Posted by matthew on Apr 29, 2005 in technology

Yesterday I took delivery of my new iMac G5 (20 inch). It’s a heck of an improvement on my 17 inch iMac G4, with a 1.8GHz G5 processor and 1Gb of RAM. Now I don’t want to sound like I was disappointed, but I was alarmed to read this article from ThinkSecret while I was browsing the day before I took delivery. It predicted that Apple would be revising the 20-inch iMacG5 up to 2GHz and a dual-layer Superdrive. The extra few GHz isn’t such a big deal but I would have loved to get a dual layer DVD burner. Well, the news now is that the predicted hardware announcements didn’t include any iMac updates anyway, so I can rest easy in the knowledge that my shiny new machine will not be outdated in its first week of ownership. It may last two.

The two big Apple update stories in Australia this week aren’t hardware related, though, they have to do with OSX Tiger being released, and the expansion of the iTunes music store to Australia. Regular readers may know that I have been keenly awaiting both. Apparently there are Australians who are already successfully registering and downloading from iTMS today. However I suspect there will be a release of iTunes 4.8 to coincide with Tiger’s release in a few hours when we will be able to see an Australian storefront for the first time. I plan to join, even though songs are likely to be about $US0.45 more expensive in the Australian store. I don’t know how the cost difference is justified. There really is no choice if you want to be legal and buy from the store. Why be fair when you can screw people for a few extra million bucks I guess? Multinational companies win again.


It has begun

Posted by matthew on Apr 27, 2005 in dance

Well, planning for MLX 2005 has officially begun. I started work on the website for this year by doing a fresh installation of Drupal. I had been putting off doing much on it until the video was out of the way. Today the test DVD arrived from Dream Engine. I’ve given them the go ahead to duplicate after a small correction to the menu, so I hope we’ll have the finished DVDs in our hot little hands by Friday.



Posted by matthew on Apr 26, 2005 in dance, health

Hullabaloo was excellent. I returned late last night with Lotte, with very sore muscles and a dose of the traditional exchange virus. We skipped the morning workshops on both days but still had plenty to challenge us. 3 hrs of classes per day really is enough when you’re social dancing as well, but that might just be us. We are probably beyond the phase in our learning where we are excited enough to get up in time for an 11am class after having danced til 4am. For me the physical challenge was clearly enough as well.

The workshops were overall extremely valuable, which is something I found last year as well. There were some things that were are a disappointment of course. I was a bit frustrated by being invited to DJ and then being given a 30 minute spot in a non-preferred time. On top of that, invited DJs were expected to pay full price and were not paid. I thought that was pretty poor. Also the only live band I got to see was the Fremantle Jazz Orchestra at the Ball, and it was a really good line up with a fairly poorly chosen set list for the occasion. They played what I would expect to hear at any big band gig at a local fete — not what I would expect for a bunch of hardcore swingers wishing to relive the swing era. They played what you would call “progressive jazz music” rather than big band swing. All young faces (which is fantastic) using new arrangements, sometimes of tunes that would best be classified as bop or trad jazz rather than swing. They performed a couple of Basie numbers, but only the one they did as an encore had any real Kansas feel about it. The other was a showtune done with a distinctly Sinatra-Basie style (I can’t quite remember the number right now).

These things are certainly a matter of taste, and taste is personal. However I noticed that a lot of people were sitting down for a lot of the night, so I started to feel that I wasn’t Robinson Crusoe. The rhythm just didn’t have that swingin’ drive, and there were no themes you could play with. It makes it tough on dancers.

Enough of my minor nitpicks, though. On the positive side of the ledger the Perthies have got to be just about the most welcoming and generous group of swing dancers in the country. Their passion is unsurpassed. This always gives me a great feeling, and it comes through in their events. The weekend opened for me with a riverboat cruise down the Swan. That was really a lot of fun. The boat itself was larger than I had imagined and had two floors where you could dance. There wasn’t a lot of room to swing out because everyone tended to congregate on the upper deck floor, but that gave it a really terrific atmosphere. Lotte and I concluded that “enough space” was not an important factor for good atmosphere, and in fact can often detract. The riverboat cruise was probably my favourite event actually, even though it wasn’t a full on dance night.

The Saturday night dance was also really good. CRR member Brian Renehan ended up winning the Jack & Jill with Sarah Farrelley, which was a buzz for all the CRR crew because we had been working on competition stuff the previous week. They danced really well and deserved it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brian look as relaxed while competing.

CRR performed the Big Apple that night too. That was also a huge buzz because it seemed to go over very well. I personally felt good about my performance, although I was struggling a bit at the beginning with a sore hamstring/groin from the classes. It was funny because I just decided to dance all out anyway and started yelling “RAAAAAAAAHH!” at the top of my voice at various stages to get myself hyped past the pain barrier. It worked. Got to remember that.

Another highlight was our host Wes, who did nothing but wait on us hand and foot all weekend. The best part was when Lotte complained that the only thing they could do to improve the service at “this hotel” was to make up the beds every day. For a nanosecond Wes looked troubled. It was very funny. We thanked him buy making him a breakfast of Dutch pancakes and hid a gift for him in his room.


One more night

Posted by matthew on Apr 21, 2005 in dance, travel

Well, I only need to wait one more night before I head over to Hullabaloo for the weekend. There’s only one more thing left to do: find someone to feed my cat. That shouldn’t be too hard.

It’s boring waiting to go. Today was a very busy day though, with 4 project meetings and a couple of other casual intra-office meetings in between. Everyone is trying to get things sorted out before the long weekend. It’s strange how the effect of just one day off compresses time. The smart thing to do is leave earlier. Wish I’d thought of it.

Tomorrow I’ll work on my research project and then head to the airport. I get into Perth just in time to make it to the jetty where a riverboat will take us on a cruise down Swan river. I’m worried that something will go wrong and I’ll miss the boat. That would really suck, because the cruise goes for 4 and a half hours and sounds like fun.


15,000 and counting

Posted by matthew on Apr 20, 2005 in life

A couple of days ago I backed up my blog just for the hell of it. I was amazed to find that I’d written more than 15,000 words in a little over a month here. That sort of workrate would mean I could write a PhD thesis in under 9 months. If only it was as easy as writing in a blog.

I do believe, however, that having a blog builds the habit of writing. My other blog — the one I use to compile my MA thesis — has been proof of that. While it’s been quiet there lately I found that while I was writing stuff leading up to my progress report, the blog was a huge help.

Today was a really good day for a whole bunch of reasons, particularly after having such a crap day yesterday. The main thing about yesterday was a silly work related issue, and today that issue became resolved in many ways for me. That was a very positive start. Then, when I was having coffee with my boss he brought up the new iMac G5 that I’d put in for. He’s approved the purchase, so hopefully I will be getting that some time soon. I also got some other really good news that I will have to report on in a later blog entry. All in all, a brilliant day.

The only downside was that Lotte left tonight for Hullabaloo and I won’t be leaving until Friday night. It’s going to be pretty boring at work for the next couple of days waiting to get over to Perth myself. But it will be a great weekend.


How to win a contest

Posted by matthew on Apr 18, 2005 in dance, education

Here’s a lesson plan I developed for troupe.

Learning Objectives:

1. Enhance competition and performance skills.

2. Improve dancing to fast music.

3. Develop use of phrases.


Round 1
Two or three couples are partnered up randomly and must dance for 2 phrases each to a medium tempo song.

3 of the dancers act as judges while the others dance the song. Judges use criteria provided under 5 headings: Musicality, Balance, Innovation, Connection, and Entertainment. Each judge must rank each couple.(5 mins)

The 3 judges then swap in and repeat the exercise with 3 new judges. (5 mins)

A simulated judge’s conference: each judge must justify his/her choice for the top couple based on the criteria. The Facilitator moderates the discussion. (5 mins)

All Skate
Partners rotate. Each dancer attempts to put into practice at least 2 tips they got from the Feedback session. Medium tempo song. (5 mins)

Round 2
Two or three couples are partnered up randomly and must dance for 2 phrases each to a fast tempo song.

3 of the dancers act as judges while the others dance the song. Judges use criteria provided under 5 headings: Musicality, Balance, Innovation, Connection, and Entertainment. Each judge must rank each couple.(5 mins)

The 3 judges then swap in and repeat the exercise with 3 new judges. (5 mins)

A simulated judge’s conference: each judge must justify his/her choice for the top couple based on the criteria. The Facilitator moderates the discussion. (5 mins)

All Skate
Partners rotate. Each dancer attempts to put into practice at least 2 tips they got from the Feedback session. Medium tempo song. (5 mins)


Drupal 4.6

Posted by matthew on Apr 18, 2005 in technology

My content management software of choice, Drupal, just underwent a major update to 4.6. Naturally I wanted to try it out, so when Lotte had an assignment that required the quick set up of a website, I assisted by installing it and giving it a whirl. A fresh install was painless and rewarding. We spent about an hour sitting in the sun on Saturday morning outside A Minor Place (our favourite cafÈ) configuring the website on their wifi network. It’s much nicer to set up a website when you are being served French toast and coffee.

So today I decided to upgrade eRoleplay.net to 4.6 (from 4.5.2) and met a few hurdles. Quite a few really. The update documentation is less than complete, it seems, and webmaster Joel was kind enough to help me track down the problems. Turns out we had to manually update the database in several places (making me wonder if the update script is really complete) and remove a couple of blocks that I had set up myself. After that Joel stepped back through the update process (there’s a date-selector thingy on the update page) and things started working again. Phew, the database is intact and all my stuff is right where it should be. Now to re-install a few extra modules and we should be away.

If you’re reading this as a content-management novice, Modblog is an example of a type of content management system. Drupal is one of a bunch of freely available systems that you can install on your own server (if you have access to a server). The advantage of this is that you have control over the features and the presentation of your stuff. You also have total control over your own data. Let’s just say Modblog disappeared tomorrow — where would your blogs entries be? The disadvantage is that they do take a bit of technical know how.


AJC Reflections

Posted by matthew on Apr 17, 2005 in dance

Dozza and The Crinkulator have provided some interesting insights into competing in the AJC last night. I’m still reflecting on my first AJC as Head Judge. I’ve judged at all 3 AJCs in various events. This was different because I was responsible for the whole judging team. Of course I’ve done similar things with AHP and last year’s Hellz, which is no doubt why I was asked. But it was a different experience to be responsible for the conduct of the judging but not responible for the entire event. In many ways it was a relief. I didn’t have to feel like the criteria, the scoring system, or even the judging and adjudicating processes were down to me. They were provided by the organisers. I simply had the job of applying those things to the competition.

I decided that I wanted to have the judge’s briefing early, so the night started at 6.30pm for me. It was a good decision I reckon, because there was enough time to get things done without feeling like we were under stress. Stress is definitely one of the enemies of a happy judging team.

The most difficult event to judge, the Jack & Jill heats, was first on the program. This is where you have about 9 couples on the floor in each of 4 heats. There are 3 all skates in each heat, with a total of about 3 mins to assess 9 dancers, meaning you have a total of roughly 20 seconds per dancer to make a decision about whether to call them back for the finals. Needless to say, it’s a process of elimination, but you have to spend the greatest time on the toughest decisions. You might take one look at a dancer and realise in the first few seconds that they have no hope of getting through, so you have to move on. All skates are tough to judge, but it’s efficient.

Just about all the events were tough to judge, with a lot of places being very difficult to split. The beginner events were judged on all skates alone, and I found myself again having a hard time getting to see everyone for long enough. The rest of the events had shines, which helps so much. You really get a feeling that you have been able to see how they are performing and whether the partnership is working well.

Today I guess I’m thinking about how things could have been better. The night could have been shorter — two whole beginner events plus an amateur award seems like overkill to me. I’d prefer to see the values of the contest made more explicit so that everyone knows what’s expected of AJC winners, including the judges. More emphasis on the raw energy of lindy hop that inspires people would be more comfortable to me. This probably all sounds a bit like the Hellzapoppin’ ideals, but there’s a good reason for that. A lot of people in the US decided that contests were getting too far away from the ones that were around during the 30s and 40s.

I recognise as much as anyone that AJC should be different from AHP — for one thing it has a connection to US jitterbug contests which are usually associated with the dance scenes in Washington and California as opposed to the roots that AHP traces from the early Harvest Moon Ball contests in New York. This is definitely going to result in a different feel, and the inclusion of Quirky 30s in AJC is a good example of that I think, and one that I really enjoyed. However I still think the particular values that AJC does embody should be clear to everyone. The best example of where this can create confusion continues to be Showcase event, where there is always a fairly liberal interpretation of “swing styles” — mostly because the competitors can choose their own music of course. Is this a swing dance contest or not? If it’s not, why is it in AJC? If it is, should a couple be marked down for including a significant amount of non-swing content? These are tricky questions, of course, but ones that have to be dealt with if people are going to be kept happy.

Hellz gets around the problem by a) carefully choosing all the music and b) by allowing absolutely anything (avoiding the mess of disqualifcations) while embodying the values that are associated with the most famous lindy clip of all time, from the movie Hellzapoppin’. If anyone ever wanted to know how they should be dancing, they have the prime example right there in the name of the contest. Not having any rules often surpises people, but of all social dances, lindy hop is surely the most permissive of all — you can quite easily make up a move or a sequence nobody else has ever done and call it lindy hop. What’s important is that people realise they are supposed to be doing something that is still identifiably lindy hop. I’ve never seen anyone winn at a Hellz event after busting out a lengthy jazz routine or doing a cha cha or something. Just imagine.



Posted by matthew on Apr 15, 2005 in life

When are taxes fun? Only one time that I can think of — when you’ve just finished them, and you’ve been told that you will be getting a healthy return. Yes, finally I’ve done my tax returns for 2002 and 2003. And guess what? Last year’s one is due next month. Anyway the pain of going through an awful lot of records and receipts was worth it.


Lotte the Radio Superstar

Posted by matthew on Apr 14, 2005 in holland, life

How cool. Lotte was interviewed for SBS Dutch radio last November, and today I found the interview online in MP3 and RealPlayer formats. Dutch-speakers might be particularly interested.