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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Everyone should go do this

Yes, I know, it's a survey which is annoying. I myself have a phobia of surveys. But it's only one question, and your answer need only be one or two characters. And it's worth it. The results may or may not help us create an army of psychics.
Here's the link: http://archive.org/stream/physicsforentert035428mbp#page/n0/mode/2up

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Lesson from Annabel and Alex


by Annabel


Hello world!

As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, it’s been quite a while since my last posting. If you’re wondering why, I will answer absolutely no questions and what I was doing will forever remain a mystery for you to ponder moodily at coffee shops on rainy days. That’s right. Go get a fedora, an overcoat, and a five ‘o’ clock shadow. If you so desire, I do give lessons on brow-furrowing. Believe me, it’s worth the fifty dollars.

Of course, if you’re going to nag, I can tell you just a wee tidbit.

Don’t get cocky now. I won’t tell you much.

…Okay, fine. Sheesh!


Alex and I might have sort of become professional dancers.

How? Well, it wasn’t exactly a plan, per say. When you’re born to be a dancer, you just know. The music starts, you start flailing, loose articles of clothing start flying off in various directions, and you feel the eyes of every concertgoer slide toward you. It is your moment. You are shining. Your sunglasses fall to your chin, and you feel your arm begin to dislocate.

In other words, Alex and I decided to spontaneously attend a concert.

Of course, the rockin’ band, Davina and the Vagabonds (http://www.facebook.com/Davinaandthevagabonds) was certainly a big part of why the day was such a success. Try listening to that music without wiggling. I dare you. I DARE YOU.

Really, though, the second Alex and I got to that concert we were swing dancing in our minds. You could just feel the sassy in that music. Besides, we weren’t the only ones feeling swingy. At least four old couples were shakin’ it like orange juice. Okay, maybe only like the no-pulp kind. But they had swank, let me tell you.

Judging by our background in elderlyness, one would think that Alex and I would fit right in with this crowd. Perhaps we’d take slower, shakier steps than these young’uns, but we would certainly be able to handle ourselves. I mean, just look at our knitting.

HAH! What a cute idea.

The second we heard the first chord of our favorite Vagabond song, Alex and I completely lost control of our bodies. I’m not joking. One moment, we were sitting on a bench, watching the band and twisting our shoulders in anticipation. The next—well…



We went crazy.

It’s hard for me to remember details about this particular moment in my life. I’ve heard that artists produce their most brilliant work outside of time, with no knowledge of themselves or of the world around them.  The work, the beauty, is all that exists in their universe.

I now know that to be true.

I can vaguely remember a sandal flying off in some direction, along with a disgusted gasp from across the lawn. I definitely cracked my elbow. Alex might have hit me in the gut. My hair covered my face—was I headbanging? Arms windmilled around me and my legs twisted in opposite directions. Alex remained on her tiptoes for the duration for the song. What was happening? Was that grass I just saw? Grass exists? Did I accidentally kick that lady? What were people? What was humanity? I—

And as suddenly as it began, it was over.

Alex and I caught our breath.

You could just see the confusion on everyone’s face. The crowd stared at us. What are you?

I could have explained. I could have told them about our secret yearning to live in the 1920s, our deep appreciation of cartoon culture, our top-notch baking/dance sessions, or the fact that we were the same person. But none of that would have fully explained what they had just seen.

Shockingly, a man offered Alex a swing dance lesson. Hadn’t he just seen that we were masters? But Alex, being the gracious Mexican walking fish that she is, nobly accepted. As it turns out, the man knew all about the swing dancing scene and told us everything we would need to know.

Alex and I now dance every Monday night.

I understand that this post may be discouraging to some of you. After all, you will never be as swingtastic as we are. But do not despair! I have here 10%-Hilarity-approved dance instructions for you amateurs. Be careful where you whip these moves out, though—jealousy can be painful.



And thus, world, I bid you goodnight.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Meditation


~By Alex~
A few weeks ago, I posted a stop motion animation video. I’m sure by this point you’ve all seen it and appreciated it and duly noted the page turning technique and ooohed and aahed in all the right places.
If you haven’t, go do that now. Make sure to ooh and ahh.
Have you done it?
Now?
How about now?
Good.
The reason that I posted that video was actually an accident, because I was actually trying to put it on the only other blog on this account, which was actually my final project for my comparative religion course. But by now you've all been subjected to my voice (which is, I swear to god, a hundred times less nasally and annoying in person) and there's no going back, so I might as well give you a bit of background. As you all know by now, I did a science-y twist on Meditation and studied the neurobiology of Buddhist Mindfulness training. Now, for this final project, we had to do a ‘field trip’ because constructivist learning and pedagogical tools and synergistic solutions and cross-brain facilitators and yes. For my field trip, I decided to experience some meditation first hand and visit our neighborhood zen center (which apparently, is a thing).
The zen center is right in the middle of a residential area, so I dithered around outside for about ten minutes before someone politely albeit somewhat passive aggressively informed me that yes, this is the zen center, and that I should be pushing instead of pulling on the front door. I was surprised to find that there were a large variety of people already there, sitting quietly on cushions scattered around the room. Unsure of what to do, I claimed a cushion in the corner and observed the other meditators.
Next to me, there was a man and a very pregnant woman who appeared to be married. They both looked like they'd just stepped out of an organic farmer's market; the man had a scruffy beard, and they both wore flannel and touted eco-friendly bags. They seemed like the sort of people that would feel superior about the size of their compost pile. Next to them sat a slightly overweight middle-aged woman with hair dyed a shocking red, who wore a long, paisley dress and who I later discovered had an Australian accent. As I continued to look around the room, I found that the meditators were a truly eclectic conglomeration of people. There were some soccer mom types, clad in yoga pants and sweaters and constantly checking their cell phones, a pale, watery-eyed man in a suit who appeared to have just come off of work, and two young african american men with dreads and clad in sagging, ripped jeans who later revealed their names to be 'Miracle' and 'Mac'.
After a few minutes, the priest entered. He was a mousy, round-faced man with bright eyes and greying, curled hair that appeared to be precariously balanced on his skull. He was drowning in a strange combination of western business attire and oversized buddhist robes, and looked as though he wasn't entirely sure where he was or how he had ended up here.
As we went around and introduced ourselves, I soon discovered that everyone present, even if they hadn't been to the zen center before, had a well established home ritual of meditation. When it was my turn, I was forced to say that I hadn’t the faintest of what meditation was supposed to be like. The couple in flannel glared at me.
The priest, whose voice had a serene, musical quality, then began the guided meditation. He told us to 'get comfortable' in the lotus position. I, being the least flexible person on the planet, can’t twist my legs far enough even to sit cross legged, and therefore have no idea how one is supposed to ‘get comfortable’ with their legs twisted up like Pixie Stix. I tried to sit lotus style but only ended up kneeing the lady next to me in the stomach. I gave her an apologetic glance and settled for awkwardly folding my right leg under myself and letting my left extend out in front of me.
The priest asked us to focus on our breathing, inhaling and exhaling through the nose.
In.
Out.
Innnnnnnn.
Ooouuuuuuuutttt.
I tried to get into the meditation. I really did. I tried to focus on my breathing, but that backfired because I was severely congested so that my inhalations turned into loud snorts and my exhalations turned into low whistles. I tried breathing through my mouth, but that only resulted in my throat becoming dry, making me need to cough. I didn’t want to break into a coughing fit for fear of disturbing the other meditators’ concentration, and tried to suppress it. My face turned red and I started making involuntary strangled choking noises. Instead of looking Zen-like, I’m pretty sure I appeared to be having a severe allergic reaction. The lady sitting next to me looked genuinely concerned for my health.
I didn't know whether to keep my eyes open or closed, and as a result kept compulsively opening and closing them, trying to decide which was better. I nervously looked around at the people around me. The man across from me was staring at me inquisitively. Great, so now I’m deathly ill and crazy. I tried focusing on a leaf across the hall.
The priest, perhaps noticing my failing efforts  to concentrate, said, "If you have a thought, a frustration, a moment of self-consciousness, acknowledge that it happened... then let it go. Let it float away." This only succeeded in making me even more self-concsious. My brain is like the streets of Tokyo, a jumbled maze of thoughts and observations. As soon as I quash one down, another thought pops up. I try to stop thinking, and therefore I think about trying to stop thinking, and then I wonder what it really means to 'stop thinking anyway', if that's really possible from a neurological standpoint, and then I think about how thinking about stopping thinking is a really bizarre form of metacognition, and how did we become so self-aware anyway, and I wonder if dogs realize that they're thinking, if that's the difference between humans and other animals, and my originally well intentioned efforts at not thinking just spiral downhill from there, and soon I've forgotten all about my breathing and I've gone from not thinking to the evolution of metacognition to the character of Buck in Call of the Wild to what a terrible movie that would make to how bad The Last Airbender was. And then I would realize that I was thinking again and the cycle would start over.
That's my problem, with meditation, I think. I like thinking. I do it a lot. It keeps me from being bored. If you're supposed to live each moment in the moment, and concentrate on one particular thing and then nothing at all, when do you get a chance to introspect or contemplate or all of these other important things? What's the point of Nirvana if it means you can't think about the implications of quantum physics on philosophy, or about how there's no word for 'excited' in french, or about that trashy rom-com that's coming out next week? Besides, isn't letting go of thought and accepting things as they are what every dystopian novel ever has been trying to warn us against? You know, Billy Pilgrim and 'so it goes' and all that?
I think I may just be missing the point.
Anyhow, after the meditation ended the priest gave very nice talk in which he told us about his garden and then it was over. I left the Zen center feeling thoroughly dejected and stressed out. One would have thought I’d learned my lesson after my last attempt at Yoga.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yoga Shenanigans


~By Alex~
My mom and I recently thought it would be a good idea to begin a mother daughter yoga class. This decision came about partially because I am the type of person that makes an effort to avoid every kind of sport (sports, coincidentally, also seem to make an effort to avoid me. I have tried everything from rowing to soccer but I have been almost painfully bad at everything. We figured that yoga would be the method of exercise in which I would be least likely to hurt myself and/or others) and partially because we are cute and cheesy and essentially do whatever the show Gilmore Girls tells us to. From this class, I have so far learned two things (neither of which entirely related to yoga):
1.     I am about as flexible as a #2 pencil
2.     I would be incredibly easily persuaded to join a cult.
Let me provide you with some context.
My mom and I prepared to proudly march into our yoga class with the gait and swag appropriate of the two out of shape beginners that we are.
So, we strutted proudly into the door and examined our fellow classmates. An old lady and a woman that had clearly just had a baby.
Hah! We thought, We shall impress them with our abilities! Our limberness and grace, unhindered by old age or convalescence, will be unmatched! We shall be the champions of Yoga!
This is where things started to go wrong.
We took out our new yoga mats, which had been so recently taken out of the plastic wrapping (I had been desperately trying to find scissors to open them in the car so we wouldn’t look like total amateurs) that they kept curling back up on themselves, and would only stay down if we spread our body eagle style on top of them. Coincidentally, there is no way to do this while looking graceful.
Then, I realized that the old lady next to me may be potentially the most frightening person I have ever met in my whole life. She clearly considered herself to be a yoga master, and she was determined to prove it to the teacher, my mother and I, and the lady who had probably been giving birth not even a month prior. She was a bona fide yoga professional and gosh darn if she wasn’t going to show every single member of that four-member suburban yoga class.
As soon as my mother and I entered the room, she started glaring at us, as though sizing us up for lunch. And as soon as we laid our embarrassingly new yoga mats down, she smirked like she knew she had gained the metaphorical upper hand, and started doing some very painful looking stretches. I’m pretty sure she was also breathing fire.
And this was all before class had even begun.
At this point, our yoga instructor came in. She was everything you would expect a yoga instructor to be; small, lithe, was probably a hippie in the 60s, and could contort her body in ways that aren’t physiologically possible, from a strictly scientific standpoint.
The class began fairly benignly. We did some simple stretches like crossing our legs, touching our toes (I actually couldn’t accomplish this), and rotating our shoulders.
I was on a roll. I was a leg crossing, almost toe touching, shoulder rotating FIEND. I was doing yoga and I simply was not afraid to show it. I raised my chin a little higher and raised my eyebrows at the petulant old lady next to me. Yeah. That’s what’s up. I ROLLED that shoulder.
Little did I know, I was being lulled into a false sense of security. Suddenly, the instructor stopped rolling and stretching and crossing and began slightly more complex things. Slightly meaning head standing and this horrible thing where you put your ankles over your shoulders and balance on your hands.
I fell over more than a little, and every time, the evil lady’s smirk became just that much more contemptuous.
My mom and I had accidentally signed up for the advanced class.
To make things worse, our instructor kept distracting me the entire time by saying things like ‘breathe in to your third eye!’ and ‘open up your seventh chakra!’. It sounded like she wanted us to join a cult. Either that, or she stole it from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Regardless, it was incredibly irritating, and I would have almost rather that she had not said anything at all.
But, as I said, I am incredibly weak-willed (cult joining, etc.). As the lesson progressed and my judgment became more and more blurred (due to the extreme heat in the room, the overwhelming incense, and my ever-increasing exhaustion from months of physical inactivity),  so my reaction to her hippie mantras progressed from mild irritation to dismissing it as an endearing quirk to acceptance: ‘yes, I will breathe into my chakras. My third eye and I have had a great time. Namaste, or whatever’.
By the time the lesson was over, my mom and I were completely worn out. As we were on our way out, the scary lady suggested with a thinly veiled snide tone that perhaps we should take the Wednesday class, as it’s much less crowded and it would really be more appropriate for our level.
We didn’t dignify that with a response.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wee Little Annabel

Hello World! This is Annabel.

As you definitely don't know, I live in a room that most of the time rather resembles one of those modern artworks made entirely out of clothing. Daily functioning, including lounging, working, and even going to bed are made much more difficult by the swarm of mess that I call my floor. I cannot remember the last time I did not trip immediately as I stepped in my door. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and realize I've fallen asleep on a pair of socks and have lovely little ridged imprints in my cheeks. It is a truly lamentable situation.

But today is a day of glory.

Today, my room is clean.

During the harrowing process of organizing EVERYTHING, I uncovered a beautiful lost secret:

Fourth Grade Annabel.

With a brain complex enough to baffle even the most intelligent readers, Fourth Grade Annabel once filled pages upon pages with beautiful poetry and prose. In her unspeakable wisdom, she often revealed ideas so beautiful that even her modern-day counterpart, NOT-COLLEGE-Annabel (Me!) remains confused as to their origins.

For your well-being, reader, I will be posting various works over the next few days. Let me begin with a report my friend and I wrote about wolves.

Wolves

Pretend you are a wolf. If you were a wolf, you would not have to eat any vegetables. In fact, you would think they were disgusting. You are a carnivore, so you eat meat. You would not be able to just go to the grocery store and buy a pound of meat. You would have to use your sense of smell, your eyes, and your ears to hung. When you get close to your food, be extremely quiet. Slowly, slowly, slowly, BOOM! You got it! Everyone in your pack congratulates you, and the feast begins!

When you get home, you will either see seven other wolves, or maybe more than twenty! Now, if you are getting BORED OUT OF YOUR MIND with your pack, you can leave and become a lone wolf. If you do become a lone wolf, you will not see your family until winter when you mate with a wolf of a different gender. Now, you will more than likely begin a family of your own. If you are a female wolf YOU HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT FOR YOU. You are responsible for raising and caring for one to eleven pups. Since you are a mammal you will feed your young milk.

If you are wondering where you live, we can tell you. You live in something called a den, it is a hole dug in the ground. It is nice, cozy, and sealed with branches and leaves. Your fur coat will also protect you from the cold and camouflage you from your predators. Panting will help you cool yourself down. Your den and your coat provides you with the protection you need to live in the wild.

Your den is in your territory which is where you live and hunt with your pack. You can smell trespassers when they are on your territory. If there is a lot of food in your territory, you will probably live in a small territory. If there is a little amount of food you will probably live on a large territory.

You probably have heard that wolves howl at night. You would too, if you were lost. Now, if you did howl your pack would come and find you. The leader of your pack would come up to you first. He would say hello to you by rubbing his neck against your neck. He would be the strongest of the pack. Now, if you are not a wolf, that is another story.

Friday, December 30, 2011

K-Seitt!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been humbled by another guest writer. Kevin S the Magnificent, the Buddy Ol' Pal, the Brilliant, has decided to grace our blog with his presence. And now, the message from His Royal Nerdness:


Please allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Kevin. I am a mutual friend of Alex, Annabel, Boy, and even Christopher.

And I don't even know how. Alex and I tried to explain it to someone one time, but afterward we just decided "Craigslist" was easier.

Alex was half-price in the "books for sale" section. Annabel was in "motorcycles". I think Boy had just gotten lost on his way to Ask Jeeves.

Once I saw Alex, Annabel, and Boy all in the same place, at the same time. Allow me to explain this phenomenon the only way I know how: using particle physics.

Quarks are these things smaller than protons, which are smaller than atoms, which are smaller than a loaf of bread (most of them, at least). And they come in categories called "flavors". ...because physicists' creativity far outstrips biologists' creativity (I say again: "spliceosomes"?). One of these flavors is called "strange".

That was the flavor of the aforementioned situation.

The reason I said "a loaf of bread" earlier is because I don't know how to pluralize the word "loaf". Is it "loaves"? That doesn't jive right with me, but I feel like it's right. In fact I'm 97.6% certain it is right. But that doesn't make for a very good story.

We went ice skating. Me and Boy and Annabel and Alex, I mean, not the loafs [sic] of bread. I use the term "skating" rather liberally, though. I would say that what Boy did was more along the lines of ice scooting. Anyway, we went ice somethinging downtown, and it was very enjoyable, especially because both Annabel and Alex were dressed identically in TARDIS dresses.

Did I not mention that bit? A TARDIS is a phone box that travels in time and some other things such as space, and I also don't know how to pluralize it. "TARDISes" bothers me on a strangely fundamental level.

So yeah, earlier, they had made identical TARDIS dresses in my dorm room. I probably should've mentioned that at the top. Coincidentally, "top" is another flavor of quark.

They came into my room, admired it as having attributes like "being able to see the floor" and "having a ukulele hanging from the wall". They then promptly began planning to construct their Halloween costumes, while removing their component parts from a bag that I'm pretty sure I didn't notice them bringing in. Sooner rather than later, I was awkwardly waiting outside my own room while they got changed in it.

To answer your un-asked question: My roommate is largely a myth.

Soon, after discussion, duct taping, Sharpie-ing, and an acoustic uke cover of the popular ballad "Friday" by voice of our generation Rebecca Black, we were on our way to pick up Boy from the train station.

He was a bit confused.

I was sympathetic to this emotion.

Even earlier, before Boy and the TARDII [sic] had come into the picture, we went duct taping. By which I mean Alex and Annabel went duct taping. By which I mean mostly just Alex wrote things on duct tape and stuck it random places. It was buckets of fun.

Then we went back to my dorm so they could make TARDIS dresses.

Did I mention that this is the first time I had met Annabel? We'd known each other for awhile, but she stepped off the bus at about 2:15 pm and I met her for the first time.

The spacetime continuum can make one's head spin.

I saw Memento not too long ago.

The other four flavors of quark are Bottom, Up, Down, and Charm.