Nexus Card

I am currently liking my Nexus card – it was $50 and you had to do an interview, but should last 5 years – and lets you go to a separate queue.  The interview was straightforward – after doing the personal information check,  I literally chatted for five minutes about my work and random genetics things.  If you wear contacts like me you should bring a case though since you have to take them out to do the eye scan (you can come back later,  but I ended up just putting them on a sheet of paper for a couple minutes since I found my solution but no case)

When doing online check-in, you do have to put the number into each airline separately to get the TSA Pre-check noted on your tickets (thanks Kristin!) – usually there’s a spot like “Preferred Traveller Number” next to the Rewards membership number you can fill in.

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Amazon Fire 10 HD

Picked up one of these for $100 during the Black Friday weekend sale – I cracked the screen of my Xperia Tablet Z again,  and this costed less than the last time I had to replace the screen.  So far:

  • Side-loading the Play Store works well – most apps are pretty straightforward,  it is actually Google’s apps that are the least well-behaved.  I had to give up on Gmail and Inbox.
  • Performance is markedly improved over the Xperia Tablet.
  • Replacing the launcher makes it look and feel quite like a pretty ordinary Android tablet.
  • For some reason Amazon did away with the battery life graphs,  but maybe that’s because the battery is only okay.

My old tablet is not completely unusable – about a third of the display is non-responsive,  but it does auto-rotate so I just need to flip it to touch any specific part.  Currently it’s mainly a fancy bedside clock – right now it’s mainly on the Timely app’s clock mode.

Charade is Public Domain!

A bit of surprise, as it’s a more recent classic. I never noticed because all adults were old when you’re small, but features an aged Cary Grant with the iconic Audrey Hepburn. Like many classic movies you can find full versions on YouTube. https://youtu.be/NADtVKJrPzs

Although I’m not sure how copyright works with specific versions of movies as there are also lower resolution versions in places like the internet archive.

Kansas City Travels

Always little bits of excitement when traveling!  Turns out there are multiple terminals at Kansas City (knew this!) but they are separated by about a 10 minute jog (did not know this!) but that they are both on the bus route – so I could have saved a bit of excitement just staying on the bus one more stop.  Also important that it’s an hour between buses so it’s important to not be off by a stop!

MoviePass

I signed up for MoviePass a couple weeks after arriving in Kansas City.  I initially had issues because

  • My Paypal account was Canadian
  • My US bank account had my Canadian address

At least I assume it was one or both of these things – unfortunately the signup just plain failed – it would get to the last page and not confirm payment. MoviePass’s customer support never got back to me.  I kept trying every couple of days and eventually I got signed up! Some notes:

  • You can connect to Facebook in the app.  This is nice, because every now and then the app logs you out and I’m getting tired of typing in my credentials.  You have to do it in the app – go to the menu “Profile”, submenu “Plan information”.
  • You can buy tickets in on the day in advance,  as long as you do it in person at the theatre.  I’ve been stopping on the way home,  buying a ticket,  getting groceries,  going home and having dinner before coming back for the movie.

Just today I got notice that there is a promo annual plan at $7 a month.  I signed up, with a bit of trepidation – the deal is solid,  my only worry is that MoviePass survives long enough for me to use it!  It’s a nice complement to streaming video though – I see the new things on the big screen and I can dig through classics and TV shows online.

Dance Connection: What on Earth is It??

Some interesting thoughts about dance connection. Resonates with my reflex to attempt to categorise everything – I immediately started thinking of all the different kinds ways I connect with people when I dance. Sometimes it’s just fun, sometimes it feels like we’re both working hard. Sometimes it’s ridiculous, sometimes it’s a little sweet. Sometimes it’s a game of one-upmanship, sometimes it’s just relaxed. Sometimes it’s just one intimate moment, sometimes it’s the mood for a whole song. Sometimes it’s just one incredible instant, a flash in the middle. Sometimes it’s a beautiful ending…and sometimes you just wish it didn’t have to end. Sometimes it feels like I’m barely in control, sometimes it feels like all my plans come together, sometimes I don’t care what happens as it’s all reflex.

All sorts of ways to be happily surprised…

danceclasschallenge

It’s the best part of partner dancing, that makes all other dances pale in comparison. It’s a one-of-a-kind connection you can’t hope to attain with anyone else. It’s what we dance for, and makes dancing so highly addictive. It’s those indescribably good dances that lift the dance experience to another level, make us go, “Wow” and stay with us as unforgettable experiences.

Is dance connection any one or all of those things? I don’t know anymore.

Dancers: What do you mean when you talk about “dance connection”? Can you please describe, in your own words, how you experience it, and what you think it is?

Do you believe that connections between two dancers exist that are profoundly “special” and can’t be replicated?

I discussed this with a fellow dancer on my way to Rose City Blues and back, and concluded, both before and after, that I don’t believe that dance…

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Why I Compete and Other Thoughts about the Nature of Competing

One of the things I did at the Canadian Swing Championships was do a little competing. It’s been just over two years since I did my first competition at Lindy Bout,  and competitions are a bit,  or maybe even a lot different now.

At first, I was pulled into competing because it was yet another aspect of lindy hop I hadn’t done. A lot of things were new at that point,  and competing was one of those things teachers told you to do because it was good for your dancing. It’s a scary thing – right in the mind space of public performance – but a lot of it was blunted by signing up en masse with friends. It’s an odd space, when you’ve done a lot of the classes – thinking back, I probably thought of myself as both a novice – after all, I was definitely not as good as the teachers and I was in no way a pro – but also with the hubris of an intermediate-advanced dancer – after all, it felt like I could basically do a lot of the moves while social dancing. It’s about pushing yourself and growing as a dancer, but also secretly hoping that you luck out and have an awesome dance and win.

Thinking about things now, I feel I’m at a very different place in my dancing – older, wiser, more “advanced” – and yet I’m at a very similar place. I’m more than ever convinced that competing is one of the things you can do to improve your dancing.  In some sense,  I consider it a bit of an extension of why I think learning to dance fast is important – being forcing myself to dance at (what felt like) incredibly high speeds to the Jen Hodge All-Stars for a summer (and luckily having amazing friends willing to support this insanity) made medium tempo songs positively relaxed.  I remember having an epiphany – I was listening to a song, wondering who played this slow, mellow version of this famous song, when I realised this wasn’t a new version of the song – it was exactly that famous song,  but now it felt so incredibly relaxed and mellow. By learning to barely survive at extreme tempos,  I suddenly found myself with plenty of time to relax and reflect at lower speeds.

Competing is basically the same idea, but with a much broader range of restrictions. The necessity to do it while being watched and judged adds all sorts of extra stress, but ultimately the hope is to make social dancing, my real target, seem like a positively relaxed and blissful experience in comparison. I think it’s important to try to dance your best when you’re competing – actually,  I think one of the important stresses in competition is that you’re suddenly forcing yourself to do All The Best Things All The Time – and it also made me realise that there were some falsehoods I clung to. One was that getting the right feel was more important than looking good – it’s a bit of a trap to think that (at my level anyways) that you have to choose between the two.  It might be harder to have both, but looking and feeling decent is always achievable – and I know that I have a pretty far ways to go on that front.

Another thing that I realised, once winning is possible, is what does winning mean?  After all, I definitely believe in trying my best, trying to win – but what does it mean to actually win at most levels?  That you are the best of not the best?   If the contest could evaluate and identify you as the best in a particular level – isn’t the true reward for that revelation that you no longer fit in that particular level and should be higher?  Does that mean that all winners at anything but the highest level have basically proven that they are in the wrong level (or else does it mean that it was a fluke?) It makes for weird mind games – you kind of want to be in a low level competition to maximise your chances of winning,  but a higher level competition means that you will guarantee yourself better dances – but if it’s too high you’re instead pulling other people down.  In some sense the ideal competition pits people “of equal skill” against each other, but if they were really all that equal there wouldn’t be any point in the competition since they really the winner is the one who was luckiest?  And if people aren’t all equal in skill,  wouldn’t that mean that the person who “cheated” the most – or maybe was the least matching the level – is the winner?  Or maybe everyone needs to get a chance to win and then graduate to the next level?  But sadly that’s pretty infeasible,  as there are so many more people than winners – far too many competitions. I guess that’s why there are level exams for things like piano – a competition against yourself and a set of criteria,  rather than a guaranteed unequal playing field.

I want to win, and I revel in all the successes – from just having awesome dances, meeting new people, pulling off something difficult For Real Under Stressful Conditions, making finals – but it’s also important that I unwind a bit afterwards and remember that strange effect where winning isn’t the true (only) goal,  but to truly reach my goal I have to treat winning as the goal.  And, not so secretly, all the kinds of winning are delicious icing to the cake of dancing better.  It reminds me a bit Pol Slattery’s stance in Ender’s Game (by Orson Scott Card):

And at the end of the battle, Slattery shook Ender’s hand and said, “I’m glad you won. If I ever beat you, Ender, I want to do it fair.”

“Use what they give you,” Ender said. “If you’ve ever got an advantage over the enemy, use it.”

“Oh, I did,” said Slattery. He grinned. “I’m only fair-minded before and after battles.”

 

 

Competitions

Just got back from the Canadian Swing Championships. Tons and tons of great dancing – Gordon Webster is indeed pretty amazing live – plus a metric ton of competitions. Despite the name, it is perhaps as much a national event as Lindy Bout-that is to say, primarily a regional event, but attracts some internationals (mostly as visiting judges/instructors). Emphasis is definitely weighted towards Lindy hop, but there is representation of  west coast swing and rockabilly jive, and less surprisingly balboa.

There is a bit of crazy party reputation associated with it, which I’m…not so sure about – the environs are quite nice, while the event pass is a good but more expensive. The video footage is behind a pay wall – but only $5? Feels like they should have made them all free and let anyone film ($5 for a film license?) – I feel that there’s already so much video in the internet you’re actually competing for limited attention from other, higher profile events (and cat videos).  On the other hand, a whole whackload of international rockstar judges included Jon Tigert, Todd Yannacone, Sylvia Sykes, Pamela Gaižutytė, Nina Gilkenson, Bobby White, Kate Hedin…

Still – luckily some people with actual camera skills have obviously paid and started posing their videos – and there is a pretty crazy fast Canadian top tier final – check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XhsNzdebo0

Beef Brisket Rice Noodle

Turns out this isn’t just a random thing I like to combine – was at copa cafe and this was on the menu! Usually the closest I get is soup rice noodle with beef brisket, or beef brisket with rice rolls. Now I’m probably dangerously full on a bus…

Consuming vs Creating

I’m always caught at the crossroads between learning, reading, expanding my knowledge, vs the diametrically opposite desire to produce, create. Reminds me a bit of the boardgames I used to party a lot, where often there was the opposing need to build up infrastructure against scoring points. Without infrastructure, it was impossible to score any significant number of points, but spend all your time building and you’ll have no time to use the wonderful things you have wrought.
Real life isn’t so far off – I’m curious to learn more about everything – the Internet is wonderful for a voracious information found like me – but if all I do is consume this information, have I missed the chance to improve the world by contributing to it? After all, isn’t the while point of living to have an impact? Or maybe to have the biggest impact possible?
To make things muddier, I’m also by nature pretty passive. So is my inaction because I’m biding my time, or because I’m afraid. Or perhaps I’m afraid of being impulsive and stupid. But if you miss the chance to act, you’ll never be able to succeed. But this us balanced by the cost of failure. I have to take care to know when there is real cost to failure, and when it is just my pride.
I shouldn’t be so attached to my pride, given that I have so much of it.