I need. When I chatted with him about it last night, he stated that joining the team would increase anyone's dance level very quickly. That sounds promising, and it's plainly the time commitment, not an extra cost for now. The $100 unlimited lesson benefit isn't a value unless they're consistently running level 1 classes for me, or I make the jump to level 2. I wonder if they recognize that as an issue.

I'm still thinking about taking the OC Swing Intermediate and Charleston Kicks for Lindy series on Sunday. And maybe doing the Intermediate on Monday as well. That's another $150 on lessons. And perhaps well spent. I just don't know.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Transitions Part 3

7:30pm OC Swing

Shesha gives us a pretty interesting final class in this four-week series. He emphasizes that dance is about having fun and connection, not memorizing step structure. We do an exercise which he calls "winding up," which involves getting into closed position and leading a back to front weight shift (right to left foot for leads, count 1-2), a shift to the back foot (3-4), front again (5-6), then back again (7-8), then rock-stepping. It establishes a good lead, and gets the partners on the same page. Leads can go from the rock-step directly into an 8-count circle staying closed. Shesha encourages us to not do centering moves like the basic, but go directly to the next move we had in mind. For example:
8 count circle closed instead of a 6-count basic
Tuck-Turn immediately instead of a 6-count basic
Walk Through
Circle Closed instead of ease to closed
Charleston instead of 6-count basic

Shesha specifically tells me to work on doing the 8-count circle closed instead of ease to closed. I really like this idea.

Shesha and Adrienne (have I ever mentioned her as the co-instructor?) show us another simple move, which is a progressive series of kicks towards and away from our partners. Cool to hang out with the kick during a pause in the music. Pausing during pauses in the music probably isn't the biggest deal, but is something to keep in mind.

It's tough to practice Lindy when the follows don't know it that well, so I don't get to practice my Lindy turns.

Having just had a right-hand hold observation from Jenny, I notice that Shesha's hold tends to be across the lower-back. I'll try to remember to ask about that tomorrow at Atomic Ballroom.

It's been a very interesting series, but different from the final class of the 6-week Sunday series, as there's been less emphasis on the choreographed series.


John Remy asked about interconnectivity and where things come from. This has been on my mind for a while, but specifically about food since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. So I made a trip to Heavenly Acre, a suburban micro-farm on 1 acre in La Habra heights. The main attraction are their eggs (20 dozen per week, according to their brochure) at $3.50/dozen. I buy a dozen eggs, some grapefruit, macadamia nuts, and passionfruit. I admit to driving straight home and having a fried egg. Lovely!

Nancy tells me that they can't really let the hens roam free because of coyotes, but they bring the garden weeds for the chickens to munch on, and supplement with organic feed. I've always wondered about the predation issue when reading about Polyface Farm.

By the way, that's not a color error. I really did get a green egg. Please no hackish Dr. Seuss jokes, please.

Book Mentions:
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Transitions Part 2

6:15pm Club Swing at the Atomic Ballroom

I make an effort to go to AB's Club Swing class. When I get there, no one else has signed up for it, and they say that last week they folded it into AB Salsa. Jerry states that they'll run the class for me if I'm specifically looking for it, though. I ask instructor Jenny to remind me of her name. She does.

Trish asks me if I'm interested in joining the dance team (they have multiple skill levels, and I'd enter at their Absolute Beginner level). I hadn't really thought about taking this path, and am a little floored by the offer. She tells me a new team cycle is starting this Saturday, 10:45am. They had the tryouts last week, but have been dancing with me enough to have evaluated me. Time commitment? A month of Saturday mornings, 10:45 am. That doesn't sound too bad... Hmmm...

Trish and Alie (sp?)[1] Eli (pronounced ay-lee)[2] give me a 30 min lesson, and second student Patty shows up as a late addition. They explain that the concept of club swing is that swing can be done to modern music as well as more classic swing music. I immediately think of the video SL pointed me to of dancing to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." Since the distinction is really only about dancing to a specific type of music, we move on to working on actual moves. I try to express my desire to have a solid repertoire of social dance moves. Trish tells me that she's quite happy in a social dance with a solid lead, who works mainly on East Coast Swing, with standard turns and perhaps some well-led variations. But essentially, nothing that requires too much thought. Interesting perspective.

We first work on switches (again, not sure about that terminology), coming out of a swing out, leading into a stylized set of swivels done by the follow while the lead anchors. Had been introduced to the idea by Chris on Tuesday, but it's all a blur in my head. Work with Alie [3] Eli on the timing of the lead (7 a 8!), try to understand the main job of the lead is to anchor the follow, but work on tap-stepping (on odds) and Susie-Q styling as well. Back with a partner, I'm losing the anchor, tapping on the wrong foot, and still don't get the Susie-Qs. But we work on it and I start to catch on.

We back up a step and work on the lead into the styling from the swing out. In this variation, my 6-7 is very much like the oppositional rock-step, so I'm facing to the side on the 7, which really emphasizes or helps the follow go into a swivel on 8. Trish tells me I'm focusing so much on my footwork at this point that my frame suffers. We go through it a few more times. I'm not holding my ground and we're slowly edging forward. Jenny steps in briefly as a follow and points out that my catch is past the shoulder blade into the middle of the back, so I need to adjust that too. Trish asks Jenny to demo her switch stylings, which she does with Alie to close the class. I don't even know how to describe what she does. Amazing.

Trish talks to me again about AB dance team. A definite benefit is that I can buy the month-long lesson pass for half the $200 that I'm spending right now. Again the new cycle is starting, which means I'd be learning a choreographed dance and presumably performing it at their various dances, so that's a commitment too. I'll make a decision tomorrow and let them know about it before the lessons start on Friday. "You'll love it, and Jerry really likes you."

As I run out, Jerry asks whether I'm staying for Club Hustle; I explain about the last OC Swing class of the series, feeling a bit sheepish, like telling a soccer coach I sometimes play in another league. He tells me it's a good thing to dance more, and I feel better about that as I leave.

[1] [2] [3] Edits made on 3/17/2007 0300 PDT

Transitions Part 1

I'd committed to training at the gym with AL Thursday morning at 0630. There's a spin class at 0830, so I decided to do both. And heck, while I'm at it, why not ride my bike to the gym?

This level of ambition requires some preparation, which means waking up at 0530. I fluid-load by drinking a liter of water and have a decent carb-dominated breakfast, classic rolled-oats with dried blueberries. I pack my workout shoes, water, towels (man I can sweat up a storm during spin), etc., and take off around 0620.

I have a good training session with AL, but I can feel and see the loss in definition from just a few short weeks ago when I was getting in two training sessions a week focusing on upper-body. Also, I've been slacking on my personal abdominal/core workouts. Need to do that more. My first exercise is a combination of step-up, bicep curl, shoulder-press. That is, while holding dumbbells, I step up onto a workout bench. While balancing on that leg, I curl the dumbbells, transition from the top of the curl to a shoulder press, then reverse all three moves. 15 repetitions on each leg with a 15 pound dumbbell. It's strange to say this, but the focus of the exercise isn't the arm work. I'm not using a heavy enough weight to really stress my arms. The tough thing is the step-up and balance while shifting my weight around (lots of core balance required). At any rate, I do a rotation of the step-up exercises on each leg, a knee-up abdominal exercise on the bench, then an exercise-ball hamstring-curl. Then we repeat. Our next rotation is made up of a crunch with medicine ball. At the apex of the crunch, I toss the medicine ball to AL, then catch it as she passes it back. This forces me to hold the apex of the crunch a lot longer than normal. Next is a squat with the exercise ball sandwiched between my back and the wall. I'm holding a medicine ball which I pass and catch at the bottom of the squat. Then pushups. On the second rotation, my right elbow starts to hurt, so I cut the pushups short.

After our session, I do some more crunches, putter around a bit, and do 20 minutes of elliptical training. It's the first time that I've tried the machine in about a year; I remember having to build up from 5 to 10 to 15 to 20 minutes over multiple sessions, so just deciding to do 20 minutes is a bit ambitious, but I surprise myself by being fine. In fact, my heart rate monitor helps me to push it a bit (I'm typically shooting for a sustained 150 bpm). After my conversion to working out with a HRM, I'm always surprised that more people don't use them. The people around me seem to be doing long sessions on the machines without benchmarking their effort by anything except what the machine tells them the resistance level is. My body can react to the same level of resistance in different ways, depending on how much sleep I've gotten, and how good my fitness is.

30 minutes to spin class. I unpack my spin gear: sports drinks, towels, headband, gloves, and head over to claim a bike. I take some time to stretch out my calves and hamstrings. And then, it's time. We warm up to the opening tracks of Depeche Mode 101 (Pimpf instrumental, and "Behind the Wheel"), then mix it up with a Grammy mix album from 1 or 2 years ago. Not bad music. I'm not in great shape for spin, but I haven't lost back to my pre-spin days. I don't have problems doing stand-up pedaling, and in general, I kick ass. There are a few times when my heart rate hits 170+ (my back-off point) which tells me my legs might not have lost a bunch, but my cardio shape has suffered: I had to really strain to hit 170 in December. I survive and even thrive. Need to do this consistently.

One of the last songs we ride to is Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." I realize that I used to automatically evaluate music by how good it would be for spin, and now I think about the tempo for dance.

Post-spin euphoria as I ride home.


Tuesday evening at the Atomic Ballroom:

As I signed-in I asked one of the owners, Katie, whether she had any strong feelings on whether I was ready for their level-1 class. "Do it," she said. "You're ready." Very cool.

6:15pm; AB Swing; Instructor: Katie
The 6:15pm was a series class I hadn't attended on the first week of the month, so I stayed with the AB (absolute beginner) class. There was only one other student, Samantha, so we got a semi-private lesson. "Sam" had taken 10 or so lessons but it had been almost a year since that time. Still, she picked things up pretty quickly.

We worked on the following sequence:
6-Count Basic
Outside Turn with Oppositional Rock-Step
Walk Through
Sugar Push (x3)
Sugar Push with Block Turn
Walk Through
Katie's spur-of-the-moment Around-The World Move
Ease to Closed
repeat a second time

7:00pm; Level 1; Instructor Chris
First level 1 class I've taken, so I'm excited. I recognize the gal (Sally?) taking the class as a more advanced regular I sometimes see in the AB classes (recently saw her with JE two weeks ago). Chris asks if we're interested in learning Shag, but none of us has a strong opinion on it. Sally (if that's your real name) asks if we can spend time on Lindy Hop, so we focus most of the time on swing-outs. First Chris focuses on a footwork variation for the ladies, the swivel step variation on the start to the swing out which I saw on Sunday with the level-1 technique class. Not much for me to do here except get used to seeing the variation. Next we learn to scoot-step instead of triple-stepping. Easy variation to learn, but I wonder if it requires both people to be on the same page? Chris tries to teach us the kick-ball change to start or end the swingout. I'm not sure how successful we are at learning that. Chris throws what I think is called "switching" into the mix. Coming out of a swing out, the lead signals the start by strongly swinging the hand over on "a8" then strongly anchors for the follow who does a series of switching or swivel stylistic steps theoretically while rotating. On top of this, I'm supposed to be tapping my feet on the odd counts. Too much to hold in my head. I'm glad to be shown how much I don't know, but feel exposed to too much too quickly. First time through on all these variations is tough.

7:45pm; Level 1; Instructor Chris
This time around, Chris just tells us we're learning Shag. It's a very high-energy dance, with basic footwork that involves bouncing from one foot to another with a slow-slow-quick-quick switching tempo. We learn some basic footwork variations like kicking back and forward, and an inside turn. We switch to Balboa towards the end, reviewing basic footwork and doing a Balboa circle (terminology?). This is the same material Aubrey covered last Friday, and she was a bit better at it to be honest.

In retrospect, Chris is a skilled dancer, but wasn't as effective a teacher as some of the others. The Shag was interesting as he was clearly excited to teach it. But as a student, my main worries are about being solid on the fundamentals, doing the fundamentals to faster paced music, and increasing the selection of moves I can do well, so as not to be a boring lead. To be fair, I didn't express this to Chris up front, as I wasn't clear on it in my own mind.

Stayed briefly for the dance: met Victoria in line and managed to get a dance in with her. Watched the regulars throwing out their regular moves. Always interesting to see the same things with a slightly different eye. Had a problem set due for Math the next day, so left to finish that before things got to late.

My Doogie moment to close the evening: I can take the level 1 classes. I need to work being solid in my basics, being a consistently strong lead, up-tempo songs, and work on footwork variations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


After reading a couple posts about touching in a social context, I found myself composing long-winded comments which I decided to nix and post here.

amelia's discussion of types of touching on laughtear focuses on sexual touching versus purely platonic-social touching. This doesn't quite match my experience, but it was difficult for me to say exactly what about it bothered me. Then I remember this post by Miko on mindonfire which re-introduced me to the ancient Greek split concepts for love: eros ("... passionate love, with sensual desire and longing...") philia ("... includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity"), agape ("... feelings for a good meal, one's children, and the feelings for a spouse"). I really liked Miko's thought that relationships are a mix of the three types of love on various scales, and I wonder if we can apply that to touching too. The eros scale would describe sexual/romantic intent, philia would describe comradeship, and agape would describe friendship.

I don't know that I was ever a big hugger (outside of immediate family), but I've come around in the past few years. That being said, there's the peculiar set of unspoken guy rules that I'll try to speak about.
  • Don't hug one's married female friends too often (or too long!!!). No one understands when you look at them and say "Eros 1, Philia 3, Agape 7."
  • Do make sure to give the right vibe of non-romantic friendliness when hugging single female friends. Again, don't say "Philia 3, Agape 6," but it might help to think and project it. It's probably better to not come up with an Eros number for each of one's single female friends. Not just probably.
  • Hugging one's male friends too often isn't ok. In fact, finding some socially acceptable way to physically connect with male friends can be problematic. There's the Eros 1, Philia 7, Agape 2 fist touch or forearm-bump, but I'm not a fan. I've also never been a fan of the hip-hop hug (that's the handshake plus left-arm clap-hug; Eros 1, Philia 5, Agape 6) because it seems so media influenced, but maybe I should re-think that. Some connection is better than none, right?
I'm re-thinking several touching-related discussions I've recently had. One was on my discomfort with the "friendly massage." I was probably too focused on the eros scale and not enough on the agape. The "public cuddle?" Can't say my thoughts on it are changed, as the eros involved is difficult to deny. I had to re-orient my views on touching with respect to dance before this paradigm occurred to me, or else I couldn't have continued with it. There's a lot of touching in social dance, and it's critically important to approach it on the philia and agape scale, rather than with an eros orientation.

Ok, there it is, unfocused, and only slightly edited. John on touching.

Random Cartoon Marketing Related Question

Was Popeye sponsored by Big Spinach?

Absolute Beginner and Level 1

Sunday at the Atomic Ballroom is the Absolute Beginner Series class at 5:30, followed by the AB drop-in class.

5:30pm AB Series taught by Katie
We briefly review the series we learned last week.
6-Count Basic
Swing Out from closed
Inside Turn
Outside Turn
Circle (Swing In)
Swing Out
6-Count Basic
6-Count Basic

The only problem I have is when we Swing In then Swing Out, I keep forgetting to let my partner go, just doing another circle from closed to closed. But I figure it out. There's a big difference between dancing with Katie and all the other follows (though a couple seem quite experienced). She provides a very firm right hand to my left, allowing me to really push off on the rock-step. Makes leading that much easier.

Self-doubt moment: Whenever I dance with Katie, she ends up by conspicuously covering up her chest. I try to pay attention to whether I'm doing something to hit her there, but don't think I am. Wonder if it has to do with her pregnancy, or if it really is me? Shudder.

Katie remarks to the class that we're edging forward during the course of the sequence, which indicates that leads aren't holding our ground during the 8-count moves. My lead follow at the time marks our starting point and points out that I've moved forward 1-2 feet by the end. I attempt to hold my ground better from that point forward.

Note to self:
Ask Katie what point I'm supposed to release my right hand during the Swing Out with Inside Turn. Perhaps the follows are starting to pass me early on 4 or perhaps I'm holding on too late on 5, but I tend to have this awkward moment where the follows are passing me on 5, but are perpendicular to me. I'm still connected with my right hand, but grabbing more armpit than shoulder blade.

6:15 Swing 1 Technique
No one else shows up for the AB drop-in class, so I join the Technique class that Jerry is teaching. I'm intimidated, but move forward. It ends up being a very cool experience. We focus the entire class on the Swing Out. In the first exercise, we start in open position but replace the connected hand-hold with a bungee cord. That is, we each hold an end of the bungee cord and stand a bit farther apart to create some tension in it. We have a couple goals during the exercise. On 1 and 2, leads are focusing on generating tension, but fluidly opening our shoulder on 1 and closing on 2. Follows were focusing on waiting to snap forward on 3. Leads then focused on sending out with a strong shoulder turn on 4, and feeling the same tension on 6 as we had at 1.

The follows (Trish, Danie, Lilly Beth) all had a ton of experience on me, and it was really cool to be along for the ride, though I think my lack of experience shone through at times. For example, they all started every sequence with swivels, and expected me to know when to start my rock-step based on their swivels. I didn't, though now I realize they were swiveling as if finishing 7-8.

After getting the feel of snapping tension the bungee cords provided, we ditched them in favor of the hand connection again, but trying to maintain the feeling of that tension. What a difference in my Swing Out!

We then worked on spotting. As a lead, my facing should always be front, my head does a 360-degree spin between 4 and 5. This action, along with the leads holding back until 3, and the lead shoulder turn starting at 4, really emphasizes a very circular, flowing swing out.

Trish has some problems with the spotting, and the group joshes her a bit about how she faces with her eyes, not her head.

I ask Jerry about what's needed to take Level 1 classes, and he gives me a list of moves, then stops and says the real secret is to be someone who has a strong lead and actually shifts weight on the triple-step. Weight transfer is a very big deal with him. One of the moves he gives me is a double-outside turn, which I've never seen, but he thinks I'll pick up quickly. The follows all give me passing grades on my lead (though I know they'll probably say something different when I'm gone). It ends up that Jerry is talking about what's needed to get to his level 2 class. He states that I'm solid for level 1 right now. Wow. I wish I was as sure as he is. Perhaps I'll sign up for the level 1 drop-in classes from now on.

March Swing Lesson Totals:
OC Swing: 3 Lessons, 3 Hours
AB: 14 Lessons, 10.5 Hours

Running Totals:
SL: 2 Hours
OC Swing: 4 Hours
AB: 12 Hours

Wake Up In The Late Afternoon

It was far from a lazy Sunday.

Scheduled an after-Meeting bike ride with EVH; Meeting is halfway to Irvine, I want to bring my bike, but don't want to leave it out on the rack, so I packed it in the trunk the night before. Realized that I'd be heading to dance class after the ride without a trip back home, so I wore my dance clothing (nothing specific to dance, just stuff made from micro-fiber) to Meeting, packed my ride clothing and gear, some stuff to wash up with, and my dancing shoes. Yes, specific shoes to dance in. This isn't a post about my dance gear.

Little tardy to even the 15-minute late entry to Meeting, but oh well. Didn't see EVH. Saw the Remys and SS, but no catbonny or Animaumbrae either. KQ had already bowed out of lunch, if I remember correctly. Silent worship was very nice, but the announcements went on and on. The current downside to attending. Talking meeting next week regarding finances and fund-raising. I'll definitely stay for that. EVH calls to tell me her morning ran too late to make Meeting or lunch after, but is still up for a bike ride. Oh good, I'd hate to be late to Meeting prepping for a ride that didn't happen. Heck, I would have scouted a river-ride from Santa Ana, I think.

The Young-ish attenders decide to forgo lunch this week in favor of a time when more people attend. SS and I decide to get coffee and chat anyway. Gypsy Den staff doesn't give us service in the 10 minutes we're seated, so we leave and check out Memphis, just next door. We're seated and have water (SS's with lots of lemon, mine with moderate quantities of lemon) within 90 seconds. SS wants to write a letter to the Gypsy Den management. I think I'll do that too. I hear about her family and ethnic history, and a bit about her courtship. Getting to be better friends with people is always an incremental process. I tried to share my thoughts without imposing my mind-state on things. We agree that I'll join her for a ride some weekend.

Made it to EVH's place, changed into ride gear, and we set out on a tour of the back-bay. I managed to drop my bike computer early in the ride , but saw it fall and managed to recover it after a bit of searching. Whew!

We did 15 miles in 1:50 including some stops for the aformentioned search as well as a water break. Riding up one of the rolling hills (after the brief stretch on PCH when doing the back-bay "clock-wise"), I wondered how well I'd do on big hill up to the local high-school. I'm going to have to try that soon. Saturday morning, maybe? Some time when the students aren't driving up or down. EVH offers the use of her shower, so my plan to go to 24H Fitness isn't enacted. Chat briefly with her fellow TA who drops by; Nice guy, but I don't remember his name. EVH says he "Knows everybody." I give them the "connector" spiel from The Tipping Point.

Push off to make dance class.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Waiting To Feel Something

On Friday, my mother told me that my paternal grandfather died.

I wasn't close to him, meeting him once in the early 1980's, and speaking to him a dozen times on the phone after that. He wasn't a presence in my life, and was a disruptive presence in my father's childhood (perhaps something that echoed down into mine? Tough to tell what we can blame on our parents).

I basically tried not to think about it all weekend. On Sunday after Meeting, SS talked briefly about her relationships with her family, and it was all I could do to not blurt all of the above out.

At this point, I'm wondering if I'm going to get a surprise reaction, and if it means that I'm broken if I don't.

300 Workout


Also, an article about the training.

(from MetaFilter)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

First Kiss

A few months back, I had a wandering conversation with CH about high-school which prompted me to look up TM, the first girl I ever kissed. A simple search of Google resulted in a profile. It probably would have ended there, but the profile indicated she was working with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker service organization. With my own Quaker connection fresh in my mind, I figured I'd reach out and make a connection. After actually getting in touch with her a couple weeks ago, we recently chatted for a bit, playing catch-up.

As I left for Journeygal's place (game night, hooray!), I spent some time reflecting on my memories. I usually don't spend much time dwelling on the past, and I certainly want to avoid a personal "High Fidelity" journey. My memories of TM are almost universally sweet, as we lived far enough apart that we never got to spend any sustained time together. A relationship was pretty much out of the question, as was the reality of dealing with each other day-to-day, week-to-week, ups-and-downs (CH will testify that I could be a moody jerk back then; Still? Really? You're a jerk, self-critical voice in my head! :-))

TM pointed out that she was a young thing of 15 at the time, which must be true, as I was 17. My dominant memories are actually of the letters she'd write. I remember them as ... poetic. Ok, my dominant memories are of the first kiss and the letters.

Most of my good friends from college and I have an explicit understanding that our current relationships aren't based on the telling and re-telling of college stories, but it's an element that we don't ignore. Having wallowed in memories for a few moments, I wonder whether it's possible to connect and relate to a woman who I barely knew as a young adult? There certainly aren't a lot of shared experiences to fall back upon!

Life in the age of Google is certainly a lot more interesting than it might otherwise be.

Absolute Beginner

When I started my month-long swing-dance bootcamp, my stated goal was to make it from absolute beginner to something approaching intermediate. In OC Swing class terminology, that would mean moving to the Intermediate level classes. At the Atomic Ballroom, that would mean taking the Level 1 classes instead of Absolute Beginner classes. I'm now coming to the point where I'm wondering about making that move. I think this coming week will be one in which I explore the idea of moving up in the class level I take.

Thursday was my day with Shesha and OC Swing's 7:30pm class at Heritage Park Irvine. I got the very strong feeling this time around that I'm farther along in my swing education than my classmates. We focused on the Swing Out, Swing In, and the transition from Swing In to Charleston. Some of my partners were very unclear about the footwork during all phases. Ah well. I begin wondering about the Intermediate class vs. re-taking the beginner class. Or whether I should even be thinking about dropping OC Swing completely in favor of Atomic Ballroom's lessons. Ended with the 6-count series: basic, tuck-turn, and walk through. Tried to put it all together at the end:
Walk Through
Ease to Closed
Swing Out
Swing In
Charleston Basic
Charleston Pendulum
6-count Basic

Lots of fun! Phil, Patricia, and I stayed to chat about what level we're going to take next cycle. For me, it's a little bit about getting value from the lesson. Because it's a beginner class, there's a lot of review of the basic steps every week, while what I really need to work on is the transitions and being a good lead in transitions.

Friday lesson series at the Atomic Ballroom again made me wonder about the Absolute Beginner label. I know I'm a beginner, but the absolute label on the drop-in classes means that we're spending 60% of the time on the basic step and very little time on the things I feel I need to focus on. This was less an issue at the 6:15 class, which on Friday is dedicated to covering Balboa. We go over the basic again, which I haven't done for a week, but remember. When we're solid on that, we add-on a turn, which I hadn't done before. While the Balboa basic lead footwork is step-step-kick-step, (reversing directions) step-step-kick-step, the turn footwork adds a pause at the point where one does the first kick. Very interesting. I hope we build on that next week. At the end, I ask the instructor for her name, which is Aubrey. First time with her (another good instructor). She complemented me on my frame several times, and wanted me to focus on making a decisive momentum shift earlier in the basic transitions. I think she was saying I needed a stronger lead. Thats hard to do without cheating and signaling with hand pressure instead of frame pressure. I'll have to think about that. The exercise to do that was the shift in direction. If there's no lead to change directions, the follow isn't supposed to change. We could go back forever or forward forever. Again, more work needed.

7pm lesson is with Katie, and we cover the 6-count basic. Patricia from the Thursday OC Swing class shows up with her friend, Cindy (?) for this class. We cover the basic, the tuck-turn and the walk-through. One of the follows in the class, Hillary, is taking a dance class for the first time and has an incredibly difficult time with the footwork (not really ever getting it). I'm probably rude in the amount I watched her, but she couldn't take a single step without over-balancing. Probably needs private lessons. I tried to be a very gracious partner; I hope I succeeded.

7:45 lesson was with Aubrey again. We started with the 6-count basic, then covered the Swing Out. There were a large number of people in this class, which made it a little tough for Aubrey to be as effective. We only rotated through four partners the entire time, which was less then a third of the class.

The Lindy Exchange was in town, making the Friday dance a huge one. I got some dances in early with some ladies at the 7:45 dance (Patricia and Pat), got asked to dance by a very nice asian woman from LA (forgot her name, but quite good). Saw Shesha dancing upstairs; He's so good it's mesmerizing. I definitely have trouble with my steps to faster music, and noticed a problem with doing a swing out at speed. More stuff to work on.

March Swing Lesson Totals:
OC Swing: 3 Lessons, 3 Hours
AB: 12 Lessons, 9 Hours

Running Total:
SL: 2 Hours
OC Swing: 4 Hours
AB: 10.5 Hours

Friday, March 9, 2007


This MetaFilter article mentions Bling H2O, an ultrapremium brand of water sold in bottles decorated with Swarovski crystals.

Bling H2o (official site)

Personally, I'm a bit put-off by the outrage that wells up over this idea. I buy things for packaging all the time. Isn't that the whole point of Fiji brand water? Or Captain Morgan's Pirate Bay Rum? Or for that matter, buying Aquafina instead of generic filtered water. I mean, rich people spend stupid money on stupid things all the time. So what?

What jumped out at me were the Swarovski crystals. I mean, what the heck are they? They're always mentioned as if it's an old-world luxury brand I should know about, like Rolls Royce. Not too far off, actually.

Swarovski crystal

So... faceted leaded glass? That's a luxury item?

Again, rich people: stupid money on stupid things.

The Poor Have More Free Time?

I suppose my hackles are raised over definitions. Steven Landsburg is writing about an economic study that states that income gains of the educated rich have outpaced those of the poor, but that the poor have more free time than the rich and have gained more free time.

It's because a friend lent me Barbra Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Ehrenreich goes "undercover" working in the jobs she can get not with her real resume, but with the resume of a single woman with no college degree and no experience. Her descriptions of working for minimum wage (or slightly more) and needing more than one full-time job to support herself don't sound anything like someone who has tons of extra leisure time. Ehrenrich's description of the working poor sound more like reality than Landsburg's. Perhaps Landsburg is describing someone on the upper ends of the lower-class, but not the working poor. An Ehrenreich "vicious circle" theme is the struggle to find affordable housing within commuting distances of the multiple jobs needed to afford housing. Free time barely comes up, or comes up in the context of complete exhaustion.

An economic mystery: Why do the poor seem to have more free time than the rich? - By Steven E. Landsburg - Slate Magazine

Quick Review of 300

Chatting with RyanH and JohnR, decided to see 300 at Fashion Island at midnight.

A brief synopsis:

300 Spartans get killed

Odd that a story can be hidden in that, but there was. Very stylized movie, which I knew. But I still found some of the lighting slightly jarring (the lighting on the soundstage not matching the lighting in the effects-background). Almost laughable racial stereotypes for the roles (the only darker-skinned Spartan is the evil Spartan; all the Persians dealing with sexuality or insults are played by people of African descent, no one in the entire movie looked Persian, etc). Some sexual imagery towards the beginning that seemed a little tacked-on.

Very worth seeing on the big-screen.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Multi-touch (TED)

This demo, recorded live in front of the TED conference audience, is just mind-blowing:

Read the article about what's been going on in the intervening year:

Wired News: TED: Jeff Han, A Year Later

No Dancing Today

Wednesday is what has become a rare dance-lesson free day for me. Of course, I do have math. Of course, this post isn't about today, it's about yesterday. Specifically, about yesterday's dance lessons at the Atomic Ballroom. Hey, don't think I can't hear the groans. I can hear them.

6:15 class was taught by Jerry, and the first part of the lesson focused on a very simple series,
6-count basic
inside turn
ease to closed

I was one of only three student there; Patricia, one of the advanced students, partnered with and taught a young girl, while Jerry focused on myself and the third student (who's name escapes me). This meant that we got pretty close to a private lesson. After walking through the series at increasing speeds, we spent most of the rest of the time doing some fine-tuning our 6-count basic.

Now I don't want to lie, this is the step that I'm the best at (it really is quite simple), but Jerry's attention was quite welcome. He again told me to drop my shoulders and bring my shoulder-blades together. He discussed the technicalities of how we should be rotating during the basic. This was a big revelation to me: our rock-steps are more diagonal than straight back (got that), but then on the first triple-step, I'm cutting off my partner with my left foot and rotating clockwise, using my right foot as a pivot point. Then on the second triple-step, I'm rotating my right side around my left foot, and using good connection and frame lead my partner to rotate. On that last point, Jerry actually had to debug my right hand grip on my partner's back. I was pressing with my fingers, which made my partner rotate her right shoulder in. When he switched me to making that connection with my palm, her stance natually corrected itself. Very nice. At the end, when the next class was watching, our 6-count basic looked awesome!

7:00 class was taught by Cory, who's taught other beginner classes I've taken at AB (unlike my previous assertion that Jerry and Katie teach them all). We reviewed the Charleston basic, then learned the Charleston kick-through.

Hmmm... I don't think I've found a good instructional video which isolates the Charleston basic. Here's something which is more demo. It starts with the Lindy Hop basic, then mixes in the Charleston basic. It might be unfamiliar, as they don't do any of the wild styling that you might be used to seeing from the 1920's. This is the basic Lindy Charleston (as instructor Cory termed it). It's the part with the kicking.

Ah, here's one that focuses a bit more on the Charleston. I've really only been taught the open (side-by-side) position, but they do some kick-through's so you can see that. Don't think that I've seen or done anything except the basic and the kick-through's. And I've just barely done the kick-through's.

Cory taught the 7:45 beginner class as well. This went back to the Lindy basic and the standard turns. Good to work on this stuff again. I had to vote against the Balboa at the beginning of class, as it's focused on exclusively at the Friday 6:15 class. Sorry couple-who-wanted-to-learn-Balboa. My impression is that Balboa is the least-used of the dances, but I might be wrong. Seems especially useful during very fast music, as you don't have much travel.

Stayed for a bit of the dance, and saw Nikki and her mother Julie again. I remember meeting them for the first time ... was it only a week ago? Holy cow, it feels like so much has happened since then. Well, I guess a bunch of stuff has: 9 lessons, two dances. Wow. Despite her statement that she's forgotten everything, Nikki looks good out there with strong leads. We dance a couple times, and it's difficult not to notice that between the 6-count basic and turns, and the 8-count Lindy basic and turns, we might be mistaken for people who know how to swing-dance!

I'm mindful of my homework situation, and take off after less than an hour. Didn't say hello or goodbye to Julie or get to meet Cory, Julie's son. Ah, well. Perhaps they'll be back next Tuesday. Another day of dance lessons, and that can't be bad.

Just realized that Thursday I'm training after work, then rushing to shower and drive to OC Swing at Heritage Park. Have to plan for that.

March Swing Lesson Totals:
OC Swing: 2 Lessons, 2 Hours
AB: 9 Lessons, 6.75 Hours

Running Totals:
SL: 2 Hours
OC Swing: 3 Hours
AB: 8.25 Hours

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I Rule the Maths

Test #1 results: 50 points out of 52, with the possibility that everyone might get two bonus points, or that the total points possible might be reduced to 50. All I know is that I did good.

I'd be so much prouder of myself if this was the first time I was taking a linear algebra class. Of course, I don't think I understood things this well the first time around. Or the second.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Order Part 2

I dropped-in on the Sunday 2pm OC Swing 6-week class on week six. They're working on the same progressive routine as the Thursday 4-week class, so I was ok. Also helped that my hours at the Atomic have gotten me solid on the basics, so the transitions are really the only new things. Well, that and remembering what the move sequence is. The OC Swing intro routine is:
6-count basic (2x)
Swing out (8-count)
Swing-in (8-count circle)
Basic Charleston
Pendulum (Charleston variant with 6 second-leg kicks)
6-count basic and repeat

Saw at least one person I'd taken a class with at the Atomic, Samir. Also saw a gal (Victoria?) who I'd seen at both Friday and Saturday Atomic dances). The 3pm class was "Charleston Kicks for Lindy Hop," but at $15/lesson, I decided to skip and head to the Atomic, where I'm pre-paid. I noticed that the instructors talked a bit about women's styling, doing hip swivels instead of the rock step. I think I can safely worry about styling a bit later.

Headed to the Atomic Ballroom for their free 4:45pm intro class. We walked through some ballroom basics, as well as the 6-count basic. I think I'll hold-off on the ballroom for a while, until it's more an issue of picking up on a different style rather than trying to get competent at a million things at once. Core swing dance seems to focus on East Coast, Lindy, the Charleston, and some Balboa. That's a bunch of dances to learn and get good at (and doesn't even count time to learn styling and flare). The free intro class was just enough to give a taste. Interesting, worth the time to do once if one is new to the idea of dance, but not worth me repeating.

Katie ran the 5:30pm beginner series a little faster-paced than some of the other classes I've taken at the Atomic, which I'm thankful for now that I feel pretty solid about the basics. We didn't spend the first half of the class learning the basic (perhaps the mix was of dancers who already had that down?), moving into the Lindy Hop (an 8-count dance) basic with swingouts fairly quickly. The final routine:

8-count swingout (closed to open L-R)
inside turn
outside turn
circle (swing in)
6-count basic

A note to myself on technique: the outside turn is signaled by the lead raising the left arm from the side at the end of the first triple-step. This leaves the connected hand upside down from the standard grip. Undoing this is as easy as doing an inside turn, signaled at the same point in the Lindy circle by bringing the left hand up to the right shoulder. Forgetting to do either of these things until the last moment is signified by me grimacing and tightening up my grip.

This class was the absolute beginner series, so we'll theoretically be building on this sequence every week.

Who should show up for the 6:15 class, but Samir who I just saw at the OC Swing 2pm lesson. Jerry taught this class, which was again, a bit faster paced than the previous ones.
6-count basic
6-count basic with oppositional rock-step send out
sugar push
sugar push
circle (swing in)
6-count basic

The oppostitional rock step was an interesting variation. I had to fight not to really stomp with my left foot and kept losing that fight. Jerry had useful personal pointers and "debugging" of problems for everyone in the class. I was pretty solid in my footwork (though I was usually forgetting the sugar-push sequence, and covering up for it), and Jerry told me to focus on my posture, dropping my shoulders and shoulder-blades. Wow did that feel strange! I'll have to work on making it feel natural.

March Swing Lesson Totals:
OC Swing: 2 Lessons, 2 Hours
AB: 6 Lessons, 4.5 Hours

Running Total:
SL: 2 Hours
OC Swing: 3 Hours
AB: 6 Hours
(I stopped counting the one Salsa class I went to)

Order Part 1

Seeing swing done well for the first time is overwhelming and intimidating. I first saw this video before ever taking a lesson. The freedom of expression the dancers exhibit is amazing, but even then, I could sense there was some kind of underlying structure and repeating footwork that I didn't understand:

After taking some lessons and getting more solid familiarity in the footwork, the structure is a little more clear, as are the variations on the structure. That video has gone from intimidating to inspiring (though it still seems completely out of reach).

Atomic Ballroom's first Saturday of the month is a swing dance. This Saturday happened to be the three-year anniversary of it's opening, a real accomplishment. They've had my full support since about a week ago when I first heard about it. Seriously, though, it's a very nice facility, dominated by the main dance floor. There's no bar, which makes it very family-friendly; The focus is on social dancing. I saw they teach couples to do wedding dances. Smart, I never thought about that. The owners Katie and Jerry are very friendly, accessible, and thoughtful teachers. I think all the beginner classes I've taken were taught by one of the two.

On a Saturday with an 8:30pm swing dance, Atomic Ballroom teaches a 7:45pm swing lesson. Remember swing dance boot camp month? I'm not likely to let you forget, though I'm sure some of you are already tired of hearing about it (day 5). The sequence we were building up to was
6-count basic
8-count sendout
Lindy Circle
Ease to Closed (a 6-count transition from open to closed)

Several of the women in the class stayed for the dance, which helped me be comfortable enough to ask them to dance. Early on, the gal I was dancing with asked me to show her the Charleston basic, which we hadn't gone over in class. Some of her friends came, and she asked me to dance with one who she had showed the 6-count basic. I was happy to. If I don't have a problem dancing with less-skilled people, does that mean that more skilled dancers won't have a problem dancing with me? Danced mostly with two other students, Lisa and Susan, after that. Ducked out about 10:30pm to get to bed so as to get to Meeting in a timely manner. Though that didn't seem to work. On the way out, I asked Katie about the turnout for the various nights they host dances. Tuesdays are about 100 people, Fridays are over 200, and Saturdays are just over 100, but can jump when they have a special DJ or live band (all numbers are over the course of the evening, of course).

Good times!

Sunday, March 4, 2007


It's embarrassing to admit this, but my apartment is a mess. A disaster. Enough of one that I hesitate to have people over. And the only way to motivate myself to clean up is to have people over! So when the opportunity to invite a gal over on Saturday presented itself, I had mixed emotions: strong desire to see her, realization that I need to pick my place up, and a weak desire to not clean up. Seeing her was the clear winner, and I spend some time in the intervening week picking things up, moving things to the appropriate room, storing things away, and running my Roomba. My one clean room, the bathroom, got a little cluttered for a while as various stuff got relocated there. I realized I still have a completely useless (to me) futon mattress which I borrowed from my mother several months ago. Need to return that.

Did some minor touching up on Saturday morning, stretched out my post-ride lactic acid with some yoga, managed to fit in a shower and shave, and did a little math homework. I got some awesome smells from my Indian neighbors' lunch, which made me re-think my impulse to eat at Renaissance Bistro. When my friend arrived, I realized my yoga mat was still out. Oops.

So yes, if you've visited my place in the last 24 hours, it's a sad fact that the state of my place represented the cleaned up version of how I live.

Lunch at Renaissance was nice, though a bit windy. Soup was the Tomato Florentine, salad was the half portion of the baby organic lettuces with balsamic vinaigrette, and the main was the penne pasta with broccoli and sundried tomatoes. Didn't realize the pasta didn't come with chicken until it arrived. Maybe the grilled chicken panini is the better choice for me. It ended up being too much food for me, and in retrospect I'll skip the soup the next time around. Note sure why that's a surprise, as last time I was there, I had the salad and panini with no soup and still couldn't finish it all (though we did share a dessert). I'm also wondering whether there's a way to eat there which is a bit more friendly to "family-style" sharing of main courses. I was eye-ing the spicy dish the whole time. And her food looked pretty tasty too.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

More Fun at the Atomic Ballroom

This must be terrible for people I know who don't give a rat's ass about my new swing-dance thing. My heart goes out to you. I've often been in situations where someone is passionately describing something which I know and care nothing about. Fortunately, at least part of the point of this blog is to record my thoughts, impressions about things, and activities for my benefit, not yours. So nyah! :-)

Friday night at the Atomic Ballroom. I get there for the 6:15 class covering Balboa. The basic had been covered briefly at the free opening lesson they gave at last Friday's dance, but this class started over, got us solid in the basic, and stepped up our speed. I think the speed is going to take some work. We added in the "falling off the log" pattern which are side-steps (Balboa basic moves in-line with one's partner.

Aside: Odd now that I spend time on YouTube watching dance video. And get annoyed at some of the historical footage which doesn't show footwork.

Back to AB lessons:
I believe we worked on transitioning from a Lindy Circle to the Balboa, but I might be mixing things up in my head. The second lesson focused almost exclusively on the Lindy Hop, going over the basic Lindy Circle (which helped me a lot), and a Lindy Circle ending in closed position. I don't think we covered the transition back to open position, instead moving to the East Coast basic. Got several complements on my strong lead from the instructor and experienced students filling in as follows. Still working on perfecting hand positions for the various moves.

Phil showed up for the third class as did a Girl Scout troop (high-schoolers). That's only creepy if you let it be. We covered the East Coast basic, transitioning to the tuck turn, changing places, the circle, then the the Charleston basic. Very cool. I feel like I'm in the process of really solidifying the footwork, and smoothing out the rough edges of balance and lead.

It ends up that I actually know one of the other guys, JE, in the class from high-school. His S.O. has been in several of the AB classes I've taken. We didn't really know each other back in the day, but it's nice to run into someone like that every once in a while.

Stayed for a couple hours of the dance, which a couple of the other OCSwing students showed up for. I definitely got some dances in this time around, with each of the OCSwing students as well as one of the adult chaperones (troop leaders?) of the the Girl Scouts (I think her daughter was in the troop). Cut out early in order to ensure a solid start to Saturday.

March Lesson Total:
OCSwing: 1 Lesson, 1 Hour
AB: 4 Lessons, 3 Hours

Running Total:
SL 2 Hours
OCSwing 2 Hours
AB: 4.5 Hours (including .75 hours of Salsa)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Look At Those Peppers!

I don't have a filthy mouth, but I've been know to drop an F-bomb for emphasis in moments of high emotion. And I'm definitely more blue with some people than others. But more and more, I find myself saying, "F this, F that." Like saying the actual letter. Is that actually any better? I don't think it is, but somehow it's more socially acceptable. Hmmm... Maybe it isn't.

I think that lots of profanity makes something funny, but I don't mind my humor profane. The best comics use swearing as emphasis or punctuation, not as their actual punchlines. That being said, I still broke out in peals of laughter over this produce photo. Maybe it was the dissonance of seeing these words and these images together.

Might not be safe for work (text profanity):

Look at these F'ing Peppers!

Original pointer from CH.

Steampunk Star Wars

I don't care that I already told everyone I think would be even vaguely interested in this about it. Steampunk Star Wars art! It's pretty damn cool, and I'm not even that into steampunk. Or Star Wars. Or art.

Eric's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea: steampunk star wars


Dance Boot Camp

After Tuesday at the Atomic, I was really looking forward to getting in more lesson time. I stopped by the Atomic Ballroom and paid for their month-long lesson and dance pack. As I mentioned previously, I really like the fact that I can take up to three classes in a row on the same trip to Irvine. My goal for the month is to jump from the "Absolute Beginner" group to the "Level 1" group (I didn't make up the names, but it seems to roughly correlate to beginner and intermediate). There seems to be a fairly steep jump in skill level, but we'll see how I progress.

What's that? I was there just in time to take an Absolute Beginner Salsa class? Why not?! It was almost as if I planned that. I had lots of fun learning a new basic pattern (though my mind might be getting a bit cluttered), and just to get some more "floor time" in.

Dance "frame" seems to be fairly important in Salsa in order to communicate from lead to follow, and my partners seemed to have problems keeping a good frame. I tried to communicate that to them subtly by doing slight push-pulls with my hands in open position to emphasize their loose frame, but had to resort to asking them to help me out by being firmer. I'm not quite sure what the etiquette is to do that when one's in a lesson, so I tried to frame it as a "I'm having this problem, and you can help me by doing this thing," statement. This was a bigger problem when trying to learn the spin. I wasn't quite getting the timing of the turn, or the hand-work. This video covers my 45 minute class in 7 minutes, with a slightly different emphasis on the hand positioning for the turn (we didn't learn the "J" motion, just raised our hands).

As I watch it again, I recognize that my instructor last night (Jerry) talked about using the raised hand to help the follows start their turn, which the instructor in the video didn't mention. I'd really like to work some more on that turn.

Salsa's closed position isn't something I'm used to, so I'm sure I had problems there. Again, we needed to communicate our position with strong open hand and strong elbow and forearm connection, but the follows didn't seem to pick up on that and our communication suffered. As much my fault as theirs, I'm sure (he said, insincerely).

The class ended at 7pm, which gave me just enough time to get over to Heritage Park for the OCSwing lesson at 7:30. It's nice to have a class which is definitely progressive as opposed to the Atomic one's which are mostly drop-in classes. We did a review of the six-count basic, the tuck-turn, switch, circling, and then learned the Charleston basic. This was mostly review for me after the Tuesday Atomic Ballroom class, but the Charleston footwork is a bit trickier than the other stuff we've been doing and I was far from perfect. We then tried a variant of the Charleston where we did six kicks then returned to the basic pattern. Then we worked on transitioning from the six-count pattern we learned last week to the Charleston pattern. And then we worked on transitioning from the end of the Charleston pattern back to the six-count pattern. Very nice.

After class, one of the guys, Phil pointed out that we could really do that repeating pattern of six-count to Charleston all night long and be ok. Good call, Phil. Would be nice to learn some other basic turns, but I'm sure the instructors have their own ideas about what we should learn and in what order. Phil and I made plans to meet up at the Atomic again on Friday. Tried to sell Theresa (?), Maryann, and John on the idea as well. I'm planning on taking the three lessons from 6:15 to 8:30, and Phil plans to be there around 7. Oops, am I supposed to be riding Saturday morning? Well, I might not be staying up to 2am, but it should be fun.

So, the count for the month of March:
OCSwing: 1 lesson 1 hour
Atomic Ballroom: 1 lesson .75 hour

Running Total:
2 hours with SL
2 hours with OCSwing
2.25 hours with Atomic Ballroom (.75 of which is Salsa)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Misquoting Jesus - Chapter 3

Part of a continuing series of reactions to the Mind on Fire reading group's reaction to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. You can also read my entries on the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2.

It isn't my goal to summarize the chapter, grade-school book report style, but to highlight the information which I found striking and worthwhile to remember, along with some of my reactions.

Texts of the New Testament

I believe the goals of this chapter were to
  • show the practical consequences of previously discussed issues with early copyists of the New Testament
  • highlight and give back-story to the historically and scholarly significant Bible editions
  • give an overview on the types of changes to the Bible made by copyists
An interesting opening point was the idea of regional differences in copies of the Bible. Before the rise of the professional scribe, books were copied by individuals with less than perfect literacy skills (again, as highlighted in the previous chapter). Since copies of books were more difficult to produce in these pre-scribal times, one can imagine that an individual copying a book on his own would introduce unique mistakes to his copy. Then if that copy was taken to an area which didn't have copies of the book, then copyists in that area would base all the area's copies on the uniquely mistaken copy. Thus the idea of errors or variations in texts unique to an area. I wonder whether it's possible to create an early family tree of book copies based on the variations within the text. Or even identify the region a book came from based on the errors contained within it, like a fingerprint. Perhaps the transposition of two key words shows up in a certain city's copies. I hope that idea gets addressed later on.

After the rise of the professional scribal class, copies of manuscripts became more uniform. Because of their uniformity, they were presumptively superior, but of course the manuscripts were based upon flawed copies of flawed copies of flawed copies of manuscripts. So we need to question the source of these professionally copied manuscripts.

Byzantine manuscripts are the scholarly jargon for manuscripts in Greek made in the area formerly known as the Byzantine Empire.

The Latin Vulgate (4th century) was motivated by the multitude of varying Latin translations of Greek manuscripts. The Pope commissioned an official translation, which was based upon the best available translations as well as Greek sources. Vulgate is Latin for "common."

After the invention of the printing press, the Vulgate was the translation use for the Gutenberg Bible, the first book to be print-published (1450's). After being standardized upon over 1000 years before, it was thought of as the source manuscript, though of course it wasn't even the source language. The Complutensian Polyglot was a project to produce Latin, Greek, and (for the Old Testament) Hebrew translations side by side. Started over 50 years after the first print publishing of the Vulgate, it was the first time a Greek manuscript would be printed.

After the project started, Dutch scholar Erasmus raced to get his own Greek printed edition published, actually beating out the Complutensian Polyglot with his edition, Textus Receptus. Erasmus was less than thorough in getting multiple sources for the Textus Receptus, using a single 12th century source for Acts and Epistles and translating some of the Vulgate back to Greek for missing pages of Revelation. Ehrman makes a nicely snarky point that the Textus Receptus is based on a few Greek manuscripts at best to few or none (Revelation) at it's worst. The quality of the source manuscripts wasn't the best, and included the "woman taken in adultery" story and the last 12 verses of Mark, both mentioned in chapter 2 as problematic. It didn't originally include the Johanine Comma (only source reference for the idea of Trinity), as Erasmus couldn't find a Greek manuscript which included it. In a revised edition, he did include it after some contemporaries manufactured a Greek manuscript including the Johanine Comma! With all these problems, the Textus Receptus is the basis for 500 years of Greek manuscripts of the Bible, including the source for the King James translation. That's pretty mind-blowing to me, though I'm probably just a guilty of uncritical reading as the next guy. For example, I haven't read any of the source material referenced by Ehrman. I've just accepted his expertise... It's pretty disturbing that hundreds of years of Biblical tradition can be inspired by a rush-job, though.

Mill's Apparatus (1707) was a 30 year effort by John Mill which was based on a 1550 Greek edition by Stephanus (itself based on the Textus Receptus). It included "variant readings" from 100 Greek sources, and noted thirty-thousand places of variation, leaving out most word-order variations.

Today, there are 5,700 known Greek manuscripts from the 2nd to 16th centuries, ten-thousand Vulgate manuscripts, and all-in between 200-thousand and 400-thousand variants.

The chapter closes with a section on the types of changes which occurred during copying from accidental (misreading, misunderstanding abbreviations, and line skipping) to intentional (correcting factual errors, interpretive errors, circumventing misunderstanding, adding doctrinal emphasis, synchronizing texts with oral traditions).

For me, the chapter really shatters the idea of the literal, inerrant word of God being preserved in the Bible. Of course, that doesn't mean much, as that was my bias. However, I found it fascinating at the quantity and quality of the scholarly work which has gone into clarifying the details of the variants, yet how little is spoken of it in contemporary spiritual life.