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.