Almost there...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On Again! Oh wait - Off Again!

It's been years now that I've wanted to find a space in the South Bay for ceili dancing. I'd really love to be able to bring the spirit of Terry's brand of ceili to folks in the South Bay and not have to drive a hundred miles every Monday to enjoy it myself.

Scott found a place to do this on Thursdays in Sunnyvale. It was just ideal, because on Thursdays, there was no conflict with Mondays in Alameda, nor Irish sets on every other Tuesday in Sunnyvale at Lilly Mac's or sets on every other Wednesday in Redwood City at Angelica's Bistro.

So we were all set to start on June 17th. I was planning to start the big email blast next week and had a web page drafted. I just wanted to get through my birthday before starting on the next big thing.

And then I got an email from Scott saying there was a problem with the owner and permits from the city. No dancing in Sunnyvale. Not there anyway. Harumph.

For anyone who I've mentioned this to, sorry for the false alarm. Meanwhile, I've been taking Richard's classes on Tuesdays for the past six weeks, but I'm hoping to make it out to Lilly Mac's on the 8th. Hope to see folks there!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Birthday Plans

Forbidden Island, my favorite bar, is open on Monday for the first time ever. I've wished for this for at least three years, so I'm so there! Before ceili from 7-9, come join me for a cocktail. Then we'll dance the night away at Alameda Ceili til 11. Woohoo!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Otter Cuteness!

Otters. They're one of those excruciatingly cute animals. The do cute things all the time. But did you know they aren't born knowing how to swim? They learn when they're about a month old, and their mom has to be a pushy mom to make it happen. They Columbus zoo did a video of mom and baby otter swim lessons.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good News

We all need a bit more good news in our life, right?

I was charmed to see the Stanford Daily article on Richard Powers this week. (The article seems blessedly far more accurate than the rather embarrassing list of factual errors in the 2008 article on Social Dance at Stanford.)

This bus driver in Copenhagen got his own flash mob for his birthday.

And the Make-A-Wish foundation stopped traffic and got the Seattle Sounders and the local electric company involved in letting a kid with cancer be a super-hero for a day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This Pie's So Good It Is A Crime

Why yes, I do blame Agent Cooper (and really, David Lynch) for my love of both coffee and pie. I give you the MC Chris Twin Peaks rap.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekend with John & Rebecca

Last year, John and Becky said that we needed to come up in the spring to see Yosemite in all it's snow-melty glory. We headed up this weekend and it was indeed glorious. We arrived Friday night to John pulling in with super yummy local pizza. They said they usually get it after a long day of hiking, but tonight we were pre-pizza-ing. The long hike was the next day.

Going to Yosemite with a local is awesome for so many reasons. Rebecca knows everyone, so there's plenty of folks to say hi to. She also showed us ancient Native American and vintage 1860s graffiti.

Up the stairs of the Mist trail, we climbed up to the top of Vernal Falls, getting well and truly misted, and Rebecca pulling us off the trail for a moment to show us where the ladders used to go up back in the 1860s and where the 1860s graffiti still remained. (We also found a perfect little bird's nest back there.)

We made it to the top of Vernal, then kept going up to the top of Nevada Falls. There's a railing there that let's you look over the edge. It's... high. High high up. And a long, jagged, rocky way down. Pretty though.

We headed back down via the John Muir Trail on a part that just recently reopened from the winter. There was still snow on the ground, so I couldn't restrain myself from crunching out into it and making a few mandatory snowballs.

There's a bit that has a nice short rock wall that fills up with snow and ice in the winter. Snow melt was still pouring over the ledge down onto the walkway though. Apparently this was the mandatory cold shower for skanky hikers. Much "Woo! Yah! Woo! Gah! Cold!" came from me passing through this section.

We kept tromping down, passing patches of snow along the way, with the occasional obligatory snowball attack. Just before we made it back into the main valley, Rebecca led us back to a rock with a sort of rust colored comb on it. It dates way way back. We decided that graffiti is only coll if it's over a hundred years old. At the bottom, we opted to wuss out slightly and take the YART around to the car. A quick trip through the little grocery in the valley, we headed back to make dinner.

John + Becky + Erik + Ammy = Really Awesome Dinner. Erik made Spanish rice. John made awesome chicken on the grill. Becky made fresh roasted tomatillo salsa and yummy black beans. I made margaritas (with honorary friend and dinner contributor, Jose). Sated on Really Good Dinner, we abandoned the cookie baking plan in favor of sleep.

Today was fresh baked ricotta pie and sausage and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast followed by a stroll around the Yosemite Falls.

Seriously, few things more magical than the beauty of Yosemite with good friends who know their way around and are willing to provide you with a hot shower after taking you all over the beautiful wilderness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tab Closing Bonanza!

So with an acre of tabs at the top, and a week of being unable to post, here's the end of the roundup.

Ever wonder why you're in pain? Turns out it is very likely something basic you're doing in a way your body wasn't designed to handle. So, your pain could be caused by flip-flops, thumb texting, sitting on the wallet jammed in your back pocket, or even a too-tight pony tail.

Living in a former meth lab can have weird, unexpected consequences. Even if things are cleaned, the leftover chemical residue from the precursors can have health consequences. There are no national standards for cleaning meth houses and reporting of meth lab houses to the national registry is voluntary.

We all know breastfeeding is best for your baby, but what about the health impact for the mother. Turns out, women who breastfed for more than 12 months of their lives had lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension.

Meanwhile, on the topic of reproduction, while Oklahoma is passing increasingly rigorous anti-abortion laws, making an already gut-wrenching decision harder and withholding critical medical information from soon-to-be parents, women in Uzbekistan are being sterilized without consent. Now let's just get one thing clear: a woman should be in charge of what happens to her body. Yes, her husband gets a vote, but the woman gets the veto. No one, not the government, and not her doctor without her consent, should be making life altering decisions for someone else. Why is this such a difficult concept to comprehend?

Of course, in Alabama, they're running attack ads against a gubernatorial candidate that say that he's wrong for the state because he said the Bible is partially true and because he supported teaching evolution in science classes. And, no, they're not being laughed at. He's losing the race. So, um, maybe that's why concepts like "consent" are hard to comprehend. (If I beat my head against the wall til I'm as stupid as they are, can I become that ignorant as well?) ETA: Perhaps it's a weird Dunning-Kruger effect thing.

And in the insane run of right-wing conservatives who are self-loathing closet-cases, George Rekers brings us a new low of pathetic excuses: "I needed to hire a rentboy to carry my luggage." This kicks aside the prior low of the "wide-stance."

Family values! Family values! All those liberals on the left coast don't have family values! Really? Then how come our those wacky liberals on the coasts have lower divorce rates than the American Heartland? The lowest divorce rate in the U.S. is in Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American same-sex marriage. I loved this quote from the article:
Six of the seven states with the lowest divorce rates in 2007, and all seven with the lowest teen birthrates in 2006, voted blue in both elections. Six of the seven states with the highest divorce rates in 2007, and five of the seven with the highest teen birthrates, voted red. It's as if family strictures undermine family structures.

Okay, okay, time to warm up a bit after all that dark and depressing news. Take a look at the life of Disneyland after dark and the story of a man reuniting with a gorilla he raised after it spent five years in the wild.

And last but not least, how come computers crash, but we don't? Turns out, it's because the way we're coded is different in how we achieve operational efficiencies. Human coders "tend to save money and time by building upon existing routines rather than starting systems from scratch." In DNA, fatal crashes are actually, y'know, fatal, so that structure doesn't get passed forward. Interesting, eh?

That was a lot of tabs! Now I'm down to the usual half-dozen. Hooray!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Gave at the Office

When I started working at Stanford, one of the things they offered was the ability to donate to charity and have it sent directly from payroll before it ever hit your check. I was always a little bummed it didn't include a matching contribution from Stanford, but at least it got me to consistently donate a few hundred dollars a year to Planned Parenthood and the AIDS Project and to a local theater company or two. Over the years, I'd bump up the amount here and there, and I never much noticed as it happened before I saw my check.

Stanford just announced they're discontinuing this service. I immediately wrote back saying that it should be saved, because if you say nothing, they don't know that people actually did care. I got a note back saying that only 2% of the Stanford community were using this service, costing the university a lot to continue it, even without a matching program, and only serving a small slice of the campus, so as they looked at places to cut corners, this could no longer be justified.

Two percent.

Gah. I am unbelievably disappointed in my coworkers. Sure, some donate to charity in other ways, but I suspect that most, probably over 90%, only look after themselves. Have Americans always been so selfish? Or is it getting worse?

Now to go make contributions the less transparent way: monthly credit card billing. Grump.

Medical Innovations

Medical equipment is frequently insanely expensive. Getting basic medical tools in third world countries is a consistent problem. I love that Rice University even has a class that works on creating medical tools at reduced cost, and love that they were able to use a salad spinner to build a low-cost, portable, human-powered centrifuge. Now my favorite toy from my grandma's kitchen is being used to diagnose anemia.

Meanwhile, back in the first world, they're developing a tattoo system for detecting blood glucose levels for diabetics. Stabbing yourself multiple times a day isn't fun for anyone, and even if you get used to it, it doesn't make it pleasant. This is awesome and I really hope it works out as planned.

There's been a lot of press about the new book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Perhaps my favorite coverage of this is the Radiolab episode on Famous Tumors. It's amazing how a horrible, murderous cancer can actually end up being so bizarrely useful to medical science in so many different ways.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Few things are likely to set me off more than, "But it's tradition! We have to do it that way!" Hogwash. Traditions are only traditions because somebody did it once and then someone suggested that it should happen that way again. Voila - tradition is born. Hell, I've seen enough of them born in my short 35 years on Earth to know that traditions can be a good thing, a bad thing, a burden, or something that you're willing to change.

My least favorite tradition in the world is that when the wedding guests clank on their glassware, the bride and groom are required to kiss, on demand. On a metaphorical basis alone, this is a TERRIBLE way to start out a marriage. You two, getting married on this day, are not bright enough to remember to show appropriate affection to one another, so we, your guests, shall be your judge, and force you to perform all day as the trained monkeys you are. Um... NO.

Now, this is a tradition that has gained popularity in my lifetime, and figures in the single worst wedding horror story I ever experienced, where the DJ had a glass clanking sound effect on a button on his sound board, and so when not a single wedding guest had a glass nor silverware in hand, the glass clinking started low and rose to a crescendo, in exactly the same pattern as the other dozen times we'd heard it that night. I shudder now at the thought.

So, be careful what you demand as tradition. I enjoyed this article, 6 Supposedly Ancient Traditions (That Totally Aren't), perhaps more than the average person.

That said, I'm off to Alameda Ceili for our third anniversary tonight where I expect to dance Fairy Reel to Night Fever, as befits our local tradition.

Skeptical Cat is... Confused

I finished reading Spook, Mary Roach's investigation of the afterlife from a scientific perspective. I also watched James Randi at the TED conference. There are so many folks willing to separate a fool from his money, either as a medium, a psychic, or whathaveyou. It's shameful.

But then there's the news story that didn't turn out the way I expected. Prahlad Jani claims to have consumed no food nor water for 70 years. Two weeks careful observation showed him consuming no food nor water and not suffering any ill-effects. Go figure. Score one for the mystics. It's amazing how much our bodies will let us do if we believe that we can. In this case, utterly amazing.

Deconstructing the Island

There is a theory in literary analysis that holds that it's not about what the author intended to present, but what the reader gains, regardless of the original intention. The reader's meaning is every bit as valid and valuable as what the author was trying to say. In lit classes, this wildly reframes the discussion of a work from "I think what Shakespeare was trying to say was..." to "What this means to me is... did anyone else find that?"

Have you ever experienced that moment? If not, I bring you Here on the Island by Lewis Napper. I sincerely hope that this was submitted for a class and that it took him well on his way to his English degree.

(My piece on "Vertical and Horizontal Hierarchies in Billy Budd and Their Relationship to the Old Testament" was far less entertaining, but hey, at least I've got a nice shiny degree from Cal to show for it, even if the text is lost to the depths of WordPerfect 5.1 on an old 286 computer with a green and black screen.)

Tiny Living

I've always been fascinated by tiny living spaces. My grandparents' cabin in Quintette is really a 1 bedroom house, but it comfortably sleeps eight (and two more can sleep in the spare bedroom in the garage!). Sure, if there were six or eight folks actively living there, then spending time outside would be important, and coordinating shower time would be tricky, but otherwise, it's a remarkably functional space. The key to it is the layout of the common room (kitchen and living room) and the attic stairs that can close off access to two of the beds when folks are up rumbling around.

Folks think about how much space they need in terms of bedrooms or square footage, but I think that's a fallacy. Really, how a space is laid out is far more important than the quantity. And at the end of the day, for anything save dancing, I don't necessarily believe that more is better. Lord knows I've zero interest in vacuuming extra floor.

A few years ago, I looked into Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. They're awesome and I wish I could set one on the back of my yard. They're a bit too spendy for me to do that though.

A few months ago there was a great post about Gary Chang's amazing Hong Kong apartment.

Then there's the family of four that lives in 431 square feet in Paris. Oh, plus their dog, a big black lab.

In all cases, clutter is the enemy. The casual leaving of papers and dishes and whatnot make tiny living uncomfortable. Some say it's unnatural to live like this, but a quick look below decks in a ship shows that this sort of tiny living has always been reasonably common.

And We're Back...

Blogger shut down FTP posting on May 1st. Since my blog has always been a little dead-end off of Kev's space, this messed things up a bit, and Blogger's migration process was not wholly smooth. So, for a week, I've been unable to post, though my migration was completed. Turns out, one little setting needed to be changed in Blogger, but that wasn't well documented. Oh well. (The documentation specialist in me grumbles in the background, but life goes on.)

Expect a weird deluge of stuff this week as I close tabs.