All entries for June 2005

June 13, 2005

Groupwise Getting The Boot

Screenshot of Warwick Insite front page. 'Groupwise Instability - Take Precautions: IT Services are working hard to identify the underlying cause of the GroupWise failures which occurred on Friday and Saturday.  However as a precautionary measure you are advised to print out a copy of important emails you may need over the next day or two (particularly travel documents such as itineraries, e-tickets, etc), and print a copy of your appointments for the next week. Staff members can try out the proposed replacement email systems at the roadshow sites in University House, the Science Concourse and the Ramphal Building.'

Groupwise failed over the weekend, just before the main leg of the E-Mail Replacement Roadshow this week.

Who knows whether more university staff are taking the opportunity to trail the systems proposed to replace Groupwise today than over the past two weeks is because of better location – University House among others – or because of the, dare I say, sabotage to make Groupwise seem even worse than it is.

In any case, Groupwise deserves to be let go. Microsoft Exchange/Outlook is so much easier to use and maintain, both from a user and IT Services perspective. Lotus Notes' staggering features are even more convoluted than Groupwise's, but at least it's stable and scalable.

What I can see students not being happy with is being pushed off to one side to a Sendmail -based system with web frontends - either SquirrelMail or MailMan.

As far as I can see Sendmail comes free with any Unix/Linux distribution. SquirrelMail, the more appropriate frontend, is free as well. MailMan, you guessed it, is free, too, but it is meant for managing electronic mail discussion and e-newsletter lists and as such too basic for personal e-mail.

The flipside of the issue is that money – and MS Exchange costs a lot – is better spent on the library when the majority of students sent up forwarding rules to their existing e-mail accounts anyway and never use the university e-mail system.

The student roadshow was last week, but if in doubt vote for SquirrelMail. MailMan looks like my 3 year old nephew designed the look and someone from 1996 decided on the features and user interface. MailMan is so bad, it seems like SquirrelMail has already been decided on and IT Services want to at least appear to be giving students a choice.

The staff roadshow is still on this week, so go and have a play.


June 09, 2005

Ballroom Lessons with Michael and Martina Burton

Writing about Shall we dance? from Natalia's blog

I loved 'Shall we dance'. Now that exams are over I'll watch it again.

So, you exeeded expectations already by not waiting till next year get back into ballroom :-) How was your lesson with Michael and Martina?

I had 4 hours over two days… waltz and a little foxtrot. The posture is an absolute killer, my shoulders and back still ache, not to mention the legs. But it feels soooo much better with the right posture, so much more fun if you know how to move!

i don't understand how Betty can jump straight from having taught a fairly basic routine to teaching a double reverse spin… the single reverse spin took me about three quarters of an hour to learn how to do, nevermind to do well.

Most surprising of all I found that once I had figured how to move I started leading naturally. When I partnered up with Martina, just by concentrating on the details of my movement, she explaimed afterwards, "Wow, he actually started leading all of a sudden!".

I never took private lessons with Betty, because I never felt she was a good teacher in group lessons – doing the same thing over and over again and me still not learning some things -, so I can't really compare. But my feeling is that Betty is not doing the club any favours. I did take a Latin lesson with Russel and all he did was show us the steps of a routine. Not a hint of how to move, just where to move. The styling with the arms I see other universities' couples do amounts to "Just stick your arm out and keep it there" with Russel.

At the Northern and National competitions it transpired that the entire club has three couples that are any good by any sort of reasonable standard, first of all the standard set by other universities. Just because they are called Oxford and Cambridge doesn't mean we should hang our heads. As far as I have heard the Sheffield club has Darren and Lilia coaching… why can't we get someone like that to drag our club out of it's pitiful condition.

Our club puts together teams for team matches on the fly on the day of the competition. There are no proper teams, like in more traditional team sports clubs, that receive more intensive coaching so they stand a chance in competitions.

The Latin and Ballroom Club does not treat dancing enough as a sport, but instead caters mostly to people who want to pick up the bare basics in an airy-fairy kind of way. I don't think people should have to pay for private lessons just to go beyond the routines that stay the same not only throughout the year, but even year on year, as one of my mates – Steph – can attest to, being a 4th year. In fact let me briefly tell Stephs story.

Steph and I danced together for a while when I first started Latin & Ballroom last fall. Most of what I learned in that time was from her. She started in her first year and by the third year she found a partner, a finalist, who danced very well, so they become one of Warwick's best couples. Once he left, however, Steph was left on the wayside by the club. The club put no effort into preserving and nurturing her talent. In fact, a beginner like me was the best she found and eventually she gave up and concentrated more on Classical Modern and Horse Riding.

To pick up the thread, it would make more sense to teach routines in group class and extend them, change them every 2–3 weeks. I find that by doing the same routine for months I have become inflexible and have a hard time improvising. The whole rountine just becomes one huge entity, not a combination of little chunks of steps that can be mixed up and re-combined to new routines at will. This also makes learning how to lead nigh on impossible. Not only does Betty not teach how to lead beyond the mantra "don't let the girls tell you what to do", but because this one routine is hammered into all of us, there is not really a need to lead: the girl knows before hand what is going to happen.

Paul, of the brand-new Salsa Society, teaches how to lead in great detail to complete beginners in the first lesson. First he teaches the rhythm and some basic mambo and side steps, then he goes on to leading, with some very simple, yet effective, exercises.

Private lessons should then take the class routines and work on the styling, posture and movement. A New Yorker, for example, actually consists of a quarter turn with legs together, leg forward, rock onto it, rock back and a quarter turn back while pulling the leg back in (roughly, for the foot/legwork) – instead of turning stepping and transferring weight all in one step.

There just seems to be no desire and passion to get anywhere whatsoever with this club. Where are the role models? Rugby players have Johnny, footballers have Beckham, rowers have Redgrave. What about Latin & Ballroom? Dancesport Info is a good place to start. Most Warwick L&B people haven't even heard of Blackpool, except maybe as a "broken dream of a Las Vegas that never quite made it ", so the choice to have the UK University National Competition take place in the Empress Ballroom might have seemed completely random – just like those links.

Thus ends the rant.


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