Climbing the silks

On Tuesday I took my first aerial silk class. Wow! I was inspired to go after seeing a fabulous demonstration of people climbing, wrapping, dropping, and otherwise performing fantastic acrobatic feats. While some versions of this apparently lean more towards the exotic or even erotic, the displays I saw were more along the lines of the picture at right, and the class itself focuses on improving fitness. Phenomenal!

The performance, and the class, really impressed me with the athletic ability and strength required to do these moves. I found that there were some things I could do immediately, and others (which look just as easy when done by the instructor and other students) will take me a while to build some additional muscle. Here’s a rundown of what I learned in the first class:

  • Climbing. You have two drapes of “silk” (actually lycra), and your goal is to scale them. I’ve never tried rope climbing and had no idea how this would even be possible. It turns out that physics, and specifically friction, is your friend here. You grasp the silk, wrap one leg around it, and stand on that foot with your other leg, trapping the silk between sole and instep. If you press hard enough, this gives you something to stand on. Then you hang from your arms, bring your legs up to your chest, re-wrap/grip the silk, and stand up, gaining a few feet. This actually works! I also learned a variant (“Russian climb”) which requires quicker action, but I found to be easier: you push one foot sideways into the silk, then reach beneath with the other one and wrap it up on top of the first foot.
  • Angel. This is *awesome*. After climbing to the top, you spread the two silks apart, and push your torso through so that the silks run down behind your arms, then between your legs. You let go, spread your arms wide, and use your leg grip to gradually slide down the silks. It looks fabulous and is easy, but you have to descend slowly lest the silks give the back of your arms friction burns. :)
  • Straddle. You hold the silks in both hands, then hang, spread your legs, and raise them up over your head. I simply couldn’t do this — I don’t have the core strength to raise both legs that high. But I was allowed to “cheat” by jumping up to get my legs vertical, then straddling from there.
  • Foot lock. You add an extra wrap around your foot so that you can stand on it with no effort; it is locked there. You can’t climb higher unless you unlock it, but you can use this as a base to do other moves.
  • Bird cage. From a foot lock, you spread the silks apart and squat down between them, as if perched inside a cage.
  • Candy cane. From a foot lock, you spread the silks apart and pull outward on one side, then use your free foot to slide one silk down toward the supporting ankle. You then pull yourself through the open silks and repeat. This progressively wraps the silk around your supporting leg, and your torso forms a graceful arch that is the top of the candy cane. Delightful, although by that point I was getting awfully tired!

  • Hip-key. From a standing position, you grab the silks and lift both legs to wrap the silk around your waist in mid-air, then roll to the side leaving you in a securely hung position. This looks great, but it was another move that required just a bit more core strength than I could muster. I could wrap the silk, but not lift my legs high enough to get it near my waist / center of mass.

I can’t wait to practice these again, and learn more!

The shelves are yours

One of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science is that every book has its reader, and therefore the library should make it easy for books to be found by their reader. To that end, he advocated open shelving, meaning that patrons can access the books themselves and browse at will, as in a book store. This came as something of a surprise, because I’ve never encountered a library with closed shelving. I understand that in those libraries, the patron issues a request for a book, and a staff member retrieves it. The patron is never able to browse in an anonymous and uncommitted way, but must instead request a specific book, and then probably feels obligated to check it out, even if it turns out not to be to their liking. What a different environment that would be! I can’t imagine that being the standard for a public library. It was interesting to discover such a different potential model for libraries, and I am grateful that we ended up with open shelving as the default instead.

This issue came up not only in “Foundations of Library and Information Science,” the textbook for LIBR 200, but also in another book I’ve been reading, a 1903 text called “A Library Primer.” It is a charming how-to guide for the establishment and operation of libraries, and it also includes commentary related to our ethics discussions. Here is one excerpt showing that the advocacy of open shelving went back at least to 1903:

Give the people at least such liberty with their own collection of books as the bookseller gives them with his. Let the shelves be open, and the public admitted to them, and let the open shelves strike the keynote of the whole administration. (Dana, Chapter IV)

Dana goes on to give advice about the dimensions of the shelves:

Single shelves should not be more than three feet long, on account of the tendency to sag. Ten inches between shelves, and a depth of eight inches, are good dimensions for ordinary cases. (Dana, Chapter VIII)

and even chairs (ouch!):

In many cases simple stools on a single iron standard, without a revolving top, fastened to the floor, are more desirable than chairs. The loafer doesn’t like them; very few serious students object to them. (Dana, Chapter VIII)

I also enjoyed this encapsulation of the ALA core value of Service (which the ALA did not adopt until 1939):

The whole library should be permeated with a cheerful and accommodating atmosphere. Lay this down as the first rule of library management; and for the second, let it be said that librarian and assistants are to treat boy and girl, man and woman, ignorant and learned, courteous and rude, with uniform good-temper without condescension; never pertly. (Dana, Chapter IV)

The shelves are yours, and the librarian’s job is to courteously guide you through them, only when needed.