Tai Chi Y3D312: Waiting for Blizzard

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I have school today. But only until 1:00pm — then we’re off to home to wait out the storm.  It’s already pretty gray and pretty cold here; I’m not sure what this is going to be like in the long run.

My Tai Chi practice was iffy to rosy.  I wouldn’t say it was completely awesome — but there were some wonderful things about it.  For one, my breath and focus were exactly on point.  I did those quite well, and I was pleased with the result.  I didn’t go too fast, but I didn’t go slow enough.  If I’m facing any particular challenge with my tai chi these days, it lies in going too quickly most of the time.  This is only changed by careful dedication to smooth movements and careful attention to each limb’s gradual movement forward and back. And that comes only with…

PRACTICE.

It’s funny to discover how frequently that underlies everything that I do.  One might wish it weren’t the case; it would be nice to go out and buy a pair of leather pants, a frilly shirt, a guitar, and be a rock star tomorrow.  But rock stars get to be rock stars through a combination of performance and practice — they get up afternoon after afternoon, and play late into the night, in order to become the performers they wish to be.  Once, I noted that many, many rock bands in the amateur-to-almost-professional range seem to have a broad repertoire of songs; but they never broke through the dynamics barrier — that is, they never seemed to master the challenge of playing both loudly and softly.  The bands that can do both seem to have a much better chance of making it.

And that’s where I am in my tai chi practice; I’m trying to cross the dynamics barrier, and learn how to play my tai chi both softly and slowly, at a downtempo deliberateness. This is difficult, and it’s clearly what separates the hordes of the merely competent from the solitary master.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be the master.  It seems unlikely.  But it’s possible that I’ll get there. Eventually.  I just have to take it slow.

Tai Chi Y3D310-311: Unexpected Absence

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I’m sorry, readers, for the two days I’ve been away.  I went to a family funeral, which involved a drive on Friday, an early start on Saturday in the snowstorm, and then a drive home again today… and for the first time in a long time, I had no wifi with which to make a post; I also have been having phone troubles, and the result has been a serious lack of posting bandwidth.

It was also exhausting, and I’m just coming home to the need to prep for a storm. So my tai chi practice was shortened today, and now I have to go stand in line at the grocery store.

Tai Chi Y3D309: late awakening

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When I woke this morning, I realized that I had not awakened due to the alarm going off, and it was very much lighter in my bedroom than it was supposed to be.  Didn’t set the alarm, as it turns out.  Popped up like a jack-in-the-box, made the bed, did tai chi and druidry, made myself breakfast, and… and now it’s time to write, shower, shave, dress, and go to work.  Showering, Shaving, Dressing… these take fixed amount of times. But writing expands or shrinks to fill the space/time available for the project.

This is the available time.

Making a Globe

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Globe Template experiment

A basic globe shape

Students at my school have been facing some geography challenges. We participate in a number of geography events, including the National Geographic Geography Bee, which covers grades three through eight. But how do you help kids grow as geographically-aware and interested students?

One of my kids gave me an interesting Christmas gift this year.  It was a little box with some bamboo skewers, some wooden finials, a base, and — best of all — five reproduction maps of famous globes on a one- page template. Insert tab A into slot B, flip the roundels at top and bottom onto a bamboo skewer, attach the finials to top and bottom, and voila! You have a copy of Mercator’s 1547 globe on your desk.

Ok, that’s cool. But it’s a mathom: a thing for which there’s no immediate use, but which we’re unwilling to throw away (to quote Tolkien). I don’t need five small globes on my desk that tell the story of how Europeans learned to see the map of the world a few voyages of exploration and exploitation at a time.  I don’t even really need one.  The resulting globe is smaller than a baseball, and most of them are unreadable — the dense names of countries and cities make most of them little more than curiosities — while the actual globes of these early map-makers are often twenty to thirty inches in diameter.

So I did some studying of my existing sample.  The globes in this set consist of twelve narrow almond-shapes, each with a single circle at the top and bottom.  The resulting globe is a bit smaller than a baseball, and not very readable.  But I don’t want to produce a globe of my own — I want to be able to get students to make their own globes to help facilitate their learning process.  It thus occurred to me that I needed something in between — not a baseball sized curiosity, but something between a softball and a volleyball, maybe even basketball-sized.  I managed to get softball-sized by putting four such shapes on a piece of 8×11″ paper.  And I want to scale up to 8×14″… I wonder if I can get to 11×17″ paper in the school copier? The resulting globe-templates would be basketball-sized, I think.

The resulting shape, as indicated in the photograph, is messy. I have to admit, my globe parts don’t fit together as well as those globes which inspired this project. I need to edit the curves of the narrow almond-shapes more. And I think, as guides, I need to include the horizontal lines that would mark the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, and the Equator. That would make it much easier for students to draw their own maps of the Earth.

Did you not realize this is where that was going?

That’s what I want, though — not a published flat cardstock cutout of the world that folds up into a globe, but a template on which students at my school (and eventually, other schools) can draw the outline of the world, mark major cities and landmarks, learn about Great Circle routes, and otherwise imagine the world in a way that their other geography exercises never teach them.  The goal here is to provide students with the chance to do what great cartographers have done in the past: try to see the world as whole and entire from the desk in their studios… and then fold the resulting panels into a map.

Globe Template experimentI could have just as easily given them an icosahedron, and had them do a Bucky Fuller style projection.  But this struck me as more playful.  On the other hand, it’s easier to build up from triangles to a very large size.  So I think it’s still an open question whether to do a Fullerene-syle globe, or one more like this one, of narrow strips of curving paper.  All the same, I know some colleagues of mine are excited to have students build globes this way.  So am I.  And now we’re off and running — mathoms ahead!

Update: I’m having a tremendous amount of difficulty with the pictures in this entry.  If you are unable to see the picture, please leave a comment so I can tell when it’s working and when it isn’t?

Tai Chi Y3D308: Pop up

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Yesterday I had cause to run a couple of blocks.  I don’t normally run.  A lot of people would have probably guessed that I couldn’t run at all based on how I’m built. To my surprise, I was able to run two blocks without becoming winded or stressed.  It was surprising to me — allegedly I’m not doing exercise that improves my ability to run, and yet I was able to run, and run quite fast, without having put in the right kind of effort to do so.  Funny, that.

Today’s practice was lovely.  It wasn’t as slow as I would like — took me twelve minutes from beginning to end — but it wasn’t bad.

I have a meeting this morning at 7:30 — so I have to get a move on.

Tai Chi Y3D307: Lovely Practice

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I’ve been much better able to slow down over the last three days. Christina’s point about Deliberate Intention, or Formal Focus, or Avowed Devotion, or whatever one wishes to call it, has certainly helped.  Each movement has been a little more deliberate; I’ve waited much more carefully for the signal from my body that it’s time to move; and there’s been a much more studied elegance to each movement.  Even the middle sections, which it’s so hard to slow down for, have been much smoother.

I attribute it in part to the tidying up. Marie Kondo, for all her faults, has given me something serious to think about; and has provided some guidance along the way.  Yesterday, I went through all the drawers in my office.  In total, that was about fifteen little drawers and cabinets.  There was a lot of junk in there. I threw away things I didn’t know I had, things I had needed at one point but were genuinely getting in my way.  There are still, alas, six boxes of books (and maybe there’s a seventh or eighth still lurking on the bookshelves?  I have to do a more serious sort this summer, I think) which are sitting in the back hall, waiting to go to the “book sale” rack at our local library.  And there are still stacks of papers piled high in places, as I simultaneously pull together tax information and shred outdated paperwork.  May those two piles never meet!

All the same, there’s an underlying order and neatness that’s emerging from my house as a result of the clean-up. Knowing that six boxes of books are ready to leave the house is a huge relief already, even if the books haven’t left yet.  My art table is clear.  The wood-working table is clear. The desk… isn’t clear yet, but getting there.  Projects are slowly getting finished and put away. It’s nice.

It’s more than nice.  It’s created a powerful open space in which my world is at order.  And to have that kind of order, that sense of “each thing in its place”, means that it’s been very easy to step into the room for morning tai chi.  I come in, I begin, and I move.  I don’t have to worry about putting away a book or two, or clearing the floor.  It’s ready to begin.  Cooks call this mise en place, or “mess in place”, and I’ve written about it before in other contexts. But applying it to my own house is proving quite delightful, and overall quite a positive experience. I’m looking forward to the other insights it will bring forth in due time.

Tai Chi Y3D306: Phew, busy!

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One of the things I’ve noticed, is that the better my morning tai chi practice goes (like today), when it takes 20-30 minutes to complete, is that the rest of my day goes more smoothly… but fitting in the writing becomes an exercise in patience and deliberateness.

Here it is, a little after 4:15, and I’m only getting to the job of writing a few sentences.  The “new post” file has been open on my dashboard across three different wi-fi networks today; it’s lasted through four unexpected interruptions and the regular flow of my class day; and a host of assorted delays and ahem, excuses.

But the day itself was very productive. Very productive indeed.

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