I had my first bout with cheaters this past weekend. Kind of soured the weekend, even though I can’t take it personally. Cheating bothers the heck out of me. Besides the idea of people learning to learn and enjoying it, it just makes me uncomfortable to have that dishonesty.

Cheating is a really bad idea. In the best case scenario, you leave a bad taste in the mouth of the person grading you. They may not be inclined to bump your 59.45 to a 60% (and a D-), meaning you failed the course. In the worst case scenario, you face major consquences. If being an ethical, upright person isn’t enough of a reason to not cheat, the consequences of cheating listed in your academic handbook should scare you straight. You can get kicked out of school in some instances or fail a class. The latter situation damages your GPA and possibly puts you behind in class. You may also have to retake the class with the same professor, who may remember you as that person who cheated.

In the situation of getting kicked out, that is a doozy to overcome. Don’t rely on what your friends tell you, that the school doesn’t enforce the cheating policy. It’s like drunk driving. Many may get away with it and get lighter sentencing, but you may encounter the people who follow the books. In your eyes, it may be unfair that you’re the only person who was punished, while everyone got a slap on the wrist, but the law reads how it reads. My school has a 3 strikes policy. Strike one, you get warned and fail the assignment. Strike 2 (which can happen any year, with any class you take), you fail the class in which your second cheating occurrence happened. Strike 3, you’re out. You wasted a lot of money and time to walk away with nothing. You may have also ruined your chances of finishing a degree, at least for a long time.

In short, don’t cheat. Believe me, I didn’t enjoy talking to deans on what to do or failing these students. It really can hurt you in the end.

One of my experiments is up and running, thank goodness. I have been running it for almost a week, and we are still waiting patiently to see data. I might let it run over the weekend; there is some concern that the fluid will float to the top and not show diffusion. I’m doubtful that’ll happen (mainy because I saw how fast things float to the top before with this experiment), but we’ll see.

While I’ve been waiting, I’ve been looking this past week at different dance forms to explore. Why? I like trying new things, and I’ve been doing Middle Eastern dance solid for a while. I’ve read various people’s thoughts about cross training in different dance forms, and I tend to side with the much favored school of cross training. I think it’s a good way to balance the body, for starters.Certain dances tend to work one part of the body extensively and not the other. Because I’m interested in fusion dance, learning the dances in their “pure form” is important. I’ve learned that if I want to some sort of tribal fusion, for instance, I need to learn the original form. Without careful instruction or observation, it’s easy to miss subtle parts of a move that polish it. I’m of the learning the original school of thought, just because “you can’t break the rules until you know them.” I also am genuinely interested in moving beautifully, and learning other dances for me has been a means of learning how to move beautifully.

Since Odissi and Bharatanatyam appear to be non-existent in Chicago without car access, I decided to seek out something else. Danielle suggested that I look into Flamenco; she herself is a Flamenco fan and huge advocate of the dance. To tell you the truth, I know very little about Flamenco. By very little, I knew it is Spanish, they wear shoes, and I believe play castanets. I still know very little, but this clip sold me on learning:

I’m not sure if it’ll be my passion, but I found the dancing in this clip gorgeous. I’m not sure if it’s good Flamenco, but I liked the dancing a lot. I take it as an excellent sign that I should learn Flamenco, because the basic class is on a Wednesday, when I used to learn veil. Veil was moved to Mondays for some reason, leaving Wednesdays free to learn Flamenco. I’m excited about learning this. I start in 2 weeks.

I talked with one of my teachers recently about the teacher-student boundary. Even though the Middle Eastern dance community largely wants to be friends with one another, my teacher talked about how she wants to keep a boundary. Why? She feels that most people have trouble separating the person as their friend and when that person assumes the role of a teacher.

I tend to agree with her on this thought. I don’t befriend my students, and I don’t necessarily befriend my professors. I look for mentors, which is a different role. I’ve noticed that if you try to be friends with the students, like some people, when you assume a position of authority, they do become a little more resentful than if you were already in a position of authority. Because I look so young (and because some of these students are older than I), I usually try to do all I can to be authoritative towards them. Nice and approachable, but I also don’t want to go to the bars with them. However, I know many people who prefer to be friends with their students.

Which do you prefer?

img_1173Behind that tarp is my experiment. See? It literally is table top. Physics doesn’t always have to take place in huge labs like CERN or Argonne.

The reason I keep a lot of details under wraps is because I don’t want someone beating me to completion. I didn’t have much to do (really, any) with the planning or development of the theory we’re testing. It’d be really unfair for me to publish all the gory details online and someone else with more time come along and complete it. I do believe in sharing knowledge, but I also believe in not overstepping bounds, which means using discretion on what I share. I’m not the only person working on this experiment.

Also, last year around April, one of my friends was going to defend his thesis. That month, someone else published a paper about his work and totally disproved my friend’s thesis. He worked from April to November to create a new presentable thesis. Although that may be paranoid of me, I don’t want that to happen to me.

Once I defend, I’ll definitely discuss more details and such. My defense is open to the public, after all. I may even show some photos of what lies beneath the tarp. However, for now, this is all you’ll see. I’ll still write updates on vague stuff I do in the lab (like working from 7 to 9:15 in the lab last night), but all the hardcore science stuff will have to wait.

I’m not an expert, but I have been watching/playing with a lot of fusion stuff. When someone brings up what is good fusion, the most successful fusion pieces I’ve seen

  • Blend the moves well together. I’ve occasionally seen people perform fusion dances that do 1 minute of Dance Form A, then 1 min of Dance Form B. I like seeing a more seamless blend. I find layering looks best (an example of this is the Flamenco posture ATS takes), but it could be simply flowing one move into another.
  • Know what you’re fusing/Do thoughtful fusion. A lot of bad fusion that looks sloppy I believe comes from a lack of knowing the original 2+ dances. Although I don’t believe you must be an expert, I think some knowledge beyond a video or YouTube is needed. I also think it’s important to be culturally sensitive or intelligent; you wouldn’t want to dance merrily to a song about death. For my own studies, I feel like studying tribal with a teacher has been helpful. There were some aspects of moves that I thought I understood because I had seen them so many times. However, either the people I’ve seen were sloppy or my eyes were not focused enough on catching some subtle but important differences.
  • Make it look good! Don’t allow sloppiness to be your fusion.

Beyond that, I don’t have any strong “rules” about fusion. With Middle Eastern dance fusion, I think there should be a big chunk of Middle Eastern flavor in it. Else, you should just call it fusion dance and find appropriate venues. On the infamous Bhuz, people have discussing what constitutes Middle Eastern dance. I think that one of the issues is that people are calling anything “belly dancing”, which although I don’t use the term, I think everyone has an idea that it’s associated with Middle Eastern dance. You should be allowed to experiment, but I do believe you should call what you do appropriately. It would be like going to an ice cream shop and finding there is everything but what you were looking for.

Today was kind of a bad day at Lollapalooza for me. A drunk person spilled beer all over my blanket when she tripped over her own two feet and didn’t apologize (I’m a fan of apology and being well-mannered). The moshing got a bit out of hand at the Rage Against the Machine show (I don’t mosh at all). I was sexually harassed on the street by some jerk.

The lead singer of Rage is what I hope to remember years later. At the beginning of the show, he reminded us to take care of each other. Later on, he told us to move back, because people were getting injured somehow. When people refused, he said he wouldn’t play until the crowd moved, because he wanted us to be safe. People finally moved.

I’m not a huge fan of Rage, but I respected them. I respect them even more. Regardless of how you feel about them politically or artistically, I think it’s awesome that they care about their fans and pay attention the audience.

I came across this thread on Tribe this morning about when and how you should name teachers under whom you studied or with whom you worked.

I can’t attest to everyone, but I linked up everyone I took at least a season’s worth (3 months) of classes with on my links section because I liked these people and hope that maybe others will check them out. I don’t do it to brag or to look like a better dancer. I simply wish to pay respect to my teacher. I don’t wish to name drop.

The teachers who I claim are influential are ones I studied under for a longer time (about a year normally) and/or I feel I gained a lot out of it. Their styles meshed with me more or perhaps it is because I studied under them for a long time. I feel that those people have had a bigger influence on me and my style of dance.

I don’t consider videos/DVDs or workshops really studying under someone. The former can be useful for some people, but the instructor on the DVD has no say in whether you’re truly getting his/her style or can correct you… It would be like if I told people I studied at MIT, because I use their OpenCourseware (lecture notes and other goodies posted online). I think workshops are a big step above learning from a DVD and one can gain a lot, but I’m not convinced that it’s enough to say you truly studied under someone. You can get a lot of useful things out of it, but I can’t say that you get nuances and an entire effect in a day or a weekend.

For my own benefit and perhaps for use in the future, I have a dance resume with everything on it. I don’t think it’s professional to misrepresent yourself. It’s setup like a combination of an actor’s resume and my ‘normal’ resume. The normal aspect of it clearly states under whom I studied, what kind of study (class, private lesson, workshop), and for how long. I think it’s important, because there’s a huge difference among those three. To make an analogy using my normal resume, I once had an internship at a nuclear physics laboratory. I state that I had an internship, not that I worked there. To me, if I were to state that I worked there, it sounds like I had a 40 hr/week job for a while, not a summer internship with somewhat flexible hours.

I can’t comment on other people’s motivations, because I don’t know what they are. Perhaps they have no motivations regarding this matter and don’t think hard about the wording. Perhaps they realize they are intentionally misrepresenting things. I have no clue. At the end of the day, I do strongly believe that it is important to be as honest as possible when representing yourself. I worked as a contract employee for a book publishing company last year, and every place I went to expected my skills as is. The same with physics jobs. You don’t have write dryly, but certainly don’t exaggerate your skills. It may come back to haunt you.

As for dance, someone on Tribe put it best (paraphrasing): a good video of your dancing speaks more volumes about you than under whom you studied.