Saturday, January 28, 2012

Searching for the Stretch

The instructor at Wednesday's lesson said that when he dances Lindy Hop he is always looking for the stretch, or it is all about the stretch, or something to that effect. I really liked that statement, because it works on multiple levels. Purely pragmatically, I want to get better at Lindy Hop so I should be paying attention to getting good stretch where it ought to be. More metaphorically, the stretch is how dancers communicate, so this might be interpreted as looking for communication. I think this interpretation is quite interesting, as well as heartwarming, because stretching is achieved by both parties settling away from one another; so communication  is mutual and is obtained by a slight withdrawal.

Anyway, I thought that phrase was awesome, so I made a post with that as the title. I kind of wanted to make a blog about dancing and entitle it that, but I have enough trouble keeping up with this blog, and I'm not sure that I have enough to say about dancing... we'll see. Without further ado, what your dance style says about your personality:

East Coast: Fun loving and silly. Like, really really silly. So silly that it becomes problematic if people take you entirely seriously. I probably belong to this category, so keep that in mind when deciding how seriously to take this list.

Lindy Hop: Fun loving and silly... but a bit of an elitist.

West Coast: Thinks being serious and somber is sexy. Probably watched too many vampire movies as a child.

Charleston: Just wants to groove with it, it's no big thing. Happy to dance with someone or alone, because dancing is awesome. Every day I'm just shufflin'. (Note: link is not to Party Rock Anthem, I like to think that I am classier than that, even though there is Charlestoning in the music video.)

Collegiate Shag: Probably has some sort of drug issue, no one has that kind of energy naturally.

Balboa: Wants to grope their partner.

Blues: Wants to grope their partner whilst also grinding on them.

Salsa: Flashy and smooth. This is the dance of trumpet players.

Bachata: Wants to grope their partner whilst also shaking their hips like mad.

Meringue: Just wants to shake their hips like mad, preferably while doing something incredibly silly and grinning like its no big thing.

Tango: Thinks being serious and angry is sexy. Probably a closet emo.

Foxtrot: Likes big band music, but is too serious to deign to Lindy Hop. Alternatively they are on their second set of knees after wearing the first out bouncing.

Waltz: Likes music in 3/4, and this is the only thing they can dance to that.

Dances too much to feel affiliation with one specific genre: Probably is awesome!

I know there are other forms of dancing, a lot of other forms of dancing, but I am restricting myself to social dances. Even so, I missed a lot of styles, but I just don't know anyone I would consider a Rumba-er, or a Samba-er, etc. If you are offended, I am sorry, I tried to keep it positive (nothing inherently wrong with wanting to grope your partner... I guess) and silly. Except Tango-ers, I am not sorry if I offended you one bit, you know you like it you angsty blighters.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Many sites are taking today off to strike against SOPA/PIPA, in an attempt to foreshadow what sort of Mad Max-ian dystopia we would be left with online if websites were blacklisted on the say so of entities who's Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) had been allegedly violated. And I do mean allegedly, under the current versions of SOPA/PIPA action is taken against sites claimed to be violating IPR, or even supporting the violation of IPR, on the say so of the accuser. While they may be "innocent" until proven guilty, the US government is ok cutting off payments to presumed innocent sites purely on the word of IPR holders, because the RIAA and MPAA have never shown themselves to be the judicial equivalents of schoolyard bullies.

However, as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, how much of a difference will it make if I black myself out online? If I were to put The Middle on strike I would have to purposefully link to it for more than one or two people to notice that it was down. I suppose I might get a little more attention not posting Facebook statuses, as I tend to be a fairly vocal participant in the Facebook culture. However, out of sight is out of mind, so who knows if people would notice my absence. And, even if my absence was detected, would people realize that I was blacked out in protest of SOPA/PIPA?

So, instead of shutting down today, I am going to do the exact opposite. I will declaim SOPA/PIPA as loudly as I can with my internet-voice, while I still have that ability. I kicked the day off by sending an E-mail to both the Michigan senators and my representative, my Facebook posts will be nothing but links to anti-SOPA sites, and I am writing this post. I neglected to save myself a copy of my E-mail, since I sent it through the politicians respective "contact me" pages, but I highlighted the fact that SOPA starts punishing site owners before they have had a chance to state their case, which seems antithetical to fundamental American tenets about justice, and that holding site owners responsible for third party content seems like it will inevitably lead to an internet with fewer places for people to express themselves. If I could be held legally responsible for your comments, I probably wouldn't allow them either.

Whatever your stance on IPR, I think we can all agree that we shouldn't sacrifice the modern information technology industry on the altar of an antiquated business model like the entertainment industry seems to be asking us to do. Well, I think I did a marvelous job framing the previous sentence in an unbiased manner. Should you agree that SOPA/PIPA are bad ideas, here are some links you may find interesting.

An excellent explanation on why industry representatives talking about the damages to the economy due to piracy are either seriously apathetic to reality, or are lying, lying liars

Wikipedia, normally a repository for all sorts of useful and interesting information, has decided that today what is most important for you to know is how to contact your representatives. So, enter your Zip code and find out how to make your voice, sort of, heard.

Google's anti-SOPA/PIPA petition, don't you miss the friendly Google banner?

More information about SOPA/PIPA. If you head over to ElfArmy's blog, you will see their handiwork and what a striking webpage looks like; striking, isn't it?

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Shall Overcome, Someday

Michigan recently passed a bill to prevent public institutions from providing benefits to couples who are not legally married; here is an article on the topic. Although the bill is being challenged and I hope it is overturned, I am not interested, or able, to discuss its legality. I did not study to be a lawyer, I studied to be a philosopher, so what I want to talk about is how very wrong this bill is!

It seems clear that some of the support for this bill originates from an antipathy toward same sex couples; insofar as this antipathy wells out of some sort of Christian sentiment, this makes me sick. There is an incredible hypocrisy within the American "Christian" political movement when it comes to sexual mores. Although premarital sex and adultery are condemned from the pulpit they are ignored when Christians go political, in fact, I have noticed a surprisingly widespread sentiment among Christians that premarital sex "isn't that bad" or "is a fact of life." Perhaps premarital sex and adultery are easier to accept as facts of life because they are things that heterosexuals might desire, making this a classic case of trying to remove the splinter from the eye of the homosexual community whilst ignoring the plank in our own. To make it absolutely clear, I am NOT advocating that anybody attempt to legislate against premarital sex or adultery, simply that people who have somehow accepted that these things should be dealt with in the realm of morality, not legality, extend that understanding to same sex couples. Finally, I must admit that comparing homosexuality, premarital sex, and adultery is not the fairest of comparisons. Adultery seems, by fair, the most harmful and disrespectful of the three, so why are we taking benefits away from same sex couples and blithely permitting them to adulterers?

At best this bill might be described as a way for the state to save a little bit of money, which is something states always seem to need to do. However, even in this more charitable interpretation the bills supporters do not end up looking terribly moral. Now, instead of passing the bill in order to hurt a group of people with which they have a difference of opinion, they are simply looking for a group they perceive as unpopular enough that they can summarily divest them of benefits without office threatening repercussions. Less disgusting, perhaps, but still disgusting.

This bill also highlights why marriage for heterosexuals and domestic partnerships for homosexuals is not an adequate, effective, or moral solution. As long as different couples have different commitments binding them it will be easy and, therefore, tempting to set different standards and benefits for them. Perhaps we will simply have to abolish marriage as a civil institution and issue all couples domestic licenses to reach a compromise with the hard line religious movements, which, insofar as marriage is a religious ceremony, ought to be done anyway according to the Constitution. In the end, two different types of "marriage" for two "different" types of couples is morally untenable, separate but equal is still inherently unequal.

In my last sentence there is an implicit comparison between the Gay Rights movement and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, which is why I am writing this post on Martin Luther King Jr. Day specifically. I think that such comparisons are quite warranted, in fact I would be willing to call the struggle for Gay Rights the Civil Rights movement of our era, since it is, at heart, just that, a struggle for civil rights. By making this assertion I do not mean to imply that we have accomplished our struggle for racial equality and now we can move on. ("But we have a black president now, we must be done!" "No, BAD reductionist! The fact that we consider Obama black is itself something worthy of unpacking.") I simply mean that Gay Rights have been the focus of much public attention and legal action recently.

Although the struggle for racial equality may still be ongoing, I think it is entirely appropriate highlight another struggle on MLKJ Day, so long as one does not try to diminish the importance of racial equality, or any other form of equality. To borrow a concept that I have heard attributed to the Third Wave Feminist movement, in order for any of us to be free from oppression, we must all be free from oppression. I can think of two worthwhile ways to interpret that off the top of my head. As long as anyone is oppressed we must still accept the idea that oppression can be justified, which opens everyone up to the risk of becoming included in an underclass. Or, as long as anyone is oppressed, we must find ourselves entangled in the system of oppression, even if as unwilling oppressors, and systems of oppression hurt all moral beings, be they "oppressed" or "oppressor." I rather favor the second interpretation, but both are interesting.

So, today let us dare to dream of a future free of oppression, then do what we can to move toward such a bright future. We shall overcome, someday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MoBloYoFoMo and Beyond!

You may have noticed that as soon as December ended I took a couple of days off from blogging. Yes, I was getting a bit tired of putting out a daily post. Actually, I got tired of putting out a daily post within the first week. But, I thought a few of them were good, and that's probably a few more good posts than I would have written if I hadn't pushed myself to write (almost) daily.

However, clearly a post per day is more writing than I would prefer to commit to, and, to be honest, it's probably a lot more than you would prefer to read. Accordingly, I need to figure out how to approach writing in my blog in this, the new year. I have noticed that one common trait my favorite blogs to read have in common is that they produce new content fairly regularly. In fact, some blogs that I really liked *cough* Hyperbole and a Half *cough* I stopped reading just because I lost interest in checking back to find no new posts. So, while I do not feel that I necessarily need to update on set days, I do think that I should try to update on a pre-set schedule.

Since I, unlike authors of math text books, write things in order that they be read I thought I should see if there is any input as to what kind of update schedule you would like to see. It also helps me live up to commitments if I feel an external obligation to see them through, so any input would be helpful!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

New Years Party Episode III has been a blast, and has had three important parts, in increasing order of importance to me: beach, board games, and best friends, or buddies, I was just going to call them friends, but that would break the alliteration. There was also dancing! This year we needed an even bigger house, and the least time we could rent it was 3 nights, so our party was actually one day longer than it had previously been, no complaints here!

Beach: Pretty self explanatory. The house is right by the beach and has nice big windows, so I spent a lot of time admiring the sights and sounds of the surf. We also walked some on the beach. Highlights include finding two geo-caches, fording a stream by climbing over rocks and driftwood, and wondering if people who decided to ford an ankle high stream got swept into the ocean. There is a limit to my recklessness, climbing around might get me dirty (it did) or hurt (it didn't), but wading across a stream would get me wet!

Board Games: In no particular order, I played Arkham Horror, Twilight Imperium, Quarriors, Galaxy Trucker, Chinatown, Power Grid, and RoboRally, perhaps some others that I cannot remember as well. Arkham Horror, Chinatown, and Power Grid I had played multiple times previously, so I suppose it is safe to say that I must enjoy them, since I knew what I was getting into.

I have to admit I'm not sure if I enjoy Arkham Horror. It is a complicated game, which keeps me interested, and it is cooperative, so it is something fun to do WITH friends rather than against them. But it is soooo long!!! I think part of the problem might have been we had a full game, with eight players. However, by the end of the four or so hours of play we were a bit... fatigued. I'm not sure how eager I will be to play this next year, just because there are other games I know I really like that I did not get to play.

Chinatown is one of my favorite games. It is about trading and building up one's area, both of which are practices that I enjoy. However, because I am enthusiastic about trading, I sometimes annoy people with my... thrift... when trading. So, I enjoy Chinatown, but I should restrict how often I play it.

Power Grid is another of my absolute favorite games. It has a very interesting and fun market mechanic for purchasing materials to fuel one's power plants. The placement of power plants on the game board adds a geographic element and there is also a bidding component for getting new power plants, so it is a rich, complex, and seriously fun, game.

I had played Galaxy Trucker and Twilight Imperium once before each. Galaxy Trucker I really enjoyed, one builds a spaceship then tries to survive a voyage throughout space. I suppose the actual objective is to make as much money as possible, but I'm not quite that good, and I was really just hoping that my ship didn't get destroyed. As I mentioned, I enjoy games that let me build things, and it is entertaining to watch ships, usually mine, get pieces chipped off of them. I actually was supposed to have this game, but Tanga couldn't manage to successfully ship it to me, so I don't have it, and that is sad.

Whereas Galaxy Trucker is simple enough that I feel like I understood it the first time I played it, so I have no excuse for how poorly I did today, Twilight Imperium... is not. I had played it once before, about a year and a half ago, and that was enough that, by the end, we knew sort of what we were doing. But this time we had two people from that last game and four people who hadn't played before, so we needed to re-teach it. The game moves much faster when people know what is going on, so I don't think the six hour playing time is indicative of how long it should really take. However, it is an amazingly fun game, you are building and defending a space kingdom, so there is building, which I still like, and strategic combat, which I also like; although I managed to make it through that game without really attacking anyone once. I would like to play this one again, even if it means skipping playing a few quicker board games that I also like.

I am not enamored of Quarriors. It is very quick and based completely on dice rolls, so not terribly strategic. It does seem to be a good game for people who are drunk, exhausted, or otherwise easily distracted... no reason I know that. The dice, while pretty, are not high quality, so I noticed a lot of the numbers were hard to read due to chipped paint. I might end up buying it just as a good way to get people interested in games, much like Settlers and Ticket to Ride, but it isn't something that I would play much given my druthers, so I am not inclined to pay money for it.

RoboRally was a seriously chaotic game, with robots careening wildly around the course, shoving each other off track and causing nearly random laser mayhem. As you might imagine it ranks low in the strategy category, but because there is so much interaction between the players and the catastrophes are so much fun to watch it is still quite an enjoyable game. I don't know how much opportunity I would have to play it in Michigan, but I still may consider getting it because it does seem like a really fun, non-intense game.

Friends: There just really isn't much to say about these amazingly wonderful people. I've known a lot of them for almost nine years. And I don't mean just any ten years of my life, starting with college, so I've been doing a lot of thinking for these ten years, and been very aware of thoughts and people, not wasting it being a small child then forgetting everything I experienced. Side note: terrifying thought, I've been doing college for closer to 10 years than 5 years.

We just had a long, deep philosophical conversation and I knew almost everything that one of the other people was going to say. Not the details, but what position he'd take on the issues. Because we've talked about them, many times, in great depth. And it is wonderful to be around people with that level of familiarity.

And we had new friends, which is good! That's why we get to have these conversations again! In between these two extremes there are a bunch of other friends, and they are wonderful too. So, to friends old and new, near and far, hope you have a wonderful new year, and I look forward to seeing the nearer friends again in a year!