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I was at a ceilidh the other week, which had attracted quite a few students who were bright, but hadn't done a lot of dancing before. After a few successful contras, the caller tried Fiddleheads and it, err, really didn't go well. I've been musing about why, and I came up with the following theory about folk dance move hardness.

Folk dance moves have (at least) four axis of hardness.

1) Simple to Complex. This is what people usually think of as 'hardness'. Walk in a circle is easier than walk in a figure eight.

2) Group to Solo. This is about two things, whether everyone else is doing the same thing as you, and whether there is some way to physically drag you through the thing. If four people dance round in a circle, that is easier than if the first person skips round the rest of the people who stand still, even though the physical move is the same for that person. Dancing is easier when there are people to copy and people to guide you.

3) Common to Rare. A do ci do and a mad robin are remarkably similar moves. But one happens all the time, and so people know what it is, and one is a rarer thing, so people aren't as immediately sure what to do.

4) Returning to Rearranging. Some things get you back to where you started. This is easier than having to be somewhere else, because if the (eg) reel goes completely wrong, you can get back to where you started and you are in the right place for the next bit. Some things progress you in fairely standard ways (eg move the 1s to below the 2s). Some things just Totally Rearrange the Set (eg tea kettles changing orientation, or turning four people in a square into four people standing in a diamond). This is harder than just getting back to where you started.

5) Short to Long. Things that start hard get easy when you do them for 16 bars, so half a ladies chain is harder than a full ladies chain not just because of the improvement in returning v's rearranging, but because you get longer before you have to worry about the next thing. (There's probably another thing about density of hardness, one hard move in a dance where everything else is circles and stars will fly more than 10 different hard moves linked together).

So you can now think about folk dance moves on these axes:

Circling - simple move, very group (everyone holds hands and does exactle the same thing), very common, completely returning, goes on for 16 steps usually - this is about as easy as it gets.

Circling three quarters - as above, except less common, and no longer returning, more rearranging, and just 8 steps, so harder.

Do si do - simple move, but a bit more solo (you're moving in the opposite direction to your partner, no-one is holding your hand or steering you, but you are mirroring what they are doing), very common, completely returning, not too rushed.

Reels - more complicated move, surprisingly solo (no-one leading you, or anyone you can directly copy), but fairly common, and returning, usually has quite a lot of time for it though.

Ladies' chain - more complicated move, quite balanced between group and solo (you are always holding someones hand, but not doing exactly the same as anyone else), fairly common, and returning.

Petronella - quite a complicated move (turning one way while moving the other), balanced between group and solo (you are doing exactly the same as everyone else, and can have a quick tug in the right direction from the circle, but you do your turn on your own), not that common in English ceilidh, and not immediately returning (until you do four), and quite quick.

etc etc.

So this is my theory about what went wrong with the start of Fiddleheads (1s cross over (passing right) and go left around one person into the middle of the set, lady facing down, man facing up, so you form a diamond, the first man with his original twos, but the first woman with the twos above) It's a fairly simple move - four steps across the set, turn left, come back to the middle of the set. But it's almost totally solo (if you're very leet and remember to look at other sets you can copy your mirror further up, but no-one else in your set is doing the same move as you), it's very rare (99% of the time if you cross with your partner you both turn together down or up the set, and you hardly ever stand in diamonds), it's ridiculously rearranging - half the people don't end up dancing with the same group of 4 they started with, you don't end up back in a longways set, you end up in diamonds, and it's pretty quick, you go straight into the petronellas without much time to catch your breath.

Of course, the real reason it didn't go very well was because the newest people turn up last, and are then dancing at the bottom of a set miles away from the caller (in quite a flat hall) with other new people. I don't know how you fix that.

I think this gives us a framing to think about which things will be hard for different groups. With complete newbies, the common / rare axis goes away completely, because everything is new (although over the course of an evening things that build on earlier dances help). With a mixed crowd of experienced and new people, you'll get through things that are very hard overall so long as they're a lot more 'group' and a lot less 'solo'.

Anyway, just rambling...

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So, I don't think I'm going to stop blogging (facebook just isn't the same), and my current plan is to cross post to both Dreamwidth and LJ. This isn't a very well thought through position, I definitely don't approve of LJ's T&Cs - 'no breaking Russian law or talking about politics' isn't my style, and I was even more disturbed by the 'we are bringing this in without any discussion with the user base, and suddenly cutting you off from your journal unless you accept it'. So I _think_ I'm on a trajectory of Dreamwidth as primary blog, but this is a) a bit sad, and b) requires a bit of admin to sort out friends groups and make sure I've friended people on dreamwidth etc. So cross posting should keep happening for at least a bit, and I'll put up a note if that changes.

If you felt like leaving a comment to say 'I still read this, and I'm so-and-so on Dreamwidth' or 'I still read this and I don't have a dreamwidth account' that would help me a bit with my admin :-)

I am cross posting between LJ and Dreamwidth, there may be other comments there

Clip n Climb

Cambridge now has a Clip n Climb! Ewx has reviewed this already, and I broadly agree with him, but a few notes for me…

It's a very relaxing way to introduce people to climbing. If you're going to a usual indoor wall, you either need to teach your beginners to belay, or you end up spending big chunks of time belaying people who can't belay you in return. Clip n Climb does what it says on the tin - auto belayers, so you don't need anyone competent on the ropes at all, that the staff clip you into.

Because of this, it's a bit relentless. I am clearly a lazy climber who is used to trying the hard bit, failing, hanging around on the rope and then having another go at the hard bit. This does not work on an autobelayer. You try to hang around, and you end up back on the ground. Also, it is so much quicker to just clip in than having to tie a figure 8, and you don't spend any time belaying, the amount of time you spend climbing in a hour is huge in comparison to usual indoor walls, and by half way through I was quite pumped.

It's also easy to end up a bit lonelier - at a usual wall, you're climbing in pairs, so someone is watching what you're doing and cheering you on. At CnC, you feel like you're wasting time if you're not climbing, so although I did some hanging around and watching, it was more 'getting on with my own thing'.

We were lucky - there were 7 people in our session, and their capacity is 30. So there was no queuing for anything, and there was always a huge range of different panels to choose from. I think if we'd been there with 28 small children climbing Slowly it would have been a lot less fun.

We were unlucky - it was swelteringly hot, and a lot of the routes are very plastic, which with no chalk means the major challenge is 'hmm, I am too sweaty for this hold to have any grip at all'

It is really quite good fun to go from being one of the worst climbers at Harlow to one of the two best climbers at CnC. I am a show off.

The staff were friendly without being pushy, and once they'd noticed we could climb, they were good at saying 'try this one, it's the hardest'.

Ewx said they'd let him wear climbing shoes, but the website says they don't let you, and they didn't let us. I am a bit too used to smearing and having my feet stay on the wall, smearing in trainers is not the same.

They have some lovely lovely gimmicky things that I really enjoyed having a go at climbing. These included:

- A racing wall, where you can time yourself, next to an identical racing wall, so you can have an actual race! Matthew won two times out of three. Including the time he climbed the colour that probably wasn't actually a route, and included an Epic Dyno. I managed 11 seconds, M managed 9. He's taller ;-)

- A spinning wall, with holds round a big circle that turned when you put weight on it, which was balancey, and technically interesting. I can climb it just on the holds on the spinning disks (there are some static holds on the sides), but I can't climb it just on the orange holds on the spinning disks. Yet ;-)

- A weird plant thing, which was actually just Difficult to climb. Matthew got to the top, but he was working pretty hard, and he couldn't do the top difficulty setting (I didn't even make the top)

- A see through wall, with the same holds on both sides in mirror, so you can climb by trying to copy exactly what the person on the other side is doing.

- The fake ice climbing wall, where you get little wooden pegs instead of ice axes. The dark blue route on the wall was made for someone both taller and less tired than me, and I still haven't gotten it.

- A big spiral, which for some reason I don't quite understand I really like climbing.

- A 'stairway to heaven', which would have been better if it had been included instead of another way to extort money from people, but was a very fun balancey step-from-post-to-post. I did it, feeling very wobbly (because you're on auto belay, the belay rope keeps winding in and can pull you off balance a bit) and then afterwards the chap said 'you know, the first time you do it you're allowed to use your hands'. I'm not sure that would have been easier though!

I feel like I tried most of it - by the end of the hour I'd climbed on every wall, gotten to the top of about 95% of them, and gotten to the top on the hardest difficulty on about 70% of them. So I'm not desperate to go back any time soon, but in another six months would very much enjoy going back for another play, I think.


So, I nearly ran my first ultra marathon! I thought it was interesting, so I've written Too Much about it, because what's the point of a blog if you can't ramble and navel gaze sometimes?

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In 'things I noticed but that wikipedia noticed first'...

Celestial Globes! Really cool! They draw all the stars in the sky, so you can learn the constellations! Except... You always look at a globe from the outside. And you always look at the celestial sphere (in as much as it exists) from the inside. So celestial globe makers have a fundamental dilemma - put the stars in the right place on the globe, and have all the constellations look backwards, or flip the entirity of the heavens inside out, so the constellations look right, but the more you think about it the more confusing it gets. Oddly, we don't seem to have converged on a standard - here's a 'each constellation looks right, so the globe must be wrong' one, and here's a 'stars in the right place so everything looks backwards' one.

If you like constellations, you could do a lot worse than the Digital Gene Constellation app, which is basically just a jigsaw where you can amuse yourself putting the stars in the sky until your sky has all the stars in it, but is gently pleasing, and taught me enough about constellations to get to the point where I went 'hold on a minute, that celstial globe must be wrong, surely?'

Also, we live in an age where you can put armillary sphere into Amazon and get lots of hits. Maybe capitalism isn't all bad.

Friday afternoon polls...

Knives as presents...

...I'd never do that because of the superstition
...I'd do that, but make them pay a penny
...are fine
...I know about the superstition
...I'd never heard of the superstition
...are a bad present for non-superstitious reasons
...ticky knives.

I used to be bad at remembering my Dr's name, but now I have a 'Dr Foo' it's easy! I just need a Nurse Bar...

I got that joke
I didn't get that joke
I got it, but it's not actually funny
Most people would get that joke
That's a really niche joke
You hang out with too many geeks

Mostly about Catching Fire

I have lots and lots of Things bouncing around in my head about Catching Fire. I want to write an intelligent, coherant review, but if I try to do that, I'll just fail to do anything. So have as many bullet points as I can think of before I go to bed.

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A-level probability question, to bring joy to children at Christmas:

Tesco have an offer on Octonauts figures at the moment (that's true, so if you were hoping to buy some, now you know). The parents of an adorable 2 year old want 5 out of the 8 characters (he owns 3 already). However, the figures are not listed separately, just as 'one supplied.'

How many should they order into store to have a good chance (say >90%) of getting the 5 they want out of the random selection that Tescos send? There's no issue with taking any surplus back, so they could order vast quantities... but that would seem a little absurd.

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Right, I finally got my 50th park run! So I get a 50 parkrun t-shirt! And so I wander once more into the frustrating, unclear and gendered world of clothing sizes!

I have listed every t-shirt that I at least vaguely consider might be the right one to order in this poll, and All The Information I Can Find Anywhere about what that sizing means. (yes, that's sarcastic, there doesn't appear to be any)

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