Friday, 28 September 2007

My Dad's Got a PC!

My mum and dad have bought a PC. They've never had a computer before but decided that the time has come when they are starting to feel left behind in this current, digital age and they want to catch up. There are so many “dot-com” adverts around, on television, on billboards, on buses etc, that they were beginning to feel at a disadvantage, particularly when for holidays or car insurance for example, there’s often the celebrated “10% discount if you buy online” to reckon with. For ages Mum and Dad fought the trend to dive into the digital pond, having heard stories of bank fraud, phone jacking, identity theft and such, but finally they succumbed and came home one day with a spanking new laptop and printer.

My dad is nothing if not thorough and he made sure he read up thoroughly on broadband connections but unfortunately being a complete novice in this particular arena, none of it made much sense to him. Even his old friend British Telecom seemed to be talking in Greek; Norton monthly wireless hub with wi-fi and home hub security and hub phone. What does it all mean? Even the payment plan made no sense. Half price for three months billed as credit on your first bill? What’s that all about?

Undeterred, with help from my brother and myself, he waded through the jargon and decided to bite the bullet and go the whole hog (I’ve always loved mixing metaphors) ordering BT’s top line connection, including a man who comes and sets it all up for you. The thought of Dad trying to set it all up himself having no prior knowledge filled all of us with dread so this seemed like the best option.

I’d just got home from shopping on the Sunday afternoon when the phone call came.
“Help!” was the cry, “I think I’ve broken it!”Following a fruitless hour and a half on the phone, trying to visualise what he was seeing without a great deal of success and no nearer to a solution, I told him to hang on whilst I popped round. Unfortunately, as I live in York and Dad lives on the other side of the Welsh border, popping round means two and a half hours each way. I don’t mind, he is my Dad after all, and as I argued when he objected to me driving all that way, I often drive further for work, so I’m kind of used to it. In the event I was really glad I did, as I never would have sorted it over the phone. By the time I left, Dad could get into his emails again so all was to the good.

Last weekend, Mum and Dad visited us in York and partway through the afternoon, Dad sheepishly admitted he was still having problems. He’d got the laptop in his boot – could I have a look? He’d bought a Bluetooth dongle in order to transfer pictures from his phone to the PC, but hadn’t been able to install it as the drivers supplied were for Windows XP. My brother had downloaded drivers from the manufacturer’s website for him, but he was still struggling to make it work.I really feel for him. I like to think I’m reasonably computer literate (my day job is in I.T.) but having now struggled with Vista myself even just to achieve basic things, I dread to think what it must be like for anyone coming to it with no prior experince of computing at all. There’s so much information on the screen at any time, it’s near impossible for a newcomer to understand which bits of it are important or indeed relevant, and which aren’t.

Following further problems with his BT email facility – it just doesn’t appear to be compatible with his PC – I’ve spent two lunchtimes on the phone to him this week (one of these spent learning that MSN Hotmail just repeatedly killed his browser!) resulting in setting up a GoogleMail account and coaching him in its use. This now appears to be working. Which is nice. I’ve always admired my dad’s persistence but more so now than ever as I know he’s been tempted to throw “that damn computer” out of the window on several occasions and is currently putting a great deal more into it than he’s getting out. But he sticks at it, just like I’ve seen him do with everything else in life (did I mention, he once made me a car) and refuses to be beaten. His tenacity is slowly paying off - in the last couple fo days I've arranged for him to receive "Vista For Dummies" (Amazon's great isn't it?) and with its help he's been able to save some attached pictures of Luca that I've sent him. He's ahead of me in a way as I've only just tonight figured out how to post pictures on this here blog thingy. Maybe one day Dad’ll find his way in here. If he does he’ll find a warm welcome waiting…

"Hi Dad! ‘Kettle’s on, you just sit down and put your feet up and I'll be right there..."

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Dance Off

I enjoyed tonight. My back's knackered but I still enjoyed it. I went out dancing, but only danced about 10 dances total in three hours! And most of those were in the first half hour.
Basically I did my back catching Luca from falling through a climbing frame just over a week ago and it's not been right since.
We taught in Newcastle last Friday and after wincing my way through the lesson (I think I just about managed it without anyone noticing) I didn't dance at all. It was still fun watching, though. I do like to see people enjoying their dancing. And Trisha reported that during the course of the evening, several leads put into practice the turn pattern we'd taught in class. Which was nice.

My back seemed to improve through the week though today it's taken a turn for the worse again. Friends have now started telling me I need to go and see a chiropractor. Sounds a bit scary to me - I'll see how it is after the weekend.

There was a class tonight at the Engine Shed, taught by Rotherham salsa teachers Ian Proctor and Margaret Chapman. I didn't take part but enjoyed doing a Len Goodman (my friend Sylvia played Arlene Philips) from the sidelines. The class was billed as an intermediate/advanced but unfortunately at one point Ian found himself having to teach the concept of "Touch & Go" turns. If you're reading this from a non-salsa point of view, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, but if you're an intermediate level (or above) salsa dancer then you ought to know exactly what I mean. I say ought to, but of course, levels change between different teachers, different clubs, different towns, etc and one of the hardest jobs for a guest teacher is setting the level for a class filled with people they don't know from Adam. We seem to be able to get it spot on at Newcastle every time but when we taught at the Engine Shed in February we pitched it far too high and prepared a turn pattern replete with at least four "non-orthodox" moves many wouldn't have seen before, in a routine that was simply too long. to be honest, when we ran the same lesson past our own intermediate class at Wetherby the following week, we struggled to get through it, though admittedly we were adding a fair amount of detail.
Since then we've honed the way we approach guest teaching, and in fact teaching in general, trying to give the dancers something they can use, either in routine or in technique, that's concise enough for them to be able to remember (and use) more than 5 minutes after the class has finished. We don't always get it right (except for Newcastle, of course) but we're trying, and I believe we're improving.
Maybe my back will improve soon, too...?

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A Funny Thing Happened To Me

I had a salsa first tonight. Not the first time I've danced salsa, obviously, as any regular readers (are there any regular readers? Haven't heard from Gary and Jan in a while) will know. I've danced On2 (ET2) before many times as well as I mentioned a couple of months ago but until tonight, I'd never danced On2 by accident...
It happened like this...
I was over to Gillian and Martin Heaton's Salsa Fix bash again in Horwich (, with friends Phil and Kate who help out at our clubnights. From when we arrived I had a great time, first dancing with a few familiar faces (are you STILL nervous, Jackie?) then moving on through some unknown ones. After dancing with Gillian she pointed out a friend of hers and told me I must go and dance with her. So a few records later I sought out Vanessa and asked her for a dance. Walking out onto the floor I began to question my timing as the music was distinctly jazzy, plinky, plonky Mambo stuff. Turned out to be a salsa jazz version of "My Favourite Things". Anyway - it was definitely "On2" music and for a fleeting moment I wondered about asking Vanessa if she danced On2 before deciding that I wanted nothing to do with all that On2 malarky tonight as it wasn't a training exercise - I was just there to enjoy myself. So off we pop On1 and then before you can say supercallyfrajilisticexpiallydocious (oops, sorry, wrong musical) I suddenly found myself dancing On2, having swapped without realising it! Seems it was in me all along and just needed the right music to bring it out! Fortunately Vanessa could dance perfectly well On2 too and we had a lovely dance.
Thanks once again to Gillian and Martin for organising the do, and thanks to all the ladies (and Steve) that danced with me and helped make my evening a real pleasure.