Helsinki Zouk Festival 2014 – Amazing!!

Helsinki Zouk Festival 2014

One word to describe this festival. Amazing. Definitely one of my best festivals ever.

As I mentioned in my previous post. One of the main reasons for coming here was because of Dadinho. And he did not disappoint. Another was also because of the high level of finnish zouk dancers. Or so I was lead to believe…

We arrived on Friday afternoon (on board what seems like a brand new BA plane :D). Stocked up on supplies. Snacks and (hopefully still) water. I hate Europe for their love of sparkling water! Had dinner (McDonalds). Then headed off to check out the venue and watch the beginners classes take place. We knew this was a smaller congress but was still disappointed with the size of the venue.

The friday party was disappointing. Can’t really put my finger on it but probably due to the music and the shocking numbers of beginners. I also made a effort and dressed up (for the first time ever) as the Joker for the halloween theme. I left about 10mins before the end of the party cause I wasn’t really enjoying it. And cause I thought the party was meant to finish 40mins later…

The workshops on the other hand were awesome. There were two days of workshops on both Saturday and Sunday with only two classes running in parallel. An intermediate/advance class on the main dance floor. And a beginners class in the smaller bar upstairs. The smaller size of this congress made the workshops much easier to learn from. Dadinho, as mentioned was amazing. I took part in roughly half the classes. once or twice took the beginners class. My rationale behind this was to take a class depending on the teacher, not on the level.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

Here are the workshop demo videos I took.

The final two parties on Saturday and Sunday, however, were absolutely amazing. Totally made up for Friday’s disappointment. Music was a lot better and I think I made my peace with high numbers of beginners by adapting my style and in the process improving my both my technique and enjoyment. I take everything I said about Finnish beginners. They were awesome!

One issue I had though was DJ Brandon’s mixing. It might not have been him. But I’m sure it was. Stop cross fading songs into one another. It’s fucking horrible especially when he only plays one half of a good song before fading in the next one. But not fully fading in the next one though. The cross fading alternates a couple times between the previous and next songs before the new song fully kicks in. This is an issue most zoukers seem to agree with.

All in all, besides the Friday party this is one of my best congresses ever. I don’t plan to go again next year though as I’ve already planned on going to Brno and Breda which are held a month apart. However if Dadinho gets confirmed for next year I’ll most like be there due to the smaller size of the classes. Make it happen Freddy!

5th International Prague Zouk Congress 2014

5th International Prague Zouk Congress 2014

Welcome to April 2014! Six months late but decided to revive this dying blog. Again.

Before that I went to the Brno zouk congress 2013 and had an amazing time. I can’t be bothered to do a write up about it but here are my videos from last years event. Heard 2014 was loads better so planning on going next year.

Anyway, back to Prague. My memories a bit hazy but let’s give it a go anyway…

Considering we had such a great time at this last year, we bought our full passes the minute they went on sale. I believe I was the third or fourth buyer. And as a reward for being one of the first 10 buyers we got some goodies.

My goodies!

We bought our flights and a sweet penthouse apartment fairly soon after. Then disappointment set in. We were no longer going to be at the Palanca. Instead we would have a main venue for the weekend but change around during the extra days tacked on around it.

Living it large!

We arrived wednesday evening, stocked up on supplies and headed off to our first party at some dancers club. Music was shit. I left around 3am I think.

Can’t remember the Thursday workshops but the party was at a Meat Meet Factory. Which was way out of everyone’s way in Prague 5 which required the organisers to hire a few coaches to ferry us to and from the factory. Music was shit. Left early again, probably around 3. Sensing a theme here…

Friday party started off the same as the previous 2. Sigh… Was about to leave early, again, but then some unknown DJ from Dutchland started playing some awesome tunes which kept me going right til the end. This might have actually happened on Saturday. Can’t remember. If it was on the Saturday then the Fridays party was shit and I left early again.

For the rest of the party nights I stayed til the end. The DJs finally played some good music. The Monday party was meant to finish at 3am but went on past 6am. Plus instead of taking a taxi home like the others we took a nice 30min walk back soaking in the nice fresh air. Knowing we’d have to clean up the apartment and catch our flight in a few hours. Sweet!

Workshops were good. Best was Dadinho though. Awesome demo.

Overall, it started off slow but then kept getting better. If it wasn’t for the poor start it would’ve been one of the best.

Was tempted to go again next year but the main venue is going to be the Meet Factory. The Thursday party venue all the way out in Prague 5. How am I gonna get my shisha fix now?!

Prague shisha

Next up is the Helsinki festival next weekend! This had tough competition from the Dutch congress in Breda a week early as I was only willing to go to one of them. FYI this is happening right now! But as soon as Dadinho was confirmed for Helsinki it swung the pendulum into its favour. Even better as Leo and Becky were also confirmed a month or so ago. Yayyy!

Can. Not. Wait.

Zouk Congress 2013 “Review”: Part 1 – Brazil, London, Prague

4th nternational Prague Zouk Congress 2013

So, I’m utterly bored of writing reviews (and writing in general). 8 months since my last zouk post, here’s a very brief “review” (can’t actually call it a review but whatever) on the congresses I’ve been to so far this year.

Brazil. Great

With all the hype surrounding Zouk’ing in the birthplace of lambada, I felt underwhelmed. Great nonetheless though.

London. Great

Great first attempt. Poor location. Way out west away from central London. But a very nice hotel with free water though. Didn’t feel that international though as it didn’t seem like many foreigners came. Could be due to the Austria Congress which started the next weekend.

Prague. Awesome

Last year was awesome. This year was even better. Party themes were worse this year though.

And the obligatory workshop videos:

V Berg’s International Zouk-Lambada Congress 2013

London ZoukFest 2013

4th International Prague Zouk Congress 2013

Taking it a lot easier this year, so my next (and probably final) stop of the year will be Brno in mid-September.

See you there!

Solid State Drives Are Worth The Expense

MacBook Pro OCZ Agility 3 SSD

I bought my 15″ MacBook Pro (early 2011 model) just over a year ago. I decided against upgrading to an SSD because I thought there was no point. I did get the hi-res anti-glare option. Especially since that part of the machine isn’t user upgradable.

My machine gradually got slower and seemed especially sluggish ever since upgrading to Lion (it can with Snow Leopard). I was advised (by my boss no less) to upgrade to an SSD. So I did, and boy was I glad I did. The speed difference is immense. Forget the price per gig ratio. Especially when compared to traditional hard drives. The performance of SSD’s more then makes up for the lower storage capacity. A worthwhile investment. More so then any RAM or CPU upgrades will ever do since the hard drive will remain the bottleneck.

Now, doing a clean install of Lion instead of upgrading from Snow Leopard might have also helped. But I am more then happy with the end result as it now absolutely flies. Chrome no longer hangs and Photoshop (almost…) opens instantly.

Solid.

Zouk Congress 2013: What’s in Store

Twelve

Twelve, Twelve, Twenty Twelve. What an awesome date.

So, what’s in store for 2013? I’ve decided to limit my trips abroad to about 3, instead of 6. And this time, instead of going purely for some hardcore dancing, I’ll be taking a more relaxed approach. Arriving and leaving a day or two earlier. Having an entire evening free to explore Zurich on Friday before the congress officially started was pretty nice.

I’ll probably just go to one in each half of the year. Already confirmed for next year, and taking the 1st half of the year, Prague. Last year (or earlier this year) was immense. And the next one looks even bigger. I’ve also confirmed my “second” congress of 2013, the first London Zouk Fest, just 4 weeks earlier. Although it technically doesn’t count since it’s in my hometown…

For the second half of 2013 Brno seems a good choice. From the people I’ve met, it seems very popular. Although from what I’ve heard about last year (2011) it was in the middle of no where with the workshops and parties in completely different locations. If that is the case this time, I wont be going. I could check if this is still the case this year, but I wont. I’ll just wait for next year.

Berlin and Amsterdam are definitely high up on my list. Nothing definite though. Zurich, as great as it was, wont be considered. For the single reason of cost. It is way too expensive. Australia was briefly considered, but quickly ruled out mainly due to cost and also because I get the same feeling from the web site and photos I get from the Barcelona congress. Which I hated.

Off to Brazil in a couple weeks. Officially ending 2012 and kicking off 2013. Bring it on!

Why I Ditched Android For Windows Phone 8

Nexus 4

I really wanted the Nexus 4. Having used the Nexus S for the past 18 months, it seemed the obvious upgrade path. I was tempted by the Galaxy Nexus when it was launched, but the poor camera put me off.

Then the day finally came, November 13th (had it in my calendar), the Nexus 4 launch day. No time for when it would actually go on sale though. Checked the Play store at 8am. “Coming Soon”. Received the email notification on my way to work at 8:45. Loaded up the Play store when I got into work at 9:20. Still says “Coming Soon”. WTF.

It was later I found out that they were actually all sold out. Less than an hour after going on sale. Still have no idea what time that actually was. Google utterly failed in this shambolic joke of a “launch” of their flagship device. Shit communication all round from Google. Losing a customer in the process.

HTC 8X

I had to upgrade. My Nexus S was so slow it was almost impossible to do anything on the thing. Chrome would take minutes to start up. I never truly considered any other Android devices. I like pure Android. None of this bastardised Android SenseWiz crap. The device (from a hardware perpective) would have to absolutely blow me away for that to happen. The Samsung Galaxy S3 had the best chance, but failed. They all failed.

Nexus 4 wasn’t going back on sale any time soon. So what did I do, after reading up on numerous reviews, I finally decided to make the jump to Windows Phone 8 with the beautiful HTC 8X. I did initially want the Nokia Lumia 920, but after holding both the 920 and 8X, the Lumia is huge and felt like a brick next to the 8X. I knew about WP8’s flaws. But I can live with them. The only app I miss is Dropbox.

Google Logo

The only Google service I truly couldn’t give up was Gmail. But that’s true for everyone who’s main account is a Gmail one. Google Now is a very nice service. But it’s still something I can instantly give up. Google Music hasn’t evolved at all since it was launched. It was only a one-way upload of my iTunes collection. No syncing at all going on. Because of this I never maintained my Google Music collection. Another service I can instantly give up. Google Maps? Now that Bing Maps is using Nokia’s mapping data, with the ability to truly take a map of any country offline, that beats Google’s mobile offering hands down.

Google has failed to retain me as an Android user. I’ve avoided using (and getting locked in to) many of their services. Making the switch easy. The only Android devices I would buy are the Nexus ones, but Google wouldn’t take my money. I still love my Nexus 7, but since I don’t carry it around with me, I’ll be turning off Google’s ability to stalk me.

This is Jimmy, leaving the botnet.

First International London Zouk Fest 2013

Zouk Fest 2013

Prague in late March was my first confirmed zouk congress for 2013. The Zouk Fest in early March is now my second confirmed 2013 congress. Taking place in London at Heathrow and hosted by Joseph Koniak and Solange Dias, my teachers. This will be the congress of the year in London.

The only downside being that Heathrow is in West London, and I live in East London. A 2 hour journey (4 hour to and from Heathrow) isn’t what I need so I’ve had to book a hotel room.

Join me!

Nexus S Review: My First Android

Nexus S

Review time.

Since the google playground event, I’m buying the LG Nexus when it drops. Replacing my current mobile, Nexus S.

I bought it in June 2011. The day after Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC). I was waiting for the new iPhone to be announced. Back then the iPhone 4 was the current model. It’s successor was pushed back to the Autumn instead of the Summer for the previous models. Due to this delay, they have lost me for life. And I’m glad I didn’t purchase an iPhone. Hate iTunes. Apple’s arrogant “their way or the highway” attitude. And their walled-garden.

The Nexus S came with Gingerbread (Android 2.3). And had upgrades to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Jelly Bean (4.1). With each upgrade, it got slower and slower. Ridiculously slow.

Since the release of Android 4.0, Google has replaced the 4 button layout with 3 onscreen buttons. Back, Home and Multitask. This makes making the most of the ICS difficult. Since it has physical buttons, the onscreen buttons aren’t displayed. This takes away the quick multitasking feature as it means you have to hold the Home button instead of simply pressing a single key.

Solid phone. Classic Samsung plasticky build quality but a good introduction to Android.

Zouk Congress 2012 Review: Extras

Some extras that didn’t make the final cut (or I completely forgot about while I was writing them) in my 6 parter zouk congress reviews.

Vienna, our first proper congress abroad. And coming from London, I’m used to shops being open on a Sunday. So it came as a big surprise that all shops (except a few restaurants) were closed on Sunday. And we didn’t have enough bottles of water to last us through the rest of the workshops and party.

Sorry We're Closed

After much wondering around we finally got bored and overpent at a local pizza place where my friend stupidly picked 3 bottles of sparkling water each. Which we both hate.

We learnt our lesson. And during our second congress in Prague, we were determined not to let this happen again. And we bought way too many bottles of water…

Prague left over bottles of water

What I had left as I was checking out of the hotel…

That’s 3 full bottles and 3 half empty ones. Wasted.

Our first 2 flights to Vienna and Prague went smoothly. Our 3rd, Barcelona was delayed by 2 hours. Our 4th, Berlin, was cancelled with the next available flight 6 hours later. Fun times in an airport doing nothing. In all honesty we could have left the airport and wondered around a bit, especially since we were still in London. From then on there was a running joke that statistically, one of our flights will crash. Thankfully, the rest of our flights were a lot smoother. The fact that you’re reading this means I’m still alive. Although our Brazil itinerary means we board 6 planes. We are statistically fucked.

British Airways Plane Crash

Our planning for Berlin was the worst. We booked our flights and hotel just over a month before it started. We usually book them months in advance. We did buy the Berlin congress pass 4 months ahead of time though. Taking advantage of the early bird prices. This laziness meant the closest hotel to the venue was fully booked during that time. It was also one of the cheapest places!

Since our delayed Berlin flight was a lot later then we had planned for, arriving at 11pm. It means the party would have already started. And it was at another venue, not the main one near our hotel. We kept to our usual plan, grab a taxi from the airport straight to our hotel.

New York Taxi

Since we also had to get to the party quick, we struggled to explain to the non-english speaking driver to wait 30mins in order for us to check in and drop off our luggage before taking us straight to the party. To be fair, the communication problems were entirely our fault really. We were on foreign soil and didn’t speak the native language.

Not much else eventful happened in London, Zurich or Amsterdam. Probably because we made all our mistakes during our first few congresses.

So that’s it. It’s all over. I’m still undecided how I’ll handle my Brazil review… But there will be at least one post.

Zouk Congress 2012: The Total Cost

20 Pound Note

With the end of Amsterdam, concludes my Euro zouk adventures. So what was the total costs of going to 7 congresses in a year? Or more specifically 6 months?

The costs below include the return flights, hotel and congress pass.

Vienna: £340

Prague: £454

Barcelona: £444

Berlin: £452

London: £89 (pass only)

Zurich: £622

Amsterdam: £464

That’s £2,776, or about €3,300 in Euro land, I’ve spent in 6 months on zouk congresses alone. The only reason Vienna was by far the cheapest was because it was the only time I was sharing a hotel room. The others cost roughly the same. Except Zurich.

I could’ve easily spent a lot less. But, for me, I would rather spend more for convenience. Convenient afternoon outbound and inbound flights. Instead of going for a budget flight at a ridiculous time, usually very early in the morning when public transport isn’t running.

On the flip side, my 2 week Brazil trip alone costs almost as much!