Sunday, July 15, 2007

November 2005

Oh. My. Goodness. Three competitions in three weeks. I'll be lucky if I have any feet left by the time I graduate, instead of just a pair of stumps. After the Berkeley Beginner's competition we went to San Jose State and did very well again, placing third a lot, and the next week back to San Jose (different part of it, though), to compete in the state championships. The floor was huge and cold and there were hundreds of seats all the way around. It wasn't nearly as crowded as I thought it would be, actually. I was amazed to think that all of them would be filled, but only the first few rows in the lower level were even close to being full. The United States Ballroom Dance Association has stricter rules on costumes than most of the college comps, so we couldn't wear anything with sparkly things on it. Boring! R and I danced very, very well, placing first (!) in the Newcomer level for Standard (waltz-quickstep). Okay, Newcomer isn't very exciting, but it's the first time I think I've been first in anything, and if I'm not mistaken, doesn't that make us state champions? I think it does. I think I'm going to continue to think that (and brag about it, where appropriate :-).
This was the first time I'd seen children competing, bar the one tiny couple at the Berkeley Beginner's comp. They're very, very good, but actually kind of disturbing. I can't imagine how much time they spend practicing, and between that and the skimpy costumes and the overly adult routines they perform, I think it might not be very good for them. This might be just sour grapes, though. They're better than I'll ever be simply by virtue of having starting earlier, and I've taken to muttering “therapy. YEARS of therapy. That's what awaits them” whenever I get fed up and envious...
In other news, I've joined a classical Japanese class in addition to my translation, linguistics and language courses. Most of my friends are in this one too, and the professor is just wonderful. He's taking us through Hojoki, or Account of my Ten-Foot Hut, and he manages to be funny and wise and informative and helpful, often all at once and always during every class. After some bureaucratic running around I've managed to get credit for it as a graduate course, if I write a paper on the translation, and also for the linguistics course. My fears about not being able to hack it in graduate school are abating, and I think I might actually do okay!
I just love the library here. It took me a little while to find the main stacks, but they are just awe-inspiring. Floor after floor after floor of books in all languages, and big beautiful study tables and carrels. The stacks themselves are underground but the upper floors are all marble and the great reading room soars over your head like a ship upside down, with coffered ceilings and huge windows. The study tables have beautiful bronze lanps on them. After Haverford's cozy but small library (and those awful chairs on the Boat), this feels like Alexandria. Best of all is the art installation in the atrium. There's a spiral staircase that winds all the way down to the lowest stack level, and an artist has taken books and strung them through wires, and then suspended the wires across and over and down the middle of the spiral. The effect is of books cascading down through the air, some open and fluttering, some closed and tumbling towards the floor. It feels like the scene in Big Fish where time stops and Ewan MacGregor is pushing through the hardened figures to his girl. I love studying there, or at the smaller, Victorian-style Asian Studies library. More marble, more bronze and hardwood, but in an infinitesmally smaller space that looks like a Belle Epoque drawing room.
Thanksgiving was spent in the mountains, at Rock Haven. Baby Kathleen is 4 months old now, big but still sort of compact. She screams when anyone other than Deirdre or Liz holds her for the most part, but there she has her cheerful moments, and she and I spent a quarter-hour gargling at each other by the fire. Mom was there, and patiently sat through my ballroom DVDs and asked me about my friends and dates while washing dishes. I saw Vince the night after Thanksgiving. We ate ribs, went up to Kaiser Pass while listening to Stephen Lynch, and saw a very bizarre cloud formation up there at 8000 feet. Aliens, methinks. It was blistering, bittering cold, so iwas very glad for the fire that was still alive when I got back. I even built it up a little before going to bed.
Now, with exams looming, I'm glad that the competitions are over until after break. I need study time!

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