Saturday, 4 October 2014

International Transfers for tango travellers

Ok, this is a matter of so much trouble to Brits who travel for tango purposes that it's become a perfectly genuinely Frequently Asked Question. As I've been asked it multiple times, here's the answer for people struggling to make European transfers in Euros directly from a UK bank. I've done it again today and remembered the gotchas.

You ONLY need the following information, nothing else:

  1. IBAN, the very loooong number which starts with a country code like FR or DE. If your bank's form does not seem to understand this number when you paste it in, remove the spaces. I have no idea why the forms are too stupid to do this automatically, but for some reason they often are, and it baffles people.
  2. BIC, the Bank Identification Code, a shorter string of letters.
  3. Name of the beneficiary (person or company you are sending the money to).
That's it. You do NOT need to fill any address information, it's completely unnecessary, so leave those boxes blank if the form allows it, or repeat whatever address you have if your bank's form is so poorly designed that it doesn't. The chances are that any extra information will be ignored, and the bank's helpdesk will probably confirm this, as mine did.

There may be more than one option for how the costs are paid which can vary from bank to bank. Mine only actually provides one option, which has a totally misleading name ("shared") but nevertheless results in the correct number of Euros reaching their destination. Start by selecting whatever option lets you specify the exact amount of the bill you are trying to pay.

Alternatively, try Transferwise, which I haven't yet used myself (only because my bank's system is unusually cheap and I am used to it), but I know lots of people who've used it very successfully. It is almost certain to be cheaper and better designed than your bank's system. The only gotcha is that people fairly often misunderstand the form in such a way that they make a transfer the wrong way round, FROM the destination currency TO the source currency. This results in exchanging the money and paying all of the costs twice over, and under-paying the actual bill by as much as a tenner, so it's no longer cheaper than using the bank. Plus it's embarrassing. So try not to do this.

I hope that helps someone, because apparently it's been driving my friends round the bend. I do it multiple times a year, and it's the sort of thing you would just never have had to do even once if you weren't travelling in Europe in order to dance tango. Because all other sorts of business take credit cards, and in Argentina you just turn up with a bra full of USD.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Dance is not necessarily sport, either

Jonathan Agnew said something on the radio – during a Test Match at the end of June – about hacking, which means riding around on horses, but not competitively.

He was talking about people who ride horses in their daily life, but are not "recognised" as “participating in a sport”, and he asked them to tweet pictures of what they were doing with a hashtag, because it would (self-evidently?) be a good thing if they were.

I think Aggers is wrong to assume that they would want this. It sounds to me exactly analogous to the case of social dancing. There is nothing wrong with doing dance as a sport, and social dance has pretty similar mental, physical and social benefits to social sport. The tango-salon competitions are a whole other discussion, and a very interesting one (also sometimes farcical). Sport-dance can be a lot of fun. But conceiving ALL dance as sport would be harmful and there is no reason to assume that anyone would or should want that.

Just because some people define sport as prestigious doesn't mean everyone has to. The concept of sport isn't entitled to take over the whole world of healthy physical activity.

I could pretty much replace the word "Art" with "Sport" in this post and it would end up with virtually the same meaning. In fact, let's try some of that:

There's nothing wrong with artistic sporting dance. Lots of dance is certainly art sport. But it is wrong to talk as though dance is necessarily performance, and that non-artistic, non-performance dance is some sort of inferior 'just-for-fun' offshoot, defined as low-quality, because high-quality dance would be art win something. This belief does real harm to people who would enjoy non-art non-sport dance and be good at it, and real harm to dance communities. ...
... There should be more people dancing, more commonly, than there are, without being obliged to feel all artistic sporting about it. And without feeling that if they ever get good, they'll automatically be artists sportsmen and expected to teach or perform compete. Those are all totally different vocations and have no necessary connection with each other, or with just dancing. They're not needed to validate the quality of anyone's dance. (And they don't, incidentally).
Competition dance is necessarily standardised, because without some standardisation, fair judging is very difficult and seen-to-be-fair judging even more so. You need rules and criteria; and there’s a reason why some (or, in my opinion, most) great social dancers consider “Campeonato” style tango stupefyingly boring and artificial, despite the competition itself being great fun as a sporting event. But back to the previous post:
Being an excellent social (or indeed solo, or religious, or football-terrace) dancer is a valid and possible goal, and it's always nice to have more of them.
Why would social dancers want to be “recognised as participating in sport”? That would be poisonous – just as poisonous as being “recognised as artists”.

I'm not saying it's not tempting. If you put a lot of work into doing something well, the siren song of public or peer recognition will call to you, one way or another. But we should think properly about how to fulfil that legitimate desire in a way appropriate to the context - not blindly adopt the artistic or sporting model. And even if we occasionally organise a competition of a sporting nature, which could be huge fun, that doesn't mean we should let it take over or influence what we are doing otherwise, more than it deserves to.

It would be much better if social dance were more widely recognised as what it really is - play. And adult humans don’t need a prefabricated validating excuse – “sport” or “art” – for playing together. Or even with a horse.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Monica Paz - tomorrow

London tango peeps who appreciated my long piece "Argentine Tango for TV Viewers" might like to know that both Monica Paz and Antonio Martinez, who appear in one of the videos I chose, are going to be at Negracha, London tomorrow - not together, Monica is going to teach the class this week and do a demo with Marek I believe, [Sorry - the demo is at Corrientes tonight - not at Negracha yesterday! my mistake, I misunderstood what was said to me. But yes it's with Marek] and Antonio is DJing at Corrientes on Saturday, and Monica will teach there too.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Work in progress

This was going to be a present for a baby, but I was making it and I found myself fighting it. It has rather spooky, foreboding spirit. I wouldn't say an evil spirit, but not a protective spirit. I couldn't give it to a baby - I think it wants to be for someone else.

So I had to stop and make something else for the baby. I'll show you that later. (Luckily I found an idea in a yarn shop in Lillehammer, Norway).

There's some rather subtle non-symmetrical shaping going on here and it's not absolutely perfect, but I'm quite pleased with it. With sock wool it does feel right to use more detail. This is the back:


And this is the front:


It's going to need legs, and a tail. Now that I'm not fighting it any more I think I know how they need to be.

In my open-plan office

… two of my colleagues have been arguing quietly about technical subjects all day.

They are both very bright people, very nice people. At least one of them is very well informed about the subject, and the other one has some intelligent questions. But both are profoundly incapable, in totally different ways, of giving a clear, sequential, brief and comprehensible account of anything at all. Their minds simply do not work that way.

One just starts a lot of half-sentences in the right general direction and apparently hopes that one of them will land on the target. It drives me completely crazy. The other (better-informed) one has something I don't know what to call, but I think of it as verbal dyslexia; mixing up words, answering the wrong question, getting the right answer precisely backwards. It's okay if you're used to it and you know enough to catch it.

It's like two earphone leads trying to have a fight.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The sun lingers

The day when the Sun lingers longest to gaze on the green woods and fields of the temperate North - and my pretty Chinese parasol.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Quiet Hedgehog looking up

Dear readers, I haven't gone away, but I have taken on a very difficult extended project this year that is taking up a lot of my time and energy. One of the reasons for doing it was to get out of my comfort zone and do various kinds of work I'm not used to, and I'm certainly getting that from it. But I don't have the quiet internet time that I used to have. Hopefully the project should be more or less wrapped up by mid-October. At which point I may just go and lie on a beach and look at stars.

It's my birthday today :)

In 1996, they pointed the Hubble Space telescope at a tiny patch of sky - the size of a grain of sand held out at arm's length - in which no-one had ever managed to see anything at all. Over several sessions, they collected photons, practically one by one, for a total of ten days. Measured them, mapped them, noted their colour, to build a picture.

In the picture were some very faint stars that no-one had ever seen before - and three thousand galaxies.