Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Summer Projects

The main one:
A few weeks ago, my sisters and I had a free Saturday where we got together many of our spare T-Shirts and turned them into cool new things - fringed shirts, bags, etc. Many of you know that for several years I served at a summer camp (Camp Wildflowers) that provides it's JCs with colored "Staff" shirts every year. I had enough Camp Wildflowers shirts to wear a different one each day of the week (7 different shirts). As much as I loved these shirts, there were some, like the orange ones, that I never wore, and I have several other T-shirts in my collection. So, on the day my sisters and I pulled out our T-shirts, I got the crazy idea to turn my Wildflowers shirts into a quilt.

I have this odd obsession with quilting. It seems like such a fantastic hobby (albeit a messy one) and I have helped to make quilts before, but never attempted one of my own. I've read a lot of books about quilting, from my first experience with it (the Addy american girl books) to my most recent chick-lit obsession (the Elm Creek Quilter series). Frequent readers of my blog will know that making a quilt was one of last year's new years resolutions, one that I didn't actually meet. I had actually sworn off handicrafts, saying my sisters could have them while I papercraft. Fear not, I am still folding flowers and animals and other origami gifts (I made my mother a flower for mother's day that involved a different piece for each petal). The quilt is definitely a practical thing, needing to find a use for these T-shirts and a project for my summer, so I'm experimenting.  In fact, I'm not even sure I'm doing it correctly, but I am enjoying it!

And the rest...
Another summer project of mine is experimenting with basic CS teaching tools (Scratch, Alice, Processing). My younger sister was just at Cyber Camp and has brought home a lot of cool toys to play with. I'm going to be TAing for an introductory CS/IS/CE course this fall with Alec, and so I'm learning about the various teaching tools for that (with particular attention to Processing since that's what we're using in class). It's a private dream of mine to not be a teacher, but to be one of those after school volunteers who raises interest in STEM fields, like so many of the people who worked in my life to get me to the place I am now. Speaking of camps, my other siblings are in Chinese language camp, so I'm getting the unexpected pleasure of learning a few Chinese words (like my numbers from 1-10) vicariously through their class, and some basic Chinese might just make it into next years resolutions. Obviously, if you read my last post, one of my summer projects is to continue to dance better. I have a fantastic partner and a great teacher, so there's no excuse for not improving my dancing! I'm not sure what caused me to put dancing on my list of new year's resolutions, but I did, and I am happy to have already fulfilled that resolution. My final summer project is, as always, to read! I've been enjoying two series so far this summer - Isaac Asimov's Robot Series and Jan Karon's Mitford Years. Very different genres, but I'm enjoying both. I hope your summers are as enjoyable as mine - for a bit of advertisement, my friend Liz is spending her summer in flute master classes, and is currently in Canada! You can read about her summer on "Adventures of a Flutist" at the right hand side of my blog.

PS - don't you love the layout change? it's bright outdoors, it should be bright on my blog :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rules of Dancing - Perfect Position

I'm taking another dance class over the summer - so it's time to add to my previous post on the Rules of Dance.

- Perfect Dance position is found when the lady's center meets the man's corner. To elaborate, my instructor always says that a man is like a two-by-four. If you imagine the corner of a two-by-four running from his right ear to his hip down to his right foot, you've got the man's corner on his point of perfect balance (right behind the first two toes). It's pretty clear where the lady's center is - right where the buttons of her blouse meet is how my instructor describes it. So, if you match her center to his corner, she'll be at a slight angle from him which will prevent her from being kicked.

- side note to perfect position - in Tango, the couple is supposed to imagine there's a china dinner plate between their hips. Too far apart and you get broken china everywhere. This is pretty specific to Tango, but it makes a big difference in dancing well.

- When you're dancing as the lady, always point your toes. you can try it to see the difference - step back normally and look at your foot. Then (if you're not already doing so) step back with your toes first. It adds about a foot to your stride and prevents you from being stepped on.

- For the individual, it's important to stand up straight while in dance position so you're not weighing down your partner. To do so, consider the three main parts of your body - the head, the rib cage, and the pelvic bone. If those three are in line. you will stand straight and dance well, if not, you fall over (think like a snowman).

- it is important that the lady never reach for the man. He controls where your dance position stands, and if you reach for him, you are out of balance, guaranteed. As an example, yesterday in class we practiced the proper way to get into tango dance position (though the principle is the same for all dances I think). Step 1 - the man steps forward on his left foot, extending his left hand to the lady. Step 2 - she steps into him with her right foot, placing her hand in his and staying poised on her right foot. Step 3 - he places his left arm on her back shoulder blade, at which she is prompted to place her hand on his deltoid. This should automatically cause a shift in weight to the other foot so that the couple stands in proper dance position and the man has his left foot (the lady the right foot) free to start the figure.

I'm sorry if that was boringly technical about dance - I'll try to remember to post more frequently with some other summer thoughts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kids and Strangers

Yesterday the pastor at my church used this example: he used to walk to and from elementary school. In the window of other houses, he'd see white handprints on green paper. It was a sign that if he ever needed help, he could go to that house. If he caused problems with other kids, a mom would come out of those houses and discipline him - always under the watchful eye of the 'white hand'.

I, as the oldest of nine, speak kid really really well. So when I'm on the playground or at the store and a stranger kid talks to me, I'll talk back. If they are bored, I smile at them. I have learned to be careful - you can't initiate it, and you always play with or talk to them in the sight of their mom, but kids generally realize it's OK to trust me. Today at Costco, the cutest little boy was talking to me, under the watchful eye of his big sister. When he left, the gentleman behind me and the woman across the aisle all smiled and said "bye, it was nice to meet you, have a good day bud", and other variations. For a brief second, several strangers were brought together for the protection of a child, all loving his bright little face and questions.

From the white hand elementary school parents back when my pastor was a kid to the young boy in Costco today, kids have a tendency to bring all of us together and to make us forget our differences. Maybe that's why we need to be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven - a child has no judgement, no fear - just a curious and loving trust.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mad as a Hatter

I was talking to myself while waiting for my mom to pick me up from work yesterday, and I thought about how that is generally frowned upon in society. Which inspired the following poem:

They say that the first sign of madness is talking to yourself.
In that case, I've been mad as a hatter for years.
Is that the reason we invented the status, LiveJournal, and blogs?
With these, don't you feel like you have some one else's ears?

I write letters, and checklists and journals and...I write to myself.
When no one can hear, I argue both sides, and sometimes I talk with the moon.
I tell myself not to cry, not to get angry, that I am capable of passing that test.
Why does that have to make me a crazy loon?

It's not really as uncommon as you think:
Actors tell themselves to breathe before going on stage,
Kids play games and talk with imaginary friends,
why does this equal crazy when we age?

If talking to yourself is the first step toward going insane,
what's the second step? I'm driving down that lane!

If you're a member of my small faithful blog audience, I didn't post in May due to finals (and I thought you needed a break after a month of my blabbering) but hopefully I will be back to normal semi-weekly blogging through the summer.