Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dancing Notes

Post private lesson notes from Jofflyn and Amber:

  • Look towards my partner, not down at her.
    I have a tendency to roll my shoulders forward into the minutest slouch, and looking down into my partner's eyes feeds that bad habit.
  • Complete the thought of the lead.
    I have a tendency to not return to a fully squared off position.  Or "in the slot."  "On the diving board."
  • I don't have to rock-step on 1-2.
    Especially in two closed to closed circles in a row, why break up the flow of the circle with a rock-step?
    Anything else
  • Use entire right hand on follow's back for connection.
    I'm spreading my fingers, but hyper-extending them so that only my palm is making contact.
  • Watch the rhythm of my free spins.
    Tending to put enough energy for multiple spins but not following through (enough for three but only doing two).
    The energy in the spins needs to match the rhythm that I want out of the spin.
  • If I mean to travel in a straight line, make sure I move in a straight line.
    Tuck-turn example:  be firm enough in the lead to keep the follow going in the intended direction of the TT.
  • Step out of my box on a break.
    I always do the same rhythm steps or jockeys.  Drag back.  Walk back.  Do something different.
  • Establish my rhythm early
    I'm taking this to mean choosing which part of the music to dance to early, and sticking with it.
    I'll have to ask about instrumental solos and such.
  • Widen my base.
    I'm not keeping my feet at shoulder width apart and my balance suffers as a result.
  • Consistent energy from swing-out to swing-out
    Doing bouncy footwork variations then switching back to vanilla swing-outs is visually jarring.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Civil Rights and the Mormon Church

With all my Mormon friends, I've been caught up in the struggle and pain of many with their church's position against gay marriage.

Here's the digest version, for those who care.  On June 20th, 2008, the First Presidency of the Mormon church, consisting of the head of the church and his three counselors, released a letter, Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families.  The letter stated the church's support of Proposition 8 in California and called on the membership for support:
We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage. 
Mormon doctrine states that the head of the church can issue statements like this with the power of infallibility.  In fact, letters from the First Presidency are the gold-standard for Mormon doctrine.

Members of the church can't really be fully participating members unless they can truthfully answer a series of questions to the leader of their congregation, including one which asks:
Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator;
Thus, to some members feel it's their duty to be obedient to the church leadership to actively volunteer time, money, and their votes to the "Yes on 8" movement.  Others feel this is faulty.  But the friction between the two camps can cross friendship, family, and certainly congregational boundries.

In my mind, this is all wrapped up in the church's history of bigotry.

My father once told me that the Mormon's believed that blacks were "mud people."  I can't imagine that he knew much about the Mormon faith, but he certainly got the basic bigoted history correct.  Until 1978, the Church didn't allow it's black members to fully participate as anything but second class members.  The black men couldn't participate in the male-only lay priesthood system.  Neither gender was able to enter the buildings or perform the ceremonies which are doctrinally critical (including getting married in a Temple).

Remember the infallible statements of Mormon doctrine I mentioned before?  Here's an interesting list of Authoritative Statements on the Status of Blacks. The one I come back to over and over again is the 1949 statement which includes this doozy:
President Brigham Young said: "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to."
One of the things I take away is that a past president of the church stated that black people are colored that way because of a historical curse from God.  And the First Presidency restated and enshrined that position as doctrine.  Black people are cursed by God.

Many Mormons don't know this is doctrine, or when faced with it, reject it as doctrine.  Which implies that they're rejecting the idea of the role of the President of the church as seer and revelator.  It's a treacherous path to walk, but depends on the individual judging their own ability to do mental gymnastics about this statement.  A very liberal minded Mormon would be able to say they uphold the leadership of the Church without regarding them as necessarily infallible even in these letters.  I get the impression that this is pretty outside of the mainstream.  But I also get the impression that not every Mormon has read this specific letter.  Which is weird, as they meet and study for hours on end (especially as youths, but even into adulthood).

Another tidbit.  Here's an exerpt from the current Aaronic Priesthood Manual, which is used to teach every adolescent boy.
“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).
That's right, the church still uses statements against interracial marriage in it's teaching manuals.

In many ways, the racial bigotry seems like an untidy piece of history which is dying out with the people who lived it.  Not that quickly, but it is dying out.  The homophobia is slightly more institutionalized, though not couched in the language of hate, but in the language of preserving tradition and the family unit.

Gender inequality is mind-bogglingly in-your-face in the church.  All the ministireal leadership positions are held by men.  All.  From the highest levels to the local congregations.  I don't get it.

And the cultural gender roles... well, this is about civil rights and bigotry, not culture.  Never mind.

I've had to take a vaction from visiting practicing Mormon friends.  Every part of me wants to engage in these discussions which are attacking and accusatory.  And I get a quick thrill out of that behavior, along with a lot of long-term guilt.  And people who think I'm an asshole.

Bleh.  Bigotry makes me mad.

Civil Rights

So the 2008 election season has come and gone without me writing about it.

I'll say this, I spent election night dancing at Atomic Ballroom and trying not to follow things too closely once I realize that Barak Obama had won Ohio and Pennsylvania in early ballot counting.  Then heard that Prop 8 was passing in California and started paying attention again.

The people of California voted to amend the state constitution to disallow marriage for same-sex couples.  That's shocking and horrifying to me.  To a certain degree, I've been viewing this idea through the lens of my friends' experiences as liberal Mormons or ex-Mormons.  So it's been a lot about the pain of people grappling with their church's position instead of the pain of people who are being targeted for bigotry.

Yeah, bigotry.  I remember being horrified at the racism bubbling to the surface of the country during the West Virginia primary:

I laughed.  Laughed that this kind of bigotry still exists in this country.  And that people feel comfortable enough with it to expose themselves as such on camera.  And cried a little inside.

And now, as we've seemingly faced down our history of racism, we've made it clear that we haven't overcome anti-gay bigotry by a long shot.

Californians will look at themselves in the mirror years from now and have to justify this vote.  Or just be honest.  "I was a bigot."

Maya Lin's Wave Field

Maya Lin's Wave Field (hat tip, my mom)

Very cool series of installations blurring the lines between art, earth, and water.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've been smugly telling people that I voted already, having sent in my absentee ballot a while back.

Imagine my surprise when I came home and noticed the envelope sitting by the door.  Oops.  Need to drop that off tomorrow.

Love the season.  Both candidates want to kill babies, apparently.  Obama want to kill them in utero.  McCain wants to kill them in Iraq.  Bleh.  The closer the election, the more strident the rhetoric.

One thing that did resonate with me was something which hasn't been discussed much:  abortion.  On Monday's Fresh Air, Dave Davies interviewed former Washington Post journalist and current journalism professor at UC Berkeley, Cynthia Gorney: Parsing the Politics of Abortion.  The revelatory nature of the interview was the reality of the pro-life movement's "true believers."

OK, just to think it through, some people believe that human life unequivocally begins at the moment of conception.  Thus abortion is murder.  And that's a hard line.  An embryo is the same as a two-year-old.  Rape or incest?  Since one wouldn't kill a child of rape or incest, their abortion shouldn't be legal either.  It's logically consistant but not what the vast majority of citizens believe, I think.  This was brought up in this context because Sarah (with-an-h) Palin is a "true believer."  No exceptions for rape or incest.  Only if the life of the mother is physically threatened (not emotionally) is abortion justified.

It's an outlying viewpoint.  I think if this was the classic "life begins at conception" viewpoint, not many people would view themselves as pro-life.

I'm not 100% clear on exception when the mother's life is threatend.  Would you sanction killing a two-year-old boy to save his mother?

This is a complex ethical question.  I can't help but think that abortion is a highly personal matter.  And that as a society, we should do everything in our power to make it unnecessary.  But illegal?  Doesn't sit right with me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Secretary of the Internet


xkcd, an online web comic, is generally brilliantly funny.  It's especially funny in it's currently running series.  Check it out starting here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making Out

A friend recounted a story of an intimate moment interrupted by his partner suddenly asking a question about lyrics.

"And then we both thought of you. Because of your misheard lyrics posts. Not because of anything weird."

Awkward pause.

Clearly the next logical question was...

"What song?"

I wasn't familiar with it, and upon hearing it, was puzzled.

"That's a bit faster than anything I'd play during an unspecified intimate moment."
"Um, well, it has a good beat."

I refrained from further questions.

But it did remind me to review my make-out playlist. It's an odd thing. I have no idea what I was thinking on some of these tracks, which clearly belong on a "sex it up" playlist, not a "make out" list.

And just to randomly drop some tracks on you,

"Clouds Up" - Air

"You Do" - Aimee Mann

"Les Professionnels" - Air


"Sleepwalk" - Santo & Johnny

"Wicked Game" - Chris Isaak

"Ain't No Sunshine" - Bill Withers

"Justify My Love" - Madonna

"Something's Gotta Give" - Beastie Boys
(well, until I watched this video, anyway)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Curl Up With A Warm Cup Of Crazy

Make sure you're not drinking anything when you watch this.  It might end up ... well, everywhere. (h/t MeFi)

The crazy really kicks in around 1:14.  Next gear, 3:55.  And finally, 6:30.  Soooooo amazingly horrifying.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Volvo Is Not Subtle

You might be trying to be subtle, but you're...
Not.  Subtle.  At.  All.

Entire commercial, but especially the logo at the end.

"Buy this car, and a hot woman like this will stroke you.  Men buy Volvo's."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

You're On Notice!

You're On Notice!!!

Holy crap, this high-school drama bullshit shouldn't be in my life.  I'm thirty-fucking-five, godddamn it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quotes From Friends Pt. 2

D: Would you like my muffin?
Me: Hold on.
[pause while I fiddle with my phone]
D: Are you calculating the carbs in a muffin?
Me: No, I'm writing down your muffin question so I can blog about it later.

Quotes From Friends

Danie: I haven't seen you in pants in days! What?! Why are you laughing?

People on Clay Aiken

In the break room yesterday, I saw a cover story for People magazine: Clay Aiken is gay.

  1. I'm glad he doesn't have to live a lie to his children, as alluded to on the cover.
  2. Who the fuck is Clay Aiken?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dancing and Quotes

Hung out with G&C last night, before Strutter's Ball.  Walking from dinner to Strutters, we came across my favorite mannequin.  I've seen it before, so I made the same joke.

Me: [Freezing and making a face]
C:  What?
Me: What, exactly, is being sold here?!
G: Nipples A-Blazing!!!

Then later, sitting at the fountain,

G:  That thing is a wild beast, and I want it!
Me: That's not the first time I've heard that!

Movement Swing Student Teacher

I spent the weekend of September 20-21 in Berkeley, CA helping Jofflyn and Amber teach a workshop for thw swing subgroup of "The [M]ovement".  Berkeley has an active on-campus swing scene, which [M]ovement Swing is a part of.  So, Trisha flew up while I rode with Charles on Friday night.

The three of us acted as fill-ins and roving coaches for the closed session.  It was a bit of a change from my experience acting as a "peer" coach, suggesting a change to a fellow troupe or team member as I've done as a member of the Atomic Jitterbombs or Bobbysox Brigade.  I've had quite a bit of experience in the more informal mentoring role, using a critical eye on a fellow dancer's dancing.  It's quite different to be in this mode in a more permanent basis, constantly scanning a group, constantly looking for flaws to correct.  The three of us know what Jofflyn and Amber are looking for when they're teaching basic technique and the group was pretty large, around 15 couples.  I think having a few extra people keeping eyes on the students to correct basic technique helped to accellerate the learning process.

In discussing the experience aftwards with Amber and Jofflyn, I came away with a couple things: 
  1. I have a good ability to see what fundamental problems a dancer is having
  2. It's a different skill to see the problems of a group as opposed to a specific couple or dancer
  3. It's a skill to be able to say the same thing in multiple ways until you figure out the way that the student understands
  4. I really enjoy teaching and mentoring swing dancing.
During the open-to-the-public class, Charles and I essentially spent our time giving a private lesson to a guy who was brand new to swing dancing.  We took him from knowing nothing to have a solid basic swing-out.  Getting him up to speed on a rotating East-Coast basic helped the beginning of his swing-out from closed.  Then we really blew his mind by giving him "changing places," and a six count circle.  But the vast majority of the time was spent on the swing-out.

As a result, Charles and I missed most of the "moves" class.  But that was O.K.  It was interesting to teach him, and he'd have been lost in the other class.

On day two, Charles, Trish, and I led the review of basic technique.  I got to be the booming voice, Trish had lots of cool follow insight, and Charles got to expound on the importance of frame.  We'd gone over the lesson plan with Jofflyn the night before, but it helped to have all of us there to remember it:
  1. assessment (warm-up)
  2. visual leading, visual contact (no touching exercise)
  3. frame
  4. connection notes (C grip, gun grip)
  5. momentum (center-to-center motion, stepping beneath oneself, consistent rotation speed, lead's choice exercise)
I totally forgot the frame exercise, and Charles brought us back to it.  He also had great additional frame exercises (starting from two hands and rotating, then lead-and-follow directional walking), and emphasized that good frame on the catch of the swing-out made the follow feel comfortable.  I countered that it was easier, which spoke to my lazy side.  That got a chuckle.

All in all, it was an incredibly positive experience for me.

Feedback from Amber:  Don't talk too much between repetitions of the exercise, or they tune out no matter how critical the advice you're giving.  Give a nugget, do a rep.  Give another, do another rep.  "It's a lesson I learned the hard way."

To a certain degree, I think we need reps in leading that kind of class to get fully comfortable, but we're very close.  "Apprenticing" under Amber and Jofflyn's guidance was a heady experience.

On the drive back, Charles and I talked dancing inspiration, musicality, and especially about the subtleties of connection and frame.  From the lead's perspective, we need strong left side connection to begin the swing-out but essentially nothing after that.  There's something there about a totally relaxed arm, as Laura Keat taught me, but not as relaxed initially.  Firm when it needs to be (1, or 1-2), relaxed when it's not needed, then firm when it needs to slow/stop the follow.  Have to talk that over with Jofflyn.

Still buzzing, days later.  The group was amazing to work with, and I'm looking forward to seeing their showcase and performing for them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


googlesack, v.  The act of asking a question aimed at making someone search for an answer on the internet when you yourself are perfectly capable of searching for it.

"I wonder if there's a later show of the movie?"
"Don't try to googlesack me!  Look it up yourself!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bobbysox Brigade

I heard some muttering about a potential future upheaval of the Atomic Swing Teams.  I'd been worried about how things had been stagnating for a while, and as a result, I decided to look around.  The other high profile team local to me is the OC Swing Team.  I'd asked Sky about it once, but he gave me a look and told me it was invite only.  OK...  Another potential option was the Bobbysox Brigade, headed up by Jofflyn Valencia and Amber Villa. So I asked Jofflyn about attending a practice to get a feel for their style and philosophies.  They'd been teaching at Atomic since April or so (I know I mentioned their interesting teaching methods before, in Excitement), but hadn't ever mentioned that they have a team.

Let me back up for a bit.  The consensus on Atomic teams for a while had been that Jerry was distracted and unfocused.  Later on, we found out that the family had been considering moving to Texas for about a year.  So eventually, I found out the upheaval in question was a sale of the studio to Shesha and Nikki Marvin, who head up the OC Swing Team.  I talked about that transisition before in Dancing Transition.  Ultimately, I decided that the refactored Atomic Team wasn't for me.  I liked the idea of access to different instructors, different choreographers, different styling.  But the philosophy of running the team was different enough that I wasn't up for waiting out the transition.  But I still needed to figure out if I should fully commit to the Brigade.

I actually took the time to reach out to people who's dancing I liked watching, who had left the Brigade.  One high profile dancer actually told me he had a very positive experience, but hadn't left with a lot of skills that he still used.  Meh.  Other people had really positive things to say about the troupe.

My experience in the audition process was really interesting.  They threw a lot of choreography at us which I didn't know (Big Apple, Dean Collins Shim-Sham).  They told us we should just try to come along for the ride, and that they were looking for those who didn't give up.  Fair enough.  Fake it 'til you make it.  They told us up front that they were looking for people who enjoyed themselves, who could learn, and who could fit in with the existing personalities.

Ultimately, they offered me a spot on the troupe, and I decided to join based on a few factors:  Jofflyn and Amber are amazingly personable people.  They're the type of people who want to have troupe members who they also socialize with.  That's hard to resist.  They're amazing teachers.  And their philosophy of stripping away all styling to get to basics is very compelling.  It's easier to add styling to basic moves.

I miss the old Atomic dynamic that I had.  I loved the team socializing we did.  I miss it enough to have gone to Atomic last Saturday to eat lunch with whoever was willing to go. But joining The Bobbysox Brigade didn't mean I was choosing to leave my friends or my socializing, just my instructors. 

Things were going to change, regardless of what happened.  So far, I'm really happy with the choice I've made.


Chat exerpt:
ok FYI John im not this teenage girl ,, number one , number two hello , what the F...

I love irony.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dear Self

Dear Self:

Just a quick reminder to you:  Don't go riding without bike shorts or you'll rub your crotch raw. 

Love and Kisses,


Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Rabbits

So rabbit-style vibrators were featured on Sex and the City.  I missed it because I don't watch the show.  I wanted to like it, but never could get into it.  Thus, I don't know the context, but I do know that it's an honest-to-goodness sex meme now.

I don't remember how the Rabbit Vibrator came up yesterday, but it did, which reminded me of a long ago conversation:

K:  Are you threatened by vibrators?
Me: Well, I'm pro-orgasm.   So no, I guess not.

I'm still wondering if a question like that is me being evaluated for sexual compatibility.  If so, it didn't work.

But back to the present, I did get to use my hands as a model yesterday, which led me to this wonderful statement:

Me:  [staring at interlocking fingers] Of course, this isn't to scale.
MM:  We know.

Which also reminds me:

D: I'm bummed that I don't show up in your blog any more.

My new response, "You're not asking the right questions."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

SSC 24

Short Shameful Confession:

I've just spend 2 and a half hours watching Youtube video of people lancing boils and draining abscesses. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

What the Fuck Did You Just Say?

"Freakin' Spics!"

That's what he said.

And as far as I know, everyone heard him say it.  And I'm the only one who seemed to react.  I couldn't even look him in the face for the next hour.  And I don't know if I can be around him any more.

After stewing for the better part of a day, I finally just emailed him about it.  He apologized if I was offended but told me he felt that no words should be so sacred that it couldn't be said.

I told him that I had no idea what that meant.

The Look

On Monday, I did a plyometrics workout, and as of today, I'm still incredibly stiff and sore.  Last night at dance team practice, I saw myself in the mirror and realized that my "I'm stiff and sore from plyometrics" walk looks exactly like a "I took a crap in my pants" walk.

Unfortunate to figure that out after three days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Georgie Cooper died last week.

As saddened as I am to hear about her passing, I can't think of Georgie Cooper without seeing her bright smile and hearing her infectious laugh. It's strange to realize that though it's been over 20 years since I sat in her class, I continue to experience the lessons she taught me on a regular basis. She came up in a conversation with friends just last week as an example of a person who's enthusiasm made being around her a joyful experience. I can't begin to calculate the impact she's had on my life. I have tears in my eyes, but revisiting my memories of her incredible presence lightens my heart. Thanks Georgie, I promise I won't let you down!

Mrs. Cooper, a teacher I had in Junior High, touched me in a way that my own grandfather's death didn't.  I've actually spent a few minutes wracked with sobs.  I think Mrs. Cooper would have approve of the phrase "wracked with sobs."  Ah shit, start the waterworks again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goddamn Metafilter

Important Considerations

Things to keep in mind when visiting people in the hospital:

When you're about to cough, act like you're going to throw-up.

Is it just me, or does this picture remind anyone else of Beavis and Butt-head cartoon art?

(picture from the elevator of the UCI Medical Center back in late July).

pilgrimsteps really put me through my "hospial room theater" paces.  I managed to do short scenes portraying the body language resulting from various indignities that seem to pervade hospitals.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bobby McGee's

Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five played Bobby McGee's this afternoon with no admission fee.  Wow.  I'd always heard the old-school Bal dancers did Bobby McGee's every other Sunday, but hadn't made it over.  D'oh!  It's 100 meters away from my apartment, has a free fruit and appitizer buffet, and pretty cool dancing.  I was told the crowd turned out because of the live band, but it's tough to go wrong with free food and dancing. :-)

After a couple hours, I ran home to grab my vitamin supplements and came back to see the jam session.  I recognized Nick Williams, Tip West, Jacob Wigger... ah geez, I wish I brought my camera to video everything.  Tracy tried to bully me into jumping out onto the jam.  Screw that!  I need some performance stuff before I'm willing to let it all hang out like that.  Introduced myself to Shaheed Qassim, who I chatted on the phone with a few months ago.  Really nice guy.  Watch him dance a bit too.  He has a lot of dynamism, which I'd really like to add to my dancing.  A lot.

The evening was a lot of fun as the pace of the music, the atmosphere, and the crowded floor pressured me to do mostly Balboa.  Now I'm far from an expert, but I think I've gotten a lot more solid lately.  Last Friday at Atomic, I was doing Bal with MichelleM, when I realized I didn't quite know what kind of footwork I was doing.  It wasn't standard Bal footwork, but some kind of sideways flaring of my feet.  It was in rhythm, but I couldn't figure it out.  Sometime after the fact (last night?  Today, even?), I realized I was doing a "fall off the log" without really putting any lean or motion into it.  Works just fine.  Dancing with MichelleM again, she remarks on it and I explain.  I try to put more motion into it, which works a bit better.  In retrospect, I see I can do a "fall onto the log" as well in this situation.  In fact, that was part of the choreography in the Bal/Shag routine.  Well, we never did that routine enough for me to anchor any of it into my social dancing.

What else am I doing?  Oh, sometimes out of cross-breaks, I'd throw in a tuck turn, then be at a loss as to how I could work that back to Bal.  Sometime in the last couple of weeks, I started doing the tuck-turn with Bal footwork, with a down-hold on four.  Now I'm confused as this make the 6 count tuck-turn into an 8 count move.  Oh, I'm making the 7-8 a spike-out.  Then the return is a Sioux into a come-around back to Bal.

Was going to go to Atomic for Swing and Soul Sunday, but just ran out of gas.  Food with some friends at Islands, than retreated to the Fortress of Solitude.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Who would make a cameo in the movie about the current stage of your life?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Digital Clocks

The problem with a digital clock is that you can wake up in the 10am hour and with just the right things blocking the clock in just the right way, you can think you've woken up in the 7am hour.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Salsa jar fell off the table!  Crystal light box is in the sink!  Oh, the humanity!!!

Ok, lunch is over, going back to the office.


I always knew I was good at masturbation, but that was fucking amazing!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Arguments Are Entertaining

I've listened to a couple podcasts of arguments lately, which have been fascinating and entertaining.

The member's of Slate's Political Gabfest [go] nuclear over a story in the National Enquirer alleging that John Edwards recently met with a mistress in a Los Angeles hotel.  This conversation starts at minute 29 of the audio.  The members of the panel are having a discussion about the story when another Slate editor takes exception to their discussion (minute 37), which leads to a slightly more candid conversation about the story than normal, dropping f-bombs on each other to my delight.  Even more interesting than the Slate Editor working out why he thinks this is a newsworthy story "on the air," which is fascinating in and of itself.

The presidents of the two guilds representing actors to producers, the Screen Actor's Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, discussed their differences on KCRW's The Business.  To paraphrase the host, what's important here is not so much the content, but the tone of the conversation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In-Depth Review of BBC's "Top Gear"

Car-enthusiast porn

"It's like an ax-murderer with headlights!"

"Why would you want a car that's trying to kill you?"

"How many gears have you got?"
"[Mine's got] Seven.  One better."
"That's too many."

"His wind mirrors are an inch bigger than mine.... I've got the smallest windscreen wipers... [But] My gearstick's got the largest knob diameter by half and inch!"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New Game

OK, new game: 

1) Fall asleep with the television on. 
2) Incorporate the shows into your "just coming awake" dreaming. 
3) Rewind your Tivo and watch the inspiration to your dreams.
4) Laugh.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

SSC 23

Short Shameful Confession:

When I read the word affidavit, in my head, I pronounce it "aff-uh-dah-VEE."

I know how to pronounce it, but my sister told me she that's how she did it when reading a aloud in the middle of a high school English class. Nice!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dancing Transition

So, Atomic Ballroom was sold by Jerry & Katie Jordan to Nikki & Shesha Marvin. As a dancing patron, I welcome the changes. As a team member, I'm concerned.

Social dancing is improved, I think, by some simple additions and subtractions. The old, broken-down couches are gone, replaced with a couple high bar tables and stools. More people can sit at the entrance area and fewer human traffic jams occur at the dance-floor to lobby transition area. All the rafter-fans have been replaced and powered by wall-switches instead of remote controls, making things cooler on the dance floor. They're no longer asking people to clear the ballroom and file back in, which was never that big a deal for me, but was for others.

As a team member, there are a few core issues that concern me. Ditching introductory routines for the "seed" team is a big one. They aren't performance routines, but serve to give people a great foundation of socially leadable moves, and get from beginner to high beginner or low intermediate level. Shesha responded that he'd like to bring in new routines to serve the same function. Fair enough.

I'm concerned about the phrase/attitude, "You've been doing this the wrong way. Here's the right way." Just saying, "Do it this way now," is sufficient. Shesha explained that there are some philosophical differences he might have with Jerry's teaching which he's very passionate about, but seemed to agree that the confrontational attitude wasn't productive.

Finally, I'm worried about culture. I've had very little success in getting to know people on the "inside" of the OC Swing dance club. That might mean team members, but extends to just the social core. I've had conversations with Warren, and exchanged pleasantries with others, but that's about it. I don't expect us to be one big happy family all at once, but we should be making an effort to get to know each other in some way. Somehow.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bus Ride Continues

The transfer was trivial, but my buddy Google Maps had me do it at a random stop instead of the Fullerton Transportation Center. Not a big deal, except that the A/C is so strong I need to pee. I can hold it an hour. Or get off near a fast-food place and get back on in 15 minutes. Again, not a big deal.

You did know you can plot a trip in Google Maps then have the route given to you using public transportation, didn't you?

So far, the ride is pretty stress free. I can concentrate on other things and let someone else drive without small-talk.

And so the blogging continues.

Public Transportation

How much does gas have to cost before the public invertigates public transportation? For me the experimental price is $4.25/gallon. That's what orangecountygasprices.com told me was the cheapest non-Arco station around. Bleh.

Can I afford it? Certainly. In fact, the roads have been significantly less congested, making driving much easier. But it's the principle. I have the freedom, the money, and the time (especially today) to explore the option. Shouldn't I do it?

The trade-off is obvious: 30 minutes vs. 120 minutes for just the first trip of the day. Perhaps I can catch up on podcasts and blogging on the way? :-)

I'm headed down to Costa Mesa, Los Alamitos, and back to north-OC today, all places within walking distance of a bus stop. So I spent a little time making sure I'd be able to return, confirmed the routes, packed for the day, and set off.

Lesson one: Be early if you can help it. I didn't scout out the first stop properly and ended up having to jog with my pack the mile to the Brea Mall where the first transfer was. And juuuust made it.

The running for buses took me straight back to my childhood, when my family was car-less. I hated running for buses then, but now... I still hate it.

The Sunday bus is uncrowded, air-conditioned, if a touch spartan (no cocktail service, no DirecTV). $3 for the day-pass vs. over $20 via the IRS mileage compensation formula.

My transfer is coming up, so I'll sign off for now. [snappy bus-riding line goes here]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Put On Those White Shoes

I finally broke down and gave up on my fantasy of owning Vivo Barefoot shoes any time soon (the Terra Plana web site has almost all varieties out of stock), and went searching for shoes in earnest. Normally, I'd just go buy a pair of New Balance's again, as they have the width I need. But I saw somewhere these cool shell enclosures on a pair of throwback shoes, but I couldn't place the brand or the occasion.

Looked around on-line and finally found out I was looking at the old Adidas shell-toe from the Superstar line. So I started looking around for them, and failed to find a store that had them in my size. Even the Adidas store at the Spectrum! Bleh.

See the flat sole? The shell toe?

Then, I realized the other day that I saw them on Jofflyn Valencia (who says he wears them when he swing dances). Damn! Now I'm just a guy who copies. And I'm 100% sure now that he's the one I saw them on originally. Well, Charles too. Great, now we'll be shoe buddies.

Well, I found them in my size today. Needs a bit of stretching out. I might dance in them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cash That Check

From the Freakonomics Blog:

What kind of people use check-cashing places? How do they work?
In their video “Checkmate,” the Internets Celebrities, a.k.a. Dallas Penn and Rafi Kam, explore these questions ...

I hardly ever use cash, carding everything, then paying my balance at the end of the month.

The ancillary business surrounding the check cashing places are really creepy to see.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fred Rogers Earns $10M in 10 Minutes

Hat Tip to dunceuponatime.com

"Well I'm supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I've had goosebumps in the last two days."

I'll admit to listening to it twice, and tearing up a bit the second time I heard Fred Rogers say, "I like you just the way you are." Put me right back in my childhood.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I've been fighting through a few months of stagnant feelings in my dancing, but have been re-energized recently with some conversations and classes.

The first shock was my private lesson with Laura Keat... sort of. Let me be clear in saying it was an awesome, mind-blowing lesson that focused on a new connection paradigm. But in some ways, it's forced me to regress and focus on all my basic moves. As a result, my dancing doesn't feel as interesting. That's a bit frustrating, though I imagine if I took more private lessons, I would make faster progress.

Next was the series on smooth Lindy that Augie Freeman taught at Atomic Ballroom in April (2008). His swing-out basic involved a constant rotation on counts 3-6, giving the swing-out an extremely smooth, rotational feel. Very cool.

Next was a conversation with Jofflyn Valencia and Amber Villa. They filled-in as teachers for a class in April, and it was the most like taking a class with Jerry Jordan that I've ever had. That is, they were able to break down the footwork of their moves with extremely insightful technique observations. This month, they started teaching a level 1 and level 2 series on Tuesdays, as well as DJ'ing regularly on Tuesday nights. They mentioned in passing that all their technique and dancing was revolutionized by badgering (my word) competition judges for notes. Then they compiled their notes into a theory behind their dancing.

So after I heard all this, I contacted Jofflyn and told him I'd like to hear about his theory. We finally chatted this past Friday night and I got the brief version. They view dancing as broken down to movement, momentum, and rhythm. That's it, stripped bare. They re-emphasized the swing-out that Augie taught as what a basic swing-out should be, stripped of all styling. To this point, they view the slotted swing-out as a styling, theorizing that it was developed for movie formation work (single camera, no camera moves). Very interesting. The theory behind this is the idea of continuous movement: taking out as many of the places in which dancers come to a complete stop. I danced with Amber a bit and she had me strengthen my right elbow and smooth out my rotation (I was still accelerating through counts 5-6). Oh, she also wanted me to look her in the eye as much as possible. That felt creepy. :-)

Amber and Jofflyn also had me work on my Balboa basic. They tell me that I shouldn't gather, then step on 3-4 and 7-8. Rather, move my foot directly from where it was to where it's going. Again, as a basic, stripped of all styling. Much smoother. Very cool feeling. I know I've learned this before, but it's gotten lost in the mists of ... trying to learn moves. :-)

May's series with Augie starts out with us working on Balboa, and this same feeling carries across to his class. We start out working on our basic, doing a box step instead of a linear basic. We slightly change 2 and 6 to slightly sideways steps. Then we add the "lilt," leaning forward in the first half of the basic, then tilting back in the last half. Tweaked connection by focusing on leaning in and against each other and having leads connect to follows with the right forearm, relaxing the hand completely.

This week focused on spike-outs. And though this was a level 3 class, I was shocked how much I've learned. The first revelation for me was that I wasn't making "catching" contact early enough. If I contact on 7, the natural motion of the return rolls the follow back into my forearm. If I contact on 8, the follow gets so far away that my arm extends and she jerks to a stop. This dovetails with Amber and Jofflyn's continuous motion theory. My spike-out is so much better from this one class. We add a spike-out variation where the leads face away on 5, with the left arm wrapped around us clock-wise just below shoulder level. We need to have our right hand ready to catch on 7 again. Also continuous spike-outs: We do another spike-out instead of a come-around to end it.

Finally, we worked on improv steps. We're repeating certain counts. Last week was repeatedly shuffling 5-6 until we felt the need to go on. This week, we do paddles, something which I've never learned successfully. Augie makes it easy. :-) Initially, we prep our 1-3 like a transition step, down on 3 rotating to the left. Hold 4. Repeat 5-6 (right, left) either rotationally or in-line. Similar action with feet reversed on 1-2 (after down on 7, hold 8). Fall-onto/off-the-log are the final move, starting with either a left foot kick on 4 or a right foot kick on 8. Just realized we can do either the on or off version by leading the weight shift.

Anyway, this smoother style of basic is awesome. Application, there's a heavier follow who comes regularly to Atomic. Well, there are lots, but this one dances extremely heavy. Before, I had to really dig in on 3-4 and 7-8 in order to keep from getting overbalanced. I dance with her every night, so I specifically remember this happening last week. Last night with this continuous motion swing-out, it was effortless on 3-6. Even 7-8 was better with a more circular feel.

Danced with Caitlin of the Bobbysox Brigade (Amber and Jofflyn's troupe) last night. Amazing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More Fun Conversations

D [to C]: Hey! Muffin and cupcake. Muffin and cupcake.
Me: New rule, guys. Don't use pet names during swing team practice.
D: Those aren't pet names. It's an inside joke.
Me: Guess what, they'll be pet names whenever I tell this story on my blog!
D: What?!
Me: Yeah. I just need to decide who's cupcake and who's muffin.
D: Someone called us muffins, so we decided that as a couple we were like muffins (just sweet enough), and not like cupcakes (so sweet they make your stomach hurt). So some couples are muffins and some are cupcakes.
Me: Keep telling yourself that, cupcake.
Cupcake: Hey!!!!


Me: I think I might be a muffin while P is a cupcake.
D: I think all girls are closet cupcakes. But together, you're pretty muffin-ish.
Me: Try telling Kate that.
D: What do you mean.
Me: Every time we see her, we fake-tongue kiss with big sloppy tongues wagging in the air.
D: That's disgusting.
Me: That what Kate says!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Conversation In Which

.... I don't get the best lines.

Exterior. Irvine, California. Outside of Atomic Ballroom. S and I are part of a group cooling down and taking a break from late-night dancing. C & D exit Atomic and head towards the parking lot and C's new car.

C&D: [as they pass the group] Good night everyone!
Group: Good night!
S: [after a pause] Have fun in the car! [not quite under her breath] Driving, I mean.
Me: What?! [breaks into laughter]
S: Oh no! Internal dialog! Internal!
Me: This is totally going in my blog..
S: What?! Why do I show up in your blog again?
D: He writes about me too! [pouts] Though not recently. Do I have to shake my butt again? [shakes her butt] You missed it.
Me: [muttering] Oh no I didn't.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


The thing I'm most pissed off about the Miley Cyrus fake controversy is the use of the term "tween" to describe Ms. Cyrus. Tweens are pre-adolescents, as in younger than 13. 15 is a teenager. So Cyrus is a teen, though her fans might be tweens.

OK, now I hate myself for spending time thinking about it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quick Hit: New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate

Marketplace: New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate:
"In big cities in China, single women may still be looking for men with charm, wit, intelligence and good looks. But what really makes them swoon is a man who owns a home. Lisa Chow reports."
I always suspected that the bias towards having a male child (the 2000 m:f ratio was 117:100) would eventually empower women in some way.

By the way, Marketplace is an awesome NPR show. The link takes to to streaming audio, mp3 download, and the podcast link.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Annoying Dew

OK, this is a personal failing, but I really find this Mountain Dew commercial annoying.

I hate made-up retro. Especially when the real thing is so much less cool. It really tickles my innards.

But it's also about the mismatch between today's positioning of Mountain Dew as a young, hip drink, while my embedded memories from the 1980's have it positioned as the "redneck outdoorsy" drink. "Dewin' It Country Cool" indeed!

Oh, not redneck enough for you?

[EDIT: Hey, I just noticed that professional skateboarder Tony Hawk is in this commercial! If you pause at 0:24, you can clearly see that it's Tony Hawk. But if you go back, he's everywhere (I'm basing that on matching his clothes). He's the very last skater at 0:11 (out of focus). Looks like his legs doing the flip at 0:13, and all the tricks from 0:16 to 0:21. I am SHOCKED to find out that there wasn't really a huge cowboy-skateboarder revolution during the 1980s!]

Oh, still not redneck enough for you?!

That's right, they progressed from serious "hick" positioning (tickling' yer innards)

to extreme indy teen behavior:

No hint of the "mountain hick" origins at all. So I figured I'd tell all eight of you who read this. :-)

SSC 22

Short Shameful Confession:

Sometimes someone will mention a brand name and I'll sing a snippet of the 1980's commercial jingle that no one else remembers. And everyone will think I'm insane.


Sunday, April 27, 2008


I don't want to call them out, but it's necessary.

Mormon friends who have come swing dancing, since I invited them:

Ex-Mormon, Quaker, college friends, and siblings who have come:

That's right, I've had journeygal, madwoman, and P join me at Atomic. madwoman stayed and social danced for hours and hours too. journeygal says she'll be back for that part. P has totally gone off the deep end with swing dancing.

That's just math.

Shoulda Coulda Woulda

Last night I attended "Swing Jam," an event sponsored and hosted by the student body at the Claremont Colleges.

It made me regret not taking up swing dancing sooner, like when I was in college. It's a weird feeling to be surrounded by hundreds of college-age women, all hoping some guy will approach them. Not at all my college experience.

And speaking of that, couldn't I have found a school with the prestige and caché of Caltech but the male/female balance of ... real life? Stupid 17-year-old John-with-an-h.

Other than that, the night was great! Tons of dancing. Tons of partners I'd never danced with before. My feet hurt!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Awkward Part 5

Can't ever stop feeling Awkward.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

So we saw each other at the Fullerton Market. I was with P, and she was with her parents, whom I know (family friends from way back).

Her Mom: Did you hear this one's getting married?
Me: Uh, no!

It's painful to realize that every interaction for over a year has been carefully partitioned and screened. That my view of us as close friends was just ... wrong. That RyanH was correct in his, "Why do you want to do that?" assessment of re-establishing contact.

P: I could see from the way that you interacted with each other that you were terrific friends. And how you wouldn't want to lose that.
Me: It was good. Well, I thought it was. Apparently I was good enough friend to lean on for the bad times and bad news, but not to share in the joy of good times and good news.
P: Yeah, that's fucked up.

OK, maybe she didn't say that last part.

I suppose it was one of those secrets which, when not disclosed early, became more and more difficult to discuss.

Well, I'm happy for her. No really. I met the guy 20 months ago, and he's nice, though I didn't get to know him that well. I even wondered about them hooking up at the time. But to get back on me, it was pretty much the worst way to have a "friend" find out. Oh by the way, I've been dating someone for X months, didn't want to tell you, and now we're engaged. Oh, and you're invited to the wedding.

So I went through shocked, angry, offended, and settled on sad. I'm mourning the friendship I thought we had. Mourning the time I invested in it.

P councils me to not regret the time I spent on it. And not to avoid her or retaliate with the same cut-off of contact.

I'm trying not to give into my "vindictive bastard" side. Past all the feelings about the relationship is the real issue: Not letting this poison me as I move forward.

Maybe I can get some support from my Quakers tomorrow.

Fullerton Market

Met up with a group of friends at the Fullerton Market. It's the third week that P and I have gone (well, every week it's been open in 2008). Week 1, I discovered the joys of roasted corn on the cobb. I had butter and garlic salt. P had butter and garlic pepper salt, which was the clear winner. I declared that I might not be able to eat corn any other way, and I stand by that. Week 2, I was responsible for buying the corn while P waited for MC to join us. And I over seasoned. Whoops. This week, the line was too long and we never bought it.

P and I made our own version between week 1 and 2, which was awesome. Soak unhusked, unsilked corn in water for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400. Roast corn directly on racks in husks for about 15 minutes. Remove husk then butter. Grind pepper into garlic salt. Season to taste. Yummy.

This week we ate at Rutabagorz. P, myself, AM, and THREE Sarah's. Yes, all with-an-H. I pre-screen my Sarah's. I caved and said, "Sarah, I have a question." Then laughed and laughed. I was the only one. P was later designated an "honorary Sarah."

So Cheesy

MM hosted a cheese themed party, so P & I took the Cooks Illustrated lasagna. It's a simple sauce made from crushed tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Instead of putting the meat in the sauce, they advocate making mini meatballs from a combination of pork and beef, white bread soaked in buttermilk, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Layered sauce, noodle, sauce + meatballs, etc in a 9x 13 pan. Used no-boil noodles but the instructions weren't clear on saucing the top layer, so that came out crunchy. Whoops. I enjoyed it, but we were late and most people were cheesed out.

Then a cut-throat game of Apples to Apple broke out. Which I totally won. Then they started playing for two card combos, and I fell behind. :-)

So much fun to hang out with the swing team pals outside of dancing and find out they're smart, cool people I'd want to spend time with anyway. We left after midnight and found out they went 'til 4am! Crazy kids.


P and I fought about my views of the Mormon faith last week. Needless to say, I emerged victorious and with one guilt trip in the bank (which I might be cashing in right now, unfortunately).

Here's the condensed version:

P: I don't want you to have twisted views of LDS because of one Ward's weird dress code enforcement.
Me: I don't. I have twisted views of LDS because of the way blacks were treated and the way women ARE treated.
P: I'm picking this fight because I have a problem with that too. Which I have problems resolving.
Me: I know that.

Except it took over an hour.

And I distinctly remember thinking, "How can I make sure this isn't the beginning of the end?"

Private Lesson

At the 24 Hour Danceathon, I bid on and won a private lesson with Laura Keat. It's been weeks, but I finally got around to contacting her to schedule and do it. And it was amazing. I'd mentioned that I wanted to work on connection and any tips that would help with Jack and Jills. I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

First off, we worked on connection, something which I'm pretty proud of and expected to breeze through. Nope. Her critique was that I'm keeping my left forearm and bicep tense, which really interfered with communicating my intent. Ouch. Her target connection is one where the forearm and bicep are completely loose and connection is created with the follow by the weight of the connected hands tending to fall down and apart if the fingers let go. Wow. This is a totally new connection paradigm for me, and I have a lot of trouble adjusting.

Step two is to have the trapezius muscled engaged in the back, pulling the shoulder blade inward.

Step three is to activate the tricep to keep connection when close to my dance partner (3-4 of a swing-out for example.

This is all really tough to practice on my own, as the relaxation of the forearm and bicep means that I can't hold my own arm up. So I'm doing swing-out footwork and positioning with a relaxed arm. Weird feeling.

The result is that my connection is a lot lighter. [Michelle tells me the next day that it's pretty different feeling. And easier to follow. I'm still working on it, and it's difficult to do all the time.] Laura points out that the tension I have is why my arm stays high on some of the turns I do (tuck turn or inside turn for example). I see right away how a relaxed arm automatically falls to waist level. We go through a tuck turn over and over again and improve buy never get it perfect. Lots of work needed. Timing the engagement of the tricep at the bottom of the fall of the hand to keep it from swinging is another tough thing to do.

After all that, we work on a couple footwork variations after working on a soft connection engagement on 5-6 of a swing-out. On 7-8 we do a lean with the right foot stepping on 7, holding 8. This is a lean to the right with the ribcage leading the body to the right (for guys, gals use their hips), with the body staying centered.

Or a shuffle-step the right: 7-a-8 is a right-left-right. Instead of leading with the ribcage, I lead with the shoulder and light pressure on the hand to move the follow to the right (yah-da-dah).

Or a third variation which I don't remember. Maybe a right-left lean? I should have written this earlier.

Also, I voiced a feeling to her that I was repeating my patterns. She noted that out of closed, I tended to do a tuck-turn, and she suggested doing a swing-out instead. Good idea. Another suggestion was doing an inside turn. We work on the relaxed connection through that, and she showed me how easy it is to lead a double in 6 counts, if I apply the lead at the correct time (before she's completed the first turn, not after).

Overall, a great lesson. I need to do more of those.

Dancing Conversation

Me: Would you like to dance?
Her: Of course! Hey, can I ask you a question?
M: Sure.
H: Does your girlfriend hate me?
M: What do you mean?
H: She gives me dirty looks.
M: Shut up, she does not!
H: No, she really does! I smiled at her twice, and she gave me a dirty look both times!
M: Shut up!
H: I'm serious!
M: Maybe it's because I told her you're pretty. Oh, and she's Mormon so I asked if she was interested in having a sister-girlfriend.
H: You didn't.
M: I might have. No, I definitely did.
H: You're a bad boyfriend! I wasn't even sure she was your girlfriend, but you just confirmed it.
M: So what I'm hearing is that this was just a way to find out if I have a girlfriend.
H: No!
M: That's what I'm going to tell her.
H: You're terrible!
M: You're probably right about that. But girls love bad-boys.
H: Don't tell her I asked.
M: Of course not. I take confidentiality very seriously.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is Cash Best?

A friend of a friend entered this PSA in a contest for PSAID, Public Service Announcements for International Disasters:

I thought it was pretty darn effective. I actually checked out the site to read more about the justifications, so figured it deserved my vote in the contest.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Danceathon Jam Circle

This clip is by Chris Clark at the Danceathon. It was around 2am, I think. Maybe 3am 1am. A jam circle is when people will show off a few of their moves, then back out for other people to show off. Lots of pros here, and some of the better amateurs in OC too.

And me in the crowd between 6:56 and 6:57 (black tuxedo T-shirt). And check out the freaky aerials starting at 2:30.

Romance Pt. 2

H: Remember that question you asked? Well, we're dating now.
Me: So you're saying I knew before you did?
H: ......
Me: What pisses me off is that my blog isn't accurate now.
H: Your blog?
Me: I guess you haven't read your email in the last 24 hours. I send you a link.
H: Uh oh.

Monday, March 24, 2008


I sat on the couch and engaged in the following conversation:

Me: So, what's up with this carpool romance that everyone's been buzzing about?
H: What? Why would everyone assume that?
Me: Don't worry, I just made that up.
H: [ignoring my qualifier] We hit it off, but we're not dating. We're pals now.
Me: And besides, why can't a guy and a gal be good friends without 30 people assuming they're bumping uglies in the back seat of a car?
H: Yeah. Wait, what?!
Me: Don't worry, I made that up too.

And It Doesn't Even Rain Here That Often

Spent a couple evenings eating dinner with P and her parents, due to her reduced mobility. During a wide-ranging discussion, I wondered aloud about the viability of creating a garden designed specifically to be viewed during rainy weather. This immediately morphed in my mind into an environment that was designed to be more beautiful during rainy weather, effectively using the falling water to transform buildings and sculptures. For example, the falling water sluicing off of roofs in intricate curtain-like patterns. Or channeled into gravity-based fountains and water sculptures.

I swear I've seen this before, but I have no idea what it's called. I called it a rain garden, but apparently, a rain garden is a man-made depression designed to soak up rainwater runoff from man-made impermeable surfaces. Not what I was thinking of.

Perhaps I'm thinking of the way rain sluices off of of slanted roofs. Or Japanese rain chains (external link to video). I'm thinking of all the ingenuity that was put into medieval fountains turned to making sculptures out of channeled rain.

Why can't I figure out what this is called? I can't imagine I'm the first person to ever think of this.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

One Test Passed

Apparently, I won't kick P out of bed for eating cookies.

Fine, that deserves an explanation. P hurt her back and can't sit on a couch for any normal length of time. And can't grade at home before she goes stir-crazy. So she's grading in my bed with an ice pack tucked underneath her.

Cookies? Joe's O's Joe-Joe's (that's their version of an Oreo) with vanilla bean filling. Not bad.

P: You're going to have crumbs in your bed and I'll have them in my shirt.
Me: I have a solution for that.
P: [warily] Really?
Me: Yeah, after I get your lazy butt home, I'll just scrape the crumbs off and vacuum.
P: Oh.
Me: Why, what did you think I meant?

Can't Sleep

I've been tossing and turning for a couple hours now.

What's in my YouTube "to watch" queue?

Mozart a la Bass Guitar

Friday, March 21, 2008

Extra-Terratorial Birth and the Presidency

"Can you ever be President?"

It's odd how many times I've been asked that question, since I'm not a politician. But it does come up when I mention that I was born overseas, on an Air Force base.

And I guess this is an issue for John McCain as well.

McCain 's Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out

SSC 21

Short Shameful Confession:

Since cleaning my stove top, I've been afraid to use it's gleaming white surface for fear that it will never be this clean again. No, I might be afraid that nothing in my apartment will ever be this clean again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Real Housewives of Orange County

It's what was on television when I came home and turned it on 15 minutes ago.

It's like My Super-Sweet 40-Somethingth Birthday.

Rich egotistical people act self-centered.

I can't stop watching. It's like watching a train-wreck.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Fantasy Life

P is over, grading.

I'm trying to catch up on a month's worth of chores.

So I tackle the stove-top, removing my coil guards and breaking out the Soft-Scrub. I get about two minutes into the whole thing before P starts clucking about how I'm "doing it all wrong," and takes over, pushing me out of the kitchen.

Hey, I took "tell me your non-sex fantasies" literally.

OK, back to the stove-cleaning.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs

Ever since bringing bacon-wrapped hot dogs up in a conversation a few weeks ago, they've been tickling my mind as a comfort food. I first heard about them from my brother, who would rave about the street vendors selling them outside USC football games. Always sounded like overkill of a good thing to me. Then I got to experience them for myself a little over a year ago when my bro invited me to a USC home game.

Oh. My. God.

Horribly indulgent greasy goodness.

They fry up onions in the bacon grease too. He forgot to mention that.

So after a few days of being battered by work, I decided to treat myself. I bought some bun-length hot dogs, thick-sliced bacon, toothpicks, and onions (the brown-skinned ones were on sale).

I immediately realized the paradox: The onions take longer than the hot dogs to cook, but need the bacon grease to cook in! I decided to start the hot dogs on lower heat to render the fat, then get the onions started, then boost the heat to crisp up the bacon.

With my plan of attack in place, I cracked the packages, pulled out three hot dogs, and started wrapping. Each hot dog required two to three pieces of bacon, depending on how much overlap in the bacon-wrapping I did. The toothpicks held the bacon in place, but I broke each one in half to allow flat frying. I did the hot dogs in a non-stick pan and the onions in my All-Clad.

I started off the hot dogs for fat rendering and turned my attention to the onions. I split the onion in half, bisecting the root, then sliced the half, ending up with half-moons. I only used half an onion. I had about a teaspoon of bacon fat about 10 minutes in to the cooking process, so transfered it to the heated saute pan, and started the onions. Carmelizing onions is easy. Spread into an even layer and walk away. If it burns, that's just flavor. Stir every 5-10 minutes or so, but no more often.

I boosted the heat on the hot dogs to the high end of medium, and started to look for crispiness, turning after I saw it. As more fat rendered, I added it to the onions. After about 45 minutes of total cooking, everything was ready.

I prepped my bun by toasting it in the hot dog pan with a little bacon grease, added ketchup, dijon mustard, and some onions. Removed the toothpicks from the hot dogs, and chowed down.


But after eating one, I threw away the other two. I wasn't feeling that self-indulgent any more.

Anyone want hot dogs and raw bacon? I can't bear to look at them. I'll throw in one and a half onions too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Best!

If you've ever met me, I've probably bullied you about watching "The Wire," perhaps the best show on television. Ever. Fuck probably. It's the best show it's ever been my privilege to watch.

The Sopranos? I admit that I only watched the first three seasons, and there were some brilliant episodes. But it couldn't begin to approach the scope of The Wire.

The West Wing? Brilliantly written dialog, and some terrific episodes. But ultimately, it was episodic television with some interesting story arcs. The Wire didn't have quite the same level of dialog, but kicks ass in the characterization and story arcs. You couldn't expect an episode to end having wrapped something important up. It was a 10+ hour story. Maybe a 60 hour one.

On the surface it seems like a cops vs. gangs show. But really, it's about the drug trade and the city of Baltimore. Fascinating. The story of the city is a tragedy, but the story of the show is a triumph. The ratings were never high, like The Sopranos, but it was critically acclaimed and a growing audience.

P never watched it, and I've had fun seeing it all over again with her. We're in the middle of season 3. But at the same time, I've been watching Season 5 as it's been broadcast. And today, I watched the series finale. Yes, the final season is done. My TiVo recorded it on Sunday, but I didn't want it to be over.

I admit it, I was tearing up at the end. And I didn't even feel the need to do any push-ups after. They were very manly tears.

If you're a Wire rookie, Netflix the first disk of the first season, set aside 3 hours or so to watch the first three episodes straight through. There's a "hook" point somewhere in there. Probably the "fuck" scene. No, not a sex scene, a crime-solving scene. But some language and dead body nudity:

As long as I'm posting my favorite scenes:

"I robs drug dealers."
"Day at a time, I suppose."

Snoop buys a nail gun.

Weebay and Stinkum execute their plan to kill Scar.
"Ayo! Lesson here, 'bay..."
By the way, that tune is "The Farmer in the Dale"

For you "Airplane!" fans, here's State Senator Clay Davis in a scene I'll call "Major crimes? Golly!"

Also, the desk shot:

Oh man, I could go on for ever.

Best. Fucking. Show. Ever.


I think these Dunkin Donuts latte commercials are hilarious. And maybe just a bit too late. By 8 to 10 years.

"It's a Large"



A couple weekends ago, my brother and I hung out for a Saturday evening. So much fun. We saw Rambo (tremendously bloody, mindless fun), and hit the Yardhouse afterwards. I stole a couple sips of what he ordered, but didn't drink otherwise.

When he ordered, we ended up talking to two women who were hanging out at the bar on a "girls' night out." I got to play the role of wingman: charming, funny, but ultimately a support role for the bro. Especially important to engage the "other" girl in conversation. I'm really bad at it.

I'm not sure why a pretty investment banker is an "anchor." Except that it rhymes. When watching this commercial again, I realized what I did wrong. I didn't buy her a beer. And I left my brother alone so I could sleep.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Oh My Feet!

24 hours of dancing! I didn't get to sleep on Friday evening 'til about 3am, after dancing at Atomic. I woke up early, around 8am, got breakfast... and took a nap.

I stayed 13 hours, dancing long stretches as the team's designated "on the floor" guy. Tried to nap, but couldn't fall asleep. Couldn't make it to the end, but loved every minute I was there.

Amazing DJs. Amazing teachers. Amazing bands. Soooo worth doing!

And now, sleep.

Friday, March 7, 2008

24 Hours for Hope

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to be participating in the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-Thon, an event that's raising money for the City of Hope. I can't honestly call myself a crusader, but I lost both of my grandmothers to cancer. I'm sure we've all been touched in some way by it. And I can help raise money by dancing?!

I'm embarrassed that it took me as long as it did to sign up.

The great news is that it's at a terrific venue, the 24 Hour Fitness Ultra-Sport in Irvine. We'll have full access to the locker-rooms, showers, jacuzzi, etc. I just realized I have some serious packing to do. Protein bars, water, mattress pad, sleeping bag, pillow, swim trunks, Icy Hot, etc. Yikes. And that's after dancing all night Friday.

It's going to be a long, fun weekend!

Oh, and I'm not one to beg for money, but it's all going to an amazing cause, so I'd certainly appreciate it if you could pitch in and sponsor me, even for $5 or $10. I believe $50 gets you a visitor's pass to the event to watch. Donate from my page, and I'll throw in 45 minutes of lessons from me for you and a partner for every $20.

And if nothing else, leave me your best survival wishes as a comment! Someone from our 28-person team will be dancing the entire 24 hours. Yikes!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Madwoman Came A-Dancin'

That's not a song title. Madwoman out of the Attic joined P and I for dancing at Atomic Ballroom this past Tuesday night. I came late and saw her in the class she was taking, moving as if she'd done it before. Oddly, she was doing a coaster step like a Westie. Turns out, she'd taken West Coast Swing classes before.

P and I joined the level 1 class with roles reversed (I followed and she led). That's really fun. I'm impressed that she has the courage to do it. When will we dance a song where she leads and I follow? :-)

Darren's class is a blizzard of content: 12 moves! Maybe I'm improving, but I manage to get everything.

Quick dinner at In-n-Out (no healthy options there...) with Tim and Chrissy, then back to dance.

Madwoman does really well, and we spend quite a bit of time on her swing-out. She tries to break her coaster-step habit, then works on footwork during social dancing, then 6 to 8 count transitions. Probably a bit overwhelming, but she does great, even getting asked to dance by other guys.

My swivels rock.

P is feeling sick, so leaves not too long after Madwoman.

I stay 'til closing time, 12:20 AM or so. First time in a while. A great night. Hopefully we hook Madwoman. Mr. Madwoman better get on his game and make the trip to Atomic or he might not see his wife on Tuesday and Friday nights!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


From Wikipedia:

The Vermonster

A Vermonster is a large ice cream sundae made by Ben and Jerry's.[1] It is named after the company headquarters' home state of Vermont. The Vermonster consists of the standard sundae ingredients, but uses them in excessive amounts. It contains the following:[2]

The sundae is usually served in a commemorative plastic bucket, which can weigh anywhere from 4 to 9 pounds.

I'm speechless. Wait, no, here's what I think:

Sheeeeeeeit! -- Clay Davis

Friday, February 29, 2008

100 Books Meme

Lazy, lazy blogging. But here it is.

Bold the ones you’ve read,
italicize the ones you want to read,
cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole,
put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf,
and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.

1. +The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind(Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
17. *Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. +The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. +Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. +Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (George Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. *I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. *The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. *Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. *She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
53. Ender's Game(Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Scott Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones' Diary (Helen Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. *The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. *A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
83. *Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. +Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. *The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. *Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. *In the Skin of a Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. +The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Wow. Only one I want to read? Perhaps my readers could suggest their favorites for me to check out.