Tuesday 30 December 2008

Very Milonguera

"You're very milonguera, aren't you?"

I was fairly sure that this was intended as a compliment, or at any rate not a complaint, though I also got the impression he might have preferred something else - not in a critical way, but as though he felt he might not be able to give me the kind of dance I'd most appreciate.

On the way home, however, I noticed I had no idea what it actually means.

Even after reading this again I still have no idea what it means. At least, not in terms of how I dance, as opposed to how most of my favourite leaders dance, not that I think it applies to that either.

I just have no idea.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Two-Sheep Crochet Blanket

Two-Sheep blanketSheep, like us, come in various colours, and the different natural colours of sheep hair make for beautiful works in wool without any need for elaborate design. Each colour has a speckled quality which gives it great visual life and interest. I like to combine them in geometric shapes, and I find the results very satisfying. Some companies achieve the same thing with non-natural colours by clever spinning and dyeing, and call it ‘tweed’ or ‘heather’ - it's worth looking out for these. But in the case of Garthenor's lovely range, it just comes like that straight off the animal. It's also interesting to touch, and very warm.

Garthenor Organic Jacob Chunky, 4 skeins in Black and 4 in Grey (3 of each might be enough but I was working from stash with some left over from a previous project, and I'm not really sure how much I used, so 4 to be on the safe side). You can get this from iknitlondon, or online direct from Garthenor. 6mm crochet hook.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In the instructions below I am using the British/Irish terminology which I believe is also used in Australia and New Zealand, because it comes most naturally to me. American stitich names - which I freely admit are logically superior, they're just not what I'm used to - are off-by-one in relation to this. If you are used to the American system and you'd like to reproduce this object, you should simply cross out ‘dc’ and replace it with ‘sc’ throughout.

With grey, make a crochet chain 48 sts long. Turn.
Ch 1 (counts as stitch into 1st st), 1dc into next ch, and so to end. (48 sts - this number will not change).
Turn. 1ch (counts as st into first st), 1dc into next st, continue to end, taking care not to miss the turning ch.
Continue till you have worked 12 rows of dc.
Break yarn and change colour by doing the last pull-through of the last st of the row with the new colour. Work 12 rows in black.
Repeat till you have 10 stripes.
Turn the work through 90 degrees and make 2ch to stand as first stitch down the side.
Work 1dc into the first, second, and fourth out of every four rows all the way down the side to the end. (Non-expert crocheters: be careful working into the turning chains, it's a bit fiddly. It doesn't matter much exactly what loop you work into as long as you're consistent. Rows that went one way will be trickier than rows that went the other way. I advise you to always pick up two threads, not more and not less. Depending on how you were taught to make your starting chain, you might have to do an extra stitch at the very end - this is fine - just do what has to happen to make the end straight.)
Turn and work back in the usual way, continue till you have worked 12 rows. Break wool.
Join in grey at the grey end, and work 12 rows on the other side in the same way.
Work in ends.

Very cosy.


A dear friend gave me The Elegance of the Hedgehog for Christmas. I'd seen it before, and thought ‘nice title’, but not picked it up.

I liked it. It's extremely French, in a very distinctive and funny way, and one day I'd like to read it in the original and see how I got on. As far as I can tell, it's meant to be entertaining and satirical, and it is. If I'd never personally noticed that a sixteenth-century Dutch painting of lemons was absolutely nothing like a photograph, nor met someone who told me he was writing a Ph.D thesis on the semiotics of the World Bank, I suppose I might have laughed less. There were one or two words I should have looked up, towards the end, but I didn't because I was enjoying the story. And I agree with the author about how it had to end; I think it's rather the point. I agree with the reviewers that the whole Japanese thing is a bit contrived, but it does the job in context, probably better than anything else available.

I can't imagine that it will sell as well in English as it has in French.

An oddity - the translation is into American English, which is fine - but weights, measures, and even dress sizing have been changed as well. I thought this was a mistake, even supposing that this US edition was only meant to be sold in the USA. The book as a whole made enough demands on the reader's literacy that I don't really see the need to insult the intelligence of an American audience by converting a French television rugby commentator's instantly-recognisable description of Jonah Lomu from centimetres and kilos into feet, inches, and pounds. Why bother? Is the American reader seriously expected to imagine a French commentator saying this? And that the young protagonist recorded feet, inches, and pounds in her journal without further comment? And why should other readers be annoyed and distracted by the utter nonsense of having to deduce what system Renée's dress size is given in? Bizarre.

It is certainly about elegance, which is about self-invention. And stereotypes, and their usefulness for self-invention. I enjoyed that.

Thank you for the present. (x) (x) (x)

Tuesday 23 December 2008

It is always summer somewhere

My Saturnalia light — for tangobaby:


For Johanna:

Sea Mist

For V:


Monday 22 December 2008

Everything stops when you open the lid

Have you ever seen that Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Hobbes is in the washing machine? Hobbes — six-year-old Calvin's cuddly tiger - is being washed. Calvin opens the lid to check that Hobbes is OK. Hobbes tells him “fine — close the lid. Everything stops when you open it”. There's a sequel, in which Hobbes walks around for some time with little dizzy spirals above his head.

It puzzled me the first time I saw it, because it's one of those top-loading washing machines we don't have here, they only have them in America. The drum is a vertical cylinder, in which you put the washing and the soap, and there's a sort of pole standing up in the middle of it which I suppose is there to agitate the washing, because otherwise it would just nestle at the bottom. There's a steel lid on the top, which drops shut. It has some simple time and temperature controls, like a toaster, and you can open the lid while it's working to look inside.

I had never seen one of these; to me a washing machine is a much smaller, horizontal cylinder with a thick glass door, a seperate drawer for the soap, and automatic cycles based on the standard washing instructions, which you choose from using a dial. If you absolutely insist on opening the door halfway through the cycle, which you can't do accidentally because there's a timed lock to stop you doing anything so silly without switching off the machine first, you'll get water all over the floor.

Of course the cartoon wouldn't make any sense with a front-loading washing machine. Calvin might worry, but he wouldn't be able to open the door. Or, if he did manage to open the door, he would get doused in hot soapy water, and there'd be screams.

The way these machines work - quite different from the kind sold here - also explains the instructions for felting in many American craft books, which assume you have a top-loader, and if you've never even seen one, make no sense.

Anyway. I had a dance that made me feel like Hobbes being washed. Or, at least — agitated, if not very clean.

Moreover, he tried to rub his shoe on my tights (cheap ones, happily) as though he were a dog who'd found a nice, scratchy tree*, and as I withdrew my leg, tried to tell me that I should stand still because it was his turn to have some fun.

Now, that wasn't a lid I needed to have opened. Ew! Eww Ewww Ewwwwww! Eww!

* Some women like this, or so it is said; and I am thrilled to leave men who like it too, exclusively to them.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Growing Boy

When I first met my friend's son, I could pick him up by his hands and whirl him around off the ground at arm's length; to gales of laughter and cries of delight.

Time Measured in Feet

Mine are the little round feet - his the long ones.

He was still a lot shorter than me, and a little bit shorter than his mother, as you can see in the picture below, though not for much longer I suppose.

On the beach

Pictures from Cannon Beach, Oregon, in August this year.

Saturday 20 December 2008

The Knitted Brain

Knitted Brain (Detail) - Karen NorbergThe knitted object partially shown to the left is an accurate representation of the structure of a human brain, with the hemispheres joined by a zip, here shown unzipped. It was made by psychiatrist Karen Norberg, and if you click it you will visit the online Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art, where there's a large, high-quality, zoomable image of the whole thing.

In an interview with Science, Norberg says that she found the process instructive in her studies: “Building a brain with yarn and knitting needles turns out to follow many of the same pathways as actual brain development.”

Folds of the Cerebral Cortex (Detail) - Marjorie TaylorThe works of psychologist Marjorie Taylor, also pictured in the museum, are quilted versions of MRI scans, and hang in offices around the University of Oregon. The cerebral cortex in blue velvet on silver is extremely beautiful - a detail is shown to the right.

Perhaps one day the works will be brought together for a show. Hat tip New Scientist (article behind the link, or issue 2687, page 51). In it, Taylor says: “There are plenty of rugs that show flowers and cats and lighthouses. Why not fMRI scans?”

Friday 19 December 2008

The Counting House, Edinburgh

I was in Edinburgh on holiday so I went for a dance. There is a milonga every Tuesday at the Counting House, which is above the Blind Poet pub in West Nicolson Street, but has its own entrance.

The Class: I don't think there is one, or if there is, it's somewhere else. When I came in, however, I was rather early and the end of a two-or-three-person lesson seemed to be still in progress. It blended into starting the milonga.

Layout and Atmosphere: This is very handsome room in a very handsome building, a lovely place for dancing. There are many, many fine Neoclassical rooms in Edinburgh, and this is one. The room is quite large, with more than enough red chairs around the walls, a few glossy dark wood tables matching the floor, high red curtains, and a spectacular glass dome lit from above which you can see with the 'satellite' option on Google Maps. Giant mirrors fill the top half of the wall at the far end, with more red curtains; go through a door on the right and there's another little room where the water is. The floor is dark wood, smooth and even, I found it a bit on the slippery side. The sound was fine everywhere in the room, as far as I noticed. It is cold, though, in the middle of winter. The room was unheated, as far as I could tell, and it was Scotland and nearly Christmas. Several people sitting down kept their coats on for at least the first hour. Wear wool. I was glad of my cardigan and enough dances to keep me going. I was told that it can be stuffy in summer, but it's a big room. The men all wore jeans and t-shirts, as is fairly typical for weekday milongas and I think is what's expected here. The women, as usual, were better - and if you were dressing for the room rather than the men, it would be just the place for whatever you've just knitted from a vintage Forties pattern.

Hospitality: Good. There's water in jugs, and real glasses, in the little room off to the right of the door past where the loos are. You could also go in there for a rest away from the dancefloor, if you really wanted to, as there are seats; but they're not set out as though intended to be sat on. To get yourself any other drink, walk half way down the stairs and go through the door marked No Smoking; you find yourself practically sitting at the bar in the Blind Poet. If it's a busy night you might have trouble opening the door. It wasn't too busy and I was promptly served a G&T in a tall glass for £3. The loos are quite spacious and you could get changed in there if you really needed to. There were a fair few bits of paper on the floor but otherwise they were clean, dry, supplied and working. [Edit: I forgot to mention that there is a rail to hang your things on in the little corridor off to the right as you go in; you could also change your shoes in there. I didn't know it was there when I came in, so I just did what many do anyway and hung my things on a chair, changing my shoes there.]

What I thought of the DJing: very traditional stuff, just one or two more adventurous tracks - I didn't find it especially memorable but it was all straightfoward to dance to. Two sets of milonga. I think one or two of vals. No cortinas, and the tandas mostly blended.

Getting in: £3 in the basket at the door.

Getting there and getting home: I walked for five minutes, from my hotel. Edinburgh is small, but hilly. You could walk to most places in an hour if you got stuck. It's just off South Bridge, where there are lots of buses. It would only take 10 minutes to walk to Princes' street where there are more. The Blind Poet pub is visible as soon as you turn into West Nicolson Street from the main road. The Counting House, above, has its own entrance, with a large sign you can see when you get closer. The milonga ends at 23:00, although it's true that at that time, when I left, they started playing salsa music and I don't know how long that went on.

The website: There isn't one for this specific milonga, that I can find, but it was listed at www.edinburghtango.org.uk and at the university tango society's website. There's also a Yahoo Group which you could subscribe to for announcements, although looking at the last few messages I wouldn't assume that everything gets announced.

How it went: It was rather thin, especially at first, because most of the university students have now gone home. It would be busier in term-time. The university has its own tango society that runs its own classes. A young gentleman I took to be what the jivers call a taxi-dancer was detailed to give me a start, which is a very hospitable and well-organised practice; or maybe he saw a well-dressed, appropriately-shod, smiling stranger and spontaneously decided to give her a try. This is also possible. I also danced with Toby, who organises it and dances very nicely, very musically, and with several other gentlemen. And I had entertaining conversations while sitting down; they included a qualified medical opinion (Edinburgh of course is famous for its surgeons) on the popularity of plastic surgery among the women of Buenos Aires. All in all I had a very good evening; I was treated with great friendliness, I had good dances, and one of my favourite things about dancing tango is that when you have been doing it for a while you can just go to a strange city and have a really nice evening out, without seeing a single person you know.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Out of Office Message

I am away on holiday. I probably won't be posting or responding to comments.

Why not listen to the Planet Money Podcast (they're very good) or read The Maddoff-o-Meter?

I'll be back at the weekend.

Monday 15 December 2008

This week was a good week ...

... to be Paul Krugman.

The lecture: Increasing Returns
An interview: Asimov's fiction, Economic Modelling, journalism and politics
The award ceremony: It's quite long but the music is nice and you hear what each prize is about [Edit - fixed link which led to the wrong tab]

Paul with a Swedish Princess


A Historical Survey of the Queen of Sweden's Dress Sense (I like the blue Thai silk one. Not so keen on most of the Eighties.)

You can watch all the other lectures too, at the same place.

Geraldine's Women's Technique Class

In Tango-in-Action's latest series with eminent visiting teachers, was a women's technique class with Geraldine (Rojas) Paludi. If you don't know who she is you can read this (in Spanish) or if you can't read Spanish, just look at the videos there and be told that she is generally regarded as a tango goddess. And since she was only passing through and I am only a tango hedgehog, I took this class. For my future reference and your curiosity, this is what happened. I'll just relate it as I remember it, and from my notes.

Geraldine speaks practically no English, although she obviously understands quite well, so everything she said had to be translated by Ezequiel and Stefano Fava. I understand some spoken Spanish, but I found her hard to follow. So what I relate will be a paraphrase, at best, and when I quote, the words are not hers, but an imperfectly-remembered combination of my translation and and somebody else's. So take with pinch of salt. My descriptions of what she physically did are limited by my powers of observation, which are not that hot. Interjections purely from me are [like this].

Geraldine is small and pretty with very black hair and dark eyes, a strong tendency to laugh, white-olive skin and a pleasing, rounded figure; if you saw her on the Tube you might take her for Persian or Turkish. She resembles Maria strongly in the quality of her movement, especially the perfect centredness and neutrality of her steering when she dances with Ezequiel, and a dignified air of physical self-confidence. I think of it as "Yerwhatness" - a slightly dangerous expression of the whole body and face that says "you lead me, I do it, deal with it!". She has no hesitation whatever in declaring the difference between Right and Wrong; she did not hedge, because she does not need to.

This class was billed as "all levels", and I think that was correct. I don't think you really needed more than minimal tango experience to benefit from it, but very experienced dancers and teachers could and did benefit too.

Exercise 1
Stand with feet together and lift first one heel, then the other, off the ground, putting them down gently and always leaving the toes where they are. She moved up and down while doing this, but only slightly.

Advice and instructions: use your knees, and toes, and most of all the ankles. Don't make a loud noise with your heels.

Exercise 2
From standing with your feet together, move one foot forward so its heel is just a little forward of the other toe. Then, keeping your weight or centre of gravity in the middle, not moving forward or back, lift first one heel, then the other, off the ground, putting them down gently, just like in the first exercise. [This was an exceptionally useful exercise for me, and I don't remember ever having seen it before - nor indeed the first one.]

Advice and instructions: Keep your weight in the middle and your toes flat on the floor. Use your knees, ankles and feet. You dance with your legs.

Exercise 3
Start with your feet together, then cross one foot over the other at the ankle, putting your toes flat on the floor, then return it quickly to its former place. Keep doing this movement. Then repeat the movement, gradually bringing it off the floor into the air, and up to knee level, on both sides.

Advice and instructions: This movement is from the knee and with the ankle, not "where you shave ...." (pause) "... if you do." Don't squeeze your thighs together! When you cross, you cross at the ankles. The ankle crosses first and the knee stays in front. You feel like you are dancing with your legs apart (ungainly demonstration, laughter) but you aren't, it's just a feeling, ignore it. The standing leg is important, think about the standing leg. If you feel you are losing your balance, push down on the standing leg. Don't worry about collecting.

Exercise 4

Draw a circle on the floor with the free foot.

Advice and instructions: Don't make it too big. Don't push down so it makes a noise. It's in contact with the floor, that's all. Move with the knee and ankle and foot. The standing leg is important. It's not bent or straight [locked], just "normal", ready to go.

Exercise 5

Ochos forwards.

Advice and instructions: Think about the standing leg more than the free leg. Push with it. Manage the weight change just like before [referring to exercise 2. There wasn't exactly what I would have called a weight change there, but I think I get it.] Step within yourself - don't displace [i.e. move from side to side] when you are practicing ochos alone! This is not your business, it is the man's business! Don't do it! Just do ochos on the spot. (Demonstration with Ezequiel where he stands still and she does ochos within the space of his embrace, without displacement, then again where he moves a little from side to side and she goes with it - "Now we displace".) When you are practicing alone, don't try to dissociate your upper body - don't try to keep facing the front. You dance with your legs.

Exercise 6

Ochos backwards.

Advice and instructions: Don't try to collect in the middle of the movement! You are all trying much too hard to collect. You are doing it in forward ochos as well, but it's much more obvious in backwards ochos. Don't pass through "position zero" where you stand with the feet together. The free foot just goes round the standing foot. (She demonstrated repeatedly - a quick and vigorous sweeping motion in which the free foot does go past the standing foot close by, but doesn't pause or appear to stick to it.) [Much emphasis and repetition here; and fairly general consternation among students who have been told to collect every other week since they started doing tango. Everybody's ochos wobble all over the place, and fall apart, and we all develop panicky or absent expressions while we try to put them together again without tripping over or kicking each other.]

Further advice and instructions in response to questions

Don't try too hard to dissociate your upper body. The staying in front of him, the connection, is in the mind. You're not exactly square on all the time. If your upper body doesn't follow your legs, doesn't turn at all when you do ochos (demonstration of pivotless ochos), the man can't tell which foot you are on. (Demonstration of pivoting ochos in close embrace, with the upper body rolling gently from side to side).

You dance with your legs. Your free leg swings freely from "where you shave" but the movements are with the knee and ankle. Both legs are alive all the time. Don't try too hard to "relax" your upper body, either - you can't possibly go floppy, that makes no sense - do what's natural and obvious.

Push down on the floor with the weight-bearing foot and manage the weight change like in exercise (2) above. Energy flows right round your body through your feet and to and from the floor. Tone not tension.

"It's a social dance, it's evolved from a social dance, anybody can do it, you don't have to be a ballerina". [I don't know whether this should have been translated 'ballerina' or only 'professional dancer'. Either would make sense.] Movement should always be natural. Anything artificial is right out.

At this point the people who'd paid for the room next hour started moving chairs in, so there was a round of applause, a general exchange of concerned and impressed looks, and we were all thrown out.

My Results

At the end of the class I did not feel exhausted, I did not feel stressed, and my lower back was absolutely fine. I felt that I had a lot of work to do, and that my ochos had imploded, but also that I'd been handed the tools to do the work if I chose. Exercise 2 was very useful to me, though it seems so simple, and also the transition from that into doing ochos. So were all the demonstrations about how the body moves as a whole, and just watching. In general I felt reassured about my own possibilities, and that I had a much better idea of what to explore next if I wanted to improve. This was just the class I needed. I also felt newly immunised against the pussyfooting stagey soulless triple-refined aenemic pretension that can so easily creep in if we don't watch it - Geraldine moves like a woman, not like a flamingo on coke.

A quiet practice session at home with my video camera revealed that I could produce a recognisable, if clumsy, imitation of the exercises - except for the ochos. But I'll keep trying.

Take this class if you ever get the chance. It was illuminating, and at £20 per person, good value. I got a lot to think about.

Sunday 14 December 2008

The Antikythera Mechanism

The replica is ready. Previous post here.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Zero Hour @ The Dome

[UPDATE March 2011: The space has been drastically renovated and is much nicer, rewrite in pipeline].

It's the holiday season again, the Victoria Line is back to normal, and I can manage the odd extra weekday milonga. That makes it time for an update on "The Dome". There are classes and a milonga every Wednesday organised by Zero Hour. As far as I know the milonga goes till midnight, but it may be open later at certain times of year.

The Class:
I skipped the class, it's a Wednesday and I needed some food and a nap. There are usually beginners' and intermediate classes running - check the monthly programme on the website for times and teachers.

Layout and Atmosphere: Much improved since I was last there (when it was fine). As you go in, there is the bar along the wall to your left, and a stage to your right, with a screen showing dancing, and draped platforms in front of it where you can sit down. There's a large raised platform with tables on the far side, and a little, low one with some seating in front of the DJ booth. As far as I noticed, all tables were open to all and not reserved. There are red tablecloths and little lights. The lighting is gentle but not too low; I could find all my stuff, even black stuff, when I wanted it. The whole place has been refurbished and repainted, but the really crucial change is that they've removed the half-height wall between the dance floor and the bar, leaving just the pillars with ledges for your drink. The tables are still there, but they can now be approached from both sides. People no longer congregate or get stuck behind the wall, and it's much easier to get up and sit down and circulate and chat and find the partners you want.

Hospitality: Good. I got a decent sized glass of orange juice for 50p. Water is available from the bar. The bar staff were friendly. They were also shivering with cold - for some reason it's freezing behind the bar. But I didn't feel cold, even before I started dancing. I wanted to hand them woolly hats. The loos are clean, supplied, and working, and even have good lighting and large mirrors on the outsides of the doors in the ladies' at the far corner (not the one off the stairs before you go in, which is fine, but cramped). I don't think there is anywhere to hang stuff except on the back of a chair. Actually there may be - I peered through the door of the 'cloakroom' - but it seemed to be being used for a practica or a lesson so I didn't open the door. Most people leave their kitbags on the platforms in front of the stage, so as long as you have a kitbag it's fine.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: They sell NeoTango shoes at the desk. I tried some on, but they're the wrong shape for me. They're about £80, the same price as Darcos.

What I thought of the DJing: Quite varied. Tandas, more or less, but I didn't feel they were of a fixed length, they tended to blend for me, and no cortinas. Quite a few milongas early in the evening, which I liked, and some unusual turkish-sounding things later on. I think there's a good chance you'll like at least some of it. I had to leave at 23:15 and I wouldn't be surprised if they got more adventurous by midnight. It is not always the same DJ, check the website if you have a strong preference.

Getting in: £6.

Getting there and getting home: From Tufnell Park tube, cross at the crossing and walk down the left hand wall of the corner pub; you will see the white-lit sign for the Dome. Just walk up the stairs. If you stay till midnight you may not be able to Tube it all the way, but there are buses in varous directions from the intersection outside: the website shows the location correctly.

The website: Simple, does the job. Look at 'milonga' and 'monthly programme'. The milonga is usually referred to as "The Dome" but the website uses its intended name so is at http://www.zerohour.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/.

How it went: Extremely well. I had very nice dances including one with a recent beginner whose progress made me feel pleased, and one with someone new who I've wanted to dance with for a while (sadly wasted on some music that didn't work out, but we'll have other chances), and others with regular partners each of whom is always a pleasure. I also had very few bumps, and although I didn't pay much attention to dancefloor behaviour I went away with the impression that it was generally good. I wish I could have stayed later, and I wish I could come here more often, as it's well-attended, and lots of my favourite dancers like it, and I can see why. But it's in an awkward location, and if I leave at 23:10 I won't get to bed till one, and I just don't think I can do that regularly on a weekday. Shame.

A Physical Change

Alex is annoyed about un-led voleos and ganchos. He's responding to Limerick.

I agree that what the follower is supposed to do with her free leg is difficult to explain. A lot of instructions on what to do with my free leg have seemed patently divorced from reality - what on earth is "a totally natural posture" even supposed to mean in high-heeled shoes? And even a good explanation, won't get the intended result if the lead that comes with it is mistimed or misdirected; so this is not something easily learned from a teacher who doesn't dance with you personally.

I don't think the technique is difficult to learn, but it does take time and practice to be able to do it physically.

For me it feels like getting my pelvis out of the way, without holding the thigh joint in a particular position - which I didn't find at all natural until I'd been dancing for over a year. I didn't even realise it was possible, and quite possibly it hadn't been, for me, till then. I think it takes time for those tendons to loosen and the muscles to find where the options are. Nowadays I can do a half-lotus; I couldn't do that a year ago. There's been a significant physical change, and you can't make that happen with explanations.

Friday 12 December 2008

Happy Birthday ...

... to a very dear sister.

A birthday of three big kisses:


Monday 8 December 2008

Behold! This happened.

My new friend who shall be known as Ruby, came to the milonga and brought with her a friend, who is, though a woman of adult years, a delighted child at tango.

And behold also, there was a certain man, of comely appearance and neat presentation, and a bit of silver jewellery and a ponytail, who was standing by the drinks table contemplating the dancefloor, and seeing that his own lady was absent for the final dance.

There was also a hedgehog, a short distance away, wondering whether, considering all the circumstances, and the shortage of time for indirect means, and the lady's likely intent to return, and the man's unknown preference about being directly asked, and his recent return from an exhausting tour, and his possible preference for an evening relatively free of importunate and presumptuous strangers, but on the other hand their previous conversation that same evening involving ducks, it might, or might not, be right to Ask, and if so, how. She hesitated. But never mind her.

For behold, the Friend of Ruby saw a nice man standing there, walked up to him and asked. Which was the Right Thing To Happen. She had a broken fastening on her shoe, for which she apologised in advance. I can't help suspecting she may thereby have hit the Competitive Streak, but I don't know.

And four or five minutes later she stepped off the dance floor with a little pair of tango angel wings fluttering above her head, and another in her eyes, making her open them very wide, and blink.

They were soft, they were fluffy, they were golden ... and they were also quite a lot like the wings of the kind of Seraph you see in the British Museum from before people decided angels shouldn't grow beards or bonk. Go past the Rosetta Stone and turn left at the bathing Venus.

Apparently she hasn't stopped talking about it yet.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Why I Dance Tango

I am a social dancer. That's what I wanted when I took my first lesson.

I want to express myself musically, without making a big performance of it. I want to interact with men, and other women, in a way that gives me joy and doesn't weigh me down with burdens. I want to get all dolled up, once or twice a week, and feel graceful, and sensual, and fun-loving. I want a reason to wear pretty clothes and shoes. I want to do something with my body, and delight in it, and have it appreciated by other people. I want to do all this as well as I can, but without an obligation to anyone but me.

It's not that I value less the rest of what I am. I just want to expand what it means to be me.

As for why this dance rather than another one, this is the one where I don't have to fake.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Put it on your T-shirt

Missing a lead is just a mistake, anticipation is bad dancing.

[Yikes - I'm channelling Limerick]

Monday 1 December 2008

Tanta has died

She really knew what she was talking about.
She really cared about the truth.
She was a brilliant writer.

And she was so funny.


Uh oh. we’ve got a downturn that can feed itself and, at the same time, dig trenches.

Tanta (in the comments):
Don’t go there, Dr. Krugman. I tried my hand at being Metaphor Officer last summer, when the roiling tentacles of the credit tsunami were casting a pall over the frozen markets and everything was like all “Bam!” and “Kablooie!” and stuff, and I very nearly lost my mind. Don’t let yourself get sucked into the swirling vortex without a paddle, because you’ll get bogged down in the desert. Trust me; I read that in the papers.

On the other hand, if it eats it excretes, and if it can dig its own latrines then I’m all for it. The alternative is not really worth contemplating.

Tanta - announcement at Calculated Risk (with a picture)
Obit in the NYTimes

[Edit: or, as a commenter on Markets Live, praxis22, put it:
Tanta’s gone?!?! Bugger she was really, good.]